Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dumbing Down, Part Deux

Debora MacKenzie, on the NewScientist web page, writes an article titled, Iran showing fastest scientific growth of any country.  As I was reading it, one sentence made my blood run cold:
"Only North American scientific output has grown "considerably slower" than the world as a whole."
There once again is more proof that cuts in education--technical education--as espoused by the Republican party as a whole is detrimental to the future viability of our nation.

Lady Duh Duh for 2012

Leonard Pitts Jr.'s Valentine's day column, Sarah Palin can do us a favor by running for president, really cracks me up.  In it, he makes a strong point--and an interesting observation about the word, "elite":
More to the point, something is wrong when we celebrate mental mediocrity like <Ms. Palin's> under the misapprehension that competence or, God forbid, "intelligence," makes a person one of those "elites" — that's a curse word now — lacking authenticity, compassion and common sense.
Has the Republican "dumbing-down" of America--which started with the Reagan administration's severe Department of Education budget cuts and continued through George W. Bush's insidious "No Child Left Behind Act"--turned us into a nation of fools, willing followers of a woman who believes in witchcraft and  demons, and is not above using her political office to resolve personal vendettas?

Contrary to the view expressed by Mr. Pitts, Sarah Palin on a ballot is not something I want to see happen in real life.  What if, on the million-to-one chance, she does get elected?  What if by some odd chance political posturing and partisan sniping get so out of hand that people say oh-what-the-hell and vote her in?  I don't want someone who believes in witchcraft, demons--and Armageddon--holding the launch codes.  Do you?

(h/t to Suzette B.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Christopher Maloney is a Quack

As requested by P.Z. Myers, biologist and noted author of Pharyngula, I've passed it on.  Passed what on, you ask?  See here.

When You Wish Upon a Star

I don't think there's a person in the U.S. who isn't a fan of the Star Trek Universe.  What would you give to be a crew member of the Starship Enterprise?  Would you be willing to give up, say, the planet Jupiter?  Lee Dye, in an interesting opinion piece in the technology section of the ABC News web page, posits just this in How to Travel at Warp Speed.  But don't pack your bags quite yet:
 "But there's a few more problems. Scientists are at odds with each other over whether string theory should even be considered science.
"Many maintain that the theory cannot be proved, or disproved, as far as is known, so it isn't science. Others hold out hope that some very expensive machines in the future may verify, or debunk, the theory.
"So the Starship Enterprise is coasting through very thin air, to say the least."
That's some point.  Is String Theory science's religion?  I'll be investigating that further shortly. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Government We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

Matt Yglesias over at Think Progress makes an interesting point:
"I think there’s a huge tendency among journalists to underrate the extent to which macroeconomic conditions drive everything in politics. For example, John Sides reviews the data and concludes that public trust in government is basically just driven by economic statistics:"

The relationship is striking. The economy explains about 75% of the variance in trust. If you delete 1964, which looks like a potential outlier, the economy still explains 73% of the variance.
Of course the economy is not the only important factor. But it gets far less attention than it deserves when the hand-wringing begins. So, sure, perhaps we can and should tinker with the political process. Clip lobbyists’ wings. Get leaders to make nicey-nicey with the opposite party. But the process is less important than outcomes. More people will trust the government again when times are good, even if government ain’t.
I think this is a potential problem for Democrats.  The American voter has little time or memory for history.  Republicans, time and again, run this country into the ground and get voted out.  Then, when Democrats get things running again and people's pocketbooks begin to fatten, complacency sets in and the Republicans with their corporate sponsors are a shoe-in, since all it takes is a 10% swing in independent voters coupled with a non-voting 10-15% of Democrats who can't believe their vote would be needed to keep the party in power.