Liberals Like Cats And Messy Desks

cats

Tests to tell if someone is liberal or conservative are of uncertain significance but often amusing enough to take a look at. From a survey, Time has found, among other things, that liberals are more likely to like cats than conservatives.

Cats are less likely to follow authority. It does make sense that liberals would have a greater affinity for these freedom-loving animals, while conservatives, who are more into authority and imposing their rules upon others (regardless of their rhetoric) might not like them as much. Other questions show a similar distinction with liberals being more supportive of liberty while conservatives being more interested in authority. For example, conservative authoritarianism leads to a preference for more neat and tidy desks.

If we were to follow the logic that liberals prefer cats more than conservatives due to their preference for liberty, then we might think that libertarians would be ever bigger lovers of this anarchic animal. It turns out that libertarians fall between liberals and conservatives on each question. With a little thought about the state of the libertarian movement, this actually makes sense. Libertarians include those who are true opponents of restrictions on liberty, but many other libertarians are basically conservatives who have smoked marijuana. They have hung out with Republicans for so long that it has become difficult to tell them apart. Some libertarians, such as Ron Paul, share many views with the religious right. Plus, as I have noted in the past, Ron Paul’s views would lead to a less free society. Anyone know his opinion of cats? In researching the question I did find a Cats and Kitties for Dr. Ron Paul Facebook Page, but that doesn’t tell me if the attraction is mutual. I wonder what additional information I can find over at FriendFace.

Of course this data is open to other interpretations. Allahpundit at Hot Air wonders if the survey shows that liberals like cats more than conservatives  because women tend to like cats and more women are liberals than conservatives. It is also possible that cats work better as pets among liberals who are more likely to live in urban areas. Similarly,  the tendency for conservatives to be older than liberals might explain why they are more likely to use Internet Explorer, but it appears that Allahpundit might be as quick to write someone out of the conservative movement for using IE as for supporting a tax increase.

Trade Organizations Warn Of National Clown Shortage

clowns17n-1-web

The New York Daily News reports that trade organizations are warning of an impending national clown shortage, blaming it on a “lack of wannabe Bozos.”

I fail to see a problem here. There are plenty of wannabe Bozos out there. Just turn on the radio. Glenn Beck has even described himself as a rodeo clown. What about Limbaugh? Plus there’s pretty much the entire “news” department at Fox, not to mention almost the entire Republican Party.

Bill Nye and David Attenborough Respond To Science-Deniers on Evolution And Climate Change

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Sir David Attenborough have both worked hard to use the media to provide education on science. This task is especially important considering the vast ignorance of basic scientific concepts found in recent polls, and due to political groups intentionally spreading denial of science. Both Bill Nye and David Attenborough are now taking on attacks on science coming from creationists and climate change deniers.

There is a valid argument that the debate format is the wrong way to confront those who are intentionally giving arguments which are counter to fact, and Bill Nye is far more knowledgeable at science than in political debating. He still deserves credit for seeing the importance of confronting science-denial. I previously looked at Bill Nye’s debate against  Ken Ham on evolution. Over the weekend he confronted a Republican member of Congress on climate change. The video is above and the transcript is here. Coverage from Swampland:

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” told Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to stop questioning the facts behind climate change on Sunday morning, as the Congresswoman said the “engineer and actor” didn’t know enough about climate science to claim authority.

The two sparred over the the most appropriate response to extreme weather events and global warming on NBC’s Meet the Press, and disagreed on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.

Blackburn maintained that there is no consensus in the scientific community about global warming, pointing to two vocal dissenters, Richard Lindzen of MIT and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, who claim that humans are not causing climate change.

“Neither [Bill Nye] nor I are a climate scientist. He is an engineer and actor, I am a member of Congress. And what we have to do is look at the information that we get from climate scientists,” said Blackburn. “There is not agreement around the fact of exactly what is causing this.”

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, according to NASA. Experts say there is still some uncertainty in absolutely linking isolated extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy or bad droughts to global warming, but the vast majority of scientists ascribe climate change and the increase in extreme weather to human activity.

Nye responded harshly to the Congresswoman.

“We have overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. That you cannot tie any one event to that is not the same as doubt about the whole thing,” said Nye. “There is no debate in the scientific community. I encourage the Congresswoman to really look at the facts. You are our leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”

More at Climate Progress.

