NY-9 AND NY-26

Together they might mean something. How much?

Nate Silver has an analysis here.

Upshot: The R’s have won 3 of 4 special elections in the House (though they lost one in a heavily R district). D’s have picked off two Wisconsin state senators. Though these results constitute a small number of data points, they are consistent with 2010.

September 14, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics | Leave a comment

New York Election to Replace Mr. Weiner…

This will not go well for us.

September 13, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, political/social, politics, politics/social | 1 Comment

8 August 2011 Evening…all over the place

Tomorrow I return to yoga class:

No, it won’t be outdoors and no one in the class is this flexible. 🙂

Remember when Senator McCain said this:

Well, he heard about it at a town hall in Arizona.

President Obama continues to catch flack at places like Daily Kos (not that he cares that much). But some of us have had enough:

I thoroughly enjoy watching keyboard warriors talk about how weak Obama is on this, and how terrible he is at that, when the biggest decision these folks have to make is “do you want fries with that?” You think you’ve got the resolve, you think you’re a better decision-maker than he is, and you think you know so much more than he does because you read Krugman or Greenwald or that totally underrated super-hipster political website that hasn’t hit the mainstream yet. Guess what? There’s a reason why he’s president and you’re not. If you think you’ve got what it takes to do a better job, then run for President! I’d love to see how you do to fix the entire free world’s every little problem in three years.

I think I’ve figured out what the anti-Obama crowd wants. You want a George Bush. Not the “Obama = Bush” bullshit, but a ruthless bloodthirsty president who will kill and character-assassinate his way to fulfill political goals. You want a liberal president who uses the same tactics to get what he wants that you complained about for eight years when the other guy did it.

You want Obama to raise taxes on the rich. You want him to focus on jobs. You want him to pass a robust stimulus plan. I would love that too. Okay, we all want it, but how does he do that in the House? He can talk a good game and say “tax increases!” three times and click his heels together, but it doesn’t amount to diddlysquat unless 218 teadrones in the House of Representatives vote for it. President Obama can talk until his mouth goes dry, but it won’t do a lick of difference unless you work to elect over 218 Democratic votes in the House.

If you need to hear him talk angrily to a wall, that’s fine. Whatever makes you feel better. But the reality is that the Republicans in Congress want him to lose. They’re not going to help him at all no matter how sternly he words a speech.

If you want to make a change, go fix the damn House.

Now it is true that President Obama is far more cautious on the economy than many of us would like; there is nothing wrong with us wanting to pressure him from the left, and I happen to agree with Robert Reich here. But from what you read on Daily Kos…well, putting up with arm-chair quarterbacks is part of the job.

So, how will President Obama do? Intrade has him barely over 50 percent (stock market?)

Other topics
Paul Krugman on weighing arguments:

Some people seem confused about what I meant in my post on pulling rank. They seem to believe that I meant that you should never consider the source of an argument — and that therefore my poking fun at S&P is somehow a contradiction.

Um, no.

What’s illegitimate is saying “I pay no attention to what Joe Blow says, because I’m a tenured professor at Harvard, and he isn’t.”

It is, however, perfectly legitimate to say “I pay no attention to what Joe Blow says, even though he has a fancy job title, because he has a track record of being wrong about everything.”

Notice that what’s happening in the case of S&P is precisely that many people are giving them credence because of where they sit; it’s therefore highly relevant to point out that they may be a prestigious organization for some reason, but their track record is ludicrously bad.

Note: stocks are down but US Treasury bonds….ARE UP.


Frogs and toads (via Conservation Report)

This is fascinating; the eggs are forced into the mother’s back during amplexus. They “dig in” so to speak and form pockets; they then hatch to tadpoles in the pockets and eventually work up to becoming fully formed toadlets that push out of those pockets.

Life: building blocks for DNA have been found in meteorites.

Illinois weather in July The weather patterns have been strange; dry in some areas and record rainfall in others. For example: Chicago had a record July rainfall, though 6.86 inches fell in THREE HOURS time (yes, during our visit…we were in a museum when this happened).

August 9, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, arizona, Barack Obama, big butts, biology, economy, evolution, frogs, Illinois, John McCain, science, social/political, spandex, yoga | Leave a comment

I broke it, now YOU fix it.

August 8, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, Democrats, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans | Leave a comment

27 July 2011 pm

Workout notes I spent much of the morning working in the yard with clippers and a saw. Why this is significant: my shoulder didn’t kill me; it twinged every so slightly once in a while.

