blueollie

Politics: Disgusted with Illinois Democratic Political Leadership

I admit that I’ve been doing a slow burn over the IL-17 race. Yes, this district has been gerrymandered to be Democrat; Obama won the precincts that constitute this district handily in 2008 and the precursor to this district was solid Democrat until 2010 until Bobby Schilling (tea party extremist) upset Phil Hare in 2010.

So the Illinois Democrats (and their representatives in Congress) decided to take this seat back. They even strong armed potential candidates into NOT running against Cheri Bustos, the current Democratic candidate for IL-17. She won a three way race in the primary, against artificially weak opposition.

Yes, there were complaints that she was a weak candidate, but the Democratic party higher ups told potential primary rivals that they “would make her into a good candidate”.

What BS. Yes, she has some personal connections to Senator Dick Durbin, but so what? Isn’t the election supposed to be about getting someone who will back Democratic Party values in Congress? That doesn’t mean merely “holding those values”; it also means having the political skill to get elected to begin with.

And she is losing…..losing in this “made to order district”. Yes, some of the attacks against here are blatantly dishonest and unfair. (she was attacked for voting for 625K for a water main project…one that was already in progress…but it was on a road that ran near her house and to a country club…which she was NOT a member of…)

But she is also getting beat by this:

24 seconds into it: “Bobby is one of us”….(great reason not to elect this jerk!) But who is Bobby Schilling really for?

Mr. Schilling is running on a combination of “return to Jesus/taxes on millionaires are too high” message…and winning.

Great job, Illinois Democratic leaders. I swear, if our party leadership (Illinois) were football coaches, they’d be fired. But it appears that they are more interested in keeping “their own” in power instead of getting the best candidates to run and win.

I’d give the local Republicans a shot, except their platform is a contradictory, toxic mix of rabid social conservatism populism with Gilded Age pro-millionaire economics.

How I wish we had a parliamentary system in place.

October 7, 2012 Posted by | IL-17, Illinois, liars, Peoria, Peoria/local, political/social, politics | Leave a comment

Politics and Science (what else?)

Science Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True recommends this Evolution Poster:

(click for the full size poster)
I’ve read some of it and I’ll have to read more.

Virus Evolution
Some viruses can mutate to become more contagious very quickly. Carl Zimmer in the New York Times explains:

Viruses regularly evolve new ways of making people sick, but scientists usually do not become aware of these new strategies until years or centuries after they have evolved. In a new study published on Thursday in the journal Science, however, a team of scientists at Michigan State University describes how viruses evolved a new way of infecting cells in little more than two weeks.

The report is being published in the midst of a controversy over a deadly bird flu virus that researchers manipulated to spread from mammal to mammal. Some critics have questioned whether such a change could have happened on its own. The new research suggests that new traits based on multiple mutations can indeed occur with frightening speed.

The Michigan researchers studied a virus known as lambda. It is harmless to humans, infecting only the gut bacterium Escherichia coli. Justin Meyer, a graduate student in the biology laboratory of Richard Lenski, wondered whether lambda might be able to evolve an entirely new way of getting into its host.

The standard way for lambda to get into a cell is to latch onto its outer membrane, attaching to a particular kind of molecule on the surface of E. coli. It can then inject its genes and proteins into the microbe.

Mr. Meyer set up an experiment in which E. coli made almost none of the molecules that the virus grabs onto. Now few of the viruses could get into the bacteria. Any mutations that allowed a virus to use a different surface molecule to get in would make it much more successful than its fellow viruses. “It would have a feast of E. coli,” Dr. Lenski said.

The scientists found that in just 15 days, there were viruses using a new molecule — a channel in E. coli known as OmpF. Lambda viruses had never been reported to use OmpF before.

Surf to read the rest; nature can be very efficient….and it is indifferent to the comfort of humans. True, nature cares about our being able to reproduce so we do evolve some defenses against diseases that kill prior to our child bearing years.

Politics
Republicans are fed a mess of lies and distortions from the right wing media. Here is one whopper (surf to the Salon article by Michael Lind to read more)

Here is misleading argument No. 1:

Spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare alone currently account for 46 percent — or nearly half of — federal spending, excluding interest payments. Over the next 25 years, that percentage will explode to 66 percent, or close to two-thirds, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This claim, while true, is misleading. This statistic, without any measure of how the projected federal spending grows (relative to GDP) is meaningless. Here is why: suppose next year, we completely cut military spending and we keep the above programs exactly the same. Guess what: the spending on those programs, as a percentage of the federal budget, would go way up and we wouldn’t be spending any more money! Of course that is an extreme example. A more honest statistic would be how much spending on these programs would grow AS A PERCENTAGE OF GDP.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t try to reform Medicare because, well, more of us are living longer and most medical expense comes at the end of life. But we should be honest about the numbers.

Other lies you might hear: “Obama is taxing you more” (no, he isn’t; he is taxing you LESS), “Obama Raised Taxes 19 times”; here is what Mr. Romney really meant by that:

We’ll list the 19 provisions in four groupings that reflect how much consensus there seems to be from our reporting.

Items that are clearly taxes, and that are already in effect

• Increasing the federal excise tax on tobacco. Obama signed legislation raising taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products soon after taking office; that money goes to pay for children’s health insurance programs. The law went into effect in 2009.

• A 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services. This tax is narrowly targeted at tanning bed users, but it is still a tax. This took effect July 1, 2010.

• Increasing corporate taxes by making it more difficult for businesses to engage in activities that reduce their tax liability. This appears to refer to the closing of a half-dozen existing exemptions and credits relevant only to large international corporations. (We wrote about this recently.) While this is a provision targeted narrowly at big conglomerates — and while it’s popular as a way to keep deep-pocketed countries from sheltering excessive amounts of income — our experts said it does count as a tax increase. Obama signed the bill into law on Aug. 10, 2010.

• Imposing an annual fee on manufacturers and importers of branded drugs, based on each company’s share of the total market. While some industry-specific levies are intended to help foot the bill for regulatory processes, this one is more of a revenue raiser for the more general goals of the health care overhaul. It took effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

Follow the link to see the rest; it is in dispute whether some of the changes really are “taxes”.

You might also hear about how “Obama grew government”. Actually we have fewer non-military employees than when President Reagan was in office (automation?). If you are talking about spending (Paul Krugman):

One of the things everyone knows right now is that Obama has presided over a huge increase in government spending. But like so many of the things everyone knows, it isn’t true.

A few considerations to bear in mind:

1. You don’t want dollar amounts, especially when comparing over time; you really want to scale spending by the size of the US economy.

2. But even dividing by GDP isn’t quite enough, because we’re still a deeply depressed economy, so government spending as a share of GDP will look high even if actual spending hasn’t risen at all, simply because it’s divided by a smaller number. So a better guide is spending as a share of potential GDP, for which I use the CBO measure.

3. You really want to consolidate federal spending with state and local — especially because a significant part of the stimulus was aid to state and local governments designed to help them limit spending cuts.

It just isn’t true: President Obama isn’t a big government president.
NOTE: this graph is “spending vs. POTENTIAL GDP which is currently below the actual GDP due to the recession, so many being out of work, etc.”

Obama Derangement Syndrome
The bottom line, many conservatives hate Obama for, well, doing stuff that he didn’t actually do:

The right’s core case is that Obama has governed as a radical leftist attempting a “fundamental transformation” of the American way of life. Mitt Romney accuses the president of making the recession worse, of wanting to turn America into a European welfare state, of not believing in opportunity or free enterprise, of having no understanding of the real economy, and of apologizing for America and appeasing our enemies. According to Romney, Obama is a mortal threat to “the soul” of America and an empty suit who couldn’t run a business, let alone a country.

Leave aside the internal incoherence—how could such an incompetent be a threat to anyone? None of this is even faintly connected to reality—and the record proves it. On the economy, the facts are these. When Obama took office, the United States was losing around 750,000 jobs a month. The last quarter of 2008 saw an annualized drop in growth approaching 9 percent. This was the most serious downturn since the 1930s, there was a real chance of a systemic collapse of the entire global financial system, and unemployment and debt—lagging indicators—were about to soar even further. No fair person can blame Obama for the wreckage of the next 12 months, as the financial crisis cut a swath through employment. Economies take time to shift course.

Obamacare? That was really the Heritage Foundation’s plan that was offered by Bob Dole to President Bill Clinton (with some modifications, of course).

So, liberals hated President George W. Bush too, so what is the difference? Well, as Bill Maher points out: we hated President Bush for what he REALLY DID DO: run up a ton of debt, attack a country that didn’t attack us and do so under false premises and give big tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthy. He really did do these things.

There is nothing wrong with disliking President Obama (though I like him very much); there is a lot wrong with pretending that he did things that he didn’t do.

January 29, 2012 Posted by | biology, economy, evolution, health care, liars, Mitt Romney, politics, politics/social, republicans, science | 2 Comments

23 February 2011

Workout notes
I slept in. I am still a bit tired. But I worked out over lunch: 4 mile run on the treadmill; first mile very slow (11 minutes), then 10:30, then I alternated some 9:30-10:00 running with brief (100-200 meter) walking breaks and did enough to finish in 42:20. Then I walked 2 more miles (plus, mostly outer lane) and passed old people by the truckload (Bradley U, but the dried up old farts were there on lunch hour). Then I did 4 x 25 sit ups, stretches, etc.

Shoulder note
Last night I had some pain…not quite the old “wake me up” variety but the type that I noticed when I woke up to use the bathroom. I am wondering: headstand? down-dog? going down too far with the incline presses? slacking with the rotator cuff exercises? Not stretching enough?

Posts
Believe it or not, I side with the Mayor here. Sure, these police officers need to be kicked off of the force and face charges. But, I can see a way in which airing this video too soon might well make it harder to prosecute the offenders. Now if you are someone who has had court experience and know that my conclusion is false, feel free to tell me.

The Deputy Attorney General of Indiana seemed to think that it might be appropriate to fire on the Wisconsin protesters with live ammunition. He was fired. My guess is that some southern state will hire him. :)

Speaking of Wisconsin, leave it to the Republican media to lie distort the truth:

Beck And Co-Host Insinuate Wisconsin Teachers Have Done A Bad Job Because Of Purportedly Poor Student Reading Performance. From the February 23 edition of Beck’s radio show:

BECK: By the way, let’s ask the teachers this. There’s research out that shows that two-thirds of all eighth-graders — two-thirds of all eighth-graders cannot read.

PAT GRAY (co-host): Proficiently. Two-thirds.

[...]

BECK: Only 32 percent of Wisconsin public school eighth-graders earned proficient rating while another 2 percent earned advanced. Another 66 percent of Wisconsin eighth-graders earned ratings below proficient, 44 who earned a rating of basic and 22 who rated below basic. Well, you guys are sure doing your job, aren’t you now?

GRAY: Give ‘em a raise. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 2/23/11]

Limbaugh: “If You Or I Failed At Our Jobs As Badly As” Wisconsin Teachers, “Not Only Would We Be Fired, We Wouldn’t Be Talking About Lifetime Pensions And Health Care Benefits.” From the February 22 edition of Limbaugh’s radio show:

LIMBAUGH: Now, if you or I failed at our jobs as badly as teachers in the public school system clearly have failed, not only would we be fired, we wouldn’t be talking about lifetime pensions and health care benefits paid for by somebody else. We might be put in jail for fraud for taking money under false pretenses.

“What are you talking about, Mr. Limbaugh?” This. Two-thirds of the eighth-graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently. According to the U.S. Department of Education. Not according to me, not according to Sarah Palin, but according to the Obama administration. Two-thirds of the eighth-graders in Wisconsin public screw-els cannot read proficiently, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress Tests administered by the Department of Education in 2009 — that’s the last year available — only 32 percent of Wisconsin public school eighth-graders earned a proficient rating, while another 2 percent earned an advanced rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public school eighth-graders earned ratings below proficient, including 44 percent who earned a rating of basic and 22 percent who earned a rating of below basic.

They’re not even being taught to read. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/22/11]

FACT: Wisconsin Eighth-Graders’ Reading Scores Are Above National Average

Wisconsin Public School Eighth-Graders’ 2009 Reading Scores Are Above National Averages. According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP):

* 78 percent of Wisconsin public school eighth-graders scored “at or above Basic in NAEP reading,” compared to 74 percent nationwide. [Page 64]

* 34 percent of Wisconsin public school eighth-graders scored “at or above Proficient in NAEP reading,” compared to 30 percent nationwide. [Page 65]

* 22 percent of Wisconsin public school eighth-graders scored “below Basic,” compared to 26 percent nationwide. [Page 66]

* Wisconsin public school eighth-graders’ average score was 266, compared to 262 nationwide. [Page 34] [The Nation's Report Card, National Center for Education Statistics, March 2010]

Now, of course, our national level is not outstanding, but our national level is being dragged down…by states in which teachers don’t have collective bargaining rights:

In a blog post on Sunday, Angus Johnston, an American history professor at the City University of New York, describes the Dems’ pro-union tweets as flawed by outdated statistics and improper statistical analysis. Then he asks what would “good” data could tell us about the question of whether teachers unions provide any benefit to students.

After taking a harder look at the kind of data the Dems were touting as well as other student performance data, Johnston confirmed in a blog post Monday that Wisconsin does, indeed, rank near the top of the country on SAT/ACT scores. By contrast, Virginia is near the middle of the national rankings pack and the rest of the no-union states are near the bottom. The same relative rankings are true on another standard of student success: high school graduation.

Furthermore, Johnston had different takes on the data Grothman believes is evidence of the floundering Wisconsin public schools.

In fact, after looking at the very same data Grothman was citing, plus the SAT/ACT scores and student graduation rates, here’s what Johnston concluded:

“Yes, Wisconsin has great schools, with great outcomes. Yes, states without teachers’ unions lag behind. Yes, that lag persists even when you control for demographic variables…And yes, Virginia, (and Texas, Georgia, and North and South Carolina) unions do work.” Do read all of Johnston’s posts for an interesting take on the whole subject.

Note: I encourage people to read the whole linked article; the decline in reading scores in Wisconsin is discussed…as is the increase in non-native English speaking students.

How are people in Wisconsin responding? There is some bad poll data and some good data. I can recommend Nate Silver’s post on the topic. Upshot: there is some ambivalence; people don’t want union people to be overpaid but they do want them to retain the right to bargain; and it appears that the governor is in worse position.

Political/Social We’ve won another small victory: the Obama Justice Department will no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act as it was deemed unconstitutional. So, before too long, gays will be able to make themselves as miserable as the rest of us! :)

Really, I am to the left of the President on gay marriage (note: both Senator Kerry and President Bush supported civil unions, which is the official Obama position). Ironically, Mr. Cheney appears to be pro-gay marriage; it feels odd to agree with him on something.

Humor
Bad pun. Very bad.
epic fail photos - cos B WIN
see more funny videos

Religion This was from a year or so ago, but it is quick and to the point:

But people fear atheism. I’ll put it this way: when I hear “atheist”, I think of Richard Dawkins, Neal deGrasse Tyson, Jerry Coyne, someone in a science or mathematics department, etc.
Others associate atheism with stuff like this:

(to which I say “meh”…stupid but whatever floats your boat)

Science
Anytime science comes up with a scary conclusion, people will resist believing it. Take climate change skeptics (please! :) ).

Near the forum’s conclusion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel asked a panel of journalists why the media continues to cover anthropogenic climate change as a controversy or debate, when in fact it is a consensus among such organizations as the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Association and the National Research Council, along with the national academies of more than two dozen countries.

“You haven’t persuaded the public,” replied Elizabeth Shogren of National Public Radio. Emanuel immediately countered, smiling and pointing at Shogren, “No, you haven’t.” Scattered applause followed in the audience of mostly scientists, with one heckler saying, “That’s right. Kerry said it.”

So why? Part of it that the average moron person knows nothing about science but thinks that they know more than they think that they do (“common sense”). Part of it is that they are used to being lied to by marketers, politicians, officials, etc. So why shouldn’t this be more of the same? And, the science reporting is absolutely awful; many times I get the impression that the journalist has little or no understanding of what they are writing about. Hence they tend to do thins like give the “crackpot view” in an effort to be “fair and balanced”.

Speaking of climate change: some not-so-hard things could be done right now with existing technologies:

Placing strict limits on a handful of common air pollutants could pay big dividends for efforts to limit climate change, improve public health and increase agricultural productivity, according to a new U.N. report.

Curbing emissions of black carbon, a component of soot, along with methane and tropospheric ozone, could cut projected climate warming by 0.5 degree Celsius, or about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2070.

Such cuts could be made with existing technology, the report says, and would “have immediate and multiple benefits for human well-being.”

Possible strategies for reducing black carbon, methane and ozone include capturing methane produced by landfills and fossil fuel extraction, introducing cleaner-burning cookstoves, installing particulate filters on diesel engines and banning the practice of burning fields of agricultural waste.

The research shows that cutting black carbon and methane emissions would slow the rate of warming up until about 2040, while starting soon to cut emissions of carbon dioxide would only have an appreciable effect after 2040.

Science fun

What does our Secretary of Energy do in his spare time? He thinks about things like this:

Good to know that our Secretary of Energy, Steve Chu, is still able to unwind from a long day of bureaucracy by thinking about atom interferometry and the Principle of Equivalence.

Equivalence Principle and Gravitational Redshift

Michael A. Hohensee, Steven Chu, Achim Peters, Holger Mueller

We investigate leading order deviations from general relativity that violate the Einstein equivalence principle (EEP) in the gravitational standard model extension (SME). We show that redshift experiments based on matter waves and clock comparisons are equivalent to one another. Consideration of torsion balance tests, along with matter wave, microwave, optical, and M\”ossbauer clock tests yields comprehensive limits on spin-independent EEP-violating SME terms at the $10^{-6}$ level.

The Principle of Equivalence says that, if you’re in free fall, there’s no way of detecting the gravitational field around you in a local region of spacetime. (You’ve seen Inception, right?) Unlike electromagnetism, with gravity there’s no local “force” that can be detected by comparing what happens to particles of different charges. In other words, all particles feel the same “charge” as far as gravity is concerned; they all fall in the same way.

But..another Nobel Laureate thinks that his “clock mechanism” (from the oscillations of wave packets) isn’t really a suitable “clock”. Hence the debate….a HIGHLY INFORMED debate.

February 24, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, cosmology, economics, economy, education, Fox News Lies Again, humor, injury, liars, matter, moron, morons, nature, physics, political/social, politics, politics/social, Republican, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, running, Rush Limbaugh, science, training, walking | Leave a comment

Which spending cuts should be made? – CNN Video

Michele Bachmann talks about which cuts she would make to spending to get the U.S. budget back on track.Of course, these liars can’t be specific.

Which spending cuts should be made? – CNN Video, posted with vodpod

November 4, 2010 Posted by | liars, politics, republicans | Leave a comment

   

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