More on selling organs

That last post was really about kidneys. There are immediate and obvious benefits to allowing people to sell their kidneys to waiting patients. But think about this, what do you think would happen if people’s estates were paid for the organs that can be harvested after someone died?

Yes, more organs would be transplanted, and more people would be saved, but think about some of the possibilities. It could be a replacement for life insurance. If you could contract with a company to take your organs in case of an untimely death, your estate could benefit tremendously. Think about it, how much would a heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, corneas, etc. bring in? Now imagine that instead of paying for life insurance, you could simply contract for your organs? You could even take out a supplemental insurance policy in case the organs could not be harvested. I would imagine that policy would be quite a bit less expensive.

My point is that a lot of people could be made better off by simply getting rid of one law. Why do we continue to allow people to die?

Why is selling kidneys illegal?

I was listening to “Talk of the Nation” today and I ended up being so mad I was yelling at the radio. The program was about the busting of an organ brokering service in NYC. All of the commentators had the assumption that this practice was dangerous, to whom I couldn’t tell. One guest even went so far as to try to stop people from traveling to the US to sell a kidney. Am I the only one that thinks that people traveling to the US TO SAVE LIVES is a good thing? I wish I could have asked her this; Are you telling me that if they spent money to come here and give their kidney to someone that would be OK but them being paid to do the same thing is immoral and dangerous?

Give me a break. There are two obvious critiques of the ban on organ selling. The first I’ve already alluded to. If you can do it for free, why can’t you get paid for it? A person is saved in any case. That leads to the other argument. Right now, every person in the process of organ transplantation benefits, except the donor. The recipient obviously gets their life back, perhaps even has it saved. the hospital, the surgeon, the transportation involved, they all get paid. So why is the donor left out? Why is it OK for everyone else to benefit and not the guy that is actually giving something up?

Instead of viewing those people that got busted as dangerous criminals, perhaps we should see them for what they are, life savers. Everyone was willing, it was done in the US for crying out loud, where’s the danger? I understand worrying about “exploiting” people, even if I don’t agree with it. What I don’t understand is why we don’t worry more about the people that are dying, dying from something that is easily solved.

An awful night’s sleep and an amazing dream

Man, last night was perhaps the most brutal night’s sleep I’ve ever had. I tossed and turned and woke up feeling like I got beat up. I ached all over and had a splitting headache.

The good news is that I had a rather vivid, pleasant dream. I was visiting a childhood friend and his family in Hong Kong, not that they have ever been there as far as I know. I also saw one of my college roommates there. I now realize that my completely truthful conversation with him sounds as weird as anything else in the dream. He asked me what I had been doing and I told him that I had been in Yemen, but that my MS has kind of grounded me recently…

Anyway, it was time to leave. I was going to take the train to the airport, here’s where it gets cool. I walked down the street and got into an elevator to take me up to the tracks. Strangely, the elevator got slightly smaller as it went up. Then it started moving sideways. Just as I started to freak out, a window revealed itself and my train tickets were printed up for me! I was on the track, on the way to the main train station. Pretty cool.

At the station, I was supposed to find the area to board my particular car. The cars were similar to the old fashioned cars on trains, or maybe a carriage. They were tall, with lots of glass, and there were two benches facing each other. Cars of a certain destination would cycle through a small eddy-like area and you were supposed to jump on as it came by. Well, mine came and went, it didn’t slow down or stop for me. So I got on another, figuring that they were going to the same place anyway. But then mine came back! So I jumped off and tried to get onto the correct one.

I ended up missing both, but not to worry. There was a keypad recessed in the wall with some instructions. I punched in the general direction I wanted to go and a small compartment opened up. As I punched in my specific destination, a closet opened up so I could store my luggage and we got underway. Once again, I was in my own train car. It was pretty small, people that are claustrophobic would probably freak out, especially with the car’s inclination to get smaller as you got underway. It was also good that I was by myself, no one else would have fit.

Anyway, I enjoyed that, I like trains, and having my own car was quite a treat. Who knows, maybe sometime in the future we’ll get to experience all that for real.

Victim of the minimum wage

As I was heading to my fathers, I ran into some construction. They had closed off one lane and so we had to take turns using the one remaining lane. Instead of the usual pair of flagmen with radios, they had an automatic gate system set up. One would open up and allow traffic through, then it would close. After a small bit of time, the gate at the other end would open up and repeat the process.

This is the first time I had ever seen this system. It is another example of how labor can be replaced by machines when the price of labor gets too high. I have no proof of this, but I suspect that the new minimum wage laws played a part in these machines becoming affordable. I’m sure there were all sorts of other costs involved too, like insurance, people not showing up on time, people not showing up, etc. but I’m also sure that paying a pair of people to stand around and direct traffic for $7.24 an hour was just a bit much for some employers.

I know that some of you are going to think that $7.24 an hour is too little, so why don’t we raise it to $75 an hour? Oh, that would be too much. So what is a good rate to pay someone that? What is a good rate to accept to do that job? The only honest answer is that we don’t know. I’m sure that there are some high school kids that would rather do that for $5 an hour instead of being unemployed and I’m also sure there are lots of people that wouldn’t bother to do that job at $10 an hour. We don’t know what circumstances people are in and what they are willing to do for any given amount of money. We also don’t know how many more people would be hired if companies could pay less per hour. The only sensible thing to do when unemployment is high is to allow people to accept or reject jobs on their own. No one in DC can set a wage without effects. What effect? Fewer high school kids being employed and fewer flag men. Aren’t we glad that congress is doing what it can for this economy?


My step father treated me to a baseball game this last weekend. It was great. The weather was wonderful, the park (a newish boondoggle for the DC residents) is really nice, and we had great seats. If I was up there and working, I think I’d spend a lot of time at the park…

At one point, when the Nationals had loaded the bases and were threatening to catch up and take the lead, I heard a fan behind me say, “This would be exciting except we know our track record in situations like this…” Sure enough, they grounded into a force play to end the inning. Those poor Nationals.

The game itself was exactly the way baseball should be. It was tight, there were lead changes, and there was offensive and defensive brilliance on display. At it’s best, baseball is able to build tension like nothing else. Yes, it can get boring, but when it’s a good game, you end up being on the edge of your seat. Even better, baseball has the ability to relive that pressure in an explosive way. A critical home run or strikeout causes waves of emotions from the fans of the home and visiting teams. Even better is when a ball is put in play and the pressure is allowed to build even further.

Anyway, it was a good time. Thanks Rick!

California, trend setter and cautionary tale

The budget mess in California is a sight to behold. They are the poster child for spending run amok. Well, they still aren’t as bad as the federal government, but there’s a big difference between states and the feds. The states are not allowed to print money in order to pay for their expenditures.

I hear that the state legislature of California has come to an agreement on what to do with their budget. I’m always amazed at how government programs suddenly become “essential” when it comes time for cuts. Things worked OK before the program started, but we are told that all hell will break loose if it is cancelled. The problems in CA can be boiled down to this; it is very easy to add spending but it is very difficult to cut it. Even the compromise that they have worked out depends on CA jumping out of the recession quickly. They rationalize that they can afford this budget in the future. Of course, they don’t want to acknowledge that they can’t afford it now.

I do hope that the powers that be can navigate the tremendous amount of debt that has been accumulated, both in budgetary matters and with the central bank. I’m hopeful, but not optimistic.

I’ve been MIA for a while

It’s not that I’ve been real busy or anything, I just haven’t felt up to writing. I’m beginning to think that’s a reinforcing behavior, the more I don’t do it, the more I don’t want to do it. So I’m going to make an effort to write every day. Even if it’s something banal, it will still be a creative act. That’s a lot better than just absorbing stuff. So stay tuned for more from me!

Not so much

I was recently up at my step father’s place. I had a good time, saw a baseball game, caught up with some friends and my step sister and her family. When I first got up there, she posed the typical “How’s it going?” question. I usually just gloss over that, there really isn’t much to say. I just shrug my shoulders and say “It’s going OK,” or some other banality. She nodded her head and said, “Yeah, just getting in touch with your body…”

That surprised me so I just said “yeah” in response. The more i think about it though, the more inaccurate that is. If anything, this disease is all about losing touch with my body. My lower legs and feet are kind of numb, but more importantly, they feel disconnected. I don’t always know where they are. The weakness I get in my legs are al about me telling them what to do, and they just don’t respond. I usually can’t feel my quads or other workings in my legs. All of this makes my balance a bit of a surprise and frequently it isn’t there at all.

So getting in touch with my body? No, not really. I wish it would send a postcard or something.

Something has to give

I’m trying to keep up with the whole health care reform thing, and it’s making me question my sanity. I thought that the pressing issue was how much our health care cost, but now it seems like “coverage” is the big thing. The real problem is how we imagine health care should be. The ideal coverage doesn’t cost us anything and treats everything. Clearly, that can’t happen.

I got this comparison from Penn Gillette of all people… Imagine that we had “food insurance” that worked the same way as our health insurance does now. Do you think that the prices of food would rise if there wasn’t any incentive to look at how expensive things are? If our insurance covered everything (and what good is insurance if it doesn’t?), we would buy the best food all the time. In addition, all of the people that made food would make more and more expensive food. In other words, the good things about a market would get turned on it’s head and we’d have ever increasing costs instead of competition driving prices down.

I do think that the price we pay is way out of whack, but I don’t put the blame on greed, I put it on the fact that our incentives are all screwed up. If you wanted to get philosophical, you could claim that greed is what causes people to want services at either no cost or very little cost to them… but I would never do that.

We need insurance to be more like our home insurance or car insurance. Those policies do not cover everything, they are there for catastrophic losses. The typical health insurance tries to be exhaustive. What ends up happening is the worst of all worlds. We end up paying for our health care in installments AND we get the high prices from the screwed up system. Yes, we should insure against really bad things happening, but we have gone overboard in insulating ourselves from the cost of things, our current system is the result.

Needless to say, the 1000 page monstrosity that is being worked on up in DC is nothing more than doling out favors and scoring political points. I am very certain that whatever comes out of that process will cause prices to go up even more, our quality of service to go down, or some other really bad outcome. The political process is not a very good tool for problems like this, look at what it has already done! If more people would realize what has happened, we wouldn’t be turning to the same people that screwed us up in the first place.

Is God one thing, 3 things, 99 things, or what?

Sometimes I think that if more Christians and muslims got together to discuss religion, the better off we’d be. Think about this, every muslim I have ever talked to is unable to comprehend the trinity. They have been taught from a very early age that the trinity is equivalent to three distinct gods. Many muslims have told me that God can only be one thing, not three. I’ve always found this silly, after all God can be whatever He wants to be. If He chooses to present Himself in three ways, what’s to stop Him? What I also found interesting was that even though they were adamant in their view of God being one thing only, they regularly think of Him in many different ways.

Curiously enough, many Christians do claim that God is only one thing. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “God is love.” For the record, I think that anytime someone says that God is “x,” you can follow it up with “Yes, but…” Anyway, whereas many Christians say that they have a single, tripartite God that is one thing (love), muslims have a single, monotonic god that is at least 99 things!

In Islamic tradition, there are 99 names of God. Yes, “the Lover” is included in there along with “the Majestic,” “the Vast,” “the Truth,” and more. Interestingly enough, there are also names like “the Avenger,” “the Destroyer,” and “the Bringer of Death.” I really do think that muslims have a broader view of God than most Christians do. They have both the nice and frightening aspects of Him in mind.

In the Christian world, there is a split. Typically, the evangelicals and more conservative Protestant groups concentrate in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation. This shows God as wrathful, jealous, judgmental, and lots of other scary things. On the other hand, the more moderate and liberal churches tend to concentrate on the Gospels only. That shows God as a forgiving, loving one. I find it rare to meet a Christian that can keep both views in mind at the same time.

That’s really just a long winded way of saying that people are funny when it comes to how they think about God. We swear that He is one thing, and then proceed to break HIm into three or think about Him in 99 ways. In truth, there are an endless number of attributes to God. It would be nice if we could all talk together and appreciate how the other “side” thinks.