Tag Archives: climate change

Patterns in Politics from Congress to the Promised Press Conferences

That didn’t take long.  A mere 12 hours ago the Republicans in the House of Representatives wanted to put the OCE under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee; disallow the OCE from accepting anonymous tips from whistleblowers; stop investigating anything if the House Ethics Committee wanted the investigation stopped; not investigate anything that might have happened before January 3, 2011; not discuss its findings or even hire a spokesperson; and, not investigate any criminal cases or turn allegations of corruption over to law enforcement agencies. [BuzzFeed]   Then came the questions, perhaps the best of which was: When has anyone accused Congress of being TOO ethical?  Now the House Republicans have scrapped the plan. [The Hill]

However, watch for a pattern here.  This “jurisdictional” issue has been raised before, in the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  [HFSC 2013] [MPA 2016] Here’s a prediction for 2017 – the House Republicans will try to “reform” financial regulations by placing the CFPB (the outfit that caught Wells Fargo manipulating its staff and customers) under Congressional control.  What about a Republican controlled Congress having jurisdiction over mortgage lending practices and pay-day lenders could possibly go wrong?  Oh, well, there was that mess back in 2007-2008…

One thing about which there doesn’t seem to be much controversy: The Russians hacked the Democrats. (Except if you ask Trumpster Flack Kellyanne Conway, The Trumpster, or Vladimir Putin.) The geeks were on to this back in July 2016 when Motherboard posted this article.  The New York Times has a compilation of reports on Russian hacking.  In the face of all this actual evidence we have the Trumpster’s contention that “he knows things,” [CompWorld] and Conway’s advice that we should be listening to Julian Assange…[cnbc].  The Trumpster will have more to say, promise the flack, later this week.  We should add those comments to:

1. The April 2011 Trumpster comments that his investigators “couldn’t believe what they were finding in Hawaii” (about the President’s birth certificate.)  Trumpster told Meredith Vieira he had investigators there; however, there’s still no evidence he actually sent investigators to Hawaii. [HuffPo 2016]

2. On April 27, 2011 the Trumpster vowed to release his federal income tax returns.  We’ve not seen hide nor hair of these to date.

3. August 9, 2016:  the Trumpster says that his wife Melania will have a press conference to settle details about her immigration to this country. [Hill]  No press conference yet.

4.  September 9, 2016: The Trumpster vowed to release more detailed medical records. [BloombergNews]  Nothing released to date.

5. December 12, 2016: The Trumpster postpones his press conference on his business conflicts of interest for “a month.” He had told reporters on November 30th there would be a press conference on December 15th.  [MMA/Bloomberg]

I’d not advise anyone to hang by their hair or hold their breath waiting for the Trumpster to divulge any information on any of these topics much less on the hacking.

And, again, there’s a pattern.  One of the things that an overwhelming amount of scientific investigation and analysis tells us is that global climate change is very real. Faced with this, the energy industry fought back with attempts – not to attack the science itself – to sow doubt, and to promote those “doubts” in popular media. [guardian] This play goes back to the Tobacco campaigns of an era past.   Now, it’s “hacking.”

17 United States security and law enforcement agencies report that the Russians hacked the Democratic Party, and election efforts.  That’s 17 out of 17. There’s no doubt here.  Except – backers of the Trumpster using popular media to sow doubt.  We’ve seen this pattern before, and before, and before. The media keeps falling for it.

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Amodei’s Fence Straddling: Science? No Science?

In his own, inimitable, fashion Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV2) has encapsulated the wavering stance of those who don’t want to take any real action on climate change, but who’d like very much not to appear too much like the Inquisitors of Galileo.

“Amodei described himself as new to climate change issues and stopped short of endorsing the scientific consensus that rising global temperatures are driven by humans burning fossil fuels for energy.

But he said he will continue to gather research on the issue and added that facts should drive policy.

“It bugs me just as much when somebody starts out it is all BS as when somebody starts out the world is going to end tomorrow,” Amodei said. “If you are really going to be fact based then you need people who are going to argue both ways. You just don’t want a bunch of ‘yes’ people.” [RGJ]

First, Amodei noted that he didn’t think the request from the Trumpster transition team for a list of those Department of Energy employees who had worked on climate science projects was appropriate.  That’s good, because witch-hunts and purges have been notoriously counter productive.  Then come the excuses… “I’m new to the topic.”

This is analogous to “give me some time and I’ll get back to you.”

