And, just for fun …

A real-live “bat-woman”:

You know something’s wrong with your plan when you have to look like this to push it


(Picture hosted at ??The Peninsula??, a media outlet in Qatar.)

Spring yoga blogging

Spring is the second most beautiful time of the year in this part of NC, though a lot of people would argue that it is the first. (For the record, I like October better, but because the trees turn all different colors and most areas look like a good artist’s painting. Spring greeted noted “Anusara”: teacher “-Tood- +Todd+ Norian”: I’m glad he came during one of the best times of the year, because that means he’ll keep coming back.

Last night was the first of three weekend workshop sessions on Anusara yoga. Todd’s style is delightful, and similar to the style of the teachers I’ve had for the last 7 or 8 months. But it’s just different enough so that I get refreshing insights that enhance my yoga practice.

For now, I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend, because I’ve been depressed nearly all week, and it’s nearly impossible to be depressed while doing yoga.

Why I eat organic foods whenever I can

Because pesticides “fuck with your head”:

Let us drink our Victory tea and smoke our Victory cigarettes. We will win the perpetual war with Eurasia!

Maybe it’s just because I’m in a bad mood this week, but I think my cynicism with the current administration has reached new heights. Bush has made it clear this week that he’s the “lapdog”: (or, rather, “here”: of the Saudis and thinks the answer to high oil prices is more oil. Anyone having been exposed to Econ 101 might guess that, well, yes, a higher supply might lower prices, and that’s true. However, see a “previous entry”: and its linked article. Sure, a “bigger needle” might make things better for now, but there are a lot of complicating issues lurking behind the deceptively simple supply and demand argument that are going to get real ugly if we ignore them. Of course, blaming all our economic woes on high energy prices and not laying out at least a vision for dealing with the long-term energy needs rings very hollow.

So, we move onto Social Security. Now, I’m not a big fan of our current system. And Bush talks a nice talk, with the voluntary accounts and nonesuch. And given that both sides of the Social Security argument feel the need to “skew”: the “facts”:, I have little faith that our government is going to produce anything viable. I mean, here’s a man who talked about the joys of limited government in his 2000 campaign, and then did almost the complete opposite. A potentially large chunk of my retirement has been reduced to political weaponry to make politicians look bad. Great.

And Bush talks up multilateral talks with North Korea, and emphasizes the importance of the Chinese roll. What he leaves out is the importance of the North Korean role at the table. And the right is talking up the potential for Kim Jong Il to deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S., and of course this is the reason Bush has to deploy his “faith-based missile defense”: now. What is left out is that it’s more effective to sell the nuclear weapon to al-Qaeda or some other stupid gun group so they can sent a nutjob into the center of New York or Los Angeles with a dirty suitcase bomb. Oh, and the fact that their “smart rock”-based system doesn’t work very well.

And right-wingers are so upset about the fact that Bush got asked a few questions harder than Guckert/Gannon/whoverthehellheis “would ask”: Keep the hard questions coming! Make ’em harder! Our government needs to be held accountable for everything it does, despite the opinions of the current administration.

Of course, there’s the obligatory “No timeframe for Iraq withdrawal but Real Soon Now!™” It’s not that I want a timeframe for Iraq withdrawal, I want something other than this fake optimism while the real truth gets slipped into the memoryhole.

Thankfully, Mr.-All-Hat-and-No-Cattle’s press conferences are rare. Maybe the polls, except for the Fox News one of course, will show how empty Mr. Bush’s words ring.

Yet another global warming study to end all global warming studies

“Here it is”: Yawn.

I have a proposition: drop the global warming bullshit. It detracts from the real issue: air pollution is screwing things up. Global warming is debatable, and will never be proven beyond any doubt (with this study or any other). An argument over global warming (whether the Earth is heating up, whether humans are causing it, and what it means) is just like an argument over which religion is right. You can’t win it.

And you don’t need global warming to be right to encourage the actions that might cut it down. Let me give you a scenario: what if you got Kyoto in place in the U.S. and enacted tough clean air laws, and the global temperature still rose? What then? And it’s not a terribly unrealistic scenario.

