Red Meat Study: Eat a burger, lose 37 minutes of life

A new study from Harvard links red meat consumption to health problems and higher mortality.  Although the negative health stuff has been known for some time, this study is more authoritative in terms of large sample and long study period.  Also it seems to quantify things in such a way that we can get a somewhat legitimate calculation for the life years lost cost of meat eating.  For red meat lovers the results are very discouraging.

WSJ source for red meat stats:

I extended  that to a per hamburger health cost and got 39 years x 365 burger days = 14,235 burgers cost you a year of life, or 8760 hours of life. Thus a single burger costs us 37 minutes of life.

Obviously this measure has a lot of technical flaws, but in general terms I think it should reflect a “real” measure of red meat risk, a risk I’m thinking I’ll be reducing starting right away.

World Record for Largest Observed Snowflake … on a Google Doodle?

The World record for the largest observed snowflake …

according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was attained this day of January 28th in 1887.  The city was Fort Keogh, Montana and the observer was a farmer.

Google’s doodle of today celebrates his discovery, though it appears he may have been the only witness to this frozen snowflake miracle of nature.

From Wikipedia we learn that Guinness’ recognized the world’s largest snowflakes as those of January 1887 at Fort KeoghMontana; allegedly one measured 38 cm (15 inches) wide.

Got Bias? Does Bill Moyers ?

I’m having a great discussion with my good pal Keith about whether Bill Moyers is “biased”.   I think Bill Moyers has become an authoritative and articulate spokesperson for the mainstream American left.   To me, that is almost the definition of bias.   I like Moyers and agree with him on many topics  (see below) but I don’t like his virulently anti-corporate & anti-republican stridency.

Wild speculation Dept:   I think Moyers’ stridency is largely an overreaction to the guilt he feels about his prominent role during the Johnson Administration as Press Secretary. There, he helped with deceptions and promotion of the many illegal US activities in Vietnam.   Ironically I think I’d  cut him a lot more slack on this than he  would now that I’ve come to realize how well regarded the USA was by most of the Vietnamese people.

What do YOU think?  What is media bias?   Glenn Beck’s and Rush Limbaugh commentary is clearly a great example of right wing bias – could anybody disagree with that?

In my view, Wikipedia is often an excellent example of media approaching an *unbiased* standard.  Typically WikiP presents a lot of facts and then a very balanced discussion of the opinions about a thing or a person.   For contentious issues (e.g. Israel stuff) they often close the page to freewheeling edits but then provide a forum for people to rant or disagree, but that’s separated from the more reasoned analysis of the pages.

Here’s an excellent bio and, IMHO, a very good example of an unbiased discussion of Mr. Bill. on Bill_Moyers

To me the article strongly supports the notion that he’s an authoritative and articulate spokesperson for the mainstream American left.   How can this not be called …  bias?   I’d agree Moyers’ views are not born of ignorant opportunistic nonsense like, say, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck’s views, but like those ignorant dudes Moyers also has strongly held opinions that seriously color his perceptions of many issues.

How does religion affect one’s world view?   My jury is still out on how much religious beliefs will color somebody’s reporting and commentary.   For a “progressive Christian” like Moyers  the world’s going to be seen very differently than for a Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew.    Is this bias and if so how does it influence reporting and commentary?

Help me out here – give examples of some biased *left wing* US commentary and why you think it’s biased.   How are you calibrating “American left and right”?

Surely we should not suggest that bias relates to agreement with OUR OWN ideas?   Don’t call me Shirley!

I would strongly agree with Bill Moyers on many topics – support for gay marriage, on promoting health and education internationally, on a progressive foreign policy, and many other things, but I share his “left bias” on those topics even as I don’t share it on economic topics.

But to me this political and economic view convergence/divergence is completely SEPARATE from the issue of bias!    I think I like the idea of folks reporting their political stances and then working to report as best as they can rather than trying to maintain the pretense of “no bias at all”.

I actually cite most of the reporting of big outlets as examples of fairly politically unbiased media reporting, though story selection leans to the superficial in all cases.

Biased outlets where there are political content constraints from above – FOX and Al Jazeera come to mind – are still pretty good on most topics.  Clearly they show some bias by *omission* of important stories.  On Fox we won’t see much favorable coverage of President Obama and on Al Jazeera we won’t tend to see a lot of negative discussion about theocracies and sharia law and abuses of power and wealth by those in power.

Fox is, to me, the definitively biased source but this is mostly in terms of the nonsense commentary from their foolish pundits like Sean Hannity.  Much of the news coverage by Anchors like Shepard Smith is actually fine in terms of reporting the facts on the ground without much political spin.

