Monday, February 23, 2015

Open letter to friends of Scott Walker

I've posted this modest proposal several times in recent years, but since Scott Walker of Wisconsin is so interested in reproductive biology and money, I thought he's appreciate a re-posting. Here it is:

So here’s a modest proposal, based on the premise that it’s irrational to demand that a public health problem be solved but at the same time be adamantly opposed to the methods of solving it. The public health problem in this case is one we know how to solve, namely, unwanted pregnancy. The methods of solving it are readily available, safe, extensively tested, and found to be effective, at least at the individual level. It’s a well-known and widely-accepted fact that long-term effects of this particular public health problem fall unequally on the sexes, with the female being physically affected, subjected to potential medical complications, and traditionally burdened with nearly two decades of direct responsibility for the care, feeding, and education of another human being, whereas the male’s participation in this responsibility is largely voluntary or, when involuntary, limited to financial contribution. Because the large majority of state legislators are male and claim to understand public policy, my modest proposal is perfectly capable of being carried out at the state level, at least, and should be carried out in those states imposing severe restrictions on elective abortions. The main points are:
(1) Immediately enact a so-called “life tax” to provide for public funding of “life services,” defined as prenatal health care, treatment for medical conditions arising from pregnancy, and care, including medical care, clothing, food, shelter, and both education and special education as needed, for any infant born to a mother who would otherwise have chosen to abort it. Life services would continue until the child is 18 years old.
(2) Establish residency requirements, for access to such support, similar to those already established, for example, for tuition at a state’s post-secondary institutions.
(3) Establish a means test for access to such support. The federal government already has established guidelines for access to other social services, and means testing is already in place for Medicare premiums, so enacting such a test for “life tax” services should be easy to accomplish.
(4) Require DNA testing of mother, infant, and father (when the father can be ascertained) when an infant is born to a mother who would otherwise have aborted it. Costs of such testing would be paid by life tax revenues. If necessary, use test results to identify the father. Require, by law, the father to contribute half of the costs incurred in providing life services to mother and infant, and provide for an 18-year lien on the father’s earnings if necessary, with an extension to such time as the state is re-paid half of the life services costs by the father. Include in this law a provision that the father’s parents are liable for this contribution if the father is a minor.
(5) Immediately establish sex-education programs in all public schools, the curriculum to include effective contraception. Withhold certification from private schools that do not institute such a curriculum.
(6) Immediately provide birth control services for all individuals who want them but are unable to afford them. Pay for these services through the life tax. Services would include oral contraceptives, Plan B, condoms, patches, injections, and all other forms of artificial birth control to individuals over the age of 14. These services would be available in school health centers.
(7) In the event that an infant born to a mother who would otherwise have obtained an abortion requires long-term care or services due to a congenital condition, then such care and services would be provided by the state and funded by life tax revenues.
(8) In the event that pregnancy results from rape or incest, the mother would receive a lifetime stipend for carrying the fetus to term and the state would fund all services resulting from this birth, including counseling, adoptive services, and treatment of any medical conditions, including mental or emotional ones, resulting from the conception and delivery of this infant. In the case of rape or incest, residency and means requirements do not apply.
(10) The overall impact of this program, including life tax and life services, will be reviewed every ten years by qualified consultants from outside the state. Life tax will be adjusted annually to ensure revenues adequate to support life services programs.
I don’t know what the tax base is for Wisconsin, but a VERY rough estimate, based on the widely available information on costs of rearing children in the United States would fall in the range of $500,000 per non-aborted fetus if you add in the overhead costs of administering the above program. Wisconsin reported 7,640 abortions in 2011; at that rate we’re looking at somewhere in the vicinity of $3.8 billion over the next 18-20 years to provide life services as part of this male legislative action to deal with the problem of unwanted pregnancy for a single year. Alternatively, of course, that $3.8 billion would be paid by those who would have had an elective abortion but could not because of the law or other de facto restrictions on reproductive services, and that’s assuming that the individuals involved actually had the resources to pay these bills.
We have, of course, not even started to consider the social costs of unwanted pregnancy brought to term, and I’m not sure there is any real way to calculate those costs so that the public in general, and male legislators in particular, appreciate their impact on society. We do know that social factors such as lack of education, poverty, and crime are linked at least to some degree, and that “quality of life” factors are important for the attraction of business to a particular region. So in essence, the $3.8 billion should probably be considered a conservative estimate of the overall impact of unwanted pregnancy on the State of Wisconsin.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


The following is a short excerpt from THE EARTHQUAKE LADY, third book in the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series, due out within a few weeks. The first two, BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER and THE STITCHER FILE are both available as e-books on all readers and as nice paperbacks from amazon. These mysteries would make an ideal gift, or read, for anyone from Iowa, or anyone with any ties to a small, liberal arts, college, or especially for someone with interest in geology. Oh, and quite a bit of THE EARTHQUAKE LADY takes places in Oklahoma, so anyone from that state needs all three of these books!

