We talk a lot about common sense; as if that's a good thing. I remember my uncle describing a guy once by saying that he was smart as a whip but didn't have a lick of common sense. So it has always been something held up as a good thing. The problem is that common sense is sometimes wrong too. In my sociology classes each semester, we take ten common sense statements and prove their error through research, rather than just assuming they're correct because they sound right. I've been doing research this week, looking for things that might fall into this category or other things that you might not know but probably should. Here are some of them:
* Using powers granted by the Patriot Act, the FBI now issues more than 30,000 "national security letters" a year. These enable the government to secretly obtain telephone logs, e-mail records and detailed financial information on specific people without getting permission from a prosecutor, grand jury, or judge and that directly violates our Constitutional protections.
* About 75 percent of anti-Western terrorists come from middle or upper class homes, and 65 percent have attended college, dispelling the myth that terrorists are poor, uneducated fanatics.
* Fertility is now highly correlated to political and religious beliefs. The more progressive and secular you are, the less likely you are to have a big family; the more conservative and religious you are, the larger your family is likely to be. For example, in Utah, the birth rate is 92 children per 1,000 women, the highest in the nation. By contrast, highly progressive Vermont, the first state to embrace gay unions-has the country's lowest fertility rate at just 51 children per 1000 women. This would appear to be highly favorable towards an ever-increasing number of conservative Republicans in this country but don't forget your history. The social and political revolutions of the '60s were brought about by young people born to some of the most conservative families in the history of this country in the '50s. Political sentiments ebb and flow and nothing stays the same.
* The Department of Homeland Security distributed an intelligence assessment to local law-enforcement officials warning of a resurgence of right-wing extremist groups in response to the election of an African-American president and Republican congressmen and other conservatives responded with outrage, although they took exactly the opposite tact when liberals and Democratic congressman objected to some of the provisions of the Patriot Act. When you cheer on a Surveillance State, you have no grounds to complain when it turns its eyes on you.
* Infections passed on due to poor hospital hygiene kill as many people in the United States, about 103,000 a year, as AIDS, breast cancer, and automobile accidents combined.
* A Florida middle school science teacher found that 70 percent of her local fast-food restaurants had more bacteria in their soft-drink ice than in the water from their toilets.
* Scientists believe that certain cancers contain "biomarkers" such as proteins, which emit odors that a dog's sensitive nose can detect.
* A new study revealed that owning and walking a dog can burn off more pounds, up to 14 pounds annually, on average, than some of the top weight-loss programs.
* A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who are mildly overweight live longer than people who are either normal in weight or are very thin.
* Liars brains have 26 percent more of the white matter that manages complex planning and 14 percent less gray matter, the brain tissue that regulates impulse control, suggesting that liars' brains appear to be wired for deceit, combining a greater capacity for quick thinking with a reduced ability to feel remorse.
There are many more facts to report that would surprise or even shock you but I'm out of room for this column. The message to learn here is that just because something sounds right doesn't necessarily mean that it is.