MarkCC takes down this idiotic analysis from AEI that appeared in the WSJ Friday.
I saw this curve yesterday on their editorial page and thought, what kind of idiot would fit a curve to an obvious linear regression? Not really having math expertise I dismissed it as probable crap, and moved on.
Thankfully, MarkCC whips out the math and shows exactly how stupid this stupid analysis is. I'm glad for this, because I knew it was stupid to fit a curve to it, but not how exceedingly stupid it was.
One should also note their recent editorials which include, "The Surge is Working" and "Sick Propaganda".
Does anyone need any additional explanation for why I consider the WSJ editorial page to be a denialist organization? It's a virtual clearinghouse of denialism on par with Uncommon Descent. Their denialist garbage ranges from bad economic arguments using laughable math, to global warming denialism, to typical libertarian crankery (FDA kills people, the EPA = fascism), to what might soon qualify as a new branch of denialism - the "everything is fine/we're winning the war denialism".
** PZ mocks it too.
***An update *** It is not my intent that everyone I link as spreading BS to be deserving of the denialist title. It takes a lot more effort to get that designation, namely the use of a significant number of the tactics in an attempt to attack legitimate science or fact. I don't agree with the Offit editorial and believe that it's based on a straw man attack on Moore's movie. By linking it without context Orac and others clearly have felt that I was labeling Offit or Omar Fadhil denialists by default. I do think it's an example of the WSJ editorial page acting as an aggregator of BS. I'll spend some more time in the future talking about the WSJ and examples of how they do this and construct a more thorough takedown of their use of the tactics.
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We should demand that the WSJ publish the R^2 value for the curve in the figure and compare it with the R^2 value for a linear fit. The difference will be eye opening.
Corporate tax rate in the US is above 30%? Ha ha ha ha ha. Please give me one single example of a corporation larger than a few million a year that pays 30% in taxes!
You realize that the author of the WSJ editorial on the Michael Moore movie is Paul Offit, don't you?
I merely point this out because it's the same Paul Offit who's been a steadfast defender of vaccines against the cranks and has become target #1 of the mercury militia, who have even made threats against him. He's the #1 go-to guy whenever the antivaxers start agitating.
You could argue about his specific complaints about Michael Moore's movie and I'll admit that his appeal to emotion when it comes to Dr. Penny Heaton did strike me as a bit over-the-top, but I consider it a massive exaggeration and grossly irresponsible of you to lump him in with the denialists. Dr. Offit has arguably done more to champion safe and effective vaccines than anyone since Maurice Hilleman. He's the vaccine denialists' worst enemy.
As much as I like your blog, I have noted the occasional tendency on your part to be a little too quick with the "denialist" label. This is one instance.
I'm sorry if you feel I have lumped Offit in with the denialists Orac, that is not my intent. The WSJ editorial page is a source of disinformation however, and Offit's commentary is pathetic crap.
If you'd seen the movie, you would know Offit attacks a straw man and launches a blatantly emotional appeal over the good that drugs do. Moore did not accuse the drug companies of creating the problem, or of perpetuating it. Other than attacking the pathetic give-away that medicare plan D is, I can not recall any attacks on the pharmaceutical companies themselves, other than the very real fact that they extensively lobby in congress and have managed to avoid government price negotiation. Nor does he challenge the fact that the pharmaceutical companies' products have saved and extended lives. At most he suggested, and I don't think this is an inaccurate conclusion, that the drug companies are benefiting enormously from our broken insurance and medicare systems. This is besides the point however. The movie was about insurance, and the unwillingness of the insurance companies to provide care to people who had paid good money for it.
I wasn't calling Offit a denialist or a crank in this instance, but I stand by calling the WSJ editorial page a den of lies. Offit's commentary about Moore's movie is yet another example. It's unfortunate that he is using his good name to launch a specious attack on Moore from that page. His arguments are nothing but straw men, and I wonder if he even saw the movie based on his completely misguided analysis.
Is that better?
Oh come off it, Offit a denialist for criticising Michael Moore? Are you kidding? I criticise both the industry and the anti-vaccine quacks on my own blog, Offit's article seems perfectly acceptable in terms of putting some balance into the debate about the pharmaceutical industry.
Michael Moore is well-known to use a highly skewed documentary method (I also work in the British NHS, which Moore apparently depicts in terms which most of those working within it might find slightly utopian). Offit's comments in no way label him as a denialist, Michael Moore's documentaries are political messages, not hard data. For the record, I am not a right winger and am in favour of socialised medicine.
"Mr. Moore could have framed the real problems with pharmaceutical companies by asking the right questions. How can we eliminate marketing practices that unduly influence clinicians by providing unethical incentives? Does direct-to-consumer advertising mislead the public by creating the notion of magic medicines without side effects? Do we benefit from companies developing yet another hair-loss or potency product while diseases with a much smaller market go ignored? Can the federal government become the sole purchaser of drugs without eliminating the profit that drives companies to make them? And does society benefit from the tax that is included in the price of every drug
because of massive litigation?"
Hardly the words of a denialist. More the words of someone who simply didn't agree with the angle of Moore's attack.
Exactly right, Kev. I wasn't that impressed with the editorial, and I'll criticize Offit for playing on the emotions a bit too much with his example of the pharmaceutical executive who cried while discussing the good that could be done with the rotavirus vaccine. However, being a bit over-the-top and maudlin doesn't constitute denialism, and I saw nothing in his article smacking of denialism.
To Mark's claim that he wasn't"calling Offit a denialist or a crank in this instance," I respond: What message am I supposed to take away when Mark characterizes the WSJ as a "denialist organization" and its editorial page as "virtual clearinghouse of denialism on par with Uncommon Descent," while citing Paul Offit's article as one of three examples to support his characterization? Either Mark was calling Offit a denialist, or he was just as sloppy in his writing as he accuses Offit of being.
I have been enjoying your blog. I have a few comments on this post though.
and Offit's commentary is pathetic crap.
Well, there is one definite appeal to emotion. However, are you willing to be consistant and apply that same criticism to Moores film? I also have seen the film and there were certainly multiple appeals to emotion.
It's unfortunate that he is using his good name to launch a specious attack on Moore from that page.
Is he attacking Moore?
His arguments are nothing but straw men, and I wonder if he even saw the movie based on his completely misguided analysis.
[looks at the above, then looks at portion Kev quoted] I dont know, that part at least seems to be fallacy free to me.
I guess the part about the rotavirus vaccine being "maudlin" depends on one's point of view.
Though having had a 14 month old baby go into a full grand-mal seizure because he was dehydrated due a nasty gastrointenstinal illness, which may or may not have been a rotavirus --- I have kind of a different look at it.
I really wish my son could have had that vaccine a bit over 17 years ago. That was the only thing I was thinking about when I read the last few paragraphs. Not the deaths that could be prevented... but the seizure and ride by ambulance that could have been avoided.
I also wish he could have finally been vaccinated for pertussis with the Tdap when my younger teenage children received it (because of his history of seizures, he never had a pertussis vaccine). But NO!... since he was 18 years old, the county program my family doc gets the vaccine from does not include 18 year olds. He did get the influenza vaccine since he does have a very serious heart condition. Though the family doctor was upset that his clinic had difficulty getting supplies of that and other vaccines (like pneumoncoccal and meningococcal disease), but the retail drug stores had no problems:
I have not seen any of Moore's films. Nor have I watched the tapes someone gave me of Al Gore's film or the "What the Bleep" movie. It is just that I have other things to spend time on. Like catching up on 10 years of Stargate SG-1 DVDs (the commentaries by Peter DeLuise are hilarious), and reading Paul Offit's excellent biography of Maurice Hilleman:
It's late... I'll stop rambling now.
Kev, I think the problem with Offit's op-ed is simply that he's attacking a position Moore never took in the movie. I can't remember Moore "villifying" the pharmaceutical companies for anything more than their well-known lobbying and pricing excesses. He never denied the real health benefits of pharmaceutical drugs, I can't see how it's anything but a strawman attack.
Tyler's got it. Offit is correct in his attack on people who aren't clear on their disagreements with pharmaceutical companies, DTCA etc. However, this was not Moore. Moore made a movie about insurance companies and how they won't pay for drugs.
It's been a couple weeks now, but the main criticisms I recall Moore leveling at the pharmaceutical industry, and I think it was all of 10 seconds, and not the thrust of the film, was that they are benefiting from the inefficiency and absence of government price-negotiation that other countries use to keep costs way below ours.
Orac hasn't seen the film so I guess he doesn't get that Offit is attacking a straw man. Moore did not go after the pharmaceutical companies. It simply was not the topic of the movie, or even a minor topic. They were mentioned in passing in the discussion of medicare plan D and the cost of American medical care. Hell, the whole point of Moore's movie is that people aren't getting the drugs they need, not that pharma is evil.
Please, give me a break.
Even if Offit was attacking a straw man, that does not make him a "denialist." ¥ou casually (and unjustifiably) lumped him in with denialists and cranks, your attempts to deny that's what you did notwithstanding.
