Thursday, March 21, 2013

Just For Mr. Coburn: The Evolution of Transsexual Attitudes Toward Gerrymandering in the Context of Global Warming

Fresh news from the budget battleground in Washington: tension is high... it's coming down to the wire... we're a week or so away from partial government shutdowns...

...but Tom Coburn (R-OK) thinks there's enough time to dig into the details of NSF studies on the political science of filibustering. Seriously.

It seems Mr. Coburn is taking issue with political science research on the filibuster and on cooperation between Congress and the President. And note: Mr. Coburn's issue is not with the research itself, which I am sure Mr. Coburn never actually considered; no, Mr. Coburn's issue is that the NSF has research funding for such topics at all.

This particular intrusion of national politics is highly ironic. As Mr. Coburn should know, American politics is now all about filibustering, gerrymandering, super-PACs and widespread voter disillusionment. And that certainly isn't the fault of the NSF.... but it is certainly a valid scholarly topic.

Full disclosure: as a libertarian, and there is all manner of wasteful government spending that I'd dearly love to eliminate. Let's talk about gargantuan agricultural subsidies, the incredibly bureaucratic and directionless Department of Education, etc. But Mr. Coburn's views represent a new kind of thought control- the ultimate intrusion by a national politician through the legislative manipulation of taxpayer funds. This is Ken Cuccinelli vs. UVa at the national scale. This is the intrusion of short-sighted political whim into scholarly thought, and it evokes some of our darkest history, when differing points of view were silenced for reasons of power and domination rather than intellectual argument. And this is yet another embarrassment for thinking libertarians and conservatives like myself who aren't afraid of dissenting views.

At a time when we should be talking about eliminating massive and unnecessary trillion dollar projects like the joint strike fighter, we're instead wrestling in the weeds over... academic studies of the filibuster? Because one politician doesn't like an NSF proposal title...?

This truly makes me want to send in an NSF proposal entitled "The Evolution of Transsexual Attitudes Toward Gerrymandering in the Context of Global Warming" ... just to get myself on a talk show opposite the likes of Tom Coburn. Let's talk about wasteful spending, shall we?

1 comment:

  1. P.S. It is important to realize that the NSF continuously moves emphasis from old research topics to new. We see research topics come and go, year after year. That's how a basic science funding agency best serves the nation: by taking chances on new directions. That continuous reinvention is what we expect from NSF- always seeking promising new areas of research.

    It is important to draw contrast between the NSF's orderly process of reinvention... and what happened here, as a result of a single Senator's caprice. In this case, one congressman took issue with one discipline, and thought it appropriate to intrude deep within the deliberative process inside the NSF. His action was based on flimsy reasoning, and he made no attempt to build consensus because he knew that he couldn't, and his prior attempts had in fact failed. So, this time around, Mr. Coburn simply cast principle aside and got what he wanted simply by playing chicken with a time-critical ~$1T continuing resolution. And then, to cover his tracks, Mr. Coburn played political science against cancer research. (Say, can we please put cancer research up against the joint strike fighter???!)

    Meanwhile, the really big-dollar issues that truly affect our international competitiveness, e.g. runaway spending on defense, entitlements, and health care inflation, all get less attention because small-minded electioneers are busy looking for votes in the (tumble) weeds.