Tag Archives: donald trump

why deny science when you can just make it up?

There is no reason to deny facts or evidence when you can just make up new ones that suit your pre-conceived notions, you truly believe anything that comes out of your own mouth is true, and tens of millions of other people do too.

This is not supposed to be a political blog. But it is supposed to be a blog about whether our civilization is progressing or at risk of a catastrophic downfall. And when the things in the first paragraph I just wrote are happening, I have to lean toward the catastrophic downfall side.

From Bloomberg:

“The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records,” Trump said in excerpts of an interview with Piers Morgan on the U.K. television network ITV broadcast Jan. 28. Trump didn’t specify the data behind his statement about setting records…

“There is a cooling, and there’s a heating,” he said. “I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place…”

In 2014, less than a year before he entered the 2016 presidential race, president, Trump said on Twitter that the “POLAR ICE CAPS are at an all time high, the POLAR BEAR population has never been stronger. Where the hell is global warming.”

Anybody with some basic science or information literacy knows that a short-term fluctuation in the data does not prove or disprove a long-term trend. You can look at a lot of those short-term fluctuations together and begin to determine whether they represent random noise or whether they are consistent with some longer-term trend you are seeing in the larger data set, as scientists are doing with recent hurricanes, droughts and fires.

This was my favorite quote of all though:

“The Paris accord, for us, would have been a disaster,” Trump said in excerpts of an interview with Piers Morgan. “Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel” Macron.

I can’t picture Emmanuel Macron, but what I can picture is Sasha Baron Cohen kissing Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights. Sometimes fiction actually does turn into reality!

Samantha Bee takes on the Apocalypse

I’m not a big Samantha Bee fan. I find her un-funny and would rather get my news elsewhere in a more serious form. It also makes me uncomfortable that she is essentially making fun of people’s religious beliefs here, even though yes they are kind of ridiculous on their face to those of us who don’t share them. You need to try to understand where people are coming from before you have any chance if changing their minds or at least staying well out of their way. On that note though, it is interesting watching this clip just to see some Christian fundamentalists talk about their beliefs in their own words. That, and the one laugh-out-loud-funny moment that kind of makes the point nicely that Trump is not part of any moral majority, religious or otherwise.

how to defraud the U.S. Census

From the Department of Pre-crime, a guy the Trump administration might appoint to run the 2020 Census might try to cook the books. It seems a little unfair to accuse someone of a crime they haven’t even had an opportunity to consider committing yet, but I found it interesting to consider how it could be done. This sort of thing definitely happens in some countries, for example to perpetuate minority rule in spite of demographic change.

Each census starts with a simple questionnaire sent to every household. In 1970 and 1980, over 75% of those queried sent back responses. In 2010 that figure dropped to 63.5%, and in 2020, with distrust of government at an all-time high and increasing fears of data breach, the response rate will likely be significantly worse—current estimates range from 55% to 60%. To identify the non-respondents—at least 40% of Americans—the Census Bureau will have to exert considerable energy.

Thomas Brunell will determine how vigorously to track down these unidentified people in diverse locations. In rural areas that commonly vote Republican, he could direct workers to scour the trailer parks, while in urban Democratic strongholds, he could order census takers to visit non-responding households only during working hours. He could spend his advertising budget wisely in some places and less so in others. He could dispatch non-Spanish-speaking personnel into Hispanic neighborhoods. He could feed fears of deportation in immigrant communities. He could use credit rating companies to locate non-respondents, although many of the poor will never appear on such registries.

There is a simpler route Brunell could take. He might choose to do little, a tool almost as effective as the nefarious schemes detailed above. So far, the Census Bureau’s budget has been held to its 2010 level, despite a significant increase in the population and the expected rise in the percentage of those who do not respond to the initial questionnaire. Without greater resources and dedicated will, the Census Bureau could leave tens of millions of Americans uncounted. The GAO has warned that the 2020 Census is at “high risk of failure,” but requests to add funds have not yet been granted by Congress. New coping technologies are being introduced, yet trial runs have been curtailed due to lack of financing. Plans to test a Spanish-language questionnaire have also lapsed. Such constraints raise the stakes. When resources are limited, how to allocate those resources becomes paramount.

