Video of the day

So, I was a little late to this, but if you haven’t seen the Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen parody on Chris Christie and bridgegate, you should.  Really.  Damn good stuff.

On coughing and the need to do something

During one of many seeming unending coughing bouts by my oldest years ago, I read that no cough medications work better than placebo for children.  None– not even codeine.  You are just wasting time with cough medicines for your kid.  (As an aside, I’m quite convinced the benzodiazepine, Ativan, works for my son.  He gets so stressed out by the coughing that he makes it worse.  The ativan lets him relax and start coughing.  Not exactly an on-label usage, but fortunately his pediatrician is on board).

Anyhow, what I missed was proper scientific research in the past few years that good old honey, yes, just simple honey, is dramatically more effective than placebo.  Just happened to hear about this on the People’s Pharmacy, yesterday.  Damn do I wish I had known about this when Sarah kept us all awake while all sharing a bedroom at Thanksgiving.

And today Kevin Drum summed up the latest evidence that cough medicines don’t just not work for kids, but not really for anybody.

But none of them ever seems to do much good. What’s up with that? R. Morgan Griffin explains why I’ve had so much trouble finding a cough medicine that works:

“We’ve never had good evidence that cough suppressants and expectorants help with cough,” says Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical officer at the American Lung Association. “But people are desperate to get some relief. They’re so convinced that they should work that they buy them anyway.” …

A 2010 review of studies found that there is no evidence to support using common over-the-counter drugs for cough. This includes cough suppressants, such as dextromethorphan, or expectorants such as guaifenesin, which are supposed to loosen up mucus in the airways. In 2006, the American College of Chest Physicians surveyed a number of cough medicine studies from the last few decades. It found no evidence that these medicines help people with common coughs caused by viruses.

I guess that $12 for a full bottle of Delsym I’ve got sitting in the medicine cabinet is money down the drain– especially now that I know it’s just a placebo.  That said, I’m chugging the honey next time I’ve got a cough (though I could not find any studies on honey in adult cough, but I’ve got to think it should work there, too).

Christie’s problem in a nutshell

Ezra puts in remarkably succinctly:

Chris Christie’s problem was never that some of his closest aides thought it would be a good idea to punish a mayor by closing lanes on a bridge. Christie’s problem was that some of his closest aides thought he would think it was a good idea to punish a mayor by closing lanes on a bridge. And now the press is going to start finding out why his top aides thought that.

There’s more at the link about the latest troubling information.  Where there is this much smoke, there is undoubtedly fire.  I’m generally reticent to make political predictions, but I’m putting a (plastic) fork in Christie’s national political ambitions.

Marriage and poverty redux

I missed this nice Chait post in my recent ramblings on marriage and poverty.  This chart he shows is pretty compelling:

Sure, marriage helps people not be in poverty, but not near as much as not being born into poverty oneself.

Chait gives conservatives their due, but then gets to the heart of the matter, policy-wise:

The conservative analysis of marriage is not ridiculous. Marriage may in fact be the single issue where the conservative analysis has the most power. The rapid growth of divorce and unwed motherhood has produced a huge increase in the proportion of American children being raised by a single parent, a vast social experiment with measurably harmful effects on children….

Yet the question hovering over the conservative defense of marriage is, so what? If the roots of the decline in marriage lie in a cultural sea change, what role does public policy have in reversing it, save for speeches hectoring Murphy Brown and her descendants? Liberals have a policy agenda that tries to accommodate the decline of marriage. Policies like expanded family leave, child care, and pre-kindergarten education would make it easier for single parents to work while ensuring their children receive decent care.

Chait’s main target is an Ari Fleisher Op-Ed and he concludes by rightly castigating Fleisher for failing to actually propose any policy:

Third, and most amazing, Fleischer castigates Democrats for failing to promote “initiatives that might address” marriage, but he fails to mention what such initiatives might be. His column does not contain a single marriage-promoting policy. He does not even bother to go through the pretense of urging somebody to think about the issue and come up with a solution. I can’t quote Fleischer not providing a solution because you can’t quote something nonexistent, but please do read the entire thing. There’s nothing. The entire role of marriage in Fleischer’s argument is as an exercise in “Hey, look over there!” And this, surely, is the spirit in which Republicans can most enthusiastically take up the new fascination with marriage and inequality.

Marriage is great.  It’s great for married people and it’s great for kids (of course, always on average), but this fact does not mean there’s any policy solutions that will actually encourage more healthy marriages.

Climate change and peer review

Really liked this Phil Plait piece asking essentially, so, climate-change deniers, where are your peer-reviewed publications.  Gotta love this chart:

global warming denial

A-ha, you’re thinking, but those damn liberal, ideological climate change ideologues just won’t let anything else through.  As if, compellingly argues Plait:

Huh. Here’s the thing: If you listen to Fox News, or right-wing radio, or read the denier blogs, you’d have to think climate scientists were complete idiots to miss how fake global warming is. Yet despite this incredibly obvious hoax, no one ever publishes evidence exposing it. Mind you, scientists are a contrary lot. If there were solid evidence that global warming didn’t exist, or that CO2 emissions weren’t the culprit, there would be papers in the journals about it. Lots of them.

I base this on my own experience with contrary data in astronomy. In 1998, two teams of researchers found evidence that the expansion of the Universe was not slowing down, as expected, but actually speeding up. This idea is as crazy as holding a ball in your hand, letting go, and having it fall up, accelerating wildly into the sky. Yet those papers got published. They inspired lively discussion (to say the least) and motivated further observations. Careful, meticulous work was done to eliminate errors and confounding factors, until it became very clear that we were seeing an overturning of the previous paradigm. It took years, but now astronomers accept that the Universal expansion is accelerating and that dark energy is the culprit.

Mind you, dark energy is far, far weirder than anything climate change deniers have come up with, yet it became mainstream science in a decade or so. Deniers have been bloviating for longer than that, yet their claims are rejected overwhelmingly by climate scientists. Why? Because they’re wrong.

Yep.  This is not a hoax or a vast liberal conspiracy.  Just science doing it’s job.  If only politicians would do their’s and listen to the science.

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