Nov 1, 2006

Absurdities

I found examples of stupidity and cupidity in a recent scan of the news:

At the beginning of the Gulf War, F15E fighters used a $4.6 million targeting device to locate and destroy Scud missile launchers on flatbed tractor-trailers. A camera took nearly-perfect pictures and the Air Force believed nearly 100 Scud launchers were destroyed. When a team went to verify the kills, the actual number was zero. The targeting devices did not distinguish between missile launchers and decoys or oil tanker trucks. Malcolm Gladwell, “The Picture Problem,” The New Yorker, December 13, 2004

In the 2000 and 2004 elections, survey data seemed to reveal a “culture war” represented by red states and blue states. Other survey data showed that almost two-thirds of people in red and blue states believe big corporations have too much power, and many in both states believed protecting the environment was important. The two groups were only 12% apart on issues including gun control and the death penalty. Thus, characterizing the American public as polarized is a misuse of data. Rodger Doyle, “Myth: Red-Blue States,” Scientific American, November 2006

A candidate for Oklahoma state superintendent of schools said book manufacturers should use Kevlar in textbook covers so students would be able to use them as shields in school shootings. “Perspectives,” Newsweek, October 30, 2006.

Pfizer’s new drug Caduet® is being marketed as a handy combination of a high blood pressure and a high cholesterol reducer. It contains the calcium channel blocker Norvasc® and the statin Lipitor®. A 30-tablet supply of Caduet (10mg Norvasc and 10 mg Lipitor) costs about $100 at drugstore.com. 10mg of Norvasc costs about $65 for a 30-day supply, and 10 mg of Lipitor is about $75, so the combination seems like a bargain. On the other hand, while there’s no generic for Caduet, calcium channel blockers can cost as little as $10 per month and the statin lovastatin is about $30. That means you ought to be able to save 40-50% by buying two generics together, and much more if your health insurance has a low co-pay for generic drugs. Pfizer ad, Parade magazine, October 29, 2006. Drugstore.com, October 31, 2006, BCBS formulary, October 31, 2006. FDA, October 31, 2006.

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