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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Attempts To Delegitimize Science Will Lead To Higher Rates Of Illness, Death And Incurred Economic Costs

Republican Teabaggers in the U.S. House of Representatives are hell-bent on defunding important government programs that provide critical information regarding threats to U.S. citizens.  I’m not talking about the bloated “defense” department or the almost-as-bloated department of homeland security (whatever that’s supposed to mean).  I’m talking about NOAA and the NWS, two agencies that routinely provide forecasts of short-, medium-, and long-term weather-related forecasts.  Without common-sense funding, these agencies are going to lose capabilities to issue forecasts with the expected level of accuracy to mitigate costs to human lives and economies at all scales.

Think the “private sector” is going to step in and save Americans’ butts?  Think again – what private corporation has remote sensing platforms in place today that could provide the kind of data allowing for similarly accurate and responsive forecasts?  They don’t.  They’re as much in support of socialism as you can be: the American taxpayer pays for those platforms and the expertise held within public agencies to provide, without prejudice, timely information to all of the public equitably.  Even if some private sector entity had resources in place, what do you think they would charge for their information if the government didn’t provide the same information to all users for the same price?  Could you afford to pay the premiums for the best information?  No, the vast majority of Americans could not.  What they have right now is a system in which the costs are socialized and the benefits are just as socialized.

Do you think the government agencies don’t provide accurate or timely information?  Then take a look at what the loss of polar-orbiting satellites would mean for just one case: the February 5-6, 2010 snowstorm that impacted a large swath of high-population areas of the U.S.  Then think about all the storms (and other events) that happen in just one year; how many lives were positively impacted; how much money was saved by having the timely forecasts as accurate as they were.  Why would anyone want to negatively impact lives and drive up the costs of responding to extreme weather events?  Because, like I said, some folks are hell-bent to prove that their extremist ideology trumps everything else, including common sense and decency.  These nutjobs’ attempts to delegitimize science are going to have serious repercussions in the 21st century.

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CO’s Prop 101 Will Hurt Every Colorado Student

Right-wing extremists in Colorado would love to see public education fully defunded so they could force families to send their money to private corporations instead. Are they truly concerned about the state of education? Of course not. Like every other policy issue, they’re much more interested in tranferring the middle class’ wealth (what remains of it) toward amoral, unaccountable entities that have more rights than people.

Heading up this year’s public-vs-private entity battle will be Proposition 101, one of three potential ballot initiatives that will show up this November 2nd. In a nutshell, Prop 101 would cut income taxes 0.1 percent a year until the rate was 3.5 percent – down from the current 4.63 percent – and reduce ownership taxes on used vehicles to $1 and to $2 for new vehicles. It would also repeal FASTER, enacted last year to begin work on billions of dollars worth of failing roads and bridges. How does that relate to education? Every school district in the state gets a share of those taxes.

The Bell Policy Center is analyzing the effects of Prop 101 on a county-by-county basis. More on that below.

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Some People Never Learn

For some, ideology trumps everything.  Such is the case for thecons who backed George Bush’s abstinence-only sex education programs.  Funding for programs that included more than abstinence-only information, like how to have safe sex if you decide to have sex, was slashed.  Well, actions have consequences.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) monitors statistics like birth rates and sexually transmitted diseases for teenagers.  Take a wild guess at what happened to the statistics after Bush’s programs were funded and pushed onto the American public.  Birth rates and STDs were in decline from 1991 through the early 2000′s.  Those declines were halted and reversed by 2005.

Pregnancies among teenagers 15 years or older are up sharply.  The number of teenage girls with syphilis has risen by half.  Two decades of progress in gonorrhea infection rates has been reversed.  The number of adolescent boys with AIDS has doubled.

Oh, and 16,000 pregnancies were reported among 10- to 14-year old girls in 2004.  That’s a tragic statistic.  Nearly 16,000 10- to 14-years olds reported having an STD (which is an undercount, obviously).  That’s also tragic.

Earlier this year, a report was issued that demonstrated that children who signed up for abstinence programs had sex at the same rate as those who didn’t sign up for the programs.  A major difference between the two groups was the incidence of pregnancies and STDs.  The abstinence group had a much higher rate.  The implementation of a fringe ideology on a larger population has had very tragic consequences.  So how do abstinence-only supporters respond?

By saying there is still too little abstinence-only education.  I’m not kidding, though given the gravity of the situation, I wish I were.

“It is ridiculous to say that a programme we nominally invest in has failed when it fails to overcome the most sexualised culture in world history, said Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for American Values, which describes itself as a supporter of traditional marriage and “against liberal education and cultural forces”.

Apparently, being the spokeswoman requires the ability to refuse to take part in reality.  Reality, Kristi, is recognizing that if your argument that our culture is the most sexualized in world history, then pregnancy and STD rates should be quite similar across the country.  Or, if we were to really believe your worldview, then places like the West and East coast should have the highest rates of pregnancies and STDs, correct?  I mean, after all, which portion of the country does liberal education supposed take place?  Not your portion, I bet.

So why, Kristi, are pregnancy and STD rates higher for southern states, those bastions of “family values” and “morality”?  Why, Kristi, are pregnancy and STD rates lower for other countries, such as European countries, than they are in the U.S.?  Because the CDC is part of your imaginary liberal conspiracy?  Because Coasters flock to the south and impregnate and infect your neighbors?  Because those evil liberals from Europe make sure to stop by the U.S. and knock our kids up and infect them with STDs as part of their liberal lifestyle?  No, Kristi, it’s because abstinence-only programs are taught more widely in southern states than the rest of the country (and world).  It’s actually quite easy to figure out what’s going on.  Children in southern states are being purposefully exposed to potentially harmful life situations to satisfy your sick desire to impose your ideology on them.  Ignoring reality and adhering to your ideology is harming real children, Kristi.  That’s not tragic, that’s disgusting.

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The Scary State of Science in American Society

As we come to the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I find the state of science in America to be scary.  A lot of good research and development is being conducted, yet fewer Americans display a basic understanding of scientific fact than do most (any?) other industrialized nation.  Americans’ religious evangelism has a great deal to do with this.  Yet the following came as somewhat of a shock to me.  Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was booed at a lecture last week in Waco, TX.  Why?  For saying the moon reflects light from the sun.  People are certainly entitled to believe whatever they choose.  I simply find it interesting that faith can shove fact out of the way so easily for so many.  I also think the episode reflects a great deal of disrespect on the part of the Christians in attendance.  They’re free to disagree with whatever Nye said in his lecture.  But to boo at him during the lecture isn’t classy – it’s the behavior of people who love to self-victimize.

The second example of the sad state of science in America today is related, of course, to politics.  In this story, Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton asked Energy Secretary Stephen Chu a question during testimony on President Obama’s clean energy proposals.  The question was incredibly ludicrous and demonstrates how important it is to send science-savvy officials to Washington to represent you.  Here is the question:

I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds. How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?

I’m not going to mince words on this one: what is this idiot thinking by asking this question?  He has to have an intense desire to publicly show how scientifically ignorant he is.  Contrary to what today’s Republican Party (co-opted by extremists, granted) think, this lack of savvy isn’t a positive attribute for Barton to hold.

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Quick Hit: Moe Keller on Immigrants’ Education

A bill is making its way through the Colorado legislature that would allow children of undocumented workers to pay in-state college tuition instead of out-of-state college tuition.  A number of conditions would have to be met – conditions that naturalized citizens don’t have to worry about to get in-state tuition, I might add.  It could be stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee because of one Democrat – Moe Keller.  If she votes against the bill, it dies in committee.  If that happens, a door of opportunity would be closed to a small group of people who have committed no crime of their own.

So I spent a few minutes looking at who Moe Keller is.  She is a Senator from District 20, according to her website.  She has town hall meetings in Golden and Wheat Ridge.  She sponsors bills regarding the developmentally disabled.

This brings up a set of questions for Sen. Keller.  Why is it okay to restrict opportunity for the children of undocumented workers but not okay to restrict opportuinty for the developmentally disabled?  Neither chose their status.  At what point do the right-wing blowhards control acceptable legislation?  If Limbaugh, Rosen and others railed against the developmentally disabled, would Sen. Keller abandon her efforts?  If not, what does that say about her attitude toward children who have done nothing wrong and lots of things right?

Now, I don’t know Sen. Keller or her reasons for potentially voting against this legislation. This bill seems pretty straightforward and the morally correct thing to do. I want to hear that it has passed – that we’re a state of compassionate people who fight for opportunity, not against it. I hope Sen. Keller feels the same way and votes accordingly.

h/t to Mike Littwin.

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Right Wing Is Pro-Disease, Anti-Education and Anti-Voter

In their continuing demonstration of how extreme can extreme get, right-wing activists are targeting state and local government to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood.  It’s a solution in search of a problem.  As the Wall St Journal’s graphs show, only 3% of services delivered by PP in 2006 were abortions.  Meanwhile, 38% of services went to contraception, 29% went to sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and 19% went to cancer screening and prevention services.  So if Planned Parenthood has their budgets slashed, the public will have less access to preventing pregnancies, STD testing and cancer prevention.  These extremists are pursuing their ideology to the point where they’d rather the public was less healthy and less capable of dealing with disease, all in an effort to do away with 3% of PP’s services.  I’ll also point out that Planned Parenthood serves populations that don’t have the kind of health care access others get.  In many cases, Planned Parenthood is all those populations have.  Gutting their budget will put more Americans at risk to disease and unwanted pregnancies – which one would think would be exactly the opposite of the extremists’ stated goal…


The Cons’ dream of shutting down public education is being pursued in Colorado.  In one of the more short-sighted attempts at a solution possible, state Rep. Don Marostica of the Joint Budget Committee posed a question this week in a lengthy questionnaire to the state’s public colleges and universities: how would they survive if they received no dollars from the state legislature?  The answer is easy: they wouldn’t.

“I wake up at 2 a.m., and I think about it. This higher education is not working; it’s costing us too much money,” said Marostica, a Republican who represents Larimer County. “I simply felt like they could be run as enterprises, true enterprises. I want them all to be private schools.”

Some of the state’s money now devoted to the institutions could instead go to private scholarships, he said.

Got that?  After the largest failure of enterprise in world history this year, Cons continue to push their failed ideology everywhere they can.  No recommendations to stop giving away tax dollars to the fossil fuel industry.  No recommendations to stop giving away tax dollars to social programs that have been shown to not work.  No, the Cons recommend that tax dollars be withheld from colleges and universities.  At the end of the day, it’s all about tax dollars isn’t it?  The Cons will never advocate to increase investments in communities.  Despite evidence to the contrary, they continue to believe they’re islands and self-made people.  They’re going to wreck Colorado and the U.S. even more than they already have since they’ll never stop praying to their false free-market gods.


Colorado Cons will push another part of their extremist agenda when the legislature convens next month: State Sen. Scott Renfroe will carry a bill that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls to vote.  Renfroe said the bill would safeguard elections.  This is another solution in search of a problem.  How many people voted illegally this year?  I can’t find a single case of it occurring.  Meanwhile, millions of Coloradans are non- or under-insured (receiving sub-standard health care), thousands of Colorado children live in poverty, too many Coloradans drop out of school and too many Coloradans are in prison for petty offenses like marijuana posession (these are predominantly minority Coloradans, despite equal rates of possession as whites).  Those are real problems that desperately need real solutions.  Enacting laws like Renfroe’s would ensure fewer people vote, making Con ballot box victories more likely.

Here is why the Cons are in the minority party in Colorado: they only represent extremist views.  They want more diseased Coloradans, less educated Coloradans and fewer people voting.  Instead of changing their policy positions even slightly, they want to prevent people from voting and keeping their elected officials accountable.

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Colorado Politics: CU Chair; Environment vs. Jobs; Ozone Pollution; Oil & Gas Poll

It’s interesting that this piece of news didn’t garner much discussion: The University of Colorado is looking to hire an endowed chair in conservative thought and policy.  This is the result of something the Cons have perfected: play the refs and get the bonus.

CU is currently developing a $9 million program which will bring nationally recognized conservative scholars to teach on the Boulder campus. The program will allow CU to create an endowment for a visiting chair in conservative thought.

What exactly is the push for this crazy idea?  It all arises from the Republican penchant for self-victimization.  The whole world is out to get every singe Con-servative, according to them.  The push is coming from entities like the American Enterprise Institute and the Independence Institute who have conducted “studies” demonstrating how crazy liberal every public college in America is.  What doesn’t get related by the corporate media is AEI and II are funded exclusively by conservatives.  Their “studies” are slanted from the start to show what they want them to show.  Because they’re so well funded and organized, they can push things like hiring a “chair of con-servative thought”.  How then, you might ask, could a place like CU in “ultra-liberal” Boulder even consider such a thing?  This is what happens when a partisan like Bruce Benson is hired as University President.  I haven’t read any stories about how CU is suddenly swimming in cash due to Benson’s superior fundraising abilities.  But CU is suddenly getting a chair in conservative thought.  Gee, I wonder how that happened.  Can you imagine the screams from the Cons if CU were to hire a chair in progressive thought?

