Friday, October 31, 2008

Vote Cancellation Guide.

You may have heard that there's an election Tuesday. Here's a voter's guide for cancelling my vote. My choices and why.

Elective Offices.

President --- John McCain: the devil we know. Barack Obama is the biggest phony to run for office in my lifetime. Okay, John Edwards ran twice. Point taken.

San Diego City Attorney -- Jan Goldsmith: an attorney for a change. Four years of the Wrath of Aguirre is four years too many. San Diego doesn't need more than one mayor at a time.

California Propositions.

No on 1A because high speed rail is a boondoggle. High speed rail for California is an idea whose time has not come. It's touted as a way to reduce pollution, traffic, and use of oil. A more effective use of state money would be to expand existing rail lines to take on more freight. Freight trucks waste fuel and pollute more than cars. America's cargo should ride on trains not on trucks.

Yes on 2 because we should treat farm animals humanely before we kill 'em and eat 'em. This initiative requires farmers to give livestock more room to move around.

Yes on 4 because parents should be told when their children seek a major medical operation. This initiative requires parental notification, not consent, before a minor has an abortion.

No on 5 because California can't afford more voter-mandated spending. This initiative limits the authority of criminal courts to punish drug offenders and expands California's existing drug treatment alternative. The proposition requires minimum spending on drug programs. California can barely pass a budget every year. Part of the problem is automatic spending mandated by voter-approved initiatives, like this one.

No on 6 because California can't afford more voter-mandated spending. This initiative increases spending on law enforcement and mandates a minimum amount every year. California doesn't need more automatic-pilot spending programs.

Yes on 7 because government-run utilities should follow the same rules as privately-owned utilities. Among other things, this initiative requires government power companies to use renewable energy the same as private utilities. If California is going to mandate renewable energy, it should do so fairly.

Yes on 8 because kids deserve a mom and a dad. This initiative restores the historical definition of marriage as a heterosexual institution. Marriage exists so that, in most circumstances, a child's family will include the biological mother and father. No child born into a same-sex marriage will ever grow up with both the biological mother and father.

No on 9 because California's criminal laws are harsh enough and our prisons are already overcrowded. This initiative is a grab bag of increased criminal penalties.

Yes on 10 because dirty and wasteful diesel trucks should get off the road. This initiative authorizes bonds to fund alternative energy power plants and rebates for purchases of alternative fuel cars, consumer trucks, and most important, large freight trucks.

Yes on 11 because voters should pick their legislators not the other way around. This initiatve takes redistricting away from the legislature and puts it in the hands of a new commission staffed by citizens.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There Will Be Ugly.

The George Washington University/Battleground national daily tracking poll has the race for president stagnated. Barack Obama is stuck at 49 percent after coming down from above 50 percent. John McCain is stuck at 46 percent after coming up from the low 40s. Undecideds are stuck at 5 percent. (Here.)

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and predict the national popular vote next Tuesday will be 50-50. My other prediction is that 4 out of 5 undecideds will break for McCain, the devil they know not the one they don't. My third prediction is that turnout will combine with sloppy voter registration procedures to cause chaos at polls around the country, which leads to my fourth prediction. November 2008 will look and feel a lot like November 2000.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chicago's Citizen-Failure Of The Year.

So, criticize Barack Obama for his association with William Ayers and one response will be that Ayers was Chicago's Citizen of the Year. It's true, but here are some facts.

Ayers was chosen Citizen of the Year because he was instrumental in securing a $49.2 million grant for school reform from the Annenberg Foundation. (Here.) The money was used for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.

So what did all that money buy Chicago in terms of education reform? Not much.
"The results of an August 2003 final technical report of the Chicago Annenberg Research Project by the Consortium on Chicago School Research 'suggest that among the schools it supported, the Challenge had little impact on school improvement and student outcomes, with no statistically significant differences between Annenberg and non-Annenberg schools in rates of achievement gain, classroom behavior, student self-efficacy, and social competence.'" (Here.)
So, students didn't benefit but Ayers got himself a veneer of respectability.


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Audacity Of Nope.

Barack Obama's promise to give tax cuts to 95 percent of working (oops, sorry, workin') families is finally getting a tiny bit of scrutiny. His plan relies on refundable tax credits to reach the 95 percent figure because fewer than half of workers make enough money to pay income tax. (Here and here.)

A refundable tax credit is one that gets paid back to all workers who qualify, even those whose income tax liability is less than the refund. It's a kind of income support for lower income workers. Those workers who don't pay income tax do pay Medicare and Social Security taxes. The implication of these facts is that, if Obama's plan is enacted, the federal government will be returning Social Security money to workers. (Here.)

Fortunately for us, the Social Security Trust Fund sits on a solid financial foundation. Oooh, wait, that's not right. Nice plan, Senator.

Obama's victory depends on large turnout among young people, the most unreliable voting demographic in America. The most reliable voting demographic is senior citizens. You've got to wonder which candidate seniors would vote for if they understood the implications of Obama's tax plan.

If John McCain really wants to win this election, he'll start scaring the pants off of grandma and grandpa about Obama's risky scheme to steal money from Social Security. If he's lucky, their fear will trickle down to the workin' class voters who don't make a lot of money and stand to benefit from Obama's giveaways, but who also need Social Security to be solvent when they start to retire.


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Lying Athwart History Getting Run Over.

Colin Powell is no conservative, so his endorsement on Meet The Press today of Barack Obama for president is not as surprising as the apostasy of those conservative pundits who have fallen for the Phony Senator from Illinois. But his endorsement may affect the election more because of the statute Powell enjoys in American society. The timing so close to the election will make a difference also.

You can read Powell's reasoning in the Meet The Press transcript. (Here.) He goes on at some length.

My impression of Powell's endorsement is that it seems based mostly on the personal characteristics of the candidates and only partly on the issues. Powell compares the behavior of Obama and John McCain during the past 7 weeks of the campaign and prefers Obama's confident demeanor. So, put Powell in the same category as those who believe Obama's demeanor denotes moderate policies. Wishful thinking not based on any apparent facts but time will tell.

Powell also questions the choice of Sarah Palin. He believes she is not ready to be president. He also claims Joe Biden is ready, "on day one" as he put it. At least Powell should be given credit for making the right comparison here: Palin versus Biden, not Palin versus Obama, the way most people do. However, there is little in Biden's career that suggests he is ready to be president. His strong suit is experience but that experience hasn't stopped him from being wrong, wrong, wrong on serious foreign policy issues. Most famously, his partition plan for Iraq. To put it plainly, the Dufus of Delaware is a foolish man. He's a man of average intellingence who believes himself smarter than most everybody else. If Obama and Biden win the election, I will get down on my agnostic knees every day and pray that Obama serves his full term.

To the extent, Powell's decision is based on issues, he chooses Obama as the anti-conservative choice. For example, Powell says he is concerned that a McCain presidency will result in two more conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court. Thanks for coming clean about that, General. It's true, that result is more likely with a McCain presidency, but it's not a certain result by any means. I'm not confident that McCain would recognize the difference between a conservative and a nonconservative justice.

In the end Powell's endorsement is a personality choice. Powell has long been a moderate within the Republican Party. He sees Obama as the moderate candidate. It's a leap of faith on Powell's part. Obama's history is not one of political moderation. Even if it were, Obama will have Nancy Pelosi leading the House and Harry Reid leading the Senate. Don't hold your breath waiting for moderate policies to come from that troika.


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Give These Kids A Grant. Now!

If a group of visionary college students at Rice University has its way, one day, we'll be able to lift a pint against heart disease and cancer.
"They're using genetic engineering to create beer that contains resveratrol, a chemical in wine that's been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease in lab animals." (Here.)
Unfortunately, their brilliant concept is just getting off the drawing boards. In the meantime, pour me a vino, won't you?.


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Thursday, October 16, 2008

You Go, Girls!

From the world of science comes news that female-dominated societies aren't necessarily less violent than male-dominated ones. At least among the bonobos.

Who, you might ask? The bonobos are some kind of primate living along the Congo. They, along with chimpanzees, are closely related to humans. The bonobos, unlike chimps (and humans), live in female-dominated social groups. Bonobos, unlike chimps (and humans, again), also have a reputation for peaceful behavior. Apparently, they don't resolve conflicts by fighting each other. They resolve conflicts by promiscuous sex: male-female, male-male, female-female. Whatever gets them through the long jungle nights. The bonobos apparently really like banging each other.

Also, where chimpanzees have been known to hunt and kill monkeys for food, the bonobos were not known to do that. Until now, that is. Apparently a new study has shown bonobos do hunt and kill monkeys.
"Unlike the male-dominated societies of their chimpanzee relatives, bonobo society—in which females enjoy a higher social status than males—has a 'make-love-not-war' kind of image. While chimpanzee males frequently band together to hunt and kill monkeys, the more peaceful bonobos were believed to restrict what meat they do eat to forest antelopes, squirrels, and rodents.

"Not so, according to a study, reported in the October 14th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that offers the first direct evidence of wild bonobos hunting and eating the young of other primate species.

"'These findings are particularly relevant for the discussion about male dominance and bonding, aggression and hunting—a domain that was thought to separate chimpanzees and bonobos,' said Gottfried Hohmann of the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 'In chimpanzees, male-dominance is associated with physical violence, hunting, and meat consumption. By inference, the lack of male dominance and physical violence is often used to explain the relative absence of hunting and meat eating in bonobos. Our observations suggest that, in contrast to previous assumptions, these behaviors may persist in societies with different social relations.'
"Overall, the discovery challenges the theory that male dominance and aggression must be causally linked to hunting behavior, an idea held by earlier models of the evolution of aggression in human and non-human primates. Future work on the bonobos of LuiKotale may shed light on the social and ecological conditions that encourage their monkey-hunting expeditions, yielding insight into the evolutionary significance and causes of aggression, hunting, and meat eating in bonobos, chimpanzees, and ourselves." (Here.)

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Lying Athwart History Getting Run Over.

Another conservative hand wringer has come out against Sarah Palin. Heather MacDonald appeared on the Laura Ingraham radio show yesterday morning.

She spent 12 and a half maddening minutes dissing Palin and praising Barack Obama. This, from the queen of anti-illegal immigration.

First, she complained about Palin bringing the Republicans into identity politics. Then she complained that Palin is not ready to be president and said that Obama gives her confidence in his judgment. Yet she couldn't name a single issue that she agreed with him.

Her comparison between Palin and Obama is a false one. If McCain is elected, we'll have an inexperienced vice-president a heartbeat away from the presidency. If Obama is elected, we'll have an inexperienced heart beating in the White House. There's a big difference.

Ingraham fought the good fight, trying to get MacDonald to see that Palin and McCain are closer to conservatism than Obama and that the election is a zero-sum game with only two choices. MacDonald's comeback to that was to say, "I think that conservative principles can survive the election."

There's that foolishness again about how losing isn't such a bad thing. Doesn't any conservative pundit remember anything about history? Conservatives lose big now, like they did when Lyndon Johnson creamed Barry Goldwater, and they'll be spending another generation trying to dismantle more new programs built into the welfare state.

The Corner at National Review Online has the audio. Listen to the whole sorry thing here.


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Try Private Earmarks For Adler's "Overhead Projector."

The Bad Astronomer has been taking issue with John McCain's references to Barack Obama's earmark request for "the overhead projector" at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. (Here.)

The Bad Astronomer is right that astronomy is really cool. And McCain's use of the term "overhead projector" doesn't come close to describing the complex piece of machinery used by the planetarium. Also funding the Adler Planetarium is worthy as is replacing its projector. But all that doesn't mean the funds have to come from an earmark in the federal budget. It will benefit Chicago if the planetarium's projector gets replaced. But it's no great loss to the country that the Adler Planetarium didn't actually get the federal money that Obama tried to steer his hometown's way.

Chicago is a big and world-class city. Or so I've heard from all the Chicagoans living here in San Diego. Even accounting for the ex-pats here in sunny Southern California, Chicago has lots of people still living there, many of them quite wealthy. There are many business there, some of them quite big. Better the people who live in the area, and the people who use the planetarium, pay to replace the projector than the federal taxpayer.

McCain has a point about the problem with federal budget earmarks. There are millions of projects in the United States worthy of funding. The federal government can't fund them all. The earmarks process results in funds going to those projects supported by politicians and their powerful friends. It's only happenstance that the project is worthwhile.

So, the Bad Astronomer does a public service by including a link on his latest post for sending private donations to the Adler Planetarium. Think of your donation as a private earmark. This is something I'm sure McCain himself would endorse.

In that same spirit, here's a link to San Diego's Air and Space Museum and here's one to San Diego's Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and here's another. Both museums in San Diego promote science, astronomy included, technology, and space and air flight. Both are worthy of your private earmarks.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Maybe God Doesn't Love Us, After All.

It turns out the health benefit of drinking alcohol has its limits. Although moderate drinking has cardiovascular benefits, it apparently doesn't do much good for the brain. Duh, you might say. Well, it's not just short-term stupidity while under the influence that's the problem. No, some scientists, who never should have gotten grant money, have discovered some bad news about alcohol.
"The more alcohol an individual drinks, the smaller his or her total brain volume, according to a new report."
That's the bad news. There's a small bit of good news for those of us blessed with a Y chromosome.
"Although men were more likely to drink alcohol, the association between drinking and brain volume was stronger in women, they [the scientists] note. This could be due to biological factors, including women's smaller size and greater susceptibility to alcohol's effects." (Here.)
One question not answered anywhere in the story. Just how big a brain does a person really need, anyway?


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Lying Athwart History Getting Run Over.

As the presidential campaign enters its last weeks with John McCain trailing Barack Obama, dissension is growing among conservatives. Several have jumped ship to support Obama, the latest being Christopher Buckley. Others have rejected McCain from the beginning. George Will is notable among those. Conservatives who support McCain, Victor Davis Hanson for one, are beginning to chastise the conservatives who jumped ship.

Ross Douthat at The Atlantic weighs in on his blog. This is his conclusion:
"Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on - note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren't Helping The Team these days - are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their 'seat at the table' is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point. And if I were Hanson or Levin or Steyn I'd be devoting a little less time to ritual denunciations of heretics and RINOs, and at least a little more time to figuring out how to build the sort of ship that will make the rats of the DC/NY corridor want to scramble back on board, however much it makes you sick to have them back. Who knows? It might just be the sort of ship that swing-state voters will want to climb on board as well." (Here.)
Douthat's last point seems doubtful. It's also doubtful that there's anything that can be done to bring the defecting conservatives back on board. It seems unlikely they are jumping ship so they can be popular in the liberal cultural milieu where the live and work. They have jumped ship for ideological or political reasons.

Some of the ship-jumping conservatives support Obama. Buckley is a prime example of this type. They believe Obama will be a moderate leader because he's got such an even tempered demeanor. His moderate temperament must mean he will practice moderate politics. There's little evidence of this. Take two issues on which Obama has announced moderate positions.

Obama says he opposes same-sex marriage. Yet he also opposes anything that will stop same-sex marriage from spreading nationwide. He opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. He also opposes a constitutional amendment clarifying that marriage is a heterosexual relationship between one man and one woman. He also has praised the California Supreme Court's decision finding that same-sex couples have a state constitutional right to marry. As a constitutional scholar, Obama must know that without a constitutional amendment, the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution will require states to recognize same-sex marriages enacted in other states. His opposition to same-sex marriage turns out to be words, just words.

Obama also says that he believes the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms. Yet his support of gun rights is limited to sportsmen. He supports the right of hunters to own guns. The right to own guns for self-defense or other purposes? Not so much. He has supported anti-gun legislation throughout his political career. His campaign never gave a straight answer to the very simple question whether Obama supported Washington D.C.'s unconstitutional gun ban that was struck down this year in the Heller case. Again, his support of the Second Amendment turns out to be words, just words.

Conservatives who believe Obama will advance moderate positions once in office are taking a huge leap of faith based on little more than wishful thinking.

Other conservatives don't support Obama but they oppose McCain because the Republican candidate is not a true conservative. Well, that's true enough. But he's more conservative than Obama and there isn't a viable third option. That doesn't matter because these conservatives prefer to lose this election and have the GOP and the conservative movement spend some time in the wilderness. They believe this will benefit the party and the movement by forcing the two to reconcile to each other, return to first principles, and come up with new ideas for new times. It's a foolish notion.

When Goldwater lost big and Johnson won we got the Great Society and conservatives have been trying to dismantle that for a generation. Politics is a zero-sum game. You either win or you lose. If McCain loses it will be conservatism's loss as much as it is the GOP's loss. Conservatives who let their quibbles with McCain and Sarah Palin get the better of them, will get an Obama administration with Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House, Harry Reid in charge of the Senate, and two to three vacancies looming on the Supreme Court. That's one hell of a price to pay to force the GOP and conservatism to reform themselves.


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Monday, October 13, 2008

Space And Country.

With all the attention focused on national manned space programs and private space entrepreneurs, India's space program often gets overlooked. Well, the world's largest democracy is preparing to send an unmanned spaceship to the moon. (Here.)

After posting this, I finally received this week's edition of The Space Review in my email inbox. Dwayne Day reports on a recent conference on India's space program. Krishnaswami Kasturirangan, former head of India's space program, was a speaker.
"Now that India has not only developed significant space capabilities but also experienced substantial economic growth, the Indian space program has entered into what Kasturirangan describes as its 'expansion phase.' India can afford the luxuries of space science and possibly even human spaceflight. The country’s first lunar spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, is scheduled for launch later this month. The government has also created the Antrix Corporation to market Indian space capabilities around the world. The country’s next goals are development of a heavy launch vehicle, lunar exploratory missions, a two-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicle, human spaceflight, and further international cooperation. (Here.)
Later, Kasturirangan spoke about India's manned space plans.
"Kasturirangan explained that right now India’s government has not officially approved a human spaceflight program. Although he did not say so, other sources have indicated that India will pursue a two-person capsule. ISRO is currently studying technology options and questions and he rattled off a long list, including life support, reentry, tracking and human-rating a launch vehicle, clearly indicating that he was personally familiar with the studies. Only after the Indian space agency has answered these questions and defined the kind of vehicle they want to build, its costs, and the timeframe for the first human space launch, will ISRO officials take those plans to the Indian Parliament for formal approval. Simply put, India’s human space program has not yet been fully defined or approved."

Meanwhile, in other news from the subcontinent, a new solar powered ricksha developed by the Indian government is hitting the streets of New Delhi.
"It's been touted as a solution to urban India's traffic woes, chronic pollution and fossil fuel dependence, as well as an escape from backbreaking human toil.

"A state-of-the-art, solar powered version of the humble cycle-rickshaw promises to deliver on all this and more.

"The 'soleckshaw,' unveiled this month in New Delhi, is a motorised cycle rickshaw that can be pedalled normally or run on a 36-volt solar battery.

"Developed by the state-run Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), prototypes are receiving a baptism of fire by being road-tested in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk area." (Here.)


Republished once to add content.

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The Audacity Of Nope

Mark Steyn defines the Phony Senator from Illinois for a pair of young Obama supporters to no effect.
"Traditionally, when an unknown politician emerges on the national scene, it’s a race to define him. Governor Palin is a good example: within days, the coastal sophisticates were mocking her as a chillbilly ditz with a womb that spits out inbred kids faster than the First National Bank of Welfare Swamp issues subprime mortgages. That’s politics as usual: Define your opponent. But Obama is defined by his indefinability. When I pointed out to my Vermont gals that he lives in a swank pad that was part of some shady real estate deal with a convicted fraudster (Tony Rezko), that he entrusted his daughters’ entire religious education to a neo-segregationist anti-American nut who preaches that the government created the AIDS virus to kill black people (Jeremiah Wright), that he attended fundraisers with a political patron who’s an unrepentant terrorist proud of plotting to blow up young ladies just like them at a dance at the Fort Dix military base (William Ayers), when I pointed all this out, they looked at me as if I’d brought a baseball bat to a croquet match. Mere earthbound politicians are defined by their real estate deals and sleazy buddies, but Obama is defined only by his vibe. As his many admirers in France would say, he has a certain je ne sais quoi. And, if you try to pin down quoi precisely, then they don’t want to sais." (Here.)
Ronald Reagan was often called the Teflon Candidate by opponents frustrated that nothing negative ever stuck to him. Senator Obama appears to have the same quality. Reagan was a conservative politician whose ideology was masked by a genial disposition. Obama is a leftie whose ideology hides behind equanimity.


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Race Matters. Or Does It?

Race is emerging as an issue in the Presidential election but not in ways that are supported by the facts. National Public Radio had a segment Friday morning about union leader Richard Trumka's personal crusade to persuade his white, working class members to vote Obama.
"In a speech before the national convention of the United Steelworkers in Las Vegas in July, an emotional Trumka said, 'We can't tap dance around the fact that there are a lot of white folks out there' — a lot of them are good union people, he added — who 'just can't get past this idea that there's something wrong with voting for a black man.'

"In the speech, Trumka went on to say that while there are many reasons to vote for Obama, there's 'only one really, really bad reason to vote against Barack Obama. And that's because he's not white.'

"A recording of that speech has been widely circulated, thanks to YouTube. Since then, Trumka has repeated it at union halls around the country.

"Trumka is white. Asked why he is giving this speech, he told the story of a conversation he had the day of the Pennsylvania primary in his hometown of Nemacolin in the southwest corner of the state.

"'This woman walks up to me. I'd known her for a long time, and I ask her 'Have you decided who you gonna vote for?'

"'There's no way I'd ever vote for Barack Obama,' the woman responded.

"Trumka said he pressed her as to why. First, she said it's because Obama is 'a Muslim.' Trumka responded that Obama is actually a Christian.

"Then, she told him Obama never wears an American flag pin on his lapel. Trumka told her that, too, is false, then asked her why she wasn't wearing one if that is such an important issue.

"Trumka said he continued to push, until 'her eyes dropped down and she said to me, 'Well, he's a black man.' "

"Trumka said he told her to look around at their town, the mining community where they both had lived for so long. 'And I said to her, 'This town is dying — literally dying.' "

"It's a line that he includes, verbatim, whenever he delivers his speech.

"'Our kids are moving away because there's no future here,' Trumka said in the United Steelworkers convention address. 'And here's a man, Barack Obama, who's going to fight for people like us, and you won't vote for him because of the color of his skin? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?'

"The audience erupted in applause." (Here.)

This story fits nicely into the conventional belief about people of pallor in America, especially pallid working class whites. It's also based on a type of information called anecdotes. Another type of information, known as data, reveals that racial consciousness is not much of a factor to the vast majority of Americans. And when it is a factor, it may be less of a factor among whites than it is among non-whites.

The same week that NPR aired its story about Trumka's personal crusade, the Gallup Poll published a report that showed for the vast majority of voters, white or not, Barack Obama's race did not matter. (Here.) In fact, among all voters, his race is a net plus by 3 percentage points.

Now it's true that breaking those numbers down reveals that among whites, Obama's race is a net minus by 1 percentage point. However, among non-whites, John McCain's pallid complexion is a net minus among voters of color by a whopping 8 percentage points.

Here's some of the data from the Gallup poll.

Among all voters, 6 percent are less likely to vote Obama because of his race while 9percent are more likely. His race makes no difference to 85 percent of all voters.

Among white voters, 7 percent are less likely to vote Obama because of his race while 6 percent are more likely. His race makes no difference to 86 percent of voters of pallor.

Among nonwhite voters, 13 percent are less likely to vote McCain because of his race, while 5 percent are more likely. His race makes no difference to 81 percent of voters of color.

The Gallup poll breaks down voters' racial attitudes in other ways. Gallup's conclusion from the data is this:
"The data analyzed here -- based on voters' self-reports -- show that the impact of Obama's and McCain's races appears to cut both ways. Enough voters, particularly nonwhites, say they are more likely to vote for Obama because of his race to offset the small percentage who say they are less likely to vote for him because of his race. And the same is true in reverse for McCain: the impact of nonwhites' saying his race is a negative is offset by those who say it is a positive."

Check the data yourself. (Here is the link again.) Then decide for yourself what the numbers reveal about racial matters in America.


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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Stem Cell Progress Is In The Bag.

So, it turns out that stem cells obtained from testicles offer the same or similar hope for medical progress as stem cells from embryos, according to this story in The Washington Times.
"Earlier studies showed promise using so-called spermatogonial cells from the testes of mice. The new study used cells taken from biopsied tissue from 22 different men undergoing various medical treatments. The men ranged in age from 17 to 81.

"Researchers found that after a few weeks of growth, the cells could differentiate into various types of cells just like those taken from embryos." (Here.)
The story says that men could benefit more from this new source than women because the derived cells would come from the man's own body.
"The new type of stem cells could be useful for growing personalized replacement tissues, according to a study in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. But because of their source, their highest promise would apply to only half the world's population: men."
Presumably this means immune rejection is avoided. However, immune rejection remains a problem with embryonic stem cells.
"Following experiments with mice, Stanford University scientists have announced that stem cell therapies which use human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have a high probability of failing because of immune rejection. In these studies, mice that were injected with hESCs exhibited an immune response which is at least as severe as that triggered by organ transplantation. Consequently, all the transplanted stem cells were killed by the immune system within a week." (Here.)
Thus, it doesn't appear definitive at this time that testicle-derived stem cells would be inferior to those derived from embryos or that they could only be used in men. But perhaps the best solution to overcoming immune rejection will come from research on reprogramming ordinary cells derived from tissues common to both men and women into stem cells. (Here and here.)


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Senator Obama, The One, That One, Whatever.

So, the controversy coming out of the second Presidential debate is what it meant when John McCain referred to Barack Obama once as "that one." Oooo, so disrespectful and maybe even racist. Yeah, that's it. Must be racist. The crazy talking heads on The Mess at NBC are going off the deep end psychobabbling about McCain for that one comment. Meanwhile, the transcript shows that McCain referred to his opponent as Senator Obama 27 times. (Here.) How dare he disrespect Senator Obama so! Doesn't he know the correct term for the reincarnation of Jesus is "The One?" Senator McCain, have you no shame, sir?


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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Space Captains Of Industry In The World Of Today.

Elon Musk, the PayPal co-founder and the guy behind SpaceX, has sent out a new email newsletter updating the findings from the flight to orbit of his company's rocket, Falcon 1.
"A week spent reviewing data has confirmed that the flight went really well, including the coast and restart. The mood here at SpaceX is just ecstatic! This is the culmination of six years of hard work by a very talented team. It is also a great relief for me, who led the overall design of the rocket (not a role I expected to have when starting the company). I felt a little sheepish receiving the AIAA award for the most outstanding contribution to the field of space transportation two weeks before this flight.

"Orbit was achieved with the first burn terminating at 330.5 km altitude and 8.99 degree inclination. The goal for initial insertion was a 330 km altitude and a 9.0 degree inclination, so this was right on target! Accuracy far exceeded our expectations, particularly given that this was the first time Falcon 1 reached orbit.

"The primary purpose of the second burn was to test the restart capability and then burn as long as possible. The upper stage coasted for 43.5 minutes and then burned for 6.8 seconds, which is 4 seconds longer than needed to circularize. Most of the burn was actually done sideways to avoid creating a highly elliptical orbit, hence a change in inclination to 9.3 degrees. The final orbit, confirmed by US Space Command, was 621 km by 643 km.

"As an added bonus, we picked up several minutes of video and data from the upper stage when it passed over Kwajalein one orbit later, which showed the stage to be in good condition. You will see some eerie footage of the upper stage drifting in zero g at the end of the video clip below."
That video can be viewed here. It's way cool!



No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Fear of global warming has led governments around the world to push biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels. It's a policy that results in farmers devoting farmland to growing food for machines instead of food for people. Not surprisingly that policy appears to be more harmful than helpful.
"The U.N. food agency yesterday called for a review of biofuel subsidies and policies, noting that they had contributed significantly to rising food prices and the hunger in poor countries."
The United Nations report confirms the findings of an earlier intergovernmental report.
"In an assessment released this summer, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that government support of biofuel production in member countries was hugely expensive and 'had a limited impact on reducing greenhouse gases and improving energy security.' It did have 'a significant impact on world crop prices' by helping to raise them, the report said." (Here.)
Imagine that. Less food production results in higher food prices, which leads to hunger among poor people. On the other hand, maybe that's the goal. More hunger could result in fewer people and fewer people is better for the environment, people being a cancer on the Earth and all. (Here.) You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.


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How Would Jesus Organize?

"Barack Obama was a community organizer, like Jesus, who our minister prayed about. Pontius Pilate was a governor." -Representative Steve Cohen (Here.)

Meanwhile, in the real world, this just in from Nevada on how community organizers operate, specifically, ACORN, the organization associated with The One.
"Nevada authorities seized documents and records yesterday in a raid on the Las Vegas headquarters of a community organization that works to get low-income people to vote.

"Secretary of State Ross Miller said the raid was part of a months-long voter fraud investigation of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which he said submitted fraudulent registrations, including forms for the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team." (Here.)

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Monday, October 06, 2008

The Best Of All Possible Worlds.

So, the market is now down over 700 points with 90 minutes still to go until closing bell. Can't W send in some federal marshals to close it down early? The principle of government intervention in the market is already well established, what with the big $700 billion bailout. Let's go all the way!

Things are not looking good at all. Too late really to do anything but ride it out. But the panic is rising within me. What I'd really like to do is convert all my liquid assets to gold coins and put them in my gun safe at home. Add a vegetable garden to the backyard, some chickens, maybe a goat, start a home brewery to dull the misery, and hunker down until the next world war ends the upcoming great depression about 5-10 years from now! In this the best of all possible worlds, it's time to tend our gardens.


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Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Audacity Of Nope

The Presidential Council of Iraq has approved the provincial elections law. Local elections must occur sometime before January 31, 2009. (Here.) More good news in this the 21st month of The Surge that was opposed by Barack Obama. Nice call, Senator.


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No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Fear of global warming is leading governments to regulate people's lives at lower and lower levels. For instance, there's the move to ban standard light bulbs and replace them with compact fluorescents.
"Touted as a greener alternative to traditional lighting, CFLs are about four times more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. This increased efficiency lessens the energy demand on generating stations powered by fossil fuels and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the amount of packaging and old light bulbs that end up in landfills. But unlike incandescent light bulbs, CFLs contain mercury, a toxin with potentially hazardous effects that can be released during manufacturing and disposal.

"'It's always good to promote energy efficiency, but it's always a tradeoff,' said lead author Matthew Eckelman, a graduate student in Yale's Department of Chemistry and the Center for Industrial Ecology. 'You may get a lower energy bill at home, but you don't see the emissions or the runoff downstream.'

"While the researchers stress that their study isn't an excuse to ignore the energy problem and stick with old, inefficient technologies, they caution that nation-wide strategies such as recent bans on incandescent bulbs, adopted by several countries including the U.S., may be too general. 'All sustainability issues are local,' said Zimmerman. 'We need to ask if we should be making decisions on a national level, or if this is something better left to local governments.'" (Here.)
I would ask whether the regulation is necessary at all.


Republished once to correct omission and spelling.

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Survive Bird Flu: Work At A Grocery Store.

Lawyers like to think we're at the top of the food chain in our society. Although a friend once told me, lawyers don't run the world, they just do the bidding of those who do. That shut me up for a few seconds.

Now comes a real blow to lawyerly self-esteem.
"Not only are doctors, nurses, and firefighters essential during a severe pandemic influenza outbreak. So, too, are truck drivers, communications personnel, and utility workers. That's the conclusion of a Johns Hopkins University article to be published in the journal of Biosecurity and Bioterrorism." (Here.)
The report goes on to include grocery store workers in its list of essential personnel. Lawyers, not so much.

The most important advice offered by the report is for individuals to be prepared, although that advice comes with a bit of weird trickle down theorizing.
"[I]ndividuals and families who can afford it should do their best to prepare for any disaster. The paper notes, the more initiative the general public exercises in stockpiling several weeks' worth of food, water, paper goods, batteries medicines, and other needed supplies, the less vulnerable they will be to a break in the supply chain. In fact, the report emphasizes, it is important for leaders to communicate to the middle class and the wealthy that it is their responsibility to prepare for self-sufficiency in order to free up scarce supplies and allow first responders to direct their attention towards those too poor or vulnerable to prepare themselves."
Speaking of surviving a disaster. Here's the most recent addition to my Second Amendment Disaster Preparedness Kit. It's a Henry, pump action 22 long rifle. -tdr

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarah, Smile.

Governor Sarah Palin was great to watch tonight. I love Republican politicians who are confident of their position and unwilling to cede any high ground to their Democratic opponents. Ever since Palin's nomination as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Democrats have amused themselves with hateful anti-Palin rhetoric and jokes. It's as if they felt permission to unleash their inner sexism because Palin is a conservative, Christian, Republican woman. I suppose the hateful jokes will continue. But tonight, Palin showed that it's a mistake to misunderestimate her.


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The Audacity Of Nope.

The latest good news from Iraq is that the central government is taking over control of the so-called Awakening Councils. (Here.) There is tension associated with the turnover driven by some mistrust. But the transfer represents yet another positive result of the surge in Iraq. The surge that the phony senator from Illinois judged would not work. Nice call, Senator.


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