Friday, May 19, 2017

Responding to Mike Huckabee's Over the Top Defense of Trump

Mike HuckabeeYesterday, I received a forward of Mike Huckabee's latest newsletter. You can read the whole thing on MikeHuckabee.com. It was really over the top - comparing Democrats to whiny children, dismissing evidence of Trumps malfeasance and Russian interference in the election, implying that Democrats don't have an elementary school level understanding of civics and presidential succession, and even a somewhat veiled threat of violence if Trump were to be impeached.

This is a perfect example of how way too many Republican politicians are putting party loyalty ahead of the good of the country, and actually defending Trump and making excuses rather than trying to get to the bottom of what could be some very, very serious misconduct or even criminal activity. Even in one section about 'The Consequences of Impeachment', Huckabee framed it as Republican vs. Democrat, implying that impeachment would be a purely partisan issue, rather than U.S. Senators and Congress members acting for the good of their country and the people they represent. Has it really come to this? Could Trump literally go shoot somebody on 5th Avenue like he bragged, and still retain the support of these Republican politicians? Has partisanship really become that bad?

To give a sense of the tone of the newsletter, here's the opening commentary.

Today's Commentary: The Scary Imaginary Bear -- Inconvenient Facts -- The Consequences Of Impeachment

Most parents know the experience of having children who refuse to accept that the time for them being the center of attention is over and they need to go to bed so the adults can get down to doing serious things. The children start whining and crying that they can't settle down because there's a bear under their beds. Eventually, the adults get so worn down from all the wailing and tantrums that they give in, grab a flashlight, and make a show of looking under the bed to investigate, just to triple-dog-prove that there is no scary imaginary bear under there. They hope this will finally make the children calm down and shut up. But it seldom works for long, since giving in just encourages more tantrums.

Why was I reminded of that universal parental dilemma when I heard that the Deputy Attorney General had given in to the endless, ear-piercing crying of Democrats and their media playmates and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into their claims that the Russian bear had interfered in the election to tip it to Trump - claims for which we've seen about as much evidence as there is for a real bear hiding under your kids' bunk beds? Of course, the need for a special counsel took on new urgency, thanks to the past week's worth of "disturbing" stories about the Trump White House that have appeared in the adversary media - and never mind that they've all been based on unnamed sources and either proven false or flatly denied by everyone who had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

Yes, Huckabee is comparing calls for investigation into potential criminal conduct of the President and his staff with whiny children afraid of imaginary monsters. What a class act.

Let me offer a couple points to put the talk of impeachment in perspective*. First, think back to George W. Bush. Liberals had no love for Bush, but there was no widespread support among Democrats for impeachment. Sure, Kucinich and Wexler and a handful of others may have brought it up, along with the more extreme members of the base, but there wasn't the type of widespread discussion among Congress members and Senators like is happening right now for Trump. And that's because this isn't mere political theater. If Trump really has done what various sources have said (and he himself has implied in tweets), this is a very serious situation. I will agree with Huckabee on one point - right now these are allegations, not proven facts. But they're very serious allegations, coming from respected sources, which is why they must be investigated.

Second, contrary to Huckabee's implications, most Democrats are well aware of who would become president if Trump were impeached or if he resigned. And frankly, as far as policy and legislation, Pence would be much worse for liberals. He doesn't have anywhere near the scandal, corruption, or other baggage tied to him. And, he's an experienced politician who's gotten things accomplished. If Trump were to resign today** and Pence assumed the presidency, Republicans would be able to focus on their legislative goals instead of Trump's scandals. And they would more than likely be able to push much of it through a lot faster than what they're doing now. And as much as liberals like me would hate the legislation that got passed, that's a trade many of us are willing to take if it meant getting Trump out of office. That's how bad Trump is for America. (Of course, not all liberals see it that way. Some are grateful that Trump's incompetence is keeping the Republicans from focusing on their legislative agenda, and want to see this drag on rather than give Pence a chance to push through that agenda. If you want to see an actual debate among liberals concerning this issue, and not Huckabee's strawman, take a look at the comments in this article from Why Evolution Is True, Comey memo: Is Trump finished?).

One of the things that disturbs me the most right now is this trend among right-wing politicians and pundits to demonize the press, which has gotten much, much worse in recent years. The press is not an 'adversary', as Huckabee puts it. They're not 'Fake News', or 'the enemy of the people', as Trump likes to put it. The founders of this nation recognized a free press as so vital to democracy that they enshrined it in the First Amendment. At this point, I don't think it's hyperbole to compare Trump to historical authoritarians. One of the propaganda tactics the Nazis used was the term 'Lügenpresse', constantly accusing the press of lying. They eroded the public's faith in the press, so that they could get away with everything they did and dismiss any news stories critical of what they were doing. I don't mean to say that Trump is the next Hitler, but it's scary that he can borrow propaganda tactics from them and get away with it, and that so many other Republican politicians go along with it. (The ugly history of 'Lügenpresse,' a Nazi slur shouted at a Trump rally)

And how can Huckabee, with a straight face and a clear conscience***, say "claims for which we've seen about as much evidence as there is for a real bear hiding under your kids' bunk beds"? Here's the official statement from the Department of Homeland Security:

And here are a couple stories on the consensus view of the intelligence agencies - the first link on the report of the combined findings of the CIA, FBI, and NSA, and the second link on intelligence chiefs' public statements:

To quote one portion, "Director of National Intelligence James Clapper affirmed an Oct. 7 joint statement from 17 intelligence agencies that the Russian government directed the election interference -- and went further. 'We stand more resolutely on that statement,' Clapper said during a Senate Armed Services hearing with the intelligence chiefs into the politically charged issue."

This isn't some wild eyed conspiracy theory by people in tin foil hats. It's the consensus of the entire U.S. intelligence community. Just stop and think about what that means - Russia, the country headed by Vladimir Putin, actively interfered in a U.S. election. Russia hacked into the computers of a major U.S. political party in an attempt to influence the presidential election. That is a major issue, and a major national security concern. And Huckabee is dismissing it because it's unflattering to his party? 'Irresponsible' isn't a strong enough word.

