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Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Passion 

Saw The Passion of the Christ this weekend. I have to say I don't understand what the big controversy is. If you ask me, I'd say the main players in perpetuating this anti-semetic controversy are just using that to bring publicity to their views. I think they would admit as much if you could get them alone and off the record. Other thoughts from the movie part of the movie:

- The film could be broken into three parts: the first third representing his capture and "trial," the middle third representing his torture and trek through the city, and the final thrid representing his crucifixion. The first and last parts were extraordinary film-making - the middle third was, well, not. I don't care about the amount of violence, which some object to. I don't care about the unrealistic nature of his beating. It was just boring. The few flashback scenes were ok, but not very descript, and the action was repetitive. I assume that was the point, but it made for a poor sequence of film and lost my interest for a time.

- I appreciate the fact that Mel Gibson wanted to recreate the story as told in the Bible. And I appreciate that there is a good argument to speak the languages as they were spoken in the day to make it more authentic. But that means they must speak the languages as they were spoken in the day. Now, I can't speak to Aramaic with any knowledge or authority. Nor was my high school Latin education enough to allow me to speak about the Latin grammar with any authority either. But, the pronunciation was pretty horrible. Hell, they went through all the trouble to speak the language, the least they could do was speak it well. All it would have taken is a phone call to the nearest high school and a few hundred bucks to the Latin teacher. I guess it's no big deal, but if you're going to do it, you gotta do it right.

- I enjoyed the portrayal of Satan. I think the thing I liked was that he was very striking and ,if I may say, a beautiful man. Most portrayals are demonic and ugly, maybe with the exception of Liz Hurley in Bedazzled. But this one wasn't - during the previews, I had no idea who that was supposed to be. I assumed it was an angel or a woman. Just thought that was interesting.

Update: I have been told that Sataan was played by a woman. Makes sense. They dubbed its voice with a man's, so that caused some of the confusion. I huess that means I'm not gay - not that there is anything wrong with that.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Updates 

Interesting link to the dark side of campaign finance reform.

Yet another update to attitudes regarding free trade. And why won't economists stand up to protectionists? Here's even more than you asked for.

Paris Hilton may finally get justice.

And finally a link to one man's thoughts on today's Supreme Court decision that upheld the state of Washington in denying a scholarship it had awarded a student because he planned to major in theology.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

It's Official 

President Bush just did the stupidest thing he's ever done. (And that is probably hard to do).

This is as good a place as any to go on record repeating the prediction I have been making for over a year (just ask my mother): The Democratic candidate will win the presidential election in 2004.

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Monday, February 23, 2004

Is Free Trade Like Gravity? 

This is the question I posed to George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen. Is free trade theory to economics what gravity is to physics. (Namely, something without any experimental evidence concluding it to be false as a general rule) His answer:
    Overall I would say that we understand free trade better than we understand gravity!
He added the caveat that there are extreme exceptions where positive externalities exist in protected industries.

So if the benefits of free trade are a fact, why is such a hotly contested topic. Is it a political phenomenon or does it represent a lack of knowledge? ANd why aren't people at all moved by the notion of freedom implied in free trade?

Update: Alex Tabarrok links to a practical exhibit of this problem. As does Arnold Kling.

Update #2: Reader Blake provides a link to the excellent article by Paul Krugman regarding why people don't understand and accept theories of gains from trade.

Update #3: Read a Reason interview with author Johan Norberg who discusses globalization and its enemies.

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Ralph Nader 

My man Ralph has decided to give it a go. This has apparently angered every single person in the US even a smidgeon left of center. At this rate the only two votes for Nader will be from him and his mother, and she is on the fence.

These liberals who take offense to Nader's move, namely all of them, fall into two groups. These are mainstream liberals who fear Nader's presence will win the election for Bush and the progressives, left-wingers, and Greens who fear Nader's presence will win the election for Bush. Now the mainstream liberals are free to their opinion and I will not judge either way. To extent that this Nader force exists, it will definitely work against Kerry (whether it will actually cost him the election is certainly debatable).

