blueollie

Whining, politics and science

Gee, when people dismiss crackpot ideas (e. g. engage in global warming denialism) it gives Charles Krauthammer the sadz. No, Mr. Krauthammer: ideas have no inherent right to respect, including…well, some academic ideas like this one (forbidding “triggers”).

Speaking of dumbness: a few of the “in the future predictions” made by the film “Idiocracy” have come true. But…I should point out that some of these predictions were already commonplace prior to the movie. Remember how humans in “civilized” countries used to amuse themselves: public executions, burning animals alive, making people fight to the death, etc.

Politics
Yes, keeping control of the Senate will be an uphill fight for the Democrats, even if some of the “head to head” polls look ok now. There is the problem of the “drag” on the ticket due to the unpopularity of the President in the states in question, many of which are “red” to begin with.

But there is time, and the recent news for Obamacare has been good.

And maybe, just maybe, there is some attention being paid to inequality. Ok, that book by Piketty is rather highbrow.

Science
It is interesting, but being slightly underweight and undereating seems to help with longevity. Is there an evolutionary reason why this is so? There is a new conjecture about this, but the conjecture has detractors:

Why did creatures evolve such a mechanism in the first place? Researchers have declared the most popular theory doesn’t make evolutionary sense, and they’ve proposed a new explanation in its place.

The most prominent theory involves what happens physiologically during times of food scarcity. When the living is good, natural selection favors organisms that invest energy in reproduction. In times of hardship, however, animals have fewer offspring, diverting precious nutrients to cell repair and recycling so they can survive until the famine ends, when reproduction begins anew. Cell repair and recycling appear to be substantial antiaging and anticancer processes, which may explain why underfed lab animals live longer and rarely develop old-age pathologies like cancer and heart disease.

Margo Adler agrees with the basic cellular pathways, but she’s not so sure about the evolutionary logic. Adler, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, says this popular idea relies on a big assumption: that natural selection favors this energy switch from reproduction to survival because animals will have more young in the long run—so long as they actually survive and reproduce. “This idea is repeated over and over again in the literature as if it’s true, but it just doesn’t make that much sense for evolutionary reasons,” she says.

The problem, Adler says, is that wild animals don’t have the long, secure lives of their laboratory cousins. Instead, they’re not only endangered by famine but by predators and pathogens, random accidents and rogue weather as well. They also face physiological threats from a restricted diet, including a suppressed immune system, difficulty with healing and greater cold sensitivity. For these reasons, delaying reproduction until food supplies are more plentiful is a huge risk for wild animals. Death could be waiting just around the corner.

Better to reproduce now, Adler says. The new hypothesis she proposes holds that during a famine animals escalate cellular repair and recycling, but they do so for the purpose of having as many progeny as possible during a famine, not afterward. They “make the best of a bad situation” to maximize their fitness in the present. “It’s an efficiency mode that the animal goes into,” she says. Adler and colleague Russell Bonduriansky published their reasoning in the March BioEssays.[...]

Mathematics
This Scientific American article discusses “modular forms” and notes that a current mathematician appears to have solved a riddle proposed by a famous mathematician from yesteryear. As articles about mathematics go, this one is pretty readable.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, economy, education, evolution, health care, mathematics, politics/social, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

No Difference between Democrats and Republicans?

Check this out:

Charlene Dill didn’t have to die.

On March 21, Dill was supposed to bring her three children over to the South Orlando home of her best friend, Kathleen Voss Woolrich. The two had cultivated a close friendship since 2008; they shared all the resources that they had, from debit-card PINs to transportation to baby-sitting and house keys. They helped one another out, forming a safety net where there wasn’t one already. They “hustled,” as Woolrich describes it, picking up short-term work, going out to any event they could get free tickets to, living the high life on the low-down, cleaning houses for friends to afford tampons and shampoo. They were the working poor, and they existed in the shadows of the economic recovery that has yet to reach many average people.

So on March 21, when Dill never showed up with her three kids (who often came over to play with her 9-year-old daughter, Zahra), Woolrich was surprised she didn’t even get a phone call from Dill. She shot her a text message – something along the lines of “Thanks for ditching me, LOL” – not knowing what had actually happened. Dill, who was estranged from her husband and raising three children aged 3, 7 and 9 by herself, had picked up yet another odd job. She was selling vacuums on a commission basis for Rainbow Vacuums. On that day, in order to make enough money to survive, she made two last-minute appointments. At one of those appointments, in Kissimmee, she collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor.

