This study examines how teacher turnover differs between charter and traditional public schools and seeks to identify factors that explain these differences. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) 2003-2004 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS), we found that 25% of charter school teachers turned over during the 2003-2004 school year, compared to 14% of traditional public school teachers. Fourteen percent of charter school teachers left the profession outright and 11% moved to a different school, while 7% of traditional public school teachers left the profession and 7% moved schools.
Using multi-nomial logistic regression, we found the odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession versus staying in the same school are 132% greater than those of a traditional public school teacher. The odds of a charter school teacher moving schools are 76% greater. Our analysis confirms that much of the explanation of this “turnover gap” lies in differences in the types of teachers that charter schools and traditional public schools hire. The data lend minimal support to the claim that turnover is higher in charter schools because they are leveraging their flexibility in personnel policies to get rid of underperforming teachers. Rather, we found most of the turnover in charter schools is voluntary and dysfunctional as compared to that of traditional public schools.
Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a strong supporter of health care reform. But his careless comments at academic forums last year, caught on videotapes that surfaced recently, can only harm the reform cause. Mr. Gruber said in one comment that the Affordable Care Act relied on a “lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter” to gain passage. He said in another comment that the “Cadillac tax” on expensive employer-provided health insurance passed only because voters were “too stupid to understand it.”
Both comments are doubly offensive. First, they insult ordinary Americans. And they’re largely wrong.
There was no lack of transparency. Two Senate committees and three House committees held extensive public hearings on versions of the bills and debated them for days on the floor. Republicans sat in on all the committee meetings and were well aware of what was in the bills.
Mr. Gruber said further that the law was written in a “tortured way” to make sure that the Congressional Budget Office did not refer to the penalties for not buying insurance as “taxes.” The budget used the congressional language, and, in truth, the penalties were designed to push people into buying insurance.
Mr. Gruber also alleged congressional duplicity in its approval of the “Cadillac tax,” an excise tax on high-cost insurance policies provided by employers. Mr. Gruber said Congress took advantage of the fact that voters were “too stupid to understand” that workers would ultimately pay part of this tax when it was passed along by the insurance companies. This was clearly understood by economists and labor unions.
Republicans are crowing over Mr. Gruber’s remarks because he has been portrayed as a major architect of the health reform law. In truth, his role was limited. He had a big contract with the White House to use his econometric model to calculate the financial and coverage effects of proposed measures. And he was one of 13 experts who advised the Senate Finance Committee. His comments should not be taken as evidence that the reform law was hatched in secrecy and foisted on the public by trickery.
Acemoglu, Autor, Dor, Hansen, and Price (I’ve noted this paper once or twice already in recent months, but thought it worthwhile to post their summary of their work):
The rise of China and the future of US manufacturing, by Daron Acemoglu, David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon H. Hanson, and Brendan Price, Vox EU: The end of the Great Recession has rekindled optimism about the future of US manufacturing. In the second quarter of 2010 the number of US workers employed in manufacturing registered positive growth – its first increase since 2006 – and subsequently recorded ten consecutive quarters of job gains, the longest expansion since the 1970s. Advocating for the potential of an industrial turnaround, some economists give a positive spin to US manufacturing’s earlier troubles: while employment may have fallen in the 2000s, value added in the sector has been growing as fast as the overall US economy. Its share of US GDP has kept stable, an achievement matched by few other high-income economies over the same period (Lawrence and Edwards 2013, Moran and Oldenski 2014). The business press has giddily coined the term ‘reshoring’ to describe the phenomenon – as yet not well documented empirically – of companies returning jobs to the United States that they had previously offshored to low-wage destinations.
Before we declare a renaissance for US manufacturing, it is worth re-examining the magnitude of the sector’s previous decline and considering the causal factors responsible for job loss. The scale of the employment decline is indeed stunning. Figure 1 shows that in 2000, 17.3 million US workers were employed in manufacturing, a level that with periodic ups and downs had changed only modestly since the early 1980s. By 2010, employment had dropped to 11.5 million workers, a 33% decrease from 2000. Strikingly, most of this decline came before the onset of the Great Recession. In the middle of 2007, on the eve of the Lehman Brothers collapse that paralysed global financial markets, US manufacturing employment had already dipped to 13.9 million workers, such that three-fifths of the job losses over the 2000 to 2010 period occurred prior to the US aggregate contraction. Figure 1 also reveals the paltriness of the recent manufacturing recovery. As of mid-2014, the number of manufacturing jobs had reached only 12.1 million, a level far below the already diminished pre-recession level.
Bear with me while I give a little backstory. Julia Zemiro, the effervescent host of RocKwiz (a brilliant show for those who are missing out) has made a TV series called ‘Home Delivery’ where she takes a celebrity (all comedians, either UK or Oz) back to their home town. In a recent episode she took Ruth Jones, an award-winning UK comedienne back to her home town in Wales. As part of the tour, she visited her church where a number of events in her life took place, apparently.
