Trump Archive

Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 20

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

How in the hell did this man get elected?


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

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

Headings from the article:

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 19, The Disgraceful Arpaio Pardon

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 little while since I've done one of these posts, partly because I was on vacation, and partly because I've been busy with other things. I have a back log of articles to post in the next entry, but right now, there's one act by Trump so disgraceful and worrying that I'm going to focus solely on it - the pardon of Joe Arpaio.

New York Magazine - Trump Flaunts His Indifference to the Rule of Law

Even a week later, the stench of it hangs in the air. The pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is one of the more chilling authoritarian moves that Trump has made so far. I say this not simply because Arpaio treated prisoners in his charge in barbaric ways; not just because the president described this brutality as Arpaio simply "doing his job"; not even because Arpaio proudly and constantly engaged in racial profiling, making Latino citizens and noncitizens alike afraid to leave their own homes. I say it for a simpler reason: because it is Trump's deepest indication yet that the rule of law means nothing to him.
It is a pardon seemingly designed to blow a raspberry at the court system, and tell anyone in law enforcement or border control or ICE or anywhere for that matter that, if you commit brutal or illegal acts, the big man has your back. / This is government as an unaccountable, legally immune thug.


Rolling Stone - Why Trump's Arpaio Pardon Is So Terrifying: This isn't how things are supposed to work in a country that adheres to the rule of law

Before getting to the egregiousness of the misdemeanor pardon, it's worth briefly surveying Arpaio's violations of the Constitution and other abuses of power. For example, he violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment by subjecting pre-trial detainees - that is, people who have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent - to dangerously high temperatures and contaminated food. Arpaio erected an outdoor jail in Phoenix known as Tent City that he himself referred to as a "concentration camp" and which remained in use for more than two decades. Numerous prisoners died in his jails, and the county paid out millions of dollars in wrongful death damages and settlements. Arpaio also had critics in government and the media arrested, resulting in the county having to make further payouts. (There's more; for a fuller picture, see the Phoenix New Times' reporting highlights.)
By pardoning someone with Arpaio's history of illegally targeting racial minorities, Trump endorsed the use of policing practices to deprive people of color of their rights under the Constitution. Furthermore, by pardoning Arpaio for the specific crime of defying a court order, Trump announced his intention to free his cronies from accountability for lawbreaking, raising the possibility that he will discourage his campaign associates from providing evidence in the Russia investigation with the promise of pardons if they are held in contempt of Congress or the courts.
That is precisely the opposite of how things are supposed to work in a country that adheres to the rule of law, in which the rules are supposed to apply to even those with the most power and connections. The U.S. system of checks and balances is designed to constrain the power of elected officials. But Trump appears prepared to use his pardon power to make an end run around the judiciary, gutting its ability to enforce its orders that the Constitution be obeyed. The pardon power is broad, but if Trump is going to use it to obstruct justice, Congress needs to stop him.


The Daily Show

And here's why Trump's pardon is an even bigger deal than merely condoning Arpaio's illegal actions. Remember how the three branches of government are supposed to be equal? Well, convicting someone of contempt is the one and only way the judicial branch can put muscle behind its decisions. So when the President of the United States steps in and pardons someone's contempt conviction, he's essentially rendering the courts powerless.
It feels like Trump did this, not just to reward Arpaio's loyalty, but to send a message to all his other cronies from the campaign, 'Hey guys, good news. We get our own set of laws. You don't need to cooperate with Mueller in the Russia investigation. I'll just pardon you.'

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 18

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.

Obviously, there's a lot more news that I haven't included here. Bad news comes out of the Trump administration and Republican controlled House and Senate too fast for me to keep up with it all. (I wonder if that's a strategy - overwhelm the public with so much that people can't be outraged about everything.)

And damn, these posts are so freakin' depressing. If I just quit giving a damn about other people, I suppose I could ignore Trump and all the damage he's causing and just enjoy my own comfortable little bubble. But these are literally life and death stakes. His Mexico City policy is going to kill tens of thousands of people. The new Republican healthcare bill could kill tens of thousands per year more.

How in the hell did we get here as a nation where we've voted in such horrible politicians? The 4th of July is coming up in just a couple weeks, and I'm struggling with how to celebrate pride in America when I'm so disgusted and embarrassed with the current state of government. Setting off fireworks and waving flags seem hollow when an incompetent proto-fascist demagogue like Trump is leading the nation.


