Category Archives: Government

The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of

Pretty much as long as there has been human civilization, there has been lead. While it’s certainly useful, that usefulness has come with a terrible price. It’s been known since the Greeks and Romans that lead is harmful but it didn’t stop us from using it. It took a “fringe” scientist by the name of Clair Patterson, who accidentally discovered widespread lead contamination while trying to measure the age of the Earth, to finally convince people that the use of lead needed to be strictly curtailed.

It’s hard not to see parallels with the current battle of global climate change. Despite overwhelming evidence a few industry-supported voices still manage to keep us from doing anything. Will there be a modern Clair Patterson to finally bring us to our senses or are we doomed?

FCC Ignores The Will Of The Public, Votes To Begin Dismantling Net Neutrality

You have to hand it to the Republicans, they don’t even pretend to care about anyone other than rich people and corporations. So the recent FCC votes to begin dismantling Net Neutrality doesn’t come as a surprise at all.

In the short term, you shouldn’t expect anything significant to change since there will be numerous lawsuits from various groups. In the longer term, as long as the GOP controls Washington the assaults on consumers will continue and Net Neutrality destruction is a priority. If this bothers you, check out the EFF and vote for those who think your rights as a consumer are worth protecting.

How economic boom times in the West came to an end

Out of the chaos of World War II came the greatest economic boom the world has ever seen. Fueled by a rapidly modernizing workforce, productivity increased in the years between 1948 and 1973. Then war in the Middle East and the oil embargo put a stop the boom and the productivity increase.

But it wasn’t just the oil crisis. The improvements in education, the transfer of workers into manufacturing and the move of women into the workforce had all peaked. Despite minor blips here and there the sad fact is productivity has not significantly increased since 1973, there’s simply no more improvement to be gained.

Countries that elected left-leaning governments tried electing right-leaning governments in hope of changing things. It didn’t work. The old ways simply don’t work and no knows what will. Keep this in mind as the year progresses.

Three Myths About Clinton’s Defeat in Election 2016 Debunked

Three Myths About Clinton’s Defeat in Election 2016 Debunked: Racism, Sexism and Stupidity.

I’d add Electoral College as it’s the current bete noir, but three is probably enough. But what it comes down to is: Clinton and the Democrats ran a terrible campaign. Once all the smoke settles, I hope people realize that and refuse to let it happen again.

Update: Two More Myths About Clinton’s Defeat in Election 2016 Debunked

It can happen here

It’s almost comforting to say that such and such won’t happen here in the United States because we have laws or “checks and balances” and the like. But that’s based on faith. Faith that those who administer those laws and are part of those checks and balances will do their jobs as they’re supposed to. But there’s no reason to believe that’s true.

What “free speech” should really mean online

You hear a lot about “free speech” and the First Amendment in connection with online forums like Twitter and Facebook. But “free speech” is the wrong way to think about them.

The First Amendment applies strictly to government, not private companies. Even then it’s not absolute, there are still limits to what you can say. On the other hand, private entities like Twitter and Facebook are free to determine for themselves what you can and cannot say in their domains. That determination has proven to be difficult, especially for Twitter. To make it worse, they find themselves criticized equally for removing abusive posts and for not removing them.

In the end, as the article suggests, it’s up to the Twitters and Facebooks to establish guidelines that reflect their communities and do the least amount of harm to everyone. It won’t be “free speech” in absolute terms, but it will be “free enough speech”.

 

Drugs You Don’t Need For Disorders You Don’t Have

You’ve seen them on TV. In fact, if you watch more than a few minutes your odds of seeing one are pretty much 100%. What are they? Ads for prescription medications. They tout some science, a distressingly long list of side-effects and tell you to “ask your doctor”. Their ubiquity has created a situation where patients ask for a drug by name and far too often get it, regardless of whether or not they have the condition the drug claims to treat. Italics because in many cases these new, and often expensive drugs don’t necessarily offer improvements over existing ones. But they do offer increased revenue for the drug companies and contribute to the rising cost of healthcare.

What Kodak knew about atomic tests the American public didn’t

We know the US government did a lot of testing of atomic bombs in the years after WWII and that many of these tests were done above ground. That these tests were pumping dangerous levels of fallout into the environment was less well-known, except to Eastman Kodak and other photographic film companies.

Kodak was first made aware of the fallout issue in 1946 when customers complained of fogged film. Investigation showed that Indiana corn husks used as packing materials were contaminated with the radioactive isotope iodine-131 (I-131). They told no one.

Then in January of 1951, following a test in Nevada, Kodak scientists detected spiked radiation levels in a snowfall that measured 25 times the norm (Kodak measured 10,000 counts per minute of radiation, compared to recent unaffected snowfalls that registered only 400). Note, this was 1,600 miles away from the test site. This time they quietly informed the Atomic Energy Commission and an industry group of their findings. The AEC did basically nothing until Kodak threatened to sue them, at which time they promised to keep Kodak and other photographic film companies aware of when they were testing along with sending meteorological information to help predict when fallout might reach them. The AEC told no one else.