December 10, 2006

Weblog Awards Daily Post (121006)

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 4:06 pm

Voting continues, ending Dec. 15. A vote for BizzyBlog at the “Best Business Blog” ballot (also accessible at the WLA graphic) would be greatly appreciated. You are allowed to vote once every 24 clock hours. If you’re new here and in evaluation mode, see the biz/econ-related posts in the “Top 20″ near the top right on this page. Several gained wider distribution. Others to vote for: (links to ballots) Viking Spirit, Right Angle Blog, Pundit Review, Hot Air, Brussels Journal, Willisms, Sean Gleeson.

Weekend Question 4: What’s the Next Frontier for Junk Science?

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 4:05 pm

ANSWER: Looks like it’s trans fats. The control freaks of the world are making quick progress without the science to back their claims.
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I had no idea about this until I read this editorial at OpinionJournal.com yesterday — yet another reason why WSJ and Opinion Journal are totally indispensable.

It turns out that, like the hysteria over “global warming” and “climate change,” the science relating to the harmfulness of trans fats, which were just banned in New York City last week, is NOT settled:

The Bloomberg Diet
The nanny state reaches into the kitchen.

You wouldn’t know it from the media coverage, but the science on the dangers of trans fats is still being debated, which helps explain FDA approval of the ingredient. It also explains why the American Heart Association, while no fan of trans fats, was critical of the New York proposal and fears it may backfire if food outlets revert to even less healthy alternatives.

The food nannies insist that trans fats raise cholesterol and cause heart disease. The problem, says Steven Milloy of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is that the studies purporting to show this link are inconclusive at best. “People cite lab studies that show transient changes in blood lipids when people consume trans fats, but that’s a long way from heart attacks and heart disease,” says Mr. Milloy.

Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health is one of the nation’s leading trans fat alarmists. Earlier this year he co-authored an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that said trans fats “appear to increase the risk of coronary heart disease more than any other macroingredient.” As evidence the article cited three studies. One showed a statistically insignificant correlation between trans fats and heart disease when other risk factors are considered. The other two studies found a link between very high consumption of trans fats and heart trouble, but statistically the association was weak.

And just as global cooling turned into global warming in the space of roughly 30 years, trans fats went from desirable to being on the outs in less than 20:

Before other cities decide to regulate diets absent a safety issue, they might also consider that some of the same people now pushing for a trans fat ban once recommended the ingredient as a substitute for another health scare: saturated fats. Twenty years ago, Mr. (Michael) Jacobson’s CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) launched a public relations blitz against fast food joints for using palm oil to cook fries. The group claimed victory when restaurants started using partially hydrogenated oil instead. In 1988, a CSPI newsletter declared that “the charges against trans fat just don’t hold up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent.” Today, Mr. Jacobson is claiming trans fats kill 30,000 people a year. We wonder if he feels guilty.

The ultimate goal of these so-called consumer advocates is to persuade the FDA to turn on trans fats, a move that would serve the food industry up as the next entree on the plaintiff bar’s menu.

Although health-based lawsuits relating to food voluntarily purchased and consumed are absurd beyond belief, it would provide some relief if Mr. Jacobson were served up on a silver platter as a part of that process. But while it would fit the nannies’ definition of justice, it would never happen, because he has (conveniently) “seen the light.”

Just once, it would be nice if the climate police, the food police, the almost totally discredited recycling police, and the other control freaks of the world would admit that they are less than certain about the justifications for the laws, rules, and regulations they want to foist on the populace. Alas, that would open up the arenas involved to debate, which is the last thing they’ll tolerate.

Most Unpopular Thought of the Day: Mark McGwire Doesn’t Belong in the Hall (But Please Read Why)

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:40 pm

I believe that Mark McGwire doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, but not for the reason you might expect.

He acknowledged using Androstenedione (“andro”) during the year he broke the single-year home run record. It was legal to use, and did not break against any baseball rules at the time. He should receive no demerits for that. That would be like handing out speeding tickets to people who used to travel a given road at a legal 45 because the state decided to lower the limit to 35.

Though I have not watched any video of it, have not read a trancript, and have only seen selected quotes, I am told that McGwire’s Congressional testimony in March of 2005 was a PR disaster, because he refused to talk about his past and refused to rat anyone else out, as this Wiki extract shows:

As McGwire said in a tearful opening statement, “Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers ‘No,’ he simply will not be believed; if he answers ‘Yes,’ he risks public scorn and endless government investigations.” During the hearing, McGwire repeatedly responded to questions regarding his own steroid use with the line, “I’m not here to talk about the past.” McGwire also stated, “My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself.” When asked if he was asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, McGwire once again responded: “I’m not here to talk about the past. I’m here to be positive about this subject.”