And, yes – facts should drive policy.  That would be scientific facts, not political ones.  Further, using the straw man technique doesn’t further even the political argument.  No one is saying “the world is going to end tomorrow.”  What scientists ARE saying is that there is concrete evidence that the increasing climate change is happening because of human activity.  These aren’t “yes men.” 

In fact, “The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.”  [SSci]

What opponents of new energy sources and systems have been touting over the past few years is the MYTH of a lack of consensus:

“That’s why those who oppose taking action to curb climate change have engaged in a misinformation campaign to deny the existence of the expert consensus. They’ve been largely successful, as the public badly underestimate the expert consensus, in what we call the “consensus gap.” Only 16% of Americans realize that the consensus is above 90%.” [SSci]  (emphasis added)

Representative Amodei has firmly inserted himself into that mythological gap.  

On one side of his self constructed fence, he did co-sponsor the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension, a bill which went to the House Ways and Means Committee, and then into oblivion.  On the other side, he co-sponsored the “Stop Green Initiative Abuse Act,” which amended the Energy Conservation and Production Act to repeal provisions of the Department of Energy’s weatherization assistance program for low income persons to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings. [OTI]

A some point it might behoove the Representative to note that not every one else is straddling a semantic fence and continue his education on the issue:

Here’s the Department of Defense on the implications of climate change on national security.

“The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges, they added.” [DoD]

In addition to national defense, there’s also the not-so-small matter of emergency planning and responses.  Emergency Managers have some thoughts on this:

“Since storms are becoming more severe, disaster response costs have risen. The costs of major hurricanes has increased sharply over the last decade, and the spending totals for cleaning up after major floods across the Midwest and South have spiked. More victims and more damages mean more money. If supplies are not available, they must be flown in. Victims may go without necessities and become ill, which results in increased medical costs or an increased demand for medical supplies. Disaster plans must account for the increasing severity of storms and how they create the need for more response supplies.” [EMD.org]

This scenario isn’t too difficult to follow.  Climate change leads to severe storms, severe storms cause more damage, more damage means more costs, more expenses mean more money.   The bottom line is that any emergency management plan which does NOT incorporate the effects of climate change isn’t really a plan at all – just a prayer and a wish list.

As much as Representative Amodei may want to dawdle, fence straddle, and muse about “collecting more facts,” the facts themselves are clear – climate change is happening – climate change is caused by human activity – and to ignore these facts is to make this country (and many others) more vulnerable.

***********************************************************

It has now been 2059 days since the president-elect promised to release his tax returns (April 27, 2011) In light of the ‘Russian Connection’ to the 2016 campaign it seems essential for the American public to find out what financial ties the prospective president has to the Russian government and economy.

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The Fanatic Season: Politics as Liturgy

Fanatic Eric Hoffer summed it up in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements in 1951:

“The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.”

Consider how often the right wing insists on doing the unthinkable?  Why would anyone launch a deliberately provocative  “Cartoon Contest” and call it an exercise in ‘free speech?’  Why would anyone put a gun site target on the names of members of Congress? Why would anyone think it appropriate to print the addresses of physicians who provide abortion services?  Because, perhaps, these are arrogant gestures, with a complete disregard for the safety and well being of others, defying convention (and good sense) as would a single-handed hero in defense of something, anything, whatever…

On the national level this allows Fox News to promote the demonization of Islam and its adherents, or to declare a “War on Christmas,” or to offer comfort to the bigot, the intolerant, and the racist.   On a state level the concept allows the elevation of the gun enthusiasts and supports their sense of victimization – as some unspecified “they” are perceived to be “coming for your guns. “ It also allows the faithful to identify “public servants” as “pigs at the trough” when they aren’t being vilified for not doing their jobs with insufficient resources; and, to degrade the humanity of the working poor for “not making good choices,” thereby relinquishing their right to be treated with compassion as fellow human beings.  Hoffer had a line about this concept as well:

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”

Indeed, the current manifestation of the conservatives in the Republican Party (and this may mean just about all of its leadership at the moment, the moderates being driven from the field) is beset with devils of all sorts.   At this juncture political ideology becomes confused with something we might call political liturgy.

Let’s look at the definitions. First, ideology is defined as “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.”   Liturgy means “a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted.”  A formulary “is a collection of formulas or set forms, especially for use in religious ceremonies.”

The fanatic may have some difficulty differentiating between an ideology and the performance of liturgy. Ideology is properly understood as a position a person takes regarding, say, how revenue is collected for the operation of a government and the priorities for its distribution.  A liturgical element inserts itself as time after time a politician asserts talking points which are faith based with little or no rational substance.

Some Examples

The standard Republican talking point (liturgical element) concerning proposals to increase the minimum way is that doing so will have a negative economic effect.  This is often reduced to the formulaic: Increasing the minimum wage will cost jobs.  The problem is that there is no substantive research confirming this notion.  There are several credible studies indicating there would be no “negative employment effects” of increasing the minimum wage, and the talking point defies the common sense notion that an employee of one company is always a customer of others.  Empirical studies demonstrate that lower wage workers are more likely to spend marginal income than wealthier ones. [Salon]

The standard Republican talking point (liturgical element) is “Support the Troops;” and a person can easily obtain a yellow ribbon car magnet for this message to place alongside the “Love Your Country Live With Pride” bumper sticker.  That this is a liturgical insertion rather than an ideological position is illustrated by the disinclination of Republicans in general to vote in favor of increased wages for members of the Armed Forces, in favor of more benefits for service members and veterans, in favor of more job training programs for veterans, and in favor of the extension of more VA medical services to veterans who served during peacetime.  At the risk of sacrilege, I’d say this is roughly analogous to reciting “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison” without thinking of the meaning.

And then there’s the standard GOP line … “the government is the problem.”  Until, of course, it’s the solution.  We might consider Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s remarkable illustration of how this liturgical element can be reversed as he begged for federal aid for Texas cities literally drowning in flood waters.  This, from the self-same Senator who voted against federal relief expenditures for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. [DailyBanter]  This line is hauled out of the vestry and applied to attempts to curtail malfeasance (and worse) in the banking industry, to curb polluters, to put the brakes on corporate mismanagement, until the nation becomes a victim of banking malfeasance (or worse), the state has to clean up a toxic spill, and the investors in a corporation despair of any relief from greedy executives.

The Ramifications

When policy positions (political ideological statements) become articles of faith (as part of a liturgy) then there’s a danger that portions of the electorate are no longer participating in a political process, but are voting and behaving as a “mass movement” in which the Devils will be scourged by those who can recite all the correct elements of the liturgy.  Nothing contemporary illustrates the liturgical quality of Republican leadership statements as the current blathering about climate change.

When the Pew Foundation did some polling on the subject it found that 67% of all adults surveyed believed that climate change is occurring, and 84% of Democrats (or those leaning toward the Democratic party) agreed.  Among Republicans 46% agreed the climate is changing, and this represents 61% of “mainstream GOP” who agree the climate is changing, and 25% of Tea Party adherents who agree.

Bear in mind the Tea Party  percentage when noting that 66% of Democrats agreed that human activity was a major cause of climate change, compared to 43% of independents, and 24% of Republicans in the 2013 survey.

The 24-25% of Republican voters would likely find nothing untoward about presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s request that the Pope leave the “science to the scientists.” [CSMonitor]  It’s probably important to note at this point, that no, the Pope doesn’t have the equivalent of a master’s degree in chemistry – but he did have a degree in chemistry in the Argentine educational system and according to a fellow Jesuit: “Liebscher said he hopes this does not sound like “we’re denigrating his education. Francis certainly respects the scientific method, and careful measurement ranks high in his list of values.”   The “correct” liturgical response about climate change has evolved in Republican political parlance.

Initially, and there are still adherents to the position, the GOP response was that Climate Change was misinformation, or at worst a hoax.  Later on the position was Climate Change is real but human beings aren’t responsible. The present iteration seems to be that Climate Change is real, human beings just might be responsible for some of it, and ordinary people shouldn’t talk about it because “science is best left to scientists,” the optional liturgical insertion may be “I’m not a scientist.” [Bloomberg]

Moving beyond a single illustration of how the transformation of ideology into liturgy is problematic for a democratic republic, when the correct formulaic recitation of liturgy stands in place of a discussion of policy alternatives only the True Believers are deemed fit to carry the party banners.  This is what former Republican official Bruce Bartlett complains of when writing that Fox News has actually harmed the political prospects of the Republican Party.

‘Fox has now become a problem for the Republican Party because it keeps a far right base mobilized and angry, making it hard for the party to move to the center or increase its appeal, as it must do to remain electorally competitive….One of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox, which contributed to forcing him to the right during the primary season.’

