American Confidence in Social Institutions Further Eroding

According to longitudinal data gathered by the General Social Survey at the University of Chicago, confidence in institutions has been declining for decades but is, on the whole, lower than ever.

Data from the 2014 survey show that 11% of Americans have a high degree of confidence in the executive branch of government, 5% in Congress, and 23% in the Supreme Court. Additionally, only 7% of American have confidence in media, 25% in education, 19% in religion, 38% in medicine, and 41% in science.

Here is the Cliff’s Notes version of the report. I will be quite interested to see the final report, which will provide much more detail.

Surprising to me are the numbers for religion, medicine, and science. I would have figured more support for religion and medicine and less for science. This I say based on the seemingly obvious presence of the anti-science and hyper-religious crowd, as well as the blind trust people seem to have in the medical community. But, this is a good example of how individual perception can be very different from reality, something I try to get my students to understand. You also have to look at these numbers in context– how they compare to other time points and what percentage of people have lower levels of confifence. What you see is that, for the most part, the 1970s (as far back as the data goes) scored the highest in confidence in social institutions overall, that trends show little overall change in confidence in most institutions since that height, and that in most cases, the majority of people still say they have “only some” confidence in these various institutions. Of course, you can learn more by looking at the individual measures over time and correlating those to historical events. I find the gender differences to be quite intriguing. A quick scan of the 2012 report shows that women have less confidence in social institutions compared to men. I am guessing this is likely tied to women’s relative exclusion from major social institution– they are used to seeing how these institutions do not work for them. You’d probably find a similar relationship between confidence and social class, race, etc. This would be something worth studying, if it has not already been done. When I have time I may do some research on this.

The full report for 2014 is not out yet, however, there is much to learn from the 2012 Final Report (Trends in Confidence Institutions_Final), if you are so inclined and have the appropriate amount of confidence in science. : )

This is what happens when you smoke in your house…

I am redoing the bathroom in my 1958 house. This should be a fairly simple task, as I am not doing any major renovations– just replacing toilet, vanity, floor covering, and paint. However because the guy who owned this house was a heavy smoker and probably smoked in it for the whole nearly 50 years that he lived here, my task is well-complicated. When you smoke in the house, the nicotine builds up and seeps into the walls. It oozes out slowly over time, creating an oily surface. When the bathroom walls get damp, the nicotine runs down in brown streaks. In the picture below, I am removing wallpaper remnants with nothing but water.


Even after the walls have been cleaned, the nicotine continues to seep through, as shown below. This is a section of wall from which I had previously removed wallpaper and cleaned thoroughly. Steam from the shower has brought the brown goo out in sticky thick streaks.


I am not sure if you can tell in this picture, but the nicotine drips are so substantial, they are actually several millimetres thick.

Now I know why I could not get the paint to stick to the kitchen walls when I painted it. I was ignorant of the challenges of serious nicotine contamination. As a result, my paint job was awful and I have to repair that one day too.

To prep the bathroom walls for painting, I am cleaning them with a TSP substitute, filling holes, sanding, and cleaning again cleaning again with TSP sub before I even get to repairs to damage cause by the removal of hideous 1950s pink glue-on plastic tiles (lesson for another day). Home improvement advice says to use TSP (trisodium phosphate) cleaner, however, I discovered that most of the primers say NOT to use TSP before painting, so I opted for the substitute. Hopefully it will work well enough.

So, the take away message is this: DON”T SMOKE IN THE HOUSE!



Secede for all I care

This is awesome!


90 Degrees to the Left

I’ve never done this before, I mean, turning into a post the comment made by someone to one of my articles; but this comment was so good, so brilliant that I decided to share it with everyone.  It is a shame that I can’t give credit to the author.Anonymous

November 14, 2012 11:22 PM

To the idiot states who wish to “secede:” You can’t secede. And, you won’t secede. You morons are merely expressing your IMPOTENT anger at President Obama’s crucial re-election. Let’s recap that: President Obama got re-elected even with all of the Republican-driven voter fraud, the Republican-driven impedance of votes, the Republican-driven dumping of millions upon millions of dollars in to the SuperPACs for the SOLE purpose of BUYING VOTES. The Reality of the situation is that your states cannot, and will not, secede.

►We reverse the situation. We, the *MAJORITY*, who voted President Obama in a SECOND…

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Oh those greedy workers want fair treatment…

I was appalled when I first heard about Hostess’ issues and saw all the commentary blaming their problems on unions. It is disgusting that worker’s rights have come to be viewed as petty, while the profits of CEOs and unlimited reach of corporations is placed above that of people. People have obviously forgotten that they have the Labor Movement to thank for what they do have now– much safer working conditions, minimum wages, and other minimal protections. Corporations throughout history have proven that they cannot be trusted to look out for the well-being of their employees (or the community, environment, etc.) if left to their own devices. Do people really want to return to the early days of unfettered “capitalist” pursuit? If so, they don’t know what they are asking for.

