Florence Ambrose and Ethics

The webcomic “Freefall” is excellent, and centers around a character that I developed great admiration for. She became the archetype of the group I call the Noble Webcomic Females.

She is intelligent, thoughtful, resourceful, skilled, and a person of high integrity … working for a pickpocket conman. She is also not human. Specifically, she is a “Bowman’s Wolf” — a species that has been biologically uplifted. Her unusual ancestry — no one she’s met has ever encountered anything like her — is one of the core elements of the story line.

And the concept of biologically uplifting species to sapience is the core element of this paper. The paper deals primarily with ethical considerations: Continue reading

South Carolina results

Several candidates are no longer officially in the race — but got votes in South Carolina. I’m amused to note that the “racist” state (as the news media has been incessantly calling it) cast more votes for Herman Cain than for Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman combined. And Perry had only just left the contest. As of this writing, the results show about 6,300 votes for Cain compared to 2500, 1200, and 500 roughly for Perry, Huntsman and Bachmann.

I guess this means that there are 1200 news media people in South Carolina; perhaps Jon Huntsman’s main constituency. No one on the right seemed much excited by him.

So, Newt Gingrich won, despite personal issues that would make him a “noble” candidate as a Democrat. Good for him! I like him, and while I’ve been troubled by some aspects, he has consistently articulated a good, positive, well-thought-out notion of what to do for America.

I don’t agree with all of his ideas, but it’s at least 90% — and none of the other candidates have expressed their ideas clearly enough or consistently enough to have such confidence in. Sound bites don’t cut it for this purpose. Read what a person writes when he or she has lots of time to think about a subject and polish the thought before it gets out to the public. Newt Gingrich does very well in that setting.   The more recent Gingrich/Romney business is irritating, but his PAC has done most of that damage. I’ve read his extensive writing on free enterprise, and he just doesn’t think the way the sound bites and the Left have made him appear.

And a lot of people are pleased at the notion of Newt Gingrich debating Barack Obama.  At least, a lot of people on the conservative side.

Yes, the Global Warming Couch business was unfortunate — he thought to link the idea of American energy independence to the catastrophists, but simply became tainted. He always believed that American free enterprise and innovation could solve the “problem” — but this was a bad miscalculation. The Left was never going to like Newt, and allying himself with the odious Al Gore was just dumb. I think he’s past that bit, and since then the Climategate busisiness has exposed fraud, criminal behavior and (most importantly) bad science in the small core of scientists pushing this.

I have one minor claim to fame in this regard: Right about this time, Newt Gingrich was planning to speak to a group of people about global warming. He was replaced on the schedule … with me. We talked the next day about my becoming the unofficial poet of the Newt Gingrich campaign — perhaps now, four years later, something like that might happen.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Tax Protesting

It was suggested to me in a separate conversation that I am a tax protester who believes that paying any taxes at all is “not right.” I was surprised at this assertion.

I do not believe, and have never believed, that paying taxes is “not right.” I don’t think I’ve ever said that to anyone. There are various mechanisms of tax, from income tax to tariffs and such, and I think that the system should be changed. (So does the Left, and Obama –just in different ways. He is as much as “tax protester” as I am.)

The idea of a national income tax is relatively recent — our current system has been in place less than half of the history of the US — but there were various tariffs in existence before then and after. Some form of government is necessary and useful, and ours was a good design. And it must be supported somehow.

In fact, we’re back to taxing the poor. Continue reading

Taxing the Poor

I’m cranking on a project involving Medicare and cost reduction — and my research keeps stumbling over one Leftist solution to diabetes: Tax the poor. If you punish them enough, the theory goes, they’ll stop behaving badly. So the implementation of per-ounce taxes on beverages will hurt the poor so badly, financially, they they will reduce their consumption of these beverages. Here’s an abstract of one paper:

Sugar-sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the US obesity and diabetes epidemics. Using the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, we examined the potential impact on health and health spending of a nationwide penny-per-ounce excise tax on these beverages. We found that the tax would reduce consumption of these beverages by 15 percent among adults ages 25–64. Over the period 2010–20, the tax was estimated to prevent 2.4 million diabetes person-years, 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths, while avoiding more than $17 billion in medical costs. In addition to generating approximately $13 billion in annual tax revenue, a modest tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could reduce the adverse health and cost burdens of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Note that the proposed tax costs the poor about eight times as much (11x$13b) as it would reduce medical costs ($17b). In other words, it’s a new regressive tax on poor people — the target the Left pretends to support with words but harms with action.

They’ve been doing this for many years with gasoline taxes — pretending to focus on changing behavior, but in reality raising lots of money on the backs of people most harmed. Far more cash goes to US governments (at federal/state/local levels) from oil revenues than to oil company profits.

You can think of this as national union dues, perhaps.  Perhaps unions dues, too, will “necessarily skyrocket” — the phrase Candidate Obama used when describing how he would implement new taxes (on electricity costs, again most harming poor people), all in the effort to change people’s behavior.  And raise government cash at their expense, of course.

===|===============/ Keith DeHavelle

Peace for Israel

Is a right-wing conservative whackjob in the news for making this pronouncement?

“Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”

Well, not quite. First, the quote is not in the news, and I’d venture to say that it will not be, though it would be appropriate today.

Second, the “right-wing conservative whackjob” was Martin Luther King Jr. — this quote comes from a speech ten days before he was assassinated.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Researchers Aware of/Complicit in Data Falsification

An article on faked science research just came to my attention. I read, and write about, research in a number of scientific fields. This week I completed a multi-million-dollar proposal involving ophthalmology and cancer; next week it’s neurology.

And of course, my readers here know of my decades-long interest in climate research. I lived through, and watched with interest, the transition from “the coming ice age” scare back in the 1970s to the “catastrophic global warming” of the 1990s, which (due to failures of prediction) has now become “climate change” of the 2010s.
Continue reading

The Cost of Research, Retail (or, Capitalism for Marxist Professors)

In this article about publishing of research published on Scientific American’s website, the writer complains about having to pay for research articles, when the research is taxpayer-funded.  Of course, “minorities are hardest hit” as the expression goes, and he uses a variation of that argument.

I read a lot of this research; I just generated a bibliography for a report I’m writing and it has 183 research papers, almost all of which I’ve read in the past few weeks.  At one point a month or so ago, I wondered what it would cost to subscribe to all the journals out there, from eye to nerve to cancer to engineering to electronics to whatever, since my projects range widely in scope. (Under construction right now are projects involving healthcare, opthalmology, cancer, nerve interfaces, charter schools, unions, and community charities.)

So I dug into the issue. Just for the list of journals on the Springer list, which is broad but far from complete, subscriptions to all of them would cost me $3,293,028 per year.  This does not count overseas shipping costs for the ones outside the US.  That’s 2,117 journals — but at least then I’d have access to the papers for free.

Right now, perhaps one paper in a dozen or two is available without cost. You can experiment with Google Scholar; put in a topic and look for the [PDF] link off to the right.  Click on that instead of the main link and (most of the time) you’ll get the article. But not many have that; the [HTML] ones are generally only links to the abstracts with offers to buy, typically for $29.95 or so.

But there was one more aspect to the Scientific American article that struck me: the assumption that Marxism among college professors was so common as to be expected and unremarkable. Here was the quote:

But what pisses me off to no end is that the same Marxist academics who pooh-pooh corporations justify their own commitment to this blood-sucking process with one word: tenure.

This is actually a quote in SciAm of another article, but the Marxist aspect was not commented on. I was aware of this effect in the social sciences, but I think I’d be surprised to learn that it is true among the medical researchers. I don’t generally talk politics with my scientist friends, though I’m often aware of their political positions indirectly.  None of them are Marxists, so far as I know. But I’m aware of a lot of professors who are.

The article that SciAm quotes appovingly here, containing the Marxist professor comment, is here. There are 67 comments to that article as of this writing, with many academics taking the author to task on some points, and other commenters agreeing with him.  There’s a lot of agreement, and no one objected to the “Marxist academics” bit though several quoted the line to refer to another point. Interesting.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

A honeybee, under attack by a parasitic fly.

Colony Collapse Critter

A parasitic fly, not previously known to attack honeybees, was accidentally discovered in a bee carcass. (The scientist had gathered dead bees to feed a pet praying mantis.) When further investigated, this insect larva predator turns out to be a very widespread problem for honeybees, and may in fact be a significant (or the primary) cause of the Colony Collapse Disorder that has plagued honeybee populations for the past several years.
Larva emerging from the neck of a bee carcass

The team found evidence of the fly in 77 percent of the hives they sampled in the Bay Area of California, as well as in some hives in the state’s agricultural Central Valley and in South Dakota.

Consider: The honeybee is the most studied insect on the planet, is vitally important to agriculture and thus human food supplies, and has been a particular focus of thousands of researchers as well as thousands of professional and amateur beekeepers.  And yet this discovery was an accident and a complete surprise.  Once they knew what to look for, the problem was massively evident in widely separated areas — but how many hundreds of thousands of bees have been examined and sampled and dissected in the past five years without noticing the larva infestation?

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle