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Member since: 2002
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Real Scientific Literacy, Part II


"5) How to Analyze a Scientific Study


7) Consensus Matters


9) Understand Denialism


Scientific literacy means not only having a working understanding of the big ideas of science, but also understanding critical thinking and how science works. This list of the basic components of the latter two is certainly incomplete, and I welcome feedback about what else should be included.



Part I here: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/real-scientific-literacy/

and here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1016141920


The GMO labeling movement is as organic as a Twinkie



So what happened over the last few years to make this such a heated battle? Organic companies and environmental groups teamed up to launch a well-funded attack on GMOs. The first shot was fired in September 2011 when the Center for Food Safety joined with several organic companies to file a petition at the FDA asking the agency to require mandatory GMO labels. Petitioners included the Organic Trade Association, Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s Homegrown, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farms. Since that time, the organic industry has spent millions to push for GMO labels (proponents spent more than $10 million on Washington State’s failed GMO labeling referendum in 2013).

One of the biggest spenders is Stonyfield Chairman Gary Hirshberg, who launched Just Label It in 2012 to promote mandatory labels. Hirshberg is a main funder and frontman for the pro-labeling movement, helping sponsor other GMO-labeling referenda in California, Oregon and Colorado (all failed). Last year, Hirshberg produced Internet videos featuring celebrity moms to warn other moms about GMOs and state their support for mandatory labels. He even invited Gwyneth Paltrow to a Capitol Hill press conference he sponsored last August to explain her opposition to HR 1599.

But this is more about labeling to Hirshberg. His Just Label It website is loaded with anti-GMO propaganda. He’s an outspoken opponent of genetically modified crops in our food supply and his misleading comments are designed to foment fear among consumers – particularly moms – so they’ll instead buy his non-GMO products.


The Organic Consumers Association is another organic industry group that has led the crusade against genetically modified foods (the OCA represents “several thousand businesses in the natural foods and organic marketplace.) They’ve spent millions not just pushing for mandatory labels, but also for “a global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops.”



It's just an unethical industry out to con people. Nothing more.

The Clean Eating Delusion


"While some parts of the world are concerned with eating, because of food insecurity, the “worried and well-fed well” are increasingly obsessed with so-called “clean eating.”

This is nothing new, but like every cultural phenomenon, it seems, has increased partly due to the easy spread of misinformation over the internet. If you are anxious about your health, and who isn’t to some degree, your anxiety is fed by a steady diet of pseudo-experts, con-artists, and internet personalities telling you about all the things you eat that adversely affect your health.

This phenomenon is increasingly being recognized as a health issue among experts. In 1996 Dr. Steven Bratman proposed a formal disorder he calls orthorexia nervosa. He writes:

For people with orthorexia, eating healthily has become an extreme, obsessive, psychologically limiting and sometimes physically dangerous disorder, related to but quite distinct from anorexia.

Essentially orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. There are a lot of parallels with anorexia, which is an unhealthy obsession with weight control. As Bratman himself points out, and I want to emphasize – there is a spectrum from a healthy concern with eating a healthful diet at one end to a harmful or even delusional obsession with a restrictive diet at the other. This is also not an attack on veganism or vegetarianism, which are a combination of health and ethical considerations.



A good read, IMO.

Tell Me I'm Not The Only Reminded Of Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" By Trump, Cruz, etc...


"The novel is told from the point of view of Philip Roth as a child. It begins with aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, already criticized for his praise of Hitler's government, joining the America First party. As the party's spokesman, he speaks against American intervention in World War II, and openly criticizes the 'Jewish race' for trying to force American involvement. After making a surprise appearance on the last night of the 1940 Republican National Convention, he is nominated as the Republican Party's candidate for President. Although criticized from the left, and hated by most Jewish Americans, Lindbergh musters a strong tide of popular support from the South and Midwest, and is endorsed by conservative rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf. Lindbergh wins the election by a landslide under the slogan 'Vote for Lindbergh, or vote for war.' He nominates Burton K. Wheeler as his vice president, and Henry Ford as Secretary of the Interior. With Lindbergh as president, the Roth family begin increasingly to feel like outsiders in American society.

Lindbergh's first act is to sign a treaty with Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler promising that the United States will not interfere with German expansion in Europe, (known as the 'Iceland Understanding' after the place it is signed), and with Imperial Japan, promising non-interference with Japanese expansion in Asia (known as the 'Hawaii Understanding'). The new presidency begins to take a toll on Philip's family. Philip's cousin Alvin joins the Canadian army to fight in Europe. He loses his leg in combat, and comes home with his ideals destroyed. He leaves the family and becomes a racketeer. A new government program begins to take Jewish boys to spend a period of time living with exchange families in the South and Midwest in order to 'Americanize' them. Philip's brother Sandy is one of the boys selected, and after spending time on a farm in Kentucky he comes home showing contempt for his family, calling them 'ghetto Jews.'

Philip's aunt Evelyn marries Lionel Bengelsdorf and becomes a frequent guest of the Lindbergh White House, even being invited to a dinner party for German Foreign minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop. This causes further strain in the family. A new government act is instituted relocating whole Jewish families to neighborhoods out west. Many of Philip's neighbors move to Canada. Philip's shy and innocent school friend Seldon Wishnow, an only child, is moved to Kentucky with his mother. In protest against the new act, radio broadcaster Walter Winchell openly criticizes the Lindbergh administration and is fired from his station. He then decides to run for President and begins a speaking tour. His candidacy causes anger and antisemitic rioting in southern and midwestern states, and mobs begin targeting him. Making a speech in Louisville, Kentucky he is shot to death. Winchell's funeral in New York City is presided over by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who praises Winchell for his opposition to fascism, and openly criticizes President Lindbergh for his silence over the riots and Winchell's death.

After making a short speech, Lindbergh's personal plane goes missing. Body hunts turn up no results and Vice President Wheeler assumes command. The German State Radio discloses 'evidence' that Lindbergh's disappearance, as well as the kidnapping of his son were part of a major Jewish conspiracy to take control of the American government. This announcement causes further antisemitic rioting. Wheeler and Ford, acting on this evidence, begin arresting prominent Jewish citizens, including Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Herbert Lehman and Bernard Baruch, as well as Mayor LaGuardia. Seldon calls the Roths when his mother doesn't come home. They later discover that Seldon's mother was killed by Ku Klux Klan members who beat and robbed her before setting fire to her car with her in it. The Roths eventually call Sandy's exchange family in Kentucky and have them keep Seldon safe until Philip's father and brother drive to them and bring him back to Newark. Months later, he is taken in by his mother's sister. The rioting stops when first lady Anne Morrow Lindbergh makes a statement asking for the country to stop the violence and move forward. With the body searches called off, FDR runs as an emergency presidential candidate, and is reelected. Months later, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and America enters the war.


Docs v. Glocks: government regulation of physician speech



As finally passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott, the 2011 Firearm Owners Privacy Act subjects physicians to disciplinary action for making “verbal or written inquiry” into a patient’s firearm ownership when the physician does not “in good faith believe” such inquiries are “relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety of others.” The Act included amendments to the Florida Patient’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, adding similar provisions. (The Act also applies to health care facilities, but here we will discuss only its effect on physicians and their patients.) Physicians may not enter any information regarding firearm ownership into the patient’s medical record if they know this information is not “relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others.” They may not “discriminate” against a patient “based solely on the patient’s Second Amendment right to own firearms or ammunition.” Finally, physicians must refrain from “unnecessarily harassing” a patient regarding firearm ownership during an examination.

Shortly after Gov. Scott signed the Act into law, several physicians filed suit in federal district court challenging its constitutionality (Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida). The controversy was dubbed “Docs v. Glocks,” a term widely adopted by the media. Similar legislation has been introduced in at least 12 other states.

The Act, the physicians said, was an unconstitutional infringement on their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and was unconstitutionally vague because they were not fairly put on notice as to what they were expected to do to comply with the Act. (We’ll mostly focus here on the First Amendment issues.)


loser to the SBM home, my concern about legislative bodies making medical judgments is reinforced by state laws promoting politically-favored messages not necessarily consistent with evidence-based medical practice. (I do not include the SOCT bans in this category. There the legislature’s judgment was medically sound.) As we’ve discussed a number of times on SBM, legislators sometimes wander far outside the boundaries of science in making decisions affecting healthcare: Legislative Alchemy, the 21st Century Cures Act, non-medical vaccination exemptions, and “Right to Try” statutes. Physician questioning about gun ownership is, in my view, based on a reasonable judgment that discussing it is, at least arguably, a medically sound preventive medicine practice. Yet, the court, in requiring “relevancy” to a specific patient’s medical care based on a “‘some particularized information about the individual patient” effectively overrules the physician’s judgment. The same is true of state laws requiring physicians to make scripted speeches containing medically irrelevant information. Perhaps we need a constitutional “right to science” to protect the public against scientifically unsound legislative decisions."


When some Republican tries to talk about "smaller government," remind that individual that the GOP works to tell health care workers how to do their job, and it doesn't care about best practices when doing so. It's just pushing ideology via bad laws.

1986 Interview Of Nat Hentoff: Good Stuff From A Complex, Influential Writer


"IN ``Boston Boy'' (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95), Nat Hentoff tells of the time, as a teen-ager, he slipped and fell on the ice on Elm Hill Avenue. When he looked up, a gang of Irish kids were standing around him. Was he Jewish, they wanted to know? Desperate, the decidedly Jewish Nat decided to pretend he was Greek. After all, this was Boston around the late '30s, a time when gangs of Irish toughs stalked the neighborhood like wolf packs, looking for Jewish prey; a place where Father Coughlin's newspaper, Social Justice -- sold each Sunday throughout the city -- warned constantly of the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

Later, Nat was less fortunate and had a tooth punched out when Irish youths caught him unprotected. But this time his Greek tactic allowed him to escape unscathed. What's more, a pop-music record he was clutching somehow remained unbroken.

Potent vignettes like these -- recalled from a mellow distance by a clear-eyed journalist -- trace the roots of Hentoff's social views as he tells of his life in Boston until the time he left for New York at age 28 to write about jazz in Down Beat magazine.

Hentoff's name was later to become virtually synonymous with fiercely independent stands -- on First Amendment rights, Middle Eastern politics, and many other social issues -- taken in his Village Voice and Washington Post columns, his books, and elsewhere. And that pop record he was clutching was an early sign of his other lifelong interest -- jazz -- which, in ``Boston Boy,'' serves as a frequent metaphor both for life and for the freedom of expression that means so much to him: Hentoff became a renowned jazz critic whose pieces are seen on the Leisure & Arts page of the Wall Street Journal and in other publications. Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and other jazz greats strengthened his ``life as heretic, a tradition I kept precisely because I am a Jew,'' he says in the book. These jazz musicians were ``my chief rabbis for many years.''



A great mid-week break, or so I think.

The Stacks: John Coltrane’s Mighty Musical Quest by Nat Hentoff

The tenor saxophonist was one of the most imaginatively restless artists to ever work a bandstand. Nat Hentoff explains why we're still playing catch up with this musical genius.


"Coltrane, a man of almost unbelievable gentleness made human to us lesser mortals by his very occasional rages. Coltrane, an authentically spiritual man, but not innocent of carnal imperatives. Or perhaps more accurately, a man, in his last years, especially but not exclusively consumed by affairs of the spirit. That is, having constructed a personal world view (or view of the cosmos) on a residue of Christianity and an infusion of Eastern meditative practices and concerns, Coltrane became a theosophist of jazz. The music was a way of self-purgation so that he could learn more about himself to the end of making himself and his music part of the unity of all being. He truly believed this, and in this respect, as well as musically, he has been a powerful influence on many musicians since. He considered music to be a healing art, an “uplifting” art.

Yet through most of his most relatively short career (he died at forty), Coltrane divided jazz listeners, creating furiously negative reactions to his work among some. (“Antijazz” was one of the epithets frequently cast at him in print.) He was hurt and somewhat bewildered by this reaction, but with monumental stubbornness went on exploring and creating what to many seemed at first to be chaos--self-indulgent, long-winded noise. Some still think that's what it was.

Others believed Coltrane to be a prophet, a musical prophet, heralding an enormous expansion of what it might now be possible to say on an instrument. Consider Art Davis. He is a startlingly brilliant bassist, as accomplished in classical music as in jazz. (Because Davis is black, he has been denied employment by those symphony orchestras to which he has applied, and so he has challenged them to pit him against any classical bassist of their choice. The challenge has gone unanswered.) Anyway, Davis, whom I've known for years, is a rationalist, a keen analyzer of music and of life. He is not given, so far as I have ever known, to giant or even small leaps into faith. Davis requires a sound scaffolding of fact and proof for his enthusiasms.

But here is Art Davis, who played for a time with Coltrane, as quoted in the Fall 1972 issue of the periodical Black Creation : “John Coltrane would play for hours a set. One tune would be like an hour or two hours, and he would not repeat himself, and it would not be boring…. People would just be shouting, like you go to church, a holy roller church or something like that. This would get into their brains, would penetrate. John had that spirit--he was after the spiritual thing…. You could hear people screaming … despite the critics who tried to put him down. Black people made him because they stuck together and they saw--look what's going down--let's get some of this. You know all the hard times that John had at the beginning, even when he was with Miles. And when he left Miles, starting out, everybody tried to discourage him. But I'd be there and the brothers and sisters would be there and they supported him…. John had this power of communication, that power so rare it was like genius--I'll call him a prophet because he did this.”



A good read, indeed.

You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition

We found a link between cabbage and innie bellybuttons, but that doesn’t mean it’s real.

"As the new year begins, millions of people are vowing to shape up their eating habits. This usually involves dividing foods into moralistic categories: good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, nutritious/indulgent, slimming/fattening — but which foods belong where depends on whom you ask.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently released its latest guidelines, which define a healthy diet as one that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy products, seafood, legumes and nuts while reducing red and processed meat, refined grains, and sugary foods and beverages.1 Some cardiologists recommend a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, the American Diabetes Association gives the nod to both low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine promotes a vegetarian diet. Ask a hard-bodied CrossFit aficionado, and she may champion a “Paleo” diet based on foods our Paleolithic ancestors (supposedly) ate. My colleague Walt Hickey swears by the keto diet.

Who’s right? It’s hard to say. When it comes to nutrition, everyone has an opinion. What no one has is an airtight case. The problem begins with a lack of consensus on what makes a diet healthy. Is the aim to make you slender? To build muscles? To keep your bones strong? Or to prevent heart attacks or cancer or keep dementia at bay? Whatever you’re worried about, there’s no shortage of diets or foods purported to help you. Linking dietary habits and individual foods to health factors is easy — ridiculously so — as you’ll soon see from the little experiment we conducted.

Our foray into nutrition science demonstrated that studies examining how foods influence health are inherently fraught. To show you why, we’re going to take you behind the scenes to see how these studies are done. The first thing you need to know is that nutrition researchers are studying an incredibly difficult problem, because, short of locking people in a room and carefully measuring out all their meals, it’s hard to know exactly what people eat. So nearly all nutrition studies rely on measures of food consumption that require people to remember and report what they ate. The most common of these are food diaries, recall surveys and the food frequency questionnaire, or FFQ.



A very good read, IMO.

25 classical pieces with surprising Beatles connections


"You've probably heard by now that the Beatles' full discography is finally available on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. You may also be aware — because Beatles trivia is basically oxygen — that the Fab Four were nearly as fond of classical music as they were of skiffle and rockabilly. But, when you dive into the specifics of the Beatles' intersections with classical music, there are some actual surprises to be had.

So, if you're planning on a Beatles binge in the near future, by way of streaming or otherwise, here's a bit of suggested additional listening. We'll start with a few classical works that are directly quoted or used in Beatles tracks. Then, we'll move on to some slightly less direct inspirations, including some wildly speculative connections on my part — because wild speculation is just part of being a Beatles fan. Then, after a bit of miscellany, we'll sample a tiny selection of the works where the influence went in the other direction: where the composer used the Beatles' music as a starting point.

N.B. There are no specific references to or quotes of classical pieces in “Roll Over Beethoven.” Because of course there aren’t. That would defeat the whole purpose of the song. I’m looking at you, Electric Light Orchestra.

Ready? One, two, three, FAH!



Inspired by the mild debate of the Beatles on that other thread, or something like that. Well, I found this piece to be fun.

I used to think that, too.

There was some really good music, too. Off the top of my head: Marley/Wailers, Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Clash, Sly Stone, Joy Division, Gang of Four, Nick Drake, The Stones' "Exile," The Ramones, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, The Specials, John Lennon, Big Star, Herbie Hancock, Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life," Randy Newman, Fela Kuti, Leonard Cohen, Brian Eno, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, ...
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