Sunday, April 08, 2007

The National Epidemic - Intellectual Bankruptcy

It seems that news cycle after news cycle are punctuated by stories of dishonesty. A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported An Unwelcome Discovery by Jeneen Interlandi, the story of a research scientist who faked medical research results that reaped millions of dollars in funding in addition to prestige and power.
Rockey, who delivered a statement to the court on behalf of the N.I.H., said that lost grant money was not the only, or even the most significant, cost incurred. “Science is incremental,” she said, explaining that most scientific advances build on what came before. “When there’s a break in the chain, all the links that follow that break can be compromised.” Moreover, she said, fraud as extensive as Poehlman’s would inevitably lead to further erosion of the public’s trust in science. Poehlman’s sentence, she said, should send a clear message to the scientific community and the public at large that fraud would not be tolerated.

The sentencing judge was William Sessions, the same judge to whom Poehlman denied all allegations of misconduct at the injunction hearings four years earlier. He told Poehlman to stand and receive his sentence: one year and one day in federal prison, followed by two years of probation.

“When scientists use their skill and their intelligence and their sophistication and their position of trust to do something which puts people at risk, that is extraordinarily serious,” the judge said. “In one way, this is a final lesson that you are offering.”
And then, more recently, a Slate article by Dahlia Lithwick entitled Justice's Holy Hires details
Monica Goodling had a problem. As senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Justice Department liaison to the White House, she no longer seemed to know what the truth was. She also must have been increasingly unclear about who her superiors were. This didn't used to be a problem for Goodling. Everything was once very certain: Her boss's truth was always the same as God's truth. Her boss was always either God or one of His staffers.

Last week, through counsel, Goodling again refused to testify about her role in the firings of several U.S. attorneys for what appear to be partisan reasons. Asserting her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, she somehow thought she might be on the hook for criminal obstruction. Then on Friday, she resigned, giving no reason.

A 1995 graduate of Messiah College, an evangelical Christian school, and a 1999 graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School, Goodling is an improbable character for a political scandal. Her chief claim to professional fame appears to have been loyalty to the president and to the process of reshaping the Justice Department in his image (and, thus, His image). A former career official there told The Washington Post that Goodling "forced many very talented career people out of main Justice so she could replace them with junior people that were either loyal to the administration or would score her some points." And as she rose at Justice, a former classmate said, Goodling "developed a very positive reputation for people coming from Christian schools into Washington looking for employment in government, always ready to offer encouragement and be a sounding board."
Much of the fraud and dishonesty that we read about comes directly from the rotting fish head of our own government. Under Bush we learn that government scientists who claim global warming evidence are silenced and marginalized, CIA intelligence officers who told the truth are slandered as liars and fools, military Generals who advocate withdrawal from Iraq are uninvited to the conversation, and on and on.

The fraud trickles down to all of us eventually. Under Bush the Labor Department helps dilute unemployment benefits while producing lies of omission in unemployment statistics for the high-tech industries. High-tech job piracy is almost as lucrative an enterprise as drug smuggling.

And we lie to ourselves, taxpayers, and our children that hard work pays off, that learning science and math is important and will lead to a good job, or that a college degree will ensure a degree of future success. The truth and merit of any of it is circumstantial and co-incidental these days.

Today, automated human resources programs filter applications for employment to select only the most inexpensive labor compromising the free market for high-tech talent. Complain? The job will be withdrawn and resubmitted with a different title until the lowest common denominator can be achieved. Complain? The job will be outsourced or awarded to an offshore entity who observes no American labor regulations. Complain? Who listens to the sour-grape diatribe of an unemployed worker?

Today, high-tech employment is a sophisticated form of racketeering. Layer upon layer of corporate shell game and automated obfuscation contribute to the starvation and strangulation of a generation of American high-tech workers who enriched the world with software, computers and modern communications conveniences that were unimaginable even a few short years ago. Global corporations plunder the goodwill of the American people while embarking them on a career death march to fiscal uncertainty, social stress, and individual hardship.

We have the technology to track unemployment and under-employment regardless of benefit status. Let's get accurate numbers. And we have laws intended to protect workers from unfair labor practices - let's start enforcing them. And we have a national interest in ensuring that everyone doing business in this country plays by our rules not simply self(often foreign)serving exercises designed to exploit our "free" market.

Honesty and transparency benefit the restoration of truth and integrity to our national self-esteem. Education and hard-work cannot overcome government sponsored, unfair employment shenanigans. Intelligent policy can.

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