Best of 2008

Dec 312008

I recently asked my fellow NoodleFoodlers to send me a few of their best posts from 2008, as a way of highlighting the best we’ve offered this year. Here’s what they submitted. Please feel free to nominate your own favorite NoodleFood posts of 2008 in the comments!







And last but not least, me:

I want to heartily thank all of my fellow NoodleFoodlers for their excellent contributions to this blog over the past year. NoodleFood is a far better blog for those posts, and they are very, very much appreciated. I’d also like to thank the many knowledgeable, insightful, and amusing folks who post to the comments.

Three cheers for the NoodleFoodlers! Three cheers for the NoodleFoodleDoodlers!

And most of all: Happy New Year!

Speed Camera Abuses

Dec 312008

Some Maryland high school students are using speed cameras to “exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers”.

According to this article:

High school students in Maryland are using speed cameras as a tool to fine innocent drivers in a game, according to the Montgomery County Sentinel newspaper. Because photo enforcement devices will automatically mail out a ticket to any registered vehicle owner based solely on a photograph of a license plate, any driver could receive a ticket if someone else creates a duplicate of his license plate and drives quickly past a speed camera. The private companies that mail out the tickets often do not bother to verify whether vehicle registration information for the accused vehicle matches the photographed vehicle.

…A speed camera is located out in front of Wootton High School, providing a convenient location for generating the false tickets. Instead of purchasing license plates, students have ready access to laser printers that can create duplicate license plates using glossy paper using readily available fonts. For example, the state name of “Maryland” appears on plates in a font similar to Garamond Number 5 Swash Italic. Once the camera flashes, the driver can quickly pull over and remove the fake paper plate. The victim will receive a $40 ticket in the mail weeks later.

These speed cameras are a technological embodiment of the flawed principle of “guilty until proven innocent”. These sorts of “pranks” (and the subsequent injustices) are a predictable result of this bad approach to enforcing the law.

Best Animal Videos of 2008, Part 3

Dec 302008

CityRag posted a list of the best animal videos of 2008. Here are the last of my favorites:

Hsieh OpEd: "Polis vs Polis on Cars and Health Care"

Dec 302008

The December 28, 2008 Boulder Daily Camera has published my latest OpEd on health care. Interestingly, the first online comment in response was from Congressman-elect Jared Polis himself.

Here’s the OpEd:

Polis vs. Polis on cars and health care

By Dr. Paul Hsieh
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boulder’s Congressman-elect Jared Polis recently took a bold stand against a federal bailout of the automobile industry, correctly arguing that that the car manufacturers’ problems should be handled by the private sector, not the government. Coloradans should urge him to apply the same principles to the issue of health care reform.

In the Dec. 10 Wall Street Journal, Polis wrote: “Our United States Congress… now finds itself poring over ‘business plans’ submitted this week by Ford, GM and Chrysler. People who have never before in their lives seen — no less implemented — a business plan are now trying to decide if these companies will succeed by means of a ‘capital infusion’ with… [taxpayer] money. Something is wrong with this picture.”

Polis is absolutely correct on this point. As a successful businessman himself, he knows that government cannot and should not be manufacturing cars.

His argument applies even more strongly to the issue of health care. Although he campaigned on a platform of government-run “single payer” health care, he should recognize that government cannot and should not be running health care.

Similar socialized medical systems in other countries are consistent failures, leading only to harsh rationing and long waiting lists. In Canada’s “single payer” system, a woman who feels a lump in her breast might wait months for the surgery and chemotherapy she needs. In contrast, a Boulder woman could get the care she needed in a few days.

Furthermore, whenever government attempts to guarantee “universal health care,” it must also control it. Government then decide who gets what health care and when, not doctors and patients. In single payer systems, far from being a “right,” health care becomes just another privilege dispensed at the discretion of government bureaucrats.

A 20-year old Canadian snowboarder who hurts his knee on the slopes might wait almost a year for an MRI scan, if the government does not consider it an “emergency.” Yet such a delay in proper diagnosis and treatment could result in a permanent crippling arthritis by age 30. A Colorado snowboarder with the same injury could receive the necessary scan and surgery in a few weeks, avoiding such a life-long disability.

Finally, single payer health care necessarily interposes the government into the doctor-patient relationship in the name of cost control. According to the Telegraph, Great Britain’s National Health Service paid bonuses to primary care physicians who reduced the numbers of referrals to hospital specialists — thus forcing those doctors to choose between their oaths to their patients or the government which pays their salaries.

This corrosive effect on the doctor-patient relationship is one of the worst evils of single payer health care. The evil is not that it allows a few doctors to act badly, but rather that it takes good doctors and encourages them to become bad physicians willing to betray their patients’ best medical interests.

