Krugman looks at Trumpcare

Krugman calculates who should favor this bill.

So, is this bill good for you? Yes, if you meet the following criteria:

1.Your income is more than $200,000 a year
2.You have a job that comes with good health insurance
3.You can’t imagine any circumstances under which you lose that job or income
4.You don’t have any family members or friends who don’t meet those criteria
5.You have zero empathy for anyone else

Let’s see. Do I qualify?

  1. Nope. Not even close.

  2. Yes! Except, of course, that I work in education, which the Trump administration wants to destroy.

  3. Nope. I’ll definitely lose this job inside a decade, when I retire. Or, to look on the bright side, when I die.

  4. Nope. Three kids who are just starting early adulthood.

  5. No, although I suppose I could work on it. I’ve already lost all empathy for Trump voters.

I guess I should be 80% against the bill by those criteria. It’s more like 800%, though.

But we do know the script the Republicans are following.

The set of people who can check all these boxes is not a winning political coalition. But Republican leaders believe that their voters are tribal enough, sufficiently walled off from information, that they’ll ignore the attack on their lives and keep voting R – indeed, that as they lose health care, get hit with crushing out-of-pocket bills, see their friends and neighbors face ruin, they’ll blame it on Democrats.

I wish I were sure that this belief was false.

At least she’s safe from second-hand smoke

Suddenly, all these videos of the Philando Castile shooting are being released after the murder cop got acquitted. This latest one is heartbreaking: it’s video of Castile’s fiancé, handcuffed (WHY? What did she do wrong, besides sit next to an innocent man getting violently slaughtered by a cop?), while her daughter tries to deal with the situation.

Mom, please stop cussing and screaming ’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.

In the earlier video, I noticed how both adults in the car reflexively used “sir” in just about every sentence to the asshole cop — I don’t think they wanted to get shooted either. Our police departments are relying on fear to cow the population, and it shows.

What’s a self-righteous moralizer to do?

Bill Cosby is out, and of course he has a plan for his life: to lecture young men on how to avoid getting caught.

Bill Cosby will organize a series of town hall meetings to help educate young people about problems their misbehavior could create, a spokesman for Cosby said Thursday.
Cosby is eager to get back to work following a deadlocked jury and mistrial in his sexual assault trial, spokesman Andrew Wyatt told Birmingham, Alabama, TV station WBRC.

“We’ll talk to young people. Because this is bigger than Bill Cosby. You know, this, this issue can affect any young person, especially young athletes of today,” Wyatt said. “And they need to know what they’re facing when they’re hanging out and partying, when they’re doing certain things they shouldn’t be doing.

This is exactly what the rapist has been doing for years.

Lecturing isn’t new for Cosby. In recent years, the comedian and actor became known for scolding fellow African-Americans for poor grammar, sloppy dress and not valuing education, critiques that drew fire from some as elitist.

He’s just going to add one more item to his repertoire: how to use a date-rape drug with sophistication.

Remember the good old days of “death panels”?

Those were the days, when Republicans tried to scuttle health care reform by claiming it would be heartless, cruel, bureaucratic, and would kill your grandma. That was their official stance everywhere, that they were paragons of kindness who were concerned about the liberty of citizens, while Democrats were going to callously ration your health care.

At least that pretense has been exposed. The new Republican ‘health care’ plan that isn’t (it’s actually a massive tax cut for rich fuckers that will move money out of the pockets of the poor) has finally been revealed. It features little details like lifetime limits on medical support that the insurance companies love, that doctors and hospitals hate, and that has triggered more protests from disabled people and those with chronic conditions, leading to optics like this: protesters in wheelchairs being hauled away by the police.

This is a bill that is ruthless to the disabled and poor, and, I would add as I look at the ticking clock bringing me closer to retirement, guts Medicaid, so it also hurts old people. Apparently, I’m supposed to trust that my kids will be rich and support me in my dotage.

Obamacare was flawed because it was a compromise bill. But Trumpcare is flawed because it was written by rich motherfuckers who want to intentionally harm the poor, the elderly, the sick, the needy, or, as they prefer to regard them, the undeserving. There is a fairly straightforward solution to the problem of creating a just society:

In the case of healthcare, the answer to this conundrum is simple: fund the healthcare system not through premiums or deductibles, but instead through progressive taxes, such that nobody is liable to pay more for healthcare than they can afford.

Of course, if you are trying not to reduce inequality, but to exacerbate it, this makes little sense: better to bleed Medicaid, transfuse the cash into the pockets of the rich, and call the whole bloodsucking endeavor an exercise in “freedom.”

Republicans are the party of inequality. At least there are no death panels, though, because they’ve decided that they’ll just let everyone who isn’t rich die, no review needed.

The destructive narrowing of internet atheism

Hussein Kesvani writes about how internet atheism sucks. As an internet atheist, I have to agree.

To understand where online atheism is at the moment, you only need to do a quick search on YouTube – the platform that acts as a gateway for most people entering the internet atheist community. Some of the most popular viral videos include “How Feminism Destroyed ‘New Atheism'” by ThunderF00t; “Rape, Feminism, and The Amazing Atheist” by “The Amazing Atheist”, TJ Kirk; and various videos of Milo Yiannopoulos talking about atheism on college campuses.

Spend some time looking at this stuff and you’ll find there are few videos critiquing religion intellectually, or offering support to new atheists. Instead, the videos that seem to resonate most are those that use atheism as a smokescreen to comment on the horrors of female body positivity, of sex dolls “triggering” feminists and, of course, those hooked on British tabloid articles claiming the impending overthrowing of Western civilisation by invading Muslims. It’s the kind of thing you might see your Britain First-following uncle post on Facebook, before calling for all halal butchers to be closed because “they fund ISIS”.

There are of course some youtube atheists who do provide the intellectual critiques they want; try Aron Ra, or Seth Andrews, or The Atheist Experience, or…oh god, I just searched youtube for atheism to remind myself of all the great channels out there, and just got a long horrible list of just the worst people. It really is drowning in hateful noise.

It’s also oppressive noise. One thing I’ve noticed about the rational, conscious side of the youtube atheists community is that they tend to avoid calling out the bad actors on the other side — this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you’ve got an intellectual focus it is a huge distraction to have to slap down the horde of rotten atheists in addition to the hordes of rotten theists — but it does mean that there isn’t a lot of vocal opposition to the corruption of youtube atheism. It also doesn’t help that when someone like Steve Shives does directly attack the regressive atheists, he gets a ton of demented alt-right squirrels throwing 90 minute long raging monologues by talking kangaroos or suits of armor or chattering cow skulls.

The thing is that we need to do more than just declare how stupid believers are while shackling atheism to the likes of anti-feminism, racism, alt-right imperialism, and libertarian economic bullshit. We have to remember that our audience is more than our fellow smug unbelievers happily slapping each others’ backs at how clever we are. We have to also provide an intellectual and social home to people who are searching for answers.

“The majority of ex-Muslims leave Islam because they have issues to do with theology. There is a fear of being cast out by your community, but the process of leaving Islam is basically the same as anyone leaving a religion. Yet, the online atheist community – whose spokespeople are apparently white straight guys – make these videos talking about Muslim barbarians raping white women, or imposing sharia law on schools and cinemas. They don’t realise that they’re implicitly talking about our families, friends, the people we still care about.”

Those people, and people like them. Do you think black atheists want to share a space with people who argue for scientific racism? Or that women atheists find it pleasant to be told to go make a sandwich? We’re doomed if the only people favored by atheists are arrogant white dudes. Like me.

Support the International Humanists and Ethical Union

The IHEU is launching a fundraising campaign to help humanists at risk around the world.

Over the last 5 years, the IHEU has led the way in providing advocacy and support for humanists at risk around the world.

The IHEU is at the forefront of identifying and raising awareness of a disturbing new trend:

— growing violence and discrimination targeted at non-religious individuals and groups around the world.

We want to continue highlighting and campaigning on this topic and defending individual humanists at risk. And we need your help.

They’ve been working to end blasphemy laws, which are used to selectively oppress humanists, and they’ve been assisting threatened individuals in relocating. This is a very good group, and they deserve all of your support.

Mystery structure explained!

That strange tissue I showed in a previous post is…the chorion of the embryonic zebrafish. It’s homologous to a structure called the zona pellucida in mammals, and it’s also made of the same stuff: a collection of highly conserved glycoproteins called ZP (for zona pellucida proteins) that form a tight extracellular matrix around the egg. There are four groups of related proteins creatively called ZPA, ZPB, ZPC, and ZPX, and most are found in fish, frogs, birds, reptiles, mammals — so they really are universal.

One distinction is that only mammalian ZPs/chorions have the property of sperm recognition — in other groups the chorion acts explicitly as a barrier to sperm entry. Fish have a tiny funnel-shaped hole in their chorions called the micropyle at the animal pole, which is just big enough to allow a single sperm to enter, reducing the likelihood of polyspermy.

What’s also cool about the chorion is that it inflates and self-assembles. It lifts off the surface of the egg at fertilization and expands, and further, enzymes are released from cortical granules in the egg to harden and toughen the coat. Basically when the egg is fertilized it quickly blows up a fluid-filled bubble around itself.

In zebrafish, the chorion is thin and transparent, and relatively easy to tear and remove. Other fish species may differ; the first time I tried removing the chorion from medaka, it was like trying to rip through tough leather after after being used to peeling away soft toilet paper. Chorions may also be decorated with threads or spiky processes, especially in demersal (sinking) eggs that need to stick to rocks or grasses at the bottom of a stream. Zebrafish are rather mundane and plain in comparison.

There are complicated things going on in the chorion: it’s a barrier and a filter. It blocks some toxic or teratogenic agents — there are some substances, like steroid-like plant alkaloids (cyclopamine, jervine) that are much more potent if you remove or even just tear a small hole in the chorion.

So about that photo: you are looking at a very thin sheet of a glycoprotein matrix that forms a kind of eggshell around the embryo. Most of the time I just rip it off and throw it away, but in this case I was scanning embryos and left it on, and as always, it struck me as lovely and intricately patterned.

Bonsignorio D., et al., 1996. Structure and macromolecular composition of the zebrafish egg chorion. Zygote, 4(02), pp.101-108.

Iwamatsu T et al. 1995. Changes in chorion proteins induced by the exudate released from the egg cortex at the time of fertilization in the teleost, Oryzias latipes. Development, Growth & Differentiation, 37: 747–759.

Murata K et al. 2014. Identification of the Origin and Localization of Chorion (Egg Envelope) Proteins in an Ancient Fish, the White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus. Biol Reprod 90(6): 132.

Rizzo E et al. Oocyte surface in four teleost fish species postspawning and fertilization. 1998. Braz. arch. biol. technol., Curitiba , 41(1):37-48.

Zebrafish are so pretty

I was tinkering in the lab this morning, trying out a new gadget, collecting embryos, and cleaning and fine-tuning my microscope, when I saw this. Can you guess what I’m looking at?

Hints: shot at 40x, it’s not part of the embryo itself, and every zebrafish pro is thoroughly familiar with it.

There was a guess that it was yolk. No! I took a quick picture of the yolk sac in this same embryo, at the same magnification.

Those boulders at the top are cells, blastomeres. The bright band across the middle is the yolk syncytial layer, cells that bridge the gap between the cellular embryo and the yolk mass at the bottom. See? Nothing alike.

A few of you got it right, or came close: it’s the chorion.