The Emergency

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The Book of the Week is “The Emergency, A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in A Chicago ER” by Thomas Fisher, published in 2022.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, friendly bedside manner disappeared in the Emergency Room of the author’s employer, a medical center affiliated with the University of Chicago, on Chicago’s South Side. The author, a medical doctor, was tasked with judging whether to put newly arrived patients on ventilators.

Already a stressful place, the Emergency Department was put under excessive tension when an edict was issued that everyone entering the building was required to cover his or her mouth and nose (with any old piece of germy fabric or a plastic shield; most wore the fabric). The authorities perpetuated the scientifically questionable assertion that covering one’s face (with anything) would stem the spread of disease.

BUT, requiring the country’s entire population to wear medical masks would be impractical and unenforceable. There wouldn’t be enough medical masks for everyone; meaning, masks that would filter one’s toxic exhalations, allow one to breathe relatively easily, while presumably, disallowing most germs from entering and exiting one’s mouth and nose. So, instead, across the country, there was rampant abuse of power by numerous officials in controlling the population with petty, dishonest mask-orders.

Anyway, a nearby Chicago hospital had no more ventilators, and another had only three on hand. A patient might not have COVID, but still might be struggling to breathe because she had heart failure from postpartum cardiomyopathy. The author decided to treat a young patient such as this one with magnesium, additional Lasix and nitroglycerin instead of a ventilator, because she would be more likely to survive than an older patient in poor health who had severe COVID.

“Still, too many physicians and scientists accept that the inequities around us emerge from inside the body we treat, rather than in relation to prevailing societal structures or systems… But it is society that shapes the population-wide patterns we see.”

This volume presented, in a series of anecdotes on the patients admitted and treated by the author, reasons why this country desperately needs NATIONAL HEALTHCARE. It is the right thing to do at this time in history. Other reasons can be found in this blog’s posts:

Morphine, Ice Cream, and Tears. (sic); Chasing My Cure; Clinging to the Wreckage; and I Shall Not Hate.

Read the book to learn of the physical and psychological traumas suffered by not just patients, but also caregivers, that could be prevented or minimized by improving policies in national healthcare in the United States.

Dr. Folkman’s War

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The Book of the Week is “Dr. Folkman’s War, Angiogenesis and the Struggle to Defeat Cancer” by Robert Cooke, published in 2001.

In the 1970’s, Judah Folkman was a competent surgeon and a very popular professor at Harvard Medical School, but his first love was medical research. He hypothesized about why and how a tumor grows. He inferred that blood vessels grow toward a tumor, but was unable to provide proof for a very long time. He was ostracized for having this radical idea, so he had difficulty attracting enthusiastic graduate students to assist him, and with getting funding for his research.

Traditionally, university medical studies in laboratories had been funded by government grants. Profiteering from patents and medical products resulting from research was considered sleazy in scientific circles. In 1974, Harvard broke the taboo and partnered with the large, profit-making organization called Monsanto.

Even after receiving generous funding, Dr. Folkman worked around the clock simply because making new medical discoveries requires months or years of blood, sweat and tears. The materials required to do experiments can be expensive, messy, odorous and pose unanticipated problems. For a while, Folkman’s lab was working with vast quantities of cow and shark meat (and other obscure, problematic materials) because the animals’ cartilage contains no blood vessels.

Even after the doctor’s studies yielded exciting breakthroughs, media articles influenced the medical community and the public in ways that were harmful to Folkman’s research operations. There were even accusations of fraud against him. It turned out that in his team’s haste to treat cancer patients, many errors were made. Time was of the essence, and procedures for organized data collection were lacking. Folkman wasn’t deliberately trying to deceive anyone.

Folkman was a rare bird in that he was quite altruistic with his time and talents. His patience and persistence allowed him to ignore his detractors and the naysayers (most of whom were jealous). He eventually acquired an area of expertise that not only spawned a new way of thinking about cancer treatment, but also led to treatments for other medical conditions, and whole new industries, including biotech. He also helped shatter a myth in cancer treatment. But this additional idea of Folkman’s still might not be fully accepted in oncology circles (due to GREED), even two decades after the writing of this book.

This is what he learned: The approach to cancer-drug delivery to a tumor of:

“low [dosage] and slow [buildup over the long-term]” was shown to be superior to

“might makes right” and come in with guns blazing; in the past, it was hoped that immediate, large doses would eliminate the tumor before metastasis, and before the patient died from the deaths of too many healthy cells that were also killed in the process.

In other words: The patient’s treatment should begin with a low drug dosage, and if that proves ineffective, increase the dosage gradually until it is effective. Folkman’s experiences with patients showed that that was the successful way to go, and he even saw a few miraculous cures.

Read the book to learn many more details on Folkman’s trials and tribulations and the reasons for them, and what transpired when he finally found vindication.

Did Elon Musk Lose Your Favor – BONUS POST

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As is well known, the messaging-clutter in the United States has reached a screaming crescendo. Here’s a question in connection with the tenor of the times.

DID ELON MUSK LOSE YOUR FAVOR

sung to the tune of “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor” [1961 Hits Archive] with apologies to the estate of Lonnie Donegan.

Oh [bleep], oh [bleep], oh you.
Whatever shall we do?
And YET one more bleep.
The question is so deep.
At stake is big-time dough.
Politicos want to know,
the pollsters’ Twitter question:
Is it yes or is it no?

Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?
If the critics say just quit it,
do you keep your account in spite?
Do you seek out all the radicals?
Do you follow the Left or Right?
Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?

Here he COMES with excessive pride.
His atTORNeys by his side.
THOSE lies and smears
everywhere are stoking fears
that our country could be wrecked.
But free speech is guaranteed,
and as Musk has trouble with control, he wants to take the LEAD.

Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?
If the critics say just quit it,
do you keep your account in spite?
Do you seek out all the radicals?
Do you follow the Left or Right?
Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?

Now the nation’s split in two.
Democracy will come through,
at every level, yeah, every single level.
Each side keeps the other in check.
We do it with Big Tech.
The most influential voices keep the candidates neck and neck.

If a price tag’s made of a price,
what’s a hashtag made of? [Boom, boom]

Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?
If the critics say just quit it,
do you keep your account in spite?
Do you seek out all the radicals?
Do you follow the Left or Right?
Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?

By poor judgement overnight?

You’re the best, and Twitter loves you, and it wants to make things right.
It’s going to be the most trendy, uncensored social media site.

By poor judgement overnight?

A spade is a spade and
a fact is a fact.
He’d sing another chorus but
he’s afraid of getting hacked.

By poor judgement overnight? Yeah!

The Vortex

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The Book of the Week is “The Vortex, A True Story of History’s Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation” by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian, published in 2022. This multi-faceted story involved a massive number of deaths due to (cue the dramatic music): the Great Bhola cyclone (what would be called a hurricane in the Western Hemisphere), a cholera epidemic, dictatorial political shenanigans, atrocities and genocide; plus heroic international aid workers who were horribly hindered in their disaster-relief efforts. Sorry, no romantic subplot– this wasn’t a movie; all of this actually happened within the space of about three years. But at the end, there was the founding of a new nation, called Bangladesh.

Even decades after geographic separation of various religious and ethnic groups into: A) India, and B) a sovereignty of two discrete land masses (East and West) that comprised newly formed Pakistan in 1947– hostility still reigned. In Pakistan, anger and resentment simmered between the Muslim Punjabis in West Pakistan who spoke Urdu, and the Hindu Bengalis in East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh), who spoke their own language.

In the mid-1960’s, general Ayub (“Yahya”) Khan, who became Pakistan’s leader in 1969 [For more information, see this blog’s post, “The Rape of Bangla Desh”], ordered Pakistan’s military to attack India. The United States imposed economic sanctions on both Pakistan and India for childishly fighting. Pakistan allied with China. India allied with the then-USSR.

In August 1969, American president Richard Nixon tapped Yahya to be the contact to introduce him to China’s leader Mao Tse Tung. In exchange, Yahya wanted to purchase arms for Pakistan. Nixon violated the then-arms embargo against Pakistan to sell it armored personnel carriers and B-57 bombers.

In 1970, there occurred a quantum leap in hurricane-forecasting technology what with a new satellite called ITOS 1 that gathered real-time data on the Northern Hemisphere for the National Hurricane Center. Nevertheless, because they had no clue a storm was coming (the new forecasting technology had yet to reach Central Asia), almost all local residents drowned when the Great Bhola cyclone hit the delta near Manpura island in November 1970. A month later, fifty million Pakistanis were voting for the first time in their lives.

A few months later, American weapons were killing the Bengali people. Nixon was supporting Yahya. The latter’s military leader whipped up a Nazi-level frenzy of hatred against the Hindus, massacring them with .50 caliber machine guns and destroying– via American M-24 Chaffee tanks, jeeps and F-86 jets– key communication, political, educational and law enforcement structures in the city of Dacca in East Pakistan.

Unsurprisingly, all of the above was accompanied by a boatload of radio propaganda put out by Yahya’s side. But later, radio broadcasts helped the Bengalis. Anyway, Nixon aided and abetted Yahya in various additional ways to achieve his own political aims. Refugees fled to India, and where, counterintuitively, military camps trained Bengalis (technically Pakistanis) to resist the Pakistan Army. Indians had always been sworn enemies of Pakistanis. Still, it was in India’s best interest to see the Bengalis win the war and break up Pakistan.

There have occurred countless historical tapestries such as the aforementioned in which a complex bunch of circumstances resulted in millions of deaths; one thing led to another. The authors argued that the especially severe cyclone played a major role in giving scheming politicians an excuse to abuse their power even more. They asserted that more severe storms are occurring due to the earth’s changing atmosphere, and such natural disasters in turn trigger a series of events that increase global conflicts.

BUT, arguably, global conflicts have waxed and waned throughout history, regardless of natural disasters. There are four major causes of global conflicts (that are present in different combinations):

  • fighting over limited (and /or exploited) resources;
  • tribal hatreds;
  • religious hatreds; and
  • territorial disputes.

Present-day events (!) have shown that humanity is making slow, slow, slow progress towards a total net amount of good versus evil on earth– even with all the advances in early-warning systems for disasters and the striving for more widespread humanitarian activities. Cases in point: once-Communist countries have changed for the better in certain ways in the last thirty years, and there is less colonialism in the world than there used to be.

Unfortunately, advances in technology and charitable aid still trigger profiteering and political exploitation with their attendant propaganda. Alpha males with hubris syndrome with their greed and power-hunger still rule most of the world. Bottom line: human nature doesn’t change, but globally, human beings overall, are evolving.

Anyway, read the book to learn many more story-details, involving: how Nixon (and his evil sidekick Kissinger) came extremely close to instigating a nuclear war against the USSR in the Bay of Bengal; the fates of various political and military leaders; and the hapless common people of Pakistan, and the aid workers who passionately tried to help them.

The Education of A Speculator

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The Book of the Week is “The Education of A Speculator” by Victor Niederhoffer, published in 1997.

Born in 1943 in Brooklyn in New York City, the author sorted “market advisers and investment newsletter writers” into eight different categories, providing a brief description of their behaviors or personality traits. He classified himself as “The Other World Person” because he ignored the overpaid noisemakers and distractions of conventional media outlets that purported to convey information on which securities to buy, sell, or avoid.

The author’s two data sources for his commodities, currency trading and investing ideas consisted of the National Enquirer and his research results from testing all kinds of variables in statistics-calculations of past securities-market data using software. No other sources.

The mid-1990’s saw great advances in statistics software modeling that could process scads and scads of data; hence, market players could erroneously use past performance of investment vehicles faster than ever before for predictive purposes to help themselves and others lose their money faster than ever before. And those advances might have played a part in the scandals and financial crashes that have occurred with alarmingly increasing frequency in the last thirty years. Big Tech’s and Big Media’s incestuous oligopolies (fraught with political donations) just keep getting more hegemonic, so that power and money keep feeding on themselves ad infinitum. Globalization is yet another wrench in the works.

At the book’s writing, global trade had been maturing for decades, but capitalism was still in its infancy in many territories of the world; particularly in ones that were becoming politically democratic again, or for the first time in their histories. Many European countries were in the process of adopting cooperation rather than competition in their financial and economic dealings. A large proportion of them even voted to use one currency among them. The United States kept to itself, but more and more people around the world were starting to trade or invest in foreign securities, currencies and governmental financial entities, so chain reactions occurred more and more.

The Federal Reserve (aka Fed) has always been a major influence on America’s financial markets. The author contended that the Fed was just as clueless as the rest of the country about what effects its making of rate-adjustments would have on the nation’s economy. It is currently just as clueless. But its announcements are made with such confidence and arrogance, that a large number of their listeners are brainwashed into believing they are receiving valuable information.

The incumbents– known names pre-Internet–became the most influential voices in the financial sphere. The wiliest ones use propaganda techniques to paper over their wrong predictions. They never apologize for the losses stemming from their pronouncements. The walls of the author’s business office were lined with portraits of ones who had disastrous losses.

To be fair, the author himself told various anecdotes of his own failures. In 1992, he bought IBM stock for his own kids. That was an embarrassing mistake. He learned to cut his losses at a certain level of the total money he reinvested. And, he didn’t let his greed get out of control when he was winning.

The author was a champion squash player. One similarity between squash and speculating is externalities–opponents’ actions determine players’ actions in the game. So, for instance, in ten-pin bowling, there are no externalities. In squash, there are. In one college finals-match, the author moved his body in a way that tricked his opponent into thinking the ball was going to go in a certain direction, but it went the opposite way. Traders and investors play similar tricks in their communications in the financial markets. Conditions change rapidly so even the market propagandists’ winning streaks don’t last long.

The reason is:

First, independent thinkers make observations or find obscure data that works in making them money. Then software detects their trading tricks. So word gets around, and everyone else jumps on the bandwagon so that the advantage is lost.

Human beings want so badly— to believe they can predict the future, and love to fantasize about getting rich quick– that they tend to look for patterns and order where none exist. The author did provide one vast generalization that might be valuable, though. His statistical analysis between the years 1870 and 1995 inclusive showed that years ending in the digit 5 were good years, and those ending in 7 were bad, for the American stock markets. He didn’t speculate as to why.

However, politics is one major mover of markets, and the collective mood of the United States specifically, might be a bit more upbeat in years when political uncertainty is at a minimum. Presidents and other politicians begin or continue their terms during years ending in 5. The public might be unclear about their future policy directions, or weary of them by the years that end in 7.

Anyway, read the book to learn a boatload more about the author’s philosophy, his trials, tribulations and triumphs in the markets, his research results and comparisons between financial markets and: ecology, games and sports.

Burn Rate

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The Book of the Week is “Burn Rate, Launching A Startup and Losing My Mind” by Andy Dunn, published in 2022. Born in February 1979 in the United States, the author won the lottery in that he had family and friends who knew him well enough to recognize that, given his personality, his behavior was anomalous. He was doubly lucky that not only did he get mental-health treatment before he ended up in jail (well, at least on one occasion) or in the cemetery, but also, he could (with assistance from others) afford it.

“… for many, even a ‘chill’ drug like marijuana can stimulate a manic episode.” The author got to college still unaware that bipolar disorder (aka manic-depressive illness) ran in his family; his grandmother had had it. People who actually have the condition suffer under a Damocles sword their whole lives, as their mental state goes through unpredictable cycles, even with medication. Of course, stress exacerbates the highs and lows. The medication has side effects that are meant to dull the emotions, so bipolar patients don’t experience and enjoy life as much as people whose brain chemicals are more stable than theirs.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), while in college, the author was ingesting alcohol and controlled substances such as ecstasy, magic mushrooms and marijuana on a daily basis, and taking the (radical) acne medication Accutane. Somehow, he graduated anyway, and got his MBA at Stanford. He explained that the professors there educated students in entrepreneurship, if they wanted to go that route. The author did.

After years of interesting ups and downs, in 2016, the author– a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs (who had last been World Series winners in 1908)– was afforded the opportunity to see game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland. But first, he had to rush to JFK airport from the streets in the East 50’s in Manhattan, beginning an hour before his plane took off, to get there. His cab driver did 90 MPH. Sympathetic people at the airport made way for him when they heard about his situation.

Read the book to learn of the author’s other trials and tribulations, triumphs and defeats. Speaking of defeats…

This is the song Hillary Clinton is singing now.

IN POST-CLINTON TIME

sung to the tune of “Sunny Afternoon” (Official Audio) with apologies to the Kinks.

My opponents BEAT me the last two times.
Deplorables and BERnie were unkind.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room.
And though I CAN-not be in charge,
I’m not locked up, I’m still at-large.
All I WANT’S in-the Situation Room.

Save me, save me, save me
from bad publicity.
I’ve got lots of enemies.
It’s a VAST right-wing conspiracy.

And I love to hobnob with elites,
brag about my political feats.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time.

Donald Trump’s ruined my rep.
He’s in his safehouse doing ’24 prep,
spewing the usUAL blather and cruelty.
Now I’m here online,
doing the grass-roots, make-work grind.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room.

Help me, help me, help me
revive my ca-reer.
Well, give my Party money
to get me out of here.

‘Cause I love to hobnob with elites,
brag about my political feats.
I sorely miss the Situation Room,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time.

Ah, save me, save me, save me
from bad publicity.
I’ve got lots of enemies.
It’s a VAST right-wing conspiracy.

And I love to hobnob with elites,
brag about my political feats.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time.