Part of Katharine Hayhoe’s “Global Weirding” series.

Can Witch Burning be far behind?


As president-elect Donald Trump carries on with his transition to the White House, our country waits to see which parts of his campaign rhetoric were the swirly-twirly ideas of a callow populist, and which parts were substantial and considered enough to evolve into actual policy.

Among the big ideas many of us hope remain in the first category is Trump’s position on vaccinations. The president-elect has a long history of vaccine misinformation; he first began to express his beliefs that there might be a relationship between vaccines and autism nearly a decade ago—years after this association was scientifically discredited. He’s repeated these ideas over the years, and he never found it necessary to correct or refine his position during the election. As such, he’s left the door open for vaccine skeptics and more extreme anti-vaxxers to see his victory as one of their own.

This sort of excitement for Trump’s win appeared in a recent Facebook post by Jennifer Larson, CEO of the autism-focused Holland Center, in which she explained that she and other vaccination skeptics discussed their concerns with Trump at a donor event in August. According to her account, Trump assured them that he’s on their side.

Now that Trump won, we can all feel safe in sharing that Mr. Trump met with autism advocates in August. He gave us 45 minutes and was extremely educated on our issues. Mark stated ‘You can’t make America great with all these sick children and more coming’. Trump shook his head and agreed. He heard my son’s vaccine injury story. Andy told him about Thompson and gave him Vaxxed. Dr Gary ended the meeting by saying ‘Donald, you are the only one who can fix this’. He said ‘I will’. We left hopeful. Lots of work left to do.

Larson’s post was republished on the site Age of Autism. (While the link on the Age of Autism story doesn’t connect to an original source, Larson confirmed in an email that she posted this message on Facebook.)

The meeting Larson described was a donor event in Florida. Also in attendance was anti-vaxx advocate Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor whose discredited research incorrectly suggested vaccines cause autism. As is common with such events, attendees were given a time to speak and the vaccination skeptics used it an opportunity to draw Trump’s attention to the documentary Vaxxed and allegations that the CDC has discovered, and denied, a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, according to both Larson and Mark Blaxill, editor-at-large of the Age of Autism website. The interaction was first reported on by Zack Kopplin for Science magazine.

Science Blogs:

So why did Tom Price catch my attention more than other Trump cabinet picks? Yes, he detests Obamacare and is likely to be fully enthusiastic about gutting it, but pretty much anyone Trump picked would have been expected to hold that view. It’s pretty much par for the course for the Republican Party these days. I would have been more surprised if Trump had picked someone who was was relatively neutral on the Affordable Care Act. No, what caught my eye was that I learned that Tom Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), and that told me a lot about him, none of it good. For instance, in 2015 Charles Pierce referred to Price as “one of Georgia’s wingnut sawbones” (Price is an orthopedic surgeon), and noted an article by Stephanie Mencimer, The Tea Party’s Favorite Doctors, which included this description of the AAPS: Read the rest of this entry »


WHY WE CARE: Incorporated is a smart, psychological thriller set in the year 2074 where competing multinational corporations have unlimited power and unilateral control over employee lives. The story centers on Ben Larson (Teale), an ambitious executive who conceals his true identity to survive as a company man until a turn of events forces him to jeopardize his position at great peril. Enhanced by a sleek, inventive production design offering plausible near-future technology, the series tangles with such resonant themes as strictly enforced societal castes and privilege, eroding rights, and lost privacy imposed by digital tracking. It reads more like a cautionary tale than escapist sci-fi, which makes it all the more compelling.



The question is not, does Donald Trump feel shame. We know he never has.

The question is, are the journalists who have covered this campaign capable of feeling it?

Todd Gitlin at Bill

We have plunged into an emergency, and one reason is that journalists who are supposed to supply a picture of the world failed to do so. Not the only reason, but one reason, which is enough to prompt serious rumination.

wrote last week about journalists searching their souls, trying to figure out what they did wrong in this appalling campaign. Like the rest of us — nobody deserves a free pass in an endangered world — they’re obliged to think deeply about what to do better. Is it too impossibly high-minded and do-goody to insist that their reason for being is to offer the American people what they need to know in order to better choose their course? If that is in fact their mission, they have failed abjectly.

Almost half of the voters have just chosen to be led by a profoundly disturbed ignoramus who refuses to understand he has obligations to Americans who are not members of his family. For journalists who persist in believing their leaders are chosen intelligently, the crisis is apparent and urgent. But the so-called learning curve is getting an appallingly sluggish start. Journalists who should know better are busy complaining about their lack of access to the bullshitter-in-chief, as if access were the golden road to truth and not, often at least, a shortcut over a cliff.

According to the conventions of journalism, access is fundamental. But access runs two ways. Access to “newsmakers” can be purchased with what is known in professional parlance as “beat sweeteners” — softball stories and non-threatening meetings that allow sources access to the journalists who cover them, and by extension, to the public. But these are not ordinary times. While journalists persist in playing by old rules, the president-elect has a different plan. Nor is Donald Trump an unknown quantity. By now it should be painfully evident how he rewards sycophants — with a slap across the face.

For evidence, reader, please peruse the transcript of Trump’s on-again, off-again, back-on again meeting in a New York Times conference room last week. Read the whole thing. It’s not that long. Then consider the Times headline the next day: “Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions.” The lede: “President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday tempered some of his most extreme campaign promises, dropping his vow to jail Hillary Clinton, expressing doubt about the value of torturing terrorism suspects and pledging to have an open mind about climate change.”

Nothing to worry about, then.


White House chief of staff may be “the second most powerful job in government,” according to James A. Baker III, who had the job under both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

So it matters that the man Trump named his chief of staff, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, embraces Trump’s hard-core climate denial.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Climate Deniers were making Fake News before making Fake News was cool.

This from a reliable vector of Fakery.


Antarctic sea ice had barely changed from where it was 100 years ago, scientists have discovered, after poring over the logbooks of great polar explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

Experts were concerned that ice at the South Pole had declined significantly since the 1950s, which they feared was driven by man-made climate change.

But new analysis suggests that conditions are now virtually identical to when the Terra Nova and Endurance sailed to the continent in the early 1900s, indicating that declines are part of a natural cycle and not the result of global warming.

Author of said study calls this interpretation “inappropriate and misleading”.
The worthwhile post is excerpted here.

Carbon Brief:

Last week, my colleague Tom Edinburgh and I published an article estimating the extent of Antarctic sea ice in the early 1900s, using sea ice observations recorded by explorers of the time.

It received an overwhelming amount of coverage in the media. This was largely because it combined a human-interest story about the conditions faced by the early Antarctic explorers with an illuminating result regarding the thorny issue of Antarctic sea ice trends.

Despite significant increases in global average temperature, sea ice in the Antarctic hasbeen slightly increasing in extent over recent decades (1979 – present).

Although much of the coverage was very well reported, there were other examples of the results being wrongfully interpreted, perhaps wilfully so. Some of the errors led to confusion, such as conflating sea ice with land ice. Others attempted to cast doubt on the link between greenhouse gases and global mean temperature, which was inappropriate and misleading.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mississippi John Hurt’s playing is a balm.