Attenborough

David Attenborough has typically stayed out of these debates in the past, but The Daily Beast reports that he is now speaking out:

In the U.S. Attenborough is perhaps best known for the Life on Earth series that was broadcast on PBS in the 1980s, on the other side of the Atlantic he is an institution, recently winning a BBC poll to find the greatest living British icon. His work has often been diluted for an American audience, with his masterful narrations for Planet Earth and Life re-recorded by Alec Baldwin and Oprah Winfrey before they were broadcast on the Discovery channel. There have also been accusations that the U.S. network sought to downplay climate change in the shows.In fact, Attenborough says he has finally grown sick of America’s attitude to climate change. “I think it’s very sad that people won’t accept evidence for what it says—it’s extraordinary that one of the wealthiest, materially advanced societies in the world can support irrational myths in that way,” he said. “That they should do it privately is up to them but since what they do effects that whole world it’s pretty serious that they should not accept that humanity has been responsible for these changes that are absolutely evident to everyone else.”

You could hardly describe the response as knee-jerk since Attenborough has made a career of resisting controversy, often describing himself as “a reporter” with no views of his own. He does also have sympathy for those who resist the prevailing science on climate change. “There are very good reasons why people should not wish to accept it, because it interferes with their business,” he said. “I would much prefer it wasn’t true—but it is true and unless we can do something about it we are going to be in trouble.”

He has less time for those who deny the existence of evolution, however. “Every society in the world has found it necessary to produce a story to account for the fact that humanity is on earth,” he said. “The Australian Aboriginals think that the first humans were regurgitated by a great rainbow serpent in the sky, the people in Thailand think the beginning of the world was a huge pool of milk and a snake was pulled by demons, and the milk coagulated and that formed human beings and there was a time, two and a half to three thousand years ago, when people on the east end of the Mediterranean thought woman was made from the rib of the first man.

“If somebody says to me I believe every word of the Bible is true, you can’t argue against that degree of irrationality…there is actually a way of looking at the natural world and seeing the evidence and it’s all there. And what’s more it’s the same evidence whether it’s in Australia or Northern Europe or wherever. It’s all the same—it all produces the same answer and you can all see the evidence—if you reject that then there’s nothing I can say.”

Attenborough and his fellow naturalists have been demonstrating the science behind evolution and the fossils that show the development of animal species for decades, and yet recent years have seen an uptick in the number of Americans who believe God put humans directly on earth. One suggested explanation, has been the surge of unchecked disinformation available online. “Never before in history has the entire world been able to speak to one another. We are at the beginning of an extraordinary evolution as a species—one species is able to communicate instantly with every member,” Attenborough said. “I’m not so cynical as to think that ignorance will always win.”

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

The State Of The Democratic Party Today

I found Dan Balz’s article on Democrats in the post-Obama era to be interesting not for any predictions of the future but for the information on the Democratic Party today. I wouldn’t take this as an exact measurement of any views, but a good general approximation.

Balz presented data that the Democratic Party has become more liberal, but with liberals representing a plurality and not a majority. The Democrats remain a big tent party of the left, middle, and center-right while the Republicans have become a predominantly conservative party:

By many measures, the party is certainly seen as more liberal than it once was. For the past 40 years, the American National Election Studies surveys have asked people for their perceptions of the two major parties. The 2012 survey found, for the first time, that a majority of Americans describe the Democratic Party as liberal, with 57 percent using that label. Four years earlier, only 48 percent described the Democrats as liberal.

(In the same survey, 59 percent said they saw the Republicans as conservative, up from 52 percent four years earlier.)

Gallup reported last month that 43 percent of surveyed Democrats identified themselves as liberal, the high water mark for the party on that measurement. In Gallup’s 2000 measures, just 29 percent of Democrats labeled themselves as liberals.

Still, liberals are a plurality of the Democratic Party, not a majority, which is strikingly different from the Republican Party, where Gallup found that 70 percent identified themselves as conservative.

Democrats hold a variety of views, but tend to be more liberal on social issues:

Democrats are most united on cultural and social issues, and it is here where the party has most obviously moved to the left, particularly on same-sex marriage and even the legalization of marijuana. But the party’s shift reflects overall changes in public attitudes that have kept the Democrats within a new political mainstream on these issues.

Women’s issues have provided even more cohesiveness within the party’s coalition.

There is less unity on national security and foreign policy, as much of the party is to the left of Clinton and even of Obama:

On issues of national security and foreign policy, divisions remain. Obama may be president because he opposed the Iraq War and Clinton voted as senator to give then-president George W. Bush the authority to take the country to war. Obama has ended the war in Iraq and is ending the war in Afghanistan, but some progressives are at odds with him over other aspects of his national security policies.

There is also division on economic issues:

On economic issues, the party is torn between two key parts of its coalition.

“One of the biggest failings of the Democratic Party,” Stern said, “is that its funders come from its traditional side of the economic spectrum and its voters come from a more populist, distributive side of the economic agenda.”

Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer said, “I think the party increasingly is responding to the special interests they need to get elected — the military-industrial complex, big energy, pharmaceutical companies, banks.”

Yet in both policies and tone, there are indications that Democrats have moved to the left. Democratic candidates from all regions — including two potential rising stars running for the Senate in conservative states, Michelle Nunn in Georgia and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky — have embraced raising the minimum wage. This is a centerpiece of Obama’s agenda heading into this fall’s midterm campaigns…

Hostility to free-trade agreements is still deep among part of the Democratic coalition, but that tension has existed for decades. While many better-educated, upscale voters do not fear the impact of free trade, others, led by organized labor, look at stagnant wages and the difficult job market and attribute those hardships to trade.

Income inequality has received more attention from Democrats but it is based more upon pragmatic economic principles than hostility towards the rich or the egalitarianism falsely attributed to Democrats by many Republicans such as Chris Christie:

Perhaps more than any other economic issue, income inequality has animated progressive activists and voters. Party strategists say this energy is being fueled by lingering fury at Wall Street tycoons, whom they blame for the financial collapse, and deep unease about the nation’s eroding middle class.

“There’s a consciousness developing that’s related to this issue of inequality and the unfairness of our system and the wealth gap that has the potential to really grow and develop into a strong movement that will be reflected in coming elections,” former Ohio governor Ted Strickland said.

William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution said, “It’s not just a case of the very rich getting richer. If that were the only thing going on I think we’d be having a very different conversation. It’s also a case of the people in the middle at best treading water and in fact doing a little bit worse than that.”

Balz’s description of the Democratic Party is consistent with how I have described it in posts here–a big tent with the left more typically liberal on social issues and highly influenced by opposition to the war in Iraq. Democrats have tended to be more pragmatic than ideological on economic issues, with the current economic stagnation exacerbated by the right’s use of government to redistribute wealth to the ultra-wealthy and extreme opposition to government activity even when needed, leading to forces driving both pragmatism and a more populist agenda coinciding.

Looking ahead it is impossible to predict anything at this time other than a victory for Hillary Clinton, but this is based upon her historical position in the party, not whether she is currently representative of where most Democrats stand. If Clinton were to decide not to run, whoever wins the nomination is likely to be quite different from Clinton on the issues.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

SciFi Weekend: Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love (About Time; Karen Gillan; Scarlett Johansson; Arrow; Almost Human)

SciFi Weekend is a weekly feature at Liberal Values, and is now being cross posted at The Moderate Voice. To introduce the feature to new readers, every week  this post generally deals with Science Fiction along with other topics. Sometimes, like last week, it is about a single topic (Sherlock Season 3). More often a variety of topics are discussed, typically starting with science fiction and genre television, but often including other topics in pop culture. Some weeks there is a theme. The theme this week is Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love. Beware that there are frequently spoilers, especially for television shows which have aired in the United States. I do frequently leave out some details or only refer to them obliquely to limit this, and try to warn about spoilers when discussing movies or shows which have not aired yet in the U.S.

About TIme

This year we had not one but two major movies combining science fiction and romantic comedy. As I had already watched and blogged about Her, this left About Time to watch with my wife after we returned from dinner last night. About Time uses time travel much more like Groundhog Day than Doctor Who, except unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, the protagonist of About Time can control which portions of his life he relives. The review does include spoilers.

On his twenty-first birthday Tim (Domhnall Gleeson)was told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family all have the ability to travel in time. There are limitations. You can only go back and revisit portions of your own life. As his father put it, you can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. Tim asked about the butterfly effect and his father told him he hadn’t run into it. To add some drama later in the movie, it turns out he wasn’t entirely correct here.

There are other limitations, including one standing in the way of Tim’s number one interest, getting a girlfriend. You can’t make someone love you. He failed in his first attempt with a girl spending the summer with his sister. He did later manage to meet Mary (Rachel McAdams) but the meeting was erased from time when he went back in time to help out a crabby playwright who he was briefly living with. There was no butterfly effect which destroyed civilization as we know it, but it is possible to change one’s past. It should surprise nobody that he did manage to meet Mary again, but had to go back in time to dispense with the boyfriend she met because of not meeting Tim.

From there time travel continued to come in handy. No more awkward first times in bed when for Tim it became the second and then third time after going back in time. It wasn’t even necessary to keep his first awkward attempts at removing Mary’s bra or meeting her parents. Minor mistakes later in their life, such as choosing the wrong best man, were also easily fixed.

Some problems were not so easily fixed. Tim found a serious problem in going too far back in time to help reverse a poor decision made by his sister, Kit Kat. Fortunately for Tim, his mistake was easily reversed, but he had to find another way to help his sister. Tim learned that time travel cannot fix all problems. Sometimes something terrible in life must occur to get people to change. If he was truly trying to help Kit Kat, he might have also bought her a comb.

The relationship between Tim and his father became as important to the movie as the relationship between Tim and Mary, even leading the two to once again break the rules, but this time with no dire consequences. Over time, Tim preferred a simpler form of time travel, moving forward in time day to day and fully appreciating every day. “The truth is, now I don’t travel back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live everyday as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day. To enjoy it. As if it was the full final day. Of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” About Time is far from a hard science fiction look at time travel, but it was an enjoyable movie.

Karen Gillan’s romantic comedy, Not Another Happy Ending, is being released in the U.K. on DVD this week but there are no current plans for a U.S. release. Trailer above.  Iain De Caestecker of Agents of SHIELD (Fitz) is also in the movie. The actress who formerly played Amy Pond does not do any time traveling during the movie, but she does write and bake in the nude (more of that scene here). Update: Not Another Happy Ending will be shown at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 19.

Scarlett Johansson is becoming the go to girl for sexy female leads when she is not in The Avengers movies. When they needed an actress to make it seem realistic for a voice alone to seduce the male lead, it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice used in Her. She is also the female lead in Under The Skin, playing an alien female who seduces men for sexual experimentation. Trailer above. It reminds me a bit of an early episode of Torchwood, back before the show got to be too big and they messed it up.

Doctor Who Both Hearts

If you missed buying a card for Valentine’s Day you might have to use Tim’s trick from About Time to go back and fix that. Or you can go back in your TARDIS, perhaps to use one of these cards.  For the last four years I have posted Doctor Who Valentine’s Day cards, with the latest set posted here.  Cards from 2013 can be seen here. Older ones also available from  2012 and 2011.

Heir to the Demon

I had not initially watched Arrow during its first season believing it would just be more CW fluff with attractive people in glitzy backdrops. At times it is, but as I later found out, it is far more. With a rich playboy crime fighter, and now the League of Assassins, in many ways it is one of the best live action adaptations of Batman ever made. Plus there are flashbacks to an island which might remind viewers of Lost. Still, it is on CW, so there is plenty of romance and love triangles in this superhero soap opera.

Before going on a brief hiatus for the Olympics, Arrow looked back at the triangle Oliver had with Sara and Laurel Lance, but things became even more complicated. In Heir to the Demon, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter managed to incapacitate airport security agents without any of the publicity and follow through which such an event would generate in our world. Her mission was to return Sara to the League of Assassins or to kill her, but it became clear that her mission would be more complicated when the two kissed upon first seeing each other. A discussion with the show’s producer over this turn of events can be read here:

With the introduction of Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) — Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter — hunting down Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) to bring her back to the League of Assassins, the stakes would have been high enough. But the show added another, more emotional level to Nyssa’s journey: She was Sara’s ex and wanted to win her heart again.

Of course, Nyssa ended up releasing Sara from her duty to the League when it became clear Sara would rather die than leave her family again. But watching Nyssa deal with the pain of that revelation was what made her one of the series’ best villains so far — a fact with which executive producer Andrew Kreisberg wholeheartedly agrees.

“It’s been pointed out that sometimes our villains get short shrift and we don’t always do right by the villains,” Kreisberg tells Zap2it and a handful of other reporters. “We just don’t have enough time for them because our show is just so dense. We’ve gotten away with casting really cool people in the parts and asking our audience to just fill in the rest.”

Kreisberg and fellow showrunner Marc Guggenheim are glad that they were able to give Nyssa enough of a backstory to make her a sympathetic villain. “I actually feel bad for her. She really does seem like this broken-hearted person who got the shaft,” Kreisberg says. “She has the advantage of having an emotional and personal tie to one of our characters. She goes on a complete journey from start to end as opposed to someone who just wants to rob a bank.”

Guggenheim is quick to point out, however, that “Arrow” can’t have every villain be like that. “If every episode had a Nyssa, and didn’t have let’s say a Clock King, when the Nyssas of the world showed up it wouldn’t have any import,” Guggenheim says. “It would lack the weight that this kind of episode has. Because some episodes, yes, it’s just a guy bombing the city, but there’s other stuff in that episode that makes it worthwhile and worth watching. If everything becomes special, then nothing becomes special.”

Law was excited to portray Nyssa, but she wasn’t expecting her to have such a rich history with Sara. “I was surprised that I was going to be a lesbian,” Law says with a laugh. “When we did the chemistry read, I wasn’t quite understanding why I was [with Lotz].”

According to Kreisberg and Guggenheim, the decision to make Nyssa a lesbian came from the idea of what it could do for Sara. “We thought of this at the beginning of the season,” Kreisberg says. “If you watch [episode] 205 there’s a reference to ‘the beloved,’ and ‘You think that’s going to keep you safe.’ We talked about, ‘Well, does Ra’s al Ghul have a son?’ And then we were like, ‘Well, can it be Talia?'”

Since Talia al Ghul was portrayed recently in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the writers decided to go with the lesser-known story of Nyssa al Ghul.

