Trump’s Cabinet: Yeah, It’s Probably Even Worse Than You Imagined

Nov 12, 2016

By Phil Plait

So, it hasn’t taken more than a day for President-elect Donald Trump to turn his sights toward destroying science.

The day after the election, Politico reported on who Trump is looking at to fill his Cabinet spots. The presidential Cabinet consists of people appointed by the president as the heads of the federal executive departments like the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, and so on.

The list is as unsurprising as it is appalling. It’s as if Trump’s transition team made a list of all 300 million Americans, ordered them by competency and ability to not destroy everything they touch, and then skipped right down to the bottom.


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30 comments on “Trump’s Cabinet: Yeah, It’s Probably Even Worse Than You Imagined

  • Can the US survive much longer? Already there is vague talk on the west coast about secession; an anti-science Federal Government will not sit well with them, nor will attacks on Mexicans, LGBTs, tariff walls….Two hundred odd years is a long time for a federation to last, particularly with such a polyglot population, enormous regional variation and an egregious disparity in wealth, class and opportunities.



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  • This past year I have been looking at the various directions that the USA Government has been pulling itself and I cannot help but think of the fall of Rome. The people in charge pay no attention to History, and it is showing. At this point, the dollar is on the precipe of collapse, the only things keeping it afloat is the billions of dollars of debt that the US has managed to accrue and the use of the dollar as a method to trade crude oil.

    If my opinions are correct, and I hope they are not, Trump will attempt and fail at trade negotiations with larger partners. He will succeed with Russia, but only because Putin will have played him for a fool. He will offer amazing arms deals to the Philippines…to aid in their “war on drugs.” China won’t play ball with him. And the oligarch heads of state: Monsanto, BP, Exxon-Mobil, and the defense industry will use him to leverage even more favorable tax structure, as will Wall Street.

    In other words, I see the collapse of the United States as imminent, and breaking the backs of the middle class workers whom Trump was able to convince that he’s “on their side.”

    He will deny science based evidence. He will re-ignite the coal industry, while leaving the steel industries in Korea and Japan. He will create a divisiveness not seen since the 1960’s, and prior to that the 1860’s.

    But I hope I am wrong, for the sake of my country, for the sake of the world, for the sake of the earth.



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  • Can’t we/they just give the South back?

    The big project forming in my mind is to cede three lobes from the Southern Union (as the remainder of the USA will become) these pendent lobes to become states of Canada. The Grand Canadian Union will have all the US western seaboard, the top Eastern US seaboard and Illinois in the middle, oh and the protectorate of Austin.

    I’d move to the GCU like a shot.



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  • Hi, I am never able to read articles on this site. It gives me first paragraph or so and then says: “Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.” But when I click FB, it just allows me to share on my FB page and that is it. Any advice on how to be able to read the articles here would be greatly appreciated. Thx.



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  • Mike,

    Richard Dawkin’s held the Charles Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science. This site is dedicated to the promotion of science and reason…look at the banner. You just said-

    Agreed that Ben Carson is a bad choice for Secretary of Education,

    I think it is quite others who have made science and reason political. The struggle is to bring an end to that, but struggle we must.



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  • Phil” Can’t we/they just give the South back?
    The big project forming in my mind is to cede three lobes from the Southern Union (as the remainder of the USA will become) these pendent lobes to become states of Canada. The Grand Canadian Union will have all the US western seaboard, the top Eastern US seaboard and Illinois in the middle, oh and the protectorate of Austin.
    I’d move to the GCU like a shot.

    Though I’m reluctant to make facile comparisons between the rise of Hitler and Donald Trump, there are points of similarity. In Mein Kampf Hitler told Europeans exactly what he was going to do if he came to power. No one listened. He came to power and did exactly what he was telling people all along. Trump’s cabinet reflects what he has been telling people all along.

