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Why Ebola spread in Dallas: Americanism

Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good Government, 1339

We’re number one.  That’s what we always tell each other.

We have the best health care in the world.

Our public safety institutions are number one in the world.

We  are the richest country in the world.

We are supremely over confident.

How many people know that when Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol returned from Liberia with ebola that their care was paid for by Samaritan’s Purse?  I’ll bet a lot of us just assumed that the US government picked up the tab for the flight, biocontainment units, ZMapp doses and hospital stays.  Not so.  So, who is paying for the transport and treatment of Nina Pham and Amber Vinson?

Probably a few more of us have questioned whether money was behind the shoddy care that Mr. Duncan got in Texas.  I have.  I’m betting that his lack of insurance and status as a foreign national had a lot to do with why he wasn’t immediately isolated when he first came to the hospital and why he was left in the ER for hours, some nurses say days, before he was transferred to a critical care unit.

As for the best health care in the world, the nurses were very unprepared for ebola.  The biggest chunk of the blame goes to the hospital.  It’s a hospital for the middle class and those who can afford the best health care in the world.  That’s where people go to have their babies and bypass operations.  Maybe they didn’t associate their kind of hospital with an epidemic in a third world country.  Bad things happen to THOSE people over there in Africa.  Not their kind of people in Dallas.  At best, that’s a benign form of American narcissism.  We’re so used to having clean water and streets and good food.  So, why should the hospital get all Girl Scouty and be prepared for a situation that will never happen to it?  Training for such an eventuality takes time from nurses doing their duties and time is money.  It’s the American way.

The CDC seems to have vastly overestimated the outcomes of our educational institutions, especially our K-12 schools, where everyone should have a pretty good understanding as to where Liberia is.  But then again, Liberia was a state created by former American slaves in the 19th century and Texas is a state notorious for trying to rewrite the past when white Americans might have done bad stuff to anyone.  But still, don’t these ER intake people, nurses and doctors watch the news??  At least one nursing supervisor seems to have been on the ball and insisted on moving Mr. Duncan to an isolation unit instead of letting him shed viruses all over the ER but she was shot down by her administration.  Still, you’d think that a hospital so concerned with its reputation and profits would have been more proactive in limiting the damage that his presence was causing.  Not so, apparently.

And what was the hospital thinking when they gave antibiotics to Duncan when they hadn’t bothered to find out whether he  had a bacterial infection that required them?  Does Texas Health Presby Hospital routinely overprescribe antibiotics?  Is this a hospital or a student health center?

What were Republicans and Democrats thinking when they cut the budget for the CDC by 12% and the NIH by 20%?  Friedan said yesterday that $30 million was restored earlier this year in an “anomaly”.  How the hell are you supposed to prepare for emergencies if you never know what your budget is going to be from one year to the next?  We complain about administrators making decisions for our health care instead of physicians but our bigger problem is that we have politicians making decisions for our disease fighting institutions.  Should the CDC and NIH know in advance what diseases are going to become epidemic on some kind of 5 year plan and ask for the right budget money in advance?  Or are their functions compromised by their unreadiness brought on by this reckless political posturing?

And everyone, politicians, journalists and people who should know better, is under some mistaken belief that the private sector is going to step up and perform the tasks in research and disease prevention that the CDC and NIH were created to do.  But they’re too busy trying to reap profits for the shareholders to engage in such money sucking activities like research. Meanwhile, we underfund the NIH and CDC.  Is that so Republicans can point to what a sh*%%y job government does?  Are they paying no attention to how our scientific infrastructure is being dismantled in this country and concentrated on a few narrow therapeutic areas?  They are leaving a gap that no one is able to fill.

This may be the richest country in the world but the riches are hoarded by some pretty selfish individuals and we don’t seem to be able to get our act together to force them to give up their loot for the greater good.

A little ray of hope came through yesterday when I saw that some television content providers are breaking away from the package deals offered by cable companies to allow viewers ala carte channel selection.  That’s great because eventually I will no longer have to subsidize right wing propaganda from Fox News or be forced to pay for Fox to mislead unsuspecting American viewers.  I’m betting that a lot of like minded individuals across the country will drop Fox from their lineup the second they are able to do it.

But the damage may already be done.  The Senate may fall into Republican hands this November and in the next two years, the predators who have been stalking us since FDR got us out of the Great Depression will finally be able to finish us off.   The willfully ignorant elderly and angry white males will finally stick a fork in us, and allow the extremists to carelessly destroy Social Security, roll back women’s rights and plunge us back into recession with unrestrained austerity.  The only thing that will stand between the power extremists and us will be Barack Obama.  That right there is a very depressing scenario.  But maybe he will have the courage to stand aside when we finally pick up our torches and pitchforks.

We have been living a myth of our greatness.  We’ve been in denial about how government works.  We have told ourselves lies about how we can “starve the beast” that once made our country a formidable force of good around the world.

I’m only glad that the ebola crisis here will be under control before the next session of Congress begins and before the gung-ho, American exceptionalists who take over show us just how unexceptional we are to the hunters who prey on the young, old, and weak.

Section from Lorenzetti’s Effects of Bad Government, 1339

 

More speculation and budget numbers at Angry Bear Blog.

Freaky Weird Prescience (Ebola Post)

Well, it’s not looking good on the ebola front.  We still don’t know why the nurse in Dallas has ebola despite all of her precautions but I’m still not panicking.  My relatives in Houston are probably safe, though what did they say during the Black Death?  Run fast, go far, stay long?  Ok, that’s not really funny and is only encouraging a kind of hysteria that isn’t helpful.  Two ebola patients in Texas does not an epidemic make.  Then again, it’s Texas.

Nevertheless, there is a some speculation that the virus has become more virulent.  Peter Jahrling of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says this may be due to the increased viral load in infected individuals:

You’re seeing all these patients getting infected, so people think there must be aerosol spread. Certainly, it’s very clear that people who are in close contact with patients are getting a very high incidence of disease and not all of that can be explained by preparation of bodies for burial and all the standard stuff. But if you are to assume that the differences in virus load detected in the blood are reflected by differences in virus load spread by body secretions, then maybe it’s a simple quantitative difference. There’s just more virus.

Jahrling says that HIV was actually a hotter disease, primarily because carriers weren’t obvious and were able to spread the disease easily.  It also helped that HIV attacks cells in the immune system, which prevents a vigorous response.  But it’s a little hard to make this argument when comparing it to ebola.  HIV is a long, slow death and we now have drug cocktails to treat it.  Ebola is quick, excruciating, bloody and the lethality is alarming, especially because the treatment options are so few.

Which brings me to the next bit of bad news.  Frances Collins of the NIH says we might have had a vaccine for ebola except our politicians, with anti-governmental fervor, cut funding to those very institutions that might have helped to develop one.  I’d heard from researchers I met in Cambridge who had recently been to the CDC that morale was pretty low and disorganization was high.  Then, I lived through the summer of sequester when university research groups lost a sizable chunk of their funding as grants became more and more unattainable.  Layoffs quickly ensued.

One of the reasons I have been reluctant to pursue a job in research is because the money isn’t there anymore and I’m really sick of layoffs.  And let me make it clear that while scientists like to get paid fairly for the work they do, they don’t work for the money, for the most part.  They just like the work.  It can be frustrating and maddening and discoveries take a long time.  But it is also intensely rewarding in a way that money isn’t.  That’s not to say that we don’t have our own caloric requirements and shelter needs.  Also, no one likes to be exploited.  But bankers and Jack Welch types don’t understand the nature of science or the vast majority of people who do it for what is turning out to be a vanishing living.  But I digress.

The problem is that the patent cliff spooked pharma shareholders and they abandoned American research in search of get-rich-quick schemes and foreign research that isn’t ready for prime time.  At the same time, rabidly anti-government Republicans, abetted by complacent Democrats, have been slashing research budgets.

This is not the same America that we had in the post World War II days.  This is an infrastructure that is rapidly being gutted.  If you have any doubt of how bad things are, consider that Mapp Pharmaceuticals is virtually the only company on the planet with a possible treatment for ebola (we won’t know how the GSK vaccine is doing for awhile yet) and it is a small company in San Diego facing a logistical nightmare.  How does it grow the monoclonal antibodies and purify them on a scale to meet the urgent need of thousands of patients around the world?  Where is the CDC/NIH/Private Industry SWAT team that can get this off the ground?  We are asking this company to do the impossible on a massive scale in such a way that would attract every class action lawyer in the country if there wasn’t a health care emergency.

But it’s even worse than that.  As Collins says, ebola is only the tip of the iceberg.  The vast majority of us will not die of ebola.  We’re going to suffer from other maladies that no one is studying right now.   The funding is low on antibiotics, certain central nervous system disorders, heart disease, etc.  Companies just stopped working on these diseases because the research was expensive and shareholders didn’t think the profits were high enough.

All of this is happening when there is a revolution in biology.  The most ironic aspect of this problem is that thousands of trained researchers have been sidelined right at the same time that there is more than enough work to keep every one of them extremely busy for the rest of their lives.  There’s a profound disconnect between the people who are experienced enough to do the work and the funding mechanisms, either private or public, that will allow it to get done.

I see a lot of fuming on the ebola twitter feed about how scientists should just step up and get it done.  We’re all going to be saved by scientists.  How this is going to happen without funding is anybody’s guess.  It takes money to buy the equipment and reagents and research the papers and feed these scientists who everyone seems to think are going to be self-sacrificing for the betterment of mankind and to save their asses from some exotic African disease.  But as soon as the crisis is over, will we go back to chain sawing through the NIH budget?

From what I can see, neither private industry or our political leaders are taking the threat seriously.  So, I stand by my earlier prediction.  It’s going to take a plague to focus the nation’s attention on our crumbling research infrastructure.  It might as well be ebola.

 

A reminder about ebola treatment

There are a couple of articles about the guy who arrived from Liberia who turned up at a Dallas hospital with ebola.  One is from the DailyMail (UK), which sounds like breathless hysteria inducing gossip mongering, and the other is from Reuters.  I’m going with Reuters for veracity.  In either case, it sounds like this could be serious.  Wait, here’s one more from NBC.

The patient, Thomas Duncan (I’m not using the middle name because he’s not a criminal), reportedly carried an infected pregnant woman to a hospital in Liberia.  That woman later died from the illness.  Then, he takes a flight to Texas.  He’s allowed on the flight because he is symptom free.  Ok, that’s mistake number one.  He probably should have been held in quarantine for the length of time of the incubation period, which can be up to 21 days.  Actually, it probably doesn’t matter if the quarantine happened in Liberia or Texas, though presumably it mattered a great deal to his fellow passengers.  Nah, I’m going with my gut here.  If you’re trying to leave Liberia or one of the other most heavily infected countries, you should be subjected to a quarantine to prove you’re not a carrier.  If Liberia couldn’t do it, Texas, or some other connecting way station in the US, should have.  But then, this is Rick Perryland.  My condolences to relatives that live there.  I know they didn’t vote for him.

Come to think of it, there’s probably going to be a backlash against the African community in Texas that Perry will likewise fail to prevent.  And Texas has all those gun totin’, constitution wavin’, do gooders.  If there is a spread of ebola, plugging one of the patients and allowing infected blood to spill all over Dallas is probably only going to exacerbate the problem.

Which leads to the next issue.  According to the DailyMail (remember, gossip mongering), Mr. Duncan went to a hospital in Texas complaining of symptoms and told the health care workers that he had just arrived from Liberia.  That’s L-I-B-E-R-I-A.  You know, the place with all the sick and dying ebola victims?  That have the same symptoms that he was displaying?  They sent him home with antibiotics.

Now, either somebody wasn’t listening to him or they have the stupidest treatment team in the world in Dallas.  Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses.  I’m going with option one- someone wasn’t listening.  Well, you know, there was probably a language barrier.  I’ll leave it at that.

The NBC article says that Mr. Duncan’s nephew had to call the CDC after the initial treatment in Dallas.  Even he figured out that the health care professionals in Dallas weren’t taking this seriously:

Health officials have acknowledged that Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, was initially sent home from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas when he showed up on Sept. 26 complaining of fever and abdominal pain. He had to return two days later in an ambulance.

That was the day “I called CDC to get some actions taken, because I was concerned for his life and he wasn’t getting the appropriate care,” Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks, told NBC News on Wednesday night. “I feared other people might also get infected if he wasn’t taken care of, and so I called them to ask them why is it a patient that might be suspected of this disease was not getting appropriate care?”

Weeks added that he hoped “nobody else got infected because of a mistake that was made.”

Maybe the insurance time clock alarm went off and the hospital thought he looked remarkably well that morning.  It was probably just a coincidence.

So then Mr. Duncan’s condition worsens.  His family calls an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Before he gets into the ambulance, he vomits all over the sidewalk.  His family is screaming their heads off in panic.  We have no direct evidence that the ambulance team recognized the danger to themselves or others or whether they called a HazMat team or whether they sprayed the area with chlorine and took all of the family members immediately into quarantine.

Hey, this is a convenient time to remind all those right wingers out there that even if you don’t have insurance, the ER is not allowed to turn people away!  Yes, a man in Duncan’s condition can make repeat visits to the ER and vomit all over the chairs while he patiently waits there for hours to see a doctor while the other health care workers obliviously prepare another dose of antibiotics.

Do we know whether Mr. Duncan has insurance?  He’d better because no one in Texas without insurance is allowed to get ebola.  Perry didn’t expand Medicaid. Update: Duncan is not an American citizen.  He’s just here for a visit.  So, we can guess that one of the reasons why the hospital didn’t keep a sick Liberian who was showing signs of possible ebola infection when he first showed up is because they were concerned with the costs.  Oh, yes, my best beloveds, hospitals are more than willing to toss sick people out when it starts to get too expensive for the insurance company.  We have been there.

We really need an investigation of the behavior of the hospital that discharged Mr. Duncan to discover whether this was the result of a bad cost-benefit calculation.  Did the hospital just take a wild bet that Mr. Duncan did not have ebola so they wouldn’t have to keep him in an expensive isolation unit?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Now we come to the treatment phase for Mr. Duncan.  It turns out that ZMapp, the monoclonal antibody (not antibiotic, pay attention, there is a difference), is no longer available.  The DailyMail calls it a “miracle” treatment.  That’s not surprising for the DailyMail but it is misleading, stupid and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding on the part of the “journalist”.  ZMapp is an experimental treatment that had an n of 7 primates before it was thrown into humans.  If the barrier for proving efficacy was that low when I was still in drug design, my project teams would have made the companies I worked for billions several times over by now and would have cured obesity, depression, alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and several different kinds of cancer.  In other words, there’s not much evidence that ZMapp has cured anything yet.  Sure, a couple of patients took the drug but they had excellent care here in the US and that alone might have been enough to cure them.  The body *will* recover on its own if it can stay well enough to mount a vigorous immune response.

Anyway, ZMapp monoclonal antibodies are grown in tobacco plants.  My lab partner had more experience in growing proteins in plants so she could probably talk about this in more detail.  But from my own experience growing proteins in insect cells and e coli, I can tell you that the amount of protein recovered could be minute and the amount varied based on the conditions the cells were grown under.  Grow them too fast or neglect them for even half an hour and you might have to start all over again.  Growing in tobacco plants would seem to give the company a little more control over the product but it still takes time.  Then there is the issue of purification, which still can seem like an art form in some cases.  And the damn things have to fold properly AND they have to not aggregate, which I understand is an issue with antibodies.  They loves to aggregate.  Even if they grow the tobacco at lightening speed and collect as much ZMapp as they can, it’s going to be small quantities of an unproven drug.

Come to think of it, you have to wonder why governments, including our own, are not calling on all of the out of work drug discovery professionals to lend a hand.  Oh, that’s right.  We’d have to be paid and as we all know, government isn’t good for anything.

So, don’t count on Mr. Duncan to receive any miracle cures.  Let’s just hope he gets decent care in Texas to help his body ride out the storm.

In the meantime, I have read that Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) is trying out a vaccine.  I haven’t heard a lot about this but vaccines are generally good things, unless you’re Jenny McCarthy or some clueless control freak, overeducated but bored, suburban helicopter mom who managed to get through college without ever taking a basic biology course.  How much you wanna bet a whole lot of them in Texas suddenly get religion when it comes to vaccines, demanding on TV with righteous indignation that GSK provide freebies of an almost untested, non-FDA approved vaccine? There’s a satire just waiting to be written but it really isn’t funny.  Anyway, I hope it can produce some kind of immune response but it’s probably too late to help Mr. Duncan.

As for the rest of Texas, let’s hope it can survive the bumbling first responses.  Since Mr. Duncan returned to the US, he has had ample opportunity to infect his girlfriend’s kids- who go to school. (See paragraph above)  His poor girlfriend is probably in jeopardy if they had sex without a condom because the virus can persist in semen for a time even after the patient recovers. Well, I’m still not panicking but I’d feel a lot more confident about a vigilant response if Mr. Duncan had landed in Hawaii where everyone is insured, there’s a whole ocean separating the islands and there’s a history of treating people with infectious disease.

Somedays, it just seems like Texas is giving the rest of the country the finger.

 

EBOLA, EBOLA, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! Or not.

Funny, I was just watching a documentary on the Black Death.  Now that was scary.  Once the plague became airborne, you were really in trouble. I can remember the day I spent in Siena, Italy looking at all the plague art.  It was chilling and there was so much of it. And yet, there were still countries, like Poland, that managed to isolate themselves from the epidemic.  So, if there was a way to evade an airborne illness in the 14th century, we’re probably going to do Ok against ebola, which isn’t airborne.

Then again, yersinia pestis was a bacteria and ebola is a virus.  The last time we had a viral epidemic of catastrophic proportions was during WWI with the Spanish Flu.  Still, many of those deaths were caused by cytokine storms, i.e. an overreaction of the immune system.

Nevertheless, the probability that this virus will spread is pretty low and is summarized in the following PSA from Vox:

 

And there you have it.  The way ebola spreads is through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals.  So, the solution to containing any potential outbreak of ebola in Texas is pretty simple: treat the sick and quarantine them and any person who may have had direct contact with them.

There are only a couple of problems with this.  The first is that Texas, like many states run by Republican governors, has not accepted federal money to expand medicaid.  So, we have to assume that every person who gets sick from ebola is insured.  Uninsured people are not allowed to get ebola in Texas.  The virus should be instructed to avoid infecting uninsured individuals.

Secondly, we have to assume that everyone who gets ebola can take a sick day and won’t lose their jobs if they decide to go into quarantine.  That might be more tricky because it is likely that quarantine wouldn’t be voluntary.  The virus should be directed towards people in the leisure class as they can afford to take time off.

We just have to hope we can reason with the virus in case the single isolated case in Texas turns into more than a single isolated case.

If I were the Feds, I’d try to get ahead of those two issues.

Not that there’s anything to worry about.  Because there isn’t (probably).

Well, I’m not going to panic in any case.

 

The Instapaper Queue: September Edition

Straw goes here: Drinking Canadian milkshake

It’s time to see review what was interesting to me in the past several weeks.  Sometimes, these selections surprise even me.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

But before that, I’m still in awe of Ken Burns and his documentary on The Roosevelts.  I don’t know how he did it but he managed to get George Will to champion the New Deal.  Will even admits that FDR stopped stimulating the economy too soon in 1937.  It’s hilarious how Will becomes the voice of reasonable liberalism in this documentary.  I can just imagine what he’s thinking now that it’s being broadcast.  But it’s political genius.  Take one of the most visible conservative twits in America, who has never met a government program he didn’t despise or poor person he wasn’t able to be indifferent to, and make him say laudatory things about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his policies.  It wouldn’t have quite the same impact with Paul Krugman providing the commentary. It’s too easy to pass Krugman off as a shrill socialist.  But making Will explain how the New Deal saved the country from Depression is demonically brilliant.

Now, onto our regularly scheduled instapaper queue review:

First up, here’s a post from Digby about the lack of foreign policy credentials among the potential Republican candidates for president in 2014.  It’s not what Digby says that annoys me, it’s the quote she includes from Chuck Todd.  Here’s the money quote:

Now here’s why I think Mitt Romney, it’s funny you bring this up, because I think the reason why Romney 3.0 has gotten traction is less about Romney, and more about the current issues of the day. I think the Republican 2016 field as we thought we knew it, think Scott Walker, think Chris Christie, think Marco Rubio, think Bobby Jindal, you know, throw those names in. I think if you have issues like national security front and center, that’s an incredibly shrinking, I feel like all of those guys are suddenly shrinking in stature. None of them, if the chief criticism of Barack Obama by a lot of people is you know what, he just wasn’t experienced enough, he just didn’t have a grasp of everything you needed to know to be able to be commander-in-chief, right?

HH: Yeah.

CT: That’s among, particularly among the conservative criticisms. Well then, how does Scott Walker fit into that? How does Chris Christie? How does Bobby Jindal? How does Marco Rubio? You know, they don’t, and so suddenly, Mitt Romney, while not having a lot of experience on foreign policy, certainly running for president and certainly now he can go back and say hey, I made these points against the President, and I look a little more prescient today than maybe some people thought three years ago.

Once we were racists because we didn’t think Obama was ready to be president.  Now, we are conservatives.  The insults just keep on coming.  On the other hand, the rest of the left seems to be particularly slow.  They apparently can not be taught.

Sidenote: I’m constantly surprised that regular Americans would find any Republican candidate fit to be president, regardless of foreign policy credentials.  Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln and Eisenhower wouldn’t recognize that mob masquerading as a political party.

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Here’s a funny short post by Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker explaining why Bernie Sanders can’t get elected president.  The System is set up to spit out people with integrity.  Says Borowitz:

“Bernie Sanders’s failure to become a member of either major political party excludes him from the network of cronyism and backroom deals required under our system to be elected,” said Davis Logsdon, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. “Though that failure alone would disqualify Sanders, the fact that he is not beholden to a major corporate interest or investment bank would also make him ineligible.”

Because of his ineligibility, Logsdon said, the Vermont Senator would be unable to fund-raise the one billion dollars required under the current system to run for President. “The best source of a billion dollars is billionaires, and Sanders has alienated them,” he said. “Clearly he didn’t think this through.”

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Olive Garden isn’t doing so well these days.  Maybe it’s because there has been a shocking deterioration in the quality of the food in the past 10 years?  (Just going by personal experience) No, says hedge funds invested in the Darden Group.  It’s the unlimited salads and breadsticks.  Ok, they have other suggestions too but most of them involve further cost cutting, which I suspect is behind the less than stellar cuisine lately.  Maybe hedge funds should stay out of the kitchen.

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There were THREE articles in The Atlantic about the plight of sleeplessness on the workforce:

Americans won’t relax, Even late at night or on the Weekend

Thomas Edison and the Cult of Sleep Deprivation

When you can’t afford to sleep.

The last one is about low wage workers holding down 2 or 3 jobs to make a pitiful living get no sleep but the other two suggest that someone(s) at The Atlantic needs a break.

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Robert Kuttner at the American Prospect speculates what Scottish independence might mean globally in Could Scottish Independence Set off a Cascade of Secession?  And if Texas and other southern states decides to secede, is it wrong to be giddy about it?

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Vox is trying to figure out which party will win the Senate and can’t figure it out in Why Election Forecasters Disagree about Who Will Win the Senate.

I blame the Democrats for failing to provide the electorate with a compelling reason to vote for them.  Really, people, we’re talking about that crazy mob on the other side.  It shouldn’t be this hard.

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This one is for RSB: How to get over your Ex.  The experts agree, trying to get back with your ex usually doesn’t work.  Get some psychological scar gel and move on.  There’s a reason why you broke up in the first place.

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From Reuters, Pennsylvania Mother who gave daughter abortion pill gets 18 months in prison.  I’ve suggested in the past that women might have to take an RV into the desert and manufacture their own RU-486 but it was mostly tongue in cheek.  (or was it?)  It will be harder to shut down than meth labs.  When all is said and done, that’s they way abortions are going to go in the future.  You don’t want to be pregnant?  Take the cure.  There’s no stopping it.  It will be the quickest way to shut down abortion clinics than any crazy Right to Lifer has imagined.  No more screaming at shocked young girls, no more political football.  That being said, for this medication to be safe, it has to be given before 12 weeks.  The sooner the better.  It’s really important to know the gestational age of the fetus to avoid complications.  I’m not sure what went wrong with this mother daughter partners-in-crime pair but I hope this is a lesson on how NOT to do it.

I feel very sorry for this family.  It’s an all around bad situation.

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Vox has 8 Facts That Explain What’s Wrong With American Health Care.  Number one reason: it costs too damn much.  Note that Obamacare didn’t do anything to curb health care costs like most nations with successful health care policies have done.  No, it simply straitjacketed the country into paying for it- with public money, and without a public option.  It ain’t no New Deal, let’s not kid ourselves.

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From Vickie Garrison’s blog No Longer Qivering on Patheos, another entry in the Quoting Quiverful series, Birth Control Pills are for Selfish Women?  Yes, women who take birth control want to have fun without consequences.  We’ve heard that before.  But what’s the buried message?  Men can selfishly have fun without consequences and have an actual life with independence and that’s Ok.

Why do women actually get taken in by this stuff?

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From the Boston Globe, What’s Fueling Wage Inequality in the US?  From the article:

You might think of low- and middle-wage workers as falling behind in not one but two different races. First, their wages aren’t growing as fast as the wages of higher-income workers. Second, even when the economy does grow, that growth is increasingly flowing to wealthier households that have capital to invest.

Why, you ask?  I think we could go back to Karen Ho’s anthropological study of Wall Street in Liquidated to find the roots of the growing wage gap in the past 60 years.  Another factor is the Culture of Smartness.  Part of it has to do with the idea that people who work, particularly people who work with their hands, are the equivalent to people engaged in “trade” in a Jane Austen novel.  Those 18th and 19th century notions are making a comeback.  It makes it very hard for scientists to get ahead.  For one thing, the best ones are introverted and don’t sell themselves well.  For another thing, they use their hands to explore what is in their heads.  It’s kind of hard to do science any other way.  We used to do research the opposite way before the Black Death and the Enlightenment.  And what was the world like before then?  “poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

Don’t expect the Investment Class to develop a heart.  History shows that they don’t without some stiff persuasion.  But basically, the reasons why wages are falling for most people in the country is because we let it happen.

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Grain Piles Up, Waiting for a Ride as Trains move North Dakota Oil.  Who needs bread?

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Hillary beats everyone in 2016.  Water is wet.  Everyone has been waiting 8 years for her to be president.  It’s 8 years too long and probably too late but she’s the favorite.  Woebetide the party activists and party that tries to stand in the way of the American people this time.  Not saying she is going to usher in a liberal paradise or anything.  I’m just saying American are fed up.  They want the change they were promised but didn’t get in 2008.

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Ebola patient, Kent Brantley says “God Saved My Life”.  Well, he would say that, given that he’s a Christian missionary. He also received the serum from Mapp that we have discussed previously.  He’s an N of 1 and no one’s sure that the monoclonal antibody treatment actually worked. More data required.  I’d like to see clinical trials of God vs Serum.  Could be instructive.

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I think I’ll stop there for now.  There are a few more items in the queue. One probably deserves a post all to itself.

Gotta go.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Pro-choice hysteria

I saw Wendy Davis’s filibuster the other night and was ecstatic to see someone from the left, besides Hillary, actually forcefully defending a woman’s right to choose.  And then I witnessed all of the hysterical, emotional responses from the left blogosphere about just how incredibly awful it would be if we can’t get abortions at any point in time during a pregnancy, and despaired.

Both the right and the left seem to be hung up on something and it took me awhile to pin it down.  Here it is:

Pregnancy is a temporary condition. Motherhood is FOREVER.  

Neither side can get past the first part.  Pregnancy is temporary.  It has a finite duration.  There is definitely an endpoint and you pretty much know when that endpoint is coming so you can prepare for it in advance.

The right would like to extend that period indefinitely and insists that women become instant mothers from the moment of conception.  Women are supposed to love and feel nurturing feelings towards a temporary visitor.  Of course, that works for the right politically and economically on several levels.  Mostly, abortion is a political football and a defining issue for the right.  If the other side is for it, they’re agin it.  But they are agin it for economic reasons as well.  More women staying at home being mothers frees up more of the shrinking pie for the menfolk.  Amiright?  You know I am.  So all this romanticization of the fetus is designed to make mothers stay out of the workforce.  Let’s just be honest about that up front, OK?

The left seems to believe that pregnancy is forever.  It is not. It’s also not punitive or a death sentence.  It is what it is- a temporary condition, like many other temporary physical conditions. And no one can make you be a mother if you don’t want to be.  It is true that labor and delivery is painful, somewhat dangerous, time consuming and recovery can take awhile.  But putting your body through that pain and inconvenience does not make you a mother.  Sure, there are a lot of conservative assholes who would like to shame women for getting pregnant and if women are forced to endure shame for getting pregnant but not wanting to be mothers, that’s something we can definitely work on.  Think of it as a Gay Straight Alliance type activity.  If the state insists that women carry a pregnancy past the 20th week, it really should pick up the tab for that and forcefully prohibit employers from terminating employment of pregnant employees.  Where is that legislation?  Why aren’t women insisting on it?  Where is Wendy Davis when we need that kind of bill?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am strongly pro-choice.  I don’t think the state has an interest in what you do with your womb.  But I do kinda draw the line when the fetus is viable.  I’m not talking about when the fetus is compromised or has a genetic abnormality or when the woman’s health or life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest or when the person carrying the fetus is only a little girl or in cases where a previous legal abortion was unsuccessful. (let me see, have I covered all exceptions?  I think I have)  In those cases, I don’t have a problem with abortions extending beyond the 20th week.  And as for fetuses experiencing pain, I’d be very surprised if TEXAS can’t figure out a way of lethally injecting a human being without pain prior to removal from a uterus.  Please.  Governor Perry has done it 261 times.

BUT…

What one person may consider an unacceptable infringement of their time and persons may be a premature infant worth lifesaving measures to another.  At the point of viability, I have to apply my Good Samaritan test.  If I found a premature infant at 21 weeks gasping for breath at the side of the road, what would I do?  I think most of us would pick up that infant and rush it to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit.  I think I would have the same concern for the fetus who can survive on its own but is not yet gasping for breath.  The difference between an aborted fetus and a premature infant mandating special care is extremely thin at the age of viability.

For every infant, the dividing line between viability and non-viability is different and the call should probably go to a group of physicians.  The danger in that is that you might get a group of rightwing crackpots with an agenda.  But oddly enough, this is how they do it in some of the world’s most progressive countries and I’m assuming they’ve managed to avoid that scenario.  Sweden, for example, allows abortions only until the 18th week.  After that, you need to appeal to a panel of doctors who will make the call and they usually only do it in cases when the fetus or the woman carrying the fetus have some kind of health complication or abnormality.  Otherwise, I suppose, you’re denied an abortion and are back on that train until you reach your destination a few months later.

I don’t hear Swedish women or Norwegian women or Danish women screaming bloody murder or telling sob stories about how hard it is to carry a baby to term or whining that the state is not treating them as fully human simply because it makes them wait out a temporary condition and make some hard choices afterwards. Yes, adoption is a hard choice.  I’m not sure that it is a harder choice than aborting a fetus after 20 weeks though. Yes, they have a lot of social safety net options that we don’t, including socialized medicine.  Maybe we should focus on that instead.  Women who are forced to endure a temporary condition should be given all the support and medical services that women in Scandinavian countries get.  If they don’t want to continue on with motherhood, right wingers should be forced to stuff a sock in it.

