Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category



November 4, 2009

I started this post intending to type the word “Fireworks” as the title, but somehow my dirty, little id got the better of me and I hit a “d” instead of a “k.” Turns out, my new title is much better.

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus at the Breakthrough Institute have thrown down the gauntlet on Joe Romm. Tom Yulsman picks up the thread. Both are must-reads.

I predict a flame war in 3…2…1…

Stay tuned.


U.S.-China Collaboration

November 4, 2009

Friend and fellow philosopher Andrew Light has released a co-authored report from the Center for American Progress carving a path for collaboration between the U.S. and China on CCS. In the run-up to Copenhagen, it’s worth a read. Andrew worked with John Podesta and Julian L. Wong to write the report, the full version of which can be found here. In effect, the report argues that collaborating with China will:

  1. Accelerate U.S. technology development.
  2. Create U.S. jobs.
  3. Lower U.S. electricity costs.
  4. Reduce emissions rapidly.
  5. Save on direct costs.

But you should read it for yourself.


Procedural Suckage

November 4, 2009

This article at Grist is worth a read. It’s not really about why the climate bill is going to suck, even though it is titled “The Real Reason the Climate Bill is Going to Suck.” It’s about the supermajority and procedural obstructionism, which I discussed here. Neat graph too.

cloture votes over time


Down the Line

November 3, 2009

How is it that when Angela Merkel signals that “we all know we have no time to lose” on climate change the polarity in our congress somehow becomes all the more apparent?

While the entire Democratic side gave those remarks a standing ovation, most Republicans — including key swing voters, such as Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) — remained in their seats. When Merkel added that curbing greenhouse gas emissions would spur growth in “innovative” jobs worldwide, the same partisan divide marked lawmakers’ reaction.

I can understand how there might be objections over the jobs question, as policy differences map roughly onto party differences. But on the question of the magnitude of the problem, why is there an equal political split there? Shouldn’t that cut across parties differently? Are we correct to infer that the differences aren’t about prioritization of policies, but rather about agreement on the climatic state of affairs? I find that very hard to believe.

I have no answers for my questions, except that if ever there was evidence of politicization in the climate change discussion, this is it.


All Tricks, No Treat

October 31, 2009

Evidently the Republican caucus will boycott a committee vote on S. 1733 (PDF), which aims to reduce GHG emissions. The boycott is among several procedural obstructions that Republicans have in their trickbook:

Boxer cannot hold the markup unless at least two Republicans show up, and EPW ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) signaled that he has unanimous support among the panel’s minority members to boycott the session until they get more data on the legislation from U.S. EPA and the Congressional Budget Office.

Inhofe said he will wait for Boxer to file an official notice of the markup — expected today — before responding with his own declaration of the GOP’s markup strategy.


Just Around the Corner

October 30, 2009

Raymond Pierrehumbert (U Chicago, Geophysical Sciences) has a must-read open letter to his colleague Steven Levitt. It’s direct, simple, and collegial — in a fuck you kinda way. Here, see for yourself:

By now there have been many detailed dissections of everything that is wrong with the treatment of climate in Superfreakonomics , but what has been lost amidst all that extensive discussion is how really simple it would have been to get this stuff right. The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them. The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking needed to see if what they were saying (or what you thought they were saying) in fact made any sense. If you were stupid, it wouldn’t be so bad to have messed up such elementary reasoning, but I don’t by any means think you are stupid. That makes the failure to do the thinking all the more disappointing.

You’re not stupid. You’re just an imbecile. (I love to watch the big kids battle it out!)

Prof. Pierrehumbert kindly provides a helpful map from Levitt’s office to his own, should they ever decide to beer summit. Chicago residents, please call me if you catch them sneaking a pint.


Goose and Gander

October 30, 2009

On this fine Friday afternoon, how about partaking in a bit of “Gender Bias Bingo.”


Cheese Wagon

October 28, 2009

“Scathing,” is about the only word that can possibly describe this article, in which Dana Milbank mercilessly rakes Sen. James Inhofe over the coals. My skin burns just reading it.

[Inhofe] described the Democrats’ proposal as “the largest tax increase in — in history!” Agitated, his utterances disjointed, Inhofe went on: “Now, I also was — was kind of — I don’t want any of the media to think just because I had to sit here and listen to our good friend Senator Kerry for 28 minutes, that I don’t have responses to everything he said.”

Nobody doubted that Inhofe had a response. The doubt was whether the response would make any sense.



Blind Numbers

October 26, 2009

I found this approach to extracting climate politics out of the data relatively interesting:

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

“If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect,” said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.

Yet the idea that things are cooling has been repeated in opinion columns, a BBC news story posted on the Drudge Report and in a new book by the authors of the best-seller “Freakonomics.” Last week, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 57 percent of Americans now believe there is strong scientific evidence for global warming, down from 77 percent in 2006.

I’d be curious to hear more about the methodology. Joe Romm and DeSmogBlog have more to say.



October 26, 2009

One question that has been bothering me of late is the insistence by Senate majority leaders that they achieve the magical 60 votes to secure cloture and avoid a filibuster on legislation containing any variant of the public option. I had occasion at a friend’s housewarming party this weekend to run this past several colleagues of mine.  (Out of respect for them, they shall remain nameless. Much of the beer-and-pretzels discussion revolved around adult diapers, sweat lodges, Strom Thurmond, and the New York Yankees, so I’d hate to sully anyone’s good name. Suffice it to say, all of those I spoke with are reasonably familiar with the policy process.)

Word on the blogostreet is that the Obama Admin is pushing back on Harry Reid to accept a less robust public option because they think he doesn’t have enough votes for the more robust plan. Inside the Senate itself, it appears that folks like Russ Feingold are encouraging Reid to ignore the supermajority altogether. Some democrats are even threatening to filibuster any bill that does not have a public option. Nate Silver takes up a related issue, and Jane Hamsher points the finger at Harry Reid to ask what he’s hiding. The theme is also picked up herehere, and probably elsewhere.

“Why do folks care so much about the supermajority?” I asked, popping candy corns in my mouth.

I hate candy corns. But I continued…

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