Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Tea Party

Say it ain't so, Joe -- that you oppose free trade

Joe the Plumber
Joe the Plumber -- a.k.a. Samuel Wurzelbacher -- is running for Congress from Ohio. His platform seems to be in tune with the Republican Party under whose banner he wants to run -- with one exception. He opposes free-trade agreements.

It's an article of faith in blue-collar America that free-trade agreements cost American jobs and that the solution is to boycott foreign goods. As a bumper sticker I remember from my days in Pittsburgh put it: "Be American. Buy American." ABC News must have that sticker in its control room. Periodically it runs a feature lamenting the lack of "Made in America" products.

The problem with this view of the world is that free-trade agreements help U.S. industries by opening up the export market. Yet the workers in those industries never show up in the popular accounting of the advantages and disadvantages of open markets. Maybe Joe will meet some of them on the campaign trail.


'Joe the Plumber' makes House run official [Video]

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Samuel Wurzelbacher, who during the 2008 campaign became known as Joe the Plumber, speaks to reporters after announcing his candidacy for the House seat representing Ohio's 9th District. Credit: Madalyn Ruggiero / Associated Press

Slovakia, the little country that could derail us

Prime Minister Iveta Radicova

Wrapped up as you are in the GOP presidential debates, the Occupy Wall Street protests, the fate of President Obama's jobs bill and  -- oh, OK, who are we kidding, the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, the NFL season, the non-NBA season and the baseball playoffs -- you might have missed Tuesday's big news.

Here's The Times' headline: "Slovakia rejects Europe bailout fund on initial vote."

Now, before you go clicking away to the Fabulous Forum blog, take 30 seconds and read this. Because even though you might not be able to find Slovakia on a map, you need to know this stuff:

Lawmakers in Slovakia on Tuesday rejected a proposal to beef up Europe's bailout fund for debt-stressed nations, but supporters are holding out hope that the measure will pass in a second vote expected to take place within days.

The plan to strengthen the rescue fund is widely considered imperative for Europe as it tries to tame a debt crisis that has already forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to accept emergency loans to stay afloat. But in a tense showdown, a junior party in Slovakia's ruling coalition refused to back the measure, saying Slovaks should not be on the hook to bail out richer but less financially responsible nations.

Expansion of the fund requires the ratification of each of the 17 countries that share the euro currency. All but Slovakia have given their approval.

Prime Minister Iveta Radicova is now expected to appeal to Slovakia's main opposition party to help her government pass the measure in a second vote. But its support will come at a steep price: The party's leader has said he will back the plan only if Radicova calls an early election.

Analysts say she has little choice but to comply. Not to do so would risk throwing already volatile global markets into even greater turmoil.

So the fate of America's stock market -- and thus your 401(k), the country's economic future, the world's economic future -– may rest in the tea party-like hands of the government of Slovakia.

And you thought the debt-ceiling debate was stupid.

Don't think it's serious? Here’s how the Associated Press put in, writing about Tuesday's stock market results:

Markets have been swinging wildly since early August, when Europe's economy suddenly seemed closer to the brink of collapse.

Moves of more than 100 points for the Dow have become commonplace as traders react swiftly to every whiff of news coming out of Europe. The S&P 500 is up 8.8% since last Tuesday, when it traded 20% below its April peak.

Many market watchers think the volatility will continue until heavily indebted countries like Greece, Spain and Italy have established a clear path out of their current debt mess.

It's not yet Chicken Little time. Cooler heads will probably prevail. Europe won't drown in a wave of debt, taking us with it. [Updated 12:23 am Thursday Oct. 13 2011:  This just in -- lawmakers in Slovakia  on Thursday approved a proposal to beef up Europe’s bailout fund for debt-stressed nations.]

But Tuesday night, the Republican presidential candidates met in a debate on the economy

Slovakia didn't come up.

Instead, they talked about Herman Cain's "9-9-9" tax plan, and Rick Perry's idea to turn the U.S. into a giant oil well (or something), and then Rick Santorum said he wanted to go to war with China over trade, and Ron Paul trashed the Fed. 

