Politics Archive

Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump's Climate Denialism on Inauguration Day

Well, that's a little embarrassing. I saw some articles about how the Trump administration had dropped the pages about climate change from the Whitehouse website. I even checked on the WayBack Machine to make sure those URLs actually used to go somewhere in the past. However, the truth is not quite what was implied by what I originally wrote. The truth is, pretty much every administration in the Internet age has had a brand new website ready to go at their inauguration, which doesn't necessarily match page for page with the old site. So, there's no reason to expect the Trump Whitehouse website to have the exact same URLs as the Obama Whitehouse website, as implied in the original version of this entry.

However, the new version of the website still pretty much drops any support for taking action on climate change. The only mention of climate change is to dismiss it, "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule."

More info:

That didn't take long. Trump has been president mere hours, and his climate denialism is already having an impact. Compare these two links, one from the WayBack Machine, archived just this morning, and then the live version from right now.

In case you're too lazy to click - the WayBack Machine has an actual archive of the page that used to exist. The live version returns "The requested page "/energy/climate-change" could not be found. "

It's going to be a long 4 years.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Today's Silver Lining

Oh America, by Gee Vaucher

Today is a sad day. Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America, with Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. I fear the damage that will be done to the country in the coming years. However, I came across an op-ed in the USA Today that offers a slim silver lining for today. The article, titled simply Trump is our president was written by Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

Turley wrote, "...I believe that this week is about celebrating the 71st time that a democratically elected president has taken the oath of office (and our 58th formal inauguration)." Later in the op-ed, he wrote, "We are celebrating not a particular victor but the fact that there was a victor -- a democratically elected victor followed by a peaceful transition of power."

So yes, there is that. Amid the Russian attempts to sway the election, questionable actions by James Comey of the FBI, an archaic electoral college system that didn't reflect the will of the people, and an utterly terrible person taking the highest office in the nation, we can still at least be thankful that this is a peaceful transition of power, neither a revolution nor a coup, and that we'll have an opportunity in 4 years to elect a competent president.

Image Source: Oh America, by Gee Vaucher. The particular file I used came from The Mirror. There's a good article about the piece on The Guardian. And, for the next few weeks, it's on exhibit at Firstsite in the UK.

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."


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


Selling Out