Monday, July 09, 2012
Do Sci Fi attitudes reflect our times?
Congress now speaks a full grade level lower than it did in 2005. Falling from grade 11.5 to 10.6. Using the Flesch-Kincaid test that gives your kids the "reads at a 10th grade level" score, the Sunlight Foundation has measured the vocabulary used in Congressional speeches over the years and found that the level has dropped suddenly. For both parties, but particularly amongst Republican Congressmen, particularly amongst the newest batch, such as Rand Paul (3rd worst, speaks at an 8th grade level.) Indeed the entire worst ten are Republicans (eight of those are freshmen.) And the more conservative they are, the worse their speech (dropping by three full grades from center to fringe.) Interestingly, amongst Democrats with less than 10 years in Congress, the trend is similar, those closest to the political centre have the most complex speech, while those further to the left drop by about a grade. But for Democrats in Congress for more than 10 years, the trend is sharply reversed.
Are candidates dumbing down their speech, or are parties dumbing down their candidates?
Nearly two thirds (65 percent) of Americans think that President Obama would be a better leader than Mitt Romney if an alien invasion were to happen. Hm, well, yes... and? So? A survey for National Geographic finds extraterrestrial visits not that crazy an idea to most Americans. Thirty-six percent of Americans think aliens have visited Earth, and almost 80 percent believe the government has kept information about UFOs a secret from the public.
Sigh. Mr. Sci Fi and aliens here... and I am in the 12% who say “not!” But that hasn’t stopped me from issuing taunts at alien lurkers. Which you can laugh at (aloud!) in Existence.
Is this a sign of the times -- correlated with the public's attitudes toward science?
Indeed, North Carolina legislators want to stop planners from using the state's own science panel's prediction of sea level rise (about 1m by 2100, fairly conservative). Alack! There is one potential salvation from this madness. For the insurance companies to make clear that, in 20 years, they plan to go after all the doofuses who delayed prudent measures by squelching the reasonable advice of the scientists who actually knew what they were talking about.
Part of the hysterical incantation that “government is never good” comes from folks who actually believe we would have had jets, rockets, telecom, weather forecasting, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, the Internet, or countless other things, without the advanced R&D that we, as citizens, agreed to pay for because the benefits and ROI lay beyond any plausible Return on Investment horizon of major corporations.
And if we - as a people - had drawn only a small “businesslike" 5% royalty on those things, all red ink in the budget would today be erased. HALF of economic growth in the last 60 years is attributed to Science and Technology. And here is just one of many documents making that point.
Hence, the War on Science... and on all other intellectual or knowledge castes is a lot more than just politics. It is a stab at the very heart of any chance for your grandchildrens’ prosperity. Think about it. (But then, people who come here are already thinkers. You already HAVE thought about it. So I’m wasting breath.)
See also: Unscientific America: Denying Science at Our Peril
==Politics & Economics for 2012==
What is Bain Capital?? Co-founded by Mitt Romney in 1984, Bain would buy a company and increase its short-term earnings through firing workers and shuttering plants in order to borrow enormous amounts of money. The borrowed money was used to pay Bain dividends, however, those businesses needed to maintain that high level of earnings to pay their debts. When they couldn’t, that meant plant closures, more layoffs, bankruptcies, and in many cases, the end of the business. Yet these bankruptcies still meant huge profits for Bain’s investors. Furthermore, Bain continued to collect management fees even as companies failed. As the New York Post reported, during his 15 years as head of Bain, Romney “made fortunes by bankrupting five profitable businesses that ended up firing thousands of workers.”
Our Wall Street friends are offshoring even their own subordinates’ jobs...
David Cameron held his first meeting with Francois Hollande and threatened to veto the new French president’s plan for a European tax on financial transactions. The Prime Minister made clear he will block any French move that would harm the (banker-financiers) of the City of London. Many of you have seen how firmly I support the transaction fee which - at 0.1% - would scarcely be noticed by humans like you or me, but shift power away from a few brokerage houses doing High Frequency Trading (HFT) which inflates bubbles, creates wild speculative swings, dashes in to rob buyers and sellers of the “price difference” they count on... and may (as I explain elsewhere) lead to the "Calamity of Skynet.” I have lived in both London and Paris. I know the quirks of their inhabitants. In this case, the London quirks add up to -- wrong!
On NPR I listened to an interview with Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, about his new book The Road to Freedom, which is clearly a take-off from Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Now, I started out hostile, since I consider the AEI to be one of the core nexi that gave us neoconservatism and almost every rationalization for the monstrous hijacking of American Conservatism, turning it into a force that has done indescribable harm to America and the Western Enlightenment Experiment.
Those of you who know me can attest that I parse this denunciation not from any “leftist” position, but as an acolyte of Adam Smith and a believer in the proved creative power of fair and vigorous human competition. As Smith declared - and as 6000 years of history have shown - the worst enemy of markets, freedom, and (yes) capitalism has always been monopolistic oligarchy. The very force that pays AEI’s bills and bribes its boffins to concoct a rationalizations for a return of feudalism. And yet...
And yet, listening to Brooks, I got a sense of a rather reasonable fellow! An intelligent person who believes in nuance and even something anathema on today’s right -- the possibility of negotiation and mixed/pragmatic/innovative solutions to modern problems. Fr example, he takes the attitude that government should be working to prepare us for a world of climate change, whether or not the worst fears prove valid.
How much of his stance is feigned? Perhaps as part of an effort to keep despairing smart-conservatives from bolting the GOP, as nearly all the formerly republican scientists, teachers, journalists, economists, medical doctors and others already have? Or else, is he the real deal? An archetype for the dreamt-of return of the Goldwater-Buckley conservative? That nearly extinct species who spoke with gentility and calm willingness to negotiate with their neighbors? How I miss em.