I’ve beat the odds!

Headline in today's Science Times:

Given that, much to my dismay, I am occassionally addressed by telemarketers as “Mam,” my three kids would suggest I have surely done quite well for myself.


It’s the laziness, Stupid

Though my students typically come into class convinced that it is the liberal bias of the media steering them wrong, the truth quite clearly lies elsewhere.  Al Franken has my absolute favorite quote on this:

make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a
or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda
is do they use too much oil in their hummus. And sometimes they do
use too much oil, and sometimes they don't use enough. But the real
problem with Al-Qaeda is they want to kill us.

The problem, as much as anything, is that journalists are too lazy to get the story right.  There's a fascinating case study in this as Glenn Greenwald has absolutely handed Time's Joe Klein his head in reference to complete fabrications (smearing Democrats as terrorist-loving) that Klein had printed in Time magazine.  In response to being called on his unthinking repetition of Republican spin (i.e., lies), Klein replies:

I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right.

In other words, Klein's job is to sit back in his pundit chair and just say stuff about politics that sounds good.  If he's writing about FISA, well, his time is too important to actually try and understand the legislation or figure out if the Republican staffer feeding him lines is telling the truth.  Heck, that might require actual work. 

Forensic Science is often only one of the two

I really wanted to do a nice post about the great 60 Minutes and Washington Post joint investigation that shows how hundred of people have been put in jail based on FBI science that has been completely debunked.  Alas, I haven't.  If you have not read the story, you should really take a look, though.  It's amazing that the FBI can put people in jail for decades based on “science” when they never even did meaningful tests to see if their “science” really deserved the name.  If you are more in the mood to listen than read, you can also download the 60 Minutes podcast of the story.  Either way, it is really worth your time.
This Thanksgiving, you can be thankful that you are not reading this from jail based upon a bogus, scientifically invalid conviction.  

A bit more Surge

Eaerlier this week I posted that the surge has not worked.  Today, Ezra Klein provides a nice summary of an American Prospect article that extensively makes the case (from Ezra):

Read Matt Duss
on “the Surge.” Glad as we all are that Iraq is getting better, not an
inch of the improvement, so far as anyone can tell, is related to the
surge, or has furthered the cause of national political reconciliation.
There's been a drop in violence because Sunni tribes have turned on
jihadists, because mixed areas have been ethnically cleansed, because
certain factions are tentatively working together, because Sadr has
decided to calm his militia's actions, and so forth.

We have surveyed this great bounty, noticed it has nothing to do with national reconciliation, and in fact points the other way,
and happily embraced “bottom-up reconciliation,” which means arming
various tribes and warlords under the hopes that they later,
voluntarily subsume their authority to a central government they

But these aren't changes that we wanted. Indeed, they're changes point
away from the direction we've always claimed to favor, and are exposing
the failure of our political strategy — national political
reconciliation — which the Surge was supposed
to abet. So judged on its original aims, the surge has been a
tremendous disappointment…

Basically, the same point I was trying to make earlier this week, but much more nicely done. 

Republican health care

Don't want to be the only lefty blogger not to link to today's great LA Times story on the Republican candidates' health care plans.  Giuliani, McCain, and Thomspon have all had cancer and:

All three have offered proposals with the stated aim of
helping the 47 million people in the U.S. who have no health insurance,
including those with preexisting medical conditions. But under the
plans all three have put forward, cancer survivors such as themselves
could not be sure of getting coverage ? especially if they were not
already covered by a government or job-related plan and had to seek
insurance as individuals.

?Unless it?s in a state that has very strong consumer protections,
they would likely be denied coverage,? said economist Paul Fronstin of
the Employee Benefit Research Institute, who has reviewed the
candidates? proposals. ?People with preexisting conditions would not be
able to get coverage or would not be able to afford it.?

Steve Benen's pithy summation is my favorite:

It offers a helpful contrast between the downsides of the two parties?
approaches to healthcare. The problem with the Dems? plans is that
they?re expensive. The problem with the Republicans? policies is that
sick people of modest means can?t get health insurance.


You'd think that hospitals, multi-million dollar operations would be smart enough to not have the whole operation fall apart over somebody who makes maybe $12/hour.  Alas, my experience at WakeMed Raleigh– where million-dollar diagnostic equipment sat idle where highly trained technicians sat waiting for patients, all for a shortage of patient transport personnel– is far from unique

Of all the cogs in that process (reports! scans! diagnoses! lab
results! consults! chains of command! available beds!), one of the most
essential and least respected is the patient transporter, whose
qualifications typically include a high school diploma, a pleasant
disposition and a clean record. ?My job is to move the patient from
Point A to Point B,? says Mr. Sarieminli, who has worked in this
position for seven years…

As administrators in major hospitals around
the country know well, a dawdling patient transporter can set off a
chain reaction of delays throughout the institution.

Seems to me, if hospital administrators had any sense, they'd make sure never to run out of these cogs in the machine so that million-dollar operating theaters, highly-paid doctors, etc., are not just sitting there wasted.  Better to have a patient transporter sitting around with nothing to do than an MRI machine and technician.

Let’s be clear: The Surge has not worked

Okay, so I've been meaning to do a nice long post regarding the title of this post.  Alas, time for blogging is in quite short supply these days.  Thus, let me mention that you should read last week's Tom Ricks' piece in the Post about the failure of the surge.  In short, it does not matter that casualties are down.  The whole point of the surge was to create an environment for political reconciliation that seems further away than ever.  From the beginning of Ricks' story:

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq — Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.

In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military
officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure
to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and
Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government
to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but “it's unclear how long that window is going to be open.”

The lack of political progress calls into question the core rationale behind the troop buildup President Bush
announced in January, which was premised on the notion that improved
security would create space for Iraqis to arrive at new power-sharing
arrangements. And what if there is no such breakthrough by next summer?
“If that doesn't happen,” Odierno said, “we're going to have to review
our strategy.”

About that strategy.  It's not working.  Dan Froomkin has a nice column juxtaposing Ricks' sobering account with GWB's Iraq enthusiasm.  

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