Politics Archive

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Petition President Elect Trump to Act on Climate Change

Climate Change Map

Scientific American has just published An Open Letter from Scientists to President-Elect Trump on Climate Change. So far, it's been signed by more than 800 earth scientists and energy experts, all of whom either have or are pursuing PhDs, and all of whom are American or work in the U.S. Along with the letter, there's a public petition that you can go sign:

change.org - Tell Trump To #ActOnClimate

For reference, here's the opening of the letter.

To President-elect Trump

We, the undersigned, urge you to take immediate and sustained action against human-caused climate change. We write as concerned individuals, united in recognizing that the science is unequivocal and America must respond.

Climate change threatens America's economy, national security, and public health and safety1-4. Some communities are already experiencing its impacts, with low-income and minority groups disproportionately affected.

At this crucial juncture in human history, countries look to the United States to pick up the mantle of leadership: to take steps to strengthen, not weaken, this nation's efforts to tackle this crisis. With the eyes of the world upon us, and amidst uncertainty and concern about how your administration will address this issue, we ask that you begin by taking the following steps upon taking office...

It goes on to list six concrete steps with further explanation than what I'm quoting here:

  1. Make America a clean energy leader.
  2. Reduce carbon pollution and America's dependence on fossil fuels.
  3. Enhance America's climate preparedness and resilience.
  4. Publicly acknowledge that climate change is a real, human-caused, and urgent threat.
  5. Protect scientific integrity in policymaking.
  6. Uphold America's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

If you care about the planet's future and the future for our children, go sign the petition.

Image Source: Scientific American

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Trump Roundup

Donald TrumpI don't know if I'm going to try to turn this into a regular feature or not, but with a president as potentially disastrous as Trump heading to the White House, I feel that it's the responsibility of everybody to keep the pressure up to not let him wreck the country. At the same time, I don't want to become obsessed with him, myself, and spend all my free time writing about him instead of other, more interesting topics. So, I'm going to provide a set of links to what other people have written recently, along with short excerpts from those articles. Today is mostly about science, though I couldn't help throwing in a few other articles. [Update - I did decide to make this a semi-regular feature. Future installments can be found in my Trump Archives.]

Scientific American - The Trump Taboo at COP 22
"With a climate skeptic transitioning the EPA and Donald Trump in the White House for the next four or eight year, there is an intense fear of failure to act quickly and strongly enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the accepted safe temperature rise before catastrophic consequences. That fear is valid."

Scientific American - Dan Rather: Now, More Than Ever, We Must Stand Up for Science
"The Trump administration is outlining policies that put our response to climate change in deep jeopardy and threaten to change the fundamental direction of science in the U.S."

Scientific American - Election Aftermath: The Value of Compassion and Reason
"The results of Tuesday's vote suggest that people no longer care about these virtues, but we must remember that they are essential American values" "As Americans have enigmatically rewarded Trump for his proven disdain of minorities and women, civil liberties and scientific fact, what can we do to avoid a complete collapse of empathy, compassion--and reason--over the next four years, one which could have serious ramifications for everyone's future?"

Scientific American - What Will Trump's Space Program Look Like?
"The most partisan aspect of NASA's budget has been funding for Earth Sciences. Attacks from the right have slowed the government's overall ability to monitor and understand our changing climate. The Trump Administration will almost certainly request much smaller budgets for Earth Sciences, and those cuts are likely to be supported by the House and Senate. Comparative planetary climate studies, green technologies, environmentally efficient aeronautics, and funding to projects in Blue States (the few that remain) are all at risk."

Scientific American - Yes, Trump Is Scary, but Don't Lose Faith in Progress
"In spite of occasional backward lurches, like Trump's election, humanity should keep getting healthier, wealthier, more peaceful and more free." "Trump embodies a paradox of democracy. We are free to elect someone who can do us great harm. But American democracy has proved resilient. We have survived terrible Presidents, like Richard Nixon, and George Bush. We will survive Trump, too, as long as we don't succumb to irrational fear, anger and despair, the very emotions that have fueled his rise. Then we will continue our long, perilous trek toward paradise."

Nature - What scientists should focus on -- and fear -- under Trump
"Nine experts reflect on where researchers should direct their efforts during the next US administration." "Trump's success is the crescendo of a long devaluation of the Enlightenment idea that facts are the rightful basis of action. Reason itself is under fire. This mistrust of expertise is a serious threat to the sciences and the humanities."

