Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Obamacare Architect Says "Liberals" are Stupid

You may have heard, or read, by now about the controversy surrounding Obamacare (and Romneycare) architect Jonathan Gruber.  If not, here's a pretty good summary in video form.

If you follow the video link to YouTube, you can watch much longer versions of his remarks in context, which makes them even worse.

Most of the controversy surrounds Gruber's insults directed at American voters.  He called American voters stupid and economically illiterate, and accuses Americans of not caring about the uninsured.  His solution, then (in his own words) was to "[exploit] the lack of economic understanding of the American voter", and to use the "tortured way" in which the bill was written, and the bill's "lack of transparency" to trick American voters into accepting a law they would have otherwise rejected.

Gruber's statements shouldn't be controversial.  Gruber is right.  Sort of.  If you actually believed that "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor", and "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan", and that Obamacare would cover the supposed 40 million uninsured Americans, and that Obamacare would cover preexisting illnesses, all while "bend[ing] the cost curve down" and not "add[ing] a dime to the national deficit", then you sir/ma'am really are naive, gullible, economically illiterate - and yes - stupid.

In other words, Gruber is saying that "Liberals" are stupid, because "Liberals" swallowed every lie that Gruber - and more importantly, every Democrat politician - sold them, hook, line and sinker.

Ladies and gentlemen: Gruber is referring to you.

Conservatives and Libertarians have been warning the country about all of Gruber's and the Democrats' lies since 2009.  Conservatives and Libertarians aren't Gruber's "stupid", economically illiterate, stingy voters.  "Liberals" are.

Possibly the most important part of this whole controversy is that Gruber unintentionally gave the whole world a glimpse into how Leftists think.

Leftists believe ordinary people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves, and too stingy to care for the needy through voluntary charity.  Leftists therefore believe that ordinary people need Leftist elites - like Gruber and all the Democrats who forced this monstrosity on the rest of us - to make decisions for ordinary folk and force them to care for the needy at gun point, through taxation.

The fact that charity provides politicians with no opportunity for graft, and taxation offers myriads of opportunities for graft, never enters the Leftist elites' minds, of course.  It's all for the children, you see.

So, thank you, Jonathan Gruber, for being honest.  Even if you never meant to be. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Best Defense Against Three Bad Guys With Guns...

Is a good guy with a gun.  Even if he's 67 years old.  
According to witnesses, a man, his wife, and his 19-year-old granddaughter were home on Yedda Road in Lumberton when a black male knocked on their door and asked for water for his mechanical problems with his car. 
Two other people entered the home wearing black clothing, ski masks and gloves asking for money. All three suspects also had handguns, according to the release. 
The release states that the man and his wife were forced into the back of the house and advised to open the safe while the suspects attempted to rape the 19-year-old granddaughter. 
The man was then able to retrieve a weapon and several shots were fired between the man and the suspects in the house. The man was struck multiple times by gunshots and the suspects then fled the scene in his vehicle. 
Brandon Stephens (L), Jamar Hawkins (C) and Jamie Lee Faison (R): Source

The man was transported to Southeastern Regional Medical Center and later airlifted to another medical facility where he remains in serious condition, according to the release.
Officers later received a call from the McLeod Hospital in Dillon and discovered that Stephens and Hawkins had been shot. Both were airlifted to another medical facility for emergency surgery. 
Jamie Lee Faison, 20, was later found in the man's stolen vehicle deceased, where he had been shot, according to the release. 
During their first court appearances Friday, Stephens and Hawkins were each charged with first-degree burglary, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, possession of a firearm by a felon, first-degree sexual offense, kidnapping, and two counts each of robbery with a firearm and felony conspiracy. Bond for each suspect was set at $1 million secured. 
Stephens, Hawkins, and Faison are possible persons of interest in other home invasions, according to the release.
Another story from the Robesonian states that the grandfather is 67-year-old Kenneth Byrd.  Mr Byrd is still in serious condition after surgery, but is expected to recover.  "Recover", in this case, is a relative term.  I know several men who were shot in combat.  None of them ever fully recovered their health, and they were all young men when they were shot.

Mr Byrd is a hero.  He successfully defended his wife and granddaughter at the cost of his health, if not his life.  And, as the Robesonian points out, he was able to do so because he was armed.
We would never advise folks on how to protect themselves, but we think it’s fair to say that Kenneth Byrd and his loved ones are alive today because he had a weapon in the home and knew how to use it.
Thieves typically break into empty houses because doing so minimizes their probability of getting caught.  A criminal who invades a house he knows is occupied probably wants more than money.  A group of criminals who force their way into a house they know is occupied, beat up an elderly woman and attempt to rape a teenage girl probably want to eliminate witnesses, and that means murder.

Mr Byrd was able to prevent that because he was armed.  Suppose that, by some miracle, the confiscation crowd could make every gun on earth disappear and prevent anyone from making any more guns.  Imagine if the three criminals that invaded Mr Byrd's house had done so wielding knives and/or clubs, and Mr Byrd had no gun with which to defend his family.  How would a 67-year-old man defend his family against three much younger, stronger attackers?

He couldn't.  It's that simple.  Guns make it possible for the older, weaker and less numerous to defend themselves from the younger, stronger and more numerous, even when the attackers themselves have guns.

The Best Defense Against a Bad Guy With a Gun...

Is a good guy with a gun.  Even in Canada
By all accounts, the white-haired grandfather, a decorated veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, kept cool amid the chaos as dozens of bullets flew in the corridors, went to his office, retrieved his weapon and with a firm hand and a steely eye shot a killer before he could kill again. Vickers, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall, then walked away, gun-in hand, having “taken care of business,” as one news outlet put it. 
And then he called his mother to say he was safe.
The National has a pretty good breakdown of the shootout.

This is the man himself.

Doesn't quite look like the stereotypical Hollywood hero, does he?  That's okay.  Most heroes don't.  Anyway, this is my favorite online tribute to Mr Vickers.

Hell yeah!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Vegetarians & Vegans Have Lower Sperm Counts

I'm sure you're as shocked at this confirmation of stereotypes as I am.
Researchers at Loma Linda University Medical School, in southern California, embarked on a four-year project to find out how diets affect sperm.
Vegetarians and vegans had significantly lower sperm counts compared with meat eaters, 50 million sperm per ml compared with 70 million per ml. 
They also had lower average sperm motility – the number of sperm which are active. Only one third of sperm were active for vegetarians and vegans compared with nearly 60 per cent for meat eaters. 
Those are significant differences.  The average vegetarian in this study produced 16.7 million viable sperm per ml, compared to 42.0 million for the meat eaters.  That means the vegetarians produced about 60% less viable sperm per ml when compared to the meat eaters.

Even if a man isn't interested in procreating, sperm counts and sperm motility are indicators of a man's overall health, especially his testosterone levels.  Why might vegetarians and vegans produce less viable sperm than their meat eating peers?
One factor could be diets rich in soy, the researchers hypothesis [sic.]. Soy contains phyto-oestrogens which have similar properties to the female hormone oestrogen. 
“The theory that we have come up with is that vegetarians are replacing meat with soy, which contains phytooestrogens and could be affecting fertility,” added Dr Orzylowska. 
“For children who have grown up with those kind of diets, it may have impacted on sperm quality from puberty. 
That seems like a terrible thing to do to a growing boy.  The researchers propose another possible reason.
The researchers also think that vegetarians and vegans may be deficient in vitamin b12. 
The article also references another possible reason from a separate Harvard study.
“We found men who had the highest intakes of fruit and vegetables high in pesticide residues tended to have lower sperm quality, specifically lower total normal count and mobile count” said Dr Chavarro.
My unscientific observation indicates that vegetarians and vegans tend to buy into the "organic" food (as opposed to inorganic food?) hype.  That might actually reduce the amount of pesticide residue they ingest, which would make the pesticide hypothesis invalid.

Every time I read about one of these studies comparing vegetarians to the general population, I wonder how they would compare to the strength training, paleo or primal eating segment of the population.  My unscientific observation also indicates that vegetarians and vegans tend to live healthier lifestyles than the overweight, sedentary majority of the population.  It seems more useful to compare them to other health-conscious people, rather than to people who place little to no emphasis on health and fitness.  I suspect that the differences referenced in the article would be even greater if the study compared vegans and vegetarians to paleo or primal men.

Humans are omnivores.  We're designed to eat a wide variety of foods from both vegetable and animal sources.  One can certainly live on a diet that deprives the body of one or the other, but it's far from optimum.

Meanwhile, back on the subject of stereotypes...


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ebola Precipitates the Zombie Apocalypse

It's as predictable as a Hollywood blockbuster.  Ebola reportedly created the first two recorded zombies.
Two Ebola patients, who died of the virus in separate communities in Nimba County have reportedly resurrected in the county. The victims, both females, believed to be in their 60s and 40s respectively, died of the Ebola virus recently in Hope Village Community and the Catholic Community in Ganta, Nimba. 
But to the amazement of residents and onlookers on Monday, the deceased reportedly regained life in total disbelief. The New Dawn Nimba County correspondent said the late Dorris Quoi of Hope Village Community and the second victim only identified as Ma Kebeh, said to be in her late 60s, were about to be taken for burial when they resurrected. 
I hope you have your supplies of water, food, first aid stuff, guns, ammo and melee weapons ready, because all your World War Z (the book, not the movie) fantasies are about to come true.

Coincidentally (or not), the latest season of The Walking Dead starts on 12 October.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Motorcycle USA Dynoes 2015 Indian Scout

I'm pretty excited about the 2015 Indian Scout.  The bike is strong evidence that Polaris has this latest incarnation of the Indian Motorcycle company dialed in, which is great considering Indian's prominence in American motorcycle history.

More importantly (to me), the Scout's engine appears to be a harbinger of even more exciting things to come.  I really think the Scout may usher in a new era of large-scale diversification in American-made bikes.  For years I've found it sad that Harley Davidson refuses to compete with the rest of the world in any segment outside cruisers.  And I was disappointed when Polaris decided to do the same thing with Victory.

Please understand, I love the fact that small manufacturers like Erik Buell Racing (EBR) and Motus are making the bikes Harley and Victory don't have the guts to make.  But small manufacturers lack the economies of scale that make great products affordable for us ordinary folk.  I just can't afford a Motus or an EBR for now.

Now that Polaris has Indian to take the traditional cruiser fight to Harley, however, Victory is free to branch out into non-cruiser bikes.  And the Scout's 1130 cc, narrow angle V-twin is the power plant that can finally make it happen.

Check out this dynamometer graph from Motorcycle USA.

Tue, 85 hp isn't all that impressive for an 1130 cc, dual overhead cam, four valve per cylinder V-twin.  Keep in mind that these numbers are taken at the wheel (after losses to friction through the drive train), and that the engine is in a relatively mild state of tune, as befitting a cruiser.

That torque curve, though, is beautiful.  From about 2,600 rpm to almost 8,000 rpm, torque remains fairly constant.  That is a very flexible engine.  There seems to be a lot of room for Polaris/Victory to adapt this engine to many different uses - from a cafe racer, to an adventure touring bike, to (dare I say it?) a 1200 cc, V-twin super bike.

Imagine a major American motorcycle manufacturer with an honest-to-goodness full line of street bikes that an ordinary Joe can afford.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Hand Grip Strength and Longevity

I wrote earlier that the Muscle Mass Index predicts longevity far more effectively than the far more commonly used Body Mass Index (BMI).  A couple days ago, the NYT published an interview in which Warren Sanderson, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Stony Brook University, explains that hand grip strength predicts longevity.
Hand-grip strength is an amazingly good predictor of future rates of mortality and morbidity, or sickness. It’s been measured for individuals in surveys across the world. We now have comparable data on about 50,000 people from the U.S., many European countries, Japan, South Korea, China. A substantial body of research suggests that this can be used as a reliable predictor of aging.
Here is the abstract from the study referenced in the NYT article.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: One use of clinical measures is the prediction of future outcomes. The purpose of this systematic review was to summarize the literature addressing the value of grip strength as a predictor of important outcomes. 
METHODS: Relevant literature was located using 4 bibliographic databases, searching article reference lists, and perusing personal files. 
RESULTS: Forty-five relevant research articles were found. The research involved both healthy subjects and patients; it tended to focus on middle-aged and older adults. The primary outcome addressed was mortality/survival (24 articles), but disability (9 articles), complications and/or increased length of stay (12 articles), and other outcomes were also examined. Low grip strength was shown consistently to be associated with a greater likelihood of premature mortality, the development of disability, and an increased risk of complications or prolonged length of stay after hospitalization or surgery. 
CONCLUSIONS: Given its predictive validity and simplicity, dynamometrically measured grip strength should be considered as a vital sign useful for screening middle-aged and older adults. 
It's frustrating that Prof Sanderson doesn't even bother to ask what seems to me an obvious question: why does hand grip strength predict longevity and morbidity so well?

Aren't researchers supposed to ask questions like that?  Isn't that a big part of research in any field?  And while we're at it; aren't such "why" questions a big part of journalism?  The interviewer didn't bother to ask the obvious question either!
635 lb deadlift at the 2014 CrossFit Games

Not that anyone asked me (when have I ever let that stop me?), but I think I know the answer, and it goes back to the Muscle Mass Index.

As a general rule, a person who is stronger overall will have more hand grip strength than a person who is weaker overall.

For example, a person with a 500 lb deadlift 1-rep-max has a far stronger grip than a person with a 200 lb deadlift 1-rep-max, because the deadlift requires the lifter to grip the bar to lift it off the ground.  But the 500 lb deadlifter's entire body is also stronger than that of the 200 lb deadlifter, because the deadlift employs pretty much every muscle in the body.  Consequently, the 500 lb deadlifter has greater muscle mass than the 200 lb deadlifter.

That's why hand grip strength predicts health and longevity.  It's not because fit, healthy people's hands are stronger than frail, sickly people's hands, it's because fit, healthy people's entire bodies are stronger than frail, sickly people's bodies.

Prof Sanderson, however, doesn't bother to ask the question, so he never arrives at the answer.  Instead, he makes the following silly - and potentially dangerous - statement.
Measuring hand-grip strength is very simple and cheap. We think every primary care doctor should have a dynamometer in their office. At every visit, the doctor could check grip strength for older patients. If someone was in the 45th percentile for their age and the measurements were stable, great. But if that person suddenly dropped to the 25th percentile, then that’s a sign that the doctor should look seriously at what might be going on. 
We view this in a larger context. There are going to be more measures than this one. We want to look next at measures of lower-body strength. It may very well be a measure that looks at how long it takes someone to rise from a chair. Then, we will have an upper-body measure and a lower-body measure, and we can compare the two in terms of how aging goes. We envision one day that physicians will have standard age-related tables for these measures and chart their patients’ progress, just as they do with height and weight for children.
It's silly because there is no need to measure upper and lower body strength separately.  A full-body lift, like the deadlift, measures the strength of the entire body simultaneously.

It's dangerous, because if doctors really did follow Prof Sanderson's recommendation and started testing their aging patients' grip strength, they'd also require their patients to do dumb things like squeezing hand grip strengthening devices to improve their health and longevity.  Again, the point is not that stronger hands = longer life.  The point is that stronger body = longer life, and it just so happens that stronger body also = stronger hands.

A far better test would be the deadlift, because it actually measures what matters - the overall strength of the entire body.  An even better measuring tool would be the squat, because it requires more mobility and flexibility than the deadlift.  A person that can continue to squat to depth well into old age will likely be far more independent, and therefore have far better quality of life, than one who can't.

Ideally, the test would be the CrossFit total - squat, press and deadlift.  However, that much testing is probably not necessary.  The squat or deadlift alone would do.  And if doctors adopted that kind of test, it would encourage a lot more people to train for full-body strength, which is the most useful thing a person can do to improve health and fitness in the long run.

Some will protest that the elderly can't lift weights.  It's too dangerous for them, they'll claim.  To these critics I say, watch this 73-year-old grandmother with a deadlift PR of 181.5 lb.

You can bet Ms Sandra would crush the hand grip strength test.