A California jury has awarded $289 million to DeWayne Johnson, a groundskeeper who has non-Hodgkins lymphoma and claims his disease was caused by glyphosate, Monsanto’s blockbuster pesticide marketed most prominently as Roundup.
Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times reviews the facts of the case and the scientific dispute surrounding glyphosate’s role, or lack thereof, in causing cancer. He points out, reasonably, that a courtroom is a lousy places to resolve scientific disputes; how many of the twelve jurors could define “statistical significance” or “type II error”? And the notion that non-experts can pick out the truth in a swearing contest between experts is simply laughable.
Hilzik notes that alternatives, including “bringing these cases before specialized tribunals or setting up public funds for victims of certain products,” “all have their own flaws,” and concludes with an expert’s view that the jury trial “is a highly imperfect process,” but that “like democracy, it’s the best we have.”
I doubt it. Continue Reading…
Everything I’ve learned about crime over 40 years, in 60 minutes.
It’s a mix of theoretical principles and practical suggestions.
“We massively over-punish
and haven’t gotten much in the way of results.
That doesn’t prove that punishment doesn’t work.
It just means we’re doing it wrong.”
Talk starts about 4 minutes in.
János Kornai, whose Economics of Shortage provided the only (as far as I know) theoretically coherent and empirically supported analysis of the actual functioning of the economies of the ComEcon states, has just been awarded the Open Society Prize at the commencement ceremony of the Central European University in Budapest.
This may be the last time that prize, or any CEU degree, is awarded in Budapest. The authoritarian, ethno-nationalist, and anti-Semitic Orban government in Hungary, installed with the help of Russian money and influence (does that sound familiar?) is moving forward a law aimed at Hungarian-born (and Jewish) George Soros, whose philanthropy helped create CEU; when it goes into effect, it will force CEU to leave the country.
Below is the text of a letter from Kornai to a friend in the U.S., followed by the text of the award speech by the Rector of CEU and Kornai’s acceptance speech.
Steve Schmidt – who is as unapologetically conservative as I am unapologetically liberal – had more or less the same reaction I did to the Trump policy that literally tears children away from their mothers’ breasts: that it was horrible to see people in American uniforms behaving like Nazis.
Glenn Greenwald, who has brought anti-anti-Trumpism up to the very border of Trumpism, was horrified: not by the fact that children were being maltreated by people wearing American flag insignia, but by the notion that this was in any way unusual.
Every tweet like this that creates bullshit jingoistic fairy tales about the Goodness of America instantly goes viral. Liberals now love nothing more than über-nationalistic revisionism like this from Bush-era Republican operatives. It’s the most bizarre pathology to observe.
(If Greenwald has criticized the new policy itself, as opposed to criticizing its critics, that critique does not show up on his Twitter timeline. Greenwald is consistent in constantly bashing Trump critics but avoiding criticism of Trump and Trump’s policies.)
Greenwald isn’t alone. This is fairly standard alt-left rhetoric, just as “We’re better than this!” is fairly standard liberal anti-Trump rhetoric.
If you’re both anti-Trump and pro-American, it’s natural to say when Trump does something awful, “This is contrary to American principles and a disgrace to the flag.”
If you’re pro-Trump or anti-American or both, the natural rebuttal is, “Nonsense! America has always sucked! Are you just noticing now?” (When Trump himself was asked about his buddy Putin’s habit of murdering critical journalists, he responded. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”). The far left and the alt-right are united in thinking that Trump is perfectly normal and that any objection to him (or to Putin or Kim Jung un) by liberals is hypocritical.
Of course Trump and Glenn Greenwald have actual facts to point to. Disgraceful things have been done in the name of the United States, from the Trail of Tears and the Fugitive Slave Act onwards. Abroad the record is at least equally equivocal: the U.S. has not been – to put it gently – a consistent friend of democracy and human rights in this hemisphere. More than once, we’ve backed the tyrants FDR referred to as “our sonsofbitches.” Whether a hypothetical historian from Mars would regard those as characteristic, or instead as unfortunate deviations from national principles, it’s hard for someone with less perspective to say.
But, as Nietzsche pointed out a long time ago, “critical” history isn’t the only kind. National myths are, themselves, potent realities. A country where the belief that horrible actions Aren’t Like Us is widespread has an internal political resource that helps political actors within that country oppose such horrible actions. A country where that belief isn’t widespread – where criminality is an accepted part of the political culture – lacks that resource, which of course is a benefit to criminal political actors within that country. The accuracy of the underlying belief is an independent question.
Or, as Matt Yglesias put in in a Tweet
Talk about how “this is not who we are” is not a literal claim about American history, and it’s permissible (praiseworthy, even) to engage in some rhetorical gambits while trying to Do Politics.
So, as a liberal and a patriot, I’m going to keep saying “This. Is. Not. Like. Us.” Saying so is one way to make it so.
Update Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, when the torture question first arose, Glenn Reynolds (“Instapundit”), who had been vociferously pro-war, was briefly anti-torture. (He changed his mind when torture was defined as a partisan issue, with Democrats plus McCain against it and Republicans for it.) Reynolds approvingly quoted another warblogger as answering the question, “Why shouldn’t we torture terrorists?” with “Because we’re the f*cking United States of America, that’s why!” Seemed to me an excellent answer, in part because it claimed the high ground of patriotism for the anti-torture position.
The synthetic opioids – usually referred to both in the press and by law enforcement as “fentanyl” – have now outstripped not only the prescription opioids such as oxycodone but also heroin in terms of overdose deaths, and (as you can see below) the trend line is almost vertical.
Keith Humphreys warns of “fentanyl’s potential to permanently alter illegal drug markets.”
Kevin Drum asks about the causes of the change: “Fentanyl has been around for a long time, and only recently has its use become widespread. Why?”
Why, I thought you’d never ask. Settle back; this is a complicated story, and it’s going to take a while to tell. But Keith is right: this is a BFD. So it’s worth understanding. Continue Reading…
Oh, well. As Churchill didn’t quite say, “An occasional meal of one’s own words is part of a healthy, balanced diet.”
There’s been lots of chatter about the cannabis-opioid substitution question.
People whose background is medical research tend to distrust anything that’s not a randomized controlled trial. They point to the positive correlation between cannabis use and opioid use at the individual level, and the fact that opioid deaths continue to rise even where cannabis is most freely available. Their position is, “We don’t know anything about this. Let’s due the clinical studies before taking action.”
But “not taking action” now means continuing to criminalize even the possession of cannabis. If cannabis substitutes for opioids, those laws cost lives: lives that can’t be regained ten years from now, after the clinical-trial results are in.
Moreover, the relevant clinical trials can’t actually be done in the U.S. Continue Reading…