Friday, July 31, 2015

New York State's fast-food minimum wage law may be more meddlesome by being so limited

A column on p. A3 of Thursday’s New York Times, “Fast-food minimum wage has unintended effects”, in “The Upshot: Wage Debate”, by Josh Barro, titled “A $15 minimum wage, but why just fast-food workers?” lays out the pros and cons of New York State’s recent law well, even from the best of progressive intentions, here

Not the least is the possibility that some businesses will manipulate their “models” so as not to have co comply with the law, at the expense of customer service.

There is also a dangerous precedent in the idea of treating businesses differently based on their size and structure, when they produce the same product or service.  Imagine if that were applied to self-publishing!
I did go to a “fight for 15” demo a few months ago.  I also get the idea that the fast food business reallyt tests “whether you can work.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Congress re-introduces the Employee Rights Act, not the same as a right-to-work law

There is a new bill in Congress called the Employee Rights Act, descriptive link here, to prevent excessive union coercion and abuse and allow employee privacy. 

The bill was re-introduced in the Senate by Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and in the House by Tom Price (R-GA), according to “Labor Pains”, link here
Another source is the Center for Union Facts, here

Of course, you can turn the argument and talk about minimum wage laws, or the desire of the Obama Administration to curtail scheduling abuses of (often non-union) retail employees.
Wikipedia attribution link of downtown Gatlinburg, TN, photo by Scott Basford, under Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 license.  I drove through the town in heavy traffic in July 2013 but didn’t stop and couldn’t take my own pictures then, but this is close to what I remember.  It took forever to drive through Pigeon Forge TN, too.

Update: Aug. 1

The Washington Times and AP reported July 29 that a union lost a case requiring Michigan state employees to pay union dues, here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Jeb Bush has bad karma from his performance as Florida's governor during housing bubble and bust, sacking middle class with debt and upsidedown homes

Jim Tankersley has a “damning” article about the policies of Jeb Bush when he was governor of Florida. The title is “Under Jeb Bush (43rd governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007), housing prices fueled Florida’s boom. Then it all went bust,” link here
The end result was the transfer of wealth from the “middling” class to Wall Street, and the saddling or ordinary homeowners with debt and underwater mortgages.
I could see and hear some of this driving around central Florida in a rental car on a recent trip to see Disney and Universal near Orlando. News casters (coming into the hotel room on an LG screen) still talked about local housing issues a lot. Disney and Universal seemed to be supplying all the jobs in the area, a lot of them entry level.  Oh, there are a few banks like SunTrust (as in the movie “Paper Towns”, set in Orlando, a city (238,000) whose table flat sprawl never ends).

I sometimes got unsolicited calls in the middle 2000’s to sell mortgages and financial products.  People thought I was “unsociable” and didn’t like to approach and “help people.”  Is selling pyramid schemes really helping people?
Of course, we all know that the subprime recklessness, and then the unregulated “securitization” of mortgages (with credit default swaps) led to the Crash of 2008, “repaired” by George W. Bush’s (and then Obama’s) bailout, which critics call “socialism” for banks and their investors.  I remember the Sunday afternoon in September 2008 when it happened, being on line and emailing people.

Residents of Florida also are subject to increased risks of sinkholes and of hurricane damage.  Newer condo developments are said to be hurricane and tornado resistant.  But with climate change, Florida faces the idea of building seawalls, it would seem, or of massive engineering projects to pump out sea water.
Actor Reid Ewing, who grew up in South Florida, tweeted the same observation about Jeb Bush’s performance (ruining the middle class in Florida) some time back, just as “those Republicans” got going.
The GOP candidates have been embarrassed by their own boorish behavior and reckless statements (as with Trump and Christie, who fight over Train’s “Bulletproof Picasso” quote, “I say what I mean and mean what I say”.  Marco Rubio may be staying above all this (and looking rather young in his 40s, rather like a movie star himself).  The Democrats have their own problems, with Hillary Clinton’s email-gate.  Libertarian candidate and mathematics educator Arvin Vohra from Maryland has turned 35 and is old enough to run for president. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Community colleges offer a lot of remedial courses that cost $$ but don't count toward graduation

Donna St. George has a detailed article on community college (and state university) remedial courses, in an article on the front page of the Washington Post Metro section on Monday. 
The biggest problem is with mathematics.  Typically grades are counted, but the credit hours are added to the graduation requirement because remedial algebra is not “college level work”.  The link is here

When I worked as an assistant instructor at the University of Kansas in 1966 and then again 1967-1968 semester, the same concept applied, as hours were added to graduation requirements.  Students were weaker, grades were lower, and this was serious in the era of the Vietnam era draft, for men. 

