Open thread 4-29-05

Ooops. Almost forgot to give you guys your weekly sandbox. Hey… let’s see if we can try to keep some of the off-topic stuff in here where everything is on-topic.


  1. 1

    GS spews:

    OK Goldy, not sure what the off topic bit was, but I finished brewing a HefeWeisen (3rd batch) all grain beer last night, which is a lot of fun and well worth the effort! Knowing you all are beer drinkers I encourage you to give it a whirl sometime, Larry’s Brewing supplies in Kent has all one would need, and there are several others (1 in Seattle, 1 in Bellevue). Just remember to Drink conservatively!

  2. 2

    Chuck spews:

    We republicans dont brew beer we still shine… better effect for less labor, once you are set up…. Besides that it mixes better with diet rite….

  3. 3

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Huenneken’s deposition is a real squeal.
    The LEFTISTS would like to think this election contest totally revolves around felons voting illegally….and that they can somehow offset what happened in KingCo (minimize it) as something ordinary.
    I can assure you the Dems didn’t look to hard for felons in other Pro-Gregoire County’s.
    It’s an Election CONTEST! It’s a CONTEST!
    Know what the means?
    Play to win…the Judge defines the rules.

  4. 4

    Diggindude spews:

    the judge, that rossi shopped for, makes the rules!
    OOPS, that judge dropped out, now you’re stuck with bridges.

  5. 5

    jpgee spews:

    Funny how are extremist righties want to fight tooth and nail for Judge Owens. Bush thinks she is the greatest, and even the AG, Gonzalez thinks…oh oh….wait a minute….he stated previously the following concerning the un/Honorable Justice Owens

    “”[T]o construe the Parental Notification Act so narrowly as to eliminate bypasses, or to create hurdles that simply are not to be found in the words of the statute, would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism. As a judge, I hold the rights of parents to protect and guide the education, safety, health, and development of their children as one of the most important rights in our society.”

    Funny, our nation’s AG thinks she is an ‘activist judge’ but his own flock of sheep (trolls) thinks she is going to be their savior…

    Or, to quote DHinMI “Or, the shorter version–she’s to conservative for the man who advocates torture.

  6. 6

    jpgee spews:

    GWB in his ‘moment’ decides that everyone that earns less than $25,000 per year should receive their full entitlement from the Social Security System. The other 75% of the nation should deal with a discounted payment. He thinks it is not ‘proper’ to raise the limit on earnings that go into SS. On the other hand he is all to ‘happy’ to give another huge sum of tax relief to the richest individuals and corporations and continue burying our future generations under an enormous debt that we will probably, as a nation, never recover from. Go Get’m GWB (Great White Bankrupter)

  7. 7

    chardonnay spews:

    When will they release the names of the election workers who took home ballots? The same ballots they themself printed!

    Do they have a list of names of the moveon people that went door to door with blank ballots?

    Is Kerry in town yet? He could care less about crissy, he just wants his money back.

  8. 8

    zip spews:


    Grow up and look at the benefit payment schedule with and without Bush’s proposal. His proposal is as “Progressive” as can be and if you weren’t just looking for another excuse to whine about Bush you would realize it makes sense. Don’t be such an idiot.

  9. 9

    Alan spews:

    Mr. Cynical @ 3

    Uh … no. It’s the REPUBLICANS who have the fetish, or fixation, or hangup, or whatever you wanna call it, about felon votes.

    zip @ 8

    Bush is desperate! His personal accounts went over like a lead balloon on the hustings (while in the hall GOP thugs posing as Secret Service agents were arresting attendees for “No War For Oil” bumper stickers on their cars) so now he wants to be the Great Society President who helps the poor.

    OK, zip, let’s “grow up and look at the benefit payment schedule.” Bush’s statistics are bogus. Because this benefit payment schedule is based on bogus statistics, it’s bogus too. As Paul Krugman has pointed out, if the economy did well enough for Bush’s personal accounts to work, there would be NO SOCIAL SECURITY PROBLEM! Bush seems to swing between economic estimates that are either extremely optimistic or extremely pessimistic, kind of like flavor-of-the-day. The one thing we can be sure of is that whatever numbers Bush is using today are not honest! So why should anyone believe his payment schedule?

  10. 10

    zip spews:


    Because today’s payment schedule (which you believe, right?) will be modified. Whats so difficult here?

  11. 11

    Alan spews:

    What should we call Bush’s revised Social Security plan? Ummmm … SOCIALIST??? It, uh, transfers money from the rich and middle class to the poor, yes? Isn’t that SOCIALISM??? I though rightys were AGAINST socialism??? Now that Gee-Dub has turned into a SOCIALIST are any of you rightys wishing you hadn’t voted for him? Good God, what’s next, is the guy gonna encourage energy conservation??? Next thing you know he’ll change parties and call himself a DEMOCRAT!

    Hey — that’s it — EUREKA!!! — I’ve uncovered the wily Karl Rove’s secret plan … these guys ran as right-wing Republicans but were DEMOCRATS PUSHING A SOCIALIST AGENDA all along!!!!!

  12. 13

    Alan spews:

    Since this is an open thread, I would be interested in reading others’ comments on Bush’s socialist agenda.

  13. 14

    RDC spews:

    zip @ 10

    Do you know of a published detailed description of Bush’s latest proposal? I skipped through the NYT this am and nothing jumped out at me. When I looked at the details of his private accounts proposal, I believed the risk was not worth the reward. Perhaps his new offering makes more sense, but first I have to find out what it is.

  14. 15

    Alan spews:

    Here’s an update on the lawsuit against Snohomish County’s voting machines.


    “[The] lawsuit … argues that it’s unconstitutional to outsource voting to a company that keeps the process secret ….
    In the contract between Sequoia and Snohomish County … the county auditor even agreed to defend California-based Sequoia from any subpoenas seeking information that, with any other voting method, are a matter of public record under the state Constitution, the Open Meetings Act, and the Public Disclosure Act. … [The plaintiffs] are asking the court to void Sequoia’s contract and make the company give back Snohomish County’s $5 million.

    “’A contract between two parties can’t take away the rights of a third party, and that’s what’s happened in this case’ … says Ellen Theisen, executive director of Port Ludlow-based Voters Unite, a one-year-old voter advocacy organization. ‘It’s taken away rights of citizens to an observable election.’” … Theisen says: Companies that provide electronic voting equipment must comply with the same laws as counties do in conducting an election.”

  15. 16

    zip spews:


    The Seattle Times published a bar chart in todays paper. The private accounts are not addressed by the chart, just the future SS benefits under the “means tested” proposal. Bush had a choice between raising payroll taxes or reducing the projected rise in benefits. I believe that by reining in the benefits rise with this progressive schedule he hit a home run.

  16. 17

    Alan spews:

    zip @ 14

    Bush “hit a home run” by trying to turn Social Security into a welfare program?

    Do you think means-testing hasn’t been considered before? Where were you in 1986 when Congress enacted a Social Security restructuring? Means-testing of Social Security benefits has been debated for years and years, and never got anywhere in Congress because the public adamantly opposes it.

    Social Security is perceived as fair by many people because its benefits (1) are earned and (2) are not means-tested. Much of the program’s popular support rests on the fact that what you get back is related to what you paid in, and you get back what you pay in.

    We already have a means-tested federal welfare program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Public support for SSI is weaker than for Social Security precisely because SSI is welfare — it takes money from the more fortunate to give to the less fortunate. Bush knows this.

    Doesn’t it seem logical in his latest Social Security scheme, Bush is just looking for another way to undercut public support for Social Security, with the intention of eventually destroying it?

    Bush’s aim has always been consistent, and he has always been willing to be flexible about the means; he wants to get rid of Social Security. If he can’t accomplish it by diverting Social Security taxes into personal accounts, then maybe he can do it by turning Social Security into an unpopular welfare program that leaves most people with less benefits than they paid in. Doesn’t this seem logical — and the likely motive behind this new proposal?

