"Edible products from healthy clones that meet existing requirements for meat and milk in commerce pose no increased food consumption risk(s) relative to comparable products from sexually-derived [conventional] animals."We then immediately afterwards get this:
However, agricultural groups have said that consumers are reluctant to buy products sourced from the offspring of cloned animals.That is, the FDA claims that cloned meat and milk are no less safe than the currently-available versions. The supposed counter-point to this is that consumers are uneasy about eating and drinking them. So, the first claim is they are safe, and the second claim is they are unwanted. A better example of two people talking past each other I could not invent if I tried.
According to The Guardian here, Peter Jackson probably won't be making a movie based on The Hobbit because New Line Cinema, the studio that funded the 3 Rings movies, is embroiled in a legal dispute with him and are thus blacklisting him. Well, fine, that's their business. I'm not sure it's much of a tragedy, though. As King Kong aptly demonstrated, Jackson's forte is making big, big, big movies that cost lots of money but look really, really good. (That King Kong barely broke even domestically (see here) is probably not his fault. The cast was absurdly weak, and I can't recall a worse advertising campaign for a summer blockbuster.) The Hobbit, however, is a very small story. It doesn't have the scope or the sweeping vision of The Lord of the Rings; it's really more of a traditional (Grimm-styled) fairytale. So, another director is probably a wise move. Perhaps Alfonso Cuarón is available?
Apparently, not using technology is now a cultural statement. Who knew? I didn't have a cellphone until a few years ago, when I got one for work. I then bought my own because my wife and I work sufficiently far away from each other that we occasionally have to call in order to arrange where we're meeting for whatever. I don't have nor want a Blackberry, iPod, pager, Facebook or MySpace page, etc. I'm happy with my bare-bones academic webpage, my several years old PC, and this here blog. Although, I would like an mp3 player, because the portable CD player I have skips if you look at it harshly. Still: this now seems to make me a cultural iconoclast. Perhaps I should get T-shirts printed...?
Alberta's government is giving up on privatizing healthcare. Not because they necessarily think it's a bad idea, but because it doesn't address the real problems facing the healthcare system. And like that, Alberta goes from foaming-at-the-mouth crazy to insightful and prudent. I never thought I'd see the day.
I have no comment on this post at Crooked Timber dismantling some academic arguments against same-sex marriage, except to say that it's not good for a social "movement" that their brightest academic lights can't marshall any decent arguments for the view. (IDiots, take note.)
Now, I like Pharyngula a lot. PZ Myers is appropriately feisty, intellectually aggressive, and teaches me the kind of biology I wish I'd had in high school (for then I might have seen the point of taking it in undergrad). I have to say, though, he's got a really bad ear for ethical issues. Here, PZ takes on an undeniably tragic case of a US sailor's wife who was pregnant with an anencephalic child. The child would not have survived very long after birth, so the mother had an abortion. After some court battles, the agency that insures military families paid, even though the mother's life was not at stake. The Justice Department appealed this decision, after the procedure was performed, and won. So, they have to pay the money back.
PZ seems to be arguing a pretty standard consequentialist line: that this magnifies the pain and suffering of the family, that it doesn't produce noticeable good in the world, etc, hence it is "evil" (his term). Problematically, the "except to save the mother's life" line is a non-consequentialist reason: it's deontological. That is, it's not focused on the consequences of an action in order to judge whether it is right or wrong; instead, the criterion focuses on particular qualities of the case at hand in order to determine whether it is right or wrong. We can effectively argue against it by pointing out that "saving the mother's life" cases are an unacceptably narrow range of cases (relevantly for this instance, what about the state of the fetus? if it's non-viable, isn't abortion the best option? what if the mother would be severely injured by bringing the child to term, but not killed? etc.), but what we can't do, at the risk of talking past the opposition, is just start appealing to consequences as being the only morally relevant features.
Harry Frankfurt has been on The Daily Show before, promoting the book version of his old essay On Bullshit. Here is the clip of his second appearance, promoting his follow-up, On Truth. I'm starting to read some Frankfurt, vis-a-vis the issue of whether being able to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moral responsibility (he says it isn't, but I don't buy the argument). It's also just generally interesting to see a philosopher entirely out of his element, and yet apparently enjoying himself tremendously.
Another Scienceblogs link. Here, Dr. Charles criticizes John Edwards for opposing specialized healthcare courts. He's apparently been taking some flak from Daily Kos diarists over it. Frankly, I don't think Dr. Charles goes far enough. Not only are regular civil courts unable to handle medical cases, but they're generally unable to handle anything beyond judging the rhetorical merits of the opposing lawyer's presentations. That is, the judges, in my experience, seem to see their job to be evaluating the worth of a performance rather than weighing the evidence and reasoning. I've worked enough in medicolegal to have seen carefully-constructed, well-researched reports tossed aside by judges who decided, apparently on a whim (if no reason is given, what other conclusion can one draw?), that they were "not credible". This may in part be a function of judges' training as lawyers: if one is used to being evaluated on a certain basis, when one takes on the role of the evaluator, it's understandable that one would implement standards similar to those one was used to. But the fact that it's understandable doesn't justify it. This is particularly crucial in medical cases, where it really matters whether judges understand the evidence that the medical experts are presenting to them. If the issue is whether or not Mr. Smith has a permanent disability, judging on the basis of the character of the lawyers is obviously entirely inadequate.
Our beloved Prime Minister Stevie seems to think that two recent defections from the Liberals to his clan of Canada-hating misanthropes means that the Conservatives are "appealing". Mebbe. But it's at least as plausible that the real reason people are defecting from the Libs to the Cons (and, for that matter, the Cons to the Libs) is that even the members of the parties can't tell the difference.
This is just pure fun. Someone highly anal-retentive with a serious mad-on against the federal Conservatives has gone through and analyzed their policies to determine which are moving Canada closer to and further away from the US. While there's no discussion of methodology (which would have been fun in its own right), the analysis speaks for itself. By far, the Cons are trying to make Canada like the US.
While it's possible, as is suggested in the comments to that post, that the Cons are just being conservative and, since the US tends to be more conservative, this means that "being more like the US" is actually not the Cons' aim, I find that could only be plausible if the Cons were unaware that the US shares the same "values" or whatever that they do. That is, it's only true that the Cons are accidentally making Canada more like the US, while intending to make Canada more conservative, if they don't know about the connection between conservatism and the US. Since they presumably do know about the connection, it follows that, by intending to make Canada more conservative, they are also intending to make Canada more like the US.
Too funny. I blogged earlier about the vile things being said on air by a couple of hosts on an ABC Radio-owned station in the US. Here is a follow-up. Apparently, the hosts are trying to be "silenced", and their "free speech rights" are threatened, and they're targets of "frightening fringe-left groups". Etc. I don't think these people really know what the fuck they're talking about, and so are excused for saying stupid things on the grounds of colossal ignorance. However, on the off-chance that they are simply lying, here's what's wrong with what they're saying.
(1) Standardly, free speech rights in the Western world are interpreted as negative freedoms. That is, one is free from being constrained such that one cannot express one's views. However, the freedom is not considered as a positive freedom. That is, one is not entiteld to resources in order to promulgate one's views. Right or wrong, this is the way the right is interpreted. So, by asking these hosts be dismissed, no one is actually infringing on their free speech rights. They aren't being told to stop saying things they believe. They are, however, being told not to say these things in public places. That is, they are being deprived of a resource; they are not being subject to a constraint.
(2) It is, in their eyes, a "frightening fringe-left" claim to say that one should not promote vicious stereotypes of Muslims and use racial epithets on the public airwaves. (Note that: public airwaves. These people aren't talking in the privacy of their own homes; it's equivalent to sitting on a bus next to a loudmouthed homophobe.) Equal concern and respect is "frightening" and "fringe-left". I wonder, on this spectrum, what counts as "fringe-right"?
There's also some BSing about being "deprived of a livelihood", but that's just more obvious nonsense. I'm sure the hosts in question are perfectly capable of and qualified to serve hamburgers at McDonald's or even Burger King. So, how are they being deprived of a livelihood?
This is also funny. The US House have passed a measure that would require federally-managed negotiations with big pharma in order to bring down drug costs under Medicare. Looks like a good conservative thing, right, spend less government money? Well, not really:
Both the Congressional Budget Office and actuaries working for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concluded it's unlikely government negotiating authority would produce significant savings.So, okay. There looks to be a good basis for opposing the plan: it won't work the way it's supposed to. So, what opposition is actually voiced in the article?
"The change we're debating is the major debate about the future of health care in the coming decades," said Rep. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. "Do we believe government should make the decisions about your health or do we believe these decisions are so fundamentally personal they can only best be made by the individual?"As I said: funny stuff. The real choice is between the government running interference for individuals and trying to get the drug prices down, and big pharmaceutical companies charging whatever the hell they want, regardless of what individuals can pay. The idea that this has anything to do with individuals making "personal" choices is so absurd it's almost farcical. To make matters worse, of course, it's a given in circles of sane people that healthcare decisions are paradigms of public decisions. Every health-related choice that a person makes has effects, often significant ones, on those around them. Thus, the way those decisions are made is of unquestionably public significance.
US "conservatives" are always good for a laugh, eh?
Here is a Globe and Mail article on how "new" immigrants to Canada may not be "integrating" in ways consistent with official multiculturalism policy. I've found the actual study (here) and will be reading it over the weekend. I hope to have a detailed critique of it available on Monday. My sense is that there's going to be some serious argumentative holes; while the data may be somewhat suggestive, the conclusions as described in the G&M are far too strong.
I'll also have something on this issue, namely college tuition, how it affects society in a broad sense, and what policies might be enacted in order to improve things.