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From MIT Inventor To Tea Party Leader 815

An anonymous reader writes "In the midst of Congressional races around the country, one stands out to techies. Thomas Massie, an MIT whiz kid who pioneered touch-based interfaces and founded SensAble Technologies in the 1990s, is the favorite to win the Republican nomination in his Kentucky district next week. SensAble was recently sold on the cheap, but in a new exclusive, Massie explains why he left the haptics firm years ago to lead a simpler life of farming, family, and guns — lots of guns. Along the way he built a solar-powered, off-the-grid house and became a local hero of the Tea Party. Now Massie is leading the charge to get more engineers into politics, and if he wins, he could be a force to be reckoned with in Washington, DC."
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From MIT Inventor To Tea Party Leader

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  • Tea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sigvatr ( 1207234 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:40PM (#40033095)
    Now known as 'MITea'.
    • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:00PM (#40033525) Journal

      I honestly don't give a crap what party he's in - if he can get at least some good tech/engineer representation in that parliament of whores that we call Congress, it's win-win as far as I'm concerned.

      • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:21PM (#40033865)
        I think that's a bit simplistic. Having expertise in any one area does not mean one has good judgement, which is ideally what lawmakers should have. Look at nobel prize winner Kary Mullis' statements on how HIV doesn't cause AIDS.

        (He didn't win his award for anything related to HIV or AIDS, by the way).
        • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:14PM (#40034671)

          It doesn't matter if someone is right about everything. What matters is that they try to educate themselves to figure out what's right. I think this quote is relevant, and I agree with it:

          Massie recalls Sununu saying, "We need more engineers and fewer lawyers" in politics. As Massie explains, "Lawyers are taught to take a position, whether it's right or wrong ideologically, and defend it-to go collect facts to support it. Whereas engineers are taught the inverse of that, they're taught to collect facts and then come up with an answer based on the facts. He said, 'That's the kind of thought process we need more of in government.' On the stump, that's what I'm trying to convey, that we need more problem solvers in Washington, DC."

          • Re:Tea (Score:5, Interesting)

            by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:07PM (#40035879)

            This is a little mini-speech I like to give to people, and it's rather appropriate for the this:

            In the US, politicians train and study as politicians. They have degrees in political science, or law, or economics, or maybe history or business. Obama was a lawyer. So was Clinton. Bush II had an MBA. Bush I studied economics, as did Reagan. You have to go back all the way to Carter to find a president that had any sort of remotely "practical" training, as a naval officer specializing in nuclear submarines.

            In China, politicians train and study as engineers. If shit goes down (as it is wont to do) and the revolution comes, President Hu Jintao could flee to the US, change his name, and live out his life working as an engineer (hydraulic engineering - his first real job was at a hydroelectric plant). Vice President Xi Jinping studied chemical engineering. Premier Wen Jiabao studied geomechanics. Wu Bangguo studied electrical engineering.

            Engineering, fundamentally, is "the study of solving problems". It's not, strictly speaking, a science, but an application of science to the real world.

            Modern American politics seems to be less about "solving people's problems" and more "making new problems to 'solve' so you can stay in power".

            In case you haven't noticed, China is beating us. They're obviously doing something right, and I don't think it's the censorship or the market controls. Their system of government may not be better than ours on paper - slow, central control of everything rarely works for long - but they're better in practice because they have people who actually do the job they're supposed to do.

            NOW is our chance. The Chinese seem to be making exactly the mistake we made - their up-and-coming leaders are career politicians, born-and-raised to rule. At the same time, their population boom will be shifting from a worker-heavy populace to a retiree-heavy populace, causing exactly the economic problems we're having now with all the Baby Boomers retiring.

            We get one chance to get back on top. We need a government that responds to us, one that works quickly and efficiently for the benefit of everyone.

            If anybody knows of any good candidates, speak up. I do not want a lawyer to represent me. I do not want a manager to represent me. I want an engineer, a man (or woman) who solves problems, because we have a lot of problems that need solving.

