moldybluecheesecurds 2

Monday, December 28, 2009

Finding airport security that works

Schneier on Security:
"Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers."

This week, the second one worked over Detroit. Security succeeded.

EDITED TO ADD (12/26): Only one carry on? No electronics for the first hour of flight? I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks."


Read the original article for more on how the TSA response to this failed terrorist attack would do little to prevent THE SAME EXACT THING.

More inconvenience for honest passengers with no additional security. Stupid.

The Odds of Airborne Terror

FiveThirtyEight:
"Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why I read Paul Krugman's blog

He's a Nobel prize winning economist, excellent writer, and defender of all things progressive.  But really, you should read his NY Times blog because he embeds Monty Python video clips into his posts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New research: Sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup alter human metabolism, digestion

Grist: "Scientists have proved for the first time that a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks [high fructose corn syrup] can damage human metabolism and is fueling the obesity crisis."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can we believe the published results of studies sponsored by drug companies?

MinnPost: In a meta-study of drug company studies on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), this was what an independent researcher found:
"[The analysis] found all the studies that had ever been published where one NSAID was compared to another. In every single trial, the sponsoring company’s drug was either equivalent to, or better than, the drug it was compared to: All the drugs were better than all the other drugs. Such a result is plainly impossible." [emphasis mine]
O, ye of little faith. Drug companies clearly hail from Lake Wobegon, where all the drugs are above average.

Can we believe the published results of studies sponsored by drug companies?

MinnPost: In a meta-study of drug company studies on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), this was what an independent researcher found:
"[The analysis] found all the studies that had ever been published where one NSAID was compared to another. In every single trial, the sponsoring company’s drug was either equivalent to, or better than, the drug it was compared to: All the drugs were better than all the other drugs. Such a result is plainly impossible." [emphasis mine]
O, ye of little faith. Drug companies clearly hail from Lake Wobegon, where all the drugs are above average.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Get your facts straight on climate

Are you a climate skeptic? The BBC provides a point-by-point rebuttal of most of your sacred cows:
BBC News - The arguments made by climate change sceptics

Friday, December 04, 2009

Everyone in the U.S. should have to take a con law class

Or at least read this post on Constitutional Chicanery

Afghan War 2: Escalate Education, not Troops

Op-Ed Columnist - Johnson, Gorbachev, Obama - NYTimes.com:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned in his report on the situation in Afghanistan that “new resources are not the crux” of the problem. Rather, he said, the key is a new approach that emphasizes winning hearts and minds: “Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent troops; our objective must be the population.”

So why wasn’t the Afghan population more directly consulted?

Estate tax debate reveals loads about values

The estate tax says that when a rich dude dies, a portion of his estate returns to the commons and the rest goes to his descendants.

Due to a provision signed by President GW Bush (a beneficiary of aristocracy), the estate tax rate had been decreasing (from 55% to 45%) and the threshold increasing since 2001 (from $1 million to $3.5 million). It was set to expire next year, and then come back at 2001 levels in 2011. Republicans want to repeal it completely.

Read about the current legislative battle here: latimes.com, but the entire estate tax issue can be boiled down to this quote from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas):
"We need to reward people who work the hardest and work the smartest in the hope of handing their nest eggs down to their children." [emphasis mine]
I'm liberal and therefore I subscribe to the notion that Americans should start on a level playing field and have an equal opportunity to exploit their innate talent. You can't have equal opportunity when folks who get rich from talent and hardwork get to pass all their money to their descendants (because then you can be rich and lazy).

If rich parents want to pass their kids a legacy, how about the values of working hard and getting smart, rather than a trust fund and a Beemer.



Note: rich folks still get to pass on half of their estate. We're not talking about making paupers of princes, but keeping princes out of American democracy.

Escalating the Afghan War is a mistake

I thought that a new president, made popular in his own party by his opposition to a dumb foreign war, would be more likely to tread carefully with foreign entanglements. There were hints that he would not be so careful, in his proposal to increase the size of the standing Army and Marines (to do what, get involved in more military morasses?).

But the play in Afghanistan is a sad repetition of history, and the last superpower to make this move left on the eve of their fall. This Star Tribune opinion piece highlights it:
StarTribune.com: "It is fitting that President Obama announced his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan on the 30th anniversary of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's decision to do the same. The two events are joined at the hip."
Let's hope these conjoined decisions can be separated before the end.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

This is one tax we should all like

NYTimes.com:
It's called the financial transactions tax, and it would add a tiny fee to each stock trade or currency exchange processed. For the typical American, it'd be negligible - pennies.

But for firms that make their money on the daily ups and downs of foreign currency exchange or stock prices (and accomplish nothing of social value in doing so), it would end the waste. After financial firms started the worst economic downturn since the Depression with speculation with mortgage derivatives, this seems like a gimme.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Don't make a baby during corn growing season

Twin Cities Daily Planet: "Not to get too personal, but if you're thinking of making a baby anytime soon, you might not want to wait until spring. That's the conclusion one could draw from a recent analysis that correlates atrazine contamination spikes with the time of year a baby is conceived and increased rates of birth defects."
his is a much better argument for opposing corn ethanol than the utterly ridiculous assertions about food prices. We don't eat feed corn.

The Industrial Lawn

This is a term I've learned from a distance learning course called the Sustainable Lawn.  It refers to the industrialization of the modern lawn, from sod production, to chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to powered lawn care equipment. 

Americans spend $40 billion a year on 41 million acres of lawn.  This video, Gimme Green, explores some of the externalities of this fascination.

Tacoma Suspect Is Killed by Police Officer in Seattle

NYTimes.com: "SEATTLE — A man suspected of fatally shooting four uniformed police officers was shot and killed early Tuesday by a Seattle police officer who chanced upon him during a routine patrol."
No surprise here. There was no way that he was going to live to get a trial after shooting four police officers in cold blood.