# blueollie

## To my fellow Facebook liberal friends: it appears that you were right and I was wrong…maybe…

Interesting. The background check amendments failed in the Senate. I chalked it up to Senators pleasing their conservative constituencies in their home states.

My liberal friends tried to tell me that things like background checks were reasonably popular, even among Republicans.

I replied that sometimes policies were popular but the bills that contained said policies weren’t (President Clinton’s proposed health care plan was such a case).

I was skeptical that those who voted “no” would pay a political price.

Well…it turns out that some might be paying a price: (via Politics USA)

In a new poll by Public Policy Polling, five Senators in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio are feeling the wrath of the public after failing to support a background checks measure, in what PPP called “serious backlash”. According to the poll, Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Dean Heller (R-NV) face lowered approval ratings and a public less likely to support them in the next election.

Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, concluded that the lowered approval ratings are a direct result of the failure to support the background check measure, “The background checks vote is a rare one that really is causing these Senators trouble back home. All five of these Senators, as well as Kelly Ayotte, have seen their approval numbers decline in the wake of this vote. And the numbers make it clear that their position on Manchin/Toomey is a major factor causing the downward spiral.”

In Arizona, Republican Senator Flake’s approval rating dropped to 32% with a 51% disapproval. He is now more unpopular than even Mitch McConnell. In Arizona, 70% of the public supports background checks. Fifty-two percent of voters say they’re less likely to support Flake in a future election because of this vote. To demonstrate just how extreme the rejection of background checks is, the poll determined that only 19% of the public say they will be more likely to support Flake in a future election due to his vote.

Contrast Flake’s lowered approval ratings with Pennsylvania Republican Senator Toomey’s, who saw an increase in approval after co-sponsoring the bipartisan background check measure (Manchin/Toomey).

In Ohio, Republican junior Senator Rob Portman plunged a net 18 points in approval, from 35% approval and 25% disapproval to just 26% approval with 34% disapproval (net -8). Portman lost support across the board. No one seems to approve of the Ohio Republican. Some of his loss in approval among Republicans is more likely tied to his support for gay marriage, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

In Alaska, Democratic junior Senator Mark Begich lost approval from Democrats and Independents after failing to support background checks, with 41% approval rating and a 37% disapproval, down from 49% approval and 39% disapproval. Begich got no bounce from Republicans after his vote, so he basically alienated his base for nothing.

Popular Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski has lost a net 16 points in approval due to her rejection of background checks. Forty-six percent of voters approve of her now, with 41% now disapproving of her. Prior to the vote, she enjoyed a 54% approval rating and only 33% disapproval. The bad news is that while Murkowski predictably lost Democratic support due to her vote, she also failed to gain Republican support by voting with the NRA.[...]

If I am wrong, and it appears that I might be, it will make me very happy. I’ll gladly endure some “I told you so”s.

April 30, 2013

## Guts, politics and gaming the system….

I was wide awake before 4 in the morning. But I am not going to run long as last weekend was tough and I have to watch that left leg, so I’ll do something gentle on the treadmill and then stretch.

At my age, I have to worry about injuries just a bit more. More training might cut my potential marathon time by a minute or two, but might increase my risk for injury which would mean no marathon at all. So I have to play it safe.

Articles
Every now and then I’ll change what I eat and eat something less healthy (sometimes while travelling). Usually one day of this makes me feel sluggish and and almost ill. There might be a reason for that:

A few years before Super Size Me hit theaters in 2004, Dr. Paresh Dandona, a diabetes specialist in Buffalo, New York, set out to measure the body’s response to McDonald’s—specifically breakfast. Over several mornings, he fed nine normal-weight volunteers an egg sandwich with cheese and ham, a sausage muffin sandwich, and two hash brown patties.

Dandona is a professor at the State University of New York-Buffalo who also heads the Diabetes-Endocrinology Center of Western New York, and what he observed has informed his research ever since. Levels of a C-reactive protein, an indicator of systemic inflammation, shot up “within literally minutes.” “I was shocked,” he recalls, that “a simple McDonald’s meal that seems harmless enough”—the sort of high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal that 1 in 4 Americans eats regularly—would have such a dramatic effect. And it lasted for hours.

One of the keys is the interplay between bacteria in our gut and what we eat.

Over the next decade he tested the effects of various foods on the immune system. A fast-food breakfast inflamed, he found, but a high-fiber breakfast with lots of fruit did not. A breakthrough came in 2007 when he discovered that while sugar water, a stand-in for soda, caused inflammation, orange juice—even though it contains plenty of sugar—didn’t.

[...]

The Florida Department of Citrus, a state agency, was so excited it underwrote a subsequent study, and had fresh-squeezed orange juice flown in for it. This time, along with their two-sandwich, two-hash-brown, 910-calorie breakfast, one-third of his volunteers—10 in total—quaffed a glass of fresh OJ. The non-juice drinkers, half of whom drank sugar water, and the other half plain water, had the expected response—inflammation and elevated blood sugar. But the OJ drinkers had neither elevated blood sugar nor inflammation. The juice seemed to shield their metabolism. “It just switched off the whole damn thing,” Dandona says. Other scientists have since confirmed that OJ has a strong anti-inflammatory effect.

And yes, I drink a lot of orange juice.

What else is going on:

Those subjects who ate just the McDonald’s breakfast had increased blood levels of a molecule called endotoxin. This molecule comes from the outer walls of certain bacteria. If endotoxin levels rise, our immune system perceives a threat and responds with inflammation.

Where had the endotoxin come from? One possibility was the food itself. But there was another possibility. We all carry a few pounds’ worth of microbes in our gut, a complex ecosystem collectively called the microbiota. The endotoxin, Dandona suspected, originated in this native colony of microbes. Somehow, a greasy meal full of refined carbohydrates ushered it from the gut, where it was always present but didn’t necessarily cause harm, into the bloodstream, where it did. But orange juice stopped that translocation cold.

I always had viewed my orange juice as something I enjoyed and liked; I never realized that it was something that was good for me too.
I admit that I like hash browns but I also can’t eat them too often, else I get a stomach ache.

Gaming the system
Ok, the state pays for “senior citizen centers” where old people, presumably of reduced physical and mental capacity, can spend the day. These centers are for profit. So, how do you make them profitable? Well, one way is to get healthy, alert old people to become your clients!

Politics
Long term joblessness is bad for people in many ways. One way: those out of a job the longest will have the hardest time getting a new one:

For the overriding fear driving economic policy has been debt hysteria, fear that unless we slash spending we’ll turn into Greece any day now. After all, haven’t economists proved that economic growth collapses once public debt exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P.?

Well, the famous red line on debt, it turns out, was an artifact of dubious statistics, reinforced by bad arithmetic. And America isn’t and can’t be Greece, because countries that borrow in their own currencies operate under very different rules from those that rely on someone else’s money. After years of repeated warnings that fiscal crisis is just around the corner, the U.S. government can still borrow at incredibly low interest rates.

But while debt fears were and are misguided, there’s a real danger we’ve ignored: the corrosive effect, social and economic, of persistent high unemployment. And even as the case for debt hysteria is collapsing, our worst fears about the damage from long-term unemployment are being confirmed.

Now, some unemployment is inevitable in an ever-changing economy. Modern America tends to have an unemployment rate of 5 percent or more even in good times. In these good times, however, spells of unemployment are typically brief. Back in 2007 there were about seven million unemployed Americans — but only a small fraction of this total, around 1.2 million, had been out of work more than six months.

[...]

The key question is whether workers who have been unemployed for a long time eventually come to be seen as unemployable, tainted goods that nobody will buy. This could happen because their work skills atrophy, but a more likely reason is that potential employers assume that something must be wrong with people who can’t find a job, even if the real reason is simply the terrible economy. And there is, unfortunately, growing evidence that the tainting of the long-term unemployed is happening as we speak.

One piece of evidence comes from the relationship between job openings and unemployment. Normally these two numbers move inversely: the more job openings, the fewer Americans out of work. And this traditional relationship remains true if we look at short-term unemployment. But as William Dickens and Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University recently showed, the relationship has broken down for the long-term unemployed: a rising number of job openings doesn’t seem to do much to reduce their numbers. It’s as if employers don’t even bother looking at anyone who has been out of work for a long time.

