My new job: CEO of the United States National Parks Service Library System

(by John Dupuis) Apr 01 2017

You know, I'm the best librarian. Just the best. My collection is huge. The very very best collection. Such a great collection. I love collecting. I'm very good at bibliographic instruction. Nobody does bibliographic instruction like me. Students love it. I can talk for hours. I have long, beautiful book stacks. Look at those book stacks, are they small book stacks? I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee you.

And since I'm the best librarian, my pal The Donald, the President of the United States, has hired me to be the Chief Executive Officer for the National Parks Service Library System.

We all know how much he loves books, right?

Now I know that following my various job changes over the years seems a bit wearying, even for me, especially since I can't seem to stick with anything for more than a year. Every April, like clockwork, there seems to be a new announcement. Whether it's a group blog for revolutionary librarians, Chief Science Librarian for the Canadian Federal Government, launching a new journal, IJUST-CANT or JAPE.

Before making this historic announcement, I definitely wanted to get a management team into place. A better group of people could not be found to make the National Parks Services Library System great again! I am so proud to name my new team!

Chair of the Board: Yevgeny Zamyatin
Associate Director: Winston Smith
Associate Director, Branch Libraries: Aldous Orwell
Head of Collections, Fiction: Emmanuel Goldstein
Head of Collections, Non-Fiction: Julia O'Brien
Head of Reference Services: Offred Atwood

What's JOB ONE you ask? Making our collections great again! To that end, I am directing our Heads of Collections to immediately and with full force to set our collections budget to zero dollars. We will no longer be purchasing any materials for our libraries and will only be relying on our deal-making abilities to fill our shelves with freebies from all the most famous American and foreign authors. You'll love these books. You'll love them like you've never loved a book before.

As of this moment, we will only be stocking books by the following authors:

  • Donald Trump
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Ann Coulter
  • Roger Stone
  • Sean Hannity
  • Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.
  • Michael Savage
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • David Horowitz
  • Glenn Beck (classic books only)
  • Sarah Palin
  • Rush Limbaugh

Effective immediately, anyone who can prove they have read the timeless classic, The Art of the Deal, will be allowed free entrance into any National Park.

All music CDs held by our libraries will be by Ted Nugent. No exceptions. Except for whoever it was that sang at the inauguration. What's-their-names.

I'm still looking for people to appoint as Heads of the various individual branch libraries in the various national parks, although I will personally be based at Badlands National Park and will serve as the head of that library.

As mentioned earlier, we will be removing all books currently in stock and replacing them with new improved ones. Here's a list of all the books we will be removing from our collections.

I'd also like to mention a few more recent books which we will not be acquiring for our collection. Don't read these books. They are fake news books.

As usual, I'm happy for suggestions about what books we should not purchase for our libraries!

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Here's a list of my previous blog posts about how Donald Trump is going to make science and libraries great again!

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Books I'd like to read: Ebola, Vaccines, AirBnB, Democracies and more

(by John Dupuis) Mar 27 2017

For your reading and collection development pleasure...

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, kind of seeing what's on my mind a little in the science-y and tech-y book world and kind of a way to help me remember what I want to pick up. It's also been a while since I've actually reviewed a book, but I do think I'll be getting to some of the backlog fairly soon in some mass group posts.

In any case, some books I'd like to read, ones that I've not acquired yet but probably will soon.

The Politics of Fear: Médecins sans Frontières and the West African Ebola Epidemic. Edited by Michiel Hofman and Sokhieng Au

The 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa was an unprecedented medical and political emergency that cast an unflattering light on multiple corners of government and international response. Fear, not rational planning, appeared to drive many decisions made at population and leadership levels, which in turn brought about a response that was as uneven as it was unprecedented: entire populations were decimated or destroyed, vaccine trials were fast-tracked, health staff died, untested medications were used (or not used) in controversial ways, humanitarian workers returned home to enforced isolation, and military was employed to sometimes disturbing ends.

The epidemic revealed serious fault lines at all levels of theory and practice of global public health: national governments were shown to be helpless and unprepared for calamity at this scale; the World Health Organization was roundly condemned for its ineffectiveness; the US quietly created its own African CDC a year after the epidemic began. Amid such chaos, Médecins sans Frontières was forced to act with unprecdented autonomy -- and amid great criticism -- in responding to the disease, taking unprecedented steps in deploying services and advocating for international aid.

The Politics of Fear provides a primary documentary resource for recounting and learning from the Ebola epidemic. Comprising eleven topic-based chapters and four eyewitness vignettes from both MSF- and non-MSF-affiliated contributors (all of whom have been given access to MSF Ebola archives from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia for research), it aims to provide a politically agnostic account of the defining health event of the 21st century so far, one that will hopefully inform current opinions and future responses.

 

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease. By Meredith Wadman.

The epic and controversial story of a major breakthrough in cell biology that led to the conquest of rubella and other devastating diseases.

Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of how the disease devastated fetuses. In June 1962, a young biologist in Philadelphia, using tissue extracted from an aborted fetus from Sweden, produced safe, clean cells that allowed the creation of vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague developed the vaccine that would one day wipe out homegrown rubella. The rubella vaccine and others made with those fetal cells have protected more than 150 million people in the United States, the vast majority of them preschoolers. The new cells and the method of making them also led to vaccines that have protected billions of people around the world from polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles and adenovirus.

 

Science in the Archives: Pasts, Presents, Futures. By Lorraine Daston (Editor)

With Science in the Archives, Lorraine Daston and her co-authors offer the first study of the important role that these archives play in the natural and human sciences. Reaching across disciplines and centuries, contributors cover episodes in the history of astronomy, geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more—as well as fundamental practices such as collecting, retrieval, and data mining. Chapters cover topics ranging from doxology in Greco-Roman Antiquity to NSA surveillance techniques of the twenty-first century. Thoroughly exploring the practices, politics, economics, and potential of the sciences of the archives, this volume reveals the essential historical dimension of the sciences, while also adding a much-needed long­-term perspective to contemporary debates over the uses of Big Data in science.

 


Wolf Nation: The Life, Death, and Return of Wild American Wolves. By Brenda Peterson

In the tradition of Peter Matthiessen’s Wildlife in America or Aldo Leopold’s work, Brenda Peterson tells the 300-year history of wild wolves in America. It is also our own history, seen through our relationship with wolves. Native Americans revered them. Settlers jealousy exterminated them. Now, scientists, writers, and ordinary citizens are fighting to bring them back to the wild. Peterson, an eloquent voice in the battle for twenty years, makes the powerful case that without wolves, not only will our whole ecology unravel, but well lose much of our national soul.

 

The Airbnb Story: How Three Ordinary Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions...and Created Plenty of Controversy. By Leigh Gallagher

In addition to exploring the colorful history of its founding and the many factors contributing to Airbnb’s success—an epic recession that left people with a much greater incentive to travel cheaply or to turn their homes into something monetizable; fatigue with a hospitality industry that had become overpriced and overcommoditized; and a new generation of millennial travelers who didn’t bat an eye at the idea of sharing space with strangers—Gallagher also investigates the more controversial side of the Airbnb story. Regulators have fought back forcefully in many markets to curb the company’s rapid expansion. Hotel industry leaders wrestle with the disruption it has caused them and the growing threat it represents to their bottom line. And residents and customers alike struggle with the unintended consequences of opening up private homes for public consumption. Gallagher closely examines crises that hit the company at its core, like ransackings and other fraudulent uses of the platform (including the story of one family in a wealthy New Jersey suburb who learned the hard way that Airbnb’s promise of “trust” can fall short); accidents and even deaths resulting from unsafe conditions at Airbnb listings; and racial and other kinds of discrimination by Airbnb hosts.

 

Stalin and the Scientists: A History of Triumph and Tragedy, 1905-1953. By Simon Ings

Stalin and the Scientists tells the story of the hugely gifted scientists who worked in Russia from the years leading up to the Revolution through the death of the "Great Scientist" himself, Joseph Stalin. It weaves together the stories of scientists, politicians, and ideologues into an intimate and sometimes horrifying portrait of a state determined to remake the world. They often wreaked great harm. Stalin was himself an amateur botanist, and by falling under the sway of dangerous charlatans like Trofim Lysenko (who denied the existence of genes), and by relying on antiquated ideas of biology, he not only destroyed the lives of hundreds of brilliant scientists, he caused the death of millions through famine. But from atomic physics to management theory, and from radiation biology to neuroscience and psychology, these Soviet experts also discovered breakthroughs that forever changed agriculture, education, and medicine.

 

Why Democracies Need Science. By Harry Collins, Robert Evans

We live in times of increasing public distrust of the main institutions of modern society. Experts, including scientists, are suspected of working to hidden agendas or serving vested interests. The solution is usually seen as more public scrutiny and more control by democratic institutions experts must be subservient to social and political life.

In this book, Harry Collins and Robert Evans take a radically different view. They argue that, rather than democracies needing to be protected from science, democratic societies need to learn how to value science in this new age of uncertainty. By emphasizing that science is a moral enterprise, guided by values that should matter to all, they show how science can support democracy without destroying it and propose a new institution The Owls that can mediate between science and society and improve technological decision-making for the benefit of all.

 

Gravity's Kiss: The Detection of Gravitational Waves. By Harry Collins

Scientists have been trying to confirm the existence of gravitational waves for fifty years. Then, in September 2015, came a “very interesting event” (as the cautious subject line in a physicist’s email read) that proved to be the first detection of gravitational waves. In Gravity’s Kiss, Harry Collins—who has been watching the science of gravitational wave detection for forty-three of those fifty years and has written three previous books about it—offers a final, fascinating account, written in real time, of the unfolding of one of the most remarkable scientific discoveries ever made.

Predicted by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves carry energy from the collision or explosion of stars. Dying binary stars, for example, rotate faster and faster around each other until they merge, emitting a burst of gravitational waves. It is only with the development of extraordinarily sensitive, highly sophisticated detectors that physicists can now confirm Einstein’s prediction. This is the story that Collins tells.

 

How about some books you think I should read? Suggestions always welcome!

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Friday Fun: We all believed in science at some point...or did we?

(by John Dupuis) Mar 24 2017

The world is going to hell in a hand basket. But at least we can laugh as we're sucked relentlessly into the Hellmouth.

Maybe if we all collectively understood science and evidence better, the path to Hell wouldn't be quite so straight and narrow. So maybe that's what's making me think of these particular funny bits today. And by funny I mean so funny in hurts.

First up, we have retired basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal, who apparently really and truly believes the world is flat. He has a doctorate in Education, by the way, which I just can't even.

 

Shaquille O'Neal agrees with Kyrie Irving, believes the Earth is flat

At this point, you might as well just assume that your favorite NBA person fundamentally rejects a basic tenet of astronomy, and believes that the Earth is in fact flat, and not a sphere. You can now add Shaquille O’Neal to the list of people who buy into the theory that Kyrie Irving revealed he subscribes to over the All-Star Break.

Other Cavaliers have backed him in this belief, and other players have hinted at it. Maybe it’s just one big marketing stunt. Maybe it’s just players toying with fans and the media.

Or maybe they really believe this, rejecting accepted scientific principles and the first-person accounts of those who have, you know, actually been to space. As this mindset willfully ignores and rejects evidence accepted as fact by the entire scientific community, there’s no real way of arguing against it. We’ve reached a point where basic elements of human existence in the universe are subject to interpretation and subjective reassessment. Whatever that says about the state of the world, at least it shows a level of intellectual curiosity and contemplative thought from NBA players have that has been absent in years past.

 

On the other hand, it wouldn't be such a bad idea if some really bad news scientific facts were in fact hoaxes or conspiracies or fake news. Right? Right? In any case, leave it to The Beaverton....

World’s climate scientists now cling to hope that global warming is Chinese hoax

GENEVA — Some of the world’s top climate scientists have penned a letter to the International Journal of Climatology, Friday, expressing their belief that humanity’s only hope for survival is the accuracy of Trump’s global warming Chinese hoax connection.

The authors wrote that with Trump’s plans to tear up the Paris Agreement, install a climate change denier as head of the EPA and crank the heat in government buildings while opening all of the windows, climate change being a hoax was the only way the authors could avoid crying at the sight of their children. The close to four hundred esteemed scientists who signed the letter added that this far-flung hope was also what was keeping them from “replacing their dietary water with pure grain alcohol.”

 

Of course, there's also the Borowitz Report point of view, in which we're basically all fucked.

Nation apparently believed in science at some point

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Historians studying archival photographs from four decades ago have come to the conclusion that the U.S. must have believed in science at some point.

According to the historian Davis Logsdon, who has been sifting through mounds of photographic evidence at the University of Minnesota, the nation apparently once held the view that investing in science and even math could yield accomplishments that would be a source of national pride.

 
 

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Friday Fun: Celebrating Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 20

(by John Dupuis) Mar 14 2017

OK, I admit, Friday Fun a few days late...

In any case, last Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, March 10, 1997 marked the very first episode of one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and certainly my personal favourite. Although I didn't start watching until the mid-2000s (I had two young kids in 1997 and was not watching much TV. We heard a lot about how great it was, but weren't in any space to be adding new shows to what little we were watching), once I did start with the DVDs, I was hooked. I've watched the whole thing through twice and seen some episodes three or four times.

I don't have a particular obsession about a favourite season (probably season three, if pushed) or a favourite episode (Conversations with Dead People, maybe?) or even a least favourite season (season four? I actually quite like six and seven which are more popular choices for least favourite). And I'm definitely neither a Spuffy or Bangel obsessive either, feeling that Buffy as a grown woman has probably outgrown her teenage and early twenties weird boyfriends.

How to celebrate? With a list, of course. Here's some of the recent articles I've seen online celebrating the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Enjoy!

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Friday Fun: The five diseases of academic publishing

(by John Dupuis) Feb 24 2017

My library's Hackfest was yesterday so I'm feeling kind of burnt out today. Today's linked post cheers me immensely, in a side-eye, gallows humour kind of way.

This recent Retraction Watch post is funny and you should read the whole thing: Got “significosis?” Here are the five diseases of academic publishing.

  1. Significosis
  2. Neophilia
  3. Theorrhea
  4. Arigorium
  5. Disjunctivitis is a disease that is about a collective proclivity to produce large quantities of redundant, trivial, and incoherent works. This happens because of several reasons, but primarily because quantity of publications is usually rewarded. In addition, researchers have to stake a name for themselves; given that novelty, significance results, and new theory are favored too means that a lot of research is produced that is disjointed from an established body of knowledge. Instead of advancing in a paradigmatic fashion, researchers each take little steps in different directions. Worse, they go backwards or just run on the spot and do not achieve much. The point is that the research that is done is fragmented and is not helping science advance in a cohesive fashion. Findings must be synthesized and bridges must be built to other disciplines (e.g., evolutionary biology) so that we can better understand how the world works.

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Documenting the Trump War on Science: The Muslim and refugee ban is a terrible idea

(by John Dupuis) Feb 22 2017

US president Donald Trump's Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, is a terrible idea for many different reasons and has been widely condemned. Banning people due to their refugee status, religion or national origin has no place in a civilized society. while it has been overturned in court, it appears that Trump is going to try again with a new Order.

The purpose of this post isn't to go into the details of the Executive order or to analyse the myriad reasons why it's a terrible idea, but rather to share a detailed cross section of commentary and analysis as to why the ban is a terrible idea for the United States' scientific culture and practice in particular. The main reason is that it curtails the free flow of people and ideas in general and affects the individual lives of many innocent scientists at all career levels.

Below is a selection of readings, in no particular order. While this list isn't meant to be comprehensive, if I've missed something important either in terms of whole issues or particular items, please let me know in the comments or at dupuisj at gmail dot com.

