Monday, October 31, 2011

Mississippi Prop 26, defining a person, is more about social control than protecting all human life

Jessica Valenti has a monumental report in the Outlook section of the Sunday Oct. 30 Washington Post, “Pro-life’s new tactic: Redefine a ‘person’”, or, online, “How an anti-abortion push to redefine ‘person’ could hurt women’s rights”, link.  The continuation page. B4, reads “what if embryos and women had equal rights?”

The focus is a referendum for a Mississippi state constitutional amendment, “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof?”
The problem is that women may not have the right to make informed medical decisions about their own lives, or even able to save their own lives, in some cases, of complicated advanced pregnancies.

This seems to be a new end-around of Roe v. Wade.

Herman Cain, GOP presidential candidate, has made a lot of opposing abortion.

But the real intention of this part of the pro-life movement is not really protecting the unborn child as a living human being. It is social control, or forced socialization. Perhaps forced submission. Think about it.

The amendment is Proposition 26, with this website.  The site even has a volunteer sign-up script.

Wikipedia attribution link for Vicksburg (MS) Memorial Arch.  I visited the site in April 1985.

Nov. 8:  Media sources report that Prop 26 has been rejected, by 55% majority. MSNBC story.

Update: Nov. 12

There is an important story in the New Yorker Nov. 14 by Jill Lepore under "American Chronicles", titled "Birthright: What's next for Planned Parenthood?" link here (subcription). She discusses a number of matters, like the Pence Amendment, and gives some pre-Griswold (1962)  history of the politics even of contraception, as with the Byrne and Sanger case in New York in 1917 when a court found that "no woman had 'the right to copulate with the feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception.' In other words, if a woman wasn't willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn't have sex" (p. 49, print, Nov., 14).  That sort of mentality, and the risk that women used to take a century ago, helps explain the former obsession with gender complementarity. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow in October -- a refutation of climate change?: a look at traffic lane laws; Muller reverses on climate change: it's real

I can remember back in 1969 when interviewing in upstate New York when recruiters told me about having just set a record in Syracuse for “snow in October”.

So, with the northeast’s sudden October noreaster yesterday, is there denial of global warming, that it got cold earlier? Or is it a sign of storms getting more violent?

The vulnerability of modern life to these storms, with the massive power outages for communities served by conventional above-ground lines, seems so much greater than a half-century ago when I was growing up. We didn’t think about power outages.   I think we had one in March 1958 with a blizzard. Then, no power could mean you couldn’t get a term paper or studying done. Now, it means loss of contact with media.

Today, I drove west from Arlington along 267, and saw very little snow until almost Leesburg.  When driving up Bull Run Mountain on Route 7, I suddenly saw continuous snow cover at about 700 feet elevation. It dropped off a little around Hillsboro (next picture) on Route 9, but then at one of the lowest crossings of the Blue Ridge, Keye’s Gap, everything was a slushy mess.  I parked at the Appalachian trail and saw tres down. A hiker sitting there warned me I had parked under a tree about to fall.  East of Leesburg, however, or below 800 feet or so, snow had not clung to deciduous foliage very much. 

I saw a lot more downed trees on US 340 as it descends around Harper’s Ferry.  Some, despite snow having melted off in the midday sun, looked ready to crack, but nothing fell on me as I drove. On the way back, along I-270 in Maryland, the snow disappeared after one reached the crest along Sugarloaf.

There’s another public safety issue around DC: the way drivers speed up when you need to change lanes.  At many points, you enter the Beltway or other multiple-laned highways from the left, inviting sideswiping when having to move right and other drivers do not let you in.  In some states, on the other hand (like Pennsylvania and New Jersey), it’s illegal to drive in the leftmost lane unless passing.  That’s not practical in the DC area.

CNN, in reporting on the October storms, is reporting that many power outages are in "old neighborhoods" with older, perhaps rotten, trees.  

As for the debate on climate change -- take note of what is going on in Thailand now, even in Bangkok.