Given the context, Julia asked her if she was a ‘believer’. I thought Jones’ answer so candid and honest, it’s worth repeating. She said she believes there is something ‘greater than us’ but we really ‘have no idea’. Maybe not her exact words but certainly her sentiment. It was the admission of ignorance and humility that struck me – so different to any theological statement one cares to hear. And I realised, by the sheer contrast implicit in her statement, why I have such an issue with the Church; well, any church, basically. Because they all claim to know what they can’t possibly know and preach it with the absolute certainty that dogma requires.
And despite what they all claim, there is no text anywhere in the world that can tell us what, if any, greater purpose there is. Now, I’m not opposed to the idea that there could be a greater purpose and I have no problem with people believing that (like Ruth Jones). I only have a problem when they claim to know what that purpose is and what one must do (in this life) to achieve it. Continue reading Another look at truth, science, religion and mathematics
When researchers showed disgusting images of snakes, roaches, garbage, vomit, mutilated bodies and open wounds to participants in a Virginia Tech study, they found significant differences between the way liberals and conservatives reacted, on a neural level.
Though the volunteers didn’t report feeling any more or less grossed out by the images, brain scans told a different story. The more strongly a person’s brain reacted to seeing disgusting images, the more likely they were to hold conservative views.
The same discrepancy did not exist in their responses to positive images.
The authors point out in the paper, published in the journal Current Biology, that this is the first brain study to find multiple points of differentiation in activity when comparing the emotional processing of images in liberals versus conservatives. Several parts of the brain lit up in conservatives, while others were activated in liberals.
P. Read Montague and his coauthors wrote in the study that their results “invite the provocative claim that neural responses to nonpolitical stimuli (like contaminated food or physical threats) should be highly predictive of abstract political opinions (like attitudes toward gun control and abortion).”
Indeed, watching the brain’s reaction to a single disgusting image was sufficient to guess each subject’s political orientation. Montague said in the press release, “I haven’t seen such clean predictive results in any other functional imaging experiments in our lab or others.”
The researchers used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to track how the brains of 83 volunteers reacted to viewing emotionally charged but politically neutral images. The volunteers were then asked to rate how disgusting, threatening, or pleasant they thought each image was, and then answer a standard questionnaire about political ideology.
The study did not determine exactly how or why liberal brains differ from conservative ones, only that the two types of brains lit up in two different patterns when viewing the same images.
But the researchers theorize that conservatives, compared to liberals, have greater “negativity bias,” a psychological sensitivity to unpleasant or disturbing things. This supports the findings of an eye-tracking study published earlier this year in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, which found that conservatives reacted more intensely to disgusting images.
“Across research methods, samples and countries, conservatives have been found to be quicker to focus on the negative, to spend longer looking at the negative, and to be more distracted by the negative,” the authors of that study wrote.
“The results do not provide a simple bromide, but … if we can begin to see that some ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to political issues may be simply that — reactions — then we might take the temperature down a bit in the current boiler of political discourse,” Montague said.
Propaganda Has Triumphed over Journalism, and the Consequences Are Enormous
John Pilger, AlterNet
Friday, December 05, 2014 4:45 PM
We need a press that teaches the young to be agents of people, not power.
Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and theWashington Post deceive their readers?
Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?
These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.
The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.
The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.
This power to create a new “reality” has been building for a long time. Forty-five years ago, a book entitled The Greening of America caused a sensation. On the cover were these words: “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual.”
I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and recall the overnight elevation to guru status of the author, a young Yale academic, Charles Reich. His message was that truth-telling and political action had failed and only “culture” and introspection could change the world.
Within a few years, driven by the forces of profit, the cult of “me-ism” had all but overwhelmed our sense of acting together, our sense of social justice and internationalism. Class, gender and race were separated. The personal was the political, and the media was the message.
In the wake of the cold war, the fabrication of new “threats” completed the political disorientation of those who, 20 years earlier, would have formed a vehement opposition.
In 2003, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the distinguished American investigative journalist. We discussed the invasion of Iraq a few months earlier. I asked him, “What if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and investigated their claims, instead of channeling what turned out to be crude propaganda?”
He replied that if we journalists had done our job “there is a very, very good chance we would have not gone to war in Iraq.”
That’s a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question. Dan Rather, formerly of CBS, gave me the same answer. David Rose of the Observer and senior journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous, gave me the same answer.
In other words, had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children might be alive today; and millions might not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia might not have ignited, and the infamous Islamic State might not now exist. Continue reading One can choose to see what they will see
It has been heralded as one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever produced by the federal government—one that impacted the United States socially, economically and politically. But it almost never came to pass.
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights—nearly stalled in Congress as members of the House and Senate debated provisions of the controversial bill.
Some shunned the idea of paying unemployed Veterans $20 a week because they thought it diminished their incentive to look for work. Others questioned the concept of sending battle-hardened Veterans to colleges and universities, a privilege then reserved for the rich.
Despite their differences, all agreed something must be done to help Veterans assimilate into civilian life.
Much of the urgency stemmed from a desire to avoid the missteps following World War I, when discharged Veterans got little more than a $60 allowance and a train ticket home.
