Democrats & Liberals Archives

A Tale From Tomorrow.

The date is 2020. Republicans have succeeded in regaining the Senate and the House. The Public is behind their bid to reform Medicare and do tort reform. Unfortunately, a Democratic Minority, still stinging from the defeats of earlier in the last decade have decided, in a political strategy reminiscent of the Republican’s own, to use their filibuster power to effectively stall the bill in Congress. There is no end in sight, even as the credit markets reel from American debt overruns and the sky-high cost of healthcare…

Democrats plan to basically wait out the Republicans, demonstrating the weakness of their 55 seat caucus, even as they forced major concessions from the Republicans, who were hoping to end the filibuster...


Could this be the way things are, ten years from now? I should hope not. I should hope, even as the policies pain us, that we take the long view, and try to win people's trust back fairly. But you know politics. Idealists and pragmatists like me don't necessarily get listened to. Instead, people listen to the folks whose blood boils with them.

The Dynamics of this are simple, if you think about it: with no negotiation, the hardliners prosper. Making deals only makes sense when you can actually get a deal. If the Senate continues to operate like this, in what James Fallows rightly points out is a pathological fashion, then nobody truly wins. We will just see the politicians fight to see who can win the majority, and who can keep that majority from doing the job the people elected them to.

I was once a Republican and a conservative. In fact, in many ways, I still am rather conservative. If something works, I've never had an allergy to letting it sit there and work. That's what I believe is true conservatism. It's not a boneheaded resistance to any and all change, it's a rational carefulness about it.

There's nothing careful about what the Republicans are doing. Properly motivated, as the Republicans are right now, the Democrats could be just as much a pain in the ass to Republicans as Republicans have been to them. This means that whatever dreams the Republicans have of reforming things would be put into jeopardy, right then and there.

And what is rational about it? I know Republicans like to use the polls as evidence that somehow the public is behind this frustration of the Democrat's agenda. But can we really believe that Americans changed their minds that fast? That they were that fickle? I don't think the Republicans were that much of wallflowers about telling Americans what the Democrats would do. Yet Democrats were elected anyways.

The constitution puts no limits like this supermajority limit the Republicans keep on pushing, in order to get ordinary senate matters done. And as I communicated in a previous entry, there was good reason for this.

Additionally as the other articles I've cited point out, this is a rather recent, rather radical reinterpretation of the proper use of this power. Once upon a time, filibuster were very much rarer, and even in recent times, nobody attempted this kind of unrelenting approach. To call it conservative would be to betray the definition of that word. It is truly a radical way to run a Senate.

Of course, the issue here is the Republicans getting what they want. What's truly radical here is that the Republicans believe the answer is yes to them, no matter what American's answer to them on election day. Either way it proves that conservatism, their offered brand of it, at least, is always triumphant.

But is that the way a Democracy is supposed to work? Are the Republicans truly supposed to endlessly control matters, no matter how many folks vote against them?

I don't like the idea of the Republicans returning to power, if the people want that, but I at least admit that if they want that, then the Republicans should be able govern as they see fit. We Democrats, then, would be free to keep them accountable, to occasionally use parliamentary methods to moderate them (as I have advocated before), but mostly to compromise and make deals with them in exchange for support, if we want our agenda moved forward during that time. And if we want more? Well then, I feel we should, in the course of holding their people accountable, see what seats we can take over, and get back that majority not on the basis of some sampled survey done by a polling company, but on the basis of what the voters give to our party.

It might set back many of the policies, even the ones that I like, in the future, just as defending the filibuster has come to such grief now. But then as there, in moderate terms, I was thinking of my party's future, and the effective transfer of power according to the people's wishes. Americans should have their choices honored at the ballot box, even if the other party thinks the people acted like absolute morons. I can say the election of Scott Brown was an embarrassment and a setback for what many of those people wanted in that state, but I say that fully prepared to see the former nude Cosmo Model capable of exercising his job's powers.

Much as I might be annoyed with the fellow, Republicans have their share of people to be annoyed with, too, and I don't see how either side should be able to exercise power merely along the lines of such whims. The point of Democracy is to filter out special interests in favor of general interests. The majority vote itself is a way to make sure that most people agree with anything that is passed. A majority should be able to wield the power of a majority. In few places does the Constitution speak of anything more than a simple majority being necessary to pass laws. Republicans may absolutely hate everything we pass with that majority, but then, there will come a time when Democrats are in the minority, and they absolutely hate that.

If either side wants to be able to govern effectively, we must end this tyranny of the minority. Otherwise, we stand to endanger the future stability and legitimacy of our constitutional government in the name of partisan politics. The question is, will people rise above the partisan politics to honor the principles of democratic rule in this country, or will they yield to the panicked temptations of overheated politics?

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 7, 2010 2:31 PM
Comment #295261


The people elect their representatives to serve the country’s and their interests.

It doesn’t work the way you imply. We don’t decide on a set of promises and then just let the guy who wins 52% of the vote enact his programs w/o opposition. ALL the people’s representatives have the right and the duty to perform their tasks within the institutions we use to govern.

The Democrats now have predominant control over these institutions, but they don’t have complete control. That is how it should be and that is the way it is.

As I wrote before, I think the Democrats are happy that they have the Republicans to blame. I doubt that 51% of them will vote for health care. They are pleased that they may not be called to do so.

Most Americans do not want the health care that the Democratic leadership is selling. This includes a plurality of those who voted for Obama, as they are suffering some buyer remorse.

Posted by: Christine at February 7, 2010 6:49 PM
Comment #295265

Christine said: “The people elect their representatives to serve the country’s and their interests. “

That is certainly what the people expect from elections. That is not what they believe they are getting from them. Many Tea Party folks are adamant about the GOP and Democratic Party failing to represent the interests of the nation and the people’s, serving the interests of the politicians and their Parties power interests instead.

Christine said: “We don’t decide on a set of promises and then just let the guy who wins 52% of the vote enact his programs w/o opposition.”

True, but there is a difference between opposition and compromise which moves solutions forward, and opposition resulting in obstruction which fails to move ANYTHING forward. First and foremost, the people elect their representatives to move solutions to nation’s, the States, and the peoples needs, forward. If the opposition has to capitulate or compromise more than the majority, they would be well advised to do so, because the alternative is to obstruct government doing what people pay their taxes to get done.

To obstruct and stall the majority’s proposals to solve the nation’s and people’s challenges is to deny the majority of voters that elected the majority, their democratic choice in the ballot box.

That is a breach of contract in a democratically elected government, and the GOP is breaching that contract with voters. The GOP is acting as if the voters decision in Nov. 2008 is meaningless, insisting that policy reflect the Republican’s agenda or, that policy shall not pass.

That is as blatant an obstruction of the democratic process and principle of democracy as America has ever witnessed. Democracy by definition represents the consent of the majority, and Republicans are acting in direct opposition to the principle of democracy in their obstruction and blockading legislation that is not of their design.

In a Democratically elected government, the minority’s role is to bargain and compromise to get as much of their minority’s interests represented in the majority’s legislation as they can, WITHOUT bringing the government process of solving the people’s issues to a halt.

It would appear however, that Republicans have lost all memory of the meaning of democratically elected government, and their role in it as a minority Party. I can’t think of a better way for Republicans to insure their minority role in perpetuity. We have socialist, fascist, nazi, and white power parties in America, and there are definitive reasons why the public will not elect them to a dominant role in government.

Republican’s new position as anti-government, anti-democracy, and anti-American legitimacy in undermining the nation’s future by obstructing solutions to address the nation’s challenges and needs, promoting unconstitutional and illegal policy practices, puts the GOP right at home with those other third parties which the public will not elect to govern them in any significant number.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 7, 2010 7:47 PM
Comment #295266


The people elect their representatives to serve the country’s and their interests.

Did Americans elect those profound majorities in the House and Senate to watch seventy percent of the legislation they proposed die?

What about the interests that they responded to with Obama? What about the interests of those that wanted a Public Option? Who think some reform is necessary, maybe even more reform than what has already been proposed?

The Congress must be allowed to represent everybody, including the folks, who in their Senate and House election, elected Democrats the majority, likely knowing full well they’d get much more liberal policy out of it.

It doesn’t work the way you imply. We don’t decide on a set of promises and then just let the guy who wins 52% of the vote enact his programs w/o opposition. ALL the people’s representatives have the right and the duty to perform their tasks within the institutions we use to govern.

You misread what I said if you assumed that I was saying you could not oppose anything. But this isn’t simple opposition. This is defeating the purpose of majority rules in the Senate, using your party’s margins in order to utterly sabotage a legislative agenda of a party elected to the majority.

I mean, damn, look at what happened over the last year. Many of those Democrats would have been overjoyed to be the ones to help make the deals and break the filibusters with Republicans crossing the aisle. It would have done wonders for the Centrists and the Conservative Democrats who built their reputations by reaching across the aisle. But if all else failed, the Republicans could always do what Democrats did with a lot of their proposals when they didn’t like them: vote NAY.

And you know what? If they had their wits about them, they could convince their brothers in arms among the Democrats to cross over and vote against whatever it was. Then you could say that these proposals were truly defeated.

All you can say now, is that many bills and many appointments are never being allowed to come up for a vote. That’s not defeat, that’s prior restraint. That’s censorship.

Effectively, you’re saying that if you don’t have sixty sure votes on every issue, then the minority has the right to simply censor your agenda before a full senate up-or-down vote can ever be had.

So tell me, and be honest with me: what would your gut reaction be to a whole four years worth of this bull**** from the Democrats, if you had the Senate majority, and you were trying to pass your agenda?

Most Americans do not want the health care that the Democratic leadership is selling. This includes a plurality of those who voted for Obama, as they are suffering some buyer remorse.

Break down the proposals: the insurance reforms are universally popular. The Public Option and Medicare Buy-In, which your party and Joe Lieberman shot down was also popular. As for buyer’s remorse, even the polls that have Obama below 50 (not all, in fact) have him close to it, and 56% have a favorable opinion of him. Give that he was elected by 52%, that doesn’t seem like Buyer’s remorse. That seems like Republican’s succeeding with a year’s worth of obstruction in bringing down his numbers.

Here’s the operative question: if Obama begins having legislative successes, where do you think his numbers go? If the economy recovers over the next year, where do you think his numbers go? The Republicans are having to do everything they’re doing, including blocking the vast majority of this guy’s legislation, and you’ve only just recently gotten his numbers under fifty percent.

The Republicans don’t have the advantage here of being able to claim their policies are the next big thing. Everytime they try to scare people into accepting the status quo, they have to face the fact that:

A) They’re responsible for the way things are, for the most part.

B) The Status quo right now is crap.

People’s fear of the unknown is competing with their fear of what’s right in front of them, and your party has already lost twice on that bet. I think Democrats, and by that, I mean Democrats like myself from all over teh country, can make your party regret that wager once again.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 7, 2010 8:03 PM
Comment #295267

Christine said: “Most Americans do not want the health care that the Democratic leadership is selling.”

Most Americans do not know or understand the health care Democrats are proposing. I do, and I don’t accept it. But, the reason most Americans don’t accept the Democratic proposals is because Republicans have created a public climate of distrust in government and of politicians with their myriad scandals and engagement in a war that was never necessary or objectively justified as in the nation’s interest, and by their horrible response to Katrina, and by Republicans doubling of the national debt all the while singing the praises of fiscal responsibility and discipline.

And now, the GOP is acting adamantly to insure that loss of faith in government and elected leaders is perpetuated, falsely believing that this will somehow benefit Republicans and the GOP. I assure you, it won’t. Having poisoned the well of public trust, is hard to imagine that Republicans have any plan for how to govern such distrust if they were to achieve majority power in government again, except to use it to transfer public treasure to themselves and their supporters as happened during from 2001 through 2008.

I certainly hope the American public is now aware enough of the damage caused our nation and political process by Republicans, that it will be at least 2 generations before the majority of voters will elect Republicans to control the levers of power again.

The Democratic Party is the lesser of the two party evils at this time. They are addressing the needs of the nation, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the economic meltdown, the nose diving jobs situation which has vastly improved but not near far enough, the rising costs of health care and the unfunded entitlement deficits underwritten by the health care inflation, educational quality, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, energy self-sufficiency, and restoring respect amongst the people’s of other nations. All these and more Democrats are addressing, and Republicans are obstructing, and that obstruction is drawing the curtains on our nation’s future potential for peace, prosperity, and opportunity.

Defend your Party as you might, your defenses do not alter the reality of the actions of your Party’s members in the Congress today, or their hypocritical past under the Bush administration.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 7, 2010 8:03 PM
Comment #295284

David & Stephen

Do you really think that the American people are so stupid that a few Republicans, overwhelming rejected by the electorate (as you say) can fool them into opposing the Democratic health care reform by an almost 2 to 1 ratio? And you guys also think that these same people sent all those Democrats to Washington a year ago to enact that legislation. Does that really make sense?

There is a good article in the Washington Post about how liberals are condescending toward both conservatives and the American people. According to the article, the liberal orthodoxy simply cannot understand why anybody can disagree with their policies, so they assume anybody who does is stupid or evil. When the people don’t support liberal policies, they assume that the people are dumb and manipulated.

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 12:01 AM
Comment #295286

That the HC bill is not that popular with BHO supporters is a bit mis -leading. We want HC reform ,but would have preferred a much more radical approach. The constant compromise,getting rid of the public option for example was quite disheartenning. One of the promises BHO made was to try and work with conservatives and moderates. We should not be surprised and you should be pleased.

The rules of the Senate must change or we will turn into another bananna republic. It is constitutionally possible for the new congress to change the rules and change them with a simple majority.

Posted by: bills at February 8, 2010 12:17 AM
Comment #295288

“Condecending? A superb bit of Rovian bs from the newest Rep playbook. I first noticed it after the State of the Union address where BHO with all humility admitted that he should have explainned the HC proposal better. The Rep spokesmodels immediatly started spewing that particular adjective like they had just learned. Great tactic. Its an innoculation.Now when anybody tries to explain a complicated policy decision to a good many Rep supporters they can just say,”No way. Your just condecending.” “my mind is made up,don’t confuse me with facts.”

The irony here is that it is the Rep leadership and their spin doctors that routinely mis-lead,confuse and outright lie to their own supporters. Want examples?

Posted by: bills at February 8, 2010 3:58 AM
Comment #295291


(Unusually) I agree with Bills. Change the rules in the senate to pass legislation with a simple majority. Think back a few years. It would have benefitted the R’s at the time, as it will benefit the D’s now. This would be better than expecting people that don’t agree with legislation to agree with it.

If obstructionism is the problem, then get rid of the problem. Accept responsibility for the proposed program rather than looking for political cover.

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at February 8, 2010 8:15 AM
Comment #295294


I have been facing liberal condescension my whole life. Many times they feel they have to talk slowly and explain to me why I just don’t understand because if I did I would certainly want to be a liberal.

The MO is that conservatives attack liberal for being out-of-touch and elitists. Liberals attack conservatives for being uneducated and uncouth. Neither of these stereotypes is always right, but there is a little truth in them.

Demographically, the very well educated and the very poorly educated tend to vote Democratic. Republicans appeal more to the middle. Now let me take my partisan analysis (but I think fair).

Liberalism’s paradigm is that of the disinterested, educated “good” people leading “the poor” in their fight against oppression by those that own and run businesses. So you get people like the rich and Ivy educated Kennedys speaking for “the poor”. It is an interesting paradigm. And it leads to the condescension accusation.

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 9:11 AM
Comment #295295

Any factual basis for your conclusions regarding demographics?Links? Please spare us the Heritage Foundation.
According to your view ,then the majority of Americans are either very well educated and rich like the Kennedys or very poor.You know there are quite a few people in the middle that think we can solve problems and that government can help.

Mike in Tampa
I live overseas and much of the news I get is from BBC etc. The view of the administration is that they started out solidly in global relations but have faltered due to the US being gridlocked at a time when the world needs our leadership.

Posted by: bills at February 8, 2010 9:49 AM
Comment #295296


Of course the groupings are not complete or comprehensive but if you look at the returns over a decade or so, you see the pattern. Over the course of the last twenty years, about the same number of people have voted Republican as Democrat, so that squeezes out the distortions from any particular candidate or issue.

You can look at this link or find others.

Think of it from your own experience. How many college professors do you know who are Republicans? Now go the poorest parts of town where you find lots of HS dropouts. Among those who vote, who do they vote for?

If you want to see this graphically, look at voting maps. The inner city of Boston voted for Democrats and so did Cambridge. Brown got elected by the people in the middle.

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 10:19 AM
Comment #295298


From Author Chris Mooney, writing in Discover Magazine’s Intersection Blog:

Let me go on the record as saying that I am no fan whatsoever of intellectual condescension. I think there is way too much of it on my side of the aisle. So I should be at least somewhat sympathetic with this author, one Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia.

But here’s the problem. He gets my book’s arguments almost entirely wrong. First, I don’t argue that conservatives “disregard evidence.” The problem is that they make up their own evidence, using their own “scientists” to do so. They then use this psuedo-expertise to disregard expertise and consensus–a very different thing.

Second, I never argued conservatives were arguing “cynically.” It was obvious they believed what they said on matters of science. After all, they had their psuedoexperts to bank on.

If Democrats are condescending sometimes, I would say it’s the wear and tear of having to deal with decades worth of pseudo-science, and religious impositions on science. One gets to a point where you’re saying “Damn it, I’ve provided all this evidence to you, shouldn’t it be bloody obvious to you by now?”

As for condescension, I think it’s condescending to claim that many scientists are simply in the grips of a political system, instead of supporting the theories on their merits. I think it’s condescending to repeatedly ask them to disprove bad science they’ve disproved a hundred times. Republicans show such contempt for the science that doesn’t agree with their politics, even as consequences from what the scientists are warning about come faster than expected.

Moreover, as the writer says:

If there is ever a case for being intellectually condescending–and I’m not sure that there is–perhaps it’s to someone who critiques you while getting your arguments wrong.

I keep on telling you that my opposition is not to Republicans serving their interests by opposing what they see as bad policy. Yet you keep on patiently explaining to me that they are simply doing what’s right for their people.

Well how about the Democrats? What gives Republicans the right to tell the folks who voted for them that they aren’t going to get any use out of their politicians?

The problem is, this filibustering is hardening and freezing the party lines, preventing Democrats from forming temporary majorities with Republicans when enough agreee, or Republicans from serving the interests of their communities, when they’re not perfectly aligned with the party at large.

The Republicans are imposing a sort of absolute top-down discipline on their people that is helpful in maintaining the filibuster, but unhelpful in virtually every other way.

The Congress is supposed to be more flexible than this, the Congressmen and women voting their districts, the Senators voting for their States. The party should come second.

I mean, tell me, how happy do you think Massachussetts voters, deep blue as they are, are going to be with a Senator who votes a straight Republican line, the way things are going?

Understand this: Scott Brown, to the extent he does so, will be in tension with his constituents. Force it too hard, and their bond with him will break, and he will be out of luck.

The Republicans did not understand this. That is why they now find themselves a minority party. They put too much tension between themselves and what their constituents wanted, serving the GOP agenda and the Bush Administration at their expense. They will pay the price for this kind of tension over and over again if they choose to remain contemptuous towards reform and resistant to change.

And a good many Democrats stand to pay the price for it, because they did not square with their base. Harry Reid’s problem is not that he got too liberal, it’s that he proved to be a lousy, milquetoasty leader. He lost people’s confidence. Not the Connecticut race. When Dodd dropped out, the Democrats immediately shoved it out of the toss-up category.

People are not necessarily mad at just the Republicans. But here’s what I would say: the incumbents among the Democrats are more responsive to the calls for change, and long term, the Republicans are not, so Republicans will try people’s patience more in the long run.

That is, until the Republican party gives their party members the freedom to act as a deliberative body with the Democrats.

The Republicans cannot stall change forever without coming to bear the stain of their resistance to needed reform.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2010 11:30 AM
Comment #295300

Christine said: “Do you really think that the American people are so stupid that a few Republicans, overwhelming rejected by the electorate (as you say) can fool them into opposing the Democratic health care reform by an almost 2 to 1 ratio?”

Wow! What sophistry.

First, the American people are not stupid. They are however, ignorant of the complexities of our health care system and the details regarding how it will affect our economy and personal financial conditions going forward.

The Republicans you speak of either were not up for reelection in 2008 or succeeded in being reelected, ergo, they were not rejected by the public, and continue to hold positions in the Congress. Therefore you comment about their rejection is pure sohpistry a priori.

As to the public being fooled, again your choice of words is sophistry. They were, as I said previously, confused. And yes, in combination with the insurance industry’s adds designed to inundate the public with false claims and fears, the Republicans reinforced that confusion by reiterating the false claims of the industry, no doubt so that folks like Boehner could go to the industry to petition they stop giving money to the Democrats and give it to the GOP instead as reported in the news last week.

Those ads were designed to hit the public viscerally with falsehoods like death panels and government bureaucrats telling doctors and nurses to give you less care than required and even to allow you to die instead of treating you based on that bureaucrats determination of whether the government has spent its quota limit on health care for the elderly that year.

That inundation of the media with such falsehoods in conjunction with Democrats extolling the details of their plan, did, in fact, create confusion and opposition to the reform bill, as well as to widen the gulf of mistrust between the people and their government, making Republicans anti-American government, and opposing any solution for our economic train wreck coming as a result of health care inflation.

Your sophistry and that of the GOP will not achieve the ends sought in the end. It is precisely because the American people are NOT stupid, that this GOP sophistry will fail and result in even further backlash against Republicans. Their is no shame in being ignorant of complex legislative and policy issues, provided it is not willfully maintained. The American people will eventually acknowledge the absolute necessity for heath care reform which both preserves health care as a right for all Amercians and driving down its future costs to government and individuals going forward.

I believe what is going to happen is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Republicans stopped this reform measure which did not contain a single payer system capable of driving down costs, and the increasing necessity for a plan that will, is going to result in a single payer plan becoming reality in the wake of the defeat of this reform bill which contained things Republicans wanted and put into it.

I may well be proved wrong on this belief, but, I have seen the American people become educated to this kind of sophistry and install in the future the very policies the sophistry of the past sought to prevent. The original Medicare bill, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting discrimination legislation are all excellent examples of how sophistry in America gets punished by the learning American public, eventually.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2010 12:13 PM
Comment #295302


That response you quote just drips with vitriol and certainly proves the point about condescension.

Liberals treat their fundamental goodness as an article of faith. I am just more skeptical and like to judge by what I see and not what I am told that I see.

I notice that my liberal friends talk a lot about generosity. But my conservative friends tend to give more time and money to good causes.

I hear my liberal friends talk about science, and then see them fall in lockstep line behind a huckster like Al Gore, almost all whose “inconvenient” predictions are clearly exaggerations and sometimes outright lies that don’t pass scientific muster.

As I have told you many times, the test for fairness is turn around. Imagine what you wrote above and just change the places.

I never argued liberals were arguing “cynically.” It was obvious they believed what they said on matters of science. After all, they had their psuedoexperts (like Al Gore) to bank on.

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 12:22 PM
Comment #295306


I was countering sophistry. You guys keep on telling me that Republicans were overwhelmingly rejected and that those remaining should just jump on the Democratic wagon.

I have faith in the good sense of the American people over time. I don’t think that they are fooled in the long run. If you agree, maybe we should stop implying that they are being misled when they don’t agree with us or when they don’t quickly jump on the reforms we support.

Sometimes I understand that I disagree with the majority. I still have the duty to contribute my thoughts and views. Sometimes I agree with the majority, as I do on the health care issue. Like most Americans, I think we should do something very different and maybe start again, since the current proposals are worse than nothing.

Were the people misled when I disagreed with the majority or are they misled I agree with them? Ask yourself the same question.

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 12:36 PM
Comment #295310

First, the blockquote misquoted, so let me format it properly so you know whose words are whose:

Let me go on the record as saying that I am no fan whatsoever of intellectual condescension. I think there is way too much of it on my side of the aisle. So I should be at least somewhat sympathetic with this author, one Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia.
But here’s the problem. He gets my book’s arguments almost entirely wrong. First, I don’t argue that conservatives “disregard evidence.” The problem is that they make up their own evidence, using their own “scientists” to do so. They then use this psuedo-expertise to disregard expertise and consensus–a very different thing.
Second, I never argued conservatives were arguing “cynically.” It was obvious they believed what they said on matters of science. After all, they had their psuedoexperts to bank on.

That’s what he said.

As to what I said? Look, let’s get one thing straight: most people don’t have enough of their own familiarity with the subject to do anything but line up behind a certain source. Thus Al Gore, thus the Right’s virulent and constant attacks on Al Gore. Thus the Climate Deniers.

But that’s not where I and a lot of others come from. In the end, I think we’re arguing whether the titanic sinks in two hours or three hours if it hits the iceberg. I say correct the course now, because the closer you get, the stronger the actions you have to take.

I mean, I know you are concerned about jobs and everything, but let’s be blunt here: if we wait, more radical action will be required to either mitigate the problems successfully, or deal with our failure to do so. That means, of course, it will be more costly and disruptive.

So, I’m saying, let’s start making changes now, while we still have the leeway to make less radical changes and get the same results or better. Let’s avoid the consequences of radical climate change, which are most definitely going to be more expensive.

But Republicans aren’t even on the same page, often enough, and it tests my patience. They buy into propaganda that is built on what I can tell through my studies to be a very poor scientific foundation.

Remember what I said earlier about non-linearity? What I’ve learned from my sources is that the notion that long graceful cycles are responsible for climate change is pretty much bunk.

Scientists looking at the evidence see very abrupt, very violent climate changes, The Sahara dessicates from a lush grassland to the world’s largest desert in the space of a time not much longer than the history of our nation. An Ice Age may have taken over from an interglacial period in around a decade.

So what we stand the risk of happening is people standing around complacent, wondering what the deal is, and then suddenly getting hit by catastrophic change, and at that point being utterly helpless to change their situation.

I don’t think Republicans have proper respect for non-linearity. They let too many problems in complex environments get worse, allowing them to fester. Whether it’s a war, climate change, or the economic situation, they fail to react in time, and so their leadership is marked by terrible disasters.

As for being misled on policies, the Democrats can look at the polls, and see inaccurate description of their policy, like “government takeover” score high. We know we don’t advocate that, that it’s not in the bill. But people are acting like they’re unaware of the basic facts.

Should we be politically correct and sweep this discrepancy under the rug? It’s not condescending to point out that people are wrong about our legislation, though it can be done in a condescending way.

But you know what I find ultimately condescending? People who knowingly, willingly lie, or speak in reckless disregard for the truth, in order to get what they want. That person has decided that they are not going to bother with getting your informed consent in good faith. Given the Republican’s campaign of vitriol on healthcare, I don’t believe their degradation of the poll numbers is based on good faith informing of the public. I think they lied outrageously to get those numbers.

The Republicans have not won an honest debate, they’ve done their best to avoid it, and so I don’t think they’re worthy to claim entitlement to majority support.

Meanwhile, our proposals contain many popular provisions, including the Senate Bill. That bill, along with the house bill contain hundreds of Republican sponsored measures. Measures we included in the hopes of smoothing passage.

Yet your people vote even against your own ideas, even against compromises of compromises. The operative question becomes whether Republicans are currently capable of compromising in Good faith.

With the filibuster efforts intact, the answer is no. Nothing the Republicans ask to be included will ensure smooth passage, so Democrats might as well stick with what ensures smooth passage among our own party. We really have no choice. You can gloat about our not being able to get 51 votes, but the truth is, we did our best to get more than 51, and your people simply dismissed any and all proposals, including the ones that were compromised with their own amendments.

Only one third of the country actually realizes that the Republicans haver rejected everything we’ve offered, even the compromises. I’d say Democrats have fertile ground to exploit there. If people actually realized how far backwards Democrats have bent these past years to get anything passed, and how little Republicans have reciprocated, I trust people would make the common sense judgment that Republicans are not negotiating in good faith.

You’re wanting to claim yourself bipartisan no matter how much you reject compromise with the other side on your part. You’re wanting to claim the center, regardless of how much you reject centrist policies. You’re wanting to claim majorities on the basis of polls whose questions have been affected by a flood of erroneous information pushed by your own party.

You wish to claim the power of the majority, and the right to set the agenda that goes with it for a party that has been sent by the electorate to the minority.

I don’t mean to be condescending, but perhaps it’s difficult not to sound like it when you ask somebody whether they got any legs to stand on in these matters. How do you talk down somebody whose party insists on consuming only it’s own propaganda to keep itself informed, which makes itself pathologically allergic to other news sources, who let political questions color the credibility of discussions of practical nature.

How do you discuss things without seeming to appeal to forces above their heads.

Please consider these question. Then please do not insult my intelligence by trying to turn my arguments around in a mirror image. I want you to honestly consider the distance between your party and much of mainstream opinion in this country.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2010 2:30 PM
Comment #295312


I didn’t think you said it. I didn’t think you would make up such a fascist-style statement. My point is that this kind of thing is sometimes thought to be okay and even desirable.

Re Gore - he is wrong on almost all the details. I am not a climate change “denier”, although a term like that has no place in any kind of scientific debate. But what Gore says about climate change is just BS.

Re changes - yes I think we should indeed start now. I wrote about the natural gas on the other side. I am also in favor of more nuclear power and high prices for carbon based energy.

I don’t think that what the Democrats are proposing will do that and I think Kyoto is downright destructive to these goals.

So we identify the same problem (although I think Al Gore has misdiagnosed it) but we believe in different solutions.

My fear is that the “development community” that wasted so much energy and foreign aid “helping” places like Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Haiti will turn their skills onto climate change with similar results - i.e. a lot of talk and expensive conferences and steady decline of the actual physical conditions.

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 3:22 PM
Comment #295314

Christine said: “I was countering sophistry. You guys keep on telling me that Republicans were overwhelmingly rejected and that those remaining should just jump on the Democratic wagon.”

Just more sophistry, Christine.

I never said Republicans should just jump on the Democratic wagon. Those are your words. Do NOT ascribe them to me or others. That is sophistry.

And yes, Republicans were the majority in Congress and held the White House, now Democrats do. Ergo, it is factually and historically TRUE that voters through the Republicans out of the majority control of government.

To allude differently is sophistry.

When you want to debate facts and reality, let me know. When you want a reply to critiques of what I “actually” said, then quote what I said and respond to it. Sophistry will just get labeled for what it is.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2010 3:37 PM
Comment #295316


I didn’t think you said it. I didn’t think you would make up such a fascist-style statement.

What in particular is fascist about it? There’s nothing fascist about calling out the Republicans and industry groups on their use of think-tank scientists. If you look at where many of the think-tanks got their money and their start, you’ll find many were pushing the bogus science on cigarettes.

But what we learned instead was that the Cigarette companies knew full well what their product was doing, and even took steps to make their products more addictive.

So, these organizations, being funded by the industries they were supposed to provide objective studies on, are now the thinktanks your party cites. On global warming.

For my money, people are being fascist when they insist on lies convenient to business interests.

The truth of the matter is, I hear your arguments on Al Gore from the very people who are unapologetically climate deniers. And most of those arguments are not scientifically merited.

So, long story short, you’re taking a position that doesn’t do wonders for you.

Al Gore is not a scientist, but he is not abjectly wrong as his critics charge. If you don’t trust him, read up on the real science, and you’ll find that my position is not at all alarmist.

As for change? Here’s the thing. Even if we go with nuclear, those things are slow as Christmas to build, because of understandable lengths we go to make these safe. You only have to screw up once with these things to cause trouble, and no human system is perfect. So they engineer the life out of these things.

As for sophistry?

Here’s what I’d tell you. First, let anything that failed go. There’s nothing conservative about embracing and continuing a mistake. Second, consider things anew. Third, don’t go rushing to get back to the majority. I know I’m a little self-interested in that outcome, but let me be blunt: the Republicans have not allowed their bad reputation frome the Bush era enough time to fade.

If they don’t like something, they should oppose it. But they should have an alternative, a reasonable alternative that they can get a majority or close on. This continued expectation that the Democrats should just pass their agenda is unrealistic and unsustainable.

In the end, the Republicans will have to be patient, if they want a real future. Otherwise they’re going to burn themselves out.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2010 6:19 PM
Comment #295318


If you cannot hear that hatred in that statement, I cannot help you.

And what about that term - climate denier. Of course it is a rip off of holocaust denier, which places it in moral jeopardy to begin with. But then it is used as an offensive weapon.

Gore’s famous film was trashed - by scientists. Those who like him cut him some slack, but even they had to explain that he went way too far in always taking the worst case scenarios.

I have been an environmentalist since before most environmentalists were born. I understand the climate debate and have been aware of it since at least 1983, when I gave a presentation on the subject. I don’t deny it. I do deny Gore as its prophet.

Re nukes - they are slow to build. Alternatives are slower, especially since we don’t really have them yet. I have been watching solar for years. It is becoming cheaper but is not yet cheap.

But even if we had a 100% great alternative, it takes years - decades - to replace an existing system. And going too fast is just stupid, as technology will improve. It would be like locking yourself into a 486 computer system all over the country if you pushed too fast. We would end up with outdated tech before we got started.

In the short run, only conservation works and the thing that drives conservation is fuel price. We emitted LESS CO2 the day Bush LEFT office than the day he took office and our CO2 emissions dropped in 2001-2, 2006 & 2008. This is the clear evidence.

I don’t argue that liberals “disregard evidence.” The problem is that they make up their own evidence, using their own “scientists” to do so. They then use this psuedo-expertise to disregard expertise and consensus–a very different thing.

I never argued liberals were arguing “cynically” about this historical evidence. It was obvious they believed what they said on matters of science. After all, they had their psuedoexperts to bank on.

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 7:23 PM
Comment #295323

You use the word scientists. But a scientist, loosely defined, can be anything from a mathematician to an engineer. You can include doctors and vets, if the definition is broad enough.

And the folks accusing Al Gore of fraud define it pretty broadly.

Climate Science, like most scholarly specialties is a full developed science all its own with its own subordinate fields. In a debate where knowing what you’re talking about is key, many of the people that folks push as critics aren’t even qualified to properly judge the science itself.

They tout the number, say that magic word “scientist”, and use that to give people second thoughts about Global Warming, or at least the Liberal’s more problematic version of it.

This is just one example of the deceptive measures these people use. They publish their papers in scholarly journals that aren’t peer reviewed, or are not that relevant to the subject at hand. They avoid the systems in place to hold Scientists accountable. They put forward untested conjecture as rival to heavily vetted theory, and expect people to give them equal crediblity.

Inevitably, it’s going to seem like folks are getting a little condescending, because these people are tired of those kinds of tactics. I mean, how would you feel if people were questioning your scientific expertise based on questions your field ruled out more than a decade before?

I mean, would you go and try and tell your doctor how to read a CAT scan? Would you try and advise your lawyer on what case law to use? It may seem a bit elitist, but the fact of the matter is, there are people who are trained better in how to understand things than the average person, and folks should at least approach them with some respect for that. The message many Republicans send is that they know better, a message they send even as their “facts” convince many people that they’re clueless.

I’m sorry, it’s political incorrect to say this, but there is a such thing as being wrong, as being ignorant, and as being out of your depth. It takes hard work and training to understand many scientific fields, and just questioning the consensus as if it was just another political matter where one is entitled to one’s opinion is dumb. The fact is, there is a right and a wrong way to look at climate change.

Now what I would add is that the scientists themselves have to work very hard to find that best right way to look at it, to figure out what theories are valid, and what hypotheses lack credibility. So when somebody comes along, and circumvents all the safeguards meant to filter out the BS, they are going to be rather displeased to say the least, and not all of them will have the social skills to be patient with their critics.

This is not a free for all here.

As for alternative technologies? We can push faster and harder, or drag this out. The longer we drag it out, the more the price dictates the pace, and that means that we’ll be trying to replace things just as gas and other fossil fuels get more expensive and start running out.

A stitch in time saves nine, and science is telling us time is running out.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2010 9:19 PM
Comment #295327

Stephen D.

I would add that science is performed by human beings, and as such, science is prone to human fallibility. That is the reason for peer review and challenge of scientific research by other scientists. What the public needs to be educated about is the general safety in reliance upon scientific community consensus. Lacking that education, special interests can challenge scientific results in the public media and get away with persuading under educated citizens as to the veracity of their claims despite their research or data or conclusions being entirely false or manipulated to produce results hard empirical science does not support.

Consensus amongst scientific communities will not always be right, and will at times be proven wrong. That is how human knowledge expands across the generations. There is however, no blame to attend those who attempt to make honest use of the best available knowledge of their time, even if in the future, some of that knowledge may be proven wrong. The vast majority of consensus research is proven right in part or whole, and in this world, being right most of the time is about as good as the human record ever gets.

One of the things I like about sound science, is the obligation to limit results to what is proven, and to defining the methodology in ascertaining the proof. It is often easy to spot faulty scientific results by observing the writers overreach as to the meaning of their results and data. Those doing sound science don’t overreach knowing full well their methodology will be replicated and their results tested.

The charlatans however, or shall we just call them hired scientists by special interests to produce foregone results before the research is even begun, will of necessity of the motive, overreach their summary results in order to couch their persuasion in terms that provide wiggle room once their research is invalidated.

To note that the researcher failed to control for a variable which common sense indicates should have been controlled for, is an example of the wiggle room and overreach I speak of, providing that scientist the opportunity to blame their faulty results on their ‘honest’ admission to not controlling for this or that variable, and in turn maintain a defense of innocence and good intentions in conducting their paid for research.

This is, of course, not for the general public to spot and expose, but fortunately, there are enough scientists committed to empirical rigor to relatively quickly expose the charlatans in due course.

Where it gets tricky however, is when the cost of replicating the deep pocketed false research is prohibitive. Beware the results of science hired by deep corporate pockets. They can count on their results standing as reported without replication and testing for some time due to the expense involved in replicating that research.

Pharmaceutical companies are an excellent example, and that example justifies the government cost in maintaining the Food and Drug Administration’s testing of corporate claims, and the National Institute of Health backing them up.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2010 11:10 PM
Comment #295329

David & Stephen

We agree that science is constantly evolving. The consensus of climate science of 2005 has changed as our understanding has improved.

Some of the things, such as the melting of Himalayas by 2035 were just absurd and have been revealed as such. All those people who implied that Katrina was related to global warming were also shown to be wrong or liars.

It is important to calibrate how climate change will work and what we can do about it. The best science tells us that the globe WILL warm and NOTHING we can do now will stop that. So what do we do? We don’t rebuilt New Orleans. We estimate how the fisheries will be over the underwater reef that is now the Maldives or the shallow estuary that is now coastal Bangladesh and we figure out where the people currently living there will go.

We also recognize that by 2025 China alone will emit more CO2 than the all the world does today and that in those next fifteen years China will emit more CO2 than the U.S. did since the beginning of the industrial revolution. That means the solution to the problem is there more than here.

These are things science predicts. And the die is already cast. The systems are in place. The CO2 is already sufficient. We have to decide what we do about them. But too many people just want to harp on the “sins”. We need to look to the future.

The world will be different. I don’t deny that. I embrace it. I wish it could be different, but I know it cannot. Let’s be realistic and stop the foolishness about pretending that we aren’t acting because of a few “deniers”

If we all agree that the problem exists, what do we do. (hint Kyoto wouldn’t do it and thankfully President Obama didn’t cave in Copenhagen.)

Posted by: Christine at February 8, 2010 11:28 PM
Comment #295332

Christine said: “China will emit more CO2 than the U.S. did since the beginning of the industrial revolution. That means the solution to the problem is there more than here.”

That is akin to reasoning that murder in the streets of Chicago by Al Capone is an underworld problem, so let the underworld deal with it.

Besides, your comment’s focus is vastly too narrow. Methane is the far greater threat, and it will be released faster and in greater volumes by the CO2 triggers of human output. Yes, there are natural cycles and variables involved, but, now that the proof is in, that our own emissions are contributory and hastening, we have an obligation to address the problem if humanity means anything to us at all.

Waiting for China to take the lead in yet another area of global life, is just plain dunderheaded IMO. Aren’t we ceding enough leadership in the world to China already? We have the universities and research capacity to become the leaders in this area of combating global climate change. Let’s lead with that with the confidence of our history which demonstrates that every significant American invention has benefited our own people as well as setting desired objectives of most other nations in the world.

Leadership is not waiting for others to lead, Christine. We led the world into the industrial and technological age very profitably. Let’s lead the world out of the environmentally damaging consequences of that era as well. I have no doubt whatsoever, such leadership will also be very profitable for America and Americans while benefiting humanity the world round.

Of course, doing nothing will be the most expedient measure to take toward the globe’s overpopulation. Another area in which the Chinese are leading the way to addressing the issue. We are in debt to the Chinese. It doesn’t mean we have to cede leadership of the future of the world to them, as well, does it?

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 9, 2010 2:08 AM
Comment #295342


I don’t propose letting China take the lead. I think we need to do something. My point there is that China will be a much bigger polluter than the whole West has been. This to show the magnitude of the challenge.

That was the joke of Kyoto. To take your crime metaphor, it is like closing off the scene of an old crime while ignoring the one going on next door.

I don’t think China can or will act in time. That is why we just better figure out how best to adapt to a warmer world.

Posted by: Christine at February 9, 2010 6:41 AM
Comment #295344

Do not underestimate China. They are involved in massive re-forrestation projects,investing in alternates especially hydro ,urging(as only they can urge) conservation. There is more than climate change pushing them to move from coal. The health expenses from pollution are hobbling their economic growth.

Posted by: bills at February 9, 2010 7:06 AM
Comment #295346

We? Do you happen to have a mouse in your pocket?

Listen, science does change, does evolve but probably not in the sense you’re implying. I know some like to play off of the concept from the philosophy of science that there are always paradigm shifts going on, but the reality is, although nothing is sacred, science doesn’t change nearly that much.

Or to put it in evolutionary terms, changes to theory tend to be selected against unless their beneficial.

Science is not infinitely malleable. All scientific theories must explain and/or predict what their predecessor have, plus something those theories could not. Einstein’s theory could encompass Newton’s mechanics as well as explaining odd things that Newton’s theory could not, like the strange shifts in the orbit of Mercury.

