Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cell Size and Scale

The University of Utah genetics department has a fascinating illustration of the relative sizes of biological structures. To view it go here and move the slide at the bottom of the picture to the right. Notice how the size grid in the upper left corner changes as you zoom in on these tiny structures. Very cool.

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the tip.


Bad Advice

Our local paper ran a column on Sunday by Philadelphia radio talk show host Mike Smerconish that produced a few smiles at the breakfast table.

Smerconish, a Republican, I think, is of the opinion that the GOP needs to move toward the political center because polls show that only something like 20% of voters self-identify as Republicans. The party is losing membership, we're told, so the solution lies in becoming more like Democrats. The problem with Smerconish's analysis is that his cure for what ails the party is exactly what is producing the ailment. The majority of people in this country self-identify as conservatives regardless of which party they associate with, which suggests to me that, contrary to Smerconish's claim that the residuum left over from the recent exodus are not conservatives but rather people who don't much care. Many of the defectors from the GOP are conservatives who've left in disgust with a party that insists on playing the Washington Generals to the Democrats' Harlem Globetrotters.

A good recent example of this was the selection by the New York Republican poobahs of Dede Scozzafava to run in the New York 23rd congressional district. Ms Scozzafava is a Nancy Pelosi Democrat cross-dressing as a Republican, proof of which came when she dropped out of the race and promptly endorsed the liberal Democrat candidate. Conservative Republicans are completely turned off by the sort of political pragmatism that led the GOP to put Scozzafava up for election in the first place.

Perhaps Smerconish and those who share his view don't think that principles should matter in politics. Perhaps they think that being in the winning party is the only thing that's important. Most conservatives are not so concerned about Republican party success, however. In fact, many conservatives really don't much care for the party that has betrayed its principles repeatedly since George Bush senior promised he wouldn't raise taxes and then promptly did. They don't much care for a party whose leadership betrayed their principles on earmarks, as Tom DeLay did in the 90s, or which betrayed their principles with massive entitlement and bailout programs as George Bush the younger did during his tenure.

Conservatives' relationship with the GOP is strictly a marriage of convenience. They vote Republican because that's where candidates are most likely to be found who share their values of personal freedom and small government, but if the party is going to nominate people who when elected will govern no differently than the current crop of Democrats who seem determined to tax and spend us into abject bankruptcy, why should anyone who opposes this remain in the Republican party?

Smerconish insists that Republicans have to end their infatuation with the right and, astonishingly enough, he names Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitch Romney as the sort of extremist ideologues the GOP should eschew. Now I ask any fair-minded Republican to explain to me what it is about these three that makes them ideologically distasteful, or puts them outside of the party mainstream. You may not like their personalities, you may not like their religious commitments, but what, exactly, is it about their ideology that Smerconish finds too extreme? He doesn't say. One wonders who Smerconish would hold aloft as an exemplar of Republicanism. Olympia Snowe? Arlen Specter?

It's always amusing to me that in a time when we're being governed by the most radical Democratic party in history - a cohort of radical progressives which controls both Houses of Congress, the White house, much of the judiciary, almost all of the entertainment industry, the educational establishment, and much of the traditional media - we're informed that it's the GOP that's too extreme. We're admonished to avoid the likes of terrifying fringies like Palin, Huckabee and Romney. Meanwhile, the extreme Left is pulling us so far to their end of the spectrum that we teeter on the brink of socialism, and Smerconish is abetting this calamity by urging Republicans to abandon their principles and jump on board the Democrats' train. Why aren't we reading hand-wringing exhortations calling upon the Democrats to at least toss a glance in the direction of the American mainstream as they undo 200 years of prosperity and 100 years of world leadership?

I'm sure Democrats are resting a little easier today knowing that the GOP is getting advice from people like Mr. Smerconish.