Sunday, September 28, 2008

$700B blank check with a slap on the wrist

Supposedly, the politicians have reached a bailout plan that both parties can agree on. The bailout is still $700B but divided into small portions just so Paulson doesn't spend it all on a shopping spree. A lot of really smart people are supposedly watching over Paulson to make sure he doesn't mess up. CEOs of companies that participate in the bailout can't get more than $500,000 for salary (boo f-ing hoo), and since the government gets a stake in these companies, politicians automatically assume that taxpayers will benefit on the upside, even though as we have seen in history mostly the rich, who never really paid tax to begin with since all their taxes were cut, get benefit from the government when it gets lucky.

And all that was not even the biggest problem I have with this bailout. As some experts have said, the bubble broke a long time ago, since summer 2007, and since then Paulson and Bernanke (FED) have poured hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars into the market to encourage lending, WITHOUT SUCCESS. Somehow, I don't feel like this bailout will work either. And it won't be able to cover up the stench the drives investors away for very long, because this bailout addresses everything but the underlying hole in regulation that allowed this mess to happen in the first place. This is not the first time the finance world behaved irresponsibly and have the poor majority of America pay for it, and yet our government has not learned to prevent these calamities from happening. How long ago was Enron? Tyco? Worldcom? This bailout said NOTHING about coming down on predator lenders, about revising regulations on how securities should be rated, etc.

I think it is clear, as CNN reported (90 no: 1 yes), that most Americans oppose this bailout. True, the reported ratio was before the bailout was changed, but I, for one, still oppose this bailout even after all the extra conditions were added, because it doesn't fix the problem at its source and it is extremely expensive. Yet, supposedly this bailout will be passed tomorrow. I have sent many angry messages to congress even though I don't have a right to vote, and I don't know what to do at this point. I only wrote this note in the hope that you will entertain the point of view presented here and be cautious about what this bailout promises. And, of course, if you know a senator, I hope you will tell him/her to vote no.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The first presidential debate

First of all, I want to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their own opinion on who won the debate. I don't think anyone has the authority to call it, and the only thing that really matters is which candidate, as a whole package, will win the election.

I felt like I was going into this debate biased, and I do feel that to the unknowing eye it may seem that McCain knows more about foreign policy, but I would definitely pick Obama as a leader in foreign policy. McCain may seem more confident and assertive to some, but to me he was rude - interrupting the moderator and Obama when it was not his turn. He was also condescending. Do you see the independent line dips down whenever McCain starts being derogatory? It's because it was rude and was not presidential-like. Imagine him saying that to other world leaders - how would they feel? I think Obama is definitely more suitable to be a leader, as shown by his character in the debate tonight. He was polite. He tried not to interrupt McCain until McCain got out of hand. He was humble enough to acknowledge someone when they are right, and even though McCain rudely repeated over and over again that "Obama doesn't understand," Obama never stooped to McCain's level. He was polite to McCain the whole debate. Even though such decency was not returned, Obama kept his integrity and never stooped to McCain's level. Now that is character.

McCain seemed stuck and stubborn like Bush and want to keep pouring resources into a war with a country that has nothing to do with us. The issue of the iraq war is just a stupid pride for McCain, who basically says I don't care what this war is all about, and even though we started it without a good reason, we have to keep plowing through to win it so we don't lose face. What Obama said is right - no mother should have to lose a son, no young man should be without a limb - enough is enough. We don't spend trillions of dollars and gazillion human limbs on stupid pride - we spend it for freedom, for safety, of the US and the world as a whole.

Many other points were touched on but basically experience is not everything. Experience can be provided to the president by advisors - that's what they are for. It is the judgment that matters, and I think Obama has way better judgment than McCain.

And threatening to not show up to the debate? It's like pulling out of a deal that both sides (along with the whole country) already agreed on. If McCain can't multitask and quit every time he's overwhelmed, he's not going to survive as a president.

And the cherry on top of a fantastic cake - Palin interview with Katie Couric:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

$700 billion blank check - the rich get away w/ it once again

I don't know the details of it, but I'm sure you guys have heard about the recent crashes of major banks due to irresponsible credit/loan issued to gain more returns for the CEOs when the economy was going well enough to conceal these practices. Now that the banks fall to pieces to reveal the greedy, irresponsible practices that go on, why is it that all the taxpayers in this country have to pay for all the money that a handful of people take, and why is it that these CEO bastards get to keep their riches after these banks declare bankruptcy?