Standouts to me as “fairly non biased” reporting:
Most BBC non-UK coverage. In general the BBC seems remarkably unbiased to my way of thinking .
Charlie Rose (PBS and CBS)

Jim Lehrer (PBS)

Ray Suarez (PBS – I think he’s one of the best in the world at concealing his opinions).

FYI a huge standouts as “biased left” even as she’s one of my favorite pundits because she’s so sharp and funny is Rachel Maddow (MSNBC).

“Clearly biased right” would be Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity.
Mainstream Anchors like Brian O’Neil, Katic Couric, Anderson Cooper, etc, etc?   I don’t really like most of their reporting because I feel it’s very superficial both in coverage and topics, but I’d call them pretty politically balanced, though with the likely left of center sensibilities that are found by most studies of journalist’s political leanings.
Now,  I do maintain there is a lot of “bias” in almost all media towards “superficial but interesting” topics over “substantive” topics.
The really big global stories of our time relate to food, TB, malaria, intestinal parasites, literacy, oral rehydration therapy, etc, etc.  People grow tired of those stories quickly and won’t tolerate “too much” of that, so we get Lindsay Lohan and Obama’s Turkey Pardon.
Ommission of the simple solutions to major global suffering  is the most insidious form of bias and it infects pretty much all the news, but it’s not a conspiracy to keep the downtrodden down trodden.   We are programmed to pay more attention to stupid pet tricks and ignore distant suffering.

Politicians are NOT CORRUPT. Deal with it.

(clarification:  I’m talking about the USA here )

As a stark raving political moderate I often find myself incredibly frustrated with the tribal thinking that characterizes most of the political debate.    Most of the claims by even moderate left and moderate right about politicians (and others supposedly corrupted by money concerns) are simply garbage.

Politicians are generally honest, hard working people who  have sacrificed lucrative professions and wealth in favor of their public service.   This is true on right and left, middle and fringes.      There are reasons to fault them on many ideological grounds and debates about that are one of the great parts of our great system, but the idea that money is at the root of a politicians actions is just a nonsensical point of view.   Many don’t need money anyway as they are wealthy already:  Kerry, McCain, Bush, Cheney, Kennedy, etc etc.

However many more have foresaken wealth in favor of service to the country.    We should honor them for that even as we might disagree aggressively with policies or ideas.  We should not rant nonsensically about how they are corrupt / evil / lying / undermining the world. Leave that job to the whackos.

The funny thing is how the debate is generally so partisan in this respect.  Liberals insist Cheney was a big war profiteer  even as he gave his Halliburton options money to charity.   Far from profiting, Cheney’s decisions cost him dearly in terms of money.   As much as I never have agreed with Cheney’s  massive defense spending policies or approaches to anti-terrorism I’d hardly call him corrupt.   Or take Obama, who appears about as clean as you can be after years of dirt digging and conspiracy theorizing.   Yet detractors rant on nonsensically as if he’s got a freezer full of cash in the Whitehouse.

Exceptions? Sure there are some, but generally the “corruption” cases in the USA are hardly the scandals many make them out to be.   A favor here or there or some freebies valued at a few thousand.    One does not have to condone this to understand that it represents very little systemic threat to our great system, especially because corruptions charges here are taken so seriously that you can easily end a political career with even minor transgressions.

This aversion to corruption is a very good thing, absent in many parts of the world, and it is in part what makes our system so honest and robust.  Though unfortunately it does NOT make our spending efficient because as I’ve noted ad- nauseum here, political spending is NOT optimal spending and our honest, hard working politicians spend WAY TOO MUCH on way to many things.

—————-  more ranting follows but the point is above ————–

When GW Bush was in power I’d argue with left wingers to make the obvious case he was not a crazy religious nutcase hell bent on the destruction of our gentle planet.   Now with Obama I have to make the obvious case to right wingers that he’s not a crazed manchurian communist out to destroy western civilization as we know it.

It’s tiring to see smart people get so wrapped up in stupid ideas about how the world works and even more tiring to see how the process seems to infect people so predictably.    Hardly a peep from the cultural conservatives as the Bush policies of overspending ravaged the economy but now they seem to think Obama invented deficit spending.     Yet liberals, who should be crowing like crazy about how we’re starving future generations with reckless spending and absurd eco-mitigation dramas, now sit on their hands watching Obama proceed in very similar ways to GW Bush.

The standard rhetorical reply to my insistence that most pols are honest is “you are naive”, but in fact the foolish “corrupt politician” idea comes from something called  “the naivete of the skeptic”, where a foolishly skeptical worldview  poisons otherwise clear thinking.   Being too skeptical can divert  a person’s attention to review ONLY the data and analyses that support their ideas or that dismisses counter-arguments.     That’s not rational, so don’t do it.

Twitter is playing a significant role in the Iran Political Crisis

Until recently critics of Twitter were quite reasonably skeptical of claims that Twitter significantly influenced the US election or that Twitter was bringing more than trivial bits of real time news to the web, but the Iranian Election shows how important the service has become as a global communication and democratization tool.

Before CNN was adequately covering the sweeping events in Iran Twitter was being used in and out of the country to keep people informed even as other social networks and computer services were shut down.

Although I’m not entirely clear on infrastructure issues, I think Twitter will be able to make it much harder for anti-democratic forces to stifle messaging via the service compared to the more complicated services like Facebook.

Kudos to the service for rescheduling a major infrastructure upgrade until tomorrow, recognizing that Twitter is of increasing importance in making sure news and information flows freely in and out of Iran during the crisis there: Twitter Blog

CNET – Twitter is Confusing Censors in Iran

The ONE MILLIONTH word in the English language is …. wait for it …. Web 2.0!

A language monitoring group linked here says that “Web 2.0” is now in common parlance and is English’s one millionth word. There seems to be some controversy surrounding the announcement.

I can only imagine two balding and bespectacled linguists duking it out in the library stacks over the Web 2.0 designation.     As for me, I’m in favor !

Economy: Are we there yet? Yes, we are. The Jim Cramer $25,000 Challenge

Update:  Thursday saw a big DOW drop of about 300 where Friday was up a bit so I continue to think we are near the bottom unless we see some strong indications that the stimulus will fail.    I think traders are basically waiting for new details on the stimulus and economic plans and trading quickly as that information filters in.   I suppose the coming challenges with consumer debt may not be fully factored in yet but one would think they probably are and the new news will be along the lines of whether the stimulus is stimulating or not.     I understand consumer debt sits at 4.5 trillion as people lose their jobs and home values and thus ability to repay.   I am concerned that the stimulus is directed at bureaucracy rather than powerfully targeting lower and middle classes with massive jobs and debt relief and the upper class with innovation incentives, but I ain’t no economist.    Of course the economists don’t have much of a track record…either!

With the DOW up about 150 points today [Wed] at the close, and optimism flowing about how China’s Government will pump up their economy soon, it is very tempting to think the worst is now behind us. Tempting because it’s probably true, at least for the next several years. My view (as usual with the caveat that you are as likely to gain trading insights from me as from the worthless punditry on CNBC (Yes, I’m talking to YOU Jim Cramer and I’m happy to bet you $25,000 you can’t outperform me in stock picking over any future period you choose). Don’t get me wrong Jim – you are very *entertaining* and I’m sure a fun guy and I enjoy your ….BOOYA! Silly TV show.

I’m just saying that you just have no more insight into picking stocks than a deranged chimpanzee picking stocks by urinating on a copy of the Wall Street Journal. * * *

Pessimists and doomsayers are pointing to the great depression where the initial 1929 market dive was followed a few years later with the DOW all time low = 41, some 80% lower than the *day after the 1929 crash*. This model of market behavior suggests we are in for a lot more trouble, but I think conditions now are so different that we cannot use that history as much indication of what lies ahead. The most important difference in my view is that the Government now is much more prominent and economically powerful than it was in 1930s, and even more importantly our Government is about to inject more money into the system than at any time in human history – more money than anybody can reasonably imagine.

Despite the inane and irrelevant rantings of the Four buffoons of the Republican Apocalypse – Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, and Joe the Plumber – the stimulus is very likely to at least have something of a positive short term effect on the economy, and the new role of Government as more of an economic babysitter than before is hardly sending us down some slippery socialistic slope from which we’ll never recover. In fact look for China to recover *first* from the recession for the very reason that when the going gets tough, China’s CapitalCommunist style economic system allows much faster and simpler implementation of the kinds of intervention that the Obama administration is struggling with now.

