Archive for October, 2009

Missed It By That Much

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Viking almost got there.

The Cooling Canard

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

If there is one meme in the anti-AGW camp that drive me nuts, it’s the idea that the scientific community was all about global cooling thirty years ago. This study destroys (PDF) that notion, looking at publications and citations of papers in the 1970′s. Global cooling was a theory, but far from a consensus one. Global warming theory did not succeed it; global warming theory competed with and defeated global cooling theory.

Up In Smoke

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

When I heard that the CDC was reporting huge drops in heart attack rates from smoking bans, I was immediately suspicious. The cig-grabbers have been caught — many times — faking it. There was the EPA’s landmark study years ago that changed the weights of the input studies. Then there was the Scottish study that cherry-picked certain hospitals in certain months. I hate to prejudge, but these guys have a track record of announcing huge finds only to quietly retract them later.

God damn, do I hate being right all the time:

The largest study of the issue, which used nationwide data instead of looking at cherry-picked communities, found that smoking bans “are not associated with statistically significant short-term declines in mortality or hospital admissions for myocardial infarction or other diseases.” Furthermore, “An analysis simulating smaller studies using subsamples reveals that large short-term increases in myocardial infarction incidence following a workplace ban are as common as the large decreases reported in the published literature.”

That study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in March, suggests that publication bias can explain what the IOM panel describes as the “consistent” results of the studies it considered (meaning that they all found drops in heart attacks, although the magnitude of these decreases varied widely, from 6 percent in Italy to an astonishing 47 percent in Pueblo, Colorado). If a researcher runs the numbers for a particular jurisdiction and finds no impact from a smoking ban, he is not likely to write up that result, especially if he supports smoking bans as part of the effort to reduce tobacco-related disease. Even if he does submit an article describing his findings, it is not likely to be published, not just because of an anti-smoking bias but because negative results are perceived as boring.

The NBER paper was mysteriously excluded from the IOM report, even though the authors say they bent over backward to compensate for publication bias by looking for relevant data that did not appear in medical journals. They also ignored analyses that found no declines in heart attacks following smoking bans in California, Florida, New York, Oregon, England, Wales, and Scotland. The omission of the Scottish data is especially striking because they contradict one of the 11 studies included in the IOM report, showing that a decrease in heart attacks during the first year was exaggerated and in any case disappeared the following year.

I hate to accuse anyone of fraud, but what else do you call this? The anti-smokers have pulled this crap again and again and again. Either they are deliberately canting the results or, as a whole, they are the sloppiest researchers on the planet.

But the bell has been rung. This study — like all the discredited stories before it — will now be cited a justification for every new smoking ban.

(PS – There’s a quote later on from the other Michael Siegel, who I am sometimes mistaken for (in cyberspace, that is, not meatspace). He’s a staunch anti-smoker who constantly attacks the sloppy research used to support his cause. I’m proud to share my name with anyone who bashes his own side’s BS.)

Grab a Mop

Friday, October 16th, 2009

It’s when he says stuff like this that I can’t help but like the guy. I disagree with Obama plenty and I’m under no illusions about his loyalty to Democratic interests. But I don’t think I’ll ever hate him. And for that, I’m an outsider in my own philosophy and a man with no party.

Thursday Linkorama

Friday, October 16th, 2009
  • Barbara Ehrenreich became famous for her book Nickeled and Dimed, a story of year she spent as a poor person. It had some huge flaws, mainly her insistence on changing jobs and refusal to avail herself of private assistance. Nevertheless, the book was very popular in academic circles for reinforcing liberal beliefs about poverty. Seems like she’s still at it, ignorantly attacking recent research indicating women’s happiness is beginning to fall off.
  • The New Paternalism: Old Paternalism with a little more condescension.
  • Two more horror stories from the UK NHS.
  • If the GOP can’t even run a website, how they can run the country. Oh, yeah.
  • What does Eliot Spitzers warrant a column on Slate? Ignore the man’s private behavior; he’s a puritanical totalitarian twerp.
  • Fascinating stuff on the Soviet doomsday machine.
  • Another interesting article on Obama’s love of language, both in speeches and writing.
  • Um. What?.
  • If we cut oil consumption, the Saudis want compensation. I knew there was a good side to this global warming stuff: it pisses off the oil sheiks something fierce.
  • Looks like the school that wanted to suspend a 6-year-old over his utensils has come to their senses. Now we can make zero tolerance policies work — so long as every wronged child gets an internet uproar.
  • VAT

    Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

    The more I think about it, the more I think:

    1) We’re going to have to raise taxes to balance the budget. Right now, the tax burden is lower than its historical average in the post-WW2 era. The money for Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and defense — none of which will ever be cut — has to come from somewhere.

    2) A Value Added Tax is the least destructive way to get there. It’s much better than the stupid Fair Tax, which I’ve attacked here. And if it replaced much of our existing system, the capital and potential freed up would more than compensate for the deleterious effects of a tax increase.

    Of course, the GOP is not interested. They’re too busy screaming, “They’re raising taxes! Taxes! Taxes! Taxes! AIEEEEEEEE!” The question is not whether taxes are going up; the question is whether they can be raised in the least destructive way possible.

    Vapor Awards

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

    Maybe I was too harsh on the Nobel Committee. It seems everyone is giving out award for things that haven’t happened yet. Popular Mechanics gave an award for outstanding product to the Crunchpad Tablet, which, technically speaking, has not been made available to the public. And Princeton’s new hospital building was named one of the 20 most beautiful hospitals even thought, technically speaking, it’s a steel skeleton at this point.

    I now think I need to submit my novel for the Pulitzer Prize. Because if I ever finish it, it’s going to be fucking awesome.

    Wednesday Linkorama

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
  • How in the blue fuck does this guy stay on the police force? Who’s doing the background checks around here?
  • Anatomy of a right wing smear job. I’m getting more and more embarrassed by these jokers.
  • Speaking of embarrassing “conservatives”, watch Colbert demolish Glenn Beck. It’s scary that Colbert’s joke image isn’t as far out there as Beck’s “real” one.
  • Police are stopping and searching a million people a year. What is this? The Soviet Union?
  • Rick Perry needs to resign. Executing an innocent man is bad enough. What Perry is doing is criminal.
  • That Barack Obama. There he goes again, cutting and running in Afghanistan. Oh, wait. No he’s not.
  • A list of people who could have won the Nobel Prize.
  • A question. If a business is too big to fail, should the Feds break it up into divisions that aren’t too big to fail? Is the existence of such a business as great a threat to our nation as criminal and foreign armies? Ah, well. Given the Groupthink of the financial industry, there really is no difference in having big business vs. small ones.
  • One of Obama’s advisors defends sharia. Really.
  • Un-American

    Sunday, October 11th, 2009

    A great post from Greenwald — he’s great when he doesn’t drive me up the wall — tackles the DNC’s statement that critics of the Obama Peace Prize are siding with the Taliban. I was at my wit’s end when conservatives did this — and still do it to me when I come out against torture or express concerns about Iraq or suggest that we may end up having to accept a nuclear Iran. The shameful thing about the “joke” headlines Greenwald suggests — e.g., Obama sides with Castro and Chavez on Honduras — is that they are actually real headlines on many “conservative” blogs.

    For another take, Reason points out (as Greenwald does) that the new optimism Obama has created in confined mostly to Europe — we are just as an unpopular as ever in the Middle East. And Matt Welch argues that it shows a bizarrely US-centric tilt to the Nobel Committee. I also like Sullivan’s take — why not give it en masse to the people who boldly stood up to the Iranian government as it stole an election?

    A Noble Nobel

    Friday, October 9th, 2009

    I’m with Radley. I think the best thing Obama could do is decline the Nobel Prize. He won’t, since he can’t resist a chance to make a speech. But as Balko notes:

    It wouldn’t just be admirable, I’d imagine it would be hugely poitically popular, too. And it would take the wind out of the sales of the righty pundits dogging him this morning for a decision he had no part in making.

    Let me put it this way. My opinion of Obama would go up several notches even though I would know it was a political decision.

    PS – My reaction to this is more astonishment and amusement than OUTRAGE! The Peace Prize has long been rendered meaningless since they started handing it out to terrorists and wealthy crack-brained politicos. I wish we had something that legitimately recognized peace-makers in the world. Because there are many many out there who deserve recognition more than the most famous man on the face of the planet.

    Update: I’ve been thinking more about this and why it bugs me. It doesn’t OUTRAGE me, but I’m not happy about it. And what I’m finding, to my astonishment, is that it’s because I’m somewhat idealistic.

    Maybe it’s crazy, but I think the words “Nobel Prize Winner” should mean something, despite some of the extremely poor choices that have been made in the past. It should mean Norman Borlaug, who saved a billion lives. It should mean Martin Luther King or Gandhi, who liberated millions without firing a shot. It should mean the Grameen Bank, who are trying desperately to create an economy in Bangladesh. Hell, it can even mean Jimmy Carter, who made peace between Israel and Egypt.

    What it should not mean is a glib, sliver-tongued politician whose primary qualification is that he isn’t as bad as George W. Bush. And let’s be honest. As bad as Bush was, it wasn’t like he was Genghis Khan or something. Rewarding Barack Obama for comparatively minor breaks from Bush’s policies is an absurd over-reaction. And the claims that this will force Obama to follow through on his promises are beyond ridiculous. That’s sleeping with someone in the hopes they’ll be nice to you.

    Shred

    Friday, October 9th, 2009

    I love the internet.

    Think of the mocking this kid must endure for playing the damn accordion. And how much ass he kicks on it.

    There’s These Things Called Facts

    Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

    George Will gets pwned. Damn blogosphere with their fact-checking.

    Aussie Linkorama

    Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
  • The “debunking” of global warming? Myth. Again. But the Denialists now have another few years of ammunition. Look how much mileage they’ve gotten out of the global cooling canard.
  • Now that Britain has banned guns and knives, they’re taking aim at pub glasses. Yes, pub glasses. Stand by for their next announcement to remove people’s fists.
  • God help me. I do sometimes like Scalia.
  • I would definitely eat irradiate meat. In fact, I suspect that with my travel schedule, I am.
  • The overcrowding doomsayers are crawling out of the woodwork again. Ignore them (although I don’t know where Bailey is getting his Year 2100 projections).
  • Good on the Obama team for having low-level talks with Iran. It looks like concessions were made. We are fools to not consider talking to Iran, given the demographic firestorm that is soon to dislodge their leadership. More on Iran here, although I think Cole is a bit too glib and far far too generous in his reading of Iran’s actions.
  • I’ve been predicting for a while that terrorists would put bombs inside their bodies. Increasingly, we see that finding terrorists is important than finding weapons.
  • Olympic Schadenfreude

    Monday, October 5th, 2009

    Look, I’m happy for Rio that they got the Olympics. I’m a little disappointed they’re not coming back to America but didn’t think Chicago would be a great place for it.

    But what the hell is up with the “conservatives” crowing about how Obama “lost” the Olympics? Remember when it was bad to be happy when your country lost? I miss those days.