User:Woozle/debate/2008-05 ostrich exchange

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Submitted for your amusement, a set of emails exchanged between myself and a certain ostrich relative.

Text like this with a green background is an editorial comment, not included in the original exchange.

2008-05-?? Woozle to Ostrich

...it seems clear that the FedGov needs an IT department. Once upon a time, the Office of Technology Assessment might have overseen that service, or helped to create it; the Republican 104th Congress, in their God-given wisdom, dissolved it in 1995, apparently figuring that technological progress would soon be slowing due to their efforts to handicap a generation of future scientists by teaching creationism in the public schools.

The FedGov needs an IT department to help it up out of the 1960s, and we need the OTA back.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/09/bring_back_the_ota.php

2008-05-02 07:46 Ostrich to Woozle

W: You can't blame the Feds for creationism; that's strictly a state folly! As for dissolving govt. departments -- way to go!...

2008-05-02 14:19 Woozle to Ostrich

In that case, one would certainly *expect* the government to be inept at evaluating or implementing technology, so you can hardly complain about it. Then again, I've heard speculation that this is the neocon agenda -- mismanage the government horribly so it becomes "obvious" that it's ineffective and wasteful, and then you have an excuse to cut the few parts of it that actually provide services people need.

However... if you want to cut government spending by dissolving departments, I'd start with Homeland Security. Their budget alone could probably buy several OTAs, with change to spare for funding some decent research.

Re connection between creationism and 104th Congress: just looking down the list of members for names I recognize, I see:

"The most bluntly theocratic effort, however, is the Constitution Restoration Act, which Brownback co-sponsored with Jim DeMint, another former C Streeter who was then a congressman from South Carolina. If passed, it will strip the Supreme Court of the ability to even hear cases in which citizens protest faith-based abuses of power. Say the mayor of your town decides to declare Jesus lord and fire anyone who refuses to do so; or the principal of your local high school decides to read a fundamentalist prayer over the PA every morning; or the president declares the United States a Christian nation. Under the Constitution Restoration Act, that'll all be just fine."

Can't find any GOP members of the 104th who specifically made any anti-creationism/pro-science gestures, but more investigation might uncover something. Also a list of those who specifically voted to dissolve the OTA would reduce the amount of checking to be done.

2008-05-02 16:21 Ostrich to Woozle

True -- and you can add Al Gore (I have a quote somewhere). But the Feds haven't actually done anything about creationism. And as I read the neocons, they really aren't small govt. people -- not on Ron Paul's side at all. Indeed, libertarians criticize them for that. Certainly Bush has greatly increased the size of govt.

Woozle wrote:

In that case, one would certainly *expect* the government to be inept at evaluating or implementing technology, so you can hardly complain about it. Then again, I've heard speculation that this is the neocon agenda -- mismanage the government horribly so it becomes "obvious" that it's ineffective and wasteful, and then you have an excuse to cut the few parts of it that actually provide services people need.

See above; I think that's nonsense.

Apparently he meant the "agenda" angle; my bad for injecting an aside which he can then take as a straw-man to dismiss the main point -- which was, of course, that if you disable certain key areas of government, then of course government will screw up.

Woozle wrote:

However... if you want to cut government spending by dissolving departments, I'd start with Homeland Security. Their budget alone could probably buy several OTAs, with change to spare for funding some decent research.

Amen. I just again went through airport security, with people I know, just to get into the EPA. Why the EPA should be protected, at our expense, when the terrorists are free to blow up Wallace Wade or Southpoint I do not know.

So he agrees that HS is doing a terrible job, but doesn't say anything about my contention that a lot less money spent on OTA could have solved the problem he originally emailed me about. (Wallace Wade is Duke's main sports stadium; Southpoint is the huge relatively-new area mall.) On the other hand, he almost sounds like he would approve of an increase in "security"-related barriers-to-entry at these areas, rather than a decrease in bogus security-for-show all around.

Woozle wrote:

Re connection between creationism and 104th Congress: just looking down the list of members for names I recognize, I see:

  • Sam Brownback, "God's senator"

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/9178374/gods_senator

"The most bluntly theocratic effort, however, is the Constitution Restoration Act, which Brownback co-sponsored with Jim DeMint, another former C Streeter who was then a congressman from South Carolina. If passed, it will strip the Supreme Court of the ability to even hear cases in which citizens protest faith-based abuses of power. Say the mayor of your town decides to declare Jesus lord and fire anyone who refuses to do so; or the principal of your local high school decides to read a fundamentalist prayer over the PA every morning; or the president declares the United States a Christian nation. Under the Constitution Restoration Act, that'll all be just fine."

Well, I'm not a Christian but only the first of these bothers me much. No firing, but otherwise, let 'em say what they want.

Woozle wrote:

  • John McCain, presidential candidate: "Responding to a question about a report that he thinks "intelligent design" should be taught in schools, the

senator mocked the idea that American young people were so delicate and impressionable that they needed to be sheltered from the concept, which says God had a hand in creation and which has been challenged by Darwinists as unscientific. " http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/07/john_mccain_professional_wease.php

See also Al Gore. The problem with ID is not that it is taught but that it is taught as science.

2008-05-02 19:32 Woozle to Ostrich

Ostrich said:

True -- and you can add Al Gore (I have a quote somewhere).

I'd like to see that...

Ostrich said:

But the Feds haven't actually done anything about creationism.

Not *officially*, because the Supremes ruled that it was religious, so any official effort to get it into schools would violate Separation of Church and State. But Bush seems to be very much in league with the hardline evangelicals who want to do away with Separation. He has gone on record as supporting ID (creationism in disguise) -- and in support of my broader point about the GOP trying to demolish science, I have a whole *page* of references about anti-science stuff the Bushies have done. This article (about a statement made by the Union of Concerned Scientists) is probably a good place to start:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Integrity_in_Policymaking

Ostrich said:

And as I read the neocons, they really aren't small govt. people --

So why support them? Why support McCain, who has Bush's support and has pledged to continue Bush's policies? Or am I misreading your inclinations?

Ostrich said:

Woozle said:

In that case, one would certainly *expect* the government to be inept at evaluating or implementing technology, so you can hardly complain about it. Then again, I've heard speculation that this is the neocon agenda -- mismanage the government horribly so it becomes "obvious" that it's ineffective and wasteful, and then you have an excuse to cut the few parts of it that actually provide services people need.

See above; I think that's nonsense.

I'm not sure which part you're calling nonsense -- the part about the government being inept at tech if they don't have the resources for evaluating it, or the part about destruction-by-mismanagement.

2008-05-03 07:41 Ostrich to Woozle

Woozle said:

So why support them? Why support McCain, who has Bush's support and has pledged to continue Bush's policies? Or am I misreading your inclinations?

I'd prefer Ron Paul, but a vote for him is a vote for Obama-Hillary, so...

I'm not sure which part you're calling nonsense -- the part about the government being inept at tech if they don't have the resources for evaluating it, or the part about destruction-by-mismanagement.

The conspiracy idea...No need to screw up gov, it will do fine itself.

2008-05-03 08:17 Woozle to Ostrich

Ostrich said:

I'd prefer Ron Paul, but a vote for him is a vote for Obama-Hillary, so...

Remind me how that would be a bad thing? I'm no great Hillary fan, but we need to be out of Iraq, and McCain has vowed to be there for another century.

I'd find it a tough choice if it came down to Paul vs. Obama. Too bad the GOP isn't conservative anymore and will never nominate him, despite the huge grassroots support. Ostrich said:

The conspiracy idea...No need to screw up gov, it will do fine itself.

Especially if you remove or disable all the agencies that provide oversight and don't cost much. (The OTA had an annual budget of $21.9 million -- pocket change for the FedGov -- and by all accounts did a necessary job quite well. The Department of Homeland Security blew twice that much on a program they never used. The DHS annual budget is $44 billion, with a "b", i.e. 2000 times the budget of the OTA.) How does that make sense, *even if* you truly believe that government is innately bad?

I mean, does he even get my point here? Is he basically arguing that government cannot be designed in such a way as to screw up majorly? Or is he saying that the US government is like this -- in which case how does my point about it being repeatedly scuttled by Republicans not apply?

2008-05-03 08:17 Ostrich to Woozle

This is apparently in response to my question about Al Gore supporting creationism.

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/evol5.htm

2008-05-03 08:22 Ostrich to Woozle

Woozle said:

Remind me how that would be a bad thing? I'm no great Hillary fan, but we need to be out of Iraq, and McCain has vowed to be there for another century.

Ecch -- he was massively misquoted. He analogized Iraq to our troops in S. Korea and Germany; he wasn't talking about a 100-year war.

McCain for all his faults is honest, would rather win than lose any war, and doesn't plan to further enlarge the state.

Ostrich said:

The conspiracy idea...No need to screw up gov, it will do fine itself.

Woozle replied:

Especially if you remove or disable all the agencies that provide oversight and don't cost much. (The OTA had an annual budget of $21.9 million -- pocket change for the FedGov -- and by all accounts did a necessary job quite well. The Department of Homeland Security blew twice that much on a program they never used. The DHS annual budget is $44 billion, with a "b", i.e. 2000 times the budget of the OTA.) How does that make sense, *even if* you truly believe that government is innately bad?


Don't know the OTA (what's OTA?) story...But airport security is not great -- although I did hear from a colleague the other day , that his wife works (for the gov) to try and sneak guns etc. on planes as a test for security effectiveness. An excellent idea.

I don't think I ever got around to responding to this... but was it not clear that we were talking about the Office of Technology Assessment?

2008-05-03 10:54 Woozle to Ostrich

Ostrich wrote:

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/evol5.htm

This is a rather old attribution (1999), before a lot of clarifying history had unfolded, and I could see (especially at that time) taking a stand in favor of "why not present all the facts and let the kids judge for themselves?" if one hadn't researched the matter fully. It's an appealing position to take if one prides one's fair-mindedness -- I took it myself, back in 2005 or so, when I didn't understand the issue as well as I do now -- and one that is consistent with a scientific point of view, *if* you imagine it (as I naively did, when I first heard the argument) being taught as an excercise in critical thinking, *not* as an equally-valid theory which scientists are rejecting out of hand, or (most likely) as simply another "fact" to memorize for the SAT.

