Limousine Liberals and Faux Populists

I’m a big fan of philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb, writer of The Black Swan and more recently AntiFragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. In AntiFragile Taleb warns:

 

Never listen to a leftist who does not give away his fortune or does not live the exact lifestyle he wants others to follow. What the French call “the caviar left,” la gauche caviar, or what Anglo-Saxons call champagne socialists, are people who advocate socialism, sometimes even communism, or some political system with sumptuary limitations, while overtly leading a lavish lifestyle, often financed by inheritance – not realizing the contradiction that they want others to avoid just such a lifestyle…

A former client of mine, a rich fellow with what appeared to be a social mission, tried to pressure me to write a check to a candidate in an election on a platform of higher taxes. I resisted, on ethical grounds. But I thought the fellow was heroic, for, should the candidate win, his own taxes would increase by a considerable amount. A year later I discovered that the client was being investigated for his involvement in a very large scheme to be shielded from taxes. He wanted to be sure that others paid more taxes.


 

Just something to consider as Elizabeth “Stands with Fistfuls of Corporate Cash” Warren grabs the limelight as the “New Hillary” of the Left. Former Congressman Barney Frank said in a recent Huffington Post piece that the Democrats are closing ranks trying to protect large corporate banks to wrest campaign contributions from the GOP. She’s following the path set by Old Hillary who has become well-known for her Goldman Sachs speeches. Shikha Dalmia wrote in a September 29, 2014 USA Today essay, “(I)t appears the woman [Warren] who went to Washington to vanquish the corporate powers-that-be has become a classic Washington insider serving those powers.”

Rolling Stone Rape Fiction An Affront to Rape Victims

My first year in college I got way over my head in a relationship. As many first relationships are, it was at times sublime and other times horrific, and what stands out now almost 30 years later is its brutality. It scarred me, and one of the experiences that came out of it has come to mind with all the talk about rape on campus. One night long ago in Chicago my girlfriend and I had one of our many rows. She left the dorm and disappeared for several hours. When she returned she was bloody, bruised and crying. She had gone to the beach to cool off alone and while she was there she was gang-raped by two black men.

I remember her best friend and I taking her to the hospital, and the police laughing as they interviewed her. I screamed at them for their insensitivity and was held against the wall with an arm on my throat and threatened with arrest for my trouble. For days after that our lives were turned upside-down. There is nothing like having a loved one recoil from your touch, or waking up in the middle of the night screaming. It shredded me, and made me feel powerless. It became the beginning of the end of our relationship, one that gradually spiraled down into a pit of loneliness and despair. She took to cocaine to forget; I took to cheap vodka. Eventually my mother had to mount an all-night rescue mission where she drove non-stop from St. Louis to Chicago, put me and the few things I had left (that my girlfriend hadn’t pawned) into her car, and headed the 333 miles back home.

Whenever I read stories about rape, whether of women or men, I am touched by them. I’ve seen the damage the violence causes first hand, and as a man who has held a woman screaming in his arms as she relived her rape, I’ve been damaged by it. All these years later the scars are still there and they still hurt, but as I get older I’ve learned that as one ages the pains of aging and Life increase. You just suck it up and keep living.

Rolling Stone’s recent piece detailing the gang-rape of a freshman at the University of Virginia received a lot of publicity when it was published, followed by scrutiny. Now the story is falling apart and it appears likely that the protagonist “Jackie” was not raped as she claimed to have been. There have been other cases where women have gone public with rape claims only to later have them proven lies. The most horrific case was the Duke Lacrosse Rape case where a stripper’s lie ruined the lives of three students she accused of the crime. There’s a kind of masochistic sainthood that comes with claiming to have been raped when you haven’t, an ego boost that doesn’t come to those who actually were raped. In my girlfriend’s case she buried the event under the sedation of alcohol and cocaine; the last thing she wanted to do was talk about the rape.

I grew up with four older sisters and a mother who ran the financial affairs of the house. I was taught to respect women by the same women in my life who value me as a man. The girlfriend survived. Last I heard she was happy living in the Midwest, having put her drug abuse and her rape behind her.

But “Jackie” and her enablers do women like her a disservice by lying about rape. It belittles the real victims of rape and those who have been injured in the aftermath. There is nothing good that comes out of rape. There’s nothing heroic or noble about surviving it. The only thing worse than claiming to have been raped when you haven’t is to be falsely accused of rape. That’s something the Duke Lacrosse players and an entire fraternity on the UVA campus have experienced first hand. Will Rolling Stone do an in-depth article on the hell they’ve gone through? I’m not holding my breath.

Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone has brought this disaster upon itself, proving once again that the best days of that rag lay at least two decades in the past. Peter Suderman at Reason.com writes, “And by failing so thoroughly to corroborate so many essential details of Jackie’s account—and by insisting, even after reasonable questions were raised, that the story had been verified to be true, they have made life much harder for the same victims of assault and advocates of awareness that a story like this ought to help.”

Nice job assholes.

So Where’s the Inflation?

Reason looks at past predictions for the Qualitative Easing (QE) programs embarked upon by the Fed in 2009. Since then the Fed has flooded the world with dollars. So where is the inflation?

As Reason notes you can’t trust the CPI, so what can you trust?

How about your own senses. Remember the Subway ad jingle “Five…. Five… Five dollar foot long.” Subway used to sell several foot long sandwiches for $5. Then after awhile they limited their $5 special to certain months like February aka “Februany.” Now there aren’t any foot long subs on the menu for $5.

Or how about health insurance? Over the past five years the value of my house has declined yet it costs as much to cover just myself now as it did to cover my entire family 5 years ago.

While gas has declined recently thanks to the Saudi efforts to kill the US fracking industry, all other daily items have gone up. The government just doesn’t report it. Reason also notes that QE has exported US inflation to other countries, notably China and Philippines. QE is also feeding an asset bubble in the stock market and in high-end luxury goods and properties.

So the answer to where the inflation is is that it’s hidden for now, but the Fed can only defy gravity for so long before what it has built for the benefit of the wealthy comes crashing down. When it does, they won’t be able to hide Inflation any more.

As Ferguson Burns Again The Ironies Abound

 

Looters celebrating the burning of Juanita’s Fashion R Boutique, a black owned business. If the Klan did it there would be hell to pay but when a bunch of thugs do it it’s called “righteous outrage.”

Mike Brown doesn’t deserve to die because he robbed an immigrant, but conservative blogger Gateway Pundit does for being conservative?

 

There Must Be a Better Way

A few months back I came out strongly against the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO. Although I now question the events surrounding his death, and accept there was an altercation between Brown and Officer Wilson in which Brown was not blameless, I still am left to wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong with policing in America. On Saturday a 12 year old boy was shot on a playground in Cleveland for wielding what turns out to have been a replica gun. The boy, Tamir Rice, died of his wounds on Sunday. The 911 caller told the 911 dispatcher that the boy was wielding a “probably fake gun” and scaring everyone, but that information was not passed to the responding officers, and I’m not sure if it would have made any difference had it been.

As a legal gun owner I take my rights and my responsibilities seriously. Everything I have learned over the past 7 years since I took up my 2nd Amendment right has taught me that a gun is always a last resort, and that when I point the weapon I have to be prepared to accept the consequences for what happens to anything in front of my weapon. And I realize cops have a hard job. I know cops, and some of my friends are cops and I have a lot of respect for those who accept the calling to serve and protect, so this isn’t criticism coming from some Leftist who wants all “pigs to die” or wants anarchy in the streets. I don’t see why I have to choose between anarchy on one hand and living in a police state on the other. Both extremes aren’t pleasant for anyone, be they civilians or cops. There has to be some middle way.

Something is wrong, terribly wrong with how we police given the number of unarmed people shot by police in our country. I believe that the decline of neighborhood policing caused by budget cuts coupled with the militarization of police forces has changed the way the Police perceives the Public. The kind of attitude that cops are trained to have is they better control the situation before it controls them. This works in a war zone where everyone is a possible enemy but in civil society, even one as well-armed as ours, that attitude is going to lead to where we are today: hundreds of unarmed civilians dead every year.

Was Tamir Rice being stupid? Yes. Was Michael Brown stoned and aggressive after stealing from a quick shop? Perhaps. But isn’t there a better way to handle these situations, some way between ignoring the crime and shooting the suspects dead?

 

The Left’s War Against Rural America Part 2

The first part of this series is here.

Is the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party conducting a war on rural America? It’s a question I’ve had in the back of my mind since I moved to rural North Carolina in 2009. At the time the government had just taken over GM. Many of the dealerships that were closed were in rural areas including two in nearby towns. Their repair shops helped keep the trucks and cars of all makes and models on the road, and since rural Americans drive much more than urban or even suburban people, the dealership losses were magnified. It’s one thing to lose a GM dealer if you drive a Toyota; it’s another thing to lose the closest repair shop for 25 miles around as happened in one of the towns mentioned above. It took several years before local mechanics were able to fill the gap caused by the dealership consolidation, but I have to wonder whether this was less a bug and more of a feature of the plan.

Leftists love bringing people together in large groups. It doesn’t matter if it’s Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa policy of forcing Tanzanians at gunpoint to leave small villages and move to towns and cities, or Mao’s Collectivization policy that did the same thing in China. Forcing people to live in large groups does two things:  it makes them dependent on the State for their survival and it makes them easier to control. If society collapsed tomorrow, people would be starving in the cities within a few days, while people in rural areas would last for much longer – some indefinitely having given up living on the Grid in the first place. People here know how to hunt and grow food, and while everyone living out here isn’t a Doomsday Prepper, they tend to acquire the knowledge and skills one needs to survive independently. Rural people are known for being jacks of all trades  because it’s often impossible to get the repairman out to fix what’s broken, and you either fix it or you do without. That independence builds a sense of pride that makes it very difficult for others to exercise control over. That’s not to stop leftists from Stalin to Obama from trying.

Rural Americans tend to be conservative and religious, perhaps because too much risk taking out here and you end up dead. They are closer to the land than environmentalists are yet do not share their naive and condescending attitude towards the natural world. “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” Obama once said, providing us with a glimpse of how the man views rural Americans.

In the 6 1/2 years since making that remark his policies have reflected that thinking and rural America has suffered. Since the Obama Administration has failed to secure our borders rural America has been dealing with the issues caused by unrestricted illegal immigration. Each illegal family brings children who must be schooled and health care that must be dispensed paid for by taxes from a declining tax base. The social problems that come with the immigrants are ones that liberals like to charge one a racist for mentioning, but that doesn’t stop drug cartel violence from happening in rural America. The immigrants lack skills so they compete with the poor and middle class American citizens, not the highly educated elites that demand we import them. Wages in construction and carpentry are under pressure from the crews of illegals employed by large contractor firms who have nothing to fear from employing them.

There are probably more guns on a per capita basis in rural America than in some war zones, yet rural America remains comparatively free from violence and other crime. A suburbanite or city person may not be able to wrap their head around the idea of the need of a gun, especially when a call to 911 can bring a cop to your door in less than 10 minutes. In rural America that same call can take close to an hour, and that’s plenty of time for bad things to happen to good people. Suburbanites also don’t have to worry about coyotes, bears and in some parts of the country mountain lions, nor do they wake up one day and have a full-grown 1,500 lb bull munching away in their front yard as I did once. At the edge of civilization guns are a necessity, defining the line between order and chaos, and rural Americans understand this. Suburbanites and city people just don’t seem to get that. Worse, the Obama administration has not respected gun rights that are defined in the constitution, and it has only been the Supreme Court that has kept the right intact.

