6.26.2009

selection pressure

I'm working on a theory. It goes something like this:

1) High-status males (or alpha males, or dudes with big egos and powerful personalities, whatever you want to call them) tend to cheat on their spouses/partners. Not because they are intrinsically less virtuous than the rest of us, but because they are presented with many, many more opportunities to do so, particularly from high-status (read: attractive) females.

2) Most (successful) men in politics are high-status males.

3) Ergo, most men in politics cheat on their spouses.

4) Being caught cheating on your spouse often (though certainly not always) brings a political career to a close, or at least derails higher ambitions.

5) Proposed: Men who are successful at the highest levels of politics tend to not only to be liars and cheaters, but those who are very, very good at lying and cheating.

None of this is intended to excuse, dismiss, or minimize the behavior of any individual. Nor is it to say that we shouldn't concern ourselves with the moral fiber of those we put in power over us. I just wonder if by drumming out all of the inept cheaters in politics we aren't running a sort of moral/political Dosadi Experiment.

6.25.2009

they always come in threes....

Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Micheal Jackson. Oddly enough, this sounds like the setup of a Carnac the Magnificent gag.

6.21.2009

iran

I don't know if Iran's election was stolen or not. I don't know if "regime change" there will be a net gain for the freedom of Iranians.

But I do know that seeing riot police turn tail and run from a mass of very pissed off citizens make me feel terribly warm and fuzzy inside.

6.16.2009

why i continue to miss living in az (a continuing series)

Things really are different there:

"Here's to the good citizens, the town of Cave Creek and a Western tradition," said Thomas McGuire, the incumbent in the race. McGuire drew the six of hearts

Then challenger Adam Trenk stepped forward for his turn. He pulled the king of hearts, and McGuire politely conceded. Trenk pocketed the card as a keepsake.

6.15.2009

shining moments in pharmacological education

From the textbook from whence I am teaching:

"The widespread belief that [cannabis] increases the creativity of artists may have arisen largely because the drug was widely used by musicians and artists. Nevertheless, there is no consistent evidence from objective research that creativity is enhanced."

To which my response is to challenge my students with the question--what do you think is involved in "objective research" on creativity? A question I asked not having a clue myself what the actual answer is.

After some discussion, which pretty much went nowhere interesting, I blurted out something to the effect of "look, just listen to the Beatles' catalog in chronological order, and tell me marijuana didn't influence them creatively. Because really, those first couple of albums kind of sucked."

The response was....mixed.

I probably should have handed out those evals before class.

6.13.2009

fullsteam!

No longer content to merely scoop the local MSM, Kevin Davis of Bull City Rising appears to have the scoop on the much-anticipated location of the Fullsteam Brewery before it's even been mentioned on Fullsteam's own webpage.

(It is mentioned somewhat obliquely on their Twitter feed that an official press release is coming on Monday.)

This is needless to say great news. What I have gotten to sample of the beers these guys are making is really impressive. And I can be at 726 Rigsbee in less than 10 minutes by bicycle.

6.12.2009

the fda's plan to kill smokers faster

I have a lot of problems with the FDA, both in terms of its scope and how poorly it tends to execute its duties (which it should be said is largely the result of an overly broad mandate and inadequate funding to fulfill it.) But setting aside the manifold institutional problems with the agency, it's kind of silly that tobacco has enjoyed the legal status of "non-drug" for the decades since we've all known better. So on its face, I don't really have a problem with giving the FDA authority to regulate it.

However...

The manner in which the FDA is very likely to go about exercising this authority is going to be (with apologies to Dan Ariely) predictably irrational. Specifically, they are going to mandate lower nicotine content in cigarettes.

This is predicated on the (correct) assumption that nicotine is the ingredient responsible for initiating and reinforcing chronic use (I dislike the term "addiction"). In principle, this might make new smokers less likely to acquire a chronic habit.

However, it will almost certainly have a very different effect on the millions of people currently smoking: they will smoke more cigarettes, inhale more frequently and more deeply, and hold the smoke in their lungs longer. Manipulation of nicotine levels has been shown to have these effects in study after study: smokers modify their smoking behavior to maintain nicotine concentrations in their body. This goes both ways. What the strategy of mandating lower nicotine content ignores is that if you wanted to actually make a safer cigarette (a project that the public health establishment stubbornly and negligently refuses to contemplate), you would put more nicotine in it, not less, because then smokers will be exposed to much less of the tar, smoke, and ~4500 chemicals in cigarette smoke, all of which are more harmful than nicotine itself.

It's been argued that Phillip Morris is supporting FDA regulation because their market share will make them better positioned than their smaller competitors to deal with the impact of regulation on their business. This is almost certainly true. But I would also argue that they realize their best customers are about to get even better.

6.11.2009

the uighurs can have my house for a cool $200 thousand

I'm just sayin'.

Surely the main reason these guys are going to Palau is that the tiny nation is one of the few in Asia that does not have a diplomatic relationship with the government in Beijing. Beijing, predictably, is pissed.

Which begs the question...does anyone seriously think the Uighurs are going to be truly safe in Palau, if the Chinese government really decides they want to get their hands on them? I mean, these guys kidnapped Jack Bauer on US soil you know...

6.08.2009

(actually, here the sentence would have been "indefinite")

Two American journalists have been arrested and detained by North Korea--possibly not even within its own borders--charged with constituting an unspecified danger to the North Korean state, put through a dubiously opaque legal process, and have now been sentenced to 12 years hard labor.

I'm so glad to live in a country that doesn't do things like that.

6.05.2009

(in which my chances of an ambassadorship diminish considerably)

I’m having a hard time finding a link to it, but someone on the BBC this morning mentioned that there was a perception that German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not have as warm a relationship with President Obama as she had had with President Bush. Who would have thought Mr. Bush’s contribution to international statecraft would turn out to be the inappropriate shoulder-rub?

But seriously, I had to laugh at hearing the German Chancellor’s demeanor towards the President described as being a bit frosty.

In related news, it turns out that Gordon Brown is a bit stiff, Silvio Berlusconi likes to chase tail, Stephen Harper is boring, and Barack Obama can be kind of a dick sometimes.

6.03.2009

nixon delenda est




Read this and this.

I lack the historical perspective to give Rojas' thesis a decent critical evaluation, but I certainly find it difficult to refute on its face. Moreover, I would include in the "useful idiots to the Nixonians" not just Christian conservatives and free marketeers, but also the Democratic Party. After all, abortion has remained legal through several periods of GOP dominance, meaningful reform of the income tax and social security has never been seriously discussed beyond primary season, and every Democratic president from Roosevelt on has waged war on the world, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, who is generally remembered as ineffectual among all but the most ardent liberals (god bless your bleeding hearts.)

6.01.2009

the simpsons already did it!

I'm actually more pissed off about this than the glibness of my headline might imply. Oddly enough, the perps are probably too young to fully appreciate how played out this prank really is.

UPDATE--Hooray!