Sunday, October 31, 2004

Endorsing W

If you're looking for reasons to vote for Bush, Megan McArdle gives the best arguments I've seen. I'm more critical of Bush than she is on "The Economy" and "Civil Liberties," but the big question for both of us is Foreign Policy. To me it seems that the whole Iraq invasion has been handled so badly that I trust Bush even less than I trust Kerry. And Bush's large failings in most areas of domestic policy (where I'm in a better position to evaluate his actions) erode this trust even further. Plus, even if Kerry is wrong about some things, a hostile House and Senate should keep him from doing too much damage.

Friday, October 29, 2004

What to put on your hot dog

Here's a great New Yorker piece by Malcom Gladwell about ketchup, made even more relevant now that big-ketchup money is so close to the white house. It also includes the story of what must be one of the greatest TV ads of all time:
Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?
(I actually prefer French's to Grey Poupon myself, but what I really like is spicy yellow mustard.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A very Kerry column

Slate magazine has posted their regular election-year feature where all their contributors reveal who they will vote for for president. This year it's Kerry in a landslide. He picks up the liberal majority of course, but also gets all the centrists and a few of the conservatives. One can't help notice that most of the votes are against Bush rather than for Kerry. There are many good comments I could quote, but I'll just state my agreement with this from Jacob Weisberg:
If elected, Kerry would probably be a mediocre, unloved president on the order of Jimmy Carter. And I won't have a second's regret about voting for him. Kerry's failings are minuscule when weighed against the massive damage to America's standing in the world, our economic future, and our civic institutions that would likely result from a second Bush term.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Swappin' votes

Here's an interesting Slate piece on "vote pairing," and the even more interesting story of a few overzealous secretaries of state who tried to bully it into submission.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Creepy hotel

North Korea is a very weird place. You must check out this page about perhaps "the single most unsettling structure ever erected by the hand of man:" the Ryugyong hotel. (via Marginal Revolution.)

Monday, October 18, 2004

And still more about drugs...

Here's an interesting article in the Times about musicians using beta-blockers to help quell performance anxiety. (via Medpundit)
The little secret in the classical music world - dirty or not - is that the drugs have become nearly ubiquitous. So ubiquitous, in fact, that their use is starting to become a source of worry. Are the drugs a godsend or a crutch?


The Washington Post has a good piece on the decision by drug company Merck to take the drug Vioxx off the market. News accounts often try to spin these kind of stories as melodramas, with clear heros and villains, but I thought this article was notable for its attempt to portray the complexity of a difficult issue. Merck is actually portrayed in a favorable light overall. Quote:

Gilmartin was clear that the trial should be halted and that the drug might have to be taken off the market . "Look Peter, we're going to make this decision based on what's in the best interest of science and patient safety," Gilmartin recalled saying. "It's not that we're unaware of the consequences, but it's a deep-seated belief that if you do the right thing, rewards will follow," he said of the decision to pull the drug.

The decision was also sound litigation strategy. The company was already facing two class action lawsuits alleging patient harm from Vioxx. Anything that smacked of a cover-up would have strengthened the plaintiffs' hands.

"Running away from your problems, denial, is the worst possible choice," said Anthony M. Sabino, professor of business law at St. John's University.

The article also notes that experts still don't agree that the drug should be removed from the market. The safety of similar Cox-2 drugs is still in question.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The needle and the damage done

I'm hoping the unfortunate shortage of flu vaccine this winter will have one silver lining: it could bring attention to the problems with regulation in the market for vaccines. Check out this excellent post by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution on the topic. One quote:

Note that even if the prices are high enough to earn the company a modest profit the point is that they are not high enough to make it worthwhile to make a surplus of vaccine that can be sold in the event of a contamination problem, as has happened this year. If the firms can't price high during a shortage then there is no incentive to plan for a shortage. Even without legal price caps there are significant disincentives to high prices. Here is a CDC spokesperson (link to audio file) on recent price increases:

Shame on the people who are price gouging. This is a reprehensible thing to be doing. I think an immoral thing.

Is it any wonder that firms don't want in on this market?

Friday, October 08, 2004

Mistakes were made

This story reports new lows in evading responsibility. A ceramic mural by artist Maria Alquilar just installed outside the new library in Livermore, CA, was found to contain several misspelled names of historical figures, including "Eistein" and "Shakespere." The artist's unapologetic response:
There were plenty of people around during the installation who could and should have seen the missing and misplaced letters, she said.

"Even though I was on my hands and knees laying the installation out, I didn't see it," she said.

Anyway, she said, the mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan.

On the bright side, she was somehow able to spell "Tonantzin (the Aztec goddess of motherhood), Tutankhamen (an Egyptian pharaoh) and Archipenko (an American sculptor)