For more on storm power outages, look at the "BillBoushka" blog, Feb. 5, 2010, or the label "infrastructure".

Youtube video below, from yesterday, not sure what state.  The worst hit area may be around Harrisburg and York PA, where there is still more foilage.

Update: Oct. 31

Note this story on the Huffington Post by Seth Borenstein: "Richard Muller, global warming skeptic, now agrees climate change is real", link here, based on his own new study. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy DC encampment soaked by Noreaster today; CNN puts on Trump, Schiff, West, Michael Moore to argue about capitalism

I stopped by the Occupy DC encampment at McPherson Square this morning, on the way back from AIDSWalk 25. 

The sights speak for themselves.  People had hung out clothes and garments – to soak.  There did not appear, from what I saw, to be another camp at Lafayette Park; but there was a small camp leftover at Freedom Plaza for the AIDSWalk. 

There has been quite a bit of economic debate on CNN this week. Michael Moore appeared on Piers Morgan and had to answer whether he practices what he preaches – he admits that he is in the top 1%.  (Most leaders of the radical Left are, it seems.)  He defended capitalism slightly to Piers, but then on Anderson Cooper the next night said that capitalism was no longer a morally appropriate system; it was up to the people to design another one. 

I can recall back in the early 1970s, the Peoples Party of New Jersey (Dr. Spock's radical group) would argue, "why do we have to have capitalism?"  They were ready to expropriate -- even from middle class professionals (like me?)  

Morgan has also interviewed Donald Trump,  who said it really could have been “that bad” without a bailout, and that banks don’t lend now because they’re afraid of regulators spying on them.

Anderson Cooper has also featured a debate between Peter Schiff and Cornell West, and presented a confrontation in NY between Schiff and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators:

So, is “too much government regulation” a root cause of the employment crisis? 

It seems to me that if the government bailed out the banks, government (the Obama administration) ought to “require” them to lend more rather than sit on cash.

The idea that raising any taxes on the rich at all will stifle jobs sounds like a canard.  But it’s true, you have to be careful on deciding who’s rich.  Raise taxes on a small business owner or family farm, you drive him or her to sell out to big business.  The GOP has a bit of a point there.

The McPherson Square Metro stop, at street level, was filled with homeless people camped out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seasonal influenza vaccine less effective than CDC has previously reported (University of Minnesota)

There are recent media stories reporting disappointing results in effectiveness of influenza vaccines, especially the dead virus given by injection.

CDC’s basic link on effectiveness is dated Oct. 13 and is here

The University of Minnesota, with Dr. Michael Osterholm, is reporting that the vaccine protects only 59% of adults under 65.  The Minnesota Daily story is here. This challenges previous CDC claims of 70-90% effectiveness.

The protection against H1N1 may be more successful.

But the report would cast aspersions on the hope that more dangerous pandemics like H5N1 could be prevented by a vaccine (as in the movie “Contagion” -- my "Disaster Movies" blog, Sept. 9, 2011).

Because the virus mutates, sometimes people who have been vaccinated develop a flu like illness, usually mild, late in the flu season. This happened to me while I was in California in February 2002.  And March 2011 I missed an SLDN dinner because of a sudden flu-like (respiratory) bout with chills and fever that lasted only about 48 hours. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Solar coronal mass ejection this week causes aurora borealis in the South; a precursor to a "Carrington Event"?

The site “Space Weather” has many pictures from many states of the spectacular aurora borealis displays that occurred as far south as northern Mississippi Tuesday Oct. 24.  The link is here

A coronal mass ejection strong enough to produce such strong colors this far south probably could have run the risk of disrupting not only satellites but even power grids on the surface, as with Quebec in 1989, or maybe the 19th Century Carrington Event.  This does not seem to have happened.

