Archive for July 25th, 2008
Mayer wrote The Dark Side, recently published.
Not peacefully, anyway. And I certainly wouldn’t jump up and down. Take a look.
On April 24 of this year, I sent this email to Glenn Greenwald:
Subj: An idea for your consideration
Indeed, it’s no doubt an idea you’ve already had.
While your books are excellent and make an impact, they have a long lead time and also speak to a generation attuned to TV rather than print.
You’ll note that Josh Marshall has begun to expand his on-line TV offerings.
The obvious thought is for you (perhaps with similarly minded people) to conduct interviews with politicians and civil servants and other informed observers, based on asking questions of importance rather than questions about trivia, and relentlessly focusing on facts (today) rather than fantasy (predictions of tomorrow). In other words, the interviews would be to inform rather than to entertain.
Putting them on-line (e.g., via YouTube) would allow wide distribution (I imagine that every thoughtful blog would carry them) and also keep them available as need arose to refer back to a seminal discussion.
Big-name politicians may not be interested at first, but there are some dedicated politicians working hard for worthwhile causes that would welcome some recognition and the opportunity to present the facts that drive them. I’m thinking, for example, of Representative Louise Slaughter. This mailing came from her office (firstname.lastname@example.org) yesterday:
As everyone knows, LMS has been working on this bill since 1995! The House passed the bill on 4/25/07 by a vote of 420-3. Since then, Sen. Coburn has had a hold on it in the Senate. We finally worked out a deal with Sen. Coburn on Monday regarding the firewall language. The Senate hotlined the bill yesterday and has resolved all objections (that we know about). The Senate comes in tonight at 5pm. They have to vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act. Then they think they might proceed to debate on GINA with a vote tomorrow. The bill then has to come back to the House for a vote – hopefully early next week. Once we pass it, it goes to the President. If you have any questions, let me know.
It would be possible to vary the format, choosing the format appropriate for each program—and since the video is on-line, program length can also vary, choosing a length appropriate for the program. Some possibilities:
a. An expert or panel of experts simply clarifying some issue or topic, presenting not only the facts but the causal chains.
b. You and perhaps another questioner interviewing politicians and/or experts to clarify what is at stake on a pending question.
c. Setting priorities, in which you and others work to determine appropriate priorities in various areas (healthcare, education, Iraq, regulatory approaches, US Israel/Palestine policies, etc.). The idea is to choose an area and then break it down into various steps that could be taken and prioritize the steps.
And so on.
Salon may or may not be interested, but I’m sure Marshall would be.
Thanks for reading.
Glenn Greenwald has a good column, which begins:
Former Reagan DOJ official, constitutional lawyer, and hard-core conservative Bruce Fein was one of the first prominent Americans to call for George Bush’s impeachment in the wake of the illegal NSA spying scandal. Back in late 2005 and 2006, when even safe-seat Democrats like Chuck Schumer were petrified even of uttering the words “broke the law” when speaking of the Bush administration — let alone taking meaningful action to investigate and putting a stop to the lawbreaking — Fein wrote a column in The Washington Times forcefully and eloquently arguing:
Volumes of war powers nonsense have been assembled to defend Mr. Bush’s defiance of the legislative branch and claim of wartime omnipotence so long as terrorism persists, i.e., in perpetuity. Congress should undertake a national inquest into his conduct and claims to determine whether impeachable usurpations are at hand.
In 2006, Russ Feingold called Fein as one of his witnesses in support of Feingold’s resolution to censure President Bush for his lawbreaking. Today, Fein is one of the witnesses who will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of Dennis Kucinich’s impeachment resolutions (joined by Elizabeth Holtzman, Bob Barr and several others). As KagroX details here, that the House is holding hearings on Kucinich’s resolution is not, in any way, an indication that the Congress is prepared to take those resolutions seriously. Manifestly, they are not. Yesterday, Jane Hamsher spoke with Bruce Fein on BloggingheadsTV about why the Democrats have, in general, failed to hold the Bush administration for their multiple crimes (Slate yesterday detailed some of the many Bush crimes). Here is what Fein — echoing an argument I made a couple of weeks ago — said on that topic:
As noted in an earlier post, California has legalized medical marijuana and dispensaries of medical marijuana. The Federal government has yet to follow suit, though the DEA periodically says that it is not interested in arrest and prosecution of patients who are following a doctor’s recommendation (though their actions contradict their statements). David Samuels has a good article on what is happening as a result of the California laws. It begins:
The Tibetan prayer flags suspended on a string over the sleeping body of Captain Blue rose and fell in fluttering counterpoint to the wheezy rhythm of his breath. Lifted by a gentle breeze off the Pacific Ocean, each swatch of red, white, yellow, or green cotton bore a paragraph of Asian script. Every time a flag flaps in the breeze, it is thought, a prayer flies off to Heaven. Blue’s mother says that when her son was an infant he used to sleep until noon, which is still the time that he wakes up most days, on his platform bed in a one-bedroom apartment overlooking Venice Beach, a neighborhood of Los Angeles.
