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How Trump has lived up to my expectations

Funny to realize, I haven’t posted to this blog for all of 2017. I have been doing more reading than writing, mostly on Twitter. Like Hillary Clinton, I have been trying to figure out “What Happened.” I have not read Clinton’s book yet. Interviews have focused on Russian interference in the election, which is important. I’m still trying to figure out why people vote for candidates like Trump, and it involves how our brains work. That is the post that I have been trying to get uploaded, and I plan to do that soon. For now, I want to look at where we are now and how my previous year’s posts successfully predicted Trump would make a terrible president.

Undercutting his Secretary of State is one example of how Trump’s mental instability makes him a national security risk. As Senator Corker has alerted us, Trump’s outbursts are putting us on a path to nuclear war with North Korea. It shows that presidents, unlike reality show hosts, have to be careful with their words, especially when it contradicts the efforts of their own staff. It is why we have a White House in such disarray. It leads many, including Secretary Tillerson, to come to the conclusion that Trump is stupid. Trump has shown himself be ignorant and arrogant. He believes he knows more that everyone else and doesn’t need to listen to them, including members of his own cabinet. He has boasted that he will alone will fix everything that is wrong in Washington and that he will know more than all of the experts once he starts reading the classified briefing papers in the Oval Office. I believe that Trump is smart. Unfortunately, the rational part of his brain is not in control of his speech and actions. It is the emotional part of Trump’s brain that directed him through the campaign and now influences his actions in office. It is that same part of the brain that Trump activates in his supporters who are willing to overlook his failings because he is telling them what they want to hear. I will have more on that in another post. For now, you can read Political Animals by Richard Shenkman.

Charlottesville is another example of Trump’s dog whistle to white supremacists. His “both sides” argument is totally absurd. Video recordings showed torch-holding marchers defending a statue of General Lee by yelling anti Semitic and homophobic chants. If I had been a “good person” who may have disagreed with the decision to remove a statute, I would have quickly realized these were not “good people” I was marching with and would have exited quite quickly. Thanks to the protesters calling for the removal of statues celebrating the Confederacy, we have learned that the statues were erected decades after the end of the civil war and were designed to promote segregation and Jim Crow. That is why white supremacists have taken a strong interest in defending those statues. Trump gives them cover by framing it as an argument over preserving history. He blamed the protestors of the statues for the resulting violence, ignoring that the statue defenders were there to provoke violence. Since then, Trump has been stronger in his condemnations of NFL athletes protesting police killings of unarmed black men than he has of Nazis and Klansmen.

Klansmen, Nazis, and other white supremacists fill that “basket of deplorables” that Hillary Clinton described in the campaign. Add to them, the religious right who are happy that Trump is delivering the Supreme Court to them as he promised. They are not afraid to jump in to jump into that basket with Steve Bannon and other white nationalists. These groups remain the bulk of Trump’s supporters, while others who voted for him have become disillusioned, making Trump the most unpopular president in history. On January 20, Trump had the chance to put the campaign behind him and be a president for all of the people. Instead, he has done nothing to reach out to those who did not vote for him, even though 3 million more people voted for Clinton. Instead, he wants us to believe that all those votes were illegitimate and can therefore dismiss the opinions of everyone but his hardcore followers. That leaves behind the other half of Trump supporters that Clinton described; the voters who are anxious about their economic futures. They put their hopes in a businessman with business experience who they believed would run the government like a business. Unfortunately, Trump is a terrible businessman and many of his business deals have failed. He is, however, a very good con man, as the enrollees of Trump University have learned. More voters are now realizing how badly they were conned as Trump demonstrates his ineptness for holding public office. Trump doesn’t understand how government works. He only knows how to campaign, and that is what he continues to do. Much of his time is spent holding political rallies, tweeting, and playing golf. That is why I refuse to call him President. I won’t until he starts to act like one.

