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Holiday Post: Packers, Jon Huntsman, Golden Globes

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It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the USA. A worthy holiday, one you should be spending off-line. But in case you’re not, here’s a few pieces of news for those of you on the internets today (like me).

First, in “real” news, Jon Huntsman is dropping out of the GOP 2012 Primary contest. He may be been Mormon, and has worked for Obama, and speaks Chinese, and been the Governor of Utah, and a list of other descriptors that make him “disqualified” or “qualified.” But congratulations, GOP, you have now successfully  ignored the only candidate in the race who came off with any sense of moderation. Which leaves Huntsman (smart and capable and super conservative) out of the race, but Rick Santorum (terrible and super conservative) left in the race. Nice one.

And now for things that don’t really matter.

The Packers lost to the NY Giants in a football game. Though I no longer have any ill-will towards the Packers (as a Vikings fan) it is always fun to see the underdogs win. Additionally, having grown so tired of this years “it’s all about the offense, the QB is unstoppable” theme, I’m delighted to see both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers lose. Clearly it is not all about the offense. Suckers.

The Golden Globes happened yesterday. They were pretty boring. Last year, Ricky Gervais was mean, but also mostly funny. And it came off as a total surprise to see him do and say what he did and said, and thus made the event worth watching, if a bit painful. By asking him back, and encouraging him to use the same schtick, all the shock value was lost, and Gervais was just boring. Oh remember how Ricky Gervais was rude to Johnny Depp last year, well here is Depp now returning the favor. Oh, He’s joking that everyone loves Colin Firth. EVERYONE DOES love Colin Firth, you jackass. That’s not funny.

And by the way, I struggle to see how Descendants is the best picture of the year and Hugo was the best directed film of the year. I haven’t seen either (and I’m sure they are both solid, if not good films) so I know I’m speaking out of turn, but still, Hugo? Descendants? I watched Moneyball last night, and will bet it was better than both of those movies.


Written by Christopher ZF

January 16, 2012 at 09:05

Another candidate rundown, for New Hampshire

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Today is the New Hampshire Primary. The day New Hampshire will vote for Mitt Romney, and the suspense for TRC will be: How well will Jon Huntsman do? That’s the only interesting part of today, besides the infighting and the crybabying and the general fun of political muckety-muck.

And muckety-muck there has been in N.H.

Gingrich is going crazy with his anti-Mitt railings. It is clear Mr. Gingrich’s pledge to run a clean campaign does not extend beyond the realization that voters don’t much like him, and to be successful, he’s going to have be a douche. Want proof? Check out Newt’s latest campaign website: Stop Romney’s Pious Baloney. Yeah. It’s essentially Newt barf in interweb form.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Santorum is getting his day in the sun: where rampant homophobia and anti-gay behavior should be rejected. Which, at least in part, it has been by the New Hampshire voters. And in return, Rick Santorum has turned sarcastic and bitter regarding the young people who find him distasteful. Well, at least he’s consistent (somebody will say, as they vote for him). Note to Santorum: you can’t claim to respect the dignity of the GLBT community, while wanting to outlaw gay sex and comparing their relationships to polygamy, or worse. Sorry.

Apparently Mitt Romney takes pleasure in firing people. That’s not a surprise, he’s a many times over millionaire who got his fortune by letting businesses go bankrupt. He’s the picture of the wealthy man becoming so by deciding the fates of others. Sure, some of those people got jobs at companies that succeeded, others had their places closed down and lost jobs. Don’t pretend otherwise. This is how Mitt Romney got rich. For this, he is the target of everyone’s ire. Which is just fine, if a bit, you know, disingenuous.

Huntsman seems highly reasonable, prepared for important issues, and relatively likable. Naturally, he’s failing. But there has been signs of hope for today.  Hopefully New Hampshire can give him some momentum to make a run at it. He’s a reasonable man in a clown school.

Ron Paul is still doing what he does: rousing the rabble. Rick Perry is still somewhere, I think, waiting for New Hampshire to end so he can do in South Carolina what Paul does so well everywhere else.

I think that’s everyone. Have fun Granite Staters.

All you need to know about the Iowa Caucuses

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Today is the Iowa Caucuses, most well known as the kick-off to the Presidential Election 2012. TRC is pretty excited to see what kind of madness ensues this year, and to get things rolling, we offer readers the “Everything you need to know about the candidates for today’s Iowa Caucus” primer that will get you through the rest of January 3.

So what do you need to know?

Our Prediction: It appears that Ron Paul or Rick Santorum might win the Iowa Caucuses. Or maybe Mitt Romney. But probably someone more conservative like Santorum or Paul. Or Romney.

However, Rick Santorum is terrible, (really, just awful, have you heard him?), so it won’t matter if he wins. Ron Paul is bat-shit, so, essentially that won’t matter either.

Also, Michele Bachmann is going to be keep “fighting” to “surprise” despite having a snowballs chance, and Newt Gingrich is going to be mean because he has always said he would run a clean campaign until he peaked then started trending downward thus allowing him to finally display is true dickish nature. Which if you recall is really, really dickish.

Finally. Jon Huntsman is somewhere. Presumably in America. And Rick Perry can’t remember something that was supposed to be happening today. He knows it was important, but just can’t quite remember…

Thus Mitt Romney is your winner. Even if he doesn’t win, he wins. I mean, look at these guys:

There you have it. Your 2012 Republican field.

Ruminating on 3 scenarios for 2013.

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Who will win the next presidential election? I’ll put it on record that TRC thinks it will likely be  Barack Obama, re-elected to a second term. Why? Here’s two reasons. 1) It’s really hard to defeat a sitting president, and, 2) TRC would really prefer an Obama victory. That’s all I really have on why.

There are various and sundry reasons that President Obama could lose the upcoming election: for example, an economy that, to put it lightly, has yet to begin a noticeable recovery, anger at Obama, fake scandals, etc. And there are many more reasons Obama could win, such as, the GOP field is uninspiring, the devil you know…, and there’s always that pesky detail that Obama has been quite a successful President in terms of the liberal Democratic agenda.

But what’s been ruminating here is not will Barack Obama win the upcoming election, but what happens if he loses? The world will turn, the GOP will have the presidency, and the United States will…what? It’s an interesting thought experiment, because variables are many and scientists who are irresponsibly funded by the government have yet to discover a way to read the future. Here are 3 situations that are not out of the realm of possibility. It’s some situational speculation, for fun, and to remind myself if no one else, this too shall pass.

1. Rick Perry Wins the nomination (somehow) and the Democrats keep the Senate, while Republicans keep the House. What happens?
For comparison, imagine that the current situation exists, only flipped on party lines. Well, politics remains a major CF, and very little is achieved. Gridlock, as they say, captures the president and D.C. despite Perry’s Bush-like announcement that he won Political Capital and  he intends to spend it. But President Perry shows a surprising willingness to compromise. Unfortunately for Republicans, he compromises with the Dems on HPV vaccines and education for immigrant children. The GOP goes crazy, like the Dems did on Obama’s Bush Tax Cuts compromise. But they soon realize Perry is only rope-a-doping. Biding his time until he can spend his capital in years 2, 3, and 4 on tea-party legislation that really grinds the government to a halt because the Democrats, by necessity, feel they must stop the Right-Wing Agenda. Despite the constant near shutdown status of the capitol, several major policy changes occur. Predicting those changes is very difficult. But it could be one of any number of options, like repealing Obama’s Health Care overhaul, ending welfare programs, or the like. Also, Christianity pervades the Presidency making church-and-staters terrified of a theocracy, the EPA regulations really are rolled-back, and US efforts towards climate change mitigation officially becomes efforts towards climate change adaptation. The Perry Presidency represents a mixture of In God’s Hands and Political Expediency that terrifies the Democratic Party, and somehow, the nation’s government grinds to an even more harmful stand-still, resulting in a government shutdown fight over how to fund the needed disaster relief for the now constant wildfires in Texas now that tax rates are lowered, programs are cut, and the government is lean and mean. The government shutdowns and the country burns.

A Perry Presidency with split chambers thus receives 5 Michele Bachmann crazy smiles out of a possible 5.

2. Darkhorse Jon Hunstman pulls a John McCain 2008 and wins the nomination. He asks Chris Christie to be his running mate, who agrees, and the two are victorious in 2012. Due to the reasonable-natured appearance of a Huntsman/Christie ticket, the GOP rides the coattails, and retains the House majority and gets a slim majority in the Senate, giving the Republicans control of all three houses. What happens?
Democrats tell themselves it’s going to be okay; at night they remind themselves who could have been president, it could have been the crazies of Perry or Bachmann or Paul and remind themselves that, at the end of the day, at least they got a moderate Republican who worked for Obama. This lasts about 3 months, as President Huntsman slowly unrolls his vision of America. Then, Huntsman unrolls his vision of America, and the Democrats, realizing they were tricked by their own optimism, remember that Huntsman was the GOVERNOR OF UTAH!  They remember, there is probably no more a Right-Wing job in the United States than the GOVERNOR OF UTAH! Panic strikes. Huntsman begins tinkering with everything, deregulating industry despite his acceptance of climate change (markets can do it, he’ll say),  cutting taxes on the wealthy while cutting programs for the poor (unfair burdens, no nanny state, he’ll say), meanwhile, the most conservative GOP Chambers since history has ever seen (or 1994) will be pushing an agenda that moves America towards isolationism in North America with continued interventionist policies in the middle-East and Asia. Advances towards gay and lesbian equality will stall. Events will transpire pretty much as you would expect when a very conservative majority governs the nation, which sparks fear in the hearts of every Democrat, and rejoicing to the Lord for every Republican. But the American public will tire of a lack of checks and balances, and this will only last 2 years. The Democrats will win the House, but the damage will have been done. Democrats around the country will have nightmares about how, years ago, in a debate that didn’t matter, when asked who would not accept a budget deal with 10 dollars in cuts to 1 dollar in revenues, there was Jon Huntsman, raising his hand, as conservative as anyone else on the stage. And they will crumble at the remembrance that they all fell for one stupid tweet.

A Huntsman Presidency with both chambers for the GOP thus receives 5 pro-science tweets will actually undo science nightmares out of 5.

3. This brings us to the most likely scenario of an Obama loss, as TRC sees it. Despite the craziness of the GOP primary process, and the bonkers nature of the cast of candidates, the expected winner wins the nomination.  Thus, President Mitt Romney takes office in 2013. He is accompanied by VP Huntsman, and welcomed before split Chambers. What happens?
Romney does not unroll “Obamacare.” He believes in the model, since, well, he created it. Democrats start to look at President Romney a little differently. Maybe he’s a pragmatist, they say to themselves. Besides, Democrats have a majority in the Senate, and can prevent the most outrageous tea-party legislation that everyone knows will be brought forth. But the nation will yearn for compromise, after a miserable 2012 of US Politics, and President Romney will side with Speaker Cantor on almost all the social issues of the day, keeping favor among many of Republicans (while knowing most won’t pass the Senate), while remaining pragmatic regarding the economy, pleasing some Democrats (though not most). The economy will improve, and the parties will fight over who gets the credit (It was Obama’s Policies that started it! NO! Obama ruined everything, Mitt did Itt!). Things start to improve economically, and the costs of the recession start to move the background, bringing traditional concerns back to the front. And as that happens, President Romney reveals himself to be a disaster at foreign relations. But VP Huntsman and Secretary of State Whomever are more than up to this challenge, enough at least to soothe potential war with China, which the Republican Party still seems to think is an inevitability, despite this being totally impossible and without any reason to expect for at least decades. The country does not destroy itself over party differences, the Tea-Party resigns itself to the realization that it did NOT win the presidency, and Eric Cantor, now the speaker, realizes that his earnest desire to drive the country all the way to the Right doesn’t actually mean that it will happen.

A Romney Presidency with split chambers turns out only to receive 3 Tea-Party exasperating protest signs out of 5.

I could live with that. I think. Maybe. Obama in 2012.

Written by Christopher ZF

September 28, 2011 at 11:12

Science, Presidential Politics, and Solar Energy

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Well. It’s been a long time. Here’s a few things that have been keeping my attention:

My last post here was on the Alex Berezow USA Today opinion piece on the anti-science nature of both the political left and right. It seems that story got quite a bit of attention in the science blogging community, including from Chris Mooney, who writes The Intersection, which is quite good and worth your effort. He makes some very strong points on why Berezow, and the resulting turn out in support of Berezow, are wrong. Here’s Mooney, in response to Kenneth Green, who wrote in response to Mooney’s response to the Alex Berezow piece (got that?):

Not only does Green dramatically downplay the Christian Right (free market conservatives’ cozy bedfellow, whether or not they want to acknowledge it). He doesn’t seem to understand that science abuse isn’t about getting something wrong. This happens all the time in science, in academia, etc. That’s okay, because science has a self correcting mechanism—and this is part of its very nature.
The real problem is therefore not mistakes. It’s attacking established knowledge, and spreading clearly refuted falsehoods, for political reasons. And clinging to them, sinking into denial. That is what we are actually talking about.

Indeed. The problem, as I see it, is a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific process. What it means when someone says “scientific consensus,” for example.

Second is  the 2012 GOP Presidential Extravaganza. I missed the last two weeks of coverage, and suddenly Michele Bachmann is an afterthought, Herman Cain won a thing that probably means nothing (Ron Paul’s always winning something or other), Rick Perry is fading because he is a terrible debater, and Jon Huntsman said  he wants to be a rising star. If you want to be a rising star, can you say that you want to be a rising star and not have it sound totally ridiculous? I don’t think so. Anyway, when did all this happen? Now Mitt Romney is going to win, which, well, was probably going to happen anyway, unless, you know, he loses. But who would he lose to?

The real story that has been consuming TRC is the “scandal” President Barack Obama finds himself in regarding the federal government’s guaranteed loans to the solar panel manufacturing company Solyndra. Every day I considered writing this story up, but kept getting too worked up, because there’s no scandal here, at all, no how no way. It’s not indicative of the failing of solar as an industry, which is doing very well. Nor it is indicative of poor vetting by the President. Rather, it is for the President terrible timing for a company who was out-competed, to go bankrupt. End of story.

Guaranteed loans for green energy companies are certainly not a Democrat only desire. And they absolutely should not be. Because they are smart policy. The US Gov’t made an investment to spur energy technology, and that investment didn’t pan out. That’s really not that big of a deal. It happens. It’s not a Democratic or GOP failing, it’s what happens when you can’t tell the future. Bad timing, embarrassing e-mails, over-zealous political maneuvering from the White House, I grant you all this. But scandal? I fail to see it.  That Solyndra couldn’t compete in a global market for pv-cells is Solyndra’s fault. Or the fault of the Chinese, who are kicking our asses on solar manufacturing.

Written by Christopher ZF

September 27, 2011 at 16:40

one more time, for good measure: Science and the GOP

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Here’s a sentence that is maddening, but potentially important for conservatives:

Although an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that carbon pollution is contributing to global climate change, and virtually all accept that an evolutionary process of natural selection explains the emergence of human life, polls show that most Republican voters second Perry’s rejection of both beliefs.

TRC won’t beat the same drum forever on this issue, but there are too many interesting pieces to read and write about surrounding the science v. not-science argument in the GOP right now (I don’t want to say it is a science v. faith issue, because it really isn’t). Today’s story, The Great Divide, comes from the National Journal. One of the central points it makes probably sounds familiar to Democrats. As this politicking  divide between the pro-science Huntsman and not-science Perry continues, the GOP will have the higher educated, elite wing of the party squaring off against the blue-collar, religious wing of the party.

Even so, Huntsman’s championing of science over faith and ideology offers him an opportunity to raise his profile with what his campaign increasingly acknowledges is his natural constituency: the overlapping circles of the party’s best-educated, least religiously devout, and moderate elements. At the same time, Perry’s staunch defense of unwavering hard-right positions on both questions helps him appeal to unvarnished social and economic conservatives as a “battle-tested conservative warrior,” as his campaign described him in a fundraising solicitation this week.
By solidifying those identities, the argument could benefit both men. But, if it persists, their debate could also highlight the differences between the GOP’s college-educated and less devout managerial wing and its more blue-collar and evangelical populist wing. The two camps converge in support for cutting taxes and spending, but differ on cultural questions, sometimes in their views but more in how much they emphasize them.

The GOP is, one might say, at a bit of a political crossroads. The future is going to come, and there are a some things are likely to happen. Evolution will stay the best explanation for the origin of species, climate change will continue to wreak havoc around the globe. Also, taxes will eventually require an increase for some reason or another and marriage equality will continue to spread across the nation. The Republican Party will have to figure out how it will identify itself politically in relation to each of these issues. There are factions of the GOP that dispute the politically central Conservative position on each of these issues, and those groups aren’t going away. But for the sake of the 2012 election, now is probably not the time do air the dirty laundry.

Said Alex Lundry, a Republican voter-targeting expert who is neutral in the 2012 race (though others in his firm TargetPoint work for Mitt Romney)[,] “There are a couple of core debates that need to be had in the next 10 years—over gay rights, immigration and the role of science. But in order for Republicans to win this election, it has to be a referendum on Barack Obama … and his stewardship of the economy. To the extent any debates are had in the party that diverge from that goal, that’s bad.”

If the candidates don’t start talking about policy, and eventually they will, but if somehow Perry overtakes Romney as the front-runner, and continues to wrangle about in agitating the faithful by demeaning science, how can he expect to win a general election? The NJ sees this possibility:

[These arguments] highlight one of the core Democratic hopes for 2012: that Republican positions on social and environmental issues will repel some white-collar suburban voters otherwise economically disenchanted with President Obama.

This is not unfamiliar to the Democrats. Painting too narrow a picture of oneself in the primary usually results in a real picture making one a cartoon. When all is done with the GOP infighting, the winner might just end up like John Kerry, wind-surfing to nowhere.

Written by Christopher ZF

August 24, 2011 at 09:40

Huntsman’s Science Tweet

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Whether or not Jon Huntsman manages to secure the 2012 Republican Nomination for President, he has officially made his presence felt and impacted the race. To TRC, Hunstman has bettered the race for president. And all he did was tweet.

What did he tweet? “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

That was it. He was responding to the anti-science politicking that Rick Perry was engaging in: within a matter of hours Perry had proclaimed that evolution is just a theory with some gaps in it and that Texas schools teach evolution and creation, and that climate change is not proven and the science is falling apart. Or as he wrote last year in his book, climate change is “all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.”

Huntsman then tweeted his tweet, and it turns out it was the most popular tweet yet tweeted by any of the 2012 Candidates, garnering 3600 retweets, beating Palin’s  most popular tweet by 50% (imagine that sentence being written 5 years ago). Huntsman, not content to keep his science-promoting self to 140 characters or less, continued his anti-Perry’s-anti-science position on ABC’s This Week, where Huntsman said:

 I think there’s a serious problem.  The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem.  We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.  When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science – Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.
The Republican Party has to remember that we’re drawing from traditions that go back as far as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush.  And we’ve got a lot of traditions to draw upon.  But I can’t remember a time in our history where we actually were willing to shun science and become a – a party that – that was antithetical to science. I’m not sure that’s good for our future and it’s not a winning formula. 

The pro-science tweet may be the most defining moment of the 2012 campaign thus far. It shows, if nothing else, that there are actually differences among candidates on real issues. For all the sparring of the GOP candidates, they seem pretty closely tied on policy. Each candidate, Huntsman included, claimed they would refuse a 10 to 1 cuts to revenue increases scenario for deficit reduction, for example, an almost unbelievably intransigent position to govern from. There has to be differences somewhere, and with Huntsman tacking towards a pro-science position (at least in comparison), the possibility of a real conversation about the role of science in Republican Politics and Policy might be possible.

And a lot of folks are talking about Republicans, science, and Jon Huntsman. The NY Times has a blog wondering whether the GOP has a fundamental science problem. Religion Dispatches thanks Perry’s science stance and Huntsman response for making the Mormon Romney seem more moderate in relation to Perry’s extreme Christianity. Washington Post blogged about the Roaring Huntsman and his mild-mannered roar. It goes on and on. The past 4 days of coverage for Huntsman must make his heart swell.

And it should. It doesn’t mean that he will become the 2012 Republican Candidate for President. It might even mean that he will have a harder time reaching that goal. But his tweet provided movement in a race for the presidency where anti-science stances dominate. So good job to Huntsman for actually impacting the race, for the better.

Written by Christopher ZF

August 22, 2011 at 13:49