Archive for the 'current events' Category

03
Jul
14

Expected this of Facebook, but PNAS? What Were You Thinking?

Retraction countdown commences now.  It’s pretty clear that Facebook, Cornell and PNAS violated the spirit of human subject research laws, if not the letter of those laws (may have done that, as well).

If we start to accept that clicking ‘yes’ to a privacy policy equals adequately informed consent, we might as well scrap the whole system designed to prevent the research atrocities of the past. Do you feel your physician should be able to replace your standard medication with an experimental drug as part of a study that you are not aware you are participating in and never consented to because you signed his boilerplate privacy policy? Of course not. He/she would end up losing their license or in prison for this sort of conduct. Social science research IS human subject research and it requires the same level of concern for the rights of participants.  I’m not angry about the nature of the study. I am angry that these researchers felt so comfortable manipulating people without their knowledge or consent. It is a slippery slope and minimizing it is not helpful.

People clearly were harmed by this study. In fact, that was actually one of the study goals–see if it was possible to make them feel bad by artificially manipulating their exposure to negative comments– and ultimate ‘findings.’ That alone should have prompted better ethical oversight. This is not the same as retrospectively data mining de-identified static patient records, regardless of whatever rationale Cornell uses. This was real time emotional manipulation of actual people who had no idea it was going on. Bad form all around and I hope OHRP gets involved.

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03
Jul
14

(AB)Use of Statins the Next Big Pharma Scandal?

No one can say for sure and that is a scandal in itself.

For anyone who has been paying attention to the growing controversy related to the ever-expanding prescribing guidelines for statins, Ben Goldacre makes some very good points in this post.

Worth noting that none of this would be an issue if we mandated trial transparency. The fact that bad data can be hidden and good data cherry-picked to artificially manipulate prescribing decisions is a big problem that results in lack of confidence across the board.

29
Aug
10

Glenn Beck is Restoring Honor With a Chalkboard and Tears

Oh Lordy.  We have really gone down the rabbit hole as a country when Glenn Beck (Glenn freaking Beck, he of the crocodile tears and narcissistic hypochondria) is the standard by which we measure honor.

I think this whole situation illustrates why liberals generally don’t do as good a job as the right in dealing with demagogues. If the left had the same strategic (nasty) vision as the right, we would have no reservations about starting an internecine war within the ranks of the self-identified Evangelical Christians who follow Beck. A few well-placed talking points like, ‘Don’t Mormons have an entirely different interpretation of the role of Christ believing he is just one of many equally important saints? That doesn’t really seem to fit with our beliefs about our Lord and Savior, does it? I mean, I don’t know for sure and I’m not suggesting anything…just saying, is all.”

We could get out a chalkboard or even just a large highlighted index card (I think Fox has extras) and draw a diagram of the rise of the Anti-Christ, pointing out the the prophecy states believers would be deceived into believing he was an ‘angel of light.’ With a few simple chalk lines, we could demonstrate that those who consider themselves ‘believers’ were never fooled by the Kenyan usurper and never thought of him as an angel of light. Therefore, it is unlikely he is the Anti-Christ of prophecy. Many, though, have been convinced that a so-called ‘Christian’ from a suspect sect with a radically different view of Christ is the great leader, the angel of light, they’ve been looking for (remember, facts are not important here—our target audience doesn’t care about them and is too stupid to know the difference).

Of course, I’m not saying Beck is the Anti-Christ. Just that, according to our foolproof chalkboard logic, he totally fits the prophecy and it is good to be aware not just of pseudo-Muslims in our midst, but also potential blond, weepy Anti-Christs. It’s just that IF Beck is the Anti-Christ, which I am not saying he is—just that he totally fits the prophecy—and IF we ignore it, we will be ‘stabbing our Lord and Savior in the heart,’ something that Sarah Palin warned us not to do.

I know, I know. Good liberals would be appalled at the notion of using a person’s religion in such an unjust and obnoxious way to beat these bozos at their own game, i.e. turn their own screeching, angry mob against them. This is the difference between us and them and it is why they succeed through sheer lack of moral dignity. Difficult as it is to watch over and over again, I guess the losers in this game of guilt by innuendo and deceit actually are the winners.

14
Feb
10

Bigotry is a Complex Concept

Wow. Bigots are really gonna have to work on ‘message consistency.‘  First they tell us that black women are all about irresponsibly having too many babies so they can stay on welfare and rob the poor working white folks of their tax dollars and now they tell us that black babies are an endangered species (similar to other adorable, furry little animals).  So which is it?  How are we supposed to know which prejudice is the appropriate one?  This is just too much contradiction for our poor, privileged white people brains to handle. I sincerely hope this is the brainchild of a minority PR firm. That would be bad enough, but really–no matter where you stand on the abortion issue– this ‘campaign’ is simply beyond offensive.

