I almost forgot


Note: this is one way in which our society is superior to the theocracies. In a theocracy, such a post could get you jailed, or worse.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | humor, politics/social, religion | | 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.

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.

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.[...]

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

Unfortunately this works both ways:

Paul Krugman on conservatives who aren’t facing the fact that the Affordable Care Act is NOT a disaster:

Over at Talking Points Memo, they seem bemused by the violent reaction on the right to any suggestion that Obamacare is working as well as all the evidence suggests it is. Josh Marshall and Ezra Klein both made a fairly obvious point: Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation was almost surely timed to follow good news, so that her departure wouldn’t be easy to spin as part of a narrative about failed reform. The right, however, went ballistic — not so much expressing skepticism over the good enrollment numbers and the encouraging survey data as expressing total outrage and bewilderment that anyone believes the good news. On the right they know, just know, that it’s a total disaster.

What’s interesting about this is that conservative health wonks, however much they may like to spin facts, know better: even on the right, everyone who knows anything about the subject has been telling people not to expect a collapse, a death spiral, whatever, and even suggesting that Republicans may need to accept that much of Obamacare is irreversible. But not many people in that camp read, say, Avik Roy; they’re getting their information from Fox News and Rush, and they hear nothing but tales of disaster.

Krugman goes on to point out that these sort of sources (Fox News, Limbaugh, etc.) are constantly wrong. Consider the 2012 election predictions!

So why do such “sources” continue to carry any credibility with…..anyone?

Krugman conjectures:

Well, we basically know the answer. One thing I learned from reporting on the Madoff affair was the term “affinity fraud”: people are easily duped by con men who seem to be like them, to be their kind of people. What Fox, Rush etc. do is build a cultural and emotional bond with their audiences, based mainly on who they dislike and attack. And that bond induces those audiences to believe that what comes from these sources is the obvious truth, never mind what those arrogant elitists with their “facts” and “data” may be saying. (I’m turning into Stephen Colbert as we speak.)

However, there is some caution for liberals too.

All too often, people fall into “ok, I am a XXX and what does a good XXX believe” mode. You see this in the discussions over GMOs.

You sometimes see this on the 77 cents on the dollar theme.

Bottom line: people want to be accepted by their peers and sometimes people are afraid to stray from what they think that the partisan line is, regardless of what science or the spreadsheets say.

April 12, 2014 Posted by | political/social, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Horsey Cartoon cuts to the chase…


April 7, 2014 Posted by | political humor, politics, politics/social | | Leave a comment

Olbermann’s “get off of my lawn” post….and money in politics

We’ve had strong thunderstorms last night and they are still going on. So, I am about to head the gym and use the indoor track/treadmill again.

Keith Olbermann:

Yes, that sign that he ridiculed was a big FAIL. But alas: it is nothing new; witness the signs written in teabonics. And yes, in my day, if you wanted to see poorly written signs, you went to an anti-reproductive rights protest.

Or I’ll put it another way: to see bad writing, one could merely look at the “please excuse my child from X at school” notes that parents sent their kids to school with.

What has changed (IMHO): we now have the internet and FAILS are spread around for all of us to enjoy. Yes….I enjoy them…

Money in politics
Our campaign finance laws limit how much any individual can give to a single candidate. Of course, one could give to PACs and one could give to “interest groups” that were not allowed to coordinate with official campaigns. And there was a limit to how much one could give total (all official political contributions combined).

Now the total limit one can give to official campaigns has been lifted: see a video here and the story here.

So: while in the past, if you wanted to give a lot of money to help a candidate out, one could give it to one of the “soft money” organizations that weren’t allowed to coordinate with official campaigns. Now, one can give money to, say, another PAC, which can then funnel the money to the candidate of interest.

Of course, that hardly affects me and people of my income level.

But it does mean that candidates have to suck up for those big checks…once again.

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

Good old fashioned COMMON SENSE!

I suppose that Republicans just eat this stuff up:

Convinced? :-)

To say that we speak different languages is…well…an understatement.

March 27, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans politics | | Leave a comment

Political quips

These two races (Nebraska, Kentucky): we don’t have a great chance. Ok, we have an oh-so-slim chance in Kentucky and none at all in Nebraska. But I’ll comment anyway because, well, I like politics.

Who knew that Duke basketball was popular in Kentucky?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) presumably meant to feature a clip of the University of Kentucky’s basketball team in a new campaign spot released Tuesday, but the ad’s release was instead ridiculed on Twitter for a brief shot of the Duke Blue Devils celebrating their 2010 NCAA Championship victory.

The ad, titled “Rebuild,” comes as McConnell faces a primary challenge from tea party-backed businessman Matt Bevin.

“If I’m given the opportunity to lead the U.S. Senate next year, I won’t let you down,” McConnell says, as the ad pans across the senator giving speeches and talking with supporters.

The shot of Duke players Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas jumping in celebration comes at 1:09 of the video.


McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman, Allison Moore, said the error was made by a vendor and not the campaign itself.

