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“Stupid Is As Stupid Does”: Bobby Jindal Picks An Unfortunate Fight Over Intelligence

Looking back at the last year or so, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) effort to raise his national profile has run into occasional pitfalls. The far-right governor, for example, has suggested Americans have a guaranteed right under the First Amendment to appear on reality-television shows, while also refusing to say whether he believes in modern biology.

The Louisiana Republican has filed a federal lawsuit in opposition to an education policy he recently endorsed; he said Israel would be safer if Secretary of State John Kerry was “riding a girl’s bike or whatever it is in Nantucket”; and he made up a ridiculous argument about Medicaid hurting Americans with disabilities, making it seem as if he doesn’t understand the policy.

It’s against this backdrop that Jindal is now arguing that President Obama isn’t “smart” enough for his taste.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) attacked President Barack Obama’s intelligence on Tuesday, claiming Obama deserves a tuition refund from Harvard since he didn’t learn “a darned thing while he was there.” […]

“There’s actually one lawsuit I’m happy to endorse. You see we have gotten so used to saying we have a constitutional scholar in the White House, we’ve gotten so used to saying we have a smart man as president. But I’m beginning to wonder if that’s really true,” Jindal said, according to video posted by the Louisville Courier-Journal.

As part of his indictment against the president’s intellect, Jindal insisted that Obama is the “first president ever to occupy the White House who does not believe in American exceptionalism.” He made the comments shortly after President Obama told a White House audience, “I’m a firm believer in American exceptionalism” – an issue he spoke on at some length.

Part of the problem is Jindal’s lazy combination of irony and hypocrisy. The Louisiana governor, desperate to rally right-wing support in advance of a likely national campaign, routinely makes comments that can charitably be described as dumb. For Jindal to pick a fight about the president’s intellectual acuity is like New Jersey Chris Christie (R) accusing someone of being a bully – it’s a topic probably better left to others.

But the other part is the governor’s actions, which raise their own doubts about whether Louisiana is led by a “smart man.”

Louisiana has a message for many of the scientists and medical experts studying Ebola and aiding efforts to fight the deadly virus in West Africa – stay away.

The state sent a letter to members of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which is holding its annual conference in New Orleans next week. If they’ve recently been to any of the West African countries where the virus has infected more than 13,000 people, they shouldn’t attend the meeting.

Soon after the 2012 elections, it was Jindal who said his party needs to “stop being the stupid party” and move away from “dumbed-down conservatism.”

He’s apparently changed his mind.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 31, 2014

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Intelligence, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paging Dr. Christie, Dr Cuomo”: When Did Chris Christie And Andrew Cuomo Go To Medical School?

Just when you thought the Republican slime-ballers had run out of muck, you discover, no, they have more mud to throw at honorable people. And they are not just smearing Barack Obama. This time, they are disparaging the doctors and scientists at the National Institutes of Health and depicting them as weak-willed tools of the Democratic Party. If Americans fall for this, they may get the government they deserve—stripped of honest science and trustworthy decisions.

Republicans are not stupid, but they are shameless. They know people are rattled by the stealthy emergence of Ebola and that media hype has reflexively pumped up the danger and public confusion. NIH experts calmly explained what has to be done to defeat the disease and assured nervous citizens that healthcare teams are on the case. The GOP saw opportunity in unfolding tragedy and rushed to exploit it.

A political hack named Ed Rogers, corporate lobbyist and White House insider under Republican presidents, chortled gleefully over the political twist. His op-ed in The Washington Post hailed the brave governors of New York and New Jersey—Democrat Cuomo and Republican Christie—for intervening with a common-sense response. Any doctor or nurse who had gone to West Africa to treat Ebola victims should be automatically locked up in quarantine when they return home.

Rogers boasted, “If there is a Republican wave in the elections next Tuesday, pundits may well claim that it fully formed when Christie and Cuomo decided to go their own way with an Ebola strategy, despite objections from the White House.” People will be reassured by their common-sense intervention, he said, because “voters don’t trust the president to do the right thing and they are less likely to vote for those who echo the president’s blasé response.”

