Nurse Ratched at the Polls

Former Catoite Amy Phillips has a neat rundown of “Nanny-State” ballot initiatives in the several states.  The war on smoking remains popular, with smoking bans passing in Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio–but, happily, there’s some support for “cut and run” in the war on marijuana, with liberalization measures apparently passing in Arkansas, several California cities, Massachusetts, and one Montana county–though failing in Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota.

In Massachusetts, “56 percent of voters rejected a measure to allow grocery stores to sell wine,” due to the efforts of a “Bootlegger/Baptist” coalition in which liquor store owners funded a campaign designed to stoke fears of increased teen drinking.  But in Oklahoma, 53 percent of voters, recognizing that there’s no better day of the year for heavy drinking, voted ”to repeal a ban on the sale of alcohol on Election Day.”    

The Big Lie About Global Warming

The most intellectually dishonest argument that makes the rounds these days about climate change is the claim that “the debate is over” regarding the relationship between industrial greenhouse gas emissions and our recent spate of warming.  It’s infuriating because it has power.  The enviro playbook is to avoid any detailed discussion of the science in the media - just repeat that phrase over and over, make some snide remark about how “skeptics” are either in deep denial or are simple lying hacks, and gut it out.  And if you repeat something often enough, people begin to believe it.

The master of this sort of thing is Al Gore.  A few days before the election, our uncredentialed scientist-in-chief was out on the campaign trail blasting away at every Republican he could find who had expressed doubts about the need for an anti-warming jihad.  When in Seattle to beat-up on GOP Rep. Dave Reichert, who was running for the U.S. Senate (unsuccessfully, it turns out), he expressed incredulousness that Reichert was still unsure whether industrial emissions of greenhouse gas caused planetary warming.

“C’mon!  And this man is a United States congressman?  You know, 15 percent of people believe the moon landing was staged on some movie lot and a somewhat smaller number still believe the Earth is flat. They get together on Saturday night and party with the global-warming deniers.”

That this sort of argument has power even with journalists on the warming beat is increasingly clear.  NBC’s chief science correspondant Robert Bazell, for instance, was asked on the air a few months ago by Brian Williams whether it was fair to say that the debate was over about whether industrial greenhouse gas emissions were warming the planet.  Brazell answered that you could find someone who believes the earth is flat and put them together with another person and have a debate on it, but it would not be any more of a serious debate than the debate about industrial emissions and global warming. 

Anyway, all of that is preface for an article that ran on election day in the “Science Times” section of the New York Times.  Therein, you’ll find an excellent story by reporter William Broad about a fascinating debate among geologists and paleoclimatologists about prehistoric (Phanerozoic to be specific) climate.  Turns out that the planet once enjoyed super-elevated levels of CO2 (up to 18 times that of the present), but that it’s very hard to detect elevated planetary temperatures from those high concentrations of greenhouse gases.  It’s unclear what this might mean, but the kicker is this:

“Carbon dioxide skeptics and others see the reconstructions [of prehistoric climate] of the last 15 years as increasingly reliable, posing fundamental quesitons about the claimed powers of carbon dioxide.  Climatologists and policy makers, they say, need to ponder such complexities rather than trying to ignore or dismiss the unexpected findings.  ‘Some of the work has been quite meticulous,’ Thure E. Cerling, an expert at the University of Utah on Phanerozoic climates, said.  ‘We are likely to learn something.’”

Honest scientists (of which there are suprisingly many - at least when they’re talking to themselves) and honest environmental politicians (of which there are few) concede that there’s a non-zero chance that the reigning consensus is wrong and that high concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have far less impact on global temperatures than we think.  In fact, that concession is made in multiple places in the four previous IPCC reports that have been published - the oft-cited “Bible” of consensus science on the matter.  Broad’s article suggests that there is in fact a greater possiblity that the present consensus is wrong than you would ever think if you read the other sections of the New York Times - or pretty much any other newspaper in the country, for that matter. 

This Incumbent Was Protected from the Wave

Last week I wrote about the ways the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 made Christopher Shays’ re-election bid more likely.

Yesterday, Chris Shays bucked the national trend and won re-election despite having trailed in the polls for some time. He won by 3 percentage points of the vote. In 2004, a better year for Republicans, Shays won by 4 points.

Perhaps he should send a thank you note to the sponsors of the law, Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold as well as Rep. Martin Meehan and … Rep. Christopher Shays.

REAL ID and a Sweep for Democrats in New Hampshire

There are many explanations for the strong result Democrats got in the election yesterday. Focusing on New Hampshire, there is a neat correlation between support for the REAL ID Act and defeat at the polls yesterday.

Jeb Bradley was one of “several Washington officials … urging state senators to support Real ID” when the state legislature was considering a bill to reject it. He was defeated by Carol Shea-Porter, a surprise victor who enjoyed little help from national Democrats. Here’s Shea-Porter speaking at an anti-REAL-ID rally.

Representing the Second District, Charlie Bass was an original co-sponsor of the REAL ID Act, and he touted that fact on his Web site. His replacement is Paul Hodes. Hodes is not a full-throated critic of REAL ID, but he did tell AP, “I do not favor creating a new central federal database using the permanent images of these documents… . A piece of paper is not the solution to securing our borders from terrorism. We need to better coordinate our existing law enforcement databases and watch lists.”

The Republican leadership of the state senate gutted and killed New Hampshire’s bill to reject REAL ID earlier this year. In a debate Monday, Republican Senate President Ted Gatsas said “There’s no question REAL ID makes sense.” Ted Gatsas will no longer be Senate President. Democrats took control of the New Hampshire State Senate for only the second time since 1911. Gatsas’ re-election bid was too close to call overnight, but it now appears he narrowly beat back his Democratic opponent.

As to REAL ID opponents, Governor John Lynch was re-elected. Voters gave control of the New Hampshire Executive Council (an additional legislative body that would have to approve the acceptance of federal funds for implementing REAL ID) to Democrats for good measure.

Of course, many things influence the outcome of elections, but REAL ID has been fiercely debated in New Hampshire this year. It’s not a coincidence that the party on the wrong side of the national ID issue was voted out of power.