Quick Roundup 531

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Placebos in the News

The Boston Globe recently ran an interesting article on a subject I have touched on before: the burgeoning interest in understanding and making use of the placebo effect.

A recent study by Harvard's Kaptchuk suggests the importance of ritual and the doctor-patient relationship. A 2008 paper published in the British Medical Journal described experiments conducted on patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Two groups underwent sham acupuncture, while a third remained on a waiting list. The patients receiving the sham treatment were divided into two subgroups, one of which was treated in a friendly, empathetic way and another with whom the doctors were businesslike. None of the three groups had received "real" treatment, yet they reported sharply different results. After three weeks, 28 percent of patients on the waiting list reported "adequate relief," compared with 44 percent in the group treated impersonally, and fully 62 percent in the group with caring doctors. This last figure is comparable to rates of improvement from a drug now commonly taken for the illness, without the drug's potentially severe side effects. [minor format edits]
This is intriguing, but what exactly is going on will doubtless be very hard to ferret out, even setting aside the fact that, "placebos appear to affect symptoms rather than underlying diseases--although sometimes, as in the case of ... irritable bowel syndrome, there's no meaningful distinction between the two."

The War on Poverty Initiative

Manny Lopez of the Detroit News hits the nail on the head:
It's not hard to believe that when given the option of working or not for roughly the same paycheck, some people are going to choose the sofa instead of the shovel.

Call it an intended [sic] consequence of expanded social welfare.

That's exactly what's happening in Michigan to some landscape businesses, whose owners and managers say they're seeing an increasing number of people forgo work that pays an average of $12 an hour for government benefits that pay about the same.

"We're just getting people coming in, filling out paperwork, hoping they won't get hired," Richard Angell, director of B&L Landscaping in Oak Park, told The Detroit News.
Lopez slams the minimum wage later in the same article for putting teenagers out of work and depriving entrepreneurs of inexpensive labor.

Rising Star?

First, there was Florida's Marco Rubio. Now, we have Republicans saying things like, "look out, Barack Obama!" about gubernatorial hopeful Scott Walker of Wisconsin:
Making political hay out of the lunch that he packs for himself, Walker has branded his events around the state as part of a "Brown Bag Movement" that has three tenets: (1) "don't spend more than you have"; (2) "smaller government is better government"; and (3) "people create jobs, not government."
The issues page of his campaign site lacked theocratic tendencies on my once-through, but Walker does seem to confuse small government with proper government. For example, he seems to accept without question certain improper government roles, like maintaining roads. That, and he buys into the notion of "pork," which I have noted before is a distraction from a much bigger, and more fundamental problem.

In short, I see yet another "welfare state lite" Republican, who might be worthy of an "any port in a storm" sort of vote, but who is not principled enough to cause substantive change for the better. Also, it bothers me that Jeb Bush seem to like him a lot, and that Newt "Deal" Gingrich has his ear.

That said, this guy is the best I've seen of those touted as rising stars among the Republicans in the past couple of years. Granted, I'm saying this with scant information.

And it's not saying much anyway.



-- CAV

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