blueollie

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.

Politics
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:

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:

* 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

8 January 2011 (am)

My back was slightly stiff but not that bad; I’ll try a short treadmill run or a short indoor bike ride with some therapy exercises.
Last night my shoulder had a brief “pain” period; I didn’t do my PT exercises nor did I ice it.

Update I did my back and piriformis and rotator cuff exercises and 22 minutes on the stationary bike; I tried some running on the home treadmill but the back, while not painful, was still too tight. There is no reason to risk it right now; I’ll try again tomorrow but this time on a treadmill that I can set to zero incline.

Reality: this spring will feature no “goal” events though I might attempt, say, the 12 hour walk at FANS just for the heck of it and aim for, say, 40 miles with a LOT of breaks, rest periods, stretch periods, etc.

But I’ll have to do a 3-4 times a week PT session on my own which will feature:
1. Smith set for the back (4 exercises)
2. Rotator cuff set (dumbbells or stretch bands)
3. Achilles set (these don’t hurt…but given my other injuries)
4. Piriformis stretches plus hip hikes
5. One legged squats for the knee

So I should probably do the above along with some core stuff (sit ups, yoga leg lifts) in the morning prior to my workout. Then my 3 days a week base workout might be a collection of three “30 minute” blocks of activities which will include running, swimming, cardio machines or bike, light to medium weight lifting and perhaps a longer walk and run over the weekend. Tuesday and Thursday would feature something more specific in terms of training and a yoga class.

All of that is a *plan* which is subject to change.

Posts
Politics

Now what about those job reports? No, these aren’t a reason for joy:

Not the kind of job report that has you jumping for joy. Things appear to have stopped getting worse, but that’s about all.

Remember that the economy needs to create enough jobs for the currently unemployed AND the new job seekers for us to stay afloat.
Here are the relevant charts:
Private Jobs

Total Jobs

In summary (from the second link; The Political Animal at the Washington Monthly)

It’s important to emphasize, though, that while December was better than November, the economy adding 103,000 jobs last month isn’t good enough. Indeed, it’s not even close. To help get us back to where we need to be, we would look for totals more than twice as strong as these.

Still, incremental progress is incremental progress, and most forecasts appear to have relatively high hopes for 2011.

Media Reporting
Scientists have to deal with dumb reporters giving crackpottery “equal time” under the guise of “fairness” and “reporting both sides”. Paul Krugman laments that this is the case in economic reporting too. Basically, the Republicans want the cost of the so called “doc fix” added to the cost of the Health Care Reform bill, even though this fix would have occurred whether HCR passed or not (this is to keep medical compensation for doctors participating in medicare up to snuff; it was falling behind):

More than 10 years have passed since I wrote this:

If a presidential candidate were to declare that the earth is flat, you would be sure to see a news analysis under the headline ”Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.” After all, the earth isn’t perfectly spherical.

And it’s still true. Today we have an article entitled In Battle Over Health Law, Math Cuts Both Ways. So what’s the math that cuts in the Republicans’ favor? Well, they

complain that the projections omitted $115 billion in spending required to administer the law as well as $208 billion needed to prevent scheduled reductions in Medicare payments to doctors.

Ahem. The great bulk of that administrative spending would happen whether or not the health law goes into effect; and all of the “doc fix” will happen regardless of the health reform. Both of these complaints have been hashed over at length, being thoroughly refuted; these are zombie lies. But you’d never know that from the reporting.

My take: media is a business and dumb Republicans read newspapers and magazines. So, the media has to placate them. :)

Science and technology
This video shows (via a camera that records infrared light) that nylon holds body heat better than cotton. Don’t worry about the title; there is nothing lewd here.

Human evolution Many things can affect how societies operate; one of these is…yes, the weight of babies. Human babies are large in terms of percentage of the mother’s weight (in comparison to, say, chimp babies). Evidently this trend goes back to our Australopithecus stage.

