Matthew Stafford: Guts & Glory

 Posted by on 30 November 2009 at 2:00 pm  Sports
Nov 302009

If you’re an NFL fan, you’ve probably seen some footage of the dramatic end to last week’s Browns-Lions game. I’d definitely recommend watching the whole thing — with mic’ed up Lions quarterback Matt Stafford. It’s phenomenal.

Such moments are what I most relish about NFL football. This footage doesn’t merely document a gripping end to a game. Heck, the game wasn’t terribly meaningful, given that both teams were 1-8. The footage records the unfolding of real-life moral drama: Matt Stafford was so determined to achieve his goal, so committed to winning, that he was willing to endure lay-down-and-cry-worthy pain. I love to see that kind of resolve in action, and I’m fascinated by the response of other team members to such actions.

I hope, notwithstanding the loss of the Lions to the Packers on Thanksgiving Day, that this moment signals a turn-around for a team that has been abysmal for far too many years.

Overview of Climategate

 Posted by on 30 November 2009 at 12:00 pm  Environmentalism
Nov 302009

Christopher Booker has a useful overview of the scandal of “Climategate” in a UK Telegraph column. The whole article is well worth reading, but I liked his identification of three basic points of scientific scandal:


Perhaps the most obvious … is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.


The second and most shocking revelation of the leaked documents is how they show the scientists trying to manipulate data through their tortuous computer programmes, always to point in only the one desired direction — to lower past temperatures and to “adjust” recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming. …


The third shocking revelation of these documents is the ruthless way in which these academics have been determined to silence any expert questioning of the findings they have arrived at by such dubious methods — not just by refusing to disclose their basic data but by discrediting and freezing out any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics’ work. …

For more details, go read the whole column.

Also, Glenn Reynolds just published a column on the scandal in The Washington Examiner. (I was particularly interested to hear the views of independent programmers about the code used in the climate models.) I very much hope that Glenn’s final prediction is right:

My prediction: The Copenhagen global warming conference will feature a lot of pretty words and promises, and no admission that things have changed. But we’ll see little or no actual movement, as politicians around the world realize that there’s no percentage in pushing these programs on an increasingly wary public.

I could live with that!

Nov 302009

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 10, “The Culture of Hatred” — a reference to the rise of Nihilism in the German culture. Topics we discussed included:
  • We explored how “the first truly modern culture” in the world emerged, more accepting of contemporary-everything: the “Weimar culture,” shaped by the “free spirits” of the German Republic, the avant garde in the humanities, sciences, commentary, journalism, and so on. A key question to answeris: what is “modernity” is in this sense? What principle unites Kaiser, Kandinsky, Schoenberg, Mann, Barth, Freud, Heisenberg?
  • Touring the culture, Peikoff started with literature (“art is the barometer of a culture, and literature is the barometer of art”). The prominent philosophical novel by Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain) was characterized by a contemporary as the “saga of the Weimar Republic.” “To a country and in a decade swept by hysteria, perishing from uncertainty, torn by political crisis, financial collapse, violence in the streets, and terror of the future — to that country, in that decade, its leading philosophical novelist offered as his contribution to sanity and freedom the smiling assurance that there are no answers, no absolutes, no values, no hope.” It was a hit that resonated with the culture.
  • Turning to poetry like that of Rainer Maria Rilke, a Christian mystic admired across the board, as well as Kafka, Peikoff finds them offering “nightmare projections of nameless ciphers paralyzed by a sinister, unknowable reality.”
  • Turning to the philosophy of Existentialism and Martin Heidegger, it underscores existence being unintelligible, reason invalid, man a helpless “Dasein” — a creature engulfed by “das Nichts” (nothingness), in terror of the supreme fact of his life: death and doomed by nature to “angst,” estrangement, futility. Heidegger’s works rejected any systematic defense of his ideas and were praised as the “intellectual counterpart of modern painting.”
  • In contrast to Heidegger’s rejection of religion and God, the avant-garde theologians tried to reconceive these in modern terms — “Avant-garde religion, in short, consists in ditching one’s mind, prostrating oneself in the muck, and screaming for mercy.”
  • Next was the new psychology with the psychoanalysis of Freud. In the name of science it leaves us “Caught in the middle between these forces — between a psychopathic hippie screaming: satisfaction now! and a jungle chieftain intoning: tribal obedience! — sentenced by nature to ineradicable conflict, guilt, anxiety, and neurosis is man, i.e., man’s mind, his reason or “ego,” the faculty which is able to grasp reality, and which exists primarily to mediate between the clashing demands of the psyche’s two irrational masters.” More generally, the “new science — like the new philosophy, the new theology, the new art — becomes instead a vehicle of the willful, the arbitrary, the subjective.”
  • Finally, touching on sociology, political science, education, art historians, social commentators, philosophers… and even physics and math, we find everywhere that “The notion of ‘reason enthroned’ disappears into myth, and the rational man collapses…”
  • In sum, we find that what is new and distinctive across the board is Nihilism: hatred of values and of their root, reason — this, Peikoff contends, is the essential that underlies, generates, and defines “Weimar culture.”
  • How Peikoff traces Nihilism as a cultural force back to Kant’s philosophy.
  • How this new culture compares and contrasts with other eras of mysticism — and how Peikoff’s framing of it in this book relates to the way he is framing similar phenomena in his new DIM Hypothesis work (forthcoming).

Peikoff summarized the results, social and political:

In the orgy which was the cultural atmosphere of the Weimar Republic, the Germans could not work to resolve their differences. Disintegrated by factionalism, traumatized by crisis, and pumped full of the defiant rejection of reason, in every form and from all sides, the Germans felt not calm, but hysteria; not confidence in regard to others, but the inability to communicate with them; not hope, but despair; not the desire for solutions to their problems, but the need for scapegoats; and, as a result, not goodwill, but fury, blind fury at their enemies, real or imagined.

Nihilism in Germany worked to exacerbate economic and political resentments by undermining the only weapon that could have dealt with them. The intellectuals wanted to destroy values; the public shaped by this trend ended up wanting to destroy men.

The social corollary of “Weimar culture” was a country animated, and torn apart, by hatred, seething in groups trained to be impervious to reason.

The political corollary was the same country put back together by Hitler.

If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast — just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page. And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.

Recap #69

 Posted by on 29 November 2009 at 3:45 pm  Activism Recap
Nov 292009

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM: Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine:

Sunday Open Thread #116

 Posted by on 29 November 2009 at 12:00 am  Open Thread
Nov 292009

Here’s yet another Open Thread for your thoughts:

For anyone in the fiery grip of a random question, comment, joke, or link they’d like to share with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. (Please refrain from posting personal attacks, pornographic material, and commercial solicitations.)

Image: Tara’s New Friend

 Posted by on 28 November 2009 at 5:00 pm  Animals, Personal
Nov 282009

My fabulous new barn is nearing completion, and my horse Tara has returned home. Hooray! I really missed her.

Happily, I was able to find an excellent buddy for her on short notice. His name is “Image.” He’s a stunningly beautiful, fancy-schmancy show horse. He injured his shoulder a while back, and he seems unable to tolerate the pounding of jumping. However, he’s sound on the flat (i.e., not jumping). So the owner is looking to sell him as a dressage horse, but she needs some time to make that happen.

Here he is, fine fancy fellow that he is:

Here are Tara and Image, happy as clams.

Tara and Image fell in love in about five minutes, so they’re very content together.

Image is a very sensible and calm horse, although he’s basically lived a “city horse” existence in big show barns for all of his life. He’s been kept in a stall most of the time, turned out to pasture for shorter periods of time, blanketed and pampered, and ridden in only in rings. Now he’s learning the ways of the “country horse.” He’s out to pasture 24/7, albeit with access to shelter in the barn. He’s living among deer, coyote, fox, and other wildlife. Tara is definitely teaching Image how to be a proper country horse. Standing around, nibbling on grass, gazing off into the distance, and standing outside tail-to-wind in storms are her specialties.

Image will be staying with us until the spring, at which point the owner will be looking to sell him. At that time, I hope to buy a new horse. Tara is quite old at 26. She’s sound for now, but I won’t be able to ride her for too much longer. So I’ll need a new horse!

Thyroid Update

 Posted by on 28 November 2009 at 8:00 am  Health, Personal, Thyroid
Nov 282009

Last Tuesday, my thyroid nodule was repeatedly poked for a biopsy. (My neck wasn’t happy about that, I must admit!) The biopsy went fine, and results weren’t so bad.

Initially, the pathologist’s reading was basically, “maybe cancer, maybe not.” That wasn’t terribly helpful! The odds were very good that the nodule wasn’t cancer. Yet that couldn’t be ruled out, based on the mere look of the cells. The standard of care in such cases is to remove the nodule, along with the half the thyroid. Then the pathologist can perform the much easier task of examining a whole slice of tissue to determine whether it’s composed of evil mutant cells or not. I wasn’t too enthused about that, as you might imagine: I’m eager to get back to work. (“Good news, you didn’t need the surgery! Now enjoy your weeks of recovery to full strength!”)

Happily, we were able to get a second reading from a pathologist specializing in cytopathology. He’s reasonably confident that the nodule is merely benign goiter, so we plan to simply do a recheck ultrasound in six months.

I’m not sure if the nodule and the hypothyroidism are related. However, I’m leaning toward the hypothesis that iodine deficiency might be the underlying cause, as discussed by Dr. Davis in this helpful article.

As for my hypothyroidism, I’m not feeling quite as bad as I was a few weeks ago, but I’m not feeling terribly well. I’m lethargic; I tire easily. I’m having trouble concentrating — or even remembering what I said five minutes ago. My body temperatures are still low, and I’m cold. I’m still gaining weight. My carpal tunnel is still bothering me. I’ve not had the depression of a few weeks ago, thankfully. I’m definitely doing a bit better — but only a bit. I’ll have been on the Synthroid for three weeks as of Tuesday, so I’m going to speak to my doctor about increasing my dose — if not switching to dessicated thyroid.

So for now, I’m still on a reduced schedule. My primary concern is to keep churning out new episodes of Explore Atlas Shrugged. You should consider anything else to be an unexpected bonus.

An American Physician Reports From New Zealand

 Posted by on 27 November 2009 at 5:00 am  Health Care
Nov 272009

Dr. Ross Stevens is an American radiologist currently working temporarily in New Zealand. He recently composed this detailed analysis of the NZ state-run medical system, which I received as an e-mail forward from a colleague.

Dr. Stevens has graciously given me permission to post the full text of his e-mail here. Any American who wants to know what his or her health care future will look like under “universal health care” should read this eye-opening piece:

I am currently on a sort of sabbatical and am working in New Zealand for a public government hospital. New Zealand has a purely socialist medical system although there is also private insurance that can be obtained as well. This is a single payer system from a government ministry that controls all care through District Health boards. Each District Health Board gets a lump sum of money each year to provide for their population.

Primary care physicians (general practitioners) are private contractors and are paid fee for service from the government plus a copay from the patient. Specialists (including radiologists as well as surgeons, pediatricians, internists, cardiology, gastroenterology, urology, etc) are paid a salary which is based only upon the number of years since board certification plus bonus for after hours call coverage.

All specialists are paid the same. The top salary band (15 years + after certification) is about NZ $200.000 which is about $150,000 US. Call coverage can add another 15-25% depending on how busy and how frequent. All New Zealand citizens and permanent residents are covered by the National Health Service.

General practitioners see one patient every 7 minutes and, I am told, can make up to NZ$600K – $800K with their fee for service.

Patients must go first to their GP for all initial care–adult and pediatric. Pediatricians are specialists and only see patients after referral from GPs. All routine obstetrics is handled by midwives who receive 2 years training post high school. To go to the ER you must have a referral from your GP unless it is emergent (trauma, etc).

How does this work? Well, my hospital is over budget for the year, so they are closing the hospital (the only one within a 3-4 hour driving radius) to all but emergent patients for 6 weeks in December and January!! No elective surgery or non emergent patients. I could give many stories about delays in diagnosis that would be unheard of in the US.

That said, patients are generally happy with their healthcare and are glad that it is “free”. The mentality of patients here is different from the US. Patients are not as demanding. No one gives a second thought to waiting 4-6 weeks for a staging CT for their newly discovered lung cancer prior to treatment — many don’t accept treatment anyway. If they are told they have a cancer, they just go home to die. They are generally happy for what they have and don’t worry (or know) what they don’t.

For radiology, I am working in a small rural district, so our waiting times are good, but in many of the urban districts, the waiting times for a routine CT scan are up to 9 months. GP’s cannot order CT or MRI — only specialists. The radiology department runs 8:30 am – 5:00 pm and I read about half of what I would read in the US. If it is not done by 5:00, it doesn’t get done until tomorrow. In some cases, it might be weeks until a routine film is read. Call back after hours are pretty much only for trauma or surgical emergencies. Everything else can wait until the next morning, or Monday.

Our department is over budget, because they forgot to include the $35,000 equipment maintenance contract in this years budget. They installed a PACS system but didn’t buy the Physicians Hanging Protocol software or the RIS [Radiology Information System] — they are using a 20 year old system that is no longer supported.

Physicians who live here are generally satisfied due to the light workload and the lifestyle. However, there is a huge brain drain from the country. Many New Zealand doctors emigrate to Australia, Canada, or the US where the pay is better.

The country is critically short of physicians, especially specialists such as radiologists. In my hospital, about 2/3 of the medical staff in not native New Zealander — most from South Africa or Europe) and about 1/4 of the staff is made up of locum tenens like me — people from outside of New Zealand who come here for 6-12 months for the experience.

It is an interesting system and I have had an interesting time here. They spend about 1/4 per capita compared to what we spend in the US for health care. The care is good but not great here. They have a hard time recruiting and keeping physicians and are critically in short supply. I do not think that the American public would accept the level of care that is provided here. We will see what our future brings!

Ross Stevens, MD

Dr. Stevens is absolutely correct. Americans would not accept the levels of restrictions on access and quality of care caused by New Zealand’s government policies.

Long waits, outdated technology cost overruns, patients going home to die — this is not change I can believe in.

Let’s hope the US health system never gets to this point!

(Crossposted from the FIRM blog.)

Objectivist Roundup

 Posted by on 26 November 2009 at 12:00 pm  Objectivist Roundup
Nov 262009

Rational Jenn has the Thanksgiving Edition of the Objectivist Roundup. While you’re waiting for turkey — or after you’ve stuffed yourself silly — go check it out!

Justice, Not Grace

 Posted by on 26 November 2009 at 5:00 am  Ethics
Nov 262009

Our 1FROG Thanksgiving Dinner — hosted Chez Hsieh this year — has a traditional prayer. Can you guess what it is? (Have I mentioned it before? I have no idea.)

It is… wait for it … wait …

“Thank God we don’t have to pray!”

On a more serious note, Craig Biddle posted his Thanksgiving op-ed to Principles in Practice: Don’t Say Grace, Say Justice. It begins:

The religious tradition of saying grace before meals becomes especially popular around the holidays, when we all are reminded of how fortunate we are to have an abundance of life-sustaining goods and services at our disposal. But there is a grave injustice involved in this tradition. It is the injustice of thanking an alleged God for the productive accomplishments of actual men.

Go read the rest.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha