Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 11th, 2009

Why Sam Stein’s question aroused so much attention

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Very good post by Chris Bowers. It begins:

The anger that some establishment journalists have expressed over The Huffington Post being called upon during President Obama’s first prime-time press conference deserves further explanation. It is, in part, as Atrios notes, about "where in the pecking order he’s supposed to be," within the world of political media. And it is also, of course, about a perceived threat that new media outlets pose to more established ones. For years now, bloggers and other new media sources have been attacked as rabid, inexperienced, uninformed, arrogant, newcomers all as part of a campaign to keep bloggers, new media and grassroots types out of the political media establishment.

Beyond struggles over pecking order within the world of political media, attacks on bloggers, new media and other emerging grassroots types are also form of long-standing wedge politics designed to drive the progressive / Democratic coalition apart, and to keep the power center firmly in the centrist / corporatist wing.

Those who engage in attacks on bloggers must be aware, at least by now, that blogging and other new media is not simply a fad that will dissipate ala rock and roll or television before it. Traditional media is losing its audience and revenue streams at a rapid rate, and by now it is obvious to anyone involved that the self-publishing Internet is the main reason for this. As such, it is obvious–painfully obvious, for some–that it is simply not possible to shift the ever growing online audience back toward print, radio or other declining mediums.

So, since you can’t stop the rise of the new medium, the only available tactics left..

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

Food atrocities

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Man oh man.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

The Ethicurean’s Dept of Agriculture wishlist

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Very good article indeed. It comes in two parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 1 begins:

The food system in this country has broken down like a rusty old tractor. Or more accurately, like a $250,000, brontosaurus-sized, air-conditioned, computer-controlled, herbicide-misting machine. Calories may be cheap and abundant, but actual food is growing scarcer. The side effects can be seen in a populace growing ever unhealthier (and fatter); in our chemical-soaked soil, oceans, and drinking water; and in the shrinking pool of farmers and farmworkers, most of whom barely make a living. While everyone can identify infinite variations on these problems, there is no panacea that will solve them all.

When it comes to food policy, the quest to make progress on such a massive set of intertwined problems can result in tension between the big-picture visionaries — people like Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Eric Schlosser, whose gifts lie in their ability to synthesize the issues into a coherent whole — and the folks working inside the Beltway or their state capitols, who by necessity must focus on smaller pieces of the puzzle. The difference in approaches can result in name-calling: DC insiders are too compromising, too willing to settle for Big Ag’s “crumbs,” while the blue-sky thinkers are too impractical, too blind to the political reality of what it takes to eke out progress toward long-term change. But the two groups can (and occasionally do) complement each other well. The visionaries can shine a public spotlight on the areas that most need it, and the pragmatists can translate the groundswell of interest generated in a particular topic into political action.

In a much-emailed article last Sunday, Washington Post reporter Jane Black, after hobnobbing with the big-picture side during the inauguration festivities, concluded that the food movement lacks focus and an actionable message. (And also that green-apple gelee, however “homey,” won’t change the world. Agreed.) This isn’t exactly a new critique, but it’s an accurate one. Because food and farming touch many issue areas, the big-picture thinkers so often quoted in the press can’t and shouldn’t concentrate on only one aspect. But behind the scenes, the groups that are immersed in a single facet of the problem — whether it be food justice, farmworkers’ rights, children’s nutrition, organic farming, animal welfare, food safety, or conservation to name just a few — are right now laying the groundwork in the new Obama administration for a set of policies that, taken together, just might someday result in food that nourishes not only eaters but the farmers and the farmworkers who produce it, as well as American soil itself.

Their proposals aren’t flashy or romantic, and the choir probably sounds more cacophonous than harmonious. But no one should say the food movement lacks for specifics. To the contrary, we have a bounty. The challenge is to see how these many small proposals could together possibly equal something much greater.

As a start, we embarked on a quest to find out which policies the new USDA, led by former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, could reasonably put in place in its first six months to inspire real changes in the food system. On Sunday, we asked 30-plus groups involved in the nuts and bolts of policymaking and a few individuals to tell us their top food and farming priorities for the agency’s next months. More than half got back to us within our two-day window. We have filtered and synthesized the policy papers and informal emails we received into 10 big-picture directives supported by 30 specific, concrete actions. The majority fall under the domain of the USDA, while a few will require muscle from the Administration, but these are all proposals that the USDA can put its weight behind and support right now. They also happen to be in keeping with the Rural Agenda posted by the Obama Administration at Whitehouse.gov on January 20; sadly, neither food nor farming merited their own action agendas…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 12:37 pm

Most reliable knowledge: from experiments

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Often people get so used to asking questions to get information they forget that they can actually try things. In teaching programming, for example, novices will often ask, "What will happen if I do X?" without ever realizing that they could try X and find out for themselves. Same thing goes for shaving: I get questions fairly often that I have to answer, "Try it and see," because everyone’s reaction to shaving products and techniques is so individual. For example, a person may be allergic to certain essential oils, so that a shave stick that’s great for me doesn’t work so well for him.

