The year of dumb and dumber

Daffy Donald Trump has a long history of saying some of the most bizarre things in politics. This year was one for the books as he flailed, searching for excuses for his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Here are some of the most hilariously stupid things the Trump has said this year:

Windmills cause ear cancer
“If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value,” Trump told Republicans in April. “And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one.” He then made a whirring noise mimicking a turbine.

He wants to buy Greenland
“In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea,” the Wall Street Journal reported in August.

“Denmark essentially owns it,” Trump told reporters in the days that followed. “We’re very good allies with Denmark. We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. … Strategically it’s interesting.”

Trump then got into a fight with Danish leaders and had to cancel a trip he’d planned to the country.

Trump is the “chosen one. ”During the Christmas holiday, Christians celebrate the birth of their savior. That savior does not include Donald Trump, much to his chagrin.

“The fake news, of which many of you are members, is trying to convince the public to have a recession,” Trump said. “Let’s have a recession! The United States is doing phenomenally well. But one thing I have to do is economically take on China because China has been ripping us off for many years.”

Trump then went on to say that his life would have been so much “easier” if he hadn’t gone to war with China over trade. “This isn’t my trade war,” he claimed.

“I am the chosen one. So I’m taking on China. I’m taking on China on trade. And you know what? We’re winning,” he explained.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
This year, Trump went after three American Congresswomen he perceived as foreigners because they are people of color.

“We can have a lot of fun tonight. I have nothing to do. Nothing. Nothing.”Twice this year, at least, Trump bragged that as he has nothing to do.

“We can have a lot of fun tonight. I have nothing to do. Nothing. Nothing,” he told a South Carolina crowd in July. He repeated the same comment at the Michigan Christmas rally last week.

“The buck stops with everybody. ”
The bastardized line from former President Harry Truman was misquoted by the Trump in January, where he placed blame for the government shutdown on anyone but himself. The remark came after Trump told Democrats in front of the cameras that he’d “take up the mantle,” and he was “proud” to shut down the government.

“USMCA — like the song, YMCA.” “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA,” but apparently, the new-NAFTA trade deal was like the popular Village People song from the late 1970s. It’s unclear if Trump thought he could get that branding to take off, but understandably it never did.

Trump discovers soccer For years, pollsters have talked about suburban women they called “soccer moms,” but apparently Trump only realized soccer was catching on in 2019. Luckily he noticed it just in time for the U.S. women’s team to win the World Cup.

“And a lot of people, including me, thought soccer would probably never make it in this country, but it really is moving forward rapidly,” Trump said.

That time Trump invented the word “caravan.”
“How about the word ‘caravan?’ Caravan? I think that was one of mine,” he said in February in El Paso, Texas.

Puerto Rico
“And I think that the people of Puerto Rico are very grateful to Donald Trump for what we’ve done for them,” Trump said at a May 8 rally in Panama City, Florida. Not 10 seconds later, he then said, “That’s Puerto Rico, and they don’t like me.”

A huge threat to all life on Earth

Greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise in 2018, with carbon dioxide levels hitting an all-time high of 407.8 parts per million (ppm), according to a report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Monday. The grim assessment comes just days before the UN Climate Change Conference begins on Dec. 2, highlighting the increasing levels of three greenhouse gases contributing to global heating as a result of human activities.

The last time the Earth had comparable concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was approximately 3 million years ago when the temperature was approximately 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer and sea levels were up to 20 meters (65 feet) higher.

“There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO, in a press release.

The report details concentrations of three greenhouse gases known to greatly contribute to global heating: Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide. These gases can remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time, trapping heat. The higher the concentration, the more heat they can trap. Of the measured gases, CO2 contributes the most to heating and is also absorbed by the oceans, lowering (raising) their acidity and wreaking havoc on marine life.

