Monday, December 28, 2009

Colts opt to leave the history-making to someone else

It was week 15. The New Orleans Saints were down 24-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, and their perfect season was on the line. With a playoff spot locked up, you might have expected to see Drew Brees standing on the sideline with his helmet off. You would be wrong. Brees was rallying his troops for an improbable comeback, mounting two successful TD drives before being sacked and stopped on the third drive that would have tied the game. The Cowboys had taken the Saint’s perfect season by force, but not without a fight.

Fast forward one week. It is the 3rd quarter, and the Indianapolis Colts are leading the NY Jets by 5. The Jets anemic offense, under the inexperienced and error-prone Mark Sanchez, has only scored 3 points in the whole game thus far. The Colts are defending a perfect 14-0 record, one that has been matched only two other times in NFL history. Like the Saints a week before, the Colts might have attempted to win the game with aggressive play by the starting offense. Many believe they should have, myself among them. Here is a general question: who won the Super Bowl in 1971? What about 1973, 1974, or 1975? I certainly don't know, and I'd wager most people don't. That is the point - everyone remembers who won in 1972. The Colts had the opportunity to do something nobody had ever done, to reach football perfection and go 19-0. Certainly something worth fighting for.

Peyton Manning hadn't been sacked all night, and had been barely touched. In 191 consecutive games, he hasn't been injured. Still, there is some risk, so I don't completely blame the Colts staff for being worried about injury. Instead of opting for aggressively pursuing a win, like Brees and the Saints the week before, the Colts could have put in subs and went with a conservative offensive strategy. They could have went with plays that put Peyton at no risk: running plays, short screens, the occasional one-step drop passes. Run the clock down, take no risk, and punt the ball if it comes to it. Sit on the 5 point lead, and force Mark Sanchez to beat the Colts defense at home.

In a staggering display of lack of heart, inept play calling, or maybe both, the Colts went with the worst of both worlds. They put in the backups, but then went with aggressive play calling. Some may dispute that, but it would be wrong to do so. The Colts were inside of their own twenty, against one of the best defenses in the league. Dropping back a completely inexperienced QB for long passes is the very definition of aggressive play calling, and we all know the result. The Colts threw away an incredibly rare opportunity, in a pseudo trade for a Super Bowl. I'd never actually seen a professional athletic team shy away from greatness until that night. Furthermore, those who made this false choice between perfect season and Super Bowl are only kidding themselves. The Colts' decision Sunday evening makes them less likely to win a championship, not more.

The Colts started 13-0 in 2005. They lost game 14 to the Chargers, took it easy for the rest of the season, had a first-round playoff bye, but still lost immediately to the Steelers. In 2007, the Colts again rested the last game of the season, losing to the Titans. After the bye week, the Colts were knocked out of the playoffs by the Chargers. This isn't to argue that the Colts should never bench their starters, or shouldn't take advantage of a bye week. Rather, it shows that taking it easy at the end of the season is simply not a guarantor of playoff success here in Indianapolis. Haven't we learned this lesson by now?!

Having watched the Colts over the last few years, there is only one thing in my mind that is an indicator of future performance - momentum. The Colts are a rhythm team, so when the offense is in sync they are hard to stop. A Colts offense in rhythm is usually a Colts team that is ahead in the game, which means the defense is resting more, and the opposing offense is passing when they are on the field. I for one think the Colts defense is stronger against the pass than the run, and I cite Freeney and Mathis as evidence for my claim.

Whoever it is that the Colts end up playing first, they’re going to have revenge on their mind: Patriots, Ravens, Texans, Bengals, or Broncos. When they face this vengeful opponent, it might have been a full month since the Colts will have won a game; I hope they do not forget what victory tastes like. Hopefully the Colts manage a victory. And maybe they'll stop the Chargers in the AFC championship, a team that will by that point be on a 12-game winning streak, will have tons of momentum, and has a long storied history of kicking the crap out of the Colts. Perhaps the Colts will even win a Super Bowl. Then they can look back at their flawed record and wonder what if, and leave the history-making to some other team with more heart.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Right to a lawyer, Right to a doctor

I was watching MSNBC's Hardball tonight, and one comment by the host prompted the following email.



I enjoy your show, but you said something tonight that I disagreed with. To paraphrase, you said that if a criminal has a right to a lawyer, then a family has a right to a doctor.

You are confusing positive rights and negative rights. The reason an alleged criminal (they are innocent until proven guilty) has a right to a lawyer is because the state is moving to take away the defendant's freedom. Freedom is a negative right, and nobody can take our freedom away unless we infringe on the rights of others (by breaking the laws which were written to protect the rights of others). We also have the right to health. This is also a negative right, because nobody can take our health away from us, either by polluting our water or land, doing us physical harm, experimenting on us, et cetera.

However, taking something away is very different than giving something. While we all have the right to health, none of us have a right to health care. Health care is of course a service, and someone has to provide that service. Ultimately, to enforce a right to health care, the state might be forced to enslave someone to provide that health care. That of course would be infringing on the rights of the service providers.

I am a senior medical student. I was a supporter of the public option, and am a supporter of the reform bill that passed, weak though that it may be. It is shameful that people in the richest nation on earth should be without access to basic health care because they are poor. Health care is an invaluable service that we are, and should be, willing to sacrifice for. Just remember that health care is not a right, because I am not a slave.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The new North Korea


The interesting thing is that I used to be all for negotiation and reconciliation with Iran. But it is becoming a Stalin-esque police state, and now I'm thinking we should do the government as few favors as possible.

...and the biggest favor we could ever do them is to attack the nuclear facilities, or give the Israelis the green light to do it themselves.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


"You didn't write about me on your blog. You wrote about...Afghanistan."

My girlfriend and I have officially been dating for one year. Big milestone! And she is wonderful =).

Amnesty. Now.

This is the worst thing I've read in years. Albinos in Africa are being hunted and murdered for their body parts, which some believe have magical properties. An albino person can go for $75,000 dollars.

Imagine having a 7.5 MILLION dollar bounty on your head from the moment you are born, only because of the way you look. Imagine living with that sort of target. That is what it is like for an albino in some African countries.

Every single albino who wants a chance at a decent life should be offered amnesty in America.

Obama on Afghanistan


Military-Industrial Complex: 1 Barack Obama: 0

That being said, I have the right to criticize Obama's handling of the Afghanistan situation because I DIDN'T RUN THE FAILED WAR EFFORT FOR THE LAST 8 YEARS. Former Vice President Dick Cheney does NOT have that luxury, and so should kindly STFU, and keep his opinions about Obama's handling of Afghanistan to himself.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Didn't the Germans ban construction of new Synagogues before WW2?

Multicultural Fail.

This really isn't especially surprising, though. The Europeans have a lot of difficulty dealing with racial and religious differences that we don't have in the states. This may sound counter intuitive, but its definitely true. Until recently, it was only America that had a sizable minority population; European nations were mostly homogeneous. Demographic changes in Europe have meant that now there are sizable minorities in many European countries; this is a new phenomenon, and as this recent referendum shows, the Europeans aren't handling it superbly. Even the Swiss, who are world renowned for their openness and tolerance, passed a bill that accomplishes literally nothing other than to inflame tensions and discriminate against one group of people.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Deficits

Great post from Tyler Cowen:
There have been many posts on this topic [whether or not having a large deficit is ok] lately, start with Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong if you need to catch up. Today I have a few simple points:

1. Even if "it is fine to borrow more" is the most likely scenario, it is not the only scenario. Let's take a page from Marty Weitzman on climate change. The worst-case scenarios matter too, because they can be very, very bad. We need to think probabilistically about this issue.

2. Are there current intelligent discussions of the implied interest rate volatility embedded in current options prices? If we are looking for market tests, why not start there? Focusing on the point estimate of the market interest rate(s) discourages you from thinking probabilistically.

3. I know less about Belgium but I am not reassured by Krugman's point that "Italy can do it." I and many other observers consider Italy's economy to be a basket case which will only get worse. Nor is Japan in a satisfactory place, economically speaking.

4. Krugman writes: "Belgium is politically weak because of the linguistic divide; Italy is politically weak because it’s Italy. If these countries can run up debts of more than 100 percent of GDP without being destroyed by bond vigilantes, so can we."

I would interpret this evidence differently. A high deficit often is an unfavorable symptom of bad politics, even if you think the high deficit is economically OK on its own terms. It's a sign that you have dysfunctional institutions and decision-making procedures, as indeed they do in Belgium and Italy. I believe that the not-always-swift American voter in fact understands high deficits -- correctly -- in this light. They don't hold theories about "crowding out," rather they sense something in the house must be rotten. And so they rail against deficits, as do some of their elected representatives. It's a more justified reaction than the pure economics alone can illuminate.

When water regularly overflows from your toilet, you want the toilet fixed, whether or not the water is doing harm.

I heard it myself regularly during the first eight years of the decade, from Bush apologists, that running a deficit isn't really bad. But clearly it isn't a good thing. And like Cowen points out, why are we allowing ourselves to settle for an economic situation that is probably or hopefully not bad, but certainly not good, and possibly catastrophic?

