Posted tagged ‘Michele Bachmann’

Dismissing science

September 23, 2011

Today’s modern society is built upon science. It uses the discoveries of science to find solutions to problems in areas such as health, transport, product development, nutrition, and so forth. Its industry and hence its employment is clustered around science-driven innovation. So you would expect that respect for the potential of scientific discovery lies at the heart of political strategy? Well, yes and no. Many politicians do understand this, and large-scale funding for science (by bodies such as Science Foundation Ireland) reflects this.

But there are other voices in politics, and some of these are becoming influential. Many of them are in America. In fact, at least two leading candidates vying for the Republic nomination for President – Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann – hold views that are profoundly anti-science, calling key scientific theories into question and suggesting bad motives on the part of scientists. There are touches of something medieval here. If someone with such views were indeed to take over the US presidency, the results could be profound, and could easily lead to the United States becoming a backwater in geopolitical terms.

It is not, or at any rate should not be, the task of politicians to second guess science, or to declare its theses right or wrong based on ideology. That approach is total madness. No country can afford it, not even America.

Twitter: universities beware?

September 17, 2011

The University if Iowa in the noted States recently apologised to Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for a tweet that was made from a university-based Twitter account referring to her as a ‘cougar’ (a term suggesting she is an older woman dating younger men).

It is not clear whether the university thought that it needed to apologise for reasons of common courtesy, or for reasons of political discretion, or because it might be thought that there was a legal liability risk for libel. But the event indicates that universities may feel a responsibility for what gets said from their servers on Twitter. And as Twitter is not exactly a tightly controlled environment, this may raise all sorts of other questions about a university presence on social networking sites.

The sexist comment about Bachmann (about whom many other more legitimate things could be said) should not be condoned. But is it really sensible to self-censor on Twitter? Or necessary?

The right and wrong Michel(l)e

March 26, 2011

In June 2010 Paul McCartney was awarded the US Library of Congress Gershwin Prize, and to celebrate the award was invited to sing in the White House. As part of the concert he sang the Beatles’ song ‘Michelle’, in the presence of Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. McCartney quipped that he might return regularly to the venue. Speaking for myself, if he were to do that and give the song another outing, I only hope that its addressee would still be Michelle Obama, and not another Michele [sic] currently hoping to make it into the White House: the extraordinary (and I don’t particularly mean that in the good sense) Michele Bachmann.

If you have no idea whom I am talking about, you may need to take a moment to acquaint yourself with her. Michele Bachmann is Congresswoman for Minnesota, currently serving her second term. On her website she presents herself as ‘a principled reformer who stays true to her conservative beliefs while pushing for real reform of the broken ways of Washington’. Others may see her just a little differently: she is often seen as bizarrely rightwing, and somewhat confused in relation to the US history she likes to cite. Among the political positions she has adopted are phasing out social security and considering a nuclear strike on Iran. She wants the United States not to be ‘part of the global economy’ (whatever that means).

Anyway, this wonderful cocktail of half-baked lunacies may be about to launch itself as a presidential manifesto. Bachmann is apparently contemplating setting up an exploratory committee, the first step towards a potential White House bid. And if you tend to raise your eyebrows at the thought of Sarah Palin as American President, she would be a model of moderate reasonableness and cerebral intelligence next to Bachmann.

There may be something more profound for us to come to grips with here, however, and it is not necessarily just an American phenomenon. There is a tendency right now for the political right – that is, the ‘respectable’ right outside of the overtly racist and xenophobic brigade – to reinvent itself in political terms that owe nothing to the global post-War political market economy consensus. And that may be something to worry about.

For now, whether it is Bachmann or indeed Palin, I doubt that this sort of message will find a majority in the electorate. In fact, before it gets traction in a bigger way it probably needs a rather more intelligent advocate. But it does have support, and we may need to engage with a political spectrum that is changing dramatically, and in very strange ways.

But in the meantime, I hope that Paul McCartney returns to the White House to serenade Michelle Obama in three years or so.


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