Bush’s Legacy

When I was a child growing up just outside New York City during the 1970s, I learned to be afraid of getting mugged. But this is not that. The criminals I’m talking about don’t bop anyone over the head and steal hundreds of dollars. These criminals slowly take $5, $10, and $20 from me, often with a smile. They pop a surcharge onto my monthly phone bill. They pad my TV bill with services I didn’t ask for. They drain my bank account — drip, drip, drip — when I’m not watching. These hidden fees keep me up late at night like the sound of a leaky faucet. I feel like I have to watch everything all the time, because it’s so easy to miss some statement on some form with some asterisk that means the company can take even more money from me. And when that happens, I suffer from what I call small print rage.

Am I crazy? Or am I just paying attention? One thing I know for sure: I’m not alone.

Bob Sullivan, from Gotcha Captialism, on MSNBC

[Gotcha Capitalism website; Bob Sullivan on Fresh Air]

Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming is Mark Bowen’s account of the struggle that ensued between Hansen and the Bush administration over a basic principle: a government scientist’s right to speak freely to the press. Censoring Science intertwines three separate but closely related stories. The first narrates the step-by-step attempts of a low-ranking NASA press staffer and right-wing ideologue, along with other officials, to censor Hansen. The concatenation of detail is not initially gripping — a timeline of events would have been helpful — but as it accumulates, the case is ultimately compelling. Bowen’s demonstration that censorship spread far beyond Hansen, affecting many climate scientists in NASA and in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is convincing and disturbing.

Michael Oppenheimer, Nature Reports Climate Change, January 16, 2008

[James Hansen on Fresh Air; Interview with Hansen on Columbia News.]

We’ll be hearing a lot about legacy today and in the next year. Setting aside Iraq War II, Katrina, and other high concept disasters, Bush and company have a rich list of accomplishments. Here are two areas in which their successes are more nuanced, fine-grained, and so perhaps longer lasting.

The first continues a long Republican tradition of refusing to regulate and of allowing their corporate cronies full reign. I think it’s reached some sort of Orwellian tipping point where we no longer expect anything but a kind of ongoing con-game in every transaction.

And the second suggests something of the profound depth of political corruption, down to the level of individual government scientists forced to play the role of political mouthpiece. Once these folks start talking again– this year, or the next– all sorts of things are going to look different.

No God

One good measure of the profoundly conservative milieu in which we live is the lack of good rock n’ roll or rap songs that directly challenge religion. Maybe that’s going to change. You can find more of these at the media section of Flushaholybook.com.

Peter Sacks: The Sordid History of Human Intelligence Goes On

While the American educational establishment now shudders at the impolitic utterances of a Watson or Summers, the fact is that mainstream educators remain wedded to intelligence tests and their close cousins to designate intellectual talent and to sort academic stars from the also-rans, whether the arena is admitting toddlers to a private pre-school in Manhattan or freshmen to an elite college or university.

The testing industry, keenly aware of the sad history of intelligence testing and the tendency of its test users to draw their universal conclusions based on the tests, steers clear of marketing their exams as IQ tests, aptitude tests, or intelligence tests. Once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, for instance, the SAT is now simply the SAT. Long forgotten is the test’s troubling kinship to the same IQ tests that once labeled Italians and Jews as feeble minded.

The Sordid History of Human Intelligence Goes On, Peter Sacks

What’s good for corporate globalization is good for Chicago and the rest of the nation – unless you live on the Black side of town. As the Color-Blind Curtain descends on American discourse, it has become taboo to even mention that map color-codes designating affluence or poverty coincide almost perfectly with the race of neighborhood residents. In the corporate celebration of Chicago’s “global” status, it becomes ever more necessary to gloss over the true facts of urban life in an industry-robbed nation. For every leap into hi-tech, hi-finance, and hi-living among the gentrifying rich, the places we once called “ghettos” fall deeper into misery and marginality.

White Washing Global Chicago, Paul Street

We’re not just trying to fight racism, of course, we are haunted by earlier, historical racisms. And racism shapes how we distribute economic and cultural capital. So the school system is shaped by the eugenicists of the first two or three decades of the century and the neighborhoods by the waves of migration driven by the end of slavery and reconstruction and Jim Crow.

Catch a Falling Star

NEW YORK – The Willamette Meteorite is a sacred icon to the Oregon-based Clackamas Indians. The tribe has its own name for the massive space rock, Tomanowas, and holds an annual religious ceremony with the meteorite in its home at the American Museum of Natural History.

Now a chunk of the 10,000-year-old meteorite is up for auction, and the tribe is denouncing its sale.

Larry McShane, MSNBC

NPR, like most mainstream media, got this story all wrong. They like to pretend that they are going to be ‘objective’ so when they do a story about the sale of the meteorite they feel compelled to mention the Native American tribe that believes the sale is wrong.

On one side, just a regular guy, and on the other, an Indian Tribe; one says yes, the other no. It’s done with just a touch of winking irony that hints that these Native Americans are a little wacko. The story should have been about where we draw the line on ‘monetizing‘ our common heritage.

You don’t have to believe in ancestors or gods to understand that there is something very wrong when natural history museums are selling scientific artifacts at public auctions. Or, in this case, trading away 28 pound chunks of the Willamette meteorite for Darryl Pitt’s piece of Mars. Why didn’t Pitt simply give the American Museum of Natural History his Martian rock?

NPR did include a story about ‘evolving ethical standards’ but it was very limp and focused mostly on museums. The problems seems to me much larger, symptomatic of an aggressive individualism that too often Trumps the collective good. No one gains when catalogs like this suggest that there are no limits to what can or should sold.

Big Soildier on Campus

Harvard’s new president, Drew Faust, gave her inaugural address last Friday–and was accompanied during the closing recessional by none other than seven members of Harvard’s ROTC corps. The flag-bearing color guard included students from Harvard’s Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine squads, and bears tremendous symbolic significance.

Harvard has not hosted an on-campus ROTC program since 1969, when anti-Vietnam fervor resulted in the program being banned. Since then, Harvard cadets have commuted to MIT to train–and since the mid-90s, when the faculty voted to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell” by withdrawing financial support for ROTC, Harvard has not paid the annual fee required to maintain its cadets in MIT’s program. Now anonymous alumni pay the six-figure dues that enable Harvard undergraduates to combine their studies with preparation for national service.

Anthony Paletta, American Council of Trustees and Alumni Online

If you don’t think Bush is planning on bombing Iran, well, then, you’re not paying attention. First, Bush put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list. Then, on August 28 at the American Legion convention, Bush blew his bellicose bugle.

Calling Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” he enumerated a list of troubles Tehran is making, from funding Hezbollah and Hamas to “sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan.” The latter is an odd one, since Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are on record denying that there is evidence that the Iranian government is involved in this.

Matthew Rothschild October 2007 Progressive

It’s hard to know what to add to this pairing. On the one hand, the U.S. is increasingly a militarized society. The elite professors and students at Harvard, of course, aren’t likely to serve in any future war, except as officers and government officials. Still, not having the ROTC at Harvard was a small victory for common sense, now being reversed.

And more specifically frightening is the ongoing calls for war, seemingly against anyone but preferably in the Middle East. Watching bits and pieces of the Republican debate last night was deeply disconcerting, with each candidate seeming to want to out do the other in adolescent macho posturing about various enemies that had to be shown what was what and who was who.

The one voice of sanity and good old fashioned conservative pigheadedness seemed to be Ron Paul, who sounded like an isolationist from just before the First World War. They had absolutely no idea what to do with him or how to respond to his scathing criticism of his party’s wildly violent overseas adventures and profligate spending habits. We are in real trouble when the wacky right wing libertarian sounds like the sensible alternative.