Trump Archive

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 17

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.

Amid all the controversy, scandal, and potential corruption surrounding Trump's administration, it's important not to forget his official actions and policies as president, and all the damage that's causing.


Climate Change

As I've written many times before, climate change is the biggest issue facing the nation and the world right now. It's important enough to make me a single issue voter, at least for offices that can have any effect on climate change. That's what makes Trump's recent decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement so infuriating. Granted, he was already doing a lot to damage U.S. efforts to combat climate change, but this was still a very big deal. Trump's actions on climate change are inexcusable.


Bad Astronomy - We'll never have Paris: Trump pulls the US out of international climate accord

And so, this is why I'm very unhappy with Trump pulling us out of the Paris Accord. It signals that we don't care about global warming, that we don't care about helping other countries with it, and together with Trump's other policies (like putting full-blown climate change denier Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, for example), it's a huge flag showing that we're willing to cede energy leadership in the 21st century to other countries.

This is more than just foolish. It's contrary to everything the United States strives for as a nation. It shows that we stand against essentially the entire world when it comes to climate change. It also makes it clear that, once again, the U.S. as a nation will delay taking any real action to slow or stop global warming, action that we should've taken a decade or more ago.

This is a complete failure of leadership, across the board. It's also a threat to our national security.


Vox - The 5 biggest deceptions in Trump's Paris climate speech: It wasn't easy narrowing these down.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump gave a speech announcing that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

It is a remarkable address, in its own way, in that virtually every passage contains something false or misleading. The sheer density of bullshit is almost admirable, from a performance art perspective. Trump even managed to get in some howlers that had nothing to do with climate change. He started by citing an act of terrorism in Manila that wasn't terrorism. He said, "our tax bill is moving along in Congress," but there's no tax bill. And so forth.

A proper fact-check would run longer than the speech itself. To keep this quick, I've selected the top five deceptions.

A note: I'm not calling these "lies," because that implies Trump knows they are false. It is far from clear that Trump understands anything about any of the issues at stake, or is even capable of forming stable beliefs as such (as I wrote here and here).

1) No, an agreement cannot be both nonbinding and draconian (Spoiler: Paris is the former)
2) No, Paris cannot be "renegotiated"
3) No, abiding by the agreement will not cost the US a bazillion dollars
4) No, China and India are not getting away with anything
5) No, other nations are not laughing at us behind our backs -- or they weren't, anyway

Related:


International Trip

The Nation - Our Embarrassment in Chief's Internation Trip Is No Laughing Matter

But let's not grade a guy holding the nuclear codes on a curve. Three days into the trip, and Trump's already shown the world that the United States is being governed by a brittle man-child. And if he manages to get through it without causing a major international incident, it will only be because foreign leaders have done a competent job dumbing down any complex diplomatic issues that may arise and feeding the insatiable ego of our embarrassment in chief.
...Peter Baker reported for The New York Times that "foreign officials and their Washington consultants say certain rules [for dealing with Trump] have emerged: Keep it short--no 30-minute monologue for a 30-second attention span. Do not assume he knows the history of the country or its major points of contention. Compliment him on his Electoral College victory. Contrast him favorably with President Barack Obama. Do not get hung up on whatever was said during the campaign. Stay in regular touch." The rest of the world appears to have concluded that our president is an idiot.
Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national-security adviser, is tasked with babysitting this erratic character through a difficult trip, according to CNN's Jake Tapper. But a source told Tapper that "it can be difficult to advise the President effectively given his seemingly short attention span and propensity to be easily distracted. You can't say what not to say," the source said, "because that will then be one of the first things he'll say." Trump seemed to confirm that on Monday, when he told Israeli reporters, "just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel" to the Russians when he shared highly sensitive intelligence with them in the Oval Office two days after firing his FBI director.


