Scientists March Against Trump’s War On Science

Scientists celebrated Earth Day by marching in support of science. The New York Times reports:

Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of President Trump, gathered in Washington on Saturday under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise.

Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who helped expose lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., and who addressed a rally before the march, called the protest the beginning of a movement to ensure that governments do not dismiss or deny science.

“If we want to prevent future Flints, we need to embrace what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come in terms of science and technology,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said in an interview…

Its organizers were motivated by Mr. Trump, who as a presidential candidate disparaged climate change as a hoax and cast suspicions on the safety of vaccines.

Their resolve deepened, they said, when the president appointed cabinet members who seemed hostile to the sciences. He also proposed a budget with severe cuts for agencies like the National Institutes of Health — which would lose 18 percent of its funding in his blueprint — and the Environmental Protection Agency, which faces a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of a quarter of the agency’s 15,000 employees.

Bill Nye spoke at one rally in Washington, D.C.:

“Without scientifically literate citizens, the United States — any country, in fact — cannot compete on the world stage,” Bill Nye the Science Guy told a cheering crowd at the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. “Yet today we have a great many lawmakers — not just here, but around the world — deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. Their inclination is misguided, and in no one’s best interest.”

Nye touted the ways scientific discoveries have improved global quality of life, arguing that science is not merely “purview of a different, or special, type of citizen.” “Our numbers here today show the world that science is for all,” he said, and government must come to recognize that “science serves every one of us.”

I am happy to see them protesting, but it sure is pathetic that it is necessary to protest in support of science. The importance of science should be accepted by anyone elected to the presidency in the 21st century.

 

Another Prediction That Trump Could Cost Republicans Control Of The House

The failure of Donald Trump to repeal and replace Obamacare, as he repeatedly claimed he would do as soon as he took office, has led to a further deterioration in public perceptions of Trump’s job performance, and risks hurting the entire Republican Party. I have previously looked at predictions that a low approval rating for Trump could cost Republicans control of the House. National Journal has another prediction that Dems Could Take House in 2018:

Demo­crats now have a real­ist­ic shot at re­tak­ing the House in 2018. Each of the past three midterm elec­tions have swung wildly against the party in power—re­flect­ive of the long­stand­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion of voters to­wards polit­ic­al lead­er­ship, no mat­ter who’s in charge. Trump’s job ap­prov­al rat­ing is hov­er­ing around 40 per­cent, a tox­ic level for the dozens of Re­pub­lic­ans run­ning for reelec­tion in swing dis­tricts. Re­pub­lic­ans would be fool­ish to as­sume that Pres­id­ent Obama’s co­ali­tion of mil­len­ni­als and non­white voters—many of whom stayed home in past midterm elec­tions—re­mains dis­en­gaged giv­en their aver­sion to Trump.

Polit­ic­ally speak­ing, the health care bill couldn’t have been more dam­aging for Re­pub­lic­ans. In a dis­cip­lined Con­gress, safe-seat Re­pub­lic­ans would be more will­ing to take risky votes so those in com­pet­it­ive seats could main­tain some in­de­pend­ence from the party. But this time, hard-line con­ser­vat­ives in the Free­dom Caucus de­clared their un­stint­ing op­pos­i­tion early on, for­cing some vul­ner­able Re­pub­lic­ans to go on re­cord in sup­port of the un­pop­u­lar le­gis­la­tion—which didn’t even come to a vote. Adding in­sult to in­jury, Trump bragged on Twit­ter that the health care ex­changes would col­lapse as a res­ult of his in­ac­tion—the worst pos­sible mes­sage to send to any­one who viewed Trump as a can-do ex­ec­ut­ive…

There are already signs that Trump’s sag­ging ap­prov­al rat­ing is rais­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of a stun­ning up­set in an up­com­ing con­gres­sion­al elec­tion in sub­urb­an At­lanta. The race, to fill the va­cant seat held by Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Tom Price, couldn’t be more rel­ev­ant to the health care de­bate. One pub­lic poll shows the Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner, Jon Os­soff, nar­rowly lead­ing sev­er­al of his GOP op­pon­ents in a run­off—this in a con­ser­vat­ive dis­trict that has elec­ted Re­pub­lic­ans to Con­gress for over four dec­ades. Fear­ing an em­bar­rass­ing de­feat, the party’s lead­ing House su­per PAC is spend­ing over $2 mil­lion on at­tack ads con­nect­ing Os­soff with Nancy Pelosi.

