A Strange Habit of Speech

Ms Clinton today offered an odd expression. She offered (as quoted by Fox … so perhaps if Fox is as deranged as the left it’s not exactly true) … but apparently that she was “taking absolute and total responsibility for losing the election … but”.

Hello?? If what you say in the first part of the sentence. Then that of necessity obviates the possibility of a “(pause) but..” clause. 

Seriously how can she not know that? 

Riddle Me This Mr Lynch

So, public tar and feathering was proper and righteous when a baker refused to bake a cake for a wedding ….

Would a Black owned bakery be similarly treated for refusing a family baking a cake in memory of their ancestors bearing the Battle Flag of the Army of North Virginia? Hmm?

Hypocrisy runs rampant in the public square, eh?

Manfred and the SSM Debate or Riddle Me This Mr Liberal

Recently at Symphony I was privileged to hear Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, which is  loosely based on a Lord Byron poem of the same name. And while I am unfamiliar with the poem, I did in fact read the program notes. And what I read there spurred a question to which I have no answer with respect to the modern liberal position vis a vis marriage and who is allowed to partner in such arrangements.

The liberal position with respect to homosexual partnerships is that they should be allowed to marry even though the relative numbers of such partnerships is very small and the there is no possibility to have children. These are not dis-qualifiers for the state to sanction marriage in their view.

So here’s my problem. Manfred by Lord Byron is (we are told) is an expression of his forbidden sexual desire for his sister though the eponymous hero as proxy.  So to put a point on it, in the context of reasons the liberal arguments why can two men or women may marry but a man cannot marry his sister? Or let’s put it concretely. In a state where gay marriage is allowed, what argument could you muster for me not to marry my sister? What reasons for gay marriage are there that do not apply equally well to my marriage with my sister (or for that matter, my brother, my mother, my father, or grandmother/father …. if they are currently not married to anyone else)? It might be added that I have had a vasectomy, so no progeny are possible so the “genetically damaged offspring” argument does not apply and cannot be used. Also, the numbers of people desiring such relationships are not relevant (apparently). (side note: I have no sister so no siblings have been harmed by the this test case).

The non-religious conservative case, that marriage should privilege heterosexual marriage because children are both hard to raise and required to continue society forbids all these newfangled relationships. The exclusion of religious arguments depends both on the insistence that the Declaration of Independence separates law from morals/ethics and that the Habermas/Ratzinger debate is a clear Habermas win. I’ll concede the first half of this “both/and” but not the second, but note that most American’s although they should concede the first half, typically don’t.

So. Riddle me this Mr Liberal? What reasons for two men to marry don’t apply to me and my sisters’ desired nuptials? Or should we be planning seating charts and ordering a cake from a Islamic bakery (and will you condemn and attack said bakery for bigotry because they won’t deliver said cake because they object to our being wed in admittedly not-holy matrimony)?

Kinda Dumb, Question Remains, Intentional or Not?

So, this sort of thing is going around in many ways all over. Succinctly put (from here):

If you want to feel depressed about the future of American politics, Obamacare confirms an unnerving phenomenon that has been well-documented by social scientists: more and better information has almost no effect on the political mind.

It’s some sort of mirage apparently to the left, who remains convinced that it is just a misunderstanding that divides right and left. Which is apparently their premise, but I can’t believe they actually believe that.

It is a common practice in many sciences, especially physics, to start with a toy, highly abstracted model to demonstrate the essence of a concept. Let’s posit two parties, positions, “political minds” (whatever the heck that might be), call them the dog party and the cat party. Let’s pretend the dog values exactly one thing, equality and that the cat also values exactly one thing, freedom. A perfect communist utopia would be exactly what the dog, in this example would find the ideal. It is their goal. The cat party on the other hand would look at the (mythical perhaps) wild west as shown in movies as their ideal. It is their goal. Then you present both with a “Obamacare”, a large complicated healthcare plan that has costs, benefits and so on. Learning more and more about it is going to not change the dog or cat perceptions on the benefits of this plan one bit. This shouldn’t be unnerving at all. It is clear, those who value equality would like Obamacare as it shifts more resources from the “haves” to the “have-less”, it equalizes things. Those who value freedom would see this is one more diktat from people who should be mindin’ their own bizness and gitten out of theirn. Learning more about it, isn’t going to convince them one bit that it looks any better.

The thing is, those like the poster, Mr Klein all know that the left and right don’t share the same value structure, that they don’t evaluate “goodness” of programs and political situations with the same cost/benefit matrix. Our political system, for better or worse, is naturally bi-cameral. This means that to get any say at all, you align yourself with the “team” whose actual or declared (… which in a perfect world is aligned somewhat) cost/benefit matrix for evaluating “goodness” of decisions is best aligned with yours. Those like Mr Klein know this.

Question is, why pretend otherwise? I dunno? Any guesses?

