Trump Archive

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Trump's Racism and the Increasing Authoritarianism of Republicans

Donald TrumpI hesitate to comment on Trump's tweets because they're so often a distraction from more important actual policy. His latest racist tweets risk overshadowing his attempted policy change of restricting refugees from seeking asylum (more info: Vox - The Trump administration is dramatically restricting who can seek asylum). But the combination of these tweets being so beyond the pale, a chilling interview I heard on NPR yesterday, and a few disturbing studies I've come across recently, have all contributed to my decision to write about this issue.

Although it's almost surely common knowledge by now, over the weekend, Trump issued a series of tweets with a profoundly racist message:

So interesting to see "Progressive" Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly......
....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how.... is done. These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

Although he didn't call them out by name, it's well understood that Trump was mainly referring to Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Three were actually born in the U.S., while Omar became a naturalized citizen as a teenager. Unless you're being deliberately obtuse, it's obvious that Trump was trying to imply that these women weren't 'real' Americans, and the racist intent is quite clear.

White supremacist groups certainly took it that way. The Anti Defamation League compiled a slew of reactions from such parties, with perhaps the most explicit being from Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin who wrote, "This is the kind of WHITE NATIONALISM we elected him for," and "So this is not some half-assed anti-immigrant white nationalism. Trump is literally telling American blacks to go back to Africa." (The other reactions weren't much better.) When asked point blank by a reporter if this white supremacist support bothered him, Trump answered, "It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me." (source)


All that would be bad enough on its own, but yesterday morning on my way into work, I heard a chilling interview on NPR where they interviewed Adam Kennedy, the official White House Deputy Director of Communications (White House Spokesman Doesn't Back Away From Trump's Racist Tweets). This wasn't simply some random right wing pundit - he was an official representative of the White House. And while I know that politicians always put spin on things, this interview was so chilling because of the outright propaganda, the hostility to these women, the divisive accusations, and the combative stance against the journalists.

I'm going to quote some rather long excerpts from NPR's transcript of the interview, so you can see that I'm not pulling out short isolated comments to try to make Kennedy look worse. The authoritarianism and propaganda are real. Here's the first excerpt:

NOEL KING, HOST: Did the president know the history of this specific racist language when he decided to use it?

ADAM KENNEDY: I don't think any of the president's language was racist...

KING: You don't...

KENNEDY: ...I think what he was talking about was that we have some people in this country who liken it to garbage, who attack historically persecuted minorities and who hang out with people who actually killed civilians of allies of this country. And the president wants to stand up and make sure the American people know that he's proud of his country, he's going to stand up for people who aren't.

KING: I think we could refute everything that you just said there, but this is a short interview. You're saying the president...

KENNEDY: Please try. Please try.

KING: ...The president's language is not racist. So the White House is not - is standing by this remark that these women should go back to where they came from.

KENNEDY: The president said that they can stay, they can leave - but that people should be proud of this country. There's a lot to be proud of, just like he is.

KING: Does the president know that three of these women are from the United States of America - born here?

KENNEDY: Again, the point that the president was making is that when you liken this country to garbage; when you say that there is - that the reason we support another country is because of money, which is a historical trope against a persecuted minority in this country; when you hang out with people who attack military and civilian personnel of allies, that's something that should be shocking and that people in this country should be - should know about.

KING: You're talking in part about comments that Representative Omar has made about American Jews - that American Jews found very insensitive, which she apologized for. Before President Trump was president, he was a very vocal critic of President Obama. He was elected after being very critical of the U.S. government. But now he's telling this congresswoman - these congresswomen that they should leave if they're not happy with their government.

I mean, isn't it a core value of this country, of this democracy that you get to criticize people in power, that you get to be critical of the government?

KENNEDY: Absolutely. And this president has said from the beginning that you can be critical of this government. That doesn't mean you have to be - that doesn't mean that you don't have to be proud of this country. This president was proud of this country under President Obama; he's proud of this country now. Some people in this country, some people who say they serve this country haven't said one word about how they like this country. They refer to it as garbage. They say we're having concentration camps. They refuse to condemn attacks on law enforcement personnel. So I think that is very troubling.

KING: All of these congresswomen have said that they love this country. I imagine they would not have run for office if they didn't think the country could improve.

Moving on to the next excerpt:

KING: The president was asked yesterday whether...He was concerned that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with him. He said, quote, "it doesn't concern me because many people agree with me," end quote. Does it trouble you that his language is resonating with white nationalists?

KENNEDY: I don't know why it was. But I am troubled that some members of the far-left resonate with terrorists, that their language resonates with people who want to see an ally of this country destroyed, who want to see essentially the character of this nation destroyed.

KING: Sorry. The president said it doesn't concern him that white nationalists are finding common cause with his language. I wasn't clear on your answer. Does this concern you?

KENNEDY: Again, I think what's concerning is that you have people that are trying to cozy up with friends of terrorist organizations, with people who have supported terrorist organizations. And that should be known.

And here's the final excerpt, Kennedy's last substantive comment:

KENNEDY: Again, the president is pointing out the fact that there are some people on the far-left who have decided that the best way forward is demonizing this country and the people in it. That's what he's standing up against. That's what he's pointing out.

The whole interview reeks of propaganda and authoritarianism. Kennedy was blatantly attempting to change the meaning of what Trump actually wrote in those tweets. Go look over Trump's tweets again after having read these excerpts from this interview. I know that Trump has tried to add new comments since those tweets, but what Kennedy is saying is manifestly not what Trump wrote. Despite Kennedy's brief lip service, this really does seem to be attacking these congresswomen for having the audacity to criticize this particular administration.

And look at the actual ways Kennedy is trying to demonize these women. Even if there are kernels of truth to some of these accusations, Kennedy is twisting them beyond all meaningful interpretation, and adding in a few outright falsehoods, to try to make these women look like enemies of the United States.

There's absolutely no contrition or remorse, or even recognition that what Trump said was racist. In fact, there was a glaring lack of any effort by Kennedy to try to distance the White House from white nationalists.

I'm shocked that this was the response from the official White House Deputy Director of Communications during a public interview. How is the media supposed to deal with this White House or be balanced in interviewing both major parties when this is the type of interview response they get from the White House Deputy Director of Communications?

Rather than go into depth myself on Kennedy's various accusations, here are a few appropriate articles and reports:


The other issue I wanted to discuss is the increasingly authoritarian mindset of rank and file Republicans as revealed through a study that I recently learned about. The study is described in the article, What Donald Trump got right, and Justin Amash got wrong, about conservatives: Conservatism is an identity more than an ideology, and Trump knows it. Here's the description of the study from that article:

A clever 2018 paper by political scientists Michael Barber and Jeremy Pope tested this experimentally. Trump was constantly adopting contradictory positions on issues, and his reputation for saying and doing anything primed voters to believe he really had said whatever you told them he'd said. "There has never been a president (or any party leader) who shifts back and forth so often between liberal and conservative issue positions," they wrote, and that opened space for a revealing study.

Here's how it worked: Barber and Pope asked voters if they agreed or disagreed with different policies. Because of the, erm, flexibility of Trump's rhetoric, they were able to pick policies where Trump had, at some point, taken both a liberal policy position and a conservative policy position. And so some voters were asked about the policy without a cue telling them what Trump thought, but other were asked about the policy and given either Trump's liberal position on the policy or his conservative one.

The idea here was to see how much of a difference Trump's positioning made, and to whom. Among the most interesting findings is in the chart below. The people who identified as most strongly conservative were the likeliest to move in response to Trump. And the effect was about the same size whether Trump was taking the conservative or liberal position. It was the direction of Trump, not the direction of the policy, that mattered. Interestingly, there wasn't an equal and opposite reaction among strong liberals: They didn't change position much to oppose Trump.

"The fact that stronger conservatives are the ones most likely to react to the treatment -- regardless of the ideological direction of the treatment -- suggests that the nearly ubiquitous self-placed ideology measure is less a measure of principled conviction and more of a social identity," write Barber and Pope.

It's enlightening and disheartening at the same time. It explains why my own debates with conservatives over the years haven't been very productive. The Republican Party does not seem to be a principled conservative party based on a desire to institute conservative values, but a cult of personality around Trump, with an authoritarian deference to what Trump wants done. Perhaps the expression of Owning the Libs isn't just a slogan for right wing Internet trolls, but more indicative of the conservative mindset in general.


