White Coat, Black Hat

The Ethicator Interview: Misha Angrist

Angrist and the EthicatorNote: This is the first of what I expect to become a series of interviews with various writers and academics seeking to utilize my fame. If you are important and would like to be interviewed by the Ethicator, feel free to send me an email.

Misha Angrist interviewed Carl a couple of weeks ago. In the interview, Carl called me "disturbed" and ridiculed my groundbreaking academic writing as "hilarious." Courageously, Angrist agreed to make amends by facing me for an interview. We communicated by email.

E: Thank you for facing the Ethicator.  First question:  Please state your name, profession, and the book you are attempting to sell us.

MA: Hi, Ethicator.  My name is Misha Angrist. I am an Assistant Professor in the Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy. My book is called Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics.

E: Interesting.  And you wrote this book yourself? 
I'm just asking because, you know, there are some academics out there who can be cavalier about this sort of thing (authorship), if you get my drift . . .

MA:  I'm not sure I follow you. Anyway, yes I wrote it myself, although I couldn't have done it without the generosity and talent of a lot of other people. And by the way, your brother's terrific article, " Guinea-Pigging," is mentioned in the book.

E:  You mean the New Yorker article allegedly written by my brother?  Right, I know all about that.  A lot of familiar stuff there.  Reminds me a lot of these "jobs" he kept enrolling me in at the U, back when we were living in Chicago.  ("Hyde Park rent is expensive, you know." "It won't hurt," "I'm just a post-doc, I don't make that much - Gotta pull your weight!" and so on).  Strangely, my name does not appear in the article at all.  Anyway, water under the bridge.

Your book is on genetics.  I've heard it said there is a genetic basis for cruelty and bullying behaviors,  such as those we often encounter with siblings.  Is this true, and what are your thoughts about this?

MA: Aggressive behavior in humans almost certainly has some hereditary basis, but it's not clear how important genes are in these types of traits. They are terribly hard to study and in most cases whatever genes are involved are probably interacting in ways we don't understand yet. It's a tough nut to crack. My colleagues Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi are among those who've been trying to unravel this stuff for a long time...I love them and admire their intelligence and doggedness, but I worry about them.

I should say that there's also a pretty strong evolutionary argument to be made for niceness. In any case, I think most geneticists expect most of these sorts of behaviors to be the product of the action of many genes plus a huge environmental component.

E:  Well, that's where you're wrong. I hadn't given this  matter any thought until just now, but my brother and I obviously share some genetic material.  He is an overly aggressive, bullying pharmascold with no moral compass whatsoever -- damn near a full-on psychopath, according to many in the field.  Yet, I share none of these repulsive traits.  How can that be?  So I disagree with you that it has a hereditary basis.

But OK, for the sake of argument, I'll play along. I understand you had your own personal genome mapped.  Do you carry any of those bullying genes you apparently believe in?

MA:  I don't think so. That said, my brother would say that I do, just as you do about your brother.

I can't claim to know your brother very well, but I will say that he is deeply concerned about you. He thinks you need to be on medication.

E: Yeah, I read that quote in your interview.  Yes, Carl is concerned:  Concerned that one of these days, I'm going to show up at his house with an invoice for all the work I've been doing.  He'll be all, "Oh, no! Where's Nurse Ratched?  My brother won't do shit for free!"

But enough about me. You're in the genetics game, right?   There's big money in that, I hear.  Have you found a good corporate sponsor?

MA: Not yet, though not for lack of trying. Unfortunately most of the small startups I take an interest in end up in Chapter 11. But since a WalMart VP suggested a few years ago that the company try to avoid hiring fat people in order to reduce its health care costs, I was thinking they might be able to use my services in Bentonville.

E: Wal-Mart!  That shows some pretty impressive, out-of-the-box thinking on your part.  Yet, I suspect there are some dinosaurs out there in the bioethics industrial complex who would love to ruin your plans.  Seriously, though, isn't it hard for an independent-minded visionary like you to get by without eventually giving in to pious, overweening pharmascolds?  How do you do it?

