Dumb Anti-Hillary Clinton PAC ad


Uh, if Hillary Clinton runs for President and “the American People don’t want her”, then, well…..uh….they won’t vote for her?


Here is a more accurate translation: “WE” (those in the PAC) don’t want Hillary Clinton but we are afraid that she might get more votes!”

This is what irks me: people see their own opinions and the opinions of those they hang around as “the opinion of the American people”, and yes, liberals do this too.

Note: there are some left leaning Democrats who don’t want her either; the fear is that she’ll appease the Republicans as much as President Obama does.

My main worry about her is her campaign skills; she really ran a horrible 2008 primary campaign. We need someone who will win the general election.

October 13, 2013 Posted by | hillary clinton, Political Ad, politics, politics/social | | Leave a comment

Photo/Cartoon Saturday


Ironically, from this angle, this could be Barbara and me, though both of us are slightly wider than Secretary Clinton and President Obama respectively.

Yes, I am hearing “Hillary 2016″ and I have mixed feelings. Yes, if I were appointing the next President, I’d probably pick her. But she ran a horrible 2008 primary campaign; she managed to squander a huge lead in the polls and in money and her husband did her no favors. My worry is that she’d get out-campaigned in the general election.


I find this interesting. There is a group of people that Paul Krugman calls “The Very Serious People”. To be one of these you need to:
1. go along with the conventional wisdom and
2. be completely wrong most of the time and
3. claim that the “smart people” would have also been wrong.

Think: Iraq (WMD?), the economy, the election (“razor tight”, they kept saying even though the nerds and hippies were right….AGAIN).


Yep…keep it up Republicans. :-)


I made 9 on this list. Talk about misusing the apostrophe! I admit that I still don’t understand what “fullutent” is….”falutin”, or someone who is…gassy? :-)


Even stone guys are…guys. :-)

February 2, 2013 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, big butts, bikinis, hillary clinton, human sexuality, political humor, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans | , , , | Leave a comment

Snarky responses to things…and something useful

Not all mathematics professors are as useless as I am. Note that Andrew Hicks (Drexel University) created a side mirror (for an auto) which gives a wider view without the usual distortion that the “round mirrors” have:

Now for the snark (and fun):

Proof that God exists!

The Great Frog God (whose existence has been proven) now looks forward to your worship, adoration and money. Mostly money. :-)

(hat tip: Jerry Coyne)

Benghazi Attack Hearing
Colbert is annoyed that the Republicans looked so bad.



No, neither President Obama nor President Bush are/were tyrants.


Snark with Spandex

When I took my psychology course, I learned that some ads could be “too sexy” to be effective: that is, subjects remembered the sexy stuff but not the product. Could this be a case of that?


Well, if the product (what product? :-) ) was aimed at both men and women, this ad is probably wasted on the heterosexual males. But the heterosexual females might relate without being distracted, though I wonder what “183 percent less” means.

Someone thought that I’d like this. Hey, I am always willing to lend a hand.


No, this won’t get me into adventure racing; I’d probably end up torching my knees. :-)

January 25, 2013 Posted by | big butts, hillary clinton, human sexuality, mathematics, physics, political humor, politics, religion, republicans politics, science, spandex, world events | , | Leave a comment

Fact Checking, hominoid feet, mandates and anti-science…conservatives…er people…

Workout notes
Yoga with Ms. Vickie (uninspiring workout; I just wasn’t into it) followed by 1:08 worth of running. 21 minute warm up, 3.24 miles around the goose loop, 13 minute wind assisted run back. Call it 6.5 miles (easy). It was slightly chillier than it had been recently and somewhat windy; still great weather by “March in Illinois” standards.

Speaking of weather: so can we expect a hot “April/May” period followed by a brutally hot summer? Well, if past data is any indication….not really. The short: in the past, “warm March” does not correlate with “warm April” though this year might really be different.

Humor (I love the “butt” remark)

I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin killing some. Yes, I am astonished that Zimmerman has not been arrested as yet and his story makes no sense to me. BUT, some of the “arrest Zimmerman” crowd are saying things that make no sense at all. Here is such a case: listen to what Melissa Harris-Perry said on MSNBC.

[...]If trayvon martin had thrown a punch, you’re talking about a citizen unarmed throwing a punch at an armed man who was following him. Why wouldn’t stand your ground protect trayvon martin ? Why does have the right to impede on him, which the evidence is clearly beginning to look like it’s not. What’s most distressing is we have to explain why it is problematic for an armed adult to kill an unarmed child.

Emphasis mine. Note: evidently the transcript is generated automatically; Ms. Perry speaks more eloquently than this.
I have no problem with anything she said, except for the last sentence.

Come on, Ms. Perry: had Mr. Martin really been attacking you, I don’t see it as problematic at all why you might shoot him. He was a 17 year old boy, and I can assure you that I was far stronger and more dangerous (physically) when I was 17 than I am now. Just check out the football recruits for a NCAA team some time. That statement is stupid.

Still, I think that this kid was being hassled while minding his own business and that Mr. Zimmerman needs to be arrested (and yes, there is a lot I don’t know, so my opinion is, by definition, not an informed one).

Human evolution
There is new information available about a hominoid that lived about the same time as Lucy, though this one spent time in trees.

Conservatives and Science Yes, it is easy to show that conservatives are more likely to reject evolution and climate science than liberals, and that holds true if one corrects for education level.

But liberals are more likely to embrace nonsense and woo (e. g. homeopathy). I see it this way: conservatives tend to make type II errors (fail to reject a false null hypothesis) whereas liberals tend to make type I errors (reject a true null hypothesis).

Try an experiment: walk into a Unitarian church and see if anyone embraces creationism or denies climate change. Then look at their “adult education” programs; you are likely to find talks on subjects like Reiki, dousing, and the like.

Fact Checking
I have mixed feelings about sites like Fact or Politfact. Their written analysis is usually pretty good; I do use that. But their “grading” scheme is bogus (example: is Paul Ryan proposing to “end Medicare as we know it”? I say “yes” and someone else might say “no”; to me, the yes/no part is opinion. What isn’t opinion is that Mr. Ryan proposes replacing the current Medicare system with a private insurance backed system; whether one calls this an “overhaul of the current system” or “ending the current system and replacing it with another system” is really a matter of semantics.
Anyway, I found this article about “Fact Check” sites (in the United States) to be very good. Upshot: the analysis of the news is important; unfortunately people all-too-often used “fact check” to label someone a “liar” or “truth teller”. Yes, Paul Krugman has a point about Politifact, but I still think that their analysis is pretty good.

Speaking of health care: it sure looks as if the health care mandate will be struck down. But will some of the law be allowed to stand?

NOTE The health care plan that Barack Obama campaigned on did NOT have a mandate; Hillary Clinton’s plan did. Mr. Obama thought that if the insurance was a good enough deal, people would want to buy it and there would be enough business to offset the costs of “free riders” (who would get hit with big penalties if they got sick..)

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Barack Obama, environment, evolution, health care, hillary clinton, media, politics, racism, science, SCOTUS, social/political, yoga | Leave a comment

Farewell to August 2011

We’ll have politics (what else), a cool space photo of the earth and the moon together…and then a photo of a different sort of “moon”. :)

Moon one: science
Via Richard Dawkins: a NASA photo from the Jupiter probe showing the earth and our moon.

Barack Obama campaigned on “bringing people together” and working with Republicans. I felt that it was important that we had to try. There were those who said that it wouldn’t work:

But she managed to turn a huge lead in the primary campaign into a loss. So while she was right here…could she have won the general? Probably. But I wonder how she would gotten the Republicans out of their stubbornness.
In any event, though she has been classy, she has room to say “I was right and you were wrong”. Paul Krugman certainly says so:

Just go read his column today, which is very close to my own thinking. And not just on the economics. Martin is usually cautious on matters political, but this time he lets fly:

Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony. In fact, he faces an opposition that would prefer their country to fail than their president to succeed. [...]

Quite. And yes, this was what worried me about Obama from the beginning, way back in 2007-2008, when I got huge grief from progressives for criticizing him.

Of course when you call the Republicans on this, they lie and scream bloody murder:

In Obama’s recounting, however, luck is only half the story. His economic recovery was ruined not just by acts of God and (foreign) men, but by Americans who care nothing for their country. These people, who inhabit Congress (guess what party?), refuse to set aside “politics” for the good of the nation. They serve special interests and lobbyists, care only about the next election, place party ahead of country. Indeed, they “would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.” The blaggards!

Yes, that asshole overrated hack Krauthammer actually told the truth for once, though he was intending to be sarcastic.

Darth Vader’s New Book
Ms. Condoleezza Rice Rice begs to differ with Mr. Cheney’s account of things.

Poor Drunken Ladybug (“drunken ladybug” reference from here)

She has had her troubles…but at least she was re-invited to a tea-bagger event that she was uninvited to:

In the tea party, one day you’re in, and the next you’re out:

Former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell will not speak at a tea party event featuring former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Indianola, Iowa, this weekend, an organizer told Washington Wire. “I made a mistake,” said Ken Crow, president of Tea Party of America. “I assumed there was an open slot and there wasn’t.”Monday night, Mr. Crow told Washington Wire that Ms. O’Donnell would appear.

Tea Party of America’s cofounder, Charlie Gruschow, said the group withdrew Ms. O’Donnell’s after receiving numerous “emails from a lot of tea party folks that were very disappointed that she would be speaking.”

And then? You’re in again:

Former Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell will speak at a tea party rally Saturday in Iowa after organizers Tuesday night reversed themselves again and re-invited her, CNN has learned.

What do I take from all the drama? [...]

Go ahead and read. Frankly, I find this to be more entertaining than anything else. Ms. O’Donnell is, well, dumb, but so are Palin supporters. She is closer to the average Republican primary voter than Jon Huntsman is.

Update The poor Ladybug is out again:


* In case you’re confused, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is planning to speak at a tea party rally in Indianola, Iowa this Saturday after considering pulling out. Former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell was invited, disinvited, re-invited, and re-disinvited from the event. Tea Party of America President Ken Crow told NBC News that he had to ditch O’Donnell after talking to Palin aides. On Palin’s side, staffers say there were also sorts of logistical issues. Crow appears not to really know what he’s doing.

Now what about the race?
Nate Silver (politely) calls BS on a model that predicts an Obama victory. Of course, Mr. Silver is right; this “model” is really classic overfitting. He goes on to make a statement that wouldn’t make sense to many but is true nonetheless:

These types of problems, which are technically known as overfitting and data dredging, are among the most important things you ought to learn about in a well-taught econometrics class — but many published economists and political scientists seem to ignore them when it comes to elections forecasting.

In short, be suspicious of results that seem too good to be true. I’m probably in the minority here, but if two interns applied to FiveThirtyEight, and one of them claimed to have a formula that predicted 33 of the last 38 elections correctly, and the other one said they had gotten all 38 right, I’d hire the first one without giving it a second thought — it’s far more likely that she understood the limitations of empirical and statistical analysis.

AMEN. This lesson can’t be stressed too much!!!

I am not saying that President Obama won’t be reelected; he still stands a decent chance, especially if Mr. Perry or Ms. Bachmann is the GOP nominee. Mr. Romney or Mr. Huntsman would be trouble. But could either make it past the primary?

I think that the Republicans are worried that Mr. Perry is gaining too much traction. This alarms Dick Morris (who badmouthed Mr. Romney’s chances, at first). Mr. Morris writes for the Newsmax crowd (uneducated Republicans) and frequently shills rather than reports. I think he is doing just that right now:

Governor Perry clearly did better than Governor Romney at creating jobs. But it is not two governors who will square off over the issue, it is two men with two lifetimes of experience to look at.

Ever since President Clinton drummed the concept of net job creation into our heads with his mounting claims of the millions of jobs “I created,” we have become accustomed to monitoring this figure as evidence of executive economic skill. But, in this case, Romney can point to a lifetime of actually creating jobs while Governor Perry can only cite his role in presiding over their creation as head of state.

It’s quite a difference. Perry’s Texas has had historically low taxes for decades and is one of only a handful of states without an income tax. In 1970, for example, Texas had 11 million people and Michigan had 10 million. Now Texas has 25 million while Michigan cannot find jobs for its current population of 11 million. The credit for Texas’ low taxes belongs not just to Perry, but to Governors George W. Bush and Bill Clements before him. (And even a nod is due Governor Ann Richards in between).

The job creation record is partially due to a surge in oil demand (one quarter of the new Texas jobs are in the energy sector) and some of the new jobs are due to the efforts of former Governor (and client) Mark White in getting the chip research industry to locate in Austin in the 80s.

Romney has actually, personally, financially created tens of thousands of jobs. His record of buying companies, fixing them up, selling off the unprofitable parts, obtaining financing to grow the money-making parts is invaluable in helping us to get out of the current job creation funk.

Just a note: I find the claim that Mr. Romney “created jobs” is a bit disingenuous given that what Mr. Romney did was what current CEO’s are doing: merging and laying people off thereby reaping a huge profit…for themselves. No wonder big money loves Mr. Romney.

Mr. Morris goes on in this pre-analysis of the upcoming debate video:

Social Humor
Some isn’t really that funny but….

Headline FAIL (via Friendly Atheist)

Yes, I get it. Some well intentioned people of the church decided to start a food bank, and the challenge of running it proved to be more than that group was capable of. No shame there; they tried (which is more than I am doing now…). But still the headline is a classic.

Computers: why your geeky friend who fixed your computer really doesn’t like you. :)
Yes, there is some truth there, but this article is written in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Moon II: volleyball.

Yes, there is more at this link; this is a “what color of spandex do you like” post. ALL of them, of course!!! :)

September 1, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, astronomy, Barack Obama, big butts, hillary clinton, humor, Mitt Romney, obama, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, Republican, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, rick perry, sarah palin, science, Science Friday teachers, social/political, space, spandex, Spineless Democrats | Leave a comment

Game Change by John Heilemann Mark Halperin: a review

This is the book that I am talking about; I listened to the unabridged audio version on CD.

What it is about: it is the story of the 2008 general election. It picks up in 2006 and covers the primary and general election; it also has an epilogue which ends with then President Elect Obama talking Senator Hillary Clinton into accepting the Secretary of State position.

Though the book talks some about strategy and the events of the nation and the world during that time, it is mostly a “behind the scenes” look as to what was going on inside the respective campaigns at the time.

Most of the book dealt with the Democratic primary. Frankly, I didn’t learn much about the Obama campaign; then again I had already read Renegade by Richard Wolffe, Obama: From Promise to Power by David Mendell and The Promise by Jonathan Alter. About the only thing I didn’t already know was how deeply Joe Biden’s late campaign gaffes irritated Obama.

Much of my suspicions about the Hillary Clinton campaign were confirmed and elaborated on. I knew that she was a bit overconfident going in; she saw Obama as a flash in the pan, at first anyway. But I didn’t realize how much dysfunction there was on her campaign team and how much of it was the fault of the people that she took on from President Clinton’s 1996 team (Mark Penn, in particular). With a better team, she might have won.

What I learned most about was John Edwards. This book painted him as a previously humble man who made good who then let fame and prestige go to his head. It also drove home that Elizabeth Edwards was far from the saint that she was portrayed to be. I admit that I mostly blew off the National Enquirer articles; it turns out that they were substantially true.

The Republican campaign wasn’t covered as closely. Basically, they focused on John McCain and how his campaign melted down at first (couldn’t handle being the front runner status), reinvented itself in a stealthy, low key mode, and then came roaring back. It also brought out the obvious: that Sarah Palin was a desperate, unvetted pick. The book seemed to focus on her mental and emotional instability (at least from the point of view of the McCain staff).

It did talk about Rudy Guiliani’s lame campaign, a tiny bit about Fred Thompson’s half hearted effort, gave a word or two about Mike Hukabee and it did talk about how much the other candidates hated Mitt Romney. But mostly it focused on the internals of John McCain’s run. I wish that Mitt Romeny had been covered to at least the degree that John Edwards was; it did mention his reversing his previous “reasonable” positions to placate the rabid Republican base.

It also talked at length about John McCain’s idea to run with Joe Lieberman and why that idea fell through; it also talked about McCain’s idea to pledge to accept only one term as President, should he win.

About the general election itself: it did talk about the economic crisis and how McCain came across as unstable; Alter’s book discusses that in more detail.

One historical error: the book seemed to indicated that the Biden-Palin debate was viewed as more or less a draw.
Here are the insta-poll results: CNN: 51-36 Biden, CBS Uncommitted voters: 46-21 Biden.
Fox News had Biden winning 61-39.

THAT is not “more or less a draw”. It is true that Palin wasn’t quite as idiotic as the Republicans had feared that she would be.

However, the end of the book was very interesting; it talked about how Obama wooed a reluctant Hillary Clinton into accepting the Secretary of State position.

In all, I found it hard to stop listening; then again, I love politics.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, books, economy, edwards, hillary clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain, mccain, Republican, republicans, sarah palin, social/political | 2 Comments

Ft. Leonard Wood, August 6, 2010

Workout notes: 2 mile walk from the House to St. Edward’s University (Library).
Then I drove via I-35, I-20 (West), I-635 around Dallas and up US 75 to US 69 in Oklahoma. Then onto I-44 to Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.

The drive: congestion in Austin (what else is new), some on US 75 near Sherman, then some on I-44 near Springfield.

But along the way, I listened to 7.5 CD’s of the unabridged version of Game Change.
Though it appears that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were treated reasonably fairly, John Edwards (and his wife), Bill Clinton and the Clinton campaign team were downright torched (seemingly fairly).

The Democratic campaign had just ended and they were picking up the very beginnings of the Republican campaign. I can’t wait to see how it ends; there are 4 CD’s left.

This photo is from my room:

I didn’t want to spring for it, but I was getting tired and sleepy. Besides, I get a free breakfast, treadmill, and a hot tub to soak in…perhaps to loosen the old knee and hamstrings.

August 7, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, books, edwards, hillary clinton, politics, travel, walking | Leave a comment

5 June 2010 (noon)

All over the place today

Fluff: online dating sites: yep, many of those who use them are MARRIED (not: got married after using them, but using them to find dates while being married to someone else); now we have

Ashley Madison’s unique selling proposition is pairing married men with married women, counting on mutually assured destruction to do the rest. Skeptics attribute its purported growth to “bot” populations – script-generated profiles that contact and reply to members – or other slight of hand. Noel Biderman, Ashley Madison’s CEO, explains the site’s success as a function of marketing, and this sponsorship goes to further show the service’s vitality. As “…a former sports attorney who was inspired to create the site in 2001 after reading a research report that 30 percent of the people who visit singles dating sites are not single at all,” he seems to have nailed the target audience.

This vaguely reminds me of this:

Of course, this sign is, at best, misleading. Most of us have zero chance at landing someone as physically attractive as those people shown in the sign.

Gaza Flotilla Attack: Mano Singham doesn’t mince words. Yes, I think that Israel has too much influence on our government. We should be allies, but we ought to call them out when they screw up.

Other topics
Friendly atheist teaches math in high school. Here he talks about an incident in which a parent complained about his blog.

Math fail: someone thinks that a penalty of 1/6′th of his wealth is too harsh. A judge agrees, and so makes the penalty 1/5′th. The judge wasn’t being sarcastic.

Science Some day, we might be able to “import” data into the mind. If that seems strange, just think of all of the relative recent events in which a public official
“recalled” stuff that wasn’t true:
Arizona Governor
Republican candidate for Senate
Democratic candidate for Senate
Democratic candidate for President

Republican President

Ronald Reagan was an inveterate teller of anecdotes. He loved to tell people stories both about himself and others. The problem is that so many of these stories weren’t just filled with inconsistencies, many of them were outright lies. As a perfect example, consider the story that was particularly fond of telling in his later years about being part of the film crew present at the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Now, this isn’t simply a case of mixing up facts, thinking he was one place when in reality he was at another nearby. Ronald Reagan never left the shores of America during the entirety of World War II!

Yet few people apparently ever had trouble believing his creative memory. It can only be assumed that Ronald Reagan himself must at some subconscious level have believed in the lies; if you believe them, it isn’t lying.

Yes, I’ve misremembered things and so did the late Stephen Jay Gould; in fact one of his stories was about false memories.

Economy Robert Reich predicts a double-dip recession; the middle class just doesn’t have any money to spend.

Yes, the last month’s job numbers were confounded by lots of census jobs, and private sector job growth remains stagnant (plus 40,000). Still, we are better off than we were under President Bush.

Yesterday, we had a quick drop in the stock market. A friend of mine explains why:

When James Angel wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission just over a month ago, he made a prescient point. “With so much activity driven by automated computer systems, there is a risk that something will go extremely wrong at high speed,” the associate professor of finance at Georgetown University warned the US equity market’s main regulator in a letter sent on April 30.

It took only six days for the prediction to come true.

Point counter point: Is it appropriate to build a Muslim center (with a mosque) near ground zero?


Counter point

Ed Brayton:

Here’s conservative hypocrite Andrew McCarthy arguing that the government should not allow an Islamic center (they keep calling it a mosque, but it’s a larger center and a mosque is only one part of it) to be built a couple blocks from the site of the 9/11 attack. He actually justifies it with a ridiculous tu quoque:

There are 2300 mosques at least in the United States, by contrast, in mecca and medina, there are not only no Christian churches, no synagogues, there are no non-Muslims, they’re closed cities. It would be a monument to intolerance on sacred ground.

He then bizarrely claims that allowing the center to be built would be an example of “Islamic supremacism” — while actively arguing that the government should allow religious groups of all kinds to own property and use them for their own purposes except for Muslims.

I have to agree with “counter point” here. Sure, I find Islam to be absurd, but then again, I find all of the major religions to be absurd. These systems only become tolerable when their adherents start using their texts symbolically (as do most educated Christians). If Muslims want to live here and obey our laws and respect freedom of speech, great! Welcome! Those who don’t should be treated the same way that Christians who don’t respect our laws or freedoms are treated (e. g., those who murder doctors).

June 5, 2010 Posted by | atheism, Barack Obama, Democrats, economy, education, hillary clinton, mathematics, Middle East, mind, morons, neuroscience, political humor, politics, politics/social, Republican, republicans, republicans politics, resume, social/political, superstition, world events, WTF | Leave a comment

Is Sarah Palin an Idiot? Are Republicans Idiots? No.

The idea for this post came from my seeing this facebook group:

I bet we can find 10,000,000 people who think Sarah Palin is an idiot.

Yeah, I’ve seen the Couric interview:

and stuff like this:

But, well, believe me she sounds no worse than many of us would were we to show up unprepared for a national interview.

On the other hand, she is now very rich and she is wildly popular with certain segments of our population and that takes some skill.

So, I don’t see her as an idiot: I see her as an anti-intellectual who is a bit of a con-artist; she makes money off of, well, some rather gullible right wing people as well as some gullible pro-women people.

Note: gullibility is NOT a “left-right” issue. I see many of my progressive friends taken in by quack medicine (homeopathy, small gauss magnets, over priced “health foods”) and knee jerk movements such as this one.

Do Republicans become more stupid when confronted by facts? Right data, wrong conclusion.
This was from 2008:

A new study out of Yale University confirms what argumentative liberals have long-known: Offering reality-based rebuttals to conservative lies only makes conservatives cling to those lies even harder. In essence, schooling conservatives makes them more stupid. From the Washington Post article on the study, which came out yesterday:

Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler provided two groups of volunteers with the Bush administration’s prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. One group was given a refutation — the comprehensive 2004 Duelfer report that concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003. Thirty-four percent of conservatives told only about the Bush administration’s claims thought Iraq had hidden or destroyed its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but 64 percent of conservatives who heard both claim and refutation thought that Iraq really did have the weapons. The refutation, in other words, made the misinformation worse.

A similar “backfire effect” also influenced conservatives told about Bush administration assertions that tax cuts increase federal revenue. One group was offered a refutation by prominent economists that included current and former Bush administration officials. About 35 percent of conservatives told about the Bush claim believed it; 67 percent of those provided with both assertion and refutation believed that tax cuts increase revenue.

In a paper approaching publication, Nyhan, a PhD student at Duke University, and Reifler, at Georgia State University, suggest that Republicans might be especially prone to the backfire effect because conservatives may have more rigid views than liberals: Upon hearing a refutation, conservatives might “argue back” against the refutation in their minds, thereby strengthening their belief in the misinformation. Nyhan and Reifler did not see the same “backfire effect” when liberals were given misinformation and a refutation about the Bush administration’s stance on stem cell research.

If you’ve ever gotten in an argument with your conservative friends (assuming you haven’t offered each other a mutual Carville-Matalin-style political ceasefire to preserve the friendship), you’ve probably seen this “backfire effect” in action. The more you try to tell people that Sarah Palin is lying when she says she was against the Bridge to Nowhere, the more they believe she was telling the truth. The more you try to explain how similar McCain’s policies are to Bush’s, the more they maintain he’s “the original maverick.”

I don’t doubt the data; I just attribute it to “tribalism” as, yes, even Obama supporters were prone to:

(here: a Obama supporters started to back McCain policies when they were told that they were Obama policies)

Note: some Hillary Clinton supporters were ALSO Sarah Palin supporters, even though these two women couldn’t be more different in deportment, intellect and on the issues.

May 21, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Democrats, hillary clinton, political humor, politics, politics/social, Republican, republicans, republicans politics, sarah palin | 5 Comments

On Finding Common Ground with Believers

Of course, most Americans believe in a deity of some sort and 60 percent accept a personal deity:

Of course this number goes down with educational level, and scientists with Ph. D. degrees believe at a much lower rate:

Nearly 38 percent of natural scientists — people in disciplines like physics, chemistry and biology — said they do not believe in God. Only 31 percent of the social scientists do not believe.

In the new study, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund surveyed 1,646 faculty members at elite research universities, asking 36 questions about belief and spiritual practices.

“Based on previous research, we thought that social scientists would be less likely to practice religion than natural scientists are, but our data showed just the opposite,” Ecklund said.

Some stand-out statistics: 41 percent of the biologists don’t believe, while that figure is just 27 percent among political scientists.

In separate work at the University of Chicago, released in June, 76 percent of doctors said they believed in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife.

“Now we must examine the nature of these differences,” Ecklund said today. “Many scientists see themselves as having a spirituality not attached to a particular religious tradition. Some scientists who don’t believe in God see themselves as very spiritual people. They have a way outside of themselves that they use to understand the meaning of life.”

Ecklund and colleagues are now conducting longer interviews with some of the participants to try and figure it all out.

Of course, belief is even more scarce at the very elite levels: only 7 percent believe in a personal deity.

Of course, my “in person” friends tend to have Ph. D.’s and I hang around places like Richard or Daily Kos where unbelief is the norm.

So, what do I have in common with believers? Well, at first glance, it appears that the answer is “not much”; though many educated believers (and clergy among the mainstream religions) claim to accept science (e. g., accept evolution), there are some big differences. Jerry Coyne discusses these here; he points out that while some at the pulpit may well accept a form of evolution, relatively few in the pews actually do. He also points out that those who claim to accept evolution really don’t accept the version that scientists do. For example, evolutionary theory has most mutations being random (save those induced, say, by a radiation accident); of course, which mutations get passed on via reproduction are NOT random; natural selection is a huge factor (though there is some scientific debate as to the relative magnitude of the influences of natural selection, genetic drift, changes in environment, etc.)

In short, if one views humans as the intended outcome of the evolutionary process, then one doesn’t accept scientific evolution; in fact experiments (such as the Michigan State experiment) show that evolution will advance down different paths if “started over”).

The fact that we humans are here now IS an accident and not the intent of some greater design!
Of course, some might believe in some type of deity that would have allowed such an accident to take place, but this isn’t the “god that cares about humans” deity of the Bible or the Koran.

Nevertheless, there are those believers that I have something in common with. For example, read this post by Brotherpeacemaker:

Someone was trying to tell me how powerful and omniscient god was and said that god knew when a sparrow fell from the sky. My first reaction was to laugh, not because I thought this person was wrong. But I have to ask the question, why would god be interested in a sparrow falling out of the sky? I don’t know too many people who believe in god and don’t believe that he is all powerful and all knowing but are we so arrogant to believe that we rate that high on god’s attention meter.

The universe is a seriously vast entity. According to the simple human interpretation of the space and time continuum, the universe stretches from one side of infinity to the other and god is working across it all. Throughout all of this there are countless galaxies with countless stars with a number of planets with a countless numbers of individuals and plants and animals and god is supposed to expend his limitless power on knowing when one of the countless sparrows on this single planet buys the farm. If such a concept was uttered by a five year old it would be cute in its total simplicity. Such a notion would rank right up there with the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Great Pumpkin, the caring American, Peter Pan, Captain Crunch, and the like. As a people, we really need to do a better job developing our understanding of our relationship with the infinite being and grow out of the simple, feel good notions we learned back in Sunday school when we were knee high to our parents.

Our self importance in the cosmos knows no limit as well. If we are taught to believe that god is some voyeur all up in our business because we are just so special then it is a prime example of humanity’s self centered-ism at its finest. God gets furious about our adultery. God hates our active sex lives without marriage. God punishes the evil that people do and is ready to pounce because we’re all that and then some. People need to learn a little more humility. God is a busy Supreme Being. As I write this and as you read it god is building entire galaxies at the outer edge of the universe. Millions of planets need forming and countless species need planning. And that’s in this universe alone. There are other universes and other realities that need his attention as well. And he’s supposed to stop all this activity to take note of a little birdie that’s about to hit dirt.

Ok, one might quibble with the notion of an infinite universe; it may well be a compact manifold of some sort. But here is the money quote:

We may pray for god to save all the little children. But truth be told, if god wanted to, he could keep every child safe from now to eternity. But why would god be so moved to do so? God knows about people dying everyday and he allows it to happen. Why? As a people we already have everything we need to keep our children, our family, our community, and our world safe. As a collective, we simply choose not to. It’s always somebody else’s problem. Rich people could share their wealth with the people in need, but that would be welfare and no good for anybody because it was tried before and failed. But people forget, the very people who work hard to keep racism alive are the very same people who were in charge of the welfare program; the white mindset. God cannot be prayed into wanting to help us more than we want to help ourselves. [...]

God hasn’t charged anyone to stop abortion. God has never charged anyone with the duty to invade another country and kill thousands upon thousands of people while friends coincidentally get rich robbing the national coffer. God didn’t abandon the people in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. People who were in the position to help but didn’t abandoned the people in New Orleans. God doesn’t have to save every child on the planet. We need to change our collective spirit so that we can develop a global community that truly wants to leave no child behind instead of using it as a catchy slogan to obtain a political office.

God has already answered our prayers. We have everything we need. We simply choose to squander it in a system wrought with favoritism and privilege for the few and indifference and struggle for the masses. This isn’t god’s plan, it is our plan. We’re either going to stick to it and let civilization rot or change it for the better. Quite frankly I don’t see things changing anytime soon. Our very existence may now be in jeopardy with global warming and we are too shell shocked from our day-to-day life to do anything to stop it. But as soon as the point is reached where it appears that divine intervention is the only thing that will save us we’ll pray for god to save us and wonder why he doesn’t and say it’s the lord’s will when in all actuality it is our will that doomed us.

No, I don’t accept this notion of deity (which sounds a bit like a deist god). But I agree: the only thing that we can do is to work to change the things that we can; no deity is going to pull our fat out of the fire or save us. I think that then Senator Obama, Senator Edwards and Senator Biden got it right:

Of course differences remain; one can claim that some deity was responsible for the creation of our spacetime continuum. Of course, I’d like proof before I believe that, and I haven’t seen any.

But when it comes to our day to day life I agree with Mano Singham:

What atheists like me say to religious believers is simply the following: If the existence of your god has empirical consequences, then provide empirical evidence that supports your contention. If it has no empirical consequences whatsoever, then say so and we will not interfere with your theological and philosophical ruminations because we do not really care to speculate on the properties of what we consider to be a mythical entity.

Conclusion: if you believe in a deity that set things in motion and then let it go, we’ll agree to disagree (until I get some evidence to the contrary). But in our day to day lives, we have some common ground and can therefore have a very nice coexistence and even friendship!

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, Biden, bill richardson, Blogroll, edwards, evolution, Friends, hillary clinton, Joe Biden, nature, politics/social, relationships, religion, science, social/political | Leave a comment


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