Friday, February 24, 2012

Problems with Irving Kirsch's Critique of Antidepressants as Placebos

Recently, a FB pal posted an article run on 60 Minutes based on the work of Irving Kirsch. He's a psychologist who has been making the rounds saying antidepressants don't work - and, indeed, depression is not caused by a chemical inbalance at all. It's a pretty radical claim. The overwhelming medical belief is that antidepressants do more good than harm by a considerable margin. Kirsch believes otherwise. To quote him, "Depression is not a brain disease, and chemicals don’t cure it.”

(I'm not going to provide links, here, because linking is largely meaningless. You can find someone on the Internet to take virtually any position at all, so links that "prove" a given point do nothing of the sort - they merely show the person can search around for data that agrees with their conclusions. I encourage people to do independent and substantial research on any field that interests them and advise they read books to do it. The Internet has certainly broadened our knowledge, but it has also made much of it shallow and muddy.)

I've been following Kirsch's work for about a year, now. This is shortly after I started taking antidepressants and feeling considerably better - so I had some vested interest in the research. Was the effect I feeling a placebo effect?

For the record, I am extremely critical of psychological research for both historical and theoretical grounds. I think this bias is justified - psychology has not done a very good job of policing itself. The case of Cyril Burt is particularly significant. But was a psychologist who did twin studies. After his death, it was found he had massively falsified his information, lying about the sample size of the twins studies he did, inventing collaborators and their credentials - this has not prevented his work from continuing to be taught. This is unprecedented. I can't think of a single case where a person, caught committing fraud over the span of decades, would still be taught. The articles "known" to be fraudulent have been removed, but if there was no direct "proof" that a given paper was fraudulent it has remained in the academic canon. (Such proof is hard to get, because Burt burned all his notes before he died!) Furthermore, due to the vagaries of attribution inheritance, articles whose substance is based on Burt's findings are still part of the psychological data record - no effort was made to purge the effects of his fraudulent work from the data pool.

I wish I could say this was something that died with Burt. But you can find the continuation of such fraud in psychology in books like The Bell Curve, issues like gender studies and evolutionary psychology - not to mention, like I said, Burt's work has not been purged from the psychological canon; while those papers known to be fraudulent have been removed, the papers that source Burt's work were not and are themselves sourced by modern research.

(An interesting comparison between corrupt scientific fields and how they clean themselves up, or in psychology's case, fail to, is anthropology. Anthropology was, sadly, very much part of the early twentieth century's eugenics movement. After World War II, though, anthropologists, horrified at what they had helped to do, given intellectual weight to atrocity, purged eugenics from its discipline almost entirely. Psychology, whose IQ tests were also used to justify eugenics, who were equally guilty of giving intellectual force for the eugenics massacres of the early twentieth century, well . . . the Bell Curve is still influential. The eugenicists are still there in psychology, they were never purged or repudiated. In short, there is no psychology equivalent to Jane Goodall because the field never cleaned it's house after World War II.)

Theoretically, psychology is a mess. (And by theory, I'm talking about theory in the scientific jargon sense, which is an explanation for diverse phenomenon inside the field of study, demonstrated by considerable proof without substantial internal contradiction.) It is the only science that has no generally accepted theory regarding the field's object of study. This is a very simple statement, but the consequences are enormous. In short, psychologists are not in agreement, at all, as to what the mind actually is. When compared to chemistry's atomic model, astronomy's relativity, biology's natural selection, physics' mechanics and quantum mechanics, so forth and so on, this lacuna is enormous. If you don't agree about what it is you're studying, how on earth can you study it? What, precisely, are you studying? They literally cannot agree.

(This is in contradistinction to psychiatry, which has a very strong, stable theory of mind. Your mind is your brain, they are one in the same. It is a theory for which there is tremendous evidence, of course.)

So, when I read psychological research, I do so with a grain of salt. They have a lousy track record of policing themselves, the worst in science, and no unifying theory!

Well, when you look into Kirsch's work, it's actually pretty atrocious. Not the hypothesis, so much as his methodology and, indeed, his theoretical understanding of human consciousness.

