Spring Tuesday in May: final exam time!

Workout notes Yoga with Ms. Vickie (she was in a good mood) and then 10 miles of walking (2:18 worth of the Michael, Springdale, Glen Oak course; timed mile was 13:13). My mind wandered all over the place; these-a-days a 13:15 is my “look at the birdies” pace, at least for 10.

Note: in yoga class, I am stiffer than usual. Also, my shins are a bit tired; it takes me a while to warm them up. I might look for more flexible (but still supportive) shoes this week.

Today’s posts will be all over the map; topics include science, religion, and of course, politics.

As I type this I am listening to Cold Shot, Nikki Nichols anti-racist groups.

Science There is some excitement in the area of human evolution.
One recent paper appears to simplify the human evolutionary tree and wants to claim that Neanderthals are not part of human ancestry.. Note that some scientists are wary:

The press is running some mouth watering news on an upcoming Nature paper that provides ‘a new, simplified family tree of humanity.’ I’m really interested in this topic, especially figuring out just how bushy our phylogeny is. See, there has been what I consider misguided movement growing within hominin systematics. One where features from a small sample size of fossils has lead researchers to consider them unique enough name lots of new species, all under the guise of diversity. The only ’success’ this movement has had has been in complicating the evolutionary history of humanity.

I’m extremely concerned about this problem because not only does it make teaching and explaining human evolution more challenging, but also raises ethical concerns if people are just naming new species to make a name for themselves. Often times that stuff gets weeded out in critiques and reanalysis, but there are so many different species names floating around that it is hard for anyone not verbose in hominin nomenclature to figure out who’s who.

All that being said, I hope you realize that reading any new approach to simplifying human evolutionary history will be extremely refreshing. I’ve tried to track down the paper in Nature’s advanced issue section, but it ain’t there yet. Soon, I hope. In the meantime, all we have to review is the AFP release on the topic.

Follow the link to to see what the authors think about the advance publicity. The remarks I’ve quoted go to show you the attitude many scientists take toward potential new discoveries: there is an open minded attitude moderated by a very healthy skepticism. New ideas must be thoroughly reviewed and fact checked by peers, but if they hold up, they are enthusiastically accepted.

But we’ve all seen hundreds of new ideas (if not thousands) that didn’t pan out in the end.

The Richard Dawkins website directs us to the article: under discussion

A new, simplified family tree of humanity has dealt a blow to those who contend that the enigmatic hominids known as Neanderthals intermingled with our forebears.

Neanderthals were a separate species to Homo sapiens, as anatomically modern humans are known, rather than offshoots of the same species, the new organigram published Sunday by the journal Nature declares.

The method, invented by evolutionary analysts in Argentina, marks a break with the conventional technique by which anthropologists chart the twists and turns of the human odyssey.

That technique typically divides the genus Homo into various classifications according to the shape of key facial features — “flat-faced,” “protruding-faced” and so on.

Reconciling these diverse classifications from a tiny number of specimens spanning millions of years has led to lots of claims and counter-claims, as well as much confusion in the general public, about how we came to be here.

Various species of Homo have been put up for the crown of being our direct ancestor, only to find themselves dismissed by critics as failed branches of the Homo tree.

The authors of the new study, led by Rolando Gonzalez-Jose at the Patagonian National Centre at Puerto Madryn, Argentina, say the problem with the conventional method is that, under evolution, facial traits do not appear out of the blue but result from continuous change. […]

The paper suggests that, after evolving from the hominid Australopithecus afarensis, the first member of Homo, H. habilis, arose between 1.5 and 2.1 million years ago.

We are direct linear descendants of H. habilis. H. sapiens started to show up around 200,000 years ago.

None of the species currently assigned to Homo are discarded, though.

On the other hand, the Neanderthals are declared “chronological variants inside a single biological heritage,” in other words, evolutionary cousins but still a separate species from us.

The squat, low-browed Neanderthals lived in parts of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East for around 170,000 but traces of them disappear some 28,000 years ago, their last known refuge being Gibraltar.

Why they died out is a matter of furious debate, because they co-existed alongside anatomically modern man.

Some opinions aver that the Neanderthals were slowly wiped out by the smarter H. sapiens in the competition for resources.

Other contend that we and the Neanderthals were more than just kissing cousins. Interbreeding took place, which explains why the Neanderthal line died out, but implies that we could have Neanderthal inheritage in our genome today, goes this theory.

More on Neanderthals


A summary of Yoel Rak’s talk at the last month meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society in Vancouver, Canada has surfaced in a National Geographic news article from several days ago. Yoel Rak and William Hylander analyzed the anatomy of the Neandertal face and inferred what that coulda meant as far as Neandertal dietary behavior. Did they take quaint bites like a sophisticated aristocrat or were they ruthless wide mouth ogres? If you read the title of this post you’d know the answer to that.

Rak presented his findings, specifically focusing on how the forward-positioned molars and an unusually large mandibular notches allowed Neandertals to gape widely. I’ve put up a photo of La Ferrassie 1 to you right. La Ferrassie 1 is a Neandertal skull found in 1909 in France that shows both traits. […]

The scientists believe the large space behind Neandertals’ molars created a geometry that allowed them to take extremely large bites… perhaps an adaptation to the size of the food Neandertals ate, the researchers said.”

This sort of conclusion reeks of adaptionist story telling. I remember reading a similar study that analyzed the form of a horse’s mouth and concluded that it is perfectly adapted to eat apples. Just silly to think of selection and adaptation this way.

I love how skeptical is! 🙂

More on evolution and how new species are produced:
Regulating Evolution: How Gene Switches Make Life (Scientific American via the Dawkins website)


– Because genes encode instructions for building animal bodies, biologists once expected to find significant genetic differences among animals, reflecing their great diversity of forms. Instead very dissimilar animals have turned out to have very similar genes.

– Mutations in DNA “switches” that control body-shaping genes, rather than in the genes themselves, have been a significant source of evolving differences among animals.

– If humans want to understand what distinguishes animals, including ourselves, from one another, we have to look beyond genes.

At first glance, the list of animals could suggest any zoo. There’s an elephant, an armadillo, an opossum, a dolphin, a sloth, a hedgehog, big and small bats, a couple of shrews, some fish, a macaque, an orangutan, a chimpanzee and a gorilla—to name a few of the more familiar creatures. But this menagerie is not at all like any zoo that has been constructed before. There are no cages, no concession stands and, in fact, no animals. It is a “virtual” zoo that contains only the DNA sequences of those animals—the hundreds of millions to billions of letters of DNA code that make up the genetic recipe for each species.

The most excited visitors to this new molecular zoo are evolutionary biologists, because within it lies a massive and detailed record of evolution. For many decades, scientists have longed to understand how the great diversity of species has arisen. We have known for half a century that changes in physical traits, from body color to brain size, stem from changes in DNA. Determining precisely what changes to the vast expanse of DNA sequences are responsible for giving animals their unique appearance was out of reach until recently, however.

Biologists are now deciphering the DNA record to locate the instructions that make assorted species of flies, fish or finches look different from one another and that make us humans different from chimpanzees. This quest has led to a profound change in our perspective. For most of the past 40 years or so, researchers have focused most of their attention on genes—the nucleotide sequences in DNA that encode the amino acid chains that form proteins. But to our surprise, it has turned out that differences in appearance are deceiving: very different animals have very similar sets of genes. By following the trail of evolution, devices are being found within DNA—genetic “switches”—that do not encode any proteins but that regulate when and where genes are used. Changes in these switches are crucial to the evolution of anatomy and provide new insights into how the seemingly endless forms of the animal kingdom have evolved.

To the Scientific American article (and I had better resubscribe!)

Evolution and intelligence: is being smarter better than having good instincts? Not always.

[…]“If it’s so great to be smart,” Dr. Kawecki asks, “why have most animals remained dumb?” Dr. Kawecki and like-minded scientists are trying to figure out why animals learn and why some have evolved to be better at learning than others. One reason for the difference, their research finds, is that being smart can be bad for an animal’s health.

Learning is remarkably widespread in the animal kingdom. Even the microscopic vinegar worm, Caenorhadits elegans, can learn, despite having just 302 neurons. It feeds on bacteria. But if it eats a disease-causing strain, it can become sick. The worms are not born with an innate aversion to the dangerous bacteria. They need time to learn to tell the difference and avoid becoming sick. Many insects are also good at learning. […]

From the linked New York Times article

In another set of experiments, Dr. Dukas discovered that young male flies wasted a lot of time trying to court unreceptive females. It takes time to learn the signs of a receptive fly.

Dr. Dukas hypothesizes that any animal with a nervous system can learn. Even in cases where scientists have failed to document learning in a species, he thinks they should not be too quick to rule it out. “Is it because I’m not a good teacher or because the animal doesn’t learn?” Dr. Dukas asked.

Although learning may be widespread among animals, Dr. Dukas wonders why they bothered to evolve it in the first place. “You cannot just say that learning is an adaptation to a changing environment,” he said.

It is possible to adapt to a changing environment without using a nervous system to learn. Bacteria can alter behavior to help their survival. If a microbe senses a toxin, it can swim away. If it senses a new food, it can switch genes on and off to alter its metabolism.

“A genetic network like the one in E. coli is amazingly good in changing environments,” Dr. Dukas said.

Learning also turns out to have dangerous side effects that make its evolution even more puzzling. Dr. Kawecki and his colleagues have produced striking evidence for these side effects by studying flies as they evolve into better learners in the lab. […]

They go on to discuss and experiment which teaches them to tell the difference between two equally alluring jellies, one of which is spiked with something that makes is unpalatable.


It takes just 15 generations under these conditions for the flies to become genetically programmed to learn better. At the beginning of the experiment, the flies take many hours to learn the difference between the normal and quinine-spiked jellies. The fast-learning strain of flies needs less than an hour.

But the flies pay a price for fast learning. Dr. Kawecki and his colleagues pitted smart fly larvae against a different strain of flies, mixing the insects and giving them a meager supply of yeast to see who would survive. The scientists then ran the same experiment, but with the ordinary relatives of the smart flies competing against the new strain. About half the smart flies survived; 80 percent of the ordinary flies did.

One clue comes from another experiment, in which he and his colleagues found that the very act of learning takes a toll. The scientists trained some fast-learning flies to associate an odor with powerful vibrations. “These flies died about 20 percent faster than flies with the same genes, but which were not forced to learn,” he said.

Forming neuron connections may cause harmful side effects. It is also possible that genes that allow learning to develop faster and last longer may cause other changes.

“We use computers with memory that’s almost free, but biological information is costly,” Dr. Dukas said. He added that the costs Dr. Kawecki documented were not smart animals’ only penalties. “It means you start out in life being inexperienced,” Dr. Dukas said.

When birds leave the nest, they need time to learn to find food and avoid predators. As a result, they are more likely to starve or be killed.

Dr. Dukas argues that learning evolves to higher levels only when it is a better way to respond to the environment than relying on automatic responses. […]

Dr. Kawecki suspects that each species evolves until it reaches an equilibrium between the costs and benefits of learning. His experiments demonstrate that flies have the genetic potential to become significantly smarter in the wild. But only under his lab conditions does evolution actually move in that direction. In nature, any improvement in learning would cost too much.

Dr. Kawecki and Dr. Dukas agree that scientists need to pinpoint the tradeoffs, and they will have to gauge the role of learning in the lives of many species. As their own knowledge increases, they will understand more about humans’ gift for learning.

“Humans have gone to the extreme,” said Dr. Dukas, both in the ability of our species to learn and in the cost for that ability.

Humans’ oversize brains require 20 percent of all the calories burned at rest. A newborn’s brain is so big that it can create serious risks for mother and child at birth. Yet newborns know so little that they are entirely helpless. It takes many years for humans to learn enough to live on their own.

Dr. Kawecki says it is worth investigating whether humans also pay hidden costs for extreme learning. “We could speculate that some diseases are a byproduct of intelligence,” he said.

Atheism and Religion in Society: the damage it does (our could do) and its relationship to science.

I am going to present many differing views on different aspects here.

Here, you find a “take no prisoners approach; don’t appease the religious types”. The idea is that we are locked in a struggle between reason and superstition, and if we lose this struggle, we’ll have some serious consequences:

(Yes, that is the late Carl Sagan)

Sam Harris talks about what happens if we give in “too much” to Muslim extremists (those who would deny others freedom of speech).

Geert Wilders, conservative Dutch politician and provocateur, has become the latest projectile in the world’s most important culture war: the zero-sum conflict between civil society and traditional Islam. Wilders, who lives under perpetual armed guard due to death threats, recently released a 15 minute film entitled Fitna (“strife” in Arabic) over the internet. The film has been deemed offensive because it juxtaposes images of Muslim violence with passages from the Qur’an. Given that the perpetrators of such violence regularly cite these same passages as justification for their actions, merely depicting this connection in a film would seem uncontroversial. Controversial or not, one surely would expect politicians and journalists in every free society to strenuously defend Wilders’ right to make such a film. But then one would be living on another planet, a planet where people do not happily repudiate their most basic freedoms in the name of “religious sensitivity.”

Witness the free world’s response to Fitna: The Dutch government sought to ban the film outright, and European Union foreign ministers publicly condemned it, as did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Dutch television refused to air Fitna unedited. When Wilders declared his intention to release the film over the internet, his U.S. web-host, Network Solutions, took his website offline.

Into the breach stepped Liveleak, a British video-sharing website, which finally aired the film on March 27th. It received over 3 million views in the first 24 hours. The next day, however, Liveleak removed Fitna from its servers, having been terrorized into self-censorship by threats to its staff. But the film had spread too far on the internet to be suppressed (and Liveleak, after taking further security measures, has since reinstated it on its site as well). […]

Wilders, like Westergaard and the other Danish cartoonists, has been widely vilified for “seeking to inflame” the Muslim community. Even if this had been his intention, this criticism represents an almost supernatural coincidence of moral blindness and political imprudence. The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for “racism” and “Islamophobia.”

Our capitulations in the face of these threats have had what is often called “a chilling effect” on our exercise of free speech. […]

But it isn’t just Islam. Did you know that a school teacher who did some “magic tricks” in his class got complaints because he was practicing “wizardry”? No, I am not making this up.

another Pasco County substitute teacher’s job is on the line, but this time it’s because of a magic trick.

The charge from the school district — Wizardry!

Substitute teacher Jim Piculas does a 30-second magic trick where a toothpick disappears then reappears.

But after performing it in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land ‘O Lakes, Piculas said his job did a disappearing act of its own.

“I get a call the middle of the day from the supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, ‘Jim, we have a huge issue. You can’t take any more assignments. You need to come in right away,'” he said.

When Piculas went in, he learned his little magic trick cast a spell that went much farther than he’d hoped.

“I said, ‘Well Pat, can you explain this to me?’ ‘You’ve been accused of wizardry,’ [he said]. Wizardry?” he asked.

Tampa Bay’s 10 talked to the assistant superintendent with the Pasco County School District who said it wasn’t just the wizardry and that Picular had other performance issues, including “not following lesson plans” and allowing students to play on unapproved computers.

Yes, the other issues are valid. But “wizardry”???? What ignorant *ssholes. Hat tip to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

So in fact, superstition does have an adverse effect on society, even if it is western superstition and even if it is not overtly violent.

Nevertheless, this is NOT to say that theists are all evil idiots; far from it! Friendly Atheist points out:

I was asked recently if, on the whole, I thought atheists were smarter than the religious.

My gut instinct was to say “Yes.” The vast majority of scientists don’t believe in God. Despite what critics might say, I find the books written by the New Atheists much more intellectually stimulating than most of the “Christian lit” I read.

But I know far too many intelligent theists to say they are not as smart as the atheists I know. There are also a number of atheists who are… well… less than brilliant.

Obviously you have to take it on a case-by-case basis.

So where would you draw the line between intelligent (however you define it) and not?

Maybe you think someone who believes Christ rose up from the dead shouldn’t be taken seriously.

But that would eliminate every Christian from the list including some well-known scientists (atheist Reed Braden adds: “I’m dumber than Francis Collins by far”).

Maybe you think someone who believes in Creationism can’t be very educated.

But Dr. Kurt Wise (who studied under Stephen Jay Gould) is one example of someone who really does know his stuff and chose to follow Scripture instead of science.

Maybe you think you’re smarter than someone who believes in any type of (non-religious) superstition.

But wouldn’t that eliminate virtually everyone you know?

And yes, I agree with that. I know some wickedly smart folks who regularly practice their religions. I even voted for one of these people and have given his campaign some money, time and effort.; another couple of them have left comments on this blog.


Richard Nixon’s “you won’t have me to kick around any more” remarks. After losing to Kennedy in 1960 in the race for President, he ran for governor of California and lost. But alas, he came back to win the Presidency in 1968.

These remarks were made after his loss in the governor’s race:

For those who are interested in today’s Democratic Primaries: here are all of the polls. We’ll see how my prediction of Clinton by 10 in Indiana, Obama by 18 in North Carolina hold up.

Keith Olberman on how the Clinton campaign keeps shifting the metrics for success:

Hat tip to dsharma23 at the Daily Kos.

RJ Eskow at the Smirking Chimp snarks that the new Democratic Primaries will be “whites only”.

A senior Democratic Party official outlined a new proposal that would allow only white voters to participate in the remaining primaries. Under this proposal the Party would only count the votes of Caucasians whose income level is considered to be “working class,” and whose political orientation is considered conservative – or, as the official put it, “culturally non-elite.”

“The other people can vote,” he said on conditions of anonymity. “We’re just not going to count their votes.”

“We don’t want those latte-sipping liberals choosing our nominee,” he added. “You know who I mean: They’re the ones who knew the war in Iraq was wrong and who don’t like it when our presidential candidates – or their husbands – triangulate on torture.”

Yet you’re pushing to have the votes counted from Michigan and Florida, which you guys agreed wouldn’t be counted and where Obama didn’t campaign –

“Right! That’s another reason we’re discounting all these other votes. Gotta make room for the ones we’re squeezing in through the back door.”

How will this new plan exclude these “liberals,” as you call them?

“First, no college towns,” the official said. “We’re not counting their ballots. And no college graduates either.”

Why’s that?

“They’re not the votes we want. They’re not ‘real people.’ real people are always white and never liberal. That lets out African- Americans, too, so we don’t want them picking our nominee.” […]

But if you’ve alienated liberals and African-Americans, you’ve depressed the entire base of the Democratic Party. The GOP’s always said you need to energize your base to ensure high voter turnout and effective fundraising.

“Aw, hell, son! We don’t have to do everything those Republicans do, do we?”

But the real voters you’re courting aren’t just lower-income white people, they’re lower-income white men. So if you really want to use your logic, shouldn’t you only count the votes of white men?

“No way, boy! That would violate one of our core Democratic Party values!”

Which value would that be?


Matt Taibbi at the Smirking Chimp offers some insight in to the current Democratic “culture war”.

It’s the same way with Democrats everywhere now. Seldom in American politics has the same side of a single party split into such distinct and acrimonious factions. As virtually identical as the two candidates are in their political positions, there is no longer any common cause left between Hillary lovers and Obama supporters. There is only a culture war of epic proportions, featuring some of the most unlikely and absurd combatants in the history of impassioned conflict. Ordinary suburban Americans, people who consider Tina Fey biting satire and whose only “fighting” experience has usually been against trans fats or hair loss, can now be seen running through the streets, screaming war calls like Maoist guerrillas in the jungles of Nepal. […]

By the time the primary season officially ends on June 3rd with Montana and South Dakota, Obama will almost certainly be leading in delegates and the popular vote — but there almost certainly will be no nominee, either. The remainder of this race has therefore become a matter of each candidate making a case for his/her electability to the 300-odd superdelegates still uncommitted — people like Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, who ultimately will decide this contest at the convention.

In the meantime, one thing about this contest can be said with absolute surety: Everyone involved has lost their minds. For Clinton supporters, the race has taken on a meaning that transcends politics. One gets the sense that Hillary’s campaign has become an idée fixe for any Democrat of a certain type who has ever been fucked around or disrespected or abused or disappointed. Far more than any policy position, it is Hillary’s “fight to the finish” mantra that is reaching her supporters on some elemental level that is hard for outsiders to comprehend.

Her campaign has become a symbol of not giving in to those who would wish us to surrender, of defying the smug assessments of those who think they know better, of not letting someone else’s diminished expectations for us — maybe those of a boss, maybe an ex-boyfriend or ex-wife, maybe a Madison Avenue ad world that tells us we have to look a certain way/age to be worth loving — rule the day. I would say that Hillary is the electoral incarnation of a Gloria Gaynor song, but Gloria Gaynor is too campy and even a little bit too black for this crowd; the vibe at Hillary events feels more like nostalgic white suburban angst, a numbing misery of a type that runs deep enough it can hear the same song over and over again in the car on the way to work for 20 consecutive years and yet still sing along to it, lips pursed defiantly in Billy Crystal’s white-man’s overbite, when it hears it twice, three times, even four times in the same hour. In other words, this Hillary campaign is basically Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” running for president.

If you’re the kind of person who’s ready to throw a chair through a window if you hear that fucking song even one more time, you’re not going to get this Hillary thing. More to the point, you’re not going to fit in with these crowds, which are full of featureless, angry faces, faces of the type that all us smug cleverati in the media think can be ignored, faces that have been going to boring-ass jobs every day and taking one crappy vacation a year to Puerto Vallarta and running a treadmill three times a week to help their spouses find sex with them more tolerable — you see, there we go, making jokes about them again! See, we can laugh all we want, but they won’t . . . back . . . down! THEY WON’T! BACK! DOWWWWWWWN!

Somewhere in there is where you can find the emotional imperative underneath this campaign, and the reason why all the electoral math in the world doesn’t mean shit to these people. Hillary calls them the “invisible Americans.” There are a hell of a lot of them, and their anger is real. They don’t want to hear about numbers, and they don’t want to hear about Hillary bowing out for the good of the party.[…]

But if we recognize that, we must also recognize what we have in Hillary Clinton: a once-in-a-generation political pugilist who, like her much smoother adversary, is amazingly capable of turning weakness into strength. Pitted against physical beauty and inspirational rhetoric, Hillary made herself the champion of everything stylistically ordinary, superficially unimpressive and ignored. And while her opponent won all the attention and admiration, all the teen-idol gushings of the beautiful people, she went for something deeper — resentment at the lack of those same things. She took an opponent who was relentless in his attempts to remain genial, positive and unifying, and managed to turn him into a divisive villain, a symbol representing every oversexed winner who ever had it too easy at the pimply kid’s expense.

It’s brilliant strategy, and it’s working so well that Hillary now has her crowds hurling catcalls at the mere mention of anything Obama. Moreover, she’s inspired such profound loyalty that her supporters no longer give a shit at all how they win, as long as they do. Like O.J. apologists who became overnight skeptics of DNA evidence, Clinton backers don’t see anything wrong with winning the nomination through a brokered convention, despite being behind in the popular vote and the delegate count. “Why not?” says Don Dileo, a union organizer who worked for Hillary in Pennsylvania. “That’s the system of government we have, right?”
And here’s the thing. Whereas the Clinton rallies seem to embrace the combative nature of this contest, in the Obama camp one frequently finds people who are deeply troubled by it. “He’s been a complete gentleman,” says Amala Lane, an Obama volunteer from New York who came down to Pennsylvania for the primary. “This is exactly what Obama is trying to get us beyond: this blue-state/red-state thing.”

Listening to Lane — a soft-spoken, white, college-educated intellectual who worked as a teacher overseas — you can see exactly where Obama has gone wrong. In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Obama polled well among people exactly like this: liberals and college graduates. In the Full Metal Jacket paradigm, faggots and sailors. Earlier in the campaign, the Obama camp was so busy stewing over Bill Clinton’s comparison of Obama’s South Carolina win to Jesse Jackson’s and worrying about being painted as a “black candidate” that they forgot to worry about being painted as something even worse, in American political terms: the candidate of liberal intellectuals.

With all his verbose deflections of Hillary’s attacks and unconcealed annoyance over silly nonissues like his failure to wear a flag lapel pin, Obama inadvertently painted himself into a corner as a know-it-all, a pointy-head who would rather yammer in polysyllables and talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than wear the fucking American flag on his chest — as Hillary, meanwhile, was promising to “obliterate” Iran and in the process roping in hordes of nondescript suburbanites who’ll crawl through the mud for “Madam President” while marching to classic rock tunes like the “Horst Wessel Song.” Clinton’s genius was in seeing that it was possible to play the liberal/intellectual-baiting game not only with Republicans but with Democrats — and that by forcing her opponent to take the high road, she could scour the fish-rich waters of the low road.

The result has been an epic clash, a war of cultural types that has nothing whatsoever to do with issues and everything to do with self-image.

And you know, he has a point. I am proud to be an Obama supporter. But I would be ashamed to have anyone think that I was supporting HRC.


May 6, 2008 - Posted by | creationism, education, hillary clinton, obama, politics/social, religion, science, walking, yoga

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