Category Archives: Politics

Harold Varmus is everywhere!

A Hurdle for Health Reform: Patients and Their Doctors:

Dr. Harold Varmus, the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and a former director of the National Institutes of Health, said increasing public access to the findings of medical research would be important for health care reform to succeed.
“One obvious goal is getting information out to health care practitioners about effectiveness experiments,” said Dr. Varmus, a Nobel Prize-winning cancer biologist and the author of the new book “The Art and Politics of Science” (Norton). “This is going to be crucial, because if the government’s going to spend $1.1. billion from the stimulus bill on comparative effectiveness research, you want that stuff to be in the public domain.”

Experts Seek Intellectual Property Reform:

Nobel laureates Sir John Sulston and Harry Varmus, College of Physicians and Surgeons ’66, provided a scientific perspective, suggesting that life sciences research has been hampered by commercial concerns.
“It’s not just about IP [intellectual property], it’s about rebalancing the way we fund things,” said Sulston, a pioneering geneticist, complaining that too much private funding tends to “short circuit” research by subjugating scientific discovery to the short-term profit motive. He criticized privately-funded research for hindering the free dissemination of results, adding that for effective progress to occur, “everybody needs to see all of the data at once, not just some of it.”
Varmus picked up on this point, explaining that scientists’ collective obsession with publishing their work in prestigious journals has led to a biased system that only publicizes a small subset of useful scientific results.

Now it’s our job to keep the Democrats’ toes to the fire

Senator Tom Harkin luvz him some alternative medicine. And he hates when the studies demonstrate those things don’t work, so he tries to push them into the Obama Administration’s health care plan by force. Read Orac, PalMD and PZ for details (and for info what you can do). This administration is supposed to be reality-based – let’s make sure the wackos don’t change that….

Memo to self-described sane, rational, science-loving Republicans

You have been Expelled.
No, not by me, by your own party.
The Republican party is now a clown car.
The sane, thoughtful conservatives have left it over the years, some prominent ones quite publicly last year, either more openly by stating they are leaving GOP, or a little more carefully, by endorsing Obama for President.
What is left are racist, sexist, homophobic, femiphobic, xenophobic, Creationist, authoritarian, theocratic, cowardly scuzbuckets like Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, Steve Sailer, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Anne Coulter and Joe The Plumber.
And the lowlife that came to Palin events to drool at her.
And the most insane Republicans in Congress. The sane ones lost their elections. None of them are left in the House. A couple of them still in the Senate, but will have to switch to Independent if they want to get re-elected in their Blue states. The brand is THAT damaged.
Their platform? Make fun of everything that normal people want.
Good luck with that.
People are judged by who they are friends with. Do you want to be associated with those lunatics?
Why didn’t you get the memo you were Expelled? Because they are too high on endogenous hallucinogens. And they still hope to get your vote. One thing they have no interest in whatsoever are your ideas.
Think about it. What can you do?
Get together with other sane conservatives and try to wrestle the party from those cretins? Good luck.
Get together with other sane conservatives and try to take over another party, e.g., Libertarians? Good luck.
Get together with other sane conservatives and try to form another party? Good luck.
Each of the above three scenarios will produce a party that is almost indistinguishable from the Democrats, who have firmly taken the Center. Tough to compete with a copycat against the Real McCoy. Anything even a little to the right of them is, right now, bordering on insane and totally unpopular because all those ideas have been tried over the past 40 years and each one of them failed miserably.
Join the Democrats? As they are so corporate and straight in the middle, and unlikely, constitutionally (in the sense of their own mindset, not the highest law of the country), to ever move Left, that may be your best bet.
Or just go Independent and watch as the US political ecosystem evolves.
Obama has been the President for just a month. Give it a few more months and watch. It is quite possible that we are entering a very different world.
In this new world, we will have to forget the idea that there are two opposing parties keeping each other in check (even if one of them is full of shit on everything). In it, it will be us keeping check on our elected representatives. In such a world, parties and party affiliation will not be as important as they have been to date. It will take us some time to get used to the idea and to start using it well.
People who get this new world will be relevant in it. Those who don’t will be left behind. GOP will continue to be irrelevant as their modus vivendi is the hating of Democrats and laughing at words they think are funny.
The MSM will be irrelevant as they are still paying attention to what GOP-ers say (as if anyone cares), give them equal time (as if their opinions touch reality), or wonder how the Republicans will stage a come-back (as if this is some kind of inevitable Law Of Nature that this will ever happen).
In the meantime, if you don’t want to be laughed at, quit the GOP. You REALLY don’t want to be associated with that amount of hate, idiocy and obstructionism, do you?

Why The Onion is the best news organization?

Because they are more realistic than the MSM – this clip is even more relevant today than it was when first released:

Meetings I’d like to go to….Part V

Genetic Manipulation of Pest Species: Ecological and Social Challenges:

In the past 10 years major advances have been made in our ability to build transgenic pest strains that are conditionally sterile, harbor selfish genetic elements, and express anti-pathogen genes. Strategies are being developed that involve release into the environment of transgenic pest strains with such characteristics. These releases could provide more environmentally benign pest management and save endangered species, but steps must be taken to insure that this is the case and that there are no significant health or environmental risks associated with releases. Our conference will foster discussion of risks and benefits of these technologies among scientists, policy makers, and citizens.

March 4-6, 2009
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
This is very soon – I’ll try to go to some of it if I can….

Just replace these with Jane Hamsher, Josh Marshall, ….

Obama presser.jpg

Obama on Science

No comment….(can you imagine Bush saying anything like this? Ever? Any Republican?)

A smorgasbord….

Being quite busy lately, I accumulated a lot of links to stuff I wanted to comment on but never found time. Well, it does not appear I will find time any time soon, so here are the links for you to comment on anyway (just because I link to them does not mean I agree with them – in some cases quite the opposite):
In Defense of Secrecy :

Given the pervasive secrecy of the Bush-Cheney administration, and the sorry consequences of that disposition, President Barack Obama’s early emphasis on openness in government seems almost inevitable. One of the first official communications issued by the new administration, on Jan. 21, ordered government agencies to adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure when responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and called for new FOIA guidelines to replace those promulgated under Bush. A later directive instructed the heads of all government agencies to strive for “transparency and open government.” Ornamenting the first order was a quotation from the great progressive reformer Justice Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

The Future of the News:

After years in trouble, American newspapers are finally up against the wall.
Advertising, vanished. Profits, gone. Losses, mounting very rapidly. Around the country, newsrooms are being hollowed out, papers are shrinking, some are letting go of daily publication. Some are going away.
So, what if? What if your local newspaper just disappeared? In a world of red ink, bankruptcies, layoffs and cutbacks, it’s possible. So, what then?

Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House :

The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history–distilled from scores of interviews–offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players.

At Voice of San Diego, a newsroom flourishes:

With several big-city dailies facing closure and the cover of Time last week pondering the fate of the American newspaper, I listened to young Voice of San Diego journalists talk about their work with words like “exhilarating,” “fulfilling” and “fun.” My tiny, ink-sotted heart soared.
The lessons out of the sunny offices on Point Loma appear to be these: A local news site can flourish on charitable donations. It helps to have one big benefactor to get things started. It makes more sense to cover a few topics well, rather than a lot poorly.

Political Science:

Behind him hangs a copy of Jacques-Louis David’s celebrated portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, the French chemist. Varmus is one of our leading scientific figures, a Nobel Prize-winning cancer researcher who advises President Obama, but I’m not sure this is an auspicious image. Lavoi­sier’s own entanglement in politics led to his beheading during the French Revolution. Thankfully, Varmus seems quite adroit in public matters. He has also written a perceptive book about science and its civic value, arriving as the White House renews its acquaintance with empiricism.

Do we need Science Journalists? :

For one, as far as I am concerned most scientists are not particularly good writers (I include myself in that) and since I appreciate a piece of good writing I sincerely hope professional journalism will prevail. Having acquired the necessary skills and appropriate education certainly helps to this matters. I don’t know what Bora’s standards are, but I find the vast majority of science blogs not particularly well written (YOU obviously belong to the minority of brilliant writers).

More discussion here and here.
Survival of the Viral:

Studying genetic “mistakes,” like endogenous retroviruses, would have led us to a theory of evolution, even if Charles Darwin had not.

Why Facebook Is for Old Fogies:

Facebook is five. Maybe you didn’t get it in your news feed, but it was in February 2004 that Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, along with some classmates, launched the social network that ate the world. Did he realize back then in his dorm that he was witnessing merely the larval stage of his creation? For what began with college students has found its fullest, richest expression with us, the middle-aged. Here are 10 reasons Facebook is for old fogies:

What’s the Matter With Teen Sexting?:

It’s unclear from this exchange what Gladstone believes kids need to be protected from or what issue Balkam is solving. But neither of them came to the logical conclusion of the Harvard study: that we should back off, moderate our fears, and stop thinking of youthful sexual expression as a criminal matter. Still, Balkam wants to call in the cops.
Maybe all that bullying is a mirror of the way adults treat young people minding their own sexual business. Maybe the “issue” is not sex but adults’ response to it: the harm we do trying to protect teenagers from themselves.

Republican Taliban declare jihad on Obama:

The Democrats and the liberal base have responded to all this with a mixture of cynicism and their own partisanship. They rolled their eyes at Obama’s outreach to Republicans; they hated the inclusion of the other party in the cabinet and had to swallow hard not to complain about the postpartisan rhetoric. Their cynicism is well earned. But my bet is that Obama also understands that this is, in the end, the sweet spot for him. He has successfully branded himself by a series of conciliatory gestures as the man eager to reach out. If this is spurned, he can repeat the gesture until the public finds his opponents seriously off-key.

A Balancing Act on the Web :

LAST week, I wrote that a hastily published article on The Times’s Web site highlighted a fear in newsrooms that the Internet, with its emphasis on minute-to-minute competition, is undermining the values of print journalism, which put a premium on accuracy, tone and context.

The ethics of science journalism:

This unique theme section brings together the views of all parties involved in science journalism and bringing science to the public today: writers (freelance and staff), editors, publishers, and scientists themselves. The theme section will be built online.

An Eternal Optimist — But Not A Sap:

Obama is a long way from matching the achievements of Lincoln and Roosevelt, of course. (If Obama, and the country, is lucky, he won’t have to.) But his common inclination to “steer from point to point” may serve him and the country well, especially since Obama has inherited problems of a magnitude faced by few of his predecessors other than those two titans. Obama recognizes the obvious challenge those problems present, but also sees in them opportunity. “I think that there are certain moments in history when big change is possible… certain inflection points,” he said. “And I think that those changes can be for the good or they can be for the ill. And leadership at those moments can help determine which direction that wave of change goes.”

The Oligarchs:

Everyone is always saying: how can we fix the problem as long as the people we have in charge are the people who created the problem in the first place? Very true in many ways. I’ve said it a lot myself. But this point has brought it home to me in a much more concrete way. The assumptions, the vested interests, the wealth, the political power are just too much to overcome.

The No-Stats All-Star :

The virus that infected professional baseball in the 1990s, the use of statistics to find new and better ways to value players and strategies, has found its way into every major sport. Not just basketball and football, but also soccer and cricket and rugby and, for all I know, snooker and darts — each one now supports a subculture of smart people who view it not just as a game to be played but as a problem to be solved. Outcomes that seem, after the fact, all but inevitable — of course LeBron James hit that buzzer beater, of course the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl — are instead treated as a set of probabilities, even after the fact. The games are games of odds. Like professional card counters, the modern thinkers want to play the odds as efficiently as they can; but of course to play the odds efficiently they must first know the odds. Hence the new statistics, and the quest to acquire new data, and the intense interest in measuring the impact of every little thing a player does on his team’s chances of winning. In its spirit of inquiry, this subculture inside professional basketball is no different from the subculture inside baseball or football or darts. The difference in basketball is that it happens to be the sport that is most like life.

Legal Guide for Bloggers:

Whether you’re a newly minted blogger or a relative old-timer, you’ve been seeing more and more stories pop up every day about bloggers getting in trouble for what they post.
Like all journalists and publishers, bloggers sometimes publish information that other people don’t want published. You might, for example, publish something that someone considers defamatory, republish an AP news story that’s under copyright, or write a lengthy piece detailing the alleged crimes of a candidate for public office.
The difference between you and the reporter at your local newspaper is that in many cases, you may not have the benefit of training or resources to help you determine whether what you’re doing is legal. And on top of that, sometimes knowing the law doesn’t help – in many cases it was written for traditional journalists, and the courts haven’t yet decided how it applies to bloggers.

Nouriel Roubini: Only Way To Save US Banking System Is To Nationalize It:

The U.S. banking system is close to being insolvent, and unless we want to become like Japan in the 1990s — or the United States in the 1930s — the only way to save it is to nationalize it.
As free-market economists teaching at a business school in the heart of the world’s financial capital, we feel downright blasphemous proposing an all-out government takeover of the banking system. But the U.S. financial system has reached such a dangerous tipping point that little choice remains. And while Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s recent plan to save it has many of the right elements, it’s basically too late.

The Internet, New Media, Old Media and Fame:

What is fame? When you use the word the majority of people would start rhyming of names like Angeline Jolie, Rock Hudson, JFK and even now with Barak Obama. Fame is often thought of as being the thing that actors, musicians, politicians and in very rare cases regular people can achieve through their actions. Old Media thrives on famous people because of their ability to get people to fork over their money time and time again. This type of fame though is what I would refer to as global fame. It is a fame that can cross generations and oceans but it isn’t the only kind of fame there is.

WooHoo! Blogging is dead:

Of course this is all because Dan Lyons pontificated in Newsweek – which he also pointed to from his blog – that that there is no money to be made with blogging. Of course his idea of making money is something that probably has to surpass his salary from Newsweek who I am sure gave him the big high five over the post.
I won’t bother re-hashing all the different ways that Lyons probably profited quite well from his short stint as a blogger. After all how many times can you say book deal, better paying job with more name recognition or even all the speaking dates before you get the idea that Mr. Lyons is pretty well full of shit. Sure he used the lousiest ad network out there and really only clued into the fact that there were better ones months before he supposedly shut down the Fake Steve Jobs blogs out of respect of the Real Steve Jobs health.

5 Things We Learned About Teens at TOC:

They hung out with real teenagers in their homes to get a look at their creative processes. When choosing which teens to follow, they looked for those who were creative, but not necessarily planning to go into art or design after high school. They picked those who were involved in interesting self-expression activities and who were creating digital media to share with others outside their immediate circles of friends. Here are five not-so-obvious takeaways (beyond the fairly apparent “Teens want to create identities for themselves online” and “In general, teens are pretty tech-savvy”). (The panel didn’t focus much on book publishing, but it provides useful background to YA publishers who want a better look at what their target audiences are doing online.)

Andrew Wakefield, autism, vaccines and science journals:

A word about peer review. This is the process whereby journal editors send manuscripts to experts in the field for their evaluation of scientific soundness. Based on the comments, editors then make a decision as to whether to publish or not. That decision may or may not be the same as the reviewers’. There are many considerations whether to publish something or not (is it of sufficient interest to the readership or does it make enough of a contribution to the field, for example). In general, however, depend on reviewers for the science. Most journals do closed, anonymous reviews. This means that the authors don’t know who the reviewers are and the reviews are not provided to the readers. Often the names of the authors are also kept from the reviewers so as not to prejudice their judgment. Some journals (like the one I edit) practice open review, meaning that reviewers’ names are known to the authors (and vice versa) and that the reviews themselves are available to readers when the paper is published. In the case of the Wakefield paper we don’t know the names of the reviewers or what they said.

A guide to the 100 best blogs – part I:

The online world of the bloggers and how you can connect, communicate, publish your thoughts or diaries and ‘spy’ on the famous

Who-o-o are you? Who who? Who who?:

There’s been quite a lot of discussions going on lately about author identification: Raf Aerts’ correspondence piece in Nature (doi:10.1038/453979b), discussions on FriendFeed, … The issue is that it can be hard to identify who the actual author of a paper is if their name is very common. If your name is Gudmundur Thorisson (“hi, mummi”) you’re in luck. But if you are a Li Y, Zhang L or even an Aerts J it’s a bit harder. Searching PubMed for “Aerts J” returns 299 papers. I surely don’t remember writing that many. I wish… So if a future employer would search pubmed for my name they will not get a list of my papers, but a list of papers by authors that have my name. Also, some of my papers mention as the contact email. Well: you’re out of luck, I’m afraid. That email address doesn’t exist anymore because I changed jobs.

How I made over $2 million with this blog:

If I had any advice to offer it’s this — get in the habit of communicating directly with the people you want to influence. Don’t charge them to read it and don’t let others interfere with your communication. Talk through your blog as you would talk face to face. You’d never stop mid-sentence and say “But first a word from my sponsor!” — so don’t do that on your blog either. I can’t promise you’ll make any money from your blog, and I think the more you try the less chance you have. Make a good product and listen to your customers to make it better, and use the tools to communicate, and you may well make money from the whole thing. To expect the blog alone to pay your bills is to misunderstand what a blog can do. You’ll only be disappointed like Dan Lyons was.

Separating science and state:

Government should have no role in funding scientific research. I say this as a person who not only greatly admires scientific research and its accomplishments, but as a person who believes strongly in the scientific enterprise in general–by which I mean, someone who believes that reason is the only proper means of knowledge and who has no truck with religion and tradition and authoritarianism. Just to get my bona fides out of the way, I am seriously devoted to and interested in all forms of science, particularly biology, and have written at great length in defense of science and the material and intellectual–indeed, spiritual–progress it has brought us. Of all the kinds of corporate welfare, I am least opposed to science welfare.

Why it’s good for us to fund scientific research.:

Tim Sandefur and I don’t agree about the proper role of government when it comes to funding scientific research. He fairly strongly believes that there are many reasons why it’s wrong for the government to fund scientific research. Tim’s provided a number of reasons to support his belief, and I agreed to use my blog as a platform to make my own case for the involvement of government in science.
In the abstract, many of the reasons that the government should not be involved in funding research sound fairly compelling. Unfortunately, those arguments were made on the internet. At the end of the day, the medium undercut the message.

A rebuttal to Mike Dunford:

Mike Dunford starts out his rebuttal cleverly pointing to the Internet as an example of the way government-subsidized research can help promote the American standard of living. Of course, it’s true that some of the research projects government has funded have ended up producing some pretty cool things. But it doesn’t undercut the message: in fact, this example makes two important points that support my position.

The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution:

This week of all things Darwin seemed like a good time to share some news about a project I’ve been working on for the past few months. It’s a book called The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution.
The inspiration for the book came from a conversation I had last year with the folks at Roberts & Company, a publishing company. They had noticed a growing number of classes about evolution for non-biology-majors, and asked if I’d be interested in writing a textbook for them. I was excited by the prospect of being able to bring together the things I’ve learned and written about over the past few years, as evolutionary biologists have made a string of surprising new advances in understanding the history of life (many of which I’ve written about here at the Loom).

ISI Draws Fire from Citation Researchers, Librarians:

A new document classification is creating confusion and drawing fire from the bibliometrics community. Confusion over the new “proceedings paper” designation in ISI’s Web of Science has many questioning whether the new classification will alter journal impact factors.

The Ideology of the Media:

It’s also that establishment journalists get disoriented by any story that doesn’t fit into their pre-formed cookie cutter narratives. They spend all their adult lives inside the bubble and just can’t relate in a real way to the rest of the country – as you’ve written about… Maybe a few of them can perceive the realness of public anger that is the fuel for social movement politics, and maybe those few can perceive the actual threat to the Establishment.

198 Scientific Twitter Friends:

Follow me on twitterI’ve been on Twitter since June 2007 and have met a lot of interesting, helpful, and generally nice people on there. Many of my almost 1400 friends and followers on twitter are connected with science in some way, they’re scientific tweeps in other words, or to coin a phrase, scientwists.
Originally, I listed 100 science types, but then more friends and followers asked if they could be on this list, so now we have almost 200. If you’re a scientwist and want to join them then tweet me, comment here, follow me, or retweet
this link scientwists be sure to let me know and I’ll add your link and bio.

Paper Chase: A Q&A with Randy Siegel (search blogs, twitter and friendfeed for this article, to see why it is very wrong):

Absolutely. It’s the infrastructure, it’s the professional training, it’s the ability to condense massive amounts of information into accessible prose for the reader and the online visitor. It’s the editing. I mean, this notion that you don’t need editors anymore is laughable. Editors make things accessible for readers and online users, and they help educate all of us about stories and issues that we otherwise might not see. I highly doubt that your favorite blogger, for example, is in a position to fly to Iraq and cover what’s going on there, or to fly to the far East and decipher our relationship with China as an economic superpower, or to go into City Hall and expose instances of municipal graft and corruption, or to get behind the scenes of a major sporting event and help people understand why a game turned out the way it did. I believe that, in journalism, you get what you pay for. And quality journalists will always have a role in our society. And as newspaper companies evolve, great journalism will now be more important than ever. Across multiple platforms.

Battle Plans for Newspapers:

Virtually every newspaper in America has gone through waves of staff layoffs and budget cuts as advertisers and subscribers have marched out the door, driven by the move to the Web and, more recently, the economic crisis.
In some cities, midsized metropolitan papers may not survive to year’s end. The owners of the Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer have warned that those papers could shut down if they can’t find buyers soon. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis recently filed for bankruptcy. The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News will soon stop home delivery four days of the week to cut operating costs. Gannett, which owns 85 daily newspapers in this country, recently said it would require most of its 31,000 employees to take a week of unpaid leave.
What survival strategies should these dailies adopt? If some papers don’t survive, how will readers get news about the local school board or county executive?

non-anonymous peer review:

I spent this afternoon acting as a voluntarily non-anonymous peer reviewer – its scary. I ended up advocating rejection of the article I was reading and I have to say that Vince Smith(see end of linked post) was absolutely right that the act of signing your review “keeps you in check”. Knowing from the outset that your words are going to be linked to your name can really change what you have to say – it certainly makes you think about it for a while longer. It is scary though – I hope that I managed to convey enough of my reasoning and suggestions for ways to improve the article that the authors don’t despise me and attempt to ruin my life… I also hope that the editors of the journal manage to acquire at least one additional reviewer for this manuscript – safety in numbers! Or perhaps the editors will strip my name from my comments? Time will tell I guess.


mail us a tweet, we’ll post it on Twitter

Why the New York Times and Harvard Should Merge (someone wrote a good rebuttal of this, but now I can’t find who and where? – Oh, found it: PhysioProf):

But both of these are really points on a continuum. Journalists have found that in addition to breaking stories, they need to do analysis. Academicians have discovered that in addition to reviewing the past, they need to pay attention to the the future.

11 Ways Print Journalism Can Reinvent Itself:

Print journalism is in a tailspin. Embracing the Web is the obvious solution, but how is that best done? Lex Alexander, who spearheaded a well-regarded new media effort at the Greensboro, NC, News & Record, offers these tips. Notice that a few start with the word “invest,” which is counter to much recent industry wisdom.

Obama Aides Rip Cable News, D.C. Media And Political Elite:

Here’s an interesting dynamic: The yawning gap between what the pundits say about who’s winning the stimulus war and what the polls say the public thinks has created an opening for the Obama team to reclaim Obama’s campaign outsider mantle, which had slipped away during the transition to governing.

If you don’t have a blog you don’t have a resume (Part 1):

The point here is to make the case that blogging is good for your career. It’s been good for me and it’s been good for a lot of other people and I think it has potential for everyone.
Now, is everyone a blogger-in-waiting? Of course not. Would absolutely everyone actually benefit from blogging? Probably not. And if absolutely everyone did take up blogging, would the massive amount of noise generated actually cancel itself out and end up hardly benefiting anyone at all? Probably.
That being said, let’s take a look at what’s been making me think about blogging lately.

If you don’t have a blog you don’t have a resume (Part 2):

I’d also like to be more explicit about chicken/egg of interplay between our passion and commitment to the profession that blogging brings out and how that directly feeds into concrete reputation-building and the benefits that may result. In general, I believe that if you blog to become famous (in other words, to explicitly build your reputation, with cynicism not passion), that will be your reputation. If you blog to share and grow and explore, it’s that passion that will hopefully influence your reputation-building efforts and that any concrete benefits that you accrue will reflect that.
Blogging isn’t for everyone. Blog because it’s what you want to do, not because you feel you have to.
That being said, I really I really like how bluntly Neville Hobson puts it: Your Blog is Your CV.

Yet more on uneasy symbiosis of mainstream and citizen journalism:

Rosen’s much stronger and emphatic point, meanwhile, is that the blogosphere v MSM argument isn’t getting us anywhere, so, follks, quit beating this question by attacking “the other.” I could not agree more. The point is not which is better or deserves to die or has great or lousy ethics or good or awful writers. It’s that they bring different strengths and weaknesses and possibilites and constraints, we’ll make the best of both realms if we try to cross-fertilize strengths while avoiding or improving upon weaknesses.

Why would anyone still take Republicans seriously at this day and age?

Republicans: Spare Me Your Newfound ‘Fiscal Responsibility’:

At his press conference on Monday, President Barack Obama had to remind Mara Liasson of Fox News and NPR that it was the Republicans who doubled the national debt over the past eight years and it’s a little strange to be hearing lectures from them now about how to be fiscally responsible. That interchange was my favorite part of the press conference. A savvy inside-the-Beltway reporter of Ms. Liasson’s caliber shouldn’t have to be reminded that George W. Bush and the Republican Congress were among the most fiscally reckless politicians in U.S. history.
The posturing of the Washington Republicans since Obama was elected proves correct the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard when he outlined his understanding of “simulacrum” in advanced capitalist societies where ideologies and images are copies of copies without originals. It’s the kind of Reaganism mass produced on T-shirts and coffee mugs, not the real record of Reagan’s actions when he was president like his “cutting and running” in Lebanon, or his raising taxes 13 times to ward off an even worse fiscal crisis, or his negotiating in an atmosphere of detente with the Soviet Union he once called an “evil empire.” The Republicans today are conforming to an ideology based on a myth that other Republicans created in 1997, a copy of a copy without an original.
So in 2009 what is left of the Grand Old Party? It appears that Republican politics today have become the politics of pastiche: They love independent women like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter yet they hate independent women like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi; they love tax cuts and deregulation yet they also love to control women’s bodies and decide who shall marry and who shall not; they love fictive workers like Joe the Plumber yet they hate real workers who want to pass the Employee Free Choice Act; and they hate the Senate filibuster until they love it to death. And while the “angry white male” is becoming the UNEMPLOYED “angry white male” the Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele says “work” does not mean “jobs.”


Essentialism beyond just animals

How religion generates social conservatism:

You could make a reasonable case that pencils have a purpose, but pencil shavings just exist. But what about elephants? Religious people and children are, of course, more likely than non-religious adults to say that animals exist for a purpose. But what about men and women? Black people and whites? Rich and poor? Arab and Jew? Do these exist for a purpose? And is it possible for one to become another? Gil Diesdendruck and Lital Haber of Bar-Ilan University in Israel decided to find out what children think.

Bobo’s Paradise Lost

I was listening to NPR in the car yesterday when David Brooks came on and started blathering in his usual vein, revealing with every word his love for the establishment in Washington and his disdain for the proles, and pushing Broderism with all his might. So I was very pleased to see Glenn Greenwald dissect him in great detail in his latest post – David Brooks reveals the mentality of the Beltway journalist:

Here we see the full expression of one of the most predominant attributes of the contemporary Beltway journalist: because they are integral members of the Washington establishment, rather than watchdogs over it, they are incapable of finding fault with political power and they thus reflexively defend it and want it to remain unchanged.
It’s amazing how explicitly Brooks here is endorsing — and demanding — deliberate deceit of the public. There is, for obvious reasons, extreme anger among the American citizenry towards the piggish sleaze, systematic corruption, and wholesale destruction permeating the political establishment and our political and financial elites. In order to pacify those sentiments, political elites tolerated, perhaps even desired, a presidential candidate with credible outsider pretenses who claimed to empathize with that popular anger and who wanted to combat the political elites who were the targets of it — but only on the condition that he didn’t really mean any of it, that it was all just a means to deceive people into believing that they still live in some sort of responsive democracy and they retain even a minimal ability to shape what the Government does. The anti-Washington rhetoric Obama was spouting was tolerated by media elites only to the extent that none of it was sincere.
What makes this journalistic servitude to the Washington establishment most repellent is that these same pundits generally — and David Brooks in particular — endlessly hold themselves out as the Spokespeople of the Ordinary American, even as they work tirelessly to protect the Washington political class from their beliefs, interests and sentiments. That’s how people like David Brooks pile media deceit (“we speak for ordinary Americans”) on top of political deceit (we view campaign commitments as “blather” to keep the masses satiated and quiet).
The most significant fact of American political life is that political journalists (of all people) see their role primarily as defenders of, servants to, spokespeople for the Washington establishment. That’s how they obtain all of their rewards and remain relevant. The concept of journalists as watchdogs over political power has been turned completely on its head by power-revering servants like David Brooks, who is anything but atypical (indeed, there’s a whole new generation of Beltway journalists who have learned and are eagerly replicating this model). Brooks is about as typical and illustrative as it gets. They benefit substantially from the prevailing rules of political power and, thus, their only concern is to preserve and strengthen it and protect it from the growing dissatisfaction and anger of the peasant class. The more they do that, the more they are rewarded.

Read the whole thing, the links within, and the comments….

CALL TO ACTION: Ask your Representative to oppose the H.R. 801 – The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act

From The Alliance for Taxpayer Access:

CALL TO ACTION: Ask your Representative to oppose the H.R. 801 – The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act
February 11, 2009
Last week, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI) re-introduced a bill that would reverse the NIH Public Access Policy and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place. The legislation is H.R. 801: the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” (
All supporters of public access – researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others – are asked to please contact your Representative no later than February 28, 2009 to express your support for public access to taxpayer-funded research and ask that he or she oppose H.R.801. Draft letter text is included below. As always, it’s important to let us know what action you’re able to take, via
H.R. 801 is designed to amend current copyright law and create a new category of copyrighted works (Section 201, Title 17). In effect, it would:
1. Prohibit all U.S. federal agencies from conditioning funding agreements to require that works resulting from federal support be made publicly available if those works are either: a) funded in part by sources other than a U.S. agency, or b) the result of “meaningful added value” to the work from an entity that is not party to the agreement.
2. Prohibit U.S. agencies from obtaining a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by, for example, placing it on the Internet.
3. Stifle access to a broad range of federally funded works, overturning the crucially important NIH Public Access Policy and preventing other agencies from implementing similar policies.
4. Because it is so broadly framed, the proposed bill would require an overhaul of the well-established procurement rules in effect for all federal agencies, and could disrupt day-to-day procurement practices across the federal government.
5. Repeal the longstanding “federal purpose” doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work reserve the “royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work” for any federal purpose. This will severely limit the ability of U.S. federal agencies to use works that they have funded to support and fulfill agency missions and to communicate with and educate the public.
Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information through the PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.
All supporters of public access — researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others — are asked to contact their Representatives to let them know you support public access to federally funded research and oppose H.R. 801. Again, the proposed legislation would effectively reverse the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.
Thank you for your support and continued persistence in supporting this policy. You know the difference constituent voices can make on Capitol Hill.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Heather or myself anytime.
All best,
Jennifer McLennan
Director of Communications
(The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition)
(202) 296-2296 ext 121
jennifer [at] arl [dot] org
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.
Draft letter text:
Dear Representative;
On behalf of [your organization], I strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 801, “the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on February 3, 2009. This bill would amend the U.S. Copyright Code, prohibiting federal agencies from requiring as a condition of funding agreements public access to the products of the research they fund. This will significantly inhibit our ability to advance scientific discovery and to stimulate innovation in all scientific disciplines.
Most critically, H.R. 810 would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy, prohibit American taxpayers from accessing the results of the crucial biomedical research funded by their taxpayer dollars, and stifle critical advancements in life-saving research and scientific discovery.
Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information from the NIH’s PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.
H.R. 801 affects not only the results of biomedical research produced by the NIH, but also scientific research coming from all other federal agencies. Access to critical information on energy, the environment, climate change, and hundreds of other areas that directly impact the lives and well being of the public would be unfairly limited by this proposed legislation.
[Why you support taxpayer access and the NIH policy].
The NIH and other agencies must be allowed to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please oppose H.R.801.

Ah, that Conyers bill again!

The Conyers bill (a.k.a. Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, HR 801), is back. Despite all the debunking it got last time around, and despite the country having more important problems to deal with right now, this regressive bill, completely unchanged word-for-word, is apparently back again. It is the attempt by TA publishers, through lies and distortions, to overturn the NIH open access policy. Here are some reactions – perhaps Rep.Conyers and colleagues should get an earful from us….
Peter Suber, in Comments on the Conyers bill provides all the useful links, plus some of the blogospheric responses.
Greg Laden: Open Access Under Threat (also interesting discussion in the comments):

The publishing industry is dangerous. Why? Because it is big and rich, but it is also in danger. The publishing industry, like the music industry, and like the commercial proprietary software industry, faces structural reorganization of the markets served and uncertainty in the flow of cash into coffers. So we should not be surprised when we see the industry buying off members of congress to get legislation passed that protects the industry from change that is coming. Change the industry does not want to see.

The Scientist: Anti-open access bill is back:

A bill aimed at undoing the NIH’s mandate to make federally-funded research manuscripts freely available on PubMed Central within a year of publication was re-introduced in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday night (Feb. 3).
The legislation claims that the NIH policy breaches existing copyright laws that protect academic publishers. If passed, the bill would stop federal agencies from requiring the transfer of copyright as a stipulation of investigators receiving taxpayer-backed grants.

Campus Entrepreneurship: Monopoly Rights to Taxpayer Funded Research?:

This sounds like monopoly rights for publicly funded knowledge. Please contact representative John Conyers (MI) and ask him to stop pushing this bill. His co-sponsors on the bill appear to be Steve Cohen of TN, Trent Franks of AZ, Darrell Issa (CA), and Robert Wexler of FL. (BTW, should anyone representing Michigan be spending their time on this? Dereliction of duty?)

David Bruggeman: Bill Introduced to Roll Back NIH Open Access:

There is a legislative effort to push back the move toward open access in scientific publishing. Representative John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced a bill to roll back the National Institutes of Health requirement that its grantees provide a copy of their peer-reviewed articles to be published in PubMed Central, a free online database. The competing interests in this issue (and similar efforts to make federally funded research more available to the public) are the copyright interests of the journals (which are typically assigned them by the authors) and an interest in making research – especially that funded by citizens’ tax dollars – more accessible to the public.
I lean toward the latter, but I suspect that journals will be forced to revamp their publication models and business plans long after newspapers do, even though there are some similarities in how online access to information has undercut their respective market advantages.

Michael Eisen: Conyers reintroduces bill to kill NIH Public Access Policy:

As many have pointed out, the whole premise of the bill is absurd. Publishers are arguing that the NIH has taken their copyright. But, of course, if that were true, they would already have protection under federal copyright law, and they would be suing the government. Instead, they are pushing legislation that would actually remove the governments right to distribute work it funds, thereby clearly demonstrating that they believe the government’s action is perfectly legal under copyright law.
What is particularly galling is that Conyers held hearings on this bill last year, in which a LOT of important issues were raised about the bill, and there were many on the committee who were skeptical about it. So, what does Conyers do with all that useful feedback? He ignores it, and introduces exactly the same bill in the new Congress. One hopes such an ill-conceived piece of public policy would have no hope when Congress has many more important things on its hands, but one never knows. Let’s hope it dies in committee. But just to be safe, let the members know how you feel.
It’s hard to know why Conyers is doing this. He receives some modest contributions from Elsevier and some others in the publishing industry – but it’s hard to imagine $4,000 buys a piece of legislation. Conyers has recently reorganized the House Judiciary Committee in order to take control of intellectual property cases, so maybe this is part of a more broadly orchestrated “defense” of copyright.

Related – Questionable Authority: Way To Support Science, Reed Elsevier:

Reed Elsevier is one of the leading – if not the leading – publishers of scientific journals. They make profits on the scale of thousands of dollars a minute selling these journals to libraries so that scientists can read them. They have, I’d suggest, some motivation to keep from pissing scientists off any more than necessary.
Which is why I was almost surprised to discover that Reed Elsevier Inc. gave Senator Inhofe $16,500 in 2008, with $3,000 of that coming right from their own Political Action Committee. It’s nice to know that Reed Elsevier is always ready to stand behind scientists. With a knife in their hand.

Who has power?

Who has power?
Elected officials: they write, vote for and sign laws, they decide how much money will be collected from whom and how it will be spent, they decide on starting and stopping wars, i.e., lives and deaths of people.
Who else has power?
Anyone who can affect the decision of an elected official, e.g., to change a vote from Yes to No or vice versa.
How does one do that?
By having money and using it wisely.
How does one use money to affect policy?
One: by directly lobbying the elected officials. Two: by buying off the media.
I understand how One works, but Two?
Elected officials think that the press reflects the thinking of the people. Afraid of losing re-election, they will do what the people say to them via media.
But the media does not reflect what people think!
Correct, but elected officials did not know this until recently, and thus used the press as a proxy to get information about the popular sentiment.
But didn’t constituents always have the ability to contact their representatives directly?
Yes, but most don’t know this fact, and very few use the opportunity. One constituent letter has no power in comparison to the strength of all the national media outlets. And often constituents are not aware that their opinion on a matter is not unique, so they are shy about voicing it.
So, money wins. What can we do?
The world is changing. When a senatorial office cannot do any business because their phones are ringing off the hook continuously for several days, their faxes are clogged, their e-mail inboxes are full of thousands of messages, and their mail is brought into the office in large bags or boxes, all of them from constituents, all asking the elected official to change the vote from Yes to No, they perk up and pay attention. This is a completely new and surprising level of constituent interest that baffles them. But they listen. And they tend to do what their constituents tell them. Sooner or later they will realize that what press is saying has nothing to do with what citizens really want. The press has lost all its credibility with the people, it is now also slowly losing credibility with the people in power.
This kind of thing has already happened a number of times over the past couple of years. Laws have been passed or blocked because of such concerted action. People won or lost elections due to having a tin ear or not when voters chimed in on their office telephones.
But where did that action come from?
From organized groups of people.
How did they get organized?
They found out about each others’ existence online, realized they are not alone or in a minority, they built their own communities online (mostly on blogs, but also forums, mailing groups, social networks…), and this is where they organized the actions. From outside, it looks like a handful of bloggers incited a citizen revolt. But from the inside, it is the citizens who organized themselves using those blogs as tools. Bloggers are not Martians who just fell on Earth. Bloggers are citizens, silent until now. Popular blogs are just tip of the iceberg – the community boards for citizen organizing.
What about money?
Money is not the source of power any more, or at least not as much as it used to be, and it is going to be so more and more in the future. If an elected official gets money from a lobbyist one day for the Yes vote, and gets 10,000 calls from constituents next day for the No vote – who is he going to listen to if he wants to get re-elected? If he has any brains, he will listen to the voters. Voters will vote next time, voters will fund the campaign as much as necessary, and voters never forget. Lobbyists can shove it. Easy arithmetic.
Irrelevant any more. Citizens discovered a way to find information outside of press. Using this information, those same citizens discovered a way to go directly to elected officials to exert their influence. And not listening to them always incurs a steep price at the polls later on.
So, why have money any more?
To have a place to live in, to have food, clothes, hobbies, travel the world, learn…. It is not money that will be the source of power in the future, but the strength of the community you belong to – how many people you know (and they know you) who hold the same beliefs as you and are willing to perform necessary action as needed. That is the source of power in the future. Networking, not hogging money. A large network of people will both, as a collective, have more money than a single entity, and will also need less money to achieve the goal in the first place as they can keep their elected officials hostages – as the Founders envisioned – just by being organized and vocal.

A Quick Note to Huffington Post

If Huffington Post wants to have credibility and gain its vaunted #1 spot as the most trusted online new source, there is only one thing it needs to do – ditch the woomeisters Chopra and RFK Jr., and get in their place some people from the reality-based community.
People are sick of conservative, emotion-based, gut-feeling decision-making that screwed up the country over the past 28 years. Why allowing the Left fringe equivalents into the mix? It is them that make a lot of people untrusting of Huffington Post.
Will Huffington Post publish and defend this piece about the potential fraud leading to all the autism-vaccine connection crappola?
This is your test. Do it, and perhaps you’ll gain credibility with the reality-based community. Stick by your woomeisters instead, and your credibility is gone. Over. Out. Kaput.
(Hat-tip: Phil Plait)
Vaccines and autism–can we stick a fork in it now, please?
Why am I not surprised? It looks as though Andrew Wakefield probably falsified his data
Scientific Misconduct and the Autism-MMR Vaccine Link
Important Information on the MMR Vaccine-Autism Link
Anti-vax study a case of scientific fraud?
Was the original autism-vaccine data faked?

Video Of The Day

Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald, two of the shrapest bloggers ever, were on Bill Moyers’s Journal on PBS tonight.
You SHOULD watch the video and read the transcript here.

Picture of the Day


D.C. press corps dissed again – but this time for good reasons

Apparently, the Washington DC press corps is peeved at the Obama White House because Press Secretary Gibbs is stonewalling them. They thus equate Gibbs to Fleischer/Perino/McClellan and equate Obama to Bush.
But they are myopic and wrong. And Jay Rosen explains why.
Bush dissed the press by suppressing information. Obama disses the press by giving information directly to the people (just you wait, these are early days, but they are preparing for some serious two-way communication between the WH and the people).
From press’ point of view – both are dissing them. From the point of view of democracy, its 180 degrees apart – what is important is if the information is available to the people, not the method (and filters) via which it does.
Rove stonewalled the press in order to manipulate the message himself. Obama stonewalls the press in order to prevent the press from manipulating the message through High Broderism.
If being blocked and being by-passed feels the same to the Washington press corpa, this means they are not aware or interested in availability of information, but only in their exclusive rights to get it and process it. They think they are supposed to be the gatekeepers and High Priests and hate seeing their authority destroyed and ridiculed. Which explains why they hate bloggers – it’s jealousy: this President uses bloggy channels instead of going through them.
But this is good. Instead of going through two filters (WH+Press), information goes through only one (WH). Twice as much chance we’ll get correct information.
Every White House will carefully manage the information coming out. Bush WH managed it by not letting any information out at all, unless they wanted something “leaked”. The Press Secretaries’ job was to provide slogan of the day, and the press dutifully copied the slogans into next mornings’ papers. Interesting how they are always good scribes for Republican Presidents, while looking for Monika’s with all their might when it’s a Democrat in the WH. Yup, “liberal press”…and I am the Pope.
Obama WH will also manage information, but their credo is transparency. But you can’t have full transparency if the message is distorted by the inane, gotcha, cocktail-circuit Washington press. You can’t have transparency if the press is out to get you because their God is Broder. Just because they sip champagne with Republicans does not mean that the country is really center-right as the DC bubble believes, but they have no intention to take a hike through the countryside and mix up with the proles, so they will never learn.
In order to achieve transparency, Obama WH must disable the filters imposed by the press, as those filters distort the information. Thus, Gibbs’ job is to make sure that information bypasses the press, so it can freely flow to the people. His job is to keep the press occupied in the Press Room, diverted and distracted for long hours every day, while the information is going out to the people unhindered, via modern and filter-free channels.
I wish someone with Photoshop skills would draw this.
Panel #1: WH with wagons circled around it, each wagon with a face of Bush, Cheney, Rove, McLellan, Perino and Fleischer. An arrow (or 2-3 arrows) named “information” comes out of WH and bounces off a wagon right back in, nothing escapes. The press is depicted as a piece of paper and a feather-pen (or old mechanical typewriter) with a picture of Broder who is visibly dismayed.
Panel #2: WH with just one wagon depicting Gibbs. Broder press still dismayed. Smiling Obama sends arrows (“information”) from the WH straight to the cheering people (perhaps sitting at their computers, or checking Twitter on their iPhones).
For more ideas on how DC press operates, read this post by Jay, as well as this book excerpt he quotes.

‘The Art and Politics of Science’ – Harold Varmus on NPR Science Friday

That was last week, but I had no time to listen until now – check out the podcast (in the upper left corner of the page):

In 1989, Dr. Harold Varmus won a Nobel Prize for his cancer research. He was director of the National Institutes of Health during the Clinton administration, and now heads the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Recently, President Obama named him to co-chair his Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. And he’s written a new book, “The Art and Politics of Science.” In this segment, Ira talks with Harold Varmus about his work, biological research, and the intersection between politics and science.

Look what came in the mail yesterday:

Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction by Eugenie C. Scott.
genie scott book cover.jpg
Written at this time.

Tear Down This Myth

Tear Down This Myth.jpgWill Bunch of Attytood recently published an interesting and important book – Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future.
On his blog, Will provides an excerpt and commentary:

Twenty years gone – but Reagan still matters. About this time one year ago, unceasing Reagan idolatry hijacked the race for the White House. Sometimes it was voiced in the name of policies on immigration or toward Iran that were the exact opposite of what really happened a generation ago. The power of this political fantasy – expressed mainly, of course, on the GOP side but occasionally even spilling over to the Democrats – caused me to begin work on a book about the Ronald Reagan myth. The result – “Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future” – is coming out now from Simon & Schuster’s Free Press.
OK – but you may ask whether the Reagan myth matters as much now that George W. Bush is back at the ranch and President Obama in the White House. I would argue that it does. Increasingly, the GOP minority in Washington, including 41 senators with just enough votes to derail the administration’s proposals, is going to invoke the Reagan myth to continue to justify a tax system that harms the middle class and policies that ignore the scientific consensus on climate change. Look at the first major policy debate of the Obama presidency, over the proposed $825 billion economic stimulus. Democrats are under enormous political pressure to weight the plan toward tax cuts, and away from spending programs, which Republicans quickly branded as much pork – despite evidence that jobs programs stimulate the economy at twice the rate of tax reductions. “I remain concerned about wasteful spending that might be attached to the tax relief,” House GOP leader John Boehner said – and right-wing talk radio was a lot less restrained. Ironically, the spending sought by the Democrats seek to undo the crumbling of America’s infrastructure and the failure to create “green-collar” jobs that dates back to the Reagan era.
And here’s another reason the Reagan myth still matters, and that’s because there’s a pundit class inside the Beltway that cuts its teeth in the 1980s and remains firmly convinced that America is a “center-right” nation, despite massive evidence to the contrary. These pundits will urge Obama to enact an economic recovery package in the Gipper’s image, ignoring the long-term harmed caused by Reagan’s brand of “trickle-down economics.
Unless we don’t let them – and tear down this myth.

Chris Mooney on Colbert Report

My SciBling Chris was on Colbert Report last night. If you missed it, watch now:
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What is science’s rightful place?

In our heads, of course. All of our heads.
But Seed is asking, so let me elaborate briefly.
As I said before, science is not just active participation in research. Science is a mindset.
We are all born scientists, exploring the world around us and experimenting with it. When we grow up, we continue being scientists in our day-to-day lives.
If you walk into a room and flip a switch and the light does not come on, what do you do? I doubt that you throw yourself on the floor in fear, speaking in tongues, praying, blaming the Aliens or asking the Government to help you. You calmly go about dissecting the problem into pieces: is there electricity in the house? If not, did you pay the bill? If yes, should the fuse be flipped or replaced? If not, perhaps the light bulb burned out: replace and see what happens. If that does not work, perhaps replacing the socket will work. If not, checking the wiring may help. You go through the problem systematically, testing each element, until you find the problem and fix it. You do the same if water is dripping in your kitchen sink, or your car is running funny.
But when it comes to bigger problems that affect the broader society, some adults forget their inherent scientific mindset and let indoctrination and ideology take over. As the problems become more complex, and the science behind it more difficult to understand, other social influences tend to take precedence. See: global warming denialists, HIV/AIDS denialists, anti-vaccination crowd, Creationists of all stripes, New Age proponents, medical quackery believers, animal rightists, and so on. Faced with complexity that goes against the dogma received by parents, teachers, priests and media, people shut off their natural scientific mindset and go with what “feels” right to them, instead of with reality.

“I’m not a fan of facts. You see, the facts can change, but my opinion will never change, no matter what the facts are.” – Stephen Colbert

[Thanks to Tamara Lackey for the quote]
This, of course, translates into politics and policy. I may disagree with Obama on some things. I may not like some of the people he hired to work for him. But what I like, and what he said many times including in his inaugural address, is that he will use the scientific method in all policy decisions.
Identify the problem.
Gather all available empricial information about the way the world really works in respect to that problem.
Fund the additional research to come up with missing data if needed.
Come up with a rational plan to solve the problem.
Implement it, test it and monitor if it works as planned.
Modify if needed, until the problem is solved.
I hope that this approach spreads into the broader national psyche – making decisions from the head, not the gut. Basing policy on data, not emotions. I feel that Obama won primarily because of his pragmatism and rationality as he is so non-ideological (heck, I wish he was more ideological!). People are tired of policy based on wishful thinking and fairy tales.
If this happens, it will be much easier to defeat the anti-rationality movements and to teach the kids how to apply their natural scientific mindset to all aspects of their lives as they grow into adults.
It’s not just research. It’s not just specific science education. It is about making rational thinking the respectable norm, and emotion/ideology-based thinking a laughing-stock.
That’s the science’s rightful place.

What is science’s rightful place?

This is the question that Seed is asking:

Restoring science to its rightful place in government and in society will be no simple task: it will demand fresh ideas, the engagement of America’s scientists and engineers, the re-engagement of the public, and the collaboration of other cultural and social communities. It will not happen overnight, but we will witness in 2009 a U-turn back to the future. History will call this the birth of our scientific renaissance.

And you are all encouraged to respond, in any format you like:

Seed and SEEDMAGAZINE.COM have invited responses to the question from friends and contributors around the country. Here on ScienceBlogs, we seek to involve the entire scientific community in the United States. We want scientists and engineers from coast to coast to respond to the question:
What is science’s rightful place?
Responses can be submitted in any format (text, audio, video, or image) and will be displayed here, at Please send them to:

I am thinking about my own response, to be posted on this blog in the near future.

Pinch me, am I dreaming?

Do we really have a new President? After eight dreary years, it’s hard to believe it’s possible. But here is the video documentation – it seems to be true!

Iran swiftly sentences two HIV scientists – perhaps we can exert pressure.

Like we did with the Tripoli Six….
From Declan Butler, reproduced here in its entirety, as it is important:

Iran has summarily tried two of the nation’s HIV researchers with communicating with an “enemy government,” in a half-day trial that started and ended on 31 December in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. There will be no further court hearings, and a verdict is expected within days.
The brothers, Arash and Kamiar Alaei, who have achieved international acclaim for their progressive HIV-prevention programme, have been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since their arrest last June (see Nature story, subscription required). Kamiar, the younger of the brothers, holds a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and was to have resumed doctoral studies at the University of Albany’s School of Public Health in New York. Arash, former head of international education and research cooperation at the Iranian National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, runs a clinic in Tehran. The brothers are not thought to have been politically active.
Jonathan Hutson, a spokesman for the Washington-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), points out that the six-month detention itself breached human rights, as it was “largely incommunicado.” Moreover, whereas Iranian law forbids anyone to be held in detention for longer than four months without charges being brought, it only filed the charge of communicating with an “enemy government” in early December.
At the trial, the prosecution also indicted the men on new secret charges. The trial denied the men the right to defend themselves against the new accusations and the right to due process, says Hutson. “The trial was unfair even by the draconian standards of Iran’s penal code,” he says.
In August, the prosecutor publicly accused the men of fomenting a velvet revolution, arguing that they had collaborated with other scientists around the world, including some in the United States, attended international AIDS conferences, and met frequently with AIDS NGOs. “Those are not crimes, that’s good medicine,” says Hutson, adding that it has casts a chilling effect on academic collaboration between Iran and the rest of the world. IIn December, the US National Academies suspended visits to Iran after the temporary detention of one of its officials in Tehran (Nature).
Several human-rights organizations, including PHR and Amnesty International, have called on Iran to allow the men access to lawyers and the right to contest their detention before a judge. The call has been taken up by several scientific bodies, including the International AIDS Society, the Foundation for AIDS Research and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and thousands of scientists and physicians have signed an online petition.

Yes, sign the petition.
Also see what Revere, Sandy and Greg added to this.

Department of Justice poised to ban all non-dog Service Animals

This is your weekend reading – lots of it, some fascinating, some enraging, but perhaps if enough people are aware and scream loudly enough, something can be done:
Assistance Monkeys, Ducks, Parrots, Pigs and Ducks … Should the law protect them?
More Follow Up on NYT Story About Assistance Creatures
More Assistance Creature Follow Up – The History of Service Monkeys, Plus Monkey Waiters
Newsflash! DOJ ADA Changes Leaked — All Animals Set to Be Banned Except Dogs
DoJ’s Rationale Behind Banning Non-Canine Service Animals
DOJ’s Proposal and Rationale for Allowing Psychiatric Service Animals (dogs only)
Service Animals on the Radio, a Horse Fetching a Beer, Plus Blog Maintenance Downtime

‘Flies and Projectors and Bears, Oh My!’

Steve Mirsky in Scientific American fisks McCain and Palin campaign anti-science statements (not that the remaining Republicans are any better, but these two were in the spotlight):

You’re not supposed to kick a guy when he’s down.
Of course, in reality, when he’s down is the perfect time to kick him. He’s closer to your feet, for one thing. But the particular kicking I have in mind should be thought of as tough love. These kicks at the freshly defeated McCain-Palin ticket, as I write in early November, are an attempt to knock some sense back into the group of my fellow Americans who seem determined to ignore or even denigrate valuable scientific research because it’s something outside the realm of Joe the Plumber’s daily activities….

And then it gets into the meat of things….

Sanjay Gupta rumored to be picked for Surgeon General

Responses by political, med- and science-bloggers range between mild optimism, meh and yikes:
Can Gupta Manage?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General? Yawn.
I’m not so sure about this pick
Orac on Gupta
Gupta for Surgeon General? Cool.
Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General? Here’s My Gripe
Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General
Why I think Sanjay Gupta is a good pick for Surgeon General
Refining thoughts on Sanjay Gupta – gravitas
Surgeon General Gupta?
Sanjay Gupta is a possible Surgeon General
Quick Thoughts on Sanjay Gupta and CNN Science
The post of Surgeon General of the United States: the ‘most trusted name in public health’?
Sanjay Gupta As Surgeon General? Not So Fast
The trouble with Sanjay Gupta
Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General
More on Gupta
Another revolting development
Rumored Obama Surgeon General pick Sanjay Gupta’s history of lies on single payer

Zbigniew Brzezinski to Scarborough: “Stunningly Superficial”

And what Joe says in response? He claims that he got his information from NYTimes and Washington Post, not realizing that those two publications are just as superficial as he is. Yes, Joe, throw those out and call Zbig if you want to get educated, not that he does not have his own agenda and his own perspective, but it’s a start, the first baby-steps from just not knowing anything yet saying it on TV with smug self-adoration….

Why can’t journalists call it as it is?

Researchers Hope Obama Team Will Reinvigorate Role of Science Adviser:

In recent years, though, some critics have charged that the science adviser’s influence has reached another low under President George W. Bush….

“Some critics”? Like, the entire scientific community? The entire science blogosphere? All the science journalists? Because of the obvious fact that the Bush Presidency is the pinnacle of the Republican disdain for reality, empiricism and science. Governing from the gut instead of from the brain. Governing by listening to direct messages from the Lord.
Because the conservative worldview is this:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

There, fixed it for you…

War on Christmas? Ho-ho-ho!

There is no clearer and better example of Artificial controversy than the War on Christmas, as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity re-invent it every year in order to boost their tanking ratings. What War on Christmas? Just drive along a street and see all the lights on houses, go into a store and look at the merchandise while listening to the Christmas music, peer into people’s windows to see decorated Christmas trees and presents, or turn on any radio station – Christmas is everywhere.
But, believe it or not, there are people who are even stupider than O’Reilly and Hannity – people who really want to ban Christmas! Who? The Bosnian education authorities:

“Is Santa Clause a religious figure? He doesn’t wear anything religious (maybe only a funny hat like the Pope). He is dressed in red – probably a communist, in which case it’s safe to say he’s not that religious. He is fat and round just like Buddah, but I guess that’s probably the consequence of a reindeer meat diet and too much coke.
By banning the Santa, people from the Bosnian education authorities who did this proved that ultra-nationalists from all three sides in Bosnia – Croatian, Serbian and Bosniak, have two things in common – 1. they all really, really hate Santa, and 2. they are all really, really stupid. This ban would probably not last thanks to the outrage it caused among normal people in Bosnia and the decision will probably be reversed, just like after that Darwin ban situation in Serbia some time ago.”

I’m happy about this – science is back in the U.S. government

Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources–it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient–especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States–and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.

Read the entire text.

The U.S. Commitment to Global Health

Listen here to the The December 16, 2008 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture given by Dr.Harold Varmus:

Harold Varmus, former Director of the National Institutes of Health and co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer, is President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Varmus chairs the Scientific Board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health program and leads the Advisory Committee for the Global Health Division. He was a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, and is a co-founder of the Public Library of Science, a leading publisher of open access journals. In addition, he serves as co-chair of the Institute of Medicine’s committee on The U.S. Commitment to Global Health. The committee will issue its interim report on the day preceding the lecture.

Michael Pollan on the new Secretary of Agriculture

Michael Pollan will be on NPR’s Morning Edition tomorrow:

I’ll be on NPR’s Morning Edition, talking about the new Secretary of
Agriculture, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.
What can I say? It’s a good day for corn.
Less good for us eaters, perhaps. Perhaps the most disappointing thing
about this morning’s press conference is that neither Tom Vilsack nor
President-Elect Obama uttered the words “food” or “eaters.” Vilsack
does not have the record of a reformer. He supported the expansion of
CAFO agriculture in Iowa (gutting local control to do it) and is much
loved by the biotech industry, who named him Biotech Governor of the
Year. But this is pretty much what you would expect from a Governor of
Iowa during that period, and we can hope that as Ag Secretary, with a
broader constituency, he will take a broader view. There are, too, in
his record encouraging glints: a record of support for local food
systems, and for a meaningful limit on subsidies, with the saving to
be directed toward conservation programs. The fact that he is Tom
Harken’s choice is reason for hope too; Collin Peterson reportedly had
some much worse ideas.
The fact is, real change is never easy and always comes from below/
Now it’s up to us to push him, and Obama, in the right direction. This
is just the beginning.

Croatian Facebook Group Results in Arrest

That’s interesting:

Croatia currently has over 400,000 users on Facebook and that is more than a 15 percent growth over last month according to our own internal statistics. Facebook tends to be one of the first locations that younger generations turn to for expressing their political frustrations. There is no doubt that Facebook will continue to be a center for political expression.
Svetlana Gladkova suggests that the primary reason he was arrested was not simply that he created the Facebook group but that, “he is actually the president of one of the local branches of the youth of SDP (social democratic party) which is in opposition to the government in Croatia.” Niksa Klecak was eventually released due to a lack of evidence after being initially arrested for keeping “Nazi symbols and propaganda at home.”

Big News from Lawrence Lessig

“In the summer, I will begin an appointment at the Harvard Law School, while directing the Safra Center.”

More details here.

The party of Herbert Hoover? Haha, that ship has sailed a long time ago!

Melissa puts the whole auto-makers non-bailout non-deal most succinctly and correctly of them all:

In short, the GOP demanded that the bailout be contingent upon busting unions, and, when their demand wasn’t met, they tanked the deal.

With each such stunt, over the years, Republicans lost another segment of the voting population and this one is no different – all the people employed by or dependent on the car industry will remember this for a generation.
The craziest thing that Shakes notes, though, is this silly quote by Dick Cheney:

“If we don’t do this, we will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever.”

Ha! He wants to improve the party branding? For it to be remembered just as the party of Herbert Hoover and not as the much more atrocious party of Bush and Cheney? Fr rlz?

KRISTOF: Obama’s ‘Secretary of Food’?

In today’s NYTimes:

As Barack Obama ponders whom to pick as agriculture secretary, he should reframe the question. What he needs is actually a bold reformer in a position renamed “secretary of food.”
A Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming. But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers. In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.
Renaming the department would signal that Mr. Obama seeks to move away from a bankrupt structure of factory farming that squanders energy, exacerbates climate change and makes Americans unhealthy — all while costing taxpayers billions of dollars….

How to organize a Smart Mob

For instance, to protest Creationist bills in state and local legislatures:


Under Bush, Science Learned It Must Speak Up:

Barack Obama received a relatively quiet endorsement on Aug. 23 from 61 of the country’s Nobel laureates in physics, medicine and chemistry — scientific heavyweights who used the occasion to both call for a scientific renewal in America and critique the state of American science at the end of the Bush era.
“During the administration of George W. Bush,” their open letter charged, “vital parts of our country’s scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government’s scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk.”
The United States lost critical time, the letter went on, in innovating alternative energy sources, treating disease, reversing climate change, strengthening security and improving the economy. In the process, the country has lost ground as the world’s scientific leader and leading attraction to the world’s current and would-be scientists — many of whom could not have come here even if they wanted to after Sept. 11.
The underlying concern — that the Bush administration has been either ambivalent toward or downright hostile to their work — elicited an outcry this election season from the normally staid scientific community….

Cautious Optimism for Obama’s Policy on Science:

Whoever advises Barack Obama in the next administration will have to differentiate between science for policy and policy for science.
It’s not just wordplay: The former captures how the resources of science can affect issues like energy, health care and the environment. The latter refers to making policy in support of science by providing, for example, funding for research and development.
“One thing a science adviser has got to be very, very careful about is putting the emphasis on science for policy,” said Bill Blanpied, a retired government scientist and expert on presidential science history. President Richard Nixon, he pointed out, eliminated the Office of Science and Technology Policy because it came to be viewed as a special lobby for science within the White House (and, well, farmers don’t get their own special lobby either).
“You don’t want the science adviser perceived as someone who is simply saying, ‘We need more money.’ On the other hand, the expectation of a lot of scientists is that’s exactly what the science adviser should be doing. It’s tricky.”…..

And Obama has a good start – Steven Chu appears to have been tapped for Secretary of Energy.

Secretary of Agriculture petition

If you agree with this petition, sign it:

Dear President-Elect Obama,
We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.
As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.
With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.

Elites? That’s somehow bad?

This kind of he-said-she-said False Equivalence journalism is infuriating and is the prime reason why nobody trusts the corporate media any more which is why the newspapers are dying:
Academic Elites Fill Obama’s Roster:

…..All told, of Obama’s top 35 appointments so far, 22 have degrees from an Ivy League school, MIT, Stanford, the University of Chicago or one of the top British universities. For the other slots, the president-elect made do with graduates of Georgetown and the Universities of Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina.
While Obama’s picks have been lauded for their ethnic and ideological mix, they lack diversity in one regard: They are almost exclusively products of the nation’s elite institutions and generally share a more intellectual outlook than is often the norm in government. Their erudition has already begun to set a new tone in the capital, cheering Obama’s supporters and serving as a clarion call to other academics. Yale law professor Dan Kahan said several of his colleagues are for the first time considering leaving their perches for Washington.
“You know how Obama always said, ‘This is our moment; this is our time?’ ” Kahan said. “Well, academics and smart people think, ‘Hey, when he says this is our time, he’s talking about us.’ ”
But skeptics say Obama’s predilection for big thinkers with dazzling resumes carries risks, noting, for one, that several of President John F. Kennedy’s “best and brightest” led the country into the Vietnam War. Obama is to be credited, skeptics say, for bringing with him so few political acquaintances from Illinois. But, they say, his team reflects its own brand of insularity, drawing on the world that Obama entered as an undergraduate at Columbia and in which he later rose to eminence as president of the Harvard Law Review and as a law professor at the University of Chicago…..

What a load of bull!
A society builds Universities for a reason – as places where the best and the brightest, surrounded by the other best and brightest, gain knowledge, skills and wisdom, as well as humility that comes from having one’s ideas challenged by colleagues every day. These are the places explicitly built to train the new generations of leaders – people who have a good grasp of the way the world works and a good understanding of the best ways to deal with the curveballs that the world throws at people and societies. These are exactly the kind of people a country needs to lead it.
Where else can one gain such knowledge and skills? You can learn fist-fighting skills out on the street. You can learn how to fudge books in the business world. You can learn how to sing hymns in church. You can learn how to ignore reality, spin fairy tales and destroy the English language in right-wing “think” tanks. But the honest useful skills are learned only in the academia.
Why is Washington Post, in this piece (and most others, this is just the latest example), inserting irrelevant opinions of “conservatives” and so-called “skeptics” (really ‘pseudo-skeptics’)?
Over the past 28 years, and especially starkly over the past 8 years, every single “conservative” idea has been shown in practice to be wrong and dangerous. The conservatives, what’s left of them (although many of them erroneously, for historico-local reasons, think of themselves as conservatives although they are not, or label some liberal ideas as ‘conservative’ although they are not) are out wondering in the wilderness.
So, why should any media outlet ever ask any conservative for any opinion on any topic? They have been proven wrong on everything, their ideology is dead, and their opinions are irrelevant (except for the humor segments). Inviting a conservative (or a Republican, because these two terms are today, more than at any time in history, equal and interchangeable) on a show is just like inviting a Creationist on a show when the topic is a new finding in evolutionary biology. Quoting conservatives in a newspaper article is just like quoting a Global Warming Denialist in an article about climate change – irrelevant, laughable, wrong and, yes, dangerous because it gives the audience the wrong idea that conservatism still deserves respect. It does not.
With conservatism debunked and dead, the next opposition party to the Democrats will come from the Left, not Right.
No, it is not the loss of advertising that dooms newspapers. It is not the unruly, wild bloggers. It is their own dishonesty. Let them die. Now.

Douglas Baird, who hired Obama at the University of Chicago, noted that whizzes can also have too much faith in their answers. But he said Obama is confident enough in his own intellect to challenge others’ conclusions. He recalled watching Obama hold his own with erudite faculty members.
“He goes into a faculty club filled with Nobel laureates, and he talks to them on equal terms — there hasn’t been anyone in the White House like that for a long time,” Baird said. “So it’s not as if, when he’s given advice by powerful, smart people, that he’ll get swayed from his core principles. And if you’re confident you’re going to stick to your own principles, then you might as well surround yourself with smart people rather than dumb ones.”

Ten things to know if you’re having Thanksgiving with Republicans

Here – a compilation of ten facts:

Congratulations, liberal/progressive/terrorist! This is the first Thanksgiving in eight years where you represent the political majority. Because you know who voted with you? Oh, just fifty-three percent of the United States of America. HELL YEAH! Who’s a member of the fringe lunatic this holiday season? Not you!
But what happens if your right-wing relatives still want to debate the outcome of the election? Defang your conservative loved ones with these ten helpful facts!:

But since when are facts supposed to be of any interest to Republicans? Their modus vivendi is to ignore the facts, “make their own reality”, then get surprised when Reality hits them in the face (see: Katrina, Iraq, financial meltdown, etc.).

Noam Chomsky’s interview about the election in Democracy Now!

What do you think? I think he has not seen and yet, as they undermine his (otherwise useful) argument. But you have to read (or listen to) the entire thing – it is long and below are a few short snippets:
Noam Chomsky: “What Next? The Elections, the Economy, and the World”:

Continue reading

Ideas for Change in America (not the official is a place where people can post ideas for the Obama administration and readers can, Digg-like, vote the ideas up and down. This is how it works:

What is Ideas for Change in America?
Ideas for Change in America is a citizen-driven project that aims to identify and create momentum around the best ideas for how the Obama Administration and 111th Congress can turn the broad call for “change” across the country into specific policies.
The project is nonpartisan, and invites all political points of view. It is not connected to the Obama campaign or the Obama Administration.
Who’s behind it?
Ideas for Change in America is a project of, an online community and media network for social issues, in partnership with more than three dozen leading organizations, including MySpace, techPresident, the Sunlight Foundation, Netroots Nation, Declare Yourself, Student PIRGs, Voto Latino, HeadCount, and Change Congress.
How does it work?
Anyone can submit an idea and comment and vote on others. The top 10 rated ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009 as the “Top 10 Ideas for America.” We will then launch a national campaign behind each idea and mobilize the collective energy of the millions of members of, MySpace, and partner organizations to ensure that each winning idea gets the full consideration of the Obama Administration and Members of Congress.
How are the top ideas determined?
The “Top 10 Ideas for America” will be determined through two rounds of voting. In the first round, ideas will compete against other ideas in the same issue category. The first round will end on December 31, 2008, and the top 3 rated ideas from each category will make it into the second round. The second round of voting will begin on Monday, January 5, and each qualifying idea will compete against the qualifying ideas from all other categories. Second round voting will end on Thursday, January 15.
What happens after voting?
Our work does not end with the voting process or the delivery of the top 10 ideas to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day. That is rather the end of the beginning. Instead of passively hoping the administration accepts each top idea, we will select a formal nonprofit sponsor for each idea to help create a nationwide movement to lobby the administration and Congress to turn the idea into real policy.
What should my idea be about?
Ideas can be about anything that you would like to see the Obama Administration or Congress change in America. We have established more than 30 causes, but you can include in the “other” category for something that doesn’t quite fit any of these.
Does my idea have to be original?
No. While we encourage you to take an original approach, you may submit an idea originally conceived by someone else. However, we encourage you to cite original source of the idea if known, and you may not directly copy text from an idea posted by another user.

There are some interesting and even good ideas there already, so look around and vote.
I really like this idea by Jay Rosen:

Pick one or two problems at a time that are well-suited to the “open call” method
“Your ideas can help change the future of the country,” says the front page of The Obama Administration cannot make good on its promise to solicit solutions from the American people by pretending that all problems are equally treatable that way, or allowing a vague pledge like that to sit there without creative action on it. And so: Obama and his advisors should select one or two problems at a time that are particularly well-suited to “open source” solutions, where ideas and suggestions can come from anywhere. They would then have to find the tools and a practical method for gathering, sifting, condensing and forwarding all that intelligence to the right people. Then it could be compared to solutions emerging in the more traditional–and bureaucratic–way.
An example might be throwing open to the tech community the problem of replacing the FBI’s obsolete Automated Case Support system with new software, an effort that collapsed in 2005 and cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Whether my FBI example is the right kind of challenge or not–and maybe it isn’t–the point is there are some problems where an “open call” is more likely to produce a useful and smart result. The Obama White House should make some smart, strategic choices to carefully frame and highlight one or two (no more than three!) such initiatives for a limited period of time to see if this method generates alternatives that may not have come to light through other means.

This idea is currently in 7th Place in Government Reform and needs 11 more votes to make it into the second round. Perhaps you can help it get there….by going here and voting.

Obama’s Transition

As you all know, I was not an Obamamaniac. I never thought that he was a super-Progressive. But I am liking what I am seeing right now.
A lot of Progressive bloggers are screaming bloody murder how Obama has abandoned them by not appointing the Progressives to various cabinet posts. Hello? He’s Obama, not Kucinich. But anyway, what Progressives can he appoint – give me names?
What I remember most from reading The True Believer many years ago was not that revolutions are bad, but the take-home message that a revolution has different ‘types’ of people and that most people are not temperamentally suited to perform more than one role in a revolution.
There are leaders of the revolution: charismatic figures with oratory gifts. There are intellectuals who provide the ideology and the platform for the revolution. And then there are diplomatic types, the quiet bureaucrats who actually know how to govern once the revolution wins. The trouble with most revolutions in history is that the charismatic leaders became installed as new rulers, while not being temperamentally suited for that role.
Yes, I think the 2008 election was a revolution of sorts. But not a revolution that many Progressives were thinking it was. It was a replacement of “we-make-reality” rule with a reality-based governance. It is also a replacement of us.vs.them mindset with a kind of a post-partisan mindset.
Obama is not the most charismatic or the best orator that Dems could have found. But he is good enough to have inspired so many – enough to win. He is not the super-intellectual to write his own book on ideology, but he is good enough to recognize good ideas when he sees them, to be thoughtful and deliberate about them, and to project intellect. This gives us confidence and is another reason why many of us supported him and voted for him.
But his greatest strength is the “third type” that Hoffer describes – the technocrat/diplomat who knows how to get people to work for him instead of against him, a competent guy who will know how to govern.
So, his early picks for various positions are brilliant. Why?
What Obama needs is to pass tons and tons of legislation very fast in order to rescue the economy, roll back all the idiotic things Republicans did over the past 28 (and especially past 8) years, and get it all working soon enough for the average citizens to notice improvements in their own lives so he and other Dems can get re-elected in four years (and then use the second 4 years to do more, including perhaps some stuff that Progressives will really like).
In order to pass so many pieces of legislation, some of it quite extraordinary (the big upheaval of the health care industry, for instance), he needs to have the least possible opposition. He needs to have no opposition from his own party, weak opposition from the remnants of the GOP on the Hill, and the opposition by the media limited to the Limbaughs&Co. laughed at by everyone somewhere out in the desert.
So, he is keeping his friends close, and his enemies closer. Building the broadest possible coalition.
Emanuel Rahm. For a guy that some folks think is a Moslem – not that there is anything wrong with that – to pick an Israeli for Chief of Stuff is brilliant. Completely eliminates any criticism that Obama might be anything less than strongly pro-Israel, which is important for some Americans very much. Yet, Rahm is no gung-ho Likudnik at all – if anything, he can have a strong and authoritative voice in telling Israel what to do and what not to dare do.
Rahm is also known as a master arm-twister and a brilliant executor in Congress. People on both sides of the aisle like him and respect him. If you forget to pay on time, Rahm will break your knee-caps. If you were Obama, would you rather have this guy working for you in making sure your proposals become law, or would you rather have him outside your circle, plotting opposition to some of your ideas and perhaps running for President against you in four years? Of course you adopt him.
Joe Lieberman. With Begich beating Stevens, likely Franken beating Coleman and perhaps even Martin ousting Chambliss, Obama is tantalizingly close to having a veto-proof Senate. He needs Lieberman. Is it better to have him on your side, or working for the enemy?
With his highly public “pardon”, Obama got Joe by the balls. Joementum knows how to do one thing and one thing only – do what is good for himself. The only way he can politically survive is if he becomes the loudest Obama’s lapdog and yapdog ever, pushing harder than anyone for every little piece of Obama’s proposals. Obama’s got Joe’s vote on every bill, or else…an easy win by the Obama-picked primary opponent in 4 years.
Hillary Clinton. I voted for Obama in the primaries not because I liked him better, but because I did not want the old Clintonite foreign policy folks in power. I did not want to see the likes of Christopher, Albright, Cohen or Clark deciding foreign policy. But as Sec of State, Hillary pushes Obama’s foreign policy, not her own. Whose foreign policy was enacted last time around – Bush’s or Powell’s? She is well known and respected both in Washington and around the world and her hubby can lend a hand when needed.
Would you rather have a powerhouse like Clinton and her folks working for you or being kept outside your circle plotting revenge? And at the time when there is no appetite for wars at home, and when the cost of war is draining an economy that is already in the hole, there is nothing a hawk can do – there will be no way they can foment another war any time soon. But their hawkish reputation can be useful in negotiations with various shady types around the world.
All sorts of other people from the old Clinton White House. Note that most of the people Obama is picking were youngsters when Bill was President. They, unlike any of the new Progressive revolutionaries, have actually knowledge and experience in government, know how to get things done, and can hit the ground running. But most importantly, they are an extremely frustrated bunch – they were wide-eyed liberals back in the 90s and they could not get any of their ideas turned into law. Gingrich blocked them. Clinton himself gave in to Gingrich on a lot of fronts. These guys, wiser and older now, want revenge and more than anything want the opportunity to actually do what they always wanted to do. But this time, they have a Democratic congress to work with and no triangulating semi-conservative President to obey.
The new Progressives will probably get positions a little lower – training for the future. They have ideas, but no experience enacting them into policy and law. They are the future, but it would be a mistake to immediately give them power – they just don’t know how to deal with the Congress yet as they have never done it. Suggesting folks like Michael Pollan is irresponsible – he can be an advisor somewhere down the line, but his past advocacy does not make him fit for actual governing and Washington-navigation.
Reality-based Republicans. The Scowcroft protegees. Gates.. Yes, these folks exist. If Obama co-opts them, many other Republicans (both voters and congressmen) will gladly go along with Obama’s policies. This leaves only the nutters to run the GOP and nutters in Congress in opposition making fools of themselves by voting against popular legislation (and risking losing their seats in subsequent elections).
This makes the GOP irrelevant. Stuff gets done because it is deemed to be the best solution for the problem, not due to ideology. And all true conservative ideas have been tried and demonstrated to be wrong over the past 28 years – in economics, health care, foreign policy, everything (which is why McCain could not utter a word about any policy – he knew that was a loser as the GOP ideas are now all dead).
So, by coopting potential opponents, neutralizing congressional GOP, and neutering or defanging the media critics, Obama will have the opportunity to get stuff done. Quietly, with no drama.
Where his opposition will come, both from the Left and the Right, will not be from other political parties so much as from individual citizens who get engaged. And that mindset will take some time to kick in. My kids are post-partisan and non-ideological, looking for rational solutions for problems. I like to think of myself that way, but I know I am not – I am partisan and I actually enjoy the us.vs.them battles. I need to learn to bite my tongue and see the Big Picture. Many of us will have to learn that….

How rumors spread….


Eliminating daylight time would thus accord with President-elect Barack Obama’s stated goals of conserving resources, saving money, promoting energy security and reducing climate change.

Eugene Sandhu:

In order to conserve energy, President-elect Barak Obama should eliminate daylight saving time.

Boing Boing:

President-elect Obama wants to get rid of daylight saving time in the United States to conserve energy.

The game of broken telephones? Or lack of reading comprehension, or just wishful thinking? I though we were the Reality-Based Community.

The Ayers interview

Last week, Terry Gross interviewed William Ayers on Fresh Air on NPR – you can listen to the podcast here.
James Fallows and Dave Winer have completely opposite reactions to the interview. What do you think?

It happens, sometimes….

Politicians persuaded to save Canada boreal forest:

Politicians actually listened when experts told them to protect Canada’s boreal forest, a potent weapon against global warming, and the plan for this vast green area could work on some of the world’s other vital places, scientists told Reuters.
Jeremy Kerr, a biogeographer at the University of Ottawa, said he and other scientists were surprised and delighted that Canadian politicians have been persuaded by science.

More info…