Actually, this know-nothing attack was launched by two well-known cynics of politics, both of whom lust after presidential ambitions. What Ed Rogers left out of the slime ball aimed at Obama is that it actually smeared some of the most experienced, knowledgeable and principled employees of the federal government. The real question at stake is whether the GOP demagoguery will succeed in destroying yet another citadel of advanced science and public values.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who played a significant role in the successful war against AIDS/HIV, has explained patiently and repeatedly why rigid quarantines of healthcare workers would actually increase the dangers. “The best way to protect the US is to stop the epidemic in Africa and we need those healthcare workers so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer.”

If political pollsters were more devoted to the public interest than their political clients, they would ask people this question: Whom do you most trust to handle the battle against Ebola—Dr. Fauci, the longtime leader of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or Chris Christie, the author of political vendettas against Jersey mayors who failed to support him? Or do people think Andrew Cuomo knows more than Anthony Fauci about how to organize the global counterattack against this dread disease?

The questions sound ludicrous, but they need to be asked. Once these guys finish with New York and New Jersey, they want to run the country. Let me restate the question in a harsher way people can understand: Who do you think will manage to kill more people with Ebola—Dr. Fauci or Governors Cuomo and Christie, the political twins?

Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she often does, is pushing back hard against the irresponsible politicians. On CBS This Morning, she said Christie “should bring out his scientists who are advising him on that because we know that we want to be led by the science. That’s what’s going to keep people safe—science, not politics.”

She went further and suggested the Republican party may have blood on its hands because it has pushed hard to cut NIH spending and thus research on the Ebola virus. “So now we’re in a position where instead of making those investments upfront, we wait until people die and now we’re going to spend billions of dollars and some real risk to our country.”

Good question. Why don’t reporters ask Dr. Christie and Dr Cuomo?

 

By: William Greider, The Nation, October 29, 2014

October 31, 2014 Posted by | Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Ebola | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christie’s Questionable Judgment”: The Curious Case Of Kaci Hickox’s Quarantine

On Friday, Kaci Hickox, a Doctors Without Borders nurse, arrived back in the United States after helping treat patients in West Africa. It was not a happy return: after arriving at an airport in New Jersey, officials put her in quarantine.

Hickox’s isolation is the result of a new policy endorsed last week by Govs. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York, who announced new guidelines requiring 21-day quarantines for those arriving from West Africa – whether they’re showing symptoms or not.

The result is a scenario that seems hard to believe: New Jersey has effectively detained a nurse in a tent with no shower, not because she’s showing symptoms of the Ebola virus, but because officials fear she might at some point show symptoms of the Ebola virus.

Christie defended the mandatory quarantine, saying the nurse was “obviously ill.” This was apparently obvious only to the governor – who has no background in medicine or public health – and was clearly not obvious to Hickox herself.

Christie boasted on one of the Sunday shows yesterday, “I absolutely have no second thoughts about it,” adding that he expects his policy to soon become “a national policy.” A few hours later, however, second thoughts emerged.

Facing fierce resistance from the White House and medical experts to a strict new mandatory quarantine policy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday night that medical workers who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa but did not show symptoms of the disease would be allowed to remain at home and would receive compensation for lost income. […]

After Mr. Cuomo’s announcement, Mr. Christie issued a statement saying that, under protocols announced on Wednesday, New Jersey residents not displaying symptoms would also be allowed to quarantine in their homes.

The shifts came on the heels of White House pressure on Cuomo and Christie, urging them to adopt policies more in line with science. It’s unclear whether the revised approach will allow Hickox to leave her state-mandated tent.

There are a few angles to this to keep in mind, not the least of which the dubious legality of New Jersey imposing a mandatory quarantine on a woman who’s reportedly asymptomatic. Forcing medical professionals to remain in their homes for 21 days is marginally better, at least with regards to their personal convenience, but remains problematic. Indeed, by the same reasoning, states would have to impose similar penalties on doctors and nurses treating an Ebola patient in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top Ebola expert at the National Institutes of Health, warned on “Meet the Press” yesterday of “unintended consequences” – the more we discourage public-health workers from treating Ebola patients, the worse the threat becomes.

This isn’t complicated. The best way to deal with Ebola is to treat the problem at the source: West Africa. There are American medical professionals who are willing to make an enormous sacrifice by traveling abroad to address this crisis, but if the United States discourages them, they’ll help fewer patients, the virus will spread, and the threat will become more severe.

In other words, a policy intended to keep Americans safe will likely put Americans at greater risk.