To test this hypothesis, Mr. Ghayad then did an experiment, sending out résumés describing the qualifications and employment history of 4,800 fictitious workers. Who got called back? The answer was that workers who reported having been unemployed for six months or more got very few callbacks, even when all their other qualifications were better than those of workers who did attract employer interest.

So we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans.

Krugman goes on to state that we could have helped by providing more stimulus (again, stimulus for times like these, austerity for boom times)

Politics
Some are wondering why President Obama didn’t “twist more arms”; after all 4 Democrats voted against the background check bill (technically Harry Reid did too, but that was a procedural vote so he can bring it up again). Some Democratic/liberal activists are outraged.

My hunch: perhaps Senator Reid saw that the bill (which needed 60 votes) didn’t have enough Republican support to pass; hence he quietly gave the red-state Democrats permission to vote “no”. After all, in such states, raising the ire of liberals might help them win a tough reelection bid in the general election.

But this is just a guess; I have no insider information, etc.

April 23, 2013

## A note on the background check amendments…

Yes, President Obama isn’t happy and neither am I. But I saw this on Facebook:

The bill itself was sort of milquetoast:

But it failed to attain cloture.

Five Democrats voted against the amendment: Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Mark Begich of Alaska; and Max Baucus of Montana. Reid voted against for procedural reasons, so he can bring the proposla up in the future. Four Republicans who voted for: Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania; Mark Kirk of Illinois; Susan Collins of Maine; John McCain of Arizona.

There weren’t a lot of split states. Bottom line: Senators know their constituents and let’s be blunt: a Senator from Alabama, Idaho or Wyoming isn’t going to care what I think or how people like me think. Conservatives are grossly overrepresented in the Senate to begin with and the filibuster rules just amplifies that effect.

Saying “X percent of Americans want this” really doesn’t mean that much.

April 17, 2013

## What the Ryan Budget Plan really means to me…

Yes, I agree with Paul Krugman that on substance, the Paul Ryan budget is flim-flam, even if the Very Serious people desperately cling to the notion that he is a “smart conservative”.

But I take something else out of this. First, Ryan is reasonably popular in his district and is popular among the Republican base; this budget is “red meat” for them. Next, no “serious” Democrat would submit a budget that was this popular among liberals; that is, no “serious” Democrat with national ambitions would throw out a budge that was “red meat” (ok, granola and tofu? ) to liberals. They’d point out that such a budget would be DOA in the House and/or Senate; it would not survive a filibuster or the objections of “blue dog” Democrats. Hence they would start with a budget that should appeal to moderates and a few conservatives…only to end up moving the goal posts further and further and further to the right until what was left would be indistinguishable from what, say, John Boeher would come up with.

Is the president a lousy negotiator?

Paul Krugman is a politically savvy man so it surprises me that even he thinks that the reason that the Republicans and the oligarchy are getting their own way so easily on fiscal issues is because Obama is a lousy negotiator.

As I have said over and over again, the Democrats negotiating strategy is to betray the middle and working classes that support them and give the oligarchy as much as they can while acting as if they were forced into it or were outmaneuvered. Since even people like Krugman and other liberal commentators seem to have bought it, it means that they have succeeded.

The Democrats behavior is perfectly understandable if you bear this simple rule in mind: When it comes to any policy that the Democrats say they espouse but which hurts the interests of the oligarchy, the Democrats do not want a strategy that will win, they seek one that will lose.

But I really believe that the Republicans are better negotiators and better politicians than Democrats are. Yeah, they lost the executive branch and the Senate in 2012, but the fact that they held the House and are not relegated to being some mere fringe party geting 10-20 percent of the vote is a testimony to their political abilities. Their ideas are terrible, yet they manage to sell them to a significant percentage of the voting public.

March 13, 2013

## Photos, Pictures and Figures

Peoria Democrats Dinner, with my wife. I am on the right.

The joke here (from Jerry Coyne’s website) is that this gene is frequently tampered with during experiments.

Nature

The moon over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Sequoia National Park.

I’ve seen all of these while out running or walking, but never together.

February 19, 2013

## Quantum Mechanics, Religion, filibusters and growth rates

Math and Science

The upshot: many quantum theories help us calculate and make predictions; none really explain the “why”. Upshot: reality doesn’t conform to our notion of “common sense”.

