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Comment Re: The problem with your explanation (Score 1) 306

If you look in the FEMA site, they say that they provide gramts to perform repairs not covered by insurance. And no, they don't do a needs test. Now, the typical rich person does not let their insurance lapse just so that they can get a FEMA grant. Because such a grant is no sure thing. They also point out that SBA loans are the main source of assistance following a disaster. You get a break on interest, but you have to pay them back.

Comment Re: The problem with your explanation (Score 1) 306

I understand your point about view land being desirable even though it's a flood risk. I live a mile or so from the Hayward fault. But I have California's risk pool earthquake insurance. The government wouldn't be paying me except from a fund that I've already paid into. I imagine that the government does pay some rich people in similar situations, but as far as I'm aware disaster funds go to the States from the federal government and should not in general become a form of rich people's welfare. Maybe you can find some direct evidence to show me that would make the situation more clear.

Comment Re:The problem with your explanation (Score 1) 306

What you are observing is economics. As a city or town population grows, the best land becomes unavailable and those who arrive later or have less funds available must settle for less desirable land. Thus many cities have been extended using landfill which liquifies as the San Francisco Marina District did in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, or floods. Risks may not be disclosed by developers, or may be discounted by authorities as the risks of global warming are today.

Efforts to protect people who might otherwise buy such land or to mitigate the risks are often labeled as government over-reach or nanny state.

Comment Re:The problem with your explanation (Score 1) 306

Oh, of course they were caused by misguided engineering efforts. Everything from the Army Corps of Engineers to Smoky Bear goes under that heading. The most basic problem is the fact that we locate cities next to resources and transportation, which means water, without realizing where the 400-year flood plane is. Etc. We have learned something since then.

Our problem, today, is fixing these things. Which is blocked by folks who don't believe in anthropogenic climate change, or even cause and effect at all. They don't, for the most part, register Democratic.

Comment The problem with your explanation (Score 5, Insightful) 306

The problem with your explanation is that it's fact-based, and stands on good science. This is the post-truth era. Thus, the counter to your argument will be:

  • Evidence for a human cause of erosion is thin and controversial, and is being pushed by loony liberals.
  • We need those oil and shipping jobs, and jobs building and maintaining levees, not more regulation that stifles them!
  • Cause and effect is not a real thing, except for one cause, God is behind everything.
  • This is part of God's plan for us. The end time is coming, and when the Rapture arrives it will not matter that Louisiana's coast has eroded. Cease your pursuit of unholy science and pray to save your soul!

Comment Re:So... (Score 1) 338

so far hasn't done anything irreversible.

I think the first victims have been farmers who can't bring in their crops. Just the people who voted for him in California's central valley and wherever else we depend on guest workers. I don't see citizens lining up to pick those crops. The small family farmers, what's left of them, will feel this worse, the large corporate ones have the lawyers necessary to help them break the rules and truck people in from South of the border.

The second group of victims will be the ones who need health care that doesn't come from a big company. It's a lot more difficult to start a small business when there is no affordable way to get health care. And that is the case for my own small business - I'd be in bad shape if my wife left the University. I think that's the real goal - to keep people from leaving employment in larger companies and going off on their own.

Comment Re:So... (Score 4, Interesting) 338

Donald Trump, unfortunately, satisfies a common desire among the populance to right things by means that won't actually right them. It's a desire to rid Washington of inaction by cleaning it out of the current folks who don't seem to get anything done: and then you find that the things they were working on are harder than you understood. It's the feeling that you can get things going right by having a manager who lights a fire under the responsible people: just the way that bank managers pressured employees to increase revenue or be fired until those employees started opening accounts fraudulently for customers who hadn't asked for them.

What I am having a hard time with is how our country gets back out of this. I fear Humpty has had such a great fall that there is no peaceful recovery.

Comment Discrimination City (Score 5, Interesting) 155

I have to staff exhibit booths a few times a year. I absolutely hate that applicants treat it as a modeling job and send me their photos. My wife hates it too :-) .

I ask that they be capable of standing for 8 hours per day for three days straight, and that they be well dressed, well groomed, and personable. I will always hire the smart ones (you'd be surprised how many folks with a Masters or Ph.D. are looking for weekend work), and they rarely are the model folks.

I started putting "NO PHOTOS" in my ads a while back. I am thinking of asking folks to use a first initial and not indicate their gender, just to see what happens.

Comment Re:Read my post again (Score 1) 311

This is the kind of circular argument that's impossible to refute. "Show me the numbers!" "Here are the numbers!" "No, those don't support my predetermined conclusion, so they must be fake." It's exactly like the Trump administration's attitude towards climate science, to pick one recent example. But whatever, the same strategy worked out so well for the fossil fuel interests that I guess I shouldn't be surprised that other ideologues have latched onto it.

Comment Re:No it won't (Score 1) 311

This is common knowledge to anyone who has worked in the field - it's like asking for a citation for the claim that eating too much junk food leads to obesity. But here are two data points:


So that's less than 20% of approved drugs that are discovered in academia to begin with. Academic labs aren't large-scale operations - a single-investigator R01 grant from the NIH might be $5 million over 5 years, and most investigators won't have more than a handful of these. For the really big superstar labs, let's assume a very generous upper bounds of $10 million per year (not all of which is necessarily from the government). If it's a big multi-investigator project, maybe double that. Except for a handful of big centers (like the NIH itself, or genome sequencing centers), academia just doesn't operate at a large scale - a typical university research department is just an aggregation of many smaller units that are largely autonomous. The hidden advantage to these organizational limitations is that failed projects usually fail before anyone spends too much money on them. So let's hypothesize at the extreme, academics spent no more than $50 million per drug candidate. Compare to the numbers in the Wikipedia article.

Now, you could of course argue that because drug development is informed by the public-domain knowledge generated by taxpayer-funded researchers, drug companies are leaching off the public in that way too. I guess that's technically true (albeit difficult-to-impossible to quantify), but you might as well argue that because the government invented digital computers, companies like IBM and Intel should have been nationalized. (Note that the difference in salary between academia and big pharma is relatively large - to shift more drug development to academia, you'll need to raise salaries, or find a lot of scientists willing to work for academic salary while doing grunt work on massive projects that will mostly likely fail.)

To pick a more specific example, the NIH spends approximately $1.2 billion per year on aging-related research (including but not limited to Alzheimer's):


Most of that will be single-investigator grants, and as anyone who has worked in basic research can tell you, the majority of the grants that are funded won't lead to any immediate treatments, although they may provide useful information in the long term. In contrast, here is an estimate of the total cost per Alzheimer's drug being $5.7 billion (including failures, and keep in mind the overwhelming bulk of that is spent by drug companies):


This isn't to argue that taxpayer funding of basic research isn't valuable - it's absolutely essential IMHO. But most of what it produces isn't going to lead directly to new drugs or treatments.

Obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for a drug company, but I did receive funding from them as a government scientist, and receive a small bonus from IP licensing fees every year. Frankly it was far more trouble than it was worth; drug companies are kind of a pain in the ass to deal with, even if you only talk to the scientists.

Comment Re:No it won't (Score 1) 311

They do a few clinical trials after the government has done the really expensive stuff (what's called "Basic Research", IIRC).

This is simply wrong. The development process (which includes a lot more than just clinical trials) is far more expensive than the basic research component - and that's without even counting how many projects simply fail without anything to show for it.

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