How Republicans became the anti-science party

An interesting piece by Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes in TomDispatch this week “Why Climate Deniers Are Their Own Worst Nightmares” (“Seventy-two percent of the Republican Senate caucus, for instance, now qualify as climate deniers.”) Check it out:

As unlikely as it might seem today, in the first half of the twentieth century the Republicans were the party that most strongly supported scientific work, as they recognized the diverse ways in which it could undergird economic activity and national security. The Democrats were more dubious, tending to see science as elitist and worrying that new federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health would concentrate resources in elite East Coast universities.

In recent decades, of course, the Republicans have lurched rightward on many topics and now regularly attack scientific findings that threaten their political platforms. In the 1980s, they generally questioned evidence of acid rain; in the 1990s, they went after ozone science; and in this century, they have launched fierce attacks not just on climate science, but in the most personal fashion imaginable on climate scientists.

Still, compared to many of his colleagues, McCain looks like a moderate. They have dismissed climate change as a fraud and a hoax, while conducting McCarthy-esque inquiries into the research of leading climate scientists. Many of them attack climate science because they fear it will be used as an excuse to expand the reach of government.

In a hearing at which I testified last month, Republican members of the Committee on Natural Resources denounced a wide range of scientific investigations related to the enforcement of existing environmental laws as “government science.”  And this, they alleged, meant it was, by definition, corrupt, politically driven, and lacking in accountability.  The particular science under attack involved work done by, or on behalf of, federal agencies like the National Parks Service, but climate science came in for its share of insults as well.

On the face of it, the charges were absurd: most agency science is subject to far more scrutiny, accountability, and oversight, including multiple levels of peer review, than research done in academic settings.  In contrast, research done under the aegis of industry is often subject to no public accountability at all.


Joke Revue: "Frustrated Republicans Argue Pope Should Leave Science To Scientists Who Deny Climate Change"

All this cartoon is missing is a tiny Charlie Baker raising the Confederate flag. Dan Wasserman in the Globe:


Frustrated Republicans Argue Pope Should Leave Science To Scientists Who Deny Climate Change

WASHINGTON—In response to a 184-page papal encyclical that urges immediate action to address the environmental and social consequences of global warming, a coalition of frustrated Republican leaders issued statements Thursday arguing that Pope Francis should leave scientific matters to scientists who deny climate change. “Frankly, it’s not really anyone’s place to make declarations about climate science or global temperature changes unless they’re a scientific expert who has spent years rejecting the concept of climate change,” said former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who added that the pope had neither studied climate science nor ever been among the 3 percent of researchers who stand in opposition to the overwhelmingly dominant position held by the scientific community on climate change, so he had no business speaking on the subject. “Personally, I would never trust anyone as an authority on climate change unless they had done years of research and published papers claiming there isn’t enough conclusive evidence yet. The pope should just stick to theology and let the several dozen scientists who support the scientifically disproven point of view on global warming do the talking.” Bush also told reporters that Pope Francis was unqualified to issue policy recommendations of any kind unless he had personally accepted money from the fossil fuel industry.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Political analysts are saying that as a candidate, Donald Trump is ‘a totally unqualified nuisance.’ In other words, he is a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination.” –Conan O’Brien

“Trump said, ‘The American dream is dead.’ All right, well, it’s not exactly ‘Hope and change,’ but it’s a slogan.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Donald Trump announced today that he is running for president. And based on the amount of bronzer he uses, he’s also running for president of the Spokane NAACP.” –Seth Meyers

“Today Jeb Bush announced he’s running for president on Snapchat. By using Snapchat, Bush’s message will disappear after 10 seconds just like the excitement over his campaign.” –Conan O’Brien

“According to a new survey, Lord Voldemort from ‘Harry Potter’ actually has a higher favorability rating than most GOP presidential candidates. Or in other words, ‘He who must not be named’ is more popular than ‘He whose name I forgot’ and ‘What’s her face.’” –Jimmy Fallon

Baker's bizarre thoughts on the Confederate flag in South Carolina.

Baker is still, at heart, a Republican, no matter how hard he has tried to position himself as a Democrat. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Our Governor, who many here saw as no different than the Democratic candidate, went on a friendly radio station today to support the flag flying at the S.C. capitol. His support, he claimed, was that it was matter of “tradition.”

“As a citizen of this country and what’s happened, particularly to African Americans in that state, what’s your reaction to that, in 2015?” Braude asked.

Baker replied, “I do believe that the reason that flag still hangs there is, you know, what I would call sort of ‘tradition’ or something like that.”

His handlers quickly instructed him that he was an asshole, and wrote him an apology:

“I take my job as governor of 100 percent of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts very seriously, and as I said, I’m sorry if I didn’t do a particularly good job representing that today,” Baker told the Globe on the Thursday evening call arranged hastily by aides.

Today in South Carolina the state and U.S. flags were at half staff.

The Confederate flag in front of the capitol remained at the top of it’s pole.

And across the street from the Massachusetts state house the monument to the 54th Massachusetts still stands.

NEMLEC police consortium to release records to ACLU

Good job, ACLU. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, which had claimed it was not subject to public-records laws, has settled an ACLU lawsuit by agreeing to release its records.

NEMLEC declined to release records, including policies guiding the SWAT team’s use of deadly force, training materials, incident reports, deployment statistics and equipment contracts.

NEMLEC is a consortium of 58 municipal police and sheriff agencies, from Amesbury to Woburn, covering Middlesex and Essex counties. Member towns pay $4,600 annually in dues to NEMLEC, which provides specialized mutual-aid services. NEMLEC also receives government grants to buy special equipment.

The ACLU argued NEMLEC receives government grants, essentially using taxpayer dollars, to purchase high-tech equipment for units, such as the SWAT team, so it is subject to the public-records law.

A small step toward holding police accountable, thanks to the ACLU.

World-class cities--from space!

This is extremely cool. Sadly, it appears impossible to embed the video, but click through the link and enjoy! - promoted by Bob_Neer

UrtheCast has published the first of a series of videos of cities as seen from the International Space Station.

These are cities like London and Barcelona. Bu the first one is Boston, with a view that centers on the Kenmore Square area.

You can clearly see vehicle movements in the video, which is pretty impressive.

Bernie Sanders is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in NH

- promoted by Bob_Neer

Suffolk has the race polled at 41% Clinton, 31% Sanders. This follows a couple days after another firm had Bernie within 12% of Hillary in NH.

These are some pretty astounding numbers for a guy that half the population’s never heard of and the punditry refuses to take seriously.

Folks, we have ourselves a primary here.

Dear USOC: It's Not Just Us. Interest in Olympic Hosting Is Low

Helpful analysis. - promoted by Bob_Neer

What’s the matter with Boston? It’s not head over heels in love with the idea of hosting the Olympics. Shirley Leung thought we just needed to get past our inner curmudgeons and finally admit we really wanted to play the host. Globe blogger Eric Wilson disagrees with Leung, but thinks it’s “our heritage, our insistence not to fall into line with authority” that has caused opposition to the Boston 2024. Here’s a simpler hypothesis, one that doesn’t involve the ahistorical personification of the City of Boston: cities/countries don’t want to host the Olympics these days. The lack of interest in hosting is not unique to Boston.

In point of fact, the number of cities bidding on the Summer Olympics has been dropping since 1997 when there were 12 applicants and 5 candidate cities. Bidders for Tokyo’s 2020 games had dropped to 5 applicants (until Italy dropped out) and 3 candidate cities. The Netherlands considered applying and passed up the chance. There are 4 applicants for the 2024 Olympics including Boston.

Bidding is affect by supply and demand. The more competition among bidders, the more favorable conditions for the IOC. More competition drives up the offers made. Fewer bidders mean the IOC loses leverage. (The Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 were successful because it was the only bidder). This scarcity of bidders has not escaped the notice of the IOC, and its president Thomas Bach spent the first months of his tenure (which began on September 10, 2013) globetrotting to instigate more interest in bidding (Zimbalist). Bidding on the 2022 Winter Olympics had not gone so well:

LONDON (AP) — Rejected time and again for the 2022 Winter Olympics, the IOC will soon be seeking suitors for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

It will be hoping to attract a competitive, high-profile field to show there are cities that want to host the games rather than shun them.

Even before Oslo became the fourth city to drop out of the race for the 2022 Games, the International Olympic Committee had started reviewing its bidding system to make it more appealing and less expensive for future host cities.

And it’s not just cities that are considering the costs. The limited (and rather poor) polling on the Boston Olympics shows that an increasing number of people–more than 60% as of March–believe that public funds will be used to pay for a Boston Olympics. Times are tough. Money is tight. Why spend money on hosting? Polling data does not address people’s reasons for their lack of interest, but my hypothesis is that they don’t want to spend the money.

(WBUR, for some reason, thought it was more important to ask people their opinion of Steve Pagliuca than their reasons against hosting the Olympics. Eighty-eight percent had never heard of or had no opinion of him. A similar number of people had the same familiarity about Boston 2024 ).

One of the more interesting pieces of research (not available locally or electronically) was conducted by two Dutch architects/city planners commissioned by the Netherlands of hosting. They see increasing difficulty in marshalling support for hosting:

It is particularly difficult for democratic countries, such as the Netherlands, to harness sufficient support for these legal exemptions and the allocation of vast (public) funds to host the Olympic Games. The recent Italian withdrawal of Rome as applicant city for the Games of 2020 also shows that it is becoming difficult for European countries currently undergoing austerity measures to sustain the balance between large scale investments and maintaining public support for such a mega-event.

Globe Launches Monthly "Cranky Old Columnists Lecture Climate Activists" Series

"IT'S LIKE A KIND OF TORTURE/TO HAVE TO WATCH THE SHOW" applies to Beam's columns. And the "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG" climate commentary is easily the most tiresome. At this point we need all things at all times. That includes shaming big institutions for going along with the business-as-usual that turns out to be absolutely suicidal. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Statler & Waldorf!Alex Beam’s latest column is titled “Divestment is an empty gesture,” which is apt since Beam’s entire effort is empty – Tom Keane wrote essentially the same column in the same space six weeks ago.

What is it about the fossil fuel divestment movement that makes Boston Globe columnists so angry? Is it that divestment has inspired thousands of people around the world to think they can make a real difference, unlike these gloomy, repetitive lectures?

What’s most revealing is that neither Beam nor Keane mentions having any conversation with divestment activists. If they had, they’d learn that divestment isn’t about trying to deal a crippling financial blow to the fossil fuel industry, and it’s not intended a one-step cure-all to global warming. As David Roberts wrote at Vox:

Nobody thinks the divestment movement can hurt fossil fuel companies in any direct financial way, but that’s not what it seeks to do. Rather, it seeks to put mainstream institutions on record defining climate mitigation as a moral imperative, to create social consensus that inaction is not neutral — it is immoral.

“Divestment is effective because it goes after the social license of the industry, helping to turn Big Fossil Fuels into Big Tobacco, a pariah industry that has lost its stranglehold on the political process,” writes 350′s Jamie Henn in today’s Globe.

Instead of blasting these young leaders from the comfort of their offices, Beam and Keane should get out onto a campus and actually talk to them. It would be a breath of fresh air for all of us.

Take action & sign this petition right now to show your support for 350MA/Better Future Project’s campaign to get Massachusetts to divest our state pension fund from coal, oil & gas stocks.

Boston 2024's Wasted Opportunity: A New MBTA

If Adeas was running Boston 2024, they'd probably be way ahead of where they are now. - promoted by Bob_Neer

As Bob wrote yesterday, support for Boston 2024 is waning. And wherever you stand on the overall benefits a Bean Town Olympiad could bring to Boston, I think we can all say that one of Boston 2024′s biggest problems is they haven’t sold the electorate.

I’ll admit to leaning towards the Olympics as a prod to force our government into action on a number of fronts – nothing gets stuff done in government like a deadline.

However even my tepid support hasn’t been inspired by any of the visions put forward by Boston 2024. Which I why I’ll suggest that if they want to gain support around the city & state, they need to propose something radical that would make even the most ardent opponent give pause and consider.

My suggestion is that Boston 2024 needs to give us a new MBTA.

The original Olympic bid said that Boston 2024 would ride on the back of current MBTA proposals such as new cars for the Orange & Red Lines, a new West Station, and new DMU trains to ferry spectators to the Seaport. However after this winter’s snow, the only one of these plans that seems to be moving forward with any speed are the new Orange & Red Line cars. West Station hasn’t been discussed for months, and Gov. Baker’s MBTA Board dropped DMU trains from this year’s 1 year capital budget.

But what if the Olympics, and the inevitable development that will follow, could help finance these problems? Post-Olympic development of Widdett Circle would see it developed into a new “Mid-Town” neighborhood pumping millions of property tax dollars into the region. Post-Olympic development around Beacon Yard and near JFK/UMass will be similar.

