July 8th, 2008

fannie, freddie, $75 billion in new capital, wuh hunh?

Okay, I don't fully get this, but here's what I _think_ is going on:

Over the course of the boom, a lot of stuff happened financially that wasn't on the balance sheet. There are some Issues associated with some particular forms of this. Maybe there's going to be a rule change and some formerly off balance sheet stuff is about to become on balance sheet. If that happens, and those are Negatives, then the affected agencies might have to raise more capital (positives) to offset those. I don't get what was off balance sheet (and I really feel like I _understood_ the options scandal back in the day; it was so simple by comparison). I don't get the discussion about whether this rule change (should it occur) will affect the agencies or not. Here, _you_ read it and explain it to me:


I did find the second half of that article quite hilarious, particularly the bit about how they're having trouble fulfilling the requirement to hire a CEO, seeing as how there are so many vacant CEO slots in financial organizations going begging right now. Now _that_ is funny.

I'm a mean, vicious, cruel person, apparently, to laugh at that.

Cipro can cause tendon problems !?! Really !?! I mean, like I had _no_ idea. . .


This was widely publicized back in 2001/2, which is when I heard about this. I mentioned it a few times to other people, who promptly told me they'd known that for some number of years already and were a bit surprised no one was warning all the adjectives-are-so-tempting folk who were stockpiling Cipro due to fears of Anthrax. I mentioned it to one or two of the folk stockpiling Cipro and received such an earful I figured, hey, _your_ business, not mine.

Apparently Public Citizen sued the FDA over this, which is why they _finally_ got their fucking act together and issued an official warning.

Gotta love this administration.

Did Darth Vader own stock in whoever makes Cipro? Is that what this was all about?

AAP's committee on nutrition is at it again

I have issues with pediatrics as a specialty having to do with how it grew up alongside formula use. And not in an adversarial role, either.

The AAP section on breastfeeding, while unbelievably compromised in several ways, has at times issued statements about their disagreement with the nutrition committee.

Who is going to put a stop to the latest ideas out of the committee is an open question.

On the list: low fat dairy for infants over 12 months. Rationale? Hey, _some_ kids are getting a lot of fat.

But the headline grabber is amazing, even for these guys. Tara Parker-Pope over at the NYT, on day Two of coverage of the new recs, has this for a headline:

8-Year-Olds on Statins? A New Plan Quickly Bites Back


Really. In a world in which books are being written, studies produced and articles fly around madly showing that statins do _jack shit_ for morbidity and mortality, except for _men_ who _already have heart disease_ (yes, statins reduce cholesterol in other groups; no, that doesn't have any net benefit). In THIS WORLD, the AAP's committee on nutrition wants to put pre-pubescent kids on statins.

Given that a set of the side effects (euphemistically, and hopelessly inadequate described as "muscle pain". Ya know, just call it rhabdomyolysis. If you're going to be that unclear, hell, go straight to the latin. Which I had to look up to get the spelling right, so if it's still wrong, sorry!) makes exercise, shall we say, _unlikely_, ya gotta wonder what they're thinking over there. The answer, of course, is that they aren't. They're pediatricians. If they _thought_, they'd be family practice docs. Oh, wait, that's my bias showing. Sorry about that.

Just never forget. These are the people who for a long time wanted everyone to wean at 4 months because breastmilk didn't have enough vitamin D and Sunshine is Dangerous so neither mother should get more vitamin D (which would affect the amount in her breastmilk) and heavens! Putting a _baby_! In sunlight! OMG! That might, like, cure jaundice or something. Or prevent rickets. Much better to consume formula. Or, after the committee on breastfeeding and a bunch of lactivists beat some sense into them, take vitamin D in the form of oral drops (cause, ya know, cod liver oil would be a disaster!).

After all, everyone _knows_ that slathering a newborn with a bunch of parabens (aka endocrine disrupters -- hey, wouldn't that have something to do with how sugar and fat are processed) in sunscreen is a _much_ better idea. Best of all, never let them outdoors. I mean, they might like run around and get some exercise or something.

Coverage from Day 1, which I initially avoided, because I had a strong feeling I'd respond strongly and negatively:


"Previously, the academy had said cholesterol drugs should be considered in children older than 10 if they fail to lose weight after a 6- to 12-month effort." The age limit has been dropped to 8. It's unclear if they still have the 6-12 month weight loss thing (wouldn't just dropping the cholesterol number be adequate, even if they didn't lose weight?).

Here's a gem:

"Dr. Bhatia said that although there was not “a whole lot” of data on pediatric use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, recent research showed that the drugs were generally safe for children."

Which would be _fucking amazing_ if true, given that the drugs are increasingly not regarded as particularly safe for adults and a lot of docs are questioning putting _middle aged_ folk on them for decades when they have no other indication of heart disease -- because of safety concerns.

And they want to start screening at age 2, if the parents have cholesterol/heart issues. *2*

Here's an opposing viewpoint from the previous set of guidelines:


I should not be so mean about pediatricians. Really, I mean, _this_ guy is one.

Toddler Fun: Nap

Today's nap started with a lot of crawling all over me, eventually settling on my left arm. I continued to splutter over the AAP's committee on nutrition, until I realized he was actually falling asleep.

This is really kinda weird. When J. is here, naps are -rare- events, most likely to happen in her car when she's running errands. Maybe I'm boring the kid to sleep. But yay! Nappage.

anyone around here remember fen-phen?

This is all operating out of my head, without reference to backup research, so I could get details very wrong. But here's more or less what I remember happening:

Some data on fen-phen "working", i.e. people lost weight and as long as they kept taking fen-phen, it stayed off.

Some data on obesity as a risk factor leading to a variety of diseases and death.

Some discussion about the "safety" of fen-phen.

Fen-phen takes off like a rocket (I mean, come on: legal speed that helps you lose weight? What's not to love? Oh, yeah. The heart thing. Right.).

Right around the time the heart thing was just starting to be whispered about, but long before the lawsuits that would ultimately do in, what, American Home Products (googling says yes! And that's now part of/called Wyeth), a number of _very well meaning_ activist/consumer advocate organization, which, IIRC, may have included Consumers Union and/or Center for Science in the Public Interest assembled the above three sets of data to put out guidelines on where the line is for risk/benefit (how fat do ya have to be to justify taking this crack, er, crap) to work out in your long-term favor.

NOW we know that the "safety" data of fen-phen wasn't good data. I don't think we're that far off from a consensus that obesity per se isn't quite as risky as people have been making it out to be (which is to say, the hysteria is nearing a crest, so if your immediate reaction is, horrors! She's downplaying the nastiest thing that could possibly happen to you, then you're part of that wave that's _still_ building.). As a result, even these very well meaning organizations contributed to the problem.

Wyeth does not seem to make/market any statin. Their latest high profile offering seems to be Lybrel.

LA Times Blogger with photos of Curitiba


Nice photos!

I first read about Curitiba maybe 4-5 years ago, probably in _Natural Capitalism_ by Levins et al (since reading _Shoes Behind the Door_ and some other stuff, I've become a lot more skeptical of Levins as a source, but have no reason to suspect the accuracy of this description). Knocked my socks off, it made so much sense. Why build rail lines when you've already got pavement? Just build your system around reasonable buses and everything is great. This blog entry covers the details adequately: you don't pay on entering the bus, but on entering the terminal. Level entry to the bus. Etc. All the stuff that happens with light rail/subways/etc., but in a bus.

The photos also do a great job of bringing the zoning home, which is a big chunk of what makes a public transportation system viable.

I love that the blogger makes specific suggestions for adapting to LA! Of course, I don't know LA well at all, having only visited a half dozen or so times and mostly just passing through so I cannot speak to whether the blogger makes sense or not.

_This_ is the kind of discussion we need a whole lot more of. A _whole_ lot more of.

The blog in general is absolutely worth reading. Particularly his mapping of the drop in car sales to fleet economy for the maker. Sweet.

QOTD: Let's hope we're all wealthy and retired. . .

Thanks to Calculated Risk for this link:


Source of this quote:

"The SEC report describes an e-mail in which an analyst refers to the market for collateralized debt obligations as a ``monster.''

``Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters,'' said the e-mail, which was sent Dec. 15, 2006, to another analyst at the same firm. "

Now, I'm very, very, very sympathetic to people who hop on a bubble and successfully hop off before it pops, socking away a big wad of cash to never have to work again. Very sympathetic.

But this is probably pushing it further than I would look favorably upon.