blueollie

Farewell to January 2009 (part I)

Workout notes I’ll probably run 10 miles, possibly after the yoga for runners class at 9; I’ll probably walk a bit prior to that. Or something.

Update Yoga with Ms. Vickie, then 6 mile run (54:30) on the treadmill; I did 3 miles of .25 at 7 mph, .25 at 6.5 mph. Then .75 miles of walking, then 3.25 miles of hill walking. It got me very sweaty.

Boxing
Last night I watched the IBF Junior Welterweight title fight between Juan Urango and Hermann Ngoudjo. Urango had previously held the title.

Urango’s constant barrage of heavy hooks was too much for Ngoudjo; Ngoudjo was knocked down twice in the third round (and evidently suffered a broken jaw). Urango went on to win a unanimous decision by scores of 118-108, 120-106, 116-110.

There were a couple of things that were unusual. First, Teddy Atlas had the fight much closer (he had Urango winning by 2 points) whereas I had it scored 118-109 (though I am just a fan with no expertise). In my mind, though Urango had no jab, he landed the far harder blows far more consistently, though I had Ngoudjo winning a few rounds.

The most unusual thing was that the 10’th round lasted over 5 minutes and 10 seconds!

Here is a report from Fight News as well as a photo gallery.

Here is ESPN’s report.

Another report on the fight is here.

President Obama’s Weekly Address.

At least one of our Senators is sticking up for us:

I just came across this, and my jaw hit the floor! Some of us on the fringes have been talking about the concept of a maximum wage for a while, but this is phenomenal timing!

Claire McCaskill this afternoon proposed a stunning bill that would limit Wall Street Execs who accept TARP funding to not making more than the president of the United States.

How about them apples?

* Tin hat mafia’s diary :: ::
*

From Sam Stein at HuffPo

McCaskill took to the Senate floor on Friday to put an end to the surrealism. In a bill that came to the surprise of reporters, her colleagues, and the White House alike — there was no coordination with the Obama administration, she said — the Missouri Democrat called for compensation for employees of bailout recipients to be capped at $400,000 a year.

“They don’t get it,” McCaskill said on the floor. “These people are idiots. You can’t use taxpayer money to pay out $18-billion in bonuses… What planet are these people on?”

What planet indeed. Think of it, if you take taxpayer money to prop up your corporation, you can’t make more in annual compensation than the president!

When asked about the bill:

MCCASKILL: I’ve been mad for a while, when first there was talk — even within weeks of when we passed the initial half of the TARP money, [there were] rumors about bonuses, the fact that too many of these guys were holding unto the jobs even though they were running these companies into the ground. Reality didn’t seem to be the order of the day. This culture, this idea, that these guys are entitled not just to their jobs but to excessive compensation, even when their companies were in moments of extinction because of the decisions they had made, just seemed unreal to me.

While I am not sure if this could be worked out to include incentive/bonus pay, I think that it is an important first step.

Politics
Democrats behaving badly

A Republican has a bit of fun at Charlie Rangel’s expense. The dig is deserved, but do we really have tax payer money to waste on stunts like this one? Here is the bill.

Tom Daschle Maybe there is a good reason for the hold up on his confirmation?

President Obama’s pick for secretary of health and human services, Tom Daschle, filed amended tax returns and paid more than $100,000 in back taxes on Jan. 2, administration officials said on Friday.

Mr. Daschle concluded that he owed the taxes for free use of a car and driver that had been provided to him by Leo Hindery Jr., the founder of a private equity firm known as InterMedia Advisors, the officials said.

Mr. Daschle was chairman of the firm’s advisory board. In a financial disclosure statement filed this month with the Office of Government Ethics, Mr. Daschle reported that he had received large amounts of income from InterMedia, including more than $2 million for consulting and $182,520 in the form of “company-provided transportation.”

The belated tax payments help explain delays in the confirmation of Mr. Daschle, a former Senate Democratic leader who had been expected to win swift approval from the Senate. -NY Times

We’ve got to keep our noses extra clean!

Science Via PZ Myer’s blog:

Online courses on human anatomy

Mathematics and learning don’t take things like the number line for granted!

The ability to map numbers onto a line, a foundation of all mathematics, is universal, says a study published this week in the journal Science, but the form of this universal mapping is not linear but logarithmic. The findings illuminate both the nature and the limits of the human predisposition to measurement, a foundation for science, engineering, and much of our modern culture.

The research was conducted with the Munduruku, an Amazonian indigenous culture with a limited vocabulary of number words and spatial terms, little or no formal education, and little or no experience with maps, graphs, and rulers.

Munduruku adults and children spontaneously placed numbers on a line in a compressed, logarithmic function, such that smaller numbers appeared at greater spatial intervals. The study suggests that a propensity to relate numbers to space is universal, but that the mapping of successive integers and constant spatial intervals, as on a ruler, is culturally variable and linked in part to education.

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January 31, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, boxing, creationism, Democrats, economy, education, mathematics, obama, politics, politics/social, republicans, running, science, training, walking | 2 Comments

Brutal Ad Targets Lockstep Republicans!

This is brutal.

I love it!

Hat tip: turneresq at the Daily Kos.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, economy, politics, politics/social, republicans | Leave a comment

30 January 2009

Workout notes 500 warm up in 9:01, 10 x (25 fly, 75 free) on the 2 (1:42-1:45), 400 IM in 8:15, 100 IM, 5 x (25 front, 25 free, 25 sfs, 25 free) on the 2, 10 x 50 fist on 1 (52-53), 5 x (100 paddle, 100 free) in 17:38.

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do going in; I was a bit tired.