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  17. 18

    Sirkulat spews:

    “There’s the rich and there’s the workers” – Pres GWBush in Thursday’s press conference. That’s how DUHbya sees the people: “the rich” and “the workers”. The “rich” get to invest in the stock market and he wants “the workers” to invest there too. Wow! Brilliant! Dazzling logic! Epic theme! Shall we bow down, wave our arms and cry, “We’re no worthy! We’re not worthy!”

    When the Prez left, all in a huff, he thanked everyone for their answers. Huh? One thing you need to have ready when the Prez speaks is enough beer to get you through whatever it is he’s saying.

  18. 19

    chardonnay spews:

    It looks like there is a battle brewing with the Democrats between Hillary and John Kerry. The talk is that Kerry is not just testing the waters, he’s running and his family wants him to run again. REALLY? Even with that hag of a wife? raised buttloads of cash for “friendly” Democrats (like Crissy?). The Kerry clan is also pushing the Clinton electability issue. donors and unions love Bill Clinton but they’re telling everyone they’re terrified that she’d get stomped.
    Hillary people are saying “Kerry should crawl under a rock and go away, he had his chance. It’s over.”
    battered hubby kerry vs feminazi hillary, that’s gonna be one good debate. The networks may even be selling airtime for that right now.

  19. 20

    Alan spews:

    chards @ 19

    Neither Kerry nor Hillary will be the Democratic nominee. Someone else will emerge. Probably a governor.

  20. 21

    Alan spews:

    Evolution is the heart of biological science. Genetics is not possible without it. If the Christian Taliban get their way, future generations of public school students will grow up with no knowledge of evolution, and the U.S. will fall hopelessly behind the rest of the industrialized world in science and medicine.

  21. 22

    jpgee spews:

    Alan @ 21 you could also call it the ‘civilized’ world, as under the leadership of the current administration we are heading back to the culture of ‘values’ of the 18th century

  22. 23

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Leave it to you to prefer the “civilized values” that includes blantant disrespect for innocent, unborn children.

  23. 24

    zapporo spews:

    Alan, I wholeheartedly agree that we need to do more in Math, Science, and the language arts. Our students need to be competitive, if not world leaders, in order to secure our future.

    I respectfully disagree with part of your statement at 21. My experience with Christians is that most are not opposed to evolution per se. In fact it’s probably not much of an issue for most Christians. If we look back at Copernicus’ example, I think that it behooves us to have an open mind regarding the world in which we live.

    This is an issue fraught with emotional terms and historical baggage and it’s really tough to get people to dig deeper. Some examples:

    Is Lamarckian inheritance a valid concept? I believe that current research indicates that it is not.


    Does the fossil record show detailed hominid transitions over more than two million years? No, it is quite sparse prior to that and that’s why Lucy was such a spectacular find. Yet from adaptation alone, it would likely have taken several million years longer (e.g., 10-15 million years) evolve from Apes to Humans. I’m not arguing that this didn’t happen, just that the fossil evidence that we have does not seem to support this transition. From the following article:

    “…there is little consensus on what our family tree is.”

  24. 25

    drivel spews:

    Mr C @ 23 and leave it to you to worship this countries current administration that has “blantant disrespect for innocent, unborn children” in Iraq or any other country that suits its ‘divine’ idealogy.

  25. 26

    inquiring minds want to know spews:

    The “G.reat W.hite B.unny and his administration are caught with their pants down again, literally.

    Seems they think one way to cover their constitutional right to ‘torture’ prisoners is to send them to various countries that have a worse record than the USA does in ‘prisoner’ treatment. Countries that the G.W.Bunny criticizes wholeheartedly one day, and then sneaks prisoners to their prisons the next. Read more at :

    Also, like his administration, his family got caught with their pants down also….. ‘see’ more (x rated) at:

  26. 30

    Alan spews:

    zap @ 24

    I wasn’t referring to Christians, I referred to “the Christian Taliban,” who aren’t even Christians.

  27. 32

    dj spews:

    Zapporo @ 24

    Indeed, Lamarckian inheritance does not work for biological evolution. Lamarck, however, was a great scientist who popularizing the idea of biological evolution, even if his mechanism for evolution was incorrect. He presented a testable hypothesis, and it was falsified. (I believe Lamarck is the scientist who coined the word “biology”).

    ”Does the fossil record show detailed hominid transitions over more than two million years?”

    There are plenty of fossils that date to about 2 million years ago (MYA). The partial gap before 2 MYA exists because of what was going on geologically that affected preservation of fossil specimens and our ability to easily find them. Even so there have been a number of relatively recent finds in the range 6 to 2 MYA including (Orrorin tugenensis, a bipedal hominid at 6 MYA. Ardipithicus ramidus is dated to around 4.5 MYA, Australopithecus anamensis at about 4 MYA, Kenyanthropus platyops dates to between 3.5 and 3.2 MYA, Australopithecus afarensis dating to 3.2 MYA. A major finding in this age range seems to occur abut every year.

    Yet from adaptation alone, it would likely have taken several million years longer (e.g., 10-15 million years) evolve from Apes to Humans.

    Hogwash. There is no “adaptation clock.” The common ancestor of humans, chimps, and gorillas dates to, roughly, 6 to 8 million years ago. This has been accepted by nearly all physical anthropologists for at least 15 years. This is based largely on genetic evidence rather than fossil evidence, but the evidence is exceptionally strong. Anthropologists still debate whether humans and gorillas are more closely related or whether humans and chimps are more closely related. It looks like the three diverged from a common ancestor at nearly the same time, but humans and chimps may be slightly more closely related.

    “…there is little consensus on what our family tree is.”

    This quote is misleading. Anthropologists quibble like hell about how many species are represented in the human lineage, and the exact branching sequence. No physical anthropologists have concerns about the accuracy of the big picture, including the relationship among the great apes (including humans, who really are great apes), or the big picture of primate evolution over the last 65 million years. The lack of consensus is about specific details, not the big picture.

  28. 33

    Alan spews:

    dj @ 32

    I’m surprised you didn’t call Zap on his statement, “evolve from Apes to Humans” — a common misrepresentation of what science says by evolution-deniers. Science doesn’t claim that humans evolved or descended from the creatures we call “apes.” You correctly referred to a “common ancestor” from which evolved the separate branches of the primate family tree that lead to humans and modern apes.

  29. 34

    Alan spews:

    The existence of human fossils over 1 million years old is extremely awkward for fundamentalists who read the Bible literally and believe the events of Genesis occurred a few thousand years ago. Usually they just try to brush off the dating of these fossils as inaccurate (with no science to back them up) — or they claim the fossils are frauds. These folks can only be described as anti-science, and unfortunately, our country is full of them and they make up a substantial part of the electorate.

  30. 35

    dj spews:

    Alan @ 33

    Thanks for bringing that up. I use “common ancestor” because people think of modern apes when the term “ape” is used in this way. Some anthropologists only consider apes to be modern creatures including the “great apes (gorillas, bonobos, chimps and humans), and the lesser apes (orangutans, siamangs, gibbons). But, many physical anthropologists use “ape” to refer to anything in the superfamily Hominoidea whether extinct or not. So, by this usage, the earliest known ape is a, now extinct, species of Proconsul that dates to about 22 MYA. The disagreement is purely semantic, though. The term hominoid can be used, with no arguments from anyone, instead of the term “ape” to refer to any living or extinct member of the Hominoidea.

  31. 36

    zapporo spews:

    Alan and DJ – Excellent posts.

    Hogwash. There is no “adaptation clock.” Adaptation can be estimated by comparison to other well-fossilized transitions and also by comparison to similar genetic progressions. Consider the large number of diffences betwen man and apes:

    This quote is misleading.I disagree. Your response is exactly what I intended by including that quote. Implicit in that quote is the acknowledgement of a general transition. However the details remain to be set. A few hundred fossils do not comprise a detailed record. How many of those fossils are sufficiently complete to show the transition from a brachiating anscestor to one that walks upright? To say that the record is complete is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.

    Thank you Alan for correcting my mis-statement. Common ansestor is entirely more appropriate.

    “Assertions that we are descended either from a large, vegetarian, apelike ancestor (Australopithecus robustus) or from a smaller, carnivorous one (Australopithecus africanus) and that we owe our present natures to the eating habits of these early “ancestors” are totally without merit. We have not the faintest idea of which of these species-if either-is in the direct line of human descent. …. A major problem in reconstructing human evolution is that we have no close living relatives. The chimpanzee and the gorilla were connected to us by a common ancestor at least 7 million years ago, so that more than 14 million years of independent evolution must be traversed in tracing up from these apes to that common ancestor and then back down to us.” (Lewontin, Richard C. [Professor of Zoology and Biology, Harvard University], “Human Diversity,” Scientific American Library: New York NY, 1995, p.164)

  32. 37

    RDC spews:

    zip @ 16

    Without referring to the merits or lack thereof to the SS proposal, I think Bush ground out to first, and may have hit into a double play. His problem in selling this is that it is unmistakenly a benefits cut that will affect most Americans. Opposition will center on this, and it (opposition) will likely be an easy sell.

    I did some research. The idea of eliminating the wage index and replacing it with the CPI-W index when calculating initial benefits has been around for awhile. I believe its most recent (before now) revival was in the 2001 Presdential Commission report. This change would make a huge difference in benefits. I did calculations for the 10 year period 1993-2003. The CPI-W rose 26.9% in this period and the CPI-U rose 27.6% (W is used to calculate COLAs for SS; U is used to measure general COL and is used in some labor contracts). During the same period, the wage index rose about 47.5%. The wage index increased faster because increased productivity allowed wages to rise faster than inflation. Using the wage index in calculating initial benefits means that retiree benefits are really pegged to general standard of living rather than to inflation. The idea behind using the wage index rather than the inflation index when initial benefits are calculated is to allow the standard of living of retirees relative to the standard of living of those working to track, the difference measured only by the absolute amount of money each gets. If the inflation index were used instead of the wage index, retirees would not participate in the rise in standard of living brought about by productivity increases. They would, in effect, be stuck in time. Their standard of living, not in absolute terms, but relative to the standard of living of those working, would steadily decline beyond even the difference brought about by annual income difference of each group.

    It is a valid point for discussion, but, as the above indicates, it is not simple. Changing the way initial benefits are set by using an inflation index rather than a wage index for everyone would probably solve SS long term funding problems. But it would be devastating to those who retire from work with low wages. The proposal Bush has at least recognizes this fact.

    I think you make a mistake by calling the proposal progressive. It is progressive only in a negative way; i.e., the better off receive greater cuts in benefits than the less well-off. Forgetting for a moment everything else except money, reducing the benefits of people who are near the top of wage earners (for SS purposes, the “top” is somewhere a bit in excess of $90K at the present time) may not raise a lot of concern, but Bush’s proposal would cut benefits for those far below this level. I think this is the idea’s Achilles heel.

    I agree with Alan elsewhere that if enacted the proposal would likely over time erode support for SS, which I agree with him is what the Rs are trying to achieve (Rs=those currently running the Party). If Bush wishes to convert SS from a social insurance plan to a safety net for the less well off, perhaps he should consider eliminating all SS benefits for those whose income subject to the Medicare tax (all earned income) exceed some specified amount, perhaps done on a sliding scale, starting at, say, $100,000 pa.

