Caterpillar Mimicry, Lying is Legal, Obama-Romney care and other topics

Chris Matthews: outrage from the right (short clip; 1:50)

Rachel Maddow: she has a 19 minute segment about how much trouble the Republicans are going to have running against Romneycare Obamacare. They’ll probably have to run on something else.

Lying: yes it is protected speech. Now the government can pass some laws concerning being a fake when it comes to military medals and honors (called “stolen valor laws”). But such laws have to be carefully crafted. This post by Beth Hutchens at Randazza’s blog is very well written.

Evolution in action Jerry Coyne has a collection of photos of caterpillars; these would normally be prime food for predators such as birds. But several have evolved defenses, such as becoming poisonous (e. g., they eat poisonous things that don’t kill them, but kills predators) or they evolve some interesting mimicry.

Here is one example; many more are there:

(click the image to see it at the blog).

Believers and Atheists Obviously, everyone is different. I have atheist friends who just never thought that much about religion; it just isn’t important to them. I have atheist friends who got there because they were somehow “wounded” by their religion (e. g., gays who were rejected by family members because they were gay, Jews who didn’t know why their deity would permit the Holocaust, people who got shunned because they fell in love with someone from a different religion, etc.).

Personally: I was raised Catholic and was very Catholic at one time; my atheism is really an intellectual position that I’ve arrived at after a lot of thought, reflection and effort. But that is what it is: an intellectual position, which is fully capable of being falsified. I don’t think that I am wrong, but I know that I might be, at least about there being a deity of some sort. I don’t assign a high probability to the existence of the deities that I’ve heard of, but there might be something I haven’t heard of.

I am amused that some see a lack of belief in a deity as an inherently evil thing. And no, I am not “angry” with something that I don’t think exists; besidies, why would *I* be owed an optimal life anyway? But then again, being an academic, especially an academic in a technical (math/science) field makes it a whole lot easier.

My point: many atheists (not all) start off as “believers”; in fact many atheists understand religious beliefs better than most believers.

On the other hand, many religious types, especially clergy don’t understand atheism at all. Evidently it goes something like this: they feel that their deity gives their life meaning. A consequence: if you don’t believe in their deity, then, well, you don’t see life as having any “meaning”. In fact, a Cardinal said that atheists are not “fully human.”

My point is not that believers should make the time to understand atheists, it is just that most don’t whereas many atheists understand believers because we have been there.

June 30, 2012 Posted by | 2012 election, civil liberties, evolution, health care, Mitt Romney, nature, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, science, social/political | Leave a comment

Learning from a Bad Track Meet

Yesterday I found out that there would be a small all-comers track meet this morning. So I scrapped my plans for a steady 8 mile run and decided to do this meet instead. My results were poor but I learned something.

First: it was deathly humid: 73 F, 81 percent humidity. Next: I had given whole blood 10 days ago.
So for the 5K: three of us lined up and took off. My problem: the other two guys were aiming for the 17’s (and ended up between 18:30 and 18:55) and so I was by myself for the first mile which came at 7:56 (1:58 first 400 m). That was idiotic; I was reduced to a crawl and dropped bout 5 laps into it; rather than kill myself with a couple of 9 minute miles I figured that I would save it for the 1500.

But the 1500 came only 20-30 minutes later. There were 4 of us and I ended up chasing this blonde MILF (30’s?) in tight black spandex shorts. I couldn’t catch up to her; she beat me by about 50 meters or so and I finished in 7:08 (about a 7:38 mile).

Lesson from the track meet: since I am well behind most who show up, I had to go by internal cues as to how much effort was appropriated early in the race. At the large public 5K runs, I tend to let the crowd slow me down in the first mile and then pick it up.
Also, if I want to improve in the 5K this fall, I might keep an “every week” long run of 8-10 miles, but I am going to HAVE to do something hard on non-race weeks. That won’t be a problem in the next two weeks or so. But if I am not racing on Saturday, I’ll need to make myself do something like 4 x 800 or the like.

The good news: though I didn’t pace myself well in the 5K, I still got a workout which included 6 miles total (including warm up and cool down) and two separate sub 8 minute miles. On football weekends, I have a perfect 1000 meter course that is only a 1.5 mile jog away; no reason I can’t include 3-4 x 1000 with jog recoveries prior to the games; though on at least one of the dates I should be able to race a 2 mile or 10K that morning since the race site is on the way to the stadium.

June 30, 2012 Posted by | running, workouts | 3 Comments

The “Republican on the Steet” reaction to the SCOTUS decision

What about elite Republican reaction? They are probably buying hospital stock and grinning ear to ear over the soon to be increasing Fox/talk radio ratings.

Hey, money is money, and that is what the elite Republicans are all about….regardless of the nonsense they sell to the morons those of lower economic status.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | health care, money, morons, republicans | Leave a comment

An answer to Republican chest thumping and bluster over the Affordable Healthcare Act

Ok Republicans, you say that YOU are going to Repeal Obamacare!!!! Ok, before I take you seriously I have some questions:

1. Do you think that in the 2012 election, you will win the Presidency AND the House AND the Senate?

2. If you don’t win the Presidency, will you have enough votes in Congress to override a veto?

Note: I know about the filibuster, but given that the mandate is considered a “tax”, this part might be able to be repealed by “budget reconciliation” and all the R’s would need is 50 Senate votes to do that. The Democrats can filibuster some of the other provisions, provided the Republicans don’t win 60 seats.

If you don’t SWEEP in 2012, Obmacare is here to stay.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | health care, politics, politics/social, republicans | Leave a comment

More on the SCOTUS upholding Obamacare: Implications for science research, the facts and the emotions…

We just got back from a lunch fundraiser for David Koehler, who faces a tough reelection battle for the Illinois Senate 46’th district seat. I gave this to my wife as a birthday present. There was a suggested “per plate” donation, but it was less than this:

Remember, we are Democrats:

Health Care Decision
Paul Krugman calls it a win:

In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society.

But what about the cost? Put it this way: the budget office’s estimate of the cost over the next decade of Obamacare’s “coverage provisions” — basically, the subsidies needed to make insurance affordable for all — is about only a third of the cost of the tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring the wealthy, that Mitt Romney is proposing over the same period. True, Mr. Romney says that he would offset that cost, but he has failed to provide any plausible explanation of how he’d do that. The Affordable Care Act, by contrast, is fully paid for, with an explicit combination of tax increases and spending cuts elsewhere.

So the law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible. It’s not perfect, by a long shot — it is, after all, originally a Republican plan, devised long ago as a way to forestall the obvious alternative of extending Medicare to cover everyone. As a result, it’s an awkward hybrid of public and private insurance that isn’t the way anyone would have designed a system from scratch. And there will be a long struggle to make it better, just as there was for Social Security. (Bring back the public option!) But it’s still a big step toward a better — and by that I mean morally better — society.

But he offers a caution:

At one level, the most striking thing about the campaign against reform was its dishonesty. Remember “death panels”? Remember how reform’s opponents would, in the same breath, accuse Mr. Obama of promoting big government and denounce him for cutting Medicare? Politics ain’t beanbag, but, even in these partisan times, the unscrupulous nature of the campaign against reform was exceptional. And, rest assured, all the old lies and probably a bunch of new ones will be rolled out again in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. Let’s hope the Democrats are ready.

But what was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty. It would be one thing if, at any point, they had offered any hint of an alternative proposal to help Americans with pre-existing conditions, Americans who simply can’t afford expensive individual insurance, Americans who lose coverage along with their jobs. But it has long been obvious that the opposition’s goal is simply to kill reform, never mind the human consequences. We should all be thankful that, for the moment at least, that effort has failed.