Note: my 400 IM in 8:15 is a PR…yeah, I know; that time really blows chunks. But oddly enough I have to really go hard to go under 2 minutes for the 100 IM; when I do reps 2:05 is typical.

Other stuff

Surprise: hunters shoot rare birds, mistaking them for geese.

I’ve seen both tundra swans and snow geese in flight, and I don’t understand how hunters can confuse trumpeter swans with snow geese. The St. Joseph News-Press gives an account from the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Missouri:

According to a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) press release, eight trumpeter swans arrived at the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in southern Boone County (near Columbia) on the night of Dec. 29.

The following morning, an unknown number of guys hunting snow geese allegedly failed to identify their targets and killed five of the swans. After being caught, the violators apparently told conservation agents they “mistook” them for snow geese.

What’s odd about this particular incident and the hunters’ explanation about their case of mistaken identity was the fact that conservation agents were immediately notified of the incident by law-abiding waterfowl hunters who were nearby and witnessed the shootings. They readily identified the birds as trumpeter swans.

I suppose that hunters are like any other group; there are smart, competent ones and, there are those who aren’t.

No, I don’t get excited about killing things for the sport of it, though yeah, it ought to remain legal; there are problems when there isn’t enough hunting (witness our number of car-deer collisions), etc.

Politics President Obama might add another Republican to his cabinet.

There is a strong possibility that Barack Obama will ask Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to serve as his Secretary of Commerce, Democratic Senate aides tell the Huffington Post.

The move would fill a vacancy that has lingered since Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination. And provided that Al Franken emerges victorious in the Minnesota recount, it would give Democrats in the Senate a 60th caucusing member, as New Hampshire’s Democratic governor John Lynch would appoint Gregg’s replacement.

Judd Gregg is up for re-election in 2010 and stands to face a vigorous challenge, most likely from 2nd District Congressman Paul Hodes, but remains reasonably popular and would be the favorite in that race. By Senate standards, he is a relative youngin’ at 61 years old, but he’s been in politics forever, having first been elected to the House of Representatives at age 33 in 1980. Joining the Obama cabinet, then, is probably not a matter of Gregg’s political survival, but more likely would represent a sort of early retirement.

Then again, retirement seems to be a fairly attractive option for a lot of Senate Republicans these days.

Follow the link to read Nate Silver’s analysis.

Religion: Friendly Atheist directs us to the following:

My daughter, taking a break from her pursuit of a graduate degree, is a server at the Chili’s a few miles down from our house. Like many others her age she is already pretty critical of the church and its obvious hypocrisies. Her cynicism, that to say, is neither atypcial nor incomprehensible. Nor does this kind of thing help–her or others.

A group of six church-goers came in last night after their evening services and sat down, not in her area but in another server’s. When the girl came to greet them and take their drink order, one of them said, “We want to tell you up front that we will not be tipping you tonight because…”

Are you ready?

“…we do not believe in people working on Sunday.”

[…]

No one is consistent. I am clear on that. But better to confess your own sin in such a situation than presume to see it in another who is just doing the best they can. No wonder Jesus had such animosity toward Pharisees who “lay (heavy burdens) on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4). No wonder an entire generation of would-be believers has such animosity toward the church.

Pastor, I know you mean well. But the fact is, many simply don’t believe that some sky-daddy god got mad at his creation and threatened to torment all of them for eternity unless they swallowed the tale that he sent his son to die a gory death and his son somehow rose from the dead. 🙂

But yeah, I hear you; and I’ll be honest: I don’t think that this sort of hypocrisy is limited to fundamentalist Christians. For example: what about my fellow liberals who claim to be for peace, love and racial equality and the environment but yet drive gas guzzling SUVs on their way in from the suburbs?

Interesting Rant: The Legal Satyricon has a list of people that shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce. 🙂

Blog Roll Humor: the blogger Evolved Rational hates her readers. I have proof.

1. She posts photos of herself (scroll down) for her “fanboys to fap to” (if you don’t speak “internetese”, “fap” means “masturbate”). Note: these photos are completely safe for work.

2. But said “fapping” might well have terrible consequences. 🙂

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, blog humor, Blogroll, Friends, obama, politics, politics/social, ranting, religion, swimming, time trial/ race, training | Leave a comment

29 January: Final Post of the day

Social note: I don’t like this winter. But at least we are more or less set up for it. Many in the rural areas of other places (e. g., Kentucky) are having a rough time of it.

by Ohiobama [Subscribe]

The ice storm that swept through four states Tuesday and Wednesday had an eye for the most impoverished rural areas, pardon the pun. It started in the Ozarks and moved through the northwestern zone of Appalachia, causing the most severe infrastructure damage (downed power lines, impaired bridges, etc.) in direct proportion to the density of trees. “Everyplace in the woods is out,” in the words of one utility worker.
No doubt, the demographers of DKOS will demonstrate irrefutably that the pattern of storm damage is directly attributable to “racism,” or likewise to the weakness of support for Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries and general election.
Which does go to my larger point — the rural poor are in an especially bad sort of way.

More than 1.3 million homes in Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio are reported to have lost power. In most cases — metropolitan Dayton and Cincinnati, for example — the loss was temporary and power has already been restored. In the rural counties, power is still out and will be for some time. Utility representatives have said power may not be restored in some areas until “mid-February.” I live in Pike County, Ohio, and lost power around 5 AM Wednesday — local utility reps say it will not be restored until Saturday at the earliest. Word of mouth is saying we’ll be dark until Monday or later. Needless to say, there’s been a run on generators and all other emergency supplies at the few stores that have opened in the larger towns. (I travelled three counties away to find a public place with web access, where I can file this.)
Nothing about this is conspiratorial. It’s easier to repair the lines in areas where there are fewer ice-laden trees, and it makes sense to restore the lines to more densely populated areas first. Rural people are hardier folk — we’re more prepared to live like our Amish neighbors, in part precisely because we do have Amish neighbors. If God was once suspected of being Jewish because of his sense of humor, ice storms bring the humorless realization that he’s really Amish.

But here’s the thing. The Ohio counties hit hardest by this storm are Adams, Highland, Pike, Scioto, Jackson and Gallia. The Ohio counties with the highest poverty and unemployment rates are Adams, Highland, Pike, Scioto, Jackson and Gallia. Poverty rates in these counties top 30%. Unemployment figures ceased to be meaningful because most sources of non-governmental employment disappeared decades ago. Rates of those who lack health insurance? Try — almost everyone who doesn’t have a patronage political job.
Sure, we all keep candles and flashlights, and kerosene heaters handy. But despite the drop in the price of gasoline, kerosene is still selling for between $3 and $5 per gallon. That cost is not compensated by emergency heating assistance programs, which presume that the electricity will stay on. Each county in the affected area has opened an emergency shelter — but many people feel they cannot go to a shelter, because if they do, they’ll return to a house that’s been robbed. An extended power outage in a rural area in the midst of a severe economic downturn is a formula for a wave of theft and other crime. Already, before the storm, people have been forced to remove old copper pipes and gutters, lest they serve as incentive to looters. Portsmouth, Ohio, at the center of the affected area, already had the highest crime rate of any city in Ohio.
And so, a lot of impoverished people in southern Ohio and Kentucky are getting mighty cold right about now. Or they are spending their last available cash on kerosene, candles, and ammunition in case of looters. These are people who have been living for a long time on the brink, and this ice storm may be the thing that pushes them over.
It’s Thursday. There are neighbors I still cannot reach to ensure they are safe. Neither cell phones nor land-line phones are working very well right now.
There is a long list of problems to be addressed in America. Add this one: Are we creating swaths of the country to be considered expendable?

Stupid Republican Tricks

Norm Coleman (ran for reelection against Al Franken): believe it or not, he actually faked a website crash to make himself appear to be more popular than he is!

Glen Beck: this nutjob mocks a part of the stimulus bill but

On January 28, while mocking various provisions of the economic recovery package, Glenn Beck noted that the bill provides “$400 million for global warming research, and another $2.4 billion for carbon capture demonstration projects,” adding, “I don’t even know what the hell that is.” Had Beck attempted to determine “what the hell” carbon capture is before ridiculing it on his Fox News show, he would have learned that the $2.4 billion provision funds the development of technology that he has previously criticized “liberals in Congress” for “block[ing].”

Indeed, Beck’s reference to “carbon capture demonstration projects” was to a “Fossil Energy” provision in the bill allocating $2.4 billion “for necessary expenses to demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration [CCS] technologies.” According to a January 28 EnergyWashington Week report on climate change-related proposals in the bill, such technologies “form the backbone of attempts to burn coal cleanly.” During the June 2, 2008, edition of his then-CNN Headline News show, Beck stated: “The liberals in Congress, controlled by the radical environmental special interest groups, have created a system where it is impossible to develop the next generation of nuclear energy. … By the way, they’ve also blocked clean coal technology.”

Republicans: their appeal has shrank to their base; that is not a good thing for them.

Thus the Republicans, arguably, are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative, partisan, and strident their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base — but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself.

The other possibility, of course, is that John Boehner and Eric Cantor are not so much concerned about the future of the Republican party, but about the future of John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Cantor, in particular, is a media-savvy figure and someone with plausible presidential ambitions: one can easily imagine him trying to position himself as the new Gingrich. But the political climate is much different now than it was in 1993; he can’t erase either the damage wrought upon the Republican brand by the Bush administration, nor — at least in the near-term — Obama’s sky-high approval ratings. Perhaps the House Republicans voted against delaying the digital TV changeover because they don’t want Americans to see the carnage.

The Republicans do better in states where religion is important (Alaska being the great exception; perhaps Wyoming might be another). Follow the link to see a cool map.

John Yoo: wrong, as usual.

In an WSJ Op-ed former OLC Attorney John Yoo blasts President Barack Obama for removing the One and Only Effective Tool for protecting America from the horrors of Terrorism which is – well – using Terrorism.

While these actions will certainly please his base — gone are the cries of an “imperial presidency” — they will also seriously handicap our intelligence agencies from preventing future terrorist attacks. In issuing these executive orders, Mr. Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001.

You mean the policy that captured, tried and successfully imprisoned Terry Nichols, Ramzi Yousef, the “Blind Sheikh” and executed Timothy McVeigh under Clinton or the “Ok, Now you’ve covered you ass” policy of Bush?

Continued…
[…]

Then Yoo really starts talking some straight up nonsense.

The CIA must now conduct interrogations according to the rules of the Army Field Manual, which prohibits coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines used in police stations throughout America.

No, it doesn’t Mr. Boalt Hall Professor. From Media Matters via Thinkprogres.

In fact, the Army Field Manual explicitly permits good cop-bad cop interrogations under the name of “Mutt and Jeff” interrogations, which involve two interrogators “display[ing] opposing personalities and attitudes toward the source.” The Field Manual says the “goal of this technique is to make the source identify with one of the interrogators and thereby establish[ing] rapport and cooperation.”

Wanna go 0 for 6 Professor Yoo? I thought you did.

Mr. Obama has also ordered that al Qaeda leaders are to be protected from “outrages on personal dignity” and “humiliating and degrading treatment” in accord with the Geneva Conventions.

No, actually that Order came from the Supreme Court in Hamdan V Rumsfeld. It’s also in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Obama is simply following and implementing the law – unlike yourself.

Political Humor: via Edge of the American West. If the shoe fits..

President Barack Obama

President Obama will use both carrots and sticks when dealing with the asswipes Republicans in Congress:

I did not like the compromises made to obtain Republican votes, like additional tax breaks, compromises that harmed the nation’s ability to recover from the Second Great Depression and that obtained no Republican votes in the House. Some see this great Machiavellian plan by Obama, and maybe it is, but the results to date are not very good.

Obama first offered carrots, now it’s time for the sticks.

Pushing back against the unanimous House Republican vote against President Obama’s stimulus plan, the White House plans to release state-by-state job figures “so we can put a number on what folks voted for an against,” an administration aide said.

“It’s clear the Republicans who voted against the stimulus represent constituents who will be stunned to learn their member of Congress voted against [saving or] creating 4 million jobs,” the aide said.

Politico: GOP defies Obama overtures

[…]

“I do believe that there will be people in districts all over the country that will wonder why, when there’s a good bill to get the economy moving again, why we still seem to be playing political gotcha,” [President Obama’s Press Secretary Robert] Gibbs said.

And a Democratic official added: “We will run campaigns in their districts.”

President Obama blasts corporate CEOs who use taxpayer bailout money to give themselves bonuses (note: that “ethic” is ok among Republicans)

If you approve of Obama’s work so far, Barbara Boxer has set up a mechanism to send him a “way to go” card.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, morons, obama, politics, politics/social, republicans | Leave a comment

Lesson Learned: I voted for Blagojevich

It was close; I agonized over the decision. It came down to the fact that Blagojevich had a good reproductive rights record, supported stem cell research and cracked down on the pay-day loan industry.

Yes, I supported Eisendrath in the primary (with my money, signs, campaigning, and vote) but he didn’t win.

So come the general election, it came down to Whitney (the Green party candidate) and Blagojevich and I went with the latter.

I regret that vote, but I made it.

Now he has been impeached by a vote of 59-0 in the Illinois Senate.

It is a sad day for me; though the State Senate was absolutely correct to do what they did.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Illinois, politics, politics/social | Leave a comment

Who is the hottest Congressional Freshman

Yes, there is a Huffington Post poll on “Who is the hottest Congressional Freshman”.

Guess who is leading at the moment?

You guessed it: our own “Aaron Schock”.

Here is the very first comment:

By far Shock is the hottest. He is super cute. Nye would be second. The most unattractive is the gay man. Wow.

This poster has absolutely no idea at how ironic her comment is.

Of course, Mr. Schock voted against the Stimulus Package. That isn’t a surprise.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, Aaron Schock, IL-18, Peoria, political humor, politics | 4 Comments

29 January Morning

Workout notes
6 mile run on the treadmill after yoga; 10 at 1 mile, 19:30 at 2, 36:20 at 4, 45:10 at 5, 54:30 at 6. Played with the speed and kept the incline at 1 after a warm up. Then 2 miles of walking to get 8.

Humor (sort of) I call this “protecting your virginity fail”. Some young people want to remain virgins for the sake of some religious beliefs. Their solution? You guessed it. It goes by the name of “saddleback”.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | religion, running, training | Leave a comment

The Earth: its life story, mass extinctions and end

This takes about 22 minutes. At about 13 minutes, a change in paleontology is discussed; right now people search for biological markers to see what lived many eons ago.

Also watch the stuff about hydrogen sulfide: there are some potential for emergency medical care here at about 15-18 minutes. The final question (19 minutes) is interesting; we, in our own bodies, have evidence that we’ve evolved past a mass extinction.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | evolution, science | Leave a comment

What you need to know about Republicans

First some intentional humor:

Now for some unintentional (?) humor.

Watch this until at least 5:20 into it.

Fact: the Republicans got us (the country) into this mess and then they expect to take them seriously? Now watch what Armey says at 5:20.

As long as idiots like Armey represent the Repukes they are going absolutely nowhere.

By the way, here is a list of rebuttals to the lies that Republicans are spreading:

1. CBO analysis found the majority of stimulus won’t take effect for a year and a half

Several media outlets and figures, including The Washington Post, CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry, and NBC senior White House correspondent Chuck Todd, have falsely suggested that a partial CBO analysis of the economic recovery plan — reported by the Associated Press on January 20 — was in fact a full analysis of the bill and falsely suggested that in that analysis, the CBO found that, in the words of the Post, “the majority of the money in the Democratic plan would not get spent within the first year and a half.” In fact, the CBO report the AP highlighted initially conducted only a partial analysis and therefore did not reach a conclusion with respect to “the majority of the money” in the bill. Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag — who formerly headed the CBO — stated in a January 22 letter that the analysis addressed only “a component of the economic recovery proposal” and “did not address the overall package.” CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf also wrote in a January 26 blog post that the “preliminary estimate that has been widely cited addressed only the budgetary impacts of an earlier version of the provisions contained in Division A, at the request of the House Committee on Appropriations.”

The CBO subsequently released its “Cost Estimate” of H.R. 1, an analysis of the entire recovery plan as introduced in the House of Representatives, and concluded that 64 percent of the package would be spent by the end of the fiscal year 2010: “Combining the spending and revenue effects of H.R. 1, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase federal budget deficits by $169 billion over the remaining months of fiscal year 2009, by $356 billion in 2010, by $174 billion in 2011, and by $816 billion over the 2009-2019 period.”

2. Food stamps, unemployment payments are not stimulus

On the January 27 edition of CNN’s Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull, host Campbell Brown and CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi repeatedly claimed that provisions in the economic recovery bill that extend food stamps and unemployment insurance payments are, in Velshi’s words, “not stimulus.” But the same day, Elmendorf stated in congressional testimony: “Transfers to persons (for example, unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance) would also have a significant impact on GDP. Because a large amount of such spending can occur quickly, transfers would have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010.” Additionally, in 2008 congressional testimony, Mark Zandi — the chief economist and co-founder of Moody’s Economy.com, who was reportedly a McCain campaign economic adviser — stated that “extending food stamps are [sic] the most effective ways to prime the economy’s pump” and cited extending food stamps and unemployment insurance payments as having a greater “Fiscal Economic Bank for the Buck” than any other potential stimulus provision he analyzed, including temporary and permanent tax cuts.

3. The New Deal did not lower unemployment

During Fox News’ coverage of Obama’s January 20 inauguration, anchor Chris Wallace falsely claimed that “unemployment in 1937, 1938 was higher than it was in 1933.” Wallace’s assertion followed statements by numerous conservative media figures, who have responded to Obama’s proposals for large-scale stimulus spending by denouncing Roosevelt’s New Deal policies as ineffective or damaging. In fact, unemployment fell every year from 1933 until 1938, and according to several prominent economists, the unemployment rate rose in 1938 not because New Deal stimulus spending failed but, rather, because Roosevelt did not go far enough in pursuing those policies and because his attempts to balance the budget hindered recovery. In advancing the claim, some, including Washington Post columnist George Will and syndicated columnist Mona Charen, have cherry-picked data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) — which, at the time, counted those employed by the New Deal’s emergency work programs as unemployed — to assert that the New Deal failed to reduce unemployment. After World War II, the BLS ceased counting those in work-relief programs as unemployed. But even without including “emergency” public employment under the New Deal, the unemployment rate in 1937 and 1938 did not surpass the 1933 unemployment rate, as Wallace claimed.

Additionally, contrary to the January 7 claim of Fox News’ Brit Hume that “everybody agrees … that the New Deal failed,” Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has written that the New Deal produced “long-run achievements” that “remain the bedrock of our nation’s economic stability” and that Roosevelt’s short-term successes were constrained because “he was eager to return to conservative budget principles.”

4. Fiscal stimulus in Japan failed during the “lost decade” of the 1990s

On the January 23 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity joined the ranks of media figures who have cited Japanese fiscal policy in the 1990s in arguing against a large scale-stimulus plan to combat the current recession in the United States. Hannity claimed that “the Japanese economy was suffering, in the ’90s, they had eight separate stimulus packages that created, in their history, massive debt. It was unprecedented. And it didn’t work.” However, as Media Matters documented, according to prominent economists, economic conditions were improving in Japan before the Japanese government temporarily abandoned fiscal stimulus policies in an attempt to reduce the deficit. And Krugman, for one, points to Japan’s fiscal stimulus packages as having “probably prevented a weak economy from plunging into an actual depression.”

Additionally, Adam Posen, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, wrote in his September 1998 book, Restoring Japan’s Economic Growth, that “the 1995 stimulus package … did result in solid growth in 1996, demonstrating that fiscal policy does work when it is tried. As on earlier occasions in the 1990s, however, the positive response to fiscal stimulus was undercut by fiscal contraction in 1996 and 1997.” Posen also testified before the U.S. House of Representatives that the Japanese government “way overstated the amount of fiscal stimulus in which they actually engaged.” Other economists and media accounts of Japan’s policies agree with Posen that the positive effects of the mid-decade stimulus packages in Japan were curtailed by attempts to scale back spending and increase taxes.

5. The economic recovery bill would amount to spending more than $200K per job created

Numerous media figures, including David Brooks, Larry Kudlow, Brit Hume, and George Stephanopoulos, have asserted that the proposed economic recovery bill would amount to spending at least $217,000 for every job created, echoing a January 15 “Stimulus Quick Facts” press release issued by the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee. The release stated that “President-elect Obama has said that his proposed stimulus legislation will create or save 3 million jobs. This means that this legislation will spend about $275,000 per job. The average household income in the U.S. is $42,000 a year.” But by calculating the per-job cost by dividing the estimated total cost of the recovery bill by the estimated number of jobs created — and thus suggesting that the sole purpose of that package is to create jobs — these media figures ignored other tangible benefits stemming from the package, such as infrastructure improvements and investments in education, health, and public safety.

Moreover, economists, including Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, have presented another criticism of the claim. In a January 24 post on The American Prospect’s Beat the Press blog, Baker wrote: “The Republicans have become fond of saying that President Obama’s stimulus package will cost $275,000 for every job created. The media have been typically derelict in simply reporting this number without making any assessment to evaluate it — as though readers in their spare time are supposed to determine whether it is accurate or not.” Baker continued:

Okay, let’s do the reporters’ work for them. First, where do the Republicans get this number? They divide the the $825 billion cost of the stimulus by 3 million jobs that President Obama had originally pledged.

Their arithmetic is right but both numbers are wrong. First, the projections from the Obama team is that their package will create 4 million jobs, not 3 million. Furthermore, it is important to note that this over 2 years, not one year.

The cost is also wrong, or at least misleading. If we assume that the stimulus will work as planned, then it will boost GDP by approximately 1.5 times the amount of spending or $620 billion a year. If GDP rises by this amount, then it will translate into roughly $155 billion a year in higher taxes/lower spending than if we didn’t do the stimulus. This is money that should be subtracted from the cost to the taxpayers.

So, if net out the increased revenue from the growth generated by the stimulus we end up with a 2-year cost of $515 billion which will generate roughly 8 million job-years. That comes to about $65k per job year, less than one-fourth of the Republicans’ number.

