Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Affordable Health Care Attacked

The Detroit News of August 27th has a news article titled "In-Store health clinics take off." It's about the growth of small convenience clinics sprouting up in chains such as Meijer and CVS in the Detroit area. I think these clinics are a great idea. Their low-cost helps the poorer part of the population as well as being open at night when doctors' offices are closed. This may even help alleviate some after hours visits to hospital ERs for non-emergency treatments. The article by News writer Jonnelle Marte list the pros and cons of the clinics:

Advantages

Prices for services are usually listed openly and range between $30 and $100.

Most health insurance companies are accepted.

Retail clinics are usually open seven days a week and in the evenings. No appointment is necessary.

Clinics have little or no wait time and visits are usually over in 15-20 minutes.

If you don't have a primary care physician, most clinics will refer you to a doctor in your area.
Disadvantages

Medical treatment is provided by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, not doctors.

Most clinics treat only a limited scope of illnesses, like colds, allergies and infections.

Retail clinics are not for people with serious health conditions or long-term illnesses.

Retail clinics are not for infants. Many clinics require patients to be at least 18 months old.
Services offered
The types of services offered at retail health clinics varies per clinic, but most offer vaccinations and treatment of common minor illnesses including:

Allergies

Bladder infections

Bronchitis

Eye, ear and throat infections

Sinus infections

Strep throat

Stomach flu

Minor sprains

Skin conditions such as cold sores, sunburns, poison ivy and ringworm

Vaccinations: Flu, Hepatitis A and B, polio, meningitis, pneumonia
But, as the main headline reveals "Quick, low-cost outlets prompt medical turf war", this is about political control.
But the growth has prompted the American Medical Association to issue a nationwide advisory calling for states to regulate the clinics -- which operate in places like CVS, Wal-Mart, Target and Meijer -- out of concern that there may be a conflict of interest between the clinics and the pharmacy chains that host them, as well as gaps in holistic care of patients.
Needless to say, more regulations will add time and cost to these clinics and defeat their purpose. But the real issue here is one of individual rights. Do corporations have the right to provide such services? Yes they do. Do individual citizens have the right to seek the kind of health care they want? Our constitution says yes. The state and apparently the AMA, say no.

It's been said that government must do something about the uninsured. Well:
Some clinic officials say they're providing affordable care for people who'd otherwise go without.

Juliet A. Santos, president of Early Solutions Clinic, said that about 40 percent of her patients are uninsured. "We are seeing a majority of people who don't have insurance and they're looking for access and affordability."
The free market would provide all the health care needed if the government would just get out of the way. After all it's common knowledge that the high cost of health care is due to Medicare, Medicaid, government creation of HMOs, the FDA and regulations.

Sadly, the article adds that regulations are in the works:
In response to doctors' concerns, the Michigan State Medical Society is working with Michigan's Department of Community Health to establish statewide regulations for in-store clinics by the end of the year.

Among the guidelines they'd like to establish are a limit to the scope of illnesses that can be treated and a patient referral system to local doctors. They also want care providers -- typically nurse practitioners or physician assistants -- at retail clinics to be clear about their qualifications at the outset of a visit. And they want the clinics to maintain electronic records and communicate with patients' primary doctors, said David Fox, medical society spokesman.

Many clinics are developing networks of local doctors for referral when patients require care beyond what they can provide.

"We are an adjunct to the medical providers in the regions," said Kent Lillemoe, chief financial officer of MinuteClinic, the largest U.S. provider of retail-based health care, which expanded to the Detroit area less than a year ago. "We are not trying to be a medical home for everyone."
I don't know how these regulations will affect the clinics, but I think they have an inalienable right to offer those services without government interference.

Monday, August 27, 2007

On a Positive Note

Dennis Chamberland, underwater enthusiast at Quantum Limit, posts on his witnessing of the exciting landing of the Shuttle. After the reported damage, I was worried about the crew too. I'm real happy they made it back safely.
********************************************

Following that post at QL is one by Ralph Buttigieg reporting on new products as a result of space flight. Ralph says:
For a long time space proponents have talked about space-based products. We were supposed to get pharmaceuticals, advanced alloys and even ball bearings manufactured in the microgravity of space. Well, I haven't seen any space pharmaceuticals but we now have space beveridges including space beer.
Space Beer?

