Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

[Originally published in Examiner.com]

In a political landscape full of pundit-speak, spin and dancing politicians, it’s often difficult to cast a truly informed vote. So it’s good to know you can still get politics served up straight, bold and unapologetic in Texas.

I’m speaking, of course, about the brand new 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party. Epic in scope, breathtaking in its lunacy, this platform covers everything from evolution to space exploration and is a clear, unambiguous glimpse into the worldview of today’s Republican Party — a must-read for all who might be thinking of voting in that direction this November.

The Texas GOP platform reminds you that today’s Republican Party is not your father’s Republican Party. It’s not even his father’s Republican Party. As you read it, you’ll feel as if you’re being transported back in time to an age when scientists were considered evil sorcerers, women needed men and/or the government to decide how to manage their lives, and education was something you did to children, rather than for them.

Education

This is how the new GOP believes kids should be taught about theories of evolution and global warming:

“We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is [sic] produced.”

Sounds reasonable enough. But I wonder if it would be OK with Republicans if teachers teach their students that it was, indeed, only after many scientific challenges to both of these theories that scientists accepted them as the likely answers to the questions, “How did we develop as a species?” and “Why is the Earth getting so darned warm?”

Though today’s Republicans are big on challenging evolution and man-made global warming, it seems they don’t want children to challenge much of anything.

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

As Texas Christian University professor of economics, John T. Harvey, writes in his excellent piece at Forbes,

“… do they really and truly believe that teachers and school boards across the State of Texas are designing curricula specifically aimed at training children to challenge their parents?”

Actually, there are probably very few people who know exactly what the Texas GOP means about critical thinking “undermining parental authority” but they do manage to interject a little paranoia into the old “father knows best” adage.

Harvey continues:

“Were we to implement such a policy, we’d have to be certain that we had already identified the concepts and values that were ‘correct’ (whatever that really means). Even a cursory reading of their platform makes it very clear that this is precisely what Texas Republicans believe and what those concepts and values are. This begs the question, who is really aiming to force their beliefs on our children, Texas schools or Texas Republicans?”

If kids do have the temerity to think critically in class, though, Texas Republicans know what to do.

“We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”

Women

Or how about Republican plans for women — more specifically, women’s bodies?

It may be approved by the FDA, considered safe and effective by the American Medical Association and available at your local Walgreen’s, but Republicans know better.

“We oppose sale and use of the dangerous ‘Morning After Pill’.”

In their ongoing attempt to send abortion back to its back-alley roots, Republicans want to place themselves firmly between women and their doctors.

“We support legislation banning of abortion after 20 weeks gestation due to fetal pain.”

Once again, the GOP knows better than them smart aleck research scientists, who find no scientific evidence to support such legislation.

The platform does make one sensible pronouncement regarding women, however.

“We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children.”

It’s just that the platform declares no such support for women who choose to do anything else.

Homosexuality

Americans are gradually warming to the idea that gay and lesbian folk are as good, bad, decent and indecent as we heteros. We are also beginning to recognize the cruelty, impracticality and unfairness of marginalizing this large segment of the American population. But, Republicans see it a bit differently.

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.”

Homosexuals have been part of the human family ever since Peking Man found another Peking Man attractive. Not to mention, same-sex attraction occurs in every species, from gut worms to primates. Doesn’t that qualify homosexuality as one of God’s “unchanging truths?”

Anyone thinking about homosexuality with a clear, bias-free mind understands that it is neither a choice nor harmful to society. Who would choose to spend his or her life fighting for rights we straights take for granted? And, can anyone explain to me how on earth I am negatively affected by another person’s fondness for members of his or her own sex?

Voter Beware

There are many more equally nutty views espoused in the platform, including support for returning the dollar to the gold standard, abolishing income tax in favor of a national sales tax, abstinence-only sex-ed, gutting public education and, of course, deregulation, deregulation and more deregulation. But this is what Republicans stand for today. By purging moderates and independent minded conservatives from its ranks, the Republican Party has managed to reduce itself to a thick soup of right wing extremism that even Ronald Reagan would have a hard time recognizing as his beloved Grand Old Party.

It seems every presidential election is hyped as “the most important election in history.” This time, however, it may very well be. And that makes the Texas Republican Party Platform equally important.

Read it, get to know it and then… run screaming back to the Democratic Party. Your nation will thank you.

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Question: How did Fox News attempt to discredit the recent U of Maryland study that found Fox viewers to be a comparatively misinformed bunch?
a.  Attacked the wording of the study’s questionnaire
b.  Characterized the directors of the study as left wingers
c.  Claimed the study’s correct answers came from biased sources
d.  Belittled the study as mere fodder for the liberal mainstream media
Correct answer: All of the above
A News Organization Like no Other

I tried to find out how other news sources had handled similar studies or findings that implied continuing inaccuracy in their reporting, but strangely enough, I couldn’t find any. Sure, there were lots of complaints about different news organizations misreporting specific stories, and lots of individuals claiming left and right bias in the mainstream media, but there was no similar academic study finding the viewers of a specific news channel to be consistently more misinformed than non-viewers. In this journalistically embarrassing category, Fox News stands alone.

This is where Fox’ claim of liberal bias comes in handy, though. Ailes and crew refute the study by claiming the professors who designed the study are liberals who have it in for Fox, thus discrediting the study and reinforcing anti-intellectualism in an inspired Fox News twofer. In addition, they claim liberal or Democratic bias in the experts who determined the study’s correct answers. Finally, they trot out their timeworn claim of left-wing bias in the mainstream media. If it ain’t the professors, it’s the experts, claims Fox. If it ain’t the professors and experts, it’s the reporters reporting the story. Presto–study refuted. It’s almost poetically foolproof, in a wild-eyed paranoid kind of way.

Though we probably didn’t need an academic study to confirm our nagging suspicion that Fox just might not be on the up and up, it’s nice to have as a tangible reference. It also serves as a reminder that our democracy has never before seen such a strange, potentially calamitous phenomenon as Fox News, where facts are selectively partisan and the viewer comes away from the TV with an alternate universe firmly planted in his head.

The Fox Effect

Take the subject of global warming, for instance. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that global warming is likely due to man’s activity. They also believe that its effects, left unchecked, will lead to catastrophe for life on our planet. Further, they agree that our only hope lies in immediate action to counter its effects. Meanwhile, back at “Facts Schmacts Central,” 60% of regular Fox viewers do not believe that most scientists agree global warming is even occurring. That’s occurring, mind you. When it comes time to adopt anti-warming measures or elect candidates who take climate change seriously, how will 6 of 10 Fox News viewers vote? So much for immediate action.

Comments from “The Truth About Fox News Viewers” at conservative Free Republic.com demonstrate how Fox News’ dueling facts and “circle the wagons” mentality plays out in the world of the Fox faithful.

“Amazing. They are now claiming that showing skepticism of dubious claims indicates narrow-mindedness,” writes Fox viewer, Tribune. Through the magic that is Fox, consensus on climate change formed by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are reduced to “dubious claims” By Fox viewers.

“Yep, time to re-educate all the nonwatchers of MSM in Progresssssive [sic] Education Gulags!” says Leo Carpathian, raising the argument to neo-John Birch Society hysteria.

“We must support Conservative news outlets at every opportunity. The Marxists will continue to attack from every direction with every method possible,” writes Blam, proving Joe McCarthy lives, and Fox-brand paranoia is contagious.

Though the logic escapes me, a number of commenters point to Fox News’ comparatively large ratings as proof of its accuracy. I may be nitpicking here, but to me the only thing Fox News’ large ratings prove is that Fox misinforms a lot of people.

A news service pumping half-truths and nowhere-near-the-truths into the public consciousness 24/7 can’t be good for a democracy and its requisite informed electorate, can it?

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Busted unions, privatized social security, deregulation of industry, and now…energy-swilling homes. Is there no stopping the self-destructive behavior of the American middle class conservative?

According to the N.Y. Times, a study published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that political ideology plays a significant role in determining whether a homeowner will respond favorably to voluntary home conservation programs.

The study found that those who vote Republican and donate money to conservative candidates and causes are considerably less likely to give it the old college try when it comes to conserving energy in their homes. Not surprisingly, the study showed that Democrats who donate to environmental groups and get their electricity from renewable sources showed the most improvement. When receiving individual usage feedback, they reduced their energy consumption by about 3%.

On the other hand, the study found Republican households that practice no specific eco-friendly behaviors increased their energy usage by 1% over previous quarters when receiving the same type of feedback.

Overall, households in the conservation program reduced consumption by 2%. The Republican subset, however, actually increased usage by .04%.

In addition to household energy-usage reports, half of the homes studied received tips on how to reduce usage and were rewarded for their efforts with smiley faces printed on the reports. Two smiley faces went to those who used less energy than their neighbors, one smiley face for average use. Instead of smiley faces, those who scored poorly got “ROOM TO IMPROVE” on their reports in bold, black letters. These underachievers also got specific tips on how they might reduce their usage.

Green is for Sissies

Granted, the smiley faces are a bit much, and nobody likes to be scolded. But, you’d think that the grown-up living inside most of us would rise above the condescension, and make an effort to help our ailing planet by reducing personal energy consumption—if not for our children and their children, at least for a substantial reduction in our monthly energy bills.

But, no. Like a naughty, petulant child, our conservative friends demonstrate their rugged individualism and distaste for political correctness by working against the planet and their own financial interests. “No tree-hugging egghead scientist is gonna tell me what to do in my own home,” would be the conservative refrain. “This is America, dammit. Shining cities on a hill shouldn’t have to sacrifice nothin’”

It’s the same mentality evident in a giant, gas-guzzling SUV careening down the street with two American flags on top flapping proudly in the smog. To these folks, the financial pain of 7 miles-per-gallon is well worth the political message they and their condominiums-on-wheels deliver: Green is for sissies!

Widespread Chump-dom

This curious, self-defeating behavior of middle class conservatives isn’t limited to environmental issues. While the middle class shrinks, wages remain stagnant and CEOs receive salaries and bonuses that would make King Midas blush, conservatives bash the only hope the middle class has of getting a fair shake from industry—trade and labor unions.

As the Gulf of Mexico becomes the Black Lagoon and middle class workers in the fishing and tourism businesses of the region stare down the barrel of insolvency, conservatives are calling for more off-shore drilling and less regulation of the oil industry. While middle class folks teeter on the brink of financial collapse due to Wall Street’s fun and games, conservatives insist on less regulation of the banking and insurance industries.

And as more members of the middle class lose their health insurance or are driven to bankruptcy by insurance and pharmaceutical industries run amok, conservatives resist legislation that would force those industries to play nicer, and make our health care system more Hippocratic than plutocratic.

Time after time, members of America’s middle class have been left to pay for unfettered corporate greed with their jobs, higher taxes (for bailouts and corporate under-paying) and their sanity while conservatives line up like rubes at a carnival game for more of the same treatment.

Obviously, they don’t see themselves as dupes. Rather, they believe they are fighting for the invisible hand of the free market. What middle class conservatives refuse to understand is that price and wage fixing, politician purchase and general corporate malfeasance makes a truly free market a pipe dream, leaving the invisible hand with nothing to do but rummage through their pockets.

I suppose this would all be kind of funny if it weren’t for the fact that conservatives aren’t the only ones who suffer the consequences of their self-destructive tendencies.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, indeed.