Similarly, in his January 25 New York Times column, Krugman wrote, “As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. … The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 — and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.”

6. $4.19 billion of stimulus “would go to” ACORN

On January 27, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the false claim — which the Chronicle attributed to the group Americans for Limited Government — that $4.19 billion of the economic recovery plan “would go to the liberal housing activist group ACORN.” Later the same day, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh repeated the claim: “[I]n the Obama stimulus package, $4.19 billion is going to ACORN. Obama’s community organizing — you — would somebody tell me what the stimulus is in that?” Limbaugh continued: “Oh, it’s not called ‘ACORN,’ it’s called ‘neighborhood stabilization programs.’ Now, would somebody explain to me what in the name of Sam Hill … $4.19 billion to a voter-fraud organization has to do with stimulus?”

In fact, the bill contains no language mentioning ACORN. The false claim is based on a misrepresentation of a provision that would appropriate $4,190,000,000 “for neighborhood stabilization activities related to emergency assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes as authorized under division B, title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.” The provision requires that money will be distributed through competitive processes. It states that “not less than $3,440,000,000 shall be allocated by a competition” to “States, units of general local government, and nonprofit entities or consortia of nonprofit entities.” It also provides that “up to $750,000,000 shall be awarded by competition to nonprofit entities or consortia of nonprofit entities to provide community stabilization assistance.”

The Chronicle’s report and Limbaugh’s comments echo material released by House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) office. A January 26 “fast facts” release claimed of the stimulus bill: “The legislation could open billions of taxpayer dollars to left-wing groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which has been accused of voter fraud, is reportedly under federal investigation; and played a key role in the housing meltdown.” A January 23 release to which the January 26 document links stated that “the Democrats’ bill makes groups like ACORN eligible for a $4.19 billion pot of money for ‘neighborhood stabilization activities.’ ”

7. Robert Reich proposed excluding white males from recovery plan

On January 22 and January 23, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity falsely asserted or suggested that former Labor Secretary and Obama economic adviser Robert Reich, speaking at a congressional forum, proposed that jobs created by the economic recovery package should exclude white males. In fact, while addressing concerns from women’s advocacy groups and others about the composition of the proposed stimulus, Reich said then and has repeatedly stated that he favors a stimulus plan that “includ[es] women and minorities, and the long-term unemployed” in addition to skilled professionals and white male construction workers, not one that is limited to women and minorities.

During the forum, Reich stated that the jobs created should not “simply go to high-skilled people who are already professionals or to white male construction workers.” Reich continued: “I have nothing against white male construction workers. I’m just saying that there are a lot of other people who have needs as well. And therefore, in my remarks I have suggested to you, and I’m certainly happy to talk about it more, ways in which the money can be — criteria can be set so that the money does go to others: the long-term unemployed, minorities, women, people who are not necessarily construction workers or high-skilled professionals.”

January 29, 2009 Posted by | morons, ranting, republicans | 2 Comments

28 January 2009 Part II

First, some humor:

(no, I won’t call them Congressional Democrats 🙂 )

This is a nice example of how a harmful mutation can become fixated in a population due to “unnatural” selection (e. g., breeding).

On anther tack

Speaking of church, here is an interesting article about church-state issues: in Oklahoma, someone is trying to get the 10 commandments placed on state grounds:

Oklahoma lawmaker, Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, filed a bill in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Bill 1330, the “Ten Commandments Monument Display Act,” seeking to have a monument of the Ten Commandments placed on the state Capitol grounds, but paid for by private funds. His bill calls for the Secretary of State to “help private entities pick a location for the monument.” (source) […]

The monument will be a reminder to people where the state gets its laws, Ritze said.

What a crock. I didn’t know we had anti-graven image laws or “have no other gods before me” laws.

More on such nonsensical claims here.

Stimulus Bill

Yes, the House version passed with zero Republican support. Chances are that it will not get filibustered in the Senate, as Nate Silver says:

Firstly, the House Republican Caucus has shown much greater party discipline (or, if you prefer, much more partisanship) than the Senate has. In looking at the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, for instance, just 3 of 178 Republicans (1.7%) voted for the bill on the House side, but 5 of 41 (12.2%) did on the Senate side. Similarly, on the TARP (bailout) extension vote, Republican members of the Senate were considerably more likely than those in the House to side with the Administration. These sorts of differences are not necessarily uncommon and may be a consequence of the cultural and structural differences

Secondly, the Senate will be voting on its own version of the bill, not the House’s, and there has arguably a more bipartisan process in formulating the Senate version of the bill than in the House’s (Barack Obama’s meetings with House Republicans notwithstanding).

And thirdy, voting against a bill is one thing — filibustering it is another.

It isn’t as if President Obama isn’t reaching out for support and it isn’t as if he weren’t willing to compromise a bit.

Here is part of what the President said beforehand:

A few moments ago, I met with some of America’s leading business executives. It was a sober meeting – because these companies, and the workers they employ, are going through times more trying than any we have seen in a long, long while. Just the other day, seven of our largest corporations announced they were making major job cuts. Some of the business leaders in this room have had to do the same. And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can still turn our economy around.

But we must each do our share. Part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevailed from Wall Street to Washington. That’s why I called for a new era of responsibility in my Inaugural Address last week – an era where each of us chips in so that we can climb our way out of this crisis – executives and factory floor workers, educators and engineers, health care professionals and elected officials.

As we discussed in our meeting a few minutes ago, corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers and to the American public. But these executives also understand that without wise leadership in Washington, even the best-run businesses cannot do as well as they might. They understand that what makes an idea sound is not whether it’s Democratic or Republican, but whether it makes good economic sense for their workers and companies. And they understand that when it comes to rebuilding our economy, we don’t have a moment to spare.

The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat – they cannot afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that theirs will be the next job cut – they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action – bold and swift. And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks.

Most of the money we’re investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job-creation, generating or saving three to four million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector – because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country. But even as this plan puts Americans back to work today, it will also make those critical investments in alternative energy and safer roads, better health care and modern schools that will lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. And it will invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam Palmisano and so many of the CEOs here today – because that is how America will retain and regain its competitive edge in the 21st century.

I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable. Instead of just throwing money at our problems, we’ll try something new in Washington – we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible.

And we will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov. Because I firmly believe with Justice Brandeis that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back that trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.

In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands, or in the hands of our legislators, than it does with America’s workers and the businesses that employ them. They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have. For in the end, it’s businesses – large and small – that generate the jobs, provide the salaries, and serve as the foundation on which the American people’s lives and dreams depend. All we can do, those of us in Washington, is help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive, and our economy can grow. And that is exactly what the recovery plan I’ve proposed is intended to do. Thank you.

Right Wing Lies About the Stimulus Package: here is a nice summary of many of the right wing lies and a source backed refutation.

Here is an irony about this recession: even the wingnut churches are hurting!

Via the Invisible Pink Unicorn:

Like any for profit business, churches are not recession proof:

The nation’s economic fallout has hit both the sacred and secular worlds of Central Florida. Many local churches now are struggling with the same money issues that confront businesses: budget crises, salary reductions and staff layoffs.

[…]

Although donations are down, Loveless and others have reported strong attendance as the economy spirals.

“Attendance is not the problem,” said the Rev. Randolph Bracy Jr., pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church of Orlando. “That’s the irony.”

I don’t see why that’s ironic. No doubt many people keep going to church with the hope that God will help them financially; of course, this will not work. And with less money in their pockets, church donations will naturally suffer.

The IPU notes that the churches are tax exempt; hence they aren’t hurting as much as other organizations.

Speaking of church issues, I have to disagree with the IPU here:

The controversy surrounds the Vatican for reinstating a bishop who is skeptical of the Holocaust has increased, and the Pope has been put on the defensive […]

Even if we assume for the moment that Benedict isn’t anti-Semitic, reinstating this bishop is still worth condemning because it furthers his conservative agenda. The Holocaust denier is among a group of Catholics who oppose the modernizing Second Vatican Council, and letting guys like this back into the church is a step toward embracing the un-enlightenment of the Dark Ages.

Here is where I disagree: what does being completely wrong on a historical issue have to do with someone being in a church or serving in it? All his skepticism of the Holocaust means is that he is dumb and deluded; that is not inherently disqualifying, is it?

Science topics

A study has show that elderly people who have cut down on calorie consumption have improved memories! I know; that sounds hard to believe, but the study did appear in Nature Magazine.

Now, neurologist Agnes Flöel and her colleagues at the University of Münster in Germany have filled that gap. The group looked at 50 people divided into three groups: one maintained its usual diet, one was told to cut calories and the third was was asked to eat more polyunsaturated fatty acids — nutrients found in foods such as fish and olive oil that have previously been linked to reducing the risk of cognitive impairment. The participants were either of normal weight or overweight, and averaged just over 60 years old.

Three months later, the researchers found that those who cut calories were 20% better at remembering a list of words than those who either maintained the same diet or ate more polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Science and Society

Cosmic Variance has yet another fine entry:

Dennis Overbye has a nice opinion piece in the NYTimes […]

I’m very sympathetic with his point of view, and his basic message is important and timely. However, I think it is important to keep this argument in context. The practice of science certainly has a democratic feel to it. But, ultimately, science is an absolute dictatorship. Nature calls the shots. It doesn’t matter if every scientist is convinced that the Sun will rise at noon tomorrow. The Sun will most likely rise at 7:17am (at least in Aspen, where I’m presently attending a workshop on Understanding the Dark Sector: Dark Matter and Dark Energy, co-organized by esteemed fellow blogger Mark Trodden). Although science is a human practice, and can often feel like a meritocracy, at the end of the day Nature is an unyielding despot. This tension between democracy and tyranny is what makes science a truly unique and fascinating pursuit.

That leads me to another topic: the public understanding of science.

I got thinking about this topic for a couple of reasons. First, I noticed that a blogger that I read had a rough time in a debate with a creationist.

PZ Myers has a brief account of his encounter with Kirk Durston in Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) last weekend [An ugly debate in Edmonton].

PZ discovered what many of us already knew about Kirk …

He’s a good debater, because he relies on a powerful tactic: he’ll willingly make stuff up and mangle his sources to make his arguments. I’m at a disadvantage because I won’t do that.

Exactly. It’s hard to debate someone who lies with a straight face, especially if they act like a Christian while doing it.

There is also this problem: my area is mathematics and frankly, I am not qualified to judge the validity of arguments made in biology, biochemistry, genetics and the like. So what do I do?

Here is what I do: I point out that the principles of naturalistic evolution have produced tangible results and made correct predictions whereas creationism/ID has produced nothing. I point out that no major science department or laboratory embraces creationism.

I take a similar approach to climate change skepticism:

Full text of Dr. Theon’s letter has been post on the Senate website and below.

This is something I thought I’d never see. This press release today is from the Senate EPW blog of Jame Inhofe. The scientist making the claims in the headline, Dr. John S. Theon, formerly of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Arlington, Virginia, has a paper here in the AMS BAMS that you may also find interesting. Other papers are available here in Google Scholar. He also worked on the report of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident report and according to that document was a significant contributor to weather forecasting improvements:

The Space Shuttle Weather Forecasting Advisory Panel, chaired by Dr. John Theon, was established by NASA Headquarters to review existing weather support capabilities and plans and to recommend a course of action to the NSTS Program. Included on the panel were representatives from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Air Force, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

For those just joining the climate discussion, Dr. James Hansen is the chief climate scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and is the man who originally raised the alarm on global warming in 1988 in an appearance before congress. He is also the keeper of the most often cited climate data.

Washington DC, Jan 27th 2009: NASA warming scientist James Hansen, one of former Vice-President Al Gore’s closest allies in the promotion of man-made global warming fears, is being publicly rebuked by his former supervisor at NASA.

Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist, Dr. John S. Theon, the former supervisor of James Hansen, NASA’s vocal man-made global warming fear soothsayer, has now publicly declared himself a skeptic and declared that Hansen “embarrassed NASA” with his alarming climate claims and said Hansen was “was never muzzled.” Theon joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of man-made global warming fears.

Of course, Jame Inhofe has all of the credibility of an alchemist. But there are a few very smart people who are skeptics, so what is this poor lay-person to do?

I rely on things like this:

Our planet’s climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors.

Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.

Yes, there are still big uncertainties in some predictions, but these swing both ways. For example, the response of clouds could slow the warming or speed it up.

With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.

So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the most common climate myths and misconceptions.

There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles we’ve included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.

Here is one such guide:

Climate change sceptics sometimes claim that many leading scientists question climate change. Well, it all depends on what you mean by “many” and “leading”. For instance, in April 2006, 60 “leading scientists” signed a letter urging Canada’s new prime minister to review his country’s commitment to the Kyoto protocol.

This appears to be the biggest recent list of sceptics. Yet many, if not most, of the 60 signatories are not actively engaged in studying climate change: some are not scientists at all and at least 15 are retired.

Compare that with the dozens of statements on climate change from various scientific organisations around the world representing tens of thousands of scientists, the consensus position represented by the IPCC reports and the 11,000 signatories to a petition condemning the Bush administration’s stance on climate science.

The fact is that there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community about global warming and its causes. There are some exceptions, but the number of sceptics is getting smaller rather than growing.

Even the position of perhaps the most respected sceptic, Richard Lindzen of MIT, is not that far off the mainstream: he does not deny it is happening but thinks future warming will not be nearly as great as most predict.

Of course, just because most scientists think something is true does not necessarily mean they are right. But the reason they think the way they do is because of the vast and growing body of evidence. A study in 2004 looked at the abstracts of nearly 1000 scientific papers containing the term “global climate change” published in the previous decade. Not one rejected the consensus position. One critic promptly claimed this study was wrong – but later quietly withdrew the claim.

In short, this non-expert will give more benefit of the doubt to the overwhelming consensus; no matter the area you can always find some crackpots to take an unsupportable position. Yes, we have them in mathematics as well.

Education

Should we toughen standards? Well, if we try, we have one major opponent: the parents.

To the grade grubbers go the spoils. And the grade grubbers in this case are rabble-rousing parents in Virginia’s Fairfax County. Residents of the high-powered Washington suburb have been battling the school district’s tough grading practices; chief among their complaints is that a score of 93% gets recorded as a lowly B+. After forming an official protest group called Fairgrade last year and goading the school board into voting on whether to ease the standards, parents marshaled 10,000 signatures online and on Jan. 22 gathered nearly 500 supporters to help plead their case. After two hours of debate, the school board passed a resolution, a move critics consider a defeat in the war on grade inflation. (Read about students getting paid for good grades.)

At most schools in the U.S., a score of 90 earns you an A, but in Fairfax County, getting the goods demands a full 94. Merely passing is tougher too, requiring a 64 rather than a 60. Nor do students get much help clearing those high bars if they take tougher courses. Compared with how many districts weight GPAs for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, Fairfax County’s half-point boost is peanuts. The result, protesters say, is that Fairfax kids are at a disadvantage on multiple fronts: snagging good-driver insurance discounts (which often factor in a student’s GPA), earning NCAA eligibility, winning merit scholarships and – oh yeah – getting into good colleges. […]

Whether grade inflation exists and how it affects students has been debated at least since 1894, when a committee at Harvard declared that A’s and B’s were awarded “too readily.” Princeton in 2004 became the only Ivy League school to adopt a grade-deflation policy, including quotas for A’s. To skeptics like Gibson, grades should be guides to help students see where they can improve, not rubber stamps to confirm a smart kid’s hunch that he or she is smart or gold stars on a rÉsumÉ. “Grades don’t only exist to be reported to college-admissions officers,” he says. Gibson also rejects the Fairgrade argument that adjusting the standards would improve the dropout rate among those at risk of failing. “I don’t think it helps any student to say, ‘Well, we’re going to lower the standard to pass so you can stay in school,’ ” he says. “When you go out in the world, there are certain skills and knowledge that you need to succeed.”

Despite the apparent victory for Fairgrade, in the end both sides still have to manage their expectations. Gibson recalls an e-mail he got from one parent. “It said, ‘My daughter’s a solid C student, and if you don’t change the grading scale, she’s never going to get into the University of Virginia,’ ” he says, referring to the state’s highly selective flagship public university. “I’m thinking, No, we’re going to have to change the grading scale a lot.” After all, the goal is achieving fairness, not fantasy.

Hat tip: Rate Your Students.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Aaron Schock, Barack Obama, creationism, Democrats, economy, education, evolution, IL-18, morons, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans | 2 Comments