Swimming: 250 3g/free, 250 front kick, free (fins), 250 fist/free, 250 front kick, free (fins)
10 x 100 on the 2: 1:40, 1:41, 1:40, 1:41, 1:40, 1:38, 1:37, 1:37, 1:38, 1:37 (1:38.9 average)
Previously: 1:41, 1:38, 1:38, 1:38, 1:38, 1:37, 1:38, 1:36, 1:38, 1:36.
This was a set back from the last time, but I did come in fatigued.

27 July 1:38.9 (+ 1.1 seconds!)
19 July 1:37.8 (.85 seconds/week)
5 July 1:39.5 (.9 seconds/week)
21 June: 1:41.3 (1.1 seconds/week)
15 June: 1:42.4 (1.1 seconds/week)
1 June: 1:44.6 (5.1 seconds/.5 week = 10.2 seconds per week)
29 May: 1:49.7

I am closing in on the point where I will have to swim more in order to improve; the plateau has started.
Here is an emotional story about a young American Muslim:

No, I am no fan of Islam (or any other religion) and I detest the Islamic republics (maltreatment of women, execution state sanctioned murder for homosexuality or apostasy. But our own citizens are another matter.

The Republicans are putting the pressure on their tea party types to back Mr. Boehner’s bill.
Example: here is an editorial from Fox News The Wall Street Journal

Strangely, some Republicans and conservative activists are condemning this as a fiscal sellout. Senator Jim DeMint put out a statement raking the Speaker for seeking “a better political debt deal, instead of a debt solution” (emphasis, needless to say, his). The usually sensible Club for Growth and Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, are scoring a vote for the Boehner plan as negative on similar grounds.

But what none of these critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan. The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees. The reality is that the debt limit will be raised one way or another, and the only issue now is with how much fiscal reform and what political fallout.

If the Boehner plan fails in the House, the advantage shifts to Mr. Reid’s Senate plan[…]

f conservatives defeat the Boehner plan, they’ll not only undermine their House majority. They’ll go far to re-electing Mr. Obama and making the entitlement state that much harder to reform.

There is more in this editorial; I’d recommend sane people take some anti-acid prior to reading it.

Evidently this pressure is starting to work:

On Tuesday, conservative Republican Study Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) predicted defeat for House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) plan to raise the debt limit.

“I am confident as of this morning that there are not 218 Republicans in support of the plan,” he said.

He was counting on the opposition of dozens of House conservatives who have in the past pledged not to raise the debt limit on terms that compromising with Democrats would require.

Twenty-four hours later, after taking a beating from the GOP establishment and party leadership, and after watching Democrats grow more and more confident in their ability to split the Republican coalition, those conservatives are reconsidering their rebellion.

“I think Jordan was probably counting me originally, but I’ve moved a little bit,” Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), a freshman conservative, told reporters in response to a question from TPM.

Fahrenthold joined the GOP caucus for a morning meeting Wednesday, after which several undecided members, and opponents of Boehner’s bill, streamed out to tell reporters they’re undergoing a change of heart.

“The risk of sending this country into uncharted territory with a default is really concerning me,” Farenthold said.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — An increasing number of House members yielded to Speaker John Boehner’s blunt command to line up Wednesday behind his budget bill even as his staff moved frantically to alter it in an attempt to resolve the looming fiscal crisis. Congressional leaders alternately voiced optimism, determination and a haggard frustration as they struggled to make both the dollars and the votes add up.

Other Republicans are frustrated with some of what the base is being told:

And Mr. Lindsey Graham says that the Republicans have only themselves to blame for causing such a ruckus.

Hey, though don’t lose heart: the Republicans have some excellent ideas for solving the Social Security and Medicare problems!

Paul Krugman explains that, yes, the Health Care Reform bill is basically what Republicans WANTED in the past.

Remember that the current crop of Republicans don’t care about governing if THEY are not in power; regaining power is all they care about.

Non political:
Yes, you CAN be “too safe”; milquetoast playgrounds are not effective in helping the children grow.

July 27, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, Barack Obama, economics, economy, Fox News Lies Again, health care, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, shoulder rehabilitation, swimming | 1 Comment

THIS is how you counter junk “science”….and other topics

I am taking a break between segments of a pop-science video on quantum mechanics. I’ll probably write a short blurb on my mathematics blog about how the Taylor series is used in Plank’s law (which yields the Rayleigh-Jeans blackbody radation law at low frequencies).

I’ll post some stuff that I found interesting.

Remember all of the uproar about the “why black women are ugly” article that appeared in Psychology Today (online) and then was pulled? Much of the push-back against the article was lame; it was “I don’t like it” and that was about it. This is a typical reaction, though the TITLE of this counter article “says who?” actually gets to the point rather quickly.

Of course, there are many problems with the article; for one the measurement of attractiveness was basically the opinion of a small number of people. So what the data (supposedly) said was “a tiny percentage of people seem to think that black women are less attractive than other women.”…that’s it.

But it turns out that the data DIDN’T EVEN SAY THAT MUCH!!!

2. Kanazawa interprets his findings in terms of adult attractiveness yet the majority of his data were based on the ratings of attractiveness of the participants when they were teenagers. If many of us (including the authors of this post) were judged throughout our lives based on our physical attractiveness as a teenager, a lot of us would be in trouble!

Add Health currently has four “waves,” […]

Note that only Wave IV actually consists of “Adults.” In fact, the range of ages for Wave I and Wave II is 12-22, with an average age of about 16 for both waves.

Imagine the scenario. Adult researchers (unfortunately we couldn’t find out information about the actual interviewers themselves) went into the homes of these participants and rated their own subjective view of the physical attractiveness of the study participants on a scale from 1 to 5 (ranging from “very unattractive” to “very attractive”). For Waves I and II in particular, the ratings couldn’t possibly (we hope!) be referring to ratings of the sexual attractiveness of these kids. So discussions of this topic using data from the dating website OK Cupid really aren’t appropriate here.

Only in Waves 3 and 4 were the participants old enough on average (M = 22.2, SD = 1.9 and M= 29.00 SD = 1.8, respectively) to be actually called “women” and “men” instead of girls and boys. If one looks at the data from the waves (3 and 4) in which all of the interviewees reached legal adulthood, the pattern of results no longer supports Kanazawa’s main conclusion.

In Wave 3, we did find a very slight difference in attractiveness ratings in favor of European women, but this is effect is no longer significant after we take into account the random variation due to the raters.

However, only data from Wave 4 is relevant for the issue that Kanazawa wants to address simply because this is the only Wave consisting of adults (they were collected when all of the participants were adults aged 25-34). Unfortunately, Kanazawa does not include presentation of these Wave 4 results, despite the fact that he uses Add Health data in most of his studies and these data have been available for over a month.

Focusing just on Wave 4, it is obvious that among the women in the sample, there is no difference between the ethnicities in terms of ratings of physical attractiveness. Differences in the distributions for females when tested with a regular (and slightly liberal) test of independence is non-significant and hence can be attributed to chance (Pearson’s Chi-Square=15.6, DF=12, p =.210). Here’s the graph that shows the distribution of ratings (in percentages) for 1564 European Americans, 553 African Americans, 97 Native Americans, and 96 Asian American females (with arithmetic means below each group):

There is much more there, but the counter-argument is easy to sum up: it is an incompetent analysis of data which represents the opinions of a small number of people. THAT is how one critiques such shoddy “studies”.

I freely admit that this study attracted such attention because it offended so many, and I wonder how much junk is out there that hasn’t attracted such scrutiny? I also wonder what the article referee was doing when he/she reviewed this article. That this passed some sort of a “review process” does not speak well for Psychology Today.

Note: before you start screaming “oh, you are just being PC”; it is possible to, say, do a competent survey of American heterosexual males on what they find sexually attractive, and it is possible that one group of women (say, Asian or Mexican) be found more or less attractive than some other group of women. My honest guess is that the results would be all over the map, especially if one took into account things like health, wealth, obesity, etc. But who knows?

BUT…I doubt if there would be any “evolutionary” reason aside from people having some tendency to select for the signs of good child bearing potential in women and perhaps being more attracted to one’s own “race” (on the average….MAYBE). Remember that some homo sapiens carry Neanderthal genes….so evidently sexual attraction is quite varied!!!! 🙂

What I know for sure is that the Psychology Today article was pathetic and it sure appears to me as if the author has some sort of racial ax to grind, but I can’t be sure of that. It could be that the author of the Psychology Today is driven by some desire to be anti-PC and iconoclastic for its own sake.

Progress in the United States
I have to beware of passing along things that are “what I want to hear”:

I want to hear this message. BUT…becoming right wing might well be a sign of wealth; that is, as more racial minorities become more affluent, they too might turn into right wingers.