There are zillions of reasons to cut air pollution/greenhouse gas emissions, and there are enough people with respiratory problems and inflammations to make quite a political force. Smog and ozone problems are issues that a lot of people feel much more than they feel the half degree difference between now and 1950. Not to mention that people in the Midwest probably are wondering what happened to global warming.

You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts

Unless you are the GOP, in which case you can “rewrite amendments”: introduced by the opposing party to make them look bad.

If the Republicans have to stoop to this level to get their agenda passed, even with the House, Senate, and Presidency, then they have something seriously wrong with them.

Of course, they do this on one of many bills restricting abortion that they are trying to pass to make them look like the shepherds of moral values when really they are rotten to the core.

(I’m not saying Democrats aren’t, but damn if they aren’t looking a hell of a lot better than any of the other alternatives, including the floundering Libertarians.)

Lying with statistics

A bunch of statisticians (Bayesians, no less!) over at Columbia University have written an “article”: about how to lie with statistics in clinical trials. I’m not going to refute any of their points, because these things happen a lot. However, I think there are a few points to consider:

# A lot of people are involved in each clinical trial, including the FDA and ethics committees at each of the sites where the trial occurs. The effects of this are mitigated somewhat when a trial is used as a source of information for publishing a paper post-marketing (leading to the so-called “Weber effect” where only successful trials get published). These papers are important in that they can be distributed to doctors even if they are about “off-label” uses of the compound. However, it is still the case that even if you tip the odds in your favor through dosing (whether to show your good side or their bad side), you’ll have to do some “creative writing” to downplay your intentional flaws.
# You lie with dogs, you wake up with fleas. You pick a narrow or highly targeted outcome, and you can’t say any more, at least in a drug development program. You’re going to be stuck with it unless you bite the bullet and study the harder indication. (Some exceptions are made for this in unmet medical need, serious illness, or bioterrorism.) Now, there is some strategy to this. If you have a new molecular entity, you might tune your outcome to get it approved in a narrow population (perhaps even such a small one you can get orphan drug status which leads to a shorter development cycle and faster approval) and then do post-marketing studies to widen the labeled uses. This kind of thing happens, and it does introduce bias, but it ain’t free.
# “Creative writing” as it were occurs both with and without statistics. The problem with statistics is that people tend to believe ’em. I have an idea. After Algebra I, or even perhaps as a segment of it, we have a basic statistics class. Bite the bullet and teach the hard concepts of null and alternative hypotheses. Just get the basic ideas and instill a sense of need to think critically even in the face of fancy-sounding statistics. See an estimate? Ask for a range or a measure of accuracy. See a p-value? Ask what the hypotheses were.
# Does everybody in the pharma industry engage in unethical behavior, slaving to find ways to make the public take snake oil so their profits can be lined? Of course not. Bias is present in every study, and often it’s in favor of the tested drug. By contrast, drug companies are, um, “encouraged” to be conservative in their risk minimization plans (yes, this has to be addressed for every study in a clinical development program), especially in the traditional sore spots such as missing data and dropouts analysis. And safety reporting. Etc. Treatment codes are masked during the study from everybody possible (if the design of the study makes it possible). So there is behavior going on to try to mitigate the effects of unconscious bias.

I guess the bottom line is that judgment about the validity of a study should wait until after all the information has been taken in and the issues such as those in ??How to Lie with Statistics?? and its extensions are addressed.

*Update:* as noted in the comments, the article cites and links to the Carlat report.

Why do I bother reading this man?

And why does UNC-Wilmington bother keeping him on? I mean, if they really want one of their representatives being a childish “smart-ass”: and an embarrassment, then fine, but if I were the administration, I’d give Prof. Mike Adams the boot.

Being conservative is one thing. Being a cold-hearted smart-ass is another (I think), and there are many ways of saying “no, you’ve crossed the line” to students without being a jerk about it.

Dogs attack Coburn! Oh no! What shall we ever do? *Yawn*

Ethics charges have been brought against Sen. Coburn from Oklahoma, and Robert Novak doesn’t “like it one bit”: I wonder if Novak likes the fact that Coburn “sterilized women without their consent”: and favors the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions (including, presumably, himself). Novak also hasn’t yet commented on whether Oklahoma City is full of “crapheads.”