Posts Tagged ‘junk science’

May 29 roundup

  • Lawyer don’ts: Don’t steal your client’s book advance [Rebecca R. Ruiz, New York Times on Michael Avenatti indictment]
  • “This isn’t science, it’s witchcraft”: latest verdict against Bayer/Monsanto in Roundup weedkiller/non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma case rests on ultra-loose standards of causation [David Bernstein, related video, earlier]
  • Blazing sunset: Idaho legislature fails to reauthorize state’s code of more than 8,000 regulations, which expire. Between now and July 1, Gov. Brad Little “gets to pick and choose which ones to reinstate as emergency regs until legislature meets again.” [James Broughel, Mercatus]
  • News blackout on STEM Charter School shooting (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) has judicial origins: entire court file in murder case against older of the two shooters “is ‘suppressed’ from public inspection. This even over the express request of the prosecutor” to have the judge unseal most records [Eugene Volokh]
  • Baltimore corruption and development, red flag law, Montgomery Countyites for private toll lanes, Yuripzy Morgan show and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup;
  • A point I’ve been making for years about the Electoral College: one of its underrated benefits is in bolstering election integrity by much shortening the list of jurisdictions in which a material chance of fraud might throw overall result into doubt with consequences for legitimacy [Stephen Sachs and followup]

Liability roundup

  • Oakland jury tells Monsanto to pay $2 billion over claim that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though the consensus among scientists is that it doesn’t [Tina Bellon, Reuters, earlier] Both sides in glyphosate trial bombarded Bay Area residents with local paid messaging; did Monsanto use geofencing to run ads on phones inside the courthouse itself? [Scott Greenfield, ABA Journal] Was judge in previous Bay Area glyphosate case swayed by P.R. campaign aimed at her? [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine]
  • “Police say Rodriguez was looking at her phone while walking across tracks” [AP/KOIN; Oregon woman suing rail companies over injury]
  • Liability reform in Florida, so often stymied in the past, may have clearer road ahead with arrival of new state high court majority [John Haughey, Florida Watchdog]
  • Not just mesh, either: “Top 5 Eyebrow-Raising Provisions in Mesh Attorneys’ Retainer Agreements” [Elizabeth Chamblee Burch]
  • What is a Maryland General Assembly session without a special fast-track bill to hot-wire money to the benefit of asbestos lawyer Peter Angelos? But this year’s ran aground [Josh Kurtz, Maryland Matters; John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine]
  • Car accident scam in eastern Connecticut reaped estimated $600,000 from as many as 50 staged crashes [AP/WTIC]

A second California glyphosate verdict

Our system lets trial lawyers win jackpot jury verdicts even when science is not on their side. Case in point: Roundup. “Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s most widely used weedkiller, does not cause cancer. Yet, for the second time, a jury has recently sided with the plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging that glyphosate does and did cause cancer. What are we to make of this?” [Val Giddings, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Genetic Literacy Project graphic on what regulators and research agencies think, earlier here and here]

At Commentary on the Roundup verdict

My new piece at Commentary on a San Francisco jury’s verdict ordering Bayer/Monsanto to pay $289 million to a school groundskeeper who blamed Roundup herbicide for his cancer. It bids to go down in the history books alongside the lawsuits “claiming that silicone breast implants caused auto-immune disease, common childhood vaccines caused autism, the morning sickness drug Bendectin caused birth defects, one or another make of car suddenly accelerated without any input from the driver or gas pedal, and so forth.”

At the end it concludes: “Eventually, our liability system does often get around to rejecting baseless scientific claims of causation, especially since the improvement in the handling of expert evidence embraced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow (1993). Before it gets there, however, it sometimes redistributes large sums—often to claimants, even more reliably to lawyers—and often destroys large amounts of value. In the days after the San Francisco verdict, the value of Bayer stock dropped by more than 10 billion euros. It’s expensive when error prevails.” More: The Logic of Science (“Courts don’t determine scientific facts.”) Earlier on glyphosate here. And a note on the perhaps-surprising tax implications under perhaps surprising provisions of the 2017 tax reform: Robert Wood.

Environment roundup

  • Here come big, beautiful eminent domain cases over condemnation of land for the US-Mexico wall [Gideon Kanner, Ilya Somin]
  • Judge greenlights “public trust” climate change suit, an exercise in court- and lawyer-empowerment [Samuel Boxerman, WLF]
  • Next Friday, Mar. 17, Cato will host panel on pending SCOTUS case of Murr v. Wisconsin (property rights, regulatory takings) with Roger Pilon (Cato), J. Peter Byrne (Georgetown Law), and Ilya Somin (George Mason Law), with opening remarks by Todd Gaziano (Pacific Legal) and moderated by Ilya Shapiro (Cato) [register or watch online]
  • Swallowing dubious health claims, Maryland advisory panel urges schools to turn off wi-fi. Plenty wrong with that [ACSH]
  • By 31-69 margin, Los Angeles voters crush anti-development Measure S, “NIMBYism on steroids” [City Observatory, earlier]
  • Tackling WOTUS is just the start: “The Clean Water Act Needs A Reset” [Reed Hopper, Investors, Jonathan Wood, related]

“Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist”

They’re finally letting the egg back into the good graces of government nutritionism, long after it had become clear that the cholesterol scare was unfounded [Washington Post] Again and again, health guidelines promoted by Washington have pushed Americans from safer toward less safe food choices, and from long-familiar foods that came to seem too rich or indulgent (butter, animal fat) toward alternatives about which far less is known. [Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week] More: “Worth remembering that, if they had the power in the 1980s, the public health lobby would have forced us to eat a diet they now say is bad.” — @cjsnowdon

However bad a nutritionist Uncle Sam may be, of course, he is unlikely ever to be as bad as the science-impaired, self-proclaimed Food Babe Vani Hari [The Atlantic (“There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.”), Orac/Respectful Insolence, Advertising Age, earlier] If only the public health establishment worked as hard to counteract the notions spread by Hari as it does to inscribe whatever its current set of food enthusiasms may be into coercive government policy! More: Michelle Francl, Slate.

P.S. At Scott Greenfield’s suggestion:

About that “GMO food causes rat tumors” report

Don’t miss multiple posts by BoingBoing’s Maggie Koerth-Baker on the shoddy science behind a recent alarmist report. It’s all the more noteworthy because one of her BB colleagues was at first taken in by the report, requiring an awkward rowback that developed into a crusade of its own against bad activist science. Earlier on Prop 37 and the California political angle here, etc.

About that “gay parenting” study

It’s almost entirely off-topic for this site, but some readers may be interested in my new piece for Huffington Post (my first in that venue) poking some additional holes in an already much-criticized study by Mark Regnerus finding bad life outcomes among young adults who report that a parent had a same-sex relationship. Sample:

The Witherspoon Institute, discussing the study’s findings, adds another clue: “48% of the respondents with a GF [gay father], and 43% of the respondents with an LM [lesbian mother] indicated that they were either black or Hispanic.” Those numbers sound awfully high, and they are. They far exceed the roughly 30-percent black-plus-Hispanic share of the U.S. population. Why would young adults with minority backgrounds and a high rate of economic distress report having far more than their share of gay parents? Are they somehow more likely to grow up in homes with actual gay parents? Or are their parents somehow being overclassified as gay?

Putting together that with other anomalies in the study data, I conclude that the study does not come even close to measuring what it claims to be measuring. See also: Amy Davidson, New Yorker, among a whole mini-literature of responses.