Government Stories 2019-2021

Stories that earlier appeared in Nelson's News
Note: Carl Nelson Consulting, Inc is not an investment adviser and may hold a financial interest or client relationship in companies discussed.
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And they [Democrats] have every right to point out that while Republicans may denounce inflation, Republicans have no plan whatsoever to reduce it. [Paul Krugman, NYTimes, Nov 1, 22]

Whoda thunk it? States with top-ranking university AI research programs garner a greater number of Phase II AI-related SBIR awards, according to a working paper from the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. [SBA Update, Oct 4, 2022] Since SBIR was invented as a "fair share" program, Congress is more interested in "fair distribution" than "outside the box" innovation. But the federal agencies are charged with efficiently investing their R&D and thus favor the smartest companies regardless of geography. Maybe the internet will better connect the remote companies to the competitive science world with some pushing and shoving by Congress.

the House voted to reauthorize funding for SBIR program .... Bailey DeVries, SBA Associate Administrator for Investment and Innovation joined SBA Administrator Guzman in applauding today’s vote, “SBIR/STTR program reauthorization signifies the importance of both federal support for R&D and public-private initiatives to transition innovative technologies and scientific discoveries from lab to market.” [SBA press release, Oct 29, 2022]  Note: SBIR has no effect on federal R&D spending, only on who gets the money, and not much effect on that either. Small biz has long gotten 3% of federal contract spending. There's no compelling  evidence that SBIR funded research created more downstream business per doller than the rest of federal R&D spending. Federal airplane money spent at Boeing, for example, helped develop advances in commercial aircraft.   

SBIR lives on. The Senate passed a three-year authorization of SBIR and [STTR] by unanimous consent on Sept. 20. ... The House is expected to take up the Senate’s bill on Sept. 28 ... The deal also starts to mitigate abuse by so-called SBIR mills, holding them accountable for the egregious amount of taxpayer dollars they have received,” said [Sen] Paul in a statement. ... “SBIR mills,” where companies were winning Phase 1 or Phase 2 awards without ever showing any value to the government. [Jason Miller, Federal News Network, Sep 21, 2022] Everyone should recognize that it's no fault of the company when the government repeatedly awards it contracts. And that will continue as long as the federal agencies have no incentive to consider follow-on third party investment as a selection criterion. It worked for the missile defense SBIR in the 1990s where eventually every Phase II award amount depended on third party investment. Until I retired.

A major sticking point for [SBIR] reauthorization has been concerns about companies that receive multiple awards, a topic that the Senate and House small business committees have been negotiating for several months. [SSTI, Sep 14, 2022] That sort of thing I dealt with by requiring growing third party investment for each technology idea in Phase II. The match rate depended on the maturity of the technology. But I retired a long time ago and my philosophy passed into history. Unfortunately, the nature of federal R&D provides no incentive for federal departments to operate such a program. In pasrticular, the mission agencies, DOD and NASA, who want tech they can use prefer lower risk innovation offered by companies they trust. A great new idea that has been thoroughly tested. 

SBIR and STTR providing nearly $4 billion in technology research and development funding, expire — in just six weeks — on Sept. 30 [SSTI, Aug 17, 2022] The burden of proof for ending such a program falls on the opponents because a large political benefit of avoiding appropriation fights goes to the legislators in their home districts where money falls. The federal agencies can do the same thing whenever they saw a benefit for all the additional administration.

As someone who started his political journalism career in 2002, I never expected Republicans to deem someone whose last name is Cheney insufficiently conservative. But that’s today’s Grand Old Party. [Perry Bacon, WashPost, Aug 17, 2022]

The prospect of a timeless future has given way to visions of no future at all. Ideology remains a fault line in geopolitics, market globalization is fragmenting, and great-power conflict has become increasingly likely. [William MacAskill, Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct2022]

In fiscal year 2021, the nationwide success rate of applicants for NIH SBIR and STTR) Phase I awards decreased slightly from FY 2020. This continued a downward trend over recent years. The success rate for NIH SBIR/STTR Phase I was nearly 13 percent (647 of 5,132 approved) in FY 2021, a decrease from nearly 14 percent in FY 2020 and from nearly 16 percent for all proposals submitted over the past decade. [SSTI, Jul 27, 2022] Such low numbers reflect the dubious clarity of NIH public notice of what kinds of poposals score well. The fuzzy talk just makes needless work for the NIH staff and the peer reviewers.

Department of Homeland Security [reports it] awarded a total of $4,479,195.95 in competitive [SBIR] research contracts to 30 small businesses. Among the 30 were four firms who had already collected a total of $ one billion in SBIR awards

A shrinking supply: Less than a quarter of young American adults are physically fit to enlist and have no disqualifying criminal record, a proportion that has shrunk steadily in recent years. [Dave Phillips, NYTimes, Jul 16, 2022]

a Defense Department study found China is exploiting a popular program that funds innovation among small American companies. The study, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal, found China is using state-sponsored methods to target companies that have received Pentagon funding from [SBIR]. ..... Some in Congress are now echoing those calls, as lawmakers seek a five-year reauthorization of the SBIR and a related STTR, as part of a sweeping, bipartisan legislative package working its way through Capitol Hill. [Kate O'Keeffe, Wall Street Journal, May 9, 22]

SBIR programs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported the development of 99 drugs from 1996-2020 — a total that includes 16 percent of all such treatments that made a “significant” advance over available medicines. This finding is just one of the impacts that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) attributes to the program in a new report [SSTI, Feb 16, 22]

Brass. Former President Donald Trump said in a court filing Monday that he "denies knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth" about his company's finances. A day later, he issued a blistering 1,100-word statement [as he] waxed lyrical about his company's "fantastic assets" and said prosecutors should give consider giving Hillary Clinton the death penalty instead of investigating the Trump Organization's finances. [Yahoo News Feb 17, 2022]

R stands for Royalty? Today, the erstwhile “party of ideas” offers none beyond 2020 election conspiracy theories, culture war grievances and, of course, undying fealty to Trump. Recall that, for the first time since its founding more than 160 years earlier, the GOP released no platform ahead of the 2020 election. Instead the Republican National Committee proffered a blank-check pledge to support whatever it was Trump might wish to do. {Catherine Rampell, WashPost, Feb 14, 2022]

Venture capitalists can brag about their failures, but bureaucrats are flayed for them. [Ezra Klein, NY Times, Feb 14, 22] Why SBIR has not achieved much. Anyway the restrictions on government snooping on private firms' finances prevent any economic judgment on the return to SBIR "investment".

Right-wing platforms are one-trick ponies. They’re only going to, by their nature, appeal to the type of person they are branded to appeal to, and there’s only so many people in that world. [Jeremy B. Merrill and Drew Harwell quoting Darren Linvill, the lead researcher at Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub, WashPost, Jan 20, 2022]

Wisconsin [Center for Technology Commercialization, Jan 10, 2022] reports that Wisconsin is passing out state funded supplements to SBIR awardees.   The Phase 1 recipients, each receiving up to $75,000 match, are: 

The Phase 2 recipients, each receiving up to $100,000 match, are:

The U.S. is planning to hand out $10 billion to help upstart companies gain access to capital in a bid to rev up business in disadvantaged communities and spur a broader economic recovery from the pandemic. The State Small Business Credit Initiative will direct money to states, territories and tribal governments for programs that provide venture capital or encourage private lenders to issue loans to small firms. [Wall St Journal, Jan 10, 22] The political lure of fair-share handouts to small biz.

Voltaire: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” [quoted by Jennifer Szalai reviewing How Civil Wars Start by Barbara Walter, NY Times, Jan 3, 22]

Dying for the cause. conservatives framed all Covid precautionary measures as violations of individual freedom. Dying for your beliefs has taken on grim new meaning: Since vaccines became widely available, counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump have had nearly three times the Covid-19 death rate as counties that voted for Joe Biden. [Rebecca Solnit, NYTimes, Jan 4, 22]

Awash in capital. Investors are defying a share-price slump for newly public companies to make hundreds of billions of dollars available to startups, a cash pile that promises to inject a torrent of money into early-stage firms in 2022 and beyond. [Amrith Ramkumar and Eliot Brown, Wall Street Journal, Dec 28, 21] Thus undercutting the rationale for SBIR of a shortage of capital for new small high tech firms. But a government handout once established will surely continue anyway.

Americans’ trust in their government, their institutions, and even their fellow citizens is declining rapidly—weakening the very foundations of society. Cyberattacks prey on these weak points, sowing distrust in information, creating confusion and anxiety, and exacerbating hatred and misinformation. [Jacquelyn Schneider, Foreign Affairs, J/F22] Perhaps we could start by not electing serial liars as President and Members of Congress.

[US]Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded more than $3.5 million in [SBIR] funding to 17 U.S. small businesses for advancing technologies in manufacturing, privacy, medical diagnostics and more. [DOC announcement] All Phase 2 awardees had more than one previous SBIRs the largest collector of which was WW Technology (ELLICOTT CITY, MD) which has already had $20M SBIR in 45 awards dating from 1996 to 2020.

Denial is easier. Recent climate disasters have failed to shift Americans' views on global warming, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds, and the partisan divide has widened. [Darryl Fears and Emily Guskin, WP, Nov 11, 21] The economic losers, the fossil fuel industry, appeals to the immediate discomfort of switching power sources from well embedded habits. And uneducated voters don't see a clear acceptable alternative.

In many states, the burden of proof has shifted from requiring defendants to demonstrate that they acted in self-defense to requiring prosecutors to show that they did not.

Atrophied.   America is not young anymore. Whereas it was once spry and excitable, it is now creaky and soft. The country that passed Prohibition and created Social Security now spends decades dithering over how large a role the government should play in health care. The country that went to the moon shrinks at the challenges presented by climate change. Its bold and expansive political imagination has atrophied. [Ezekiel Kweku, NY Times Opinion politics editor, Jul 2, 21]  The political nation has allowed total economic wealth to become the main political criterion, a judgement that favors the rich who reap the profits of such growth.  As a result the proportion of the total wealth held by the rich keeps growing. Meanwhile, the inflation adjusted income of the laboring class hasn't changed for decades. 

The United States, more than any other nation, cannot avoid the conflicts and disputes provoked by immigration. This country is not only has the most immigrants of any country in the world, it is also the first-choice destination of most potential immigrants and, possibly most confounding, it has become inextricably dependent on foreign-born workers to perform essential tasks. [Thomas Edsall, New York imes, Nov 3, 21] Like the public attitudes on taxes, they want the benefits without paying the price. And pandering politicians tell them they can have their wish.

When we look to government’s role, it’s clear that driving into the future based on the realities we knew in the pre-pandemic age is like steering down a highway at 85 mph by looking in the rear-view mirror. [Donald Kettl, Government Executive, Sep 27, 2021] The Republicans representing industry management will have to side with treating labor, any labor, as a mere commodity.

Watching the last American military plane go wheels up and out of the Afghanistan War reminded me of an old saying: History often repeats itself, but a lot of us would rather not pay attention. [Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, Sep 1, 21]

Liberty. 47% of undereducated gullible Americans believe they have a constitutional right to act irresponsibly and selfishly -in the name of their perceived freedom- to go and expose others to sickness and death. [commenter, NY Times, Sep 1, 2021]

You don’t need to believe that a never-ending cycle of deficit-funded spending, offset by monetary intervention, is sustainable in order to believe that the scale of spending generally contemplated to deal with an existential threat like climate change, or a societal threat like poverty, is woefully inadequate. You can just believe we need to pay for it. [Robert Rubin reviewing Adam Tooze's SHUTDOWN How Covid Shook the World’s Economy, NY Times Sep 4, 2021]

The same Republican Party that led the establishment of a multitrillion-dollar security state after September 11 doesn’t even want to investigate what happened on January 6. [Ben Rhodes, Foreign Affairs, S/O21]

countless articles report that the U.S. innovation system is lagging behind other nations. However, fewer accounts emphasize the extreme lack of diversity among those who receive funding. ... the innovation budget has systematically disenfranchised hundreds of communities and millions of potential innovators while weakening U.S. innovation outcomes, [Brookings, Aug 12, 21] Hello, "fair share" SBIR was invented forty years ago to fix that problem. Of course, human nature and federal procurement rules defeated that purpose. The "fair-share money went to the best proposers wherever they lived. And they mostly lived where private capital was investing in R&D. Biden's [olitical plan to half of the $40 billion it proposes for upgrades of “research infrastructure” for HBCUs and other MSIs will simply lower the new innovation from its highest potential.

Everybody gets a say. The democratization of authority spurred by the digital revolution has flattened cognitive hierarchies along with other hierarchies, and political decision-making is now driven by often weaponized babble. [Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs, J/A2020]

Turn about, fair play. The same Republicans who cheered Trump's $2Tr debt increase tax cuts for the rich in 2017 now declare horror as Democrats do the same thing for their concept of government.

In essence Biden is defending liberal democracy and the notion that you can’t govern a nation based on the premise that the other half of the country is irredeemably awful. [David Brooks, NY Times, Aug 5, 21]

Six years of Donald J. Trump largely blocking out all other voices in his party have left Republicans without a credible messenger to push vaccines, even if they wanted to. [Reid J. Epstein, NYTimes, Jul 31, 2021]

A simple plan to end America’s vaccine hesitancy: Serve it deep-fried on a stick [Rex Huppke, Chicago Tribune, Aug 5, 21]

When labels matter “It’s [infrastructure bailout] full of stuff that isn’t a tax increase and isn’t a spending cut and is just wishful and fanciful.” [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Jun 29, 21] If Congress wants to rely on pixie dust to pay for its spending, it has the ultimate power to do so.

When governments act. “But a pandemic is not about mere anxiety [Islam,immigration], it’s about fear for your health and life: You’re not interested in someone confirming your anxiety, you need someone to perform swiftly, and mainstream parties were seen as doing that, while the populist opposition argued against action,” Mr. Krastev said. [Bojan Pancevski, WSJ, Jun 30, 21]

The Senate approved a bipartisan, $250 billion bill boosting government spending on technology research and development amid rising competition from China and other nations. [Wall Street Journal, Jun 9, 21] big new tech money likely after House passes its version. Then will come the challenge of hiring innovative govenment investors. SBIR history says federal agencies not up to it; only DARPA has succeeded.

[Samuel Hammond of the Niskanen Centre] believes that government agencies that fund research have become sclerotic: he sees a “compliance culture” resulting from a risk-averse leadership wary of heavy-handed congressional oversight. That is a problem, says Benjamin Reinhardt, an independent researcher who has studied DARPA, because big wins come from taking risks. “All the value,” he says, “is in the long tail.” ... On paper, the approach is straightforward. Take enormous, reckless gambles on things so beneficial that only a handful need work to make the whole venture a success. [The Economist, Jun 5, 21] SBIR could have done that for the last forty years, but it was invented instead as a fair-share program for uncompetititve R&D companies with only one absolute rule -- spend the money.

In conflict zones around the world today, impunity is on the march. [Ed Milliband, Foreign Affairs, J/J 21] Impunity brings on war and disease to naturally reduce world population.

“Right now in Washington, D.C, it would be hard to get members of Congress to agree on the proper way to butter toast", Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the committee chair, said.

New political math. US Representtive from Texas says not a single Covid death in Texas from March 2 ending of mask mandate. Texas health department says 3600 such deaths. Does 3600=0?

Whatever the progress, Business leaders are confident that they can stop almost all of President Biden’s proposed tax hikes by pressuring moderate congressional Democrats, Politico’s Ben White reports. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, May 18, 21], someone else should pay for it.

The pandemic has shown how hard it can be to change the minds of ideologically driven politicians and hardened vaccine sceptics or to beat back disinformation on Twitter. [Helen Pearson, Nature, May 12, 21]

[Biden’s plans] represent the most dramatic shift in federal economic and social welfare policy since Ronald Reagan was elected 40 years ago. Reagan’s small-government philosophy resulted in a decades-long squeeze on the federal government, especially domestic spending, and on tax policies that mainly benefited the wealthiest Americans. [Dan Balz, WashPo, Apr 28, 21] The otherwise eloquent Republican response conveniently omitted the facts that Reagan’s trickle-down supply side economics has disproportionately further enriched the already rich. But Biden’s grand plan will be met by a hailstorm of objection by anyone who is called upon to pay for the many benefits. After all, it's American democracy to want more than you're willing to pay for.

“Humanity is running an ecological Ponzi scheme in which society robs nature and future generations to pay for short-term economic enhancement today.” “Most economies operate on the basis that counteraction now is too costly to be politically palatable. Combined with disinformation campaigns to protect short-term profits it is doubtful that the scale of changes we need will be made in time” Professor Ehrlich says. [Flinders University (Australia), Apr 25, 21] The readiness to borrow trillions for the pandemic bailout will eventually repeat with any climate "solution."

this country sent us to the front lines with none of the equipment needed for the battle [Sharon Griswold, an emergency room docto

this country sent us to the front lines with none of the equipment needed for the battle [Sharon Griswold, an emergency room doctor in Pennsylvania, quoted by WashPo, Apr 22, 2012] The medics see a country objecting to a simple, cheap anti-virus defense - a nose and mouth mask that would have made life safer and more tolerable for medics. ‘You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.’ [Mona Masood, a psychiatrist who has counseled dozens of doctors in mental crisis in recent months]

Trump’s $27m-a-mile border wall being scaled with $5 ladders [The Guardian, Apr 24, 21] Trump's generals may well have told him that an unguarded wall is little barrier to crossing. But the wall was only ever an expensive poltical symbol. Arizona governor Janet Napolitano pronounced long ago "Show me a 50-foot wall, and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder."

r in Pennsylvania, quoted by WashPo, Apr 22, 2012] The medics see a country objecting to a simple, cheap anti-virus defense - a nose and mouth mask that would have made life safer and more tolerable for medics. ‘You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.’ [Mona Masood, a psychiatrist who has counseled dozens of doctors in mental crisis in recent months]

Trump’s $27m-a-mile border wall being scaled with $5 ladders [The Guardian, Apr 24, 21] Trump's generals may well have told him that an unguarded wall is little barrier to crossing. But the wall was only ever an expensive poltical symbol. Arizona governor Janet Napolitano pronounced long ago "Show me a 50-foot wall, and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder."

What researchers hope for is the unexpected. What funders prefer is to know the outcome in advance. [Andrew Crumey reviewing Genesis by Guido Tonelli, WSJ, Apr 17, 21]  Safe SBIR by government agencies and experienced conpanies won't make for much innovation, even though both company and agency declare SBIR success.

Magic economics. The U.S. budget deficit grew to a record $1.7 trillion in the first half of the fiscal year [John McCormick, WSJ, Apr 13, 21] And nobody has (wants) to pay more taxes for the extra spending. Meanwhile, the lightly taxed profits from that spending flow upward to the wealthiest few percent of the population. And the share of the national wealth held by the richest keeps growing. At the bottom part of the economy, jobs are disappearing and pay barely keeps up with cost of living for decades. Yet the people keep electing friends of the wealthy to Congress and state legislatures. Is that not magic? And now more magic: Republicans have taken to calling themselves the party of the working class... shattering traditional conservative economic positions. [Gerald Seib, WSJ, Apr 13, 21]

Traditional skepticism about government’s economic role is rooted in the belief that private markets, driven by the profit motive, are efficient, while governments are wasteful. But the excesses of private markets in recent decades – the rise of monopolies, the follies of private finance, extreme concentration of income, and rising economic insecurity – have taken the shine off the private sector. [Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate, Apr 3, 21] Warning: good ideas must withstand political grandstanding.

China is increasing its strategic R&D as a share of its economy, as a share of whatever metric you want to use in a way that we have let deteriorate. And so the thing that has changed is that we’ve lived through a decade where China has been meticulously thinking about making those investments, marshaling those investments — not all successful, but all with a deliberate focus on trying to build its own industrial base and its own intellectual and innovation base. And we have, for the better part of a decade, ignored or derogated and undermined those levers. [Brian Deese, Presidential economic advisor, Apr 8, 21]

Our self-government experiment struggles as 75% approve of the President's pandemic management while resisting any enforceable ccommands to act responsibly. The acts of a teenager groping for independence. Meanwhile our politicians hustle to get in front of the crowd they profess to lead. The bad news: there is probably no better altenative as famously expeessed by Winston Churchill

Double standard.  Apparently McConnell and these guys are decrying the influence of corporations but not their money? I don’t understand where the line is. They can pack your pockets with cash, but they can’t talk to you or try to persuade you? [Dick Harpootlian, state senator in SC, Apr 6, 21]

An accelerator program from U.S. Air Force Lab and MassChallenge, a two-year pilot, has its second cohort. The second group includes Atomic-6, BoatBox Technologies, CorePower Magnetics, Inergy, Kinnami Software, Measure Global, OxbyEl Technologies, Particle.One, Rhoman Aerospace and Sentenai. The group gets special mentorships and support from experts at MassChallenge and the Air Force. [BostInno,  Apr, 1, 21] One company had one SBIR. Maybe SBIR's rigid structure, and SBIR mills with hundreds of awards over three decades, should be shrunk, and more flexible opportunities opened.  SBIR was always a fair-share handout program that Congress focused only on the mandated money being spent with the small biz world. 

fix 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, while also addressing climate change and racial inequities and raising corporate taxes. ... plus $180 billion for research and development [Jim Tankersley, NY Times, Mar 31, 21] What's not to like? Paying for it by any living person. Don't tax you, don't tax me/ Tax that guy behinnd the tree. [late Sen Robert Byrd]

The JobsOhio Capital Growth Initiative picks up where last year's JobsOhio innovation Fund [with $50M] to help young companies survive the pandemic and be ready to grow again left off. [Mary Vanac, Cleveland Business Journal, Mar 29, 21]

Bills are for bragging. the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology introduced a bipartisan bill that outlines plans to more than double the National Science Foundation’s budget and create a new technology directorate. [Asher Jones, The Scientist, Mar 29, 2021] In a world of pandemic and unlimited government spending, it might even happen.

More fuel for the flame. Biden also reiterated his call for government investment in science and research as a way to compete with China. "Back in the ‘60s we used to invest a little over 2% of our entire GDP in pure research and investment in science. Today it’s 0.7%. I’m going to change that." [The Fiscal Times, Mar 25, 21]

It is difficult to know whether Mr Trump, a huckster raised on the all-American dictum that the best salesmen believe their own spiels, actually thinks the election was stolen from him. The con-man’s eternal excuse is that he says what the rubes want to hear. [The Economist reviewing Cass Sunstein's Liars, Mar 20, 21]

Debt before taxes. Indeed, the whole idea of paying for government spending with new revenues is apparently so foreign to Republicans and their Senate leader Mitch McConnell that they think it’s some sort of devious trick: "The Trojan horse will be called infrastructure. Inside the Trojan horse will be all the tax increases," McConnell said. [Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg, Mar 24, 21] Tax cuts and understaffed IRS for the wealthy and unlimited military spending make the Republican core dogma that has kept them in effective control of lawmaking for four decades.

In this edition of SSTI Useful Stats, we attempt to go beyond these measures to estimate states’ untapped potential for capturing future SBIR awards. [SSTI, Mar 10, 21] Pure fair-share politics which explains part of SBIR's mediocre results after three decades.

The traditional skepticism toward industrial policy is well deserved. Once Washington starts writing checks for semiconductors, other industries may get in line with the outcome determined more by political clout than economic merit. [Greg Ip, WSJ, Mar 10, 21] Meanwhile, Asia makes more and more chips - an unavoidably strategic commodity.

The USG announced on February 19th a plan for an Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), which is modelled on America’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. That is a promising start. ARIA’s purpose is to fund high-risk, high-reward research, probably by directly funding exceptional scientists. But money is not all that matters. The successful translation of life-science research into treatments during the pandemic (see article) suggests some inexpensive measures that can also make a difference. [The Economist, Feb 27, 21] It's easier to announce a new DARPA-like creature but hard to make one work like the original now several decades old.

Pushing the wet noodles. DARPA will start formalizing and expanding a pilot program that connects its research teams to business expertise to help take technologies out of the lab and into production. In a partnership with nonprofit venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, the Embedded Entrepreneurship Initiative will provide 150 DARPA research teams with funds to hire business executives to develop go-to-market strategies, commercialization mentors and engagement with a DARPA working group stacked with corporate investors over the next five years. [Mila Jasper,, Mar 5, 21] Although DARPA is the most imaginative DOD R&D program, it is still a government program limited by appropriation law to doing government R&D. Its last big push into commercialization died a horrible death with firing of the DARPA Director by the GHWBush administration. A proper use of its R&D is to select companies and technologies that have the best potential for attracting private capital after proof of the concept. One useful step is to require third party validation investment during R&D to pursue the post-development. Anyway it's unlikely that a government hired business advisor will have the inspiring vested interest in the technology and its owner.  For further perspective, troll thru the Clinton adminstration files of the DARPA spin-off efforts. Been there, done that.  

Fearing not the virus. Texas businesses will be able to operate at full capacity and state residents will no longer be required to wear masks to visit them beginning March 10, Gov. Abbott said. [Wall Street Journal, Mar 3, 21]

modern American politics can be reduced to a single question: How long can Paducah tell Seattle what to do? [Ronald Brownstein, Atlantic, Oct 30, 20]

You can't beat something with nothing. instead of looking to the U.S. for help, Latin America is so far relying on Washington’s global rivals: China and Russia. In Argentina and Bolivia, authorities have begun vaccinating with Russia’s Sputnik V, which will soon arrive in Mexico. Chile began inoculating this month with 4 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine. [Ryan Dube and Luciana Magalhaes, Wall Street Journal, Feb 25, 21] America Firsters will say so what.

[Rush Limbaugh] was not trying to lead people through thought but simply to divine where his followers were going and rushing to the head of the line so he could look as if he was leading them. [Peggy Noonan, WSJ, Feb 18, 21] an idea from Ghandi

You're flying on your own as CDC says it is not recommending required point of departure testing for domestic travel [CDC press release, Feb 12, 21]

The world wasn’t ready for Covid-19. [and] for the next, inevitable pandemic? ... must start by understanding that the lessons from battling Covid-19 aren’t just about Covid-19. We will fail if we learn nothing more than how to fight the last war better. ... I suggest a goal of “7-1-7”: Every country should be able to identify any new suspected outbreak within seven days of emergence, start to investigate the event within one day and report it then, and mount an effective response—defined by clear, specific benchmarks for different pathogens—within seven days. [Tom Frieden, Wall Street Journal, Feb 12, 21]

We would be riding the tiger of rapid [technology driven] change. The economy would grow faster but millions of people would have trouble finding a place in it. Universal basic income would become a red-hot topic. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Feb 11, 21] A bigger economy with higher profits and higher concentrated wealth would make a world with huge wealth at one end and huge poverty at the other end. On the inevitable road to that end, The Trumps will gloat on the economy and markets and the Democrats will represent the bottom end, Eventually the numbers of poor with voting rights wiil demand relief. But for now the Reagan trickle-down philosophy still reigns.

They’re fine with hell, so long as they’re re-elected. [Frank Bruni, NYT, Feb 14, 21]

Law or force? A survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute this week found that 55 percent of Republicans back the use of force as a way to “arrest the decline of the traditional American way of life,” as compared with 35 percent of independents and 22 percent of Democrats. [Lisa Lerer, NY Times, Feb 13, 21]  The Republicans favoring force seem not to have read about the rise and inadequacy of Mussolini. 

Trillion-dollar tax cuts seem not to spur capital spending, and trillion-dollar deficits seem not to raise interest rates. Playbooks published in the 1980s do not contain answers. [Oren Cass, Foreign Affairs, Feb 11, 21]

Thanks in part to public investment, clean energy innovation has been fast and plentiful. The price of solar modules has declined by 99.6 percent since 1976. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Feb 11, 21]

Friends, you are the elected representatives of a great nation. The template is supposed to be Atticus Finch standing up to the crowd, not Atticus Finch endlessly sharing his retrospective terror on YouTube. [Peggy Noonan, WSJ, Feb 11, 21]

What George Shultz [died at 100] Taught Us About Making Policy. Begin with a goal, focus on the long term, talk to the other side, and never make empty threats. [John F. Cogan and John B. Taylor,Wall Street Journal, Feb 10, 21] Meanwhile, the internet has smothered the long term in insta-blather.

In self-imposed exile, Trump watches with unhappiness. [WashPost, Feb 9, 21] An heroic patriot worthy of the office would stand before the tribunal under oath and defend his actions.  Instead, his  lawyers rattle on to create an excuse to justify the Trump-fearing senators'  vote against removal and lifetime ban. 

Evidence to bolster the Democratic case has already emerged in federal criminal cases filed against more than 185 people so far in the aftermath of the insurrection. [Rosalind S. Helderman, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, WashPost, Feb 8, 21] Meanwhile, their instigator is being excused by his political party.

It's not news: A new president with his hair on fire wants to spend $1.9 trillion (that's twelve zeros) which he hasn't got, on his urgently necessary project. The veteran members of Congress have heard this story before, back at least to Bill Clinton. The Democrats wanted to pay for projects and the Republicans wanted to lower the upper income taxes. What each party was born for. Eventually a deal will emerge, and four years later the economists will report that the program just didn't have the great effect that it promised.

[State] Senate Republicans voted to end the [Democrat] governor’s health emergency declaration, which would kill the mask mandate. Assembly Republicans were expected to follow suit but delayed a vote after learning that ending the emergency declaration would cost the state $49 million in federal food assistance. [AP, Jan 29, 21]

Unpredictable America.“The world cannot unsee the Trump presidency,” Jonathan Kirshner writes in a new essay. “From now on, all countries, everywhere, must hedge their bets about the United States. ... Whatever promises are made and best behaviors followed over the next few years, a resurgence of knuckle-dragging America firstism will loom menacingly in the shadows.” [Jonathan Kirshner, Foreign Affairs, Jan 28, 21]

Hearing the baying of the Trump base hounds, the GOP senators find a diversion - Constitutionality - which relieves them of messy voting on the merits of impeachment.

“Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest” — a variation on a theme popularized in the 1960s — happens, [Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management], explained in a phone interview, when government intervention does more to stimulate the financial markets than the real economy. So, America’s richest 10 percent, who own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks, have seen their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains. [Thomas Friedman, NYT, Jan 26, 21]

Evidence to override loyalty. Biden signed the Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking, which will task each agency with designating a senior career employee as its scientific integrity officer. That person will oversee and improve policies that shield employees from political interference and that ensure relevant programs follow science-based approaches. A task force will review the scientific integrity policies at every agency. [Eric Katz,, Jan 27, 21]

Today's word - heteronormativity. used in Christian Nationalism in their book “Taking America Back for God”: It includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic and political as it is religious. Understood in this light, Christian nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctively ‘Christian’ from top to bottom — in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values and public policies — and it aims to keep it this way. [Thomas B. Edsall, NY Times, Jan 28, 21] as in We invaded here first, 400 years ago, and so, we own it.

Republicans are signaling a determination to protect their 2017 tax-cut law and prevent President Biden from making good on campaign pledges to partially undo the measure. [The Hill, Jan 26, 21] Good solid Anerican politics: whatever needs doing, someone else needs to pay for it. And invent their own economics to justify it.

Joe Biden’s quiet humanity will confront a noisy nation where too many citizens have become so sour that they’ve found solace, and entertainment, in an alternative reality. It will not be easy to lure them away from their noxious fantasies, but fact-based truth is not negotiable. [Joe Klein reviewing James Comey's Saving Justice, NYT, Jan 11, 21]

Trump tweeted that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” in 2018 as he began to impose tariffs on about $360 billion of imports from China. ... wrong on both counts. Even before the pandemic, Beijing was withstanding Trump’s salvos, and once China got the virus under control, demand for medical equipment expanded its [new record] trade surplus with the U.S. despite the levies [paid by American importers]. [Bloomberg Politics, Jan 12, 21] In America, profit rules over politics.

Having made a hash of things over the last several decades, our self-described Indispensable Nation is looking pretty dispensable, not to mention confused and adrift. So there is a pressing need to understand how things went wrong and how to make them right. .... I leave it to others to determine if the combined efforts of the Bush 43, Obama and Trump administrations qualify as a strategy. ... The overarching theme of United States policy since the beginning is American exceptionalism, which can indeed be malevolent, employed to justify either running the world or ignoring it. [Andrew Bacevich, NY Times, Updated Dec. 21, 20]

The incoming Biden administration is likely to increase contracting opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses. [Courtney Buble,, Dec 29, 20] Yeah, sure, heard that before. If the federals try to micromanage sub-contracting, they undercut the prime contractor's effort to hire the best available companies.

this year is closing out with a second demonstration of the lesson we should have learned in the spring: In times of crisis, government aid to people in distress is a good thing, not just for those getting help, but for the nation as a whole. Or to put it a bit differently, 2020 was the year Reaganism  died. [Paul Krugman, NYTimes, Dec 28, 20]  Reaganism= tax cuts for the wealthy and laissez faire for everyone else. 

Chicago-based Bunker Labs has selected 179 companies for its Veterans in Residence 2021A cohort, a six-month in-person and virtual business incubator that provides veteran and military family member entrepreneurs with business support and workspace. Startups from across the country are participating, and seven are based in Chicago. See the full list of participating startups. [ChicagoInno, Dec 23, 20]

one thing I learned covering the Middle East is that there is only one reliable thing about extremists — they don’t know when to stop. So, in the end, they almost always go over the cliff, taking a lot of people with them. [Thomas Friedman, NY Times, Dec 23, 20] postulating that the Republican party will split into serious principled and suicidal unprincipled parts. 

Science muffled. during the coronavirus pandemic this year in the C.D.C.’s leadership suite shook them: Washington’s dismissal of science, the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice, the meddling in its messages and the siphoning of its budget. [Noah Weiland, New York Times, Dec 16, 20]

Don’t abandon the middle ground, which actually exists. We’re a big and varied country. Maine isn’t Mississippi. People can be ornery about their rights and slippery about their responsibilities. [Peggy Noonan decribing attitudes of former Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, WSJ, Dec 12, 20]

Booming med school applications may have a lot to do with the fact that people look at Anthony Fauci, look at the doctors in their community and say, 'You know, that is amazing. This is a way for me to make a difference,'" said Kristen Goodell, associate dean of admissions at the school of medicine at BU. Medical school admissions officers have started calling this the Fauci Effect. [Jon Marcus, NPR, Dec 7, 20]

A smart drug delivery system and an all-electric, self-driving lawnmower company were among 37 startups that received funding as part of the latest Colorado Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant Program. A total of $7,657,811 was approved for Proof-of-Concept and Early Stage Capital and Retention Grants to fuel the growth of Colorado’s advanced industries, which include things like advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience and electronics. [Nick Greenhalgh, Colorado Inno November 30, 2020] included Agile RF Systems (Bertoud, CO; $3.2M SBIR, $250K; ClearSight (Aurora, CO; $1.8M SBIR, $250K; Menogenix (Aurora, CO; $900K SBIR, $108K

What's a government for?  I don’t love big government, but government is supposed to step up in a crisis, and with the CARES Act, it did. ... But the core problem is that Republicans have applied a dogmatically ideological approach to a situation in which it is not germane and is in fact ruthlessly destructive. ... If we don’t see a Covid-19 relief measure pass in the next week or two, then our democracy is existentially broken. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Dec 3, 20]

Subsidies hit again.Evidence keeps piling up that what was hailed by President Donald Trump as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” was a facade. ... the company has no plans to complete the project and hire the 13,000 workers it promised [Michael Farren and Matthew Mitchell, Chicago Tribune, Nov 30, 20] In case you had not noticed, SBIR is also a subsidy program that hands out money on non-binding promises of future economic success.

[Democrats] should understand that there was really no way to avoid disappointment. Three factors — the logic of partisan polarization, which inaccurate polling obscured; the strength of the juiced pre-Covid-19 economy; and the success of Mr. Trump’s denialist, open-everything-up nonresponse to the pandemic — mostly explain why Democrats didn’t fare better. [Will Wilkinson, NY Times, Nov 26, 20] A huge section of the public insists on its liberty to infect each other in groups that then spread the disease to the rest of the public to inundate the hospitals where they assume medical miracles are their due from the very people whose life mission is caring for others are on the verge of collective collapse. [Katherine J. Wu, NY Times, Nov 26, 20]

A frightening number. Only 3% of those who voted for President Trump consider Mr. Biden's election legitimate. (CNBC Nov 25, 20). Our nation's stability depends on the losers accepting the results and peacefully moving on toward winning the next election.

Organize the Army. Under a forthcoming solicitation under the Army’s SBIR, the branch will be asking small businesses for “solutions leveraging data science and/or machine learning techniques that will revolutionize how the Army recruits, develops, selects, and distributes talent across the force.” The official opportunity will be released Nov. 24, with bids openings Dec. 8. The program office will accept questions from potential proposers from Nov. 24 to Dec.23. Proposals will be due by noon Jan. 12.

Tariffs fail. In the 1980s, it took 10 hours of work to produce a ton of steel; now it takes one hour. In fact, steel protection is a job-destroying policy. Economists at the Federal Reserve found that the steel and aluminum tariffs reduced overall employment in manufacturing by 75,000 workers. ... Many more workers are employed in steel-using industries than in the steel industry itself. [Douglas Irwin, Wall Street Journal, Nov 19, 20] But a gullible electrorate will fall for a political claim that a trade war will improve the nation's employment. 

Having greatly empowered Republican politics, Mr. [Chrles] Koch said he has since come to regret his partisanship, which he says badly deepened divisions. “Boy, did we screw up!” he writes in his new book. “What a mess!” Mr. Koch is now trying to work together with Democrats and liberals on issues such as immigration, criminal-justice reform and limiting U.S. intervention abroad, where he thinks common ground can be found. [Douglas Belkin, Wall Street Journal, Nov 13, 20]

Tantrums work. “Fear has always worked for Trump. Tantrums have always paid dividends.” said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management expert who worked in communications in Ronald Reagan’s White House. [Michael Tackett and Calvin Woodward, Associated Press, Nov 14, 20]

President-elect Joe Biden is stacking his transition team with policy academics and former Obama administration officials, a clear break from President Donald Trump's policy of choosing industry insiders. [Bloomberg, Nov 11, 20]

Biden carried only 477 of the 3,141 counties in the United States, but those counties account for 70 percent of the country’s economic output, according to new figures from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. The 2,497 counties that voted for President Trump account for just 29 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). [Reid Wilson, The Hill, 11/11/20] No surprise. Urban area counties large populations in millions and rural counties have small populations in tens of thousands.

lying is now such a growth industry it deserves its own G.D.P. line: “Auto sales and durables were each down 10 percent last quarter, but lying grew 30 percent and economists predict that the lying industry could double in 2021.” [Thomas Friedman, NY Times, Nov 11, 20]

Free market success. FWIW: VP Mike Pence tried to take credit on Twitter this morning, citing the White House's Operation Warp Speed "public-private partnership." One big problem with that boast? "We were never part of the Warp Speed," Pfizer's head of vaccine development Dr. Kathrin Jansen told the New York Times. "We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone." [DefenseOne, Nov 9, 20]

As the continuing controversy over this week’s U.S. elections demonstrates, faith in the fundamental fairness of democratic institutions is, for many, no longer a given amid a political polarization that often generates echo chambers of conspiracy theories. [Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Nov 7, 20] Imagined conspiracies can yield endless and comforting delusion as a voting majority calls for soemthing more.

Even if Trump ends up losing his reelection bid, Trumpism — an unapologetically coarse, swaggering and nasty brand of politics — has been vindicated. Forget competence. Forget dignity. Forget class. Even forget policy (remember Trump’s health care plan that was always just two weeks away from unveiling?). Tribalism is king. Fear clobbers hope. Truth is optional. Character doesn’t count. The guardrails are down. [Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune, Nov 5, 20]

Got no case. “There is no evidence that any election worker did anything outside of the law, policy, or procedures,” the judge wrote. Judge Wilson also said the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to bring the challenge because they didn’t show they were harmed. [Brent Kendall and Sara Randazzo, WSJ, Nov 3, 20] Wishful imagination doesn't sell as evidence.

Now, there are so many cases, in so many places, that many people are coming to a frightening conclusion: They have no idea where the virus is spreading. [Sarah Mervosh and Lucy Tompkins, NY Times, Oct. 31, 20] Protect yourself: assume everyone you see is infectious. Any infection you contract has a non-zero probability of causing long term damage to your body. Don't believe anything you hear from the White House.

Unk-unks. “We don’t know for sure what we don’t know,” said Dr. Edward Lifshitz, medical director of the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health, which doesn’t publicly report antigen positive cases because the figure is incomplete. [Amy Schoenfeld Walker, Lisa Waananen Jones, and Jugal K. Patel, NY Times, Nov. 1, 2020]

From gerrymandering to voter roll purges, we showed people around the world how the American system works. It didn’t go well. [video by Chai Dingari, Brendan Miller, Adam Westbrook and Emily Holzknecht, NY Times, Nov 2, 20] And Trump Backers Block Highways and Democratic buses, as the end justifies the means, which has been going on since the election of 1796.

Targets of opportunity. Whatever happens during the U.S. election next week, the political party that loses the presidency is likely to lay the blame at least partly at the feet of the country’s social media giants—either for doing too much or not doing enough. That means scenes like Wednesday’s hearing battering the tech CEOs will remain a favored political pastime for the foreseeable future. [Sarah Frier, Bloomberg, Oct 29, 20] The workings of the Congress have depended on Republican fear of Trump's single-minded political base that cares not for an adult approach to serious questions of governance. The pending election will answer how acceptable that worship is to the other 70% of the electorate. VOTE safely and countably.

Trump aides and allies increasingly acknowledge that anyone who is seriously concerned about the virus threat won’t vote for Trump anyway. [Politico, Oct 28, 20]

Credit card stretching. White House officials and House Speaker Pelosi are closing in on a nearly $2 trillion deal to provide another round of stimulus checks, reinstate extra weekly unemployment benefits and extend aid for small businesses, airlines and state and local governments. [Wall Street Journal, Oct 24, 20] How much credit card debt can this household afford to maintain its life syle? Would the answer be different if this were not a presidential election timer? Would you buy a federal bond at less than 1% interest to support this spending?

It sounded so good. President Trump’s trade war against China didn’t achieve the central objective of reversing a U.S. decline in manufacturing, economic data show, despite tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods to discourage imports. [Josh Zumbrun and Bob Davis, Wall Street Journal, Oct 26, 20] As always, be wary of politicians' economic claims supported by hand-picked advisors.

A federal health agency halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers. ... chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the news “extremely disappointing,” [Wall Street Journal, Oct 26, 20]

If leaders won't do it, why should we? Vice President Mike Pence plans to maintain an aggressive campaign schedule this week despite an apparent outbreak of the coronavirus among his senior aides, the White House says. [AP, Oct 26, 20] No wonder that ccntact tracing and quarantine isn't working in America, With the coronavirus spreading out of control in many parts of the United States and daily case counts setting records, [a 40 percent rise in the past month] health experts say it is only a matter of time before hospitals reach the breaking point. [New York Times, Oct 26, 20], it's downright inconvenient for people who love to gather.

It’s the economy, stupid.[James Carville, 1992] Apparently not in 2020 where people like Trump's economy, as they ignore the debt growth, but plan to vote otherwise according to the polls. pollster Peter Hart, who helps oversee the Journal/NBC News poll, says that as Americans already are standing in long lines to cast ballots, 2020 is a year in which voters see the broader course of the country as the real issue. [Gerald F. Seib, WSJ, Oct 19, 20] The monetary pumping of the economy with liquidity and government debt may become the burning issue by the next big election in 2024.

As Trump made clear to his campaign staffers, his notion of freedom means the right to ignore rules meant for the common good. [David Knowles, YahooNews, Oct 19, 20]

After four years of parrying with President Donald Trump, the Chinese leader shows no intention of scaling back his ambitions to supplant the U.S. as the dominant tech power. [Bloomberg Politics, Oct 15, 20] The core question is do we have the political and industrial leadership to defend our economic security with any national strategy that requires teamwork in a bitterly polarized free-fire zone.

Spoke out, thrown out. Dr. Rick Bright, ousted vaccine director turned whistleblower, told CNN on Thursday that Trump saying you shouldn’t be afraid of the coronavirus after he was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was “probably the most reckless and deadly piece of information I have ever heard.” Earlier this week Bright resigned from his position at the National Institutes of Health where he had been reassigned following his whistleblower complaint. [, Oct 13, 20] If you blow a whistle in .gov, be prepared for a lonely existence out of sight. Look up the long lonely second DOD career, with secretary, of A. Ernest Fitzgerald.

When McKinley defeated Bryan (1896), more than 40% of Americans worked on farms. Today, even though farm production and exports have soared, only 1.5% of the workforce is in agriculture. Manufacturing employment, which constituted more than 30% of the U.S. workforce in the 1950s, has declined to 8.8%, even as rising productivity allows industry to produce more with fewer workers. And despite Mr. Trump’s campaign promises, coal-mining jobs hit a new low in 2019. A new economy more focused on information and services is coming for reasons largely unrelated to public policy. [William Galston, WSJ, Oct 14, 20] The danger is growing for Trump's uneducated laborers who will be outvoted by the growing class of the educated who will reject Trump's lowball tactics and attitudes.

Libertarian Spirit. But this time—unlike in the spring—public-health experts broadly and increasingly agree, with some worried that the general public won’t cooperate with another monthslong, generalized lockdown against a disease whose transmission is now much better understood. [Drew Hinshaw, Wall Street Journal, Oct 13, 20]

Wisconsin officials have denied a request by Foxconn Technology Group [China] for the first payments in what had been envisioned as $3 billion in state subsidies for a major technology complex. [Wall Street Journal, Oct 13, 20]

Disproof by contradiction. Researchers report first death from coronavirus reinfection. [Washington Post, Oct 13, 2020] While Trump claims immunity in his fantasy rallies.

“Now we have tens of thousands of people getting convalescent plasma” — a Covid-19 treatment that was granted an E.U.A. in August — “and we still don’t know whether it works,” [Dr. Jesse Goodman, F.D.A.’s chief scientist from 2009 to 2014] said. [Robert P. Baird, NYTimes, Oct. 10, 20] Now we also have a politically desperate politician who got the treatment threatening a command directive to allow it widely, regardless of FDA legally required decision.

While politicians spar. Economists are dialing back their forecasts for U.S. economic growth as prospects fade for a renewed round of government stimulus. [Jeffrey Sparshott, WSJ, Oct 8, 20]  With enough stimulus, we could declare a semi-socialist government to guarantee jobs for all.  Republican Senators are torn between helping low income constituents and undercutting their free market religion protecting corporate interests that support that senatorial religion.  This problem might have been substantially lessened if the adminstration had taken a serious approach to controlling the pendemic. 

If you can't stand the answer... The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members at the Rose Garden celebration 10 days ago, where at least eight people, including the president, may have become infected, according to a White House official familiar with the plans [New York Times, Oct 6, 20] ... don't ask the question.

Presidential trials. There are no approved treatments for Covid-19, but the Regeneron [antibody cocktail] treatment is one of the most promising candidates, along with another antibody treatment developed by Eli Lilly. Both are being tested in patients around the country. ... Mr. Trump was also taking zinc, vitamin D, melatonin, a daily aspirin and famotidine, [none of which have yet proved effective]. During the pandemic, Mr. Trump has promoted a range of unproven or scientifically questionable treatments for the virus, and himself took the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in the hopes that it could prevent infection .... Mr. Trump in 2018 signed the Right to Try law, which allows patients and their doctors to directly request an experimental treatment from a company, without first seeking approval from the F.D.A [Katie Thomas and Gina Kolata, NY Times, Oct 3, 20]

Political medicine. Senior White House officials have raised objections to [FDA]’s proposed standards for deciding whether a Covid-19 vaccine should be given widely and don’t appear likely to sign off on the agency’s guidelines, people familiar with the matter said. [Wall Street Journal, Oct 3, 20] Any electoral impact of a vaccine announcement has probably already come and gone.

Virus repugnant to command (Shakespeare). The French government will shut bars and impose other restrictions in the Paris region from tomorrow as authorities struggle to contain a spike there. New curbs are also expected to be announced in Ireland and Italy. U.K. Prime Minister warned of a "tough winter" as the country's test-and-trace system came under fire again after it failed to capture 15,000 positive tests last week. [Bloomberg, Oct 5, 20]

MIT Technology Review is launching the Outcome, a pop-up newsletter focused on the security and integrity of the election. It will cover topics such as misinformation, voting machines, and cybersecurity, but above all it will ask the same questions of the election that we ask of every technology: Is it working as intended? [MIT Tech Review, Oct 2, 20]

Debate watchers were confronted with a core truth: What Trump did to that debate Tuesday night is what he’ll do to America in a second term. ... Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward made the essential point: “There was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare.” [David Brooks, NY Times, Oct 1, 20]

Conflict of Interest. Trump’s Vaccine Czar Refuses to Give Up Stock in Drug Company Involved in His Government Role. [Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica,, Sep 25, 20] calls him a "contractor" who would therefore be a czar with no power to issue directions to government. Would you accept a small biz tech contractor in your field picking SBIR winners?

companies that seem to use SBIR awards as a primary revenue stream rather than a means to creating future revenue paths through new product and process innovations persist, based on SSTI’s review of award data. Known as “SBIR mills” many of these companies appear to be clustered geographically in specific metropolitan areas, many of which house major federal labs or research centers, the analysis of SBIR data reveals. This suggests, from a policy perspective, that the federal agencies could be doing much more to curtail the mills and redirect awards into companies more consistently focused on turning innovation into products, profits and jobs [SSTI, Sep 23, 20] The problem persists in "mission agencies" wherein the agency is doing R&D to fill its own technology needs, and therefore prefers reliable contractors and predictable results. In contrast, NIH has a long list of SBIR big successes  as demonstrated by reports in the business press of companies being acquired for billions. Will it continue? Of course, as long as the small biz world gets its annual handout that Congresscritters can claim at election time.