“The ad was intended to highlight Kentucky’s basketball dominance and obviously the web ad vendor has become so accustomed to watching national championship celebrations in the bluegrass state that they made a mistake with one of the images,” Moore wrote in an email Tuesday to The Huffington Post. “Obviously we were horrified by the error and quickly changed it.”

This ad is part of a Republican primary campaign.


Remember when a Navy pilot landed a P-3 aircraft in China?
I remember thinking at the time: “the old breed will be disgusted; no one lands a plane loaded with secret spy gear in a communist country!” Personally: I am a bit of a chicken…who knows what I would have done.

But I didn’t see this as especially “heroic”.

Well, evidently the pilot is running in the Republican primary in Nebraska and trying to pass this off as “heroic”.

Not everyone agrees and so he got someone in the Navy to write a letter for him…but:

Read the memo circulated by Shane Osborn’s U.S. Senate campaign to counter criticism about his decision in April 2001 to land a disabled Navy reconnaissance plane in China.

* * *

Dogged by questions about his 2001 decision to land a crippled Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane in China, U.S. Senate candidate Shane Osborn has distributed an official-looking Navy memo supporting his account.

The memo, written Aug. 8, 2013, on Navy letterhead, is titled “Disposition of actions by EP-3E flight crew on April 1, 2001.” It explains that Osborn’s plane was authorized to land on China’s Hainan island “due to the extreme circumstances and condition of this aircraft.”

But The World-Herald has learned that the unsigned memo was not authorized by the Navy, or vetted through normal channels, and was written as a favor to Osborn by a Navy buddy working at the Pentagon.

“We cannot confirm the authenticity of this document,” said Lt. Cmdr. Katie Cerezo, a Navy spokeswoman. “We couldn’t discuss a memo that we can’t authenticate.”

Osborn’s campaign sent the memo to a World-Herald reporter Feb. 26. The paper later contacted the Navy’s public affairs office to verify its accuracy and requested an interview with the author, who was not named in the memo. After three days of searching, the Navy said it couldn’t authenticate the memo and declined to discuss it further.

Ultimately, John Comerford, a St. Louis attorney who is a fellow Navy veteran and close friend of Osborn’s, put a World-Herald reporter in touch with the author.

Osborn sought the memo to respond to critics, including some former military reconnaissance pilots, who have said that he should not have landed in China. Analysts have concluded the Chinese were able to recover some documents and equipment from the aircraft despite the crew’s efforts to destroy classified intelligence.

Osborn said the landing was proper and saved the lives of his crew. He dismissed the complaints as politically motivated or as being from Cold War veterans who don’t understand that surveillance rules have changed since they served.[...]


The memo’s author said the contents are accurate. He said his immediate supervisor at the time OK’d it, but he declined to give that officer’s name and said he is currently unavailable because of a deployment.

“This was an effort to put (the orders) into an unclassified format, on a tight timeline,” he said. “It was not something that was intended to go through channels.”

The author asked for anonymity, saying he was concerned his career could be jeopardized if anyone learned he had written the memo.

“We didn’t do anything wrong. But we did it to sort of shortcut the process,” the officer said. “I’m passionate about it. I flew with John and Shane. If they would have ditched that aircraft, none of these guys would be alive.”

A typical Navy vetting process would send a memo slated for public release to relevant military offices for approval to ensure that it is accurate and that classified information isn’t leaked.

Will this make a difference? Time will tell…though if it matters, it will matter only within the Republican primary.

March 25, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans politics | , | Leave a comment

Early 538 Senate forecast and some dissent on the concept

Sadly, I have to agree with Nate Silver’s Senate election forecast: the Democrats are slight underdogs to keep the Senate at 50-50. We have too many seats in red states up for election.

However, some are taking shots at Mr. Silver’s website (NOT the election forecast):

Timothy Egan joins the chorus of those dismayed by Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight. I sorry, but I have to agree: so far it looks like something between a disappointment and a disaster.

But I’d argue that many of the critics are getting the problem wrong. It’s not the reliance on data; numbers can be good, and can even be revelatory. But data never tell a story on their own. They need to be viewed through the lens of some kind of model, and it’s very important to do your best to get a good model. And that usually means turning to experts in whatever field you’re addressing.

Yes: knowing how to crunch data does NOT replace knowing a field. Of course, this next Krugman comment is epic:

Unfortunately, Silver seems to have taken the wrong lesson from his election-forecasting success. In that case, he pitted his statistical approach against campaign-narrative pundits, who turned out to know approximately nothing. What he seems to have concluded is that there are no experts anywhere, that a smart data analyst can and should ignore all that.

This made me laugh. Sure, I see the pundits as being mostly, well…entertainers. But I am not sure that Mr. Silver is competing with experts but rather trying to trying to introduce some data into journalism.

I don’t think that his target audience is the readers of Scientific American.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, politics, politics/social, statistics | , | Leave a comment

Politics for me in 2014 (the races I am most interested in)

At the national level, I am most interested in the US Senate race. We’ll be extremely fortunate to hold to a 50-50 tie. I honestly think that the Republicans will end up with a slight majority.

The House: forget it: Republicans pick up seats.

