Posts Tagged Joe Barton
The Crackpot CaucusBy TIMOTHY EGAN
Timothy Eganon American politics and life, as seen from the West.
The tutorial in 8th grade biology that Republicans got after one of their members of Congress went public with something from the wackosphere was instructive, and not just because it offered female anatomy lessons to those who get their science from the Bible.
Take a look around key committees of the House and you’ll find a governing body stocked with crackpots whose views on major issues are as removed from reality as Missouri’s Representative Todd Akin’s take on the sperm-killing powers of a woman who’s been raped.
On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers.
Let’s take a quick tour of the crazies in the House. Their war on critical thinking explains a lot about why the United States is laughed at on the global stage, and why no real solutions to our problems emerge from that broken legislative body.
Clockwise, from top left: Seth Perlman/Associated Press; Manuel Balce Ceneta, via Associated Press; Stephen Morton, via Getty Images; Daniel Acker for The New York Times; Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated Press; Paul Morigi, via Getty Images for Ovation
We’re currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, a siege of wildfires, and the hottest temperatures since records were kept. But to Republicans in Congress, it’s all a big hoax. The chairman of a subcommittee that oversees issues related to climate change, Representative John Shimkus of Illinois is — you guessed it — a climate-change denier.
At a 2009 hearing, Shimkus said not to worry about a fatally dyspeptic planet: the biblical signs have yet to properly align. “The earth will end only when God declares it to be over,” he said, and then he went on to quote Genesis at some length. It’s worth repeating: This guy is the chairman.
On the same committee is an oil-company tool and 27-year veteran of Congress, Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas. You may remember Barton as the politician who apologized to the head of BP in 2010 after the government dared to insist that the company pay for those whose livelihoods were ruined by the gulf oil spill.
Barton cited the Almighty in questioning energy from wind turbines. Careful, he warned, “wind is God’s way of balancing heat.” Clean energy, he said, “would slow the winds down” and thus could make it hotter. You never know.
“You can’t regulate God!” Barton barked at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in the midst of discussion on measures to curb global warming.
The Catholic Church long ago made its peace with evolution, but the same cannot be said of House Republicans. Jack Kingston of Georgia, a 20-year veteran of the House, is an evolution denier, apparently because he can’t see the indent where his ancestors’ monkey tail used to be. “Where’s the missing link?” he said in 2011. “I just want to know what it is.” He serves on a committee that oversees education.
In his party, Kingston is in the mainstream. A Gallup poll in June found that 58 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in the present form just within the last 10,000 years — a wealth of anthropological evidence to the contrary.
Another Georgia congressman, Paul Broun, introduced the so-called personhood legislation in the House — backed by Akin and Representative Paul Ryan — that would have given a fertilized egg the same constitutional protections as a fully developed human being.
Broun is on the same science, space and technology committee that Akin is. Yes, science is part of their purview.
Where do they get this stuff? The Bible, yes, but much of the misinformation and the fables that inform Republican politicians comes from hearsay, often amplified by their media wing.
Remember the crazy statement that helped to kill the presidential aspirations of Michele Bachmann? A vaccine, designed to prevent a virus linked to cervical cancer, could cause mental retardation, she proclaimed. Bachmann knew this, she insisted, because some random lady told her so at a campaign event. Fearful of the genuine damage Bachmann’s assertion could do to public health, the American Academy of Pediatrics promptly rushed out a notice, saying, “there is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement.”
Nor is there is reputable scientific validity to those who deny that the globe’s climate is changing for the worst. But Bachmann calls that authoritative consensus a hoax, and faces no censure from her party.
It’s encouraging that Republican heavyweights have since told Akin that uttering scientific nonsense about sex and rape is not good for the party’s image. But where are these fact-enforcers on the other idiocies professed by elected representatives of their party?
Akin, if he stays in the race, may still win the Senate seat in Missouri. Bachmann, who makes things up on a regular basis, is a leader of the Tea Party caucus in Congress and, in an unintended joke, a member of the Committee on Intelligence. None of these folks are without power; they govern, and have significant followings.
A handful of Republicans have tried to fight the know-nothings. “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” said Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, during his ill-fated run for his party’s presidential nomination. “Call me crazy.”
And in an on-air plea for sanity, Joe Scarborough, the former G.O.P. congressman and MSNBC host, said, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the stupid party.” I feel for him. But don’t expect the reality chorus to grow. For if intelligence were contagious, his party would be giving out vaccines for it.
- Opinionator: The Crackpot Caucus (opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com)
- The Crackpot Caucus [denialism blog] (scienceblogs.com)
- NY Times’s Egan: “The Crackpot Caucus” (alan.com)
- The crazy House (snohomishobserver.com)
- It’s Not Just Todd Akin (campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Fun Friday: Romney and the Dog Edition (onewaystreet.typepad.com)
- Rep. Shimkus tweets birthday greeting to Ryan Lochte (thehill.com)
- Where do these crackpots get their crackpot ideas? (digbysblog.blogspot.com)
- Todd Akin reaffirms decision to stay in Missouri Senate race (guardian.co.uk)
- From The AHA’s Feminist Caucus: Remember the ERA? (americanhumanist.org)
A sign of the times
Congressmen interfere with W3C over Do Not Track
In a move that shows just how high-profile an issue online tracking has become, the co-chairs of the United States’s Congressional bi-partisan privacy caucus have sent a letter to the W3C urging it to support the Do Not Track (DNT) standard. Addressing members of the Tracking Protection Working Group (TPWG), the two congressmen — Democrat Ed Markey and Republican Joe Barton — refer specifically to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10, which was recently slapped down for enabling DNT by default.
“In anticipation of the next W3C Tracking Protection Working Group meeting in Bellevue, Washington from June 20-22, we urge W3C participants to commit to user control over both data collection and use”, reads the missive. “[W]e call on W3C participants to make the protection of consumer privacy a priority and support Microsoft’s announcement by endorsing a default Do Not Track setting.”
Whether members of the TPWG will take kindly to the Representatives’ interference remains to be seen. Ed Markey’s legislative director, Joseph Wender, has brought the letter to the attention of the group’s mailing list, but, as of the time of writing, he hasn’t received any replies.
We’re not sure if it’s strictly ‘unprecedented’, but it’s certainly an odd move. If your standards body is receiving pleading letters from Congress, you must be doing something right — that said, this particular story bears all the hallmarks of a PR push by hoary old legislators attempting to seem with-it and technologically savvy.
- Microsoft defends default Do Not Track in IE10 (pcpro.co.uk)
- Could the W3C stop IE 10′s Do Not Track plans? (neowin.net)
- To Track or Not to Track? Not Just a Question, a Choice (blogs.technet.com)
- Do Not Track should not be enabled by default says W3C proposal (h-online.com)
- Admen Spot an Enemy: W3C (technologyreview.com)
- Microsoft Not Backing Down On IE10 ‘Do Not Track’ By Default (techweekeurope.co.uk)
- Microsoft Won’t Back Down On Offering ‘Do Not Track’ By Default In Internet Explorer (forbes.com)
- Standards group to bar IE10 from claiming ‘Do Not Track’ compliance (techworld.com.au)
- Provenance Access and Query Draft Published (w3.org)
- W3C: ‘Do not track’ by default? A thousand times NO (go.theregister.com)