14
Feb
10

“It’s Our Right to Live in a Cesspool”

So sayeth the brain trust known as the Utah House of Representatives.  Again, this a political hot button issue where both sides are fighting the wrong argument.  Whether you believe in global climate change or not, it is still hard to understand the pathological selfishness that would drive modern humans to consume and pollute until they leave a desiccated shell of a planet for future generations.  After all, even the lowliest animals know better than to shit where they eat.  Why is this concept so hard for us to grasp?  We fight tooth and nail for the right  to turn our home into a cesspool.  Does it really matter whether science can definitively prove global warming when the air and water we depend on for life is often so polluted it needs to be avoided?  Does the irony of a Utah citizen who couldn’t walk to the capital to witness the signing of a (pretentious, yet completely non-binding) resolution to remove all restrictions on carbon emissions due to the ‘faulty’ and false science of global warming because there were air quality advisories that required humans to stay indoors not about say it all?

If we insist on living like pigs we’re going to end up in a sty.  This would be bad enough if we alone suffered the consequences of our piggish behavior, but that is not the case. We are ruining the planet for future generations–something we simply do not have the right to do.   This is not about whether the Earth is getting warmer or not. This is about behaving like responsible, grown-up stewards of a lovely piece of property.  It’s time to call out the deniers for what they really are: Selfish, spoiled and lazy people who think they should be able to do whatever makes their short and most likely meaningless lives a wee bit more convenient regardless of the permanent damage it does to others around them.  Has this Earth ever had to face such an ignorant and boldly self-centered threat as industrialized modern humans?  It seems that many of these stellar citizens also claim to be Christians and it is not a stretch to assume that a good number of the Utah House of Representatives are members of the Mormon faith.   I wonder what they think the writer, who they contend was ‘inspired by God,’  meant in Rev. 11:18 where God promises to “destroy them which destroy the Earth?”  (King James version).

09
Feb
10

Palin’s Picks a Clear Favorite with Special Needs Constituency

Words fail (*heavy sigh*)

The Southeast-ish Texas MENSA Chapter and Regional Brain Trust  sponsored a campaign rally for Governor Rick “Texas can secede any time it feels like it” Perry headlined by none other than Ms. Hopey Changey herself, Sarah Palin.  Covering the auspicious event, the Houston Press captured the true essence of the energized crowd in photos like the one on the left.  Perry wasn’t alone in earning the adulation of the special needs crowd.  One suspects these folks arrived on the ‘Padriets for Palin’ bus.

06
Feb
10

Michael Kinsley Has Trouble Distinguishing Between Criminals and Jews…

…but calls others ‘antisemites.’

In what has to be one of the strangest pseudo justifications for Goldman Sachs’ activities leading up to the financial meltdown, Michael Kinsley (Atlantic Wire) takes Matt Taibbi to task for his brilliant takedown of Goldman in the Rolling Stone, calling it antisemetic and suggesting that when people hear ‘banker’ they think ‘Jew.’ He even suggests that Goldman Sachs is singled out for particular animosity because ‘Goldman’ and ‘Sachs’ are both Jewish names (which had never actually occurred to me until Kinsley made an issue of it), never mind the fact that, as the last major bank left standing after the financial massacre, Goldman is of necessity singled out. When I hear ‘banker,’ I think ‘sociopath.’ It has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity. From a purely psychological standpoint, people with a certain moral ambiguity are attracted to careers that allow them to exploit others–often legally. It’s no fluke that there are more full-fledged sociopaths (the term has been perverted to imply serial killer by mass media, but it simply means lacking the ability to empathize or care about the morality of one’s actions) in the ranks of politicians, bankers, lawyers and physicians than in other fields (Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity). Defending Goldman Sachs is simply promoting the interests of the conscienceless. Blaming criticism of Goldman on antisemitism just provides cover for their amoral activities. Why would anyone want to do that? To use “others did it too” as a defense pretty much stops working in elementary school, so… really?

I read Taibbi’s Goldman Article. I also read Brooks coded reply and Taibbi’s response to it. I agree with Taibbi that one has to dig pretty deep to find racism in his attack on Goldman. Articles like Kinsley’s distract from the real problem: Criminal activities cloaked as legitimate banking practices. I don’t believe Jews are greedy or that they lie, cheat and steal for money. I do believe many bankers and titans of industry do, however (and just for a frame of reference Hank Paulson is a Christian Scientist and if we are going by last names, Cassano, McCarthy, Raines, O’Neal, Mozilo, Moynihan–it could be argued that complaints about the financial meltdown are anti-Italian or anti-Irish). This belief is not based on antisemitism, but on irrefutable evidence of the last decade. So the question is why is Kinsley defending the indefensible? The real antisemitism is in assuming all bankers are Jewish and that any criticism of the banking industry is by default an attack on Jews. That premise is simply ridiculous, clearly perpetuates a stereotype and only serves to distract from the real problem–an amoral financial industry. Goldman is singled out because, thanks in large part to their non-Jewish former chair Henry Paulson, they got preferential treatment in the bailout debacle. Had Paulson worked for Bank of America and wangled a similarly sweet deal for them, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I totally agree that antisemitism is a serious issue. Taibbi’s attack on Goldman Sachs is not part of the problem, however.




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