All posts filed under “Politics

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Make a difference in government: a 3-step guide for blue state tech workers

money-talks

As a blue state tech worker (CA, in my case) it seems that I don’t have a lot of ways to affect politics.  My Senators, representative, and local politicians already hold the same values and believe in the same policies I do.  But I want to make a difference for Americans across the country, especially those that are in danger of a Trump administration.  For others in my situation, here is a simple, 3-step guide to make a difference in our country:

Step 1 – Ask if your employer offers a gift match on charitable donations!  It’s not unusual for top technology employers to match thousands of dollars a year.

Step 2 – Create an account on CharityNavigator.  It’s a leading site to help make good decisions on how to spend charitable donations.  It rates charities on a 0 to 4-star scale, where 4-star charities are “Exceptional”, exceeding industry standards and outperforming most charities in its cause, and 3-star charities are “Good”, exceeding/meeting industry standards and performing as good or better than charities in its cause.  (Donating through CharityNavigator then makes it very easy to do your tax paperwork!)

Step 3 – Give to top-rated non-profits that correspond to the causes you care about, and take advantage of your employer’s gift match!  Make an impact with dollars.  A $1000 donation with an employer gift match gives $2000 to the charity, but could only cost you ~$700 with your tax deduction.  Check these causes and charities out… and donate:

Environment

Civil Rights

Women’s Health

Other

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President Trump

It’s official: Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

I’m deeply saddened, and am finding it hard to deal with this news.  It shows just how insulated we’ve become as a country.  We’ve always been divided (Hamilton reminded me of this), but the effects of social media has made this feel worse.  Because you only tend to hear the news you want from the people that believe the same way you do, it hits harder when you realize how many people are on the other side.

I deeply worry about the country under President Trump.  Less because of what he believes in policy-wise, far more because of how his election could embolden those who try to drive us apart.  If you’re not a white, straight, Christian male, the next four years just became a lot scarier.  People I know are literally scared for their personal safety.  The kind of visceral hate, racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism that we saw in the primary and general elections could become far more powerful and dangerous to individual American’s lives when Trump leads the government and the party that controls all branches of government.  Incidents of violence toward Muslims, Jews, LGBTs, and more have had an uptick during Trump’s run because his campaign implicitly (explicitly?) encouraged that type of behavior.  I pray that this trend will stop and reverse, but I worry it will only get worse.

This was lost in the coverage last night, but for the second time in five presidential elections, the Presidential candidate who won more votes lost the Electoral College.  I don’t think the Electoral College will ever go away, but I’m frustrated by this frequency.

Practically, there will be two years of a unified Republican government (Presidency, Senate, House, Supreme Court) before voters have their say again to re-elect Congress.  Maybe things will change then, maybe not.  I certainly hope so, but given built-in advantages the Republicans have with congressional districting, I’m skeptical.  I worry that America’s debt will skyrocket from poorly-planned tax cuts.  I worry that rights (like the right to marry who you want, whether you’re straight or gay) will be rolled back and cause chaos across the country.  I worry about violence toward anyone that’s not a straight, white, Christian male.

I worry about the message that this has sent to women, especially young women.  When the most qualified Presidential candidate in history (Senator, SecState, etc) is beaten by the least qualified Presidential candidate in history (no elected history, no military service), and the most qualified candidate is a woman?  That message from voters is a punch to the gut to millions of women who have had the same thing happen to them.

But I believe in America, and as a country I believe we can survive four years of President Trump.  The cost of survival may be high, and it the burden of that cost will be unequal.  But in 2020 he’ll have to face voters; this time with four years of actually being President.  Will he be able to achieve what he’s promised, or will he have been outed as a carnival huckster?  That will be an interesting election.

I keep coming back to the Zen Master story from Charlie Wilson’s War:

“We’ll see”

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As if on cue… (Checklists, round 2)

Yesterday, I wrote about an absolute must-read book: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

It has been shown in an extensive world-wide study that a simple checklist used in surgery cuts infection rates, cuts death rates, and saves costs. It does all of these by substantial margins, everywhere they’ve been implemented. But so far only a minority of hospitals (Dr. Gawande mentioned 10 percent) have started using the safe surgery checklist, or any others, for that matter.

Yet today, the New York Times has an article titled “Results Unproven, Robotic Surgery Wins Converts.” Here are the most important quotes:

But robot-assisted prostate surgery costs more — about $1,500 to $2,000 more per patient. And it is not clear whether its outcomes are better, worse or the same.

[…]

Last year, 73,000 American men — 86 percent of the 85,000 who had prostate cancer surgery — had robot-assisted operations, according to the robot’s maker, Intuitive Surgical, the only official source of such data. Eight years ago there were fewer than 5,000, Intuitive says.

[…]

[O]nce a hospital invests in a robot — $1.39 million for the machine and $140,000 a year for the service contract, according to Intuitive — it has an incentive to use it. Doctors and patients become passionate advocates, assuming that newer means better.

[…]

And the robot is slow; it typically takes three and a half hours for a prostate operation, according to Intuitive, twice as long as traditional surgery.

So in this particular kind of surgery, a majority of surgeons quickly take up a new technology that has yet to show it can provide any sort of benefit! The same procedure is now slower and much more expensive. And the same doctors are resisting adopting a simple checklist (for little to no cost) that conclusively show improved results.

Not to make too much of a political situation here, but our health care system is clearly a mess. Doctors clearly don’t always know what’s truly important for their patients. I’m not saying surgeons shouldn’t use robots, but exhaust the easy, cheap, and conclusively better tools first! Use a damn checklist!