I guess I'll have to create a different designation for a WSJ guest-shill.
I realize you like the guy, but what else do you call it when someone rights a dishonest editorial for the WSJ? His separate good deeds aside, this is crap. The WSJ editorial page is crap. And pretty much anyone who writes anything for it is crap, unless they're doing the whole "walk amongst the sinners" bit.
Uh, I hate to break it to you... but that illustration was never meant to be a curve fitting a bunch of data points. The curve is derived from other data and the illustration was just to show the relationship between the curve and a limited selection of countries. I think they were guilty of assuming the average reader would know the difference between the two. Obviously not.
I suspect that is complete and utter BS eric. It was just by luck that the curve happened to inflect through Norway? Where is this data that there are more points to this curve that were left out of the figure?
You're going to have to prove that with some data before I believe it. Where is this more thorough analysis?
Mark wrote "I realize you like the guy, but what else do you call it when someone rights a dishonest editorial for the WSJ? His separate good deeds aside, this is crap. The WSJ editorial page is crap. And pretty much anyone who writes anything for it is crap, unless they're doing the whole "walk amongst the sinners" bit. "
Are you saying that just because it was on the WSJ opinion page it is crap? Does your opinion have anything to do with the actual content of the piece, or just where it appeared?
So is this older editorial also crap?:
I agree that the WSJ opinion page has some really goof-ball ideas, like this piece: http://www.opinionjournal.com/weekend/hottopic/?id=110010335 ... I really love the phrase "This is protectionism masquerading as safety."
But I tend to judge on content, not association.
I view the WSJ editorial page as being on par with Uncommon Descent. That may seem harsh, but seriously, the stuff they write there so frequently conflicts with reality that they are unquestionably a denialist group.
Yes that article is good, I read it when it was first written, but that doesn't mean I'm going to forgive the WSJ editorial page for being a den of liars, just because they occasionally invite someone in to tell the truth about something completely unrelated to their crankery. WSJ tends to be somewhat pro-science when it comes to things like evolution, mercury-autism, benefits of evidence-based medicine etc. But when it comes to health policy, economics, what have you, they're objectives are denialist almost by default.
I'm disappointed that they gave Offit space to mount what I feel is a specious attack on Moore - and you can guess why they might want to do so. I disagree with his piece strongly on the merits. He does not mount a legitimate attack on Moore, and instead makes it sound like a criticism of the pharmaceutical companies marketing and lobbying practices are an attack on life-saving cures or pharmaceutical science. (If you attack me it's like attacking the troops)
No, it is possible to say that Medicare plan D was a reckless giveaway, and that politicians have really bent over for pharmaceutical companies, and their DTCA marketing is an embarrassment without calling the researchers who are developing vaccines assholes. Afterall, I'm sure the people at PLoS writing editorial after editorial after editorial on this topic do so without being accused of attacking the value of the drugs. We can criticize their marketing departments and their lobbying practices without saying that their science is invalid or their drugs don't save lives. To suggest otherwise, as Offit does, is absurd.
And I'm very disappointed that you seem to view something as "denialist" when it is not, are willing to label what appears to me to be a difference of opinion as "dishonesty," start using the "pharma shill" gambit when it is not justified, and seem willing to slime one of the good guys in the process.
Dammit Orac, if you're not going to see the goddamn movie, it makes it really hard for you to detect a straw man. You agree with Offit's criticisms when they aren't Moore's point! They are a mischaracterization of the film and besides being straw men are cheap appeals to emotion.
Even if Moore had devoted any significant amount of time to attacking DTCA, or medicare plan D, what does that have to do with rotavirus vaccines? And the great drugs they come up with? A drug company isn't just researchers and scientists, it's also marketers, lobbyists and lawyers, and you should be able to criticize any part without assuming it's an attack on the whole.
Finally, for the millionth time. I'm calling WSJ a denialist organization, and while Offit's attack is specious, and fits in with the other garbage on that page, one BS argument doesn't make a denialist. I'm saddened he joined his voice for the WSJ to distract from the important message Moore is trying to spread. But that doesn't make him a denialist. Not yet. He'd have to get at least 4 more criteria in for one.
If you put a curve on a graph with data points, the implication is that the curve has something to do with the data. In this case, there are two possible reasons to do so:
1) Dishonest--to impy that the curve fits the data (which it clearly does not, although somebody not familiar with curve fitting could well be decieved).
2) Honest--to point out that the data doesn't fit the theoretical curve and the theory is therefore a pile of crap.
By the way, what "other data" was the curve derived from? The curve purports to be a relationship between the tax rate and tax income, so this would seem the appropriate data set to use.
Dammit, Mark, what else can I say? You described Offit's article as "dishonest." (Quoth you above: "I realize you like the guy, but what else do you call it when someone rights a dishonest editorial for the WSJ?")
You'll pardon me if I take that question to mean that you think the article was stating untruths and that the author knew they what he was writing was not true. After all, that's what the word "dishonest" implies. You are thus, in essence, calling Offit a liar.
I don't need to have seen the movie to know that such an accusation is unjustified.
Interesting. You win Orac. Without seeing the movie you know that Offit can not possibly be trying to mislead people as to what Moore's message is.
So far on this thread, it appears Tyler and I have seen this film and have both said the same thing. This editorial is a straw man.
Now, is a straw man a dishonest attack? I'd say so. Does that make Offit dishonest? In this criticism of Moore, yes, he levels an attack that isn't on-the-level. Did he intend to mislead? Was he purposefully deceptive? That only Offit can answer.
Interesting. Without having one shred of evidence to show that Offit was intentionally lying or deceiving, you seem to know enough about his intent declare his article "dishonest," rather than just wrong. As qetzal points out, dishonesty requires intent, and you admit that only Dr. Offit can know his intent.
Bottom line: You accused Offit of dishonesty, rather than just being wrong, even though you have no way of knowing his intent.
When can we ever know that? It's an unrealistic expectation.
He made an intellectually dishonest argument. What else can I say? He might not have been intentionally trying to be deceptive, but how can I know this? It doesn't make attacking straw men any less unfair or deceptive. Is it lying? I don't know, probably not. Is it honest? Not really. It falls in that middle ground of bullshitting that's so commonplace in editorials. Stop being so black and white about this.
Stop using such black and white inflammatory language like "dishonest" and "pathetic crap" so liberally and carelessly; I tend to react in black and white when I see black and white language used.
Sorry Orac, I don't know what else to call it when a perfectly intelligent individual attacks a straw man.
What do you call it? Just wrong? As in, being mistaken? I think it's worse than a simple error. I think attacking someone for something they didn't say is kind of smarmy.
Tell you what, I'll attack Moore for some real crankery tomorrow. Call it a peace offering.
I was watching The Home Shopping Network today and realized how it was so very much like WSJ.
There was a nice young man explaining the many benefits of Glucosamine. I listened to the nice young man expound on the compound for about 30 minutes, finally concluding, "You know, I never would have know that without HSN presenting it to me with such clarity. Oh what a wondrous world we live in!"
That's the way I view WSJ and their relationship with AEI, CEI and the Manhattan Institute. Thank goodness for the WSJ because without it we'd have a much harder time understanding the truth.
Well, I can only assume that you were being heartless. Maybe you can mellow just a bit? Didn't you read this part where Phrma's humanity is demonstrated:
My image of Pharma executives is that they are a lot like Dr. Evil, with no offspring, tear ducts surgically sealed and no humanity remaining whatsoever. But I also think they're the primary cause of rising health costs, so maybe that's the discussion that Offit was trying to stem with his pean to Phrma humanity. Who knows where Offit was going with that. Michael Moore is a big fat target so maybe we wouldn't notice that he was protecting his recent patent.
Next up: Sean Hannity discusses socialized medicine in the US. Fair and Balanced on Fox. They Report. We Decide.
PS: In the category of "It's Not Easy Being Ted", some liberal blogger is targeting Ted Nugent.
Oh, my liberal brethren, say it isn't so... Violence is so Republican -- Inaction is what I expect from liberals.
It ain't easy being Ted.
"To Mark's claim that he wasn't"calling Offit a denialist or a crank in this instance," I respond: What message am I supposed to take away when Mark characterizes the WSJ as a "denialist organization" and its editorial page as "virtual clearinghouse of denialism on par with Uncommon Descent," while citing Paul Offit's article as one of three examples to support his characterization? Either Mark was calling Offit a denialist, or he was just as sloppy in his writing as he accuses Offit of being."
Posted by: Orac
Orac, the WSJ editorial page *is* a denialist organization, and a major spreader of lies and junk science. That doesn't mean that everything in those pages is lies, BS, spin or crap - just the vast majority.
Now, if somebody writes something there, they *do* bring onto themselves suspicion, just as somebody does when they enter a 'CrackRUs' crack house. That's reasonable and just; if people refused to write for 90-odd percent dishonest organizations, those organizations would lose some cover.
In the case of Offit, if he made a dishonest argument, then that's his fault, and his disgrace. The fact that you like him doesn't change that.