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Let’s crank it up on climate change

Progressives really try to get along. It is in our nature. It is time that we quit smiling and get serious about our planet.

From ClimateProgress:

Some of the best pollsters have known for years that progressives can and should talk about climate change  (see Mark Mellman on climate messaging: “A strong public consensus has emerged on the reality and severity of global warming, as well as on the need for federal action” [5/09]).  Mellman calls the polling that suggests one shouldn’t talk about global warming, a “politically naïve, methodologically flawed and factually inaccurate.”

Sure, if you talk about any subject in a clumsy fashion you will turn people off — just look at how Obama and major progressive politicians managed to turn a winning political issue, health care reform, into an unpopular one! [see “Can Obama deliver health and energy security with a half (assed) message?“]

Much of the climate language that gets tested is truly lame.  But the fact that poor messaging fails is not an argument for not doing messaging on the subject at all!

Science-based (dire) warnings are an essential part of good climate messaging — along with a clear explanation of the myriad clean energy solutions available today and the multiple benefits those solutions that deliver,  including  millions of jobs,  energy security, competitiveness, and especially clean air and improved public health.  Recent research supports that view (even though many in the media misreported the story).

Ironically, many people think the failure of the climate bill proves that talking about climate change doesn’t work — because they don’t realize that the messaging campaign built around the climate bill was based on not talking about climate change! Those still confused on that matter should read “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?

Nearly $200 million was spent by enviornmental, progressive, and business groups in 2009 and 2010 to sell a climate bill.  The vast majority (but not all) of that messaging was built around ignoring the climate message and instead talking about clean energy jobs, energy security, and the threat from China.  Worse, the progressive political leadership (again with exceptions, such as Sen. John Kerry) also generally either refused to talk about climate change or they seriously downplayed the subject.  That includes, most importantly, President Obama and the entire White House communications team [see “The unbearable lameness of being (Rahm and Axelrod)“].

Even worse, as I’ve reported before, multiple sources confirm that the WH comms team shut down an effort by the office of the president’s science adviser,  John Hodren, to mount a strong defense of climate science after the Climategate emails were hacked in late 2009.  So not only was the WH –  the preeminent bully pulpit in American politics — failing to deliver a clear, positive message on climate science, they weren’t even responding to a strong, negative message by the disinformers.  That’s a lose-lose strategy.  As they say, you can’t beat a horse with no horse.  Is it any wonder that they had trouble mustering moderate Senate Democrats to support a climate bill last or to defend EPA’s  ability to regulate greenhouse gases this year?

As Ezra Klein wrote last June after Obama’s failed post-BP-disaster speech:

To expand a bit on a point I made on Rachel Maddow’s show, I’m just not sure how you do a response to climate change if you can’t really say the words “climate change.” And that’s where we are right now: The actual problem we’re trying to solve is politically, if not scientifically, controversial. And so politicians, rather than continuing to try to convince the American people that we need to do something about it, have started talking about more popular policies that are related to solving climate change. You see this in Lindsey Graham’s effort to argue for carbon-pricing from a place of purported climate-change skepticism. You see it in pollster Joel Benenson’s memo that tries to persuade legislators to vote for a climate bill without ever using those words. And you saw it in Barack Obama’s speech last night, which was all about clean energy and grand challenges.

I have spent as much time as anybody reading all of the polling and messaging memos, and talking to leading experts in communications.  This is certainly a complicated subject and nobody has figured out the best winning message –  probably because there is no one-size-fits-all message,  particularly in the face of  the most well-funded and sophisticated disinformation campaign in human history. That disinformation campaign complicates all messaging — and all message testing — since it is so pervasive and well-designed.

Because  of the importance of this topic and its complexity, and because I continue to hear otherwise highly informed people get this so wrong — including the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger — I will be doing more posts on it. (more…)

By |2011-04-04T07:00:44-04:00April 4th, 2011|Environment|2 Comments

Obama delivers big speech

I briefly got a chance to look at Barack Obama’s speech on the economy. He isn’t president yet; nonetheless, he is urging Congress to get some work done. Working too slowly will worsen the problem. Passing a stimulus package that is too small will prolong the recession if it doesn’t lead to a depression. Congress for the first time in a long time matters. They need to get this right. 

Here’s what Steve Benen said and I agree 100%.

“I know the scale of this plan is unprecedented,” Obama said, “but so is the severity of our situation. We have already tried the wait-and-see approach to our problems, and it is the same approach that helped lead us to this day of reckoning. That is why the time has come to build a 21st century economy in which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded.” To that end, Obama described an ambitious vision on energy, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and closing loopholes that “allow Wall Street wrongdoers to slip through regulatory cracks.”

But here’s the part of the speech that, at least politically, was the most important:

“It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe. Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy — where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.

“That is why we need to act boldly and act now to reverse these cycles. That’s why we need to put money in the pockets of the American people, create new jobs, and invest in our future. That’s why we need to re-start the flow of credit and restore the rules of the road that will ensure a crisis like this never happens again.”

Reagan told us that government “is the problem.” Clinton told us the “era of big government is over.” And Obama wants America to know that government is the “only” institution that’s capable of addressing an economic crisis of this severity.

For all of the talk in recent weeks about the president-elect’s ideology and partisan fealty, this speech was a reminder of the importance of government activism in a time of overwhelming challenges. And that, at its core, is an inescapably liberal message.

By |2009-01-08T13:00:33-04:00January 8th, 2009|Congress, Economy, Obama administration|Comments Off on Obama delivers big speech

Don't Underestimate the dangers of Motorcycles

Wearing my trauma surgeon hat, I wrote this op-ed piece which printed in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times

Over the last couple of weeks there’s been a lot of discussion about motorcycles and motorcycle safety here in Asheville and nationwide. As a trauma surgeon, I thought that my input could be useful.

For some numbers, in the year 2005, Mission Hospital admitted 176 motorcycle crash victims. Approximately one-third of these patients required an ICU stay with the range from a couple of hours to 53 days. Just over 60 percent of the patients wore helmets. The overall length of stay for all motorcycle crash victims was twice that of our general trauma population. The median hospital charge was over $17,000. Surprisingly, and this is a testimony to the whole trauma team, out of the 176 patients only four died.

Since mandatory helmet laws have been repealed in many states, this has given trauma surgeons the unique opportunity to study if helmets really make a difference in survival. A recent study in Michigan compared the outcome of patients before the helmet law was repealed to those patients who presented after. The outcome was striking. The number of significant brain injuries dramatically increased and the severity of brain injury also increased. The length of stay in the hospital and in the intensive care unit was longer in those patients without helmets. Significantly more patients who were not wearing helmets required prolonged rehabilitation after their hospitalization. Finally, as expected, the cost of care was significantly more for those patients who did not wear helmets. The conclusion of this study and many others was the helmets protect the brain and save lives.

A 30-year-old female was riding her motorcycle with several of her friends. She was far away from home. She was involved in motorcycle crash. She was found to have a broken pelvis, which required surgery. Her friends stayed around as long as they could but finally had to return home to their own families. This young lady was stranded here in Asheville. She recovered from her surgery and endured her initial postoperative physical therapy, alone until she could be flown home over 1,500 miles away.

A 65-year-old male who rode motorcycles in his “younger” days, was convinced by his grandson, who bought a used motorcycle, to help him fix it up. Once the motorcycle was fixed, he took a ride to make sure everything was in working order. Unfortunately, he was unable to avoid a truck which pulled out in front of him. The resulting crash threw him over 50 feet. He suffered deep abrasions to both arms and legs. He sustained multiple facial fractures and a traumatic head injury. After three days in the intensive care unit his traumatic brain injury continued to worsen in spite of aggressive therapy and multiple surgeries, the patient was declared brain dead.

In the emergency room, the intensive care unit or the trauma care unit, we deal with dramatic stories like these almost on a daily basis. Motorcycles provide almost no protection to the rider. Therefore, even minor motorcycle crashes can cause significant injuries. Deep abrasions resulting from a fall and skidding on concrete are considered a relatively “minor” injury. Patients who have these injuries will attest that they are not minor. As a matter of fact, they cause major pain and disability. They cause multiple trips to the operating room. Some of these abrasions require skin grafting in order for them to heal.

Motorcycles are inherently dangerous. Enthusiasts are extremely vulnerable to bad automobile drivers. Someone can easily pull out of a “hidden” mountain road or stop suddenly. There is very little that even the most extremely conscientious motorcycle rider can do.

Motorcycle riders can decrease the chance of injury or death by doing a few things:

• Take a motorcycle safety course

• Be conscientious and thoughtful while riding

• Wear leathers (this decreases the chance and the severity of abrasions)

• Always wear a full helmet with a face safety shield

• For more information, please check out the following Web sites — The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration ( and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (

By |2012-04-26T14:24:19-04:00June 30th, 2006|General, Healthcare, Medical Ethics/Issues|Comments Off on Don't Underestimate the dangers of Motorcycles
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