And it clearly applies to foods and cooking: experimentation is the way to go, with blind tastings if possible. That’s how I settled on the "best" yogurt (for me). And here’s a VERY interesting post at the Kitchn [sic] about trying three different tomato sauces and pasta. Well worth reading, it begins:

Last month Francis Lam, one of my favorite writers over at Gourmet.com, posted an article on how he made a simple spaghetti and tomato sauce with a very expensive ($8) box of pasta and an even more expensive ($15) can of tomatoes. The article, titled ‘Yeah, It’s Worth It’, was inspiring but still left me unconvinced of it’s title.

I was tempted when the importers of the tomatoes and pasta offered a 50% discount but it was only when I remembered my vow to have people over for dinner more often (even if I have to serve pasta and tomato sauce) that it all came together. I decided to have a dinner party where my friends would blind taste this ‘worth it’ pasta along side a few other, less expensive pasta and tomato combinations. Read on for the tasting details and our winning choice!

Continue reading. Do read it: fascinating.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Cool idea: use a tea ball for bouquet garni

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I got the idea from the Kitchn [sic], and here’s a link. But the title pretty much says it all.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The Pentagon’s Propaganda Effort

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First this, from the Center for Media and Democracy:

Source: Associated Press, February 5, 2009

"Over the past five years, the money the [U.S.] military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year," reports the Associated Press. "That’s almost as much as it spent on body armor for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006. … This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations — almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department." The Texas-based Joint Hometown News Service offers "glowing stories written by Pentagon staff," accredited to the authors without their military titles. "In 2009, Hometown News plans to put out 5,400 press releases, 3,000 television releases" — presumably, video news releases — "and 1,600 radio interviews" — presumably, audio news releases. The military operation’s website lists participating newspaper, radio and television outlets, in all 50 U.S. states. In Madison, Wisconsin, where the Center for Media and Democracy is based, the Capital Times, Wisconsin State Journal, WIBA AM/FM, WMLI FM, WHPN-TV, WISC-TV, WKOW-TV, WMSN-TV and WMTV-TV are all listed as clients of the military "news" service.

And this, from the same source:

Source: Associated Press, February 6, 2009

"You want to make sure you edit it in the right way," said Major Alayne Conway, who served as a U.S. military public affairs officer in Iraq. When preparing videos for media outlets and websites like YouTube, she said her goal was "something that is going to make Joe Six-Pack look up from his TV dinner or his fast-food meal and look up at the TV and say, ‘Wow, the American troops are kicking butt.’" The Associated Press notes that "the Pentagon now spends more than $550 million a year — at least double the amount since 2003 — on public affairs," not including personnel costs. The military’s training manual calls public affairs a "perception management tool," though it’s supposed to provide "facts but not spin" to U.S. audiences. Instead, public affairs seems focused on promoting the military, flying "friendly bloggers to Iraq and Afghanistan," increasing media embed rules, "expanding its Internet presence from 300 to 1,000 sites and increasing its free cable programming on the Pentagon Channel by 33 percent to 2,080 programs." AP’s chief executive, Tom Curley, is calling for media organizations "to re-negotiate the rules of engagement between the military and the media. … Now is the time to resist the propaganda the Pentagon produces and live up to our obligation to question authority and thereby help protect our democracy."

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media, Military

Killing Google

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From the Center for Media and Democracy:

Google, the powerful online search service, is coming under attack from enemies including Microsoft and AT&T, report Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein. The company’s enemies include business competitors; traditional advertisers, who are losing revenues to online advertising; and internet service providers whose interests clash with Google’s support for net neutrality. Last year, Thompson and Vogelstein note, the anti-Google coalition got the U.S. Department of Justice to kill a proposed business deal between Google and the Yahoo! company. "Microsoft hired lobbyists who knew how to drum up support among rural and Latino groups, and before long organizations as far-reaching as the American Corn Growers Association and the Dominican American Business Network had voiced their opposition," they write. For PR support in that campaign, Microsoft turned to LMG, a secretive Washington DC public affairs firm that specializes in astroturf campaigns. Thompson and Vogelstein expect the anti-Google campaign to intensify in 2009, with a focus on painting the company as a threat to personal privacy.