BUT, the above is really based on guessing; I haven’t studied the polls and betting lines all that much. I’ll know more this summer.

But as far as Illinois:

1. Senate: Senator Dick Durbin should be able to beat dairy owner Jim Oberweis. I’ll send him some monetary love, but in all honesty this will be because I want to be on the side of a winner.

2. Governor: Gov. Pat Quinn faces “businessman” (think: Donald Trump with a better educational pedigree) Bruce Rauner. Here is a REPUBLICAN attack ad against Rauner (primary race)

The only polls I’ve seen were very old (one favored Quinn, the other favored Rauner); there hasn’t been much polling lately. And in 2010, Quinn was way behind and ended up winning a close race though he was 7 points down. I predict a repeat performance; he is a very good politician.

If I were making a line, I’d call this one a toss-up. Why it is close: Rauner IS a smart man but I wonder if he will listen to reason from his campaign staff. He is also a political neophyte who openly says that his models of success is Wisconsin and Indiana. Hence in the Republican primary, he lost a 10 point lead in the polls and barely held off a dull challenger.

I’ll send Gov. Quinn some love.

3. IL-17. Cheri Bustos is in a rematch with Bobby Schilling. In 2012, she won by 6 points though President Obama carried her district by 17. This should NOT be a close race BUT it will be…if we are lucky. I’ve said this before and will say it again:

It didn’t work and Bustos won 53-47 (18,500 votes); she picked up her margins in Rock Island as well as in sections of Rockford and Peoria:

She won Fulton county by 200, Knox county (Galesburg) by 1200, Peoria County (part of it; the other part is in IL-18) by 8400, Rock Island by 6600, Tazewell by 200 (part of the county), Whiteside by 200 and Winnebago (part of Rockford) by 8700. Or put another way, her margin came from Rock Island plus parts of two larger cities.

Her margin was about 18,000 votes.

She won the 3 urban areas by 23,700 votes and her winning margin was 18,000 votes. But evidently this means nothing to her; she has actively moved toward the Blue Dogs (conservative Democrats). Yes, I know, President Obama is only a 43 percent nationally, but he remains popular in the urban areas that she absolutely has to win and get a big turn out.

I’d have to make Schilling a favorite in this race. The only reason that she has a chance (IMHO) is that Gov. Quinn is good at getting good turn-outs and she might, again, might, be able to ride his coattails in these areas.

I sent her campaign a bit of love but I am debating…is this a waste of money?

My summary:

Least likely: getting shut out (all of my candidates losing)
Not likely but possible: a sweep. (if this happens, the bottled water is on me!)
Possible (what I predict): going 2-1.
Probable (not a huge surprise) : going 1-2

March 20, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, Cheri Bustos, Dick Durbin, IL-17, politics, politics/social | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is going to take some getting used to…day 2 as a Republican…

Old habits die hard. When I woke up, it was my instinct to get a bagel, orange juice and a yogurt for breakfast (all paid for by my SNAP card) and then work out. But then I remembered my life change and I decided to skip the workout and have a real American breakfast instead:

American breakfast-1278891

Then I wanted to drive my Prius to the welfare office and get another welfare check and read a Richard Dawkins book while waiting. But I remembered and tuned the radio to Rush Limbaugh and went to WORK!!!! Oh yes, I need to trade in the Prius for some V-8 extended cab pickup truck.

I feel so patriotic already! Kind of like this guy:


I now know what to watch:


But who to vote for?

We have a GREAT candidate in IL-9:

All of the Republican incumbents in Illinois who supported marriage equality won their primaries Tuesday, but one particularly anti-LGBT candidate for Congress did beat her more liberal challenger. Susanne Atanus, who is challenging Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D) seat in Illinois’ 9th District (which includes much of Chicago), won her Republican primary against former Obama-supporter and Navy veteran David Earl Williams III.
Atanus received national attention in January when she told the Daily Herald that God sends devastating weather like tornadoes and diseases like autism as punishment for LGBT equality and abortion rights:

“I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first,” Atanus said. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as in response to gay rights and legalized abortions.
“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

That’s wonderful! Now who are we running in 2016? Is Mitt Romney making a comeback?

Oh, some of the social stuff will take some getting used to:

Quite the charmer Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has hosting fundraisers for him. Dennis Prager is a talk radio host who thinks that one of the “mutual obligations” of marriage is for women to have sex with their husbands based on the husband’s wishes and not the wife’s “mood.”
Writing on in December of 2008, Prager compares a man’s obligation to go to work, regardless of his “mood,” to a woman’s obligation to have sex with her husband.

“Why would a loving, wise woman allow mood to determine whether or not she will give her husband one of the most important expressions of love she can show him? What else in life, of such significance, do we allow to be governed by mood?” he writes.

“What if your husband woke up one day and announced that he was not in the mood to go to work?”

He goes on to compare a wife’s commitment to meeting the needs of their children or parents or friends even when not in the mood to having sex with her husband, asking that, because the woman is doing what’s “right in those cases, rather than what their mood dictates,” “Why not apply this attitude to sex with one’s husband?”

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Mitt Romney, politics, politics/social, sarah palin | , | Leave a comment


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