Friday, March 31, 2006

New Cellphone Study - Don't Believe the Hype

I've posted here before about the cellphone-causes-brain-tumors studies. It seems the Swedes have a new study that establishes a link between the two.

Who to believe? As I've posted before, my brother-in-law is one of the world's leading researchers on radiation and cancer. I asked him what he thought of this Swedish study. Here's his reply:

"This group from Sweden is the only group in the world that finds associations between mobile phones and brain cancer. This is just another in a string of methodologically poor studies. A few years ago, the Swedish govt asked me to review the literature and we severely criticized this paticular group for conducting biased and misleading studies:

The main problem is how they obtain information on mobile phone use ...they ask leading questions to persons with brain tumors and are less interested in obtaining accurate responses from the controls without brain cancer. This can be seen in their studies where the risk from "cordless phones" is often as high or higher than the risk from mobile phones.

The RF energy levels are 100 times lower!

Studies by solid Swedish investigators do not find these associations.

Some of the investigators of this article have been involved in litigation in the US ... guess which side."

I'll take that opinion over one from Reuters any day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

They Just Don't Get It

This morning's DP contained an editorial from Marie Cocco about the unreliability of blogs and their ability to deliver news.

Some snippets in italics with my comments:

In blogs we don't trust...

Of course you don't, then you'd be out of a job.

The blog fetish may have reached its height during Rathergate, the imbroglio over the airing in September 2004 of a "60 Minutes II" story purporting to show that President Bush got preferential treatment when he landed a coveted spot in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. The trashing of CBS News anchorman Dan Rather and his subsequent hasty retirement were seen as the ultimate triumph of the bloggers, predominantly on the political right, who gleefully proclaimed that the documents "60 Minutes II" relied upon for the special-treatment allegation were forged.

In truth, an exhaustive investigation led by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, a Republican, and former Associated Press president Lou Boccardi found that no definitive conclusion could be reached about whether the documents were authentic or not.

The fact is that there was no conclusion that they were real. Without the bloggers, no one watching this would have given a second thought to the fact they might be fake. As Marie points out later, Americans trust traditional news sources, but this little incident illustrates that maybe they shouldn't be so trusting.

But never mind. The power of the blogs was confirmed, a development that stunned the mainstream press and impressed the political left - which of course decided that it, too, had to embrace the blogs or be undone by them...

I guess Marie wasn't talking to fellow lefty Chris Bowers who recently proclaimed, "The right-wing blogosphere is dead. Long live the progressive blogosphere."

Blogs are, in fact, the least trusted news source, according to data compiled by Consumer Reports and published in the latest study of the news media conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Only 12 percent of those surveyed about trust in various media outlets said they believe what they read in blogs all or most of the time.

I tried to find the demographic data for this survey, but was unable to. It may be there, but I didn't have the time. I am a little suspicious of a survey defending traditional journalism done by an organization that promotes traditional journalism.

Like all of us in this business, the journalism project is trying to figure out why the newspaper industry is declining, and why no one seems to care much anymore about the difference between original reporting and the mere rehashing - with a passionately partisan spin - that passes for journalism in the blogs and often on cable television. It turns out that, just as the people are often way ahead of politicians in their thinking, so are consumers of news way ahead of a journalistic chattering class newly obsessed with competing on a playing field - the blogosphere - that perhaps it shouldn't set its fact-checking foot upon.
Yes, people increasingly are reading their news on the Internet.

The newspaper business is declining because, regardless of what your survey says, they are tired of hearing the same "journalistic chattering class" chattering from the same DNC talking points.

Bloggers provide the watchdog for the press, just as the press proclaims itself the watchdog of the government. They check the checkers.

But few pajama-clad bloggers were seen wading through hip-deep water in New Orleans to cover the perils wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the way that mainstream reporters and camera crews did. They generally aren't eager to be bivouacked in Baghdad, either.

I admit that I do no reporting when I blog. I only comment on what I see in the press and try to aggregate several sources to back-up my opinion.

However, to say that there are no bloggers going where reporters dare to tread is blatantly false. Josh Britton blogged live during Katrina from the disaster area. Michael Yon showed us what it was like to be in a firefight in Mosul, Iraq.

The mainstream media may have lost some of the trust it enjoyed in years past. But imitating those who are trusted even less surely won't earn it back.

The trust gets lost when the NYT has to correct inaccuracies like this one and this one.

One blog alone may not have all the accurate information, but it is the collection of information and opinion in the free market of ideas that gives us a clearer view of the truth than through traditional news sources alone.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Three Years in Iraq - By The Numbers

In three years in Iraq, the official death toll is 2,317. In the worst month for U.S. losses in Vietnam, May 1968, the death toll was 2,316.

It's taken us three years to surpass the worst single month in Vietnam, lending even less support to the Iraq-is-the-next-Vietnam/quagmire argument.

Every life that is lost is tragic; however, to put this into perspective, the United State Department of Transportation estimates that 42,884 people were killed in auto accidents in 2003. 42,636 were killed in 2004. Given that these numbers are close, it is safe to say about 42,000 people were killed in auto accidents in 2005.

Over roughly the same three year period, about 125,000 people died on U.S roads.

Maybe John Murtha should propose a ban on driving in the U.S.

More numbers on the Iraq War here.

Courtesy of Instapundit.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rovian Plot - Part Two

Honestly, can there be any other explanantion for the Feingold-Censure Vote-Gift that the Republicans have received:

Democratic senators, filing in for their weekly caucus lunch yesterday, looked as if they'd seen a ghost.

"I haven't read it," demurred Barack Obama (Ill.).

"I just don't have enough information," protested Ben Nelson (Neb.). "I really can't right now," John Kerry (Mass.) said as he hurried past a knot of reporters -- an excuse that fell apart when Kerry was forced into an awkward wait as Capitol Police stopped an aide at the magnetometer.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) brushed past the press pack, shaking her head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski (Md.).

"Ask her after lunch," offered Clinton's spokesman, Philippe Reines. But Clinton, with most of her colleagues, fled the lunch out a back door as if escaping a fire.

In a sense, they were. The cause of so much evasion was S. Res. 398, the resolution proposed Monday by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) calling for the censure of President Bush for his warrantless wiretapping program. At a time when Democrats had Bush on the ropes over Iraq, the budget and port security, Feingold single-handedly turned the debate back to an issue where Bush has the advantage -- and drove another wedge through his party.

So nonplused were Democrats that even Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), known for his near-daily news conferences, made history by declaring, "I'm not going to comment." Would he have a comment later? "I dunno," the suddenly shy senator said.

Republicans were grateful for the gift.

The guy has to be a plant. I'm thinking to myself: "There's no way a person could be that out of touch." But now I remember a recent car ride home from work...

I was listening to AM 760 (only for the entertainment value, mind you) and heard a "progressive" radio talk host and a caller talking about how they wished Feingold would run for president because he was the only Democrat with any guts to confront the President.

At the time, I got a warm, tingly feeling because I knew that no matter how badly the Republicans seemed to be screwing up the mid-term election, there were crackpots on the other side who would ensure that the Republicans stay in the majority through even more serious missteps. It's the football equivalent of intercepting the pass and fumbling it back to the other team on the run back.

Thinking about this, I realize that Feingold isn't out of touch with his constituents; rather, his constituents are out of touch with reality.

I'm getting that warm, tingly feeling again.