“It just felt like something new and different,” Kreisberg says. “At the same time, we didn’t do it to be salacious, because it’s a pretty chaste relationship from what you see onscreen. It just touched on a couple interesting things, like the idea that Sara found one person who treated her with love and kindness. And then for Lance to be this hardened, tough cop and probably not the most progressive guy, even he was just like, ‘I’m glad you had someone who loved you and took care of you during those nightmare years.'”

Nyssa wasn’t the only one getting action with Sara in the episode though, as it ended with her and Oliver (Stephen Amell) hooking up in the Arrow lair.

“We were anxious to have in the same episode where we reveal that Sara had had this lesbian relationship, she was also sleeping with Oliver again,” Guggenheim says. “We wanted to be sensitive and realistic. We specifically avoid using the term ‘bisexual’ because we didn’t want to label her at all. Let her be her own person, and if the audience wants to label, fine. We didn’t want to do something just to shock

Before this was all resolved, Nyssa kidnapped Sara and Laurel’s mother, played by Alex Kingston. I had half expected the Doctor to save River Song. It now appears that Amy Pond is the Black Canary’s grandmother. There is yet another triangle, as Sara joined Team Arrow and Felicity can wonder once again about what was going on over on that island between Oliver and all those women.

almost-human-season-1-episode-10-dorian-kennex

During most of the first season, Almost Human‘s best moments were its humor and the buddy cop relationship between the two male leads (one being an android). Unfortunately the last two episodes before its Olympic hiatus lacked the humor of previous episodes, but both episodes (Unbound and Perception) did more to flesh out the world the show takes place in. Perception returned to the events of the pilot and the relationship between Kennex and his probably-evil ex-girlfriend. Now that we now she is still tracking Kennex, there is the increased likelihood this will be used to find her and shed more light on what happened.

The episode also expanded upon the back story of Stahl, who turns out to be a genetically enhanced Chrome. Minka Kelley seemed almost too perfect on Friday Night Lights. She seems more plausible on Almost Human as being more than human, a character whose intelligence and beauty are the product of genetic enhancement.

Amelia Clarke of Game of Thrones was voted the Most Desirable Woman by Ask Men magazine. Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men came in second, with many other women in genre roles also on the  list.

continuum02

Two recent Canadian science fiction shows feature strong female leads. Syfy has announced that  Continuum, staring Rachel Nichols will return in the United States on April 4. Unfortunately this is after it returns on Showcase in Canada on March 16, making it harder to cover on line as I will definitely get a hold of each episode as soon as possible rather than waiting for it to air on Syfy.

Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job playing multiple roles on Orphan Black. Maria Doyle Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that season two is like season one on crack:

That was just one of the tidbits Kennedy dropped when she stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) to chat about the show as well as her music career. Another tidbit? Looks like we can expect more Mrs. S in season 2. “You’re going to see more of her,” says Kennedy. “I had a great time in season 1 and there were some great scenes, but there was also a lot of hovering. They just really liked me so wrote me more this time, so that’s great.”

But on which side will Mrs. S. land in the war between Sarah and Rachel (both played by Tatiana Maslany)? Kennedy says her character’s ultimate objective is protecting Sarah’s daughter, Kira, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. “In the war between Rachel and Sarah and the whole idea about the clones trying to find out about themselves, she keeps going through that and beyond it and goes, ‘Where does Kira land in all this? What’s happening with her? How safe is she? Are they close to her? Can they get her?’”

Okay, but we still don’t quite know where Mrs. S stands and her connection to the clone conspiracy. Is she good, bad, or somewhere in between? “She is an incredibly pragmatic woman with a strong moral compass,” says Kennedy. “That’s how I feel about her. She has definitely done bad things in the past. She came through an era of protest and squatting, so she’s not afraid to be anarchic or against the law, but she always has a strong proper reason for doing what she does.”

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover 2014

Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen appear on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Three girls would normally mean six bikini pieces, but apparently that would have put them above budget, forcing the models to pose topless. The theme is The Past, The Present and The Future. Is this another time travel magazine?

More Republican Misinformation On Medicare To Scare Seniors

There they go again. Republicans are again trying to scare seniors by spreading misinformation about Medicare. They have been making the same false claims for the past few years. From Politico:

Republican Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida took aim today at Obamacare’s impact on older Americans, saying that seniors across the country are paying “more money for fewer choices, less access and far less peace of mind.”

In the GOP’s weekly address, Rooney castigated President Barack Obama’s very public pledge that Americans of all ages would be able to keep their doctors under the health law. Since the fall, the president has had to backtrack on that statement, acknowledging that the law was forcing changes in insurance plans that meant some people were losing their physicians.

“Here’s the reality,” Rooney said as he blamed Obamacare for “deep cuts” made to the popular Medicare Advantage program that serves low-income seniors, among others. “Constituents tell me they can no longer see the primary care physicians they have been going to for 10 and every 20 years,” he said. “One woman told me that four of her specialists have already been dropped from her plan.”

