61 thoughts on “Resolute

  1. john sherman says:

    I’m waiting for the clouds to open and a basso profundo voice loud enough to be heard across the nation to exclaim: “Souder is declared benevolent dictator, shape up dummies.”

  2. Mike Kennedy says:

    “Democracy depends on equality; capitalism on inequality. Citizens in a democracy come to the public square with one vote each; participants in a capitalist economy arrive at the marketplace with unequal talents and resources and leave the marketplace with unequal rewards. Nor is inequality simply a side effect of capitalism. A capitalist economy can’t operate without it. The differing talents and resources of individuals are recruited and sorted by the differential rewards, which reinforce the original differences. Inequality drives the engine of capitalism.

    H.W. Brands in the prologue to his new book, American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      There’s no firewall between the two and the political hegemony readily purchased by the corporate class enables it to artificially increase the inequalities in capitalism to the dangerous imbalances cited by Souder in his piece that are injurious to both democracy and capitalism.

  3. PM says:

    So you’re just one more of those trendy “No Labels” people, huh?


    I’m not disagreeing with any of your specifics necessarily, but all of this “post-partisan”, “no labels” stuff seems sort of besides the point to me. The problem isn’t that partisanship is bad or that labels are bad–and, of course, we will never get rid of either. We just need to get rid of bad policies, and the people who promote them. And, of course, there are people who disagree with how we might define what are good or bad policies, and our disagreements will necessarily become partisan, and….

    so what is your point?

  4. Ellen Mrja says:

    I think he’s saying the gloves are off. And amen to that, sistah.

    Souder: You had me at your riff on independents. Agree 100%. The only part you forgot is the oft heard smugness when persons sniff “I’m an independent” – as if that excuses them from any responsibility for the condition of the country.

    And Mike K.: the problem with capitalism is that it contains within it its own seeds of destruction. Would you agree?

  5. Mike Kennedy says:


    I would agree that unfettered capitalism with no regulation whatsoever does contain those seeds.

    However, what system doesn’t? Many such as Soviet style and Chinese style communism already imploded.

    I don’t view your point as being a problem with capitalism. There is no perfect system, but free markets come as close as anything that’s been tried.

    1. “There’s no perfect system?” A rule of the road: When you ask the wrong question you’ll never get the right answer.

      Free markets are a tool, suited to a particular class of problems. Apply free markets to those problems and good things happen. Rely on them to solve problems for which they’re poorly suited and bad things happen.

      I’m tempted to provide starter lists, but that would be tiresome.

  6. Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell says:

    I love it Bill, you’re pragmatic and reasonable. (Except for that nonsense about Mars.) Which is, of course, why you should seriously consider running for office!

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Yeah, this message would go over so very well in the northern suburbs of Bill’s district. I can almost feel the warm spray of indignant spittle sure to follow in the wake of Bill’s first stump speech.

  7. Ellen Mrja says:

    Happy New Year, Mike. But I don’t understand your reference to “unfettered capitalism”? Does this mean you want your capitalism with a teeny little bit of socialism, then?

    Our system has not turned out to be the best out there in terms of standards-of-living. The USA is not #1 in any of the standard economic indicators such as health care, infant mortality, cost-of-living, educational attainment – and shouldn’t it be if we have “enjoyed” 200 years of capitalism?

    It’s wearisome to include long quotes, I know. But I’m going to end with some retrieved from the NYT.com site about how the uber-rich (those with incomes more than $80million yr) are leaving even the super-rich and merely rich behind and why so many experts, including Buffett and Greenspan, see this as an actual threat to our democratic traditions:


    ¶Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes – a minimum of $87 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data – now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000.

    ¶Those earning more than $10 million a year now pay a lesser share of their income in these taxes than those making $100,000 to $200,000.

    ¶The alternative minimum tax, created 36 years ago to make sure the very richest paid taxes, takes back a growing share of the tax cuts over time from the majority of families earning $75,000 to $1 million – thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars annually. Far fewer of the very wealthiest will be affected by this tax.

    The analysis examined only income reported on tax returns. The Treasury Department says that the very wealthiest find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter a lot of income from taxes. So the gap between the very richest and everyone else is almost certainly much larger.

    The hyper-rich have emerged in the last three decades as the biggest winners in a remarkable transformation of the American economy characterized by, among other things, the creation of a more global marketplace, new technology and investment spurred partly by tax cuts. The stock market soared; so did pay in the highest ranks of business.

    One way to understand the growing gap is to compare earnings increases over time by the vast majority of taxpayers – say, everyone in the lower 90 percent – with those at the top, say, in the uppermost 0.01 percent (now about 14,000 households, each with $5.5 million or more in income last year).

    From 1950 to 1970, for example, for every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162, according to the Times analysis. From 1990 to 2002, for every extra dollar earned by those in the bottom 90 percent, each taxpayer at the top brought in an extra $18,000.” …


    “But some of the wealthiest Americans, including Warren E. Buffett, George Soros and Ted Turner, have warned that such a concentration of wealth can turn a meritocracy into an aristocracy and ultimately stifle economic growth by putting too much of the nation’s capital in the hands of inheritors rather than strivers and innovators. Speaking of the increasing concentration of incomes, Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, warned in Congressional testimony a year ago: “For the democratic society, that is not a very desirable thing to allow it to happen.”

    “Others say most Americans have no problem with this trend. The central question is mobility, said Bruce R. Bartlett, an advocate of lower taxes who served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. “As long as people think they have a chance of getting to the top, they just don’t care how rich the rich are.”

    “But in fact, economic mobility – moving from one income group to another over a lifetime – has actually stopped rising in the United States, researchers say. Some recent studies suggest it has even declined over the last generation.”

    It’s highly telling to me that Americans who can afford it least, the true working and middle to upper-middle classes, have been indoctrinated to fight on behalf of the benefits of the rich. Fight the inheritance tax! Fight Obamacare or small businesses will go under! The rich are not to be despised; they create our jobs. Shut up and be quiet and bow when you pass.

    Also, I’m uber-POd that Obama extended these ridicuous tax breaks for the rich. The Republicans held him up with their crumbs for the poor (unemployment) and he blinked.

  8. Jim Leinfelder says:

    Indeed, Ellen, and here a further rejoinder to those who revel in inequality as some sort of ethic:

  9. Mike Kennedy says:

    Nope. Income mobility has not stopped rising in the U.S. Read more of the studies by economists Alan Reynolds and Thomas Sowell. Nope I don’t want Socialism. I want some basic regulation of free markets — enforcing property rights, enforcing contracts and contract law, ensuring no one has an advantage on inside information, product safety laws etc.

    Basically, what we already have. I’m not going to debate the Bush tax cuts anymore because the OECD has stated we have the most progressive income tax system of all developed countries.

    However, I’ve stated time and again, your elected officials and government have allowed the tax system with all its deductions, credits etc. to be easily avoided, A flat tax is the best alternative, but neither party wants to make tough choices.

    The tax system was a total mess long before George Bush ever took office.

    There is nothing wrong with the income tax rates themselves. The problem is with the loopholes that make it a farce, along with the fact that Social Security and Medicare taxes increasingly affect lower income people, as does a lack of education and job training.

    As to the “standard of living” measure like infant mortality and life expectency, these aren’t always telling or accurate. Countries measure infant mortality differently — so we are not comparing apples to oranges, and life expectency is often due to a variety of factors, alcohol, hereditary factors, accident rates, suicide rates etc. It says little to very little about free markets.

    Our standard of living on a day to day basis, from food to shelter to access to medical care to autos, computers etc. all is among the highest if not the highest in the world.

    I think we are all aware of the abject poverty in much of China, the former Soviet Union, man parts of Latin America and much of Africa.

    There will always be inequality and inequity. It would be better if there were less, but that won’t be changed by tax rates.

    Let’s try giving more small businesses and medium businesses incentives to hire, along with trying to ensure the best education we can.

  10. Ellen Mrja says:

    Mike: We’re not talking about China, the former Soviet Union or many parts of Latin America and much of Africa. We’re talking about this country. Again – our standard of living is not the highest in the world. As the Kristol article Jim L. references, Japan and Germany (and, I add, countries such as Norway, Finland and France) beat us on many of those measures.

    The tax rate indeed does have a leveling influence which in turn energizes the economy. Despite the crabbed view of tax history Republicans have, the tax rate (thanks, Ike!) was at a high of 91-92% when John Kennedy took office. He knew we’d never move forward as a nation with those rates. By 1964, they were down to 77%.

    Figures I’ve looked up say the highest marginal rate was 70% from 1965 through 1981. Those rates launched The Great Society. And God bless Uncle Ronnie for lowering the rates to 50%, which kicked in what I like to think of as The Mean Decade.

    Since1987, the highest marginal tax rate was 39% under Clinton – you know, THE LAST PRESIDENT TO LEAVE A BUDGET SURPLUS, to a low of 31% under GHW Bush (but who remembers)? Perhaps 39% (and no wars) was our “tipping point” when we last had it right.

    Now here’s where the Tea Partiers get it all wrong. We’ve spent all the GW Bush years since 2003 at 35%. With all of this tax freedom, where has growth come in the economy? Not for the lower-upper middle class. The last round of tax cuts gave the rich all the benefits with a disproportionate share of the burdens on the rest of us.

    We’re stalled as an economy because of it..some of us actually going backward as we work more, longer. Two-income families are de rigeuer. Three jobs not uncommon. We’re not only giving the wealthy tax breaks, we’re fighting two overseas wars and running inflated defense budgets against an enemy we can’t locate.

    Where is all that wealth that’s supposed to be trickling down? The wealthy are keeping it, just as the banks we bailed out (ah — I love the smell of capitalism in the morning) are hoarding their wealth and not loaning it out.

    But the Tea Partiers are not worried about this. They want guv-ment off their backs AND want to keep their Medicare. They should be marching for tax reform, all right – but they’re marching for the wrong reasons.

    You’re right, Mike. A flat 10% or 13% rate would be beautiful. Simple and save our hides. But the rich will never allow that to go forward. Why not? They would probably end up devoting more of their incomes to the commonweal than they do now.

  11. Mike Kennedy says:

    No, Ellen, your beloved government will never allow a flat tax to go forward. Rich people like Forbes and many others have been calling for a flat tax for years. It’s politicians and their special interest payoffs that will never allow it.

    Sorry, you’re wrong about standard of living. I’ve already covered the flawed methodology of infant mortality and life expectancy. Health care is debatable. Your odds of surviving some life threatening cancers are far better here, as are some other diseases. That record is somewhat mixed.

    A survey in 2007 showed Americans are much happier with their lives than western Europeans. A survey of 45,000 people in 47 countries showed 65 percent of Americans were happy with their lives compared to only 53 percent in Western Europe.

    Who said the U.S. is perfect? But the old liberal saw of how tough things are here just doesn’t register with most Americans.

    No doubt whatsoever that what’s right with our way of life is what attracts so many immigrants here. The promise of opportunity and the standard of life attract those from around the world.

    So most Americans get it, much to the frustration of many on the left who keep trying to tell them how good it is in Europe compared to here.

    They ain’t buying it and shouldn’t.

  12. Mike Kennedy says:

    Oh, and Ellen, not to put a label on you — but would you classify yourself as a Socialist? What economic system do you propose other than “tax the rich” and all of our problems will go away school?

  13. Ellen Mrja says:

    I checked out the post and the website on which it appeared, Mike. The post makes some good – but not dispositive – points. And it gets us nowhere because I distrust your “facts” and you distrust mine. That’s the shame of it: if we can’t even agree on what should be “verifiable,” how can we ever find an answer to our problems?

    As for the website itself, I’d call it far from objective and/or factual when it runs posts such as: “How’s That Post-Racial America Working Out for You?” and “Oral Contraceptives in Water Causing Dual-Sexed Fish?” and “The Obamas’ Taste for Luxury.”

    You say you don’t want to label me and yet you ask if I’m a “socialist.” Gosh, I never thought of it that way. I guess I don’t view the word with quite the boogey-man smear others might. Let me repeat: we already have socialism in our government and economic structure. You know we do. I’d prefer not to support those who make much more than you or I will make in our entire lives combined. I don’t find that radical.

    Finally, I don’t know why it’s a pejorative to call it “your government”. It’s YOUR government, too, Mike – like it or not. And it’s as good as we the people deserve.

    Because I know you, I know you’re as great a grandpa as I am a mom. So let’s start a new conversation:

    I happen to believe that having 1 in 5 American children living in poverty is unacceptable. What do you think? Could we at least agree on that and work to make it better?

  14. Newt says:

    Utterly fascinating to read the liberal world view here. Things that come out loud and clear:

    – That people are inherently bad and therefore must be controlled.

    – That people who have attained have done so at others’ expense.

    – That social misery and happiness are – and should be – always linked to each other.

    – Distrust of the individual. Faith in collectivism.

    – Fear of disparity.

    – Distrust of authority.

    – Fear of liberty.

    – An almost mystical faith in institutions.

    The truth is that America cannot be compared to city-state hamlets and micro-nations like the Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore, Sweden and France. We have 350 million people.

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      Happy New Year, Newt. I just don’t know if you can say these are issues of those with a “liberal world view.”

      For example, I love liberty. That’s why I don’t like other people telling me what I can do with my body, who I can love, or what I can read. But others sure want to try. I don’t have an “almost mystical faith in institutions” if by that you mean marriage, the military and Bank of America. But, yup, I distrust authority. (Do you actually like it? If so, why?)

      Point is, “us” vs. “them” is exactly what Souder was arguing against. I think.

  15. Mike Kennedy says:

    Newt: Not only do we have 300 million plus people but Europe has made a trade off — more income equality and state provided benefits for slower growth and historically higher unemployment, though currently that is not true (hmm. That might indicate we might be doing something wrong).

    Ellen: The gist of what we disagree on is that you and many of the hard core liberals (20 percent of those recently polled) believe government is the solution to most problems we face.

    I do not.

    Like any other political or economic debate, you cite numbers that support your beliefs. I do the same. Twas ever thus.

    Everyone on this board does it. We tend to reinforce our own beliefs. Please, don’t anyone chime in that “not me I’m different.” Uh, no you’re not.

    Take Souder. There are plenty of people who don’t believe in global warming, much less that man is causing it and who believe in evolution.


    Kudos to William for not bothering to debate anyone who thinks otherwise and thinking all of them are idiots (goes with his ad hominem attack on people like Gingrich, calling them and him dim-witted. Now you may not like Gingrich’s politics, but I hardly think he is dim-witted. I know who I would bet on in a match of IQs — yours vs. his.

    Just to be clear, Ellen, I am not labeling you a Socialist but I take it from what you said that you find too many faults with free markets and capitalism and that you think there is a better way.

    Well, okay, then. How much should the top 1 percent or even the top 10 or 20 percent pay in income taxes? 50 percent? 75 percent? Everything?

    I engaged you in this debate because you are under the assumption that higher taxes will mean higher revenues and more resources to redistribute. It just ain’t so. Not with the system we have. Wealthy people will just use more loopholes and be less productive.

    Nice closing question — the “how often do you beat your wife” thing. Of course I don’t want to see children in poverty. Even though I’m an optimist by nature, I certainly don’t believe that America or any nation can alleviate all human suffering, as much as we would like it to be so. Furthermore, I believe the U.S. does as much as any country to try to provide for those less fortunate, both privately and publicly.

    Poor people continue to come here legally and illegally to make lives for themselves because they believe it is here that offers them the best opportunities.

    Twas ever thus. Will be ever so. God Bless. Go in peace.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      FIY re: Kennedy’s source for the toss up on informed opinion on global climate change and evolution. His source actually posits the “wedge strategy” of promoting “intelligent design” to undermine evolution.

      “There are plenty of people who don’t believe in global warming, much less that man is causing it and who believe in evolution.”


    2. Now pay attention. I’m only going to say this once:

      * Free markets don’t have faults. They also don’t have virtues. They’re a tool that’s appropriate for solving some problems but not others. The same can be said for government. Want an intelligent discussion? Talk about where each is the right tool, not whether one is better than the other.

      * Global warming and evolution: What most people think has nothing to do with anything. Most people don’t know enough about the subject to have an opinion worth listening to. They can’t … they don’t have the time to learn the subject.

      Climate scientists spend their careers learning how climate works. Evolutionary biologists spend their careers studying adaption deeply. It’s their opinions that matter, and their opinions on these subject are abundantly clear.

      * How much the top 1% (or whatever) should pay in taxes? As the only answer conservatives appear to be capable of is “less,” I’m not sure complaining that liberals think it should be “more” is a fair criticism. In any event, can we all agree that with tax rates half what they were during the Eisenhower administration, all the griping that government is taking “more and more” in taxes is … ahem … misdirected?

      * Higher taxes do mean higher revenues, at least to the extent that history provides any guide. There has never been a tax cut that’s led to increased tax revenues … a fact that’s all the more remarkable when you consider that there’s never been a tax cut associated with a decrease in government spending. That means (pay attention now!) every tax cut in modern history has been accompanied by the economic stimulus of increased deficit spending.

      And yet, they still resulted in decreased tax revenues.

      Believe what you like. Belief, by definition, doesn’t depend on evidence.

      If you want to hold an opinion, though, the evidence matters.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Thanks for input. We’ve already been talking about that — markets are best at determining prices and exchanges. Government is not. Government is best at enforcing the rules of property laws and contracts. How could you have missed it, unless you weren’t reading.

        Second, science isn’t about a consensus. It is about a never ending quest for truth. It also is not about shutting down debate. It is, if anything, about trying to find ways to disprove your theories.

        Your claim that all of this is settled is…………well you’re entitled to believe whatever you want.

        Wait there is more — further evidence that you come to this debate without clearly having read what transpired. Who said cutting tax rates increased revenues? Can you point out where I made that claim?

        One thing is certain, no matter where tax rates have been, they have generated about the same revenue for government, 19 percent of GDP or so.

        Understand this because I’ve not only said it once but maybe a hundred times: People can control the amount of taxes they pay by how productive or non productive they are, and they can use the tax code to their advantage.

        This tax code is a mess, inefficient and it doesn’t matter how high you raise the rates, wealthy people simply will use the tools available until the whole things gets changed.

        That was my point. I scarcely see how you could have missed it.

    3. Mike …

      On the role of government and free markets, you proposed that free markets are as close to a perfect system as anything that’s been devised. Nothing in that statement suggested you consider free markets and government to be different but equally valid tools. Glad to hear we actually agree on this point.

      >>> “Who said cutting tax rates increased revenues? Can you point out where I made that claim?”

      Fair enough. You did say, “… you are under the assumption that higher taxes will mean higher revenues and more resources to redistribute. It just ain’t so. Not with the system we have. Wealthy people will just use more loopholes and be less productive.”

      In inferred you shared the Conservative Standard Model on this point … that if raising taxes doesn’t increase revenue, that cutting them will. Glad to hear you haven’t fallen for it after all.

      Your point, though, depends on unfounded assumptions … that either more loopholes will accompany the increase in tax rates or that wealthy people currently ignore loopholes they could take advantage of. The first is a possible but not definite future. The second is as doubtful a proposition as I’ve read in this debate.

      On scientific consensus: Good scientists don’t debate. Debate is about winning and losing. Science is about improved understanding. My point wasn’t that the science is settled. It’s that citing what the average American thinks about a scientific discipline isn’t a useful way to approach the subject because the average American hasn’t done the work necessary to be worth listening to.

  16. Ellen Mrja says:

    Mike: I have a swell and simple plan – EVERYBODY PAY 10%. No loopholes. Don’t care if you drill. Don’t care if you have 5 kids or so many homes you’re not sure the number. Also don’t care if you choose to give to a church or a strip joint. What you do with your income is your business. But you do have to pay the same 10% (I will go as high as 13%) as everybody else. We WOULD come out way ahead from where we are. (And happy new year to you and yours, Mike.)

    Bob: If I may correct you on one point, the Eisenhower tax rate was 91-92%. Our current high rate is 35%, which is far less than “half”.

    1. Newt says:

      Ellen espouses a flat tax abhorred by the liberal orthodoxy. I happen to like it. Right now, half of Americans pay no federal income tax.

      1. By flat tax do you mean flat federal income tax, with all the other regressive taxes left alone?

        Or do you mean that all taxes taken together should aggregate to an overall contribution that’s flat as a percentage of income?

        If it’s the latter, that would require a tax increase for the wealthiest segment. If it’s the former, it’s a sham that misrepresents a single slice of the picture as the whole.

    2. 108 says:

      That was the statutory rate, and it had zero relationship to the effective rates as practically experienced. Shelters, deductions, and the creation of tax losses was even more common than now.

      So it’s not accurate to say ‘we used to tax at 91%, now we only tax at 35%…”

      1. Ellen Mrja says:

        Fair enough. But I have no idea how to research effectives rates as practically experienced. Thanks.

    3. Mike Kennedy says:


      I think what we need, in addition to a fairer flat tax, is more creative thinking among our elected officials.

      We keep reverting back to the things we have tried before — many of which don’t work.

      We seem to elect ideolgues instead of true “progressive” thinkers.

      Check out this paper from Paul Segal who suggest that if developing countries distributed their resource rents (royalties and other payments for oil and mineral extraction) directly to citizens as a universal and unconditional cash transfer, the number of people living below the World Bank’s dollar a day poverty line would be halved.

      He cites Alaska’s permanent Fund Dividend and what do you know — in 2007, Alaska had the second lowest poverty rate in the nation despite having only the 19th highest per capita income.

      Here is the link:


      Also, for your reading appetite, check out this in today’s WSJ about gaming technology revolutionizing productivity. Who woulda thunk?


  17. Newt says:

    I take issue with the term “regressive taxation.” I looked up the definition and found this: “A tax burden that falls more heavily on those with low income.”

    If I earn $10 and you earn $5, a loaf of bread qualifies as a regressive expenditure to you.

    A gumball is also regressive. So is a cigarette. So is anything. The term regressive isn’t helpful.

    1. Interesting. The definition is specific to taxation. Your examples are all purchases … direct exchanges of money for objects of value. Your conclusion is that the definition is unhelpful.

      You appear to prefer a flat tax because it is neither progressive (is that term equally unhelpful?) nor regressive. You object to progressive taxation because (so far as I can tell) you think it’s unfair for high-income-earners to pay a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than others.

      And you find the term “regressive taxation” unhelpful because … what, because it accurately characterizes situations that ask low wage earners to pay a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes?

      If you prefer a flat tax, please be intellectually honest enough to prefer it in a form that covers all taxes paid and not just the one that happens to hit you the hardest.

      1. Let me just say that I’m gratified this posting intitiated a better-than-average discussion about substantive (and interesting) issues…rather than another left-right name-calling session. I have a couple of thoughts:

        1. Love the idea of a flat tax. If we could eliminate the tax code and put an end to incentivizing behavior though tax breaks we’d have a much more rational economy and a congress far less beholden to special interests. Not to mention the time we’d free up for elected officials who would no longer have to endure continual lobbying on taxes

        2. It’s true, as Mike Kennedy points out, that the scientific method is not about consensus. However, there is such a thing as scientific concensus and it’s important. Scientific method depends on the “testable hypothesis,” that is, on formulating possible explanations for natural phenomena that can be subjected to evidence and tests by which they can be falsified. By this means, a case can be built over time sufficient for a consensus to emerge. When a scientific consensus is sufficiently robust to become accepted as a general explanation for a whole range of observations, this sometimes acquires the status of a “theory,” which is completely different from a hypothesis. So we have theories that cover things like themodynamics and quantum mechanics and evolution…because we have had a rigorous examination of the data, exhuastive experimental testing, and piles of evidence to confirm these concepts. There is consensus.

        Global warming is not a theory, but rather a set of observations that support the hypothesis that human production of greenhouse gases is altering the atmosphere in a way that has led to a rise in temperature. The experiment is up and running…we’re doing it every day. And here again, a consensus has emerged.

        Now, with respect to so-called Intelligent Design…which is the religious concept of Creationism disguised as if it were a competing scientific theory…there’s a big problem. You cannot formulate a testable hypothesis in support of it. Nobody has ever designed an experiment or made a series of observations that could be disproven in order to advance Intelligent Design. Nobody has ever published a peer-reviewed scientific paper on Intelligent Design. as such studies require data, methods, materials, and a refutable proposition.

        So if you want to believe in Intelligent Design, you are free to do so. But you can’t call it science and you can’t teach it as part of a scientific curriculum. Science is a well-ordered and formal discipline. If you want to explore Intelligent Design, then Sunday School is the place for it.

      2. Newt says:

        The expression is meaningless. By definition all expenses are “regressive” to lower income people. Why? Poor people are “burdened” disproportionately by a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas, or a penny sales tax.

        It’s like saying slender people suffer regressive caloric intake as a percentage of body weight.


  18. Mike Kennedy says:

    Good post, William. It’s been a lot of fun — this discussion.

    Yes, there is an ongoing experiment and observations on global warming, but it turns out there are many holes to fill and many things that cannot be explained — like recent cooling.

    This will be a work in progress for a long time.

    I don’t pretend to know what created the universe. I am not particularly religious, but I also science has been wrong about plenty in the past.

    But I am a big beliver in probabilities. It’s the foundation for all the work I do with clients and why I don’t partake in gambling.

    That’s why this author’s statement that the odds of getting one functional protein of modest length (150 amino acids) by chance from prebiotic soup is no better than 1 in 10164 (10 with 164 zeros after it) caught my eye.

    The debate is far from settled, and new discoveries and theories are likely.

    1. I can’t stand it. It’s the cooling meme again.

      Please: Get your climate data from reputable sources, not conservative blogs. NASA, for example: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ . An excerpt: “All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. 5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. 6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.”

      As for “intelligent design,” I have to disagree with Mr. Souder. Intelligent design does make predictions. They have been tested. They don’t hold up.

      The evidence is as near as your two legs: The human knee is lousy engineering for an upright biped … even a mediocre human engineer would have used a McPherson strut as a shock absorber, not a bag of cartilage.

      As an adaptation of a quadruped joint, though, it makes perfect sense.

      1. john sherman says:

        I remember reading somewhere a proponent of intelligent design who, when confronted with some of the apparent engineering glitches in the natural world (the human knee is good, though the lower back and appendix are equally familiar), basically responded that while the designer was intelligent that didn’t mean he was particularly smart.

      2. Ellen Mrja says:

        THAT’S what’s wrong with my knees! This illustration worked for me, regardless of whether or not it proved a thing.

      3. Newt says:

        Let’s see – Earth is 3 BILLION years old and Bob is using incomplete and flawed data collected over 130 years.

        So Bob (and the grant-dependent whores at NASA) is telling us that he can predicts Earth’s future temperature using an infinitesimal fraction of historical data?

      4. Newt …

        Now I know this will sound unpleasant: Do you know anything at all about this subject, or do you just parrot talking points?

        Climate scientists create models of climate dynamics. 130 years of data, collected with increasing care and precision through three independent data sets, validate the models. Global warming isn’t an extrapolation.

        Here’s what I want you to do:

        1. Compute the weight of the atmosphere. It’s easy: 15 lbs per square inch times the number of square inches. Basic arithmetic.

        2. Compute the CO2 added through coal burning. Look up the number for coal consumption. Coal is basically pure carbon, with an atomic weight of 12. Oxygen’s is 16, so for every 12 tons of carbon, figure 44 tons of CO2 added.

        3. Do the same for petroleum. Figure petroleum is 70% carbon.

        4. Using long division, report back your findings as to the number of parts per million of CO2 being added to the atmosphere every year.

        Until you do this, you haven’t done enough homework to take a position on the subject.

      5. Newt says:


        Do you really want to get me started on the success of global climate models?

        Do you really want to discuss why Al Gore had to remove slides from his Alarmist Show presentation about hurricane severity and frequency?

        Or why the Himilayan glaciers will not be melting anytime soon?

        Or why NYC is still safely above sea level?

        Or why polar bears are more numerous than they were 100 years ago?

        Or why James Hansen predicted a global cooling in the 1970s?

        The only danger of drowning that I can see is from the Kool Aid being served by these climate quacks.

        So what’s your explanation for the numerous global warming cycles that occurred pre-Industrial Revolution ?

      6. Newt … Nope. Until you do the arithmetic I’m not going to spend even a moment deconstructing your ridiculous talking points.

        You don’t have to show your work but you do have to report back to us: How many parts per million CO2 are being added to the atmosphere every year?

        Or don’t you think this number is relevant to the question?

      7. Mike Kennedy says:

        I didn’t bother doing the long math, but the answer is that we are adding 2ppm per year. The total is now around 380 ppm, an increase from 280 ppm during the past 250 years.

        Yes, most scientists believe man is causing it, but that is the operative word — believe. No one knows how much warming will occur in the future or how much will be due to man and how much to nature.

        Nor does anyone know how warming will affect the planet or how people, plants and animals will or will not adapt — should it continue.

        Models are models. We know what has gradually happened over time, but we cannot predict with any level of certainty what will happen in the future.

        It’s called forecasting for a reason.

        Meanwhile, global warming proponents are trying to “sex up” the subject to appeal to more people.


        This sounds like a job for me. I have some ideas involving lovely ladies, bikinis………………..ok, I’ll stop. Yes, I am a pig. I admit it.

      8. Newt says:

        My work here is done.

        Bob and his NASA climatologist friends are flying through the Himalayas with a map of Saudi Arabia in their laps.

    2. Stephen C. Meyer works for the Discovery Institute, a notable anti-evolution “think tank.” These people and their ideas have been repeatedly discredited. Again, I urge you to watch the Nova documentary on the Dover School District Case…or even to just read Judge Jones’s decision on Wikipedia. (Jones is a republican appointee to the federal bench, who found that Intelligent Design was not only a religious concept, but in fact a Christian-oriented one.)

      I have no idea what Meyer might mean by the probability of a functional protein arising spontaneously…but I don’t know of any scientific speculation that life would have arisen that way.

      You need only a handful of light elements to make a living cell: hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, sulfur, and phosphorous. In the presence of liquid water, these atoms polymerize, and under the right condtions can form long-chain molecular precursors to amino acids and other complex compounds. And these macromolecules have astonishing self-organizing tendencies. You can mimic the self-assembling lipid bilayer of the cell membrane at home by simply dropping some olive oil in water and watching it form what look like bubbles, but that are in fact vesicles with water on the inside and outside. This happens because the fat molecules are hydrophic at one end and hydrophilic at the other. In water, they line up back-to-back as it were and form a sphere, with their hydrophilic ends facing the water outside and the water inside, thus hiding their hyrophobic ends within the membrane. So if you have fat molecues assembling from carbon and hyrogen in the sea you have the potential to form the container that envelopes every living cell.

      As for probabilities…we’re talking about uncountable numbers of atoms and short molecules interacting over many hundreds of millions of years not just randomly, but in accordance with the basic chemistry from which life is constructed.

      1. PM says:

        As well as possibly billions of planets….

        In order to do probability right, you need to know how many times–ie, number of heads per number of trials. Meyers numbers could be correct, but they would still be meaningless–because of the untold zillions of attempts (as Mr. Souder so ably points out)

        The point is that there have been, in all likelihood, an incredible number of trials before life came about, with countless mistakes and experiments that simply didn’t work. Evolution is full of dead ends.

        High odds mean nothing over eons.

  19. Well said, PM.

    Look at it this way: Imagine you play a lottery in which the odds of winning are 20 million to one. If you started on the day the earth was formed four billion years ago and played the same number every day you would have won almost 73,000 times by now.

    Why nobody tried this is beyond me…

  20. PM says:

    I once read somewhere that if you filled the Metrodome with people flipping coins, and every time someone threw a tails they had to leave, you would still get one person who would throw heads 100 times in a row.

    That general rule holds in every discipline, and explains people like George Soros. He simply got lucky–the one person out of the millions of people who bet the stock market every day who threw 100 straight heads.

    Someone had to do it. (and the curve is still bell shaped).

  21. Joe Loveland says:

    Good post, William. I’m comfortable associating with a party (and religion and spouse…) that I only agree with 70-90% of the time, but I respect your thoughtful approach. My only concern for you is whether the Post Partisan Party has awesome Bean Feeds for you to attend.

    The only part of your Declaration of Independence that I’m struggling to reconcile is 1) “the government has a role to play in the economy” and “market fluctuations and corrections can be devastating to large segments of the population” with 2) “next time General Motors goes belly-up, let’s let it go.”

    “Too big to fail” is not a matter of worship of biggness. It’s a recognition that big failures can cause economy-wide collapse that brings devastation to millions, mostly people who didn’t cause the failure (i.e. the painting manufacturer, the hinge contractor, etc.)

    I definitely want to do something about “too big to fail” – regulate mergers and acquisitions to prevent TBTF-type taxpayer vulnerability. But I’m just not sure I can say I’m ready to stand by and allow the collapse of an enormous and strategically important hunk of the economy in the midst of the worst recession since the 30s.

    I’d encourage your Post Partisan Party to break up the auto industry (and other corporate behemoths) into small enough to fail chunks. Then you will have my permission to allow them to fail, and my vote.

    1. Okay…you’ve got my attention. If you are suggesting a middle way…taking over companies like GM and AIG for the purpose of breaking them up rather than propping them up so that they are once again Too Big To Fail…I can listen to that. You’re right to point out that simply standing aside while GM went under might have had the very sort of widespread economic consequences I’ve argued government has to try to prevent.

      BUT…at the same time I think we have to recognize that we didn’t do that. We didn’t demand a different GM. We didn’t turn GM into five smaller, more nimble companies. We didn’t invite GM to stop making dull, expensive, poorly built, inefficient cars. We didn’t incentivize GM to go into other transportation products better suited to future needs.

      Instead, our “successful” rescue of GM simply restored it to what it was: a huge, incompetent company holding a gun to our heads. Once again, GM is Too Big to Fail…and I’m guessing, bound to do exactly that.

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