Archive for July 29th, 2008
Bombing civilians for some reason makes them turn against you. ThinkProgress:
According to statistics provided in a new report from the United States Institute of Peace, the use of air power in Afghanistan by U.S. and NATO allies has increased from 5,000 pounds of munitions per month in 2005 to 168,000 pounds in December, 2007. The result is that “civilian casualties increased by 62 [percent] in 2008, compared to figures from the first six months of 2007.” The report says the increase in air power is a result of a shortage of troops and suggests that the resulting increase in casualties is “a key reason for the Taliban comeback”:
Stabilizing Afghanistan requires the support of the Afghan people. This presents a fundamental dilemma in that stability requires security, and security requires targeting insurgents, which, in turn invariably leads to civilian deaths. These civilian casualties have led to the erosion of civilian support for the counter-insurgency.
Troop levels in Afghanistan have been insufficient given the geographic and demographic scope of the challenge, resulting in increased reliance on air power as a substitute for ground forces.
Very interesting article by Michael Dorf. It begins:
Last week, California became the first State in the Union to ban trans fats in foods sold in restaurants. With the ban, which is set to go into effect in 2010, California joins New York City and a handful of other jurisdictions that forbid trans fats.
Critics of the ban will no doubt decry it as one more example of “nanny state” excesses. Proponents, by contrast, will point to the positive health effects for the millions of people—including minors, who cannot be expected to make responsible nutrition choices—in the nation’s most populous state.
In this column, however, I will put to one side the question of whether the trans fat ban is wise social policy, in order to consider a broader phenomenon that the ban represents: the impossibility of following the Framers’ original vision of federalism in a highly-integrated national economy.
American Federalism, From Thomas Jefferson to Clarence Thomas
To understand how California’s trans fat ban challenges traditional notions of federalism, we must begin with those traditional notions. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates most of the powers of Congress, while the Tenth Amendment reserves to the States those powers not enumerated. This division of labor has sometimes been called “dual sovereignty” to express the idea that, depending on the subject matter, sovereignty will reside either in the national government, or the state governments.
Yet from the very earliest days of the Republic, federal power threatened to swallow that of the States. President George Washington asked two of his ministers, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, to prepare competing memoranda on the constitutionality of a proposed Bank of the United States. Hamilton, an ardent nationalist, thought that the power to create the Bank could be inferred from the powers enumerated in Article I, Section 8, even though no express power to create a national Bank was included in the Constitution. Jefferson, in contrast, thought the Bank was unconstitutional. He foresaw that permitting implied powers in the way that Hamilton favored would logically lead to a virtually omnipotent federal government.
Hamilton won the argument in the Washington Administration and, ultimately, in the Supreme Court. When the issue finally reached the Court in 1823, Chief Justice John Marshall repeated most of Hamilton’s analysis en route to upholding the Second Bank of the United States in McCulloch v. Maryland.
Yet Jefferson’s anxieties were never fully expurgated. …
There’s a group of people who consistently deny that secondhand smoke is harmful, regardless of any studies to the contrary. Here’s another study they’ll have to deny, reported by Kelli Miller Stacy in WebMD:
Nonsmokers who are married to someone who smokes have a greatly increased risk for stroke, a finding that further underscores the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Researchers reporting in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine say the risk varies depending on whether the nonsmoking spouse has smoked in the past.
Secondhand smoke makes a person more likely to develop heart disease, but until now, few studies have linked such exposure to stroke risk. One trial suggested that a husband’s smoking increased a wife’s chances for a stroke, but only if the woman also smoked.
For the current study, M. Maria Glymour, ScD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues looked at the smoking habits of the spouses of more than 16,000 stroke-free married adults aged 50 and older who were enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).
The study only evaluated cigarette use, not cigars or pipe tobacco. Researchers followed the participants for about nine years to document the occurrence of first stroke. During the study period, there were 1,130 first strokes reported.
Being married to a current smoker increased the risk of a first stroke by 42% among those who never smoked.
The risk of stroke was higher for former smokers who were married to current smokers. Former smokers who had a smoking spouse had a 72% increased risk for stroke compared with those who were married to a never-smoker.
The good news, researchers say, is the risk can be cut if the spouse kicks the habit. Participants who had never smoked and who were married to a former smoker had nearly the same stroke risk as never-smokers married to never-smokers.
“These findings indicate that spousal smoking increases stroke risk among nonsmokers and former smokers. The health benefits of quitting smoking likely extend beyond individual smokers to affect their spouses, potentially multiplying the benefits of smoking cessation,” Glymour writes in the journal article.
Businesses and professional arbitraters like it, but no one else does. David Arkush, Taylor Lincoln, and Peter Gosselar on The Watchdog Blog:
Last November, Public Citizen released “The Arbitration Trap,” a scathing report exposing the one-sided nature of “justice” for consumers trapped by the National Arbitration Forum. The report inspired a lawsuit against the NAF by the city of San Francisco (WSJ[$], Watchdog Blog) and an in-depth examination of the practice by BusinessWeek (previous Watchdog Blog coverage here, Watchdog Blog’s analysis of NAF’s response to the article here).
“The Arbitration Trap” also prompted the Chamber of Commerce to commission a Catholic University law professor, Peter B. Rutledge, to write an official response. The Chamber also gave Rutledge financial support for a law review article in which he reviews empirical evidence on arbitration. These papers claimed that the broad sweep of serious academic research shows that our report was just plain wrong – “both on the facts and in its ultimate conclusions.”
We decided to check up on these academic papers. And – guess what? – it turns out that Rutledge and Co. don’t quite have the goods to back up their talk. In fact, their own sources don’t support their claims. Not a single comparative study Rutledge cites showed that individuals received larger average awards in arbitration than court. On other measures, the studies favored court overwhelmingly.
On alleged arbitrator bias, secrecy, confidentiality, appeal mechanisms, arbitrators’ adherence to the law and their own rules, and the ability of claimants to research arbitrators’ backgrounds, Rutledge offered assurances that our complaints were conjured out of thin air.
We decided to check up on Rutledge’s claims – starting with a thorough reading of Rutledge’s own past scholarship. And behold. On alleged arbitrator bias, secrecy, confidentiality, appeal mechanisms, arbitrators’ adherence to the law, arbitrators’ adherence to their own rules, and the ability of claimants to research arbitrators’ backgrounds, we found a new star witness: Rutledge himself voiced many of our concerns in his previous writings.
Yes, Rutledge recently said it was a myth that arbitrators have incentives to favor businesses. But before conceding the argument, we opened up a paper Rutledge wrote in 2004. The words poured out, “[arbitrators] who may seek to develop reputations for being friendly to particular parties or particular industries may actually have incentives that cut against independence.”
Maybe. Take a look. The post at the link begins:
On July 20th, Julianna’s (delayed) Delta flight landed in Atlanta at 7:30pm, with a connecting flight scheduled for 8:05pm. Julianna, who has muscular dystrophy, missed the connecting flight because nobody came with a wheelchair until 8:05—the same time the connecting flight took off. To make matters worse, the plane crew told Julianna she might make the flight anyway if she stopped waiting for help and got off the plane right now, so she crawled down the stairs on her own. When the wheelchair came she was “wheeled into a back room and advised” that her plane had taken off. But that was just the first half of her ordeal, and the next eight hours only got worse.
Read the whole story at the link.
In part, because some people do not like reason. The New Scientist has a special section this time:
Seven reasons why people hate reason
Special Report from New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
Linguist Noam Chomsky talks about reason and exaggerated claims. Watch the full-size video
Penrose talks about when we need to sidestep reason. Watch the full-size video
Bioethicist Tom Shakespeare talks about why reason doesn’t tell a good story. Watch the full-size video
From religious fundamentalism to pseudoscience, it seems that forces are attacking the Enlightenment world view – characterised by rational, scientific thinking – from all sides. The debate seems black and white: you’re either with reason, or you’re against it. But is it so simple? In a series of special essays, our contributors look more carefully at some of the most provocative charges against reason. The results suggest that for all the Enlightenment has achieved, we still have a lot of work to do.
How humans dared to know
The 21st-century passion for “Enlightenment values” owes a lot to the 18th century. Philosopher A. C. Grayling discusses where those values come from and what they mean today
1: Reason stands against values and morals
Shaping a moral and humane world requires more than reason, says Archbishop Rowan Williams
3: I hear “reason”, I see lies
Science is routinely co-opted by governments and corporations to subvert people’s ability to make their own decisions, say sociologist David Miller and linguist Noam Chomsky. Watch a related video.
7: Reason is just another faith
Unconditional reliance on a single authority is never sensible, says philosopher Mary Midgley.