Solar flare activity seems to be increasing, and power grids ought to be looking at ways to harden themselves
In the DC area, there was too much light pollution for me to see it.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA photo. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Second-hand TV can hinder very young children's development, leading to "policy" questions

Greg Toppo has an important front page story in the Monday Oct. 24 “USA Today”, “’Secondhand TV’ can hurt kids: Experts: Casual exposure may affect development”, link here

In the past few years, child development experts have suggested that children should not watch television at all during the first two years of life, because of the effect of fast-moving images.  This report indicates that they should not watch it accidentally, second hand, or overhear it.

I know that in my own family, some distant relatives, a well-educated couple in their thirties with a very young child, enforce this.

Personally, it seems ironic, since the most popular of my blogs in terms of page requests is usually the TV Reviews blog.

In seventh grade (starting in 1955 for me), “general education” teachers were saying “read, don’t watch television”.

My father bought the first TV in 1950, and I remember watching a western every day at 4 PM, waiting for the inevitable stagecoach wreck in the last act.  I remember the other comedies, like “My Little Margie”, “I Love Lucy”, even “Amos ‘n’ Andy”. But I was seven when we got it. It broke down frequently and in those days people had televisions repaired.

We have a society very wired to media, where fluency with media can become a good income-earning skill.

Experts are properly concerned that young children exposed to television too early will not learn to deal with "real people", or develop familial relationships.  It's interesting to note, though, that pets (both dogs and cats) seem to know that images in a television are not "real".  There was a scene in the 2005 South African film "Duma" (Carroll Ballard, Warner Bros.) where a household cheetah actually learns to operate a television remote. 

Yet, suddenly, this state of affairs seems to put new parents in a tough position.  Or, when parents have subsequent children, older siblings will “give up television” to protect younger siblings’ development – they had no choice in the matter.

The concern would obviously extend to Internet use, since television episodes and films are being watched over the Internet on home computers or flat screens more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

IBM seems to lead the world in the lithium-air battery research, leading to all-electric car with range

Today, ABC’s Energy Now television report discussed the new “lithium air” technology which would gve purely electric automobile batteries ranges up to 500 miles, instead of about 50 miles as with the lithium ion battery, meaning that hybrids are necessary to alleviate “range anxiety” (with greater "energy density"). Much more basic research in the nanotechnology area is needed.

IBM Social Media has a YouTube video on The Battery 500 Project, at the Almaden Institute

IBM also has an article, “Which comes first: the smart grid, or the electric car?” along the lines of Thomas Friedman, link here 

Here's a piece from Energy Review, link

Picture: In N.C., a job ad for laborers, accepting only people laid off because of storm damage. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Steve Jobs had warned president Obama on over-regulation of economy

The Huffington Post reports Friday about a clandestine meeting some time ago between Steve Jobs and President Obama, link here

Jobs reportedly told Obama that Obama would be a one-term president. The problem is – poetically – jobs.  Jobs echoed Donald Trump’s idea that China, an authoritarian, one-party state, is beating us to a pulp, and that regulations make it too hard to do manufacturing or build factories in the US.  Jobs  was also critical of the union culture that permeates the teaching field and probably drives away people who should become teachers.

Jobs temporarily rejected invasive surgery that could have prolonged his life. He did have it, but it was too late.  Jobs expected a relatively shorter life in which to accomplish things.

Remember, the media reported that Obama met with many Silicon Valley executives earlier this year.  Obama probably discussed the way Internet companies could affect the political situation in the middle east.  The “no anonymity” policies may hinder the ability of future legitimate protests to function. 

Jobs's comments certainly stand in marked contrast to the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.

Here's an earlier story from "Shanghai List" about Trump's comments that China is our enemy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can you get "fired" from community service?

Can someone get “fired” from community service (or "flunk" it)?  Apparently that’s what happened when Lindsay Lohan failed to show up for some sessions, or performed with personal indifference when she did “work”, according to this TMZ story.  A angry judge Stephanie Sautner revoked her probation and could face 18 months in prison.

She had been “working” at the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles.  Perhaps she’ll wear an orange jumper on a public detail yet (a Halloween “scarlet letter”).

The judge handed her over the the sheriff for custody, and said she doesn't tell the sheriff what to do about releasing her if bail is posted. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another pastor addresses the role of government

Well, I didn’t try to go to the Martin Luther King National Memorial dedication – I had visited the monuments near the Tidal Basin in September  -- since the president spoke, just as at HRC, going through security must have been time consuming.  I recall that it was this same weekend in 1995 that Farrakan held his “Million Man March”.  (For my visit to MLK, go to "BillBoushka" blog, Sept. 27, 2011.)

On this bright October morn, the Washington Post chided Americans for quickly losing focus on the issue of climate change, even compared to Europe (the latest science says that the sizes of animals is shrinking). In the “meantime”, the “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy DC” protests – moving to Times Square in NYC and getting permit extensions in DC – decry the “free market” system without proposing much of any specificity, other than expropriation. Perhaps a “Purification”.  At least the Tea Party, also populist, has some specific proposals.
Again (see Sept. 25 post), a prominent pastor speaks on the role of government. At the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, Dr. Jeffrey Haggray spoke about “Citizenship and Stewardship”.  Government may rightfully redistribute wealth, he said. He didn’t speak much to the legitimacy of government, which in ancient or Biblical times had not been established through democratic means, particularly during the time of Christ and Roman occupation. Yet, you gave to Caesar what was his.  The pastor gave some of his own interpretation of the First Amendment and church and state. 

He also said, at one point, “Get involved”, and that was in fact the title a fictitious sermon given at an Appalachian commune in my 1986 novel manuscript “Tribunal and Rapture” (evaluated in 1988 by Scott Meredith). I remember showing the “sermon” to co-workers in Dallas and getting some response.  I will have to dig the manuscript out; I still have it.  But I wonder how you “get involved” when you have become walled off in a survivalist mode. The protagonist, me, has a climactic encounter with someone who had invited him to live there after a firing; then, on the outside, pre-Soviet-collapse world, a Communist Armageddon has brought about ruin to the yuppie world.  But a wedding at the end sets up a way forward out of a wasteland.

Of course, “get involved” can mean, “Put some of your own skin in the game”, outside the range of your own personal agenda. This is a stewardship month, and the pastor is teaching a class on Rick Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life”.  And Sunday School this morning was about “gifts of the spirit”, or talents (at MCC Dallas back in the 1980s, that was always the topic every January).  But talents can be taken away. There is a hierarchy of gifts. Even in these individualistic times, proselyting can be a real talent, as unappealing as it is to me personally.  (Knowledge is a talent -- but from analysis, and occult -- receiving/speaking and interpretation of tongues.)  And whatever its reputation, particularly in the South, the Baptist denomination is supposed to cherish the idea that the individual chooses how to deploy his or her own talents -- even given the obstacles posed by others. 

As for role of government, I'm reminded again of the message of some music written by some NYC friends of mine (see my August 24 posting on the Drama blog), aiming at the idea of "parlor diplomacy", or the settling of issues from the bottom up, grass roots style, maybe with an "Area of Mutual Agreement" process (like Dan Fry's from "Understanding" in the 1970s), or the notion of "timocracy", how one enterprising individual can, with today's media and enough persistence, influence or set the pattern of thinking and social connection for an entire planet, regardless of formal government -- which right now, in our country, with its partisanship, get nothing done. So, back to the protests!

As I came home, I stopped in a MacDonald’s in Arlington and saw a small parade of cyclist dads with their small sons, all limbs shaved, completely. It was a bizarre sight.  And I thought “hoops” referred tp basketball, “wheels” to cycling, but I guess “hoops” has multiple meanings. Anyway, these men had literally put their own skin in a game. 

What a Sunday morning!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

High school (and college) grading systems: I recall "90-80-70-60" as well as even "95-89-81-75". How did we survive high school?

Over the past few years, public school grading systems have attracted controversy.  Today, many schools use a scale of 90-80-70-60 which is common in undergraduate courses in college.

When I went to Washington-Lee High School in Arlington VA from 1958-1961 (graduated), the scale was 95-89-81-75.  That’s right, an 80 was technically a D.  I sometimes wonder how we survived, or how I did.
When I substitute-taught in the middle of the past decade, Arlington was back to 90-80-70-60, but Fairfax was using 94-84-74-64, making a 93 a B+.   That was said to be unfair to Fairfax County students seeking scholarships.  Teachers were not supposed to grade on the curve, either.

When tests are multiple choice (common these days in “teaching the test”), and there is no guessing penalty, it’s not quite so bad. 

But I remember the history course in junior year with exams mostly essay, usually 5 questions.  I got a 79 on the first test because I lost 15 points on a question about mercantilism (the teacher wanted us to understand how that undermined the ability of the colonists to have their own currency and forced them to be even more personally self-sufficient, a concept not easy to get at age 16, in a world where “grades” are the currency and you’re not on your own yet).

It seems to me that on a "reading quiz" with detailed (short answer but free response) questions about a literature reading assignment (whether "Lord of the Flies" or Shakespeare), a standard scale could downgrade a student quickly. (When an author proofs his own novel manuscript, a good way to read it is to ask oneself, "what would a high school English teacher ask on a reading quiz from this chapter?"  In college, we had "card quizzes".) 

In math and science, the grading gets to be more serious on tests that are “all problems”, which is what tests should be. (Get ready for the real workplace!)  In calculus, when I subbed, teachers sometimes split the test into two parts: the first part had to be done without a graphing calculator, presumably because many processes and formulas kids had to know (memorize) were on it. The first part had to be turned in before the second part, with the calculator.

In undergraduate, 90-80-70-60 was common. On a physics test at GW in 1963, there were 14 problems, all algebraic, and I recall the warning “answers will be graded right or wrong, no partial credit will be given.” But it was. I got a 95 (not a 93).  In calculus, once we got to integration, it got harder. I recall integration by parts and then by partial fractions, but some problems could be “hard to motivate”.  They could seem like chess problems: find a “mate in 5”.

In graduate school, an hour examination in math was a challenge for the professor to even make up.  Typically, there would be four or five problems similar to homework where the student had to apply two theorems he or she had learned in sequence to some fact pattern (sounds like law school now).  It was harder to do in 50 minutes to four problems than it sounds.  So professors had to curve.  I recall in “Analysis” (at the University of Kansas, 1966) on the first test, the median was a 54; I got a 57.  And anything below B doesn’t cut it. So 90-80-70-60 was finally history.

As a graduate assistant instructor, I got a rude awakening in 1966 as to how many "simple" problems students could work on a 50 minute algebra test. On the first quiz, I wound up adding 45 points to everyone's grade and then applying the "scale" but many students still gasped when I announced that. 

This week, six years ago, in 2005, there was a complicated and improbable incident involving me (as a sub) at a particular high school (West Potomac High School south of Alexandria, VA, in Fairfax County), the days of the week were the same that year as this; see posting Nov. 14, 2010 and on the “Bill Boushka” blog July 27, 2007.  What I think really happened behind the scenes would make the plot of a good "indie" movie. 

Here's a graphing calculator tutorial (there are many on YouTube):


Here's an old college (Quant) chemistry test from 1963.  Study!
or this (earlier in the semester)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Old ideas of "class warfare" appear to make a comeback

GOP candidate Herman Cain on Sunday told Candy Crowley that “Race doesn’t hold anyone back in any big way”.  Many African Americans, he says, have already achieved a “level playing field” and others look for excuses to claim victimization, he said.

Here’s the story, as per Arianna.

The “Occupy DC” and associated protests reached a kind of crest Saturday afternoon with arrests and the use of pepper spray at the Air and Space Museum, when some protesters wanted to “invade” because the Museum had some models of drones.  

On Monday (today), media were reporting that Park Police would soon end some of the demonstration permits.  Will that matter?

Then, also today, The Washington Post offered an op-ed by Robert J. Samuelson, “The backlash against the rich”, here. The print title is “It’s not easy being rich; As inequality grows, so do attacks on the wealthy”. 

Then you get into differentiation. It’s OK to be rich if you really invented or created something (Facebook, or Apple (especially)). It’s not good if you just manipulated the wealth of others and sifted it.  (That’s one reason I’ve never wanted to make a second career out of taking care of other families’ pocketbooks – who am I to do that?)

But the extreme indignation against the “parasitic bourgeoisie” was apparent to me during my coming of age. It could get out of control.

In Army barracks, stateside, back in 1969, when others were becoming cannon fodder in Vietnam, guys would make fun of the idea of class struggle.  “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  They made more fun of Communism than of homosexuality, even as they knew Stonewall had just happened.  Nobody in those days could imagine a concept like “don’t ask don’t tell”.  People told, and others got used to it.

It strikes me that people have a grand confusion. Talk about group remedies is meaningless until you deal with whatever level of sacrifice is demanded of the individual.

There's good news today.  The markets (open Columbus Day, because it's not a holiday in NYC) are up because of reports that the US is producing more of its own oil again, as well as more obvious reports that European governments are negotiating taking care of a couple of big banks -- but the latter development may not stand up all month.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Jobs report shows gains, but numbers could be deceiving; activists want people to pull all checking accounts from banks and put them into credit unions

There was a mildly pleasant surprise in the jobs report for September, with a gain of 103,000 jobs (officially, by Census figures, as projected from statistical sampling of interviews) compared to 57000 in August.  Bloomberg has a numbers-oriented report here.

The numbers may be inflated by the settling of a strike against Verizon, bringing 45000 people back to work. The unemployment rate stayed the same.

At the same time, dire warning have come from some quarters that the European banking system could completely unravel by Halloween (see my International blog).

Cadie Thompson, of CNBC, has a report of a grassroots drive to encourage all individuals to pull checking accounts out of banks and put them into credit unions, link here. Part of this is motivated by the plans of some banks (like Bank of America) to impose $5/month (or so) fees for debit card use, to recover income lost after Congress limited what could be charged to merchants, about which there was a major campaign this summer. 

Thursday, October 06, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street" becomes "Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue", or even "Occupy D.C."

Today, I did visit the “Occupy Wall Street” aka “Occupy Together” “flash” protest in Washington DC at 11th St. and Pennsylvania Ave NW, ironically near the Ronald Reagan Building (nearest the Federal Center Metro Stop). It was not held at Freedom Plaza, as widely circulated.  Here, the movement is getting renamed "Occupy D.C."

The signs and speeches pretty much speak for themselves.  There was, from the podium, a lot of talk that Wall Street creates no products of real value but exploits the labor of others. Sometimes, there was a tone of “Marxist” class warfare talk.  There would be real question as to how much this is about the morality of individual people, or more about the conventional struggles for political and economic power.

There were interesting exhibits, such as the CIA drone models, and a portrait of Bradley Manning.

There were some posters more specific  in nature, such as objection to US Support of Israel.

There were indeed a lot of posters showing people not able to make do in today’s economy.

I made many video clips. Here’s one about “Greed Is Good” (Oliver Stone's film "Wall Street") and about “Trickle Up”, or redistribution of wealth – “upstream” or “in the wrong direction”.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

More personal "flood" instructions, this time, southern MD (that is, a school science lesson)

Today, I visited Upper Marlboro, MD, and could see the creek area that flooded during storms Irene and Lee.

People say that the creek rose high enough to cover the steps of the Prince Georges County Courthouse, about 20 feet.

This result  seems quite remarkable.  Still, most of the town looks high enough not to flood.

Later, I went down to Calvert Cliffs State Park.  The nuclear power plant nearby is not visible from the park as far as I can tell.  But it has not been reported to have any damage from the earthquake or tropical storms, as far as I know.  There are lots of marsh-friendly lilies along the way, and the shore has its own "mini world" of rivers and "canyons".  