General Commentary

 

Individual Stories & Other Impacts

 

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Around the Web: Why music ownership matters, Beyond jazz's boys club and other tales of the music industry

(by John Dupuis) Feb 18 2017

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The Trump War on Science: Is the March for Science too political or not political enough?

(by John Dupuis) Feb 13 2017

Is the March for Science (and all it's satellite marches) too political or not political enough?

The text on their website gives a sense of where the organizers are coming from:

SCIENCE, NOT SILENCE

The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

ON APRIL 22, 2017, WE WALK OUT OF THE LAB AND INTO THE STREETS.

We are scientists and science enthusiasts. We come from all races, all religions, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all political perspectives, and all nationalities. Our diversity is our greatest strength: a wealth of opinions, perspectives, and ideas is critical for the scientific process. What unites us is a love of science, and an insatiable curiosity. We all recognize that science is everywhere and affects everyone.

Science is often an arduous process, but it is also thrilling. A universal human curiosity and dogged persistence is the greatest hope for the future. This movement cannot and will not end with a march. Our plans for policy change and community outreach will start with marches worldwide and a teach-in at the National Mall, but it is imperative that we continue to celebrate and defend science at all levels - from local schools to federal agencies - throughout the world.

In other words, not explicitly political in the sense of taking one political party's (the Democrats) side versus the other (the Republicans and President Trump). But political implicitly in the sense that there is an indirect acknowledgement ("Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists") that if Hilary Clinton had won the election, there would be no talk of a March for Science.

Personally, I'm not sure if I know exactly where I fall on that original question, but I'll quote my own blog post, More on what US scientists can learn from the Canadian War on Science, to give a sense of where my thinking is headed:

My advice? Don't bring a test tube to a Bunsen burner fight. Mobilize, protest, form partnerships, wrote op-eds and blog posts and books and articles, speak about science at every public event you get a chance, run for office, help out someone who's a science supporter run for office.

Don't want your science to be seen as political or for your "objectivity" to be compromised? Too late, the other side made it political while you weren't looking. And you're the only one that thinks you're objective. What difference will it make?

Don't worry about changing the other side's mind. Worry about mobilizing and energizing your side so they'll turn out to protest and vote and send letters and all those other good things.

Worried that you will ruin your reputation and that when the good guys come back into power your "objectivity" will be forever compromised? Worry first about getting the good guys back in power. They will understand what you went through and why you had to mobilize. And they never thought your were "objective" to begin with.

Proof? The Canadian experience. After all, even the Guardian wants to talk about How science helped to swing the Canadian election? Two or four years from now, you want them to be writing articles about how science swung the US mid-term or presidential elections.

So, yes, I'm definitely tending towards more rather than less direct, explicit acknowledgement of the subtext of the march: People who favour evidence-based decision making are terrified that the Trump regime will "Make American Great Again" by turning back the clock to an era when industry called all the shots in terms of environmental protection. Not only that, but it will also "turn back the clock" to a situation that has never really existed: government by random fiat rather than any even vague pretense about what the truth is or what the evidence shows, scientific or otherwise.

But it's fair to say that organizers fear that being too explicit about the implicit will turn people off. Better to be vague and "Yay! Science!" rather than explicitly anti-Trump.

Some of the explicit messages that have already presented themselves?

  • Don't deny climate change
  • Don't muzzle scientists
  • Don't restrict EPA scientists ability to communicate their research
  • Don't deregulate environmental protection
  • The Muslim and refugee bans are horrible for lots of reasons, and bad for science is one of them
  • Net neutrality is a good thing
  • Don't put incompetent people in charge of science-based departments

And those are the explicit messages that the Marchers could glean from the first week or so of the Trump era.