The truth is that Obamacare is helping, not hurting, seniors.

Medicare Advantage Plans were set up by George Bush as a way to reward insurance companies for all their contributions to the Republican Party. The initial law establishing the plans provided tremendous subsidies for insurance companies. The idea as initially argued by conservatives was that private insurance companies could provide health care more economically than the big bloated government Medicare program. Instead the government pays private insurance companies substantially more to treat Medicare patients than it costs to care for the same patients in the government plan. Any true Republican should think that private insurance companies should not need this corporate welfare.

The Affordable Care Act is paid for partially by reducing this corporate welfare, saving the tax payers about $136 billion over ten years. Private insurance companies will still receive plenty of money to care for seniors. Why should they need more money than it costs to treat them in the government program?

Medicare Advantage plans have been using limited panels for several years to try to save money. The Affordable Care Act does not change that, except now the insurance plans blame Obamacare for what they would do even if Obamacare did not exist.

The Affordable Care Act has helped seniors in many ways. It makes Medicare more sound financially. The donut holes in the drug benefit are being phased out, saving seniors money on their prescriptions. Preventative studies which previously were not covered are now covered by Medicare, saving seniors yet more money.

It is particularly absurd to expect seniors to turn to the Republicans when they have already voted for a plan which would end Medicare as we know it and force those on Medicare in the future to pay more out of their own pockets for health care coverage.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Ignorance of Science In America

Earth From Moon

Last week I wrote about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on evolution versus creationism. Many scientists were justifiably annoyed that this was even a topic of  debate. We are contrasting evolution, based upon a tremendous body of actual evidence, with creationism, a belief lacking any evidence which is based purely upon religious dogma. I’ve noted in the past that a disturbing number of Americans do not accept evolution, which provides the foundation of modern biology. While far more Republicans deny evolution than Democrats and Independents, the problem is not limited to Republicans.

We see ignorance of science in many areas. While the tobacco industry has pretty much given up the battle against evidence that cigarette smoking is hazardous, we see essentially the same type of anti-scientific misinformation being spread by the petroleum industry regarding climate change denialism. The recent death of Philp Seymore Hoffman of a heroin overdose raised the issue that there are people who remain unaware of the science demonstrating that addiction is a disease, not just a bad choice.

Unfortunately ignorance of science is widespread in this country, often impacting views on public policy. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has released a survey demonstrating this ignorance:

Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

The result of the survey, which is conducted every two years, will be included in a National Science Foundation report to President Barack Obama and US lawmakers.

One in three respondents said science should get more funding from the government.

Nearly 90 percent said the benefits of science outweigh any dangers, and about the same number expressed interest in learning about medical discoveries.

Republicans Are Also Benefiting From The Success Of Obamacare–And Some Now Love It

As I noted yesterday, with the tremendous success of the Affordable Care Act, even some Republicans who voted against Barack Obama are seeing the benefits of Obamacare and are finding reasons to love it. Republicans have frequently cited horror stories, except that the facts turn out to be different than they claim whenever a reporter goes to the effort to fact check. It is good that we are seeing more true stories about the Affordable Care Act from Republicans who love Obamacare. This story started with the example of Irene Jacusis who did not vote for Obama but does not agree with Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare:

She says her husband Ronald died last year from a rare sarcoma because he waited too long to see a doctor after he felt a lump.

“If my husband had gone, if he had insurance at the time, when it was the size of a marble and had gotten an x-ray and taken care of it at stage 1 level, he would be alive today.”

Another Republican who wants to keep the Affordable Care Act is Mary Fallon of St. Petersburg. She was a teacher for many years, but because she was paid from grant funds she didn’t qualify for health insurance. She had to buy her own policy, but then she got sick. Hello, pre-existing condition.

She was between “a rock and a hard place. If I canceled my insurance, I was uninsurable.”

If she dropped the policy and got sick, she could lose everything.

“By the time I canceled my policy I was up to $768 a month, so what is that, almost 10 grand a year? With $5,000 deductible. Do the math.”

Then came the Affordable Care Act and Healthcare.gov. After running into glitches, Fallon found her way to Johnnie Ruth Clarke health center in St. Petersburg. And a navigator, Johanna Santiago.

“In a half hour she had my account set up, and I had a confirmation, a password, a login, and I was good to go,” said Fallon, 49. “This was December and I cried. I just held my hands up in the air. Thank you, god. Finally, some relief. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Now her premium is $150 a month, she said. Her deductible is only one-third as much as it used to be.

“ I have dental insurance!” she said in wonder. “And all the doctors that I do see, my dentist, my GYN, for a whole year I’m paying less than I paid per month.”

