Congress: Let’s Have Another Thalidomide!


One of the most infuriating aspects of the Trump Administration’s roll-back of federal regulatory powers is the implied assumption that those laws and regulations exist for no reason. That’s dangerous nonsense. Those laws were passed in response to real, serious risks. The major revisions to the Food and Drug Administration laws and regulations in the…

Bad Judgment Personified: Senator Mike Dunleavy (Photo by Anchorage Dispatch News)

Will Alaska Voters Allow Another Candidate to Buy an Election?


Dermot Cole wrote an excellent essay recently on Mike Dunleavy’s efforts to buy the Alaska governorship. Dunleavy is a Republican candidate and Cole documents the very large contributions to his political action committee. Donors include his brother, the ethically challenged Francis Dunleavy. Francis Dunleavy escaped indictment when JP Morgan got caught fixing electrical rates; Francis…

Risk Assessment Starts with Data

Poor Risk Assessment Skills


Technically, it’s an aspect of critical thinking, but risk assessment – the ability to judge and respond appropriately to a threat – is at the heart of critical thinking skills. Americans are terrible, truly awful, at risk assessment. And that has helped give us Donald Trump. Consider this table, which was a meme a while…

Plutonium on Parade


Plutonium is vile, nasty stuff. It’s poisonous, highly radioactive, spontaneously combusts and some isotopes have a half-life of 12,400 years. Which means it will decay to something harmless only on geologic time scales. It’s literally unnatural: it doesn’t occur in nature. Essentially all of the plutonium on the planet was made by mankind. And, of…

Scotchguard™ advertisement, c. 1961

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle: Scotchgard™


Scotchgard™ is a 3M product that makes fabrics stain resistant and somewhat water repellent. 3M completely reformulated Scotchgard in May 2000. It turned out that the chemicals used in earlier versions of  Scotchgard were dangerous and persisted in the environment for a long time. Those chemicals were perfluorinated compounds (“PFASs”), including perfluorooctane sulfate (“PFOS”) and perfluorooctanoic…