Vaginal Rejuvenation, Chipotle Gift Cards, Ginger-less Ginger Ale, and Critical Thinking

Critical ThinkingA plethora of news stories in recent days reminded me why I’m of the opinion that the solutions to many of the problems we face today lies in teaching Critical Thinking skills from an early age. Solutions will never come from government warnings and the illusion we are safe because of such intervention does more harm than good.

Let’s take a look at the trio of stories that caught my attention. The Food and Drug Administration is now attempting to shut down various Vaginal Rejuvenation clinics whose services have no known efficacy and, if improperly performed, can cause harm. Many people have been fooled by a fake $100 gift card for Chipotle. Finally, a woman is suing Canada Dry because there is no ginger in their Ginger Ale despite advertisements that suggest there might be such.

What do all these things have in common? The people who are harmed lack Critical Thinking skills. In the first case, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been vociferously lambasting Vaginal Rejuvenation as a scam for over ten years. Anyone who goes in for treatment of their body without doing at least a cursory investigation of the procedure about to happen is clearly not engaged in Critical Thinking.

At least some of the people who fell for the Chipotle scam gave away personal information to the scammers in order to get a free $100. Probably the motto of the Critical Thinking movement should be: Nihil est in vita liber. Nothing is Free in Life. If you thought Chipotle was going to let you purchase $100 worth of food for simply passing along a web link you are clearly lacking in Critical Thinking skills.

In the case of the ginger less Ginger Ale, the ingredients are on the bottle. Certainly, the advertising is designed to fool but if you want to make sure you get your daily dose of ginger, then it is imperative for you to look at ingredients.

All three of these problems require no government intervention. Certainly, if a medical procedure is botched there should be ramifications and the legal system can be invoked, but that would be for doing damage, not for you getting a stupid procedure that doesn’t work when there was readily available information to that effect.

We may look at the people fooled in all three cases and happily pat ourselves on the back for being too smart to avoid it but the reality is more sinister. As more and more people exhibit an inability to engage in Critical Thinking, the fabric of our society becomes unwound. Those of us capable of making good decisions are increasingly harmed by those who cannot. When a certain percentage of people in a society can no longer think critically, the society will most certainly be crushed.

More and more people entertain ludicrous conspiracy theories and act in ways that can potentially harm us all. This is dangerous for me and that’s the person I care about the most. I don’t really care that a bunch of idiots are harming themselves, that’s the way the world works. I care they are harming me.

How do we solve this problem? There is no way to account for everyone’s gullibility and stupidity. Some people will be foolish no matter how much we warn them. However, if we start teaching Critical Thinking skills at every step of the schooling process I’m of the opinion we will do far more good than any number of government regulations designed to protect us.

Nihil est in vita liber.

Tom Liberman

Faith Healers in Idaho and the Law

Faith HealersThere are a number of people in the United States who don’t believe in seeking medical attention because they think such efforts should be left to a divine being. These Faith Healers die quite frequently and so do their children. That’s where we run into a difficult situation involving the Constitution of the United States and the obligation of government to protect children.

If a legally capable adult foregoes medical treatment, there is nothing to be done about it. Faith Healers base their actions on religious beliefs. In the United States the government is not allowed to interfere in such cases. However, children are not legally capable of making their own decisions. If a parent is physically, mentally, or emotionally harming a child; they are generally breaking laws.

In many states, it is possible to intervene in a situation where a child’s life is being endangered by withholding medication, but not in Idaho, where I went to college. Many of the people in western states, including Idaho, strongly believe in individual liberty. I wrote a blog not long ago about how one of the most important lessons I learned while at the University of Idaho was avoiding interfering in another person’s business. It’s not right to tell them how to live. Thus, is not surprising Faith Healers have legal protection in the state.

Any metric based study of modern medicine indicates, without a doubt, medical intervention saves many lives. Many of the children and adults who die in the families of Faith Healers would still be alive today if they were treated.

Where does Idaho have an obligation to step in? Where should we mind our own business? Is it proper to stand by and watch a child die when they most likely could be saved with medical intervention? Is it proper to allow families to treat their children as they see fit?

Much as it pains me to say, I think the state should stay out of these situations. The children have no say into what family they are born into and their fate is avoidable and terrible. The onus for their death falls not on the state, not on me, but on their guardians who chose not to seek medical care. Horrible as it is.

One would hope that children who survive in such a family, who witness their siblings’ avoidable death, would choose to leave such a religion. That eventually no one would believe in Faith Healing and no children would die unnecessary deaths. Sadly, their death is the price of liberty, of freedom. It’s a terrible and painful price. An awful price for children who had no say in the matter. I do not deny this.

It’s not always easy to believe in individual liberty when the people practicing it are incredibly stupid. When this stupidity results in the death of their children.

Tom Liberman

Flu Shots Save Lives but Not All of Them

Flu-ShotThe CDC just released a study on 358 children who died from influenza in the years 2010 through 2014. What I’d like to discuss today is the disconnect between hard metrics of statistics and the reality of personal experience. I think this study gives a good chance to fully examine the issue.

Despite hard statistical evidence in favor of one thing or another, people will reject it. They will eschew them even in a case like this where the lives of their children might be impacted.

Here’s the idea. Basically about half of all children in the United States received the flu vaccine in the time frame of the study. That means in a random world about 179 children who got the vaccine should have died and an equal amount of those who did not should have suffered the same awful fate. The study shows in actuality about 268 children who were not vaccinated died while only 90 who were vaccinated died.

The implication are fairly obvious. The chance of your child dying from influenza is reduced if they get a flu shot.

Here’s the problem. Ninety children who did get the vaccine died. Meanwhile millions who did not get the vaccine did not get sick at all and certainly did not perish. Only a small percentage of children in the United States died from complications of influenza. There are ninety sets of parents out there who will swear that the vaccine is useless because their child died. There are millions of parents whose children did not get the vaccine and are alive today.

Statistically speaking there are about 189 children alive today because they got their flu shot. But there is no way to identify those 189 children. It is difficult to argue against the parents of the children who died after they received the vaccine. It is difficult to argue with the personal experience of millions of parents whose children were not vaccinated and are alive and healthy.

Personal experience often flies in the face of numbers and it’s not easy for anyone to overcome such anecdotal bias.

People tend to believe what they want to believe and in this case I’m certain quite a few people will continue to eschew the vaccine. They will not suffer because of this. Only a tiny percentage of people will suffer the horrible loss of a child.

This is why I think it’s important to teach Critical Thinking from an early age. We all tend to give credence to our experiences over a statistical study. It’s human nature. I understand it. That being said, the lives of 189 children depend on convincing people empirical studies are more important than personal experience.

Do you get your flu shot?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

The Fools Rush to Limit Opioid Prescription Length

john-kasich-opioid-lawsGovernor John Kasich and the legislature of Ohio just joined Governor Chris Christie and New Jersey in limiting the length of prescriptions for Opioids to one week. Of the new law Kasich said, We all need to stick our noses into somebody else’s business.

Before I go on a Libertarian induced rage rant let’s examine why this is happening.

Pharmaceutical companies have been pumping out enormous amounts of opioids like fentanyl and doctors have been prescribing them in equally large numbers. While the authorities have been quite aggressive about jailing opioid dealers who aren’t pharmaceutical companies and doctors they have largely allowed these two groups to garner huge profits. Meanwhile the people being prescribed the drugs eventually run out of their prescriptions and resort to illegal sources for their addictions.

The thought process behind the limit of seven days rather than ninety days is that there will be fewer unused pills to sell to the black market. And because there will be fewer of these legally prescribed pills somehow this will magically reduce the market for them. Somehow no one will come along to fill the void in true supply-side economic fashion.

What will the new law actually accomplish? It will make it horribly inconvenient for people in terrible pain to get the pills they need to make it through the day. This law punishes the critically ill. It must be noted cancer patients and people in hospice are exempt but that leaves a lot of other people in a difficult situation. People who are critically ill don’t really want to go to the doctor once a week for their prescription and then have to pick it up. They are, you see, critically ill and in horrible pain.

So we’re making life a living nightmare for a group of people to reduce opioids on the street. But will there be fewer illegal drugs for people to purchase? Of course not. Where there is a demand there will be supply. Price goes up. People in terrible pain and addicts will have to pay more. And how do they get this money? Generally by stealing from other people.

Addiction is a terrible thing and I’m all for decriminalization and treatment. This law doesn’t help anyone and it hurts lots of people.

Well, that’s not true. It helps politicians like Kasich pretend they are doing something about a terrible problem. Next time you vote, remember they aren’t helping anyone but themselves. That’s the only way to bring about change.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Regulation Quagmire of EpiPen

epipenEpiPen is in the news and many people are angry.

