Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

An impressive pass from a USC grad to defeat Big Ben and the black-and-gold menace. I'll bet Vince is happy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I love public schools.

Doubtless, you all have heard of the kidz singing the praises of President Obama. While it is obviously a tiny tempest in a very small teacup, the following lyrics are a little annoying:

"He said red, yellow, black or white / All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm! / Barack Hussein Obama"

The lyricist is no Jay-Z. I think what rankles most is that it is a stolen line from a rather trite children's Sunday School song, "Jesus Loves the Little Children." I much preferred the spontaneous "Obama's Going To Change the World" hit* of 2008 -- now those were good lyrics.

*BTW, where's my frickin' happiness?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fred's Transmission

As I was watching Notre Dame nearly blow a game to an inferior opponent(again..), a commercial for Fred's Transmission aired. I had to actually go to the website to make sure I wasn't hearing things.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Immaculate Deflection

In some weird way, this helps with the pain.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good news for chemists?

The just-released Baucus plan is reviewed at the New York Times' blog on the health care debate. Here's the headline: "Baucus Plan Pleases Drug Makers, but Not Other Groups."

From the post:
"Analysts for Barclays Capital wrote in a report Friday for Wall Street investors that “insurers continue to be singled out as the villains of the debate."

The drug makers also got what they wanted from Mr. Baucus in guarantees against direct price negotiation by the government over the cost of drugs in Medicare. The Baucus bill is silent on a House proposal to wring rebates from the pharmaceuticals industry for the higher cost of drugs sold to people who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare since 2006.

Finally, the longstanding Democratic proposals to allow the reimportation of cheaper drugs from Canada is nowhere to be found in the Baucus bill.

So, under the Baucus proposal, here is what the industry has agreed to:

*Accept a total of $23 billion in new fees over 10 years

*Provide drugs at half price in a Medicare coverage gap known as the doughnut hole

*Increase Medicaid rebates to 23.1 percent for patented drugs (up from 15.1 percent now) and 13 percent for generic drugs (up from 11 percent).

*Support a new regulatory pathway for approving generic equivalents of biological drugs — the often expensive products from the biotechnology industry, including many cancer drugs, that so far have been generally exempted from generic competition.

And now, while insurers, device makers and labs step up their lobbying against the Baucus proposal, the drug industry is expected soon to roll out a new TV ad campaign to support it.
So PhRMA has gotten a lot of big things from this: no renegotiation of Medicare Part D, no reimportation. In exchange, they're shilling for the plan and they're also "supporting" the biosimilars campaign that Waxman is pushing. I think the biosimilars campaign is the biggest long-term concern for the industry; biologics are considered more profitable, longer. (P.S. I will laugh my head off if biogenerics/biosimilars turn out to have significant unintended medical consequences.)

Let's not be coy here: the industry that many of us directly or indirectly work for is politically powerful and was able to cut a deal. It remains to be seen whether pharma management can take the revenue given and deliver innovative and profitable drugs -- that's where we come in.

I think what's likely to come out of the House/Senate conference is more likely to be close to the Baucus deal than not. But that's just speculation -- don't exhale just yet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A little motivation.

I was sitting at the table, eating dinner with my daughter and I glanced at the sports section, which was bemoaning the loss of the Bears' inspirational middle linebacker, Brian Urlacher:

And I looked a little closer at his wristband, to see what they write on there. Little did I know, he had a little extra motivation for himself:

It's not quite Billy Ripken, but it'll do.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cui bono?

I don't know if anyone else heard this NPR story, but I found it rather wrong-headed.

What is the public option? So far as I can tell, it's a government-run insurance program that will, through competition with private plans, provide a minimum level of insurance to all comers.

Frankly put, do doctors care where their money comes from? If they are rational actors, the answer is no. As long as someone else is paying the bill (and not looking at it), why should they? So why should we care about the opinions of physicians on whether or not health insurance companies need competition?

My fundamental theory about the 2009 version of health care reform is "who's taking one for the team?" Here's my list, in order of likelihood: insurers, pharmaceutical companies and actual health care providers. Anyone disagree?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Crazy, boring NFL predictions

1. The Colts? 9-7 and do not win the AFC South.
2. The Patriots do not go to the Superbowl.
3. The Vikings? Do not make the playoffs.

Clearly, I'm nuts.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Claims of communism go way back....

Obama Education Watch: making the right people unhappy

Obama and Arne Duncan continue to push the idea of merit pay, much to the consternation of progressive policy magazines.

"One of the major developments in education policy this year has been the Obama administration's continued, focused attention on the issue of merit pay, despite a lack of strong evidence linking such programs to increased student achievement."


Monday, September 7, 2009

Yes, Mr President...

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event
Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Jane's Law wins again

One of my favorite libertarian writers is Megan McArdle, who coined Jane's Law in 2003:

"Jane's Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane."

This came to mind for two recent reasons:

- This NYT article notes many of the serious conservative policy types whose objections to the Democrat congressional plans have been drowned out by the Beck/Palinites. Sigh.

- The recent GOP hubbub over Obama's speech to children is more than a little bit overheated. I imagine that by making their objections known now, they may have forced the President's speech to be even more carefully devoid of political content.

As a conservative, I am happily pessimistic about the chances of the Republican party in the near-future (next 7 years or so.) As Clemenza would have said, "These things gotta happen every five years or so, ten years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Conservatives Are Created...

No, I am not talking about the unborn child in this picture. I am talking about anyone who sees this picture. It's hard to support universal healthcare with this image in mind. Doesn't she know that the overhead powerlines are a much greater concern than jackhammers?