SURRENDER

Posted in Rants on August 18th, 2009 by Ed

I am often critical of conservatives for being ideologically committed to means rather than ends. For example, why does the average Republican support tax cuts? Maybe the college-educated ones will sputter something facetious about a goal ("to promote economic growth!") despite the paucity of supporting evidence. But for most of them, taxes must be cut because taxes are bad. There's no higher-level reasoning involved. We're not cutting taxes to accomplish anything; we have to cut taxes because we don't like taxes. This type of reasoning is largely responsible for the predicaments in which we so often find ourselves as a society. It makes no sense. We build dams to generate electricity or control flooding, not because we like dams. We pass laws to serve some specific purpose, not because "passing laws is a good thing."

I encourage everyone to bear this in mind before unsheathing the knives on Congress and the President for the alleged death of the "public option" in the healthcare debate. A very wise faculty member in my graduate program, someone whose academic interests had little to do with mine but who was a terrific mentor, taught me that goals are all that matter in public policy and we must be agnostics about methods. In this debate I am committed to a goal: giving every person in the country access to health insurance that is both affordable and useful. If this is achieved via a Euro-style single payer system run with an iron fist by the Federal government, I will be happy. If this is achieved via a co-op plan which caters heavily to the demands and interests of for-profit insurance companies, I will be happy. If this is achieved via an intricate system of lasers, mirrors, and rhythmic chanting, I will be happy.

It matters not how it gets done, only that it gets done. While I don't have a lot of faith in the Let's All Grab Our Ankles for Humana Plan, which is disturbingly similar to the failed 1994 effort at reform, I am willing to give it an opportunity to work. It has never been my position that everyone in the nation should get free healthcare from Uncle Sam. Instead I believe that we already have programs to cover the elderly and the destitute, so the goal is to find a way to provide affordable coverage to working people whose employers are among the growing ranks of shirkers who cut corners in ways that would have been unthinkable fifty years ago.

A LETTER TO THE DEAN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN LAW SCHOOL

Posted in Rants on August 17th, 2009 by Ed

August 17, 2009

Kenneth Davis, J.D.
Dean, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law
975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706

Dean Davis,

As an academic with a rather active and classroom-inappropriate website, I want to preface my remarks by stating emphatically that I support the right of faculty to express themselves outside of the confines of their professional lives. The UW-Madison Law School should be commended for its willingness to support Bascom Professor of Law Ann Althouse as she maintains an active presence on the internet as a political commentator. From the tone of this introductory statement you are no doubt expecting that this is where one would begin the complaint; on this count I will be utterly predictable.

Prof. Althouse's ideology and opinions are not the subject of my complaint as the University and the School are no doubt comfortable with her right to say what she pleases, although the costs to the Law School's professional reputation when she makes statements such as "but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the "O" of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home" (6/19/07) as the ex-President attempts to eat an appetizer cannot be measured. I must wonder, however, what effect Prof. Althouse's disregard for or ignorance of the basics of formal logic and argumentation have on her ability to effectively teach attorneys-in-training.

In her promotion of the broadly discredited conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in a foreign country, Prof. Althouse recently said the following: "If Obama can't convincingly prove he's not a Muslim/not born in Kenya, it only means the rumors might be true." (8/14/09) I urge you to overlook the politically controversial and factually dubious basis of her statement and consider the fact that this is an exceptionally basic logical fallacy, the argument from ignorance. The individuals who teach formal logic classes to freshmen on your campus – and I was one of them a decade ago – cover such elementary forms of illogic in the first few weeks of class. I am not unused to encountering fallacious arguments from students, media commentators, political figures, and strangers. Seeing a professor at a highly-ranked law school routinely embarrass herself with her inability to construct arguments that are logically consistent is less common.

Academics-turned-bloggers (or in my case, vice-versa) must live with the effects of their private lives on the perceptions of their colleagues and students. I regularly risk students concluding, "My professor is an offensive asshole, and he swears too much." What I do not risk, but Prof. Althouse does, is having students conclude, "My professor is an intellectual lightweight who couldn't pass a freshman logic course and can't construct a basic argument." I won't suggest that my bewilderment at her poor rhetorical skills means that she cannot teach well (i.e., argument from incredulity) but her consistent inability to adhere to the basic rules of logical argument of which I have cited but one recent example raises the question.

Whether the issue is Prof. Althouse's promotion of far-right conspiracy theories or Kevin Barrett's public involvement in the 9/11 "Truth Movement," UW-Madison has proven that it can provide an outstanding education despite the unconventional personal beliefs of its faculty members. I question whether the same can be said of daily public displays by a faculty member of a very basic inability to perform the most fundamental intellectual task of an academic.

Regards,

(name and affiliation redacted, but included in the hard copy I sent)

PS: Note in advance the inadequacy of Prof. Althouse's predictable and clever (in her opinion) response that she merely said the theories "might be" true, which represents a legalistic attempt to cover her backside but is every bit the logical fallacy that a solid assertion would be.

Tags:

RICH TUCKER GETS THE FJM TREATMENT

Posted in Rants on August 14th, 2009 by Ed

Boy, our media have done such a fine job of reporting the news that matters over the last few years. I think it's safe to say that the contemporary media is simply the best it has ever been. You know what we could use? A paean to the ratings-driven, completely unaccountable, hyperpluralist clusterfuck that is today's media, preferably with noble language about the valuable role of the "citizen journalist!" But who would be brave enough to write such a piece, to cheer when others boo or demand Coke when everyone else is drinking Pepsi? Three words: Rich Fucking Tucker. Finally America has a journalist brave enough to talk about just how amazing the American media are today. God bless you, Rich. "We'd Rather Not Have Fewer Sources" may be exactly what this nation needs to regain its trust in the media. Or it might be a radioactive dog link of a column which will make us all dumber for having read it. But come on, what are the odds of that? It's on TownHall for chrissakes!

Did the following quote appear in The Onion, or a major American newspaper: “An intense period of corporate consolidation over the past 25 years, aided and abetted by deregulation by the Federal Communications Commission, has reduced to a mere handful the sources from which most Americans get their news”?

Well, since it's not even remotely funny, not satirical, and appears to be a mere statement of fact I'm gonna go with major American newspaper. This question was too easy, Rich. Here is my impression of a Rich Tucker-style pop quiz question:

"Did the following quote appear in a Hallmark card for a child's birthday or Mein Kampf? 'I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.'"

Take your time, Rich.

It may read like a parody,

It doesn't.

"May" is a great word, isn't it, Rich? It allows us to say all kinds of things that aren't remotely true! Like, this may be a well-written column.

but those words were actually written by celebrated reporter Dan Rather on the op-ed page of the Aug. 9 Washington Post.

See what Rich did there? It's about Dan Rather and the word "Rather" is incorporated into the title of the piece!!!! Take that, Alexander Pope!

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, as the saying goes, but not his own facts.

This sounds like something a person would say to introduce a column decrying the fact that people now have dozens of ideologically discrete sources giving them news filtered in a way that flatters their personal biases. That's what this is, right Rich?

Oh…

And the fact is that Americans enjoy more sources of information today than ever — and we’ll enjoy even more in the weeks, months and years ahead.

No, Americans enjoy more "media outlets" repeating the same information in different ways, information which almost inevitably originates from real reporters working for one of the dinosaur major broadsheets or one of the big TV networks.

Now excuse me for a moment while I take a big mouthful of hot tea…

Consider YouTube, the non-partisan source of unfiltered information.

*spit take*

Wha-wha-whaaaaaaaat? YouTube? YouTube? YouTube is a sign of progress, Rich? Eight billion terabytes of Fall Out Boy videos, skate bails, people's cats, and millions of jackasses flapping their Bugles-stained lips into webcams? It certainly is "unfiltered," Rich, which by definition means that almost all of it is utterly worthless shit.

