March for Science

March for Science

The March for Science is Saturday, April, 22. I have my signs. See you there!

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Trump’s Algorithm

Wag the Dog.jpg

An algorithm is a precise rule or set of rules specifying how to solve some problem.

Trump has a problem. He is president and doesn’t know what to do. Being a reality TV show host has not given him a lot of insight into the workings of government, and it’s not clear that he understands the function of the three branches of government or has ever read the constitution.

Since early January, there has been a continuous flow of information on the connection between the Trump’s staff and Russia. Trump has been unable to distract America from his ties to Russia and the perception that he is little more than Putin’s puppet.

His attempt to distract America has followed a pattern. He can follow this pattern without thinking, perhaps even while playing yet another game of golf. Here is Trump’s algorithm:

  1. Blame Obama. News media refuses to believe made-up story about tapping Trump Tower  (March 4, 2017).
  2. Blame Muslims. Tried twice, ruled unconstitutional both times (March 15, 2017).
  3. Blame Democrats. They’re somehow responsible for the failure of Republicans to vote for elimination of the Affordable Health Care Act. (March 24, 2017).
  4. Blame Hillary. She got the answers to the debate beforehand. (April 3, 2017)
  5. Start war. Just bombed Syria (April 6, 2017).

In case these tactics look familiar, they are. With the exception of starting a war, they are the same tactics Trump used during his campaign, and I am sure they will be the same tactics Trump uses next time a crisis arises.

For more on the use of war as a distraction, see Wag the Dog. Yes, it’s been done before. We really are living in a movie.

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Does Trump need a science advisor?

brain-xray_squareSTAT recently published an article on Why President Trump needs to finally name a science advisor. The article highlights the importance of science but fails to point out one major problem. Trump doesn’t believe in science.

Trump appointing a science advisor is like me appointing a gambling advisor, my wife appointing a sommelier, or my father appointing a golfing coach. I don’t gamble, my wife doesn’t drink, and my father doesn’t play golf.

Science has established that carbon dioxide causes global warming, evolution is the most likely explanation for human development, and the earth is not 6,000 years old. Any science advisor who actually believes in science would be completely unwelcome in the Trump administration. The only exception would be for Trump’s relatives, and none of them understand science either. Instead, Trump goes merrily about his way deleting data and ignoring  information that gets in the way of his political agenda.

Trump doesn’t need a science advisor. He needs a brain transplant.

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Delete the data makes no sense

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I can understand Trump not wanting to take action on climate change. After all, he values economic activity today more than reduced greenhouse gasses and a less polluted environment in the future.

What I cannot understand is the rationale for not studying climate change or even worse, deleting data that has already been collected. It makes no sense. Failure to study possible future scenarios doesn’t make them less likely to occur. It simply makes us less prepared for the future, less able to manage risk, and more vulnerable to consequences that might have been prevented.

Business is about managing risk. Every business decision has possible negative and positive outcomes. The goal of business is to understand those outcomes and to take steps to minimize the chance of negative outcomes and maximize the chance of positive outcomes.

The Republican party is supposedly pro-business, and managing risk is important for business.  Consequently, I can not understand Trump’s policy on climate change. His “head in the ground” approach toward climate change makes it impossible for business to understand and manage the risks from climate change.

Let’s look at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. If climate change is real, Florida may be affected by more frequent hurricanes and floods. Eventually, his resort might literally be under water. Information about climate change can only help his businesses prepare for the future. Yet, this information is exactly what he doesn’t want.

It makes no sense.

I just don’t get it.

To get more information on climate change, check out Global Warming or see The Climate Reality Project.

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Science Is Political

march-for-scienceIn a generally positive editorial, the February 6, 2017 issue of Chemical and Engineering News included the following comment from its editor-in-chief, Bibliana Campos Seijo, “But the event is not without criticism. Some critics feel that a march would further politicize science and drive a greater separation between scientists and media and the public.”

I would like to ask how is this possible? The country has elected a president who believes that the best solution to information that is inconsistent with his political agenda is to delete the data, who wants to preapprove technical presentations to ensure that they are consistent with his policies, and who wants to subvert the scientific process through selective funding of his preconceived ideas.

So, I will again ask, “How is it possible to drive greater separation between scientists and the media and the public than the separation that now exists?”

Scientists must march, and they must become a political force. The alternative anti-science agenda is simply too scary.

See http://cen.acs.org/articles/95/i6/controversy-goes.html for the complete Chemical and Engineering News editorial.

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Trump Was Elected President

Trump pollution

Trump was elected president
Science to him wasn’t evident
With no intelligence to be found
And Steve Bannon all around
In Washington he was resident

Questionable tactics to employ
The environment to destroy
Climate change to deny
Basic logic to defy
Nothing left to enjoy

Alternative facts to see
Blame everyone but me
Many dollars to count
The nation’s laws to flout
Impeach him it must be

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The Mathematics of Defense Spending

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List of countries by military expendituresTrump has proposed increasing U.S. Defense spending by $54 billion or 9.1%. What he neglects to say is that we are already spending  2.8 time the amount of the next country, China,  and the fact is if we are not able to maintain a credible defense spending 2.8 times what China spends we are unlikely to be able to do it spending 3.0 times what China spends. Other countries that might represent a threat to the United States spend significantly less on defense than China.

Instead, if our defense is as inadequate as Trump claims, he should look at how we are spending out money and how he can reallocate existing spending more effectively. Clearly, in absolute dollars we are spending enough money on defense.

Senator Bernie Sanders proposed increased spending on college education. From a comparative standpoint, this actually makes some sense since education is an investment in the future and the direct cost of higher education in the United States is by far the highest across all developed countries. In addition, the U.S. currently ranks fifth in the world in the proportion of adults that have university-level education, after Canada, the Russian Federation, Japan, and Israel.

See List of countries by military expenditures and Defense Budget by Country for more details on worldwide defense spending. For more on education see Education at a Glance 2014 United States.

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