I am elitist

By Phil Plait | June 13, 2008 11:30 am

Because so many Republicans in power prefer stupidity over intelligence — and even at least one Democrat — I just want to say:

I am elitist.

That is all.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Piece of mind, Politics

Comments (105)

  1. IBY

    Woo!! Go elitists :)

  2. Robbie

    Wiktionary.org:

    elitism (uncountable)

    1. The belief that a society or system should be run by an elite.
    2. The superior attitude or behaviour associated with an elite.

    elitist (plural elitists)

    1. Someone who believes in rule by an elite group.

    elite (comparative more elite, superlative most elite)

    1. Of high birth or social position; aristocratic or patrician.

    elite (plural elites)

    1. (uncountable) A special group or social class of people which have a superior intellectual, social or economic status as, the elite of society.
    2. (countable) Someone who is among the best at certain task.

  3. Stark

    Well, it beats being a dogmastist… or transcendentalist… or creationist… or, the worst of “ists”, a flautist!

    OK, I may have an unreasonable dislike of the flute. I blame my sister who concussed me with hers when I was just wee little skeptic.

  4. BradB

    Oh! does this mean when I finish my degree I will be an Elitist as well?? man I hope so.. it sounds like fun.

  5. Robbie

    BradB, you are assuming that getting a degree means anything from most colleges and universities.

  6. BradB

    Robbie, I would have to agree with that. Also I guess it depends on the degree.

  7. Robbie

    True that. An astronomy degree from the neighborhood bar means more than any sociology degree. Oooh.

  8. Doc

    Me too! We should start a movement.

    “You too can be an elitist!”

    National Academy of Sciences
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20001

  9. Gemini

    “War is peace

    Freedom is slavery

    Ignorance is strength”

    -George Orwell, 1984

  10. BradB

    Man if neighborhood bars had classes in astronomy that would be a bold and inebriated new world. And doc if you make an elitist movement I would join.

  11. Todd W.

    @Robbie,

    Would that be an elitisg bar? Can one drink filipinos there?

  12. Svip

    Elitesg – because only an elitist would spell “elitist” correctly.

  13. GodlessHeathen

    Well… it’s true. She did look refreshing.

  14. kurt

    Not only are you an elitist but you are also a picker. As in you cherry pick the news to sell your elitist agenda on a so called astronomy blog.
    The fact is the democratic party is much worse than elitist. They are hypocrites and absolutely NO better than republicans anymore.
    The same party that yelled, cried foul, filed lawsuits and signed petitions when Al Gore lost the popular vote by .5% and if you cited the rules you were a traitor and a hypocrite.
    The same party that yelled, cried foul, filed lawsuits when Bush raised a record $350 Million in 2004 against Kerry and called for fairer and cheaper elections, not more expensive elections.
    Phil you need to start doing your OWN homework. Most other blogs you read and cite on your blog are bias as can be.

    In other news,
    But in a sign of the urgency to raise campaign cash, Rendell said Obama didn’t want to reschedule tonight’s fundraiser, even though the governor warned him that many Philadelphia donors were headed to the New Jersey shore for the weekend. Rendell said Obama told him: ***”We don’t need the people. We just need the checks.”***

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-06-12-fundraisers_N.htm

  15. @kurt

    Just because it’s an astronomy blog doesn’t mean it’s always about astronomy. Why do people (that’s you, kurt) always get hot and bothered when the author dares to leave their “niche” on a blog. Take a pill. It’s their blog, they can do whatever they want. The only thing they can’t do is… well, I can’t think of anything they can’t do. They just have to accept the consequences.

    By all means, have a problem with the content of a post, but leave off the “hey, I thought this blog was about *puppies* not *kittens*” whining.

  16. Paul

    I’m an elitist, too!!

  17. Robbie

    Come on Kurt, it’s fine to say that Phil is a liberal with no real understanding of politics or economics or what have you, but this post isn’t the place to be getting all serious. He linked a Steve Colbert video for crying out loud.

  18. Chip

    I am Spartacus!…er…I mean…I am an Elitist!

  19. kurt

    I do not care if it is an astronomy blog or a blog about peanuts. That was not my point obviously.
    Phil can write about whatever he pleases. I couldn’t care less.
    Phil is an expert on astronomy NOT a political pundit.
    Just like he constantly reminds us to trust the experts we should remind him he is not an expert on this election.
    I am disappointed in Phil because I have been with thig blog from the very very beginning. As a former graduate student in astrophysics I am deeply disappointed that Phil would jump on the media bandwagon and do what 99% of the media loves to do – knock over and over again Hillary Clinton. Completely the most disgusting disgraceful ugly bashing and media bias I have ever seen. Phil ( a man i respect greatly for promoting science) is partaking in the same garbage I expect from MSNBC, NBC, CNN, Daily Kos etc etc etc
    The cherry picking and uneven coverage is disgraceful. And this is exactly why BO will lose to McCain. Because lifelong democrats realize this and are defecting in large numbers. Either stay home or not vote or http://www.writehillaryin.com

  20. tacitus

    kurt: nice rant, but it would help if it was grounded in reality. Gore won the popular vote in 2000, and only lost the election by fewer than 500 votes in Florida. Democratic anger was mostly about the fact that a full recount of all the votes was not permitted to go ahead, not to mention the fact that the Republican’s purged the voter rolls beforehand, incorrectly disenfranchising several hundred votes, most of whom just happened to be Democrats.

    So, it’s you who needs to get your facts right. Florida’s election was badly flawed (hanging chads, butterfly ballots, voter roll purges, post-election shenanigans by partisan election officials in Tallahassee). Some of it was merely incompetence of the system, but there’s more than enough evidence to call into question the legitimacy of the process. Certainly enough that a full recount should have been allowed even if the result would not have changed.

    This country *badly* needs a non-partisan election process, where those in charge are not beholden to one party or another. This is the way it is in other nations, like my birthplace, the UK.

    What’s done is done, but if we can’t learn from the lessons of the past, then we are doomed to repeat them.

  21. tacitus

    I finally fully turned off Hillary Clinton when she started using “elitist” as a slur against Obama. It’s just patently ridiculous for anyone who’s been in Washington for more than a couple of years to level charges of elitism against another person. It was cheap, it was stupid, and it was pathetic.

  22. Celtic_Evolution

    @ kurt

    Phil can write about whatever he pleases. I couldn’t care less.

    All evidence to the contrary… you took an awful lot of time railing against something you could care less about. (rolls eyes).

    And speaking of cherry-picking… how many other topics on this site have you taken as much time and careful thought to post on outside of this one? Or are you just cherry-picking this post cause it doesn’t flow with your personal political views? Hmm?

  23. xav0971

    I think people are using the term “elitists” in this manner:

    Elitism as a pejorative term

    The term “elitism” or the title “elitist” can be used resentfully [1] by a person who is not a member of an elite, or is a member but resents the elite position or uses it in a condescending or cynical manner in order to ridicule or criticize practices which discriminate on the basis of ability or attributes. Often, such as in politics, it used to describe persons as out of touch with the common people. The implication is that the “elitist” person or group thinks they are better than everyone else, and therefore put themselves before others. It could be seen as a synonym for snob. An elitist is not always seen as truly elite, but only privileged. This use is often employed in politics in societies where social equality is valued, and the middle and lower classes have political power.

  24. Robbie

    Tacitus: “I finally fully turned off Hillary Clinton when she started using “elitist” as a slur against Obama. It’s just patently ridiculous for anyone who’s been in Washington for more than a couple of years to level charges of elitism against another person. It was cheap, it was stupid, and it was pathetic.”

    I agree with this point, but elitism can be a legitimate charge.

  25. I find it highly amusing that any “lifelong democrat” would pack up their ball and go home just because Hillary did not win a closely decided nomination race. I keep hearing about those swing democrats and how they’re going to vote for McCain. Well, if this is how it all falls out, I better not hear a one of you complain when theres another 4 years of republican rule. I mean, really! What’s the huge fundamental *policy* difference between Clinton and Obama? Point it out to me, will you? Unless you can spot something like Clinton eats steak medium rare but Obama prefers live Philipino babies, why would you “democrats” possibly contemplate voting for McCain? By moaning and whining then jumping ship, you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  26. kurt

    “kurt: nice rant, but it would help if it was grounded in reality.”
    Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it.

    “Florida’s election was badly flawed (hanging chads, butterfly ballots, voter roll purges, post-election shenanigans by partisan election officials in Tallahassee).”

    3% of the popular vote came from caucus’. this 3% accounts for obama’s ~100 delegate lead (even though hrc won the most primary state delegates-too bad the GE isn’t a caucus. obama would win all 50 states). that is so fair!
    neither candidate had enough votes to win without the superdelegates not the people. yeah this election wasn’t flawed!
    not to mention the thousands and thousands of blogs and comments i have read over the past several months about how nurses, moms, dads, cops, teachers etc etc etc can not arrive at some spot at exactly 1pm when the doors close at 1:15pm climb 3-5 sets of stairs, wait 4 hours for their vote to be counted all while be yelled at college kids. no that is not flawed! perfectly fair.

    http://www.talkleft.com/media/2008caucusreport.pdf

  27. tacitus

    The cherry picking and uneven coverage is disgraceful. And this is exactly why BO will lose to McCain. Because lifelong democrats realize this and are defecting in large numbers.

    LOL! Now who’s cherry picking? *Every* recent poll has all but one of Hillary’s constituent groups flocking to Obama now that he is the nominee. He already has far more support among Hispanics than Keryy had last election, women now prefer him to McCain by over 10 points, and he even leads in those low income, working class groups he was supposed to have a problem with.

    The only group he hasn’t won over, and probably won’t are the Appalachian working class whites. As people have been saying all along, they just aren’t ready to vote for a black man (which is disappointing).

    So, kurt, where’s your evidence?? You may believe BA is biased, but any biases he has against McCain is at least based on facts. You don’t seem to have any of those things working for you, do you?

  28. kurt

    Celtic_evolution

    “Phil can write about whatever he pleases. I couldn’t care less.
    All evidence to the contrary… you took an awful lot of time railing against something you could care less about. (rolls eyes).”

    So what is your point? I don’t care. I have a Friday off and I just feel like writing about this now. so that’s all you got after everything I wrote. That’s all you got!! I have read almost every post on this blog EVER. I know Phil writes about whatever he wants and that is fine with me. I look forward to reading more.
    I am just pointing out his bias and unfair coverage.

  29. Doc

    We could organize as the Americal Political Elitist Society …

  30. tacitus

    I agree with this point, but elitism can be a legitimate charge.

    Sure, I should be more specific. It was when she said that being against a gas tax holiday was “elitist” I finally turned off her. (She then started using that term in just about every interview she did after that).

  31. @Kurt Ahhhh… I see now where you’re going. You’re blaming the “flawed election” on everyone when it’s really the Democratic National Committee’s own fault! They make the rules, they reap the whirlwind. If you want a better process, talk to Howard Dean. It’s the DEMOCRATIC PARTY that made up the superdelegate mess. It’s the DEMOCRATIC PARTY that allows caucuses (caucasae?) during the primaries. As long as the field is level, ’nuff said, because it matters not one jot who “wins the popular vote” when it’s the delegates who decide. Obama wins the delegates, Obama gets the nod. It’s really that simple.

    I feel like I’m bashing the dems here. For the record, I’m more than likely voting for Obama come November, but this asinine craziness oozing from the rank and file of the democrats drives me nuts!

  32. Doc

    … or maybe the National Association of the Scientifically, Technically, and Intellectually Elite …

  33. Doc

    (there’s no E in NASA, otherwise I’d use that)

  34. tacitus

    neither candidate had enough votes to win without the superdelegates not the people. yeah this election wasn’t flawed!

    Well, you’ll get no argument from me that the primary season wasn’t flawed (and that goes for both parties). I fully expect a major overhaul of the system before 2012 (I think there are already a couple of bills in Congress starting down that road).

    However, all the candidates knew (or should have known) the rules from day one (and yes, that included the rule changes disbarring delegates from Florida & Michigan). And sure, if it had been a first past the post system, Clinton may have won early, but then, Obama’s strategy would have been different, so who knows?

    You seem bitter about Clinton’s loss. That’s fine. I remember how I felt after the 2004 election when Kerry lost, and I wasn’t even a big fan of his. But if you really support Hillary Clinton’s platform, then voting for McCain, whose platform is the polar opposite in almost all cases, is the last thing you should do.

  35. Doc

    … of course we could go with something like the Society for the Promotion of Astronomy by the Criminally Elite

  36. kurt

    @Kurt Ahhhh… I see now where you’re going. You’re blaming the “flawed election” on everyone when it’s really the Democratic National Committee’s own fault!

    Yes the DNC plays a large role in this. But there is no difference between the DNC and the Obama campaign. Dean and Pelosi have had their heads up Obama’s you know what for a long time.
    HRC campaign BEGGED obama for a redo in MI and FL and it was Obama who refused not the DNC.
    They will never fix their broken system because to admit their system is flawed is to admit the candidate selected by their system is also flawed.
    Superdelegates were put their for this very exact reason- the DNC has KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME that their system is flawed. So they appointed SD’s who could fix errors in the system like caucus’s misrepresentation and problem like MI and FL. Instead they didn’t use their knowledge and judgment to overturn the broken system but became part of it.

  37. kurt

    Under almost ANY scenario HRC would have CRUSHED I mean totally CRUSHED McCain. She was beating him in polls of Ohio and Florida!!!
    That’s it that’s more than enough to win against McCain. But she had more- she was crushing McCain in West virgina, arkansas, and kentucky. Obama is going after nevada and new mexico and HRC won those!!! HRC could’ve won new mexico and or nevada.
    now obama has selected by the SD. and we have really long hard battle. a battle i think obama will lose. he is very beatable. but who knows. let’s hope he doesn’t tell anymore people that they ‘cling to guns and religion’. let’s hope he doesn’t say stupid stuff like ‘typical white person’. let’s hope he realizes there are 50 states not 57.

  38. Celtic_Evolution

    @ kurt

    “So what is your point? I don’t care. I have a Friday off and I just feel like writing about this now. so that’s all you got after everything I wrote. That’s all you got!! I have read almost every post on this blog EVER. I know Phil writes about whatever he wants and that is fine with me. I look forward to reading more.
    I am just pointing out his bias and unfair coverage.”