Dill’s death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable. She had a documented heart condition for which she took medication. But she also happened to be one of the people who fall within the gap created by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of the Affordable Care Act’s intention to make health care available to everyone. In the ensuing two years, 23 states have refused to expand Medicaid, including Florida, which rejected $51 billion from the federal government over the period of a decade to overhaul its Medicaid program to include people like Dill and Woolrich – people who work, but do not make enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies. They, like many, are victims of a political war – one that puts the lives and health of up to 17,000 U.S. residents and 2,000 Floridians annually in jeopardy, all in the name of rebelling against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

To my fellow liberals: the Republicans know that there is a big difference. And you should too. Our Democrats aren’t as liberal as we’d like them to be and they too are often in the clutches of Big Money. The same holds true for President Obama.

But there are differences and they are significant. Shame on you if you can’t see them or won’t admit that they are there.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, health care, republicans, republicans politics, social/political | | 2 Comments

GMO, El Nino, Obamacare’s legs and Ukraine …

GMO: this is a nice editorial, though I don’t agree with labeling laws. Mandatory label laws should be done for science reasons and not to appease the woo-woos:

GMOs are made by inserting a foreign gene into a plant or animal with the goal of conferring properties that have some agricultural benefit. At present, only GM plants have entered our food supply. In the United States, commonly used GM corn and soybean varieties contain a bacterial gene that confers resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, marketed under the brand name Roundup. Roundup kills weeds but not the GM crop. Other GM corn, soybean and cotton varieties produce a bacterial protein called Cry with insecticide activity that lessens the need for application of toxic chemicals that pollute the soil and groundwater.

The creation of GMOs is indeed sophisticated, but in fact agriculture is a high-tech revolution in progress that began 10,000 years ago.

To put GMOs in perspective, that beautiful organically grown heirloom tomato is a biologically distorted, genetically engineered product of human innovation derived from a small, hard, poisonous fruit created by nature. Virtually everything in your garden is the result of many hundreds of years of genetic tinkering through breeding, resulting in organisms that bear little resemblance to the native species, and which would not exist without human intervention.

It is amusing that the now popular “Paleo” (or Paleolithic) diet advocates eating food that did exist in the Paleolithic area, and that would be unrecognizable by our ancestors of that time.

There is a strong consensus in the scientific community that foods derived from GMOs are safe. Reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found that no adverse health effects attributed to GMOs have been documented in the human population. Moreover, they conclude that GMOs reduce the application of insecticides, the most dangerous herbicides and overall have fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GMO crops produced conventionally. [...]

Seriously: check out the science magazines for yourself (e. g. Nature’s GMO issue)

El Nino: Australia is now saying that we’ll have a strong El Nino; this means that we (in Illinois) are likely to have a 1998 like winter. But time will tell.

Obamacare Perhaps there is some hope on the horizon?

The good news for Obamacare just keeps coming in. Via Charles Gaba, the Rand Survey — which was the subject of a report in the LA Times, but which wasn’t publicly available — is now in. And it says that as of mid-March — that is, before the final enrollment surge — the Affordable Care Act had already produced a net gain of 9.3 million insured adults. Again, that’s a net gain; so much for claims that more people are losing insurance than gaining it.

At least some Republicans are realizing that (a) the ACA is not going to collapse and (b) they can’t simply take away insurance from millions of Americans. So they have to come up with an alternative.

And as Sahil Kapur reports, at least a few of them are coming to a terrible realization: there is no alternative. You can’t just support the popular pieces of reform, in particular coverage for preexisting conditions, and scrap the rest. As Jonathan Gruber taught me, and I and others have said many times, reform is a three-legged stool that requires community rating, the individual mandate, and subsidies; take away any leg and it collapses. And Kapur finds a GOP aide who admits to the awful truth: any workable GOP plan would look pretty much the same as Obamacare.

I don’t know how many GOP leaders, as opposed to aides, understand this. And even those who do won’t dare to admit it. The party line, literally, has been that Obamacare is an unworkable monstrosity, and the base will destroy anyone who points out, this late in the game, that it’s both workable and pretty much the only doable alternative to single-payer.

My guess: the GOP will huddle and then say that THEY “forced President Obama to the center” by pointing to tweak x, y, or z….and take credit for what is basically…a Republican idea.

