Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 12th, 2008

Motorcycle helmet law repealed; head injuries increase; duh

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Not a great surprise, eh? But perhaps Darwin in action, since the wearing of a motorcycle helmet is still allowed, just not mandatory.

Pennsylvania motorcyclists suffered large increases in head injury deaths and hospitalizations in the two years following the repeal of its motorcycle helmet law, according to a University of Pittsburgh study to be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health, available online June 12. Even after accounting for increases in motorcycle registrations that occurred during this period, study authors noted a 32 percent increase in head injury deaths and a 42 percent increase in head injury-related hospitalizations, raising concerns about motorcyclists’ safety and the impact of this trend on health care costs. Pennsylvania repealed its universal motorcycle helmet law in 2003. Under the current law, only motorcyclists under 21 and riders with less than two years experience who have not taken a safety course are required to wear helmets.

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Arbitration

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Remember the Business Week article on arbitration about which I blogged recently (“Arbitration: The Unfair Game“)? Watchdog Blog’s Graham Steele & David Arkush comment on the arbitration association’s reply:

The National Arbitration Forum (NAF) has responded to Business Week‘s investigation of NAF’s shady, for-profit arbitration practices. The rebuttal is full of irrelevancies, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations:

  • NAF argues that “arbitration outcomes are the same as court outcomes for similar types of cases,” citing a Chamber of Commerce-funded report by Catholic University law professor Peter Rutledge. But the Business Week story explains that NAF markets itself by saying the opposite — that arbitration provides a “marked increase in recovery rates over existing collections methods.” (Not to mention that companies can “control the [arbitration] process and timeline,” and that “93.7% [of arbitrations] are decided without consumers ever responding.”)  Who do you think NAF is lying to — the public or its clients?
  • NAF cites court decisions as evidence that it is impartial. But a closer looks reveals some serious problems with NAF’s citations:
    • NAF cites a discussion of its arbitrators (who seem to be independent contractors) in Marsh v. First USA Bank, 103 F. Supp. 2d 909, 925 (N.D. Tex. 2000). This case is a distraction because the Marsh court explicitly refused to consider the real issue — whether NAF itself creates biased practices, procedures, and incentives for arbitrators. See id. (“[T]he Court concludes that Plaintiffs’ concerns are merely illusory. Plaintiffs’ accusations of bias are directed toward NAF, not the independent arbitrators who actually conduct the arbitration.”) . The court focused solely on individual arbitrators — and these very people “say that . . . NAF’s procedures tend to favor creditors.” Just in case having biased procedures isn’t enough, NAF also teaches big corporations how to manipulate the procedures so that they can “control [the] process and timeline.” In fact, NAF markets itself to big companies behind closed doors as offering a better way to squeeze money out of people. So the story here is not about individual arbitrators. It’s about NAF, which operates a system so biased against consumers that the City of San Francisco is suing NAF.
    • NAF also cites Green Tree Financial as saying NAF’s cost and fee schedules are fair and reasonable.  531 U.S. 79, 95 n.2 (2000). The Court endorsed a fee schedule in NAF’s procedural rules that “that limit small-claims consumer costs to between $49 and $175.” Id. But NAF neglects to mention that it later revised those fees upward (good luck navigating NAF’s convoluted fee chart and explanations, but there they are). And NAF neglects to mention the biggest risk for consumers — that they could get stuck paying for the other side’s expenses, including its lawyers, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • NAF cites a fine 2006 series in the Boston Globe on debt collection abuses in Massachusetts, arguing that courts, not arbitration, are the problem.  (See also this post from CL&P blog on courts in Chicago.)  The answer to this problem is reform to the small claims civil justice system, not NAF’s arbitration system.  Substituting one problematic forum for another does not protect consumers from abuse.
  • Minor bonus point:  NAF hilariously claims it won’t “attack[] critics of arbitration,” then devotes a substantial portion of its rebuttal to — you guessed it — attacking the credibility of two experts cited by Business Week.  Reminds us of the way the American Enterprise Institute and the Manhattan Institute just can’t get enough of attacking us.

Noticeably lacking in NAF’s rebuttal to the Business Week article is any denial of the damning evidence of NAF’s internal business practices.  Reporters Brian Grow and Robert Berner did an outstanding job.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with

Two straight days of GOP obstructionism.

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The GOP at work. Via ThinkProgress.

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP

Great Web sites for kids

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Daily life

Don’t rinse raw chicken

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One learns something new every day: it’s better not to rinse raw chicken.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Straightforward quantum physics

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Worth perusing if you think quantum physics is “weird”, “mysterious”, “contradictory”, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Science

Science academies call for climate action

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Real scientists understand that global warming is real, close to out of control, and the result of human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels which has escalated CO2 levels. And they think urgent action is required. From Science News a report by Janet Raloff:

Our National Academy of Sciences and its counterparts in a dozen other nations issued a joint statement today calling on world leaders to “to limit the threat of climate change” by weaning themselves off of their dependence on fossil fuels. They also called for a move to sustainable resource use – which, as we all know, would not include the continued full-throttle mining of finite, millions-of-years-old coal, oil, and natural gas.

The academies that issued the request for action are known as the G8 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus 5 (the largest developing countries: China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa). These science academies represent some nations that do not yet work together on discussing, much less tackling, climate change.

One might argue that their message is just another “duh” moment. Who doesn’t think that we should live within our means, that we should stop warming a planet that is already suffering from a low-grade fever, and that we should make a transition to less polluting fuels? In fact, what makes this succinct, two-page statement interesting, I believe, is that it doesn’t just tell us to conserve and bite the bullet, but that it also essentially implores governments to invest in research with an eye to the long view – at the same time studying what can reasonably be attacked now.

For instance, it urges all countries to:

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 3:01 pm

Disappearing car door

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Pretty cool.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Technology

Daily life

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I finished the second in the Charles McCarry Paul Christopher series, The Tears of Autumn. Particularly recommended to John Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists—and a very smooth read indeed. I’ve started the next in the series, The Secret Lovers, which might mean “lovers of secrets.” Last night I stayed up late to finish Relic, a science-fiction (near future—actually, the past now) thriller by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

I saw the first three episodes of State of Play, a BBC miniseries—excellent. The second (and final) DVD is on its way to me now.

Just made a couple pitchers of watermelon juice. I bought one of the small seedless “personal watermelons” and put the contents in a blender with some water and blended. I poured that into the pitchers, added a dash of salt, and filled with water. The pitchers are now in the fridge for this afternoon. (Watermelon, BTW, is a great source of lycopene—better than tomatoes, cooked or raw.)

I discovered some very fresh smelts at the supermarket yesterday. I had a batch for lunch and they were so good I had another batch for dinner. I was talking to my Italian landlady and told her about the smelts and the Monterey Bay sardines available at Whole Foods, and she told me I must be part Italian—that’s the fish they enjoy.

The smelts were SO good. The Wife picked up the second batch, and the guy at the fish counter commented that they are getting smelts regularly this year, but last year they got them only once: one 200-lb order. The day the order arrived he called one Italian guy he knew to let him know (and who apparently then started a cascading phone tree among the Italian community) and the entire 200 lbs were sold by the end of the same day. (Lots of Italians in Monterey from when it was a fishing community in the days of the sardine canneries.)

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tax proposals

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Via TalkingPointsMemo:

Also this from the same TPM post:

The Tax Policy Center has released a report comparing the Obama and McCain tax plans. You can read the report, “A Preliminary Analysis of the 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans,” here (.pdf). A sampling:

If enacted, the Obama and McCain tax plans would have radically different effects on the distribution of tax burdens in the United States. The Obama tax plan would make the tax system significantly more progressive by providing large tax breaks to those at the bottom of the income scale and raising taxes significantly on upper-income earners. The McCain tax plan would make the tax system more regressive, even compared with a system in which the 2001-06 tax cuts are made permanent. It would do so by providing relatively little tax relief to those at the bottom of the income scale while providing huge tax cuts to households at the very top of the income distribution.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 10:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Election

Firefox download day: Tuesday 17 June

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Version 3 of Firefox should be downloaded on Tuesday, 17 June. (Firefox is trying to set a world record of number of downloads in a day. Firefox has been very good to me, so it’s appropriate that I return the favor when I can.)

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 10:13 am

Global warming update

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From the Center for American Progress:

The evidence for the consequences of global warming is appearing with alarming frequency. This morning’s headlines are filled with tales of deadly weather: “At least four people were killed and about 40 injured when a tornado tore through a Boy Scout camp in western Iowa on Wednesday night”; “two people are dead in northern Kansas after tornadoes cut a diagonal path across the state”; “[t]wo Maryland men with heart conditions died this week” from the East Coast heat wave. These eight deaths come on top of reports earlier this week that the heat wave “claimed the lives of 17 people” and the wave of deadly storms killed 11 more: “six in Michigan, two in Indiana and one each in Iowa and Connecticut,” as well as one man in New York. Tornadoes this year are being reported at record levels. States of emergency have been declared in Minnesota, California, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Michigan because of floods and wildfires. Counties in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have been declared disaster areas due to the historic flooding that has breached dams, inundated towns, and caused major crop damage, sending commodity futures to new records. The floodwaters are continuing down the Mississippi River, with “crests of 10 feet or more above flood level” for “at least the next two weeks.”

GLOBAL BOILING: This tragic, deadly, and destructive weather — not to mention the droughts in Georgia, California, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, North Dakota, and elsewhere across the country — are consistent with the changes scientists predicted would come with global warming. Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA) called the three weeks of storms that gave rise to the floods in his state “historic in proportion,” saying “very few people could anticipate or prepare for that type of event.” Culver is, unfortunately, wrong. As far back as 1995, analysis by the National Climatic Data Center showed that the United States “had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events.” In 2007, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it is “very likely” that man-made global warming will bring an “increase in frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation.” The Nobel Prize-winning panel of thousands of scientists and government officials also found, “Altered frequencies and intensities of extreme weather, together with sea level rise, are expected to have mostly adverse effects on natural and human systems.” In 2002, scientists said that “increased precipitation, an expected outcome of climate change, may cause losses of US corn production to double over the next 30 years — additional damage that could cost agriculture $3 billion per year.” Scientists have also found that the “West will see devastating droughts as global warming reduces the amount of mountain snow and causes the snow that does fall to melt earlier in the year.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 9:31 am

Bacon and egg ice cream

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Via Slashfood, this terrific dessert:

I would love to eat at Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 9:24 am

Posted in Food

Mocha-Coffee to start the day

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Honeybee Spa’s Mocha-Coffee shaving soap is one of my favorites—good strong coffee aroma. The Simpsons Key Hole 2 Best seemed a little small this morning, but I still got a fine thick lather. I went for the Merkur 1904 again because I wanted to use that Dura Sharp Hi-Tech carbon steel blade again—and a very smooth shave it gave. The oil pass with Rituals Skincare shaving oil left me with a perfect shave. Draggon Noir aftershave finished the job. (No coffee aftershaves, so far as I know.)

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2008 at 9:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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