Never so low. The Trump administration’s bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent efforts to meddle with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking a substantial toll on the nation’s foremost public health institution. In interviews with half a dozen current and former CDC officials, they described a workforce that has seen its expertise questioned, its findings overturned for political purposes and its effectiveness in combating the pandemic undermined by partisan actors in Washington. “I have never seen morale this low. [Reid Wilson, The Hill, 09/23/20] An irresponsible force feeding a gullible audience. Elections have consequences. But the administration may have so undercut public faith in the virus struggle that it will gain nothing when it announces total victory is a new vaccine.

each of the top 11 states in per-capita [Covid-19] cases voted for Trump in 2016. [Jonathan Bernstein Bloomberg, Sep 22, 20]

Some members of the Trump administration are already discussing the pandemic in the past tense. So if the president wins re-election, the federal response is unlikely to change. We’ll continue relying on individual states, cities, schools and businesses to manage the crisis on their own until a vaccine curbs the virus. Mistrust between the White House and the nation’s leading scientific institutions is likely to persist. [NYTimes, Sep 18, 20]

We knew the world hates Donald Trump. We knew people outside the United States have been giving Americans side-eye since 2016. We just didn’t know it was this bad. [Kevin Baron, DefenseOne, Sep 17, 20] As we slink back into our fortress -- expect fewer exports, dearer imports, fewer jobs, and fewer smiles at your US passport.

The first data detailing Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine—nicknamed Sputnik—was published last week (September 4) in The Lancet. Almost immediately, other scientists began to call attention to unlikely patterns in the data, asking for raw numbers to verify the study’s conclusions. [Amanda Heidt, The Scientist, Sep 14, 20] Never trust a fact spewed by an autocrat, especially one being advised by loyalists.

Money, of course. Joe Biden [when primary candidate] rejecting the big-government plans of progressive rivals as unaffordable. In the general election campaign, he has rolled out his own multi-trillion-dollar platform that a new study finds would push long-term Washington spending to its highest level in decades. The former vice president has proposed a total of $5.4 trillion in new spending over the next 10 years, according to an analysis published  by the Penn Wharton Budget Model [Wall Street Journal, Sep 14, 20] When zillions of people need a handout from a government with boundless borrowing power, what's a candidate to do? Where and when does the free money train end?  Not soon if we have a blue wave election that removes conservatives from power. 

No lies barred. POTUS has been spreading related disinformation about the U.S. election. "More than 100 times this year, President Trump has peddled false claims or imaginary threats about voting by mail," the Washington Post's fact checker Salvador Rizzo reported. [DefOne, Sep 11, 20]

William Hartung of the Center for International Policy says,"[T]he process through which the new [ICBM] missiles are being developed — a 'sole source' contract without competition — is suspect, if not outright corrupt." [Defense One, Sep 9, 20] Sounds purely pre-elecTion political. Sole source is authorized only for extreme circumstances of no competition and urgent time-critical need. The only time pressure ends Nov 3. Eventually potential competitors will sue, and Congress will refuse to apprppriate the funds. By then the election will be over and the action shelved.

I can assure the American people that the senior leaders would only recommend sending our troops to combat when it’s required for national security and a last resort, Army ChofStaff McConville said during an interview with Defense One online. [Katie Bo Wlliams, DefOne, Sep 8, 20] The Army does not start wars, it only offers the lives of its soldiers to execute the political objective by force. As a  desperate President, with little depth in the history of the subject, fills the air with accusations at all and sundry.      

“our [GAO] analysis also showed that the majority (67 percent) of IR&D projects completed between 2014 and 2018 focused on incremental, rather than disruptive, innovation.” In other words, while defense contractors are spending some of their money on big ambitious goals, they prefer to spend more on low-hanging fruit, in little improvements to existing technologies that they can sell to the government more easily. [Patrick Tucker, DefenseOne, Sep 3, 20] No surprise, the military has always sought a brand new idea that has been thoroughly tested. Its record in SBIR shows its R&D conservatism. The sole DOD agency wth an innovative spirit is DARPA which was invented to prevent technological surprise and has stuck with that mission for many decades.

The federal guidance to not test asymptomatic carriers "is like saying we won't fight the fire until it reaches the second floor." [Caroline Chen,, Sep 3, 20]

Top White House officials rang the alarm bell during a call with the nation’s governor, pleading with them to advise college presidents in their states to keep COVID-infected students on campus or risk another major outbreak. [Sam Stein, Matt Taylor, The Daily Beast, Sep 1, 20] After demanding  re-opening, Trump now wants colleges to eat the ensuing problem. As usual, no help offered.

Vaccine public input. Starting September 1, the National Academies will invite public comments on a Discussion Draft of the Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine, part of a study commissioned by NIH and CDC. The study will recommend priorities to inform allocation of a limited initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine, taking into account factors such as racial/ethnic inequities and groups at higher risk due to health status, occupation, or living conditions. Public Listening Session Sept. 2 | 12 to 5 pm ET Register Now.

Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital firm InQTel is among a half-dozen investors in Morpheus Space, a German startup whose novel electric thrusters enable tiny satellites to maneuver and big ones to reduce complexity. [Marcus Weisgerber, DefenseOne, Aug 26, 20]

A cherry-picked piece of a small sample.   [FDA]  ‘Grossly Misrepresented’ Blood Plasma Data, Scientists Say. ... : that the treatment had reduced deaths by 35 percent [Katie Thomas and Sheri Fink, New York Times, Aug. 24, 2020] An apparent case of torturing the data until they surrender, typically useful in politics of uneducated voters. But even though it works for Trump's politics, it still depends on doctors' believing enough to try it in a medical world of uncertainty and malpractice lawyers.

Who me, evidence? The Trump campaign says the ballot drop box invites fraud. The federal judge asked the campaign to provide evidence of actual fraud, but the campaign declined, arguing it did not have to do so in order to win the case. [Jarrett Renshaw,yohoonews, Aug 24, 20]

Discard the RR crossing gates. The Trump administration this week ordered the [FDA] to allow the use of a certain class of laboratory tests, including some for the coronavirus, without first confirming that they work. [NY Times, Aug 21, 20] Corporate self-regulation has a long history of abuse as profit simply cannot resist temptation.   

DOD blessed four US drone makers for future procurement of military drones. None had SBIR awards. The $18 million project to identify “safe for government use” drones was led by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, which recruits Silicon Valley tech and other commercial innovators to help solve its problems. Several of the companies hadn’t worked with the Defense Department before the effort. [Katy Stech Ferek, Wall Street Journal, Aug 20, 20]

I’ve heard fantastic things about convalescent plasma,” Trump told reporters. “And people are dying. And we should have it approved if it's good, and I'm hearing it's good.” [Donald Trump's  evidence for his claim for a new medicine.] Political desperation and "I've heard" do not qualify as evidence. The authorization is on hold for now as more data are reviewed, and H. Clifford Lane, M.D., clinical director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said an emergency approval could still be issued in the near future, as quoted by The New York Times. [Ben Adams, Fierce Biotech, Aug 19, 20]

ALARM. The Air Force SBIR page warns of a false site: WARNING!!! SCAM ALERT! We have been alerted to the fact that a fraudulent website is posing as the site, using a similar look and feel as the official site. DO NOT enter information into the site and only enter information into the official page.

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was told by a CNN interviewer yesterday there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. His response was “there’s no evidence that there’s not, either.” [Bloomberg, Aug 17, 20] The Trump White House rejects the idea that the burden of proof rests on the claimant. Imagine a criminal court where the prosecutor says "The accused killed the victim; the prosecution rests."

The philosopher Isaiah Berlin once said he occupied the “extreme right-wing edge of the left-wing movement.” If that’s good enough for Isaiah Berlin, it’s good enough for me. [David Brooks, NY Times, Aug 14, 20] Brooks argues that radicals identify the problem and realists - Hamilton, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt - assemble the majority to enact the solutions.

Powerful Appropriations Senator gets $1.1B for his state to move the FBI's Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, with 1500 jobs onto the military base for Army and NASA missile headquarters. [Courtney Buble,, Aug 11, 20] The former champion of such home-cooking largesse was Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Thus continues the long slow deliberate irreversible process of decentralizing the federal government out of the national capital city.

still the Republican Party continues to push tax cuts the same way the Roman Catholic Church uses incense for High Mass,” he writes, “as a comforting symbolism for believers that reminds them of their identity.” [Ross Douthat quoting from It Was All a Lie by Stuart Stevens, NY Times, Aug 10, 20]

Inventing his own law. President Trump is considering new immigration rules that would allow border officials to temporarily block an American citizen or legal permanent resident from returning to the United States from abroad if the authorities have reason to believe the person may be infected with the coronavirus. .... Officials said there were no current rules that would allow American citizens and legal residents to be prohibited from returning to the United States for a period of time because of concerns about a communicable disease. [Caitlin Dickerson, NY Times, Aug 11, 20] Home is where when you have to go there, they have to take you in. 

Not Much. The net effect of all those city grants, local strategic partnerships, local enterprise growth initiatives, city region pilots, local enterprise partnerships, regional growth funds and the rest has been: not much. [The Economist, Jul 30, 20] Although the place is Britain, where politicians also love making announcement of such entities, ....

Ultimately, the phase one [trade] agreement disappointed because it, along with the trade war, severely damaged the U.S. economy while failing to make significant progress in fundamentally resolving the structural imbalances of the U.S.-China trade relationship.  [Ryan Hass and Abraham Denmark explain, Brookings, Aug 10, 20]

After five years, $30 million and outside support from a tiger team of tech experts from the U.S. Digital Service, the [SBA]’s online small business verification program, Certify, is ineffective and being scrapped. [Aaron Boyd,, Aug 3, 20]

Fantasy exposed.  Capital investment [since Reagan] remained relatively weak despite deep tax cuts (as it does today under Donald Trump). [Jeff Madrick, reviewing Robert Reich's  THE SYSTEM Who Rigged It, How We Fix It,  NYTimes, Jul 31, 20]

The White House is trying to solve bad polling by agreeing to indefensibly bad debt. This proposal is not targeted to fix precise problems — it’s about Democrats and Trumpers competing to outspend each other.  [Sen Ben Sasse, Jul 29, 20]

Small businesses are bracing for a prolonged crisis while short on cash and customers. Hopes for a quick economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have been dashed, and companies are exhausting rescue funds. Many are shutting down or slashing jobs again, Ruth Simon, Amara Omeokwe and Gwynn Guilford report. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Jul 23, 20] Do your bit: order-in or dine-in  neighborhood eateries' meals.

“We designed an economic response that was predicated on a public health response that did not materialize” [Trevon Logan, Ohio State University economist and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Vox, Jul 17, 20] And the leader who bet solely on the health response has to face the voters who might be shedding their credulity.

Fixation Consequences. Hospitals Are Suddenly Short of Young Doctors — Because of Trump’s Visa Ban [Dara Lind, ProPublica, Jul 17, 20] Feeding and endangering his base, who are not people, just expected votes.

Dreamworld continues. Measures aimed at slowing the pandemic are facing political resistance. [Talal Ansari and Allison Prang, WSJ, Jul 17, 20] Voters treated as gullible and believing in miracles from political promises. Voters do, however, show considerable cognitive dissonance that politicos exploit.

Why govenment welfare. the government learned the extent of malnutrition and other negative side effects of the Depression and the years of drought that created the Dust Bowl. Nearly half the men drafted in the first twelve months were sent home. More than 100,000 were rejected because they could neither read nor write. Another group was toothless or lacked more than half their teeth. [Peter Cozzens, excerpt from The Rise of the GI Army, 1940-41 by Paul Dixon, Wall Street Journal, Jul 16, 20]

Government goes suspiciously private. Hospitals have been ordered to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all patient information to a central database in Washington, raising questions about transparency. [Sheryl Gay Stolberg, NYTimes, Jul 14, 20] Imagine that, a spur of the moment non-competitive contract for a dramatic shift in flow of public information during a presidential campaign. Politically inspired? Perish the thought.

Another problem is that the administration no longer has many experts [about stimulus] the president could lean on for advice if he was willing to do so. [Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg, Jul 13, 20] When loyalty and the readiness to answer YES are the prime qualifiers for high level federal service. Does a 33-year old [brings deep connections to Donald Trump and controversial Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel] head of DOD R&D sound like a responsible appointment?

Why [ejecting foreign high tech students] could backfire: The US just doesn’t have the irresistible pull it once did, and other countries are competing hard to attract them. America’s leading companies and universities are tough to match, but Canada, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, and others now boast flourishing tech hubs, world-class research institutions, and bold public policies to support R&D. [Tina Huang and Zachary Arnold, researchers with Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Jul 13, 20] Trump's apparent approach is to loudly eject the immigrants easiest to find. His economic rationale is basically a myth that all immigrants displace American workers. Both counter-evidence and American popular opinion say otherwise.

Perfect is the enemy of good. In the past week, “the single biggest relief package in American history,” as President Trump accurately labeled the legislation, has evolved toward the political fate of most other spending bills. Candidates who benefited from it, however indirectly, are accused of taking handouts. [David Weigel, WashPo, Jul 12, 20] 

Disengaged executive. President Trump picked a public fight with federal disease experts while lobbying governors to reopen schools for in-person instruction this fall, and Vice President Pence repeated the president’s threat that federal funds are on the line if state and local officials do not bring students of all ages back to classrooms despite COVID-19 worries. [The Hill, Jul 8, 20] An engaged president would have formed the objective, appointed a temporary czar, developed a workable plan with agreed and legal tasks for the various agencies, coordinated with Congress, and rolled out the workable plan with a national address. Not Trump's style of flashy Executive Orders with little consideration of workability or legality. Just another autocrat appealing to a poltical base.

The U.S. government plans to lend $700 million in coronavirus stimulus funds to trucking firm YRC Worldwide, in exchange for a 29.6% equity stake in the company, the Treasury Department said. [Wall Street Journal, Jul 1, 20] Trump might love the profit possibilities, since he berated "my generals" for not using military operations to collect money for the US Treasury.

When loyalty matters most. FEMA warned states not to use COVID-19 testing supplies it bought under a $10.2 million contract after a ProPublica investigation last week showed the vendor was providing contaminated and unusable mini soda bottles. FEMA signed its first deal with Fillakit on May 7, just six days after the company was formed by an ex-telemarketer repeatedly accused of fraudulent practices over the past two decades. [Ryan Gabrielson and J. David McSwane, ProPublica,, Jun 29, 20] Trump has systematically appointed loyalists as government agency heads, and removed inspectors general who found too many faults.

Too much tech. Michigan has introduced a bill designed to prevent employers from forcing their staff to accept microchip implants. [Charlie Osborne, ZDNet, June 29, 20]

Toward a dumber government. Trump signed an executive order to overhaul requirements federal agencies use when evaluating job candidates, seeking to downplay the importance of college degrees. The order requires agencies to increase the use of skill assessments and interviews with subject matter experts to determine an applicant's qualifications, rather than simply looking at educational achievements. [Eric Katz,, Jun 27, 20] Congress may step in to control anti-intellectual Executive Order land. It's also possible that Trump doesn't know the realties of federal hiring and is only just showing off for his uneducated base.

President Trump signed an executive order that calls on the U.S. government to prosecute individuals who damage statues or monuments and to limit federal support to states and law-enforcement agencies that don’t protect them. [WSJ, Jun 26, 20] Such an order will run into the same wall his sanctuary city edict did: if the law establishing the handout to a jurisdicion did not include such a criterion, an Executive Order to do so is illegal. The showtime President cannot unilaterally change a law.

Voter supression alive and well. The Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal that sought permission for voters in Texas to cast absentee ballots in this year’s elections if they feared coronavirus risks from voting in person. [WSJ, Jun 26, 20] Elections have consequences.

as my sweet southern Grandmother would say, "Bless their hearts, they're just special stupid. " [David Spencer, Bluffton, SC on NYT piece on MI gov Witmer, commenting on SC Repubs, NYT June 25, 20]

Trump’s Napalm Politics? They Began With Newt. Gingrich wrote the playbook for it all. The nastiness, the contempt for norms, the transformation of political opponents into enemies. [Jennifer Senior, New York Times, June 28, 20]

Since 2005, the One North Carolina Small Business Program has made 423 SBIR/STTR matching awards worth nearly $26 million to more than 250 businesses throughout the state. [SSTI, Jun 24, 20]

With the wealthiest 10% owning 84% of all stocks, and with the bottom 75% owning none at all, a rising stock market does absolutely nothing for the wealth of two-thirds of Americans.  [Nouriel Roubini, Project Syndicate,  Jun 24, 20]

Loyalty first. The White House is intensifying an effort to hire Pentagon personnel with an undisputed allegiance to President Trump at a moment when his relationship with Defense Secretary has become strained, current and former officials said. [Missy Ryan, Paul Sonne, and Josh Dawsey, WashPost, June 25, 20] Probably will not affect SBIR unless shutdown threatens at new fiscal year start Oct 1. When funding is short, SBIR gets low priority.

President Donald Trump came to office promising to build a wall around to America to keep foreigners out. He may leave it with foreigners building walls to keep Americans out. [Bloomberg, Jun 24, 20]

Flexible minions.  a familiar pattern: President Donald Trump says something that doesn’t line up with the facts held by scientists and other experts at government agencies. Then, instead of pushing back, federal officials scramble to reconcile the fiction with their own public statements. [ProPublica,, Jun 23, 20]

Sure, Trump threatens China constantly, but he mainly follows through with trade wars that are the equivalent of punching himself in the face out of spite. [Bloomberg, Jun 23, 20]

Sailors cheer, Navy brass jeer. In a reversal, the service’s top officer says further investigation revealed lapses in Capt. Brett Crozier’s judgment and actions aboard his COVID-stricken [aircraft carrier] ship. [Bradley Peniston, DefOne, Jun 22, 20]

Tribalism. [Nebraska] Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has threatened to withhold funds from any county that requires people to wear a mask in public buildings. The Republican governor is forbidding counties to require residents to do something that will, at very minimal personal inconvenience, reduce the spread of covid-19 to their fellow Nebraskans.[Megan McArdle, WashPo, Jun 18,20] Like so many issues rooted in science and medicine, the pandemic is now fully entangled with ideological tribalism. [Lori Rozsa et al, WashPo, Jun 18, 20]

Guarded privacy, unguarded health. N.Y.C. Hired 3,000 Workers for Contact Tracing. It’s Not Going Well. workers have not had much success in getting information from people who test positive. [Sharon Otterman, NY Times, June 21, 2020]

Who's paying for MAGA? Critics of the administration’s actions on China say hawkish officials have overreached or adopted misguided measures — for example, pushing a trade war that has resulted in mainly American companies paying about $55 billion in tariffs and caused suffering among farmers, or starting tit-for-tat punishments against Chinese media organizations that have resulted in the expulsions of American reporters from China. [Edward Wong and Michael Crowley, NY Times, Jun 18, 20]

When you wish upon a star... Trump claims the coronavirus pandemic is ending. Data and the experts disagree. [Philip Bump, WashPo, Jun 18, 20] Do presidents have ex officio superior understanding? 

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy faces potentially significant long-term damage from higher unemployment and a wave of small business failures due to the coronavirus pandemic despite recent signs of an economic rebound. [WSJ, Jun 17, 20] Beware breezy economic claims by campaigning politicians because lying is an epidemic disease in politics.

The truth is that government efforts to inform the public about the pandemic have been a colossal failure, which means that most people are hearing mixed and muffled messages about what to do. [Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg Opinion, Jun 15, 20]  When messages on health depend on politics, disease gets an unfair advantage. 

Public Education. In times of crisis, a government’s duty is to lead the public through a process of diagnosing the problem and identifying a shared plan for solving it. This is fundamentally an act of public education. ... When the pandemic hit, none of this happened. Trump, the person with the greatest power to educate the public and motivate the whole country behind a common purpose, declined to use that power. [Danielle Allen Foreign Affairs, J/A2020]

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 25-2 to approve annual authorization of Defense Department spending that exceeds levels requested by the administration in a number of areas, including emerging technology investments to keep pace with China, according to a summary the committee released today. [Mariam Baksh,, Jun 11, 20] Note: authorization s only permisssion, not demand, for appropriation - the money creating step. But these are welcoming days for deficit spending in trillions.

Only large companies with deep pockets will be able to ride out the storm, with the technology giants gaining most of all, as digital interactions become ever more important. A lingering epidemic combined with deep job losses, a prolonged recession, and an unprecedented debt burden will inevitably create tensions that turn into a political backlash—but against whom is as yet unclear. [Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affars, J/A2020]

Trump announces rallies in states where new infections are surging. [The Hill, Jun 11, 20] Maybe he will thank the throng by shaking all their hands whle wearing a hazmat suit.

Two decades to cold nationalism. It is difficult now to remember how high American prestige was less than two decades ago, as recently as Sept. 10, 2001—that post-Cold War unipolar moment when the Yale University historian Paul Kennedy observed that the lone superpower had surpassed even ancient Rome in economic and military dominance—and how quickly that went off course. In what was possibly the worst strategic misdirection in U.S. history, Bush and his neoconservative abettors (who are all in hiding now, conceptually speaking) turned what should have been a globally unifying struggle against the international community’s remaining criminal holdouts, Islamist terrorists, into an exhausting imperialist game of invasion and whack-a-mole, exposing in the process America’s worst vulnerabilities on the ground and in the air. [Michael Hirsh, reviewing The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World, by Barry Gewen, Foreign Policy, Jun 7, 20] You have to return to Lyndon Johnson's 1968 abdication for the start with Nixon-Kissinger of the long decline and recent nationalist abandonment of American hegemony.

there is a war being waged on our institutions by the president. This war - foreign and domestic - has been a wild success. And these developments leave us weakened and at the mercy of ever-increasing centralized control in the hands of Donald Trump, a particular danger considering he lacks the knowledge and respect for these institutions to see their value and necessity. ... Trump has been the perfect vessel for [Steve] Bannon's vision to tear apart global infrastructure, take power and solidify control. [Jessica Tarlov, The Hill, Jun 9, 20]

the president who now fancies himself an expert on polling began the day by sharing a poll number that is by now pretty obviously made up. ... how his approval rating among Republicans is 96 percent, without ever citing a poll that includes that figure. [Philip Bump, WashPo, Jun 8, 20]

Yes, a chemical. No, there were not chemical irritants. Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. It's not chemical[said USAG Barr]. [NPR, Jun 8, 20] Au contraire PepperBall’s website declares: “With multiple payload options and a proprietary chemical irritant that’s proven more effective from even greater distances, PepperBall® projectiles offer the protection and versatility for any situation.” (The company did not respond to a request for comment.) What’s that ingredient? It’s called pelargonic acid vanillylamide, or PAVA, a “synthetic'' form of capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers. [Glenn Kessler, WashPo fact checker, Jun 8, 20]

Mr Podsnap was well to do, and stood very high in Mr Podsnap’s opinion.  He never could make out why everybody was not quite satisfied, and he felt conscious that he set a brilliant social example in being particularly well satisfied with most things, and, above all other things, with himself. [Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend]  But not being a natural born American, Podsnap was not eligible to compete with his mirror image, Mr Trump, in this century.

NASA is calling all entrepreneurs through its newly-launched pilot Entrepreneurs Challenge to seek fresh ideas from new participants to bolster the agency’s science and space exploration goals with new tools and technologies, at lower costs. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, based in Washington, D.C., is seeking novel ideas from technologists and entrepreneurs in areas including machine learning, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics and advanced sensors. White paper submissions are due Friday, June 26, with the challenge event to be held July 29. [DCInno, Jun 4, 20]

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently rolled out a new website for the SBIR/STTR program which SBA administers. Reorganized and including new landing pages for entrepreneurs, support organizations, and federal agencies, the new page provides quicker and easier access to the right information.  [SSTI, Jun 3, 20]

The 51-foot ladders. People are sawing through and climbing over Trump’s border wall. [Nick Miroff, WashPo, Jun 4, 20] As predicted by then AZ Gov Janet Napolitano, 50-foot wall? I'll show you a 51-foot ladder.

“No powerful political actor had set out to destroy the American political system itself — until, that is, Trump won the Republican nomination,” [Massa] Gessen writes. “He was probably the first major party nominee who ran not for president but for autocrat.” [Jennifer Szalai reviewing Surviving Autocracy, NY Times, Jun 3, 20]

Trump doing his thing. The belief in Beijing, Moscow and Berlin is that the U.S. can no longer lead the globe. ... For its part, the Chinese leadership seems to believe that it is impossible to conciliate Mr. Trump, but that there is also little to fear from him. ... They likely believe that the triple threat of the pandemic, economic crash and civil unrest in the U.S. will promote an American withdrawal from global issues no matter who wins in November. [Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal, Jun 2, 20] Trump's America First now means America no longer first as walls, tariffs, and withdrawals do their work of estranging America. 

