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October 31, 2011

The Unintended Consequences of Prohibition

The futile and damaging nature of drug prohibition is a frequent topic on this blog, so check out this Nick Gillespie interview of Ken Burns on the unintended consequences of prohibition and then review this Radley Balko/Freedom Daily article on the enormous collateral damage of drug prohibition.
A truly civil society would find a better way.

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October 30, 2011

Gladwell on the Norden Bombsight

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October 29, 2011

Colbert and that entertaining form of corruption

Stephen Colbert provides his amusing spin on the corruption of big-time college sports by interviewing Taylor Branch, author of the e-book The Cartel, which is an expanded version of Branch's cover story from the October issue of The Atlantic, The Shame of College Sports (H/T Jay Christensen).

The Colbert Report
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October 28, 2011

Epstein on the benefits of inequality

In less than ten minutes, Clear Thinkers favorite Richard Epstein lucidly explains the societal benefits of providing economic incentives that produce inequality in a market economy (H/T Bart Bentley).

Watch Does U.S. Economic Inequality Have a Good Side? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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October 27, 2011

Look who is advising the FBI

Andrew Weissman2So, former Enron Task Force director Andrew Weissmann has found his way back into government service, this time as general counsel to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This is the fellow who - among other outrageous tactics -- is primarily responsible for prosecuting Arthur Andersen out of business and for destroying the careers of several innocent Merrill Lynch executives in the notoriously misguided Nigerian Barge case.

And now he is the primary counselor to the federal government's primary investigative force.

Weissmann's track record of abuse of power should be grounds to preclude him from such a position. But in this day and age, it is viewed as sound preparation.

Not a particularly pleasant thought to have if the Devil ever turns on you.

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October 26, 2011

Margin Call

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October 25, 2011

Physical Exercise - Preventive treatment for Dementia?

Dr. Eric J. Ahlskog of The Mayo Clinic's Department of Neurology discusses his article appearing in the September 2011 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings on the effect of physical exercise as a disease-modifying treatment for dementia and the aging brain (H/T Art DeVany).

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October 24, 2011

Building a stadium

Check out this cool time-lapse photo video of the construction of Target Field, the new stadium of the Minnesota Twins.

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October 23, 2011

A prosthetic arm that feels

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October 22, 2011

That deserves a Carlsberg

Yet another in our continuing series of creative commercials.

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October 21, 2011

Generating Energy Right Where We Are

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October 20, 2011

Merle Hazard on moral hazard

Merle Hazard's latest, Diamond Jim (H/T Greg Mankiw)

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October 19, 2011

The WSJ's Myths

Sherron Watkins_3We Americans do love our myths, as the Wall Street Journal reminds us this week with its glowing 10-year anniversary (!) tribute to Enron "whistleblower," Sherron Watkins.

Of course, even a cursory review of the facts demonstrates that Ms. Watkins is not - and never was -- a whistleblower.

Nevertheless, the nation's leading business newspaper persists in a myth that is demonstrably wrong. In fact, the Journal's coverage of Enron was questionable from the start.

Why is that?

Well, such levels of disingenuity are rarely attributable to one or even just a few factors, but Dio Favatas notes an interesting aspect of the Journal's coverage of another business executive - Frank Quattrone - whose stellar career was sidetracked by a dubious prosection.

You may remember the Quattrone prosecution - a paper-thin case in the Enron mode that should never have been pursued. After Quattrone was convicted in a farce of a trial, the Second Circuit resoundingly reversed the conviction. Quattrone eventually settled with the prosecution in a favorable deferred prosecution agreement under which he admitted no wrongdoing whatsoever.

You would think that the injustice that was heaped upon Quattrone before the Second Circuit intervened would give the Journal pause regarding its demonization of Quattrone before, during and after the trial. But as Favatas chronicles, the Journal instead continues to attempt in a sophomoric manner to make Quattrone out to be something other than the hard-working, talented and successful investment banker that he is.

To make matters worse, in doing so, the Journal assigns a reporter to write the story who has a financial interest in making Quattrone appear to be a shady character.

Clarence Barron founded the Journal in the early 20th century on the personal credo that the Journal "must stand for what is best in Wall Street."

It is sad to see how far the Journal has drifted from that salutary foundation.


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October 18, 2011

Barriers to Action

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October 17, 2011

Micheal O'Brien, Texas' photographer

Ben CrenshawAustin's Michael O'Brien, author of The Face of Texas (Bright Sky Press 2003), is one of Texas' finest photographers. Checking out the portraits on his webpage is a very good way to start the week. Enjoy.

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October 16, 2011

Finding life we can't imagine

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October 15, 2011

Meet Gareth Maybin

Gareth Maybin may not be as well known a professional golfer as his fellow Northern Ireland mates Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.

But he takes a back seat to none of them in terms of athletic ability.


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October 14, 2011

How to spot a liar

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October 13, 2011

What hallucinations reveal about our minds

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October 12, 2011

Your web presence after death

Adam Ostrow: "By the end of this year, there'll be nearly a billion people on this planet that actively use social networking sites. The one thing that all of them have in common is that they are going to die."

Posted by Tom at 12:00 AM | Comments (1) |

October 11, 2011

Thinking about Jobs

steve_jobs_apple_iphoneWe are quickly approaching overload on articles about the late Steve Jobs, but Martin Wolf's post in the Financial Times on what Jobs' career teaches us is definitely worth a read.

In short, Wolf explains that Jobs was the quintessential American entrepreneur who was able to marry form with function while bringing a showman's bravado in promoting Apple products. Not a bad prescription for success.

Meanwhile, David Gorski provides this interesting analysis of Jobs' bout with the pernicious disease that killed him, pancreatic cancer. Inasmuch as that cancer deprived Houston of one of its greatest teachers, I have followed the clinical research on the disease with interest over the past several years. Dr. Gorski does a masterful job of explaining the complexities involved in treating pancreatic cancer, while also taking a well-deserved swipe at the snake-oil salesmen who were quick to seize upon Jobs' tragic death to hawk their "alternative treatments" for this deadly disease.

One of many good points that Dr. Gorski makes is the risk that patients such as Jobs take in delaying surgery on cancers such as this while exploring alternative medicine treatments:

If there's one thing we're learning increasingly about cancer, it's that biology is king and queen, and that our ability to fight biology is depressingly limited. In retrospect, we can now tell that Jobs clearly had a tumor that was unusually aggressive for an insulinoma. Such tumors are usually pretty indolent and progress only slowly. Indeed, I've seen patients and known a friend of a friend who survived many years with metastatic neuroendocrine tumors with reasonable quality of life.

Jobs was unfortunate in that he appears to have had an unusually aggressive form of the disease that might well have ultimately killed him no matter what. That's not to say that we shouldn't take into account his delay in treatment and wonder if it contributed to his ultimate demise. It very well might have, the key word being "might." We don't know that it did, which is one reason why we have to be very, very careful not to overstate the case and attribute his death as being definitely due to the delay in therapy due to his wanting to "go alternative."

Finally, Jobs' case illustrates the difficulties with applying SBM to rare diseases. When a disease is as uncommon as insulinomas are, it's very difficult for practitioners to know what the best course of action is, and that uncertainty can make for decisions that are seemingly bizarre or inexplicable but that, if you have all the information, are supportable based on what we currently know.

In short, despite the advances of modern medicine, there is still much that we do not know about how disease attacks our bodies.

Patients beware.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

October 10, 2011

The interactive digital book

Regardless of what you think about Al Gore's books, the format of his latest is pretty cool.

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October 9, 2011

Unleashing a locked-in artist

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October 8, 2011


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October 7, 2011


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October 6, 2011

The promise of the driverless auto

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October 5, 2011

How Algorithms are shaping the world

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October 4, 2011

The Genomic Revolution

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October 3, 2011

"I kiss so hot"

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October 2, 2011

Backstage with the Fab Four

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October 1, 2011

Sophie's Choice

Professional golfer Sophie Gustafson is an extremely interesting woman.

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