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HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

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I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing that ever interfered with my learning was my education. I am Freeman Dyson, and I approve of this blog, but would warn the author that life as a heretic is a hard one, since the ignorant and the half informed, let alone those who should know better, will automatically trash their betters who try to enlighten them with independent thinking, as I have found to my sorrow in commenting on "global warming" and its cures.
Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeletons of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life. - Arthur Koestler

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Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform. – Mark Twain

Although science has led to the generally high living standards that most of the industrialized world enjoys today, the astounding discoveries underpinning them were made by a tiny number of courageous, out-of-step, visionary, determined, and passionate scientists working to their own agenda and radically challenging the status quo. – Donald W. Braben

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Obama Wins: Sandy, Christie, Blacks, Hispanics, Women, Youth Save The Obacon

November 6th, 2012

Obama win coming up, according to job rating, betting sites

Dissing Hispanics, women, poor, auto bailout, Big Bird, Olympics, Romney fails

Wins declining whites, seniors, but alienates expanding rainbow, women, youth

Final score: Blacks turn out, Obama wins popular vote by three million

The results of today’s Presidential election are already in hand at 3pm New York time, according to the two reliable indicators we consult: the judgment of the best betting sites, and the job approval level of Obama, which has risen by 5% since Sandy promoted him from plaintive professorial self justifier to captain of the ship in a megastorm and major general of federal succor in the aftermath of Sandy.

One Irish betting site is so confident of the outcome that it has already paid off bettors to the tune of $650,000:

No need to wait until the last chad is counted — heck, no need to wait until the polls close on Nov. 6 to find out who won the U.S. presidential election. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has called the victory for President Barack Obama, even putting its money where its mouth is by pre-emptively paying out a whopping $650,000 on Obama bets.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Irish betting firm took out a half-page ad in the Irish Times newspaper, which read, “Sorry Romney, you’re not black or cool. We’re paying out early on an Obama victory.”

Why are betting sites a reliable guide? According to The Wisdom of Crowds, it is because each bettor is thinking through the problem and making up his/her own mind for him/herself. This is when crowds become wise. If they are indulging in a lemming like stampede, they are as foolish as the rest of us.

From Publishers Weekly
While our culture generally trusts experts and distrusts the wisdom of the masses, New Yorker business columnist Surowiecki argues that “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.” To support this almost counterintuitive proposition, Surowiecki explores problems involving cognition (we’re all trying to identify a correct answer), coordination (we need to synchronize our individual activities with others) and cooperation (we have to act together despite our self-interest). His rubric, then, covers a range of problems, including driving in traffic, competing on TV game shows, maximizing stock market performance, voting for political candidates, navigating busy sidewalks, tracking SARS and designing Internet search engines like Google. If four basic conditions are met, a crowd’s “collective intelligence” will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don’t know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. “Wise crowds” need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions. The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people’s errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are “smarter” than if a single expert had been in charge.

Two more signals to clinch it

The job approval rating is another reliable guide, where Obama now scores 51% or above, a level where no president has lost a re-election and about where Bush was when he won re-election in 2004.

A third indicator is coming in now, which is the exit poll of voters emerging from the booths. The question “Who do you think will win?” is reportedly the best guide to the actual outcome (rather than “Who did you vote for?”). This question may already be confirming Obama’s win.

Obama’s Achievement

This result seems rational to us, and also promising. Rational because Obama has achieved so much against the headwind of Republican intransigence, and promising because with Obama no longer a re-election target, there may be a little more room for cooperation between the parties on vital issues, such as immigration reform, a drug truce and curbing military force.

For what did Obama already get done in the face of Republican-Tea Party intransigence? Quite a long list of achievements, despite severely disappointing progressives who hoped for much more from their professorial political orator who promised communal hope and change, only to find that divisive party politics tied his hands at almost every turn, and who doubt that what he learned in the White House now justifies killing American citizens with drone strikes.

There is also the strong feeling Obama has done too little for the middle class he now claims to stand up for, lavishing free money on Wall Street and failing banks while giving homeowners ineffective help on foreclosures and failing to attack unemployment directly by successfully bringing in a New Deal program of infrastructure repair of road and rail, jobs for teachers and firemen, and similar rebuilding.

Not to mention the complaint that he is completely ignoring the poor, the new unmentionable, as Tavis Smiley and Cornell West point out in their new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us, which treats the greatest wound in the body economic, America’s widening chasm between the 1 and the 99%. And not to mention the 2.3 million incarcerated in the US, safely castrated from voting then or later, many of them for picayune drug offenses (see Eugene Jarecki’s documentary The House I Live In, which won the Sundance Grand Jury award this year arguing for a drug truce).

A very long list of gains

Nevertheless, among Obama’s sometimes signal achievements which Romney wanted the voters to overlook are his arranging for Obamacare to cover 31 million uninsured Americans from 2014, with subsidies for those who cant afford it, plus moves to curb the spiralling cost of health care, a great open wound in the American budget, rescuing the economy from another Great Depression, with net jobs increasing twelve months later and ever since to a total of 3.7 million so far, reining in Wall Street’s fraudulent exploitation of everybody else with Dodd-Frank in 2010, weakened though it was, recapitalizing banks at zero cost to the government, saving the auto industry at a cost of $16 billion or less, kicking predatory banks out of student loans, reforming credit rules, stimulating education with Race to the Top state grants, doubling fuel efficiency by 2025, extending unemployment payments, cutting payroll taxes, and budgeting more for veterans health, tuition and hiring.

On the foreign front Obama has removed the military from Iraq and set plans to remove them from Afghanistan, ordered the successful killing of Osama Bin Laden and retrieved a trove of Al Quaeda documents, significantly supported the exit of Quaddafi and Mubarak from the world stage, significantly improved America’s image abroad, turned US foreign policy to focus on Asia, tightened sanctions on Iran mercilessly, reduced warheads hand in hand with Russia, tripled AmeriCorps, reined in the Star Wars missile defense, and moved the military budget from overwhelming military force to concentrate on intelligence and cyberwarfare,

In terms of social justice he has repealed Don’t Ask Dont Tell, reduced penalties for crack, stopped opposing gay marriage, expanded fair pay rules for women, funded improved school tests, cracked down on cheating non-profit colleges, begun closing filthy coal plants, put two pro-choice women on the Supreme Court, tightened food safety rules, expanded wilderness and protected rivers, tightened restrictions on tobacco, told federal agencies to reduce environmental impact, updated and streamlined space exploration, invested $90 billion in green technology, ordained whole grains and doubled fruit and veg for school lunches, expanded hate crimes prosecution to cover sex, gender and disability, operated for an unprecedented time without Presidential or executive scandal, speeded up Gulf oil spill compensation, created the recovery.gov site to defeat fraud in stimulus spending with transparency, subsidized rural broadband, taxed tobacco to expand child health coverage, declared carbon dioxide a regulated pollutant, released stem cell research from Bush era restrictions, repaid cheated black and native American farmers, saved $4 billion by canceling the F-22.and rebuilt FEMA to handle crises such as Sandy effectively.

Reelection will help to extend this list by confirming acceptance of Obama’s role as leader of a more enlightened and color blind America.

Updates:
11.15 pm NYC time, Obama win announced by networks, AP.
1 am At 303 to 206, Romney concedes in brief and gracious speech which suggests exit from politics forever. (final count with Florida will be 332-206)
1.40 am Back on top, Obama gives buoyant address suggesting he has been newly inspired and determined to overcome division – including sitting down with Mitt Romney at some point in the future – and move forward at the head of the winded but still greatest national economy on earth.

“In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward….

We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet…

You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do….

Voice of the people: Obama blowout!

Obama seems to have won through canny campaigning which defeated Republican guru Karl Rove and his and other superPACS, a supremely slippery Romney and use the infinite reach of political ignorance available in democracy to allow people in Kansas and elsewhere to be misled into voting against their own interests. While first reports had the country remaining more or less 50-50 in the presidential popular vote, it has become clear that Obama actually has decisively won the popular vote by more than three million, 61,122,638 to 58,130,991 (Nov 8), and with a Florida win to come will have 332 electoral votes, a total better than Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, and Bush in both George ‘W’ elections!

So with the Tea Party tail wagging their party dog the Republicans have paid a heavy price for alienating minorities, immigrants, gays, women and the young as the country slowly turns from white to rainbow, regardless of Romney’s claim to more ably rescue the economy.

That is why as far as we are concerned one key line in Obama’s acceptance speech was:

I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

But not everyone is listening yet, as CSPAN makes clear as it keeps its finger on the pulse of the average voter:

“America has turned its back on God” says a caller on CSPAN next day, Mark in Brownsville Texas. “We are going to turn into a third world country”.

Kareen, a Democrat in Escandido, added this explanation of the day’s events: “We took God out of this world. We don’t recognise him. We cant do anything on our own. You see, God, he is the leader, we have to realise that. You know. And he put put Obama there because he wanted him there. He will work through Obama. And the Republicans have got to stop and think. They are like they’re Pharaoh. So we need to come together we need to love God and there will be peace.”

“I voted Republican and now Mr Obama is in office when is Congress going to start proceedings to impeach him over the Libya affair?” asked David from Cherry Creek in New York.

Removing the filibuster roadblock

Is there a chance that one of the most worthless extremes of the democratic parliamentary structure might now be erased?

Democratic Senate majority leader Senator Harry Reid gave a short press conference at midday on Wednesday with some promising news. He says he wants to do away with the filibuster in the Senate, which allows any Senator to block any bill with less than 3/5 (60 votes) support with a phone call threatening a filibuster (the House did away with the move long ago). The filibuster rule can be erased by a majority vote (50) on the first day of the January or March session, or at another time with a 60 vote majority, though the change can also be filibustered:

“Yes, I have plans to change the filibuster rule. The rules have been abused and we are going to do away with the filibuster and make the Senate a place where we can get things done.”

On compromise, in general however, he would only say that “I am going to do everything within my power to work together, but I want everyone to understand they can’t push us around.” Retreat on taxing the rich was not going to be an option, as Obama also has emphasized, though in “all the exit polls, everyone agrees that the very rich have to help a little bit.” Climate change is also extremely important, he said, and he is hoping to move forward on that.

C’mon Obama, time to push back

Now Obama turns from the poetry of campaign rhetoric to governing in prose, as Mario Cuomo famously put it, many are hoping his new energy will turn into real leadership cunning.

The difficulties remain, even though his mandate is much greater than anyone thought at first (many commentators hadn’t caught up with the total even by Nov 12). The Senate is under Democratic control at 54-45-1, but the House is firmly Republican at 233-193. So without cooperation and compromise or successful bulldozing/charming/manipulation by Obama the prospect of moving forward is no better than before, especially with the Tea Party vowing to hold the Republican leadership’s “feet to the fire” at the National Press Club the day after the election, Wednesday, to make sure that “the values of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets” are respected, according to Jenny Beth Martin, the Tea Party Patriots’ National Coordinator.

In another bad sign, after his victory was in the bag Obama tried to call John Boehner the House speaker and Senator McConnell the Senate minority leader and both are reported to have said they were already in bed and couldn’t talk. However, public pressure is bound to mount behind raising taxes for the rich at least by closing loopholes and Boehner was sounding more open minded on taxes in general Wednesday, according to the Washington Post:

The speaker on Wednesday opened the door to increased tax revenue as part of a bipartisan deal to tame the soaring national debt, saying that Republicans are “willing to accept new revenues.” In formal remarks to reporters, Boehner said he is willing to break with the orthodoxy of many influential Republicans out of a desire to “do what’s best for our country.”

With his decisive popular win all must hope that Obama will gather his political resources and treat his major win as a mandate to push ahead determinedly with whatever he wishes to leave as a legacy, centrist though his instincts might be. But handling the Republicans carefully is a must if they are to cooperate while they are licking their wounds.

After all, the people as a whole have now firmly rejected the radical right wing economics of Koch Industries favorite and Ayn Rand worshipper Paul Ryan (lost his home county, his hometown and his home Ward, saved only by gerrymandering) and its long ago exploded anti Keynesian policies of government austerity, trickle down for the poor, and tax rebates for the rich in times of economic difficulty. They have also voted to get rid of Citizens United in Montana and Colorado, and Vermont and Maine voted overwhelmingly for Senators against it. Only gerrymandering saved the Republicans majority in the House, it seems clear.

So Obama will perhaps (we idealistically hope) make getting rid of the big money distortion of elections a priority even though he and his campaign proved that it does not trump transcendent political values and fears. That, and forcing the superrich and corporations to pay more than no tax at all, and show strong leadership on global warming. One thing seems ripe fruit for the picking after steering away from the fiscal cliff and that is immigration. Republicans revising their platform will presumably start with that.

Among those non-fiscal issues that lawmakers now appear eager to discuss is immigration reform — and Boehner said his chamber will take up the issue in the next session.

But the greatest hope of all, if possibly the least likely, is that Obama will do something significant to prise the death grip of the superrich off the throat of the body politic so that once again this dying democracy can regain some of the opportunity it used to provide the rest of us, and especially the new generation, to do better than their parents in improving their lot.

The second term jinx

Let’s hope that Obama keeps a steady hand on the tiller and doesn’t suffer from the overconfidence and staff deterioration that the New York Times notes often leads second term Presidents into dangerous territory (eg FDR packing the Supreme Court, Reagan and Iran-Contra, Nixon and Watergate, Clinton and his intern):

Overwhelming victory can often lead to second-term hubris, persuading a president that the country thinks he can do no wrong. As Lou Cannon, the Reagan biographer and Washington Post White House reporter, observed: “Landslides are dangerous to the victor.” Roosevelt lost only two states in 1936; Nixon lost only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in 1972.

Reagan lost only one state in 1984, and the next two years were “the least successful of Reagan’s 16 years in office,” including his years as governor of California, Mr. Cannon said. Even a narrow victory can create overconfidence. In 2004, George W. Bush won 50.7 percent of the vote, which was no landslide (even compared with his 48.3 percent share four years earlier). But he treated the victory as a huge mandate, and plunged ahead with a plan to privatize Social Security in 2005, as he had promised during his re-election campaign.

But the Social Security plan went nowhere. Republicans cringed, and Democrats eagerly united in opposition.

Second-term presidents are also lame ducks, parrying ambitious would-be successors in the opposition and in their own party. Dwight Eisenhower often complained of the recently enacted 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms. But earlier presidents faced the same problem, because tradition back to George Washington had established the same term limit, until Roosevelt ran for his third term.

However, Obama has now said in his first press conference of his new era that he is fully aware of the danger. “I’m more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach in second terms,” he said. “We are very cautious about that. On the other hand, I didn’t get reelected just to bask in reelection.”

On the other side of the aisle, when Republicans went overboard chasing down Clinton, it resulted in Democratic gains in the 1998 mid term election. Apparently, attacking the President on a personal matter was not a winning card for the opposition then, as it was not this time either, in terms of the underlying racism which was entrained against Obama before and during the election (Obama lost white voters to Romney by 20 points, the widest margin for a Democratic presidential candidate since Mondale lost to Reagan in 1984, but still most of his nationwide vote came from whites, the same 39% share of white voters that Clinton won in 1992).

It is now up to Obama to lead the nation and the world into the future while the Republicans are regrouping from confusion and disarray.

Results:

Presidential campaign spending
Obama $932,013,388
Romney $1028,213,064

Congressional and presidential election spending $6 billion
Annual marketing budget of Procter and Gamble $3 billion
AT&T $1.9 billion General Motors $1.8 billion
Spending on Elizabeth Warren vs Scott Brown in Mass. Senate race $68 million
Average campaign staffer salary Republican $6,437 Democratic $3,074
Amount pledged by Obama top donors (Univ Ca affiliated) $1,092,906
By Romney top donors (Goldman Sachs affiliated) $994,139
Number of Presidential

Obama wins hands down, but hands still tied

Crowd attending Obama victory speech 2012: 10,000
2008 240,000

Romney wins declining white share, seniors, Obama wins rising rainbow of blacks, Hispanics, even Cubans in Florida

Obama won 51% to 48% of popular vote.
Obama 62,085,892 Romney 58,777,012 Total 120,862,904
Update: Final count Obama wins popular vote by over 4 million.

Obama 126 electoral votes over Romney 332-206 62% 38% win.
(Compare: 2008 192 Obama over McCain. 2004 Bush 35 over Kerry 2000 Bush 5? over Gore. 1996 Clinton 220 over Dole. 1992 Clinton 202 over Bush. 1988 Bush over Dukakis 315 1984 Reagan over Modale 512 1980 Reagan over Carter 440 1976 Carter over Ford57 1972 Nixon over MacGovern 503 1968 Nixon over Humphrey 110 1964 Johnson over Goldwater 434 1960 Kennedy over Nixon 84.)

After redistricting, House Democrats down 193 to 192 and Republicans down from 242 to 233. Republican majority down from 49 to 41.

Romney wins whites

Share of white non Hispanic votes 2004 79% 2008 74% 2012 72%
Median age of whites in US 42
Obama defeated by Romney among whites 59% to 39%

Romney wins men

Share of male voters: Obama 45% Romney 52%

Obama wins women

Obama 55% Romney 43%

Romney wins seniors

Share of 65+ voters: Obama 44% Romney 55%

Blacks turn out for Obama, though fewer than in 2008

Share of Black vote 2004 11% 2012 13%
Median age blacks in US 33
Black men 87% for Obama Black women 96% for Obama
Share of 13% Black vote by men 5% share by women 8%
Michigan 2008 Black vote 12% 2012 Black vote 16%
Missouri 2008 Black share of vote 13% 2012 16%
North Carolina 23% and Florida 13% same as 2008 in 2012 but voter turnout total much larger
Ohio Republican share of black 2000 9% 2004 16%
Ohio black share of vote 2008 11% 2012 15%
Obama 96% of black vote in Ohio, his margin of victory.
Virginia 93% of black votes for Obama
But total black votes for Obama 1.6 million fewer than in 2008

Share of Hispanic vote in total 2004 6% 2012 10%
Obama 69% Romney 29&
Median age Hispanics in US 25
“If Romney had got share of Hispanic vote Bush won in 2004 he would be President elect
right now” –
Share of Asian vote in total 2004 1% 2012 3%
Obama 74% Romney 25%

Distrusted Bain Capital wiz Romney loses bid to run weak economy still blamed on Bush

23 million out of work, but 3 million jobs unfilled.
Average CEO pay in 1965 20 x average worker’s.
Average CEO pay in 2011 231 x average worker’s.
Proportion of Americans who pay any income tax: 55%
(Taxes paid by the rest eg poor widows seniors welfare include payroll, sales, property, state, local, gasoline, liquor taxes)
Since 1978 share of income growth to bottom 90% zero.
Share of wealth in 2010 owned by top 400 = share of wealth in 2010 owned by bottom 150 million.
Fiscal cliff: $2-3,500 tax hike for average household (midnight Dec 31)
Budget cut $110 billion in 2013 alone (starts Jan 2), $1.2 trillion over ten years
Unemployment back over 89.1%


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