 

ignorance and common sense

You would think ignorance and common sense would be opposites. But the term “common sense” has been in fact ruined because of its adoption by ignorant people. I’m not going to name names, but I have one particular U.S. President and political party in mind. Having common sense has come to be defined as believing one’s opinion is the truth. If you believe your opinion is the truth, you not only don’t know the limits of your knowledge, you can take willful steps to avoid acquiring knowledge, and you are completely impervious to evidence or logic others might attempt to share with you. Here are some illuminating quotes from a 2016 Washington Post article somewhat sadly titled Donald Trump doesn’t read much. Being president probably wouldn’t change that.

He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”

Trump said he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.” He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: “A lot of people said, ‘Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time…’ ”

Trump said reading long documents is a waste of time because he absorbs the gist of an issue very quickly. “I’m a very efficient guy,” he said. “Now, I could also do it verbally, which is fine. I’d always rather have — I want it short. There’s no reason to do hundreds of pages because I know exactly what it is.”

What is that old saying – he who knows not he knows not, he is a fucking idiot with control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Hopefully his age, propensity for temper tantrums, and fast food habit will lead to him having a stroke and dropping dead relatively soon.

If the Secret Service is reading this, yes I hope he dies soon of natural causes, no I wouldn’t pull the trigger myself, but I would be happy to bring the next silver-plated platter of Big Macs.

On the lighter side, Trump is not the first President with a supposed Big Mac habit. Maybe he will join Bill Clinton’s vegan club. No word yet on whether Hillary has come up with a vegan cookie recipe.

estate tax and pants on fire

Donald Trump’s pants are on fire when he talks about the estate tax, according to Politifact.

How about small businesses and farms? The center projected that only about 80 small farms and closely held businesses would pay any estate tax in 2017. That would amount to about 1 percent of all payers of the estate tax that year. And the estate tax revenue from small businesses and farms, the center said, would amount to fifteen-hundredths of 1 percent of the total paid under the estate tax in 2017.

So, getting rid of the estate tax would hardly “protect millions of small businesses and the American farmer,” as Trump put it.

Trump’s claim doesn’t hold up even if you account for small businesses and farms that would potentially benefit from elimination down the road. The number from the Tax Policy Center (80) only refers to the number of small businesses and farms that would have to pay the tax this year.

When Donald Trump opens his mouth, all I see is diarrhea coming out. His words mean nothing to me. He has no interest in even trying to find out if the things he is making up are true. Is it possible he thinks they are true because he says them? It is a sad and embarrassing time to be an American.

lugenpresse

Today’s German lesson: lugenpresse translates literally as “lying press”, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to translate it as “fake news”. In fact, the German version was heard at rallies during the Trump campaign apparently. This is a bit of history on the term from the Washington Post:

A decade later [the 1920s], it had turned into an explosive and stigmatizing propaganda slogan, used to stir hatred against Jews and communists. Critics of Adolf Hitler’s regime were frequently referred to as members of the “Lügenpresse apparatus.”

Until today, the word has an anti-Semitic connotation, and it implies hatred not only against journalists but against everyone who opposes the “will of the people.” That abstract concept emerged during World War II when Hitler sought to propagate the idea that Germans were a “master race” superior to all others, especially Jews and Slavic people.

The consequences of that rhetoric — of which the term “Lügenpresse” was an important component under propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels — were horrifying. Millions of people were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis, including Jews, political opponents and homosexuals.

Trump is ignorant of history at a minimum, and I think he has fascist tendencies. But I am only now beginning to think he is using actual, thinly-veiled Nazi-inspired propaganda. It’s evil.

 

not the Cuban Missile Crisis

Sheldon Stern, who was a historian at the JFK library for 23 years, points out that JFK stood up to his military leaders who were hell-bent on a full-scale invasion of Cuba, while today we are hoping that our military leaders might stand up to a President’s reckless decision to unleash the military and risk nuclear war.

It is all but impossible to imagine this kind of informed, rational and mature leadership coming from the Oval Office today. If discretion and common sense are to prevail, it will require, as noted above, turning the central dynamic of the Cuban missile crisis upside down; this time, the top military figures in the administration may be forced to try to short-circuit an impulsive over-reaction by their commander-in-chief. Today, fortunately, most senior military officers are vastly more politically sophisticated and historically educated than their 1962 counterparts (who received most of their formal military education before the advent of nuclear weapons). Indeed, Mattis has edited an important book about American views of our military and McMaster is the author of a highly-regarded study of the failure of civilian and military leadership to prevent the escalation of the Vietnam War. There is room for hope.

