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Paul Hsieh

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  1. NoodleCast: Please Rate and Review: If you’re a fan of my podcasts, please help spread the word by rating and reviewing them in iTunes! Please do so for both the enhanced M4A feed and standard MP3 feed. (The content is the same: the only difference is the file type.) That’s much appreciated! View the full article
  2. North Carolina’s Despicable Amendment: David Deerson writes an excellent blog post on North Carolina’s Despicable Amendment — a.k.a. Amendment 1. The amendment — up for a vote today (May 8th) — would declare that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” David writes: The amendment isn’t only a strike against gay marriage but also civil unions, regardless of the gender composition of the partners. Depending on the courts interpretation of the language of the amendment, it could: invalidate domestic violence protections for all unmarried partners;undercut existing child custody and visitation rights that are designed to protect the best interests of children;prevent the state from giving committed couples rights to allow them to order their relationships, including threatening theirability to determine the disposition of their deceased partner’s remains;make medical decisions if their partner is incapacitatedallow second-parent adoptions in order to ensure that both partners have a legal tie to, and financial responsibilities for, thechildren they are raising.invalidate trusts, wills, and end-of-life directives by one partner in favor of the other.Apparently, the people who will be voting for this amendment don’t even understand its legal implications. But based on recent polling numbers, it seems likely to pass by a wide margin. I’m hoping for an unexpected but stunning defeat. View the full article
  3. As part of Diana's September 11th Rationally Selfish webcast (NoodleCast #96), she covered the following question: Is it dumb to return a valuable home run baseball to the team? When NY Yankees star Derek Jeter hit a home run for his 3000th hit, the fan in the stands Christian Lopez who caught the ball returned it to the Yankees, even though he was legally entitled to keep it. Some experts estimate it could have been sold on eBay for up to $250,000. The Yankees did give him some season tickets and team memorabilia but nowhere near as valuable. (In fact, he may have to pay thousands of dollars of taxes for those gifts he received from the Yankees.) Some people praised Mr. Lopez for doing the "right thing." Other said he was foolish for giving up something valuable that could have, say, paid for his kids' college or been used for other important life goals. Was he moral or immoral for returning the baseball with no expectation of reward? Here's Diana's discussion: For the record, Dr. Leonard Peikoff answered a similar question on his own webcast on August 22nd, 2011. Assuming the perspective of a rational ethical egoist, this is a very interesting question. (For the purpose of this discussion, I'll assume there are no tax implications, just as Diana assumed in her webcast). First of all, I want to state that I agree with Dr. Peikoff's general principle that not all value is monetary. Second, I also agree with the general Objectivist ethical principle that one should not sacrifice a higher value for a lower value. So the question becomes: Did Mr. Lopez sacrifice a higher value for a lower value in giving the baseball back to the New York Yankees? Another point I'd like to highlight is that on various discussion boards, Lopez was praised for doing the "right thing", but this assessment presumes the conventional altruist code of morality. A typical example is this comment in the New York Times: Of course he did the "right" thing. He acted selflessly; he didn't do something expecting a quid pro quo. We can all learn and benefit from his example. According this view, Lopez was moral because his action represented a deliberate sacrifice without benefit to himself. Of course an ethical egoist would reject this view. But could an ethical egoist have a non-sacrificial reason for giving up the baseball, rather than selling it for $250,000 or keeping it for himself? I think it's theoretically possible, but I don't know how likely it would be. For instance, if Derek Jeter had been a long-time personal hero for a baseball fan and if the fan had drawn personal inspiration throughout his life from Jeter's many accomplishments, I can see how a fan might wish to repay Jeter by giving him the gift of that historic baseball. Similarly, someone who was a die-hard Yankees fan might wish to become a permanent part of Yankees history and tradition by returning the baseball. In such cases, I can see how giving the baseball back to the Yankees might be a gain of a higher value for a lower value, rather than a sacrifice of a higher value for a lower value -- if it was the result of a rationally constructed hierarchy of values. And not knowing much about Mr. Lopez other than what's available in public accounts, I can't know his actual hierarchy of values or to what extent it's based on reason. However, it can also be entirely rational and moral for someone who had caught the baseball to decide to sell it. He might quite reasonably decide that this $250,000 