22 thoughts on “North of the Border Folks: Comments Solicited

    • I saw Ryan Leaf play in college. Once, after throwing an incomplete pass on third down he was walking off the field, saw a defender who had his back to him, and walked out of his way to body slam the guy from behind. The refs didn’t see it, but 45,000 home fans did. My favorite moment in Ryan Leaf history was when the Chargers GM (iirc) complained that nobody had warned him what a head case Leaf was. I hadn’t realized a person could live on the West Coast and not realize that.

      Report

  1. It feels almost devastatingly karmic in a bad way. All through the 90’s and much of the aughts the right wing was split (Conservatives, Reform) and so the Liberals ran the show and the country did well. Now the left is split (Liberals, NDP*) and the conservatives are running amok.

    *The NDP were present during the previous time period but the Liberals were stronger and also controlled the center. Now their left flank is consumed by the NDP and they’ve lost credibility with the center right. Ugh.

    Report

  2. Seems like a lot of their “War on Science” comes down to “environmental policies I disagree with” or “budgetary priorities (or non-priorities) that I do not share that involve science or education.”

    Report

    • My problem with this approach is usually “what science is working on” is more or less under the relatively-unguided control of scientists. You know, we fund the NIH and the NSF and all that, but largely the awarding structure is (theoretically, and in practice generally although not always) supposed to be in control of practicing scientists and researchers, not politicians.

      This seems very much – disclaimer, outsider, which is why I was soliciting comment – like politicians picking and choosing what science their political inclinations leads them to want to remove funding from, on account of the results of that science may be politically uncomfortable.

      IF that’s what’s going on, that’s deplorable, from the standpoint of science.

      Report

    • Exactly. It’s only a particular subset that they oppose, and the subset is actually pretty easy to predict given the party’s base and funding sources. And they’re actually rather fond of mechanical engineering [1].

      [1] Ancient engineering joke: What’s the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers? Mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets.

      Report

  3. The “War on Science” claims are a little overdone, but, yes, essentially the Conservatives aren’t exactly friends of the scientific community. As Will notes, a lot of it is ideological, in addition, a lot of it comes down to arguments about the proper role of public servants.

    I don’t really have much to say on it. It’s basically old news up here.

    Report

  4. I’ll just say that some people call ScienceBlogs ‘DramaBlogs’ when they veer away from science and into policy discussions.

    Report

    • Hehe… I’d never heard that. I used to blog there (way back when), and the drama on the front page was exceeded only by the drama behind the scenes, so I love the nickname.

      I think the fact that the rise of science blogs was largely a function of two things: the I.D. wars of the early-to-mid Aughts and links from liberal blogs to posts about the Bush administration’s science policies, has made the old guard of science blogging dysfunctional.

      Report

      • Let me expand on that last part, not that anyone likely cares.

        If you look at early science blogging, the most popular blogs initially were some old usenet regulars like Myers and Moran who had known each other, in some cases, since the early 90s, and were basically having a conversation with each other on blogs. Then there was a flourish of Intelligent Design activity, in the form of books, court cases, and publicity campaigns, along with a couple ID blogs that gained some popularity in evangelical circles (I think Evangelical Outpost was kind of the epicenter at the time). At the same time, liberal blogs like Eschaton, Kos (which was, at the time, just beginning to be a phenomenon), Leiter Reports, Majikthise were getting a lot of attention because Bush was awful and people were looking for an outlet, and some of those liberal bloggers (particularly Kos, Leiter, and Lindsay) were paying attention to the fight against ID. So they started linking to anti-ID blogs, particularly Pharyngula, who in turn linked to the people he knew, who were also blogging about ID a lot. As a result, a few science blogs, mostly written by biologists (though there were a few physicists and a few non-scientists who really liked science, or at least liked criticizing what was often called “anti-science”), became really popular really fast. Other aspiring science bloggers saw this, and realized that in order to get links and readers, they needed to get the attention of either the newly prominent science bloggers or the liberal bloggers who made them prominent, so they talked about the stuff that those people liked to link to, namely ID and the Bush administration’s science policy. So Deltoid (which is often a really good blog, don’t get me wrong), Bora (who recently got into a bit of trouble), Thoughts from Kansas, and a bunch of others who focused mainly on policy-related science issues, filled out the second tier of science blogs (Cosmic Variance came a bit later, and it had some really good blogging, but plenty of policy stuff too, because that’s where the links were). By the time blogging really took off, and science blogs became a dime a dozen, virtually all of the old school science bloggers, many of whom had gotten paying gigs with various science publishers and were now pretty much running the science blogging world, were people who were as or more focused on policy than science.

        I think the attention those early folks got also makes them think that, despite having no expertise in policy whatsoever, they, and scientists in general, should have a big voice, if not the voice, in dictating policy.

        Report

      • Chris,
        I’m certain I’ve read blogs about EnergyStar, by the folks who wrote the policy…
        (I think that was over on a Climate Change blog…).
        I think it’s a mistake to think that scientists haven’t always had big egos and think they ought to influence policy. The doomsday clock didn’t come out of nowhere (met one of the guys involved in that, actually).
        Stan Schmidt (i think he wrote that article) wanted New Orleans rebuilt ten miles upriver… (and I’m certain that’s not the first nor the last policy advocated in Analog’s pages).

        Report

      • I think the attention those early folks got also makes them think that, despite having no expertise in policy whatsoever, they, and scientists in general, should have a big voice, if not the voice, in dictating policy.

        Yeah, I tried talking policy at Pharyngula once. The ignorance of policy theory and how policymaking works was exceeded only by the arrogance that such ignorance always begets. I assume Myers knows cephalopods, but policywise he doesn’t know his ass from his elbow and most of his acolytes are worse.

        I wanted to like the new set of blogs at freethoughtblogs, which he and Brayton set up, but I’ve found that “free” thought means atheism, not actually freedom to disagree on issues. It’s all pretty dismal unless you like the echoes in that particular chamber.

        Report

  5. Yes, the Harper government has built up a long record of de-funding any research organization that comes to conclusions they don’t agree with, and doing their best to muzzle public servants whose evidence conflicts with government policy. It’s not just science – they really went after the last Parliamentary Budget Officer when he revealed that the government’s numbers on the cost v. benefit of F-15 planes we were thinking of buying from the US didn’t check out. And they cancelled the long-form census despite its data being foundational to being able to make good policy (one could suspect that they did it precisely so that we wouldn’t have the right data to support running a good social welfare system; alternatively, one could see it as just a way to pander to their base by getting rid of something they didn’t really care about).

    But science, particularly the environment, is one of their big issues. They do not want to acknowledge that climate change is human-caused and a serious problem, because if they did it would have consequences for the Alberta oil sands, among other areas. And there’s a lot of jobs in the oil sands, even if they don’t make any long-term sense (the per-unit energy cost of getting oil out of the sands is greater than the energy that the oil produces, PLUS there’s the carbon emissions issues, PLUS there’s all the other environmental damage done by the oil sands industry).

    Even if we vote Harper out in 2015 (far from a certainty), it’s going to be a lot of work to repair the damage he’s done to research.

    Report

  6. An anecdote that may illuminate the mentality within Canada’s federal Conservative party.

    A few years ago my wife and I went to speak to speak with our Conservative MP about the latest incarnation of the party’s “tough on crime” agenda. In particular, we were focusing on the introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offences.

    My wife spoke rather eloquently in favour of the right of every accused person to a vigorous defence and a fair trial, and the importance of trusting judges to exercise the judgment that is their job – he seemed surprised by some of her points, like the benefit of a fair and healthy justice system had never occurred to him.*

    I made what was probably the mistake of bringing up a point from the 2002 Senate committee report on cannabis policy (a remarkable document – well-researched, well-reasoned, full of good insights and recommendations). Our honorable legislator’s response, in full, both to my point, and to the very high-quality work by many senators and learned witnesses before the committee, follows:

    “A committee full of Liberals!

    It was clear that he felt he had just made a thoroughly sufficient rebuttal of the entire report.

    * a healthy justice system of which he was later a beneficiary when he was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, refused to provide a breath sample, and refused to get out of his car when ordered to do so by the police. I have no idea how he managed to get an acquittal but I guess there’s little an expensive lawyer can’t achieve.

    During his trial he was temporarily kicked out of the party, and sat as a “Civil Libertarian” whose entire platform of civil liberties, as far as anyone could tell, consisted of freedom from drunk-driving check stops.

    Report

  7. The Harper government contains a number of MP’s who have never done any paid employment in their lives that wasn’t related to politics. Starting with Harper himself: summer jobs during university working in accounting departments of energy companies, then went to work for an MP from Calgary, then for independent Reform MP Deborah Gray (who is very ambivalent about him in her memoirs), then policy guy for Reform Leader Preston Manning (whose memoirs contain some pretty cool slams about him), then an MP himself, then quitting in a huff and being head of the National Citizens Coalition for 4 years (a direct mail factory that claims to be a lobby group), then back as MP heading up the whatever-the-Reform-Party-was-called-ten-years-ago Party, then PM.

    And there are many cabinet ministers like him (Baird, Van Loan, Clement) and darn few with connections to the private sector, let alone any other sector. It’s a right-wing NDP. If you don’t agree with them already, there’s something wrong or unethical about you, and it’s just a matter of time before you reveal your true dastardly self.

    So something like pure research science is something they don’t bother to understand because hey why should they? Paul Wells, of Macleans Magazine, has done a lot of coverage on Harper and science, and is worth reading about it: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/08/10/how-do-you-fund-great-science-ask-a-great-scientist/

    Report

Comments are closed.