Wake-up coming. Subsidies will soon end. Americans will then feel the economic pain—and revolt. Historically, American elections after a crisis have been decided on the question of who can more competently lead the country to better days. Yet unlike previous challenges, the true nature of America’s economic crisis hasn’t set in on the American people. When it does, the familiar political fault lines fused with millions unemployed could make 2020 the most explosive ideological election in modern history. [Josh Holmes, Wall Street Journal, May 29, 20]

A group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced legislation to boost research into emerging technology including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. The Endless Frontiers Act would create a Directorate of Technology at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and would rename the NSF the National Science and Technology Foundation. The new directorate would be given $100 billion over five years to invest in American science and technology research, with specific research areas including cybersecurity, robotics, AI, quantum computing, national disaster prevention and biotechnologies. In addition, the Department of Commerce would be given $10 billion over five years to establish “regional technology hubs” across the nation. [Maggie Miller, The Hill, May 27, 20]

A staggeringly large proportion of people in the so-called "free world" have the emotional maturity of toddlers; they genuinely think their immediate desire is an existential need. Those countries who have done well in this crisis are those with unified, socially-cohesive populations who recognise the simple truth: "What is good for all of us, is probably good for me too." [commenter, NYTimes, May 24, 20]

One of Donald Trump’s special talents is to hold every conceivable position on a given subject at the same time. [The Economist, Apr 18, 20]

[DOD] has shelved some of its most ambitious laser plans in order to focus on getting fiber lasers up to a power level where they will actually be useful. especially for lasers on planes to shoot down ICBMs, says Mike Griffin, top DOD science leader and former 1990s overseer of Stars Wars tech group that contained my SBIR program. [Patrick Tucker, DefOne, May 21, 20]

The annual DOD budget battle is on, with a request for $700+B, to do what? We are pulling out of our international role of the hegemonic world organizer and defender. East Asia will have to defend itself from the expanding regional hegemon. World shipping powers will protect the sea lanes. The US will defend itself from Mexican border invasions with a magic wall. And taxes can be cut for the abused wealthy. We used to call that a peace dividend, especially in 1992 when the Bush 41 establishment, and then Clinton, discovered the use of SBIR for dual-use technology.

Act in haste. Hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment funds were lost to fraud even as jobless claims soar. [New York Times, May 22, 20] A law passed in haste, to be admininstered by an Executive Branch stuffed by loyalists to the Grupenfuhrer, with control devolved to private enterprise sound like something right of the 19th century. Act in haste, repent at leisure.

For Spy Agencies, Briefing Trump Is a Test of Holding His Attention [NY Times, May 22, 20] When your audience is only thinking of what he will say next, he may miss the message about a possible pandemic. You, of course, will be blamed when it happens.

Exceptional nation. The United States’ military might and economic prowess remain unrivaled. America’s cultural influence and soft power remain enormous, even with the most inward-looking president in over a century sitting in the White House. It should also surprise no one that a country born in the Age of Enlightenment would thrive so mightily in science, medicine and technology. [Joe Scarborough, WashPo, May 20, 20] Trump shows no grasp of the exceptional nature of US history that brought it to a wholesome influence on the whole world. He lives in a 19th century mercantile world of whoever has the most gold wins.

Anything but science. ask what evidence Trump had that the [hydroxecholorquine] drug was at all efficacious in addressing the virus and disease it causes, covid-19. Simple, Trump replied: Lots of people called him and said it worked. [Philip Bump, WashPo, May 19, 20]  A man who hears only what he wants to believe. All grievance politics, all the time.

America Alone, again.  A time must come when the United States as a powerful world state and a great creditor nation, hence vitally interested in world trade and world prosperity, will  realize that a policy of self-sufficiency is not only impossible, but that a policy which presupposes it to be possible is stultifying and impoverishing.  [Edwin Gay, Foreign Affairs, Jul 1932]  

To govern, at least at the level of the presidency, is to make hard choices among competing options with incomplete information. Easier problems are resolved before they ever reach the Oval Office. Neither scientific data nor public sentiments can properly [alone] answer the questions that face elected officials. Both are important and must be integrated into the judgments that political leaders make. [Wall Sreeet Journal, May 16, 20] To govern is to choose, and therby make enemies. Elections choose whch leader will have to make those choices. Think carefully for whom to vote. Trump apparently denies the Adam Smith's economic principle of comparative advantage.

We got ours. With jobless numbers rising, Republicans’ refusal to negotiate on another round of pandemic relief is proving difficult to sustain. [Carl Hulse, NY Times, May 15, 20]

Faster, faster, but how? The president named a former pharmaceutical executive and a retired general to lead a crash development program that if successful would shatter speed records for vaccine development. [NY Times, May 15, 20] Left unsaid: what will they do, and who will pay for it? With something like 100 labs already chasing the golden prize with both public and private money to find a vaccine and manufacture it in a competitve race. At least three each have multi-hundred million dollars committed.

Federal R&D spending has fallen to a mere 0.6% of GDP. Whereas America once led the world in the share of our economy invested in R&D, we now rank 12th globally. [Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen.Todd Young (D-IN), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI),, USA Today, May 14, 20] Everybody has a great idea of what government can and should do, but few poliicians have the courage to stand for the taxes needed to pay for it.

Building and isolating. The Trump administration said it would impose export restrictions designed to cut off the Chinese telecom-equipment maker from overseas suppliers, threatening to ignite a new round of U.S.-China economic tensions. [Bob Davis and Katy Stech Ferek, Wall Street Journal, May 16]

“The cupboard was bare,”[Trump] told ABC News last week. Asked why he more to replenish the stockpile, Mr. Trump said he had been busy, citing the Russia investigation and his impeachment trial. President Obama requested more funding for the stockpile, but his request was rejected by fiscal hawks in Congress. [Rebecca Ballhaus, Wall Street Journal, May 14, 20]

"an angry disgruntled employee who frankly according to some people didn’t do a very good job,” Trump told reporters. [Morgan Chalfant, The Hill, May 14, 20] Evidence? none offered, as usual, for "according to some people." Trump does it week and week out as he avoids showing competent evidence for his claims, such as suggested the coronavirus testing may be "overrated."

We got ours: tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, bailouts of corporations and financiers. Now "we" can't afford to help the 36 million unemployed with more public debt. How long can the Trump base stand to get nothing for their loyalty?

Australia and China are openly sparring over China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic, in a sign of how Beijing’s efforts to extend its global influence are backfiring even in places where it is an economic lifeline. [Wall Street Journal, May 14, 20] Lying and evasion can only go so far before the audience demands truth. But politicians and corporate executives seem to first try evasion and denial before being dragged into truth, usually by an alert press.

Trump to visit medical distribution company in Pennsylvania, where he is pressuring the governor to reopen more quickly. [WashPo, May 14, 20] Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. [Admiral Farragut, 1864] Trump undercuts his case by refusing to recognize and plan for the scientifically established dangerous realities. As if his will alone will cancel them.

Misplaced faith. The Abbott coronavirus test hailed by President Trump and used by the White House failed to detect infected samples in a large number of cases [25% false negatives] [Carolyn Y. Johnson and Steven Mufson, WashPo, May 13, 20]

McConnell’s claim that Obama left behind no ‘game plan’ for the coronavirus outbreak [is wrong] [Glenn Kessler, WashPo, May 13, 20] and irrelevant. Trump has had three years to fix any planning problem. Apparently he is fixated on the present and confident that he can fix any future problem when it happens. A truly magnificent president in his mirror.

Nearly two weeks after the federal government relaunched its small-business aid program with an additional $310 billion, more than 40% of the money remains available. [Wall Street Journal, May 9, 20

On our own.  as we try to gauge the dangers, we’re pretty much on our own. The government has been a wildly inconsistent, if not wholly incompetent, counselor in these difficult moments. President Trump has both led the national response and encouraged insurrection against it, while extruding misinformation volcanically. Public health officials on the White House coronavirus task force are routinely forced to do misinformation control. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a treasured institution filled with expertise, but it hasn’t held a news briefing since early March. Governors go their own way, as if entitled to their own epidemiological truths. [Joel Achenbach, WashPo, May 10, 20]

If only. “We’re going to do something very fast, and we’re going to have a phenomenal year next year.” The president predicted the virus eventually would disappear even without a vaccine — a prediction at odds with his own science officials. [Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Yasmeen Abutaleb, WashPo, May 10, 20]

Admin shelves CDC guide to reopening country [JASON DEAREN and MIKE STOBBE AP, May 7, 20] as Fears of ‘second wave’ hang over coronavirus successes [JILL LAWLESS, ELAINE KURTENBACH and CARLA K. JOHNSON, AP, May 7, 2020] Don't let our experts tell them how, let them guess, so we can blame them when it goes wrong?

A man of money, not of people. The president’s cure-can’t-be-worse-than-the-disease logic is clear: As bad as the virus may be, the cost of the virtual national lockdown has grown too high. [Peter Baker, NYTimes, May 7, 20] Fortunetely on the at question, he is only an advisor to states and cities, since he punted on being a supply source. After all, his base includes a lot of money he has already paid off with a new tax law. Interestingly to limit the bad news of more eaths and illness he advocates less testing which correlates with his lackluster support of helping tates with a huge expanse of testing. If you don't want the answer, don't ask the question. A major barrier to agreement is that no one wants to tackle the controversial question of the monetary value of a human life.

President Trump made it clear that he was determined to shut down the coronavirus task force and push to reopen the economy even while acknowledging that may mean more people die. It was the culmination of a day that seemed to lay bare the disjointed and chaotic national response to the crisis, even as the virus continued to spread out of control in hot spots across the country. [New York Times, May 6, 20] All the politicians discussing opening the economy avoid a central value judgment - the cost of a human life to compare with an economic judgment of gain from business. But politicians naturally decide on the basis of votes, often of people ignorant of value calculations, amd tend to make up economic argument to fit the votes.

More government, please. Republicans are starting to join Democrats in advocating for a stronger government hand in directing America’s industrial resources. Republicans who just a few years ago regularly scorned any idea of Big Government’s intervening in business and picking “winners and losers” are now happily calling for a national strategy to identify key sectors to protect and promote. Progressives, centrists, and right-wing economic nationalists alike are threatening government strictures on a corporate America that’s spent decades building sprawling “just in time” supply chains around the world in the name of economic efficiency and expansion into new markets. [Sen] Rubio laid out a vision of a “21st century pro-American industrial policy” with government programs and tax incentives to encourage investment in research and sectors such as aviation, electronics, and agricultural machinery [Shawn Donnan,Bloomberg Business Week, May 4, 20] Bill Clinton would be right at home in this debate.  Time for the SBIR politicos to bang their "fair share" drum. 

“The president is eager to shepherd this economy again,” said Bryan Lanza, a former top official from Trump’s 2016 campaign. “It was sidelined by a bunch of unelected scientists [Nancy Cook, Politico, May 4, 20] The usual "conservative" suspects have the usual economic remedy:  tax and regulation cuts as gifts to big donors. Reagan and Laffer still haunt the Republican halls.

Some Small Businesses That Got Aid Fear the Rules Too Much to Spend It.  Requirements for using federal coronavirus loans are complicated and confusing for owners. “It’s chaos,” one lawyer said. [Stacy Cowley, Emily Flitter, and David Enrich, NY Times, May 2, 2020] Legislation quickly made/Often aids the lawyer's trade. The business could just pay the employees, have the loan forgiven, and then wait to pay its lawayer with a non-forgivable loan, if and when the government finds a flaw.

He knows a lot, talks well, speaks truth, and honors his profession. Therefore, Trump blocks Dr Fauci from testifying before Congress. [The Hill, May 2, 20] Fauci, a veteran of many epidemics, also mesmerizes Trump's audience.

Virus, virus go away/Uncle Donald wants to play. Trump, who has supplanted his daily coronavirus task force briefings for more controlled and structured appearances, is eager to get past the public health crisis that has dominated the news cycle since the end of February and allow businesses and American life to return to normal. [Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels, The Hill, May 3, 20] The truth-telling doctors, that Trump intended as supporters, launched their own show within the show. 

Go naked to the meat. the senior government affairs representative at Food and Water Watch, said Trump’s order [for USDA meat inspetors to work at plants] did little to address employee safety. [Eric Katz,, Apr 30, 20] In contrast, everyone White House worker gets tested.

“This is money sitting up there on a shelf gathering dust,” he said. [Alexandra Berzon, Melanie Evans, Stephanie Armour and Austen Hufford, Wall Street Journal, Apr 29, 20] Capitalism's economic efficiency and conservative shrink the government politics combined to leave the nation vulnerable to a black-swan contagion. Finger pointing sure to continue.  Major government responsibility goes to a three-year adminisstraion that even worsened the preparedness  posture. With malice aforethought?

Find me a culprit, preferably dead. Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs [NY Times, Apr 30, 20] Lying not discouraged.

Raise the walls.  the nationalist sentiment running through the American body politic has picked up strength and speed as a result of the virus crisis. [Gerald Seib, WSJ, Apr 27, 20] 1930s come again.

The president said he was skeptical of providing funding for states in the next round of coronavirus relief, saying the ones in need are all “poorly run” by Democrats. [WSJ, Apr 28, 20] Where is the evidence that the president even understands the basics of federalism or acknowldges that the blue states contribute in federal taxes more than they get in return from federal programs, while the red states collect more than they contribute?   

In his “whole of America” approach to fighting the pandemic, President Trump has begun clinical trials testing his most promising antidote: Can the coronavirus be killed with a lie? ... Now the country, fed a diet of [testing] disinformation, is preparing to reopen workplaces based on the false assurance — 5 million tests a day! More than the rest of the world combined! — given by Trump’s repeated lies. What could possibly go wrong? [Dana Milbank, WashPo, Apr 28, 20]

TCJA failed of course.  The tax cut claimed miralcle does not appear to have had a positive influence on any of these [manufcturing] economic factors. .... Perhaps the biggest blunder of the Trump administration was the claim that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “would add $1.8 trillion in new revenue that would more than pay for the $1.5 trillion cost of the tax cuts themselves.” The implication is that increased economic growth would boost tax revenues enough to offset the tax cuts. But this optimistic scenario simply did not happen. [Michael Collins, Industry Week, Apr 24, 20] It was no blunder, merely a well practised lie. It did have a positive current economic impact as government spending continued with a lot less tax collection to support it. Ah well, it is Republican religion to be tested in the upcoming election.  

If only. The supply shortage stemmed from a variety of factors — a decline in public health funding, a cost-saving dependence on having inventory on hand only for immediate use and a belief that the federal government could come to the rescue with its Strategic National Stockpile. [David A. Lieb and Cuneyt Dil, Associated Press, Apr 26, 20] If only the new administration and the Congress had paid atention to incapacity instead of cutting the budgets of the responsible agencies in an intense focus on the present.  Everybody still want small hands-off government?

“Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful, light,” suggested President Donald Trump. What is clear is that there isn’t as yet a proven treatment for COVID-19 [Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch, Apr 24, 20] A favored Trumpism: tremendous, a reliance on exaggeration.

The Trump administration is considering offering federal stimulus funds to embattled oil-and-gas producers in exchange for government ownership stakes in the companies or their crude reserves, according to people familiar with the matter. ... “We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down,” the president wrote. [Wall Street Journal, Apr 22, 20] What would a Trump do with an equity share in a private firm?

Economies around the world are collapsing. ... "Hopes are pinned on containment measures being slowly lifted to help ease the paralysis that businesses have reported in April. However, progress looks set to be painfully slow to prevent a second wave of infections," IHS Markit economist Chris Williamson said. [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, Apr 22, 20] Companies looking for renewal through links with China may be frustrated by Trump's expected re-election campaign that runs against China. And the White House is still being vague about a contact-tracing that would limit the spread of the virus in a re-opening economy.

Like many American liberals, Mr. Eustis took seriously the idea of Mr. Trump assuming dictatorial powers. Come on—a real-estate tycoon, TV celebrity and jet-setting playboy with no fixed political principles or governmental experience in the role of the calculating, ruminative and ferociously disciplined Julius Caesar? Falstaff, maybe. [Barton Swaim reviewing Jamess Shapiro's Shakespeare in a Divided America, WSJ, Apr 22, 20] For non-Shakespeare aficionados, [Sir John] Falstaff was a ne'er-do-well, opportunistic, layabout in Henry IV fourteen centuries after Caesar.

If the goal is to restart the American economy, the US isn’t performing anywhere near enough tests. Worse still, we are testing the wrong people. To safely reopen closed businesses and revive American social life, we need to perform many more tests—and focus them on the people most likely to spread COVID-19, not sick patients. [Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Paul Romer, DefOne, Apr 20, 20]

While Trump Bewails Ingratitude. It was a stealth transaction, arranged through “someone who knew someone who knew someone,” taking place at an undisclosed location in an unnamed mid-Atlantic state. The getaway vehicles were disguised as food service delivery trucks, and they mapped out separate routes back to Massachusetts to avoid detection. Those were the lengths that a hospital system in Springfield, Mass., went to this month to procure urgently needed masks for workers treating a growing number of patients with the coronavirus. [Katharine Q. Seelye, Andrew Jacobs, Jo Becker and Tim Arango, NY Times, Apr 21, 20]

four years of Greek, four years of Latin, three years of French, ancient history, theology was Dr Fauci's high school prep that led to a long career in medicine. [Michael Specter, New Yorker, Apr 10, 20]

One example [of pre-review publication of scientific findings] was a study about the potential of combining anti-malarial and antibiotic drugs to treat Covid-19. President Trump touted it as “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” The paper’s publisher is now investigating its findings. To date, there is no conclusive data that suggests these drugs work. [Wudan Yan, NY Times, Apr 15, 20]

Cowering in our coop.  the absence of American political leadership has been conspicuous—a shock to a world accustomed to having Washington lead in global crises. In Italy and Europe, “the United States is not even part of the debate these days,” said Nathalie Tocci, director of the Institute of International Affairs in Rome and a former European Commission foreign policy adviser. “It’s off the map.” Instead, attention has turned to China, which has rushed planeloads of supplies to distressed countries and promised recovery aid. [Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Apr 17, 20]

In present circumstances, there is a strong Conservative case for tax rises: not wasting billions on debt interest; preserving capacity to deal with future shocks; and not passing enormous debts onto future generations. [Tim Pitt, Prospect, Apr 15, 20] The Brits have the same problem with Conservative philosophy that rewards capital at the expense of the greater multitude. The greater Amercan multitude revolted by electing a capitalist President [self-described as "king of debt"] who further rewarded capital with a Less Wealthy Tax and Pretend Jobs "reform" that balloons the national debt.

Out of Pocket. Small business loan program runs out of funds amid debate over a plus-up bill. [The Hill] $350B gone in days. Now, a political quid pro quo will be needed to appropriate new money, likely to happen after much anguish: more SB loans matched by more help for hospitals and schools.

Testing is a national responsibility because a pandemic is a national problem. From the beginning it needed to be priority No. 1. It was never priority No. 1. If it had been, we’d have tests. The federal government’s lack of integrity has been destructive. No opening of America will be sustained until it’s got right. [Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, Apr 17, 20]

King Donald Trump has given governors a road map for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases. With a warning advisory Those most susceptible to the respiratory disease are advised to remain sheltered in place until their area enters the final phase — and even then are encouraged to take precautions to avoid close contact with other people. [AP, Apr 16, 20] What he did not give was any logistical support like the piles of supplies for all the testing needed. No war operations plan would ever be done that way.

MAGA trade war payback. China’s Export Restrictions Strand Medical Goods U.S. Needs to Fight Coronavirus, State Department Says. [WallStreet Journal, Apr 16, 20] Message to MAGA: be careful what you wish for.

Me, myself, and I. Trump Defends Decision to Sign Stimulus Checks: “I Want My Name to Be Synonymous With the Coronavirus”. “I have been working on this pandemic day in, day out, and I deserve total credit for it.” [By Andy Borowitz. New Yorker, April 16, 2020] When does the charade end?

“It doesn’t work if you bring in the hallelujah chorus,” said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington think tank. Lee served on a short-lived manufacturing council that Trump established early in his presidency. [JONATHAN LEMIRE, KEVIN FREKING and AAMER MADHANI, AP, Apr 15, 20] Trump's cheerleaders and acolytes pretend they have control of the economy, while the state governors serve their electorates made of people who will die from careless devotion to business interests supporting Trump. He could help by boosting the supply of what the governors need - a robust testing capability. The self-announcing Commander-in-Chief has an army in the field to whom he will not supply weapons and ammunition. 

Ever the omniscient leader. Criticized for Pandemic Response, Trump Tries Shifting Blame to the W.H.O. In effect, Mr. Trump was accusing the world’s leading health organization of making all of the mistakes that he has made since the virus first emerged in China and then spread rapidly. [Michael D. Shear and Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, Apr 15, 20] fodder for his xenophobic base.

Two groups of governors said they would coordinate efforts to reopen businesses gradually and ease coronavirus social-distancing guidelines, even as Trump said he had the ultimate authority over when the nation should effectively be restarted. [Wall Street Journal, Apr 13, 20] As ever, Trump claims authority and power without citing any legal or Constitutional basis, as in  “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total and that’s the way it’s got to be. [Meagan Flynn and Allyson Chiu, WashPo, Apr 14, 20] A definition of totalitarian. But, only Congress has the Constitutional power to serve "the general welfare".

Billions for oil, nothing for nurses and teachers. ... many conservatives probably believe that public-sector workers, many of them represented by unions, don’t or shouldn’t count. [Paul Krugman, NY Times, Apr 13, 20]

Success and Disaster. [Small Biz] Economic Injury Disaster Loans Program Unravels. Owners were supposed to get up to $2 million. Now they’re being told the cap is $15,000 — if they can get any answers at all. .. Alas, The loan program was never designed to handle a disaster of this magnitude as [Nearly 70 percent of small businesses have applied for loans] [Stacy Cowley, NYTimes, Apr 9, 20] Instant unlimited money is just not how government is designed.

SBA not up to it. No surprise. A federal program to help small companies weather the coronavirus fallout has failed to distribute funds quickly, according to lawmakers, business advocates and entrepreneurs, many of whom are counting on the aid to survive. Congress directed the Small Business Administration last month to provide grants of up to $10,000 to businesses within three days of their application to the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. [Amara Omeokwe and Yuka Hayashi Wall Street Journal, Apr 8, 20] A backwater agency designed to handle small handouts of no great economic import, tasked suddenly to invade Syria on Wednesday.

Trump’s “Light at the End of the Tunnel” Is a Delusion.  [John Cassidy, NewYorker, Apr 7, 20] We elders remember that phrase applied to the early war in Vietnam, and the usual reply was the light was a train coming through the tunnel.

Rich baby loudly born. [SBA] rolled out a financial assistance program [to disburse $349 billion, a sum 290 times its normal annual budget] unprecedented in its size and scope, creating an operational quagmire that has led to widespread confusion and frustration. ... but community banks [allocated] $1 billion in loans by noon. [Eric Katz, govexec.con, Apr 3, 20]  Congress to Executive Branch to agency to banks to borrowers wth no time for writing new regulations, before critics could get their computers on. 

You can have the best system in the world, but if you give the virus an eight-week head start it will eat you alive. [Jeremy Konyndyk, who led the US government’s response to international disasters between 2013 and 2017]

epidemiologists and virologists who have spent careers in lecture halls and laboratories have become the most trusted sources of information in an era of deep uncertainty, diverging policy and raging disinformation. [Matina Stevis-Gridneff, New York Times, Apr 5, 20]

No hero he. The Trump Organization has laid off or furloughed about 1,500 employees at hotels in the United States and Canada as the coronavirus pandemic inflicts further pain on the president’s private business. [Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Wshington Post, Apr 4, 20]

Miracle drug combo probably good against coronavirus, definitely favored by right wing politicians. Hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin tested by French and NY country doctor. [Kevin Roose and Matthew Rosenberg, NYTimes, April 2, 2020] Formal FDA blessing needs more attention to details in testing.

Sorry, we're broke. State budgets will be crushed by the coronavirus crisis as millions of workers and businesses stop paying taxes, says Josh Goodman of Pew Charitable Trusts. Federal aid is in the pipeline, [which] some governors are saying that won’t be enough. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Spr 2, 20]

Not quite ready. Hours before small businesses can apply for forgivable loans from the $2 trillion financial relief package, some of the biggest U.S. banks aren’t ready to handle an expected flood of applications from potential borrowers. [Ruth Simon, Peter Rudegeair, and Amara Omeokwe, Wall Street Journal, Apr 2, 20]

Senators have never been so useless, or governors so valuable. What a status shift. [Peggy Noonan of New York, NY Times, Apr 3, 20]

Navy message - Shut Up. The ship commander telegraphed a health disaster situation in his command. He was relieved of command [fired] pour enourager les autres (Napoleon) as the ship is parked, evacuated to medical help, and being cleaned for a higher rank new commander.   The skipper got a rousing sendoff from hundreds of sailors still aboard the COVID-striken aircraft carrier.

Many people consider the things government does for them to be social progress but they regard the things government does for others as socialism. -- Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren

MCP candidate. Trump’s Virus Defense Is Often an Attack, and the Target Is Often a Woman. Now part of the long list of women the president has insulted: a governor, a reporter, the head of General Motors and, of course, the House speaker. [Annie Karni, NY Times, Mar 30, 20] It's a sign that 1. women are rising in commanding positions, and 2. Trump's political base has a lot of unhappy white males.

Age convenient hearing. “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.” [septugenarian POTUS Trump, Mar 30, 20]

SutroVax (Foster City, CA; $200K SBIR), a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the delivery of superior and novel vaccines designed to prevent or treat some of the most common and deadly infectious diseases worldwide, today announced the closing of a $110 million Series D preferred stock financing [company press release, Mar 26, 20]

The $2 trillion emergency rescue legislation approved by the Senate would help stabilize the pandemic-battered economy—but likely isn’t enough to bring it back to health. [Wall Street Journal, Mar 26, 20]

OMB provides guidance on flexibility for federal grant funding. Just days after the first reported US death from COVID-19, federal grant recipients capable of performing essential research and services related to COVID-19 were provided with additional flexibilities to the terms of their contracts and supplied with additional administrative resources to pivot their efforts towards combatting the virus. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow and disrupt all sectors of the economy, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has now issued guidance to the heads of all federal grant-making agencies, offering short-term emergency flexibilities and administrative relief. [SSTI, Mar 25, 20]

Always a political angle. House leaders were scrambling to bring back enough legislators to form a quorum to pass a $2 trillion economic rescue package after a Republican lawmaker suggested he might object to holding the vote using a procedure that avoids putting members on the record. [Wall Street Journal, Mar 25, 20] What's not to like: the Senate Republicans took care of the companies and the House Democrats of the workers and sent the credit charge to the future. By the time that charge comes payable, with no chance of a budget surplus to pay down the debt, most of the Congress will be entirely new.

There are now 25 sailors who have tested positive for the coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, just two days after the Pentagon announced that three sailors aboard the ship had tested positive for the virus, a Navy official has confirmed to CNN. [Michael Conte, Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr, CNN, Mar 26, 20] With a negligent administration denying a disease epidemic and inadequate testing for the known disease before allowing crew members on board a sailing ship, the disease naturally explodes in confined miitary space. Who's been in charge here for three years?

When a strong centralized response is needed from the federal government, it doesn’t help to have an administration that has never believed in a federal government serving the public good. In the case of a pandemic, the consequences are too obvious to ignore. [Katherine Stewart, NY Times, Mar 26, 20] Stewart exposes Trumps political reliance on the science denialism of his ultraconservative religious allies.

The $2 trillion stimulus moving through Congress would allocate roughly $350 billion to guarantee loans for small businesses, a provision that could test the ability of the [SBA] and lenders to get money to companies quickly. [Amara Omeokwe and Rolfe Winkler, Wall Street Journal, Mar 25, 20]

Always Grievance. On Wednesday alone, Trump used his tweets and retweets to heap disdain and ridicule on Joe Biden, Adam B. Schiff, Robert S. Mueller III, Michael Avenatti, Mitt Romney, the “LameStream media,” “CORRUPT & FAKE NEWS,” “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and liberal “snowflakes” — and to celebrate his own magnificence and the “Trumpbux” he gets to spend in the economic rescue package. Juxtapose that with the bipartisan scene on Capitol Hill, where, after days of strife, senators neared a vote on a massive stimulus bill that spends more than Congress typically designates for domestic programs in a year. [Dana Milbank, WashPo, Mar 26, 20] Because grievance got Trump elected.

 Agnostic note of the day. I have no clue about how our economy/society/politics will look like on the other side of this. (And let this tweet act as my public commitment device, in case I’m tempted to say otherwise.) [Dani Rodrik, Harvard economist,  Mar 24, 20]

The President of BigBiz. Why Trump Isn't Using The Defense Production Act. He wants to allow corporations to sell vital medical gear to the highest-bidding states. Governors say that's exactly the problem. [Katie Bo Williams, DefenseOne, Mar 23, 20]

With all the foresight of Napoleon invading Russia, Trump barreled ahead with his plan to send Americans back to their workplaces — and, consequently, their airplanes, subways and restaurants — within 19 days, even as the rapidly spreading pandemic builds toward a peak. [Dana Milbank, WashPo, Mar 24, 20]

More data, less imagining. The government response to the coronavirus pandemic has left many wondering whether anyone is weighing the trade-offs. Do heavy-handed measures carry the benefits to justify the considerable costs? The uncomfortable answer: We don’t know. ... Policy makers should throw as much energy as possible into getting accurate data. [Allison Schrager, Wall Street Journal, Mar 24, 20]

The U.S. government declared defense companies and their suppliers part of the country’s “critical infrastructure sector,” a designation that will allow employees to continue reporting to work even if local and state governments order citizens to stay home amid the COVID-19 outbreak [Marcus Weisgerber, DefenseOne, Mar 23, 20]  A jurisdictional dispute between national and state governments. Note that the DOD has no responsibility for public safety beyond threats from a foreign power. 

Too much inconvenient truth. The president has become increasingly concerned as Dr. Fauci has grown bolder in correcting his [Trump's] falsehoods about the spread of the coronavirus. [Maggie Haberman, NYTimes, Mar 24, 20]  Trump wants truth to be whatever the grupenfuhrer says it is and what his political base wants to hear in governance by the least educated. 

As handouts loom From steelmakers to arts-and-crafts retailers, companies across the U.S. are arguing that their operations are essential. [Wall Street Journal, Mar 21, 20] Who is deemed essential is a political call.

Trump’s Embrace of Unproven Drugs to Treat Coronavirus Defies Science. ... enthusiastically and repeatedly promoted the promise of two long-used malaria drugs that are still unproven against the coronavirus, but being tested in clinical trials. “I’m a smart guy,” he said, while acknowledging he couldn’t predict the drugs would work. ...thus around the globe, demand has surged, with hospitals ordering the treatments in a desperate effort to treat severely ill patients. [Katie Thomas and Denise Grady, NYTimes, Mar 21, 20] Meanwhile, Hundreds of Scientists Scramble to Find a Coronavirus Treatment ... have “mapped” proteins in the coronavirus and identified 50 drugs to test against it. [Carl Zimmer, NYTimes, Mar 17, 20]

Just like the rest. President Trump’s company — significantly reliant on tourism, conventions and restaurant income — has been sharply impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with at least four properties closing and three hotels laying off staff, according to people familiar with the company. [David A. Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow and Jonathan O'Connell, WashPo, Mar 21, 20] Leadership opportuity forsaken.

Pennsylvania Gov.(D) shuttered all businesses that are not considered “life-sustaining” [namely] gas stations, farms, health care facilities, and transit systems [Philadelphia Inquirer, Mar 19, 20]

The Trump administration could not have absolutely stopped the Covid-19 invasion. But it is hard to imagine any government doing a worse job to prepare for the event. .... Instead [of helicopter money] have Congress send a $10,000 bonus to everyone in health care and give hospital administrators $20,000 for each new person they recruit to their valiant fighters. These folks are putting their lives on the line and they don’t deserve to watch bystanders get free money. [Reed Hundt, NYTimes, Mar 19, 20]  Good idea in theory, but Congress is elected by voters whownat solutions to their immediate problems. 

New suppliers. The US Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s reserve of critical medical supplies, is believed to have only one percent of the masks and respirators and perhaps ten percent of the ventilators needed to deal with the pandemic. The rest will have to be made up with imports from China or rapidly increased domestic manufacturing. [Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, Foreign Affairs, Mar 20, 20]

Nine Wisconsin tech startups, including an Inno Startup to Watch in 2020 selection, were recently awarded [$800K Wisconsin] government funding for the continued development of their [federal SBIR awards] technology.  [Nick Williams, WiscInno, Mar 11, 20]. All sound like worthy projects of good engineering with predictable technical susccess.

Federal bail out. Trump to states: you're on your own for medical equipment. "Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment—try getting it yourselves," the president told the nation's governors on a Monday conference call. [DefenseOne, Mar 17, 20]

OPM Director up and quit apparently had grown increasingly frustrated by interference by the 29-year-old head of the White House Personnel Office, according to a report from Politico. [Katherine McIntire Peters,, Mar 17, 20] When loyalty to the grupenfuhrer overrides experience and ability.

Snake Oil enabled. [FDA said] that it will allow private companies to begin marketing coronavirus test kits directly to the public, in a new initiative to ease a chronic shortage of test kits. [Wall Street Journal, Mar 17, 20] Caveat emptor.

More deficit and tax cuts, please. White House national economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trump is open to an $800 billion rescue if it also included a payroll tax holiday. [NYTimes, Mar 1, 20] The economic folly of the TaxCuts and Jobs Act seeks a re-run.

The U.S. Air Force has tentatively selected over 500 companies for contracts worth $550M combined as part of an initiative launched with its AFWERX innovation arm and [SBIR]. The service said the AFVentures effort includes a strategic financing initiative where the firms will get a total of over $200M in government funding as well as $350M in private funds. [Brenda Marie Rivers, govconwire, Mar 16, 20]  almost half going to the following 21 companies: Aerial Applications, Analytical Space ($3M prior SBIR), Anduril (one prior SBIR) , Applied Minds ($8M prior SBIR), Elroy Air, Sentient ($3.2M prior SBIR) , Icon, Enview ($700K prior SBIR), Edgybees ($700K prior SBIR) , Falkonry (one prior SBIR), Swarm Technologies ($1M prior SBIR) , Orbital Insight (one prior SBIR), Orbital Sidekick ($800K prior SBIR), Virtualitics (one prior SBIR) , Wickr (one prior SBIR), Tectus Corp (one prior SBIR), Valulytics,, Pison ($1M prior SBIR), Revacomm. One other company hasn’t been named yet. These “big bet” companies are slated to receive four-year, fixed-price contracts worth a combined $550+ million through AFVentures’ Strategic Financing (STRATFI) program. This amount includes $100+ million in SBIR funds, $100+ million in Air Force funding and $350+ million in private investment. Roper said he believes future rounds of funding will be bigger. [AF Press release , Mar 13, 20]

Re-starting biz. Hubei province (population 55M incl Wuhan) is reopening for business. Tongcheng City, one of the virus-stricken province’s major jurisdictions, is chartering buses to shuttle migrant workers from China’s east coast back to work as officials look to restart the local economy. Other counties are helping coordinate transportation by train to get their scattered workers back, according to state media in Hubei. At least 132 long-distance bus lines traveling within the province are also beginning to reopen.   [Gerry Shih, WashPo, Mar 14, 20]

Got his wish. President Trump wanted zero interest rates in the worst way. He's getting them in the worst way. [Nick Timiraos, WSJ, Mar 15, 20]

Who, me? When asked at a press conference earlier today if he takes responsibility for the lag in availability of testing kits, Donald Trump replied, “No. I don’t take responsibility at all.” [Caroline Mimbs Nyce, The Atlantic, Mar 13, 20]

Maybe virus fix by summer. DARPA’s Pandemic Prevention Platform goal is to identify the specific monoclonal antibodies that the body naturally produces when it encounters a virus, and then trick the body into producing the one that guards against a specific illness. ... [harnessing] next-generation sequencing approaches. [Patrick Tucker, DefenseOne, Mar 11, 20]  institutions funded through the P3 program include Duke University, Vanderbilt University, MedImmune, and Abcellera Biologics  (Canada) [DARPA press release, Feb 22, 18]  

[Trump] said effective immediately, the Small Business Administration will offer low-interest loans to help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions. [Jeffrey Sparshott, WSJ, Mar 12, 20]

Belief follows politics. Fact-checkers and scientists have scrambled to correct the misinformation coming out of the White House. (No, the virus has not been “contained” in America; no, testing is not available to anybody who wants it; no, people shouldn’t go to work if they’re sick.) But Trump’s message seems to have resonated with his base: A Quinnipiac University poll released this week found that just 35 percent of Republicans are concerned about the virus, compared with 68 percent of Democrats. [McKay Coppins, The Atlantic, Mar 11, 20] As ever, where you stand depends on where you sit.

Adjusting to viral realities.  chief procurement officer at the Department of Homeland Security, told her contracting staff to keep advised of the outbreak of Coronavirus ( COVID-19) using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Correa told contractors that “if contract performance is affected due to the COVID-19 situation, such as the need for alternate work locations, or travel or schedule changes, the contracting officer is the authority to discuss this with your company.” [Sarah Sybert,, Mar 11, 20]

[Trump] will ask Congress to approve a payroll tax cut and relief for hourly workers. ....  Democrats balk at Trump’s payroll tax cut because it would not help families without paychecks, the unemployed or workers in the gig economy. [The Hill, Mar 9, 20] Of course, that's Republican: got a problem, cut a tax and wax eloquent over the economic salvation.  The tricky part is making a law that does not allow Presidential favoring of politically friendly companies. 

Better than a vaccine - a Republican tax cut. A universal cure for all ills prescribed by economics mouthpiece Kudlow.  Or perhaps, $1000 helicopter money. The political race is on for a political cure for an disease epidemic. At least it's something that Congresses know how to prescribe.

observers [of government coronavirus policy] quickly noted that this White House has a record of suppressing scientific facts while Trump and other administration officials spread misinformation. [Defense One, Feb 28, 20] When a demonstrated liar controls public speech, who will believe what? Meanwhile, the White House combing through federal agencies to identify employees not sufficiently loyal to President Trump. []

More political science. An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change [in at least nine reports] — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. The Interior Department’s emails, dating from 2017 through last year and obtained under public-records laws by the watchdog group Energy and Policy Institute, provide the latest evidence of the Trump administration’s widespread attacks on government scientific work. The administration has halted or scaled back numerous research projects since taking office, including an Obama-era initiative to fight disease outbreaks around the world — a decision that has drawn criticism in recent weeks as a deadly coronavirus has spread globally. [Hiroko Tabuchi, NYTimes, Mar 2, 20]

Expendable Trumpian assets. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint. ... In some instances, the teams were working alongside personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in “full gown, gloves and hazmat attire,” the complaint said. ... The whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated. [Lena H. Sun and Yasmeen Abutaleb, WashPo, Feb 27, 20]

A liberal leader confronts new facts and changes his or her mind. A populist leader cannot because the omniscience of the charismatic headman can never be doubted. A liberal sees shades of gray. For a populist reality is white or black, friend or enemy. Facts that don’t fit the dogma are ignored. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Feb 27, 20] Brooks was criticizing Sanders as not a liberal.

Trump Was Furious That Passengers With Coronavirus Were Brought Back to U.S. [NYTimes, Feb 23, 20] Home is where when you have to go there, they have to take you in. The USG has the means to provide protection for both the stricken citizens and the public. Trump must be thinking about the once famous leper colonies.  Not surprising that Trump continually plays to his xenophobic home-cooking base.

Who's got it? In their book published last fall, the pair [of Berkeley economists] estimated that the top tenth of 1 percent of Americans — fewer than 250,000 adults, with an average wealth of about $70 million each — held 19.3 percent of all wealth in 2018. That was triple their share from four decades earlier. ... That statistic has helped galvanize the left, prompting lawmakers and other Democrats to call for a complete overhaul of how America thinks about taxation. [Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, New York Times, Feb 20, 20]

Whatta game. the undersecretary for policy is getting the boot for certifying that Ukraine's corruption was acceptable before Trump decided to claim the opposite for political purposes. [DefenseOne, Feb 20, 20] Too bad, there's no downward loyalty, only scapegoats.

Beloved customer or mortal enemy? A broad push by Trump administration hard-liners to stem the flow of high-tech exports to China hit a hurdle: President Trump himself. In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump denounced efforts promoted by some within the White House and Commerce Department to halt the export of controlled technologies—including jet engines and semiconductors—to China, out of concern the products could be pirated and used to undermine U.S. commercial advantage in those sectors. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Feb 19, 20] And what will be tomorrow's China policy du jour?

Contracting has legal rules. A federal judge ordered the Pentagon to halt work on the massive JEDI cloud-computing contract, handing Amazon an early win in its efforts to overturn the award to rival Microsoft. [Wall Street Journal, Feb 13, 20] No federal executive has unlimited power to decide winners in competitions. Not even King Donald.

Fake economics.  Vice President Pence defended deficit expansion under the Trump administration, saying that debt and deficits are secondary concerns compared to economic growth. Pence maintained that focusing on growth will solve long-term fiscal challenges. [Kevin Breuninger, CNBC, Feb 10, 20] Do your bit - run your credit card, plead for tax cuts, and burn your economics books.

Faster by Xi. A container train reached London in just 12 days from eastern China, less than half the time than had they gone by sea, at less than half the cost by air .... HP, an American computer giant, has moved its computer factories to the inland Chinese city of Chongqing, building its business model on rail delivery to the Netherlands. [The Economist, Feb 8, 2020] Does your firm have at least one Chinese speaker?

A bill to facilitate veteran participation in National Science Foundation STEM programs has passed Congress and now awaits signature by the president. [SSTI, Feb 6, 20]

Gut the government. three-quarters of House Republicans released a new blueprint to overhaul the civil service, calling for easier firing, more merit-based bonuses and cuts to automatic pay raises. ... that civil servants' overall compensation is too high ... suggesting that some feds are intentionally undermining the Trump administration. .... The study committee called for more than 100 changes, ranging from deregulation to eliminating agencies it called redundant or unnecessary. [Eric Katz,, Feb 6, 20]

Protecting the commerce from the government interference: Linda J. Bilmes, The Conversation: The administration has cut CDC funding and disbanded the White House's own global health security team. [DefenseOne, Feb 4, 20] Re-elect a president with little grasp of what a government is and does? 

Sounds good, works bad. the Fed study found that [net] manufacturing employment was reduced by 1.4 percent as a consequence of the trade war. ... So the tariffs didn’t just hurt the economy as a whole, but damaged the manufacturing sector specifically. [Michael R. Strain, Bloomberg, Jan 31, 20] Politicians appeal to groups that cannot or will not ask the right questions.

Voters flocking to the political novice [Andrew Yang] are petrified not simply by the prospect of President Trump’s reelection but by the feeling that the economic and social dislocation that powered his rise are beyond their control, perhaps even beyond the control of Washington. ... here from the future to tell you how bad it’s going to be [Isaac Stanley-Becker, New York Times, Jan 31, 20]

I should just like to announce, with absolute conviction, in full chief executive authority, that I do, most certainly, like being me. Musings of Trumpian businessman-philanderer named MisterMenu, protanonist of Stephen Wright's novel Processed Cheese,, a broiling parody of American excess. [Ron Charles, Washington Post, Jan 21, 20]

Just an expensive symbol. Trump’s border wall, vulnerable to flash floods, needs large storm gates left open for months. [Washington Post, Jan 30, 20]

Profits are king. EPA [Environmental Policy Assault] has made it easier for cities to keep dumping raw sewage into rivers by letting them delay or otherwise change federally imposed fixes to their sewer systems, according to interviews with local officials, water utilities and their lobbyists. [Christopher Flavelle, NYTimes, Jan 29, 20]

L'etat c'est moi. President Trump’s lawyers argued that anything a president did to win re-election was “in the public interest.” [NYTimes, Jan 29, 20] The critically indispensible executive in the mirror. Imagine a lawyer who would make such an assertion to a court.

Enjoy the ride. The national debt and sustained federal budget deficits will hit the highest levels since World War II over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office projected, following multiple rounds of tax cuts and continued increases in federal spending. The government will spend $1 trillion more than it collects in 2020 and deficits will reach or exceed that threshold every year for the foreseeable future. [Richard Runin, Wall Street Journal, Jan 28, 20] as "we the people" demand support for our cherished projects and our representatives fear dis-election for failing to do so without invoking the necessary taxes to pay for them. Politicians conveniently find it easy to convince you that your taxes are too high.

Free speech for federal employees. AFGE, the nation’s largest federal employee union asked a federal judge to suspend controversial guidance from the Office of Special Counsel that curbs federal employees’ right to discuss impeachment while at work, a 2018 memo cautioning federal employees from using slogans like “resistance” and “impeachment” in the workplace, citing the Hatch Act’s prohibition on feds from using their positions and government resources to influence electoral politics. [Erich Wagner,, Jan 28, 20]

Office of Management and Budget put out a call to outside organizations and the public to share how they think the government can reform its procurement of goods and services, accepting responses by Feb. 17. [, Jan 28, 20]

Scientists have been leaving government posts since Trump took office in 2017, and those positions, by and large, have not been replaced. This shortage has led to insufficient regulation enforcement, limited data distribution, and a paucity of researchers, according to an analysis of public employee records by The Washington Post. In total, 1,600 government scientists have left their positions since the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Most of those employees are experts in chemistry, geology, hydrology, soil conservation, and social science. [Lisa Winter, TheScientist, Jan 24, 20] Dictators need to suppress inconvenient truth. Note scientists: your day is coming to vote against war on science.

Global companies do not invest in countries with autocratic leaders who arbitrarily impose economic sanctions or punitive tariffs on longtime allies who fail to perform political favors or take a different approach to unrelated foreign policy issues. [Robert Samuelson, Washington Post, Jan 27, 20]

Loudoun County (VA exurbs) offers up to $150,000 in grant competition for tech companies [Alex Koma, Washingon Business Journal, Jan 27, 20]

Last month, Robert D. Atkinson of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, together with our colleagues Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton, published a report calling for a renewed federal role in helping to balance the country’s growing geographic inequities. “The case for growth centers: How to spread tech innovation across America” carefully documents how and why the innovation economy—the driver of much of the nation’s growth—has become increasingly concentrated in a handful of coastal metropolitan areas, leaving much of the heartland struggling to keep pace. It also proposes a way for leaders in Washington, D.C. to boost lagging regions by selecting a small group of “growth center” metro areas (chosen via a competitive process) to receive a package of federal supports. [Jennifer Vey and Julie Wagner, Brookings, Jan 23, 20]  Calling for federal intervention in innovation markets appeals to politicians for the headlines of actually passing out money and hope.  Attention, folks, it's been tried over and over.  

The economy and easing of perceptions of financial strains boosted the president’s approval and narrowed margins in tests against possible Democratic rivals. [NYTimes, Jan 27, 20] The public sees only the increased economic activity from a national credit card and simply ignores the national debt basically since Reagan and supply-side political economy.

Don't need no science. Hundreds of scientists across the federal government have been forced out, sidelined or muted since President Trump took office. The exodus has been fueled by policies that have diminished the role of science as well as specific steps such as moving agencies away from Washington. [Annie Gowen, Juliet Eilperin, Ben Guarino and Andrew Ba Tran , Washington Post, Jan 23, 20] Depletion of scientists and science no doubt foretells depletion of science investment that threatens corporate profits.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO [Government Accountability] said it its legal decision. [Yuval Rosenberg, The Fiscal Times, Jan 16, 20] Congress's watchdog barks.

Who's winning? The six biggest U.S. banks have saved $32 billion in taxes, including $18 billion last year, as a result of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, Yalman Onaran reports at Bloomberg News. [Yuval Rosenberg, The Fiscal Times, Jan 16, 20]

Politicians are the biggest pushers of disinformation because it works, and they don’t pay for it. [Washington Post, Jan 13, 20] It only works with the gullible, against which the defense is education.

Trump Broke It. Now He Owns It. David Frum, The Atlantic: The president withdrew from a flawed deal with Iran, but had no realistic alternative. With that choice comes responsibility for what ensued. [DefenseOne, Jan 13, 20] An Army adage: if you don't know what you're doing, don't do it here.

Nice political idea, but. State and local governments are estimated to spend more than $30 billion a year on business tax incentives, but new research finds that these deals do little to promote regional job growth. The research adds to growing skepticism over the practice of cities and states offering narrow, company-specific tax incentives as a means to attract jobs and economic development. [Andrea Nobel,, Jan 9, 20] Politicians love to start good sounding handout programs, but don't have the long range patience that can wait for a credible test.

"Millions of Americans are still primed to swallow fake news." New York Times reports today in 2,500-word feature on election security ahead. [DefenseOne, Jan 10, 20] With the decline in news from soures with professional editors and fact checkers, truth beomes a slippery object. And with a president who typically offers multiple lies a day, where is a usable standard?

The Senate SB Committee showed concern about the leadership of SBA’s Office of Innovation and Investment, which overseas both the Small Business Investment Corporation (SBIC) program and SBIR/STTR policy office. In response, [nominated Administrator] Carranza agreed to address those concerns, ensure that the SBIR/STTR office’s staff backlog is addressed, and testify before the committee within 90 days about her solutions to these issues. [SSTI, Jan 8, 20] Fortunately the investment part of SBIR/STTR is run by the federal R&D agencies.  

The man who lied "wolf". Americans typically rally around wartime presidents. But Trump has a credibility problem. “Trump arrives at this perilous moment at a decided disadvantage: He can’t assume people will accept what he says as true, because millions have concluded it never is.” ​​​​​​[Peter Nicholas, White House correspondent, Jan 3, 20]

------------ 2020 ---------------------------------


------------ 2019 -----------------------------

The budget deficit has jumped over 50 percent since President Trump took office and is expected to top $1 trillion in 2020, partly as a result of the [Tax Cuts & Jobs] law. ... Starting in early 2018, senior officials in President Trump’s Treasury Department were swarmed by lobbyists seeking to insulate companies from the few parts of the tax law that would have required them to pay more. The crush of meetings was so intense that some top Treasury officials had little time to do their jobs, according to two people familiar with the process. [Jesse Drucker and Jim Tankersley, NYTimes, Dec 30, 19] Love your unlimited national credit card and tax breaks for lobbyist clients.

Net loss. Fed economists conclude, “We find the impact” from protection “is completely offset in the short-run by reduced competitiveness from retaliation and higher costs in downstream industries.” They add that they focused only on the impact of tariffs, not on the “increased uncertainty” from trade policy. A previous Fed study looked at uncertainty and found it has cut U.S. GDP growth by about a percentage point, which explains the deceleration to 2% from 3% in the last year. We realize this won’t persuade committed protectionists for whom tariffs are mainly about politics. [Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal, Dec 31, 19]

NIH has expanded its definition of "disadventaged" to include homeless and recipients of certain federal grants. [Jeffrey Mervis, Science, Dec 20, 19]

Trade Nothingburger. [Trade Rep] Lighthizer has said “a lot of hard things” have been left to future talks, which most analysts say will be arduous and unlikely to bear fruit before the November election. Bargaining over industrial subsidies is expected to be particularly tough. Though Trump launched the trade war to get China to change practices including its numerous subsidies, the commercial conflict has only convinced Xi to accelerate efforts to become self-sufficient — no matter the cost. [Bess Levin, Vanity Fair, Dec 31, 19] Stand by for hand-waving. 

Don't want to know. In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.  Mr. Trump has consistently said that government regulations have stifled businesses and thwarted some of the administration’s core goals, such as increasing fossil-fuel production.  [Brad Plumer and Coral Davenport, NYTimes, Dec 29, 19]

IP review. The National Defense Authorization Act allows [DOD] to come up with a pilot program on IP evaluation [that] will review commercial valuation techniques for IP, examine contracting methods to expedite IP delivery and address the oversight’s feasibility to standardize IP practices. DoD should submit a report to Congress in November 2020. [Jane Edwards, govconwire, Dec 27, 19]

Congressman proposes neww DOD SBIR follow-on. The [proposed] legislation will allow SBIR awardees that have completed SBIR Phase II — that is, who have proved out the scientific, technical and commercial merit and potential of the idea — to apply for a special designation: Entrepreneurial Innovation, or Ei. Each year, at least ten Ei project candidates per service branch will be selected by a panel run by the Pentagon’s SBIR office and comprised of independent and un-conflicted technical and business advisers with an entrepreneurial perspective. Each of these will receive a DOD agency Ei Advocate. [Rep Ken Calvert, DefOne, Dec 9, 19] Nice idea, but DOD already does something like that by continuing to feed SBIR money to firms it likes. Just look up a list of firms with more than $50M SBIR.

Alienating a customer. China's government will replace all of its foreign computer equipment and software within three years, the Financial Times reported (paywall) Sunday. The order appears to be a tit-for-tat response to the Trump administration's (leaky) attempt to forbid U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei. But it is also part of a larger effort by China to stimulate its tech industry and reduce the country's reliance on foreign gear. [DefenseOne, Dec 10, 19] Fortress America will get lonelier and lonelier as trading diminishes.

Maybe later. Trump said he could wait until after the U.S. election to strike a limited trade deal with China, sending stock prices down sharply and casting doubt on whether the two sides will head off new tariffs. [Wall Street Journal, Dec 3, 19] At the moment he is busy making trade war with France. But then, he promised that trade wars are easy to win. Easy to beat China? Ask the Japanese. This is no longer the 19th century's weak exploitable China.

Reforms to a US national security regulation are putting off foreign investors and driving down VC investment in the biotech space by as much as 20 percent. ... “Some of the companies that are just starting off right now with great innovations are going to take ten to twenty years. There is going to be less capital going into those companies, and so it could be another zero on the end of that if you look at the longer timeframe. It would be devastating to innovation. [Dan Stanton,, reporting comments by David Thomas, VP of Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Nov 29, 19] The consequences of building walled Fortress America while cutting federal contribution to R&D and silencing scientists in federal agencies.   A page out of the 1920s.

Unbounded loyalty. A majority of Republicans say President Trump is a better leader than former President Lincoln, according to this week’s Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll. [TAL AXELROD, The Hill, Nov 30. 19]

King Donald dictates agreements. TThe Office of Personnel Management said agencies may unilaterally implement the provisions of three controversial executive orders [for federal civil servants][Erich Wagner,, Nov 26, 19] Federal worker bargining goes back to the Kennedy administration Executive Order.

Throwing money at the problem. Sen. Chuck Schumer proposed a $100 billion tech R&D investment that would be coordinated by a new agency operating under NSF. And New York is providing a five-year, $250 million, matching grant to Research Foundation for SUNY to support R&D capital, projects and spin-outs. [SSTI, Nov 20, 19] Meanwhile, Trump is shrinking the innovation pool by excluding innovative immigrants while finding no urge to balance spending with revenue collection. On the other hand, the easiest thing a legislature can do about a problem is to send money and declare victory.

In order to catch a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy, you have to send a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy — SAMANTHA BEE [LateNight Television, Nov 20, 19]

Stubborner and stubborner. “China is going to have to make a deal that I like,” President Trump said at a cabinet meeting. “If we don’t make a deal with China, I’ll just raise the tariffs even higher.” [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, Nov 19, 19] Negotiating by press release with a reliance on the perpendicular pronoun 'I". Could the Chinese and the Trump political base be as gullible as he implies?

King Donald ignores another law. The White House instructed federal agencies they are under no obligation to comply with the legal decisions issued by the government’s top watchdog, saying in recent guidance the auditor’s rulings come from the legislative branch and are therefore not binding on the executive branch. [Eric Katz, govexec.coom. Nov 19, 19]

Learned it here, using it there. With what are known as “talent programs,” the Chinese government provides compensation and resources to researchers who at times illicitly transfer intellectual property to China, in some cases setting up shadow labs overseas mirroring their U.S. research, according to the report released Monday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. [Wall Street Journal, Nov 18, 19]

Not with me is against me. Trump has heightened his attacks on career federal employees in recent days as the House continues to hold public impeachment hearings, labeling those who have provided testimony as biased and disloyal to the country. [Eric Katz,, Nov 18, 19] "Draining the swamp" means arbitrary extralegal executive control. A real estate mogul has neither experience nor respect with external controllers like legislatures. 

Japan Inc fear again. Offshoring by American companies has destroyed our manufacturing base and our capacity to develop new products and processes. It’s time for a national industrial policy. ... the federal government must do more than invest in basic research; it must also fill the innovation deficit by creating a new infrastructure for R&D in engineering and manufacturing. [Sridhar Kota and Tom Mahoney, Wall Street Journal, Nov 15, 19] The Republican governments of the 1980s and 90s would recoil in horror.

What matters? Polarized politics mean that voters’ views of the economy are increasingly shaped by their party preference, rather than the other way around. And for some key voting blocs, noneconomic issues such as immigration, race relations and Mr. Trump himself have superseded economic concerns in determining their vote. [Greg Ip,WSJ, Nov 12, 19] A serial fantasizer has an emotional grip on a huge section of the electorate.

Destroying a system. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been credited with improving State Department staffing and morale, but his treatment of U.S. Foreign Service officers caught in the impeachment inquiry has undercut those efforts, according to current and former career professionals upset over his recent actions. [Jessica Donati, Wall Street Journal, Nov 11, 19] a 17th century scheme to re-elect the monarch at any cost

Hear no evil. E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules [Lisa Friedman, NYTmes, Nov 11, 19] The overriding goal: corporate profits.

Big tech threat. A raft of research shows us that trust in liberal democracy, government, media and nongovernmental organisations declines as social media usage rises. ..In the US, of course, personal data is being collected, monetised and weaponised in ways that we are only just beginning to understand, and monopolies are squashing job creation and innovation. At this point, it is harder and harder to argue that the benefits of platform technology vastly outweigh the costs. [Rana Foroohar, The Guardian, Nov 8, 19]

The American people are ill informed, and this quadrennial circus called a presidential election makes matters worse, as it becomes a contest in which candidates compete to proclaim their fealty to American exceptionalism while insisting that no alternative to American global leadership can conceivably exist. They all promise if elected to ensure that ours remains not only the best but the strongest military in the world, now and forever, as if a dearth of military power has somehow hampered U.S. policy. [Andrew Bacevich, Boston Review, April 2016]

NASA has a nice piece by Mike DiCicco of Goddard Space Flight Center on commercialization from  four NASA SBIR/STTR awardees. Read the stories.. Companies: Serionix (Champaign, IL), Cambrian Innovation (Watertown, MA), Electric Power Systems (Lombard, IL), Zeus (Orangeburg, SC)

Exploiting Insecurity.  Right now, we are asking millions of Americans to accept high immigration while they are already living with maximum insecurity. Their wages are declining, their families and communities are fragmenting, their churches are shrinking, government services are being cut, their values and national identity feel unstable. Of course they are going to react with suspicion if suddenly on top of all this they begin to feel like strangers in their own place. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Nov 7, 19] why a scheming insulting amoral liar can get elected President.

A single, self-funded competitor ran away with top honors in the latest round of the DARPA Subterranean (SubT) Challenge, which promotes the development of next-gen war robots that can navigate and map underground tunnels and caves. Besting teams from top institutions with an event score of 50 total points, Coordinated Robotics, represented by a single engineer named Kevin Knoedler, won the Virtual Tunnel Circuit event. Knoedler will earn $250,000 for his first-place finish.  [Greg Nichols for Robotics,, Nov 5, 19]

Nervous in the service. Last month, [nearly 100-year-old American Foreign Service Association] began a fundraising campaign—soliciting donations from members and the public alike—for a legal defense fund for any FSOs asked to testify before Congress. ... caught in the middle of the impeachment battle. Congress has subpoenaed several AFSA members, who are being told by State not to cooperate. [Eric Katz,, Nov 5, 19] Foreign Service has the most demanding entry competition of all government employment.   Federal employees in several agencies have reason to fear the President's self-serving political machinations and appointment of unconfrmed lobbyists and their ilk to agency leadership in rejection of the rule of law.   

Fantasy exposed. The drop in business investment once again raises questions about the 2017 tax cuts. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell pointed out that business investment was a key selling point for the GOP tax cuts: “Mechanism by which the GOP tax cut was supposed to supercharge growth was by supercharging business investment,” she wrote Wednesday. “Business investment instead *fell* last quarter, by 3% annualized.” [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Oct 30, 19] Suckas! The people got a debt charge and the wealthy and business got a huge handout, which they simply banked.  The richer you are, the lower your propensity to consume, we learned in  Econ101. 

We're keeping the oilRemember that, I've always said that. Keep the oil. We want to keep the oil — $45 million a month — keep the oil. We've secured the oil."  [Donald Trump. Oct 28, 19] To the victor goes the spoils? Regrdless of international law on ownnership of land and mineral rights?

Imagine that: the economists were right. Deficits have nearly doubled under President Trump, despite solid economic growth and low unemployment — and despite Trump’s vow to eliminate the federal debt in eight years. The Republican tax cut legislation of 2017 reduced revenues relative to projections, and bipartisan spending deals have raised spending. The Treasury estimates that the deficit will exceed $1 trillion next year, and budget experts expect it to remain above that level for years to come. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey,Fiscal Times, Oct 25, 19] And the Liar-In-Chief and his yes-men were wrong. Another $300B added uselessly to the national debt.

Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding. [Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, Oct 25, 19] America Alone awaiting new viral disease invasions, like ebola, that a "national emergency" Mexican Wall won't stop.

U.S. government investment continues to decline, while other nations are increasing federal investment and strengthening foundational research. In fact, the White House’s proposed budget for 2020 decreases foundational research funding by 10% and applied research by 14% from the last fiscal year.22 By contrast, China doubled its foundational research funding in the last five years and spent a record $254 billion on R&D in 2017, narrowing the gap between it and the United States in R&D spending. [AN INNOVATION CHALLENGE FOR THE UNITED STATES, Aspen Institute, 2019] While America Alone shrimks its government and rejetcs immigrants.

Trump this week issued an executive order reinstituting the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) to advise the president on matters involving science, technology, education, and innovation policy and named the first seven people to the council. The council will also provide the president with “scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the American economy, the American worker, national and homeland security, and other topics.” [SSTI, Oct 23, 19] But will he ask for or listen to any advice?

House committee approved with bipartisan support a measure to protect federal scientists and the data they collect from political influence, with proponents saying it would insulate public servants from undue pressures that could compromise their work. The Scientific Integrity Act (H.R. 1709) would prevent agency officials from interfering with scientific research, including through putting their thumbs on the scale of findings or blocking the distribution of data or public communications. [] Trumpism's business obsession went too far for comfort in supressing legitimate and apolitical government science.  

Strangling the golden goose. The trade war between the United States and China will reduce global expansion by nearly a percentage point by the end of 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (The Hill).The global economy is on pace for the weakest growth since the financial crisis, and tariffs are a big reason (The Wall Street Journal). [The Hill, Oct 16, 19]

Federal agencies fail, on average, 24 percent of the time to notify applicant small businesses of award decisions within required deadlines. A small business has a zero percent chance of being able to plan to start an innovation project within six months if they apply to ARPA-E  or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, both of which never met the deadline. These competitiveness-throttling facts were uncovered in the latest SBIR-related report from the General Accounting Office (GAO), released Sept. 26. “Small Business Innovation Programs: Many Agencies Took Longer to Issue Small Business Awards than Recommended,” reports only 13 of the 28 federal agencies, offices and components included in the analysis were able to make timely awards (within 180 days) more than 50 percent of the time. [SSTI, Oct 10, 19] Considering the Trumpian federal government upheaval, where's any surprise?

Trump removed the gate guards, the Turkish Army stormed in shooting, and Trump has not yet mentioned his threat to destroy Turkey's economy.

If SBIR managers seem pre-occupied. As Congress continues to widen its net for documents and testimony, employees subject to conflicting demands have two options, legal experts told Government Executive. The first is to violate orders from management and give Congress what it wants, assuming protections under whistleblower law. A second possibility is to exercise federal employees’ statutory “right to disobey” orders that violate laws, rules or regulations. [, Oct 8, 19] Not your rice bowl, but the Constitution does say that each house of Congress shall make its own rules. The President has no voice in that. Concepts like presumption of innocence, questioning accusers, trail of evidence, and trial by jury apparently do not apply.

Omniscient and Omnipotent. if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” [Trump] wrote [Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver, DefenseOne, Oct 8, 19]

Pitch, and Catch. The new Air Force SBIR Pitch Days have already met with success and 10 more Pitch Days have been scheduled in 2019. Participants in the Space Pitch Day, scheduled for the first week of November in San Francisco, will be vying for a piece of approximately $40 million in planned awards. Get invited, pitch your story, get an immedite contract. here's how.

The Department of Defense commissioned a pilot study by TechLink of the economic impact of cooperative R&D agreements (CRADAs) at three Defense labs. The study received information on 628 of 645 completed CRADAs from 1996-2018, 168 of which resulted in sales for the lab’s industry partner. Related sales were $8.7 billion, of which $4.9 billion went to the U.S. military, and TechLink’s IMPLAN analysis estimates $3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues as part of a $23 billion economic impact. Read more. [SSTI, Oct 2, 19]

The one-man government. President Donald Trump has ordered a substantial reduction in the staff of the National Security Council, according to five people familiar with the plans, as the White House confronts an impeachment inquiry touched off by a whistle-blower complaint related to the agency’s work. [JENNIFER JACOBS AND JUSTIN SINK, The Hill, Oct 4, 19] 

Political science, again. Climate science, under attack. The Guardian: "The treatment of science by the Trump administration has hit a 'crisis point' where research findings are manipulated for political gain, special interests are given improper influence and scientists are targeted for ideological reasons, a nonpartisan taskforce of former government officials has warned." Read the report, released Thursday by the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy. [DefenseOne, Oct 3, 19]

Tariff wars taking their toll. Europe's economy may have ground to a halt. IHS Markit's composite purchasing managers index, a measure of business activity, fell to the lowest level in more than six years as a manufacturing downturn showed signs of spreading into the broader economy..... who is winning the trade war? Tariff and trade experts. Hiring for trade-related roles rose 24% in August. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Oct 2, 19]

L'etat, c'est moi. ‘A presidency of one’: Key federal agencies increasingly compelled to benefit Trump [Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, Washington Post, Oct 1, 19] Such focus on the Executive cannot be good for federal programs like SBIR that don't support his big business contributors with legacy profit sources.

“The greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping,” George Kennan warned in his Long Telegram from Moscow in 1946, at the dawn of the Cold War [quoted by Alex Pascal, Atlantic Monthly, Sep 24, 19] Trump champions doing just that and recommending [at a major UN speech] that other nations do the same. Such things happen all the time: today's problem was yesterday's solution and now all the people [Kennan's contemporaies like Truman, Acheson, Marshall, FDR] who invented that solution are dead. Trump, as no student of history, and no listener to contrary opinion, heads pell-mell into the new-old 1940s problem. 

The small business model in the Defense Department is about looking for new ideas for solving problems, Gen. John Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, said. “I have 37 years in the Army, so I tend to think a certain way; I can guarantee you some of these small startups think about solving problems in an entirely different way.” While the Army can struggle to describe its issues in a way that’s easy for small businesses to understand, the larger issue is a lack of trust that the government can sustain small business models in its current funding process, he said. [AUSA's Five Things, Sep 23, 19] The Army's organizaton for instant war needs new ideas that have been thoroughly tested, can be issued in bulk, and have a logistics system (supply, maintenance, and engineering) backing them up. Fighters cannot abide balky equipment.

Tariffs as politics. President Xi Jinping and top Chinese officials have signaled their willingness to accept some pain at home under U.S. tariffs rather than agree to major concessions. China experts say the political cost to Xi of yielding to Trump could be more damaging than living with the tariffs as Xi seeks to solidify his power in the Communist Party while expanding influence over the world economy (The Hill).  World's biggest economy spars with world's biggest population.

Yes today, no tomorrow. President Trump told his advisers that he doesn’t plan to try to bypass Congress and lower capital-gains taxes by indexing gains to inflation, according to three people familiar with the matter. [Wall Street Journal, Sep 11, 19] More important, who would invest where government policy and leaders change at the whim of the executive?  Trump disdains our stable government structure wherein law determines the policies and Congress approves the Executive Branch leaders. 

Holos (Madison, WI; founded 2015) software startup just landed its second contract from the U.S. Air Force to make virtual reality and augmented reality training programs. Holos announced that it has received a $750,000 Phase II SBIR contract with the Air Force. Holos said it will help the Air Force develop VR maintenance and repair training programs. It will also develop a prototype for the Air Force’s Multi-Domain Command Control system. Holos creates VR and AR education software for classrooms, giving teachers and students the ability to create, organize and learn in 3D. For its Air Force applications, the technology is largely the same, but loaded with different content, the company told Wisconsin Inno earlier this year. Holos likens its product to a 3D version of Powerpoint. [Jim Dallke, WisconsinInno, Sep 5, 19] What's the SBIR problem here: What is SBIR for? Like almost every software contract, the contractor can certainly do what it proposes: a sound engineering job by competent engineers. The bureaucratic question for software SBIR is not technical mysteries, but will anyone buy the product - a question best left to ordinary investment and R&D programs. But with agency authority to fund any R&D thing they want with SBIR, mission agencies chose utility while both agency and company claim innovation.

Advisors beware. Regardless of who has advised Mr. Trump on foreign affairs — generals and corporate tycoons, seasoned pros and amateurs — all have proved powerless before a zest for chaos that would have thwarted George Marshall. [NYTimes ediotrial, Sep 11, 19] Trump Rule: When I want your opinion, I'll tell you what it is. Trump will have trouble finding a Kissinger for his Nixon, because as David Graham (WashPo) notes: The problem is not that Trump failed to get along with John Bolton—it's that he doesn't want a national security adviser in the first place.

Uncoupling. Instead of giving in to Mr. Trump’s demands, Huawei recently introduced its own operating system, Harmony, an alternative to Android that will reduce Huawei’s reliance on U.S. technology. ...the president’s erratic approach has aggravated the situation by encouraging Mr. Xi to embrace decoupling on his own terms. [Stephen A. Myrow, Wall Street Journal, Sep 3, 19] Meanwhile, President Trump said  that Chinese manufacturing would “crumble” if the country did not agree to the United States’ trade terms, as newly released data showed his trade war was washing back to American shores and hurting the factories that the president has aimed to protect. [Ana Swanson, New York Times, Sep 3, 19]  Trump marches boldly at the head of the America Alone parade, apparently without looking over his shoulder to see who is following.

Tax cuts were once critical to the Republican Party’s electoral success. Now, polling data show that few Americans believe taxes are the most important issue facing the nation. [Jackson Gode and Vanessa Williamson, Brookings, Sep 3, 19] Which means that Trump and the Republican Congress got away with their tax cuts for the wealthy, nothing for the middle and lower echelons, and a big national debt increase, all justified by a fantasy supply-side economics argument.  Now the Republicans will shift back to the case for cutting public spending benefitting the undeserving unwealthy. 

A team led by Dynetics (Arlington, VA and Huntsville, AL; at least 30 SBIRs) technical solutions business will develop prototypes of the Common-Hypersonic Glide Body system under a potential three-year, $351.6M other transaction agreement with the U.S. Army. Dynetics said it will work with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Atomics’ electromagnetic systems business on the C-HGB prototype development project. [Jane Edwards, GovConWire, Aug 30, 19]

There are twice as many workers over age 60 as there are under 30. [Courtney Buble, GovExec, Aug 30, 19] Fresh blood needed; please ignore the current President's rantings and sign up for the long haul of successive presidents and reasonably stable laws.

Is nothing sacred? President Trump appears to have taken the highly unusual step of releasing an official and relatively high resolution annotated U.S. intelligence image. [New York Times, Aug 30, 19] A gift for all those enemies out there who did not know how good our satellite vision is. Yet simultaneously excoriating an FBI head who sought outside advice about sensitive but unclassified information in a difficult political situation. The bottom line: who is not with me is against me.

Who me, wrong? President Trump rejected the notion that his trade policies were having a negative impact on the U.S. economy, instead blaming “badly run and weak companies” for any business setbacks. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 30, 19]

Reversal. The .gov now says that children born to US military and USG employees overseas will still be automatically US citizens if the parent is.  

Slippery Slope. Trump said he'll pardon U.S. government employees who break laws [seize private land and disregard environmental rules] while working on border barriers, the Washington Post reports. [Defense One, Aug 28, 19]

Discouraging military and diplomtic service. Trump administration said that children born to U.S. military members and government employees working overseas will no longer automatically be considered United States citizens. [Morgan Chalfant, The Hill, Aug 28, 19]

Zero meets 12000. “No, I don’t think this president has lied,” she [campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany] told Cuomo, before repeatedly backing the honesty of Trump, who has given more than 12,000 false or misleading statements during his presidency, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. [Timothy Bella, WashPo, Aug 28, 19]

Taking the Long View. The Fed’s rationale for ignoring Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign is grounded in cold equations. Years of academic research and history show that nations that allow politics to guide interest rates risk more rapid inflation and are prone to painful boom-and-bust cycles. Most of the economics profession sees a monetary policy system free of political influence as an essential precondition for stable growth. [Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, Aug 25, 19]

Thumb on the scale. The daily news briefing, which is sent to the [Department of Justice]'s 400-some immigration judges, included a link to a website that has been a known platform for white supremacists. [Reis Thebault, WashPo, Aug 22, 19]

Enjoy the ride. The federal government will rack up $12.2 trillion in deficits through 2029, according to a new projection from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an $809 billion increase from its last projection in May. CBO, Congress’s official budgeting scorekeeper, said that the deficits would average 4.7 percent of GDP through the next decade, a significant increase from the 2.9 percent average over the past 50 years. [Niv Elis, The Hill, Aug 21, 19] Economically it means the federal government will spend that much more every year with borrowed money. And since the world is awash in investable cash, there will be little crowding out of private investment by a high cost of private debt. It's a partly Trumpian wonder world if you close your eyes to any eventual demand for debt repayment. It has worked for Trump for decades.

Confident but worried. Trump said he is considering measures to bolster the economy [which he lauds in great helth], including a possible [standard trickle-down] reduction in capital-gains taxes, and continued to press the Fed to [huge] cut rates even as he played down warning signs of a possible slowdown. [ Rebecca Ballhaus, Andrew Restuccia, and Richard Rubin, Wall Street Journal, Aug 20, 19]

Pay later .. or never. The U.S. budget gap widened further in July as federal spending outpaced revenue collection, bringing the deficit to $867 billion so far this fiscal year, a 27% increase from the same period a year earlier. [Kate Davidson, Wall Street Journal, Aug 12, 19]  The wondrous USG credit card with no bank to force re-payment. With neither the Congress nor the POTUS willing to tell their supporters NO.

in the latest survey 87% of [economist] respondents were good to go with “trade war.” [Josh Zumbrun, Wall Steet Journal, Aug 8 19] 

SSTI and NSF are collaborating to bring important sessions for attendees at this year's conference on how to help your entrepreneurs access SBIR/STTR and how to support commercialization in your region. [SSTI, Aug 7, 19] See conference Agenda. Note that the only listed government SBIR speaker is from NSF, which while it has an interesting SBIR, cannot speak for the mission agencies with over half the SBIR money and a completely different help-ourselves approach.

