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He nailed that

April 23, 2019

When Attorney General Barr put on his dog and pony show pretending the not-yet-released Mueller report exonerated Trump, Elie Honig tweeted this prediction.

Well, now the redacted report is out, and we can read the full sentence:

Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected that it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

A rather large “although.”

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Take your chemotherapy

April 22, 2019

The wonderful thing about homeopathic preparations is that you cannot hurt yourself with them. They cannot cause an overdose. They will not harm you if you take the wrong one for what ails you.

Of course, that is because they are nothing but water and are completely impotent. Real drugs have all sorts of unfortunate side effects. That doesn’t mean they are bad. That means they are potent.

The human body is a complex, evolved systems. We vary both in our genes and in the personal history that shaped our biological development. We should expect that the mechanisms by which we attempt to exert control to cure disease have side effects. Tools and processes capable of changing a system don’t always produce the desired change. That’s true even in simple systems. Many a plumber going to fix a leak has caused one. The problem is worse with more complex systems, such as aircraft control software. And all designed systems are simple compared to biology, where we work with the pitfall of partial understanding of all sorts of down regulation, up regulation, and immune response. It should be no surprise that real medicine both has side effects and sometimes makes a targeted problem worse rather than better, while fake medicine lacks such issues. Surgeries to prevent strokes can cause them. Most drugs used to treat cardiac arrhythmias have arrhythmia as a possible side effect. There are several mechanisms by which chemotherapies used to attack cancer can make the cancer more aggressive or more invasive.

It is quite in line with current knowledge to see a paper investigating such a mechanism, and proposing possible improvement, through drugs that could be taken with the chemotherapy to inhibit that mechanism. While that may be an advance — there still is much work between this early research and therapy — it is not a medical “bombshell.” Nor is it new in discovering chemotherapy can increase metastasis. Nor does it mean that chemotherapy is a bad idea or that cancer researchers are corrupt, as this inane article at Natural News claims. The authors of that research would be disappointed, but likely not surprised, to see it wrongly described to fraudulent purpose.

No one is thrilled with the idea of chemotherapy. Whether it is a wise choice depends on the nature of the cancer, its likely progression, and each patient’s circumstance. In the right circumstance, it can cure or add years to life. This post isn’t intended as a blanket endorsement, given the minefield that cancer presents. Listen to your oncologist.

Don’t listen to Natural News. It is one of the worst outlets for science news and health advice, constantly pushing misinformation. Don’t listen to the other quacks proposing alternative treatments. Curiously, they often sucker in people who otherwise seem well educated. We have studies of what happens when cancer patients pursue alternative treatment. They die sooner. In some circumstance, that may not much matter. But, if your time is short, why waste it on utter crap? Or set a poor example for the young?

Capitalism, socialism, and all that

April 18, 2019

East_India_House_by_Thomas_Malton_the_YoungerAdam Smith sometimes is called the “father of capitalism,” despite the fact that the East India Company had been in successful operation for almost two centuries by the time he published his famous Inquiry. Those who want to think about economics seriously need to keep two things in mind. First, human societies are complex things. Any attempt to plot them neatly on an linear axis between two poles is a vast simplification. Second, the claim to being a science comes not from having abstractions and models, but from attending to those complexities.

Scott Hendricks writes about what “socialism” means to Bernie Sanders. Those who want to criticize Sanders’s economic views need to begin with them, not just with a word.

There is an asymmetry in etymology, since capitalism was practiced before it was theorized, where the varieties of socialism all were theorized as reforms, prior to practice. Where capitalism was being practiced when early economists first thought to study it. The drawing shows East India House on Leadenhall Street, occupied by the company in 1648, and from which much of the world was ruled.

Conspiracism

April 17, 2019

Nancy Rosenblum has written a book that again explores the rise of bullshitters and trolls. She claims that conspiracy theories today aren’t even what they once were, attempts to explain. Instead, they are just fantasy fit to a narrative:

Much of the conspiracism today spreads through innuendo. You’ll hear people say, “I just want to know more, I’m just asking questions.” Or, as President Trump likes to say, “A lot of people are saying…” This is conspiracy without any theory. It’s about validating preexisting beliefs by constantly repeating false claims that reinforce what you already believe. So it’s not merely that someone thinks Hillary Clinton is an unworthy candidate; we have to make up a story about her sex trafficking in children. And by repeating these things and assenting to them, you’re signaling a kind of group affinity. Conspiracy without the theory has become a form of political participation.

Perhaps related to that is propaganda like this one-minute video (Facebook) from The Blaze. The amazing thing about it is that it shows so little about Ilhan Omar. Not enough to nudge at all my opinion. (Which is neutral, I know little about her.) It certainly doesn’t show what it claims, only that Omar mocks how a college professor spoke. Yet on the basis of that nothing, it is generating unmitigated hate in its intended audience. (If you want the evidence of that, read the comments.) The modern right wing has perfected propaganda to the point where it doesn’t actually have to be about anything to do its job.

I hope Rosenblum is wrong about this:

I’ve learned something stunning while doing this work, which is that this conspiracism is destructive all the way down. It’s destabilizing, it’s degrading, and it’s destroying our democratic institutions without any countervailing constructive impulse. And what this tells me is that in this perilous time for democracy, it doesn’t take an alternative political ideology to degrade democracy — it doesn’t take communism, or authoritarianism, or fascism, or anything else. Conspiracism can demolish democracy on its own, and we ignore that at our peril.

Notre Dame

April 16, 2019

Today, I will defer to Greg Laden.

Next month, I will visit Paris.

I love NYC

April 15, 2019

It may be the most American of cities.

Ian Reifowitz writes about Ilhan Omar and conservative punditry around 9/11.

I thought the Swiss were smart

April 12, 2019

Screenshot from 2019-04-12 08-46-28Coffee may not be essential for life. But you still want to have some in an emergency. The hard part about stockpiling perishables, of course, is planning the rotation. Coffee beans age. So you want a large buffer, that would then supply someone downstream on a continuous basis.