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Obama

State Dinners

Anastasia has started an interesting discussion over at Biofortified about the food served at the Obamas’ first state dinner, a reception for the visiting Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh.*

The dinner was quite light on meat** and included both traditional American and Indian foods. As I said last night on the twitter feed: Anyone who serves naan and cornbread in the same meal has my approval.

*Prime Minster Singh comes from the Indian National Congress which formed a coalition government with several other Indian parties rule the country. Indian party politics are very complex, though in some ways it could be argued a complex multiparty system is more responsive to the wishes of voters than the two party system we have here in the US (I’m waiting for a program to run and have too much time to think).

**The reporter for the nytimes seems to have lumped prawns (a crustacean similar to shrimp, although I always associate them with the crayfish I had to dissect in intro bio) with the vegetarian parts of the menu…

Putting Prejudice over Science

I read this when it came out, but it was before I’d restarted the site full time, and Pamela Ronald restarted the discussion over on scienceblogs today. Back in May the USDA posted a report on their website about how allowing genetically engineered crops to be certified as organic would have positive environmental effects.

Needless to say the organic movement was not pleased, and the report has since been pulled from the website. Now I previously celebrated the idea that the Obama administration was going to let organic and biotech go head to head and take the best parts of both. I’m confident in the benefits of genetic engineering when people judge the technology based on the data instead of preconceived opinions.

Making reports disappear because they step on the toes of well connected interest groups is not letting the data speak for itself.

h/t’s to Tomorrows Table and Biofortified.

And hey, if you’re willing to spend 10 minutes you can register and vote for Biofortified in the Ashoka Changemakers Contest. There’s a good chance you’ll help win $1500 to support a website fighting the good fight to correct the misinformation about genetic engineering, but even more importantly from my perspective, winning this contest means the guy on the left (yes he’s wearing a corn cob patterned t-shirt) will get a chance to meet with Michael Pollen. There’s also a stuffed corn cob with glasses in the picture.

Insight from Jiffy-with apologies for bringing up politics

This story all begins because I went in to get my oil changed before driving across the country. It turns out my car went past 90,000 miles since I last had it serviced, and lots of things recommended to be serviced every 15,000 or 30,000 miles also needed to be taken care of (fuel filter, automatic transmission system, etc.) I tell you this not because I believe you will find it fascinating, but because it explains how I came to spend an hour sitting in a Jiffy-lube on monday watching fox news, and happened to catch Obama’s speech on energy issues.

I haven’t been one of those people who’s been grabbed by Obama’s speeches, but he’s certainly the guy I’ll be voting for in the fall and he was talking about an issue that interested me so I was watching his speech intently, and he was making good points (except for the windfall profits tax + rebate but that’s a different post). About ten minutes in to his speak, I start worrying I’m giving away the fact that I’m a democrat, so I decide to look over at my car, so it’s obvious I’m not paying TOO close attention to Obama’s speech. I turn my head and everyone in the room has their eyes locked on the TV. The middle aged, working class guys getting coffee, an old lady, a young mother with a screaming baby, even the employees working behind the counter.

And that’s why I think Obama is a great nominee for the democratic party, and would make an excellent president. Despite all the dirt Hillary Clinton and John McCain have tried to make stick to him, despite the fact that his personal appeal and policy positions were definitely a second choice for me after those of John Edwards, Obama gets people to pay attention. People who would normally tune out any news about politics, and people who normally meet anything a democrat says with an audible snort of derision, simply because the person who said it was a democrat.

General Election Strength

ClintonvsObama

If anyone is following the race for the democratic nomination for president, one topic that gets discussed ad nauseum is whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton has a better chance of winning against McCain in the fall. The problem with such arguments is that there are different roads to victory and and the two candidates are strong in different parts of the country and weak in different parts of the country.

In order to better visualize this I’ve dusted off my knowledge of Perl to generate a map of the states in which each candidate has an advantage. Dark blue states are ones where Obama does ≥ 10% better than Clinton relative to McCain, medium blue are ones where he does ≥ 5%, and light blue ones are where his advantage is 1-5%. States where Clinton has a relative advantage are marked in green, and coded using the same dark ≥ 10%, medium ≥ 5%, light 1-5% system.*

*All calculations based on the most recent poll in each state, and using date pulled from a site I highly recommend Electoral Vote.

Things to keep in mind:

1. A relative advantage doesn’t equal a win. (For example Obama is 27% closer to McCain in Utah than Clinton is, but that still means polls show McCain winning 50%-39%)

2. Likewise a relative disadvantage doesn’t equal a loss. (Clinton has a 12% advantage in Massachusetts, Obama an 18% advantage in Illinois, but the democratic nominee would certainly carry both states.)

3. The margin of error on most polls in 3-5% so the lightest blue and lightest green states are ones where neither candidate has a significant advantage. If I did this map again in a week, after new polls had come out, a lot of those states might change colors.