I too hope that cooler heads will prevail, and if the coolest heads are in the military at the moment I am behind them. But if the coolest heads are the military, it is a sign that the civilian leadership has completely failed. I am not confident that it will get us out of trouble this time, and even if it does it is a scary precedent for the future. Basically we are saying it is okay for the military to step in and take over in an emergency. Nothing in our constitution is supposed to allow that, and for it to happen the President has to be extraordinarily weak and the entire rest of the civilian government has to stand by and do absolutely nothing.

National Climate Assessment – censored?

13 U.S. agencies, including NOAA, NASA and EPA, are required to produce a National Climate Assessment every four years. The thing about bureaucracy, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad, is that it grinds on somewhat disconnected from the political process. So the latest National Climate Assessment has been produced. It has to be approved by political appointees in the agencies before it can be officially released, but no matter because the New York Times has posted the key appendix here, called the U.S. Global Change Research Program: Climate Science Special Report. I’ll post a couple excerpts below:

First, a bit of the up-front matter:

The findings in this report are based on a large body of scientific, peer-reviewed research, as well as a number of other publicly available sources, including well-established and carefully evaluated observational and modeling datasets. The team of authors carefully reviewed these sources to ensure a reliable assessment of the state of scientific understanding. Each source of information was determined to meet the four parts of the IQA Guidance provided to authors: 1) utility, 2) transparency and traceability, 3) objectivity, and 4) integrity and security. Report authors assessed and synthesized information from peer-reviewed journal articles, technical reports produced by federal agencies, scientific assessments (such as IPCC 2013), reports of the National Academy of Sciences and its associated National Research Council, and various regional climate impact assessments, conference proceedings, and government statistics (such as population census and energy usage).

“Fake news published by the failing New York Times”, indeed! I vowed never to forgive the New York Times for their role in the Iraq invasion debacle, but they are beginning to redeem themselves. The Trump junta seems to be getting frustrated that their Goebbels-esque propaganda isn’t just getting parrotted unopposed.

And now, I’ll just share this graphic which I found a bit shocking:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/climate/document-Draft-of-the-Climate-Science-Special-Report.html

One interesting thing is you might think Florida or Georgia might be the wrong place to be, but these maps suggest they may not change as much and the rest of the country will sort of catch up to create one big Jurassic stew. Now, people live in hotter places than Florida and Georgia and manage to get along just fine. The real question is whether we can grow food under these conditions.

If you don’t believe me that this is disconnected from the political process, read this Guardian article about how the USDA has been instructed to avoid the term climate change. That is the agency responsible for our nation’s food security.

Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead…

The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term “reduce greenhouse gases” blacklisted in favor of “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency”. Meanwhile, “sequester carbon” is ruled out and replaced by “build soil organic matter”.

Reading on, I have to say it isn’t clear how high up the political chain this directive came from, or whether it is a mid-level supervisor advising staff how to stay out of political trouble. Self-censorship is still censorship though, and indicates the politicians have created a climate (no pun intended) of caution and fear for scientists. I can’t argue with building organic matter though, which would be good with or without climate change.

a “soft military coup” for the U.S.?

This New Republic article is clearly very partisan. But it points out some concerns about three active or very recently retired generals being given unprecedented power over our country.

His complete failure to grow into the job has allowed multiple power centers to emerge and vie for ascendency within the administration. It has impelled other institutional actors to essentially expropriate from Trump governing tasks that should be his exclusively. In some cases, as when he gave military leaders a free hand in fighting terrorism, he has willingly parted with these obligations. In others, as when Congress wrested discretion over Russian sanctions away from him, he has been layered over reluctantly.

But the most alarming development is the one that ironically has official Washington the most relieved: the emergence of a trio of military officers (two retired, one actively serving) as de facto caretakers of the presidency.

It is perfectly consistent to say that the growing clout of generals John Kelly (the White House chief of staff), H.R. McMaster (the national security advisor), and Jim Mattis (the defense secretary) is preferable to an alternative in which Trump shambles through his presidency unencumbered, but also dangerous in its own right, and evidence of serious institutional failure. The hope is apparently to keep Trump’s administration within certain guardrails, so that if and when it fails, he doesn’t take the country and the world off the road with him.

If there is some kind of international crisis, I think I feel more comfortable with these guys making decisions than Trump. But I don’t like the idea that we have the military in charge rather than the civilian leadership, because they are very likely to come up with military solutions to problems. I always thought Trump would be lazy and delegate a lot of his job to subordinates, but this has taken a disturbing turn. It seems unlikely that Trump would be removed from office by Congress in the next four years, so at the moment I am hoping to avoid any major geopolitical crises through luck, and that someone will convince him not to run for reelection.