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.

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.