With the way things are going, many of these practices will continue, because the CEOs know they get to keep all the profits and never have to pay for the losses.

Many people say bad economy only affects the financial sector - laypeople like us aren't really involved with what goes on in wall street or the fed. Well, this is exactly why what Bush does or what the fed decides to do affect all of us directly. If you haven't noticed the upgoing prices of commodities, this is another example of why we are all in this together, and practices like this need be to be stopped.

I wish I knew how to influence changes in this regard. If anyone know what we can do to stop this from happening, please let me know!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A social experiment

An unstoppable train is coming down the track, which splits into two. One track leads to 3 kids, while the other lead to 1 adult man. The train, at default, will head to the track with 3 kids and run them over, killing all of them.

There is a switch that can change the track of the unstoppable train. If someone pushes the switch, the train will instead run over the 1 adult man, saving the 3 children.

The unstoppable train, obviously, cannot be stopped. The 3 kids and the adult man cannot leave the tracks. No matter what happens to the switch, either group of people have to die.

You are at the switch...what would you do?

Things to keep in mind: Doing nothing to the switch is a type of action, in which you choose to kill 3 kids instead of the adult man

Personally, I would not touch the switch. I know I am making a choice of killing the 3 kids by doing nothing when I could have saved them.

If you have seen Batman *spoiler alert*, near the end of the movie, the Joker was doing a social experiment, in which he told people on two different boats that there were bombs on both boats. They both have a switch that will activate bombs on the other boat. If they blow up the other boat, they get to live. One boat was filled with criminals - the other boat was filled with the good citizens of Gotham.

In the movie, one person on both boats had the switch in their hands. The argument was made that the boats filled with criminals are worth less than the boats filled with good citizens, and the criminal boat should be sacrificed. But in the end, no one on either boat had the heart to push the switch that would kill hundreds of people.

And that is why I would not touch the switch in this train track scenario either. Shooting someone in the head and letting someone starve to death are both evil, but I do think that they are different levels of evil, as shown by the Batman example - no one could do it because they felt it was wrong, even though by not pushing the switch, they are murdering their boat-mates. There is a difference in pushing the bad fortune onto someone else instead of letting the bad fortune take its course.

Hippocrates said, "First do no harm." Why is it that doctors who didn't stop to help dying victims from a car crash do not get arrested, while the ones that poisoned patients with cyanide do?

If you answer that you would push the switch so that the 3 kids could live, imagine yourself on one of the Gotham boats, would you really push the switch?

A good economist

Pauline Chen wrote a recent article in the NYTimes titled "Medical student burnout and challenge to patient care" which can be accessed here:
In a nutshell, she cited many studies that show medical students are burnt out, while a smaller but significant percentage considered suicide in the past year. Apparently, many of the reactions were to stop crying like a baby and suck it up, like hundreds of people who went to law school, business school, and other schools that potentially require hard work and perseverance.
One thing they don't understand is that the burnout is barely from the long hours, the lack of sleep, the constant need to proof ourselves and to not get yelled at. I think the most significant cause of the burnout is really the nature of our job - it is the fact that everyday, even as a medical student, you could potentially kill a human being or save a life. And at any moment, you could watch someone die right in front of your eyes and there is nothing you can do about it. I have watched people die and it is taxing. It is difficult to watch life slip away, and it is that much harder to have the patient's family looking at you for what they want to hear and not being able to pacify them. Many times they want to hear that it is time to pull the plug, because the fight is too taxing for them. Other times, they want us to tell them why it was their loved ones who died, and no lesson can prepare you to deliver these answers. How do you learn to tell someone that it is time to end the life of their loved ones?
From those in the medical profession, some of the reactions were to stop crying like a baby and suck it up, like hundreds of doctors have before us, but I fear they only survived because they desensitized themselves. They simply stopped crying when people die.
But I think we should cry every time our patients die, because for a while we took care of these people and we knew part of their life stories. We should cry because we should never forget the impact on the family and relatives when our patients are gone - nothing should ever minimize the enormity of a human life.
For a bad day at work in other professions, you might cost your company 10 million dollars. A bad day at work as a doctor, someone dies. I guess for some, one is not necessarily worse than the other, depending on how much a human's life is worth, but to me, a human life is priceless, and that's why I can never be a good economist.