I'm going to tack the methodological failures of his work. In particular, he cherry picked data. For instance, in the APA journal Prevention and Treatment, where much of his early work was published, the editor of that journal called Kirsch's statistical models "clearly arguable" and warned that his paper's subject-selection criteria were heterogenous. In particular, Kirsch only looked at short term studies.

Now, I do not doubt that antidepressants are overprescribed - but prescribing drugs is what doctors do. Most physicians take the attitude that it's better to ere on the side of caution. Because of the difficulties in communicating psychological conditions, when a patient comes in and says they've been depressed for a long time and nothing seems to pull them out of it - what is the psychiatrist to do? Ignore the suffering of their patient? No. They prescribe medication and usually suggest therapy. After all, antidepressants are generally safe.

In many of these cases, however, the depression wasn't clinical. It's not even that the medication acted as a placebo - it's that there was no illness in the first place. So when Kirsch argues, on the grounds of short term studies, that there is substantial placebo effect - he's wrong. It wasn't the medication or the placebo effect that halted the depression; it was just the normal passage of time in an unknown number of cases. How can this be construed as data at all?

For instance, you take a group of people with headaches. Half you give ibuprofin, half you give sugar pills. An hour later, you ask them how they feel and find that almost all of them, in both groups, now feel fine, most of them attributing their improvement to their medication. Out of these groups, how do you find the people whose headaches just stopped naturally, as most headaches do? It's the same with short term depression studies. It is impossible to determine how many of the people felt better not because of the medication or of the placebo.

In psychiatric and psychological studies, there is tremendous self-selection of subjects. People who feel bad tend to join. While in most medical science, they can perform an actual test to determine who has the condition for which they are testing (say, a virus), this is not generally possible in psychological and psychiatric cases in the short term. So it is known that many of the people who join psychological and psychiatric studies aren't sick in the first place, but it's impossible to know how many! How can you determine the efficacy of the placebo effect if you don't even know if they're clinically ill in the first place? The only good method of determining a person's psychological state is long term observation - something impossible to do with short term studies. By avoiding long-term studies, Kirsch is avoiding the very data that would counter his hypothesis. Ouch. That's a huge scientific no-no.

Additionally, the placebo effect is, itself, short term. The longest known placebo effect is two and a half years. Any study that goes over that is just assumed to be free of placebo effects. So, not only does Kirsch avoid the studies that select out the mentally ill from the temporarily distressed, he also avoids studies where the placebo effect is eliminated or minimized due to the long term nature of the studies. Double whammy.

Indeed, the very idea of the placebo effect is itself under fire - using methods similar to Kirsch's, but with larger data sets over longer periods of time, Asbjørn Hróbjartsson and Peter Gøtzsche have basically demonstrated that there is no clinically significant placebo effect. So, who's right? Kirsch who says that antidepressants are placebos or Hróbjartsson and Gøtzsche who say that the placebo effect is clinicially insignificant?

This is awful methodology. It's simply scientifically unethical to ignore the data that contradicts your conclusions, to study only those things that allow you to be right. To have scientific legitimacy, Kirsch must address long term studies that are free of the placebo effect and the growing body of evidence that the placebo effect is not clinically significant. He does not do this.

One might ask, then, why he can get these high falutin' jobs, like the University of Leeds and now, well, he works at Harvard. Remember what I said about Cyril Burt, The Bell Curve and evolutionary psychology - psychology is a field full of quacks, even at the highest levels of education and research.

Not to mention this is a highly politicized area. There are a lot of people who simply reject the idea that mental illness has a physical component. I'll talk more on that in a bit, but my point here is that there are a lot of people who actively reject the idea of mental illness, who believe that mentally ill people should "pull themselves up by their bootstraps", or seek solace in religion, or "just get over it". (Thomas Szasz published, in 1961, The Myth of Mental Illness - a book that was just reprinted last year and still has considerable influence; see also The Manufacture of Madness and more recently The Manufacture of Depression, which came out last year - and it goes back as far as the written language goes - there are always people who say mental illnesses don't really exist, you can read about it in medieval sources, in classical antiquity; Pythagoras said that depression was merely lack of self control, akin to laziness; Hippocrates believed that melancholia - what we call depression, nowadays - was an imbalance of the four humors, which is to say a medical problem. This argument is ongoing, but nowadays is largely farcical. The medical basis of mental illness is well understood.) They are emboldened by a researcher like Kirsch, who gives the air of legitimacy to their beliefs.

