Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fatalism

Dateline: Chicago
Monday, June 29, 2009

Associated Press writer Lindsey Tanner writes about a disturbing trend embodied in a survey done by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

A surprising number of teenagers -- nearly 15 percent -- think they're going to die young, leading many to drug use, suicide attempts and other unsafe behavior, new research suggests.


For a long time, it seemed like teenagers thought they were ten-foot-tall and bulletproof. Now, that seems not to be the case.

To keep things succinct, I'll use the definition of "fatalism" that the survey does: A belief, between the ages of roughly 12 and 18 (the survey subjects were in the seventh up through the twelfth grade) who believes they will die before the age of 35. One who believes this could be said to be a "fatalist."

So how do the numbers break down? Well for starters, males have females beat in the raw numbers; 15% to 13% respectively are fatalists. Given the sample of over 20,00 young people, that could be a statistical blip.

Moving down the results, things get more interesting when the survey is broken down by race or ethnicity. Fully 30% of surveyed Native Americans were fatalist, followed by Blacks (26%) and Hispanics (21%). Asians/Pacific Islanders weighed in at 15% fatalist, and the Whites surveyed were 10%.

The numbers became more intriguing to me when broken down by certain cultural segments. 10% of kids surveyed who lived with both parents at the time of the survey were fatalists, and 18% of the kids surveyed who did not live with both parents were fatalist. Any way you look at it, that is a significant difference.

Also, 24% of those surveyed whose families received public aid were fatalists, as opposed to 13% of those surveyed whose families did not receive such aid.

The upshot of the article is that determining a teen's fatalism might be useful in a clinical sense.

The study suggests a new say doctors could detect kids likely to engage in unsafe behavior and potentially help prevent it, said Dr. Johnathan Klein, a University of Rochester adolescent health expert who was not involved in the research.

"Asking about this sense of fatalism is probably a pretty important component of one of the ways we can figure out who those kids at greater risk are," he said.


I think something's not quite passing the smell test for me here. For decades, particularly since the 1960's, we've been exposed to one liberal shibboleth after another about how certain groups are disadvantaged, and therefore need monetary help or affirmative action, ad nauseum. Conservatives fire back that these government interventions actually rob people of their basic human dignity by encouraging laziness and family breakdown.

So now it can be asked; If fatalism in teenagers is a reliable predictor of risky behavior as it seems to be, is fatalism the disease, or is it a symptom of something more sinisiter? While human dignity is universal, teen fatalism is clearly not. To turn our heads away from the obvious is an exercise in futility, now more than ever.

Sold Out!

This past Friday, the House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. While over 40 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote against the bill, there were eight Republicans who voted for it.

The list of Republican defectors is as follows:


  • Mary Bono Mack

  • Mike Castle

  • Mark Kirk

  • Lenoard Lance

  • Frank LoBiondo

  • John McHugh

  • Dave Reichert

  • Chris Smith (NJ)



I find Mary Bono Mack's vote particularly galling, considering that if it had not been for Sonny Bono's ascendancy in the Republican class of '94, Mary Bono Mack would still be a nobody. Goodness knows her conservative credentials have been highly questionable in the past, but this is the first vote of hers that has genuinely angered me.

What do you hope to gain, defectors? Do you really believe that you're doing the right thing despite all evidence to the contrary? Can you possibly give me some sort of explanation for your votes that doesn't involve spewing leftist talking points?

I'm waiting!

The MJ Fiasco

When it comes to Michael Jackson, I don't need to hem and haw and tell you I have all sorts of mixed feelings; I don't. I never knew him, and while there have been some of his songs that I like, I think that there has been a prounounced overestimation of his impact on modern pop. His rise was meteoric, and he fell just as fast.

In the last 16 years, Jackson's behavior raised a lot of questions that were never satisfactorily answered, as far as I'm concerned, and the monetary settlement with his accuser in 1994 raises even more questions in my mind.

Isn't it possible that Michael Jackson could have simply been damaged goods? He performed for 46 of his 50 years and spent most of his life -- his entire life -- as a feted celebrity. Many pundits and journalists alike point out the fact that "he never had a childhood" as if it were an excuse for his oddness. I'd go so far as to call it a tragedy.

The most important thing to remember in all this is the same lesson we should draw from anytime a famous person is accused of wrongdoing: Murder, molestation, and other forms of mayhem are no more or less tragic when they make news headlines, and the truth we arrive at in our opinions is sometimes more reliable than jury verdict.

I believe that Michael Jackson's legacy will be tainted forever by allegations that were levelled against him twice, his numerous gross and unacknowledged plastic surgeries, and his utter-and-complete lack of any life outside of showbiz (quite literally). I know that Jackson died with a lot of unfinished business, which may be a tragedy to some, but I can not mourn his loss, since I know I didn't lose anything. I'll leave the mourning to his friends, family, toadies, and other assorted hangers-on. They can keep him.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Real Martyrdom

Many people more educated than I have written about the Iran protests.

As hard as he gets pushed, Mirhossein Mousavi has continued to push back even harder.

I'm not sure just why or how Mousavi ended up running against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and I don't know what the future holds for Iran in Mousavi's success, but as an American, I am shamed and humbled by the apparent nobility of the protesters' motives.

Are you watching, grown-up hippies? What have Americans done since the end of The Civil War to put their lives on the line like this?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Different (Safe)Way

Steven A. Burd, the CEO of Safeway, Inc., has a brilliant piece dated June 12, on WSJ.com. Burd talks about great strides made in Safeway's health care practices that have not only held their costs flat for both employer and employee, but have also given financial incentive for a significant and measurable increase in employee health.

At Safeway we believe that well-designed health-care reform, utilizing market-based solutions, can ultimately reduce our nation's health-care bill by 40%. The key to achieving these savings is health-care plans that reward healthy behavior. As a self-insured employer, Safeway designed just such a plan in 2005 and has made continuous improvements each year. The results have been remarkable. During this four-year period, we have kept our per capita health-care costs flat (that includes both the employee and the employer portion), while most American companies' costs have increased 38% over the same four years.


I'm reminded of the model that the auto insurance industry uses. It simply boils down to the fact that poor drivers aren't subsidized by the better ones. You get speeding tickets? You're accident prone? You're just young and dumb? You pay more.

Although not all risk factors are necessarily behavior-based, Safeway takes this into account by providing refunds, on an annual basis, to those that improve in any of the risk factors they regularly test for.

The most important thing about to remember about this system is that it puts to lie the notion that government intervention is necessary. Steven Burd may end up being a target, but this is true health care reform that preserves the freedom that every right-thinking American should cherish.

While comprehensive health-care reform needs to address a number of other key issues, we believe that personal responsibility and financial incentives are the path to a healthier America. By our calculation, if the nation had adopted our approach in 2005, the nation's direct health-care bill would be $550 billion less than it is today. This is almost four times the $150 billion that most experts estimate to be the cost of covering today's 47 million uninsured. The implication is that we can achieve health-care reform with universal coverage and declining per capita health-care costs.


I believe that when it comes to health care, Steven Burd is a true American patriot. Do any of our congressweasels have the spine to follow in his footsteps?

Tools in the News

On Thursday, June 11,
From Youtube, by way of Hotair.com:



Can we now put to lie any assumption that Barney "Elmer Fudd" Frank has the nation's best interests at heart? Is this not simply the typical liberal modus operandi? Find a solution in need of a problem that will create the problem itself, so when the problem gets worse, you can claim that you're the only one that can fix it! What a tool!


Our second tool in the news has no audio or video availble due to a copyright assertion by CBS, but very little in the way of explanation or introduction is needed. David Letterman not only cheesed up big-time by making a vulgar joke about a fourteen-year-old girl, he seemed to think that it would be all okay if the joke was about an eighteen-year-old instead.

What bothers me even more than the rank vulgarity of it all is the rank stench of hypocrisy. Can you imagine the outcry if Chelsea Clinton had been the butt of jokes like that? Or the Obama girls? Give me a break! What a tool!

Who's the True Patriot?

Sunday, June 14
Via Yahoo News


WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former vice president Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's handling of security matters suggests he wants the United States to be attacked, CIA chief Leon Panetta said.

"I think he smells some blood in the water on the national security issue," Panetta told The New Yorker magazine for its June 22 edition.


It's official: Leon Panetta is sick-in-the-head.

Ask yourself, my dear readers; what does Dick Cheney stand to gain if the United States is attacked? Do you think he takes joy in sticking his neck out, only to have to dodge the Democratic hatchets?

Yes, what Cheney has been doing and saying doesn't have much in the way of precedent, but Dick Cheney is a true American patriot. He has far more to lose than to gain in criticizing the current administration. As for the ridiculous assertion that he is "hoping" for another attack? Eight years of no major attacks on American soil while he was veep speaks volumes -- unless Cheney, Bush and company just got lucky.

Eight years-lucky? Come on!

Executive Pay Ceilings

Thursday July 11, 2009
From Jimm Kuhnhenn for the Associated Press, by way of Yahoo Finance:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration struck a delicate balance on executive pay Thursday, blaming flawed compensation packages for encouraging disastrous risk-taking but insisting it doesn't want to dictate how corporations reward their top people.

Gene Sperling, a top counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, conceded to a congressional committee that imposing compensation caps on companies could lead to a flight of talent.

"I can say with certainty that nobody in the Obama administration is proposing such a thing," he said.


...Yet. The current administration, when it comes to socialist policies, has already proven itself capable of sacrificing the national good for political expediency. I'm about to the point where I hear "no one is proposing this," and in my head I hear, "...but we will float it now and seriously come back to it when the time is right."

Where have you gone, America? We'll have to ride this administration out through 2012, but we can still neuter its political effectiveness in the next midterm election. Are you concerned? If you are, don't wait until the general election to get active. If you aren't, look forward to less purchasing power and even higher unemployment, and let the real adults handle the real crises.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blah Blah Blah Health care Blah Blah Blah

I got into a bit of a row yesterday with some people over on Facebook concerning the state of American health care; although it's usually topical news items that set me off, some of the inanities spewed in this discussion are definitely worthy of a gripe from Gryph.

"...my in laws are Canadian.They have never come to America for treatment. My mother in law just got both knees replaced-they did a GREAT job-she waited one month from the day she asked for surgery."


I don't want any other person besides myself, or my next-of-kin if I am incapacitated, making health care decisions for me. A single-payer system takes those sorts of decisions out of my hand. And after having said all that, hooray for your mother-in-law -- the plural of "anecdote" is not "data."

"I work in a college of medicine and we spend a lot of time on this
issue. Try [link removed by blogmaster for for brevity] to see how US compares to other nations in % GDP we spend. You can find our mortality data, infant mortality and other stats easily using whatever site you want -- reality is we spend far more for far less by any public health measure, despite leading in low smoking rates. I'm always confused by people who have orthodoxy about free market when it fails. Why not match best system to problem? Some problems addressed well by free market, some not. The "move to Canada" knee jerk response may feel good, but fails to acknowledge complexity of our problems. Why not face that our system is failing and think up solutions -- like some used by countries that spend less and get more. Step 1: Figure out which outcome you want -- mortality? infant mortality? cancer rates? Heart disease rates? countries that succeed in prevention?..."


Can we burn the straw men here, please? Obama's goal is universal health care, which will be de facto taxpayer funded. Bill Gates is going to have his health care paid for by the taxpayers, people. We're not going to have a choice. As I've alluded to before, health care was not on the political radar before the post WWII era, and only then because of wartime government wage and price controls.

Some things leave no room for compromise, and I believe this is one of those settled questions. Health care is not a fundamental right. When the government grants you civil rights by diktat, they can take them away just as quickly. If I am to err, then I will err on the side of God-given freedom.

I don't need government raping and pillaging my pocketbook for money for anything, least of all health care (which, incidentally, I've chosen to remain uninsured for).

Why is this discussion framed as a quality-of-care issue? We in America are absolutely second-to-none by any statistically significant measure. If, as Obama seems to think, this is an availability-of-care issue, rest assured that we are the most generous nation in history, as well; no one who's life is on the line will be denied lifesaving care. Those countries that can say the same (and there are few, if any) are our equals -- not our superiors.

Bats laid low by...

...fungus. Mold.

I've refrained from speaking much about the environment so far, mostly because it's a topic I feel rather ignorant on. That being the case, I believe that every last environmental scientist in the world can only make the case for intellectual honesty by admitting that they don't know much more than I do on the subject.

The late novelist Michael Crichton, of Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park fame, has a brilliant speech on complexity and environmental management transcribed on his website. Since I am constrained by intellectual property rights, space on my blog, and time on my show, I will instead use White-nose Syndrome as a microcosm of my environmental philosophy.

From Dina Cappiello, writing for the Associated Press:


A mysterious fungus attacking America's bats could spread nationwide within years and represents the most serious threat to wildlife in a century, experts warned Congress Thursday.

Displaying pictures of bats speckled with the white fungus that gave the disease its name -- white-nose syndrome -- experts described to two House subcommittees Thursday the horror of discovering caves where bats had been decimated by the disease.


It's worth noting that, like many modern newspaper articles, Cappiello's screed takes forever to start naming "experts," and it's also worth noting that many such articles don't name experts at all. Ah, but I digress.

Much of the rest of the article is similarly alarming:


Merlin Tuttle, a world-renowned bat expert and president of Bat Conservation International in Austin, Texas, said that white-nose syndrome was probably the most serious threat to wildlife in the past century. He also called for more research to determine its cause and how it was being spread.

"Never in my wildest imagination had I dreamed of anything that could pose this serious a threat to America's bats," Tuttle told the panel. "This is the most alarming event in the lifetime of a person who has devoted his life to recovering these populations."
It's peculiar to think that, since we don't know where the fungus comes from or how it spreads, anything is possible. The "most alarming event" in Merlin Tuttle's lifetime may not have anything to do with human intervention at all. Worse yet, it's not beyond the pale to speculate that this could even be an unintended result of some other environmentalist intervention.


Whatever the cause, I'm sure it will shock the environmental intelligentsia to find out. I am far too humbled by nature's majesty for much of anything to shock me anymore.

"Joe Six-Pack" becomes "Joe Diet Cola"

Alan Fram, writing for the Associated Press:

A push for new taxes on soda, beer and wine to help pay for Americans' health care is stirring up more than just the beverage industry.


To make a long story short, not only is the Senate Finance Committee considering a new "sin tax" on alcoholic drinks, but they are also giving serious consideration to creating a new tax out of whole cloth for any drink sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. The tone of the article is rather factual, but the implications should make any right-minded conservative stop and think.

Do you remember when the very idea of an income tax was roundly condemned as unconsitutional? It was an idea sold with lies, half-truths, and a war that fed traditional notions of patriotism -- but still needed to be paid for.

Do you remember when smoking was fashionable? Back in the golden era of the Hollywood studios, movies were full of depictions of heroes and heroines smoking like chimneys. What's changed? Are cigarettes any more lethal now than they were then?

Also from Fram's article:

Soft drink and alcohol lobbyists have snapped into action, though so far their campaigns have been quiet compared to the blaring, multimillion-dollar battles that typify major show-downs.

Their low-key approach is due partly to committee leaders' warnings to refrain from public attacks or be accused of sabotaging health care overhaul. They've also held back because they have faced only modest lobbying from tax proponents, and because they think the proposal may prove so unpopular that it ultimately won't threaten their business.


If there's one thing I've learned in my political awareness, it's that liberals are extremely patient, enormously zealous, and opportunistic almost to the point of obsessiveness. They will wait as long as they have to wait and do whatever they need to do in order to reach their goal expanding their power.

The most potent weapon in the liberal arsenal is slander, but a close second is "Oh, that will never happen." For a true-believing progressive, anything is possible given enough time and effort. Do conservatives have enough will to meet progressive zeal head-on? Let's hope so, or the damage being done to our economy now will be a mere passing blip on the radar screen of history.