    NO… you called it “cherry-picking”. That’s a strong and unnecessary attack, and I’m calling you a hypocrite for doing the same thing. I don’t care that you’ve read every post on this blog ever. You’re still being a hypocrite for giving Phil crap about doing the very thing you are doing.

    Not to mention that if you DO read every one of his posts you’d know, I’m sure, that this one falls pretty well in line with at least several dozen others he’s written along the same lines.

  39. Doc

    … how about the Egregious Liberal-Idealist Technocratic Elite ?

  40. “HRC campaign BEGGED obama for a redo in MI and FL and it was Obama who refused not the DNC”

    I don’t remember any reports about the DNC volunteering the money to rerun the elections. Florida and Michigan are a case of they made their bed so let ‘em sleep in it. They knew the rules and they broke them. Any “disenfranchisement” was entirely the fault of the State’s democratic committees and they are the ones who should have born the burden. I was entirely in favor of eliminating the FL and MI delegates from the convention (not that I have a say), but I understand the realpolitik necessity to seat them, to avoid antagonizing voters for the General Election.

    Saying that the Superdelegates deliberately ignored what you call “misrepresentation and problems” is you viewing things through your own goggles. That many super delegates getting on board would be up there with the Moon Hoax conspiracy theory. It’s a bit far fetched to believe that no one would have blown the whistle on that.

  41. Doc

    … or the Organization of Elite People who Think Kurt Should Take a Valium.

  42. Doc

    Sorry, got distracted. I meant … um … the Organization of Grand Royal Elitists.

  43. kurt

    I don’t remember any reports about the DNC volunteering the money to rerun the elections.

    OF COURSE THE DNC didn’t volunteer the money!!!!! Duh. DNC is controlled by Dean. Dean loves Obama. Why do you think Obama got ALL the pledged delegates for uncommitted and 4 from HRC as a slap in the face. that was the DNC’s doing.
    The money was going to come from private donors. MANY MANY people stepped up and said they would help the raise. HRC would be happy to accept money from Obama campaign to avoid any accusations.

    Saying that the Superdelegates deliberately ignored what you call “misrepresentation and problems” is you viewing things through your own goggles.

    No you can not make up facts Bill. These are not my own goggle. that the heck does that even mean. I don’t think you know what you are trying to say. the SD ignored that MORE people voted for HRC than obama. the SD ignored that she would’ve beat mccain easily. MANY MANY prominents studies and polls showed the same.
    The SD ignored that there were MANY MANY problem is caucus’s.
    care to explain why only 41% of texas caucus is STILL only reporting.
    gimme a break. obama people need to do their hw. this is no longer the democratic party.
    whatever. we will see in november.

  44. kurt

    I don’t remember any reports about the DNC volunteering the money to rerun the elections.

    OF COURSE THE DNC didn’t volunteer the money!!!!! Duh. DNC is controlled by Dean. Dean loves Obama. Why do you think Obama got ALL the pledged delegates for uncommitted and 4 from HRC as a slap in the face. that was the DNC’s doing.
    The money was going to come from private donors. MANY MANY people stepped up and said they would help the raise. HRC would be happy to accept money from Obama campaign to avoid any accusations.

    Saying that the Superdelegates deliberately ignored what you call “misrepresentation and problems” is you viewing things through your own goggles.

    No you can not make up facts Bill. These are not my own goggle. what the heck does that even mean? I don’t think you know what you are trying to say. the SD ignored the fact that MORE people voted for HRC than obama. the SD ignored that she would’ve beat mccain easily. MANY MANY prominents studies and polls showed the same. ohio, florida etc etc etc
    The SD ignored that there were MANY MANY problem is caucus’s.
    care to explain why only 41% of texas caucus is STILL only reporting.
    gimme a break. obama people need to do their hw. this is no longer the democratic party.
    whatever. we will see in november.

  45. @kurt congratulations. You spiked my crazy meter. I’m signing off now.

  46. kurt

    sorry for double posting. it was an accident.

  47. Adam

    Kurt: You are accusing people of being biased when you are biased by any standards in the opposite direction. You may be right, but look at yourself first. If you are biased, this could also be leading you to perceive everyone else as biased. It’s a big never-ending feedback loop and that applies to other points of views as well.

    And I agree that there have been things that were unfair during the election process but overall, on the whole, I think things were done fairly. There were some blatantly biased pundits and some sexism working against Clinton. Phil’s own wife had a blog post exclusively on that subject. To claim that Phil has a biased based upon this post seems irrational. If you can show more evidence that supports your position, go ahead.

    And you may be right that she would beat McCain but that was far from a “lock.” Elections are rather unpredictable.

  48. KC

    You didn’t have to announce it, BA. We all kind of already knew. :-)

  49. Phil, there is not want idiots running the country and then there is elitism. As Robbie pointed out, Elitism is the belief that society should be run by an elites, high born people. That doesn’t necessarily imply elite=intelligent, or vice versa. I would like to think I am an intelligent person, but I would definitely not consider myself to be a member of the elite. I was born to a lower middle class family and my income (or at least my perspective income as a planetary geologist) is lower middle class. Not quite “elite”.

  50. Please ignore the grammatical errors in the first sentence in the above post. I would still like to think I am intelligent, but I am not immune to the “Friday Syndrome.”

  51. Matt

    So, let me get this straight. It’s STUPIDITY to prefer a PARENT has a say on what his/her child is taught in school.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about sex.

  52. kurt

    Adam you have a good point. But I don’t think pointing out other people’s bias is being bias.(here i am not referring to the BA)

    I am a HRC supporter -this is very true. But I would fall in line with Mr. Obama if he had won the popular vote, most of the battleground states, wasn’t awarded the nomination by SD, media and pundits.

    I remember some time ago, the BA did a whole post on cherry picking as it related to science. Cherry picking as BA defined it some time ago in the context of global climate change I think.
    “Second, what I am seeing in these arguments is a very dangerous practice called “cherry picking”; selectively picking out data that support your argument and ignoring contrary evidence”
    the msm should cherry picks stories in all arenas and boy did they go all out in this election.
    It is even worse in politics when it isn’t so black and white.
    I am just sick and tired of all the bloggers and media bashing HRC to this day. A NJ congressman said she was responsible for inciting racial tensions with blacks and jews just this week!

    http://www.justsaynodeal.com/

  53. DLC

    Wow.
    Okay, maybe I’m a bit slow in the head to be one of the elite, but it seems to me that the entire point of this post was to demonstrate that people were using “elitist” as a pejorative label. It’s a slightly more sneaky way of insulting your opponent than calling them a fascist or commie rat bastard.

    in other news: NBC news host Tim Russert has died at age 58
    of a heart attack.

  54. KC

    BTW, all jokes aside, I wouldn’t necessarily group elitists with smart people. Elitists not only tend to ignore input from those with actual experience, they do not consider that input to be valuable, particularly if it disagrees with whatever grand idea they’re trying to peddle. This immediately raises questions about the intelligence of the elitist. Worse, they consider everyone else as ignorant peons, and do so with arrogant condescension.

    To illustrate this, let us contrast non-elitist behavior with elitist behavior. The late Dr. Isaac Asimov liked to tell the story of how he was once stranded beside the road, never remembering that he had an auto club card in his wallet – until the guy who came to assist him made some comment that he should join an auto club. This is non-elitist behavior.

    In contrast, the story is told (whether it’s true or not) of Carl Sagan appearing before a senate panel and being quizzed on Nuclear Winter. One senator got down to the nitty gritty about some of Sagan’s assumptions, which ruffled Sagan’s feathers. Sagan asked if the senator had a PhD – in other words, how dare the senator question the premise of his theory. This is elitist behavior.

    FWIW, it’s said the senator said “No, and if this had been your dissertation, neither would you.”

    Of course, Sagan had his non-elitist moments (IIRC, in one of his books he tells how he suspected a primitive society was stringing a group of anthropologists along with their “theories” of pregnancy – Sagan quipped that if someone kept asking him where did he think babies came from, he’d be tempted to tell them the stories about storks). But this story serves to illustrate both elitist behavior and why it rubs people the wrong way.

    Two or three years ago when someone in Congress dared to question the methodology of the infamous Global Warming “hockey stick” report, both NPR’s Science Friday and Scientific American got into a snit over the fact than a non-scientist dared to question the report of a scientist. That, folks, is elitism.

    A non-elitist response is to put it in layman’s terms and say, “Well, I looked at this data, and this, and this, and this.” Neither Science Friday or Scientific American used that approach.

    Note that you can also encounter elitism from non-scientists. If you ever took your car to a mechanic who then proceeded to ignore everything you said about what you thought was wrong, you have run into elitism. Ditto any tech or repair person who completely ignored you and your tenative diagnosis. Most likely you found it irritating because you got the impression they thought you were too stupid to know what you were talking about. And guess what: They did.

    One last non-elitist example. Years ago, after a doctor explained the course of treatment, a nurse came in with medication that the doctor said was no longer needed. I mentioned that to the RN, she replied that the medication and dosage were on the chart, and I said that the doctor had just said the treatment was discontinued.

    At that point the RN could have puffed herself up and taken a “How dare you, who has little if any medical knowledge, question me.” Instead, she said “I’ll check with the doctor.” In a few minutes she came back and apologized, saying that the chart hasn’t been updated.

    That’s non-elitist behavior. And I appreciated that very much.

  55. tacitus

    Word of advice, kurt — suck it up. We get it, it hurts to lose, especially if you feel hard done by. But selective memory is a bitch — you seem to forget Bittergate, Rev. Wright, hand on heart, lapel pins etc, then there was months of the “inevitable Hillary” from the press until the primary season started and if I recall, not one mention of things like Whitewater, Travelgate or any other of the Clinton scandals/baggage from the 90s.

    And do you really believe that Clinton would have been lobbying for MI and FL votes to count if the situation had been reversed? Not a chance. It was pure political opportunism (as it would have been if Obama had done the same thing). The rules had been laid down months in advance with Clinton and her team supporting them. “Michigan will not count” were Clinton’s very words.

    And for sure Clinton would not have been an inevitable winner in the election. McCain can’t get the right-wingers to vote for him, but Clinton sure can get them to vote against her. She was barely ahead of McCain in the polls. As for the popular vote in the primary. If Obama’s name had been on the ballot in Michigan, he would have been ahead in that too. (not to mention that several caucus votes where he won were not counted at all). As for Texas, nearly a million Democrats turned out to caucus. As flawed as the caucus system may be, that is not a small minority of college students and wealthy people.

    In any case, it’s high time to move on — the vast majority of Clinton supporters have done that, which is exactly what Hillary Clinton has asked you and the rest of her fans to do. Are you going to respect that request?

  56. kurt

    i agree with KC elitist does not mean smart. i think bush is a bigger elitist by far than any other politician. it is either his way or the highway.
    thank you for your response tacitus.
    well i agree what’s done is done.
    can’t change the past. but come november. you will have suck it up too. remember what you wrote today.

  57. Kurt: woah, woah woah! Are you trying to tell me that an educated person who is also a writer might occasionally USE his blog to voice his opinion??? I’m with you Kurt. People shouldn’t be allowed to voice their opinions. And if they MUST, thanks to people like you, their biases will always be pointed out.

    After all, since so few people are capable of identifying someone else’s political predilictions, its wonderful that people like you can “just pointing out his bias and unfair coverage”

    Get over it, Kurt, and please gain some perspective. This blog is his, he can do what he wants. As you yourself has pointed out, he’s not a political expert, but this blog is not an academic journal in astronomy OR politics, so I hardly see how someone offering up a piece of his mind on HIS OWN BLOG can be considered “coverage”. It’s called an ‘opinion’ for a really good reason. Heck, the other day there was a rock-Phil! For someone who claims to not care what he says, you get awfully upity if he speaks his non-astronomy mind about a political statement which doesn’t exactly align with yours.

    And just one more point: The way that you and the other rabid HRC supporters are behaving is really making me concerned. The dems lost as much as they did because the party eats itself. The Republicans, meanwhile lock arms, and charge forth. So keep doing your best to split up the party after it has made its bed, maybe you’ll lose a few more swing states in november.

  58. Oh, I see that all of Kurt’s posts have been removed while I caustically responded to him. Now I just look like a raving lunatic.

    That’s okay with me.

  59. Ahh! Now that kurt’s comments aren’t here, my snappy rebuttals lose all their gravitas. [sigh] I guess I can live with that.

  60. kurt

    why remove my posts BA?
    i followed your policy – I was nice!! I never used any bad language.
    removing posts not that is elitist

  61. tacitus

    Yeah, I’m a bit surprised that his posts were removed. I certainly didn’t feel offended by anything he said. It’s those who start using pejorative names for the supporters of one candidate/party or another who should be excised.

  62. Matt, as usual, you have it exactly wrong. I have no problem with parents having some say in what their kids learn. What I do have a problem with is people foisting their incorrect religious beliefs on the school system. Have you done even a single lick of research into this? Abstinence-only education doesn’t work. At all. Kids who suffer under such miseducation have higher rates of sexual encounters, pregnancy, and disease.

    Kurt, nice try, but bzzzzzt on almost everything you said. I am not on a campaign to bash Clinton; but I will most certainly take her to task for her anti-intellectual stance which was a neocon meme of the worst sort. The “Republican” party (in quotations because those in power now have nothing to do with the actual and respected party of yore) has made it their goal to destroy any intelligent thought in this country, and you better believe (well, trust) I’ll take a stand against that, no matter from whose mouth it spews.

    And it cracks me up when people call me a liberal. I have no idea what you think that word means, but I don’t think you can call me that on the limited amount of info I’ve posted here. being against the neocons doesn’t make you a liberal any more than it makes you anti-American (in fact, it’s my patriotic duty to fight against those who would tear down our Constitution — or have you not heard that McCain hates habeas corpus and Senator Graham (R-Inquisition) wants to deface the Constitution by amending it to deny some of this most basic human right?).

  63. I just wanted to point out an interesting dichotomy. When you refer to “the elite” in politics, the term is often pejorative. Yet in other fields it can have a positive connotation: “The SEALS are the elite special forces of the Navy.”

    Or in the movies, “An elite team of scientist are tasked with saving the planet.” (Okay, so this doesn’t really happen in movies but you get the idea.”

    “Phil is an expert on astronomy NOT a political pundit.”

