Tag archive for GOP

Chris Christie “doesn’t buy” climate change

As David Roberts of Grist/Vox has been saying for literally years now, the GOP base is batshit crazy, and as a result, Republican candidates have to compete to out-crazy each other when it comes to climate.

How low can they go? How uninformed, willfully ignorant, and flat-out irrational can they possibly be? It’s the most Through the Looking Glass performance available in American politics today, surely.

Chris Christie six months ago declared that climate change was “real,” and indicated that unlike the rest of the GOP presidential candidates he knew that humans contributed, and got the reputation as a moderate.

Now he’s evidently trying to put his unsavory past as a climate change believer behind him, and today he scoffed at the very idea of climate disruption:

The full transcript of the interview is astonishing  — more context just makes the aggressive ignorance plainer. ChristieScarboroughtranscript    

No, of course not. Whew. Now that, that would be crazy.


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GOP takes climate change denial to the next level

The GOP's war on science gets worse, writes Elizabeth Kolbert, noting that the House GOP cut $300 million from NASA's budget for earth sciences (including climate) on the childish old theory that ignoring a problem will make it go away.

That same week The New Yorker, for which Kolbert writes, came up with an even wittier version of the same basic argument:


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GOP: Party of Big Pizza — and obesity?

Last year at this time I started working on a story about childhood obesity in a couple of small towns in Ventura County, and how different the picture looked in an upscale, mostly white town such as Ojai, where childhood obesity runs behind the national average of about 35%, and how it looks in the poorer, mostly Latino town of Santa Paula, where childhood obesity prevalence is among the highest in the state, at about 48%.

Interviewing the director of food services for Ojai's schools, I learned that she does not allow frozen pizza at all for her students eating school lunches, and did what she could to discourage parents from bringing pizza to after-school events. By contrast, I heard from a student at Santa Paula High, most students went for the frozen pizza at the high school every day.

Naturally I wondered if there was a connection to the high rates of obesity, but my adviser at USC/Annenberg's Health Reporting fellowship, discouraged me pointing the finger of blame at a single food for Santa Paula's obesity problem. 

So my ears perked up when today I came across a characteristically strong but unusually wide-ranging column from Paul Krugman at the NYTimes, who argues that based on contributions, it's fair to say that Republicans are "the party of Big Energy and Big Food…and in particular, the party of Big Pizza."

Could caloric frozen pizza explain the obesity problem among kids eating free and reduced lunches?

Krugman pointed to a great story in Bloomberg Business, with some potent graphics, which show that big pizza companies — both retail and school food companies — give crazy amounts of money to the GOP, and almost nothing to the Democrats. To wit: 


It's startling. And it made me wonder again about the contribution of pizza towards obesity, especially after discovering that frozen pizza was trying to get credit as a vegetable for its tomato sauce, which seemed (to put it politely) a stretch (and not just to me):

Under the existing rules, tomato paste is given extra credit toward a vegetable serving because it's made of concentrated tomatoes. So 2 tablespoons of tomato paste — roughly the amount on a slice of pizza — is counted as a half a cup, or the equivalent of one vegetable serving. For school lunch purposes, a slice of pizza was considered a serving of vegetables, a point first made by [nutrition advocate] Wootan in 2011 that became a late-night punchline. The Department of Agriculture’s new rules, though, would have stopped giving tomato paste extra credit: From now on, 2 tablespoons would count as 2 tablespoons. Kraig Naasz, CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute, a trade group that lobbies for frozen pizza, says the tomato paste rule was simply a crafty way to get pizza out of schools: “None of our members wanted the federal government to say, ‘Pizza is bad for you.’ You would have been telling an entire generation that pizza is a food you shouldn’t consume.”

Back at his desk, Krugman wondered about an association between GOP dominated states and obesity, and finds, according to a CDC plot, that the answer is yes — even if you look only at obesity among non-Hispanic white people, the "diabetes belt" of the nation tends to be Southern and conservative politically.


But my advisor Martha Shirk in turn argued that pizza in the schools has changed in recent years, and I didn't have the "smoking gun" kind of evidence to make that accusation. The validity of her point can be seen in a letter from a second-grader in Louisiana this past week, very much in the "diabetes belt," who complained to the First Lady, who famously led the charge for better foods and more activity in schools.

Trip Kilbert complained in his letter that the new pizza, made of whole grains, was "terrible." First Lady Michelle Obama wrote back and sent consolation and some pictures, but wouldn't change the menu.

Leaping to a conclusion: if a second-grader doesn't like the whole grain frozen pizza, maybe it's not as obesogenic as it used to be, as Martha said, and can't be held responsible for a generation's obesity problem. 

Darn it. Would have been so simple!

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Can GOP Senators be this dumb on climate?

According to Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority leader, the answer is yes:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he will allow the Senate to vote on an amendment asking if they agree that climate change is impacting the planet.

At his weekly press briefing, McConnell said "nobody is blocking any amendments" to legislation that would approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

That's according to The Hill.
Yours truly is skeptical the Republican party will go actually go ahead and embarrass themselves so completely in an era when even a majority of Republicans believe that climate change is happening.
Can they be as politically idiotic as they are scientifically block-headed?
Well, maybe. 
Give Bernie Sanders some credit for holding their feet to the fire. Here's his amendment, with which he intends to force Republican Senators to deny climate change in front of all the world to see.
Greg Sargent reports for the Washington Post:

"Sanders’ office sends over the text of the amendment. It reads:

It is the sense of Congress that Congress is in agreement with the opinion of virtually the entire worldwide scientific community and a growing number of top national security experts, economists, and others that –

(1) climate change is real;

(2) climate change is caused by human activities;

(3) climate change has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world; and

(4) it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy."

Put them on the record. Give them enough rope. 

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Global warming: even the Mafia sees it now

From the great Frank Cotham at The New Yorker. Available here, on their new and infinitely more accessible website. (Complained about it a couple of months ago: it's so much better now!) 


Seems everyone can see the reality of global warming, except Congressional Republicans (58% denier) and members of the Tea Party (61% denier).

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Obama mocks GOP climate change deniers

Weird. Read closely, it almost sounds as if the House Speaker, a Republican, is admitting that climate change is happening, and we need to deal with it, but we can’t use pollution control regulations.

What's the best way to combat a ridiculous but damaging idea?

Ridicule. And even though — as Gail Collins pointed out in what is surely the most amusingly brilliant political column of the year to date — we as a culture have kind of lost interest in Barack Obama as an individual, he's still the president. 

Barack Obama is universally known, but these days, if you have a conversation at the dinner table about him, the real topic is going to be something like health care or the unemployment rate. We’re so aware of his enormous responsibilities, we’ve sort of lost interest in Obama as a person. He may try to be diverting with the odd comment about sports or his dog, but, really, it doesn’t work.

Well, he may not be all that interesting a person these days, but he's still able to get attention when he gives a speech, and when he mocks his political opponent almost to their face, he still makes the news — including FOX News.

Calling climate change deniers the radical fringe, he said: 

Now, part of what’s unique about climate change, though, is the nature of some of the opposition to action.  It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist.  When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long.  But nobody ignored the science.  I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.  (Laughter.)

And today’s Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change.  They will tell you it is a hoax, or a fad.  One member of Congress actually says the world is cooling.  There was one member of Congress who mentioned a theory involving “dinosaur flatulence” — which I won’t get into.  (Laughter.)

Now, their view may be wrong — and a fairly serious threat to everybody’s future — but at least they have the brass to say what they actually think.  There are some who also duck the question.  They say — when they’re asked about climate change, they say, “Hey, look, I’m not a scientist.”  And I’ll translate that for you.  What that really means is, “I know that manmade climate change really is happening, but if I admit it, I’ll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot, so I’m not going to admit it.”  (Applause.)


Obama called John Boehner a liar to his face — almost. On May 30th, John Boehner, Republican, Speaker of the House, the president's most prominent political opponent, as widely quoted when he said:

“Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” 

Having backpedaled away from the issue, as a scientist pointed out, while implying there was a debate in the science, Boehner then went on to claim that regulating power plants would ruin the economy, which must remain paramount over "changes to our environment." 

Weird. Read closely, it almost sounds as if Boehner is admitting that climate change is happening, and we need to deal with it, but of course we can't use pollution control regulations

Leaving the science and the fate of the planet aside, Is that really a good argument? 

Could the fact that 70 percent of people polled on this subject said global warming was a "very serious" problem, supported carbon dioxide regulation, and declared their willingess to pay higher bills to reduce emissions in an ABC/Washington Post poll be embarrassing the GOP into admitting its ignorance? 

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The blindness of GOP climate denial: USA Today

As those radicals at USA Today put it:

The National Climate Assessment, released this week, adds to a mounting and overwhelming body of evidence that the effects of rising temperatures are here and now — and that even higher sea levels, more extreme weather and water shortages are in our future if nothing is done.

Addressing the threat won't be easy, or popular. But denying that a problem even exists — which is common among the most vocal of Republicans — risks branding the party as one that is anti-science and refuses to participate in constructive governance.

Or as Tom Toles drew it (referencing two studies on the Antarctic released Monday


These politicians risk their party's future. We fear the loss of the future itself. 

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New kind of dinosaur discovered (by Tom Toles)

Meet the new dinosaur (aka "the 500-lb chicken from hell.") Tom Toles sees an irony:


 The new GOP faces the same climate reality as the old GOP.    

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When the GOP cared about air pollution: Obama

Today President Obama gave a speech on climate, and reminded the world that once we had a political consensus on the need to reduce pollution in our atmosphere. 

Forty-three years ago, Congress passed a law called the Clean Air Act
of 1970
.  (Applause.)  It was a good law.  The reasoning behind it was
simple:  New technology can protect our health by protecting the air we
breathe from harmful pollution.  And that law passed the Senate
unanimously.  Think about that — it passed the Senate unanimously.  It
passed the House of Representatives 375 to 1.  I don’t know who the one
guy was — I haven’t looked that up.  (Laughter.)  You can barely get
that many votes to name a post office these days.  (Laughter.) 

It was signed into law by a Republican President.  It was later
strengthened by another Republican President.  This used to be a
bipartisan issue.

Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are
pollutants covered by that same Clean Air Act.  (Applause.)  And they
required the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to determine
whether they’re a threat to our health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA
determined that they are a threat to both our health and our welfare in
many different ways — from dirtier air to more common heat waves —
and, therefore, subject to regulation.

Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our
power plants.  But here’s the thing:  Right now, there are no federal
limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into
our air.  None.  Zero.  We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like
mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants
can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for
free.  That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop. 

It's a good argument, and polls support action. (From the Georgetown Climate Center [pdf]). 


It's enough to make a person hopeful of change. 

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How to start a conversation: David Brooks

David Brooks, the conservative columnist for The New York Times, can be irritating to a Californian: 

During his first term, President Obama faced a wicked problem: How do you govern in a highly polarized, evenly divided country with House Republicans who seem unwilling to compromise? 

The GOP did not "seem" to be unwilling to compromise. They famously said they were not going to compromise on issues like spending and health care, and also made clear they would not even discuss immigration or gay marriage. 

Yet Brooks can find a sweet spot in the latest crucial budget debate, and start a conversation:

Before he gets lost in the mire of negotiations, the president could step back and practically describe the task ahead. Between 1947 and 2007, the U.S. economy grew an average of 3.3 percent a year. But over the next few decades, according to forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office, it’s projected to grow only at 2.3 percent per year. The task ahead is to make the sort of structural changes that will get America back on its old growth trajectory.

Then the president could remind everyone that there’s lots to do. Some of the things on the to-do list are things Democrats relish doing: investing in infrastructure and basic research; reforming immigration to attract global talent; investing in student loans and community colleges; trimming the annual $1.1 trillion in tax loopholes, many of which go to corporations and the rich.

Other things the Republicans will surely relish doing: simplifying a tax code that has bloated to 74,000 pages; streamlining the Code of Federal Regulation that has metastasized to 165,000 pages; slowing entitlement spending.

For a panel discussion this Monday at the Art Center in Ojai, someone did a little research on the contentiousness of our current politics.

(Let me give a shout to the organizer of this event, master of words Tree Bernstein, for this idea, to assemble =a couple of writers, an editor, a screenwriter, a publisher, a curator, to think out loud in public about Civil Discourse.) 

Well, here's an interesting fact: Three of the last four presidential elections have been decided by a margin of 2.7% or less. That means excruciatingly close elections in the Bush years, and then another close election again this year. One analysis I saw — somewhere — said that only about 350,000 votes in four states — Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and Florida — decided the election in 2012. 

This is very unusual in American politics. It's not an illusion that the nation is badly divided today. Looking at the numbers, we can see that this neck and neck kind of election horse race has only broken out once before in our history, during Reconstruction, in the era between James Garfield and Grover Cleveland, between 1889-1892. 

(That's a little deceptive, true, as it glosses over the Civil War years. But never mind.) 

Various solutions to the divisiveness were suggested, including idealism, moderation, humor, and story-telling. Someone said that the argument over the marginal tax rate is an argument whether should tax conventional income as 35% — or 40%.

As the WSJ points out, the tax has been as low as 7% at its inception, and as high as 92% during wartime.

Can our politics imagine the kind of deal we could put together, to give our economy a shot or two in the arm, using both left wing and right wing ideas? 

That's the question Brooks asks, and it's a good one. 

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