All this together has me very worried about the future of the United States. I've posted before in my Trump & Politics Roundup entries about the dangers Trump poses for leading America down an authoritarian path (e.g. linking to the article, How democracies die, explained: The problems in American democracy run far deeper than Trump.), but these recent stories have me even more worried. Trump was already well known for trying to demonize immigrants and minorities to make them scape goats, and his recent actions towards immigrants have only been getting worse. Now, he's openly writing racist accusations against Congresswomen in the U.S. House of Representatives and telling them to go back to the "places from which they came," even citizens born in the U.S. His Deputy Director of Communications is issuing divisive propaganda openly during a media interview, practically accusing the President's political opponents of being enemies of the U.S. And, many rank and file Republicans have such an authoritarian mindset that they're willing to change their own opinions based solely on what they think is Donald Trump's opinion. I worry about where the nation goes from here, especially if Trump escalates his authoritarian tactics.

Here's an article that I came across just after posting this with some even more depressing news:
New polling indicates Republicans actually like Trump more following racist tweet controversy: Responses to Trump's racist tweets reflect how polarized the country is.

Just to pull out two excerpts:

Although a USA Today/Ipsos poll found that a majority of people, 68 percent, saw Trump's tweets as offensive, there was a stark partisan divide: 93 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents found the tweet offensive, while only 37 percent of Republicans did, according to the poll, which was released on Wednesday. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Republicans said they agreed with Trump's tweets, while only 7 percent of Democrats agreed.
The polarized responses to Trump's tweets can also be seen in Trump's approval rating. Following the uproar surrounding Trump's racist comments, support for the president among Republicans rose by 5 percentage points to 72 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday. The same could not be said for his support among other groups: His net approval rating dropped by 2 percent among Democrats.

How in the hell can you read a message to U.S. citizens born in America to go back to the "places from which they came" as anything other than offensive? And more than half of Republicans agreed with the message, and his approval rating among Republicans even improved! Trump is a problem, but he's only a part of the problem.

If anyone ever asks me why the rest of us view the Republican Party as racist, this is a prime example of the rot in the party.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 22

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.

Like I wrote the last time I did one of these updates a few months ago, I haven't been posting in this series super regularly, because of just how depressing it is. I see all the damage Trump's doing to the country, but that his approval rating remains at 40%. I shouldn't be surprised. I predicted as much back at the end of 2016. I just wish I'd been wrong, and that there were more real patriots who gave a damn about what this country was supposed to stand for, and didn't support such a dangerous president who stands against practically every noble America ideal. It may not have been Sinclair Lewis who said so, but it certainly seems that "when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross".

Anyway, on to the links. I'm only going to do my normal excerpts for a few newer links. After that, I've got a long list of articles I'd been saving up but never got around to posting until now.

Time - The Impact of President Trump's 'Global Gag Rule' on Women's Health is Becoming Clear

In just one year, health care workers say the policy has had disastrous effect; as expected, clinics are shutting down, unsafe abortions are predicted to rise sharply and families are losing critical services across the globe.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation, which operates in more than 150 countries, faces setbacks not only in family planning but also in HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis services for both men and women. IPPF says that for $100 million in lost funding, the organization could have prevented 20,000 maternal deaths in 29 countries affected by the ban. Marie Stopes International, a London-based abortion and contraception provider that operates in 37 countries, estimates that more than 2 million women it serves will lose their access to contraception. This could lead to a further 6,900 maternal deaths. Just those two organizations' loss in funding could lead to a combined total of about 7.5 million unwanted pregnancies and 2.5 million unsafe abortions. [emphasis mine - Trump is directly responsible for all of those preventable deaths]

Scientific American Blogs - The Health and Safety of America's Workers Is at Risk: We've made great progress, but the Trump administration is intent on rolling back protections and favoring industry interests over the public interest

There are numerous indications that this progress will be slowed or even reversed by a Trump administration intent on rolling back public protections and prioritizing industry interests over the public interest.
The Trump administration makes no bones about its (de)regulatory agenda. The president boasts about cutting public safeguards and protections, and his agency heads are falling right in line. Our working men and women are the economic backbone of our nation. They produce the goods and services we all enjoy, depend on and often take for granted. They are our loved ones, our friends, and our colleagues. They deserve to come home from work safe and healthy.

