21 February 2011

Workout notes AM: ridiculously slow 4 mile “run” (46 minutes?). Yes, it was dark, chilly and wet and I was as stiff as a board. But still; it was if my body was frozen in place; I couldn’t move.

Lunch: weights and sit ups (4 x 25);
With the weights I avoided the lat pull downs due to a sore shoulder but still did incline presses 10 x 115, 10 x 115, 5 x 125, rows: 10 x 190, 10 x 200, 10 x 200, curls (15 x 20 lbs, 15 x 20, 15 x 20), stretches and some head stand after sit ups. The latter was tough for me to get into.

Politics The Republican field is sized up; Mr. Romney is deemed “too handsome” whereas Mr. Christie is deemed “too fat”. However given how fat Americans are these-a-days….but physical appearances have been important for a long time in politics. Here is an older Scientific American article about faces, politicians and political leanings.

What is at stake in Wisconsin: Paul Krugman:

So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

Robert Reich:

Republicans say “we’ve” been spending too much, and they’re determined to end the spending with a scorched-earth policies in the states (Republican governors in Ohio, Indiana, and New Jersey are reading similar plans to decimate public unions) and shutdowns in Washington.

There’s no doubt that government budgets are in trouble. The big lie is that the reason is excessive spending.

Public budgets are in trouble because revenues plummeted over the last two years of the Great Recession.

They’re also in trouble because of tax giveaways to the rich.

Before Wisconsin’s budget went bust, Governor Walker signed $117 million in corporate tax breaks. Wisconsin’s immediate budge shortfall is $137 million. That’s his pretext for socking it to Wisconsin’s public unions.

Nationally, you remember, Republicans demanded and received an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. They’ve made it clear they’re intent on extending them for the next ten years, at a cost of $900 billion. They’ve also led the way on cutting the estate tax, and on protecting Wall Street private equity and hedge-fund managers whose earnings are taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent. And the last thing they’d tolerate is an increase in the top marginal tax rate on the super-rich.

Meanwhile, of course, more and more of the nation’s income and wealth has been concentrating at the top. In the late 1970s, the top 1 percent got 9 percent of total income. Now it gets more than 20 percent.

So the problem isn’t that “we’ve” been spending too much. It’s that most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation’s total income.

Bottom line: today’s Republicans seek a new Gilded Age. We’ve got to make that clear in 2012. And I have to eat some crow; I admit that while I supported Pat Quinn for governor in 2010 and voted for him…and yes, gave him money, I really didn’t understand how much damage the Republican could have done.

Oh, for the days that the Republicans ran people like Teddy Roosevelt (one of my favorite Presidents).

Jerry Coyne lays it all out:

Evolution and selection lack any sign of divine guidance. Earlier teleological theories based on divine or spiritual guidance, such as orthogenesis, have fallen by the wayside. Natural selection is a cruel and wasteful process. 99% of the species that ever lived went extinct without leaving descendants. There is no sign that evolution always goes in a fixed direction. Do primates always get bigger brains? There is some suggestion that orangutan populations evolved smaller ones. Fleas lost their wings; tapeworms lost nearly everything when evolving a parasitic lifestyle. There is no sign that the goal of evolution was Homo sapiens (if that were true, why the virtual extinction of Neandertals or the robust australopithecines)?

Now you can always say, along with many liberal theologians, that god just created the world, knowing that life would eventually arise and evolve largely by natural selection. If you add the caveat (viz. Kenneth Miller and Simon Conway Morris), that god made sure that evolution coughed up a complex and intelligent primate that would apprehend and worship him, then you have modern theistic evolution. But even liberal theologians have no explanation why God would use such a wasteful and tortuous process to produce humans. (Curiously, while they claim absolute knowledge that god used evolution to produce humans, these theologians bail when asked why he did it that way).

In the end, the absence of evidence for a godly hand in evolution is evidence of godly absence, for evolution and selection show precisely the characteristics they would have if they were purely material, mindless, and purposeless processes.

That’s what I keep telling the “science is compatible with religion crowd: if you believe that some deity intentionally created humans, then your beliefs run counter to science. Of course, a deist (“just set it all in motion and see what comes out”) deity is possible, but that is hardly something that needs worship or something that communicates with us.

Speaking of evolution, this is what I call informed debate. Just take a look at the comments and who is making them. The issue here is the role of natural selection and the degree that it plays in evolution. Also, there is the case of what is evolution; is a mutation that shows up biochemically but not in some measurable characteristic really “evolution”? Nevertheless, this discussion involves people who know what they are talking about rather than a bunch of “I read a few pop-science books and therefore think that I am an expert” morons.


February 22, 2011 - Posted by | 2012 election, creationism, economics, economy, evolution, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, running, science, training


  1. Re: this is what I call informed debate

    I have been following this discussion and have noted the big names involved in the discussion.

    Moran is waiting for Jerry Coyne to comment. Do you think he will?

    Comment by Veronica Abbass | February 22, 2011 | Reply

    • I really don’t know; I hope that he does. I like debates like this one. I admit that I am not a biologist and therefore have no “feel” for who is closer to being true. It appears to me that the argument is about the amount of randomness that goes into a trait becoming fixed by evolution. It appears to me that being overly adaptationist is being a bit panglossian, but again, I am an amateur with no standing to make a conclusion. 🙂

      Comment by blueollie | February 22, 2011 | Reply

  2. […] What we do know is 12 21 2012 will arrive, in the not to Additionally you can check out this related post: Also you can check out this related blog post: […]

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