Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Stuff

I found this on Hulu, and even though the inauguration is coming up of course, I don't think we need any reason in particular to hear this marvelous speech once more...

...particularly because the words of our 35th president are a salve of sorts when considering the misdeeds of the foul, fetid Bushco reign, all over bar the shouting at this point (h/t therisnospoon at The Daily Kos)...

...Oasis ("I'm Outta Time," a song appropriate on probably more than one level at this point)...

...and Andrew Wyeth of Chadds Ford, PA died today; here is a tribute featuring some of his greatest works.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (1/16/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week ("back in the saddle" for the 111th Congress; there were no Senate votes).

(And by the way, before I forget, allow me to extend a welcome to Dem John Adler, who was elected last fall over Repug Chris Myers for the 3rd District seat in New Jersey vacated by the departure of Repug Jim Saxton.)


Pay-bias suits. Voting 247-151, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 11) giving plaintiffs greater standing to file suits alleging pay discrimination. The bill would permit claims to be filed within 180 days of the latest infraction. This would nullify a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., which requires pay-bias suits to be filed within 180 days of the first infraction.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
This prior post explains more about the reason for the bill (and it’s truly commendable that passing this piece of legislation was the first vote of the new session).

As I noted in July of ’07, the Supremes upheld a lower court ruling that Lilly Ledbetter was not a victim of pay discrimination, and I’ll do my best to explain the logic behind the action of the court of Hangin’ Judge J.R. (I’m not a lawyer by any means, I should add).

Suppose you find out, after, say, a year, that a worker of another gender doing your job was making appreciably more money than you were for that job. Well, the ruling upheld by Roberts and his court was that Ledbetter had waited too long to file her discrimination claim (180 days beyond the first instance, which, in this example, would be the first paycheck from a year ago representing the discriminatory wage).

Well, suppose (as in the Ledbetter case) you don’t know you’re being discriminated against until the 180-day window passes? Why should that be your fault?

And this bill corrects that by treating each example of pay discrimination as a new “instance,” thus reopening the 180-day “window” all over again (something advocated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent of the original Roberts ruling, which she correctly termed “parsimonious”).

Wage discrimination. Voting 256-163, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 12) to strengthen the federal law that bans pay discrimination based on gender. The bill empowers women alleging pay bias to sue for recovery of back pay and receive punitive and compensatory damages and bans employer retaliation against those who share salary data with coworkers.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: LoBiondo and Pitts.
And after removing any “wiggle room” from the existing law so J.R. and his pals couldn’t play any more games, the House strengthened the existing law to give greater rights and protection to claimants – nice job (and of course, pay close attention to those opposing all of this).

Presidential papers disclosure. Voting 359-58, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 35) requiring incumbent and former presidents to release their official papers to the public without undue delay, except in cases involving national security.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
Why, hello Joe – welcome back! All ready to cast more truly idiotic “No” votes, I see (and to learn more about how that waste of chromosomes from PA-16 spent his time away from being a Congressional obstacle, click here).

Presidential library donors. Voting 388-31, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 36) requiring presidential library foundations to make quarterly disclosures of those who contribute more than $200.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Pitts, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
Speaking of which, it should be interesting to find out who contributes to Dubya’s Super Colossal Freedom Library, which could very well emerge as the single greatest repository of comic books the world has ever seen.

111th Congress rules. The House voted 242-181 to adopt its operating rules (H Res 5) for the 111th Congress. Republicans objected to the package mainly over its limits on the use of "recommittal" motions to derail bills headed for final passage.

A yes vote was to adopt the rules.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts and Smith
Aww, poor Repugs; how dare those dastardly Dems try to thwart the Repugs for scuttling legislation (elections have consequences – to be fair, though, recommit motions seem to be used frequently by minority parties; not a wealth of reading material out there on this topic, though).