Data is obtained by a suite of over 100 monitoring stations around the globe. The stations are able to assess the minute changes in gas concentrations at any given location and this information is used to work out a global average. The average has been rising at a rate much faster than previous natural increases, driven by fossil fuel combustion, agriculture activities, and industrial sources. Notably, it will continue to rise.

“I can tell you they’re going to go up next year and the following one and then the next decade and the following decade,” says Pep Canadell, a climate scientist with Australia’s CSIRO and executive director of the Global Carbon Project. “It’s not until you bring those emissions to zero, that you can begin to inspire stabilization in the atmosphere.”

The Global Carbon Project is expected to release its yearly “carbon budget” report on Dec. 4, revealing where CO2 is being generated and how limiting emissions can stabilize concentrations in the atmosphere. “The budget is truly like your household finance budget,” says Canadell. “[It measures] how much carbon we put into the atmosphere, how much carbon accumulates in the atmosphere and how much carbon gets pulled out of the atmosphere through the oceans and land.”

The Project also measures atmospheric CO2 and provides its own measure for the current year. The rise in carbon dioxide concentration will continue, as Canadell notes unless emissions are drastically reduced.

That poses a huge threat for all life on Earth. The climate crisis is already having negative effects on human health, threatening species with extinction and sending temperatures soaring. On Nov. 5, over 11,000 scientists declared a climate emergency.

Jackson Ryan for c|net


Let’s see the full transcript

Trump said Wednesday that his controversial July call with his Ukrainian counterpart was transcribed “word-for-word, comma-for-comma,” an assertion that fueled growing questions about the nature and completeness of an official memorandum about the call released by the White House last week.

“This is an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation, taken by very talented stenographers,” Trump said.

White House officials previously had portrayed the document as not a verbatim transcription but rather a summary that closely tracked the words the Trump used in his July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. They said it was being released in a bid to bring transparency and clarity to a call at the heart of a consuming political scandal that has sparked a House impeachment investigation. But the whistleblower complaint that spurred the investigation described an “official word-for-word transcript” of the call — words closely matching the ones used by Trump on Wednesday — creating uncertainty about what was included in the document the White House released last week and what may have been left out.

Current and former U.S. officials studying the document pointed to several elements that, they say, indicate that the document may have been handled in an unusual way.

Those include the use of ellipses — punctuation indicating that information has been deleted for clarity or other reasons — that traditionally have not appeared in summaries of presidential calls with foreign leaders, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the elaborate, non-public process.

In two of the cases when ellipses were used, they accompanied Trump’s reference to cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which is at the center of a conservative conspiracy theory about a computer server central to the company’s investigation of the Russian hack of Democratic Party computers that, according to those pushing the theory, is hidden away in Ukraine.

The use of ellipses in this passage fueled questions about what may have been removed and why.

The five-page document reports Trump said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

In the third use of ellipses, Trump was asking Zelensky about a different theory — also sometimes aired in the extreme corners of the Internet and on some conservative news networks — that Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden had, while vice president, demanded the removal of a prosecutor looking to investigate Biden’s son Hunter.

“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me,” according to the call document.

The White House declined to comment Wednesday about the unusual markings or other apparent discrepancies. Shortly after the document’s release last week, a White House official had said that the ellipses did not indicate missing words but referred to “a trailing off of a voice or pause,” and called it standard practice for records of presidential phone calls.

Current and former officials said that would be slightly different from previous practice. They said when presidents simply trail off in a way that note-takers can’t hear, that point traditionally has been marked “[inaudible].” When fragments of sentences aren’t readily understood by note-takers, or when comments repeat a previous thought, they said, the transcripts had often been marked with dashes.

The so-called transcript must be severely edited

Others have noted the brevity of a document purporting to represent a call that lasted 30 minutes. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) had two of his office’s interns read the call summary aloud, measuring its length with a stopwatch app. The time: 10 minutes 40 seconds, or roughly 20 minutes shorter than the White House’s assertion about the call’s length.

“Our motivating question was: How much don’t we know?” King said. “There has to be an inquiry to get to the facts.”

The memorandum of Trump’s call with Zelensky appears remarkably different in speed and content from the full transcripts of calls between  Trump and foreign leaders The Washington Post obtained in 2017.

The transcript of a 24-minute call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which both the participants spoke English, included roughly 3,200 words, or about 133 words per minute. A 53-minute call with then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, in which both Trump and the Mexican president spoke through interpreters, included roughly 5,500 words, or about 102 words per minute.

The White House summary of Trump’s 30-minute call with Zelensky — which included interpreters because Zelensky spoke Ukrainian while Trump spoke English — includes fewer than 2,000 words or roughly 65 words per minute. That suggests that the rough transcript of the Zelensky call includes about half the number of words that would be expected if the call had proceeded at the same or similar pace as the previous calls.

It was unclear whether the interpretation of the Zelensky call occurred simultaneously as the presidents were speaking or took place after a participant had finished speaking. The latter would have affected the speed of the conversation.

(Neither the Turnbull nor the Peña Nieto transcript included ellipses.)

The record of the presidential call with Zelensky, which is labeled “MEMORANDUM OF TELEPHONE CONVERSATION,” was marked as having been produced by note-takers in the White House Situation Room, as is standard for calls with foreign leaders. The record, however, is unusual for lacking a tracking number that would normally indicate it had been circulated to senior subject experts and the national security adviser’s office for review and edits. Instead of a “package” number, the memo released by the White House carries a stamp saying: “Pkg Number Short.”

The document additionally carries classification markings that Situation Room staffers do not normally add when they create a word-for-word transcript, current and former officials said.

“I thought to myself, ‘This didn’t go through the normal process,’ ” said one former government official who was among several who handled these records and found the document released by the White House curious.

The whistleblower said in his complaint that multiple U.S. officials had alerted him that “senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lockdown’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.”

Such phone calls also typically create at least two types of documents: a verbatim transcript made by note-takers in the White House Situation Room and an edited summary that is more widely circulated.

“The one that was released is not the one the Situation Room created,” said one person familiar with the creation of records of calls with foreign leaders who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secretive process. “That’s just not possible.”

Washington Post

Another day, another humiliation for the US

Protests called to mark a “national day of grief” saw tens of thousands of people demonstrate across the city in defiance of a ban on the protests in what was the most widespread show of public anger towards Beijing yet. Then Hong Kong police shot an 18-year-old protester with live ammunition, marking a major escalation in the use of force against demonstrators.

“Dicktator” Donald Trump has repeatedly embarrassed the United States, upended decades of foreign policy, and wholly embraced the core aspects of our enemies. He just did it again.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, “Dumbass” Trump congratulated China’s President Xi Jinping “and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!”

“Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2019

The People’s Republic of China is governed by the Communist Party of China. Authoritarian loving Trump just congratulated its president for 70 years of totalitarianism under the guise communism.

Trump is also wrong. Today is the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China – the result of the Chinese Communist Revolution, which was led by the Communist Party of China.

“Dicktator” Trump representing the United States of America is literally praising an authoritarian dictator who tortures and murders his own citizens and squelches freedom, and the grotesque political system that allows it.

2018 was banner year in the war on science with Trump in charge of it

The Worst Anti-Science Bull Shit of 2018 and They all have one thing in common.

Donald Trump has a “natural instinct for science.”Evan Vucci/AP

It was a banner year in the war on science, as politicians, media figures, and celebrities used their platforms to promote pseudoscience and interfere with evidence-based policies. Here are five of the most egregious examples. And believe it or not, they all involve Donald Trump—a man who recently boasted that he has a “natural instinct for science.”

Vaccine critics run for office. In November, North Carolina experienced its largest chickenpox outbreak in two decades, centered around a private school at which two-thirds of the students had not been vaccinated against the disease—many because of religious objections.

