DiscoverVox's The WeedsGag Order and Infrastructure

Gag Order and Infrastructure

Update: 2017-01-26


Sarah, Ezra, and Matt talk about widely-misunderstood Trump administration efforts to shut up career civil servants, talk about infrastructure, and ask journalism's most pressing question: What's up with eggs?

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

wheat is sponsored by text or a fourteen day free trial for access to all your favorite magazines texture dot com slash weeds weeds also sponsored by The Great courses plus get a four month free at The Great courses plus dot com slash weeds and me and it's get twenty percent off your first order me a nice tat com slash weeds the following podcast contains explicit language microphone check one two What is this guests had no hello welcome to the weeds boxes posse podcast apparently never commit to place us at joined by my coworkers Ezra Klein and Sarah cliff you seem uncertain about that yeah well when you know it's nose into nowhere together so I know exactly what we were even discussing this we are wearing headphones for no reason we look like professional podcast The redhead dressed for the job you want it seems more technical way we have been lazy over the past week and did not read a white paper of the week we've been busy I would say we've been busy I don't agree a beautiful sight we love him as it's a new populist era maybe even lazy people are through with expert whatever though it's the new format no no we'll get back on track but now we want to talk about two things that are going on this week we want to talk about so the big picture on an infrastructure I'm excited about infrastructure to make America great again it's great I have a lot of opinions about this but to make a difference in the time I weeded out about these gag orders that are panicking people shore so we're talking here about the news that I've that the chopper missions basically told a bunch of the federal agencies stopped communicating with the public with people forget EPA specifically EPA was I think the first wine and in some ways the most drastic because they also tell them to put a halt to the grant making right which I think we should put a hand to talk about later but a bunch of other ones I think yeah I think one thing that's been a little confusing to me is I'm I don't understand how widespread this is right now and I think I'm I read some headlines yesterday I found very confusing so there was a headline in The Huffington Post that some sub agencies at HHS have said they've gotten some kind of communication about halting or stop paying am confuse the public I reached out to agencies that run Obamacare except Center for Medicare Medicare Medicaid Services they said they've gotten a memo that if you look at the healthcare dot gov Twitter account is happily tweeting about how great Obamacare sassy is a sassy Twitter account and savings out there so I think one of things it's hard to know right now is on how exactly widespread this is it's helpful to remember the federal government is a massive sprawling thing and it sounds like if one sub agency HHS has gotten that guidance other ones I've been more controversial programs haven't so I was at this point we don't actually know the extent of how far these communications go who's gotten them that what actually mandate was harder for the agriculture seems like it was one agency said one challenge in reporting is that apart from any question of like bands that may or may not be in place but I tried to call hide Public Affairs the other day to clarify something and there's nobody there which I don't think is because they've been like to put under some interject it's just like the different agencies are set up differently and I guess there was no like career person staffing the desk or vase with a queer person as many have right now has left my place later they quit or guy or just has a lot to do in a transition period and has not gotten back to the disease never know it was like nothing like no mess you're in Israel y smell yes just like this so I think it's worth talking about this from a couple different angles and one is that the Trump administration has come into me discuss a bit around our discussion of darkness the last week in the station is coming into a challenging situation relating to the federal government which is that virtually every aspect of the federal government and the majority of people who work and don't like them and they also have not yet put in place the vast majority of the leadership team they're doing a much slower appointment process and we've seen recent presidents at this numbers can be a little bit out of date but as of mid last week they had twenty seven of six hundred and seventy presidential appointments even just named and that was slower than the pace we've been seeing from President Obama for President Bush and President Clinton at this point in the presidencies so it would actually not be surprising given the combination of a federal bureaucracy that has been many cases very different priorities and they do in many cases staffed by people who seem to be some tweaking them we should say have been sending out tweets about which I'm busy with but how great immigrants are how great Obamacare is some this seems like it's a little bit aimed at the incoming administration very time to the exam required like it's like a very clear it's not as they scheduled these tweets during the modernist or so the mixture of not having your staff in place in these in these agencies and having hostile people stop having these agencies it would not be shocking to me if the Trump administration put a pause on public communication so they can kind of getting straightened out and while it is upsetting to people I also don't think it is the craziest thing in the world as Matt was saying before the show I think the thing we have to see what happen going forward right we see a real drawdown in public communication entirely in the government or we seeing a somewhat chaotic transition from a somewhat unprepared team dealing with a somewhat hostile bureaucracy wait I mean because for example if you said to the EPA hey guys we don't have a new administrator confirmed yet soon we well we have every reason to believe this light is not going to be a problem like he's got the votes he's going to come in as the secretary he's going to hire some subordinates he and his team are going to have some discussions with you about like how does the EPA Twitter account work what is your process for sending out press releases and then once we all understand what's going on things are going to go even go back to normal or they can go back to its slightly different process that the new leadership team puts in place but until we can have those meetings just everybody go dark that's like one thing which is like we're trying to manage a transition and it's not quite seamless another thing is in the new Trump EPA NOAA EPA scientists can communicate with the public at all about anything for that latter one it seems to me is this story that people have written and it's consistent I guess with the text of the memo that was sent out because the memo Ellie's what I saw quoted from it was very brief and do not like how the lot of explanation and context and so and so forth we really will have to see I feel like it for months from the story is EPA scientists have been told they can't answer questions from journalists about their work that they cannot release any papers or study then you have a real story you know a a disturbing story I think we would have to ask them questions about what the legalities and so and so forth are but you know if you would say they're completely subverting like the mission of government agencies and they're doing it without any kind of like proper new legislation we'll debate things like that some people to talk about just saying look they're trying to get a handle on like the communications team so what one example we had right was the at Badlands National Park Twitter account start weeding out facts about climate change and its Clover right because say you fire someone for tweeting accurate information about climate change while you know then it's like you're the asshole like everything they eat we did was true it wasn't like weird political slander is against Donald Trump it was just like facts about carbon tax considerations in the atmosphere at the same time like administration is entitled to control like the public face in communications that come out of its agencies if Donald Trump doesn't want to talk about rising atmospheric carbon dioxide it seems like I want to say it's appropriate because it's stupid but like it's within the realm of the kinds of choices you want the president to make and people are there having fun with this because I assume most people who have the social media gigs even if they aren't Obama era political appointees their wars unlike a designated Department of Defense tweeter when George W Bush was president this will have been a new position that was created during the Obama administration is probably staffed by a young relatively liberal person who was like excited about the possibility of using Twitter to make things good and doesn't like Donald Trump and the defense I was really screwing with them like this morning when Trump rolled out his executive order banning refugee is that they do it we from refugee to Marines USMC Corporal Ali J Mohammed takes the fight to the doorstep of those who cast his family out and like that's a great week but like that's clearly like counter messaging the new president so what they're a tad too well now is saying about how to long term picture looks I think it's helpful to actually understand what is generally like when journalists interact with scientists and agencies with folks who do research it is not typically especially open process I've always found in the owner's vision it is typically not the case that I am for him I read about a lot of research comes at me to test that comes out is easy I often email the author saying Hey I have a question about the research it would say in nine times out of ten they prefer me to the communications office it is not the case that in there my miseries and it was just this free flow of information between scientists and journalists BIM integration and you know understandably so but like frustratingly so to me as a journalist they either wanted to take my questions the scientists they wanted to set up the calls and didn't want me to talk to them at all and I was in general when there was a particular person had questions for our agencies were pretty good at putting me on the phone but it was all very modern very going through official channels so as if we end up in a situation where the name I can't freely emails I doesn't they don't feel like they can email me back a disaster for your communications office that that would not surprise me that's kind of the standard of where we are in even though it frustrates me is a journalist I also understand it from an administrative point of EO is so I think that's an awful context or understanding how things have worked under demonstration I think one thing they're actually be worrying to me than like a lack of communication saying no more reports is a lot of like Alternative Factor board thingie I nervous and there's a great piece on our colleague Alvin Chang wrote about this I am very nervous about what kind of data comes out of the administration given what we saw in this like really silly fight about crowd size which is a fight you can at least adjudicated with pictures and facts in the queue can see the pictures of them all and who was there but they're a lot of things you can to educate with pictures you can't educate unemployment numbers are the people who sign up for Obamacare or climate change figures there's so much that is so much more abstract and actually like what I would be way more worried about than no communication is a getting a report for me to just a day saying like you premiums are going to spend fifty percent white seventeen are getting like some reports that seem very different from the data we've seen so far and that almost seems like a harder position to be and then been no data is trying to understand kind of data that you can't that is more abstract that you don't have access to the original information are kind of trying to like make heads or tails of whatever reports are being put out yes I believe that we are going to look back with incredible fondness on this brief period of the worst thing happening in public communications from the Trump administration was there telling people not to publicly communicate you brought up the crowd size dispute which is good example of the other is the son Spicer was asked at his first normal press briefing whether Donald Trump believes unemployment rate because Trump had attendance of the past couple years to the real unemployment rate is forty two percent which is it is not forty two percent is he there's a complicated way he's getting to this by counting on people who do not want to be working but it's just not to an audience for the way not with the unemployment rate as we rely on the government to produce a tremendous amount of the factual basis of our discussions and debates and policy making we rely on a large extend for as you mention uninsured times but eight on of the economic data is produced by different government agencies a lot of it comes out of the year of Economic Analysis latte comes out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics these things can be tilted they can be shut down they can have on Cuba's people put in charge of them they can change what they report how they report it to Utah for misleading picture and then there's the analysis comes out of the of the government you were talking earlier Matt about the climate change scientists and what they can and can't tell the public we're going to have a demonstration that pretty of Al does not believe in climate change and what kinds of analysis is over they're going to put forward is going to be really interesting and one of the few counter balances and I think you're seeing it right now is the one thing they cannot easily do is restructure bureaucracy can put their political appointees in charge of everything but if we have any ball work it is that the civil service is stocked with people who are trying to do a good job and presumably and hopefully seen this happen at other times of the Trump administration is out there trying to create a lot of misleading data and misleading impressions of what's going on that these folks will stand up and a leak or will otherwise make what is what needs to be no known and I think that is something you're single right now I think if you're a chump and nutrition one warning shot that actually being sent in the sink the bow bands tweets is you actually can't trust that the arc he's going to take whatever direction you give them as such you can you can give them strategic direction but if you try to get people to do things that they're really really going to think I think all it might end up a worse problem for you and then the original problem actually was I to say for that reason though that if anyone is listening and career staff I would encourage people to not like blow the doors off and Hugh stunts you know I think it makes a lot more sense to like do your job pay attention to what's happening take notes like save your memo is if you need you if things are getting crazy surreptitiously record conversations and the you know big way but then like go out with both its real story to tell another story like I made some cute set of tweets to tweak the president so my boss got mad at me and then they drove me out because the email to say is like well I admire your spunk like Yeah you kind of got fired for cause by being in subordinate which is different from like OK we were like putting the unemployment rate together and they were psyched orders coming in from down high like mis state the data to make you think that's a big deal you know and like sleep or go public or whatever like with a bang over real actual examples of actual misconduct instead of just like preemptive like I think your climate change policies are going to be unconscionable so I'm going to mess around with you I think it's it's funny I think we all appreciated it to an extent likely goes to Badlands National Park where guy still isn't a lot of national banks out there and it's more important to like do your work and report on misconduct then to like it around and create like the wall material there's a lot of news happening a lot of the best journalism is still happening at magazines out but a lot of people writing especially people with his podcast at FOX fans alike consuming things in it sort of a digital manner and that's a mixed textures so great this is an app that it is produced by most all of the leading magazine brands in the country are available on it but you get this great digital access and easy to keep up with access to magazines time the Atlantic Newsweek hundreds of others is on your phone or it's on your tablet could check up back issues you could give bonus video content even carried stuff just for you or to whoever I giving you two as a kind of get to take to get all the convenience and like good stuff of digital technology but all the great journalism that you find best friend who is the basic deal it's normally a month and you get over two hundred magazines which is like a it's like a mind block the deal