Category Archives: Medicine

The Use of Innovation to Improve Human Life–and Those Who Would Prevent It

A new invention reported by the New York Times this week promises to save us time, money and sanity. LiquiGlide “makes the inside of the bottle permanently wet and slippery,” so that their contents slide out easily. No more struggling to get ketchup out of the bottle–only to have it splatter on your clothes. No more precariously balancing the old bottle of liquid hand soap on top of the new one, for hours, in hopes of transferring the last bits of remaining soap that the dispenser pump could no longer reach. No more drinking tea that is lukewarm due to the minutes it took to extract the last teaspoon of honey from its bottle.

As described in the article, the technology works by means of a

“lubricant [that] binds more strongly to the textured surface than to the liquid [contained in the bottle], and that allows the liquid to slide on a layer of lubricant instead of being pinned against the surface, and the textured surface keeps the lubricant from slipping out.”

LiquiGlide, originally developed to solve “larger-scale industrial challenges, like preventing ice formation on airplane wings and allowing more efficient pumping of crude oil and other viscous liquids,” promises to save consumers quite a bit of money—assuming, of course, that it’s not too expensive to implement:

“Tests by Consumer Reports in 2009 found that much of what we buy never makes it out of the container and is instead thrown away — up to a quarter of skin lotion, 16 percent of laundry detergent and 15 percent of condiments like mustard and ketchup.”

I’ll be interested to hear more about the “edible” version of the lubricant that will be used on the insides of bottles containing food and condiments (its ingredients have not yet been disclosed). But in the meantime I look forward to trying out the technology in what is likely to be its first consumer application: Elmer’s glue, with whom LiquiGlide has signed an exclusive agreement.

In other news, unfortunately, a group of scientists are planning to use the “moral authority” of the United States to delay the use of potentially life-saving technology. At issue: “a new genome-editing technique that would alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited.” According to The New York Times, the technique, which could erase genetic diseases, such as certain forms of breast and ovarian cancer, “has already been used to edit the genomes of mice, rats and monkeys, and few doubt that it would work the same way in people.”

And yet a group of biologists published a paper last week in the journal Science, calling for scientists worldwide to hold off on clinical application of the technology in humans—progress in some countries, recall, is not hampered by an FDA—“until the full implications ‘are discussed among scientific and governmental organizations.’” (The inventor of the technique is the lead author of the article. A similar article, discussing the use of a rival genome-editing technology, recently appeared in the journal Nature.) Their concern is that, in addition to the probability of eradicating genetic diseases, the technology might be used “to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence.” Many ethicists, no doubt the same ones who will dominate the discussions in the “approved” scientific and governmental organizations, believe this genome-editing technology should not be used for either of these latter purposes.

My answer to them: then don’t use it. These biologists are hoping to buy time to “educate” the public about how bad it could be, and thereby to instigate worldwide calls of “there ought to be a law!” so that governments will regulate the use of this technology and prevent its use for “unethical” purposes like—gasp!—the enhancement of beauty and intelligence.

So long as there is no fraud or other rights violations committed by the doctors who implement this technology, we should let the free market decide for what purposes it will be used. It is always evil for government to initiate force against citizens so as to prevent them from benefiting from the fruits of their labor or enhancing their lives. (And yes, this includes preventing the use of genome-editing technology to enhance beauty.) But it is particularly evil to contemplate preventing, to hope to prevent, by force, the enhancement of human intelligence. Given that our rational faculty is our primary means of survival, the potential to enhance human intelligence carries with it the promise of more innovation, more productivity with less effort—in other words, more enjoyable lives for everyone. How dare a group of scientists try to arrogate to themselves the right to make this decision on our behalf?

The good news is that, while we work to change the culture to one that will, at least for the most part, embrace the opportunity to enhance human intelligence and beauty, we can at least avail ourselves of new medical treatments overseas via “medical tourism,” albeit at considerable expense and some inconvenience. While many around the world will be cowed—or coerced—as a result of whatever “consensus” is reached by the “scientific and governmental organizations,” others will likely begin to exploit this technology and offer patients the opportunity to live longer, healthier, happier lives.

As usual, if you like what you’re reading here at News Sandwich, I encourage you to share these posts with your friends and followers. Thanks!

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The Private Sector Reigns Supreme…Again

Good news for Apple fans: the company’s mobile operating system, iOS, as well as its new iPhone 6 devices, feature beefed-up levels of default encryption and–to the horror of our federal government’s “Justice” department–no “back door.” Zack Whittaker of ZDNet argues that the “feds only have themselves to blame” for Apple (and also Google) beefing up their smartphone encryption, because the federal government has failed to scale back the NSA’s bulk metadata collection in any significant fashion. I agree, and I also agree with Whittaker’s (and others’) disappointment in the Washington Post editorials echoing “Justice”‘s call for a “back door” and arguing for a “compromise” on encryption.

Yes, government should be able to compel the production of evidence when it has probable cause and particularized suspicion (and follows procedures appropriate for the context). But government should not be able to compel manufacturers of devices to do its job, to make it unnecessary for the government to approach the device owner directly with the warrant. As Yaron Brook alluded to on Facebook yesterday, it is great to see the profit motive encouraging companies to cater to customers’ privacy preferences.

[Also notable: this story about Twitter suing the U.S. government over limits on its ability to disclose surveillance orders, something about which Apple has also complained.]

Now, if only Apple could figure out a simple and elegant solution to the threats posed by ISIS and Ebola…

The news on Ebola is getting worse, as we learn that a nurse in Spain–who presumably knows what precautions to take and has the materials necessary to take them–contracted the disease while treating two patients who had been brought to Spain for treatment. The nurse’s husband and two others have reportedly now also been placed in quarantine. The Los Angeles Times published a speculative piece, in which one expert opined that “We just don’t have the data to exclude [the possibility of Ebola spreading by air in close quarters].” While it’s natural to worry about a disease that seems to be killing more than half of those who contract it, we need to keep in mind that the assertion about the possibility of airborne Ebola is arbitrary–there is no evidence to support it and therefore it should be dismissed–unless and until such evidence materializes.

While we wait for more information on the transmission of Ebola, it is heartening to read of the Firestone plantation in Liberia, where the tire manufacturer has applied determination and common sense to the task of containing the Ebola outbreak, with great success. “[E]ven as the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded rages all around them, Firestone appears to have blocked the virus from spreading inside its territory.”

It is not surprising to me that a private company has outperformed governments in containing Ebola. In fact, while our own government should likely be doing more–temporary travel restrictions or enhanced screening–to combat the current outbreak, preventing the spread of disease is not a routine government function. Firestone realizes that it is crucial for the success of their plantation in Liberia effectively to contain the virus, and they have acted accordingly. (HT Rick Wilmes, who brought the Firestone story to my attention.)

What is a proper government function, however, is defending citizens against threats of physical force from enemies foreign and domestic. And it is here that the Obama administration’s default is most concerning. ISIS continues to behead western journalists and threaten the beheading of veterans and active members of the military. They are harassing military members and their families via social media. ISIS supporters have even managed to place their graffiti in Washington, D.C. And yet our President and his Secretary of State continue to evade the nature of the threat, or its origin, saying it has nothing to do with Islam and, apparently, everything to do with Syrian rebels needing our assistance.

Thankfully we have some Americans who are willing to speak the truth about the nature of the threat we face. The most unapologetic and outspoken critic of ISIS and Islam of late is, surprisingly, a liberal who most likely would not want to be included in a post praising the private sector: Bill Maher. Here’s the latest in a long series of Maher’s excellent commentary on Islam and the danger it poses:

Check the Real Time account on YouTube for more commentary by Maher, and join me in thanking him for speaking out and telling the truth when no one in our government seems to be able to.

You might also enjoy this from a few years ago: Maher’s “Muslim Dior” fashion show:

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A Sanction-of-the-Victim News Sandwich

As someone who has been an outspoken critic of the NSA and the third-party doctrine that purports to make their intrusive data-collecting legal, I was heartened to read that several of the major technology companies–Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL and LinkedIn–are calling for the United States to lead a worldwide effort to limit online spying. The companies are advocating “new surveillance principles…includ[ing] limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information, setting up a legal system of oversight and accountability for that authority, allowing the companies to publish the number and nature of the demands for data, ensuring that users’ online data can be stored in different countries and establishing a framework to govern data requests between countries.”

Most notably, the companies urge that indiscriminate bulk data collection be forbidden. The Times’ authors describe the tech industry as a “powerful interest group” that could have a tremendous influence on this debate. Let’s hope so. It is great to see businessmen stand up for their and their customers’ rights for a change!*

I hope the healthcare industry will do the same. There is so much bad news about Obamacare right now, that it’s difficult to decide which story to include here as single item of “bad news.” There’s this story, in which the Financial Times reports that the new Obamacare exchange health care plans will exclude top hospitals, “including two world-renowned cancer centers.” Just to show you how far the medical care industry needs to go before it can get to where the tech industry is, note that the Financial Times says that “some hospital administrators” are worried about this development and “see the change as an unintended consequence of the ACA.”

You don’t need the equivalent of an Edward Snowden to reveal the true agenda of big government in medicine: the history and very nature of socialized medicine tells us to expect developments like this. And yet hospital administrators, people who should know the industry, and who have already been dealing with government intervention in it, see this as an “unintended consequence”? And then there’s the woman who heads government relations for the Mayo clinic, who says she’s concerned that NOW “the full spectrum from primary to top speciality care, [is becoming] commoditized.” Can someone please tell this woman that the whole reason Obamacare was passed in the first place is because a bunch of politicians whined that health care was too much of a commodity, and that the government needed to come in and fix that? Of course what she means is that, now with additional government involvement in the health care industry, costs have increased even more, making top quality healthcare something fewer and fewer will be able to afford.

And then there’s this story, in which an Obamacare Architect admits that if we’d like to “keep our doctor,” then we’ll just have to pay a lot more to do so. And this story, about the errors in the Healthcare.gov website forms, errors so significant and pervasive that one in four Americans who enrolled at the website in October and November may not even have health insurance come January 1!

Thankfully there is one segment of the health care industry that seems to be waking up to the truth about Obamacare–right here on the left coast! Richard Pollock of the Washington Examiner reports that “An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange and won’t participate….” Apparently California doctors just learned in September of this year that their compensation rates for caring for exchange patients would be pegged to California’s Medicaid program–a program that has one of the lowest compensation rates in the country. To expect doctors who live in a state with one of the highest costs of living to accept one of the lowest compensation rates for their work is unconscionable. It’s no surprise that some doctors are considering not just refusing to participate in the exchanges, but, according to Dr. Theodore M. Mazer, a San Diego ENT doctor interviewed by the Examiner, they are also considering retiring early. Moreover, the Examiner reports, many doctors have been listed as participants in Obamacare plans on exchange websites without their permission! Covered California, which alleges that 85% of doctors will be participating in the exchanges, could not be reached for comment on the accuracy of that figure, or of the doctor listings on the exchange web sites.

Kudos to the doctors in California who are standing up for their rights and boycotting the exchanges. Shame on Covered California for concealing doctors’ compensation rates until the last minute, for trying to manipulate doctors into participating without giving them that information and for, apparently, lying about which doctors are participating in exchange plans. This is the sort of behavior that would get a private company brought before an alphabet-soup agency for investigation, fines, etc. I hope California’s doctors won’t let them get away with it.

*FYI, I’ve submitted a much shorter version of my forthcoming law review article on the third-party doctrine to a major blog for publication. As soon as it’s published, I’ll let everyone know. I hope it can have some influence on the debate as well.

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