Emphasis mine.

Now as far as the law itself, few even know what it does. Test yourself: take this Kaiser Family Foundation Quiz.

My score:

There is something else about the bill: it affects medical research:

In an historic moment, the US Supreme Court voted 5-4 yesterday (June 28) to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care reform law—colloquially known as the Affordable Care Act—by declaring the law’s so-called “individual mandate,” which levies a tax or fine if individual citizens fail to carry health insurance, constitutionally valid. Though it is the general public that will feel the main impact of the health care law, the legislation also includes key provisions, protected by today’s ruling, that benefit biomedical research.

“With this ruling, what we have is the turning of a page and a new chapter,” said Mary Woolley, CEO of science advocacy group Research!America. “It is time to be talking about research and innovation as a major driver in health care.”

The key provisions that have a bearing on the lives and work of biomedical researchers include the establishment of a streamlined US Food and Drug Administration pathway for the approval of generic versions of protein-based drugs, so-called biosimilars; the creation of a translational research initiative at the National Institutes of Health called the Cures Acceleration Network; the launch of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which would require pharmaceutical and device makers to disclose all payments greater than $10 to physicians, and a push to increase funding for comparative effectiveness research.

And no, this is not the “biggest tax increase in history”; not even close.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | health care, Peoria, Peoria/local, political/social, politics, republicans | 1 Comment

One Reason Republicans Hate Obamacare (besides the fact that Obama got it passed)

Workout notes easy, untimed 4 mile walk in Bradley Park (classic cornstalk course). It was muggy.

Why do Republicans hate Obama/Romney care?

This is certainly part of it:

And yes, there is some evidence to back up the assertion that we often choose what we like (or at least give a chance to) based on who proposed it ….lately.

But, at least for some Republicans, there is something else going on.

I think that there is a social good issue that, yes, some Republicans buy into (they might disagree with the method of reaching this social good).

But among the more hysterical opposition (examples here) is this:

The idea: Republicans basically love order (so long as THEY get to determine what the order is). They have a “punish the slackers and miscreants” fetish. Yes, liberals don’t like slackers and miscreants either, but there is a “baby with the bathwater” issue with us.

The idea that any sort of health care reform might, might, funnel even a small percentage of money from responsible people to the slackers and miscreants is enough to whip them into a frenzy to not support it. A few thousand preventable deaths of people who tried to do things right but just fell through the cracks is, to this crowd, a price worth paying…for FREEDOM…and adhering to the Church of the Almighty Free Market for EVERYTHING…

You know, it is the “life is hard and it sucks for some…but that is just too bad” school of thought.

To these sort of Republicans (which is just a subset of Republicans, not all of them) I say: “tough luck”. We made the decision to fund police departments (instead of having everyone responsible for their own safety), highways (instead of hacking out our own roads), fire departments (instead of just putting fires out yourself), the military (instead of everyone just defending themselves), etc.

I’d put health care on a par with things like utilities.

Sure, I’d love single payer and the SCOTUS just made that far more difficult to attain.

Hence we, as a country, via a democratically decided process, decided to go with the conservative solution even if (most) present day conservatives are not acknowledging this idea as their own.

Let’s make it work!

And to you Mr. Romney: please drop the charade. Just admit that your idea won the day, but that you think that you’d do a better job of running it. That is a legitimate argument to make (though I disagree with it).

June 29, 2012 Posted by | 2012 election, Barack Obama, health care, Mitt Romney, politics, politics/social, walking | Leave a comment

Not Health Care…..False positives in Science and Religiosity of Scientists

Workout notes
Early morning: 5 mile run (closer to 5.1 miles); I did my cornstalk “hill” course in 50:02, with my last 1.03 in 8:53. Splits: 25:32/24:30; note the second half was net uphill.

But it was sticky (71F, 61% at the start, 76F, 64% at the end) and the first 1.03 was a bit rough.