There's also plenty of storm damage to study.

This park right now does have many examples right now of just how old trees get uprooted even during the moderate winds of tropical storms.

Above, the photo shows the inside of the trunk of the tree, very rotted when it fell.  Could someone make a science fair project on what kinds of trees need to be trimmed or cut down when near houses? 

The bracket fungi  above look like alien vegetation, almost like that in AMC Theaters trademark video! It's very hard for "amateurs" to tell what is safe to eat. Again, a science project. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Bernanke testifying right now before Congress on slow-growth economy, live video available

Ben Bernanke is testifying before Congress right now on the economy, especially the European debt situation.  He described the problems in Europe as “political” rather than fiscal or even demographic.  

MSNBC’s link is here

CSPAN’s link is here

The Federal Reserve has a transcript of his testimony here

Bernanke said that the Fed was ready to do more for the economy, and said that growth is still even slower than expected. 

Yahoo! has a video right now on the "Blodget Plan" to fix the economy, which is "acknowledge first".  The basic problem: too much debt. 

Also, New Jersey GOP governor Chris Christie says (confirms) he will not run.

Monday, October 03, 2011

More employers are banning tobacco use off the job as well as at work

Kerry Sanders of NBC reported Sunday that more employers are adopting a policy of hiring only non-smokers – of banning cigarette smoking and other tobacco use both on and off the job.

Among the employers: the Cleveland Clinic, Georgia Power, and Baylor.

Employers enforce their policy by testing urine for nicotine, similar to drug tests. Workers would have to be careful about attending indoor events where smoking is permitted (because of second-hand smoke) or even about second-hand smoke from other family members. The banning of smoking in all bars and restaurants in many cities might be helpful to job applicants now (and it has, in the long run, benefited restaurant and disco business). 

This practice is legal in 21 states. Libertarian philosophy, remember, would say private businesses should be able to do what they want; the market will ultimately enforce justice.  But employers have the upper hand now in a weak job market. 

This is quite a long way from the days that the New World colonies had used tobacco as currency because of English mercantilism in the 1600s.  It makes for quite an American history lesson. 

Privacy advocates wonder if employers could go after eating fatty foods next, or engaging in unprotected sex.

The employment practice could extend to other areas, such as the use of chewing tobacco in baseball. 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A "parable" of Kansas cosmetology workers (from the 60s, no less)

Today, Sunday, October 2, a Sunday School class at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC illustrated the ironies of today’s debates on “political morality.”

Dr. Wayne Angell, teaching the class, recounted his days as a representative in the Kansas legislature in the 1960s. A particular bill had been introduced to require cosmetologists and barbers to have nine months of school instead of six for a state license. Being a free marketer advocate (even then), Angell tried to introduce a modification to get the bill killed.  He proposed that the three extra months of cosmetology training be appropriated entirely to learning differing African-American hairstyles. But instead of causing the bill to be defeated, it got endorsed by pressure groups like the League of Women Voters and passed.

John Stossel, as we know, has offered reports on ABC opposing the regulating of cottage industries, and has criticized the still state requirements for cosmetology in Kansas, as well as a requirement in North Carolina that people who sell cookies have “commercial kitchens”.

Somehow, I'm reminded (particularly by Stossel's past reporting) of potential libertarian interpretations of the Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20:1-16). 

The lesson was also interesting to me because I attended the University of Kansas and earned an MA in Math in 1968 there.  Lawrence, remember, has a lot of history. Angell talked a little about the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act (American history teachers will ask about these on tests!), and told of a time in the early 60s when soldiers from Fort Riley ate in a cafe in Junction City and an African American soldier was not seated. 

The other news item that comes to mind quickly is the Occupy Wall Street protest on the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday in New York (near BargeMusic) with numerous arrests. Teachers were reportedly grading student classwork while protesting.