Farwell to October 2010

Walking: easy 3.5 mile hike at Forrest Park Nature center. I drug my buddy Lynn Dempsey along.


Surf here for the article; it shows that there are some woos who work at science agencies. (groan)

Primate origins: there is some evidence that primates originated in Asia.

Science and the woo is there really evidence for psychic powers? My guess: probably not, but Jerry Coyne gives this bit during his discussion:

1. They’re real: we have previously unsuspected abilities to detect the future.

2. They’re fraudulent: Bem rigged the experiment or made up the data. I’m assuming this isn’t the case.

3. They’re wrong because of some flaw in the experiment (or in the computer programs) that made these results artifactual.

4. The results are statistical outliers that got published simply because they represent one of those cases in which we reject the null hypothesis (i.e., the hypothesis that we have no ability to predict the future), even though it’s true. This is called a “type one error” in statistics. When experimental results give such an error of 5% or less (i.e., exceed the “significance threshold”), scientists do reject the null hypothesis and claim that something else is going on (in this case, that there’s precognition). But with a threshhold of 5%, you’ll make a mistake one time in twenty. (That’s the basis of the old science joke, “95% of your experiments fail, and you publish the other 5% in Nature.”)

Local Politics The saying is “Politics ain’t beanbag” and you see that even in local races. I live in IL-92. Check out the 2008 commercial:

The “degree” thing: Gordon’s campaign literature said that she had “attended” the University of Illinois, which is true. But a commercial made for her, which she did not fact check, said that she had earned a degree. It turns out that AFTER the commercial came out, she indeed earned her degree by taking the one remaining class.

The “shoplifting” conviction: that is true; she never hid it and pointed out that people can turn themselves around.
Now Gordon is being challenged by Jim Montelongo. I haven’t been able to find a youtube video of one of the ads that is airing but basically he says in this ad that he “is against waste” (really?) and that he’ll cut the salary of the legislators (already paltry….). Wow…what a great idea; make the state legislature such that only the better off can serve! You can see more of his banality here:

What is with this “I am a businessman” stuff anyway? Often doing right by those who need it the most is NOT cost effective; not everything should be “run like a business”.

Other stuff
Gawker ran a story on Christine O’Donnell: basically it was an account of a young man that she picked up, went on a date with and ended up in bed with; she was drunk and naked (but didn’t have actual sex, By Jove! ). Of course, some feminist groups were furious; their cries of “sexism” roughly matches the hum of the air conditioner.

Gawker defended their decision and I agree with them: O’Donnell is running, in part, on a fundamentalist Christian view of human sexuality when her own practice is, well, quite normal.

Take back fear/restore Sanity
Here and here are collections of the funniest signs.

Paul Krugman talks about stagflation and has this to say, in general:

Everything that has happened these past two years has fit that basic model; meanwhile, those who failed to accept the implications of the liquidity trap have been wrong over and over again.

But here’s the thing: I see no signs of a rethink among most players. The slide toward deflation despite huge increases in the monetary base hasn’t shaken either the paleomonetarists who still predict hyperinflation or the it’s-all-the-Fed’s-fault crowd. The failure of interest rates to soar hasn’t shaken the deficit hawks. Instead, the usual suspects have taken the failure of an inadequate stimulus to produce a solid improvement in employment — a failure I, among others, predicted! — as proof that they were right.

It’s disheartening, to say the least. You really have to wonder if economics has become completely unmoored from evidence, whether anything can ever convince anyone that they were wrong.

I say this: one of the marks of a conservative is to be completely unmoved by actual evidence; they judge the worthiness of their policies by how closely they conform to their existing narrative.

October 31, 2010 Posted by | astronomy, economics, economy, evolution, hiking, Peoria, Peoria/local, Political Ad, political/social, politics, Republican, republican party, science, statistics, Uncategorized, walking | Leave a comment

Mc-Not-Again 30 mile walk

Background: I had meniscus surgery on July 9; I didn’t have much time to build up for this race as the knee would get “hot” if I walked too much. But I did build up to “back to back” 10 mile walks on trails (Farmdale race in 2:34, McNaughton on my own) and a half marathon (Quad Cities in 2:39)

I did this race last year; though I worked through knee pain it hampered my training. But I did have a 100 miler, marathon and 24 hour race in the spring, to go with a 12 hour trail race and a marathon in the fall.

The Day: perfect; 40 at the start; rose to 60; some light wind; lots of sun. The course: I’ve never seen it better.

Race management: Michael Siltman (the RD) does an excellent job with the race; the trail is well marked and the aid station volunteers were enthusiastic and helpful. Kudos to all the volunteers (including the Zimmerman brothers who marked the course).

My race: 9:52 finish, which is almost an hour slower than last year’s 8:55 on a much, much muddier day. Loops (10 mile): 2:48, 3:06, 3:57; during the last loop I sat down three times.

Details: many of the usual suspects were there; of course most of them are in shape and I wasn’t. I knew that. So in my first loop, I stayed back and tried hard to keep my ego out of it. Splits: 42 at the totem pole, 1:22 at the bridge near 5 miles, 2:15 at the “8+” mile bridge. I managed to catch up to some people who were a bit confused by the course; the course was very well marked at turns but having a ribbon during “easy to follow” stretches can be comforting.

But mostly I let people get away from me. I didn’t feel great at the start but better when I got going.

When I started my second loop I felt just a bit tired and I got passed by 7 30 mile finishers; the leader looked so good. His running form was just so graceful.

But mostly I was by myself and felt tired but ok; I had to talk to myself to keep going.

I was very happy with the 3:06 time though I was feeling fatigue. I was 1:30 on the button at the Bridge; 1:00 at the first creek crossing and 1:10 at the bottom of golf hill.

(this is the bottom of golf hill during another fall day)

I started out loop three and was going to go easily the whole way; my lack of training ensured weak, fatigued muscles. But some guys (runners) who had been ahead of me lingered at the 20 mile aid station and were behind me; I ended up killing myself to try to stay ahead of them (they were now walking).

Bad mistake…that drained my energy though I was 49 minutes at the totem pole. But I stayed ahead of them until golf hill; that climb broke me. I had to stop during three of those brutal climbs prior to the bridge which I reached at 1:49; it took 11+ minutes to do the next .4 miles which got me to the aid station, where I rested for another few minutes. I teased Donna Creditor who will be doing a 100 miler next week; I reminded her that she would be in much more pain than I was in. 🙂

At 2:05 I left the aid station and told them that I anticipated 2 more hours; it turns out that I “only” needed 1:52. 🙂

I can’t tell you how bad that stretch from mile 4 to mile 5.5 was. I didn’t have huge nausea; I was just bone tired and my muscles were fatigued. I was whipped.

I had taken Succeed tablets, antacids, tea and Heed; it was difficult for me to ingest stuff.

But when I slowed down and walked at “survival” pace I felt better; believe it or not the final 4.5 miles weren’t that bad and the last 3 were pleasant again…but these were slow-slow-slow. I was 3:15 at the “just past 8 mile” bridge.

How badly did I slow? That group of guys who passed me at mile 4 were one mile ahead of me when I got to mile 6.

I counted the hills down; the toughest are those from golf to the last hill after 5.4 aid station and the final foundation hill at mile 9+.

I was happy to see the finish line and enjoyed jawing with Mike and Donna at the finish; evidently one person was still out on the course.

Funny remarks: at the last 5.4 aid station (25.4 miles) I lamented my decision to try to stay ahead of the three guys. Donna reminded me that they were 30 years younger than I.

When I told Barbara (my wife): I wanted to finish that race “real bad” she said “and you did…finish it badly”. 🙂

Shoulder and knee: the back of the knee hurt slightly and I had a hard time getting it straight toward the end (not in walking, just in general). But aside from my usual two Naproxen for my shoulder early in the morning, I took no pain killer.

October 31, 2010 Posted by | Friends, hiking, knee rehabilitation, time trial/ race, ultra, walking | 10 Comments

29 October 2010: Impending Doom (politically speaking)

Ok, I think that Nate Silver has it mostly right: he says that the expected value of the number of seats that the Republicans pick up are about 7 in the Senate and 55 in the House. He was overly pessimistic in 2008 (he had Obama with 341 EV, I had him with 375 and the true number was 365), but were I handicapping the race, it would be:

House: Republicans – 50 ( that is, Republicans are favored by 50; if they pick up 51 or more, those taking the R’s win; if they pick up “only” 49, those taking the D’s win)
Senate: Republicans -7 (Republicans favored by 7)

Of course, there is a huge caveat there: these are “expected values” and the 95 percent confidence intervals are larger than normal this year; it is possible (albeit unlikely) that the D’s hold the House OR that the R’s pick up 80 seats or more.

The more “normal like” graph (the one with the sharper peak) assumes that each race is independent of the other races; the fatter (more realistic) curve takes into account that there might be things like a “national mood” or perhaps polling bias that will underestimate the support of one party or another (e. g., robo-polls tend to favor republicans; polls that include lots of cell phones boost democratic numbers; there is some controversy of whether a Newsweek poll that is more optimistic for the Democrats is merely an outlier or different due to including cell phones.

In reality, I think that the polls that have the Republicans taking control of the House are right.

So, what next? Paul Krugman is pessimistic:

This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

Start with the politics.

In the late-1990s, Republicans and Democrats were able to work together on some issues. President Obama seems to believe that the same thing can happen again today. In a recent interview with National Journal, he sounded a conciliatory note, saying that Democrats need to have an “appropriate sense of humility,” and that he would “spend more time building consensus.” Good luck with that.

After all, that era of partial cooperation in the 1990s came only after Republicans had tried all-out confrontation, actually shutting down the federal government in an effort to force President Bill Clinton to give in to their demands for big cuts in Medicare.

Now, the government shutdown ended up hurting Republicans politically, and some observers seem to assume that memories of that experience will deter the G.O.P. from being too confrontational this time around. But the lesson current Republicans seem to have drawn from 1995 isn’t that they were too confrontational, it’s that they weren’t confrontational enough.

Another recent interview by National Journal, this one with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has received a lot of attention thanks to a headline-grabbing quote: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

If you read the full interview, what Mr. McConnell was saying was that, in 1995, Republicans erred by focusing too much on their policy agenda and not enough on destroying the president: “We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being re-elected, and we were hanging on for our lives.” So this time around, he implied, they’ll stay focused on bringing down Mr. Obama.

True, Mr. McConnell did say that he might be willing to work with Mr. Obama in certain circumstances — namely, if he’s willing to do a “Clintonian back flip,” taking positions that would find more support among Republicans than in his own party. Of course, this would actually hurt Mr. Obama’s chances of re-election — but that’s the point.

Others take the view that having some of the more kooky Republicans on center stage might have a silver lining in the long run:

If the teabaggers sweep, and I’m coming around to that, as in we end up with Angle, Paul, McMahon, Toomey, Miller and Rubio, the Senate grinds to more of a halt then the last 2 years have wrought. Boehner’s House will likewise be distracted by ideology over action. The lame duck Congress does absolutely nothing — which would include not passing the annual defense appropriations bill, not extending unemployment benefits, and not dealing with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

And then comes January. No military money. 2 million people off unemployment, taxes at a higher level (not that people will notice, they didn’t notice that their taxes FELL under the current administration) and above all: the debt ceiling. It needs to rise early next year or the Feds lose their ability to pay bills and borrow money and then we default on our obligations to the Chinese.

The rank and file teabaggers are all “yay!!!!” and will be that way until their Social Security payments cease, they lose their doctors since the Feds won’t be paying those bills, the Chinese come calling for their money, government services cease, Washington shuts down, the 2 million Federal employees are furloughed, the military-industrial complex loses payment on its billions of dollars in contracts, and basically, all of America looks like California.

Because here’s the thing. The people who govern should be bright and engaged, competent and hard-working, realistic and thoughtful. The teabaggers are none of these things. They will be faced early next year with serious problems which require problem-solving skills they lack. Their ideology and platitudes will back fire in every way imaginable. Yup, it will be rough for a while, but suddenly there will be an honest ability to get the country back on the right track of government of the people, by the people and for the people. It’s the “for the people” part that the teabaggers miss. They want government of the people, by the people, and for the rich and white. That’s their train off the tracks, and that’s what kills their movement in the end.

An example of this is Chris Cristie. The commute from New Jersey into New York is hellish on a good day. There was a project to build a new tunnel to ease congestion. Monies came from the Feds, the City and State of New York, and the Port Authority. Plus some funds from Jersey. Cristie stopped the project. It cost jobs, it cost what would have been improvements to the environment, and it cost Jersey $350 million that they now have to repay the Feds for money they took for the project. Fat Boy Slim gets to serve the rest of his term, but then it’s over.

I’m not sure.

I admit that while I disagree with conservative ideology, it is the incompetence of some of these new Republicans that bother me more than anything else. I might not see eye to eye with Senator Dick Lugar or Gov. Mitt Romney, but I see them as intelligent, highly competent human beings. The same is not true of some of these vocal tea-party types.

And I don’t like this “comeback” of violence:

The races I care most about
DK Hirner is trailing 66-31
Kirk and Giannoulias are in a statistical tie (48-47 Kirk)
Brady has a narrow lead (5 point) over Quinn with a ton of undecided

Grayson (FL-8) is trailing badly (52-46); from the tone of his e-mails he knows that this race is over.

Boxer is leading 51-46 and appears to be winning.

Upshot: Chicago is the key for the IL-Senate race. I’d call the governor’s race over (for Brady) except that there are a ton of undecided voters and if Chicago gets mobilized this might turn out well.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, Democrats, IL-18, Illinois, political/social, politics, politics/social, poll, Republican, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, statistics | Leave a comment

28 October Rehabilitation

Sleep: ok.
Knee: some soreness when I put pressure on the knee cap (laying down on my belly) and some soreness in the late afternoon.
Shoulder: fatigue

Workout: light weights: one legged squats (10 x 45 on the Smith, 2 sets of 10 with no weight)
Squats: 10 x 45, 10 x 95, 10 x 135, w/o the Smith
Leg presses: 20 x 360

sit ups: 4 x 25, different incline
upper body:
2 sets of 15 x 120 pull down
2 sets of 10 x 160 (80 each arm) rows
2 sets of 15 x 20 pounds curl (dumbbell)
2 sets of 15 x 30 pounds military (dumbbell)
2 sets of 30 x 35 pounds bench (dumbbell)
1 set of leg curls, extensions, toe, back, vertical leg raises
15 minutes arm bike
Lots of stretching.

I am taking it easy for this Saturday.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | knee rehabilitation, shoulder rehabilitation, weight training | 2 Comments

So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities

Xtranormal | Text-to-Movie

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October 28, 2010 Posted by | education, humor | Leave a comment

28 October 2010 (AM)

From the Homecoming 5K a couple of weeks ago; I am walking with my buddy Tracy:

Galaxies: super photos of spirals stripped of the outside gas

US Cities: I am not surprised that Austin made it on the smartest list. I am outraged that Peoria didn’t make the dumbest list; perhaps our population is too small to be considered.

China has high speed rail. We have…..Republicans. The point of this post is that government can get some things done (the huge, expensive, big ticket stuff) that the free market can’t get done. Of course, these idiots will tell you that our “free market approach” has give us THE HIGHEST standard of living that the world has ever known even if the facts are different:

“Here is a little dose of reality about where we actually rank today,” says Vest: sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade; 11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school; 16th in college completion rate; 22nd in broadband Internet access; 24th in life expectancy at birth; 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 48th in quality of K-12 math and science education; and 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people…”

And yet there is good old GOP Lucy, teeing up the football for good old voter Charlie Brown, just like last time and the time before that and the time before that. We are actually about a week away from ceding control of the House of Representatives to a pack of idiots who have conducted the greatest 30 year rat-fucking of the American Middles Class, our Industrial Base, and our Financial Solvency in history.

One other funny quote from the article:

And if the Republicans have their way, that is how it will stay. Except we may privatize the Highway System to boot. But they will be damned if they are going to pay for a Devil’s Limb like Technology. Hell, they didn’t get where they are today by just burning people as witches for doing long division. Nope. And never you mind that if it were not for FDR and Rural Electrification these self-reliant free-market idiots would still be walking 40 miles to gawk at a light-bulb.

Things won’t get better when these morons win the House (as expected):

Lessons of 1995

When I read the Mitch McConnell quote that’s been getting so much attention:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

my immediate concern was whether it was taken out of context. And if you read the full National Journal interview (subscription required), the nuances are a bit different from those you might take from the quote in isolation.

But not in a good way.

If you read the whole thing, what you get is that McConnell is taking a very different lesson from the events of 1995 than the one most pundits take, and expect Republicans to take. The whole attempt to bully Clinton into slashing Medicare by shutting down the federal government was a political failure for the GOP; but McConnell doesn’t see this as evidence that Republicans were too confrontational.

No, he sees it as evidence that they weren’t confrontational enough; they were too focused on their policy agenda, and neglected the necessary work of destroying Clinton:

We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being reelected, and we were hanging on for our lives.

So this time around they won’t bother much with trying to get actual legislation passed; they’ll focus on the important thing: undermining the man in the White House.

Remember: this isn’t coming from some teabagger idiot with a misspelled sign; this is coming from the chinless one himself: Senator Mitch McConnell.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, astronomy, Barack Obama, Peoria, Republican, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science, technology | Leave a comment

27 October 2010 pm

Books: my reading list just got longer. I went to a talk by Akbar Ahmed and enjoyed it; I’ll relate what I’ve learned after I’ve finished his book. I need to finish Diamond’s Third Chimpanzee and finish the book on the relations between the United States and the Middle East called Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present by Michael Oren. I stopped reading at the Civil War era.

Evolution and Cats: Jerry Coyne talks about the evolution of patterns on cats (e. g., spots, smooth coats, etc.) Evidently, much of it was adaptation to their environment (e. g., hide to hunt). His post has many photos. Along with that is an Animal Camouflage post by Conservation Report.

(click to see the larger photo at Conservation Report).

Speaking of such adaptations, this post on the ghost mantis is pretty cool. This creature looks like a leaf; tell me how anyone would doubt the principle of adaptation?

Of course, people who don’t know science frequently tell the professional scientists that they don’t know what they are doing:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, among the world-class theoretical physicists of our time, the one with the most entertaining web page is Gerard ‘t Hooft. (Even though he would be annoyed to see that WordPress refuses to display the apostrophe in his name correctly.) See for example the Constitution for 9491 Thooft, an asteroid that was named in his honor. Sounds like a place I would like to visit, once the hotel situation has advanced a bit.

I’m mentioning it because I was struck by this succinct answer to the question, “Will the Higgs be found?” Nothing especially newsworthy, I just enjoyed the spirit of the reply.

More and more frequently, I receive letters and mails from wise people outside physics, telling me that “they know” that the Higgs will not be found, that our theories are baloney, how dare we spend billions of public funds to build machines such as LHC, “to prove, against better judgment, that our theories still stand a chance of being correct”, and so on.

Well, lads, I am not going to answer all of you in person. What you have in common is a blissful ignorance of the scientific facts concerning the Standard Model. Fact is that the W+, W- and the Z boson each carry three spin degrees of freedom, whereas the Yang-Mills field quanta, which describe their interactions correctly in great detail, each carry only two. Those remaining modes come from the Higgs field. What this means is that three quarters of the field of the Higgs have already been found. The fourth is still missing, and if you calculate its properties, it is also clear why it is missing: it is hiding in the form of a particle that is difficult to detect. LHC will have to work for several years before it stands a chance to see the statistical signals of this Higgs particle. What compounds the matter even more is that there may well be several sets of Higgs fields. If there are two, which is eight quarters of the field, we will get five Higgses rather than one. This would be a quite realistic possibility but it would make the detection of each one of them even harder, because they cause more complex statistical signals that are more difficult to predict.

This type of thing happens every time an expert opens his stuff up to the general public. There will always be some clowns who, based on some half digested popular works, will proceed to tell the expert “the facts” about his/her field and expect to be taken seriously. I am glad that the experts put up with this BS because I enjoy reading their “for the educated lay-person” accounts in their books and blogs.

But given that I’ve done a modest amount of academic research (mathematics) I know all too well how little I know about my own subject. 🙂

Politics Robert Reich counters George Will. Will pointed out that the 4.2 billion spent on influencing the election was less than what America spends on many other things. Reich replies:

The number of dollars spent isn’t the issue; it’s the lopsidedness of where the dollars come from. Even if the total were only $1000, democracy would be endangered if $980 came from large corporations and wealthy individuals. The trend is clear and worrisome: The great bulk of campaign money is coming from a narrower and narrower circle of monied interests.

Anyone who doubts the corrupting effect has not been paying attention. Our elected representatives have been acutely sensitive to the needs of Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund managers, and the executives of big pharma, big oil, and the largest health insurance companies. This is not because these individuals and interests are particularly worthy or specially deserving. It is because they are effectively bribing elected officials with their donations. Such donations are not made out of charitable impulse. They are calculated investments no less carefully considered than investments in particular shares of stock. They are shares in our democracy.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, books, evolution, nature, physics, political/social, politics, politics/social, quackery, science, social/political | Leave a comment

Moving illusions: Impossible objects made real – tech – 26 October 2010 – New Scientist

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If the above doesn’t work, click here.

See more of this here. Example:

In mathematics, we say that “information is lost when you project” or “projection maps are not one to one”.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | mathematics, science | Leave a comment

27 October 2010 Rehabilitation

Sleep: no shoulder problems, though the rotator cuff muscle was a bit sore (not a bad thing)
I still can’t sleep on my belly without the pressure hurting my knees (eventually).

I am trying to stretch my leg straight.

Workout notes: easy 2 mile walk, 15 minutes on the arm bike (mostly low resistance).

October 27, 2010 Posted by | knee rehabilitation, shoulder rehabilitation, walking | Leave a comment

26 October 2010 pm


Ok, this is from an article about preserving species in the Amazon region.

Politics: Why didn’t President Obama just roll over everyone an enact the progressive agenda that I wanted? Or, why didn’t he achieve a bipartisan compromise? Well, perhaps it is because there is Congress and
1. Most Democrats in Congress aren’t as liberal as I am and for question 2:
2. Republicans wanted to defeat him politically and therefore weren’t going to compromise on anything.
That seems obvious to me, but it is nice to see someone else say this in print. Here is Eugene Robinson stating what I find to be painfully obvious:

Had Obama gone rogue and given the bankers some legitimate cause for all their whining, the what-if argument goes, Americans would see that what Sarah Palin called “that hopey, changey stuff” is real — and that it is making, or at least trying to make, a positive difference in their lives. Much of the Tea Party’s anger over “business as usual” would dissipate, because Obama wouldn’t be doing business as usual. The president and his party would arrive at the midterm election riding high.

So, contestants, what if?

Sorry, but it doesn’t wash. The problem is that for all the talk of changing the way Washington works, you still have to get actual legislation through an actual Congress. In the House, Democratic ranks are swollen with Blue Dogs and other moderates, many of them elected in swing districts as part of the 2008 Democratic landslide. The votes for a full-fledged progressive agenda — single-payer health care, for example — simply were not there.

In the Senate, the terrain was even less favorable. With the Republican caucus voting no as a bloc, passing any piece of legislation meant making concessions and compromises to keep together the needed 60 votes to bring a bill to the floor. The votes weren’t there for a health-care bill that would have been cleaner and more transformative than the one that passed, or for climate-change legislation with teeth, or for rules that could really transform Wall Street’s toxic culture, or for . . . fill in the blank.

All right, studio audience, then what if the Democrats had gone all bipartisan and tried to meet the Republicans halfway?

Puh-leeze. They did try. What they discovered is that there’s no halfway point between “do something, anything” and “do nothing at all.”

Okay, folks, let’s try one more scenario. What if Obama and the Democrats had devoted every waking hour to the three issues that Americans care about most: jobs, jobs and jobs?

Well, unemployment would still be painfully high; there’s no way the economy could recover 8 million jobs so quickly, no matter what Washington did. And health-care reform would still be a distant dream.

Those who play “What If?” are unconstrained by political and economic reality. President Obama and the Democratic leadership, to their misfortune, enjoy no such freedom.

Economics: there is no evidence that the “free market always knows best”:

One confusion I often run into is the belief that there’s some contradiction between times when I and others argue that markets are wrong — as I did when diagnosing a housing bubble, and now in questioning the market’s optimistic beliefs about inflation — and my point that low interest rates undermine the argument for immediate fiscal austerity.

What people don’t get is that in all cases I’m starting from the fundamentals. It’s the austerity types who are appealing to market psychology to reject those fundamentals — and the point then is that this market psychology is all in their imagination.

The key argument against fiscal austerity now is that it’s bad economics: it would depress the economy, while doing very little to improve the long run budget position (and might even make that long-run position worse.) I’ve done the math repeatedly on this blog.

But the austerians argue that the numbers don’t matter — we have to cut now now now or the bond vigilantes will attack.

And then the question is, where are those vigilantes? I guess they’re suckering us in by lending to the US government at negative real interest rates.

So the point isn’t that market are always right; it’s that if you’re going to claim that appeasing the markets trumps rational economic analysis, you really should have some evidence that the markets care at all about what you’re demanding.

Science Religion: Jerry Coyne responds to some critics:

Please, Dr. Zimmerman, try to understand this simple idea: we have more than one goal! And if I had one wish, it would not be that everyone would magically accept evolution; it would be that religion and superstition would vanish from the face of the Earth. The evolution acceptance would shortly follow. Does anyone doubt that?

Zimmerman goes on to claim, as he has before, that the kind of religion with which he rubs elbows is not incompatible with science. Of course you won’t find him in the megachurches or in the congregations of the South or the south side of Chicago.

. .

.the extreme position Coyne has articulated is at odds with much of religion as well as with the basic precepts of science. In fact, religion isn’t the monolithic, dogmatic enterprise Coyne describes, while science can’t provide answers to every question humans can imagine.

Note the gratuitous slur on science: that it doesn’t provide answers to every question humans can imagine. Well, Dr. Zimmerman, does religion? And does religion do it better than secular philosophy?

Two comments:

1. I agree that science doesn’t have all the answers. That doesn’t mean that religion has ANY. I agree that religion can provide useful stuff at the personal level: companionship, being challenged to live a better life, techniques such as mediation and yoga. But religious BELIEFS (e. g., believing in a Zombie will derive you supernatural benefit) are nothing more than baseless superstition.

2. Not all atheists accept evolution; I think that science is hard and some have the following attitude: “if it doesn’t make perfect sense to ME, it must be BS” and they view evolution and religious claims in the same way. Of course, these types of atheists tend to be “unlettered”.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, atheism, Barack Obama, economics, economy, frogs, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, science | Leave a comment