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On Tanning Salons

[ 92 ] August 20, 2013 |

Not that fashion is exactly my wheelhouse, but this piece on the growth of tanning salon use among white teenage women and the very real health risks involved is worth a mention, not only because it is a growing public health problem that exists for no good reason, but because tanning salons are stupid. When I was at the University of Oregon in the 1990s, along about February you’d see 95% of students looking as pasty as can be after 4 months of gloom. And then there would be the 5% of young women (although a few guys too) who would be almost obscenely bronzed. They looked ridiculous. Obviously, I wasn’t the target demographic here, but they were putting their health at risk and making themselves look like alien freaks at the same time. Every time I hear about tanning salons, I think of these students.

I’m glad Obamacare forces a 10% tax on tanning salon use. It should probably be regulated as tightly as smoking and highly discouraged.

Lead and Fracking

[ 20 ] August 20, 2013 |

Industry fought against all evidence that lead exposure hurt people since at least 1767. Robin Russell-Jones rightfully compares that to the battle against fracking today, with industry saying that there are no major environmental problems at all with the process, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The lesson is to never trust industry positions on the environmental or health effects of their products. In fact, we’d be better off assuming they are lying and forcing corporations to convince us they are not.

Today in Duh

[ 32 ] August 20, 2013 |

It’s sad that we still need major scientific panels to determine whether humans caused global warming. I’m sure this won’t stop Jim Inhofe and his Merry Band of Corporate Hacks in Congress from claiming this was just a bunch of liberal commie treehuggers instead of real scientists, you know the kind who cash their checks and create findings to fit current Republican policy points.

The Cherished Principle of Amateurism

[ 45 ] August 18, 2013 |

It is obviously extremely important for the purity of the NCAA to not allow this guy to play college football:

A Middle Tennessee freshman who finished five years of active service in the Marines this summer is appealing an NCAA rule preventing him from playing this season because he played in a recreational league in the military.

According to The Daily News Journal, the rule essentially says student-athletes that do not enroll in college within a year of graduating high school will be charged one year of collegiate eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition.

By NCAA standards, Steven Rhodes’ play at the Marine base counted as “organized competition” because there were game officials, team uniforms and the score was kept.

But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Marine sergeant said the recreational league was nothing close to organized.

“Man, it was like intramurals for us,” said the 24-year-old. “There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old. The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games.”

If you let former Marines play college football after participating in glorified scrimmages, the next thing you know schools will be making hundreds of millions of dollars off the game, turning the snow-white purity of the NCAA into an exploitative system that makes a mockery of amateur athletics. And we can’t have that.

Labor and Nature in the Fields

[ 28 ] August 18, 2013 |

Mark Bittman is making sense:

Oddly, affordability is not the problem; in fact, the tomatoes are too cheap. If they cost more, farmers like Rominger would be more inclined to grow tomatoes organically; to pay his workers better or offer benefits to more of them; to make a better living himself.

But the processed tomato market is international, with increasing pressure from Italy, China and Mexico. California has advantages, but it still must compete on price. Producers also compete with one another, making it tough for even the most principled ones to increase worker pay. To see change, then, all workers, globally, must be paid better, so that the price of tomatoes goes up across the board.

How does this happen? Unionization, or an increase in the minimum wage, or both. No one would argue that canned tomatoes should be too expensive for poor people, but by increasing minimum wage in the fields and elsewhere, we raise standards of living and increase purchasing power.

The issue is paying enough for food so that everything involved in producing it — land, water, energy and labor — is treated well. And since sustainability is a journey, progress is essential. It would be foolish to assert that we’re anywhere near the destination, but there is progress — even in those areas appropriately called “industrial.”

I agree with everything in this article. I suppose he could have talked to a worker or two to investigate the conditions a bit more, but the overall point about making the food system more fair to the land and to people is excellent.

Saturday Night

[ 28 ] August 17, 2013 |

For this Saturday night, we need to have as much fun as Bobby Grich did when pouring beer on Richard Nixon’s head after the California Angels won the 1979 AL West title.

Gene Autry, “The Death of Old Mother Jones”

[ 9 ] August 17, 2013 |

One doesn’t exactly think of future Reaganite and California Angels owner Gene Autry as a crazy radical, but he did record “The Death of Old Mother Jones” in 1931.

Fracking and Water

[ 34 ] August 17, 2013 |

Among the many problems with fracking is how we have prioritized the fossil fuel industry’s access to precious water supplies over that of regular citizens. In Texas, where fracking goes unchallenged and where extraordinary drought has challenged all users of water, towns are losing their water supply while water-intensive fracking operations drive precious water far underground.

I mean, when you are praying for a hurricane to replenish your aquifer, you know you are at the end of the line as a town. Although I’m sure David Petraeus would happily tell these Texans why losing their water is a good idea, and at a very reasonable price.


[ 9 ] August 17, 2013 |

Say what you will about Jacques Vergès, but everyone deserves the best defense possible, even if it is Klaus Barbie or your long-time friend Pol Pot.

If you’ve never seen Terror’s Advocate, do so.


[ 7 ] August 16, 2013 |

This is pretty close to the most devastating critique I’ve ever read of a baseball player.


[ 78 ] August 16, 2013 |

I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of boycotting the Winter Olympics in Russia because of the nation’s anti-gay laws. Mostly, I don’t think it’s fair to athletes to be used as pawns in a political game and I do think that athletes can become Tommie Smith and John Carlos, protesting in very powerful ways. What would be more powerful, a boycott or athletes on the medal stand making clear statements in solidarity with gay Russians? The latter by far.

That said, the idea that U.S. athletes should “comply” with Russia’s anti-gay laws, as suggested by United States Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun, is deeply offensive. His point is that athletes should always comply with the laws of the country where they visit. 99% of the time that is absolutely correct. Complying with laws that violate basic standards of decency and discriminate against people, well that’s a whole other thing.

Foxconn Labor Strife

[ 16 ] August 16, 2013 |

Glad to see workers in China fighting back against their conditions of work at Foxconn. Of course, I’m sure that the computer industry will move the factory to Vietnam or Cambodia. After all, given the lack of profits made by Apple and Foxconn, there’s no way they companies can afford to pay these workers enough to eat.