HAI Press Release - Helicopter Association International Strongly Opposes President Trump's Air Traffic Control Privatization Plan

Helicopter Association International (HAI) today joined other national organizations in opposing privatization of the nation's air traffic control (ATC) system.

These organizations signed a joint letter to President Donald Trump, expressing concerns that the plan would directly and significantly benefit the airline industry while destabilizing the current successful ATC system and raising costs through user fees that would be passed on to consumers.

"All stakeholders on both sides of this issue acknowledge that we already have the safest, most efficient air traffic control system in the world," said Matt Zuccaro, president and CEO of HAI. "So what problem are they trying to solve?"

"This initiative appears to be an effort by the airlines for more control of the airspace and the airports," continued Zuccaro. "As we all witness the airlines struggling with their own internal technology issues and related problems, does it really make sense to hand over control of the best ATC system in the world to them?"

Related: Joint Letter from 16 Aviation Associations Regarding Trump's Proposal to Privatize Air Traffic Control (the letter mentioned above)

Related: PR Newswire - Airline Passenger Group Says Airline Control Of FAA Not The Answer

Related: National Air Transportation Association - Myths and Facts Surrounding Air Traffic Control Corporatization


Newsweek - Will Trump Visit U.K? After attack on Sadiq Khan, Theresa May Faces Calls to Cancel State Trip

[This was particularly shameful behavior from Trump. And baffling. How can you screw up foreign relations so badly with the U.K.? Who criticizes a mayor in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack?]

President Donald Trump's already controversial planned state visit to the United Kingdom has just become a whole lot more contentious. Multiple tweets attacking London mayor Sadiq Khan in the wake of Saturday's attack in London that left seven people dead have led several leading British politicians to call for Prime Minister Theresa May to cancel the invitation.

"Sadiq Khan has shown dignity and leadership," said Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats. "Theresa May absolutely must withdraw the state visit. This is a man insulting our national values at a time of introspection and mourning."

Those comments were slammed by senior Labour member of Parliament David Lammy.

"You are truly beneath contempt," he said in a series of tweets in reply to Trump. "You are just a troll. Show some bottle please PM. Cancel the state visit and tell Trump where to get off.

"You demean your office by misquoting and smearing the Mayor of a city that has just been attacked and is also the capital of your close ally. You besmirch the presidency, you taint previous Presidents with your behavior & you bring shame on your great country and its great people."

Related: The Guardian Editorial - The Guardian view on Trump's state visit to the UK: his invitation should be rescinded

Related: The Guardian - Trump's state visit to Britain put on hold: US president told Theresa May he did not want trip to go ahead if there were large-scale public protests


Industrial Equipment News - Energy Chief: Carbon Dioxide Not Prime Driver of Warming: His view is contrary to mainstream climate science.

Asked on CNBC's "Squawk Box" whether carbon emissions are primarily responsible for climate change, Perry said no, adding that "most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in."

Perry's view is contrary to mainstream climate science, including analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The EPA under President Donald Trump recently removed a web page that declared "carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change."


Nature Op-ed - Fight the silencing of gun research

In the half-century since the assassination of Martin Luther King, more civilians in the United States have been killed with guns than American soldiers have died in all US wars since the nation was founded in 1776. Currently, on an average day, about 300 Americans are shot and 100 die from gunshot wounds -- in murders, attempted suicides or accidents (see go.nature.com/2qnp4m2).
Yet the US government, at the behest of the gun lobby, limits the collection of data, prevents researchers from obtaining much of the data that are collected and severely restricts the funds available for research on guns. I have watched this first-hand, being one of a half-dozen or so gun researchers in the United States who has continuously published in this field over the past two decades.
Because of a two-decade stranglehold on US gun research, there are few, if any, scientific studies for people to refer to when promoting or countering proposed changes to gun control. Policymakers are essentially flying blind for what is currently classified as the third leading cause of US injury and death, after motor vehicles and opioids (see go.nature.com/2rpky2y).
Alarmingly, the gun lobby is increasingly aligning itself with a broad political movement that sees science not as a search for truth and understanding, but as a tool for promoting partisan agendas (see go.nature.com/2sderwh). The American Bar Association and many medical societies have spoken out on the firearm funding limitations imposed by Congress. Now all scientific associations need to add their voices.


Vox - World leaders tell jokes about Trump. But the implications aren't funny at all.

It's one thing when American late-night TV show hosts and online commenters make fun of President Donald Trump. It becomes something completely different -- and, frankly, alarming -- when world leaders mock the president.
But even though Turnbull thought his comments were off the record, he was still mocking the US president as a pompous clown in front of a room full of journalists and fellow politicians. When viewed in a wider context, that's more than a bit unnerving. This is an ally of the United States blatantly demonstrating that he doesn't take the president seriously.


