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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Who's Responsible for High Gas Prices?

Sat ,13/10/2012

    “It’s hard to see how President Obama is to blame for high gas prices when the record high was $4.12 a gallon in  July of 2008, six months before he took office.”

The Republican strategy during the 2012 election has been to try to pin the economic problems we have been facing on President Obama. Certainly President Obama inherited a mess and it is very difficult to figure out how well the president’s policies are working since we don’t know where we would have been without them.

The price of gasoline is something we are reminded of every time we fill up our car. So we’ve heard a lot about the price of gasoline during this presidential election. During the presidential debates, Mitt Romney said to president Obama ,”At the same time, gasoline prices have doubled under your presidency.”  Bill O’Reilly in his debate with John Stewart said, “Gas prices have doubled since Obama took office.” And someone at Exxon Mobil even cooperated with this theme by placing the gas sign on the right on the Internet. And, it is true.  However, the conclusion drawn from it is not.

The implication is that Pesident Obama is responsible for our current high gas prices. You can only think that is true if you have a very short memory or are very dishonest. Average US gas prices hit a historic high of $4.12 per gallon in July of 2008,  six months before Obama took office and while  George Bush was still president. The International Energy Agency (IEA) graph below shows the historic prices in the US and other countries, showing that the US President is not responsible for gas prices. That is unless you consider the wars in the Middle East, which destabilized the region, to be a main factor in gas prices. The graph shows the gas prices were relatively stable until about 2002.

Exxon/Mobil has also been a little duplicitous about this. In the past, they have emphasized on their website that the high gas prices are reasonable when they are considered in terms of inflation. However, now that Mitt Romney has promised oil companies carte blanche to do pretty much as they please if he is elected, they’re only too happy to blame the rising gas prices on President Obama. Mr. Romney apparently does not believe in climate change, and even if he did  he certainly places money ahead of almost everything else, including the environment. Mr. Romney has promised that he would allow completion of the XL pipeline, which will make lots of money for the oil companies. He would also allow them to drill on public land, in National parks, in wildlife refuges, and in environmentally sensitive areas. Those policies might be okay if it were not for the fact that they would increase air pollution, increase greenhouse gas concentrations, and put a large number of environmentally fragile areas at a risk of being damaged.

And, it is very unlikely that allowing oil companies to do as they wish would bring down the price of gasoline. In the first Presidential debate, Mitt Romney blamed President Obama’s policies for limiting oil production. That is also not true, as you can see from the IEA’s table below.

Oil production  dropped during the Bush presidency but has risen by about 20% during Obama’s presidency.  It is clear that domestic oil production has  little effect on the price of gasoline. Last year our largest export was fuels, so it seems if we produce more, we will just export more while gas prices continue to rise in the U.S. It also appears that gasoline prices do not follow the law of supply and demand, both things that Exxon/Mobil and the other oil companies should have to explain. They receive large subsidies; their products do not bear the cost of dumping large amounts of CO2 into the environment; and they have been quite profitable while many other US companies are struggling to stay afloat, in part because of the high fuel prices. Many are international companies that have little allegiance to the United States, but if they’re going to do business in the United States, they should behave as good citizens. We should certainly not let their money and misinformation determine the outcome of our elections.

Note added on 02/17/2015: This picture shows the gas prices in January of 2015 in Kansas. Does President Obama0gas get credit?

The Shortcomings of the 2012 Republican Platform

Wed ,29/08/2012

Aristotle, the father of science, thought that nature could best be understood by observation and reason. Not only did he apply the scientific method to the physical world, but he also considered political systems. One of his conclusions was that a democracy could not function well without a strong middle class. Aristotle was also strongly opposed to sophistry. Both of those are things that our politicians need to keep in mind.

After a number of push polls to try to influence their constituencies’ opinions, Republican leaders have managed to get many of their most extreme positions into the Republican platform. Republicans have tried to create a coalition of one issue voters, and there is a plank in there for each of them. Some the planks are more extreme than even Romney would have liked, and they seem more to reflect Paul Ryan’s views.

Economy: The plan for job creation is “economic growth”– and to stimulate economic growth the platform requires a further reduction in taxes. The plan is to keep the  Bush tax cuts, eliminate taxes on capital gains for the middle class, pass a balanced budget amendment and require a supermajority for any future tax increases . Grover Norquist and most millionaires will be very pleased with that plank. The middle class may not be so happy because little of their income is from interest and capital gains. Then, there’s a problem of how to fund government programs, but other planks are going to eliminate many of those, especially those that help the disadvantaged and the middle class.

Social Issues: The platform is loaded up with social issues.  It calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage, claims life begins at fertilization, and seeks to make abortions difficult to obtain, no matter the circumstances. It would not fund any health care that covered abortions. And, that would include most forms of birth control under that definition of when life begins. It also declares that only abstinence education be permitted, and that would likely greatly increase the needs for abortions – as that doesn’t work too well in practice. And in spite of the large number of public massacres that have occurred lately, it is opposed to banning high-capacity clips or assault rifles.

Minorities: It declares; “Voter fraud is a political poison”, although there are very few instances of voter fraud. It appears to be an attempt to justify the Republican Party’s attempt to disenfranchise a large number of minority voters. It takes a hard line on immigration, even for those born here who are children of immigrants. It rather forgets that most of us were originally immigrants and that President Reagan granted amnesty to almost 3 million illegal immigrants. It would prohibit federal lawsuits against states that make restrictive immigration laws, even though those laws might interfere with citizens’ rights or violate human rights.

Energy: The energy plank does not recognize the need to protect the environment, which Republicans in the past strongly supported, nor does it recognize the realities of climate change. It would give almost free rein to fossil fuel companies to pursue their interests without regard to environmental issues and it would restrict the EPA from taking action to protect the environment. It does mention an “all of the above” energy policy, but there is no specific mention of policies to encourage the development of alternate energy sources.

Health and Welfare:  The plank on health care would be disastrous for the middle class. It would repeal most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while promising to promote the free market and give you more choices. That is fine if you have plenty of money. There’s a lot of verbiage associated with Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid but it all boils down to changing them in ways that would cost less money and make them much less effective. It says, “the platform pledges to move both Medicare and Medicaid away from ‘the current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model.’” And, it supports a “ Medicare transition to a premium-support model with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice.” Is that a description of vouchers?

Defense: This plank sounds a lot like saber rattling. It would restore “American exceptionalism” and take a hard stance toward North Korea, Iran, and China (China?). That would greatly increase military spending, particularly if we started another war. Our last Republican President started two, and we are still suffering from the loss of lives and the staggering cost. We already spend five times as much as any other country on defense, and there is no plank explaining where the money would come from without raising taxes. Nor is it clear how it might work out to have  as Comander-in-Chief someone who sat out  the Vietnam War in France on a rather easily obtained “divinity student” deferment. 

I think many traditional Republicans will be rather dismayed with the platform and it remains to be seen if they will still support the party and vote for its candidates. Certainly the wealthy and the one issue voters can be counted on, but it would appear to alienate many independents. Sometimes reason prevails and political parties do not follow their platform too precisely, and that is the most that we can hope for if  Mr. Romney is elected president.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

The 2012 Republican Presidential Platform Survey

Mon ,04/06/2012
All registered Republican voters have just received yet another survey from the party leaders, along with a request for donations of course. It is difficult to answer many of the survey questions as they contain assumptions that bias your answer – if you can answer at all. Below are some of the worst examples; please see how you fare in answering them.
 
3. How important is it to voters in your state to have candidates give attention to the following issues during the 2012 campaign?

        (d)Exposing Obama’s radical left-wing policies

              ( ) Very important    ( ) Somewhat important    ( ) Not important

 8. Do you support a federal balanced-budget amendment to the US Constitution to stop deficit spending in Washington

                                                    ( )  Yes   ( ) No

 16. Do you believe Obama’s strategy of treating all countries as equals to the United States has strengthened our security and weaken the resolve of our enemies?

                                                     ( )  Yes  ( )   No

29. Do you believe the Republican Party needs to do a better job of exposing the Obama record and his radical liberal agenda?

                                                     ( )  Yes  ( ) No

30. Are you committed to helping ensure that in 2012 the Obama era policy of radical liberalism reckless spending and embarrassing foreign-policy comes to an end?

                                                       ( )  Yes   ( ) No

The questions above are from the 2012 Presidential Platform Survey sent out by the Republican Party to registered Republican voters. This is better than some of the surveys received under Michael Steele, where we also received his four-page letters telling us how to answer. Still, many of the questions are biased to get a particular answer – and are also designed to send a message rather than ask the constituent’s opinion.

For instance:

 Question 3. No matter what you answer, you are accepting the assumption that President Obama’s policies are radical and left-wing. His policies are considered to be slightly right of center and many of them were proposed in the past by Republicans.

 Question 8. Is cutting spending the only way to balance the budget? The budget could also be balanced by raising taxes to pay for our debts and our wars.

 Question 16. To answer it you must accept the assumption that Obama has a strategy of treating all countries equal. Does that mean “equal” as in treating them all with respect, which might lessen tensions and make them less likely to behave as our enemies?

 Question 29. In case you missed the inferences of Question 3., here president Obama’s agenda is called “radical liberal” to make sure you don’t miss it again. Wink, wink.

 Question 30. Repetition, repetition, repetition. That is the key to teaching slow learners, which is how the Republican leadership seems to see their constituency. To answer this question, you must not only buy into the “radical liberalism” label, but also into assumptions about “reckless spending” and “embarrassing foreign-policy”. How can you answer the question if you disagree? Oh, you are supposed to be a good “Stepford” Republican and not disagree.

If this survey is any indication, Republican leaders seem to be more interested in defeating Obama than they are in governing responsibly. It is more likely that those who agree with the biased assumptions will fill out and send in the survey, further biasing the results. I would hope that the party can develop a reasonable platform that traditional Republicans can support. My concern is that the Republican leaders will use the results of these biased surveys to try to whip into line the candidates who might object by telling them, “This is what the Republican voters want.” But is it really?

Note added on July 30, 2012: I received another Republican Presidential Platform Survey last week. Interestingly, it was almost identical to the one received  less than 2 months ago – and it did not mention the results of that survey. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the results were because the surveys main purpose seems to be to provide propaganda and to request donations. It contained all the questions listed above above, but there was another section that is noteworthy. The section entitled “Values Issues” had 4 questions, and 3 of them were about the abortion issue. Are there no other values issues that should go into the Republican platform?

(c)2012  J.C. Moore

Book Review: The Greatest Hoax by Sen. James Inhofe

Tue ,20/03/2012
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s long promised book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future is finally finished. It was published by WND Books, which has published other grand conspiracy books such as The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada . The book will certainly be a hit with some lobbyists, politicians and corporate leaders. It may also be popular among scientists as it reveals some interesting things about Sen. Inhofe and gives scientists an opportunity to examine his ideas and arguments.

 Sen. Inhofe has served as the mayor of Tulsa and is the senior Senator from Oklahoma. He has been a strong advocate for many of his constituents and he has been a strong critic of the lack of openness of some congressional procedures. He was instrumental in getting federal Superfund money to clean up the Pitcher lead mines in northeastern Oklahoma. A large area of northeastern Oklahoma was affected and millions of dollars have been spent to try to mitigate the environmental damage. No one knew at the time that lead was toxic, and Pitcher is a perfect example of how what you don’t know can hurt you and be costly.

Sen. Inhofe has often stated “Global warming is a hoax” but proving that may be difficult. Every major scientific organizations in the world has adopted a statement similar to that of the American Chemical Society: ”Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.” A 2010 Stanford University poll of 1,372 climate scientists found that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and man activities are the main factor. The Greatest Hoax tries convincing us otherwise by quoting media sources, politicians, lobbyist, and the 2-3% of the scientists who claim to be skeptics, though some receive substantial rewards for being skeptical.  Legitimate science is based upon evidence and reason, but many of the ideas put forward in this book are not.

Politics:  Sen. Inhofe says: “I am not a scientist. I do understand politics. “He says he went into politics because a Tulsa city engineer would not approve his request to move a fire escape on his building. Mr. Inhofe told him that he was going to run for mayor and fire him when he won. And he did. It is possible that the engineer was following the building code adopted by the city’s elected officials, and that there may have been a good reason to leave the fire escape where it was, such as it being easily assessable in case of a fire. That incident, however, explains Senator Inhofe’s attitudes toward regulations, regulators, and scientists whose research show the need for regulations. It also explains the Senators approach to regulations. He sees them as an impediment to business but he does not see that most regulations are developed to protect the public. One of his favorite targets is the EPA, which was created by Pres. Nixon to protect the environment. Sen. Inhofe chose to work on the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works (EPW) committee so he could protect businesses from what he considers needless environmental regulations.

The Hoax: Sen. Inhofe was apparently convinced “global warming is a hoax” by one of the worse hoaxes in recent Congressional history. It started when Dr. Willie Soon managed to get a paper through the peer review process at Climate Reviews with the help of an editor sympathetic to his views. The paper reviewed the literature on climate science, and concluded that the global warming in the 20th century was not unusual and that natural forces, rather than man’s activities was the cause. An important piece of his evidence was the Medieval Warm Period, which he claimed was warmer than the latter 20th century. But there was something wrong with the paper. There were no accurate temperature records in Medieval Times, the Americas had not yet been discovered, and much of the Southern hemisphere was unknown. Dr. Soon’s paper contradicted the evidence from hundreds of other peer-reviewed papers. It caused quite a furor at Climate Reviews which ended with 3 members the editorial board resigning in protest and the newly hired chief editor stating the paper had serious errors and should never have been published. The EPA was unwilling to include the paper in its assessment of climate science, so Sen. Inhofe scheduled a meeting of the EPW committee to examine the paper.

Shortly before the meeting, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) issued a press release from 13 of the scientists whose work was used in Dr. Soon’s paper, saying the paper distorted their research. At the hearing, Michael Mann represented the scientific viewpoint, presenting evidence from multiple sources showing that the Medieval Warm period was not worldwide and resulted only in a small hump in the temperature record. Soon stood behind his work and testified that he had not received any funds that might have biased his objectivity. However, the paper lists the American Petroleum Institute as a major source of funding and documents received since from the Smithsonian Institution in response to FOIA requests, revealed that since 2001  Dr. Soon has received over $1 million in funding from oil and coal interests. Sen. Inhofe was upset by the turn of events and tried to get him fired – Michael Mann that is. At Sen. Inhofe’s insistence, the University of Pennsylvania, a Quaker University, has conducted 2 investigations into Dr. Mann’s research and found no misconduct. A 2010 Science article reviewed the investigations, declaring “Michael Mann is cleared, again. “ Dissatisfied with the ruling, Sen. Inhofe has tried to get the attorney general to charge Michael Mann with fraud. Sadly, for the first time in history, scientists are collecting a legal defense fund to defend scientists against political attacks. And even worse, the scientific opinion of the senior member of our Environmental and Public Works committee is apparently based on a paper that would not pass freshman English.

Endorsement: The Greatest Hoax was endorsed by Dr. R.M. Carter, a paleontologist from Australia, who was the star witness at Sen. Inhofe’s 2006 Senate hearing on Climate Change and the Media. No credible members of the media testified, and one might wonder why Sen. Inhofe would be interested in the media bias in Australia. Dr. Carter was likely there because he could be counted on to testify that historically the rise in global temperatures had always preceded rising carbon dioxide concentration; thus some natural cause must be releasing the carbon dioxide that is causing the temperature to rise. He was right about the role of carbon dioxide in increasing the Earth’s temperature, but he rather ignored the possibility that the CO2 concentration was rising because the burning of fossil fuels was releasing 30 billion tons of CO2 annually.

After the hearing, Dr. Carter was challenged by climatologists to produce research showing the natural variability he claimed, but the paper he belatedly produced was soon refuted when significant errors were found in his reasoning. Though two of the four scientists who testified at the hearing were skeptics, all four agreed that the Earth had warmed about 1°C in the last century. Sen. Inhofe’s own hearing had clearly refuted his claim: “Global warming is a hoax.” That was of little concern to Sen. Inhofe, as the main purpose of the hearing was to intimidate members of the press – as if that were needed.

Science: There is little science in the book, though much of the book is dedicated to discrediting science and scientists by quoting friends of his from the Heartland Institute, media personalities, and other politicians. He even sets up Al Gore as a strawman for scientists. In the book’s introduction, he displays a rather tasteless picture of Al Gore naked, and considerable space is devoted to vilifying him. That is a shame as Al Gore has served as a respected Senator, Vice President, and as a Presidential candidate came within a few hundred votes of being elected. Al Gore received a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work and his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar. The movie also had its day in court and won. Interestingly, the same Dr. Carter, who endorsed the book, was the star witness for the plaintiff in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, a suit which sought to prevent the educational use of An Inconvenient Truth in England. The court apparently did not agree with Dr. Carter and ruled that, though the film had some errors, it was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact and could be shown. Sen. Inhofe claims to be a free market capitalist, but he seems to take great umbrage that Al Gore has profited from his investments in green energy, apparently without realizing that most of those profits have been dedicated to promoting conservative causes, such as protecting the Earth.

Though he may be a skilled politician, in the partisan sense, Sen. Inhofe is correct when he says “I am not a scientist.” He does not understand how scientific knowledge from many fields fits together to form a consistent view of nature. For instance, the book tells that after a large snowfall in Washington D.C., his grandchildren built an igloo and put up a sign: “Al Gore’s New Home”. Sen. Inhofe used the picture to denounce global warming alarmism, though he should know that a single weather event proves nothing. And, if he were a scientist, he might understand how the warming oceans increase the probability of a record snowfall in Washington D.C. , making the igloo possible – and how carbon dioxide has made more probable the record heat waves in Texas and Oklahoma, making droughts and wildfires possible.

Sen. Inhofe shows he does not understand how science works when he brings up the “Coming Ice Age” story to discredit the scientific evidence.  The argument goes, “How can you trust science, when in the 1970s the scientists were predicting the coming of a new Ice Age, but now scientists claim that the Earth is warming?” In the 70’s, scientists found that increased industrialization was causing not only an increase in particulates, which would cause global cooling, but also an increase in CO2, which would increase global warming. There was no consensus among scientists about which effect would predominate.  A count of scientific papers in that decade showed that only 7 journal articles predicted that the global average temperature would continue to cool, while 44 papers indicated that the average temperature would rise. The research on global cooling was valuable as it showed a nuclear war was unwinnable as particulates from a nuclear exchange might create a nuclear winter, ending life on Earth as we know it.

Scientific controversies are usually settled by the evidence, but this one was settled by the intervention of man. Particulates are visible and have serious health consequences. By 1980, regulations were in place to limit particulate emissions and, as that happened, the temperature of the Earth began increasing again. The fossil fuel companies became alarmed, as it was becoming apparent that we should also limit carbon emissions to keep the Earth’s temperature at equilibrium, so they began a propaganda campaign to convince us that carbon dioxide was harmless. If you believe that, remember the lesson of Pitcher, Oklahoma. What you don’t know can hurt you and be very costly.

Cap and Trade: Sen. Inhofe claims that cap and trade is the “crown jewel” of a global conspiracy of scientists, Hollywood stars, and media personalities who want to take away your freedom and create a world government. However, cap and trade was devised by free-market conservatives for President Reagan, who used it successfully to stop the acid rain drifting into Canada from our Northeastern power plants. It was part the Clean Air Act signed into law by President Bush I and many prominent Republicans, including John McCain, have supported it. Cap and trade is considered to be the market solution to reducing carbon emissions. It is described by the EPA as “an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply. Successful cap and trade programs reward innovation, efficiency, and early action and provide strict environmental accountability without inhibiting economic growth.” Does that sound like it “Threatens Your Future” , as the subtitle of the book claims? And, it  cannot be making Al Gore rich – or be the cause of rising energy prices – as it has not yet been enacted for carbon emissions.

Costs: Sen. Inhofe main objection to environmental regulations is their tremendous cost; but an accurate analysis of costs and benefits are not in the book. He just claims that it would cost each U.S. household $3,100 a year, a cost that has great sticker shock, but is totally inaccurate. Dr. John Reilly, the MIT economist whose work was used to arrive at that number, has publicly criticized a Republican lobbyist for distorting his work to arrive at that inflated value. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program by 2020 would average about $175 annually per household, and that associated savings would reduce the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences details other high economic costs of inadequate environmental legislation, such as reduced streamflow, rainfall, and crop yields. Yet Congress has refused to act on the matter.

Also, Sen. Inhofe seems to have left some important items out of his balance sheet, such as the true cost of using fossil fuels. The true cost of a resource should include repairing damage caused by its use and disposing of the waste. We are in effect subsidizing the fossil fuel industry by allowing them to freely discharge their wastes into the environment. Some of the “true costs” of fossil fuel use, such as health and environmental costs can be estimated. Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and one of the world’s top economists, has used the results from formal economic models to examine the potential cost of failure to limit our carbon emissions. He estimates that the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the cost of mitigation and damages could rise to 20% of GDP or more in the future – and we would run the additional risk of an environmental catastrophe.

Taking 5% of the US GDP for 2010, would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. As to health costs, the American Lung Association estimates that the EPA’s proposed guidelines for particulates could prevent 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths, 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma, and 2.7 million days of missed work or school. They estimate the economic benefits of reduced exposure to particulates alone could reach as much as $281 billion annually. Those two add up to about $1.08 trillion. The calculations do not include all the environmental and health costs, but they do show about how much we are subsidizing the fossil fuel industries by ignoring the damage to people’s health and the environment.

Sen. Inhofe, in his Rachel Maddow interview, stated that the cost of cap and trade would be $30-$40 billion annually. That is about 1/30 of what the environmental and health costs might eventually be. Then, it is rather hard to put a value on those premature deaths or the added risk of environmental catastrophes. The number of billion-dollar weather disasters has increased fivefold over the last 30 years, and insurance giants such as Suisse Re now consider man-made global warming real, and a risk factor in setting insurance rates. Increased insurance rates will be an additional out of pocket cost, which could easily offset the $175 the CBO estimated that cap and trade would cost.

Scientists: To get around the strong consensus of scientists, the book claims there is a global conspiracy of liberal scientists bent on creating a world government, that climate science is a religion, that climate scientists are in it for the money, and that Climategate proves climate scientists are dishonest. None of those claims are supported by verifiable evidence. Most scientists are good citizens, conservative in their statements and actions. Most are religious, with stewardship and concern for their fellow man being part of their religion. The Presbyterian church, where Senator Inhofe claims membership, stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.”

 The book calls climate scientists “alarmists” in a derogatory sense, but many are becoming alarmed. Research shows that the Earth’s climate is changing because of our emissions of CO2, yet Congress has not acted to solve the problem. Scientists were criticized for considering the problem catastrophic, but they realize our carbon emissions will have an affect for 100 years or more into the future and inaction will threaten our food and water supply,increase the risk of severe weather events, and a possibly lead to an environmental catastrophe. Remember what happened at Pitcher, Oklahoma because lead mining was considered harmless.

Sen. Inhofe often calls those who disagree with him “liberals”, but the meaning of liberal and conservative seem to be flexible. During the American Revolution, it was the liberals who wanted to create a democracy and conservatives who thought that King George had a divine right to rule. Sen. Inhofe uses “liberals” to describe environmentalists and others who want to preserve the earth – and uses “conservatives” for those who want to conserve power and profits.

He describes Rachel Maddow as one of his favorite liberals, but that may change. In his book he said “Rachel’s segment was one of the last major efforts to go after me just days before I landed in Copenhagen and declared vindication.” However in his recent interview on Rachel’s show, she showed the clip. Nowhere in the clip does it mention Copenhagen or climate change. Rather than apologize, he said he couldn’t remember everything he said in the 350 pages of fine print in the book, raising questions about how much of the book he actually wrote. Apparently liberal can also mean “pesky”.

Big Oil: Sen. Inhofe tells some good stories of the old days in the Oklahoma oilfields, but back then Tulsa was the Oil Capital of the World and our domestic oil producers were a different breed from today’s multinational oil companies. They have little loyalty to the United States and little concern for our citizens or the environment. They have created some of the greatest man-made environmental disasters and resisted compensating their victims fairly. After the furor over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP’s CEO commented “I want my life back”, but he could not give back the 11 lives lost because of his decisions. Although he promised to compensate Americans damaged by the oil spill, BP appointed a lawyer to disperse the funds, who made many of the victims “take it or leave it” offers. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon Mobil went all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid paying the $5 billion in damages owed the native Alaskans. Koch oil was charged in Oklahoma of cheating Native Americans and the government out $5 billion in oil royalties. They settled the case out of court for a 10th of the $5 billion, with no admission of wrongdoing. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Last year, the world’s 5 largest oil companies received $4 billion in tax break subsidies. Yet, they reported $171 billion in profits, while most US businesses and citizens struggled with financial losses, in part caused by the steep rise in fuel prices. Sen. Inhofe says his goal is “energy self-sufficiency” for the United States, yet last year the leading US export was fuels, so Big Oil companies are selling American oil abroad, creating a shortage in the United States that is driving up prices. Increasing their profits is their main goal, even though carbon emissions may cause a man-made environmental disaster much greater than oil spills. To defend their profits, these companies are now the major contributors to the science denial machine that Sen. Inhofe defends in his book.

Heartland Foundation: Sen. Inhofe was able to poke fun at himself when he said” Nature strikes back”, referring to a serious illness he contacted while swimming in a lake contaminated with toxic blue-green algae, whose growth was fueled by water pollution and the heat wave and Oklahoma. The illness caused him to miss the meeting of the Heartland Institute where he was to be a keynote speaker. His relation to the Heartland Institute is troubling. The Heartland Institute, once a major source of propaganda designed to prove there was no link between smoking, cancer, and lung disease, has now turned its considerable experience and resources into producing propaganda disputing the link between carbon emissions and global warming. Big Oil provides much of the funding for the Heartland Institute, and other similar “conservative” think tanks, who channel millions of dollars into the denial of science. The Heartland Institute is a gathering place for Big Oil’s lobbyists, loyal politicians, and paid skeptics. Many of those are the sources of information for Sen. Inhofe’s book. How accurate is that information likely to be?

Skeptics:  Science values its skeptics as they make science strong by pointing out areas that need more investigation, and they sometimes making valuable contributions to science. When Richard Muller questioned NASA’s temperature records, he evaluated all 6 billion pieces of weather station data, and came to the conclusion that the temperature record was accurate. When O’Donnell doubted Steig’s work showing Antarctica was warming, he re-analyzed the data and found that indeed Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, was getting warmer.

Skeptics are expected to follow the methodologies and the ethics of science, to subject their work to review by their peers, and to divulge conflicts of interest. Many of those Sen. Inhofe praises as “climate skeptics” do not meet those criteria. They profit from being skeptical and, when research shows them wrong, they continue to repeat their skeptical arguments anyway. An example is Anthony Watts, who started the Surface Station Project to examine the data from weather stations, which he claimed had errors. The AGU took his skepticism seriously and did a thorough study on the weather stations, finding the data was reliable. They had offered Watts a chance to participate in the research, but he missed his chance to be a scientist when he refused. And though the question has been answered, Mr. Watts is still repeating the same criticisms – and collecting substantial donations to continue his Surface Station Project. There are many skeptics like Mr. Watts, who receives generous grants from think tanks, not for fundamental research, but to come up with ideas to cast doubt on the IPCC, climate research, and the work of legitimate scientists. Many of the paid skeptics appear in Sen. Inhofe’s book as his sources for information, quotes, and references.

Vindication: In this chapter of the book, Sen. Inhofe claims vindication, but it is hard to imagine sufficient vindication for displaying a picture of Al Gore naked. Sen. Inhofe does claim he is vindicated by the Climategate e-mails. Hackers broke into the computers of England’s Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU), and stole 10 years of e-mails exchanged between the scientists. Quotes from the stolen e-mails were taken out of context, distorted, and released to media sources with claims the CRU scientists engaged in illegal and unethical acts. As of today, eight independent formal investigations have been completed and none have found any scientific misconduct by the scientists involved. The incident was dubbed “Climategate” , but it was in no way like Watergate. In Wategate, the thieves were caught and punished and those who masterminded the plot were publicly disgraced. In Climategate, the thieves have been hailed by some skeptics as heroes – and the victims of the theft have been vilified.  It seems strange that Scotland Yard is searching for the hackers, while Sen. Inhofe is gleefully helping spread the misinformation. So, rather than being like Watergate, the e-mail scandal was actually more like Stargate, fictional fantasy. The accusations of wrongdoing by some of the skeptical scientists, made before the matter could be investigated, were particularly egregious as scientist’s ethical codes say that:” Public comments on scientific matters should be made with care and precision, without unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or premature statements.”

Winning: Sen. Inhofe claims he is winning, but he can’t be talking about the scientific debate. All the world’s major scientific organizations think he is losing, as do 97 – 98% of the climate scientists, and 83% of American voters.  A 2011 Stanford poll found that 83% of Americans say that global warming is happening with 88% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans saying it is the result of human action. Attacking scientists may prove to be contrary to the Republican party’s best interest. While polls find scientist’s trustworthiness is  highly rated , with 84% having a favorable view of scientists, Congress’ approval has now dropped to around 9%. This may be indicative of the public’s dissatisfaction with the partisanship and gridlock in Congress, occurring for reasons well on display in this book.

Although some members of Congress and some of the public may listen to Sen. Inhofe, nature doesn’t. No matter how much he claims “hoax”, research shows the climate is changing in response to man’s activities. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing, the temperature of the Earth is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, the probability of severe weather events is increasing, and weather-related natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more costly. It’s time we examine more closely who is actually winning by ignoring science.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces 8: Is It "Indisputable" that "Social Security Is Going Broke"?

Sun ,14/08/2011
Mary Beth Franklin has written an excellent article on how to improve Social Security. However, she claims that it is an “indisputable fact” that Social Security “is slowly going broke” – which is hardly true. That claim was made up by those who wanted to privatize Social Security and, considering how private investments have gone, we should all be thankful that Social Security was not privatized.

As the article explains, ” revenue collected through payroll taxes, plus interest, will be sufficient to fund retirement benefits until 2023. After that, Social Security will have to dip into the Trust Fund until the trust fund runs dry around 2036.” That is true, but the Social Security Trust Fund was set up to pay for the surge in baby boomers who will go into the system the next few years, and when it is exhausted, its job will be done.  After 2036, Social Security will be able to pay 77% of its obligations through collections, which is hardly going broke.

Just as Social Security was changed in the 80’s to allow for the surge of baby boomers, it can also be changed to allow for the short-fall that will start occurring in 2036. Currently, wages over $106,800 are not subject to SS withholding taxes. A recent  poll  found that the change most Americans prefer is to also subject wages over $106,800 to Social Security taxes  – which would extend the Trust Fund through 2083.

Claiming Social Security is going broke is a wrong and harmful idea as it plays into the hands of those who want to change Social Security for political and special interest purposes.  

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces 7: The President and the National Debt

Tue ,02/08/2011

This link is to a Tulsa World Cartoon showing Congress playing President Obama like a fiddle. Many who commented on it used it as an excuse to criticize Obama. They need to stop and think.

Yes, Congress is playing Obama like a fiddle. However, it reminds me of the story of Solomon. When two women came before him, both claiming the same son, Solomon ordered the boy cut in two and each woman given half. When one woman, cried “No”, she would give up her claim, Solomon awarded her the child, as she obviously cared more for it.

When Congress demanded Obama extend the tax cuts or they would cut benefits to the unemployed, Obama compromised. When Congress would have let us default on our debts, causing untold damage to our financil institutions and our citizens, Obama compromised. You may criticize Obama for compromising, but I think it is clear who cares more for America.

Responsibility and the Freedom of Speech

Fri ,14/01/2011

Democracy is based on the idea that in a free exchange of ideas, the truth will win out. Speech designed to mislead, misinform, or intimidate is an anathema to our purpose. We are guaranteed a right to free speech and we should use it wisely.

Free Speech: We won our independence from England and established a democracy that allows for a peaceful change of laws and leadership by ballot. The one time we tried another path, we had the Civil War, the most destructive war in our history. Recently, we seem to have forgotten our motto “E Pluribus Unum”. There are some who wish to divide us for their own purposes. Speech designed to mislead, misinform, or intimidate is an anathema to our purpose. Democracy is based on the idea that in a free exchange of ideas, the truth will win out. We are guaranteed a right to free speech and we should use it wisely. –

Free Speech And Responsibility: “It is absolutely the responsibility of every political figure, media personality, inclusive of all social media outlets and inclusive of all their respective contributors to use their freedom of speech wisely and in a manner that is considerate of the fact that there are delusional and unbalanced people in our midst who may interpret some statements too literally and seek to act upon them in a tragic way.” by Tom Vermillion

Discourage Hate Speech: There have been a number of articles and posts in the aftermath of Congresswoman Giffords being shot. Many wonder if it may have been the result of hate speech by some of our public figures and media entertainers. Whether the incident turns out to be caused by hate speech or not, now is a good time to try to put an end to hate speech. Several people have suggested things we may do. The one we can surely do something about is to stop using or encouraging hate speech ourselves.

The Americans United for Civility Petition below is a nonpartisan effort to encourage civility in our private and public speech.
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
WE THE UNDERSIGNED American citizens,

Mournful of the deaths of many at the hands of one in Tucson,

Inspired by the bravery of heroes who risked their lives to save others, and

Mindful of the present state of incivility which exists in public discourse;

Do hereby call upon elected officials, all media, and fellow citizens to:

Reflect upon the recent tragedy,

Examine their contribution to our present political climate, and

Commit to discourse that is civil and does honor to the United States of America.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
.                                                                            by Stephanie Hampton

If you think this is a worthwhile cause, you may sign the petition online at: The Americans United for Civility Petition. And, please pass it on to others.

More You Can Do: No matter your affiliation, hateful, misleading, or disrespectful speech by our leaders and representatives is unacceptable. Write your representatives and ask them to go on record as condemning it. Let those who do it know it is not acceptable. Speak up when it comes up at town hall and campaign meetings. Point it out in letters to the editors or on your local newspaper’s web sites. Stop supporting candidates that use hate speech and let them know why. Refrain from using inflammatory language in your replies and focus on the issues and the facts. Our nation has many problems that need workable solutions. We must join together to solve them.

(C) 2011 J.C. Moore

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Personal Styles, Learning Styles, and Politics

Sun ,12/09/2010

Personal styles reveal something about how we learn, think, and relate to the world.

Not long ago, National Public Radio reported that 29% of the US population was considered to be on the left politically. That is interesting as about 28% of the population is abstract /random, a description that is related to “personal style”. The study of personal styles usually includes thinking styles and learning styles. The studies are designed to improve education, self-awareness, relationships, mental health, and productivity. There seems to be little research available on whether personal styles are related to political views, but the possibility is interesting. Personal styles reveal something about how we learn, think, and relate to the world. Knowing a little about personal styles is a useful thing.

“Personal style” is a description of how we receive, store, and use information.  A simple, but useful, model for personal style was developed by Alexander Gregorc. (1) His model uses two perceptual qualities, “abstract” and “concrete”, and two organizational methods, “sequential” and “random”  (or “nonlinear” ) . Gregorc couples these to form four possible style categories: concrete/sequential (CS), abstract/sequential (AS), abstract/random (AR), and concrete/random (CR). Although everyone has all four qualities, most people are predisposed toward one or two of them. A survey found that about 51% of the population prefers CS, 28% AR, 13 % CR, and 8% prefer AS. These refer to a person’s dominant style. It is important to remember that everyone has some of each style and there is no “best style”. Still, personal styles can be fun and enlightening to investigate.

What’s Your  Style? A person’s dominate style can be related to preferred occupations, satisfying hobbies, and even things they might find difficult. An extensive description of all four styles is available at this link (2).  A simple, 15-question test can determine approximately a person’s style. It takes about 10 minutes and is at this link if you are interested. (3) Please note that these are very approximate categories that may change with time and that they may be situational. A person may prefer one style at work and another for leisure, such as a surgeon who is CS at work may much prefer AR type activities for hobbies.

Learning Styles: Although personal styles change with maturation, it is useful to consider that a student has a preferred learning style. Students with a CS style tend to prefer programmed instruction, workbooks, lab manuals, field trips, and applications while students with an AS style tend to prefer lectures, books, syllabi, and guided individual study. Students with a CR learning style prefer independent study, games, simulations, and problem solving, and students with an AR style usually prefer television, movies, assignments with reflection time, and group discussions. (2) There have been some efforts made to match teaching styles to student’s learning styles but it is impractical except in the largest of schools. Teachers are encouraged to be aware of the different learning styles and to use a variety of methods directed to each style. There is much more to know about personal learning styles and a good reference for that is Thelearningweb. (4)

Political Styles: Perhaps political discourse could be improved by a knowledge of personal styles. The most polarizing divide in politics lately had been between Conservatives and Liberals. A 2009 Gallup Poll survey found that 40% of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. (5) That’s not quite the same as the breakdown in the personal styles categories, but the similarity is interesting. From considering personal styles, we know that CS and AR dominant people perceive and organize information differently, that everyone has some of each style, and  that personal styles vary with the situation and maturation.  Rather than there being a big Liberal/Conservative divide, perhaps issues could be considered a personal style difference. Then, rather than calling each other elitists and ignoramuses, we could just say “That is certainly an abstract/random approach to the problem.” or “My, aren’t we being concrete/sequential today?”

(1) http://gregorc.com/gregorc.html

(2) http://www.floatingneutrinos.com/Message/arcs/links_on_abstractrandom.htm

(3)  http://www.thelearningweb.net/personalthink.html

(4) http://www.thelearningweb.net/learningstyles.html

(5) http://www.gallup.com/poll/120857/conservatives-single-largest-ideological-group.aspx

Science and the Second Amendment

Sun ,16/05/2010

My qualifications. You may think the title is unusual,  but science is about using observation and reason to understand the world.  I think some reason is needed in the Second Amendment debate.  I have some qualifications as I grew up in Oklahoma where camouflage is the unofficial state color and most everyone owns a gun, or two, or more. I own several and have hunted and shot targets since I was old enough, that’s 12 in my family. My dad thoroughly trained me in gun safety and I was warned if I ever violated a safety rule, I would be 21 before I ever touched another gun. I have  known many gun owners who are fine men  and women and I was an NRA member back in the days when it encouraged marksmanship, sportsmanship and gun safety.  The observations   are  significant events  chosen to illustrate that recent attempts to remove some restrictions on gun laws may be a bad idea.

