Monday, January 8, 2007

Global Warming, The Dialectic of Enligtenment and the Death of Science - Part 1

Sometimes I wake up and feel as though we are living in a terrible masquerade ball. At this ball scientists no longer have any credential - the science that they profess must first be censored and filtered by the real scientists. The real scientists (a.ka. the politicians, the activists and the pundits) then decide if the work from the "lesser" scientists should be accepted with open arms or rejected for painting society and the world with a false brush.

In the debate on global warming or "climate change," science has taken a back seat to the punditry of today. Let's be clear about this - there exists no 100% consensus on global warming. Even those who agree that global warming is real, disagree over the scope of the changes that could happen. Yet people like Al Gore constantly and unrelentingly claim that there is a consensus and that those who disagree are just plain wrong. Obviously, their science is superior.

What kind of world are we living in when dissent is so dangerous that there is an active campaign to silence those? Liberals complain about the suppression of political dissent, but where is the outrage over the suppression of scientific dissent? Liberals vehemently defend the rights of those with views seemingly outside of the mainstream to organize and speak. Yet, many of these same liberals would never think to come to the defense of those scientists who had a different view of the world then they did.

Science is facing a real and genuine crisis. It is in danger of becoming homogeneous and indistinguishable from those who simply advocate science rather then study and research it. Science will cease to be a reflection of the world as it truly is - instead it will become a reflection of the ideology of the majority or to the those who can control the majority. The ideology of science will be linked to the politics of the time, to the customs and norms of the time rather then to the dictates of reality.

Some may say that this is hyperbole, or that science will never become ideology. Yet, history is full of examples of science as ideology. The science of eugenics was was based upon the belief in racial superiority. Yet, there are other examples that are current to our times.

Animal testing is based upon the science (or belief) that a) Animal testing closely replicates the results that humans will face and b) that human testing should generally not be done. Animal testing is so warped by ideology that when the question of efficacy and accuracy comes up, many of us resort to the argument of "well they're animals" instead of actually confronting the issue and questioning the ideology behind animal testing.

Ideology, unfortunately, has emerged in the 20th century as one the most dangerous byproducts of the enlightenment.

Part 2 to follow.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Eight Days a Week

Democrats have pledged that they are going to work harder the 109th Congress. They may not work eight days a week - but they'll work five. A slight improvement over the three days of the 109th Congress. Nevermind the fact that Members of Congress still have long recesses throughout the year (but nobody in Congress really wants to change those).

Whether or not the new Congress will be anymore effective has yet to be seen. The problem isn't so much the number of hours that Members work, but it is the how effective they are when they work. If Congress works for five days a week, but accomplishes less, is there any virtue in that? Now if they work more and accomplish more, that will be a different story.

However, the potential successes of the Democrats are not without consequence. Members already have a difficult time shedding the fact that they spend a majority of their time outside the district and become ingrained in Washington. Now they'll have an even tougher time when election time comes around. Roy Blunt (R-MO) remarked, "They've got a lot more freshmen then we do," he said of the Democrats. "That schedule will make it incredibly difficult for those freshmen to establish themselves in their districts. So we're all for it."

This is especially true in districts that are as large and sprawling as the second district is. All the successes that Rep. Courtney will undoubtedly have won't mean a thing if he can't get out to the people. If 2008 is anything like 2006, any candidate who wants to win the 2nd is going to need every vote they possibly can get.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Bipartisanship is Dead

This past election proved that bipartisanship is dead. Either you're a Democrat or a Republican or you're something else (in which case you're considered to weak to take sides). There is no place for centrists anymore in Congress for either parties. If we're looking for someone to blame for the lack of cooperation between parties, we need to look no further then ourselves.

One could trace the end of bipartisanship to the end of the Vietnam War or the end of the Cold War and even way back to the debate between the Federalist and Anti-Federalists. However for our generation, 9/11 was the start of the end of bipartisanship.

9/11 forced us to take sides, whether we wanted to or not - and that was the problem. Sure, we could debate all we wanted to with each other over issues, however when it came to electing officials (whether it be local, state or federal) there were often only two choices - and more often they not, they had extremely different views. And rather then electing centrists, we often voted for the extremes of both parties. If anyone is responsible for the death of the center and of bipartisanship, it's us.

The real danger of electing officials who are at the extremes of both ends is that when politicians are necessarily forced to come to the center on issues (especially in presidential elections) is that the public doesn't know if they are telling the truth. And that it is a dangerous thing. If there's one thing we need more of, it's politicians who tell the truth not because it's going to get them elected, but because it is the right thing to do.

The public needs to demand more from their politicians. They need to demand the truth all the time. The new Congress has promised much. Let's see if they keep their word. If not, we'll a chance to re-examine their place in 2 years.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

100 Hours - Part 2 - 9/11 Commission Recomendations

It's already known that Democrats plan to implement all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations was a lie - and Joe Courtney was part of that lie. For all the posturing of Democrats throughout the election, when the time came to actually do what they said they were going to do, they decided that it wasn't quite so important.

