R.I.P. Harry Crews

‘His best books combine comedy and moral outrage, which he combined and lighted on the page like diesel fuel. Their swaggering characters had outsize personalities; so did he. A gruff gallery of faces squint from his dust jackets, from the grizzled swamp sage on the back of his 1978 memoir “A Childhood” to the Mohawk haircut and pit-bull grimace he later favored.Mr. Crews wrote about the South’s white poor, a world he knew intimately. He was a tenant farmer’s son, and he felt the burden of his hard upbringing. In an Esquire magazine essay, later collected in a book called “Blood and Grits,” he wrote:

“I was so humiliated by the fact that I was from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp in the worst hookworm and rickets part of Georgia I could not bear to think of it … Everything I had written had been out of a fear and loathing for what I was and who I was. It was all out of an effort to pretend otherwise.” ‘ (via NYTimes)


Controversial Pesticide Linked to Bee Collapse

“A controversial type of pesticide linked to declining global bee populations appears to scramble bees’ sense of direction, making it hard for them to find home. Starved of foragers and the pollen they carry, colonies produce fewer queens, and eventually collapse.

The phenomenon is described in two new studies published March 29 in Science. While they don’t conclusively explain global bee declines, which almost certainly involve a combination of factors, they establish neonicotinoids as a prime suspect.

“It’s pretty damning,” said David Goulson, a bee biologist at Scotland’s University of Stirling. “It’s clear evidence that they’re likely to be having an effect on both honeybees and bumblebees.” (via Wired)


Why the U.S. Penny Won’t Die Like Canada’s Just Did

“Poor little guy. Starting in the fall, Canada’s government will stop producing the lowly Canadian penny. The fact that pennies are expensive to make and are virtually worthless in today’s economy led them to fall victim to Ottawa’s budget cuts. The government says the measure will save around $11 million a year because each new penny costs 1.6 Canadian cents to produce. (One Canadian dollar is essentially equal to $1 in the U.S.) And a Canadian penny buys you only about 1/20th of what it could when it was introduced in 1858: A penny that could hypothetically buy a whole loaf of bread then would only buy a few bites of bread now.

Canadian consumers will be able to use the 1¢ coins indefinitely, but the government is encouraging businesses to start rounding to the nearest nickel. Lest people forget their arithmetic lessons, the government has put out a fact sheet on proper rounding techniques.

The Canadian move, which cites costs and inflation, follows the long-held logic trumpeted by many economists to get rid of 1¢ pieces in the U.S. Economist Stephen Dubner alone has nearly 20 entries on his Freakonomics blog begging for a U.S. penny death. “Can we please be next?” he wrote this morning after learning of Canada’s move.

A 2008 New Yorker article lays out the counterarguments that have prevented the penny’s seemingly inevitable extinction. There are objections to rounding, which one economist estimated could cost U.S. consumers as much as $1.5 billion over five years. Also, cutting out the penny may just put more reliance on the nickel—which is even more expensive to produce. In the U.S. loses 1.4¢ on each penny it makes and 6.2¢ on each nickel, according to Coin Update, an industry news source. Plus, plenty of Americans like pennies and their Honest Abe heritage. Those enthusiasts, along with industry lobbies, have rallied to support the coins when there has been movement to kill them.” (via Businessweek)


The New Frontlines

English Defence League march in Newcastle

Anti-fascists mobilise against English Defence League summit in Denmark: “Hundreds of demonstrators will confront the English Defence League tomorrow as the far-right group holds its first ever European summit in a bid to set up a Continent-wide alliance of anti-Islamic organisations.

Danish activists claimed that as many as 4,000 anti-fascist activists would make their way to the town of Aarhus, where the meeting is due to take place tomorrow afternoon, from the UK, Denmark and Germany.

Organisers said they would march one hour before an EDL rally in the town, in what they predicted would be the country’s largest anti-fascist mobilisation in 15 years.” (via Independent.UK)


TSA Waste

Image from the backscatter advanced imaging te...
Image from the backscatter advanced imaging technology (AIT) machine used by the TSA to screen passengers. This is what the remote TSA agent would see on their screen.

A reader wrote to see if my audience would be interested in seeing this well-done infographic about TSA waste. (Thanks, Tony)  If you think the tax dollars you have contributed to funding the TSA have made you safer, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.