Monday, January 09, 2012

Journalists, ask whether a President Romney will resign if Iran gets a nuclear weapon on his watch

In case the video goes away, Romney warns “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not.” We need some way to rein in the blatantly untrue claims like this one, and demanding promises for consequences may be one way to do that.

After having run for office myself, I still can't get over how much worse the quality of rhetoric and campaigning is at the state and national level.  On my campaign website I described what I supported but said "I will be just one of seven Board members, so making [my issues] happen will need some help, but public support and public involvement can help push through changes...."  I believe it would've cost me politically if I made promises I couldn't guarantee, like Romney's doing.  Journalists ought to hold him accountable, or at least get a flustered response out of him.
Just to imitate the journalistic practice of false balance, here's a nice thing to say about a former Republican candidate, Rick Perry:  he was right about instituting Supreme Court term limits (via New Yorker with some helpful elaboration).  I've supported this before, I think a lot of my fellow lawyers would do the same, and I see no reason for Democrats not to do the same.

Friday, January 06, 2012

"Israel Firster" versus "climate denialists" versus Lindzen

An interesting article by Spencer Ackerman sounds off against the term "Israel Firster" as used by the American progressives as a label for Americans that support every Israeli policy and interest, especially the most aggressive and anti-Muslim policies.

My most left-wing views concern Israel, its shameful treatment of Palestinians, and the accurate description by Israeli politicians of that policy as "apartheid".  Still, I think I agree with Ackerman, not entirely but enough to say that the Israel Firster term should be dropped.  The key to me is that the term originates in anti-Semitism (this is my first and probably last positive reference to anything written by David Bernstein).  While the African-American community has shown how to reappropriate words with disgusting historical origins, that's not something to be done lightly.  Let this term go.

Juan Cole does a better job with the term Likud-supporter, describing the American politicians who reject as anti-Israel the positions favored by a significant strand of progressive Israeli politics.  I'm not sure that captures the thought of politicians who can't see any divergence between American and Israeli interests, but it's good enough for now.

By contrast, I've never bought the claim that "climate denialism" must not be uttered because of its similarity to "Holocaust denial".  I used climate denialism years long before it was claimed by opponents to be derived from Holocaust denial terminology.  Even if it was for some, the connection isn't nearly as seamless as the term "Israeli Firster" is with anti-Semitism.  These people truly are climate denialists and it has a connection to being anti-science, not to anti-Semitism.

And since we're on a related subject, there's the issue of Richard Lindzen claiming to be offended by the term climate denier because he claims to be a Holocaust survivor.  His claim is based on the fact that his Jewish parents emigrated from Germany in 1938, and he was born in 1940.  Even the broadest-accepted definition of Holocaust survivor would only include his parents, not him (and many would not include his parents, although they undoubtedly faced severe persecution).  Actual Holocaust survivors would have good reason to be offended by Lindzen.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Another denialist victory - 2008 isn't the warmest La Nina year on record

I think that's the way they'll spin it.  At the end of 2008 I wrote that year would be the warmest La Nina year in the historical record, but new data forces me to retract that erroneous statement.

PS. That's what I get for sitting on a blog post that I've been meaning to write - those jerks at Capitol Weather Gang beat me to it.  I await the denialist explanation on how we can have years this warm when a natural cycle is temporarily cooling a significant percentage of the earth's surface.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

South Carolina sez Rick Santorum is too moderate

Dave Weigel (no liberal) at Slate:
Rick Santorum is the lone "compassionate conservative" in the race, the only one who talks about protectionist trade, rebuilding manufacturing, and income inequality. (Yes, yes -- , his as Yglesias points out, his tax plan is still regressive. But we're grading on a curve.) He utterly failed to convince conservatives that he -- a happily married father of seven with a serious record of wins in Congress -- was the right anti-Romney. It's not a fair fight, and I'm sure Santorum could win over most Gingrich voters in a lab experiment, but you have to consider why Santorum's specific brand of populism falters as Gingrich's big-picture, Glenn Beck-ian anger thrives. Gingrich and Ron Paul are the most apocalyptic candidates, insistent that America is run by socialists who risk destroying everything. Santorum won't go that far. At a Chamber of Commerce event I wrote about this week, Santorum was the only one of three candidates (Gingrich and Perry were the others) who argued that the National Labor Relations Board might be fixed, not defunded and destroyed. Not good enough!
This is the context in which we're fighting for climate realism within the Republican Party.

Monday, January 02, 2012

"Let's return to this February, 2013 and see if 'victory' still smells as sweet". Why wait?

The above is the political prediction of a political scientist that delaying the Keystone XL decision was Obama's brilliant way of playing his supporters for fools until the next election.

Or maybe not (although who knows for sure, but it's no help to the project).  Now the fight may also switch to Canada deciding whether to build their own pipeline to export the oil overseas, instead of piping it to Louisiana to be sent overseas.  It's a long game.

(Edited for a tad more context.)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Whaling cap and trade has the politics of carbon taxes

The politics is that I don't see it happening, or at least not as the primary tool for managing the problem, regardless of the merits.

Unfortunately the paywall means I can't RTFA in Nature, but here's the Washpost and an interesting take by Holly Doremus.  A pure cap/trade, which they're not proposing, would require whaling nations to buy whaling allocations they now steal from the world's common heritage for free, so politics rules that out.  The authors apparently propose allocating parts of the harvest for free to whaling nations, which raises the question of why anyone else would support it.

The other biological aspect of this issue that I haven't seen discussed stems from my understanding that the current harvest is likely significantly less than what some common whale species can handle.  Of course whalers currently ignore species restrictions and kill whatever whales they can find, but that gets arm-waved (and more could be done if the political will existed).  This proposal could result  in an increased allocation, making it more expensive for whaling opponents to buy out quotas.

I agree with Holly that there are non-economic problems with this proposal, although I disagree with her implication that an economic approach is incapable of addressing non-economic problems.  Just this one.

Holly also picked up on the same parallel I saw to attempts to buy slaves as a way to end slavery.  I wouldn't be as dismissive as she is though.  I suspect buying slaves their freedom was an important method to reduce the number of slaves in states where it was a marginal activity, making it easier for those states to move to abolition. Pennsylvania then moved to a gradual abolition of slavery in 1780, diminishing the economic impact to slaveowners by putting it off into the future.  Economic approaches have their value.