As for the politics, about a week ago, Christie seemed eager to be one of the more sensible voices in his party, warning of unnecessary “hysteria” surrounding Ebola. To be sure, the governor hasn’t devolved into Rand Paul-esque nuttiness, but Christie unilaterally locking up a healthy nurse for three weeks raises credible questions about his judgment.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 27, 2014

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Ebola | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Convert Or Go To Hell”: The Christian Right’s Obscene, Defining Hypocrisy

For the masochists among us who tune into right-wing media, you soon learn that the all-time favorite fear pundits and preachers love to trot out is that “they” are coming for your children.

Whether it’s liberal college professors supposedly turning kids to Marxism or gay people who are accused of recruiting, over and over you hear the claim that the children of conservatives are in serious danger of being talked into everything from voting for Democrats to getting gay-married.

It’s a peculiar thing to obsess over, and not just because it suggests conservatives have an unhealthy unwillingness to allow their children to grow up and think for themselves. It’s because the imagined conspiracies of liberals trying to “indoctrinate” kids are total phantoms. A little digging shows that accusations of indoctrination are usually aimed at attempts to educate or simply offer support and acceptance. While there are always a few rigid ideologues who are out to recruit, by and large liberals are, well, liberal: More interested in arguing and engaging than trying to mold young people into unthinking automatons.

But I think I know where conservatives get the idea that other people are sneaking around trying to indoctrinate children into unthinking ideologies. It’s because they themselves are totally guilty of it, both in terms of trying to recruit other people’s children and trying to frighten their own children about the dangers of exploring thoughts outside of the ones approved by their own rigid ideologies.

Parents in Portland, Oregon were alarmed to hear that a group calling itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club has been targeting children as young as five for conversion to their form of Christianity. The group pretends to be similar to more liberal and open-minded groups, claiming they are just trying to teach their beliefs but aren’t trying to be coercive. However, it’s hard to believe, in no small part because they admit they run around scaring children by telling them they are “sinners” who are hellbound unless they convert and start trying to convert others.

One mother, Mia Marceau, told the Associated Press about her 8-year-old son’s encounter with the group. “Within a few hours, however, she didn’t like what the group was telling her 8-year-old son and his friends: They were headed to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise money for the organization.” Those kinds of tactics aren’t about encouraging free discourse, but about creating a cult-like mentality that discourages questions and free thought.

Accusing liberals of “indoctrination” of children does serve one very valuable purpose for conservatives: It gives them cover to launch initiatives to actually indoctrinate children into rigidly Christian or right-wing views.

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to the issue of evolution vs. creationism. Evolutionary theory is not an ideology or a belief system. It’s part of science, a world where asking smart questions and looking at evidence and questioning what you think you know is a big part of the equation. But creationists claim that they are the skeptics who are asking hard questions and portray evolutionary biologists as the rigid ideologues who are taking their beliefs on faith. By doing so, they hope to confuse people enough about which is the science and which is the faith system so they can smuggle their beliefs into the classroom where they hope to actually indoctrinate children.

It’s easy enough to see this is true if you understand how the concept of “evidence” works. All of the “questions” creationists claim to have about evolution have all been answered by scientists. That creationists hear these answers and ignore them, preferring to pretend instead that scientists have not answered the questions, shows that creationists are the rigid ideologues in the game.

Meanwhile, creationist arguments fall apart under even the most cursory examination, and unlike scientists, creationists aren’t able to answer the questions people ask them. One reason creationists struggle to get their indoctrination attempts past the courts is that once you actually bother to look at the debate in any depth, it’s clear who is teaching people how to think and who is pushing unquestioning obedience to an ideology.

You’re starting to see the same tactic used when it comes to right-wing attacks on Common Core, a set of national standards for schools endorsed by the White House. Now, there’s plenty of reason for people who are fans of critical thinking to object to Common Core, which feeds into the same “teach the test” mentality and attempts to turn our children into worker bees that have long plagued our public school system. But right-wing complaints about it have nothing to do with that. Instead they stem from a series of fanciful claims that it’s some kind of underhanded way to indoctrinate your children into liberalism.

(Indeed, in a bit of right-wing paradoxical thinking, teaching critical thinking itself is viewed as a form of indoctrination, even though it is, by definition, the exact opposite of indoctrination. If Common Core actually promoted more critical thinking, the right’s claims that it’s “indoctrination” would probably get louder.)