It was now three o’clock in the afternoon, and Captain Blue was dozing after a copious inhalation of purified marijuana vapor. (His nickname is an homage to his favorite variety of bud.) His hair was black and greasy, and was spread across his pillow. On the front of his purple T-shirt, which had slid up to expose his round belly, were the words “Big Daddy.” With his arm wrapped around a three-foot-long green bong, he resembled a large, contented baby who has fallen asleep with his milk bottle.
Captain Blue is a pot broker. More precisely, he helps connect growers of high-grade marijuana upstate to the retail dispensaries that sell marijuana legally to Californians on a doctor’s recommendation. Since 1996, when a referendum known as Proposition 215 was approved by California voters, it has been legal, under California state law, for authorized patients to possess or cultivate the drug. The proposition also allowed a grower to cultivate marijuana for a patient, as long as he had been designated a “primary caregiver” by that patient. Although much of the public discussion centered on the needs of patients with cancer, AIDS, and other diseases that are synonymous with extraordinary suffering, the language of the proposition was intentionally broad, covering any medical condition for which a licensed physician might judge marijuana to be an appropriate remedy—insomnia, say, or attention-deficit disorder.
Take a look—at the post, and at the link included with the post.
Measles is not trivial. Wikipedia notes:
Complications with measles are relatively common, ranging from relatively mild and less serious diarrhea, to pneumonia and encephalitis (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis), corneal ulceration leading to corneal scarring Complications are usually more severe amongst adults who catch the virus.
The fatality rate from measles for otherwise healthy people in developed countries is low: approximately 1 death per thousand cases. In underdeveloped nations with high rates of malnutrition and poor healthcare, fatality rates of 10 percent are common. In immunocompromised patients, the fatality rate is approximately 30 percent.
Measles is a significant infectious disease because, while the rate of complications is not high, the disease itself is so infectious that the sheer number of people who would suffer complications in an outbreak amongst non-immune people would quickly overwhelm available hospital resources. If vaccination rates fall, the number of non-immune persons in the community rises, and the risk of an outbreak of measles consequently rises.
Now it’s found that measles outbreaks can be cut by an additional early vaccination:
Outbreaks of measles in developing countries may be reduced by vaccinating infants at 4.5 months of age as well as at the World Health Organization’s recommended routine vaccination at 9 months, according to a study published on BMJ.com today. These findings should lead to reconsideration of the policy for vaccination during measles outbreaks and in humanitarian emergencies, say the authors.
Maternal antibodies protect against measles during the first months of life and infants routinely receive their first vaccination between 9 and 15 months to coincide with when these maternal antibodies are lost. This vaccination policy was based on children born to naturally infected mothers, but measles vaccination campaigns over the past 20-25 years in low income countries have resulted in many mothers being immunised and transferring only half the maternal measles antibodies as naturally immune mothers.
Similarly, HIV positive mothers transfer a smaller number of antibodies than HIV negative mothers and HIV positive children also lose their protective maternal antibodies early. As a result, a new group of children now exist who may lose their protection by 3 to 5 months of age and there may well be a need to provide measles vaccination at an earlier age.
A measles outbreak in Guinea-Bissau in Africa offered Professor Peter Aaby and colleagues a unique opportunity to assess the protective effect of earlier vaccination at 4.5 months.
When a company or a political party or an individual starts to ignore reality, the future becomes bleak. While reality might be safely ignored for a while, the longer such ignorance endures and the broader its swatch becomes, the more longevity dwindles. The GOP has made a practice of ignoring reality for some time, and the results are coming in—but the habit, it seems, is hard to break. The Anonymous Liberal points to a recent example:
Peter Kirsninow at The Corner sums up the response to Obama’s speech yesterday among drive-time radio callers:
Judging from the local drive time radio shows, we bitter, religious pistol-packers here in flyover country remembered only two things from Obama’s Berlin visit: the phrase “citizen of the world” and Obama’s failure to visit wounded troops at Landstuhl and Ramstein.He goes on to explain that:
[P]eople were put off by Obama proclaiming himself to be a citizen of the world when — according to several callers — he regularly gives indications he’s not particularly enthused about being a citizen of the United States.Yeah, like the time he said he was a “proud citizen of the United States” immediately before calling himself a citizen of the world!Seriously, it’s this kind of stuff that makes me crazy. As many others have noted, just about every politician has referred to him or herself as a “citizen of the world” at some point in their career. From a quick google search, that list includes Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Rudy Giuliani, among others. And as numerous outlets are reporting today, Obama didn’t visit the troops at Landstuhl and Ramstein because the Department of Defense told him not to!Of course none of this stopped right-wing blowhards from pushing these false memes yesterday and generating all this misdirected outrage. Sadly, this is what American politics has become in the age of Rush Limbaugh.
Peter Clemens at Pick The Brain announces his free eBook:
I’m excited to announce my first e-book, A Year of Change, is available to download here:
The e-book includes my best articles from my first year of blogging both on Pick The Brain and my own personal blog, The Change Blog.
It is a free e-book, so feel free to do with it what you want: print it, review it on your blog, share it on Twitter, email it to your friends, sell it……. whatever you want.
Finally, I would love to hear your thoughts about the e-book, either in the comments below [at the link above -LG] or via email to peter [at] pickthebrain.com.
I hope someday it will be much more difficult for industry to buy the votes of Senators and Representatives. Today, it is frighteningly easy, with the government becoming in effect a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business. For example,
“Washington’s largest lobby, the pharmaceutical industry, racked up another banner year on Capitol Hill in 2007, backed by a record $168 million lobbying effort,” reports M. Asif Ismail. The spending, from companies and trade associations including Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, jumped 36 percent over the previous year, with a big portion of the increase going to Democrats after they became the majority party in Congress. “In the current election cycle so far, for the first time on record, the pharmaceutical and health products industry has given slightly more money to Democrats than Republicans,” Ismail notes. Just two years earlier, “Democrats received only 31 percent of the contributions from the industry, while the Republicans received 67 percent.” The industry’s lobbying successes have included “thwarting congressional efforts to restrict media ads for prescription drugs,” “blocking the importation of inexpensive drugs from other countries,” and “ensuring greater market access for pharmaceutical companies in international free trade agreements.”
Larry Margasak of the Associated Press identifies the root of the problems in the food industry. Once again, it was the GOP being willing to do the bidding of business rather than protecting the consumer. And once again, the result is significant harm to the industry. Just as the US auto industry successfully fought against higher mileage standards, with the result that (for example) Ford has posted a lost of $8.7 billion for the past year, so the food industry is finding that its success in preventing effective consumer protections is resulting in great dollar losses to it.
WASHINGTON – One of the worst outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. is teaching the food industry the truth of the adage, “Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.”
The industry pressured the Bush administration years ago to limit the paperwork companies would have to keep to help U.S. health investigators quickly trace produce that sickens consumers, according to interviews and government reports reviewed by The Associated Press.
The White House also killed a plan to require the industry to maintain electronic tracking records that could be reviewed easily during a crisis to search for an outbreak’s source. Companies complained the proposals were too burdensome and costly, and warned they could disrupt the availability of consumers’ favorite foods.
The apparent but unintended consequences of the lobbying success: a paper record-keeping system that has slowed investigators, with estimated business losses of $250 million. So far, nearly 1,300 people in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have been sickened by salmonella since April.
Investigators initially focused on tomatoes as a culprit. Now they are turning attention to jalapeno peppers.
A former member of Bush’s Cabinet and three former senior officials in the Food and Drug Administration told the AP that government food safety experts did not get the strong record-keeping and trace-back system originally proposed under a bioterrorism law to cope with a major foodborne illness.
“In retrospect, yes, if they (the regulations) had been broader and a bit more far-reaching, it could have helped with this,” said Robert Brackett, senior vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “It wouldn’t have hurt, for sure.” Brackett formerly was a top safety official at the FDA.
Under pressure in 2003 and 2004, the White House agreed to dilute record-keeping proposals by FDA safety experts.
“If the FDA had been given the resources and authority years ago that it asked for to solve these kinds of problems, I think we would have solved this already,” said William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner.
Tommy Thompson, who was health secretary during the industry’s lobbying campaign, acknowledged that a more robust food-tracking system — opposed by business groups as too expensive — could have helped stem the current illnesses and business losses.
“We went in with the larger package but knew we had to compromise,” Thompson told the AP. “I was satisfied with this being the first step. It’s always better to be a Monday morning quarterback. We could have ended up with nothing. If we had more, would it help the situation now? Yes.”
According to government records reviewed by the AP, business groups met at least 10 times with the White House between March 2003 and March 2004, as the FDA regulations were under debate. Food industry lobbyists successfully blunted proposals using arguments familiar in other regulatory debates: The government’s plans would saddle business with unnecessary and costly regulations.
“The FDA’s strong proposed bioterrorism rules were significantly watered down before they became final,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. The private advocacy group obtained the White House meeting records under the Freedom of Information Act and provided them to the AP.
Continue reading—the malefactors are identified.
PsyBlog has a list of important studies in child psychology:
… Child psychology – or, more broadly, developmental psychology – is not just the study of children, it is the study of you and me and how we came to be this way. Just as discovering your history can teach you about the future, so child psychology shows us what we once were and even what we will become.
Here are 10 classic studies that have illuminated crucial areas of childhood development. Each one is a piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is ourselves, and each one reminds us, through examining just one piece, how aspects of experience we now take for granted were once so complex.
- Infant Memory Works From Very Early
- When the Self Emerges: Is That Me in the Mirror?
- How Children Learn the Earth Isn’t Flat
- The ‘Strange Situation’: Window on a Child’s Past and Future
- Infants Imitate Others When Only Weeks Old
- When Children Begin to Simulate Other Minds
- Infants are Intuitive Physicists: Object Permanence
- How Infants Start the Journey to Their First Word
- 6 Types of Play: How We Learn to Work Together
- Jean Piaget’s Four-Stage Theory: How Children Acquire Knowledge
Good news. Clement James reports:
Nasa is to make its huge collection of historic photographs, film and video available to the public for the first time.
A partnership with the non-profit Internet Archive will see 21 major Nasa imagery collections merged into a single searchable online resource. The Nasa Images website is expected to go live this week.
The launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities and new user features.
Over time, the integration of Nasaimages.org will become more seamless and comprehensive with the main Nasa site.
“This partnership enables Nasa to provide a vast collection of imagery from one searchable source, unlocking a new treasure trove for students, historians, enthusiasts and researchers,” said Nasa deputy administrator Shana Dale.
More at the link.
It’s about time—actually, it’s long past due, but of course the GOP would never move on something like this. Mike Lillis has the story in the Washington Independent:
Spurred by reports that abusive offshore tax havens are syphoning hundreds of billions of dollars in federal revenues, Congress’s leading voices on tax policy called Thursday for tighter restrictions on companies and individuals doing business abroad.
The issue is of particular significance to Democratic leaders, who have accumulated a challenging legislative wish-list for next year — much of which they hope to fund by closing the $345 billion tax gap. Experts warn, however, that a slew of hurdles stands in their way.
Fueling the debate, the Government Accountability Office unveiled a report Thursday revealing that a single, five-story Cayman Islands building is home to almost 19,000 different financial entities. Roughly 900 of those entities are U.S.-owned, the GAO found, and between 40 and 50 percent have a U.S. billing address. The report came one week after a Senate panel estimated that abusive offshore arrangements deprive the federal government of roughly $100 billion per year.
The news brought a vow from top lawmakers to rein in the abuses.
“We’re going to find a way to make a huge, big dent in this problem,” said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees tax policy.
But tax experts say that won’t be easy. One complicating factor is the pace of globalization, which has forced an increasing number of businesses overseas to optimize profits. Victor Fleischer, a University of Illinois law professor who specializes in federal tax issues, said that offshore tax havens are often abused, but are also “an accepted method of structuring cross-border transactions, many of which are not abusive.”
That leaves regulators to sort through the mix to identify those violating the process — something many experts say the government lacks the resources to do. Jack Blum, an offshore tax specialist with the law firm Baker & Hostetler, likened the regulators to bicycle riders trying to keep pace with autobahn speedsters.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, face the equally unenviable task of crafting legislation that targets only the bad actors. “If they can find the major loopholes that no one can defend with a straight face,” Fleischer said, “then they’ll probably close those. But those are difficult to find.”
Arthur Allen reports in the Washington Independent:
Nice piece of reporting by the AP’s Lauran Neergaard about how shoe-leather Minnesota epidemiologists traced the contaminated jalapenos that seem to be responsible for the supposed tainted-tomato Salmonella outbreak. Alerted about an outbreak in late June in Minnesota, public health officials there interviewed the sick, traced the Salmonella in St. Paul to a particular restaurant, and used credit card receipts to see who had or had not gotten the jalapeno relish on their food, thereby confirming jalapenos as the prime suspect. Then they traced the jalapenos back to a farm in Mexico–where they found Salmonella on a pepper–and from there to a distributor in McAllen, Texas. It took about 10 days to do all this. Michael Osterholm, who has become a big-shot consultant in the bio-terror world, directed the Minnesota public health department for years and seems to have left behind a solid institution. The obvious question: Why were a handful of Minnesota scientists able to quickly resolve an outbreak that stumped the FDA and CDC for four months?
To be sure, no one is positive that all 1,100+ St. Paul infections are jalapeno-related, though there’s no concrete evidence of anything else. Meanwhile, the FDA continues to be accused of providing partial and confusing information about the scare, infuriating the produce industry, which has suffered hundreds of millions in losses.
Glenn Greenwald has a very good column on the torture memos. From the column:
… The August 4, 2004 CIA memo (.pdf) specifically noted that “the waterboard” (sic) is not “torture,” and it further points out that the President ordered that the Geneva Conventions are not always to be complied with, but rather, only “to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity.” The same memo also pointedly notes that the Durbin Amendment — which bars the use of torture and “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in all circumstances — “is not, as of now, law.”
What’s particularly notable here — beyond the fact that this is further proof that our Government has engaged in deliberate, systematic and illegal torture — is what a closed, secretive society we’ve become. Even the memos which the ACLU obtained — between four to six years old — are heavily redacted, with the vast bulk of the legal conclusions of our Government simply blacked out (.pdf). We just don’t live in an open society, as most of the most consequential actions in which our Government engages are undertaken behind an increasingly impenetrable wall of secrecy.
The vast bulk of these memoranda consist of nothing more than legal arguments as to why the Bush administration claimed it had the authority — as the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer put it — “to permit interrogators to use barbaric methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes.” There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for these Memoranda to be concealed from the public. All they do is set forth the Executive Branch’s purported understanding of the law. How can legal arguments about the President’s alleged authority possibly be secret?
And yet it was only because the ACLU relentlessly pursued protracted litigation that the CIA was ordered to turn over these documents and we learned about them. That’s the same way we learned about the 81-page Memorandum authored in 2003 by John Yoo that provoked such disgust back in April (that’s the Memo that calmly analyzed whether “‘scalding water, corrosive acid or caustic substance’ thrown on a prisoner” was legal and which noted that a prior, still-secret OLC Memorandum had concluded “that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations“). And the DOJ’s memoranda justifying Bush’s NSA warrantless eavesdropping program — as well as other long-abandoned, patently illegal surveillance programs — remain concealed.
It has been left to the ACLU and similar groups (such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and Electronic Frontier Foundation) to uncover what our Government is doing precisely because the institutions whose responsibility that is — the “opposition party,” the Congress, the Intelligence Committees, the press — have failed miserably in those duties. And while Democrats in Congress passively ignore their oversight responsibility or do the opposite by helping to conceal Bush crimes, the Democratic Party establishment goes around repudiating and even demonizing the factions that have tried to step into the void that they’ve left, as illustrated by this cowardly “senior Democratic lawmaker” who anonymously told The Wall St. Journal this about Obama’s recent FISA vote:
“I applaud it,” a senior Democratic lawmaker said. “By standing up to MoveOn.org and the ACLU, he’s showing, I think, maybe the first example of demonstrating his ability to move to the center. He’s got to make the center comfortable with him. He can’t win if the center isn’t comfortable.
CD4+ T lymphocytes, or simply CD4 T cells, are the “brains” of the immune system, coordinating its activity when the body comes under attack. They are also the cells that are attacked by HIV, the devastating virus that causes AIDS and has infected roughly 40 million people worldwide. The virus slowly eats away at CD4 T cells, weakening the immune system. But the immune systems of HIV/AIDS patients face another enemy as well — stress, which can accelerate CD4 T cell declines. Now, researchers at UCLA report that the practice of mindfulness meditation stopped the decline of CD4 T cells in HIV-positive patients suffering from stress, slowing the progression of the disease. The study was just released in the online edition of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of bringing an open and receptive awareness of the present moment to experiences, avoiding thinking of the past or worrying about the future. It is thought to reduce stress and improve health outcomes in a variety of patient populations.
“This study provides the first indication that mindfulness meditation stress-management training can have a direct impact on slowing HIV disease progression,” said lead study author David Creswell, a research scientist at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA. “The mindfulness program is a group-based and low-cost treatment, and if this initial finding is replicated in larger samples, it’s possible that such training can be used as a powerful complementary treatment for HIV disease, alongside medications.”