MA: Dude, you're breaking my heart. Was there something that went awry in your childhood that led you to have such contempt for your brother? Is there no way to heal this rift? I mean, the Everly Brothers got back together.  Will the Elliott brothers not share Christmas together?

E: Hey, water under the bridge.  Unlike some people, I've moved on.  When you speak hard truths to stubborn people, as I do, you just have to expect some resentments and petty jealousy to come back your way.  It's just the nature of the game. 

Speaking of bold truth-telling: Have you been following my website and twitter feed?  What do you think of it?

MA: I do look at your website. The production values are high and the graphics impressive. That said, I might argue that it's hard to read that and your twitter feed and then conclude that you've "moved on."

E:  Do I remind you of Steve Jobs?

MA:  Um...I don't know. The turtleneck and the petulance maybe?

BE:  Well, I'm just thinking of the effusive praise you had for the user interface on my website, plus the runaway viral success of my work thus far.  And of course the fact that Jobs and I are both considered renegades and trailblazers. I sometimes think of myself as the Steve Jobs of bioethics.  Not that I would put words in your mouth or anything.

MA: Well, I guess if the shoe fits, right? But I imagine that that's quite a heavy burden, no?

BE: Yes, a heavy burden indeed -- but not as heavy as Carl's burden, which is being known only as the brother of the Steve Jobs of bioethics.  I'm sure he can manage that, though.

On to your book.  What is it about -- genetics or something? I forget

MA: Yes, my book is about genetics or something. More important, it is about ME. And even more important than that, it is available in hardback, paperback, e-book and large-print-Sanskrit formats.  And it makes a swell gift for any occasion! And since it's published by HarperCollins, you can rest assured that most of the money from every copy sold will go directly into the Rupert Murdoch Defense Fund.

E: Sounds interesting.  If the library has copies on the shelf, maybe I'll look at it.  Thank you for your kind, effusive praise of my work, and congratulations on being the first interview on the most popular site in bioethics.

MA: I trust that you and Carl will bury the hatchet--it's the bioethical thing to do, after all. Thanks so much for having me on The Ethicator! It's been a dubious honor!

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Merry Christmas from the Ethicator

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I am the Ethicator and I approved this message

Brokeback PerryIn his reccent interview with Misha Angrist, Carl Elliott says:  "You're calling me an ethicist?  Man, that hurts."

You know, I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a bioethicist. But you don't need to be at grand rounds every week to know there's something wrong when pious, sermonizing blowhards can openly trash their hardworking, patriotic brothers and colleagues, while these brave men and women can't openly admit to being ethicists without being ridiculed.

The Ethicator stands against Carl Elliott's war on bioethics and the medical profession.  I am committed to bringing people together, breaking down the silos between the ethicists who so bravely do the work, and the commercial interests who so generously fund it.

h/t Rick Perry

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Carl Elliott admits I am better than him

Like Ali beating Sonny ListonIn an interview with Misha Angrist last week, Carl Elliott finally acknowledged the existence of his brother's website. Here is my long-awaited response:

Well, it's certainly pleasing to hear, after 14 months of tanking book sales and worldwide ridicule, that Carl acknowledges his brother's website (an overnight viral sensation and the most widely read bioethics website of 2011) is "much better than (his) book".  That's mighty sweet of him to say.  I guess I'll take any compliment I can get, even one dripping with false modesty and condescending fakery, in lieu of that check he never wrote.

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Things You Can Buy for the Cost of Carl’s Book, Part 16

Chemical Billy

Pepper Spray! It's hot, it's trendy. Whether you're taming protesters, thwarting a mugging or elbowing your way toward a big-ass TV, you're bound to find a use for this. Has a bioethics book ever kept you safe? No, sir. Get you a nice, big can of Chemical Billy!


I am the 53%

I am the 53%

I am the 53% (Suck it Carl)


The Ethicator Stands with #OccupyWallStreet

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Elliott, Cheney tour Canada

Carl Elliott and Dick Cheney are in Canada this week.  The former Vice President spoke at $500-a-plate dinners in Vancouver and Calgary, and was greeted with protests and calls for his arrest.  One member of Parliament suggested he be barred from entering Canada altogether.

Carl Elliott will be speaking in Toronto tomorrow.  He has not crossed the border yet.


The Alvin Brothers Feel Carl’s Pain

I'm sure it's not easy having a brother who's a runaway internet viral sensation. For what it's worth, though, Phil and Dave Alvin, formerly of the Blasters, recorded this excellent song:

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The Ethicator’s Moral Hero of the Week: Rick Perry

Click the image to view on Youtube

At last night's Republican Tea Party debate on CNN, things got a little testy over Governor Rick Perry's executive order mandating HPV vaccinations for 11- and 12-year old girls.  Michele Bachmann accused Perry of a conflict of interest with Merck pharmaceuticals,  but Perry knew just how to brush it all aside:

“It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them.  I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”

Amen to that. Perry practically gave it away.  Next time, Merck, if you want to mandate a vaccine, you better be prepared hand out some major scratch.

Got a moral issue you just can't solve?  Send your questions to the Ethicator: info@whitecoatblackhat.com


Things you can buy for the cost of Carl’s book, part 15


Fake Ham

A fake ham.

OK, so you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket, and you've got two choices:  One, you spend it on some undigestible piece of plastic fakery;  or two, you buy an imitation ham from DecorCentral.com.  I think you know the answer.



Things you can buy for the cost of Carl’s book, part 14

Sow in Heat Urine

Sow in Heat Urine

A spray bottle of Sow in Heat Urine! This goes for $13.19 online, only three dollars more than the cost of Carl's paperback on Amazon.  Now, I can't possibly be the first person to say that Carl Elliott's White Coat, Black Hat isn't worth a warm bottle of hog piss, but I may just be the first to offer market-based evidence.  And really, which would you rather have?

Get a hunting rifle, spray some of this on your clothes, and rutting boars will come at you like left-wing hippies to a Carl Elliott lecture. You'll eat all winter long on that.  On the other hand,  spend that money on White Coat, Black Hat, and you'll just be left with that same old empty feeling in the pit of your stomach.

$13.19 from CodeBlueScents.com.  Get you some.


Defending the Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs"Hey, everybody, look at me. I've got tenure and you suck. Want to watch me make fun of my employer? I can do that! They make money, so they must be criminals. My book is on Amazon, by the way. Have you read it? It's only $15.52."
-Carl Elliott

Today we are treated to the sad spectacle of Dr. BFD acting out his grudges against the productive class in his review of Benjamin Ginsburg's new book, The Fall of the Faculty.

What's all too clear is that, as a pampered member of the academic elite, Carl resents the democratization of education that we've seen over the last few years. The marketplace is finding less and less room for overpaid academic middlemen like him standing between the students, who pay the money, and the administrators, who take it.

Somebody moved your cheese, buddy--move on.

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Another Church joins the Movement

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Degrading the Brand

Snooki Loves White Coat, Black Hat

Snooki Loves White Coat, Black Hat

More lessons in building your brand:  Abercrombie and Fitch just made a remarkable offer to Jersey Shore castmember Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino:

We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans. We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino and the producers of MTV's The Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand.  We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response.

Fair enough.  Jersey Shore castmembers, I'm wondering if I can interest you in a book.


Heroes at Globe and Mail Boldly Praise Ghostwriting

GhostwriterCheck out yesterday's copy of the Toronto Globe and Mail, where the heroes in the editorial section take a bold stance in favor of pharmaceutical companies hiring ghostwriters to publish in peer-reviewed academic publications.  I say good for them.

Now, I know what you are all thinking:  As a victim of ghostwriting myself, shouldn't I be against the idea?  Well, not exactly. If you pay your ghostwriters (unlike someone else I know),  I'm all for it.