This, too, shall pass. Trump, who has developed a pattern of endorsing and then abandoning proposed federal responses in the wake of mass shootings, knows the realities of the public debate: Congress has not passed major gun control legislation in two decades. [The Hill, Aug 7, 19]

Few perfect voters. Voters who are highly informed, ideologically consistent and politically active make up a minority of the electorate. [Nate Cohn, NYTimes, Aug 5, 19] The rest are unpredictable.

Discovering the Constitution. the “committee approval” requirements “are unconstitutional and are without legal effect,” say the USDA legal eagles to justify Ag's moving its research stuff to Kansas City for questionable reasons. The POTUS [temporary] chief of staff admitted it was for the purpose of shedding employees without seeking Congressional approval. The few Ag SBIR companes can expect turmoil and uncertainty as half the affected employees said "no go." 

Pumping the economy. Federal contract spending in fiscal 2018 increased for the third straight year to $559 billion, a 9% increase over 2017 spending and the highest level since 2010, when agencies spent $562 billion. [Courtney Buble,, Aug 1, 19] the pump comes from not collecting enough taxes to pay for the stuff. Just like your credit card. Are you at least getting your share of the spending? 

Always about me. “If they don’t want to trade with us anymore, that would be fine with me,” Mr. Trump said. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 1, 19] as he announced more tariffs against China. “Both sides now seem to be settling in for a broad and unremitting trade war that will last at least through this term of Trump’s presidency.” said Eswar Prasad, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division. [New York Times, Aug 1, 19] from fantasyland: "China, they have to pay it," Trump told reporters. "They're paying for these tariffs. We're not. …Until such time as there is a deal, we'll be taxing them." [The Hill, Aug 2, 19] Sure, somebody pays taxes into the US Treasury, but it's almost always paid directly by the importer (usually a domestic firm), and never by the exporting country.. []  

the uncertainty created by Trump’s policy by whim — nobody knows what he’ll hit next — has surely deterred investment. Why build a manufacturing plant when, for all you know, next week a tweet will destroy your market, your supply chain, or both? [Paul Krugman, NYTimes, Aug 1, 19]  

Backward step. The president said a new deal with Beijing may not come until after the 2020 election, a significant departure from his earlier attempts to exert pressure on China. [Taylor Telford, Damian Paletta, David J. Lynch, Washington Post, Jul 30, 19] Meanwhile, Trump lashed out at China and the Fed, unsettling investors worried about mounting risks to the global outlook. [James Politi and Colby Smith, Financial Times, Jul 30, 19] China is not just another real estate financier to be horn-swoggled by big talk.

The simple math that should keep Republicans up at night: The most common age of Hispanics in America is 11. For whites? 58. [Philip Bump, Washington Post, Jul 30, 19]

Populism politics. Short-term tax breaks and giveaways from public funds for client groups whose votes you hope to win, combined with a determination to scapegoat and squeeze minorities and the ‘undeserving’ poor, is the very essence of populism. So is the assumption that patriotic-cultural gestures and spectacles like the launching of aircraft carriers will serve as compensation for mean lives. [James Meek, London Review of Books, Jul 26, 19]

Yes men more comfy. Mr. Ratcliffe, a third-term Republican from Texas and a former prosecutor, has embraced Mr. Trump’s theories about the Russia investigation and was among the sharpest questioners of Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, at last week’s hearings. [Maggie Haberman, Julian E. Barnes and Peter Baker, New York Times, Jul 28, 19] Qualification for nation's chief intelligence officer? Won't interfere with the emperor's partisan policy making [increasingly surrounded by loyalists].

Trade wars easy to .... iRobot The maker of the popular Roomba line of robot vacuums launched its latest iteration called the s9 in late May with a starting price tag of $999. Unfortunately, that is also when tariffs on goods imported from China kicked in. iRobot thus had to raise the price of its already-pricey new vac by $100 to compensate, along with similar increases across several of its other models. [Dan Gallagher, Wall Street Journal, Jul 25, 19] ... easy to lower American profits

Don't answer? EPA filed changes to its FOIA rules to the Federal Register, which became effective immediately. The changes affirmatively grant that political appointees, including the administrator and deputy administrators, can respond to FOIA requests, either releasing or withholding documents. [Erich Wagner,, Jul 22, 19] Oh, no, says the Congress. The FOIA law specifies only a few reasons [proprietary, investigatory, classified, legal advice] for not releasing the requested document(s). And political embarrassment is not one of them.

America First — and by ourselves — is now the policy. .. The GOP was once the party of economic expansion through access to world markets. Trump and his team have turned this approach on its head. .. This new party is one that merely responds to the president’s whims, as expressed in tweets of limited depth and base vocabulary. His ideas can and do change without notice or discernible ideological reason. [Judd Gregg, The Hill, Jul 22, 19]

They got their wish. Cotton farmers in Arkansas are hoping for a swift resolution to the trade spat with China. [Wall Street Journal, Jul 22, 19] They enthused for Trump who promised "trade wars are good"'.  Now they have both with neither doing well.

The scent of politics and revenge. Trump Says He May Intervene in Huge Pentagon Contract Sought by Amazon. ... For the president to weigh in on the award of a major government contract would be highly unusual, raising questions of improper political influence. [Scott Shane and Karen Weise, New York Times, Jul 19, 19] What relevant and proper contribution could a president make in a contract selection competition within the announced criteria? If he did so, the contract would be tied up for years in the courts, and the DOD would fall even further behind in adapting to the cloud.

Net loss tariffs. According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the tariffs President Trump has imposed on Chinese imports have generated $20.8 billion so far, Ana Swanson and Jim Tankersley of The New York Times reported Tuesday. ... But Swanson and Tankersley point out that the president has committed about $28 billion to payments for American farmers hurt by his trade war, leaving a net loss on that basis alone. [Michael Rainey, Financia Times, Jul 16, 19] But have faith, Trump says, "Trade wars are good, and easy to win." and most recently Trump said that there’s still a long way to go to reach a deal with China, threatening to slap tariffs on another $325 billion of Chinese goods. [Yun Li, CNBC, Jul 16, 19]

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $24 million in funding for 77 projects through its Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), which will be matched by funds from the private sector.  Third party validtion does have its merits for government "investment."

Spend same, tax less, grow debt, beg for re-election. The U.S. budget deficit grew 23% in the first nine months of the fiscal year [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, Jul 12, 19] while Treasury Secretary Mnuchin warned that the federal government could run out of cash sooner than expected [Fiscal Times] Imagine that, the supply-side dream again collapses, repeatedly over its forty years.

Xi, however, apparently believes he will not be able to realize his outsized ambitions unless he can shut off China while, at the same time, obtaining access to other markets. Beijing and Washington are promoting two irreconcilable visions of that country’s future. [Gordon Chang, Hoover Institution, Jul 11, 19] Meanwhile our Twittering leader says Trade wars are good, and easy to win. And his "base" seems not to mind his cynical exploiation of them.

And the winners are ... . Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in recent days urged U.S. suppliers of Huawei Technologies to seek exemptions to resume sales to the blacklisted Chinese firm. [Kate O’Keeffe and William Mauldin and Asa Fitch, Wall Street Jounral, Jul 10, 19] And with no law to ordain criteria, an amoral executive is free to pick whomever he arbitrarily chooses to get a profitable license. What true red-meat free-market Republican would stand for such bribery bait from a Democratic president?

Our [Revolutionary] army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory. [Donald Trump, July 4, 2019]

The U.S. Army’s new Futures Command is accelerating research into synthetic biotechnology to help the military develop next-generation living camouflage and other never-before-seen organisms and materials. [Patrick Tucker, DefOne, Jul 2, 19]

Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to present President Trump with a set of terms the U.S. should meet before Beijing is ready to settle a market-rattling trade confrontation, raising questions of whether the two leaders will agree to relaunch talks, Lingling Wei and Bob Davis report. Beijing is insisting the U.S. remove its ban on the sale of U.S. technology to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and wants the U.S. to lift all punitive tariffs. Officials also want Washington to drop efforts to get China to buy even more U.S. exports than discussed when the two leaders last met in December. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Jun 26, 19] The challenge for both sides is a mercurial tariff-lover running for re-election who wants arbitrary authority to dictate trade terms. After all, the other side's leader has that kind of arbitrary authority. 

RE2 Robotics (Pittsburgh PA; no SBIR says SBA database), a leading developer of robotic manipulation systems, announced that the company was awarded an [Army] Phase III SBIR grant from the Army and the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA) to continue the development of its LIFELINE system, which is designed to assist combat medics in the field. [company press release, Jun 24, 19] Note: Phase III is SBIR in name only, no SBIR money, just a competitive edge for sole-source follow-on work. Also got $2.9M AF SBIR in 2018, a Phase II Navy SBIR and a Phase II Army in 2017, $1M Phase II in 2016, a Phase II Army in 2012, and of course a Phase I SBIR contract before every Phase II [data from company website]. Warning: do not trust SBA database for accurate SBIR award info. 

The lion’s share of the U.S. drone fleet is easy prey for advanced air defenses. “Current generation drones simply can’t operate effectively in contested airspace. [Patrick Tucker, Defense One, Jun 20, 19] But the Mississippi Congressional delegation forced the Navy to spend a decent part of its money on building ships the Navy didn't want.

Cat's away, mice can play. The Trump administration has found a way to deregulate: don't hire people to enforce the rules. [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, Jun 24] That attitude of arbitrary failure to "faithfully execute" could spread to programs like SBIR unless and until Congress steps in.

Peers v users. NIH awards are much less concentrated than those awarded by the DoD. Firms receiving at least 10 awards during the 10-year period received more than half (51 percent) of all DoD SBIR/STTR awards from 2008 to 2017, while similar firms received just 11.6 percent of NIH SBIR/STTR awards, according to an SSTI analysis. The total size of NIH SBIR/STTR awards, the relative lack of concentration, and the availability of plentiful proposal data make the agency ideal for the following Useful Stats analysis. [Jonathan Dworin, SSTI, Jan,, 3, 19] The effect of NIH peer review versus DOD user review.  Users fund what they intend to use or would make government smarter.  

SBIR success rates 2008-2017 published by SSTI - a misleading but easy to collect figure. A low success rate means that the agency is not clarifyng the realities of what succeeds, and a lot of useless work by hopeful proposers for free money. It's all a natural consequnence of Congress's inventing a handout program for a favored constituency with no oversight on efficiency for all concerned. And, no, there is no prospect for fixing the problem.  Read the analysis .

U.S. businesses beg to be left off Trump's tariff list. [Reuters, Jun 17, 19] Corruption invited when executive has arbitrary power to award favors. Rule-of-law would specify conditions and criteria for imposition and exemption of such favors as trade tariffs. But Republican Senate too terrified of reaction by Trump "base" to reining in their hero.

deciBel Research (Huntsville, AL; $10M SBIR) won a potential 60-month, $172.6M contract to help the Missile Defense Agency develop software and model applications to support ballistic missile defense system operations. [Brenda Marie Rivers, GovConWire, Jun 17, 19] Military software makes useful R&D and sometimes build government confidence in a contractor, especially one near the flagpole. Which gets the gov R&D done with little chance of technical failure, but opens few windows for innovation with long range consequences. It all comes from Congress's wish to help small biz without annual appropriations wrestling.   

Tell whom what? Multiple administration officials also told the [New York Times] that they do not believe Trump was briefed about the plans to deploy computer code into Russia's grid. Some officials within the Pentagon and intelligence community told the Times that there was hesitation to give Trump details about the operations. [Justin Wise, The Hill, Jun 16, 19]

It seemed good politics.  The Wisconsin group that negotiated $3 billion in tax incentives for Foxconn Technology Group has problematic oversight practices, a state audit has found, highlighting fresh concerns about the costly incentives states use to attract economic growth. [Shayndi Raice, Wall Street Journal, Jun 11, 19]

The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Technological University recently awarded a combined $302,000 in funding to four projects from researchers across the state. [all at Michigan universities] [MTRAC press release, May 29, 19]

Another fake exposed.  a new [IMF] research paper says there is still no consensus on whether that [gleefully promisd] investment boost has in fact occurred. Outgoing White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett has linked better-than-expected GDP growth to a rise in business investment spurred by the tax cuts, but many analysts outside the Trump administration say the evidence is weak to nonexistent. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Jun 5, 19] Trump and rich supporters got their taxes cut; the people in the street got nothing. Vote Republican if you want to keep those promise-makers in office.

The proposed census changes have a similar goal: If you’re losing in the game of numbers, change the way you count. [Charles Blow, NYTimes, Jun 5,19] Stalin said: It's not who votes, it's who counts the votes.

Going Big. [NIH] awarded up to $35 million to an international consortium led by a top San Diego virologist [Erica Ollmann Saphire of the La Jolla Institute of Immunology]to find treatments for viral threats, including Ebola and Lassa fever. [Bradley Fikes, San Diego Union Tribune, May 29, 19]

The career G-man [Special Counseel Robert Mueller] is bound by the rules. He made it clear that the president is bound only by Congress. [Russell Berman,, May 30, 19] At least a few people still respect rules in a political arena mostly ruled by partisan myopia. Lose your rules, lose your counter-balancing mechanisms.

Tariffs for all seasons. Trump said the U.S. would impose a 5% [and growing monthly] tariff on Mexican imports in frustration over the continued flow of asylum-seeking Central American families to the southern border. [Wall Street Journal, May 31, 19]  With enough tariffs he thinks he can build his castle walls for America Alone.

Expecting ethical government? The [Washington] Post writes about how Trump has repeatedly pressured the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Homeland Security to award a contract for building a wall at the southern U.S. border to a North Dakota company headed by a leading Republican donor.  ...  [company CEO] has wisely made himself a fixture on Fox News, which the president watches obsessively. [David Graham, DefenseOne, May 28, 19]

Up the blocked staircase. The CIA-affiliated venture-capital firm In-Q-Tel has nurtured many promising technology start-ups with seed money. But getting any technological innovations to take root inside the intelligence agencies has been a challenge, thanks to embedded contractors with their own financial incentives, bespoke and aging information technology systems, and sclerotic, risk-averse acquisition policies that make it exceptionally difficult for commercial companies, especially start-ups, to work with the government. [Amy Ziggart and Michael Morell, Foreign Affairs, M/J19] The inventors of SBIR claimed that getting more private firms into federal R&D would improve the adoption of new technology. The wiser heads in Congress knew better but were carried along on the chance to reward a politically favored group.

Big ideas too big. A $10 billion data cloud, giant ray guns in space, a sixth-generation fighter jet — these are just some of the biggest ideas out of the Pentagon in the last several years. But they’ve failed to impress the House Appropriations Committee. [Patrick Tucker, Defense One, May 22, 2019]

Threatening paralysis. President Trump abruptly blew up a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders, declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him. [NY Times, May 22, 19] A reactionary dream: the goverrnment promises nothing to discomfort the comfortable, plus an executive  threat to attempt rule by decree. Eventually even the Republicans will object. SBIR's problem: the agencies will likely protect their mainline programs by deferring SBIR awards until the last week of the fiscal year.

Usual SBIR politics. The Senate Small Business Committee held a hearing on “Reauthorization of the SBA’s Innovation Programs,” which had a heavy emphasis on SBIR/STTR. Earlier in the day, Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) published a report on business investment, which places many shortcomings of the national economy at the feet of “sharedholder primacy” and calls for policies to incentivize investment by businesses into research and innovation. Among the topics raised during the hearing were making SBIR/STTR permanent, faster contracting, and additional support for innovative companies. [Jason Rittenberg, SSTI, May 16, 19] Usual noises that beneficiaries love SBIR for three decades, but no defensible economic evaluation. No matter, small money for beloved constituency, little harm done to government R&D.

Mr. Trump’s tariffs have been fully borne by Americans, at a net cost to the country of $1.4 billion per month. ... but the tariffs are a drop in the bucket for a $21 trillion economy. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 19]

Arbitrary firing law fails. Rather than defend a law that the president loves, the VA will reinstate a [civil service] hospital director whom it twice tried to fire. ... the government said it would give Hawkins his job back rather than defend the statute in court. [Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica, May 16, 19]

More trade war. President Trump signed an executive order that would let the U.S. ban telecommunications gear from “foreign adversaries,” underscoring tensions with China even as the U.S. said it would likely resume trade talks soon in Beijing. [Wall Street Journal, May 16, 19] Do he and his Cabinet of big biz anti-regulation executives know what they are doing in international strategy?

Democratic paeans to checks and balances conceal plans for a historic power grab. [Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 19] The complainers about Congressional investigation and action could notice that the US Constitution gives the Congress ultimate power of impeachment and removal of any US government official.

NASA has awarded $106M in total [SBIR Phase II] contract funds to 129 small businesses to further develop technology platforms that may help sustain human presence on the moon and Mars. ... also said it will help fund the commercialization of resulting platforms in the third phase. [Brenda Marie Rivers, GovConWire, May 15, 19]

Ten startups whose products piqued the interest of the [DOD] have completed the joint startup accelerator between Techstars and the U.S. Air Force in Boston. Among the 10, half are focused on either drones or cybersecurity. [Boston Business Journal, May 15, 19]

Counter-strike. After vowing over the weekend to "never surrender to external pressure", Beijing has defied President Trump's demands that it not resort to retaliatory tariffs and announced plans to slap new levies on $60 billion in US goods. [Tyler Durden,, May 15, 19] Perhaps Trump's sacred "base" will realize that they are the chumps in the game of autocratic power.

Trust me, I know. The president, in a series of tweets, said a prolonged trade war would be good for America even as negotiators returned to the table. [New York Times, May 11, 19] President W said much the same line in 2003 about fixing Iraq.  But W at least had editors to help keep the story straight.   On the Iraq question: The Iraq war was not a tragedy. It was more like a crime, compounded by the stupefying incompetence of those who embarked upon a patently illegal preventive war out of a sense of panic induced by the events of 9/11. [Andrew J. Bacevich reviewing LEAP OF FAITH Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy By Michael J. Mazarr, New York Times, April 19, 19]

Be careful what you tweet for. Trump, has repeatedly badgered Europe to increase defense spending. But now that Europe is taking concrete steps to boost a pan-European defense industry, Washington is reportedly howling mad, according to Spanish daily El Pais. [Foreign, May 13, 19]

Opportunity. U.S. Air Force plans to launch a $48M R&D program to integrate autonomous systems and sensors for potential use in U.S. military operations across cyber, air and space domains. A presolicitation notice posted [May 7] on FedBizOpps stated the Multi-Sensor Exploitation for Tactical Autonomy initiative will explore sensing autonomy platfoms in areas such as simulation and analysis, multidomain and multisensor data management, learning and computing for knowledge and understanding. The open BAA will cover basic, applied and advanced research, development, assessment, demonstration and transition of the technologies [Darwin McDaniel, GovConWire, May 10, 19] In principle, 3% of that should go to SBIR.

Dealing with politicians:  Responding on Twitter to a Texas pediatrician, a Texas state legislator has drawn national attention for calling vaccines “sorcery.” [Ben Fidler,, May 10, 19] Democracy does have the downside of installing into office some really awful people's representatives. Which should remind people that the best protection for government is an educated electorate. 

Small biz back-blast. U.S. tariffs could inflict significant damage on China. Small, private companies are key to China’s job market and growth. They had a harrowing end to 2018 for three reasons. 1.) They are far more exposed to trade than their large state-owned peers, and suffered as exports collapsed. 2.) The crackdown on shadow banking starved them of capital. 3.) A stock-market collapse, due partly to rising trade tensions, made things worse because many business owners had pledged shares in return for loans, and were at risk of losing their equity, Nathaniel Taplin writes. The new tariffs, therefore, risk knocking out two legs of China’s private-sector-business recovery. [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, May 10, 19] Back-blast form the tariffs could have the same effect on US small companies, which apparently are not a concern to a real-estate mogul.  Congress could wake up to the threat that an unrestrained president can wreak great havoc on our economic system. The Founders knew the problem and built a government to contain power, a system that has miraculously endured since 1787. 

1920s redux. The U.S. increased tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% Friday as President Trump ratcheted up pressure on Beijing and threatened to impose additional levies on virtually everything China exports to the U.S. [Wall Street Journal, May 10, 19]  Who collects? The government. Who pays? US consumers, who don' t seem to get the memo. It's a 1920s idea that devestated the 1930s., now invoked by a president who proudly reads nothing beyond  half-page with visuals.

President Trump said that the Mueller report showed “essentially no collusion.” Jimmy Fallon responded: “That’s like a waiter walking over and going, ‘Here’s your salad. There’s essentially no E. coli in it.’” [Chris Stanford and Mike Ives, New York Times, May 10, 19]

a striking decadeslong decline in American entrepreneurship: Between 1978 and 2011, “the firm entry rate—or firms less than one year old as a share of all firms—fell by nearly half.” [Edward Glaeser reviewing Grube and Johnson's Jump-Starting America, Wall Street Journal. May 8, 19] SBIR has had three decades to jump-start Amrican high tech small biz. Unfortunately Congress gave the federal R&D agencies unilateral authority to choose its innovation awardees, but with no incentive for the agencies to do other than support their own internal programs.

Spin-In tech. The Army is partnering with the Pentagon’s internal startup accelerator to adapt small commercial drones—think hobbyists’ quadcopters—for the battlefield. The Defense Innovation Unit announced it will begin offering its expertise to the Army’s Short Range Reconnaissance program. [Jack Corrigan,, Apr 29, 19] The difficulty comes when the Army writes a doctrine and instructions for use of technology that it did not develop. Nice idea; how do we use it, buy it, supply it, carry it, and service it? The Army's backpack is already overflowing and battery demnd is skyrocketing.  

the biggest success of the Trump Presidency has been the economy. .. the “reformacons” on the right who derided deregulation and corporate tax cuts as an out-of-date agenda should admit how wrong they were. [Wall Street Journal editorial, Apr 27, 19] The braggarts over the recent economic growth conveniently ignore the contribution of putting hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the federal government on the national credit card of deficit finance (think a $trillion a year). With enough loans, anyone can look like an economic genius, even the self-styled "king of debt".

The CIA-affiliated venture-capital firm In-Q-Tel has nurtured many promising technology start-ups with seed money. But getting any technological innovations to take root inside the intelligence agencies has been a challenge, thanks to embedded contractors with their own financial incentives, bespoke and aging information technology systems, and sclerotic, risk-averse acquisition policies that make it exceptionally difficult for commercial companies, especially start-ups, to work with the government. [Amy Zegart and Michael Morell, Foreign Affairs, Apr 24, 19]

Innovation leaders often cite Eastman-Kodak as an example of an enterprise that was too dim-witted to see the writing on the wall and so fell from its lofty perch. But Kodak’s executives weren’t ignorant. They knew technology was changing and in fact invested billions of dollars in digitization. Kodak’s fatal problem was an inflexible organization that couldn’t adapt quickly enough to forces outside of its control. [Zachery Tyson Brown's  All This ‘Innovation’ Won’t Save the Pentagon, DefenseOne, Apr 23, 19] Sounds like IBM's story with the PC. 

China’s Subsidized Conquest of Trade. U.S. industry fades away as state-owned companies undersell the competition. [William Galston, Wall Street Journal, Apr 23, 19] Latest US victim industries: subway cars and 5G components. In the foreign competing countries, their people are paying taxes to the state to support the state subsidies to chosen industries, something not likely to be popular in tax-cut-merica.  Trump is groping with a false sense of (smartest guy in the room) self-confidence to fix the problem while desparately concealing his actual financial track record to keep the sunshine from the magic. 

Trump called Congress “very partisan.” [The Hill]  Imagine that!

Faster pay, maybe. A bill introduced last week in the House of Representatives would accelerate payments to small businesses that do work for the federal government. The Accelerated Payments for Small Business Act of 2019 would direct federal agencies to disburse payments within 15 days of receiving a proper invoice if a specific payment date is not established, rather than the current 30-day standard. The bill impacts only small businesses. (Washington Business Journal) Nice thought, BUT, faster pay means more people, or more robots, to process AND VERIFY the claims.

More science, or else. It is hard to maintain leadership in any field with five decades of shrinking budgets. Science is no different—especially when your competition is devoting hundreds of billions, year after year, to beating you. ... The solution? America needs to do what it does best: compete. The U.S. has the world’s best research universities, a great scientific talent pipeline and a strong culture of innovation. Now Washington needs to invest more—much more [Alex Beam, Wall Street Journal, Apr 19, 19] Reaistically, every scientist sees a need for more knowledge but has little appetite to compete for political attention.

Not Nothing. A plausible title for the paperback editions that will soon be in bookstores might be, “We Didn’t Not Find Anything.” [Dwight Garner, reviewing the Mueller report, NYTimes, Apr 20, 19]

Brussels sets out $20bn list of US goods facing tariffs. [Jim Brunsden, Financial Times, Apr 17, 19] Tit-for-tat on tariffs truned out really ugly in the 1930s, an historical fact appaprently irrelevant to the White House's American-alone campaign for American isolation. 

Semantic City. “I believe the government spied on the Trump campaign,” said Mr. Barr in a town where semantic directness is simply not practiced among the political pharisees and their pilot fish in the media who seek to preserve a certain order by obfuscating true intent. [Kevin Brock, TheHill, Apr 16, 19]

A President of [just] His People? The message seems clear and so does the audience: more red meat for red-state Americans who have been the foundation of his political enterprise since his against-the-odds campaign for the White House. [Peter Baker, New York Times, Apr 16, 19]

Being ahead of one’s time may impress posterity; it is no advantage at the polls. .... The authors blame it on voters who stress “hollow celebrity and contrived popularity” at the expense of “competence and rational judgment.” [Richard Norton Smith reviewing The Problem of Democracy By Nancy Isenberg & Andrew Burstein, Wall Street Journal, Apr 12, 19]

Don't need no outside advice neither. Pentagon officials are killing JASON in all but name.For decades, JASON studies helped DOD and other agencies get outside perspectives on scientific and technical topics. [Patrick Tucker, DefenseOne, Apr 11, 19] Just send DOD more money and cut soft stuff like food stamps, says Trump as America-alone fortress builder.

In the age of Trump, national politics is showbiz — self-righteous performance art to make the base feel good about itself. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Apr 11, 19]

When Impulse Rages. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s firing is the plainest example yet of the futility of trying to restrain Trump from inside—and the personal cost to those who try. [David Graham, The Atlantic, Apr 8. 19]  The Founders foresaw such power grabbing and built checks and balances into the federal government structure.  The federal judiciary, appointed for life, are demonstrating the check system to keep the executive within the law. 

Up to $5 million of the $20 million allocated by ARPA-E under Design Intelligence Fostering Formidable Energy Reduction and Enabling Numerous Totally Impactful Advanced Technology Enhancements (DIFFERENTIATE) program, funding opportunity will be made available specifically for small businesses under ARPA-E’s SBIR.   ...Submit trial balloon concept papers  by May 20, 2019.   [ARPA-E newsletter, Apr 5, 19]

Writing after the release of the Pentagon Papers, Hannah Arendt crystallized the essence of today’s obfuscatory media atmosphere: “Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear.” [Alan Hirshfeld reviewing Robert Crease's The Workshop and the World, Wall Street Journal, Apr 5, 19]

Satire overwhelmed. The danger, of satire: not that it mocks and belittles respect-worthy pieties, not that it “punches down,” but that it has become impossible to separate it cleanly from the toxic disinformation that defines our era. [Justin E.H. Smith, philosophy professor, NY Times, Apr 5, 19] Free speech enables truth itself to be overwhelmed. with enough media and enough liars. 

Tariff, the go-to tool. The Trump administration’s demand that punitive tariffs remain to ensure Beijing enacts genuine overhauls has emerged as one of the biggest sticking points as U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators opened new talks. [Bob Davis, Wall Street Journal, Apr 3, 19] Worked to punish everyone in the 1930s.

Lower taxes- gut IRS. A Hollowed-Out IRS Workforce Has Led to a 91 Percent Drop in Investigations of Non-Filing Businesses, [CAO says] The agency is ignoring even tax returns with obvious discrepancies because it no longer has the resources to follow up on them. [Eric Katz,, Mar 27, 19]  Only suckers pay taxes. -- Donald Trump, Sep 27, 2016  

Puritanism as a political project failed, and for a host of reasons. The Bible is too big and complex a book to inspire a single doctrine of human government. Also, the Puritans’ intense work ethic tended to generate prosperity and markets, and markets are no place for narrow orthodoxy and severe morality. [Barton Swain revieiwng Michael Winship's Hot Protstants, Wall Street Journal, Mar 27, 19]  Politicians and voters could take note that evangelicals' fervor for righteousness makes a poor base for practical governance.

Shrinking government.  Key Federal Agency Doesn't Have the Staff to Oversee $35B in 2017 Hurricane Recovery Money. Slow process has led to four states and territories devastated by hurricanes receiving virtually none of the funds Congress appropriated. [Eric Katz,, Mar 25, 19]

Pentagon: We're Buying Boeing F-15s to Keep 2 Fighter Makers in Business. ... The acting defense secretary's ties to the company had nothing to do with the decision, a senior defense official said. [Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One, Mar 25, 9] Oh, right.

Employees as commodities. Trump proposes to integrate the functions of the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration, Defense Department and the Executive Office of the President, although much remains contingent on Congress approving legislation. [Erich Wagner,, Mar 21, 19]   Don't expect Congress to agree to remake USG into Trump Tower Inc with an arbitrary dictator. 

All the federal government’s initiatives and resources around [AI] can now be accessed on one dedicated website,, which the White House launched. [Brandi Vincent,, Mar 19, 19] 

Governor Cuomo announced companies in 43North’s portfolio have created more than 400 jobs in Western New York. 43North is the startup competition that invests $5 million annually to attract start-up companies to Western New York and cultivate their growth in the region. Since launching the competition in 2014, 43North has invested in 44 companies. [43North press release, Mar 7, 19]

Include Us Out. U.S. semiconductor companies want no part of any trade deal that calls for stepped-up purchases from China. Washington has pressed Beijing to buy more than $1 trillion in U.S. goods and services as part of an agreement, and China has offered to buy $30 billion of U.S. chips over six years. But U.S. chip makers have told President Trump’s administration not to include them, Bob Davis reports. Why? Because U.S. production costs are so high, mandatory-purchase quotas would essentially force U.S. chip makers to open new factories in China and give Beijing bureaucrats more sway over the U.S. firms. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Mar 19, 19]

Making government like a real estate biz. The Trump administration has long expressed a desire to make the federal non-salary compensation system more in line with private sector employers, who mostly have abandoned offering pensions to employees. .... “We believe it is the first step to eliminating any kind of defined benefit pension plan for federal employees,” [AFGE Senior Policy Counsel Richard] Loeb said. “Despite [the administration’s] claims to the contrary, they’re not doing this to enhance retirement benefits. They’re doing it to reduce their costs.” [Erich Wagner,, Mar 15, 19]

President Trump is making the trade deficit bigger. "Pretty much anyone with a passing knowledge of macroeconomics could have predicted that this would be the likely result of moves by Trump and Congress to stimulate the U.S. economy with bigger federal deficits," Justin Fox writes at Bloomberg Opinion. "That Trump himself did not see this coming is another indication that, as someone recently said, the man doesn’t understand much about macroeconomics." [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Mar 14, 19] Or he simply has no connection to truth when spouting.

Trump warned Beijing he would not sign off on a trade deal that didn’t meet U.S. demands, Jong Un, Bob Davis, and Alex Leary report. ... a sharp departure from his recent optimism; it's not clear if they're a negotiating tactic or a sign of some underlying impasse in talks. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Mar 14, 19] Unlike the US Congress Republicans, the Chinese don't worry about angering Trump's "base" who believe/hope in his omnipotence.

Prepare to prepare. (NSF) has instituted a new requirement that is going to affect everyone who wants to submit a Phase I SBIR or STTR proposal, starting immediately. And if you don’t react ASAP, you may well be precluded from submitting a proposal in the current solicitation “window” that ends June 13th—and you may even be precluded from submitting if you react quickly but not well to the new requirement. [Greenwood [SBIR] Consulting, Mar 12, 19]  All agencies have a problem with piles of proposals with no chance of funding. Lots of work for the agency and lots of wasted work by the proposers. Meanwhile, Trump keeps trying to chop the agencies' workers. One solution is a clear agency message on what kinds of proposals have a reasonable chance.  Help them and yourself - see what they fund, learn what they want.

Don't need no dadgum gummint. Thirty-five Congressional mandates sit unanswered, on everything from minimum seat space to secondary barriers protecting cockpits. The top job at the Federal Aviation Administration has been open for 14 months. Enforcement fines against major U.S. airlines have dropped 88% in the past two years, even as three-hour tarmac delays have more than doubled. [Scott McCartney, Wall Street Journal, Mar 12, 19]

Always about "me". Trump: Making daylight saving time permanent is ‘OK with me’ [AP News, Mar 11, 19]

The Army is all in on innovative startups, but it will likely rely on tried and true contractors to get the tech over the finish line, Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley told SXSW. [, Mar 9,19] As usual, the military wants new ideas that have been thoroughly tested.  Advantage: established companies. But then, the Army could be at war tomorrow in any climate, especially with a loose-cannon President.

‘The comic thing about this drama is that no one is even pretending there is a real emergency.” So says Neeraj Kaushal, 57, a professor of social policy at Columbia who has just published a bracing book on U.S. immigration policy. Her thesis: Far from presenting an emergency, as President Trump contends, America’s immigration system is the best in the world. [Tunku Varadarajan, Wall Street Journal, Mar 8, 19] Except for Trump's view as he echoes his "base." Unfortunately, Trump is classic political theatrical exploiter of convenient myths. The real Trump is playing a character called Trump who is anti immigrant because thats what the voters in middle America want. [commenter, WSJ,Mar 9, 19]

Buy American goes to China. The Sichuan provincial government has stipulated that for 15 types of medical devices, hospitals will be reimbursed only for procedures that use Chinese-manufactured devices. [ELIZABETH C. ECONOMY, Foreign Affairs, Mar 6, 19] With Trump alienating all and sundry, China will look more and more attractive to other countries despite Xi's control fetish.

Anything Goes. When America, the world’s most influential democracy, has a leader without shame, who is backed by a party without spine willing to prostitute itself to Trump no matter how low he goes — and both are protected by a virtually state-run network without integrity, called Fox — it becomes a hunting license for leaders everywhere to go after their own domestic opponents and cross any human rights redline to stay in power. [Tom Friedman, New York Times, Mar 6, 19]

Hunkering down. DOE has drafted new restrictions on research collaborations between the scientists it funds and certain foreign governments suspected of trying to steal sensitive technologies. DOE officials are still debating the scope of the new rules. [Jeffrey Mervis, Science, Feb 15, 19]

Like Spain in 1796, the U.S. is at the apparent apogee of its power, consciously facing a post-hegemonic future but uncertain about how to proceed. Like the Spanish monarchy then, the U.S. today is riven between hostile constituencies—radical and reactionary, Christian and secularist—with no formula for reconciling them. [Felipe Fernández-Armesto reviewing Carrie Gibson's El Norte and Robert Goodwin's America, Wall Street Journal, Mar 2, 19]

Few law enforcement jobs are more coveted than the FBI’s special agent positions. But the tightest labor market in decades is forcing the bureau to aggressively recruit candidates. [Wall Street Journal, Feb 25,19] Consequences of a sleazy president attacking his own government.

Danger words. Trump claims "absolute right to .... " declare an emergency despite the clearly framed emergency law that allows Congress to stop such a declaration.

Five [DARPA funded] research teams will study the behavior of marine organisms to develop sensors designed to detect and track manned underwater vehicles and drones in strategic waters. [Jane Edwardson, GovConWire, Feb 19, 19]  no small biz

Love that limitless credit card. It’s no longer cool to talk about the federal budget deficit. President Trump didn't talk about it during his State of the Union. Neither did Stacey Abrams in her Democratic response. All told, Washington’s red-ink alarms have gone dead, even though the annual deficit will pass the trillion-dollar mark starting in 2022. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Feb 19, 19] 

The Trump Administration Can’t Get a United Front Against Iran [Defense One, Feb 19, 19] who would trust any Trumpian figure to act in the group's interest?

End the ending, prime the pump. Federal Reserve officials are zeroing in on a strategy to end the wind-down of their $4 trillion asset portfolio [Wall Street Journal, Feb 15, 19] national economic mirage relies on government debt boosting by posturing free-market politicians

The Army has activated an Artificial Intelligence Task Force on the Carnegie Mellon University campus in Lawrenceville, Pa., that is home to the National Robotics Engineering Center. The university has made many robotic advances, including creating flexible, soft and inflatable robots able to move over rough surfaces. What to watch: The task force is expected to spread to other institutions as the Army searches for cutting-edge advances in robotics and autonomous systems. [Association of the U.S. Army news, Feb 8, 19]

In the long run, a third or so of the country cannot effectively govern the other two-thirds with an unpopular agenda and a Twitter account. [Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, NYTimes, Feb 8, 19]

Trump loves the new NAFTA. Congress doesn’t. and both Democrats and Republicans say it has little chance of passing without significant changes. [Jim Tankersley, New York Times, Feb 7, 19] Trump and any other aspirational leaders must face the reality that the US Constitution gives Congress the ultimate power in any disagreement. There is no binding Treaty until Congress ratifies it. And once ratified, it is the law of the land that the Executive Branch must adninister.

A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a [famous whistle-blowing] Pentagon official tasked with analyzing project expenses died at 92. At one point he noted that any high cost Pentagon system was a bundle of overpriced spare parts flying in close formation. He served in an isolated office, with secretary, from 1970 to 2006. He also cited as Fitzgerald's law that “There are only two phases of a program. The first is, ‘It’s too early to tell.’ The second: ‘It’s too late to stop.’ ” [Harrison Smith, Washington Post, Feb 7, 19]

Money does not spend itself. A new study released by the Senior Executives Association paints a dire picture of the federal workforce, one that is stretched too thin, hampered by old technology and the target of partisan attacks. Without a significant overhaul, agencies may fail to provide adequate services when they are needed most, the researchers found. [Erich Wagner, Government Executive, February 5, 2019] Since 1960, 15% more employees and 400% more money to be spent.  Polticians love to demand more from government while shrinking it and its pay rate.

Startup Act reintroduced, would expand federal innovation support. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), co-signed by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), re-introduced the Startup Act today. The bill would enact an array of innovation policies, including reauthorizing Regional Innovation Strategies, creating a new commercialization grant program, and implementing a startup visa. SSTI has endorsed the bill and hopes to see the legislation passed by the 116th Congress. Read more. Sounds good to politcians, BUT, who would fund it, run it, and on what criteria?

Miracle cancelled.. [Taiwan] Electronics giant Foxconn reversed course and announced that the huge Wisconsin plant that was supposed to bring a bounty of blue-collar factory jobs back to the Midwest — and was lured with billions in tax incentives — will instead be primarily a research and development center staffed by scientists and engineers [for college graduates].....  company originally planned to build high-tech liquid crystal display screens in a project President Donald Trump had proudly pointed to as a sign of a resurgence in American manufacturing. ... because the [2017] global market environment has shifted. [AP, Jan 30, 19]

"They are wrong! Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!" [Twitter-in-Chief].  Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also weighed in. “The President has a dangerous habit of undermining the intelligence community to fit his alternate reality. People risk their lives for the intelligence he just tosses aside on Twitter.” [WashPo, Jan 31, 19]

Fantasy exposed, again. “A large majority of respondents—84%—indicate that one year after its passage, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has not caused their firms to change hiring or investment plans,” said Kevin Swift, president of NABE and chief economist at the American Chemistry Council. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Jan 29, 19] Trickle-down benefits of tax cuts for the wealthy remain a fantasy.

at the annual meeting of the National Tax Association in November 2017, one of the keynote speakers began his remarks by asserting that if one set a monkey in front of a typewriter and, after some period, saved only those parts of what had been typed having to do with tax reform, the resulting tax law would be better than what the Republicans were poised to legislate. The speaker was Harvard economist and former Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers. [Joel Slemrod, J Economic Perspectives, Fall 2018] Taxation always suffers from the political fantasy that what the present power group wants would be good for everybody.  One-year economic returrns say that the critics were right. 

Tell us that tale again.  Trump advisers lied again and again, Mueller says. The question is, why?  [WashPo, Jan 27, 19] Let's consult our mirrors for the culprit as we insist our politicians and the media tell us what we want to hear. That tax cuts will boost everyone's economic health, that a concrte wall will stop narcotics, opiods, and hard-working immigrants.  And the internet lets us choose our own supporters and echo chambers.  

New data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests the extended government shutdown is having a significant adverse effect on 41,000 small businesses across all 50 states. Small government contractors have lost $2.3 billion in revenue thus far 34 days into the shutdown, with another $29 billion at risk if the shutdown continues, Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters. [Frank Konkel, NextGov, Jan 24, 19] Small biz thinking about who has responsible attitude for election 2020?

Trump fore-runners. Conflict of Inerest. George Washington was a stockholder when the [Bank of England] was financing the war to put down his rebellion. ..... Ready, fire, aim. The charismatic Montague Norman, is attributed with a large role in the development of the ‘“mystique” of the central banker’. He hated experts, and preferred to make decisions by instinct, turning to economists not to tell him what to do, but to supply explanations for things he had already done. [Jamie Martin reviewing David Kynaston's history of the Bank, LondonRB, Jan 24, 19]

Russia Says He’s a Spy. His Lawyer Says He Just Wanted Photos of a Cathedral. [New York Times, Jan 23, 19] Rule: avoid places without rule of law, or you could become a trading asset. .  

Eden no more. Sir David Attenborough [long time naturalist] has warned that “the Garden of Eden is no more”, as he urged political and business leaders from around the world to make a renewed push to tackle climate change before the damage is irreparable. [Grahame Wearden, The Guardian, Jan 22, 19] as Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting at such an accelerated rate [more than 400 billion tons per year] that it may have reached a “tipping point,” and could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a study [just] published .[John Schwartz, New York Times, Jan 21, 19]

The Pentagon’s out-there-thinking department, DARPA, is working on autonomous attack swarms more like a murmuration of starlings than a formation of fighter-bombers. What human operators could co-ordinate such dynamics? [The Economist, Jan 18, 19] Note: DARPA is required by law to put 3% of its external contracts into SBIR, and looks for novelty; why not for you, out-there-thinker with swarm control ideas.

Trumponomics disappoint. The tax-cut steroid wore off within six months of its passage. Corporate investment rose at a 10% annual rate in the first half of 2018 but then slowed to 2.5% in the third quarter. According to the Institute for Supply Management, new orders for manufacturing equipment plunged 11 points in December. The logical explanation is that corporations won’t invest unless they expect an adequate return on such investments. That return depends on there being enough buyers for the goods and services they produce. But there aren’t enough. [Robert Reich, The Guardian, Jan 18, 19]  No matter: Trump's base doesn't read eonomics, they just applaud his atmospherics. 

Lessons Learned. The Army published a study of the U.S. war in Iraq that criticizes decisions of some of the service’s most senior officers and outlines hard-learned lessons from the conflict. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 19] The Army believes in learning lessons from its adventures. 

The [SBA] has stopped approving routine small-business loans because of the shutdown. The result: Business owners are halting plans for expansion and repairs, and considering costlier sources of cash, Ruth Simon reports. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 19]

Re-launch the viewgraphs, and now power-points. the new[Trump announced]  missile-defense strategy rests most of its hopes on other technologies that essentially do not exist, and may never do so. The review says, for example, that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could be networked with new sensors and outfitted with new missiles to take out adversary missiles on the launch pad. Tests have shown that the F-35 can do this. But the jet has to be in the enemy’s airspace already. [Patrick Tucker, DefenseOne, Jan 17, 19] We have added defense with the Trump reality show. 

by being so brazen and uncooperative during its rise, China has actually activated the antibodies that will help prevent its success. [Kori Schake, in her book Safe Passage, 2017] a lesson to be recognized about the Trump adninstration, if not within

Lipstick for the pig. U.S. officials are debating ratcheting back tariffs on Chinese imports as a way to calm markets and give Beijing an incentive to make deeper concessions in a trade battle that has rattled global economies. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 19] Expect such a concession to be touted as one step back to take two steps forward.

If not evidence, what? We're pleased to release a new evidence report as part of our Straight Talk on Evidence initiative. The report—"FDR’s call for 'bold, persistent experimentation': An antidote to 40-year stagnation in key areas of social policy (part two in a series)"—is posted on the Straight Talk website.  Straight Talk on Evidence is an initiative of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's (LJAF) Evidence-Based Policy team. [Jon Baron, VP of Evidence-Based Policy, Laura and John Arnold Foundation] Jon was a House staffer on SBIR and then an imaginative head of DOD's SBIR office in the Clinton Years.

What price glory, for a Wall? Federal contractors can’t count on receiving any compensation for lost labor. With nine of the 15 major federal agencies unfunded, some federal contractors and their employees are taking drastic measures to try to stay afloat. Low- and middle-wage workers are looking for new jobs, small- and medium-size firms have stopped paying employees and may have to fire some people, and the financial institutions that support those companies are assuming greater risk, Andrew Duehren reports. “How long can it go on? We’re counting the days until we’re out of business.” —Gary Shumaker, president and CEO of C2 Solutions Group. ... President [glory-seeking] Trump's top economic adviser said the broader impact of the shutdown remains fairly limited [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Jan 15, 19]  The President doesn't need his salary, and his staff dare not speak truth. 

Modern science depends on money, institutions and oodles of brainpower. Partly because its government can marshal all three, China is hurtling up the rankings of scientific achievement. An analysis of 17.2m papers in 2013-18, by Nikkei, a Japanese publisher, and Elsevier, a scientific publisher, found that more came from China than from any other country in 23 of the 30 busiest fields, such as sodium-ion batteries and neuron-activation analysis. [The Economist, Jan 12,19]

Yesterday's Solution.The Trump administration is readying guidance that could let states remodel their Medicaid programs to more closely resemble block grant proposals, according to people familiar with the discussions. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 12, 19] Republicans love to propose block grants that would transform the idea of a United States into the original idea of confederation of states. The people who hate the federal income tax seek the same backwalk without admitting the reality that led to federal direct taxation.  Perhaps SBIR could also evolve from a national competition to a formal fair-share program. Why all this talk: today's problem was yesterday's solution. 

Discussion. Trump's Day: The president meets with state and community leaders at the White House this afternoon to discuss border security. [Jerry Seib, WSJ, Jan 11, 19] Look for the conventional Army idea: If I want your opinion, I'll tell you what it is.

La meme chose. Although he had little understanding of the challenges, he parlayed a line of blather into a seat at the table. Before long, there was a proposal..... No, no, not a Wall in 2016; a nineteenth century railroad .... to build a Pan-American Railway, backed by governmental subsidies. [Charkes Morris reviewing Rutkow's The Longest Line on the Map, Wall Street Journal, Jan 8, 19] Le plus ca change, la meme chose.

Got/need security clearance during shutdown? finances continue to top the reasons for security clearance denial and revocation. ... security clearance holders do have good reasons to be concerned that financial hardships brought about by the shutdown could affect their security clearance. [Lindy Kyzer,, January 7, 2019] Taking heart because you trust The Donald to act in your best interest? 

Thousands of federal contractors are already feeling the pinch. According to Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle and Paul Murphy, contractors could see more than $200 million per day in lost or delayed revenue due to the shutdown. Not all contractors are suffering equally, though, since they vary considerably in size and include defense giants such as Boeing and General Dynamics that can more readily weather the storm. [Fiscal Times, Jan 7, 19] Note that funded agencies, like DOD, have the money to pay the contractors.

[L]et me beat any unreformed supply-siders to the punch on one final topic: There is little or no evidence that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had much of an impact on wages — and certainly workers haven’t seen the absurd $4,000 per employee windfall President Donald Trump’s economic advisers and political allies made before the tax cut was passed by Congress. [Barry Ritholtz, Fiscal Times, Jan 7, 19]

There was no flag that he could wrap himself in. He didn’t brag; he didn’t boast; he didn’t use personal insults. He knew the world was watching, and he held everyone — most of all himself — to the highest ethical standards. Indeed, at first, some people thought Washington was too modest to lead an army. [Brad Meltzer, talking about his The First Conspiracy The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington,WashPo, Jan 5, 19]

The smell of fair-share politics. A significant majority of [NIH] SBIR and STTR grants awarded to small businesses in any given year end up in just a handful of states. For example, the percentage of all 2017 SBIR/STTR awards made to companies in the 23 states and Puerto Rico eligible to participate for funding from NIH’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program was only 8 percent – 97 of the 1,218 awards made across all phases of both innovation funding programs. For comparison, the same states account for 15.8 percent of the estimated U.S. population in 2017. NIH wants to change that discrepancy. [SSTI, Jan 2, 19] If SBIR is a national competition there is no reason to expect any particular distribution related to population. The awards would naturally go to plaes where innovation self-assembles. If Iowa or Oklahoma wants more, it must first create the conditions for innovation to self-assemble there.   SBIR was first invented for fair-share to certain types of small biz, and now would further fair-share on a population basis. 

FOIA re-write brainstorm. [Trump] appeared to order Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan to stop releasing Inspector General reports to the public. [DefOne Jan 3, 19] How convenient to hide Executive Branch shenanigans. 

Immigrants in demand. The Labor Department received nearly 100,000 temporary-worker visa requests in the first five minutes of New Year’s Day, an unprecedented demand that caused the online submissions portal to crash.  [Wall Street Journal, Jan 3, 19]

[Economists] may simply have to accept the inevitable: convincing most people of the value of free trade is a losing fight. ....  most people—and therefore the politicians who represent them—see no contradiction in supporting technological advances while opposing freer trade. Raging at the machine seems stupid, but raging at foreigners does not.  [Alan Blinder, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb2019]

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