Friday, July 30, 2010

Dude, you're overweight

If your friend was overweight, so overweight his health was affected, would you tell him? Would you let him know how unhealthy his eating is? Or that he doesn't get enough (any?) exercise? If you did decide to tell him, would he still be your friend?

Obesity is a problem in the U.S. The number of obese children has tripled in the last 25 years (Science Daily).

The Washington Post has a story about a Kentucky town that has double the number of obese people as the national average. They have plenty of fast-food restaurants, but no desire to eat healthier. Is it a problem with Lifestyle? Genetics? Peer pressure? All of the above?

Here is a summary of the article at The Atlantic with a link to the full story. Our Culture of Obesity, Embodied in a Kentucky Town (The Atlantic/Washington Post)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lying to a woman to have sex is rape?

A court in Israel has declared that a man who lied to a woman to have sex, in fact raped her because of that lie. The implication is that it doesn't matter what he lied about but simply the fact that he lied.

Israeli Court Calls Lying for Sex Rape (New York Times Blog)

Seems to me that the issue is really Jewish/Arab based. If the man had said he was wealthy and was not, I don't think the woman would have taken him to court. Pure speculation, of course, but racial tensions are high in the region and it seems like this was the real reason.

If a woman will have sex with someone who tells her things about himself and doesn't check on them, then who is to blame? The man is at fault for lying, but the woman gave herself willingly. Should either of them be held 'legally responsible'? Should either of them be taken to court?

One area where this could go to court is if one partner asked the other if they were 'disease free', for HIV, for example, and they were not. Then the aggrieved party could take the person to court for endangering their life.

But going to prison for 'lying for sex'? Not even.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pink is the new Black

Back when my son was early teens, went went to the park for a family outing. We took an ice chest, soccer ball, a couple of books, and... an old pink blanket to sit on.

My son was mortified.

There was no way he was going to sit on a pink blanket. My wife and I told him it was just a blanket and would keep us from getting grass stains. He wasn't having any of it.

Now that he is over 18, he's better about it, but he would still prefer I bring a blanket of another color.

So a new item brought a smile to my face this morning about a 21-year-old boxer who wears pink.

Boxer takes fight against breast cancer into ring (USA Today)

Breast Cancer Treatment Information (BreastCancer.org)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Does God approve of vandalism?

In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance (Wikipedia).  In 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill which inserted 'Under God' into the Pledge.

In recent years, some peoples and organizations have objected to the inclusion of 'Under God' and have tried to have it removed to no success.

Recently, a group called the North Carolina Secular Association paid for advertising on billboards around the state simply saying "One Nation, Indivisible" showing how the original Pledge of Allegiance was written.  A minister at the Trinity Baptist Church is having his own ads placed on billboards saying "One Nation, Under God".


A vandal spray-painted "Under God" on the Secular billboard.  The vandal(s) should be caught and prosecuted for their crime.   And if someone spraypaints a big X across "Under God" on the Religious billboard, they should also be prosecuted for their crime.

Both groups have the right to their Free Speech.  If someone disagrees, they can put out their own ads.  Or distribute flyers.  Or go on their local radio station to disagree.

Billboard Battle in Bible-Belt (ABC News)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Marriage: One of These and One of Those?

When it comes to 'the definition of marriage' I know I won't sway anyone by giving my opinion on the matter.  Those who have their mind made up on either side of the debate won't change their mind because of me.  I'm not so full of myself to think that I'll say X and someone reading this will say 'Wow, never thought of that.  Guess I'll change sides!'

But I will, for the record state my view.  And the reason for my view is what determines many of the opinions I do hold.  Simply stated, it is: if people are of legal age and aren't harming anyone else, let 'em do it.

Applying this to marriage, if a woman and a man want to get married, let 'em do it.  If a woman and a woman want to get married, let 'em do it.  And if a man and a man want to get married (wait for it...) let 'em do it.

In addition, if two women and a man want to get married, let 'em do it.  As long as everyone involved is of legal age and no one is being harmed, where is the issue?  If six women and fix men want to get married?  You know where I stand.


All of this just means that society, moving forward, will have to figure out how to handle these 'plus-sized marriages'.  Sure, a child will still have two biological parents, but if they are brought up in a large family, raised by everyone, how will we handle 'bring your father to work day?'  When filling out the emergency contact card at school, will extra spaces need to be provided?  Will 'Couples Retreats' need to be renamed 'Spouses Retreats'?

The possibilities are endless.

What brought this to mind lately was a judge striking down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (Washington Post);  a place the federal government has no place to be.  (A future posting will discuss why the Federal Government needs to have their hands in so many issues.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Let's raise taxes on sodas so less people will drink them.

This is America.  As long as you aren't harming anyone, you should be able to do what you want to do. Right? If you want to wear your hair very long and never wash it, you should be able to do so. Right? If you want to eat potato chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can do that. Right? If you want to smoke two packs of cigarettes each day, that's okay. Right?

What if your neighbor does these things? Long hair? No problem. Eat potato chips? No problem. Smoke? Now hold on. That's bad for them. They shouldn't do that. It will kill them. So let's raise taxes on cigarettes so it will be more difficult for them and we'll save their life!

That's the mindset of many people including politicians who have the power to increase taxes on 'sin products' like cigarettes, alcohol, and soft drinks.

Sin Tax (Wikipedia)
A Tax to Combat America’s Sugary Diet (New York Times)

Time to crack down on Big Tobacco (CNN)

There are many instances of people deciding something isn't good or good for people and attempt to get it outlawed or taxed.  These include same-sex marriage, smoking, abortion, stem-cell research, sugary drinks, and many more.  It's not enough that these people don't do it themselves.  They want to impose their beliefs on someone else.  As long as they aren't hurting anyone, leave them alone.  If they want to hurt themselves, that's their choice.  As a side note, smokers who do so with kids in the car should be liable, but that's another blog topic.

The most infamous attempt to regulate behaviour was Prohibition which caused large-scale bootlegging and a thriving black market.

Here is one current attempt to forestall sugary drinks that failed.  Failure of State Soda Tax Plan Reflects Power of an Antitax Message (New York Times)

UPDATE: The upside of raising taxes on alcohol - fewer deaths, researchers say (LA Times)

UPDATE - More than just the United States: Minimum pricing alcohol plan facing defeat (BBC News)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Humor: Public Opinion

A cartoon I can totally relate to.

Public Opinion (XKCD.com)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Senior drivers: should they continue to drive?

Current opinion: Drivers over age 65 should pass a driving test every two years

My grandmother drove until her death at the age of 84. And it wasn't until after her funeral that I learned she had been driving for years 'with one eye closed so she could see the road better'. Evidently, having both eyes open caused some kind of blurriness and closing one eye gave her better vision.  I never knew about this because I lived 400 miles away and whenever I would visit her, I would do the driving.

I remember her telling her son-in-law a few years earlier 'please don't take my car away from me'. She learned to drive later in life, but had been driving for decades. And she drove a friend to breakfast the day she died.

If I had known she was a hazard on the road, I would have talked long and hard with her about giving up her keys. I would have talked about all of the alternatives that were available to her including public transportation, elderly transportation provided by the city, getting rides from friends, and anything else that would be a viable option.

I was mortified to find out that she couldn't see well while driving and could have injured or killed pedestrians or other drivers.

Motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 people (2002):
[Auto Crash Statistics from Grain Dealers Mutual Insurance]

     Age Deaths
  • 16-19  29
  • 20-24  19
  • 25-29  12
  • 30-34   9
  • 35-39   9
  • 40-44   9
  • 45-49   8
  • 50-54   8
  • 55-59   7
  • 60-64   9
  • 65-69   9
  • 70-74  11
  • 75-79  14
  • 80-84  17
  • 85+    24

Seniors have similar rates of fatalities as Teen drivers.  But Seniors drive less frequently than Teens.  And people are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. 
There are many reasons why Seniors want to continue to drive.  All of them for the same reasons everyone else wants to drive: for pleasure, for emergencies, for day-to-day activities.  There is nothing special about Seniors driving that is any different than their children other than most Seniors are retired and are not driving to work every day.

We have different driving requirements for Teen drivers because we know they are a risky demographic.  In some states they are unable to drive with anyone in the car that is under 25 without an adult also along for the drive.  Many states don't allow Teen drivers to drive between 11pm and 5am.  Senior drivers, as a group, also are a risky demographic.  When Is Too Old To Drive? (RoadAndTravel.com)
States are making some changes, like making road signs larger or easier to read, and implementing more frequent 'driving tests' for Senior drivers.  While all Seniors are not risky drivers, not all Teens are risky drivers.  But we require Teens to adhere to the same restrictions.  So, while having Seniors take a driving test every two years is inconenient, it will make the roads safer.  And society needs to help by providing more public transportation and Senior transportation.  The Baby Boomers are coming and will almost double the number of people over 65.
New opinion: (changed) Drivers over age 70 should pass a driving test every two years
More information:
Florida Drivers Drive Til They Drop (Suddenly Senior)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Online gambling isn't going away

Online gambling has been around for many years.  And trying to regulate what can and can't be done on the internet is a mostly futile attempt.  If the U.S. government tries to stop online gambling, the gambling establishments will just take their businesses offshore and the gamblers will still be able to gamble.

Better to embrace it and regulate/tax it.  Everybody wins.

And, yes, I'm not blind to the fact that some people are addicted to gambling.  People can be addicted to anything.

Online gambling: you bet (The Economist)

Friday, July 9, 2010

If you are 12, we'll give you a condom if you ask nicely.

If you haven't heard by now, a Massachussetts school district has adopted a policy of giving condoms to students who ask for them.  Not just High Schoolers; but Middle Schoolers and even Elementary students.  And parents are not notified.

Provincetown to make condoms available at all schools (Boston.com)

For the school district, they say that if 'especially young children' ask for a condom, they will be asked about their motive and 'act accordingly'.  The nurse will also give counseling to the student before the condom is given out.  The district did not put an age limit in the policy because 'there is no set age when sexual activity starts'.

I get the policy, but the concern is no age limit.  We currently limit children to a drinking age even though young adults are known to drink.  We do the same for cigarettes.  So I see no reason an age cannot be put into this policy.  If they are insistent on putting this policy in place, then I'd suggest they put the age of 16 on the books.  Alternatively, since not all students entering High School are 16, they could say that anyone in High School (lowest is 15?) could obtain a condom.

The Massachusetts Governor doesn't like the policy.  Mass. governor objects to condom plan.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Should 'plus-sized air passengers' pay for two seats?

Current opinion: none

For the last years (decades?) airlines have had a difficult time. Over the years, airline ticket prices have gone down significantly when taking inflation into account. Airline security has increased. Airline fuel prices have skyrocketed. Low-fair airlines have come into play.

Anything that affects their bottom line can be a burden. But is the occasional passenger, who is too large to fit into one seat, really a burden?

I could not find any statistics on the number of airline passengers who pay for one seat and take two, or who pay for two seats for one person.

Different airlines have different policies. Continental and United Airlines require passengers to be able to lower both armrests and fasten their seatbelts with one seatbelt extender. Delta and Northwest (now merged) require passengers to be able to fasten their seatbelts, without extenders. Southwest requires passengers to be able to lower both armrests. American Airlines policy was vague for the information I was able to find.

Of course, airlines have some leeway in these policies. They certainly wouldn't require passengers to pay for two seats if the airplane was not a full capacity.

But what if the flight is full, and the plus-sized passenger has purchased only one ticket, and cannot put both armrests down?

Some airlines and aviation officials cite 'safety' as the reason a plus-sized passenger should not be seated into one seat. In addition, what about the passenger sitting next to them? Imagine riding across the country with an arm pressed into your side the whole journey. Robert Evans says A skinny airline passenger has rights too.

Here is a photo of one passenger who was allowed to fly that is an obvious safety issue. Passenger creates big debate at American (FlightGlobal.com). The plus-sized passenger is doing his best to accomodate the passenger to his right. But at what cost?

On the large passenger side, many people cannot help being the size they are. For various medical and genetic reasons, they are the size they are. Maybe they could 'thin down' a little, but some people are just big.

More and more people are 'in the news' about issues concerning flights. Overweight passenger denied seat on Southwest flight (ABC News). Even the filmmaker Kevin Smith was denied his flight earlier this year. Kevin Smith Too Fat to Fly (ABC News).

Here is a good article on both sides of the issue. I think Canada has a good idea that the FAA should adopt. Extra charge for extra-large airline passengers (Seattle Times).

Lastly, Grand Style offers Airline Tips for Large Passengers.


New opinion: (changed) Unless the FAA adopts the Canadian 'medical excuse' plan, plus-sized airline passengers must be able to put both arm rests down and fasten their seatbelts with one extender. Otherwise, they should pay for two seats when they book. If the flight is not full, the airline will refund their second seat price. If they did not book two seats and the flight is full, they will need to take a later flight, booking two seats.

UPDATE: Petite woman bumped from plane for hefty passenger (MSNBC.com)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Blind drivers? Some people think they are already on the road.

This isn't something I'm gonna investigate. Just putting this out there.

Scientists to present car for blind drivers next year (BBC News)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tax the Richiest of Us! Not me!

Current opinion: The rich should not be taxed at a higher rate than the middle class

First, let's put aside the fact that higher income individuals and couples usually have more ways of avoiding paying all of their taxes. That's a subject for another blog. Assuming that rich and middle class have the same tax advantages, I don't see why the rich must be given a higher tax bracket.

Second, the poor are a different matter all-together. Those below the poverty line should pay none or very little in taxes. And where that line should be drawn can be the subject for yet another blog.

I don't have any 'hard facts' on why the rich should be in the same tax bracket as the middle-class. I just see people earning money (however they make it) and should be taxed at the same rate. If I earn $50,000 per year, you make $75,000 per year, and someone else makes $350,000 per year, we should all be taxed at the same rate. If I am taxed at 15%, you should be taxed at 15%, and the rich should be taxed at 15%. Just because the rich make more, even a lot more, than others, it makes no sense to tax them more. It doesn't matter whether they earn their money as CEO of a top-20 company or by royalties from a patent their grandfather received; they earn their money and we earn our money. We should all pay the same tax rate.

Opposing view: Taxing the (Very) Rich (NY Times)

New opinion: (no change) The rich should not be taxed at a higher rate than the middle class