Growth Rate
Paul Krugman talks about the growth rate in federal spending. Why “growth rate”? Our country is getting larger all the time (think: Peoria, as a city, will always spend less than Chicago; hence we have to talk about some sort of population correction or “over time” correction).

Note this:

Meanwhile, via Mark Thoma I see that Robert Waldmann and Karl Smith have also gotten into the “what spending surge?” debate. Actually, here’s what may be the simplest way to see things. Here is total government spending (federal, state, and local) since 2000 on a log scale, so that a constant slope means a constant rate of growth. See the spending surge under Obama? Well, actually the reverse.

Yes, you can argue that spending was growing too fast under Bush, although it’s funny how few deficit scolds saw fit to mention that at the time. Or you can say that you just want less spending, although as always people who say this tend to be short on specifics. But the narrative that says that spending has surged under Obama is just wrong – what we’ve actually seen is a slowdown at exactly the time when, for macroeconomic reasons, we should have been spending more.

Emphasis mine. Here is the graph:

Ok, what is this “log scale stuff” and “constant slope” means a “constant rate of growth”?

Well, imagine $ln(y) = mx + b$. Now take the exponential of both sides: $y = exp(mx + b) = exp(mx)exp(b) = ke^{mx}$ where $k = exp(b)$. As far as the “constant growth rate”, use the derivative: $y = ke^{mx}$ then $\frac{dy}{dx} = mke^{mx}$ hence $\frac{\frac{dy}{dx}}{y} = \frac{mke^{mx}}{ke^{mx}} = m$ That is, the growth rate as in “percent per year” is constant.

Religion
“If you don’t “believe in god”, where do you get your morals from?” Guess what: in reality, everyone gets their morals from the same place: other people. Or, perhaps we can put it this way:

(via: The Atheist Pig via Jerry Coyne)

Note the title of Coyne’s article: he must be a Monty Python fan.

Politics
We are probably going to get a modest filibuster reform measure. The idea: the Republicans won’t be able to filibuster until the bill has come to the floor for debate; in return the Democrats will allow for amendments to be presented. I was hoping for another compromise that had been floated: it would take 41 votes to keep the filibuster alive rather than 60 to break it. That would make filibustering painful, as it should be.

Frankly, it burns me a bit that the Republicans are overrepresented in Congress. For one: this “two Senators per state, no matter how small of a state” gives disproportionate power to rural, thinly populated states to begin with. Then in the House, you have a combination of gerrymandering plus, again, disproportional representation of rural areas giving Republicans disproportional power. Remember in 2012, Democrats, collectively, got more House votes than the Republicans did. Though gerrymandering is part of the problem (and yes, both parties do it), the other part of the problem is that Democrats tend to live in urban clusters. Republicans tend to be more spread out. So, if you take a state like, say, Texas, the amount of people in some north/west Texas region plus the number of people living in a rural east Texas region might not add up to, say, the number of people living in a Houston district. But those people in the west Texas region might not have much in common with those living in east rural Texas; hence it is appropriate that these (possibly) smaller (in population) regions would have different representatives. So part of it is just the nature of the beast.

January 24, 2013

## Unity My….Gluteal Muscles

Science/Religion
Step One. Atheist Scientist (often a prominent one) says (honestly): “science and religion are not compatible”.

Of course, this is true, if one defines religion as it is often practiced in the west (evolution is directionless, our planet is only one super tiny place in a vast, multi-billion galaxy universe, virgins don’t give birth to babies, snakes don’t talk, dead people don’t come back to life, etc.). One can find types of religion that talk about how people should live their lives, but that isn’t the type of religion that people in the western democracies are exposed to. One can also talk about an “indifferent to humans” deist type of deity, but that isn’t what is usually meant by religion.

So I see this movement as one that is trying to put some honesty into the discussion. But we seem to have an etiquette (in the US) that puts religious beliefs into the category of “stuff that shouldn’t be critiqued” and to offer a critique is to behave a bit like this:

Speaking of common “feel good” misconceptions, there is the misconception that, because the American People like policy X, Congress (particularly the House) will pass policy X. Wrong. The House is elected locally, and what seems like “common sense” in one region is an anathema in another. What I see as “obstructionism” is seen as “standing up for us” in another district.

And no, businessmen (or business people) wouldn’t solve our problems if only they could bypass Congress and get together. For one thing: their point of view is very narrow and, they often simply don’t know what they are talking about WHEN IT COMES TO A NATIONAL ECONOMY. One succeeds as business by getting one’s group “on the same page”, delivering as little as possible for as much as possible (profit is revenue minus expense, so you maximize the revenue while minimizing the expense) and by running competitors out of business.

On an unrelated note: here Paul Krugman talks about Social Security. When it was “fixed” a few years ago, increasing life expectancy was factored in. What was NOT factored in is how the share of GDP that somes from payrolls would drop; right now capital is a bigger part of the slice. Hence reforms might have to change the mix of how Social Security is funded.

December 28, 2012

## Come together? Not in this lifetime…

Workout notes Since I won’t be running on Saturday, I figured out that I needed a medium/long run today and one on Sunday (weights and medium walking tomorrow).

So I went to the university gym (local roads still have icy patches) and decided to run somewhere between 8 and 10 miles, split between our “8 laps to the mile” indoor track and the treadmill.

What happened: 10K (50 laps) on the track in 1:01, 5K (3.11 miles) on the treadmill in 29:04. The track: 19:55 (2 miles), 9:49, 9:35, 9:40, 9:37 (58:38) then the treadmill went 9:50, 19:05, 28:12, 29:04 (slight variation of the incline). That is 1:30:04 or 9:40 mpm for 15K. That is far from stellar but better than my usual post-blood donation week workouts.

Note: I decided to leave the track as it is a “some rubber on concrete” type of operation; it is probably just a tiny bit softer than pavement but I could feel the pounding a bit. The whole time: first 58 minutes: one walker (a guy); last two minutes: two guys got on. It was very, very empty.

Posts
I like the Field Museum in Chicago, but there is trouble afoot. Evidently, there is some movement to cut back on the science research being sponsored/performed there. As Jerry Coyne points out: that is really the heart of a top caliber museum, even if the cutting edge research is hidden from view. Yeah, I’ve noticed the “dumbing down” of the displays, but the reality appears to be this: (opinion only)
the more expensive a museum is, the more patrons it needs. The more patrons it draws, the more “regression to the mean” effects occur which leads to the museum playing lighter demands on the visitors.

I still remember my trip to the Los Alamos science museum. It was small, and I spent 4 hours there! But you should have seen many of the other visitors; it was a “come in…give a blank glance and leave” all within 15-20 minutes time.

This was one of the exhibits: they explained why the Tokomak had to be in the shape of a torus: the only two smooth surfaces that have nowhere vanishing vector fields are the torus and the klein bottle, and only the former embeds in 3-space (this is a consequence of the Gauss-Bonnet Theorem).

They gave a display of the “hairy ball” theorem, etc. The museum worked for me, but I wonder how popular it was with the public in general.

Speaking of education Randazza’s blog takes another swing at campus speech codes. The argument here appears to be: if you don’t let students discuss emotionally charged topics, then the dialogue becomes sterile and students with differing views might tend to withdraw into like minded groups.

I don’t know; one thing is that student with student speech is different from faculty to student speech. Here is why: when I am in the front of the class room, my job is to teach mathematics and NOT to have a captive audience for my social opinons. And were I to say something like: “well, Mexicans are too stupid to ever learn math”, I would probably damage my credibility to teach mathematics to this student population, thereby harming my ability to do my job.

On the other hand, being too PC might also harm our ability to educate. Example: yes, the earth is about 4 billion years old, modern animals did evolve by a process that shows ZERO signs of being designed and the current animal kingdom shares common ancestry. Those are FACTS.

Other facts: certain racial groups in the United States commit certain crimes at a higher rate than other groups (African Americans are more likely to commit homicide (and be victims too, especially males), white people are more likely to drive while intoxicated, etc.) Statistically speaking, women are not as physically strong as men (though a female Olympic weight lifter is stronger than all but a tiny percentage of males). Certain groups score higher on IQ tests than other groups. Countries with higher religiosity commit homicide at higher rates than countries with lower religiosity, and the same applies to states in the United States.

These are all facts and all of these make one group or another uncomfortable. But part of education is learning to confront uncomfortable reality and make sense of it.

So, I understand the need to, say, keep a skinhead group from burning crosses on the quad lawn. But controversial topics SHOULD be discussed on a college campus!

Politics
This is tough to remember: politically speaking, one person’s obstructionism is someone else’s “stand up and fight for us”. Our House of Representatives consists of people from wildly differing districts and while Congress has a low approval rating on the whole, people, in general, disapprove of OTHERS in Congress and not their own Representative. Example: my friends (and I!) might think that John Shimkus is a delusional idiot but he is reasonably popular in his district.

I admit that I live in a place that made things worse. For the longest time I was in a Republican US House District (IL-18) but, thanks to redistricting, put into a Democratic leaning one (IL-17). So for the first time since 1990 (when I lived in Austin, Texas), I voted for the winner in a contested US House race. I did vote for Ray LaHood a couple of times, but that is when he had zero or crackpot opposition.

As far as Republicans go, read this “mainstream” article from Town Hall:

As a candidate for president of the United States, it is incumbent on me to make a statement regarding the Sandy Hook massacre and to explain how my policies would help prevent other such massacres should I become president. As I discuss this sensitive topic, it is also incumbent on me to sound more rational and articulate than the incumbent. That will not be difficult.

[...]

First and foremost, concealed weapons permits decrease violence. The rationale is simple if we consider that crime only happens when a motivated offender encounters a suitable target in the absence of a capable guardian. Everyone knows that the gunless are suitable targets for violent crime. This is particularly the case when there is no one around to guard them.

So my plan will turn these teachers into capable guardians. I really think everyone will benefit when teachers stop taking “social justice in the classroom” and other silly education classes in order to be certified to teach our kids. Simply put, there can be no social justice when children are being slaughtered in the schoolhouse.

2. More male teachers (and fewer metrosexual students). Some have suggested that most female teachers would not feel comfortable around guns. So they might be deterred from teaching if they have to go through weapons certification, which requires firing a weapon. This is not a problem as far as I am concerned.

For far too long, men have been grossly underrepresented in the teaching profession. This has had a profound impact on young men. From kindergarten to high school graduation, they are too often in the position of trying to please a female authority figure. This lack of balance affects their relationships with both women and men. A constant concern with pleasing women eventually turns a man into a woman. That is why we have so many young adult metrosexual males talking about their feelings.

Simply put, having gun toting male role models in the classroom will be good. Having your student taught by Ted Nugent just might keep him from becoming Ted Baxter.

3. Fewer liberals in the teaching profession. For years, conservatives have been looking for a cure to the problem of liberal indoctrination in our schools. [...]

Ok, on the flip side of this: what would I find appealing? This Slate article is about how a candidate can appeal to the “no specified religion” voter (different from an atheist voter; the atheist voter would be a proper subset of this block).

I’ll highlight a couple of points:

2. Even if you’re religious, don’t gratuitously bash or exclude those who aren’t. For the most part, the nonreligious are politically realistic. We know that in a society as religious as the United States, some amount of pandering is an electoral necessity. But just because you speak to churches doesn’t mean you can’t also speak to the unchurched. In March 2012, for example, the Reason Rally brought together tens of thousands of American nonbelievers on the National Mall in Washington, DC. One of the speakers at that event was Iowa senator Tom Harkin, and despite some grumbling over his support of non-evidence-based medicine, we recognized that it took political courage for him to address us. The next time he’s in a tight race, it’s very possible that a few Iowa nonbelievers will remember that, and will be willing to do just a little bit more to support him.

[...]

6. Stand up for science. The nonreligious have no use for religious dogmas being passed off as science. We want candidates who take a firm line against creationism or abstinence-only sex ed, who affirm that these are religious ideas that can be taught at home or in church, but which have no place in our secular public schools. But it doesn’t end with opposing religiously motivated pseudoscience: we also want to see good science promoted and supported. We want candidates who’ll support generous funding for fundamental scientific research, and not just those branches of science that have military applications. We want to see candidates who accept, and are willing to act on, the overwhelming scientific consensus about the reality of human-caused climate change (as compared to the conservatives who deny it for explicitly religious reasons). We want investment in alternative energy, in next-generation infrastructure and mass transit, and in making higher education as widely available and affordable as possible. Since it’s a well-known fact that greater education correlates with less religious extremism, this is not only good policy, it’s good politics, and it benefits both progressive Americans and America as a whole.

