Saturday, November 17, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

Trump traveled to fire-ravaged parts of California today, and continued his theme of blaming the victims. Returning to his incorrect assertion that California's land management—but not really drought—caused fires, Trump insisted that they could have been avoided if California followed the fire prevention strategy of… Finland.

Specifically, Trump insisted that the President of Finland had told him that that country didn't have "any problem" with forest fires, because it "raked" the forest floors. (UPDATE, 11/18: Finnish president Sauli Niinisto cannot recall making any such remark.)

It is difficult to explain how wrong this is, but a Twitter user raised in Finland identified the main problems.

But in addition to being wrong about Finland's forest fires (which do happen, though not always as often as the Finnish government would like), Trump has been persistently confused about why California's (urban) fires have been so bad. Management of public forests is not to blame: most of the land affected is privately owned. And most of the public lands involved are federally owned—and so under Trump's jurisdiction, not California's. 

71 people are dead, and more than 1,000 people are unaccounted for in the fires. Trump has not rescinded his threat to cut back even further on fire prevention funds.

Why should I care about this?

  • Presidents don't have to be experts in every subject, but they do have to listen to people who actually know what they're talking about.
  • It's wrong to blame other people for your own negligence.