Humor
No comment needed. :)

epic fail photos - Juxtaposition FAIL
see more funny videos

(ok, actually, Sarah Palin’s Alaska really isn’t that bad; she makes for a (mostly) charming show host. I just don’t want her to be President).

This reminds me of a time when I was getting used to DVD’s: I just finished watching a movie and then was puzzled. My wife asked me what I was looking for. I replied “the rewind button”….as the words left my mouth I caught myself. :)

epic fail photos - rewind fail
see more funny videos

Police chases: in the wintertime in the north, they go a bit differently. No, there is no sliding into cars, objects. Really, it is funny. :)

January 8, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, economics, economy, evolution, humor, injury, nature, Navel Staring, obama, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, Republican, republican party, republicans, sarah palin, shoulder rehabilitation, technology, training | Leave a comment

17 November 2010 PM

Workout notes I was tired from staying up too late for the game (which I enjoyed).
Still, I lifted weights (upper body) and ran 2 miles on the treadmill.

dumbbell curls: 20 x 15 lb, 10 x 20 lb, 10 x 20 lb.
dumbbell seated military: 30 x 30 lb., 25 x 35 lb.
dumbbell bench press: 30 x 35 lb.
Pull downs: 3 sets of 15 x 120
Rows: 3 sets of 10 x 180 (90 each arm)
incline bench press: 10 x 45, 10 x 95 (wimpy I know; I am getting the arms used to the motion)
Sit ups: 100 (4 x 25)
Run: 2 miles in 19:04 (10:24, 8:40). Started with 5.5 mph and increased the speed by .1 mph every minute starting at 3 minutes.
Incline: minute 1 at 0, then set it at 1.

Shoulder/knee: knee was somewhat achy last night due to sitting with the knees bent at the game. I’ll have to stretch.

More Stuff

Health care: yes, end of life decisions can be tough. If one is very old and dying, how much treatment should one take and at what cost?
This is not an easy question.

Science/Frogs If nothing else, check out this adorable little frog.

Evolution yes, even our gut bacteria are influenced by evolution; the conjecture is that evolution determines what sort of bacteria can find a haven in our gut.

Video/Free Speech
Yes, an advertiser can refuse a sign due to complaints. But as to those idiots who claim that religion is persecuted in this country:

And some get upset when you listen and critique what they have to say:

Republicans
I don’t care about reality shows. But Sarah Palin remains a very shallow thinker. Watch the clip:

Wow, those grizzly cubs are taught to be SELF-RELIANT!!! But….what if some other more powerful animal prevented certain grizzly cubs from fishing in the best streams? What if that mean-old-government got out of the way and allowed industry to pollute those streams and lace the waters with harmful chemicals? What if acid rain destroyed the environment and killed the fish? Self-reliance indeed…….

Wingnut crazies

Just read:

But, just like nearly everything else this President does…trust someone to have a problem with it.

We have feminized the Medal of Honor.

According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.

Gen. George Patton once famously said, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.”

When we think of heroism in battle, we used the think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe do Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements.

That kind of heroism has apparently become passe when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them.

So the question is this: when are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things so our families can sleep safely at night?

Uh…in this day and age, we can kill millions with a push of a button. That is hardly…uh…brave and macho.
These people are idiots.

Liberals At Daily Kos, it almost takes guts to defend the President. This diary author captures how I feel:

First, “left puritans.” What do I mean by that? I’ll explain in a second, but first and foremost, it does not mean the entire political left or the progressive movement. I am a progressive, and as far as ideology is concerned, a liberal that would like single payer health care, a carbon tax, universally available and fully funded reproductive choice, marriage equality, and so on. I am also a pragmatist. I know that one need not agree with me on everything, or even fully on a single issue for us to work together and make progress. [...]

