blueollie

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.

Nebraska

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

12 September 2011

I am watching the imbeciles Republicans debate on CNN as I type this. Why is anyone but Romney and Perry even there?

Workout notes
Weights plus swimming.
Swimming: 500 of fist/swim, 500 of 3g/swim (fins), 1000 of 100 free, 100 pull (18:2x) 200 cool down (back, with fins)
Weights (prior to swimming)
rotator cuff, lunges (lunges with slightly heavier weights)
Hammer rows: 3 sets of 10 x 200
Pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 145
curls (dumbbell): 3 sets of 10 x 25
Bench press: 10 x 135, 7 x 155, 6 x 155
Incline press: 10 x 115, 10 x 125
dumbbell military: 2 sets of 15 x 40
standing military: 10 x 75 (barbell)
adduction: 3 sets of 10 x 180
abduction: 3 sets of 10 x 180
sit ups: 2 sets of 50 (vary incline)

Posts

Debate: Huntsman: reduce corporate welfare (good), says that corporations need certainty (no, they need customers)
Perry: lying (and no, you can’t do math).
Bachmann: see Perry.
Tea Party: I am appalled that there so many morons there.

Posts
A note about terrorism, via Mano Singham:

Via Progressive Review, I learn that the chance of:

Being killed by a terrorist is 1 in 20 million
Being struck by lightning is 1 in 6 million
Being executed in Texas is 1 in 1 million
Dying in a bathtub is 1 in 800,000
Dying in a building fire is 1 in 99,000
Dying in a car accident is 1 in 19,000

Until the terrorism threat approaches that of a car accident, I don’t see any point in worrying. So let’s shut down the national security state and bring back civil liberties and the rule of law.

Science
The evolutionary tree: sea jelly gives us more clues about the evolutionary tree:

A 580-million-year-old fossil is casting doubt on the established tree of animal life. The invertebrate, named Eoandromeda octobrachiata because its body plan resembles the spiral galaxy Andromeda, suggests that the earliest branches in the tree need to be reordered, say the authors of study in Evolution and Development.

The researchers, led by paleontologist Feng Tang of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing, believe that Eoandromeda is the ancient ancestor of modern ocean dwellers known as comb jellies — gelatinous creatures similar to jellyfish, but rounder and with eight rows of iridescent paddles along their sides. If they are right, it would be the oldest known fossil of a comb jelly. And that would support a rewrite of the animal tree.

Comb jellies sit alongside two other major groups near the base of the tree, but their relative positions remain contentious. Normally, sponges are identified as the first to evolve, followed by the cnidaria — jellyfish, sea anemones and their kin — and then by the comb jellies.

” Eoandromeda puts a little piece of weight in favour of a more basal position for comb jellies,” says Stefan Bengtson, a palaeontologist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History and a co-author on the paper.[...]

If Eoandromeda appeared after the cnidarians, the authors argue, bilateral symmetry would have to have evolved twice — once for the cnidarians and again for the bilateral organisms that came after Eoandromeda . Far simpler is the idea that Eoandromeda evolved first. “This model of animal relationships calls for the least number of origins of bilateral symmetry,” says Bengtson.

Cancer research: Some new cancer drugs attack the tumor and leave the healthy cells alone:

Chemotherapy breakthrough could dramatically reduce side-effects

Scientists have developed ‘smart-bomb chemotherapy’ which can isolate and destroy tumours without damaging healthy cells:
Cancer researchers have developed a “smart bomb” treatment that can target tumours with drugs while leaving healthy body cells intact. The technique means that patients will suffer fewer side-effects from the toxic drugs used in chemotherapy.

The side-effects of cancer therapy – including hair loss, nausea and suppression of the immune system – can be debilitating. In many cases, the effects of the drugs can contribute to the ultimate cause of death.

In experiments on mice, Laurence Patterson of the University of Bradford found that he could localise a cancer drug to the site of tumours and thereby limit its toxic impact in the body. All the animals, which had been implanted with human cancer cells responded to the targeted treatment and saw their tumours shrink. In half the animals, the tumours disappeared altogether. Professor Patterson will present his work at the British Science Festival in Bradford on Monday.

“We’ve got a sort of smart bomb that will only be active in the tumour and will not cause damage to normal tissue,” he said. “It’s a new cancer treatment that could be effective against pretty much all types of tumour – we’ve looked at colon, prostate, breast, lung and sarcoma so far, and all have responded very well to this treatment.”

Science and Mathematics Education

But not everyone is encouraging people to be good in math and science.

Republicans
They are traitors stubborn obstructionists :

From a senior Republican in the legislature:

“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely. “I just don’t want to co-own the economy by having to tout that we passed a jobs bill that won’t work or at least won’t do enough.”

You need to think carefully about this quote. Implied in its logic is the idea that House Republicans can avoid any ownership of a bad economy if they continue to refuse to take any meaningful action to improve it. They can stonewall the president and the public will simply blame the president. The Republicans actually believe this. To see why, let’s go back to Mike Lofgren’s piece from two weeks ago. Remember that Mr. Lofgren is a career Republican staffer who resigned in disgust after the debt ceiling debacle. He explains the Republicans’ strategic thinking on obstruction:

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

It isn’t as if the Republicans have serious ideas that will work better:

It’s not just the 21st century they want to turn the clock back on — health-care reform, global warming and the financial regulations passed in the wake of the recent financial crises and accounting scandals.

