Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bright Flash of Light When Sperm Meets Egg

One would think SOMEONE thinks the beginning of human and animal life is a big thing. Maybe a little more exciting and harder (more in line with creative "work") than this. Perhaps it's why God rested on the seventh day.
Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.
An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.
Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.
Not only is it an incredible spectacle, highlighting the very moment that a new life begins, the size of the flash can be used to determine the quality of the fertilised egg.
Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.
You can see the video at the top of the page here.

H/T Daniel Payne

Friday, April 29, 2016

Carly on Hugh Hewitt

Carly Fiorina was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt today. The last question was on the comparison between Fiorina and Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle who had problems as VP candidate. Hewitt asked if any interviewer had tried to trip her up or if they ceded the ground to her realizing Carly knows her stuff.

Sixteen minutes worth listening to. LINK

It's a stretch that Cruz can win the Republican nomination. An even bigger stretch that Republicans can win the White House given the acrimony of the campaign and especially the vileness and rudeness of Donald Trump toward every opponent that makes it almost impossible for his supporters to go with anyone else.

But, if Cruz and Fiorina were elected, it would be the first time in my political life that a Vice President would be up to the quality of the President and with a similar vision. Nixon was utterly different than Eisenhower; no nexus between Johnson and Kennedy, and Bush was a moderate conservative to Reagan's deep, principled conservatism. Cruz and Fiorina are very evenly matched in terms of core beliefs and leadership brilliance.

A sixteen year run for a presidential team with similar principles may never be, but it is fun to contemplate.

Trump Touts Rapist Mike Tyson's Endorsement

Donald Trump touted "tough" guy Mike Tyson's endorsement in the city where Tyson was convicted of raping a young woman. Tyson also at the time had "repeated episodes of aggressive sexual behavior toward women, including strangers he met in nightclubs or, in one widely publicized incident, a parking lot attendant." What sort of man likes the toughness of a rapist?

Tyson also exulted in the thought of sexual violence against Sarah Palin in 2011. And three ESPN hosts laughed him on. Tyson: "Pushing her guts up in the back of her head!" and "Just imagine Palin with a big old black stallion ripping. Yeehaw!”

So, the man Palin endorses loves having Tyson behind his campaign. I guess Palin, like Ben Carson who is okay with being compared to a child molester by Trump, is okay with having a person who would love to see her sexually abused being elevated to admirable status by her candidate. Hey, it's "for the country"(TM)!

I'm not going to get into the rape charge just lodged against Trump himself.

Trump Leads in Oregon Polling

Hoffman Research Group polled 555 Oregon Republican primary voters April 26th and 27th. Here are the results:
Trump - 43%
Cruz - 26%
Kasich - 17%
Undecided - 13%

If undecideds had to vote, they would break:
Still Undecided - 42%
Trump - 25%
Kasich - 18%
Cruz - 15%

In terms of regions:
Multnomah Co. - 43% Trump, 24% Cruz, 22% Kasich
Clackamas Co. - 29% Trump, 31% Cruz, 24% Kasich
Washington Co. - 33% Trump, 17% Cruz, 31% Kasich
Mid - 37% Trump, 34% Cruz, 15% Kasich
Coast - 59% Trump, 22% Cruz, 15% Kasich
Southern - 52% Trump, 24% Cruz, 13% Kasich
Eastern - 52% Trump, 22% Cruz, 9% Kasich 

In terms of age groups:
18-34 - 31% Trump, 40% Cruz, 17% Kasich
35-54 - 46% Trump, 29% Cruz, 14% Kasich
55+ - 45% Trump, 21% Cruz, 19% Kasich

In terms of gender:
Male - 53% Trump, 22% Cruz, 17% Kasich
Female - 34% Trump, 30% Cruz, 17% Kasich

Age by gender:
Young male - 45% Trump, 29% Cruz, 16% Kasich
Young female - 18% Trump, 50% Cruz, 18% Kasich
Older male - 54% Trump, 21% Cruz, 17% Kasich
Older female - 36% Trump, 28% Cruz, 17% Kasich

Cruz wins Clackamas Co. (barely), the young (18-34), and young females (by a lot!).
Interestingly Kasich, who I would have thought would do well in moderate Oregon, wins no group, but comes close in Washington Co.

This is the party whose losing gubernatorial candidate in 2010, Chris Dudley, voted for Obama in 2008. And the party that has not won the governorship since 1987. The chances of Oregon going Republican for either position in 2016 are slim to non-existent.