The public option debate was a perfect example. We can have another whole conversation disintegrate into whether or not it could have passed if the President did this or did that. The health reform bill represented a paradigm shift in both the government’s responsibility for health insurance for individuals, as well as in holding insurance companies accountable, with or without the public option (at least as it was constructed in the House passed version or subsequent versions). But simply pushing for a public option did not make that action a left puritan action. In fact, I’d say it was courageous. But the action became left puritan as soon as one started opposing the passage of health reform without a public option. The action became left puritan when Jane Hamsher went on Fox News, breaking her own vow, to try to stop this law. The thought process behind it: damned be the 32 million Americans who would get insurance, damned be the community health center expansion, damned be the Medicaid expansion, damned be the closing of the donut hole in Medicare Part D, damn it all; we didn’t get a public option, so tear down the whole thing. That’s left puritanism.

When we lose perspective of how something could affect the lives of people, and say it’s not good enough on items A, B, or C, so reject it, that is not sound public policy. Public policy is not about what “you gave” or what “they took” in the writing of a bill. It’s about whether progress is made at the end of the day. If it is, progressive pragmatists will support it. That is our way of showing our commitment to our values and principles: by making some progress, and continuing to push for more at the same time.

Yes, I get frustrated with President Obama; at times it appears that he caves into every Republican whim and tantrum….but in the end we got stuff done though we paid a political price. But isn’t that what we want our politicians to do?

November 17, 2010 Posted by | 2012 election, Barack Obama, biology, evolution, knee rehabilitation, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, Republican, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, running, science, shoulder rehabilitation, training, weight training | Leave a comment

16 November 2010 pm: parting shots

Rep. Charles Rangel: it is a pity as he has represented Harlem for almost my entire life. But evidently he got too full of himself and started blowing off the rules:

A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House.

After a public hearing on Monday that was truncated by Mr. Rangel’s walking out in protest, an adjudicatory subcommittee of the House ethics committee deliberated for four hours before finding him guilty of all but one of the 13 counts against him. (Two other counts, involving Mr. Rangel’s misuse of House franking privileges, were merged into one.)

In a somber tone, Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the panel, announced its findings just before noon. Ms. Lofgren described the contentious process as “difficult and time consuming” and said the committee hoped to decide on a punishment within days.

If a Republican had done these things, I’d scream bloody murder and think “see, that is how they are”. It is time for him to leave; in fact, past time.

News Media I like Keith Olbermann, but evidently he isn’t that easy to get along with.

Politics No: a candidate having lots of facebook friends really doesn’t mean that much. Here is the statistical evidence.
I am going to use this with my statistics class.

Republicans: No government spending, earmarks and pork…unless it is for me.

Republicans: betting that the Democrats will cave in on the tax cuts and “bundle” them (for the rich and non rich in one vote). I am sorry to say that I’ll bet on the Republicans; we are a bunch of wimps.

November 16, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, economics, economy, obama, political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans, Spineless Democrats, statistics | Leave a comment

Opinion: Negative Political Ads

People frequently complain about negative political ads. (example):

Like most of us, I am sick and tired of these ridiculous, hateful, vicious, slanderous, mud-slinging, mean, nasty, juvenile, big expensive load of crap, negative campaign advertisements.

In addition to the fact that these ads are disgusting, just think about the MILLIONS of dollars these people are spending so fling this $hit crap around.

How about you asshats tells us what you’re going to do for us.

That question has an easy answer: politicians will lie and over promise.

For example, were I to run for political office, I’d say: “hey, I am going to reduce your taxes, cut waste, balance the budget but maintain your favorite services!” :)

See? That was easy, wasn’t it? Of course, it would be a damned lie too, and my political opponent would be negligent if he/she didn’t point that out.

In all honesty, a political opponent of mine SHOULD point out my lack of qualifications: I haven’t served on many boards or committees; I generally hate such things and my volunteerism tends to be stuff I can do alone or with 2-3 others. And, to be blunt, I don’t like most people and my views ARE out of the mainstream (except for places like, say, Austin, Texas or Berkeley, California).

And, if my opponent had done bad things or done a bad job at their previous offices or has sought (or accepted) the support of bad groups, I should point that out.

So, my problem isn’t with negative ads; it is with FALSE or MISLEADING negative ads, such as this one:

Here is what was going on:

October 22, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, obama, Political Ad, political/social, politics, politics/social | Leave a comment

20 October 2010 (pm)

Friendly Atheist: posts this humorous “free market-ish” attack on woo:

Politics: do people vote against their own economic interests? (hat tip: Mano Singham)

Probably not; the poor tend to vote Democratic and the rich tend to vote Republican:

The 2004 election:

2008 Election
From here

(more analysis here)

There are more “demographics/state maps” here.

My point: I don’t think that most of the tea party push-back is from the poor; in fact a New York Times/CBS survey said that they were more affluent than average.

Some Science Links

Do you want to see how scientific positions are challenged? Here is an article on a paper that talks about the “fine structure” constant and claims that it might vary by position in the universe:

A few weeks ago there was a bit of media excitement about a somewhat surprising experimental result. Observations of quasar spectra indicated that the fine structure constant, the parameter in physics that describes the strength of electromagnetism, seems to be slightly different on one side of the universe than on the other. The preprint is here.

Remarkable, if true. The fine structure constant, usually denoted α, is one of the most basic parameters in all of physics, and it’s a big deal if it’s not really constant. But how likely is it to be true? This is the right place to trot out the old “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” chestnut. It’s certainly an extraordinary claim, but the evidence doesn’t really live up to that standard. Maybe further observations will reveal truly extraordinary evidence, but there’s no reason to get excited quite yet.

Chad Orzel does a great job of explaining why an experimentalist should be skeptical of this result. [...]

Surf to the link to read more.

More: here is a spectacular display in a pinwheel galaxy; the false color shows where star formation is going on.

Space Travel: will human travel to Mars be one way (e. g., in the same way Europeans came to the “New” World)

Biology/Zoology/Evolution

Why did leopards evolve spots? Why didn’t all big cats? Why do some big cats come in different patterns? Note: it has to do with the following: leopards live in different kinds of areas; cheetahs not so much.

How do some snakes eat eggs (those who don’t have teeth; what do they do with the shells?) Surf here to find out.

Here is a newly discovered species of snailfish (cool photo)

How did morality evolve? Here is a NY Times article that I am about to read. :)

October 21, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, cosmology, Democrats, economics, economy, evolution, nature, obama, physics, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, rebulican party, Republican, republican party, republicans, science, space | Leave a comment

9 September 2010 posts

Strangely enough, a CONSERVATIVE sent me this article. I suppose that I don’t disagree with all conservatives on everything. Here is a snippet:

[...]If I may sally briefly into unloved seriousness: What puzzles me, as one who has lived extensively abroad, is how little Americans are able to see things through the eyes of others, how little empathy they have (this latter defect being characteristic of both psychopaths and narcissists).

Consider a headline from Anti-War.com of a sort appearing almost daily: “US Drone Strike Destroys House Full of Children in Pakistan.”

Apparently no one in the Great Rubber Room north of Mexico has an inkling why this might arouse hatred in Pakistanis. Can you imagine the fury that would ensue if a Moslem blew up a house full of American kids in, say, Queens? But when we kill their kids, no one cares. “Yeah, well. Tough. Giv’em a few dollars.” Buncha dirty raghead larvae. No better than cock roaches, right?.

Now, we’re going to have a pop quiz. Take out a sheet of paper. Question: Can you think of any reason why Moslems might be unhappy with America?

Right! They hate our freedoms.

In which case they daily have less to hate us for. [...]

I find it strange that a conservative would approve of the above sentiment but I am glad that a few do.

John Boehner: judge for yourself; here are some of his false statements.

Economy: Republican policies are geared toward helping the wealthiest. Of course, Republicans are ok with that.

Barack Obama: most respected leader in the world. Of course, Republicans see this as a negative.

Economy Republicans argue for more tax cuts for the rich. Democrats want more stimulus. But the long term: we need to get people ready for jobs that will be there and that means being more competitive with the world’s economic powers. That is one reason I favor the equipment and R and D tax cuts. But it will be harder than we think.

Republicans: are even turning on Andy Griffith. Why? He supported Obama and health care reform.

September 9, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, Barack Obama, Blogroll, civil liberties, economy, Middle East, obama, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, Republican, republicans, republicans politics, world events | Leave a comment

4 September 2010 midday

I’ve got the Illinois-Missouri football game on; the Illini are leading 13-10 in the middle of the 3’rd. This might be a mild surprise to some, but remember this Missouri squad got blown out by Navy last year in their bowl game.

But right now, Illinois is out hitting Missouri.

Update: by the time I finished the post, Missouri took the lead 17-13.

Posts
Local:

Billy Dennis cracked me up:

It’s true! District 150 has stolen Christmas. Well, actually, all they did was call it “National Children’s Day” on the school calender. Naturally, the wackadoodles and chronic District 150 haters are screaming in protest.

Five bucks says the story gets picked by one of the right-wing assholes on 1470 WMBD.

I’d bet with Billy here.

Letters to the Editor (Peoria Journal Star)

Well, there are at least a couple of people who reject the Fox News propaganda. Both letters are about the Ground Zero Mosque
Letter one by Bill Rowen

[...]
I and many other non-Catholics have enjoyed events at the Knights of Columbus Hall. I have received excellent treatment at St. Francis Medical Center. Both have dedicated space for practicing the Catholic religion. To call the Muslims’ community center a “mosque” is akin to calling the K of C Hall a church and the hospital a cathedral.

There are 1.5 billion Muslims on this Earth with whom we might try to live peacefully. To shred our Constitution, to revoke habeas corpus, to violate the Geneva Conventions and to be in the state of hysteria we are now witnessing, all because of 9-11, is to be humiliated by the actions of just 19 of their extremists. And to lose all.

Letter two by Leslie Walker

[...]
Ms. Jackson complains that President Obama didn’t “look at the big picture.” I disagree. This is what he said at the White House: “I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship in a community center on private property, in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”

This is the big picture. This is what the U.S. Constitution guarantees in the First Amendment. Those who object to the mosque location need to step back and remember that this is a nation of many religions, with citizens free to worship as they choose. No individual or group has the right to take that freedom away.

The people who vehemently oppose the site of the proposed mosque/community center do so because the terrorists who committed the atrocities of 9-11 were Muslims, and they believe, against all rules of logic, that all Muslims are terrorists. The protesters do not see the big picture. Their focus is very small and based on bigotry and fear.

Ms. Jackson says the president’s statement is “a very tough stance for Obama to take with elections coming up.” President Obama took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Apparently he felt some people needed a reminder of what the Constitution stands for. If that is seen as a “tough stance,” so be it. [...]

It is nice to see that not everyone writes their letter to the editor in crayon!

Science and Religion
Sean Carroll explains what the Hawing result means:

In other words, the laws of nature are sufficient to explain the existence of our universe. No “woo” is required.

More on Religion
The US is an outlier when it comes to “wealth vs. religion”. Here is my poorly thought out conjecture: the US tended to attract those who were interested in religious freedom. But there is hope; formerly religious countries are now no longer religious.

Politics and Economics
Paul Krugman explains the Obama administration’s timidity on economic matters:

Look: early on the administration had a political theory: it would win bipartisan legislative victories, and each success would make Republicans who voted no feel left out, so that they would vote for the next initiative, and so on. (By the way, read that article and weep: “The massive resistance Republicans posed to Clinton in 1993 is impossible to imagine today.” They really believed that.)

This theory led to a strategy of playing it safe: never put forward proposals that might fail to pass, avoid highlighting the philosophical differences between the parties. There was never an appreciation of the risks of having policies too weak to do the job. [...]

This is crazy: when you’re well down in the polls, minimal steps that won’t move the economy and won’t grab voters’ imagination are just a way of guaranteeing a devastating defeat.

I can understand why the people who persuaded Obama to go for the capillaries might still be claiming that they have the right strategy; bu I don’t understand why Obama is still listening to them.

