Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Get Out the Vote

I went to vote on a few ballot measures last night after official work day and before dinner/ night work.

For once, nobody was running for office, so it was entirely voting on propositions, 3/4's of I had not done any research. So I skipped a few items and tried to understand what they were asking for on a few others, some of them fairly straightforward, like bonds for road work.

The controversial issue on the ballot was the request for state money for cancer research. Like most folks, I have a beef with cancer. Like most folks, cancer has touched my family and friends. I also know cancer is not a single disease but a blanket term to describe a plethora of conditions. I am also concerned about the distribution of money, and understand that there are many diseases to worry about. Take kidney diseases like FSGS. That one is much less fun than it sounds.

I guess my reasoning came down to: in 500 years, what will we have done? Will we have spent our vast resources building giant robots to kill people who do not have giant robots? Will we have chipped every person on Earth and spent money to make sure we were keeping a close watch on them? Will we have made any inroads to actually stopping the causes of grief and people raising their hands against one another? Or will we have insisted that the fight to heal the sick is someone else's mission?

I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse, or even much of a caretaker. I am not a researcher, and I am not able to help people much in my day to day life (and this is something I am considering in depth these days). There is very little I can do out there to help more people than myself and my family and friends. But there is a lot WE can do to help each other.

Without passing judgment on the rightness or wrongness of the current wars, I would rather live in a country at war with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other killers than with other nations or peoples. I don't see the two as mutually exclusive. One of the number one things any candidate could do to make me feel safer would not be to promise me endless war against any enemy or outside threat. They could promise me they would dedicate their term to the eradication of disease and hunger. In the end, I doubt I'll die from a dirty bomb. That may be naive, but I am certain diabetes, cancer or heart disease will kill me.

These things seem simple enough at face value, but they aren't where the people we elect put our money or our priorities.

As I mentioned, I am concerned about the use of the money. Government agencies are run by people, and people make ridiculous decisions. But I'm not sure that doesn't mean we shouldn't try, or that nothing will come out of the research, even if it isn't a cure.

So I voted for Proposition 15. And against getting rid of the office of taxidermy or whatever that wacky bill was.


J.S. said...

Hooray for Prop 15!

Anonymous said...

If memory serves, some arm of the Legislature generally prints up a booklet which provides the text of each proposed amendment, and then a summary of arguments for and against it. It's pretty helpful, actually.

The League said...

They do. Unfortunately, I was a bad citizen this year and did what little research I did online before tromping off to the polls. Trying to be responsible, the props I didn't understand at all, I did not vote on.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing. Government is very very rarely the answer to solving problems. The greatest misuse of trillions and trillions of dollars come at the hands of...guess who ? Government. Just imagine your job without the accountability, or a very very weak component of countability. That is goverment. Now, I am not trying to degrade every public employee, because there are many who do very fine work, and work hard. However, for everyone of those fine fellows, I can give you exhibit 1-1,000.

Here is my problem with any public spending efforts such as Prop 15. There is nothing stopping you League, or you Steanso, or me Peabo, from donating any amount of money that we want to from one of the many many great organizations out there already dedicating to eradicating cancer. Many companies, both for profit, and non for profit, who are making, and have made, great strides in cancer research, and are funding many great research efforts currently going on.

So why the goverment ? Why is creating a BILLION dollar bueracracy better than giving that same billion to an already established Research organization or company ?

Do you think that if somehow this new government funded research discover the cure to cancer, that they will offer it to the public for free ? If so, then sign me up. If not then let the public vote with their wallet, give their money to the hundreds of great causes already out there funding the research, and let government get its bumbling, do nothing, incompetent, wasteful spending self, the heck out of the way.

Didn't anybody read the stories that just came out about how our dear government has helped all of like 50 people who were victims of the hurricane here in Texas, even though they have received millions of dollars.

Yeah, sign me up for some more of that.

And I say that as somebody whose Grandfather died of cancer, whose father had cancer, and who scores as somebody about 99% likely to get hereditary cancer, not counting whatever kind of cancer I will get for eating at Taco Bell once a week.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and yeah Texas citizens for taking away the Constitutional right to have bail set in certain felonies and domestic violence cases.

I know, I know, I am a criminal defense attorney and represent the dregs. But just as there are times when some punk goes out and repeats a family violence offense while being out on bond, there are also the times where the vindictive ex-girlfriend call the police to report being "stalked" while they were parked outside their ex's house banging on his door trying to talk to him and are upset because he is now dating her friend.

All I am saying is, stripping away constitutional rights is a bad thing. The judge already has a host of weapons to use, including setting a really high bond if he believes a defendant is a real danger to committing more crimes or fleeing justice, on top of things like electronic monitoring, house arrest, classes, pretty much anything you can think of.

Then again, those police officers usually know when a crime has been committed. I don't know why we have bond at all since most if not all people arrested are guilty. Maybe we should just get rid of bond altogether. Then we can concentrate on ridding us of that pesky little constituational nuisance: the Jury Trial.


The League said...

For good or ill, I did not vote on the latter proposition as I wasn't clear on the effect.

My understanding is that the cancer funding will be awarded NSF style, a program which has reaped successes for the US and the world in general. Any bureaucracy would be in the management of the money, much like the Red Cross or United Way (you can usually find out how much of your giving goes to overhead, and should, before giving to a charity).

My greater hope would be that it could emulate the space missions and, as well as achieving its primary goal, could create additional technologies to benefit humanity.

To state that NSF researchers are not accountable is incorrect. The application process is arduous and must show significant promise before money is ever awarded. Technically, any faculty member in the sciences at a public university is a state employee, and their research is managed through the state institution. These people are actually more accountable than private research R&D as they must have successful research in the eyes of the university to stay there, as well as in the eyes of the NSF to continue receiving grant funding. There is no reason Prop 15 money can't be held to the same standards.

Nothing has stopped me from giving to cancer research, and they do get some of my money. Part of my support of the Prop 15, however, is that its supported through bonds and not just raising taxes. There's not a direct taxation, but there's a stated interest by the people and state of Texas in cancer research as public policy. And investors stand to benefit in the long run.

What I do not think you can expect is that money will be put in and an answer will be found immediately. Certainly it will take time to establish proper metrics for success.

Everything costs something. I don't assume a cure for cancer to be free in the US without established socialized medicine.

Anonymous said...

First, I work at MD Anderson Cancer Center and watch people die everyday from cancer. Yes, that part sucks. But name a person whose life has not been affected by cancer.

BUT what sucks worse is that no one seems to pay attention to the "stop smoking or you will die from lung cancer" or "Get your colonoscopy before it is too late" or the "stop being a lazy fat ass or you might get breast cancer to go along with your raging heart disease and diabetes" campaigns. Prop 15 would dedicate 10% of funds to prevention. Hopefully, that prevention $$$ will pay for someone to beat people over the head until they do what their docs tell them to.

Our institution has no shortage of money. We make $$$ hand over fist which is sorta rare for a hospital. Granted more money would mean more research....yahdayahda...What would help in cancer research would be less incestuous forms of research. Everyone copies each other and only baby steps are made frequently. Getting grants for research is damn hard and getting grants for "outside the box" research is next to impossible. That and the fact that the only people willing to be experimented on are the ones about to drop dead in the first place, makes cancer a real bitch to cure.

Will our state going into billions of dollars of debt truly serve the citizens of this state or country well? I am not so sure. I would love to see our money spent in a prudent fashion, not based upon emotionally charged, star power driven campaigns. People appear appalled if you say these things out loud, as if you are against finding a cure! That could not be more wrong. Cancer research is an extremely worthy cause. Just not one our state should be taking on alone.

The League said...

Denise, thanks so much for a view from inside the research world. I think telling people about the realities of research is as vital as anything. Most people have a hard time (myself included) guessing about what goes on behind the doors of any lab, politics, money, etc... included.

The public and public officials can always use that kind of information, and I appreciate you sharing you speaking up.