This week, the House debated the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the disbursement of $350 billion from the Troubled Assets Relief Program. The Senate schedule had not been announced.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Stuff

I did some channel surfing at a commercial break on "Countdown" tonight, and I stumbled across Joe Biden giving his farewell remarks to the Senate on C-SPAN, and I have to tell you that it was amazing stuff for a political/historical junkie such as your humble narrator. He talked about all kinds of people who of course are either no longer in that body or who have shed their mortal coil altogether (John Stennis, Strom Thurmond, Mike Mansfield, William Fulbright, etc.) and how he managed to form cordial relationships with them, and somehow, he even made me feel a little sympathetic to Jesse Helms - only a little, though.

I can't find a video yet, so for now, this will have to substitute; these were some great remarks during last year's campaign (volume ratchets up at about 1:36 - he voted for that horrible bankruptcy bill and he's had some other missteps, but they pale in comparison to everything else in his record and experience; I don't see how Obama could have done better - I wasn't sure in the beginning, but I'm glad Biden is there now).

...I put up the video about Iraq last night, so I guess it's only fair to include this; Rachel Maddow talks with Bob Herbert of the New York Times about Afghanistan (yep, I somehow can't sign onto this plan for more troops; I hope Obama is smart enough to know that you defeat terrorism by providing more services than the bad guys, as opposed to trying to indiscriminately blow things up, and Herbert is dead-on - we don't have the dough for that)...

...Joe Jackson ("Invisible Man"; that will describe Dubya in a very short while from now, thank God)...

...and as another tribute to Patrick McGoohan, here is his credo from "The Prisoner"; "I Will Not Be Pushed, Filed, Stamped, Indexed, Briefed, Debriefed, or Numbered! My Life Is My Own."

And by the way ("meta" time again)...

I'm not big on numerology, signs, hexes, or karmic coincidences, but maybe it's fitting that the guy whose pic has been in my profile has passed at this time, because I seriously don't expect to be able to post every day for much longer, so maybe it is a bit of a sign after all. I can't see stopping posting entirely (at least not here, as long as Blogger co-operates and doesn't create the nonsense that made me set up the Wordpress site - if I stop posting anywhere, it is likely to be there). I'll try to keep up the posts about the votes in Congress (have to pick that up tomorrow). If I find I that I just can't do it, I'll let you know; putting up videos like this is a nice diversion, but I know that when people come here, they expect to see halfway decent content, which definitely isn't too much to ask.

I'll be "talking" about this more later as other stuff develops. In the meantime (as Number 6 would say), "be seeing you."

Hannity’s Harangue Against The DOJ’s “Top Banana” (Maybe)

Yes I know, berating Sean Inanity for stupidity is like berating a zebra for its stripes, but I came across the following and felt compelled to respond (from here - and I also posted here).

Basically, the charge against Eric Holder (who was grilled today in the Senate for consideration as Obama’s Attorney General, of course), is that, after he left the Clinton Administration, he represented Chiquita Brands, which is…

…one of the world's most recognizable brands (that) exports more than 2.4 billion pounds of bananas from Colombia to North America each and every year, but in the highly competitive banana trade being one of the top producers comes with a price.

From 1997 to 2004 Chiquita funneled $1.7 million in protection money to the AUC (a Colombian terrorist organization, according to Inanity). These two groups (along with FARC) have been responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia's civil conflict and account for a sizeable percentage of the country's cocaine exports.

On September 10, 2001, the AUC was designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization.
(The story quotes an attorney “represent(ing) more than 600 families of murder and torture victims that seek damages against Chiquita for providing material support to a terrorist organization, the AUC,” by the way).

Well, as this prior post tells us, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez – remember him? – told a Senate panel that everything was just hunky dory in Alvaro Uribe land in October 2007 and was promptly slapped down for it by Dem Sherrod Brown of Ohio; linked to that post is more on how Roderick M. Hills of Chiquita sought a meeting with his former law colleague in 2003 over the payments to FARC and AUC (Inanity forgot about ELN, by the way) but was blown off by that colleague, a guy named Mike (“City of Louisiana”) Chertoff.

