Your bloodstream is mine, and mine is yours

First, some background:

A new vaccine aimed at halting the spread of a common sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer should eventually be given to both sexes, doctors said Monday.

The vaccine, Merck & Co.’s Gardasil, was licensed in June by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in women and girls 9 to 26 years of age.

Gardasil protects against four types of the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV or human wart virus.

Yay, science! I couldn’t be happier (or less surprised) that modern science has triumphed again to make our lives better. Treating progress as good seems to be a generally advisable position. As such, I have no qualms about this vaccine’s availability. Some people can’t leave it at that:

Bradley Monk, associate professor in gynecologic oncology at the University of California at Irvine, said the best use of the vaccine would include giving it to girls and boys and all women and men, regardless of individual risk factors.

“To have a vaccine that prevents cancer and not use it would be one of the greatest tragedies,” Monk said.

I’m not going to turn this into a rant against vaccinations of any kind, because that’s not my position. But as I’ve pointed out before in numerous different ways, the person undergoing medical procedures should have input, whether direct consent or indirect assumptions based on evidence. It might be useful to include an HPV vaccine in routine childhood immunizations. In all likelihood, after some thought on the subject, I’d agree. However, I will discount any scientist who uses regardless of individual risk factors as a dismissal of intelligent objections. The public good is important, but we’re not at a point where individual lives are less than the whole. HPV is sexually transmitted, unlike polio, for instance. Personal behavior matters. As such, individual risk factors matter and must be included in the decision.

Mom needs more nuance

I think I could’ve saved money on conducting this study:

How many M&MS are enough?

It depends on how big the candy scoop is.

At least that’s a key factor, says a study that offers new evidence that people take cues from their surroundings in deciding how much to eat.

It explains why, for example, people who used to be satisfied by a 12-ounce can of soda may now feel that a 20-ounce bottle is just right.

It’s “unit bias,” the tendency to think that a single unit of food — a bottle, a can, a plateful, or some more subtle measure — is the right amount to eat or drink, researchers propose.

Hello, duh. How many of us heard “clean your plate” from our parents as kids? I’d put the answer somewhere between everyone and all of us. It’s nice to have some sort of scientific confirmation, and some of the specific examples provide useful insight, but now what?

So can all this help dieters?

Some food companies are introducing products in 100-calorie packages, and [the University of Pennsylvania’s Andrew] Geier thinks that could help hold down a person’s consumption. He also suspects companies could help by displaying the number of servings per container more prominently on their packaging.

I don’t mean to imply any policy suggestions to Mr. Geier from that statement, but how long before some hack politician uses research like this to suggest that companies should help, thus mandating new regulations? I’m guessing next week.

Cleaning out the aggregator

My server died last Tuesday, locking me out of my site. My hosting company finally resurrected it late Wednesday, but by then my vacation interfered. Rare access to the Internets, as well as general mental decompression, stood in the way of regular posting. So I disappeared for almost a week. In no particular order, here are a few items filling my news inbox while I was away.


From Reason’s Hit and Run, I think I might be the only person in America who answers Yes and No instead of some other combo.

…, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer fielded two questions on marijuana. One: Would he legalize medical marijuana? Two: Had he ever smoked marijuana? The answers: No and yes. The terror of Wall Street has picked up and run with the old Clintonite maxim: Do as I say, not as I did.

Spitzer should’ve been discredited as a candidate for any number of actions he’s taken, but this is just further proof that the people of New York need to see more than (D) when they get in the voting booth. I suppose it should be comforting to know that Virginia isn’t the only state with hack politicians.


Is anyone shocked by this:

The federal government will need to either cut spending or raise taxes down the road to pay for extending President Bush’s recent tax cuts, the Treasury Department said in a report released [last Monday], dismissing the idea popular with many Republicans that such sacrifices can be avoided.

My question should be rhetorical, but there are many people in this town who will probably be genuinely shocked. Okay, actually, the shocked people will be voters. Those who are not shocked, but are bitter that the Treasury Department could be so treasonous as to impugn the American economy this way, will complain among themselves that their secret is revealed.


Maybe I can start a network and force Comcast to air it:

After more than a year of inaction, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin yesterday addressed a dispute that has kept Washington Nationals games off the region’s biggest cable network.

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which carries most of the team’s games, asked the FCC in June 2005 to order Comcast Corp. to begin carrying the games immediately, but the agency took no action.

MASN now has the right to seek a resolution to its complaint through the FCC process or take the path of arbitration.