Vox - Trump's ally-angering trip abroad, explained in 7 images

President Donald Trump's first foreign trip is nearly over. Some events were near disasters; some went surprisingly well. But nearly all of them were deeply revealing about Trump, saying something important about his administration's policies and his own diplomatic style.
Now, Trump does actually have a point here. Technically, all NATO states are supposed to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on their defense budget -- but only five of NATO's 28 members hit the target. This is an issue that past US presidents, including Barack Obama, have raised at NATO summits before.

But Trump has repeatedly questioned the value of NATO in the past two years, once threatening to not defend allies that didn't pay enough money -- something past US presidents never did, as it calls into question the foundation of the alliance itself.

Most worryingly, Trump pointedly did not mention Article 5 -- the provision of the NATO treaty that declares an attack on one to be an attack on all -- in his speech. This strongly suggested to the allies that he cared more about allies ponying up than actually defending them.

The US government never officially confirmed the country whose asset Trump compromised. But then, when fielding press questions with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trump somewhat backhandedly acknowledged it.


Slate - Making Enemies Out of Friends: Trump's special antagonism toward Germany is stupid and dangerous.

The fallout from President Trump's disastrous trip to Europe continues to poison the trans-Atlantic climate. His comments about Germany have been particularly toxic--and, beyond that, stupid, reflecting no understanding of the country's strategic importance or its dreadful history.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stated the matter plainly in a speech on Sunday in Bavaria. Europeans "must take our fate into our own hands," she said, because the "times in which we could rely fully on others ... are somewhat over." This, she added, "is what I experienced in the last few days"--a reference to Trump's behavior in Brussels and Rome, where, among other bits of rudeness, he declined to pay even lip service to the pledge, enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, that the United States would defend any member of NATO that comes under attack.

While overseas, Trump had reportedly told Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union, "The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of cars that they're selling in the USA. Horrible. We're gonna stop that." Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the report, which appeared in Der Spiegel, but Trump's Tuesday tweet undercut the denial and underscored his complaint. It wasn't some loose remark, he seemed to be saying; he meant it.


The Budget

Nature - Trump budget would slash science programmes across government: Proposed cuts include 11% at the National Science Foundation, 18% at the National Institutes of Health and 30% at the Environmental Protection Agency.

US President Donald Trump released a revised budget plan on 23 May that would cut science programmes across the federal government in 2018. Biomedical, public-health and environmental research would all be pared back. / Those cuts, along with deep reductions in programmes for the poor, are balanced by a proposed 10% increase in military spending.
"This budget is terrible, and we're confident that Congress will ignore it," says Jennifer Zeitzer, director of legislative relations at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would face a cut of 18% in the Trump plan, from US$31.8 billion in 2017 to $26 billion in 2018... The White House wants to slash more than $1.2 billion from the CDC's budget, with the largest cuts coming from public-health preparedness programmes... The Trump plan would cut government funding for the US Food and Drug Administration by 31% from the 2017 level, to $1.9 billion... The budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be cut by about 11% from the 2016 level, to $6.7 billion. That would allow the agency to give out 8,000 new grants in fiscal year 2018, about 800 fewer than it awarded in 2016... The agency's Ocean Observatories Initiative, a collection of instrumented seafloor arrays, would be cut by almost 44%, to $31 million. The programme began full operations in June 2016, when real-time data began flowing in after nearly a decade of construction and development... Trump requested $19.1 billion for NASA, a 2.8% decrease from the 2017 level. The agency's science directorate would receive $5.7 billion, a drop of nearly 1%... Within that directorate, funding for Earth science would drop by 8.7%, from $1.92 billion to $1.75 billion. The budget would eliminate five Earth-observing missions... The US Department of Energy would receive $28 billion under the president's plan, a 5.3% reduction from 2016... The Office of Science would see its budget cut by 16%, from $5.3 billion in 2017 to just under $4.5 billion in 2018... The White House proposal would make good on promises to shrink and reorganize the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would see its budget cut by more than 30% to $5.7 billion. Trump would slash spending on pollution-control programmes and research and development, eliminating about 23% of the agency's roughly 15,000 staff members along the way... The US Geological Survey would be cut by 13% from the 2017 level, to $922 million. That would include eliminating the entire $8.2-million federal contribution to the fledgling earthquake early-warning system on the US west coast... The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive nearly $4.8 billion, a decrease of about 17%, or $987 million, compared to 2017. The majority of the cuts would come from the agency's research activities and satellites.


Vox - The trillions in shocking cuts in Donald Trump's budget, explained

The budget broadly resembles plans put forward by now-House Speaker Paul Ryan, who as the House Budget Committee chair released a series of extremely aggressive budgets including trillions in cuts to programs for the poor. While Trump largely leaves Medicare and old-age insurance from Social Security unscathed, and boosts funding for border security, veterans, and defense, he cuts just about everything else.

What's more, his budget assumes an extremely unrealistic economic growth rate -- 3 percent, above the currently projected 1.9 percent -- due to the administration's tax plan. It appears the administration is counting on that growth both to pay for its spending in this budget and to pay for its tax cuts, meaning the budget doesn't really add up at all.

It's a startling, ambitious, and at times sloppy document that, for all its faults, clearly defines what the Trump administration wants to do with the federal government. And what the administration wants to do is dramatic, to say the least.

The cuts include:
  • All $880 billion in Medicaid cuts included in the Republican health plan that has passed the House, plus $610 billion in additional cuts due to adopting an even stingier formula for increasing Medicaid funding year over year. This amounts to a total cut to Medicaid of over 47 percent.
  • $191 billion in cuts from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, over 10 years. That's about a 25 percent cut. The administration claims it will achieve this by adding new work requirements, but it would effectively require kicking many people off the program or dramatically cutting benefit amounts.
  • $40.4 billion in cuts to the earned income tax credit and child tax credit over 10 years, programs that, along with SNAP, make up much of the US's safety net for poor people. Trump would require parents receiving benefits to submit a Social Security number to weed out unauthorized immigrants -- even those whose children are US citizens.
  • $21.6 billion in cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or welfare, over 10 years. That's a nearly 13 percent cut to the program, which has already been cut dramatically since the 1990s.
  • Huge cuts to most federal agencies: a 31.4 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency budget, 29.1 percent cut to the State Department, 20.5 percent to Agriculture, 19.8 percent to Labor, 16.2 percent to Health and Human Services, 15.8 percent to Commerce, 13.2 percent to Housing and Urban Development, 12.7 percent to Transportation, and 10.9 percent to Interior.


Vox - 45 million Americans rely on food stamps. Trump wants to gut the program.: The administration's budget proposal would cut SNAP spending by a quarter.

If Trump had his way, though, the number of SNAP recipients would soon be drastically cut. The administration's first comprehensive budget proposal would trim SNAP spending by $191 billion over the next decade -- which is about a quarter of the program's funding.
In fact, researchers who study poverty and food policy say throwing people off SNAP is a silly idea because it's one of the government programs that really works. As the Trump Administration's own Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said earlier this week of SNAP, "You don't try to fix things that aren't broken."
SNAP is an effective recession buffer:

Again and again, researchers have found upticks in SNAP enrollment coinciding with recessions, which is why food stamps are referred to "automatic stabilizers." When the economy gets worse, more people enroll, helping them afford food; when the economy improves, they drop off the SNAP rolls.

One oft-repeated Republican party line is that benefits like SNAP discourage people from working. But according to the researchers who study SNAP, there's no good evidence that it acts as a work disincentive. In fact, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the majority of non-disabled, working-age households that start to get SNAP don't actually stop working.
There's also little waste and fraud in the program. Some 95 percent of federal dollars spent on SNAP go directly to benefits. The USDA also takes SNAP abuse very seriously, which is why the rate of SNAP fraud has declined dramatically over the years.


National Air Transportation Association - Statement on Trump Administration FY2018 Budget Proposal

Today, the Trump Administration released its full budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018, including recommendations for funding the Federal Aviation Administration. The proposal reduces FAA funding by almost $300 million below current levels for the fiscal year beginning October 1st.
Investment in our nation's aeronautical infrastructure is just as important to our long-term economic prosperity as tax cuts and increased defense spending. We cannot make the justification for ATC privatization a self-fulfilling prophecy by making cuts to important programs that need immediate funding. The proposed FAA budget would reduce spending on the modernization of our air traffic control system and continue what has been a six-year downward spiral in airport funding.

NATA continues to have significant concerns over proposals to corporatize air traffic control with its potentially detrimental impact on general aviation and rural investment. Targeted budget changes, including clear and unambiguous exemptions from the impacts of sequestration and government shutdowns, would be more effective than potentially destabilizing the world's safest, most complex air traffic control system. We urge Congress to continue to appropriately fund a modernization program that is delivering real benefits and to increase the investment in our airport infrastructure.


Health Care

NPR - CBO: Republicans' AHCA Would Leave 23 Million More Uninsured

The revised Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will leave 23 million more people uninsured in 2026 than if that act, also known as Obamacare, were to remain in place.
The CBO's assessment shows that premiums could fall for some Americans, but it raises potential concerns about the bill. The agency reports that the bill could destabilize individual insurance markets in some states, leaving unhealthy Americans unable to buy insurance.
The act could make obtaining healthcare coverage prohibitively expensive for some sicker Americans, the CBO found.

That's because under the AHCA, states could get waivers exempting them from some Obamacare provisions, including what are called "essential health benefits" -- a list of basics like mental health and prescription drugs that the Affordable Care Act required plans to cover. States could also get waivers that allow insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions.

"Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly," the CBO wrote.

Waiving essential health benefits could also make medical care much more expensive for people who are pregnant, addicted, or have mental health issues, and who live in those states that waive those benefits.

"In particular, out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year for the nongroup enrollees who would use those services," the report says of people living in those states.

By far the biggest savings would come from Medicaid, which serves low-income Americans. That program would face $884 billion in cuts. Cutbacks in subsidies for individual health insurance would likewise help cut $276 billion. But those are offset in large part by bigger costs, including the repeal of many of Obamacare's taxes.

Related: Vox - CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%: The American Health Care Act would make a low-income 64-year-old in the individual market pay more than half his income for health insurance.


NPR - Trump's Restrictions For Abortion Funding Overseas Could Hinder HIV Prevention

The newly-released details of the Trump administration's version of the "Mexico City policy" are raising many questions about its impact not only on abortion but also on preventing HIV and infectious diseases like malaria.
"This is going to result in an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies, in the number of unsafe abortions, in the number of mothers dying, whether from pregnancy-related causes or HIV causes, and also in the number of infant and child deaths," says Geeta Rao Gupta, executive director for the United Nations Foundation's 3D Program for Girls & Women, which addresses the needs and rights of women.
Some research has shown that when the Mexico City policy is in force, abortion rates can rise. One study by Stanford University researchers, published by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization in 2011, found that abortions in sub-Saharan African countries held steady at about 10 per 100,000 women every year from 1994 to 2000 during the Clinton administration, which did not enforce the policy. President George W. Bush reinstated the Mexico City policy in 2001, and from 2001 to 2008, there were 14.5 abortions per 100,000 women every year.

The study authors note that it's not possible to be completely certain about the reason for the rise. But they theorize that when women lose access to modern contraceptives like birth control pills because the clinics that provided them had shut down because of a loss of funds, some of the women may turn to unsafe abortions. In 2008, 47,000 women died from complications after unsafe abortions, according the World Health Organization.


Authoritarianism

Vox - Historian Timothy Snyder: Trump's lies are creeping tyranny: A historian on the danger of Donald Trump.