And remember that people who are discriminated against often have no problem discriminating against others; though this comes from a satire blog, it sure hammers home the point:

(cut and paste if you want to read the post; I don’t want the track-back)

Warning: the language is not what I’d use on the blog:

I am so proud of the West Coast blacks! I didn’t think they had it in them. They disproved the liberal concept of “prejudice.” So-called “enlightened” people often claim those of us who recognize that different people have different places in society — and not everyone is “equal” — are prejudiced. They criticize our claims that colored people are destined to serve rather than lead as evidence of “prejudice.” Well, the California coloreds proved them wrong. Even though these people support their own “rights,” they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 8, which prohibits homosexuals from having the same kind of relationships the rest of us have (i.e., marriage). Exit polls show that the majority of normal people (Caucasians) voted against the proposition. It was the blacks who ensured it passed.

This, of course, just shows that claims of “prejudice” involve nothing more than self-interest. Blacks pushed hard for the right to be viewed the same as whites, and actually got one of their own kind elected President. But when it came to homos seeking the same so-called “rights,” they voted to recognize that not everyone is equal. They single-handedly defeated homo equality in California. Thank you, California coloreds, not just for putting homos in their place, but for showing that claims of “injustice” and “prejudice” really just involve self-interest. After all, as soon as you got what you wanted, you abandoned all pretense of supporting equality. Clever. LOL!

Yes, I know; one can correct for education, religiosity and age.

Bottom line: I don’t see racial minorities as being more altruistic than anyone else; remember that my ancestors (Aztecs if you go back far enough) ruthlessly dealt with the people that they conquered. They weren’t really any more moral than my Spanish ancestors; they were merely less efficient at killing and enslaving.

Ok, I’ll look at it this way: conservatism is more about keeping order than anything else:

And if minorities become the new majority, we’ll probably see “conservative” minorities trying to preserve the new order at the expense of others.

May 28, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, Blogroll, blogs, evolution, human sexuality, racism, science, statistics | Leave a comment

11 May 2011 posts….later in the day

This will be all over the place
Politics House Republicans are asking President Obama to ask the Democrats to NOT attack them on their vote on their budget!

Hard to believe:

Nearly a dozen House Republican freshmen held a press conference outside the Capitol Tuesday morning to “wipe the slate clean,” and “hit the reset button.”

“Yeah, I mean there’s been — again, this is a both-sides issue,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) when asked if GOP candidates and the NRCC had engaged in ‘MediScare’ tactics last year. “To say that one side is blameless in trying to use issues to win votes is just dishonest.”

On Tuesday, Kinzinger and 41 of his colleagues sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to rein in Democratic attacks on GOP members who voted for the House budget, which includes a plan to privatize Medicare and cap spending on the program.


Aside from the chutzpah of winning an election by scaring seniors about Medicare, then demanding an end to scare tactics, isn’t this just pathetic? Pleading with Democrats not to engage in politics?

That reminds me of the old joke: “hey Republicans, if you quit lying about us, we’ll quit telling the truth about you.”. This is amazing, but in character for this amoral group.

Dick Morris: manages to lie while remaining factual
Yes, Medicare is the big long term debt driver. But what does Dick Morris say?

Medicare has only gone up by 16 percent since Obama took office. Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation, Section 8 housing, AFDC and other welfare entitlements have risen by 54 percent. And regular discretionary domestic spending has risen by 41 percent. By directing the nation’s attention to Medicare — as opposed to these other programs — the House Republicans have totally played into Obama’s hands.

Did you catch these things? Those other “welfare” entitlements have gone up mostly as a result of the horrible economy that President Bush left us. But here is the biggest fallacy: yes spending on those other programs have gone up by a bigger percentage. But what was the biggest program to begin with?

Think of it this way: consider your household budget. Suppose your drink 30 dollars of soda a month. Now suppose you drink 60 dollars of soda the next month. Now suppose your 1000 dollar a month mortgage went up to 1200.
So you see, your mortgage expense “only” went up 20 percent whereas your soda budget went up 100 percent. So your soda budget is a bigger driver of your financial strain? Hardly. 🙂

But this is the line of reasoning that Mr. Morris is presenting. It probably will be enough to fool Newsmax readers.

More politics
I saw this on my facebook wall. Really. 🙂

A little bit of light science
Check out this optical illusion. Basically you have a wheel of colored dots. The dots change color in a set pattern. This is easy to see. Then the wheel turns and it appears that the color changes stop..but they really don’t.

Social science
I really have little patience with articles such as this one:

Back in April, my Salon column pointed out that though women are far less likely to be overweight than men, they comprise 90 percent of customers in the commercial weight-loss industry.

So women being less obese than men is bad? (Note: in the United States; the 2009 obesity rates are 69.3 percent for men, 52.7 percent for women.

The survey mentioned in this Salon article is:

[Women] were asked to choose whether they would rather be obese or have one of 12 socially stigmatized conditions, such as alcoholism or herpes. In many cases, the women would rather have more of the other conditions, with 25.4 percent preferring severe depression and 14.5 percent preferring total blindness over obesity.

You read that right — one in four women would prefer to be severely depressed rather than overweight, and nearly one in six would prefer to lose their sight rather than face the same fate. These are truly stunning numbers — but, then, they come as responses to hypotheticals. So the key question this study raises is: Do the results mean anything in real-world practice?

In a word, yes.

So how does the author back up his “yes” answer? No, he doesn’t provide health data; he points out that models are thin, often unrealistically so.
And the MEASURED harmful effect is…..uh, remember that 52.7 percent of women are obese.
Yes, the author does point out that obesity is a problem and there is nothing wrong with attacking obesity as a health issue. But attacking it as a beauty issue is bad, bad bad. But the evidence is…well…a 52.7 percent obesity rate?

Sorry, but I remain unconvinced. Losing weight because you want to look good is fine.
Sure, I know that there are anorexics but they are rare exception.

Here are some hilarious facebook snarks over misspellings. I’ll post a couple of these:

May 12, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, economics, economy, humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, superstition, whining | Leave a comment

9 April 2011 National Economic Matters, Mud, and Math (ematical Biology)

Mud: I’ll be at McNaughton Park later today to help out with the 5 pm to 6 am shift. I’ll be helping the slower 50 mile finishers and the 100 mile runners.
As far as my own workout: I’ll attempt to run 8 miles after this. I’ll get wet as it is raining off and on. I might drive to East Peoria so as to avoid traffic by using the paved bike path (and get some good hill work going up) or I might do a multiple hill loop at home; we shall see.

Ok, no government shutdown. But what about the larger Paul Ryan plan?

Yes, this plan sets the debate: do we want lower taxes with a government that does far less (e. g., no more medicare?):

The best thing about the long-term budget proposal from Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is that it forces Americans to confront the implications of their choices. If voters want taxes that amount to roughly 18 percent of G.D.P., then they are going to have to accept a government that looks roughly like what Ryan is describing.

The Democrats are on defense because they are unwilling to ask voters to confront the implications of their choices. Democrats seem to believe that most Americans want to preserve the 20th-century welfare state programs. But they are unwilling to ask voters to pay for them, and they are unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs.

I don’t think that this is a “courageous” plan (even if Fahreed Zakaria thinks that it is) as the Ryan plan taxes the wealthy at very low rates and it doesn’t end medicare RIGHT NOW; it does so for those who haven’t reached 55 years of age yet. His plan does nothing to anger his own base; angering YOUR OWN BASE takes courage.

It isn’t really that “serious” of a plan either, if by “serious” you mean “uses realistic assumptions” and “has numbers that actually add up“:

So, we have a plan that proposes to cut spending to Calving Coolidge levels, without explaining how it will do that; that includes $2.9 trillion in tax cuts, but asserts that it will make that up by broadening the base — yet says literally nothing about what that means; and has as its centerpiece a Medicare plan that will collapse as soon as seniors start getting their grossly inadequate vouchers.

Oh, and it directs us to a totally ludicrous Heritage Foundation analysis for support.

There’s nothing serious about this plan. And the way our pundit class swooned over this fantasy document suggests that all those people lecturing the American people about our unwillingness to face up to reality and make hard choices should spend some time looking in the mirror.

My guess: the bar has been lowered so far for the Republicans that any plan that verbiage too complicated for Sarah Palin to speak about is considered serious even if it is Sokal caliber bunk. Remember that when it comes to anything related to intellectual standards, Republicans are graded on a massive curve.

Science: Mathematical models and evolution

The following New York Times article is interesting:

“SuperCooperators” (written with Roger Highfield, editor of New Scientist magazine) is an absorbing, accessible book about the power of mathematics. Unlike Darwin with his brine bottles and pigeon coops, Nowak aims to tackle the mysteries of nature with paper, pencil and computer. By looking at phenomena as diverse as H.I.V. infection and English irregular verbs, he has formally defined five distinct mechanisms that have helped give rise to cooperative behavior, from the first molecules that joined to self-replicate, to the first cells that formed multicellular organisms, all the way to human societies, which exhibit a degree of cooperation unmatched in all creation. In Nowak’s view, figuring out how cooperation comes about and breaks down, as well as actively pursuing the “snuggle for existence,” is the key to our survival as a species.

