Tag Archives: republicans

Political speeches use simpler words and stronger emotions

Democrat and Republican politicians in the US have significantly changed their speeches in the past two centuries, according to a new study by computer science researchers, which showed speeches now use a simpler language and express more sentiments than before.

Unfortunately, they stop only spans to 2010.
Image credits: Flickr Matt Johnson (CC BY 2.0)

A team of researchers from Kansas State University looked at almost two million congressional speeches by US legislators from 1873 to 2010. They found, based on computer analysis, that the style of the speeches made in Congress changed quite a lot compared to several decades ago.

“The algorithms measured different aspects of the speeches such as the vocabulary, the reading level, the positive or negative sentiments expressed in the speeches, and more. The sentiments are measured by using artificial intelligence reading of the text,” said co-author Lios Shamir in a press release.

For their analysis, the researchers applied quantitative text analysis to examine changes in the speeches over 138 years. The approach was based on multiple text measurements computed from each speech and averaged in each year to obtain a statistical signal reflecting the trends of these measurements. Several noteworthy trends stand out, reflecting not only political but also societal changes.

For instance, the analysis showed a sharp increase in words related to women identity starting the 1980s. That change can be attributed to the increase in the number of women in Congress (which has been increasing consistently since 1981) and/or to the higher number of bills related to topics relevant to women — a social category largely ignored by lawmakers until a few decades ago.

“For most of the 20th century, however, there were no substantial differences between women’s identity in Democratic and Republican speeches, and expressions of women’s identity were about 10 times less frequent than expressions of men’s identity by legislators from both parties,” Shamir said.

The study also found that the speeches are becoming simpler; the analysis showed a significant change in the reading level of the speeches using the Coleman-Liau readability index, which assesses the reading level of texts and associates it with school grade. Speeches started becoming more complex in the 1920s and reached peak complexity in the 1970s, when they were, on average, at high school level vocabulary — and have steadily decreased since.

The mean Coleman-Liau readability index of congressional speeches in different years

At the same time, the analysis concluded speeches made by Democrat legislators have a higher readability index compared to speeches of Republican legislators, and the difference has been becoming larger since the beginning of the 21st century. A very similar observation was made with the diversity of words, which is mathematically unrelated to the readability index but shows a very similar profile. Simply put the complexity levels of Republican and Democrat speeches have been largely similar (with some exceptions), but that trend seems to be changing substantially in recent years.

The researchers argued this could be related to speeches aiming at communicating with the general public through the media. Since politicians can reach more people through modern technology, they are trying to keep speeches simpler and accessible.

Another aspect seen in the analysis were emotions. More recent speeches express stronger sentiments compared to speeches made in the 19th century, but negative sentiments expressed in speeches have been declining since the 1980s. Since the 2000s, speeches of legislators from the opposite party of the president were more negative than speeches from legislators from the same political party as the president.

The analysis wouldn’t have been possible without automation, the researchers argued. The availability of computational tools for automatic text analysis enables a new type of research of political communication, providing insights that are difficult to identify and quantify with traditional manual analysis. However, it’s remarkable that this distinctly technological advance is showing something very human about how our society is changing.

“With natural language processing we can extract new knowledge from old data,” Shamir said. “There is no practical way to quantify and profile such a large number of speeches without using computers.”

The study was published in the journal Heliyon.

Oddly enough, some Republicans think climate change is real

Comic by Newsworks.

Members of the GOP are notorious for their stance against the idea that humans are causing global warming, or that global warming is real – nevermind that it’s caused by humans or not. Needless to say, climate change can be linked to human activities with a close to certain probability: 99.999%. But while the consensus on global warming among scientists has become even more entrenched, the subject has been polarized in the media to great lengths. As if it’s a matter for debate. It’s not really – it’s just the details that are worth debating. The fact that global warming is happening now and is accelerated by human activities is undeniable, yet many Republican Presidential candidates seem to refuse to acknowledge this out of ignorance or some other interest. Sen. Marco Rubio  says “there’s no consensus”, Sen. Ted Cruz  likens climate change proponents with “flat-Earthers” and Donald Trump… well.

