Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Spinning like a top over statins
The amazing statin religion sails on. A recent study found that there are indeed severe loss of memory problems for people who take statins to prevent heart attacks. So how was the study reported in the popular press? The headline was "Cholesterol-lowing statins DON'T cause memory loss". WTF is going on? Don't blame the journalists. As usual, it was the doctors who did the study who were spinning like tops.
The academic journal article is Statin Therapy and Risk of Acute Memory Impairment. The study was a generally good one that used two controls, people not taking drugs, people taking statins and people taking another class of lipid lowering drugs. High levels of lipids (blood fats) are thought to be behind heart attacks. So what did they find? I quote:
"Both statin and nonstatin LLDs were strongly associated with acute memory loss in the first 30 days following exposure in users compared with nonusers but not when compared with each other"
So in normal circumstances we might conclude that the problem is bigger than thought. Not only statins but another class of lipid lowering drug is a big problem. We might conclude that we need our lipids. Our bodies put them into our blood for a reason and anything that reduces them is bad for our brains.
But the researchers were not happy with that straightforward conclusion. They theorized that their study was faulty and the patients detected what was going on and gave the result expected! They were willing to disrespect their own research in order to hang on to their theory that statins are harmless. No wonder I and some others refer to statin use as a religion! These guys are definite true believers. But look at the facts, not at the theory. Statins ARE bad for you! They mess up your brain.
GOP-controlled Michigan House passes a comprehensive civil asset forfeiture reform package
On Thursday, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bipartisan package of eight bills that would overhaul the state's civil asset forfeiture laws to offer more protections for innocent property owners. The Wolverine State is just the latest to advance reforms that curtail this pernicious brand of government overreach.
Passage of the reform bills comes a week after the Michigan House Judiciary Committee heard jaw-dropping testimony from Annette Shattuck, a mother of four children, who recounted her family's story of armed raid on her home last year by law enforcement. Shattuck's mother was watching her children while she was out. "After they breached my door, at gunpoint, with masks, they proceeded to take every belonging in my house," she told the committee. "And when I say every belonging, I mean every belonging."
The list of confiscated property provided by the Washington Post includes televisions, a leaf trimmer, a bicycle, a weed whacker, a chainsaw, and a snowblower. "How do you explain to your kids when they come home and everything is gone?" Shattack asked lawmakers.
Shattack was targeted because she is a registered medical marijuana patient, as well as a caregiver. Though strictly regulated, medical marijuana is legal in Michigan. Users and caregivers are allowed to grow a limited number of plants for themselves and patients. Despite medical marijuana’s legal status, law enforcement continues to go after patients and registered practitioners through civil asset forfeiture.
Ginnifer Hency, another registered medical marijuana patient and caregiver, told a similar story. Her home was raided by local law enforcement and her family's property seized. "They have had my stuff for 10 months," Hency said last week. "My ladders, my iPads, my children's iPads, my children's phones, my medicine for my patients." Law enforcement allegedly seized items of a rather personal and intimate nature.
Neither Shattack or Hency were ever convicted of a crime, but Michigan's civil asset forfeiture laws encourage abuse because of the low standard of evidence the government is required to meet, and the perverse profit motive that exists. Law enforcement in the state are allowed to keep 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeitures. This is not a small sum. The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan law enforcement seized $24.3 million in cash and property in 2013.
Michigan House Republicans, who control the lower chamber, made civil asset forfeiture reform one of their top priorities for the 2015 legislative session. The package includes HB 4505, which raises the evidentiary standard to "clear and convincing evidence," and HB 4508, which offers protections for registered medical marijuana users. Other bills would heighten transparency and improve uniformity in state law.
The eight civil asset forfeiture reform bills passed the Michigan House, according to the Associated Press, with solid bipartisan majorities. Perhaps the most important bill, HB 4505, passed by a vote of 103 to 6, while HB 4508 was approved with a thinner, though still strong, majority, by a vote of 81 to 28.
There is still room for stronger reforms, such as eliminating the profit incentive that often motivates seizures of property without a criminal conviction, but the package passed by the Michigan House on Thursday is certainly a step in the right direction. The bills now head over to the Republican-controlled Senate, where the fate of the reforms in the upper chamber is uncertain.
4 Liberal Myths About Ronald Reagan Debunked
Presidential historian H. W. Brands’ new biography of Ronald Reagan and his conclusion that modern American politics is best seen as “The Age of Reagan” has aroused liberals to circulate once again the hoariest myths about the man and his presidency, including the malicious charge that Reagan was deliberately indifferent to the lot of African-Americans and other minorities.
Liberal Myth No. 1: Reagan’s dangerously belligerent foreign policy had little to do with the disintegration of Soviet Communism. Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader most responsible for bringing the Cold War to a non-nuclear conclusion.
Reality: In the 1970s, as presidential scholar Kiron Skinner has written, Reagan formulated four key ideas about U.S.–Soviet relations and the Cold War. One, discussion of Soviet expansionism around the world had to precede any talk about arms control, not the reverse. Two, America was an “exceptional” nation obligated to match deeds with words in the promotion of freedom around the world. Three, because the Soviet Union was an “abnormal” nation with no popular base of support, it was prepared to foment global crises to maintain its control. Four, the Soviet Union’s inefficient economy and inferior technology “could not survive competition” with America. Once elected president, Reagan began carrying out a multifaceted victory strategy based on these ideas.
Reagan ordered an across-the-board buildup of the defense establishment, including land-based weapons, new ships, and new medium-range missiles. He launched a psychological offensive, declaring that the Soviets’ “evil empire” was headed for “the ash heap of history.” He made SDI (the Strategic Defensive Initiative) the cornerstone of the Reagan Doctrine and would not surrender it, even at the Reykjavik summit. He strongly supported anti-Communist forces in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, and Cambodia.
He carried his crusade for freedom into the disintegrating Soviet empire. Standing before Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1987, he directly challenged the Kremlin, saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” A little more than two years later, the wall came down and Communism in Eastern and Central Europe collapsed. Lech Walesa, Nobel laureate and founder of the Polish trade union Solidarity that confronted the Communist regime, said of President Reagan, “We in Poland … owe him our liberty.”
Democracy triumphed in the Cold War, Reagan wrote in his autobiography, because it was a battle of ideas—“between one system that gave preeminence to the state and another that gave preeminence to the individual and freedom.” The Cold War ended in triumph for the idea of freedom because of Ronald Reagan, not Mikhail Gorbachev, who as late as 1988 quoted the Communist Manifesto when asked his position on private property.
Liberal Myth No. 2: The ’80s were a decade of greed that benefited only the wealthy and overlooked the middle class.
Reality: Reagan inherited a dangerously weakened economy. High tax rates had severely limited jobs and investment and brought in less than expected government revenue. President Reagan reversed the process by cutting personal tax rates and government regulations, stabilizing the economy and encouraging entrepreneurs.
Following the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, unemployment in the succeeding years fell an estimated 45 percent. During the ’80s, the consumer price index rose only 17 percent, private domestic investment grew 77 percent, and economic growth averaged 4.6 percent annually. The real income of every stratum of Americans increased, and total tax collections rose from $500 billion in 1980 to $1 trillion in 1990 (in constant dollars).
At the same time, Reagan deregulated oil prices, making energy cheaper, and launched U.S.-Canadian free trade, setting the stage for NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). Perhaps most important of all, he created IRAs (individual retirement accounts) and 401(k) programs, giving birth to what has been called “the investor class.” New industries arose in computing, software, communications, and the Internet that streamlined and transformed the American economy.
Liberal Myth No. 3: The federal government continued to grow and expand under Reagan, who callously tripled the national debt.
Reality: During the Reagan years, overall domestic spending did increase, as the president battled with a Democratic House of Representatives led by a fiercely partisan Speaker Tip O’Neill. Spending on education, social services, medicine, and food almost doubled. However, federal outlays on regional development, commerce, and housing credit decreased by about 22 percent. And the size of the federal civilian workforce declined by about 5 percent, because of conservative managers such as Donald Devine, described by The Washington Post as “Reagan’s terrible swift sword of the civil service.” The annual federal deficit as a share of GDP fell significantly from 6.3 percent in 1983 to 2.9 percent in 1989. As Reagan left office, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) projected that “deficits were on a path to fall to about 1 percent of GDP” by 1993.
The near tripling of the national debt was mostly due to Reagan’s defense spending. In President Carter’s last budget, America spent just under $160 billion on national defense. In 1988, the Reagan administration spent $304 billion, including more than twice as much on military hardware. During his years in office, Reagan expended a total of $1.72 trillion on national defense, an unprecedented amount that he stoutly defended.
Challenged in a cabinet meeting that he “couldn’t spend all of this money on the military” and that it would look bad to boost spending on guns while cutting the butter, Reagan replied: “Look, I am the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief. My primary responsibility is the security of the United States. … If we don’t have security, we’ll have no need for social programs.”
The essential question was, “What price peace?” Was it worth $1.72 trillion to build up America’s defenses so that Reagan could end the Cold War at the bargaining table and not on the battlefield? Most Americans would not hesitate to emphatically answer, “Yes!”
If we examine the economic report cards of postwar presidents from Truman through Reagan, according to Harvard economist Robert Barro, Reagan easily finishes first. Using the change each year in inflation, unemployment, interest rates, and growth in gross national product, Reagan ranks first. He engineered the largest reduction in the misery index (inflation plus unemployment) in history—50 percent. The 1980s, says economist Richard B. McKenzie, were, up to then, “the most prosperous decade in American history.”
Liberal Myth No. 4: Reagan was a cynical, calculating politician who used “states’ rights” to win the 1980 election and paid little attention to African-Americans as president.
Reality: The African-American columnist Joseph Perkins has calculated that black unemployment fell from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989. The income of black-owned businesses rose almost one-third between 1982 and 1987. The black middle class grew from 3.6 million to 4.8 million during the Reagan years, while the cash income of black households (adjusted for inflation) rose by 12 percent. By contrast, the median income of black households fell by 2.2 percent during the Obama years from 2010 to 2013.
Throughout the ’70s, Reagan exhorted fellow Republicans to address the party’s failure to attract black voters. At the 1977 Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “We [Republicans] believe in treating all Americans as individuals and not as stereotypes or voting blocs.” Speaking to the Urban League in August 1980, after having won the GOP’s presidential nomination, Reagan said, “I am committed to the protection and enforcement of the civil rights of black Americans . . . into every phase of the programs I will propose.”
While marking Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday in 1983, President Reagan drew an arresting parallel between the first Republican president and the man Americans were honoring that day. “Abraham Lincoln freed the black man,” he noted. “In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man. … Where others—white and black—preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence.”
Who better than Ronald Reagan to have the last word about which is the myth and which is the reality about his commitment to civil rights?
Real civilization still exists: Bulletin from a quiet small-town life in New Zealand
Report from a happy young mother there -- about her daughter
H's school life is set to begin in just 6 months’ time! I organised a school visit for Playcentre so the kids could get another taste of school and start a comfortable transition from the free play of Playcentre to the idea and structure of school.
The school at L is a real country school, the whole school knew of our visit when we arrived. The teacher allocated buddies to each of the kids and the principal of the school walked in to greet us too. The teacher Mrs H read a story about sea animals and the kids then joined their buddies at a table and made an Octopus with colouring in, cutting and sticking on 8 legs.
When the school bell rang it was time for morning tea and play. It was raining outside so the games came out and it was great to see some older kids come in to say hello from other classes.
The school has a large influx of students starting school in the next 6 months and are having to build a new classroom to cope, I am pleased to hear there will be plenty of kids for H to start school with. H was all upset when we had to leave and wanted to know why those kids got to stay and she had to leave. She was happy with the sandpit that they played in as we left and decided she would be happy at this school.
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.
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Posted by JR at 12:34 AM