Humorous Observations. I’ve observed a lot of use and misuse of guns in my life. For instance, I have a neighbor who shoots his AK-47 off his back porch into the lake. He doesn’t have a proper backstop and there are at least 20 houses in range of a ricochet. I’ve talked to him about that and the disturbance but he insists it’s his right and perfectly legal. I’m not sure that’s so as neither the bullets nor the noise stop at the edge of his property, but it’s not a good idea argue too much with a man holding an AK-47. I’ve learned to adapt, though I feel a little conspicuous wearing my orange hat when I go for a walk or work in the yard. I’ve noticed that guns tend to boost people’s egos, which might be a good thing. But it also seems to make some people feel invincible and take chances a reasonable person wouldn’t take. Some of my neighbors recently marched on Washington with their guns to “take back our country”. They either trust the government more than they let on or they have lost it. The government has tanks and planes and nuclear weapons.

Not so Humorous Observations. In Nevada recently, a Sheriff’s Deputy and National Guardsman just back from Afghanistan, was called to check on a domestic disturbance. He was gunned down as he stepped from his patrol car by a man wielding an assault rifle. Last year, two deputies in a small town in Oklahoma went to serve a man a warrant for a minor offense. The man opened up on them with an automatic rifle as they stood at the door, killing both and wounding a passerby across the street. A witness said the shots came too fast to count so I looked up the rifle. The ad says it is not good for hunting but might be useful for self-defense or to take to work.   Those officers never had a chance. In my hometown, a man got upset by an editorial a woman wrote in the local paper. He bought a handgun at the local pawnshop and the owner showed him how to load it and fire it. He then went to the cafe where the woman worked and shot her dead right in front of all the customers.

Politics. Unfortunately, the 2nd amendment has become a hot political issue and some of our politicians have used it to the limit – and then some. If one politician wants to allow concealed carry, another will see that and raise him an open carry, and another will up that by an open carry in bars. An important rule of gun safety is that guns and alcohol don’t mix. The Oklahoma Legislature has topped all that by passing a bill exempting the state from Federal gun laws. The Governor vetoed the bill and the override attempt failed, but the sponsors have vowed to keep trying – at least until the next election. A legislator who is a former state trooper, says that it is a “bad, bad, bill that will make law enforcement in Oklahoma a very dangerous job”. He’s right. The supporters must have forgotten that Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, was stopped for a traffic violation but was held when the patrolman noticed he had a concealed  handgun loaded with Black Talon ammunition. McVeigh was still in jail when they traced the bombing to him.

Rights. We are guaranteed our Second Amendment rights and no one is really trying to take those away. While considering our gun rights, we need to also consider the rights and safety of our peace officers and our citizens. Registration of handguns, background checks, safety training, and a cooling off  period for buying handguns seem to be good ideas. No one really needs to own an assault rifle, high capacity clips, or bullets designed to  penetrate an officer’s safety vest. If we truly respect our officers, we will give them the regulations they need to prevent crime and have some safety in their work. Other amendments, such as the First Amendment, have reasonable restrictions to insure public safety and  protect the rights of others. It should be no different for gun rights.

Coffee, Tea, and Civility

Wed ,31/03/2010

There was quite a contrast between the Tea Party and the Coffee Party meetings. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck were at the Tulsa Convention Center this month to kick off their “Take Back the Country Program.” In front of about 6,000 enthusiastic Tea Partiers, they criticized President Obama’s administration, Washington politicians, progressives, journalists, Democrats, liberals, moderates, and conservatives who actually want to conserve something. The ex-governor of Alaska took shots at Obama — whom the crowd booed — and made fun of the Democratic congressional leaders. An animated Beck attacked progressives, saying they are for revolutionary government intrusion and they misinterpret the Constitution as a living document. (He is apparently unaware of the 27 Amendments). The crowd was really upset that they are subject to taxes and regulations and they want to take their country back. A small group of protesters stood outside the Convention Center holding American flags and signs saying “Take our Country Forward” and “Say no to hate and fear-mongering.” That’s not likely as Palin and Beck have found the power of hate and fear -and also the profitability. They each received a large, but undisclosed, fee for their performance.

In contrast, across town was the organizational meeting of the Coffee Party. They are people also unhappy about how things are going in Washington, but they have a very different plan for addressing the problem. The Coffee Party is a National movement being formed from citizens who think that government has a proper role in our lives and who just want it to function. The goals of the Coffee Party are to end the partisanship that has kept the government from functioning, to halt the flow of misinformation, and to end the hate some people have against those who disagree with them. To join the Coffee Party, you just have to agree with the pledge:

I agree to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.

Issues brought up at the Coffee Party meeting were partisanship, health care, the environment, banking reform, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, job creation, corporate lobbying, the national debt, and the flow of misinformation. The group agreed that an individual could not solve these problems alone, but that we should take “E Pluribus Unum” seriously. We may have very different ideas and viewpoints, but we must put those aside and work together to solve the problems facing us as a country. The most important thing that we can do as individuals is to abide by our pledge and to support candidates, both Democrat and Republican, who are willing to work with the other party in a civil fashion to solve the problems confronting us.