Monday, September 11, 2017

Newt Gingrich: Postmodern Epistemic Nihilist? Nuking The OTA (And GAO) (A Blast From The Past)

   In short, Mr. Gingrich’s unprovoked attack on the C.B.O. is part of a pattern. He disdains the expertise of anyone other than himself and is willing to undercut any institution that stands in his way. Unfortunately, we are still living with the consequences of his foolish actions as speaker.
   We could really use the Office of Technology Assessment at a time when Congress desperately needs scientific expertise on a variety of issues in involving health, energy, climate change, homeland security and many others. And given the enormous stress suffered by state and local governments as they are forced by Washington to do more with less, an organization like the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations would be invaluable.
   It is essential that Congress not cripple what is left of its in-house expertise. Gutting the G.A.O. and abolishing the C.B.O. would be acts of nihilism. Any politician recommending such things is unfit for office.
   Well...I gotta lotta theories, of course...and one of them is that the left and the right are subject to different variations on similar vices, intellectual and otherwise. The right is more subject to a kind of outright, Neanderthal dogmatism. Roughly: You eggheads with your book-learnin' are gettin' in the way of my shit. The left is, seems to me, more prone to flights of baroque, theoretical fancy--they're more likely to invent some literary Foucaultian bullshit about science evaporating in a puff of patriarchy. I don't think Gingrich is a postmodern nihilist: I think he's an egomaniacal snake-oil salesman who is happy to risk sinking the country if it raises the odds of him getting what he wants (both financially and ideologically). I don't know whether it would be better or worse if Gingrich were as smart as he thinks he is.
   I keep repeating this, but if we were placing bets on who's most likely to be responsible for sending the country down in flames (should that happen soonish), my money's long been on Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. The former wrecked the traditions of civility that were part of the lifeblood of the House, and the latter made bullshit the lifeblood of a giant chunk of American conservatives. People might say Fox News...but I say that Limbaugh may very well have made Fox possible.
   I gotta quit just complaining about everything. I blame a lack of sleep and a marginal moral character.


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