During the Great Depression, some Veterans found it difficult to make a living. Congress tried to intervene by passing the World War Adjusted Act of 1924, commonly known as the Bonus Act. The law provided a bonus based on the number of days served. But there was a catch: most Veterans wouldn’t see a dime for 20 years.
A group of Veterans marched on Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1932 to demand full payment of their bonuses. When they didn’t get it, most went home. But some decided to stick around until they got paid. They were later kicked out of town following a bitter standoff with U.S. troops. The incident marked one of the greatest periods of unrest our nation’s capital had ever known.
The return of millions of Veterans from World War II gave Congress a chance at redemption. But the GI Bill had far greater implications. It was seen as a genuine attempt to thwart a looming social and economic crisis. Some saw inaction as an invitation to another depression. Continue reading The “GI Bill”
Posted by Glenn Kesslerat 06:00 AM ET, 05/15/2013 – Washington Post
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell points to a stack of papers representing what he claimed to be the regulations associated with President Obama’s health-care law as he speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 15. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)“Obamacare is fully implemented January 1st, even though the regulations haven’t been written yet. And Brian, we’ve got 33,000 pages of regulations that they’ve already written. If we stacked it up here, it would be seven feet tall.”
— Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), speaking on “Fox and Friends,” May 13, 2013
“Implementation has also become a bureaucratic nightmare, with some 159 new government agencies, boards and programs busily enforcing the roughly 20,000 pages of rules and regulations already associated withthis law.”
Rep. Richard Hudson this week offered such an astonishing figure — 33,000 pages of “Obamacare” regulations! — that we immediately wanted to know more. But it turns out that Hudson got a little bit ahead of himself. An aide said that he misspoke and meant to say 13,000 pages. “Whether it is 13,000, 22,000 or 33,000, it is too many,” the aide added. But then it turns out that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has actually tweeted a photograph of this stack of paper. By his math, the Obama administration has issued 20,000 pages of regulations “associated” with the new law.
How does this stuff get figured out?
The process the McConnell folks used is fairly simple. They went to the Web site for the Federal Register and searched for “Affordable Care Act,” the official name for the health-care law. That turned up 897 documents.
On the Web site, there’s a button that will download the documents to an Excel spreadsheet (CVS/excel). Then you use the sum feature on Excel to add up the pages and presto, you end with 20,202 pages. These were then printed out and duly stacked in a pile. “Some of these may only relate to ‘Obamacare’ (rather than being entirely on ‘Obamacare’), but since they’re related, they’re part of the regulatory structure,” said Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman.
Regular readers know that we frown on such page-counting exercises, since we’re not sure what it really tells you. In the case of the health-care law, businesses actually have been seeking detailed regulations so they know exactly what to expect. And using the same methods used by the McConnell team, we found tens of thousands of pages of regulations for Medicare Advantage and the prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), which were pushed by Republicans.
Stewart countered that it would be fairer to count only the regs issued 1,148 days after the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 was enacted, since it’s exactly that long since the Affordable Care Act became law. By his count, that yields about 5,000 pages of regulations, or roughly one-quarter of the number for Obamacare.
There’s another wrinkle, too. The documents that turn up are both final rules and proposed rules, as well as “notices” (such as for new funding or committee meetings) and “presidential documents” (mostly news releases). But the proposed rules are often similar to the final rules, except that the final rules include pages of public comments. Looking just at rules, you end up with just 9,625 pages, while proposed rules amount to 7,432 pages. Continue reading Thousand of pages in the ACA?
One of the big advantages of the internet is that anyone can participate. We are no longer limited to big publishers or exclusive media channels. That means as a scientist I can communicate directly with people interested in science all over the world, and I’m not beholden to advertisers or managing editors. Of course this freedom of communication comes at a price. Just as I can communicate directly with the world, so can everyone else. As a result, there’s a lot of crazy things that spread across the information superhighway. Many of them are in the form of memes posted on social media sites. Given that many of these are even posted on sites that claim to promote real science, I thought I’d dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding some of these memes. So here are 10 popular memes, ranked from least grievous to most. Continue reading An astrophysics prof addressed popular, but inaccurate, memes in his field
I apologise in advance to overseas readers (outside Australia) who can’t view this, but this interview on ABC’s Lateline current affairs programme on Thursday (8 Oct) was a standout. Emma Alberici, a well respected television journalist and previous foreign correspondent with ABC’s European bureau, interviews, or attempts to interview, Wassim Doureihi, member of Hizb ut-Tahir; an organisation which has been banned in many countries, but not Australia or the UK. This link gives a good summary of that interview, but it’s also ABC, so maybe unavailable outside Oz.
A lecture was held by the group’s Arabic spokesperson, Ismail Al-Wahwah, at Lakemba, Sydney last night, which, according to the SMH and Guardian (links), was not much different in rhetoric to Doureihi’s diatribe a few days earlier. Basically, they claim the current situation in Iraq is a direct consequence of America’s, and its allies’, involvement in that conflict, as well as earlier conflicts involving Muslims. And that, apparently, justifies everything that IS does. Though Doureihi never actually condones IS, he went to extraordinary lengths to avoid discussing their actions and/or strategy when talking to Alberici, which frustrated her enormously.
