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The House vote on the stimulus package: Republicans as dodos?

Posted on January 29th, 2009 in Politics by Robert Miller

You might have thought that with all the problems the Republicans have had in the last four years, quickly evolving from the party that was looking to become a permanent majority, to the party that everyone likes to kick around–that at least one Republican would have seen the light and voted for the stimulus package that passed through the House yesterday. But, astonishingly, no single Republican voted for what should have been a no-brainer. The country really has no choice on the stimulus package option. Most analysts believe that FDR might have been more effective in combating the Great Depression if he had stimulated the economy with a larger stimulus package than that he pushed through. And, everyone blames Hoover, as they are now blaming Bush, for not acting sooner on a stimulus formula that went beyond the bank bailouts, the exact purpose of which remains unclear–where all the “seepage” went is still mysterious.  FDR could have done it more easily than Obama can today because the Democratic majority at the time of FDR was larger than what Obama enjoys today, especially in the Senate.  However, FDR had to be gingerly with the Southern Democrats who behaved a lot like the moderate Republicans of yesterday, or the day before. The current Republicans are digging a deep hole for themselves as writer Dylan Loewe outlines in the Huffington Post. A short read.

None of us are competent in the political projection arena, but the Republicans of today seem to resemble the dodo birds (Raphus cucullatus) of the 17th century–an animal without the right ecological niche, at least not once the intrusive humans landed on Mauritius. Perhaps someday, we can look back and blame the Republicans for the disappearance of the amphibians, which, like global climate change, seems to be a looming challenge.

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Will science in America ever recover from the Bush administration?

Posted on January 26th, 2009 in General,History,Science by Robert Miller

Before WW II, there was virtually no university research funded by the U.S. Federal Government. The model for Federally supported research had been established in WW I, during which time the government inducted scientists into the military and housed them in separate research facilities. When the war was over, the country demobilized and with it,  the support for science by the government came to an end. Everyone went home. But during WW II, as the United States was shocked into the war by the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, the government quickly discovered that their standards for research, weapons development and the new emerging technologies of modern warfare, were seriously  deficient and way behind those of other countries, especially those in Germany that supported the Nazi war machine.

The research mobilization during WW II took place on a massive scale, with the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb as the most celebrated, if not the most controversial of outcomes. Although it was the largest scientific project ever undertaken at that point in human history, the Manhattan project was only a small part of the research effort that was funded by the government. One of the most productive facilities during the war was the RAD lab, associated with MIT, with Alfred Loomis and his Tuxedo Park facility effectively interacting to understand radar and implement its numerous wartime uses. If you have not heard of this story, a fascinating book “Tuxedo Park” By Jennet Conant describes Loomis and his role in developing radar technology that proved decisive in turning back the Nazi threat. At the close of the war, the RAD lab spun off into numerous, high-tech companies that jump started new industries in America.

Obama ends the “war on terror”

Posted on January 23rd, 2009 in Politics,War by Robert Miller

Dana Priest, writing in the Washington Post, has pointed out that with Obama’s new Federal directives, he has basically ended Bush’s “war on terror.” Remember that the “war on terror” was a White House creation, one in which Bush declared that the reach of the United States would be limitless, with wars against any country possible if they harbored terrorists–he announced the right for preemptive strikes, anytime, anywhere. It was literally the United States against the world. Bush and his lawyers armed themselves with deceptive interpretations of treaties, or got around them with the secrecy of prisons in other countries; they  introduced extensive use of torture, as some suspects were killed during interrogation. Bush opened Guantanamo and secret CIA prisons for torture and confinement, including the elimination of habeas corpus and the gutting of any due process. All of these elements to the war on terror were introduced by Bush through the stroke of his pen or secret memos spread among White House executives. But what went into play with the stroke of a pen can be undone with the stroke of a new pen–and that is what Obama has effectively done. Virtually all of the presidential orders creating the “war on terror” going back to 2001 have now been undone by Obama’s executive decisions. Quoting Priest, “The military’s Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration’s lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.” With one war down, we have two more to go.


Now onto the Patriot Act.


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