Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Scott Brown Wants You...to Volunteer

A new poll is out about the January 19 Massachusetts Special Election for U.S. Senate. The results underscore the important role that volunteers will play in determining the outcome. The Rasmussen poll is a mixed bag for GOP candidate Scott Brown. They show him trailing Democrat Martha Coakley among likely voters 50% to 41%. But here’s the good news for the Republican: - Brown is closing the gap. Before the November primary, he trailed Coakley 58% to 27%. Now the gap is down to single digits. - Massachusetts voters aren’t slavves to political parties. The majority of the electorate are independents, and they decide who wins. Among independent voters, Brown leads Coakley 65% to 21%. - Among those who are “absolutely certain” they will vote, Coakley leads Brown by only 2% - well within the sampling error. “It is clear from the data,” says the report, that Brown’s supporters are more enthusiastic.” - Coakley is hard to like. 22% of llikely voters have a “very unfavorable” opinion of her, compared to 5% for Brown. The report also observes, “Special elections are typically decided by who shows up to vote”. That’s where you come in. The candidate who wins this election will likely be the one whose organization is more effective at getting out the vote. The Brown campaign needs workers to man the phone banks and spread the message about the importance of going to the polls on the 19th. Please volunteer to help with this important effort. To find out how, go to http://brownbrigade.ning.com/ The Republicans in the U.S. Senate need just one more vote to shut down the Democrats’ takeover of banking, manufacturing, and health care. We in Massachusetts have the opportunity to give them that vote by electing Scott Brown on January 19. But to make that happen, we all need to do our parts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brown for U.S. Senate

Master Li Kim Grebnesi has gone into deep meditation, in order to give his alter ego, Michael Isenberg, an opportunity to work on a more partisan project: a web site promoting grass roots support for Republican Scott Brown in the January 19 Massachusetts Senate Race. See http://www.nexusofpower.com. Master Li Kim will be back after the election.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Koan of the Week

Boss Barry and Master Li Kim Grebnesi were at the counter in the coffee shop. Barry ordered the 32 ounce French Roast.

“Sounds like you need caffeination,” the Master observed.

“I was up all night with a crisis. Brother Hezekiah told me ‘be in the present’. So I was. For a year. Instead of planning I just took things moment to moment. Now I find out my sales are off, I’m losing money, and the stockholders are pissed.”

The Master replied, “Always be in the present when you’re planning the future.”

Master Li Kim’s Commentary: “Be in the present” is one of the Six Gates of Mindfulness Practice. But it doesn’t mean “don’t plan”. It means “when you are planning, only plan”. Focus your whole attention on that one task you are performing in the present. Especially when it’s a task as important as planning.

Master Li Kim’s Haiku:

A cat in the brush
Watches the mouse carefully
Before she pounces.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rush vs. the GOP

Back in March I praised Rush Limbaugh’s CPAC speech as “profoundly philosophical”. Today Mr. Limbaugh displayed that side of himself again, this time talking about the anemic GOP response to the Health Care bill:

“They don't have faith in our principles. They don't have the will or energy to go on offense. I'm talking about the Republican leadership, wherever you find it. And they're incapable of explaining our philosophy or our purpose. I really believe that the way to fight this is on pure ideological terms. Liberals are liberals, and it's not helpful to them when they are so identified…We cannot allow our party to be based on what Olympia Snowe and Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln may or may not do. What's smart about that? You do [not] build a strong future on a foundation with unreliable keystones.”

Rush’s closing metaphor may not be correct architecturally (I’m pretty sure keystones don’t go in the foundation) but it is sound historically. From Mohammad to Luther to Lenin to Reagan, history’s winners have been those who fought on philosophical grounds, who believed in something and communicated it to others. Republicans need to learn that lesson if they are serious about stopping Obama’s plans for the expansion of government into every area of life; it’s a lesson Obama already knows.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How Would Jesus Vote?

I was in the parking lot at Shopper’s World and saw a bumper sticker that said, “Get real. Like Jesus Would Ever Own a Gun & Vote Republican.”

They got a point. The man who said, “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” probably would not buy a Smith and Wesson. And the man who said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” probably would not embrace a political party whose economic philosophy facilitates the accumulation of wealth.

Granted, I’m not taking sides.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Alternative Medicine: Groucho Marx, Jin Bu Huan, and Coffee Enemas

After Ling Wang died, one of her friends said, "It was always lovely to be with her. She played the guitar and loved to play games. She was the kind of girl who was so sweet and so happy. Everybody who knows her is devastated." The death of the 25-year-old graduate student from Newcastle University was a tragedy indeed. The coroner determined the cause of death: liver failure due to jin bu huan, a Chinese herbal remedy that Ms. Wang had taken for an upset stomach and a rash.

In his book Anatomy of an Illness, Saturday Review Editor-in-Chief Norman Cousins described the sickness that put him in the hospital: “I was suffering from a serious collagen illness – a disease of the connective tissue…Collagen is the fibrous substance that binds the cells together. In a sense then, I was coming unstuck. I had considerable difficulty in moving my limbs and even in turning over in bed. Nodules appeared on my body, gravel-like substances under the skin…I asked Dr. Hitzig about my chances for full recovery. He leveled with me, admitting that one of the specialists told him I had one chance in five hundred.” Facing this poor prognosis from the practitioners of conventional medicine, Mr. Cousins devised his own treatment: laughter induced by a steady diet of Marx Brothers films and washed down with massive doses of Vitamin C. This unlikely combination cured him completely.

As these two cases illustrate, alternative medicine has an inconsistent record of success (as does conventional medicine). This topic has been in the news recently due to the last week’s publication of Knockout: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer by ‘70’s icon Suzanne Somers. In Knockout, Ms. Somers urges cancer patients to eschew chemotherapy in favor of, among other things, coffee enemas.

The book inspired a certain amount of commentary, much of it from outraged doctors predicting fatal consequences for patients who take Ms. Somers advice. However, a piece by the American Cancer Society’s Dr. Otis Brawley counsels a more thoughtful approach for coming to terms with alternative medicine (http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/10/23/commentary.brawley.cancer.treatment/index.html):

“I am not critical of the concept of alternative and complementary medicine. When used wisely, it can be useful. Indeed, open-mindedness to other ideas is how we advance conventional medicine. Today, conventional medicine has the extract of a tree bark called aspirin or the root of a plant called vincristine because of observations from those who practiced non-conventional medicine.

“My problem is with some and not all of the advocates of alternative and complementary medicine. My problem is with those who reject the scientific method. Some actually do not reject the scientific method. They seem not to even realize that there is such a thing to reject.

“Some well-meaning advocates for complementary and alternative therapies are against any rigorous evaluation of these therapies.”

In short, Dr. Brawley says that a rational person is an open-minded person. She is willing to believe anything, provided you prove it. Controlled, statistically significant study of new treatments is the surest way to more Norman Cousins and fewer Ling Wangs. The Logic Critic gives Dr. Brawley…

Impeccable Reason. 4 Blades - Flawless.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

But then the White House is not much better

Yesterday I wrote about the insurance industry report that predicted large cost increases if the Senate’s health care proposal becomes law. I argued that the numbers presented in the report were of little merit because there was insufficient information to assess them independently.

The White House’s reaction to the report was also of little merit. Spokeswoman Linda Douglass denigrated it as a “self-serving analysis” that “completely ignores critical policies [that] will lower costs for those who have insurance”.

In dismissing the report on the grounds that it is self-serving, Ms. Douglass commits the Fallacy of Poisoning the Well. The fact that AHIP, the report’s sponsor, has a vested interest in its conclusion has no bearing on whether the conclusion is true.

The argument that the report ignores policies that will lower costs is incorrect on factual grounds. The only provision of the Senate proposal that is likely to lower costs is the (still unspecified) Medicare and Medicaid reductions. The AHIP analysis explicitly takes these reductions into account, but asserts that the savings are more than offset by the cost increases private insurers will face in taking up the slack.

The Logic Critic gives Linda Douglass…

Genuine and structured reasoning, but with fallacies or factual errors in main argument.2 Blades - Wrong.