Ukraine: It might not be exactly like what some bloggers say (e. g. a Nazi like “rolling over Europe) but it is looking more and more that Russia will dominate Ukraine in one way or another; this, to my amateur eyes, looks more like a return to the old cold war USSR.

April 8, 2014 Posted by | health care, republicans, republicans politics, science, social/political, world events | , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging: light

I haven’t written much except to record my workouts…at least here. I did write this post yesterday (on my math blog).

I have followed some stories though.

Health care: Republicans are outraged that Obamacare is meeting enrollment targets. Uh, Republicans: this is your idea. Why not be happy that it appears to be working and that YOU suggested this idea a long time ago?

And yes, I love it when Paul Krugman gets grumpy.

We have some science too. There was a strong earthquake off of the coast of Chile which generated a tsunami. But due to early warning, many were able to evacuate; think of all of the lives that were saved. But…of course….when you hear a story like this, many people start talking about their deity performing magic tricks to save people, though they don’t use the term “magic”. Groan…

April 2, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, health care, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Arguments against single payer insurance

beagainstsinglepayer

Note: in some places, Democrats ought to run on the accomplishments, sans apology. Of course, as this blog post points out, we are defending many red state Senate seats…and the message has to be different there.

March 30, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, health care, social/political | Leave a comment

Night out with my bros

billbarackneil

I wish.

Via: Why Evolution is True.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, health care | , | Leave a comment

Once again, all over the place: videos, denial, mammograms

Workout notes Treadmill: 6 mile run in 1:02:50. Started off at 11:0x mpm and did 2 minutes each in the following pattern: 0-.5-1-1.5-2 then 10:42 (same pattern) then 10:31 for most of the rest: 0-.5-1-1.5-2-2-1.5-1-.5-0 then 5 minutes each at 2-1.5-1 then I finished the rest at .5, increasing the pace each minute.

Then 2 miles (16 laps of lane 3) of walking in 29:37 (14:23 for the last mile).

What I’ve noticed: while my legs aren’t classically “dead”, it is almost as if someone sucked out my quad muscles with a straw. They are, well, not doing a thing.

Posts
Physical Stuff

Since we are talking gym: this “gym stereotype” clip is funny. I am the old man in the locker room; I suppose that comes from the fact that many of us don’t look at others…so what is the fuss? It just doesn’t register any more.

Now for some physical craziness. Yes, the law-and-order person in me wondered if these people had the proper permissions to do this. But, well, the video is rather incredible. Physically, these guys are much of what I am not.

Science
Evidence based medicine and science is hard. We create models and then go with our best educated guess…and sometimes it takes years to gather data. Here is a vast study about mammograms and their effectiveness:

One of the largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done, involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century, has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age.

It found that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not. And the screening had harms: One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

The study, published Tuesday in The British Medical Journal, is one of the few rigorous evaluations of mammograms conducted in the modern era of more effective breast cancer treatments. It randomly assigned Canadian women to have regular mammograms and breast exams by trained nurses or to have breast exams alone.

Researchers sought to determine whether there was any advantage to finding breast cancers when they were too small to feel. The answer is no, the researchers report.

Unfortunately, this study will probably be pillared by those whose lives were saved, so they think, by mammograms. Remember: this is NOT a study about regular breast exams; it is about mammograms which are supposed to catch the cancer at the early stages.

So, someone who had a genuine harmful cancer detected by a mammogram and was saved may have well be saved by a later detection via a conventional exam.

I suggest reading the whole article; much of the data that shows “x out of 1000 were saved by mammograms” came out before the newer drugs came out.

I don’t know what to think because this isn’t my field of expertise. But it is interesting, to say the least. I just hope that science and statistics determines the best policy and not emotion.

Now about statistics and onto politics: remember the morons and their “unskewed Presidential race polls”? Well, these people haven’t learned a thing; they are refusing to believe the current data about the Affordable Care Act.

I suppose that instead of breaking people down by “conservative/liberal”, we should break them down by “convinced by evidence/not convinced by evidence”.

Social Views Did you know that people who won lotteries changed their economic views in the conservative direction? Now there are some caveats in this study (e. g. people who are likely to play a lottery might have a different mentality that those who don’t; and yes, the lottery really is a tax on those who can’t do math). But Paul Krugman has a ton of fun with this finding.

February 14, 2014 Posted by | health, health care, political/social, politics, republicans, republicans politics, running, statistics, superstition, walking | Leave a comment

Talking past each other: this won’t convince a conservative

I saw this on Facebook:

greathealthcare

The headline:

Think America has the world’s best health care system? You won’t after seeing this chart.

Uh, no…at least not if you are a conservative.

Think of it this way: people from around the world come to the US when they really need top of the line healthcare. I’ve seen this at the Mayo Clinic; in fact the Mayo Clinic have hotels that feature a lot of foreign language television stations.

So if you judge the health care by the “upper bound” on the care (what one can get if affordability is not an issue), then yes, if you are really sick AND you have access to all the US health care system has to offer, we have GREAT health care.

The other thing to remember: (many) conservatives see top of the line health care in the same way most view luxury foods, mansions, luxury cars, etc. These are commodities that have to be earned or inherited and not something someone is “entitled to” just because they are born.

Think of it this way: is there ever a situation in which the poor have the same lifespan and quality of life as the wealthy…anywhere? (since the advent of civilization anyway; some “non-contacted peoples” excepted).

So while *I* would like to see good healthcare extended to all within reason; if someone wants to spend 500K to be bedridden for an extra month and to die on silk sheets, well, I’m happy to let that be a privilege of the wealthy.

But not everyone agrees with the “everyone is entitled to the best (within reason) healthcare” value.

January 8, 2014 Posted by | health, health care, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Realities: acceptable and otherwise….

First some humor: this is from a science journal (abstract)

fractal-analysis-of-deep-sea-660x862

Now some unintentional humor A right wing religious group really says this:

As Christians, we have read the end-times prophecies, and we know the warnings Jesus gave us about how awful things will become in the last days. Satan is working feverishly to fully cement his terrible, earthly rule and bring those hellish days to fruition.

The Godless communists (or fascists, if you prefer) are using the homosexual agenda to work toward eradicating Christian opposition to their plans, which are Satan’s plans. If you know your Bible, then you know that Christianity is destined to be outlawed. We are moving steadily toward a time when Christians here in America will be in danger of state-sanctioned murder for their beliefs. If you think I exaggerate, then you don’t know what God has already told us, or perhaps you mistakenly believe that the United States is the exception, that it can’t happen here. Christians throughout the world have always been persecuted, but here in the United States, we have enjoyed unparalleled protection and freedom during the existence of our nation. That protection is quickly being eroded, and the homosexuals are used as pawns in this process.

Yep, that is pretty kooky stuff.

SNAP: some facts
Here is something about food stamps:

And here is something about “unacceptable realities”: the right wing wackos have it as an axiom that “government run X will always fail”, no matter how successful such programs have been elsewhere:

The hysteria over Obamacare is being well documented, of course; Sahil Kapur’s piece on “Obamacare McCarthyism” — the instant purging of any Republican who offers any hint of accommodation to the law of the land — is getting a lot of well-deserved attention. One thing Kapur doesn’t emphasize, however, is what I see a lot in my inbox (and in my reading): the furious insistence that nothing resembling a government guarantee of health insurance can possibly work.

That’s a curious belief to hold, given the fact that every other advanced country has such a guarantee, and that we ourselves have a 45-year-old single-payer system for seniors that has worked pretty well all this time. But nothing makes these people as angry as the suggestion that Obamacare might actually prove workable.

And it’s going to get worse. For two months, thanks to the botched rollout, their delusions seemed confirmed by reality. Now that things are getting better, however, you can already see the rage building. It’s not supposed to be this way — therefore it can’t be this way. If, as now seems highly likely, Obamacare has more or less achieved its enrollment goals by 2015, and costs remain reasonable, that won’t be accepted — there will be furious claims that it’s all a lie.

As I said, the other issue where I see this kind of enraged denial is monetary policy. There are a lot of people on the right who know, just know, that the Fed is debasing the dollar and creating runaway inflation. This belief doesn’t seem to have been dented at all by five years of failed predictions of inflation just around the corner.

On both the healthcare and inflation fronts, what you have to conclude is that there are a large number of people who find reality — the reality that governments are actually pretty good at providing health insurance, that fiat money can be a useful tool of economic management rather than the road to socialist disaster — just unacceptable. I think that in both cases it has to do with the underlying desire to see market outcomes as moral imperatives.

And I suppose there have always been such people out there. What’s new is that these days they control one of our two major political parties.

The kooks are running the asylum in the GOP.

December 4, 2013 Posted by | economy, health care, humor, religion, social/political | Leave a comment

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