Yet, despite this deception by Courtney, it may actually benefit Eastern Connecticut. I know this is a somewhat contentious statement so I'll qualify with this one assumption - The reorganization of committees (specifically the Armed Services Committee) would result in the diminished ability of individual legislators to be advocates for military installations in their districts.

When Congress convenes, Joe Courtney will be a member of the Armed Services Committee. There is little argument over the fact that having Rep. Rob Simmons on this committee was instrumental in keeping the sub base in New London open. It would follow that when Rep. elect Joe Courtney takes his place on the committee he will be able to be an effective advocate for the sub base. However if the 9/11 commission recommendations were implemented, it would be unlikely that the Armed Service Committee (and Courtney) would be as able to implement policy and be advocates

So where does this leave us? Despite the rancor from Democrats and Republicans we need to implement the 9/11 commission recommendations. Politics was never meant to be easy. Rep. elect Courtney needs to be an effective advocate for the sub base and for the safety of Americans, even if he is a member of a weakened Armed Service Committee (if the Commission's recommendations are implemented). Joe Courtney has a responsibility not just to the residents of Eastern Connecticut, but to all Americans and to their safety. Hopefully he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Monday, January 1, 2007

100 Hours - Part 1 - Medicare Drug Prices

Much like the Republican's "Contract with America" in 1994, Democrats are eagerly awaiting January 4th so that they can implement their "100 hours program. Joe Courtney has promised that he will help reform Medicare Part D so that the government will be able to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices.

Courtney and other Democrats have argued that allowing negotiation with drug companies will lower costs for seniors, and eliminate the "donut hole." They have also argued that the VA is able to do the same and their prices are lower (aside from the fact by law they already receive a reduction in prices.) Republicans have countered saying that the program is currently satisfying the needs of a majority of seniors and that negotiation with drug companies is the first step to implementing a single payer government funded health care system.

Both arguments appeal to the worst of both Democrats and Republicans. For Democrats, it's the belief that only the government is able to (and should) take care of the disadvantaged. For Republicans it's the belief that the free market should be the primary system by which services are provided to citizens.

An interesting (and refreshing) argument has been made by Benjamin Zycher. In an article published in RealClearPolitics, and in editorials in the Washington Post, he argues that while price negotiation would cause prices to fall, it would also have the effect of reducing the amount spent on R&D by a considerable amount. This decline in R&D spending would result in fewer new and life-saving drugs being invented in the future.

The allure of plans like the 100 Hours agenda is that they can be presented in such simple and stark terms. If Democrats are for lower drug prices, Republicans must be for raising them or at the very least keeping them at the same level. Never mind that Medicare is one of the most complicated government programs and that the ills of the system can not and should not be fixed in 100 hours.

If Zycher's argument is correct and R&D spending will be decreased, Joe Courtney should propose legislation to offer some type of aid or incentives to drug companies. Considering that Pfizer - one of the largest drug companies - has one of its ten global R&D headquarters based in Groton, he should do it rather quickly. While drug companies have incentive to develop new drugs, they only have that incentive to do so if there is the promise of profit. Otherwise, they'll just continue to manufacture one's they know make money like Viagra instead of drugs targeting HIV.

However, Courtney has made no indication that he is willing to offer aid or incentives to "Big Pharma." But then again, he does have the next 2 years to propose this type of legislation.

Promises, health care and Minerva

The Library of Congress runs an archiving site called Minerva. The goal of the site is to "initiate a broad program to collect and preserve these primary source materials." Something tells me that sites like this and the Internet Wayback Machine will become an increasingly useful tool for oppo in the future.

When Joe Courtney ran for Congress in 2002, he made an interesting promise. He declared that,"I commit to you when elected to Congress I will not accept - I cannot accept - any taxpayer paid health plan until every man, woman and child in America has access to affordable health care coverage."

Granted, this pledge took place over 4 years ago. Nevertheless as we saw in the senatorial race, promises made by Joe Lieberman nearly 18 years ago were considered fair game.

Members of Congress, like all federal employees have the option to enroll in the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program. Members of Congress have roughly 60 days to decide whether or not to enroll in the program. So, what's Joe to do?

Joe's promise was not some passing comment made to a supporter. It was one of his radio spots in 2002. He used this promise in an attempt to sway votes towards his side in a close election. He has an obligation to turn down the government funded health plan. I'll be keeping a watch to see what Mr. Courtney does.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

A New Beginning

2007 promises to be if nothing else, an interesting year, especially when the 110th Congress convenes. Joe Courtney, the new Congressman from the 2nd district in Connecticut has big shoes to fill. Maybe too big. Rob Simmons served the citizens of Eastern Connecticut as well as any Member of Congress could serve there district.

But this blog is not about the past or what could have been; it's about the future and about the actions of Joe Courtney and their impact on the 2nd district. Let me also make something else clear - it is not my intent to be a shrill partisan hack, but if you came here expecting an "unbaised" or "nonpartisan" view, go read the newspapers. I have no personal animus towards Joe Courtney, aside from seeing someone else elected in 2008 for Eastern Connecticut.

Republicans and conservatives often complain that the blogs are dominated by liberal or left-leaning blogs. They're probably right. Here's my attempt to even the field. Welcome to the 2nd Congressional District Watch.