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Science Loses Out In Corporate Media Drawdown

Two announcements were made this week that are pretty disappointing.

CNN is closing its science and technology unit.  Miles O’Brien and six producers are being cut.  CNN says science reporting will be folded into its general structure.  I’m not impressed.

Then, NBC announced that it was cutting the Weather Channel’s “Forecast Earth” weekend program.  NBC (General Electric, really), with private equity firms Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, bought the Weather Channel earlier this year.

On the one hand, I find it disheartening that a mega-corporation like GE, which is tied to funding anti-climate change white papers from right-wing propaganda tanks, has decided to cut the only environmental newsmagazine show.  Forecast Earth was allowing laypersons access to critical information.  At this time, more than any other, Americans need that information.

On the other hand, more information sources are available to Americans than any time before.  If the corporate gatekeepers decide to remove sources from us, we’ll go get it by some other means.

I won’t say much about the millions of dollars wasted on every show NBC makes that is of poor quality.  It’s their money to waste, not mine.

More from A Siegel.

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In The News 10/24/08

A campaign volunteer for John McCain in Pittsburgh, PA made up a story about being robbed at an ATM, then being assaulted by the robber once the 6’4″ black man figured out she was driving with a McCain sticker on her car.  The story was ludicrous when it first came out, but that certainly didn’t stop propaganda outlets like Fox from running with the story as hard as they could.  Ashley Todd made up this disgusting story.  She filed a false police report after inflicting the wounds on herself.  Seriously, what has happened to the Republican party?

Lots of economic news again today.  First up: OPEC’s supply decision.  OPEC will cut production by 1.5 million barrels per day.  They think there’s too much supply in the system.  What they’re really saying is that $140 oil makes them more money than $70 oil.  That might sound like a “Duh” type of statement, but it should serve as a lesson to the pro-drilling crowd.  Any additional supply the U.S. might bring to market in 10 years will simply be taken off the market by OPEC.  That means we’ll pay more for gas (not less!) because OPEC wants more for its oil.  The drilling fetish folks are looking to grab some of the profit along the way.  What do we get out of it?

“Too-big-to-fail” insurance giant AIG has not just already blown through the original $85 billion loaned by the government (corporate welfare with taxpayer money), it’s nearly blown the additional $37.5 billion extension loan too.  It doesn’t stop there: AIG may ask for even more money.  Remind me again why American taxpayer dollars are bailing out firms when we’re not allowed to know where the money is really going.

Foreclosures are up 71% over last year’s level.  Nationwide, nearly 766,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice in the last quarter, as reported by RealtyTrac.  Remember, RealtyTrac isn’t keeping track of foreclosures in 900 rural counties nationally.  The numbers could have been worse.  Many states have initiated foreclosure-delay programs.  Without additional work, I expect an artificial ‘explosion’ of foreclosures in this quarter.

Meanwhile, the number of new applications for unemployment insurance rose to 478,000.  People without jobs cannot pay their mortgages.  Corporations continue to announce massive numbers of layoffs.  The economy is going to continue to get worse before it gets better.

Cry me a freaking river.  The recession is beginning to hit rich folks’ golf communities.  People that live in the communities are not that upset about the decrease in their home values.  They’re upset because they can’t golf everyday.  They’re upset because they can’t hang out in the clubhouse all day.  These are some of the same people that are upset over inheritance taxes.  They don’t provide labor to the economy, and they think they’re so much better than the rest of us that they shouldn’t have to pay for their fair share of the nation’s infrastructure that they use.  Meanwhile, middle- and lower-class families are becoming homeless and jobless.  The fact that this article was even written is sad commentary on the state of our society.

Inside Colorado, a successful sale of bonds by the state will finance 12 construction projects on college campuses across Colorado:

1. University of Northern Colorado: Butler-Hancock Renovation

2. Colorado Northwestern Community College: Academic Building, Craig Campus

3. Colorado State University at Pueblo: Academic Resources Center Remodel

4. Colorado School of Mines: Brown Hall Addition

5. CSU Fort Collins: Clark Building Revitalization

6. Auraria Higher Education Campus: Science Building

7. Western State College: Taylor Hall Renovation and Addition

8. Mesa State College: Wubben Hall Expansion and Renovation

9. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs: Renovation of Science Building

