Saturday, December 22, 2007

Something old, something new

Just the facts

On The New York Times Op-Ed page for today is an essay, co-authored by Jonathan R. Cole, professor of sociology at Columbia. and Stephen M. Stigler, professor of statistics at the University of Chicago titled "More Juice, Less Punch". They carefully examined the stats for baseball players identified as steroids users, and concluded (to the surprise of no one except the brain-dead sports press):

An examination of the data on the players featured in the Mitchell report suggests that in most cases the drugs had either little or a negative effect.
But, regrettably, those are just facts, which aren't as sexy as wild, uninformed, baseless accusations and pontifications.

Tough, but not impossible

The Los Angeles Times has an article today dilating on the kidney-transplant story I mentioned yesterday. The title, "Tough calls in transplant case", is indicative. For a change, the insurance-industry rep they quote had something intelligent to say:
[T]he case shows how few employers, and even individuals, want to pay for experimental care coverage when they buy insurance, but that when people find themselves in dire health, everyone wants it.
The article goes on:
Dr. Goran Klintmalm, chief of the Baylor Regional Transplant Institute in Dallas, said the operation that UCLA wanted to perform was a "very high-risk transplant" and "generally speaking, it is on the margins."

But Klintmalm said he would consider performing the same operation on a 17-year-old and believes the UCLA doctors are among the best in the world.

"The UCLA team is not a cowboy team," he said. "It's a team where they have some of the soundest minds in the industry who deliver judgment on appropriateness virtually every day."
The bottom line, at least to me, is that the well-qualified doctors on the spot thought it was the right thing to do, but the bean counters didn't, and someone died to save some of those beans.

All you had to do was ask

That's the CIA's current line of defense for why they did not provide the 9/11 panel with the now-destroyed interrogation tapes. As The New York Times reports,
A review of classified documents by former members of the Sept. 11 commission shows that the panel made repeated and detailed requests to the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 and 2004 for documents and other information about the interrogation of operatives of Al Qaeda, and were told by a top C.I.A. official that the agency had “produced or made available for review” everything that had been requested.
So the punch line is how are you supposed to ask for what you don't know exists? The CIA held onto the tapes till the panel was done, in case they somehow got wind of them, and soon after the panel completed its work, the tapes went bye-bye (presumably in the hope that thereafter no one would get wind of their prior existence). Nice work.

The imperial presidency

It looks likely to endure, which is no surprise. King George took arrogant absolutism to levels never before dreamt of in the presidency--and that's saying something, considering what his predecessors have dreamt of--and it's a legacy that won't go away when he does. The Congressional Quarterly has an article well worth reading, in which they examine the positions of all the leading candidates for the presidency and conclude that none of them would be likely to much diminish the magisterial powers the office has acquired. What a surprise. Thanks again, Mr. Nader.

The Avis of superpowers

Fareed Zakaria at Newsweek has an analysis I recommend to you on the significance of China's arrival at the status of #2 superpower in the world.

Ah, for the days of yesteryear

Just-declassified documents show that two weeks after the onset of the Korean War, the abominable J. Edgar Hoover sent a letter to President Truman. It seems that J. Edgar had this neat idea for suspending the rules against illegal detention and then arresting up to 12,000 Americans he suspected of being "disloyal". The fatso's exact words:
The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven percent are citizens of the United States. In order to make effective these apprehensions, the [proposed] proclamation suspends the writ of habeas corpus.
Thank whomever you thank that the President then was Harry Truman, whom Merle Miller once famously described as "the last human being to reside in the White House." So far as I can see, subsequent history has not altered the truth of that view.

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