Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A War on Reality

Paul Hsieh has a very important post up at Noodlefood showing how under the Obama administration, our government will penalize business no matter what they do. This theme was also taken up in an IBD editorial, which includes this passage:
Now it's time to pay the piper, and Waxman doesn't want to pay.

He has decided to haul the executives into yet another round of star chamber hearings to explain just why two and two make four.

This is an implied threat to companies either to cook their books or face legal or political sanctions for embarrassing Congress by revealing the true impact of its health care bill on the private sector.

It has its place with what Stalin did in Soviet Russia, denouncing farmers as hoarders after setting artificially low prices for crops, and what Hugo Chavez is doing today in Venezuela, dictating prices on raw goods and limiting access to money while penalizing companies for passing on those costs to customers.
RealClearPolitics also looks at the issue. Here's one of their observations:
Democrats clearly plan to blame the private sector for all the downsides of their health plan. In a private lobbying session, President Obama told liberal lawmakers that the bill is only "a beginning." Any increase in costs and premiums -- both of which are inevitable -- will be attributed to corporate malfeasance requiring yet more government intervention.
I also liked this snarky comment from an Instapundit reader:
What’s really funny is that among other things Sarbanes-Oxley requires them to make the impacts public, and Waxman voted for that. Apparently he didn’t read that bill either.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Doritaenopsis (pink)


Objective Standard Essay Contest

From Craig Biddle:
I’m pleased to announce the first annual Objective Standard Essay Contest. Here are a few details:

Topic for 2010: The Moral Foundation of Capitalism

Few people who advocate capitalism know fully what this social system is, and even fewer are able to defend it on moral grounds. What is capitalism? What are its distinguishing characteristics? On what moral principles do they depend? And why are so few people able to name and uphold these principles?


First place: $2,000 plus publication in TOS
Second place: $750
Third place: $300


The contest is open to anyone ages 18 to 35, excluding TOS contributors. Students and non-students alike are encouraged to enter.

Submission Deadline and Announcement of Winners

The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2010. Winners will be announced on October 15, 2010.

For more information, visit And please pass the information along to anyone you know who might be interested in entering the contest.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lobbying versus Rights

Paul Hsieh has an editorial out in the Denver Post. It shows how government control of medicine will necessarily turn questions about what to fund and what not to fund into political decisions. To me it also highlights the fact that the only way we can win in the long term is to advocate for principles. The various freedoms and rights are a unity -- they arise from the same fundamental facts about human nature. Ultimately that's the argument we have to make.

That's not to say we can't fight specific battles. We can and we should. Not only to preserve some semblance of freedom in which to make broader arguments, but more importantly to give inductive evidence for why our principles are correct and reasonable. Indeed this is the "virtuous circle" of a true and integrated philosophy: The specific applications are evidence of the validity of the more general principles, and the more general principles shed an illuminating light on the more specific cases. Defending and promoting either advances the whole (as long as we use the correct arguments for each).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Nation of Dependents

Congrats to Dr. Beth Haynes for having her editorial published at the American Thinker.

Tax Foundation on Obamacare

Here's another look and how and when you'll pay (assuming you're a productive US resident). I hasten to add that this is not the foremost reason for rejecting socialized medicine--moral considerations such as doctors' rights to their own lives are--but it's still good information to have.

Friday, March 26, 2010


We recently had a hummingbird nest along our walkway. Here are a few photos of the new generation (I apologize for the poor photography, but I didn't want to scare them with lights and flashes).

If you look closely you can see two newborns in the nest (the beaks are at top center).

They're about five days from leaving the nest.

This is the smaller of the pair. His sibling flew away with no problems, but this one seems weaker / more hesitant so hung around for two days after leaving the nest. I hope he makes it!

A Few Specifics from the Health Care Bill

Here's a partial enumeration of the freedoms that are lost under the new health care bill. Thankfully it's all being done in our best interest....

(HT Noodlefood Comments)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stossel on Government-Funded Journalists

Here's a great analogy from John Stossel's blog (HT Instapundit):
Not at all, said Stoll. "I think in the industry we're all trying to grapple with how to sustainably do journalism," he said. "You get into the subject of public funding, and people automatically have an allergic reaction to that. But it's not that simple." He noted that NPR and PBS, to name two esteemed news sources, both receive ample funding from the federally backed Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Actually, it is that simple. Journalists shouldn’t get government funds. Using NPR and PBS as a defense reminds me of the child who killed his parents then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan.
(My emphasis)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dendrobium Aggregatum

One of two flower spikes.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Obamacare: The Coming Battles

Paul Hsieh's thoughts on the aftermath of yesterday's vote.

Another Milestone On The Road to National Bankruptcy?

From an NPR story:
Bonds sold by Berkshire Hathaway and a few other big companies are paying less interest than bonds sold by the U.S. government, Bloomberg reports.

That's very weird. Treasuries are supposed to be among the safest bonds in the world. But the market is saying that the U.S.A. is a riskier bet than that Berkshire, the big conglomerate run by Warren Buffett.

Bonds sold by Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Lowe's have also been paying less interest than treasuries of comparable maturity, Bloomberg says.

The difference in yields between treasuries and the companies' bonds is very small -- less than one tenth of a percentage point (that's less than 10 basis points, in bondspeak). Still, it's worth noting, because corporate bonds almost always yield more than treasuries. A few factors are driving the current situation.

The big increase in U.S. debt is prompting some worries about the nation's long-term ability to pay its debts. "Preserving debt affordability at levels consistent with AAA ratings will invariably require fiscal adjustments of a magnitude that, in some cases, will test social cohesion," Moody's wrote last week in a note aimed at the U.S. and a few other big countries.
Obamacare is probably the proximate cause, but our long term policies, instituted by both parties, have had us on this road for a long time now.

Speal vs. Khalipa

Two of my favorite Crossfit athletes compete in a Crossfit Games warm-up.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care and Price Controls

Brian Schwartz does a nice job of showing how the new health care bill will lead to the same disastrous economic consequences as rent control already does.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Government Illogic

As immune as I am to government stupidity, every now and then a story surprises me for its lack of even internal logic. Here's one from a NY Times article entitled "With Medicaid Cuts, Doctors and Patients Drop Out", which explains why Michigan's governor is proposing a new tax on doctors:
This year, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, has revived a proposal to impose a 3 percent tax on physician revenues. Without the tax, she has warned, the state may have to reduce payments to health care providers by 11 percent.

Thankfully, and not surprisingly, doctors are smarter than the Michigan politicians and their electorate:
New doctors, with their mountains of medical school debt, are fleeing the state because of payment cuts and proposed taxes. Dr. Kiet A. Doan, a surgeon in Flint, said that of 72 residents he had trained at local hospitals only two had stayed in the area, and both are natives.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ruminations on the Health Care Vote

Jared Rhoads provides us with his thoughts.

List of Healthcare "Maybes"

Contact info for the "maybe" or "undecided" representatives. And another, longer one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sample Letter: Vote NO on the "Healthcare" Bill

Beth Haynes penned this great letter to her congressmen and to the "Undecideds". She has graciously given permission to others to use any or all of her text for the same purpose. Please do so. (Here's a link to contact Congressmen.)
RE: Health Care Reform March 18th, 2010

Dear Representative ________,

The CBO report is in---but it’s not the whole story.

Do not be fooled by figures that include 10 years of revenue against 6 years of spending. Gimmick-free accounting shows a deficit increase of $460 billion the first 10 years and $1.4 trillion in the second ten years.

Do not be fooled by cost projections for such a large entitlement expansion. History proves they have NEVER been right---usually off by a factor of 10 or more.

1966 Medicare 25 year cost projection: $12 billion
Actual cost: $107 billion
1987 Medicaid 5 year cost projection: $1 billion
Actual cost: $17 billion
1988 Medicare home care benefit cost projection: $4 billion
Actual cost: $10 billion
Do not be fooled by the report that counts on cuts to Medicare which have NEVER occurred. Or worse---that quality of care will not suffer if the cuts ever do go through.

Do not believe the blatant lie “If you like your plan you can keep it.” Medicare destroyed the private health insurance industry for seniors, and this will destroy private health insurance for the rest of us.

But the greatest cost of all is how attempts to pass this bill are undermining of the rule of law and the very mechanisms of our Constitutional republic. This bill is a direct assault on the freedom and independence of all citizens, in clear violation of the fundamental purpose of government: the protection of individual rights.

No man can morally be made the means to another’s end.

I know you know all of this.

I just want you to know that the rest of us know it too.


Forcing Conflicts of Interest in Medicine

Paul Hsieh has an excellent editorial out showing how Obamacare will create conflicts of interest between doctors and patients. (Creating such conflicts is the inevitable result of injecting government force into human relations.)

Obamacare Talking Points

Another good piece by Dr. Milton Wolf. This one provides a list of questions to ask your representative. (HT Paul Hsieh)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Doctors to 'Shrug' if Obamacare Passes?

It seems so according to a report from the New England Journal of Medicine:
More than 29 percent (29.2) percent of the nearly 1,200 doctors who responded to the survey said they would quit the profession or retire early if health reform legislation becomes law. If a public option were included in the legislation, as several liberal Senators have indicated they would like, the number would jump to 45.7 percent.
I hope we won't find out, but if the legislation to further enslave doctors passes, I whole-heartedly support any actions they might take to regain some of their freedom.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kill the Bill Logo

Amy Peikoff has made this graphic available for anyone's use:

Public Sector Pensions

This is a good article detailing another upcoming problem: the 2 to 3 trillion dollars in unfunded public-sector pension and benefit liabilities. (Try not to think of the massive hypocrisy of ramming Sarbanes Oxley down the throat of private companies, while knowingly engaging in every accounting shenanigan to keep underfunding government liabilities.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Health Care Update -- The Endgame

I'm reposting an email which Dr. Paul Hsieh posted to OActivists:

This upcoming week will be *the* critical week in the health care fight. Speaker Pelosi is expected to start the process for the House to hold its final vote to approve the Senate Bill. The vote will probably take place at the end of this upcoming week.

Right now, they are probably still a few votes shy of the majority they need:

"Dem House vote-counter lacks health care votes now"

"Can Nancy Pelosi Get the Votes?"
Michael Barone, Wall Street Journal, 3/11/2010

Hence, this is an *extremely* risky move by the Democrats. Normally, a Speaker wouldn't plan on voting on such major legislation unless he or she was sure of having enough votes.

But the Democrats are also (correctly) concluding that time is not on their side. They have made the calculation that if they push for it now, then maybe then can squeeze out the last few votes via a combination of threats and bribes. For example, they have "sweetened" the deal for the wavering moderates by promising billions of dollars of new student loan subsidies:

On the other hand they recognize that if they wait much longer, then when these wavering Congressmen go back home for the Easter recess, they will get an earful from their constituents who are strongly opposed to the bill, and they'll lose even more support:

Hence, from the Democrats' perspective, it's now or never.

From our perspective, this means three things:

1) We are winning. We have a chance to defeat this terrible bill.

In particular, do not get discouraged when you read the inevitable news stories about how the Democrats are "close to getting the votes" or how Pelosi is "confident she'll have the votes". She has to exude an aura of public confidence, otherwise her coalition will quickly unravel.

Polls repeatedly show Americans opposed to ObamaCare:
"Why Obama Can't Move the Health-Care Numbers"
Rasmussen and Schoen, Wall Street Journal, 3/9/2010

Similarly, head counts of House Democrats also show that they don't quite have enough votes yet:

"Scrambling for votes, Democrats face uphill climb to pass healthcare reform"
The Hill, 3/13/2010

"The Hill's 'Whip Count' on ObamaCare –- as of 3/13/2010"

If they had the votes, they'd have already passed it by now.

2) We have to keep the pressure up. The Democrats are pulling out all stops to find someway to get this through now, before the critical Easter recess.

At this point in time, the single most important thing you can do is tell your Congressman to vote "NO" on this bill:

This is especially important if your Congressman is one of the undecided or swing votes on this "Code Red" list:

But even if your Congressman is a firm "Yes", it's still important to let them know. If even the liberal Democrats from "safe" seats consistently hear that their constituents are against it, it will give the wavering moderates more political cover to vote "No". They can tell their Pelosi, "Even *your* constituents hate this thing -- there's no way I can support it".

*** Our counter-pressure is our best weapon against the pressure that the statists will exert on these wavering Congressmen.

Your letter doesn't have to long or eloquent. It just has to convey certainty, passion, and moral conviction. Something short and simple like:

"Please vote NO on this terrible health care plan! If you vote yes, you will destroy the ability of me and my family to receive good health care in the future. This is personal! If you vote yes, we will never forgive you for hurting our lives and trampling on our basic freedoms."

(You may wish to adapt that to suit your own style and values.)

Feel free to use all contact methods - phone, fax, and e-mail. And please feel free to contact them multiple times over the upcoming week. In this context, repetition is a virtue!

And of course, if your Congressman is a probable or firm "No", then thank him or her for his position. They also need our moral support.

3) If you have friends or family in other parts of the country, tell them to do the same thing and contact *their* Congressmen:

If you need intellectual ammunition for them, one of my personal favorites is from the AFCM website:

"Fifty Fallacies About Health Care" by Richard Ralston

Jared Rhoads' Lucidicus Project also has a good set of OpEds:

And of course, FIRM has its archive of articles/OpEds:

I personally think that the most important thing we can do in the next few days will be to directly contact our Congressmen and have friends/family do the same. LTE's and OpEds will still be important, but not as much as before. (That said, I'm stilll going to continue writing and/or disseminating some of my earlier writings to people I know around the country.)

This is the endgame, folks. Most political observers regard the health care bill as a 50-50 "toss-up" or "too close to call". It really could go either way. What happens this week will set the course of this great country (for good or for ill) for decades to come.

Your voice could be the critical difference in swaying the right one or two minds. If you value your lives and your freedom, the time to speak up is *now*!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Dr. Speaks Out Against Obamacare

This is an excellent editorial opposing "Obamacare". It deserves to be widely circulated. Here are a few excerpts, but be sure to read the whole thing (and then forward it to friends and acquaintances):
Obamacare will further diminish access to health care by lowering reimbursements for medical care without regard to the costs of that care. Price controls have failed spectacularly wherever they've been tried. They have turned neighborhoods into slums and have caused supply chains to dry up when producers can no longer profit from providing their goods. Remember the Carter-era gas lines? Medical care is not immune from this economic reality. We cannot hope that our best and brightest will pursue a career in medicine, setting aside years of their lives - for me, 13 years of school and training - to enter a field that might not even pay for the student loans it took to get there.


This free-market approach has worked for everything from high-definition TVs to breakfast cereals, but will it work for medicine? It already is. Take Lasik eye surgery, for example. Because patients are allowed to be informed consumers and can shop anywhere, doctors work hard for their business. Services, availability and expertise have all increased, and costs have decreased. Should consumers demand it, insurance companies - now answerable to you rather than your employer - would cover it.
As an added "bonus", the article is another illustration that free thought is the province of the individual--our ideas aren't determined by our upbringing or genes (the author is Obama's second cousin).

HT OActivists

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chooch as Political Farce

Doug Reich gives us a sobering (yet comical) look at how government agents hand out money, favors, and political influence in modern day America. (If/when you read my upcoming editorial on czars, keep this story in mind, particularly the aspect of how our auto czar gets named.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Force and Violence: How the Left Blurs Terms

My latest editorial is available on Pajamas Media. Here's how it begins:
In a recent New York Times column, Frank Rich attacked and smeared the nascent tea party movement. While most of his diatribe received the fiskings it deserved, one significant fallacy went unchallenged. Perhaps it was overlooked because the left has committed it for so long now that it seems unquestionable. All the more reason to bring it to light.

The fallacy is the equation of violence with force. The error and its consequences are manifest in what the left condemns and condones.
Read the whole thing.

Please feel free to stop by and leave comments, the more interest a column gets, the more likely the editors are to accept future submissions.

Update: I've replied to a few comments, my responses may be of interest to some of you.

A Slightly Encouraging Speech

This is an interesting partial transcript from a speech given by the governor of New Jersey (a link to the full speech is also given, but I haven't listened to it yet). I found this section particularly noteworthy:
And so we need to get honest with each other. In this instance, the political class,for which unfortunately all of us are a member of, the political class is lagging behind the public on this. The public is ready to hear that tough choices have to be made. They're not going to like it. Don't confuse the two. But they are ready to hear the truth.

In fact, they find it refreshing to hear the truth.

They are tired of hearing, don't worry I can spare you from the pain, because they have been hearing that for a decade, as we have borrowed and spent and taxed our way into oblivion.

We have done every quick fix in the book that you can do. And now we are left, literally holding the bag.

Leadership should be about making tough decisions. I'm not hear to tell you that anything you are going to have to do as mayors, council people will be easy. But I firmly believe after spending the last year traveling around the state of New Jersey, talking to regular citizens, that this is what they are expecting us to do.
The primary reason we've gotten unrealistic and lying politicians is because that's what the electorate wanted. If the above is true, and the electorate has become more focused on reality, i.e. more rational, then it's a very positive sign (and one that opens many more avenues to those advocating rational ideas).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Yellow BLC


Monday, March 08, 2010

Morality Expains It

Mark Steyn has a well-written column out on why statists will push for the socialization of healthcare even if it results in some short term election set-backs. But he misses the wider issue, which is that Republicans and other alleged opponents never roll back these programs because they agree in principle that they're good. What's missing is a moral challenge to the basic premises underlying altruism and collectivism. If we're to have any chance of returning the country to its former greatness, we have to make the moral arguments for reason, egoism and individualism.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

February OActivist Compilation

The latest compilation of OActivist editorials, letters to the editor, etc. is now available.

Placebo Effect / Response

I don't have the technical knowledge to judge the objectivity of this article, but assuming it's generally true, it's fascinating. Things like the placebo effect increasing over time, the response working for protracted periods, the nocebo effect (learning about potential side-effects increases your chance of contracting them), etc.

I am so excited about the promise of understanding -- and then harnessing -- psychosomatic interactions in the future.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Fertile Ground for Better Ideas

Poll numbers across the country suggest that now is a perfect time to get better ideas out into the culture. People are very unhappy with the status quo, which is good, but if the ideas they turn to are, for example, theocratic in nature, things could get much worse. Let's redouble our efforts to make sure that the public is aware that there are alternative ideas for them to choose, advocate and live by.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Familiar Playbook

In preparing for a potential new opinion piece, I've been re-reading several of Ayn Rand's essays. Of course her ideas are timeless and deep, so it's always worthwhile reading or re-reading her material. But I was also struck by a few short passages for their similarity to, or bearing on, more concrete issues. I think some of these might be of general interest, so I'll be posting them over the next little while. Here's the first, does it remind you of any recent campaigns?
Now let us consider the ideology of the rebels, from such indications as were given in the press reports. The general tone of the reports was best expressed by a headline in The New York Times (March 15, 1965): "The New Student Left: Movement Represents Serious Activists in Drive for Changes."

What kind of changes? No specific answer was given in the almost full-page story. Just "changes."

Some of these activists "who liken their movement to a "revolution", want to be called radicals. Most of them, however, prefer to be called 'organizers.'

Organizers—of what? Of "deprived people." For what? No answer. Just "organizers."
From The Cashing-In: The Student "Rebellion" (Available in both the anthology Capitalism the Unknown Ideal and The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution)

PS I've also added a quote of hers to the sidebar of the blog. It's from the cover page of the New Left anthology.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Capitalism, Competition & Cooperation

In a comment to a post at the New Clarion, Kyle Haight provides us with this very illuminating formulation:
The so-called ‘dog eat dog’ competition in the market is actually competition over who gets to cooperate with whom
Read the whole post and comment.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Degarmoara Winter Wonderland


Monday, March 01, 2010

Ayn Rand Institute Newsletter

For those wishing to keep up with ARI's activities, they offer a monthly newsletter.