David Kirkpatrick

December 21, 2009

Health Care reform is coming

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:19 pm

And the form of the reform is taking shape. It’s a major issue in the U.S. and an insanely hot button topic in politics, made even more in modern politics after the defeat of Hillarycare in Clinton’s first term. I’ve stayed largely on the sidelines on heath care reform and have mostly sought as unbiased as possible ideas and opinions. I did think it was a strategic mistake for the GOP to effectively take itself out of the serious sausage-making of the bills and just throwing random poop at the walls to see what resonated as a decent attack line.

I’ve finally read one piece that makes me feel quite a bit better about the legislation that will hit Obama’s desk sometime in the near future, “Testing, Testing” by Atul Gawande in the December 14, 2009, issue of the New Yorker. Gawande is a M.D. and a regular New Yorker contributor and has written on the challenges of receiving and practicing medical care in the current climate. This article is measured, doesn’t really take any of the partisan sides other than to acknowledge something has to be done to change the status quo, and lays out a vision where the current legislation could start an ongoing process of continued improvement in heath care and its administration.

Whichever side of the reform debate you stand on, this article should be a priority read for a glimpse into what could be with the current legislation. It’s not going appease anyone who opposes the bill on either extreme, but it should make anyone who reads the article feel a bit better about the future of medicine in the United States.

In the article Gawande lays out parallels between the agriculture reform efforts of the twentieth century and the current effort at health care reform.

From the link, here’s the concluding graf:

Getting our medical communities, town by town, to improve care and control costs isn’t a task that we’ve asked government to take on before. But we have no choice. At this point, we can’t afford any illusions: the system won’t fix itself, and there’s no piece of legislation that will have all the answers, either. The task will require dedicated and talented people in government agencies and in communities who recognize that the country’s future depends on their sidestepping the ideological battles, encouraging local change, and following the results. But if we’re willing to accept an arduous, messy, and continuous process we can come to grips with a problem even of this immensity. We’ve done it before.

October 2, 2009

Synthetic biology in the marketplace

Synthetic biology is one of those technologies you’re going to be hearing more and more of in the near future. That is if you haven’t already run across the field after this article was published in the September 28, 2009, issue of the New Yorker. Here’s some news about Ginkgo BioWorks, a company in the marketplace right now creating well, synthetic biological material.

From the final link:

In a warehouse building in Boston, wedged between a cruise-ship drydock and Au Bon Pain’s corporate headquarters, sits Ginkgo BioWorks, a new synthetic-biology startup that aims to make biological engineering easier than baking bread. Founded by five MIT scientists, the company offers to assemble biological parts–such as strings of specific genes–for industry and academic scientists.

“Think of it as rapid prototyping in biology–we make the part, test it, and then expand on it,” says Reshma Shetty, one of the company’s cofounders. “You can spend more time thinking about the design, rather than doing the grunt work of making DNA.” A very simple project, such as assembling two pieces of DNA, might cost $100, with prices increasing from there.

Synthetic biology is the quest to systematically design and build novel organisms that perform useful functions, such as producing chemicals, using genetic-engineering tools. The field is often considered the next step beyond metabolic engineering because it aims to completely overhaul existing systems to create new functionality rather than improve an existing process with a number of genetic tweaks.

May 12, 2009

Dan Baum on the New Yorker

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:56 pm

Well, really on his time at the New Yorker. It’s a very cool tale and worth the read.

Oh, by the way he published it (at least initially) on Twitter. Fun idea, interesting use of Twitter and worth the time and difficulty to go back in Twitter time and read the whole thing.

Here’s a tweet from Dan for those who are a bit too lazy to read this in its original (and maybe original ought to be highlighted here) form:

I will be posting this account, in proper order, at www.danbaum.com. Thank you for your patience.

You can find Dan on Twitter at http://twitter.com/danielsbaum and you can find at http://twitter.com/davidkonline.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

December 10, 2008

Bill O’Reilly v. Hendrik Hertzberg

This is a very funny account, from Hertzberg’s perspective, of an O’Reilly-created flap between Hertzbert, Newt Gingrich and O’Reilly based on Hertzberg’s commentary in the New Yorker about Gingrich’s reaction to Anti-Prot 8 protesting after election day.

I’ll have to say I think the New Yorker, and editor David Remnick got the best of this entire exchange.

From the link:

Update: One more exchange between Ron Mitchell, the O’Reilly producer at Fox, and David Remnick, from late this afternoon (Friday, December 5th).

Mitchell to Remnick:

 

Much has been said about all this over the last few days. I just still want to make sure that you are comfortable with the whole situation. If you think that you have not been treated fairly, please let me know, and we can do something with you on the air.

 

Remnick to Mitchell:

 

Dear Mr. Mitchell,

 

Thanks for your courteous note. It’s an interesting contrast in tone with the the fantastical on-air description of Rick as a left-wing zealot, the nonsense that he had refused a real interview before sending a crew to his apartment building, and the sneering descriptions of Rick, me, and the magazine from Mr O’Reilly on air. Quite a performance. So while I appreciate your note, you’ll forgive me if I pass in wanting to engage this any more. What I said at the start stands: I thought Rick’s piece, considering Newt Gingrich’s language, was, as you might put it, fair and balanced.

 

Respectfully yours, David Remnick

December 5, 2008

The financial meltdown is not slowing

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:19 pm

On top of this week’s bleak jobless rate report, not one bit of economic news seems very heartening. I guess the biggest upside (if you can call it that) is the fact everyone finally agrees we are in a recession.

All the head-in-the-sand, la-la-la-la-singers out there are at least facing reality. That’s a start. If they had a bit more contact with “Main Street USA,” a major presidential campaign topic, they’d realized this thing has been going on for a long, long time. The US may not be in a new Depression just yet, but our economy has a lot of Americans in depression.

From the link:

The year-long U.S. recession has taken a turn for the worse recently, two top Federal Reserve policy-makers said on Thursday, raising expectations for aggressive policy action by the central bank as soon as next week.

Separately, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urged more aggressive steps to halt home foreclosures, one of the most visible outcomes of the severe U.S. downturn.

Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans said that the economy is “contracting markedly” as consumer spending sinks and the jobless rate rises, and that a recovery might not be on tap until 2010.

“The outlook has clearly deteriorated” in the past six weeks, Evans told reporters after a speech to the Michigan Bankers Associationin Dearborn.

Evans’ comments were echoed by Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, who spoke at an energy conference in New Orleans and termed the near-term outlook “not encouraging.”

“Employment is expected to weaken further,” Lockhart said. House prices likely will continue to fall, with a further erosion of household wealth, while consumer spending will likely decline at least for the next few months.

If this financial crisis has grabbed your interest, or if you’d like a bit deeper analysis than daily Dow Jones reports and jobless announcements, the New Yorker published “Anatomy of  a Meltdown,”  by John Cassidy in the December 1, 2008 issue. That article can be found here.

It’s a bit long, but it does explain the steps the Fed has been taking for a whole lot longer than the general public understands to try and put “a finger in the dike” as the original strategy was phrased. Obviously that strategy was a non-starter and now we are staring down flat-out corporate socialism in the United States.

I highly recommend spending the time with Cassidy’s breakdown of the current financial crisis. He presents a very thorough timeline of actions taken, failures seen only in hindsight and a national economy still careening out of control.

From the New Yorker link:

The most serious charge against Bernanke and Paulson is that their response to the crisis has been ad hoc and contradictory: they rescued Bear Stearns but allowed Lehman Brothers to fail; for months, they dismissed the danger from the subprime crisis and then suddenly announced that it was grave enough to justify a huge bailout; they said they needed seven hundred billion dollars to buy up distressed mortgage securities and then, in October, used the money to purchase stock in banks instead. Summing up the widespread frustration with Bernanke, Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank in Washington, told me, “He was behind the curve at every stage of the story. He didn’t see the housing bubble until after it burst. Until as late as this summer, he downplayed all the risks involved. In terms of policy, he has not presented a clear view. On a number of occasions, he has pointed in one direction and then turned around and acted differently. I would be surprised if Obama wanted to reappoint him when his term ends”—in January, 2010.

October 11, 2008

John Stuart Mill and liberty

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:54 pm

Adam Gopnik has an excellent essay in the October 6, 2008, issue of the New Yorker on John Stuart Mill and his contributions to modern liberty.

Here is my favorite passage from the piece (link goes to the entire article):

It’s also true that many things the Victorian Mill couldn’t even have imagined being asked to tolerate have come to be tolerated under the sway of the argument he began. The idea that people would demand the freedom to practice sodomy would, I think, have astonished Mill as much as anyone else in his day. (The topic isn’t mentioned anywhere in his writings, though Bentham did write a courageous essay against hanging men for it—and then thought better of publishing the piece.) Yet, demanded on Millian grounds—no harm; no foul—the freedom has been granted. In a sense, social conservatives like Rick Santorum are right: there is a slippery slope leading from one banned practice to the next. Give rights to blacks, and the next thing you know you are giving rights to women and sodomites and then the sodomites are renting formal wear and ordering flowers for their weddings. The slippery slope is what Mill called liberty. Every time we slide a little farther down, what we find is not a descent toward Hell but more air, and more people breathing free.

(Emphasis mine.)

July 16, 2008

The New Yorker, Obama and “the cover”

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:50 pm

It looks like Obama’s taken the opportunity offered by the New Yorker cover illustration controversy to speak out on and defend Muslim-Americans.

From the link — the question is from Larry King on CNN:

How do you fight that?

OBAMA: Well, you know, by getting on “Larry King” and telling everybody I’m a Christian and I wasn’t raised in a Muslim home. And pledge allegiance to the flag. And, you know, all the things that have been reported in these e-mails are completely untrue and have been debunked again and again and again. So, all you can do is just tell the truth and trust in the American people that over time, they’re going to know what the truth is.

One last point I want to — I do want to make about these e-mails, though. And I think this has an impact on this “New Yorker” cover.

You know, this is actually an insult against Muslim-Americans, something that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about. And sometimes I’ve been derelict in pointing that out.

You know, there are wonderful Muslim-Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things. And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it’s not what America’s all about.

I’ve blogged on some of the smears Obama has faced here, here and here.

Whatever effect the New Yorker cover is having on the election, it seems it may be biting the venerable magazine where it really hurts — the bottom line:

Rumors have swirled inside Condé Nast that advertisers also were upset with the latest rhubarb, which depicts Barack Obama in Muslim garb and wife Michelle as a machine gun-toting radical.

And:

While this type of controversy is the last thing a publisher needs in these troubled times, certainly if it gives advertisers pause, the timing is especially bad for The New Yorker.

The magazine is now among the most troubled magazines at Condé Nast, and it remains to be seen if the current controversy upsets the title’s tenuous hold on profitability.

Through the July 7 issue, The New Yorker is down a staggering 21.2 percent in ad pages to 699.69, compared with the same period a year ago, when it racked up 887, according to Media Industry Newsletter, which tracks the industry.

July 8, 2008

Words to live by

Filed under: Arts, et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:08 pm

Here’s a quote from author G.K. Chesterton found in a New Yorker article by Adam Gopnik titled, “The Back of the World” in the July 7 & 14 2008, issue. (Sorry no link available)

I think this is a great way to approach the daily activities of life:

… An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.

January 20, 2008

Tsunami Tuesday

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:28 pm

Hendrik Hertzberg writing a Talk of the Town piece in the January 21, 2008, New Yorker described the February 5 primaries as “Tsunami Tuesday.”

I haven’t heard that one before, and think it’s brilliant. At least much, much better than “Super Duper Tuesday” as it’s been dubbed in some circles.

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