The Economy Hub With Michael Hiltzik
Inside GOP science policy, Part 3: climate change

In Part 3 of our interview with Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), we turn to climate change, which is surely the most politically contentious topic under his jurisdiction as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on commerce, justice and science. 

Culberson, who represents the Houston area, long has played a role in legislative policymaking on climate change. Among other positions, he's opposed to cap-and-trade programs. His approach to climate change legislation emerged most strongly in 2013, when he introduced a measure to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from using a "social cost of carbon" calculation in assessing the costs and benefits of environmental regulations.

The EPA wanted to increase its social cost figure, which would make it easier to show that any limitation on fossil fuel emissions was cost-effective. Culberson maintains that the EPA calculations for the social cost of carbon were unclear. His amendment drew a broadside from Rep. Henry Waxman...

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Inside GOP science, part 2: the brawl over National Science Foundation grants

In part 2 of our interview with Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.), we turn to the controversy over another agency under his jurisdiction as chairman of the House Appropriation Committee's subcommittee on commerce, justice, and science: the National Science Foundation, which distributes about $7 billion annually in grants--about one-fourth of all federal research grants to academic and research institutions.

The foundation has been under attack from conservatives for years, especially for its grantmaking in social sciences. Leading the attack recently is Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. We reported on Smith's campaign against the foundation here and here.

As was detailed by Science magazine, Smith's method involves picking out funded projects that can be caricatured as frivolous, even though the actual research is serious and sound. The spreadsheet of projects Smith's staff cherry-picked last year is here. He has also demanded...

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Inside the GOP's science policy: A talk with Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas)

Republican control of both houses of Congress gives the GOP extraordinary power over science policy in the United States. Last month, we had a lengthy discussion of the party's interests and outlook in scientific research with Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who had been named chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on commerce, justice and science.   

Culberson's appointment as "cardinal" of the CJS subcommittee gives him oversight of NASA and the National Science Foundation, and a powerful role in government policy on issues such as climate change. As you will see from the following discussions, Culberson, who serves the Houston area, is an engaging Texan who wears his enthusiasms -- especially for space exploration -- and his politics -- conservative--proudly. At a time when the GOP's commitment to science funding is in question, Culberson is an outspoken defender of science programs, though some might find his commitments selective.

We'll be publishing the...

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Nasdaq at 5,000: Time to be very, very afraid?

For the longest time, I promised myself that I would stay in the stock market until the Nasdaq Composite index reached its dot-com era peak of just above 5,000. Then I'd bail out.

My will power and resistance to self-delusion are about to be tested, along with my intestinal fortitude. Because as of Monday, we're there.

The Nasdaq closed Monday at 5,008.10. It's the index's first taste of the plus-5,000 stratosphere since those heady days of March 2000, when it topped out (on March 10) at 5,048.62. (See chart above.) Since then the Nasdaq has lagged its sister indices in the quest to set new records; the S&P 500 and Dow industrials hit records just before the 2007-08 crash, and started touching the heights again about two years ago. But the Nasdaq hadn't come close to its March 2000 peak. 

Until now. So the question is whether Monday's close above 5,000 represents a return to the bad old days, when a ".com" after a company's name was enough to propel it into IPO (initial public...

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Actually, that 'off target' 1995 anti-Internet column was amazingly on-target

Back in 1995, astronomer and computer expert Clifford Stoll wrote an article for Newsweek dismissing all the excitement about something called the Internet. It was headlined, "The Internet? Bah!" 

Stoll ridiculed the claims of "Internet hucksters" that we might someday buy books, music and airline tickets over the Internet, or make restaurant reservations, or that we'd live in a world of telecommuting workers and interactive libraries. 

Every few years, someone unearths the piece to guffaw at its naivete. In 2010 it was BoingBoing and's Farhad Manjoo, who wrote that Stoll's mistake was that he didn't anticipate that after 1995, "a few magical things came and changed everything."

More recently, Stoll's piece was dug up by W. Joseph Campbell, a communications professor at American University, who celebrated its 20th anniversary (the column appeared in Newsweek on Feb. 26, 1995) by calling it "so breathtakingly off target that it has become something of an online cult classic."


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Watch 'Meet the Press' treat climate change as a big joke

As you may have heard, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who astonishingly enough is chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, brought a snowball to the floor of the U.S. Senate last week to debunk "all this hysteria about global warming." 

He stated, "In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair — you know what this is? — it’s a snowball. Just from outside here. So it’s very very cold out. Very unseasonable. So Mr. President, catch this." He tossed the snowball to a waiting page, and then gave a triumphant "Um, hmm!" The video is here

Over at NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning, Inhofe's performance was thought to be good clean fun, grist for a round of chortles at our zany all-American politics. Here's how host Chuck Todd introduced the Inhofe clip (the segment can be streamed here; skip ahead to about the 48:35 mark):

"A little lighter note here. Sen. Jim Inhofe used a fun little prop to...

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