would allow him to, say, start a new business, buy his beloved parents a new house, or guarantee his kids' college education. I think many American baseball fans would make this choice, and there's nothing wrong with that. If someone decided that advancing his own life goals (or promoting the well-being of his loved ones) was more important to him than being part of Yankees history, he should feel proud of that decision and not accept it as any form of moral guilt. I can also see a fan deciding to keep the baseball in his personal collection as a tangible reminder of a great achievement (which he could sell in the future if necessary due to financial hardship). Now some egoists have defended Lopez's decision on the grounds that returning the ball gave him great personal satisfaction. I think this merely begs the question. Whether his satisfaction was proper depends on whether his hierarchy of values was rational or not (something I do not and can not know). I just want to caution against relying on a subjective sense of "happiness" or "satisfaction" as a necessarily reliable indicator of a decision being morally correct. Finally, it's also possible for a baseball fan to offer to sell the baseball back to the Yankees at a discount -- less than the full market value in the collectors' market, but more than the value of some season tickets and memorabilia. Again, the proper intermediate amount would depend on the seller's precise hierarchy of values. For what it's worth, when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were setting home run records in 1998, some of those baseballs also sold for many thousands of dollars in the collectors' markets. I don't recall much condemnation in the popular press of those sellers for cashing in on their good fortune. And I'm glad there wasn't. In sum: 1) Dr. Peikoff is correct that not all values can be reduced to money. 2) For an egoist, returning the baseball could be a sacrifice (in which case it would be wrong), or could be a rational non-sacrifice (in which case it would be proper). I personally think the second possibility is possible, but relatively unlikely for most people. (For what it's worth, Diana and I diverge somewhat on this point -- she regards it is much less likely than I do, closer to "nearly inconceivable".) 3) We should reject the altruist code praising the return of the ball as "the right thing" because it was "selfless". View the full article
  4. Dear Apple: I've been a happy iPad2 owner since March 2011, but I never fully appreciated its value until I recently broke my hip in a bad fall and required subsequent hospitalization. I am a physician, so I had already been using my iPad for my work, reading PDFs of medical articles, communicating with my colleagues via e-mail, etc. But when I broke my hip in an accident a few days ago, the iPad became my lifeline to the outside world: Because I had my iPad with me at the time of the accident, I was able to immediately notify my friends and family of what had happened once I arrived in the ER. In the ER, the iPad also helped keep my spirits up as I checked e-mail, followed my friends on Twitter and Facebook, and followed the regular world news. When my orthopedic surgeon presented my treatment options to me, he also e-mailed me some relevant medical literature in the form of PDF files which I could digest at my own pace on the iPad. And of course, I was also able to perform Google searches on my various surgery options, the complication rates, postoperative care requirements, etc. Because of the specific nature of my fracture, I had to choose between two treatment options, each with its own pros and cons. I found it enormously helpful to be able to gather the relevant medical information literally "at my fingertips". Because of the iPad, I was able to more quickly make an informed treatment decision that I was comfortable with. I did briefly leave my iPad with my wife during the surgery itself, but she gave it back to me immediately after the surgery. Other than that, it did not leave my side while in the hospital. While in the hospital after my surgery, I used the iPad to read eBooks, check my e-mail, surf the internet, and keep up my regular blogging. It was a real morale booster to be able to continue as much of my regular online routine as possible, despite my impaired physical condition. My wife also had her own iPad with her while I was hospitalized, which allowed her to update our friends and family in real time on my condition, as well as keep her occupied while I was asleep or in surgery. And now that I'm at home recovering, my iPad is still at my side! For someone such as myself with limited physical mobility, the iPad2 with its light weight and long battery life was perfect. A laptop computer simply would not have worked while in the hospital. The iPad was literally an emotional, medical, and physical lifeline for me during a difficult time in my life. I know Apple has been in the news lately because of Steve Jobs' decision to step down as CEO. I just wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank Mr. Jobs and Apple for creating such a wonderful, life-enhancing product. In your advertisements, Apple has touted the iPad as "magical" and "revolutionary". To that, I would add the term "life-saver". -- Paul Hsieh, MD [Crossposted from GeekPress.] View the full article
  5. In Diana's July 3rd webcast, one of the topics she covered was self-defense and one of the points she made was that victims of violent attack in Great Britain could be prosecuted for fighting back in self-defense. A listener who was a former UK resident (now living in Hong Kong) wrote back to let her know that UK law did allow "reasonable force" in resisting a violent attack and wanted to correct any potentially erroneous negative impressions of British laws. One of the references he cited was this 6/29/2011 BBC news story, "Right to self-defence in homes to be 'much clearer'". However, even if UK law does recognize a victim's theoretical right to self-defense, a big question is precisely whether and how that right is recognized by the authorities in practice. A few years ago, American gun law expert David Kopel posted this interesting report from a US student studying abroad in London. According to her, the London police were very explicit in telling her not to fight back: I'm an alumna of Pepperdine University, a school which proudly owns a house/campus on Exhibition Road, literally across the street from the Imperial University, in the middle of South Kensington, right near Harrods, Hyde Park, the Albert Hall. Within two days of arriving for our first semester in London, our relatively small [American] class (37 students, 10 men, 27 women) was visited by a local police officer to instruct us on living in London. Her first question was to the women, 'How many of you brought mace?' Three girls raised their hands. She told us we couldn't use it, shouldn't even carry it, it was illegal. Had any of us brought any other type of weapon, such as a knife? Several of the men in our group indicated that they carried pocket knives. She told us to leave them at home too. Then she instructed us on how to properly be a victim. If we were attacked, we were to assume a defensive posture, such as raising our hands to block an attack. The reason was (and she spelled it out in no uncertain terms) that if a witness saw the incident and we were to attempt to defend ourselves by fighting back, the witness would be unable to tell who the aggressor was. However, if we rolled up in a ball, it would be quite clear who the victim was. The feeling I got was, in London, it is not permissible to defend oneself. I also understood that this police officer thought Americans were more likely to be aggressive and/or cause more damage to a potential attacker. She was warning us for our own good. I have to admit, she did not make me feel particularly safe. Last week, historian Joyce Lee Malcolm wrote a piece in the 8/16/2011 Wall Street Journal, "The Soft-on-Crime Roots of British Disorder". (If the link takes you to the truncated version, just enter the full title into a Google search box to get to the full piece.) Some excerpts from her OpEd: Victims of aggression who defend themselves or attempt to protect their property have been shown no such leniency. Burglars who injured themselves breaking into houses have successfully sued homeowners for damages. In February, police in Surrey told gardeners not to put wire mesh on the windows of their garden sheds as burglars might hurt themselves when they break in. If a homeowner protecting himself and his family injures an intruder beyond what the law considers "reasonable," he will be prosecuted for assault. Tony Martin, an English farmer, was sentenced to life in prison for killing one burglar and wounding another with a shotgun during the seventh break-in at his rural home in 1999. While his sentence was later reduced to five years, he was refused parole in 2003 because he was judged a danger to burglars. In 2008, a robber armed with a knife attacked shopkeeper Tony Singh in West Lancashire. During the struggle the intruder was fatally stabbed with his own knife. Although the robber had a long record of violent assault, prosecutors were preparing to charge Mr. Singh with murder until public outrage stopped them... All sorts of weapons useful for self-defense have been severely restricted or banned. A 1953 law, the "Prevention of Crime Act," made any item someone carried for possible protection an "offensive weapon" and therefore illegal. Today there is also a list of devices the mere possession of which carries a 10-year sentence. Along with rocket launchers and machine guns, the list includes chemical sprays and any knife with a blade more than three inches long. Handguns? Parliament banned their possession in 1997. As an example of the preposterous lengths to which zealous British authorities would enforce this law, consider the fate of Paul Clark, a former soldier. He was arrested in 2009 by Surrey police when he brought them a shotgun he found in his garden. For doing this personally—instead of asking the police to retrieve it—he received a five-year prison sentence. It took a public outcry to reduce the normal five-year sentence to 12 months, and then suspend it... Knives? It's illegal for anyone under age 18 to buy one, and using a knife for self-defense is unlawful. In 1991, American tourist Dina Letarte of Tempe, Ariz., used a penknife to protect herself from a violent attack by three men in a London subway. She was convicted of carrying an offensive weapon, fined, and given a two-year suspended sentence. The result of policies that punish the innocent but fail to deter crime has been stark, even before the latest urban violence... Now it may be that the latest "clarification" of self-defense laws from the current UK government (including what counts as "reasonable") will respect the rights of innocent victims, rather than violating them. During the recent UK riots, the police told shopkeepers that they could use "reasonable force" against the rioters and looters. And many innocent people did bravely use baseball bats and clubs to protect themselves against the bad guys. But if any of the would-be victims had presumed to protect themselves with a handgun, they likely would have been arrested. If self-defense with a handgun is illegal, then it de facto falls outside of what the government regards as legal "reasonable force". Under any legal system where tools of effective self-defense (such as handguns) are banned, the losers are the physically weaker victims (women, the elderly, those with disabilities) who are easily preyed upon by the young and the strong. There's a damned good reason that Americans have always regarded handguns as the "Great Equalizer". Let's hope that some day the UK government chooses to do the same. View the full article
  6. The 8/10/2011 PajamasMedia has just published my latest OpEd, "Don't Shoot the Downgrade Messenger". My theme is that attacking S&P for the U.S. credit downgrade is like criticizing your doctor for diagnosing your cancer. Here is the opening: Suppose you saw your doctor for a persistent headache. After performing a full battery of tests, he told you that your MRI scan showed a malignant brain tumor. Would you (1) work with him on a plan to treat your cancer, or (2) threaten the MRI manufacturer with a government investigation? Although most normal people would choose option 1, our government is responding to the news of the S&P credit downgrade with option 2. The Senate Banking Committee has responded to S&P's downgrading of the U.S. government's credit rating by "gathering information" in preparation for possible formal hearings on S&P's action. Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) called S&P’s move "irresponsible" because it would make it more difficult for cash-strapped state and local governments to borrow more money. In other words, the problem wasn't the fact that the federal, state, and local governments were borrowing money that might not ever get paid back. Rather, the problem was that S&P was pointing out that fact to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, our government's tactic of blaming the messenger has been all too common these past few years... (Read the full text of "Don't Shoot the Downgrade Messenger".) The unrest in Great Britain and Greece are a wakeup call to America as to what to expect if we continue on our current unsustainable welfare-state spending spree. Let's hope Americans take heed before it's too late. View the full article
  7. At FuturePundit, Randall Parker described how "Crowd Sourcing Identifies 2 Parkinsons Disease Genes". Here's an extended excerpt from his post: The folks at personal genetic testing company 23andme.com recruited Parkinson's Disease (PD) patients from mailing lists and other means and compared their genetic variants with a group of 23andMe customers who also got their genetic variants tested by 23andMe. They used the resulting data to discover 2 more genetic variants associated with Parkinson's Disease. The results demonstrate the speed, low cost, and power of web-based recruiting to do genetic research outside the traditional academic framework.We conducted a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) of Parkinson's disease (PD) with over 3,400 cases and 29,000 controls (the largest single PD GWAS cohort to date). We report two novel genetic associations and replicate a total of twenty previously described associations, showing that there are now many solid genetic factors underlying PD. We also estimate that genetic factors explain at least one-fourth of the variation in PD liability, of which currently discovered factors only explain a small fraction (6%–7%). Together, these results expand the set of genetic factors discovered to date and imply that many more associations remain to be found. Unlike traditional studies, participation in this study took place completely online, using a collection of cases recruited primarily via PD mailing lists and controls derived from the customer base of the personal genetics company 23andMe. Our study thus illustrates the ability of web-based methods for enrollment and data collection to yield new scientific insights into the etiology of disease, and it demonstrates the power and reliability of self-reported data for studying the genetics of Parkinson's disease. You can read the whole open access Plos Genetics research report at that link. What's cool about this: Using a web site and cheap genetic testing services people can volunteer themselves as research subjects on a scale that historically has taken far more effort to organize. This approach can scale into the hundreds of thousands, and even hundreds of millions of people. There's a big network effect where the more people who get tested the more useful genetic testing becomes. Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) genetic testing is what made the study above possible. Whether we will be able to continue to get our DNA tested without paying for a doctor's visit and additional testing mark-ups remains to be seen. In the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a dim view of DTC genetic testing.(Read the rest of Parker's post: "Crowd Sourcing Identifies 2 Parkinsons Disease Genes".) Here's the full PLOS Genetics paper: "Web-Based Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Two Novel Loci and a Substantial Genetic Component for Parkinson's Disease". I completely agree with Parker. Proposed FDA controls over the growing consumer genetic testing market not only deprive individuals of the right to learn the content of their DNA, but could also stifle the growth of new discoveries (and downstream therapies) made possible only by this sort of innovative free-market "crowdsourcing". The FDA has no business stopping people from voluntarily sharing their genetic information with others in hopes that they might reap life-saving benefits. (See also my July 2010 PajamasMedia piece, "Should You Be Allowed To Know What's In Your DNA?") Note from Diana: I got my 23andMe genetic test results back last week... with some useful but worrisome results. I'll blog about that soon-ish. View the full article
  8. The June 2, 2011 edition of the Christian Science Monitor has published my latest OpEd, "Here comes Obamacare's Big Brother: Accountable Care Organizations". My theme is that the federal government's proposed new model of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) is dangerous because it will corrupt the doctor-patient relationship and stifle genuine health delivery innovations. Here is the opening: Suppose President Obama declared he would tackle rising food prices by forcing everyone to eat at government-supervised restaurant chains. Small restaurants would be nudged to merge with national ones. Bureaucrats would monitor menu items and prices. Restaurants would record orders in a central database to ensure meals adhered to federal nutrition guidelines. Most Americans would be outraged at such infringements of their basic freedoms. Yet this is precisely the approach the Obama administration is taking by pushing doctors and hospitals into government-supervised Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). (Read the full text of "Here comes Obamacare's Big Brother: Accountable Care Organizations". This piece will appear in both the online edition as well as the weekly print edition.) For more on how Dr. Brian Forrest uses "direct pay" and price transparency to achieve such remarkable results in his small clinic in Apex, NC, see this eye-opening video: Here's a related shorter news video covering much of the same material: I'm honored to once again appear in the pages of the Christian Science Monitor. My earlier two CSM pieces were: "Health Care in Massachusetts: A Warning for America" (9/30/2009) "Universal Healthcare and the Waistline Police" (1/7/2009) View the full article
  9. The May 16th Investor's Business Daily quoted me in their article, "Will Congress Kill 'Death Panel 2.0'?" Here's the relevent excerpt: While IPAB defenders say the law specifically bars rationing, critics argue that cutting provider payments would have that effect. They say IPAB-imposed payment cuts could accelerate doctors' exodus from Medicare, restricting seniors' access to care. In 2009, 13% of family doctors said they didn't participate in Medicare, up from 6% in 2004, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Its power to set payments to doctors and hospitals would give it de facto rationing power," Paul Hsieh, a Denver-based physician, noted in his IPAB analysis. (Read the full text of "Will Congress Kill 'Death Panel 2.0'?") The "IPAB analysis" they are referring to is my PajamasMedia piece from 4/22/2011, "We Call It 'Rationing,' Obama Calls It 'Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board'". I'm honored and delighted to be cited by such a high-profile outlet as Investor's Business Daily, and I'd like to thank PajamasMedia (including editors David Steinberg and Aaron Hanscom) for providing such a friendly outlet for my work. (See the full list of my PajamasMedia writings.) View the full article
  10. Sorry about the short notice, but I just learned about this myself. Submission deadline for comments is today(!) The FDA is giving the general public one last opportunity for comment on whether it should clamp down on consumer genetic testing. These are tests where patients can have their own DNA analyzed to see if they might be at risk of developing certain diseases in the future, sold by companies such as 23andMe.com. Here's the Wired story on the proposed regulations (and public comment period): "Last chance: let the FDA know why you want direct access to your own genome", Wired, 4/29/2011 Here's the direct link to submit a comment to the FDA. If you want some background, here's my PajamasMedia piece from last year: "Should You Be Allowed to Know What's in Your DNA?" I've already submitted the following short comment: As a practicing physician, I want my patients to be as well-informed as possible about their bodies and their medical conditions. I fully support the rights of patients to learn about their genome free from government interference. Such information could be invaluable in helping patients prevent or mitigate bad outcomes from genetic diseases or diseases with genetic predispositions. Patients have both the responsibility and the right to be able to manage their own health according to their best judgment. Consumer genetics would be a powerful tool in assisting them make these important personal decisions. And thanks to those who have already left comments for the FDA! The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. View the full article
  11. Here's a funny real-life story of street justice, "How I got an uncooperative eBay buyer to pay for her purchase". Here's the setup: I had tickets to a sporting event and couldn't attend. I made a 1-day listing and clearly stated that the tickets must be picked up in person within 24 hours (the game was the evening after the auction ended, so there wasn't any time to ship the tickets). A woman won the auction for about $600. The auction had ended at 10:00am and by 5:00pm she still hadn't responded to my emails trying to organize the exchange. Finally, at 9:30pm, I got a one-liner email: "I overbid and my husband won't let me buy these. Sorry and enjoy the game! :)" I first tried explaining that I wouldn't have the time to resell the tickets (I already got turned down by the losing bidders). She said, "... that's not my problem. It's eBay, not a car dealership. I can back out if I want." I still don't understand the car dealership reference. I was pretty upset. I was basically going to be stuck with tickets to an event that I couldn't attend. That's when I got the idea to convince her to change her mind... You can read the rest of his post to see what he did. My immediate reaction was that this was a perfect example of unofficial "street" justice. But the author of the post does ask the legitimate question, "Was it unethical?" If anyone wants Diana to cover this question on her webcast, they should submit it through this page. (Story found via Keith Schacht.) View the full article
  12. I recently read a fascinating article entitled, Why Caltech Is in a Class by Itself". Here is an excerpt: Of the top two dozen or so elite universities in America only one has managed both to avoid the craziness of the post-60s intellectual fads, and to establish something pretty close to a pure meritocracy -- California Institute of Technology, which has not received the general recognition among academics that it clearly deserves... If you can't meet the stellar performance requirements and show an intense love for science and mathematics, Caltech isn't interested in you and will not lower its standards. When you apply to Caltech the admissions committee is interested only in your intellectual merit and passion for learning. It has little or no interest in your family heritage, your race, or your skill in slapping around a hockey puck... Perhaps the most striking difference from all other elite universities -- including institutions like MIT and the University of Chicago which forgo athletic recruitment -- is Caltech's complete indifference to racial balancing. In a state and a region of the country with the largest Hispanic population, Caltech's entering freshmen class in 2008 was less than 6 percent Hispanic (13 out of 236). The unwillingness to lower standards for a larger black representation is even more striking -- less than 1 percent (2/236) of Caltech's 2008 entering freshmen were listed as "non-Hispanic black". This "underrepresentation" of blacks and Hispanics, of course, was more than made up for by the huge "overrepresentation" of Asians. Only 4 percent of the U.S. population, Asians made up a whopping 40 percent of the incoming freshmen class in 2008, a slightly larger proportion than the 39 percent figure for whites. Applicants to Caltech are clearly seen as representing only themselves and their own individual merit and achievement, not their race or their ethnic group. (Read the full text.) I found the "no legacies" and "no racial preferences" policies especially interesting. Given how rigorous the school is, it would simply be cruel to admit a legacy student or "underrepresented racial category" student who couldn't otherwise handle the academic pace. It also means that if you're a black or Hispanic student at Caltech, everyone there knows you are there because you met the same admission standards as the white and Asian students, rather than being stigmatized with the "affirmative action" label. And even though I'm a proud alumnus of MIT, Caltech is purer in how it applies its meritocratic principles. (Via Marginal Revolution.) View the full article
  13. As a followup to Diana's recent post on parenting styles ("Compare and Contrast"), some readers may recall the sad story of Todd Marinovich. Todd Marinovich was groomed (and pushed) from birth by his father Marvin to be an NFL quarterback. And he ended up crashing and burning in the national spotlight. Two interesting stories about Marinovich illustrate the consequences of the senior Marinovich's nightmare parenting style. The first story ("Bred To Be A Superstar") was written in 1988, when Marinovich was a high school football superstar trying to decide with big name college to attend. At that time, his future was seemingly bright with limitless possibilities. Note the recurrent theme of how much the father was sacrificing for his son's future success, and how little say the son had in his life decisions: Though Marv owns an athletic research center -- a sort of high-tech gym -- his true occupation has been the development of his son, an enterprise that has yet to produce a monetary dividend. And the Marinovich marriage ended last year after 24 years. "All Marv has done," says a friend, "is give up his entire life for Todd." This is sadly reminiscent of the character of Peter Keating from The Fountainhead, whose mother "sacrificed" to push Peter into the field of architecture (and away from his natural love of painting) -- with tragic results that unfold during the novel. The second story was written in 2009, looking back on the younger Marinovich's tragically wasted life. I thought the title ("Todd Marinovich: The Man Who Never Was") was especially apropos. The teaser paragraph summarizes the main theme, but the whole article is worth reading: Twenty years ago, he was guaranteed to be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game of football. Engineered to be. He was drafted ahead of Brett Favre. Today he's a recovering junkie. Scenes from the chaotic life of a boy never designed to be a man in the 2010 National Magazine Award winner for profile writing. No child can become a full human being when his parents fail to teach him how to practice rational, independent decision-making, and instead attempt to impose their own "central purpose" on him. The Marinovich saga of flame-out, drug addiction, and jail are unsurprising consequences when a parent fails to help teach a child how to live a first-handed life. View the full article
  14. This was a fascinating article entitled, Why Caltech Is in a Class by Itself". Here is an excerpt: Of the top two dozen or so elite universities in America only one has managed both to avoid the craziness of the post-60s intellectual fads, and to establish something pretty close to a pure meritocracy -- California Institute of Technology, which has not received the general recognition among academics that it clearly deserves... If you can't meet the stellar performance requirements and show an intense love for science and mathematics, Caltech isn't interested in you and will not lower its standards. When you apply to Caltech the admissions committee is interested only in your intellectual merit and passion for learning. It has little or no interest in your family heritage, your race, or your skill in slapping around a hockey puck... Perhaps the most striking difference from all other elite universities -- including institutions like MIT and the University of Chicago which forgo athletic recruitment -- is Caltech's complete indifference to racial balancing. In a state and a region of the country with the largest Hispanic population, Caltech's entering freshmen class in 2008 was less than 6 percent Hispanic (13 out of 236). The unwillingness to lower standards for a larger black representation is even more striking -- less than 1 percent (2/236) of Caltech's 2008 entering freshmen were listed as "non-Hispanic black". This "underrepresentation" of blacks and Hispanics, of course, was more than made up for by the huge "overrepresentation" of Asians. Only 4 percent of the U.S. population, Asians made up a whopping 40 percent of the incoming freshmen class in 2008, a slightly larger proportion than the 39 percent figure for whites. Applicants to Caltech are clearly seen as representing only themselves and their own individual merit and achievement, not their race or their ethnic group. (Read the full text.) I found the "no legacies" and "no racial preferences" policies especially interesting. Given how rigorous the school is, it would simply be cruel to admit a legacy student or "underrepresented racial category" student who couldn't otherwise handle the academic pace. It also means that if you're a black or Hispanic student at CalTech, everyone there knows you are there because you met the same admission standards as the white and Asian students, rather than being stigmatized with the "affirmative action" label. And even though I'm a proud alumnus of MIT, CalTech is purer in how it applies its meritocratic principles. (Via Marginal Revolution.) View the full article
  15. The January 6, 2011 Washington Times published my latest OpEd, "Best Health Care Political Pull Can Buy". My theme is that unless ObamaCare is repealed, it will foster the wrong kind of health care competition. Here's an excerpt: When President Obama signed his health care plan into law, he promised it would foster "choice and competition." Nine months later, Americans can count this as another Big Lie. Obamacare has instead reduced competition in the marketplace for health services... Yet while Obamacare is suppressing genuine marketplace competition for medical services, it is also spurring a more sinister facsimile of competition -- for political favors... (Read the full text of "Best Health Care Political Pull Can Buy".) I'd like to thank the organization Docs4PatientCare.org for helping to facilitate publishing this article -- especially Dr. Hal Scherz and Dr. Richard Armstrong. And I'd like to thank Diana Hsieh, Ari Armstrong, and Brian Schwartz for their help in editing my early drafts of this OpEd. Update: Thank you, Instapundit, for the link! View the full article
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