Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Religious Exemption From Anti-Abortion Laws

We can thank a batch of Satanists for suit that uses the other edge of the Hobby Lobby sword to protect nonbelievers from oppression by muddleheaded Christians.  A classic example of what to expect when one allows religion to overstep into civil society.

Estakio Beltran in the TCH

Here's a link to the Estakio Beltran article in the Tri-City Herald.

Easy Cancer Screening

Imagine what it would be like if screening for all types of cancer could be done with a simple blood test.  Many, many more malignancies could be caught much earlier and ambiguous symptoms could more quickly be confirmed as cancerous or not.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Universal Basic Income.

Max Ehrenfreund has some well-thought words about guaranteed income.  The basic idea is that as income-indexed reduction in assistance actually acts as an unfair tax on the poor.  Since then, he has expanded on the theme in the Washington Post.  And David Atkins added more depth to his thoughts in the Washington Monthly.  In some form this should be appealing to both sides of the aisle because if it is done right a great big bit of government bureaucracy can be simplified while we significantly improve the lives of those at the bottom of the economic scale.  I've heard an interesting counter-argument that the misery of American poverty is a major deterrent to completely uncontrollable illegal immigration.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Artificial Intelligence and the Evolution of Musical Style

An artificial intelligence algorithm has shown that stylistic evolution can be tracked programmatically.  The routine correctly places various works of the Beatles into the proper time sequence just from an analysis of the musical structure.  We humans have a sense of that when comparing early and later works but this program can actually quantify it.

It would be interesting to see how it applies to other musical artists such as Bach or even Carl Orff.

A Guaranteed Income

Perhaps it's time to have the discussion about using a guaranteed income to eliminate poverty in America.  Just think of how many piece-meal social programs that could be replaced if we, as a nation, found a way to provide a basic livable income to our most disadvantaged citizens.  Dylan Matthews points out that such a thing is indeed affordable.  In all honesty, there are a vanishing small few of us who have not arrived at where we are without some sort of unearned assistance.  Warren Buffet speaks of it as the birth lottery.  My parents' generation benefited significantly from the post-WWII GI bill that enabled erstwhile rural farm boys to receive college educations.  That generation, in turn, was able to establish middle-class lives that made it possible for their children to have greater opportunities than they would have found on an Oklahoma farm.

David Atkins adds his analysis of why it makes more sense in light of the fact that increases in productivity have lined the pockets of the wealthy while wages for our workes continue to stagnate.

What would a good guaranteed income system look like?  What is working or not working in other countries?  How do we give people the help they can use without providing incentives for perpetual dependency?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Budget and Debt Crisis - Imaginary

When your local Republican congressional candidates get in a lather about our federal budget and debt, rest assurred that it's only a figment of their imaginations.  The CBO reports that the ratio of debt to GDP will be flat for the next decade.

Dangerous Thing, Religion

A study found that children with religious upbringings have more difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Missing disasters

The ACA can be improved, there's no argument about that. But perhaps we shouldn't be listening to the critics who predicted disasters that didn't happen.  The people in our country deserve better thinkers than that.

Full Disclosure

Not big news here, but a clarification that if a company chooses to offer sub-standard health care benefits to its female employees, it must say so up front.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Voter Integrity? Right..

The "uniformity" argument doesn't make sense when the demand on polling places is not uniform.  The new laws make it harder for city dwellers than suburbanites.  The "voter fraud" so frequently cited simply doesn't exist.  What does exist is a clear pattern.  It's Republicans that are pushing these measures.  And the measures have the effect of disenfranchising voting groups that tend to vote for Democrats.  Republicans are clearly using their positions of power to maintain that power even if it means subverting the expression of popular will.  They are exhibiting a genuine disrespect for democracy and an embrace of moneyed imperialism.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Voter fraud is mostly a myth

Seven papers, 4 government inquiries, 2 news investigations and a court ruling have established it.  So don't talk about excessive government spending unless you are willing to stop wasting money on this rabbit chase.  What the studies show is that the fight against voter fraud is nothing more than suppression of the voting rights of poor people.  What a country!

Moderate voters are a myth

Our public debates can't make much progress until we realize moderate voters don't exist.  The apparent moderation we see in surveys is a fluke of statistics.  Typically someone identified as moderate actually has some radical views in some area or another.  Sometimes the views are political opposites such as simultaneously pro-life and anti-gun.