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The Vaccine Brawl – A Legal Battle in Process

By MIKE MAGEE

The power to mandate vaccines was litigated and resolved over a century ago. Justice John Marshall Harlin, a favorite of current Chief Justice Roberts, penned the 7 to 2 majority opinion in 1905’s Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Its impact was epic.

In 1905, Massachusetts was one of 11 states that required compulsory vaccinations. The Rev. Henning Jacobson, a Lutheran minister, challenged the city of Cambridge, MA, which had passed a local law requiring citizens to undergo smallpox vaccination or pay a $5 fine. Jacobson and his son claimed they had previously had bad reactions to the vaccine and refused to pay the fine believing the government was denying them their due process XIV Amendment rights.

In deciding against them, Harlan wrote, “liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own [liberty]…” 

Of course, a state’s right to legislate compulsory public health measures does not require them to do so. In fact, as we have seen in Texas and Florida among others, they may decide to do just the opposite – declare life-saving mandates (for masks or vaccines) to be unlawful. At least 14 states have passed laws barring employer and school vaccine mandates and imposing penalties in Republican-controlled states already.  

So state powers are clearly a double-edged sword when it comes to health care. 

Questions anyone?

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THCB Gang Episode 65 – Thurs September 30

It has been WAY too long and for too many reasons (conferences, travel, a hurricane flooding out 4 East Coast guests) we haven’t got together but #THCBGang is back.

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) will be fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey);  THCB regular writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard); ; medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); and board-certified patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano).

We opined a lot on the latest machinations in Congress, we talked about access to data (especially images) and we really enjoyed getting in touch with each other for a great hour!

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Metaverse and Health Care – A View From 50,000 Feet

by MIKE MAGEE

dystopian

[disˈtōpēən]

ADJECTIVE

1. relating to or denoting an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice.

NOUN

1. a person who imagines or foresees a state or society where there is great suffering or injustice.

There are certain words that keep popping up in 2021 whose meanings are uncertain and which deserve both recognition and definition. And so, the offering above – the word “dystopian.” Dystopian as in the sentence “The term was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in the 1992 dystopian novel Snow Crash.”

One word leads to another. For example, the above-mentioned noun, referred to as dystopian by science fiction writer Stephenson three decades ago, was “Metaverse”. He attached this invented word (the prefix “meta” meaning beyond and “universe”) to a vision of how “a virtual reality-based Internet might evolve in the near future.”

“Metaverse” is all the rage today, referenced by the leaders of Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, but also by many other inhabitors of virtual worlds and augmented reality. The land of imaginary 3D spaces has grown at breakneck speed, and that was before the self-imposed isolation of a worldwide pandemic.

But most agree that the metaverse remains a future-facing concept that has not yet approached its full potential. As noted, it was born out of science fiction in 1992, then adopted by gamers and academics, simultaneously focusing on studying, applying, and profiting from the creation of alternate realities. But it is gaining ground fast, and igniting a cultural tug of war.

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Sleepless Nights For Evolutionary Biologists: A Greek Tragedy in The Making

By MIKE MAGEE

In my Jesuit high school, we were offered only one science course – chemistry. I took it in my Senior year and did pretty well. In contrast, I took four years of Latin, and three years of Greek, as part of the school’s Greek Honors tract.

Little did I know that Covid would create a pathologic convergence of sorts six decades later. Let’s review the Covid mutants:

Alpha – A variant first detected in Kent, UK with 50% more transmissibility than the original and has spread widely.

Beta – Originating in South Africa and the first to show a mutation that partially provided evasion of the human immune system, but may have also made it less infectious.

Gamma – First detected in Brazil with rapid spread throughout South America.

Delta – First seen in India with 50% more transmissibility than the Alpha variant, and now the dominant variant in America and around the world.

Our ability to track and identify mutating viruses in real time is now extraordinary. Over 2 million Covid genomes have been cataloged and published. But describing the “anatomy” of the virus is miles away from understanding the functional significance of their codes, or the various biochemical instructions they may instruct.

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THCB Gang Episode 64 – Thurs August 26, 1pm PT- 4pm ET

THCB Gang is back from its summer break. Joining me Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for an hour of topical and sometime combative conversation on what’s happening in health care and beyond will be patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson); fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey), medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee), WTF Health host & Health IT girl Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa); and making a rare but welcome appearance cardiologist & provocateur Anish Koka (@anish_koka). Watch it live below.

If you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels

Delta Double-Down: A Universal Health Plan Is Long Overdue.

