Links 11/30/15

Links for you. Science:

Stop Emissions! A climate scientist argues that it should no longer be acceptable to dump carbon dioxide in the sky.
Meet The Woman Who Made The Military Care About Climate
Good bye to a hut and to all that
Absurd Creature of the Week: Silly Caterpillar, You Shouldn’t Be Devouring Snails Alive
Hawaii reports more dengue (it’s becoming endemic to Hawaii, which could be a catastrophe for the tourism industry)


Donald Trump May Not Be a Fascist, But He is Leading Us Merrily Down That Path (excellent)
A Wealthy Governor and His Friends Are Remaking Illinois: Unprecedented political spending helped elect Bruce Rauner, a fresh-faced financier. But his ideological vision has unsettled many in the state. (must-read)
Clinton’s Bad Caregiving Tax Credit
The last days of the New York mob
Abortion rights groups: Political rhetoric contributed to shooting
Ted Cruz Describes Alleged Planned Parenthood Shooter As ‘Transgendered Leftist Activist’
Why Donald Trump may look like a savior (to use an old school blogging phrase, we are a nation of whiny-ass titty babies)
16th-Century Gothic Chapel Turned Into Starry Night Sky
It’s Never About the Bad Apples
Punk Portraits of New York
Focus Shifts To Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos After Suspect’s “Baby Parts” Claims
White terrorist bingo
FBI searching for armed anti-Muslim protester after Facebook threat to Muslim community in New York
Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others
Abortion Clinics Are Burning, But No One Seems to Care

Posted in Lotsa Links | 2 Comments

Perspective on Our Times

It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t political junkies, but this is shocking:

Norman Ornstein is not a liberal or a progressive–he is a member of the conservative think tank AEI (though definitely the more liberal part of that group). For a very long time, he was a Very Serious Person with impeccable center-right credentials, until he co-authored It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (in which he and Thomas Mann pointed out that the Republican Party has gone nuts).

As I noted yesterday (though since then Ted Cruz has responded by treating the attack as if it were a weather disaster):

Both sides do not do it: I don’t remember a mentally-ill feminist angered by a lack of intersectionality shooting up a crisis pregnancy center.

Posted in Blastocyst Liberation, Conservatives | Leave a comment

New IRB Regulations Could Be Really Stupid

And they will make microbiological research much harder.

For those who don’t know what an IRB is (a perfectly reasonable state of affairs), it stands for Institutional Review Board, and it is the entity (actually, entities plural–most universities and large research groups have them) that approves human subjects research (in English, doing stuff to people). Basically, when it comes to research, all of Gaul human subjects research can be divided into three parts:

  1.  IRB approval required.  The IRB must determine that the research doesn’t violate human subjects research standards, including issues of privacy.
  2. Human subjects exempt.  Here, the IRB states that the research doesn’t require an examination by the IRB.  That is, an examination of the study design provided by the researcher indicates no human subjects research issues could arise.
  3. IRB approval not required.

For a lot of micriobiological research, especially population genetics and basic epidemiology, a lot of research is human subjects exempt as it uses ‘laboratory bycatch.’ This includes getting all blood or urine samples of a particular organism from a hospital or all drug-resistant bacterial isolates. We often don’t care–and don’t really want to know–who had what infection. In other words, there is no identifying information about the patient, so researchers can easily acquire the isolates.

Well, there are proposed changes to the Common Rule which governs human subjects research, and, as best as I can tell, they would essentially eliminate the ability to gather this microbiological bycatch (p. 53965; boldface mine):

A majority of commenters opposed the suggestion that there be consent requirements for the research use of non-identifiable biospecimens collected for purposes other than the current research study…

Commenters to the 2011 ANPRM were mostly concerned with the cost and burden that would be imposed by the requirement to obtain consent for future research use of all biospecimens, regardless of identifiability.