gets even better if you sign up now it actually becomes less weeds get fourteen day free trial so I subscribed to like one or two magazines with all your favorites right there together right now again fourteen day free trial has the texture dot com slash weeds that's fourteen days to try texture for free and good texture dot com slash weeds texture dot com slash with one of the other things that kind of worries me alot about this isn't just like not talking to people but like not actually collecting the data in the first laser one other thing we just talked about is manipulating data are having a bit different with I present the data another thing I kind of wonder about them curious are you guys think about it another way you an easy way to stop people from talking about data does not have the data in the first place like what facts you even choose to collect in the first place that people could be saying no these are being distorted or they could be like leaking to the press I don't think I have a great understanding of how much the slowness of bureaucracy does support acts Data Collection of you does have the systems anything like bigger ones are going to be harder to mess with the getting is very hard to stop collecting data on the unemployment rate needed to be presented differently and people will highlight different measures in a way that maybe a bit misleading I have data how we're saying of their health care coverage I don't really know what that did the last report in open enrollment is now left to the Trump administration I have no idea you know if they're going to collect that if they're going to produce the way the administration of opposition had the past three years but it doesn't have a lot of trouble kind of gauging what it might look like and it seems like a more effective way to suppress the communication of scientists and researchers with the public would just be not to not have data to communicate about what I mean really concerned about this and one way in which I'm concerned about it is that as a value structure Donald Trump and the core people around him are not abstract Lee committed to the idea of collecting and believing and working with good data Trump himself is a conspiracy theorist who believes all kinds of absurd things that aren't true Amen you can just go out unless he was a you know he was one of the very prominent birth or is he ran around during the campaign is saying based on a grainy photographs on the National Enquirer that he believed Ted Cruz's father Rafael Cruz is potentially involving the assassination of John F Kennedy Junior He has nominated a vaccine skeptic and Robert Kennedy Junior I think this to be had of a major vaccine safety panel there's a lot of things had and Trump himself as long has long been a vaccine skeptic he said that global warming is itself a Chinese hoax there is a lot that rumba set in believe which Justin and again in an abstract way he is not somebody who is committed to finding in believing the best information that is not true for a lot of other people who run government right and it's true folks on left and folks on the right they often just leaves a baseline idea that should be talking about any can make some decisions off of it and maybe ll come to different ones and I would have wanted you to but you believe in collecting the data but the people around also don't buy this Steve and his chief strategist I would not see bright part dot com is a website that has a Vince De Ro care with data and its journalists um I don't think they care about that at all and vicious like not work comes from Michael Flynn has a new national security advisor which is an important data structuring information structuring position has retreated a lot of fake news over the years and just really absurd things are the only person in what appears to be chums very close orbit right now I think does come from a background where good data is prized as Gary Cohn the National Economics Council had who's from Goldman Sachs but this is a very scary piece around them and then it gets even worse because Trump clearly made his press secretary walk out on whatever was Sunday and lie lie about how such a cig maker of total fool of himself about causes Saturday was a sad day um you know and Sean Spicer know better he'd seen pictures and there's an interesting piece by Tyler Cowen about the ways in which authoritarian regimes in other countries interesting studies about this will make people go online to see who is in is loyal to the regime so you can look at and see a grand strategic purpose in making people do things they would think are unethical or embarrassing because once you do do them will have proven their loyalty and then you can call the ones who don't who be a problem for you later on but this is this is scary and this is a conversation I just wanna say it is the kind of conversation you have been very weak political systems that is not the kind of conversation I would've expected us to be having in the United States so the more confidence and I mostly sing so what are the black am and I'm glad he did most the roomie was that I heard that U S Department of Agriculture have been put under a gag order was waiting for me because as the seller was talking about the difficulty in speaking directly with that researchers at HHS I am not a big time agriculture journalist but I have had occasion to call up some of the researchers and economists at the agricultural Research Service every once in while they're at interesting folks and it's always been my experience that they are super easy to get on the phone like their numbers are listed on their papers at nobody cares about is is is not a very partisan or political thing to even talk to them that why average turkey prices are cheaper in November that then other times about what's up with that eggs and is great and it would seem like a matching bag calling to my pillow that was above the eye and the West to let me tell you what the exit got it with is that when there's a good they've got a paltry economists anyway so it seemed thing to gag and also a good thing where the do that work not for the purposes of my occasional curiosity about weird pull to journalism because it's important in a practical sense to people in industry to have these facts right like it's a a pleasure of running a grocery chain in the United States as opposed to like Kazakhstan is that you have access to timely and accurate information about what's going on in American agriculture and you can make some decisions accordingly so I saw this morning that this gag order memo I got out and then like a day later he had been withdrawn right that just they got some pushback not like massive like Democrats were marching but just people were like Oh now hey guys like we actually need rest to keep reducing his reports so now you've got you've got to do it and the dead so I think most of the government that that is produced has a constituency that ultimately the constituency for that Daddy's voice will be heard and I think you can think of the exceptions for that one of the things that that hide in the Justice Department do is they collect data and they do investigations related to housing discrimination at these agencies actually targeted Donald Trump personally back in the seventies and a couple rounds of lawsuits I think it's pretty clear that like Ben Carson and Jeff sessions are not going to make this a big priority and only constituency for that is civil rights groups plaintiffs' attorneys people who the Trump administration does not care if it's making them angry but I think in some ways it was like re shoring that when Sean Spicer was asked like what's the unemployment rate that he came out was like This isn't just a number to Donald Trump that to me was a way of Spicer saying that like they are going to just mis characterize the labor market data if they want to not like actually stop it from being produced by Kim come out with any kind of methodological critique he didn't say anything wrong with the unemployment rate he just like said Trump's going to keep ignoring it because now I think Trump has reminded us that lying is a pretty good political strategy at the same time having accurate economic data is a pretty good economic policy and like we can just have all the country I don't know fully well that because like I think of the health data space that I work and a lot of I don't think housing is much of a constituency and I think would actually have like a stronger constituency to mobilize against it like I think of there's a survey that the government runs right now the Youth Risk behavioral surveillance Survey The wire BS us with eyes of years ago right as story that I was really interesting about how teen behavior is the best behaved in generations I think it's interesting the public health researchers at the kids' interest in public health department I don't know there's like a strong economic constituency but I think there's a constituency that doesn't like that dataset and it's probably the folks who make e cigarettes because she has massive rise in e cigarette use for everyday does that the DA think our constituency that one day job but they are also powerful ones that would prefer that some data not be out there and with ones like those take a survey of teen behavior it's one where I don't think it's like someone would say you know like with health care coverage we stopped collecting that because it's politically unpopular to have this data out there this is one that the good of you doing the A I think it's rather seedy see that you're doing the CDC budget and you don't really care that much about data you say the choir is spending a few hundred thousand to administer the US and you say be it with what's the point of this particular dataset there's not a strong constituency a new kind of like stop collecting at or clicked in a less robust ways so and I guess I'm less optimistic that the data being collected now that it has some kind of strong constituency in DC to defend it I think you have the opposite force working for people who don't like what the data show and be happy to see a kind of just fall off the radar so to say so I think there's some place for the ideological issues with the dead of night EPA being a great example here there's a lot of data BP produces at the Trump administration may not want out there and then there's political issues with the data being produced which is to say that they're places where the Trump administration is going to see a driving political interest in certain data not happening or other data being spun in a different way I think Obamacare is a space here economic data I think is also an issue here where the chopper decision is a very big interest in being seen as making America great again and potentially things that just America's not being made as great as people hoped are going to be suppressed and while there seems to have constituencies and it may not be possible to do this because of civil servants and other things that happen so don't be too just opaque air I do think that Trump administration to go back to what you're saying initially about calling the agricultural contests for the same reason that they pick up the phone when you like um they it's not a big deal for the position with a cat or rat whereas there are other agencies potentially pretty overtime where we what that agency does is much more directly related to the way that people will assess Donald Trump is the one saying an economic data that like the conflict politically around the data is that the real data shows that the economy's doing pretty well right
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Gag Order and Infrastructure