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Fame! I Wanna Live Forever…

[ 8 ] July 18, 2010 |

Erik Loomis
informs me that LGM has achieved immortality in the form of a screenshot of a google search in the liner notes of M.I.A.’s latest album. The post in question had been part of the “lost archive,” but I have recreated the post in all of its original glory.


Tom Friedman wrote a good column

[ 11 ] July 18, 2010 |

Since I’ve said several mean things about him over the years, which I’m sure has kept him up at night, wandering the halls of his wife’s 30,000 sq ft mansion, justice requires it be noted that this is a good column.

If People Don’t Bother to Perform Their Own Double-Blind Studies Before Taking Drugs, They Deserve to Die!

[ 27 ] July 18, 2010 |


In the fall of 1999, the drug giant SmithKline Beecham secretly began a study to find out if its diabetes medicine, Avandia, was safer for the heart than a competing pill, Actos, made by Takeda.

Avandia’s success was crucial to SmithKline, whose labs were otherwise all but barren of new products. But the study’s results, completed that same year, were disastrous. Not only was Avandia no better than Actos, but the study also provided clear signs that it was riskier to the heart.

But instead of publishing the results, the company spent the next 11 years trying to cover them up, according to documents recently obtained by The New York Times. The company did not post the results on its Web site or submit them to federal drug regulators, as is required in most cases by law.

“This was done for the U.S. business, way under the radar,” Dr. Martin I. Freed, a SmithKline executive, wrote in an e-mail message dated March 29, 2001, about the study results that was obtained by The Times. “Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK,” the corporate successor to SmithKline.

The heart risks from Avandia first became public in May 2007, with a study from a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who used data the company was forced by a lawsuit to post on its own Web site. In the ensuing months, GlaxoSmithKline officials conceded that they had known of the drug’s potential heart attack risks since at least 2005.

But the latest documents demonstrate that the company had data hinting at Avandia’s extensive heart problems almost as soon as the drug was introduced in 1999, and sought intensively to keep those risks from becoming public. In one document, the company sought to quantify the lost sales that would result if Avandia’s cardiovascular safety risk “intensifies.” The cost: $600 million from 2002 to 2004 alone, the document stated.

Some combination of deregulation and tort reform should solve this problem!

The Geithner/Warren Question

[ 23 ] July 17, 2010 |

In response to reports that Tim Geithner is trying to scotch Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and presumably prefers someone who is sort of willing to overlook the whole “consumer protection” part of the mission), Yglesias and Fernholz point out that the sourcing for the claim is far from airtight.

The real key here, I think, is Tim’s point #1 — it’s Obama’s decision. As Krugman has been fond of pointing out recently (and as we recently discussed without the metaphor with respect to foreign policy), when it comes to appointments the Cossacks work for the czar. Even if the story is right, Obama is free to ignore Geithner’s advice and would have plenty of political support if he chose to pick Warren. So we’ll see if Obama picks Warren, somebody just as good, or somebody not as good, but no matter what the outcome the credit or blame should be directed at the top of the organizational chain. What Geithner thinks about Warren is largely beside the point.

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Books I Will Not Be Reading

[ 3 ] July 17, 2010 |

I happened to spot this little item at a Soulless Chain Bookstore recently — apparently disgraced governor George Allen has decided to devote a whole book to making stupid conservative talking points via sports cliches. It should have one of the quickest paths to the remainder tables since Bush Country. But you do have to like the tastefully selected introduction and afterword authors, apparently intended to show that even if he’s the kind of racist who enjoyed celebrating treason in defense of slavery and lawlessness in defense of apartheid while growing up in California, some of his best friends are African-American. Alas, I suspect another Rich Lowry cover story trying to rehabilitate him is just around the corner…

Yoo Better Believe I’m Sorry That You Think I’m Reprehensible

[ 9 ] July 16, 2010 |

Shorter Jay Bybee: “I’m very sorry. I’m sorry that there are some people out there who think that designing specious legal arguments in order to enable executive branch officials to arbitrarily torture people who may or may not be guilty of anything should be a stain on your reputation.”

It really doesn’t get much more disgusting than an enabler of war crimes who is enjoying a well-compensated lifetime appointment on the federal bench rather than federal prison making with the self-pity. Fortunately, now that Roman Polanski has been freed I’m sure his prosecution is imminent.

Blame To Go Around

[ 12 ] July 16, 2010 |

This story would seem to confirm the arguments made by Glenn and some other commenters that the authorities in California bear some of the blame for the failure to extradite Polanski. Like some other commenters, I’m inclined to think that the Swiss argument was a conclusion in search of a pretext, so it’s not clear that this bungling mattered. But that is just a guess, so the blame for the failure to extradite can’t rest entirely on Swiss shoulders.

Geoff Jenkins Retires

[ 11 ] July 16, 2010 |

Now this is starting to make me feel old:

Former Brewers outfielder Geoff Jenkins will announce his retirement on Friday.

Jenkins has scheduled a press conference before Milwaukee’s game against Pittsburgh to officially end his 11-year career. Jenkins played 10 of his 11 seasons with Milwaukee and made the 2003 NL All-Star team. He won a World Series title his final year with Philadelphia in 2008 and finished his career hitting .275 with 221 homers and 733 RBIs in 1,349 games.

General manager Doug Melvin says they’re honored to let Jenkins retire as a Brewer after being drafted by the club, making his major league debut with the team and ranking among the franchise leaders in most offensive categories.

An entirely respectable career, cemented with a World Series ring. Nice work, Jaffo.

At What Point Does the Law no Longer Apply?

[ 59 ] July 16, 2010 |

Katha Pollitt wonders at what point an artist gets his or her “one free child rape” card:

Like many people I have fantasies about getting away with a crime, so I’ve followed the Roman Polanski case with great interest. Drugging and anally raping a 13-year-old girl doesn’t appeal to me, I was thinking more of… well, maybe I’d better not say till I hear from you! Suffice it to say there are lots of people who annoy me deeply and sometimes I wonder how I contain myself. Anyway, I understand that should my darker impulses get the better of me I can take a plea bargain, flee sentencing, claim the judge was biased and corrupt, and live in one of your lovely geranium-festooned chalets for many decades as a respected member of the community. If I stay free long enough, my victims, like Polanski’s, might even get so frustrated with the whole business they urge the courts to drop the case. I’m sure you would agree that this demonstration of magnanimity would be edifying and inspiring to the crass and puritanical American public. Polanski’s friend the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has made this point frequently.


So what I want to know is, how great a writer do I have to be to have the Swiss government protect me once I arrive? Granted, my writing may not be in the same class as Chinatown or The Pianist—but what about Rosemary’s Baby? I thought that was a pretty silly movie and not scary at all. Also is six books enough, or do I need to write more before I commit my crime? Ideally, I’d like to wait until I’m in the chalet and have lots of time for contemplation. And do sales figures come into it ? I really hope not—this is creative work we are talking about, after all, and everyone knows its value can’t be measured in cash or popularity. Perhaps the world just hasn’t caught up with me yet and you could tell the Americans you need to wait till I am dead and posterity delivers its verdict. Then, if it turns out I wasn’t great enough to deserve Swiss protection after all, you can ship my corpse back to the district attorney.

Very charitable of her not to bring up Pirates, don’t you think? Anyway, to the extent that his atrocious would-be Tocqueville project* is representative — and it appears to be — I would say that Lévy hasn’t earned enough to get out of a jaywalking ticket by his own Versailles logic…

*Favorite moment: “I’m beginning to think that William Kristol is a bit of a partisan hack! I had never considered this possibility before.”

No True Scotsman

[ 3 ] July 16, 2010 |

The idea that “Republican elected officials” may not care about deficits and small government but “American conservatives” do is indeed absurd:

One piece of pushback I got from some right-of-center folks to yesterday’s post on how conservatives don’t care about the deficit was to say that well maybe some Republican Party elected officials are bad on this, but the conservative movement is different. I think that’s entirely false. President George H.W. Bush struck a bargain with congressional Democrats that reduced spending and decreased the deficit. Some Republican Party elected officials backed him. But conservatives were apoplectic. After all, the bill raised taxes. And conservatives care more about making taxes as low as possible than they do about reducing spending or reducing the deficit.

Another common way to make this fallacious argument is Jonah Goldberg’s old line that because conservatives favor small government George W. Bush was really a liberal. The obvious problem is that a majority of actually existing modern conservatives have never favored “small government” per se. They may oppose government if it might in some way help poor people or protect people’s civil rights, but that’s a different thing; conservatives have never opposed using strong federal power to achieve conservative ends and help conservative interests. In addition, conservatives who support massive upper-class tax cuts can’t be let off the hook for obvious political realities. Since Medicare isn’t going anywhere and even Bush’s politically DOA Social Security privatization scheme would have been much more expensive in the short term and required inevitable bailouts in the long term, big tax cuts mean big deficits and there’s no evidence that they lead to smaller government. In addition to this is the obvious problem that among voters even people who favor “small government” in the abstract never support it in the particulars.


[ 12 ] July 16, 2010 |


Since the Village is essentially a Republican town perhaps they assumed that liberals were all going to be the same dead-enders the Bush cultists were, defending their man until the day he was out of office (and then insisting they never liked him in the first place.) That’s what “little people” (and paid political hacks) are supposed to do.

In related news, Goldman Sachs agrees to pay a fine equal to 3% of its 2009 profits for its part in wrecking the world’s economy.

Prestige and the F-16

[ 27 ] July 16, 2010 |

This article, about Pakistan’s preference for F-16s is pretty interesting:

Pakistanis are fascinated, if not obsessed, with F-16 fighter jets.

It is the best fighting aircraft in the fleet of the Pakistan air force, allowed to be flown by only the country’s best pilots. Video of F-16 fighter aircraft roaring through the skies figures prominently in the air force’s inspirational anthems…

Ironically, those who oppose American policies towards the country, including drone strikes, also welcomed the induction of American-manufactured fighter aircraft.

Zaid Hamid, a self-styled defense analyst known more for his conspiratorial and sensational commentaries regarding American influence in Pakistan, praised the delivery of the aircraft in a newsletter as “Alhamdulillah (thanks to Allah), another technological milestone achieved by Pakistan air force.”

I’m curious about the preference for the F-16 over other fighter aircraft.  In Pakistan this makes some sense, as the F-16 is superior to the various French and Chinese aircraft that fill out of the rest of the air force inventory.   However, if you’ve ever visited Israel, you might have noticed that there are more pictures of F-16s than F-15s or any other aircraft, in spite of the generally recognized superiority of the F-15. In the United States, for whatever reason, I tend to see and hear more about the F-15.