Science is not some purely intellectual field - it takes money to do it, and the people in charge of that money are not, by and large, scientists. They are corporations and political bodies, pursuing their own agendas. But no one brings it up that there are non-scientific social forces that reject mental illness for no good reason - but then use their status in order to support research in that area. As an example, the University of Oklahoma's geology department is the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics. Guess what their position on global climate change is? This is as true in psychology as geology - people with social and political agenda control research funding and publication. And there have always been people who are swift to side with people who say that mental illness isn't physical, that it's a defect in will or character. It goes back at least as far as Pythagoras and Hippocrates!

Additionally, there's just the prima facie stupidity of asserting that you can effect mood with drugs. I mean, prima facie. There are a huge number of studies about the effects of drugs on mood, not to mention nearly every adult reading this has personal experience with alcohol lifting their spirits and lowering their social anxiety. Even more powerful are the opiates - it is impossible to be depressed when you're on Percocet. Unfortunately, these drugs have such dangerous side effects that it is unethical to administer them or they must be administered very carefully. But it's absurd to say that drugs can't effect mood and feelings. It's silly and juvenile! The only question is to what extent does a given drug effect our feeling of depression. That drugs can alter our feeling of depression is simply prima facie true.

The aquisition of funding and possession of high titles does not make a person right. It only means that someone in a position of power agrees with what you say and is willing to give you money to prove it. While it shapes all scientific endeavors to some degree, it is particular pernicious in a field where there is no theory. In psychology's theoretical void, their lack of agreement about what the mind is, anything goes. So you come up with racist crap justifying eugenics and people doubting the physiological origins of mental illness.

Which brings me to the theoretical problems I have with Kirsch's work and all work that supposes a mind/body dualism. Kirsch believes that depression isn't a brain disease. Well, for crying out loud, man, what kind of disease can it be, then? Because all the actual evidence suggests that the mind and the brain are the same thing. All mental activity - thought, reason, emotion, perception - they're all brain activity. If depression exists at all, it must exist as a brain disease because that's where the mind is located. To say that you believe that depression exists but isn't a brain disease makes as much sense as saying you believe in heart attacks but it's not a heart disease.

But we live in a world that is steeped in dualism - the belief that there is some sort of perfected, non-physical sense that exists independent of our flesh. Sometimes it's called the soul, but just as often it's called the mind and the two are mixed up in religion and culture all the time. Dualism is present in all the world's largest religions.

However, that's not science. Science has never been able to find a soul. It has never been able to find a mind separate from the brain. Meaning, Kirsch is proposing something preposterous, again: that you can have a mental illness that isn't in the brain.

I can't say it's short, but those are my main reasons for thinking Kirsch is a quack.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Second Amendment and Gun Control

A meme is making the rounds at Facebook, today, saying if you support the 2nd Amendment repost this. I almost never repost memes unless I have a snarky comment to make - I generally prefer my communications to be more substantial than memes generally are - and while I certainly could make a snarky comment about the 2nd Amendment meme I figured, hey, what the heck, post more substantially on your feelings about the subject.

For me, it isn't a legal matter. I feel the 2nd Amendment is clear in both wording, precedent and tradition. Americans have the right to own firearms. People who go into the historical origins of 18th century militias to discredit modern interpretations of the law engage, I feel, in distorting history. While it is true that when the 2nd Amendment was written, militias were not armed from a state armory but personal arms, and it is true that, today, militias are armed by the state armory, that ignores the 200 years of precedent and tradition between the writing of the Bill of Rights and today - a history of precedent and tradition that has uniformly supported the right of individuals to own guns. This is clear and anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant, lying or so ideologically confused that facts have receded into small points in the distance.

