Monday, August 14, 2006

Rennie quotes

Last week I was at the Rocky Mountain Workshop on Evidence-based Health Care in Vail, Colorado, and one of the speakers at one of the plenary sessions was Drummond Rennie, a somewhat wild force of nature who is an editor at the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He had a lot of interesting things to say about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including:
"The FDA is a bought- or captured-agency -- I think that's accepted now."
"...the FDA is entirely pro-industry...."
"FDA is totally captured by the industry it's supposed to regulate."
He also noted that since 2000 drug companies have paid $5B in criminal fines.

Oregonian Working for Roche

In some really lousy medical journalism, Nancy Dow of The Oregonian wrote a July 12th article on Sally Field and the osteoporosis drug Boniva. Dow completely failed to mention that Sally Field is sponsored by Roche Theraupetics, the manufacturer of Boniva. (Gary Schwitzer pointed this out on his blog a few days after the article came out.) Dow gives her readers the impression that Sally Field is just another happy customer of the drug, selflessly singing its praises. I have a message into the Chandler Chico Agency, who handles PR for Boniva, asking how much Field was paid to endorse Boniva.

Dow also fails to note the side effects of Boniva (all drugs have side effects), which can include damage to the esophagus, muscle pain, joint aches, and low-grade fever, including jaw necrosis--death of jaw bone tissue. There's no mention of any clinical trials that prove the efficacy of Boniva, or anything that gives the reader a sense of how Boniva compares to other potential therapies, including the other drugs on the market, Fosamax and Actonel.

She had the opportunity to write an article that dove into the evidence and laid the entire story out for her readers, but Dow and The Oregonian chose instead to write a nice unpaid advertisement for Roche. I'm sure the company is very grateful.

Friday, August 04, 2006


I'll be at a conference for the next week; no posting until I get back.


Thursday, August 03, 2006


I can really see the effect of RSS on my blog's readership. When I don't post my blog sails along at 3-5 readers/hour, but as soon as I post my blog gets a lot of readers in the next 15-20 minutes, hoards of them, as if they're just out there waiting for me to say something, ready to pounce. That's OK--I kind of like that--I'm just surprised at how many people are reading via RSS. But then, most of the blogs I read these days are via RSS, except for AmericaBlog and Andrew Sullivan. Those I check on the fly. No, neither of them really deserves it....

Rumsfeld Must Go

Hear, hear:
"I am frankly tired of hearing the same stories from the administration's national security team,'' [Hillary] Clinton told the AP. "The president changed his economic team, he changed his White House team - I think it's time for him to change his security and defense team."
Let's get rid of the old fogey.


One of Floyd's lawyers suggested that dehydration might be the reason he tested high in the T/E test. A professor quickly shot him down.

Please, Mr. Lawyer, this kind of crap doesn't help. Get your facts straight before you make up wild theories. Otherwise lay low and keep your nose out of the media. Floyd is going to have a tough enough time overcoming this--if he can--and wild speculation doesn't do anyone any good. I still believe that Floyd didn't cheat. But I have to admit I am waiting on the B sample.

Goldberg & Oregon

So Jonah Goldberg doesn't like Oregon. Whoopy shit. What, he lives in northern Virginia or Maryland, both shitholes filled with traffic, sprawl, and endless development. (Yes, I've been there.) So we're supposed to give a fuck about his opinion. Please. If he doesn't like Oregon he's free to leave, as soon as possible. Or Vermont for that matter. There's nothing sadder than someone who feels the need to put down the places he visits, merely because they don't agree with his little narrow fucked-up view of the world. Kiss off, Goldberg.

Hurricanes & Global Warming

Chris Mooney and Matthew Nisbet have an article in the Skeptical Inquirer about media coverage of the issue of hurricanes and global warming, and I don't really see that it adds anything to the debate. Instead of argueing about media coverage of an uncertain issue, can we please just examine the issue itself without looking one or two orders beyond into the media question? That's tough enough already. I know Mooney shys away from covering science itself and and so all he has left is to examine media coverage, but in this case its adds nothing to the debate.
In the future, however, [the "just the facts" scientific backgrounder] just isn't going to be good enough. Over the next decade or more, explaining the possible strategies for coping with intense hurricanes even in the face of uncertainty about the ways and extent to which hurricanes might be changing will pose a major challenge for news organizations. Reporters must strive to show the public not only the science in all of its complexity, but also to open a window on why addressing the problem matters and the choices the nation faces over how to do that. This will require balancing the desire to appear objective against the need for precautionary and forward-looking coverage -- coverage that helps set the agenda for how we think about the possible effects of global warming. It will also require getting beyond the tyranny of relying on major new studies, personality conflicts, or overt political conflict as the primary means of defining what counts as newsworthy.
In fact, a "just the facts" backgrounder is precisely good enough--unless you have an ulterior purpose--and getting in to the unscientific territory of the precautionary principle adds nothing to the basic situation. To be clear: it is still a legitimate scientific question about whether global warming is increasing hurricane intensity, and legitimate, well-meaning scientists differ on the question and have not yet reached a consensus. I can live with that. Unless you think media organizations should manufacture reasons out of whole clothe, that's how they should cover the issue--the precautionary principle is unscientific.

It's been known for a long time about how you deal with hurricanes, and global warming doesn't change that, whether it implies stronger storms or not. This just stikes me as a bunch of whooey on top of what is already a significant problem, adding nothing of value to the discussion.

117 F

My God--at this moment, 6:32 EDT, there is a spot on the Plymouth heat map that says it's 117°F at a spot on the border between North and South Carolina. It's been running hot all day, about 115°, but this is the hottest I've seen it yet. I don't really believe it....

Oil Prices

Kevin Drum writes that Brad Delong thinks we are heading towards recession because oil prices are "spiking...." Jeez -- oil prices aren't spiking. Oil prices are here to stay. Oil has been above $70/barrel for about three months now, I just can't imagine that oil prices are going to fall much below that. They're more likely to reach $80 than $70.... That's just the way it is, and even though inflation is up in recent weeks I can't imagine any reason why it's going to go back down. Frankly, I'm surprised it's only 4.3%....

Pat Robertson

I am not very impressed that conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson is now saying that the recent heat wave has converted him into a believer in global warming.

We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels," Robertson said on his "700 Club" broadcast. "It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air."
It's the height of summer--of course it's hot. Where was he last year, or three years ago, or when the IPCC TAR came out? What will he say when the IPCC 4AR comes out? Is he willing to go to the mat? What is he willing to sacrifice for the sake of cooler temperatures? His air-conditioning? His fancy car? Is he willing to call out his Republican colleagues when they fail to bring important climate bills to the floor? Is he willing to call out Joe Barton, Roy Blount, and James Inhofe for their unscientific remarks? What's Robertson willing to spend on this problem? Then we'll see if he's serious....

Heat Waves & Energy Conservation

I think it's interesting that summer heat waves require more electricity than do winter cold waves. At first glance I would have guessed the opposite, but after thinking about it I guess I would conclude that most people heat their homes (if they have to heat them at all, as in California) with oil or gas, not electricity, unlike here in the West where a lot of it is (relatively cheap) electricity. Con Edison is calling for NYers to cut back on power usage, and a letter to the editor in today's NY Times asks why so many stores are blowing cold air out onto the sidewalk. It's not just a summer phenomenon--a few years ago when I still lived back in New England, my brother-in-law and I were walking along Boston's Freedom Trail in January and went right underneath a hotel who had outside heating right above their door, warming the entire sidewalk around them. This is the kind of thing, it seems to me, that is going to soon be verboten in a peak-oil, carbon-constrained world -- and even idiots like Roy Blount or Joe Barton are going to be shouted down by some future (near-future?) administration who will have the courage to tell it like it is. Conservation is the first and best way of dealing with both global warming and peak oil, and it will happen sure as the new day. The future will look back on us as unconstrained morons.

Johannesburg snow

It snowed today in Johannesburg, South Africa, latitude 26 degrees South. It is the depth of winter there, and they say the snow is "freakish," but by no means rare. It's about like snow in Miami, which is 25.75 deg north of the equator. That would be really strange.

Three-Fingered Jack

Isn't this a great looking mountain? It's Three-Fingered Jack, in central Oregon, with Mt. Jefferson in the background. 7841 ft. I bet that's a really great hike, especially near the top there.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


It's not looking good for Floyd Landis, is it? The NY Times more or less convicts him in this article, as a carbon isotope ratio test found synthetic testosterone in his A sample. The B sample testing comes in early Saturday morning, but even if it shows him clear it kind of raises more questions that it settles. Man, I would hate to think that Floyd cheated. I'm not accusing him yet--I still believe him--but it's getting harder to believe each day.

Kansas & Evolution

I really don't care too much about what happens in Kansas -- if they want their kids to grow up to be idiots, that's their business and their loss -- and I don't really fear for the (current & ultimate) triumph of the idea of evolution -- but it's still nice to see the creationists get bounced out onto their asses. Even if it is for the second time, and even if the fight is probably still not over there. It's their loss--the rest of us enlightened people will get along just fine.

The most deliciously ironic item in the whole episode comes from Kansas school board incumbent Connie Morris, who described evolution as “a nice bedtime story.” In fact, that's exactly wrong and yet precisely what religion is--a nice bedtime story. Unfortunately she'll probably never understand that the joke is really on her.

Morris was "defeated decisively."

Kansas City Star: only 23% of registered voters went to the polls. That's registered voters, who are, what, maybe 2/3rds of total eligible voters?

"Minds in Distress"

This looks like an interesting book: "Minds in Distress," by Edward E. Loewe. From a marketing email I received:
"Minds in Distress" is a comprehensive examination of America's disordered psychology. Loewe, a therapist with nearly two decades' practice, bears witness to an alarming increase in mental-emotional disorders resulting from the clash between human genetics and a culture hell-bent on outdoing everyone at any cost. The result is shattered marriages, lost jobs, bankruptcy, anxiety, addiction, rudeness, road rage, skullduggery, and violence.

"Over fifty percent of the American adult population has a diagnosable psychiatric disorder," says Loewe, who suggests these aren't so much illnesses as natural reactions to a culture gone berserk: "Life conditions are changing at a rate which I believe defies the capacity of the human mind to adapt in a timely fashion."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Air Conditioning

According to a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters, global warming implies more need for A/C than it does reduced heating needs:
"...increases in carbon emissions from higher air conditioning needs more than offset decreases in carbon emissions from reduced heating needs."
If I had to guess, I would have guessed that way (I think). It seems to me more people live closer to the equator than farther away from it.

Source: Hadley et al., Geophysical Research Letters paper 10.1029/2006GL026652, 2006.