Exploiting children

I remember working my high school job at a grocery store. As I recall, I could only work 4 hours and until 9 p.m. on school nights when I started. I soon turned 18 and was able to work longer and later. And that I did. I soon took on the role of supervisor, something that unfortunately translated to working until close – 11 p.m. I remember just how rough it was getting up in the morning for school. I had to be there by 7:15 a.m., so I was up by 6:50 a.m. at the latest. That is, if I even went to school. In my Senior year I skipped like crazy; in just one quarter I missed 11 days. My grades didn’t suffer (as I recall, I had a 94 average that particular quarter), but I was also fortunate in going to a school that granted Junior/Senior privileges. Depending on the week, I either had 2 or 3 days in which I could go home and sleep from about 11 to 1.

But that isn’t the case for everyone. First, not every school has the system mine did. Second, many students are going to struggle to do moderately well, much less achieve privileges (if their school even has them). Allowing kids to work that awful schedule I dumbly undertook in high school is an obvious mistake that will negatively impact education. Well, it’s obvious unless you’re a member of the Maine GOP:

Rep. Burns, who did not respond to an interview request Tuesday, apparently thinks Maine’s kids are not only underworked, but also overpaid.

And how would Burns correct this, ahem, problem?

Well, he’d remove any limit whatsoever on the number of hours kids over 16 can work on a school day — the current limit is four on most days and eight on the last school day of the week.

He’d raise from three to four the maximum hours kids under 16 can work on a school day.

And finally — listen up, kids — he’d whack the pay for any high school student under the age of 20 from Maine’s $7.50-per-hour minimum wage to a “training wage” of $5.25-per-hour for the first 180 days on the job.

This has to be the worst idea I have heard from Republicans since we invaded Iraq. Kids don’t need to be working late nights while trying to juggle school and their social lives. It sucked for me under relatively fortunate circumstances; it will suck just as much, if not more, for everyone else.

Co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Bickford had this to say:

“I would support removing the cap for daily and weekly hours, but I would also support amending it to six hours when school is in session, so the student could get home from school — say 3:00 — and could work from 4:00-9:00. They’d still have plenty of time for homework,” Bickford added. “Most of these kids are generally up well past 10:00. They could work a 3:00-9:00 shift.”

So let’s just keep them up later. Hell, I used to stay up until 12:30 a.m. quite often. How about we let kids work until midnight? Or, hell, let’s allow them to do overnights. They can go to work at 11:00 p.m., work an 8 hour shift, get to school at 7 the next morning, sleep from about 2:30-10:30 p.m., then head back to work. It’ll be a real resume builder.

Aside from being an education-second bill, the whole point of this legislation is to cheapen up labor for Maine’s tourist industry. Anyone who has ever been to the Maine coast in the summer knows that teenagers get hired all over the place – and for less than 180 days. Burns and Bickford want to allow businesses to pay teenagers less money for the same work that those over 20 are doing. It’s horseshit. It’s unfair, without a good or reasonable basis, and it will have negative ramifications on the educations of working teens.

But hey, how about some science?

Citing no fewer than eight published studies, [Maine Women’s Lobby direction Laura] Harper said the data consistently show that holding down a job while in high school is actually a good thing for most kids — up to a point:

One study, appearing in the “American Educational Research Journal,” found that kids who work between one and 15 hours per week are actually more likely to complete high school. Pass the 15-hour mark, however, and the dropout rate starts to rise.

Ditto for another study in “Sociology of Education” that found “intensive work involvement” of more than 20 hours a week leads to higher numbers of kids giving up on school.

Then there’s the “Journal of Educational Research” study that found a direct correlation between hours worked and academic performance — the more the hours go up, the more grades and standardized test scores go down.

Meanwhile, as Harper noted in a recent letter to the committee, “no evidence presented suggests that there is an unskilled labor shortage in this state.”

Sad lulz

Arizona has enacted a stupid new law that bans abortions that are done for the sake of selecting race or gender. This is the part that really got me:

Backers of the measure said the ban is needed to put an end to sex- and race-related discrimination that exists in Arizona and throughout the nation. They insist the issue is about bias rather than any broader stance on abortion.

Lulz. Arizona wants to put an end to race discrimination?


One reason U.S. health care sucks

I hate hearing this moronic meme that the United States has the best health care in the world. It doesn’t. Anyone who thinks otherwise is ideologically deluded. I’m looking at you FOX Noise.

One major reason for our tendency to suck is that we have relatively little emphasis on preventative care. Countries with real health care, such as Canada, tend to pay a whole lot less overall in their costs while detecting diseases and illnesses early. (As it happens, this tends to help out poor people quite a bit, but hey, that might shrink the unsustainable, ideologically-driven, money-powered, larger-than-pre-1929 income gap we have going on right now.)

Exemplifying the issue is the recent approval of an insanely expensive prostate drug:

Medicare officials said Wednesday that the program will pay the $93,000 cost of prostate cancer drug Provenge, an innovative therapy that typically gives men suffering from an incurable stage of the disease an extra four months to live.

The good news is that the drug extends survival rates by about 4 months versus no treatment and two months versus chemotherapy. The bad news is that Dendreon, the company that makes Provenge, is about to make a billion or so dollars off the taxpayer. It claims this reflects the billion they put into research, but how much of that was subsidized by the government? And are they going to reduce the cost once they recoup their money? (Hint: No.)

But bioethicists who study health care decisions say Medicare’s ruling on Provenge mirrors the bias of the overall U.S. health system, which emphasizes expensive treatments over basic medical care. Health care costs account for nearly one fifth of the U.S. economy, more than any other country.

“We tend to put our health care dollars into very high-tech interventions that produce very marginal improvements,” said Dr. Steven Miles, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics. “The problem is that we have created a health care system that is uniquely inadequate in terms of access to primary health care, which is where you get the most bang for your buck.”

One of the big problems with our new health care law is that the stubbornness and fear Americans have towards change has prevented a single-payer system. “But my lib3rty!!!11!!!”, they say. Well, I hope you like a side of late-stage cancer with all that freedom. (Wait…do dead people have liberty?)

Thought of the day

The government is not a business.

Maine governor removes own picture

In an effort to be consistent, Maine governor Paul LePage has announced that he is removing his own picture from the official state of Maine website. “I just don’t see how I can show my face and not be a contradictory asshole”, said LePage.

LePage was referring to his previous douchebaggery act of removing a mural featuring great moments in Maine’s labor history from the Department of Labor building. When asked why he was being such a prissy little dick, he told reporters that the mural was hostile towards business owners who enter the Labor building. Now in an effort to be consistent, LePage has said he will take down his own image from Maine.gov.

“It wouldn’t be fair of me to leave my fat fucking face up there. It’s clear that not only am I hostile to the simple aesthetics of the website, but my face represents an anti-common sense, anti-labor, anti-poor people, anti-black people, anti-paying taxes honestly, anti-science, anti-intelligence point of view. If the Department of Labor mural’s hostility to business values justifies its removal, then certainly my anti-all things good values justifies the removal of my mug.”

Opposition to LePage was stunned. Democratic leader Emily Cain of Orono expressed utter amazement. “This guy has been a pure douche for the past 3 months. He has made Maine look like a fucking joke. I can’t believe he would actually go and do something intelligent for once.”

LePage’s supporters were less enthusiastic, but all said they understood. “This is a real hit to the Republican party, but at least the dickface is being consistent”, said Bangor council member and frequent radio guest Cary Weston.

The reaction of the Maine people is yet to be seen, but early comments indicate an appreciation of the first grain of honesty from the current administration.

“Ayuh, I don’t like the douche, but I’ve always felt his face made Maine’s website pretty hostile to a whole lotta common sense things. Gotta agree with LeDouche on this one”, said Joe Blow.

The administration reports that its replacement of LePage’s mug with a black hole is only temporary, however no objections have been raised. In fact, everyone has so far agreed that the new image really makes a lot of sense.

Thought of the day

As most Mainers know by now, our governor has taken to removing a labor mural from the Department of Labor. His whole point is to be a prissy little dick to everyone who isn’t a Teabagger. That is frustrating enough. But what really gets me is that he keeps telling people to get over it and to talk about something important – Hey, Paul LeDouche, you started this conversation. This is purely your fault. Own your idiocy.

Islamic atheists

I’m not sure Newt Gingrich knows what either one of those words means:

“I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9,” Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

About the only thing he got right is that his grandchildren will likely be in a secular country when they get to his age. That is, presuming they stay in the United States and the United States remains exactly the same as it has been for the past 235 years.

Thought of the day

Anyone who says science takes the beauty out of life has never heard a microbiology professor proclaim how gorgeous a colony of bacteria was.

More demanded respect

The separation between church and state – a fundamental concept to the secular nation of the United States – goes quite far. One way it is commonly applied is in exceptions to the law. Many times they are fair exceptions. But other times religions just think they should be allowed to do as they damn well please:

The Supreme Court will decide whether a teacher at a church-run school is a religious or secular worker when it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The high court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich.

Cheryl Perich, a teacher and commissioned minister, got sick in 2004 but tried to return to work from disability leave despite being diagnosed with narcolepsy. She taught third and fourth graders

The school said she couldn’t return because they had hired a substitute for that year. They fired her after she showed up anyway and threatened to sue to get her job back.

Here we have yet another example of unearned and undeserved respect being demanded by a religious group. Perich was a teacher, not a priest or Rabbi or any other sort of religious leader. Her job was secular and she functioned within it in a purely secular way. To act as though she loses her rights because religion is involved is absurd.

We can be sure Scalia and Thomas will be ready to side with the religious group, ignoring everything to do with the law as usual, but I don’t see how the school as a leg to stand on.


I was reading The A-Unicornist’s blog by that swell chap otherwise known as Mike when I just had to stop. Mike had earlier pointed out to me some silly comment from the king of silly comments, Jack. But as hilarious as that comment was, Jack topped himself:

Actually, [William] Craig speaks primarily from a position of reason and logic; he doesn’t simply assert God, he considers certain premises that are logically valid – that causes are necessary for things to begin to exist

This is a common error that Christians make. The idea that we can apply the idea of cause and effect to the time prior to the Big Bang makes no sense. Cause is another way of describing force. Forces are products of the Universe that we know, of the Universe that we can understand. The whole reason why we say every force has an equal and opposite force is because we can deduce as much within our framework of laws. Once we go beyond that framework (that is, beyond the Universe), all the laws we know go out the window. We absolutely cannot say the Big Bang was caused by something on the basis of our knowledge of cause and effect – we are throwing out that very basis the moment we begin to talk about anything ‘prior’ to time.

Some people just aren’t smart enough for this stuff. Mike, fortunately, is. To put what I just said in his words:

Even if the universe had a beginning, Craig has no basis for assuming that a physical process such as causality exists outside of the universe – just because things within the observable universe require a cause does not mean the universe itself does.

Even if I’m wrong and all our laws remain intact ‘prior’ to the Big Bang, there still is no valid scientific basis for asserting so. Try again, theists.