I think this entry has grown long enough, so I'm not going to address Huckabee's other points. I'm just exasperated that this is the current political climate in the U.S. Our entire intelligence community is in unanimous agreement about Russia interfering with the election. There are very serious allegations about our president committing misconduct or even criminal behavior. But politicians like Huckabee obfuscate, lie, or just flat out ignore these issues because of blind party loyalty. It's frustrating.


*To be clear, most Democratic politicians right now aren't calling for impeachment, but investigation into these claims. The talk now is that if the claims are true, then the actions are worth considering impeachment.

**Actually, as far as political fallout and what it would mean for the 2 major parties, the best case scenario for Republicans likely would be Trump voluntarily resigning quickly. It would remove his distractions, and get Pence in the driver's seat. And with as short as people's memories are, Trump would be a distant memory by the time midterms rolled around in two years. Worse for them is Trump staying in the White House, producing scandal after scandal, distracting from legislative goals, and likely hurting battleground Republicans in the midterms. Worst of all actually would be an impeachment - since it would be a drawn out process that would cause even more distraction and hurt Republicans even more in the midterms than just letting things go on as they are now. So in that sense, I can see the political strategy behind why Republican politicians would try to avoid impeachment. Though it's still disappointing that they're putting party ahead of country.

***I'm reminded of another Huckabee email forwarded I received and wrote about in the entry, A Response to Mike Huckabee's Misrepresentations of Planned Parenthood. So, I'm not particularly surprised by Huckabee being dishonest, though it's still disappointing, and frustrating.

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 16

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.


Washington Post - Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump's decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

Related: Vox - Donald Trump is a serious threat to American national security


The latest Trump interview once again reveals appalling ignorance and dishonesty

As America continues to ponder whether President Donald Trump is obstructing justice by firing his FBI director in order to stymie an ongoing inquiry into his team's various bizarre links to the Russian government, the Economist delivered an interview with the chief executive that reminds us of the original and most basic horror of the Trump administration: The president of the United States has no idea what he's talking about.

And while Trump's own answers are so bizarre and meandering that it seems overwhelmingly likely he is speaking nonsense out of ignorance rather than rank dishonesty, the performance of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as his squire in the interview is disturbing on an entirely different level. Much as Trump has turned the political appointees at the Justice Department into facilitators of his lies about Jim Comey, Mnuchin acts as an enabler rather than a provider of adult supervision.

The sheer volume of things that Trump says over the course of the interview is mind-boggling, and practically beyond counting. At times he appears to be willfully lying in pursuit of some political agenda, or at least repeating a half-remembered partisan talking point.
It's hard to know what to say about this beyond the obvious: Regardless of the topic, the president has basically no idea what's going on. And his staff has given up on trying to bring him up to speed. Instead, they take advantage of his ignorance to try to sell him on selective misinformation -- or flattery from foreign leaders -- to park policy outcomes where they would like to see them.


National Post - White House advisors called Ottawa to urge Trudeau to help talk Trump down from scrapping NAFTA

White House staff called the Prime Minister's Office last month to urge Justin Trudeau to persuade President Donald Trump not to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to multiple Canadian government sources.

The unconventional diplomatic manoeuvre -- approaching the head of a foreign government to influence your own boss -- proved decisive, as Trump thereafter abandoned his threat to pull out of NAFTA unilaterally, citing the arguments made by Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as pivotal.

But the incident highlights the difficulties faced by governments all over the world when it comes to dealing with a president as volatile as Trump.


NBC News - Trump Establishes Vote Fraud Commission

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday creating a commission aimed at investigating alleged vote fraud -- a move that drew swift rebuke from civil liberty groups and liberal lawmakers amid worries the panel's work could seek to justify voter suppression.
"This voter commission is a clear front for constricting the access to vote to poor Americans, older Americans, and -- above all -- African Americans and Latinos," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "Putting an extremist like Mr. Kobach at the helm of this commission is akin to putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.
Last week, the Brennan Center for Justice said it studied jurisdictions accounting for 23.5 million votes in the 2016 election, and those jurisdictions reported an estimated 30 instances of suspected non-citizens voting. That equates to non-citizen voting in the 2016 election accounting for 0.0001 percent of the vote in these jurisdictions.


The Atlantic - Trump Wants 'Goddamned Steam,' Not Digital Catapults on Aircraft Carriers: "You have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out."

Navy officials were "blindsided" on Thursday, a spokesman told me, by President Donald Trump's suggestion that he has convinced the Navy to abandon a long-planned digital launching system in favor of steam on its newest aircraft carrier.

In a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine, Trump described his disgust with the catapult system known as Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, nicknamed EMALS, aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford. (Time has published only excerpts from the interview, not a full transcript.) The president described wanting to scrap EMALS, a key technological upgrade at the center of the multibillion-dollar carrier project, and return to steam.

Despite some high-profile failures in early testing, EMALS is now nearly complete and ready for sea trials. It represents one of three major initiatives in the Navy's push to go upgrade its weapons systems for the digital era.

Trump's insistence on steam is perhaps bewildering, but also consistent with some of his other views about technology. After all, the president has repeatedly talked about returning to America's golden age of manufacturing--an idea that's laughable, if regrettable, to anyone who has looked closely at the forces driving the global economy.

Related: Foxtrot Alpha - Trump May Have Just Derailed A Crucial Part Of America's Future Aircraft Carrier Fleet


NPR - Sessions Tells Prosecutors To Seek 'Most Serious' Charges, Stricter Sentences

In a memo to staff, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" -- a move that marks a significant reversal of Obama-era policies on low-level drug crimes.

The two-page memo, which was publicly released Friday, lays out a policy of strict enforcement that rolls back the comparatively lenient stance established by Eric Holder, one of Sessions' predecessors under President Barack Obama.

"This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety," Michael Collins, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement emailed to NPR. "Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war."
The memo also drew a long, scathing rebuke from Holder himself.

"The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime," he said in a statement. "It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety."


Vox - The Trump administration just took its first big step to escalate the war on drugs: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is encouraging federal prosecutors to lock up low-level drug offenders.