            • Re:Tea (Score:4, Funny)

              by blue_teeth ( 83171 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @11:51PM (#40037487)
              A country full of lawyers - litigation is rampant

              A country full of doctors - disease is rampant

              A country full of engineers - solutions are rampant

            • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

              by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday May 18, 2012 @12:34AM (#40037729) Journal

              NOW is our chance. The Chinese seem to be making exactly the mistake we made - their up-and-coming leaders are career politicians, born-and-raised to rule.

              Our chance to do what? Become the world's largest economy? Get the world's largest army? Bring indoor plumbing and electricity to 99% of the population? Because we're 'winning' in all those things.

              China is growing quickly, but it's because they have a lot of room to grow. Once you have a developed economy, it's hard to wring the same kind of growth out of it, because you're a lot closer to your potential.

      • Re:Tea (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:28PM (#40033971) Journal

        if he can get at least some good tech/engineer representation in that parliament of whores that we call Congress, it's win-win as far as I'm concerned.

        "Good tech/engineer representation" doesn't gain us any benefit at all, especially any benefit in regards to technology or engineering.

        We've had technocrats before. They underwhelm as leaders. What we need is principled, decent people who are capable of listening and leading. Government is not like business. It is not like engineering. It is not like programming.

        It's really quite a quandary, but what we really don't need is anyone who wants to be elected to anything. It's kind of like owning a gun. Anyone who wants to own a gun is the last person who should have one. Anyone who wants political power is the last person who should have it.

        What we need is campaign finance reform. Strict and absolute limits not only on how much money can be donated to a campaign, but how much money can be SPENT on a campaign. It seems like the best way to keep the people who want political power from getting it, and giving us the best chance of being represented by people we can trust.

        We've managed to pervert the founders' intentions by using their own words against them. First amendment, second amendment, practically right on down the line. It's almost as bad as basing your current behavior on standards set by Iron Age politicians and clerics who didn't even know the Earth was round.

        I'd rather see Congress made up of 435 people picked at random from the phone book than the current system we have, which has been designed for maximum corruption. The only think more pathetic than the people who are currently in power is the notion of an MIT engineer tea partier. Does anyone believe the current crop of tea party freshmen congress people signing off on the latest ALEC-written legislation is anything like a solution?

        • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Tanktalus ( 794810 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:46PM (#40034267) Journal

          I'd at least like to have someone in government that understood the difference between statistics, studies, and facts. That won't get enraged over Dihydrogen Monoxide. Or will ask questions when presented with "studies" about EMF emitted by power lines, and compare them to all other sources of EMF. Or will stop second-guessing actual experts in a field when it comes to cost analysis. (Looking to trim 5-10% is one thing, but decrying it by an order of magnitude?)

          Yes, I'm currently very frustrated with the local councillors for spending my tax dollars in fighting something that isn't even their jurisdiction, and basing their fight on non-science. I've been tempted to run, but trying to figure out how that would interfere with a much-higher-paying job ... but not so high paying that I have the independence to leave.

          • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:04PM (#40034543) Journal

            Engineers can buy into all sorts of sheer bullshit. Look up the Salem Hypothesis. Being an engineer does not mean one has some special ability to evaluate studies or facts, though some engineers seem to believe they do.

            As to this guy, he sounds like a bit of a nut. Just what the Tea Party seems to attract. Being an engineer doesn't mean one is sane either.

          • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:13PM (#40034655) Journal

            I'd at least like to have someone in government that understood the difference between statistics, studies, and facts. That won't get enraged over Dihydrogen Monoxide.

            We already have people "in government" that fit the bill. They're just not legislators or executives. Being an engineer doesn't guarantee good judgement.

            And we have had an engineer as president of the US during my lifetime, not that long ago. While he was a very decent person, he ended up getting chewed up and spit out by our political system. Because our political system does that to anyone who is decent or moral or reasonable.

        • Re:Tea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gangien ( 151940 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:01PM (#40034499) Homepage

          It's kind of like owning a gun. Anyone who wants to own a gun is the last person who should have one. Anyone who wants political power is the last person who should have it.

          horrible analogy. Most people who want to buy a gun, buy one for control over their own lives (self defense). Most people who want political power, want it for control over others.

          What we need is campaign finance reform. Strict and absolute limits not only on how much money can be donated to a campaign, but how much money can be SPENT on a campaign. It seems like the best way to keep the people who want political power from getting it, and giving us the best chance of being represented by people we can trust.

          how many times has this been said and tried throughout history? No clue, but I'll be willing to be no matter what laws would get passed there will be plenty of loopholes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's kind of like owning a gun. Anyone who wants to own a gun is the last person who should have one.

          More people have died in Ted Kennedy's car than have died from guns I own.

          As for your calls of censorship on top of that, fuck off.

          This asshole has just made statements to remove both the first and second amendment from your list of freedoms. I'm not sure why it is insightful, dictatorships never are and that is what this is wanting.

        • Re:Tea (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:26PM (#40034825)

          It's kind of like owning a gun. Anyone who wants to own a gun is the last person who should have one.

          So because I want to hunt, enjoy target shooting, recognize the historical and engineering value of firearms, want to protect my/family/person, and (most importantly) want to exercise one of my Constitutionally guaranteed rights, I can't? What kind of logic is this?

    • by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

      Hmmm. He does seem to be a good match for Kentucky, but in Massachusetts, there's have a history of throwing Tea into the harbor.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:41PM (#40033119) Homepage Journal

    Whenever someone finds a right wing engineer? It's not really all that rare.

    • Re:Why is it news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:48PM (#40033251) Homepage Journal

      Because the right wing has slid into crazy land.

    • Re:Why is it news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:59PM (#40033497)

      I'm an Engineer. I've thought about getting into politics myself, but there's such a huge mess to clean up I don't even know where I could begin.

      I believe in smaller government, but regulations as required to make sure the planet doesn't get destroyed in the pursuit of cashohol.

      Your body? Not the government's problem.

      Consenting adults? Why should the government care at all?

      Products that could be dangerous? Stick a warning label on there and let people buy what they want.

      Businesses? They aren't people.

      The government should be there to provide services that are too expensive to afford for a single person. Military, fire departments, roads, park and environmental protection, health care, etc. Put taxes on the stuff that pays for the above; gas taxes pay for roads, drug taxes to pay for the police, junk food taxes to pay for health care, etc.

      So what does that make me?

      • Re:Why is it news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:07PM (#40033615)

        A rational person. You have no place on the US political spectrum.

        You are in good company though.

      • Re:Why is it news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by guanxi ( 216397 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:18PM (#40033831)

        Simple principled answers would be nice. It's like when people want to throw out the old hairball code and write a 'clean' program from scratch; nothing maps so simply to reality.

        What happens if your policies result in lots more people dying, getting seriously hurt, or going bankrupt?

        Products that could be dangerous? Stick a warning label on there and let people buy what they want.

        What about illiterate people? People who don't read English? Confused elderly people? (Confused middle-aged and young people?). What about people who simply overlook the instructions? Is it ok for them to suffer injury or disfigurement?

        Should a Wall Street con artist be able to push whatever he wants on your grandmother, as long as he sends her the prospectus to read? What about a contest where the fine print says losers forfeit their houses; would that be ok as long as there is a warning? Products that explode when left in the sun?

      • There are lots of other reasons you want regulation and government, not just because something is too expensive. Sometimes corporations (thay are after all designed to be a means to aggregate capital) can take of that for you.

        Sometimes corporations fail: when coordinated behavior is required, for example in cases of large externalities. The economics classic "Tragedy of the Commons" is exemplified by our modern day causes of and solutions to pollution (compare for example how acid rain and CO2 are/are no

  • Gimme the TL;DR version. Motorcycle accident? Brain cancer? Aneurysm?

  • by vuke69 ( 450194 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:46PM (#40033219)

    ...wasn't disappointed.

  • haha (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:47PM (#40033239) Homepage Journal

    he could be a force to be reckoned with in Washington, DC."

    No, no he wont.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:48PM (#40033263)

    and preparation for unpleasantness in general, but I have no taste for right-wing politics or christianity. Fortunately, preparation for the unexpected (i.e. EMPs, social unrest, the spanish inquisition...) does not require a right wing belief system, only a healthy paranoia and distrust of all institutions, over-complexified fragile, interdependent, energy-dependent supply chain ecologies and anything that comes over the mass media.

  • I think he's crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sideslash ( 1865434 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:49PM (#40033273)
    Speaking as a right wing, family oriented, gun loving engineer myself. Why would he ever want to go into politics?
  • Inventor? Sure! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:49PM (#40033291)

    Sounds like a Thomas Edison type of guy to me (Whiz kid? What, is he some kind of Tony Stark for "inventing" some interface device?). I'm intensely suspicious of anyone who supports religious beliefs. It demonstrates an error in logical thinking faculties.

    Never trust an engineer that thinks the world is 6000 years old. And for the record, Edison was a douche bag.

  • FTFA - "Massie has been targeting waste, fraud, and abuse, starting with questioning electric bills, phone bills, contracts, and fees for things that don’t apply anymore. Like the county being charged rental fees for property that had long been sold, paying for phone lines that had been disconnected for years, or buying stuff from a magistrate’s store."

    Eliminating bills for services that no longer apply seems like a no-brainer. It sounds to me like the county government was corrupt, and based on the location (Lewis County KY) and demographics [wikipedia.org] (98.2% white) he probably unseated a conservative when he was elected to county office.

    Interesting to note that Lewis County KY gets 42.9% of it's income from the government (US national average is 17.6%). [nytimes.com] Seems like he should keep focusing on his home county before aiming higher.

  • by StormyWeather ( 543593 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:07PM (#40033625) Homepage

    "But things have not gone smoothly for Massie in office—and that’s just how he wants it. “When you’re stalking waste within a government office, it’s like every rock that you turn over has a snake under it,” he says. Massie has been targeting waste, fraud, and abuse, starting with questioning electric bills, phone bills, contracts, and fees for things that don’t apply anymore. Like the county being charged rental fees for property that had long been sold, paying for phone lines that had been disconnected for years, or buying stuff from a magistrate’s store. He has upset a lot of entrenched powers, but has gained support from the masses for it. And he says that in his first nine months in office, he cut enough waste to pay his own salary for three years."

    Why does this sort of stuff just plain piss the left leaning person off? I mean, even if you are a dedicated communist shouldn't you still wish to find corruption, overspending, and waste, and squash it? Shouldn't that be something anyone from any party would rally behind?

    But no, unfortunately when someone says limited government they immediately get called a right wing racist teabagger.

    • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:35PM (#40034079) Homepage Journal

      Why does this sort of stuff just plain piss the left leaning person off? I mean, even if you are a dedicated communist shouldn't you still wish to find corruption, overspending, and waste, and squash it? Shouldn't that be something anyone from any party would rally behind?

      But no, unfortunately when someone says limited government they immediately get called a right wing racist teabagger.

      Well, speaking as a left leaning person, I'd say nothing in that list pisses me off. What pisses me off is all the right wing social conservatism (often including a healthy dose of racism) and insane militarism that so often seems to go along with calls for "limited government" which, of course, isn't limited at all. Liberalism and libertarianism are both viewpoints that have a place in a sane political debate; what calls itself conservatism long ago went off into la-la land.

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:19PM (#40033841) Homepage

    Massie recalls Sununu saying, "We need more engineers and fewer lawyers" in politics. As Massie explains, "Lawyers are taught to take a position, whether it's right or wrong ideologically, and defend it—to go collect facts to support it. Whereas engineers are taught the inverse of that, they're taught to collect facts and then come up with an answer based on the facts. He said, 'That's the kind of thought process we need more of in government.' On the stump, that's what I'm trying to convey, that we need more problem solvers in Washington, DC."

    I wholeheartedly approve of this idea.

    steveha

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:33PM (#40034043)

    And, I say that in all seriousness. The logical or obvious "Occam's Razor" solution to problems often don't apply to us illogical human beings. We do lots of stupid things, not out of anything more sinister than our overwhelming biological drives. That includes reproducing before we might be financially stable, getting fat, our drive to socialize and find mates, etc. When you start assuming that humans will be logical, you start assuming wrong. Ask a sociologist how well some "obvious" solution to a social ailment that's been public policy (and failing) for decades is working out.

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