But I don’t think there is any really good excuse for someone to wait until the 20th week to get an elective abortion.  Yep, I’ve heard that some ditzy women don’t know they’re pregnant until then.  For some reason, American women seem particularly prone to not knowing they’re pregnant until the fifth month.  The rest of the world seems to have gotten the memo but we haven’t.  I don’t hear any bloggers on the left attempting to explain that disparity.  There MUST be a good reason for why American women wait so fricking long to take a pregnancy test but no one has come forward to tell us why that is.

That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. It’s unfortunate but probably a lot more rare than we would like to admit.  I don’t know how those unfortunate who miss the deadline would react to a Good Samaritan test.  Probably not well.  But it is a temporary condition and if other countries have limits, especially countries with higher gender equality cultures, then imposing a 20 week viability test is probably not going to kill what little gender equality we have here in the US.

What WILL kill gender equality here is all the proscriptions and obstacles women face before that 20 week limit.  And I stand with Wendy on fighting that.  There’s no good reason why we are still living with bronze age tribal morality in the twentieth century.  That’s what is preventing women from being fully human and getting on with their lives after a temporary physical condition.

If buying a gun in Texas were as easy as getting an abortion

Imagine the legislation…

The buyer would have to go to an approved gun dispensary.  The dimensions of the dispensary would be strictly regulated and the dispensary might end up in a seedy part of town in an unmarked building.  The gun dispensary owner would not be allowed to advertise. Because the regulations would be difficult to meet, there would be less than a handful of dispensaries legally licensed to sell firearms.  A person from Amarillo might have to drive to Galveston to get one.

The free speech rights of anti-gun protestors would be protected.  Prospective gun buyers would not be shielded from protestors petitioning or discouraging the buyer from purchasing a gun as long as the protestors do not approach within a certain number of feet from the buyer and refrain from touching the buyer.

It would be illegal for anyone to refer the buyer to a gun dispensary. However, it would not be illegal for an anti-gun organization to masquerade as a gun dispensary for the purposes of shaming the prospective buyer or talking him or her out of buying a gun.  No exceptions to this advice rule would be made for hunters or other people who may have a specific use for guns that does not include the potential for shooting people.

The gun dispensary owner would need to provide proof of education in the types and uses of firearms.  A degree from an accredited university would be the only proof accepted.  He or she would need to be licensed for each type of firearm.  An assault weapons ban might mean that the buyer would have to travel to one of the few places in the country that sells them to get one.

Prospective buyers would be required to undergo mandatory counseling on the use and effect of firearms.  The buyer would not be able to opt out of this counseling.  If the buyer still wants to buy a gun after the counseling, he or she would need to sign a form certifying that they are aware of the dangers of the use of firearms and that using them may cause lifelong emotional damage and sexual impotence to the user.

During the counseling session, the seller will show the buyer photographs of gun shot victims.  The victims will be shown with their heads blown off and their bellies eviscerated.  The emotional anguish of gunshot victims’ families will also be shown in visual and auditory form.  No compensatory images of poor hunters feeding their families will be permitted.  The audio and video portion of the presentation must be intrusive enough to be unavoidable to the prospective buyer.

After the presentation, the gun seller will read the consent form to the buyer again and ask the buyer to affirm that they are aware of all of the dangers associated with the purchase of a gun.  The seller will also be required to discuss alternatives to firearms, such as compound bows, boomerangs, snares and vegetarianism.  There will be an emphasis on vegetarianism to ensure that the teachings of certain religions are promoted with the acquiescence of the state.  Adherence to Hindu or other plant based religions would not be necessary for the buyer, only recognition and understanding of the deep ethical philosophy behind religious vegetarianism.

No exceptions would be made to save the health or life of the buyer.  Medical reasons for hunting, such as a prescribed Caveman Diet to prevent intestinal inflammation of a debilitating nature due to celiac disease, or the existence of a restraining order from a abusive spouse, would not be acceptable excuses for failing to attend the mandatory counseling session or meeting all of the other requirements before obtaining the gun.

There will be a mandatory 72 hour waiting period to give the buyer an opportunity to change his or her mind.

It would be illegal for the counseling to take place over the phone or the internet.

After the waiting period is complete, the buyer would be required to return to the gun dispensary for the mandatory rectal examination of the prostate with an ultrasound device.  The purpose of this examination is to determine the state of the prostate prior to gun purchase and to assure that the buyer understands the risk to his sexual health.  A similar examination will be made of a woman’s rectum for no good reason but if she is engaged in buying a gun, she has already given her consent to an anal probe.

After this examination, the gun buyer would be allowed to purchase the gun and go on his or her merry way, provided walking is still possible.

The above regulations would not be considered intrusive or burdensome to your 2nd amendment right to bear arms.

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