Sunday, February 17, 2008

Primary in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has an open primary system. This seems somewhat crazed to me: why should non-party members be allowed to specify who the party is going to nominate? I’m neither Republican nor Democrat, but I can walk in and fill out a ballot to say who I think they should nominate. (“Vote for only one”)

Still, they both agreed on these rules, so I suppose they think the potential biasing of results is compensated for by the possible additional votes in the main election.

I doubt that anybody except New Hampshire and Iowa hotel owners and TV station owners are really happy with the primary season this year. Most of the candidates have already dropped out by the time Wisconsin rolls around, too. There’s not a lot of choice left by now. The Hillary/Obama contest is still fairly tight, and I’ve no good sense of which way people are going to vote. Madison seems to have Obama-mania, but that’s only a small and not very representative part of the whole state.

I have about 6 choices left, I think.

Vote for one of the dropouts. Quixotic, but it does send a little signal. Tiny signal. Lost in the noise.

Ron Paul. Hardly. I’m not Libertarian and he has some unfortunate connections with wackos.

Hillary Clinton. Is this going to be another package deal with Bill? Anybody seriously think he won’t be hanging out in the Oval Office? She comes with other baggage too: corruption, for instance. And she seems to carry the usual “leftist” attitudes about social policy, from abortion to that damned interfering village of the bogus proverb. She’s a quite skillful liar, though not quite in Bill’s league—and that is sometimes a useful trait in a wartime president.

Mike Huckabee Doesn’t seem to understand much about economics, and his analysis of Middle Eastern affairs seems na├»ve. Trying to get clear reporting about how his religious views inform his politics is a hopeless exercise: reporters are hopelessly superficial. He actually has administrative experience.

John McCain I’m seriously annoyed with his “Incumbent Protection Act,” but to be fair the majority of the House and Senate voted for it, so the blame has to be shared. He’s the only candidate left with the vaguest idea of what the war is about. He has a deep love for being a maverick, which is going to be tough to satisfy if he winds up the leader. And he seems to have succeeded in cheesing off quite a number of the leaders of economic and social conservative groups, which complicates politics after the election if he wins.

Barack Obama He’s solidly in deep left field on cultural and economic issues, culpably ignorant about war, and has virtually no experience. Not a chance. I haven’t forgotten about his Pakistan remarks, and neither have they. Of all the stupid things to say… And his “Patriot Company” proposal is a frighteningly open-ended bid for control of the economy. I’ll not say he’d use it badly, but this puts the tools in place for anybody to mishandle.

Important issues: the war (rules out Paul, Obama, and probably { I-can’t-tell-if-she’s-lying } Clinton right off the bat), the economy (rules out Paul, Obama, Huckabee, and probably Clinton), immigration, abortion, energy policy… Nobody fits all the criteria, unfortunately. Which is usually the case.

Probably McCain.

Friday, February 15, 2008

OK, I guess I wouldn't

I've a bad habit of puzzling over things just to see what they're made of, and I thought about taking a ride on the Shuttle.

It is easy to fantasize about what you'd do with a million dollars. So long as it is "found money" with no obligations, dreaming goes wild. But in real life money always comes with obligations, whether you care to recognize them or not. I'm not sure I could live with myself if I chose to drop a couple million bucks on a fling, even as exciting a one as a space flight. Small luxuries sometimes, but something of that magnitude is over the top.

Maybe I'm a little hypocritical: why would an occasional dinner out be OK and not a flamboyant trip? Or maybe scale really matters, and proportionality is the key.

And the notion of displacing real science on the ship makes me a little itchy. As a scientist myself, I get a little annoyed when PR interferes with work or learning or teaching.

When I think about it carefully, what I really want is not just a ride on the Shuttle, but a good reason for being there as well: to be trusted with some task important enough to launch me. That's even more far-fetched, I guess.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies, and Guilt

The legend of the "Stolen Generation" of Aborigines always seemed a little over the top. It looks like it was actually a lie. Not an accidental "I don't have all the facts" error, but a misrepresentation of the contents of the files in Read's possession.

This sort of thing seems to turn up on a regular basis (Bellesiles was in the news recently, but he's hardly alone). Why would Read lie? Fame? He got fame. His claim was one people were afraid to challenge for fear of being deemed racist, so his reputation wasn't as insecure as it might have seemed. Hatred? He succeeded in "sticking it to the man." Fell in love with a thesis and twisted the evidence to support it? Maybe.

Headline of the hour

Paleontologists discover new meat-eating dinosaur fossils

Pandemonium in the museum during mad race for the exit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I remember the countdowns to the Mercury launches, and the excitement of hearing men actually flying into space. And I remember the Mercury model I had. And of course I remember the moon landing.

Unfortunately the taxpayer doesn't pay me to take vacations in Florida. I was working in Melbourne, with a heavy schedule. So I didn't get to the Kennedy Space Center. But we all went up on the roof to watch the shuttle launch. From all those miles away you couldn't hear a thing, of course, and the shuttle itself was tiny, but the match-flare light of the boosters was clear--much more orange than I expected, but the main engines' light is blue and hard to see. It went in and out of the clouds, and then was gone from view; but with a huge curly cloud trail behind it.

I'd love to take a ride on it. Still.


From The Star classified ads for Feb 14:

home bible study or
home church
Used Treadmill

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


It was startling to get off the airplane in the tiny international airport of Melbourne, and find that cars had to be air-conditioned instead of scraped and heated. Lots of palm trees, 75 degree clear sky (which I don't actually get to see much of), road construction and a sign warning of alligators in the pond--that's this corner of Melbourne.

And now I know what Dave Barry means by "a Florida driver's license." A noticeable fraction of the cars are piloted by drivers with an insouciant disregard for traffic laws reminiscent of West Africa. Left turns from the right lane against the light are just one of the creative maneuvers employed here.

I tried a Bob Evans restaurant, and I think I'll pass in the future--too much salt for my poor diet.

But I did get to see the Atlantic from this side, albeit in the dark.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Easy to see after the fact

God created the world, and also sustains it, as we are told from scripture. Creating and sustaining are two aspects of the same thing, of course, as we can easily infer from the unity of space and time, but the important thing is that both creation and sustaining are chosen. The world would not be maintained a moment if God did not act to do so.

A mother is nursing her baby. God is sustaining the strength of her arm, the stiffness of the chair, the production of milk, and the baby's swallowing.

A man, kneeling on another's back, is cutting his throat. God is sustaining the force of gravity that keeps him pinned, the sharpness of the knife, and the pressure that forces the blood from his veins to drain uselessly into the dirt.

The creative/sustaining act of God supplies and upholds our acts of love and hate.

We are told that God cares about good and evil, and I've been instructed that sin is “missing the mark;” offending against God's laws. That hardly seems adequate to express what is going on here. Sin tries to make God an accomplice to evil.

An inadequate analogy would be if your father was a policeman and took you for a drive in the squad card so you could learn about crime prevention. Instead of watching and learning and maybe helping, you snatch the wheel to run over a child. You've tried to involve your father in your crime.

From another angle: God is upholding our choices instead of His—which means He is serving us in some way. And yet our choices are so far against His nature that the only human word to describe the situation is suffering. In maintaining our sinful world God is taking the role of a suffering servant. We could not have understood this before Jesus showed us, and yet in retrospect it is clear—unimaginable, but clear.

And from yet another angle: God covers all the bases; there is no loophole or argument undealt-with. If a man dared accuse God, saying “You supported this too, so you must pay”--Jesus shows what He paid freely.