Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lead on your lips

Lead in lipstick. This article mentions a couple of brands that do (and do not) contain detectable amounts of lead. For a list of lead-free lipsticks, click here.

Lipstick is hardly the only offender in the cosmetics world. Click here to check other kinds of makeup, including mascara. Some manufacturers add mercury to mascara and other kinds of eye makeup. Minnesota banned these products last year.

It's so exhausting keeping up with all the hidden toxins in products that we put in and on our bodies, but what choice do we have? Because it's unlikely that learning or behavioral problems, or even eventual cancers, would ever be definitively traced back to a specific company's plastic bottle, or to a specific company's BPA-lined alunimum can, or to a specific brand of cosmetics (and that's due in large part that there are so many sources of exposure to these toxins), there's little chance that these companies are ever going to face any kind of financial penalty for cutting costs by using cheap, dangerous chemicals in their products.

"Sure, it makes people sick or causes learning disabilities, but it does it so gradually that it's extremely unlikely that the cause of the problem would ever be traced back to us." That's what's called an acceptable level of risk. When corporations talk about an acceptable level of risk, they're talking about the likelihood of having to pay huge sums of precious, precious money in fines and punitive damages. But when people talk about an acceptable level of risk, they're talking about their families' health.

Clearly we and they do not share the same primary concerns, so it is up to us to be vigilant, no matter how exhausting it can be to learn of a new risk in a product about which we previously were unconcerned. We can't afford to put our heads in the sand and give up. The only way to encourage companies to offer more healthful products is to vote with our wallets and stop buying products that pose health risks. For example, contrary to the commercial, Snapple didn't just recently discover sugar. It started making iced tea with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup for a very obvious reason: to make money. The company recognized a demand for products with less "shit" in them, and responded.

The sugared iced tea, by the way, is excellent.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Afternoon Music Club

For my 1,000th post, a song for my daughter, little Miss S.

Labels: , ,

The last word on torture, hopefully

Sure, torture produces unreliable information because a person being tortured will tell the torturer anything to make the torture stop. And sure, torture is antithetical to everything that this country stands for, fans the flames of hatred and all but assures that our troops will suffer similar treatment. But do cookies make you feel as tough as torture does?

The practice of torturing suspected terrorists received fresh blows Friday after a magazine reported that a key al Qaeda suspect offered useful intelligence after receiving sugar-free cookies.

Ali Soufan, a former FBI interrogator, revealed in an article being released in June that Osama Bin Laden's bodyguard opened up about the 9/11 terror attacks only after being offered -- sugar free cookies.

Bin Laden lieutenant Abu Jandal is a diabetic, Soufan said, and wouldn't eat sugar cookies he'd been offered.

"Soufan noticed that he didn't touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: 'He was a diabetic and couldn't eat anything with sugar in it,' Time's Bobby Ghosh wrote. "At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal's angry demeanor.

"We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him," Soufan told Ghosh. "So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures."
Yet the torture fetishists out there will continue to support torturing detainees even though it doesn't work and even though there are more effective methods. Makes you wonder why they would do that, huh?

Labels: ,

On the rise

Gee, didn't see this coming during the summer driving season.

The price of crude oil once again seems to be defying the economic forces of gravity.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest prices should be falling. In industrialized countries, storage tanks are overflowing, with enough supplies to cover 62 days of use, about 10 days more than usual. Economic weakness continues to depress world demand, which is on track to fall for the second consecutive year. And oil-producing countries, while restraining output, are adding to production capacity. New Saudi Arabian wells coming on line this year will exceed the entire production capacity of Texas.

But instead of dropping, the price of crude oil rose to more than $65 a barrel yesterday, the highest in more than six months. And some analysts said it could rise even higher as the summer driving season arrives. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said this week that a $75-a-barrel price was within reach.
I'm no expert of economics, but it seems to me that the so-called forces of the marketplace can be manipulated by the super rich. If that's the case, then aren't the only people who face any real risk in the market the nonrich and unconnected people who are foolish enough to wander into the market and hand their money over to the super rich? And isn't "playing the market" just a matter of trying to guess what the super-rich are going to do next?

Take a look at the following charts, from the Energy Information Administration. Together, they cover the past three years, including the 2006 midterms and the 2008 presidential election (click the charts to enlarge).

Look at what happened to the retail price of gasoline right before November 2006 and November 2008: It dropped dramatically, only to go back up in time for the summer driving season. To be sure, I've made this point before (here, here, here and probably other times as well), but I wanted to post an updated chart that showed what has happened to prices since the election. Sure enough, they're on their way back up. And the Post article referenced above cites analysts who think the price of oil is going to keep climbing. You can track the retail price of gasoline here.

One other, unrelated, thing from the Post article to note: It seems that Ocean City, Md., has an interesting way of tracking the number people who visit the town.

In the Washington area, more people appeared to have taken to the road for the Memorial Day weekend; the beach resort of Ocean City, using wastewater use to track the volume of toilets flushed, estimated that it received more Memorial Day weekend visitors than it had since 1993.
Or it could mean that the quality of seafood in the Atlantic isn't what it used to be.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Douchebag of the Week

Mark Krikorian, who rages against the "unnatural" pronunciation Judge Sonia Sotomayor's name. Sotomayor, as you know, is President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

This is typical of the substance of the RWNM attacks against Sotomayor. It's nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to make her seem foreign, different, not "one of us." For the record, the Bronx is not a foreign country, so she's not foreign. But the Right clearly isn't shy about exploiting xenophobia, even fake xenophobia.

And it's also standard operating procedure for the Right: Throw as much shit as possible at the wall, no matter how loony and ridiculous, and see what, if anything, sticks. Something tells me this dipshit's ramblings about dipthongs isn't going to be it.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Take a moment today to remember.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shorter Jon Kyl

the other Republican senator from Arizona, on healthcare: We plan on bullshitting you.

UPDATE: Here's what the bullshit will sound like, so you can recognize it when you hear it: "government takeover of healthcare."

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Don't worry about a thing.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Afternoon Music Club

"We Who Are Not As Others."

Labels: , ,

Meet the new boss

I hate to recall a manufactured controversy from the campaign, but after reading this, I keep thinking, "talk about lipstick on a pig."

Breaking a key promise from his campaign, President Barack Obama is expected to announce Friday the return of military commission trials for a small number of terrorism suspects. Obama had previously promised to abolish them.

The tribunals, often criticized as overly protective of state secrets and willing to accept evidence obtained while defendants were allegedly tortured, were suspended mere hours after Obama took office.

Many organizations expected the move to be a death knell for the system, launched by the Bush administration.

But, it was not.

Unnamed administration officials told the Associated Press on Thursday that the revived commissions will afford greater legal rights to prisoners by barring evidence obtained under coercion or torture and restricting how hearsay evidence is applied.
When someone spots some substantive differences between this administration and the tragic disaster that it replaced, please let me know.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An addict's confession

You know, I'm relieved to see that the authorities have finally caught on. Becuase now I feel like I can tell my story.

I've been using "O" for years, for as long as I can remember, really. And if that weren't bad enough, I turned my family on to it too. Even my kid. I'm not sure what kind of a man that makes me, and I don't want to think about it.

Back in the old neighborhood, while other kids were busy being children, I grew up fast. Too fast. It's just that the shit was so readily available. On every street corner store someone was peddling O, and the lure of that bright yellow box was just too much for a kid like me to resist. Shit, I could even score it in diners. My parents hated when I did that, but I was too far gone to listen to them.

As for the diners' owners, they didn't even try to hide it. Little one-hit boxes were lined up in plain view, right behind the counter where the cops drank their free coffee. Everyone knew what was going on, but nobody wanted to rock the boat. The money was just too good.

Eventually, a new formula hit the streets. Something everyone called "the honey." It was like candy, man, and pretty soon it seemed like all the kids in the neighborhood were wired. Suddenly it was dessert for breakfast man, real black-is-white, through-the-looking-glass shit. A whole generation was spinning out of control.

They talk about gateway drugs, but I can't really blame that. I mean yeah, I can remember using Fruit Loops with little regard for the consequences. We just didn't think about tomorrow then.

But now the feds are catching on, and I've had to go underground. Lately I've been scoring O from a new dealer. I don't know much about him really, not even his real name -- he calls himself "Trader Joe" and he keeps going on about how earthy and natural his shit is.

Whatever, hippie. The stuff is good and the price is right. Save your speeches for the chicks with the hairy armpits.

Look at me, what I'm putting up with, and for what? Maybe it's time to get out. You know, make something of myself, grow up. Order some eggs. Like an adult.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

As if the Philly Inky edit page

weren't bad enough with Rick Santorum, the paper hires John Yoo to write a monthly column. Yoo, of course, is famous for his previous work, which attempted to manufacture a legal justification for torture.

Now, instead of "enemy combatants" or just people ensnared in the post-9/11 round-up for the flimsiest of reasons, Yoo will be torturing Inky readers.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Mom, Mrs. S and to moms everywhere.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Adrian Legg.

Fun with tuning pegs:

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 07, 2009

50 games

off for Manny Ramirez, who has tested positive for HCG, AKA human chorionic gonadotropin. The drug is often used by people using human growth hormone (HGH) or testosterone, because when the body recognizes that it has excess testosterone, it shuts down its own natural production of the hormone.

HGH and testosterone, of course, often are used by athletes looking to artifically improve their performance because they enhance strength and muscle growth.

Like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, this is another case of a probable Hall of Famer who now might not get in. But I don't suppose many of these players think that far ahead. For them, it's often about the next huge contract, which is ironic because why would someone who is already rich jeapordize their health and legacy for just more money? Would Bonds have had to take a job bagging grocieries if he had retired in 1997? Of course, given the way that baseball, the media and fans treated Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, there was little reason for Bonds to think he would be tarnishing his image by using. The health effects he presumably knew about and disregarded.

Bonds has never tested positive (which, given the way the cheaters are always ahead of the testers and the weak-ass program baseball had previously, means nothing) and never admitted "knowingly" using, not even to the BALCO grand jury. Yet he has become the poster boy for baseball's steroid era (I'm not saying that's undeserved), and many Hall of Fame voters will refuse to vote to induct him. How then could these voters elect Clemens, McGwire, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez and now Manny?

What Manny's suspension tells us, along with the fact that MLB is finally, reluctantly serious about getting performance-enhancing drugs out of the game, is that the so-called "steroid era" is not over. What might help would be to get someone in the commissioner's office who is not an employee of the owners and free to act in the best interest of the game instead of his employers.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 04, 2009

Defending the indefensible

It appears that conservatives (yes, I realize that Ben Nelson is a "Democrat") aren't as confident in the free market system as they claim to be. Otherwise, they would have no problem with a public insurance plan competing with private insurance companies. Because if private insurance were as good as its supporters claim, it would be able to compete successfully, right? Private insurance is so good, and a government-run program would be so clearly bad, that the threat to private insurance posed by competition must come from the system itself, right?

Or is it that they realize that private insurance isn't as good as they claim and that government-run insurance is a better option for us, but just don't want us to have that option?

Nelson's problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game," Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a "deal breaker."
Isn't that a kind of protectionism? And aren't free-market types opposed to that sort of thing? Or am I reading too much into conservative opposition to a government-run healthcare program? Could it be as base and simple as elected officials protecting their own electability at the expense of the people they pretend to represent?

The problem, as President Nelson explained, is that the public plan might be too good a deal for Americans, leading them to want to purchase it. And that would just be terrible. Terrible for Ben Nelson, anyway, because his contributions would dry up.
Either way, Nelson's position, and the position of most, if not all, congressional Republicans, is wrong-minded, unethical and, hopefully, futile.

Are there any informed opponents of single-payer healthcare who don't have a financial interest in maintaining the status quo? Are there any informed supporters of the current healthcare system who aren't making money off it?

Labels: ,