Trump’s 100-day contract to Make America Great Again—Big Fail

Not one promise has been fulfilled

As his campaign floundered last October, Trump went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to lay out his “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” Now he says that expecting him to accomplish anything within his first 100 days is a “ridiculous” standard. He’s welshing again, as he always does.

“You can’t make this stuff up!” is an all-purpose punch line to point out something in reality that’s so absurd that a punch line would shrivel in comparison. And it’s become a sort of a mantra for observers of the Trump Administration who are having trouble coming up with a punch line as ridiculous as the Secret Service spending $35,000 on golf carts to babysit the 70-year old president in about three months as Trump’s budget would gut federal funding for hungry seniors on Meals on Wheels.

Of course, all of this was not only predictable, it was predicted.

We were told that Trump could be baited, possibly into a nuclear war, with a tweet. We’d been warned that his campaign’s strange ties and allegiances with Russia, already codified with a change to the GOP platform in Putin’s favor, likely indicated something more nefarious. His policies always read like a George W. Bush-redux but with extra strength racism, misogyny and Islamophobia. And Trump’s rank incompetence and ability to dance from failure to failure sucking in gains while ripping off everyone in his wake was obvious in his business record, which included a class action lawsuit he settled for $25 million right before taking office.

But nothing prepared me for Trump’s schtick about his first 100 days.

Yes, a president’s first 100 days is an arbitrary marker we’ve inherited from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who swept into office after years of the Great Depression determined to make his personal optimism manifest in legislation and executive action.

It was “unlike anything known to American history,” historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote.

Lyndon Johnson’s 100 days intentionally summoned FDR’s spirit to similar effect and in his first 100 days, Barack Obama took steps to prevent a Greater Depression, to rescue and renew the American auto industry, and to create a green energy revolution that will pay dividends in Teslas and better solar panels for generations. (Obama, unlike Trump, also played no golf in his first 100 days.)

In that spirit, as his campaign floundered last October, Trump went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to lay out “Donald Trump’s Contract With The American Voter,” which stated his “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.”

Anyone who knows Donald Trump’s record expects him to welch on any contract he makes, but—hey—at that point, before James Comey got his closeup, did even Don expect Don to win?

And Trump’s first 100 days have gone even worse, legislatively at least, than anyone expected.

He hasn’t jammed Democrats on any significant issues and his only “victories” are a series of reversals of Obama policies that include enabling oil companies to take money from foreign governments, coal companies to pollute rivers, and Internet service providers to track and sell your browsing history. These bills only required Republican votes in both Houses of Congress and were often signed in private because they would have shown the public that he stands entirely “with the Republican establishment he lampooned during his campaign,” as Politico Magazine‘s Mike Grunwald explains.

Yes, Trump is doing untold damage to our environment and the climate while assailing our tourism industry and terrorizing law-abiding undocumented immigrants who, unlike him, would love to pay taxes. And yes, he’s put together a cabinet that is simultaneously the richest and least qualified for public service in American history.

But there isn’t one promise in his 100-day contract he’s fulfilled.

In fact, his only accomplishments worth boasting about were some good jobs numbers and a Supreme Court appointment. Accomplishments, as the Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel pointed out, he inherited from Barack Obama.

Trump’s only talent, it seems, is inheriting things he doesn’t deserve, which makes him apoplectic when it’s time for his success to be compared against people who actually earned theirs.

Yes, there’s a Trump tweet that contradicts everything Trump says or does. The Daily Show‘s Dan Amira noted that “if Trump randomly, like, tripped on a squirrel or something we’d find an old tweet of his saying only fat losers trip on squirrels.”

But I have to say that Trump’s sudden whining about “the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days” was precious beyond my ability to hold water in my mouth, provoking the first unintentional spit take of my life.

This happened when CNN showed a clip of Trump introducing his 100-day plan in Gettysburg by saying, “It is a contract between myself and the American voter – and begins with restoring honesty, accountability, and change to Washington.”

Talk about a ridiculous standard. And never forget how that very speech began with him promising to sue all the women who had accused him of harassment and/or assault after the emergence of the Access Hollywood tape – another promise he flaked on.

All of this is beyond parody. And it’s beyond parody’s power to stop it.

If pointing out Trump’s rank ridiculousness, contradictory tweets, and the hypocrisy of Bible-theme slot machine had sufficient effect on withering Trump’s core support or compelling Republicans into doing even basic oversight, he would never have gotten past his failed Reform Party run for president in 2000.

Alec Baldwin has called Trump “the first satire-resistant president.” If this is true it’s because Trump is far more effective at bending reality, as With Friends Like These‘s Ana Marie Cox keeps saying, than any American politician that has come before him. This comes from his unrelenting combination of the dog-whistle racist demagoguery combined with the subliminal salesman schtick Trump mastered from decades of learning how to rip off people who should know better

No, satire and parody won’t be enough to stop this guy. Our only option is to take the risks he poses to our democracy seriously, deadly seriously. We overestimated the immune system of our society and suppressed the knowledge that the land of the free only truly began extending its full freedoms to minorities, women, and LGBTQ people in the last few decades.

Only by taking Trump absolutely seriously—by contesting every step of his agenda in marches, in town halls, in our reps offices, on the phones, and everywhere we can—have we kept him somewhat in check. Resisting Trump’s agenda relentlessly must be followed by proposing a better one that frame how division weakens us all and strengthens the ruling class. Still, the powers of the presidency are awesome and he likely has at least a baker’s dozen more 100 days left for him to undo the progress we’ve taken for granted here, and in other democracies.

Only an unrelenting, positive resistance will do, because that’s something you can’t just make up.§

This article is published with permission from The National Memo.

SHOW AND TELL

In first grade
I used to play
with a girl, Sylvia.

Her older sister, Becky,
from third grade, is the first girl
to show me her pussy.

Becky danced for me
under an orange tree where
we all played children’s games.

She asked me to please
watch. She sang and
twirled under the canopy

of leaves, her short skirt
rising and falling, unveiling bare
legs and a pantyless bottom.

Suddenly, she stopped

singing and twirling, and
turned her back to me.

She flipped up her skirt
and “boom-boomed” me,
then giggled and sprinted off.

Her sister Sylvia liked
to play with matches. Her
long blonde hair caught fire.

She ran swiftly
from under the tree,
panic-stricken, across

the patio, her hair
waving in ribbons of flame
as she screamed, “Mommy!”

Her mother banged
through the back door, and
turned on the wash basin.

She grabbed Sylvia, and
shoved her head beneath
the running water.

She got cross
with me, and told me,
“You go home!”

Becky asked
me to come up
to her playhouse

in another orange tree
near her bedroom. No one
could see us up there.

She wore a flower print
skirt in the playhouse
and sat on her bum

without underwear, her knees
raised, so I could peer inside
the tent they formed

between her legs.
She picked up pine
needles and touched

herself and talked
to me as I watched
her fingers move.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” I asked.
“No, silly!” she said, smiling,
“it’s normal.”

Sylvia’s mother asked
if Becky had been taking
her clothes off for me.

“Not really. Sometimes she
dances, sometimes she
shows me stuff.”

Her mother didn’t scold or
get mad or wave me
off:
“If she does that again,

you let me know, okay?
She’s not supposed
to be showing you ‘stuff’.”

Sylvia didn’t get hurt
from the fire. She lost her hair
but she didn’t get burned.

—Stacey Warde

Healthy soil

by 

One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical-free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.

When I embarked on a six-month trip to visit farms around the world to research my forthcoming book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” the innovative farmers I met showed me that regenerative farming practices can restore the world’s agricultural soils. In both the developed and developing worlds, these farmers rapidly rebuilt the fertility of their degraded soil, which then allowed them to maintain high yields using far less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

Their experiences, and the results that I saw on their farms in North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ghana and Costa Rica, offer compelling evidence that the key to sustaining highly productive agriculture lies in rebuilding healthy, fertile soil. This journey also led me to question three pillars of conventional wisdom about today’s industrialized agrochemical agriculture: that it feeds the world, is a more efficient way to produce food and will be necessary to feed the future.

Myth 1: Large-scale agriculture feeds the world today

According to a recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, family farms produce over three-quarters of the world’s food. The FAO also estimates that almost three-quarters of all farms worldwide are smaller than one hectare – about 2.5 acres, or the size of a typical city block.

A Ugandan farmer transports bananas to market. Most food consumed in the developing world is grown on small family farms. Svetlana Edmeades/IFPRI/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Only about 1 percent of Americans are farmers today. Yet most of the world’s farmers work the land to feed themselves and their families. So while conventional industrialized agriculture feeds the developed world, most of the world’s farmers work small family farms. A 2016 Environmental Working Group report found that almost 90 percent of U.S. agricultural exports went to developed countries with few hungry people.

Of course the world needs commercial agriculture, unless we all want to live on and work our own farms. But are large industrial farms really the best, let alone the only, way forward? This question leads us to a second myth.

Myth 2: Large farms are more efficient

Many high-volume industrial processes exhibit efficiencies at large scale that decrease inputs per unit of production. The more widgets you make, the more efficiently you can make each one. But agriculture is different. A 1989 National Research Council study concluded that “well-managed alternative farming systems nearly always use less synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics per unit of production than conventional farms.”

And while mechanization can provide cost and labor efficiencies on large farms, bigger farms do not necessarily produce more food. According to a 1992 agricultural census report, small, diversified farms produce more than twice as much food per acre than large farms do.

Even the World Bank endorses small farms as the way to increase agricultural output in developing nations where food security remains a pressing issue. While large farms excel at producing a lot of a particular crop – like corn or wheat – small diversified farms produce more food and more kinds of food per hectare overall.

Myth 3: Conventional farming is necessary to feed the world

We’ve all heard proponents of conventional agriculture claim that organic farming is a recipe for global starvation because it produces lower yields. The most extensive yield comparison to date, a 2015 meta-analysis of 115 studies, found that organic production averaged almost 20 percent less than conventionally grown crops, a finding similar to those of prior studies.

But the study went a step further, comparing crop yields on conventional farms to those on organic farms where cover crops were planted and crops were rotated to build soil health. These techniques shrank the yield gap to below 10 percent.

The authors concluded that the actual gap may be much smaller, as they found “evidence of bias in the meta-dataset toward studies reporting higher conventional yields.” In other words, the basis for claims that organic agriculture can’t feed the world depend as much on specific farming methods as on the type of farm.

Cover crops planted on wheat fields in The Dalles, Oregon. Garrett Duyck,NRCS/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Consider too that about a quarter of all food produced worldwide is never eaten. Each year the United States alone throws out 133 billion pounds of food, more than enough to feed the nearly 50 million Americans who regularly face hunger. So even taken at face value, the oft-cited yield gap between conventional and organic farming is smaller than the amount of food we routinely throw away.

Building healthy soil

Conventional farming practices that degrade soil health undermine humanity’s ability to continue feeding everyone over the long run. Regenerative practices like those used on the farms and ranches I visited show that we can readily improve soil fertility on both large farms in the U.S. and on small subsistence farms in the tropics.

I no longer see debates about the future of agriculture as simply conventional versus organic. In my view, we’ve oversimplified the complexity of the land and underutilized the ingenuity of farmers. I now see adopting farming practices that build soil health as the key to a stable and resilient agriculture. And the farmers I visited had cracked this code, adapting no-till methods, cover cropping and complex rotations to their particular soil, environmental and socioeconomic conditions.

Whether they were organic or still used some fertilizers and pesticides, the farms I visited that adopted this transformational suite of practices all reported harvests that consistently matched or exceeded those from neighboring conventional farms after a short transition period. Another message was as simple as it was clear: Farmers who restored their soil used fewer inputs to produce higher yields, which translated into higher profits.

Soil building practices, like no-till and composting, can build soil organic matter and improve soil fertility (click to zoom). David Montgomery, Author provided

No matter how one looks at it, we can be certain that agriculture will soon face another revolution. For agriculture today runs on abundant, cheap oil for fuel and to make fertilizer – and our supply of cheap oil will not last forever. There are already enough people on the planet that we have less than a year’s supply of foodfor the global population on hand at any one time. This simple fact has critical implications for society.

So how do we speed the adoption of a more resilient agriculture? Creating demonstration farms would help, as would carrying out system-scale research to evaluate what works best to adapt specific practices to general principles in different settings.

We also need to reframe our agricultural policies and subsidies. It makes no sense to continue incentivizing conventional practices that degrade soil fertility. We must begin supporting and rewarding farmers who adopt regenerative practices.

Once we see through myths of modern agriculture, practices that build soil health become the lens through which to assess strategies for feeding us all over the long haul. Why am I so confident that regenerative farming practices can prove both productive and economical? The farmers I met showed me they already are. §

 is Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington. This article is published by permission of The Conversation, where it first appeared.

MOVING PARTS

This was not our Sunday drive to the country.
Mother, patient the seasons in their slow march
would reveal in time a way forward, strengthened
our belief such sojourns made life bearable.