(Note: there is news on the privacy policy for this blog in the EU;  see "BillBoushka" blog today for details.)  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Columbia professor predicts sea level rise of 10 feet in just 50 years, and accelerating thereafter

Sunday morning July 26, 2015, on Fareed Zakaria Global Public Square, Columbia University physics Professor James Hansen, who has worked also with NASA Goddard, warned that global warming will result in a sea level rise of ten feet in just fifty years.  The rate would tend to accelerate; so probably it would be one foot in the next decade. The water will come from Antarctic ice sheets.
Here is an MIT link for some of his recent discussions. 

It will be very difficult at some point to salvage some coastal communities because of the expectation of even more rapid warming.

Hansen supports building a carbon tax into what the user pays for fossil fuel products now, so there is more incentive for people to switch to alternative sources even as individuals and families.
His remarks should be considered in conjunction with the recent prediction of some British scientists claiming that the Sun may go through a temporary period of less output leading to some cooling around 2030. 

When I replaced my Ford Focus after it was totaled in an accident (not my fault), I replaced it with a new card as close as possible.  Various insurance and dealer business arrangements made it economically the best short-term solution, by thousands of dollars.  But it would be better for “future generations” if I bought a hybrid.  Likewise, in a house, I have no short term incentive to put in solar panels if I believe developers are likely to demolish the property in the reasonably predictable future and offer more for land.  On the other hand, I would wind up living in a smaller apartment, in a city, and use less energy and drive less. 

So personal incentives are a complicated topic.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Does fatherhood, or even marriage, make (straight) men fat?

Both CNN (Liza Lucas)  and ABC Good Morning America have recently presented reports about new fathers gaining weight after their wives have children.  CNN’s story  (bluntly titled “Fatherhood makes you fat”) is here. This is based on a new study of body mass index in the American Journal of Men’s Health, abstract here .
CNN refers to John Kinnear’s “Ask Your Dad” blog, where I see a heterosexual dad comments about  SCOTUS and same-sex couples, which I’ll cover on the LGBT blog.
But the main reason for the weight gain seems to be the time that attending to children requires, leaving less time for self-care, working out, or healthy eating.
Less important seemed to be the idea that some men gain weight when getting married, or out of sympathy with pregnant wives.
However, other studies have reported that fathers have reduced testosterone levels when caring for children.  But this may apply only to fathers in heterosexual (usually marital) relationships where they tended to partners when pregnant.  Pheromones from pregnancy might reduce hormonal levels in men.  It would not seem to apply to male couples raising children, and the effect seems to go away with athletic activity (as with pro sports players who  become fathers).  The Family Research Council sometimes tried to use this as an argument against gay marriage.

I would say I know of many counterexamples of marital or fatherhood weight gain.  And I know of an example of pre-marriage weight gain. 
Other studies in the past have reported that gay men typically have slightly lower BMI’s than straight men, which could be partly the result of not being cooked for, and more physical activity (not because of HIV, for example). 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trump and the draft: should people of my generation be judged on old notions of cowardice, that younger adults don't get?

GOP candidate Donald Trump added to emotional outrage, within his own party particularly, when he said about John McCain “he’s not a war hero”.  The New York Post account is here.  Politico has a more detailed account here
John McCain was shot down in 1967 and held as a war prisoner until 1973, and often tortured. But he refused release until his own men were set free first.
Furthermore, Trump made some odd remark about liking captives.
Trump also says he had a high draft number when the lottery was implemented in 1969.  Previously he had enjoyed student deferments.
Note the video below uses the word “coward” in its old context.
Curiously, his draft record shows a 1-Y in 1968 and that he took a physical in 1972 and was classified 4-F.  The Smoking Gun has a copy of his Selective Service record here.  He has said that he had bone spurs in his heel.   Maybe he couldn't have marched, done drill and ceremonies (the very first class in Basic at Fort Jackson for me in 1968).  
It’s interesting that we judge people of Trump’s generation on their draft-related behavior.  We did so with Bill Clinton (and Newt Gingrich).  That could be done with me.  Yet, many young adults today have no concept of what dealing with the draft and the deferment system was like.  They need to.  The draft created a major part of my own narrative.  “I’ve not dying for some politician’s war.”   

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Consumer Reports" discusses the rapid development of antibiotic resistance

Consumer Reports has an important piece “The Rise of Superbugs”, on p. 20 of the August 2015 print issue, as part of its “America’s Antibiotic Crisis”, link here.  We're entering a post-antibiotic era that will require new incentives for drug companies and much more forbearance from patients than I experienced.  There's a "herd" problem comparable to the issues of the vaccine debate. 
I’ll note that as a young adult I had a few strep throats.  Injected penicillin used to work, as it did for a left-side tonsillitis in 1982.  Then in April 1983, I got a similar infection on both sides, and penicillin didn’t work, but oral erythromycin did.  I had a milder episode in 1984,, but haven’t needed a major antibiotic for pharyngitis since, in 30 years, so I much have developed some immunity to streptococcus.
In the summer of 1991, I had what might have been intestinal e-coli, which went away on its own in a few weeks (along with the nausea, diarrhea and weight loss), but this could have been more serious.
In 1998, when I had hip surgery for an acetabular fracture after a fall in a convenience store, I remember getting Bactrim for accompanying urinary tract infection.
In 2004, I got a bizarre lower jaw infection that was successfully treated with clindamycin, which the CR article reports as dangerous for some people, wiping out good bacteria and leading to worse infections.  One could consider eating yogurt while taking antibiotics.
A couple times a few years ago I got Azythromycin for fluid in the ear (a three table course) and swimmer’s ear, but this might not have been necessary.
But it’s true, that the “sandpaper throat” that precedes a cold is viral, and should not be treated with antibiotics.  It will disappear in two days on its own.
Infection control in hospitals – and the degree of hand washing and scrubbing required – could become a growing issue that we haven’t heard the last of.  Maybe laser sterilization methods for skin could be developed, but would doctors want to use them?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"All lives matter" phrase at event not specific enough for some peole

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley planned to interview journalist Jose Antonio Vargas (movies blog, “Documented”, May 30, 2014) with Bernie Sanders, in Phoenix, and a fracas erupted when O’Malley essentially said “All lives matter”. 
Chip Moody’s story with video on CNN is here
Someone screamed, “Don’t generalize…”  Also, "Whar side are you on?" 

In other words, you have a group demanding special attention, regardless of a bigger context.  Turning this around, of course “Black lives matter” (I’ve photo-ed enough signs saying that in demonstrations), and of course police abuse has happened (with Baltimore being one of the worst).  On the other hand, facts in some cases (Ferguson) seem to be wrong.

If “all lives matter”, then all of us can get challenged to prove it in ways we aren’t always expecting to step up to.  Donna Brazile writes on CNN why this generic phrase "misses the point" here

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A visit to a state Libertarian Party reception

This evening, I attended a reception with hors d’oeuvres at the headquarters of the Libertarian Party of Virginia on Duke Street in Old Town Alexandria, VA.

I haven’t been associated with anything “partisan” at all since returning from Minnesota in 2003.  I had been somewhat active with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, doing ballot access petitioning on the streets in 1998.
I had been to LPVA conventions in Richmond and Manassas back in the 1990s.  I had met Harry Browne a few times.

Recall that in the middle 2000’s, there was a controversy over whether political blogging could be considered a “campaign contribution”, and that problem essentially “blew over” (but see this explanation (on my “do ask do tell notes” Wordpress blog, Feb. 13, 2014, here.)

