Paranoia or Pattern Recognition?

Last year, I wrote this post about the increasing danger posed by fundamentalism in the U.S.A. — not Islamic fundamentalism, but so-called Christian fundamentalism, and its threat to science. (And here are some supporting thoughts published via Scientific American and the UK Guardian.)

This morning, as I finished my second gallon of coffee :-), this post set me off: Blind, severely disabled boy forced to take standardized test. That was on top of the news from yesterday that Senator Coburn had finally succeeded in getting one of his attacks against NSF included in a funding bill.

I can’t help but wonder if these kinds of things aren’t continuing salvos in a deeper agenda — one that not all of itds supporters may have even thought about. Then again, maybe I’m feeling especially paranoid and caffinated today, but….

First, think about the ideological attacks on public school teachers as moochers and incompetent (think: Wisconsin as a glaring example, and here’s a good explanation of the phenomenon). The thrust of these efforts is to drive their pay and benefits so low that the profession is completely unattractive to anyone with competence (let alone, excellence). Coupled with this are passage of laws that threaten their pensions and prevent them from using unions to resist.

More or less concurrently, the laws have been set up to penalize schools based on testing — forcing every student to take tests that they are set up to fail, thus depressing the scores to provide “proof” that public schools are “failing.” (As an aside, if only we had similar evaluation of the legislators passing these laws based on scores rather than financed, partisan elections…..)

Another step is to open up voucher programs and make them easy to get for parents who want to opt out of public schools. This further erodes the resources for public schooling. It also boosts the attendance at schools that teach crap creationist “science” and revisionist history (think: the fairy tales that Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin spout). The adults educated as children in these schools will almost certainly tend to vote for the know-nothings who are engineering the destruction of real education, and will want their own children to attend these New World madrassas rather than be exposed to reality.

So goes the spiral as secular, scientific, reason-based education circles the drain.

Couple this with the mantra of “must eliminate the debt and big government” that are used as excuses to cut research (Senator Coburn’s vendetta against NSF is one example, and shuttering NASA programs another), cut early education and child support, continually reduce higher education support and scholarships, and block appointment of any Federal judges many of whom show evidence of understanding separation of church and state,… hmmm, what else? Concentrate the wealth and thus much of the political power in the hands of an elite that are largely separated from average people. Mix in the advocacy of increased military spending. Paint Islam and China as looming threats. Extrapolate from those data points, and many more you can add in.

Let’s see. Cut away at good secular education, deny advanced education for any but the dogmatic, undercut chances at economic freedom, the privileged are “more equal than others because they work harder,” promote an agenda of extreme ideals, and beat the drum for “vigilance” against heretical foes. What comes to mind? Orwell’s 1984, Nazi Germany, the early Soviet Union, North Korea… and the USA of 25-35 years from now? Foster ignorance, economic stagnation, and rabid ideology, and it is simple to move to totalitarian control.

All this is coming from one end of the US political spectrum, and one political party. Is it surprising to anyone if they might have delusions of the US as a sectarian military power dominating the world with their ideals? If not, ask yourself — what threatens that vision? What is “under attack” according to their rhetoric? How could they change the U.S. to be more suitable to their view of domination? And is that inconsistent with what has been happening?

Am I getting all that from 1 report of insane rules overapplied to a child in Florida? Nope. But I’ve seen so much of this in the last few years, and especially this week (the Coburn move against NSF being the most irritating) that, coupled with too much coffee, here’s my rant.

I can guess at some of the people who will read this far and who will denigrate everything about it. Sadly, those people are almost certainly aligned with the ones helping perpetrate the decline, perhaps even without thinking about where it all might lead. The most dogmatic are the ones who are most easily misled and who most quickly rise to their defense.

If we care, we need to push back. Push back against Senator Coburn, and Governor Scott Walker, and Reps. Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann, and all the other demagogues who would happily push us into the world of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Even if I’m not paranoid it doesn’t mean that the know-nothings aren’t out to destroy all teaching of science and history they don’t like (which the rest of us can call “reality” for short). It doesn’t mean they won’t try to push their religious views on us. And it doesn’t mean they won’t seek to hobble — economically and politically — everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

All it takes for those ideals to win out is for the rest of us to allow those demagogues to keep getting elected and spouting their nonsense on radio and TV without correction (e.g., that “reality” stuff). Does it matter to you, or are @lolcats, “The Batchelor” and “Jersey Shore” all you really care about? Based on response from three different classes this week, less than 10% of even the best educated are bothering to keep up with the news — they didn’t know about the cyberattacks in South Korea, that the President was in Israel, that China had elected a new premier, the financial crisis in Cyprus…. but wow, several of them certainly knew about who was on “Dancing with the Stars” and which teams were in the NCAA basketball tournament. I’m beginning to wonder if the forces of ignorance have not already won. 😦

Some thoughts on the economy

A friend of a friend recently sent some email with a few of his thoughts on the rhetoric of some politicians who are claiming that tax increases will kill job creation. Our mutual friend forwarded this on to me. I thought the note expressed well a very interesting point, and deserved a wider audience.

Thus, with his permission, I reproduce his note here with no changes (except formatting):

We hear these days — from Republicans and other ultra-right-wing conservatives — that CEOs “create” jobs. And that this is what justifies their enormous salaries. And also that this is what justifies reducing income taxes on the rich (already at or near historical lows in the history of this country).

So, I got to thinking. Is this true? Do CEOs really “create” jobs.

My conclusion? No, they don’t. What really creates jobs is advances in technology and invention. Go back over the entire history of this country. Whether one is talking about the invention of the modern (i.e., step-geared) water wheel (allowing the creation of factory jobs in textile and other mills), the steam engine (allowing the creation of deep mining), the canal lock (allowing the building of the first low-cost long-range transportation network in this country – the canal boom of the late 1700s and early 1800s), the steel-bladed plow (allowing the opening of the old Northwest Territories — Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, etc — and the great plains to agriculture), the cotton gin, the stage coach, rubber, the Baltimore clipper, the “New England” or “Nova Scotia” clipper ship, the railroad locomotive, the gas lamp, plumbing, the indoor sink and toilet, sewer lines, water pumping stations, the telegraph, photography, steel, the fountain pen, the paddle-wheel river steamer, ocean steamers, the vacuum can, the screw propeller, water turbines, steam turbines, the internal combustion engine, the electrical generator, the telephone, electric streetcars, the typewriter, the light bulb, the vacuum diode, the radio, the Deforest electronic amplifying tube, the automobile, nitroglycerine, TNT, the airplane, the helicopter, audio records, motion pictures, the X-ray machine, radio tuners, the zipper, the superheterodyne radio circuit, the ski lift, the arc welder, insulin, frozen food, the spiral notebook, the loud speaker, contact lenses, television, the aerosol can, the safety razor, liquid-fueled rockets, penicillin, plastic, the analog computer, the jet engine, the electron microscope, the Polaroid camera, FM radio, radar, the photocopier, the ball-point pen, Teflon, freeze-dried food, the digital computer, synthetic rubber, sustainable nulcear fission, the microwave oven, releasable ski bindings, the mobile telephone, the transistor, velcro, the credit card, video tape, the bar code, teflon, the solar cell, antibiotics, the integrated circuit, the microchip, the audio cassette, the video disk, CAT scanners, kevlar, electronic fuel injection, computers with integrated circuits, the internet, random access memory, the bar-code scanner, the personal computer, the computer mouse, the ATM, the daisy wheel printer, the floppy disc, the dot matrix printer, the food processor, the word processor, video games, gene-splicing, the laser printer, the ink-jet printer, the MRI, the Walkman, roller blades, genetically-engineered pharmaceuticals, the CD-ROM, the DVD, the fuel cell, solar panels, wind turbines, the iPod, hybrid automobiles, etc, etc, etc, etc.

It’s science and technology that creates jobs. CEOs merely manage companies. Some competently, some not.

Why do the media and the American people buy into such grotesque distortions of truth? I can only conclude that it is due to the deliberate and wanton destruction of the American educational system — begun during the Reagan Administration. How else can one explain the out-of-work Ohio factory worker who consistently votes Republican — and thus votes for elimination of student loans, privatization of community colleges and state universities (with enormous increases in tuition costs), elimination of the U.S. Postal Service, elimination of muncipal services such as trash collection and transit systems, higher gasoline prices, elimination of Social Security, elimination of Medicare, tax-breaks for the ultra-rich but not the middle class or blue-collar class, and — most saliently — the continued removal of American jobs off-shore to foreign countries? That out-of-work Ohio factory worker is voting very directly against his own personal interests and those of his children and family, but is too stupid to know it.

— Eliot Gardner

%d bloggers like this: