Archive for the '[Politics]' category

Arming professors: A terrible, no good, very bad idea

Oct 02 2015 Published by under [Et Al], [Politics]

Deterrence. This argument often surfaces in the aftermath of school shootings, which have become almost commonplace in the US. If we simply armed teachers, it would keep would-be school shooters from carrying out their plans. It's an opinion that is gaining traction nationally. I even had this conversation yesterday:

You can follow the thread, but there's several major flaws in this argument. First off, the data just flat out don't support that claim. Even the casual observation that the US has by far the most guns in the hands of citizens, yet the highest national gun violence stats, should tell you all you need to know. There is NO QUESTION that more guns = more gun violence.

But but but, we just need the right people to have the guns! Well, this is also a favorite NRA argument. Spoiler: it doesn't hold weight, either. Check out this 20/20 episode where they trained students well beyond the normal training for concealed carry, told them they would have to fend off a shooter and not one managed to pull their weapon when shot got real and they all got shot.

Now we want to argue for putting guns in the hands of professors. Okaaaaaay, how's that gonna go? Well, to start with, the vast majority of profs I know would refuse. Why? there's probably an infinite number of reasons, but they would start with the fact that even trained professionals often make mistakes in live shooter situations and kill innocent people. Now you want Dr. Smith to seamlessly transition from their economics lecture to gunning down some dude who bursts into a classroom with an assault rifle? Yeah. Ok. How many of the professors you have met would you trust to react to a live shooter incident, fire a weapon accurately at a distance and not accidentally hit an innocent student in the mayhem?

Even if we only secretly hire new professors with Navy Seal training, what would be the effect of having professors toting guns to class? You think your professor is unapproachable now? I'm sure a loaded .38 will help. "He seems much more nurturing now that I know he could gun me down at any moment!" The reality of any open carry movement is that the primary use of visible guns is intimidation. Any professor that would volunteer to carry a gun to class is almost certainly not one I would want to carry a gun to class.

Now, would armed professors make any difference? Doubtful. If someone wants to shoot up a school, is the presence armed professors going to make them change their plans? "I was going to go on a rampage with my assault rifle, but the thought of Dr. Ratcliff's .22 made me reconsider and channel my efforts to community service!" Yeah, no. Mentally stable, rational people don't gun down innocent people on a whim. Assuming that they are taking risk into consideration is absurd when almost every school shooting has ended with the death of the shooter. They know they are not making it out alive, so the idea of armed professors would mean nothing.

Knee jerk reaction aside, there is no evidence at all that would suggest that arming professors would curb the violence we have seen. More guns are not the solution, no matter what the NRA has conditioned us to believe. We need gun laws that actually make sense (see: almost every other first world nation) and the citizenry to actually give two fucks about curbing gun violence.

Or maybe we just charge $5k for bullets:

One response so far

Time to DO something

Feb 26 2013 Published by under [Politics]

Scientists are great complainers. In particular, we love to complain about funding. Funding sources, reviewer 3, Program Officers, etc., etc. Part of that is the hope that if we complain loud enough someone will actually hear us and care.

But we can do more than that. As Gerty-Z has pointed out, you have an opportunity right now to have your voice heard. @nparmalee is in DC right now speaking on behalf of the Parkinson's Action Netowrk. She has very generously offered to hand deliver letters to Congress on our behalf.

The door is open, it's your turn to do something. Write up a quick letter and get in touch with Nancy. We need a voice and we need to take as much action as possible NOW. Many of our grants hang in the balance of what happens in Congress over the next month and NIH is already planning for the worst. If you need more reason, take a look at how your state will be effected by the sequester.

Get writing.

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The inevitable, but too slow, march

Jan 25 2013 Published by under [Politics]

Yesterday another state set the marriage equality ball rolling. The Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would define marriage as the "union of two individuals" without regard for gender. The bill still has to pass in the Senate and faces other challenges before it will ever end up as state policy, but it has key supporters, including the Governor.

While this vote didn't surprise me, what did was the realization that RI would be JUST THE NINTH STATE to support marriage equality. Compare that with 31 states that have constitutional bans on marriage equality.

Dude! Fuck. Sigh.

The wheels of changes turn slow. Too slow. The idea that anyone should be vilified or denied basic rights because of who they love has always been a foreign concept to me and I'm privileged to fall in a non-persecuted category. I've never needed to hide feelings or wonder what the hell is wrong with me. If you read Gerty's wonderful post from yesterday, you might get the slightest feeling how torturous that can be. But until we accept that people don't have to fit into the majority norm, we force people to play a role, publicly, which further isolates young people in need of role models.

How many times do we need to go down this road before we realize that discriminating against a minority group that just wants a level playing field is an absurdly ignorant thing to do?

4 responses so far

Social progression

Nov 07 2012 Published by under [Politics]

Last night was a big night for the country. Although I am happy to see Obama get another term, I was overwhelmed by the progressive sentiment across the country. Our campaign "season" is longer than San Diego's "sunny and 75 degrees season" and typically brings out the worst in politics. We saw a lot of it this year and I couldn't be happier it's over.

But the big take home message from last night was that this country wants to move toward a more equitable society. Same sex marriage was supported in every state where it was on the ballot. Akin and Mourdock, both promising candidates before they put public words to what their political counterparts were saying privately, both lost their bids to senate seats. Even California's Prop 37, which many have argued is anti-science, lost. The nation put what is good for the whole country ahead of the potential* of a quicker economic turn-around at the expense of social services, health care and the middle class. To me, these are the gains I most wanted to see.

Hopefully the GOP will have to reassess what losing the moderate vote means for the party, but time will tell whether they actually do. For now I'm happy that I am raising my daughters in a country that doesn't support rape as a means to a gift. A country that is slowly (painfully) starting to recognize that rights should be extended to those who lead different lifestyles from the majority. A nation that values science over hand waving. That's the US I want to watch my daughters grow up in.

Now it's time for congress to start to work together again. We spent the last year to basically return with the same President and a very similar Senate and House. The congressional inaction of the last two years has got to change for the country to make the gains we need to get out of this hole. Let's hope it can happen, for all of our sake.

*Since no one could ever pin Romney down on his budget, we don't know how this would have played out.

3 responses so far

At a loss

Oct 17 2012 Published by under [Politics]

Between a bunch of recent stories I've heard that sparked yesterday's post and Romney's Women Binder / flexible scheduling lets women do their real job / 2 parent households reduce automatic weapon purchases, I am a bit at a loss today. Instead of reading my flailings, go check out Isis' post today for an excellent encapsulation of giant turd Romney dropped on women's issues last night.

2 responses so far

Ryan's constitutional cognitive dissonance

Oct 12 2012 Published by under [Politics]

A lot was said at last night's debate and I don't really want to slog through all of it. But one thing that I think is really important for people to understand is that the GOP ticket and much of the conservative platform has a significant cognitive dissonance when it comes to reconciling their religious beliefs and the Constitution.

From the transcript of last night's debate, emphasis mine:

Now, you want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course. But it's also because of reason and science.

That's why -- those are the reasons why I'm pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don't agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

I'm not sure what "reason and science" Ryan is referring to exactly, to defend his stance, but these two paragraphs are taken from the same respons to Raddatz's question about the two men's stance on abortion. Ryan is making it clear that his own religious beliefs are a major factor in policy that the GOP wants to enforce on the entire nation. At the same time he complains that churches from HIS religion are having their freedom impinged upon. The Catholic myopia here is astounding and should terrify anyone. The fact that he refers to "our first freedom" instead of the First Amendment only reinforces my belief that Ryan thinks the Constitution is an iPhone ap.

Contrast the above to the words of the VP, also a Catholic. Again, emphasis mine:

My religion defines who I am, and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who -- who can't take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to -- with regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion as a -- what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the -- the congressman. I -- I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that -- women they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I'm not going to interfere with that. With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

That is a fact. Now with regard to the way in which the -- we differ, my friend says that he -- well I guess he accepts Governor Romney's position now, because in the past he has argued that there was -- there's rape and forcible rape. He's argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still -- it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend.

Biden's position is that he has his beliefs but realizes that there are other religions and other value systems represented in our country. He does NOT believe his office gives him the authority to impose personal, religion-fueled, values on the populace. I think if Ryan looked at the First Amendment, it might turn out that Biden's views actually align with our Constitution. That, ya know, might be a big deal.

At its core, this election has become a decision between one camp that recognizes the diversity of the US population and one that thinks its own value system is the only one that should be protected and enforced. That, to me, is an enormous cause for concern as we move forward as a country.

5 responses so far

Suddenly I'm a Santorum supporter

Feb 27 2012 Published by under [Politics]

Alright, I promise I'll back off the politics after this... for a bit. However, it is a dominant feature of the lives of most people in the US right now because, well, you can't interact with any news-bearing medium without being assaulted by the latest politico-gossip.

It's so dominant that it even came up in conversation with my Dad the other day. I'll confess that I have an aversion to discussing politics with my Dad but not for any particularly good reason. He's generally right-leaning on issues of finance, but luckily left leaning on social issues. Nevertheless, as he gets older and migrates towards that state when people stop caring whether they might offend someone by what they say, part of me is waiting for him to take an indefensible stance on some social issue. So far this hasn't happened but I can't help the feeling of unease I get when the conversation shifts to politics.

So last night I braced myself when the GOP primaries came up and cringed when he said casually "I'm hoping Santorum is the GOP candidate". All of a sudden I saw my fears being born out in front of me, leaving me puzzled as to how any non-religious, non-fanatical individual could throw support behind such insanity. I think he saw me recoil because he followed up with "If Santorum goes to the general election, he'll be the Mondale of this generation. It'll force the GOP to take a step back, regroup and re-evaluate where they have gotten themselves to at this point. It'll be the death blow for the vocal Tea Party faction because if the GOP wants to regain relevance, they are going to have to realize the the country doesn't want right wing extremism."

Well played, Dad. Well played.

Up to now I had been considering what would be the least bad option for a GOP candidate but perhaps the most bad option is, in fact, the best option for the country. The idea of Santorum parading around the country this summer talking about "values" still makes me want to vomit, but if the result is a landslide in November that forces a GOP do-over, I can carry a barf bag around with me for a few months.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go order a few dozen of these.

15 responses so far

On "duplication" of research effort

May 31 2011 Published by under [Information&Communication], [Politics]

Senator Coburn's recent report on NSF has caused quite a stir. Possibly because it's typical conservative Republican hand waving and spin, but hey, at least he's not blatantly lying on the floor of congress to advance his agenda, right? Right?

A few other bloggers have already jumped all over this, including Dr. O, Namnezia and Prodigal Academic, so I am not going to attack the "report" as a whole. Like any other argument with someone who relies on lies or "bent" truth to advance their position, it's not worth it.

There was one section of the report, however, that I found amusing in its complete and utter lack of awareness regarding the funding climate of today, and that was the "Duplication" section (p. 20 for those who want to follow along at home). The central thesis of this section is summarized in the first paragraph:

Duplication of efforts across the federal government can lead to inefficiencies and waste of taxpayer dollars. Congress has all too often given government agencies overlapping authorities and responsibilities, often creating new programs without consolidating or eliminating existing programs with the same purposes.

Sounds like it was lifted from the stock congressional report template like a piece of clipart, but whatever. So the report is anti-duplication. Shocking. But, what kind of duplication are we talking about here? This is where the art of spin comes in and the wording gets all squirrely.

Even a cursory review of NSF grants turns up potential examples of duplication. For example, NSF funds a significant amount of energy research on top of the $4.4 billion DOE supports. A search of NSF.gov of program areas beginning with the term “energy” yields approximately 1,000 grants totaling another $590 million. 104 NSF’s trademark Antarctica program has a priority of supporting “national energy security goals.”

I'm sure a "cursory review" was all that was done, and I love the wording with "potential examples". Never attack without a back door, classic. In any case, let's assume that a key word search means anything other than that the PI is aware of current funding trends and tried to align with them - what is "energy research", for instance? Is it one kind of science or are there multiple different fields that having something to offer? Oh, it's interdisciplinary? That seems like something the Feds have been pushing for a while. Should we take all work related to energy and give it to DOE and eliminate anything related to energy from NSF? But what about the dreaded "silos" that the government is always freaking out about? We could run this around in circles for months.

My favorite was this little gem:

With 99 programs at 11 agencies, overlap and duplication is a significant concern. Consider that across the federal government there are nine programs intending to improve STEM education for minority populations and 15 programs for graduate level STEM education.

Translation: Cause srsly folks, do we really need NINE programs across the country to improve STEM education for minority populations? Aren't all minority populations the same? Can't we just have program? What a fucking waste of money!

But the bigger point is that the perception of duplication of programs is a symptom of the budgetary decisions congress has been making. We can argue around and around about whether more money for science produces better quality science, but the fact of the matter is that funding rates are low right now. There is heavy demand, little supply and a lot of labs are having to explore new funding options to stay afloat. In the current climate, PIs are looking to pitch their research to agencies they might otherwise not consider. Is this redundancy? Should PIs only have ideas that fit the mandate of their core funding agency?

This came up in Prodigal Academic's blog and was used as a source in Coburn's report:

Some in the scientific community question the ethics behind submitting overlapping proposals to two different government agencies. In an online discussion, researchers discussed how they, or people they work with, had often submitted the same proposal to separate agencies. One commenter asserted managers at the Department of Energy suggest scientists should submit their proposals to multiple agencies. The blog’s author stated, “Some of the DoD basic science calls are pretty broad—I think it would be possible to use more or less the same proposal, reformatted, for various DoD calls that overlap with USDA, DOE, NSF, NIH, or NASA programs.”

NEWS FLASH: If your work could be funded by multiple agencies and you're not sending it to them, the biggest question is why not? Would it even be possible to write the programs of the various funding agencies to exclude any overlap? Maybe, but likely by isolating large communities that would then lack any home. To do so would be supremely stupid and short-sighted.

The fact that there is some overlap in key words and PIs can submit similar ideas to multiple agencies is a feature, not a bug. If Coburn is worried about individuals double-dipping for the same project, then why not show some actual examples of that (which I think would be very difficult to do and not get hammered for it)?

As usual, this "report" seems like just another conservative attempt at justifying some of their more morally reprehensible proposals by trying to pretend like they have federal savings at heart. Much like the report, the promotional campaign was chock full of misrepresentations and attempts to convince anyone unwilling to read anything for themselves that SCIENCE IS WASTIN UR MONIEZ!

I guess the lies sounds a whole lot better than the truth.

4 responses so far

I won't be celebrating

May 02 2011 Published by under [Politics]

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Many Americans have and will rejoice over this event, seeing it as some form of I-don't-know-what that closes a small chapter in what will undoubtedly be a many volume tome that has become warfare in the new century. Whereas I can understand why people view Bin Laden's death as some sort of victory, I sincerely hope it will rekindle some thought about WHY the 2001 attacks occurred.

No person, group or country sets about to terrorize or destroy another group or country for no reason. It's not a sport or hobby, it comes about through dedication to a cause worth dying for. While many of us spend our lives oblivious of what is going on in many other parts of the world, our country's foreign policy speaks for us in regions we will never see ourselves. Our flag is staked in the heart of global conflicts without our input and it becomes the face of our nation to those who will never set foot on US soil. It behooves us to understand the policies that speak for us and the reasons they can result in the global conflict we are now facing. No foreign policy is perfect and some group will always feel slighted when you meddle in foreign conflicts, but there are reasons why the US was the primary target for something so massive, and it certainly wasn't convenience.

Beyond that, I can't shake the parallels between the celebrations that arose around the world when the towers fell and those that arose around the US at the news of one man's assassination*. What would I tell my daughter if she were a little bit older and asked me why people were celebrating? Should I say "because armed men stormed a compound and killed a few people, including their target" or "our country finally killed someone they had been looking for"? If I've raised her well, she would probably follow her question up with "Isn't it bad to kill people?" I suppose this is why 34 states still have a death penalty - because people feel the need for blood vengeance.

So what have we accomplished in our state ordered assassination? Have we changed anything about the global terrorism structure or have we simply done the functional equivalent of knocking off the Queen in the hopes that England will fall**? Have we sent a message? If so, what is that message and who is receiving it? Is the message one that will discourage people from attacking the US in the future, or have we just penned the newest Al Qaeda recruitment brochure? I understand why the US felt compelled to "bring him to justice", but he likely does more for his cause in death than in life at this point.

Like most Americans, I will always remember where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001, and watching events unfold, but the act of killing the man accused of masterminding the attack is not something I relish.

Have we learned anything from the last decade and all the lives lost during that time? Have the billions of dollars spent to get us to Sunday's "victory" been worth it? Time will tell.

*Let's not kid ourselves about it being a mission to capture. Even CNN is reporting the mission was to kill him, as if there was any doubt.

**Simply an analogy, I have nothing against England or their Royal family, despite wanting to scrub my brain of wedding imagery.

67 responses so far

Senator Jon Kyl performs >90% of US abortions*

Apr 13 2011 Published by under [Politics]

I don't usually spend a lot of time on politics, but how can I ignore the Republicans taking their war on Planned Parenthood up a notch? Maybe you saw it on the Daily Show or Colbert Report last night or perhaps you caught the Twitter buzz... OR maybe you don't 'get' Twitter and you're in bed by 10:30 because you have a 3 year old who watches the clock in the morning from her bed until she can yell "THERE"S A 6 ON THE CLOOOOCK!" Hypothetically, of course.

Wherever you sit, it's worth checking out this video just to get a flavor of the utter bullshit the GOP is trying to push on teh sheeples.

Doing >90% of US abortions or 3%? I mean, what's the dif, right? Luckily, the explanation is simple - Jon Kyl's assertion as part of the congressional record "was not intended to be a factual statement". Now I'm not gonna sit here and argue that even half of what is said on the floor of congress is a cold hard fact, but ffs.

If you have a few minutes to spare, it's worth checking out the Twitter hashtag #notintendedtobeafactualstatement (no, you don't have to have a Twitter account, just follow the link). But for those of you, like me, who have not submitted their 140 character soul to a corporate entity, feel free to play along in the comments. Perhaps something like....

Senator Jon Kyl is Charlie Sheen's tiger blood dealer*.

Senator Jon Kyl writes all those "Nigeria Prince" emails*.

Senator Jon Kyl cares about the non-white, non-rich people he was elected to represent*.

*Not intended to be a factual statement.

11 responses so far

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