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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Smart Bombs: Money tilts climate science

As astute readers noted, I made an elementary mistake in last week’s column, when I said the seasons are determined by the proximity of the sun, not the tilt of Earth’s axis. That’s what I get for not running the column by my kids, who know better.

Anyway, I got to thinking how a politician would handle an science error like that, and global warming provides the perfect example.

Two years ago, researchers culled the peer-reviewed work of climate scientists and discovered that 97 percent of the 4,000 papers that took a position said that global warming was occurring and that human activities were the chief cause. Exxon Mobil’s own research from long ago concurs.

Game over, right? Ha!

It’s easy for me to issue a mea culpa, because the tilt of the Earth is a natural occurrence and doesn’t cause money to fall out of anyone’s pockets. But politicians have collected millions of dollars in donations from industries whose profits would be threatened if the government were to follow the science.

So, they need to adopt other strategies, such as claiming “the science isn’t in yet,” or spotlighting “research” that is often industry-funded. There isn’t a single relevant scientific academy that doubts that man is behind global warming. The political divide on this issue is mostly an American phenomenon.

Or, they claim a vast conspiracy. This is the tack of Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the head of the Senate science committee. He calls global warming the biggest hoax ever perpetrated by man. To prove his point, he once brought a snowball to the Senate floor, because, apparently, he believes that winter would be extinct under global warming. (Come on, everyone knows the seasons are caused the Earth’s tilt.)

Or, they harass the scientists. This is what Inhofe’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is fond of doing. Smith, as chairman of the House science committee, wants to cut $300 million from NASA’s earth science budget, and, according to the New York Times, his committee has subpoenaed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists, demanding more than six years of communications related to their global warming measurements.

What’s he looking for? A way to tilt the message. A way to avoid saying, “I was wrong.”

THE TALKING DEAD. Since I have cable, I was able to tune into the Republican debate. Initially, I was taken aback by the candidates gnawing on each other and slurping the moderators’ blood.

Then I realized I was watching “The Walking Dead.”

PRIORITIES. Tax reform is so simple, according to the Republican presidential candidates. Lower the rates, end all deductions and zap the Internal Revenue Service. Perhaps, we’ll see a plan like that from Republicans after they take over Congress.

What’s that? They took charge last year?

Well, just as soon as they get to the bottom of Benghazi and Planned Parenthood, they’ll surely tackle tax reform.

PAC ATTACK. Since all of the candidates bashed the elites and the big corporate interests, and none of them defended Super-PACs, can we finally get some legislation to undo the damage caused by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision?

It’s the first step in fending off the lobbyists and getting that tax reform they claim to want.

UM, WHAT? Did I hear Carly Fiorina correctly? Walgreens bought Rite-Aid, because it’s trying to keep up with the size of government? What version of Monopoly has she been playing?

Did I hear Donald Trump correctly? He is considering lifting the firearms ban at his hotels and casinos, because gun-free zones are a “catastrophe”?

I feel safer with the zombies.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.