SIO8: Completely Unpresidented

It’s another Thursday full of inquiry! In this episode I discuss Trump’s inauguration and the obscene amount of money he’s collecting for it, as well as the congress persons boycotting it. Are they right to do so?

Next up are updates on Trump’s cabinet confirmation hearings. How are our favorite incompetents faring in congressional hearings?

And finally, I’ve got some great voicemails to react to. Thanks for those contributions! Included is one from a Republican atheist telling me why Trump won. Also, a listener commented that the far left is just as bad as the far right because of their anti-science positions. Do the numbers really bear that out? Here are some links I used to evaluate that:

GMOs, Vaccines, Climate Change

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7 Replies to “SIO8: Completely Unpresidented”

  1. On the boycott, in addition to the points mentioned in the episode, another important difference when republicans did it (to whatever extent they did), is that they questioned Obama’s legitimacy not just as the elected President, but as an American citizen. While they must have held idiosyncratic concerns about how his policies would affect their lives, valid or not (e.g., “death panels”), no serious person can pretend the Republican/Tea-Party response wasn’t largely influenced by race (it was somehow easy for them to view a black man as being “from somewhere else”), exploitative of racial anxieties (e.g., Trump claiming relevance as a political figure by sending investigators to Hawaii), and wrapped in a big sweater-vest of resentment toward perceived social change and their resulting sense of irrelevance (e.g., “gays are getting married now, and nobody cares what I have to say about that”).

    I remember Republicans arguing that Obama must be in bed with Russia because he was appointing “Czars” (which began during the Bush administration). It is in no way hypocritical for us to have criticized and dismissed those allegations while also now demanding answers about the Trump’s campaign/administration’s documented communication and business entanglements with Russia.

    I think recognizing this context is a crucial part of the push-back against normalizing Trump’s presidency, by which I mean to say I think it enables and emboldens the Trump administration to base our response to its actions on an overly simplistic understanding of “fairness” and “reciprocity.” Trump’s campaign was a fucked up invalidation of norms and values (e.g., honesty, competency, non-malevolence, sexual consent, et al.), and (based somewhat on what I’ve gleaned from episodes of Opening Arguments) there’s a lot going on in his transition and coming-presidency that’s probably only maybe technically/in-practice legal because nobody anticipated someone so nakedly craven and corrupt being elected president.

    As for the appointment hearings, I’m still shocked that the appointees have been so resistant to submitting their financial documents for review by the ethics agencies. As I understand it, the screening is as much about protecting the country from future corruption as it is about protecting the appointees from legal consequences stemming from conflicts of interest they may not even be aware they hold.

    Tillerson and Devos aside, I think there’s more to say about Jeff Sessions. During questioning, he was asked by Senator Franken whether he, as the person in charge of investigating voter fraud, agreed with Trump’s assessment that over 3 million votes were cast illegally, and whether he intended to pursue prosecution. Sessions essentially tried to dodge and ultimately declined to disagree with the president, because “we can’t know what information Trump may or may not have.”

    But more still, as it relates to questions of racial bias, I believe the relevant aspect of Sessions’s history of racist statements is not whether he meant them sincerely, but his insistence that it is his intentions that matter most, his inability to entertain the notion that an attorney general with a history of “joking” about racism is, in itself, deeply troubling, and his unwillingness to respond to a request that he elaborate on a statement he made wishing he’d “done more to oppose racism” with even a single specific example.

    What reason do we have to expect that he, as Attorney General, would approach racism as a structural and systematic issue, and not just defer to asking questions about individual white-people’s intent? I think it’s necessary to recognize that while determining whether or not he used racial slurs in the office, in an era when that was more socially acceptable, seems like small potatoes, the effect of appointing an Attorney General who doesn’t understand or care to understand the complex relationship between race and law enforcement in 2017 is an enormous issue.

  2. You asked about far left and far right. Then you use studies on attitudes of democrats and republicans to show the contrast. What the actual fuck? Those are not comparable things. Democrats are not a far left party, they are actually right of centre. They are only far left in comparison to where the base of the GOP is.

    That was a completely unfair breakdown of her argument on the equality of damage the far left and far right could cause.

    If you want to compare democrats and GOP that should be the question you ask.

  3. It is the question I asked. That was the whole point. As a whole the right is way worse than the left. And yes, the far left is still better than the far right on issues of science. How was that unfair?

  4. Climate change is an issue but it’s a down the road issue. Vaccines kill children today. Climate change problems of famine and displacement are theoretical, no vaccines is reality that we see today and it’s actual dead children.

    So let’s put these policies into practice. The far left would ban vaccines and GMOs. That leads to plagues and famine.

    Far right removes all environmental protections, this leads to displacement, famine and likely different types of plagues.

    So the options are a kick in the balls or a punch in the balls. Extremes are really really really bad. Both scenarios are so bad that you really should down play.

    We have recent examples of the far right in Nazi Germany and far left in Soviet Russia. We know what those extremes lead to.

  5. I’m trying to figure out whether we are too being quick to attribute these atrocities to the extremity of the political ideology. I definitely take your point, if what you’re suggesting is that the centralization of power at the extremity of political spectrums leaves governments vulnerable for dictators and oligarchs to gain power, but I’m having trouble viewing Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia as clear and inevitable expressions of opposing political philosophies, rather than the co-opting and subversion of liberalism and conservatism by totalitarian force.

    If nothing else, I think Trump’s rise to prominence has demonstrated that populist authoritarians can gain access to power without even nominally relying on a consistent political ideology.

    And, at the risk of inflaming this discussion rather than adding to it, I have to say I’m reminded of arguments in skeptic circles about the danger posed by Islamic extremism v. the threat posed by Christian extremism. The threat that each poses is determined less by the content of their religious belief than the access they have to political power and their understanding of how that authority ought to be wielded.

  6. I think your Christian vs Islam analogy is perfect. Modern day Christians are the democrats and Islam are the GOP. In their current form Islam/GOP are far worse than Christianity/Democrats. But the question asked was not who is worse democrats or republicans. The question is about the far left and far right. Taken to its extreme Christianity is about as bad as Islam in its extreme.

    On the left you have a small minority you could call extremists and a fraction of them identify with democrats. On the right you have a large minority that are very extreme and most of them identify with the GOP. On the democrat side the centrists control the party and the loons have really very little power but if the loons did control the party and platform they would be as dangerous as the far right wing.

    What Thomas did today was conflate democrats with far left ideology and I think that was an unfair attack on the argument that girl was making. She was talking about the far left not democrats and that distinction needs to be very clear.

  7. One more thing on science and the left. What you see on the left is they believe the science that already agrees with them. It’s more about ideology than acceptance of the evidence. The far left are anti-corporations, there is no question of this. So the science they accept falls in line with anti corporation agenda. They accept climate change science because it agrees with them but they dismiss vaccine science because big phrama and they dismiss GMO science because Monsanto is the devil. There is a clear pattern.

    To paint the far left as better on science is just wrong. Robert Kennedy Jr. can be an anti vaxxer and anti GMO and pro climate change, that doesn’t make him 33% accurate on science. He is anti corporation and just happens to fall on the right side of one of those issues. Bill Maher falls under the same umbrella and he talks about caring about science all the time, but it’s just the science he agrees with already. He is anti religion so evolution is real but he is also anti GMO and anti vax.

    I think it is disingenuous to say the far left is better on science, they aren’t they just get credit for being right by accident.

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