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  • Why Fox News Continues to Roll [View article]
    1) More flawed studies with much smaller numbers of people are flogged on Fox all the time - Rasmussen's studies consistently skew towards the Fox talking points, and are routinely used in Fox as proof that "Americans" feel a certain way. Regardless, 17% of 800 would be over 130 - plenty of respondents to get statistical confidence, and the other 83% didn't all use the same news source, so there was no clear bias either way. Anyway, I don't have to rely on this study - you asked if I'd made it up, and I hadn't - the fact is that in conversation with Fox viewing friends and relatives, damn near none of them know that TARP was Bush's program, or that the Republican's Medicare Part D added much more to the deficit than the entire Stimulus, or plenty of other things that are correctly reported elsewhere.

    2) Some (NOT all) of the questions were about what economists or scientists overwhelmingly believe, because the "truth" of those positions is not provable. The fact that almost all private sector, academic, AND government economists who've looked into the numbers say that the stimulus and TARP prevented a much deeper depression may not prove that this is true - the few others who disagree (most of which work for Fox or politically motivated think tanks) may in fact be right. But KNOWING WHAT THE ECONOMIC CONSENSUS IS represents "being informed", even if you also have a belief that it is wrong. Believing that the expert consensus is the opposite of what it actually is represents being uninformed - or lied to. Similarly, you can believe that most scientists are wrong about global warming, and that the few who work for industries with money on the issue are correct in denying it, but if you believe that most scientists worldwide DON'T think man-made global warming is a significant concern, then you don't have an opinion on global warming, you have a false set of facts.

    3) What has "eventually come true"? That Bush didn't help the auto industry or start TARP? That the stimulus isn't 1/3 tax cuts? That federal taxes under Obama are the lowest since Reagan? Again, it's not about beliefs - Fox traffics in propaganda and talking points, and its viewers are deliberately lied to on a regular basis. Typically something Obama or Pelosi would say gets edited to change the meaning and make them look bad or stupid, the edited clip is shown on Hannitty and Beck, then it's mentioned and repeated on damn near every show for the next few days or weeks or months. How many Fox viewers know that the Joe The Plumber "share the wealth" clip was snipped mid-sentence from a FOUR MINUTE answer by Obama where he talked about tax cuts for all income levels, the importance small business of a thriving economy, and so on?

    Anyway, I'm done on this thread - if you truly believe that Fox isn't selling you a preconceived narrative, nothing will convince you, since all the proof of it is presented outside of Fox.
    Dec 29, 2010. 12:21 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Fox News Continues to Roll [View article]
    "Reported accurately by Fox" is possible - a very occasional mention off-hours might or might not happen, but it's nothing to the torrent of one-sided propaganda that Fox traffics in. The proof is in the wildly distorted views of reality that many Fox viewers are fed and believe. The Obama/Acorn financial scandal and many of the other points you mention were, when investigated, found to be nothing (much like the nonexistent voter intimidation that Fox spent weeks flogging, and when the Justice Department investigation found no evidence of any of it Fox spent more weeks decrying the lack of prosecutions as proof of bias.) Did you know that the Briebhart Acorn videos were highly edited and that, for example, the pimp outfit the guy was wearing was added in later? And that all the investigations of wrongdoing that the videos led to found NO BASIS for the claims of illegality at Acorn in the videos and the charges were dropped? If you did know that, you didn't hear it on Fox.

    Here's one commentary on the study, with some key points extracted:


    "But what's interesting in the study is how it shows that Fox News, more than any other source, distorted the truth and created a false reality, for all its viewers, Democrats and Republicans. Money finding (I've focused on indisputable factual errors): Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:

    most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)

    the economy is getting worse (26 points)

    the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)

    their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)

    the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)

    when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)

    and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)"

    You can also read the latest study directly here


    (there have been previous studies by other sources that showed similar misinformation about the Iraq war and other issues - you can look them up yourself. During the Bush administration Fox viewers were much more likely than others to believe factually false PRO-government myths, such as that WMDs were found in Iraq. Back then any criticism of the government "during wartime" was often referred to as treasonous at Fox - that changed on a dime when McCain lost.
    Dec 29, 2010. 10:30 AM | 7 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Fox News Continues to Roll [View article]
    "I now think that more people are better informed because there are alternatives and its easier now to see bias in media because of these alternatives" Yet polls show that Fox viewers overwhelmingly DON'T check their stories in other alternatives, and instead go to the echo-chamber conservative sites that just reinforce whatever they've already heard. And if something doesn't agree with what they want to believe, it's "bias." When tested on plain, provable facts - like which president created TARP, current tax rates, whether WMDs were found in Iraq, and so on, viewers of other media tended to know more as they watched more news, but only Fox viewers knew LESS the MORE they watched.
    Dec 29, 2010. 06:50 AM | 6 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Fox News Continues to Roll [View article]
    If you truly believe that Fox gives both sides of any story that relates to their agenda, you not only haven't been fully informed about the stories, you haven't heard the leaked memos, testimony of former employees, or independent analysis of Fox viewer's knowledge. The amount of coordinated, one-sided propaganda they air is unprecedented in any major US media outlet. Just as an example - how often on Fox did you hear that the Stimulus was 1/3 tax breaks, or that taxes are lower under President Obama (as a result of the stimulus) than any time in decades? How often did you hear that the deficit projections that economists are worried about are due to medicare and social security and have NOTHING to do with the President's policies? These are easily checked facts that are never discussed on the propaganda network.
    Dec 29, 2010. 06:43 AM | 13 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Obama's Capital Investment Write-Off Will Do Little [View article]
    This article doesn't make much logical sense. "For a company paying no tax at all today due to negative earnings, Obama’s plan will not be beneficial." Well, that's certainly true. But they were not likely to be buying new stuff anyway - and if they DID decide to invest during the slow times in hopes of improving their situation, they will have an immediate tax credit they can carry forward into the following year if the investment works. You don't just lose it.

    And as an engineer in a relatively small but profitable company, I can attest to the huge cost inflation that a five year profitability forecast demands - a $20,000 piece of equipment had to "pay back" over $60,000 before it could be approved, partly in profits and "lost opportunity", but also with assumptions about taxes and inflation for all those years. Accountants are nuts.

    Finally, not taking advantage of an immediate writedown because "you will be in a higher tax bracket or have other cause for a higher effective rate in the future" relates to personal taxes, which aren't part of the discussion.

    All things being equal, someone who would dismiss an immediate benefit he might use for the hopes that it will be more valuable later when things change in unpredictable ways is not going to be the kind of business owner who'll be investing at all - there are lots of casinos to play at.
    Sep 14, 2010. 06:52 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    Thanks for your response, Tredleon. I'm not going to get into the larger social issues that you bring up, not because I don't agree with a lot of what you're saying, but because it's off-topic and any intelligent discussion of realistic and/or libertarian economic or political views invariably brings forth ranting (and either ignorant or hypocritical or both) Obama bashers who make idiotic claims about "socialism" and think all America's long-term problems started last year. Under our current health care system, expensive care for older people gets a much larger share of resources than preventative care for younger people, because there's both more money and more votes in it - an irresistible combination in this country. Maybe that will change some day, but it won't happen soon, and not without an actual debate, which seems less possible every day.

    Although it seems self-defeating, in fact all the Provenge studies DID make the treatment available to the placebo group after a certain point, and most of them took it. This was evidently done either as an inducement to help get test subjects or just as a decent thing to do for a treatment that seems to work. This has confounded the comparisons between the two groups in every discussion, and it's why so many Provenge "boosters" believe that the study under-reports the effects of the treatment. I suspect that the unblinding happened after the median point was met, so that the FDA's critical number wasn't affected, but I haven't seen the actual paper, only summaries. Still, if you look at the KM curve at about the 30% survival period, you'll see that the placebo group is about 12 months to the left of the treatment group, and at 20% the difference two curves are at about 38 months vs. about 50. That's a year. The longer times that I cite are an assumption, based on the (as I understand it, extremely rare for people with this disease) 12% or so that were still alive at 60 months, and beyond. This seems to me to be likely due to Provenge, even in the "placebo" group. It's possible that such long survival is not so rare, but the model cited in the paper seems to rule it out.
    Jul 8, 2010. 05:48 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    Tredleon, you make a good point about the 60 months survival - they do converge. My understanding is that all or most of the surviving members of the placebo group were among the 70% who crossed over to Provenge treatment; I've been trying to track down a firm number date for that crossover, but the fact of it seems well established. The predicted survival (based on the Halabi model curves in the Impact presentation) was pretty much zero beyond 40 months. Taxotere studies showed substantially lower survival for both the placebo and treatment groups. In this study the Placebo group's KM curve has a sharp slope change at about 30 months, and after that the slope is identical to that of the treatment group, maintained until month 50. It's likely that this is due to the crossover Provenge treatment; before the slope change the groups were diverging.

