blueollie

Frogs, GMOs and Mother Jones becoming Salon?

Frogs: some new species were discovered in Peru. And these frogs have transparent skin! (yes, you can see the organs) I wonder: is there a purpose to this, or is it just the effects of genetic drift?

GMOs: this is a every even handed, level headed post via “I F****ng love science. And, surprisingly, The Nation also had a decent article as well. I share the pleasant shock and surprise of doomvox at Daily Kos:

I feel like the millennium is at hand: The Nation is taking on the anti-GMO activists, with an article by Madeline Ostrander that asks the question Can GMOs Help Feed a Hot and Hungry World?, with the answer provided in the subtitle: “Not if activists succeed in making the genetic modification of food politically unsustainable”. This is a blow for rationality I would not at all have expected from The Nation (their idea of balanced coverage of the nuclear issue, for example, is a debate between an anti-nuclear person and a fanatically anti-nuclear one). Maybe the left really is on it’s way to being “the reality based community”…

You know it is a sad day when I am pleasantly surprised by a competent article coming from The Nation.

Of course, Mother Jones did this: it hammered Scott Brown for posting….triathlon photos?
brownworkout

The Massachusetts transplant is gearing up for his campaign against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) this fall by literally running for office. He’s also biking. And swimming. And hiking. And taking jump shots. If it’s a weekend, you can expect to find the Republican candidate tweeting a photo of his latest feat of strength. Things might not work out for Brown in November, but Brown will almost certainly work out.

Uh, workout/sports photos are bad because….???? Seriously: are photos for some politician holding yet another baby, hunting, or eating another hotdog at a county fair supposed to be better?

At least this article didn’t accuse him of “fat shaming”, but hey, I haven’t read the comments. :-)

PS: politically speaking, I am not a fan of his and I hope that his opponent wins this election. But really???

August 27, 2014 Posted by | frogs, politics, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

President Obama’s main weakness

It is no secret that I am a fan of the President. But like the rest of us, he has weaknesses. This is one of his: he seems to have a disdain for building the personal relationships with members of Congress that people like President Clinton did.

Now, I happen to PREFER working with someone who is curt and to the point so *I* could probably work with him. But I don’t have a politician’s personality.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social | | Leave a comment

Liberals and Conservatives

Well, is there a genetic difference between conservatives and liberals? The evidence for “yes” is piling up; here is something from last month and here is one of my favorite TED talks by Jonathan Haidt. Upshot: conservatives appear to be more concerned with order and concerned with negative consequences.

Why is order important? Well, where would we be without laws to govern traffic (air and vehicle), radio waves, standardized parts (construction, electrical, computer, etc.). No order means no society and little, if anything gets done.

Of course unnecessary order and enforced conformity is no good either.

But here is the value of such studies: they show that things like facts and logical arguments are unlikely to change anyone’s mind on public policy; if we are to understand each other we should see the goals. They aren’t always the same.

Politics

Far be it from me to praise anything on Fox News but this piece by Megyn Kelly isn’t that bad:

If anything, it explains why the conservative justices weren’t crazy. Oh, it turns out that they were wrong (and she is too) but it is subtle:

Kelly was dismayed that liberals would offer scientific information provided by actual doctors showing that “three of the[se] four contraceptives do not lead to abortion, even using the conservative definition of when life begins.” Kelly thinks that piece of science is just a “notion.” Gunter writes that Kelly bases her incorrect claims that Plan B and ella (levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate postcoital contraception, respectively), and Mirena IUS and ParaGard (both intrauterine devices or IUDs), “can and do end fertilized eggs”, on basic descriptions of the products and the opinion of the five men on the Supreme Court, whose — as Gunter wisely points out — “last biology class was likely 40 or more years ago (i.e., before the basic science evaluating these methods of contraception existed) and who do not practice medicine.”

Gunter dispels the idea that product descriptions should be used as a basis for these decisions:

“Product monographs do not contain the latest research; they are a compilation of FDA labeling requirements and corporate legal lingo used to deflect lawsuits. As more and more data emerges after a product goes to market, monographs become outdated because updating them offers no financial gain. Since I’m a doctor, not a lawyer, I’ll leave the specifics of how the case was argued to lawyers, but if the product monographs of Plan B, ella, Mirena IUS, and ParaGard were used as evidence to support the government’s case, then the government was relying on outdated and inaccurate information.”

Gunter cites a “plethora of medical evidence” and references showing that Plan B and ella are not abortifacients, and says that the idea that postcoital contraception and IUDs affect a fertilized egg is antiquated and not based on today’s technology. She writes, “If using the wealth of scientific data (multiple basic science articles, statements of experts in peer-reviewed journals, and international organizations) makes me an ideologue, I’m fine with that. However, I’m not sure that I’d use ‘liberal’ as the label, I think ‘evidence-based’ ideologue is more accurate.”

So the justices, and Kelly, were relying on outdated information that is on an official monograph and are therefore wrong.

But they weren’t crazy to make the argument.

And, sadly, it isn’t just conservatives that often get science wrong. I’ve seen non-scientists get offended by, well, what they think that a scientist said when, in fact, they don’t understand the statement and they make the wrong inference from their incorrect understanding of the statement. Sometimes talking to the general public is very painful.

August 8, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, social/political | | Leave a comment

Politics: President Obama and Congress

One thing I’ve noticed: more and more, some of the liberal voices that were initially hard on President Obama have warmed up to the results. So, in terms of policy, (e. g. financial reform, health care reform, not rushing into wars), he has done what he set out to do. What has NOT happened was a decrease in partisanship; in fact that has gotten worse. And so, his approval ratings (low to mid 40’s) remain a little bit better than those of President Bush at the same time in his administration:

Screen shot 2014-08-06 at 4.41.24 PM

His presidency has actually become a bit stronger because Congress won’t do anything. Sure, they won’t bass bills that help the country…but they won’t pass bills that retard executive actions either because this divided Congress can’t do anything!

Interestingly enough, while Congressional approval has been rock bottom low for a long time, in the past, people hated Congress but approved of those that THEY elected. Now, for the first time in…who knows when…the majority of people don’t like who is representing them.

This might not mean that much for the following reason: we are living in a highly partisan time. When it comes to their own representative, those of the opposite party are more likely than ever to dislike person in office. And every member of Congress will have at least some opposition from their own party; hence approval ratings of over 50 percent are unlikely if the particular district is not solidly one party or another.

So, I don’t expect the House to change all that much in 2014, though the Democrats are going to have a rough time in the Senate, given that the Democrats are attempting to hold seats in some red states (Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina). I’d be delighted to see the Senate at 50-50, in which case VP Biden tips it to us. But that is, well, perhaps a 40 percent shot?

August 6, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, political/social, politics, social/political | | 1 Comment

Political Icon Images

libwomanicon

teapartyicon

At times, our political debate is nothing more than adding text to these photos.

August 3, 2014 Posted by | political humor, politics, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Politics and the Israel, Palestine violence

This is a very balanced explanation of the current fighting in the Gaza Strip. It goes into the “human shields” charge/counter charge and why Hamas is not, by strict war crime standards, using shields even though that is the effect.

US Politics
Interesting post on Vox about small donors in US politics; basically, the more partisan people are more likely to donate (and yes, I did).

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Makes perfect sense, no?

President Obama: Paul Krugman likes some of the stuff he did; the ACA and his work on financial reform. That is, we are less likely to reach a situation in which a bailout is required. Remember that Paul Krugman was a frequent critic (from the left).

August 3, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, Middle East, political/social, politics | , , | Leave a comment

Modern Conservative Culture: dupe the gullible out of their money

The Guardian is having a field day with the new Sarah Palin channel:

Given the content available and the affectedly simple presentation, it’s hard not to see the new Sarah Palin Channel as simply a moneymaking enterprise.

Her competitor Glenn Beck’s vertically integrated TV-website-dogwhistle aggregator, the Blaze, takes in $36m per year before ad revenue. And, as both Rick Perlstein and Alex Pareene have noted, one of the animating principles of the conservative movement over the last 40 years has been soaking every last dollar out of people whose intellectual incuriosity has never been an impediment to further rage and paranoia. It’s why places like WorldNetDaily run obnoxious flash ads in columns that, top to bottom, tell you to buy and hoard gold, to click here to join a paid newsletter that outlines the UN/Agenda 21 plans to annex Joe’s Crab Shack, and how your $25 check to FreedomWorks is the only thing standing between repealing Obamacare or toiling in the lesbian nose-earring mines while wearing Soviet-style tracksuits that give everyone frontbutt.

I wanted to see for myself, but I still can’t even sign in for the free sample of the Sarah Palin Channel. Each attempt ends with a server error and my desultorily trying to glean something from available teaser videos.

The author of this article went on to get a one month subscription (cheaper than the NYT!) and describes what he saw.

I am too cheap to subscribe to a pay service. But I do know that I get “buy gold now” and “your doctor doesn’t want you to read this” advertisements from things like DickMorris.com and the like. They are *always* hawking something and they do this in a way that liberal groups do not. Liberal groups also constantly ask for money, but it is always to “fight those evil Republicans”, etc. It is never to buy this or that investment, health secret, blah, blah, blah.

But it isn’t just the lower economic class of conservatives who get conned. Consider this Paul Krugman article about Karl Rove and the ultra-wealthy conservative establishment..and this article was written days PRIOR to the 2012 general election:

The estimable Rick Perlstein has a fascinating essay about the seamless continuum from direct-mail marketing scams to direct-mail right-wing fundraising, and from there to the whole character of modern movement conservatism. Go read. I didn’t know, for example, that heroes of direct-mail fundraising like Richard Viguerie ended up delivering hardly any of the money to political causes; somehow it ended up swallowed by overhead, otherwise known as the fundraisers themselves.

And although Perlstein doesn’t make this point, I suspect that his analysis explains one of the great mysteries of 2012: the failure of the great Rove/Citizens United juggernaut to materialize.

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage.

Krugman admits that he didn’t know how the election would actually go…not for sure anyway. But he had a great idea. But then:

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

And while Rove the crusader is looking — provisionally, of course, until the votes are in — like a failure, Rove the businessman has just had an amazing, banner year.

And you know something: there is part of me, albeit a small part, that envies the people that con these fearful idiots out of their money. There are times when I wish that I had that skill. :-)

July 31, 2014 Posted by | 2012 election, politics, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Obama’s so called “Muslims built the very fabric of our Nation” remarks contrasted with Bush’s remarks

Yes, the White House released this statement (shown in full) on the 27’th of July:

Statement by the President on the Occasion of Eid-al-Fitr

As Muslims throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to them and their families. This last month has been a time of fasting, reflection, spiritual renewal, and service to the less fortunate. While Eid marks the completion of Ramadan, it also celebrates the common values that unite us in our humanity and reinforces the obligations that people of all faiths have to each other, especially those impacted by poverty, conflict, and disease.

In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy. That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.

On behalf of the Administration, we wish Muslims in the United States and around the world a blessed and joyous celebration. Eid Mubarak.

Emphasis mine.

Of course right wing “sources” such as Breitbart (shown in this screen shot) played this statement in this manner:

Screen shot 2014-07-30 at 3.46.04 PM

And of course, we see the spreading of outrage from the morons conservatives all over the internet.

For comparison, this is what President George W. Bush said:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, sir. It’s good to be with you again. And it is my honor to visit the Islamic Center of Washington once again.

For half a century, this beautiful mosque has served as a place of worship for Muslims and has helped to advance understanding between people of different faiths. Millions of our fellow Americans practice the Muslim faith. They lead lives of honesty and justice and compassion.

President George W. Bush marks Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with an address at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., Thursday, Dec. 5. White House photo by Paul Morse I am pleased to join you today in the celebration of Eid, the culmination of the Holy Month of Ramadan. I appreciate so very much Dr. Khouj, and I want to thank the other distinguished imam from the Washington, D.C. area. Thank you all for being here. And I enjoyed our visit. I also appreciate the Muslim schoolchildren who are here, telling me stories and reading poems and showing the art work. Please tell them thanks again for their hospitality.

Islam traces its origins back to God’s call on Abraham. And Ramadan commemorates the revelation of God’s word in the Holy Koran to the prophet Mohammad — a word that is read and recited with special attention and reverence by Muslims during this season.

Over the past month, Muslims have fasted, taking no food or water during daylight hours, in order to refocus their minds on faith and redirect their hearts to charity. Muslims worldwide have stretched out a hand of mercy to those in need. Charity tables at which the poor can break their fast line the streets of cities and towns. And gifts of food and clothing and money are distributed to ensure that all share in God’s abundance. Muslims often invite members of other families to their evening iftar meals, demonstrating a spirit of tolerance.

During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims celebrate the completion of their fast and the blessings of renewed faith that have come with it. Customs vary between countries — from illuminating lanterns in Egypt to lighting firecrackers in Pakistan, to inviting elders to traditional feasts in Niger. Around the world, families and neighbors and friends gather to share traditional foods, and congratulate each other on meeting the test of Ramadan.

The spirit behind this holiday is a reminder that Islam brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people worldwide. Islam affirms God’s justice and insists on man’s moral responsibility. This holiday is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefitted mankind.

Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace. And in our Nation’s Capital, this center contributes greatly to our spiritual and cultural life.

On behalf of Laura and our family and the American people, I bring our best wishes to all who worship here, and to Muslims throughout the world for a joyous Eid, and for health and happiness and prosperity in the year to come.

Eid Mubarak. God bless.

The Bush statement is longer but, if anything, is a bit more specific with respect to the contributions made by American Muslims.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social, republicans | , , , | Leave a comment

GOP irritation over impeachment talk

John Boehner appears irritated that President Obama’s staff is using “impeachment” as a fundraising and “get out the vote” tool for 2014. Yes, he said that impeachment is NOT being planned.

But

1) Several in his own caucus have openly talked about it.
2) Republican leaders have talked about it, openly.
3) The rank and file Republicans favor it.
4) Boehner has not been able to control his caucus.

More here.

Yes, it takes 67 votes in the Senate to actually remove the President and that isn’t going to happen, even if the Republicans throw themselves on the floor and turn blue.

July 29, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans politics | , | Leave a comment

Politics: emotional issues robs us of abstract reasoning ability…

Good Vox article here. Moral (for me): mathematical and statistical reasoning really disciplines our thinking, BUT does not convince non-technical people.

This is one reason discussing issues with people outside of math, science and engineering departments is so difficult for me.

July 29, 2014 Posted by | mathematics, politics, politics/social, social/political, statistics | | Leave a comment

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