Category Archives: politics

Here is some data for Southern AZ peeps, if they’re gonna call Congressional Offices

Inspired by a DrugMonkey post, here is some useful data on NIH funding for those in Southern Arizona.

Congressional 8th District: Giffords
DC phone: (202) 225-2542
Tucson phone: (520) 881-3588
Total NIH funding = $5,760,729
UA is technically not in Gifford’s district so most of this is to private companies, but we all know those companies locate here due to interactions with UA (or are spinoffs from UA).
Most of us UA funded NIHers live in Gabby’s district so its probably also worthwhile knowing data for Congressional 7 (physically contains UA)…

Congressional 7th District: Grijalva
DC phone (202) 225-2435
Tucson phone (520) 622-6788
Total NIH funding = $187,058,087
Almost all of that is to UA. Not small potatoes! A 3% cut on that means a $5,611,743 hit to the Tucson economy. That number is slightly exaggerated due research expenditures that leave here but assuming a (very reasonable) 75% salary outlay per grant its still $4,298,807.

Goldmine at NEJM

My previous post led me to peruse the Health Policy and Reform page at NEJM, which I had not seen before. Some very interesting and pertinent data and opinions there. I love this idea from Moses and Martin:

Create a New Class of Bonds
States and the federal government might issue bonds to support innovation in biomedical science and health services, with preference given to high-risk research and diseases important to public health. Such bonds have long been used to support athletic facilities, airports, and roads. They provide a mechanism for private investment to meet public needs.

Potential NIH budget cuts

Surely everyone has seen the news of the new proposal to return NIH budgets to 2008 levels. Calls for those of us in the public sector research enterprise to call or write our Congress Critters are coming from all of our professional organizations right now. If you’re going to call or write your rep, it might be worthwhile to have some numbers in hand to remind that staffer of the impact of NIH research. We all talk about impact on health outcomes, etc., and maybe some of us talk about economic impact of NIH investment but the role of NIH research in private sector development has been harder to pin down (and some of the previous adversarial industry vs. academia spats have not helped). A major argument I have heard from Republicans is that while NIH research is nice and all, the main driver for health care innovation is the private sector. The primary innovation area is widely viewed as pharmaceutical development. This brand spanking new NEJM paper throughs a serious wrench into that argument.

For the too lazy to click crowd, here is a pretty table from the paper:

My favorite part of this, and the argument I am going to use, is that new indications for existing drugs is coming almost entirely from public sector research. There are serious cost savings opportunities to be found going this route and FDA approvals for new indications is just the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately for me, my rep, who is almost always responsive to these things, is not able to do the job she has done so terrifically for the past several years right now. I have a feeling, though, that her friends, family and staff can be counted on for strong NIH funding support so I’m gonna ring up the local office.

President Obama’s visit to Tucson: Together We Thrive

Let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

President Obama
Tucson, Arizona
January 12, 2011

There is a special kind of guilt that overcomes you when you have the opportunity to hear the man who has inspired such a sense of hope in you for what is possible in this country when it is surrounded by such tragic circumstances. The entire experience was like a surreal dream. I have imagined what it must be like to be present for an Obama speech but never thought I would have the chance to be at one, and much less to be at one when the community in which I live is in desperate need of healing. The entire audience was fixated on his presence and message in a way that I have not experienced previously. Suddenly this seems like a much better place to live and I think about 10,000 people in that arena (and ~15,000 in the overflow venue) feel the same way.
Continue reading

Tragedy in Tucson (about 5 miles from my house)

My first thought upon hearing the news was terror. One of my dearest friend’s wife (also a dear friend) is active in the local Democratic party and would be very likely to be at the event this morning. He would likely be there too. To make matters worse, the Safeway is across the street from their house. I called him, he’s home sick and she’s at a Democratic party meeting but not at the event. Great relief.

Back to the TV. They report Giffords is dead. I call my wife, who is in Mexico visiting her parents. We talk for 30 seconds. I break down not even realizing that the line has gone dead. I’m sitting there crying into the phone thinking I’m talking to my wife and the phone rings. I realize the line cut out and get a little laugh. I’ve got it back together and we’re talking. She works in the hospital and has experience with the trauma team. Her thoughts are on what’s happening in the hospital so we’re talking about that. TV reports that Gabby is alive… Continue reading

The state in which I live is a complete and utter disgrace

This disgusts me beyond my previous comprehension.

Silence is the Enemy

Join the fight against sexual crimes against women by participating in the “Silence is the Enemy” campaign. Read Nicholas Kristof’s NYTimes piece that inspired Sheril Kirstenbaum’s post on Discover Blogs starting the campaign. Join the Facebook group. And go read about science on Scienceblogs where many of the bloggers are donating their page-view proceeds to Doctors without Borders in an effort to stop the violence and to bring needed medical attention to its victims. Finally, write your congress-person and let them know that you expect to see political action to reduce crimes against women worldwide.

Its time to stop this war

Mexico is teetering on the edge of all-out internal war between the government and the drug cartels. The latest news indicates large ramp-ups of troops sent to Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. It is my opinion that Mexico is acting in the most responsible way it can to curtail the influence and horrendous violence practiced by the drug cartels but it is becoming increasing clear that this is a war they (we) cannot win. But it is a war with an immediate solution, legalization of illicit drugs in the United States. It is clear that our thirst for illicit drugs drives the violent actions of the drug cartels. Until this market is eliminated the war will have no end and innocent people on both sides of the border will continue to live in terror.

I have a stake in this, I admit. A large portion of my extended family lives on either side of the Texas-Mexico border. They live in what used to be sleepy little mining and farming towns that have now become increasing targets for drug cartels as violence spreads East from Cuidad Juarez and West from Nuevo Laredo. While it would be an exaggeration to say that they are living in fear right now, it is obvious that the drug cartels are shifting their sphere of influence to these areas and that soon the entire border will turn into a war zone. Violence will increase, innocent people will be killed for no reason, decent politicians will be corrupted or killed, young women will become targets for sex crimes and imprisonment in the sex trade and economic opportunities for honest, hard-working Mexicans will dry up. In my view, there is only one available solution: legalization.

The Economist has an article up now arguing for this solution and stating how it might be put into practice. The reasoning is solid and the practicalities are persuasive. In particular, they argue that legalization will improve society’s ability to deal with addiction disease in a more thorough and rationale manner:

What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.

By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope.

It is time to rethink our failing approach to the drug war. Mexico needs our help to pull itself back from the brink of all-out war. The immediately available solution is the reformation of our illegal drug laws. It will reduce violence in Mexico, it will improve Mexico’s economic outlook over the long-term, it will help addicts and it will reduce the burden on our prisons.

I don’t get it… or maybe I do

The news is all over the place that Geithner’s plan was vague and that it caused the markets to drop. I’m no economist, but I did watch Geithner’s speech and I found it to be quite excellent. Quite excellent for 2 reasons:
1) He was absolutely clear that from now on there will be transparency
2) He was clear that a new priority is to help struggling or failing homeowners
It was time that these priorities were made clear for all to see. Me thinks that investors may be scared at the idea of transparency and those that were sold today, but that’s just my opinion. Continue reading

The crappy economy just hit home

Some of you may be aware that many states are in real financial dire-straits. Arizona is one such state. We have a strongly faltering economy (largely because of the popped housing bubble in Phoenix), a governor who is leaving for the new cabinet and legislature made of whackaloons. All of this means bad news for education budgets but I never imagined it could get this bad. Continue reading