30 April 2009 (am)

Workout notes light rain, 60s; I did 5 miles on a drenched riverpath course; a small part of the goose loop was underwater (at 1/2). I then walked one; Cathy lead the yoga class.

The geese and ducks appeared to be “enjoying” it.

Academia: plagiarism continues to be a problem in colleges. Personally, I am glad that I don’t have to worry about this.

Religion and Society
Here is a short note on how, as an ex-Christian, one can talk to Christians when debates over the validity of Christianity come up. Of course, one of the things one has to pay attention to is how the issues are framed.

Science: Some scientists are disgusted with Francis Collins’s campaign to reconcile religion with science; here is PZ Myers’s and Jerry Coyne’s take on this.


Here is President Obama’s press conference:

You can read the transcript here.

President Obama saying that he’ll consider serious ideas from the opposition but he won’t play games:

So How Is President Obama Doing? His approval ratings are still high, though some conservatives have trouble admitting this.

Many scientists are thrilled that President Obama is taking science and science funding seriously: (example one) (example two)

Senator Specter’s defection

First of all, he had been wooed by Vice President Biden. Yes, we know that we are getting a political opportunist (to put it politely) and note that one of his first votes as a Democrat was to vote against President Obama’s budget.

I admit that I am puzzled at the point that this Republican National Senate Committee ad is making:

Are they attempting to point out that Specter is still a Republican? I honestly miss the point of this ad.

Of course, some conservatives are saying “good riddance“.

More on the Republicans
BJ Stone points out that Newt Gingrich has put himself into a box; he is ready to blame President Obama if things don’t go well. So when asked if he would give President Obama credit if things went well…he said that he would but this isn’t going to happen. Let’s see; remember that they didn’t give President Clinton any credit at all.

Michelle Bachmann continues to be a source of great amusement.

The right wing media continues to play politics with the latest flu outbreak; some are blaming, well, the Mexicans:

Following an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and subsequent confirmation of dozens of cases in the United States, conservative media personalities have baselessly blamed Mexican immigrants for spreading the disease across the border, continuing their long-standing trend of scapegoating immigrants while discussing major news stories. However, Rear Adm. Anne Schuchat, M.D., the interim deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s science and public health program, stated in an April 26 media availability: “I know that we have confirmation of disease in people who have traveled to Mexico, and I don’t know the numbers, but I know that that is definitely the case in some of our cases, and that’s an important factor to consider.” Indeed, several media reports on U.S. swine flu patients indicated that they had recently traveled to Mexico.

Examples of conservative media figures blaming Mexican immigrants for the spread of swine flu into the United States include:

* During the April 24 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage stated: “Make no mistake about it: Illegal aliens are the carriers of the new strain of human-swine avian flu from Mexico.” Savage also stated, “If we lived in saner times, the borders would be closed immediately.” Savage went on to theorize that the outbreak might be part of a bioterrorism threat: “[C]ould this be a terrorist attack through Mexico? Could our dear friends in the radical Islamic countries have concocted this virus and planted it in Mexico knowing that you, [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, would do nothing to stop the flow of human traffic from Mexico?” Savage continued: “[T]hey are a perfect mule — perfect mules for bringing this virus into America. But you wouldn’t think that way, would you? Because you are incapable of protecting America’s homeland, Napolitano.” Savage also stated: “How do you protect yourself? What can you do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, and I don’t give a damn if you don’t like what I’m going to say. I’m going to have no contact anywhere with an illegal alien, and that starts in the restaurants.” He added, “I will have no any illegal alien workers around me. I will not have them in any of my properties, I will not have them anywhere near me.”

* During the April 27 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Neal Boortz asked: “[W]hat better way to sneak a virus into this country than give it to Mexicans? Right? I mean, one out of every 10 people born in Mexico is already living up here, and the rest are trying to get here. So you give — you give — you let this virus just spread in Mexico, where they don’t have a CDC.” Boortz went on to say: “So if you want to get that epidemic into this country, get it going real good and hot south of the border. And, you know, then just spread a rumor that there’s construction jobs available somewhere, and here it comes. Because we’re not gonna do anything to stop them from coming across the border.”

* In an April 25 blog post titled “Hey, maybe we’ll finally get serious about borders now,” syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin suggested that the outbreak was due to the United States’ “uncontrolled immigration,” writing: “I’ve blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the U.S. as a result of uncontrolled immigration. We’ve heard for years from reckless open-borders ideologues who continue to insist there’s nothing to worry about. And we’ve heard for years that calling any attention to the dangers of allowing untold numbers of people to pass across our borders and through our other ports of entry without proper medical screening — as required of every legal visitor/immigrant to this country — is RAAAACIST.” Malkin added: “9/11 didn’t convince the open-borders zealots to put down their race cards and confront reality. Maybe the threat of their sons or daughters contracting a deadly virus spread from south of the border to their Manhattan prep schools will.” Contrary to Malkin’s suggestion, an April 27 Associated Press article reported of the New York City high school students infected with swine flu to whom she referred: “Officials think they started getting sick after some students returned from the spring break trip to Cancun.”

Additionally, on the April 27 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Glenn Beck stated: “Gee, it would be nice if we had border security now, wouldn’t it?” Beck went on to assert: “But if you are a family and you’re down in Mexico and you’re dying and those in America are not, why wouldn’t you flood this border? Why wouldn’t you come across this border? It’s exactly what I warned of — different scenario, different reason of — I was talking about economic collapse. People start to come and rush this border, then what happens? Gee, it would be nice if we had some border security.”

Others see it as a phony fear mongering tactic to enable the government to gain more power (pots and kettles anyone? 🙂 )

Summary: Rush Limbaugh claimed that the Obama administration’s response to cases of swine flu in the U.S. “is designed to expand the role and power of governments and schools,” while Glenn Beck said the motivation behind the response “could be to move [President Obama’s] Health and Human Services person into the office rapidly.”

Indeed, the conservative blogs are abuzz with these sorts of theories.


This tendency has been mocked and ridiculed in “poe blogs” (e. g., here, here and here)

Dick Cheney has been noisy. Some in the media are telling him to just “go away”. Frankly, I hope that he doesn’t; I hope he continues to run off at the mouth.

Torture This Wall Street Journal editorial makes the point that some Democrats are complicit in this. Sure, some of the article is poorly argued:

Or maybe the speaker missed what former CIA Director (and Bill Clinton appointee) George Tenet writes in his memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” about the CIA interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

“I believe none of these successes [in foiling terrorist plots] would have happened if we had had to treat KSM like a white-collar criminal — read him his Miranda rights and get him a lawyer who surely would have insisted his client simply shut up. In his initial interrogation by CIA officers, KSM was defiant. ‘I’ll talk to you guys,’ he said, ‘after I get to New York and see my lawyer.’ Apparently he thought he would be immediately shipped to the United States and indicted in the Southern District of New York. Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats to the American people.”

Mr. Tenet continues: “From our interrogation of KSM and other senior al Qaeda members . . . we learned many things — not just tactical information leading to the next capture. For example, more than 20 plots had been put in motion by al Qaeda against U.S. infrastructure targets, including communications nodes, nuclear power plants, dams, bridges and tunnels.”

Did you catch that? This article appears to set up an artificial dichotomy between “being in the criminal justice system” and allowing for torture. In fact, not being in the criminal justice system does not mean that one has to torture; there are other interrogation techniques:

The techniques are controversial among experienced intelligence agency and military interrogators. Many feel that a confession obtained this way is an unreliable tool. Two experienced officers have told ABC that there is little to be gained by these techniques that could not be more effectively gained by a methodical, careful, psychologically based interrogation. According to a classified report prepared by the CIA Inspector General John Helgerwon and issued in 2004, the techniques “appeared to constitute cruel, and degrading treatment under the (Geneva) convention,” the New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2005.

It is “bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture’s bad enough,” said former CIA officer Bob Baer.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets.”

One argument in favor of their use: time. In the early days of al Qaeda captures, it was hoped that speeding confessions would result in the development of important operational knowledge in a timely fashion.

However, ABC News was told that at least three CIA officers declined to be trained in the techniques before a cadre of 14 were selected to use them on a dozen top al Qaeda suspects in order to obtain critical information. In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, atheism, Barack Obama, Biden, economy, education, Joe Biden, obama, politics, politics/social, racism, ranting, religion, republicans, running, science, Spineless Democrats, training, world events | Leave a comment

29 April 2009 (am)

Workout notes 3000 yards of swimming; 1000 warm up (18:03), 10 x 100 on the 1:45 (1:39 first, 1:36-38 for the rest), 10 x (25 fly, 25 free) on the 1, cool down.

My goggles leaked on the left side; I might have to get a new pair (I use optical goggles as I am blind as a bat without them)

Politics E. J. Dionne gets it right:

The first 100 of the 1,461 days allocated to a presidential term are an imperfect predictor of how a leader will ultimately be judged. But they do offer a clear look at a president’s style. Obama, on the whole, has been as crisp a decision-maker and as calm an influence on his aides and his country as he was during the campaign.

But the most intriguing aspect of Obama’s presidency so far may be the way in which he combines intelligence and intellect. The two are quite different, as Richard Hofstadter noted more than four decades ago in his instructive book, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.”

Intelligence, Hofstadter argued, is an “unfailingly practical quality” that “works within the framework of limited but clearly stated goals.” Intellect, on the other hand, is the mind’s “creative and contemplative side” that “examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines.”

For Obama’s base of progressive and liberal supporters, it is his intellectual side that draws such fierce loyalty and admiration, while his conservative foes mistrust the very part of him that imagines and dreams – because they do not share his dreams.

But Obama’s continued high standing in the polls rests on the great middle of the electorate that doesn’t care if he’s intellectual as long as he is smart enough to fix things. Obama and his aides know this, which is why our intellectually inclined president will continue to sow mystery by casting himself as a mechanic, a problem-solver and “a devout non-ideologue.”

Note: of course the bat-shit crazy wing of the Republican party will continue to bellow that he is only “book smart”, etc. But aside from places like Limbaugh message boards, no one is listening to these clowns.

Speaking of bat-shit crazy, here is Michelle Bachmann’s latest loony-gram:

hat tip to Tiny Frog. Note: even if you are a conservative, the blog is worth a visit for the banner photo alone. 🙂 (ok, I like frogs).

Christian Apologists: a diversion
Speaking of Tiny Frog, check out his take on Christian apologist (and bat shit crazy conservative) Dinesh D’Souza’s explanation of “why earthquakes are necessary even if they cause grave damage and harm to humans”. Sure, earthquakes do have the features that they have, but saying that this is the sign of some divine intelligence from an benevolent deity is stupid.

That is one reason why I won’t even waste my time listening to Christian apologists; even the most intellectual of them rarely make any sense.

Either the Christian myth gives you comfort (and is therefore worth embracing on a “meaning of life level”) or it doesn’t.

Back to Politics

Republicans Many people see Senator Specter’s party switch as a “wake up call” for the Republicans:

How much more can the Republicans take? Demoralized, contracting and lacking their own agenda, Republicans yesterday saw their ranks further thinned with the stunning news that Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is switching parties to run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat.

The question now is whether Specter’s departure will produce a period of genuine introspection by a party already in disarray or result in a circling of the wagons by those who think the GOP is better off without those whose views fall outside its conservative ideological boundaries.

Weighing in on one side yesterday was Rush Limbaugh. “He’s not a moderate,” Limbaugh said of Specter. “He is a liberal Republican, and this is a natural winnowing process that is taking place. . . . Within the Republican Party, people who are not really Republicans are now leaving. People who are not really conservatives are now really leaving. So it’s going to be not much smaller, but it’s going to be a little bit more focused a party and a base.”

Weighing in on the other side was Steve Schmidt, who was one of Sen. John McCain’s top advisers in the 2008 campaign and who recently called on Republicans to consider altering their opposition to same-sex marriage. He said Specter’s determination that he had to become a Democrat to continue his career in public service “because his party no longer welcomes him is a pitiful commentary on the state of the party, based on the fact that we continue to shrink when we should focus on trying to grow.”

Ok, I admit that Specter would have been in trouble in the Republican primary; there was an excellent chance that he would have gotten defeated. Hence his chances of winning reelection as a Democrat are much, much better.

But the larger issue is that the Republican party, in its current form, is becoming a minor reactionary southern/regional party. Sure, many of the true believers are probably harboring some fantasy of America finally “coming to its senses” and then returning to the Reagan years.

I sure hope that the Republicans continue to keep thinking that!

Sure, the Republican party will come back, but it will be in a different form than it is now. The future of the Republican party might look a bit like this. That is, I see the Republican Party becoming more of a place for socially tolerant libertarian leaning conservatives who are willing to concede a bit on social safety net issues.

But there won’t be a place for the ranting, foaming at the mouth Hannity-Limbaugh types.


So the Republicans are stuck at 40 and, when Franken gets seated, the D-Lieberman-Sanders coalition will be at 60. Does this mean that we’ll be able to roll though our long sought after liberal agenda?

I wish. 🙂

Here is reality:

Max Baucus, Montana. (McCain)
Evan Bayh, Indiana (razor thin Obama)
Begich, Mark , Alaska (McCain)
Byrd, Robert C., West Virginia (McCain)
Conrad, Kent – North Dakota (McCain)
Dorgan, Byron L. – North Dakota, (McCain)
Hagan, Kay R. – North Carolina (razor thin Obama)
Johnson, Tim – South Dakota (McCain)
Landrieu, Mary L. – Louisiana (McCain)
Lincoln, Blanche L. – Arkansas (McCain)
McCaskill, Claire – Missouri, (McCain)
Nelson, Ben – Nebraska (McCain, save one Congressional District)
Pryor, Mark L. – Arkansas (McCain)
Rockefeller, John D., IV – West Virginia (McCain)
Tester, Jon – Montana (McCain)
Warner, Mark R. – Virginia (Democrat first time since 1964)
Webb, Jim – Virginia, (Democrat first time since 1964)

That is 13 Democrats from McCain states (counting Nebraska) and 4 Democrats from “traditionally Republican but Obama barely won” states.

This is hardly a liberal coalition; the Democrats got to 60 by having a very wide tent.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Democrats, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, superstition, swimming, training | Leave a comment

Ho-Hum: Just another overtime Bulls-Celtics game decided in the final 3 seconds…


The Bulls had their chances; they were up by 10 with 7 minutes to go in the final quarter. To be honest, some clutch 3-point shooting kept the Bulls from losing in regulation.

But eventually it came down to some clutch shooting my Paul Pierce and one very hard foul at the end of overtime. Rondo really was going for the ball when he clipped Miller on the mouth (bloodying it) and though Miller is an 85 percent free throw shooter at the line with 2 seconds left and the Bulls down by 2, he appeared to be a bit punchy (like a boxer who took a good shot to the head) and he missed the first.

His second “intentional” miss didn’t hit the rim and so the Celtics got the ball and it was all but over.

Gutsy performances abounded; Gordon (for the Bulls) toughed it out through a hamstring injury and still hit big shots and played good defense.

Here is yahoo’s report (where I got the above photo)

April 29, 2009 Posted by | NBA | Leave a comment

Senator Specter to become a Democrat.

Read about it here. No, he won’t be a liberal, but we welcome him anyway.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Democrats, politics, politics/social, republicans | 4 Comments

President Obama addresses the National Academy of Science

This takes 38 minutes.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, obama, politics, politics/social, science | Leave a comment

28 April, 45 F, windy, rainy, yuck!

Workout notes Yoga, then 6 mile run on the treadmill. 10 minute warm up mile, 9:30’ish mile 2, 2 miles at 8:50, 1 mile at 9:30, final mile in the 8:40 range (55:10 for 6), then 2 mile walk.

I was going outside but didn’t want to take on the rain (ok, drizzle) and wind.

Evidently we are very close to the border where the abnormally warm temperatures meet the abnormally cool ones:


Hence: we are about 5 inches above normal rainfall for the year, and more than that it you count snowfall as well.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Peoria, running, training, walking, whining | Leave a comment

28 April 2009 early AM

Workout notes Not sure; a yoga class then about 5-7 miles total of running and walking.

Society Atheists are not keeping as quiet as we used to. To be honest, I have no interest in converting (deconverting?) anyone unless they are unhappy where they are. All that I ask is that we make decisions based on the premise that things happen for naturalistic reasons; that is, don’t count on some fairy, pixie, deity or magic spell to alter chemistry, biology or physics on your behalf.

Politics The Hill surveyed the United States Senators to see who is best at working across party lines. The answers may surprise you; one can be very liberal or conservative and still get along with the other Senators and work on stuff together.

What I sometimes forget is that the speeches are meant to fire people like myself up; the real working together often goes on behind closed doors. I was aware that Orin Hatch and Ted Kennedy are friends.


1. Edward Kennedy (Mass.)
2. Tom Carper (Del.)
3. Chris Dodd (Conn.)
4. (tied) Evan Bayh (Ind.)
4. (tied) Tom Harkin (Iowa)

1. Susan Collins (Maine)
2. Olympia Snowe (Maine)
3. Orrin Hatch (Utah)
4. (tied) Richard Lugar (Ind.)
4. (tied) John McCain (Ariz.)

Robert Reich: gives President Obama a grade on his economic policies. It is a C-plus; read about why (President Obama was torched on the TARP stuff, but remember that started as a Bush program and, while Obama voted for it, he wasn’t in charge as to how it was implemented).

Note also that many liberal economists fault President Obama’s stimulus bill for being too small.

Science: President Obama talked to the National Academy of Science. I liked his speech. Here is a very relevant part (the role of government investing in basic research):

This is important right now, as public and private colleges and universities across the country reckon with shrinking endowments and tightening budgets. But this is also incredibly important for our future. As Vannevar Bush, who served as scientific advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, famously said: “Basic scientific research is scientific capital.”

The fact is, an investigation into a particular physical, chemical, or biological process might not pay off for a year, or a decade, or at all. And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not.

That’s why the private sector under-invests in basic science – and why the public sector must invest in this kind of research. Because while the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society.

No one can predict what new applications will be born of basic research: new treatments in our hospitals; new sources of efficient energy; new building materials; new kinds of crops more resistant to heat and drought.

It was basic research in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today’s GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.

In addition to the investments in the Recovery Act, the budget I’ve proposed – and versions have now passed both the House and Senate – builds on the historic investments in research contained in the recovery plan.

We double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation, a primary source of funding for academic research, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which supports a wide range of pursuits – from improving health information technology to measuring carbon pollution, from testing “smart grid” designs to developing advanced manufacturing processes. And my budget doubles funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science which builds and operates accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, high-energy light sources, and facilities for making nano-materials. Because we know that a nation’s potential for scientific discovery is defined by the tools it makes available to its researchers.

But the renewed commitment of our nation will not be driven by government investment alone. It is a commitment that extends from the laboratory to the marketplace.

That is why my budget makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent. This is a tax credit that returns two dollars to the economy for every dollar we spend, by helping companies afford the often high costs of developing new ideas, new technologies, and new products. Yet at times we’ve allowed it to lapse or only renewed it year to year. I’ve heard this time and again from entrepreneurs across this country: by making this credit permanent, we make it possible for businesses to plan the kinds of projects that create jobs and economic growth.

Not everything should be market driven!!!!!!!

Fun: Sometimes I am reminded that I have, in all likelihood, lived more than half of my life.


But hey, young guys, YOU haven’t as yet! She is whip smart, loves science and hates nonsense. What are YOU waiting for? 😉

Note: my wife is reasonably sharp and has a great sense of humor about life and everything in general. I suppose that she needs a good sense of humor to remain married to me. 😉

April 28, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, atheism, Barack Obama, Democrats, economy, Mid Life Crisis, Personal Issues, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, science | Leave a comment

27 April, 2009

Workout notes A subpar 3000 yard swim; 500 warm up, 5 x 200 on the 4 (3:2x), 10 x 50 fist on the 1 (52), 10 x (25 fly, 25 free) on 1 (fins), 500 cool down with paddles/free.

Local It is raining again; we are already 1 inch ahead in April and 5 inches ahead in total rain for the year (more if you count snow).

I am growing tired of rain.


It was an exciting game!

Academia Sometimes less is more; a professor shows how he does less work thereby getting students to engage themselves.

Ok, Dumb Democrats
On political grounds, I normally agree with Representative Henry Waxman. But there is no way to sugar coat this: he really said something that was incredibly stupid:

Tavis: I want to come back to those jobs, those millions of jobs that you’re banking on in just a moment and ask about that specifically. Before I do, though – and don’t laugh when I ask this question, because given your point of view on this issue I know that you will find this laughable while at the same time you also know it’s real, and that is this: That when we talk about global warming there are still folk in this country who debate whether or not that’s a real issue, whether or not it’s manmade or created some other way or caused by some other sources and forces, I might put it that way.

But there is this debate, however you break it down, about whether or not there really is global warming, and there are people who scoff at Al Gore and others who make that case, and you all the time, for making that case. Talk to me about where we are in that debate on the science, because there is this tension around this.

Waxman: Well, there have been scientists brought together to see if they could figure out the science and make it clear whether this is a danger or not, whether it’s a danger that’s a great one or one that we can postpone for a while, and the overwhelming consensus of all the leading scientists that have looked at this issue is there is a warming of the planet, it’s manmade, caused by our burning of carbon fuels, and it’s happening faster than anybody ever thought it would happen.

We’re seeing the reality of a lot of the North Pole starting to evaporate, and we could get to a tipping point. Because if it evaporates to a certain point – they have lanes now where ships can go that couldn’t ever sail through before. And if it gets to a point where it evaporates too much, there’s a lot of tundra that’s being held down by that ice cap.

If that gets released we’ll have more carbon emissions and methane gas in our atmosphere than we have now. We see a lot of destruction happening because of global warming, climate change problems, so we’ve got enough warning signals and enough of a scientific consensus to take this seriously.

Now I am not as picky as this blogger who points out that ice to vapor transition is not evaporation; rather it is sublimation. But that is a bit picky. The point is that if the ice disappears, much of the organic matter can thaw and methane can escape into the atmosphere, thereby making the problem even worse. But no, tundra isn’t being held down; the methane in it is.

As far as “tipping points” go: of course there can be local tipping points (these can be thought of as critical points of a function) that causes a change which lasts for a long time, at least when viewed in terms of human time lines.

In short, there can be multiple tipping points over a very long time.

You can find President Obama’s address to the National Academy of Science here.

More on President Obama: Robert Reich lays out what he’d like to see. Here is a bit of it:

All this activity has made the right angry and the left uneasy. But a whopping 65 percent of Americans think highly of him. And no president since John F. Kennedy has received such an enthusiastic welcome around the globe. By almost any measure, his presidency so far has been a triumph. (I give him only a C-plus on his economic policies so far, but that’s mainly because of a provisional F on the bank bailout. See below.)

Yet Obama’s success has rested on several delicate balancing acts. Whether he continues to succeed will depend on how well he shifts his balance in the months ahead.
Short-term or long-term economics?

The stimulus and bank bailouts have required the government to pump almost $1.5 trillion into the economy and the Federal Reserve Board to dramatically expand the money supply. This makes sense in the short term. With almost 1 out of 6 Americans either unemployed or underemployed – and consumers and businesses still tightening their belts – government has to be the spender of last resort. But as the economy recovers, Obama will have to rein in government deficits. If he does this too early, he risks prolonging the deep recession. Yet if he waits too long, he risks wild inflation.
Progressive vision or conservative governing?

Obama’s 10-year budget presents the most ambitious and progressive vision of any president since FDR. But when it come to governing, Obama has been cautious and incremental. His stimulus was smaller than even conservative economist Martin Feldstein recommended. He has been unwilling to take over the banks. He won’t push Congress on the Employee Free Choice Act. His mortgage relief program is modest. He doesn’t want to prosecute CIA torturers. Yet if he wants to be a transformative president, he’s got to move boldly. Universal health insurance will be his first big test. […]

Working with Republicans or taking them on?

By temperament and inclination, Obama prefers to reach across the aisle and court Republican support. Yet so far this tactic has been notably unsuccessful. Republicans have moved almost in lockstep against him. They’re already gearing up for the 2010 midterms, staging anti-tax rallies and laying the foundation for a major assault on his presidency. They fantasize about repeating the coup Newt Gingrich pulled off in November 1994. At some point before then, Obama will have to take off the gloves.

Speaking of Republicans: if you think that I am hard on them, see what Paul Krugman has to say here

Adam Serwer writes about Jay Bybee’s attempt to get off the hook:

So Bybee knew he was breaking the law in allowing the use of torture, but you have to understand, he only did it because he really wanted to be a federal judge. That’s not exculpatory information, that’s motive.

Exactly right. But you have to understand what Bybee is: he’s someone who made a career as a movement conservative apparatchik. In his world, following orders and getting rewarded for his obedience was what it was all about; he’s completely shocked to find that the rules have changed.

And here’s the thing: most prominent Republicans are just the same. We wonder how someone as hapless as John Boehner could be minority leader, why one Congressman after another abjectly apologizes to Rush Limbaugh, and so on; the answer is that they’re hollow men, careerists who thought they had a safe ride. If someone like Newt Gingrich seems like a giant in his party these days, that’s because, say what you like about him (and I don’t like much about him!), he got into the business when doing so involved taking some actual risks.
Now, there are a lot of people with real conviction in the GOP these days. Unfortunately, those convictions include the idea that Barack Obama is a socialist, or maybe a fascist, that gays are the greatest threat we face, and … well, you get the picture. It’s a fervent base, but not, unless Obama really really messes up, an election-winning coalition.

and here

Masters of disaster

So Bobby Jindal makes fun of “volcano monitoring”, and soon afterwards Mt. Redoubt erupts. Susan Collins makes sure that funds for pandemic protection are stripped from the stimulus bill, and the swine quickly attack.

What else did the right oppose recently? I just want enough information to take cover.

Bill Maher is just as blunt

If conservatives don’t want to be seen as bitter people who cling to their guns and religion and anti-immigrant sentiments, they should stop being bitter and clinging to their guns, religion and anti-immigrant sentiments.

And here’s the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.

Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?

It’s sad what’s happened to the Republicans. They used to be the party of the big tent; now they’re the party of the sideshow attraction, a socially awkward group of mostly white people who speak a language only they understand. Like Trekkies, but paranoid.

The GOP base is convinced that Obama is going to raise their taxes, which he just lowered. But, you say, “Bill, that’s just the fringe of the Republican Party.” No, it’s not. The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is not afraid to say publicly that thinking out loud about Texas seceding from the Union is appropriate considering that … Obama wants to raise taxes 3% on 5% of the people? I’m not sure exactly what Perry’s independent nation would look like, but I’m pretty sure it would be free of taxes and Planned Parenthood. And I would have to totally rethink my position on a border fence. […]

Look, I get it, “real America.” After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You’ve come home to find your things out on the front lawn — or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You’re not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.

That’s what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him — obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.

But it’s been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She’s found somebody new. And it’s a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You’ll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.

So what have our Republican friends be up to today?

They have been praying for their deity to smite their enemies:

Last week, we mentioned a few times that Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation had called upon the United States Chief of Naval Operations to investigate the fact that Gordon Klingenschmitt has been “attempting to create the false impression that he is still an active-duty member of the U.S. armed forces.”

Klingenschmit quickly added a disclaimer to his website, explaining that his views “do not represent the views of the U.S. Navy” and that the picture of Klingenschmitt in uniform “is a picture of his former self, taken while he was serving on active duty, therefore he was not impersonating an officer,” but was none-too-pleased with AU and MRFF, saying that both “Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein are bone-heads.”

But apparently insulting them was not enough for Klingenschmitt, because AU reports that he is now calling on his supporters to launch “imprecatory” prayers against both men:

“Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who recently issued a press release attacking me personally,” prays Klingenschmitt on his Web site. “God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround me and tell lies about me. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore, find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with godly people. Plunder their fields and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants. And remember their sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

As AU explains, imprecatory prayer is basically asking God that bad things will happen to your enemies – things like death, loss of income, loss of property, etc. In other words, Klingenschmitt is asking God to curse both AU and MRFF.


They can’t seem to pin much on President Obama but they can edit videos to make it seem that he is saying something that he isn’t saying:

Media Matters has caught another Fox fabrication.

This time, Fox News ‘reporter’ Wendell Goler repeatedly aired a video clip in which President Obama seems to declare his support for imposing a “European-style” universal health care system on the United States. Goler used the clip to support Republican attacks on the President’s spending policies and his supposedly “European” priorities.

The problem is, President Obama never said any such thing. The clip Goler used was from a March 26 online town hall event, and President Obama was paraphrasing a written question submitted by the audience. In his answer, the President said that while he does support universal health care, he doesn’t support imposing a European or Canadian system on the United States.

I actually want a universal health care system; that is our goal…whether we do it exactly the way European countries do or Canada does is a different question, because there are a variety of ways to get to universal health care coverage… I don’t think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps.

Despite the plain meaning of President Obama’s words, Fox and Goler took them completely out of context to support the President’s Republican critics.

It wasn’t an accident — Fox aired at least three different versions of Goler’s hit piece. Watch the video, starting with what President Obama actually said:

And for your entertainment, here is more of their lunacy.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Democrats, economy, education, morons, obama, politics, politics/social, ranting, religion, republicans, science, swimming, training | Leave a comment

Navel Staring, Etc. (26 April 2009 edition)

Workout notes 10 mile (plus) training walk in 2:12 (East Peoria); 2:07 to the road, 2:04 back. Sunny, a bit warm-ish, some cyclists.

Nothing hurt; my energy level was a bit higher today.

Navel Staring

When I first see people: most of the time, my impressions are neutral. But there are some people I instantly like (both men and women) and I really don’t know the reasons for this.

One time, I was walking at the end of a 24 hour walk in Minnesota and I drew even with this guy who was walking for exercise. We started to talk and hit it off, or so I thought. He reminded me of a younger, physically fit Garrison Keillor. I have no idea of why; usually I am pretty grumpy and antisocial at the end of a long ultra.

On the other hand, there are people who just turn me off the first time I see them, regardless of how they are dressed, how fat/skinny they are, etc. For example, last night some woman talked to my wife during the intermission of the symphony; my first reaction (upon getting a quick glance at her) was “yuck..who is this moron!” even though I knew nothing about her, didn’t get a good look at her or even heard anything she said.

I really don’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong; there have been times when I’ve become friends with someone I didn’t like at first and I know that my first impressions are not always accurate. But I am surprised at how my “instant liking” of someone almost never sours over time.

My “instant disliking” of someone sometimes changes.

On the trail: Who I greet and who I don’t.

When I am running or walking, I usually return greetings; the exceptions being when I am angry with the person (e. g., they have a loose dog) or when I am very, very, very tired (i. e. toward end of an ultra that is being run on an “open” course).

As far as ultras go, I find that I return the greeting if the person cheers me or encourages me; I don’t return a generic “Hiiiiiiiii……” or other such stuff. I just have little interest in social interaction when I am deep into fatigue and sleep deprivation.

As far as general training goes: as I said before, I return greetings to people who give them. But, if in the midst of doing a workout, I see someone that is a “regular” on the trail, I often initiate the greeting. I find myself doing this regardless of whether the person is a slow walker, hiker, runner, cyclist or whatever; what seems to matter is if the person is a “regular” rather than a “fair weather” weekend warrior.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Link Dump for 26 April 2009

This will be my usual link dump.

One of the hardest things for a professor to accept is that

1. He or she loves their subject and is an expert in it and
2. Most of their students are far less interested in their subject and, to be frank, for the most part, have much less aptitude for it.

So, one often encounters students attempting to take the path of least resistance in their courses.
That just comes with the territory for those of us who mostly teach undergraduates for a living (as opposed to those who mostly research and direct graduate students)

Science teaching: I can see the point of this blogger: deities of any sort have zero place in a science class. But sometimes a science teacher gets put in a box (by dealing with the students that they have) and, well, sometimes great scientists mentioned “god” when writing about their work (e. g., Einstein wondering “how would I have designed the universe if I were god”).

Science and society
I am always interested in how scientists write about science when they are attempting to reach an “educated” but still, well, to be blunt, scientifically incompetent audience. Here scientist Jerry Coyne talks about how to explain evolutionary complexity to “the masses”.

Personally, I lack the patience to explain anything to the general public; but if no one did, I’d sure miss out on some great articles and books. So I am glad that many scientists have better attitudes than I do! 🙂

And yes, most of these science types have had much more professional success than I’ve had.

One of my favorite science bloggers is Larry Moran at Sandwalk. Yes, some of his stuff is over my head; I was a mediocre chemistry student and my last course was many, many years ago. But his writing is good enough to make me want to take an organic chemistry course! That will go on my “to do someday” list.

Here are a couple of his recent articles: he talks about the conjecture that humans evolved the ability to cover long distances on foot as a result of hunting game; the idea is that humans would wear their prey down by simply making it keep moving for too long of a a time.

Yes, as a lay person I find this to be an entertaining conjecture. But, as usual, Professor Moran finds the weakness in this argument and other such arguments:

I assume the wildebeests just didn’t evolve as quickly or they would have adapted as well.

The bison on the North American plains probably could run faster than the natives because, to the best of my knowledge, the North American natives didn’t run after buffalo in order to make them die of heat exhaustion. They used sneaky tricks like forcing them to charge over cliffs. They also sneakily used bows and arrows. The natives only started chasing buffalo when horses became available, which is very strange since humans are better at long-distance running than horses—or so the story goes.

One of the problems with evolutionary psychology is that the psychologists claim to know exactly what human societies were like one million years ago. That’s one of the problems with the endurance running hypothesis as well. It is based on the assumption that we know how primitive societies obtained food (by running after large animals on the savanna). In fact, we don’t know if this is true and we don’t even know what percentage of the species might have adopted this lifestyle.

The professional scientists have, ahem, well adapted “BS detectors”. 🙂 Sure, there might be a kernel of truth to this claim (that we evolved our long distance pedestrian abilities due to hunting) but scientists will be very skeptical until there is solid proof.

I wish that the general public understood that.

Yes, I find this conjecture to be interesting, and I’ve even blogged about it. But there are lots of interesting conjectures that haven’t panned out.

Professor Moran also talks about science writing. He doesn’t suffer fools well and is rather impatient with gimmicks that “sell science” at the expense of advancing inaccuracies.

Free Speech: The Legal Satyricon talks about an interesting free speech case in Florida: evidently a police chief is trying to get a website taken down because she claims that the website is portraying her in a false light.

In this article you will find the criteria for something to be defamation (in a legal sense) sets a very high bar for proof and why this is a good thing, especially when the person being attacked is a public figure.

Here is a talk on the evolution of religions (90 minutes long)

3-quarks daily Here is an interesting article which talks about how societies might win the battle of hearts and minds against those who kill in the name of religion.

“It is time,” Aslan writes in his introduction, “to strip this ideological conflict of its religious connotations, to reject the religiously polarizing rhetoric of our leaders and theirs, to focus on the material matters at stake, and to address the earthly issues that always lie behind the cosmic impulse.” Aslan goes on to devote much of his book to distinguishing the earthly grievances of Islamists from the cosmic grievances of Global Jihadists, and to detailing how the former are pressed into service of the latter. Islamists, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, are “religious nationalists”; they seek specific domestic redress, through Islamic political parties, of political and economic deprivation. Global Jihadists, like Al Qaeda, are “religious trans-nationalists.” They plait together stories of specific injustice — Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the corruption of decades of secular Egyptian and Saudi leaders, the dispossession of Muslim minorities in Europe — into a “master narrative” of universal Muslim humiliation. They are purists; they prefer the unspecific glory of the struggle to the disheveling imperatives of regency. For nationalists who despise some foreign patriotism, war is the health of the state. For religious trans-nationalists who despise all infidels, jihad is the bloom of the believers.

President Obama’s First 100 days: here his first 100 days are compared to those of Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson. This is entertaining, though I admit that I am skeptical at some of the comparisons.

Frank Rich: makes it clear that the torture issue is not one that we ought to let go of.

Time magazine: suggests that the GOP split over how to deal with the Harold Koh nomination (to be the top lawyer in the State Department) is hurting the GOP.

I don’t see it that way; this may well be a well orchestrated “good cop” (“ok, give the administration what they want”) “bad cop” (“let’s be a true opposition party”) situation.

April 26, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, atheism, Barack Obama, creationism, education, evolution, free speech, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, science, superstition, world events | 2 Comments