And watching the debate, I couldn't help thinking that these candidates would have fit right in in the classroom scene from "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off":

Teacher: In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the... Anyone? Anyone?... the Great Depression, passed the... Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?... raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. Today we have a similar debate over this. Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. "Voodoo" economics.


Can optimism cure the economy?

Boomers vs. Gen Xers: Who's had it better?

Herman Cain, '9-9-9' plan the focus of latest GOP debate

GOP debate, round 4: The night's best salesman, gadfly and overall performance

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova speaks to reporters in Bratislava. Credit: Samuel Kubani /  AFP / Getty Images 

Obama vs. Romney and the Keystone Kampaigners

Mitt Romney President Obama

Can't anyone around here campaign? Can't anyone around here govern?

Let's take those questions in order, starting with the Republicans, our very own Keystone Kampaigners.

Give them the gift of an incumbent president presiding over a listless, jobless economy, and what do they do with it?

They take shots at Mormons, letting the religion be called a cult and non-Christian. Or they deride people protesting today's corporate greedfest as "jealous" Americans who "play the victim card" and want to "take somebody else's" Cadillac. And when a GOP debate crowd boos a gay soldier or calls to let someone without health insurance die, the candidates go mute.

Plus, they don't trust their front-runner. However, they also don't much care for their rear-runners. Witness how quickly political fortunes turn in today's GOP: Rick Perry went from toast of the party to Mr. BBQ Beef to Texas toast in, well, a New York minute.

And when they finally do get around to talking about jobs, their solution is to cut taxes. Making rich people even richer might win you hearts and minds (and money) on Wall Street, but down on Main Street -- where the jobs used to be before those rich folks shipped them off to China -- it doesn't play as well.

Which brings us to question No. 2 and President Hope and Change, who has given us too little of the former and not enough of the latter.

There aren’t enough jobs being created. So the president does what Washington has always done: He creates a job-creation panel. Which creates jobs for people like Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express, and Jim McNerney, chief executive of Boeing, and, for diversity's sake, Xerox's chief executive, Ursula Burns.

And they know about jobs, all right: They know how to make them disappear. For example, as The Times' Alana Semuels reported, American Express, shortly before Chenault's appointment to the panel, "closed a facility in North Carolina and eliminated 550 jobs, or about 1% of the company's workforce."

And did it do that to bolster its sagging fortunes?  Ah, nope: "At the same time, American Express announced it had made $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 48% from the same period the previous year."

No wonder Chenault has time to be on a presidential panel: His job is safe.

But, just like the Republicans who now kowtow to the tea party, Obama and the Democrats have suddenly discovered the "Occupy" movement. As the president said last week:

"I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country ... and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place."

Uh, yea, that's one way to look at it. Another would be that Obama needs to get a clue. Stocking a job-creation panel with job killers -- corporate executives who care far more about the bottom line than they do about the American people -- gives no one "hope" and certainly isn't the "change" those living in tents in U.S. cities voted for.

Which brings us back to the Keystone Kampaigners. A savvy politician would seize the opportunity to cultivate disaffected voters.

So here's the GOP's Mr. Savvy: At a town hall in New Hampshire on Monday, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the Occupy movement was born of people "seeking scapegoats."

Good job, Mitt.  You make new friends wherever you go, don't you?

And he's the moderate in the race. Herman Cain suggested that the rallies had been organized by labor unions to serve as a "distraction so that many people won't focus on the failed policies of the Obama administration."

Yes, and later in his campaign, he's going to reveal who really shot JFK and how many aliens the Air Force has hidden at Area 51.

I hate to admit it, but it's starting to look like the sign I saw last weekend being toted by an Occupy LA protester:

"Is this freedom, or freedumb?"


Jonah Goldberg: Morality, not theology

Capitol Hill's political impasse on jobs 

Palin pulls a Palin 

-- Paul Whitefield

Left photo: President Obama. Credit: Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images

Right photo: Mitt Romney. Credit: AFP/Getty Images


Does Rick Perry like his crow barbecued?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry 

Where have you gone, Rick Perry?

It seems like only yesterday that the Texas governor answered the call and entered the GOP presidential race.

Now it appears that call was a wrong number.

Perry, who shot to front-runner status by throwing red meat to the right -– Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme," government is the enemy -– now finds the wolves at his door over that reddest of red-meat issues, immigration.

As The Times' Kim Geiger reported Wednesday:

At Thursday's Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla., the Texas governor defended his decision to sign into law a policy that allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition by suggesting that opponents of the policy "don't have a heart."

How bad a misstep was that?  So bad that Mitt Romney -- the equivalent of Karl Marx to many in the GOP, and someone Perry himself has derided as "Obama-lite" -- seized on it to out-right the right-winger.

Romney told an audience of conservatives in Florida, "One of the things that I still can't get over is the idea that a state would decide to give a $100,000 discount to illegals to go to school in their state."

 "I think if you're opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn't mean that you don't have a heart. It means you have a heart and a brain."

So, having lost to pizza guy Herman Cain in a straw poll in Florida last weekend -- not to mention almost being left behind on "Pork Chop Hill" over a 19-year-old quote denigrating North Carolinians' BBQ skills -– Perry obviously decided enough was enough.

He apologized -– sort of:

"I probably chose a poor word to explain that," Perry said Wednesday in an interview with Newsmax. "For people who don't want their state to be giving tuition to illegal aliens, illegal immigrants in this country, that's their call. And I respect that."  

"I was, you know, I was probably a bit over-passionate about using that word," Perry said in the Newsmax interview. "And it was inappropriate."

Now, I'm not sure why the word "heart" was inappropriate.  Not to nitpick, but I think it was putting the words "don’t have a" with the word "heart" that was the sticking point.

Regardless, Perry's mea culpa helps him not one whit with voters. 

Republicans now don't trust him on immigration.

And Democrats and some independents who actually approved of his statement and might have voted for him in a general election -– well, now they have another reason not to like him.

They say, "It's not over until the fat lady sings."

But someone is humming, and it isn't "The Yellow Rose of Texas."


Rick Perry's BBQ "insult": Really, North Carolina?

McManus: The GOP's hard-right tilt

Chris Christie: Does he have the look of a president?

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Credit: Michael Nagle / Getty Images

Michael Jackson's death: La La Land at its (worst) best

LaToya Jackson

La La Land.

That's what L.A. is often called. And it's usually not a compliment.

And you know what? Sometimes we deserve it. And this is one of those times.

Just take a look at what's making news here this week:

"Michael Jackson death: Doctor's jury hears drugged singer's voice"

The voice of a heavily drugged, rambling Michael Jackson echoed through the courtroom during opening arguments Tuesday in the trial of his personal doctor.

"When people leave my show, I want them to say, 'I've never seen nothing like this in my life,' " the singer mumbled on a recording that the prosecution said was made on Dr. Conrad Murray’s iPhone.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren told jurors that Murray recorded his famous patient about six weeks before his death when he was "under the influence of unknown agents."

Now, this is serious stuff. After all, CNN, Fox and half the world's media outlets are parked outside the courtroom. A man, a famous man, is dead. No news nugget is insignificant.  As The Times reported breathlessly Tuesday:

Some fans reported that Jackson's magician, Majestic Magnificent, was present at the courthouse.

Of course, bizarre isn't limited to Michael Jackson. Here's a little tidbit that's sure to further endear L.A. to the "tea party" movement:

"Drug lord's wife has twins in Los Angeles County hospital."

The spaces for "Name of Father" are blank. But the L.A. County birth certificates list the mother, who happens to be the young wife of one of history’s biggest and most sought-after drug lords, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Emma Coronel traveled to Southern California in mid-July, and on Aug. 15 gave birth to twin girls at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, according to birth records and a senior U.S. law enforcement official.

Turns out Coronel, a 22-year-old former beauty queen, holds U.S. citizenship, which entitles her to travel freely to the U.S. and to use its hospitals. By being born in California, her little girls now also have U.S. citizenship.

Oh good, a twofer:  Her husband's a wanted drug lord, and now their kids are American citizens.