I’m amazed at how few “green” environmentalists I’ve met while living in rural America. My water comes from deep within the earth just as the spring water they drink in plastic bottles. At night the sky blazes with a carpet of stars and the constellations are bright and easily identifiable. The land is literally alive with all manner of plants and animals and there is more biodiversity on an acre of my land than there are in any city or suburban park. The farmers who live near me respect their land because it feeds their families, and Nature tends to teach respect out here. The bugs are big and plentiful. The winters are brutal enough to kill you but not enough to kill the pests that threaten crops. Hugging trees may be fine in a park, but in a wild wood you’re liable to get poison ivy or worse, hit by one of the many widow makers that await the slightest breeze to fall. There are plenty of environmentalists here: they are called “farmers” and “hunters”. They care about the land, but do so in a mature way instead of the naivete so prominent among green urbanites who freak out over garden spiders in their bathtubs.

I don’t mean to idealize rural life. That’s what the Left used to do before they began to demonize its residents as sexist and racist rednecks. Are there ignorant people here in the Sticks? Sure, but for every ignorant redneck there are likely a dozen more  in the suburbs and cities. The longer I live here the more I see a diversity that I hadn’t expected. I’ve met more lesbians in this area than I ever did in suburban Delaware, and I’m still puzzled by that. More importantly I’ve met all types of iconoclasts and free-thinkers, people with beliefs that are all over the political and religious spectrums, a diversity of thought and opinion that few suburbs or urban areas can match. If you want to move someplace where your beliefs won’t be challenged, then I’d avoid rural America or at least these parts of the rural South. Yet all are united by their desire to leave and be left alone, and by their second class “bitter clinger” status conferred upon them by Obama and his supporters.

Will rural America survive the next two years? Of course it will, but the hatred and disrespect expressed to its citizens will remain for generations to come, thanks to the efforts of President Obama and the Left.

 

The Left’s War Against Rural America

Is Obamacare’s Assault on Rural Health Care A Battle in the Larger War Against Rural America?

As I stared at blue sky above the pines on my property I knew my body was broken, and with a yelp slowly raised myself from the ground. I had taken my son’s dirt bike to get the mail, and on the way back to the house I decided to take a detour through the field to enjoy the beautiful Fall afternoon. As I rounded a turn in the corner of a grassy field I braked slightly, shifting my balance forward on the 125cc 4-stroke bike. At that moment the front tire hit a divot hidden by the grass, and I was sailing through the air, landing on the hard packed North Carolina clay on my shoulder. Amazingly my neck and head were pain-free, but I knew my shoulder was either dislocated or broken, and I worried that the pain in my side while breathing was symptomatic of a punctured lung. There was no dusting myself off from this one; I was going to need medical care and fast.

The two nearest hospitals were roughly 25 minutes away, and a 911 call to get an ambulance likely would bring it to an hour before I would reach either of them.

Both rural hospitals have issues. Their communities have been dying for decades, the textile industry that underpinned both having long ago left the area searching for cheaper labor in Latin American and Southeast Asia. One town resorted to tourism, playing up its ties as the site that inspired Andy Griffith’s fictional Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show. The other town has been trying for years to become a small town known for its trendy restaurants and shops like nearby Blowing Rock, which itself was struggling to become more like trendy Asheville, a city that yearned to become North Carolina’s Sante Fe. But the popularity of the Andy Griffith Show has waned as its fan base aged and died along with Andy Griffith himself, and the City Fathers of the other town have ignored the new ideas that come with new residents, preferring to stick with the Old Boy Network for ideas, strangling growth. For example NASCAR was born only a few miles away from town, and hot rods, classic custom cars are still deeply revered here, yet the town banned cruising 10 years ago and killed the nightlife that had begun when teenagers and car enthusiasts had started hanging out in town.

The hospitals themselves have taken different paths. The one in Mayberry remains independent and small with a few dozen beds. It has a bad reputation based on several citations by the State for providing substandard care and its future is bleak. The other hospital built an entire new wing and emergency room in the expectation that the government would expand Medicare/Medicaid and that the hospital would be able to make money from higher reimbursements for providing care to the poor and elderly. It was a bad decision, and the hospital has been weighed down by the huge debt used to fund the expansion and the switch electronic medical records as Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements have been cut. It has since traded its independence for an “agreement” with one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest for-profit hospital systems that is turning it into a referral hub for the hospital system. The system holds an option to buy the rural hospital but is in no hurry to exercise it. The hospital needs the health system more than the health system needs the hospital. While the local members of the hospital’s board may not understand that everyone else does.

I texted my son and he found me walking back to the house, holding my arm tightly against my body. I directed him to lock up the bike, put the dogs inside, and get my insurance card. One lesson I have been trying to teach him is the importance of keeping a cool head amidst trouble. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate the value of this lesson. He then drove me about 35 miles to a large hospital  that happens to be owned by the same hospital system that has the agreement with the rural hospital mentioned above.

I discussed my thinking with one of the doctors who treated me. He doubted whether the hospital had the skills needed to treat my injuries on a Saturday evening. “They likely would have transferred you here anyway,” he said.  I would have wasted even more time as well as incurred the additional expense of 50 mile ambulance ride.

Most rural hospitals have staffing issues since they have to compete for the same medical professionals as suburban and urban areas. In the past this has meant rural hospitals paid more, and since Medicare/Medicaid reimbursed more for rural care they could afford it. Obamacare changed that; in order for the law to be budget neutral it built in cuts to medicare/medicaid that weren’t anticipated before the law’s adoption. The law has also increased penalties for re-admission, straining the budgets of rural hospitals even further. In the in-depth article “Rural Hospitals in Critical Condition“  USA Today reporters Jayne O’Donnell and Laura Ungar claim the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare has damaged the survival of rural hospitals, pointing out that since 2010 over 40 rural hospitals have closed, forcing rural residents to drive long distances for medical care. O’Donnell and Ungar state the law’s requirements such as re-admission penalties and electronic health records added to the burden for rural hospitals.

“They set the whole rural system up for failure,” says Jimmy Lewis, CEO of Hometown Health, an association representing rural hospitals in Georgia and Alabama, believed to be the next state facing mass closures. “Through entitlements and a mandate to provide service without regard to condition, they got us to (the highest reimbursements), and now they’re pulling the rug out from under us.” (link)

Although painful and at least temporarily debilitating my injuries were not life threatening. But I’m reaching the age where my former life of a pack a day smoking, heavy drinking and bad eating habits are catching up with me, and a heart attack or stroke would not be considered unusual for a man of my age. In such an event every minute counts, and the USA Today article points out the importance of the Golden Hour where hearts and brains can be saved with medical intervention. Should the hospital in Mayberry disappear as seems distinctly possible, there will be people in its footprint who will have to travel for close to an hour to reach immediate medical care. Add in a 911 call to the volunteer fire department for  pick up by an ambulance and the loss of the hospital, even a poorly performing one, would be disastrous for the local community just as its been in the towns discussed in the USA Today article. Rural living is hard enough, but take away the safety net of a decent hospital close by and living here becomes downright dangerous for some.

Is this what the Obama Administration wants? It’s not as if the administration has embraced rural America. It disdains its values and laughs at its traditions. Worse it has implemented policies that go well beyond cutting funds to rural hospitals, policies that tear at the very fabric of rural life itself.

Midterm Election Results 2014 Summed Up

Gravity – Proved Yet Again

Experiment is the beating heart of Science. The story of Galileo dropping cannonballs off the Leaning Tower of Pisa to disprove Aristotle’s Theory of Gravity remains one of the great examples of the scientific method of all time. More importantly it proved how counter-intuitive Science can be and why Science without experimentation is a joyless and immobile creation.

Imagine a cannonball and a feather. Which will fall faster in a vacuum?

If you are like me your gut screams that the feather must fall slower than the cannonball in a vacuum. After all we’ve seen feathers and other light objects fall before, and they inevitably fall slower than more massive objects. But our perceptions are warped by our experience of not living in a vacuum.

Here is the experiment performed in the world’s largest vacuum chamber. It is simply brilliant.

 

The Council Has Spoken: October 31, 2014

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners


Council Submissions: October 29, 2014

Council Submissions


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A Stay at the Grove Park Inn – Asheville NC

Originally posted at TripAdvisor.

Let me begin by saying I wanted to like this hotel. If the names Stickley and Roycroft and the term “Arts & Crafts movement” mean something to you as it does to me, then you really have no choice but to stay and appreciate the artistry of the wood and stonework the hotel is famous for. But if you are looking for a relaxing stay where you are pampered by staff, or want a base from which to explore the area, forget it. There are other hotels in the area that can accommodate you better.

Asheville is one of our favorite cities and since we are Arts & Crafts aficionados, we had visited the hotel several times but had no reason to stay there. A medical conference being held there last weekend changed that, so we stayed. Our problems started immediately upon arrival. Because the conference started before checkout we arrived before our room was ready and had to park.

Why does parking have to be gated and controlled if everything in the complex is owned by the hotel? It’s not like people would park at the hotel for free and go elsewhere, and the gates were new since our last visit there in the Spring. Our room wasn’t ready until the afternoon so we had to leave the facility for a trip downtown. To leave the gated parking you have to present your room key, but since our room wasn’t ready we didn’t have a key. We were told to press the button for assistance at the gate, but several attempts to do so went unanswered. We ended up paying the $10 to leave.

Which brings up another point. $15 for parking? We’ve stayed in hotels in downtown areas of Dublin, New York City, and Chicago and parking was included with the room. Why the additional charge? Valet is $22 + tip for those who like paying a stranger to drive their cars and I can understand that. But $15 for general overnight parking struck me as cheap and didn’t match my expectation for this hotel.

Nowadays WiFi is almost as important as a private bath while traveling, and at least it’s free here unlike other high-end hotels. But to access it you have to login with your last name and room number. Since we didn’t have these at the time we arrived we couldn’t use them, so I had to use my smartphone to create a hotspot so that I could use my laptop.

These are minor issues but they do suggest a broader problem I have with the hotel: The Grove Park Inn having the same policies applied to it by the OMNI chain that it applies to its other properties right down to the branding “OMNI Grove Park.” It seems to me that it is a corporate directive to play down the Grove Park Inn name in favor of the OMNI brand, making it impossible to find a coffee mug the Wife wanted with the name “Grove Park Inn” on it instead of OMNI Hotels & Resorts.

If the brand OMNI Hotels & Resorts means something to you then perhaps that’s a good thing, but for those of us who appreciate the hotel for what it has been and where it is, then who owns it today is meaningless. The hotel has changed hands numerous times through its history and will know doubt do so again. In fact it has had 3 owners in just the past 3 years and the only constant has been the Grove Park Inn name.

This thoughtless and heavy-handed approach to the hotel by its corporate owners betrays an ignorance and lack of appreciation for this hotel. To its owners its just another property, not a 100 year old historical icon in Asheville. I don’t see how they will be able to succeed at keeping the hotel profitable over the long term without appreciating the hotel’s distinct and unique character and charm and maintaining those into the future.

We stayed in one of the old parts of the hotel and the room was small but acceptable. If you want a palatial suite either pay for one of the newer rooms or don’t stay in a hotel designed when people didn’t require rooms as big as their bedroom suites in their mcmansions. The woods in the room were amazing, and the unassuming Roycroft desk was a marvel of craftsmanship. Although the floor carpet was worn, the bed was comfortable and we had no trouble with the room.

A lot of the directions and advice we received (e.g. leaving the parking area, logging into Wifi) was wrong. They were also overwhelmed the first night of our stay and attitudes struck me as patronizing or snotty. Later in the weekend we had better interactions as the crowd thinned but it was still hit or miss.

An example of this was entering the new Edison restaurant Friday night and seating ourselves at one of the many open tables after standing around for several minutes trying to catch the eye of a waiter or hostess. Although there were numerous empty tables and had been ignored for several minutes, a hostess approached us and said the table was reserved and told us to sit at the bar, which we did. We were then ignored there too. I guess we weren’t young enough to grab the attention of the staff unless we were breaking the rules. We finally got the attention of a bartender and the Wife asked if he could recommend a dry house red wine. He passed her the menu, said “See page 3” and disappeared. We took it all in stride of course but it was amazing to be treated so poorly at the price we paid to stay.

One final recommendation. Because the hotel is at the edge of the city, if you are staying there intending to spend a lot of time downtown there are much better options closer to the heart of the city.

Like I said, I wanted to like this hotel more than I actually did, and I do hope it improves. But Life is short and there are plenty of other options in the area.

Ebola in America: How to Fund Research

This article in the New York Times points out a problem in medicine and the pharmaceutical industry: how to support research and development of treatments and vaccines for rarely occurring diseases or conditions that only affect the poor. As Ebola shows today these diseases have a habit of becoming egalitarian real quickly, citing the Ebola virus and the discovery of a vaccine 5 years ago.

 

Its development stalled in part because Ebola is rare, and until now, outbreaks had infected only a few hundred people at a time. But experts also acknowledge that the absence of follow-up on such a promising candidate reflects a broader failure to produce medicines and vaccines for diseases that afflict poor countries. Most drug companies have resisted spending the enormous sums needed to develop products useful mostly to countries with little ability to pay.

 
Instead pharmaceutical companies chase after profits,  meaning that in the US tens of billions of dollars are spent on new erectile dysfunction drugs and cosmetic treatments such as botox injections, yet treatments for diseases that kill in poor countries such as malaria and chikungunya, or those that only affect a few in wealthy countries have to rely upon charity to fund their research.

Diseases don’t check your bank account before they infect you. Sure some diseases are more prone to the poor than wealthy due to sanitary conditions and other factors, but not all. A disease that strikes the poor abroad can easily take up residence among the wealthy at home, as the spread of HIV proved in the late 1970’s through early 1980’s, moving from Haiti to wealthy enclaves in the US.

So the question arises: How do we develop treatments for diseases that are uncommon and/or appear only in poor countries? Providing money to prevent an Ebola vaccine from being shelved is not a completely altruistic act given the reality of how contagious the disease is. The dollars spent today will not only save lives over there, they will also save our lives here.  But how do we fund it?

Although I hate taxes in principle, why not levy a 5% tax on all elective surgeries and lifestyle drugs? That money could be placed into a pool and used to provide grants for the research and development of treatments for diseases that are too rare to justify researching, or to subsidize treatments of diseases like malaria, Guinea worm, and drug resistant TB. Alternately the corporate tax laws could be amended to deduct the costs spent on these diseases on a 1-1 basis: for each dollar spent a firm’s tax burden is reduced by a dollar. Neither is a perfect solution and both are prone to avoidance, abuse and the usual “unintended consequences” which are inevitable in any public policy change, but the Ebola scare in the US should serve as a wake up call.

Almost a hundred years ago the Spanish Flu influenza virus swept through the country, killing millions of Americans in their primes. It touched every family, rich and poor, black and white, immigrant and native born. In my own family it killed a great-aunt and a young cousin and left two other cousins orphans. A few decades later Jonas Salk tamed the beast of polio which had been the dread of all families that came with the approach of the cool autumn. For the past half-century only HIV has risen to the level of concern, but that virus is actually quite hard to catch. It doesn’t survive outside the body of its host for long and cannot penetrate the skin. Besides we have tamed that with anti-virals, turning what had once been a death sentence into a chronic condition.

Ebola has more in common with the Spanish Flu than it does HIV. It can survive for lengthy periods on surfaces outside of the body. It can penetrate the skin. There is evidence that it can be transmitted through the air. And besides Ebola there are other viruses lurking abroad just a flight away from our borders such as MERS and SARS. Each plane arriving here is a dice throw, and eventually we are going to be on the losing end of the odds.

The recent Ebola scare in the US has shown the authorities are not prepared for another pandemic. It has also showed us the limits of our health care system. We need to take these lessons and learn from them to prepare ourselves and our society for the  next thing Mother Nature is going to throw our way. But America has a wonderful habit of hitting the snooze alarm until the very last minute. Hopefully it will awaken before more die here and millions die there.

The Council Has Spoken: October 24, 2014

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners


 

Council Submissions: October 22, 2014

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


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