Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Are Some Countries Good and Some Bad at the Olympics?

No matter how much this is denied, most people probably link Olympic success with some sort of national, moral superiority. Medals equal national pride. Well, this is precisely the idea  which I will NOT touch with a ten-foot poll in the present article. What I DO want to do is offer some OTHER explanations, or at least correlates, of Olympic success and failure. This is pop sociology, speculation meant to draw your interest.

This year, once again, the usual countries dominated the medal count. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has usually been dominant, with China rising as somewhat of a competitor in recent years. During the Cold War, the Soviets and their vassals (particularly East Germany) were in the forefront of the medal count, thanks to massive cheating.

At first, a country’s most obvious advantage seems to be a large population: The top eight countries in the overall medal count - the US, the UK, China, Russia, Germany, France, Japan and Italy - are all among the world’s twenty most populous nations. However, such rankings are unfair, as they do not take population size into account. Is China, with nearly a billion and a half people, not entitled to more medals than Grenada, with a population of 100,000? (There are fourteen thousand times as many Chinese as Grenadians!).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Aetna Leaves Obamacare: A Public Option is the Answer

Aetna, one of the major insurance companies in the country, is pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges in 11 of the 15 states where it currently offers plans.

The reason the company gives, is that it is losing money selling insurance to individuals who are in need of more care than was anticipated. But some experts (including economist Paul Krugman) say that it is vindictiveness after antitrust authorities turned down a proposed merger between Aetna and Humana.

Now, why they are losing money is confusing. They say that there are not enough healthy people to financially offset those with major health problems who require high-cost care.

So, what happened to the ‘Individual Mandate’? Isn’t there a requirement that everybody gets health insurance or pay up to $2000 in penalty? (in 2017). Does it not get enforced? Are there too many exemptions? Wasn’t the whole point of the ACA to make health insurance cheaper and available to more Americans?

Whatever the reason, that means that over 800,000 people on the exchanges will have to look for alternatives and in some areas of the country, there isn’t much to choose from. You wonder how that can possibly be legal, that health insurance companies are allowed to stop providing coverage in the name of profit. Read more...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mirror, mirror on the Wall, who is the Biggest Liar of them All?


 Trump and his supporters (Giuliani, Hannity, Christie, campaign manager Paul Manafort, campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson, etc.) Do two things: (1) They lie, and (2) They don’t know what they are talking about.

The lies are blatant and repeated over and over until some people, and eventually most people, will start to believe them. We now need to check every fact and statement uttered by the candidates and although Hillary Clinton has acquired the adjective “crooked,” it is Trump who lies the most by far. See Politifact’s Lying Scoreboard. 

Here is but a fraction of the lies that the Trump has disseminated about Hillary:

1. In early August, Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton had a plan to raise the middle class’ taxes. His ads spliced and doctored a speech in which Hillary Clinton announced exactly the OPPOSITE, namely that she will NOT raise the middle class’ taxes. The news clippings used by the Trump campaign simply cut off the word “NOT.”
Rudolph Giuliani has shamelessly used the same falsified footage to lie about Hillary Clinton and to accuse her of saying exactly the OPPOSITE of what she actually said. Read more...

Monday, August 8, 2016

Fractal Geometry and Insomnia: A Heavenly Combination

The famous Mandelbrot Set

Falling asleep is an elaborate process for an insomniac. Your mind starts fighting with your body, like a boxing match. I have tried many things in the past: deep breathing, soothing music, dark curtains, white noise. None of it worked. But recently I have developed a routine, which shows some promise of success.

The very first thing I do, is barricade my bedroom door with a row of cotton balls dabbed with citrus, a smell that my cat hates. That way, she won’t scratch at my door the minute I close it. It’s not like she has a need for space, since the whole house has become cat territory, but she won’t even allow me to time-share my own bedroom at night.

Once I am barricaded, I make sure my head rests comfortably on my favorite pillow, the one with the flower cover. But the piece de resistance in my quest for sleep, is the psychedelic Youtube movies that I have been watching: psychedelic tunnels, mandala movies, and moved on to ‘electric sheep’,

which is a genre of computer animation that is very beautiful and totally psychedelic and finally ended up with the cream of the crop, called ‘fractals’. I was hooked. It became my nightly drug of choice.