At the end of the day, it's hard to know which way to go. Will a less explicitly political message result in a larger march due to its positive messaging and naturally bigger tent approach? Or a smaller march due to having not so much to rally around or get really worked up over? There's no way to know. The only hints from the Canadian experience is that the advocacy was pretty explicitly anti-Harper from the beginning and at the end of the day, it was able to give the anti-Harper forces one more thing to rally around. One way or another, I'll definitely be participating in the Science March Toronto. If you have a march near you, you should consider taking part. Staying on the sidelines seems like the worst option at this point.

The question: Non-partisan and "Yay! Science!" Or explicitly political and pointedly going directly and specifically after President Trump, his policies and his administration. (if not necessarily in the name of a particular political party)?

I'm including a quick and dirty, fairly random assortment of readings on the March for Science below, coming from both sides. If I've missed anything really important, let me know in the comments or at dupuisj at gmail dot com.

 

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The posts are all tagged here.

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More on what US scientists can learn from the Canadian War on Science

(by John Dupuis) Feb 05 2017

I've been thinking a lot about this the last week or so, with media appearances already out there and more to come. The list of links I've amassed is quite impressive, a significant number to add to the post highlighting Sarah Boon's advice. But that was a week or so ago, which seems like an eternity in Donald Trump years. So perhaps it's time to take another look at the issues around science advocacy and politics in the Canadian context.

My advice? Don't bring a test tube to a Bunsen burner fight. Mobilize, protest, form partnerships, wrote op-eds and blog posts and books and articles, speak about science at every public event you get a chance, run for office, help out someone who's a science supporter run for office.

Don't want your science to be seen as political or for your "objectivity" to be compromised? Too late, the other side made it political while you weren't looking. And you're the only one that thinks you're objective. What difference will it make?

Don't worry about changing the other side's mind. Worry about mobilizing and energizing your side so they'll turn out to protest and vote and send letters and all those other good things.

Worried that you will ruin your reputation and that when the good guys come back into power your "objectivity" will be forever compromised? Worry first about getting the good guys back in power. They will understand what you went through and why you had to mobilize. And they never thought your were "objective" to begin with.

Proof? The Canadian experience. After all, even the Guardian wants to talk about How science helped to swing the Canadian election? Two or four years from now, you want them to be writing articles about how science swung the US mid-term or presidential elections.

Oh yes, back up and store your data in a safe place. If you're a government scientist or strongly connected to government funding, you might want to do you online advocacy on the anonymous side of things.

Most of the posts are post-election but there are a few from the Donald Trump president-elect period. The pre-election and pre-presidency posts are first in the list, followed by items from the last two weeks.

If I've missed anything important, please let me know in the comments or at dupuisj at gmail dot com.

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The Donald Trump War on Science: Week 1: How bad could it be?

(by John Dupuis) Jan 30 2017

How bad could it be? On so may fronts, the first week or so of the Donald Trump administration was the shit show to end all shit shows.

But we're only going to talk about the science stuff here.

As the more astute observers among my readership will observe, I still haven't updated the Pre-Inauguration Edition of this post. Nor should this post really be considered a true beginning to tracking the post-inauguration devastation that the Trump administration will wreck on science, technology, the environment and public health. I'm hitting the high lights here with a more complete accounting to come with the first real chronology post. As well, some of the actions I list below may have been reversed in the days after they were suggested or inacted, but I still include them because the intention to do something negative still counts.

But it's a start. It's a wake-up call.

Note: This post will eventually be rolled into the first real chronology of the Trump presidency and science, which I expect to post probably in February or March sometime. My plan is also to disconnect lists of commentary from lists of incidents. In the pre-inauguration post, there are together, which is partly the reason why it's taking me so long to update. What I will be doing is bare bones lists of commentary fairly frequently and updating the list of incidents only occasionally. Or at least that's the plan.

Here is a list of the damage done during the first week of the Donald Trump presidency.

 

As usual with these posts, I rely on you, my readership, to catch the things I'm missing. Please let me know in the comments or via email at dupuisj at gmail dot com. Any incidents I report need to be documented in some form on the open web, either a media report or some sort of blog post or something. Suggestions to beef up the "more" sections of each item will definitely be welcomed, especially the ones where I haven't added to much additional information.

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