I call him Know-Nothing Donald. I try to avoid the practice of name calling in political debates. For Donald Trump, I can justify my exception. First, Trump has no problem with name calling to describe his opponents. In the campaign, Trump constantly referred to his opponents as Crooked Hillary, Lying Ted, Little Marco, etc. Now he calls the leader of North Korea “Little Rocket Man” with potentially disastrous consequences. Again, Trump shows he has no interest in doing anything differently now than he did in the campaign and demeans the position of President. Secondly, calling Trump a Know-Nothing has historical context. During the 1850s, the United States was headed to the violent disunion of the Civil War. Racism and slavery were the most serious issues our country faced then. Meanwhile, the political debate was dominated by the demonization of immigrants as the cause of the nation’s problems. Know-Nothing politicians gained power with anti-immigrant rhetoric, much of it aimed at Irish Catholics. Today, climate change, racism in our criminal justice system, and economic inequality endanger our country’s and planet’s future. Meanwhile, Trump calls global warming a hoax. He attacks NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to call attention to the killing of unarmed black men by police. His economic policies amount to big giveaways to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. He would rather bash immigrants, like his Know-Nothing ancestors. That bashing started on the day he announced his candidacy. Since the election, he has been still trying to build the wall, even though he has given up on having Mexico pay for it. His Muslim bans keep getting knocked down by the courts. He has ended Obama’s popular DACA program. He even wants to drastically cut legal immigration, angering businesses who are having trouble filling positions in this tight job market. As with the days of the original Know-Nothings, his political base supports the immigrant bashing and loves the distraction.

Notice how Trump is obsessed with numbers and popularity. When Trump doesn’t like how he is being treated by a TV show or network, he responds on Twitter that the program or network has low ratings. Magazines and newspapers printing news he doesn’t like are failing or losing circulation, according to Trump. Reports coming out of the White House indicate Trump is not happy with his continued low ratings and is responding with temper tantrums directed at any one in his vicinity.

Governments depend upon the commitment of the many who serve at all levels. Much of the staff of the various branches of government, including the White House, serve through the decades as Democratic and Republican administrations come and go. That is until now. While Trump demands loyalty from his staff, he has created a toxic workplace in the White House, according to reports that have leaked out. Those who were able to leave have left. Those who remain have joined the resistance, tweeting from unauthorized Twitter accounts, sounding the alarm on the damage being done by Trump and the cronies he has put in charge of the EPA, Interior Department, and other government agencies. When the entire Arts Commission resigned, they sent Trump a detailed letter with a coded message. The first letter of each paragraph spell RESIST. Science advisor Dan Kammen followed with his resignation letter in response to Trump’s reversing Obama’s progress on climate change and failing to condemn racism in Charlottesville. The first letter of each paragraph of Kammen’s letter spell IMPEACH.

More people are waking up and getting organized politically. The Women’s March was organized within days after the election with masses of people showing up across the country on the day after the inauguration. More marches and demonstrations followed through the spring. March themes included climate change, support for science, Trump’s taxes, and impeachment. Impromptu demonstrations were held at the nation’s airports when Trump signed his first Muslim ban. Disabled activists held sit-ins in their wheelchairs in the halls of the Capitol to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Newly empowered citizens began downloading the Indivisible Guide and using it to make calls to their representatives, arrange office visits, and participate in town halls.

Our free society is dependent on a strong first amendment. Trump attacks the press because a free press is the biggest threat to his authoritarian rule. That is why he admires Putin, who has no problems with silencing reporters who dare challenge his authority. As more stories come to light over Russian involvement in the election and the Trump campaign, the cloud over the White House continues to grow. In response, Trump lashes out even more on Twitter and at the White House staff. He calls the stories fake news. No one can control his rage, not even Chief of Staff Kelly. So the leaks to the press continue, and Trump doesn’t understand that everything he does only makes things worse.

Republicans are in control of the White House and Congress. They have failed to pass any major piece of legislation. They have failed to repeal Obamacare as they have promised to do for years. Much of this failure rests with Trump himself who has done very little, if anything, to advance his agenda. Trump blames the Republican leadership for the lack of action. Unlike Obama, he doesn’t read or understand the legislation being debated. He can only speak in generalities. Not having governmental or political experience is bad enough. Not having any interest in learning how to do his job is even worse.

Our country is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Even with Republicans in control of Congress, there is still a chance for impeachment. Various scholars have cited actions taken by Trump that could be considered impeachable offenses. One is the threat by Trump to revoke the licenses of unfriendly broadcasters. Meanwhile, the Russian investigation advances, much to Trump’s dismay. There may be a chance to invoke the 25th amendment. Trump has provided plenty of evidence he is mentally unstable and unfit to hold office. Yes, with Trump gone, we would still be stuck with Mike Pence. Given that we are at great risk of getting into a nuclear war, I think I will take my chances with Pence.