Washington Post Op-ed - Trump said foreign leaders wouldn't laugh at the U.S. Now they're laughing at him.

"In the private conversations I've had with heads of states and ministers of foreign relations ... they all feel what Turnbull just basically came out and said: This is, by far, the least capable person ever to sit in the office and it's appalling they have to deal with him," said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a global risk-assessment firm. "Even in a country that really needs to have a good relationship with the United States, you're just not willing to deal with it. Your own ego will say, 'Screw this guy.' "


Vox - Trump wants to deport Iraqi Christians. A federal judge may have just saved them.: ICE officials arrested dozens of Iraqi Christian nationals over the weekend of June 10th in Michigan. The ACLU is fighting to keep them home.

When more than 100 Iraqi Chaldean Christians in Michigan were arrested and threatened with immediate deportation the weekend of June 10th, the Trump administration's oft-repeated promises to protect Christians around the world rang not just darkly hollow but demonstrably false. After all, local activists argued, deporting Christians back to the war zones of Iraq was tantamount to a death sentence.
"Not only is it immoral to send people to a country where they are likely to be violently persecuted, it expressly violates United States and international law and treaties," Kary Moss, the executive director of the ACLU of Michigan told the Huffington Post soon after the arrests. "Our immigration policy shouldn't amount to a death sentence for anyone."


Vox - John Oliver: it's time for Trump to stop lying to coal miners

Oliver points out that the coal industry employs fewer people than JC Penny ("I didn't even know JC Penny had employees anymore!") but, to his credit, takes the suffering of coal communities seriously.

In fact, he takes it so seriously that he dares to tell them the truth. Oliver does two things that are rare in mainstream media reports about coal. First, he cites research showing that competition from natural gas and renewables, not Obama regulations, is killing US coal.

Second, he makes clear that the interests of coal miners and coal executives often diverge -- that it's coal CEOs, not coal miners, that Trump is close to. In fact, coal executives are in the process of trying to screw over retired miners as we speak.

Related: Washington Post Fact Checker - Pruitt's claim that 'almost 50,000 jobs' have been gained in coal [Spoiler - It's a lie.]


NY Times Op-ed - Paul Krugman - Pure Class Warfare, With Extra Contempt

he Senate version of Trumpcare - the Better Care Reconciliation Act - is out. The substance is terrible: tens of millions of people will experience financial distress if this passes, and tens if not hundreds of thousands will die premature deaths, all for the sake of tax cuts for a handful of wealthy people. What's even more amazing is that Republicans are making almost no effort to justify this massive upward redistribution of income. They're doing it because they can, because they believe that the tribalism of their voters is strong enough that they will continue to support politicians who are ruining their lives.
This bill does nothing to reduce health care costs. It does nothing to improve the functioning of health insurance markets - in fact, it will send them into death spirals by reducing subsidies and eliminating the individual mandate. There is nothing at all in the bill that will make health care more affordable for those currently having trouble paying for it. And it will gradually squeeze Medicaid, eventually destroying any possibility of insurance for millions.

Who benefits? It's all about the tax cuts, almost half of which will go to people with incomes over $1 million, the great bulk to people with incomes over 200K.

Related: Vox - The Better Care Reconciliation Act: the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, explained


Vox - The health bill might pass because Trump has launched the era of Nothing Matters politics

Since taking office, his signature values -- showmanship, shamelessness, and corruption -- have spread like kudzu in official Washington. It's now a country where Cabinet secretaries go on television to lie and claim that a $600 billion cut to Medicaid won't cause anyone to lose coverage. It's a country where the speaker of the House introduces an amendment to erode protections for patients with preexisting conditions and then immediately tweets that it's just been "VERIFIED" (by whom?) that the opposite is happening. Republican senators who a couple of months ago were criticizing the House bill's Medicaid cuts as too harsh are now warming up to a Senate bill whose cuts are even harsher.

The watchwords of Trump-era politics are "LOL nothing matters." If you're in a jam, you just lie about it. If you're caught in an embarrassing situation, you create a new provocation and hope that people move on. Everything is founded, most of all, on the assumption that the basic tribal impulses of negative partisanship will keep everyone on their side, while knowing that gerrymandering means Republicans will win every toss-up election. If you happened to believe that Republicans in office would deliver on their health care promises, well, you might be interested in a degree from Trump University.

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.

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