I’m not trying to absolve Hills of negligence necessarily, particularly since the whole thing is a legal matter at this point. I’m just trying to point out the following:

  • Chertoff, though assistant AG at the time, didn’t follow up at Hills’ request because of this administration’s notoriously cozy attitude towards the acts of corporate criminals, primarily multinationals, no doubt worried about creating a "burdensome" legal precedent for them south of the border.

  • If you want to prosecute U.S. companies, fine, go after Chiquita. But Drummond Coal and Coca-Cola also have to answer for “allegedly using paramilitaries to kill, threaten, kidnap and torture Colombian trade unionists” (in the case of Drummond, they were sued for hiring paramilitaries to assassinate three union leaders, noted here).

  • It is perfectly legal for Eric Holder to represent a likely corporate malefactor like Chiquita. It is also perfectly legal for a lawyer to represent anyone else who needs one, including Drummond, one of the parties I mentioned above (as noted here, they are represented by William Jeffress, Jr. of Baker Botts, the law firm of one James Baker – now really Sean, are you going to tangle with Poppy Bush’s oldest and dearest pal here?).
  • There apparently is also some minor furor raging over the “Holder Memorandum” and how it allegedly threatens the ability of corporations to obtain representation (I'll acknowledge that some of the provisions are controversial, but in the detailed writeup here, it is noted that the recent "McNulty Memorandum" is a step towards less "draconian" measures)...

    The Holder Memorandum outlined eight factors for prosecutors to consider in deciding whether to hold corporations criminally accountable for the acts of their employees:

  • The nature and seriousness of the offense;

  • The pervasiveness of wrongdoing within the corporation, including complicity by corporate management;

  • The corporation’s history of similar conduct;

  • The corporation’s voluntary disclosure of the conduct and willingness to cooperate with investigators, including waiver of the attorney-client and work product privileges, whether the corporation advanced attorneys’ fees for culpable employees, and whether the corporation cooperated in a joint defense with other defense lawyers;

  • The adequacy of the corporation’s compliance program;

  • Any remedial actions taken;

  • Collateral consequences, including disproportionate harm to innocent shareholders or employees; and

  • The adequacy of civil or administrative enforcement actions.
  • I note this apparently because the Murdoch Street Journal is in high dudgeon over the memo, as noted here, with Snarlin’ Arlen taking his best shot along with Ronnie Baby’s mouthpiece, “Fast Eddie” Meese (he who conducted the “investigation” of Ollie North’s Iran-Contra document shredding…way to eliminate the paper trail, dude!).

    RIP Patrick

    In a career filled with all kinds of stellar achievements, this undoubtedly will go down as his biggest contribution to pop culture (a remembrance appears here).

    For what it's worth, I note on the home page of the site that the reason why I have a photo of McGoohan (from the '60s) included in my profile is because the characters he has portrayed often show a strict sense of self-determination and a moral code of sorts as well as an inherent loathing and mistrust of authority. I admire all of that (even though I definitely don't look like him), so this is my small tribute.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    Oh yeah, "24" is back, so it's time to round up all them bedwettin', Constitution-lovin' libtards out there and waterboard them all a time or two, isn't it (h/t The Daily Kos - wonder how much they'd plead for their lives if the treatment they so easily advocate for others...which DOESN'T WORK, by the way...was ever visited upon them?)...

    ...and he dares to talk about honoring the sacrifice of our military in Iraq when he hasn't even bothered to attend a funeral for one of our service people; this time next week, he'll be gone, I keep telling myself...

    ...The Offspring ("You're Gonna Go Far, Kid"; too far, in Dubya's case - "dance, f*cker, dance" indeed)...

    ...and another Tinsel-town hero falls with the passing of actor Ricardo Montalban; this 1975 commercial for the Chrysler Cordoba automobile breathed new life into his career when he really needed it (he was neat in the "Spy Kids" movies too, in addition to his many other roles - and by the way, there's no such thing as "Corinthian leather"; another triumph of American marketing).

