A Republican, Scott Wagner. Running for governor of Pennsylvania. Has some novel explanations for climate change.

I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year–you know the rotation of the earth, Wagner said. We’re moving closer to the sun.

But…but…but the Earth is moving around the sun in an elliptical orbit — its distance from the sun varies over the course of a year (and seasons are a product not of that, but of the axial tilt). What does the rotation of the earth have to do with its orbit around the sun?

He hasn’t been in science class in a long time, and I suspect he didn’t understand it even when he was taking classes.

We have more people, he said. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can.

Yes, heat is coming off, but it’s not enough to affect global temperature.

If he really believes that, is he one of those rare conservative Republicans who is going to endorse birth control and family planning to prevent climate change? That would be nice, but for some reason I’d rather this klutzamaboob did not get elected.

I guess science is going to pay for that wall

When your president is an idiot on a quixotic mission to build a pointless, stupid wall between us and one of our allies, the money has got to come from somewhere. And when the Republicans in general are elected by the ignorant to go on a crusade to destroy the government and promote even more ignorance, there’s an easy target: take the money away from science.

Look at what Trump has announced that he’s going to do to science funding.

President Donald Trump, who had just proposed slashing the National Institutes of Health’s budget for next year by 20 percent, suggested an immediate $1.2 billion cut to the agency Tuesday.

It’s hard to get an NIH grant now, and it’s going to get worse. This is also the kind of cut that does long term damage, since established researchers tend to get supported first; I wouldn’t want to be a new investigator right now. There are also other deep cuts all over the place.

  • Take $350 million from the National Science Foundation’s $6.9 billion budget
  • Cut $37 million from the Department of Energy’s $5.3 billion worth of science programs
  • Excise $48 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s research and development budget of $483 million
  • Cut in half the $101 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention program
  • Reduce Food and Drug Administration staff spending by $40 million
  • Cut domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs by $100 million plus cut the Presidential Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) $4.3 billion budget by $242 million
  • Completely delete the $72 million Global Health Security fund at the State Department and cut other global health programs by $90 million and $62 million for global family planning

More evidence that this administration wants to outright kill American science: putting Lamar Smith as head of the science committee in congress, and — this is the most ridiculously petty thing — dictating what words bureaucrats are allowed to use.

A supervisor at the Energy Department’s international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources have told POLITICO.

One subdivision of the Energy Department is the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy. Boy are they gonna get a shock when they discover that even the name of their office has become anathema. It’s also going to be magical — the climate won’t change if you’re not allowed to say “climate change”!

A lovely futility

Ben Santer, Matthew England, Ed Hawkins, Michael Mann, Gerald Meehl, Yu Kosaka, and Shang-Ping Xie sent a polite and informative letter to Lamar Smith. Smith had misused a paper they had published to claim that there was a global warming “pause”, and to claim that their work had somehow invalidated the observations of another climate research group — it was a crude attempt to pit two groups with subtle differences in interpretation against one another to cast doubt where there is none.

What’s nice about the letter is that it carefully explains that scientists can disagree about some things without losing respect for one another, if the work is done well, and that they can agree completely on issues that Lamar Smith does not like.

Finally, we would like to emphasize that Karl et al. and Fyfe et al. agree on the most important scientific points. We agree that human influence on climate is real, is large, and is ongoing. We agree that this influence is primarily due to fossil fuel burning, and to the resulting human-caused changes in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. We agree that human-caused changes in greenhouse gases should lead – and do lead – to global-scale warming of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surface. We agree that we have identified large global warming signals in the observed surface temperature changes from the late 19th century to the present, in the satellite atmospheric temperature data that have featured prominently in recent Congressional hearings, and in ocean heat content measurements.

And we agree with Karl et al. that on top of the underlying global-scale warming trend over the past 150 years, we should see – and do see – natural, decade-to-decade ups and downs caused by internal variability, volcanic activity, and changes in the Sun’s energy output. These decade-to-decade fluctuations in warming are not a scientific surprise. They have been discussed at length in every national and international assessment of climate science. Sometimes the “ups” act in the same direction as human influences, leading to accelerated warming. Sometimes the “downs” lead to a short-term decrease in warming. Our disagreement with Karl et al. about the size of the most recent short-term fluctuation does not call into question the reality of long-term human-caused warming.

Unfortunately, this case is being made to Lamar Smith, darling of the Heartland Institute, a lawyer with zero training in science who wants to redefine the scientific method, who has demonstrated his impenetrability to science over and over again. It’s important to continue to try and educate our Republican dingleberries as well as possible, but I have no confidence at all that this approach will sink in.

Maybe the rest of us can learn from the letter, though.

You went ahead and did it, UK

Prime Minister Theresa May has signed the letter that officially begins the process of the UK leaving the European Union. It’s done. You’re going to blow the whole thing up.

What with the political chaos and growing fascism in the US, it feels like the English-speaking part of the world is doing its damnedest to flush itself down the tubes of history. I’m wondering if I’m going to have to learn Icelandic.

So…what stupidity on a par with Trump and Brexit has Australia committed lately? Ireland and Canada, are you staying sane, mostly?

“Fox and Friends”: Worst people in media

When an accomplished black woman congressperson gets up to speak seriously about patriotism, a topic Fox News pretends to care about very deeply, what do the awful Doocy and Kilmeade and their guest, O’Reilly, have to say? They mock her appearance, specifically her hair. Sneering at black people’s hair is often used as a line of attack by bigots; they might as well have declared that they couldn’t take her seriously because of the color of her skin.

BILL O’REILLY: I didn’t hear a word [Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)] said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it’s the same wig.

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): It’s the same one.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): And he’s not using it anymore. They just — they finally buried him.


AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): No. OK, I’ve got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that. She a — you can’t go after a woman’s looks. I think she’s very attractive.

O’REILLY: I didn’t say she wasn’t attractive.

EARHARDT: Her hair is pretty.

OREILLY: I love James Brown, but it’s the same hair, James Brown — alright, the godfather of soul — had.

EARHARDT: So he had girl hair.

O’REILLY: Whatever it is, I just couldn’t get by it.

Goddamnit, Maxine Waters’ job isn’t to stand up and look pretty for you goons!

Dumbass Douthat and the clueless conservative perspective

Good god, but the most appalling morons can find a comfortable sinecure on the opinion pages of that blithe harbor for the right-wing tropes of the bourgeois, the NY Times. The latest is some nonsense from the routinely nonsensical Ross Douthat, “Break up the liberal city”. You got the gist from the title — he’d like to somehow rip apart all those big cities, because they’re hotbeds of liberalism.

We should treat liberal cities the way liberals treat corporate monopolies — not as growth-enhancing assets, but as trusts that concentrate wealth and power and conspire against the public good. And instead of trying to make them a little more egalitarian with looser zoning rules and more affordable housing, we should make like Teddy Roosevelt and try to break them up.

Right. Because, like monopolies, big cities are artificial constructs built by violating rules of organic growth and evading regulation. Oh, wait: the opposite of that. He doesn’t seem to consider that maybe it’s not that liberals created cities, but that the diversity and richness of life within a city creates liberals. He also doesn’t have a proposal for how he’s going to disrupt this property of cities. Perhaps he’s going to model it after Mao’s down to the countryside movement? But you know how it goes: scratch a conservative, find an authoritarian.

But I have even greater contempt for his next proposal:

Which is why we’ll go further, starting with the deep-pocketed elite universities clustered around our bloated megalopolises. We’ll tax their endowments heavily, but offer exemptions for schools that expand their student bodies with satellite campuses in areas with well-below-the-median average incomes. M.I.T.-in-Flint has a certain ring to it. So does Stanford-Buffalo, or Harvard-on-the-Mississippi.

HAS THIS ASSHOLE NEVER HEARD OF LAND GRANT UNIVERSITIES? Every state has a network of them. I work in a satellite campus of the University of Minnesota; this branch is located in rural western Minnesota, 3 hours from Minneapolis. The University of Minnesota system has five branch campuses in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Crookston, Morris, and Rochester. We also have MNSCU, which grew from the old system of normal and agricultural colleges, and consists of a parallel network of 30 colleges, 7 universities, and 54 campuses (how can you have more campuses than colleges? Ridgewater College, for instance, has two campuses, one in Willmar and another in Hutchinson). There are 142 colleges in this state, counting all the private colleges, the community colleges, the tribal colleges, the vocational colleges, etc.

Where, exactly, does Harvard-on-the-Mississippi fit into this diverse ecosystem of educational institutions? What advantage would it have over, say, St Cloud State University or the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, which are all located on the banks of the Mississippi already?

I guess if you are a NY Times pundit, you never need to look at how the world actually works to criticize it. Or if you’re a Harvard graduate, like Douthat, you can’t imagine a university that isn’t Harvard.

We’re not done yet

The crappy Republican version of health care went down in flames (yay!), but don’t get cocky, kids. We’re not done. The Republicans still control everything, and they’ve got less flashy, less public, sneakier plans to destroy everything you hold dear.

Like science.

Lamar Smith is still chair of house science committee, which is a ridiculous state of affairs in itself, and he spoke openly about his plans at a Heartland Institute conference — that’s right, the Heartland Institute, that far right source of outrageous denialism and lies. If that’s the “heart” of our “land”, then this land is in the terminal stages of congestive heart failure.

Here’s what he had to say, though:

Next week we’re going to have a hearing on our favorite subject of climate change and also on the scientific method, which has been repeatedly ignored by the so-called self-professed climate scientists, Smith told the Heartland Institute’s 12th annual conference on climate change in Washington, D.C.

Wait, what? A Texas Republican politician is accusing scientists of not giving him the result he wants because they ignore the scientific method, and he’s going to have a hearing on the scientific method? Does he think he can pass a law to change how science works? Yes, he does. He’s also going to juggle the terminology to undermine meaning, shamelessly.

Emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, Smith appears increasingly comfortable dismissing those who disagree with his stance on any number of issues under the purview of his science committee, from climate research to the use of peer review in assessing research results and grant proposals. And one key element in his strategy appears to be relabeling common terms in hopes of shaping public dialogue.

He wants to somehow exert political influence on what research gets funded.

Smith also signaled that he plans to turn up the volume on his criticism of federally funded research that doesn’t fit his definition of “sound science.” In particular, he expressed support for writing legislation that would punish scientific journals that publish research that doesn’t fit standards of peer review crafted by Smith and the committee (although he didn’t say how that would be accomplished).

It is definitely the case that science has been and always will be influenced by politics and culture, but legislators, who clearly are not elected for their scientific acumen, are isolated from specific control — they own the purse-strings, but disbursement is handled by peer review, by the community of scientists themselves. When politicians meddle, they usually just end up exposing their own ignorance: see also Democrat William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award, which was usually a great embarrassment, or Republican Sarah Palin’s stupid remarks about fruit flies. Just on general principle, keep these yahoos away from stuff they don’t understand.

Oh, and look, he’s using the phrase sound science. I haven’t heard that one in a while. For a long time, it’s been an easily spotted tell that you’re dealing with a crank.

When used by scientists it means robustly supported science, confirmed by multiple peer-reviewed studies. When used in politics (generally by wingnuts) it means ideologically sound science, i.e. a euphemism for industry-funded pseudoscientific bullshit.

Smith is quite the happy vulture as he looks forward to feasting on the corpses of our natural resources and our scientific establishment.

In fact, as Smith told one audience member who worried that Trump might renege on some to his campaign promises, the sky’s the limit when it comes to dismantling the past 8 years of environmental regulations.

“I think the president has ushered in a permanent change in the political climate,” Smith asserted. “And by that I mean I think he’ll keep his promises and that he’ll do exactly what he said. You’re seeing that in his appointments, like Scott Pruitt at EPA, for example. So … I don’t think you’ll have any disappointment on any of those issues.”

The wreckers are still in charge, and we all have a long fight ahead of us.

They don’t even see a problem

Our vice president obliviously tweeted this out of his tweeter yesterday.

I truly wonder what he was thinking. Did he take a look at this photo and actually think “this is a proud moment for our administration, show it off to the world”? Did he notice, does he even care how this looks?

That’s not America in that room, but they’re deciding the fate of health care for all Americans.