    Here the comparisons end. Trump will run into the brick wall of the American status quo, the irreversible trends of a global economy, and intractable foreign conflicts. Perhaps affected by narcissistic delusions of grandeur beyond the reach of therapy and commons sense, he will try to rule the world with the power of his own will. I suspect that domestic and geopolitical realities will force him into compromises that preserve the current order more intact than our foreboding imagines. During the campaign he wisely promised to preserve “entitlements;” that is, Social security and Medicare. The U.S. has morphed into a service, including financial services, and consumer economy over the last 40 something years. High-wage manufacturing will not return to compete with the low-cost goods pouring out of Chinese and other foreign factories that have established dominance in that global sector. A trade war with China would devalue the dollar, place exorbitant burden on servicing the national debt, and bankrupt the middle class. Indeed immigration policy and enforcement cries out for comprehensive reform to limit the influx of undocumented foreign nationals but budgetary, economic and humanitarian concerns will limit deportation targets to a tiny percentage of “undesirables.”

    The United States is divided to an extent geographically, culturally and politically that denizens of homogeneous European countries tend to mock out of ethnocentrism and ignorance of history. What escapes their notice is that the U.S. has moved in fits and starts toward the model of the progressive European “welfare state” in the decades since WWII. Donald Trump will inevitably clash with the majority of Americans over attempts to move away from this beneficial model back to some kind of obsolete laissez-faire capitalism that impoverishes the working class and marginalizes the middle class.

    Over the next four years I suspect we’ll see some half-hearted Trumpian non-starters with few lasting changes. Donald Trump will lose many battles before he loses the war in 2020. Then back to the Democratic agenda.



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  • Hello Annette J #4

    The social media icons are just there in case you’d like to share the article.

    It’s the name of the source of the article you need to click on to read the whole thing. You’ll always find that in the grey box next to the orange box with the word “Source” in it. In this case the source is Slate, and clicking on that will take you to the original article.

    The mods



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  • Everyone should check out Peter Turchin and his contributions to Cliodynamics. His studies are spot on like many others to what is happening. Cliodynamics is an interdisciplinary study of history, economics, and sociology.



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  • Laniakea Official #9
    Nov 12, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Everyone should check out Peter Turchin and his contributions to Cliodynamics.

    http://www.nature.com/news/human-cycles-history-as-science-1.11078

    Advocates of ‘cliodynamics’ say that they can use scientific methods to illuminate the past. But historians are not so sure.

    Cliodynamics is viewed with deep scepticism by most academic historians, who tend to see history as a complex stew of chance, individual foibles and one-of-a-kind situations that no broad-brush ‘science of history’ will ever capture. “After a century of grand theory, from Marxism and social Darwinism to structuralism and postmodernism, most historians have abandoned the belief in general laws,” said Robert Darnton, a cultural historian at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a column written in 1999.

    Most think that phenomena such as political instability should be understood by constructing detailed narratives of what actually happened — always looking for patterns and regularities, but never forgetting that each outbreak emerged from a particular time and place. “We’re doing what can be done, as opposed to aspiring after what can’t,” says Daniel Szechi, who studies early-modern history at the University of Manchester, UK. “We’re just too ignorant” to identify meaningful cycles, he adds.



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  • Melvin #6

    I think I agree with much of that. The USA’s attack of nostalgia could be its final demise in the top slot. The old manufacturing ways cannot return. China will become the masters of energy security technology with a global market at its feet and a bigger home market for stability. China will then become the great colonial trading power and grow to resemble Japan in its social profile. Japan wound up much of its industry contracting it out to S. Korea, Taiwan and China. China will do the same (its internal costs are rising steeply with rocketting living standards) contracting less skilled manufacturing increasingly to a plethora of third world nations (and handing on the baton of self improvement.) None of this ever goes backwards.

    Europe is powering into the circular economy to cut the need for manufacturing by up to 90% (Veeerrrrry long term project to get that far, across the board, but some good early wins possible) This is hinged on service model economies which will increasingly prevail. All those signing up to sustainable energy and material resource use will go this way also, dropping the volume of global trade in materials and manufactured goods but seeing a growth in vigorous home markets involved in mass customisation, re-manufacturing, re-engineering and re-cycling.

    This latter is the root for securing the US economy also. The US tech leaders are already making progress in un-manufacturing and increased modularity of designs. BUT this doesn’t bring steel jobs back to Pittsburgh. Truly free markets are utterly unsustainable and will treat people like any other resource. Until the US has the guts to admit that a mixed economy, with long term investments are required and a little judicious dirigisme is needed in the transition to sustainability, oh, and a fairer distribution of the collectively achieved bounty, then US will remain stuck on its new course to a charming Steampunk future.

    Yep, four horrid years and this current nonsense should have dissipated but now is a good opportunity for a systemic review to insure against it happening again. (HRC’s nifty policy of taxing short term trading (always zero-sum) is exactly the sort of thing needed to move this in the right direction.)



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  • Laniakea Official

    “Cliodynamics” still has everything to prove as a discipline. It would be entirely wrong to treat its early pronouncements as usable yet.

    On the other hand Turchin’s book “Ultrasociety” is an interesting read and does make a few persuasive arguments. Well worth the effort.

    There is a resemblance to the theories of Jared Diamond who equally put a few academic noses out of joint with Guns Germs and Steel. Also to the theories of Evo Psycho.

    New disciplines take a long time to justify themselves. They need a few solid predictions to come true before we get all excited.

    I think “Cliodynamics” is the kiss of death as a discipline name. Cultural evolution would be better.



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  • And the Daily Mail

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3929240/For-decades-arrogant-global-ruling-class-tried-crush-spirit-nationhonhood-says-DOMINIC-SANDBROOK-Brexit-Trump-world-witnessing-bonfire-liberal-elite.html

    Most people do not want to live in communities that are endlessly changing. They want security, stability, a sense of rootedness and reassurance — precisely the things they associate with their national identity.

    This is exactly so…. for conservatives. But they can’t have it until every one on the planet is all caught up and no longer a threat You may close borders and put up walls, but until then and until you are entirely self sufficient and you don’t threaten others, their air and their oceans, you remain fucked.

    Even more exactly (!)-

    Most conservative people do not want to live in communities that are endlessly changing. They want security, stability, a sense of rootedness and reassurance — precisely the things they associate with their national identity as it was when they were children.



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  • phil rimmer #14
    Nov 13, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    This is exactly so…. for conservatives. But they can’t have it until every one on the planet is all caught up and no longer a threat You may close borders and put up walls, but until then and until you are entirely self sufficient and you don’t threaten others, their air and their oceans, you remain fucked.

    If the CIA stopped manipulating South American dictatorships and repressive right-wing governments into power, arming terrorists, and the US stopped exporting organised crime and drug money to Central and South America, the flood of refugees and economic migrants would diminish without building any walls !!

    . . . . and that’s just in the Americas!!!



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  • I watched the Trump TV interview on 60 minutes last night with Leslie Stahl. Asked about Obamacare,
    he walked back his promise to simply repeal. He would require coverage for pre-existing conditions and for older “children” living at home up to age 26 under their parents’ policy. More significantly, he assured, there would be no repeal without an “alternative” taking effect simultaneously. On building The Wall, he conceded that “fences” might have to be installed in some places. (Will the “fences” give way to vague projects to increase border patrols?) On undocumented immigrant deportation, he said efforts would be limited to criminals – “2 or 3 million” (he seemed confused). Deportation or incarceration for foreign nationals convicted of crimes is standing U.S. policy….

    During the president-elect phase, all we can do is give our impressions of how Trump will govern based on his
    authoritarian proposals to “Make America Great Again,” his bigotry, and his no-experience blank track record. Last night I caught glimpses of a tired, frightened bully starting to realize the enormity of the challenges facing the president. He’s not really, really smart but he’s not stupid either; he has neurotic personality disorders but he is not psychotic; he can talk tough but he’s not sadistic. For the time being, the prospect of his administration seems more damaging than catastrophic. He’s clueless and in over his head and I believe he knows it. He revealed a willingness to compromise -certainly at the core of extremist projects – sensing that formidable interest groups will unite and crush him if he erodes or even threatens vested interests that enjoy popular support. For the time being, one blanket response to Stahl’s queries seems to hold sway in his state of fearful disorientation: “I’m going to have to look at that one more closely before I say or do anything…” As he is forced to the center in order to uphold many of the progressive, effective programs of the status quo, as he fails to bring back manufacturing jobs or reduce trade deficits in the face of irreversible globalization, as he fails to lift the American economy from pockets of stagnation – he will incur first the wrath of his right-wing base, then the disaffection of the populist white working class and finally the fatal disapproval of the American electorate. His power, position and potential for damage diluted at every turn will be short-lived.



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  • [“Most people do not want to live in communities that are endlessly changing. They want security, stability, a sense of rootedness and reassurance — precisely the things they associate with their national identity.”]

    Phil: “This is exactly so…. for conservatives. But they can’t have it until every one on the planet is all caught up and no longer a threat You may close borders and put up walls, but until then and until you are entirely self sufficient and you don’t threaten others, their air and their oceans, you remain fucked.”

    I am averse to using a term that connotes racism to some politically correct[ed] minds but we cannot understand the future for humanity without understanding the radical demographic shifts taking place in the 21st century. With the year 2000 marking a milestone, all population growth will take place in developing countries by 2100. Euro-Caucasian populations have already stabilized and begun to contract and by 2100 will probably have fallen into the single digits as a percent share of world population. North America – The United States and Canada and Europe will be majority minority with the influx of immigrants from the “hinterland;” – for Europe from the southern and eastern regions of Africa and Asia. Ethnic Europeans in the EU will be aging and dying off relative to the younger immigrant populations who have moved in to take over work forces and political institutions with unpredictable consequences for European cultural (for example religious) institutions.

    It is naive to believe that contemporary Europeans and Americans will save the billions living in degrees of poverty in developing countries through inadequate foreign aid or charitable foundation grants offered in penance for imperialism and proxy wars fought against “wars of liberation” during the cold war era. Though Europe and the U.S. can admit a significant number of immigrants, the principle of self-determination will place the burden of solving poverty and conflicts internal to developing nations on the people who live there. Already plagued by economic stagnation, western nations will be scurrying to save their own with a token pittance left over to help impoverished foreigners.

    I tremble to think what the current pseudo “refugee crisis,” masking an immigrant demographic shift from poor countries to rich countries, magnified a hundred fold will mean for a world population overflowing upward of 10 billion people. Parsing parochial terms of liberal and conservative sensibilities at tea time will be like opening an umbrella against an avalanche.



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  • Melvin,

    For me its pretty simple. You don’t do what Trump is trying to do. You trade with your poor neighbours (and retrain your own workers and encourage new business forms…just ask me later) You buy your poor neighbours goods, they are cheaper than you can make and that keeps your cost of living and home wages down. You want self sufficiency. You help them like tyrant capitalists Jardine Matheson and Thomas Glover to acquire skills and the ability to manufacture the proverbial fishing rods. (The latter catapulted Japan through 400 years of development in 40 years….He smuggled them back to Scotland to hoover up all the technology they could.) You try not to bully them into buying your opium and facilitate civil uprisings with your guns, but you do buy their fishing rods.

    As someone left of Euro centre, I have to say capitalism has the most amazing transformative power. It does need oversight though…

    If you have pursued Hans Rosling at all you will know there are those living on one dollar a day and those living on ten dollars a day and that jumping them up an order of magnitude would have sensational effect on both. It is handouts for the one dollar a day folk and trading for ten dollars a day to help start them on the journey out of poverty. Both will be grateful and soon adjust to the new potentials in their lives. Birth rates, particularly if you facilitate female education, will start dropping immediately and you will find folk far more biddable that further wealth can be theirs if they help this along.

    (May I urge a Charity (!) on everyone here.

    http://www.malala.org

    The best work a dollar can do)

    BUT you do have to help and mostly help them by commercially engaging with them. You have to be generous with your old jobs and do something for your own ex workers. Here is your own major cost, that must be met and perhaps funded by modest enough import duties that go to job creation, retraining and transitional welfare. Shock, horror we’re talking mixed economics here! Handouts at home to avoid handouts over there!!! But the opportunity to upgrade work is really investment in ourselves.

    Ultimately as we move to circular economy businesses, domestic value added businesses can no longer be exported in the same way, but then these are businesses that can start to work well in developing countries in fairly short measure.



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  • With the appointment of Stephen Bannon, Breitbart becomes the presidential propaganda organ. I think the president has never had one before. Putin has Pravda. Hitler had Völkischer Beobachter.

    Breitbart has a history of over-the-top anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim propaganda. Like Hitler, they subscribe to the big lie.



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  • Neither Trump nor Bannon look as though they have taken very good care of their bodies.

    Trump accused Hillary of faking her medical records. Trump released one he wrote about himself in his inimitable braggadocio style. He could well be in quite poor shape.

    It would make sense if, at the start of the campaign, serious candidates would have to go to a US army medical hospital for an in-depth neutral assessment by a team. The team would release the results, and perhaps even block candidates unlikely to live out their first term.



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  • Perhaps – in keeping with his other appointments – Trump missed an opportunity at a recent meeting, to give his fan Nigel Farage responsibility for air-safety. 🙂

    After all!
    Who could be better qualified than someone organises the towing of a UKIP publicity banner behind an aircraft, crashes on take-off, and then lights up a cigarette next to the crashed tanks of aviation fuel! 🙂

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nigel-farage/11466522/Nigel-Farage-After-the-plane-crash-I-lit-a-fag.-Not-a-great-idea-close-to-aviation-fuel.html
    Nigel Farage: After the plane crash, I lit a fag. Not a great idea close to aviation fuel



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  • @phil #13

    Re the “I voted for the Middle Finger” article, a pretty well articulated explanation of the Protest Vote aspect, by a probably very normal and likable upstanding citizen. As an un-American, a couple of bits rang alarm bells, showing me how skewed the US environment is:

    Crazy is thinking we do not have to secure our borders when people want to kill us because we don’t stone homosexuals or because we let women drive

    No, Crazy is thinking people want to kill us because we don’t stone homosexuals or because we let women drive.

    The reason that “people want to kill us” is quite different. That’s the excuse-for-a-reason peddled by GWB, and it’s crazy to believe that lie. No, the animosity is more about inequality, conspicuous consumption, and scant regard for the wellbeing of anyone else. Imperial greed, looting the world, and now potentially destroying it by keeping on pouring out the pollutants. But, that’s far too understandable, and so it must be denied, make the “others” into crazed fanatics who can’t be reasoned with, so there’s no need to enter into uncomfortable negotiations.

    Crazy is believing you can get health care for free

    In the USA, yes, it does seem that’s a crazy belief. But it shouldn’t be.



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  • OHooligan #25
    Nov 17, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Crazy is believing you can get health care for free

    . . . . and I thought “crazy”, was voting to pay twice and much as the average OECD country with a national insurance funded health service, – for a poorer service – while some citizens have no service at all!

    https://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2011/04/26/cost-of-health-care-by-country-national-geographic/

    Average per year $2986.

    USA – $7290



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  • I just looked at a list of all of Trump’s appointees! They are all military people, CEOs (of Goldman and also Exxon-Mobil), billionaires, millionaires, all “fiscally conservative”, i.e., opposed to medicare and SS and medicaid and public education while supporting huge tax cuts for the very wealthy. They are climate change deniers, against safety nets, religious fanatics (Pence, Carson, Bannon, others).

    These are extremist capitalists.

    It’s awful!!



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  • Thanks for that info Dan. After this week I have tried to cut my wrists with a rubber spatula three times.
    I may be getting a big cut in my SS and VA benefits next year.
    And they will probably force me to go to church and pay for that too.
    North Korea is not looking so crazy now. Worry for us.



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  • I just read an article about the person he recently hired to head centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, someone name Seema Verma. She’s a CEO of something, a conservative darling, another freak like all the rest who has devoted her life to making it harder for people to get the assistance they need, and has been very punitive. That’s why he hired her. She’s worked closely with Pence in Indiana. This is really infuriating and awful.
    I think they want to get rid of all these programs; in fact I am sure of it. He hires people who are AGAINST what they are in charge of, in case you haven’t noticed.



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