Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Spanish conservatives defeat socialists in regional and local elections

Political Map of Europe

Political Map of Europe

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (H/T Bret Baier)

Excerpt:

Spain’s ruling Socialists suffered a crushing defeat to conservatives in local and regional elections Sunday, yielding power even in traditional strongholds against a backdrop of staggering unemployment and unprecedented sit-ins by Spaniards furious with what they see as politicians who don’t care about their plight.Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the result was due punishment of his government for the state of the economy — the jobless rate is a eurozone high of 21.3 percent. But he said he had no plans to move up general elections, which must be held by March of next year, and pledged to press on with job-creating reforms despite the loud outcry of opposition to his party.

The win for the conservative opposition Popular Party puts it in even a stronger position to win the general elections and return to power after eight years of Socialist rule.

In what Spanish media said was the worst performance on record by the Socialist Party in local and regional elections, the numbers reflecting the loss were stunning: the conservative Popular Party won at the municipal level by about two million votes, compared to 150,000 in its win in 2007, and in 13 regional governments that were up for grabs, Zapatero’s party lost in virtually all of them.

One was Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, where the Socialists have always held power. The Socialists also lost bastions like the town halls in Barcelona and Seville. The conservatives padded their majorities in Madrid and Valencia, in the latter even though the president is under investigation for corruption. Several other Socialist-controlled regional governments also fell. Spain’s electoral map turned largely blue — the color of the Popular Party.

I can see why Zapatero would want to avoid calling federal elections. Spain’s youth unemployment stands at 45% and he is very likely to be thrown out of power completely. I’m sure a lot of the young people voted for socialism, because socialism is so trendy in movies, music, in the universities, and on television . But the young people are finding out now that you cannot cover your nakedness with empty rhetoric, you cannot feed your stomach with feelings of self-congratulation, and you cannot coerce employers to hire you by demonizing capitalism.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We’ve become a nation of takers, not makers

From moderate conservative Stephen Moore, writing in the Wall Street Journal. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?

Every state in America today except for two—Indiana and Wisconsin—has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Consider California, which has the highest budget deficit in the history of the states. The not-so Golden State now has an incredible 2.4 million government employees—twice as many as people at work in manufacturing. New Jersey has just under two-and-a-half as many government employees as manufacturers. Florida’s ratio is more than 3 to 1. So is New York’s.

Even Michigan, at one time the auto capital of the world, and Pennsylvania, once the steel capital, have more government bureaucrats than people making things. The leaders in government hiring are Wyoming and New Mexico, which have hired more than six government workers for every manufacturing worker.

Now it is certainly true that many states have not typically been home to traditional manufacturing operations. Iowa and Nebraska are farm states, for example. But in those states, there are at least five times more government workers than farmers. West Virginia is the mining capital of the world, yet it has at least three times more government workers than miners. New York is the financial capital of the world—at least for now. That sector employs roughly 670,000 New Yorkers. That’s less than half of the state’s 1.48 million government employees.

The problem with having a high number of government workers is that government workers don’t actually produce anything to sell. They pay the salaries of their workers by taking a percentage of the money that productive business make when they sell customers useful things like cell phones and laptops and automobiles.

This article is the second most popular on the Wall Street Journal. Recommended.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ID theorist responds to critics of the design of the bacterial flagellum

This post was shared nearly 200 times on Facebook. It’s a winner!

Here’s the challenge:

About a year ago, I read Why Intelligent Design Fails – A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis). Chapter 5 of that book was contributed by Ian Musgrave and is titled “Evolution of the Bacterial Flagellum.” Targeted as a response to Michael Behe and William Dembski, Musgrave attempts to dispel of the notion of irreducible complexity once and for all. Reading his chapter, I recall being deeply unimpressed. On page 82 of the book, Musgrave offers us the following argument:

Here is a possible scenario for the evolution of the eubacterial flagellum: a secretory system arose first, based around the SMC rod and pore-forming complex, which was the common ancestor of the type-III secretory system and the flagellar system. Association of an ion pump (which later became the motor protein) to this structure improved secretion. Even today, the motor proteins, part of a family of secretion-driving proteins, can freely dissociate and reassociate with the flagellar structure. The rod- and pore-forming complex may even have rotated at this stage, as it does in some gliding-motility systems. The protoflagellar filament arose next as part of the protein-secretion structure (compare the Pseudomonas pilus, the Salmonella filamentous appendages, and the E. coli filamentous structures). Gliding-twitching motility arose at this stage or later and was then refined into swimming motility. Regulation and switching can be added later, because there are modern eubacteria that lack these attributes but function well in their environment.(Shah and Sockett 1995). At every stage there is a benefit to the changes in the structure.

Indeed, Mark Pallen and Nick Matzke make a very similar argument in their 2006 Nature Reviews article (a paper which was raised by an audience member during the recent UK Behe tour). Ken Miller is also reputed for routinely making similar claims regarding the flagellum’s evolution from the Type III Secretion System based largely on considerations of protein sequence homologies.

So, do these points succeed in laying to rest that pesky business of intelligent design once and for all? Well, actually no; they don’t. In fact, I submit that the arguments of all of the aforementioned gentlemen fundamentally trivialize several important issues.

You have to read the whole post for his response.

Here is the conclusion:

Why the Flagellum Evolution From the T3SS Doesn’t Work
One might have thought that the description given above should be more than enough to render the hand-waving gestures of Kenneth Miller et al. trivializations in the extreme. But it gets even worse for the Darwinian story. Why exactly is flagellum biosynthesis so tightly regulated and orchestrated? Not only do the energy demands render the flagellum an extremely expensive system to run, but untimely expression of flagellum proteins may induce a strong immune response in the host system, something no bacterium wants to do.

What is the significance of this from the standpoint of evolutionary rationale? Well, flagellin monomers are somewhat potent cytokine inducers. If you are a Yersinia organism in possession of a Type-III Secretion System the last thing you want to do is display those flagellin peptides to the macrophages. Such would be liable to significantly countermand the Yersinia’s anti-inflammatory strategy.

Conclusion
My description, given above, has really only scratched the surface of this spectacular item of nano-technology (for more detail, see here). I have not, for the sake of brevity, even discussed the remarkable processes of chemotaxis, two component signal transduction circuitry, rotational switching, and the proton motive force by which the flagellum is powered (for details on this, see my discussion here or, for more detail, see this review paper). But the bottom line is that modern Darwinian theory — as classically understood — has come no where close to explaining the origin of this remarkably complex and sophisticated motor engine. Just as Darwinian “explanations” of the eye may, at first, appear convincing to the uninitiated, largely unacquainted with the sheer engineering marvel of the biochemistry and molecular basis of vision, so too do the evolutionary “explanations” of the flagellum rapidly become void of any persuasiveness when one considers the molecular details of the system. When one couples the above details with demonstrations of the sheer impotence of neo-Darwinism to produce novel protein folds and novel protein-protein binding sites, do you really think that this system can be cobbled together by virtue of slight, successive modification, one small step at a time? Given that neo-Darwinism’s key selling point lies in its purported efficacy in explaining away the overwhelming appearance of design, doesn’t it stand to reason that its demonstrable impotence throws the design postulate back on the table as a viable and respectable scientific proposition?

Douglas Axe of the Biologic Institute showed in one recent paper in the journal Bio-complexity that the model of gene duplication and recruitment only works if very few changes are required to acquire novel selectable utility or neo-functionalization. If a duplicated gene is neutral (in terms of its cost to the organism), then the maximum number of mutations that a novel innovation in a bacterial population can require is up to six. If the duplicated gene has a slightly negative fitness cost, the maximum number drops to two or fewer (not inclusive of the duplication itself).

It seems that the bacterial flagellum is as much a — and perhaps a greater — challenge to Darwinism as it was when Behe first wrote Darwin’s Black Box in 1996.

I am hoping that Jonathan will be able to pursue his studies in graduate school.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Unemployment rate in socialist Spain now above 20%

Map of Europe

Map of Europe

Here’s the story from Yahoo News.

Excerpt:

Spain announced Friday its jobless rate surged to a 13-year record above 20 percent at the end of 2010, the highest level in the industrialized world, as the economy struggled for air.

It was more bad news for an economy fighting to regain the trust of financial markets and avoid being trapped in a debt quagmire that has engulfed Greece and Ireland and now menaces Portugal.

Another 121,900 people joined Spain’s unemployment queues in the final quarter of the year, pushing the total to 4.697 million people, said the national statistics institute INE.

The resulting unemployment rate was 20.33 percent for the end of the year — easily exceeding Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s target of 19.4 percent.

Spain appears to be stuck in a rut of staggeringly high levels of unemployment.

After posting a jobless rate of 18.83 percent in 2009 and now 20.33 percent in 2010, the government is forecasting 19.3 percent for 2011 and 17.5 percent in 2012.

The Spanish economy, the European Union’s fifth biggest, slumped into recession during the second half of 2008 as the global financial meltdown compounded the collapse of a labour-intensive construction boom

It emerged with tepid growth of just 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010 and 0.2 percent in the second but then stalled with zero growth in the third.

Zapatero has said the fourth quarter will show positive growth which would pick up steam in 2011 but he warned that job creation would be “far from what we need and desire. It will be slow and progressive.”

Remember that Spain elected Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in April 2004, who is a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, which is very similar in policy to Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Let’s see what has happened in Spain. (H/T Spain Economy Watch)

Unemployment:

Spain Unemployment Rate

Spain Unemployment Rate

Private sector employment:

Spain Employment Rate - Private Sector

Spain Employment - Private Sector

Public sector employment:

Spain Employment - Public Sector

Spain Employment - Public Sector

So what do we learn from this?

Well, the public sector doesn’t really sell any products or services, so they don’t really have any customers to please, nor do they have any revenue. They exist by confiscating the wealth of other people (in the private sector) who do have products and services to sell, and do have customers to please. The governments job is to HELP the people in the private sector and not to raise their taxes, or control them, or get in their way except to make sure that they compete fairly and honestly with other people in the private sector. When government oversteps their bounds by raising taxes too high and spending too much, they stop acting like a REFEREE and start acting more like a PARASITE.

You’ll note that Obama is also spending trillions of dollars on government boondoggles – and where is our unemployment rate now?

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama doubles the number of federal workers paid over $150,000

USA Today reports that the number of federal works earning $150,000 or more has DOUBLED since Obama took office.  (H/T Gateway Pundit)

Excerpt:

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

The fast-growing pay of federal employees has captured the attention of fiscally conservative Republicans who won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in last week’s elections. Already, some lawmakers are planning to use the lame-duck session that starts Monday to challenge the president’s plan to give a 1.4% across-the-board pay raise to 2.1 million federal workers.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate averaged 9.43% under Obama.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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