Category: Politics

My Next Point of Inquiry Guest: George Lakoff

By Chris Mooney | April 20, 2011 1:55 pm

The current episode of Point of Inquiry (hosted by Karen Stollznow) features fellow science blogger and evolution defender Josh Rosenau. Check it out.

Meanwhile, late this afternoon I interview my next guest for a show that will run Monday: cognitive linguist George Lakoff, author of many well known books like Moral Politics and Don’t Think of an Elephant.

If there’s anything you think I ought to ask Lakoff on the show, post a comment here in the next two-and-a-half hours!

Required Reading for Everyone Interested in Oceans

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 12, 2011 11:53 am

I’ve been blogging less, traveling more, and taking on some exciting new responsibilities which I’ll be sharing soon. But in the mean time, I’d like to point readers to the work of my brilliant friend and former colleague Michael Conathan. He’s sharp, articulate, and has tremendous experience working on U.S. oceans policy. In 2006 when I served in Senator Bill Nelson’s office, Mike was the Knauss Sea Grant Fellow on the Senate Commerce Committee. Perhaps our greatest accomplishment that year was contributing to the long-overdue reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act–the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the U.S.

Michael recently joined the Center for American Progress as the the Director of Ocean Policy and they are very lucky to have him on board. He’s also writing a terrific column called Fish on Fridays which I’ve been following over the past weeks. Here’s a sample from March 11 entitled Waking from the Gluttony:

A strong case can be made that fishing is America’s oldest profession. Europeans were using parts of what is now Atlantic Canada as seasonal fish camps as far back as the early 15th century—even before Columbus confused the Caribbean for the shores of India.

Many fisheries scientists were sure there was no way humans could make a dent in the seemingly endless abundance of fish in the ocean as late as the middle of the 20th century. But our fishing industries were already well on their way to proving them wrong. It now seems that the problems facing our fisheries are as plentiful as cod once were on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and throughout the Gulf of Maine.

We now live in a world where overfishing is far too prevalent. To stem this tide, regulators impose tighter and tighter restrictions on fishermen,* in the face of fundamental disagreements among harvesters, regulators, and conservationists about how many is too many.

Read on..

Our oceans are in real trouble and we critically need experts like Michael who understand more than the biology and trophic interactions beneath the surface. He notably includes the people and policy, as well as the science and has the experience on and off the Hill to be practical toward progress. In short, I encourage everyone to make Fish on Fridays part of their weekly reading. These columns are also posted at Climate Progress where you can participate in the comment threads.

Climate Change is a Threat to Human Health

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | March 16, 2011 11:59 am

Unfortunately, not a single Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee seems to agree. The Hill reports that all 31 House Republicans rejected amendments calling for “Congress to accept the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, it is caused in large part by human activity and it is a threat to human health.”

H/T Political Wire

Liberals, Conservatives, and Science

By Chris Mooney | February 23, 2011 12:54 pm

So I have now scanned through the large volume of responses to this post, in which I asked why it is that scientists seem, on average, to be significantly more liberal in political outlook than the general U.S. population. And I have to say, something very striking has emerged.

When I listed some possible explanations at the outset of my post–e.g., conservatives have attacked science lately, so scientists have responded by moving in the other direction; or, academia tilts left, so conservatives tend to distrust its progeny–they all had something in common. They were political explanations, in the sense that they postulated clear and discrete actions by one group leading to opposing reactions from the other.

Or to put the point another way: I was suggesting that the two groups had grown distant from one another by virtue of recent developments–but also implying that it didn’t necessarily have to be that way. Indeed, that’s the same thing I argued in The Republican War on Science: The Republican Party was more science friendly (under Nixon and Eisenhower), but then political dynamics caused it to change and the result was Reagan and Bush II.

I certainly didn’t argue in that book–or in my latest post–that the real causal factor was some underlying or core difference between liberals and conservatives, of a sort that would affect how they relate to science.

But when I looked through all the comments to the latest post, that’s what everybody seemed to be arguing. Read More

Boehner on Birthers: "It's Not My Job to Tell the American People What to Think"

By Chris Mooney | February 13, 2011 3:20 pm

Via Think Progress comes this video, in which John Boehner does say that President Obama is an American citizen and a Christian–but does not take a strong stand against fellow Republicans (and Americans generally) who are spreading misinformation to the contrary.

First: It is good that Boehner is being pressured on this (on “Meet the Press”) and it is good that he unequivocally accepts reality. However, Boehner’s dodge–claiming that it isn’t his job to tell Americans what to think–is weak. He’s the Speaker of the House. He sets a huge example.

Here’s the video:

The Mystery of Newt Gingrich

By Chris Mooney | February 2, 2011 1:43 pm

How does a guy who claims to love science and the environment wind up calling for dismantling the EPA? That’s the topic I tackle in the latest post at DeSmogBlog:

…you might think of the call to abolish the EPA as a kind of curious love child of Gingrich the environmental policy wonk and Gingrich the aspiring candidate.

Nevertheless, the whole enterprise founders not only on the popularity of environmental protections, but the basic fact that, guess what, environmental regulations are already economically efficient. According to a recent Office of Management and Budget analysis, notes Columbia University Earth Institute director Steven Cohen, “EPA issued 30 major regulations from 1999 to 2009 at an estimated cost of $25.8 billion to $29.2 billion against estimated benefits ranging from $81.9 billion to $533 billion.” Those are returns any investor would kill for.

You can read the full post here.

Update: NRDC polling supports the overwhelming popularity of the EPA.

Can You Have a Purely Economic Sputnik?

By Chris Mooney | January 26, 2011 7:39 am

That’s the question I pose in my latest post at DeSmogBlog:

Essentially, President Obama wants us to recreate the same sense of urgency, and the same national unity, but without the same fear of another competitor country, unless that country is supposed to be China—which, the President noted, recently “became the home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.” Okay, that’s something of a spur…but it is not, historically speaking, a Sputnik. (And, making China into the enemy is a very problematic notion.)

Obama wasn’t even speaking in a national security frame last night when he invoked Sputnik. He was speaking in an economic one. The sense of shared threat was displaced from an external other to our own economic problems—joblessness and deficits.

And that’s the real trick: Is the yearning for national unity, in the wake of Tucson, enough to overcome this chief non-parallel in Obama’s Sputnik analogy? Because undoubtedly, investing in more clean energy research, and more research in general, will spur jobs and innovation. But will we remember to forget our differences in the meantime? Is there some glue that will hold us together? Given the way politics now operate in the U.S., it’s hard to be so optimistic.

You can read the full post here.

Obama Will Invoke Sputnik in the State of the Union Tonight

By Chris Mooney | January 25, 2011 6:28 pm

This just in from the White House press secretary, as part of the president’s prepared remarks:

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.

But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.

This is potentially very powerful stuff. He’s used the analogy before, but using it the SOTU means a lot more. I’ll be saying more about this tomorrow morning….

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Education, Energy, Politics

Are Birthers "Crazy"?

By Chris Mooney | January 24, 2011 9:35 am

This via the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and bravo to Eric Cantor:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he doesn’t think questions about President Obama’s citizenship should play a role in the discussion of policy matters.

Two years into the Obama administration, so-called birthers continue to argue that Obama isn’t a natural-born citizen and that he hasn’t proved he’s constitutionally qualified to be president. Birth records in Hawaii haven’t dissuaded them.

Cantor, interviewed Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said he believes Obama is a citizen and that most Americans are beyond that question.

“I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all. It is not an issue that even needs to be on the policymaking table right now whatsoever,” he said.

Cantor refused to call people who question Obama’s citizenship “crazy.”

“I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy,” he said.

This last point is interesting–are they “crazy”, or are they self-deluded, self-deceived, as we all are some of the time about matters in our own lives, or matters that contradict our beliefs?

I’m growing increasingly convinced that outside of true mental illness, people believing weird things–or even being in denial about certain facts–is not craziness or insanity. Rather, it’s very normal, even if often lamentable. It’s human nature to convince yourself of things that humor your prior beliefs. In this case, the prior belief is a certain strain of Obama hatred, but it could be pretty much anything.

And that’s why Cantor’s stand is important–because as Brendan Nyhan explained on Point of Inquiry, the more we see a uniform rejection of birther claims across the punditariat and political world, and especially on the Republican side, the more they will become simply untenable. At that point, many birthers will still cling to their beliefs–but their wrongheaded view, much like the view that cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer, will no longer trouble serious discourse.

The Proposed Republican Budget Cuts

By Chris Mooney | January 20, 2011 2:34 pm

A list is out from the House Republican Study Committee, devising specific plans to reduce the deficit. Along with big picture stuff, it includes a number of smaller scale items. Let me list a few that immediately caught my attention–for instance, the media and culture cuts:

Corporation for Public Broadcasting Subsidy. $445 million annual savings.
National Endowment for the Arts. $167.5 million annual savings.
National Endowment for the Humanities. $167.5 million annual savings.

And the dirty energy cuts:

Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization. $530 million annual savings.
Applied Research at Department of Energy. $1.27 billion annual savings.
Energy Star Program. $52 million annual savings.

And the denial cuts:

Eliminate taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. $12.5 million annual savings.

And the cuts that I probably support but that have no meaning whatsoever in the context of the massive deficit:

Eliminate Mohair Subsidies. $1 million annual savings.

If this was a song it might be called “looking for money in all the wrong places.” Defunding the IPCC, and saving just $ 12.5 million, seems particularly wrongheaded.

Last year’s estimated budget deficit was $ 1.171 trillion.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming, Politics
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