Trump and Sessions's "tough on crime" push defies some of the evidence we've seen over the past few years, which has found that tougher criminal justice policies aren't very effective.
Although it was never a big part of Obama's campaigns or speeches, his administration did take a number of steps to pull back the war on drugs. ... It shifted anti-drug spending to emphasize public health programs, like drug treatment, as much as approaches focused on criminal justice and national security.
All of this had the support of experts and the public, who widely see a public health approach as the right way to deal with drug problems like the opioid epidemic.
Based on Sessions's latest memo, this rhetoric, along with executive actions to match it, is what we can expect from the Trump administration over the next few years. The war on drugs may soon come roaring back.


Nature - Revamped 'anti-science' education bills in United States find success: Legislation urges educators to 'teach the controversy' and allows citizens to challenge curricula.

State and local legislatures in the United States are experimenting with new ways to target the topics taught in science classes, and it seems to be paying dividends. Florida's legislature approved a bill on 5 May that would enable residents to challenge what educators teach students. And two other states have already approved non-binding legislation this year urging teachers to embrace 'academic freedom' and present the full spectrum of views on evolution and climate change. This would give educators license to treat evolution and intelligent design as equally valid theories, or to present climate change as scientifically contentious.


The Guardian - Trump is deleting climate change, one site at a time: The administration has taken a hatchet to climate change language across government websites. Here are several of the more egregious examples

During inauguration day on 20 January, as Donald Trump was adding "American carnage" to the presidential lexicon, the new administration also took a hammer to official recognition that climate change exists and poses a threat to the US.

One of the starkest alterations to the White House's website following Trump's assumption of office was the scrapping of an entire section on climate change, stuffed with graphs on renewable energy growth and pictures of Barack Obama gazing at shriveling glaciers, to be replaced by a perfunctory page entitled "An America first energy plan".

In the more than 100 days since, the administration has largely opted for a chisel and scalpel approach to refashioning its online content, but the end result is much the same - mentions of climate change have been excised, buried or stripped of any importance.


The Hill - Privatizing air traffic control would pose new risks to national security

The push for privatization of the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun again. As we discuss this course of action, national security must be a top consideration.

As someone who has spent nearly 35 years in law enforcement, including serving as director of the U.S. Secret Service, I think there are several key law enforcement and national security questions that have been overlooked and need to be considered as we discuss the merits of bringing private entities into the air traffic control governance structure.

I believe strongly in the wisdom that can be gained from the private sector. Privatization of the air traffic control, however, would pose a multitude of chain of command issues, differing priorities, and perspectives that could potentially elevate risk and interfere with the end goal of ensuring aviation security.


NPR - Lessons On Race And Vouchers From Milwaukee

The Trump administration has made school choice, vouchers in particular, a cornerstone of its education agenda. This has generated lots of interest in how school voucher programs across the country work and whom they benefit.
Over the years, though, most voucher recipients have performed no better academically than their public school peers. In some cases they've done worse. So who exactly is benefiting? It's a question that has raised serious misgivings in Milwaukee's African-American community. So much so that some of the city's prominent black leaders today are divided.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Debunking GOP Talking Points - Foreign Aid and Factory Jobs

Republican ElephantRecently, I was forwarded an email from the Republican National Committee, with the subject line, 'Week 15: A Rebirth Of Hope, Safety, And Opportunity'. You can read the full text on DonaldJTrump.com, though without the images included in the email.

Now, the whole thing was bad, but I got hung up right from the beginning just in the introduction. Below is a quote of that introduction, followed by my response, calling out the GOP for their misleading remarks on foreign aid and factory jobs.

Over the years, traditional politicians have failed to put America First. Our factories have been shut down, our steel mills slowed, and our jobs were stolen away and shipped overseas.

Politicians sent troops to protect the borders of foreign nations, but left America's borders wide open. They spent billions of dollars on one global project after another, while failing to keep our citizens safe and allowing gangs flooded into our country.

President Trump is not going to let other countries take advantage of us anymore, because from now on it's America First!

Just imagine what we could accomplish if we all started working together to rebuild our nation, the nation that we so dearly love. Our jobs will come back home and dying factories will come roaring back to life.

Our country is seeing a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity. Americans are being taught to love their country and take pride in our great American land.

Let's start by putting this 'America First' talk in perspective. The American government already puts America first (or at least - the politicians' donors). The U.S. only spends around 1% of the federal budget on foreign aid. All this rhetoric about 'billions of dollars on one global project after another, while failing to keep our citizens safe and allowing gangs flooded into our country' is extremely misleading. It's talk like this that contributes to Americans having such a skewed perspective of the actual amount the U.S. spends (the average American thinks foreign aid is up around 30% of spending - Politifact). For example, here was the proposed budget from 2016 (source: Washington Post):

U.S. Foreign Aid as Percent Spending

The U.S. spends over $4 trillion every year. Billions of dollars going to foreign aid may sound like a lot, but it's not that big in the overall scheme of things. Cutting all that spending wouldn't have a very big effect on the overall budget, at all. Even if the budget was balanced, that type of spending cut would amount to only a 1% reduction in taxes.

Here are some more graphs putting this in perspective - first, how much the U.S. spends on Official Development Assistance as a percentage of gross national income (not spending, which is why it's a lower percentage than the discussion above), and then second, how that percentage has changed over the years (source: CompareYourCountry.org).

U.S. Foreign Aid as Percent GNI
U.S. Foreign Aid History as Percent GNI

As a percentage of GNI, the U.S. is one of the lowest spenders on foreign aid among developed countries - only spending around half of the global average, and only 16% of what the most generous nation, Norway, spends. You can look at the history, too. Back in the '60s, the U.S. donated almost 0.6% of GNI - more than 3x what we do now. Granted, because the U.S. is the world's largest economy, that still amounts to the most absolute spending (but not by a whole lot). But as far as what we could afford to spend, compared to other countries, and compared to what we've done ourselves in the past, the modern day U.S. is not particularly generous when it comes to foreign aid. We already donate a smaller share of our resources than practically any other developed country.

Even if you don't care about helping the poor and destitute in other countries out of common decency, you can still look at it pragmatically. For one, U.S. manufacturers make a lot of money through the export market. Boeing can't sell 787s to failed countries. There's not going to be a big market for high end American made goods in regions where people are too poor to afford them. If we can give these regions a boost to help them on the road towards development, they could be potential customers a few years down the road. There's also the consideration of political stability (for a historical example, do you really think WWII would have happened if not for the Treaty of Versailles and the economic disaster that was for Germany?).

More Info: Brookings Institute - Myths about U.S. foreign aid


There was another statement that seemed particularly naïve:

Just imagine what we could accomplish if we all started working together to rebuild our nation, the nation that we so dearly love. Our jobs will come back home and dying factories will come roaring back to life.

Here's another figure (source: Economic Policy Institute). Take a look at American productivity. It's at record highs.

U.S. Productivity Growth History

Here's what the Cato Institute has to say about U.S. manufacturing. Note that the Cato Institute is a right-wing libertarian think tank.

Reports of the death of U.S. manufacturing have been greatly exaggerated. The fallacy that trade killed manufacturing has long been a pretense for protectionism and industrial policy. But by historic standards and relative to other countries' manufacturing sectors, U.S. manufacturing remains a global powerhouse.

Claims of "rapid deindustrialization" are misplaced and often based on the declining share of manufacturing value-added relative to the overall economy. Indeed, manufacturing's share of the U.S. economy peaked in 1953 at 28.1 percent, whereas in 2015 manufacturing accounted for only 12.1 percent of GDP. However, in 1953, U.S. value-added in the manufacturing sector amounted to $110 billion, as compared to a record $2.1 trillion in 2015 - more than six times the value in real terms.

Trade critics also tend to conflate manufacturing employment with the condition of manufacturing. But declining employment in a manufacturing sector that produces record-setting output year-after-year is a sign of greater efficiency, which frees human resources for other, higher-valued added endeavors. In 2015 the stock of FDI in U.S. manufacturing surpassed $1.1 trillion, more than double the value of FDI in China's manufacturing sector (and eight times the value in per capita terms).

Here's an article from the Cato Institute, Is Manufacturing Employment the Only Thing That Counts?. They started off with agriculture as an example. In 1910, agriculture accounted for 11.8 million jobs, and 31% of the entire U.S. workforce. Today, it has declined to just 2.5 million jobs, and only 1.6% of the workforce. But agricultural production hasn't gone down. In fact, it's gone up, keeping up with a growing population, and producing a surplus to export to other countries. Barring a catastrophe, there's no way we'll return to an economy where 1/3 of the jobs come from agriculture, because technology has made those jobs obsolete.

Now, back to manufacturing. Even though factory employment has fallen, the economic value added by the sector has continued to rise. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the United States set an all-time record for value added in manufacturing in 2015 of $2.2 trillion. Value added in manufacturing has risen every year since the recession ended in 2009. The United States is a competitive producer of a wide range of factory products, and ranks third as a manufacturing exporter behind China and Germany.

Given that the sector is growing year by year and is a major exporter, has the manufacturing base really been -- in the words of the White House -- "devastated"? An unbiased observer likely would conclude instead that -- as in agriculture -- fewer workers are doing a fine job of producing more goods of higher value.

Has the downtrend in manufacturing employment been driven primarily by globalization? No. An analysis in 2015 by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University showed that trade has, indeed, had a modest effect on manufacturing employment. The study found that roughly 13 percent of manufacturing job losses between 2000 and 2010 were due to international competition.

The other 87 percent of the decline, though, has come from greater automation -- robots and computers are reducing the number of workers required on factory floors. Just as in farming, productivity gains allow manufacturing employees to generate far more output than in the past. Many people would see this as progress.

U.S. manufacturing is doing quite well. There's no way that 'Our jobs will come back home', because most of them didn't go somewhere else. They simply evaporated due to things like CNC machines, robots, and other forms of automation. It's either naïve or dishonest to mislead unemployed factory workers into thinking that any type of government policies are going to bring those jobs back. (I could make a similar statement about the coal mining industry.)

This is a real problem. Factory workers are losing their jobs. Something obviously needs to be done to make sure they can find new jobs. But if you want to enact a realistic solution that's going to work and help these people, the first step is a realistic recognition of the problem. Solutions based on fantasy and wishful thinking aren't merely a waste of time - they're prolonging those people's suffering, and dragging down the overall economy for everybody else.


And that's just the introduction. I could have written just as much about pretty much every other subject in that email (and I could have written a lot more about manufacturing and blue collar jobs, too). It's just so frustrating and disheartening that this is an official email from what is currently the most powerful political party in the country. I don't know if they really believe what they write, or if it's just propaganda to try to drum up the base. Either way, it's not healthy for democracy or the country. Patriotic Americans should be denouncing these types of false narratives that do nothing to help the country and distract from the real causes of the issues we're facing.

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 15 - Time for Impeachment?

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

Usually, this series is about a broad range of issues related to Trump. But this week, I'm going to focus on one abuse of power in particular that's so egregious, I think it is time to start talking seriously about impeachment. I know, Trump was damaging the country before. But bad policy and bad political appointees aren't impeachable offenses - that's what elections are for. And yes, a lot of his previous corruption and authoritarian tendencies were alarming and damaging to American democracy and government mores (demonization of the free press, nepotism, cronyism, conflicts of interest...), but they were only borderline worthy of impeachment, and the political reality is that Trump wasn't going to be impeached for giving his kids government jobs or flouting the emoluments clause.

But now, Trump has potentially crossed the line into obstruction of justice, by firing James Comey, the director of the law enforcment agency that was investigating his adminstration. Granted, it still has to be proven that that was Trump's intent, but that's certainly where all the arrows seem to be pointing right now. And if that does turn out to be true, then I say it's time to impeach Trump. That's an abuse of power beyond the pale, and the American people deserve far better.

Since this is such a huge issue, I'm going to quote more articles than normal on a single issue, and pull out more excerpts than normal from those articles.


Vox - Experts on authoritarianism are absolutely terrified by the Comey firing

"Trump has talked like a would-be authoritarian since day one. ... This is the first clear warning sign that he's attempting to [act like one]."

Those are the words not of a Democratic political operative or a fringe liberal Trump critic, but of Yascha Mounk, a respected scholar of democracy at Harvard, reacting to Preisdent Trump's abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.

In the meantime, all we have to go on is what we know to have happened: The president fired the person who was investigating him and his associates.

To people who study the rise of authoritarian leaders, just those facts alone are terrifying.

"This is very common -- in semi-authoritarian and authoritarian regimes," Erica Chenoweth, a professor at the University of Denver, tells me. "Purges, summary firings, imprisonment: These are all things that authoritarian leaders do when they attempt to rid themselves of rivals within government."

One of the first steps in this pattern is weakening independent sources of power that can check the executive's actions. Like, say, the director of your domestic security service who just happens to be investigating your administration's foreign ties.
Now, before you worry that the United States is going to go the way of Turkey or Russia, it's worth noting that the institutions checking Trump are far stronger than the ones in countries where democracy has collapsed. The courts, the press, and social movements have all done a pretty good job checking Trump's power so far; even Congress, by far the most Trump-subservient institution, has blocked some of his policy proposals and appointees.

But the Comey firing is by far the greatest test of the strength of American democracy in the face of Trump's authoritarian instincts so far. Whether American institutions keep up their strong performance in the face of this stress test may well determine its fate.

That actually doesn't happen very much anymore. Outright fascist movements were mostly discredited after World War II, and data on military coups shows a clear decline in their frequency since a peak in the 1960s.

But in the past 20 years or so, we've started to see a new kind of creeping authoritarianism emerge in places around the world -- something that, in the wake of Trump's recent actions, now has ominous parallels to the United States.

This is what makes the firing of Comey so scary for these scholars.

Dismissing the head of a national law enforcement agency is extremely rare, both in the United States and in other advanced democracies worldwide. Only one prior FBI director, William Sessions in 1993, has been fired in the 82-year history of the modern FBI, and that was because of a protracted corruption scandal involving his alleged abuse of government resources for his own personal use.

Comey was fired, it seems, precisely because his FBI posed a threat to Trump's authority. Trump is doing exactly what new authoritarians do in the early stages of their leadership.
The Comey firing itself doesn't herald the death of democracy in America, not even close. But it is a watershed moment for the country's future nonetheless. What happens now will shape the future of American democracy -- if not its survival, then certainly its health and ability to function smoothly. Both Congress and ordinary Americans can shape it for the better -- or for the worse, if they just let this pass and do nothing.

At the end of our conversation, Chenoweth left me with one parting thought: "This is not a drill." I believe her.


The Atlantic - Two Dead Canaries in the Coal Mine

Just after election day, Ben Wittes and Susan Hennessey cowrote a post at Lawfare, the web site Wittes runs for the Brookings Institution, titled "We Need Comey at the FBI More Than Ever." It began by acknowledging that Comey was unpopular among many Republicans and Democrats, then made a case for retaining him in his post:
...[4 paragraphs worth of explanation here]...

In fact, for those concerned that President Trump will trample the rule of law--liberals and conservatives alike--Comey's fate is one potential canary in the coal mine.

That canary is now dead.


The Atlantic - Will Republicans Check Trump's Presidential Power?

Richard Nixon's dismissal of the Watergate special prosecutor was met with bipartisan outrage. It's less clear whether the public, and its political leaders, will respond in kind to the firing of FBI director James Comey.
The question today is whether a deeply polarized nation can respond with equal determination to Trump's ominous assault on democratic accountability, which two legal scholars on Tuesday accurately described as "a horrifying breach of every expectation we have of the relationship between the White House and federal law enforcement."
A few Republicans frequently critical of Trump--among them Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Ohio Governor John Kasich--joined virtually all Democrats in raising alarms about Comey's sudden dismissal. But most GOP leaders issued tepid responses that minimized or obscured the core issue: Trump fired the law-enforcement official leading the investigation into his campaign for possible collusion with a hostile foreign government.

With that decision, Trump made clear his willingness to trample the formal and informal limits that have checked the arbitrary exercise of presidential power through American history. What's unclear is whether leaders and voters in both parties can summon as much will to defend those limits as they did after Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. If Trump can decapitate the FBI inquiry into his campaign without real consequence--such as an irresistible bipartisan demand for an independent counsel to take over the investigation--his appetite for shattering democratic constraints is only likely to grow.


Vox - This Harvard law professor thinks Trump really could be impeached over Comey

It's not too soon to put impeachment on the table.

It's absolutely fair to put impeachment on the table right now. I don't think it's likely, but there's enough smoke around to suggest that there might be impeachable conduct that we should worry about. Ultimately, this will turn on whether the Republicans decide they've had enough and draw a line in the sand with Trump. But that's a political decision, not a legal one.

An impeachment hearing is a sign that the Constitution is working, not a crisis.

Impeachment itself is not a constitutional crisis, because it's actually in the Constitution. And so an impeachment means, on some level, that the Constitution is working. It means presidential power is being checked or executive overreach is being punished by the instruments of law. When a president can break the law without fear of impeachment, then we should really be worried.


Vox - By firing James Comey, Trump has put impeachment on the table

Nothing we've seen credibly reported thus far about Trump and Russia would amount to an impeachable offense, and indeed, it's not really clear what allegations of "collusion" on the campaign trail would really amount to even if proven.

Firing the FBI director in order to obstruct an ongoing investigation would be different.

Anonymously sourced journalism is not the same thing as sworn testimony or hard evidence. But it's also indispensable to uncovering official wrongdoing. And Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning already brought forth plenty of evidence of wrongdoing:

[A long list of examples that I would encourage you to read by following the link above]

Some or all of this reporting may prove to be false. But it has all been published by credible journalists in credible publications. And it adds up to a very clear picture of a president deciding to fire an FBI director to obstruct an ongoing investigation and then stitching together a shaky rationalization for doing so.


ThinkProgress - Trump's firing of FBI director could be an impeachable offense, constitutional law experts say

Constitutional law experts say that while President Donald Trump's decision to fire Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey was legal, it appears to be an abuse of power that could constitute an impeachable offense.

Trump's decision to terminate Comey, the head of the nation's top law enforcement agency, was announced Tuesday and sent shockwaves throughout the political sphere.

It's not unconstitutional for Trump to fire his FBI director as he has the authority to fire anyone in the executive branch, explained David D. Cole, the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement to ThinkProgress.

"But if he did so, as appears to be the case, because he is concerned that Comey's investigation of ties between his campaign and Russian officials might have implicated him in wrongdoing, it's tantamount to an obstruction of justice," wrote Cole, a constitutional law expert and professor who is on leave from the Georgetown University Law Center.


Politico - Behind Comey's firing: An enraged Trump, fuming about Russia

President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn't call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn't disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.

Trump's firing of the high-profile FBI director on the 110th day after the president took office marked another sudden turn for an administration that has fired its acting attorney general, national security adviser and now its FBI director, whom Trump had praised until recent weeks and even blew a kiss to during a January appearance.


Guardian Op-ed - Donald Trump acts like an illegitimate president for a reason

The American people did not really choose Donald Trump. His presidency exists without the support of the majority of voters and, in turn, without a true mandate from the American people. Trump walks and talks instead like an authoritarian, and seems to believe he is above the people and the law, and need not answer to either. He wants to be untouchable. He behaves with impunity and acts as if legal standards like obstruction of justice don't apply to him.

Firing the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, demonstrates a whole new level of defiance of the rule of law and our foundational system of checks and balances. More bluntly, it proves just how dangerous an illegitimate president is to our democracy. His actions do not only undermine the legitimacy and credibility of his presidency; they are a direct threat to our constitutionalism and our democratic legitimacy.

This seems like an obvious demand at this point, but it's worth stating clearly that now, more than ever, we need a special prosecutor appointed to look into the continuing drip, drip, drip revelations about Russia. But even more than that, the United States must regain our democratic legitimacy by ensuring that no citizen, president or otherwise, is above the law or above the American people.


Emily Farris Twitter Posting

Monday, May 8, 2017

Friday* Trump & Politics Roundup - 14

Donald TrumpOkay, today is Monday, but I meant to post this on Friday and just forgot to. This is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.


Trump's first 100 days: The good, the bad, and the ugly for tech and science

"The president's FCC appointment has pushed net neutrality to the chopping block. Online privacy took a hit as well after Trump signed legislation allowing home Internet and mobile broadband providers to sell or share Web browsing history without consent from consumers. Trump also signed legislation designed to limit federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The president ordered the termination of President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, and he rolled back the Obama administration's move to require automakers to increase fuel efficiency."


Vox - The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at Jeff Sessions

"These details [of Fairooz's history and actions] are all salient for the legal case, but it's important not to lose sight of the big picture here: The federal government is literally prosecuting someone for laughing. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Justice Department -- which Sessions now leads as attorney general -- is doing the prosecuting when the laughter was directed at its leader. At the very least, it's not a good look for the top law enforcement agency in the country."


Indivisible - Enough is Enough: Stop TrumpCare

"It's hard to overstate how cruel this bill is. Simply put, Republicans got TrumpCare passed in the House today by making it more extreme. They had to convince the uber-conservatives in the Freedom Caucus to vote for it, so they had to make it even crueler. The original failed TrumpCare bill last month stripped healthcare from 24 million Americans. But that wasn't enough for them. The new bill builds on that by:

•Gutting protections for pre-existing conditions
•Eliminating services for special needs kids in schools
•Letting insurers effectively charge women more than men

In short, TrumpCare is a moral monstrosity."

Related: Vox - The GOP plan for Obamacare could kill more people each year than gun homicides: If 24 million people lose insurance, we'll see more than 24,000 extra deaths per year.


Scientific American - We Must Strengthen the "Science" in Forensic Science: A national commission created to improve the reliability of forensics has been dealt a possibly fatal blow

"In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences evaluated the state of forensic science and, shockingly, concluded that many of the techniques used in court actually have no scientific validity. This means that the science used to convict the accused is neither reliable, nor robust and cannot be trusted in a court of law. In response to this report, the government established the National Commission of Forensic Science (NCFS) in 2013, which was tasked to explore these issues and make recommendations for improvement... Administered jointly by the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the commission has worked diligently over the past four years to identify problems and propose changes to strengthen forensic science. / This progress is now in danger of being undone. On April 10, the Justice Department, under the leadership of Attorney General Sessions, refused to extend the term of the NCFS."


Vox - Donald Trump's first 100 days have been a moneymaking success story: He's getting what he cares about.

"But Trump isn't failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand over fist. It's a spectacle the likes of which we've never seen in the United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday, for now it shows no real sign of failure. " ... "There is something grating about this, especially from a president who is making a big show of donating his salary to charity. Trump is directly pocketing what could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in direct payments from the Treasury, while simultaneously claiming to be serving for free. What's more troubling, however, is indirect financial entanglements into which we have little real visibility. "


Vox - Donald Trump's absurd 100th day week was his presidency in miniature: Trump would be an excellent head of state. He is an awful president.

"Of Trump's term so far, the best that can be said is that the president's incompetence has blunted his danger. 'It could be worse,' wrote Ross Douthat, and he's right. With apologies to Woody Allen, Trump's presidency has been awful, but at least the portions have been small. / This is a thin reed with which to secure the republic, however. America built the greatest superpower the world has ever known and handed it to a man whose own associates say their job is 'to talk him out of doing crazy things.' To be pleased that the Trump presidency has not yet ended in disaster is to set too low a bar for American democracy. Three cheers for electing a leader too easily distracted to be a successful authoritarian!"


Industrial Equipment News - Trump Tax Overhaul Proposes 15% Rate for Business: But critics say a big cut in corporate taxes will add to long-term budget deficits.

"Republicans who slammed the growing national debt under President Barack Obama have said they are open to Trump's tax plan, even though it could add trillions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade. / Echoing the White House, Republicans argue the cuts would spur economic growth, reducing or even eliminating any drop in tax revenue." ... "The argument that tax cuts pay for themselves has been debunked by economists from across the political spectrum. / On Tuesday, the official scorekeeper for Congress dealt the argument -- and Trump's plan -- another blow. / The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said a big cut in corporate taxes, even if temporary, would add to long-term budget deficits."


Religion News - Trump's religious liberty order slammed as 'pretty much nothing'

[This one's a relief, after the language in early leaked drafts.]

" '[C]onstitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect,' David French wrote in a blistering analysis in National Review. 'In fact, he should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.' " ... "Even the ACLU, which initially vowed to file suit against the order, later reversed course because the order had nothing in it that could be challenged. It was, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said, 'an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.' "

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Response to E-mail on the Pledge of Allegiance

I recently received an email forward with the subject, 'THIS SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED!!---WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE!!!...' It was about Congressman supposedly refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, with the writer outraged, and proposing that those Congress members weren't fit to serve.

I couldn't resist replying. So, here's the original email and my response. Note that I cleaned up the text formatting a bit (it was large, bold, and multi-colored), and reduced the image size (though you can click on it to get the full size version, if you're really that curious).


The Original Email

If they won't stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance,

In my opinion...they have no place in our Congress!...

New York state senators protesting session
Any member of the house or senate that refuses to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in the Chambers should be escorted out by the Sergeant of Arms until they comply If your allegiance is not with this country and our flag, just who is it with?

Why don't we ask someone like Minnesota's Muslim congressman Keith Ellison!

Let's cut off their pay -- and all benefits. Give the ingrates two days to decide to retire or be impeached!


The Facts:

  • That's a photo from the New York State Senate, not the U.S. Senate or the House.
  • The photo is from 2009, not recently
  • The seated state senators were protesting the session itself, and the political wrangling that had led to it, not the Pledge
  • The seated senators normally stand for the Pledge during normal, non-controversial sessions


My Commentary:

This photo doesn't have much to do with the commentary in the email, but I'll still add my two cents to that commentary.

I see this issue from multiple sides, and I'm kind of conflicted, myself. On the one hand, I'm note a huge fan of the Pledge to begin with. Forced loyalty oaths are for totalitarian governments, not the land of the free. Besides, Congressmen and Senators already take an oath when they first take office. If they're honest and will support the country, one oath should be enough. If they're not honest and patriotic, it doesn't matter how many times they repeat the Pledge - it's just empty words.

On the other hand, the Eagle Scout in me does get upset when people disrespect symbols of this nation. But then I go back to recognizing that everyone has their First Amendment rights to express themselves however they want. I mean, I just recently saw the clip of Donald Trump hugging an American flag at a rally (The Hill). And I'll be honest, it infuriated me. Talk about disrespect. He was treating the U.S. flag as a prop, not as a solemn symbol of our nation and all those who have fought and died to defend it. Has he ever even read the Flag Code? But, that's still his First Amendment right. I'm not calling for Trump to be impeached because of that sign of disrespect. So even if Congressmen and Senators (or Colin Kaepernick) decide to sit during the Pledge out of a principled protest, that's their First Amendment right, and I'll defend their right to do so.

And frankly, I have no idea why Keith Ellison was mentioned at all. He wasn't in the photo, and I've never heard of him refusing to stand for the Pledge. Was it merely because he's Muslim?

Short version: I'm not a huge fan of the Pledge, but as long as it's a custom, I would prefer that Congressmen and Senators stand and recite the Pledge appropriately. But if they decide to sit out of principled protest, that's their right to do so, just as it's Donald Trump's right to disrespect the flag by hugging it. And I'm not about to grant either party the right to start forcefully removing members of the other party because they deem them to be insufficiently patriotic.

Friday, April 28, 2017

How much does it bother me that people believe in gods?

I came across a Quora question not too long ago, Does it bother atheists that people believe in God?. Here's my answer.


The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of AtheismIt does bother me that people believe in gods, but the extent to which it bothers me depends very much on the specifics of how the person acts.

Look, most of my friends are Christians. And for the most part, we only discuss religion a bit, and have a live and let live attitude. As long as people are reasonable and tolerant, religion isn't the type of thing that gets me up in arms. But even then, it still bothers me some. I mean, I think back to when I was still a Christian, and all the cognitive dissonance I experienced, the fear of Hell (especially for others besides myself), the Catholic guilt, the wrestling with secular ethics vs. Biblical rules, etc. It may have taken me a few years to get to this point, but I'm happier now as an atheist than I was as a Christian, and I'd like for others to have that. But, I also don't want to be that guy that's always arguing and being pushy about beliefs. So here's a list of examples stepping through different types of believers and how I feel about them.


Type of Believer: Tolerant believer who keeps their religion private and doesn't impose on others
My Feelings: This bothers me on the same level as people who believe in urban legends, or who root for different sports teams from me. They're wrong about the nature of reality, and I would like to help them see the world more clearly, and recognize that the Steelers are the one true... sorry - wrong topic
Level of Opposition: Good natured discussions over beer (though I hardly ever bring it up, waiting for others to broach the subject)


Type of Believer: Somewhat tolerant believer, but who lets their religious beliefs influence the way they vote (particularly if they vote against women's rights or LGBT rights, or think global warming can't be real because God wouldn't let it happen)
My Feelings: Well, now your religious beliefs aren't as private anymore, since they're having real world effects. So, now I do feel more justified in trying to get you to change your mind.
Level of Opposition: More heated discussions over beer, Possible end of friendship depending on how they treat individuals


Type of Believer: Door to door proselytizers
My Feelings: Hoo boy. I love debate, and I have strong opinions on religion, and you actually came to my house with the purpose of talking about religion, so here we go.
Level of Opposition: Debate for as long as they're willing to stay at my house


Type of Believer: Parents who withhold real medical treatment from children in favor of faith healing
My Feelings: I don't personally know anyone like this, but I know they're out there. The case of Makayla Sault was a heartbreaking, recent example. Children shouldn't have to suffer or die for the religious beliefs of their parents.
Level of Opposition: Push for laws to outlaw this type of child abuse


Type of Believer: Intolerant believer, who lets their religious beliefs influence the way they vote and how they treat individuals (particularly women, the LGBT community, and people outside their faith)
My Feelings: Yeah, now they're definitely into the strong negative effects of religion, and I don't just feel justified to try to change their minds, but see it as a moral duty to society.
Level of Opposition: Strong debate, definitely not going to be friends


Type of Believer: Creationist/Evangelical/Fundamentalist Preachers/Leaders
My Feelings: You're not just misleading yourself, but misleading all the people who follow you. And these brands of religion are usually the more close-minded branches that lead to negative effects, so I'm definitely going to speak up.
Level of Opposition: Pointed blog entries and Quora answers


Type of Believer: Intolerant Religious Politicians
My Feelings: We have a First Amendment for a reason. Government and religion aren't supposed to be intertwined. It really, really bothers me when politicians pass religiously based laws, or give preferential treatment to certain religious institutions.
Level of Opposition: Pointed blog entries and Quora answers, Vote for opponent


So, that's how I feel about it. We live in a free, multicultural society, where people have the right to believe anything they want. As long as religious people are tolerant of others and don't use religion as a reason to discriminate or make bad decisions, the most they'll have to fear from me is talking about religion over a beer every once in a while. However, if a person's religious beliefs are having harmful, real-world consequences, then I'm going to speak up.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Answering Quora - Why are you not preparing for the tiny possibility of a literal Hell?

A few months ago, I came across a question on Quora, Why are you not preparing for the tiny possibility of a literal Hell?. Here's my answer.

---

I don't prepare for the Christian Hell for the same reason I don't prepare for this afterlife:

Egyptian Book of the Dead

The ancient Egyptians believed there were seven gates the deceased must pass through on their way to the Field of Reeds, and each of those gates was guarded by some type of supernatural creature. The only way past was to recite the appropriate spell for each one. If you made it past all them, then your heart was judged on the scale of Maat:

Scale of Maat

Your heart had better match the feather of truth, or else Ammit will devour your soul. If you pass that test, then you get to go on and enjoy the afterlife.

If all that was true, that would be pretty important for your eternal afterlife. Would it make sense to memorize all the spells to recite at the seven gates? I mean, even if there's only a tiny possibility of it being true, what's a few hours worth of memorization compared to eternity?

Or do you, like most people, dismiss the Egyptian afterlife stories as just ancient superstition, and consider the 'tiny' possibility they might be true to actually be a negligible, virtually non-existent chance? Perhaps it's interesting, but no, it's not even worth devoting a few hours worth of time to memorize spells that you will never use, ever again, except perhaps as some interesting bit of trivia at cocktail parties.

That's how non-Christians feel about the Christian Hell. The whole religion is so obviously not true. The 'tiny' chance that Hell might be real is on par with the 'tiny' chance that fairies may exist - i.e. virtually no chance at all. Why worry about such obvious superstition? And even if you were going to worry about it, why pick that superstition in particular? There are lots of proposed possibilities for the afterlife. If you really wanted to be safe, you'd have to prepare for all of them.

Images from Wikipedia - Book of the Dead

---

Related Entries:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How Bad are Unpronouncable Chemical Ingredients in Food?

I ran across a new line of frozen lunches the other day, SmartMade by SmartOnes. One of the key selling points on the box is 'Made with real ingredients you can pronounce'. This seems to be a common attitude among people who don't understand chemistry as well as they could. But how bad for you are foods made up of all these strange sounding chemicals?

For example, here are the ingredients to a treat I eat nearly every weekend:

Ingredients for Weekend Treat


And here are the ingredients to an energy drink I drink nearly every day:

Ingredients for Energy Drink


Should I be worried about all those chemicals?

.
.
.

Okay, it was a trick question. I cropped those images to hide what types of food they were. Here are the original, uncropped images, made by James Kennedy, showing what the foods were (click to go to source):

Egg Ingredients


Coffee Ingredients


Mr. Kennedy has a whole series of these types of images (as well as posters of them for download and for sale).

The whole point is that everything we eat is made up of chemicals. Living things, especially, are this whole complicated cocktail of chemicals. And most of those chemical names sound very foreign to those of us who don't study them on a regular basis. But that doesn't make them dangerous.

When certain chemicals are added to processed foods, it's done in a very controlled way. Instead of the cocktail of chemicals you get from natural foods, they're adding very specific ingredients, in tightly controlled quantities. There's nothing inherently dangerous about not being able to pronounce those chemicals, unless you think we should be avoiding eggs because they contain arginine and eicosatetraenoic acid.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for February & March 2017

Top 10 ListWell, I fell behind again. I missed doing this list after February, so today is a two-fer.

There was only one newcomer between both months, but it's an entry I like a lot myself, Response to Kent Hovind Video - Bird Evolution. It really highlights how bad and misinformed creationist arguments can be. In fact, I'd even just included it on my new page, Recommended Reading - Evolution.

Speaking of, you may have noticed a new link in the side bar, Recommended Reading. I figure that with as many entries as I've written over the years, certain particularly informative ones just kind of get lost in the mix, so it might be useful for newcomers to have a list of some of those entries to start off with. There are also two sub-pages, one of which I already mentioned, Recommended Reading - Evolution and Recommended Reading - Religion.

Anyway, here are the top 10 most visited pages from this site for February and March:

Top 10 for February 2017

  1. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  2. Tank Game - QBasic Source Code
  3. Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling
  4. Autogyro History & Theory
  5. Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
  6. A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  7. Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II
  8. A Skeptical Look at Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
  9. Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?
  10. Gamera Human Powered Helicopter


Top 10 for March 2017

  1. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  2. Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
  3. Autogyro History & Theory
  4. Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II
  5. Response to Kent Hovind Video - Bird Evolution
  6. Debunking an E-mail on Charities
  7. Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling
  8. Tank Game - QBasic Source Code
  9. A Skeptical Look at Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
  10. Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?

Archives

Buy My Book

Recent Comments

Selling Out



Powered by
Movable Type 5.12