Friday, December 13, 2013

137.1 - Same old, same old: having to deal with long-refuted claims from the right wing

Same old, same old: having to deal with long-refuted claims from the right wing

Okay, so I had a week off, we - my wife and I took a vacation, we just got back the other day, yes, we had a good time, saw lots of really impressive scenery, we went by train, which is the only way to go.

But despite the week off I feel a little - well, not with the energy you'd expect after a week off. I'm just in a bit of a funk, my political energies a little drained. The thing is, I know why.

I was reading an article on common science facts that, according to this particular survey, most or at least a lot of Americans don't know. One question - these were multiple choice - was about what element was involved in global warming. The answer was carbon. Now, in terms of global warming, it'd be more accurate to say that it's carbon dioxide that's involved, but the question asked about an element, so carbon.

Here's the point: The question asked nothing about the human contribution to warming, didn't involve people at all. It was strictly about the chemical process involved. But wouldn't you know it, the comments on the article were chock-a-block with claims about global warming being a hoax because the world hasn't warmed in 15 years and besides the climate is always changing and how could people affect the whole planet and blah blah blather blather. And it struck me that these are the same damn arguments you hear every time.

Every damn time you get into an argument with a nanny-nanny naysayer about climate change, you hear the same arguments. No matter how many times they are refuted, the next time around, you hear them again.

I have said before that I loved the line at the website SkepticalScience that said "arguing with some climate change contrarians is similar to attempting debate with a well-trained parrot [that] has memorised some twenty statements that it can squawk out at random." That is an excellent description of the experience.

I was reminded of my rules of right-wing debate, one of which was
When a claim of yours has been debunked, continue to use it nonetheless. When it has been debunked so thoroughly and completely that continuing to use it is counterproductive, stop claiming it for a time, perhaps a few months, after which assert it again as if the debunking had never happened.
Climate change is quite real, thank you very much and in fact a new study by 18 leading scientists says that the generally-agreed standard of having to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) in order to head off the worst effect of global climate change is far too optimistic and the actual level should be about half that, or 1C. Since we have already seen 0.8C warming, the study authors admit that goal is "essentially unattainable.” Which is scientist-ese for "we're screwed."

And yes, the world has warmed over the past 15 years. The claim to the contrary is based entirely on a totally bogus comparison of temperatures for 1998 and 2010. But 1998 was an outlier, significantly hotter than the years before or after it. Shift the comparison at all - compare 1996 to 2008 or 2000 to 2012 - and a clear upward trend is visible even over that short term. And the decade 2001-2010 was clearly warmer than the decade 1991-2000.

What really got to me, though, was the realization that this was not the only area where I was seeing this all right around the same time, seeing hoary, moldy, long-refuted, long-disproven, arguments from the right wing rehashed and re-pushed as if they were fresh insight. It's happening all over.

You want another example? Social Security. We have to cut it, we're told, we have to "trim benefits" because otherwise the who system will go under in about 30 years! The trust fund will hit zero! Omigod! It's a "solvency crisis!" Except that the surplus was deliberately created in order to deal with the baby boomer surge in retirees that everyone knew was coming and so drawing down that surplus was the plan all along!

Yes but at that point we'll have to cut benefits by 23%! Yeah, that's true enough - if we do absolutely nothing at all in the interim, like for example raising or better yet eliminating the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes, which would have no impact on at least 85% of earners but would make the system solvent as far out as the economic projections go, which is 75 years. And that 23% cut is from projected benefits, not current benefits. Even if we do nothing at all, because of the way initial benefits are calculated, that 23% cut would still leave those seniors with a slightly higher standard of living than Social Security provides to those retiring today.

Then there's voter ID. Just recently, there was a move in the Massachusetts House to impose a photo ID requirement on voters. The measure was killed, happily, but the arguments for it struck me: Proponents argued that the measure would a)prevent voter fraud and that b)people can't cash a check, rent a car, or even enter some government buildings without an ID - which are exactly the same arguments, and I mean essentially word for word, you hear every single time someone wants to make it harder for people - the "wrong sorts" of people in their eyes - to vote.

So let's say it again: Renting a car is not a basic function of a republic! It is not a basic human right of a free or at least supposedly free people! It's not something to be actively encouraged. And while there is absolutely no evidence, zero, zilch, nada, of any significant or even noticeable level of in-person voter fraud, the only kind of fraud such legislation would affect, there is clear evidence both from surveys and from actual experience of states that have imposed the demand that these measures make it harder for people to vote - especially among the poor and minorities, precisely those "wrong sorts" that the backers of these bills would prefer were shut out of the political process entirely as part of the on-going attack on The Commons.

And there's more: We see the same old same old in talking about unemployment, about the economy, about Food Stamps, I could spend the whole show on this. But I'm going to cut myself off here so we can move on.


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