It makes videos of almost everything available to almost everybody,

That's the calling card of a useful and high-quality source of information: quantity. Rich, have you seen those Pizza Hut commercials that promise "over three pounds" of pasta per order? That should make little red flags shoot up, flags indicating that if a food item's selling point is its sheer bulk, it probably tastes like Roy Cohn's asshole. These same flags should be present when revelling in the fact that YouTube promises us billions of videos from and to anyone with an internet connection.

creating idiotic Internet sensations such as the “don’t taze me, bro” guy. But it’s also a powerful political force.

Actually, that was somewhat newsworthy. Not his catchphrase, but the issue of what is and isn't over the line in terms of both behavior at public political events and police use of force to maintain order. Good thing neither of those issues are relevant anymore.

Just ask former Sen. George Allen of Virginia, whose re-election campaign (and, indeed, entire political career) unraveled when he was taped referring to a supporter of his opponent as “macaca.” Allen joked, “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia!” But he could have said, welcome to the future, when every slip-up will be available on the Web within minutes.

The reason this became a story is that someone recorded it, not that it was loaded on YouTube. The Webb campaign had this in every major news outlet's inbox an hour after it happened. You suck at picking examples, Rich.

It’s also worth pointing out that the mainstream media had little interest in the town hall meetings our elected representatives were holding this month until videos of energized protesters started popping up on YouTube.

Really? Uh, I guess I'll take your word for it on the timing. But you're right about the media taking an interest once they realized what a human zoo these things are. Screaming, illiterate idiots are ratings gold!

Now, such meetings are being covered live by CNN. That’s real progress.

If a horrible stand-up comic accidentally shits himself on stage and the audience bursts out laughing, are his skills progressing?

Dan Rather clearly pines for the world of 1974, when he was a White House correspondent and Americans really did have to get their news from a “handful” of sources. Back then there were only three networks, and they faithfully followed the lead of The New York Times when deciding which stories to cover and which to ignore.

It really sucked when we had to have discussions based on a shared conception of the facts. Thank god the media are now diverse enough to offer several different sets of "facts" so that we all just yell past one another! I don't know how people lived in an era in which there was no TV news network to reinforce our preconceived ideas.

That made folks like Rather rich and powerful.

Unlike Glenn Beck. He's poor and no one listens to him. He drives a 1982 Cadillac Cimmaron which is more Bond-O than metal. It has a coathanger for an antenna and a trash bag/duct tape rear window. It reeks of Arby's. He lives in a complex of refrigerator boxes behind a Build-a-Bear Workshop.

But it didn’t help anyone who wanted unbiased news.

Which is what we have today. Exactly. This is my point.

Today’s readers have thousands of sources to turn to

But they're all dog shit, Rich. If 1000 people took a dump in your mouth, would it be better than 3 people doing it? I mean, at least you'd be getting some variety so you could make an informed decision.

from talk radio to the Web to live coverage on three full-time news networks. We can watch President Obama stumble through a town hall meeting as it happens, instead of waiting for a friendly newspaper write-up the next day.

Yeah, he's really been struggling. Unscripted Bush was so much better. Also, there are no conservative newspapers. Never have been.

The old cowboy reporter also misleads when he writes that a desire for corporate profits, “has meant a reduction in news-gathering personnel, the shuttering of overseas bureaus and the near complete subordination of a public trust to the profit motive.”

Wait, is this actually a matter of dispute? This is just a basic fact. Every major newspaper has gutted its most expensive operations to save cash.

Well. Know who profited handsomely from journalism? Gunga Dan Rather. His final contract with CBS (signed in 2001) paid him $6 million per year.

And in an equally relevant point, my favorite New Kid was Donnie. Ah, the art of the non-sequitur.

Nothing wrong with making money; that’s what drives capitalism.

Right, and therefore it drives privately-held corporations which own our media. You're doing a bang-up job making your argument here, shooter.

But the truth is that there are at least a thousand people who could have sat in the anchor chair and read the CBS Evening News for far less than $6 million.

And tens of thousands of socially maladjusted College Republicans who could write horseshit like this for far less than the $79 and two discount coupons to Old Country Buffet that Rich Tucker gets.

Suppose Dan had been dedicated to journalism. He might have taken a salary of $500,000 (still putting him in the top 1 percent of all wage earners) and had CBS spend the other $5.5 million on reporters, producers and videographers. Assuming each would work for $50,000, that’s an additional 110 people who could have been deployed in the field every day, doing the sort of journalism Dan Rather purports to celebrate.

Suppose Rich Tucker was dedicated to writing. He might have taken the 45 minutes he used writing this to procure a copy of Son of Sniglets and plaigiarize it for this column, thus dramatically improving the quality of the final product.

Rather claims journalists have “little incentive to report without fear or favoritism on the same government one is trying to lobby.” Yet his solution to the supposed problem would be a presidential commission to make recommendations on “improving and stabilizing” the news business.

Agreed, that's a pretty lame solution. That invalidates the underlying soundness of his argument. Like, if a doctor tells you "This X-Ray reveals that your leg is broken; go home and rub Goober Grape on your thighs" it is safe to assume that your leg isn't broken. You're fine. Walk it off.

So a federal panel is going to tell journalists how to investigate the federal government? Seems like an odd approach.

True. Let's defend the status quo based on the weakness of the straw man alternative!

The truth is simple: As long as Barack Obama is in office, mainstream reporters will tread gently, because they generally like him and support his agenda.

Unlike the media in 2002 and 2003 which went fuckin' Wolverine on the Bush administration when it was pre-gaming the Iraq War. I mean, they tore him apart like they were a pack of dogs and he was wearing a blazer made of ham.

That’s why the story of the fired Americorps Inspector General hasn’t gotten much play.

Who? Is this from The Onion? That hasn't gotten much play because it's mind-numbingly irrelevant, champ.

Yet when it comes to Obama’s predecessor, there are no such kid gloves.

That much has been established.

That’s why we’ll still see front-page stories about the 2006 firing of some U.S. Attorneys (who always serve at the pleasure of the president and can be fired any time for any reason).

What was this column supposed to be about? You're not so good at staying on topic, are you? This reads like 1000 words of "And here's another thing I just thought of…" Maybe don't push the deadlines so hard, Rich.

Also, U.S. Attorneys are exempt from Federal employment laws. They have literally NO legal protection. If the President decides to fire all the Jews, he not only has the right to do so but he can call a bunch of his advisors into his office and say "Go through the list of U.S. Attorneys and get rid of all the heebs." That wouldn't be newsworthy and the fired Attorneys would have no legal recourse.

Dan Rather’s eager to drag everyone back to the Stone Age, when he was able to control the flow of information.

1973 (Rich's reference point at the beginning of the column) was the Stone Age? Ah, he means the figurative Stone Age, back before the media wised up and replaced vast amounts of actual reporting with "commentators" spraying half-assed opinions at the cameras.

News flash: There’s no going back.

Only one way to wrap up a journalistic tour-de-force like this column: with an infomercial grade platitude which summarizes not only the writer's laziness and lack of talent but also the total absence of a purpose to the piece. This had no point, went nowhere, and didn't take a particularly enjoyable route to get there. That is the classic Rich Tucker Experience: getting into a car to drive from Chicago to Milwaukee and arriving in El Paso 72 hours later in a horse-drawn carriage.

Tags:

COOLIDGECARE

Posted in Rants on August 13th, 2009 by Ed

I understand the fundamental opposition conservatives have to healthcare reform. Really. No sarcasm. I recognize that a government-mediated system goes against the grain of their ideology and that most conservatives have a good faith belief that market-based alternatives are superior. I disagree, often in colorful terms, but I get it. There is one repetitive talking point, however, that I do not get. Here is a brief sample of the argument in the hands of D-list winger columnists and Congressmen:

Laura Hollis: "(Godless liberals) want to humiliate you into backing down while they take over your country, dismantle your constitutional protections, seize your assets, tax you into submission, and insert themselves and their appointed bureaucrats between you and your doctor."

Matt Barber: "It’s no longer you and your doctor deciding what’s best for you and your family; it’s Big Brother."

Chuck Norris: "…what is needed in Washington is a truly bipartisan group that is allowed an ample amount of time to work on a compromise health care law that wouldn't raise taxes (for anyone), regulate personal medical choices, ration health care or restrict American citizens."

Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH): "The last thing patients and doctors need is the government coming between them and guiding the choices made regarding their personal health care needs and treatment."

My puzzlement is complete and my question is simple: what insurance do these people have and where can the rest of us sign? What the hell is this fantasy world in which medical decisions are "between patients and doctors" without the interference of panels of dour bean-counters, a labyrinthine and faceless bureaucracy, and actuarial tables? These columnists, screaming protesters, and talk radio audiences apparently live in 1923. Their doctor makes housecalls with his leather bag of Olde Tyme medical instruments and is paid for his services in cash or To Kill a Mockingbird style with bags of apples left on his porch. Or if they do have health insurance, it is a silent and unobtrusive entity that lingers in the background for the sole purpose of shelling out money without question for whatever procedure Chuck Norris desires.

This isn't remotely about patients' rights or the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. It is, as wingnuts so often fail to grasp, about preferences. A panel of government bureaucrats denying coverage for a procedure deemed experimental is an image worthy of pant-shitting rage; a panel of "reviewers" at Cigna or Aetna doing the same is fine. Having to ask an Obama-appointed bureaucrat for permission to recieve certain procedures is unthinkable; that we routinely do the same thing with our HMOs and PPOs is irrelevant. The mental gymnastics of defending the status quo require either dubious reasoning about why Aetna red tape is better than Uncle Sam red tape or, as is the case with so many demagogues, fabrication of their own curious reality in which we are infinitely free to do as we please and in total control of decisions which affect our lives.

MARKET FAILURE

Posted in Rants on August 12th, 2009 by Ed

It is a fool's errand to expect any semblance of journalistic integrity from Rich "Mr. Sparkle" Lowry, the man who typed the following one-handed while furiously pounding on his crank during the most recent Vice-Presidential debate.

I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it.

But no matter how much or how little I expected of him, Lowry was busy working in secret to make sure he would disappoint.

Lowry is the perfect mascot for the overall decline of the conservative movement – the group that once resembled a blue-blooded country club gathering but now looks like the unwashed, illiterate gaggle of retards in the cheap seats at an unsanctioned regional pro wrestling match. The flagship National Review, founded by William F. Buckley as the high-brow conservative publication that non-conservatives could read and expect to see a cogent argument or two, has degenerated under the leadership of people like Lowry to the point that it is increasingly indistinct from PJTV segments and lightly-edited YouTube comments.

For example.

Some diligent review of Bush-era White House emails has revealed an amusing nugget which puts Lowry's moral and practical ineptidue in context. During the U.S. Attorney dismissal scandal, he apparently "offered to help" spin the firings in print to aid his friends in the White House communications office like Sara Taylor. She wrote:

Prior is going after (Rove protege and newly appointed US Attorney Tim) Griffin. He's made this his cause…. We need to find some folks to defend Tim and his credentials, not to mention our policy.

Your thoughts? Rich Lowry offered to help Tim

Leaving aside the hilarious fact that Taylor went on to ask, "Anyone better?" let's count the ways that Lowry is a whore. No, I'm not talking about his abandonment of even the pretense of journalistic ethics. I'm talking about the fact that he's not even a good conservative – there's a going rate for this kind of service, Rich! Why give it away for free? Armstrong Williams got paid $240,000 to fluff No Child Left Behind on his radio show and in personal dealings with black religious leaders and journalists. Maggie "Will Fuck for Pie" Gallagher received $41,000 through Health and Human Services to promote the "Healthy Marriage Initiative" in 2005 – including testimony before Congress in which she conveniently neglected to mention her status as a hired shill. Michael McManus and his front group "Marriage Savers" received over $53,000 to do the same as Gallagher. And here comes dumbass Rich Lowry offering to do it gratis. I thought these people were supposed to understand the free market. You know how the old saying goes: why buy the cow when Rich Lowry will suck your dick for free? Most people suck it because doing so is lucrative, but I guess others just love the taste.

You have failed Buckley's legacy, Rich. The old man would have charged out the ass for this kind of service.

BIPOLARITY

Posted in Rants on August 11th, 2009 by Ed

Several hundred years from now the career and public life of Sarah Palin will be summed up with two statements made 24 hours apart:

August 7th: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

August 8th: "There are many disturbing details in the current bill that Washington is trying to rush through Congress, but we must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment. Such tactics diminish our nation's civil discourse which we need now more than ever because the fine print in this outrageous health care proposal must be understood clearly and not get lost in conscientious voters' passion to want to make elected officials hear what we are saying. Let's not give the proponents of nationalized health care any reason to criticize us."

The logic is flawless: make an unsubstantiated, inflammatory statement about "Obama's Death Panels" and then appeal for civility and calm. As I have said literally hundreds of times regarding the rhetoric of right wingers over the years, one of two things must be true here. Either Palin does not understand that her statements make no sense collectively and utterly lack thematic consistency, i.e. she is stupid, or she understands exactly what she is doing, i.e. she is a sociopath.

This was consistently the case with George W. Bush, and I frequently responded to his supporters by asking them to pick one. Is he an idiot who doesn't understand what phony intelligence and bad decision-making look like or is he a liar with an agenda and no regard for the consequences of his actions? The explanation proffered – it was an innocent mistake made with the best of intentions by people who were fooled (and who wasn't?) by highly credible intelligence – simply defies plausability. Similarly, in Palin's case we are expected to believe that she is interested in having a civil debate based on the merit of ideas while riling up the idiocracy with dire warnings, warnings which mouthbreathers near and far will unquestioningly accept as fact while hand-loading their own rifle ammunition in their basements, that the President's plan is a carbon copy of the Nazi T-4 euthanasia program. Even Trig wouldn't buy that.

While a lot of these people are probably morons, I lean more toward the "asshole psychopaths" explanation. People like Palin and Beck and Limbaugh know exactly what they're doing. They're pushing their violent, asocial followers over the edge and periodically issuing phony, ass-covering pleas to Keep Things Civil and Don't Do Anything Violent. And when some unhinged asshole decides he needs to kill his Congressman or take a few dozen shots at the President to keep him from instituting his "death panels," Palin and Beck will be the first to say "Well, gosh! We certaintly don't condone that, nor did we intend for it to happen!"

That hordes of deluded, screaming idiots are "almost lynching" members of Congress is hilarious to the GOP. When they finally get their wish, we know from the multiple "violent right wing shut-in arms himself to the teeth and dies in the midst of a killing spree" incidents since Obama's victory that Beck, Instarube, Palin, and the rest of these mentally unstable demagogues will not only defer responsibility but work to place it on the victims.

ORIENTED

Posted in Quick Hits on August 10th, 2009 by Ed

Grad school orientation: "OK, seriously people, don't fuck the undergrads. Come on. Just don't."

New faculty orientation: "Remember grad school orientation? When we told you not to fuck the undergrads? You probably didn't listen. But now, seriously people, don't fuck the undergrads."

DARTS

Posted in Quick Hits on August 10th, 2009 by Ed

1:40 in the AM, nothing is unpacked, and I just spent two addled hours finishing a syllabus after 6 hours shopping for furniture. My capabilities are limited at the moment, so:

1. Mike brought this really sad and pathetic interview with Alberto Gonzales, late of one of the most powerful offices in the world and now a lecturer…at Texas Tech. It is notable for containing, in less compact form, the following exchange:

"What about all the ethics investigations?"

"They all determined that I did nothing wrong."

"But what about the ongoing ones?"

"I can't comment on that."

I can think of nothing to better summarize him as a person and as a public servant.

2. Atlanta is not an example of poor urban planning. It is the complete absence of urban planning, a nearly Los Angeles-like monument to letting the Invisible Hand of the Market serve as urban planner which sprawls idiotically across the landscape and is forced into remedying its sprawl with a seemingly endless array of concrete ribbons carrying seven lanes of traffic in each direction (and yet still bumper-to-bumper 90% of the time).

NPF: TREATMENT EFFECTS IN PLAIN ENGLISH

Posted in No Politics Friday on August 7th, 2009 by Ed

I'm moving. Like, right now. The amount of time I have available to blog is minimal, so for today I'm going to do a dramatic, FJM-style reading / interpretation / English translation of the side effects listed on the GlaxoSmithKline website for the weight loss drug Alli. Perhaps you've seen the commercials. The company left a few things out of them.


1. what are the side effects of alli?
Most side effects are related to the way you take the product and how much fat you consume when taking alli. Not everyone experiences GI side effects (or "treatment effects"), but they can be manageable when you follow a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet.

We are eager to avoid answering that question. So "What are the side effects?" is answered with, "Well, most of the side effects come from eating fat." We have also euphemistically labeled them "treatment effects" to take away some of the sting.


2. will alli affect my sleeping pattern?
No. alli is non-systemic acting and won't affect the central nervous system. You will not feel the same jitteriness or palpitations from the drug.

This isn't really your first concern when taking a digestive/metabolic drug, but we answered it first because it's the only question we get that doesn't involve a terrifying answer.


3. does taking fiber with your diet help to reduce treatment effects?
There is no conclusive scientific evidence that fiber will reduce the treatment effects of alli, although fiber has many benefits to your body. However, eating a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet will help to manage treatment effects.

Boy, I bet you're really wondering what the "treatment effects" are by now.

4. what about treatment effects?

Alright, we've tapdanced around this for as long as humanly possible.

Treatment effects are bowel changes that are most commonly caused by eating meals with too much fat while using alli capsules.

That doesn't sound so bad! "Bowel changes" could mean having to go more often or perhaps less often.

Such effects may include oily spotting

Yeah.

Eating fats leads directly to "oily" "spotting." So, in essence you will be a car with no muffler. The fats will bypass your digestive tract entirely and dribble out your ass like a leaky faucet. It will be like Chinese Water Torture for your underwear. In fact we can guarantee that the fat will go from your fork to your boxers in less than 5 minutes.

loose stools

Remember taking solid craps? Yeah, forget about that. With Alli at your side and in your system, it's nothing but mudbutt from now on.

and more frequent stools that may be hard to control.

We want to emphasize that you won't just have to go more often. You literally won't be able to stop it. No pinching-it-for-a-minute-until-I-find-a-bathroom. Just pure, raw power. Your ass will be like Buckingham Fountain. We're trying to downplay this, but I think you get the picture: the first time you take Alli and have a tablespoon of alfredo sauce, the structural integrity of your o-ring is going to be tested and most likely compromised.

alli works by blocking the absorption of a quarter of the fat in the foods you eat.

You're taking this to keep your body from digesting so much fat. That is your motivation, tubby. Remember that when you are in a public bathroom stall at a Greyhound station cursing a merciless god and re-enacting the Air Battle of Britain with your ass.

This undigested fat passes through the body naturally, and it is not harmful.

"Not harmful." In that it will not cripple you. Because, you know, explosive and intermittent diarrhea isn't technically harmful. It just really blows. A lot.

In fact, you may recognize it in the toilet as something that looks like the oil on top of a pizza.

This is getting really fucking gross, isn't it? Are you sure you want to take this? We're telling you – explicitly telling you – that you are going to make oil and vinegar dressing with your ass. And if you remember back a few sentences, you're going to be doing it frequently and without warning. So when you make an ill-advised decision to study the contents of the bowl after one of your 15 daily thunderbutt sessions, don't be surprised to see some floating oil. Yep.


You may feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it's probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work.

OK, so, you're an adult. And you just explosively shat yourself in public. But, uh, if you wear dark pants no one will notice. Never mind the fact that you will smell like a rendering plant. Your friends and co-workers will say "Hmm. It sure does sound and smell like Barb just shit her pants, but looking at her dark slacks I see no visual evidence." You'll be off the hook.

Also, if you end up needing to use your "backup clothes" at work, GlaxoSmithKline accepts no responsibility for, and makes no suggestions regarding, how you are supposed to get the shit-doused clothes home.

You may not usually get gassy, but it's a possibility when you take alli. The bathroom is really the best place to go when that happens.

Holy balls, you are going to fart like a motherfucker. If you can make it to the bathroom it may spare whoever sits next to you at work the wrath of your Ass Chernobyl. Come to think of it, if you take Alli it might be wise to work, eat, and sleep in the bathroom. It's just easier that way.

Eating a low-fat diet that consists of 15 grams of fat per meal on average can lower the chance of experiencing these treatment effects. Additionally, the alli program can help you reduce the likelihood of having treatment effects.

Look, this stuff is going to fuck you up but good. That said, you stand a half-decent chance – something like 30% – of reducing your need to have bathroom carpet-bombing missions if you eat right. 15 grams per meal isn't a lot. But it's what you can have. 16 grams and you will shit like a geyser. 15 grams. No more.

In closing, Alli forces you to eat less fat with vicious negative reinforcement. As a pharmaceutical it doesn't really make you thinner. It just makes you have violent assplosions every time you eat something that isn't good for you. It is the guardian angel on your shoulder. By "angel" we mean "bastard" and by "shoulder" we mean Lower GI tract. Because really, who wants to waste time eating good food and enjoying life when you could be power-shitting your way into a smaller dress size?

THE SPURIOUS AND THE UNSPURIOUS

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on August 6th, 2009 by Ed

I just had a long phone conversation with Glenn Reynolds (edit: NOT REALLY. This is a literary device known as "making shit up" for the sake of humor). He told me that he is going to post a lengthy correction and apology regarding a post he made on March 2. Here is what he said:

THE DOW-JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE since the passage of the stimulus bill. Looks like a vote of “no confidence” to me.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

In the five months since he decided that the DJIA was a reliable indicator of Presidential and/or policy performance the benchmark index has risen by 37%. 37%! So tomorrow Glenn is going to write about how the Market God has bestowed upon our President the most confident of votes.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Noting that two things happen at the same time and assuming that causality exists between them is called spurious correlation. It is what stupid people do when they are getting ready to make really bad predictions – not just the bad "I think this is the Cubs' year" kind, the epic-bad JFK "I think it's OK to leave the top off the convertible today" kind – or lose a lot of money in the stock market. The fact that both the stimulus and the Dow Jones Average are related to the same central theme (our macro-economy) creates the reassuring but incorrect sense that correlation does in fact imply causation. False. Anything can be correlated with market movement and causality is always – always – a bad assumption. The market is like secret recipe hobo stew: there are so goddamn many ingredients, many of which the average person does not care to know about, that no one can say with certainty what causes what.

To wit: let's say I shaved my balls on Friday. Note that the market responded positively, only to once again decline as a vote of no confidence when the team of international observers (led by Jimmy Carter, former Canadian PM Brian Mulrooney, and the Dalai Lama) detected the growth of stubble.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The evidence is beyond dispute. My balls move markets.

Back in January the USA Today noted that the stock market performs significantly better – nearly 25% – in years in which the Steelers win the Super Bowl. And that America-hating prick Larry Fitzgerald almost ruined it all.

The market is not rational regardless of how many business school professors pitched tents over its majesty as an arbiter of every political, social, and economic process. Remember, the market once told us that DrKoop.com was worth $45/share. It decided that theGlobe.com was worth $97/share (3 months later: a dime). It is not a parliament which issues meaningful votes of confidence and no confidence. Only a long view of market trends can provide useful (and retrospective, mind you) insights. Trying to use its day-to-day and week-to-week fluctuations as evidence of one's preferred version of current events is logical to the same extent that cavemen banging on drums to make the sun rise (and it worked! every day!) made sense.