H/T Harry Enten

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Levin TV

I signed up for Levin TV to try it out. Yesterday's episode was especially good in giving a perspective on the weakness of the Republican party.

Mark Levin points out the weakness of the candidates. None of the candidates has or can win a majority of Republican votes. None of them can win a significant majority of the delegates going into the convention. Even if Donald Trump gets to 1,237 or even 1,300, that is winning by a
"tiny, tiny sliver. That's not typically a winning formula. Typically when a party comes out of a situation like this, the party loses. Not all the time, but often.
"We are a party not just divided. We’re a party that’s cut up into fourteen pieces. We’ve got demagogues out there pushing their own agenda many of them in the old media and the new media with disinformation who are pushing results and not information."
The primary process has destroyed real political discussion.
"The primary process lacked what? A lot of substance. It lacked arguments for the American people to the American people on how we the liberty loving philosophy of conservatism could benefit their lives. How we could juxtapose us to the Bernie Sanders and the Hillary Clintons and the Left. All of that lost pretty much as a result of the way this primary has been conducted."
[I would add that under the Trump movement constitutionalism is irrelevant. Under Trump pro-life is unimportant. Under Trump big government is inconsequential.]

Levin takes on some of the planks of the new populism/nationalism.

Tariffs and protectionism: "That’s Herbert Hoover. That’s depression. That’s poverty. That’s economic dislocation. There’s nothing new about it. We’ve already done that. It’s a disaster. About a hundred years ago."

Isolationism. "You still need forward bases." "You still need NATO. "“Fortress America is extremely dangerous. Every time we do that the enemy tries to take advantage of it.”

Finally, to underline the weakness of the no principled content populism/nationalism strategy, Levin says there’s no great movement for it. Trump has 40% of the vote. That's nothing massive or overwhelming. It could very easily result in electoral disaster.

I think he's right on this. Even more disastrously, I believe the conservative movement (especially the part that has centered on constitutionalism) has been seriously wounded. The Goldwater election defeat helped build the conservative movement (by, among other things, bringing a rising conservative to the forefront: Ronald Reagan). Whether this one will have any side benefits is still up in the air. As Samuel Johnson said: "when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." So perhaps an electoral disaster will give the needed slap in the face to wandering conservatives.


Arguably the best, most incisive speaker among Republican leaders is now Ted Cruz's vice-presidential candidate.

Carly Fiorina is what Sarah Palin might have been with more experience before being thrust into the public spotlight. They both have a charisma. Palin's is more on the light, funny side. Fiorina's is more on the quick witted, pointed, skewering side. Fiorina seems to have the edge in being able to explain clearly enough to motivate. Palin could explain well enough to get cheers. There's a difference in being able to grow a movement as opposed to just supporting it.

And, of course, Fiorina has gone toe to toe in the mostly male multi-national technological CEO club.

The more I hear her the more apparent her insight and talent become. There really is a glass ceiling in America. She is clear and can inspire. She has it in her to be a Margaret Thatcher (to use the closest female model). Will she ever have the chance?

And she can sing! Below is an excerpt from the speech above with background music--though meant to be a put down shows her real talent:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ellsbury Steals Home!

Stealing home is one of the most exhilirating and rare plays in baseball. Former Oregon State star outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury did it tonight for the Yankees against the Tampa Bay Rays.

I'm reading a biography of Ty Cobb by Charles Leerhsen. Cobb holds the unofficial major league record for stealing home. (Unofficial because major league baseball does not keep stats on stealing home.) Cobb did it 54 times. To show just how spectacular that is, the guy in second place, Max Carey, has 33, and George Burns in third place has 28.

Here's how Leerhsen describes the excitement of Ty Cobb's base stealing:
All the pretty slides and steals--897 lifetime, a record that stood for almost fifty years before it was surpassed by Lou Brock, then Rickey Henderson--all the crazy dancing off the bags and even crazier shouts to catchers that he was going on the next pitch . . . "I'm going, I'm going, watch me, oh, yes, I'm going!" (and then in fact did)--all that spoke to his core mission of, as he said many times, "creating a mental hazard for my opponents." He preferred, if possible, to defeat you without touching you, to puncture hopes, not hides, and in that way score runs (like the four he scored in Philadelphia on July 12, 1911, without getting a single hit). "I don't know how many times I tagged Ty out at second base," said Roger Peckinpaugh, a shortstop for several AL clubs, "yet he never so much as spiked me. On his slide to second, he'd usually throw his feet out toward center field, and try to grab the base with his hand. I'll never forget the feeling, though--just knowing that guy was taking that big lead off first and  would be coming at me any second."
Baseball is a beautiful game, but slow and often boring. Imagine watching Ty Cobb make every time he was on base a thriller never knowing when he would go or how he would do it, but knowing that he was going to attempt and probably succeed at stealing one or more bases.

Jacoby Ellsbury gave a little taste of that tonight.

Friday, April 15, 2016

New York Sun Endorses Ted Cruz

UPDATE: William A. Jacobson of Le-gal In-sur-rect-ion endorses Cruz.
Even more was accomplished at the state and local level. We took back state houses, legislatures, attorney general offices, and through that, redistricting. This hard work over many years was the true legal insurrection, as one commenter recently noted.
I remember who stood with us and who didn’t. Ted Cruz ran for Senate on a Tea Party platform and stood with us.
Donald Trump was nowhere to be found. He was too busy buying political favors from the Democrats and establishment Republicans who stood against us.
New York Sun editorial:
In the Republican presidential primary in New York, the Sun urges a vote for Senator Ted Cruz. It hasn’t been our normal practice to endorse in the primaries, but this year the vote, set for Tuesday, will take on outsized importance as we career toward a contested convention. The junior senator from Texas has emerged from a crowded field by dint of his fidelity to principles — limited, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a strong foreign policy — that couldn’t be at higher premium. They are the true New York Values.
Our endorsement is not animated by hostility to either Donald Trump or Governor Kasich, both of whom are running well ahead of Mr. Cruz in the polls in New York. All three are better on key issues than either Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders. We like Mr. Trump’s willingness to re-think the United Nations. We’re not against better trade deals. We are against a retreat from NATO, and Mr. Trump has been too xenophobic in his use of language in respect of religion and the immigration issue. Mr. Cruz, a former solicitor general of the border state of Texas, has been more sage.
The first thing we are looking for, in any event, is a candidate who grasps, is committed to, and is excited by America’s constitutional principles. The Constitution ought to be a unifying instrument; it is, after all, the only thing that all of our legislators, officers, and judges — from the President to the county sheriffs — must be bound by oath to support. Our ideal candidate is someone who thinks in constitutional terms and who references and reveres the principles in our national parchment.
On this head, Senator Cruz laps the field. He has done a better job than any other Republican at building a constitutional approach. He has also done a better job on the economy, though we wish that all candidates in both parties would grasp that the bitterness over illegal immigration into America can be permanently addressed only by economic growth. It is not the abundance of labor that has stunted our progress but rather the dead hand of government upon our economy.
Mr. Cruz has put forth a more principled approach to taxes than another fine senator, Marco Rubio. Mr. Cruz’s flat tax is more strategic, more equitable, more pro-growth. Both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump would seek the cuts in corporate taxes that have exiled to foreign countries trillions of dollars in corporate reserves. But Mr. Cruz has been far ahead of any other candidate in marking what for us is an essential element restoring American growth and employment — monetary reform.
The Texan was the first to declare for sound money. He did this in the Republican debate in Colorado, when the question was put by Rick Santelli. Mr. Cruz declared that the Federal Reserve “should get out of the business of trying to juice our economy and simply be focused on sound money and monetary stability, ideally tied to gold.” Mr. Trump, too, has spoken, en passant, of the virtues of the gold standard. But Mr. Cruz has been actually pursuing monetary reform within the Senate.
Congress’s work on this is an under-reported story. The Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act, the most important monetary measure since the American retreat from sound money in the 1970s, passed the House in November, within days of Paul Ryan acceding to Speaker. It is now before the Senate, where Mr. Cruz was already a sponsor of a constituent part of the bill, Audit the Fed. If Congress does move to restore a sound dollar, history will show that Mr. Cruz was present at the creation.
On foreign policy, Mr. Cruz has been better than any Democrat — or Mr. Trump, who, in our view, is hobbled by his early opposition to the Iraq war. We’re well aware that, on this head, ours is a minority view, but there it is. The world is far better off today without the Baathist tyranny we toppled. The error was not President Bush’s in leading the democratic nations into Iraq but President Obama’s in withdrawing. It’s been more than 70 years since World War II and our GIs are still needed in its theaters.
In respect of the Middle East and the war being levied against us in the name of radical Islam, the first battle that needs to be won is that between the White House and the Congress. Both Messrs. Trump and Cruz would be highly effective on this front, but it is Mr. Cruz who more clearly grasps the constitutional nature of the affront by President Obama. This emerged in administration’s plunge into the appeasement of Iran while being opposed by majorities in both houses of Congress.
The American Founders rejected a king. Their republican vision was a democracy in which the business of government is conducted by elected delegates, who are accountable to the law, tempered by an independent judiciary. Millions of Americans sense that the Democrats have become unmoored from the constitutional principles. Mrs. Clinton would re-write the First Amendment; New York, in 1788, ratified the Constitution only on the caveat that a Bill of Rights would be included. Those are the true New York values, and Mr. Cruz has been the most faithful to them in the current campaign.

Trump Reverse Midas Touch - part 2

Oh boy. Trump surrogates not doing so well. The Reverse Midas Touch, where everything Trump touches degrades, is in full force.

Besides looking like a hostage at Trump events, Governor Chris Christie is now so weak politically that he appoints a Democrat to the New Jersey Supreme Court to avoid fighting with New Jersey Senate Democrats.
The short version: Embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie withdrew his stalled-since-2012 nomination of Republican David F. Bauman to the NJ Supreme Court, and instead submitted Democrat Walter F. Timpone’s name. Senate Democrats have graciously indicated that they will accept this nomination, so that’s that, huh? More telling is this bit from the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Christie signaled Monday that he had wearied of the battle with Senate Democrats. If Mr. Timpone is confirmed, “it will be a relief for me,” the governor said.” So much for fighting things out if it takes all summer.
Governor Sarah Palin has had problems giving lucid speeches. And her PAC, Sarah PAC, just reported its 1st quarter, 2016, receipts. Not good news.

Palin's PAC just saw a 40% drop in receipts/contributions from her 4th quarter 2015 average, going from an average of $228,730 for each of her final two 2015 quarters to $135,038 from January through March, 2016. The biggest drop has been in itemized contributions (usually larger than $205 per contribution)--a 68% drop. Smaller "unitemized" contributions have seen a 27% drop compared to 3rd and 4th quarters of 2015.* This indicates that a lot of Palin's previous hardcore supporters (including me) are appalled by her support of Donald Trump. Even worse, it appears that few if any Trump supporters are prospective Palin supporters. Even with Trump not actively campaigning for funds, Palin has not gained from that Trump support pool.

Then we have poor Dr. Ben Carson who seems bound and determined to become the Joe Biden of the Republican Party. Carson's latest gaffe shows a deep lack of understanding of the checks and balances** in the Constitution not only in branches of government but between majorities and minorities. Dr. Carson wants to get rid of the electoral college (and who knows what other parts of the Constitution). One doubts that Carson has ever read The Federalist Papers, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, or even a good history of the issues surrounding the creation and adoption of the Constitution.

*Off election year reports, like 2015, are done semiannually rather than quarterly.

**"By allocating electors on the basis of a state’s cumulative representation in the House and Senate, the Electoral College system avoids purely population-based representation but still gives larger states greater electoral weight. Furthermore, the arrangement prevents candidates from winning an election by focusing solely on high-population urban centers and forces them to seek the support of a larger cross section of the American electorate. This aspect of the U.S. election system addresses the Founders’ fears of a “tyranny of the majority,” a topic frequently discussed in the Federalist Papers. In the eyes of the Founders, this tyranny was as dangerous as the risks posed by despots like King George and had the potential to marginalize sizeable portions of the population, particularly in rural and more remote areas of the country." (The Right Scoop quoting The Heritage Foundation)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Highly Religious Americans Happier than Others, Give More to the Poor

Pew Research Center has a new study out comparing Americans who attend religious services weekly and pray daily (30%) with other Americans (70%).

Turns out the areas where there are significant differences come in being happier (near 40% more likely), having closer family relationships (near 55% more likely), and giving more to help the poor (near 60% more likely).
On average, Americans who say they attend religious services weekly and pray daily also report being happier than those who are less religiously committed. Four-in-ten highly religious adults say they are generally “very happy,” compared with 29% of those who are less religious. Those who are not highly religious are somewhat more likely than the most devout to say they are “pretty happy” (54% vs. 46%) or “not too happy” (14% vs. 12%).
Highly religious Americans see their extended families more often. Nearly half (47%) say they do this at least once or twice a month, while only 30% of less religious adults get together with extended family as often. Americans who are not highly religious are twice as likely as those who are highly religious to say they seldom or never attend gatherings with extended family (31% vs. 16%).
Volunteerism and donations to the poor are especially common practices for those who are highly religious. Among people who pray daily and attend services weekly, 45% also say they volunteered in the past week (including 23% who did so mainly through a church or other religious organization). Just 28% of Americans who are not highly religious say they volunteered in the past seven days. The gap is even bigger when it comes to helping the poor: 65% of the highly religious say they donated money, time or goods to help the poor in the past week, compared with 41% of all other U.S. adults.
It kind of follows that those who have closer extended family relationships would be happier. The interesting thing is how many people of faith have given to the poor in the last week. People of faith are pretty activist.

There is apparently not much difference between "highly religious" folks and others regarding anger, "white lies", living healthy and environmental consciousness.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Down Side of Driver-less Cars

The television ads of cars braking on their own to avoid an accident or parking themselves are attractive, right? But the completed future of that promise may be a nightmare of you in a crowded minivan or paying high insurance rates to be able to drive a car yourself.

From Market Urbanism:
For those of you who expect to be sitting in your own personal car being whisked around in effortless comfort and privacy as you commute to distant suburban locations…Not quite. The true promise of autonomous vehicles isn’t about you. It’s about the larger institutions that are relentlessly squeezing costs out of the system and optimizing expensive existing infrastructure. Aging highways will be maintained by charging for their use on a mile-by-mile pay-per-view basis. Traffic congestion will be solved by having more people ride in fewer vehicles. The rich will have stylish robotic SUV chauffeurs. Everyone else will be climbing inside a fully loaded eight or twelve passenger minivan bound for the office park. And in the future you will choose this voluntarily based on price.
Here’s something else to consider. Insurance companies will become more and more influential players in the culture and economy. A few insurers are already offering customers a discount for having their cars chipped and monitored. Sooner rather than later auto coverage will be based on how well and how often a human drives. In the not-too-distant future the chips and monitoring may not be entirely negotiable unless you’re willing to pay a great deal extra for the privilege of opting out. You may think you’re a good driver, but you may quickly and expensively be informed otherwise by the authorities. That’s going to pull a lot of people off the road, especially when the gooey details of your swerving and speeding are cross referenced with local law enforcement. But the cops won’t necessarily be in squad cars. They’ll be the cars themselves. That’s coming too. And sooner than you think. Brace yourself.
(emphasis added)

Friday, April 01, 2016

Trump Reverse Midas Touch on Sarah Palin

Update: Sarah Palin has passion and expression when she speaks, but she is not so good at explaining issues that have some complexity. The Benghazi statement near the end gets applause, but her other points are not delineated clearly enough. Think of "Drill, baby, drill!" Clear, concise, easy to understand.

Palin is also good at concise joke commentary.
He’s got Al-Qaeda on the run. Yeah. Perhaps, towards us.
. . .
Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.
. . .
Nah, I’m sorry, but really I’m probably being too hard on the President. After all, who could have seen this coming? 
Palin does much better when attacking liberals and Democrats who her audience is also against than attacking conservatives and Republicans some of whom her audience supports.

People at this Wisconsin meeting were not against Palin. This is shown by the ovation she got at the end of the speech. But, it's clear that most of the people were not pro-Trump, and Governor Palin did not do a good job of telling them why they should be for him. She used talking points and unclear jabs at Cruz (and Kasich?) rather than explaining how Trump's positions are much better than those of his opponents. She tried, but didn't really engage the crowd and so was unable to close the deal.

Further, Palin should have clearly owned the jabs (Ted Cruz handing out soccer balls and teddy bears) instead of using fuzzy attacks. Though that would have been somewhat embarrassing regarding Cruz since her political action committee, Sarah PAC, recently was fund raising bragging about Palin helping get Cruz elected and wanting to elect more like him. "[I]t is up to us to elect new conservatives in 2016 like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul." (!?!)

Then there were the non sequiturs like:

"Be civil. Then vote. And I say vote for Donald J. Trump." (21:15-20) Saying "be civil" after all the incivilities that come spewing out from Donald Trump?

Sarah Palin seems to be a victim of the Trump reverse Midas touch which turns everything he contacts into second rate goods or garbage.

H/T Byron York:
The audience sat on its hands when Palin spoke. Taking in the scene, it was hard to remember how popular she was with Republicans eight years ago, when she was the GOP vice presidential candidate, and even four years, when some thought she might run herself. On Thursday, Palin stuck mostly to a script touting Trump's positions on trade, illegal immigration, and military strength. The room was extraordinarily quiet.