Two notes:
1. During my run, I ran past an English professor. He used to be physically robust but later had health problems (including heart surgery). He still looks good, but his intensity has gone way down, by necessity. But still, he swims several times a week and walks several times a week..on hilly courses too. The fact that he hasn’t given up after all he went through inspires me…and I told him so.

2. When I exited the park, I saw a young woman running pretty well. I didn’t even THINK about chasing her. But as I turned into the neighborhood, she caught me; she had done a longer loop prior to turning. She passed me as if I were running in place, and I had sped up! Then as I turned on Cooper I saw her again…still covering lots more distance in the same amount of time…….grrrr… 🙂

Later, after a quick snack for breakfast, I lifted at a leisurely pace. Highlights: bench was 4 x 180, 4 x 180, 7 x 170, incline: 2 sets of 7 x 140. I did the curls with the pulley and I did 7 x 85, 6 x 85 of standing military. Everything else was same old, same old…oh, yes, a wider grip for 2 of my pull up set (4 sets of 10).

There are many differences between physics and biology. One difference: physics experiments, which heavily rely on statistics, usually like p values corresponding to 5 standard deviations. If medicine used this standard, we’d never get cures; there is too much variation between humans. But the price we pay is that we get more false positives. Mano Singham (a physicist) has a discussion here. Roughly speaking, biology/medicine researchers are willing to live with a 5 percent chance of a false positive; physicists aren’t.

Religiosity of Scientists
That scientists are less religious than the public at large…considerably so, isn’t a surprise. But why? Sigmund at the blog Why Evolution is True explores the question. Two important facts:
1. Scientists tend to be raised in the same sorts of households as non-scientists; they don’t start off being raised in a substantially less religious manner than the population (in the US) as a whole.
2. In the general population, older people are MORE religious than younger people. Among scientists: older people are LESS religious than the younger ones.

Point 2: is this a case of the younger people coming around to the scientist group norm with time (after starting with society’s norm), or does a career in science tend to erode religious beliefs?

June 28, 2012 Posted by | biology, physics, religion, running, science, statistics, weight training | 1 Comment

Blind Rage From the Right Wing

Some of it is funny:

Oh Twitter, don’t you ever change. Immediately after the Supreme Court voted to uphold President Obama’s health care plan, the social media site exploded with posts from people who said they were “moving to Canada.” You know, so they can escape a publicly funded health care system by traveling to a country that already has, um, a publicly funded health care system. (Although one armchair pundit gave “Drake is appreciated more” as a secondary reason, so we’re kind of OK with letting her go.) Either way, the northbound lanes of these hypothetical highways sound like they’re gonna be crowded. Leave early, friends.

Please. Leave as soon as you can. 🙂

Some of the blind rage is ugly though; this came from comments on the Mitt Romney facebook wall:


June 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Why I thought that the Affordable Care Act was Constitutional …

No, I didn’t know how SCOTUS would rule. The reason I thought that it was constitutional: The Heritage Foundation thought that it was (when they drew it up). Senator Bob Dole and the other R’s thought it was when they presented it to President Clinton. Mitt Romney thought that it was when he enacted it. President Obama and the Senate D’s thought that it was. So, people on both sides of the political spectrum thought that it was (albeit not at the same time). Hence, I thought that it probably was, though not because I know Constitutional Law (I don’t).

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Barack Obama, civil liberties, health care, Mitt Romney, political/social, politics | Leave a comment

Congratulations to my Republican Friends….

The Supreme Court of the United States just upheld a health care plan that was developed by the Heritage Foundation, presented to President Clinton by Senator Bob Dole, and put into place by Governor Mitt Romney.

Instead of sulking, why don’t you celebrate that you came up with a decent idea that withstood the Constitutionality test?

(ps: I am in favor of single payer, and this ruling just made what I want more unlikely than before).

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Barack Obama, health, health care, politics, politics/social, republicans | 2 Comments