Archive for 2011 February

The Millenials: An abused generation?

So argued economist Ed Leamer in a piece I wrote that the Reporter ran last week: 

“I see a lot of kids who are really struggling, and it’s very troubling to me,” he said. “I think we’re looking at an abused generation. A lot of kids are graduating from college with a huge amount of debt. They’re going into a poorly functioning economy, and as a group, they’re taking on huge levels of public debt with pensions and other obligations."

This recession has a lot of strange ironies that have not been well-discussed. Much of the public anger (about debt and such) is found at the older end of the age spectrum, but our seniors have suffered much less from this recession than have the younger generation, according to a plethora of stats. Curious. 

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Frazz debunks climate change denier

With ease:


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Another smart person against global warming

Speaking of this country's most famous single investor, Warren Buffett, who last year bought a railroad for his holding company. The Northern Pacific went on to do wonders for his bottom line, and shares in his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, were up 29% in a year, doubling the market's performance. But from his perspective, the railroad was great for others reasons as well:

“Railroads have major cost and environmental advantages over trucking, their main competitor,” said Mr. Buffett. “Our country gains because of reduced greenhouse emissions and a much smaller need for imported oil. When traffic travels by rail, society benefits.

Great to see his shareholders profit from his environmentally-minded wisdom. 

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Cheever on writing as sport

From an interview with his daughter in Newsweek late in his wondrous career: 

Writing is not at all a competitive sport. I don't think of myself as being less that Saul Bellow or more than Herbert Gold. The essence of literature is always the singularity of the writer. 

h/t: Al Filreis


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Thinktank: Water management failing in CA

The highly-regarded Public Policy Institute of California makes an important point in a new book:

Despite several decades of well-intentioned environmental regulations, more than 80 percent of the state’s 129 native fish species are extinct or imperiled—listed as endangered or threatened, or likely to qualify for listing in the future. Piecemeal efforts to stop the declines now threaten the reliability of water supplies and flood management projects. Yet the deterioration is expected to accelerate because of continuing influxes of invasive species, increasing diversions of water, and losses of cold water habitat.

They call water management in California a "failure," but see possibilities for great improvement, beginning with urban water conservation. 

Funny how the rain falls most where the people don't want to live: 


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The truth about HPV and cancer: Too complicated for a headline

One of NPR's top stories this week is this one: 

Virus Passed During Oral Sex Tops Tobacco as Throat Cancer Cause

Kudos to the news source for not dumbing down the story, a big temptation, which if taken will surely lead to misunderstanding, especially in a headline. (Oral sex leads to cancer!)


Here's their lede: 

If you're keeping score, here's even more evidence that HPV causes oral, head and neck cancers and that vaccines may be able to prevent it.

Note what they didn't say — that oral sex leads to cancer. That's because it's not oral sex that's the problem, it's HPV (a virus that typically manifests as genital warts). 

Note also what they hastened to add: That vaccines can block the virus.

And here's what they glossed over.

Today young women are warned about HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer, and offered a vaccine, typically Gardisal, to block a cancer risk. But as a sex educator and academic named Adina Nack told me on an STD cover story I reported a while back, the vaccine prevents HPV, not cancer, and that's important, because of the way the virus spreads. 

Nack argued that if we were serious about the risks presented by HPV and the cancers it can encourage, cervical and otherwise, we would vaccine not just women but men too. But the manufacturer, fearing a backlash against the medicine if it is associated with STDs and not cancer, won't allow it. 

Nack's conclusion: In this country, we are nervous about sex, and women are held responsible for sexual health and sexually-transmitted diseases. As long as we think that way, we will not be able to stop such diseases, and a lot of people — including a lot of men — will suffer needlessly. 

This appears to be true!

In the NPR story, it's assumed that the costs of innoculating men against HPV is prohibitive, even if it means men are needlessly exposed to cancer risks. The cost of Gardisal, around $350, isn't even mentioned. Why would a man need protection against an STD? But a woman…

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How to win the conversation over global warming

Shorter sentences, says Rall


Looks a little frustrated to me, though…

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Snow falling and night falling oh so fast…in Yosemite

From the Yosemite Ranger's lovely Twitter feed. A picture: 


And a poem…

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it—it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less—
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

–Robert Frost 

That's what I love about Robert Frost — his ability to scare himself. 

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Michigan Congressman attacks EPA, ignores constituents

Fred Upton, the newly-named chairman of the House Commerce and Energy Committee, was once a moderate Republican on climate issues. He supported measures to reduce the risk of global warming.

But after receiving a $20,000 donation from the climate-change-denying-fossil-fuel-billionaire Koch brothers, Upton now wants to strip the EPA of its Supreme Court-mandated power to regulate CO2 emissions.

But all that's old news. What's interesting, as reported in the Kalamazoo Gazette, is that two separate polls of Michigan voters, one taken state-wide, and one a poll in Upton's district, found that fully two-thirds of Michigan voters supported the EPA's right to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. 

But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by his thick-headedness. Last December Upton wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (with a Koch brothers lobbyist) in which he declared the EPA's right to regulate CO2 emissions "unconstitutional" — even after the Supreme Court in 2007 not only affirmed the EPA's right to regulate atmospheric pollutants, including CO2, but rebuked the agency for its inaction. 

In other words, don't bring up the facts to Fred Upton — he's not interested. 


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The usefulness of intelligence, according to John Wayne


“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” 

A quote from John Wayne, allegedly. Which came up in a fascinating conversation about True Grit, the spectacular movie, the much-admired book, and a whole lot more, between the great Larry McMurtry and his writing partner Diana Ossana, in (of all places) the New York Review of Books

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