Source: Wired, January 19, 2009

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Joe Stiglitz speaks

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Interview with TPM Muckraker. Stiglitz won the Economic Nobel Prize. (Not really a Nobel prize, yada yada.) In this video, he answers two questions: What’s wrong with the idea of buying the ‘toxic assets’ from the banks? And just what happens if we let these banks go bankrupt instead of continuing to prop them up with continuing bailouts?

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 11:56 am

What peanut-company executives have to say…

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From Congressional Quarterly:

Executives of the peanut company blamed for a deadly salmonella outbreak refused to testify Wednesday at a House committee hearing, citing their rights to avoid possible self-incrimination.

Their move came as Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman , D-Calif., disclosed internal e-mails showing the company was notified last fall by a private lab that its products tested positive for the pathogen.

Waxman disclosed the e-mails at a hearing convened by his panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee to question Stewart Parnell, president of the Peanut Corporation of America, plant manager Sammy Lightsey and federal officials about the failure to protect the food supply.

On the advice of counsel, however, both Peanut Corporation officials invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify.

Panel members called for legislation to tighten food safety regulations in a bid to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

“How many sick kids does it take for us to finally act?” asked Diana DeGette , D-Colo., pressing for passage of her bill (HR 815) to authorize mandatory recalls of contaminated food products.

Peanut products processed at the corporation’s Blakely, Ga., plant have been confirmed as the source of the outbreak now tied to eight deaths. The company provided potentially tainted products to manufacturers for use in hundreds of grocery goods, including crackers, candy and ice cream.

“Peanut butter goes well with jelly, but not with salmonella. We learned once again, with this recall, that mandatory recall authority is required,” declared Edward J. Markey , D-Mass.

Jan Schakowsky , D-Ill., added, “What I really find amazing is …"

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 11:52 am

Posted in Business, Congress, Food

Obama, no ninja

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David Kurtz posts a comment from a reader:

TPM Reader AN responds:

At what point do you think Obama fans will dispense with this weird fantasy that your reader BR indulges in about what Obama is really thinking and what his real plans are?

I personally am an Obama fan. And I think it makes sense to give him the benefit of the doubt during the period before actual policy is either announced or implemented. But there has to come a point where people stop pretending that Obama is some super-intelligent ninja-like political operator who’s playing the game at a level the rest of us novices cannot even comprehend and instead start holding him accountable for the decisions that he or his subordinates make.

When Geithner was nominated a lot of people complained that he was a poor choice because he was far too beholden to the big Wall Street players and their interests. Now it appears that he’s trying to do everything in his power to protect those very people at the expense of the American tax payer. For better or worse this falls squarely on Obama’s shoulders—as it should.

I think people want Obama to be something that perhaps he’s not—namely, a strong progressive democrat. Maybe he really is a centrist (and I don’t mean a vague meaningless Ben Nelson type) and that’s fine. But if a person is hoping for a more progressive president it won’t really do any good to pretend that he’d be more progressive if only he could. Sooner or later people are going to have to demand more progressive policy.

That’s why I suggest you write emails to the White House via this link.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 11:47 am

How to handle the banks

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I personally would slap the hell out of them, and they could forget about bonuses, which they are now calling "retention pay," as though there were any jobs for this lot of incompetents. At any rate, a very good article on the choices by Simon Johnson at TPM Café. It begins:

When you cut through the technical details and the marketing distractions, sorting out the US banking fiasco comes down to one, and only one, question. How tough are you willing to be on the people who control the country’s large banks?

One option is to be gentle with them and adopt only ideas that they pre-approve. This route involves complicated schemes to purchase, lend against, or otherwise "wash" toxic assets out of the banks using taxpayer subsidies. This will be expensive (for the taxpayer), messy politically, and – most likely – will not work, in the sense of restoring the banking system to something close to its normal mode of functioning; check with Hank Paulson for details.

Alternatively, you can be tough and take steps towards really assessing which banks are insolvent when you use market prices to value their assets. These banks can be taken over in a scaled-up FDIC-type procedure (no golden parachutes!), and controlling stakes in fully recapitalized banks can be sold off immediately to new private owners. The new private owners can handle, under proper anti-trust supervision, the break up the banks. This approach will be cheaper for the taxpayer (but nothing is free at this stage), easier to explain to the electorate and their representatives, and it will work – this is in fact the standard prescription because it always works. But it will not make powerful bankers happy.

So which way is the Obama Administration heading? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 11:34 am

Geithner: is he the right man for the job?

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Mary Kane in the Washington Independent:

If you thought Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism was upset on Tuesday over Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s bank rescue plan – recall the word “fiasco” was used – it’s nothing compared to today’s further reflections.

From Naked Capitalism:

As we, and increasingly others, have said, the Obama economic team is every bit as captive to Wall Street’s interests as the Bushies were. The differences increasingly look stylistic, not substantive.

Treasury Secretary Geithner presented today what in essence was a plan to come up with a plan. I now understand why he is so loath to have government run banks. He presumably sees himself as an elite bureaucrat, as his glittering resume attests. Yet the man has a deadline to come up with a proposal, yet puts off presenting it twice (the “oh he has to work on the stimulus bill” is as close to “the dog ate my homework” as I have ever seen in adult life). What he served up as an initiative is weeks to months, depending on the item, away from being operational (if even then; the public-private asset purchase program will either not see the light of day, or be far narrower and smaller than what is needed).

I also find this part interesting:

And in case you think I am being unfair, yesterday I got an e-mail from a political consultant who got a report on the Senate Banking Committee briefing by the Treasury the night before the announcement. No briefing books, no documents. He deemed it to be no plan. That assessment was confirmed today by a participant at the session, who said that the details were so thin that one staffer asked, “So what, exactly, is the plan?” and repeated questions from one persistent Senator got “absolutely no answers”

It’s one thing to put together a bad plan; it’s another thing altogether to come up with something that’s incoherent and incomplete. What happened to smart as the new cool? Why did the Obama people waste so much political capital on this guy? People might forgive forgetting to pay your taxes – noticed I said “might” – but it’s hard to relate to someone hired to come up with a plan, who doesn’t really put the plan together, and then moves forward with announcing it anyway. Can’t wait to see that foreclosure help supposedly coming up next!

Geithner deserves the smackdown he’s getting. He’s supposed to be a big finance hot shot – and this is the best he can do? Every second-grader knows that if you don’t do your homework, your teacher is going to figure it out. If Geithner represents the Wall Street elite, it’s little wonder our financial system is sinking fast.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 10:50 am

Publisher protects its rating agency by killing book

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Full disclosure: I once worked for McGraw-Hill. Mary Kane has a very interesting story in the Washington Independent about McGraw-Hill killing a book that was critical of Standard & Poor’s, a rating agency that McGraw-Hill owns. The guy writing the book wouldn’t tone down the criticism (which he posted on the Web here), so the book was killed.

This sort of thing is why I think companies that own newspapers and TV networks should not be conglomerates: they get protective of their other companies and slant news coverage to that end.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 10:46 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Let’s see what Obama does with the ACLU FOIA request

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Daphne Eviatar of the Washington Independent:

This week, the Obama administration will face its second significant courtroom test of the president’s pledges to end unwarranted secrecy about the workings of the federal government. At stake is a set of documents that could expose intentional lawbreaking by senior Bush officials. While concealing them would seem to contradict Obama’s much-heralded promise of a new era of open government, revealing them could make it virtually impossible for the new administration to refuse to investigate potential criminal conduct by the Bush administration, something the new administration has sought to avoid.

The case, American Civil Liberties Union v. Department of Justice, has been going on for five years now, with the ACLU battling the Bush administration to turn over documents sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act that would reveal crucial information about the development of policies regarding treatment of detainees in the “war on terror” and could help determine whether Bush officials broke domestic and international law.

On Friday, the Obama Justice Department must file its response to the ACLU’s request for three critical memos written by the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel, or OLC. Those lawyers developed the legal justification for the treatment of the thousands of men and boys that the United States has detained over the last seven years as suspected terrorists.

Although the Bush administration consistently refused to produce the memos, citing various legal privileges and exceptions to the Freedom of Information law, advocates are hopeful that the new administration might take a different approach. After all, on his first full day in office, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies instructing them to do just that.

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption,” says the Obama memorandum. “In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.” Moreover, the government should never withhold documents “based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve.”

Although Obama has only been in office three weeks, deadlines in several legal cases require his administration to quickly decide how and whether he’s going to translate his lofty promises into tangible changes in secrecy policy.

On Jan. 26, TWI wrote about the first case where …

Continue reading. It’s an important article. Now to see what the Obama Administration does.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 10:22 am

Obama’s big mistake: embracing Bush’s tactics

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I am not willing to give Obama much slack in his DoJ’s citing "state secrets" as a way to dodge a trial that could help men who were kidnapped and tortured. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column on that today. It begins:

From The New York Times Editorial Page today ("Continuity of the Wrong Kind"):

The Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.

On Monday, a Justice Department lawyer dispatched by the new attorney general, Eric Holder, appeared before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The case before them involves serious allegations of torture by five victims of President Bush’s extraordinary rendition program. The five were seized and transported to American facilities abroad or to countries known for torturing prisoners.

Incredibly, the federal lawyer advanced the same expansive state-secrets argument that was pressed by Mr. Bush’s lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred.

Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration’s tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court. Even judges on the panel seemed surprised by the administration’s decision to go forward instead of requesting a delay to reconsider the government’s position and, perhaps, file new briefs.

The argument is that the very subject matter of the suit is a state secret so sensitive that it cannot be discussed in court, and it is no more persuasive now than it was when the Bush team pioneered it. For one thing, there is ample public information available about the C.I.A.’s rendition, detention and coercive interrogation programs. The fact that some of the evidence might be legitimately excluded on national security grounds need not preclude the case from being tried, and allowing the judge to make that determination. More fundamentally, the Obama administration should not be invoking state secrets to cover up charges of rendition and torture.

Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed the torture victims’ attorney, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, and both of them did an excellent job highlighting the travesty of what the Obama DOJ here did: …

Continue reading. It’s an important issue and it’s a good column. And write the White House to speak your mind:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ If enough people write in, maybe they’ll re-think their position before they, too, are implicated in war crimes.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 9:42 am

Elizabeth Gilbert on genius

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Elizabeth Gilbert also has a web site.

more about "Elizabeth Gilbert on genius", posted with vodpod

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life

Fighting information

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Drug companies have always resisted efforts to determine whether new drugs are any better than drugs already on the market—or than generics that are available. Drug companies hate that because new drugs, though expensive, don’t always offer any improvement over what’s already available, and the companies would like to keep that information private. Steve Benen blogs in Political Animal:

The Wall Street Journal reported today, "The drug and medical-device industries are mobilizing to gut a provision in the stimulus bill that would spend $1.1 billion on research comparing medical treatments, portraying it as the first step to government rationing."

Now, you may read this and wonder what’s so bad about research comparing the efficacy of medical treatments. Paul Krugman, who called the push to gut the provision "truly vile" and "really unbelievable," added, "Because freedom is all about laying out vast sums on medical treatments without knowing whether they’re actually doing any good."

But let’s go a little further, because the $1.1 billion for comparative medical research has been an issue for a while. In fact, just last week, the Senate "centrists" specifically targeted this provision for elimination.

As Harold Pollack explained very well a few days ago, this issue should be a no-brainer.

Comparative medical research is a high priority by any conceivable measure. Candidate Obama and Candidate McCain both advocated major investments here to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of care, and they were right. An astonishing proportion of American medical care has never been rigorously evaluated, or outright fails to meet reasonable thresholds of quality and cost-effectiveness.

As Ezekiel Emanuel put it in his book Healthcare, Guaranteed: "The United States spends over $2 trillion on healthcare, about $200 billion on prescription drugs, and nearly $100 billion on medical research and development, but only a paltry $1 billion to evaluate the comparative costs and effectiveness of medical interventions and their influence on health outcomes."

The two most responsible funding agencies for this research — the National Institutes of Health and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality — are now getting many more high-quality proposals than they are able to fund. Their peer-review process is rigorous and highly competitive, sometimes excessively so. Many of my junior colleagues are suffering professional setbacks because they cannot find funding for excellent research that would have been supported five or ten years ago. Incidentally, both the loudest and the most dangerously silent opponents of comparative medical research have been surgical subspecialties, medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies afraid that their ox might be gored.

That the drug and medical-device industries hope to "gut the provision" is crazy.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 9:16 am

Lies about health information technology

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The GOP is busy doing what it does best: spreading lies. Here’s an update from the Center on American Progress:

Late last month, the House passed an economic recovery package containing $20 billion for health information technology, which would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop standards by 2010 for a nationwide system to exchange health data electronically. The version of the recovery package passed by the Senate yesterday contains slightly less funding for health information technology ("health IT"). But as Congress moves to reconcile the two stimulus packages, conservatives have begun attacking the health IT provisions, falsely claiming that they would lead to the government "telling the doctors what they can’t and cannot treat, and on whom they can and cannot treat." The conservative misinformation campaign began on Monday with a Bloomberg "commentary" by Hudson Institute fellow Betsy McCaughey, which claimed that the legislation will have the government "monitor treatments" in order to "’guide’ your doctor’s decisions." McCaughey’s imaginative misreading was quickly trumpeted by Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report, eventually ending up on Fox News, where McCaughey’s opinion column was described as "a report." In one of the many Fox segments focused on the column, hosts Megyn Kelly and Bill Hemmer blindsided Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) with McCaughey’s false interpretation, causing them to promise that they would "get this provision clarified." On his radio show yesterday, Limbaugh credited himself for injecting the false story into the stimulus debate, saying that he "detailed it and now it’s all over mainstream media."

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 9:09 am

Stimulus update & interesting take

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UPDATE: Steve Benen of Political Animal has a different view that I find fairly convincing.

Andrew Sabl of the Reality-Based Community (title of a blog) writes:

Many progressives feel that Senate conservatives “moderates” have boxed Obama into a corner, taking out the best parts of the stimulus and making him thank them for doing so. Maybe. But consider three things that happened today:

1. Arlen Specter endorsed the stimulus, at length (by today’s standards) and in writing; he certainly praised his own preferences but in general stressed the need to act quickly in a crisis.

2. The Senate invoked cloture on the key stimulus amendment. Nate Silver astutely notes that Snowe and Collins, who along with Specter were the only Republicans voting “aye,” hail from a state that Obama won by 17 points.

3. Barack Obama, Mr. high-60s Approval, used his press conference to (1) stress that we’re in an economic crisis and must act very soon if we want a chance to dig out; (2) go out of his way (as E.J. Dionne notes, about :55 into this audio) to praise parts of the stimulus plan that the House passed but the Senate eliminated or gutted: aid to states, school construction, medical IT. Dionne thinks this is a signal to House Democrats to put such things back in during conference. I think he’s right.

Now: say the House bargains hard in conference; the conferees as a result put back in a lot of the good spending while taking out some of the ridiculous tax cuts that subsidize people who already intended to buy houses and cars; and the resulting conference report is passed easily by the House.

The self-styled Senate moderates will then be free to huff and puff. (Obama might not even mind: let them play to their constituents.) But will they seriously, given (1), (2), and (3), consider voting nay?

Let’s start considering the possibility that our president knows how to play this game.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 9:05 am

More on Britain’s role in torture

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From McClatchy:

Despite years of denials, new questions are being raised about Britain’s possible involvement in the torture of a detainee now on a prolonged hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Both an American military lawyer who’s seen classified documents on the case and the head of a special parliamentary committee said Tuesday that the British government might have been complicit in the alleged mistreatment of Binyam Mohamed. The former British resident was seized in 2002 and held in several countries — including Morocco, where he claims he was tortured — before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2004.

Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, a U.S. military lawyer assigned to defend Mohamed, said that British intelligence agency "MI5 was involved a long time ago" in the interrogation of her client.

"They were feeding certain information to his interrogators when he was in Morocco," said Bradley, who’s in London this week to lobby members of Parliament to press for her client’s release and his return to Britain.

Meanwhile, Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament and the head of a committee investigating extraordinary renditions — the international transfer of suspected terrorists by the U.S. — said he’s also convinced that Mohamed was "severely tortured" during interrogations and that British officials had a role in his mistreatment.

Tyrie said the official line on British involvement in torture "has gone from flat denials to a succession of admissions that there was involvement." The latter have come in the form of court documents, the most recent being last week’s ruling by a British high court.

Tyrie also said Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which has broader authority than his own, "appears to have been misled" about Britain’s role in interrogations and torture of American detainees when it was preparing an official report on the subject in 2007. That report cleared Britain of any wrongdoing, saying the CIA never told British officials where detainees were being held or how they were being treated.

It emerged last week that 42 classified documents seen by the British court and Mohamed’s lawyers had never been passed on to the intelligence and security committee when it was researching Britain’s role in the case the case.

A possible probe of British intelligence agencies is …

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2009 at 9:01 am

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