Worker Memorial Day is a time to pause and remember workers who have given and lost so much in the course of doing their jobs. It is also a time to renew our vigilance and be ready to use our voices, votes and collective power to demand and defend rules, standards, policies and science-based safeguards that protect our loved ones at work. Let's hold our elected leaders and their appointees accountable for the actions they take--or don't take--to protect this most precious national resource.

Scientific American Blogs - Speaking Science to Power: A statement released by 317 National Academy of Sciences members challenges the widespread dismissal of science and scientific understanding by the Trump administration

In the aftermath of the last U.S. presidential election, many of the negative consequences mentioned in the September 2016 open letter are now unfolding. The Trump administration has initiated the process of U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and continues to cast doubt on the reality and seriousness of human-caused climate change. Negative consequences are now affecting many areas of science--not just climate science. The administration has shown a systematic disregard for using sound scientific information in public policymaking. Science inconsistent with the administration's ideological goals is ignored, suppressed, portrayed as too uncertain, and dismissed as politically and financially motivated.

Scientific American Blogs - Scott Pruitt Will Restrict the EPA's Use of Legitimate Science: The administrator's "transparency" proposal is a fundamentally flawed Trojan horse

The EPA is reportedly on the verge of restricting the science that EPA can use in decisionmaking and I'm livid. This is a move that serves no purpose other than to prevent the EPA from carrying out its mission of protecting public health and the environment. If Pruitt's proposal looks anything like House Science Committee Chairman's HONEST Act or its predecessor the Secret Science Act, we know it will be nonsensical and dangerous for our nation's ability to use science to protect people.

The Nation - Under Trump, ICE Has Become a Vast, Cruel Bureaucracy: Children seeking asylum are being separated from their parents for no good reason.

Over the past few years, the enforcement of immigration policy in this country has slowly shifted from the corrective to the punitive, and now to the abusive. We see this with the construction of walls around border cities, which has resulted in a shift of migratory trails to deserts and mountains and a rise in migrant deaths. We see this in the raids and arrests that ICE has conducted outside schools, places of worship, and soccer fields. We see this in the effort by Attorney General Jeff Sessions--previously a staunch advocate of states' rights--to stop places like California from declaring themselves sanctuary states. And we are now seeing this in the practice of breaking up asylum-seeking families. None of it has worked. But it has created a vast, cruel bureaucracy that has, step by step, diminished our collective humanity. - ICE, Trump and the bitter fruit of dehumanization

ICE's 40 percent increase in arrests within the country after Trump took office is now closely associated with the president's political priorities. His sweeping executive orders on immigration broadened the focus of enforcement beyond serious threats to public order. Arrests of immigrants without criminal convictions have spiked dramatically. Routine "check-ins" with ICE officials can end with handcuffs and deportation. "Sanctuary cities" -- a recurring presidential political obsession -- are being targeted with additional personnel. Hundreds of children have been removed from parents seeking asylum and detained separately -- compounding their terrible ordeal of persecution and flight. ICE recently announced a new policy that makes it easier to detain pregnant women. Asylum seekers have often been denied "humanitarian parole" while their cases are decided, effectively jailing them without due process.
ICE is not currently an agency famous for its care and discernment. In releasing an immigration activist detained by ICE early this year, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest said, "It ought not to be -- and it has never before been -- that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust. ... We are not that country."

Vox - Never-Trump Republicans face an obvious choice. They're not going to like it.: If they believe Donald Trump is a threat to America, they should vote Democrat.

The first thing to understand is that lots of popular conceptions of Trump -- that he's an anomaly, an aberration, an outsider who's hijacked and split the party -- are just wrong. Taylor cites this recent paper from political scientist Larry Bartels, which shows in great detail that, for all intents and purposes, there is no anti-Trump faction of the GOP. The party is united behind Trump, which is why Congress has provided no meaningful check on his power or corruption.
Here's Taylor:
Let's remember what's at stake. The Republican Party is slowly becoming comfortable with the authoritarian, blood and soil politics of Marine Le Pen's National Front. A competitive, proto-fascist party (let's not mince words) in a two-party system would be an existential threat to American democracy.

There you have it: an existential threat. A party that is not meaningfully restrained by shared norms of conduct cannot long be legally or democratically restrained either. And the GOP has grown more lawless with each passing administration.

It may sound faintly absurd to think that the US could see widespread political violence or openly rigged elections, but lots of things that are currently happening sound faintly absurd too. Norms and expectations that were once considered sacrosanct have dissolved like tissue paper, one after the other. Who's to say where it could lead?

Which is to say, an existential threat is a serious thing.

And here are the links from my backlog. And even this is just a small sample of what I read practically every time I read the news. Man, times are depressing. Trump and Republicans are doing so much damage to the country and the rest of the world.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 21

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 because, quite frankly, it's so damned disheartening. Every time I review politics and see all the damage being done to the United States, I get depressed and worried for the future. And today, as in literally just an hour or two ago, we see a corrupt President trying very hard to discredit the very agency that could investigate him. And it's working. Republican trust in the FBI is down 22 points since 2015 (source).

Here's a good article discussing Trump's feud with the FBI, followed by a scary excerpt.

"Unprecedented": 9 historians on why Trump's war with the FBI is so stunning

Yes, the independence of the FBI is under siege. Bringing an independent judiciary and investigative branch under the domination of the executive is one of the first moves of regimes that do not respect the rule of law. Pinochet's Chile. Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union. Putin's Russia.

The rationale is simple. Besides the military, the judiciary and law enforcement branches are the most powerful in a state. Control and politicization of that wing allows the ruler to criminalize his opponents, to label them enemies of the state, when in fact those so-called enemies are really defenders of a more viable, democratic nation. That is why they are a threat.

One of the scariest things is actually a few months old by now, summed up succinctly in the headline itself:

Washington Post - In a new poll, half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it

Half of Republicans would actually support postponing an election if Donald Trump called for it. That is absolutely outrageous. That is exactly the type of thing the despots and dictators do, and here in the United States of America, we have half of the members of the party in power supporting such a gross violation of democratic principles.

Here's another article to do nothing to reassure you, also followed with a few excerpts:

Vox - How democracies die, explained: The problems in American democracy run far deeper than Trump.

Demagogues and authoritarians do not destroy democracies. It's established political parties, and the choices they make when faced with demagogues and authoritarians, that decide whether democracies survive.

"2017 was the best year for conservatives in the 30 years that I've been here," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week. "The best year on all fronts. And a lot of people were shocked because we didn't know what we were getting with Donald Trump."

The best year on all fronts. Think about that for a moment. If you want to know why congressional Republicans are opening an assault on the FBI in order to protect Trump, it can be found in that comment. This was a year in which Trump undermined the press, fired the director of the FBI, cozied up to Russia, baselessly alleged he was wiretapped, threatened to jail his political opponents, publicly humiliated his attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation, repeatedly claimed massive voter fraud against him, appointed a raft of unqualified and occasionally ridiculous candidates to key positions, mishandled the aftermath of the Puerto Rico hurricane, and threatened to use antitrust and libel laws against his enemies.

And yet McConnell surveyed the tax cuts he passed and the regulations he repealed and called this not a mixed year for his political movement, not a good year for his political movement, but the best year he'd ever seen.

How Democracies Die contains quite a bit about Trump, but it is largely what we already know: Trump has authoritarian instincts -- indeed, he checks every box on a test of authoritarian leaders -- but thus far, he has lacked the discipline and the institutional capacity to upend American democracy.
What if, instead of a louche, undisciplined, boorish, and insulting demagogue, Trump were a smooth, calculating, strategic, and disciplined demagogue? What if it were not Trump who had won the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but John Kelly -- a four-star general who shares many of Trump's cultural grievances and his xenophobic intuitions but could wrap himself in the flag, in the rhetoric of patriotism, in the dangers that lurk beyond our borders?

Indeed, if I had to rank the most unsettling moments of the past year, high on my list would be press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders's rejoinder to a journalist who asked about a baldfaced lie Kelly had told. "If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate," she said. That is how democracies die.

I just finished reading a young adult historical novel, The Devil in Vienna. It was about a Jewish girl's experience in Vienna around the time Hitler was coming to power, based largely on the author's own experiences. And no, things are nowhere near that bad, yet, and hopefully won't ever be, but the parallels are deeply disturbing - extreme patriotism, nearly religious reverence for the flag, scapegoating a minority group, the authoritarian leader discrediting and interfering with legitimate government agencies, the cult of personality around that leader. When you see the direction our country is headed, and look at what has happened in history when other countries have gone down that path, it will make you very, very scared for the possible future of the U.S. Let's just hope the Democrats do well in the next election.

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.'


Selling Out