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Archive for November, 2010

Why They Came

Although I’ve posted this before, the truth contained herein still applies today.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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At this time in which we pause to count our blessings and thank our God for His bountiful care for us in the past year, we will most likely hear once again from radicals and leftists in this country seeking to rewrite our history and portray the pilgrims as criminal genocidal invaders of this continent. Unfortunately for them, we have an objective written record to which we may turn to verify the traditional story and show the revisionists to be the liars that they are. Living before the age of television, people of that age were wont to write down their musings and thoughts and experiences, recognizing that doing so often served to help others.

Probably the most relevant work for Thanksgiving is that entitled Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement, written by William Bradford, who has the distinct advantage over the revisionists of having actually been there as governor of the new colony. As such, he has only a literal axe to grind.  So, what were the reasons the pilgrims came to this land? Were they out to kill everything in sight and selfishly exploit all possible resources of the country to which they were targeting?

First, we must remember what the revisionists conveniently forget. The pilgrims knew very little about the land to which they were sailing. They were leaving civilization as they knew it for a life of unknown hardship. Indeed, in the first year, half of the settlers died in the wilderness into which they had come. To put this into a 21st century perspective, what they undertook would be roughly comparable to a band of pilgrims building a starship for a trip to Mars with the intention of colonizing that planet and with no expectation of a return trip. What would cause sane human beings to give up so much for seemingly so little?

William Bradford actually lists four primary reasons for this endeavor.

First, they saw by experience that the hardships of the country were such that comparatively few others would join them, and fewer still would bide it out and remain with them. Many who came and many more who desired to come, could not endure the continual labor and hard fare and other inconveniences which they themselves were satisfied with. … For, though many desired to enjoy the ordinances of God in their purity, and the liberty of the gospel, yet, alas, they preferred to submit to bondage, with danger to their conscience, rather than endure these privations.

So first of all, the religious freedom that is the traditional reason for the pilgrims’ trip seems to be accurate (imagine that!). Even in their adopted country, the pilgrims experienced pressures from the established churches to conform to rituals they deemed unbiblical. Also note their concern for others in this passage; there is not a desire to get but a desire to give.

Secondly, they say that though the people generally bore these difficulties very cheerfully, and with resolute courage, being in the best strength of their years; yet old age began to steal on many of them, and their great and continual labors, with other crosses and sorrows, hastened it before their time; so that it was not only probably, but certain, that in a few more years they would be in danger of scattering by the necessities pressing upon them.

Still no genocidal tendencies in this second reason, but a focus on others: the concern for the physical welfare of those enduring the hardships caused by their obedience to God’s Word as they saw it, and particularly the elderly.

Thirdly, as necessity was a task-master over them, so they themselves were forced to be, not only over their servants, but in a sort over their dearest children; which not a little wounded the hearts of many a loving father and mother, and produced many sad and sorrowful effects. Many of their children, who were of the best disposition and who had learned to bear the yoke in their youth and were willing to bear part of their parents’ burden, were often so oppressed with their labors, that though their minds were free and willing, their bodies bowed under the weight and became decrepit in early youth, – the vigor of nature being consumed in the very bud, as it were. But still more lamentable, and of all sorrows most heavy to be borne, was that many of the children, influenced by these conditions, and the great licentiousness of the young people of the country, and the many temptations of the city, were led by evil example into dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and leaving their parents. … So they say their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and become corrupt.

This is perhaps the most amazing, and is almost never cited even by traditionalists. They were concerned for the physical and spiritual well-being of their children! They saw the corruption of the society in which they had taken refuge, and the evil influence it had on some of their children alarmed them to the extent that they considered migration a viable option despite any difficulties it may have entailed. Imagine that!

Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.

Oh, dear! Here’s a thought sure to send your liberal leftist friend into apoplectic shock! A clear religious intent in the founding of our country! And not just any religion either. Now, my experience with Christianity is that it generally wants to convert the lost by persuasion, not execute them. The only imperialist invasion here is that of the kingdom of Christ and even Charles Darwin was impressed enough to note in his Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle the positive effect of Christian missionaries on the lives of those they evangelized. (Not that an evolutionist or leftist will acknowledge such, or is even aware of such.)