    The "Dragon Lady" Nearly Breathes Her Last

    Where else but the Op-Ed page of the Murdoch Street Journal could “Mrs. Mitch McConnell” (according to Wonkette, she just LOVES that salutation!) inflict the following assault on truth and logic disguised as a valedictory (here)…

    When President-elect Barack Obama initially announced his economic team, one important player was conspicuously absent: his pick for secretary of labor.
    I don’t know where Chao has been lately, but Obama nominated former Congresswoman Hilda Solis (yet another solid pick, apparently) on or about January 9th, as noted here.

    But America's work force is central to our economic recovery in the near term and to our sustained prosperity in the long term. Seventy percent of our economy is consumer driven. And most of that consumption depends on workers' paychecks.
    A startlingly obvious observation (without attribution, of course; actually, I’d like to know how Chao knows of the percent of our economy that isn’t “consumer driven”…and, as Secretary of Labor, why would she even care about that?).

    The Labor Department has tremendous resources to protect American workers and help them be more competitive in the world-wide economy. The department also has the power to harm American worker competitiveness through misguided regulations and punitive policies that would cause jobs to go overseas or disappear entirely.
    This is the first instance of true deceit from Chao, and there are so many ways to “blow it full of holes” that I’m not sure I can capture them all (her insinuating somehow that those dreaded “government regulations” are to blame for offshoring – plenty of “punitive policies,” though, but not the way Chao thinks).

    As this post from 2005 notes, the “administration” she has toiled for has 1) "embraced foreign outsourcing, an accelerating trend that has contributed to U.S. job losses in recent years," 2) "sponsor(ed)" and "participate(d) in conferences and workshops that encourage American companies to put operations and jobs in China," and 3) "allowed $70 million in tax breaks for off-shore construction contracts" as an incentive to move jobs offshore.

    Back to Chao...

    Over the past eight years, the Labor Department has worked hard to ensure that labor regulations protect workers, without needlessly making it harder to create and keep jobs in America.
    Oh yes, like Chao “protected” American workers by making it harder to regulate their exposure to toxins in the workplace via a “secret rule,” as noted here by Dem U.S. House Rep George Miller of California.

    And our record speaks for itself. Today we have record-low workplace injury, illness and fatality rates.
    This is another opt-repeated lie from Chao; as noted here…

    In 2006, 5,840 workers died while on the job, marking a 2 percent increase in workplace fatalities from 2005. Even more troubling, BNA points out:

    The revised figures show that fatalities for Hispanic workers rose from 923 deaths in 2005 to 990 in 2006. The death rate also increased, from 4.7 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2005 to 5.0 in 2006, BLS found.

    The largest revision in fatalities by occupation was in transportation and material moving operations–up by 38 fatalities from the preliminary report for a total of 1,501 deaths in 2006, BLS said. This was followed by construction and extraction occupations–up by 15 deaths for a total of 1,273 fatalities in 2006, according to the agency.
    Back to Chao…

    The department set new records in the number of workers recovering back wages owed to them through effectively targeted enforcement and our compliance assistance program.
    Way too damn funny – as noted here by Miller…

    Chao went on to severely weaken the department's Wage and Hour Division -- which enforces overtime, minimum wage, and child labor laws. Wage theft has skyrocketed at the hands of this administration: An ongoing U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation has uncovered repeated cases where the agency refused to go after scofflaw employers who admittedly owed their workers back wages.

    Chao also consistently refused to support increasing the minimum wage, allowing it to erode to its lowest value in fifty years. It wasn't until Democrats took over Congress in 2006 that the minimum wage was finally raised for the first time in ten years.
    And as far as money matters go with Chao, this New York Times story last Sunday tells us that “the record collection of back wages is a result of companies’ rushing to settle with her department to reduce the likelihood of facing large amounts of damages awarded by juries in private lawsuits.”

    Ugh – back to Chao…

    To meet the needs of workers in our knowledge-based economy we launched new programs to bring employers, workers, unions and educators together for new training and new career opportunities. The department also secured record monetary recoveries for workers' pension plans.
    I’m not sure how much good job retraining is going to do if the jobs one can be retrained for are already lost; as the AFL-CIO notes here, “(In) April 2001, (the Bush) administration (withdrew) funding for 19 long-term training grants. Grant recipients had received a letter from OSHA on Jan. 4 congratulating them on being chosen for the long-term funding. But a March 29, 2001, letter to the grantees stated, “Because of budgetary circumstances and an evaluation of financial projections for this program, the long-term grant you had applied for cannot be funded.”

    Back to Chao…

    On the regulation side, we updated old, outmoded rules. These rules were written for jobs such as "key punch operator" that aren't relevant any more. These rules stymied productivity and made compliance nearly impossible, while doing little to protect workers.
    Oh yes, those dreaded, outmoded workplace rules, such as the one concerning repetitive strain injuries that required 10 years of negotiation with the Clinton Administration; this is what Bushco canned with Chao’s approval, as noted in the prior AFL-CIO post, as well as workplace rules affecting miners, rescue personnel at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, flight attendants…the list goes on and on and on.

    Back to Chao…

    You might have also heard about our efforts to update union financial disclosure regulations for the first time in over 40 years. Our new disclosure rules have helped rank-and-file members better understand where their dues are being spent.
    God, this woman is such a liar!

    Elaine Chao doesn’t give a damn about “help(ing) rank and file members better understand where their dues are being spent.” As noted here…

    The current LM-2, which must be filed annually with the DOL by any labor organization with income over $200,000 (those with less file an LM-3), requires reporting on a range of information, including officer salaries, union assets, the date of the next officer election, the number of reported members, and whether any officer earns more than $10,000 from another labor organization.

    The new rules would go further, requiring a breakdown of expenses to the nearest 10% for each of the following categories: political activities, lobbying, organizing/contract bargaining, and administration. Each staffer's time would also have to be broken down into the same categories.

    This is all information that could be useful for union members and which few unions voluntarily disclose.
    Chao and her handlers want to know this stuff because they want to know which unions are engaged in political activity and organizing and which ones aren’t. That’s why!

    It’s getting pretty deep, if you know what I mean…

    This is only a partial list. The bottom line is that we have worked to be pro-worker without strangling the workplaces that employ them. And we've done that because to ride out tough times and stay well positioned for future growth, it is vital that the Labor Department not push regulations that impede job growth.

    Yet special-interest groups that purport to have workers' interests at heart are agitating for more workplace mandates. And there will be pressure on the department to retreat from efforts to make federal job-training programs actually prepare workers for real-world jobs in the new economy, instead of funding duplicative programs that train workers for the types of jobs that are disappearing.

    One of these counterproductive, special-interest initiatives is "card check," which would deprive workers of the ability to vote privately in workplace unionization elections -- a vital worker protection that dates back to the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.
    “Card check,” in case anyone hasn’t figured this out by now, is Republican-ese for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to join a union and which is supported by 73 percent of those polled, according to this.

    There is a push in Congress to enact card check despite the fact that the vast majority of workers -- including rank-and-file union members -- want to keep the private ballot system in workplace unionization elections and do not want it replaced by a signature card process that will subject them to the pressures of solicitation and potential intimidation by union activists. Ironically, to decertify a union, labor leaders insist on holding private-ballot elections to protect workers from employer intimidation.
    I cannot imagine why Chao brought this up except to confuse the reader because, as noted here, the process for decertifying a union would not change under the EFCA (and the whole point behind the act is to remove the very employer intimidation in forming a union that Chao mentioned).

    Another destructive and undemocratic aspect of the card-check bill is a provision for government-dictated labor contracts in newly unionized workplaces. Under the bill, if an initial labor contract is not agreed to within a congressionally dictated timetable, the government could designate an "arbitration board" to write a labor contract that employers and workers would be forced to live under for two years. This is not just a problem for employers. Workers would not have any right to ratify or reject the contract.
    On the matter of arbitration, the following should be noted (from here)…

    (The EFCA) provides that when an employer and newly formed union are unable to bargain a first contract within 90 days, either party can request mediation by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). If no agreement has been reached after 30 days of mediation, the dispute is referred to binding arbitration. All time limits can be extended by mutual agreement. This change eliminates current incentives for employers to delay and stall negotiations and will dramatically reduce the delay, frustration and animosity generated by the company-dominated system.
    Back to Chao...

