moldybluecheesecurds 2

Monday, November 29, 2010

Antibacterial soap keeps you TOO clean

Medical Daily: Study suggests that being too clean can make people sick: "Researchers also found that people age 18 and under with higher levels of triclosan were more likely to report diagnosis of allergies and hay fever."
Triclosan is the common anti-bacterial agent in soap and other household products. While purporting to protect people from infection, these products a) don't actually work and b) often simply strengthen germs. And now we know that they actually harm health in the long run. Brilliant.

The article also notes that the chemical BPA can have similar negative effects on the immune system.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fighting Bullying With Babies "The typical institutional response to bullying is to get tough. In the Tyler Clementi case, prosecutors are considering bringing hate-crime charges. But programs like the one I want to discuss today show the potential of augmenting our innate impulses to care for one another instead of just falling back on punishment as a deterrent. And what’s the secret formula? A baby."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Do Body Scanners Make Us Safer? - Room for Debate -

Room for Debate - "There are now about 385 full-body scanners at 70 airports in the United States, with 1,000 scanners planned by the end of next year. Many passengers are disturbed about the nearly-naked images created by the scanners and even more distressed with the thorough pat-downs for those who refuse to go through the machines. One citizens group is encouraging travelers to opt-out of the scans on Wednesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Are Americans being unreasonable in resisting these measures? Are other nations handling airport security in more effective, less intrusive ways? What options should the T.S.A. consider?"

Great discussion at the NYT. I highly recommend the essays by Bruce Schneier and Rafi Sela.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Welcome America, newest banana republic

Earlier this month, I offended a number of readers with a column suggesting that if you want to see rapacious income inequality, you no longer need to visit a banana republic. You can just look around.

My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.

That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics. 

Democracy requires a reasonable level of income equality or it ceases to be democracy.

Warren Buffett: Bailout was "pretty good for government work"

A lot of conservative talking heads have slammed the stimulus bill and the bailout, but at least one beneficiary of a stable American economy, Warren Buffett, thinks Uncle Sam did a pretty good job.
Well, Uncle Sam, you delivered. People will second-guess your specific decisions; you can always count on that. But just as there is a fog of war, there is a fog of panic — and, overall, your actions were remarkably effective.

Judicial elections in Minnesota

Ever flip over your ballot and wonder who the heck all those judges are?  I work the polls on Election Day, and I can almost never find time to learn about the judges.  So why do we elect them?

Minnpost writer Eric Black examines that question:

Should Minnesota stick with the current system of choosing judges by competitive elections and maybe even make judicial elections more similar to elections for other offices by allowing judicial candidates to run as partisans?

Or should the state switch to a system in which judges are recommended by a panel of experts, appointed by governors to vacancies on the bench, and face the voters only in retention elections in which the incumbents do not have opponents? Under this plan, which has been proposed by a commission but could be adopted only by a state constitutional amendment, the voters would decide whether to retain the judge for another term or remove him or her from the bench.

I feel like we should go the second route, that letting judicial candidates run as partisan candidates will be bad for our justice system.  Anyone else?

Find a Minnesota Food Shelf

A weekend attempt to find a place to donate food to a food shelf led to me discover how hard it is to find a food shelf on the internet. 

Anyway, I like solving problems, so here's a map of every food shelf in Minnesota.  Click the marker for the name and phone number of the food shelf.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Air Security has Jumped the Shark

There's talk about the health risks of the machines, but I can't believe you won't get more radiation on the flight. Here's some data:
A typical dental X-ray exposes the patient to about 2 millirems of radiation. According to one widely cited estimate, exposing each of 10,000 people to one rem (that is, 1,000 millirems) of radiation will likely lead to 8 excess cancer deaths. Using our assumption of linearity, that means that exposure to the 2 millirems of a typical dental X-ray would lead an individual to have an increased risk of dying from cancer of 16 hundred-thousandths of one percent. Given that very small risk, it is easy to see why most rational people would choose to undergo dental X-rays every few years to protect their teeth. More importantly for our purposes, assuming that the radiation in a backscatter X-ray is about a hundredth the dose of a dental X-ray, we find that a backscatter X-ray increases the odds of dying from cancer by about 16 ten millionths of one percent. That suggests that for every billion passengers screened with backscatter radiation, about 16 will die from cancer as a result.
Given that there will be 600 million airplane passengers per year, that makes the machines deadlier than the terrorists.

Read more on Schneier's blog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Red tape for a good reason

Minn. tells the stork: Take your time | "Minnesota might become the first state in the nation to create a policy against a common practice in obstetrics: inducing childbirth early just for the convenience of doctors or mothers.

Mindful of research showing health problems with babies delivered early, the state Department of Human Services has proposed that hospitals create plans by 2012 for reducing elective inductions prior to 39 weeks gestation. The penalty for those without plans? Fill out onerous paperwork for every state-funded delivery."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Can someone explain why Obama has to give in on tax cuts for millionaires?

I just read that the White House has hinted it is willing to allow the Bush tax cuts to extend (temporarily, ha ha) for all Americans.  In other words, Obama's going to let millionaires have a tax cut while the budget is deep in the red. 

Why is this dumb?
  1. President Obama is supposedly the Democrat.  Democrats are supposed to favor the middle class, not the wealthy.
  2. The President and Democrats still control Congress until January.  Why not extend the middle class tax cuts and let the wealthy ones expire?  When the Republicans come back in January and try to re-up for millionaires, they'll have to find offsetting spending cuts.  Good luck!
  3. The middle-class only extension is the most popular strategy, according to polls. 
  4. Obama's swallowed the Republican line about the deficit, hook, line and sinker.  So why not tell them we can't afford big tax cuts when the budget is in the red?  Helloooo!

Conservatives should like rail

Conservatives should like rail - JSOnline: "A passenger rail system well known to many people in Wisconsin, Chicago's Metra, provides some examples. In DuPage County, one survey showed that more than 15% of commuters with incomes over $75,000 took the train instead of driving. In Lake County, the figure was 13%. In the same counties, less than one-tenth of people with incomes over $75,000 took the bus. In fact, in Lake County, the mean earnings of rail passengers were more than $76,000; the figures for bus riders were less than $14,000. Most strikingly, the mean earnings of the people on the trains were more than double those of people driving to work alone.

These demographics suggest Metra carries lots of passengers who think of themselves as conservatives and usually vote Republican. When conservative governors or other officeholders say 'kill the trains,' they are killing the type of public transport that other conservatives want and use. If they promote buses as a replacement, they are offering something conservatives won't consider."

Thumbs Down to the "Attention Deficit Commission"

To put this more succinctly: any serious long-term deficit plan will spend about 1% of its time on the discretionary budget, 1% on Social Security, and 98% on healthcare. Any proposal that doesn't maintain approximately that ratio shouldn't be considered serious. The Simpson-Bowles plan, conversely, goes into loving detail about cuts to the discretionary budget and Social Security but turns suddenly vague and cramped when it gets to Medicare. That's not serious.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Appropriate Response to Recount Demagoguery

Eric Black's post about MN GOP Chairman Tony Sutton's ridiculous rants about the best election system in the country.

Tracking Your Federal Tax Dollars

A short, concise "receipt" for your federal tax bill.  I read through it and I always want to know where Republicans will start cutting.  The big stuff is at the top, so will they cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security?  Military?  If you drop much further, there's not much to cut.

Maybe we should let some tax cuts expire so we don't have such a big line item for "Interest on the national debt." 

OMGWTFBBQ!  We can't do that, it makes sense!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Obama's India Trip

Does not...
...cost $200 million a day
...require 1/10th of the Navy
...require 500 hotel rooms

The stories about the India trip are as true as unicorn meat

Can we still be one country if we don't even have one set of facts?