Of the 36 at-risk House Re­pub­lic­ans, ac­cord­ing to The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port’s rat­ings, 28 rep­res­ent urb­an or sub­urb­an dis­tricts where Trump isn’t par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar. In last year’s elec­tion, most of these GOP rep­res­ent­at­ives sig­ni­fic­antly out­per­formed Trump as voters dis­tin­guished between the pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee and the re­cord of their own mem­ber of Con­gress. But with Trump as pres­id­ent, that dis­tinc­tion is harder to make…

Demo­crats need to net 24 seats to win back the House ma­jor­ity, which sounds a lot more im­pos­ing than it ac­tu­ally is. As polit­ic­al ana­lyst Nath­an Gonzales noted in a re­cent column, the pres­id­ent’s party has lost House seats in 18 of the last 20 midterms, with an av­er­age loss of 33 seats in those 18 los­ing cycles. Two of the most im­port­ant big-pic­ture factors—pres­id­en­tial ap­prov­al and par­tis­an en­thu­si­asm—are now point­ing against the GOP.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, Re­pub­lic­ans would ex­per­i­ence some early gov­ern­ing suc­cesses and rally be­hind their pres­id­ent. With Trump, Re­pub­lic­ans have come up empty-handed so far. We’re more than a year away from the next big elec­tions, but there are already signs that a Cat­egory 5 hur­ricane is build­ing.

The Republicans risk further losses following their defeat on health care. Trump continues to lose credibility, and is losing in his attacks on the press. Many sources, including The Wall Street Journal, have discussed the difficulties they will have on rewriting the tax code. Trump’s executive order to reverse Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change could also turn out to harm Republicans. The New York Times, in an editorial describing the harm which Trump’s actions will do, concluded in noting the possible public opinion backlash:

And then there is public opinion. It punished the Republicans severely in 1994 when Newt Gingrich and his allies tried to roll back environmental laws. It punished them again in 2008 after eight years of denialism and prevarication on climate change under George W. Bush and his fossil fuel acolyte, Dick Cheney. There is time enough before Mr. Trump’s ignorance translates into actual policy for the public to make its opposition to this anti-science agenda felt again.

It is possible that the Democrats might benefit from Trump’s unpopularity regardless of what they do, but it must also be kept in mind that the Democrats did lose to Trump in 2016 despite all the blunders from Trump during his campaign. That might be written off as the consequence of the Democrats fielding a weak candidate against him, but it also must be kept in mind how the Democrats also  lost badly in 2010 and 2014 when they ran as a Republican-lite party. The Democrats need to have the courage to stand for something, giving voters a positive reason to vote for them rather than counting on dislike of Republicans to be enough.

Public Corruption Prosecutor Hired To Investigate Trump

The Wall Street Journal reports that New York’s attorney general has hired a top public corruption prosecutor to go after Donald Trump:

New York state’s attorney general, to date one of the most vocal antagonists of President Donald Trump, is preparing to escalate his office’s litigation against the president’s administration.

Democrat Eric Schneiderman has hired one of the top public-corruption prosecutors under former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to focus specifically on issues involving the Trump administration. Howard Master, who prosecuted the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s case against longtime New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver , is expected to work on both continuing and new White House-related matters for the attorney general, as well as on high-level public-corruption cases.

The hiring of Mr. Master, whose title will be senior enforcement counsel, signals Mr. Schneiderman’s continued intent to take on the Republican president…

Since Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Schneiderman has been one of a group of Democratic attorneys general who have directed both legal challenges and critical rhetoric toward the president on matters including his executive orders on immigration and refugees, climate change and threats to deport millions of illegal immigrants, among other issues.

Last week, Mr. Schneiderman’s office joined Washington state’s lawsuit against the Trump administration’s revised immigration order. “The Trump administration’s continued intent to discriminate against Muslims is clear,” Mr. Schneiderman said at the time, “and it undermines New York’s families, institutions and economy.”

In addition to challenging White House policies in court, Mr. Schneiderman’s office is expected to explore whether it has any standing to pursue cases that hinge on the Constitution’s emoluments clause, according to people familiar with the matter. That provision prohibits federal officeholders from accepting payments from foreign governments…

State attorneys general have wide berth to challenge the legality of federal policies and laws that impact their states and citizens. In the lawsuit against the revised immigration executive order, for example, the complaint alleges that the policy harms New York’s health-care institutions, its tourism industry and its colleges and universities’ ability to recruit international students.

The New York attorney general also has broad powers in prosecuting financial fraud through the Martin Act, a state law that has more lenient requirements than on the federal level.

In addition, James Comey has verified in Congressional testimony today that the FBI is investigating alleged Russian interference in the election, and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign. So far, there has been no evidence released of collusion between Trump and Russia. Comey also stated that there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that Barack Obama wire tapped Trump Tower.

Quotes of the Day: Colbert on Rex Tillerson & Conan on Steve Bannon

“It came out last night that Rex Tillerson used an email alias while he was CEO of Exxon to discuss climate change on the sly. So in the Trump administration, you can be a sexist, or a white supremacist, but you’re gonna want to keep your science talk on the D.L.” –Stephen Colbert

“White House strategist Steve Bannon is under criminal investigation for voter fraud. Reportedly he voted last year in Florida while still technically a resident of 1930s Germany. Can’t have it both ways.” –Conan O’Brien

Candidate Trump Becomes President Trump With Cries Of America First

After Donald Trump won the nomination, we had hoped that it was just an act to win the Republican nomination, and he would take on a more reasonable tone. Instead he fought with a gold star family and continued to campaign for the presidency as he campaigned for the nomination. After he won the election, we hoped again that he would be more reasonable. Instead he attacked the free press and fought with people ranging from Meryl Streep to John Lewis. We hoped that he might change once he was president, but again their was no pivot, as Trump gave a terrible speech, which was widely criticized on the right as well as on the left.  George Will called it “the most dreadful inaugural address in history” and Joe Scarborough called it “a primal scream aimed at Washington, D.C.”

The speech (full text here) sounded more like a Trump campaign rally than a speech from a newly elected president desiring to unite the nation behind him. He pandered to isolationism, xenophobia, and religious bigotry, stressing the slogan America First, oblivious to its history. Walter Shapiro wrote:

Trump may well be a president who, like automaker Henry Ford, believes that “history is bunk.” But it was striking how much borrowed 1930s imagery was embedded in the 16-minute speech.

Even though the slogan “America First” harks back to Charles Lindbergh and his isolationist (and sometimes anti-Semitic) movement against U.S. entry into World War II, Trump has continued to embrace it with a passion.

There was also an echo of FDR’s 1937 inaugural address as Trump portrayed the America he was inheriting. Roosevelt declared, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” For President Trump, it was “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones” and “the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives.”

Of course, there is overwhelming evidence that the crime rate has plunged (especially in Trump’s hometown of New York) over the past two decades. And economists will eagerly point out that changing technology (like robotics) have done far more than trade treaties like NAFTA to hollow out America’s 1950s industrial core.

But that’s not the view that the new president saw from the campaign trail and from his fortress of solitude atop Trump Tower. Much about Trump may reflect the cynicism of the eternal huckster, but his portrayal of a dying America calling out for rescue by a superhero seems sincere.

Jonathan Chait wrote that, The System Has Failed and a Con Artist Has Won:

The gall of Trump’s populism is astonishing. “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he announced, shamelessly. “Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.” This from the first president in decades to refuse to disclose his tax returns, and the first in centuries to use the presidency to enrich himself and his family!