Thoughtful conservatives are suggesting there are likely better ways to stimulate the economy than pour hundreds of billions into state and federal government infrastructure projects and that’s certainly true, but we’re hearing very little about constructive alternatives to the contruction projects that will form the backbone of this initial stimulus.  Rather, Republicans are now so busy trying to tear down the stimulus and (absolutely moronically) blame Obama for the crisis as if his 40 days in power somehow trumps the past 8 years of fiscal mismanagement and massive government spending which itself was only a part of the current problems.    As I’ve noted before there is far too little attention on the single biggest group of culprits in the whole fiasco – everybody with a mortgage on their house who borrowed money, responsibly or not.   It was this flush of paper wealth and the lure of more that provided the fuel for the derivatives and banking excesses.     Many of us did not act irresponsibly or irrationally when we took advantage of the massive consumer lending boom with cheap and easy loans, but we also can’t claim that we have nothing to do with the problem just because we are not defaulting on the mortgages.    Sure I’m for punishing irresponsible people and businesses – that’s a major part of what keeps our system better than others –  but I also understand that I’m going to have to foot some of the bill for this mess even though I didn’t do anything wrong.

So, have we hit the bottom on the indexes?   I say *yes*.   We hit it yesterday and we now have more reasonable values for our fine American companies.    Will things soon bounce back to their former glory?    No way.  The recovery will be slow and I think slower than the optimistic numbers we heard from Obama’s team yesterday.    I’d guess it will take a decade or more before we see a DOW at 14000 again, with the caveat that we may see some spectacular, game changing innovation  (e.g. conscious computing, near-zero cost energy) that would change everything very fast, leaving our entire global economic infrastructure in the dust.   However I doubt we’ll see anything like that for many years.

*** Yes this is a real offer of a $25,000 wager subject to any legal restrictions that would restrict it. Money would be held by an escrow service of Jim Cramer’s choosing. Period would be picked by Jim Cramer. “Better performance” would be defined as a greater total return on the portfolio over the period without regard to fees or expenses.

Fox News Alert: Universe Still Expanding at Speed of Light

Despite a fair amount of college physics and math, and the insights that come from being a living conscious being on planet earth which you’d think would give some insight into the nature of the reality we experience on a daily basis all around us, I remain confused.

How can the *physical universe* have no center?    Almost all theories of cosmology and all of the extensive and available data is said to support this idea, but it still completely baffles me.   Earth has a center, the Galaxy has a center, and our Galactic Cluster has a center.    But at cosmic universe scales you cannot talk about “centers” anymore – ie the point where the big bang happened.    My understanding is there is no point of origin – almost all cosmologies that are consistent with the (huge amount) of physical data say the universe sprung into being but did NOT spring from any particular spot.

Now, one way this *does* make sense to me is to assume that the basis of reality is tiny bits of information rather than tiny bits of matter and energy.    ie matter and energy are a great way to model things down to a certain level, but at the very heart of everything we’ve just got some sort of binary information thing – zero or one, yes or no, on or off, “something or nothing”, etc.

This is appealing at one level because it seems to simplify some of the ultimate questions to about the simplest dynamic concept you can imagine which allows only two conditions – ie something or nothing.    A concept that allows only ONE condition would be totally static – I don’t see how you could have change or thought in a system that is defined with only a single contruct, but clearly if you add only one more condition, giving you the “on or off” 1 or 0, etc, you can get an infinite number of variations.


Schmidt won’t become Obama’s CTO for the USA, so how about Craig Newmark?

Eric Schmidt said on CNBC’s Jim Cramer show today that even if asked he will not accept a position in the Obama administration that is expected to be something of a chief technology officer for the USA.

Reuters reports on the statement

Technology remains a vital US concern in terms of economy, national security, and offers the potential to extricate us from at least some of the pressing problems of the day.

Who would be a great choice for this position?

Mr President Elect Obama, I’d like to nominate Craig Newmark.  Craig’s  technology credentials are superb, he’s got global vision, and … his website is so successful he’ll never be bothering you for a raise in pay.

Here’s a good discussion of the CTO issue and potential qualifications.    I hope Obama realizes how important it is that this person comes from Silicon Valley, deeply understands the internet from both a technical and business perspective, and has the ear and respect of many other major players.    Schmidt and Newmark meet this test.

Other good choices might be Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina.   Both which would help cross the party line and the conspiculous tech gender line as well.

Congratulations to President Elect Obama and to … America!

John McCain is now conceding the election with an eloquence that would have benefited his campaign, noting how historic this election has been for America.

CNN has projected what has been clear for several days now – Barack Obama will win the US Presidency,

With this decision we leave behind a two year campaign – the longest transition of leadership in the history of *any* democracy, and we enter a new and potentially transformative time for America. We face some of the greatest challenges in the history of our proud Democracy, but working together we can overcome them all.