It's that time of year again. The Supreme Court is done with arguments and will be spending the next six weeks issuing opinions (as well as finalizing the cases to be heard this fall). This year, the Supreme Court heard arguments in seventy cases. So far they have decided forty cases and have thirty remaining. We will probably get 3-4 opinions per week for the next three weeks at which point the remaining cases will come in a flood (including most of the major cases not yet decided).
Most of the cases from last fall have been decided. The biggest case remaining (probably being written by Chief Justice Roberts) is in many ways a small case that has become much bigger than it should be. The case is Bond v. United States back for a second time at the Supreme Court. The case involves a poisoning, but the local federal prosecutor decided to charge a federal offense under a statute implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention. By opting to charge a federal offense (rather than letting the state prosecutors handle the case as a state offense), the federal prosecutor has created a major dispute over whether a the US can use a treaty to expand federal power. The easy out in the case would be for the Supreme Court to narrowly interpret the statute to not reach the charges in this case. The other two cases from the fall involve the ability of a child to get residence status under U.S. immigrations law if that "child" becomes an adult while on the waiting list and the scope of the federal authority to regulate casinos run by Native Americans if those casinos are located outside of tribal land.
The winter cases (January and February) are only half-decide (ten cases remaining out of nineteen arguments). Because of the number of cases remaining, it is too soon to tell which justices might have these cases. There are still three big cases from January. The biggest is the Noel Canning case on the scope of the recess appointment power. Whichever side wins may well regret it when, at some point in the future, control of the White House flips. For now, conservatives are arguing that the President can only fill a vacancy during the recess between the end of the session in the fall of one year and the first meeting of the following session in January and only if the position becomes vacant during that recess. Also outstanding from January is a case on the Massachusetts law creating a protest-free bubble around abortion clinics and mandatory unionization for home health care providers in Illinois (for the purpose of Medicaid reimbursements.
The big case from February is the greenhouse gas case. As noted in previous posts, the Supreme Court rejected most of the challenges to the regulations and is only considering a limited technical issue of statutory interpretation -- does the finding that these gases are pollutants for the purpose of the sections of the Clean Air Act governing motor vehicles also mean that they are pollutants for the sections covering power plants. The other major case from February is a securities fraud case involving Haliburton (a/k/a the source of all evil).
Close to two years ago, we published a copy of the European report related to cell phones causing brain cancer. They're still discussing over at WHO, although the FDA remains unconvinced. FDA says the number of brain cancers hasn't increased since 1987, but...
The most compelling evidence cited by the WHO is a multi-country study that found people who used cell phones most often, an average of 30 minutes per day over 10 years, had a 40 percent higher risk for a rare brain tumor called a glioma.
Yeah, I'm going with better safe than sorry. And I bring this up because I want to share this Sunday morning. I had an iPhone. I loved my iPhone. My iPhone was dying. It dropped calls not because of the infamous limitations of the ATT network but because it was just too old. Firmware problems. I wanted to hold out for an iPhone 5. OOOOOH I wanted a dual core chip, and Cloud access. YUMMERS! Looking as I was at surgery, a hospital stay, chemo and heaven knows what else, I figured I'd just get a prepaid phone and hold out. But then came Thursday.
I had been sent by my surgeon (no slouch) to see a specialist because the proposed surgery was "dicey." The bottom line is that this specialist, who is about as credentialed and stupendous as someone can be, said that my doctors were wrong. He pointed out that in the two months this has been going on the only treatment I received was 7 days of Cipro, 1 Vicodin (yeah, ONE), and 4 weeks of ayurvedic diet. He pointed out that my blood work (all 52 vials drawn) encompassed incredible numbers of tests and with the exception of my being protein-deficient, everything was normal. If it were cancer, he said, I would be worse not better. The friend who came with me asked why I was still so tired and weak. He said if someone told anyone that they were potentially fatally ill, kept running tests, kept looking for a diagnosis that wasn't there, and like that, the stress would do in anyone. In fairness to my doctors, they kept saying they didn't know what I had, but needed to rule out various kinds of cancer. So, it's back to the ayurvedic diet for me. Actually, everything except I REALLY NEED THAT CUP OF COFFEE IN THE MORNING.
So there you have it. I share with you my joy of being on the path to "back to healthy". All of the allopaths think ayurvedic diet is nonsense, but when I tell them what's on the diet, they agree it's hard to eat healthier. They cannot deny the amount of inflammation that has disappeared since that first week.
In celebration, Thursday night, fully aware that the iPhone 5 could be out in September, I bought an iPhone 4. OOOH! L-O-V-E I-T. And I've been wearing the earphone/mic combination ever since. See -- full circle to the brain cancer thing. I figure if I absolutely must have an iPhone 5, it will be nothing but money. I have the two years for the contract, and I won't be spending my savings on chemo. Win-win all the way around.
We've spent time looking at the affects of cell phones (or lack of inclusion thereof) on political polls. Now, Pew is out with some very interesting information on the direct effects of cell phones as relate to the most recent election season.
It appears that 26% of American adults used their cell phones to learn about, or participate in, election activities this year. Not 26% of the electorate, but 26% of all adults. That's HUGE. The Pew Report lists the types of activities, which relate to everything from texting "I voted" to sharing info on election sites, following returns, getting information, donating money, and many more. The demographics are interesting, too. As you likely would expect, election-related cell phone activities rise with income and educational level. In addition, the younger one is, the more likely someone was to use his/her cell phone for election activities. That, of course, will change as people get older: starting 1 January 2011 the Boomers start turning 65 at the rate of something like one every eight minutes. Thus, the demographic of those age 65 and older will show a huge percentage rise in cell phone usage. Boomers love tech and won't be giving it up!
Some 71% of cell owners say they voted in the 2010 election, compared with 64% of the full adult population in this survey who say they voted. [...]
There was no partisan tilt in the makeup of the mobile political user population. They split their votes equally between Democratic and Republican congressional candidates -- 44% to each. About 2% said they voted for other candidates and 10% didn't answer the question or said they didn't know. Generally, there were few partisan or ideological differences in way this group used their cell phones for politics.
A lot of people love political polls: they believe that it's an accurate way to see what will happen in an upcoming election, or how people feel about a hot topic. Some pollsters have better track records than others, and there are certain things that can give polls more credence, like larger sample sizes and appropriate demographics, and things that make some polls less credible, like trick questions.
Most polls nowadays are telephone polls. And often robocalls at that. Pew has recently questioned whether or not this model is accurate. It's the cell phone effect. 25% of American households rely soley on cell phone service. They are polled far less than landline households. There are likely younger, lower income and more Democratic. Thus, demographic make-up may be skewed by landline only polls.
Cell phones are often excluded from polling because they cost many times what robocalling landlines costs. First, it's against the law to robocall cell phones, thus live people need to be hired and paid. Second, people with cell phones tend to answer them less than landlines. Finally, many more robocalls can be made per hour than calls per human.
Pew looked at this phenomenon in 2008 and found a slight difference. This year, they found a much larger difference between polls containing cell phone data. Generic ballot results from the Pew information:
5 points can certainly swing many, if not most, elections. It doesn't make a difference in a district where someone will win with 88% of the vote, but most elections are far closer.
As someone who is not a great fan of polls, I find it very interesting that by 2012, polling may be a whole different animal. One of the things I dislike about polling is that it is a lagging indicator which affects future outcomes. Here's what I mean. You're visiting a new city, and you're going to go out to get something to eat. There's a stretch of "restaurant row", each with its own parking lot. While you may have a stated preference ("I only want Italian" or "I never eat Mexican") if there are a number of restaurants, all serving plain old American food, and no chains, you're more likely to go to one with cars in the parking lot instead of the one with only a couple cars, likely belonging to the workers. You'd assume in a new place that the locals know where the better food is located.
People like "winners" and people like "better" and "more popular." Thus, I contend that when polls show certain things, vast swatches of the electorate (generally those who get 95% of their political news from TV ads and the other 5% from the local news) will be more likely to end up voting for whoever is winning in the polls, rather than making an informed decision predicated on where candidates stand on the issues.
So what happens if the gulf between landline only and landline plus cellphone households increases? Obviously the gap will increase. Right now, per Pew, while 25% of American households are cell phone only, those aged 25 - 29 are 49% cell phone only. These numbers have increased massively over the last five or so years, and will continue to do so as cell phones become cheaper and include all-you-can-eat plans. In addition, there is an added problem for pollsters. Cell phone numbers are now portable, and there are no long distance charges. So people tend to take their phone numbers, including their area codes, with them when they move. Thus it becomes harder to poll local and state elections, or even get accurate state-by-state numbers for the presidential races (remember that Electoral College.) Even if campaigns are willing to pony up the dollars for cell phone inclusion, they may call a Wisconsin area code, but find that the person is actually living and voting in Georgia. So the information may skew not just in terms of age, income and party affiliation, but also geography, making cell phone polls still more expensive.
In May 2009, we polled DCW to see how many of you had cell phones. You can see all the results here. Below are the identical questions. Wonder how our community changed from last year.
The National Safety Council is chartered by the US Congress, although they are not a branch of Congress in any way. But they come up with ideas, and lobby. Currently, they want to ban all cell phones and messaging devices, in all situations, in all states, used by all drivers. This includes hands-free devices. I think it also includes On-Star and related devices, but I'm not positive. They will be lobbying in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
So my first thought is -- the Great Depression redux, global warming, crumbling infrastructure, two wars, and this is your issue? I want my state legislature focused, and not on this.