The presidency raises the stakes of Trump’s con game to a completely new level. In his inaugural address, Trump declared his fealty to the People, promising to unleash untold wealth to them that was being held by elites in Washington and by foreigners. “We will bring back our jobs,” he said. “We will bring back our wealth.” He promised to quash crime and “eradicate” Islamic terrorism “from the face of the Earth.” The grandiosity of these promises is necessary to get even the minority of the electorate that can tolerate Trump to overlook his overt grossness and corruption.

The methods of a skilled con artist have worked just barely well enough to deliver the presidency to Trump. But what happens when his grandiose promises fail to materialize? And when the aspects of his program that he never mentioned in his speech — tax cuts for the rich, stripping away health insurance from millions, massive graft — do take place? A con artist who always escaped his old victims and found new ones has reached the maximal limits of his strategy. What happens when the marks are demanding that the promises he made be redeemed, and there is nowhere for him to go, and he commands the powers of the state?

We only saw a glimpse of policy on Trump’s first day in policy, but it was not good. Despite 2016 being the warmest year on record, climate change has gone down the memory hole at the White House web site. Civil rights and LGBT rights have also disappeared.  A list of Melania’s magazine cover appearances and information on her jewelry line at QVC have been added. (Update: The references to QVC have been removed.)

Data Shows Earth Continues To Get Warmer As Incoming Trump Administration Denies The Science

Climate change deniers have been making fallacious claims of a hiatus in the warming of the planet, based upon cherry picking data. The actual data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from NASA shows that 2016 was the warmest year on record, with this record having been broken for three consecutive years. The New York Times reports:

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.

Chris Mooney noted how Donald Trump and some of his appointees have been making statements which have been contradicted by the scientific evidence:

The record comes just two days before Donald Trump, who has tweeted that global warming is a “hoax,” assumes the presidency and, with it, control over the two science agencies that just announced these records. It is also the same day that Scott Pruitt, Trump’s controversial nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency, is appearing before the Senate in an often tense confirmation hearing in which he has been questioned about climate change. Pruitt has previously written that the “debate” over climate change is “far from settled.”

Trump’s other nominees, such as State Department nominee Rex Tillerson and Interior Department nominee Ryan Zinke, have been less dismissive of climate change in their confirmation hearings, acknowledging at least some human contribution to the phenomenon, but also raising questions either about the extent to which it is human-caused or about our capacity to predict the consequences. On Wednesday, Pruitt acknowledged that climate change is not a “hoax” and said that “the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner.”

Scientists have been far less guarded. “2016 is a wake-up call in many ways,” Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, said of the year’s temperatures. “Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is serious.”

Ivanka Trump Plans To Speak Out On Climate Change

ivanka-trump

Ivanka Trump is probably the most moderate to liberal member of the Trump family, and the incoming first daughter is expected to have more of a public role than the next first lady. Ivanka promoted liberal positions such as support for family leave at the Republican convention, and now plans to promote another liberal viewpoint regarding climate change. Politico reports:

Ivanka, 35, Trump’s avatar among the moneyed left-wing elite, is now poised to be the first “first daughter” in modern history to play a larger public role than the first lady. And she’s positioning herself exactly as she did that weekend — as a bridge to moderates and liberals disgusted and depressed with the tone and tenor of the new leader of the free world.

And the ambitious daughter, who once plotted her career around international brand domination, is planning to take on an even heavier lift. Ivanka wants to make climate change — which her father has called a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese — one of her signature issues, a source close to her told Politico. The source said Ivanka is in the early stages of exploring how to use her spotlight to speak out on the issue.

If she can pull it off, her advocacy could come as a bit of solace to fearful Americans. Over the past week, New Yorkers concerned about Trump’s election have posted “Dear Ivanka” letters on social media and outside the Puck Building in lower Manhattan, which is owned by her husband. One theme of the letters is a fear that Trump will dismantle the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies.

Advocating opposition to CO2 emissions and fossil fuels will inevitably create another warring sphere of influence in Trump’s orbit: Incoming Chief of staff Reince Priebus has clarified in recent days that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.”