Father, unsure where we were going,
no longer interested which way was west, said
nothing save, “Well, that’s it.” His eyes said all
he could have said as he closed the door.

Leaving town we waved goodbye to its trees,
well-known namesake, so rooted in place thought
had it we could wait as long as needed,
should we decide to return.  But today we would be

somewhere else.  Later somebody remembered
a window left open, a door unlatched, something
we had forgotten. Though others would follow,
no one who leaves home ever really goes away.

Nicholas Campbell

Mark Twain on Donald Trump

What America’s great satirist might say of the president

by 

Thanks to the criticisms they’ve leveled in articlesinterviewstweets and letters to the editor, we know that many contemporary authors, from Philip Roth to J.K. Rowling, have a dim view of Donald J. Trump.

But what would leading writers of the past have made of him?

We can only speculate (well, until someone invents a Rowling-like potion capable of bringing long dead writers back to life). But if I could ask one dead writer what he thinks of Trump, it would be Mark Twain, my favorite American author and someone whose travel articles I’ve written about in the past. While Twain is best-known for his novels, he was also an opinionated, prolific commentator on the personalities and political issues of his day.

I suspect Twain would have found Trump the showman—the pre-2016 version—a fascinating figure. He would have been appalled, however, by much about Trump the president.

A champion of irreverence

I have no doubt about two things that Twain would find objectionable: the way that Trump has lashed out at TV sketches that mock him and his use of the phrase “enemy of the American people” to describe news organizations that criticize him.

Twain felt that no one was too grand to be satirized.

“Irreverence,” he wrote, “is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.”

In America’s press, he admired its tendency to be “irreverent toward pretty much everything.” Even if this led to the newspapers laughing “one good king to death,” it was a small price to pay if they also “laugh a thousand cruel and infamous shams and superstitions into the grave.”

But pondering what, beyond this, Twain would make of Trump is an apt, tricky and timely exercise.

It’s apt because one of Twain’s novels, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” features a man who travels through time.

It’s tricky because Twain’s views on many issues, including race, changed during his lifetime. Hence there are different Twains—as well as different Trumps—to consider.

Finally, imagining how Twain would view Trump is timely because when some have tried to look to history for an equivalent political moment, they’ll sometimes point to two decades—the 1880s and the 1900s—that happened to also be important in Twain’s life and career.

One of these Trumps is not like the other

The Twain of the 1880s would have probably found the Trump of a decade ago—a brash, self-promoting businessman known for his candid comments and penchant for media attention—fascinating. He may have even befriended him.

But the staunchly anti-imperialist Twain of two decades later would have been as disdainful of Trump now as he was of the man he once called “far and away the worst president we have ever had”—the muscular nationalist Teddy Roosevelt.

My basis for the first claim comes from Twain’s friendship with a flashy, boastful Trump-like showman: Buffalo Bill Cody. Among the most successful entertainment impresarios of his day, Cody founded and starred in a traveling Wild West Show, which drew large crowds in America and Europe and was famous for its reenactments of legendary battles.

In 1884, Twain sent a letter to Cody praising his Wild West Show as a realistic, “distinctly American” form of entertainment. In Cody’s spectacle—as in “The Apprentice”—the emcee was a famous man who played up a version of himself, capitalizing on the audience’s awareness that he had done things in real life that he did in the show: firing guns, in one case; firing people, in the other.

An advertisement for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a circus-like show that toured the nation. NPGpics/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

 During this period, Twain wrote four of his best-known books. It was also a time of intense nativism in the United States. Many white laborers, especially in western states, became convinced that Chinese laborers, who had crossed the Pacific in large numbers during the Gold Rush, were unfairly depriving them of jobs that rightfully belonged to them.

 

This prejudice triggered several violent outbursts—such as the 1871 Los Angeles riot, which cost 18 Chinese men their lives—and led to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which forbade the entry of Chinese workers to the United States.

Twain mocked the hypocrisy of the Exclusion Act: Just as the U.S. government was preventing Chinese from coming here, American traders and missionaries in China were denouncing the Chinese government for hindering their pursuit of profits and converts in the Middle Kingdom.

Some critics of Trump’s executive order on immigration say it “eerily recalls” the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. In both cases, we see fear, stereotypes and prejudice fomenting an environment in which some groups are deemed less worthy of rights and protections—indeed, less human—than others.

