Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tax cuts are officially extended

A good first step to any recovery is to cut taxes. Now that those cuts have been extended, the government should now decrease spending. I would argue that defense and corporate welfare are the biggest things that need to be slashed at the moment. End the wars, pull troops out of our bases around the world, and stop giving subsidies to corporations that you like. That would be a good first step towards a freer market and a better economy.

Government sues BP?

Among other companies, BP was sued by the Justice Department in an effort to recover losses and hold them fully liable for the spill. Since when can the government sue a private business? I'm pretty sure that's not in the Constitution. If someone's livelihood was ruined or they got hurt, then they have the right to sue the company responsible. HOWEVER, the government does not also maintain that right. This is between those companies (BP, et. al.) and those individuals they harmed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This is why science shouldn't be a government program

Representative Adrian Smith (R-NE) unleashed a BRILLIANT plan for distributing grants through the NSF. Instead of having scientists review the grant proposals, it would be up to the voters.

I really shouldn't have to elaborate. Giving the electorate the power to choose how grants are distributed is a bad idea. How could the masses possibly know what was good and bad? Who knows what would get funded and what wouldn't (maybe even studies that would be considered pseudoscience because they fit a specific agenda).

This is why the federal government shouldn't control science funding. That should be a private venture, done with private investment and private donations and not through taxes. I mean, that wouldn't necessarily prohibit pseudoscience from being funded, but at least the whole thing could work like a market. The government typically only funds things that have utility, rather than things that are simply interesting or serve to better understand the world around us. Overall, government control of science funding will serve to kill exploratory science.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

You shouldn't have to believe in medicine

If I have a headache, I take a couple of Ibuprofen. You know why? Because whether or not I BELIEVE the medicine works it will still inhibit cyclooxygenase, which through a long cascade of reactions helps to inhibit the pain pathways. I don't need to have faith, it will do this on its own.

In fact, if you have to believe in a medicine for it to work (those funky magnet bracelets, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropracty, etc.), don't do it. Chances are that it hasn't actually been proven to work under controlled conditions, case in point the treatments I mentioned above. 

So, next time you feel sick, it's best to see a doctor and get medication. No matter how much you think the industry is out to get you, medicine that is evidence based is a helluva lot better than getting your back cracked for a thousand dollars.

Evolution is safe . . . for now.

When Creationism failed to pass constitutional muster, they moved on to Intelligent Design. When Intelligent Design failed in 2005, they moved on to a new tactic: the textbooks. The Louisiana Family Forum, no doubt a conservative Christian group, lobbied to pass the Louisiana Science Education Act. The act states that it's goals are to “promote critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories.”

Uh oh, I sense trouble. When a conservative Christian group advocates something like "open and objective discussion of scientific theories", you can bet that they want Creationism to be heard. It also doesn't help that the bill focused on "evolution, the origins of life, and global warming". If those aren't some red flags, then I don't know what is.

So, the board was voting on whether or not to purchase a textbook (ironically one written by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, the authors of the biology textbook that sparked the Dover controversy). Thankfully, they chose to purchase Miller/Levine's 6-1. This is good because if Creationist groups win votes like these, then publishers might get the hint that there is a new trend. A little win for evolution goes a long way towards a good scientific education in that sense. It's also good that Texas is having budget issues, because they also passed a measure similar to Louisiana. We don't need them buying massive amounts of textbooks that deny or challenge evolution with a bunch of pseudoscience nonsense.

So, for now, Evolution is safe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oops, update on the food safety bill

I forgot to add this. The bill hit a constitutional snag today. All bills concerning revenue have to originate in the House, and this one did not. So, it'll have to go back to the Senate for another vote sometime.

The outcome is unlikely to change unfortunately.

The food safety law

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) passed with a surprising majority of 73-25, giving federal regulators even more control of the food you eat. I just don't understand a lot of the legislation that comes from our government. If the government failed so utterly to "protect" us from salmonella and E. coli, why on Earth would you think that they would all of a sudden be able to? I guess we can't make the decision of what to eat ourselves.

So advocates of S. 510 claim that FDA did not have enough power to prevent any of these outbreaks or contain them when they occurred. This is absolutely NOT the case: the FDA has and unfortunately will have for a long time all of the power it needs to do it's job correctly. The problem is not how much control they have, it's that the FDA is just another muddled bureaucracy that cannot possibly expect to manage the ENTIRE U.S. agricultural and pharmaceutical industry (among others, I know). The advocates said the FDA rarely performed checks of food processing plants and other industry sites because they didn't have the authority or resources: bullshit, they had plenty. They are just another government bureaucracy that gets to force us to abide by silly rules and then has the balls to think they can set more of them because they failed to do their job.

You know what? If the food company screwed up and people got sick, then they have the right to sue them. Instead, this culture of regulation we've created insists that every failure of ANY company is a failure of the free market and regulation is needed to prevent further problems. This is a ridiculous thought process and it scares me. You don't get to blame the problems that occurred with the salmonella and E. coli cases on the free market or the lack of regulation, because we've already given everything we have to the god damn FDA. We barely have the legal authority to make sure our own product is safe, we have to rely on the government to do it for us. Let's see how that works out in the end. Oh wait, exhibit A just made itself apparent.

This whole thing is idiotic - the FDA needs to disappear. It's unconstitutional anyways.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Arizona's transplant budget

Mark Price died from Leukemia on November 30th after complications during his chemotherapy treatment. Not too long ago, however, Mark was denied state funding for a bone marrow transplant because the state had to make cuts in its budget. While what happened to Mark is terrible, the issue around the state funding of transplants is important and one I think needs to be examined.

I'll come out and say it. This is what we get when we rely on the state to provide welfare - shotty service. If we had a free market healthcare system, maybe Mark could have had the funding he needed. But we don't, and once again the state failed.

One day we'll get it, I'm sure.

The issue with these genetically altered salmon

Anti-GMO forces are now worried about genetically altered salmon that are pending the approval of the FDA. The thing that I've noticed with the anti-GMO crowd is that their arguments against GMOs often stem around the idea that the environment would be undermined if any of these animals or plants "broke free".

First off, it is in fact likely that if these plants were planted out in the wild or these animals released into a forest they would out-compete other species. But these animals, especially the salmon, are not in a position where they will be released. They live on farms, and as far as I know they can't fly.

Are GMOs safe to eat? Absolutely. Will they ever "escape" and damage the environment? No, and if they did what would be the problem with some better adapted creatures in the wild. Finally, is the fear of GMOs silly? Yes.