There are a couple of issues I wish to address: firstly, the sheer distortion in Dourheihi’s argument that doesn’t match the evidence; and secondly, the possible motivation behind people’s desire to join this ‘fight’ and how they manage to justify its atrocities.
Doureihi repeatedly asserted that the current conflict in Iraq is all about foreign occupation. But there is no foreign occupation in Iraq at present – the current Western forces have been invited by the Iraqi democratically elected government (as Alberici pointed out) – and IS arose in Syria, where there is no Western intervention at all, and moved into Iraq before the West got involved. Besides, IS are not attacking a foreign occupation in Iraq (the Westerners they behead are not military personnel); they are attacking people who have lived there for generations, mainly Kurds and Yazidi. In fact, they are committing genocide against these people, which has nothing to do with any foreign occupation.
One can argue about the wisdom of the West’s intervention in Iraq under Bush, especially considering the legerdemain of the so-called WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) that never existed, and its woefully poor execution under Cheney and Rumsfeld. But you have to draw a very long bow to argue that IS have entered Iraq to right the wrongs of that misadventure, when they kill all males who won’t convert to Islam and sell all their women into slavery.
A few years back, I read The Islamist by Ed Hussain, who was radicalised in Great Britain, as a student, before becoming disillusioned and returning to a more moderate position on Islam. It’s an insightful book in that it distinguishes between the religion of Islam as practiced by many Muslims living in secular societies and the political ideology of extremists who want to reshape the world into a totalitarian Islamic state. Hussain believed, at the time, the entire world would inevitably become a ‘Caliphate’, not least because it was ‘God’s Will’. What turned Hussain around was when a student was stabbed to death by a member of his own group. Hussain suddenly realised he wanted no part of an organisation that saw killing non-adherents as part of its creed.
When IS first declared itself a caliphate, an Australian academic (I can’t recall his name or his department) made the observation, in regard to Muslims in Indonesia, that just the idea of a caliphate would have enormous appeal that many would find hard to resist. In other words, many see this as some sort of Islamic nirvana, a new ‘world order’, where all wrongs will be made right and all peoples will be made to see and understand God’s wisdom and be guided by it through Sharia law. Naturally, this is anathema to anyone living in a Western democratic secular society, and is seen as turning back the clock centuries, before the Enlightenment and before the European renaissance and before modern scientific relevations, not to mention undoing generations of women’s independence of men, whether sexually, financially or educationally.
And this is the nexus of this conflict: it’s a collision of ideas and ideals that has no compromise. IS and its ilk, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Boko Haram in Africa, are fighting against the 21st Century. They know as well as we do, that there is no place for them, politically, in the world’s global future, and they can only rail against this by killing anyone who does not agree with their vision, and committing all women to marital slavery.
Finally, there is a comment by an Australian Islamist fighting in Syria, who believes that IS’s tactics of beheading journalists and aid workers is justified because their deaths are insignificant compared to the hundreds of innocent people (including children) killed by Western sponsored air raids. If these deaths can ‘blackmail’ America and its allies into not killing innocents then it is worth it, according to him.
David Kilcullen, an Australian expert on Afghanistan and a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice during the Bush administration, is one of the few who argued against drone strikes in Pakistan because they would ‘recruit’ jihadists. The abovementioned apologist for IS would suggest that such a belief was justified.
However, IS don’t just behead Westerners; it’s one of their psychological tactics against anyone who doesn’t convert to their specific brand of Islam. It’s meant to horrify and terrorise all their enemies, whoever they might be, and it succeeds.
Contrary to popular belief and popular crime thrillers, most people who perform evil acts, as perceived by most societies, don’t believe that what they are doing is evil and can always find a way to justify it. No where is this more acute than when the perpetrators believe that they have ‘God on their side’.
After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law
By Ann Jones – Oct. 2014
On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat. Washington, congratulating itself on this “peaceful transition,” quickly collected the new president’s autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted. (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained.)
The big news of the day for Afghans was quite different — not the long expected continuation of the American occupation but what the new president had to say in his inaugural speech about his wife, Rula Ghani. Gazing at her as she sat in the audience, he called her by name, praised her work with refugees, and announced that she would continue that work during his presidency.
Those brief comments sent progressive Afghan women over the moon. They had waited 13 years to hear such words — words that might have changed the course of the American occupation and the future of Afghanistan had they been spoken in 2001 by Hamid Karzai.
No, they’re not magic. They simply reflect the values of a substantial minority of Afghans and probably the majority of Afghans in exile in the West. They also reflect an idea the U.S. regularly praises itself for holding, but generally acts against — the very one George W. Bush cited as part of his justification for invading Afghanistan in 2001.
The popular sell for that invasion, you will recall, was an idea for which American men had never before exhibited much enthusiasm: women’s liberation. For years, human rights organizations the world over had called attention to the plight of Afghan women, confined to their homes by the Taliban government, deprived of education and medical care, whipped in the streets by self-appointed committees for “the Promotion of Public Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,” and on occasion executed in Kabul’s Ghazi stadium. Horrific as that was, few could have imagined an American president, a Republican at that, waving a feminist flag to cover the invasion of a country guilty mainly of hosting a scheming guest.
While George W. Bush bragged about liberating Afghan women, his administration followed quite a different playbook on the ground. In December 2001, at the Bonn Conference called to establish an interim Afghan governing body, his team saw to it that the country’s new leader would be the apparently malleable Hamid Karzai, a conservative Pashtun who, like any Talib, kept his wife, Dr. Zinat Karzai, confined at home. Before they married in 1999, she had been a practicing gynecologist with skills desperately needed to improve the country’s abysmal maternal mortality rate, but she instead became the most prominent Afghan woman the Bush liberation failed to reach.
This disconnect between Washington’s much-advertised support for women’s rights and its actual disdain for women was not lost upon canny Afghans. From early on, they recognized that the Americans were hypocrites at heart.
Washington revealed itself in other ways as well. Afghan warlords had ravaged the country during the civil war of the early 1990s that preceded the Taliban takeover, committing mass atrocities best defined as crimes against humanity. In 2002, the year after the American invasion and overthrow of the Taliban, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission established under the auspices of the U.N. surveyed citizens nationwide and found that 76% of them wanted those warlords tried as war criminals, while 90% wanted them barred from public office. As it happened, some of those men had been among Washington’s favorite, highly paid Islamist jihadis during its proxy war against the Soviet Union of the 1980s. As a result, the Bush administration looked the other way when Karzai welcomed those “experienced” men into his cabinet, the parliament, and the “new” judiciary. Impunity was the operative word. The message couldn’t have been clearer: with the right connections, a man could get away with anything — from industrial-scale atrocities to the routine subjugation of women.
There is little in the twisted nature of American-Afghan relations in the past 13 years that can’t be traced to these revelations that the United States does not practice what it preaches, that equality and justice were little more than slogans — and so, it turned out, was democracy. Continue reading Afghan women
Falsehoods about the Affordable Care Act are still swirling — and the intensity of the claims is rising as the exchanges are set to launch.
Posted on September 16, 2013 on Factcheck.org
We’ve been batting down bogus claims about the Affordable Care Act for years, since 2009, when legislation was still in the debate stage. But they’ve been increasing in intensity in recent months as we approach Oct. 1, the date the insurance exchanges will be open for business for those buying their own insurance, mainly with the help of federal subsidies.
So, more than three years after our last health-care-whoppers piece (published just before the law was signed in 2010), we’re giving readers a rundown of the top claims.
Some have been around for years, and others are relatively new. Most touch on three topics: jobs, premium costs and medical care. For instance:
Republicans have made the overblown claim that the law is a job-killer, but experts predict a small impact on mainly low-wage jobs. The Republican National Committee says 8.2 million part-timers can’t find full-time work “partly” due to the law. That’s the total number of part-time workers who want full-time jobs, and there’s no evidence from official jobs figures that the law has had an impact.
Proponents say premiums will go down, while opponents say they’ll go up. In general, employer plans won’t be affected much, and a price change for individuals seeking their own insurance will vary from person to person. Obama claimed that all of the uninsured would see lower premiums than what they could get now (before accounting for federal subsidies), but that’s not the case.
Critics continue to make scary claims about the government coming between you and your doctor, but the law doesn’t set up a government-run system. If anything, the law comes between you and your insurance company, forbidding them from capping your coverage or charging you more based on health status. Meanwhile, Obama can’t promise you can keep your plan. Employers are free to switch coverage, just as they were before.
And there’s more. Since 2010, we’ve been debunking the persistent claim that members of Congress are somehow exempt from the law. They’re not. The administration’s recent decision to give exchanges leeway in how they verify suspect applications for subsidies sparked the false claim that Americans can list what they’d like for their incomes and won’t face verification.
Beyond these more reasonable topics, we’ve seen our share of far-fetched viral messages about microchips being implanted in patients and forced home inspections by the government. Rest assured. Neither is true. Continue reading Obamacare facts and myths
The Ferguson Grand Jury heard from 60 witnesses to the Darren Wilson – Michael Brown incident. There are basically two existing stories of what happened: one from Officer Wilson, and one from Dorian Johnson who was with Michael Brown during the incident. As described by Wilson the encounter does not seem plausible, while Johnson’s sounds the most realistic. The first problem with Wilson’s testimony is why would Brown reach into the police vehicle to strike at Wilson? More than one witness claims Brown was seen trying to pull away from the grasp of Wilson who was pulling Brown by the right arm into the vehicle. Wilson is right-handed, and his gun would be on his right side. Wilson had a hold of Brown’s right arm with his left hand. Both Wilson and Johnson agreed hearing the phrase: ” I’ll shoot” being spoken by Wilson shortly before the first shot was fired, which seems to have hit Brown in the chest.
I’d like to see a docu-drama split-screen re-enactment of the encounter to visually see the differences in the respective stories.
