moldybluecheesecurds 2

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tom Emmer is an idiot

His first idea for transforming Minnesota government is the completely politically safe proposal to cut legislator pay and per diems

First of all, this will make no difference in the budget.  Even a 10% cut (steep by any standard) would save maybe $1 million in a budget of over $15 billion (0.1%).

Emmer thinks that the salary and benefits for legislators create "career politicians," a vague term that seems to imply he would prefer laws to come from amateurs rather than professionals. 

Not to mention, I doubt there are many legislators in it for the pay.

Legislators make $35,000 a year for "part-time" work that includes three months of full time labor (January-March) and two months of 18-hour days (April-May) followed by district meetings, fundraising, and campaign work. 

I'll be waiting to hear his next amazing proposal for transforming government with bated breath.

Monday, June 28, 2010

NASA Releases Time-Lapse Video of Gulf Oil Spill : TreeHugger


The most striking thing about this video to me is not the oil spill, which is horrific, but the dead zone in the Mississippi river delta from agricultural runoff. Farmland spills nutrients and chemicals into the Gulf like this every year. And the dead zone looks a lot bigger than the spill.

Is your iPhone killing Congolese children?

Op-Ed Columnist:

A fascinating column on the minerals that go into modern electronics and smartphones and how they cause civil strife in exporting nations (like blood diamonds).

Kristof talks about pressure building on manufacturers to ensure that their minerals are not coming from conflict areas, but this strikes me as insufficient. Much like the U.S. getting off Middle East oil will only encourage other countries to stick with them (lower prices!), action solely by U.S. manufacturers would be insufficient. Wouldn't sanctions organized at the U.N. level be more effective? We need to stop everyone from buying, not just American tech companies.

I'm not really familiar with the historical consensus on South Africa, but from what I remember divestment was a good part of the strategy for putting pressure on the South African government to end apartheid. In that case, perhaps what Kristof suggests is enough. But I'm not convinced.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spongebob sells Snickers

Study: Cartoon characters attract kids to junk food - "In the study, which is published this week in the journal Pediatrics, Roberto and her colleagues presented 40 children ages 4 to 6 with paired samples of graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks, and baby carrots. Each pair of sample foods was identical down to the clear packaging, except that one of the packages had a sticker of Shrek, Dora the Explorer, or Scooby Doo on it.

Between 50 percent and 55 percent of the children said that the food with the sticker on it tasted better than the same food in the plain package. (The percentage varied with each food.) And between 73 percent and 85 percent selected the food in the character packaging as the one they'd prefer to eat as a snack."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rational parenting

Schneier on Security: "Here are the facts: About 61 children each year choke to death on food, or one in a million. Of them, 17 percent—or about 10—choke on franks. So now we are talking 1 in 6 million. This is still tragic; the death of any child is. But to call it 'high-risk' means we would have to call pretty much all of life 'high-risk.' Especially getting in a car! About 1,300 kids younger than 14 die each year as car passengers, compared with 10 a year from hot dogs."
Maybe the American Academy of Pediatrics is overreacting in its call for large-type warning labels on the foods that kids most commonly choke on...

Why don't women buy at Best Buy?

MinnPost: "when it comes to chains, there seems to be a weird gender split. While men go to Best Buy, women go to Target. Burger King is for men; Wendy's is for women. Wal-Mart refers to its generic customer as 'she.'"
Fascinating look at how businesses learn to cater to the opposite gender, and how it can pay off.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

We've met the enemy and he is us

President Obama is addressing the nation about the oil spill on Tuesday.  I hope what he says will sound something like this.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Another food post: salt, snake oil and ketchup

Salt, from NY Times (via Minnpost):

Since processed foods account for most of the salt in the American diet, national health officials, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Michelle Obama are urging food companies to greatly reduce their use of salt. Last month, the Institute of Medicine went further, urging the government to force companies to do so.

But the industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off these attacks, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years, records and interviews show. Industry insiders call the strategy “delay and divert” and say companies have a powerful incentive to fight back: they crave salt as a low-cost way to create tastes and textures. Doing without it risks losing customers, and replacing it with more expensive ingredients risks losing profits.
Why can't the processed food companies cut back? 
Companies argued that foods already low in sugar and fat would not sell with less salt.
Read more for a description of a Cheez-It sans salt, and you may believe them.

On "Snake Oil", From Minnpost:
In essence, say [Forbes] reporters Matthew Herper and Rebecca Ruiz, these foods are “masquerading as drugs”:
The world's biggest food companies are stuffing ostensibly beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids and other additives into packaged foods. They are funding clinical research in order to justify health claims — often deliberately vague — that blur the line between nutrition and medicine. The foods promise to boost immunity, protect your heart and digestive system or help you sleep. In some cases, like the ProBugs kefir, manufacturers aren't adding new ingredients but merely repackaging old foods with bold new health claims.
Finally, for those feeling proactive, a recipe to make your own ketchup, sans salt if you desire, and without high fructose corn syrup.

Banks renege on agreement to buy back bad loans

Banks got loan coverage from government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they went out offering subprime loans.  They signed agreements that they would buy the loans back if they failed to "meet certain standards relating to borrower incomes, job status or assets."

Just kidding!

Freddie also said that as of the end of March, 34 percent of its buyback requests had been outstanding for 90 days or more. Three months earlier, that figure was 30 percent. That increase suggests a greater reluctance among banks to respond to Freddie’s demands.
And who's left holding the bag as bank profits are rising?
taxpayers are the ones holding the bag when institutions try to avoid losses by refusing to buy back problem loans they have sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants that are wards of the state.