The way it works is that you first just lie a lot. You fill up the public space with things that aren't true, as Trump has obviously done. Next you say, "It's not me who lies; it's the crooked journalists. They're the ones who spread the fake news." Then the third step, if this works, is that everybody shrugs their shoulders and says, "Well, we don't really know who to trust; therefor, we'll trust whoever we feel like trusting." In that situation, you can't control political action and authoritarianism wins.
Frankly, we're in uncharted waters here. A lot of people believed in Trump because of his charisma and the simplicity of his promises and because, in many cases, they were facing real problems. What they believed in, unfortunately, has zero substance. It's very hard for people to recognize that. It's much easier for people to be fooled than it is for people to be unfooled.

Getting people out of a con takes a really long time, and I'm just not sure how that's going to work.

I think part of the problem with the Democrats is that they tend to look at the overall average and assume things are going well. But if you get down to the right fractal level, then in many parts of the country they're not. I think those people were intellectually vulnerable.
If people are poorly educated, if the state keeps pulling back from its role in educating people, there are less and less people to filter and make decisions for themselves.

Friday, May 19, 2017

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

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.' "

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 13

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.

It's been a few weeks since I've done one of these posts - not because Trump's been getting better, but because I've been busy focusing on other things. But like the introduction says, Trump has so much potential to cause harm, so we can't let 'Trump fatigue' let him start getting away with harmful policies and actions.


NBC News - Trump Proposes Slashing Medical Research This Year, Too

"The Trump proposals would slice $1.2 billion from a $31.6 billion NIH budget as it was laid out in the December continuing resolution. They also target health and science programs across other government agencies, including plans to:
•Take $350 million from the National Science Foundation's $6.9 billion budget
•Cut $37 million from the Department of Energy's $5.3 billion worth of science programs
•Excise $48 million from the Environmental Protection Agency's research and development budget of $483 million
•Cut in half the $101 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention program
•Reduce Food and Drug Administration staff spending by $40 million
•Cut domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs by $100 million plus cut the Presidential Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) $4.3 billion budget by $242 million
•Completely delete the $72 million Global Health Security fund at the State Department and cut other global health programs by $90 million and $62 million for global family planning"


Helicopter Association International - HAI statement on President Trump's 2018 budget proposal and administration support for privatizing air traffic control

"With the release of the White House's budget blueprint, Helicopter Association International (HAI) is alarmed that the Trump administration is pursuing the transfer of oversight of air traffic control (ATC) from the FAA to a private corporate entity that will be under the control of an airline-dominated board of directors. / 'HAI members currently enjoy a good relationship with and high level of service from the air traffic control division of the FAA, which is universally acknowledged as the safest and most efficient system in the world,' said Matthew Zuccaro, president and CEO of HAI. 'It would appear that the primary rationale for this initiative is the airlines' desire to gain control of the airspace, which is not in the best interest of other aviation stakeholders. The turnover of control of the National Airspace System to the airlines represents a clear conflict of interest. As the dominant force on the proposed governing board of the new ATC entity, the airlines stand to gain the most by focusing on their particular needs.' / The helicopter industry takes comfort in the fact that the air traffic control system is under the watchful eye of Congress, and that FAA ATC daily operations are conducted by the recognized professionals within the air traffic controller community."


Industrial Equipment News - Trump Budget Causes Alarm in Appalachia: The Appalachian Regional Commission says it has created or retained more than 23,670 jobs in the past two years, but it's on the chopping block in Trump's new budget.

"The ARC began its work in 1965 as part of former Democratic President Lyndon Johnson's famous "war on poverty." In the past two years, the agency has spent $175.7 million on 662 projects that is says has created or retained more than 23,670 jobs. / That investment has paid off: In Kentucky, the commission has awarded $707,000 to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, which used the money to train 670 people who now have full time jobs earning a combined $13.6 million in wages." ... "It's also targeted for elimination by President Donald Trump. / Trump's budget proposal has alarmed much of the region, including longtime Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, who represents the mountainous eastern Kentucky coal region where Trump won every county, a first for a Republican presidential candidate. / 'I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President's skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive,' Rogers said."


IFL Science - Trump's Budget Annihilates Funding For Education And Environmental Science

"President Trump submitted his budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year to Congress today, and as expected, it's mostly bad news for government agencies, who are having their funding drastically slashed through a series of draconian spending cuts. / The biggest swing of the axe is set to fall on the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is currently led by a climate change denier of the highest order, the agency's former archenemy Scott Pruitt. According to an analysis by Bloomberg, its budget will be reduced by 29.6 percent, with programs focusing on pollution and carbon footprint mitigation set to lose out the most. / The Department of Education (ED), headed by someone with no experience in public schools whatsoever, is also set to lose 13.6 percent of its funding. / It's worth noting that both Betsy DeVos and Pruitt are nonplussed whenever the subject of the obliteration of their agencies comes up in conversation - and that there are concrete steps being made by Congressional Republicans to abolish both of them by the end of 2018." ... "The Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal branch of government responsible for, among other things, maintaining the food supply of the US, is set to lose 29 percent of its funding. Health and Human Services (HHS), whose job it is to protect the health of all Americans, will also lose 23 percent of its budget."


Vox - The House just passed two bills that would stifle science at the EPA

"House Republicans just passed two bills that will make it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to use scientific research to protect health and the environment. And they've done so under the deceptive guise of 'transparency.' / Over the past two days, the House has passed the 'HONEST Act' and the 'EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act.' On the surface, they seem noble. They use the same language scientists use when advocating for stronger research practices. / But they're 'wolf in sheep's clothing types of statutes,' says Sarah Lamdan, a law professor who studies environmental information access at CUNY. 'What's really happening is that they're preventing the EPA from doing its job.' "


Bad Astronomy - BREAKING NEWS: Scott Pruitt, head of EPA, doesn't think carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming

"In a CNBC interview, when asked, "Do you believe that it's been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate?" he replied this way: / 'No, I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.' / This is science denialism at a stunning level. And it's incredibly disingenuous, too." ... "That's a classic denial method of distraction, sowing confusion about one issue to downplay another. Not only that, it's utter baloney. We know for a fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and the main driver for the increased global warming we've seen over the past few decades. We also know for a fact that all or nearly all of that warming we've seen is caused by human activity." ... "And that is why so many scientists are up in arms over the Trump administration's bizarre and terrible appointees to science agencies, like Pruitt. They aren't just ignorant of basic science; they're openly antagonistic toward it. And that's why we must continue to speak up, make our voices heard, and do what we can to prevent these people for destroying the one planet we've got."

Related: Nature - Trump and Republicans take aim at environmental agency: EPA chief Scott Pruitt denies carbon dioxide's impact on the climate, and promises deregulation.


IFL Science - Energy Department's Climate Office Banned From Using Phrase 'Climate Change'

"In case you needed reminding, it's a bad time to be a scientist in the US. If you work for a federal research group, you've been muzzled, had your funding cut to historically low levels, and been told by a committee of anti-intellectual parrots that you're constantly lying. / Earlier this month, the word "science" was removed from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mission statement under the auspices of a man who doesn't think carbon dioxide warms the planet. Now, it seems that the Department of Energy's (DoE) climate change research office has banned the use of the phrase "climate change". / As reported by Politico, a supervisor at the DoE's Office of International Climate and Clean Energy told the staff in no uncertain terms that the phrases "climate change", "emissions reduction", and "Paris agreement" are not to be used in written memos, briefings, or any form of communication."


Bad Astronomy - When it comes to climate change, some people just want to watch the world burn

"On Wednesday, March 29, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing entitled 'Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method'. / This hearing will be a sham. / My apologies for not mincing words, but there's no other way to say it. This Committee holding a hearing on the scientific method is like an arsonist holding a hearing on how to upgrade a fireworks factory security system. I strongly doubt the intent will be to honestly investigate climate change and scientific methodology. Instead, it will likely be an attack on the science, and lay the groundwork for further impediments to it. / This isn't hard to suss out; over the years the many sins of the Committee's majority members have been out in the open for all to see. Right after the GOP took over the House in the 2010 midterm elections, they stacked the Committee with members who deny basic science -- including such things as the Big Bang, evolution, climate science, and even anatomy (remember Todd Akin?). Their official Twitter feed commonly posts ridiculous comments..."


Scientific American Blogs - Anti-Immigration Rhetoric Is a Threat to American Leadership: Our embrace of international students and faculty has given the U.S. a leg up on all other countries in the race to lead in innovation and discovery

"America's universities are the best in the world. The quality of the students, faculty, teaching, infrastructure, the commitment to academic freedom, and the extraordinary research opportunities attract the best and brightest people from around the globe to the United States. And our nation is far better for it." ... "In all, 42 percent of the Nobel Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2015 went to individuals working/living in the United States, and nearly one third of those recipients were born outside the U.S. Our ability to attract the world's leading scientists to our universities has helped us maintain global leadership in innovation and discovery, a tremendous component of our economic strength and national security." ... "Research universities are seeing an immediate effect on the recruitment of international faculty and students. Stony Brook University has seen a decline of roughly 10 percent in international applications for graduate school this year, a figure that seems to be on a par with the decline seen at other institutions. The reasons for these declines may not be solely based on anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, but some accepted applicants to Stony Brook, especially from countries targeted by the first Executive Order, have stated explicitly that they will choose a Canadian or Australian university instead, based on the uncertainty of U.S. immigration policy and the fact that they are being singled out based on their country of origin, not on their academic credentials. And the recent suspension of expedited processing of H1-B visas, which is of significant concern to the Technology Sector, could also have a chilling effect on the ability of Universities to attract outstanding international faculty and scientists to help sustain our research and educational missions."


Scientific American Blogs - Republicans Want to Destroy Our National Parks. It's Up to Us to Save Them

"Since the election, Republicans in Congress have launched a sustained attack on America's national parks and public lands. Starting in January, they wasted no time putting in place new rules and legislation that threaten the future of our national treasures. They launched their assault on their very first day in session, and haven't stopped." ... "Republicans are determined to place our public lands in corporate hands, and Trump is happy to help them. So it's up to us. If you've ever loved our national parks, if you've ever enjoyed the wildlife in federal refuges, if you've ever taken your family to explore our heritage at national historic sites, now's the time for you to act."


Vox - 6 reasons the Trump presidency is in shambles

[On the plus side, this means Trump isn't wrecking things. On the negative side, it means nothing constructive is being accomplished by the President of the United States of America. It's a national embarrassment. However, before getting too comfortable thinking Trump isn't causing too much damage, take a look at the next article after this one.]

"Bullshitting is easy, but governing is hard: Trump's bluster and bombast, so effective on the campaign trail, has backfired spectacularly in office. / As Vox's Ezra Klein noted this week, Trump is failing on almost every front. His health care bill died -- killed by his own party. His approval rating has sunk to 35 percent. His executive orders banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries were struck down by the courts. Russia-related investigations are undermining his agenda. And his administration, plagued by leaks, remains divided."


Washington Post Op-ed - The Daily 202: How Trump's presidency is succeeding

"Despite the chaos and the growing credibility gap, Trump is systematically succeeding in his quest to "deconstruct the administrative state," as his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon puts it. He's pursued the most aggressive regulatory rollback since Ronald Reagan, especially on environmental issues, with a series of bills and executive orders. He's placed devoted ideologues into perches from which they can stop aggressively enforcing laws that conservatives don't like. By not filling certain posts, he's ensuring that certain government functions will simply not be performed. His budget proposal spotlighted his desire to make as much of the federal bureaucracy as possible wither on the vine."

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