I have to agree. But I could be wrong.

September 4, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, atheism, Barack Obama, college football, cosmology, economy, education, football, Illinois, obama, Peoria, Peoria/local, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, science | Leave a comment

Hello September 2010!

Credit where credit is due: Senator Hatch gets it right about the mosque.

Francis Collins stands up for science and its benefits (though this doesn’t surprise me).

Humor: I never get invited to picnics like this one. :)

Social Here is one reason we need a federal standard for marriage. Gay people who get married in one state are prevented from divorcing in another state.

Politics How did Democrats get into their current position? Nate Silver discusses the various conjectures.

I still say: “it couldn’t be helped.”:

Yes, I am distressed at the high likelihood that we will lose at least one house of Congress; right now Intrade has the Republicans winning the House at just over 70 (Senate is in the mid 20’s).

Yes, President Obama’s approval ratings are falling, though that is par for the course for most recent “no new war” Presidents; more below the fold.

(from The Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center)

So, my questions are

1. Why?
2. What could we have done better and
3. What are we going to do about it NOW?

1. Easy: the economy still stinks. Yes, without President Obama’s leadership it would have been a great deal worse but, as Robert Reich writes:

Obama and the Democrats respond by defending their specific policies. The stimulus worked, they say, as did the bailout of Wall Street, because the economy is better today than it would be without them. If anything, we need more stimulus. And healthcare reform will protect tens of millions.

A large and growing segment of the public believes none of this. The public doesn’t think in terms of specific policies. All it knows is the economy has stalled and there’s only one story that explains why and points the way forward – and that’s the Republican’s.

2. What is problematic. I’ve heard all sorts of stuff ranging from many people; some are crowing that this is a “refudiation” of the “liberal agenda” by the American public. We hear that a lot. But on the other hand, we hear from our friends that our agenda wasn’t nearly aggressive enough; too much compromise for its own sake. Many said that at the time that the legislation was passed.
I still say: where were the votes going to come from?

3. What are we going to do about it? The Reich article that I first quoted gives some ideas:

If Obama and the Democrats would connect these dots they’d have a story that would make Americans’ hair stand on end. We’re in this mess because of big business and Wall Street. Government is needed to get us out of it.

It’s not that big business and Wall Street are evil. It’s that they’re out to make as much money as possible – which is what they’re set up to do. That’s why we need an activist government to stimulate the economy, create jobs, and protect the public from their excesses.

So why haven’t Obama and the Dems succeeded yet? Big business and Wall Street have used their money and political clout to stop government from doing as much as needs to be done.

The story is clear, and it has the virtue of being the truth. Why won’t Obama and the Democrats tell it? Is it because big business and Wall Street have the money and political clout even to prevent the story from being told?

I’m afraid that the answer is “yes”.

Nevertheless we ARE winning the war. Health care reform has been passed and, as watered down as it is:

Imperfect as it is, the Senate bill would save tens of thousands of lives, save many Americans from financial catastrophe, and partially redeem us from the shame of being the only advanced nation without some kind of universal care.

And remember that these sorts of things almost never get repealed; instead they usually get improved on (think of social security when it was first passed).

We also are winning some of the social issues; think of the progress that has been made on gay rights (now we need to get the President on board with gay marriage and on DADT!). Some states now allow gay marriage and the public support for it is growing.

Unfortunately, much of the public lags behind us on these issues; progress will always be agonizingly slow and incremental, and we’ll continue to have backlashes such as these.

In short, though the Democrats and the President have made mistakes, I have a hard time envisioning anyone as President having done any better or a program (which had a realistic chance of passing) having produced better results.

I am not at all sure that this current political situation could have been avoided.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, Barack Obama, Democrats, Middle East, obama, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, Republican, republicans, Spineless Democrats, world events | Leave a comment

msnbc video: Obama: Its time to turn the page

msnbc video: Obama: Its time to turn the page, posted with vodpod

September 1, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, Middle East, obama, world events | Leave a comment

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