Lessons From Game Of Thrones – The death of Princess Shireen…

Game of Thrones - Littlefinger - Chaos MonologueAs we approach the end of the 5th season of Game Of Thrones,  I always marvel at how fantasy like this manages to put the brightest and darkest aspects of our humanity in a perspective where we can actually see ourselves for what we really are.

Like all GOT fans, I found the terrible end met by Princess Shireen to be quite heartbreaking.  For those who don’t know the series, Shireen was a young princess who was sacrificed “for the greater good” as a sacrifice to the “Lord of Light” by being burned at the stake.  The person who gave the order to do this terrible act was her very own father (Stannis Baratheon) who was convinced by a Priestess that he was “destined” to rule the seven kingdoms of Westerous. But, in order to accomplish this  that “sacrifices” had to be made.

Yes, I know that it is only a TV show but like many other fans of GOT, most of us were very attached to her character because she was compassionate, kind, down-to-earth young girl who refused to be drawn into the cruelty and religious fanaticism that was the norm in her world.  Surrounded by her fanatical mother, father and the “Red Priestess” she rejected fanaticism in favor of  reason and compassion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons From Game Of Thrones – Living in the shadow of oligarchy…

Oligarchy - Lessons from Game of ThronesLike many fans of Game Of Thrones, I am often surprised at how the show forces us to look at ourselves in the mirror and contemplate our own relentless march towards oligarchy.  For those who don’t watch the show, the “Game Of Thrones”  is literally a game played by a few great families at the expense of all below them.  They don’t govern, they rule and to the victor belongs the spoils of both power and wealth.

Our constitution is not a shield against tyranny…

There was a time, not long ago, when most Americans would have arrogantly assumed that we had risen beyond such  stark differences between the haves and have nots.  Cloaked in the protections of our constitution middle and working class Americans felt safe from the exploitation that dominates feudal societies like the ones seen  in GOT.   Trade unions supported the middle and working classes and the “one man, one vote” concept of our republic would  ensured that the very structure of our government would prevent any backsliding  towards oligarchic rule.

What we forgot was the lessons of history.  That power and money has a relentless propensity for concentrating itself in the hands of a very few.   We forgot that  if left to its own devices, without checks, balances and constant vigilance,  any capitalistic economy would always push relentlessly toward plutocracy.  Unfortunately, with our eyes off the ball, we took a 30-year political nap and woke up to a nightmare.

The Powerful Prey on the Powerless…

In the first episode of season 5 Tyrion and Varys have a conversation about power and justice.

Tyrion: What is it that you want exactly?
Varys:  Peace. Prosperity. A land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless.
Tyrion: Where the castles are made of gingerbread an the moats are filled with blackberry wine.  The powerful have always preyed on the powerless.  That’s how they became powerful in the first place.
Varys:  Perhaps.  And perhaps we’ve grown so used to the horror we assume there’s no other way.

Read the rest of this entry »

You call this news? The science of smoke and mirrors…

A few days ago I came across an article in the Guardian about how republican presidential candidates are getting away with such a blatant denial of scientific consensus on issues like evolution and climate change. They rightly disparaged the republican “clown car” of presidential candidates, particularly with regard to their standing on key scientific issues.

The article correctly points out that conservatives create “wedge issues” out of science by shifting the emphasis from “science” to “values” and a big dose of  religious fundamentalism.  So science denial becomes less about science and facts and more about morality and closely held religious convictions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our dance with the devil and our race to the bottom…

BODY POLITIC LOGO THUMB - SmallWant to help save our nation?  Perhaps its time to just say “NO” to the rampant worker exploitation that is going on in our society.   Sorry to say that this is something that is going to be easier said than done.  Its something that snuck up on us by stealth of night.  Then one day we woke up in a new world where a “sharing economy” was creating a giant race to the bottom.  The vast majority of us found ourselves  struggling to survive on less and less while fixed costs like health care and housing rose exponentially.   

Killing our own futures – one bargain at a time….

Read the rest of this entry »

The employment game – the discrimination against unemployed STEM professionals…

Naked Capitalism   is always a good source of information about the “real economy”.  You know, the one where all is not so rosy and hopeful.  Its a place where reality sets in and shines a light on  why the economy remains so crappy for so many five years into a so-called “recovery”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Game Of Thrones – Geeks don’t get no respect

In the world of Game of Thrones where the sword is mightier than the pen, it comes as no surprise that geeks, dweebs, intellectuals of any stripe, get almost no respect.

Tales of the two biggest (and smallest) GOT geeks….

Samwell Tarly,  though high-born and bookish was neither brave nor athletic so his farther abandoned him to the Night’s Watch which was generally a dumping ground for bastards, rapists and murderers.  Actually  Samwell  was given a (cough…) choice, he could die in an “accident” in a hunt or he could take a life oath to serve in the night’s watch.  Ok that’s not a choice, but you get the picture.

Read the rest of this entry »

The business of medicine – and the band played on…

Its official, I am starting to be concerned about the spread of Ebola to the developed world.  Now, let me make this clear, I doubt we would have a major epidemic in a country like the US.  But with the sheer number of cases reported and the fact that the epidemic is gaining steam makes the possibility of cases developing in the developed  world more likely.  The WHO just released a very grim prognosis regarding the course of the epidemic in Africa and given the way things are going, I see why they are concerned.

Ebola outbreak spreading and showing no signs of peaking…

Yesterday, I  read an article in The Washington Post article about Ebola spreading to Senegal the following points were particularly worrying:

Read the rest of this entry »

The business of medicine…the great doxycycline shortage…

It was with a  tremendous wave of dèjá vu that I watched NY Senator Chuck Schumer calling for the FDA to investigate a supposed shortage and massive price spikes seen for the common antibiotic doxycycline.

History of a doxycycline shortage…

Wasn’t this problem solved last year?  This issue hits close to home because I have a dog that requires intermittent courses of doxycycline for severe Lyme disease.  Last year the price spiked to ridiculous levels  over the summer and the pharmacist looked at me with sympathy when she gave me the bill for my dog.   Suddenly, what used to be about $40 tab skyrocketed to well north of $350.  She told me there was a temporary “shortage” of the drug and that had caused the price spikes.  Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?

Read the rest of this entry »

The business of medicine…

In my previous blog I discussed the business of science  and why science itself is not,  and should never be, considered a business.  Today, as we see the widening Ebola epidemic spreading throughout West Africa I find myself thinking the same thing about medicine.

Medicine is not a business…

As in science,  there are businesses surrounding medicine.  Big pharma and biotech being far from the least among them.  As  I pointed out before, the science of pharma and biotech must not mix with the business unless you want to be buying hi-tech snake oil when you go to the pharmacy.

But there is another component here, often overlooked and currently underfunded even in developed nations:  the role of a strong public health program and the public funding for basic research.

Read the rest of this entry »

The business of science…

This blog is going to begin with a premise that I know will raise some eyebrows.  It is quite simply this:

Science is not a business…

To a scientist, this is obvious, but to business people I would expect howls of protest.  On the surface the  statement is counter-intuitive.   After all, entire industries are based on what science has discovered.  We have massive numbers of industrial laboratories that would indicate otherwise.  According to the WHO, the pharmaceutical industry is a $300 billion/year industry and growing rapidly.  So what do I mean by such a provocative  statement?

Read the rest of this entry »