Nevertheless, we persist. If we can get rid of Trump now, we can deal with replacing Pence in 2020. Of course, we need to remove Trump by only legal means. I wish Donald Trump no harm. I want him to realize that he is completely incapable of doing the job. I want Trump to just go away. Then he can play all of the golf he wants.

 

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October 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Donation to Donald Trump

A few weeks ago, I received a fundraising letter from Donald Trump. I decided to send him a donation in the postage paid envelope that came with the letter.

trump-contribution-envelope

trump-contribution-front

trump-contribution-back

My message on the back of the letter:

I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me. 

khizr-kahn-with-constitution

Khizr Kahn lends his pocket constitution.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z7lN7nQjG0

October 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump on Climate and Science

I have been listing as many reasons as I can why we cannot permit Donald Trump to be President of the United States. I would like to focus on the issue on climate change, which has been one of my biggest concerns as a voter. We do not have much time left to get this right, and, unfortunately, too little attention has been paid to it. When it comes to selecting our next president, the choice is clear, even if you are choosing between four candidates.

One way the issue has figuratively come home to me was just before the California primary. I came home to turn on the local TV news and found that Bernie Sanders was on my street! OK, so he was two miles away, but he was still on my street. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was hosting him at the Center for Labor Research and Education. Afterward, Sanders came out to speak to the press. He told them of how he has observed climate change in his state of Vermont and how Lake Champlain no longer freezes over every winter. When I heard that, I was shocked. It was Christmas of 1989 that I saw the lake frozen solid. I was visiting my adoptive mother Alice Wiser in Burlington. That following summer, I stayed again at the house, where BTW Bernie Sanders had previously celebrated his 40th birthday (Alice, was not at the party which was hosted by her housemates. She was off on one of her travels around the world.) It was weird to swim in such a big body of water that did not taste of salt. In the winter, I saw the ice fishers. They drove their SUVs on the solid ice, set up their tents, built their camp fires, and drilled holes in order to drop their lines. Now Bernie was telling me that, in recent winters, the lake has not been freezing over.

https://www.lakechamplaincommittee.org/lcc-at-work/global-warming-lake-champlain/

As evidence builds that humans are warming the planet and time runs out to do something about it, both Trump and his running mate Mike Pence deny that global warming is even happening. Trump has promised to pull our country out of the COP21 agreement on climate made in Paris last year. Now, 375 scientists have signed a letter opposed to a Trump presidency.

http://mashable.com/2016/09/20/scientists-letter-against-trump-climate-plan/#xEMvDTf.ePqf

Last May, Trump gave his formal policy address on energy to a petroleum conference in North Dakota. As I listened I was amazed at how little he was saying made sense. Now I know very little about energy, but it was clear to me that I knew more than Donald Trump, who boasted how we would save the fossil fuel industry with more mining and drilling. The problem is that the fossil fuel industry is suffering from over supply. Drilling more will only lead to lower prices and fewer jobs for oil, gas, and coal workers. In fact, coal companies are going bankrupt as fracking makes cleaner natural gas cheaper and more preferable. There were a couple of points where Trump was somewhat correct. Yes, solar and wind have environmental impacts, too, and we need to reduce bird deaths from wind generators. Trump also supports nuclear, though it would still have to compete with the cheaper fossil fuels that Trump would make even cheaper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqRkv9VTaMQ

Hillary Clinton wants to continue the progress on climate and build on the work of President Obama. She has chosen a running mate, Tim Kaine, who shares her commitment to climate action. The Democratic Party platform advocates a price on carbon emissions. The Republican platform flatly rejects a carbon tax. For a short time, Gary Johnson suggested he would support a revenue neutral carbon tax, something I support as a member Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Unfortunately, Johnson backed down when his supporters accused him of being a liberal sellout.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/09/gary-johnson-climate-change

http://citizensclimatelobby.org/

I am pleased to read that Clinton has joined Obama in support of nuclear power. In 2008, she said during a debate that she was neutral (“agnostic”) about nuclear, while Obama gave his support and John Edwards said he was opposed. Bernie Sanders had campaigned on shutting down nuclear plants. Green Party candidate Jill Stein is also opposed to nuclear. Most scientists agree that we need to include nuclear in our energy mix to seriously reduce our carbon emissions.

If you want to see how the candidates stand on climate, energy, and other science issues, you can read their responses to questions posed by Scientific American. Of the four candidates, only Gary Johnson had not responded by press time. Notice how, detailed and thoughtful Clinton’s responses are. Contrast that with Trump’s short and shallow answers. Trump’s answers look like they were written in the back of the limousine, along with that clean bill of health letter from Trump’s doctor.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-do-the-presidential-candidates-know-about-science/#

And if 375 scientists won’t convince you that we can’t afford a Trump presidency, maybe 150 technology executives will.

https://shift.newco.co/an-open-letter-from-technology-sector-leaders-on-donald-trumps-candidacy-for-president-5bf734c159e4#.ha1ohlvxr

Of course, whoever is president, we won’t get any progress on climate without Congress. The chances of flipping both the House and Senate from Republican to Democrat change with each poll that is released. A Clinton White House may have the same success with a Republican Congress as Obama has had. Then again, Clinton may have better success working with Republicans, given the respect she earned from them when she was in the Senate. Even with a Democratic Congress, It won’t happen without a broad based grassroots movement on climate action. Compare that to the prospects of a Trump/Pence White House and Republican Congress. Trump is wrong on climate, and we need to keep him out of the White House.

September 26, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear, a book review

I just ran across a pro nuclear power book from the 1970s called The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear. The title page of this old paperback displays the word Not in red so that we cannot possible mistake the title’s message and meaning. Originally, published in 1976, this updated edition is from 1979, so it includes the Three Mile Island accident. There is an introduction by Edward Teller.

Author Dr. Petr Beckmann, now deceased, really knew his stuff about the safety issues involving nuclear power. In addition to the book, he published a regular newsletter called Access to Energy. That newsletter continues decades after his death, http://www.accesstoenergy.com. The book addresses all the concerns raised by the antinuclear movement, including health risks from radiation exposure, waste storage, nuclear proliferation, and reactor accidents. It does this with well documented facts, geared to the average reader. You do not need a science degree to understand his arguments, even as he goes into some quite technical detail.

Beckmann is clear that he has no love for folks like Ralph Nader, Barry Commoner, and David Brower, as he pulls apart their arguments and exposes their illogic. In his 1979 update, he poses to himself the question if Three Mile Island would change any part of his book. His response, “Not a word.”

In the three decades since Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, Beckman’s book and pro nuclear arguments still stand. They have been restated in books by Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Discipline) and Gwyneth Cravens (Power to Save the World). These environmentalists now realize that they were wrong about nuclear power and Beckmann was right. (See also the documentary Pandora’s Promise.)

Beckmann’s focus is on the health impacts of nuclear, in contrast to coal and other fossil fuels. The health impacts of radiation exposure are minuscule compared to those from air pollution created by burning fossil fuels. In addition, the dangers of coal mining far outweigh the risks of mining and refining uranium.

Being the late seventies when he wrote it, there is less than one page about carbon emissions and climate change. On page 175, Beckman refers to it as the “greenhouse theory.” He acknowledges that the theory may one day prove true and that some pronuclear advocates were advancing it in their arguments. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence at that time that Beckmann found convincing.

What struck me as I read through Beckmann’s criticism of antinuclear activists is the similarity with today’s climate change deniers. Beckmann was right, our arguments were based on emotion and not on science. We listened to what we wanted to hear and refused to accept any information that contradicted our preconceived world view. We were the climate deniers of the late twentieth century.

Unfortunately, Beckmann goes off the rails when he tries to explain the motivations of the antinuclear movement with the chapter titled Why. His libertarian politics actually start to show when he argues against Environmental Protection Agency regulations. In Why, he rants against activists with little or no data to back him up. He quotes conservative commentators like Irving Kristol. He even engages in red baiting, although backs away from actually calling antinuclear activists communists.

This is not to say that his comments are not entirely without validity. The fringe left of the antinuclear movement do have an anti capitalist and anti corporate agenda. They were a major force in the demonstrations inSeattle during the World Trade Organization meeting and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Of course, those political actions contained a wide spectrum of people, many of whom do not share that “Smash the State” agenda.

