blueollie

President Obama has some good advice about ebola

Yes, I know; many have tuned him out already. But he really is spot on here in what should be a non-partisan issue.

But we are polarized to the degree that if this message comes from the “social and political opposition”, the other side tunes out.
Dr. Andy (a smart, accomplished person who is confused about politics :-) ) sent me this link which discusses this polarization.

Yes, there are hard feelings at times and not just on these sorts of issues either. Yes, some ideas are not worthy of respect and people’s evasive behaviors should be called out.

October 18, 2014 Posted by | barback obama, economics, health, health care, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Fracking, economics, Obamacare and religious freedom…

Fracking I’ve never been aboard the “fracking is terrible and should be banned” bandwagon. I’ve always been aboard the “energy companies should do it right” bandwagon, and when the companies get sloppy and take short cuts, accidents happen, often with terrible consequences.

So, this study which showed that water contamination near gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas was NOT due to fracking but instead due to leaky gas wells did not surprise me at all. Yes, there is a problem and it should be fixed. But the technique of fracking isn’t the culprit in these instances.

Of course, this headline is wildly wrong: it should read “no water pollution due to fracking”: (from here)

terribleheadline

Economics Textbook economics is working fine, but too many economists have let ideology trump economic theory:

The big problem with economic policy is not, however, that conventional economics doesn’t tell us what to do. In fact, the world would be in much better shape than it is if real-world policy had reflected the lessons of Econ 101. If we’ve made a hash of things — and we have — the fault lies not in our textbooks, but in ourselves.

Obamacare
Yes, Obamacare is working for many, but those who are benefiting from it will vote for those who want to repeal it anyway:

The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”

So now you know why my sympathy for people is limited. I am for Obamacare as I think that it helps the economy. But as for the individuals helped by it: read the above.

I remember reacting with disgust when many who are on the public dole complain about President Obama and the liberals.

I suppose their cluelessness is a bit like this:

Separation of Church and state

Now, of course, what is said here is perfectly legal as a campaign rally is not a government sponsored event. And yes, Senator McCain had not yet arrived when this invocation was given (he was to arrive later via his “Straight Talk Express” bus:

But I’ll speak to my reaction (I was there): I bit my tongue and tried hard to not break out in laughter; to me this is “Zeus vs. Thor” stuff.

My point: while I believe in separation of church and State and believe that the government should not take sides on religion, I am NOT religiously offended at public prayers and the like. I see it as, well the way you might see an exotic (to you) culture going through some sort of ritual.

But the religious might be VERY offended; a prayer in one religion might be “blasphemy” to someone else.
Hence, religious people ought to be MORE in favor of “separation of church and State” than I am. Because if these aren’t separated:

The Satanic Temple is widely known for fighting to place a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma statehouse grounds. And now they’re bringing Satanic materials to kids in Florida, and it’s all thanks to “Christian” extremists.

Had Christian extremists let the school remain a secular place that honored the separation of church and state, the Satanic Temple would not have been able to introduce kids to The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities, which will be widely available in Orange County schools.

The activity book asks kids to find ways to be inclusive in order to solve problem. For instance, one set of instructions in the book says, “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand. Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.” In addition to the activity book other materials will include “pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

A Louisiana state lawmaker learned this the hard way:

In Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal pushed for a voucher program that would allow state funds to be used to pay for religious schools. It’s unconstitutional, it’s a way to use taxpayer money to fund someone’s faith, and it was a bad idea to begin with.
But it passed.
Now, one of the state legislators, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson), just made a shocking discovery, though: Christianity isn’t the only religion!

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.

“Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

(of course, she appears to believe that our Founding Founders were Christians; some were but others were not).

September 17, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, health care, morons, politics, religion, science, social/political, technology | , , | Leave a comment

Some GMO, Obamacare and Palestine comments…

Yes, Obamacare is working

Paul Krugman chimes in:

One thing about the Obamacare denialists: they don’t give up. First nobody but the sick would sign up, so we’d have a death spiral. Then it was “OK, a lot of people have signed up, but they won’t pay — and anyway, even more people have lost coverage.” [...]

And the response I’m seeing is “It’s not Obamacare, it’s the improving economy”.

But it isn’t. The decline is too sharp, too closely associated with the enrollment period to be driven by the at best gradual improvement in the job market. But wait, there’s more. The Urban Institute breaks down the decline in uninsurance by Medicaid adoption or not, which is closely correlated with the general question of whether states are helping implementation or blocking it. Here’s how it looks:

071314krugman1-blog480

Palestine and Israel This is an interesting article about the situation here. I don’t know what to think: I disapprove of Israeli excesses, but the behavior of the current Islamic republics/theocracies in the region is horrible; so it isn’t as if I am eager to see another one pop up.

I don’t know what the solution is or even if one exists at all.

GMO: the person who posted this Popular Science article is staunchly anti-Monsanto but pro science. The article deals with specific claims made by anti-GMO activists and answers them directly. I can recommend it.

July 13, 2014 Posted by | health care, Middle East, science, social/political, world events | , , | Leave a comment

Whining, politics and science

Gee, when people dismiss crackpot ideas (e. g. engage in global warming denialism) it gives Charles Krauthammer the sadz. No, Mr. Krauthammer: ideas have no inherent right to respect, including…well, some academic ideas like this one (forbidding “triggers”).

Speaking of dumbness: a few of the “in the future predictions” made by the film “Idiocracy” have come true. But…I should point out that some of these predictions were already commonplace prior to the movie. Remember how humans in “civilized” countries used to amuse themselves: public executions, burning animals alive, making people fight to the death, etc.

Politics
Yes, keeping control of the Senate will be an uphill fight for the Democrats, even if some of the “head to head” polls look ok now. There is the problem of the “drag” on the ticket due to the unpopularity of the President in the states in question, many of which are “red” to begin with.

But there is time, and the recent news for Obamacare has been good.

And maybe, just maybe, there is some attention being paid to inequality. Ok, that book by Piketty is rather highbrow.

Science
It is interesting, but being slightly underweight and undereating seems to help with longevity. Is there an evolutionary reason why this is so? There is a new conjecture about this, but the conjecture has detractors:

Why did creatures evolve such a mechanism in the first place? Researchers have declared the most popular theory doesn’t make evolutionary sense, and they’ve proposed a new explanation in its place.

The most prominent theory involves what happens physiologically during times of food scarcity. When the living is good, natural selection favors organisms that invest energy in reproduction. In times of hardship, however, animals have fewer offspring, diverting precious nutrients to cell repair and recycling so they can survive until the famine ends, when reproduction begins anew. Cell repair and recycling appear to be substantial antiaging and anticancer processes, which may explain why underfed lab animals live longer and rarely develop old-age pathologies like cancer and heart disease.

Margo Adler agrees with the basic cellular pathways, but she’s not so sure about the evolutionary logic. Adler, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, says this popular idea relies on a big assumption: that natural selection favors this energy switch from reproduction to survival because animals will have more young in the long run—so long as they actually survive and reproduce. “This idea is repeated over and over again in the literature as if it’s true, but it just doesn’t make that much sense for evolutionary reasons,” she says.

The problem, Adler says, is that wild animals don’t have the long, secure lives of their laboratory cousins. Instead, they’re not only endangered by famine but by predators and pathogens, random accidents and rogue weather as well. They also face physiological threats from a restricted diet, including a suppressed immune system, difficulty with healing and greater cold sensitivity. For these reasons, delaying reproduction until food supplies are more plentiful is a huge risk for wild animals. Death could be waiting just around the corner.

Better to reproduce now, Adler says. The new hypothesis she proposes holds that during a famine animals escalate cellular repair and recycling, but they do so for the purpose of having as many progeny as possible during a famine, not afterward. They “make the best of a bad situation” to maximize their fitness in the present. “It’s an efficiency mode that the animal goes into,” she says. Adler and colleague Russell Bonduriansky published their reasoning in the March BioEssays.[...]

Mathematics
This Scientific American article discusses “modular forms” and notes that a current mathematician appears to have solved a riddle proposed by a famous mathematician from yesteryear. As articles about mathematics go, this one is pretty readable.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, economy, education, evolution, health care, mathematics, politics/social, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

No Difference between Democrats and Republicans?

Check this out:

Charlene Dill didn’t have to die.

On March 21, Dill was supposed to bring her three children over to the South Orlando home of her best friend, Kathleen Voss Woolrich. The two had cultivated a close friendship since 2008; they shared all the resources that they had, from debit-card PINs to transportation to baby-sitting and house keys. They helped one another out, forming a safety net where there wasn’t one already. They “hustled,” as Woolrich describes it, picking up short-term work, going out to any event they could get free tickets to, living the high life on the low-down, cleaning houses for friends to afford tampons and shampoo. They were the working poor, and they existed in the shadows of the economic recovery that has yet to reach many average people.

So on March 21, when Dill never showed up with her three kids (who often came over to play with her 9-year-old daughter, Zahra), Woolrich was surprised she didn’t even get a phone call from Dill. She shot her a text message – something along the lines of “Thanks for ditching me, LOL” – not knowing what had actually happened. Dill, who was estranged from her husband and raising three children aged 3, 7 and 9 by herself, had picked up yet another odd job. She was selling vacuums on a commission basis for Rainbow Vacuums. On that day, in order to make enough money to survive, she made two last-minute appointments. At one of those appointments, in Kissimmee, she collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor.

Dill’s death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable. She had a documented heart condition for which she took medication. But she also happened to be one of the people who fall within the gap created by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of the Affordable Care Act’s intention to make health care available to everyone. In the ensuing two years, 23 states have refused to expand Medicaid, including Florida, which rejected $51 billion from the federal government over the period of a decade to overhaul its Medicaid program to include people like Dill and Woolrich – people who work, but do not make enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies. They, like many, are victims of a political war – one that puts the lives and health of up to 17,000 U.S. residents and 2,000 Floridians annually in jeopardy, all in the name of rebelling against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

To my fellow liberals: the Republicans know that there is a big difference. And you should too. Our Democrats aren’t as liberal as we’d like them to be and they too are often in the clutches of Big Money. The same holds true for President Obama.

But there are differences and they are significant. Shame on you if you can’t see them or won’t admit that they are there.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, health care, republicans, republicans politics, social/political | | 2 Comments

GMO, El Nino, Obamacare’s legs and Ukraine …

GMO: this is a nice editorial, though I don’t agree with labeling laws. Mandatory label laws should be done for science reasons and not to appease the woo-woos:

GMOs are made by inserting a foreign gene into a plant or animal with the goal of conferring properties that have some agricultural benefit. At present, only GM plants have entered our food supply. In the United States, commonly used GM corn and soybean varieties contain a bacterial gene that confers resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, marketed under the brand name Roundup. Roundup kills weeds but not the GM crop. Other GM corn, soybean and cotton varieties produce a bacterial protein called Cry with insecticide activity that lessens the need for application of toxic chemicals that pollute the soil and groundwater.

The creation of GMOs is indeed sophisticated, but in fact agriculture is a high-tech revolution in progress that began 10,000 years ago.

To put GMOs in perspective, that beautiful organically grown heirloom tomato is a biologically distorted, genetically engineered product of human innovation derived from a small, hard, poisonous fruit created by nature. Virtually everything in your garden is the result of many hundreds of years of genetic tinkering through breeding, resulting in organisms that bear little resemblance to the native species, and which would not exist without human intervention.

It is amusing that the now popular “Paleo” (or Paleolithic) diet advocates eating food that did exist in the Paleolithic area, and that would be unrecognizable by our ancestors of that time.

There is a strong consensus in the scientific community that foods derived from GMOs are safe. Reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found that no adverse health effects attributed to GMOs have been documented in the human population. Moreover, they conclude that GMOs reduce the application of insecticides, the most dangerous herbicides and overall have fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GMO crops produced conventionally. [...]

Seriously: check out the science magazines for yourself (e. g. Nature’s GMO issue)

El Nino: Australia is now saying that we’ll have a strong El Nino; this means that we (in Illinois) are likely to have a 1998 like winter. But time will tell.

Obamacare Perhaps there is some hope on the horizon?

The good news for Obamacare just keeps coming in. Via Charles Gaba, the Rand Survey — which was the subject of a report in the LA Times, but which wasn’t publicly available — is now in. And it says that as of mid-March — that is, before the final enrollment surge — the Affordable Care Act had already produced a net gain of 9.3 million insured adults. Again, that’s a net gain; so much for claims that more people are losing insurance than gaining it.

At least some Republicans are realizing that (a) the ACA is not going to collapse and (b) they can’t simply take away insurance from millions of Americans. So they have to come up with an alternative.

And as Sahil Kapur reports, at least a few of them are coming to a terrible realization: there is no alternative. You can’t just support the popular pieces of reform, in particular coverage for preexisting conditions, and scrap the rest. As Jonathan Gruber taught me, and I and others have said many times, reform is a three-legged stool that requires community rating, the individual mandate, and subsidies; take away any leg and it collapses. And Kapur finds a GOP aide who admits to the awful truth: any workable GOP plan would look pretty much the same as Obamacare.

I don’t know how many GOP leaders, as opposed to aides, understand this. And even those who do won’t dare to admit it. The party line, literally, has been that Obamacare is an unworkable monstrosity, and the base will destroy anyone who points out, this late in the game, that it’s both workable and pretty much the only doable alternative to single-payer.

My guess: the GOP will huddle and then say that THEY “forced President Obama to the center” by pointing to tweak x, y, or z….and take credit for what is basically…a Republican idea.

Ukraine: It might not be exactly like what some bloggers say (e. g. a Nazi like “rolling over Europe) but it is looking more and more that Russia will dominate Ukraine in one way or another; this, to my amateur eyes, looks more like a return to the old cold war USSR.

April 8, 2014 Posted by | health care, republicans, republicans politics, science, social/political, world events | , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging: light

I haven’t written much except to record my workouts…at least here. I did write this post yesterday (on my math blog).

I have followed some stories though.

Health care: Republicans are outraged that Obamacare is meeting enrollment targets. Uh, Republicans: this is your idea. Why not be happy that it appears to be working and that YOU suggested this idea a long time ago?

And yes, I love it when Paul Krugman gets grumpy.

We have some science too. There was a strong earthquake off of the coast of Chile which generated a tsunami. But due to early warning, many were able to evacuate; think of all of the lives that were saved. But…of course….when you hear a story like this, many people start talking about their deity performing magic tricks to save people, though they don’t use the term “magic”. Groan…

April 2, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, health care, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Arguments against single payer insurance

beagainstsinglepayer

Note: in some places, Democrats ought to run on the accomplishments, sans apology. Of course, as this blog post points out, we are defending many red state Senate seats…and the message has to be different there.

March 30, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, health care, social/political | Leave a comment

Night out with my bros

billbarackneil

I wish.

Via: Why Evolution is True.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, health care | , | Leave a comment

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