What everyone gets wrong about the link between climate change and violence – Updated by Brad Plumer on November 15, 2015, 10:20 a.m. ET


During the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday night, CBS moderator John Dickerson brought up the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and then asked Bernie Sanders if he still believes climate change is our greatest national security threat. (Sanders had said as much in a previous debate.)

(John Cantlie/AFP/Getty Images)

During the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday night, CBS moderator John Dickerson brought up the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and then asked Bernie Sanders if he still believes climate change is our greatest national security threat. (Sanders had said as much in a previous debate.)

Sanders didn‘t back down:

Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world — this is what the CIA says — they’re going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops, and you’re going to see all kinds of international conflict.

Much snickering ensued on Twitter, especially over that bolded sentence, with the prevailing sentiment that Sanders’ argument was self-evidently silly.

I’d say Sanders’ reply was a little off-base — but the outraged reaction was absurd. The truth about climate change and conflict is far more complex and nuanced than a short soundbite can allow, but it’s foolish to dismiss the entire topic out of hand.

Sanders was going too far when he said that climate change is “directly related” to the growth of terrorism. It’s hard to find any climate or security experts who would make that strong or straightforward of a causal link.

But it’s fine to raise the broader issue. What experts will often say — and what the Pentagon has been saying — is that global warming has the potential to aggravate existing tensions and security problems, by, for instance, making droughts or water shortages more likely in some regions. That doesn’t mean war or terrorism will be inevitable in a hotter world. Climate will typically be just one of many factors involved. Still, climate change could increase the risk of violence, which is why many military officials now take it seriously.

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http://www.vox.com/2015/11/15/9738342/climate-change-conflict-terrorism

The Liars in Chief – By Susan Milligan Nov 13, 2015


The unemployment rate is not more than 40 percent. The Chinese are not in Syria. The federal tax code is not 73,000 pages long. And Capitol Hill’s investigation of the Benghazi incident is not the longest-running congressional inquiry ever.

Caucasian politician making speech at podium

All of those wrong assertions were made by people running for president. All of them have been debunked by teams of fact-checkers at newspapers, broadcast outlets and independent, non-partisan fact monitors. And none of them has demonstrably done anything to slow the candidacies of people seeking the job that requires a herculean level of trust from the American people.

[READ: Presidential Candidates Don’t Need the Media]

In the battle for the hearts, minds and votes of the American public, do facts matter? Not really, experts say. With the country so deeply divided along partisan lines, no broad consensus on who or what will serve as an independent arbiter of truth and an overload of information of varying accuracy, facts themselves take a backseat to the narrative. And when facts interfere with an individual’s worldview, it’s the facts that are seen with suspicion, specialists say.

Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, has examined this phenomenon, most recently with a study in which he presented to parents factual evidence from medical authorities that vaccines do not cause autism. While the evidence did successfully lower misconceptions about the connection between vaccines and autism, the research did nothing to convince vaccine-skeptical parents that they should vaccinate their children. In fact, such parents were even less likely to change their minds about the issue, even after being presented with medical evidence, said the study, which Nyhan conducted with Jason Reifler, Sean Richey, and Gary Freed.

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http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015/11/13/the-presidential-candidates-are-the-liars-in-chief?int=a14709

The Democrats’ wage problem – By TIMOTHY NOAH 11/14/15 07:50 AM EST


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joins low-wage workers, some who labor as cooks and cleaners at the Capitol, as he speaks during a rally. | AP Photo

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joins low-wage workers, some who labor as cooks and cleaners at the Capitol, as he speaks during a rally. | AP Photo

Americans’ incomes have declined during Obama’s presidency.

Democrats were gleeful this week when Donald Trump blurted out in Tuesday’s debate that “wages [are] too high.” But as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley prepare to debate Saturday night, the Democrats have a wage problem of their own: American incomes have dropped during the Obama presidency.

It’s a vulnerability that Republicans haven’t figured out how to exploit, and it’s clearly one of the biggest weaknesses in the Obama economic recovery.

In 2014, the last year for which Census data are available, median household income was $1,656 lower than it was in January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. A recent survey by the private firm Sentier Research showed household income finally rose this year above its level in June 2009, when the Great Recession ended — but only by 1.3 percent. That’s a terrible record for any presidency. But that such stagnation occurred during a Democratic one is potentially a big problem for Democratic candidates, and especially for Clinton, who’s running on her role in that administration.

“I think that there are two phenomena here,” said Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist in Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “Those who normally are the most articulate, passionate voices for those who are doing least well in the economy have been muted over the past seven years” because they don’t want to undercut Obama. That should create an opening for Republicans.

But “Republicans have never been great at talking about this,” Stevens said.

The Republican candidates’ wage conundrum isn’t about excoriating the Democrats. They’re all too happy to call out Obama for failing to lift incomes.

 

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Do Debates Matter? – by Joseph P. Williams November 13, 2015


Democrat Sen. John Kennedy, left and Republican Richard Nixon, right, as they debated campaign issues at a Chicago television studio on Sept. 26, 1960. Moderator Howard K. Smith is at desk in center.

They’re often described with action words reserved for warfare or contact sports – battles, fights, counterattacks – with winners and losers determined within minutes of completion. Participants come armed with battle plans, self-serving data and talking points intended to create headline-generating heat, not necessarily policy light.

Critics say the televised, speed chess-meets-Mortal Kombat competitions between politicians who want to lead the free world too often turn on stumbles, errors and style over substance. Supporters insist on their value, but want reforms, now more than ever.

[READ: Immigration, Foreign Policy Splits Republicans In Fourth Debate]

Given such high stakes, relatively low expectations and declining overall TV viewership in an era where Twitter is a news source: Why are presidential debates still a thing?

Though they sometimes resemble the reality show “Survivor” more than a serious forum about the nation’s future, presidential debates are one of the top sources of information for voters, according to analyses and TV ratings. They can also determine which candidates can tap the ever-widening pipeline of money in politics – from small donors kicking in a few dollars to wealthy elites deciding which future president, or super PAC, is the best bet for their millions.

Yet the decades-old, gladiators-on-TV format is looking increasingly battle-worn.

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http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015/11/13/do-presidential-debates-matter?int=a14709

Marco Rubio Is the Nominee in Waiting – By William Saletan NOV. 11 2015 3:18 PM


Marco Rubio turns to face opponent Jeb Bush during the Republican primary debate in Milwaukee on Nov. 10, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

Marco Rubio turns to face opponent Jeb Bush during the Republican primary debate in Milwaukee on Nov. 10, 2015.
Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

It’s good to be Marco Rubio. You’re young, smart, and good-looking. In a party that needs credibility with Hispanic voters, you’re Cuban American. You’re a great talker. You’re a rising star in a party that’s eating its elders. Insurgents admire you, yet the GOP establishment trusts you. Republicans are looking for a new leader, and you seem to be it.

Tuesday night’s GOP debate showed how everything is opening up for Rubio. He’s good, and he’s lucky. He didn’t dominate the conversation, but the dynamics worked in his favor. To begin with, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got bumped off the stage. Christie isn’t a threat to Rubio, but he’s a terrific debater. With Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee banished to the undercard event, the visible field of candidates narrowed to eight.

Jeb Bush, who once again needed to stand out, didn’t. On stage after stage, it has become obvious that Rubio is a much better talker. Bush, sensing the threat, staged a head-on collision with Rubio in their previous debate. And Bush lost it.

Bush was better on Tuesday. But if you’re a Republican donor or undecided voter, you saw the same liabilities you’ve seen before. When Bush tries to look strong, he sounds weak. He repeatedly summarized his foreign-policy vision with the passive phrase, “Voids are filled.” He said carbon emissions were down thanks to “the explosion of natural gas.” At one point, he babbled, “I was in Washington—Iowa—about three months ago talking about how bad Washington, D.C., is. It was—get the—kind of the—anyway.” Bush pleaded for air time, telling Donald Trump, “Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate.” Later, in a succinct display of their alpha and beta personalities, Trump silenced Bush during an exchange by extending an arm and barking, “Hold it.” In his closing statement, Bush promised not to be an “agitator in chief.”

Any viewer looking for a pragmatist was probably more impressed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who seized that role from Bush. Kasich presented himself as the candidate of fiscal responsibility and sensible compassion, particularly with regard to immigration and government assistance. By taking market share from Bush, Kasich can help clear the way for Rubio.

If Rubio stays ahead of the other candidates who have held elected office, he’ll win the nomination. That’s because the candidates who haven’t held office, led by Trump and Ben Carson, don’t have the sanity or skill to endure. Carson is being vetted for the first time, and it shows. Trump, who likes to call other people “low-energy,” delivered his flattest performance of the year.

It’s possible that, having run out of gas in the polls, Trump is losing enthusiasm for the campaign. But the more worrisome sign is that the audience seemed tired of him. He was booed for dismissing Kasich and for belittling Carly Fiorina. The crowd applauded Fiorina as she mocked Trump’s boast about appearing on a TV show with Vladimir Putin. When Trump denounced the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a scheme to help China, Sen. Rand Paul embarrassed him by pointing out, “China is not part of this deal.”

Against this background, Rubio looked good. It started with the debate’s first question, about the minimum wage. Trump botched it, shrugging that people “have to work really hard” instead of expecting a better entry wage. Carson wandered into a sermon about how the government fosters dependency. Rubio, the next man up, rejected Trump’s answer, insisting that people are “working as hard as ever.” He summarized his humble upbringing, pivoted to his generational pitch about emerging economic challenges, and crisply explained the dilemma: “If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine.”

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