In one of his early works, 1872’s “Roughing It,” Twain was already castigating those who bullied and abused Chinese immigrants as the “scum of the population.” His disdain for xenophobia and prejudice only grew later in life.

He would be a fierce critic of Trump’s nativist rhetoric even if—perhaps especially if—he had previously praised Trump the entertainer.

Twain targets Teddy

By the early 1900s, Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House. Trump—whom some have compared with Roosevelt—has said that when he speaks of trying to “Make America Great Again,” one period he has in mind is around the turn of the 20th century.

A 1904 New York World cartoon criticizes Teddy Roosevelt’s militaristic and imperialistic impulses. Wikimedia Commons

Around this time, Twain was not just a celebrated author but a leading figure on the lecture circuit. As both a speaker and an essayist, he was known for his satirical jabs. A key target of his became American expansionists, whom he skewered in, among other works, the 1901 essay “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” which lambasts Americans for committing violence across the Pacific under the guise of “civilizing” backward peoples.

In 1900, there were two U.S. military campaigns underway in China and the Philippines. In China, U.S. soldiers joined forces with a host of other countries to fight the anti-Christian Boxer militants and the Qing dynasty. In the Philippines, American troops brutally suppressed Filipinos who sought independence.

Teddy Roosevelt was an enthusiastic supporter of these campaigns. The main goal in the Philippines and in China, Roosevelt insisted, was not enrichment but defeating “barbarous” enemies.

Twain disagreed. In his caustic “Salutation Speech from the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth,” Twain dismissed the military campaigns as “pirate raids” that “besmirched” Christianity’s reputation.

Where Roosevelt saw the Boxers as just the latest wave of savages to be suppressed, Twain viewed them as patriots defending their threatened homeland, spelling out his position in essays, personal letters and public lectures.

Sticking to his guns

The anti-imperialist Twain would likely have criticized other recent presidents. He wouldn’t have approved of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, nor of the way Barack Obama employed drones.

Nonetheless, the writer would find Trump’s disparaging of Muslims and various other groups on the campaign trail—in addition to the immigration ban—particularly distasteful.

He wasn’t afraid to change his mind, and to admit that he had been wrong (as Trump is loath to do). He briefly supported the Spanish-American War, for example, but then spoke openly about how jingoism had blinded his moral concerns. And as American studies professor John Haddad has detailed, Twain’s previous praise for Cody didn’t stop him from walking out of a Wild West Show performance in early 1901. Cody had performed a reenactment of a 1900 Chinese battle, uniformly depicting the foreign invaders as heroes and the Boxers as barbaric villains. Twain thought his old friend was deeply misguided—and he let him know.

In 1901, Twain wasn’t alone in holding and expressing fervently anti-imperialist views. But he was in a minority. Most Americans felt that allied actions in China and U.S. ones in the Philippines were completely justified. So did many famous writers of the time, from Rudyard Kipling to “Battle Hymn of the Republic” lyricist Julia Ward Howe.

That’s one difference from today: Twain would find himself firmly in the literary mainstream—and would be far from alone in saying that a president who wanted to govern a truly “great” America should not look to the country at the turn of the 20th century for inspiration. §

 is Professor of Chinese and World History at the University of California, Irvine. This article is republished by permission of The Conversation, where it first appeared.

CLASS WARFARE: PUSSY POWER

Now’s the time for all good women to come to the aid of their country

by Dell Franklin

It’s time for a woman president who isn’t Hillary Clinton. It’s time for a firebrand of a female to replace Bernie Sanders and lead the Democratic Party against the swine not only running the country, but the same swine taking over the Senate, the House, the governors’ seats and most of the state offices in America. It’s not enough that these women are marching in the streets with furious and ferocious passion and anger at what has transpired in their country. They need to unite and begin an ongoing chant accusing the President of the United states as a molester, liar, tax criminal, scam artist, a dangerously incompetent and emotionally and intellectually stunted sociopath as well as enemy of the goodness of humankind, and a real threat to send the world spinning off its axis.

And there are a slew of capable and ferocious women out there to replace the democratic male milquetoasts who will roll over like bowling pins at the onslaught Trump and his gestapo have prepared for them once they commence running.

It will take a good woman to take this venal dictator down, and now that the country’s most valuable and sane assets are stirred up like millions of enraged hornets, out to sting any male hide in their way, let us begin with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and, in time, Mrs. Michelle Obama, and every democratic woman in the Senate and House and all the state senates and assemblies in the country to carry out a vicious vendetta against the white male conservative onslaught that has captured this country and threatens to undo everything Franklin Roosevelt accomplished.