    What I can't understand is how you can write what you did and then add "if all you DNDN fanatics believe that an additional 4 months of survival for a terminally ill patient is worth charging taxpayers $90,000 per patient". The KM curves - and the difference between "Median" and "Mean" - clearly show that the sentence doesn't make sense. For more than a third of the treatment/placebo population, the increased life expectancy is much more than 4 months, in some cases years, even if the placebo is truly representative of a non-treatment population. The 4 month median is irrelevant to any specific person's benefit (and is almost double the benefit that got Taxotere approved - another indication that cancer studies can understate clinical effects.) It's also strange speculation that after years and years of failed vaccines, the only one that (so far) has extended survival will quickly be supplanted by new ones that will be approved AND ramp up production before Provenge can build up capacity. If it was so easy, why is the field littered with failures? (I don't claim that there won't be any other successful vaccines, only that the one that works NOW has a substantial business advantage - and that any competition would be foolish to expect Provenge to stay at the current price if they enter the market.)
    Jul 8, 2010. 03:28 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    Thanks for that great article link - I'm going to forward it to some people I know who are struggling with cancer and have heard dispiriting "median survival" numbers.

    To explain mean vs. median to non-technical people, I give this example. Imagine a study comparing heart attack victims in planes with defribilators vs. ones in planes without. Say that one third of patients with the defribilators were saved and lived for an average of 30 years, but two thirds didn't respond and died within five minutes. The untreated group (people in planes that didn't have the equipment) all died within five minutes. The average survival advantage of the defribilator is 10 years (1/3 of the treatment group x 30 years). The median survival advantage is zero (half die in five minutes, vs. half die in five minutes.) Expected headlines - "Defribilators Don't Extend Life!" "Zero Survival Advantage from Defribilators." "Why are we spending money on things that don't help survival?"

    It's sad that even educated medical professionals - including a friend of mine who is a professor of oncology and practicing oncologist - don't understand that the 4.1 month survival benefit is just a median value, and that the lack of "time to progression" result is similarly misleading (He said "I've heard it doesn't slow the disease, which doesn't make sense for it to work, so the survival seems like a fluke." I think it's because of the poor reporting, and he (like others) are just repeating what they've heard and holding back further invesetigation until the clinical results start trickling in.
    Jul 8, 2010. 11:37 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    Thanks - I had missed that posting.
    Jul 8, 2010. 09:27 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    Steveb, I've done a bit of research, especially before the FDA decision when I read all the published studies and public disclosures, and decided as a scientist and investor that the analysts were misreading the data and the FDA would probabably approve. I haven't done an exhaustive review of post-approval FDA documents, because I've got to make a living and raise my family for much of the time. Seeing the 14 month number bandied about made me curious about the source, so I asked where it came from, since the details matter a lot. Sorry if that annoys someone who does his own data mining and seems to resent those who ask questions. I am curious, though - what are the misconceptions I have about the trial design? Were there no crossover treatments on the placebo group? Is a median the same as an average in a non-Gaussian distribution? I don't remember saying much else that refers to the trial design in either of the three studies.
    Jul 8, 2010. 09:22 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    Can you provide a link for this 60 month curve? I'd like to see it. One question that keeps coming up is the crossover treatment effect, and comparing the two groups to the 60 month survival for the larger population with this form of cancer would be instructive (if it's zero, so be it.) I'm a bit confused about the "cure anyone" comment, though. Every treatment for every disease only delays the inevitable - life is a fatal condition. Treatments for metastasized cancers have a particularly tough challenge, and significant delays (like the claimed 14 months) are extremely rare.
    Jul 7, 2010. 05:07 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    I'm not familiar with the QALY methodology, but it seems likely that the difference between a median survival of 4 months and an average survival of 14 months (as some have quoted) is probably very significant in any calculation of cost vs. benefits (ignoring for the moment the crossover placebo effect and the number of long-term survivors.) To illustrate why, imagine a scenario like this one: Say that a first aid kit in an airplane saves 1/3 of heart attack victims, and all the others die. The mean survival benefit is measured in years, the median survival in seconds. A calculation of cost vs. benefit using the median survival would be idiotic.
    Jul 7, 2010. 04:46 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    I appreciate the response, Dr. Cohen, but I was hoping for something a bit more in-depth than the widely reported summary. Specifically, I'm wondering about the post-36 month followup statistics; we know that at 36 months there was a 40% survival benefit, but after that... what? I've heard it repeated that there's a 14 month median survival difference between the crossover + provenge population and the non-crossover placebo population - but where are these numbers coming from? What are the details (n, confidence, etc.)? That's what I've been having trouble finding anywhere, and am very interested in seeing.
    Jul 7, 2010. 04:33 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon: Fear is Our Friend [View instapost]
    Thank you for the post - can you provide any links that would give some details on the crossover survival vs. non-crossover (other than just the generalities that have been repeated) and perhaps some other long-term survivors' stories? I've been looking for this information without much luck.
    Jul 7, 2010. 04:25 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dendreon and Provenge: What if We Lived in England? [View article]
    Dr. Cohen, the link you embedded doesn't work. I've been looking for some followup information on the study subjects after the three-year survival mark - do you know where that information can be found?

    Jul 7, 2010. 09:31 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment