Lamar Smith ups the anti.

Apr 29 2013 Published by under [Biology&Environment]

Unfortunately I don't have time right now to do this justice, but after my post on Friday, I couldn't let Lamar Smith's new bill to remove peer review from NSF go unmentioned. In addition to this ridiculous bill that would undo non-medical science in this country, he's also requested reviews and PO comments for five particular grants he didn't like the title of. For someone with such an appalling voting record when it comes to science, suddenly Lamar thinks he can step up and do a little grant reviewing? The right wing naked anti-science agenda is really reaching the absurd. Clearly they are not even attempting to hide it anymore.

12 responses so far

  • Jim Woodgett says:

    Gotta tell you, this kind of rank insanity keeps us Canadian's feeling unfairly privileged. Who needs the Comedy Network? Although we did have a provincial MP once call into question why the Ontario government was funding a study into the sexual behaviour of a tree squirrel (or a related small, furry mammal). The governing party took the opportunity to explain how this was an effective early warning signal for forestry health and the forestry industry came to its defence. It was a teaching moment and made the initial complainant look silly.

  • Busy says:

    I'm going to point the finger right back at us for allowing this to happen. Back in the late 80s and 90s when we should have been out there educating people about the role of science we turned inward into an obsession of whom among us used the more politically correct terms when talking in the corridors or cloth diapers versus paper diapers. I don't want to belittle the challenges that women face in academia, far from it, or the environmental problems that face our society but changing women to womyn or a few extra diapers in the dumpster were never in the top 1000, yet that's what drove the agenda.

    Can we get back and focus on the real big things? Like who is in Congress, what is taught in schools and what are the pundits saying?

    In my book only Krugman rose to the challenge and he did so rater belatedly. All other progressive academics have remained absconded in their research labs. Hey quick, who is the Athena Donaldson, the Richard Dawkins, the Christopher Hitchens of the USA, or to use a different set, the Noam Chomskys and Stephen Smales of our generation, for example?

  • MCA says:

    Honestly, all this could be prevented by just having all voters take the same civics test that those applying for citizenship take. Instant death of the GOP.

    Seriously, I cannot think of a single reason not to. Voting isn't a right, it's a responsibility, and educating oneself is part of that. If people won't hold up their end of the deal and come to the voting booth with at least a marginally informed opinion, I see no reason why the rest of us should be compelled to suffer their stupidity.

    Perhaps a weighting system - everyone takes a 20- question civics test, and gets 1/20th of a vote for each one they get right. Or 1/10th for each past 50%.

  • EcoNerd says:

    I call BS on the reactionary sentiments expressed by MCA and Busy - and am more than a bit embarrassed by them. This problem does not exist because of feminism, and it will not be solved by restricting the voting franchise. As a matter of fact, the instincts expressed by the two comments above reflect exactly the same mindset as the one they are complaining about. Namely, they diminish significant issues - ones they should be on the other side of - in service of a myopic pet peeve. This problem exists because our country enables and promotes privileged douchebags to positions of power. Feminism, in particular, is the cure for this problem, not the cause of it, because it will favor candidates who are on the right side of these issues. There is not a lot of overlap between the progressive caucus and the science-baiters like Lamar Smith.

    So while I am fully in support of more science-specific outreach, I think it is absurd to pit that effort in opposition to other cultural changes. In other words, I am really skeptical that this problem that can be solved with just a few more youtube videos about mixing potassium and water. Scientists have been explaining to people forever why what we do is important and interesting. That information is easily accessible to people, especially people who happen to serve in congress and have staff to find it for them. The fault here lies with Smith, his ilk, and his constituents (or at least somewhere north of 50% of them). There may be things we should and can do to help ourselves as scientists in this situation, but (self-)victim blaming and poll taxes are not among them.

  • Busy says:

    reactionary sentiments

    The use of such epithets is yet another hallmark of a holier-than-though inward oriented academic discourse. It's no longer about a quest of finding a common progressive agenda, but about showing each other out because someone used a less racially sensitive term in the eyes of another.

    This problem does not exist because of feminism,

    Wow, wow, cowboy. I did not say such a thing. I criticized our obsession on politically correct terms, not on feminism.

    Let me clarify in case others misunderstood as well. I did not ask to put feminism or environmentalism in the back burner. I asked that we remain focused on the big goals, e.g. stopping the tenure clock while ignoring minor distractions such as women->womyn.

    In other words, I am really skeptical that this problem that can be solved with just a few more youtube videos about mixing potassium and water.

    Right, because that is what I was suggesting. Which is why I used examples such as Krugman, Dawkins and Chomsky. Because that is what they do: make youtube videos mixing postassium and water.

    You are proving to be quite an Einstein.

    but (self-)victim blaming and poll taxes are not among them.

    This is not about blaming the victim. This about refocusing our efforts on the face of a battle that clearly we have been losing for the last 15 years or so. Do you ever do a post-mortem after a project or experiment or is that "blaming the victim" in your view?

    p.s. I proposed we educate the public while MCA proposed we remove the vote from them. Quite a difference there. Meanwhile I'm still not sure what you proposed, aside from pointing out that Lamar Smith is a bad guy, as if this needed to be pointed out.

  • MCA says:

    Ahh, the hallmark of a great mind -dismissing an idea without thought because it goes against your views. All I suggested is that all citizens face the same requirements for voting as those seeking citizenship, and more frequent testing.

    Are you in favor of eliminating the civics test requirement for citizenship? Because otherwise you're a hypocrite, demanding that some must demonstrate their knowledge before they vote and others not based solely on where they were born. Why should an immigrant need to demonstrate they have the knowledge to be an engaged citizen while a native born can be utterly and completely ignorant without consequence? According to a recent study, over 90% of immigrants pass the test, but only 2/3 of native born citizens. 1/3 of the populace is so ignorant that, if born abroad, they wouldn't be allowed to become citizens, yet you're OK with them voting?

    Just because something is a right does not mean that right cannot be restricted for the good of the community (free speech vs. yelling fire in a crowded theater), or that no responsibilities come with that right (in this case, to be at least marginally educated about the system you vote in).

    Simply put, why shouldn't the native-born have to pass the same test as the foreign-born? I had to pass my test, why shouldn't you?

  • Terry says:

    Sometimes, some ideas and some people are just so stupid, that I feel I have to ignore them, and you hope that common wisdom prevails. This feels like one of those times.

    Then again, George W. Bush was elected one and a half times. So, people really can be that stupid.

  • pramod says:

    Re. the civils rights test for immigration, I think MCA is onto something but perhaps what s/he intends.

    In general, the whole idea of immigration law itself is rather hypocritical. If we really believe that all people are equal and that this planet belongs to all of us, then people should be allowed to move and live anywhere they like as long as they follow the laws of the place they want to live in. However, the world we live in discriminates between human beings based on which side of an imaginary line they were born on. This is of course bullshit, and is a larger problem than just the difference in the enforcement of a civics knowledge requirement between people seeking naturalized citizenship and those who get citizenship by birth.

    Restricting voting rights based on knowledge tests is likely elitist and classist though and I would argue that it's not clear that doing better on a 20 question civics exam correlates to better decision-making.

    I think all this hints at a larger problem with the governmental systems we use today. What people want and what is actually good for them are sometimes not the same thing. And there's a tension here between respecting people's right to self-determination, i.e., not patronizing them while trying to prevent them from doing things that we have reasons to believe to be obviously dumb.

  • MCA says:

    Pramod - the thing is, the test is actually pretty easy. That 1/3rd of native-born citizens fail it is staggering, as this is really basic stuff. Were my plan implemented, I suspect that number would decline (just because people would study), probably to less than 10% of the populace. I'm pretty skeptical of calling any test with a 90% pass rate as "elitist".

    Given how easy it is, I would agree that passing doesn't necessarily mean good decision-making, but failing probably means bad decision-making.

    Plus, even if you secretly fixed the test so everyone passes no matter what (but nobody knows that), I suspect it would still improve things slightly just by reminding people every two years of what, exactly, is in the Bill of Rights, and that, yes, it is within the powers of the courts to strike down a law no matter how many people voted for it.

    At any rate, you're right about the tension between "what's best" and "what people want". The whole "representative democracy" thing was supposed to solve that, by electing people who would act in the best interests of their constituents and the country. But they've become so fixated on getting re-elected that they instead simply become a reflection of whatever the polls say in their district 9and whatever the wealthy donors want). The Founding Fathers were well aware of the problem, and were leery of just handing direct rule over to the masses, hence why they chose the system they did. Hell, at first the electors who selected a president were picked by state legislatures, not direct voting. IMHO, we've slid too far down the slope towards direct democracy, and a little more distance from the whims of the masses would do a great deal of good.

  • AMW says:

    MCA, for someone so well-educated and civically-engaged as you portray yourself, you demonstrate a surprising ignorance of the history of test-based voting restrictions here in the US.

  • MCA says:

    Ironically, I actually had a large section in the last post about the topic, but deleted it.

    That a policy has previously been used to nefarious ends does not invalidate the policy itself, thought it does mean it must be implemented with greater care and consideration in future. The use of literacy tests to disenfranchise minorities was problematic not because of the idea of using such tests, but because the laws were explicitly crafted to those ends (and could be due to inequalities in education at the time) and had such a disproportionate effect (plus, most such laws had "grandfather" clauses that ensured almost no white person would have to take it).

    Unfortunately, I suspect those of lower socioeconomic status would do more poorly on such a test due to the poor quality of schooling available to them, and because of the US's past (& present) history of racism, minorities are disproportionately represented in such groups. However, that's merely another argument for fixing our broken public education system (and possibly making that a prerequisite of implementation); with such a fix, I'd expect no ethnic group to be disproportionately impacted.

    And, as I've pointed out before, a large segment of the US populace *does* have to take a test (albeit only once) to be able to vote. Allowing those born in the US to avoid this test is eerily similar to the 'grandfather clause' (mentioned above) in the Jim Crow corruption of the concept.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Man, I leave for a couple of days and all of a sudden y'all are discussing taking away people's right to vote. FTR, I'm not in favor of any voter restrictions. Let's not throw out the progress of the Suffrage movement just because we don't agree with the current state of things.

Leave a Reply