These folks are actually talking about repealing the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, created in 1970s.

They’re talking about abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, which passed in the 1960s, and Social Security, created in the 1930s.

They reject as thoroughly discredited all of Keynesian economics, including the efficacy of fiscal stimulus, preferring the budget-balancing economic policies that turned the 1929 stock market crash into the Great Depression.

They also reject the efficacy of monetary stimulus to fight recession, and give the strong impression they wouldn’t mind abolishing the Federal Reserve and putting the country back on the gold standard.

They refuse to embrace Darwin’s theory of evolution, which has been widely accepted since the Scopes Trial of the 1920s.

One of them is even talking about repealing the 16th and 17th amendments to the Constitution, allowing for a federal income tax and the direct election of senators — landmarks of the Progressive Era.

What’s next — repeal of quantum physics?

Not every candidate embraces every one of these kooky ideas. But what’s striking is that when Rick Perry stands up and declares that “Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done,” not one candidate is willing to speak up for the most important economic thinker of the 20th century. Or when Michele Bachmann declares that natural selection is just a theory, none of the other candidates is willing to risk the wrath of the religious right and call her on it. Leadership, it ain’t.

Sorry, but the people that are supporting these people are idiots. Period.

Back to the debate (such as it is; it appears to be a competition to obtain applause from the morons):
Huntsman and Romney are conservative, but they don’t scare me.
Perry: he’d be an unmitigated disaster. The others are a side show.

The people: MORONS!!!!!!!!!! It makes me sick to think that they are reproducing.

September 13, 2011 Posted by | economics, economy, Mitt Romney, political/social, politics, politics/social, republican party, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, rick perry, swimming, training, weight training | Leave a comment

Republicans: fact free

August 20, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, Barack Obama, economics, economy, Republican, republican party, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics | Leave a comment

19 August 2011 noonish

Workout notes
Mediocre swim; some warm up (3g/swim), (kick/swim), (fist/swim), (kick/swim) (kicks with fins)
1000 of that, then 1000 in 17:46 (ugly; 8:53 each 500). 200 cool down; just wasn’t into it at all.

The shoulder: so-so.

Posts

You’ve heard about the “brain eating amoeba”. Here is the low-down from Why Evolution is True. Nasty stuff.

Humor

Tea Party: not the sharpest knives in the drawer: (from here)

Obama’s approval ratings He is still at 50+ at Intrade, perhaps based on the weakness of the Republican field. But his ratings have dropped…statistically so except for two groups: conservative Republicans (who never liked him to begin with) and liberal Democrats. So, there are problems but not insurmountable ones.

August 19, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, economics, economy, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science | Leave a comment

15 August PM

Workout notes Swim; 250 of fist/free, 250 of kick/free, 250 of fist/free, 250 of kick/free (kick sets with fins) Then 10 x 100 on the 2: disappointing. Then I did 200 cool down (back with a pull buoy).

1:42, 39, 39, 40, 39, 39, 38, 39, 39, 39. Well, I was consistent but slow; my guess is that my upper body was fatigued from yesterday’s weights and I was slowed by the choppy pool.

I then walked just over 4 miles outside (hodgepodge). It was a pretty day.

Posts
This is a fascinating post about the search for life’s origins; evidently scientists have found that molecules that are simpler than RNA can self replicate…and such replication might have taken place in ice instead of in hot water.

Politics
Rick Perry’s Texas record is way overstated; his joblessness rate is roughly that of New York and Massachusetts (and follows roughly the same trajectory) and, as is often the case with states, one can sometimes lure jobs from another state.

Warren Buffett: says that we are too easy, tax wise, on millionaires:

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

Now before conservatives cluck “well, let him give more money to the government”, ask yourself: well, gee, if you want a speed limit, why don’t you drive slower?” We, as a people, sometimes have to ask people to do what they might not want to do.

Jobs agenda: come on people!

In what can only be described as a triumph of bad policy and craven politics, Congress and the Obama administration have spent the year focused on budget cuts, as the economy has faltered and unemployment has worsened. Official unemployment is 9.1 percent, but it would be 16.1 percent, or 25.1 million people, if it included those who can only find part-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work. For the past two and a half years, there have been more than four unemployed workers for every job opening, a record high, by far. In a healthy market, the ratio would be about one to one.

By a large margin, Americans have told pollsters that job creation is more important than budget cuts. Yet Republican leaders are wedded to austerity and appear to think that high unemployment will hurt President Obama politically more than it will hurt them, so they will likely resist efforts to create jobs, no matter how great the need.

Without more jobs, both the economy and the budget will deteriorate further. It is past time for Mr. Obama to send a jobs plan to Congress that has popular appeal, one that he can use to try to shame Republicans. He will need cooperation from the Senate, which should bring one jobs-related bill after another to the floor, forcing its members to approve jobs initiatives or go on the record to show that they just don’t care. [...]

But it is possible that those of us who are pushing President Obama from the left might be misreading him:

The predominately white progressive intelligentsia don’t see Obama clearly because of our racial blind spot. We don’t see the role of race in how he seems to understand himself and how other perceive him.

First of all, we think that he understands himself as one of us. A progressive activist, heir to the radical and New Left movements most of us were raised in. He is not; I think that he understands himself (and certainly his real base understands him) as the first African American President. We’re thinking Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. We should be thinking about Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago. Washington was elected and immediately faced a solid wall of opposition from most white aldermen in the city. Washington understood his role as breaking down that wall of opposition and assembling a governing majority, which he finally did after his re-election. Unfortunately, he died shortly thereafter. By the way, one of Washington’s political strategists was David Axelrod.[...]

White progressives often think that African American elected officials are politically naive. We will far more credit to Cornel West, who has never been elected to anything, than to an elected state senator, or even the President of the United States. We think that Obama does not understand the nature of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell or Eric Cantor, as though he has not sat across the table from them. He doesn’t understand how mean they are, we think.

Obama acts entirely within the tradition of mainstream African American political strategy and tactics. The epitome of that tradition was the non-violence of the Civil Rights Movement, but goes back much further in time. It recognizes the inequality of power between whites and blacks. Number one: maintain your dignity. Number two: call your adversaries to the highest principles they hold. Number three: Seize the moral high ground and Number four: Win by winning over your adversaries, by revealing the contradiction between their own ideals and their actions. It is one way that a oppressed people struggle.

Obama has taken a seat at the negotiating table and said “There is no reason why we cannot work out solutions to our problems by acting like responsible adults. That is what people expect us to do and that is why we have entered into public service.” That is the moral high ground.

Read the rest; it is interesting perspective. I am reminded of one of the State of the Union Addresses where the (mostly white) Republicans were standing, smirking, and waving pieces of paper. What assholes.

Partisanship
This New York Times editorial gets the statistics right, but I think draws the wrong conclusion. It is true that many (most?) of us live in partisan districts (e. g., live in neighborhoods that vote the same way; mine went for President O by 70 percent or so). Many of us shop at places were like minded meet (Whole Foods and Indian restaurants vs. Cracker Barrels and Sam’s Clubs). But what the author misses is that an inherent part of liberalism involves pragmatism and compromise; it is the conservatives that get all dewy eyed over the “courage of one’s convictions”:

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, biology, Democrats, economics, economy, nature, political/social, politics, politics/social, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science, Spineless Democrats, swimming, training, walking | 1 Comment

13 August 2011 Posts (non-jock)

Ok, today posts will be all over the place. I’ll clump all of the science/math/medicine/geek stuff together, the political “facts” stuff together and the political/social commentary stuff together.

Science-Technology-Math-Medicine
This is very promising: evidently there is now a way to chemically “train” our antibody cells to target and kill leukemia cells:

A step toward a new possible treatment for leukemia, one that uses patients’ own immune cells to target and destroy cancer is getting a lot of media attention.

It should be noted, however, that the therapy, however promising, has been tested in only three patients, who had varying side effects such as fevers as high as 104 degrees, heart dysfunction and breathlessness. Most of the side effects resolved themselves within a matter of weeks.

A year after the therapy, two of the patients had complete remission of leukemia and one had a partial response to the therapy (meaning the patient still has cancer, but a less severe case). All three were suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, one of the most common types of the disease that affects blood and bone marrow.

Published Wednesday in both the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine, researchers reported that they had been able to engineer the patients’ own white blood cells into “serial killers” to destroy the cancer cells.

The research team from the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center and Perelman School of Medicine extracted white blood cells from the patients and genetically reprogrammed them to attack tumor cells.

They programmed the T cells, which are a blood cell type that protects the body from infection, to bind to a protein that is expressed in chronic lymphocytic leukemia tumor cells. Doctors infused the modified T cells back into the patients’ bodies.

“Within three weeks, the tumors had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected,” said Dr. Carl June, senior author of the study, in a university press release. “It worked much better than we thought it would.”[...]

There is more there; of interest is how the patient feels just after a success. It has been described as being like a terrible flu.

For those who know medicine and biology, here is a technical review of the paper.

Yes, I know, n = 3 and this is too early to draw a firm conclusion. And yes, those pesky statistical tests can be a problem. It is entirely possible for one to run a biological experiment honestly and competently, analyze the data honestly and competently, and still end up with a “false positive” result.

Example: one can say, test a “cure for a disease” against a placebo group in a controlled study. It is possible to find out that one group (the treated group) recovers and the other doesn’t and to calculate that the probability of this result happening by chance is less than, say, 5 percent (we say p = .05). But if you run this experiment 100 times, well, you can expect 5 false positives. And given that there are thousands of experiments being run…well, you get the idea.