However, it's not clear Gore actually did take the position supposedly relayed by his spokesman; see this: http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh100207.shtml --

"Weighing in on a Kansas controversy, Vice President Al Gore's office said Thursday he favors the teaching of evolution in public schools but would not oppose instruction in creationism if taught as part of a religious course.

"They may teach creationism in the context of a religious course; that is clearly up to the local districts to decide," said Alejandro Cabrera, speaking for Gore. He said Gore bases his opinion on court rulings that allow the teaching of creationism as part of a religious course but not as a science."


On McCain, I can't find anything more recent than this ( http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/politics/90069 ):

"McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes "all points of view" should be available to students studying the origins of mankind."

It's not clear that McCain understands that it's not good science, and should not be given equal billing -- though again his stance of fairness (presenting "all points of view") is reasonable, *as long as* the curriculum is set up in such a way as to encourage critical thinking; many public school classrooms are much more oriented towards drilling and rote memorization, and the danger that this "alternative point of view" will be perceived as equally valid or perhaps even taught that way if not managed carefully. Does McCain understand this? His web site appears silent on the issue, though comments on his blog seem to indicate that he doesn't believe in evolution. (Obama's also appears silent, but Obama said something similar to Gore's "as part of a religious course" statement if I remember correctly.)

He'll be at least an order of magnitude better than Bush, he seems sincere in his anti-corruption work -- he may well clean up the mess in Iraq... but does he really understand what's going on? I think Paul does (or at least would stick to his principles, which would keep things on track), and Obama's certainly smart enough to figure it out and not fall for subterfuge, but McCain doesn't strike me as much of a thinker -- and he's going up against some very powerful and clever vested interests.

And *what is his criterion for withdrawal*? How will we know when we've succeeded? Do we really want to be in Iraq for the next century? If so, why?

2008-05-03 11:24 Woozle to Ostrich

Ostrich wrote:

Woozle wrote:

Ostrich wrote:

I'd prefer Ron Paul, but a vote for him is a vote for Obama-Hillary, so...

Remind me how that would be a bad thing? I'm no great Hillary fan, but we need to be out of Iraq, and McCain has vowed to be there for another century.

Ecch -- he was massively misquoted. He analogized Iraq to our troops in S. Korea and Germany; he wasn't talking about a 100-year war.

Okay, I found the quote, and that interpretation seems correct.

I like this bit from his site: "A renewed effort at home starts with explaining precisely what is at stake in this war to ensure that Americans fully understand the high cost of a military defeat." A leader who explains what he's doing, and why, would be a huge step up. Then we'd have something to discuss; Bush just leaves us with a vacuum in which anybody's theory is as good as anybody else's, because we're all starved for facts.

Also this bit: "They have heard many times that the violence in Iraq will subside soon - when a transitional government is in place, when Saddam is captured, when elections are held, when a constitution is in place. John McCain believes it is far better to describe the situation just as it is - difficult right now, but not without hope. The stakes for America could not be higher." If he's true to his word, that will be an improvement -- but his record so far hasn't been great:

  • Sept 24th, 2002: "Because I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women"
  • September 29, 2002: "I believe we can win an overwhelming victory, in a very short time"
  • December 4, 2005: "We will probably see significant progress in the next six months to a year."
  • Aug 22, 2006: "The American people ... were led to believe that this would be some kind of a day at the beach which many of us, uh, fully understood from the very beginning would be a very, very difficult undertaking"
  • November 13, 2006: "The fate of the Iraqi venture will be decided in the next six months or so."

Admittedly these are predictions, not policy; as president he would be setting policy, with less guesswork involved. It just leaves a bit of a credibility gap, especially the flat contradiction between the August 2006 quote and the 2002 quotes. Perhaps they are also out of context. I was willing to give Dubya the benefit of the doubt back in 2000 even though his basic stance on most issues opposed mine, and that trust was betrayed most horridly. McCain asks me to give him the benefit of the doubt too -- and then shakes Bush's hand, and gets his endorsement.

McCain may turn out okay after all, but he obviously doesn't believe that Bush did anything wrong, much less understand the incredible depth of it. I don't understand how anyone can support someone *that lacking* in moral judgment.

2008-05-03 11:45 Ostrich to Woozle

You're spending too much time on this, young fellow!

Is this Ostrichian for "I cannot refute your argument but I refuse to concede your points, so I am going to change the topic"?

Another interpretation is that he truly sees progress as impossible, so any attempt to improve things is a waste of time; the only point in even discussing these issues is for the intellectual exercise, and anyone who believes in positive change is a wild-eyed optimist and not to be trusted as a leader. This would seem to be in agreement with attitudes I've seen hinted at elsewhere e.g. the mainstream press, but further evidence is needed.