Missing a Measles Point

Uhm. Am I missing something or is this just a matter of righteous payback?

Kids are getting measles and it is spreading because a significant population of non-vaccinated people exists. Either the vaccine doesn’t work, or the only kids getting sick aren’t vaccinated. Isn’t that the choice? You vaccinate or you risk getting sick. If you don’t vaccinate and you get sick. Uhm, wasn’t that the risk you signed on for? I’m not getting why anybody gives a hoot about this at all.

Following Rome

So. As the Roman Empire got too large and complex they went to a Eastern/Western Empire situation. If you take as given that the job in front of today’s US executive is too complex to be handled by one man, would instead of a geographical a similar separation of responsibilities might help allow someone with who could be more expert in the area and a smaller contingent of responsibilities make sense? For the following take it as a given (as in we won’t argue that point) the job needs to be broken up and concentrate instead on how to do so.

This question it seems has two parts. The first is, wow to best break the job up. Foreign/domestic seems an obvious choice, but there may be other ways. Bertrand de Jouvenel suggested in his political philosophy that there were two types of leadership, one that drives forward toward a goal and one that can reconcile differences between people. Perhaps that would be another way to divide the two. Any other suggestions?

The second part is, how to implement this? Could this be done by dogmatic precedent (like the two term limit which followed Washington’s example for so long)? Could a President announce at his inauguration that he was doing this, and his vice President was going to, say, handle 100% of foreign affair issues and he would 100% concentrate on the domestic affairs.  The titular President would promise to rubber stamp any decisions made by his VP as if he were signing them as long as there were in the foreign affairs sphere and vice versa. Would this fly? If not, why no? Or would a full Constitutional amendment process be required to effect this?

So. Vaccinations?

Some ground rules should be established in these conversations. Everyone should agree:

  • Vaccines greatly decrease the chance of contracting the disease which they target.
  • If a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, then epidemics are unlikely.
  • This “significant” number does not have to 100% to be effective. Flu shot vaccination rates hover around 50% for the last few years according to the CDC, and no epidemics have occurred.
  • Vaccines are not 100% risk free, although globally speaking the benefit outweighs the risk. This, of course, does not help either the person getting sick or having an allergic or auto-immune reaction.
  • All currently required childhood vaccines are for horrible illnesses. Measles for example “Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive treatment.” (from the wiki). Like chicken pox, in childhood in the 50’s and earlier .. almost all kids got the Measles. Oddly enough people survived.

My question is, if you think measles vaccinations should be mandatory, why don’t you think flu shots should be mandatory?

If you think free riders are a problem and deserve active censure, should childless middle age adults (or older) be similarly censured?

Race, Logic and the Left

Consider the following, almost to a person those on the left would agree it was (would be) OK to vote for a man for the President on account of his being Black, or for a woman (say like Ms Clinton, but never never like Ms Palin) on account of her being female, or for a student to be admitted on account of his/her gender, race or other superficial feature.

This is wrong and here is why. I will use “vote” and “Black” as my examples, but this can be extended without modification to other situations and criteria (like admissions and gender or race).

Premise 1: It is a permissible criteria to vote for a man because he is Black.

Premise 2: If a thing is a valid criteria for, then it is valid criteria against. Valid criteria compromise those things you consider when making a choice. If a thing is a valid criteria then it is purely personal preference whether a particular criteria weighs for or against a decision.

Statement 1: It is racist to vote against a man because he is Black. Conservatives get told this all the time, it must be true.

This is a direct contradiction, of the two premises. Therefore either premise one is false or premise two is false. Premise two is not false by symmetry (and kindergarten, “turnabout is fair play”). Therefore premise one must be false.

If you voted for Obama because he was Black or support affirmative action, therefore you are a racist. Logic insists. See.

Or to put it another way, Martin Luther King said the color of a man’s skin was not a valid criteria with with to judge him. Why was he wrong?

A Little Confusion

So, the left has gotten unhinged about Mr Christie offering that vaccinations for kids be voluntary. This isn’t an “anti-vaccination” position, as he hasn’t said not get them. If you need evidence that they have gotten unhinged, the proof is in the conflation, equating “anti-vaccine” with “optional”.

Look. I’m not getting the kerfuffle. Explain to me the difference between optional flu shots and optional measles shots. The first is OK, the second a horrific idea. Not getting it. So. Explain. (hint: “It’s about the children” or “‘cause they are minors” earns you a dunce cap and won’t be considered a response). So why are flu shots not required for everyone? Hmmm?

Or is this just the purely partisan stupid hacking like it looks like?


Something Rotten in Denmark — Deficits

A few weeks past, Mr Krugman (and I’m not linking him) noted that contrary to popular beliefs (and cited some polls) deficits have not increased in the last few years. We are also told by similar sources that inflation is not occuring.

Yet. we need to keep raising the debt limits to keep the government solvent. If it was true that the deficits were not still increasing then we would be lowering not raising the debt limit. Somebody is not being honest.

Is Stupid?

Rome, in late antiquity, got too large for one ruler and split East/West. If one might suggest that the US Presidency has gotten too large for one guy … how to split? Grant that you’ve gone to the point of thinking splitting is a necessity. So, do you split by region or Foreign/Domestic? What do you think? And why/why not consider such a thing (besides that changing the Constitution is enormously difficult)?

Up, Down, Left, Right, and All That Nonsense

People speaking of other politically continually speak about left and right, yet these terms are basically meaningless. In the US, Mr Groseclose unlike so many others, bothers to define what he means, which by the time he gets down ends up arrives at a meaning only perhaps might only coincidentally mean the same thing that you think of when these terms are used. His method of determining right/left is political, being derived purely by analysing mathematically voting patterns of the right and left party members in Congress. The proto-typical examples of right and left come from the WWII era, whereas the Hitler-led Nazi party (National Socialists) were called “far right” and the Stalin-led Marxist USSR is identified as “far left”. What distinguishes these groups? Both were autocracies dominated by the personality of one man. Both explicitly used government powers to dominate all sectors of society. Both established massive campaigns of intimidation and slaughter in prison camps immediately on gaining power. The only difference possibly noted is that the Marxist doctrine was “post-national” intending via global domination to eliminate all national identities and Nazi fascism was rooted in German identity and nationalism. Is that the putative metric to measure right/left in common parlance? That the further left one goes the less national and more international in scope is one’s thinking? If so, why is socialism regarded as left leaning and capitalism right? Neither of these notions have much weight on the national/international scales. So. Right/left. What do you think it means? In Chemistry and Physics when you have measurables or metrics that don’t make much sense then your theory, your model is flawed. Right/left seems very flawed as a term of any descriptive value. Does anyone reading this know of any terms which actually are of any valuable use, be it descriptive or otherwise? I would venture that mostly these terms are useless and only used to categorize those with whom your are dealing as “on-my-team” or “horrible other” depending on the particularhandedness you profess to follow.

On the Ada Lovelace Thing

Recently there’s been a bit about Ada Lovelace and noting “important women” in science. Why Ada and not another woman? Some ask, if not Ada, who? I say, not Ada. The only rational choice is Emmy Noether. There was nobody like her. Ever. This started as a comment on today’s link thread were this was noted. But it grew into post size, so I’ve promoted it.

The point I’m trying to make if had the name the top 5 most influential people in 20th century physics, Emmy Noether would be a top candidate for that list … or possibly even the top 3. The Ada Lovelace thing is for “famous women scientists”. Other names are suggested but … none of which have that stature.  The big question is why don’t people recognize her? Is it sexism or anti-semitism? Is that a factor. Einstein was a Jew … and it didn’t diminish him .. but it’s a possibility I raised, especially noting in the 30s and 40s anti-Semitism was far more common than it is now.

One other possibility was that it was territorial, i.e., Noether wasn’t a physicist. One might think that it’s embarrassing (for physicists) that one of the biggest theoretical discoveries in your field to be made by some one who just stopped in looked at the maths in your playground for a bit and said, you know “I had this little idea, so I wrote it up.” And subsequently this little paper becomes the cornerstone of your whole science for the next century and counting. In part this is why I find the “Ada Lovelace” kind of thing questionable, there isn’t any question of who the most important women thinker/scientist of the last N years has been, where N is a number larger than 100 (1000? or 10000?). There’s only one candidate, and the other question might be was there anyone male or female who was more influential … perhaps there’s a short short list.  There is not a single one of those women dominated two separate fields of study and wrenched them both around in such a fundamental way. What men might you make the same claim for, what male scientist revolutionized two separate scientific fields? If you think there is a better candidate, put that name out there .. link or comment .. your choice.

So, was it scientific jealousy? Anti-Semitism? Or sexism? Or something else?

My commenter (this started as a comment response), noted he watches Discover/Cosmos type shows. So, in the nature of a quick “Cosmos” style precis, where does Ms Noether’s work fit? (that explanation goes below the cut) Continue reading →

Howzzat Work Anyhow?

Protest movements as evidenced most recently by the Occupy movement basically amount to soft terrorism. That is to say soft in the sense that it is terrorism with muted, understated violence. Instead of blowing up bus stops, eateries, and commuter throughways, they clog them up, pollute them, and fill them with the smell of human effluence unwashed bodies and worse. An even milder yet more understated violence is approaching inexorably toward us in the US … that being the soft nuisance that pretends to be an election season, in which our information channels instead of our commuter ways and shops will be filled with the annoyance of politicians grabbing for our attention.

What puzzles me in this matter is the mystery of why anybody thinks this works. It beggars my imagination how somebody thinks that annoying people will generate sympathy for their cause. This goes for all three of these types of terrorism, from the hard terror of bombs and the homicidal mania that constitutes the al-Qaeda and Palestinian flavors of terror to push polling, TV ads, and blind phone calls.

Is it all just a gamble? Is the gamble that their actions have two parts … that they will innervate and garner support amongst those that are sympathetic more than they will annoy and turn away those that are either uncommitted or against their cause. Because, from where I sit all these movements certainly do the latter. For myself, I’ll admit I have no dog in the Middle East Israel/Palestine disagreements but the Palestinian violence certainly is a convincing argument against the justice and rationality of the Palestinian cause. Likewise, I’m would be sympathetic to the notion that jobs and employment and getting ahead is going to be harder for my children than it was for me. But the OWS movement has certainly soured any sympathy for supporting any of those knuckleheads in any material fashion. Is there any evidence that these methods work? That they don’t do the obvious, that is turn more people against you than not?

There are a species of novels celebrating the anti-hero. Are people so used to this sort of thing that they figure we’ll root for, support, vote for, and otherwise follow you if you anti-advertise?

A Modest Proposal: Campaign Finance Reform

The regrettable Mr Edwards, whom the Democrats just recently discovered, is something of a slime-weasel, is in the news as he is accused of campaign finance “irregularities.” Additionally, the left is up and arms over the high court’s rejection of restrictions on corporate contributions to campaigns. Additionally, we have a problem with our deficit. I have a solution for all three.

Let’s get rid of all campaign finance restrictions. Campaign contributions will be considered, in my proposal, as a contribution directly to the person who is running. He can use those funds however he might see fit, for vacations in the South Pacific, an extension on his house, or for campaign ads, campaign gewgaws and literature, or other campaign related activities. This will have several benefits.

  1. No silly court related cases like the above.
  2. People will think twice about contributing to people of low character.
  3. Contributions will be taxed as income (likely as aggressively as lottery income), and as a result, will have a positive impact on our deficit far greater than the “tax-the-rich” proposals on the table.

So, there you go. Campaign finance irregularities. Solved. Everybody can go home happy now.


Or not.

Vacation and Some Questions

Well, a week off. Due the inability of our family to make a definite decision in a reasonable amount of time, we waited until low rates for airlines and such had passed (and the time is somewhat fixed by this being the week of spring break). Our first choice had been to go to Sante Fe for the break. But instead we are driving to St. Louis for the week, in part just to get away we a have no clue what we are doing. Any suggestions of “things to do” in the St. Louis area would be appreciated.

On the drive, I read one of the “econ” books recommended/linked Friday (I think). It was purported to give an overview of economics. Anyhow, I have a question for those who might have a more substantial background in economics. In the micro-economics section they show a plot of supply/demand curves. These curves plotting price and quantity (if I remember correctly). The slope at the intersection points seem to be termed “elasticity”. What also seems to be assumed is that these curves are monotonic, smooth, and well behaved. These assumptions however do not seem to be realistic. An example of non-monotonic behavior would be the assumption that if a price there will be higher demand or that more of a thing will be sold. But product that prides itself on being “high quality” will not necessarily sell at a lower price because that lower price nobody would believe that high quality would be possible. High price can also signal elite/elitist products. These products would not sell more, their cachet is in part inseparable from their high price.

So here’s my question. Are these curves assumed to be mathematically well behaved in these ways. If they are not, what breaks done in their models?

Admin News and a Short Unrelated Question

OK. Well all is not well in the deep dark underbelly of this blog. Sometime soon I’ll get to the bottom of it. Regular blog posting will resume tomorrow (noon? night?). Tonight I’ve got to head to bed early to catch an early plane home. Things went successfully and the next job is local. I’ve started reading a bunch of things on which my regular discussion fellows likely have read more than I, that is neuroscience and evolution … and I still want to write more on the Ratzinger/Habermas discussion.

The rss feed works … but google is ignoring it and I’m trying to figure out why. Well, that should shake out.

Can anybody explain why Mr Obama (and his Democratic) supporters believe that the “regular grassroots” $5 contributor had (and will) be the mainstay of his fundraising efforts when there are 72 million voters (of both parties) eligible, 60% of those vote and only half of that 60% for the Democrat … and he is expected to raise 1 billion? How’s that logic work out?

The Rational Liberal

Liberal (progressives?) as compared to conservatives have some social features which are readily evident. As compared to conservatives they much less willing pull together to work for a common goal, less respectful of law and order and those officers who enforce that, as well as a smaller connection to traditional family structures. Additionally they have weaker or more abstracted ties to traditional religious beliefs. Contrast behavior of the two anti-government movements (Tea Party/Occupy X Street) and their respective treatments of law enforcement and property.

In the recent political discourse regarding government spending over healthcare and more generically what roles government should take and to what extent in civic life, liberal tend to favor more centralized and stronger government institutions. Taking the above differences into account, one might argue that the desire for these structures to be taken by government is a rational choice (except the dislike/distrust of police perhaps). If you don’t have family to lean on as you get older, you’ll want the government to be ready to step in to that role for example. My point is that having made the decision that those behaviors are requried, it is rational to want a more socialized government with stronger social support.

What is not as rational is the initial step, i.e., that the failure to pull together for communal efforts as an example is laudable or a virtue. Specifically, it seems that while having made the decision to be liberal the requirements noted above follow. What doesn’t follow is that being liberal in this sense is in any way shape or form a good idea, i.e., rational.

In fact, none of those difference highlighted above are very good. Taken together they make the case that Mr Habermas tries to make in his debate with Cardinal Ratzinger very difficult. Their debate centered around the question of whether liberal secular democratic society contain the institutional and societal cohesion to sustain itself. Without the ability to organize, without strong family and so on, …  can it survive. Police forces are primarily staffed by conservatives, for reasons noted above. Can a society which is almost all secular liberals … staff a police force? Who within that society would make the personal sacrifices to take on those sorts of jobs? Why? What motivates the person to put life and limb on the line on a daily basis for mediocre renumeration within the context of the liberal worldview? Review the individuals taking part in the various “Sitting” protests today. What percentage of these young people will be future policemen and women? How close is that percentage to zero? How about joining the Armed services to defend his/her country?

Just askin.

The Modern Democratic Party, Adults Need Not Apply — Apparently

The left-wing blob and Democratic pundits and spokesmen have jumped on two recent issues which are closely related. Mr Paul in an interview according to the Democrat POV “wants” a hypothetical 40 y/old uninsured person needing long term medical care to die. Likewise Mr Bachmann is criticized for using unsubstantiated anecdotal claims in a discussion on goverment mandated immunizations.

One of the primary features of adulthood is that you make decisions and own the consequences, the fairy godmother (or your parents) is not going to be there to save your butt if you’re decision turns  out to be a bad mistake. The decision (in the case of the not getting insurance) might even be rational. You’re 40. You might be trying a new business venture and the decision to purchase for 8-12k/year medical insurance might be important for your cash flow. You reckon, from an actuarial standpoint, that there is a 1:100,000 chance of you needing that insurance per year. So you roll the dice figuring in 4 years or so you’ll either give up and be working for someone and getting insurance that way, or you’d strike success and be able to afford it. So you roll the dice and got snake eyes.

The Paul interviewer is offering a false choice. It isn’t “do you care or don’t you?” But instead, are you allowed to be an adult or aren’t you? He’s saying can you or can you not make that choice? Can you be an adult? Should an adult individual be allowed to make a choice which results in death? Can you ride a bike (with or without motor) without a helmet? Can you fly a plane you built and maintain yourself? Should hang gliding be allowed? Cliff diving? Scuba? Or (to borrow from the Bachmann example) can you decide for yourself or your children to not get vaccinated (ignore the irony that the a big bloc of vaccination avoiders are Southern Californian Democrats.

What I fail to grok is why Democrats are so firmly against adulthood. The cynical take is that the party in a large part is dependent for votes on a large somewhat non-adult dependent population. Keeping them in their non-adult dependency is required to keep those votes captive. That may be the motivation of the intelligentsia, but my intuition is that is not the motivation of those not entrenched in government. What I don’t understand is the motivation of the rest? Is it a TANSTAAFL fallacy? That the freedom to be an adult doesn’t restrict (for them) an choices that they would be likely to make so it doesn’t matter, so the rejection of adulthood is a free lunch in their view (ignoring that there is no free lunch). Is that it?  

Stupid Political Question

Would a serious Democrat primary challenge for President help or harm the incumbent?

Remember it would be a platform and forum in which the general election (non-primary) would be framed and the lack of that will mean now till late spring will be dominated by the GOP primary race for which there is no corresponding activity on the Democrat side.

On the other hand, he could lose.

Musing About Evolution and the ID Criticism

I’m kind an outsider on the Evolution ID debate and don’t follow it closely, because I don’t think evolution is anywhere near as important a science/issue as it is made out to be, e.g., it is not a cornerstone by or lens through which the how’s and why’s of biological data need to be seen. From my point of view (and a view oddly enough shared by at least one NOVA program) is that the ID critique of the evolutionary model proposed by the genetic error/adaptive selection model is one of time. The ID critique from that point of view is that the changes seen should take longer than they have absent other mechanisms. The standard GE/AS models have no substantial riposte to that because neither side has a predictive methodology. Questions like: Given an isolated flightless population what is the expectation value for the duration you’d have to wait before flight would be developed by that population? Or, Given a isolated population with no light, what are the expectaion values for the time for loss of all sight organs and functions? Or Given a isolated population with an excess of right handed sugars, what is the time to develop digestion of the same? Neither ID nor GE/AS has any clue/method for calculating an answer to that. 

In that mode, it seems that an interesting tack for experimentation on that would be to develop data points. Stress populations and figure out how long it would take the population to develop a response. That is develop data points and methods to begin building a heuristic model to answer the above questions. It seems to me that small table top populations of organisms could be created which in the main have very fast generational times and consequently the possibilities for adapative responses. This could in turn give some data points for developing descriptive formula for which a theory which describes them might be hung.

A Question Regarding Ms Bachmann

I didn’t really follow the career and recent campaign of Ms Bachmann closely, it was not local and didn’t run across my radar. What I did garner was that the left, lumps her with Ms Palin, as a female unequipped and/or completely unsuited for public office. For a mild example, see this post. The left will claim that their outrage is not based on the fact that both are female, in the public eye, and do not (!) support abortion on demand. 

Both of these women had somewhat similar trajectories into politics. Both were mothers who got involved in their school board to right things they found wrong. In Ms Palin’s case, she found corruption and chasing the same (often against her own party) led to a seat in the governors mansion. Ms Bachmann, saw one of her children doing “coloring circles” in high school algebra and was outraged. More on her trajectory here, please read this and this … we’ll wait here. OK. You’re back? For both of these women, if they happened to be not against abortion, and were firmly on the left, then their narrative that brought them to the political stage would be championed as prime examples of how the best of mixing motherhood and public service. But … instead they are targets of outrage and venom from that same source. So ….

Here’s my question to the left, what’s your beef in particular with Ms Bachmann? Why is she seen by you as “completely unsuited” for office? 

Private vs Public and Cost

Recently noted economist Mr Krugman offered that privization does not cut costs. I objected to this and healthcare jumped was the first example touted. This is however not a universal example. 

However, imagine pants and bread being produced not by the private sector but by the government. Who, in their right mind would imagine that if the knuckleheads in the beltway were trying to use our tax dollars to provide us with pants or bread … that the end result we’d be consuming would be either better or cheaper. The answer, I suspect, is that nobody thinks that bread or pants would be either better or more cheaply produced by the government. So it seems that privatization does indeed (in many if not most) cases both cut costs and increase quality, contra Mr Krugman’s somewhat stupid claim. 

One of the reasons that quality goes up and costs goes down is that the consumer can cheaply move and select between alternatives. The market is sensitive to this and thereby is pushed to stretch the cost/quality envelope as hard as it might. One might consider how/why these pressures are mostly lacking in healthcare. Some (optional) types of healthcare it seems are sensitive in this way, e.g., lasik. Where “price/quality” is advertised and pushed hard … and prices have dropped while quality has risen. The question is, then, why hasn’t that affected your non-optional care in much the same way? 

One suggestion for a reason why this is, is that we occaisonally get (for example) poor service at a car repair facility. We are (collectively) it seems so terrified of getting the same when we go for an appendectomy that we desire to subject the medical community to a very high level of scrutiny. This in turn has a high cost and separates the market forces, to which pants are subjected, from your surgeon. 

FDA Certification: A Modest Proposal

In the past I’ve made the suggestion that FDA certification should be optional and that said certification should provide certain benefits to the company in the form of certain tort immunities. Below, I’d like this post to be a thread to discuss how that might work (specifically the FDA tort immunity part). 

My notion for how this might work is that a person has no grounds for suit against the pharm manufacturer for defects or side effects if the manufacturer can show that the approved procedures were followed. 

What does this cover? That means, from famous examples, a parent of a thalidomide child has no grounds for suit against the manufacturer because the drug was used for the approved purpose and correctly manufactured. It had unforseen and unintended consequences. Which is, we all agree, unfortunate. But unfortunate occurances a priori do not make for grounds to sue.

What does it not cover? It doesn’t cover uses not claimed. If a drug is produced with specificied (in the FDA approval) uses. If it can be shown that the manufacturer was touting uses beyond the uses mentioned in the approval or for effects not listed … this can provide a ground for suit. Commenter Boonton noted:

One infamous case, for example, was oxycotin which was marketed as impossible to become addicted too.

If the FDA approval documents lack the claim that “it is non-addictive” then claiming the same gives ground for suit. One the other hand, if it did, then there would be no standing. 

FDA approval processes are expensive. This then gives companies the motive to seek that certification. Today the approval is required, but it buys you nothing except the opportunity to sell product in the US. My suggestion would be to make the approval process more or less optional, but give motive for the company to seek approval. The consumer would realize that the FDA label implies a high level of testing and scrutiny, which is something they might value in a drug. 

MPG … Best Guess?

