Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Attention Students

If you're a student and would like to know more about Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, but there is no Objectivist club on your campus, please be informed that there will soon be a virtual Objectivist club in which you can participate. I recieved this email from Keith Schacht today and reprint it below.
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I helped start the Objectivist Club Network (OCN), an organization dedicated to helping all Objectivist Campus Clubs. OCN is not affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute, although we support them and regularly communicate with them to ensure our respective organizations are not duplicating efforts.


Recently we've expanded our efforts to solve a new problem: there are students interested in joining an Objectivist club where no club exists. Some of these students start their own club, but others don't have time to start a club or do not find enough participants on campus to form a club.

We've created the Virtual Objectivist Club (VOC) for these students -- a phone-based discussion group dedicated to the study of Objectivism. Meetings will be weekly, beginning this September, each moderated by an experienced Objectivist. The group is open to any current students who would like to learn more about Objectivism.


My request: Please help spread the word to any students you know who may be interested in learning more about Objectivism. The deadline for applying to the VOC is August 31st. Students can learn more and apply at: http://www.oclubs.org/voc


Please let me know if you have any questions and we greatly appreciate you sharing this with others!


Keith & the OCN Team

If the link above doesn't work try here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Went to a Tea Party

(To the tune of Rick Nelson's Garden Party)

>I went to another tea party,
>to protest the health care bill,
>to mix with people of like mind and to,
>share in a little good will.

>There were signs saying no to coercion,
>and leave my doctor alone,
>There's no reason for government to be,
>barging into my home.

>Well it's, all wrong now.
>But it's, going to be OK,
>people are beginning to realize that,
>freedom is the way.

>There's Waxman, Reid and Pelosi,
>Obama and Emmanual too,
>they tell us they're going to save the world but they,
>haven't got a clue.

>There are people in academia,
>in the House and Senate of course,
>for us they say they know what's best and will
>get it with physical force.

>Well it's, all wrong now,
>but it's, going to be OK,
>people are beginning to realize that,
>freedom needs to stay.


The scene of this party was outside US Congressman Sander Levin's office here in Roseville, Mi on Saturday 8/23. I estimate about 75 to 85 people were there holding signs protesting Obama's health care plan. Again I was pleasantly surprised at how many people said they read Ayn Rand's books especially Atlas Shrugged. Lots of motorists beeped their horns is support.

The people were mostly blue collar workers and some elderly. Almost all of them were worried about how many 'life years' they'd be allotted once Obama care was enacted.

(Update Aug 28th, edited and added to the above lyrics and corrected a typo.)
(Update Sept 3rd. corrected another typo)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Value of Null Findings

Over at The New Clarion two days ago I posted on the fact that when statistical studies result in a null finding they are rarely published and how misguided this practice really is. I reprint that post below.

The Value of Null Findings

"Sandy Szwarc at JunkfoodScience has an in-depth look at a health science topic. Although it's titled "The Myth About Unhealthy Belly Fat" the article's theme is, 'the importance of null findings', and properly laments the fact that the media seldom reports them. This is very true and also very important. That's because:
"Null findings enable true scientists to know they’re looking in the wrong direction and that it’s time to go back to the drawing board and develop a different hypothesis. They also enable us to stop needlessly worrying about something that doesn’t matter."
Also, many if not most studies that purport to show a health problem actually turn out to be false and these revelations are often not published as well.

Just as knowing that something is a threat to health and life is important, so is knowing when something is not a significant threat, especially when alleged professionals are telling us it is a threat. However, we also know that the media often prefers hype and sensationalism vs boring news about non-threats. So the media has a built in bias that is heavily weighted in favor of fear-hype while a study showing that last month's health scare is actually false will tend not to get printed. This will mislead thousands if not millions of people. As the saying goes 'you can't unring an alarm bell.'

But this situation has other consequences. It creates a fearful citizenry eager to donate their money to NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations, mostly non-profit foundations) who promise to do research (more statistical studies) to find ways to protect them from all the alleged hazards of a modern, technological society.

It sometimes works like this: NGOs fund studies that try to determine what is bad for us. When a study is completed a press release is announced. The media picks up the release and reports the findings which are usually that X (say, fast foods) is bad for us. Politicians then stand on the floor of their chambers, news reports and studies in hand, announcing that congress must address this threat to public health by passing legislation more heavily regulating the use of X. They then stand before us proclaiming how good they are at protecting us from all the harmful Xs out there and therefore we should reelect them. That is what we see.

What we don't readily see is that the funding NGO has been getting large donations from companies that produce products Y and Z (say, treadmills and diet books). Also mostly out of view is the donations by companies Y and Z to the politicians' reelection campaigns. And even further out of sight is the fact that no one looked at the study, not the reporter, the editor nor the politician, to see if the study had any statistical significance or was a null finding being passed off as having significance. This last happens often.

We have to educate ourselves to what is valid science and what is pseudo science because the press isn't doing it. Pseudo science isn't just coming from NGOs either. Government agencies fund lots of it. I recommend reading the entire article and visiting JunkfoodScience often. Her blogroll is a good source for others who actually read these so called scientific studies and then examines them for our benefit."

Health care has become so politicized that one literally has to fact check every alleged harm for oneself. The problem is that grant money is not earned money. It is handed out to applicants on the basis of the applicant's desire to see if there is a problem regarding food X's effect on say, disease Y. The granting agencies are virtually buying problems the government can try to fix with more regulations over you and me. Are we to believe that the applicant's supply of grant money will continue if they produced studies showing 'no problem here' i.e. a null finding?

The solution is to remove government encouragement from the market place especially from education and science. Government control of education is the open door to government control of everything else.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Activist Day

My congressman Sander Levin D-Mi. held a town hall meeting today at which I arrived late. He had finished his speech and was meeting people one on one. The line was long and I really didn't want to speak to him anyway so I went outside and passed out some literature. I handed out about 30 copies of the essay "It's a Matter of Justice" with the essay "The Significance of Atlas Shrugged" on the back side. I gave out 4 copies of the Ayn Rand Sampler and about 30 copies of a short note I wrote myself with a quote from Amy Ridenhour, with her permission, which is posted below.

Again I was surprised at how many people had read Atlas Shrugged and liked it. There were a few others outside carrying signs saying in essence No to Hr 3200. Here is the other note I handed out.

Two Thoughts

1) Why a public health care system does not work:
To meet budget targets, governments reduce payments to providers and to buy equipment. This reduces the supply of people willing to provide health care services (doctors, nurses, medical staff and support) and the supply of equipment (hospital beds, diagnostic tools, etc.). Shortages develop, and those who are sick or injured, suffer.

They find themselves with health care coverage, but without health care.

By Amy Ridenhour, director National Center for Public Policy Research



2)Dear Fellow Citizen:

I don't want to go under the knife of a doctor who resents my congressman, my senator, my president, telling him, his nurses and his technicians how much money they are permitted to make, how many hours they must work, and how to care for me. Even more troubling is the thought that I may have to go under the knife of a doctor and staff who DON'T resent it.

When there is a transaction between a doctor and a patient a certain cost will be mutually agreed upon. But when a third party, government, interjects itself it too must collect a paycheck and will raise the cost of the transaction for everyone. Remove the third party, government, and the costs will come down.

The proper job of government is to protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have made the mistake of allowing the government to provide our happiness, our daily bread. Trouble is, because the government has a legal monopoly on the use of force, it is the government who gets to define and enforce what shall be our happiness and daily bread. I don't want that.

Our country is on the verge of perishing from an orgy of government enforced altruism. There is of course, nothing wrong with individuals helping those in need if one is able. Americans have always been generous to those trying to help themselves. But when the government decides it wants to provide for everyone's needs, it usurps the entire field of morality for itself creating a society where only government officials are considered moral and the citizens are considered immoral, or at best amoral, in need of forceful guidance by their moral leaders. All dictatorships are created by this mindset. Right now our Congress is infected with too many of this mindset. We citizens need to start weeding them out in the next few elections. We can do this by letting our politicians know, if they want our vote, to embrace the concept of individual rights which includes the rights of doctors and patients to make their own decisions.

Citizen Michael Neibel
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I just finished listening to a podcast of Alex Epstein and Richard Salsman on Business Talk Radio. Mr. Epstein defended oil companies and Mr. Salsman defended capitalism. They did quite well. You can listen to the podcast here. Click on Aug 13 hour #2. Mr. Epstein's interview starts at about 7:35 into the show and Mr. Salsman's at about 41 min in. Enjoy.