Is there anyone on Nature Network staunchly supporting Sarah Palin? 21 October 2008 by Noah Gray, posted in Uncategorized If so, then you’ll hate this: (via Ph33r and Loathing) 83 Responses to “Is there anyone on Nature Network staunchly supporting Sarah Palin?” Maxine Clarke 21 October 2008 8:25pm | Permalink I hadn’t noticed anyone, Noah. If there is, send them for a ride on the atheist bus. That should sort them out. Anna Kushnir 21 October 2008 8:34pm | Permalink Is the general democratic lean of the NN and web-faring public predictable? I am not surprised that the vast majority of people on this site and others like it are very liberally minded, but I don’t know why. What is it about the internet (or this form of it) that promotes the participation of a certain sector of society? Btw, that chart… hysterical, but misleading. Doing something cute hardly ever gets me out of trouble Henry Gee 21 October 2008 8:39pm | Permalink As usual I probably buck the trend, being fairly right-wing in my views. Mrs Gee would describe my views in saltier language, but she also leans o the right. Both of us admire Boris Johnson, whom history will show to have been the greatest statesman of this or any other era. Yet even Tory-Boy Boris has comeout in favor of Obama and I suspect most British Tories would regard Palin as lightweight and inexperienced, whatever they might say about her medieval beliefs. Richard P. Grant 21 October 2008 8:45pm | Permalink Politics is a complex issue, and the left/right thing doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s fashionable for scientists to be left-wing, though, for some reason. ‘Left-wing’, I mean, not small-l liberal. That’s again, a complex thing. Maxine Clarke 21 October 2008 8:54pm | Permalink I made my comment on Sarah Palin on the basis of her (lack of) scientific credentials. I am not that interested in which end of the political spectrum she is, if any – but based on what she says about creationism, she does not get my vote (well, she can’t get that anyway, as I am not American, but you get the drift). Maxine Clarke 21 October 2008 8:55pm | Permalink PS, Anna, I understand your point but there are plenty of right-wing blogs in the USA in particular, aren’t there? Anna Kushnir 21 October 2008 9:04pm | Permalink Certainly there are. Tons, I am sure. I was particularly curious about the political leanings of NN users. As Richard mentioned, scientists do tend to lean left. The reasons for that may be too involved to investigate here. I just thought it was curious. Noah Gray 21 October 2008 9:24pm | Permalink Although Henry is more than happy to fly in the face of convention, and should be commended for it, I do have to say that in my experience, the academic environment can be quite harsh and unforgiving to those who do not tend to wear their tree-hugging, dolphin-saving, peace-loving, rich-bashing, gun-hating, religion-mocking, Michael Moore-reveling tendencies on their sleeves. I like to consider myself more of a “skeptic”, with left-leaning views in general. Social issues, the environment, and guns – Go Democrats! I’m more in the middle on foreign policy and economically/financially, I have to say that I am more conservative. So when I played “devil’s advocate” at times with flaming lefties out at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, I came quite under fire. Right-wing evangelical conservatives certainly do not have the “crazy” market cornered, in my experience. I think this causes many scientists to come out hard left to simply not sound uneducated around their colleagues; call this the scientific Bradley effect. This may be especially true amongst younger academic scientists who feel they have to carefully control the overall impression they convey to those with power over their future (like graduate advisers, postdoc advisers, senior scientists on tenure boards, etc…). Eva Amsen 21 October 2008 9:30pm | Permalink Politics is easy if there are only two major parties and the frontrunners of one of them are clearly incompetent. Otherwise it’s complicated. Richard P. Grant 21 October 2008 10:20pm | Permalink Scientists, Noah, are quite an illiberal and intolerant bunch. And when will people stop equating ‘evangelical’ with ‘right-wing’? fume Åsa Karlström 21 October 2008 10:21pm | Permalink hm, I thought the the scientific community was left leaning too but then I moved to the South of US. I think the left leaning might have to do with where in the country you are, and which science we are talking about. I.e. coasts might be more Democratic party leaning than midsouth and the midwest?! Then it might be a field ralated thing too. In the economics field, at least as far as I have seen, scientists/researchers seem to be fairly liberal-right rather than left. Then again, left-leaning might mean “non religious/pro choice/equality-feminist”? Otherwise I would be careful (maybe not the word) to say that scientists are left. Democratic party leaning maybe, left is a bit bigger than that though… (Social)Liberal-leaning is probably a better term imho. In contrast to the (social)Conservative ones. And no, I’m not a fan club of the VP candidate for the republican party based on some of the views on creationism/school/[some other stuff like science and funding] Åsa Karlström 21 October 2008 10:25pm | Permalink Btw, the flow chart works well for graduate students (and others who give seminars) if you change a few of the boxes…. It’s all about the flirting with the eyes and looking cute, ain’t it?! Richard P. Grant 21 October 2008 10:28pm | Permalink Works for me, Åsa. xxx Kristi Vogel 21 October 2008 10:30pm | Permalink the academic environment can be quite harsh and unforgiving to those who do not tend to wear their tree-hugging, dolphin-saving, peace-loving, rich-bashing, gun-hating, religion-mocking, Michael Moore-reveling tendencies on their sleeves Guilty on the counts of tree-hugging, dolphin-saving, peace-loving, and gun-hating (“gun-fearing” is more accurate, but that’s a long story). I plead “not guilty” for the others. I also think that the preponderance of left-leaning views among scientists varies greatly according to US region and academic institution. In general, self-proclaimed left-wing academics in the US are pretty moderate by most European standards. Moreover, we tend to feel entitled to greater material wealth and convenience than do our EU counterparts, and we whinge a lot about our salaries, living expenses, and taxes. It’s all about the appearance of being ever so progressive and socialist. Dammit, I need to drive a Prius so I can display my greenness, and I deserve a bigger salary so that I can go buy one right now! Cath Ennis 21 October 2008 11:25pm | Permalink “scientists do tend to lean left. The reasons for that may be too involved to investigate here” It’s cos we aint got no money! Noah Gray 21 October 2008 11:32pm | Permalink Nobody equated “evangelical” with “right-wing”. I was describing a particular component of the US right-wing base that are self-described evangelicals. A little quick on the trigger there, Richard… As for meticulously dissecting left-leaning and right-leaning, obviously this is oversimplification and the tongue-in-cheek references to stereotypical qualities of each side was an attempt to lampoon this. I have been in labs in Indiana and Minnesota (in the city of Rochester, not Minneapolis) and had the same experiences as in New York (which was actually in Suffolk county, by the way, not a granola-friendly crowd on average). Both of these additional places are a deep shade of red historically. Perhaps I should clarify that at least in the biological sciences, these pressures I discussed above come from other graduate students, post-docs and PIs, but not necessarily the lab support staff (who are more likely to reflect the demographics of which state the university happens to be in). Richard P. Grant 21 October 2008 11:39pm | Permalink Very quick, Noah: because people do. Maybe not here, but then we’d expect a higher standard of discourse, wouldn’t we? Henry Gee 22 October 2008 4:18am | Permalink Noah’s right (or, sorry, left. Sorry, right. Sorry – what was the question?) Yes. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Noah is right in assuming that those who don’t belong to the grow-your-own-muesli eat-your-own-birkenstocks raffia mafia can find scientific life lonely. But I can afford to be a contrarian – I am not on a tenure track, and being an editor of what Dr Rohn calles in her novel a ‘fashion journal’, people have to be nice to me because of the Vastness of the Power I Wield … Oh, the POWER. Mwah ha ha hah hah hah! And I can play BWV 565. A bit. In a cape. James Aach 22 October 2008 4:37am | Permalink My experience is from a different world entirely – the technological industry of nuclear power, where you have a few PHd’s and a lot of very smart engineers. In the US there are over 100,000 people in these tasks. I’d say a very high percentage of nuclear power workers are very conservative politically. Many come in that way, but a second factor is that some of the views expressed by the less-conservative US party are not only “against” nuclear as an energy source (fine, that’s a judgement call) but also embrace open hostility and some extreme positions that are scientifically unsustainable. I think that pushes nuclear people toward “conservative” politics. (When a political party goes directly after your job, it gets your attention. Especially if you think the reasoning is dubious.) I can think of a few other technical and science jobs where the effect would be the same, but headed in the other political direction In general, how great is the effect described above in the science disciplines? Pick an area of study and say both political parties support it to exactly same degree. Would the percentage of scientists favoring one party over another be any different in that case than it is in a more charged political atmosphere? I’m sure there’s a single, correct answer for this, but Google won’t tell me what it is. steffi suhr 22 October 2008 4:58am | Permalink There is a large body of social/political science literature on ‘what makes people vote xyz’ (well, one of the two choices in the US..): type in any combination of ‘political orientation left right republican democrat’ etc. in Google Scholar. Some of it is quite interesting to read, if you can keep your distance. With many grains of salt, the general gist seems to be that people leaning towards the left are more comfortable with uncertainty and more creative.. qualities of most scientists???.. (Warning: there is a large number of left political blogs out there who ‘celebrate’ these conclusions in a slightly nauseating manner). Anna: cuteness may not work for you because people – based on your background – still take you seriously. There is no risk that this may happen with Sarah Palin, so they’re looking for something to keep that conversation/interview going. Mike Fowler 22 October 2008 7:55am | Permalink Ahhh, rouge, the colour of political irony. The vibrant, glorious colour of socialism (all too often gone wrong – thanks for nothing messrs Stalin and Blair) in the rest of the world, yet strangely the colour of small-minded, introspective buffoonery in the US. At least, according to the BBC maps Do they still ask you to declare if you were ever a member of the Communist party on US entry visas? Nothing like an extra bit of freedom in your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, within carefully regulated bounds. And is there any more news on the proposal I heard about recently to positively discriminate towards republican voters/members in university recruitment in the US? The poor loves are so hopelessly underrepresented, there must be some kind of institutionalized anti-idiot policy in the education system. Brian Clegg 22 October 2008 8:31am | Permalink Henry And I can play BWV 565. A bit. In a cape. But you can’t rival Rick Wakeman in a cape. Sorry. You need the hair, and the ability to play at least five keyboards simultaneously. Henry Gee 22 October 2008 9:33am | Permalink But I can play at least five keyboards simultaneously. I admit the lack of hair could be a problem, though. Åsa Karlström 22 October 2008 3:17pm | Permalink Richard> aww… you’re too nice Mimke> Do they still ask you to declare if you were ever a member of the Communist party on US entry visas? Honestly I don’t remember. There were so many questions… but the war crime question is there, and others like that. “Have you even been convicted for committing a crime” for example. Noah>_Perhaps I should clarify that at least in the biological sciences, these pressures I discussed above come from other graduate students, post-docs and PIs, but not necessarily the lab support staff (who are more likely to reflect the demographics of which state the university happens to be in)._ I would say that this clarification was needed since the tech personal usually are from the region more than the post docs and grad students. Maybe I need to read more of Kristi’s comment In general, self-proclaimed left-wing academics in the US are pretty moderate by most European standards. Moreover, we tend to feel entitled to greater material wealth and convenience than do our EU counterparts, and we whinge a lot about our salaries, living expenses, and taxes since I think this is spot on. (being the somewhat prejudice European post doc that I am… ) I seems to fit a bit though, so maybe what I consider being more “right wing” is really more “matrialistic and interested in getting a decent pay check”? I’m not saying people on the ‘other side of the pond’ are less interested in money but maybe they have more secure say medical and social insurance? steffi suhr 22 October 2008 7:41pm | Permalink I just heard – the Republican party is doing all they can to improve