Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Saving Your Memory

A recent study has confirmed what many suspected: People who engage in activities that exercise the brain, such as reading, writing, and playing card games, may delay the rapid memory decline that occurs if they later develop dementia:

The study involved 488 people age 75 to 85 who did not have dementia at the start of the study. They were followed for an average of five years; during that time 101 of the people developed dementia.

At the beginning of the study, people reported how often they participated in six leisure activities that engage the brain: reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing board or card games, having group discussions, and playing music. For each activity, daily participation was rated at seven points, several days a week was rated at four points, and weekly participation was rated at one point.

The average was seven points total for those who later developed dementia, meaning they took part in one of the six activities each day, on average. Ten people reported no activities, and 11 reported only one activity per week.

The researchers then looked at the point when memory loss started accelerating rapidly for the participants. They found that for every additional activity a person participated in, the onset of rapid memory loss was delayed by 0.18 years.

"The point of accelerated decline was delayed by 1.29 years for the person who participated in 11 activities per week compared to the person who participated in only four activities per week," said study author Charles B. Hall, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY.

Further studies are needed to determine if increasing participation in these activities could prevent or delay dementia."

Few things are more terrifying to people as they age than the awareness that they're losing their memory. Keep reading, discussing and thinking. It's good medicine.


Good and Evil among the Lefties

Over at Evolution News and Views Michael Egnor is piqued by the fact that much of the secular left has been very hostile toward the appointment of Francis Collins to head the National Institute of Health, but totally mute on the appointment of John Holdren as the President's chief science advisor.

Collins has being severely criticized because, even though he's a highly accomplished scientist, he's also a devout Christian. Holdren is a totalitarian who holds extreme views, some would say genocidal views, about limiting human population. Here are a few that he has committed to print:

  • People who "contribute to social deterioration" (i.e. undesirables) "can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility" - in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
  • Women-particularly women of insufficient means due to poverty, nationality, marital status, or youth--could be forced to abort their children and undergo sterilization.
  • Implementation of a system of "involuntary birth control," in which girls at puberty would be implanted with an infertility device and only could have it removed temporarily if they received permission from the government to have a baby.
  • Undesirable populations could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into public drinking water or in staple foods.
  • Single mothers and teen mothers who managed to have their children despite measures to prevent fertility should have their babies seized from them and given away to others to raise.
  • A transnational "Planetary Regime" and a transnational police force should be assembled to enforce population control.

So why is Collins, a man who would find such views abhorrent, unacceptable to the secular left while Dr. Holdren, a man who would seemingly find himself quite at home in the company of Josef Mengele, is apparently just fine with them?

I don't think it overstates the case to surmise that, for at least some on the left, Christianity is the great evil while totalitarianism and genocide are actually necessary for the betterment of mankind. Read Egnor's analysis at the link.


Counter-Proposal (Pt. I)

Keith Hennessey is a former advisor to President Bush who writes on insurance matters at KeithHennesy.com In a pair of recent posts he offers first a critique of President Obama's health care reform proposals and second a compelling alternative, the essence of which is incorporated into the Ryan-Coburn proposal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Tom Coburn. Hennessey writes:

President Obama is correct that the underlying problem with health care is rising costs. Because of this problem, your paycheck grows more slowly, millions of Americans cannot afford to buy health insurance, and the escalating costs of Medicare and Medicaid will force enormous tax increases onto you and your children. The President wants to slow the growth of health care spending, and so do I. Congress has gone in the opposite direction. Rather than changing incentives to reduce the cost of health insurance, they are trying to shift those costs onto someone else: you. The facts are not in dispute. The bill being developed in the House of Representatives would mean:

  • No reduction in the growth of average private health insurance premiums;
  • More than $1 trillion of new government spending over the next decade;
  • $239 billion more debt in the short run, with ever-increasing additions to the deficit forever; and
  • More than $500 billion of tax increases, including higher income tax rates on successful small businesses.

The better approach, Hennessey argues, is to make health insurance companies compete for individual clients as do automobile insurance companies:

While others offer you the hollow promise of government-provided and underfunded health care security, I'm telling you that you're going to have to take more responsibility for decisions about your own health. A well-functioning system will offer financial incentives to keep yourself healthy, and to avoid risky behaviors that are the source of so much of the costs in today's system. You will have to spend more time talking with your doctor and making hard choices yourself, although that's far preferable to spending that time fighting with your insurer or with a government bureaucracy.

You will have to shop intelligently for health insurance and decide what tradeoffs make sense for your family situation. You will have lower insurance premiums but more financial responsibility for relatively minor medical costs, and you can have a tax-free reserve fund that you can spend wisely on everyday non-critical medical expenses.

It means more personal responsibility and control, and less dependence on the government. It means your health security comes from you buying insurance to protect your family against catastrophe, rather than hoping the government won't ration your care when it's needed. Others want to tell you that you have the right to have someone else pay for your health insurance. I think you have the responsibility to provide for your family's health security, and that it's government's job to set rules so that you have affordable options, and to subsidize the poorest who cannot afford basic catastrophic protection.

The right kind of health care reform means your wages will grow faster as insurance premium growth slows. It means portable health insurance that you can take with you from one job to another, so you don't get locked into your current job because you're afraid to lose your health insurance. It means that millions more Americans will be insured because premiums are less expensive and the uninsured can better afford to buy it, not because we are shifting those costs onto other hard-working Americans and small businesses through higher taxes. It means no increase in the short-term budget deficit. It means dramatic reductions in unsustainable long-term budget deficits, rather than the explosive deficit increases contained in the current legislation.

Hennesey's follow-up post in which he lays out what congress should and should not do about health care reform can be read here. This is very helpful stuff and everyone concerned about the current debate over health care should take the time to read it.

Thanks to Hot Air for the links.


Wasting Time

Are you the sort of person who feels guilty if you spend an hour doing nothing productive or edifying or are you the sort of person who wishes there were more hours in the day just so you'd have more time to squander? Whichever you are you'll enjoy Jonathan David Price's meditation on wasting time at First Principles. Here's Price's lede:

Do not say this to a philosopher but we have more time now than ever before. One would think that since modern men-and modern women too-have more time, they would think less of it. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The same applies to health and money. We are healthier and wealthier than ever, and these facts have neither calmed our fears nor added peace to our souls. Actually, we seem more anxious than ever about how we spend our time.

This newly-won time, occurring on weekends, evenings, and during paid vacations, is called "free time," and it is a byproduct of industrialization. Delayed marriage and fewer children may have also helped. The majority waste their free time without a second thought, egged on by television, video games, and personal billboards (a.k.a. social networking sites), which they may or may not feel vaguely guilty about. But there is another group-perhaps fifteen percent of Americans-that busies itself with doing and getting and self-betterment.

This cadre of overachievers has the opposite problem: it is terrible at wasting time. And even worse at wasting it well. Their days are planned, their evenings booked, futures fixed. From this group comes our leaders, teachers, businessmen, and preachers. Thus, if the likes of YouTube and the proverbial bear pit fill their lists of time wasters, it is commendable. The problem is that they consider leisure to be a waste of time as well. What Joseph Pieper called the basis of culture, leisure-activity outside the field of servile work, the retreat from the world to study it, reflect on it, worship its source, and return refreshed to serve it-is considered to be wasting time. In recent memory, even the everyday connotation of the word has changed to "doing nothing."

Further on he makes the point that when we waste money it doesn't seem so bad because we can always make more, but the time we waste can never be recovered. The question is what exactly is a "waste" of time?

I wonder if spending a couple of hours a day writing a blog qualifies as "wasting time." Maybe it depends on the blog. I'll have to think about that. Anyway, you'll like Price's essay.

Thanks to No Left Turns for the tip.


Noses Are Growing

When President Obama insists his health care reform plans would not eliminate private insurance he's being very disingenuous. He certainly wants to eliminate private insurance and have the government take over control of all health care in this country. This is video of Mr. Obama and others explaining that their ultimate goal is to do precisely that. He states clearly that his goal is to get to a single-payer system with the government as single payer:

Two things are disturbing about this: The prospect of government controlling such a huge part of our lives and Mr. Obama's complete lack of candor in his recent pronouncements about his true intentions. He has repeatedly tried to assure voters that he has no intention of getting rid of private insurance, but this is certainly at odds with what he said before his election. How does he expect people to believe him on anything he says if so many of his most important statements are calibrated to meet the demands of political exigency?


Chavez's Version of the Fairness Doctrine

The left continues its assault on basic freedoms in Venezuela:

More than a dozen of 34 radio stations ordered shut by the Venezuelan government went off the air on Saturday, part of President Hugo Chavez's drive to extend his socialist revolution to the media.

The association of radio broadcasters said 13 stations had stopped transmitting, following an announcement Friday night by government broadcasting watchdog Conatel that 34 radio outlets would be closed because they failed to comply with regulations.

Critics said the crackdown infringed on freedom of speech and that owners were not given the right to a proper defense.

"They're closing the space for dissidents in Venezuela," William Echeverria, head of the National Council of Journalists, told RCTV, a private cable TV station, which did not have its broadcasting license renewed in 2007.

Chavez defended the closures, calling them part of the government's effort to democratize the airwaves.

"This government has turned into a mutilator of rights," Juan Carlos Caldera, of the opposition political party Primero Justicia, said on Globovision TV.

Antonio Ledezma, the opposition mayor of Caracas, called on Venezuelans to protest the move in the streets.

Another 120 radio stations were being investigated for administrative irregularities and the radio frequency of stations being shut down would be transferred to new community broadcasters, Cabello had said.

No doubt the community broadcasters will be favorable to the Chavez regime. Meanwhile, here in the states proponents of the Fairness Doctrine are taking notes. They must envy the ease with which Venezuela has been able to silence its political opposition.