The more complex matter is - should we change the 2nd Amendment? For me, the answer is "yes" and I'll chart out the reasons below after I say this: yeah, guns don't kill people, people kill people . . . with guns. They also rob with them, assault people with them and generally do terrible things with them - and it's my opinion that in a risk analysis sense, applied to the subject of liberty, we'd generally be better off without them.

The two main modern justifications to keeping the 2nd Amendment around are:

1. In such a case as the government of the United States turns tyrannical, an armed population will be able to overthrow such tyranny and;

2. Guns are useful in self-defense and to disarm the population would be to have them fall prey to criminals who would loot and pillage at will, sans an armed population to keep them (or, rather, us) in check.

Both cases are made to sound simple by the pro-gun lobby, but neither is. But, first, let's look at some relevant facts. In the US, 25,000 to 30,000 or so people, every year, who are killed by guns (most are suicide deaths, about 11,000 to 13,000 are murders). Heroin, on the other hand, kills around 2,000 or so Americans every year. So, y'know, guns are about fifteen times as dangerous as heroin. Indeed, the is only one product you can buy that's more dangerous than a firearm - tobacco. Guns are literally the second most dangerous thing you can buy for yourself, even above cars and alcohol.

In a study in 1999, by the Violence Policy Center, every bullet sold in America costs the country around $23 in associated costs - medical care and reduced standard of living because of enduring injury - to the tune of costing the country around $4 billion a year to pay for the right of people to own guns, no doubt more considering the rapidly increasing costs of medical care. So, there is a public cost to firearms ownership beyond simply the violence they accelerate.

The murder rate in the US is just . . . massively higher than in other developed countries. Even those who have crime rates similiar to the US in other areas, such as England, have murder rates that are tiny fractions of those we see in the US. Which makes sense. In England, you get pissed off that your wife is cheating on you, maybe you punch her and/or her boyfriend. In the US, that situation can quickly escalate into murder because it's so easy to kill someone with guns. So while it's true that "people kill people", the ease with which guns allow people to kill other people can't be dismissed with platitudes. Sure, people kill people, but guns make it easy for some angry, humiliated, distraught person to murder someone while in a bad emotional state - which is about where 80% of gun deaths happen, because of a personal quarrel that escalates out of control, almost always having to do with sex or money.

In short, guns are dangerous. They kill a lot of people and do a lot of harm to the public wealth. These facts also cannot be ignored or downplayed. People who do so are guilty of the same kind of twisting of facts used by those who say that the 2nd Amendment doesn't give people the right to bear firearms. The ownership of guns causes a lot of misery and we pay a steep economic price. Those are simply facts.

In the first case, that of protecting ourselves from tyranny, an armed population is as capable of perpetrating tyranny as preventing it - and perhaps moreso. You find any shitty hellhole, anywhere in the world, and you'll find everyone has guns - Columbia, Mexico, Sudan, Afghanistan you name it, in every festering hellhole, guns are readily available. In peaceful, stable nations, you'll generally find gun ownership to be very stricted.

As for stable, tyrannical states? Yes, gun ownership is generally quite restricted, as well, to prevent uprisings. It's pretty hard to get a gun in both France and China - but the US is a lot more like France than China, culturally speaking. Like the French, we have a long and proud history of democratic traditions, a history that China does not have. Sun Yat-Sen is a great man, but Chinese democracy was smothered in the cradle by the warlords and finished off by Mao Zedong. The US, on the other hand, is the oldest democratic state in the world. We have never had any other form of government than republican democracy and over time the conditions of our Republic have improved, bringing ever more people into the franchise. That is the American way - of expanding liberties. We should be proud of that as a national treasure, our longstanding commitment to liberty - imperfect, but improving, always improving. So the situation we find ourselves in is hardly comparable to that of a tyrannical state. It's just not really in us. Never has been.

Additionally, I feel one of the greatest impediments to just, consensual government - no matter the shape - is lack of trust. IMO, that's the biggest problem with government in the US, right now, and almost all other problems either stem from this or their magnitude is increased by it: the people don't trust the government, nor the government the people. I think throwing guns into this mix is a greater threat to our liberty than defense of liberty; I think guns in this mix have a much greater chance of being coopted by a tyrant than used to defend ourselves from one.

