A New Dark Age

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” — Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan’s quote explains a lot about the quality (or lack therein) of the political debate over heath care reform, climate change and a myriad of other topics that have had, or will have massive consequences over our future well-being.

The tempest-in-a-teapot over the purloined emails between climatologists is only the latest example of how basic misunderstanding of science and analytical methods turns into a political conspiracy theory by global warming deniers.  In an age when TV and movies can solve the knottiest mysteries in as little as 60 minutes (often through a deus ex machina), the idea that we have to spend decades pouring over hundreds of thousands, and even millions of years of data to understand our climate — much less propose a solution —  is incomprehensible to a significant segment of our population (wait a minute, the Earth is only 6,000 years old, what am I saying?).

The health care debate is even more pernicious.  The most rational solution – universal single-payer system, which would provide better outcomes, maximum coverage at the most cost-effective price, is not even on the table.  So as the Democrats struggle among themselves to find the least-worst politically acceptable alternative, the Republicans try any fact-free argument they can think of to raise fear, uncertainty and doubt among the mis- or uninformed.

The latest example is clearly illustrated by Nobel-Laureate Economist Paul Krugman:

The Republican campaign against health care reform has rested in part on the traditional arguments, arguments that go back to the days when Ronald Reagan was trying to scare Americans into opposing Medicare – denunciations of “socialized medicine,” claims that universal health coverage is the road to tyranny, etc.

But in the closing rounds of the health care fight, the G.O.P. has focused more and more on an effort to demonize cost-control efforts. The Senate bill would impose “draconian cuts” on Medicare, says Senator John McCain, who proposed much deeper cuts just last year as part of his presidential campaign. “If you’re a senior and you’re on Medicare, you better be afraid of this bill,” says Senator Tom Coburn.

Even the AARP doesn’t buy that argument, and fully supports reform passed by the House.

So basically the GOP strategy is if they can’t defeat reform, at least cripple it to the extent that should a bill pass, it has a built-in self-destruct mechanism, thereby allowing the GOP to say “We told you so”, in hopes of restoring themselves to power.  The devastation, in economic and human suffering terms, wrought by unchecked health care costs and runaway deficits are only a minor consideration in their short-term and short-sighted strategies.

During the Vietnam war, there was a strategy called Pacification.  One element was that in order to save a village, sometimes you had to bomb it out of existence.  Apparently a similar line of thinking is being employed by some in the GOP.  It seems these Luddites, by ignoring science and rational thought, are willing to bomb us back, if not to the Stone Age, at least to the Middle Ages, where magic and superstition were the norm.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Reagans relied on an astrologer for advice during their days in the White House.  

In the last decade, the GOP has screwed up nearly everything they’ve touched. With Sarah Palin considered by many in the GOP as a highly qualified candidate for the Presidency, they seem prepared to continue down that path.

Should we give them another chance to finish the job?

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9 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JO says:

    BRAVO. My god (she’s the one sitting on the left), I had heard that CO was one of the best-educated states in the union (despite having some of the worst public schools–go figure, as we used to say), and now, in your post, evidence!

    It bothers me to wonder whether somehow, somewhere, down the path we as a society lost our ability to analyze problems and address them. Analyzing fairy tales isn’t what I had in mind. Sad to say, btw, that this trait is often associated with words like “bumpkins” in some parts of our nation. I didn’t entirely believe it until…. (nah, JO, don’t go there…).

    Thanks for the post. I hate it when there’s not at least something I can argue with. Oh well.

    • harrydoby says:

      But be careful where you swing that broad brush.  I’m a Southerner (Georgia) raised and educated in small town Florida.

      But yes, critical thinking and healthy skepticism is woefully lacking in today’s deadly embrace of religious fundamentalism.

      That ought to start a fight, but probably not with you 😉

      • JO says:

        …and certainly I didn’t mean to imply that you had to live within a 20 minute cab drive (okay, 25 in traffic) of one of the Squares, Times or Harvard, to be sophisticated. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. sxp151 says:

    and they still opposed it every step of the way, thus demonstrating finally and conclusively that the Republicans simply cannot be negotiated with in good faith.

    I eagerly await the next issue of any importance, in which we learn that lesson all over again, much to our surprise.

    If you cover a Democrat’s eyes with your hands, do they believe you’ve ceased to exist?

    • harrydoby says:

      The party is much more fragile than they are willing to admit to themselves.  

      The wackos are determined lead the party off to the elephant graveyard.  I say, the sooner the better, so that we can get back to rational governing in a two party system.

      There are reasonable and rational Republicans.  They just need to find a new home.


      • JO says:

        That’s exactly right. Rational Republicans and right-wing Democrats should form a new party (they could call themselves Tories if they don’t come up w/ something better) and let the Democrats proceed to being the Social Democrats they (or some of them) believe themselves to be. Existing Republicans remain what they are: Afrikaners with American accents. “Party of Lincoln” indeed, as if false labels suggest some semblance of underlying truth! I know we’ve long cherished the notion that the laws of nature, including natural politics, don’t apply in the Western Hemisphere. Wrong. They do, and once the free land ran out….

        As it is, we’re mushed together in ways that make no sense whatsoever in a system that spawns people who think ideology is a dirty word, when it fact it’s the scientific face of politics, based on some set of coherent thoughts, albeit different assumptions from the get-go (most notably, “private property” as the basis for the economy–graduations accepted up to a point).

    • Sharon Hanson says:

      I would read three newspapers a day while taking the Blue Line to work at the JFK in Boston. I worked for the Office of Inspector General during Reagan’s tenure as President and it was a hostile and discriminatory environment especially if you were a woman. And I knew then as I know now that these groups of fundamentalists were going to take our country down. I thought it won’t end until our country reaches its bottom and I fear we are not there yet. The anger that would bubble up in me was not healthy and I had to let it go because I could do nothing to stop the train wreck that goes by several different names; Reaganomics, Tea Party, Republicans, Compassionate Conservatives and yes some Christians.    

  3. Barron X says:


    while they represent themselves as advocates for older folks, they are primarily an insurance seller.


    • harrydoby says:

      … if the AARP can use their buying power to negotiate better deals on insurance (and other products) for their members (of which I am one) — getting a commission for their efforts as a result — that’s an example of how the free market should work.  No skulduggery or taxpayer dollars here.

      And as an added benefit, it lowers our membership dues.  What’s not to like?

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