Is Clorox responsible for the Common Cold?

No, not intentionally. But in practice, yes.

Mysophobia, or what is also known as fear of germs, is so wide-spread that it is in many ways paralyzing the country, while encouraging the spread of the common cold.

A similar argument got me banned from Daily Kos. No great loss, but still quite annoying. What happened was this:

Tom Tillis, the rather regrettable junior Senator from North Carolina, raised a firestorm when he said that he thought restaurants should be able to opt out of the law requiring employees to wash their hands after using the toilet. As it happens, I agree that this is government overreach.

I wrote: “I never thought that I would agree with the likes of Thom Tillis, but i do on this issue. Please note that he did not say restaurant workers should not wash their hands, he said it should not be mandated by law.
To start with it is an unenforceable law.  Who (other than the restaurant owner) knows if the employees wash their hands?
Secondly, a dirty restaurant is unlikely to stay in business long. The first rule for a food provider is “Do not make your customers sick”.  Oversight by the restaurant owner is far more likely to ensure cleanliness than some regulatory poster in the bathroom.
This is not something that should be mandated by government; it is something that should be a common sense business practice.  And if you think the employees don’t wash their hands enough, don’t eat there.”

I added: “I have two things to say – first that rules can go too far, and second, that toilets are not necessarily sources of scourges, plagues and death.

Number one (mostly sterile, not a source of infection, and a very good fertilizer):  I can think of few areas in which I would ever agree with a Republican, especially one as radical as Tom Tillis, but I am with him on this one.  It is not necessary for government at any level to mandate an activity that very likely happens anyway.  He did not say that restaurant employees should not wash their hands; he said that it should not be a treasonable offense.
Most restaurant owners would like to keep their customers coming back for more.  A sure fire way to guarantee that they do not is to give them food poisoning.  To reduce that possibility, the restaurant owner will probably encourage the employees to exercise minimum levels of hygiene.  Government mandates are not really necessary.

Number two (the stuff that you once willingly put in your mouth, chewed and swallowed), there is this thing called toilet paper.  Not every visit to the bathroom involves feces, and even those that do seldom result in a transfer to hands – that toilet paper thing.  In order for a restaurant worker to transmit a disease to the diners, you need three elements to be present:
1. Some disease needs to be present
2. Said employee is inept at wiping his butt
3. He does not wash his hands (ditto for she)
Legislation will not take care of 1 or 2.  Three happens anyway.  If you go to the toilet and you get shit on your hands, you are going to wash them, that I guarantee.

And what, you may be asking yourself, has this to do with the common cold?


Don’t get me wrong, washing your hands if they are dirty or if you are about to operate on someone is a good idea. (That said, I would rather the surgeons washed their gloves)

BUT. Sanitizing kitchen and bathroom surfaces, using anti-bacterial soap and other germ-killing practices is counter-productive (there’s a pun there somewhere).

Bacteria are not our enemies, they are our friends. We know very little about them – how many there are, what they all do and so on – but it is estimated that only 1 in 10 is dangerous. We call bacteria, viruses and other microbes which can make us ill “pathogens”. They are like the weeds of the plant kingdom. They replicate freely, they live anywhere and they are quite resistant to “cides”, that is those concoctions which are supposed to kill them off. In the natural world, numbers keep them in check – the 90% good, or neutral microbes offer stiff competition to the 10% bad guys. The bad guy population stays at around 10% – not enough to make you sick.

So what happens when you wipe down your countertop with Clorox? You kill nearly all the microbes that are lurking there. But which ones come back first? You guessed it. The weeds. Only now you do not have an opposing army 9-1 strong to fend them off. The same thing happens in your gut.

In short, the more bacteria you have in your life, the more resistant you are to disease.

“After all, perhaps dirt isn’t really so unhealthy as one is brought up to believe.”
Agatha Christie, Murder in Mesopotamia

But that is another story.


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Is taxation fair? Not bloody likely.

This is something I found and I really thank Idontknowwhy for it.

