Saturday, December 1, 2007

There and back again

For all of the top five Republican candidates, it is easier to develop a plausible explanation as to why they won't win the nomination than to show how they will win the prize.
-- Rasmussen Reports

One of the most disturbing aspects of the ongoing presidential contest is that in one dreadful way it seems a direct continuation of the current abysmal administration's view of the world, and that way is the almost complete ignoring by all of the candidates of science.

This is the twenty-first century, and a great many of the most serious problems facing the nation--and in many cases the world--require some basic grasp of science to be decently understood and dealt with. It's not just the elephant in the room, global warming: it's things like how to deal with a pandemic (which could be anything from a new and deadly strain of influenza to one of the hideous things brewing in Africa and Asia); efficient agriculture; energy issues, including the need to get going on a new hydrogen-based energy network; and even economics (whether or no one admits economics as a true science, it is necessary for a president to know enough about its technicalities to deal with the wheelbarrows full of manure that the gnomes down at the Federal Reserve wheel out to justify the policies, which no competent president can afford to take on faith).

Meanwhile, aside for an occasional minute passing lip-service reference, what do we see as science from the candidates? Time today had a story about Mike Huckabee: "Mike Huckabee likes to think of his campaign as the fat bumblebee whose ability to fly has baffled generations of scientists. 'The bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, goes ahead and flies anyway and makes honey and pollinates the other plants,' Huckabee told a group of reporters over lunch in Washington Thursday." Um, no: the bumblebee thing is long-discredited urban folklore, a term used by polite folk to mean shit-for-brains ignorance. I wonder how many of the candidates could explain the greenhouse effect in 50 words or less. That anyone--candidate or everyday citizen--who cannot would lay claim to an opinion on the topic has to be a chilling thought.

The more I think about the 2000 election, the angrier I get . . . .

I am so very, very tired of the way ignoramuses continue to destroy the English language. The trigger for today's mini-rant was another appearance of the phrase "sea change" as a simple synonym for "major change". If you mean something was a major change, say so in plain words; don't use the opportunity to flaunt your ignorance and, in the process further aid the degeneration of the tongue. The phrase sea change is--or, by now, was--a very handy one for describing the phenomenon of something, usually an idea or philosophy, that mutates in the process of being carried away from its home to some new place--that is, of being carried "over the sea".

Speaking of candidates having trouble with science and facts, this from Scientific American: The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) next week plans to offer GOP presidential wannabes $10,000 if they can back up their claims that medical marijuana is either unnecessary or "too dangerous" for medical use. "For months, Giuliani, Romney and McCain have been making statements about medical marijuana that are simply false--claiming, for example, that medical marijuana is either not needed or too dangerous to use as medicine," the MPP official says. "We've offered them the scientific evidence and they've chosen to ignore it. So, if they won't listen to science or compassion, we're going to try speaking a language we know they understand--campaign contributions. It's time for these candidates to either prove what they've been saying or stop lying to the voters."

The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing; there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. -- Lord of the Rings

(NASA image)

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