Friday, March 9

Let my sperm go!

What a fascinating story. An excerpt

Trent Arsenault has never had sex, but he’s the father of fifteen children—and counting. The more he antagonizes the FDA, and unnerves television audiences across America, the more his in-box is flooded with requests for his sperm.

When Trent was 16, he and his best friend made a pact to devote their lives to science and never to marry. “Like most of our wild plans at the time, it was Trent’s idea,” this friend remembers. “I went along for entertainment’s sake. It was simply this zit-faced, socially awkward, nerdy teenager’s excuse for not having to ask out the girls I liked.” In other words, it was the sort of vow that teenagers make and soon forget, except that eighteen years later, when FDA agents showed up on his porch in August 2010, Trent was a well-paid computer-security engineer at Hewlett-Packard and a 34-year-old virgin. He was also, by that point, the father of ten children. The government was not happy about how Trent had pulled this off.

But if the FDA hoped, by intervening, to save America from someone it viewed as a dangerous rogue breeder, its action did more to set back its cause than it could possibly have imagined, turning Trent into something of a poster boy for an entire generation of new DIY donors. The showdown between man and state on the free-sperm frontier drew predictable media interest, mostly mocking and outraged, which in turn generated considerable outreach from strangers, almost all overwhelmingly supportive. Since appearing on various television news programs, Trent has received hundreds of encouraging e-mails, and he’s closing in on 2,000 Facebook friends. Someone recently formed a new Facebook group called Free Sperm Donors, mimicking Trent’s eschewal of anonymity, and a similar new organization called the Known Donor Registry has quickly attracted more than 5,000 members.

Trent's Baby Book: Recent hospital photos, shared by recipients and posted on  

The requests for Trent’s own sperm have only increased. Just in the last few weeks, he has received about a hundred new requests from women across America. He has, by now, made more than 500 “donations,” been responsible for fourteen successful pregnancies (and fifteen births—one mother had twins), has three more pregnancies under way, and is adding an average of three new prospective mothers to his portfolio each month. Paradoxically, the more children Trent fathers, the more his services are in demand—last month, he signed up seven aspiring mothers. “I’d think this would be a turnoff,” he says, “but that’s not how people think. It’s maybe even an attractive trait. If you look at lions, it’s like the females know to look at the ones that have demonstrated fertility.”

The idea that this bloody government has the cheek to intervene in a private transaction between two adults is seriously bizarre. What’s next? regulate the exchange of bodily fluids in exchange of monetary recompense?

The added advantage of pissing off the assorted po faced religious nutters is just the cherry (pun intended) on the cake.

Go for it Trent, let your little wrigglers go!

Thursday, March 8

India is broken by narrow walls

I got this emailed petition. It says:

The Communal Award was announced by the British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald on 4 August 1932 to grant separate electorates to minority communities in India, including Muslims, Sikhs, and Dalit (then known as the Depressed Classes or Untouchables) in India.

In August 1932, the then Prime Minister of Britain, Ramsay Macdonald gave his 'award' known as the Communal Award. According to it, separate representation was to be provided for the Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans, etc. The depressed classes were assigned a number of seats to be filled by election from special constituencies in which voters belonging to the depressed classes only could vote.

This came on a day when I read that the US Supreme Court is going to review the issue of race in university admissions. I agree totally. Respecting race in this manner is stupid. If you do have to discriminate, then discriminate in favour of poor people. Irrespective. That’s the way you see that citizens are non racial and there is an intellectually rigorous argument for making choices.

Needless to say, this idea is totally stupid and idiotic. We shouldn't divide up our communities like this. Why is the assumption that another person of the same religion will be better able to look after you than another person of the same gender? or same height? Or same earnings? This is an extraordinarily stupid initiative and people should grow up, seriously.


Wednesday, March 7

The Public Philosopher - Should a banker be paid more than a nurse?

I was invited to this lecture by Professor Michael Sandel who is a professor of political philosophy at Harvard. Unfortunately I cannot make this lecture as I have to go to a charity fund raising dinner where we are trying to raise some dosh for one of my charities. So I figured, why dont I pen down my thoughts here specially I belong to one side of the argument. Bit disjointed but here we go.

  • I look forward to the next lecture where we will be debating “Should a nurse be paid more than a street cleaner”. A street cleaner seems to earn £6-8/hour which roughly equates to £14,000 per year on the higher rate of £8/hour. A nurse on an average band 5 makes about £24,000 per year. So this argument should be interesting indeed.
  • Now for some theory. We are all basically adding value of some kind or other. Whether I am a prostitute, an engineer, a pilot, farmer, parent, a hair dresser, politician, banker, or what have you, we are all adding some value of some kind.
  • We take something, plonk in something additional, create a slightly different thing, and then pass it on. In return, we get some dosh. This argument holds true for all human economic activity.
  • So then the question comes, what is this value? So what are the numbers we are talking about? The UK’s official graduate careers website says that a typical salary after 10-15 years for a banker is about £50000-100,000. Assuming the top number, a banker gets about 4 times a nurse’s salary. So does a banker add four times the value of a nurse?
  • To answer that question, we need to know how do we ascribe a value to this value addition. Again, very simplistically, we first find out what is the value of the inputs. Then we try to find how many and what kind of “stuff” you will require to add value for a range of outputs with different values. Take a simple example. I have some sand and some more chemical stuff. These are my inputs to make glass. Its cheap as sand, yes? Then we have to figure out what outputs we need? Glass can be used to make different bits and stuff. For example, this LEICA APO TELYT-R 1:5.6/1600mm lens is worth about 2.02 million dollars. Its glass. A glass tumbler of this kind will cost you £7. Now both of these were made by glass makers. But as you can appreciate, the outputs can vary tremendously. So lets ask a blunt question. Will you pay the same amount for the LEICA technician as for the tumbler glassmaker ? If you do, I have a great bridge for sale for you.
  • Now the above glass example was very simplistic, but there was a reason for this. I showed that despite the inputs and outputs being comprised of the same, the value added by the intervening labourer (LEICA technician versus tumbler glassmaker) is seriously different. Also you need to figure out how many LEICA technicians are available versus glass makers. How long it takes to train them, etc. etc. as the laws of demand and supply comes into the picture as well to do the valuation.
  • And before you think this is a new debate as this blog post seems to think, the question of a just price has a very old pedigree including people like Thomas Aquinas who talked about usury. Fascinating, how these new arguments just are rehashing of old ones. Btw, I dont think these new chaps would appreciate that they are simply following some very dodgy religious teachings which you can see in Islam and Christianity and Judaism and and and.
  • So lets get a bit more complicated. How do we compare the salaries of a banker with a nurse? Based upon how we are calculating it, we should compare the inputs, the outputs and the intervening value added, eh?
  • So who wants to take a shot at trying to figure out how to compare the inputs to the banking industry versus the inputs into the healthcare industry? Does the phrase “comparing apples and oranges” come to mind? In this particular case, we seem to be comparing apples (nurses) with a black scholes equation (bankers).
  • You can quibble about the differences in value of the outputs (a banking system versus a nursing system, a loan versus a healthy patient) or what have you, but then that argument very soon descends reductio ad absurdum to whether we need to have a capitalist system which measures value by money. Wake me up when you have decided to measure value with cowrie shells.
  • In my view, therefore, I have better things to do than to sit there listening to silly arguments. If I had time to do that, i will sit and listen to my daughter tell me how I should cook brownies every day.

I will leave you with this great little clip about glass.

Monday, March 5

Make the cost of NHS treatment clear

I fully agree with this assessment. I quote

Hence, I want a public debate around healthcare that is more informed and less driven by emotion. That is why I presented my bill to parliament yesterday, calling for general practices to issue annually to each person eligible for care provided by the NHS an itemised account of the cost of his or her healthcare in the preceding 12 months. I believe this simple measure would help put the NHS on a more sustainable path for the future.

Although "free at the point of delivery" is a worthy founding principle of the NHS, it has led to a belief in an increasing number that healthcare is literally free. Throughout my clinical career, I have seen evidence of this in the failure to attend GP and hospital appointments and the dreadful wastage of prescription drugs. I've seen it in the lifestyle choices of my patients who seemingly have no awareness of the true costs of long-term conditions such as diabetes. Furthermore, as each generation has passed, stoicism in those I care for has become less prevalent. The consequent changes in health-seeking behaviour and the profound differences in the perception of suffering between generations are both driving up demand. To be blunt, the current situation is unsustainable and getting worse.

What are we to do about it? Well, I would suggest that unless we educate people about expenditure on healthcare, then a system available to all at their time of need could cease to exist within a decade. By issuing an annual statement itemising the costs of drugs, appointments, diagnostics and treatment, everyone would begin to understand the true costs of delivering 21st century care. That knowledge would be empowering and lead to an informed debate across dining tables and in pubs throughout the country.

This large lump of money that’s shoved down the insatiable and ever growing NHS throat is worrying, we simply cannot afford this and we need to be very clear about how much we are spending. While NHS productivity is growing, the absolute costs are growing faster. I was unable to get some good references, but look at this:

The Primary Care trust costs are increasing at a very rapid clip. Average yearly increase of 8.2%. We WILL run out of money. But this idea that the NHS is free is wrong, it is costly and we are paying for it. So while the general public tax pot pays for this service, it wouldn't be bad for each citizen to have a clear idea about how much did his or her yearly NHS service cost.

I betcha that would make you think twice or wish the NHS is totally free, eh? There is no such thing as a free lunch, we are all paying for it, and people who can afford the least are paying the comparatively most…

Sunday, March 4

A tale of two gay hate circumstances

Two incidents caught my eye, both on the same day.


Christian street preacher who allegedly told gay couple they would 'burn in hell' in High Street rant is cleared of wrongdoing. Religious Michael Overd, 47, pictured, was accused of using threatening or abusive language against Craig Manning and Craig Nichol in Taunton, Somerset.


Muslim fanatics who called for execution of gays and wanted to set up a 'medieval state' under Sharia law in Derby are jailed for up to two years
Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed handed out the pamphlet, called The Death Penalty?, which showed an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Islamic texts.

Hmmm, see the differences? Or see the commonalities? or both?

First of all, they shouldn't be arrested for their opinions. Voltaire will be spinning in his grave.

But here is the condemnation which is fine, because my opinion is that between these Abrahamic religion fundo’s, life is tough. The only silver lining is that they are slowly becoming extinct. Morons