Tag: Politics

John McCain still really hates science

By Phil Plait | February 27, 2009 6:00 pm

Oh John McCain, I’m so glad you’re gone. But I wish you would actually leave!

Through Cosmic Variance I found out John McCain has a Twitter feed. That’s pretty amazing for a guy who doesn’t understand computers or even use email, but hey, everyone’s capable of change.

Or maybe not all of us. McCain posted a list to Twitter of the "TOP TEN PORKIEST PROJECTS" in the stimulus Omnibus spending bill.

Now c’mon, guess what number 2 was. Guess!

OK, did you guess that it would be some small amount of money that went to science and public education? Good for you! You win… well, nothing, except the chance to bang your head against a wall. Here is the tweet in question:

#2. $2 million “for the promotion of astronomy” in Hawaii – because nothing says new jobs for average Americans like investing in astronomy

Ah, McCain. Maybe you’ve changed enough to learn some new tech, but it’s nice to know some things don’t change, like that you’re an antiscience know-nothing. But then, he helped set that standard with his ridiculous planetarium ravings.

Let’s be clear: astronomy needs to be funded. It’s one of the best public-relations field science has. People love astronomy. And putting that aside, astronomy is important. I don’t think I need go into that here, but you can always read this if you’re fuzzy on the details. Also, it touches the philosophical aspects of our lives, like how we got here and and where we’re headed. Perhaps platitudes about such things satisfy some people, but some of us are pretty well concerned with reality. That’s why we study it.

And then there’s the bottom line: that 2 million dollar investment will keep people employed in a high-tech industry. What is it about Republican leaders that they don’t understand it’s not pork, it’s investment and that equals stimulus. Building a bridge that isn’t needed to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars is pork. Putting money towards science is making sure that we stay on the cutting-edge of technological capability in the world. See the difference?

Geez, this isn’t rocket science.

Speaking of which, let me point out the contrast of McCain still actively unwilling to support science and science education to Obama’s wanting to fund NASA and science in next year’s budget and in the stimulus bill. Interesting, isn’t it?

So, Senator McCain, let me make this clear: you, amateur exorcist and creationist Bobby Jindal, and the rest of your backwards-facing antiscience reality-denying brethren may huff and puff and say ridiculous things — and I’m sure you’ll continue to do so — but a lot of people see right through it, and a majority of the American voting population rejected it last November.

But please, feel free to cling to such notions. Those of us in the reality-based community will make sure we wave as we pass you, but don’t expect us to linger on your reflection in our rear-view mirrors. We’re too busy looking ahead.

Given the nature of this post, please avail yourself to both my commenting policy and my stance on politics and religion posts before commenting below. Thank you.

Repost: McCain's planetariophobia

By Phil Plait | October 16, 2008 10:11 am

Note: I originally posted this entry on October 8, but quite a few people are saying that it won’t load for them; they get errors or blank pages. The Hive Overmind has been notified, but in the meantime here is the post again. I hope you can see it! But if you’re reading this note, you can see it, and if you can’t read this note, then why am I sitting here talking to myself?

So a little while back, John McCain made an ill-advised crack about planetaria (that’s the plural of planetarium), calling them "foolishness". It was ill advised because it raised the hackles of lots of science-loving folks, including those who want to — gasp, horror! — educate kids about astronomy and science.

At the time I suspected it was just a wedge in which to attack Barack Obama, but his use of the word foolishness really caught my attention. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but does he really dislike such things?

Well, last night removed any doubt, when McCain — twice — used Obama’s requested earmark of three million dollars for Adler planetarium as a bludgeon, trying to pin Obama as another pork-barrel politician. He disdainfully said the money was for an "overhead projector". Those are his exact words. Here’s what he said:

While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he [Senator Obama, or "that one"] voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?

Well, shock of shocks — it turns out McCain’s characterization of this was all wrong. In fact, I would call it a lie. He knows it wasn’t for an overhead projector, a piece of classroom equipment that costs a couple of hundred dollars. That money was for Adler’s Zeiss Mark VI star projector: a venerable piece of precision fabricated equipment that projects the stars, constellations, and other objects inside the planetarium dome. Adler’s Zeiss is 40 years old, and desperately needs replacing. These machines are pricey, and replacing them difficult.

Adler needed money to do this. They asked local politicians, and eventually were able to get a request in a budget submitted by Obama. However, Obama never even voted on that budget, and Adler never got that money — thus making, again, McCain a liar.

Needless to say, Adler wasn’t thrilled with this characterization of their beloved Zeiss. They issued a statement to that effect. You can also get opinions all over the place: Universe Today, SpaceWriter, Davin Flateau, Discovery Space, Wonkette, the Chicago Tribune, even NPR.

I have posted about this before (just last night, in fact). The comments on my statements have been all over the place, from support to some fairly ridiculous complaints. My favorites have involved something along the line of, "Where in the Constitution does it say the federal government has to send money to planetaria?"

Good question. But where does it say the government will repair roads, provide clean water, create public schools, fund the space program?

Look: there are some things the government does for the greater good. This is where libertarians and I part company. Government isn’t always bad. In many cases, it takes the money it gets in taxes and does fantastic things with it, like sending probes to Mercury and funding autism research. It makes the roads drivable, and makes sure companies don’t pollute our air (well, it used to do that). You can complain all you want that earmarks get abused — and they certainly do — but they also get used to fund projects that are starved for cash, and that richly deserve to have life breathed into them.

I disagree with McCain here as well. He wants no earmarks at all. I think that’s ridiculous. It would be far better to have regulation of them, instead of the laissez-faire attitude the government has now. Or, if not overt regulation, some sort of throttle on them, instead of them being free passes to bridges to nowhere.

And finally, I want to reiterate what I said in my first post on this topic: I love planetaria. Love love love. They educate kids. That is among the finest and most honorable goals anyone can have. People who work at planetaria across the country and the world do it because they love it. They don’t get rich doing it, they don’t get fame doing it, they hardly even get accolades doing it. But we owe so much to them! Kids learn in planetaria– and not just about the stars over their heads on a given night; planetaria are evolving into the digital age, bringing incredible programs to the public (I know what I’m talking about here). And it’s not even just astronomy. The projectors can give all kinds of lessons: biology, history, local lore… anything you can create digitally can be projected in a planetarium, and kids can learn.

For McCain to use this as a political zinger is insulting, and for him to call it foolishness is beyond the pale. The honorable thing for him to do now is to admit he was wrong, admit he mischaracterized both the planetarium and Obama’s stance, and then issue a public apology to planetarians and science-lovers across the country.

The next debate is in one week. I bet a lot more pro-science folks will be watching, too. Closely.

Make McCain see stars

By Phil Plait | October 15, 2008 9:28 pm

So I missed the debate tonight, but approximately an Avagadro’s number of people have IMed, emailed, or tweeted to me that Senator McCain, once again, made fun of the venerable and honorable Zeiss planetarium projector at Adler.

Obviously, McCain is not up on his intertoobs.

I have said all I can about McCain’s ridiculous lies about this topic. I’m done being negative about this particular subject. Y’all will get a chance to be positive about it on November 4.

But why wait? Turns out, the Adler planetarium in Chicago has a page where you can donate to help them renovate the Zeiss. I suggest you do what you can; remember, despite what McCain has implied, Adler never got any money for this much needed upgrade.

Millions of kids go through that theater, and they learn about the wonder of the sky, the fun of science, and the sheer joy of understanding. Some people don’t get that.

But a lot of people do. And you know what? I think we’ll prevail.

Tip o’ the dew shield to Meg Kribble for pointing me to the Adler page.

Far-right religion eats its own

By Phil Plait | March 7, 2008 9:36 am

What hath God wrought?

For years, the conservative movement in this country has increasingly used religion as a weapon, sometimes with extreme Machiavellian motives. Now, of course, it’s impossible for anyone to get elected to any position of authority — Repub or Dem — without declaring themselves not just as religious, but as a certain type of religion. If you’re not Judeo-Christian, you might as well give up now.

This is coming back to haunt them.

Right now, John McCain is dealing with backlash from being endorsed by John Hagee, an extremely venomous far-right snake. Hagee is many things: a bigot, a misogynist, a war-monger, and a plain old creepy guy who wants us to attack Iran to bring on the Biblical end times.

I think it’s not only OK to jump on McCain for accepting such an endorsement, it’s required. Worse — far worse — is that McCain actively sought Hagee’s endorsement for months. McCain wanted this.

But it gets more interesting. Hagee, who claims his church is non-denominational, is not so enamored of Catholicism. To say the least.

Enter Bill Donohue, a guy who is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and himself a bigot and something of a nutbag. He has been railing against Hagee and McCain, saying that McCain should reject the endorsement of Hagee. Mind you, Donohue has been clear that it’s only Hagee’s hatred of the Catholic church that he finds so offensive. Apparently, all the other horrid things Hagee has said are fine with Donohue.

I forget. In which part of the New Testament does Jesus preach unbridled hatred?

I would find this situation funny if it weren’t so deadly important. The far-right religious groups have slowly and very successfully grown to be a huge influence over the political landscape in the past 20 years or so. To become a leader in this country it’s simply accepted that you have to brownnose them.

But look what that cozying up to these fundamentalist hate-mongers has done. They are feeding on their own now. And it gets crazier: there have been numerous attacks by the far right on Obama, intimating he’s a Muslim, but Obama is himself Christian. Self-proclaimed moral arbiters have no issues slinging as much mud as they can, hoping it sticks, despite the Bible having some pretty clear things to say about such issues.

There is a clear lesson here: when you beg for the hand of fundamentalist hate-mongers, you will suffer the slings and arrows of the other fundamentalist hate-mongers. Perhaps, then, it’s best to reject them all.

McCain did reject them, back in 2000. But now he is actively and quite hypocritically courting them. He brought this on himself, the end-product of kowtowing to fundamentalism. They have been actively engendering such a disaster for years, so they too have brought this on themselves.

The vast majority of religious people are good, decent folks — we may disagree on some of the basics of their religion, but I know these people want to do good, and that hypocrites like Hagee and Donohue don’t speak for them. But as I have pointed out time and again, if you don’t speak up, then these people speak for you. It’s very hard to find moderate religious people in the media, but they exist. Support them.

And finally, I would suggest the hate-mongers among the fundamentalists actually sit down and read Galatians VI. Because even after supposedly reading the Bible their whole lives, and supposedly basing their lives on it, they still haven’t quite figured out that as ye sow, so shall ye reap.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Religion

Science and the Presidential candidates

By Phil Plait | December 11, 2007 5:43 pm

Regular readers know that I will sometimes fume and gnash about politics and science. I’ve been active about this for some time now, and while I hope that making noise will help, I have longed to do more.

Now I can.

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum (from The Intersection) have started up what may be an incredibly effective grassroots campaign to get the Presidential candidates to debate science. A real, actual televised debate on real, actual science.

Right now, the effort is mostly getting signatures, but once a critical mass is reached a more proactive stance will be taken (some things apparently are happening sotto voce as well). So far, they’re doing very well: the list of scientists is impressive. They also have a nice list of bloggers supporting them, including one or two Best Science Blog winners you may recognize.

Update: D’oh! Chris just sent me a note reminding me that there is a Facebook group for the Science Debate too. If you’re a member of Facebook, sign up!

I think this would be a fantastic opportunity. I suspect a lot of the candidates would do quite well in such a debate, while others… well, remember when three Republican candidates raised their hands and said they thought evolution was wrong? Wouldn’t you like to see a debate with some, ah, interesting follow-up to that?

Yeah, me too. Support the cause. Get these candidates to publicly state their stance on science. The country — the world — needs this.


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