I met Arvin Vohra, who has run as a candidate from Maryland, and who runs a company that provides specialized education services (link ) which might complement the Khan Academy.  I asked how he thought the “uninsurable” could get health care in a libertarian society (without “Obamacare” presumably) and he suggested that one of the biggest problems is the regulations on foreign doctors (which corresponds the tech industry’s concerns about restrictions on importing skilled engineers, which Mark Zuckberberg has often addressed).

I found it curious that the LPVA needs to have a “business license” from the City of Alexandria, which it displays. 

I had learned about the reception by serendipity, when I went to the Arlngton Gay and Lesbian Alliance brunch at Freddie's today in South Arlington. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Emergency: Wildfire strikes cars on I-15 north of Los Angeles, traps motorists now; warn if possible

There is an unprecedented highway danger on I-15 north of Los Angeles (the main highway to Las Vegas, which I took in May 2012) through the El Cajon pass.  CNN reports live now.  A wildfire has ignited cars on the freeway, spreading, and trapping motorists.  Cell reception in the area is poor.
KTLA has a developing story and video here

If you know someone driving in this area, let them know if you can get through.  This is a life-threatening hazard.
I recall being “trapped” by an accident on I-95 near Philadelphia, which I wrote about July 6.  But that is nothing compared to this. 

The "Really Big One" is more likely to hit Seattle than LA or SF

The trendy fear among earthquake soothsayers these days is that the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and north, is more vulnerable to absolute devastation from earthquakes than is Los Angeles or San Francisco (as in the overwrought movie “San Andreas”).  Brad Plummer has a story in Vox here about the destruction and tsunami risk, link.

But Missouri news personality Dutchsinse on Facebook has said this before.

After all, Anchorage, Alaska experienced a 9.2 in 1964.

The frequency of huge quakes in the area may be low, once every few hundred years.  New Madrid, MO is comparable. On the other hand, volcanic eruptions of the Yellowstone supervolcano caldera are supposed to happen every few hundred thousand years (farther east each time), but we’re near the end of a cycle on Yellowstone, too.

A loss of usability of a major chunk of the country or of North America is possible. (Maybe even a pseudo-nuclear winter.)  How would an economy based on “free markets” work if a quarter of the real estate in the country is physically destroyed?  Would others “pitch in” with “radical hospitality”?  This is a question some terrorists or sovereign enemies know to ask, too.

Wikipedia attribution link for Cascade volcanic arc (NASA, p.d. ) 

During the past weekend Florida trip (diagonally across the country), I did drive to Tampa Monday, and a little bit through the neighborhoods subject to sinkholes.  I didn’t see any, but I can imagine what it is like to live with that kind of unpredictable risk.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Suddenly, a prediction of another little Ice Age because of changes in solar rhythm

Here’s an odd story that climate change naysayers will love. Some scientists at Northumbira University in England have studies solar cycles and claim that we may actually be headed for a “little Ice Age”, as in this story on CNN by Ashley Franz, here.  The freezing of the Thames in 1900 is mentioned.  The sudden appearance of the story Monday was surprising given the mounting evidence of global warming.

The cold spell would start around 2030. 
Some freezes in the past (like “The year without a summer” in 1815) have been caused by volcanic cloud cover.
The work has not been peer reviewed, and it is hard to say how this would play out with larger levels of carbon dioxide.
The 1998 TV movie “Ice” supposed that the Sun suddenly lost a lot of its  output.
But the bigger issue could be how well prepared we are for big Carrington-style geomagnetic storms.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Wall Street Journal "whines" about Obama's "Unaffordable Care Act"

The Wall Street Journal, in a weekend editorial, whined about “The Unaffordable Care Act”, link here.  It’s not new that premiums are spiking, because now the healthier people have to take care of the sicker people.
A couple of reactions.  If you’re young and healthy and don’t spend money on doctors, be thankful.  Count your blessings. There will be issues, though: childless and single people paying premiums for other couples’ pregnancies.  But anyone can be in an accident, and anyone can be a crime victim. And anyone can get an unusual cancer.

The other side of this, of course, is that Americans do spend way too much on unnecessary treatments and tests.  Health is sometimes a matter of momentum.

When I was “working” I tended to pay much less out-of-pocket in employer plans as a single person than those with families, usually about 30% of what family coverage would cost. Some employers (Univac, and later RMA) actually seemed to scale employee contributions to salary or wages.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Personal offense at some symbols gets taken too far

So, the S.C. legislature will take down the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, and there is pressure on Mississippi to change its own state flag to remove a confederate symbol. The flag will be removed to a museum in Columbia (near my favorite Fort Jackson Basic Training site).
The behavior of some people on this issue is atrocious.

But closing down various Confederate memorial sites in the South, and the push to remove confederate memorabilia from e-commerce sites like Ebay and Amazon, and their removal from WalMart seem like a big overreaction.  Likewise, sports teams should be sensitive about their trademarked names now, but what has been made of the issue (the Redskins) sounds excessive.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Reckless driving (and trucking and trailer hauling) and homeland security

Sunday, I drove to Philadelphia to catch the last day of LGBT50, and certainly got a lesson in infrastructure.
I took the I-95 route from the Delaware Turnpike, passed Wilmington, and even stopped at the Pennsylvania welcome area.  When leaving, I immediately encountered a backup that stretched all the way to I-476, about seven miles.  It took two hours to get through it. 
When I got there, I saw that there was road work on the I-476 interchange, and a Hazmat crew cleaning up a spilled substance.  Earlier one state trooper and a couple ambulances had separate the lanes.  It appeared that a truck had been unable to make a lane change and overturned. 
But there were no signs telling us what had happened.  A call to 511 (which you shouldn’t do when driving) showed nothing.
In Virginia, at least, there are electronic signs on I-95 giving information after major crashes.
Today there was a similar accident, according to Philly, story here

This is certainly dangerous to drivers, trapped in an area between jug handles without shoulders (although there were a couple of “weave” exits).

And I saw plenty of reckless driving.  When leaving Philadelphia on the Whitman Bridge, with narrow lanes, a speeding car almost sidewiped me and forced me other.  A lot of drivers cut in and out and leave very little margin. 

Coming back, on I-95, there was a slowdown south of the Service Plaza itself south of the Susquehanna. I thought at first the reason might be a left-lane entrance from the Plaza.  It turned out a mattress had fallen out in a lane to the right of me.  No police had come by to pick it up.  This could surprise a driver suddenly and cause a real wreck.

Without belaboring it, it isn’t hard to see that trapping drivers deliberately could be a strategy for an (enemy) attack.  It’s dangerous if police can’t inform drivers as to what has happened. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Climate Progress editor warns of "extreme weather events" that will be "beyond comprehension" in a few decades

Joe Romm, founding editor of “Climate Progress”, has an alarming video in which he warns that the planet faces hundreds of years of misery and that extreme weather events will be “beyond comprehension” in a few decades, unless vigorous action is started now.

The basic link is on the Weather Channel here.   Romm has an article saying “It’s not too late to stop climate change, and it will be super cheap”, a 2 degrees  C, compared to what it might have been.  His plan, basically “decarbonize industry”.
Romm says the analogy of whether climate change causes severe storms corresponds to the use of steroids in baseball, and as to whether they cause more homeruns or more strikeouts. 

The possibility of extreme disruption of lives due to weather events can make it hard to accomplish things and force people to become more interdependent.  No one is above winding up in a shelter.  It does seem that the wildfires in the West are more frequent than they should be, although it’s less clear now for tornadoes and hurricanes (even Sandy).  Ironically, the extreme Cold Wave over the East in late February of 2015 could be related to warming.

Persistent danger to residences also weakens people financially, it goes without saying.  It will destroy saved wealth and estates.
There’s a moral question here.  I just bought a replacement new Ford Focus, after the other one was totaled. (I won’t go into the details on social media.)  My point was, I wanted to “stay where I was”.  Should I have gotten a Prius now?  Well, an accident isn’t the time to do that (a lot of times, there are rebates and arrangements that encourage staying where you are.)  A higher end car is a theft target, a serious consideration in my world.  Yet, at 72, I’m thinking about myself.  Not about future, unborn and even unconceived generations.