Saturday, 13 July 2013

fe-fi-furlough or a series of tubes

The last time the majority of federal workers in the US were made to take unpaid leave was back in late 1995 when a divided congress withheld funding for environmental, healthcare and social support programs and refused to raise the US government's statutory debt-ceiling, prompting a shutdown of non-essential services. Though the United States has come close to the same situation several times in between and there was never any true deal reached or pledge that rescued or at least deferred budget crises in between, there is certainly an inharmonious legacy to that and future jousting matches.
One tragic charter, article of association that while not enduring in itself, the Contract with America, did set a certain tone of uncompromising loyalty and culling, hollowing out independent institutions. One such bureau that was a casualty of the prevailing attitudes biases of the time was the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, created in 1976 as a non-partisan body to advise the legislature and the public on emergent issues and help politicians build adequate frameworks of regulation to keep apace with innovation and change, free from business lobbies and the jargon of rocket-surgeons.
It was a repository, much like the Library of Congress, to keep knowledge accessible and transparent, and read and research bills before passage—bridging technocracy and democracy. Such institutions and consumer advocacy, inspired by this office, still exist for the parliaments of Europe and other countries to try to gives politics the means to make informed decisions and there is growing reason, evidenced by some willful ignorance, omissions and support for bad science in specious programmes, with assurances from the sectors vying to secure government contracts, like fracking, infatuations with drones and broad surveillance, scuttling the space shuttle, ineffective porno-scanners, the digital rights management cabal, genetic manipulation, and the like, to reinstate an organisation that worked to make science accessible to the public, championed by private experts and some US politicians.