ScissorTales: Stormy weather, science and politics

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: June 14, 2014
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THE hurricane that hit Miami did more than $180 billion in damage to the Florida city. That’s nearly twice the tab of Hurricane Katrina. Climate change?

If so, it was the climate change happening in 1926, when the referenced storm did $76 million in damage. The $180 billion figure is an educated guess based on the worth of a 1926 dollar today and the changes in Miami’s property development and value between then and now.

The estimate comes from Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. Pielke, writing in USA Today this week, says “there is little evidence to suggest that U.S. hurricanes have become more common or stronger.”

But don’t tell Barack Obama. He’s counting on public sentiment about climate change to shift toward his own views, based in part on the “settled science” that major weather events prove man’s effect on the environment.

In a New York Times interview last Sunday, Obama said climate change shows up in weather disasters like hurricanes and droughts. “Those start multiplying,” the forecaster-in-chief said, “then people start thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to reward politicians who talk to us honestly and seriously about this problem.’”

Here’s some honesty, Mr. President: Florida has gone more than 3,000 days without a hurricane. The current U.S. major hurricane “drought” is the longest since at least 1900.

Never mind. A single big storm this summer will result in Obama and others thundering about how mankind is “polluting the weather.”

Wolves at the door

Politicians often rely on tales of past financial challenges to connect with economically struggling voters. One wonders if that’s what Hillary Clinton was attempting to do this week when she told “ABC World News,” “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education — it was not easy.” This tale of woe might be compelling except for one thing: As president of the United States, Bill Clinton and his family enjoyed a six-figure income and had their housing, transportation and food supplied by the taxpayers. Yet somehow they still found a way to emerge from the White House “dead broke.” We doubt that most citizens will sympathize, with many people more than willing to endure such “challenges” in their own lives.

‘Sticky’ situation

If you’re facing east in Oklahoma, you might feel a tug on your right side. Call it the magnet factor of Texas. Recent U.S. Census Bureau figures show that five of 10 fastest-growing big cities in the U.S. are south of the Red River. Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth and Dallas continue to attract people from other states in search of better job opportunities, a low cost of living and no personal income tax. Texas isn’t just a magnet. It’s also glue stick, says University of North Carolina demographics expert Rebecca Tippett. “North Carolina and Texas are very similar in that they’re both what we call ‘sticky states’ — the percentage of adults born here who are still living here is very high,” Tippett told stateline.org, “plus we are both really large migrant destinations.” Charlotte, N.C., is No. 4 on the big-city magnet list, behind Austin, San Antonio and Houston and ahead of New York and Denver. A winning combination for growth: Attract “outsiders” and keep the natives so content that they’ll stick around.

Score one for students

Public school students in California have reason to celebrate. A superior court judge sided with plaintiffs — nine students — who sued over the state’s teacher tenure system. Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down tenure protection, the state’s “last-in-first-out” retention policy and existing disciplinary policy. The students argued that the rules leave so many bad teachers in the system that some students — particularly low-income and minority students — don’t get the education guaranteed in the state’s constitution. “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly inefficient teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience,” Treu wrote. “There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” Teachers’ unions, naturally, decried the decision. An appeal is certain. The issue is far from settled, but this is an encouraging start.


by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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