We who call ourselves patriots often talk about winning the next election. So do the Social Democrats, although their aim is to aquire power for power’s sake, to rule and to direct society in an authoritarian scheme. Our altruistic motivation, we often say, is to secure the blessings of liberty, to maintain the “American way” and to be true to our founders’ vision of a just and moral order.
The patriotism we often think of today is one of admiration for the flag and what it stands for, reverence for our nation’s rich history and its heroes and America’s contributions to a stable, better world. At the time of the founding, however, the American people didn’t have the two hundred-year history to reflect on – they were concerned with truth and justice and freedom of conscience and just …making it. They had much in common, but they were building a nation, not admiring it.
When you are building something, especially building it from scratch, you are continually improvising, learning, perfecting. In the roughly two-hundred year period from the 1770’s to the 1970’s, the United States of America was building itself up. As it did so, genius sprouted throughout the land. Genius and competence. Can-do was the order of the day. And for the most part, it was all built on truth. Everything substantial is built on truth. Everything that lasts, anyway.
Skim through this article by one Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, in which he bemoans the sorry state that US weather forecasting has fallen into:
This weekend I went to a talk by a Stanford political scientist who noted that great nations generally don’t fail from external threats–rather they weaken from within. They get lazy, inefficient, lose their edge, and start making bad decisions. U.S. operational numerical weather prediction is a prime example of a nation resting on it laurels and falling behind. We invented numerical weather prediction. Most scientific and technical advances in weather prediction have occurred here and STILL DO. Our research community is still largest and dominant. And with all of that we have lost leadership and have fallen well back into the pack. And the cost is not just in prestige, but also a weakening of our nation’s economic prowess and needlessly jeopardizing life and limb.
Professor Mass is one of those rare scientists nowadays who understands the importance of competence, of exactness, of expertise and of the importance of facts and truth. Most of them busy themselves with justifying their existence in a political sense, often a geo-political sense, to the politicians who deign to be their masters….and who dole out the research funds.
When Professor Mass talks about numerical weather prediction, he is talking about getting the numbers right – the temperature, the amount of rainfall or snowfall, the humidity, windspeed and direction and where the high and low pressure systems are going to be. As he says, these things are important ….today. It is so important, to the economies of the world and to human life and limb and everyday existence, that he is almost insistent on stopping the nonsense of misdirecting funding streams to “climate change” modeling and putting it where it is needed – into the art and science and practice of weather forecasting, both near-term and long-term.
As explained in my previous blogs the route to fixing U.S. numerical weather prediction is clear, including:
(1) Secure sufficient computer power, either by redirecting some of the huge computer resources acquired for climate prediction or using new funds (like money already appropriated in the Hurricane Sandy relief bill)
We use the example of weather forecasting because it is an area that affects all of us on almost a daily basis in some manner, but there are many other areas of human endeavor, education being a prime example, where the emphasis on getting it right, of learning methods and facts of practical value, and not some daydreamer’s politically correct, aesthetically pleasing approach, have been in large part abandoned, to the detriment of humankind not only in America, but worldwide.
The glaring example of the millions of lives lost to malaria in Africa because of a fancy started in the USof A about what harm certain chemicals might do to the ecological balance, rather than weighing the benefits against the possible harm, is one almost universally acknowledged by folks who pay attention, and who actually care about their fellow human beings. But ignoring that reality, incredibly, the US Environmental Protection Agency is now in the process of banning another proven boon to human existence, the rodent killer known as D-Con. What will life be like in the ghettos and barrios of the nation’s cities as the rodent population explodes to satisfy some activist group’s warped sense of what “the Environment” is? Or is this just another avenue to ‘Margaret Sanger’s dream realized’?
The dirty little secret is that “environment” covers a lot more territory than what is floating in the air or floating down the stream. Everything we see, hear, feel, touch or try to avoid constitutes our “environment”. This rock we live on takes care of itself. The Environment is for US.
This is why Professor Mass’s warning about getting weather science right is important. While billions are being wasted on the phoney baloney, anti-American “climate change” scare, people are being maimed and killed, displaced and suffering the disastrous effects of property and economic damage on a scale that should not be happening given the advances made in meteorological science over the past hundred years, and computer and other technology advances as well.
In addition, decisions on agriculture and horticulture, those areas involved in feeding, clothing and housing the populus, hinge on the sciences getting things right. The supposed obesity crisis of today could turn on a dime into the famine crisis of tomorrow. “The Environment” doesn’t care whether people starve, or freeze to death.
In other words, friends, if we as a nation are in decline in so many of the crucial areas to our existence and our well-being, those areas of knowledge and expertise and competence and utilization of fact instead of suspicion, then we may shortly find ourselves having to, as they say, start from scratch. If a course correction in the American polity is not forthcoming sooner rather than later, and an emphasis placed on correctness rather than political correctness, there may not be much time and energy to be spared on waving the flag. It may be a matter of survival, of finding the will and the tools and the resources to build it all back up again.
A famous essayist once observed, prior to the founding of America, that life is brutish, nasty and short. In our heyday, we buried that theme and made our lives On Earth, here in America, almost a paradise. We had it really, really good for a few post-World War II decades. We had the greatest country in the world, and then we thought we might just dabble, contemplate our navel, explore alternative lifestyles and such. We continued to celebrate America, to be patriotic in certain senses of the word, but we forgot one thing: Maintenance. Taking care of business. Teaching our children. The handshake (see V. Bushmills).
Above all, we began accepting mediocrity, in places where mediocrity won’t win the day, where it counts. From there we “progressed’ to the state of accepting that certain things weren’t needed. Like Saturn 5 rockets and escaping the Earth’s atmosphere. Do you realize that the United States of America cannot place a human being in space in the year 2013? If we want to send an astronaut to the International Space Station he has to go to Russia and hitch a ride on a Russian spaceship. John Fitgerald Kennedy would be mortified. If that doesn’t dampen your patriotic spirit, you’re hard core, that’s for sure.
The message in this piece is that winning elections is fine and dandy if what comes after tends to the betterment of the everyday state of affairs in this country and the betterment of the human condition, if only incremental. And that doesn’t necessarily mean passing a boatload of new laws; in fact it probably means repealing a boatload.
Never have even the most optimistic and demanding among us expected any sort of Utopian experience. What we had in this country in the 1950’s and 1960’s was probably as close as we’re ever going to get. But when Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi can do more to fundamentally transform America in a lame duck session than the Republican Party with control of the Congress and the White House can do in full terms in office to maintain the concepts, values and methodologies that made this country great, something is not right.
John Boehner, meet Cliff Mass, meet Thomas Hobbes.
Crossposted at Grumpy Opinions