By MIKE MAGEE

On March 25, 1966, during the Poor People’s March that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

This week, my niece in Orlando, Florida, sent her 8-year old son, masked, back to public school. He has a history of severe allergies, including several anaphylactic episodes requiring emergency respiratory intervention. His class included a voluntary mix of masked and unmasked children. He now has a 105 degree fever and has tested positive for the Delta variant of Covid.

His crisis, and those of countless other children in Republican led states now lies clearly on their governor’s shoulders. It also suggests, as with voting rights, that we can no longer allow health planning and delivery to be captured entities of the states rights crowd. Dying children are just not acceptable in a civilized society.

The impassioned and illogical pleas of leaders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are literally as old as this nation. As with many controversies in human endeavor, the easiest way to decipher history and meaning is often “to follow the money.” Such was the case in the battle between state and federal rights. This battle engaged early and often, with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Soon after the 1788 ratification of the U. S. Constitution, Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton, suggested a federal bank to manage debt and currency. Jefferson, then Secretary of State, opposed it for fear of a federal power grab. Regardless, in 1791, Congress created the First Bank of the United States with a 20 year charter.

When the charter ran out in 1811, it wasn’t renewed. But then the War of 1812 intervened, and in 1816 the Second Bank of the United States was created with the Federal government holding 20% of the equity. The divide led to the creation of two political parties – the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party whose members were committed to undermining the bank.

The battle came to a head when, in 1818, the Maryland’s state legislature levied a $15,000 annual tax on all non-state banks. There was only one – the Second Bank of the United States, which refused to pay. The suit rose to the Supreme Court with Maryland claiming the right to tax based on their reading of the 10th Amendment claiming state protection against extension of non-enumerated rights to the Federal government.

The landmark 1819 case – McCulloch v. Maryland, defined the scope of the U.S. Congress’s legislative power and how it relates to the powers of American state legislatures. In ruling against Maryland, Chief Justice Marshall argued that:

“Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.”

It was the people who ratified the Constitution and thus the people, not the states, who are sovereign.

One hundred and thirty years later, on December 10, 1948, the newly formed United Nations, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That day, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke for America, stating: “Where after all do human rights begin? In small places close to home…Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

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The Backstory of a Photo That Went Viral

By MIKE MAGEE

“People might not treat you the right way or they may stare at you. But the way that you treat people is going to go way further than anything else.”

Carson Pickett, NWSL/Orlando Pride/NC Courage

In the summer of 2017, Colleen and Miles Tidd were told that their third child would be born without a left forearm. Colleen later reported that she cried at first, but not for long. They had two other children, girls age 2 and 12, to consider. In preparation for their son Joseph’s birth, they reached out to an advocacy organization, “Lucky Fin”, for information and support.

The name derives from the 2003 Disney classic, “Finding Nemo”, and its’ animated star clownfish, Nemo. He was born with one short fin, the result of a barracuda attack that killed his mother and sister, and cracked his egg while he was still in development. The little fish was left with an over-protective father who, out of fear, tried to limit his future. Nemo resisted and found his strength and purpose, in part, by redefining what other sea creatures saw in him. They saw an unfortunate fish with an abnormally shortened limb. He saw adventure ahead, powered by his “lucky fin.”

Carson Pickett, the soccer star, has her own story. She was born in 1994 near Jacksonville, Florida, with a missing left forearm, nearly identical to Joseph (nicknamed Joe-Joe). Her parents, Treasure and Mike were former college sports stars, committed to expanding rather than limiting their daughter’s horizons. Carson’s mantra became, “Control what you can control”, her own variation of Nemo’s famous, “Just keep swimming.”  At age five, her father introduced her to soccer and she never looked back. She was a standout at Florida State University, and was drafted by the National Women’s Soccer League team, Seattle Reign. In 2018, she was part of a three-person trade to the NWSL Orlando Pride.

Colleen and Mike Tidd immediately took notice. Joe-Joe and Carson were both born in Florida, loved soccer, were athletic, and had partially formed left arms. Their limb defects placed them among 2,250 U.S. babies born each year with the condition. By the time their photo was taken in April, 2019, Joe-Joe was 21 months old and had taken to wearing a purple Pride jersey with Carson’s #16 on the back.

The famous photo was taken by Joe-Joe’s mother at a home game when Carson jogged over to the family after hearing their cheers. As reported, “She repeatedly tapped her arm against his as he shrieked with glee.” After the game, the two spent time in the locker room playing their version of peekaboo – pulling up their shirt sleeve to expose their left arms. As Colleen recounted, “It took a minute for him to realize, ‘Wow, we’ve got the same arms,’ and then he just giggled. You could see it hit him, and then they were best friends after that…She’s like me.”

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Health Care Needs A Hero

By MIKE MAGEE

Health care needs its heroes.

I came to that conclusion this week through a roundabout route.

First I read Maureen Dowd’s interview entitled “Dara Khosrowshahi, Dad of Silicon Valley”, in which she, with some affection, gives the reader a look behind the scenes at the personal life of the current Uber CEO. At one point, Dowd shares her conversation with Dara’s 20-year-old daughter, Chloe, a Brown student, who wants us to know her father was a seriously good dad. In support of this belief, she reports that “When she was little, her father – a fan of Joseph Campbell…would concoct children’s stories set in faraway kingdoms…”

This, of course, forced me to acknowledge that I didn’t know who Joseph Campbell was. Bill Moyers came to the rescue. His June 21, 1988 interview titled “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth — ‘The Hero’s Adventure’”, begins with a clip from Star Wars where Darth Vader says to Luke, “Join me, and I will complete your training.” And Luke replies, “I’ll never join you!” Darth Vader then laments, “If you only knew the power of the dark side.” Moyers asked Campbell to comment.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: He (Darth Vader) isn’t thinking, or living in terms of humanity, he’s living in terms of a system. And this is the threat to our lives; we all face it, we all operate in our society in relation to a system. Now, is the system going to eat you up and relieve you of your humanity, or are you going to be able to use the system to human purposes.

BILL MOYERS: So perhaps the hero lurks in each one of us, when we don’t know it.

By then, I was aware that Joseph Campbell, who died in 1987 at the age 83, was a professor of literature and comparative mythology at Sarah Lawrence College. His famous 1949 book,  “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” made the case that, despite varying cultures and religions, the hero’s story of departure, initiation, and return, is remarkably consistent and defines “the hero’s quest.” His knowledge of this quest gained him a large following that included George Lucas who was a close friend and has said that Star Wars was largely influenced by Campbell’s scholarship.

Whether health care or technology, unfettered capitalism is more than adept at breeding predatory systems that beg for redemption.  Author Emily Chang spoke to this predilection in her 2018 book, “Brotopia”, describing Silicon Valley types as “secretive, orgiastic, and dark.” Dara Kharowshaki’s  CEO predecessor at Uber, Travis Kalanick, was labeled one of the worst. When Dara took over, New York Times technology expert, Mike Issac asked in 2019, “Can this rational, charming chief without the edge, ego, or cult following of wacky founders succeed in today’s insane economy?”

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Biden Should Extend a “Public Option” as a Message to “Health Care Royalists”

By MIKE MAGEE

In this world of political theatrics, with Democratic legislators from Texas forced into exodus to preserve voters’ rights, and Tucker Carlson rantings about Rep. Eric Swalwell riding shirtless on a camel in Qatar streaming relentlessly, Americans can be excused if they missed a substantive and historic news event last week.

On Friday, July 9th, President Biden signed a far-reaching executive order intended to fuel social and economic reform, and in the process created a potential super-highway sized corridor for programs like universal healthcare. In the President’s view, the enemy of the common man in pursuit of a “fair deal” is not lack of competition but “favoritism.”

To understand the far-reaching implications of this subtle shift in emphasis, let’s review a bit of history. It is easy to forget that this nation was the byproduct of British induced tyranny and economic favoritism. In 1773, citizens of Boston decided they had had enough, and dumped a shipment of tea, owned by the British East India Company, into the Boston Harbor. This action was more an act of practical necessity than politics. The company was simply one of many “favorites” (organizations and individuals) that “got along by going along” with their British controllers.  In lacking a free hand to compete in a free market, the horizons for our budding patriots and their families were indefinitely curtailed.

Large power differentials not only threatened them as individuals but also the proper functioning of the new representative government that would emerge after the American Revolution. Let’s recall that only white male property owners over 21(excluding Catholics and Jews) had the right to vote at our nation’s inception.

Over the following two centuries, power imbalances have taken on a number of forms. For example, during the industrial revolution, corporate mega-powers earned the designation “trusts”, and the enmity of legislators like Senator John Sherman of Ohio, who as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, led the enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

He defined a “trust” as a group of businesses that collude or merge to form a monopoly. To Sen. Sherman, J.D. Rockefeller, the head of Standard Oil, was no better than a monarch. “If we will not endure a king as political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessities of life”, he said.   The law itself stated “[e]very contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.”

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THCB Gang Episode 62 – Thurs July 15, 1pm PT- 4pm ET

Episode 62 of “The THCB Gang” will be live-streamed on Thursday, June 17th at 1pm PT -4PM ET. Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) will be joined by regulars futurist Jeff Goldsmith; policy expert consultant/author Rosemarie Day (@Rosemarie_Day1); Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune); and medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee).

If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version it is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels a day or so after the episode — Matthew Holt

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