Fellow female media harridans on the wrong side, like bony-assed, supercilious Anne Coulter, penis-envy Laura Ingraham, and Trump’s grinning barracuda confidante Kellyanne Conway need to be excoriated by the most lethal female cat-fighters on the liberal side, and especially those gals on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid. Nobody can attack like women, and the liberal side needs to sharpen their claws and dig deep, gouging out blood and matter and leaving their victims bleeding and suffering in the streets of American air time.

Trump must be hounded. Women know how to do this. They are relentless because they’ve had to be for centuries while dealing with the brutish nature of men—just to survive. When Trump slithers out of his Twitter cave and faces the media, the women reporters must call him on his lies. If he ignores them, they should bully the male reporters aside and confront him and call him the coward and liar he is. They should develop media personalities and spend their every waking moment creating and sustaining new methods to expose and demean this rat in office. Those women he fondled should join forces and continue their lawsuits, whether they win or lose, just to expose Trump for the pig he is.

When Trump attempts to put forth any speech in the Senate chambers, like a State of the Union, not one, but all  female democratic office holders should yell out LIAR! every time he lies, and continue the chant, and perhaps add to it, “Jail the liar, jail the liar….”

An association of women has to be forged, and their mantra should be to extinguish in office all alpha male business tycoons and those stooges these tycoons bankroll to run for office. They might explain that this country has been run by men of hubris and extreme ego for too long, that we are returning to barbarism under the leadership of paranoid greed-bags who, like Nazi operatives, will stop at nothing to terrify the population and scapegoat minorities while feathering their own nests and through propaganda continue to amass a power base, and that they cannot be trusted because as males, as the masculine race, they are too flawed, too overcome with their own importance and ego and rage to control and dominate in any way they can.

And it hasn’t and doesn’t work. They have made a shambles of the world.

Do the women need a hero? A leader? Present Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois senator who lost her legs in Iraq as a helicopter pilot. She is a spitfire. She, along with every  female leader, must spell out how urgent it is to protect themselves and the country from the previous follies of men, and especially of Trump, who will gouge out every civil liberty and human right of women and put us back in the dark ages, and they must also spell out how complicit the entire conservative movement is in creating demagogic lies and enforcing the cruelest, most heartless policies for the poor, minorities, and anybody who is not white and rich.

These ladies must go overboard to wake women up, to stir emotions, rattle the cupboards of every kitchen in America. They must unleash a movement that literally saves us from ourselves in these dire days of basically good versus evil.

Everything that has ever been achieved to create a world of hope and compassion AND survival is at stake.

It’s not time for the ladies to “Take our country back,” but to “Take our country over.”

Go get ‘em, gals! §

Dell Franklin gets his inspiration from women who know how to take down cads like the man posing as President of the United States. For more of Dell’s views on sports, politics and culture, visit his website: dellfranklin.com.

When policy trumps science

The world becomes an even more dangerous place

by 

One of the most unexpected political developments in recent months has been the political awakening of scientists in the United States.

A normally reticent group (at least when it comes to politics), scientists are speaking out, organizing a major march and planning to run for public office. There is a growing sense that the danger posed by the Trump administration to evidence-based policy, and perhaps science itself, is unprecedented. I share this concern. The Trump administration’s actions and rhetoric appear to signal an acceleration of Republican skepticism toward scientific research carried out in the public interest.

This said, what is keeping political scientists, particularly those like me who study political psychology, up at night is not the Trump administration’s ideologically driven science bias. Rather, it is the fact that Trump himself exhibits an authoritarian style of motivated reasoning that appears to be intended (consciously or not) to consolidate his power.

This combination – institutional challenges to the scientific integrity of government employees and Trump’s willingness to disregard evidence on a variety of matters – has broad and ominous implications beyond how science informs national policies.

Science as political target

Politically motivated skepticism of science is certainly not new. As I have argued elsewhere, science is consistently a political target precisely because of its political power.

Science has “epistemic authority,” meaning it is the best method humans have available to understand what is true about the world. For this reason, policy decisions are expected to be based in large part on scientific conclusions. And as the size and scope of the federal government has increased, so has the use of scientific research in government decision-making, making it an even bigger target.

