Saturday, October 29, 2011

We should vote on what's true, it's the American way

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Panel recommends HPV vaccine for boys

From the NYT:

Boys and young men should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, or HPV, to protect against anal and throat cancers that can result from sexual activity, a federal advisory committee said Tuesday.
Parents of boys face some uncomfortable realities when choosing whether to have their child vaccinated. The burden of disease in males results mostly from oral or anal sex, but vaccinating boys will also benefit female partners since cervical cancer in women results mostly from vaginal sex with infected males.

For the record, The Kalamazoo Post made a similar proposal in 2007:

My modest proposal is to make the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine mandatory for boys and optional for girls. Frankly, I'm hesitant to make the HPV vaccine mandatory for anyone, especially for the first five years of use until unforeseen problems can be studied. My bias is to keep such things optional for all, but if mandatory vaccination is to be instituted, I would argue that boys should be required before girls.

Newer data on the increase in males acquiring HPV related anal and head/neck cancers makes the recommendation more compelling.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Did WikiLeaks end the Iraq war?

From Glenn Greenwald:

From a CNN report on why the Iraqi Government rejected the Obama administration’s conditions for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline: 
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top brass have repeatedly said any deal to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the withdrawal deadline would require a guarantee of legal protection for American soldiers.
But the Iraqis refused to agree to that, opening up the prospect of Americans being tried in Iraqi courts and subjected to Iraqi punishment.
The negotiations were strained following WikiLeaks’ release of a diplomatic cable that alleged Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed in a 2006 raid by American troops rather than in an airstrike as the U.S. military initially reported. 
That description from CNN of the cable’s contents is, unsurprisingly, diluted to the point of obfuscation. That cable was released by WikiLeaks in May, 2011, and, as McClatchy put it at the time, “provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.” The U.S. then lied and claimed the civilians were killed by the airstrike. Although this incident had been previously documented by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the high-profile release of the cable by WikiLeaks generated substantial attention (and disgust) in Iraq, which made it politically unpalatable for the Iraqi government to grant the legal immunity the Obama adminstration was seeking. Indeed, it was widely reported at the time the cable was released that it made it much more difficult for Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain beyond the deadline under any conditions.

This is in contradistinction to the run up to the war in 2002-03 when the news establishment-- and especially the NYT's Judith MIller-- were abetting the Bush administration's case for war with obfuscations and outright lies.  
Greenwald continues:

History is filled with examples of those who most bravely challenged and subverted corrupted power and who sought reforms being rewarded with prison or worse, at the hands of those whose bad actions they exposed. If Bradley Manning did leak these cables, his imprisonment is a prime example of that inverted justice.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Links to drink by

David Foster Wallace was a dick...or had a very dry sense of humor.

112,000 owners make the Packers unique.

The illusion of skill, read Kahneman's entire piece.

Qadaffi, just another dead asshole who spent his nation's wealth.  Take my word for it, don't even bother with the's too depressing.

No due process for American citizen Awlaki, or his 16-year-old son.

Spain's stolen babies.

Did alternative medicine kill Steve Jobs?

Short answer: we'll never know. Orac has the best discussion.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Moment of Zen - Wayne Newton Endorses Michele Bachmann
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why is this so damn hard to understand?

...and why is she the only one saying it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The evolution of self-deception

British evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers has a forthcoming book entitled The Folly of Fools (US) in which he calls for a "new science" dealing with the how and why of self-deception, mainly because it's so prevalent and psychology has not come up with a theory.  From an interview in the New Scientist: 

You argue that we deceive ourselves all the time, but why do we do it? 
One reason is to better deceive others. Deceiving consciously is cognitively demanding. I've got to invent a false story while being aware of the truth, it's got to be plausible, it cannot contradict anything you already know or are going to find out and I've got to be able to remember it so that I don't contradict myself.
This takes concentration and I may give off cues that I'm lying. If I try to slip something by you I may not be able to meet your gaze. For linguistic cues, there are more pauses and fillers while I try to come up with my story. I'll choose simple action words and avoid qualifiers. Another thing that gives us away us is the effort to control ourselves. Let's say I'm coming to a key word in a lie. I tense up, but tensing up automatically raises my voice. That's a very hard thing to fight.
So believing the lie yourself can help with this cognitive burden? 
Yes. If I can render all or part of the lie unconscious I can remove the cues that I'm deceiving you. So that's one kind of general reason to practice self-deception: to render the lie unconscious, the better to hide it.

Trivers says that such self-deception can lead to better social success and thus more offspring, the hallmark of any genetic benefit.  Of course there are costs as well, but the overall effect must be that self-deception has net benefit. 

In your new book you get into some quite serious stuff about how self-deception fuels warfare and other evils...