    And I’m a chemistry major, yet occasionally I find time for books and games, and the occasional sporting event. All of which I talk about with other people. You mean you need to be an expert on politics to speak on politics? Then you have to disregard 90% of pundits, possibly more. God knows most of the people on this blog are better qualified to speak on politics than someone like O’Reilly.

  64. Utakata

    @ Kurt:

    Oh you mean where Clinton tried to cheat by having Michigan and Florida counted when she wasn’t supposed to run there, because Obama was starting to hand her behiney to her on a plate. But even if the Dems gave her full credit for those, she still would of unlikely of won.

    @ Phil being liberal:

    Yes, I certainly would argue that BA is a liberterian when it comes to his social views. But he has never stated clearly what his economic views are. To that, he could be something that would scare Lenin or make him the Grand Nagus in Ferenginar. If it’s the latter, being labled as a liberal would be incorrect.

  65. BA– I read the link to the Time article on McCain, but I didn’t see where he hates habeas corpus. I did see where he disagrees with SCOTUS decision about extending habeas corpus to non-citizen, enemy combatants. Apparently a lot of people disagree with this decision, including 4 of the Supreme Court Justices.

    Where did McCain say he hates habeas corpus?

  66. “And it cracks me up when people call me a liberal. I have no idea what you think that word means, but I don’t think you can call me that on the limited amount of info I’ve posted here. being against the neocons doesn’t make you a liberal any more than it makes you anti-American”

    Since politics is indeed MY area of expertise, I might add to this disussion, the somewhat skewed defintions that the word ‘liberal’ entails.

    1) Economicall speaking, there is Classic liberal: most moderate republicans fall under this category. It’s where they advocate a free-market system in matters of economics.

    2) There is also Neo-liberal, where they advocate free-market everything, not just economic policy, but in matters of education, healthcare, and free-speech legislation

    4) There is the Political liberal: who advocates that the state has an obligation to protect a free-market system in economics, but intervene when it becomes apparent that there is no level playing field and the free market inherently perfers actors who started out with a stronger hand (as a for instance, providing small business with tax breaks when wal-mart sucks their business away….this is not a fair playing field).

    5) There is the Liberal (capital L): a member of the Liberal Party (of various countries, whose politial/economic/social leanings tend to be slightly left-of-centre)

    6) And the most strange beast of all, the American liberal: which is a mish-mash of ideas/insults that range from anyone who is associated with the democratic party (who, by the way, are certainly NOT liberal!), to a communist (another word that gets thrown around in American discourse without a full understanding of what it means). Only in the United States is the term ‘liberal’ an insult (I remember George Bush getting a laugh in 2004 when he refered to John Kerry as the 2nd most liberal in MA), and that perjorative nature makes the word HIGHLY misunderstood and thrown about haphazardly to the point that it truly is the new “commie”.

    Good entry. Phil, I like it when you offer up a cup of o’pinion. You’re a thoughtful fella who knows wordplay. Regardless of whether or not I agree with you (which I usually do), its still fun to read.

    And to everyone screaming bloody-murder and feigning righteous indignation everytime Phil uses his blog as a soapbox (a blog, as a soapbox? How dare he!!!), to quote the wrestler Booker T, “Save the drama, for yo mama”

  67. As an afterthought, and because I saw it after I just posted, ‘liberal’ and ‘libertarian’ are different concepts.

    Just saying.

    oh dear…I’m a jerk now, aren’t I?

    ummm….I like Wil Wheaton. That should clear up some hostility towards me.

  68. stopgap

    Speaking of Habeas Corpus, we need to get our old friend Posse Comitatus back into action.

    “The statute generally prohibits federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Coast Guard is exempt from the Posse Comitatus Act.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act

    This was done away with in 2006.

  69. Pah. I confessed to my elitism long ago. In fact, I’m proud of it. I love my elite. I love it so much that I think everybody should be a member.

    BA, I hope you’ll join forces with the Elitist Bastards Carnival. PZ Myers indicated his willingness to host later in the summer. . . .

  70. Ragutis

    Matt on 13 Jun 2008 at 2:08 pm

    So, let me get this straight. It’s STUPIDITY to prefer a PARENT has a say on what his/her child is taught in school.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about sex.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about math.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about history.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about English.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about physics.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about French/Spanish/etc.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about chemistry.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about geography.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about art.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about physical education.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about health.

    Well, if that’s stupidity, then I’d rather be stupid and have that say than elitist when it comes to what is taught to my kids about economics.

    Have I made my point yet? You send your kids to school with the expectation/hope that they’ll get the best information available, NOT just some narrow slice tailored to your specific worldview. If you want to keep your kids from reality and turn them into mindless automaton copies of yourself, homeschool them. But I hope you plan on keeping them around for a long time, because otherwise, they’re eventually going to leave and chances are that they’ll notice that the real world is MUCH bigger and more complicated than you taught them.

    As for the whole elitist thing… no different than the Repubs turning “intellectual” into a pejorative against Gore and Kerry. The sad part is that so many are so easily persuaded that intelligence, education, and thoughtfulness are to be distrusted in favor of a manufactured “good ol’ boy” image.

  71. Ragutis

    Sorry for the double post, but I needed to add…

    Matt, there’s nothing preventing you from supplementing what your child learns in school with your own teaching. Let them get the facts at school and then you can put your moral spin on it at home if you wish. Actually, anyone who is satisfied with the school handling such a subject and doesn’t expand on it at home is friggin stupid and just asking for trouble. With my ex’s daughter, I wasn’t there for the school’s take on sex ed (although we did talk about the topic) but I remember having to spend quite a bit of time clearing up things such as that everyone pretty much knew the earth was round before Columbus and the darker side of the Pilgrims. Frustrating as it was to see such lousy teaching, I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend that time with her and hear her ask some challenging questions and appreciate the answers.

  72. Dan

    Well, I can’t say that I’m not an elitist. I think intellectualism should be the rule of the day. Bravo to Phil for keeping us up to date in the scientific world, while providing us with some much-needed humor.

    Phil’s stance on political issues seem to me to stem from his scientific background, not any liberal/conservative leaning. I find it ridiculous to label someone with one of those terms as they have little meaning by themselves.

    Regarding ‘flawed’ elections: It’s my opinion that the primary election system is flawed from the start. Do the Democratic, or Republican, or Libertarian, or Green, or Communist parties want to endorse a single candidate for the presidency? Let all of their members get together and decide who it will be. It should have absolutely nothing to do with the government, nor should the taxpayers have to foot the bill. Let each party decide how they want to choose their candidate.

  73. charlie
  74. autumn

    Doubleplus-ungood duckspeak.

  75. tacitus

    The most astounding thing about this whole “elitist” thing is that the Republicans have always had far more wealthy, out-of-touch elites in their ranks than the Democrats. It’s a classic political ploy to take your greatest weakness and turn it and use is as a weapon against your enemy.

    And thus hard-working poorly to moderately paid university professors become out-of -touch elitists whereas the billionaire denizens of Wall Street and wealthier-than-sin corporate board members become champions of the people even as they slash their workers’ wages and benefits while awarding themselves multi-million dollar bonuses for being so frugal.

    And thus Al Gore and John Edwards are ridiculed for being both wealthy and battling causes like climate change and poverty whereas John McCain is a man of the people even as he flies around in his second wife’s corporate jet from mansion to mansion (he has eight of them, you know), getting $200,000 credit card loans at 0% interest from Amex (you try doing that).

    And thus serious PBS reporters like Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio are dismissed as biased holier-than-thou left-wing elites when they report on the dismantling of the social safety net, or the raping of the environment, or the corporate takeover of the media whereas buffoons like Hannity, Limbaugh and O’Reilly hail themselves champions of the little people while shilling for right-wing fat cats, feeding on sleaze, divorcing the listeners from reality, and getting off on loofers and pain pills.

    it is pretty astounding how well it has worked over the years. it’s gotten to the point where nobody can be a “liberal” with money without being called an elitist and a hypocrite, *especially* when they use their wealth and privilege to speak out against bad government or bad policy. It’s high time we start putting a stop to it.

  76. Thomas Siefert

    Phil is an expert on astronomy NOT a political pundit.

    Yet he’s expected to form an opinion and cast his vote…

  77. Ad Hominid

    As the term implies, the public schools are public institutions and therefore under the ultimate authority of the voters.
    It is a disgrace that so few choose to exercise that authority by actually voting or studying the issues, but that does not change the legal and factual basis of the system.

    It is not the exclusive preserve of these much-cursed “elitists” unless the real owners and authorities, the voters, are willing to let it be. You DO have a choice and so do your neighbors.

  78. KC

    Utakata:

    BA’s political leanings are his own business, but they seem more liberal than libertarian. Libertarians are strong on small government and local autonomy. I can’t see a libertarian posting “We are doomed, doomed!” announcements over issues that they would regard as none of their business – how someone else’s school system is run.

  79. KC

    tacitus:

    Hmmm . . . the last time I looked, the Democrats seem to be holding their own in the riches department. Now that I think of it, they have for a long time. When you get a chance, Google a picture of FDR’s New York residence (for kicks, then Google a picture of FDR’s Warm Springs cottage – it then becomes evident why he went through the roof when his cottage’s electric bill was higher than his New York home).

    Besides, I think you’re mistaking snobbery for elitism. The two may at first blush seem identical, but they’re not. Snobbery is strong on “I’m better than you because of thus and so,” but a snob can acknowledge there’s people smarter than they and will listen. The elitists don’t.

    More to the point, the GOP you associate with snobbery is the segment known as “Country Club” Republicans, who have looked askance at the influx of DNC refugees. Country Club Republicans are centered on the Northeast and deep-down consider themselves as the “real” party. OTOH, Country Club Republicans hold Ronald Reagan in high regard, even though Ronald Reagan was not a Country Club Republican. That’s a clear indication that they are snobs, not elitists. An elitist will never, ever, ever accept anyone out of their “priesthood,” nor accept that they possibly have any input of value.

  80. LaCreption

    It is unfair that you have to study for ages, work hard an prove everything you claim.

    What about meteorites?
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080613/sc_afp/spacesciencebiochemistrybiology_080613180404

  81. madge

    I’m a harpist….Does that count?

  82. Drew

    Jeez Phil, you really opened a can of worms on this one. A largely misunderstood and misinterpreted comment regarding one man’s frustration with idiots running the most influential and powerful country in the world. Yes?

    If we are to survive the next century, then its high time that more people became “elite”, got off their arses, and studied science and engineering. Whether anyone likes it or not, we live in this universe, and this universe is both weird and fascinating. It is your duty as an intelligent homosapien to know what the hell is going on in it, and how it goes on. Ignorance of science among the general public is on an almost epidemic proportion. Truly, the world has enough politicians, new age w!nkers, conspiracy theorists, religious zealots, lawyers and bankers. We don’t need any more. We need thinkers, and more importantly we need them running this planet!

  83. Disinfo Agent

    In another blog entry, the BA asks why politicians hate smart people. That’s because they think they’re even smarter than smart people. They know better than everyone else.
    Seeing a politician accuse others of being elitist makes me laugh. Politics is the mother of all elistisms!

  84. I’ve noticed that there are at least two kinds of people; those that can, and those that pretend.

    I’m definitely on the side of people who can rather than those who claim they can.

  85. StevoR

    tacitus on 13 Jun 2008 at 5:15 pm


    “Yeah, I’m a bit surprised that his posts were removed. I certainly didn’t feel offended by anything he said. It’s those who start using pejorative names for the supporters of one candidate/party or another who should be excised.”

    Would you be referring to me for calling the “republicans ” what are are -Retardicans? ;-)

    (Because they want to retard our civilisation, slowing or stopping scientific and cultural advances and returning us to a new dark age.)

    If so, tough. Get used to it. I’m going to call them what they are ..well what they are that’s printable here anyhow! ;-)

  86. StevoR

    Funny how elite is seen as the best when talking about sportsmen yet the worst when talking about political leaders isn’t it?

    There’s snobs and toffs and Upper crust
    Aristocrats and kings
    Grand Poobahs and their viziers
    Pompous over-stuffed things!

    There’s plebs and bogans (Aussie)
    Rednecks NASCAR moms and dads
    There’s hoi-polloi & riff-raff
    And common vulgar thing’s

    But I’m an intellectual
    Academic that may be
    Call me an elitist but
    I’ll still hear other things!

    Yet all of us are human
    We breathe and breed and bleed
    All species homo sapiens
    We all have common need

    So chuck out all the labels
    We’re people each and all
    Individual as anything
    But yet from one big herd!

    -end

    (As far as I know original to me now …)

    _____________________________________

    Language is a funny thing and the way its used and abused by ‘Americans’ (& that term itself is a bit dubious given Amercia starts in Alaska and ends in Tierra Del Fuego!) especially so.

    Elite is one word that seems to be in the class of “politically” misused for political ends.

  87. StevoR

    tacitus on 14 Jun 2008 at 12:01 am :

    “The most astounding thing about this whole “elitist” thing is that the Republicans have always had far more wealthy, out-of-touch elites in their ranks than the Democrats. It’s a classic political ploy to take your greatest weakness and turn it and use is as a weapon against your enemy.

    And thus hard-working poorly to moderately paid university professors become out-of -touch elitists whereas the billionaire denizens of Wall Street and wealthier-than-sin corporate board members become champions of the people even as they slash their workers’ wages and benefits while awarding themselves multi-million dollar bonuses for being so frugal.

    And thus Al Gore and John Edwards are ridiculed for being both wealthy and battling causes like climate change and poverty whereas John McCain is a man of the people even as he flies around in his second wife’s corporate jet from mansion to mansion (he has eight of them, you know), getting $200,000 credit card loans at 0% interest from Amex (you try doing that).

    And thus serious PBS reporters like Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio are dismissed as biased holier-than-thou left-wing elites when they report on the dismantling of the social safety net, or the raping of the environment, or the corporate takeover of the media whereas buffoons like Hannity, Limbaugh and O’Reilly hail themselves champions of the little people while shilling for right-wing fat cats, feeding on sleaze, divorcing the listeners from reality, and getting off on loofers and pain pills.

    it is pretty astounding how well it has worked over the years. it’s gotten to the point where nobody can be a “liberal” with money without being called an elitist and a hypocrite, *especially* when they use their wealth and privilege to speak out against bad government or bad policy. It’s high time we start putting a stop to it.

    Hear! Hear! Well said & absolutely spot on! 8)

  88. StevoR

    The hoi-polloi, riff-raff and yourcommon peasantwill write totheir local MP or congressman (do you have MP’s in the USA or just the latter and senators?) thos einteh scientific eluite write to the IAU instead!

    Ah those little differences! ;-)

    For instance, I’ve just sent the following open letter to the IAU people listed on the Plutoid announcement link :

    ***

    Dear Dr. Catherine J. Cesarsky, IAU President (& so forth)

    Rather than adopt the new “Plutoid” term, I strongly urge the IAU to reconsider and reverse its decision to revoke Pluto’s planetary status and to adopt the initial proposal for planet proposed at the last Prague IAU meeting or alternatively adopt this suggested variant of that definition :

    “A planet is a natural, gravitationally-forced spheroidal, non-fusing object (ie. not just round by happenstance & allowing for rotational oblateness) directly orbiting a star or fusing object.”

    I think it would be a good idea to then classify solar system further by breaking them into the sub-classes of :

    I) Terrestrial or rocky (Mercury, Venus, Earth, & Mars)
    II) Asteroidal (Ceres & also possibly the largest couple of other asteroids eg. Juno, Pallas, Vesta.)
    III) Gas Giants or Jovian (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune)
    IV) Ice Dwarfs (Pluto, Eris, & maybe also Sedna & others.)

    Here are ten good reasons why I consider Pluto worthy of full planetary status and the IAU’s current definition problematic :

    1) Pluto has all the characteristics of a planet except for the “orbital clearing” criteria – however this criteria is flawed because it is itself too hard to define – what is meant by “cleared” & how far from the planet must the orbit be cleared? Strictly speaking this eliminates any object in our solar system as all planets have objects – comets and asteroids crossing their orbits, Jupiter has 100,000 Trojan asteroids, Neptune has Pluto crossing its orbit, Earth has 10,000 near-earth asteroids such as Eros and comets even venture inside Mercury’s orbit. By this logic, no planet can be considered a true planet unless it wanders its star essentially alone and all our solar systems twenty plus worlds – including the IAU’s eight ‘Classicals’ – are disqualified!

    2) A further reductio ad absurdum approach then reveals that this criterion fails again because it leads to absurd results ruling out objects we’d clearly consider planets based only on their location. If a Jupiter or Earth-type planet was located in the Oort cloud surely we’d still call it a planet! So why then draw the line at smaller objects otherwise fitting the planetary description?

    3) Furthermore, in relation to forming planetary systems (including historically our own,) we know planetary orbits cross and interact, even colliding to form moons and larger planets. Our own Moon formed from such a collision with our Earth and a Mars-sized body. By that poorly considered and ill defined third criterion, these youngest growing planets – even ones Jupiter sized and above – are NOT technically planets because their orbits are not yet cleared – again failing the reductio ad absurdum test. This also reveals that by that criterion’s definition, ‘planets’ cannot collide because their neighbourhood then isn’t clear – nor can they exist as binaries or “double planets” by the same logic. This is contrary to common-sense and consistency. It potentially creates trouble with exoplanets given the possibility that some extrasolar planets may exist in this form – even perhaps twin Neptunes or Jupiter’s. Given that some would describe the Earth-Moon system like the Pluto-Charon system as such a ‘double planet’ then a strict definition of the IAU rule (assuming one can be ‘strict’ with so-vaguely defined a law) could disqualify Earth from planetary status – clearly an absurd proposition!

    4) The current anti-Pluto definition is not applied to and is inconsistent with regard to exoplanets – among the flaws of the IAU ‘planet’ definition was its application only to solar system planets. Surely planets orbiting other suns are no less planets for not orbiting our star! Even more tellingly, at least one of the Pulsar planets, PSR B 1257+12 e is tiny – smaller than our Moon and even smaller than Pluto at just 1/5th Pluto’s mass (and another of the Pulsar planets has a mass about the Moon’s) raising a blatant inconsistency. As that is counted as an exoplanet then Pluto, equally, for the sake of consistency should also count among our star’s planets.

    5) The dwarf planet-dwarf star analogy; just as dwarf stars are still stars so surely are dwarf planets still planets. Extrapolating the “dwarf planets don’t count” line to stellar astronomy would imply our Sun is not a proper star nor are 99 % of all stars – those 90% on the main-sequence and the 10 % of “stellar corpses” such as white dwarfs and neutron stars. Clearly an absurdity! Moreover, just like with stars, the smaller the class the more its numbers! Therefore calling a planet a “dwarf” should NOT rule it out of being considered a proper planet!

    6) Then there are the problems with the whole “classical planets” term. It is hard to see how they apply to exoplanets or how the term can work usefully as a scientific description. Apart from these “classical planets” differing immensely among themselves – Earth and Pluto are arguably far more similar than Earth and Jupiter – the term also clashes with a previous understanding and use of the term namely the more apt concept of “classical planets” being the ones visible to the “classical” age peoples – the five original bright wanderers – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, & Saturn. Thus if we retain the ‘classical’ term, it seems best used as in that original sense applying to the bright planets easily visible from Earth with unaided eyesight and consequently first recognised as planets. Planets discovered later could contrastingly be termed ‘modern’ or ‘Post-Telescopic-era’ planets. This keeps ‘classical’ as a historical term rather than a scientific one and renders it useful in a descriptive, sky-viewing sense.

    7) Pluto is the dominant body in its immediate gravitational region among a complex, intriguing system of four bodies; (Pluto, Charon, Hydra & Nix) two moonlets and two worlds with a surrounding atmosphere, seasonal weather of a kind and perhaps rings. It is a complex, slowly changing place, well worthy of attention and planetary status. It is a lot more than just a rocky asteroid or cometary nucleus!

    Clearly it is important to have a reasonable definition of the term ‘planet’ and thus there’s a need to set maximum and minimum boundaries to rule out objects that are clearly not planets however we can do this by using two criteria – ability to shine by nuclear fusion for the maximum and gravity-driven roundness combined with direct solar or stellar orbiting for the minimum boundary. This can be done without leading to ludicrous results or setting an arbitrary division with no logical basis. Such a more reasonable definition keeps Pluto and adds the largest ice dwarfs and Ceres and was the original, superior definition considered by the Prague IAU meeting.

    9) There are also a whole range of cultural, historical and political arguments favouring Pluto’s long scientifically and culturally established place as a recognised planet from its discovery in 1930. Among these are the slight to Clyde Tombaugh’s memory, widow and family plus the perceived political aspect of stripping from planetary status the first planet discovered by an American.

    10) Finally, we have, in addition to the logical and scientific flaws outlined already, the rather undemocratic manner in which the IAU ruling was made. Bad enough that of the 10,000 IAU members only 2,500 attended that Prague meeting, it was worse still that of those 2,500 only 424 actually got to vote therefore making a very unrepresentative decision. Worst of all is that in that single room, last minute, key meeting some highly relevant and articulate people were excluded from voting and arguing their case; notably Pluto expert, Alan S. Stern, head of the New Horizons mission. His concise summary of the IAU decision making process and its verdict : “… idiotic. I have nothing but ridicule for this decision.” (on P.28, ‘Astronomy Now’, October, 2006.)

    I personally am inclined to agree with Alan Stern and feel the decision-making process reflected badly on the IAU and the astronomical community world-wide and is therefore in need of rectifying.

    Hence I am hoping and urging you to please raise the issue of the planetary definition and Pluto’s status again as soon as is possible and restore Pluto (and add Ceres and Eris) to their proper planetary status.

    Best regards :

    Steven C. Raine
    *********SNIP my eml & postal addresses
    ***** Adelaide
    South Australia Ph***** Snip

    ****

    I encourage others here in this elite company ;-) who feel likewise to follow my example and if they wish to send this as their letter too – or customise it to suit themselves – they’re very welcome too!

  89. StevoR

    D’oh! Typos! I meant of course :

    The hoi-polloi, riff-raff and your common peasant will write to their local MP*,senator or congressman those in the scientific elite write to the IAU instead! Ah those little differences! ;-)

    MP = Member of Parliament – Its what we have in Australia where there’s no Congress but instead we have parliament house and no President but a Prime Minister and a Governor-General – & the Queen of England! (Sigh. Yep, we haven’t kicked her out yet.)

  90. Jeffersonian

    Well, you are an elitist according to my cousin, who this week told me that everybody in Boulder is an “elitist”*. But he’s involved in Arvada politics and state level as well, so what does he know. Given my constant strife with bicyclists and being on the wrong end of two-wheeled bullies this week, I almost agree with him.

    I’ve only been called elitist (to my face innyhoo) because of my programming skills. I refer to myself as a snob all the time, though. I even answer to the word.

    Seriously though, “elitist” has come to mean “I fear you because I sense a greater intelligence”. It’s the canard: I want to elect someone I can have a beer with, not someone who can best fill the position” (like that’s ever gonna happen).

    *there was a convoluted hypothesis that accompanied; had something to do with ice cubes made from bottled water.

  91. Jeffersonian

    STeveR,
    MP in the USA means “Military Police”, which are cops on military bases (of which there are zillions).

    brief primer of the US legislative branch>
    The equivalent of M-of-Parliament is “congressman” of which there are basically two types*: Senator or Representative. Senators serve 6 years and there are only 2 from each state. They are therefore the “elite” ;). In the House of Representatives, there are as few as 1 from each state (Wyoming) or 53 (California). The reason for the odd numbers/overlap is what we call “The Balance of Power”: Representatives only serve a two year term (and recently have had to campaign non-stop in order to maintain a seat) and to make up for the Senate being the higher house, the Speaker of the House of Representatives gets a higher ranking than the Senate Pro Tempore, who is actually 2nd in command of the Senate after the Vice-President (who isn’t particularly hands-on). The Executive line-of-succession of power is : President; Vice president; Speaker-of-the-House; Senate Pro Tempore; Secretary of State; Secretary of Treasury, etc. All 15 Secretary Offices are Cabinet Positions (i.e. not voted in by the public but selected by the President). Easy, right?

    *US territories get seats and get to carry public concerns to Washington DC but can’t vote in congress. There are also 50 separate congressional systems at the state level, so a “State Senator/Representative” is different than a Federal one, meaning there are an absolute load of politicians over here.

  92. David D, the thing is, if the detainees at Gitmo are prisoners of war, then we have military rules (for example, that “quaint” code called the Geneva Conventions) on how they must be treated, including habeas corpus. If they are not POWs, then they must be tried as civilians, and again, we have rules on that, including habeas corpus. That’s what the SCOTUS declared here. If McCain rails against the ruling then there’s not many other ways to interpret this.

  93. KC

    BA:

    I seem to recall the Gitmo prisoners have appeared before military tribunals as would POWs. And I don’t have to remind everyone that McCain has literally been on the other side of this. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he is also influenced by noting how the Gitmo prisoners are treated verses the way the North Vietnamese treated him.

  94. KC

    Drew:

    There are no elitist career engineers. Nada. Zilch. That’s because you can’t be an effective engineer and not listen to people who’ve been there and done that. Engineers who don’t soon find themselves unemployed when their assumptions run around on the hard rocks of reality, or shuffled out of engineering to where they can’t do as much damage.

  95. BA–

    So by disagreeing with SCOTUS ruling, McCain hates habeas corpus, and that’s the only way to interpret that.

    Are all of your opinions so carefully nuanced, or just the ones about McCain?

  96. Naked Bunny with a Whip

    What nuance? The SC rules that the government must give people in its charge basic rights of due process. McCain disagrees. How else to interpret that except McCain is in favor of suspending habeus corpus when it gets in the way of the desired “guilty” ruling?

  97. Yeah, that’s been McCain’s deal all along. He’s been a BIG proponent of Gitmo, and making sure those guys are tortured and abused, right?

    By your definition (and apparently BA’s), the other 4 members of the Court hate habeas corpus, too, along with a lot of other Americans. In fact, there is a significant body of legal opinion that suggests that habeas corpus MAY not extend to the kinds of detainees in question (not just Gonzalez’).

    Disagreeing with a ruling is a far cry from “hating” habeas corpus, or wanting to do away with it on a whim.

    Nuance? How ’bout Obama’s 57 states? Or does he get a “pass” on that one?

  98. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Pah. We are all elitist. I’m the best being me for instance. [Wolverine’s voice] “I’m the best there is at what I do.” [/[Wolverine’s voice]

    – what is meant by “cleared” & how far from the planet must the orbit be cleared?

    it has become gravitationally dominant, and there are no other bodies of comparable size other than its own satellites or those otherwise under its gravitational influence“. IIRC I’ve seen a paper clearly outlining why the planets stands out from the rest on this account, so it is very well defined.

    My initial problem with the planet definition is that exoplanets and plutoids was left hanging (pun intended), but it seems they have cleared that up now. I liked the initial definition better as it was simpler and more general; but it is only a classification system after all.

    It could be worse – think of the taxonomists who must change groups reclassify the phylogeny, yet must stick to stable species names, just because they want to see priority and follow a more rigid paper trail. “The first published description of a species fixes the species epithet; if the species is later moved to another genus, it retains the first-published epithet unless that would create a homonym.” Yet, “In the interests of stability of nomenclature, the rule of priority can be reversed if a junior name has been used very widely and for a long period of time.” [Wikipedia.]

    So Apat-osaurus instead of Bronto-saurus: “In 1877, Othniel Charles Marsh published the name of the type species Apatosaurus ajax. He followed this in 1879 with a description of another, more complete specimen, which he thought represented a new genus and named Brontosaurus excelsus. In 1903, Elmer Riggs pointed out it that Brontosaurus excelsus was in fact so similar to Apatosaurus ajax that it belonged in the same genus, and which Riggs re-classified as Apatosaurus excelsus. According to the rules of the ICZN (which governs the scientific names of animals), the name Apatosaurus, having been published first, had priority as the official name; Brontosaurus was a junior synonym and therefore discarded from formal use. [Wikipedia.]” Makes you go “apat hic”, doesn’t it?]

    Meanwhile molecular biologists do the reasonable thing and use data bases to keep track of biochemicals, whatever their current classification. So the same gene can have a funny and memorable name if sequenced in a fly, while a boring alphanumerical code if sequenced in a human or a yeast.

  99. Ro-main

    How is yous doing? Ya’ll thing I cain joint your elitisg club?

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