Sarah Palin’s knowlege of foreign policy… Kristi Vogel 22 October 2008 9:49pm | Permalink @ Steffi : LOL! The sad thing is that such a visit probably would improve her foreign policy knowledge. @ Åsa: I’ve had a few opportunities to compare the typical American academic lifestyle with those of individuals in similar positions, in several European countries. On the whole (of course there are exceptions), Americans expect a more comfortable and extravagant lifestyle. For example, my house, which I bought 3 years ago, is quite small by Texas standards (and compared to the houses of my colleagues here); in contrast, a Swedish friend who lives in Stockholm thinks it’s a huge space in which he’d get lost. Most Americans, myself included, just fill up our houses with stuff, and the kinds of stuff vary with interests, educational background, cultural background, and income. Left-wing progressive academics tend to have lots of books, kitchen gadgets, European souvenirs, and electronic or science-related doodads, and some of us keep lots of artsy-craftsy stuff as well (I blame Montessori school for the latter). Thing is, you need a decent income to purchase all this stuff without accruing irresponsible debt levels. Another “justification” for salary expectations by academics is that it’s very difficult to appear green and progressive while shopping for groceries at Walmart, or while driving a 10-year-old Hyundai Excel or Pontiac Sunfire, or while wearing (gasp!) synthetic fiber clothing from Target. Organic produce and hormone-free dairy products from Whole Foods, a Toyota Prius, natural fiber clothing from approved Fair Trade sources, travel to foreign countries and within the US, gourmet coffee and microbrews, nice restaurant meals … all of these things are just considered to be the automatic rewards of achieving a faculty position in the US. The truth is, though, that most are out of reach for many Americans. Obviously, the fact that I can make such observations and comparisons indicates that I’m not immune or indifferent to the allures of material wealth. Åsa Karlström 22 October 2008 10:07pm | Permalink @Kristi I think you are right. Being from Stockholm myself I must agree, the housing area here in Memphis is enormous! not that I mind at the moment but it is quite strange to refer to “an averga size room in a America” as averge, when I know that it would be huge if it was located in Stockholm And yes, I agree that since ecological food/clothing/stuff is not the cheapest stuff I can see why people want more money so they can get these things. I do think however, that the extra stuff that Europeans/Swedes get (like sick leave and moderate college tuition) makes it easier not to be as interested in money since the average person might have a higher “average”? Or maybe I am wrong in this? Kristi Vogel 22 October 2008 10:40pm | Permalink @ Åsa: AFAIK, most Swedes and other Europeans are taxed at much higher rates than are Americans. Personally, I’d be happy to pay more in taxes, if it meant that everyone would have access to decent health care and education. However, it would be the kiss of death to express such opinions as a politician in the US. I’m not a politician, so there, I said it! Most US academics at the faculty level, particularly at state universities, have adequate-to-excellent health care coverage and retirement benefits, eliminating or reducing a major oppressive worry that exists for many less fortunate Americans. The children of faculty at some universities can attend their institution for free (or at greatly reduced tuition), so that’s another worry eliminated. In some ways, a faculty position comes with benefits that we associate with progressive European countries … without the higher income tax rate. Of course, this isn’t true at all US universities and colleges, but it applies to a significant number of them. Mike Fowler 22 October 2008 10:50pm | Permalink Kristi, I can’t tell if the free tuition thing is really cool (at least someone’s getting it), or if it smacks of non-academic elitism? It really is vital that as many people as possible get free tuition, but perhaps it’d be wiser to offer the few places that there are to families without such a secure financial background as tenured staff. Kristi Vogel 22 October 2008 11:33pm | Permalink It really is vital that as many people as possible get free tuition I agree, Mike, since socioeconomic upward mobility and financial security in the US are dependent on educational opportunities, in most cases. I remember reading about a few universities (private, I’m pretty sure) that offer free tuition not only to the children of faculty, but to the children of other staff (administrative, research, facilities maintenance, etc.) as well. Åsa Karlström 23 October 2008 1:05am | Permalink Kristi> For sure, most European countries have higher taxes than the US. Definetly from a federal tax point of view… (and Sweden definetly in any way ) anyhow, regarding the free tuition. I think, to my own surprise, that it might be resonable that children to faculty would get reduced tuiation fee. I haven’t thought about it too much though, so i might change my mind after a decent night’s sleep. why? Well, as I see it the main concern is for the “average” American family with more than one child. The second or third in a family who is regarded as middle class. These children are not eligible for scholarships as much as “children from lower income families”, and they still can not really afford to pay tuition [for more than one at least]. Mind you, I might have misunderstood it but it seemed like that when I read poli sci and looked at how you calculate if you are eligable. (I was slightly shocked that you at 20 were considered non/eligebale based on your parents’ income… not on your own merit.) Then again, it is over all expensive to have children in America. I am still at shock at the day care fees, and then I live in Memphis which is considered a non expensive place. Henry Gee 23 October 2008 4:21am | Permalink AFAIK, most Swedes and other Europeans are taxed at much higher rates than are Americans. Personally, I’d be happy to pay more in taxes, if it meant that everyone would have access to decent health care and education Is there an emoticon for bitter irony? Sometimes I think I’m paying for the entire National Health Service single-handed. Oh yes, and Scotland. Richard P. Grant 23 October 2008 5:11am | Permalink That’s how it works, Henry. The well-off, who by virtue of a better lifestyle tend not to get so sick, pay for the poor to be treated in hospitals. Actually, I have no problem with that. steffi suhr 23 October 2008 6:59am | Permalink Åsa – you mention the daycare fees. Yes… I had that shock in Colorado: we actually checked, and apparently, Colorado and Massachusetts are the two most expensive states for daycare – I certainly didn’t expect that! Basically, daycare costs more in those two states than college!!! Kristi – one thing you didn’t mention is that prices for all of those ‘green’ and nice goods are actually still a lot lower than in Europe (well, at least speaking for Germany). Then again, I think that (due to relatively strict EU regulations – and more local produce on sale) the average ‘non-organic’ (love that term..) food in Europe might actually be healthier (for both people and the environment) than in the US, so that at least may be an equalizing factor. Anyway, it’s just a personal observation, not backed up by anything. Kristi Vogel 23 October 2008 11:53am | Permalink The well-off, who by virtue of a better lifestyle tend not to get so sick, pay for the poor to be treated in hospitals. I have no problem with that either, but it would be better (and cheaper) if everyone had access to preventative health care and health education from the get-go. Look what Alice Waters has done in the Berkeley schools for example. Sure, some people would persist in their unhealthy lifestyles, but others might be spared serious illness (or death, like the child who died from an easily-treatable tooth abscess, after the infection spread to his thorax and pericardium). One of the points made by Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickled and Dimed is that she begins her experiment in low-wage survival with a lifetime of excellent health and medical/dental care, and knowledge about nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices. Most people in low-wage jobs in the US don’t have these advantages, and thus they get sick more often. What I do have a problem with are those with decent incomes, and access to health care and education, who lie whinge loudly and incessantly about “teh Democratz and their taxessezzz and teh impending DOOM of teh socializzzm and teh commooonizzzm under Barack Obama!! 666!!! OH NOES1!” I should just stay off teh interwebz until after the election …. steffi suhr 23 October 2008 12:26pm | Permalink Kristi – I agree, Nickle and Dimed is a must-read(!), also for any ‘foreigner’ who is seriously interested in ‘life’ (for lack of a better word) in the US. Mike Fowler 23 October 2008 12:32pm | Permalink @ Henry: “Is there an emoticon for bitter irony? Sometimes I think I’m paying for the entire National Health Service single-handed. Oh yes, and Scotland.” What’s that shiny, tasty looking morsel I see glittering in front of me? I know, I’ll explore it by swallowing it… London can give us back all the oil money any time it wants. Barnett be damned. If Scotland really is such a financial drain on the UK economy, why hold on to it so steadfastly? While we’re at it, they can give us back the concept of free education for all. Well, they sort of have already. And from spurious vague recollection, I will state that caput, Londoners (perhaps even the South East of Englanders) receive more government funding than capita in any other UK region. Not the rest of the country’s fault if it’s spent on attracting drug fuelled cheats olympic games or building ridiculous tents. Henry Gee 23 October 2008 12:48pm | Permalink Mike, if you insist on being so combative, I can respond in kind. If Scotland want to become independent, let it. I’m fed up of being governed by Scots, and having a situation where Scottish MPs can decide on what goes on in England with no prospect of the reverse, especially when I am paying for free healthcare in Scotland. The recent credit crunch has shown just how hollow the SNP’s boasts of being a successful small country really are, while coming cap in hand to Westminster for more money. Yeah. Iceland. And as for the several other opinions expressed here: I live in an ex-council house in the middle of a council estate. The other day, the street was clogged with vans from the council, full of craftsmen replacing bathrooms and kitchens for the council tenants. It is I who pay for these things, and yet I cannot afford a new bathroom, and I am recreating my own kitchen with my own hands, yet it seems I pay for everyone else. Many of these tenants enjoy their booze, cigs and gigantic plasma TVs, and as a result of their lifestyles and indolence fill up our hospitals. I pay for that, too. The result is that in England today, the middle-class has been disenfranchised. Our voices are not heard, but we are expected to indulge the vices of everyone else. Mike Fowler 23 October 2008 2:32pm | Permalink I’m not the only one who falls for these things hook, line and sinker then? Tee hee. But, let the combat continue! I wasn’t having a go at you or your lifestyle, Henry. I merely wondered about your regional choice of complaint? Why would you imagine that you’re subsidising the NHS for people only in Scotland? Why not the Wirral, Tower Hamlets or even your much derided fellow Norfolk council estatees? Why don’t you think of your hard earned tax pennies as some sort of repayment for your extensive state education – including University? I assume you’re of the vintage where tuition was free, and they probably even gave you a meagre (tax free) subsistence grant as an undergrad. In other news, Scottish independence appears to be edging closer, despite (or perhaps because of) Westminster’s best intentions. There is a minority Nationalist government in the Scottish parliament for the first time. The current political process will judge whether people like that or not. Old Gogsie Broon is an economist and a Scot. He spent a short internship managing the UK’s finances (about 11 years I think), so he’s likely to have a decent inkling into Scottish finances and their benefit (financial and otherwise) to the UK as a whole. Harold Wilson suppressed information in the 70’s showing how vital oil revenues were to the UK economy, to avoid a Yes vote in the Scottish “devolution/independence” referendum back then. I wonder if this puts my perceived grievances in a better context? If you feel middle-class and disenfranchised, the UK political process allows you to get directly involved and try to do something about it. Start a “free range love/science” revolution! But anyway, this post was started to complain about the US political landscape, not the UK. Sorry, Noah! Successfully previewed and read through. Now, Mike, whatever you do, don’t actually press the submi Henry Gee 23 October 2008 2:41pm | Permalink If you feel middle-class and disenfranchised, the UK political process allows you to get directly involved and try to do something about it. Start a “free range love/science” revolution! Mrs Gee was raised on a council estate and was lucky to escape it at a time when there was still such a thing as upward mobility in the UK, a concept that the Labour Government has done its best to squash (successfully) as it’s the only way it can enslave keep its voter base (have you ever asked yourself, whenever we hear of a Labour politician having represented a deprived area for a number of years, why the area is still deprived?) My point is that there are a lot of people out there who remain deprived because of their own poor lifestyle choices, and the rest of us are given no choice but to indulge them. Therefore we get punished for adopting better lifestyles and seeking betterment for ourselves and our children. Why don’t you think of your hard earned tax pennies as some sort of repayment for your extensive state education – including University? I assume you’re of the vintage where tuition was free, and they probably even gave you a meagre (tax free) subsistence grant as an undergrad. Mike, in my day, education was seen as an investment whereby the state could increase its intellectual capital. The Tories, for shame, introduced student loans, which remain utterly wrong – but which the Labour government has done nothing to rein in, preferring instead to dilute higher education to the point of meaninglessness. Henry Gee 23 October 2008 2:42pm | Permalink … and another thing: Mrs Gee, by virtue of her own self-elevation, has now joined the Conservative party, being able to see both sides of the argument and finding that theirs is best. I might join her. Henry Gee 23 October 2008 2:43pm | Permalink So there. Henry Gee 23 October 2008 2:43pm | Permalink Boris Johnson for Galactic Emperor!!! Cath Ennis 23 October 2008 2:50pm | Permalink and another thing: Mrs Gee, by virtue of her own self-elevation, has now joined the Conservative party, being able to see both sides of the argument and finding that theirs is best. My Dad has a very similar story – born in a council estate, lost his father (a miner) to cancer when he was only 12, raised by a single mother who worked 3 jobs, went to grammar school as top of his class, first one from his village to go to university. Funnily enough, despite having a very comfortable (not luxurious – he was a teacher) lifestyle for the last 30 years, he’s a life long Labour voter but thinking of switching because they’re not left wing enough. So there. Mike Fowler 23 October 2008 2:53pm | Permalink BoJo would have to get a proper job if that ever happened? Kristi Vogel 23 October 2008 3:52pm | Permalink Nickle and Dimed is a must-read(!), also for any ‘foreigner’ who is seriously interested in ‘life’ (for lack of a better word) in the US @ Steffi: Subsistence, maybe? I lived on a low income throughout grad school, but I had the benefit of 22 years of excellent medical and dental care, education, and the safety net of well-educated middle class parents (a nutrition biochemist and a child development specialist, to be precise). I really liked that Ehrenreich stressed the importance of this type of advantage. I’m surrounded by people who bought more house than they can reasonably afford, who own nicer vehicles, who undertake expensive renovations, and who own plasma screen TVs. I bought a small house that I can readily afford to make payments on, my renovations consist of $60 worth of paint and plants donated by friends, I’m keeping a 2001 Honda carefully maintained to get it to (hopefully) 200K miles, and I have my grandmother’s 15-year-old TV. But I prefer to direct my ire (albeit ineffectually) at the individuals who take my federal taxes to provide a Free and Reduced Meals, Hunting Vacations, and Spa Treatments Program for bail-out corporation executives. Åsa Karlström 23 October 2008 3:55pm | Permalink @Henry The result is that in England today, the middle-class has been disenfranchised. Our voices are not heard, but we are expected to indulge the vices of everyone else. This would be, as far as I have seen it here in the States aswell. And the interesting thing (imho) is that the discussion is not about this middle class as much. It is about the taxes for the rich(est) and the hand outs for the poor(est). Then again, in Sweden the parties fight over the club called “middleclass with children” but since that would be the biggest economical group back home (count the rich and the poor being very few since most of us Swedes are in the gaussian middle and most with at least 30 uni credits…) it is not too strange. I find it interesting that the [American political] discussion in the last couple of weeks actually have moved into the Middleclass economics. Especially after the finacial crisis since the middleclass are the ones loosing thier houses now, not ness. the “low income” since they never really bought their houses. Åsa Karlström 23 October 2008 3:59pm | Permalink @Steffi I did a quick calculation one day after talking to my “sharing office space collegue” and if you have 2 kids, it might be so worth staying home since you need a well paid job to break even – especially factoring in the second car/lunches etc. That is of course one of the special things here in The South, the need for one car each since there is no public transportation. Still though, I have a bigger understanding why so many women stay at home with their children now. Not only because of the economical situation but add on the “maternity* leave” that is 5 weeks unpaid – really a choice here? Nothing in Europe is evne close as far as I know?! *would love to write paternity leave but then it is 3 weeks, unpaid. steffi suhr 23 October 2008 5:38pm | Permalink Åsa – if you have 2 kids, it might be so worth staying home since you need a well paid job to break even I was fortunate enough to do more than break even. If I hadn’t, I would have gone completely nuts. Staying home would never have been an option for me! The ‘family leave act’ allows for 3 months unpaid leave – really, it’s just a guarantee that you still have a job when you start working again. If you don’t, you might loose it. However… I am now back in Germany, and while daycare (in Colorado at least) was expensive, it also was normal to leave the children there – in good care – for the duration of a normal workday (meaning 40+ hours/wk in a well-paid job, of course). Back here in the small town of Lueneburg, Germany, where we are now, I was shocked that I actually raised eyebrows because I signed my son up for the ‘early’ and ‘late’ shift, the time outside of an 8 hour workday that it actually takes me to get to and from work! This is especially ironic since, for the time being, I will be the main ‘breadwinner’ for our family. It’s so very much still the exception here. So, at least for Germany, all is not well in Europe (when it comes to daycare). Anyway, back to the US: all is not lost. The two candidates for the presidency can at least be funny (check it out: McCain and Obama). steffi suhr 23 October 2008 5:40pm | Permalink @Kristi: you are so not typical of today’s American lifestyle by living within your means – you know that, right? Kristi Vogel 24 October 2008 12:49am | Permalink you are so not typical of today’s American lifestyle by living within your means I know, Steffi – in fact, I’ve failed miserably in my duty as an American, to max out my credit cards. Former Federal Reserve dipwad pinhead chairman Alan Greenspan admits that he was completely surprised by the credit tsunami elicited by lack regulation and bad loans: _In testimony to the House Government Oversight Committee, Mr Greenspan acknowledged that the crisis “has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined. It has morphed from one gripped by liquidity restraints to one in which fears of insolvency are now paramount.” “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief,” according to Mr Greenspan._ (from The Australian and the Wall Street Journal) Shocked! Shocked disbelief, even! OH NOES! I’ve suspected since high school that economics = arithmancy, and now I’m even more convinced that it’s a laughable combination of divination, pop psychology, and the Jerry Springer Show. I can understand that hard-working people want their incomes to benefit their families directly, and how they might resent people who benefit from national/federal assistance in the forms of health care, subsidized housing, food stamps, etc., and who then appear to squander those benefits irresponsibly and indolently. However, if I took that attitude to its extreme, from the perspective of a person who doesn’t have children, I would resent paying a substantial chunk of my taxes. If you want to keep your money to improve the circumstances of your family directly, then similarly, I might want to keep my money to improve my own circumstances directly. You want a new car; I want a new car. You want renovations; I want renovations. But I also want roads, police and fire protection, and decent public schools, and I don’t want anyone to go hungry or to have to sleep under a highway bridge or to go without basic health care. Cath Ennis 24 October 2008 12:55am | Permalink I read an article in New Scientist recently (possibly an opinion piece, I can’t remember) about the flawed assumptions of economics. For example that people are selfish, independent entities when it comes to their money. Guess what – they are not always selfish, and do not act independently of one another… There were more examples of major flaws in economic models. (Full disclaimer: I have no idea what I’m talking about). Kristi Vogel 24 October 2008 1:15am | Permalink Free Market’s/defunct Free Market’s defunct that used to ride a subprime loan no regulation easy credit housing bubblehedgefundmanagers Alan he was an economics man and what I want to know is how do you like your greenspan boy Mister Recession (With apologies to e.e. cummings) steffi suhr 24 October 2008 6:55am | Permalink Noah, you made it on the front page with this post. Any comments? Noah Gray 24 October 2008 3:30pm | Permalink I got lost about two topics back, when the battle raged babout whether Scotland was a welfare drag on the British economy. I just thought the flow chart was kind of funny. steffi suhr 24 October 2008 5:59pm | Permalink Are you saying while the rest of us is spewing out opinions like there’s nobody reading this you don’t have one?? Come on Noah!! (The chart is very funny. But now we want to see more.) Michael Nestor 24 October 2008 7:35pm | Permalink It’s arguments like these that remind me why I am so happy to be a Libertarian (you know, I actually believe in the Constitution and all that “founding fathers jazz”). The flow chart is funny, no matter what side you are on. If you can’t laugh at it-then well… Besides, these elites don’t “represent” you or your interests anyway. Bora Zivkovic 24 October 2008 10:30pm | Permalink RPM did the “science seminar version”http://scienceblogs.com/evolgen/2008/10/seminar_answer_flow_chart.php of this chart some weeks ago (when that Palin chart first appeared on the internets) Caryn Shechtman 26 October 2008 5:17pm | Permalink I am a poor, educated graduate student. If I’m not left, who will be? BTW, no Palin supporters exposed themselves yet. They would have to be very brave. Joel Harp 28 October 2008 8:36pm | Permalink Scientists who consider themselves Palin supporters may wish to consider the possible state of science funding under a Palin administration. This is especially true for anyone with the temerity to propose spending money on “fruit-fly research”. Here is what she has to say on the subject Noah Gray 28 October 2008 9:17pm | Permalink Thanks for the link, Joel. And I must say- THAT IS THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE THING I THINK I HAVE HEARD HER SAY!! And I was so naïvely thinking that all those things about seeing Russia from her house, and not being able to name another Supreme Court case besides R v. W, and how we are all being so silly as to be concerned about an “average hockey mom” spending $150,000 in campaign funds on designer clothes were bad and reflected her lack of intelligence. But this is just stone dumb. To mock research using Drosophila in the same breath as the one in which you were calling for more support of the IDEA program is beyond cluelessness. Perhaps if she wasn’t so worried about teaching creationism in school, she could learn a little more about science and what research in model organisms can teach us about mental disorders. Sarah, please lose next week. Noah Gray 28 October 2008 10:01pm | Permalink I just discovered that another blog is discussing this very topic raised by Joel. Joel Harp 28 October 2008 11:18pm | Permalink Noah, I very much agree with your posting on the Coffee Talk blog. In listening to her speech, I had originally assumed that she was taking exception to funding studies of elitist Parisian fruit-flies. The fact that she was referring to tephritids rather than Drosophila is beside the point in my estimation. The real point is the sneering disregard for basic science. I have been known to work on endangered mygalomorph spiders that only occur in moss mats in the endangered high elevation forests of the Appalachian mountains. It took some time to get used to the most commonly asked question, “what good are they?” I have yet to devise a suitable answer to that question. The idea that they may have something to tell us before they fade into the oblivion of global warming is unconvincing to the Palins of the world. Hildi Rowland 30 October 2008 4:59pm | Permalink That’s pretty amusing. Richard P. Grant 1 November 2008 8:01am | Permalink I wonder if anyone who is so creatively outraged has actually listened to or read the transcript of the speech? She’s talking about saving money in the US, and wondering why federal funds are earmarked for fruit fly control in Paris. As much as I disagree with Palin’s policies, this argument is not totally unreasonable. It’s just a few blockheads who thought she was trashing Drosophila specifically, or even science in general. She’s talking about trying to save American tax-payer dollars: why should she care about funding research into a pest that affects olive trees in France? James stern 1 November 2008 10:09pm | Permalink Its not just scientists, academia as a whole leans to the left. Its been said that the more educated you’re the more likely you’d vote democrat. Perhaps it explains why democrats want to make university more affordable! Noah Gray 1 November 2008 11:50pm | Permalink Richard, you must be joking. By your logic, then you should probably tell Joel that his work on the Appalachian spiders is stupid, as is probably 75% of the research conducted by the scientists here on Nature Network. After clicking through quite a few profiles on NN, research into defeating an olive crop pest looks downright practical compared to what governments from around the world are funding for our very own NN crew. The same can be said about 2/3 of the stuff I accept for publication into Nature, if the work is analyzed in isolation and taken at face value. Basic science is important. Full stop. Here is what I wrote over at Kristin Stephan’s blog: This is a dumb thing for Sarah Palin to have said. As Kristin points out, Ms. Palin failed to be specific. A statement mocking “fruit fly research” is completely irresponsible. There are thousands of people out there listening to her speeches and every time she says something more generally (and often misguided), like laughing at science involving fruit flies (regardless of species), she is being no less irresponsible than when the media pitches science to the layman and provides potentially misleading information. We have discussed the theme of the role media plays in disseminating science many times over in these blogs and forums and have noted how misguided information or a lack of specifics can be dangerous for a public not educated in scientific methods. Why is this speech any different? The audience for any political speech is not always the most scientifically savvy, and the last thing we need to teach people is that using fruit flies is superfluous. I think outrage is perfectly justified in this case given the lack of specificity, responsibility, tact, or foresight in Ms. Palin’s comments. There is no reason for Ms. Palin to teach people that basic science is something frivolous. Especially if she wants to make a point about saving money that is so trivial in comparison to other Republican spending sprees. ALL earmarks/pork/pet projects like “silly fruit fly research” account for $18 billion. One month in Iraq costs the US taxpayers $10 billion. I think I can tolerate a little fruit fly research. If the republicans want to save money, they should look elsewhere. Oh, and the fruit fly research would actually benefit the California olive crop, since the pest is a problem there. It is not research to solely study a problem in France. Let’s have a little perspective here. Richard P. Grant 1 November 2008 11:53pm | Permalink Yes, let’s have a little perspective. She is trying to save American tax-payer’s dollars. Why should she think federal money spent in France is a good idea? It’s nothing to do with basic science—those who claim it is are guilty of unashamed framing to make the point that she is against science. Noah Gray 2 November 2008 12:09am | Permalink What are you talking about?? The money spent in France is on research that benefits American farmers; i.e., basic research for the benefit of Americans. Why re-invent the wheel if a solid research program is already in place to study the exact problem that a research group wants to tackle?? Again, by your argument, no grant money should ever be used to send investigators to labs outside of the granting country because this would amount to actually funding foreign research. So no more collaborating with anyone outside of America. But that wasn’t the major point. I said she was irresponsible because she is a figure of presumed authority for those who know little about how science funding and basic science operate. Therefore, when she speaks ill of it, they take it to mean that all basic research is silly. This has everything to do with basic science. The general public doesn’t inherently understand that fruitflies are a powerful model system for a variety of research projects. And thanks to Ms. Palin, that ignorance will continue or perhaps could become more entrenched. And, for the record, I am unashamed of framing my argument in that fashion. Richard P. Grant 2 November 2008 12:18am | Permalink I don’t know if you noticed, Noah, but Palin isn’t a science communicator. She has no interest in promoting science (whether or not her policies are science-friendly is peripheral). To rag on her for failing to promote basic research in this context is a tad… ‘creatively outraged’, shall we say? Noah Gray 2 November 2008 12:22am | Permalink She is the f%$*ing vice-presidential candidate. You don’t get any free passes on anything! I reserve the right to be outraged when one of the candidates for my country’s leadership acts irresponsibly about anything, let alone something I feel strongly about like science and science funding. Stick with your other arguments, as this weak change of course is taking you nowhere… Richard P. Grant 2 November 2008 1:02am | Permalink What else is to say? If she’s a candidate she’s supposed to represent the people. The special interest groups are the ones supposed to be lobbying her; she has no mandate to argue for anything other than that which she thinks will get her elected. Nor, indeed, to educate anybody. If her supporters turn around and say ‘hang on, you’re out of line and we need to talk’, that would be fantastic. A bunch of angry scientists saying ‘what about Drosophila?’ is going to make most of her supporters (who, incidentally, are perhaps those you should be trying to ‘reach’) think ‘huh? Weren’t you listening?’ Look, I wouldn’t vote for her. Let’s get that straight. I disagree with most of the things she stands for and represents. However, I think, as a politician trying to persuade Republicans to stay on board, what she said was perfectly legitimate. Why should they fund foreign research? by your argument, no grant money should ever be used to send investigators to labs outside of the granting country because this would amount to actually funding foreign research. I’d ask you to consider carefully, Noah, what’s my argument and what’s me understanding someone else’s. Noah Gray 2 November 2008 1:48am | Permalink You’re right. There isn’t much else to say. Now you are basically saying that a politician will be a politician and there is nothing to be done about it. You know, I never even considered that she might be saying things that she thinks her audience wants to hear!! That makes it okay. I feel better now that I understand her argument. Kristi Vogel 2 November 2008 2:09am | Permalink If you think Palin is just an innocent, folksy, chirpy hockey mom politician, you might want read this account that a friend e-mailed to me, in which the candidate for VP is outraged about presumed violations of her First Amendment rights: In a conservative radio interview that aired in Washington, D.C. Friday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by “attacks” from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama. Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama’s associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate’s free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said. “If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.” Basically, she’s claiming that the First Amendment allows her to spread lies in the name of “political campaigns”. Noah Gray 2 November 2008 2:51am | Permalink I heard this, Kristi. Apparently in Alaska, the Freedom of Speech protects the government from the wrath of the media, rather than the other way around… Richard P. Grant 2 November 2008 5:28am | Permalink Perhaps the politicians are of a better caliber in the US and you expect more from them? steffi suhr 2 November 2008 7:43am | Permalink Richard, can you please explain the point you’re trying to make? I think you are throwing ‘recreational outrage’ in with valid criticism. The line can be thin, and considering how Palin brings people’s blood to boiling point probably gets crossed more than average. Considering this is a US vice presidential candidate, can we allow Noah and other US citizens on here a little outrage? Richard P. Grant 2 November 2008 8:11am | Permalink I think Palin is a large enough target without picking on something like this to make a ready-packaged point. I worry that people jumping on this particular bandwagon, and wildly missing the thrust of what, this time, she was actually saying, says more about them than it does about Palin or the Republicans. With the associated fall-out. The purpose would, I think, have been better served by saying ‘Actually, the US is a powerful nation and we owe it, as citizens of the world, to fund research elsewhere (especially if it can help us)’. It would have been far more intelligent to concentrate on why the earmarking she skewered is a good thing (if indeed, it is). I’m guessing that has been done, actually; it’s just hard to see with the mud flying. What we got was a lot of noise complaining about Drosophila (your average voter at this point is going ‘Huh?’) research being panned. Which it wasn’t, actually. Pack mentality is ugly, no matter what (political) color it happens to be. steffi suhr 2 November 2008 8:32am | Permalink Thanks for clarifying. I agree with this last point you make about ‘pack mentality’, but can also very much sympathize with everyone falling in on this one. I have direct experience with US research funding being cut beyond recognition (let’s not forget that this has already been happening for a few years) affecting my family. Blank statements like this one from Palin make me very nervous, too. Richard P. Grant 2 November 2008 10:02am | Permalink Interesting (but slightly old) link from Bob, which might be apposite here. Kristi Vogel 2 November 2008 2:21pm | Permalink I have direct experience with US research funding being cut beyond recognition (let’s not forget that this has already been happening for a few years) affecting my family. Blank statements like this one from Palin make me very nervous, too Thanks for pointing this out, Steffi; much of the damage has been done under the Bush administration, and there’s no reason to expect that it would get any better under a McCain-Palin administration. They propose to cut federal spending, and you can rest assured that they don’t intend to cut the egregiously bloated federal defense budget for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, yeah, worse for everything else. And even the “defense budget” doesn’t seem to include the welfare of soldiers and their families. The fruit fly flap is way down the list of my problems with Palin and McCain. Not even top ten. And after really unpleasant experiences with Presidents Reagan and Bush II, who were both considered to be excellent “folksy communicators”, I’m suspicious of similar “folksy communicators” like Palin. It’s disingenuous to accept that Palin doesn’t really mean to paint Obama as a terrorist and a communist. She’s fear-mongering, plain and simple. The US is very close, I think, to electing an intelligent, well-educated, insightful, and informed candidate to be president. If the Obama-Biden ticket wins, it will challenge (not erase, unfortunately) the cherished canard of many Europeans that all Americans are irretrievably ignorant, racist, uneducated, self-serving, and parochial. Noah Gray 2 November 2008 3:27pm | Permalink Being a scientific blog first and foremost, with politics as a fun sideshow, I took issue with and continue to be concerned about the way those in authority teach the ignorant about science. This concern remains regardless of all the passive-aggressive attacks that Richard takes against those who lack the “intelligence” not to jump on the “pack mentality creative outrage” bandwagon. Plain and simple, the Palin remarks were irresponsible and ill-advised. Just like Obama’s comments suggesting that the poor and uneducated cling to religion and guns. Remarks of either sort demonstrate a lack of respect and fail to consider the significant effects upon those who are perhaps not as learned and who may be easily influenced. And again, this is a presidential election. Nothing is small and insignificant, as it should be. Joel Harp 3 November 2008 2:58pm | Permalink Well, I seem to have missed a bit over the weekend. So it’s just spending on French bugs that she finds wrongheaded. We should assume that Americans would never need to know what bugs are doing in another country and France in particular is ludicrous. We should definitely shut down the USDA station in Montpellier. Unfortunately, zebra mussels, Asian tiger mosquitos, Balsam wooly adelgids, hemlock wooly adelgids, gypsy moths, fire ants, Asian long horned beetles, those damned starlings that I shoot at with my trusty air gun but will not go away, none of them respect borders. As with some many other things in nature that we think began with us, globalization is nothing new. I am not speaking as an elitist liberal (not there is anything wrong with elitist liberals). Just as a bit of background, I am currently rebuilding a 1972 Chevelle muscle car and will give up my guns when you pry them out of my cold, dead fingers. My alma mater is West Texas A&M, not that la-di-dah Texas A&M but WEST Texas A&M. I grew up in that part of the world where Sam Maverick is considered a home boy. When hippies ruled college campuses, I was a card carrying member of the John Birch Society. My neck is actually reddish. When I say that I believe that a sneering reference to fruit fly research betrays an anti-intellectual bias, its because I am very familiar with it. And, it does affect science policy and basic science funding which is (in my humble red-neck liberal opinion) one of the most important investments in the future any politician can make. And, if scientists don’t defend science, who will? × Comments are closed.