(Belated) Friday Beer Blogging – Erratum And A Review

Let’s start off with a corrective note and an apology. A while back I wrongly slandered Baltika Porter by calling it drinkable, but saccharine with a suspicion that they added sugar to bring on a bit of the Russian “Imperial” character. Not so! In fact I had just tried Okocim Porter from Poland. From what I remember Baltika comes across quite pleasant if a bit burnt. As a gesture of making amends, I recommend that my fans (both of them) go out and enjoy a draught/case/six-pack of Baltika’s fine product immediately.

Michael Jackson, the other Michael Jackson, had this to say:

Baltika Porter has an ebony colour; an alcohol content of 7.0, from an original gravity of 1068; and a woody aroma, with oily, creamy, fudgy, toffeeish, juicy, flavours. It is soft and lightly dry. This beer, too, contains crystal, and some carbonised malt.

As always you can find out more at Beer Advocate.

Moving on, thanks in no small part to the fine work at Stoudt’s I have a very hard time passing up on any triple-fermented American ale, especially when the brewers telegraph their intentions by slipping Flemish into the beer’s name somewhere. New to me, the Tripel from Southern Tier in New York pours a clear straw yellow with a generous, lingering cream-white head. Despite hints of cardamom and orange peel (mentioned on the bottle, no doubt as a helpful aid to palate-challenged reviewers like myself) it seemed like I had tried this brew before.

A few hours later I remembered my review of the Maximus IPA, another filtered multi-fermented ale (double rather than triple) from Lagunitas in California. I wrote then:

The strange thing was that the Maximus IPA did not remind me of any particular beer that I have tried, rather it reminded me of dozens at once. Despite being double-fermented the Maximus was more bitter than sweet, more hops and alcohol than malt and yeast protein, more classic American microbrew than Belgian dubbel.

More or less the same holds true for the Southern Tier. Maybe even more so for a brewer who labels his beer in Flemish. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t enjoy the high-octane IPA/Scotch style which both beers basically represent, I do and then some, but for a beer that calls out its Belgian heritage I will always prefer the murky, protein-rich brews from Stoudts, Allagash and New Belgium. If you have any favorites of your own, please by all means share them in the comments. If it’s new to me there’s a good chance that I will hunt it down for a review.

Find out more about Southern Tier from BeerBlog and, of couse, the guys at BA.








Better Late Than Never?

Some interesting admissions:

In a joint news conference Thursday night that had a somber tone, Bush acknowledged the bloodshed has been difficult for the world to understand. Blair called the violence “ghastly.”

But, Bush said at the White House, “Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing.”

Those missteps include the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, though Bush said those responsible have been jailed. More personally, the president said, he learned not to use so much “tough talk” – saying Osama bin Laden was wanted “dead or alive” and challenging America’s enemies to “bring it on.”

“I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know,” Bush said softly.

Blair said the leaders did not accurately predict immense challenges such as the strength of the insurgency. “It should have been very obvious to us,” the prime minister said.

I guess I am pleased they are finally recognizing and admitting to some mistakes, although I resent the notion that those responsible for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib are in jail. They aren’t. Unless they have retired independently, they are still writing policy for the WH, or have been promoted to more important positions. While the actual abuse was done by few soldiers in terms of percentages, the climate was created by policy makers and politicos who, in many cases, allowed this to happen through intentional decisions, legal maneuvering to enhance executive authority, and frequently, gross indifference and tough talk.








Hearts and Minds

This is the kind of news report that makes you just want to turn off the television for the next few days and pretend you never supported the invasion of Iraq:

military investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis last November is expected to find that a small number of marines in western Iraq carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians, Congressional, military and Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Two lawyers involved in discussions about individual marines’ defenses said they thought the investigation could result in charges of murder, a capital offense. That possibility and the emerging details of the killings have raised fears that the incident could be the gravest case involving misconduct by American ground forces in Iraq.

A couple of thoughts:

1.) I intentionally stayed out of the ‘Jack Murtha hates America’ chorus last week, because while I disagree with Murtha on a number of things, the simple fact of the matter is that he does indeed have well-placed sources, and was in a position to know (not to mention it is entirely possible to be wrong about something without being a pinko-communist atheistic flag-burning gay-loving America hater, something a significant portion of my side of the political spectrum can not or will not fathom). Whether or not it was appropriate for him to leak that information or if he was asked to intentionally leak it to soften the blow of the official report is something we can all speculate about.

2.) Jessie MacBeth is still a lying, psychotic douchebag.

3.) It should be pointed out that if you have 100,000 people, a certain number of them are going to turn out to be lawless murderers. Even with Marines.

Add to that the stress of combat, the stress of the asymmetrical warfare and daily terrorism in Iraq, the frustration caused by culture shock and language barriers, and the fact that this report seems to suggest a squad leader was the ring leader, this is not surprising. It is yet another stain on America’s honor, and it makes me sick to my stomach. I hope those, if found guilty, spend the rest of their lives in a military prison.

More here from der Kommissar.








Who Needs the Daily Kos…

When you have the National Review:

By nothing more than dumb luck, the Republican-controlled Congress—lambasted for the junkets, earmarks, and “culture of corruption” that have aligned to produce the lowest approval ratings in memory—was handed a shot at some desperately needed redemption. All its leaders had to do was make the right choice between condemning the rankest corruption and displaying an outsized arrogance. Guess which one they chose?

To learn all you need to know about their ethics and judgment, look no farther than their outraged—and outrageous—reaction to the FBI’s execution this past Saturday of a court-authorized, highly deferential search warrant at the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D., La.).

***

This is delusional. Congress had a chance to come out swinging against corruption—to demonstrate, amid a slew of tawdry scandals, its recognition that public officials are subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. The Republican leadership in particular should have seen an opportunity to redirect attention from its caucus’s lapses to a Democrat’s crude criminality. They chose, instead, to rally around an apparent swindler. We can think of 100,000 reasons why this will be remembered as an unparalleled blunder.

And speaking ofthe Daily Kos, they are just as disgusted by the performance of their Congressional ‘leaders’:

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Congress (with Pelosi’s acquiesence) has proven completely unwilling and unable to police its own. It has taken several justice department investigations to begin rooting out the deep corruption in the place. It’s a cesspool.

And there is NOTHING in the Constitution that places Congress above the laws faced by the rest of American citizens. If there is lawbreaking happening on Capito Hill, the Justice Department is duty bound to investigate and enforce the law.

And if Hastert and Pelosi can’t see that, then the place is truly completely hopeless.

When I see the Republican and Democratic leadership closing ranks to protect a crook, it briefly makes me want to go apologize to all the Naderites for making fun of their paranoid conspiracy theories.



Ken Lay Guilty

The jury has reached a verdict in the Enron case, and Drudge is reporting that Ken Lay was found guilty on all counts.

To the big house with him.








All Your Science Are Belong To Us

More disturbing anecdotal evidence that everyone is using ‘science’ to their advantage:

Drug companies fund a growing number of the studies in leading psychiatric journals, and drugs fare much better in these company-funded studies than in trials done independently or by competitors, researchers reported Wednesday.

About 57% of published studies were paid for by drug companies in 2002, compared with 25% in 1992, says psychiatrist Igor Galynker of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

His team looked at clinical research in four influential journals: American Journal of Psychiatry, Archives of General Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

In the report, released at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Toronto, reviewers did not know who paid for the studies they evaluated, Galynker says. There were favorable outcomes for a medication in about:

• Eight out of 10 studies paid for by the company that makes the drug.

• Five out of 10 studies done with no industry support.

• Three out of 10 studies done by competitors of the firm making the drug.

The findings don’t prove the companies are knowingly biasing studies, says co-author Robert Kelly Jr., also with Beth Israel. The report didn’t look at the evidence for bias in design of the studies.

Some quick caveats- it is important to understand that just because researchers have reports funded by drug companies that provided more positive findings, that does not necessarily mean they are fixing data or acting unethical in any way. In social science research, it is entirely possible to shape the outcome of a study simply through the research questions asked, and that is more than likely what is happening here. University researchers receive a grant to do a study, the research questions are provided for them and/or the design, they complete the study, and because of the nature of the questions asked, more often than not industry funded studies yield ‘positive’ results.

There is, in and of itself, nothing unethical about that, IMHO. What is troubling is that it would appear that the hard questions may not be asked at the rate they need to be, and that university researchers are forced to take money from people who have a vested interest in an outcome.

I want to be careful, here- this is my conjecture, and I think it will be unfortunate if people jump the gun and start claiming that ‘researchers are selling out.’ That more than likely is not the case, and what I have outlined is probably more accurate. Again, I am coming from this from a social sciences perspective, so I will leave it to Tim to fill in the blanks regarding research design and the hard sciences.

Having said all that, given the movements on the right and the left to politicize and denigrate science to achieve their political goals, it only seems to make sense that private corporations would themselves want to get in on the action. It makes sense, but it is still depressing.

*** Update ***

These comments are from Tim:

The story here is actually pretty simple. I don’t think that the studies themselves are corrupted, mostly because standard practices exist that almost eliminate researcher bias. Most of these studies at least claim to follow these practices, e.g. double-blind experimentation, agreeing on statistical methods prior to data collection, having the data itself analyzed by independent hands, so unless they are performing outright fraud (which I doubt) the studies are on the level.

The real disconnect happens after the research is done and before the work sees publication. Unlike government funding researchers who take industry money sign an agreement to publish the results only if the funding agency (e.g., Pfizer or Merck) approves. One of the reasons why drug companies have such massive budgets, then, is that they will fund five or six separate studies and only agree to publish the three or four that come out looking the best for drug X. Or to put it in a more generous light, imagine that you fund four studies and three come out looking pretty good for your putative drug. The fourth, though, looks terrible, performing as well or worse than the placebo. Maybe it’s an outlier, or the researchers screwed up somehow. As a competitive drug company you have huge, enormous pressures to let that outlier fourth study disappear into obscurity.

So in my view this result is entirely unsurprising. If you take two equal bell-shaped curves, A and B, and you cut off the left-side tail of curve A, then the average value for A will end up slightly higher than B. I think it is very likely that private and public-funded studies come out like curves A and B where the “real” distribution is more or less the same but the drug companies cut off the unfriendly “tail” of their curve before it reaches the public.

My guess is that the amount that gets cut off depends strongly on how competitive the drug is. If a company has an exclusive patent that they know gives them years of flex time to get it right then they may let research get through more or less unmolested. In a neck-and-neck race to release a blockbuster like Vioxx I would bet that the pressure to push the curve a little is practically unbearable.

None of this should surprise anybody. Free market rules control all publicly-traded companies and until somebody writes a law requiring them to publish every study that they fund (which would not be a bad idea) they will be within their rights to protect their interests.








Snakes On A Plane: Greatest Movie Evah, Law Enforcement Tool

I understand that the SoaP phenomenon is like so last week, but this seemed pretty amusing :

While I was struggling to come up with something new, I thought of this blog which I read pretty often and that’s why “Snakesonagirl” was mentioned on the Dateline episode, as it was my trolling name in Yahoo Florida chats.

The name helped nab three predators, one of which has had prior charges and another which brought duct tape and rope hence it was pretty useful!

It amazes me how the internet is the pedophile’s greatest gift and his greatest enemy at the same time. On the one hand a perv has the irresistible allure of instant access to virtual rooms full of hundreds of prepubescent innocents who don’t know that you’re forty-five and in your underwear, but on the other hand one in ten is a cop. Truly the ‘net is a timesaver, whether you’re a perv or you’re trying to put a perv away.

On a side note, some days I wonder what is the longest time that a cop in Miami sat on a computer chatting to another cop in Minneapolis about Harry Potter or My Little Pony.