Half a million Americans have died of opioid overdoses in recent years. “In the 12-month period ending in April, more than 100,000 Americans died of overdoses” according to The New York Times on November 18. That’s the story of Dopesick (on Hulu), a personalization of Beth Macy’s best seller about how the opioid crisis became the huge story it still is. The evil forces that precipitated this massive fraud on the American public is remarkable because there are so many villains.
Ross Douthat is a prominent editorialist for The New York Times. He contracted Lyme Disease and now suffers from the effects of a disorder that some in medicine don’t accept—chronic Lyme Disease. The details of how the disorder is manifested clinically is less important than the fact that many of the symptoms are non-specific and it’s a brutally hard diagnosis to make and even harder to treat. In fact, as I understand it, there is no accepted treatment for this disorder and there are some in the medical establishment who doubt it exists.
In August of 2019, The New York Times devoted one of its entire Sunday Magazine volumes to the 1619 Project. This is essentially the brainchild of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. The idea behind it is that the true history of the United States began in August of 1619 when the first slave ship deposited its human cargo in Virginia and the process that led to the enslavement of what was once about 20% of the souls in the United States began.
The United States has become a country in which a 17-year old male can bring his semi-automatic weapon into a city in which he does not live that is in the midst of a Black Lives Matter protest (that was bound to turn violent) and kill two people while wounding a third and get away with all of it.
On Friday, November 19, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of any of the five charges against him including murder. As I understand it, the burden was on the prosecution to prove that he killed the men (this was never in doubt) and that he DID NOT do so in self-defense. The prosecution did not meet its burden.
Bjorn Lomborg has been writing a series of opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal on climate change. His latest from November 11 (see above) discusses the cost of doing something about climate change and the cost of not doing something. His argument is that there is a balance between these two and the goal ought to be to optimize (i.e., minimize) the amount society spends on dealing with global warming.
He makes good sense. There’s an opportunity cost to almost everything. There’s the cost of doing and the cost of not doing. Lomborg presents a graph derived by Nobel laureate William Nordhaus that plots the delicate balance we should be striving for in spending on battling climate change vs. the amount climate change is costing us.
At about 2 PM on Friday November 5, The New York Times web site posted that the previous decision by the University of Florida to prohibit three professors from testifying for the plaintiffs in a law suit where the state of Florida is the defendant had been reversed. The three–Daniel A. Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon D. Wright Austin—can testify and be paid to do so, as is usually the case when academics testify in court as long as they do so on their own time. Why does this matter?
The question at hand is what happens when a state is a defendant and professors from that state’s university are testifying against the state? Are the professors caught in a conflict of interest between the people paying their salaries against whom they are testifying and their own freedom of speech?
In a small insert on the Opinion page of The Wall Street Journal on October 27, Thomas Bonnett describes the arc of his career. He went into the work force right out of high school. He began with blue collar jobs eventually switching to the white collar track where he applied the people skills he learned in his blue collar jobs. After twenty years in administration, he became an executive making more money than many of his heavily degreed colleagues.
Mr. Bonnett writes that such a career trajectory would be unlikely now. Even the most menial jobs in a large corporation require college and advanced degrees, but not necessarily true skills as he points out college seems not to teach writing or reliability.
Daniel Henninger wrote in The Wall Street Journal on October 14 about manufactured realities and their prevalence in today’s world of on-line memes and Twitter truths.
He starts by noting that Joe Biden is trying to convince us that his Build Back Better plan with a current price tag of near $2 trillion will actually “cost nothing.” Nancy Pelosi managed to echo this sentiment by holding up her hands like a zero.
This is all nonsense of course.
On Tuesday evening, November 2, the Houston Astros lost their chance to vindicate their tainted 2017 World Series victory. In that year, they were accused of cheating by sign stealing. Undoubtedly, for the remaining history of baseball, that World Series win will be in question. The 2017 Astros were not the 1919 Black Sox of their day, but close. Thus, all of us Astro fans were hoping that a victory in this year’s World Series would go a long way toward ending the recriminations about the 2017 season. Alas, it was not to be. The Houston bats forgot to show up and the Atlanta Braves won in six games. It is likely that the veteran Houston infield of Bregman, Correa, Altuve and Gurriel may never play together again. They have the record for most post season games as a four-man unit. Carlos Correa’s contract is up and it’s likely some other team will make him an offer he can’t refuse. This loss was bitter, but the Astros held their heads up and lost with dignity.
In a front page article in The New York Times on November 1, Amy Harmon does a great job of getting all of us unwoke to wake up by describing the language being used on the left to describe individuals in groups that have historically been excluded, or at least that’s what it seems she is trying to say. I learned about groups I had never heard of in her piece. Here are a few.
BIPOC means Black, Indigenous, or other person of color.
Latinx refers to people o Latin American descent exclusive of their sexual proclivities or gender identity. That’s what the x means.
Birthing parent or pregnant people so as not to discriminate against trans people.
I am getting some questions with regard to the results of Tuesday, November 2’s elections. Many can be answered in Bret Stephens piece in The New York Times on November 4.
The two races of major consequence, the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, were most revealing as this blog had said they might be.
On October 25 I wrote about a professor at the University of Chicago who was cancelled by MIT from delivering a talk there. His name is Dorian Abbot and he has an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal on October 30. He explains the position that got him into difficulty.
Essentially it can be summed up in a single phrase, the respect of the individual in all aspects of human endeavors, but especially in academia.
As Michelle Cottle notes in The New York Times on October 29, the Virginia governor’s race is giving us a preview of what to expect in 2022 and 2024 when it comes to electoral politics. In that race, former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe is running against a Trump clone named Glenn Youngkin. McAuliffe was not allowed to succeed himself by Virginia law so this is his second run, but not in a row.
Virginia has become a reliably blue state of late, but the polls show the two candidates running neck and neck. Why?
A long-form front page article in The New York Times on October 26 by Patrick Kingsley describes a ten-day automobile journey from the top to the bottom of Israel with many stops in between including Tel Aviv and the West Bank. It was the Israel I have come to know over my four trips. It is a place as complex as the United States and for largely the same reason. It’s complicated. It’s diverse. Things are contentious, especially the people although I do love Israelis and enjoyed spending time with the few Palestinian Arabs I was able to meet.
As someone who spent many years enforcing “the rules” of research, particularly clinical research, I appreciate the importance of having rules in most walks of life. That was certainly true of human subjects research, animal care and use, and biosafety when I was the designated inmate for research administration at MD Anderson from 1995-2007. The rules surrounding conflicts of interest, as this blog has noted on many occasions, are still being written. Until they truly eliminate conflicts, those rules will be wanting and those the rules are aimed to protect will still be vulnerable if they break their fiduciary responsibility to academic integrity and patient care by pledging dual allegiance to science and their wallets.
Another place that rules seem to apply is on a movie set. Who knew?
One of the many things I do not understand is cancel culture. Why is it so important to demean another person for his or her stating an opinion, even if it vehemently disagrees with yours? I know I write a blog that tends to vilify Donald Trump, but he’s uncancellable