The Inhofe Crusade Continues

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U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe has issued what his office calls a “U.S. Senate Minority Report” that supposedly lists 650 scientists who refute claims about man-made global warming.

The problem is, some claim, it’s questionable whether the report actually reflects the views of a Republican Senate minority, and it’s arguable how many of the people listed in the report as scientists are actually scientists.

This is simply the same hollow political theater employed by Inhofe a majority of Oklahoma voters seem to covet and celebrate. Inhofe, one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, was reelected this year by a wide margin. Obviously, Inhofe believes, and justly so, he has a local mandate to fight any proposed programs that reduce man-made global warming. Who cares about local issues that directly impact the state right now? Inhofe is on a larger crusade, and his supporters must adore him for it.

According to Climate Progress,

Who will the media believe this time: The Senate's leading climate denier, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), or their own lying eyes?

Deniers like Inhofe have a serious media problem -- an ever growing number of studies, real-world observations, and credible scientific bodies all point to human-caused emissions as the increasingly dominant cause of planetary warming and dangerous climate change.

What's a denier to do? The answer is simple: Repackage previously debunked disinformation, release it as a "new" so-called "Full Senate Report" full of hysterical headlines, push it through right-wing news outlets, and hope the traditional media bites. Why not? It worked before.

The report is an update of another report issued in 2007 in which Inhofe claimed 400 scientists rejected the consensus that global warming is at least partially caused by carbon emissions.

This is what Climate Progress has to say about the so-called scientists listed in the report:

… the vast majority of those names are simply repeated from a 2007 list that was widely debunked . . . Let me repeat what I wrote at the time.

“Padded” would be an extremely generous description of this list of “prominent scientists.” Some would use the word “laughable.” For instance, since when have economists, who are pervasive on this list, become scientists, and why should we care what they think about climate science?

I’m not certain a dozen on the list would qualify as “prominent scientists,” and many of those, like Freeman Dyson — a theoretical physicist — have no expertise in climate science whatsoever. I have previously debunked his spurious and uninformed claims, although I’m not sure why one has to debunk someone who seriously pushed the idea of creating a rocket ship powered by detonating nuclear bombs! Seriously.

The New Republic also finds holes in Inhofe's report.

Here’s how The Oklahoman editorial page expressed its support of Inhofe’s global warming views:

With at least 58 Democratic senators, will Obama try to ratify the job-killing Kyoto global warming treaty?

He might, which makes it good to know Jim Inhofe will be waiting and ready.

The idea that developing new renewable energy sources would result in “job-killing," especially given President-elect Barack Obama’s proposal to connect job creation with new technologies, is as absurd as Inhofe’s claims about carbon emissions.

Through the years, The Oklahoman has reported Inhofe’s extreme position about global warming without giving consistent dissenting views. The newspaper has also failed to adequately describe how much animosity Inhofe has created against Oklahoma residents through the years.

Let’s look at it this way: California has a population of approximately 36 million people. One of its two senators, Barbara Boxer, chairs the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which deals with climate change issues. Oklahoma has a population of 3.6 million. One of its two Senators, Inhofe, is the former chair of the same committee and its ranking minority member. Boxer received 6,955,728 votes in her 2004 reelection. Inhofe collected 763,102 votes in his 2008 reelection.

Each state, of course, gets two U.S. Senators regardless of its population size. What this means is that Inhofe’s antics and grandstanding put a huge spotlight on what some argue is basic unfair representation in which Senators from states with small populations, relatively small voter support and low education rates can affect policies and programs.

Perhaps, we should look at this way: Even if Inhofe’s absurd claims were true, what real harm would be done if the planet reduced its carbon emissions? Inhofe might argue this would hurt big energy companies financially in their quest for fossil fuels. Is that really true? If so, who cares? What’s inherently wrong with developing renewable and cheaper energy sources? Nothing.

Inhofe and 763,102 Oklahomans can argue all they want against the progress of civilization, but this progress will happen.


GOP Attacks Workers In Auto Negotiations

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The Republicans’ relentless attack on American workers became vivid during negotiations over the Senate bill to provide temporary government financing for Detroit’s automobile industry.

Some Senate Republicans said they wouldn’t support the bill unless autoworkers took wage and benefit concessions. This killed the bill. The new, right-wing spin is that the United Automobile Workers union is somehow responsible for the problems in Detroit, even though that‘s obviously untrue. Labor expenses represent only 10 percent of a vehicle’s actual cost.

The GOP point was to create anti-union hysteria among its evaporating base. By doing so, it also made the philosophical point that any recovery from the current financial crisis will come from the middle-class and primarily on the backs of workers. The GOP attacked all American workers by implying decent wages, health insurance and retirement benefits are somehow wrong or bad for the country. It’s sheer nonsense.

The UAW already made concessions in its recent contract, but this didn’t stop U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) from asking for more immediate cuts from workers. Corker focused on workers’ wages rather than the salary structures and bonuses of executives and management. Meanwhile, the right-wing propaganda ministry on cable television has unleashed a torrent of anti-worker, anti-union distortions over the rescue plans for the auto industry.

UAW workers make an average of $55 an hour compared to the $45 an hour made by workers in foreign-owned automobile plants. Big deal. This isn’t the reason the American automobile industry is in financial trouble. It’s in trouble because executives have made terrible decisions about what type of cars to make and how those cars were built.

The main problem is with the powerful millionaires calling the shots, not the workers.

But the domestic automobile industry is also in trouble because of a lousy economy, which was created in large part by greedy investment bankers. Fewer people are buying new cars. The industry is in trouble because our health care system is a mess in this country. Too many intermediaries reap profits from people's pain and suffering, and this costs big companies a lot of cash to insure their employees.

There are arguable reasons to oppose a government intervention rescuing the automobile industry, but opposing it because autoworkers supposedly make too much money and have good health insurance is simply ludicrous. As I said before, this is a Republican attack on all American workers, not just the UAW. What other groups of workers will soon face GOP attacks for making too much more money or having decent health insurance as the financial crisis continues?

Vote on a poll about the issue.


Will Oklahoma Colleges Remain Affordable?

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Is the cost of college growing so fast that it’s leaving some Oklahomans without an opportunity to get a degree?

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education recently released a report, "Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education," that gave flunking grades when it comes to college affordability to 49 states, including Oklahoma. Only California received a passing grade.

Oklahoma is part of a national trend in recent years to raise college tuition and fees, and no one should fault higher education administrators who must pay the bills. Still, there are ominous signs the state will fall even further behind in the nation in producing college graduates. This is definitely bad news for the state.

Here is how the cost of attending Oklahoma colleges is described in the report:

Higher education has become less affordable for students and their families.

Poor and working-class families must devote 37% of their income, even after aid, to pay for costs at public four-year colleges.

Financial aid to low-income students is low. For every dollar in Pell Grant aid to students, the state spends only 41 cents.

So does this affect enrollment in Oklahoma?

College opportunities for young and working-age adults are fairly low.

The likelihood of enrolling in college by age 19 is only fair, and a low percentage of working-age adults are enrolled in higher education.

Oklahoma’s higher education officials were quick to point out that other reports show the state offers affordable college education when compared to most other states.

So is decent access to higher education in the state in jeopardy? Last year, for example, tuition went up by about 10 percent. Some administrators are certainly concerned about the issue. Higher education officials say they want to freeze tuition next year, but in order to do so they need $80.4 million more in state funding. Will there be enough money in the state budget to fund the increase during these grim economic times, and will the GOP-dominated legislature approve it? Recent tax cuts in Oklahoma that primarily benefited wealthy people have compounded the problem.

The legislature should fund the increase, of course, but that’s only a short-term solution. What’s needed in higher education right now in Oklahoma and across the nation is a major mindset change. Public universities and colleges need to discard the so-called “corporate model” of education and rejuvenate shared governance on campuses. Shared governance allows all campus stakeholders—administrators, faculty, students, staff—to participate in setting the direction and goals of a particular, taxpayer-supported university. This broadens the cultural and political impact of universities. It gives them more presence in their communities, and this increases the likelihood the communities will then want to invest more tax dollars in higher education.

The country faces a deep and grave financial crisis right now. Taxpayers are bailing out investment banks and perhaps the nation’s auto industry because the business leadership in this country has been incredibly abysmal and predictably immoral. (This comes, of course, after the government gave the country’s wealthiest citizens huge tax cuts.) The ideology that free, unregulated markets create a sustainable economic system has been thoroughly debunked. Is there anything even left to discuss at our nation’s MBA schools besides how to get a taxpayer bailout?

What the public doesn’t readily know is that higher education administrators throughout the country have increasingly embraced a companion philosophy over the last two decades or so. This means many of our public university campuses have adopted a top-down managerial style, created a top heavy management staff, privatized as much as possible, given business professors higher salaries because of so-called market forces, and, of course, allowed the free market in many cases to now dictate who gets to go to college.

Support of the corporate model has produced a damaging antithesis on our campuses in recent years. On one hand, the corporate model of education appeared to appease what seemed to be an unstoppable neoconservative political movement created by the misguided free marketers in this country. On the other hand, it actually worked to reduce state funding for public colleges as free market fundamentalism, which disdains government and taxes, remained sacrosanct.

(Here is a compelling article about an alternative to the corporate model of education.)

If the market should dictate who goes to college—this means that only students with enough money should get to go—then Oklahoma is in deep trouble because of its low per capita income ranking and wages. Yes, the state has developed a great scholarship program, Oklahoma’s Promise, for low-income students, but it isn’t enough. Yes, the state offers lower college tuition than most states, but Oklahoma is also a low-wage state. The bottom line is this: Oklahoma probably needs to produce college graduates at higher levels if its leaders just want to sustain the state’s current economic climate. We already lag behind the rest of the nation in college graduates. Are we going to get left even further behind?

Our nation’s campuses are filled with people who were right about every major issue in America over the last eight years under the disastrous presidency of George Bush, from the myth of unregulated free markets to the overall economy, from the Iraq occupation to the housing bubble, from stagnant wages to wealth disparity. Let them make decisions about creating more access to higher education.