Additionally, it's farcical to believe that an armed uprising in the US couldn't be put down by the US military. The only question would be would US troops do that to US citizens - and the answer to that is very complex, depending on the situation we're trying to imagine. I think it would be foolish to imagine that there are no situations where the military would not oppress the people (the actions of the Union Army after the Civil War were so bad that the posse comitatus laws were necessary and just), just as I think it would be foolish to imagine there are no situations where the military, itself, would not side with the people (though if it were to do that, the US could quickly become a military dictatorship, the line between the military supporting the people and the military taking over is a very thin line, so there's that to consider, too).

That's without taking into account the possibility that gun ownership becomes the mechanism of tyranny - I know of no metrics for that, but it's a real threat. Charismatic leaders have been getting the armed population on their side for purposes of tyranny since the beginning of gun ownership; for recent and local examples, just examine any South American military dictatorship, or the current situation in Mexico (whose violence is spilling over into the US, so this isn't merely hypothetical). Miami is also familiar with the violence of guns during the 1980s, which was pretty crazy, and whose violence was not in any measure lessened by widespread gun ownership - that just made it easier for the drug lords and their killers to get their hands on guns.

While admitting there are margins where gun ownership might prevent tyranny, I think we have to admit that possiblity is marginal. Personal possession of firearms is insignificant compared to the power of the military or even the police. Given this, give that personal firearms ownership will only help us overthrow tyranny in a very narrow range of situations, and given the large amount of damage guns do to our society every year (30,000 people dead and 4 billion in damage), it is hard for me to justify gun ownership on the grounds that it prevents tyranny.

In the second case, that of personal protection, there's simply no reliable information that guns stop crime. The number of interventions where armed people chased prevented crime range from around 60,000 a year to 2,500,000 every year - and there is no good methodology for actually examining these numbers. How do you tell when a crime hasn't been committed because someone had a gun? Sometimes, sure, it's easy. Some burglars break into a person's house and get shot - simple and clean cut. But how about those situations where someone hears a noise, goes out to their porch with their shotgun, hears people fleeing and then imagines they've stopped a great crime when all they've done is chase off neighborhood kids using their property as a shortcut? Or who imagine the entire episode because they are committed beyond the bounds of reason to the idea that guns stop crime. Because, in my experience, people who have claimed to stop crime with guns all fall into the second category. I have never known anyone who could verifiably say they stopped a crime because of firearm possession but I've known a lot of people who claim they have - but the incidence of serious crime among my friends seems to be the same regardless of how many people they've chased off with guns; in both cases it's zero (er, if we exclude the violence my friends have committed, hehe; I have a former friend who did kill his girlfriend another who has a conviction for strong arm robbery - but I'll point out neither of them were stopped with guns, either). The lower number is generally believed to be true, as it has better methodology, requiring people to demonstrate there was a crime that was present to be stopped by firearms possession, the higher number basically credits every person who says they stopped a crime as both truthful and accurate.

This has to be weighed against the number of crimes committed with guns. These numbers are much easier to measure - in 2005, 477,000 people were victims of gun-related crime. There were probably a few more than that. That's just the numbers we know about. So, y'know, when gangsters kill someone and no one finds the body, or a crook is shot and doesn't go the hospital, those numbers aren't counted - though they are almost certainly fairly substantial.

So, at best, it's 60,000 cases of crime stopped compared to 477,000 crimes committed with guns. Again, I am lead to conclude, fairly inescapably, that guns are bad for society - that the good guns do in terms of chasing off crooks or whatever is repaid, may times over, by the crimes committed with guns. All those murders, assaults, robberies and the like.

I can also imagine a number of solutions between total criminalization of firearms possession and the current state of affairs. The NRA and other organizations have called for increased need for weapons training (while at the same time lobbying against laws that would make gun safety classes a prerequisite for gun ownership). But the idea has merit - if Americans knew how to handle their guns, the danger of guns would be dramatically minimized.

As would the requirements that guns have trigger locks and gun owners keep their guns in safes (something else also suggested by the NRA who actively combat laws to require it - as you can imagine, I'm fairly ambivalent about the NRA). Yes, it would increase the costs of gun ownership, but it would also save a lot of people's lives and save society a bunch of money in the process.

Hell, it wouldn't even break my heart if gun safety was taught in public schools - it'd be more useful than most of the other things that are taught, and a person's chance of being in a household with firearms, at some point in their life, is very high (around half of all households have guns in them, right now) - so knowing how to handle these very dangerous items is a matter of public good on the same scale as, say, sex education. And would be equally controversial, but it would be a good idea in an armed society and would probably reduce gun violence considerably.

As would the case of restricting the ownership of pistols. Eighty percent of gun crime is done with pistols, mostly because they're easy to conceal. The focus on things like assault rifles is ridiculous. Almost no one commits a crime with an assault rifle (and I would argue the people who own assault rifles are definitely better trained than the average gun owner). You can't really walk around with an AR-15 without being noticed, whereas you can put a 9mm pistol in your pocket.

My point being is that I don't necessarily see a need to outlaw gun ownership. There might be other solutions. But as it stands, it is impossible for me to support gun ownership, regardless of what the 2nd Amendment means.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Afterword on UFC 143

I finally caught up on UFC 143 and I gotta say it was deeply satisfying to see Carlos Condit beat, and beat up, Nick Diaz. And while the fight was close - I scored it 49-46 though I admit the first round was close, and since two of the judges agreed with my scoring, and one gave the first to Diaz, I figure I was pretty spot on - it was definitely Condit's fight. Condit's striking was just too diverse, he was able to move and avoid Diaz's volume punching while connecting with his own strikes. At the end of the fifth round, Diaz was able to get him down and came quite close to submitting Condit with a rear naked choke - so Diaz stole that round, but even so at the very end Condit reversed it and was on top of Diaz. So, good fight, and a profound thank you to Carlos Condit for exposing the weaknesses in Diaz's game: that he fights every fight the same way and if you just plan for that, he can be beaten and, indeed, he can be caused to wilt (which definitely happened in the third and fourth rounds).

Bad news? Diaz won't get crushed by Georges St-Pierre. Instead, Condit will be crushed . . . though probably not as hard because Condit didn't call GSP a chicken. I almost wanted Diaz to win so GSP could beat him, but narrowly decided I'd rather see the Diaz hype train derailed sooner rather than later - and if Diaz lost to GSP, well, who in welterweight hasn't? But losing to Condit means that Diaz is just one of many contenders at welterweight, he isn't some dominant fighter.

The ridiculous news? Diaz is an ass. The first thing out of his mouth in the post-fight interview is how he didn't "accept" that Condit won. Diaz specifically said that he pushed forward the whole fight and landed the harder strikes. Diaz also disparaged Condit's brutal leg kicks that really slowed Diaz down in the later rounds. The first is true - Diaz did push forward. Into Condit's kicks again and again. But it a lie that Diaz landed the harder strikes. The hardest blows were definitely landed by Condit - a roundhouse kick to the face (well, he landed several, but one in particular) and a spinning forearm. And those leg kicks? Some of them were just savage. So, pathetic. Diaz lost, but he whined like a spoiled brat about it.

Then Diaz said he's going to leave MMA because . . . oh, Diaz mumbling BS. There's not enough in it for him or something. He has some fantasy that he can be a top level boxer which will earn him more money.

Which is sad. While Freddie Roach has said that Diaz is the best boxer in MMA - and who am I to disagree with Freddie Roach when it comes to judging a boxer's skill? - that's a far, far cry from saying that Diaz can be a successful professional boxer. Diaz's boxing is very good for MMA, that's undoubtedly true. But many of his fights in MMA he's won by submission. He's got top notch Brazilian jiu jitsu. You can't do that in boxing.

Not to mention the same weaknesses that Condit too advantage of - Diaz's basically lousy footwork - can also be taken advantage of in boxing. The same way Condit beat Diaz will work for any boxer. Diaz will come forward, so long as you disengage so he doesn't corner you and volume punch you into oblivion you'll do okay. And pro boxers, as a rule, have really great footwork. MMA guys? Not so much, because they've got to be canny about takedowns so they have a more square stance and don't move around as much. And Diaz has bad footwork for an MMA dude (which is why Condit landed so many leg kicks; Diaz is flat-footed and plodding).

My prediction if Diaz actually goes into boxing is that he'll get a couple of novelty fights. Oooooh, it's an MMA champion in a boxing ring! See the dog talk! Well, if they're low tier fighters, he'll win. If they're middle-tier fighters, he will lose. Diaz will never be a top level boxer getting the big paychecks he imagines he'll win - and in short order, he'll be getting smaller paychecks than he would be getting in MMA where he is a legitimate title contender. He'll never be that in boxing.

So, not only pathetic that he's leaving MMA with his tail between his legs because he got whipped by Condit (c'mon, man, learn to lose, it's part of all sports!), but it's stupid. And sad.

(It also makes me wonder what his manager, Cesar Gracie, is doing with his money. Diaz lives a very modest lifestyle. Last year, he earned at least $1.1 million in just paychecks for his fights. With promotions and such, it was probably at least twice as much. So, you've got this guy who lives with two other dudes in an apartment in Stockton - he doesn't even live there alone, he shares a place - he drives a crappy car, while I'm sure he spend a fair bit on weed it's not that expensive given his wealth. But he's always whining about how he doesn't have money. Diaz would hardly be the first fighter to be taken advantage of by his manager. But if that's the case, even if he could be a top flight boxer, he'll still be ripped off by Cesar Gracie.)

Next, someone will have to come in and stop the Nate Diaz hype train. Sure, he had a goon win over Cowboy Cerrone, but that's because Cerrone came out and fought an angry and stupid fight. I'm sure a disciplined Cerrone would have won that fight . . . and I think that everyone, from now on, will train not to fall for the Diaz brothers' cage tricks like the "Stockton slap" and the trash talk. Not to mention that from now on, Nate is deep in the shark pool of lightweight. It doesn't get easier from here, so, go Dan Miller, who is a legit contender.

Other noteworthy things? Hell, yeah, Dustin Poirier's mounted triangle armbar was wicked. And Stephen Thompson's karate KO was pretty nifty, too - and the announcing was great. It was Thompson's first UFC fight, and it didn't look like he was hitting with a lot of power, and Joe Rogan was walking about how Thompson was definitely hitting Stittgen and styming Stittgen's offense but it didn't look like he'd hurt Stittgen and as Joe was saying that Thompson laid out Stittgen. Hell, yeah, karate! So, that was cool.

I also think welterweight has turned over. Josh Koscheck won his fight by a razor's margin split decision and I agreed with the minority judge. But with Jon Fitch having been KO'd in his last fight, with Josh Koscheck's uninspired victory over a very modest fighter, Jake Shield's getting clobbered by Ellenburger and Thiago Alves having already self-destructed, I think that there's going to be a whole new cast at the top of welterweight - Carlos Condit, Jake Ellenburger, Diego Sanchez and before too long Rory MacDonald. I also think that Thiago Alves can go back up to the top if he overcomes his fear of wrestling. But a lot of the old guard the UFC wants to put aside because and they're largely at the end of their careers, anyway.

I was sad Ed Herman won because he's a jerk, but he's finally become the fighter everyone thought he was when he was on The Ultimate Fighter. He might be a force to deal since middleweight is going to turn over very soon - Anderson Silva only has a couple more fights in him, and he's got a really tough test against Chael Sonnen, who came within a hair's breadth of beating Silva last time they fought. And regardless if Silva wins (and I hope he does), he won't be fighting too much longer. He's thirty-six and he's got injuries. He's got maybe two more fights in him.

I think Renan Barão is going to be fighting Dominick Cruz very soon. I think it will be a good fight, judging how Barão fought against Scotty Jorgensen (who Cruz also fought, so there is some grounds for comparison). And I like Scotty Jorgensen, but I don't think he's going to be a top guy at 145 for much longer - he doesn't seem to be developing. Oh, well.