Let's face it:  Scientists have the credentials and the name recognition, but can they make their product sound awesome?  Not a chance.  Bad self-presentation is an occupational hazard; just look at the way they dress.  Plus they're busy.

And yes, as the Globe admits, there is a danger that these Big Bad Pharma Companies will turn the articles into an advertising opportunities, but hey, that's the reviewers' job to sort out.  Which is why the Globe calls for  "particularly vigilant reading of the draft by the researchers, so that no advertising spin creeps in".  Caveat emptor, baby -- we've got bigger fish to fry.  Kudos, G&M.

The Ethicator

Got a moral quandary you just can't solve?  Send your questions to the Ethicator: info@whitecoatblackhat.com



An important announcement about the PharmaVoice 100

screwI apologize for not posting sooner.  This morning, as you all know, PharmaVoice released its list of the  100 most inspiring people in the life sciences.  Mysteriously, and despite the massive groundswell of grassroots support I received, my name was not included on this year's list.

No doubt many of you will see in this the hand of a jealous sibling, or the petty vindictiveness of a powerful, pharma-bashing NGO. Of course,  it's not for me to say whether that assessment is bang-on, or whether it confirms what we really all should have known from the beginning.

What I can do is thank you all for your support, congratulate this year's winners, and appeal for calm amidst your crushing disappointment.   I know you are all angry right now, but please, keep your demonstrations respectful and nonviolent.  We are not like them.  Remember the words of Jesus:  What does not kill us, only makes us stronger.

I will be fine.   There are more accolades to garner, more contest forms to fill out, more battles to win.  Soldier on, my friends; you are all heroes, each and every day of your lives.

The Ethicator

Got a moral issue you just can't solve?  Send your questions to the Ethicator: info@whitecoatblackhat.com


Building Your Brand the Ethicator Way

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed offers some handy advice on how to build and enhance your academic brand.   Titled "The Value of Self-Promotion", the article has generated some controversy by suggesting that new academics should cite their colleagues' work for professional gain:

You should be citing all of the senior people in your field, even if their work is tangential to your own. Citation is a way of demonstrating that you know your field and you know who the key thinkers are. It is amazing how often the same person will be asked to referee your work.

Now, I can’t say I’ve spent a lot of time advancing myself in academic circles (unlike one bootlicking, sycophantic assclown whose book you may  remember); however,  as an Internet-based bioethics expert, I'll say this sounds about right.  What's academic publishing for, anyway, if not for advancing your career?  Do it right, I say.

But there's also another side of me, the Internet marketing expert, that asks the obvious questions:  Citations? Peer-reviewed journals?   Does anybody read these anymore, let alone write for them?  Seriously, what decade is this?

Listen to me:  If you want some bang for your buck, take to the Internet. And don't just cite your colleagues; any milquetoast can make nicey-nice with the boss-man.  You need to find out who your colleagues' enemies are, then  start firing away in the online forums.  Take to the comments section of the newspapers and the online media (hell, take two or three screen names if you want, and trade insults off one another).  Rack up 2500 Facebook friends, including your senior colleagues, and start wailing away at the bad guys.   All this you can do in a third of the time it takes you to write a paper proposal, yet you will reach thousands more people and leave a permanent, lasting impression on the people you want most to impress.  It's quick, it's cheap and it's unfiltered:  That's the Ethicator way.

Got a moral issue you just can't solve?  Send your questions to the Ethicator: info@whitecoatblackhat.com

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Happy Birthday, Fucker.

Thanks for ruining my life, asshole

Thanks for ruining my life, asshole.

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Happy Father’s Day

Back in 1970, Roche Laboratories was not afraid to call your dad a pussy.   Thanks to the Bonkers Institute, we have a copy of this Valium ad, which appeared in the Journal of Hospital and Community Psychiatry:

"Women dominate his universe; psychic tension can rule his life . . . domination by women has led to psychic tension. He doesn't understand the source of his psychic tension. But you do. He relates well to women with domineering traits. But not to men. Not even his own son."

Click image to enlarge

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