But no one is closer to Trump than his eldest daughter, and it would not be the first traditionally liberal position she has tried preaching to conservatives. At the Republican National Convention in July, Ivanka championed pay equity and parental leave, family issues she intends to continue pushing from what will likely be a unique platform that represents her role as an adviser, a surrogate and functional first lady.

It is possible that Ivanka might change her father’s views. I often get the impression that Donald Trump has no firmly held views, and he often seems to repeat the views of the last person he spoke to. He did concede that there might be some connection between human action and climate change when speaking to The New York Times.

Ideologically it would be beneficial to have Ivanka advising Donald Trump, but it also raises ethical concerns for Ivanka to be both advising the president and simultaneously managing his business interests:

But as Trump seeks to avoid business conflicts, Ivanka is also expected to increase her responsibilities running the family company — and it is unclear how she will advocate for policy positions while overseeing the international real estate and branding organization.

“It becomes a conflict if she is in a policymaking or advising role,” said Jellison. “If she were able to play White House hostess only, and very much delineate that is her sole role in the White House, then she would be on much safer ground. At any point if people see her sliding onto the policymaking and advising side, there would be charges of conflict of interest.”

Trump Continues To Express Contradictory Views In New York Times Interview

trump-ny-times-interview

With Donald Trump often expressing contradictory views, sometimes in the same speech, we will not really know what a Trump administration will be like until we see what they actually do. In the meantime we continue to get some clues, such as in his interview with The New York Times (full transcript here).

Reading this, and other  recent statements from Trump, makes me believe he is non-ideological, has not thought very much about the issues, and often reflects the views of the last person he talked to. This provides hope that Trump can be persuaded to change his mind in areas where his statements have been contrary to fact, but also gives more reason to be worried about those he has appointed to his administration so far.

One area where he has altered his view to some degree is climate change:

JAMES BENNET, editorial page editor: When you say an open mind, you mean you’re just not sure whether human activity causes climate change? Do you think human activity is or isn’t connected?

TRUMP: I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.

They’re really largely noncompetitive. About four weeks ago, I started adding a certain little sentence into a lot of my speeches, that we’ve lost 70,000 factories since W. Bush. 70,000. When I first looked at the number, I said: ‘That must be a typo. It can’t be 70, you can’t have 70,000, you wouldn’t think you have 70,000 factories here.’ And it wasn’t a typo, it’s right. We’ve lost 70,000 factories.

We’re not a competitive nation with other nations anymore. We have to make ourselves competitive. We’re not competitive for a lot of reasons.

That’s becoming more and more of the reason. Because a lot of these countries that we do business with, they make deals with our president, or whoever, and then they don’t adhere to the deals, you know that. And it’s much less expensive for their companies to produce products. So I’m going to be studying that very hard, and I think I have a very big voice in it. And I think my voice is listened to, especially by people that don’t believe in it. And we’ll let you know…

SHEAR: Just one quick clarification on the climate change, do you intend to, as you said, pull out of the Paris Climate …

TRUMP: I’m going to take a look at it.

On the one hand, he does admit to at least “some connectivity,” which is an improvement over his history of denial of the human role in climate change. He also shows what I believe is the bottom line for many Republicans. They choose to deny climate change as they see it as bad for business. To them, a change in their business models would be bad, while liberals are more encouraged by the prospects of stimulating the economy with measures to change to more environmentally sound processes. Advisors such as Myron Ebell and Bob Walker make it less likely that we will see action by Trump on climate change.

Trump appeared willing to soften his views in some areas, but not where it might jeopardize his business concerns:

SHEAR: You’ve talked about the impact of the wind farms on your golf course. People, experts who are lawyers and ethics experts, say that all of that is totally inappropriate, so I guess the question for you is, what do you see as the appropriate structure for keeping those two things separate, and are there any lines that you think you won’t want to cross once you’re in the White House?

TRUMP: O.K. First of all, on countries. I think that countries will not do that to us. I don’t think if they’re run by a person that understands leadership and negotiation they’re in no position to do that to us, no matter what I do. They’re in no position to do that to us, and that won’t happen, but I’m going to take a look at it. A very serious look. I want to also see how much this is costing, you know, what’s the cost to it, and I’ll be talking to you folks in the not-too-distant future about it, having to do with what just took place.

As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world. People are starting to see, when they look at all these different jobs, like in India and other things, number one, a job like that builds great relationships with the people of India, so it’s all good. But I have to say, the partners come in, they’re very, very successful people. They come in, they’d say, they said, ‘Would it be possible to have a picture?’ Actually, my children are working on that job. So I can say to them, Arthur, ‘I don’t want to have a picture,’ or, I can take a picture. I mean, I think it’s wonderful to take a picture. I’m fine with a picture. But if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again. That would be like you never seeing your son again. That wouldn’t be good. That wouldn’t be good. But I’d never, ever see my daughter Ivanka…

This is one of, if not the only, core belief which is likely to guide the actions of Donald Trump in office.

Trump was confronted with the charges of racism and anti-Semitism surrounding Steve Bannon in light of his work at Breitbart:

DAVIS: You hired Steve Bannon to be the chief strategist for you in the White House. He is a hero of the alt-right. He’s been described by some as racist and anti-Semitic. I wonder what message you think you have sent by elevating him to that position and what you would say to those who feel like that indicates something about the kind of country you prefer and the government you’ll run.

TRUMP: Um, I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him. First of all, I’m the one that makes the decision, not Steve Bannon or anybody else. And Kellyanne will tell you that.

KELLYANE CONWAY: 100 percent.

TRUMP: And if he said something to me that, in terms of his views, or that I thought were inappropriate or bad, number one I wouldn’t do anything, and number two, he would have to be gone. But I know many people that know him, and in fact, he’s actually getting some very good press from a lot of the people that know him, and people that are on the left. But Steve went to Harvard, he was a, you know, he was very successful, he was a Naval officer, he’s, I think he’s very, very, you know, sadly, really, I think it’s very hard on him. I think he’s having a hard time with it. Because it’s not him. It’s not him.

I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a very, very smart guy. I think he was with Goldman Sachs on top of everything else…

He was also asked about his support from neo-Nazis:

UNKNOWN: Mr. President-elect, I wanted to ask you, there was a conference this past weekend in Washington of people who pledged their allegiance to Nazism.

TRUMP: Boy, you are really into this stuff, huh?

PRIEBUS: I think we answered that one right off the bat.

UNKNOWN: Are you going to condemn them?

TRUMP: Of course I did, of course I did.

PRIEBUS: He already did.

UNKNOWN: Are you going to do it right now?

TRUMP: Oh, I see, maybe you weren’t here. Sure. Would you like me to do it here? I’ll do it here. Of course I condemn. I disavow and condemn…

Trump will remain under close scrutiny in light of Steve Bannon’s past work, and others on the far right who support him. He is also being watched closely by several civil liberties organizations.

He also backed down slightly on torture:

HABERMAN: And on torture? Where are you — and waterboarding?

TRUMP: So, I met with General Mattis, who is a very respected guy. In fact, I met with a number of other generals, they say he’s the finest there is. He is being seriously, seriously considered for secretary of defense, which is — I think it’s time maybe, it’s time for a general. Look at what’s going on. We don’t win, we can’t beat anybody, we don’t win anymore. At anything. We don’t win on the border, we don’t win with trade, we certainly don’t win with the military. General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy. And when he said that, I’m not saying it changed my mind. Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer. It certainly does not — it’s not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But General Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say. I thought he would say — you know he’s known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason. I thought he’d say ‘It’s phenomenal, don’t lose it.’ He actually said, ‘No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we’ll do better.’

It is good to see that he listened to the view that torture is not effective. It is discouraging to see that he then said, “If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it.” Hardly a position which respects either the facts or ethics. Torturing prisoners because “the American people” want it, even if it is of no benefit, is hardly a defensible position.

Maybe The Sky Really Isn’t Falling

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There has been a lot of panic that the election of Donald Trump means the end of the United States. In reality, nobody really knows what will happen with Trump having taken multiple views on issues over the years–and often would promoting contradictory goals in the same speech. Obviously we need to be wary of what Trump might do, as would also be the case if Clinton was elected, but suddenly Democrats are becoming open to the possibility of finding common ground. Bernie Sanders said he is willing to work with Trump if he really is interested in limiting corporate power: “If Mr. Trump has the guts to stand up to those corporations he will have an ally with me.”

Sanders, speaking with reporters at a Christian Science Monitor sponsored breakfast, said he is ready to embrace Trump on a handful of campaign promises. Those include protecting Social Security and Medicare, negotiating for lower drug prices, raising the minimum wage to $10, imposing tariffs on companies that ship jobs overseas, and re-regulating Wall Street by re-establishing Glass-Steagall…

By embracing Trump’s left-leaning stands, Sanders is hoping to make progress on issues of long-standing concern to the Vermont senator. If Trump backs away from these promises and sides with the conventional conservatives who lead the Republican Party in Congress, Sanders believes that Trump will be exposed as a “fraud.”

Sanders also called on Trump to fire Steve Bannon, and says he will fight Trump “tooth and nail” on climate change.

Congressional Democrats also see the possibility of working with Trump. The New York Times reports:

Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party.

On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like.

There is a considerable risk that such attempts to work with Trump on these issues will fail, but it is worth the effort.  Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama failed to get very much accomplished in their second terms due to partisan gridlock. Trump does not appear to be ideological, and might be open to working with Democrats to achieve bipartisan support for efforts he has expressed support for in the past. Trump’s proposals for infrastructure spending sound quite a bit like Barack Obama’s stimulus plans. While such plans could not get through a Republican Senate in recent years, it is possible that a similar plan from Trump could pass with bipartisan support.

The alternative very will could be more gridlock. There has been concern that the Republicans might eliminate the filibusterer so that they could pass legislation with a simple majority. Some Republicans, with a long memory of the years they were in the minority, such as Orin Hatch and Lindsey Graham, oppose a change to the filibuster. This still leaves the possibility of the Republicans pushing through partisan legislation through budget reconciliation, but reduces the harm that a Republican Congress with a Republican president could accomplish if the Democrats can block legislation which does not have at least sixty votes.

Donald Trump Returns Conspiracy Theories To The Campaign

Enquirer Cruz

Donald Trump’s long list of faults makes it easy for some to be overlooked. His belief in conspiracy theories has not been mentioned much during the campaign. Previously Trump had been a leading proponent of the Birther theories that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. Climate change denialism is also largely a conspiracy theory, with proponents believing that everyone promoting climate change, presumably including the vast majority of scientists, are using it as part of a plot to destroy capitalism. Now we have a new one from Donald Trump to add to the nomination battle–implicating Ted Cruz’s father in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Politico reports:

Donald Trump on Tuesday alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin shortly before he murdered the president, parroting a National Enquirer story claiming that Rafael Cruz was pictured with Lee Harvey Oswald handing out pro-Fidel Castro pamphlets in New Orleans in 1963.

A Cruz campaign spokesperson told the Miami Herald, which pointed out numerous flaws in the Enquirer story, that it was “another garbage story in a tabloid full of garbage.”

“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”

The Cruz campaign has denied that it was Rafael Cruz in the picture which led to this story.

Trump has also been spotted shopping for more fiction to peddle in his campaign, having lunch with Edward Klein. Klein is one of the leaders in a cottage industry of writing anti-Clinton books. While there is a lot to criticize Clinton for, including her conservative political views, her long history of poor judgment on the major issues during her career, and her ethics, writers such as Klein concentrate on fiction as opposed to Clinton’s actual faults. I suspect that this is because the conservative readers his books are marketed to don’t care about the same matters which those on the left criticize Clinton for. Plus Clinton’s actual faults overlap tremendously with the fault of Republican politicians, and an honest criticism of Clinton would hit too close to home.