But look on the bright side, tea partyers: When those little El Chapos grow up, want to go to a U.S. college, and apply for financial aid, it won't be a case of giving assistance to illegal immigrants.    

And don't blame lax law enforcement for this. As the story says:

U.S. federal agents apparently kept tabs on Emma Coronel even before she crossed the border at Calexico, through her hospital stay and until she left the country to return to Mexico. Although her husband tops most-wanted lists on both sides of the border, Coronel was not arrested because there are no charges against her, the law enforcement official said.

But what I really want to know is, how did she pay for her hospital stay?  A suitcase full of cash? Or does she have insurance? If so, will she and her husband be dunned by a collection agency if they don't pay?

And speaking of law enforcement, how about those L.A. County jails?

"FBI paid deputy to smuggle cellphone in jail sting."

FBI agents probing misconduct allegations in the L.A. County Jail orchestrated an undercover sting in which they paid about $1,500 to a sheriff's deputy to smuggle a cellphone to an inmate, sources said.

The revelation is the first public indication that the FBI's investigations into allegations of inmate beatings and other deputy misconduct in the jails have uncovered possible criminal wrongdoing.

The FBI conducted the cellphone sting without notifying top Sheriff's Department brass, enraging Sheriff Lee Baca and causing a rift between the two law enforcement agencies.

So, let's see: Sheriff's deputies are allegedly beating up inmates; the FBI is looking into it; the agency found a seemingly crooked deputy to help them get a phone to an informant; and Baca isn't concerned about that and the beating allegations, he's just mad at the FBI.

Baca's bottom line? "We police ourselves," he said.

Gee, I think that's what Richard Nixon said too.

And, on top of all this, President Obama was in town for a series of appearances and fundraisers.

And yes, you know what that meant: People complaining about traffic tie-ups.

Ah, just another week in La La Land. 


Live video: Coverage of Murray trial

35 bodies dumped on street in Mexico

What else will surface at Echo Park Lake?

FBI probing reports of beatings in L.A. County jails

--Paul Whitefield

Photo: La Toya Jackson enters the courthouse Tuesday for opening statements in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

House GOP already walking away from debt-ceiling deal

House Speaker John Boehner
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has trouble not only cutting deals on behalf of his restive caucus but also getting his members to abide by them. That's because the "tea party" wing of his party seems much more eager to crusade than to govern.

Witness what happened Wednesday, when the House was rushing to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep government functioning. Congress hasn't managed to pass any of the 12 annual appropriations bills for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 (one consequence of the extended brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling), so unless it passes a continuing resolution to fund the federal bureaucracy, agencies will shut down en masse. The only exception would be "excepted" employees, such as soldiers overseas and air-traffic controllers, who'd continue to work with their pay deferred.

Boehner thought he'd have some Democratic support for the measure, despite a provision cutting $1.5 billion from a loan-guarantee program for advanced-technology vehicles to pay for an additional $1 billion in disaster relief. Among the beneficiaries of that program has been Ford, which has created an estimated 33,000 jobs with the help of $5.9 billion in guarantees. But the bill drew opposition even from a top Democrat who'd previously supported the trade-off.

(It's worth noting that the loan-guarantee program has $4 billion in funds that were appropriated on an emergency basis but have sat idle for a year or more. Why every one of those dollars should remain untouched is a mystery to me.)

But hey, Republicans have a sizable majority in the House;  they don't need no stinkin' Democrats! Unless, of course, rank-and-file members of the GOP don't fall in line behind the speaker. And that's exactly what happened Wednesday when almost 50 Republicans voted against the resolution. Not because of the disaster funding squabble but because the measure's spending cuts weren't deep enough to satisfy them. The resolution went down to defeat, 230 to 195, sending the GOP leadership back to the drawing board and increasing the chance of a government shutdown.

Continuing resolutions usually take the previous year's funding and carry it forward. In this instance, however, Congress has a more precise road map for the coming fiscal year. Under the debt-ceiling agreement, which is codified as the Budget Control Act, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate have already agreed on funding levels for two separate categories of programs: security related, which includes such things as the Defense Department and foreign aid, and non-security related.

In other words, lawmakers fought over this issue already. They reached a grudging consensus. You might think that would be enough, except that no decision made by this Congress, even if it was made by a supermajority, is considered binding by many House Republicans.

I can understand why the foes of the Affordable Care Act or the Dodd-Frank law to tighten financial industry regulation, which were enacted in a previous Congress, would keep trying to repeal all or part of them even though they don't have the votes in the Senate to do so. But the Budget Control Act is the work of this Congress, and it's barely 2 months old.

Boehner's troubles remind me of a story I heard in mid-1993. President Clinton and the House leadership had pressured members to make a series of politically difficult votes, including one to raise taxes. When Democrats gathered at a retreat, some of the freshmen complained about all the tough votes they'd been asked to cast. To which Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) replied, "Welcome to the NBA."

This House isn't behaving like the major leagues. It's more like a pickup game in which the rules are in constant flux -- and a deal's a deal only until it isn't.


Waging 'class warfare'?

Government by brinkmanship

Meddling with monetary policy

-- Jon Healey

Photo: House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks Wednesday to the National Automobile Dealers Assn., whose members know something about negotiating. Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images

GOP needs a history lesson about class warfare


GOP spin-meisters have identified "class warfare" as the go-to phrase when criticizing President Obama's proposals to raise taxes on wealthy Americans (er, "job creators"). After mostly ignoring such attacks, the president is now on the offensive. On Monday night, laying out his deficit-reduction plans, which include ending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy families and ensuring millionaires are taxed at the same rate as middle-income households, he argued, "This is not class warfare. It's math." He went even further at a Democratic Party fundraiser Tuesday night: "You know what, if asking a billionaire to pay the same rate as a plumber or a teacher makes me a warrior for the middle class, I wear that charge as a badge of honor."

Democrats are cheering the president's newly combative stance, but I'm not sure escalating the absurd "warfare" rhetoric is the best approach. Obama is backing an economically defensible way of reducing the deficit without cutting needed services for Americans at a time they're most needed. To call this class warfare is nonsensical, and proves only that the people who make this charge have no idea what it actually means. But then, that's not too surprising; the same crowd routinely tars the president as a "socialist" because he backs some government regulation of a market economy. That's not exactly the definition of socialism.

To be clear: America has seen class warfare, and the debate over deficit reduction doesn't qualify. Class warfare is what happened at the turn of the 19th century, when nationwide rail strikes prompted violent confrontations between management and labor. In those days, terrorists weren't Muslim extremists; they were often union men with bombs and guns who blew up industrial buildings (including, in 1910, the Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A. as a protest against the paper's then anti-union stance) and tried to assassinate wealthy individuals. At the heart of the unrest was a yawning gap between rich and poor, which was encouraged by a laissez-faire government approach to industrial regulation.

The wealth gap today isn't as bad as it was then, but it's getting closer. The best way to bring about genuine class warfare, then, would be to do nothing to try to close this gap. And that pretty much sums up the current GOP strategy on taxation.


Waging 'class warfare'?

Meddling with monetary policy

Why (and how) to tax the super-rich

Taxing the wealthy to stimulate the economy?

-- Dan Turner

Photo: President Obama lays out his deficit-reduction plan Monday in the White House Rose Garden. Credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press

Rick Perry's poll numbers are a wonder [Most commented]

Rick Perry

Rick Perry's going to win the GOP nom. Why? Because unlike Mitt Romney, Perry's just so lifelike. That's Jonah Goldberg's take,  anyway. In his Tuesday column, he writes that Romney "has an authentic inauthenticity problem."

I have shaken Romney's hand a few times, and I can say he feels surprisingly lifelike. But politically he just seems fake, even though what you see is what he really is. Romney is a much better candidate than he was in 2008, but there's still something about the guy that makes people say, "There's just something about that guy." And given Romney's rich history of flip-flops, he just seems untrustworthy to the tea-fueled base of the GOP.

That's in contrast with Perry, who, Goldberg says…

doesn't have to worry about seeming lifelike enough. He needs to figure out just how much larger than life he can appear without becoming a caricature.

…because Republicans:

really want to like their nominee. Right now, Perry is in that sweet spot.

To read our discussion board, readers -- even the conservatives among them -- aren't charmed by Perry.

Perry needs a platform

While I think Rick Perry is capable of both getting elected and doing a better job of leading the country than President Obama, he does nonetheless have to come up with more of a platform than being against President Obama and the collective Washington mindset.


Perry needs polishing

I'd agree that Perry is in a good spot, but his lack of experience in a national debate setting shows. He walks onstage like a bumpkin, stands uncomfortably at his lectern, and each debate has featured some deer-in-the headlights moments to issues he should have been fully prepared for. He got shellacked twice yesterday, first by Romney who rope-a-doped him in classic fashion on the social security before Perry woke up and hit back (the book battles), and then by an impressive Bachmann, who hit him with a series of jabs, then clobbered him with a right cross on Merck. Given that Perry had written the book and, one hopes, knew it's contents, and given Merck was the sole drug company involved in the inoculation fiasco, Perry's handlers should have anticipated these lines of questioning and prepped him better. Either issue is problematic for him and could become a swift-boating if he is not careful.

And I may be imagining things, but I could swear he looked bored at certain points. The body language was of someone going through a process because they have to, not because they want to.

Right now, Romney and Bachmann look the best, and that's coming from someone who could never shake that "he's slick" feel about Romney. And I am glad Newt is in the debates. Always a pleasure to hear from real policy wonks. Perry is imminently electable, but ne needs plenty of polishing.


Perry's poll numbers are unexplainable

Rick Perry is the real barbarian at the gates.  No Democrat likes him.  No establishment Republican likes him.

He's got long odds to win. Yet everywhere he goes, he ends up getting the majority of the votes.

It's pretty unexplainable at this point.

--Pasquino Marforio

Perry doesn't actually say anything

I don't get where Perry comes off as authentic.  He comes across as a fake cowboy who studied Ronald Reagan's mannerisms and thinks the electorate in 2012 will somehow once again elect an empty suit who runs on platitudes.  Romney isn't inauthentic, he's who he is, a business guy and he comes across as one -- he is direct, he watches and listens to the other candidates, he's fact-based.  Perry is the king of nonsensical one-liners (my favorite was when he said Romney was doing fine until he started with the poker -- the problem of course being the Romney played the better hand.)  I don't care much what Pawlenty has to say, that's why he's out.  I may care more about what Gingrich says when he drops out, as he is clearly the smartest guy up there.  But I'd like to care about what Rick Perry says, he just doesn't really say anything. 


Perry should stay in Texas

We don't need another Texan as President who's skeptical on global warming, "open-minded" on evolution, lacking foreign policy experience or even curiosity, a poor student in college, etc. etc. etc. Haven't we learned our lesson?



The problem with Perry

Live coverage: GOP debate, round two

Morrison: Perry and Galileo -- pardners in science

GOP debate's winner, loser, survivor and comeback

Perry's 'hard facts' about Social Security vs. actual facts

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the Republican presidential debate Monday in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Mike Carlson / Associated Press

Is it reasonable to compare Rick Perry to Galileo? [Most commented]


Republican presidential candidate and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry was not shy about his views on climate change during Wednesday night’s debate. (Nor was he when he thought to "pray for rain.") As far as he’s concerned, the jury’s still out regarding global warming:

"Well, I do agree that there is -- the science is not settled on this," Perry said. "The idea that we would put Americans' economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that's not settled yet, to me, is just nonsense."

Although he linked himself to Galileo, his doubts about global warming led our editorial board to question how separate church and state are to him:

Perry went on to compare himself, or those who agree with him, to 17th century astronomer Galileo Galilei, who in Perry's words also "got outvoted for a spell" when he adopted a minority opinion on a scientific issue. It would be far more accurate to compare Perry to Pope Urban VIII, who put Galileo on trial for heresy in 1633 because his conclusions that the Earth revolved around the sun contradicted Scripture. All scientific theories have doubters, but what is remarkable about climate science is the degree of certainty and agreement among researchers. Huntsman's numbers are about right: In a survey last year by the National Academy of Sciences, 97% to 98% of climate researchers agreed with the premise that humans are causing climate change. At this point, the empirical evidence for warming, like the evidence for a heliocentric solar system or for evolution, is so strong that denial reflects a faith-based approach to public policy.

Comments ranged from sarcastic to serious and covered science as well as government. Here are a few from our discussion board:


Perry has NO faith in climate change, despite the overwhelming science supporting it, and yet he has TOTAL faith in religion, despite there being NO evidence it even exists.

Now folks, THAT'S the definition of irony.

-- DGates

Alternative explanation

Global Warming – It’s the Sun

Global warming might be taking place but solar activity, not human activity, is by far the main cause. Human-generated carbon dioxide accounts for less than one percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Higher temperatures increase emissions of carbon dioxide from plant-life and the sea. More than 17,000 scientists saw "no compelling evidence that humans are causing discernible climate change." The Kyoto Protocol or similar programs would cost economies hundreds of billions per year. Those programs would restrain temperature increases by less than one degree. Recent reductions in sunspots on the solar surface suggest that we may be entering into a cooling period. So we should wait before adopting draconian programs like cap and trade.

-- Aberloon

We’ve misunderstood science

All you anti-science lunkheads who think that science sets out to "prove" theories are just showing that you don't have the foggiest idea what you are talking about, and have a child's view of what the scientific method is.

A theory is a comprehensive set of ideas that attempts to explain a large body of evidence. Theories are never "proven."  All science can change based on new evidence.  But we have many scientific theories that are very adept at accurately explaining large bodies of facts.  Evolution, Atomic Theory, Relativity, Gravitational theory, Germ theory, etc. have all had long histories of explaining the facts we see.  Even more powerfully, theories can predict outcomes based on experiments. When theories make successful predictions, they grow even stronger and more accepted.  Manmade Climate Change is now one of these theories.

Many scientists would love to make a name for themselves by showing the theory is incorrect, but so far it has withstood the test.

Please try to do some research, and not on Republican or Oil-financed websites.  Look at real science that's been published.

-- jimby_99

Couldn’t the scientists be lying?

Did you ever think that many of the scientists could be in error? I guess not. The falsifying of data probably didn't enter your little minds. Perhaps the data was changed to get more grants? Follow the money. If that doesn't convince you of being skeptical try this:

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

Amazing what you can find when you do some research!

--golfman f

Government should help us face weather extremes

Whether or not all of these weather disasters are the specific results of manmade climate change or not is extremely difficult to prove.  But that's not really the point. The fact is that weather extremes are happening.  So at least we need to have the appropriate governmental resources to assist people in the wake of these occurrences.   Apparently, Rick Perry's day of Christian prayer didn't help much in the Texas wild fire disasters.

So now he had to get on his knees to the Feds for help---but at the same time, Perry, Cantor, Bachmann, etc want to require spending cuts elsewhere or they want to eliminate FEMA.  And, these mouth breathing, nose picking lunatics want to emphatically deny that man has any effect on these issues--so they want to eliminate the EPA and let everyone go the way of Texas--where polluters are only under "voluntary" rules.

And since Texas has some of the worst pollution in the nation---well, evidence and facts never meant much to the Republican party.

-- Marty L

Can Perry decide on his own?

The issue is if Governor Perry can understand expert opinion in any field and make sound decisions based on that opinion, or is he just going to go with what his political handlers and lobbyists tell him to do. I'm old enough to remember when politicians, and a few bought-off pseudo scientists, were saying smoking wasn't hazardous to your health, even in the face of overwhelming scientific opinion otherwise.

-- bkmoore

It’s our own fault if we elect a "tea party" candidate

If we elect a president who denies that human activities cause global climate change and who denies evolution, then we deserve to no longer be the leading scientific innovator and technological powerhouse.

Tea Party candidates Perry, Bachmann, Romney and the others may talk about jobs, jobs, jobs, but the Tea Party’s real agenda consists of radical social change that is based upon extremist Christian Fundamentalism beliefs. About the only social progress of the last 100 years that Perry has not advocated repealing is a woman’s right to vote, but he would deny a woman her right to choose.

In a Tea Party America, a corporation’s “right” to pollute would outweigh a citizen’s right to protect his family and community from that pollution.

If you believe that corporations are people, then vote Tea Party Republican.

If you believe that corporations are not people, then vote Democratic.

-- Archibald

*Spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.


Rick Perry: He's no Galileo

Politics and religion can mix

Rick Perry and Galileo-- pardners in science

McManus:  A two-man GOP presidential race?

GOP debate: Biggest winner, loser and missed opportunity

--Julia Gabrick

Photo: This 2007 NASA handout image shows the spectacular "blue marble," the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date. Credit: NASA 

Less government is more? Ask the people of San Bruno

San Bruno pipeline blast 
Is the best government one that governs the least? 

Many Republicans today argue yes. 

If so, they have their wish, both in Washington and in California.

We may not have the small government they want, but we certainly have a government that doesn't govern much.

Nothing is too big, or too small, to fight over in Washington today.  Disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Irene?  Not so fast, says House GOP leader Eric Cantor.

The president wants to address Congress  on jobs -– everyone's No. 1 issue?  Not so fast, says House Speaker John Boehner.  

It's smart politics by Republicans, who want to win back the presidency in 2012 and see no reason to help out President Obama and the Democrats.

And if the GOP succeeds in 2012?  Then Democrats will take on the obstructionist role. 

And if the GOP fails?  Well, why would it help a second-term Obama, when there's always 2016 to look forward to?

As my dad used to say: We're in for a long, cold winter.

But does it really matter? After all, Democrats pushed for an economic stimulus, but the economy is still struggling and unemployment remains high.

Republicans say government can't create jobs.  Of course, to spur job creation, they push for lower taxes, which they got through the extension of the Bush tax cuts. But the economy is still struggling and unemployment remains high.

So, if Obama is reelected, should we try another stimulus?

And, if a Republican wins, should we cut taxes?

Isn't one definition of insanity "doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results"?

OK, we can’t expect government to help us out on the big issues.  What about the smaller stuff?

A conservative mantra, especially in California, is that government is strangling business with regulations.

As a counterpoint, talk to the people of San Bruno. As The Times reported this week:

In a scathing critique, federal investigators blamed Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for what one official called "baffling" mistakes that led to a gas pipeline explosion last September that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in the Bay Area last year.

The National Transportation Safety Board also said PG&E exploited the lack of monitoring by regulators, who mistakenly placed "blind trust" in the utility. ... 

The NTSB also took aim at the California Public Utilities Commission and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for contributing to the tragedy. They said that in 1961 the utilities commission exempted all natural gas pipelines built before 1961 from pressure testing. The federal government did the same for pipelines built before 1970. ...    

The NTSB estimates that about half the natural gas pipelines in the United States or about 150,000 miles of lines were built before 1970. Because of the exemptions, the NTSB said it was impossible to determine the safety levels of those lines. According to the agency, PG&E has assessed only about 65 feet of the 47 miles of gas pipeline it operates through San Bruno and the western part of the Bay Area. ...

Board members said they were dismayed that the resources for regulatory agencies have been reduced over the years, forcing inspectors to rely increasingly on representations and self-assessments from utilities that they are doing the right thing.

Hmmm. Sounds to me like PG&E wasn't exactly strangled by regulations. Sounds to me more like everyone involved, in business and government, played Russian roulette with the safety of the good folks of San Bruno, and lots of other people as well.

So let's ask that question again: Is the best government one that governs the least? 


How to pay for disasters

August sales at major retailers beat expectations

S.C. governor rejects health insurance exchange funds

Taxpayers will foot big share of post-Irene flooding costs

Our next Republican president should favor smaller government

-- Paul Whitefield
Photo: A PG&E inspector scrutinizes a portion of the gas main the day after the pipeline explosion in September 2010 that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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