But the problem goes far beyond misguided parents. Politicians from both parties—notably Trump—have amplified false claims that vaccines cause autism and other health issues. In the 2018 Texas primaries, “vaccine choice” advocates tried unsuccessfully to defeat Sarah Davis, a moderate, pro-vaccine Republican state lawmaker; and Democrats ousted Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood, who had repeatedly used his position to claim that vaccines cause autism. In California, vaccine critics backed progressive candidate Eric Frame’s failed bid to unseat state Sen. Richard Pan, a pro-vaccination Democrat. Frame—who warned about “adverse reactions” to vaccines and opposed efforts to mandate them—called for a boycott of “Big Pharma” and urged the use of “natural remedies and alternative medicine” instead. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent vaccine critic, appeared in an online video backing Frame. (The video didn’t mention vaccines.)

Other politicians who reject the science were more successful. In December, newly elected Tennessee Congressman Mark Green (R) said, “Let me say this about autism…I have committed to…stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines.” And Kevin Stitt (R), the incoming governor of Oklahoma, announced earlier this year that he and his wife “don’t do vaccinations on all of our children,” adding, “It’s gotta be up to the parents, we can never mandate that.”

Trump rejects Hurricane Maria death toll. Two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Trump visited the island to defend his administration’s disastrous response to the crisis and to toss rolls of paper towels to survivors. Claiming that his administration had “saved a lot of lives” in Puerto Rico, Trump said that in contrast to “a real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina”—in which “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people” died—the Maria death toll was much lower. He then cited the Puerto Rico government’s official death count of 16 people, a number that was obviously far too low at the time. “Sixteen versus literally thousands of people,” he added. “Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico.”

Then, in August 2018, a team of researchers at George Washington University and the University of Puerto Rico released a detailed study commissioned by the territory’s governor. They estimated that in the six months following the hurricane, roughly 3,000 more inhabitants of the island died than would have been expected had the storm never occurred. This makes sense: Huge parts of the island were left without access to electricity, drinking water, and basic services. The figure, moreover, was in line with other academic estimates.

But Trump wasn’t convinced. “3000 people did not die,” Trump angrily tweeted. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths.” The new research, he insisted, “was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.”

Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000……..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

Trump’s media enablers soon joined in. “Only Trump has had the guts to call out the Dems and national left-wing media types, who have blindly accepted an amazing tortured inflation of the death toll, almost 50 times higher than the original count,” said Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs.

Trump administration opposes breastfeeding resolution. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding “results in improved infant and maternal health outcomes in both the industrialized and developing world.” The group recommends that children be fed breast milk exclusively in the first six months of life.

So it came as quite a shock this year when the New York Times revealed that at a UN health conference, the Trump administration had pressured delegates to weaken an Ecuadorian resolution intended to promote breastfeeding and discourage the “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.” According to the Times, “The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid.” The Ecuadorians backed down, as did numerous other potential sponsors who feared US retaliation. Eventually, Russia sponsored the resolution, which ended up passing mostly intact. Trump called the Times story, which cited more than a dozen sources, “fake news.”

HHS tries to define transgender and intersex people out of existence. In October, the New York Times reported that Trump’s Health and Human Services Department was spearheading an effort to define sex and gender in federal law as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” Under the HHS proposal, “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

As the Times noted, the new definition would “essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves—surgically or otherwise—as a gender other than the one they were born into.” In addition to excluding transgender people from federal civil rights protections, the proposal ignored the large number of intersex people, who are born with, for example, atypical genitalia or other anatomical or genetic traits that are not clearly female or male.

Scientists were quick to push back, with hundreds signing an open letter noting that the “relationship between sex chromosomes, genitalia, and gender identity is complex, and not fully understood. There are no genetic tests that can unambiguously determine gender, or even sex.” The plan “has no foundation in science and would undo decades of progress on understanding sex… and gender,” argued an editorial in the prestigious journal Nature.

Climate denial as foreign policy. Long before he ran for office, Trump famously claimed that global warming is a Chinese hoax. Now that he’s in the White House, he has the benefit of overseeing some of the world’s most brilliant scientists. It hasn’t helped. When federal agencies released a detailed report this year warning of the economic dangers of continued warming, Trump declared, “I don’t believe it.”

Discussing climate science, Trump told the Washington Post in November, “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself—we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers.” In interviews throughout the year, he asserted that “it was getting too cold all over the place”; that “something’s changing, and it’ll change back again”; that he doesn’t “know that it’s manmade”; and that “you have scientists on both sides of it.”

Asked by Voice of America whether he would be talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping about climate change, Trump said—bizarrely—that Xi has “got to do something with his climate. His climate is a little bit tough. And I’m sure he will.” Indeed, Xi probably will. But Trump certainly won’t. In December, his administration reiterated its decision to withdraw from the landmark Paris global warming agreement. Then, during international climate negotiations, the US government took the remarkable step of joining with three petrostates—Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait—in declining to endorse a major new UN climate study. Instead, the US delegation hosted an event promoting the use of fossil fuels.

Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump
Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?

Mother Jones – Jeremy Schulman

Getting tired of winning so much yet?

Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but he has no apparent substitute for containing Iran’s aggression. We are isolated from our European allies. Trump says he wants to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but NAFTA 2.0 is not ratified (nor is it likely to be), and in any event, it isn’t dramatically different from the original. We’re out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but not out of a trade war with China (although tariffs are not rising quite yet).

Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, declared the nuclear threat gone and wants to meet again. North Korea, however, has not shown it is prepared to denuclearize. Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris accord; the other world leaders are meeting in Poland to discuss steps forward without the United States. Meanwhile, the climate change problem becomes more urgent with each passing year, according to the administration’s own report.

Our European and North American allies scorn and distrust Trump, revile his pullout from international agreements and his erratic trade threats, and rightly see him as unable to lead the West in an existential battle against illiberal regimes.

Russia remains in Ukraine and now is making a play for control of the Sea of Azov. Iran and Russia dominate Syria. The war in Afghanistan drags on without clear purpose.

Let’s be blunt: The only significant foreign policy “achievements” Trump can claim are eviscerating our reputation as a reliable ally that defends human rights and giving autocrats the impression that they can get away with murder (and dismemberment and more) without paying any significant price.

This is an administration that can claim not a single substantial foreign policy achievement. We are arguably less influential and more isolated than we were when Trump took office. (The irony is that we presently mourn the death of President George H.W. Bush, who masterminded the transition from the Cold War, the reunification of Germany, the ouster of Panamanian thug Manuel Antonio Noriega and the construction of a broad coalition that achieved victory in a Middle East war without getting bogged down in a long-term occupation.)

The Washington Post reports:

His [Buenos Aires] performance — coupled with his listless two-day visit to Paris days after the midterms, during which he skipped a visit to an American cemetery and appeared isolated from other world leaders — has created the impression of a leader scaling back his ambitions on the world stage amid mounting political crises.

“The problem at the moment is he has no agenda,” said Thomas Wright, a Europe expert at the Brookings Institution. “He ticked through his bucket list of everything he wanted to do and declared victory on all fronts. What does he do now? They’ve not really thought it through.”

This is what comes from nationalistic know-nothingism, from deploring the very institutions and relationships that have kept us from world war and spread prosperity since the end of the WWII. It’s what flows from a foreign policy that amounts to a series of discrete gestures to please his base (move the embassy to Jerusalem, get out of the JCPOA and Paris accord) but lacks an answer to the question that follows each of these moves: What next?

Trump doesn’t know or care. A vision of American leadership? A road map to combat threats from illiberal regimes? Please. All Trump has ever wanted is a red carpet and praise. And even the latter is in short supply these days outside Saudi Arabia and Israel.

by Jennifer Rubin for The Washington Post