Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, November 10, 2017

Four Things

1. Here's Item 2,598 from the "When Government Does Everything Except What It Should Be Doing" file:

Image courtesy of Consumer Reports via Wikipedia.
There's a drinking game played by people who have worked at the Department of Agriculture: Does the U.S.D.A. do it? Someone names an odd function of government (say, shooting fireworks at Canada geese that flock too near airport runways) and someone else has to guess if the U.S.D.A. does it. (In this case, it does.) Even people who have worked at U.S.D.A. for years wind up having to chug. So it's no use pretending that I can actually explain to you everything the place does. I was looking to get a sense of the big risks that increase when a limb of the federal government is neglected or misunderstood or badly managed. [bold added]
The whole piece -- "Inside Trump's Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.'s Scientists" -- is interesting, although definitely in favor of improper government.

Advocates of limited government would do well to read it in full and understand that this is what we're up against. The piece well illustrates two facts: (1) The USDA (for example) does do many things that need doing, almost all of which could and should be done by some non-government means; and (2) Most people, especially including the conscientious types the article portrays, can't even begin to imagine how these things would be done without Big Brother shaking everyone down to make sure they get done.

I would also add that a big downside to Trump's ideology-free campaign against regulation (that he doesn't like) can backfire big time precisely because he has no answer to such "but what about..."-type objections -- either on why government shouldn't be doing these things or how they would get accomplished otherwise.

2. Pharma-blogger Derek Lowe offers tribute to an octogenarian scientist who is still plugging away at the bench:
Long experience at the bench, if you're any good at all, gives you a fund of knowledge that's hard to pick up from the literature. What solvents to try first for a crystallization, what reactions have exothermic inductions that you have to watch out for, which reducing agents have the easiest workups, how to get rid of metal contamination in the final product, when to deoxygenate rigorously and when not to worry about it so much, ways to get rid of Common Byproduct X or Pesky Solvent Y. Donald Batesky has just contributed another one of those to the trade, and good for him. This guy is clearly a chemist (he's already stipulated that he wants to be buried in a lab coat), and I would very much enjoy sitting down and talking with him. It's always worthwhile to listen to people who are really good at their work or to watch them do it, and I'm glad to hear that he's still sharing his knowledge with his co-workers at Rochester.
I hope Lowe does get to talk to the man. I'd enjoy reading the interview.

3. Here's an interesting side-effect of the popularity of smart phones:
Gum sales have been relentlessly dropping for the past five years because people don't look around when they wait in line to pay.
Gum magnates will find an ally in Cal Newport.

4. Having lost my father as a consequence of multiple sclerosis, I keep an antenna out for good news on that front. Here's the latest:
In a remarkably rapid translation of laboratory research findings into a treatment with the potential to benefit patients, UC San Francisco scientists have successfully completed a Phase II clinical trial showing that an FDA-approved antihistamine restores nervous system function in patients with chronic multiple sclerosis (MS).


The drug tested in the trial, clemastine fumarate, was first identified as a candidate treatment for MS in 2013 by UCSF's Jonah R. Chan, PhD, Debbie and Andy Rachleff Distinguished Professor of Neurology, vice chief of the Division of Neuroinflammation and Glial Biology, and senior author of the new study. First approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1977 for allergies, the drug has been available over the counter in generic form since 1993. [links omitted]
I don't recall ever hearing a claim that something could either reverse damage, or help those suffering from the chronic-progressive form of the disease. Links in the UCSF press release cited above lead to the published results.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

The first item reminds me of a conversation I had aWhen they were doing all the marches about a year ago (Women's March, Scientist's March, etc) I asked on Facebook why the participants didn't contribute, say, $10 to a fund to accomplish the goals that they wanted Planned Parenthood to achieve. With the number of people marching, $10 or $20--a nominal donation--would produce seed capital of tens of millions of dollars, more than ample to start a large-scale charity providing the resources they were demanding.

The responses were openly hostile. These people not only could not imagine how private funding would work, they were violently opposed to the concept.

They don't want benefits. They want to be taken care of--which means, to be ruled. They are slaves looking for a master, afraid to stand on their own.

Gus Van Horn said...


The open hostility bothers me more than the ignorance, although perhaps we can hope that some of the hostility is fear of the unknown speaking.