Only in America, naturally, and you've got to admire their entrepreneurship.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Atlantic More and Less Salty

CCNet has a link to a Live Science article which says "Global Warming making North Atlantic less salty." This is followed by an article from New Scientist which says "Global warming is making North Atlantic more salty." I couldn't link to the New Scientist site as it is down for maintenance but the url is http://environment.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn12528&feedId=online-news_rss
20

which you can try when it comes back on line, from the August 23rd issue.

This is just one more example of why the general public distrusts science. A Joe lunchbox will see headlines like this and wonder something like "Why can't these scientists get it right?" Indeed. But this just highlights the fact that studies can be made to show just about anything. In reality they really can't prove anything. They're not designed to. They deal in probabilities. Their value to science lies in a study's ability to narrow down possible causes to a few at which time science then conducts a test to prove (or disprove) a causal connection. Without that test or experiment, there is no certainty or proof of causality, only a maybe.

Today, actual experiments are being ignored and statistical correlations and associations are being treated as if they were causal connections by use of the word 'link.' We constantly hear things like "cause A is linked to disease B" and so on. Yet the dictionary definition of link is connection or joining. But correlations are not connections or joinings. The public hears the word 'link' and wrongly assumes a causal connection.

The growing indifference to using experiments or tests to prove causal relationships, or to intellectual precision by calling associations 'links' is further evidence that "Government encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." (Ayn Rand, Establishing of an Establishment.) The solution is to dismantle the establishment.

[CCNet is a scholarly electronic network edited by Benny Peiser. To subscribe,
send an e-mail to listserver@livjm.ac.uk ("subscribe cambridge-conference").] It's free.

Update: The link to the New Scientist article is here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Absolutism vs Relativism

I haven't blogged lately because my post and edit post pages disappeared for a while. They're back now so here I go with a post a few days old but well worth it.


Myrhaf has an interesting post in which he asks what is the defining premise of the secular left and the religious right? He effectively argues that it is moral absolutism.
In my opinion, the defining premise is the belief in moral absolutes. Liberals are moral relativists. Both the religious right and Objectivists are moral absolutists. (The problem with the religious right, of course, is that their morality comes from religion, not reality. Their morality is grounded in faith, not reason, and is therefore dogmatic.)
I couldn't agree more. But this paragraph got me thinking:
If the Republicans become the party of religion and the Democrats the party of modern philosophy, then we will have a pure, classic rationalist-empiricist split in American politics, with the left mumbling skepticism and the right shouting dogma detached from reality. Neither party will be a comfortable fit for those who advocate reason, except on an ad hoc basis. We're close to this situation now, although both parties show moments of lucidity and reasonableness.
This made me wonder who on the left or the right would be receptive to rational principles? It was Peter Schwartz (see below) who said bad ideas are spread by two kinds of people, pushers and users. It seems to me that on the secular left the pushers would be mostly university professors and the users would be their students who then go out into all walks of life including some as media pundits. These two groups are not necessarily mutually exclusive of course. Some professors could be users who never challenged what they were taught and some users could become eager pushers like some media persona. These groups tend to reject principles and become pragmatists.

The religious right also has pushers and users. The pushers would be the theologians, and other religious leaders and of course the users would be those who belong to the 'flock.' Both of these groups are accustomed to thinking in terms of principles albeit wrong and contradictory ones.

So, if the moral relativism of the left is an unprincipled practicality (pragmatism) and its requirement to compromise on everything, and the absolutism of the right is religious dogma in the form of principles, which of these will be more receptive to new rational moral values? I just don't know. I think many users leave the left for the right precisely because of a need for a firm, absolutist moral code which religion tries to provide. Myrhaf suggests that in 20 years there could be a vast majority of people on the right and left who reject reason and a small minority who do not. He could very well be right. But I think we have that situation now. I for one am optimistic about the future because I see that small minority growing fast.

("Clarity in Conceptulization: The Art of Identifying Package-Deals" by Peter Schwartz can be purchased here.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Another Sign of the Times

Since my last post was about signs that said something a little different, I thought I would pass this along. From Gus Van Horn comes this post on his trip to Maine's coast which features photos of the beautiful scenery and a hilarious sign.

"Teenagers:
Tired of being harassed by your stupid parents?
ACT NOW!!!
Move out, Get a job, Pay your own bills. Do it now while you still know everything."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two Signs Of The Times

Morgan Freeberg takes a lighthearted look at the modern fad of baggy (one nanometer away from falling down) pants. I mention this because Mrs. Eyes and I were on our way to do a little offshore fishing this past weekend and, needing some bait, we stopped at a small market with a "live bait" sign. As we pulled up in front Mrs. Eyes exclaimed "Oh god, read that sign!" Sure enough in the middle of the door was a sign that read "Please pull up your pants before entering. MGMT" I must say, I've not seen a sign like that before. "We need a sign like that on our front door" she said approvingly, meaning the large retail chain for which she works and in which she sees that sort of thing a lot. I agree with Morgan, that's one fad that needs to come to an end.
**********************************************

On a different note, I pulled into a gas station last week and saw a sign in the window that read "Grizzley Smokeless Tobacco, No Sacrifice!" I took that to imply that something non-sacrificial can be good. I also wondered if the management of that company thought that the idea of non-sacrifice would appeal to the public. It does seem so. Is there hope that non-sacrificial ideas can reach receptive ears?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Another Study Falsely Reported by Media

Junkfoodscience does it again reporting on how studies say one thing and the media reporting on those studies say something else. The post says:
Headlines read: “Maternal obesity heightens risk of birth defects” (Washington Post) and “Maternal obesity prior to pregnancy associated with birth defects” (JAMA Press Release). We were told a study found: “Women who were obese before they became pregnant had a higher risk of having babies with certain birth defects, including missing limbs, malformed hearts and underdeveloped spinal cords.”

More accurate reporting (and what women should have heard) would have been: “Maternal "obesity" was not found to be associated with higher risks for birth defects.”
Ever since Rachel Carson claimed that the studies of Dr. James DeWitt showed DDT to cause eggshell thinning in birds when his studies actually showed no such thing, the practice of deliberately misleading the public by claiming a study to say one thing when it in fact doesn't, has become very wide spread.

Obviously, this is another glaring example of how government encouragement of science leads to a re-orientation of scientists from a devotion to truth to a devotion to government policy. That this re-orientation is championed by the likes of the Washington Post and JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) testifies that the media ideal of speaking truth to power has been abandoned. Like Ayn Rand observed, science is becoming "indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood."

Lil' Round Up Aug 14th

Mike at "Primacy of Awesome" is calling it quits, sort of. He says that's it for P of A but plans on opening up a new blog under a pseudonym soon. I'll be keeping an eye out for it. I've enjoyed his writing in the past and look forward to it again, a good voice for objectivism.
*********************************************

Myrhaf posts on the reaction of two Republicans on Karl Rove's retirement, one from John Hawkins and another from Hugh Hewitt. You know, I never could figure out why Dems and liberals considered Rove a genius. Just because someone beats you in a few consecutive elections doesn't make him a genius. It could be you are just a complete idiot. Oh well, Rove now seems to be the consummate pragmatist going with whatever works now and to hell with later consequences.
*********************************************

Darren Cauthon bravely defends a giant corporation's property rights. Evidently AT&T edited some words by a member of Pearl Jam during their Lapalooza webcast. Now some are calling it censorship and calling for Net Neutrality. Even if AT&T was irrational, they still have a right to broadcast what they want. It's their property.


Update, added link to Myrhaf post. ooops!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

1998 & 2006 Not Hottest Years

By way of JunkScience.com of Aug 9th. comes news of temperature adjustments by Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) which now shows the hottest year to have been not 2005 or 1998, but 1934. This change has been at least partially in response to the efforts of Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit, Roger Pielke of Climate Science and Anthony Watts of www.surfacestations.org.

Mr. Watts has been creating a network of volunteers to photograph temperature recording sites nation wide. So far his group has found a growing number of sites that are out of spec. as far as placement is concerned. They've been found on or next to paved and asphalted parking lots, air conditioners and other sources of man-made heat. If you haven't been to his site yet I highly recommend visiting it. These are some of the sites that are used by the warmers to 'prove' we are overheating the planet.

I tried linking to Climate Audit but they seem to be down, probably overwhelmed with visitors. The URL is www.climateaudit.org.

If you're wondering why there doesn't seem to be much concern for placement of these sites, "Government encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." Ayn Rand in "the Establishing of an Establishment." If government encouraged science makes men indifferent to truth, wouldn't it also make them indifferent to things related to truth, like, accuracy?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Convenient Evasions

This past weekend I watched Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." I wasn't going to watch it because I was sure it would be nothing more than propaganda, bald-faced assertions and half-truths. But a little voice in the back of my head kept saying "How will you answer alarmists when they say 'how can you criticize something you haven't seen?'" So I caved and watched it and am happy to announce that my initial evaluation was spot on. In reviewing the movie I would like to focus on many of the things Gore didn't say and some of the assumptions underlying the things he did say.

There were lots of scenes of melting glaciers, melting sea ice and melting permafrost, i.e. anecdotes. Mr. Gore never bothered to tell his audiences that anecdotes are not evidence.

Gore also fails to tell his audience that there is no such thing as a global climate. There are only local and regional climates and they are all interacting with each other. The sum of all these interactions is what is loosely referred to as the global climate and it is always changing. To say that tweaking one variable like CO2, among the large number of variables, will alone cause disaster is ridiculous. For that to be true there would have to be almost zero flexibility in the sum of all those interacting weather systems.

Gore claims that the more CO2 we put into the atmosphere, the more the temperature will rise. He is implying that the relationship between CO2 and temp is linear. He hides from his viewers the fact of saturation which is explained here. This simply means that the more CO2 put into the atmosphere, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, i.e. traps less and less heat.

He also has an impressive chart showing a correlation between CO2 and temperature allegedly from ice cores. It shows a significant spike in CO2 but no corresponding spike in temp. A closer look at this can be had here.

Gore also showed a graph which purports to go back about 1000 yrs. To show the insignificance of the medieval warm period there is a tiny bump. In statistics, there is a technique called smoothing and I think they used a steam roller on this one.

AIT also fails to provide a long historical context. Sure, it claims to go back 600,000 years but that's not enough geologically speaking. Gore omits the fact that the earth has been in a glacial epoch for about 3 million years. According to thissite, a glacial epoch is when ice forms at the poles and like everything else, goes through cycles in which ice grows towards the equator, called glaciations, then recedes again, called interglacials. The historical record shows that the overall climate of an earth during a glacial epoch is heavily weighted in favor of cooling, not warming. How heavily? Well, since glaciations usually last an average of 100,000 yrs, and warm interglacials like the one we are in now, average only about 20,000 years, I would say about an 80% chance of cooling.

The idea that a slight increase in GHGs would stop the next glaciation is just nuts. When they talk of global warming becoming 'irreversible', they are trying to get viewers to believe that a simple doubling of CO2 will slam the breaks on an entire glacial epoch, even reverse it!!! Now they're getting asinine.

Gore drags out the so-called study by Ms. Naomi Oreskes of 928 papers by scientists who she claims, support the AGW hypothesis with no dissenters. Gore conveniently omits the fact that Dr. Benny Peiser conducted a review of those same 928 papers plus a few hundred more in the same data bank and found Ms. Oreskes was way off. Only 13 papers explicitly endorsed the AGW theory. Obviously she was taking those papers which had no position one way or another and recording them as positive. I submit, that's not honest.

Gore also conveniently avoids telling his viewers that the USA is a net carbon sink which means that it takes out of the atmosphere more CO2 than it puts in.

While there are other things wrong with it, the whole documentary is a salad of half-truths designed to disarm viewers into accepting falsehoods garnished with croutons of truth, an exercise in convenient evasion.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lil' Round Up Aug 6th 07

Over at Rule of Reason, Ed Cline has a lot of evidence showing that the Founders really did want to keep the legalized use of force out of the hands of clergy-any clergy. The comments are interesting too. I agree with Mr. Cline of course. The Founders were part of an intellectual movement that was trying to throw off the religious influences of the past. They seemed to know that man's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was diametrically opposed to the religious requirement that man sacrifice himself.

******************************************

Myhraf takes a look at the anti-idea mindset of a leftist commenter at Daily Kos. Such people are truly mindless.

******************************************

Focalplane at Global Warming is Good links to a BBC article showing:
Driven by nonsensical European policies, Dayak tribesmen are losing their land to avaricious palm oil plantations.

Back in Europe, biofuel plantings are reducing the land available for self-sufficient food crops, forcing more and more foreign imports.
Whatever their (greenies) motives, a concern for the poor is not one of them. In fact, a concern for any human isn't one of them.

*******************************************

Ergo Sum at Leitmotif asks Some Questions like what if the United States didn't exist. One thing is for sure; if the U.S. ceased to exist tomorrow morning, all the nations that claim to desire such a thing would be at each other's throats by evening.

*******************************************

Billy Beck at two-four links to an IBD article covering Hillary's notion that a special acadamy be created to train people how to be public servants. Billy says:
There is nothing in the whole world like government for cultivating the idea of the need of government.
So much for the notion that some government growth doesn't necessarily lead to more government growth.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thoughts on Sacrifice Update

In response to my post yesterday, A Thought on Self-Sacrifice, some commenters asked some good questions to which I'll now try to respond. But first I want to address the issue of clarity of meaning. Sacrifice can mean different things to different people so I want to say that my meaning is the traditional biblical one, that a sacrifice cannot result in any benefit to one's self whatsoever.

The reason I tackled this subject is that many times when I have tried to point out that sacrifice is contrary to man's nature and therefore works against his survival when practiced consistently, I have been given the argument that nature is replete with examples of sacrificial behavior; that nature hard wires creatures to sacrifice themselves for their young or the group to which they belong. Since this is the case, humans should accept sacrifice as a valid behavior also.

I disagree. I contend that caring for one's young and those in one's group is not a sacrifice but a form of a self-preserving action; that to defend the survival of one's offspring is a very self-interested and therefore survival enhancing behavior.

I further contend that nature, or if you will, evolution, makes no sacrifices--but does make trade offs. If for example, a species develops a survival strategy of massive reproduction whereby it produces so many offspring that it feeds several species of predators and has plenty left over to propagate itself, then massive reproduction is a survival-enhancing behavior. There is no desire by any member of that species to leap or fly into the mouth of its predators. That would be a sacrifice.

One commenter asked about the apparent altruistic behavior of mammalian parents towards their young and about bees and ants and their queens and nests. I think it is just that, appearance, not what's really happening. In the case of bees, ants and other lower life forms, some are born to be soldiers and others born to be workers and so on. They simply respond to different stimuli. I don't think there is any desire to sacrifice themselves. ( I am deliberately ignoring for now the issue of volition which humans have and all other organisms don't, but will discuss later.)

What may look like a sacrifice to us humans is in fact a behavior that has evolved so as to provide a likelihood of survival for that species. I don't think we should call it a sacrifice at all. I once saw a doc where it was shown how an individual bee gives directions to other bees as to the location of a pollen source. The narrator said that if a bee's sense of direction is off or crippled in some way, the other bees will sting it to death immediately. No second chance, no rehab, no mercy whatsoever. No social safety net, i.e. no trace of altruism.

As for mammals, I'm sure their behavior towards offspring is purely self-interested. Again, I saw a doc in which a group of lions were trying to separate a wildebeest calf from its mother. Each time the lions approached, the mother would charge at the lions and they would back off slightly. I wondered why the lions just didn't gang up on her, after all, there were enough of them and they take down full grown wildebeests regularly. Then I realized that a fear-filled wildebeest running for its life is predictable whereas an angry one is not and is therefore more dangerous. The lions probably sense this. So, acting in theirself interest so to speak, decided to focus on the easier meal, the calf. The lions eventually won and the mother rejoined the herd. Had the mother offered her calf to the lions, that would have been a sacrifice. Had the lions felt sorry for the calf and decided to stay hungry for another day, that would have been a sacrifice. But such behavior is not found in the animal world because self-sacrifice is not wired into the minds of these animals.

When we look at some animal behaviors they can appear to be sacrificial but I don't think they are. I think evolutionary trade-offs would be a more accurate identification.

The last reason I think sacrifice doesn't belong in the animal world is because of the issue of volition. Man has it. Animals don't. The concept sacrifice has become a moral concept for humans but it cannot be for animals because there is no morality in the animal world. There is only survive or fail to do so.

Humans must discover their nature then discover a proper behavior (moral code) then choose to behave that way. Animals have to make no such choices. That's why any equating of animal behavior with human behavior as moral is invalid.

My thoughts on this are admittedly, not complete and the commenters have helped me clarify, somewhat, some of them. So the bottom line in my thinking is that, in the animal world, what looks like sacrificial behavior is actually evolutionary trade-offs and what looks like concern for others is actually a survival-enhancing behavior performed with no sense of sacrificial duty. That should do it for now.