Fallon says she thinks the Affordable Care Act will help the economy. “The difference is now I can take the money that was going to that one insurance premium and I can go to the hair stylist,I can get my house repaired. I’m spending money in my community. This is going to be a ripple effect, this is going to restart the economic engine. We have been so enslaved by the health insurance system.”

This is what I am actually seeing in my practice under the Affordable Care Act. I also have patients with chronic medical problems who previously were unable to obtain health care coverage due to problems including pre-existing conditions, inability to afford care, and in one case a patient losing her health care coverage when her husband retired. As of January these, and many more people, are receiving coverage they can afford. The Affordable Care Act solves the problems of denial because of pre-existing conditions, premiums people cannot afford, and the “insurance trap” which forces people to remain in jobs purely in order to receive health care coverage.

As Mary Fallon pointed out, the Affordable Care Act will help the economy. The Congressional Budget Office Report, frequently distorted by Republicans, shows that the Affordable Care Act will reduce unemployment, help decrease the deficit, and allow more people to leave large corporations to start small businesses. The effects of this freedom from the “insurance trap” cannot be scored in a CBO report, but should provide a tremendous boost to the economy.

With Success, Obamacare Problems Are Quickly Turning Into Meaningless Old Memories

With enrollment picking up under the Affordable Care Act, there is increasing attention being paid to the make up of those newly enrolled in insurance plans. Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post looked at this:

Oh dear. The Republican Party’s worst nightmare is coming true. Obamacare is working.

The news that nearly 1.2 million people signed up last month for insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges is highly inconvenient for GOP candidates nationwide. It looks as if the party’s two-word strategy for the fall election — bash Obamacare — will need to be revised.

Wednesday’s status report on the health-insurance reforms was by far the best news for Democrats and the Obama administration since the program’s incompetent launch. January was the first month when new enrollments surpassed expectations, as the balky HealthCare.gov Web site began functioning more or less as intended.

Cumulatively, 3.3 million people had chosen insurance plans through the state and federal exchanges by the end of January. That is fewer than the administration had originally hoped but well above the predictions of critics who believed — or hoped — that the program would never succeed. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 6 million people will have chosen plans through Obamacare when the initial enrollment period ends March 31, down from a pre-launch estimate of 7 million. Not bad at all.

The numbers are even more encouraging when you look more closely. The proportion of young people — from 18 and 34 — who chose insurance plans through the exchanges increased slightly to 27 percent, compared with an average of 24 percent in previous months. This is important because premiums would have to rise if not enough young, healthy people enrolled.

The administration had hoped the percentage of young enrollees would reach about 40 percent. But the January figure — and the rising trend — should put to rest any notion that the whole program could go down the drain in an actuarial “death spiral.” Administration officials are convinced this won’t happen.

According to the January report, about 80 percent of those signing up for Obamacare are eligible for subsidies to help them pay for insurance. The administration believes, but does not have the data to prove, that most of the new enrollees were previously uninsured.

Despite all the good recent good news, Robinson knows that conservatives will continue to attack. After all, that is all they really know how to do:

Bashing Obamacare will always have resonance for the GOP’s conservative base. But if you’re trying to win the votes of independents, it’s more profitable to target a failed program than a successful one.

Critics will doubtless try to blame Obamacare for anything bad that happens to anyone’s health insurance before the November election. But all of this is just noise without the central narrative of a “failed program.”

Attack ads against vulnerable Democratic senators, such as Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, are already trying to paint Obamacare as a character defect — the president and his supporters “lied” when they said everyone could keep their insurance. The response from Democrats should be to shift the focus to the actual program and its impact. Imperiled incumbents can point to constituents who are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act in life-changing ways.

If you assume that Affordable Care Act enrollment remains on its current trajectory, the February numbers should look even better. Polls consistently show that even if voters have mixed views about the health-care reforms, most do not want to see them repealed. By the fall, the whole Obamacare-is-a-disaster line of attack could sound stale and irrelevant.

Republicans may even have to take the drastic step of saying what they advocate, rather than harping on what they oppose. Is there a GOP plan to cover those with preexisting conditions? To cover the working poor? Is expanding access to health insurance really such an awful thing?

That’s the problem for conservatives. Knocking government programs in a debating society is one thing. To threaten to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a different matter. Doing so would hurt real people–millions of us. The old individual market for private insurance was a disaster we cannot go back to. Even some Republicans now love Obamacare.

Repealing Obamacare is also bad for the economy and bad for the country when you consider how the Affordable Care Act will help reduce the deficit, reduce unemployment, and promote more entrepreneurs now that people are no longer tied to their employer for health care coverage.

Conservatives will continue to make noise about everything that really is wrong about the Affordable Care Act, along with continuing to make up plenty of lies about things which are not really wrong. Republican might have voted forty-seven times for repeal, but that is not going to happen. That ship has sailed. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and it is pointless for Republicans to continue to demand repeal as opposed to working responsibly with Democrats on improving the program.