“I reviewed this latest information with my captain,” he says, once comfortably settled on the couch with coffee—dark Italian; no decaf in this house. “We’ve talked about arming you, but the final decision on that is still up in the air.”
Duh. Whatever in the hell were they thinking in the first place, or maybe it was only Burkholder thinking, or not thinking, when that idea surfaced? As a potential expert witness, do I need protection? And if I do, is that not their job instead of mine? And who might be the one I need protection from? Some person who haunts the corridors of Halliburton Hall and shoots unhappy profs?
“We’d still like to send you to Oklahoma, if you’re willing to go.” He gives us what I’ve already started calling “the Burkholder pause” and “Burkholder look.”
So Broderick Burkholder and his immediate supervisor have been in communication over a Saturday afternoon and possibly into evening as a result of my comments about the material in a bar-coded plastic bag. My appreciation for DCI personnel just kicked up a notch. They’re taking this investigation seriously enough to now, after four months with no legitimate leads that they’ve been willing to divulge, start in on the most tenuous of possibilities. In my opinion, they probably should have started with the least likely suspects first, beginning, perhaps, with Norden Jamaison, corporate attorney for Stevens Oil and personal attorney, if not bodyguard, for Delmar Stevens himself. I’m not quite ready to add Charlie Weatherford to the suspect list, at least in front of a detective from DCI, especially one who follows up on a bag of dirt by driving down here from Des Moines on a Sunday morning..
“But,” Burkholder continues; “my personal advice is to take the class, officially, get that permit, and acquire protection anyway.” He pauses, working on his coffee, looking around the room, his eyes ending their journey on Mykala. “And I have that same advice for you, too, Mrs. Marshall.”
“You’re recommending that I buy a gun and carry it around in my purse?” Mykala gets right to the point in rather plain language.
“Most women who carry pistols in their purses can never get them out quickly enough to use them when they need them.”
He and Mykala are on two completely different mental tracks.
“Do you have a specific recommendation?”
That question from her comes as a little bit of a surprise. I can’t tell whether she’s serious, and curious, or simply baiting him. Either way, it works.
“For women of your size and build,” he says; “I recommend the Glock 42. It’s a .380 auto, small enough to handle easily, fits in your purse just fine if that’s where you want to carry it, but it’s probably a good idea to figure out some other way to carry it if you believe you’ll be in danger.”
Officer Burkholder has sized up my wife’s “size and build” and matched her up with a Glock 42, .380 auto, whatever in the hell that is.
“And where, and how, do I learn to kill someone with this little Glock 42?” She asks. Now I know she’s baiting him, but I’m also curious about the answer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dr. Rebecca Stitcher has been a character in the first two Gideon Marshall Mysteries (BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER and THE STITCHER FILE), and she is an important, if not the driving character, in the third book of this mysteries series, titled THE EARTHQUAKE LADY (soon to be released as an e-book). The main thing one needs to know about Dr. Stitcher is that she was murdered at the beginning of THE STITCHER FILE. The third book, THE EARTHQUAKE LADY, involves evidence, with the paleontologist Gideon Marshall and his extremely perceptive wife Mykala being heavily involved in activities of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and not necessarily of their own choice.

Dr. Stitcher is a character and a victim because she is (was) a genius-level scientist, a geologist and mathematician whose theoretical research in plate tectonics provides essential elements of an ideal weapon of mass destruction, or at least so believe a number of other characters, some of whom have enormous financial resources. Dr. Stitcher was also a very unhappy person, a recluse, and quite disdainful of her fellow faculty members at this small, heavily endowed, liberal arts college in Iowa; some readers might say that she had good reason to be this way, based on her interactions with her former boss, the infamous Clyde Renner, victim of a perfect murder by his bullied staff (BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER).

A potential cover model for THE EARTHQUAKE LADY should be in her 30s or 40s (Dr. Stitcher was in her early 50s at the time of her death). The draft cover is shown above. If anyone is interested in replacing the figure in this cover image, send me an e-mail. There will be a written use agreement that protects both of us from problems relative to the use of such an image.

Links to the first two Gideon Marshall Mysteries are on my web site.