The fundamental flaw behind single payer systems (or any other form of “universal health care”) is the assumption that health care is a “right” that must be guaranteed by the government. Health care is a need, not a right. Rights are freedoms of action (such as the right to free speech), not automatic claims on goods or services that must be produced by another. There’s no such thing as a “right” to a car — or a tonsillectomy.

Individuals are legitimately entitled to health care that they purchase with their own money, are promised by prior contractual agreements, or are given to them via voluntary charity.

Any attempts to guarantee an alleged “right” to health care must necessarily violate the genuine rights of others — such as the physicians who are forced deliver health care on the government’s terms (rather than their own) and the taxpayers who are forced to pay for others’ health care against their will.

Socialism doesn’t work for car manufacturing, and won’t work for health care. Congressman-elect Polis correctly understands that the government should not be running the auto industry. If Coloradans value their lives and their health, they should urge him to apply that same understanding to health care and to support free market reforms, instead of a “single payer” system. After all, it is their own future health care at stake.

Dr. Paul Hsieh of Sedalia is co-founder, Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine


Dec 292008
  • Questions from 2008 Not Answered in Slate’s Explainer column. Here’s a good questions:
    I live in Washington, D.C., and we have very long escalators coming out of the Metro. If I grabbed the handrail when I first step onto the escalator and did not let go until I was at the top, my body would be almost prostrate across the steps. As I go higher on the escalator, I have to readjust the hand that is grabbing the rubber handrail. Why can’t the companies that make escalators sync the steps and the handrails so that they go the same speed?

    I suspect that the rail is traveling a longer distance than the steps yet moved with the same motor, so it must go faster. Here’s a funny one:

    Can men eat the Activia yogurt that is advertised exclusively to the modern woman in khakis? Will it have the same internal regulatory effects on the male system that are promised for the female bowels? If not, why not?

    In fact, the yogurt only works for women who wear khakis at least four days per week. (Actually, Activa is gross. They add cornstarch to it, presumably to make it less runny. Personally, I get all kinds of lovely natural bacterial cultures from my raw milk and raw milk yogurt.) And, I can’t resist this gem:

    How long can humans live when they are caught on fire? For example, when a car crashes and explodes turns into a gulf of flames, but humans are alive.

    Uh, dude, why do you need to know? Just FYI, it’s a bad idea to set yourself or your fellow fraternity brothers on fire. (Via The Agitator.)

  • TUAW reviewed a cute little Christmas shopping app from Target. (Too late for to be useful now, I know.) How was life possible before third party iPhone apps?!? And why won’t my tasks sync yet?!?
  • Does anyone else find it ironic that Britney Spears’ two new singles contain lyrics rather strange for a young woman in conservatorship under her father due to mental problems? Womanizer includes the lines, “You say I’m crazy / I got your crazy.” Uh, yeah. Circus has “I’m like the ringleader / I call the shots.” Uh, I don’t think so. Actually, I like both songs for the fluffy pop that they are, and I do hope to see more healthy, sane, and half-naked Britney shaking her rear for our enjoyment. Still, I’m amused.

A New Dog

Dec 292008

I am utterly desperate for a dog. I miss Kate terribly, and I miss Abby now more than ever. Mostly, however, I miss the presence of a good farm dog in our lives. I miss being a pack leader. I miss being welcomed home by a wagging tail. I miss my faithful companion for feeding the horses. I miss the security of the sharp alarm bark. I miss the diligent licking of plates. I miss the silly games and antics. I miss talking to the best of listeners. I miss having my doggie friend at my side.

Paul and I adopted Kate and Abby as adults from a shelter. This time, I’ve said that I want puppy. I’ve also said that I wanted to buy a dog from a breeder, so as to avoid (as much as possible) the kind of genetic problems suffered by both Kate and Abby. (Kate had very bad hip dysplasia; Abby developed degenerative myelopathy. Both diseases are common in German Shepherds, thanks to the AKC’s focus on form rather than function.)

However, after reading this Sports Illustrated article (with pictures) on what happened to Michael Vick’s dogs — and perusing the web site of the Front Range German Shepherd Rescue — I’m rethinking that decision. We might get a rescue dog instead.

In addition to their inherent excellent qualities as dogs, Paul and I found great pleasure in knowing that we had rescued Kate and Abby. Kate was obviously pampered in her previous home, but her orthopedic problems were quite serious. Another family might not have been able to afford the hip replacement surgery and pain management that enabled her to live so well for so long. Abby was not well-treated by her prior owner: she had been pretty seriously neglected by a [something unprintable] only interested in breeding her. She was 20 pounds underweight when we adopted her, and her behavior clearly indicated that she’d only been sporadically fed and watered. So by the kind of life we offered Kate and Abby, we helped them reach their full doggie potential. We saved them. And in turn, they rewarded us with their utmost loyalty. They were truly excellent dogs.

Undoubtedly, I want a young dog. And we’re set on another German Shepherd: we like the steady temperament and strong loyalty that characterizes the breed. So perhaps we should aim for a German Shepherd between six months to a year, so that we can test for hip dysplasia before adopting him/her.

The terrible part is that I can’t possibly spare the time for a new dog until the dissertation is done. So Paul and I will have to endure life without a dog for a few more months. That won’t be fun. However, the prospect of rescuing another dog feels like the right course. It feels like we’ll be honoring all that Kate and Abby were to us and all we were to them — and I like that thought very much.

Recap #24

Dec 282008

This week on Politics without God, the blog of the Coalition for Secular Government:

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

This week on FA/RM, the blog of Free Agriculture – Restore Markets:

Sunday Open Thread #29

Dec 282008

Here’s yet another a Sunday 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.)

Free Book About Lunch

Dec 272008

As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. However, you can get a free book about breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Yesterday, I was delighted to discover that Dr. Michael Eades announced that he and his wife, Dr. Mary Dan Eades, were offering their book The Protein Power Lifeplan for free. (It’s a Christmas present; they’ve done it in the past. Go Santa!) You just have to pay shipping if you order it online. It’s totally free if you can pick it up in person in Eagle, Idaho. The offer ends on January 5th.

Guy Adamson of FA/RM wrote me about the offer this morning, saying:

This is an excellent book on diet I highly recommend. Even if you have read Protein Power, I think LifePlan is a more complete book … If Good Calories, Bad Calories scare the grains [and sugars!] out of you, LifePlan takes similar information and presents it in a way you can apply to your life.

I’ve not yet read Protein Power but I’m a huge fan of Dr. Eades’ blog. So I’ll be ordering my copy this weekend, probably with some krill oil.

Thank you, Drs. Eades!

IOS/TOC/TAS Death Watch

Dec 262008

That pretend-Objectivist organization lately known as “The Atlas Society” has canceled its 2009 Summer Seminar due to financial woes. They intend to spend the time and money saved working on their ancient booby-trap of a web site. Robert Campbell posted the letter he received from Will Thomas. Here it is, in full:

Thanks again for sending me your presentation ideas for the planned 2009 Summer Seminar on Objectivism in Theory and Practice. I’m sorry to say that we will not be holding a Seminar next year after all.

The Summer Seminar is a vital part of our community-building and academic efforts. We do not intend to abandon those goals. Actually, we envision resuming the Summer Seminar tradition in 2010.

Our decision to suspend the Summer Seminar in 2009 is due to the economic circumstances and a constructive rearrangement of staff priorities looking forward.

It’s obvious to everyone that the future lies on the internet. It has become clear to us at TAS that one of our most urgent priorities is to update, invigorate, and expand our website to make it a more powerful vehicle for outreach and education about open Objectivism. With the web, we can and do reach hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. The Summer Seminar, for all that is an intense and uplifting personal experience, can only touch, at most, a few hundred people each year. If we have to choose between the two, the choice is clear.

Making our internet plans a reality will require taking substantial amounts of staff time, including mine, away from other projects and refocusing on web projects. Even in normal economic times, we would not be able to avoid the conflict by hiring additional staff, since key aspects of the web project require the expertise of current staff.

So please look for us to put up an improved and livelier web presence in 2009, and keep an eye out next Fall for the call for proposals for our 2010 seminars. Assuming things continue according to plan, I’ll be writing back to you in the Fall to see if you would like to renew your proposals. I’m sorry we won’t be able to invite you to speak this year.

My best guess is that the Summer Seminar will not be resumed in 2010 — or ever. IOS/TOC/TAS is a dying beast.

In recent years, their summer seminar has been ailing in a serious way. It went from about 300 attendees in 2003 (when I last attended) to something like 100 in 2008. (In contrast, ARI’s OCON has grown from about 300 attendees in 2003 to over 500 in 2007 and 2008.)

The only other discernible activity of the organization has been its magazine, The New Individualist. That failed to draw a broad readership, as they’d hoped. More importantly, its editor Robert Bidinotto left TAS entirely in mid-October, apparently on not-so-friendly terms. (That link is temporarily unavailable, unfortunately.)

Oh, and no one seems to know what the heck David Kelley does with his time; he hasn’t produced anything substantial in many years.

In short, IOS/TOC/TAS has been dying for some years now. And with the Ayn Rand Center now open and active in Washington, I don’t think it can survive much longer. As someone who wasted far too much precious time with them, I think I’ve earned the right to say, “Good riddance to bad rubbish!”

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