Of all the major conservative parties in the democratic world, the Republican Party stands alone in its denial of the legitimacy of climate science. Within this context, it’s refreshing to hear some Republican Presidential candidates aren’t so adversarial to science. Last night during the GOP undercard debate, not one, but two candidates ‘kept it real’.  New York Gov. George Pataki, for instance, said: “One of the things that troubles me about the Republican Party is too often we question science that everyone accepts.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham continued in the same note.

“You don’t have to believe that climate change is real. [But] I have been to the Antarctic, I have been to Alaska,” he said. “I’m not a scientist, and I’ve got the grades to prove it. But I’ve talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me tat the greenhouse gas effect is real. That we’re heating up the planet. I just want a solution that would be good for the economy that doesn’t destroy it.”

It might not be long until climate change becomes a mainstream part of the Republican rhetoric. After all, politicians merely reflect what their electorate thinks. ZME Science previously reported that 73 percent of Americans believe global warming is real and 79 percent favor some sort of government intervention on the issue. According to a report issued by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication a strong majority of respondents who identify as “liberal Republicans” believe global warming is happening — 68 percent — as do 62 percent of moderate Republicans. But only 38 percent of Conservative Republicans acknowledged climate change, while of those who self-identified with “tea party”  only 29 percent did so also. Since most Republicans fall in the latter two groups, overall only 44 percent of Republicans believe global warming to be true. Even so, it suggests a shift in the way Republican voters understand climate change.

via ThinkProgress

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (AP photo)

Today’s GOP candidates don’t deny climate change anymore, but think it’s useless to act instead

This Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were engaged in a two hour long debate on CNN. In 120 minutes, climate change was only treated for three minutes, which to me is saddening since it shows the moderators care as little about the effects of climate change on this country and the world at large as the Republican Presidential candidates.

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (AP photo)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

There’s some good news: the three candidates all seem to acknowledge climate change is real and caused by man-made activities, marking a shift from downright science denialism. This was predictable considering more and more Republican voters think climate change is real. The bad news is that even though they admit climate change is an issue, all three candidates believe it is useless to act in a meaningful way since it won’t make any difference. “America is a lot of things – the greatest country in the world, absolutely. But America is not a planet,” said Sen. Rubio. But admitting you have a problem and the only solution you see is doing nothing can only be labeled as bad leadership, in my book.

Rubio’s response came after the debate’s moderator Jake Tapper mentioned George Shultz plans under the Reagan administration to take action against climate change ‘as an insurance policy’. It’s basic risk management after all – if something unlikely, but not impossible, could significantly affect life on this planet (which includes America, Sen. Rubio) it makes sense to take action. It would be stupid not to, in fact. All three candidates disagreed that such an insurance policy is warranted. Moreover, all three basically echoed the same message: climate change is real, but it’s useless to do anything since the impact would be minimal; even worse, it will hurt the economy (how many times have we heard this?).

“Here’s the bottom line,” Rubio answered. “Every proposal they put forward will make it harder to do business in America. Harder to create jobs in America. Single parents are already struggling across this country to provide for their families. Maybe a billionaire here in California can afford an increase in their utility rates, but a working family in Tampa, Florida or anywhere across the country cannot afford it.”

“We are not going to destroy our economy, make America a harder place to create jobs, in order to pursue a policy that will do nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather,” Rubio added.

“I think what Senator Rubio said I agree with – that in fact we don’t need this massive government intervention to deal with the problem. Look at what we’ve done with New Jersey – we’ve already reached our clean air goals for 2020,” Christie said. “I agree with Marco. We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild leftwing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound.”

“We’re going to put people – manufacturing jobs – this administration is going to put them at risk,” Walker marched on to the same drum beat.

This reflects a transformed, moderate view on climate change: less science denialism, but more distracting. None of the three candidates come close to Carly Fiorina, another GOP Presidential candidate, who although was no present at the debate had her own ‘5 minutes of climate change fame’ in an interview with Katie Couric. Fiorina dangles the same rhetoric, only a lot sneakier. “I think we have to read all the fine print,” Fiorina said when asked what her position on climate change is. And then it goes on: “one nation, acting alone, can make no difference”, “environmental regulations destroy lives and livelihoods”, “China could care less…”,”The solution is innovation, not regulation”, “Do well tell people the truth, that [wind turbines] slaughters millions of birds every year? I mean, eagles, falcons…” (hilarious!) “[…]does anyone see how, honestly, unsightly those huge wind turbines are, in some of the most beautiful hills? In other words there is no magic answer, there is no perfect source of energy.” (what?!) “Solar energy takes up huge amounts of water” and so on before pitching “clean coal” as a sound energy policy.

Coal, really? Natural gas, I can understand, but coal? Coal is the dirties source of energy and, in the US, the most uncompetitive on the market, with or without regulations – nevermind subsidies. Dissing wind turbines because they kill eagles and falcons in favor of “clean coal”, which is an absurdity, or because they ruin the view is downright propaganda. Let’s look on how many birds wind turbines kill.

avian mortality energy sources

Source: US News & World Report

Wow! It doesn’t take a genius to spot how absurd Fiorina is. The American Lung Association and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) claims that 13,000 people die each year from coal pollution–down from 24,000 in 2004, when less pollution regulation was enforced. In addition to the premature deaths, CATF estimates that every year coal pollution is responsible for 12,000 emergency room visits, 20,000 heart attacks, and over 200,000 asthma attacks. Elsewhere:

The biggest concern the GOP raises over climate change, however, is that by enforcing a clean energy policy the American economy will suffer, all without having no impact since climate change is a global phenomenon. The US is just a puny country after all, and mighty China is the world’s largest CO2 emitter. In fact, China is so happy that the US is ruining its economy on a futile matter.

While it’s true China is currently the world’s most important greenhouse gas emitter, historically the US has polluted the most. Since the mid-1800s, the US has spewed 29% of all man-made CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s  328,000 million metric tons, more than any country, and  three times the amount emitted by China over the same period. On a per capita basis, China isn’t in the top 10 emitters. The biggest CO2 emitter per capita is Canada, closely followed by the US and Russia.

So, it’s not only reasonable to the US – the most powerful country in the world – to set an example, but it’s also obliged too based on the burden it has caused to the world.

per capita emissions

Regarding jobs, the renewable energy sector is generating more jobs than fossil. As for China, its emissions are actually falling. Care to guess how? By scrapping coal. China has the world’s third-biggest installed capacity of solar power, with 8.3GW of solar photovoltaic capacity at the end of 2012, an 8 per cent share of global capacity according to industry figures. Germany is the leader with 32.4GW, nearly a third of worldwide capacity. Italy is second with 16.3GW while the US has 7.7GW. In 2015, China should quadruple its solar power installations to 35 gigawatts, which would make it the world’s top producers of solar energy. Moreover, far from being in competition, the US and China are actually partners as both countries have drawn mutual goals to reduce their emissions. In other words, it’s all plain intoxication. For a complete debunking of Fiorina’s interview, visit VOX.

It’s interesting, at least, to see how Republican candidates shift their stance on climate change along with public opinion. Of course, this is second nature to any career politician, left, right, center, north, south, whatever. The rhetoric, however, is getting far more sophisticated. Fiorina, for instance, actually sounds convincing in some parts, were it not utter BS. It’s all a lot more sneaky.

 

 

R-belief

Republican voters shift their stance against Climate Change, yet those in Congress lag behind

Republican voters, not to mention those in power, are notorious for their refutal of man-made climate change, yet according to a report issued by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication many of them have shifted and believe it to be real. As more and more republican voters become convinced of the reality of man-made global warming and its effects on the climate, it’s only common sense that those elected will come to terms as well. Don’t raise your hopes too high as this won’t happen very soon, though. Expect republicans in Congress to oppose climate and carbon emission regulations en-mass per tradition.

Senator Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, is one of the loudest voice speaking against climate change. He published a book in 2012 called “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future” and said in 2006 that that United Nations invented the idea of global warming in order to “shut down the machine called America.” Image: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Senator Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, is one of the loudest voice speaking against climate change. He published a book in 2012 called “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future” and said in 2006 that that United Nations invented the idea of global warming in order to “shut down the machine called America.” Image: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

According to the report a strong majority of respondents who identify as “liberal Republicans” believe global warming is happening — 68 percent — as do 62 percent of moderate Republicans. But only 38 percent of Conservative Republicans acknowledged climate change, while of those who self-identified with “tea party”  only 29 percent did so also. Since most Republicans fall in the latter two groups, overall only 44 percent of Republicans believe global warming to be true.

R-belief

When asked about their stance on setting regulatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for coal-fired plants,  73 percent of liberal Republicans and 62 percent of moderates were in favor. Only 40 percent of conservatives and 23 percent of tea party Republicans supported such limits. The survey results were compiled from six national surveys conducted between March 2012 and October 2014.

Climate Change republicans

“What we’re seeing now is a real struggle within the Republican Party to define its stance about climate change,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, in an interview with The Huffington Post.

This year’s study of the annual report issued by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication sees less Republicans recognizing climate change. In a previous 2013 report, the researchers found that  52% of Republican correspondents believe climate change is happening, while 26 percent believe it is not, and 22 percent say they “don’t know.”  Only one third of respondents agree with the Republican Party’s position on climate change, while about half agree with the party’s position on how to meet America’s energy needs. This may be due to statistical differences or the result of ever polarized views on climate change in the media. While media consumers might believe there’s a debate which holds – let’s say – a 50/50 chance that climate change is real because there’s a 50/50 coverage of pro-climate change and anti-climate change outlets, the reality is different. Scientists agree with 95% confidence that climate change is real and caused by human activities.

R-power_plants

The report comes in a period of turmoil. The House of Representatives last week voted to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline over President Barack Obama’s veto threat. The Environmental Protection Agency is working to finalize new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants, but Republican leaders have indicated that they will oppose it.

climate change republicans

While most committee heads and all the members of the new Republican leadership teams in both the House and Senate choose to publicly deny climate change, not all Republicans Senators or Congressmen share the same view.  Reps. Tom Cole (Okla.), Charles Dent (Pa.), Don Young (Alaska), and Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.) all co-sponsored Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright’s (Pa.) Preparedness and Risk Management for Extreme Weather Patterns Assuring Resilience (PREPARE) Act, legislation that helps the federal government plan and prepare for the risks associated with extreme weather incidents. Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) have led on a bipartisan bill to reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants, known as super pollutants, which account for 40 percent of global warming, reports The Week.

NIH Grants drastically rolled back by federal budget cuts

As if it wasn’t enough NIH funded grant applications are at a 20% low, according to a proposed federal discretionary civilian spending cut plan back to 2008 levels, biomedical researcher funds could drop by half, to a historical low of 10%.  National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins spoke in detail about the issue during his keynote speech during an annual meeting of the  American Society of Human Genetics. “There are certainly concerns, especially with some of the rhetoric you’ve heard since Tuesday,” when midterm elections took place, Collins said.

What might probably happen? Well for sure a significant number of labs will close down, unmotivated researchers and future talent left unfunded (today, approx. one in five grant applications get accepted – expect the ratio to get at least two times thinner). Why? Because of the Republicans’ vow to cut discretionary civilian spending, as if a nation’s deficit stands in progress and not in another economical sectors, like manufacturing and production. If you’re hungry, you don’t buy a fish, you learn to fish.

Let’s hope for the best as we wait for more news from the NIH.

Source: Science Mag