Shouldn’t customers decide whether or not MASN is important to them? Of course, lack of competition due to regulatory monopolies prohibits customers from having a sufficient voice, say to cancel and switch to a cable provider that carries MASN, but I’m certain the answer is not to push the regulatory hand deeper into the industry.


Tomorrow MTV turns 25. Being old enough to remember the early days of MTV, and young enough to enjoy them, the present-day celebration is good for reliving fond memories. But this explanation of why MTV evolved (devolved?) into what it is broke the spell:

“I think we started as an idea with very little content; it was more like a radio station with songs and cheesy, hair-metal videos,” says Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks’ music/film/Logo group. “But we quickly realized the novelty of music videos wore off and was not repeatable with thousands of viewings. So we evolved into being more about TV production — yet still sloppy, live and organic.”

Forget that my musical tastes are stuck more in early MTV than current MTV, which means I don’t watch most new videos. The video has not gotten old. Look at iTunes and its music video sales. There is a market, meaning the novelty didn’t die. MTV killed it with its repetition of the same tiny number of videos.

Early on this was necessary due to the newness of the form. But by the late ’80s, that didn’t hold. MTV abandoned it. Today, when I watch music television, I watch the extra music video channels like VH1 Classic. Even when I’m watching country music videos, I’ll flip to the all video channels rather than the regular channels. When original programming appears on any regular music channel, I almost always pick up the remote. I understand that I’m not MTV’s target audience, but I didn’t age out of that audience. MTV decided my viewership didn’t matter. But that makes sense, because my money is not green, it’s plastic.

Where are the tofu subsidies?

As a vegan, testing or not testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease) isn’t a particular concern. One cow with the disease, or one billion cows, my brain is going to continue functioning nicely. (Open to interpretation, of course.) And the politics involved, through subsidies for meat and dairy production, preclude my “Save the cows” pleas from making any headway. So, instead of complaining or applauding the wisdom of the Agriculture Department’s decision to cut testing for BSE, I’ll highlight this quote from the story about the possible impact of the decision:

“It surely will not encourage consumers in the U.S. or Japan to rush to the store to buy more beef,” said Carol Tucker Foreman, food-policy director for Consumer Federation of America.

The government shouldn’t be in the business of encouraging consumers to buy more beef. Or less beef. Or chicken instead of beef. Or beets instead of chicken. Or… you get the point.

If consumers want beef, they’ll buy it. If they deem BSE or any other possible contamination to be a risk, their inevitable decision to stop buying beef will suggest responses from beef marketers. They could stop selling beef. This might be necessary if the cost of testing proved prohibitive to what consumers are willing to pay. More likely, they would test their beef, which would raise their costs. They would pass that increase to their consumers. Taxpayers like me, who do not consume the beef we’re all paying to protect, would no longer be forced to artificially support the carnivorous habits of everyone else.

Capitalism. It’s what’s for America.

This is too clever. I know.

In seeking solutions to our health insurance crisis, the most immediate action needed is to separate insurance from employment and allow the free market to organize efficient methods of pooling risk and resources. The tax system currently protects our inefficient scheme, to the benefit of some and the detriment of others. Fixing the flawed tax structure would detach the ability to purchase reasonable insurance from the requirement of joining a specific form of the corporate workforce, namely employment with a large company. The free market could then find the best solution(s).

In trying to resolve this, there’s a political argument we’re married to, which hinders real progress. Special interests have a stake in keeping the status quo. Most often it’s reduced competition, but any whim of the favored is accepted almost without question if the price is paid. We have to move beyond that. But what about saving traditional health insurance?

We’ve encouraged health insurance through a specific method of provisioning for decades. Everyone has the same right to cheap healthcare, as long as they join a company large enough to take advantage of group purchasing power and expense tax deductibility. If you differ from that viewpoint, that’s too bad.

Is it too bad? Should an individual’s preferences matter? Should we adjust the way society works just to accommodate people who have different needs? That’s absurd in the push to reform health insurance accessibility in America. Anyone who respects liberty understands that different people have different requirements. One solution may not work across the entire spectrum of individuals.

So why is the same logic not absurd to the people pushing for amendments to outlaw civil marriage reform?

I guess they haven’t over-reacted enough

I’ve witnessed the disturbing manner in which many Phillies phans have rushed to convict pitcher Brett Myers. I haven’t changed my mind about how to process his situation as a phan. His reputation is in shambles, most likely due to his own actions, but he does not deserve the rush to judgment. There will be time to condemn Mr. Myers later, should a conviction or guilty plea come. I think that’s still the reasonable view, which is why this story about his scheduled start tomorrow is bizarre to me:

Local groups dedicated to ending domestic violence have no plans to protest tomorrow’s Phillies game. Brett Myers is scheduled to make his first appearance at Citizens Bank Park since being charged with domestic assault and battery on his wife in Boston during the early morning of June 23.

“We are not planning a protest and I’m not aware of anyone who is,” Heather Keafer of Women Against Abuse said yesterday. “I think the fans have had great response in the past, and I’m hopeful they’ll continue their pressure to make sure that he’s held accountable for his actions.”

If they were planning to protest a man who is innocent until proven guilty, I’d be among those (maybe a party of one) protesting the protest. But to the point raised in this initial excerpt, that last sentence doesn’t bode well. I shouldn’t have to stop momentarily to point out that Mr. Myers’s actions are still alleged. Ms. Keafer’s call for the continued abandonment of American legal principles by the public is disturbing. Is she so unsure of the public’s acceptance that she’s on the correct side that she must encourage the mob’s mentality?


Keafer said the Phillies met last week with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence in an effort to develop a domestic violence policy. Women Against Abuse and three other domestic violence agencies in the city are members of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“They’ve had one meeting so far, and part of that proposal is also to help support the Philadelphia domestic violence hotline, which is run by Women Against Abuse and three other domestic violence providers in Philadelphia,” Keafer said. “What we’re trying to do now is work with our state coalition to help the Phillies come up with a domestic violence policy and possible inclusion in their code of conduct.

It’s not a stretch to say that domestic violence is unacceptable. I doubt the Phillies disagreed before the alleged incident involving Brett Myers and his wife. Given their actions since his arrest, however belated (and over-reactionary) they may have been, it’s reasonable to assume the team understands the seriousness of this issue. They get the message, like everyone else. No surprise there. So why is this (alleged) incident by a player sufficient to encourage what appears to be nothing more than a shakedown of the Phillies?

With six zeros and two commas, nine equals ten

I’m not affected by Canadian lottery tax questions, but I’m strangely comforted to know that America isn’t the only nation obsessed soaking the rich for no better reason than they have more money.

Each week Ontarians spend hundreds of millions of dollars for a chance at quick riches and early retirements; while each week more stories surface about infrastructure costs skyrocketing and hospitals and schools crumbling. Reports of water and sewer systems needing upgrades abound, and the cost to even barely maintain roads puts ever-increasing tax burdens on residents.

Every Wednesday and Saturday night people young and old hope they are the holders of the next multi-million dollar ticket while the Ontario Lottery Gaming Commission awards prizes ranging from $1 or $2 to mega-millions. And unlike our neighbours to the south who pay a full 38 percent on all lottery and casino winnings, Ontarians receive 100 percent of their winnings and are exempt from any taxation on those winnings.

Fine so far, since taxing lottery winnings seems reasonable under the given assumptions that winnings are income and income should be taxed. That doesn’t have to imply any notion of progressive taxation, although that 38% figure jumps out. If there should be a lottery, tax it. Whatever. But as we’re conditioned to expect, this is the fun part:

It’s time municipalities start pushing the province to tax lottery winnings in an effort to raise the necessary funds to ensure future financial viability.

Would a 10 percent flat tax on all winnings in excess of $50,000 really impact the winner that much, or deter them from playing lotteries?

Does someone really need all $10 million in lottery winnings, or would $9 million be equally life-changing?

That’s not a justification for taxation. That merely exposes a belief that one person wants something and another person has the means to acquire that something. Since those two aren’t the same person, the first person decides it’s reasonable to take what he needs, by force of government. There’s nothing wrong with that, since he who has $9 million remaining should not worry about the extra million. The winner’s concern for the remaining million demonstrates how much he hates roads, hospitals, clean water, and children. Mostly the children.

The logic throughout is classic big government socialism, but that’s just telling the story. The last paragraph of the editorial shows it:

The costs to maintain what infrastructure we have are only going to increase. Municipalities need to start pushing now for more ways to generate funds that will be distributed among them in a non-competitive manner.

Or the municipalities could prioritize expenditures in a competitive manner and determine what’s most needed. It’s just a thought.

Cross-country network of dollars communication

Since politicians have already shown their economic ignorance through copious central planning, the unintended consequences caused by advances in communications technology will surely surprise them. I’m not surprised:

Rural phone-service subsidies are so bloated and inefficient that providing wireless or satellite phones is cheaper, an economic analysis prepared for a senior citizen advocacy group suggested yesterday.

Taxes to support the universal service fund, which is intended to pay for higher costs of serving rural areas, are growing so fast as to force some low-income people to drop phone service, said Thomas Hazlett, a George Mason University economist who prepared the analysis for the Seniors Coalition.