Nature - Reality must trump rhetoric after US election shock
"In an Editorial last month, this journal argued that Trump was unsuitable for office. His contrary approach to evidence, disrespect for those he disagrees with, and toxic attitudes to women and other groups have no place in a modern democracy. His election gives Trump the chance to prove the many people who shared that view mistaken. And that, we know for sure, is one thing Trump relishes. For those who opposed him, now is not the time to turn away from politics. There can be no normalizing or forgetting the malignant words and attitudes that Trump used on the campaign trail. But it is time to engage and to address the issues in a constructive manner."

IFL Science - Beijing Confirms That Climate Change Is Not A Chinese Hoax After All
"Speaking at the UN climate change meeting in Morocco this week, China's vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin confirmed that this particular conspiracy theory is as absurd as everyone else already knew it was. He then proceeded to give Trump a history lesson." "Trump's comments about climate change being a Chinese hoax are arguably some of his most infamous and ludicrous. Sadly, despite the fact that he's taken every possible position on everything ever, there are two things he seems consistent on - placing an anti-abortion judge on the Supreme Court, and actively destroying the environment."

Barrier Breaker - Don't tell us to hug the smirking deplorables
"He got into office by being a bully. That's the clear and inconvenient truth. I realize that it's uncomfortable. I realize that this is a time when, more than ever, you may want to have a Kum-Bah-Yah moment and pretend that there are warm feelings of unity here. I realize that anger and depression is uncomfortable. I realize that the fight has grown wearisome. I realize that you might be exhausted and just want to go along to get along. / But the fact is that if you do that now, you are teaching this country that when a bully bullies you and your friends, apologize to the bully. Hug the bully. And if your friends are seriously hurt and wounded in the worst ways possible by the bully, force them to hug the smirking bully, too."

Daylight Atheism - The America I Thought I Knew
"Given the evidence, I'm forced to accept that the America I thought I knew - that land of decency, of moral enlightenment and stubbornly slow progress - doesn't exist, and perhaps never did. There's a wide and deep streak of sadism in our society, and in this election, it found a way to express itself. America has chosen to become a much crueler nation, and hundreds of millions of people will be living with the consequences for years if not decades."

The Gaytheist Manifesto - LGBTQ Progress Trump Can Undo on Day One
"While we know that Trump may not have rolling back LGBTQ rights and protections as a top priority, we do have a Republican majority. We do know that the current Republican platform is extremely hostile to LGBTQ people, and that several members of his top staff are vehemently anti-LGBTQ. It remains to be seen whether or not Trump will sign whatever awful things Congress is sure to send his way, but there is most definitely damage he could do on day one, should he choose to do so. / According to The Center for American Progress, there are 8 executive orders President Obama has signed that Donald Trump could undo if he wanted to."

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For completeness, here are a few of the entries I've written about Trump recently.

Image Source: Google+

Friday, November 11, 2016

Reflections on the Polls

Questioning the Polls

A lot's been made since the election about how wrong the pollsters got it. And while most of the polls were wrong, I think the magnitude of their error is being overhyped. This election has also reinforced my respect for FiveThirtyEight.

On the day before the election, I made a comment about the polls. Here's what I wrote:

On an election related note, while I've been following 538 like probably everybody else, I've also started checking out some of the other election 'prophets', and 538 seems like an outlier this year. I hope so, but hope doesn't change reality. It'll be interesting to see how things play out tomorrow and which predictions were the most accurate.

I also included a table of different sites and their predictions:

Site Chance Clinton Wins Chance Dems Win Senate
538 69.4% 49.2%
PredictWise 89% 67%
Huffington Post 98.1% 66%
Princeton Election Consortium >99% 79%

I also wrote that, "I'll still be biting my nails until the official results start coming in." Well, history now shows that I had reason to be biting my nails.

PredictWise, Huffington Post, and the Princeton Election Consortium were certainly way over confident in their predictions. But 538, while getting the prediction wrong, was more reasonable in their odds. Granted, their confidence in a Clinton win did increase slightly up until the election, but on Tuesday morning, they were still giving Clinton only a 71.4% chance of winning, and Trump a 28.6% chance of winning. And while that was certainly still in favor of Clinton, it wasn't overwhelmingly in her favor, and a win for Trump wasn't unthinkable. Just a few days before the election, Nate Silver emphasized this in the article, Trump Is Just A Normal Polling Error Behind Clinton.

538 also has a few post-mortem articles examining the polling errors this year, including The Polls Missed Trump. We Asked Pollsters Why. In the end, it looks like the polls missed by about 4 points, on average. Only being off by 4-points in gauging public opinion isn't a huge error, but in a close race like this one, it is enough to mean the difference between winning and losing.

They also quote Barbara Carvalho, who made a point about the number of quality polls being conducted.

Pollsters, and the media companies whose dwindling budgets have left them commissioning fewer polls, have to decide where to go from here. "Traditional methods are not in crisis, just expensive," said Barbara Carvalho of Marist College, whose final poll of the race showed Clinton leading by 1 point, in line with her current lead. "Few want to pay for scientific polling."

So, I disagree with the many commentators who have claimed that the polls were wildly off. They were off, but not by an unprecedented amount. The problem is that people put too much confidence in the polls, including some of the pollsters themselves. I would have thought that wouldn't have been an issue after the mid terms two years ago, but I can almost guarantee that people won't be over-confident based on the polls next time around.

Image Source: FiveThirtyEight, with a little Photoshopping by me

Thursday, November 10, 2016

'Coping' with Trump's Election

Test Anxiety, from http://cms.colum.edu/psychobabble/features/Back when I was in college, before a particularly stressful test or final, I used to help relieve some of the stress by asking myself, 'What's the worst that can happen?' Even if I bombed the test, it probably wouldn't have dropped my overall grade for the class below a C, and even if I bombed so hard that I failed the class as a whole, I'd still be able to retake the class. Hell, even if I bombed every test from then on out in college, I still had my health, and still lived in the USA in the modern day where I could be pretty sure I wouldn't starve to death like if I'd lived in some other time period or in a developing country. The exercise was always comforting because the consequences were never that bad.

Since Trump has won the election, I've briefly let myself go down that same kind of train of thought, and let me tell you, it's not reassuring. I've already written extensively about Trump's lack of qualifications and major faults. The worst that can happen due to his Presidency, with a Republican controlled House and Senate to rubber stamp his proposals, is very, very bad - trade wars, another great recession, pulling out of the Paris agreement and reversing positive action on climate change, a right-wing Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, nuclear proliferation, escalated military action leading to war, even nuclear war.

I know, things don't usually turn out as bad as our worst fears. But it's complacency to pretend that they never do. I don't even have to Godwin myself. Just think back about a decade to the Iraq War - a poorly justified war with a commander in chief who had no good overall strategy, which led to a civil war that caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq, and left a power vaccuum that gave rise to ISIS.

So, I've tried to quit wondering 'What's the worst that could happen under Trump', because it is terrifying. He's been elected, and there's nothing that can be done about it now, and nothing I can do personally to change his actions. So, I'm taking a more fatalistic approach. Trump may cause a disaster, but me staying awake at night worrying about it isn't going to change anything. Que serĂ¡, serĂ¡. At least, I'll keep trying to tell myself that until that knot in the pit of my stomach goes away and I can finally get a good night's sleep*.




*No, that's not poetic license. Just ask my wife who has to deal with the tossing and turning and the light from my iPhone at 3 am.

For anyone interested, you can read my more immediate reaction here, 2016's Depressing Election Results. I'll also repeat the link to my thorough analysis of Trump, Donald Trump Unfit to Be President - Vote for Hillary Clinton.

And as long as I'm still talking about the election, here are a few more good links that, if not perfect reflections of my thoughts on the matter, are still pretty close. I also included an excerpt from each one.

  • Bad Astronomy - A Dark Day "These are dark times, and for the first time in my life I seriously fear for the future of my country. Even when George W. Bush was elected I didn't feel this as deeply as I do now. Trump is a monster."
     
  • Pharyngula - What happened? "It's tempting to say we'll get through this and have a better day in 2020. The lesson I've learned is that we won't: that I lived through them doesn't mean that others didn't suffer and die. Reagan presided over the deaths by negligence of so many gay people; he laid a foundation of racism and contempt for government that we still have to deal with. Bush wrecked our foreign policy and killed thousands of our own and hundreds of thousands of others -- don't dismiss that by announcing that you survived his reign. Who knows what chaos Trump will sow, but people will be hurt. They will be hurt right now. Black people are being murdered by the police, immigrants are being oppressed right now, and we do not have the luxury of waiting the new regime out. It is not consolation to say that the pain will be selective and that the survivors will survive."
     
  • Dispatches from the Culture Wars - Welcome to Nov. 9th. We're Screwed. "But then again, we're all screwed. In addition to the feelings I listed above, I am also ashamed, deeply ashamed, that this country just elected a megalomaniacal, racist, misogynist, narcissistic, sociopathic sexual predator as its president. I never thought that would happen. I was certain that it wouldn't. I didn't think more than 40% of the country would vote for such a grotesque excuse for a human being. I was wrong. For once, I wasn't cynical enough about this country."
     
  • Love, Joy, Feminism - Tomorrow We Fight "Last night, my daughter lost her innocence. She had thought we lived in a world of possibilities, a world where a woman could be president and her young immigrant friends could share in the American Dream. Today that world has changed. Today she lives in a country that elected Donald Trump."
     
  • Daylight Atheism - The Morning After "The next few years are going to be an utter disaster. The Affordable Care Act and every other achievement of Obama's presidency will be wiped away. The Supreme Court will swing hard to the right for decades. The religious right will get everything they ever wanted. Climate change is never going to be stopped in time now. And all of that pales at the thought of a vindictive egomaniac with the nuclear launch codes."


Yesterday I said I'd give myself a day or two to mourn this tragedy. Today is day two, so tomorrow is back to the grind. I expect to write more, a LOT more, about Trump's presidency (holy f*ck does that sound horrible), but I'll try to keep future posts constructive, and not just lamenting the tragedy that I expect his presidency to be.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

2016's Depressing Election Results

Sad Uncle SamToday is a sad, sad day in American history. As a people, we have elected by far the worst presidential candidate in the modern era, and quite probably in all of U.S. history. As I've written several times now, Donald Trump is a proto-fascist demagogue with no relevant skills for the position, a frightening lack of foreign policy knowledge, a poor track record in business, an abysmal history of scandal and alleged criminal conduct, a complete lack of regard for truth and honesty, and a demeanor wholly unbefitting of the oval office, on top of his bigotry against many minority groups. But he was elected fairly. John Wayne may have said, "I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job," and while I do sincerely hope that, I fully expect Trump to be very, very bad for this country. My principal hope is that he's not as disastrous as I fear he will be, or maybe that he actually will be convicted of one of his many alleged crimes and be impeached, though that would still leave us with Mike Pence, who is only a decent candidate in comparison to Trump.

And the Republicans maintained control of the House and Senate on top of winning the presidency. We will now have the deck stacked fully in favor of Republicans, at a time when the party has become increasingly extremist. This is not the responsible Republican party of Eisenhower or Reagan (even if they had some bad policies). This is the Tea Party Republican party of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Not only will they have near free reign in passing their legislation, Trump will be free to nominate extremely partisan right-wing Supreme Court justices. Let's hope that Scalia and Thomas are the only two justices he gets to replace, or we may see extremely important decisions like Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges get turned back.

Statewide in Texas, things didn't turn out much better. Granted, as I wrote previously, I voted for Republicans in several races because they were the most qualified. But even in races where there were better qualified Democrats running in opposition, the Republicans won nearly every statewide race. Our State Board of Education, which has a history of Republican extremism, didn't pick up any moderates.

If there's a silver lining in any of this, it's that it looks like Clinton is going to win the popular vote. It may not make any difference in the election, but at least we can say that more Americans supported her than Trump.

Watching CNN last night, I saw Van Jones make some very moving comments on the nature of these results. Everybody should watch this video (or read about it on The Daily Beast). "People have talked about a miracle. I'm hearing about a nightmare." "How do I explain this to my children?"

Here's one more story that reflects the way I feel right now:
The New Yorker - An American Tragedy

I know some people are saying that America has survived worse before, but that's faint consolation for the people who will be affected by Trump's dangerous policies. We survived a Civil War, but hundreds of thousands of people died in the process, with countless more injured. We survived the Great Depression, but with over a decade worth of suffering. We survived George Bush, but with another economic recession, thousands of U.S. soldiers killed, and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Sure, the U.S. as a nation will survive Donald Trump, but how many people will suffer or die because of him?

I am disappointed, disheartened, appalled, and anxious for our nation's future. But what's done is done, and there's no changing the election results, now. I may give myself a day or two to mourn this tragedy, but I will then move on, and continue to fight the good fight and do what I think is best for the people of this nation. I will not let the bigotry and fear-mongering of Trump define who we are. We may not have demonstrated it yesterday, but we are better than that.

Uncle Sam Image Source: FairEconomy.org

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BTW, here are two links to entries I wrote before the election, the first my warning about electing Trump, and the second a summary of & my endorsements for the Texas SBOE races:

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