Zombie Ideas of Various Kinds….

I admit that I am borrowing the phrase “zombie idea” from Paul Krugman; basically it is an idea that has been refuted by the evidence, but refuses to die and go away because…well…it is a popular idea. It is an idea that conforms to the prejudices of many…that is, the idea “makes sense” to many or is considered to be COMMON SENSE.

One such idea is that, well, it is perfectly reasonable to accept, as “fact”, or at least consider seriously…well…NONSENSE so long as it is popular nonsense. In other words, resurrected dead people is reasonable, so long as it is YOUR holy zombie and not someone else’s holy zombie.

Another idea: if an idea is religious, it is bad manners to ridicule it, no matter how ridiculous it is. And, well, the opinions of the smartest among us who study this sort of thing for a living are given no more weight than someone who might not be able to distinguish a genome from a gnome…but they can read an English translation of some ancient text.

It doesn’t help that sometimes the popular press does a bad job of reporting the state of various sciences. Here Jerry Coyne points out that the professional biology community has considered “group selection” and pretty much discarded it, even though the pop-science world is keeping the idea alive.

I admit that, being untrained in biology, I am a bit confused as to what “group selection” is supposed to be. I know that change with time and that societies that change for the better (whatever that means) might have longer survival rates (e. g., societies that, say, develop better sanitation methods would do better than ones that don’t). But I doubt that counts as “evolution”.

I have some “rookie questions” that I hope my reading will answer; I’ll keep those to myself until I learn more. 🙂

Zombie idea: Republicans HATE big government. Except when they don’t:

The black-and-white cows lumbering behind Mitt Romney during his sit-down with Bob Schieffer last Sunday on Face the Nation actually feed off the same big government the presidential candidate spent much of the interview deriding. When Romney told Schieffer that “the only solution to taming an out-of-control spending government is to cut spending,” the bovines in the background could be forgiven for worrying.

Jeff and Karen Zuck, who own the 160-acre, 117-head dairy farm that was Romney’s chosen backdrop for the rare non-Fox interview, have collected $195,631 in federal subsidies since 1995. The $44,549 in grants they got in 2009, Barack Obama’s first year in office, was almost twice their previous high in 2002, and was a consequence of the heightened subsidies the Obama administration rushed to deliver as milk prices plummeted in the recession. Only 20 farms in subsidy-rich Lebanon County, Penn., received more federal aid than the Zucks in 2009, and only 30 exceeded the Zuck subsidy over the prior decade and a half. But the farm didn’t even appear on the top 50 list in George W. Bush’s final year in office, when they received a measly $1,177 in subsidies, less than three percent of what Obama gave them the next year.

Regardless, Karen Zuck told The Daily Beast that she and her husband back Romney. “I haven’t liked Obama since before he was president,” said Zuck, who had a hard time pinpointing exactly what she likes about Romney, other than her belief that he’s “going to do more” about “keeping regulations down.” Acknowledging that 2009 and 2010 were their “darkest years,” Zuck admitted that “maybe we did get something from it,” a reference to the Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Program (DELAP) that Obama jump-started in 2009 ($10,243 for the Zucks), and the Milk Income Loss Contract Payment Program that Obama infused with new funding ($34,944 for the Zucks). “We get enough,” said Zuck. “But we’d rather not,” she added, insisting that she’d prefer to let milk prices rise on their own.

Who knows? Maybe Republicans are born with a hypocrisy gene? 🙂

More on Mitt Romney
He “knows how to create jobs”; his business experience is part of that.
Well, let’s examine one of his biggest successes:

It was at the height of the 1980s buyout boom when Mitt Romney went in search of $300 million to finance one of the most lucrative deals he would ever manage. The man who would help provide the money was none other than the famed junk-bond king Michael Milken.

ut what distinguishes this deal from the nearly 100 others that Romney did over a 15-year period was his close work with Milken’s firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. At the time of the deal, it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation, yet Romney decided to go ahead with the deal because Drexel had a unique ability to sell high-risk, high-yield debt instruments, known as “junk bonds.”

The Obama campaign has criticized the deal as showing Romney’s eagerness to make a “profit at any cost,” because workers lost jobs, and challenged Romney’s assertion that his business background best prepares him for the presidency. Romney, meanwhile, once referred to the deal as emanating from “the glorious days of Drexel Burnham,” saying, “it was fun while it lasted,” in a little-noticed interview with American Banker magazine.

The “glorious” part, for Romney at least, was that he used junk-bond financing to turn a $10 million investment into a $175 million profit for himself, his partners, and his investors. It marked a turning point for Romney, according to Marc Wolpow, a former Drexel employee who was involved in the deal and later was hired by Romney to work at Bain Capital.

“Mitt, I think, spent his life balanced between fear and greed,” Wolpow said. “He knew that he had to make a lot of money to launch his political career. It’s very hard to make a lot of money without taking some kind of reputational risk along the way. It’s just hard to do. It doesn’t mean you have to do anything illegal or immoral, but you often have to take reputational risk to make money.”

So it was that Romney decided to rely on a man and a company in the thick of one of the most intensive investigations ever undertaken by the Securities and Exchange Commission.[…]

There is much more to the article, and to be honest, none of it says that Mr. Romney did anything illegal. I want to be clear of that. But as to his dealings, he says:

Romney and Milken declined to comment, but former associates of both men said the seemingly Odd Couple pairing goes far in explaining why Romney became willing to do riskier deals for bigger payoffs.

“I believe Mitt admired Milken’s creativity,” said Wolpow, the former Romney partner. “Milken did force underperforming companies and management teams to face the music. That’s the plus side of leveraged finance.”

But there was a potential downside of doing business with Drexel. Just as the deal was about to be sealed in September 1988, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Milken and Drexel, alleging insider trading and stock manipulation. Some clients feared being tainted by scandal, but Romney stayed loyal: The deal was too important.

“We did not say, ‘Oh my goodness, Drexel has been accused of something, not been found guilty,’” Romney told the Globe years later. “Should we basically stop the transaction and blow the whole thing up?”

But the deal nearly blew up anyway. The fraud case was being heard by US District Judge Milton Pollack.

Basically, Mr. Romney didn’t bother to ask the “tough ethical questions” so long as he was in a position to avoid being caught doing anything illegal.

Hey, he made a ton of money for his investors and that is the bottom line, right?

June 24, 2012 - Posted by | 2012 election, creationism, economy, evolution, Mitt Romney, religion, republicans, science, superstition


  1. I have to reply to your saying that group selection is a zombie idea. It is an active area of research, and if you eat corn, eggs or pork you are a beneficiary of its effectiveness. Sadly, I have been arguing about this with Jerry Coyne for over 20 years, and in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary he continues to pretend that group selection is irrelevant, and that serious scientists ignore it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will not give up my eggs and bacon with a side of grits just so I don’t make use of group selection.

    Comment by Charles Goodnight | March 13, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks for checking in Dr. Goodnight. Note to my readers: Dr. Goodnight is a serious scientist; see his vita here. Again, on such matters I am in over my head.

      Comment by blueollie | March 13, 2013 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: