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.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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