Monday, October 18, 2010

A token of their extreme

Not yet convinced that this year's crop of Republican candidates are reactionary extremists? A New York Times editorial observes
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has to be smiling. With one exception, none of the Republicans running for the Senate — including the 20 or so with a serious chance of winning — accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global warming.

The candidates are not simply rejecting solutions, like putting a price on carbon, though these, too, are demonized. They are re-running the strategy of denial perfected by Mr. Cheney a decade ago, repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.
Regretably, this list includes our own Sen. Richard Burr., who would be in line to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee if North Carolina is short-sighted enough to re-elect him.

I would encourage Sen. Burr and the other deniers to read the reports by the National Academy of Sciences
Most scientists agree that the warming in recent decades has been caused primarily by human activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (see Figure 1). Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, have increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, industrial processes, and transportation. Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in at least 650,000 years and continue to rise.

There is no doubt that climate will continue to change throughout the 21st century and beyond, but there are still important questions regarding how large and how fast these changes will be, and what effects they will have in different regions. In some parts of the world, global warming could bring positive effects such as longer growing seasons and milder winters. Unfortunately, it is likely to bring harmful effects to a much higher percentage of the world’s people. For example, people in coastal communities will likely experience increased flooding due to rising sea levels.

The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to begin taking steps to prepare for climate change and to slow it. Human actions over the next few decades will have a major influence on the magnitude and rate of future warming. Large, disruptive changes are much more likely if greenhouse gases are allowed to continue building up in the atmosphere at their present rate. However, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require strong national and international commitments, technological innovation, and human willpower.
Instead, look for denial and investigations to discredit scientists if the Republicans gain control.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy 30th -- PVHS Class of '80

I'm headed tomorrow to my 30th high school reunion in the garden city of Sterling, VA. I expect to see more than a touch of grey.

So long as I feel better than Jerry on Sunday morning, I should be okay.

Democrats as equal-opportunity verbal offenders

Republicans aren't the only ones who make disparaging comments when they think the public isn't listening. California Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown's were recorded in the following exchange
...the attorney general and his aides discussed resisting pressure to cut public-safety pensions or face losing police endorsements to Whitman.

"Do we want to put an ad out? ... That I have been warned if I crack down on pensions, I will be ... that they'll go to Whitman, and that's where they'll go, because they know Whitman will give 'em, will cut them a deal, but I won't," Brown said.

Someone else said: "What about saying she's a whore?"

"Well, I'm going to use that," Brown replied. "It proves you've cut a secret deal to protect the pensions."
There are some modest distinctions here. AG Brown did not make the comment, though it sure looks like he agreed with it. Also, his campaign issued an apology, albeit for the wormy reason that it might have caused offense rather than it was flat-out wrong. The bottom line, however, is the comment was offensive.

AG Brown and his campaign worker each owe Meg Whitman a more direct and forceful apology.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'Queers' and 'fruitloops'

How do Republican legislators in North Carolina talk among themselves?

State Rep. Larry Brown sent his fellow House Republicans an e-mail last week where he referred to gays as "queers" and "fruitloops."

Brown was responding to an e-mail House Minority Leader Paul Stam of Apex sent to members of his caucus about House Speaker Joe Hackney getting an award from the Equality NC Foundation, a gay-rights group.

Brown sent his reply to nearly 60 e-mail addresses.

"I hope all the queers are thrilled to see him," said the message dated Sept. 27. "I am sure there will be a couple legislative fruitloops there in the audience."
Rep. Brown owes his constituents an apology for his bigoted comments.

House Minority Leader Paul Stam, however, doesn't see it that way. Under the Dome quotes him as saying, "It was not sent to a public group ... There's a lot of language that is used by public officials in public and private that should not be used."

Rather than enabling his bigoted colleague, Rep. Stam should be condemning Rep. Brown's remarks. An e-mail list of "nearly 60" people is hardly private. And the remarks are no less deplorable for being expressed to a few people.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A different kind of structural deficit

With Republicans and the Tea Party clamoring to cut discretionary government spending, it's important to remember that the country has many grossly underfunded needs, the transportation infrastructure being only one.
The United States is saddled with a rapidly decaying and woefully underfunded transportation system that will undermine its status in the global economy unless Congress and the public embrace innovative reforms, a bipartisan panel of experts concludes in a report released Monday.

...Co-chaired by two former secretaries of transportation - Norman Y. Mineta and Samuel Skinner - the group estimated that an additional $134 billion to $262 billion must be spent per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve roads, rail systems and air transportation.
Investing more money is a critical part of the solution, but it's only one part. The bipartisan panel recommends the following:
  1. Stop the bleeding: Congress must address the immediate crisis in transportation funding.
  2. Beyond the gas tax: Innovative thinking is needed to develop the next generation of user fees. Specifically, future funding mechanisms should not depend primarily on fossil-fuel consumption—which the government is actively seeking to discourage through a number of other policies—to keep up with transportation investment needs.
  3. Jobs for the future, not just today: Future stimulus spending should be directed to those transportation projects that will deliver the greatest returns in terms of future U.S. competitiveness, economic growth, and jobs. Building a foundation for sustained prosperity and long-term job creation is more important than boosting short-term employment in road construction.
  4. Pass the power, please: Clarify decision-making power and enhance the effectiveness of states, localities, and metropolitan planning organizations.
  5. Adopt a capital budget: The federal government should adopt accounting methods that (A) recognize expenditures on transportation infrastructure as investments (rather than consumption) and (B) take into account future returns on those investments.
  6. Connect the dots: Adopt an integrated approach to transportation planning that includes freight and goods movement and stresses intermodal connectivity.
  7. Getting Americans home in time for dinner: Find more effective ways of reducing urban congestion.
  8. It’s all about leverage: Encourage public-private partnerships while also improving oversight of such partnerships.
  9. Deliver transportation investments on time: Reform project planning, review, and permitting processes to speed actual implementation.
  10. Build a foundation for informed policy: Better and more timely data are essential to measure progress toward defined goals and objectives and to improve the performance of the nation’s transportation systems.
A return to fiscal sanity requires that the country realistically assess and prioritize its needs and then come up with ways to fund those needs. Republicans' and Tea Partiers' denial of these problems doesn't mean that that they go away.