Scott Pruitt, a skeptic of well-established climate science and ally of the fossil fuel industry, will head the EPA, an agency charged with protecting the environment and health. gageskidmore/flickr, CC BY-SA

A number of actions taken so far by the Trump administration seem to portend hostility to government-sponsored science and science-backed policy. Many were alarmed by orders during the administration’s first week in office that government agencies cease all communications with the public.

But likely more indicative of the administration’s attitude toward government-sponsored research are Trump’s nominees to head Cabinet-level agencies. These individuals have less relevant expertise than previous administrations, and Trump’s Cabinet is the first in recent memory to include no one with a Ph.D. The nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has questioned well-accepted climate science and worked closely with energy companies to undermine the agency he is to head.

In addition, Trump’s choice for OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, has taken a similar tack with respect to government-sponsored science aimed at protecting the public’s health. The two scientists said to be under consideration for science advisor both happen to be far outside the mainstream on climate science (neither is a climate scientist).

‘Bending’ science for political reasons

It is important to recognize that scientific evidence is not the only legitimate consideration underlying a policy decision. There may be larger ideological commitments at stake or constituents to please or (less justifiably) more strategic political considerations.

The problem for science and evidence-based policy comes when politicians and other political actors decide to discredit the science on which a conclusion is based or bend the science to support their policy position. Call it “policy-based evidence” as opposed to “evidence-based policy.”

John Marburger was science advisor to George W. Bush, whose administration was criticized for manipulating how science was used in policy decisions. Brookhaven National Laboratory

Such bending of science comes in a variety of forms: cherry-picking studies and experts that support your perspective; harassing government-sponsored scientists – via cuts in funding or investigations – whose conclusions weigh against policies you prefer; forcing government scientists to change the language of reports for political reasons.

Science bias in and of itself is not conservative or liberal, and one can find it on both sides of the political spectrum. However, if we are to avoid false equivalence, we must admit that most of the anti-science bias coming from politicians in recent decades has been from the Republican Party. This bias has been documented extensively. (One can also check out the two parties’ 2016 party platforms.)

There is a straightforward reason for this partisan difference: Much contemporary government-sponsored research is in service of a growing regulatory state. Republicans tend to oppose federal government regulation because of their longstanding representation of business interests and commitment to states’ rights. In recent decades, the Republican Party also has become the political home to religious conservatives, many of whom distrust science because it challenges biblical authority, particularly with respect to evolution.

The George W. Bush administration was arguably the heyday for ideologically driven interference in government-produced science, something well-documented in two reports by the Union of Concerned Scientists. In response to this, the Obama administration put in place various institutional safeguards to protect the integrity of science, and Congress strengthened its protection of federal whistleblowers.

But Trump’s rhetoric and actions – both before and after assuming the presidency – seem to foreshadow a return to Bush-era tactics. Trump’s Cabinet choices exhibit an unusual fixation on deregulation, particularly in the arena of energy and the environment. And both Trump and his powerful vice president have a history of making statements that are ignorant and mistrustful of science.

Danger in the rhetoric

Unfortunately, there is reason to suspect that Trump’s disdain for scientific research is not only driven by political ideology and the interests he represents. Trump clearly chafes against anyone or anything that challenges his power, including empirical reality.

Trump’s constant efforts to aggrandize himself are plain to see. In the past, Donald Trump lied about everything from the size of his home to his donations to charity. In service of whipping up a crowd, Trump has been willing to scapegoat entire minority groups and falsely question a president’s citizenship.

So far, President Trump has focused mainly on crowd sizespoll numbers and the merits of comedians’ performances. Many Americans are tempted to not take these distortions of seemingly trivial topics seriously. But this is authoritarian rhetoric.

As with all presidents, Trump will eventually face data that reflect poorly on some aspects of his job performance: for example, pollution levels, disease rates, disappointing jobs figures, etc. He has been so consistent in his dissembling to protect his reputation that it would be surprising if this behavior did not continue in the face of more serious threats. Scholars are already speculating that Trump may employ Nixonian efforts to doctor official government statistics or discourage critical scholarly study of society under his administration by eliminating NSF social and economic science funding.

Between his executive power and the power of the bully pulpit, President Trump has considerable ability to harm the scientific enterprise and quite possibly democratic institutions as well. This is a time, in my view, for scientists, and experts more generally, to mobilize. As Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School argues, experts play a critical role at moments like this as a “synopticon” – a large collective closely monitoring the actions of our political leaders. §

 is Assistant Professor of Government, American University. This article is reposted by permission of The Conversation.