    But, the only way to bring solvency to the system, apart from using general revenues, is to either raise taxes or cut benefits. Bush has chosen to cut benefits, as is his perogative. Before I would consider giving this proposal any support, I would want to know what other cuts would achieve in reaching solvency. For example, raising the retirement age is a cut, but I think a more palatable one than monkeying with the index formulas. Perhaps we should return to the days when there was no option for benefits beginning at age 62 (although this would cause many business retirement plans great grief). Some have suggested that the CPI overstates the true increase in cost of living…I don’t know, but it is something to look at. In other words, I think the President has either chosen the wrong option, or has done a very poor job of explaining why he has rejected other options, including a tax increase (ie, raising the ceiling on wages taxed).

    Another potential problem with his proposal is that it assumes that the good times will continue; that the wage index will always rise faster than the inflation index. Perhaps it will. But if it doesn’t, his plan could have exactly the opposite effect than the one intended. Presumably new legislation would remedy this were it to occur.

    SS is as it currently operates a very progressive way to redistribute income in what has become a very widely accepted way. Perhaps if I trusted those now in power more, I could share your enthusiasm for the President’s efforts. But his history in office tells me to look for Z if he’s talking about A.

  33. 38

    dj spews:

    zapporo @ 36

    “Adaptation can be estimated by comparison to other well-fossilized transitions and also by comparison to similar genetic progressions.”

    Not really. Evolution is changes to the genome. There is no 1:1 mapping from a change in the genome to a change in morphological trait. Most changes in the genome have no effect whatsoever. But sometimes a change in a single DNA base can result in a very large morphological change—for instance some process might be disrupted early in development, leading to a cascade of changes throughout the rest of development. So, genetic changes that become fixed in a population can have large or small morphological effects. There are many lineages of organisms where we find a very high rate of morphological change, and others where 100 million years go by without much evidence of morphological change (in the skeleton, anyway). By contrast, changes in DNA (particularly parts of DNA that serve no function) are relatively clock-like.

    You statement that “…from adaptation alone, it would likely have taken several million years longer (e.g., 10-15 million years) evolve from Apes to Humans” is simply is not supported by any biological theory or any empirical evidence (fossil or genetic). The “Noah’s Ark” link you provide contains the typical nonsense given by people who interpret the Old Testament literally. Their discussion of genetic evidence is badly misinformed. The laundry list of differences is misleading—they left out the much greater list of similarities. You can generate an “equally compelling” list for almost any two species with a common ancestor at 5-8 MYA.

    ”A few hundred fossils do not comprise a detailed record.”

    Of course, neither do a few thousand fossils. This argument just gets recalibrated every time new specimens are found. Indeed, nobody is happy with some of the weaknesses in the fossil record, but that does not mean the big picture is wrong. As we find more fossils, we refine the picture of hominoid evolution, ask even more detailed questions, and want more fossils to try to answer the questions.

    ”How many of those fossils are sufficiently complete to show the transition from a brachiating anscestor to one that walks upright?

    The record is not sufficient to answer all of our questions, but once it is, we will have bigger and better questions. BTW: a very hot topic right now in anthropology is whether the common ancestor of the great apes was or was not a knuckle-walker—that is, did knuckle-walking arise as a derived trait independently in gorillas and chimps, or did the hominid lineage (leading to humans) lose a primitive knuckle-walking trait during the transition to bipediality. The question is unresolved, but we don’t say “its all bunk” because we came up with an interesting question that we cannot yet answer.

    ”To say that the record is complete is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.”

    Right, but nobody claims the record is complete—or that we understand all the details.

    The quote from Lewontin is not expressing his doubts, in any way, that humans are a full-blooded, card-carrying member of the Hominoidea. He is discussing one of the unresolved debates; in this case whether, and which, species of Australopithecus is in the hominid lineage. A small number of anthropologists think that all Australopithicines are a side-branch of bipedal apes that left no descendents, and there has been some compelling fossil evidence found in recent years to support this idea (i.e. there is common bipedial anscestor of Homo that predates Australopithecus). It will probably take another decade of collect specimens and testing hypotheses before we accept or reject that idea.

  34. 39

    Alan spews:

    RDC @ 37

    The problem with raising the retirement age again is that many people over 65 lack the stamina to work full time and/or can’t do the physical work many jobs require. Some 70-year-olds can stand at a cash register for 8 hours or lift boxes and restock shelves, but many can’t. Actuarially, you hit diminishing returns because the higher you raise the retirement age, the more people below that age will qualify for disability benefits. The early retirement option is a godsend for workers whose health and strength are gone by age 62, or who simply can’t get hired anymore because their age puts them at a competitive disadvantage with younger workers.

    I think Bush made a big mistake by proposing means-testing. It won’t fly politically, and it’s a repetition of his approach to the Iraq war, where he kept floating different rationales for his policy in a transparent bid to find one the public would buy. It makes him look insincere, and raises suspicions of ulterior motives. This will only serve to further erode his already tattered credibility, and possibly set up his party for a massacre in the mid-term elections.

    Of course, if he wants to do the latter, that’s fine with me!

  35. 40

    Alan spews:

    zap @ 38

    I think everyone will agree the fossil record is incomplete. But it is not nonexistent. If Creationists are right, there shouldn’t be a fossil record. So how do they explain away the fossils we have?

    You need only one million-year-old human fossil to shoot down the argument that we were created a few thousand years ago, but we have dozens of such fossils.

    And despite gaps, the fossil record clearly demonstrates that modern man’s physical characteristics developed gradually, as opposed to the Creationist belief that our species was created in an instant.

    Theories like adaptation, selection, and mutation offer explanations of why species (including ours) developed the way they did, instead of some other way. These mechanisms can be demonstrated in laboratory experiments and field studies; we know they work.

  36. 41

    Alan spews:

    Since this is an open thread, I’d like to talk about salmon, which is somewhat related to the discussion of evolution. According to what I’ve read, scientists believe salmon have inhabited the Pacific Northwest for about 40 million years. Our region’s modern landscape has existed about 16,000 years, following the retreat of the last ice sheet.

    The salmon is a hardy fish capable of rapidly colonizing suitable habitat. This happens because, while most salmon swim up their birth stream to reproduce and die, a small percentage stray. If these strays find habitat capable of supporting a salmon population, eventually enough will reproduce to colonize the habitat. This behaviorial quirk was the key to the salmon’s ability to survive and occupy a dynamic landscape that constantly changed over the millenia. For example, it enabled salmon to recolonize streams wipe out by volcanic eruptions, and to colonize new rivers created by melting ice, landmass uplifts, and so on. And because a portion of the salmon were always at sea, the species had a “reserve population” in the event of catastrophic events on the landmass that hosting their spawning streams.

    Until European settlers arrived, this region’s landmass was in a primeval state. Huge ancient trees grew along the riverbanks, and when they died, they fell into the water and dammed the rivers. This created vast lowland wetlands that were ideal for salmon reproduction. This inundated floodplains produced billions of salmon smolts every year, and the upriver spawning runs in what is now Washington and Oregon probably exceeded 100 million adult fish.

    The first thing the settlers did was clear the logjams out of the rivers to improve navigation and drain the lowland wetlands to use the land for farms. In fairly short order, the big trees were logged, with those closest to the stream banks being cut first, as they were the easiest to access by floating them downriver. The net result of this was that by the end of the 19th century, 98% of the salmon’s primeval reproductive habitat had been destroyed.

    Until the Civil War, the commercial harvest was limited to what local consumers could use. The invention of canning made it possible to preserve fish long enough to ship the product to distant markets, which vastly expanded the size of the market for fish products. Consequently, the last half of the 19th century saw a huge upsurge in commercial fishing, and a plunge in salmon population. Contrary to popular belief, most of the damage to the salmon runs occurred before the dams were built, as a result of a combination of habitat destruction and overfishing.

    The fact that wild salmon still exist, albeit in greatly reduced numbers, is proof of this fish’s adaptability. This 40-million-year-old species survived several ice ages, and then survived 200 years of man’s activities, because of its ability to adapt itself to environmental changes within a single generation. No one would argue that salmon can “think” in the sense of a human logical reasoning process. Yet, they figure out how to reproduce in rivers that have been dammed, dredged, rip-rapped, and polluted — because their brains have some sort of mechanism that enables them to “figure it out” in whatever sense a fish does that.

    If you put a potted plant on your windowsill, within a few days the stem will bend in the direction of the sun. Wild salmon adapt to changes in their environment nearly as fast. Neither fish nor plants can reason, yet they “figure it out.” This is very strong evidence of the adaptive mechanisms scientists use to explain how evolution works. We know plants and animals adapt to environmental changes. The proof is on our windowsills and in our rivers. Here in Seattle, you can go to the Ballard Locks and watch the sockeyes swimming through the locks on their way to the Cedar River, or you can go to Carkeek Park at the right time of year and watch the salmon fighting their way up the creek meandering among the greens and picnic tables. Those little guys and their ancestors have been doing this for 40 million years. Somehow, they “figure it out.”

  37. 42

    Diggindude spews:


    I dont suppose you’ve had a chance to see the fish slide at rocky reach dam yet?
    Its a retraining program for wayward smolts.

  38. 43

    RDC spews:

    Alan @ 39 You raise good points on the hazards of raising the retirement age, but it has seemed to me that this has been widely touted as a way to help solve the solvency problem. I think it is now set at 67 for those who retire at some future date (I have forgotten the details, but the general thrust is right). I’m not as certain as you that this would be penny wise, pound foolish because of increased disability costs, but it should be possible for actuaries to determine this. The fact remains that since as a nation we seem willing to fund useless battleships out of general revenues but not our best social welfare (welfare as in the preamble to the Constitution) program, some means must be found to balance the SS books in the long run.

    Zip…An important point I omitted about the wage index vs. the inflation index is that using the wage index is very progressive, in that it helps those at the bottom end of the wage scale more than those higher up. As I understand it, this is because wages don’t increase at the same rate in all occupations. For example, I’m guessing that in the 10 year period I cited, wages for those who flip hamburgers at fast food restaurants advanced much less than wages for those who play boys’ games for a living. Applying the wage index to all earnings when initially calculating the SS benefit inflates the earnings at the low end and deflates the earnings at the high end (but are still likely greater even at the high end than would be the case using an inflation index like the CPI). This is another reason why dropping the wage index and using an inflation index (CPI-W) when setting initial benefits would hurt low wage workers. I know that the President has said low-wage workers would stay under the wage index, and that “only” for the rest of us (70% of the whole, as I recall) would the inflation index be used. That’s what he said, but conservatives have been calling for this change across the board. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the date, but a WSJ editorial writer embraced the idea not long ago.

    But still the problem remains…how to plug the hole in the dike. My sentiments are contained in my comment to Alan above, but there must be a combination of options out there somewhere for people of good will to agree upon. Now, where are the people of good will?

  39. 44

    RDC spews:


    Krugman has a column on this in today’s NYT. You may disagree with him, but he expresses his points well.

  40. 46

    Seattle SlugFest spews:

    Alan @ 40 Are you still hammering away at that old nail?

    “If Creationists are right, there shouldn’t be a fossil record. So how do they explain away the fossils we have?”
    “You need only one million-year-old human fossil to shoot down the argument that we were created a few thousand years ago, but we have dozens of such fossils.”

    Okay, one more time….pay attention and take notes! You will find that this book KILLS your argument and that science and religion CAN go hand in hand. Are you man enough to take it?

    And the download is FREE, so no worries, mate.

    Next week we will read, “This is your brain on Liberalism”.

  41. 47

    dj spews:

    Seattle SlugFest @ 46

    I briefly looked at the book–what a piece of shit.

    Oh. . . did you notice the bottom of every page, “The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch” by Donald W. Patten – is ©1966 by Pacific Meridian Pub. Co.”

    Even the good “science” in the book is now completely obsolete.