Cool science fact of the day

David and I have been watching a really cool National Geographic Channel documentary called “The Human Family Tree” about the evolution of modern humans and the genetic relationships between various groups.  Really interesting stuff.

My favorite fact, which I have heard before: based on genetic analyses, scientists think that under severe environmental strain, about 70,000 years ago, the entire human population sank as low as 2000 individuals.  Wow!

More here, from BBC.

Also, I think it would be so cool to have David do the genographic test kit.  Hopefully Kim is for it!

What Mississippi Republicans think

When PPP’s Tom Jensen was in my class last week, he mentioned this poll about the views of Mississippi Republicans.  Great stuff.  It’s been hard to hold off until they published their results.  But now they have:

We asked voters on this poll whether they think interracial marriage should be legal or illegal- 46% of Mississippi Republicans said it should be illegal to just 40% who think it should be legal. For the most part there aren’t any huge divides in how voters view the candidates or who they support for the nomination based on their attitudes about interracial marriage but there are a few exceptions.

Palin’s net favorability with folks who think interracial marriage should be illegal (+55 at 74/19) is 17 points higher than it is with folks who think interracial marriage should be legal (+38 at 64/26.) Meanwhile Romney’s favorability numbers see the opposite trend. He’s at +23 (53/30) with voters who think interracial marriage should be legal but 19 points worse at +4 (44/40) with those who think it should be illegal. Tells you something about the kinds of folks who like each of those candidates.

Gotta love that they asked this.  As an admittedly partisan firm, Jensen admits that he quite enjoys polls– though fairly conducted– that make Republicans look bad.  And do they look any worse than those in Mississippi?

We’re not  broke

I’m sooo tired of my conservative students insisting that “we’re broke.”  I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, it has become a basic GOP talking point, even if it bears no relation to the meaning of the word “broke.”  EJ Dionne had a really nice column on this last month.

You can practically break a search engine if you start looking around the Internet for those words. They’re used repeatedly with reference to our local, state and federal governments, almost always to make a case for slashing programs — and, lately, to go after public-employee unions. The phrase is designed to create a sense of crisis that justifies rapid and radical actions before citizens have a chance to debate the consequences.

Just one problem: We’re not broke. Yes, nearly all levels of government face fiscal problems because of the economic downturn. But there is no crisis. There are many different paths open to fixing public budgets. And we will come up with wiser and more sustainable solutions if we approach fiscal problems calmly, realizing that we’re still a very rich country and that the wealthiest among us are doing exceptionally well.

Also, a really nice piece by Fresh Air’s resident linguist, Jeff Nunberg, on the real meaning of we’re broke.

Do we have long-term structural budget problems we need to fix?  Oh yeah.  Of course, the closest we’ve come to addressing them is the Affordable Care Act.  Republican posturing over discretionary spending will do nothing do address our long-term problems.


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