Well, as noted previously, I drive a first edition Honda Insight (now with MIMA!). It is a 2000 year model. At some point I’m going to be in the market for a new car. One criteria is that it get better mileage than the one I drive now. Currently there are 0, as in none, nada, give it up … alternatives for me. There are some European cars which get better mileage (right now I’m getting about 68 city, high 70s to mid-80s highway). 

In the past I had a query in which I asked commeters to guess when a better mileage car would come to market (for under 30k, please … closer to 20 would be even better). What model year will that car be available. Looks like 2012 will come and go. 2014? 2015? What’s your guess at this point, a year or two after I asked the first time?

(BTW, 2 seaters are OK … but it’s going to have serious range … on long start-ups for work, I drive to save on gas and money)

Replacing our family car will be easier, that’s a 2002 diesel VW Golf (gets ~45 to 50 mpg). 

Nuclear Disasters of the Past

So, Three-Mile Island was the worst nuclear accident on US soil. How many deaths are epidemologically attributed to the accident. Well, one study I was quoted in passing by a co-worker was that 50-100 deaths resulted from the accident. All these deaths alas, were due to the increased coal mining and pollutants from the increase in coal fired electrical production. 

Who wants to guess that the aftermath of the recent earthquake and reactor incedents have similar “fallout?”

Stupid Union Question #1

A question for those who support unions … now that the “right to work” issue is front burner (perhaps shot down) in Indiana … this brings up the question of what justification not having right to work might be. That is, by what justification do closed shop union states and areas rationalize that stance. In a non-right to work state, you can’t work for the public schools (for example) without joining the union. You <em>must</em> pay union dues (60% of which typically go to PACs contributing to Democrats). How do you justify that? 

And up front, please let’s dismiss any notion that “the union is working/negotiating for you so you must contribute” as a rational argument. It isn’t. Following that as an argument would mean that you must provide payment to anyone for any unsolicited action claimed to be done on your behalf. Obviously that isn’t reasonable and for the same reason the above argument is fallacious. 

So … why is “right to work” not an unalienable right for workers? 

Offbeat Question Day: Kolyma and a Choice Made

Recently, a conversation led me to read this book Stalin’s Slave Ships: Kolyma, the Gulag Fleet, and the Role of the West which was an interesting and quick read. This led me to a question … before which I pose, I will offer some background.

The Kolyma basis is a river valley system in the arctic and sub-arctic regions of western Siberia. This region is rich in mineral resources, and in 1932 Stalin decided that retrieving the gold from the river valley was important, and that free-market was not the solution. Instead, perhaps typically, he decided to use slave labor. For the first few years, Kolyma was one of the “better” prison/slave camps in the gulag system, but that changed in the later 30s to being the very worst. About a million persons were shipped to Kolyma between 1932 and 1953. The first parts of the journey by rail and part by sea and it is on the sea portion of this voyage the book noted above concentrates. The vessels used in this part of the passage were mostly obtained from the US. Mr Bollinger points out that he can find no evidence that anyone in th West was aware of the purpose of those ships when they were sold to the Soviets. During the war, the management of the Kolyma fleet, as did virtually everything in the Soviet world, moved to the military. The Kolyma fleet split time during this period between transporting slaves and stuffs to the Kolyma camps and transporting war material as part of the US/Soviet Lend-Lease program. 

Military books that I have read on WWII point out that the victory over the Axis powers was a near thing. Many authors point to a small number of crucial decisions and events which if had been made or fallen out differently would have likely meant that Hitler may have won. The US Lend-Lease program has been pointed as a one of the important factors in giving the Soviets the breathing room to stave of defeat. The point to take away from this is Lend-Lease was critical to the Allied war effort. There were two routes for ships supplying the Soviets, an Atlantic route up past Norway to Murmansk and a Western/Pacific route. The Kolyma fleet was part of this latter group. Prior to the US directly entering the war and Japan/US hostilities being in the open, Soviet (non-US) ships were preferred for transport of material via the Pacific route.

The Kolyma vessels were in a rough trade. They were older steam powered ships that plied ice choked Arctic seas and were badly in need of repairs. Many times these ships put in they were repaired by US shipyards. 

Which leads us to the question at hand. 

Consider yourself in the role of the American President. Kolyma vessels have docked in your ports for Lend Lease operations. By 1944 to 1945 two things have become clear:

  1. Germany’s fate is sealed and the Allied victory is assured.
  2. Kolyma is a part of the gulag/slave camp system and these ships needing repair are part of that system.

Recall also, Stalin and the Soviets at this point are allies and Lend-Lease has been a vital part of the war effort. 

So. Do you authorize repair of the vessels? These vessels split time between slave transport and carrying Lend-Lease material. What do you do? What records might you leave regarding your decision?

Historically, the repairs were made. Was that the right decision?


Offbeat Question Day: Stimulus

This is a question, probably mainly for the right, but the those readers on the left might offer their two cents. 

The $800b stimulus package has now been acknowledged by the President and pretty much everyone with their heads not in the sand to have been a waste. This criticism is especially strongly held on the right. However, what if the stimulus package instead of being useless road projects and expansions of bridges to nowheres (for example expanding the Byrd airport) had only one single project/point to which it was aimed. That is to say, all $800 billion was allocated to installing 40-50 new Gen-IV nuclear reactors throughout the country accompanied by ’emergency’ executive orders designed to steamroll any and all environmental and green-activist objections. Furthermore these plants might have been be small and quickly installable and all fast-tracked to be on-line by, say, late October 2010. 

Here’s the question(s).

  1. Would that have changed your opinion of the stimulus package? 
  2. Would that have changed today’s economy for the better? 
  3. Would the election in three weeks from now be trending differently? 

I offer that the my answer might be yes (and with an “alas” on the last) to all three questions. What d’y’all think?

A Quick Book Resource Bleg

As I’ve noted before, I’m of the opinion that evolution is a scientific discipline so far in its infancy and as such is not particularly interesting. And it isn’t relevant at this point to rehash my particular quibbles with it especially as regards the “ID/Darwin” debate.

But I’ve a question about speciation and differentiation that perhaps someone out there can point me to a resource to clear my question up. Species can clearly have descendant relatives with a different number of chromosomes. Chromosome numbers changes are genetic transcription errors occur (euploidy). But transcription errors of this sort are a thing which occurs to an individual and are accidental and rare. Speciation is something which happens to a population. How does one get from the one to the other? 

Is there an Internet account describing this … or a book?

Yet Another Stupid Question

Antibodies, in my naive understanding, are protein molecules with two ends, one end is conformed to stick to whatever the particular antibody is keyed to trigger, i.e., attack. If that end of the molecule comes up against the activating site it sticks. The other end of the molecule changes conformation in a specific and more generic way when the first side has stuck to something. That end of the molecule, when signalling, is a thing cells in your blood and elsewhere are keyed to filter out and grab.

So here’s my question. Is it beyond the realm of possibility to design a few similar molecules with two “ends” like an antibody in which the first end is keyed to latch on to molecules that tend to predominate in an (generic or particular) oil spill and the other end that when the first end is “latched” is then triggered to polymerize? In this case, polymerise means to chain up with similarly (activated) molecules. In that way this “stuff” would tend to glop up and concentrate stuff from spills and either be available to sweep up (and process to recover the original designer antibody/molecule) or to sink to the bottom encapsulating the spill and getting it out of the active environment.

A SCOTUS Ruling Question

So, minors can’t be given a life sentence. A kid under 18 commits a completely heinous and extensive serious of assaults and he’s by law now going to be out again at some point? Do you think that’s a good idea?  He just has to “not kill” his victims, say he “just” rapes girls and amputates their arms and legs. Still think he shouldn’t get a life sentence? Is that a useful or meaningful restriction? 

Ms Kagan

So. Ms Kagan. Anybody find any links to online articles authored by her? It is said by her defenders that she’s a brilliant academic, whatever that means. Publish or perish means there should be scads of articles and books by her if she was as claimed a brilliant academic. No book at Amazon, except a $45 tribute essay contribution in honor of some Harvard dude. And I’m guessing this book isn’t hers. Finally there is this at Amazon as well … out of print and no reviews. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t publish in journals not available on-line. So … anything?

Do legal professors not publish? What is the point of being in the Academy if you don’t publish? I don’t get it.

Look to be a brilliant academic you have to make a mark. To make a mark you have to publish important works which make a visible impact on our profession. I see no evidence that is the case for Ms Kagan. Perchance this is more of this retconning thing in which brilliant academic is recast to mean something entirely different. Perhaps it now is to mean an academic liked by Mr Obama who just happens to be another ‘brilliant academic’ who lacks any actual substantive academic record.

A Taxing Question

The health care mandate is defended as Constitutional because it’s just a tax.

It gives people a choice: they can buy health insurance or they can pay a tax roughly equal to the cost of health insurance, which is used to subsidize the government’s health care program and families who wish to purchase health insurance….

Two questions.

  1. Can the government mandate purchasing a GM automobile now that they have a controlling interest in GM with a similar tax, i.e., buy the car or pay a tax used to subsidize the program for those families to buy the same sort of car who cannot afford it? If the first is allowed, why not the second? And don’t pull the “not GM, but any automaker” argument. GM could install a proprietary widget in their car and the law would require that quite easily.
  2. How about taxing people who don’t have at least one child of their own and adopt one child? Single -> tax. The tax roughly equal to the cost of supporting two children, which is used to subsidize those families which struggle to support those two children.

So, are the above two measures Constitutional? If they are not, why is the healthcare measure Constitutional while these are not?