“It’s perverse when shifting tax money around for the universal service fund results in more people leaving the network than joining it,” said Hazlett.

Why I should subsidize those who choose to live in rural areas is a question I will never accept. Since it’s not up to me, I worked around it (and other similar questions of fees and taxes) years ago when I abandoned traditional phone service¹ almost five years ago. Now I use a combination of cellular and VoIP. I’ve never missed the land line, and I’ve definitely never missed the higher costs. I changed because I assessed my needs and made the decision that new technology satisfied my communication needs. No politician could know that.

More importantly, how much faster would rural customers have received phone service if politicians had let the free-market sort out customer requirements? Of course, that question is merely interesting because of the multiple interest groups involved. Each group wants it own special consideration, which only makes the tax structure confusing and the collection process more bureaucratic. For example:

Universal service subsidies have become so widespread that rural phone companies on average collect only 27 percent of their revenue from customer payments, Hazlett found. Even so, many rural customers are opting to drop traditional wired service to go wireless because “it’s cheaper, and they like the mobility,” he said.

Many rural carriers receive subsidies that exceed $1,000 a year per customer, with some subsidies topping $10,000 a year per customer, Hazlett said.

There will be no incentive to innovate in that atmosphere. Why bother, when the government will take from those living in cities and give through subsidies to those who don’t. There is no sense in this, other than politics. But politics rarely makes for good economics. It’s time to cut the apron strings and let each customer bear the cost of his choices.

¹ I have a land line today, but it’s the minimum service and is used only to provide communications for my home’s security system. Fees or not, I want emergency services contacted when necessary. I don’t think that gives politicians an open invitation to tax me for the economic inequality-du-jour.

Protecting America from the Constitution

The House legislation to bar federal courts from hearing constitutional challenges to “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is a bad idea. Whether its goal is to solidify federal recognition of the Christian God as ruler of America or to allow state and local courts to better reflect the supposed will of the people to force everyone to worship the same, nothing good can happen if the Senate passes its version. I suspect the Senate will choose to be the chamber where bad bills go to die, so I’m not particularly worried.

Instead, it’s worth highlighting two quotes from the debate. First:

“We should not and cannot rewrite history to ignore our spiritual heritage,” said Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. “It surrounds us. It cries out for our country to honor God.”

Actually, our history cries out for religious tolerance and governmental indifference. Many of the first settlers of the New World fled religious oppression. That some of them wished to impose their own oppression here is worth noting, specifically because it failed. As evidence see the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is our true spiritual heritage. But, if this debate is about not rewriting history, how to explain this:

  • 1892 to 1923: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
  • 1923 to 1954: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
  • 1954 to Present: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”

It seems history can be rewritten. All Rep. Wamp wants is for us not to rewrite the historical rewrite. Wouldn’t honesty be a part of the Family Values Tour 2006, or whatever Republicans are calling this wrecking ball publicity stunt?


Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who sponsored the measure, said that denying a child the right to recite the pledge was a form of censorship. “We believe that there is a God who gives basic rights to all people and it is the job of the government to protect those rights.”

I believe that there is a Constitution which gives basic rights to each person and it is the job of the government to protect those rights. The facts support my position. The current state of civil liberties protections in America, as exhibited by the House and Senate, indicates that many of our leaders in Congress share Rep. Akin’s misconceptions. Instead, Rep. Akin holds a view of our government which allows him to enforce laws not supported by the Constitution, and to deny rights that conflict with what he believes people should do. Denying a child the ability to say the Pledge of Allegiance, with its recent addition of “under God”, may be censorship, but I wonder what he would call forcing a child to say something he doesn’t believe? Perhaps the honorable gentleman from Missouri thinks every child can’t wait to recite “under God,” but it’s also possible that some children notice the inherent flaw in American spiritual strength that forced religious patriotism represents.

He’s a political promise keeper

Two quick points on President Bush’s veto explanation, now that he’s actually used that power. (I know, I’m as shocked as you that it took him this long to discover a real power. With all the imagined powers he now has, you’d think he would’ve already burned through all of his real powers. Anyway…)

“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” Bush said at the White House, following through on his promise to veto the bill. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it.”

First, if I was mistaken in my post yesterday, so is President Bush. Hopefully every Congressman who voted for the bill should call him out if he’s wrong. Otherwise, this is just politics as usual. Ahem…

Second, of all the reckless misadventures of the last 5½ years by the Congress and the Administration, this is the first to “cross a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect”? Right. Perhaps the President needs a better moral compass, one that involves civil liberties and fiscal responsibility.