Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Meanwhile, Salem's airport still spews leaded gas poisons

Lead, evil, and corporate free speech
Lead is a potent, permanently crippling neurotoxin.  Most people don't even realize it has never gone away, because most people don't fly small civilian aircraft, the little Cessnas and others.

And that's the principal new exposure source in the USA today: civil (small plane) aviation. 

The industry fights for the right to keep spewing lead emissions all over populous areas, even though there planes that fly fine with unleaded. 
Take Salem. Planes in and out of our money-losing, corporate-welfare queen, subsidized airport, spew poisons with every flight. 

The response from City Hall?  Zilch, except to talk about blowing even more money by extending the runway.

Lead, evil, and corporate free speech

Kevin Drum, who's been doing Pulitzer-quality science and policy reporting on the behavioral effects of environmental lead, has yet another item today, once again reporting a new paper by Jessica Wolpaw Reyes of Amherst, who's been doing the fancy number-crunching on the topic. No real surprise: in addition to greatly increasing rates of criminal behavior, lead exposure also increase the risk of other consequences of poor self-command, such as early pregnancy. Kevin draws one of the right morals of the story: that biology matters, while liberals and conservatives tend to unite in blaming everything on society, economics, and culture:

It's a funny thing. For years conservatives bemoaned the problem of risky and violent behavior among children and teens of the post-60s era, mostly blaming it on the breakdown of the family and a general decline in discipline. Liberals tended to take this less seriously, and in any case mostly blamed it on societal problems. In the end, though, it turned out that conservatives were right. It wasn't just a bunch of oldsters complaining about the kids these days. Crime was up, drug use was up, and teen pregnancy was up. It was a genuine phenomenon and a genuine problem.

But liberals were right that it wasn't related to the disintegration of the family or lower rates of churchgoing or any of that. After all, families didn't suddenly start getting back together in the 90s and churchgoing didn't suddenly rise. But teenage crime, drug use, and pregnancy rates all went down. And down. And down. Most likely, there was a real problem, but it was a problem no one had a clue about. We were poisoning our children with a well-known neurotoxin, and this toxin lowered their IQs, made them into fidgety kids, wrecked their educations, and then turned them into juvenile delinquents, teen mothers, and violent criminals. When we got rid of the toxin, all of these problems magically started to decline. This doesn't mean that lead was 100 percent of the problem. There probably were other things going on too, and we can continue to argue about them. But the volume of the argument really ought to be lowered a lot. Maybe poverty makes a difference, maybe single parenting makes a difference, and maybe evolving societal attitudes toward child-rearing make a difference. But they probably don't make nearly as much difference as we all thought. In the end, we've learned a valuable lesson: don't poison your kids. That makes more difference than all the other stuff put together.

But there's another moral to be drawn.  The toxicity of lead has been known for at least a century. The introduction of tetraethyl lead into gasoline in the 1920s sparked a controversy, which the automobile industry, the petroleum industry, and Ethyl Corporation (a GM/Esso joint venture) won, using the usual mix of dirty tricks including lying and including threatening scientists with lawsuits. A similar battle was fought over lead paint in the 197os, with the lead-paint vendors in the bad-guy role, and over lead emissions from smelters, with the American Iron and Steel institute trying to destroy Herb Needleman.  Then, mostly by the accident that leaded [gas] fouled catalytic converters, the battle was rejoined over lead in gasoline, with the old pro-toxin coalition fighting a drawn-out rearguard action to delay regulation as much as possible. . . .

"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."

Why Are So Many Low-Income People So Overweight? - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

Why Are So Many Low-Income People So Overweight? - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society
Profound article. Economically precarious people -- say, people at the bottom end of an increasingly unforgiving and intolerant economic regime that constantly stresses and amplifies social insecurity -- take comfort in a feeling of immediate subconscious abundance provided by junk foods that deftly hit our biological triggers.

Essentially the first world poor today still live in our caveman past, where the imperative was always to load up on calories whenever available because famines were frequent and lasting. Having evolved that internal command, why are we surprised that those who are constantly under threat of having what little they have obliterated obey the ancient command to load up on calories because deprivation is close by.

Seems the solution to obesity among the poorz is to ignore the obesity as much as possible while addressing the insecurity.

We might begin this process by trying to understand diet as a psycho-socioeconomic phenomenon rather than as a matter of food access. There's a critically important aspect to McMillan's story that's essential to this shift in perspective: the people she profiles live lives defined by persistent scarcity—not necessarily food scarcity, but a generalized and even traumatizing kind of material instability. Absolutely nothing about their lives is secure.

Critics of McMillan's piece complained about how the low-income cohort she profiled possessed houses, cell phones, decent clothing, and televisions. Nobody mentioned how precariously close these people were to losing those things, much less the anguish such anxiety entails. One unexpected medical bill, one glitch with the car, one minor brush with the law, one argument with your shift manager—all these events could have sent the entire edifice of material life crumbling. And that's terrifying. The subjects pictured and videotaped in McMillan's story are not just overweight. They're scared out of their minds.

And being scared out of your mind affects how you eat. In their book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So MuchSendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir write that "scarcity captures the mind." Scarcity, they note, "has its own logic." It doesn't take much imagination to hypothesize that, if your entire material existence teetered on the edge of loss—that is, if you were obsessed with scarcity because you had to be—that you'd likely blow your limited food budget on a bag of cookies and fried gizzards rather than a peck of apples and sweet potatoes. Nobody's saying such a choice would be advisable in terms of maximizing personal or public health. To the contrary, buying crap over carrots means that you are driven to eat by a scarcity-induced craving for the most immediate and gratifying satiation—the kind that sugar, salt, and fat excel at providing. But you remain, in fact, a victim.

Of what? Critics of the American diet frequently note that obesity rates have spiked over the last 30 years. They tend, as they should, to excoriate food companies churning out obesity-inducing processed junk. But do note: The problem is much bigger than our sinister food corporations. Consider the political economy of the United States in the 30 years before our waistline started to expand epidemically. Between 1945 and 1975, wages increased in proportion to worker productivity, the federal government maintained progressive taxes and expanded social service programs, and—while not all Americans had everything they wanted—a majority of us lived lives in the middle class, mercifully free from the distorting logic of scarcity.

Comedian John Oliver Produces Remarkably Strong Piece of Journalism (Albeit Completely Profane) on Payday Lending


Payday lenders are like giant leeches on the neck of low-income working Americans. This corrosive product, that drains the resources of so many people until they have nothing left, survives because the industry spends crazy amounts of money on political influence and is able to convince consumers of a bunch of false premises.

Kudos to John Oliver for shining light on this problem in such an incredibly effective way. - See more at:


"Let's live on the planet as if we intend to stay."