Archive for November, 2011

Common Sense is dying

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently finished reading “The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America” and I found it to be very persuasive. Most publishings on what’s wrong with the current governmental system either discuss the need for more laws, or that the situation used to be better, but they don’t quite know why. Phillip K. Howard does an excellent job of magnifying inefficiencies in todays government (even though to book is more than a decade old) and their root cause. He is able to explain how we got into this mess. Plus I was never able to conclude what the authors political bias might be. He points out many short comings of the American Disabilities Act, fights against litigious happy citizens with an over inflated sense of entitlement, and yet highlights how FDR’s New Deal was a good thing. Pundits of both sides of the aisle have problems with that. So I find the book to be a useful read regardless of political persuasion; it is insightful.

The essence of the book is that during the 1960’s the legal system felt that if laws could be made specific enough, no government employee could possibly do anything unfair. So if there was a problem in the current regulations, the answer would be for a committee to come up with more rules. The result is that no bureaucrat can be held responsible for their actions, because they were just following the rules. The consequence of this attitude is that it created a culture of non-thinking bureaucrats who value the law higher than the intention of the law. It reminded of me a coworker who talked about previous teams where the attitude from day 1 was for everyone on the project to figure out how they wouldn’t be the scapegoat for when something inevitably went wrong. No one will stand up for doing to right or reasonable thing.

The book pushes forward the idea that the humans in government aren’t perfect, so we should stop holding them up to a standard which demands perfect adherence to a gargantuan amount of laws. In many situations common sense can come to an efficient solution which will reasonably satisfy the interested parties. The sense of despair the reader is left with is that if the findings in the book were to be a championed by the people, the demand for lawyers would decrease dramatically; and I have a sneaking feeling that the representatives of “us the people” don’t want that.

Categories: News and politics

Off Label Markeing is Snake Oil Sales

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently the drug company GlaxoSmithKlein filed a suit in court challenging the constitutionality of the FDA’s labeling and misbranding regulations. Currently the US Food and Drug Administration regulations make it illegal for drug companies to market aspects of drugs for which they are not approved. For example, a drug company produces an FDA approved drug, but when the salesmen are making the sales pitch for the drug they advertise it doing more than what the FDA approved for. The situation the FDA is prohibiting is they don’t want to approve a drug for one thing (let’s say muscle relaxant) and then have to company turn around and advertise it for another thing (let’s say curing AIDs).

GlaxoSmithKlein claims that the FDA is infringing on their freedom of speech by not allowing them to market their drugs however they want. If doctors can prescribe drugs for symptoms the drugs aren’t approved for (which currently is legal), why shouldn’t the drug companies be allowed to sell the drugs for “off label uses”? The reason is because that’s the same thing as snake oil sales! Metaphorically a snake oil sales man is a grifter who is selling a harmless product as being a magical product and then gets out-of-town before anyone realises that the drug doesn’t do what they purchased it for (I recommend reading the Wikipedia entry on Snake Oil, it’s quite informative). When town citizens realize that they’ve been grifted they form a lynch mob to get the grifting salesman. Currently we as US citizens get to avoid this scenario because of the FDA regulations.

I for one don’t want to have to worry about the true purposes of drugs sold in the US. I like the idea that the drug makers have to keep to statistically provable effects of their drugs. While I’m not a big fan of big pharmaceutical companies I certainly don’t want to see them turning into snake oil salesmen. Freedom of speech is the principle that we can speak freely about the shortcomings of our government, not that companies should be allowed to make statiscally incorrect statements about their products. Should off label marketing become legal it would result in a class of grifters with too much influence in high places for us citizens to lynch.

You know it’s working when

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t know if this is due to IE 9 tracking protection or the IP Address blocking I have setup on my systems, but it makes me smile when I see this:

Ad Script Blocked

Now I’m not smiling because I see the advertisement – they’re usually blocked – but what makes me smile is that the ad wasn’t able to get my region. Look at that second item it says “New Trick in {REGION}”. Normally the {REGION} would get filled in with whatever city I’m. Whatever part of the ad server system was supposed to figure out where my IP Address is originating from got blocked. Makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

Amazon failed to sell me a song

November 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I tried to download an mp3 from  I purchased the song and click on the download button only to download an AWS file.  When I would double click on the AWS file an IE nine window will appear and then disappear.  Eventually I give up on downloading the file and installed the amazon downloader. But the installer installed the amazon’s cloud player instead! I never got the mp3.

I emailed amazon all of the steps I took and with in the hour they emailed me back saying that they’d refund me the purchase. While it’s great I get my money back, I want the song!

Categories: Organizations

May I never get this old

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The other day I was picking up a prescription from the Group Health Medical Center in Bellevue when I saw something which both entertained and frightened me. In between the stairwell and the pharmacy are three elevator shafts; two on one wall and the third on the opposite wall. As I’m passing between the elevators, on my way to the stairwell, there is an elderly couple. I can see on the light on the elevator request panel that they have requested for an elevator going down. One of the elevator shafts has an open door and next to it the up arrow is lit.

The lady announces “This one’s going up” proceeds into the elevator car and starts repeatedly pressing what looks like to be one of the lower floors. I presume she is thinking that for the first time ever, by pressing a lot of times she can convince an upwards headed elevator to go down. The husband shuffles over to the request panel and presses the already lit down request button; I presume to inform the elevators that it sent a car going in the wrong direction. In the time it takes him to shuffle over to the wall to press the down button again the upwards elevator doors have shut with his wife in them.

There are a couple of ways this played out; I don’t know how I left the scene at this point. It’s possible that the husband got on the down elevator when it arrived, thinking that the logical place to meet up with his wife would be on the floor where they were headed. Or he would stand there and wait for her to return to that floor. I can see the wife riding the elevator all the way up and then all of the way back down again. I can also see her getting off on every floor to see if her husband had made it to that floor searching for her, and then if she doesn’t find him on the floor she thinks he should be on frantically doing it all over again. Either way I’m sure it made for an adventure for them.

I hope that I never get so old as to walk into an elevator car that I know is going up, when I want to go down.

Categories: Health and wellness