So, as we gather around our turkey, or whatever we’re enjoying for this holiday, let us take comfort in the facts whose untimely demise has been greatly exaggerated. The pilgrims’ story is not the revisionist version but the traditional version. And, as Michael Medved is likes to say, we do, indeed, live in the greatest nation on God’s green earth!

 

commited 20101114 thanksgiving

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Categories: Faith & Family, History Tags:

Only one???

17 Nov 2010 1 comment

Political Cartoon by Michael Ramirez

I could so get into this solution!

From the Patriot Post, this win-win solution for the current TSA debacle:

A great alternative to body scanners at airports
The Israelis are developing an airport security device that eliminates the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners at the airports.
It’s a booth you can step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on you. They see this as a win-win for everyone, with none of the whining about racial profiling. It also would eliminate the costs of long and expensive trials. Justice would be swift. Case closed!
You’re in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system: "Attention standby passengers — we now have a seat available on flight number ____. Shalom."

Vanity

Proverbs 16:18 warns us that “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Our current POTUS gives every evidence that he has never heard of this principle despite the prominence usually given to it from many pulpits (obviously not from the pulpit at Pastor Wright’s church).

The Bookworm catches a recent commentary with this well said introduction:

Every conservative writer in America (heck, in the world), myself included, has had occasion to write about Obama’s overwhelming vanity.  Jonathan Last has now turned his hand to the task and, by gum, he’s hit it out of the park.  He’s not saying anything anyone else hasn’t said before, but he says it wonderfully!

Follow the link and read the whole thing.  It is well worth your time.

UPDATE:  Dr. Sanity weighs in with her usual eloquence and clinical insight.

Categories: Culture & Media, Government Tags:

Veterans’ Day Tribute

The following is written anonymously but eloquently captures what we should all remember to think and do, at the very least, on Veterans’ Day…if not every other day of the year!

~~~

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.
Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg or perhaps another sort of inner steel:  The soul’s ally forged in the refinery of adversity.
Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe Wear no badge or emblem. You can’t tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Danang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another or didn’t come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.

He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor remains unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket, aggravatingly slow, who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman, and also a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember each time you see someone who has served our country. When you see one just lean over and say Thank You.

That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, “THANK YOU”.

God Bless Our Veterans!

Political Cartoons by Ken Catalino

Categories: Faith & Family, History, Military Tags:

Definitions matter…

Political Cartoon by Michael Ramirez

An Exercise in Fatal Futility: Trying to Objectify the Subjective

Earlier in October, in a demonstration of my statistical insanity, I attended a (and presented at) conference of statisticians conferring as one might expect on statistics.  The conference revolved around one particular software package the identity of which is irrelevant to this post (but if you really want to know, it’s SAS).  However, one presentation I attended actually spilled over into realms of which I suspect the author was aware, but did not explicitly state at the time.  An exposition of the topic is relevant to the current political landscape, so I thought I would address the gorilla in the room with the following commentary and observations since it is an interface of the kind addressed by this blog.

The paper was entitled “Comparative Effectiveness Analysis and Statistical Methodology” and if that doesn’t put you to sleep, be assured that what follows will, or should, wake you up.  Let me give you the relevant portions of the paper summary as a framework for my analysis (with emphases added):

The purpose of comparative effectiveness analysis is ordinarily defined as a means to compare the benefits of drug A versus drug B. However, particularly in relation to cancer drugs, there is only drug A. Therefore, comparative effectiveness analysis tends to compare drug A to a quality adjusted threshold value, with a frequent conclusion that the cost of the drug is not worth the additional life. Ordinarily, a societal perspective is used to deny the drugs, since the additional life may be worth the drug cost for the patient. The British organization, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has denied many cancer drugs to their patients. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare want to initiate a similar process, denying treatments that exceed a quality adjusted price of $50,000. There are similar provisions in the Healthcare Reform Act. With the emphasis upon medications, medical procedures are not as subject to this comparative effectiveness scrutiny; procedures can frequently exceed the cost of medication treatments. However, each medication is considered separately; no analysis examines the total contribution of the treatment to the overall cost of healthcare.

Let’s parse this out in plainer language.  There is a statistical method called comparative effectiveness analysis that is valid for the comparison of effectiveness of two drugs, but which is less appropriate in instances where there is only one drug for a condition and so there is no objective data with which to compare the drug under consideration.  What the bean counters are comparing to instead is this “quality adjusted threshold value” for the cost of the medicine, and the “quality” being used to adjust this threshold value is a “quality of life” metric rigidly defined in terms of the ability to function independently (i.e., how well can the patient take care of him/herself) regardless of a multiplicity of other possible considerations from the patient’s point of view.

It is this quality of life metric that is so troubling, because what is being attempted is the transformation of a highly subjective concept into an objective measure and to do so without regard to the multivariate aspects of the patient.  This transformation leaves medicine behind and spills over into the realms of ethics and theology, realms in which a materialist accountants are quite uncomfortable at best and to which they are often hostile.

This process has already been implemented in Great Britain, has already been implemented in some states in this country, and is a part of the Obamacare package despite what the Democrats may have told you (actually, they did say we had to pass the bill to see what was in the bill, so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised, right?).  The practical outcome of this implementation is hideous in its impact on life:

The National Health Service in Britain has been using comparative effectiveness analysis for quite some time. NICE stands for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. This organization has defined an upper limit on treatment costs, and if the cost exceeds this pre-set limit, then the treatment is denied. It does not matter if the drug is effective or not. That means that there are many beneficial drugs that are simply not available to patients in Britain.  Fully 25% of cancer patients are denied effective chemotherapy medications.

That’s right, rationing of treatments based on criteria that have nothing to do with the ability of the drug to cure the disease or alleviate any symptoms.  And don’t think it can’t come here.  As I posted awhile ago, it already has, as the current authors note:

Oregon has become notorious in its Medicaid benefit, denying cancer drugs to patients, but making the same patients aware that assisted suicide is available. Oregon will not make available drugs that can prolong a patient’s life; it will make available a drug to end it (which will then save additional medical costs). Currently, pharmaceutical companies have been subsidizing Oregon’s Medicaid by providing these drugs to patients who have been denied by Medicaid. It has been suggested that euthanasia is cheaper than end of life care, and more cost-effective than treating many patients with terminal illnesses. Just recently, the Food and Drug Administration has considered retracting approval of a chemotherapy drug for breast cancer on the basis of cost effectiveness rather than effectiveness.

That’s right.  They will help you die, but not help you live…all based on the almighty dollar (or euro in the case of Britain)!

Let’s briefly examine this concept of “quality of life” for a moment.  I’ve asserted that it is highly subjective at its core.  At another statistics conference I attended in September, the keynote speaker was a Dr. Daniel Ariely who describes himself as a psychologist and behavioral economist.  His work provides some basis for my assertion.  When Dr. Ariely was a young man in the Israeli army, he was involved in an accident with a magnesium flare that went off next to him and left him with third degree burns (that’s black charred flesh) over 70% of his body and put him into the hospital for three years.  After his recovery and subsequent education, one of his first areas of research was in pain perception and tolerance.   Among other things, he’s demonstrated that it is not the duration of the pain that matters, rather it is the intensity of the pain that is critical.  Thus, slower, less painful stimuli are more readily handled than fast, very painful experiences (this line of experimentation was based on the daily changes of his burn bandages, an excruciating experience he had to withstand since his nurses were convinced that the fast ripping off of the bandages was the only way to endure the experience…not that any of them had actually experienced it themselves).  Interestingly enough, and more relevant to this post is his finding that individuals who have experienced episodes of intense pain such as he had (e.g., recovery from combat injuries or other burn patients) have a higher threshold for pain that those who had never experienced such intense pain before.  (No subjects were damaged by his research…I will let you get his books to figure out the details of how he did this, but it is all documented.)  Pain is directly related to one’s ability to function.  Try to execute what is for you a simple task when you have a splitting headache and you will realize the truth of this.

So, who is to say that any one person’s inability to, e.g., dress themselves, is an intolerable lowering of that person’s “quality of life” when they themselves have no problem being dressed by someone else if it let’s them have a life?  When the ability to withstand the discomfort of a disease varies from individual to individual, how is a threshold beyond which the alleged quality of life becomes unacceptable to be determined?

Which brings us to the despicable policies currently in place in Oregon of the good ole U. S. of A.  In my previous post, I copied the following from my source (emphases added):

A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine last year, for example, found that doctors in Oregon write lethal prescriptions for patients who are not experiencing significant symptoms and that assisted suicide practice has had little do with any inability to alleviate pain – the fear of which is a chief selling point for legalisation.

The report said that family members described loved ones who pursue “physician-assisted death” as individuals for whom being in control is important, who anticipate the negative aspects of dying and who believe the impending loss of self and quality of life will be intolerable. They fear becoming a burden to others, yet want to die at home. Concerns about what may be experienced in the future were substantially more powerful reasons than what they experienced at that point in time.

When a scared and depressed patient asks for poison pills and their doctor’s response is to pull out the lethal prescription pad, it confirms the patient’s worst fears – that they are a burden, that they are less worth loving.

Did you get that?  These are the consequences of playing god with these kinds of decisions.  Unintended in some cases, perhaps, but nevertheless real.  My comments then are still appropriate:

Understand clearly, these are patients whose disease has not progressed to the point of imminent death. The possibility of cure has not been ruled out. Years of productive life are still a possibility, but because they are sick and know it, and have no control over it, they become depressed and dwell on all the problems involved rather than the opportunities that may present themselves. And apparently the fragmentation of the family and social structure of the immediate past has left them with no support from the family that should be cherishing and valuing their life and knowledge and wisdom, and communicating that with them so they understand the value their life has to others.

It is a sign of our present narcissistic culture that the only good in a situation is what might be good (and convenient) for me, and that “dignity” is defined as “doing it MY way,” and that goes for both the patient and the immediate family of the patient.

One of the keys to understanding this issue is in the last quote above. The issue of control, or rather, who is in control, is one that defines man’s pride. Man in his pride wants to be in control (cf. Psalm 2). Translation: man wants to play God with his life. This is the bioethical quandary over euthanasia. As the above instances show, it is usually not a matter of alleviating pain, but of convenience and the all too pragmatic issue of cost.

So, what is this true dignity with which we are exhorted to die? Oxford defines it as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” Modern man has translated that into respecting the desire of one who wants to die…and then encouraging them to do so. But tell me, who do you really honor and respect more, someone who gives up and takes the easy way out, or someone who fights the good fight all the way to the end? For whom do you really have more respect, the one who essentially shoves their elderly relative under the rug, seeking to be rid of them as soon as possible so they can get on with their own freakin’ life, or the one who shows the strength of character to live sacrificially, taking care of another without thought of reward and “what’s in it for me?”

Self-centered pride utterly fails to see the benefit of tending to the needs of others and shrivels up into a caricature of what humanity is supposed to be.  Integrity and character of soul degenerate into the slough of selfish ambition when those who are weaker are cast aside.

Consider the young man in this YouTube video.  Born blind, the bean counters would undoubtedly say his quality of life is low.  But is it?  Watch and decide for yourself.

I dare say the quality of life of this young man is vastly greater than those lost souls who decide on the quality of life for others based on mere mathematical formulas divorced from the human reality of those whose lives are in their hands.  And I dare say his father’s life has been unbelievably enriched by his relationship with his son because he has unselfishly given himself to meeting his son’s needs.

My previous conclusion still holds here today and I will again close with it:

Where ultimately is the anchor by which to make such decisions? Only the Bible gives clear guidance on the value of life and on God’s right to make final decisions regarding our life expectancy. He appoints our days. All else is mere human hubris. If the selfish pragmatism noted above comes to rule the day, our society will truly be taking one more step into the oblivion of barbarism and away from true civilization.