Yes, Sen. Harkin’s support for quack/woo “medicine” irritated me too. But no one is perfect.

December 27, 2012

## Symmetry between Left and Right Wing Nutjobs: just not there.

Needless to say, I am doing some catching up on my blogging.

Robert Bork died. Robert Reich was gracious (this is from his facebook page):

We all can get angry with people who don’t share our views and values, attributing to them the worst motives. But permit me a personal note. Robert Bork died today. He was a conservative, lionized by the right, condemned by the left, rejected by the Senate for the Supreme Court. But I knew him as a man of great honor, extraordinary wit, and deep commitment. Back in 1973, when he was Solicitor General in the Ford administration, he hired me as an assistant. And although we disagreed on many issues, he was always willing to listen carefully and debate forcefully. I admired his intellect and his courage. He cared deeply about America.

As far as Judge Bork: I followed his confirmation proceedings and I still have mixed views. On one hand, I can sympathize with those who felt he was harmed in part BECAUSE he published so much, and sometimes a law professor will explore stands. But some of his stands WERE troubling.

No, I have no training in law and am therefore unqualified to voice an informed opinion; however here is what I found troubling about his views: if one tries to play the original intent” game with our Constitution, one has to remember that the “Founding Fathers” would have found the “equality of people of different races” and “the equality of women” to be ridiculous. They were people of the time. So such interpretations might well have been bad for the country.

At the end of the questioning, Judge Robert H. Bork got the opportunity to tell of his judicial ambitions.

ALAN K. SIMPSON, Republican of Wyoming: And now I have one final question. Why do you want to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court?

BORK: Senator, I guess the answer to that is that I have spent my life in the intellectual pursuits in the law. And since I’ve been a judge, I particularly like the courtroom. I like the courtroom as an advocate and I like the courtroom as a judge. And I enjoy the give-and-take and the intellectual effort involved. It is just a life and that’s of course the Court that has the most interesting cases and issues and I think it would be an intellectual feast just to be there and to read the briefs and discuss things with counsel and discuss things with my colleagues. That’s the first answer.

The second answer is, I would like to leave a reputation as a judge who understood constitutional governance and contributed his bit to maintaining it in the ways I have described before this committee. Our constitutional structure is the most important thing this nation has and I would like to help maintain it and to be remembered for that.

What a Supreme Court Justice does is not a mere academic exercise or a sort of game; real people and real lives are affected.

This is a nice summary of why he was rejected:

The first was Judge Bork’s failure to apply any judicial philosophy consistently; instead, how he would rule as an appellate judge could largely be predicted by who the parties were. Judge Bork almost always ruled for the government in actions brought by consumer, environmental and civil rights groups. Yet in cases brought by business interests against federal agencies, he would often abandon his purported commitment to judicial restraint and invalidate government action.

The second drawback — exemplified by Judge Bork’s famous statement that serving on the Supreme Court would be an “intellectual feast” — was the notion created by his testimony that justices’ primary role is to wage a war of intellect and ideology divorced from any concern for the real-world impact of their rulings.

Asymmetry of the Right and Left wings in the United States
Yes, there are left wing kooks:

The difference between the left and the right wing: no politician that I know of would say such a ridiculous thing and have a prayer of getting elected. There isn’t a left wing nationally syndicated network that would sell such views as mainstream.

You might see scattered womyn studies faculty members saying this, but few take such thoughts seriously.

The main difference between right and left wing crackpottedness is that Republican politicians run on the former; Democratic politicians run from the latter.

December 19, 2012

## Reality…Pundits, Republican Politicians…..the New Republicans…

This Mano Singham post has a clip of Nate Silver’s interview with Stephen Colbert. Bottom line: the pundits were spectacularly wrong about the election, and the geeks were right. So will anyone learn anything from this? No. I teach mathematics for a living, and journalists, on the whole, are too ignorant of the basics to understand what the geeks are saying. Don’t even get me started on the pundits.

Are the Republicans going to learn and change? I agree with Paul Krugman: the answer is no. They still deny what is uncomfortable to them and have an economic con artist as their lead intellectual.

What I think has happened: the Republicans have gone off of the deep end in the rightward direction, the Democrats have occupied the center; what is really open is the LEFT.

November 20, 2012