Bloomberg also looked at enrollment by the young, as well as the continuing debate:

The only debate worth having is how to improve enrollment. If not enough people sign up, or the mix of beneficiaries isn’t quite right, it could lead to higher premiums down the road, pushing people away from buying coverage and making the law less effective.

In other words, what matters now is how to persuade more young people, especially young men, to sign up for health insurance before March 31. What has the administration learned in the first fourth months of open enrollment? What works and what doesn’t? Everything else is beside the point.

The administration is already pushing hard, and its efforts have come in for a fair amount of ridicule: ads featuring cats, for example, to get more women to sign up, and the much-maligned “pajama boy,” whose appeal was to … actually it’s not clear who he was trying to appeal to. At any rate, a little ridicule is a small price to pay if these attempts result in higher enrollment. Republican state officials might also do more to promote the law, futile as it may be to point that out.

Contrary to what you may have read, enrollment numbers for Obamacare aren’t some referendum on the president’s popularity or lack thereof. They’re the best way to tell whether the law is working as planned — and how to adjust if it isn’t.

It looks like the goals will be met for enrolling more young people, but what if we they aren’t?  Kaiser ran the numbers back in December, when meeting the goal was more in doubt.

If enrollment among young adults falls short, then the total amount of premiums collected by insurers will be less than the total health care expenses of enrollees plus administrative overhead and profit. And, if insurers believe that those enrollment patterns will continue into 2015, then they may raise premiums higher to compensate for the loss.

However, because premiums are still allowed to vary substantially based on age, the financial consequences of lower enrollment among young adults are not as great as conventional wisdom might suggest.

We simulated the effects of two scenarios:3

Scenario 1: Young adults age 18-34 enroll at a 25% lower rate than other individuals relative to the potential market. Under this scenario, young adults would represent 33% of individual market enrollees instead of 40% as in the potential market. Taking into account the allowed three-to-one variation in premiums due to age, we find that costs (health care expenses plus overhead and profits) would be about 1.1% higher than premium revenues.

Scenario 2: Young adults age 18-34 enroll at a 50% lower rate than other individuals relative to the potential market. Under this scenario, young adults would represent 25% of enrollees, substantially less than their share of the potential market. It is roughly comparable to what Covered California reported for October and November (the first two months of open enrollment), with 21% of all enrollees who picked a plan in the 18-34 age range. However, this is likely a worst-case scenario, since the expectation is that older and sicker individuals are more likely to buy first and that younger and healthier people will tend to wait until towards the end of the open enrollment period (which concludes March 31, 2014). In fact, our recent survey of people in California who are uninsured found that 58% of young adults said they planned to get coverage in 2014. But, if this more extreme assumption of low enrollment among young adults holds, overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4% higher than premium revenues.

Insurers typically set their premiums to achieve a 3-4% profit margin, so a shortfall due to skewed enrollment by age could reduce the profit margin of insurers substantially in 2014. But, even in the worst case, insurers would still be expected to earn profits, and would then likely raise premiums in 2015 to make up the shortfall, However, a one to two percent premium increase would be well below the level that would trigger a “death spiral,” which would occur if insurers needed to increase premiums substantially, in turn further discouraging young and healthy people from enrolling.

There’s no real risk of death spirals and the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Over the next year or two, the early computer problems will be seen as distant memories, sort of like the Y2K computer problems, while we enjoy the benefits of Obamacare. People will no longer care about letters about cancelled insurance plans when most are in more comprehensive plans at a lower cost. Conservatives will continue to point out every fault but there is only one real point in this: so that we know what to fix next and get it working better. Plus the better we get it working, the harder it will be for conservatives to continue to scare people with all the additional “problems” they have made up.

Wibbly Wobbly For You: Doctor Who Valentine’s Day Cards 2014

It is now evening on Valentine’s Day on the east coast and if you haven’t purchased a Valentine’s Day card yet your only chance might be to hop in your TARDIS and go back in time for your shopping. Or you can simply use one of these Doctor Who Valentine’s Day cards:

Doctor Who Both Hearts

Doctor Who Nerdist Card

Doctor Who Valentines 2

Doctor Who Valentines 3 Weeping Angels

 

Doctor-Who-Valentines-Day

Doctor Who Valentines4

Or if you prefer Sherlock:

Doctor Who Sherlock Card

If they are getting into nudity, why didn’t anyone put Irene Adler on a card? Oh, it looks like they did:

Irene Adler sherlock-valentine

There’s more Sherlock here and more Doctor Who at Geek Native.

You don’t even need a TARDIS to go back in time and see cards from the three previous years. Cards from 2013 can be seen here. Older ones also available from  2012 and 2011.