Maybe, there are other possible explanations for the rise of the antinuclear movement and why that movement may be currently on the decline.If there is any movement left, Fukushima is keeping it alive. Back in the late twentieth century there arose a backlash against science and technology. This is where we got the bumper sticker Question Authority. Vietnam and Watergate gave us good reason to distrust the authority of government. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which passed 50 years ago this month, was based on a sea battle that did not happen. A government had lied to get us into war. The space program was seen as an instrument of American military power, even though it was civilian based with completely peaceful objectives. The landing on the moon was viewed as another battle in the cold war. Our only objective was to beat the Soviet Union in getting there first. It didn’t help that tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States increased during the Reagan years, heightening the threat of nuclear war. The linking by activists of nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs further fueled the anti technology backlash.

Modern environmentalism rose as a backlash to the excesses of science and technology. There was spiritual aspect to the rise of this movement. The Hippies advocated going Back to the Land, seeking out a simpler life that reconnected to nature. That search for meaning in the context of nature began to resonate with the larger, twentieth century culture. More people returned to religion to find meaning for their lives after failing to find in it in the excesses of materialism and technology.

Then, there could be other explanations that have less to do with politics and more with biology. We humans are not always the rational and objective beings we believe we are. We use our brains to make sense of a complex world and try to do it with the simplest explanations we can find. To do this, we create world views to make sense of all the data that is reaching our brains, Many times, we filter out data that conflicts with that view. We tend to accept what we wish to be true and reject what doesn’t fit with our biases.

In addition, we are not very good at evaluating risk. Many times we act emotionally, especially when we are afraid. When our fight or flight instinct takes control of our brains, our logical reasoning process shuts down. Fear is a strong motivator, and we are strongly motivated by the fear of radiation, cancer, and the atomic bomb.

The good news is that millennials have not shared in much of the technophobia that guided baby boomers for the past few decades. Even many of us older folks have warmed up to technology with our acceptance of personal computers and the Internet. Yes, we are still a bit nervous about Big Brother and the loss of privacy, but that has not stopped us from sharing on Facebook or sending very non secure emails to each other. Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates helped change our attitudes about science and technology by placing that technology in our hands. Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Star Trek, and the Big Bang Theory have helped to make science and scientists look cool. Instead of complaining about the cost of sending people to the moon, we mourn now that we left the moon and never returned. We cheer the rovers sending back photos of Mars.

Now it is the acceptance of science and technology that alerts us to the urgency of climate change, which brings us to the final irony of Beckmann’s legacy. The newsletter he originally published in Boulder, CO now originates from Cave Junction, OR. While Beckmann did not take a position on global warming, the new publisher Art Robinson has. He is in the denial camp. His website links to a petition to reject the Kyoto Protocol, stating, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The first signer shown on http://www.petitionproject.org is the late Edward Teller.

Scientists are people and make mistakes like other people. They have biases and blind spots as other people do. That should not cause us to suspect the validity of science. Better than I can say it, I refer to Dr. Stuart Jordan, writing for the Skeptical Inquirer in 2007:

“Most people understand that science is a process for seeking the truth about how the natural order works. It is the process itself, not the results of applying it, that lies at the heart of science. Fewer people may realize that this process virtually guarantees the integrity of science in the long run even if individual scientists make mistakes, as all occasionally do, or if a (very) rare individual is actually dishonest and falsifies data. This guaranty results not from any intrinsic moral superiority of scientists themselves, but from the fact that research examined by scientific colleagues in the most prestigious medium, the refereed publications, is quickly subjected to ruthless examination for any errors. Those who detect an error often gain as much credit for their scrutiny as those whose work survives it. Scientists who deliberately avoid this scrutiny by publishing their work in less respected media are understandably and properly given less credence for their efforts.”

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/global_warming_debate_science_and_scientists_in_a_democracy/

A scientific debate should not be a political debate. Unfortunately, the debate on climate change has been caught in politics. Liberals accept that humans are the cause of global warming, while conservatives deny it. Liberals are correct to tell conservatives to listen to scientists on climate change. However, liberals need to listen to scientists, as well, about nuclear power.

August 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment