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Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 20

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.

Prior to last week, it had been a little while since I've done one of these posts. But like I write in the introduction to every post in this series, it is every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on Trump and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage, so I can't just let these abuses and bad decisions slip through the cracks. Though to be honest, there's so much that's negative coming out of this administration that I can't keep up with all of it.


Medium - Carl Zimmer's Speech 'Let's Not Lose Our Minds': "Science, Journalism, and Democracy: Grappling With A New Reality"

I would highly recommend reading the whole article. It's focus is on what science journalists should do, but it's useful for all citizens in an age when the president and dominant political party are so anti-science.

It's been nearly ninety years since that Pravda article about Lysenko was published, helping to launch him on his dismal career. It's been over fifty years since he fell at last. When you hear this story, you may think, "Well, that's appalling, but it happened a long time ago, and in a faraway place. It has no meaning to us today in the United States in 2017."

I disagree. The things we are discussing today at this meeting -- democracy, science, and journalism -- are three valuable institutions that have made life in this country far better than it would be without them. They are worth defending, and worth keeping free of corruption.

We can look back over history to see how, in different places and different times, each of these pillars cracked and sometimes even fell. We should not be smug when we look back at these episodes. We should not be so arrogant as to believe we are so much smarter or nobler that we're immune from these disasters.

The article also included some chilling parallels between Stalin's Soviet Union and the current U.S. government (with some of these points being more parallel than others):

  • A government decided that an important area of research, one that the worldwide scientific community had been working on for decades, was wrong. Instead, they embraced weak evidence to the contrary.
  • It ignored its own best scientists and its scientific academies.
  • It glamorized someone who opposed that mainstream research based on weak research, turning his meager track record into a virtue.
  • It forced scientists to either be political allies or opponents.
  • It personally condemned scientists who supported the worldwide consensus and spoke out against the government's agenda, casting them as bad people hell-bent on harming the nation.
  • The damage to the scientific community rippled far, and lasted for years. It showed hostility to scientists from other countries, isolating them from international partnerships. It also created an atmosphere of fear that led to self-censorship.
  • And by turning away from the best science, a government did harm to its country.


Vox - Trump isn't delivering his own DACA policy because he's cowardly and weak: An evasion of responsibility.

Long before he was a politician, Donald Trump was a showman. So it's telling that on the biggest political story of the week, the great impresario of nativist backlash politics has decided to make himself scarce. Instead of announcing his plan to kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program with a six-month delay personally, Trump is letting Jeff Sessions act as the star of the DACA episode of the Trump Show.

That's no comfort to the 800,000 people -- and the millions of family members, friends, and co-workers who depend on them -- whose lives are about to be thrown into chaos. But it's a great reflection of the fundamental cowardice with which Trump has faced this issue. Rather than own up to his own decision and defend it, Trump this morning tweeted an exhortation to Congress to step up and solve the problem for him in some unspecified way.

Trump has let himself get jammed-up by nativist politicians who are more ideologically serious than he is. But rather than owning that decision -- and taking the hit with the broad public and the business community that would entail -- he's trying to punt, fudge, and avoid responsibility.


Bad Astronomy - Climate Science Denier Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be Nominated as NASA's Cheif

But where this really goes wrong is Bridenstine's very loud and strident denial of climate science.

Since he's a Republican from Oklahoma, this perhaps isn't surprising, but the breadth and depth of his denial is cause for great concern. He was elected to Congress in late 2012, and immediately launched into climate science denial grandstanding.

In June 2013, he gave a one-minute speech on the floor of Congress regurgitating straight-up denial propaganda...

But there's more, and this is critical. In 2013, when he had been in Congress just a few months, he sponsored a bill that would have gutted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate research, funneling that money instead into weather warning. While the latter is important, we do spend quite a bit on that already, and at the same time NOAA's research into climate leads the world and is an absolutely critical resource. This bill would have been atrocious and incredibly damaging, but happily it didn't pass.


Washington Post Op-ed - The Justice Department is squandering progress in forensic science

During the past decade, thanks largely to a 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences, we have made important progress in ridding our nation's courtrooms of such scenarios [faulty convictions]. But the Justice Department's recent decision to not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science -- the primary forum through which scientists, forensic lab technicians, lawyers and judges have worked together to guide the future of forensic science -- threatens to stall and even reverse that progress.


Reveal News - Trump administration suddenly pulls plug on teen pregnancy programs

The Trump administration has quietly axed $213.6 million in teen pregnancy prevention programs and research at more than 80 institutions around the country, including Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins University.

The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will end five-year grants awarded by the Obama administration that were designed to find scientifically valid ways to help teenagers make healthy decisions that avoid unwanted pregnancies.

The elimination of two years of funding for the five-year projects shocked the professors and community health officials around the country who run them.

Health officials say cutting off money midway through multiyear research projects is highly unusual and wasteful because it means there can be no scientifically valid findings. The researchers will not have the funds to analyze data they have spent the past two years collecting or incorporate their findings into assistance for teens and their families.


Industrial Equipment News - Blog: Tariffs on Foreign Steel Are a Bad Idea

In order to restore American steel's flagging fortunes, the Trump administration has been exploring increased tariff or quota restrictions on steel imports, citing national security concerns.

Trump upped the ante this month in an exchange with reporters on Air Force One:

"Steel is a big problem... I mean, they're dumping steel. Not only China, but others. We're like a dumping ground, OK? They're dumping steel and destroying our steel industry. They've been doing it for decades, and I'm stopping it. It'll stop."

My research focuses on the politics of trade, including the use of restrictions like tariffs. A look back at the last time a president slapped tariffs on steel is illuminating for the current debate.

The impact of steel tariffs on other domestic manufacturers such as construction and automotive manufacturing is likely to be bad. However, the bigger concern would be that the WTO again rule such tariffs to be in violation of U.S. trade commitments. Such an event would likely touch off a trade war between the U.S. and its major trading partners, particularly the European Union.


Vanity Fair - Trump Wants a "Transparent" Border Wall to Prevent Injuries from Falling "Sacks of Drugs": That way when cartels "throw the large sacks of drugs over," Trump says, agents can see them.

Trump went on to say that the wall needs one thing: transparency. "You have to be able to see through it," he explained. "In other words, if you can't see through that wall--so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what's on the other side of the wall."

The wall needs to be see-through, the president continued, because drug dealers may otherwise throw large bags of drugs over the wall to the other side, and hit innocent passers-by. "As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don't see them--they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It's over," he added. "As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall. But we have some incredible designs."

How in the hell did this man get elected?


Vox - A new interview reveals Trump's ignorance to be surprisingly wide-ranging: He doesn't know what he doesn't know.

But reading the transcript of Donald Trump's recent interview with three New York Times reporters, two things stand out. One is the sheer range of subjects that Trump does not understand correctly -- from French urban planning to health insurance to Russian military history to where Baltimore is to domestic policy in the 1990s to his own regulatory initiatives. The other is that Trump is determined, across the board, to simply bluff and bluster through rather than admitting to any uncertainty or gaps in his knowledge.
The complete interview is a little bit hard to parse, since Trump keeps ducking off the record and the transcript interrupts. But it really is worth taking in the whole thing -- the scope is breathtaking.

Headings from the article:

  • Trump doesn't seem to know what health insurance is
  • Trump confuses two different Napoleons
  • Trump misdescribes his tax plan
  • Trump doesn't know American political history
  • Trump makes lots of weird, trivial errors
  • Trump's combination of ignorance and arrogance is dangerous

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