January 2010 Archives

(HT: BT.)

Focus on the Family is going airing a pro-life ad during the Super Bowl and some pro-abortion groups aren't happy about it. Well, they can pay for their own counter-ad if they want, so I don't see a problem. What's most interesting to me is Reuters' concluding characterization of the political climate surrounding abortion.

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in America and a spate of recent opinion polls have suggested growing opposition to women's right to terminate pregnancy.

That sentence betrays an obvious bias in favor of legalized abortion on the part of the news agency. If Reuters had written "... and a spate of recent opinion polls have suggested growing support for the right of babies to not be murdered by their mothers in utero" the reverse bias would have been equally obvious.

The question over whether or not abortion is a "right" is the heart of the division over abortion, and a large majority of Americans disagree with Reuters' editorial position on the matter. Reuters would be wise to stick to hard news rather than injecting their opinions into their reporting.

New polling data shows that Fox is now the most trusted name is news.

A Public Policy Polling nationwide survey of 1,151 registered voters Jan. 18-19 found that 49 percent of Americans trusted Fox News, 10 percentage points more than any other network.

Thirty-seven percent said they didn’t trust Fox, also the lowest level of distrust that any of the networks recorded.

I guess CNN will need to change their slogan.

Also interesting is the spin that PPP puts on the results of their own poll.

“A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news,” said PPP President Dean Debnam in his analysis of the poll. “But the media landscape has really changed, and now they’re turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear.”

Maybe they asked such a question, but if so it wasn't reported in this story. It sounds to me that Debnam is projecting his own biases onto his poll data and inferring accordingly.

The highest South Korean court has ruled that "virtual" money can be exchanged for "real" money (as long as the "virtual" money isn't the result of gambling).

(I use quotes because the distinction between "virtual" and "real" money is a psychological artifact and has no substantial meaning. Isk issued by Eve Online developer CCP are no different in character from gift certificates issued by Wal-Mart or dollar bills issued by the Federal Reserve.)

As reported in the Korea Times, the ruling came when the court acquitted two gamers who had been indicted for selling 234 million Won (around US$206000) worth of “Aden”, the cyber money used in the online game Lineage. Aden can be used to buy in-game accessories, weapons, and so on to enhance a player’s character in the game. The newspaper reports that the two gamers traded the money at an exchange rate of about 1 million Aden for 8000 Won. ...

The ruling only applies in South Korea, but its effects may be felt well beyond that country’s borders. Industry observers are expecting the decision to stimulate the online gaming market – as well as the associated markets that surround the gaming market. And cyber money is big business. The Korea Game Development and Promotion Institute says that more than 830 billion Won (US$732 million) worth of cyber money was exchanged online in South Korea in 2006, and that amount might have exceeded 1 trillion Won (US$882 million)in 2008. With so much currency flying around, it is no wonder that South Korean courts have also ruled that the proceeds from trading cyber money are subject to a 10 percent value added tax (VAT).

I see no reason why virtual earnings shouldn't be taxed at some point, and I'd rather that point be when/if it is exchanged for "real" money than when it is earned or spent in-game.

(HT: RB.)

Web Seer lets you compare Google auto-complete results like this, but easier! Great, now I won't get any work done today.

(HT: Lifehacker.)

This feels apocryphal but may be historically based... I've got no idea. In any event, here is a pointed story about Davy Crockett explaining why Congress cannot spend taxpayer money on charity, no matter how worthy. Obviously we're far past this point now in America.

One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

"Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it.

We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I ever heard that the government was in arrears to him.

"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

It seems to me that forcibly collecting funds from taxpayers to distribute as charity to favored groups is now the primary occupation of our government.

(HT: RB.)

President Obama thinks that Scott Brown rode his coattails to victory.

"The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office," said Obama. "People are angry, and they're frustrated, not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years but what's happened over the last eight years."

Got it. People are so angry and frustrated at George W. Bush that they're voting for Republicans. In Massachusetts. Boy, I can't wait for that 159th interview.

Presumably, the president isn't stupid enough actually to believe what he said. But it's dispiriting to discover he's stupid enough to think we're stupid enough to believe it.

I think I'm going to have to side with Mark Steyn on this one.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro writes that President Obama has completely vindicated President Bush by adopting nearly all of his predecessor's foreign policy positions.

One year after taking office however, Obama has done a total reversal on his isolationist, non-interventionist foreign policy, and is now pushing President Bush’s neo-conservative philosophy as a justification for starting a new war in Afghanistan. What the Democratic Party once criticized as an over-simplified good vs. evil argument has become the cornerstone of Obama’s reasoning.

“Evil does exist in the world,” Obama recently admitted. “A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of man.”

In the wake of this stunning adoption of the Bush foreign policy doctrine, there is little, if any dissent. The same people who crucified Bush for liberating Iraq are hardly criticizing Obama for using force to promote democracy in Afghanistan. ...

As Obama continues to make decisions that mirror the Bush doctrine, it is becoming apparent that the former president was not ignorant or irrational in his foreign policy decisions despite the harsh criticism and disloyalty he endured. He was in fact, ahead of his time, a visionary who understood politics and warfare in the modern age of terrorism.

That is why Obama is now following his lead.

President Bush performed superbly under extremely difficult circumstances, and it is shameful that his political opponents at home took shots at him while secretly agreeing with the actions he took to protect America.

I just want to go on the record and say that I expect more job losses. When the media reports yet more "unexpected" job losses, the question to ask is: unexpected by whom?

SHOCKER: JOBLESS CLAIMS RISE “UNEXPECTEDLY” — AGAIN! And yet, every time it happens, it’s “unexpected.” Maybe it’s time to adjust the expectations. . . ?

But how can it be “unexpected” if it’s just due to an administrative backlog?

The jump was due to an “administrative” accumulation from late December and early January holidays, and did not reflect “economic” reasons, a Labor Department spokesman said.

Wouldn’t you know about these things piling up? I mean, the holidays come around every year, and you ought to know that if you’re doing your job and tracking data and stuff. . . .

I guess that if the Obama Administration said "yeah, we expect to lose bazillions of jobs every month for a while" there would be even more backlash against their nonsensical socialist agenda.

My email address attracts a lot of misdelivered mail intended for participants in the plastics industry. Some of them are quite humorous.

der sir,

i have attached my biodata with this mail for the vaccancy for diplomain tool & die engneering.plese trat ths mail seriouse


s k

I understand that the writer isn't a native English speaker, but at least make an effort.

Obama's health care reform plans have been dead for a long time -- Scott Brown's election yesterday was just the autopsy. I'm sure that a lot of Democrat politicians are disappointed at Martha Coakley's loss, but I'm sure that Barney Frank isn't the only one who is secretly pleased that they've now got a good excuse for letting the monstrosity of a health care bill die.

“I have two reactions to the election in Massachusetts. One, I am disappointed. Two, I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in Congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results. If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate health care bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate. I am hopeful that some Republican Senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform because I do not think that the country would be well-served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the Senate rule which means that 59 votes are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of the process.”

Translation: Sorry left-wing wack-jobs/President who have forced us into a corner. We want your votes, labor, and money, so we can't tell you you're crazy to your face, but now we can finally say "no" to your insanity by hiding behind the almighty Process.

Apparently there won't be exit polls after the Massachusetts Senator election today! Very sad. However, you can watch how Scott Brown fares on Intrade if you're really addicted to data... (like me).

Price for Winner of Massachusetts Special Election (to replace Ted Kennedy) at intrade.com

Maybe you think you learned how to tie your shoes when you were five years old, but your knots still turn out lopsided and loose. Chances are you're tying a "granny knot" instead of a "reef knot". Learn the difference.

Politifact tracks the status President Obama's promises and assigns then varying levels of truthiness. There are a lot of promises, so it's hard for me to get a handle on whether or not I agree with their general scoring system. One feature I'd like to see: a way for readers to rate the "importance" of various promises, so that we could get an idea of whether he keeps the big ones or the small ones.

(HT: MG.)

David Books is wrong: the problems of the third-world are primarily political, and poverty is an effect, not a cause.

This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.

The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not.

In the recent anthology “What Works in Development?,” a group of economists try to sort out what we’ve learned. The picture is grim. There are no policy levers that consistently correlate to increased growth. There is nearly zero correlation between how a developing economy does one decade and how it does the next. There is no consistently proven way to reduce corruption. Even improving governing institutions doesn’t seem to produce the expected results.

The chastened tone of these essays is captured by the economist Abhijit Banerjee: “It is not clear to us that the best way to get growth is to do growth policy of any form. Perhaps making growth happen is ultimately beyond our control.”

He touches on the corruption issue, but if we really want to help the third-world we'll probably need to resort to the sort of intrusive paternalism that we normally associated with colonialism. I doubt we have the will for it... it's a lot easier to just throw money into a pit and hope for the best.

Yet another embarrassment for climate "science": the Himalayan glaciers are not melting.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

It's pretty astounding that "scientific" conclusions are being reached without actually... you know... performing any experiments or collecting any data.

In one of the most realistic and practical offers of long-term help I've yet seen for a devastated Haiti, Senegal is offering plots of land to Haitians who want to return to their ancestral home.

HAITIANS WHO survived the earthquake have been offered the opportunity to come back “to the land of their ancestors” by Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade.

Mr Wade told French radio he wanted Africa to make room for victims of the disaster as it was from there that many Haitians’ ancestors had originated. ...

Presidential spokesman Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye told reporters that Mr Wade had shared his plans with senior aides, and they involved offering voluntary repatriation and plots of land to any Haitian who wanted “to return to their origin”.

“Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land – even an entire region. It all depends on how many Haitians come. If it’s just a few individuals, then we will likely offer them housing or small pieces of land. If they come en masse we are ready to give them a region,” he said.

Senegal is hardly a wealthy nation, but they're in much better shape than Haiti.

In January 1994, Senegal undertook a bold and ambitious economic reform program with the support of the international donor community. This reform began with a 50% devaluation of Senegal's currency, the CFA franc, which was linked at a fixed rate to the French franc. Government price controls and subsidies have been steadily dismantled. After seeing its economy contract by 2.1% in 1993, Senegal made an important turnaround, thanks to the reform program, with real growth in GDP averaging over 5% annually during 1995-2008. Annual inflation had been pushed down to the single digits. As a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Senegal is working toward greater regional integration with a unified external tariff and a more stable monetary policy.

If I were in Haiti, I certainly would have left for somewhere, long before the recent earthquake.

Eric Schmidt believes that in the future work will look like play.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt made news at the recent G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, suggesting that multiplayer video games provide good career training — particularly in technology — where workplace collaboration stimulates innovation. “The game world is good training for a career in tech,” he said. “It teaches players to build a network, to use interactive skills and thinking.”

“Everything in the future online is going to look like a multiplayer game,” said Schmidt to this international audience. “If I were 15 years old, that’s what I would be doing right now.”

What is it about online games that makes leaders? For one thing, there are many opportunities to lead. “Online games are very iterative,” states a recent IBM report entitled “Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders.” “Leadership happens quickly and easily in online games, often undertaken by otherwise reserved players, who surprise even themselves with their capabilities.” Online games such as World of Warcraft can involve an overriding goal for a team of players — there are a series of raids or missions that make up the journey, each of which requires leadership of player groups of varying size. This gives many players the opportunity to “try on” leadership roles. The study asserts that there is no reason to think that the same cannot be done in corporate settings of various sizes, missions, and markets.

Related: The person who will be elected President in 2036 is probably in their teens or twenties right now, probably has a blog, and is probably a gamer.

This piece about Obama's "Colossal Miscalculation On Health Care" by Charlie Cook contains two insightful factoids that I was not previously aware of. First, with regards to unemployment, most people know that the official unemployment numbers do not count people who have given up looking for work. One of the effects of this omission is that the unemployment rate can actually improve without the creation of new jobs if people get so discouraged that they begin giving up in droves. However, I hadn't fully grasped the counterpoint: just because new jobs are created doesn't mean the unemployment rate will go down!

A number of economists expect that unemployment will get worse before it gets better. Even if that prediction is wrong, some analysts estimate that Labor's household employment survey would have to show a net increase of 150,000 jobs a month for 48 straight months for the unemployment rate to drop to just 9 percent. ...

Even before December's negative jobs report, economist Robert Reich, who was Labor secretary in the Clinton administration, wrote on talkingpointsmemo.com that "the chances of unemployment being 10 percent next November are overwhelmingly high." The number of newly created jobs will be offset by discouraged workers beginning to once again seek employment, Reich predicted, resulting in little change in the overall unemployment rate.

No wonder the unemployment rate is a trailing indicator of the economy!

Second, presidents never get more popular during their second year in office.

As political analyst and data-cruncher extraordinaire Rhodes Cook noted in the December issue of The Rhodes Cook Letter, no other president in the past half-century has seen his Gallup job-approval rating drop as far as Obama's has in his first year (down 21 points), and no president in that same half-century has seen his approval rating go up, even as much as 1 point, between the end of his first year and the eve of his first midterm election.

I think Obama and the Democrats are in trouble.

In the aftermath of the earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, it is useful to review the four stages of post-disaster misery and to consider how our expensive Western institutions and society are designed to protect us. Each successive stage is easier and cheaper to prevent or mitigate than the stage before it. Unfortunately, in the case of Haiti we're likely to see all four stages play out to their fullest.

Stage 1: Immediate aftermath. People are killed or injured directly by the disaster itself. Stage 1 is often impossible to prevent and very expensive to mitigate.

Stage 2: Zero to three days. Within the first 72 hours people who were injured during the disaster will start to die from their injuries if they do not receive treatment. People who are trapped in rubble or otherwise isolated will also die. Stage 2 can be mitigated by extensive search and rescue capabilities that are on-site in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and by a robust medical system that was not degraded itself by the disaster.

Stage 3: Four days to two weeks. Lack of water, sanitation, and electricity (depending on the climate) will begin to cause an explosion of communicable diseases within the first two weeks after a disaster. People who survive the disaster itself will fall sick with respiratory and digestive tract diseases, and minor injuries will become infected and cause further mortality. Caches of emergency water will be consumed, further weakening the survivors. Stage 3 can be prevented or mitigated by quick repairs to basic services and by the delivery of water and generators.

Stage 4: Two weeks to one month and beyond. Starvation will take hold in urban areas if basic infrastructure is not restored within one month. Urban population centers will begin to dissipate as survivors migrate into rural areas in search of food. Social unrest will quickly lead to the complete breakdown of pre-disaster political institutions, and survivors will form into ad hoc gangs or tribes. Violence will break out as these groups fight for control of resources. Stage 4 can be prevented by strong institutions that are powerful and organized enough to prevent food scarcity and provide basic physical security.

As we've seen in Haiti, most third-world urban centers are precariously balanced -- they wear a visage of civilization, but reality can come crashing down in an instant. The institutions required to mitigate suffering in the aftermath of a disaster are a form of insurance that must be built before a disaster strikes, but they're viewed as a luxury that poor countries are reluctant to invest in when money could instead be spent building an appearance of civilization. They choose to have a higher median quality of life with greater risk than a lower median quality of life with less risk.

I love checklists, and I couldn't get through my daily life without them. I make lists for all sorts of things, personal and business. I was extremely surprised to learn that doctors and surgeons typically do not use checklists when treating patients, but are trained with the expectation that they will hold all the important information in their heads. This system seems dangerous, and SafeSurg.org is working to change it.

The WHO Safe Surgery Saves Lives Checklist was created by an international group of experts gathered by the WHO with the goal of improving the safety of patients undergoing surgical procedures around the globe. Input from anesthesiologists, operating theatre nurses, surgeons, patients and other professionals was used in the development of this tool. Both small and large scale clinical testing of the checklist has been performed culminating in a multi-site pilot study with results published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2009. In sites that ranged from small district hospitals to large medical centers in diverse geographic settings, the use of a 19-item checklist was demonstrated to reduce the complications and mortality associated with a variety of surgical procedures by greater than 30 percent. The checklist has been designed to be simple to use and applicable in many settings. It is currently in active use in operating rooms around the world.

As a health care consumer I would love to have an open source resource with hundreds of medical checklists that I could use to inform my health care decisions in consultation with my doctors. I understand that every health care decision is unique to the patient at hand and that doctors need to be free to use their discretion, but I believe that having a checklist would at least push doctors to carefully consider any deviations that they decide to make from "standard procedure".

Also by Atul Gawande, the creator of SafeSurg is The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

Thanks to Google's auto-complete functionality we can glean all sorts of insight into human psychology.

You know how Google sometimes “predicts” what you might be searching for by giving you a little drop down menu of suggested search queries? These suggestions, of course, are based on what other users frequently search. So I tried teasing out some gender differences. Look at the pictures below.

Got any suggestions for more searches to try?

No matter what the weather is, it is evidence for Mann-made climate change.

(HT: Hot Air Pundit, The Pirate's Cove, JW.)

Here's a fun video of Al Sharpton and Ann Coulter going head-to-head over Harry Reid's racial bungling.

And Saturday Night Live with a prescient (and hilarious) MacGruber video:

(HT: Jammie Wearing Fool.)

Startling (to me) new evidence demonstrates that the government and the financial industry colluded together against American taxpayers.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.

AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The New York Fed took over negotiations between AIG and the banks in November 2008 as losses on the swaps, which were contracts tied to subprime home loans, threatened to swamp the insurer weeks after its taxpayer-funded rescue. The regulator decided that Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen banks would be fully repaid for $62.1 billion of the swaps, prompting lawmakers to call the AIG rescue a “backdoor bailout” of financial firms.

I'm a die-hard capitalist, but this sort of collusion is not capitalistic and completely undermines the ideals of the a free market economy -- both in perception and in reality. In order for a free market to function successfully, every participant must have access to accurate information and no one can be allowed to secretly benefit from government intervention on their behalf. Everyone involved in this atrocity should be tarred, feathered, and exiled to North Korea, where the economic society may be more to their liking.

(HT: MM.)

The Obama Administration is charging panty-bomber Abdulmutallab with possession of weapons of mass destruction!

Just read Abdulmutallab charging docs. He's charged w/having a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Hmm. So, since we're using the 'criminal' standard, shouldn't all those thousands of pounds of mortars, bombs, missiles, etc in Iraq as WMDs? (leaving yellowcake out of it, since that was sold to Canada for energy)

So wait a minute, now the left is willing to admit that Saddam Hussein had WMD after all?

Despite finding saarin, mustard gas, and other chemical weapons, and despite various prison sentences for those who used them in Iraq or those who sold them, apparently, the only thing that would have satisfied the left that Saddam had WMDs would have been discovering a giant SPECTRE-sized Ken Adam-styled laboratory with men in white lab coats hard at work caught in the act.

Well it's nice to know that our invasion of Iraq are now justified in the minds of the left.

But now we need a word for a construct that has the opposite meaning when read backwards. Unfortunately "palindrome" doesn't carry any implication about meaning, so it's not as simple as "anti-drome". "Anti-palindrome" doesn't make sense either, since it isn't any inherent property of palindromism that is being negated. Suggestions?

(HT: DR.)

The perennial question: is obesity your fault? First there's the metabolic factor:

For example, the authors explain, when an individual reduces food intake and his or her body size diminishes, so does the amount of energy needed to maintain and move it. "Therefore, additional weight loss can only be achieved by a more severe diet or a more arduous physical activity routine," they write. "Most individuals do the opposite: After having achieved some weight loss, they resume their original diet and exercise habits. Consequently, weight gain recurs rapidly."

Then there's the wealth factor:

"[S]mall changes in lifestyle would have a minor effect on obesity prevention," they write. But the huge energy imbalance most Americans experience is "far beyond the ability of most individuals to address on a personal level." Instead, they say, changes in the food supply and social infrastructure and more stringent regulations of the food industry will be needed.

Katan elaborated in an e-mail: "Studies show that even the most motivated, thoughtful, strong-willed people have a hard time losing weight when huge portions of cheap, tasty, convenient food are available at every turn of the road, and when walking and other forms of exercise are superfluous or impossible."

Our bodies are designed to live in harsh conditions with scarce resources, which means they get fat when exposed to safe conditions with plentiful food. That is: a wealthy society is a fat society.

It's not that there isn't a certain level of willpower that will allow a person to lose weight, it's just that the willpower bar is so high that not many people can reach it despite the best intentions. When we fail to reach the bar, our bodies fall into natural states dictated by their metabolisms and environment.

(HT: ML.)

Samuel Rutherford:

If God had told me some time ago that He was about to make me as happy as I could be in this world, and then told me that He should begin by crippling me in arm or limb and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing His purpose. And yet, how is His wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a closed room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps, and then throw open the shutters to let in the light of heaven.

Japan has a "single-payer" health care system that is almost exactly what the Democrats in America would like to build here, and it's extremely disturbing (but not surprising) to read about the graft, favoritism, and corruption endemic to their system.

So my parents have the more expensive national health care for business owners (Dad pays higher taxes), Kokumin Hoken — Citizens’ Health Insurance; the lesser one is for ordinary salaryman, Shykai Hoken — Society Health Insurance. In addition, they have not one but two private health insurance plans, a primary and a supplementary. On top of that, my mother’s brother is a high-ranking official at a major hospital in Japan.

But Mom is not so foolish as to rely upon such insecure health-care planning as that; she has a back-up system that she also uses…

After such nice treatment as she got for her knee and her stomach, my mother never forgets to send “gifts,” typically cash and premium liquor to the doctors, expensive chocolate to the nurses — and of cours, something extra special to my uncle, her brother. She was laughing that after her hospitalization, she spent more money on gifts than the actual medical bill. That means over thousand dollars of, let’s be honest, bribery.

Wonderful. The national health-care system works!

Read the whole thing, and pray that the Democrats aren't foolish enough to continue down the path they're on.

A quote from Elisabeth Elliot on life's curriculum:

There is a philosophy of secular education which holds that the student ought to be allowed to assemble his own curriculum according to his preferences. Few students have a strong basis for making these choices, not knowing how little they know. Ideas of what they need to learn are not only greatly limited but greatly distorted. What they need is help from those who know more than they do.

Mercifully, God does not leave us to choose our own curriculum. His wisdom is perfect, His knowledge embraces not only all worlds but the individual hearts and minds of each of His loved children. With intimate understanding of our deepest needs and individual capacities, He chooses our curriculum. We need only ask, "Give us this day our daily bread, our daily lessons, our homework." An angry retort from someone may be just the occasion we need in which to learn not only longsuffering and forgiveness, but meekness and gentleness; fruits not born in us but borne only by the Spirit. As Amy Carmichael wrote, "A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred" (From her book IF published by Christian Literature Crusade).

God's curriculum for all who sincerely want to know Him and do His will will always include lessons we wish we could skip. But the more we apply ourselves, the more honestly we can say what the psalmist said: "I, thy servant, will study thy statutes. / Thy instruction is my continual delight; / I turn to it for counsel. / I will run the course set out in thy commandments, / for they gladden my heart" (Psalm 119:23, 24, 32, NEB).

Often times we approach life's curriculum as if it is, or should be, chock-full of easy electives and film appreciation, but God probably has a more difficult and rewarding set of courses for us to take.

(HT: LM.)

Fascinating interview on CNN with anti-aging researcher Aubrey de Grey. It's a shame that his SENS Foundation is operating on a shoestring budget while trillions of dollars are wasted in so many other areas.

Welcome to 2010, and farewell to the zeros, or aughts, or whatever you want to call the past single-digit decade.

This year is another chance to live your life to its fullest! What would you do if knew 2010 were the last year of your life? Forget and forgive the past... don't drag around your regrets and grudges for another year.

You're living in the future!

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