Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You Can't Believe ANYTHING !

The Atlantic, a respected mainstream literary magazine, says you can't believe anything! (November 2010 issue)

They are not talking about political adverts, but about peer-reviewed MEDICAL RESEARCH as well as Internet sites. On this Blog we've recently discussed Elite Opposition to Online Information and compared it to peer-reviewed journals and books, so these items caught my eye.

Truth Lies Here by Michael Hirschorn, is a hit piece against right-leaning web sites. It starts with the alleged efforts of the "Digg Patriots" to drive down the readership of left-leaning web items by coordinated use of the Digg "bury" option. The reader is lead to believe that left-leaning groups have not use similar tactics. Digg, a website that allows users to recommend web items has since discontinued the "bury" option so the point is moot in any case. Hirschorn goes on to misreport the Sherrod incident (which I discussed here) as well as the Acorn pimp and prostitute caper. He claims the videos were "heavily doctored" when in fact they were simply edited.

The Acorn sting video speaks for itself. According to the NY Times "...two conservative activists pretending to be a pimp and a prostitute used a hidden camera and recorded Acorn employees advising them on how to conceal the source of illegal income and manage 14-year-old Salvadoran prostitutes in the country illegally: 'Train them to keep their mouth shut.'" Perhaps the activists had to visit several Acorn sites before they got that damning video, but it is clear at least one Acorn worker had no problem helping a pimp exploit underage illegal female immigrants. In the Sherrod case the editing was misleading, but the real story was how the Agriculture Department and the NAACP "bit" and fired and condemned Sherrod, despite the fact she had informed her superiors of the true situation and the NAACP had the complete video that proved Sherrod was not a racist but was reporting on a redemptive moment in her career.

Hirschorn blasts the usual suspect, Sarah Palin, for using Twitter shorthand, including "Ground Zero mosque" (it is a cultural center and two blocks away).

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, by David Freedman, is a longer and much more serious piece that calls into question nearly all medical research. Freedman begins with the fact that Albanian immigrants to Greece have their "perfectly healthy" appendixes removed at a rate three times higher than Greeks, apparently because surgery residents are over-eager to rack up scalpel time. The researchers who uncovered the situation had trouble getting their study published, which led them to do some further investigations of medical research journals.

Many peer-reviewed medical findings are later refuted. This fact may be interpreted in two ways: 1) The system is working and correcting itself, or 2) Why are so many medical studies wrong in the first place?

Well, according to the researcher Freedman interviewed, the problem is the need for researchers to get grants and publish, and that may be accomplished only by getting new and surprising results. This leads them to come up with new theories and then construct research projects that are biased to prove those theories. Even in apparently properly set up randomized trials, results are exaggerated. For example, of 49 most widely used cited research articles over the past 13 years, 34 were retested and 41% of those were shown to be wrong or exaggerated! "Drug studies have the added corruptive force of financial conflict of interest." They hardly ever study the effect of not prescribing any medication. And, when it comes to nutritional studies, "ignore them all" is the best advice! Clearly, this information should be taken into account as we consider government involvement in health care and end-of-life issues, as I discussed here.

But medical research is not especially fact-free, "a remarkably consistent paucity of strong evidence in published economics studies made it unlikely that any of them were right."
Ira Glickstein

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Constitutional Convention

[from JohnS - image of original constitutional convention added by Ira]

Is a constitutional convention the answer?
Many emails are circulating proposing one for various causes.

Article V of the Constitution provides for a Constitutional Convention to propose Amendments to the Constitution if two thirds of the State Legislatures call for it. That is 34 State Legislatures. (Article V appears at the end of this posting). Governors of 35 States have filed suit against the Federal Government for imposing unlawful burdens upon them. It is about time that the States and people stand up and demand a Constitutional Convention amending the Constitution. Note, although only 34 States are required to call a Convention 38 States are required to ratify any Amendments proposed by the Convention.

Would this be a good objective for the Tea Party movement?

This could be a major but necessary undertaking because our Federal Government is so complex, so out of control and is failing to represent the people, however, the Convention could address each issue separately and present them as individual amendments to be ratified by the States while the Convention addresses the other issues.

I would like to propose several issues if such a convention was formed.

1. We have runaway spending by the Presidency and Congress. Both parties are at fault. This spending must be reined in by a better taxation system and by enacting a balanced budget amendment.

2. Amendment 10, a part of the Bill of Rights, delegates to the States and the people all rights not prohibited by the Constitution. This has been abused in many ways over the last 50 years or so. New Amendments are needed to return the power to the States that has been abrogated by the Federal Government.

3. Amendment 4, a part of the Bill of Rights, gives the right to the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects. Again, this right has been slowly eroded over the years and needs to be restated in a manner that protects the people in view of new technology, which has the potential to spy on us even within our home.

4. Along the same vein, many laws restrict what we can do or cannot do within our own homes these restrictions are also a violation of the 4th Amendment.

5. Congress has abused its privileged position by providing for itself rights, benefits, etc, that it denies to the people. Several Amendments or a multipurpose Amendment is required to correct these abuses. For example, we need term limits for the Congress and insure Congress perks and benefits are no better than available to all.

6. We spend billions of dollars overseas giving to other nations money that could be better used here in the United States. This must be addressed.

7. George H W Bush, George W Bush and Barack Obama have and are improperly using our military in Iraq Afghanistan and elsewhere. The mission of the Military in today’s environs needs further examination.

8. As a last point, although I suspect that others will rear their heads, for example I read today that Obama care will be forming 160 new Commissions and Bureaus. Do we need them, what will be their jobs and how many. We need a commission to examine and recommend to the Convention changes in the size, functions, budgets and personnel levels of the entire Federal Government.

Article V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Political Signs of the Times

In light of the controversy over inappropriate signs at Tea Party gatherings, I paid special attention to the signs at the rally I attended yesterday, here in The Villages, FL. The headliners were possible 2012 Presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney (who lost in the 2008 primaries despite my vote) and businessman Rick Scott (who won the 2010 primary for Governor of Florida despite my vote for his opponent).

Well, the strongest sign I saw said "FIRE PELOSI". Mine said "How About COMPETENCE for a CHANGE?" The others were boldly printed "SCOTT CARROLL" (for Rick Scott and his running mate, Jennifer Carroll) plus hand-written signs the organizers had passsed out saying things like "Chicks for Rick" and "Vote for Rick".


I arrived around 3PM, two hours before the main event. By that time, however, all seating in and around Market Square was occupied by happy residents of "Florida's friendliest home town." The central area around the pavillion from which the headliners would talk was for standees only and was already 1/3 full.

I got a $1 hot dog and watched one of the jumbotron TVs showing video of the 2008 visit by President George W. Bush. They also showed the presidential primary appearances I had attended for Mitt Romney and John McCain, plus videos of the visits of Rudy Guilliani and Fred Thompson. The video highlight for me was the gigantic Sarah Palin for VP rally I had attended along with 70,000 others.

A nice lady gave me a flag. I stuck it into a hole in my hat. I politely turned down several offers of political signs since I had brought my own.

It was a brilliantly sunny and beautiful day in The Villages. I needed a shady place to sit. Folding chairs, coolers, and signs with sticks were banned from Market Square proper, but I was able to find a spot for my chair and cooler in the shade of a golf cart parked on Canal Street adjacent to the Square. I watched the musical group Rio Diamond via jumbotron TV and enjoyed the fellowship of the friendly crowd, sipping a can of soda from my cooler and reading the AARP Bulletin that had arrived in the mail that day.

Right on schedule, 5PM, the headliners arrived and I left my seat and found a great place to stand. It was about 10 feet from the pavillion, on the west side where the sun would not be in my eyes.

Introductions were quickly accomplished. In addition to Romney and Scott, they included Scott's wife of 38 years; his running mate Jennifer Carroll; Florida AG candidate Pam Bondi; plus some local politicos. Romney's talk was short and direct. He has been in The Villages several times before. I actually shook hands with him along the rope line after his 2008 talk.

Scott gave a nice speech, starting with his childhood in public housing. His first business, while in college, he said, was selling the donuts his mother made. He sold to airlines and other commercial customers and got to the point where his mother had to start making them 8PM the previous evening and work all night. As expected, he did not mention his time as CEO of Columbia/HCA, where he was ousted by the board in the aftermath of a big Medicade and Medicare fraud.

And then it was over and we all went home.


I though about how easy it would have been for me to have hidden any kind of disgusting sign in my car or golf cart and unfurled it at the rally. That is why I think it is totally unfair to blame the organizers for the inappropriate display of racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive signs that happen to show up at any event in a public place. (See Huffington Post for an opposing opinion.)

Ira Glickstein