Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama Trounces Clinton in New York Straw Poll

Last night, the Bellmore-Merrick Democratic club of Long Island New York held a straw poll.  The room was packed with people from all over the Island.  Both campaigns tried to get as many party activists as they could to the event.  The crowd was energized, some carrying Hillary signs, but most of us carrying Obama signs.  We listened to some well crafted speeches by representatives of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Dennis Kucinich.  Following that was an hour of questions.  Then came a straw poll.  

It was not even close (as spun by Newsday).   Not only did Barack get 56% of the vote of the Democrats, but there were a number of Independents and Republicans for Barack at the event who could not participate (because the poll was open only to registered Democrats).  (btw, the term we have been using for a "Republican supporter of Obama" is "Obamican".  There is no need for a corresponding term for Hillary Clinton.)  So among people interested enough to volunteer for a candidate on Long Island, Barack Obama has a clear lead.   That's pretty amazing given that Hillary is the sitting US Senator for New York State.
Here is the official tally:

Barack Obama 143 56%
Hillary Clinton 108 42%
John Edwards    3 1%
Dennis Kucinich   2 1%


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Name Our Geological Age

Since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, the Earth has been in the 
Cenozoic Era (about 1/4 of a turn on the spiral figure).   This includes all of human history.  But humans are now having so much effect on the world, such as global warming, that geologists think the last century or so constitutes a new era for the Earth, which they call the Anthropocene.  With great power comes great responsibility, but unfortunately we have not shown a lot of the latter when it comes to the Earth.  If you don't like Anthropocene, Wired has a contest to name our geological age (thanks DG).   Most of the entries are silly or stupid.  It is currently a pitched battle between the serious "Anthropocene", and the cynical "Jackassic". 


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Response to Paul Krugman's "Lessons of 1992"

Paul Krugman wrote a piece in the New York Times called Lessons of 1992, in which he writes,

"First, those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1)."
Here is my response to him:
Dear Mr. Krugman:

I often agree with your columns, but not this time.  I'm afraid your fundamental premise is false.  To paraphrase that famous line,

Bill Clinton is no Barack Obama,

not even Bill Clinton at his most idealistic.  I respect Bill and Hillary, but in the same way one respects a pit bull.  It is nice to have them on your side.  But since the beginning it has always been about them.  Yes, the Republicans went gunning for them, but they invited some of the attacks by their modus operandi.

I know this sounds naive and idealistic, but every once in a great while, something idealistic is true.  I think Barack Obama is sincere when he says that it is more about us than him, that he wants to forge a new politics that involves We the People.  The Clintons never were that way, not even in pretense.

If somehow I am being duped, and Obama is the greatest actor the world has ever seen, then I say that the character he portrays would make a transcendent president.  Most attacks on that kind of presidency would backfire, as the Clinton machine is finding out now in this campaign.

If you give people real hope, they won't trade it in easily for petty criticisms.

So, in summary, the year you were looking for was not 1992, it was 1960.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama Endorsements January 14-28

My most popular post so far has been Barack Obama Endorsements [January 4-14], which I posted two weeks ago. [For a current list, see Running List of Obama Endorsements.]  Since that time, there have been several high profile endorsements.  Most moving of all was the stunning endorsement from Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, delivered through a New York Times Op Ed piece entitled A President Like My Father.  She ends,

"I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president - not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."

[John F. Kennedy speech at Rice University on 12 September 1962, a year after the space program was ramped up, and less than seven years before the moon landing.]

Of course, Obama does not have plans to take us to the Moon, and as I said, space is best explored by robots for now.  But I believe that Barack Obama can inspire us and lead us to tackle the problems of our time.

Here is a list of the individuals above:
  • Senator Edward Kennedy (of Massachusetts, brother of JFK)
  • Caroline Kennedy (daughter of JFK)
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (of Vermont)
  • Former Senator Jean Carnahan (of Missouri)
  • Congressman Rick Boucher (of Virginia)
Here are some recent newspaper endorsements of Obama:
  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • San Jose Mercury News
  • Modesto Bee
  • Santa Barbara Independent
  • New York Observer
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Arizona Republic
  • Philadelphia Inquirer 
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Seattle Times
  • Rocky Mountain News


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Former Chicago NOW President Switches to Obama

A former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women explains why she very recently switched from supporting Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.  The Clintons have hurt themselves and the Democratic party with their tactics over the last few weeks.  Please don't blame Obama for fighting back a bit.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Texas Master's Program in Creation Research

The Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research is trying to start a master's degree in "science education".  Here is an article from the Austin American-Statesman (thanks DG): Leading scientists oppose creation institute's degree plan.  (see contact info below to take action.)

"Creationism" and "Intelligent Design" are two different words for the same thing (with a bit more window-dressing in the second term).   Creationism is not evidence-based and not, like all good science, open to falsification.  It is a story written by people in a very different time, from within one of many religions the world has seen.  If you choose to believe it as fact, that is your choice, but it is not science and has no place in a science curriculum.  I have no objection to it being discussed in a comparative religion class, though. 

There are real consequences to confusing creationism with science.  For example, to deny the theory of evolution is to deny an understanding of how drug-resistant bacteria arise.  Or avian flu.  So if your physician tells you he is a creationist, I would find another doctor.

Action item:
Here is the contact info for Raymund Paredes (see story):
Higher Education Coordinating Board (Texas)
Raymund Paredes, Commissioner
Dr. Joseph Stafford, Assistant Commissioner for Academic Affairs and Research
Contact: Linda Battles
Academic Affairs and Research
P.O. Box 12788
Austin, TX 78711
Phone: (512) 427-6200
Fax: (512) 427-6168
Email: or

[1/24/08 8pm]
Action item:
Also, the individual mentioned by David in the first Comment, Stephen Schafersman, is part of Texas Citizens for Science.  For some reason, the Wikipedia page for TCS is up for deletion, perhaps due to creationist forces?  If you have a Wikipedia login, please indicate that you do not want the page deleted (whichever side of the debate you are on). 

[Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Jane Pojawa
Every religion incorporates a myth of how the world was created. This illustration depicts the creation myths of Hindism, Navaho, Aztec, Egyptian, Christian, Aboriginal, Jewish and Islam.]


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Huckabee Plans to Insert "God's Standards" into the US Constitution

I had been thinking that Huckabee was basically harmless, doling out religious pablum to his base.  But this is quite scary.  He says, "and that's what we need to do is to amend the constitution so it's in God's standards...".    If this doesn't scare you, read on.

The US Constitution is the legal bedrock of this stable yet heterogeneous society.  It enshrines the separation of  church and state and protects the rights of believers and nonbelievers of all types.  Inclusion of "God's standards" would be antithetical to the whole document.  Whose God?  Whose interpretation of her standards? 
I think politicians use religion to further their own ends, usually in a divisive way.  They play upon people's faith and drive wedges between us.  When people are guided by unshakable beliefs, they can be convinced to commit unspeakable acts.  So when a politician uses religious language, always ask yourself, "Am I being manipulated?".


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lawrence Krauss on Religion

Here is an interview with Lawrence Krauss about science and religion  from Point of Inquiry.  The interview is about half an hour long, so here's the main thing I got out of it.  Krauss argues that scientists should convey what they have learned studying nature, particularly in the area of biological evolution, but that, in the end, religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are outside science's purview.   Thus he is somewhat at odds with Richard Dawkins, at least in style.

My own view is complicated, but I promise I will eventually write some posts on it.  For now, let me say that I definitely agree with Krauss' criticism of Dawkins.   I also agree wholeheartedly with Lawrence's call for greater scientific literacy, which is one of the motivations for this blog.
[I should mention that I've met Krauss several times, and he is involved with Science Debate 2008, but I don't think any of that has colored my view of this issue.  Krauss gets involved in many things.  If you're reading this Larry, I just want to know, do you sleep?  :) ] 


Monday, January 21, 2008

One Laptop Per Child: A Dream of Equality of Opportunity

The second part of the post title comes from a Martin Luther King Jr. quotation.  MLK fought for a more equal world.  But that is hardly possible if some are in the 21st century dominated by information technology, and some are trapped in an earlier era.  How can children in the third world even begin to bridge that gap? Enter One Laptop Per Child.

The laptops are designed to be 
  • extremely inexpensive ($200)
  • durable (e.g., sealed rubber keyboard)
  • easy to power (e.g., can use sunlight to view screen)
  • easy to use (simple apps, open source software) 
  • easy to network (rabbit antennas—see below)
Until the end of 2007, it was possible to "buy one--give one", so that $400 purchased one for you, one for a child in the third world.  There are still options to donate a laptop for $200—this is what I chose to do.  (I suppose I should mention there has been a dispute between OLPC organization and Intel.  This is unfortunate, but of secondary concern.) 

Let me just focus on one feature of the laptop that really impressed me.  It has two rabbit antennas.  One is for connecting to WiFi, and thus the rest of the world.  The second allows the laptops to communicate with each other.  If one laptop is in range of WiFi, they all are.  There is file sharing software so they can work on a document together.  MLK would have been pleased.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Science and Engineers for America Info on Candidates

Here is info from the SEA on all the remaining candidates (thanks DF).  They have info on the candidates' views on Energy, Evolution, Global Warming, Healthcare, and Stem Cell Research (only Huckabee is against that):


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Physics Factoid: E = m c squared

This is probably the most quoted formula.  Einstein's equation changed the world.  But what does it mean? 

I already defined c for you: it is the speed of light.

The only thing you need to know about c in this equation is that it is BIG (30 billion cm/s), and c squared [see Why c squared?], which is c times c, is VERY BIG (900 quintillion cm2/s2).  E stands for energy, and m for mass (the amount of matter).  So the equation is really

Energy = mass  x  BIG_NUMBER

Well, what the heck does that mean?   It means that matter and energy are really two sides of the same coin called mass-energy.  Matter can be converted into energy, and energy can be converted into matter.  Before Einstein, it was thought that they were completely separate things.  But they are not.  They are two different manifestations of the same thing.  They are like dollars and yen, except the units are grams and ergs.  But there is a VERY steep exchange rate.  For every gram of matter, you get 900 quintillion ergs.  If you could somehow convert a pound of matter (454 grams) completely into energy, you'd have enough to power the US electrical grid for about 4 days.  

Note, you can't actually convert 100% of matter into energy (since we don't have a ready supply of antimatter)—even thermonuclear fusion converts only about 1% of the matter involved into energy.
[confidence level: established, my qualifications: trained]


Monday, January 14, 2008

Barack Obama Endorsements [January 4-14]

Barack Obama has received a number of important endorsements in the last ten days [i.e. January 4-14. For a current list, see Running List of Obama Endorsements.  For the Kennedy endoresment, see Obama Endorsements January 14-28.  (updated 2/4/08)]:
  • Culinary Workers Local 226 (largest union in Nevada, state with the next primary)
  • Senator John Kerry (of Massachusetts, former presidential candidate)
  • Senator Claire McCaskill (of Missouri, vowed to work hard for Obama)
  • Governor Janet Napolitano (of Arizona)
  • Former Senator Bill Bradley (of New Jersey, former presidential candidate)
  • Congressman George Miller (of California, close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, liberal Democrat)
  • Governor Jim Doyle (of Wisconsin)
  • Senator Ben Nelson (of Nebraska, a conservative Democrat)
  • Senator Tim Johnson (of South Dakota, a moderate Democrat)
  • Mayor Shirley Franklin (of Atlanta)
Here are three powerful politicians who have not endorsed yet, and who may well stay neutral:
  • Former Vice President Al Gore
  • Senator Barbara Boxer (of California)
  • Former President Jimmy Carter
Any one of them would be a great help to Obama (I think they would do less for Clinton).  Sen. Boxer is said to be close to both Clinton and Obama.  If you are in California and you support Obama, I ask you to consider writing her asking her to endorse him.

On a personal note, I can't help mentioning that Connecticut State Representative David McCluskey, a friend of mine from college, has also endorsed Obama.


Sunday, January 13, 2008


I just joined a service called Digg, which lets people rate blog posts, webpages, videos, and more. If you like any of my posts (past or future), please click the "digg it" button next to it (it will probably ask you to sign up for a free account the first time).

Right now, the most popular Digg item is this:

It is pretty neat. I love the last line of the video.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

More on Why Asteroid Will Miss Mars

I decided my previous post on the Mars asteroid was not clear enough.  Above is a figure from NASA's Near Earth Asteroid site  from 9 January.  The thin white line with the orange circle on it is the orbit of Mars.  The blue line is the most likely path, which corresponds to s=0 on the bell curve of the previous post.   The bunch of white dots are the possible points of closest approach given the error in the measurements (the path of the asteroid for each dot would be a line parallel to the blue line going through that dot).  

As you can see, the dots are bunched around the most probable value and taper off in either direction—in the same way that the the area under a bell curve decreases away from the center.  s, the distance from the blue line to Mars divided by the size of the error, is 3.7, giving a probability of 10,000:1.
Here is what the asteroid figure looked like two weeks ago:

Notice that the scale here is 500,000 km, so this is zoomed out by a factor of 5 from the 9 January picture.  Two things have happened in the fortnight.  First, the position of the blue line has changed a little.  More importantly, the size of the error was a lot bigger two weeks ago.  Back then the error was large enough so that the distance from the blue line to Mars divided by the error was only 2.2, giving a probability of 25:1.

So the probability changed from 25:1 to 10,000:1 over the last two weeks mainly because the error in the path decreased, making  s  increase (again, s is the distance from the blue line to Mars divided by the error, and it is also the position on the bell curve of the previous post).


Friday, January 11, 2008

Why Asteroid Will Miss Mars

Last month, it was reported that a very small asteroid had a 1-in-75 chance of hitting Mars, which was very exciting.  It would be awesome to see the effects of such a collision.  Then the number was 1-in-25, which was even more exciting.  Now the number has dropped to 1-in-10,000, so it is very unlikely to happen.  How could the numbers change that much?

[see also next post, More on Why Asteroid Will Miss Mars]

Suppose it was your job to calculate the probability the asteroid would hit.  You would take the most accurate measurements of the asteroid, extrapolate its position, and come up with your best estimate of the path for the asteroid.  Now there would be some uncertainty in your estimate for the path.  Let's call s the distance of closest approach to Mars of your best guess for the path.  The plot of  probabilities is given by this bell curve (also called a Gaussian curve):

If you calculated that s=0, that the most likely path just grazes the surface of Mars, then all paths to the right of s=0 would hit Mars, and you'd say that the probability of hitting was 1/2 (half the area under the curve is to the right of s=0).  If you calculated that s=2.2 (which they did in December), then only paths more than 2.2 standard deviations from the most likely path would hit Mars, a chance of 75 to 1 (less than 2.1%).  And if your calculation shifted just a little, so that s=3.7 (the value now), then only the paths more than 3.7 standard deviations from the most likely path would hit Mars, a chance of 10,000 to 1.  It takes only a little shift out on a bell curve to make the probability plummet.   

And so a small refinement in measurements of the asteroid positions made the impact probability... crash.
[Notice that I did not put any units on s, because s is really distance/error-in-path-estimation, so that s=1 corresponds to whatever 1 standard deviation is in this case.  We don't need the actual distances in km because we are taking a ratio.]

[image from here, arrows and text added by me (feel free to use)]

[confidence: likely, my qualifications: informed]


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happy Monthday!

Science Sense is one month old today!  It's turned out to be more about politics than I expected, mostly due to the fact that this is a presidential election year in the US.  That should simmer down in another month, by which time the nominees for the Democrats and Republicans will probably have been decided.

When I started the blog, I installed an invisible counter (now visible) to give me a sense of how many hits I was getting.  It gives me the rough location each reader.  By 'rough' I mean that, for example, it thinks I am in Connecticut instead of Long Island.  But I think it is usually right within say 100 km.  Above is a map of my readers this month.  

As you can see, you come from all over the world.  This is truly amazing to me.  Yes, I know all about cyberspace, and the global village, but somehow I did not expect such geographical diversity in my readers.  Some of you look me up once on some search, others tune in nearly every day.  One of you from Finland wants to know about Ron Paul's views on evolution, one of you from UK wants to know about champagne bubbles, and one of you from Korea wants to know about Science Debate 2008.  I get about 100 hits a week, which I think is pretty good for the first month.  Here are the top five search subjects which led you to my blog (in order):
  • Science Debate 2008
  • Champagne Bubbles
  • Ron Paul & Evolution
  • Thought Experiments or Cannonballs
  • Second Amendment
  • Barack Obama
I'd like this to be a bit more of a two-way street.  I've been meaning to do more science posts, and I have a few planned about elementary particle physics, quantum computers, global warming, evolution, and cosmology.  But what do you want to know about?  If you have a request, email me, or post a comment.

Until then, happy monthday!


Yes We Can

Barack Obama did not meet the high expectations of the pundits and polls of the last few days, but he did extremely well in the larger scheme of things.  And he gave another great speech tonight, this one nominally a concession speech.  It ended with a rousing hope-filled hook: "Yes we can" (see text and another video in Read More link).  The speech summoned the hope of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. and even women's suffrage.

Perhaps I am just a sucker for hope.   And perhaps I was hasty to conclude Obama had the nomination in the bag.  But I still think he can win.

Here is a video excerpt from the New Hampshire debate on Saturday where he laid out an argument for the slogan "Yes we can" (plus some other videos—it was not my intent to include them).

Exit polls indicate that Hillary did much better with women in New Hampshire than Iowa.  It has been conjectured that those voters did not want to give up on the dream of a female president.  I understand that.  I hope we elect a woman as President of the United States some time in the near future.  I also look forward to the race barrier being broken.

But those things are not first in my mind at this juncture of history.  I support Barack Obama because I think he is the best person for the job right now.  I am not expecting him to be as politically savvy on day one as Hillary.  What counts is the first 4 years.  I think Barack will be able to affect more change in his presidency and do more to heal the nation and our image in the world than Hillary ever could.

Here is the text of his speech as released by Obama campaign:

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama - New Hampshire Primary
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008
Nashua, New Hampshire

I want to congratulate Senator Clinton on a hard-fought victory here in New Hampshire.

A few weeks ago, no one imagined that we'd have accomplished what we did here tonight. For most of this campaign, we were far behind, and we always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out and spoke up for change. And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment – in this election – there is something happening in America.

There is something happening when men and women in Des Moines and Davenport; in Lebanon and Concord come out in the snows of January to wait in lines that stretch block after block because they believe in what this country can be.

There is something happening when Americans who are young in age and in spirit – who have never before participated in politics – turn out in numbers we've never seen because they know in their hearts that this time must be different.

There is something happening when people vote not just for the party they belong to but the hopes they hold in common – that whether we are rich or poor; black or white; Latino or Asian; whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction. That is what's happening in America right now. Change is what's happening in America.

You can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness – Democrats, Independents and Republicans who are tired of the division and distraction that has clouded Washington; who know that we can disagree without being disagreeable; who understand that if we mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that's stood in our way and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there's no problem we can't solve – no destiny we cannot fulfill.

Our new American majority can end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable health care in our time. We can bring doctors and patients; workers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans together; and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that while they'll get a seat at the table, they don't get to buy every chair. Not this time. Not now. Our new majority can end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of the working Americans who deserve it.

We can stop sending our children to schools with corridors of shame and start putting them on a pathway to success. We can stop talking about how great teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness. We can do this with our new majority.

We can harness the ingenuity of farmers and scientists; citizens and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil and save our planet from a point of no return. And when I am President, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home; we will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan; we will care for our veterans; we will restore our moral standing in the world; and we will never use 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, because it is not a tactic to win an election, it is a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

All of the candidates in this race share these goals. All have good ideas. And all are patriots who serve this country honorably.

But the reason our campaign has always been different is because it's not just about what I will do as President, it's also about what you, the people who love this country, can do to change it.

That's why tonight belongs to you. 

It belongs to the organizers and the volunteers and the staff who believed in our improbable journey and rallied so many others to join. 

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change. We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. 

We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea – Yes. We. Can.

[text obtained here]


Monday, January 7, 2008

Physics Factoid: The Speed of Light

I've realized that I'm not always going to have time for a full post. And perhaps some of you would like things in small bites. So I will sometimes publish short posts called factoids. This one is on the speed of light.

The constant c in Einstein's famous equation E=mc2, is the speed of light.  c is 186,282 mi/sec, or 299,792 km/sec.  That means light could go around the equator of the Earth (in some conduit) about 7 times in a second.  On the other hand, the sun is so far away, 93 million miles, that it takes light more than 8 minutes to get here from there.

[confidence level: established, my qualifications: trained]


Saturday, January 5, 2008

How to Make Expandable Posts

To make expandable posts, as I've done recently on this blog, please follow the directions on this hackosphere post.

I did need to click on the Expand Widget Templates button.  I advise clicking on the Preview button at the bottom of the page after you do each thing to make sure you haven't fried your template.  Also, make a copy of the template before you start, and remember you have an 'undo' command  :).

Finally, if you want to "collapsify" your existing posts, be careful to insert the <span id="fullpost"> outside of any other <span>...</span> pairs, and put the </span> at the very end.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Iowa Caucus Speeches

Here are speeches by 7 of the candidates following last night's Iowa Caucuses.

  • Obama's speech is inspiring, with larger themes.  He's going to win the nomination.
  • Hillary's speech is a bit melancholy.  Her message about "being ready on day one" falls flat for me.  Most presidents have a learning curve.  It is how they do in the long run that matters.  Still, I hope we manage to elect a woman president in the not-too-distant future.
  • Edwards' speech is surprisingly depressing.  It is important to bring up the problems the US and the world face, but he does it all through disheartening anecdotes.  That doesn't play well with the American public.  On the other hand, he is right that some change will happen only via confronting entrenched interests.
  • Huckabee comes across as a nice guy, and he has great timing (just listen to his first line).  It is too bad that he has very right wing positions.  For example, he is against embryonic stem cell research and wants a much more regressive tax system.  He also doesn't believe in evolution.
  • McCain's speech is from New Hampshire and is quite short.
  • I didn't listen to the others, though I've heard Romney's joke about "winning the silver".  He isn't as funny as Huckabee, by a long shot.  I have no idea what Romney's positions really are.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Obama Wins Iowa

Iowa, thanks for following up on my endorse-ment :).

Whichever candidate you were for,  I hope you can revel in the fact that Iowa, one of the whitest states in the country (91%), just voted for an African-American.   An agricultural state voted for an intellectual.  And many young people were brought into the process.

There have been many complaints about Iowa being too provincial and homogenous, but that did not hold sway tonight.

Although it would be nicer to have a more representative slice of the electorate serve the role of Iowa and New Hampshire,  I think it is important to have some small group of people who get to see the candidates up close and not just through a TV screen. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Barack Obama for US President

I debated whether I should endorse a presidential candidate in this blog.  Much of the time, I hope to present information and let you form your own opinion.  I think all of the candidates for US president have their plusses and minuses, and I could understand someone sensible supporting almost any of them, for one reason or another.  I could also understand someone being opposed to any of them.  But one has to decide.   I am for Barack Obama.

I considered putting the endorsement behind the 'read more' link.  But in the end, I decided to give you my opinion.  If you want to know the reasons for my endorsement (including Barack's position on research), please read on.

Given his background and his rhetoric, I believe Barack Obama has the best chance to heal the wounds caused over the last seven years.  He has an amazingly heterogeneous background, and he brings a thoughtful, hopeful, peaceful message.   He has progressive positions on healthcare, workers' rights, and the environment (though so do many of the other Democrats), and seems able to achieve advances through pragmatic compromise.  He also supports increasing the research and education budgets -- what the US needs in this information society.  

“Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.”

— Barack Obama Presidential Announcement Speech in Springfield, IL 02/10/07

I also think Barack has a good shot at winning in the general election.  (I think it is crucial that the next US President be a Democrat, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the Republican candidates have not repudiated the policies of the current administration.  A vote for them is to some extent a vote in support of the last seven years.)
I was worried at the beginning of the campaign that Barack was not experienced enough to run a national campaign, but the campaign has stretched on so long that he has had time to learn.  His positive pragmatic message appeals to independents.  Finally, he does very well in head-to-head match-ups with his possible Republican opponents

It should be noted that I am posting this the night before the Iowa Caucuses.  I hope my endorsement stays relevant, at least through super Tuesday!


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Here is an audio greeting for the new year (click Read More).