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    Saturday, October 05, 2002
    One for Common sense – One for Nonsense

    At first I thought the US legal system might finally be showing a dose of common sense when on Monday, U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake threw out an $US 800 million case by a doctor who was claiming that his mobile phone gave him cancer. In tossing the case:

    “Blake ruled that although there is evidence that radiation from cell phones may cause cancer, there are many more studies that show no relationship between tumors and cell phones…Three major studies published since December 2000, including one by the National Cancer Institute, found no harmful health effects from cell phones. “

    So mark one up for common sense. On the balance of the evidence available to date, Blake ruled there isn’t a case to answer. For the time being at least, the mobile phone and wireless data carriers can breathe a little easier.

    The same can’t be said for Phillip Morris, after a California jury decided to award $US28 billion in punitive damages against the firm. Whilst I’m no fan of tobacco firms and find some of their past behaviour inexcusable, these sort of punitive damages awards are just absurd. I mean seriously - $US28 billion!!! The lawyers for Phillip Morris make a valid point by pointing out that:

    “Testimony during the trial showed that Ms Bullock was aware of the health risks of smoking and was warned repeatedly of those risks by her doctors over four decades, and her daughter also urged her to quit. Her response: 'I am an adult, this is my business."'

    Yes , cigarettes are addictive. But people do give up. People do manage to quit (or at very least reduce their consumption). Even if the dangers of smoking weren’t real well known when the plaintiff started smoking in the mid 50’s, she has had plenty of chance to quite since, but apparently never did.

    It will also be interesting to see how much this gets reduced on appeal. As the SMH article notes

    “Before today, the biggest verdict won by an individual against a tobacco company was $US3 billion ($A5.5 billion), awarded in June last year. Philip Morris was ordered to pay the amount to Richard Boeken, a former heroin addict with cancer who died in January. The verdict was later reduced by a judge to $US100 million ($A183.42 million).”

    From $3 billion to $100 million. On that basis, $US 28 billion could be reduced to a little under $US 850 million. Still not an amount to be sneezed at but not nearly as much nonsense as the current amount.
    Sowell on race and IQ
    Black libertarian economist Thomas Sowell has written a trilogy of pieces on race and IQ but I think the following quote from part III distills the essence of the debate and suggests the most scientific conclusion to be drawn, namely institutions matter:

    Back in the days of the Roman Empire, Cicero warned his fellow Romans not to buy British slaves, because he found them hard to teach anything. A 10th-century Moslem scholar noted that Europeans grew more pale the farther north they were and that the "farther they are to the north the more stupid, gross, and brutish they are."

    With our love of labels today, we might dismiss both these statements as "racism." In reality, both statements were probably true, as of the time they were made. At the very least, the people who said these things were eyewitnesses, which we cannot possibly be.
    Holiday Weekend Humour

    The SMH has a great feature today on research by psychologist Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire. Mr Wiseman and his team were conducting international research into humour. Part of there research was an Internet site where visitors could submit jokes and have them rated, in order to determine the world funniest joke.

    So what was it?

    “Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his cellphone and calls the emergency services.

    He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?"

    The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

    There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"

    According to the researchers, although some jokes were rated higher by different groups, this was the joke with the highest general appeal. Interestingly, the least funny joke was also the most submitted, perhaps suggesting that people also love jokes that are suitably bad.

    “"What's brown and sticky? A stick”

    Thursday, October 03, 2002
    Muslims and the CEC
    It is encouraging to see Australian Muslim polemicist Amir Butler take a stand against Muslim communities' propensity to sign up with far right nutballs like La Rouche (who believes that the Queen of England is head of an international drug smuggling ring):

    The CEC are using Australian Muslims. They have been actively canvassing our organisations and leaders, attempting to enlist them in various causes that, if taken in isolation, may seem quite fair - for example opposition to the war on Iraq or the anti-terror laws. In supporting this effort, they have been translating their material into Arabic, distributing copies of their Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) magazine, and circulating petitions.

    Unfortunately, Muslims seem to have internalised victimhood to the point that we are so desperate for political allies that anyone who claims to be pro-Palestine or anti-Israeli is immediately our friend - regardless of who they are or what other positions they hold. It's that kind of mentality that led some Muslims nowadays to distribute the material of groups such as the White Aryan Nation or David Duke, oblivious to the fact that both entities have written against Muslims with the same vigour as they now write against Jews. It does nothing to help our causes, but it does everything to provide fodder for our opponents to paint us as wackos and conspiracy theorists peddling the sort of illogical gibberish as the "4,000 Israelis didn't turn up to work" nonsense.

    Tuesday, October 01, 2002
    Welcome Instapundit readers!
    Talk about bad timing! Unfortunately I have been missing in action these last few days travelling between Wellington (New Zealand), Sydney and Adelaide thus my postings have been scarce (currently doing blogging from a hotel in Glenelg, Adelaide where the Australian Conference of Economists is being held, was informed by a reader that I had scored a Reynolds-hit). But do come back again. We usually have heavier postings than this!

    Sunday, September 29, 2002
    The Rathouse
    My friend Rafe Champion has recently debuted his new website called The Rathouse which is devoted to exploring the ideas of Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek, WW Bartley and related thinkers. He has put on the site an extensive list of articles written over the years about the ideas of these three thinkers, as well as a 'guest site' for those interested in contributing essays. Go visit and buy his latest book while you're there.




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