Regarding warfare, if you can get the group believing the same deception, you have a powerful force to impose group unity. And if you've sold the population a false historical narrative, say "the German people need room in which to live", then it's relatively easy to couple marching orders to the delusion.

Tell me about the relationship between self-deception and religion.
It's complex. At one extreme you could say religion is complete nonsense, so the whole thing is an exercise in self-deception. I was raised as a Presbyterian and I occasionally attend. I stand back and I read the creed that I was taught as a child and it's utter, utter nonsense. But could it have spread so far by self-deception alone? Religion has been selected for. It has given many benefits to people - health benefits, cooperative benefits. So I take an intermediate position.
Again, my bete noir... he does not define religion!  But I'll assume he means the organization of communities around sacred ideas.  Trivers is a quirky, eccentric scientist but this latest is sure to promote some thought.  My question is how we come up with more universal ideas of what is sacred that all human communities can agree upon and leave out the supernatural mumbo jumbo, ie, a secular religion.  I realize Trivers probably will not delve into this topic but the first step is certainly realizing that humans are masters of self-deception and religion-- the prototype of human self-deception-- is certainly part of our biology.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Should Romney embrace his Mormonism?

An interesting "Open Letter to Mitt" from the WaPo Faith section, an excerpt:

The Mormon story is a quintessentially American tale. Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Mormon Church, was a farmer’s son, persecuted for his interpretation of the Christian story and assassinated in 1844. After his death, 70,000 of his followers eventually took a grueling overland trek from the Midwest to Utah’s Salt Lake Valley. The faithful undertook this six-month journey, often in covered wagons, at great personal risk of injury, illness and death. Proud of their pioneering ancestors, Mormons tend to value self-reliance, grit, optimism, hard work. Your faith may be the source of your most defining personality traits.

Leave out the magic underwear and it's not much different than other faith communities.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Bruce Bartlett: "CEO's are full of crap"

Former Reagan administration official on the demand destruction of a deflationary cycle:

Okay, it's a bit long but well worth it to hear someone who really understands the economic problems we are enduring, and how to fix them.  I'll make a few points:

1.  It's the demand, stupid.  D'uh.

2.  I love how Kernin carries the water for CEO's who are whining about regulation.  Newsflash: everyone complains about regulations in whatever field they are in, and the complaints ALWAYS become louder when demand falters and businesses suffer.  If demand is good, then regulations actually benefit the better-run entities.

3.  Bartlett calls out Paul Ryan and GWB for their promotion of Medicare part D-- always a favorite topic of mine because 1) Part D is emblematic of the hypocrisy of the GOP on their budget, 2) Part D has literally gutted Medicare and is the major, if not sole, cause that it's in ruinous financial shape.

4.  As an aside, Bartlett has said elsewhere that the annual doc-fix on Medicare should be eliminated, and as destructive as I think it would be to physician pay, I cannot disagree--- as long as it is accompanied with other reforms of Medicare.  Reducing health care costs cannot be accomplished solely by reducing physicians' reimbursement.  Eliminating the doc-fix would effectively throw a boulder in the pond and, yes, doctors en masse would immediately stop seeing Medicare patients... then the REAL conversation would start about where all this f**king Medicare money is going.  Trust me, Big Pharma and Big Insurance don't want that conversation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Memo To The Media: It’s Not ‘Anti-Capitalist’ To Protest An Industry That Was Saved By Trillions Of Taxpayer Dollars

Offered without comment, because none is necessary.

Erin Burnett enters the media elite

I had high hopes for Erin Burnett, after all she was mentored by my favorite curmudgeon, the late Mark Haines at CNBC.  So when her new show on CNN debuted last night, I had my bowl of popcorn ready for some righteous indignation and some calling bullshit on the Masters of the Universe.  Result: disappointment.


Seriously?  No mention of AIG and the massive counter-party risk that was covered by taxpayers that 1) saved the biggest banks at the expense of the smaller ones, and 2) will never be paid back?  Erin knows this argument but chose instead to ignore it while bullying some 20-something with her supposed airtight argument about "who made money on the bailouts".  Burnett also failed to mention that more wealth is now concentrated in fewer banks than before the crash, leaving us more vulnerable than ever.  No mention of the lack of regulation to prevent another disaster.  Burnett gave no voice to the angst of people who lost their homes, their jobs, their pensions while the assholes running Wall Street firms-- the guys who caused the crisis-- are still there.  Only one bank CEO from the major institutions was fired, and he was replaced by his next-in-command.

Do the hipsters have reasons to brood?  Sure.  Does Burnett have a responsibility to understand those reasons?  I suppose not (and feel free, Erin, to giggle; it gives you that much more journalistic credibility.)  Are the hipsters required to have a developed agenda for fixing a completely fucked up system?  No.

I also like her quip at the end of the segment about the protesters wearing Lululemon clothing and using Apple products, implying some evidence of hypocrisy because these companies trade on the NASDAQ.  Since when does Wall Street claim credit for the creativity of Apple, based in Cupertino, CA?

Protesters don't have a valid reason to be angry?  Seriously?  Mark Haines would be ashamed.

Obama's lost opportunity

Printed in it's entirety, from Walker Todd:

Obama’s First 100 DaysWalker ToddOctober 3, 2011
The first 100 days of the Obama Administration were a golden opportunity wasted for ending the financial crisis and laying a base for sustainable growth with less governmental subsidy than we actually experienced. 

First should have been a thoroughgoing stress test of the banks on a mark-to-market basis, excluding derivatives (which should not have been spared a full test in the bankruptcy courts), followed by a recapitalization of banks (but not bank holding companies) proven solvent or nearly solvent on a basis analogous to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation of the 1930s. Deposit insurance should have been limited to protecting the payments system and depositors, not large creditors or bank holding companies. The limited recapitalization under TARP was a weak imitation of 1930s policies. 

Next should have been the stabilization of household finances, with across-the-board, fixed-rate refinancing of borrowers as much as 25 percent below zero equity as long as they could prove capacity to maintain debt service on the new basis. The analogy here is the Home Owners Loan Corporation of the 1930s. Elizabeth Warren's consumer protection agency should have been created on a stand-alone basis and given a two-year emergency powers warrant to restructure all credit terms, other than principal owed, for household and consumer credit. 

Finally, a public works program to create jobs after 13 weeks of unemployment would have been preferable to providing nearly two years of unemployment assistance. Between TARP and the first stimulus bill, nearly $1.5 trillion was appropriated. In addition, the Federal Reserve created nearly $1.2 trillion out of thin air to bail out the banking system, much of it for foreign banks, and about one-half of that assistance was issued after Election Day. 

The agenda described here could have been accomplished for probably not more than one-half of the $2.7 trillion marshaled for the policies actually followed. 
We’re not in the end of the world camp quite yet...

The Obama presidency has shown us more than anything the important leadership of FDR in the last century.  We lived under the protection of Depression-era regulations and programs that have been slowly whittled away over the last two decades.  

The other lesson is that we obviously need more pain.  

Monday, October 03, 2011

My White Sox fantasy: Pete Mackanin

This has been a brutal year as a White Sox for no other reason than the immense expectations that greeted the season a few months ago. NOw the team is in tatters with Ozzie Guillen gone and the payroll full of mediocre performers locked into top salaries. What the Sox need is a total management overhaul. Yes, Ozzie needed to go, but so does Kenny Williams and from interviews it seems apparent that Williams will not be GM next year and likely will get bumped up the role of President of the organization. Fine, he may be an excellent businessman but his hand a picking talent has gone cold-- if ever it was hot in the first place.

Ozzie roaming SS in the 80's
 The emotions of seeing Ozzie go are decidedly mixed. His history with the White Sox is full of positives: a long career, beginning with Rookie of the Year (at left) and peaking with the only World Series win in Chicago for a century. But his demeanor grew as tiresome as was his handling of pitching staff puzzling.  In Ozzie's defense, was he responsible for trading Daniel Hudson and JJ Putz away for Edwin Jackson? Did Ozzie sign huge contracts for struggling Jake Peavey and the incomparably bad Adam Dunn? No and no. And I'll just mention briefly the brainstorm of releasing Aaron Rowand in favor of Brian Anderson in centerfield, and then doubling down by taking on Alex Rios' heavy contract as yet another questionable centerfielder. Maybe none of these transactions could have been foreseen to be miserable, but certainly at some point a GM needs to be held accountable for lack of results. Williams needs to do something else in or out of baseball. Booking National Anthem singers might be more within his skill set.
Pete Mackanin, Brother Rice HS alumnus

Here's my fantasy: The White Sox hire Terry Francona, not as field boss, but as General Manager. Nobody knows the talent around the league better than Tito and he might benefit from one layer of management away from the day-to-day machinations. And the new manager would be current Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin who has been tutored by greats such as Charlie Manuel and Joe Maddon. The former has been in baseball forever managing dozens of Hall of Famers and the latter has done nothing but bring some of the lowest payrolls of young players into the playoffs year and year. Mackanin is a Southside native who would be a solid addition and supplement Francona's stature. The White Sox ownership is dedicated to winning as evidenced by the consistently high payrolls, and Reinsdorf needs to put better management in place to make it all happen. Who knows, miracles could happen...maybe Dunn can hit .200 next year.