SF Chron: Ignore the Anti-Abortion Protestors

In good Denialism blog form, the San Francisco Chronicle’s C. W. Nevius has urged readers to just ignore this week’s anti-abortion protest in San Francisco. He makes a good point:

This is the fifth year in San Francisco for the “Walk for Life.” Bolstered by supporters who are bused in from all over – this year’s bus schedule lists departures from Yuba City, Bakersfield, Fresno, Reno, Clovis and Chico, among other cities – the anti-abortion group stages a march in liberal San Francisco and then expresses shock and disappointment when they are jeered and booed.

It’s a scam and a setup. Nothing gets media attention like two groups facing off against each other. And, frankly, on the 36th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the anti-abortion groups are becoming a tired story. They claim huge numbers for this walk – their estimate last year was 25,000 walkers, although The Chronicle story had the total at 10,000 – but there isn’t much of a news hook unless there’s some controversy. They’d probably get more people if they marched in Indiana, but in San Francisco they can garner much more publicity.

Amen! Stay inside on this Bay Area rainy day!

A blog note: I apologize for the sparse blogging on Denialism Blog. The semester has just started for me, and I am teaching a new course that is taking a huge amount of time. MarkH is flying around the country interviewing. This week he was in San Francisco, where instead of blogging, we ate at Chapeau and the Slanted Door, and went to the gun show. Yes, the gun show. It was hilarious. We bought beef jerky there, considered getting a crossbow to shoot some Ligers, and stocked up on dental tools and compasses for survival post apocalypse.

Patrick McGoohan, Creator of The Prisoner, Dead at 80

“All that remains is . . . recognition of a man.”

Patrick McGoohan, the creator of one of my favorite television series, The Prisoner, has died at 80. The Prisoner was a challenging and entertaining series that explored civil liberties, privacy, individuality, and democracy. My favorite episodes were Free for All and A Change of Mind. The good news is that these and all the other episodes are available online free at AMC.

The Beautiful Truth

Guess what? A natural therapy can cure cancer, but evil doctors don’t want to tell you about it, because the medical establishment wants to make money with Mosanto and Dupont rather than cure your illnesses! Watch all about it.

Update: Sorry, I missed Orac’s successful attack on this thing. Thanks Science Pundit, for pointing it out.

The Ayn Rand Deprogrammer: A More Twisted Crime and Punishment


I really appreciate all of the suggested texts submitted for the Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. If you visit the comment thread, you’ll see that the inevitable happened: Objectivists tried to hijack the discussion. I say ignore them. Eyes on the prize: a solid Ayn Rand Deprogrammer. Any distraction will slow us down, and delay publication of forthcoming projects, the Hayek Deprogrammer and the Milton Friedman Deprogrammer.

I am going to bundle up all the good suggestions made by commenters. But here is one that no one else has found. Written in 1957, it is clear eyed and prescient book review of Atlas Shrugged appearing in Harper’s Magazine. I quote it in its entirety.

Paul Murphy Pickrel: Review of Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand’s new novel, Atlas Shrugged (Random House, $6.95), is longer than life and twice as preposterous. Of its 1,168 pages (plus two pages at the end “About the Author” that the prospective reader would be well advised to tackle first) I have read only 300; to read even so much was a triumph of Will over Inclination, but then Will knew when it was licked. From my 300 pages I did not discover why the book bears the title it does, but I found out everything else that I regard as necessary to know about it.

As far as I got, only one idea emerged for me from Miss Rand’s book, and that one, in my opinion, pernicious. The idea is this: there are certain people of such extraordinary talent that they should be permitted unlimited license to work their will in the world. This would not have been a bad point of departure for a novel–Dostoevski, staring out with a character who believed the same thing, explored and developed the idea to write a great novel, Crime and Punishment. But, as far as I read, Miss Rand explored and developed nothing; she simply stated and restated and then stated again. Her characters have no spontaneity or individuality, they are simply creatures of her didactic purpose. The scenes do not unfold a story; they simply illustrate a point.

Yet the book will probably give pleasure to some readers. It makes life wonderfully simple, and in a way that is agreeable to many of us, probably to all of us at some moment in our lives: according to its argument there is no contradiction or strain between man’s inner life and his social role, for unrestrained egoism solves all problems. In addition, Miss Rand is able to enlist some of the more disreputable human emotions–hatred, contempt, anger–in a pretty powerful way. Oddly enough, though I do not believe in her characters for a moment, I do believe in their wrath.

I think Pickrel nails it with the comparison to Crime and Punishment. And his last sentences–the idea that he doesn’t believe in Rand’s characters, but in their wrath, is consonant with my experiences. Rand’s characters are Übermensch; in reality, people committed to this philosophy fall far short. They’re usually ineffectual people who blame the government for their problems. At the same time, their wrath, their hatred for government and for others is pathological.

Berkeley Releases Study on San Francisco Cameras

I am really proud of my colleagues here at UC Berkeley for performing a first of its kind (in the US) study of the efficacy of police surveillance cameras. Its findings are limited to San Francisco’s system, but it is valuable in thinking through whether and how surveillance cameras should be implemented. I have to be careful about characterizing it, but here is an article in the Chronicle on its findings, and the full report is here (8.9 MB PDF). The authors explain: “…The findings include a determination that while the program decreased property crime within the view of the cameras by twenty percent, other forms of crime, including violent crime, one of the primary targets of the program, were not affected.”

Monday, Monday, or “A day in the life”

There’s no way a day can be entirely predictable, but I do like sharing a glimpse into the personal/professional life every once in a while. You see, the personal and professional can’t be so easily disentangled, and whether you are a physician, scientist, grad student, or barrista, you only have one “real life”.

0600: Pager. Nurse reports Mrs. M. has a very high fever and foul-smelling urine. I order cultures and antibiotics, and wander sleepily toward bathroom.

0605: Offspring bursts into bathroom excitedly. “Daddy, I had an accident and I was a little wet and I changed my diaper and my pyjamas all by myself and now I have to go potty and I’m going by myself and can you get out of the way cuz I have to go now and please turn on the lights so I can see and I’m not tired can you come cuddle?”

0610: Cuddle in bed with four-year-old insomniac

0630: Give up and watch Disney while eating waffles

(the rest is predicted)

0800: Arrive at office and look at pile on desk, despondently. Accept scolding from office staff.

0830-1200: See patients at office

12:30: Visit elderly patient with foul-smelling urine and fever.

12:45: Visit dear friends in ICU, one of whom is getting a dose of chemotherapy, the other sitting next to her.

1300-1630: Supervise medical residents in their outpatient clinic.

1635-1700: Check back in with friends in ICU.

1700-2100: Supervise residents in outpatient clinic.

2200: Arrive home, tip-toe into precocious child’s room, kiss and tuck in.

2220: Hang out with spouse, finally.

2330: Fall asleep, hopefully.

Look, Ma, I’m on TV!

Ok, really, it’s bloggingheads.tv. Dr. Free Ride from Adventures in Ethics and Science invited me for a chat about ethics, which you can view, well, right now. Next time, I’ll remember to keep the camera a bit further away.

Swayze on woo

Mrs. Pal just called me upstairs where she was watching Barbara Walters. She (Walters, not Mrs Pal) was interviewing actor Patrick Swayze who is battling metastatic pancreatic cancer, a disease which will certainly kill him. Walters asked him quite a bit about the disease and treatment, and Swayze, whose answers were earthy, but pretty accurate, gave a compelling interview. He is no graduate of Google U.; he spoke frankly about his suffering, his hopes, his fears, but didn’t claim to be any sort of expert outside of his own experience.

Walters asked him if he was using any alternative medicine. He unenthusiastically noted that he was taking a few Chinese herbs, but roundly dismissed alternative medicine as a hope for him:

If anybody had that cure out there like so many people swear to me they do, you’d be two things: you’d be very rich and you’d be very famous— otherwise shut up .

Patrick, thank you. I couldn’t have said it better myself.