But the whole scare over Common Core doesn’t actually have much to do with the realities of Common Core at all. Most of the conservative claims are a bunch of recycled scare tactics used to scare parents into believing that education itself is the enemy and that kids should be kept at home or within strictly controlled Christian right environments geared to shut down critical thinking and encourage ideological rigidity.

That was made quite clear in Nona Willis Aronowitz’s piece for NBC News where she followed a group of Christian conservatives who hit the road trying to scare people about Common Core in Texas. Never mind that Texas doesn’t use Common Core. Scaring people about a thing they call “Common Core” that is merely a stand-in for fears kids might actually get educated if they go to school is what the entire snow job they’re pulling is all about. By raising fears that kids who get a public education are being brainwashed by some nefarious liberal agenda, these activists can justify their actual desire to, well, try to brainwash kids into unblinking acceptance of whatever authority figures in their life tell them to believe.

One mother said she was protesting the current state of public education because she opposed “deeper, rigorous thinking” for her kids and wanted them to learn “that there are absolutes, that there are right and wrong answers,” even though, in reality, there really is a lot of gray between the black and white. No matter how much conservatives wish otherwise, teaching people to think for themselves is not “indoctrination” and trying to foist a rigidly unthinking right-wing ideology on them is not protecting them.

 

By: Amanda Marcotte, Alternet, July 25, 2014

 

July 27, 2014 Posted by | Christian Right, Conspiracy Theories, Ideologues | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“They’re Not Scientists…Or Mathematicians”: Face It, Republicans Are Really, Really Slow Learners

Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker John Boehner made clear that the Republican Party has a new line in response to questions about climate change: they don’t feel “qualified” to know whether or not to believe scientists and the available evidence. “I’m not a scientist,” Florida’s GOP governor told reporters.

Apparently, they’re not mathematicians, ether.

For example, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Science Committee*, yesterday issued a statement condemning the Obama administration’s climate policy, vowing to “fight the president and his administration every step of the way to stop this unprecedented power grab.” (The White House is acting under congressionally approved legislation, endorsed by the Supreme Court. How this could possibly be a “power grab” is unclear.)

Blunt’s statement went on to get specific, pointing to evidence from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Americans will pay “almost $290 billion more for electricity between 2014-2030” as a result of Obama’s policy, adding, “Missouri consumers would pay on average $65.4 billion more between 2014-2030, on average $11 billion more per year.”

Roll Call’s Steven Dennis took a closer look and concluded that Blunt’s math is “spectacularly wrong – and even internally inconsistent.”

Missouri is covered in part by three different regions, Blunt’s spokeswoman, Amber Marchand, explained in an email. Blunt’s office totaled up the costs for all three regions – including parts of 25 states – and divided by three to come up with Missouri’s supposed costs of $65.4 billion.

That’s not how math works.

The Blunt release then kept the $11 billion total yearly costs for all three regions – remember, parts of 25 states – and assigned them all to “Missouri consumers.” … It’s simply wrong to take regional costs – and certainly not the costs for three regions covering 25 states – and ascribe them all to Missouri.

Of course, the Missouri Republican wasn’t the only one struggling with math yesterday.

Speaker Boehner, also relying on the hilariously wrong U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, argued, “The president’s plan would indeed cause a surge in electricity bills – costs stand to go up $17 billion every year. But it would also shut down plants and potentially put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year.”

As Glenn Kessler discovered, none of this is true, either.

Note that the EPA rule said that the agency would seek a reduction of 30 percent. But on page 15 of the Chamber report, the Chamber says it assumed the rule would impose a 42 percent reduction…. Given the significant difference between the emission targets in the proposed rule and the assumptions in the Chamber report, Republicans should have avoided using the Chamber’s numbers in the first place. We understand that they believe the negative impact will outweigh any positive impact but even by the Chamber’s admission, these numbers do not apply at all to the EPA rule as written.

Some might argue this was only an innocent mistake, but the EPA last week in a blog post on the Chamber’s study noted that it would not require carbon capture technology for new natural gas plants…. That should have been a tip-off that some of the Chamber’s assumptions were shaky — and that it would have been a good idea to double check what the rule actually said before firing off a statement.

 * Update: Blunt’s office contacted me to note that the Senate committee that oversees science policy is formally known as the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The Missouri Republican is a member.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 3, 2014

June 4, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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