It’s not enough to be merely contrarian, because there is a positive side to science, a side which seeks to fill in the blanks. Merely casting doubt on a theory doesn’t do much good, because doubt, like belief, can be unfounded. The hypotheses of the doubters, too, must be proven or disproven. If they are not proven, then the main theory, however flawed, stands as our best theory.

The Himalayan claim was bogus. But there is melting there, and at some point, there will be significant impact on people there, and elsewhere in the world, as the glaciers that feed rivers and streams melt away.

As for the claim that nothing can stem the tide? That’s not what the best scientific models say. They say that some warming is inevitable, because of what has been absorbed and set into motion already. But the game is not over, as you claim. No scientific source I’ve seen in the science media claims that. Time is of the essence, but the real question is where our emissions will be. The scary models that folks on the right keep on trying to discredit and cast doubt on rely on the continuation of current emissions trends.

In other words, the outcome could be very different if we take immediate action.

As for the China assertion, let me be blunt here: whatever mistakes China choses to make, America does no good to the world by compounding them with their own. We don’t know what the landscape of the tipping points are, and America continuing to emit what it does might just push us over yet another one, making things worse than if China alone were delivering the pollution.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 9, 2010 8:59 AM
Comment #295371


You just did it with the Himalayan glacier story. The Himalayan glacier debacle was a gross error based on plain sloppy stupidly. It was SPECULATED that this could happen by 2350. These guys got the numbers backward and made it 2035.

Instead of just admitting that this is just not true, you still try to “gore” it, by saying that they are melting and that they are impacting people. Yes, they seem to be melting, as they have been for hundreds of years. BUT nobody has been particularly affected by this melting.

This is like accusing someone of murder. Then admitting that they were only driving too fast, but sticking to the story that it could have been murder if he had hit someone at that speed. It is a kind of bait and switch and it has nothing to do with science.

This is what we find annoying and unscientific. Don’t try to cloak this in science.

And WHAT action do you want to take immediately? Kyoto was bogus. If we did that we did nothing. You don’t seem to want to covert more to nuclear. You don’t want higher prices for energy. You are not sure about natural gas. You want to deploy technologies that have not yet been invented.

Who is not scientific? Liberals are talking about magic.

Posted by: Christine at February 9, 2010 7:18 PM
Comment #295414

I believe I responded to that particular issue some time ago. It’s not all heading downhill as meltwater right now, but as a whole, the balance of glacial activity in the Himalayas is not positive. It’s more complicated than the admittedly screwed up report, AND the allegation you make.

When I talk about scientific claims, I like to make this point: pointing out a mistake is one thing, but if you claim something else is true, your claim doesn’t become true by default. It must be tested just the same. You can be wrong, too, and I think you got the truth wrong here. Another person’s bad logic does not make the logic their critics employ automatically any better.

That’s not “gore”-ing it. That’s forgoing simplistic responses for the sake of accurate ones. There are parts of the Himalaya range where the melting has vastly increased, and where the glaciers are in retreat, places where it’s in balance, and even some I think, where there’s positive growth. That’s not a pat answer, designed to satisfy folks who want bumper-sticker answers, that’s the complicated truth.

I am not trying to cloak my opinion in science, rather, I am generating my opinion from it. I am not trying to defend a rhetorical point here, but correct yours.

As for Kyoto? Well, to the extent Cap and Trade hasn’t worked, I’m open to not using it. I want results, not excuses. But here’s something you should consider: Cap and Trade was a conservative idea, one that Democrats embraced as a compromise.

Which Republicans now reject because Democrats embraced it. That’s the way the politics is working, essentially. Republicans are bashing their own compromises, their own proposals, retreating from them.

As for higher prices for energy? Well, crap, I haven’t argued against them. They may very well be the ultimate result for any transition. I’m open to taxation to achieve that if necessary. But to be frank, I don’t really think much of having price push the change all by itself.

I think policy should pull, at the same time prices push. Make carbon fuels artificially more expensive, but at the same time make alternatives artificially cheaper, so people aren’t stuck in a painful situation where higher food and transportation costs are impeding economic growth. It’s a lot tougher to run a smooth transition like this with an economy faltering under the costs.

As far as natural gas goes, I would support it to the extent that it is a cleaner alternative to coal or oil. But understand this: natural gas is a fossil fuel, a carbon emission source that merely has the virtue of being less of an emitter than its counterparts. If our aim is to reduce carbon emissions drastically, our commitment can’t be too extensive.

As for deploying technologies that have not yet been invented? There’s plenty of alternatives already invented and ready to go. I’m not going to count on every possible bit of technology, but I am going to say that if we take the course of renewables, there’s plenty of room for improvement and progress.

As for Nuclear? Well, the thing about Nuclear is that it is by necessity very subsidized and very regulated, and also by necessity very overengineered, redundant backups for redundant backups. It’s not cheap or quick to build them. I don’t think we can build them at a pace to satisfy the carbon reductions we want.

Meanwhile, look at the side of your roads. See those solar panels put on the flashing lights on the side of the road? Solar Panels are dependable enough that people use them like that, put them down and forget them. They’re also cheap enough at this point for people to buy them like that.

But they’re also distributable. Nuclear Power Plants must be made centralized. You have to put together a whole big plant around the nuclear material. Solar panels don’t need that.

The main issues are their inconstant power supply. They don’t give the same power out all the time. However, advancements in batteries and smart grid technology will likely resolve that set of issues in the coming decade.

I’m not talking magic. It’m talking about the science I know about.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 10, 2010 12:57 PM
Comment #295427


Technically, the Republican’s have not filibustered any measure so far that I’m aware of. There is historical evidence and pleanty of theory that says that it will never work.

So why haven’t the Democrats actually forced the filibuster?

Posted by: Rob at February 10, 2010 9:16 PM
Comment #295435


Kyoto didn’t work because the big polluters of the future were excluded.That stupidity is now embedding in much of the thinking and it is what is causing it not to work.

Re science of glaciers - the scientific fact is that the glaciers MAY melt in about 300 years. It may be because of black silt, CO2 or natural causes. Science just doesn’t have the answer yet. What we DO know for sure is that the IPC was completely wrong when they said they would melt by 2035. And they were stupid to say that populations were being affected already because they are not.

To use gore-words - denying that is like denying the law of gravity.

Posted by: Christine at February 10, 2010 11:25 PM
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