Republicans and Democrats alike are terrible about this. Except for Bill Clinton.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Rebirth of McCarthyism

Its been sad, although unsurprising, to watch a certain faction of this country regress into a consensus for bigotry and paranoia. One always has the temptation to believe that we are above this sort of thing as a people, but I know that such a belief would be a delusion. At any rate, you have the "conservative wing of the Republican Party" (which perhaps due to the silence or weakness of the theoretical moderates, is really just another way of saying The Republican Party) descending into this anti-Islamic thing.

Interestingly enough, in some respects I am supportive of criticism of Islam itself, if put in a certain context. Islam is an idea, not a race of people. And while direct criticism of races is pretty reprehensible, criticism of ideas is not; in fact, it is the opposite (criticism and mockery of ideas should be encouraged). Other ideas include: Christianity, evolution, the European Union, communism, and Batman. The fact that 'Islam' is so insecure with mockery (remember the Muhammad Cartoons in 2005?) is an enormous sign of weakness in my eyes. And I strongly applaud anyone who is willing to mock a self-righteous idea. My response to the outrage about the Danish Muhammad cartoons was that we should all draw more cartoons.

One reason that antisemitism is concerning is because Jewish is a race as it is an idea, and so hatred of an idea (Jewishness) becomes racism against a people. Likewise, in the United States, a majority of people are white, and most Muslims are not. Thus in an international context, criticism or mockery of Islam doesn't strike me as racist at all because Muslims are so heterogeneous. In the United States, however, prejudice towards Muslims becomes de facto a form of racism, because someone looking for Muslims would know which racial minorities to look for (still with many cases of mistaken identity).

But seriously, I see these knuckleheads on TV debating about whether or not we should call it terrorism. Its like they're using code for "Muslim attack on Christian" when they say "terrorism". Terrorism is of course an idea as well, and it is pretty absurd to think we can declare war on an idea. But that's the sad thing. These people aren't declaring war on terrorism when they say they want to fight terrorism. They're talking about fighting Muslims, killing Muslims, profiling Muslims. They're talking about infringing on American citizens' freedom of religion, the refusal to accept which was a founding issue for this nation. But like I said, I'm not really surprised. We have people who deny that Obama was born an American citizen, we have death panels and socialists. We had communists, and Japanese in internment camps. We also had half the country secede and try fight a war to try to keep black people enslaved.

Here is a parting observation about the people that are inducting the New McCarthyist age. These people are intolerant and bigoted; they are slandering Islam for political purposes; they're talking about racially profiling American citizens, and pushing for a war on Muslims terror: these are the ones who claim to be the most devout Christians! What part of this sort of behavior would Jesus Christ approve of?

Will the true Christians stand up to their extremists in the GOP and on Fox News, just as we urge Muslims to do the same?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In defense of dithering

*** Update ***

I'd also like to add something about general strategy. This isn't about whether or not we are going to fight against Al Qaeda. Its about how we are going to fight Al Qaeda. And if people believe that a war against a decentralized, polylithic entity like Al Qaeda, which is at this point more of an idea than an organization, will best be served by performing counter-insurgency in pretty much the most inhospitable country ever, in the absence of a credible local political ally, I think they are mistaken. There is opportunity cost. Every dollar spent fighting in Afghanistan is a dollar that could be spent doing something else (deploying 1 additional US soldier costs enough to build 23 schools). Every soldier in Afghanistan is a soldier that could be doing something else.

And, "something else for our soldiers to do" includes nothing at all! One reason that Iran and North Korea suddenly got so uppity in 2003 is because all of the sudden 150,000 US troops were tied up in counterinsurgency in Iraq, and half that number in Afghanistan. Bush couldn't have attacked another country if he wanted to, because we didn't have the ground forces. Remember, a huge, conventionally invincible American army with nothing to do IS a serious deterrent.

*** End Update ***

Lets make the right call.

Of course, my main criticism of the dithering is this. Clearly, Barack Obama doesn't want to send more troops to Afghanistan. If he did, there wouldn't be a reason to wait beyond the Afghan Presidential Election (which I think should be central to the decision). And yet the election came and went, Karzai was elected by fraud against a weak challenger, and we haven't a decision.

At any rate, I've had certain expectations about Barack Obama and I've always felt that I have a great read on his thought process. And my read is that he does not want to send more troops to Afghanistan. If he does send more troops, I'll be pretty disappointed, because I'll have to believe it was for political purposes. Unless there is some really juicy game-changing intel that I'm not privy to, but I doubt that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Iraq as a catalyst for war

A week or so ago, Matthew Yglesias made a really good point. One commonly cited reason why the US needed to stay in Iraq and stabilize the country was that if we abandoned it, it would cause a regional war. Saudi Arabia would intervene on the side of Sunnis, Iran on the side of Shias, boom WW3.

However, in the last few weeks we've seen the development of some escalations in violence in Yemen which appears to be the result of some proxy wars going on. You have the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen attacking Shia rebels in northern Yemen, which in turn are being backed by Iran.

This proxy war is taking place and yet, as Matt pointed out, nobody is saying that we should be rushing 100,000 US troops into the buffer to prevent a war between the Saudis and Iran. This isn't to say that I don't think Iraq isn't important for other reasons. But purely as a means to prevent a regional war, this parallel situation suggests maybe that isn't a good use for US troops.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Dithering

Obama still contemplating Afghanistan strategy, according to the NY Times. I suspect that Obama does not want to increase troop levels at all, and probably wants to begin to end our involvement in Afghanistan. That's what I would do. However, the military-industrial complex seems to be inexorably pushing him in the direction of additional troops.

At any rate, I wanted to point out that one thing that makes me question my own position is that I share it with Joe Biden. Biden has an almost unparalleled history of being epically wrong on foreign policy issues. He was opposed to the first Gulf War, to kick Saddam out of Kuwait. He then supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which obviously was a mistake. After that, he opposed the troop surge, which ultimately worked in Iraq, and advocated partitioning the country into three smaller nations, which would have been a disaster.

So really, the safe bet here may be to find out what Biden wants to do, and just do the opposite. He wants to draw down troop levels and focus on al Qaeda only. Maybe we should support McChrystal's plan, then.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Quick comment. There had better be a very good reason why we haven't been updated on the Afghanistan strategy by the Obama Administration. The Afghan elections came and went, they were a failure. Karzai is in charge, and he is incompetent and corrupt. What now? My vote is that it isn't worth it. I suspect Obama feels the same way. What is he waiting for?

Opposition to Health Reform

A short article from The Economist declares that "Unfortunately, a government-run insurance policy is on the table again". A relevant quote from the article, with numbered brackets for my response below:

"A public plan is likely to damage competition[1]. A government insurer has some big advantages over a private one; its financing costs would be lower because the government can borrow cheaply[2]; it would not have to worry too much about future liabilities since it could never go bust[3]; and its economies of scale would be larger than those of the competition[4]."

1. Competition is already extremely low in the industry.
2. Isn't this a good argument as to why we should want a government option?
3. As the financial crisis showed, the government isn't going to let big private insurance companies go bust either.
4. Isn't this the best argument one could make for a public option?

So, I'm not saying that a public option is a fantastic idea. I just haven't, up till now, really had it articulated to me strongly as to why it's not. I figured The Economist could step up to that plate if anyone could, but this article in the October 31st issue really falls short.

Oh, and a final quote from the article:

"And finally, by resurrecting the idea of a public plan, the Democrats are serving notice that what little chance there was of a bipartisan effort on health care is gone."

Please. It is quite obvious at this point that the GOP has but one objective: do everything in their power to make sure the President of the United States fails.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Quote of the Day

A good illustration why international cooperation on climate change is so challenging:

Current American attempts to persuade China to emit less carbon, are, as one distingushed economist put it, akin to a “nation of SUV drivers trying to tell a nation of bicyclists not to drive mopeds.’’ To have any global credibility, the United States must stop enacting new policies that encourage SUV lifestyles.

This was an excerpt from a discussion of how the home buyer's tax credit encourages suburban sprawl. The suburbs are a great place to raise a family, there is no denying that. Even so, I have a perhaps idealized vision in my head of what it is like to live in a high-density urban area. Basically what it comes down to is that I hate driving cars and I hate sitting in traffic even more. I want to be able to walk to the places I need to go, and for those that I can't walk to I want to be able to sit on a subway. Its simply not possible to do those sorts of things in a city like Indianapolis, which is extremely sparse as cities go, which means it is basically impossible to get anywhere without a car.

I am really a very anti-car person. I think they affect Americans in all sorts of negative ways that are very under appreciated. I was in Amsterdam in May, and it was super relaxing, and most of the locals struck me as very relaxed, calm people. Marijuana jokes aside, the people in Amsterdam ride their bikes or walk everywhere. They are never sitting in a car or stuck in traffic. So of course they aren't stressed! And when driving somewhere, it is purely lost time or even negative time, as nothing else of substance can be accomplished and it isn't particularly relaxing. I would almost relish riding a subway for 30 minutes every day, where I could relax and read my weekly Economist, listen to music and sip on my coffee, ignoring everything around me. Maybe I just don't have an appreciation for what it is like to sit in a crowded subway car, but the prospect of having an efficient, fast public transit system that allows me to avoid driving a car is a major factor that will decide where I want to live in the future.

The other problem could be that I don't have an especially nice car, but that isn't likely to change for another decade or more =).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Moot Points

Only three posts ago, I made the following observation about the major political problem facing Afghanistan:

The Karzai government...corrupt, disliked by the people, part of the problem, and I definitely don't trust the guy. Here is the kicker - whats the alternative? There is a run-off election coming up. If Karzai wins, we have the same problems. If Karzai doesn't win, then all of the sudden the leader of Afghanistan [Abdullah Abdullah] is not an ethnic Pashtun. That would be a serious problem, since Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group by far in Afghanistan and are the main component of the Taliban.

As it turns out, Abdullah Abdullah isn't even going to participate in the Afghan run-off election. Which means that Karzai and his corrupt, incompetent, disliked government wins by default. How can Barack Obama justify spending countless additional billions and more importantly the lives of additional US servicemen in the defense of a political dead-end? The reason the Soviets lost in Afghanistan is that the communist government they were backing was hugely unpopular. We're in the same situation.

Interestingly enough, while I'm very convinced that Obama won't send more troops to Afghanistan, I seem to be taking the minority view here. The markets at Intrade are saying that there is an 80% chance that Obama will send 10,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan before December is over. Recent bad news coming from the Afghan political realm doesn't seem to have budged those numbers much.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Being perfectly clear on 9/11

Here is John McCain on the importance of Afghanistan:

We must succeed in Afghanistan for many reasons, but one stands above all: the world walked away from Afghanistan once, and it descended into a cauldron of violence, hatred and human rights atrocities that served as the base for the worst terrorist attack in history against our homeland.

McCain falls victim to the temptation of absolutes here. There are certainly some situations where an unstable nation poses an immediate threat and therefore it is in the interest of national security that said nation be stabilized. Take France in the 1920s. You had Germany next door, with a population 50% larger. Germany only a decade prior was a leading world economic, industrial, and military power but had become an economic basket case with unprecedented hyperinflation. The people were pissed, and especially at France. THAT is the situation where you get worried.

Then consider Afghanistan and the USA. The last and only time that I know of Afghanistan having a strong central government was the Durrani empire several hundred years ago. The US and Afghanistan almost couldn't be farther away geographically. The US has about ten times the population of Afghanistan. The US economy is about 1,270 times larger. The US has military bases all over the planet and strong military alliances with the majority of nations in the world. Afghanistan, even under the Taliban, will have no nation-state allies, but they will have many enemies in their vicinity including Iran and Pakistan.

I just think we really need to keep things in perspective when we talk about threats to the USA. Afghanistan never will be a threat to the USA. The attacks on 9/11 were perpetrated by some dudes who happened to train in Afghanistan, but they could have just as easily have been trained in Europe, in the Middle East, or anywhere else. And if every "cauldron of violence, hatred and human rights atrocities" warrants nation-building as McCain says, we might as well start in Africa because most of it is going on there.

9/11 didn't happen because the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. 9/11 happened because we let crazy dudes with knives board an unarmed airplane with no cabin doors.

Tom Friedman on Afghanistan

Link here. I don't often link op-eds on my own blog, but I think this one was especially relevant. We often overstate our ability to impose our will upon people, and we should think long and hard about that when we look at Afghanistan. We take full credit for how Iraq turned out, but Friedman is right when he points out that the Sunni Arabs in Iraq decided they didn't want to live under Islamic law. That's what it came down to, and that's why the surge worked. There isn't a comparable situation in Afghanistan. And even if there was, so what?

Really, what are the Taliban going to do if we do pull out? They're not going to establish a strong centralized state that is going to arm itself and wage war on the West. They'll splinter off and fragment and continue to fight a civil war and keep the people in poverty. Our only concern will be to back the groups that are willing to fight Al Qaeda. Speaking of Al Qaeda, they have bases all over the world. Are they really going to set up their main operation in Afghanistan again, knowing that we'll be buzzing drones overhead for the next decade, looking for terrorist training camps to bomb? Why would they, when they could set up bases in other countries where we won't be looking so intensely? Somalia, Sudan, in the Middle East...or worse, Europe or Canada. At any rate, my money is that Obama doesn't significantly increase our troop deployment. Rather, I think he will redefine the mission and keep the current level of troops for a while before starting to phase them out. Here is Friedman's article:

It is crunch time on Afghanistan, so here’s my vote: We need to be thinking about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way, not dig in deeper. We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan.

I base this conclusion on three principles. First, when I think back on all the moments of progress in that part of the world — all the times when a key player in the Middle East actually did something that put a smile on my face — all of them have one thing in common: America had nothing to do with it.

America helped build out what they started, but the breakthrough didn’t start with us. We can fan the flames, but the parties themselves have to light the fires of moderation. And whenever we try to do it for them, whenever we want it more than they do, we fail and they languish.

The Camp David peace treaty was not initiated by Jimmy Carter. Rather, the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, went to Jerusalem in 1977 after Israel’s Moshe Dayan held secret talks in Morocco with Sadat aide Hassan Tuhami. Both countries decided that they wanted a separate peace — outside of the Geneva comprehensive framework pushed by Mr. Carter.

The Oslo peace accords started in Oslo — in secret 1992-93 talks between the P.L.O. representative, Ahmed Qurei, and the Israeli professor Yair Hirschfeld. Israelis and Palestinians alone hammered out a broad deal and unveiled it to the Americans in the summer of 1993, much to Washington’s surprise.

The U.S. surge in Iraq was militarily successful because it was preceded by an Iraqi uprising sparked by a Sunni tribal leader, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who, using his own forces, set out to evict the pro-Al Qaeda thugs who had taken over Sunni towns and were imposing a fundamentalist lifestyle. The U.S. surge gave that movement vital assistance to grow. But the spark was lit by the Iraqis.

The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon, the Green Revolution in Iran and the Pakistani decision to finally fight their own Taliban in Waziristan — because those Taliban were threatening the Pakistani middle class — were all examples of moderate, silent majorities acting on their own.

The message: “People do not change when we tell them they should,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum. “They change when they tell themselves they must.”

And when the moderate silent majorities take ownership of their own futures, we win. When they won’t, when we want them to compromise more than they do, we lose. The locals sense they have us over a barrel, so they exploit our naïve goodwill and presence to loot their countries and to defeat their internal foes.

That’s how I see Afghanistan today. I see no moderate spark. I see our secretary of state pleading with President Hamid Karzai to re-do an election that he blatantly stole. I also see us begging Israelis to stop building more crazy settlements or Palestinians to come to negotiations. It is time to stop subsidizing their nonsense. Let them all start paying retail for their extremism, not wholesale. Then you’ll see movement.

What if we shrink our presence in Afghanistan? Won’t Al Qaeda return, the Taliban be energized and Pakistan collapse? Maybe. Maybe not. This gets to my second principle: In the Middle East, all politics — everything that matters — happens the morning after the morning after. Be patient. Yes, the morning after we shrink down in Afghanistan, the Taliban will celebrate, Pakistan will quake and bin Laden will issue an exultant video.

And the morning after the morning after, the Taliban factions will start fighting each other, the Pakistani Army will have to destroy their Taliban, or be destroyed by them, Afghanistan’s warlords will carve up the country, and, if bin Laden comes out of his cave, he’ll get zapped by a drone.

My last guiding principle: We are the world. A strong, healthy and self-confident America is what holds the world together and on a decent path. A weak America would be a disaster for us and the world. China, Russia and Al Qaeda all love the idea of America doing a long, slow bleed in Afghanistan. I don’t.

The U.S. military has given its assessment. It said that stabilizing Afghanistan and removing it as a threat requires rebuilding that whole country. Unfortunately, that is a 20-year project at best, and we can’t afford it. So our political leadership needs to insist on a strategy that will get the most security for less money and less presence. We simply don’t have the surplus we had when we started the war on terrorism after 9/11 — and we desperately need nation-building at home. We have to be smarter. Let’s finish Iraq, because a decent outcome there really could positively impact the whole Arab-Muslim world, and limit our exposure elsewhere. Iraq matters.

Yes, shrinking down in Afghanistan will create new threats, but expanding there will, too. I’d rather deal with the new threats with a stronger America.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The real problems with Afghanistan

I've said before, there are many realities about Afghanistan that make our war there more difficult than is/was the case in Iraq. Some examples:

-While Afghanistan is both bigger and more populous than Iraq, they are close enough that I don't think either of these really makes a difference. More important is the landscape. Afghanistan is extremely rugged, mountainous, inhospitable, and rural. Iraq, on the other hand, is very flat and most of the population urbanized. As far as geography goes, Afghanistan was always more similar to Vietnam than was Iraq, even though people were quick to call Iraq "Bush's Vietnam".

-Our enemy in Iraq, for the most part, did not have a safe haven outside of Iraq. Thus it was just a matter of ejecting the insurgents from within by getting their protecting population to turn against them. In Afghanistan, our enemy simply runs across the border to Pakistan when things get too dicey. There is no evidence that the Pakistani military is going to be a reliable partner in going after the Taliban, either. Sure, they're going after the Taliban right now; the Taliban are waging full scale war against Pakistan. It makes one wonder, however, what the Taliban perception of the US presence long term is, that they are apparently unafraid to open up a second front while we're still around. Maybe they assume we're leaving soon. If we don't, they could just decide to stop fighting the Pakistanis for now (reach another truce), and are we going to be sure the Pakistanis will continue to fight them? History says they won't. Again, Vietnam was like Afghanistan in that our enemies had a safe haven, North Vietnam, where they were relatively safe, and where they could rest, re-arm, and recruit.

-Iraq has had a strong central government for a long time now so the people there are used to living under a strong central government. Afghanistan has been almost in anarchy for years, with a very decentralized power system. This makes our strategy of empowering the central Afghan government seem like a questionable one.

-In Afghanistan we are confronted with an ideological enemy, and those seem to be the most difficult to defeat. The Taliban are motivated by strong religious conviction in most cases, although arguably some are bought. In Iraq, we were able to quell a large part of the insurgency simply by putting them on our bankroll. I suspect that Taliban will be more expensive to buy off than former Baathist secular Iraqis. Again, we look to Vietnam. Our enemy there was motivated also by ideology, communism, which made them stubbornly resistant to our attacks.

All of these things being said, I do believe the United States *could* pacify Afghanistan and stabilize the country if it wanted to. With Iraq just about wrapped up, we have the troops. America definitely knows how to do counter-insurgency, thanks to experience gained in Iraq. It would take several years, but we could do it. So what then is the real problem? I see two of them:

1. Is it even worth it? I question whether it is. Afghanistan is just not a strategically important country and maybe won't ever be. The best argument that I've seen repeated in multiple places is that a Taliban revival will destabilize Pakistan. I'm not sure about this. Pakistan got on fine with the Taliban before 9/11, and anyway, Pakistan is just too big of a country for the Taliban to pose an existential threat to. Other arguments about an al Qaeda safe haven, America's reputation, et cetera have been thoroughly debunked over the last few weeks so I'll ignore those.

2. The Karzai government. Corrupt, disliked by the people, part of the problem, and I definitely don't trust the guy. Here is the kicker - whats the alternative? There is a run-off election coming up. If Karzai wins, we have the same problems. If Karzai doesn't win, then all of the sudden the leader of Afghanistan is not an ethnic Pashtun. That would be a serious problem, since Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group by far in Afghanistan and are the main component of the Taliban. Heck, "Afghan" is just another name for "Pashtun". So basically, we're stuck with a corrupt and ineffective government or one that will stoke even more insurgency just by virtue of what it is.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sorry, we're busy right now

I was very optimistic about the prospects of advances in the peace process between Israel and Palestine. I had to believe that Obama and Netanyahu were on similar pages and would be working behind the scenes to make something happen regardless of what their public pronouncements have been.

Since then I've been extremely disappointed, especially with Netanyahu who is someone that I held in high esteem. Obama asked of him one simple favor: stop expanding settlements into Israel. That is but a tiny concession in the grand scheme of things, and one that the Israelis should have made immediately. Instead, Netanyahu minced Obama's words and has "restrained" new settlement building but has not stopped what the Israelis call natural growth.

You know, San Diego CA is a big American city and it arguably will continue to grow in the future. But just because we need space for natural growth of the city doesn't mean that it can grow into Mexico and turn that into America. If Detroit someday needs to grow, it isn't going to grow north into Canada, it is going to grow south into Michigan. So this idea of "natural growth" is total BS.

I'm not sure what Netanyahu is up to, and perhaps he is buying his time till the next American administration, calculating that Obama's stance (that the Israelis will ultimately need to make concessions in any peace agreement, which is obvious to any reasonable person on the planet) will be replaced by the mainstream Republican position (Israel should never concede a single thing and yet still expect peace). That being said, Obama is still the president now. He represents the will of the American people, who have (rightly) supported Israel for years. I think it is a slap in our faces for Netanyahu to refuse a favor as simple as no longer expanding settlements.

Obama can't really do anything about this right now, from a political point of view. However, there are things he can *not do*. The UN's Goldstone Report was strongly critical of Israel for its war in Gaza and the Israelis fear that it may be used as the basis for some war crimes trials in other nations. As a counter, the Israelis intend to push for a modification to the international laws of war so that terrorism can be adequately accounted for. I might normally agree with these sorts of changes. But if I was Barack Obama, and the Israelis came asking me to support these proposals at the UN, I'd be too busy to help out. If Netanyahu can't be bothered to do us a favor, I don't see why we should go out of our way to help him out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Here come the thought police

*** Update ***

Some good dissent here. I'm still going to buy the book and read it for myself.

*** End Update ***

The authors of the fantastic book Freakonomics are writing a sequel. In SuperFreakonomics, the authors apparently have some very interesting things to say about the global warming situation. So much so that the global warming thought police have started coming after them already, even though the book hasn't been released yet.

I've read a lot of commentary from the two authors, Dubner and Levitt, in addition to their book. They make very sound, factually supported arguments and they make them in good faith. I can't say the same about the whole climate change crowd. It has become more religion than science, which I think in large part has to do with the fact that climate change is being used as a vehicle for the environmental movement to accomplish some of their larger objectives. And actually, its not that I disagree with those goals; I love nature as much as the next guy. It's that I disagree with scaring people about an impending apocalypse to score political points.

As I've written before, I don't put much thought into the global warming hype for various reasons (ten of them actually). And I also don't take many of the loudest voices on the issue seriously. When someone is telling us that climate change will end the world, but we can't build more nuclear power stations to slow it, my bullshit detector goes off (illogically, nuclear power is still anathema to the environmental movement). At any rate, I can't wait to read this new book. If the global warming thought police are buzzing this loudly about something written by a couple of economists, its got to be good.

Friday, October 16, 2009

No interracial marriages

The Louisiana Justice of the Peace: "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

Full story here.

A Louisiana Justice would refuse to marry the parents of the current President of the United States. Think about that for a second. Where else in the United States would a public official even think about pulling some crap like that? The Republican Congressmen who heckle the president during his speeches, or call his wife "uppity", or just are exceptionally nasty in general; where do they all come from? And how is it that the rest of the GOP lets them get away with it?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel Prize? Weird.

*** Update ***

Here is Obama's reaction to winning the Nobel Prize. I have to say, he handled it very well. My favorite quote:

"And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century."

Meanwhile, I hope he uses this momentum to start making some real foreign policy gains. I will be very clear however that I do not envy the decision he must make about Afghanistan. This was the "just war", a war that was neglected for 7 years while Bush focused on Iraq. History is very clear on this: Afghanistan is not an easy place to control. What makes our mission exponentially more difficult are two facts that are becoming more and more apparent. One is that we are not defending a legitimate, elected, democratic government like we are in Iraq. The administration of Karzai is corrupt and ineffective, and probably won the recent election by fraud. The second fact is the reality that Afghanistan is really not that strategically important.

For me, the situation with the Karzai administration is the deal breaker. I don't think we should waste any more American blood and treasure on that country. I think we should draw down in Afghanistan and consolidate our gains in Iraq, ensuring with active diplomacy and engagement that Iraq doesn't slip. With Afghanistan no longer an issue, we can move on to more important questions; Iranian nukes, North Korea, Israel/Palestine.

*** End Update ***

I'm sure everyone has heard now, Obama has won a Nobel Peace Prize.

They cited his goals towards nuclear disarmament and his steps to revive international diplomacy. As far as international diplomacy goes, that should be a given for the President of the United States. Only a fool would assume that he can afford to piss off all of our allies and do everything unilaterally.

As far as nuclear disarmament is concerned, he did some important stuff with Dick Lugar as a senator securing loose Russian nuclear materials, but he hasn't actually established any treaties or the like to improve the nuclear weapons situation. He hasn't resolve the Iran issue, which stands to serve as the biggest blow to the NPT in years. He hasn't resolved the North Korean question.

Meanwhile, as far as a Peace Prize is concerned, the war in Afghanistan is in limbo right now and we don't know where it will end. Guantanamo isn't closed, although presumably Obama wants it to be. And, I don't know if anyone caught this, but Obama isn't going to meet with the Dalai Lama. Now to be fair, we do owe the Chinese a cool trillion dollars. You don't go up to the person who loaned you a crapload of money and slap them in the face. That being said, the Chinese are clearly overly sensitive about the Dalai Lama issue and Obama bending to their whims at the first pass seems questionable. Of course, he does need Chinese cooperation on Iran, North Korea, and the international financial crisis. Obama also gave a great speech at Cairo, but we have yet to see any solid gains in the Middle East peace process.

This isn't to say that someday Obama couldn't accomplish all of these things, and if he did then he would deserve a medal. But at this point he hasn't accomplished any of them, and Americans know it. His winning this medal is extremely premature and is going to undermine him, not strengthen him. Already one of the biggest vulnerabilities that Obama has is that he is all talk and no action. Winning a Nobel Prize for meaning well is a blow to him and it cheapens the award as a politicized European merit award. Terrible. I wish someone on the Nobel Committee would have asked him if it was appropriate, and if they did, I wish he would have said no.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I agree with this assessment

Obama's trip to Copenhagen was pretty stupid.

Honestly, how did the Obama administration believe this would end well? There are only two possibilities:

1. He fails. A victory for his political opponents while his supporters are wondering why he isn't fixing the economy, Afghanistan, and health care.

2. He succeeds. Now we kinda look like a bunch of jerks, don't we? Here we've had the Olympics in the states many times, and it has never been in South America even once. And just when it looks like it might be, we send our President over and the IOC suddenly picks Chicago? It would reek.

The Olympics. The fake Presidential Seal during the campaign. The Greek columns at the nomination speech. There have been a string of little things that makes one wonder why there isn't someone on Team Obama that doesn't recognize a bad idea before its acted upon.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A follow up post

Lets pretend that we all agree that it is OK to torture terrorists. One reason we still don't want torture to be national policy is because we can't always be sure that the people we capture are terrorists. We could always torture the captives to find out whether or not they are terrorists, of course, which would retroactively justify the torture. A good option for those who have no problems with sadistic circular logic.

At any rate, this is a similar reason why we shouldn't have the death penalty: we can't always be sure that the person is guilty. If we have 100 men accused of murder and we know 99 are guilty but only one is innocent, do we just kill them all? Of course not. Murdering an innocent man is a greater travesty than letting 99 guilty men escape death by rotting in jail. And of course there are other arguments* against the death penalty that people can make; its more expensive, inhumane, et cetera. This one is sufficient for me.

*Another good argument against capital punishment for people who adhere to Christian beliefs was listed among the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. It's a complicated one: "Thou Shalt Not Kill". The interpretation of this obfuscated commandment is still an object of enduring confusion for many people, especially Christians who live in Texas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A deal with Iran

I've been reading suspicious things coming from Iranian and American officials. The sort of things that only make sense in the context of an imminent deal. Just making a prediction =).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

In genesis 18:23, God agrees to spare an entire city for the sake of ten innocent men, if they are to be found. As it turns out, they aren't there, so God's angels torch the city, evacuating the one innocent man and his family. This serves to illustrate one potential advantage that God has over the US Military: he can be 100% sure whether a suspect is guilty or innocent.

We can't. So when we pick up random people in Afghanistan or Iraq, there are a lot of possibilities. They could be members of Al Qaeda, or they may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Heck, the prisoner may be just some local dude who had a vendetta against NATO because a drone killed his wife but he has no knowledge of al Qaeda or terrorist activities. Not every German solder in WW2 was a Nazi; some were good men who were drafted into service or who were defending their homes from Soviets. Unlike God in the case of Sodom, we just don't know. That is just one good reason, among many, why we shouldn't just torture all of our prisoners to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile, we find Liz Cheney developing aspirations to follow in her father's political footsteps. And of course, that includes justifying and advocating torture (if the Nazis and Pol Pot used it, its safe to call it torture). Speaking at a conservative conference, Liz Cheney took Obama to task for his policies on interrogation:

“Mr. President, in a ticking time-bomb scenario, with American lives at stake,” she said, “are you really unwilling to subject a terrorist to enhanced interrogation to get information that would prevent an attack?”

Ah, the ticking time bomb scenario. This is an argument that torture enthusiasts use to capture emotional support for their policies. And its effective! Who wouldn't torture bin Laden in a heartbeat to save even one American life?

This is a snippet of what infuriates me about the mainstream right in America today; namely, the reliance on emotional arguments to achieve political goals. Its a horrible way to formulate policy. Whether its opposing healthcare reform by claiming death panels are going to euthanize grandma, opposing everything else by calling Obama a fascist, or using the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture, the arguments appeal to instinct rather than logic. Considering the ticking time bomb scenario in particular, there are many good reasons why its an absurd concept:

1. Most terrorist attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are suicide in nature, as were the attacks on 9/11. Terrorists don't use ticking time bombs. They are ticking time bombs.

2. The scenario requires that this terrorist has managed to somehow plant a powerful explosive device inside America, but waited long enough to detonate it to actually get captured. This is the sort of thing that happens all the time in movies, but not so much in real life.

3. Somehow, we have to find out there *is* a bomb. I'm not quite sure how we come across this information. Does the prisoner just up and tell us to taunt us? Do we find out from some other terrorist? Who knows, but we're pretty damn sure of this intelligence if we're willing to justify torturing someone who may actually be an American citizen (Cheney makes no distinctions, after all).

4. Now we need to torture the terrorist in order to figure out where the bomb is. At this point, we run into the non-trivial problem of the fact that torture is a notoriously unreliable way to get information. Since the terrorist knows the bomb will explode in some short amount of time, he just has to give his captors enough false leads to buy enough time for the bomb to explode.

Pretty far fetched scenario, right? But there is one more point that I haven't mentioned yet. Imagine all of the above points are satisfied. Somehow I have a terrorist tied to a chair in Indianapolis. I know with 100% certainty that he planted a nuke somewhere. The clock is ticking. Lets assume I watch "24" (I don't) and so I know how to torture someone really well. If all of those conditions are met, AM I REALLY GOING TO NOT DO IT BECAUSE THERE IS A LAW AGAINST IT???

People break laws all the time. I sometimes speed. I even run a red light here and there. If I have to choose between breaking the law, or letting the city of Indianapolis get nuked along with all of my family and friends, am I really going to hesitate? Besides, I bet the president would pardon someone who stopped a nuclear terrorist attack.

The issue of torture should go far beyond just the fact that it is a national embarrassment. For religious people, it should be absolutely unacceptable. God in the Old Testament, as demonstrated by his actions at Sodom, wasn't willing to harm innocents in the pursuit of the guilty. Jesus Christ would CERTAINLY not be OK with torture. And yet, the religious right seems to have no problem with the sin being perpetrated in their name, and actually seems to support it from a political perspective.

***** Update *****

Here is a classic case. A GOP politician gets worked into a tizzy because of some affront to "Christian" values. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ):

"Obama's first act as president of any consequence, in the middle of a financial meltdown, was to send taxpayers' money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries," said Frank. "Now, I got to tell you, if a president will do that, there's almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that. We shouldn't be shocked that he does all these other insane things. A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can't do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity."

It sure is funny that the only sins that Republican Christians find time to condemn are those that are predominantly associated with the opposition party, isn't it? Torture is OK, but homosexuality is not! Its almost as if they're using religion to get votes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama and protectionism

I obviously strongly disapprove of Obama's stupid tire tarriff against the Chinese. Before we all freak out, however, lets keep some things in perspective.

Fair and Balanced.

Unbiased Journalism?

This clip shows footage of a Fox News reporter propagandist who is working a crowd into a frenzy at the idiotic tea party protest in Washington, D.C. He then does an interview for the show later, pretending to be an unbiased observer rather than an active participant of the event.

My favorite thing about these protests is hearing people claim that they want "their voices heard". Its almost as if they've never even heard of the concept of an election.

There may be a lot of people who think they sympathize with the sentiments that have led to these tea party events. The truth is, they don't. There is certainly plenty of intellectual criticism of health care reform going around, but none of it is to be found at these protests. These protests are emotionally driven. They are about anger, about bitterness, about disappointment and an unwillingness to accept the outcome of an election. They are even about racism.

Which makes it all the more ironic when you see pictures of Obama with a Hitler-esque mustache, or posters comparing Obama to a fascist, or reminders that Hitler was also a good orator. These are all superficial observations that are jumped upon by those with very limited mental capacity. Here is a deeper insight. Hitler's speeches were about emotion. They were about fomenting pent-up range, about the treaty of Versailles, "Jewish betrayal", or other such "injustices" against Germany. Hitler was a master speaker, but his method was to whip his crowd into an emotional frenzy. Contrast that to an Obama speech. He makes intellectual points. He seeks to calm our emotions, to reason with us, to reach a middle ground.

So lets be real about it. If we're going to throw around accusations of fascist, Hitler-esque behavior, lets do it right. The "conservative movement" is being led by a bunch of fat, drug abusing, demagogic blowhards. The movement is backed by a dominant propaganda machine, Fox News, which is in turn backed by corporate America and all of its interests.

In fact, there are only two real differences between the budding German fascists of the 1930s and today's conservative movement. The Nazis had a clear leader; that is one difference. Today's republican party has no such equivalent. The other difference is that the Nazis had a base of public support beyond just those with what appear to be very below-average IQs. Although to be fair, I could be wrong about that second point. I may be underestimating how far a movement can get by just manipulating the dumbest elements of society.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obama and Republicans

My support for Obama in the general election, from a policy point of view, was more about a rejection of the direction of the GOP than an embrace of Obama's policy ideas. Ultimately I've always considered myself a member of some entity that exists apparently only in my imagination, a moderate republican party. I was hoping that the GOP defeat in 2008 would give the Republicans some much needed time to rethink their policy, restructure their organization, and come back stronger the next time.

The reality is that the GOP has descended deeper in a spiral of madness. The fringe extremists that were held in check by the seemingly moderate in retrospect George W. Bush have now all but taken control of the party. My disgust with the Democratic leadership in congress, and their inability to accomplish anything, and disappointment with Obama's executive record thus far, is far overshadowed by my revulsion of everything about the GOP today. I voted for Obama in 2008 in large part to accomplish a more central objective: destroy the GOP as it had developed under George W. Bush. That goal has yet to be accomplished, and will continue to be my main motivation for as long as it takes.

From the New Yorker, with my favorite bit being highlighted with bold text:

Perhaps it was naïve, and obviously it was optimistic, to hope that once Obama—having been elected by a large and undisputed majority, unlike his two predecessors—took office the nastiness of the assault against him would subside. And so it did, briefly. But as the reality sank in that this temperamentally conservative President intends to make good on his substantively progressive promises, the fury returned, uglier than before and no longer subject to the minimal restraints inherent in a national electoral campaign aimed at persuading a plurality of voters. Lies and fantasies about health-care reform swirled together with lies and fantasies about the chief executive himself. Obama is plotting to set up “death panels,” government tribunals authorized to euthanize the old and sick. Obama was born in Kenya and therefore his very Presidency is unconstitutional. Obama will cut Medicare benefits to provide coverage to illegal aliens. Obama seeks to indoctrinate children in Marxist ideology and put teenagers in “reëducation camps.” Obama is a Communist. Obama is a Fascist.

This sort of lunatic paranoia—touched with populism, nativism, racism, and anti-intellectualism—has long been a feature of the fringe, especially during times of economic bewilderment. What is different now is the evolution of a new political organism, with paranoia as its animating principle. The town-meeting shouters may be the organism’s hands and feet, but its heart—also, Heaven help us, its brain—is a “conservative” media alliance built around talk radio and cable television, especially Fox News. The protesters do not look to politicians for leadership. They look to niche media figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and their scores of clones behind local and national microphones. Because these figures have no responsibilities, they cannot disappoint. Their sneers may be false and hateful—they all routinely liken the President and the “Democrat Party” to murderous totalitarians—but they are employed by large, nominally respectable corporations and supported by national advertisers, lending them a considerable measure of institutional prestige.

Friday, September 11, 2009

France pwns America

This is a game changer: France is going to impose a carbon tax. The money derived from that tax will be then redistributed to households in the form of a green check. Thus, the tax is revenue neutral; it will simply shift incentives away from carbon emission.

This should be a political winner in the USA. Democrats should support a carbon tax because it would obviously result in lower CO2 emissions and reduce global warming. Republicans should support a carbon tax because it would shift petroleum consumption revenues away from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela. Furthermore, if the tax was revenue neutral like the French are doing, the Republicans would have no concerns that this is additional taxation and growth in government.

For anyone who has ever been to Europe: have you noticed how small the cars are? How much better the public transit is? There is a reason for that. The Europeans have had higher taxes on gasoline than America for years. Hence, we drive enormous SUVs and the Europeans do their thing. It is now we who are beholden to the oil production of countries who hate us.

Unfortunately, a carbon tax was never even on the table. Instead we have this ridiculous cap-and-trade bill. The goal was to be similar to a carbon tax, requiring polluters to purchase permits to emit certain amounts of CO2. Unfortunately, by the time congress was done with the bill, those permits were given away to the major CO2 polluters, instead of auctioned like they were supposed to be.

Meanwhile, the French, who get 70% of their electricity from nuclear power plants and have now imposed a carbon tax, are on course to be orders of magnitude more energy independent than the United States. And their air will be cleaner, to boot.

Glenn Beck accused of murder

Word is that he committed the crime around 1990. The victim was a young girl. Or so I've heard.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Republicans and Medicare

I do think it is ironic that Republicans pay so much lip service to medicare, considering it *should be* anathema to everything they (claim to) stand for.

Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) actually yelled out during Obama's speech, calling him a lair. That sort of behavior is completely unprecedented in American politics. Absolutely outrageous. What a perfect metaphor for the behavior of many of his constituents, anyway.

----- UPDATE -----

Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina (you stay classy), yelled at the president mid-speech last night. He had been spending too much time at town halls, apparently. At any rate, says that it is actually Joe Wilson who is the liar. Joe Wilson already apologized for his outburst.

I don't actually believe that Republicans don't respect the office of the president. Rather, they simply don't respect this president, and never have, from the moment he won the election. That is the real travesty here. To disagree with Obama's policies is fine, but there has always been something more to it than that. I'd like to think that my personal feelings are reflective in the attitudes of independent voters in general. And if that's the case, I expect to see the GOP take a proportional* beating in 2010 out of sheer disgust for their behavior from 2008-2010.

*Which is to say, Republicans may still gain some seats in 2010, because the president's party almost always loses seats at midterm. They may end up winning fewer than the historical average, however, due to their ridiculous behavior.

----- Update Again -----

Few more "funny" tidbits about Joe Wilson (R-SC).

1. He was one of 7 South Carolina state representatives who stood fast, supporting the confederate flag being raised on the state capitol.

2. Strom Thurmond apparently had raped his African American maid and produced an illegitimate daughter. Joe Wilson blamed the girl when she revealed this fact to the world.

3. Here is a funny video of Joe Wilson accusing some dude of "hatred of America" because the guy alleged that the USA sold Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction. Joe Wilson in the video appears immune to reason, reacting purely emotionally, repeating his mantra over and over again. "You hate America". Purely immune to logic, reason, and sense. Of course, it was common knowledge then that America did indeed sell Saddam weapons, which he used in his war against the Iranians. And then used them on the Kurds. I'm pretty sure Donald Rumsfeld was involved in that deal, too.

I guess this paints a better picture of the man who tried to shout down the democratically elected President of the United States. I'm harping on this issue to hopefully draw some connections here. Does the behavior of Joe Wilson at all seem out of character when compared to the behavior of the Republican base at large over the last few months? Frantic, shouting, raging, irrational, illogical, destructive, angry...and sessessionist (remember the governor of Texas?), birthers, et cetera. These things are the republican talking points of our day.

The concept of a race card is a sad one. Its sad that a person would ever need one, and its sad that a person would ever play one for unfair advantage. But its hard for me to view this any other way. Its called xenophobia and racism, people. Not all republicans, but enough of them and certainly the emotional ones. Nothing else can explain it for me.

Who is Obama?

I have an idea in my head.

Just a pre-speech comment. If he doesn't do something bold to get his agenda pushed through, I will have to seriously re-evaluate whether or not my picture of Obama is accurate.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The cancer relay race

An interesting post on Andrew Sullivan's blog touched the subject of big pharma, and the new push for anti-cancer drugs.

When people assert that compensation is of central importance to biomedical innovation, its important to keep some things in mind. The fight against cancer isn't equivalent to a bunch of scientists running a bunch of solo races. It's more like a bunch of relay races, where the advancement of one scientist pulls everyone else along as well.

For example, the lab I work in does melanoma research using a mouse model. My buddy and I finished an experiment literally within the last two weeks, and the results are very promising:

There really aren't many good treatments for melanoma, so this could be pretty significant some day. Our strategy is still years away from a possible human application.

Keeping in mind that this research was funded by a US government funded grant, consider the following. What if a pharmaceutical company took our strategy to the next level, and developed an effective drug to treat melanoma? That would be fantastic. Would they have done it alone? Certainly not. They just happened to be carrying the baton on the last leg of the relay race.

I am not* anti-big pharma, and what they do is very important. However, it is important that people realize the pharmaceutical companies aren't the only ones doing research. And, a huge chunk of the non-pharma researchers are directly funded by the US government. In that context, it seems a lot less unreasonable to think that medicare should be able to negotiate for cheaper drug prices from pharmaceutical companies, doesn't it?

*Just because I think drug companies are important does not mean that I don't think the system should be set up differently. I suspect that the executives of many pharmaceutical companies would not agree with some of the changes that I'd want.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Pretty harsh judgment in a NY Times op-ed about Kennedy's cancer death:

"Despite billions that have been spent, the death rate from most cancers barely budged."

In substitution for fact and statistic, the author opted to use words like "most", and phrases like "barely budged". Which is fine, but I'd expect the same author to describe a glass half full as "almost empty".

Sure, a lot of cancers remain terribly stubborn and difficult to treat. Many others have seen dramatic improvements in morbidity and mortality, thanks to better drugs, screening, and other intervention. Look at testicular cancer, which in 1960 had a 5 year survival rate of less than 5%; its closer to 95% now. Screening and early detection have improved breast cancer outcomes. We just developed a vaccine for cervical cancer. I could go on and on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inaccurate Descriptors

I was watching a report on health insurance companies tonight on MSNBC when it occurred to me how similar the health insurance "industry" is to the music industry.

I have long been a staunch opponent of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and not because I'm too cheap to buy CDs. If the internet had always existed, the concept of a "record company" would never have come into existence. Why would it? Using the internet, artists could directly transmit their songs to their fans. The artists themselves would make their salaries from live concert, attendance at which would certainly be bolstered by the band getting their name out using the internet.

Obviously, the internet didn't always exist. There was a time, when we needed a middleman between artist and consumer. There had to be a way to package and distribute the music, in the form of records, cds, or what have you. These middle men never actually produced the music, they just transmitted it. Their services are now largely obsolete, but they've managed to use their hold over the government to continue to justify their own existence.

At any rate, I think it is important that people keep in mind that health insurance companies don't actually produce anything. They are just a middleman. They are the link that pairs the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and researcher to the patient. I think questions of capitalism, free markets, and the like need to be kept in their proper context. At the end of the day, I have a difficult time believing that the "invisible hand of the marketplace" would ever come to the conclusion that using a middle man in the first place is the best way to get a service from A to B.

As it turns out, I believe there is room for record companies in today's world. I would even be enthusiastic about the prospect of fairly priced CDs, perhaps 5 bucks a pop, available at stores. I might walk in and buy a few albums just to experiment. However, when the prices of albums are artificially inflated to ridiculous levels, I'm not interested (and they most certainly were artificially inflated. I won $ 15.00 for being a part of a class action law suit against the major record companies for holding prices up). Just because I'm not willing to play by the RIAA cartel's unfair rules doesn't mean I don't get music. It just means I don't get it legally. Likewise, there is certainly room for health insurance companies, in some form. What there is no longer room for, however, is the anti-competitive oligarchy we have today; essentially an obstructive and overcompensated middleman who gets between doctors and patients.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yale University Press

So pathetic.

Four years after the initial controversy, I'm surprised to see people deliberately confusing cowardice and sensitivity. Here was a great quote about the Yale failure that I came across:

"What a courageous stand by the Liberals that run the university. Now if it had been a cross immersed in urine, that would have been on the cover."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Political topic: health care

I am a medical student, and follow politics as a hobby. So it is pretty ironic that the healthcare debate doesn't interest me as much as other things might. Part of it may be some of my innate pessimism about the prospects for successful legislation in that area. I do think that Obama was genuine about taking a bipartisan approach towards health care. I don't think the Republicans have met him half way, 1/4 the way, or even 0.000001% of the way. In fact I'm quite sure the GOP from day one had internally decided that Obama would not be cooperated with under any circumstances. Thus the failure to create bipartisan legislation, because the GOP refuses to play along, becomes a GOP talking point about how Obama isn't being bipartisan enough.

I think its sad because this sets a pretty nasty precedent for US politics in general. A lot of Republicans liken the situation to what happened to George W. Bush, in other words, his demonization by the left and the refusal for many Dems to work with him. There is a big difference between Bush and Obama though - Bush had been in office long enough to rightfully have deserved it. Obama has not. And its a sad precedent, that the opposing party who just got trounced in a major election to decide from day 1 that they will under no circumstances work with the new elected leader of the USA.

What is almost worse is how pathetic the Democrats in Congress are. They have an unstoppable majority, and a popular charismatic leader in the oval office, and they can't get their own house in order long enough to pass anything of substance. The cap-and-trade bill was a f*cking disaster, so honestly - who could expect health care reform to be any different?

So this is the dismal state of US politics right now, and perhaps this is why I am losing interest: the party with the unstoppable majority has its ranks filled with some of the most epically spineless cowards to have ever graced the capitol city, while the opposition party is a walking contradiction, is led by a bunch of psychopathic idiots, a bunch of loud-mouthed buffoons without the slightest bit of logic or rationality going into the words that come pouring incessantly out of their mouths.

In other words, the entire thing is a trainwreck. The US government right now reminds me of two crazy men fist-fighting in the cargo bay of an airplane that is in the process of crashing. Maybe this is the natural ebb and flow of politics. Maybe its always been like this. Or maybe this is what it looks like when an empire begins its long, steep decline.


Addendum. I told my roommate this tonight, and I will reiterate it on here. Obama is pragmatic and he is conciliatory. I genuinely believe that he wanted to get a bipartisan consensus for health care. The Republicans played him for a fool; fine, he will learn from it. If I was Obama, I'd get legislation written that includes all of the crap that the Democrats originally wanted - Republicans be damned. Then I'd let it go to a vote, and I'd dare the blue-dog Democrats be known as the Democrats who killed healthcare reform.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Intellectual Leadership of the Conservative Movement

It used to look and sound like this. Now we have Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Joe the Plumber.

Friday, August 07, 2009


Is it true that all right-wing rhetoric looks the same? It certainly appears that way. Anyway, this is "funny" because this flier was circulated in Dallas two days before JFK was shot there.

In other news, Obama is no longer a socialist. He is actually a fascist. This is, as far as I can tell, mainstream Republican sentiment. I would be willing to pay 1000 dollars if any of these idiots could accurately define what a fascist is, other than "Hitler".

Friday, July 31, 2009

On the obesity epidemic

A good read about obesity, its causes, and what to do about it. It is especially important, given a new vein of attack that is coming from the "libertarian" camp that is screaming, "it is wrong for government to try to get people to be less fat!" I'm a libertarian, and I think that line of thinking is ridiculous, but the article does a good job of illustrating why so I'll let it do the arguing for me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Infatuation weans, politician sees support drop

No, I'm not talking about Barack Obama. I'm talking about Sarah Palin.

A solid majority of Americans don’t want to see Sarah Palin ever become president, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Two-thirds, 67%, said they don’t ever want the former Alaska governor to be president, compared with the 21% who said they would.

While it should come as no surprise that 87% of Democrats said they don’t ever want Palin as commander-in-chief, some 43% of Republicans said the same thing—as well as 65% of independents.

Even 46% of self-identified conservatives said they do not want Palin as president, as well as 44% of those who voted for Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain in 2008.

At 44%, white evangelicals are the largest subgroup supporting Palin as president one day.

White evangelical Christians are the strongest supporters of Sarah Palin. Incidentally, these are the same people who actually believe the world is 6,000 years old. They denounce science as evil, but won't complain when receiving the newest medical treatments. Their leaders will rant and rave about homosexuals, almost like Islamic preachers do about Jews, but every few months one of them gets caught soliciting gay sex in a bathroom or engaging in an extramarital affair.

Supporters of Sarah Palin really fall into two categories: they aren't thinkers, or they aren't paying attention. When Sarah Palin speaks, it is painfully obvious that no thought or intellectual consideration went into the formation of her words. For most of us, we have a built in alarm system that stands to alert us when someone is speaking without thinking. Red flags are raised, and suddenly we are aware that the speaker is completely stupid at best, or contemptible and evil at worst. Sarah Palin's supporters don't have these built in alarms, but they do have emotions, and of course Sarah Palin's emotional appeals can be found to be agreeable. In that sense, there was a national politician last fall during the campaign who was like Adolf Hitler - appealing to emotion, instinct, fear, and anger rather than to thought, consideration, and intellect. That politician was Sarah Palin.

Honestly, if a person was ever confused about politics and wasn't sure who to support, I might suggest for them a pretty simple strategy. Find out who "white evangelicals" are supporting, and vote the opposite.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cap-and-trade: Epic failure

The ridiculous thing about how pathetic this bill turned out to be is that theoretically, it shouldn't have been extremely difficult to make this happen. Whether or not it is actually a good idea, Democrats as a group want to intervene and reduce CO2 emissions. Republicans as a group seem to be more concerned about foreign policy, and have an incentive to see oil imports drop, and especially to see the price of oil and gas fall worldwide (thereby weakening Russia, Venezuela, Iran, etc). Obviously, there is quite a bit of overlap between these objectives. Our congress completely failed to find it. Now we are all worse off because of it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

She is a quitter.

Old news, but Sarah Palin resigned as the governor of Alaska.

There are plenty of conservative Palin apologists out there making the case that this is a brilliant move, that shes positioned well for 2012, et cetera. I'd just like to reiterate my own position. Sarah Palin the intellectual rot of the conservative movement, personified. She is like a canary in a coal mine. So long as she is considered an actual viable candidate by a mainstream conservatives, I will be certain that the GOP is still not worth taking seriously. The sooner she is relegated to the fringe with the other lunatics, the better.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What a turn of events

A recent article about the security situation in Iraq. Money quote:

Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shia leader, has blamed the recent surge of violence on US plans to withdraw its troops from Iraqi streets.

Pretty ridiculous when one considers that before the surge, al-Sadr on many occasions blamed the violence on the American occupation.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The best plan for victory

...ideally shouldn't bank on one's enemy doing something really stupid. Such as, for example, trying to conquer Pakistan. Especially so when the Pakistani side of the border is where said enemy's supplies, reinforcements, and safe havens are.

Defeating the Taliban without the serious help of the Pakistanis would be extremely difficult. Thankfully, the Taliban seem to have done us a huge favor here. It won't be as easy fighting Nato in the West when the Pakistani army is coming simultaneously from the East.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

religious terrorism in Kansas


If there is even the slightest doubt: now you know why Bin Laden does it. Once personal religious beliefs trump the law (both secular and religious: thou shalt not kill), a person becomes a terrorist.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Geopolitics at its finest

I'm about to embark on an interesting application of Occam's razor.

If recent news headlines are any indication, President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu are at odds over the middle east peace process.

I am quite certain that Obama is not foolish enough to think that he can single handedly reverse decades of US support for Israel (nor do I think he would want to, even if he could). At the same time, I am also quite certain that Netanyahu, an intelligent man himself, realizes that it would be extremely unwise to irritate the man that will be leading the US for probably the next 8 years.

Clearly, neither has anything to gain from animosity towards the other. Furthermore, upon closer consideration it actually becomes apparent that both men have a lot to gain from feigning differences in policy. When the news headlines read that Obama and Netanyahu disagree, it bolsters Obama's support from the left (which he has been somewhat losing, although admittedly to no consequence) and certainly gives him more credibility in the eyes of Muslims. At the same time, it benefits Netanyahu to stay true to his electoral promises, appeal to the Israeli right wing, and to necessarily start any peace process from a negotiating position that is positioned squarely on his side of the board. In other words, by refusing to accept Palestinian statehood from the get go, Netanyahu can turn his acceptance into that eventuality into a negotiating concession from Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Obama would be baiting right-wing critics through this whole process. They will accuse him of undermining Israel, and siding with Muslims. And then he will blind-side them with a peace deal, making the critics out to be the fools.

Occam's razor is a principle that states that the simplest explanation is the one most likely to be true. Are we to believe that two very intelligent political masters just wandered blindly into their dealings with arguably their most important counterpart in the world? Or that they meticulously prepared and calculated a dance that will necessarily lead to their mutual desired outcome? The simplest explanation is the latter!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Obama, Notre Dame, and Abortion

Another update, a pertinent quote:

"A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one's convictions!" - Nietzsche

***** Update *****

Cardial Francis George, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, claims the following:

"It is clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation (to Obama)."

What does it mean to be a Catholic? Something like this?

"Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well."

By the way, that girl was 9 years old. There you go Notre Dame. Take your theological cues from Archbishop Sobrinho.

Good Catholics should recognize that their leaders are not divinely inspired, and that they need to be closely monitored. When those leaders misspeak, act politically, or have flawed ideas, it is up to Catholics everywhere to correct them. When good Catholics don't speak out, when they just assume their leadership couldn't possibly go astray, terrible things happen.

***** End Update *****

Obama's visit to the University of Notre Dame has riled up the endless controversy about abortion. I would like to take a moment to reiterate my own position:

As a member of the Regressive Party, I am against abortion, but for killing babies.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Quote for the day

"My guess is that criminal laws against marijuana use have become culturally untenable. At this point, if you want to maintain criminal laws against more dangerous drugs, you're better off conceding the legality of marijuana, lest the public lose respect for drug laws in general."

This is an extremely important point that people frequently miss. When children are told that little white lie, that all drugs are dangerous, they will find out the truth someday. Then they will wonder whether the whole thing is a lie. You can almost see the thought process:

"I was told that marijuana was dangerous. I tried it, and now I know it isn't very harmful. I wonder if the same applies to cocaine and heroin?"

Also, I know quite a few people who smoke marijuana on a regular basis. I could make a phone call and get marijuana in about 30 minutes if I wanted. Here is the kicker. If I wanted some cocaine or heroin, I could get it in about an hour. How? Because I'd call the person who could get me marijuana, and they could call their dealer who could almost certainly find them other drugs. In other words, marijuana is a gateway drug precisely because it is illegal. If I was given a challenge to find cocaine or heroin, with the stipulation that I couldn't use a pot-smoking intermediary, I wouldn't know where to begin.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Objective Media

Update: I do realize that "blaming Bush" won't forever be a reason to ignore the GOP. When will I take the right seriously again? I'm not sure how to answer that, but I do know what will make me continue to ignore the right: Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Michael Steel, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and "Tea Party Protests". While the left wing also has its fringe extremists, the Democrats are not dominated by them.


I was folding clothes tonight and so watched a little bit of cable news. I ended up flipping between two shows that might as well be mirror images. MSNBC's Countdown, with Keith Olbermann, features plenty of Bush bashing and Obama praising. Fox News has the OReilly Factor, which true to the network motto was going to extraordinary lengths to make Obama look bad. The thought occurred to me that a reasonable, objective person might almost be tempted to think that the current setup is fair. After all, the GOP has their channel - Fox News. Nobody is deceived by the "Fair and Balanced" slogan; Fox News was the last administration's Pravda. Meanwhile, the Democrats have their stations too - CNN and MSNBC. However, I actually don't think the current status quo is reasonable in the slightest.

Presumably (and whether or not this happens in reality is obviously a subject of considerable debate) the purpose of the media is to find out the objective truth, insofar as it is visible, and report on it. Furthermore, it is absurd to think that the careers of political leaders are entirely subjective. There is of course some subjectivity. Democrats will be tempted to see their leaders as great, Republicans will disagree, and vice versa. Bill Clinton is a striking example, adored by Democrats but generally not well liked among Republicans; Reagan being an opposite example. As I said, though, things are not entirely subjective. At some point, there is truth as to whether or not a political career was a success. I don't know of any reasonable Democrats who would call Reagan a failure. Its also relatively difficult to call Bill Clinton a failure (although one can attribute the successes in the 90s to other factors).

Here is the clincher, and the relevance to current issues. The Presidency of George W. Bush was an objective failure. A response will inevitably be made about Iraq, but to call Iraq a success is to completely ignore the original intentions, plans, and purposes that Bush had in mind when he invaded, not to mention the precarious nature of the fledgling democracy at the present time. Bush was a failure, in all but the most partisan of minds: so doesn't it make sense that the media is coming after him? If the purpose of the MSM is to report the truth, then when the media slammed Bush all of those years, it was doing its job - reporting the facts, not acting out of some sort of vindictive liberal bias.

Keep in mind, I am not saying that the media does NOT have a slight liberal bias. Overall, it probably does. But when the president was such a dismal failure for 8 years, instead of screaming liberal bias, conservatives should be seriously introspecting the party's decisions and positions and changing things accordingly. They've done nothing like that of course for the last 8 years, which is why the party is in an intellectually bankrupt, tantrum throwing, leaderless funk. On the other side of the coin, many major news networks have been friendly to Obama. Rightfully so; Barack Obama has barely been in office 100 days. That is not a liberal bias. That is called giving the winner of our democratic election the benefit of the doubt; perfectly appropriate. Interestingly enough, Fox News and a host of supporting conservative "intellectuals" were after Obama from day 1, and did not give him a fair chance. That is conservative bias. Towards the end of his term, many in the media wouldn't give Bush his due when he did manage to do things right; that was liberal bias.

At the end of the day, people should remember this. If the media was anti-Bush 99% of the time, and Bush failed 90% of the time, the problem isn't liberal bias.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Do you want to know why some people don't believe in evolution?

Update: came across this video which seems very relevant to this post. It is a quick (ten minute) video that discusses whether or not people are actually open minded.


Here is a short piece that explains why bad arguments persist.

...there’s a certain class of rhetoric I’m going to call the “one way hash” argument. Most modern cryptographic systems in wide use are based on a certain mathematical asymmetry: You can multiply a couple of large prime numbers much (much, much, much, much) more quickly than you can factor the product back into primes. Certain bad arguments work the same way—skim online debates between biologists and earnest ID afficionados armed with talking points if you want a few examples:

The talking point on one side is just complex enough that it’s both intelligible—even somewhat intuitive—to the layman and sounds as though it might qualify as some kind of insight. (If it seems too obvious, perhaps paradoxically, we’ll tend to assume everyone on the other side thought of it themselves and had some good reason to reject it.) The rebuttal, by contrast, may require explaining a whole series of preliminary concepts before it’s really possible to explain why the talking point is wrong. So the setup is “snappy, intuitively appealing argument without obvious problems” vs. “rebuttal I probably don’t have time to read, let alone analyze closely.”

A classic example of this theory in practice is the absurd 'watchmaker' argument. It goes as thus: a person stumbles across a watch, a fantastically complex device. Obviously, there was a creator of the watch; the pieces couldn't have accidentally happened together by chance. To a layperson, that sounds intuitive. Now any biologist will tell you that evolution doesn't work that way, but explaining precisely why to a layperson is going to take multiple steps and they'll probably have ceased paying attention by that point. And thus bad arguments persist, and there are people who don't believe in evolution. Going further, creationists can be neatly placed in one of three categories:

1. People who simply do not have the mental capacity to comprehend the theory of evolution. This would include small children and people with mental disorders.

2. People who are insufficiently educated about the concepts involved, or just don't care all that much. This is by far the largest percentage. They may be creationists because they were raised by creationists, or work with creationists, or because their friends are creationists. These people may also erroneously believe that they are forced to choose between God and truth, evolution is easily reconciled with religious belief.

The curious thing is that you would have expected this group of people to have gradually diminished, just like I'm quite sure that many people still believed the world was flat hundreds of years ago. And yet, they persist. This is explained by a force that is opposing the spread of knowledge in this particular area, a force composed of people that are placed in my final category...

3. People that are willfully ignorant, irrational, and / or malicious. Some people have simply made up their minds, and no amount of evidence and reason could ever sway them otherwise. And there are others, about whom I have written written before, who deny the theory of evolution in order to create a false controversy and generate a false enemy. It boils down to power and influence.

I would also like to point out that I am absolutist about virtually nothing, save evolution. There are incredibly smart people who believe in god and can use logical argument to support their position...likewise, there are atheists who can do the opposite. Reasonable people can disagree about abortion rights, and there are powerful arguments on both sides. Reasonable people can disagree about global warming and what we should do about it.

Alternatively, there are no reasonable people that are actively arguing against evolution. Not once in my entire life have I read a reasonable, logical, and honest argument against evolution by someone who actually understands evolution. The people that attempt to make them are either uninformed or deliberately disingenuous. Denying evolution is like denying the Holocaust, except that there exists far more evidence for evolution than there is for the Holocaust.