Compare this to one of the original quotations above:

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”

The unspoken assumption seems to be that Fox News will only beat out the rhythms of the Pure, the uncontaminated unadulterated liturgy of the extreme right.  It will only sate the political appetite of those who prefer liturgical formulations rather than explain the underlying catechism; in other words – those who wish to cast out the “devils” — be they African Americans in urban areas, minimum wage workers, environmental advocates, human rights activists, critics of the banking industry, or Democrats.

The proper incantation of the political liturgy will comfort those who wish to be comfortable in their biases, prejudices, and ideology.  Just as their unquestioning belief in a particular confession of faith grounds them, their insistence on a political liturgy relieves their anxieties keeps them anchored.   A liturgy which validates their fears – of African American men, of the working poor, of unemployment, of immigrants, of members of the LGBT community, of Muslims, of economic displacement, of anyone or anything outside their immediate experience – is consoling.

The Bottom Line

The problem, as Bartlett observes in a political realm, is that the more ideology is replaced by a confession of faith, and the more the confession of faith is sustained by the participation in ritualized liturgy, the more likely it is that the movement devolves into a sect.  Once a movement is reduced to a sect at least two things can happen, and they’re both bad.

First, as Bartlett notes, the sect becomes so restricted that it cannot reach a wider audience, and secondly the sect is inclined to defend the indefensible, merely because a fellow member is being criticized.  Witness the defense of the Duggar family’s handling of their son’s molestation of his sisters which almost perfectly summarizes the DARVO position – Deny, Attack, Reverse the Victim and the Offender.  Again, the more the sect becomes identified with a cultish adherence of defending the indefensible the more narrow the appeal of the movement.

One one hand there is some consolation in the idea that the Republican Party may eventually restrict itself to a narrow cult of unelectable True Believers, however, as one who finds the restriction of alternative points of view counter productive in politics and public policy the prospect of a degenerating GOP is not very appealing.

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Heller: Environmental Equivocation and the Koch Brothers

Heller 3

Nevada Senator Dean Heller (R) was one of 98 members of the upper chamber to vote for an amendment to S. 1 (Keystone Pipeline bill) in which the Senate declared ‘global climate change is NOT a hoax.’ [rc 10] That’s good for starters.  However, Senator Heller didn’t get over the finish line. Along came vote number 12, which sought to clarify the nature of the global climate change:

S Amdt 58: (2) “The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], in addition to other institutions, such as the National Research Council and the United States (U.S.) Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), have concluded that it is extremely likely that global increases in atmospheric [greenhouse gas] concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities.”;…

If one of the significant causes of global climate change isn’t human activity, then what might Senator Heller be thinking?   Is the Senator one of the 18% of all Americans who believe the current situation is the result of natural environmental patterns? Is he one of the 70% of Tea Party Republicans who believes there’s no solid evidence for global climate change?  Or, is he part of the 30% of moderate Republicans who believe there’s no solid evidence for global climate change?   [Pew]

“Opinions of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents divide into four roughly equal size groups: 23% say there is solid evidence of global warming and it is mostly caused by human activity; 19% say warming exists but is due to natural patterns; 25% see no solid evidence and say it is just not happening; 20% say there is no solid evidence but not enough is known yet.” [Pew]

If Senator Heller’s vote on the “hoax issue” is sincere, then he’s probably not a member of the 19% “natural patterns” Republican brigade, nor would he be a member of the “just not happening” chorus. That leaves the 25% who quibble about “not enough is known yet” crowd.  He’s certainly not part of the 23% who say there is solid evidence, and the phenomena is caused by human activity.

Senator Heller will no doubt emphasize his vote on the Hoax Issue as evidence of his moderate views. However, that second vote narrows the box into which he’s placed himself, a box generally shared by those who hew towards the fossil fuel corporation’s line adopted by the less moderate strain of the GOP.

In order to adopt this weasel position between and among the Republican camps one has to ignore the science from NASA (Climate Change Evidence),

“On Earth, human activities are changing the natural greenhouse. Over the last century the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities have increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.” [NASA]

It would also be necessary to ignore the conclusions of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased from a pre-industrial era (AD 1000 – 1750) concentration of approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) to around 383 ppm, as measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii in 2007.[2,9] The carbon in the atmospheric CO2 contains information about its source, so that scientists can tell that fossil fuel emissions comprise the largest source of the increase since the pre-industrial era.” [UCS]

For those inclined to get into the molecular weeds behind this conclusion, the UCS offers a more detailed discussion at the link given above.

Is he thinking the Union of Concerned Scientists might be “too liberal?” Then, he might want to have a look at the joint publication from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society.  It’s not like the price is too steep – he could buy a copy for $5.00.

The Big Publication in this field comes in the form of reports from the International Panel on Climate Change.  Their conclusion in 2014 couldn’t be more clear and  precise:

“Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. {1}”

“Anthropogenic” is a fancy scientific way to say ‘US.”  Humans, human beings, persons, people…

Taking the argument one step further, even the Gas Giants are bending their positions on global climate change.  Consider the actions from Shell Oil which generated three prospects and settled on their ‘greenest one’ as company policy back in 2008:

“The greener Blueprints scenario, it said, would be better for both the company and for the world. Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer publicly called for governments to impose a price on carbon emissions. He wasn’t alone: BP and Exxon, once famous for funding bogus “climate skeptic” research, joined Shell in offering to work with President Obama on a real climate policy, with Exxon executives noting that they’d favor a carbon tax over cap-and-trade.”  [Slate]

Before patting ExxonMobil on the back, that corporation seems to have been trying to play both sides of the road since 2008. The Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil were major funders of the “countermovement” on climate change, but more recent donations to the anti-science activities appear to be coming from such sources as the Donors Trust, and Donors Capital, organizations which are “dark money,” and do not publish the sources of their funding.

Since 2008, Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil have pulled back their funding for climate change denying publications, but the Koch Brothers have surfaced as one of the major contributors to the Donors Trust.

“Donors Trust is not the source of the money it hands out. Some 200 right-of-center funders who’ve given at least $10,000 fill the group’s coffers. Charities bankrolled by Charles and David Koch, the DeVoses, and the Bradleys, among other conservative benefactors, have given to Donors Trust. And other recipients of Donors Trust money include the Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the NRA’s Freedom Action Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation,chaired (PDF) by none other than David Koch.” [MJ]

Interesting, the ultra-conservative advocates of the exploiters and polluters who finance that “countermovement” on global climate change are the self-same fat cats who bankroll anti-government, anti-tax, anti-bank regulation, and anti-climate improvement actions.

If Senator Heller has ‘doubts’ about the significance of human activity as it relates to global climate change, from whence is he receiving those uncertainties?

It’s not from the International Panel on Climate Change, it’s not from the British Royal Society, it’s not from the National Academy of Sciences, or the Union of Concerned Scientists, and it’s not from NASA.  That leaves the Koch Brothers and the dark money in the Donors Trust and Donors Capital funds.

Receiving one’s marching orders from the Donors Trust (rather than IPCC or NASA) is no way to convince any thoughtful person that the position taken is “moderate” in any way. It’s far easier to come to the conclusion that Nevada’s junior Senator has adopted the Koch Brother’s radical reactionary brand of Republicanism.  As every grandmother ever said, “You are known by the company you keep.”

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Bouncing Around with the Bubble People

Bubble HouseI wondered, while drafting the last post, why anyone on the planet — much less in the litigious United States — would propose a robust defense of exactly the same arguments is his defense of the ridiculous (Bundy) that were all tossed out of court in a previous case (Gardner)?  Why continual dismissal of the repeated talking points wouldn’t deter someone from appealing to them once more as revealed wisdom?

A person would have to inhabit a very tightly enclosed bubble to have missed the point that these arguments wouldn’t be any more successful than they had been in prior litigation.  But then, when an individual comes to assume that his or her beliefs are, in se, facts, indeed articles of faith, it stands to reason they’d be repeated.   The Bubble People are impervious to the rest of the world and its reality.

They have their very own self-sustaining history.  A history, for example, in which “faith” not “government” freed the enslaved people in the American south. [Salon]  Let’s grant that some of the most ardent Abolitionists were people of faith, but had we waited for the efforts of the Underground Railroad to rescue all the 3,950,528 people enslaved in the Confederacy we’d still be discussing the issue.

Lincoln may not have started his presidency as an enthusiastic adherent to the abolitionist cause, but his Gettysburg Address calls for a “new birth of freedom,” not merely the reinstitution of the status quo ante bellum.  Besides which it’s rather difficult to forget the approximately 750,000 men who died in that war, and to ignore the fact that some 364,000 were fighting for a government seeking to end human slavery.

And if the actual story of America doesn’t support the atmosphere in the bubble — rewrite it — the Jamestown Settlers were socialists, Alexander Hamilton has been misinterpreted by pointy headed liberals as espousing a theory of strong central government, Franklin D. Roosevelt caused the Great Depression, Senator Joesph McCarthy was no raving opportunistic radical — he was a hero!  At least that’s the story had it been written by a Texas school board member: “We are adding balance,” Texas school board member Don McLeroy said. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.” [McClatchy]

If they don’t accept commonly accepted historical narratives and themes why would we expect them to adopt the uncertainties of science and scientific inquiry?

Global climate change is a hoax.  Except for the 9136 scientists who agree that global climate change is a reality. The Bubble People would prefer to hear from the one who doesn’t agree. [SAm]  Disagreement on how much is anthropogenic or on the extent of warming is taken as “proof” there is no consensus.  Evidently unable to accept the intrinsic skepticism of science, the Bubble People don’t want anything that isn’t 100% certain — like their articles of faith. [Salon]  Not only do they not “believe,” they really don’t want any more information which might test their tenets. Witness Congress in 2011:

“House Republicans, led by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), killed the budget-neutral provision to create a climate service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s proposed Climate Service, or NCS, would have consolidated NOAA’s existing, widely dispersed, climate-monitoring capabilities under a single management structure to meet Americans’ rising demand for authoritative and timely climate information. [Think Progress]

And, it’s not just climate science they don’t want to know about — they’ve opposed research into gun violence as a public health issue.  Republicans in Congress have opposed funding for research in this area for the past twenty years, and the current Congress is no exception.  [ProPublica]  The Gun Lobby response — there’s no way to be pro-gun and also pro-research as if the two were mutually exclusive, and a dismissive “we don’t need more research  we need more prosecution.” [ProPublica]

It’s easy to imagine a robust “LA LA LA LA LA  I can’t hear you!” coming from inside the Bubble.  They’ll make up their own history, their own science, their own political science, their own medical conclusions, their own jurisprudence … they’ll repeat it even if it’s only among themselves.

“One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years, thought Bernard Marx, who was a specialist on hypnopædia. Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots!” –Brave New World

Ignorance becomes a comfort zone, one from which the Bubble People are loathe to emerge.  Even though ignorance is definitely not bliss, and curiosity is closer to satisfaction, they’ll stick with their thoroughly absorbed notions of truth — protected from the discomfort of having to accept and then function from a new set of information or concepts.

They will prefer short term comfort to long term prosperity, and see the world as a zero sum game in which every change they must make means something taken from them rather than a new opportunity for self discovery.

For some, they will be the man in the cave who has depended on lightning strikes for his fire, and is lost when the embers die.  Sad.

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Mountains and Mole Hills

Mountain MolehillOne of the more unpleasant aspects of today’s media offerings is the tendency to confuse mountains and molehills.  No disrespect to all those diligent moles out there assiduously plying their turf disrupting trade, but when Everything Is A Crisis! perspective is the first casualty.

Mountain:  We have an immigration policy in place which doesn’t work for us.  There are two bills addressing this issue, S. 744 which passed the Senate and H.R. 15 which languishes in the House while the TeaParty/GOP leadership decides which they’d prefer to tick off — their corporate backers or the xenophobic right wing.    Representative Amodei (R-NV2) thinks he could support Rep. Eric Cantor’s “Kids Act” and he provides a summary of the issue on his webpage, but his statements on comprehensive immigration policy reform remain fuzzy.  Where Representative Heck (R-NV3)  stands is a bit more clear, given his statement on October 25th:

“I have spent countless hours meeting with community members and addressing town hall meetings on the topic of immigration reform. There is no doubt in my mind that reforming our immigration system is right and necessary and I remain committed to enacting real solutions that will fix our current broken system. I will continue to urge the House leadership to move forward on immigration reform with all possible haste.”

While he’s “urging leadership to move forward,” the question remains — toward what?  A piecemeal enactment of immigration policies which serve only to protract the issues, and may never arrive at a complete picture — or — legislation like S. 744 or H.R. 15?

Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV1) drilled down to one of the major issues in the piecemeal approach to immigration policy reform:  What of women who work in the service sector?

“Comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the fact that many immigrant women work at home or in the informal economy.  If, for example, eligibility for the path to citizenship requires proof of employment, providing paystubs cannot be the only acceptable proof or we risk leaving millions of women behind.  Approximately 74 percent of undocumented domestic workers do not receive documentation of their pay from an employer.  Thankfully, H.R. 15, the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill recently introduced in the House, addresses this issue by allowing flexible forms of proof of employment. It is critical that we incorporate this thoughtful approach into any immigration reform bill considered by the House.”

Meanwhile, the mountain remains, impervious to rational debate and reasonable action.

Mole Hill:   Those who have purchased individual health insurance plans constitute about 5% of the population. [UI]  This translates to a maximum of 16,500,000 individuals out of a total 330,000,000; if we count every single person large or small, young or old.  The actual percentage is probably closer to 14.3 million individuals. [UI pdf]  Some of these people bought JUNK.  In a search for low premiums they purchased policies that didn’t cover much, if anything, or bought policies the coverage terms of which were so confusing that the insurance corporation was able to deny compensation for even basic treatment options.   The infamous Barrette Case is a classic example of a JUNK policy.   Forbes magazine estimates that about  4 million Americans were sold some 1,200 of these junk policies.

Thus, it should be fairly easy for the press to find some individual examples for popular consumption of these Outraged Individuals who want to keep the cheap junk they purchased, out of a category of 4 million.   Therefore, the media cry “there are millions of Americans affected by this ‘mistake'” is technically accurate but ultimately misleading.   Some broadcasters have jumped on the “Crisis” bandwagon, only to have their stellar examples debunked within hours.  You can tell when the mole hill is being magnified into a mountain IF (1) the report doesn’t compare the junk policy to the coverage available in the health insurance exchanges, (2) if the report doesn’t take into consideration the subsidies available to assist the policy holder pay for the premiums, and (3) if the report relies on individual examples to generate conclusions for which there is no other substantiation.

Mountain:  Speaking of health issues — 32,163 Americans died as a result of gun fire in 2011.  6,220 died as a result of a homicide. 19,766 individuals used a gun to commit suicide.  [GP]  73,883 Americans were injured by gun fire.  432 Americans died in gun related accidents. [GP]  By contrast, in 2011 there were 9,878 fatal automobile accidents in which there was a driver with a BAC level above 0.08 or even higher.  [NRD pdf]  We are coming perilously close to the point at which the number of gun deaths equals or surpasses the number of automobile deaths.  According to figures released by the CDC 33,687 Americans died in auto accidents, 31,672 died as a result of gun violence.  We do something about drunk drivers.  We restrict the licenses of some drivers. We have yet to address the issues related to the easy access to firearms in this country.

When Gallup polled Americans about controlling gun sales in the U.S. during the week of October 3-6, 2013 some 49% favored more stringent controls, 13% thought restrictions should be eased, and 37% called for controls to be kept the same.  A September poll by Quinnipiac University found 89% of Americans supportive of legislation to require universal background checks.  These numbers aside, on September 17th Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he didn’t have enough support to reintroduce the background check bill in the Senate. [TheHill]

Mole Hill: I’m really pleased that there are at least seven retailers who will give their employees a break for celebrating Thanksgiving with their families.  [TP]   That said — when wages for American workers have stagnated for the past decade [EPI], when there are about 10% of our young veterans  still looking for work while the programs to help them are shrinking [CNN], and when the unemployment rate for Whites 6.3% while the unemployment rate for Blacks stands at 13.1% we have a problem far larger than whether or not people go home for Thanksgiving.

Mountain:  Did anyone read the IPCC climate report?   Did anyone delve into Chapter 12, wherein the commission discussed climate change implications for pattern scaling, temperatures and energy budgets, atmospheric circulation, the water cycle, the cryosphere, our oceans, and carbon cycle feedback?  [IPCC pdf] One newspaper noted that the report made the climate change deniers overheat.  Too many media outlets were engaged in sowing seeds of doubt about the report’s content and all but ignoring the conclusions and commentary contained therein.

Mole Hill:  There were 48 bills in the 113th Congress related to the abortion issue. [GovTrack]  There’s Sen. Rand Paul’s S.583 Personhood Bill, H.R. 2300 from Rep. Tom Price to “empower patients” (not), Rep. Trent Frank’s H.R. 1797 “pain” bill, and his H.R. 447 PRENDA, Rep. Jim Jordan introduced H.R. 1091, life begins at conception act, and the list goes on.

Meanwhile back in the world of reality — the rate of abortions per 1,000 women of child bearing age has declined from a high of 29.3 in 1981 to 19.6 in 2008. [Guttmacher]

A Suggestion

Could we start talking about the mountains, and minimize our time spent in elaborate and protracted debates about mole hills?

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Filed under abortion, Amodei, anti-immigration, ecology, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heck, media

Bits and Interesting Pieces

Jig Saw Puzzle** That stalwart champion of free enterprise, Las Vegas’s own Sheldon Adelson, is complaining about his competitors offering lower room rates, and diminishing his profits. [LVinc]  Perhaps if he’d saved a bit of that moolah he pitched at GOP candidates in the last election…?

** If an endorsement from Governor Sandoval is supposed to be an effective repellant to ward off pesky intra-party competition — it’s not working, at least not in the run for 2016, in the Lt. Governor’s Office department.  Ray Hagar has more in the RGJ.  Muth complains here.  More from Ralston here.

** Governor Sandoval had an opportunity to help prevent the possibility of private guns sales to ineligible persons, and he blew it.

“Nobody — least of all Sandoval, a former attorney general and federal judge — wants felons or the mentally ill to get guns. But the fact remains, the governor had a chance to make it more difficult for that to happen, and he chose not to take it. And while this incident was resolved without tragedy or bloodshed, the next one may not be.”  [Sebelius]

Amen.

** There was the “transportation” of James F. Brown, and now Nevada’s Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Center is losing its accreditation.  [LVRJ] The Nevada Progressive has more + video.

** Talking Point Memo lists the “8 biggest losers”  should Congress fail to pass a comprehensive immigration policy reform bill.  And, might we add radical right wing Nevada politicians in a state in which the Hispanic population is projected to increase from about 687,166 in 2010 to approximately 802,432 by 2016? [StateDemographer pdf]

** Oh, my goodness and glory… Senator Harry Reid spoke about the effects of climate change and its association with wildland fire danger, and predictably the right wing goes off the rails.  From the Damned Pundit:

“Reid was stating the obvious. For decades scientists have been pointing at factors like warmer spring temperatures, lighter winter snowpacks and earlier growth creating an abundance of dryer fuel, and linking those factors to more — and more intense — Western wildfires.”

Here’s the predictable piece from the Elko Daily Freepers, a portion of the litany of “fact checking” provided in an attempt to advance the deniers’ fantasies: “Pay no attention to the fact there has been no appreciable global warming in 15 years despite a dramatic increase in carbon output from all sources — a phenomenon none of the global warming models can explain.”  Thus we are supposed to ignore this data from the Arctic studies?  Or, the Cambridge University study projecting that Arctic methane release could cost the global economy about $60 trillion over the next decades?

By the way, the old “prescribed burn” system which the EDFP writer would prefer to see restored — it’s not necessarily a thing of the past, witness the 2008 Prescribed Fire Guide (download) for forest and wildland management. [SJEl.org]

** So, why is Representative Steve King (R-IA Xenophobia) still on the House Subcommittee on Immigration?  NRDC would like to know.   Oh, wait — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN6) is still on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.   There’s more on Representative Cantaloupe Calves here.

**  It’s really hard to gin up any sympathy for the Bankers when they do stuff like mistake a foreclosed home for the one across the street and remove all a person’s belongings — then they trashed or sold all her stuff, and the bank is now refusing to pay for  replacements. [Crooks & Liars] Original story from Channel 10 here.   The First National Bank of Wellston is “disputing” the lady’s $18,000 claim for replacing lost personal property.  Her response: “I’m not running a yard sale here. I did not tell them to come in my house and make me an offer,” she said. “They took my stuff, and I want it back.” [ColumbusDispatch]  The FNB of Wellston has $94,813,000 in assets, and $56,598,000 in outstanding loans, it has reserves of $590,000. [BankTracker]   This story has hit other  national blogs, such as Think Progress.

** Members of the Senate who are drafting taxation reform legislation have promised their colleagues they’ll keep their suggestions secret for the next 50 years.   Transparency? Accountability? Anyone? The story, if not the suggestions, have leaked already — into Politico and The Hill.

** Jobs, Jobs, Jobs — and by CBO lights, the GOP is on the hook for killing about 1.6 million of them.   [Politicususa]  Just think of how many more they can kill if they make good on their pledge to Shut Down The Government unless President Obama agrees to repeal Obamacare?

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Filed under Adelson, banking, ecology, Gun Issues, Immigration, Nevada politics, Taxation