For me there are two big keys: a) who made the first physical contact with the other; and b) why all the gunshots: 11 rounds were fired, the first shot from inside the police vehicle, and then two separate volleys as Wilson pursued Brown down the street.
Protesters seem justified in putting the onus on Wilson for creating the fatal aspects of the incident, and on Brown for resisting the authority and control of Wilson.
It took fascism 60 years after its defeat to take over the United States.
With the lowest minimum wage in the developed world, we now have a two tiered system of lords and serfs. The middle class has gone the way of the pterodactyl. We have a Supreme (really mediocre on a good day) Court complicit in the destruction of the democratic process and enough people voting against their own best interest to ensure they forge the chains of their own enslavement.
In the eyes of the civilized world we’d be a laughingstock if it weren’t for our ability to impose our will with the use of an outsized military.
In short, the great experiment in self governance is now in History’s dust bin. Slavery is being incrementally restored and few notice because the free press is bought and paid for by the ruling class. George Carlin was right when he said, ‘We have owners.”
Using “greywater” from sinks, showers and washing machines to irrigate outdoor gardens is a great way to increase the productivity of backyard ecosystems while reducing household water use by as much as 30 percent. Pictured: A backyard garden watered with residential greywater.
Jeremy Levine, courtesy Flickr
Dear EarthTalk: I know that some large buildings filter some of their wastewater to irrigate exterior landscaping. Is there an affordable way to do this at home? —Bill P., Salem, OR
Now that solar panels are so commonplace on rooftops across the country, reusing so-called greywater—that is, the waste water from sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines—for landscape irrigation may be the next frontier in the greening of the American home, especially if you live in an arid region where water use is restricted. In fact, reusing your graywater may be the only way to keep your lawn and garden healthy without taking more than your fair share of the community’s precious freshwater reserves.
“Using water from sinks, showers and washing machines to irrigate plants is a way to increase the productivity of sustainable backyard ecosystems that produce food, clean water and shelter wildlife,” reports Greywater Action, a California-based non-profit dedicated to educating and empowering people to use water sustainably. According to the group, a typical U.S. single family home can reduce water use by as much as 30 percent by installing some kind of greywater reclamation system while simultaneously reducing pollution into nearby water bodies by filtering out contaminants locally. Capturing and reusing greywater can also be part of the battle against climate change, given that you’ll be helping grow plants that sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide while reducing demand on a regional wastewater treatment facility that’s likely powered by fossil fuels. Continue reading Recycling greywater at home
Continuing the expose of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape:
13 un-named former co-plaintiffs
Thus…it was best expressed in a recent article by TA-NEHISI COATES, in the Atlantic Magazine:
“The heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another. It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.”
Note: There has been an outpouring of articles on rape lately, fueled in part by the accusations against Bill Cosby – to which I felt it necessary to reply:
“A review of the available research on the incidence of rape cases shows the evidence all over the field quantitatively, for example, with the incidence of unreported assaults, or false claims, which varied from 2% to 48%. What does not vary that greatly is that in about 50% of the cases the alleged attacker and victim were well known to each other, and in about 30% of the cases there was evidence of previous intimate relations. Also at about 30% was the prevalence of alcohol or drug use in the case.
And specifically, as in one case for example, a claim by a woman that she was raped in a car flies in the face of probability as any 50’s teenager with drive-in experience can attest. Rape is a horrific crime but so are a number of other crimes, including white collar crimes that damage millions of people – for years. Punish the guilty; but be careful, color and social position blind, and most of all be accurate in the verdict of culpability! Nor should one think that the victim is always female.
And for the victims: the FIRST stop in legitimate cases should be the trauma center at the hospital, not the police station. Every U.S. hospital has access to “rape kits” which can accumulate evidence in a much more objective manner which can later be used at trial. The trauma center will even contact the criminal justice personnel directly with their findings – upon request. This process only became readily available to Americans since 2009; but it is a significant advance in the fight against sex crimes and violence directed at women, and men. ”
As a person who has at least three extended family members who were victims of sexual assault I have only contempt and loathing for perps who prey on the innocent, sexually or otherwise. If Bill Cosby is guilty of these crimes he should definitely be called to account for them. Unfortunately the recent past, and distant history is full of unfounded charges of sexual assault by black men and boys, especially against white females. While the statute of limitations rules out criminal prosecution for these allegations, there certainly can be legal action brought against Mr. Cosby – which is where this process should go. It should not be carried out in the blogosphere, or MSM; nor be the basis for attempting to refute the contributions Cosby made in performance art in the field of comedy.
Several of our most famous and talented comedians of the past few decades such as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Robin Williams were all ‘wounded warriors’. Now we get to add Cosby’s name to that list.
November 19th, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
When my neighborhood grocery store was out of my favorite fruit pie dessert I purchased a package containing two ‘Marie Callender’s Chocolate Satin’ pies. Big mistake!
The pie is a three layer concoction that seems interesting – until an unsuspecting person actually puts a piece in their mouth. The top layer is a manufactured proxy for whipped cream, the center is a chocolate colored melange, and on the bottom is the kicker: what I, (a professional chef for more than 20 years), can only describe as burnt crumbs combined with charcoal powder.
Even with my iron stomach this creation re-reminded me of the perils associated with consuming processed food. Let’s take a closer look at this adomination.
Item: Marie Callender’s Chocolate Satin Pie
* * * *
PO Box 3768
Omaha, NE, 68103-0768
* * * *
Ingredients in rank order:
(more than 2%)
Partially hydrogenated soybean oil
High fructose corn syrup
Partially hydrogenated palm kernet oil
Nutritional contents per serving: (% of daily value)
Total fat: 37%
Saturated fat: 55%
So even giving the best interpretation to the contents of the pie as stated, a diner would be better off putting a teaspoon of sugar, a tsp of flour, a tsp of corn syrup, a tsp of lard, a tsp of oil, and the scrapings from the spout of a milk jug in a blender and then sup on that! There is no portion of this creation that even qualifies as a viable food product. The fake whipped cream can display it’s perfidy by simply allowing a spoonful of it to air out overnight on the counter, and then be examined. As for the noxious “cake” at the bottom, it simply should not be called edible. Continue reading Warning: Marie Callender’s “Chocolate Satin” pies are junk
November 16th, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
In the center of our Milky Way galaxy is a supermassive black hole. We can’t see this black hole directly because there is too much dust in the direction of galactic center, but radio waves can penetrate that dust, so we can observe the radio signals of hot stars and gas near galactic center. We’ve been observing these signals over several years, and we’ve noticed how the stars near galactic center orbit the region very quickly. From their orbital motion and a simple use of Kepler’s laws we can get a pretty good idea of the mass of the black hole. It turns out to be about 4 million solar masses. While this is a huge black hole, most of the stars orbiting it aren’t too terribly close. So for the time being they aren’t at risk of being ripped apart by the intense forces near the black hole. But there was one object recently that did make a very close approach. Continue reading Astrophysics 202: 28 Oct – 6 Nov. 2014
November 15th, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
Glass has the useful feature of being transparent at optical wavelengths. That, and the fact that light can refract (change direction) when it passes through curved glass is what made it useful as lenses, and eventually telescopes.
We usually think of Galileo as the inventor of the telescope, but this isn’t the case. Glass lenses have existed in Europe since the 1200s, and by the mid 1300s basic eyeglasses had appeared. These early lenses were pretty basic convex lenses. Convex means that they were thicker in the middle than at the edges, and as a result light passing through them would refract closer together. A magnifying class is a good example of a convex lens, and if you’ve ever let sunlight pass through one to make a concentrated point of light that can set things on fire (kids, don’t try this at home), then you’ve seen its effect.
In the mid 1400s a different type of lens known as a concave lens appeared. These are thicker on their edge than in their middle, and causes light passing through it to spread apart. If you are nearsighted and wear glasses, these are the type of lenses they use.
The first astronomer to use lenses seems to have been Leonard Digges. In the 1570 book Pantometria his son Thomas describes a “proportional glass” that might have been a telescope, though the description is vague. The first true telescope dates to at least 1608, when Hans Lipperhey applied for a patent for the device in the Netherlands. The device used a larger convex lens and a smaller concave lens place along either end of a tube. Light passing through the convex lens would be focused together, and would then pass through the concave lens, which spread the light into its original orientation. The net effect was to magnify the image entering the device.
In July of 1609 Thomas Harriot used such a telescope to look at the Moon. His telescope only had a magnification of 3, which isn’t much at all, so Harriot wasn’t able to determine the nature of the lunar features. That same year Galileo had a similar telescope constructed. Galileo’s first telescope had a magnification of about 9, which was powerful enough to distinguish features of the moon. Galileo’s later telescopes had magnifications of up to 30. So it is Galileo whom we now associate with the telescope.
Refracting telescopes such as Galileo’s are still used today, though they are less popular than reflecting telescopes which are easier to construct at larger sizes. But even reflecting telescopes require an eyepiece, which is typically a glass lens. So even when we aim a mirror to the night sky, we still raise a glass. Continue reading Astrophysics 202: 15 Oct – 27 Oct. 2014
November 15th, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
The chemical interaction between the gas and dust in interstellar space can be quite complex. Given the low temperature and pressure of space, one might think that chemical reactions are simple and rare, but as I’ve written about before, the surface of dust grains can act as a kind of catalytic converter that allows complex chemistry to occur.
Most of the evidence of this complex chemistry comes from the detection of molecules in interstellar gas clouds. These molecules can be detected by their emission and absorption spectra, so we know they are there. The details of how they form are largely based on Earth-based experiments and computer simulations of chemical reactions. But now a recent paper in the Astrophysical Journal presents evidence of these reactions in space.
The authors looked at molecular hydrogen (two hydrogen atoms bonded together) in a nebula known as IC 63. Molecular hydrogen is very common in interstellar space, but it cannot form between hydrogen atoms alone. Instead they need some other molecule or body to take away a bit of their energy so they can chemically bond.