How I Converted My Republican Co Worker on Tax Policy

by Idontknowwhy

In a typical water fountain discussion my conservative republican co worker raised the issue of his 2014 taxes and how unfair our tax system is when he has to pay 28% to the feds on his six figure income while so many people paid nothing.  I agreed with him that our taxes were unfair and said it was much worse then he realized.  As he knows me as a “liberal” my instant agreement took him by surprise and led him to ask how it was worse.

Rather than answer directly I asked him several questions.  (The numbers here are representative but not actual).  The conversation went like this:

What’s your annual income?  $100K.  What are your expenses, you know mortgage, clothes, food, transportation, kids college savings, health insurance, retirement, rainy day savings if any, and other necessities?  After some thought he estimated around $50K.

What about other expenses like your annual vacation, kids sports, music lessons, occasional dining out, movies, bowling, cable TV, phones etc?  Again after a little thought he said around $10K.

Do you think you live a meager, dignified or extravagant lifestyle?  Dignified, definitely not extravagant.  Do you agree people who work for a living deserve to live in dignity?   Of course.
Ok, so for you to live in dignity it costs you around $60K a year out of your $100K salary leaving about $40K net income after expenses right?  Yes.

So you said your fed taxes are 28% or $28K right?  Yea.  Property taxes?  $8K.  State,  local & sales taxes?  $4K.

So that’s how your income goes each year, $60K to live in dignity the other $40K in taxes, that’s actually 40% you’re paying in taxes isn’t it?  Yea, thanks for making it worse than I thought it was.

Your net income after the cost of living in dignity is $40K and all of that goes to taxes, sucks doesn’t it?  So in reality you are paying 100% of your net income in taxes aren’t you?  You can afford to get by with dignity but after that the government takes everything don’t they?  F-yea!

Now think about a guy who makes a million, the cost of living with dignity costs him the same $60K, or 6%, and say he pays 39.5% in taxes he gets to keep 54% ($540,000) of his post cost of living net income while you get to keep nothing.  The millionaire pays about a 40% tax rate while you pay 100% after accounting for the cost of living.

A puzzled look of comprehension mixed with what looks like fear of losing his religion appears on his face as he begins to see where I am going with this.

No time to let up now……

The corporation and it’s shareholders don’t  pay taxes on their gross income like you do, just post cost of business (living) expenses.  Is it right you pay taxes on your gross income while they only pay on the net income?  If a company makes $10 million in gross income and pays 35% on $1 million net profit it paid 35% on it’s profit while you paid 100%.  The corporation paid just 3 ½% of it’s gross income while you paid 40% of your gross income.  Blank stare…

The kid born with the silver spoon stock portfolio who doesn’t earn any income from working for
a living only pays 28% tax on his capital gains profit on his multi-million annual income and the billionaire hedge fund manager only pays 15% tax on his carried interest profit of $100 million  while you pay 40% on your total income and 100% on your $40K post cost of living income.

The look of being screwed over is now his…

I ask – you think you got it bad?  How about your neighbor who only makes $80K?  If his taxes are like yours, basically 40% of his gross or $32K.  So from his $80K he’s left with $48K to live on.  If living with dignity costs $60K and we only leave him with $48K to live on aren’t we taking his dignity?  How would you feel if you were him.?  Your neighbor’s post cost of living income is just $20K and he is being taxed $32K…  over 150% tax rate and we take away his dignity while we are at it.   No vacation, no diners out, no movies, no niceties, no dignity – he also has to decide to cut retirement savings or the kids college funds or both.

Is that empathy I see on his face now???

While he’s actually listening I ask.

Do we tax wealth in the U.S.A.?  No.  We don’t?  No.  What is your biggest asset?  My house.  Besides your house your only family assets are cars which depreciate away over time and retirement and college savings that will be spent in due course?  Yea.  So your entire family wealth is really your house isn’t it?  Yea.  How much is it worth?  $200,000.  Ok, so your $200,000 wealth is property taxed @ $8K?  Yea.  A 4% tax on your wealth?  I guess so.

So a guy has a $Billion in total wealth including a $10 million house also  pays 4% property taxes on his house or $400.000 in total wealth taxes, .04% of his $billion Vs the 4% of your $200K you pay.

Nodding  agreement, silence and contemplative thought, time to walk away.

To actually have a reasoned conversation with this individual, who often falls back on sound bites and ad hominem attacks, was satisfying.  To see the look on his face as he realized he’s been hoodwinked – priceless 🙂

To quickly run the numbers:

On the post cost of living net income the Billionaire hedge fund manager pays 15% on his “carried interest”,  the unemployed millionaire trust fund kid pays 28% on his “capital gains” income, the guy who earns a million dollar salary for actual work pays 40%,  you who make $100K pay 100% and the poor slob that makes $80k pays 150% which he can’t afford so we take his dignity.  Corporations may pay 3.5% on their gross income while you pay 40% on yours.  You pay a 4% wealth tax while the Billionaire pays a .04% wealth tax.


Posted in Being a decent human being, Laws and regulations, Politics, Wealth disparity | Leave a comment

The Art of Being Nice

For almost a year now, I have been wearing a button that reads: BE NICE It’s a Better Way.

I originally ordered the buttons to promote my book ‘A Better Way’, but they have taken on a life of their own. Watch for the launch of the “Be Nice Campaign” in October. (It would be earlier but I ‘unfortunately’ have to go to France to babysit my sister’s dogs for three weeks.)

Little update here.  About how this being nice business can be extremely hard.

I occasionally play bridge as a stand in when regular players are without a partner.  Today we played a team of four event which turned out to be rather good fun – especially as my team came in first with 53 IMPs.  With some help from the opposition, I called and made three good contracts that others didn’t.

As we were packing up, one of the other members of the team (with whom I have never played) says to me “You were good, kept your end up very well”.  Maybe she just spoke clumsily, but I took that to mean for a “newcomer”.  Sort of, you are not yet one of us, but your performance was not too bad, considering.

Thanks to my “be Nice” button, I did not grab her by the throat and say “Listen, lady, I have been playing bridge for just over 60 years and I am quite good at it, you condescending *(^()*(_!!!

So, the  button works.  And I might be asked back.

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More about the Constitution

I want to share an ongoing discussion about a Truthout Article: The Economy We Want Starts With a Constitutional Amendment by Keith Harrington.

My first comment was ‘We need a lot more than an amendment to address election financing: we need a drastically re-written Constitution.”

Someone with the handle ratherdrive posted:

Serious question here, Elizabeth:

BY what specific method do you see an entirely new Constitution “coming first from the people,” followed by ratification of 38 States. and last by 2/3rds of Congress?

I answered:
It’s a very good question and one that needs a serious answer, which I will attempt to give.

My first thought was to find a group of serious thinkers from different walks of life to become the modern day Founding Fathers (I had in mind Nobel Laureates) who would draft a constitution for the 21st century.

But then I went to Cuba for a solar energy conference. We visited several co-op farms, and at one met members of the local “Committee” in the communist sense. From them I learned that, when he came to power, Raul asked the people what they wanted. They got together in their local committees of 20-30 and discussed the matter. Then they forwarded their suggestions to the regional committee, who amalgamated the suggestions from the local committees and forwarded those ideas to the next level up. The central committee received 200,000 (if I remember correctly) suggestions, and took a couple of years to sift through them and write new policies reflecting the will of the people. Pretty startling coming from the last hold-out of communism.

The US could approach the matter of the Constitution in much the same way. You, to invent an example, get together with your Rotary group, or your co-workers, of your church and talk about what works and doesn’t work about the Constitution as it stands. You select a spokesperson to get together with representatives of other groups in your community, and you talk about these ideas. Repeat as often as necessary until you have a group of, maybe 200, representing the entire country. They divide into committees according to expertise and draw up the first draft.

You can see the rest of it – good thoughtful stuff – at

That would be widely disseminated and subjected to a comment period, with modifications made if there was sufficient agreement among the comments.

Then State assemblies are asked to sponsor, suggest (I’m not sure what the right term is) a Constitutional Convention.

Posted in Being a decent human being, Politics, The Constitution | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Constitution for the 21st Century

The US Constitution has to change.

Based on this Constitution the country has a dysfunctional Congress, a looming theocracy/plutocracy, huge wealth disparity, and an environmental disaster in the making. And that is just a short list. This is not a great country; it is not a nice country; it is not one I choose to belong to. I have lived here for 30 years, so it is home. But a home that needs a serious upgrade, one that can, I believe, only be achieved by changing the Constitution.

The US Constitution was written by very well-intentioned men as a way to launch a new country. They produced a remarkable document and launched a remarkable nation. In the 18th century. But we are now in the 21st century. Times have changed in ways that the Founding Fathers could not have imagined in their wildest dreams. At least one of them – that great intellect and visionary Thomas Jefferson – acknowledged that developments in the future would necessitate changes to the Constitution. Jefferson suggested, with little support, that the Constitution should be revised every generation (at that time considered to be eighteen years). That means we should have had some 13 REVISIONS by now, not just the 27 amendments that have been ratified.

It might be helpful to look at the country as a not-for-profit organization with a board of directors (Congress) governed by a set of bye-laws (the Constitution). Members of the Board serve a fixed term, usually without remuneration, for the good of the organization. Bye-laws are revised as and when circumstances change. New bye-laws need to be approved by a quorum of the membership.

There are many thinking people who acknowledge that this country has problems which cannot be resolved with the Constitution as it stands. However, few are willing to take on the challenge of changing it. The biggest stumbling block is determining who is qualified to draw up a new document.

There is, however, a remarkably qualified group of men (and a few women) who could do the job. They have been acclaimed as leaders in their field by impartial, non-political, external sources. They are, ipso facto, highly intelligent. Their expertise covers the full range of human endeavour.

They are the living Nobel Prize recipients.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments


In November I spent two weeks in Iran which was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

The only negative was having to wear a headscarf at all times. They are (at least as worn by inexperienced Westerners) unflattering, uncomfortable – and hot! At least in November the temperatures were moderate, but still way above needing or wanting to have your head and neck wrapped in fabric.

The local women either have submitted completely to the idea, or – especially the young women – have found a way to look absolutely fabulous while shrouded in black. They are showing that it is quite possible to “distract” a man without showing your hair. Or your ears. But then I never thought that ears were a huge turn-on for men.

I mention this in the context of two articles I have read today – one about the President visiting a mosque and the other about Muslim women in America being subjected to scorn for wearing headscarves.

Here’s an idea. If Muslims want to fit in to American society, how about reducing their “I am a Muslim” message. Any woman who wears a headscarf (or more) is advertising her faith, or possibly her subordination to her husband’s faith. She is inviting a reaction from those who think it matters what her faith is. She is issuing a challenge. She is saying, in effect, I am a Muslim, what are you going to do about it? She is encouraging confrontation.
So, of course, are Orthodox Jews with their somewhat ridiculous ringlets, and others with their yamulkas.
So are the Amish and Menonites with their bonnets and straw hats.
And Christians with ostentatious crosses.
You get the idea.
Yes there is freedom to practice the religion of your choice. Some even suggest that there is freedom not to practice any religion at all. But, if I went around wearing a button proclaiming “I am an atheist”, I guarantee that I would get as much flak as veiled Muslim women do.
No one cares what your religion is, unless you challenge them to do so.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment


Last Thursday I was sworn in as an American citizen.

Am I excited at the prospects opening up in front of me?  No, not really.  It has taken 32 years to get to this point, and it can best be described as a marriage of convenience.  There is not much love involved.

The only difference is that I can now vote and run for office.  I will certainly do the former, and very likely the latter.  And in the meantime, I will continue to strive to make this a country I can be proud of.

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