I do, however, feel that the most liberal groups, at least the ones who regularly advocate the necessity for third parties to break into the ring, have a little 'splainin to do. Most of these groups would argue, I believe, that third parties should serve more purpose than to just get single issues introduced into the main campaign. Many of them believe, as do I, that these parties need to actually break into the inner political circle to break the conspiracy known as "bipartisanship." But when a third party candidate finally does to any extent make this move, you hear a bunch of bitching and moaning about how these candidates will hurt the chances of these groups second choice.

Look, under that algorithm of support, no third party candidate could ever get much higher than what we saw from Ralph in 2000 and Ross in 1992. Which is fine, I guess, if you proclaim not to care. But if you espouse the belief that third parties are a good thing for the reason stated above, how do you justify that. You can't, and there is a word for it. It's called hypocrisy, and it is of the worst intellectual crimes.

Speaking of hypocrisy, read this about good ol' Ralph from TCS's Radley Balko.

Update: And the more I think about, those that support third parties for the traditional reason of issue politics are hypocrites, too. For any third party to have any influence in bringing issues to the mainstream campaign, they actually have to have political power - the Green's can't make the Democrats pick up an issue unless they have the political power to punish the Democrats who don't by stealing enough votes to cost them an election. If the Green candidate could only win about 0.5%, the Democrats would not be forced to listen. But if they could take 5%, it's a different story.

All this makes me think that these people often don't have any idealogical principal, they just like being different for its own sake. But when it might actually make a difference, they back down.

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Free Advertising 

NC State Econ professor Dr. Craig Newmark has provided a link to my salt article on his blog, Newmark's Door. He is one of my favorite bloggers and I appreciate the link.

I visit his blog daily, along with Reason's Hit & Run and the Mariginal Revolution, to find the most intersting links and thoughts. I am assured at each site to find something to make me think hard about something I may or may not thought about before.

I would like to give Dr. Newmark extra appreciation for linking to a site where you can play popular 80's arcade games, and thus consuming a quarter of this past weekend.

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

He Must Have Been Getting High On His Own Supply To Think Of This One. 

An assistant principal at a Michigan high school has been placed on administrative leave after admitting to planting drugs in a student's locker:
    Police say Pat Conroy told them earlier this month that he placed the marijuana in the male student's locker at South Haven High School last year because he suspected the student was a drug dealer. Conroy told police he was trying to get the boy expelled.
They also found a stash in his office desk.
    After Conroy told police his story, they searched his office Feb. 9 and found a drawer filled with packets of suspected marijuana and assorted pills, the police report said.
According to the story, he may face charges of marijuana possession. No mention whether he'll face charges relating to framing a student. Only in the War on Drugs.

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Friday, February 20, 2004

Cato Offerings 

I recently plugged Randy Barnett's Restoring the Lost Constitution on this blog. Go here to read a brief synopsis of his thesis detailed in the book. It is short and very interesting.

Elsewhere Western Kentucky native and Cato Executive Vice-President David Boaz has some choice words for both parties of governement who have conspired to expand their power. It seems that Michael Moore was right all along when he said the two parties were exactly the same - he was just wrong about which party's rhetoric they espoused.

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Updates 

Here is what's new regarding two stroies I've commented on below.

Reason's Jacob Sullum comments on the bill restricting funding for metro ads favoring drug law reform.

And thankfully the New Mexico senate has killed the breathalyzer interlock bill. Here's a question: this bill was passed in the NM House of Representatives by a 2-to-1 margin, but it never even reached the floor of the Senate. I don't think this is really all that unusual. Can somebody out there who knows more about government explain the disparity? If a bill of given merits is presented, shouldn't the opinion of the two houses be similar?

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Thursday, February 19, 2004

Simmons On A-Rod 

ESPN's Bill SImmon has 33 reasons why Red Sox should calm down about the Yankees and A-Rod. Some of my favorites:

- "This A-Rod fiasco made us realize that Ben Affleck needs to be stopped. I loved "Good Will Hunting" as much as anyone, but did you see him ranting and raving at the Daytona 500? Since when did Ben Affleck become The Voice of Red Sox Fans? Who nominated him? Would a true Sox fan ever propose to a chick with a big ass from the Bronx? In a million years? I really think we should vote on this -- let's have an election and everything. Ben Affleck needs to be stopped. I'm not kidding."

- "All right, how can this POSSIBLY turn out well with Jeter playing shortstop and A-Rod playing third? Defensively, Jeter has been a below-average shortstop for years -- every possible defensive statistic says so. A-Rod is significantly better. Maybe he isn't Ozzie in his prime, but his defense at a premium position was one of the things that made him special."

- "Along those same lines, you can't buy your way to a championship. Many have tried. Few have succeeded. Last time I checked, you still have to play the whole season. In the words of Adam Carolla, 'You can't just go out and buy a championship ring ... well, unless Dwight Gooden runs out of coke'."

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A P-to-the-T welcome to the newest member Kristina Talbert-Slagle. Kristina goes to Yale School of Public Health and is married to Jamie, who graduated from Washington & Lee School of Law. Their 1-year-old son, Colin, is parented by a master of public health and a lawyer. Watch out big tobacco!
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The ACLU is a Bunch of Wusses (And I'm One of 'Em)! 

Reader John Anderson points me to a story about a new law passed in New Mexico requiring all new cars in the state be equipped with a breathalyzer-ignition interlock system, meaning you would have to pass a breathalyzer everytime you wanted to start your own car.

The ACLU is poised to challenge this law. I don't think that is even necessary because this is so blatantly impractical and unconstitutional that it will find its way into the abyss. But still, the nerve of those asshats in the NM congress.

I then read this from UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh commenting on this episode and its similarities to attempts at requiring all guns to have some sort of user-recognition device. There is also this open letter to the ACLU about its views toward the 2nd amendment. It seems that the ACLU, and organization of which I am a member and who claims to be dedicated to defending liberty and the Bill of Rights, is remarkably silent about the nearly analogous gun issue. In fact, the ACLU claims to be neutral on all gun issues, totally disregarding the 2nd Amendment. Regardless of your feelings about gun laws and gun control, you have to find it a little disingenuous for the ACLU to claim neutrality to a freaking amendment in the Bill of Rights! I don't care if each and every memnber wants to remove the 2nd amendment, they are each bound to defend it as long as it is there. To do otherwise is to totally undermine their credibility.

I am a supporter of the 2nd amendment. Ten minutes after I signed up for the ACLU I searched their site to find what they had to say about the issue. I wasted 30 minutes of my life trying to find anything at all. Nothing. I found this interview with ACLU president Nadine Strossen, where she briefly touches on the issue. She claims that some regulation of guns is not inconsistent with liberty. I might not necessarily argue with that (I don't know either way), but a just a little research will make it clear that the ACLU will (rightly) abide no regulation of 1st amendment liberty or any others. But when it comes to guns they're willing to compromise. I'm not buyin'.

I could go on about the two faces of the ACLU, and how they also refuse to defend economic liberties and liberty of association, but it is more of the same. I will continue to support the ACLU because I believe in their principles. I just wish they had more of them.

Amended Post: While I'm on the subject of liberty and the Constitution, here's a plug for Boston University law professor Randy Barnett's new book, Restoring the Lost Constitution. My copy is in the mail. I'll tell everyone how it turns out.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

NPR You Down With It? 

I wish Stephen Jay Gould was still alive to comment on the evolutionary role of NPR in sexual selection.

(This is an old post, but thanks to Brandon Huhn via Jessie Walker.)

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Federal Government Violates Constitution...Again 

A federal bill passed earlier this year contains an amendment that cuts federal funding to state and local transit authorities if they accept advertising that is critical of federal drug policy or sympathetic to drug policy reform. This is an obvious First Amendment violation in that Congress has made a law that abridges speech. (To argue that this is not a violation because it does not prohibit the transit authority from making speech is disengenuous because they rely on federal funding).

The ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance have come to the rescue by filing a lawsuit against against the US Governement and the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, who rejected an $85 million payment to ppst advertisement sponsored by these groups. I am not sure the WMATA should be forced to accept the advertisement, but they should not be forced to give up their funding if they do. The US is clearly in violation of the Constitution.

It is frustrating enough that the government institutes these drug policies, but is even more so that they try to squelch any debate about the issue.

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Monday, February 16, 2004

Dial M for "Major Waste of Cash" 

Bid on Jenny's number here.
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The Cat Is Out Of the Bag 

Well, after two weeks, I have my first web reference. Dr Rangel at RangelMD.com linked to my site in his own post about the IOM's salt recommendations seen below.

Thanks, Dr Rangel, for putting me on the map. How the hell you found it, I have no idea.

There's no turning back now!

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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Where To Begin? 

The following comes from a story in the Boston Globe:

The government is postponing its decision on whether morning-after birth control should be sold without a doctor's prescription.

Thinking of this in light of some of my other beliefs:

- I don't believe that doctors should be given the power to prescribe drugs (meaning all drugs should be over-the-counter).
- if they must, I don't think a government agency should exist that tells doctors what they should and should not prescribe.
- if it must exist, the FDA should practice science immune from politics.
- if it can't, it should at least not let its politics be affected by someone's personal notions of morality.

With regard to its most recent decision noted above, the FDA has hit quite a grand slam. Whether I have reason or not, I am optimistic that Plan B will be approved as an over-the-counter contraceptive. I am, however, angered that we must incur this totally unnecessary delay.

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Friday, February 13, 2004

No Salt For You! 

The salt nazis at the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine has issued a report that makes several claims dealing with American intake of salt, potassium, water, etc. In it they claim that we should all decrease our salt intake by half. Steven Milloy of JunkScience.com properly takes the IOM down. If I may, I will pile on.

As medically knowledgeable readers will note, it is quite appropriate for a blog known as The Proximal Tubule to comment on this story. The kidney is often characterized as a blood filter taking out whatever the body does not need. This is not entirely true. The kidney instead removes all products smaller than a certain size, good and bad alike, and reabsorbs necessities in a structure called the proximal tubule. It mainly brings back sodium, potassium, organic acids, chloride, glucose, and water. Not only does the PT reabsorb just the molecules it needs, it generally only does so in the proper amount.

If you are following along properly with regard to sodium, this means that if you have normally functioning kidneys, they will filter out all the sodium and then reabsorb the necessary amount. You could eat pounds of salt, and a healthy person will just excrete what they do not need.

Indeed, there is little to no evidence that normal individuals with a high-salt diet have higher risk for developing high blood pressure or other health concerns. Even more surprising, there is some evidence that low-salt diets carry more health risk than high-salt diets in normal individuals. A well respected nephrologist at my medical school once told me that low-salt diets carry the risk of increased sympathetic tone to the heart (in other words, low fluid volume/pressure in the vessels causes the body to compensate by sending signals to increase pressure - these same signals also tell the heart to work harder) and that, if he had to choose, he would prefer high-salt to low-salt. Of course, he added, this is a false choice because the hallmark of good health decisions is moderation.

One caveat is needed in dealing with people with high blood pressure. A common theory of hypertension holds that maybe these people have a disruption in the intrinsic set-point of the amount of sodium they keep. Thus, they hold onto more water in their vessels and increase the fluid pressure in these vessels. There is little doubt that these people benefit from resticting sodium intake.

But the bottom line is people put a lot of faith in what the government tells them about their health. Whether they should or shouldn't, this is reality. I am concerned when a large political bureaucracy makes a sweeping statement about our diets that has no basis in scientific fact, and quite possibly, may be the opposite of the truth. I am leery of any body, governmental or not, that thinks that politics can trump science.

Amended Post: Read this article for excellent history of the politics and science of this issue.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

It's A Girl! 

This is Trent. I am posting under Jessica Shah's new account in the PT. She will soon be adding her comments on this site. Also, all inflammatory comments by me will be made in her name. Send all angry emails to her.
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Here's a good example of what can happen when you politicize medicine.
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The woman who threatened a lawsuit against Janet and Justin has dropped her claim. She states that she "plans to wait and see if outrage over the incident will prompt new measures to prevent "indecent" material from airing on primetime television again."

Thank you, Ms. Carlin, for threatening to waste taxpayer money so that first amendment rights may someday be abridged. You are a true hero of freedom.

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Sunday, February 08, 2004

Notes on the Drug War War 

This paper by Boston University's Jeffrey Miron critiques the "cost-of-illness" figures used my many drug control groups, in particular the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Elsewhere, Jacob Sullum reports on efforts to limit the freedom to advocate against the drug war in the US and abroad.
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Here's a link to GapMinder. Go to the "World Income Distribution 2003" and click on "View." When the window opens, click on "World" so that it goes away, and then click on "USA" so that it appears. Then press play to watch an animated version of how the distrinution of wealth has changed from 1970-2000.

The thing I found interesting is how in 1970 the distribution was more normal, but in the intervening time it has become almost bimodal. In this time we have instituted social programs that have redistributed a large portion of our economy, yet we have created a large underclass instead of eliminating a small one. So if we want to vote for a presidential candidate who is going to do even more of the same (and this describes the candidates in both parties), maybe we should first make them answer a few questions. Like: 1) is government confiscation of wealth and income for purposes of redistibution consistent with individual liberty? 2) in light of that, do social programs actually achieve their stated goals? and 3) if the answer to the first two questions is no, then why do still have these programs and often make them much bigger?

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Saturday, February 07, 2004

Presidential Positions On Malpractice Reform 

I hope to be posting an essay on medical malpractice tort refom soon, as the president of the AMA visited UK this week.

In the meantime, here is an article about how John Edwards built his fortune (registration required at NYTimes).

Here is John Kerry's stance on medical malpractice reform. It's important to note that I heard him say in a speech that in addition he believes that doctor's should spread the risks amongst themselves and pay the same premiums.

And George Bush notes in the SOTU Address: "To protect the doctor-patient relationship, and keep good doctors doing good work, we must eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits."

Nobody cares what Al Sharpton thinks.

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Carolina Panthers Sue Janet Jackson's Breast 

Not really, but they should and somebody else beat them to it. A Tennessee woman has filed a lawsuit against Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, MTV, CBS, and Viacom claiming damages for broadcasting "lewd and sexually explicit" conduct.
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New links are up on the right side of the page. Also, there is a link to post comments after every post. Those of you who would like to post new entries, please email me and I can set you up.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

It's A Good Thing He Doesn't Want To Test Us For Fertility 

President Bush had an excellent idea presented in the State of the Union address that I believe has not gotten enough press:

"One of the worst decisions our children can make is to gamble their lives and futures on drugs. Our government is helping parents confront this problem with aggressive education, treatment, and law enforcement. Drug use in high school has declined by 11 percent over the last two years. Four hundred thousand fewer young people are using illegal drugs than in the year 2001. (Applause.) In my budget, I proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I proposed an additional $23 million for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children's lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don't want to lose you."

I think this is just genius! It's only fault is that it doesn't go far enough. Why just kids in public schools. Why not you and me? Doesn't W love us, too? Does he want to lose us?

Well, I am going to make him love me, and I need your help. Everyone who believes in an good cause, send me a sample of your urine, which I will proudly forward along with mine to:

The White House
ATTN: George W Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20050

Because my life is worth saving.

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Two interesting articles at "The Marginal Revolution."
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Monday, February 02, 2004

Pats By a Nipple! 

Superbowl XXXVIII was one helluva game. One of the breast ever.
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Sunday, February 01, 2004

Welcome, all! What better day to kick off The Proximal Tubule than on Super Sunday? Later for my take on the game.
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