Policy

We live in a k-cup culture. Focused on the near term but willfully blind to the longer term implications of our daily decisions. Just before the holidays I was watching the CBC TV show Power and Politics and they were discussing a bunch of "Top 5s" in an end-of year story. You know the type, the Top 5 this's and that's from the previous year, 2014, as well as a couple looking ahead to 2015. With a federal election scheduled in 2015, were the top 5 election issues that Canada that Canadians should keep on their radar in the coming year? Economy/Jobs Leadership/Ethics Energy/Climate Change…
It’s a rare thing on Capitol Hill when a member of the Administration is on the hot seat from both sides of the aisle. But that’s what happened on Tuesday when President Obama’s regulatory czar, Howard Shelanski, JD, PhD, testified at a joint hearing of two subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. The Republican Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Ranking Member Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and other subcommittee members, peppered him with questions about OIRA’s lack of transparency in numerous arenas. Their motivations were different, but they were equally tough in…
Last week, US Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn one hour of job-protected sick time for each 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours (seven 8-hour days) per year. DeLauro has been introducing this bill in every Congress since 2004, and Murray has been an original co-sponsor since then. What's new this time around, though, is that the legislation has the president's explicit support. Last month, President Obama urged Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act…
Note added 2/10/2015: I've posted a followup in response to the skeptics who defend Bill Maher. A couple of weeks ago, I noted the return of the antivaccine wingnut side of Bill Maher, after a (relative) absence of several years, dating back, most likely, to the thorough spanking he endured for spouting off his antivaccine pseudoscience during the H1N1 pandemic. This well-deserved mockery included Bob Costas taunting him on his own show with a sarcastic, "Oh, come on, Superman!" in response to his apparent belief that diet and lifestyle alone would protect him from the flu, as well as Chris…
Well, the ongoing multistate measles outbreak that's been in the news for the last few weeks continues apace, which means I can't seem to stay away from the issue for more than a couple of days. For instance, yesterday I learned that five babies at a Chicago-area day care have been diagnosed with the measles. All the babies are under a year old and therefore too young to have received the MMR vaccine yet. At this point, I'm betting that most likely the baby who brought the measles to the KinderCare Day Care with this measles outbreak got it from an older unvaccinated sibling, but time will…
Probably the dumbest person I've ever met in my life was a housemate in grad school. I didn't do my lab work on campus, so I wasn't living in a neighborhood where cheap housing was rented to students, but in a place where folks were either genuinely poor, or in the market for very temporary lodgings while they looked for something better. There were low-income housing units across the street, and also an apartment building full of families who didn't quite qualify for welfare. This particular guy rented one of the other rooms in the house, and worked a series of unskilled jobs-- assistant on…
The default mode, politically-speaking, for most scientists seems to be professionally neutral. In other words, most scientists would tend to see their personal political beliefs as more or less completely separate from their work as scientists. Even for politically sensitive topics like climate change, the tendency is to focus on the the best available evidence rather than commenting more directly on the potential policy implications of that evidence. Only by maintaining that politcal neutrality with scientists will be able to maintain their surface veneer of objectivity. If you're too…
"I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice as well. So that’s a balance the government has to decide.” -- NJ Governor Chris Christie, February 2, 2015 "The state doesn't own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom." -- Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), February 2, 2015 Longtime readers know that I lived in central New Jersey for eight and a half years before taking an opportunity to return to my hometown just under seven years ago. Having spent the better part of a decade there, I think I understand New Jersey, at last the northern and…
Think of this as a combination 2014 recap and 2015 resolutions post. Neither of which I really planned to do after doing recaps for the last couple of years. Two years ago, 2013, was very clearly a year I was more obsessed than usual with advocacy around the current Canadian government's treatment of science and information. The year before that, 2012, was a year I was very clearly more obsessed than usual with open access advocacy. This past year, 2014, was both a relatively light blogging year and a year when my twin obsessions from 2012 and 2013 seemed about tied. So I more or less decided…
Mario Cuomo, governor of New York from 1983-1994, died on New Year's day. He is a throwback to a time when Democrats weren't cowards, and were actually capable of articulating a compelling and humane vision of how society should be. Consider this speech, delivered at the University of Notre Dame in 1984. Cuomo was a devout Catholic, and was discussing how he reconciles his religious faith with his politics. We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us. This freedom is the fundamental strength of our unique experiment in…
As mentioned briefly here and on Twitter, I spent the past week at the Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, SC. This is a biggish smart-people festival, running for 30-odd years now, bringing together a wide array of people from politics, finance, science, and the arts. Bill Phillips has been going to it for years (though he wasn't there this year), so when I got the invitation, I jumped at it. Unfortunately for blog purposes, they have a strict policy about everything said there being off the record, so I can't post really detailed stories about anything, but it was a very cool experience. And…
While we take a breather during this holiday season, we’re re-posting content from earlier in the year. This post was originally published on June 30, 2014. by Liz Borkowski, MPH Last week’s White House Summit on Working Families – hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Labor, and the Center for American Progress – served both as a pitch to employers to adopt more family-friendly policies, and as a push for policies that require all employers to evolve for 21st-century realities. Wages, paid leave, flexibility, and caregiving were major topics in the day-long…
For those that don't know, Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and one of only two Greens in the Canadian Parliament -- and the only one elected as a Green. As such, you would expect that she would be a strong advocate for democracy and the environment, willing to stand up to the current Conservative government of Stephen Harper and tell it like it is. In her latest book, Who We Are: Reflections on My Life and Canada, she does just that in an entertaining and inspiring amalgamation of memoir and manifesto. This is an amazing book, sarcastic and hopeful but still witty and…
“Cows don’t know holidays,” says Alfredo Gomez, a 56-year-old dairy worker in southeastern New Mexico. “Here, there’s no Christmas.” That’s an opening quote from Joseph Sorrentino’s article on the conditions dairy farm workers face in New Mexico, where he reports that milk production topped $1.5 billion last year and the industry employs thousands of workers. Published yesterday in In These Times, the article chronicles the dangerous conditions that farm workers face as well as the lives of dairy farm animals. Sorrentino reports: “There’s no training — you just start working,” says Gustavo…
Health and safety hazards encountered by custodians, palm tree workers, day laborers, nurses, and bakery workers are just some of the dozens of different occupations examined in research presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA). The association’s Occupational Health and Safety Section marked its 100th anniversary and members designed the first phase of an electronic timeline to memorialize key events in the Section’s history. A special scientific session explored the OHS Section’s history, starting with its founding co-chairs George Kober, MD…
Shawn otto Shawn is the screenwriter and coproducer of the Oscar-nominated film House of Sand and Fog starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly. He has also written for several of film and TV's top studios. A few years back he started Science Debate 08, an effort to get a real debate over science policy issues as part of the presidential debate process. I promise you that all of the presidential campaigns have been aware of this effort, and many have agreed, but never all the candidates in one election. So that's politicians running away from science. (We'll see about 2016.) Anyway,…
Often unwatched by all but policy-wonks yet key to determining policies put forth by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Boards. These boards consult with the EPA on the science that influences regulations, particularly on individual chemicals – science that’s used to protect the public from chemical hazards. On Tuesday the House passed a bill, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013 or H.R. 1422, that would change how the EPA selects Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) members. The White House, in a statement from the Office of Management and…
I just got this press release for the Texas Freedom Nettwork, passing the good news on to you: PUBLISHERS REMOVE CLIMATE CHANGE DENIALISM FROM TEXAS TEXTBOOKS; PUT EDUCATION AHEAD OF POLITICS Texas State Board of Education must still vote on adopting the revised textbooks FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 17, 2014 Publishers have agreed to correct or remove inaccurate passages promoting climate change denialism from new social studies textbooks proposed for Texas public schools, a coalition of science and education groups announced this afternoon. This news comes as the State Board of Education…
Its at The Conversation and a retweet near you, no doubt. By Lawrence Torcello, who - doubtless to my loss rather than his discredit - I've never heard of, and Michael E Mann, who needs no introduction. LT is a philosopher, and I guess that's the peg to hang this one off, since we start with stuff like: It is possible, then, that we’ll benefit in the long run from having to deal with human-caused global warming, by being forced to mature politically and ethically. This sounds to me like the rather familiar idea: we'll use GW as leverage to get the other things we want: a more sustainable…
One of the central themes of this blog from the very beginning is that all medicine, regardless of where it comes from or how it was developed, should be held to a single science-based standard with regards to efficacy, effectiveness, and safety. I tend to focus primarily on “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), now more commonly known as “integrative medicine,” (1) because I believe it to be undermining the scientific basis of medicine and allowing outright quackery (or, as I like to refer to it, quackademic medicine) to infiltrate medical academia, which is fast becoming medical…