At the heart of Nowak’s ideas is the haunting game of Prisoner’s Dilemma. The game involves two accomplices who are caught for a crime, interrogated separately and offered a deal. If one player incriminates the other, or “defects,” while the second remains silent, or “cooperates,” he will be given a sentence of one year, while the other player gets four. If both remain silent, they will be sentenced to only two years, but if both defect, they will receive three years. The rational choice for either prisoner is to defect, getting three years — though had both cooperated, they’d have been out in two. In the absence of trust, reason can be self-destructive.

In the 1990s, Nowak and Karl Sigmund, building on work by Robert Axelrod, showed that the Prisoner’s Dilemma, played over and over, could describe cycles of behavior in which strategies of selfishness (“Always Defect”) are beaten out by cooperation (“Tit for Tat”), then overtaken by even more cooperative behavior (“Generous Tit for Tat,” summarized as “Never forget a good turn, but occasionally forgive a bad one”), only to be invaded once more by egoists until the cycle begins anew. These “evolutionary dynamic” models, made more realistic by introducing an element of randomness, demonstrate that under the right conditions, competition can lead to teamwork. They also show how fragile that balance can be.

In “SuperCooperators,” Nowak argues that two of his mechanisms, indirect reciprocity and group selection, played an important role in human evolution. Think of a proto-simian trying to figure out whether to trust another in an exchange: Should I provide sex now for food and protection later? The proto-simian may have observed the behavior of its prospective partner, or it may not have; chances are good that others have, though. Reputation becomes important. The proto-­simian evolves into a hominid, with a bigger brain allowing for more precise communication about reputation. Moral instincts evolve to produce shame, guilt, trust, empathy; social intelligence and conscience are born. Before you know it, Yogi Berra is summing it all up: “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” Language, cognition and morality, Nowak argues, are evolutionary spinoffs of the fundamental need of social creatures to cooperate.

Of course the debate here is: “ok, maybe the mathematics is correct. But does the model really work, or does it violate long established laws of biology?”

Nowak has also ignited controversy with a paper in the journal Nature, written with E. O. Wilson and Corina Tarnita, arguing that “inclusive fitness” — the idea that organisms cooperate with relatives because it helps pass on shared genes — is not necessary to explain the birth of complex societies like bees and ants, or altruism towards kin in humans. Nature recently published five critical letters, including one with 137 signatories, one of whom denounced the paper’s mathematics as not worth “wasting time” over.

Nowak gives little hint of these fierce debates in this cheerful book, instead offering this striking claim: “The way that we human beings collaborate is as clearly described by mathematics as the descent of the apple that once fell in Newton’s garden.” It seems significant to Nowak that, according to his models, the interest of groups can override the interests of individuals if “the ratio of the benefits to cost is greater than one plus the ratio of group size to number of groups,” and that cooperation can prevail if altruists cluster together in particular topographies. If only we could take such facts into account, as special cancer-preventing “crypt” formations in our colons have unthinkingly done, perhaps we might work together to combat global warming.

Now this book is not about the paper which attacks the established doctrine of “kin selection”; to read about that go here.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, Barack Obama, biology, economics, economy, evolution, mathematics, political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science | Leave a comment

8 April 2011 (am)

Workout notes
Simple today: Just three miles of running on the treadmill in just under 30 minutes (I used my home sport-tech, which is manual and only works at a rather steep incline, so my run times are ALWAYS slower on this than on the road). I got to 5K in 30:50 and called it a day.

Weekend plans: longer run tomorrow morning; work the 5 pm to 6 am shift at McNaughton (50 and 100 mile runs) and perhaps get a 10 mile loop on that course.

Health: I added a “pulling” rotator cuff exercise to my routine; it appears to be helping. Why? Some of my rotator cuff irritation is caused by my arm motion when I run or walk fast. This is helping.
Vertigo: much, much reduced, but still there when I get out of bed too quickly, or when I change from supine (even on the incline bench press) to upright and visa-versa. But I can do yoga head-stand again.
Anemia: my blood hemoglobin is back to the mid 14’s; the blood chemistry looks good again.
Weight: in the 192-194 range. That is too heavy for ultras, but I’ve been lifting so…

Note: I’ve been doing squats; and no, I don’t look anything like this:

Forget how heavy the weight is; I don’t look this good with an unloaded bar! 🙂
And it was only recently that I could even squat to this depth at all; the knee flexibility is returning but oh-so-slowly.