10. Morgan Community College: Nursing, Technology & Science Building

11. Front Range Community College, Larimer Campus: Science Classroom Project

12. Fort Lewis College: Berndt Hall Reconstruction


3rd Presidential Debate – McCain Is Finished

I’ve watched all the debates this season.  Last night, John McCain supposedly needed a game changer.  Despite the fact that Barack Obama hadn’t slipped at one debate and got all his dirty laundry aired during the Democratic primaries earlier this year, McCain came out aggressively.  And it didn’t work.  McCain came off as whiny, and rude.  He certainly did not display any characteristic that comes close to Presidential.  A quick question: will the media talk non-stop about McCain’s constant heavy breathing?  The entire debate, he huffed and puffed so much that at times it was difficult to listen to Obama’s solutions.  Remember when Al Gore sighed a couple of times in the 2000 debate?  He was ridiculed for weeks about that so-called “gaffe”?  Let’s put it this way: I won’t hold my breath waiting for the corporate media to do the same to McCain.  They’re scared he’ll throw another temper tantrum at them.

Just what did McCain mean by saying his ads have turned 100% negative because Barack Obama wouldn’t meet him in a series of town-hall meetings?  Here is the obvious problem: McCain didn’t take responsibility for his own campaign.  If McCain were President, how many actions would his administration blame on everybody but themselves?  No, we already have a “President” that does that.  Americans want a President that accepts responsibility for their actions.  Telling America that his opponent is a traitor and is dangerous is not an appropriate response for rejecting a debate style.  It’s simply cowardice, a trait that McCain has shown us too often this election cycle.

Then, McCain had the nerve to demand an apology or a repudiation.  Despite running nothing but negative ads for the past three weeks, McCain tried to get Americans to believe he was somehow the victim.  The kind of self-victimization is typical for Republicans – that’s how they’ve stayed in power for the better part of 30 years now.  But let’s be honest: allowing supporters to call a sitting Senator a terrorist or allowing demands to kill him isn’t in the same ballpark as calling someone erratic.  It’s not even the same freaking sport.  If you think it is, you’re beyond rational discourse.  Am I saying Obama’s ads are excused from criticism?  No.  But equating the two is another act of cowardice.  Threats against Senators’ or Presidential candidates’ lives have no place in our society.  Letting those slide is purposefully stoking the flames of hate and racism.  So McCain wants an apology and a repudiation.  I’m waiting for McCain to apologize for his comments.  I’m waiting for McCain to repudiate the hate speech that is all too common from his base: the most extreme among us.  Has McCain ever called on Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter or the dozens of other hate-mongers of his party to repudiate their disgusting comments?  No.  No, Mr. McCain, do not waste America’s time with your one-man pity party.  Your party has a long history of inciting hatred and violence against fellow Americans.  You’ve long remained silent about that.  Trying to make the cast that being called erratic is somehow above the top is pathetic.

McCain made no sense when he was talking about teacher certification.  Does he really think American education will be better if teachers aren’t expected to become certified or pass examinations?  How about doctors?  Would our health system improve if they didn’t have to take tests?  McCain was at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy.  Maybe that’s where he developed his ‘no certification’ approach to education.  If only his professors weren’t required to know what they were teaching, he could have done better.

There is a parallel between his education policy and his buddy Joe “the plumber”.  Except Joe is no plumber: he isn’t registered to work as one anywhere in Ohio.  Joe lied.  He has worked for only 6 years, not 15.  Joe lied.  He isn’t about to buy the company, like he told Barack Obama.  Joe lied almost as much as McCain has during this campaign.  But put that aside.  If Joe’s imaginary company is making more than $250,000 per year, that company is in the top 5% of all companies in the U.S.  Only 1.4% of actual small businesses will be affected by Obama’s plan.  That plan is all about paying their fair share.  Under Republicans, the largest corporations and the wealthiest people have paid less and less.  Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans are making less and less and our towns and cities are crumbling around us.  Joe’s imaginary company can afford to move from paying 36% tax to 39% tax.  Millions of Americans are not achieving the American dream because of backward policies like Ronald Reagan’s, George Bush’s, John McCain’s and Joe’s.

[Update].  So Joe was all worried about his taxes, was he?  As I thought, it doesn’t look like that was the case.  It seems Joe Worzelbacher has had troubles in the past paying the taxes he owes.  But all of Obama’s policies are socialist!!  Joe, it’s time to get better talking points.  You’re part of the 23% of Bush-backers that has wrecked this country.  Your invocation of scary socialism isn’t going to work in this election.

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