Pluto To Be A Planet Over New Mexico

Last year astronomers demoted Pluto to a dwarf planet. Legislators in New Mexico know what issues are important enough to warrant their attention. They will vote Tuesday on a bill that says, “as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico’s excellent night skies, it be declared a planet.”

I am very excited by the prospect of Pluto regaining his status over New Mexico. The same should apply should he pass over the Magic Kingdom, such as in Astro Orbitor as pictured above.

Doctors and Evolution

I wish Michael Egnor was my patient. He wrote an article for the Discovery Institute arguing that there’s no reason for doctors to study evolution. If Egnor was my patient, I’d have a use for all that expired influenza vaccine. I could jut give him the same vaccine year after year as there would be no reason to give a new one. (We’ll ignore the question of whether he’d even need to repeat the influenza vaccines. After all–he ignores basic biology.)

Egnor would also be great as an HMO patient. No need to use those expensive new antibiotics under any circumstance. As antibiotic resistance cannot occur, I could always stick with the older, cheaper antibiotcs.

More seriously, The Panda’s Thumb does an excellent job of refuting all of Egnor’s points. Egnor argues:

Doctors don’t study evolution. Doctors never study it in medical school, and they never use evolutionary biology in their practice. There are no courses in medical school on evolution. There are no ‘professors of evolution’ in medical schools. There are no departments of evolutionary biology in medical schools.

The Panda’s Thumb responds by noting that it is often possible for doctors to practice state of the art medicine without any understanding of the basic science if they follow established standards of care. While this could be done it is hardly desirable to promote such ignorance as desirable.

Egnor is incorrect in his claims that evolution isn’t studied in medical school. Many examples of the teaching of evolution in medical school are provided. In addition, evolution is a basic science which pre-med students are expected to have studied before applying, and is a part of the Medical College Admission Test which must be taken before applying to medical school. Panda’s Thumb also refutes Egnor with examples of professors at medical schools who have interests in evolution as well as noble prize winners in medicine for advances based upon evolutionary science.

More at Pharyngula, Northstate Science, ERV, and Afarensis, with background information at the Evolution and Medicine Network.

Retired General: Republicans The Worst Things That’s Happened To The US Army and Marine Corps

Retired Army Major General Paul D. Eaton spoke out against the Republican claim of being better for the military than Democrats in an interview with Bill Maher last night. Crooks and Liars has the video along with this portion:

“We’ve got this thing that so many military believe that Republican administrations are good for the military. That is rarely the case. And, we have to get a message through to every soldier, every family member, every friend of soldiers that the Republican party, the Republican dominated Congress has absolutely been the worst thing that’s happened to the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps.”

McCain Goes To The Dark Side

It’s a shame I didn’t have this one in time for SciFi Friday. Jonathan Chait writes that John McCain has gone over to the dark side, Jedi style:

Seven years ago, of course, McCain was likening himself in public to Luke Skywalker, waving light sabers on stage at rallies and comparing his party’s establishment to the Death Star. He would say such things as, “My party has become captive to special interests.” He would cite a bumper sticker that read “The Christian Right Is Neither.”

And now? Well, let’s just say that if John McCain circa 2007 was campaigning against John McCain circa 2000, he would call him a communist. The old McCain called President Bush’s tax cuts fiscally and socially irresponsible, a giveaway to the rich in a time of rising inequality. The new McCain was recently interviewed by National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru and asked if there were any circumstances, including the guarantee of spending cuts, under which he’d consider repealing the tax cuts he denounced and voted against. He replied: “No. None. None. Tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues.”

We all know that? In fact, economists know that this is not true. Conservative economists know this isn’t true. Even conservative economists who work in the Bush administration have admitted this isn’t true. As former Bush economist Alan Viard, now at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said: “Federal revenue is lower today than it would have been without the tax cuts. There’s really no dispute among economists about that.”

Chait notes that tying himself to Bush’s policies has not helped McCain politically as he returns to the Jedi analogy:

What makes McCain’s conversion all the more tragic is that it’s plainly not working. He has spent the last three years plotting to make himself the candidate of the GOP establishment that he once attacked. But, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “2008 is shaping up as the worst presidential year in three decades to be the candidate of the Republican establishment.”

His career since then has indeed resembled a certain famous Jedi. He began as a crusader for justice. Soon he realized that he needed to acquire more power in order to accomplish his noble goals. But over time, his pursuit of power became the goal itself, and by the end he lost his capacity to differentiate between right and wrong.

This is not Luke Skywalker here. This is Luke Skywalker’s father. But at least Darth Vader attained his position before the Death Star exploded.

The Withering Away of Communism

Karl Marx argued that under Communism the state would wither away, but in reality we saw that countries which adoped Communism become among the most totalitarian in human history. In China we are seeing far too little withering away of the state, but at least we are seeing the withering away of Communism. The Economist reports on a new property law being adoped by the Communist Party:

SOME 2,500 years ago, one of Confucius’s big ideas was the “rectification of names”. If only, he argued, sons would behave filially, fathers paternally, kings royally and subjects loyally, all would be well with the world. A faint echo of this thesis has been resounding this week in the cavernous auditorium of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where nearly 3,000 delegates to China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), have been enjoying their annual fortnight of wining, dining, snoozing and pressing the “yes” button. Living up to one’s name poses something of a problem for the Chinese Communist Party, which dictates the laws the NPC will pass, and whose name in Chinese literally means “the public-property party”.

To such a party it must be an ideological embarrassment that China has such a large and flourishing private sector, accounting for some two-thirds of GDP. So one law due to receive the NPC‘s rubber stamp this month, giving individuals the same legal protection for their property as the state, has proved unusually contentious. It was to be passed a year ago, but was delayed after howls of protest from leftists, who see it as among the final of many sell-outs of the ideas of Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong, to which the party pretends fealty.

The party’s decision to enact the law in spite of that resistance is a great symbolic victory for economic reform and the rule of law. Clearer, enforceable property rights are essential if China’s fantastic 30-year boom is to continue and if the tensions it has generated are to be managed without widespread violence. Every month sees thousands of protests across China by poor farmers outraged at the expropriation of their land for piffling or no compensation. As in previous years, placating those left behind in China’s rush for growth has been a main theme of the NPC (see article).

Ted Sorensen Endorses Obama

Ben Smith reports at The Politico that Ted Sorensen has endorsed Barack Obama and is critical of Clinton and Edwards:

Ted Sorensen, the speechwriter and special counsel to President John F. Kennedy endorsed Senator Barack Obama tonight and compared Obama’s campaign to Kennedy’s run almost half a century earlier.

“The campaigns are comparable,” Sorenson said in an interview after his speech, which was delivered to a closed $1,000-a-head fundraiser at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and which left guests buzzing over what several said was an implied comparison to Kennedy. “They say he’s too young, he’s too inexperienced, his demographic is wrong to get elected. They’ve decided in Washington that he doesn’t have a chance. But the campaign isn’t going on in Washington. The campaign is going on in the grassroots.”

Sorenson also sharply rebuked legislators who voted to authorize the Iraq war, a group that includes Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards.

“Members of either party who authorized this disaster should be accountable,” Sorenson said. “[Obama] didn’t have to vote for it, and moderate his position, and come up with an alternate strategy . He didn’t have to come up non-binding resolutions and so forth.”

Sorenson suggested a campaign slogan: “Obama: Right from the start.”

More Signs That Rudy’s No Libertarian

Despite his appeal to some faux-libertarians, there are many warnings as to Rudy Giuliani’s authoritarian streak. Jim Sleeper has some warnings about Rudy Giuliani at TPM Cafe:

The first serious problem is structural and political: A man who fought the inherent limits of his mayoral office as fanatically as Giuliani would construe presidential prerogatives so broadly he’d make George Bush’s notions of ‘unitary’ executive power seem soft.

Even in the 1980s, as an assistant attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department and U.S. Attorney in New York, Giuliani was imperious and overreaching, He made the troubled daughter of a state judge, Hortense Gabel, testify against her mother and former Miss America Bess Meyerson in a failed prosecution charging, among other things, that Meyerson had hired the judge’s daughter to bribe help ‘expedite’ a messy divorce case. The jury was so put off by Giuliani’s tactics that it acquitted all concerned, as the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus recalled ten years later in assessing Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s subpoena of Monica Lewinsky’s mother to testify against her daughter.

At least, as U.S. Attorney, Giuliani served at the pleasure of the President and had to defer to federal judges. Were he the President, U.S. Attorneys would serve at his pleasure — a dangerous arrangement in the wrong hands, we’ve learned — and he’d pick the judges to whom prosecutors defer.

Andrew Sullivan quotes this and comments:

There are many reasons to like Giuliani, but his personal intolerance of any hint of disloyalty, his  contempt for dissent, his corner-cutting executive excesses and long history of cronyism must and surely will be weighed in the equation. Jim Sleeper is no lefty. His concerns are serious ones in a period when the constitution has already been strained to near-breaking point.

Related Post: Sorry Rudy, The Republicans Are Not The Party of Freedom

Will Liberals Really Take Away Your Guns?

In response to my previous posts arguing that at present liberals are far closer to libertarians than conservatives, some Republican-leaning libertarians have cited out dated ideas as to the views of liberals on the right to own guns. Some echo conservatives in arguing that liberals will take away their guns (but at least don’t repeat the conservative claims that liberals will also take away their bibles). We see evidence of the lack of such a desire among liberals in the reaction to the federal appeals court’s ruling on Second Amendment rights in Washington, D.C. While some courts have argued that the ambiguously-worded amendment only pertains to a right to maintain a militia, this ruling interprets the amendment as giving the right to own guns to individuals. I would assume that ultimately the Supreme Court will decide upon this issue.

In reviewing the reaction in the blogosphere it is clear, as anticipated, that intensity of support for the right to own guns is greater on the right. While this is a lower priority on the left, the sentiment is also with the rights of the individual. Even where bloggers have not commented it is noteworthy that there is no outrage over the court’s decision as would be expected if restriction of gun ownership was really a goal of liberals. Liberal blogs have expressed some of the following views:

Taylor Marsh:

Personally, I can’t imagine a city law banning all guns in private homes. It’s absurd. I believe it is also unconstitutional. As for my gun expert husband, he simply wouldn’t live where guns were banned by law. No American should be forced to; not with the Second Amendment as law.

Good for CATO…

It’s not over by a long shot, but I hope that the ruling stands and that D.C. residents get the right that all Americans deserve under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Keep fighting.

Guns are not for everyone. If you don’t like them, don’t own one. Of course they need to be regulated, with background checks for owners mandatory. But they should definitely not be banned.

The Gun Toting Liberal:

Looks like they got it right, folks. It IS a “right”, and perhaps, even a responsibility to protect oneself and one’s loved ones via the “great equalizer” as well as one of our few civil liberties we have somewhat left to us. On top of it all, with the far-right’s attempts to install a theocracy all around us, we just MIGHT want to think about that little “tyranny” comment by Judge Silberman for a moment. While “tyranny” is not exclusive to the right, there is little doubt that the tyrants of the far-right are armed to the “T’s” compared to the tyrants on the far-left.

Talk Left:

Good news for those who, like me, believe the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today holds it does.


Rizza on Obama

Ryan Lizza profiles Barack Obama at TNR. After a discussion of his early years, Lizza predicts the type of candidate Obama will be:

Despite his history, Obama is cast by the press as the candidate unwilling to stoop low enough to win, while Hillary is the machine politician whose last name has become synonymous with ruthlessness. But that David-versus-Goliath framing of the race is overstated. Obama’s political team is seasoned and conventional. His media adviser and strategic guru, David Axelrod, has spent decades in Chicago politics working for both the reformers (Harold Washington) and the machine (Richard M. Daley). Obama has all of the political machinery–ad-makers, fund-raisers, opposition-researchers–in place to run a serious but traditional campaign.

Moreover, when Obama’s ideals clash with reality, he has been able to find compromises that don’t put him at a political disadvantage. For instance, no Democrat can win the general election while adhering to the public financing system if the Republican nominee doesn’t do the same. Clinton and John Edwards have simply conceded that the public financing system is dead and are ignoring fund-raising restrictions that would be triggered if either ends up playing within the public financing scheme. Facing the same situation, Obama–a longtime champion of campaign finance reform in general and public financing in particular–asked the Federal Election Commission if he could raise the potentially restricted money now (the world as it is) but then give it back if he wins the nomination and convinces his Republican opponent to stick with public financing (the world as we would like it to be).