It’s puzzling that some see this as an admission that he used illegal substances while he played (I doubt very much that he did), or of some kind of character deficiency. Sorry — Though I appear to be in a distinct minority in saying so, I don’t think his Congressional testimony should DQ him from the Hall. In fact, I think that those who want to keep him out solely on that basis are being horribly unfair.

McGwire was a class act during his playing career. Best example I can recall: In late August of 1998, during what ended up being his record home-run year, where every at-bat might prove crucial, he was called out on strikes in the first inning of a home game. He protested vigorously, and was ejected by the umpire, as a result obviously missing three or more additional chances to hit one out that day. His response after he cooled down? The umpire did the right thing (link is to ProQuest database, which requires public-library card access; article was in August 30, 1998 New York Times):

“I said things to the umpire that you can’t say on TV,” McGwire said. “I’m responsible for it. In the heat of competition, you do certain things, and I’m a competitor. …. He had a right to throw me out. I’m not any bigger than the game.”

So if McGwire’s use of “andro,” his Congressional testimony, and his character don’t disqualify him, what knocks him out?

His stats.

As Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune notes, after McGwire’s 583 home runs, it’s very slim pickings, and a few others need to get inducted ahead of Big Mac before he deserves consideration (links are to career stats of players identified; McGwire career stats are here):

Then I came to McGwire’s other batting stats.

Lifetime hits: 1,626. (Ichiro Suzuki, who has 1,354 hits after 6 years, is on track to do that in less than 7-1/2 years. –Ed.)

That’s it? Are you serious? Vinny Castilla has more. Jeff Conine has more. Juan Gonzalez has more. Ruben Sierra has more. B.J. Surhoff has 700 more.

No Hall of Famers in that bunch.

The brawny McGwire’s career batting average is a scrawny .263. His RBI total of 1,414 is not all that hot for a slugger.

….. Andre Dawson’s hit total is more than 1,100 higher than McGwire’s. He has twice as many doubles. His average is 16 points higher. He has 177 more RBI.

Dawson also won eight Gold Glove awards at his position. McGwire won one.

….. in practically every other statistical category, Andre Dawson outdid this man.

….. Beyond a controversy-free career and a .324 average in postseason play, Harold Baines has more RBIs than McGwire, than Dawson, than (Jim) Rice – more than all but 22 players in major-league history, in fact – as well as more hits than any of those three.

….. McGwire? I won’t disqualify him over an unproven drug thing, but I am seriously reviewing those stats.

No way – no way – he belongs in Cooperstown on the strength of 583 home runs alone.

Not unless a certain Mr. Dawson is in there with him. As well as a couple of other men I could mention . . . and just have.

I agree with Downey that McGwire — fine player, apparently a special person — doesn’t belong in the Hall. He’s probably going to be kept out anyway — but for the wrong reasons.

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UPDATE: Large Bill brings up fifth-ballot and (at the time) somewhat controversial Hall of Fame inductee Harmon (“Killer”) Killebrew in the first comment as a great benchmark against which to evaluate McGwire. Yup — on the plus side, Killer had 10 fewer career homers, but 170 more ribbies, 460 more hits, 242 more walks, 504 more total bases, and 116 more runs scored. But — He had a lower career batting average (.256), on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Killer’s last two years brought those final three figures down more than a little bit, and in retrospect, he may be kicking himself a bit for not retiring earlier. The Killer also needed over 2,000 more plate appearances to build up his gaudier numbers.

Overall, I think the comparison still argues against McGwire, because he’s way behind the Killer in some key areas, and because longevity also has to be part of the equation (but this is coming from someone [me] who at the time questioned whether Sandy Koufax was such an obvious leadpipe cinch for the Hall — Hey, he “only” had six great years :–>).

Weekend Question 3: ‘One Death Is a Tragedy; A Million Is a Statistic.’ What’s 149 Million?

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 9:38 am

ANSWER: The death toll (HT Club for Growth via One Oar in the Water) of those “killed or starved to death by their own Communist governments since 1918. These numbers do not include war dead. ….. All numbers are mid-estimates.”

The quote in the post’s title is attributed to Joseph Stalin.

Capitalism comes off relatively well by comparison. (/sarcasm)
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Previous Posts:
- April 7 — More on the Real Mao The News York Times’ Nick Kristof Couldn’t See Fit to Categorically Condemn
- Jan. 30 — NYT Columnist: Bush Reads “Mao: The Unknown Story,” Confirming That It’s a “Conservative” Book
- Nov. 30, 2005 — Fact-Based Historical Revision (Historian to Revise China’s Deaths from Mao Upward)
- Oct. 22, 2005 — Nicholas Kristof and Mao: He Just, Can’t, Let, Go

Positivity: Former NASCAR Driver Headed to Afghanistan

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 7:01 am

Lyndon Amick surely didn’t have to sign up for this, but he did (HT Right on the Right).

I won’t even try to excerpt it. Just read the whole thing, and thank God for the Lyndon Amicks of the world.