Friday, August 28, 2009


Pretty harsh judgment in a NY Times op-ed about Kennedy's cancer death:

"Despite billions that have been spent, the death rate from most cancers barely budged."

In substitution for fact and statistic, the author opted to use words like "most", and phrases like "barely budged". Which is fine, but I'd expect the same author to describe a glass half full as "almost empty".

Sure, a lot of cancers remain terribly stubborn and difficult to treat. Many others have seen dramatic improvements in morbidity and mortality, thanks to better drugs, screening, and other intervention. Look at testicular cancer, which in 1960 had a 5 year survival rate of less than 5%; its closer to 95% now. Screening and early detection have improved breast cancer outcomes. We just developed a vaccine for cervical cancer. I could go on and on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inaccurate Descriptors

I was watching a report on health insurance companies tonight on MSNBC when it occurred to me how similar the health insurance "industry" is to the music industry.

I have long been a staunch opponent of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and not because I'm too cheap to buy CDs. If the internet had always existed, the concept of a "record company" would never have come into existence. Why would it? Using the internet, artists could directly transmit their songs to their fans. The artists themselves would make their salaries from live concert, attendance at which would certainly be bolstered by the band getting their name out using the internet.

Obviously, the internet didn't always exist. There was a time, when we needed a middleman between artist and consumer. There had to be a way to package and distribute the music, in the form of records, cds, or what have you. These middle men never actually produced the music, they just transmitted it. Their services are now largely obsolete, but they've managed to use their hold over the government to continue to justify their own existence.

At any rate, I think it is important that people keep in mind that health insurance companies don't actually produce anything. They are just a middleman. They are the link that pairs the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and researcher to the patient. I think questions of capitalism, free markets, and the like need to be kept in their proper context. At the end of the day, I have a difficult time believing that the "invisible hand of the marketplace" would ever come to the conclusion that using a middle man in the first place is the best way to get a service from A to B.

As it turns out, I believe there is room for record companies in today's world. I would even be enthusiastic about the prospect of fairly priced CDs, perhaps 5 bucks a pop, available at stores. I might walk in and buy a few albums just to experiment. However, when the prices of albums are artificially inflated to ridiculous levels, I'm not interested (and they most certainly were artificially inflated. I won $ 15.00 for being a part of a class action law suit against the major record companies for holding prices up). Just because I'm not willing to play by the RIAA cartel's unfair rules doesn't mean I don't get music. It just means I don't get it legally. Likewise, there is certainly room for health insurance companies, in some form. What there is no longer room for, however, is the anti-competitive oligarchy we have today; essentially an obstructive and overcompensated middleman who gets between doctors and patients.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yale University Press

So pathetic.

Four years after the initial controversy, I'm surprised to see people deliberately confusing cowardice and sensitivity. Here was a great quote about the Yale failure that I came across:

"What a courageous stand by the Liberals that run the university. Now if it had been a cross immersed in urine, that would have been on the cover."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Political topic: health care

I am a medical student, and follow politics as a hobby. So it is pretty ironic that the healthcare debate doesn't interest me as much as other things might. Part of it may be some of my innate pessimism about the prospects for successful legislation in that area. I do think that Obama was genuine about taking a bipartisan approach towards health care. I don't think the Republicans have met him half way, 1/4 the way, or even 0.000001% of the way. In fact I'm quite sure the GOP from day one had internally decided that Obama would not be cooperated with under any circumstances. Thus the failure to create bipartisan legislation, because the GOP refuses to play along, becomes a GOP talking point about how Obama isn't being bipartisan enough.

I think its sad because this sets a pretty nasty precedent for US politics in general. A lot of Republicans liken the situation to what happened to George W. Bush, in other words, his demonization by the left and the refusal for many Dems to work with him. There is a big difference between Bush and Obama though - Bush had been in office long enough to rightfully have deserved it. Obama has not. And its a sad precedent, that the opposing party who just got trounced in a major election to decide from day 1 that they will under no circumstances work with the new elected leader of the USA.

What is almost worse is how pathetic the Democrats in Congress are. They have an unstoppable majority, and a popular charismatic leader in the oval office, and they can't get their own house in order long enough to pass anything of substance. The cap-and-trade bill was a f*cking disaster, so honestly - who could expect health care reform to be any different?

So this is the dismal state of US politics right now, and perhaps this is why I am losing interest: the party with the unstoppable majority has its ranks filled with some of the most epically spineless cowards to have ever graced the capitol city, while the opposition party is a walking contradiction, is led by a bunch of psychopathic idiots, a bunch of loud-mouthed buffoons without the slightest bit of logic or rationality going into the words that come pouring incessantly out of their mouths.

In other words, the entire thing is a trainwreck. The US government right now reminds me of two crazy men fist-fighting in the cargo bay of an airplane that is in the process of crashing. Maybe this is the natural ebb and flow of politics. Maybe its always been like this. Or maybe this is what it looks like when an empire begins its long, steep decline.


Addendum. I told my roommate this tonight, and I will reiterate it on here. Obama is pragmatic and he is conciliatory. I genuinely believe that he wanted to get a bipartisan consensus for health care. The Republicans played him for a fool; fine, he will learn from it. If I was Obama, I'd get legislation written that includes all of the crap that the Democrats originally wanted - Republicans be damned. Then I'd let it go to a vote, and I'd dare the blue-dog Democrats be known as the Democrats who killed healthcare reform.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Intellectual Leadership of the Conservative Movement

It used to look and sound like this. Now we have Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Joe the Plumber.

Friday, August 07, 2009


Is it true that all right-wing rhetoric looks the same? It certainly appears that way. Anyway, this is "funny" because this flier was circulated in Dallas two days before JFK was shot there.

In other news, Obama is no longer a socialist. He is actually a fascist. This is, as far as I can tell, mainstream Republican sentiment. I would be willing to pay 1000 dollars if any of these idiots could accurately define what a fascist is, other than "Hitler".