Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inconvenient Football Truth Quote of the Day

"The bigger problem here is that we like watching football players land on their heads on Sundays more than it bothers us to see them unable to tie their own shoes later in life."

Michael Lindauer, editor, Dallas Morning News, on the NFL's new requirement that teams work with independent neurologists. Mr. Lindauer praises the policy while wondering whether it is enough given the medical issues that many players may be facing as a result of multiple concussions.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Still Here

Two years ago, I nearly did not live to see Thanksgiving. After leaving the hospital and flying back to Dallas, I wrote the following:

A Mist -- Extended

"[Y]et you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." James 4:14 (ESV)

Sometimes at this holiday season, generic expressions of thanks may indicate a lack of thoughtfulness. Sometimes not. As this Thansgiving weekend comes to a close, I can say with deep sincerity that I am grateful to be alive. It was almost not the case.

Last Monday, I was driving my silver Jaguar, which I had recently purchased and of which I was so proud, up I-65 near Horse Cave, Kentucky. I looked up from hunting for a radio station and suddenly realized that traffic had come to a complete stop in front of me. I stood on my brakes, but realized it was too late. Seeing that I was about to go sliding underneath the semi truck in front of me, I cut the wheel hard to the right and went into an open field. The car then rolled over and my head hit the windshield hard. Once the car stopped and I came to, I reached up to touch my forehead and felt the gash. I also saw that my shirt was covered with blood. Although I didn't feel that much pain, I knew that I was cut pretty badly, and my first thought was that I was going to bleed to death before anyone would be able to help me.

I wish that there were a way to personally say thanks to the wonderful people who left their vehicles and came to help keep me calm and hold a towel on my head until the emergency personnel arrived. I guess that I will never know their names. Once they arrived, the EMT's called for a helicopter to come get me and take me to the hospital.

I left the hospital Wednesday evening and flew back to Dallas last night. Remarkably, I have no broken bones. Stitches hold together a 6 inch cut starting on my forehead and going up to near the top of my head. I also have a horrible looking black eye and my neck is bruised deeply behind my right ear. None of those things hurt. My left shoulder, which shows no bruises, aches. In another day I may have to go back to the doctor about that.

The word is not yet official, but I assume that my car was totalled. I guess I should thank it for saving my life. More than one person has told me that I likely would not have made it if I had been driving a lighter car. I think they are right.

The experience also did not rob me of my sense of humor. As I mentioned, I flew home last night. It was basically the first time I have been in public, and I am sure that the reader can imagine the stares. As I was getting on the plane, a flight attendant looked at my face, and her eyes widened.

I smiled and said, "That was done by the flight attendant on my last plane."

"Oh really?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied. "I called her a stewardess and she beat the daylights out of me."

Fortunately, she laughed.

I really am thankful to be alive.

2009 Update: the car was, in fact, totalled, but cars are replaceable. After writing the above, I had a hematoma that required surgery the following week. The shoulder improved with physical therapy. All turned out well. The accident was a well-disguised blessing, as it brought me back to some fundamental values of what is most important about life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leaping to Conclusions on Fort Hood

In the wake of the shootings at Fort Hood last week, President Barack Obama urged the nation not to "jump to conclusions." However, two local doctors have ignored the President's admonition and rushed to explain that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan committed these heinous acts because he is a -- stressed out psychiatrist.

In words that would be difficult to caricature, Dr. Alina Suris, clinical director of mental-health trauma services at Dallas VA Medical Center explained that Maj. Hasan's murder of 13 people may have resulted from "vicarious trauma" caused by too much caring for the people he had been counseling: "When dealing with trauma at that level of severity every day, it can be overwhelming," she said. "You can become traumatized because you care about people."

Dr. Alan Podawiltz, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at North Texas State University, concurred with that assessment, suggesting, according to the article, that a psychiatrist listening to patients might require intensive counseling to the same degree as those who actually experienced the traumas of war. He further explained that some questions will have to be answered before we can figure out why the shooter did it: "Does he have some other mental illness that was not treated? We don’t know. Were there other conflicts? Did he have a substance-abuse problem? Was he a victim of prejudice?"

While Dr. Podawiltz busied himself wondering whether the murderer was a "victim of prejudice," those not jumping to such conclusions were coming across a mountain of evidence suggesting more simple causation: he is a radical Islamic terrorist. Admittedly, these psychiatrists spoke before some of what we now know about the shooter became public. However, one can still wonder, why did these doctors go on the record with these kinds of nonsensical speculations without having in their possession any facts related to the case?

Having largely rejected the dogmas of ancient divines, modern westerners largely look for the meaning of life in the words of our therapeutic leaders. Any time of crisis or change is accompanied by calls for help from counsellors. However, there is much reason to believe that this group is largely not worthy of such trust. The examples of these doctors almost caricatures a reality that is far more common than some would care to realize: while psychology impresses itself upon us as "social science," it in fact often offers nothing more than either the ideological prejudices of the practitioner dressed up in either academic or popular therapeutic lingo or a credulous counsellor generalizing out of his own therapeutic experience.

The doctors who rationalized these theories to reporters before any facts were known should be embarrassed. One wonders if they are?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Our Bleak House

"The number of little acts of thoughtless expenditure which Richard justified by the recovery of his ten pounds, and the number of times he talked to me as if he had saved or realized that amount, would form a sum in simple addition."

-- Ada, in Bleak House, by Charles Dickens.

The U.S. House of Representatives, promising savings of $120 billion over 10 years, yesterday passed a new entitlement that would create $1.2 TRILLION in new spending over the same period. Those numbers, though bad enough, understate the irresponsibility of what was done by lawmakers helping to govern a nation already facing $9 trillion of deficit spending over the next 10 years. As much of the program doesn't take effect until 2013, the 10 year costs understate the amount to be spent over the first decade of the full program. Additionally, the history of estimates of costs of government health care programs would suggest that these guesses are likely lower than the coming reality. Indeed, some experts have actually suggested that costs should be deliberately underestimated in order to pass the program.

The House additionally fulfilled the President's promise that all who are happy with their current health plans could keep them by "paying for" the proposal with $400 billion in cuts from Medicare. Does anyone think that $400 billion in cuts might change something?

According to a poll conducted earlier this year, 62% of Americans believe that the next generation will be worse off than the present. That being the case, this proposed new spending should be regarded as an act of naked aggression against our children. Federal debt as a percentage of GDP is already rising to its highest level since World War II. Unlike World War II, this deficit spending results from ongoing entitlement commitments upon which people will come to depend.

Dickens' Bleak House is a fictional account of ruin resulting from a previous generation's litigation. Our current situation is legislative and not fiction. But, it is bleak.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reading the Elections

As emulators of the world's oldest profession, paid political pundits -- and amateurs naive enough to follow them -- will spend this election night saying things that they don't really mean. If Republicans win the governorships in both Virginia and New Jersey, GOP spokesmen will declare that the electorate is passing judgment on all things Obama. On the other hand, Democrats will proclaim these to be local races with no bearing on national politics.

With very few exceptions, this cast of characters would read their lines in the opposite way were the parties to be reversed.

Here is the best way of understanding the elections. In every gubernatorial election since 1974, Virginia has gone for the party opposite of the holder of the White House. This year will evidently not stop that trend. As to New Jersey, a Republican win will send a chill up the backs of centrist Democrats. Whether it means anything in next year's elections will partly depend on the economy. It will also depend on whether the Democrats continue down a path that centrist voters fear is fiscally irresponsible.

Feel free to turn off the news casts and enjoy your evening.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A-Rod Just Threw His Pitcher under the Bus

Neither Joe Buck nor Tim McCarver pointed it out, but Alex Rodriguez effectively tossed his pitcher under the bus by his extended, self-serving stare toward his dugout after being hit by a pitch in the first inning tonight.

It is difficult to interpret Mr. Rodriguez' actions as anything other than a call for his pitcher to protect him by responding in kind to a Phillies hitter. The action necessitated what followed -- the home plate umpire warning both benches that any retaliation would result in an ejection. However, that warning makes it more difficult for Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia to pitch inside, which, as Messrs. Buck and McCarver pointed out, is essential to his game plan. It is arguable that the umpires would not have issued the warning if Mr. Rodriguez had simply taken his base.

That is the sort of action that explains why, notwithstanding his tremendous talent, A-Rod is not a player that is necessarily popular with his teammates.