Monday, January 7, 2008

Everything you thought you knew about steroids is wrong

And the truth, amply analyzed and documented with countless citations of the scientific literature, is right here. I'll say no more on it in this post: read all about it (but be warned that there's a lot to read).

It will be very, very interesting to see how l'affaire Clemens plays out. If, whether through lawsuit, Congressional testimony, or public appearances he manages to prove his innocence, or--more plausible--simply generate a generally sustained serious doubt about his guilt, the pffft, there goes the whole Mitchell Report, dead as a doornail.

Why? Because, with only a few exceptions (the handful actually documented with some hard, physical evidence, like definite documents, and the handful who have fessed up), everything in the thing is the same as the Clemens accusation: one uncorroborated, unsubstantiated tell-all with jail time hanging over his head if he doesn't "co-operate" with the Feds in producing juicy stories. If the public gets a clear sense, definite proof or no, that the single far-and-away most newsworthy claim in the document was hooey, how will they feel about the rest of it?

I very much hope Clemens does turn public opinion. For myself, I think Clemens is something of a jerk, for several reasons, but his personality is not what's on trial here: his reputation and his word are.

More generally, we aren't going to get anywhere meaningful with this whole "drugs" business (remember when "drugs" was good word--"wonder drugs" curing disease? Back before the God Squad got hold of it and started Reefer-Madness'ing it to death?) till we stop with the false moralizing over it (in what way does it differ from, say, Lasik surgery?), take PEDs ("performance-enhancing drugs") off the illegal "controlled substances" list and off the professional sports organizations' banned lists, and let doctors offer sane, valid advice to any athlete who wants to use a PED, just as an optometrist offers advice on the benefits and risks of eye surgery.

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More interesting stuff on the mechanics of voting accurately and honestly: an opinion piece in The New York Times by William Poundstone in which he sets forth a clever way to use the inherently reliable paper ballot without the usual drawbacks of a risk of either accidental or deliberate tampering. Be sure to read it all the way down, to the part where he points out how easy it is to do the verification.

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Science Daily has an article pointing out yet again what many people (including me) have been saying for quite some time now: that "biofuels" are mostly a very bad, wrongheaded idea. There are exceptions, chiefly those made from waste by-products, such as used cooking oils; but the mainstream stuff, notably corn, that the Kumbaya crowd has been pushing so hard actually harm the environment more than fossil fuels--all the while that they make food scarcer and more expensive for the poor everywhere. Nice going, dorks.

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As I observed yesterday, the mainstream media are now falling all over themselves trying to be the most emphatic is "refuting" and marginalizing the "fair tax" Huckabee is pushing. Now CNN and Money magazine have joined the act. Their criticism are so alike, and also like those seen already in other media, that one would think they all get it from some central script-writing center.

Look, I think the tax as Huckabee and the institute behind him on it have it is fairly screwed up. But the screwup is nothing fundamental, nothing that vitiates the general concept: it lies mainly in the way in which they try to make it not be regressive and thus punitive for lower-income households. There are very much better ways to go about that, but their drawback is that they aren't well-suited for 17-second sound bites, requiring some delicate and non-obvious consideration, and also--in fairness--leaving a fair bit of room for maneuvering by special-interest groups.
(I'm talking here about providing exemptions, not "prebates", for taxation on the essentials: food--including beer and wine--untaxed; housing untaxed up to the regional median cost for a household of a given size; non-elective medical care, untaxed; education costs--from text books to tuition--untaxed, with perhaps some upscale limit, or perhaps not; charitable contributions, untaxed; and so on. You can easily see where there's room for substantial argument on at least some of those as to exact particulars. But a "prebate" is silly: what's to stop the recipient from using it on hard liquor, or gambling it away? How does that assure that essentials are untaxed?)
Incidentally, the goofy reckoning some of the critical articles are using to make it seem that the rick don't get taxed much is almost insulting in its naivete. "Money" is nothing--an abstract, numbers on paper or a computer screen--till it's spent on something. To grouse about the "effective"tax on Scrooge McDuck's annual income when he banks a million of it as beyond his current needs is just to show an intellectual inability to get away from the idea that income is of necessity the thing that must be taxed: it is, in fact, a perfect example of what "begging the question" really means.

"Wealth" is a meaningless term unless it is applied to expenditures. How "rich" are those occasional nutcases living in shabby hotels and eating dog food when--as we discover on their death--they had a zillion bucks in cash in shoeboxes in the closet? This should be tattooed to the inside of every economist's eyeballs (both professional and amateur economists):

Rich is as rich spends. The end.

The articles also generally chastise supporters of the idea, who tend to be rather rabid, as "just" wanting to get rid of the IRS. Excuse me, that would be a bad thing??

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The mainstream media are loving Obama's surge, because now they can pick on Clinton--whom, you may remember, they anointed as the unstoppable force.

I keep thinking of the old saying "Every nation gets just exactly so good a government as it deserves", and whenever I do, I shudder.

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