Did this month-old MIT study get much attention when it was released? I don’t recall hearing anything about it, and given that it more or less predicts The End of Life As We Know It you would think it would have been bigger news.
Author Page for Paul Campos
Following up on Dave’s observations regarding doubts about the health benefits of moderate drinking:
(1) The politics of epidemiology are most obvious when you see people treat relatively weak correlations from observational studies as definitive proof of their pet hypothesis, and then turn around and come up with 100 reasons why such correlations don’t really prove anything when the correlations go the “wrong” way.
You see this all the time in obesity research, where slight increases in mortality risk at high weight levels are trumpeted as terribly significant, while much higher increases in mortality risk at weight levels within the supposed normal or recommended range are dismissed as products of other uncontrolled-for confounders.
On a related note, the NY Times story points out there are no randomized clinical trials demonstrating that moderate drinking is beneficial. Most people, I’m sure, would be surprised to learn that there aren’t even any observational studies suggesting that significant long-term weight loss is beneficial, let alone any randomized clinical trials demonstrating this.
(2) In a sense, the claim that the beneficial health effects of moderate drinking haven’t been demonstrated rigorously is rather beside the point. It’s true that the available data only suggest (more or less strongly, depending on how they are interpreted) this. But that data is much more powerful when considered in the light of a far weaker hypothesis: that moderate drinking isn’t a significant health risk. After all, while the somewhat better health of moderate drinkers in comparison with abstainers might be accounted by variables that have nothing to do with drinking, what’s extremely unlikely is that moderate drinking could have a significantly detrimental health effect, and yet produce these same correlations.
The relevance of this is that surely almost no one drinks moderately (as opposed to abstaining) because of the supposed health benefits. Whether moderate drinking is good for your health, or largely neutral (as opposed to being positively bad for you) is socially significant only if people were to treat moderate drinking like medicine — as something they’ll consume if it benefits their health, but otherwise not. The whole “is moderate drinking actually good for you?” argument is based implicitly on the assumption that it might be good for people to drink who otherwise wouldn’t, on, as it were, doctor’s orders. Which is a really bad idea.
Radley Balko and Jeff Winkler stroll down Memory Lane at Time magazine, where moral panic isn’t a sociological concept — it’s an exciting brand of contemporary journalism.
I was at the “obesity summit” Balko references in re the last cover, as pretty much the lone dissenting voice in an ocean of hysteria, and after I did my thing Time’s science editor said from the podium for the benefit of the audience “Paul, we may disagree with what you say, but we will defend to the death your right to say it.” (By “defend to the death” I think he meant “will invite you to conferences like this sometimes”).
If radical Muslims had carried out terrorist attacks in Kansas and Washington DC over the past five days, we might be trying to pass legislation giving the president the legal authority to place people in preventive detention, and Daniel Pipes would be implying that we need to round up Arab-Americans (correction: Muslims) and put them in relocation camps.
But it was only a couple of old white guys, so our civil liberties remain unthreatened.
Update: From the Holocaust Museum shooter’s website:
“In 1981 Von Brunn attempted to place the treasonous Federal Reserve Board of Governors under legal, non-violent, citizens arrest. He was tried in a Washington, D.C. Superior Court; convicted by a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys, and sentenced to prison for eleven years by a Jew judge. A Jew/Negro/White Court of Appeals denied his appeal.”
Following up on Scott’s post, Potter Stewart was famously derided for describing “obscenity” as something that can’t be pinned down by formal definition, but which nevertheless can be subject to a “you know it when you see it” test.
The mocking of this view always struck me as odd, given that huge numbers of legal standards (unavoidably) operate along similar lines.
Consider the ABA’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which says “A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
The only way the facts in Capteron could be more egregious would be if the litigant had sent a certified letter to the judge telling him he’d give his campaign three million bucks if the judge cast the deciding vote the right way in the litigant’s $50 million lawsuit. West Virginia has adopted the Model Code, but like in almost every other jurisdiction the enforcement of that code is left up to the discretion of individual judges, who decide for themselves if, for example, being given three million bucks by a litigant in a case pending before the court in which the judge will cast the deciding vote might lead to the the judge’s impartiality being subject to reasonable questioning.
Roberts’ dissent adds up to the claim that drawing any line in these circumstances is worse than drawing no line at all, because of slippery slope concerns. That’s the same logic that leads some first amendment absolutists to claim laws against child pornography are unconstitutional — and it’s about as plausible.
There’s a great little exchange at the beginning of the Godfather II, when the corrupt senator is trying to shake down Michael Corleone. The senator makes a point of pronouncing Corleone’s name with exaggerated correctness. This is a double insult, both because of the exaggeration, but more so because an hour earlier the senator had (now obviously intentionally) mangled the pronounciation of the family name when acknowledging the acceptance of a large charitable contribution from them, during his speech to the audience at Michael’s son’s first communion.
That seemingly trivial matters of etiquette can be fraught with all sorts of social and political significance is evident in things like Mark Krikorian’s continuing insistence that there’s something un-American about trying to pronounce “foreign” names as the bearers of those names pronounce them.
While Krikorian’s first post on this was silly, his followup is grotesque. I happen to remember the press conference at which Ronald Reagan introduced Antonin Scalia as his SCOTUS nominee. The very first question was how to pronounce the nominee’s name correctly. Has Krikorian ever anglicized the pronounciation of Scalia’s or Alito’s names? How about Sen. John Breaux? Etc. I bet you this principle of mispronouncing (Hispanic) names in order to hold back the dreaded tide of multi-culturalism occured to him about fifteen minutes ago, after someone whose name sounds a lot like his maid’s* got nominated to the Court.
This is actually all typical right-wing elite faux-populist posturing, of course. Anglicizing foreign names is something people are far more likely to do as you move down the SES scale. So, in winger land, it becomes an “authentic” thing to do, at least in a context in which you also have an irresistable urge to gratuitously insult America’s 30 million Hispanic voters. (I can well imagine Krikorian’s late employer’s reaction if he had asked him how the skiing was in Ge-Stad).
*I’m guessing here — maybe his maid is Polish. Speaking of which I wonder how Krikorian applies his principle of using the “English” (sic) pronouncation for Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s name?
Beside the general weirdness involved in asking what the protocol for pronouncing someone’s name is, (how about “like the person does?”) I’m frightened and confused by Krikorian’s suggested English pronounciation of Sotomayor. I mean if you’re anglicizing it wouldn’t you pronounce “mayor” like the mayor of Cleveland, not like “meyer?”
On the more general point, I think the correct etiquette in these situations is for the non-native speaker of the language from which the name is derived to try and fail to pronounce the name as it’s pronounced in the person’s native language, and for the person to ignore the mispronounciation. That’s what I do anyway (in both directions).
Assuming Sotomayor is confirmed, the SCOTUS is going to have only one Protestant justice, along with six Catholics and two Jews. (And Stevens appears to be the most nominal of Protestants, as he doesn’t list himself as a member of any particular denomination).
Given that for most of American history the conventional wisdom was that the Court had room for one Catholic and one Jewish seat at any particular time, this is in some ways an even bigger shift than letting girls into the club.
What’s next, a black Muslim president?
One problem with pointing out that if torture and preventative detention are such nifty tools in the fight to keep Americans “safe” why aren’t we using them against common murderers, given that they’re about 10,000 times more common than terrorists, is that lots of people are sure to say that’s a really good idea.
This is a sincere question. I’m not a particularly courageous person by any means, but I can say with considerable confidence that I’ve never felt any actual fear of terrorism. I mean I was a little freaked out on 9/11 itself because it was such a surreal day, but even then I didn’t feel any sense of personal danger or anxiety.
For any American (at least any American who isn’t patroling the streets of Mosul or trying to run down a story in the hills of Afghanistan) to be afraid or anxious about terrorism seems to me as peculiar as being afraid or anxious about being eaten by a shark, or murdered by a serial killer. After all, sharks and serial killers exist, but if I went around obsessing about the possibility of being victimized by either I would be considered cowardly, or paranoid, or both. Now if I were diving for abalone or surfing Mavericks it would be understandable to be a little anxious about sharks. But, when it comes to terrorism, 99.99% of Americans aren’t surfing Mavericks — they’re in a shopping mall in Topeka, inside of which (apparently) a good number of them are worried about land sharks.
And that’s what I think fear of terrorism is: cowardly paranoia. It’s treating a real but extraordinarily small risk as if it were vastly more significant than it actually is. Which is to say that, over the last eight years, we’ve made indulging in cowardly paranoia the centerpiece of much of our national policy. And making cowardly paranoia the centerpiece of our national policy has become a very bipartisan thing.
As I say, I’m not claiming to be a brave person. You know what scares me? Pancreatic cancer. A friend of mine died of it last week. It’s a relatively rare disease, but 100 Americans are diagnosed with it every day. Most will be dead within six months. That’s something I can understand being afraid of. But terrorism? Is anybody actually willing to say, yes, I’m afraid of terrorism, in same the way it seems perfectly reasonable to admit you’re afraid of cancer, or unemployment, or a broken heart, or an unchained Rottweiler who is casting a cold eye on you as you run past him on a deserted country road?
Who are these people?
Also, I was looking at some voting records from the 1970s SCOTUS, and it really is striking the extent to which Stevens was smack in the middle of the Court at that time, while now he’s supposedly a flaming lefty, despite little discernable shift in his views.