Whether it’s through direct payments, joint development (Like the new Assembly Landing development & Assembly Orange Line station), tax incremental financing or other means, Boston 2024 should find a way to give us a vision of a modern Boston with the public transit we all dream of, but Beacon Hill has yet to deliver.

A few ideas that could & should be part of this vision:

  • Build & Finance the Indigo Line
    • Getting the Indigo Line built would be a huge boon to Boston. It would connect West Station to North Station with links in Cambridge and allowing for commuters to make their way through the city without transferring downtown.
    • It would also add much higher frequency service on the Fairmount line and inner-urban areas of the Lowell and Newberryport/Rockport lines, making the train a much more appealing alternative to driving in these areas
  • Upgrade the Silver Line to real BRT, or better yet, light rail
    • Completing the Phase III tunnel, adding Charlie Ticket machines at all stops and working with the City of Boston to add traffic light preemption to all surface level runs
  • Building The North-South Rail Link
    • Allowing our two separate Commuter Rail systems to work together, especially in conjunction with an Indigo Line, would allow for all sorts of new rail alignments in the region, allowing non-downtown commuters to move onto rail and allowing our two different Amtrak stations to actually have a link
  • Building The Red-Blue Line Connector
    • Long promised & never delivered, would allow for a direct interchange between the Red & Blue lines at Charles/MGH and unload extra cross traffic off of State & Government Center (Once re-opened)
  • Building Out The Urban Ring
    • Building out more ways to connect our region without all traffic going through downtown Boston

These are all ideas that the MBTA has floated over the years, but has never been able to find the money for. These ideas are all tremendously popular as they’d benefit residents and commuters alike & could easily be financed through the Olympics or post-Olympic development. If Boston 2024 wants to show us a vision of Boston in the future, they need to show us more than how our region’s property developers will benefit, but how we’ll all benefit.

Breaking: Senate wins constitutional tiff with the House over the meaning of "money bill"

Bumped, for substance, and for the Senate! - promoted by Bob_Neer

The legal issue that the Supreme Judicial Court resolved today (PDF) is one that only a state constitutional law geek could love.  But the upshot is quite substantial, and it gives the Senate the advantage in ongoing budget negotiations with the House.

Here’s what happened.  As happens pretty much every year, the Governor filed his proposed budget; the House substantially changed it and passed its version; and then the Senate substantially changed what the House did and passed its own version.  The House and Senate versions are now being reconciled in a conference committee.

In the course of all of this arose the question whether the Senate had broken the constitutional rule that requires that all “money bills” must originate in the House of Representatives.  The Senate’s budget technically “amends” the House version, but the amendment is drastic: it takes the House bill, strikes out everything after the “be it enacted” clause, and then inserts its own version.  And the Senate budget includes some tax changes that normally would have to originate in the House.  Foul, cried the House!  You can’t originate a money bill, so your tax changes are invalid.

Not so fast, replied the Senate.  Because the House bill contained a tax provision of its own – namely, a semi-obscure provision having to do with the implementation of “combined reporting” (“This section delays until tax year 2017 the start of the deduction allowed to certain publicly-traded companies to offset increases in their net deferred tax liability that resulted from the commonwealth’s implementation of combined reporting”) – and that provision will increase the amount of tax revenue available to the Commonwealth next year, the House bill was a “money bill,” and the fact that the Senate drastically changed the House bill (by adding a bunch of new tax rules, among other things) doesn’t mean that the Senate “originated” a money bill.

Unable to agree, the House asked the Supreme Judicial Court for a ruling.  And, in short, the House lost.  The SJC ruled that the inclusion of the “combined reporting” provision in the House budget did indeed make that budget a “money bill,” and it further ruled that the Senate’s amending that bill by including a bunch of stuff that the House didn’t want did not constitute impermissibly “originating” a new money bill in the Senate.  That is exactly the ruling that the Senate sought (PDF).

So, this round goes to the Senate.  This issue is certainly more process- than outcome-oriented, but it should marginally strengthen the Senate’s hand in the ongoing budget negotiations.

Joke Revue: Scientists Believe They Have Isolated Gene for Failure


Scientists Believe They Have Isolated Gene for Failure

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Geneticists at the University of Minnesota believe that they have isolated the gene that makes some people much more prone to failure than others.

While the research is preliminary, the scientists said that they were able to successfully identify the failure gene by studying the DNA of males in two generations of the same American family.

“If we have indeed isolated the gene that makes people fail—and we believe we have—all of the subjects in our study are carriers,” said Davis Logsdon, the geneticist who supervised the research.

According to Logsdon, those who carry the gene for failure have “absolutely no idea that they have it” and thus project the confidence and self-assurance of people whose genetic material does not make them likely to wreak havoc on a massive scale. …

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Jeb Bush is taking his presidential campaign on a tour of Europe. He’s telling Europeans, ‘I like you guys because you’re comfortable having the same family in charge for centuries.’” –Conan O”Brien

“Hillary Clinton has joined Instagram. Meanwhile, her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders joined telegram.” –Seth Meyers

“During a recent speech, Mike Huckabee said he is the only person who has fought the Clinton political machine and won. ‘You sure about that?’ said President Barack Obama.” –Jimmy Fallon

“At a summit this weekend, President Obama accidentally missed a high five from the prime minister of Iraq. Pretty embarrassing, but not as bad as the time George W. Bush left Saddam hanging.” –Seth Meyers

“During his announcement, Chafee said it would help our economy if we embraced the metric system. Finally answering the question: What is the world’s worst campaign slogan?” –Jimmy Fallon

“Senator Ted Cruz said he thinks John F. Kennedy would be a Republican if he were alive today. Well, of course he would be Republican. He’d be 98 years old.” –Seth Meyers

Revenge of the hacks: they can park there, but you can't

In a story that probably surprised almost nobody, the Globe reports that Boston City Councillors are able to get parking tickets fixed if they promise that they were on “official business” while they parked in that loading zone, or in that resident-only parking spot, or other places where we mere mortals park at our peril (only handicap spots, fire hydrants, and sidewalks are non-waivable).  And a whole bunch of other city employees have the same perk.  This, by the way, follows close on the heels of the gloriously hackish report of Councillor Stephen Murphy hiring disgraced former clerk magistrate Robert Powers onto his City Hall staff because, well, “I’m hiring my friends.”  (Don’t miss Yvonne Abraham’s superb column on that topic.)

The focus of the parking story seems to be on whether the Councillors in question were, indeed, on “official business” when the tickets were issued.  For instance, regarding Councillor Josh Zakim, who in his brief year and a half on the Council has had 14 tickets fixed:

The Globe reviewed dismissed parking tickets and cross-referenced dates and times with councilors’ private schedules obtained under the open records law. After the Globe asked Zakim about his dismissed tickets, he said he could prove he was working even when nothing was on his schedule.

Since taking office, Zakim has been ticketed 21 times, with 14 of those violations dismissed. He tried unsuccessfully to have three others dismissed, according to city records, although his staff disputed that.

“I absolutely only use this for city business,” Zakim said. “The ones that you pointed out, I can tell you with absolute confidence that all the ones in 2015, I was on city business.”

But to me, that begs the question, which really is whether this program of dismissing tickets issued to city employees on “official business” should exist at all.  After all, the point of designating a particular area a “loading zone” is, presumably, to allow trucks and other commercial vehicles to use that spot to load and unload, which helps prevent them from having to double-park while doing so.  And the point of designating certain spots “resident only” is so that people who, you know, live in the area can find parking near their homes.  If anyone who doesn’t meet those criteria, including City Councillors, is permitted to park there because it’s more convenient than, say, taking a cab or the T, or finding a legal parking spot, or parking in a garage, which is what the rest of us do while on business in the city, then why have the designations at all?

Also, it is apparently quite possible to do the job without using this “perk.”

Five councilors did not have any tickets dismissed under the program: Mark Ciommo, Michael F. Flaherty Jr., Matt O’Malley, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu, records show.

Lots of people are doing important things all day in the city of Boston.  The vast majority of them have to abide by parking restrictions or pay when they are caught not doing so.  Does it really make sense that a City Councillor who is having lunch with a constituent should be able to dismiss a parking ticket, whereas, for instance, a doctor making an urgent visit to a sick patient can’t?

I frankly find it impossible to justify this program at all, regardless of whether the Councillors and other city employees who are using it are abiding by its terms.  ”Programs” like this one are a significant part of why people lose confidence in their elected officials.  It should be eliminated.