Commenters anticipated these costs to include obtaining consent from participants and the administrative efforts required to keep track of the consent status of biospecimens. Most commenters did not provide detailed cost estimates with their comments; data are specifically requested in response to this NPRM. In addition, estimates of the type and number of studies that could not be pursued using existing samples and data because of the absence of sufficient consent are requested. Comment is also sought on the value to the public and research participants of being asked their permission for research use of their data and biospecimens.

While consideration was given to the opposition expressed by ANPRM commenters of a consent requirement for secondary research use of non- identified biospecimens, the NPRM proposes to require that consent be obtained for the research use of non- identified biospecimens, but to allow for that consent to be broad. Thus, while consent would be required for the research use of non-identified biospecimens, one would not have to obtain study-specific consent for the research use of those biospecimens, drastically reducing the burden imposed by this new requirement.

As best as I can determine, this means that microbiological bycatch would be dead: all microbiological lab samples would have to receive written consent from patients even if there were no way for a researcher to trace back the samples to the patient. Likewise, any researcher who wanted to collect simple antibiotic resistance information apart from patients (what drugs are bacteria resistant to?) would also appear to be limited by this requirement.

This is what happens when one writes ‘one size fits all’ regulations. This is a ‘human-centric’ document, as the words “viral” and “bacterial” are only mentioned to describe sample types (i.e., there’s no discussion of potential implications), while microbiological doesn’t appear at all. I realize people’s legitimate concerns about their genomes and other related materials being misused. But, in case you haven’t noticed, we are facing some very serious infectious disease crises, and making it harder for microbiologists to do their work isn’t helping.

These proposed changes also need to be discussed in the content of microbiological research. We don’t want to damage our ability to conduct research related to pathogens or antibiotic resistant microbes.

Aside: Government surveillance efforts are not regulated by the Common Rule.

Posted in Fucking Morons, Microbiology | 1 Comment

Links 11/29/15

Links for you. Science:

Let’s Give Thanks and Hope We Haven’t Lost the War Against Superbugs
My new white coat is a cool black vest
Prospective whole genome sequencing enhances national surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes
What if “positive” results had to be described like “null” results?


Native Intelligence: The Indians who first feasted with the English colonists were far more sophisticated than you were taught in school. But that wasn’t enough to save them
The Silver Lining of Thanksgiving Past
They Thought They Were Free
Surprise! “Pharma-bro” Martin Shkreli reneges on promise to return jacked-up $750 per pill price on Daraprim to original $13.50 level
‘What Is Holding Back the Economy?’
How Washington created some of the worst schools in America
White supremacists shoot five Black Lives Matter protestors at sit-in in Minneapolis
“I often had to skip meals”: Senate Dining Room Workers Want a Union, Say They’re Living in Poverty
Walmart’s spying on worker activists involved the FBI and a defense contractor
Cuomo, in Shift, Is Said to Back Reducing Test Scores’ Role in Teacher Reviews
U.S. lawmakers got suspect Turkish campaign cash
We Found Where Donald Trump’s “Black Crimes” Graphic Came From
How the American middle class lost its taste for mindless consumerism (no it didn’t, it just doesn’t have any fucking money to spend)
Trump draws scornful rebuke for mocking reporter with disability (first they came for the marginalized, and the journalists said nothing…)
The Ecstasy of Donald Trump
The Rubble-Strewn Road to Damascus

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Observed at the National Gallery, D.C.:


Posted in Museums etc. | Leave a comment

Yes, High Health Insurance Deductibles Are Still A Problem

When the PPACA (‘Obamacare’) was being debated, I noted six years ago that the high deductibles made healthcare no more affordable (in fact, I noted this about Romneycare in 2008). This was not only predictable, but predicted. Which brings us to two items. First, a NY Times report on higher deductibles (boldface mine):

Obama administration officials, urging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, have trumpeted the low premiums available on the law’s new marketplaces.

But for many consumers, the sticker shock is coming not on the front end, when they purchase the plans, but on the back end when they get sick: sky-high deductibles that are leaving some newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage.

“The deductible, $3,000 a year, makes it impossible to actually go to the doctor,” said David R. Reines, 60, of Jefferson Township, N.J., a former hardware salesman with chronic knee pain. “We have insurance, but can’t afford to use it.”

In many states, more than half the plans offered for sale through, the federal online marketplace, have a deductible of $3,000 or more, a New York Times review has found. Those deductibles are causing concern among Democrats — and some Republican detractors of the health law, who once pushed high-deductible health plans in the belief that consumers would be more cost-conscious if they had more of a financial stake or skin in the game.

“We could not afford the deductible,” said Kevin Fanning, 59, who lives in North Texas, near Wichita Falls. “Basically I was paying for insurance I could not afford to use.”

He dropped his policy.

As the health care law enters its third annual open enrollment period, premiums and subsidies have been one of the administration’s main selling points…

But in interviews, a number of consumers made it clear that premiums were only one side of the affordability equation.

“Our deductible is so high, we practically pay for all of our medical expenses out of pocket,” said Wendy Kaplan, 50, of Evanston, Ill. “So our policy is really there for emergencies only, and basic wellness appointments.”

Her family of four pays premiums of $1,200 a month for coverage with an annual deductible of $12,700.

Kevin Drum argues this is consumers’ (that is to say, citizens’) fault:

As Sprung tirelessly points out, CSR is only available with silver plans. This makes the bottom line simple: Low-income families trying to buy serious health insurance on an exchange should always buy silver. Bronze is basically catastrophic insurance for 20-something kids who are certain they’ll never use it. Silver is modestly more expensive, but the benefits are worth it, even if you have to scrimp to afford it.

So, like Drum, I went to and played with some numbers. But, unlike Drum, I used older parents (not thirty years old) who earned more ($60,000/yr), and what I found over and over again, is that the estimated total costs for the bronze and silver plans weren’t that different. Given that many people don’t have a lot of money on hand, in that case, rolling the dice and taking a chance is a reasonable decision–after all, the bronze plans do offer a lower mandatory payment. Maybe somehow things will work out. Of course, if things come up snake eyes, you’re screwed.

It’s also worth noting that for Richmond, VA, my hypothetical family of four wound up paying over twenty percent of their income in total estimated healthcare costs. That’s not affordable–and it was obvious years ago, but some pundits, who should have been smarter, were seduced by Obamacare promoters’ professional credentials (John [cough] Gruber).

Yes, Obamacare has been critical for people who were being locked out of the healthcare system due to pre-existing conditions. But for a lot of people, it really hasn’t made healthcare more affordable–or affordable at all.

It’s a complete mystery as to why many people don’t like Obamacare. Maybe people have to like this crap?

Posted in Healthcare | 5 Comments

Links 11/28/15

Links for you. Science:

Crows Are Smart, But Are They Smart Enough to Fall in Love?
Experts weigh in on consumption of genetically modified salmon
More money pledged for NIH but questions remain
The death of medicinal chemistry?
Why are young people discarding creationism?


Before Trigger Warnings
‘Ne Vous Laissez Pas Manipuler’ AKA #StayWoke
Hillary Clinton Endorsement Embarrassing for SEIU
Why Does Ta-Nehisi Coates Say Less Than He Knows?
Hillary Clinton Endorsement Embarrassing for SEIU
How Prison Reform Could Turn the Prison-Industrial Complex Into the Treatment-Industrial Complex
The Grisly, Goofy Starship Troopers Played Dumb To Make Hollywood Look Even Dumber
We Met Syria’s War Refugees: 7 Awful Things They Told Us
Family Leave
Turkey’s Shootdown of Russian Jet: What You Need to Know
Why Do So Many Ex-Cons End Up Back in Prison? Maybe they don’t—a provocative new study says recidivism rates are drastically lower than we think (there’s no maybe about it; most don’t)
The danger of ignoring religious bigotry
How an ugly, brutally effective warplane won the battle for its future
How the lack of water led to violence from Mexico to Syria
Paris is being used to justify agendas that had nothing to do with the attack
ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape
7 Things I Learned Reading Every Issue Of ISIS’s Magazine

Posted in Lotsa Links | 1 Comment