Does Bible study promote peace? 🙂
epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Bible Study FAIL
see more funny videos, and check out our Yo Dawg lols!

Computers and security: It is possible to deduce your location from your IP…to within an astonishing degree of accuracy. This is both impressive….and…pause for thought.

Economy and Politics

Where are the Republican priorities?

The Ryan plan calls for cutting the top marginal rate to 25 percent — lower than it has been at any time in the past 80 years. That in itself should tell you that this is a deeply unserious proposal: anyone who tells you that we have to face hard truths, that everyone must sacrifice, and by the way, rich people will pay lower taxes than they have at any time since the 1930s, is just engaged in a power grab.

Beyond that, has anybody besides Bruce Bartlett noticed that Ryan still hasn’t gotten an independent estimate of the revenue losses from his tax plan? Last summer I pointed out that he was getting a free pass on tax cuts that appeared likely to lose a lot of revenue; his defenders came up with all sorts of excuses about how he couldn’t get anyone to do a proper estimate.

You got it. And no, we will never get out of this mountain of debt without taxing the rich.

My Two Cents on the Government Shutdown
I don’t know if the shutdown will be averted or not. But I am hearing a ton of negativity toward Congress about this (here and here)

But, to be brutally honest, I really don’t blame Congress. Basically the Representatives are doing what they were elected to do, and we have two very different visions for our country. One vision is that the government has a role to play in our collective welfare (well articulated here) and those who want to see the New Deal programs and dismantled and governmental regulations all but eliminated. Now in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, this divide wasn’t so great; Republicans saw a need for such things. Remember it was President Nixon who started the EPA and who fought for affirmative action! How times have changed…

So the squabble really isn’t about money. The Republicans want to dismantle much of our government and the Democrats want to keep it.

Anyway we have these two visions (I can recommend Paul Krugman’s book The Conscience of a Liberal; this is well explained there).

It would be simplistic to say: “ok, let’s split into two countries” because, at its core, it is not really a dispute between the North and South. It is more about “city” vs. “rural”. Just check out these election maps: Illinois is regarded as a “blue” state and Texas a “red state”:

This is Texas from the 2008 election; note that Obama carried Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio (but lost Ft. Worth). Obama got obliterated in the countryside; there were some counties where he didn’t even get 10 percent!

This is Illinois from the 2010 governor’s election:

The margin came from Chicago.

The bottom line: we have two very different groups of people electing very different representatives and any “compromise” will be seen as capitulation. And frankly, I don’t see any possible compromise. We are at a point in our history where we are headed toward a new Gilded Age with out economy barely out of the 1929 levels.

I don’t blame Congress. I blame the American people; collectively we deserve bad government.

Update Dr. Andy directed me toward what I consider a reasonable Republican response. And yes, if my taxes go up, so be it. Of course, Mr. Brooks does talk about Medicare costs and there should be cost control measures but:

Jonathan Chait gets angry at the way Republicans, who claim to care about the deficit, propose saving money by cutting back on expenditures that are needed to control health costs. Indeed. But there’s a larger dynamic at work here than mere stupidity.

Let’s focus, in particular, on the ridicule some of the quoted Republicans heap on “comparative effectiveness research.”

Ask yourself, what do we have to do to control Medicare costs? We can save some money, maybe a lot, by reforming payment systems so that providers are paid for overall treatment rather than on a fee-for-service basis. But over the long term, the fundamental issue is going to be to decide what Medicare will and won’t pay for. We need, as Henry Aaron has often said, to learn how to say no. […]

So how are you going to make decisions about what not to do? Um, you need good information about which medical interventions work, and how well they work: comparative effectiveness research. And no, that information isn’t already out there: doctors know surprisingly little about how effective procedures are relative to one another.

Why, then, are Republicans opposed to this kind of research? Some of it is sheer stupidity and/or anti-intellectualism — hey, those researchers are probably atheistic Democrats, you know.

But you should always remember that the GOP comes to bury Medicare, not to save it. The favored “solution” on the right is to replace Medicare with vouchers whose value will systematically lag behind medical costs; so it will be up to insurance companies and patients to say no. There is absolutely no reason to believe that such a system would work; in practice, it would mean denying adequate coverage to all but the affluent. But that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

This is from Fareed Zakaria:

The President has talked passionately and consistently about the need to tackle the country’s problems, act like grownups, do the hard things and win the future. But he has also skipped every opportunity to say how he’d tackle the gigantic problem of entitlements. Ryan’s plan is deeply flawed, but it is courageous. It should prompt the President to say, in effect, “You’re right about the problem. You’re wrong about the solution. And here’s how I would accomplish the same goal by more humane and responsible means.” That would be the beginning of a great national conversation.


Over the past two years, Ryan has used the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of Obama’s health care plan to criticize it relentlessly. Now the CBO has scored Ryancare, and it is a devastating critique. The main mechanism by which Ryan would cut costs on health care is to limit payments for Medicare and Medicaid. This would save money for the federal government, but it’s not clear at all that it would lower health care prices for seniors or the poor. In fact, last year the CBO studied Ryan’s voucher plan and concluded that it would raise costs because “future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.” In other words, Medicare — the Walmart of American health care — can bargain for lower prices than an individual can.

The theory behind Ryan’s health plan is that if individuals have to pay for their health care, they will shop carefully and drive down costs. But health is an unusual economic good and is unlikely to follow the usual market pattern.

So why do I applaud the Ryan plan? Because it is a serious effort to tackle entitlement programs, even though any discussion of cuts in these programs — which are inevitable and unavoidable — could be political suicide. If Democrats don’t like his budget ideas, they should propose their own — presumably without tax cuts and with stronger protections for Medicare and Medicaid and deeper reductions in defense spending. But they, too, must face up to the fiscal reality. The Government Accountability Office concludes that America faces a “fiscal gap” of $99.4 trillion over the next 75 years, which would mean we would have to increase taxes by 50% or reduce spending by 35% simply to stop accumulating more debt. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will together make up 50% of the federal budget by 2021.

(emphasis mine)

I disagree with the Ryan plan being courageous; raising taxes on the rich OR subjecting CURRENT senior citizens to this Medicare plan would be courageous. But yes, something is going to have to give. Yes, this means RATIONING; note that the sickest 25 percent of the Medicare crowd runs up 85 percent of the cost, and we should see if we are getting the best “bang for the buck” there. For example: is it worth 100,000 dollars of tax payer money to give an 80 year old an extra month in the hospital?

But, as Zakaria says, an honest discussion of these issues by a politician will probably lead to that politician not getting reelected. And THAT is the fault of the American people.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, 2012 election, Barack Obama, business & economy, economics, economy, Illinois, political/social, politics, politics/social, recession, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, shoulder rehabilitation, sickness, social/political, trains, yoga | 3 Comments

14 February 2011 pm

Click for a larger version

If this seems like an exaggeration, this is a Republican presidential candidate.

Now the Republicans might have some reason to worry in that there is reason to believe that their current crop of candidates is weak. Then again, people thought that about the Democrats in 1991.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell isn’t a candidate for anything, but she is billing herself as President Obama’s chief political rival of 2010:

WASHINGTON – Former Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware is claiming in a fundraising letter that she was the White House’s top opponent in the 2010 election.

O’Donnell, who lost badly in her third consecutive Senate bid last year and is being investigated for potential spending violations during the campaign, is raising money for a new political action committee she formed recently to spread her message. In her letter, sent to supporters Tuesday, she said her tea party-backed campaign forced the White House to put resources into Delaware last year, including visits by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

“You are the reason that President Obama came to Delaware in late 2010, diverting his attention from other states he could have campaigned in,” the letter says. “You are the reason that a frantic White House dispatched Vice President Joe Biden, again and again, to campaign in Delaware to defeat me, who they regarded as their number one opponent.”

O’Donnell pulled off a stunning upset in the GOP primary, but her campaign was later plagued by revelations about her unconventional past, including a thin employment record, contested campaign finance spending, and previous statements about opposing masturbation and dabbling in witchcraft as a teenager.

She trailed badly in the polls throughout the general election, eventually losing by 17 points to Democrat Chris Coons.

With tight races across the country, neither party invested heavily in the Delaware contest, and Obama devoted much more time to states with competitive races such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. While Obama visited Delaware once, many suspected the stop was aimed more at trying to link O’Donnell’s troubles to other Republicans than at protecting the longtime Democratic seat.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, Barack Obama, religion, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics | Leave a comment