Tag Archives: Government

The moon landing and “the fate of knowing”

S.G. Collins provides an excellent takedown of the “moon hoax” argument. Watch it through to the end: Collins not only dismantles this particular theory but shines a much-needed light on the difference between knowledge and belief, the nature of paranoia, and the utmost importance of distinguishing between imagined conspiracies and very real government shenanigans.

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy offers lots more debunkery here and here.

(h/t Bob Cesca)

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The stakes

Bob Cesca spells them out:

[I]f the president loses the second debate as badly as the first and, subsequently, isn’t able to recover enough ground to win the election, it will be seen as a major loss for Keynesian economic policy, not to mention government intervention in health care, Wall Street regulation, student loans, climate, energy and so much more. In spite of his record of successes, the president will likely be viewed as a failure — for reasons that confound logic. After all, if the president loses, he will have ended his presidency will deficit that’s hundreds of billions of dollars lower than when he took office, he will have saved senior citizens $4 billion in health care costs, he will have extended the solvency of Medicare to 2024, he will have rescued the economy from a global financial crisis, he will have created 5 million jobs in the wake of that crisis, he will have rescued and reinvigorated the American auto industry, he will have cut unemployment and he will have presided over a near-doubling of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Worse yet, all of the legislation that made a lot of these successes possible will be repealed by Mitt Romney.

Furthermore, the effort to eradicate the Reaganomics virus that’s infected our politics for more than 30 years will be stopped cold. It isn’t often discussed among hipster liberals who myopically see Obama as a centrist or even a moderate Republican, but for the first time in more than a generation, the president has made repeated cases for the positive role of government. Gradually throughout his first term, the president has worked this pitch for the restoration of government as a force for good into major addresses, many of which were prime time joint session addresses to Congress. Within this pitch, the president has made effective cases against tax cuts for the super-rich as well cases against de-regulatory policies that have resulted in health insurance abuses, corporate out-sourcing and the nefarious Wall Street noodling that sparked the Great Recession. It’s a far cry from the “era of big government is over” talk from Bill Clinton or the “government is the problem” mantra from Ronald Reagan.

With an Obama loss, it’s very unlikely another Democrat in the near future will be able to successfully pick up the same goals and be victorious while doing so. And there’s always a chance that the recovery will continue into a Romney presidency — at least for a while — and the conventional wisdom would divorce such a success from the policies that made it happen. Romney would get the credit. For example, the CBO projects that 12 million jobs will be created in the next four years. Romney will take credit for that — in fact, he already is by saying that he’ll create 12 million jobs. Those jobs will be created anyway due to the fact that the economy was pulled back from the brink and continues to recover. Essentially, the failed supply-side, trickle-down, de-regulatory, anti-government economic plan being pitched by Mitt Romney will be unfairly and inaccurately viewed as a successful one.

And perhaps the most devastating outcome: the Supreme Court will become solidly conservative for another generation. It’ll be a tragic turn events for women, campaign finance, net neutrality and so forth. The consequences of Romney appointing a sixth or seventh conservative justice on the Bench are almost too harrowing to imagine.

Read the rest here.

My previous thoughts on why government matters — and why I support the case the president makes for it — here.

(Image via The Sietch Blog)

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How to build a person

Tim Minchin narrates a nice introduction to the history — and future — of genomics:

More on ENCODE — the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements — here:

Gina Kolata of the New York Times walks us through the most recent breakthrough in DNA research and its implications. It’s worth reading through, but here’s a bit some may miss:

The findings, which are the fruit of an immense federal project involving 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, will have immediate applications for understanding how alterations in the non-gene parts of DNA contribute to human diseases, which may in turn lead to new drugs.

Indeed — ENCODE operates under the auspices of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health. That’s your tax dollars at work, America! As researchers continue to decode the human genome and gain significant ground in the fight against diseases like diabetes and cancer, it’s yet another clear example of why government matters.

(h/t Boing Boing)

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What we lost when we lost Neil Armstrong

From John Scalzi’s essay on the first man on the Moon:

I don’t mind too much the future we’ve gotten so far. I like the Internet, and my cell phone, and my television bouncing to me from space, and all the other things that have come from what has essentially been the less expensive path of least resistance. I think the things that NASA has done with its robotic craft, which are now on Mars and over Mercury and pushing through the heliopause at the very edge of interstellar space, are nothing short of miraculous. This future has been pretty good for me. But I don’t think this future had to be exclusive of the future that Neil Armstrong seemed to herald, and for which he was our icon; maybe we could have had both, had our will to go to the moon been matched by a will to stay and build there.

We can still go back to the moon, of course. We can still go and build and stay and use the moon as our first stepping stone to other worlds. Anything is possible. But for me Armstrong’s death forever closes the door on a certain possible path the we could have taken, the one where that first small step and giant leap was not essentially taken in insolation, but was followed by another step and another leap, followed by another, and so on, one right after another, without pause and without interruption. Even when or if we return to the moon, we will never live in Neil Armstrong’s future.

Yes. (Sigh.)

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the sound and fury of the US presidential campaign goes on, and Armstrong has inevitably been praised and invoked by both sides. Mitt Romney isn’t wrong to hail Armstrong’s character and accomplishments. But I’d remind Romney and his party that it wasn’t an unassisted, bootstrap-pulling individual who flew himself to the moon through sheer gumption and will; it was a massive, taxpayer-funded government agency that put him there. Armstrong’s accomplishment was huge, but he was also — like Isaac Newton — standing on the shoulders of giants: of political leaders with vision, of a government backed by the purse and permission of its people, of centuries of scientific discovery and research (some of it government-funded), of a society pulling as one.

Armstrong said it himself: a man took a small step on the Moon, but it was mankind that made that giant leap — together.

It’s not too late to remember how to do it.

(Photo by Buzz Aldrin)

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Humanism and secularism, defined

So what’s humanism? I had a go at this question way back when I started this blog, but this video by the British Humanist Association offers a much clearer introduction:

And from the always-lucid British YouTube user QualiaSoup, here’s a very clear presentation on secularism and its views on church/state separation, gay marriage, and education — as relevant (or perhaps even more so) in the US as it is in the UK:

(via Tim Minchin)

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“You want to talk about values? … Looking out for one another — that’s a value.”

President Obama makes the case — brilliantly — for pulling together, for the responsibilities we bear toward each other in a community, and for government’s role in doing so:


The president has argued for why government matters before — as has Elizabeth Warren — and hopefully will continue to hammer this message home all the way to November.

(via The Dish)

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Why government matters, cont’d: Rescuing Detroit

If you want to convey a message of grit, hope, and determination, you can hardly do better than Clint Eastwood in this great Superbowl spot:

Bob Cesca points out the obvious irony:

My only issue here is the unspoken fact that Republicans (Eastwood is a Republican) wanted Detroit to go bankrupt and the Obama administration insisted upon a bailout for the auto industry which ended up rescuing Detroit. The American auto industry survives despite the Republicans’ refusal to “work together” with anyone.

So, yes, absolutely: cheer on the resilience of Detroit, and of the country as a whole. But on Election Day, be sure to remember which party actually tried to help Detroit and which one wanted to leave it for dead. And vote accordingly.

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