Here is one of the worst cases of that:

Many scientific papers make 20 or 40 or even hundreds of comparisons. In such cases, researchers who do not adjust the standard p-value threshold of 0.05 are virtually guaranteed to find statistical significance in results that are meaningless statistical flukes. A study that ran in the February issue of the American Journal
of Clinical Nutrition tested dozens of compounds and concluded that those found in blueberries lower the risk of high blood pressure, with a p-value of 0.03. But the researchers looked at so many compounds and made so many comparisons (more than 50), that it was almost a sure thing that some of the p-values in the paper would be less than 0.05 just by chance.

The same applies to a well-publicized study that a team of neuroscientists once conducted on a salmon. When they presented the fish with pictures of people expressing emotions, regions of the salmon’s brain lit up. The result was statistically signif­icant with a p-value of less than 0.001; however, as the researchers argued, there are so many possible patterns that a statistically significant result was virtually guaranteed, so the result was totally worthless. p-value notwithstanding, there was no way that the fish could have reacted to human emotions. The salmon in the fMRI happened to be dead.

Evolution in Action
Schneier’s security blog isn’t a place that most would expect to find interesting stuff on evolution, but it is. However, when one thinks about it, Nature is in an arms race of sorts and therefore living things are constantly evolving ways of attacking and ways of defending.

He points us to an article that talks about an orchid that lures wasps to pollinating it…by mimicking a meat smell!

A common wasp on a foraging mission catches an enticing scent on the breeze. It’s a set of chemicals given off by plants that are besieged by hungry insects and it means that there is food nearby for the wasp’s grubs – caterpillars. The wasp tracks the smell to its source – a flower – and while it finds nectar, there are no caterpillars and it leaves empty-mandibled. The smell was a trick, used to dupe the wasp into becoming a unwitting pollinator for the broad-leaved helleborine.

The broad-leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) is an orchid that grows throughout Europe and Asia. It is but one deceiver in a family that is rife with them. About 10,000 species of orchids trick pollinators into visiting their flowers. Some attract males by mimicking the sight and smells of females. Others resemble orchid species that provide rich nectar rewards, while providing none themselves. But while thousands of species offer the potential for sex or food, only the broad-leaved helleborine advertises itself by promising fresh meat.

Darwin himself noted that even though the helleborine packs a substantial reservoir of nectar, it is pollinated by only two species of insects – the common wasp and the European wasp. Until now, no one knew how the orchid was attracting its pollinators. Jennifer Brodmann from the University of Ulm in Germany solved the mystery by testing how wasps responded to the smells and sights of orchids.

She found that the smell of the helleborine alone attracted just as many wasps as the whole flowers. In contrast, the sight of a flower in a glass box that didn’t let any scents through was far less attractive. Luring wasps with odours makes sense for the helleborine, for it grows in shady parts of dark coniferous forests, where they are difficult to see. [...]

Mr. Schneier also points to an interesting article about rats that have somehow learned to apply a poison to their hair:

A porcupine-like rat turns its quills into lethal weapons by coating them with a plant toxin, a new study says. Neighboring African hunters use the same substance to make elephant-grade poison arrows.

No other animals are known to use a truly deadly external poison, researchers say.

Scientists have long suspected that the crested rat might be using poison because of stories of dogs becoming ill or dying after encounters with the rodent, and because it has a distinct black-and-white warning coloration seen in other species.

It was unclear until now, however, where the nocturnal rat got its poison.

The researchers made their discovery after presenting a wild-caught crested rat with branches and roots of the Acokanthera tree, whose bark includes the toxin ouabain.

The animal gnawed and chewed the tree’s bark but avoided the nontoxic leaves and fruit. The rat then applied the pasty, deadly drool to spiky flank hairs. Microscopes later revealed that the hairs are actually hollow quills that rapidly absorb the ouabain-saliva mixture, offering an unpleasant surprise to predators attempt to taste the rat. [...]

There is more here about the rat and other animals that use toxic or repelling stuff. Note: yes, poison frogs are made so by their diets in the wild (they lose their toxicity when in captivity). But the frogs themselves are poisonous; a predator gets sick (or dies) when they eat the frog.

Technology
Of course, Mr. Schneier still has the interesting technical stuff too; here he leads us to an article about two engineers who made a drone that can fly and hack into computer systems. It is horribly sophisticated but…home made.

Bottom line: if the professionals really want to hack you, they can. Your precautions will help keep the amateurs away, and yes, that is worth doing.

Politics

Keep the pressure on, Mr. President.

Now the President is under fire from some liberals. I am not talking about that principled criticism that points out that the policies that he is pushing for is inadequate or that he has adopted the Republican narrative. Example: Paul Krugman has hammered him over his too timid stimulus package; while this was probably the biggest one we could get through for political reasons, it would have been helpful for him to be on record as saying that it was too small. But Krugman also urged the House to pass the Senate health care bill, even that was way too watered down for liberal tastes (e. g., my taste).

But there are some who want liberal members of Congress to, well, act like the Tea Party caucus. Fareed Zakaria tells such people to “grow up”:

Over the last week, liberal politicians and commentators took to the airwaves and op-ed pages to criticize the debt deal that Congress reached. But their ire was directed not at the Tea Party or even the Republicans but rather at Barack Obama, who they concluded had failed as a President because of his persistent tendency to compromise. This has been a running theme ever since Obama took office.

I think that liberals need to grow up.

As the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait brilliantly points out, there is a recurring liberal fantasy that if only the President would give a stirring speech, he would sweep the country along with the sheer power of his poetry. In this view, writes Chait, “Every known impediment to the legislative process – special interest lobbying, the filibuster, macroeconomic conditions, not to mention certain settled beliefs of public opinion-are but tiny stick huts trembling in the face of the atomic bomb of the presidential speech.” [...]

Obama passed a large stimulus package within weeks of taking office. Perhaps it should have been bigger, but despite a Democratic House and Senate, it passed by just one vote. He signed into law an unprecedented expansion of regulations in the financial-services industry, though one that did not break up the large banks. He enacted universal health care, through a complex program modeled after Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts. And he has advocated a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines tax increases with spending cuts.

Maybe he believes in all these things. Maybe he understands that with a budget deficit of 10% of GDP, the second highest in the industrialized world, and a debt that will rise to almost 100% of GDP in a few years, we cannot cavalierly spend another few trillion dollars hoping that will jump-start the economy.

[...]

He might understand that Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are smart people who, in long careers in public service, got some things wrong but also got many things right. Perhaps he understands that getting entitlement costs under control is in fact a crucial part of stabilizing our fiscal situation, and that you do need both tax increases and spending cuts-cuts that are smaller than they appear because they all start with the 2010 budget, which was boosted by the stimulus.

I am going to make trouble by posting this on Daily Kos, where I am certain to get flamed. :)

Newest Republican Entrant
Governor Rick Perry is making all sorts of claims about jobs in Texas. Here are a couple things to remember:
1. A state can “poach” jobs from another state; that doesn’t help the job rate in the United States.
2. Some claims are, well, misleading (at best):

As Paul Krugman writes:

Funny how Deval Patrick isn’t running for President on the strength of the Massachusetts economic miracle.

Yes, Texas has added more jobs — but it has to, to keep up with population growth. And bear in mind that if you lose your job in Texas, there isn’t much of a safety net.

OMG: I agree with Rush Limbaugh!!!! (sort of)

Rush Limbaugh shredded Fox News over their questions for the Republican presidential candidates in the debate on Thursday night.

Speaking on his radio show on Friday, Limbaugh blasted the network, which co-hosted the debate in Iowa. He blamed the candidates’ attacks on each other on what he believes was the hosts’ attempt to gain the approval of mainstream media.

“My gosh, does nobody on this panel remember that we’re running against Obama?” he thundered. “What is this business that these guys are trying to tear each other up?”

Then, he alleged, “Fox wants these people to tear each other up. Cause they want approval from the mainstream media, cause that’s what the mainstream media would do.” He added, “You never see the Democrats pitted against each other, not like this was.”

Uh, ok, yes you do see Democrats pitted against each other; witness the 2008 Democratic debates. But yes, while some of the questions were pretty stupid (e. g., the one where Ms. Bachmann was asked if “she was submissive to her husband”) and some were contrived for entertainment purposes.

BUT…notice that Mr. Limbaugh seems to assume that Fox News would have an interest in making the Republicans look good. “Fair and Balanced?” :)

Social Commentary
9-11 remembrances: I agree that Ted Rall has a point.

Liberals vs. Conservatives: they are NOT mirror images of each other; as Paul Krugman says, this misconception leads to misunderstandings:

I’m not the first person to notice this, but whenever you read conservatives trying to critique what they think the other side believes, you find them assuming that their opponents must be mirror images of themselves. The right believes that less government spending is always good, regardless of circumstances, so it assumes that the other side must always favor more government spending. The right says that deficits are always evil (unless they’re caused by tax cuts), so they assume that the center-left must favor deficits in all conditions.

I personally get this a lot, of course. Not a day goes by without someone blithely asserting that I have never called for spending cuts on anything, and that I have never called for action against budget deficits. A few minutes searching this blog would disabuse them of these beliefs, but they don’t need to check — they know.

What seems beyond their intellectual range is the notion that other people might have subtler beliefs than their own. Keynesianism, in particular, is not about chanting “big government good”. It’s about viewing recessions through the lens of an economic model under which temporary increases in government spending can, under certain circumstances, help reduce unemployment. Indeed, not all recessions call for fiscal stimulus; it’s the special conditions of the liquidity trap that make it essential now — which is why the Bush deficits, run under non-liquidity trap conditions, say nothing at all about the desirability of deficits now.[...]

I’ve seen this in my own interactions. For example, many of my conservative friends see taxes as nothing more than taking from the hard working and giving to the slackers. Because I think that we should have some safety nets, they think that I am ok with cheaters and slackers (I am not).
What they don’t seem to understand is that I see taxes as a way to pay for government services (military, roads, police, public education, NSF, NASA, FAA, etc.) and I know that the safety net programs are but a tiny percentage of what we pay for.

That does NOT mean that I think that we shouldn’t look for waste and inefficiencies; we should. That does NOT mean that I think that we shouldn’t do some reforms to Medicare and Social Security (especially Medicare); we should.

Talking to them can be so frustrating; there are times where it would just be simpler to dismiss them as evil and stupid though in reality, they are neither. Many give generously of their time and money to charity, and many of them have found successes in business and in the military that I’d never find.

Still, it is hard to talk to them; it is almost as if they are from different planets.

Humor: here is one way to get guys to read the newspaper:

click on the photo to see it at its source in full size.

(the above from here)

August 13, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, biology, evolution, human sexuality, humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, Republican, republican party, republican senate minority leader, republicans, science, spandex, Spineless Democrats, technology | 1 Comment

8 July 2011 Posts: Jobs, hearts, Mitt Romney’s Lies and Thongs

Weekly address

Jobs report response

More “bipartisan” rhetoric; calls for austerity and “confidence” stuff. Again…DEMAND is where it is at, I think.

Paul Krugman goes on to point out that we are in a situation similar to where we were in 1937: the stimulus is petering out and…well..the recovery is stalling. He then attacks the notion that our current unemployment is “structural” and there isn’t much that can be done about it:

Why is unemployment remaining high? Because growth is weak — period, full stop, end of story. Historically, low or negative growth has meant rising unemployment, fast growth falling unemployment (Okun’s Law). Here’s a scatterplot of quarterly data since 1948, with pre-Great Recession observations in blue and observations since 2008 in red:

Yes, this is noisy data but what we are seeing falls within the “noise” range of the model. More growth leads to less unemployment and right now growth is stalling. And:

And if we had a structural unemployment problem, we’d be seeing labor shortages and rising wages. We aren’t: wages actually fell last month.

He goes on to say that we could fix this if we had the political will to do so (tax the wealthy, add more stimulus) and what is left unsaid (in this column) is that the President’s “balanced” approach isn’t going to work.

As far as 2012 horserace, Nate Silver compares this bad jobs report to one “at bat”; certainly a strike out (for us, the team at bat) but not the whole story.

On the other hand, we have THIS as the image of how out-of-touch the Republicans are:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a leading advocate of shrinking entitlement spending and the architect of the plan to privatize Medicare, spent Wednesday evening sipping $350 wine with two like-minded conservative economists at the swanky Capitol Hill eatery Bistro Bis.

It was the same night reports started trickling out about President Obama pressing Congressional leaders to consider changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for GOP support for targeted tax increases.

Yes, this means that rich people are rich. No surprise there, and no argument for a policy here. But when the wealthy whine about taxes….well…this is an image that we can use. Most political rhetoric (the effective rhetoric) is emotional (remember McCain’s houses?)

In all honesty, this was an effective ad, though it wasn’t effective with me; I knew that he had a rich wife and I didn’t care how many houses he had.

More politics concerning the economy

Mitt Romney pounced on a statement made by Presidential adviser David Plouffe:

Today, unemployment rose to 9.2%. Sign my petition calling on President Obama to reject White House adviser David Plouffe’s comments that ‘unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers’ do not matter to average Americans: http://mi.tt/AudacityofIndifference

So what did David Plouffe really say? In effect, he said that the average American goes more by what he/she sees in their own lives (e. g., am I employed? Can I make ends meet? Are my family, friends and loved ones able to make ends meet?) than they do by published economic indicators. Here is the transcript:

But the White House has now supplied a full transcript of the exchange in question, which it obtained from Bloomberg. Here’s the relevant part, with the controversial parts and the question he was answering in bold:

QUESTION: Axelrod likes to say that every campaign has inherited [inaudible]. You know, an environment in which unemployment is [inaudible] percent when the president runs for re-election, what’s — what’s the Obama narrative about that?

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, I don’t — you know, we’re a long way from 2012. We’re a long way from knowing what’s going on in the world and exactly what the economy is and who are opponent is.

I would make a general statement, though, because there is a lot of attention focused on the unemployment rate. The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers.

In fact, those terms very rarely pass their lips. So it’s a very one-dimensional view. They view the economy through their own personal prism. You see, people’s — people’s attitude towards their own personal financial situation has actually improved over time. You know, they’re still concerned about the long-term economic future of the country, but it’s things like “My sister was unemployed for six months and was living in my basement and now she has a job.”

There’s a — a “help wanted” sign. You know, the local diner was a little busier this week. Home Depot was a little busier. These are the ways people talk about the economy. They don’t talk about it in the terms of Washington.

And so their decision next year will be based upon two things, okay, how do I feel about things right now, and then, ultimately, campaigns are always much more about the future, and who do I think has got the best idea, the best vision for where to take the country?

I would submit to you that a healthy percentage of Americans, far more than a majority, believe the president has a very sound vision for where the country needs to go.

So, you know, people won’t vote based on the unemployment rate. They’re gonna vote based on, “How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?”

It seems Plouffe was actually asked a question about whether and how the unemployment rate would impact the Presidential race. He replied by claiming that the number itself wouldn’t impact people’s votes. In other words, Plouffe himself didn’t initially establish the political context. Plouffe then launched into a discussion about how the anemic recovery is experienced by people on a personal level. It was in that context that Plouffe reiterated that people won’t vote based on the number alone.