It has long been thought that dust grains serve this role. A single hydrogen atom adheres to the surface of a grain of interstellar dust, then another hydrogen atom adheres to the surface. The two hydrogen atoms shift along the surface until they meet each other. They then bond to form molecular hydrogen and release from the dust grain.
When the hydrogen molecule pushes off from the dust grain, it’s like a burst of gas from a rocket engine. As a result, the dust grain is caused to spin rapidly. This process is known as a Purcell rocket, after Edwin Purcell who first proposed the idea. As the dust grain spins rapidly, any static charge on grain (which is common) will create a magnetic field like a small magnet. This will cause the dust grain to align with the magnetic fields of interstellar space, similar to the way a magnetized needle will try to point north.
At least that has been the theory. Now if this is right, then regions where molecular hydrogen is being produced should also be a region where dust grains are aligned with the magnetic field of interstellar space. This is exactly what the authors found. They first looked at the distribution of molecular hydrogen in IC 63, but then they looked at light coming from more distant stars and passing through IC 63. Specifically, they looked at the polarization of the starlight. Polarization is an orientation that light can have. If the dust grains of IC 63 are all aligned in a similar direction, then the starlight passing through the nebula should be polarized in the same orientation.
You can see the results in the figure above. The green and red regions are where molecular hydrogen is being produced, and the white lines show the polarization of starlight passing through the nebula. As you can see, the lines are aligned in the region where molecular hydrogen is most prominent. This is exactly what the Purcell rocket model predicts.
I’ve been getting a flurry of emails from revolutionary armchair scientists again, largely due to the recent post I wrote over at Starts With A Bang! Whenever several new theories arrives in my mailbox, they all start sounding the same. A bit of praise for my article/website/etc. and then a long diatribe on the errors of modern science followed by a link or attachment for the new and revolutionary idea. The genius of these new ideas are self declared, much along the lines of Vizzini in The Princess Bride, who declared that compared to him, the great philosophers were morons. Although its easy to see the absurdity in a self-declared scientific genius, it is similar to an attitude taken by some scientists with a dim view of philosophy. Plato, Aristotle and Socrates may have been deep thinkers, but philosophers are idiot scientists.
Note: We have written many times about the perfidy of State sponsored, approved, administered, and promoted gambling in the form of lotteries. John Oliver’s show ‘Last Week Tonight’ had a segment entitled: “Lottery” which aired first on HBO, has been hosted on YouTube, and is available here as a MP4, (244mb), download. It covers many of the points we raised – but Oliver gives the topic some LWT force. Check it out…
November 12th, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
Vietnam veteran Greg McNeill, left, lights a candle at the “missing man” table during the 15th annual “Never to be Forgotten” ceremony at the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.
Jerry Alexander was a Sacramento teenager – the son, nephew and brother of military veterans – when he decided to enlist in the Army rather than wait to be drafted. It was the spring of 1967, a few months before his 18th birthday. He knew he was likely to be sent to fight in Vietnam. “But you’re young, and you want to look for adventure,” said Alexander, now 65 and an officer with Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 500 in the Sacramento Valley. “And I come from a patriotic family.” Almost half a century later, Alexander is disabled, partly as a result of the toxic mists of napalm that rained down on him so long ago in the jungles of Vietnam. Despite his maladies, despite the memories of mistreatment from an alienated American public when he returned home, he’s proud of serving his country. “I felt it was my obligation to serve,” he said. “It was my obligation for being raised here.”
Experts say that sense of responsibility toward the country has faded in the four decades since conscription ended and the all-volunteer military was instituted. On Memorial Day, as America pays tribute to the military members who gave their lives in wars both long ago and recent, the gap between those who serve and those who don’t seems wider than ever. Partly, it’s a generation gap: The younger you are, the less likely you are to have participated in military service, or even be closely related to someone who was called on to serve. According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans have an immediate family member who was in the military – but only one-third of them are below age 30. Military service was for decades a common bond among American men, and military families were commonplace.
In 1970, U.S. Census figures show, roughly half of the Sacramento region’s civilian male adults had served in the military. That share had dropped to one in six by 2012. Today, only 4 percent of Sacramento men aged 18 to 40 are veterans, compared with 54 percent of men 65 and older. Serving wasn’t an option widely available to women until after the draft ended in 1973. Similarly, across the country, only 13 percent of adults – and almost one-quarter of men – are veterans. Among American men in their late 20s, who came of service age in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, only 12 percent have served.
“There seems to be a total lack of public awareness of the sacrifices that previous generations have made and those that have been made these past 12 years,” said Linda Smith, 66, of Woodland. She helps run Yolo Military Families, which provides support for service members’ parents and spouses. Her son, Jason Smith, now 34, served two tours in Iraq. “People aren’t connecting,” she said. “They’re detached.” Beyond the generational shifts, several decades’ worth of military base closures across the country, including all three of Sacramento’s installations, have reduced the public’s day-to-day acquaintance with service people and military retirees. And the raw number of service people is lower: Technology allows the United States to maintain the world’s most dominant and skilled military with far fewer people. About 16 million military personnel served in World War II; by comparison, there are 1.5 million Americans in uniform today.