Off With Their Thumbs

March 31, 2009

I propose that the top 2% of earners in the US have their left thumbs amputated under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services. Of course, this would be done under the proper medical supervision and with all necessary anesthesia and post-operative analgesia. We are a humane country. Left handers would have the option of having their right thumbs removed. Read the rest of this entry »


Adam Smith and the Current Economic Crisis

March 30, 2009

The following two quotations from Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) speak to our current economic malaise with magisterial prescience. They could be summarized as (1) nobody hates capitalism more than capitalists and (2) think carefully before you make a law to benefit a private enterprise. Asking the legislature to think under any condition is probably a request beyond the possible.

1. People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or some contrivance to raise prices.

2. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufacture, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the the competition is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they would naturally be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who generally have an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have upon many occasions both deceived and oppressed it.

Of course,were Smith around today he likely would put many other groups which regularly petition the Congress in the same box with the dealers; most unions would qualify for inclusion. The public, alas, yearns to be deceived. Were it otherwise no politician would ever be re-elected.

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Two New Pages Added

March 29, 2009

I have added two new pages under medicine-opera that contain two talks given to the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation in the nineties:

Presentation of SSCI’s Founder’s Medal To Manual Martinez-Maldonado (1991)

SSCI Founders Medal Recipient’s Address (1996)

They’re found in the pages panel to the right.

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Cost of Medical Care in 2007

March 25, 2009

The aggregate cost of medical care in the US in 2007 was $2.26 trillion. That used to be a lot of money before the federal government started spending trillions like they were millions. The pie chart below shows how this cost was distributed. It also is rising faster than GDP and has been doing so for almost a half century.

medical costs

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La Sonnambula in HD

March 21, 2009

la-sonnambulaMary Zimmerman’s new production of Bellini’s gentle masterpiece which was booed after its first performance at the Met was sent all over the world today. And it wasn’t the worst thing since Jacopo Peri. It wasn’t even in the same league of awfulness as Calixto Bieito or Robert Wilson. It was just ordinary silliness. Part of it was even effective. Amina sang “Ah! non credea mirarti” on a narrow platform jutting out over the orchestra. The ridiculous “Aria” scrawled on a blackboard which was scathingly criticized by almost everyone was removed or Barbara Sweete’s video direction hid it. But I don’t think it was there. Ms Sweete is still addicted to closeups. This habit was mitigated by the personal attractiveness of the performers, but she needs to back off. So, would I have booed Zimmerman on opening night? No. But I wouldn’t have applauded either. Read the rest of this entry »

Screening for Prostate Cancer – Yet Again

March 20, 2009

It seems to be impossible to drive a stake through the heart of this issue. The current New England Journal of Medicine has two more studies and an editorial on the subject. One (Mortality Results from a Randomized Prostate-Cancer Screening Trial) concludes “that prostate-cancer screening provided no reduction in death rates at 7 years and that no indication of a benefit appeared with 67% of the subjects having completed 10 years of follow-up. Thus, our results support the validity of the recent recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, especially against screening all men over the age of 75 years.” Read the rest of this entry »

Glück, Das Mir Verblieb

March 18, 2009
Erich Korngold

Erich Korngold

Erich Korngold’s opera Die Tote Stadt (first performed in 1920) is best known for its aria “Glück, das mir verblieb” also known as “Marietta’s Lied”. Less well known is the tenor version of the same tune which closes the opera. The first line is the same but thereafter the tenor (Paul) sings different words to the same melody. Read the rest of this entry »