The Fifth Column

Who knew? (sarcasm)


While the right has been blaming unions for the closing of Hostess, Newt Gingrich and George Will admitted that they expect the company to return without union workers in a right to work state.


RADDATZ: Can we have — can we a very quick thoughts of Twinkies in your life? Just — not you, Jon Karl. You’re too young. You’re the youngest member of this roundtable. Did you like Twinkies growing up?

WILL: I liked Hostess cupcakes, but don’t despair. Someone’s going to buy — someone’s going to — the brand has value. Someone will buy it.

RADDATZ: It’s not the…

WILL: And they will go and manufacture it in a right-to-work state, where Hostess does not have to operate under 372 collective bargaining agreements.

RADDATZ: OK. OK. Quickly, just Twinkie memories.

BRAZILE: I remember when it was 25 cent a pack, when my…

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Obama to Romney’s assertion that Russia is America’s largest foreign threat: “The 1980s are now calling and asking for their foreign policy back!”

Banning Child Labor= “Un-American”?

Let me first say that I am a supporter of both agriculture and of child labor. As someone who grew up in a rural area and having known farm families, as well as someone with degrees in the agricultural field, I have great reverence for those who produce our food and fibre. I also believe that children can and should work, for the value of the lessons it teaches them before the value of the paycheck it provides.

However, I am regularly astounded at the growing stupidity of the American populace and the “controversy” surrounding recently proposed child labor laws struck me as particularly representative of that declining intellect.

Agriculture is the single most dangerous employment sector in the country. This is not a revelation. But, due to recent events in which children working on commercial farms were injured or killed, the Labor Department (in conjunction with child labor advocacy group, Child Labor Coalition) proposed a bill that would limit the type of work that children are allowed to perform. The restrictions would NOT apply to family owned and operated farms.

Let me say it again: The restrictions would NOT apply to family owned and operated farms. And yet, the Farm Bureau Federation (the most powerful and dangerous agriculture industry group in existence) and other industry advocates launched an aggressive campaign against protecting child laborers,  claiming that such protections hurt family farms, threaten the rural way of life, burden the industry, etc.

The campaign was successful. The proposal was dropped and, as was pointed out on some of the industry websites, they “won!”

This is disturbing on many levels. First of all, to say that rural lifestyles and family farms are threatened by such a proposal is simply untrue. The proposed legislation exempted family farms. Furthermore, having grown up in a rural area and knowing farm families myself, I never got the impression that being maimed or killed while working the farm was a desirable part of  “rural lifestyles” nor a reason for nostalgia.

Second, to say that industry success is more important than the well-being of people is absurd and unacceptable for a country who supposedly prides itself on entrepreneurialism and equality. If “the industry” collapses in the face of unregulated child labor, what does that say about the stability of it to start?

Thirdly, to equate protecting the well-being of the weakest among us with being “un-American” is simply ludicrous. This idea that anything that hampers the free operation of Big Business, even at the expense of the lives of sentient creatures, is anti-capitalist and harmful to society is nothing but Big Business propaganda. The fact that so many people are buying into it reflects the effectiveness of that brainwashing campaign to garner public support for the wealthiest, most powerful, and most destructive among us. If anything, the failure of a so-called “civilised” society to offer a modicum of protection to its members is what is un-American.

Fourth, agricultural entities put forth education as the solution to farm accidents, not labor laws. Agriculture already enjoys long-standing exemptions when it comes to labor regulations and it simply cannot see having to give up any of it. Now I expect the Farm Bureau to take an extreme right position on this issue, but I was highly disappointed to discover that the Farmer’s Union (generally considered to be the liberal counterbalance to the FBF) also officially supported the proposal’s withdrawal in favor of education advocacy. Don’t misunderstand- farm safety education is good and necessary, and the industry has made great efforts to promote safety programs. However, what people are failing to see here is that education cannot combat exploitation. The unbridled use of child laborers IS exploitation, of the brand with which Big Agriculture is VERY familiar. The profit incentive is just too good to use empowered workers, and so there is heavy reliance on child, poor, and undocumented labor. This is something for which Big Ag must be held accountable.

Lastly, the fact that so many people are willing to forsake the facts in order to advance their position, defame the President, and delude themselves is positively frightening. The comments to these articles are appalling in their nature, as they equate concern for children to unwanted  “socialism,” economic decline, death of agriculture, and other loosely imagined calamities. Unfounded, unthoughtful, unacceptable.

Look for yourself:

Obama administration pulls rule on child farm labor campaign

Obama administration scraps child labor restrictions

Youth farm labor issue debated

Department of Labor withdraws child farm labor restriction after misinformation campaign

US Labor Department abandons child farmworkers

NFU statement on Dept. of Labor withdrawal of ag-related child labor rule

Newly discovered tiny reptile

Baby B. micra

This little chameleon, Brookesia micra, lives in Madagascar and grows to an average size of 2.9 cm.

Scientists think the small size may be an environmental adaptation to diminishing resources.



Cupcakes for the bake sale some of my students are putting on. I relished the opportunity to decorate some cakes, but unfortunately I did not have enough time to carry out my plan. This is what it turned out to be- dogs, bears (sort of), pigs, spiders, skulls. I had planned to also have mice, cats, and some other stuff. Oh well.

Promo: Kitty Cot

For those with kitties to please…

This window mounted kitty shelf is awesome! It is a simple but effective design and is handcrafted by a guy in Seattle. I love things that are well-made, sturdy, and functional but not hideously ugly and this fits the bill. So much nicer than the standard cheap pet supplies made in China.

Buy American, buy artisan.

Kitty Cot: World’s best window perch

Just look how Kasha loves it!

Pharmaceutical Shell Game

My animals were on Frontline when they acquired the worst flea infestation I have ever seen. I kept using the Frontline I had purchased at Tractor Supply Company, PetSmart, and Costco, but finally gave up. Why poison my animals for no reason? I saw many similar complaints online, along with suspicion that the fleas have become immune or that the company has purposefully created a system of dependence by providing a product that doesn’t work in order to encourage people to keep buying more.  The first time I took my dog to the doctor for her flea allergy, he told me he was unaware of any complaints with Frontline, but that the product is 100% guaranteed when purchased through a vet (this is apparently the new mantra, but that is a different story). On the follow up visit with my dog, the same vet told me that the fleas have developed immunity to Frontline so it is not as effective as it once was. At the reception desk, I was told that the medication is being sold illegally and that Frontline is ONLY sold to licensed veterinarians. I questioned how, then, it is possible that these HUGE stores are openly and freely selling. The answer: vets are reselling it illegally.

Huh? This makes no sense. We know that any product can be and probably is being sold illegally in a Black Market somewhere, but let’s exercise some common sense. Is it really possible that MAJOR retailers are selling MASSIVE amounts of Frontline ILLEGALLY, without so much as a slap on the wrist from manufacturer Merial? I think not. I know enough about American capitalism and political economy to know that business (especially pharmaceutical companies) have much legal recourse, lots of lobbying power,  and a fierce defense when it comes to market control, that there is no way something like this would go on so openly without manufacturer complicity. So, I did a little web research.

It is, unsurprisingly, difficult to find credible information on this topic, and there are no clear answers. I did, however, learn some new words- like “diversion” and “grey market.” Drug diversion* is an ongoing problem that most people have probably never heard of.  It can take place in different ways, but in the case of Frontline, it seems to be that Merial, despite their claims of exclusivity, IS the major purveyor of product diversion. From what I can tell, their claim of selling only to veterinarians is technically true, but not specifically defined, nor controlled. They sell to third parties who then supply major retailers. This is the Grey Market. The third parties are technically veterinarians because the orders are placed by licensed vets who work for those companies. There is never a question of what the vet is going to do with hundreds of thousands of units. Merial surely knows that no one entity can use all those units, yet they approve the sale. They obviously don’t really care about the end user of the product, as is implied—you know, safety and all that—but rather wish to increase market share.

Merial can have its cake and eat it too. It can maintain a visage of veterinary exclusivity, which both encourages veterinarians to prescribe and carry the product, and increases consumer confidence on the product. It can also appeal to the mass market by offering its product at a price that undercuts veterinarians. Furthermore, it can claim no responsibility for product failure in the mass market, protecting itself from potential lawsuits. And, as suggested on Cafepharma (see link below), the pharmaceutical company can even use unwitting salespeople to support the whole system.

Having experience in the veterinary industry, inside information on the human health industry, and having done research on both, I can tell you that doctors of all sorts get most of their information about drugs from sales reps and that those sales reps get their information right from the company. This means that neither reps nor doctors really know much about the pharmaceuticals they sell and prescribe and tend only to repeat the scripts provided to them. The only one who really knows anything about medications are the manufacturing insiders and you will be more than hard pressed to find ANY scientifically supported information to back their claims because most research remains in-house. Consumers are powerless in this regard, which makes us particularly subject to malleability and this is what Merial is exploiting. I also suspect that this might all be part of Merial positioning itself for comfortable reception for its newest flea control medication, CERTIFECT.

No, we cannot, as individuals on a daily basis, combat the many dubious activities of Merial and other pharmaceutical companies. But surely a company who is so casually perpetrating such a scam should not be rewarded for their efforts. I suggest boycotting Merial, at least when it comes to its flea control product lines.

Consumer inquiry to Merial by Susan Thixton, pet food safety advocate

Pharmaceutical reps talk about pharmaceutical Grey Market

Veterinary Information Network exudes skepticism of Merial claims

Veterinary offices are concerned about sales- conflict of interest?


One of the claims against retail Frontline, some people claim that Merial does not operate or sell its products in other countries. What do you think?

* Please be clear- diversion is NOT the same as counterfeiting! There ARE counterfeit drugs out there that are in no way associated with the original brand or manufacturer and can be dangerous to use. There are reports of drugs made in and sold out of China that resemble Frontline but are in no way associated with Merial. Many people are confusing the two different issues, which is muddying the waters of this discussion.