There is, in fact, quite a lot to be angry about. The government encouraged the entire thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not absolving Mylan and CEO Heather Bresch of wrongdoing. They took advantages of a system to steal perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars from both the government and average people. But the system is all but designed to be abused.

EpiPen is a medical device that injects a measured dose of epinephrine. It was brought to market in 1987 after approval from the FDA. Things get quite complicated from there and I’ll try to summarize as best I can. If you want to know the entire sordid story read the Wiki article.

Basically the manufacturer of the device changed hands many times. Each time the new company aggressively sought to protect their patent, buy out competitors, and maximize their profit. The most recent company to acquire EpiPen is named Mylan.

The United States government helped Mylan greatly with draconian patent laws. In addition the FDA makes it extremely difficult and expensive to introduce competitive drugs to the market. Using these two factors to their advantage EpiPen managed to control a monopoly on the drug.

Price Gouging is largely not illegal so EpiPen can charge whatever they want for their product, and they did. However, if getting competitive products to the market was not so difficult, if the government did not tacitly help Mylan maintain their dominance in the market, bargain price manufacturers would certainly have undercut Mylan and restored the market to an equilibrium. In a word, capitalism.

In addition Mylan used a private non-profit called the National Association of State Boards of Education to influence, read bribe, state and local governments to pass laws protecting schools from all liability when using EpiPens. This meant schools across the nation purchased that particular product because it was legally, thanks to state government, less risky. The close ties between Mylan executives and the NASBE, Heather Bresch’s mother is the president having been appointed after large donations from Mylan, is disturbing if not illegal.

Into this mix comes Medicare. Medicare is an enormous government agency designed to make sure elderly people don’t go without medical care. Among their many regulations are different fees for generic and brand-name drugs. Generic drugs pay a significantly smaller rebate. Mylan listed the EpiPen as generic when it was clearly brand-name. This meant they didn’t rebate the government as much for purchases, to the tune of about $100 million. I can only guess agents in charge were bribed to ignore the listing.

How was all of this possible? I’ll tell you. Because the government is overly involved in business. If the government didn’t help Mylan get the monopoly in the first place the price issue wouldn’t exist. If the government didn’t have an insanely complex regulatory system associated with Medicare then taxpayers wouldn’t have paid Myland tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions for EpiPens. If state and local governments didn’t incentivize schools to purchase EpiPens in enormous numbers they wouldn’t have done so.

There aren’t simple answers to these problems. I don’t pretend there are. But I wouldn’t mind if people took note of the complicity of government in the EpiPen mess. In government’s integral role in the fraud. Mylan used the government but the government is designed to be used. It begs unscrupulous business owners to join the party.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Schefter Tweets Medical Records of Pierre-Paul

HarrisonSchefterThere were a number of tragic stories about misuse of fireworks over the Independence Day weekend and one of them involved a football player for the New York Giants named Jason Pierre-Paul.

A football analyst named Adam Shefter regularly posts scoops when it comes to the NFL and sports in general. He is the one who first reported that Pierre-Paul had his finger amputated and included an apparent picture of the medical records proving it happened.

Hello Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). At this stage were not sure how Shefter obtained the image but a retired football player by the name of James Harrison had a choice tweet about the incident.

James, I’m in agreement with you, buddy.

I’m not a lawyer but I’m guessing that Shefter is not in violation of HIPAA because he is not an agency that has medical records. Whoever gave him that picture could be in a whole heap of trouble. That being said, I’m am firmly of the opinion that what Shefter did was reprehensible, vile. Shefter works for ESPN and I’d be willing to bet suspensions are coming and those right quick.

The underlying problem, besides Shefter complete lack of moral fiber, is the news hungry world in which we live. The most important thing is to break the story first and get all those clicks. Clicks mean money in a very real way. Shefter is under a huge amount of pressure from his employer to get the story. That’s how he makes a living and that’s how ESPN stays in business. Virtually every media outlet in the world now puts speed and sensationalism ahead of getting it right.

Before we blame the journalists for everything we must accept our own responsibility in the matter. We are the clickers. We created this environment, they are just feeding us.

Not that I’m suggesting a big suspension isn’t in order. I’m just saying this is the nature of the world we have created. If you don’t like it, your only recourse is to practice a little click control. I’m not holding my breath.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition – Release date: late August 2015