But, though this is misleading, this is politics. We probably would have done the same thing to them.

What is Michelle Bachmann doing?
She is making a stance on social issues (banning porn, blasting gay marriages, signing right wing pledge sheets which include paragraphs that imply that blacks were better off, in terms of having two parent families, under slavery):

On Thursday, one of Iowa’s most influential social conservative organizations, The Family Leader, informed GOP presidential candidates that to win the group’s endorsement, they’ll have to sign a pledge. Family Leader president Bob Vander Plaats, a former Mike Huckabee ally, wants GOP contenders to commit to a list of 14 red-meat items, including opposition to gay marriage, a ban on Islamic Sharia law, a rejection of pornography, and an affirmation that married couples have better sex.

The group, which spearheaded the successful campaign to unseat state supreme court judges who had voted to legalize gay marriage, has been courted by candidates like Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty as a way of tapping into the state’s huge bloc of conservative Christian caucusgoers. What’s in the pledge? Here’s a quick rundown:

Presidential candidates who sign The Marriage Vow will sign off on support of personal fidelity to his/her spouse, appointing faithful constitutionalists as judges, opposition to any redefinition of marriage, and prompt reform of uneconomic and anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and divorce law. The Marriage Vow also outlines support for the legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), humane efforts to protect women and children, rejection of anti-women Sharia Islam, safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. military personnel, and commitment to downsizing government and the burden upon American families.

The document itself gets more specific. Point 5 begins with a “Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex…” Point 9 rejects “forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.”

As far as the African Americans part:

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is standing firm behind a pledge she signed Thursday that promotes marriage and social conservative values, but includes a passage that suggests black families were in better shape during slavery.

The Family Leader, an Iowa-based conservative group led by Bob Vander Plaats, issued the pledge formally called, “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family.”

Elections
Bachmann Stands By Marriage Pact That Links Slavery to Black Family Values
By Stephen Clark

Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann R-Minn., speaks at a Tea Party Rally outside the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines Saturday afternoon.

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is standing firm behind a pledge she signed Thursday that promotes marriage and social conservative values, but includes a passage that suggests black families were in better shape during slavery.

The Family Leader, an Iowa-based conservative group led by Bob Vander Plaats, issued the pledge formally called, “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family.”

The two page document condemns gay marriage, abortion, pornography and infidelity. But perhaps the most controversial part is found in the preamble where the state of the black family in the slave era is compared to today.

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President,” the document reads

Surf to the Fox News link to link to the document itself.

Needless to say, defenders of the First Amendment are less than happy. (Randazza is one of my favorite ranters! He combines awesome ranting with deep knowledge and brains).

Science and Medicine…and evolution

Mano Singham writes about a new artificial heart that provides a continuous blood supply rather that “beat” (which provides pulses of blood) He notes that there are no ill effects to supplying blood in this manner which suggests that perhaps a beating heart is a case in which evolution provided a non-optimal but adequate solution to a problem.

Humor

Not that well done, but funny anyway. Yes, I know; many athletes use prayer as some sort of sports psychology (getting focused, etc.)

Humor
Someone at a department store has a sense of humor

fashion fail - A Plastic Itch
see more funny videos, and check out our Yo Dawg lols!

July 9, 2011 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2012 election, Barack Obama, bikinis, civil liberties, Democrats, economics, economy, evolution, human sexuality, humor, Mitt Romney, Political Ad, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, Republican, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science, superstition | Leave a comment

Republican Debate Part III

Question: Medicare: how do we propose to keep Medicare solvent.

Paul: it won’t be solvent point out that people take out more than they put in. Says it has to change; says we are dependent.
Takes it out of other places. Says individuals could opt out.

Pawlenty: asked about Ryan plan. His proposal, has his own plan (not Ryan plan), talks about performance pay, and allows to opt out or participate.

Gingrich: asked about his initial reaction to the Ryan. Says that he supported the Ryan proposal, says that they shouldn’t run over. He claims that he disagrees with Ryan on Medicare…allows for contract with doctors. “Not pay the crooks”.

Santorum: says that the Republicans shouldn’t slow down (Gingrich says we should). He supports to Ryan’s plan (Part D). Claims that Obama’s payment advisory board is bad…..uses the R-word (rationing).

Cain: we don’t need to slow down. Says “sir, you aren’t going to get your money back”. Supports the Paul Ryan program…gets on the Democrats for demagoguery.

Question Specifics on Social Security reformation.

Cain: personal retirement account. Brings up Chile. Says about 40 years… won’t raise the retirement age.

Question Credit limit…raise the debt ceiling.

Romney: won’t raise the debt ceiling ….says that Obama needs to lead on the spending, excesses of government, etc. Says “entitlements” are 60 percent and accuses the President of not having ideas.

What happens if we don’t raise the ceiling? He won’t answer the question. Spending, blah, blah, blah….

Bachmann: “what is your pricetag”; says that she will vote “no”. Misleads on the increase on the debt (much of it comes from previous obligation)

Question Separation of church and State:

Pawlenty: says that we are a “nation under god”; more gibberish (protects believers from state versus the other way around)

Santorum: uses “faith and reason”; will converge if correct. Whines about people of faith are pushed away.

Paul: faith: says it doesn’t separate church and state.

Question The Muslim question; directed to Cain

Cain: I wouldn’t be comfortable with a Mulsim; “the militants are trying to kill us”, Sharia law, brings up Sharia law

Cain: makes it clear says he would ask Muslims certain questions that he might now ask others.

Romney: says “of course Sharia law” won’t be applied (Thank you!) Mentions religious tolerance.

Gingrich: makes a comment about the Pakistani and says that the Pakistani lied: talks about loyalty oath…brings up fear.

Break…I need pink bismuth…

Question Bachmann: gay marriage…
Bachmann: would she attack state laws to allow for gay marriage? “Marriage is between a man and a woman”. Mentions children. But doesn’t answer the question. She won’t challenge the state laws…doesn’t see it as a role of a President.

Constitutional Amendment to ban marriage:

Cain: up to the state.
Palwenty: Amendment.
Paul: get the government out
Romeny: Constitutional Amendment.
Santorum: Constitutional Amendment
Bachmann: Constitutional Amentment
Gingrich: Constitutional Amendment

Question: DADT overturned…would we return.

Cain: leave it alone; too many other things
Pawlenty: listen to the military
Paul: blah blah…”rights don’t come in group”
Romney: didn’t answer; should have kept DADT
Gingrich: meets with military and go back.
Bachmann: go back
Santorum: “repeal”

Question: prolife question
Santorum: asked: did Romeny deliberately flip-flop? Brings up Romeny’s background when he held office.
Says that he would push the issue.
Romney: says that his last campaign said it all, and would appoint pro-life justices.

Others: case closed.

Question
Bachmann: pro-life…what about rape and incest? “Only god”…right to life …she waffles.
Pawlenty: brings up NRO: Pawlenty was the most pro-life candidate…says he is “solidly pro-life”.

Question How do you prevent illegal immigrants from using our welfare systems (education, health care, etc.)

Santorum: won’t require states to require state government to provide services.
Paul: no mandates, no easy citizenship, protect borders, brings up the economic issues…freedom, blah blah blah…
Cain: “birth right citizenship”: he is against it for kids of illegal immigrant parents. Empower the states to deport them.
Pawlenty: let the states do it if the Federal government wont.
Gingrich: “what would you do…some path to status?” He says: break this down, control the border. Use the National guard, take half of Homeland Security to the Mexico border states. Says that extreme answers are not helpful.

Question Bill that restricts the state’s ability to use eminent domain for energy uses.

Paul: Laws never meant to take from private and give to private. Get the courts out of the way.
Romney: land shouldn’t be taken a private person to give to private corporations; talks to natural gas, more drilling, “clean coal”, “nuclear power”…blah blah…

Question Senate to abolish ethanol tax credits.
Santorum: phase out the subsidies over a 5 year period of time, and phase out the tariff on ethanol.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, Mitt Romney, Republican, republican party, republican senate minority leader, republicans, Tim Pawlenty | Leave a comment

Republican Debate Part II

Question Federal Government gives subsidies to private enterprise.

Paul: shouldn’t have any. Says that private companies should do R & D.

Cain: once supported TARP. He is being asked about. He complains about how TARP was administrated; he conflated it with the auto-bail out (different thing)

Question: Romeny was asked about the bail-out program.

Romney says that the bail out program wasted money. He would have let them go bankrupt…at least mentioned the Bush administration.
Claims 17 billion dollars was wasted and claims that Obama gave the company to UAW.

But Romney said that you could “kiss the industry goodbye”….won’t admit that he was wrong……the companies are healthy now.

Santorum: says he wouldn’t have done either. Unions are the bad guys.
Bachmann: “was in the middle of the debate” and backdoor with Secretary Paulsen. She says that TARP was wrong.

Question Gingrich: what role should the government play in the space program?

Gingrich: NASA is bad….private sector would have done it better. We would have had all of these neat things had private industry been allowed to do it. NASA is in the way.

Pawlenty: says we shouldn’t eliminate the space program.

Gingrich: gets on Pawlenty for saying to get rid of the space program.

Romney: government doesn’t know as well as the private sector.

Question: home mortgage crisis

Pawlenty: get government out of this mess….(how did they get us into it?) Get the government out of it…blah, blah, blah…

Paul: do less, sooner. We should let the prices fall.

Question: food safety.

Cain: look at the FDA and steamline it. He thinks that we should have FDA.

Romney: asked about Joplin; thinks that Federal government is too large but won’t talk about the Joplin disaster….blah, blah, blah, blah….

Round two: facepalm.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, Mitt Romney, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, Tim Pawlenty | 2 Comments

But it worked when Chuck Norris said it in a movie!!!

Is this guy a perfect Republican or what? :)

April 29, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, moron, morons, political humor, politics, Republican, republican party, republican senate minority leader, republicans | Leave a comment

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