    The Labor Department has a far-reaching impact on every worker and every workplace in America. For the sake of all of America's workers, special-interest agenda items must be balanced with economic reality and the need to keep all these workplaces in America.
    I sincerely hope that this is the last time in my life that I will post on this woman, so I will “leave everything in the road,” as kos would say.

    Under Chao’s sorry reign at the DOL, the rate of H-1B visa fraud increased by 27 percent, as noted here. She also instituted restrictive guidelines for overtime pay in August 2004, fought workplace safety regulations and encouraged offshoring, and sanctioned agreements with employers to fire whistle-blowing employees, as noted here (and she also made it easier to ignore complaints by whistleblowers on a technicality if they’re working for company subsidiaries, as noted here).

    And as noted here, Chao said that foreign workers have “better workplace skills and discipline,” and questioned the personal hygiene of American workers. And in a revelatory, albeit catty (but funny) tidbit from Wonkette (here), we find out that Chao couldn’t “tinkle” with other staff when she worked for the Peace Corps, so she needed her own restroom; she also “blew out” all her first-term discretionary funds in a matter of months (her so-called “tea party” fund).

    As you go down the list of Bushco sycophants who ran their agencies into the ground, it’s hard to pick someone who was the very worst (“Dirty Dirk” Kempthorne at Interior, Margaret Spellings at the DOE, Mike “City Of Louisiana” Chertoff at DHS, and on and on). However, Chao may be the worst if for no other reason than the fact that she (unbelievably) will be the only member of this cabal who “served” at her agency from Bushco’s first day until its very last.

    Over the course of the last eight years, the Department of Labor would have been emerged much better had no one run it at all.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    Rachel Maddow talks to Dean Baker as part of her fairly comprehensive look at the utterly dismal economic legacy of President Non-Achiever (and I agree with Baker's great idea noted in Bob Herbert's New York Times column today about a financial transaction tax)...

    ...and TPM TV brings us "The Day In 100 Seconds" (so many sound bites, so little time)...

    ...oh, and just call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger if you must, but I just had a crazy question pop into my head a few minutes ago; anybody remember the Iraq War?...

    ...Incubus ("Love Hurts").

    As The Horror Show Nears Its End

    For an article supposedly reflecting “boiling anger” over Dubya, there’s more conciliation than that which Dubya will ever deserve.

    He, Cheney and the neocons are now what they have always been; pirates doing the bidding of the investor class, of which they are first and foremost. And Dubya is a delusional narcissist with neither a sense of accountability nor one of regret, despite his particularly useless words over the last few days.

    It’s not that hard to figure out, really – almost not even worth posting about.

    Update: Yes, I know I really shouldn’t pay attention to this fool so much, but who else besides me has noticed that he claims to have inherited a recession, as he did here (wrong again), yet his “administration” took its good, sweet time about acknowledging the one in which we are currently stuck and likely will be for a good while yet?

    A lying, sanctimonious, ignorant little pissant until the very end...

    Preventing The "Early OK" From The FDA

    (And I also posted briefly over here, by the way.)

    In an editorial today, the New York Times tells us that Bushco’s Food and Drug Administration doesn’t really care a whole hell of a lot about trying to determine whether or not the drugs or medical devices they regulate are safe or effective (surprised?)…

    The makers of drugs or medical devices are required to obtain financial information from the scientists conducting clinical trials before the trials start, consult with the F.D.A. to resolve serious conflicts and submit all the financial information to the F.D.A. when they apply for marketing approval after the trials end. The agency is supposed to evaluate whether any conflicts that are uncovered undermine the reliability of the trial data, and if so, how tainted data should be handled.

    The inspector general found that fewer than 1 percent of the doctors who helped oversee clinical trials reported any financial conflicts — such as consulting payments, honoraria, grants, patents or stock options — that might influence their studies. That number seems unbelievably low given credible estimates that one-fifth to one-third of all doctors have such conflicts.

    The agency…strongly opposed a recommendation that it require companies to submit financial conflict information before a clinical trial is started, not after it is completed. The F.D.A. complained that that would increase its workload for no clear gain, especially since many drugs or devices that enter clinical trials never reach the market.
    The Times said that they believe this is a lame excuse, and they’re right (and here is an example of a pesticide that received premature approval, Iodomethane, which apparently has less adverse side effects concerning ozone layer depletion, but which is known as a human carcinogen).

    Something else to factor in, though, is the legal concept of “pre-emption,” which means that your product is immune (a device in particular, but the drug legalese is slightly different) from a lawsuit for alleged negligence if it received pre-market FDA approval first (as noted in this post about the ruling in the case of Riegel v. Medtronic, viewed as a victory for Bushco of course, with Scalia quoted as follows (according to the Times from a nested post link)…

    A jury, looking only at the injured plaintiff, will tend to weigh only the dangers of a device and “is not concerned with its benefits,” Justice Scalia said, adding, “the patients who reaped those benefits are not represented in court.”
    So, according to Scalia, if you or I are grievously harmed due to a drug or device wrongly approved by the FDA, it’s more important that the manufacturer is rewarded for the times that drug or device actually does what it’s supposed to, as opposed to punishing them for their negligence.

    Soulless bastard…

    (In the Riegel case, by the way, the Times reports that a patient was injured during an angioplasty when a balloon catheter burst while being inserted to dilate a coronary artery. The device won F.D.A. premarket approval in 1994, two years before the incident. The patient, Charles R. Riegel, died after the lawsuit was filed, and the case was carried on by his widow, Donna.)

    There is actually some good news to report on this issue, though; this post tells us that the Supremes, in the case of Warner Lambert v. Kent, affirmed the lower court ruling (4-4, with Hangin’ Judge J.R. abstaining) which held that a drug manufacturer that failed to warn the public about the dangers of its product -- and may have concealed key information from the FDA regarding the risks of the drug -- cannot hide behind a Michigan state law that provides immunity to prescription drug manufacturers.

    However, the Supremes (as noted here) recently heard oral arguments in the case of Wyeth v. Levine; here is a summary…

    The Wyeth case originated with Diana Levine, a Vermont songwriter and musician who visited a clinic seeking treatment for headache-related nausea. She wound up developing tissue deterioration and gangrene in her arm, ultimately leading to its amputation. How? Clinic staff administered the antihistamine Phenergen, with a physician assistant inadvertently injecting the drug into one of Levine's arteries. The problem wasn't with the drug itself, but rather with its administration via IV push. Even though Phenergen-maker Wyeth and the FDA knew the IV push created a risk of inadvertent arterial injection and gangrene, the FDA approved labeling for Phenergen that warned against — but didn't prohibit — IV push administration.
    And the post also tells us the following…

    "The case of Wyeth v. Levine isn't about consumer protection, it's about whether we'll allow trial lawyers to get rich," said Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, and a former FDA associate commissioner. "If the High Court rules against Wyeth, we can look forward to a flood of lawsuits that'll bring medical innovation to a halt and drive healthcare costs through the roof. Vital medicines will disappear from the marketplace because of the threat of litigation."
    I objected to that so strenuously that I decided to find out more on Pitts, and this tells us that Pitts is more of a marketing guy than anything else, having plied his dark art for Reader’s Digest, the Lifetime cable TV network, the Moonie Times, Insight, and The Hudson Institute (of course, Pitts served as the FDA’s “chief messaging officer”).

    And I thought this spoke volumes about Pitts, by the way (from Sourcewatch)…

    In an interview with Pharmaceutical Executive, a drug industry trade magazine, Pitts lamented the withdrawal of Vioxx. "The more I think about Vioxx, the more I'm convinced that it should not have been pulled from the market"
    This tells us that Vioxx may have contributed to the deaths of upwards of 60,000 people (ditto what I said earlier about Scalia for this guy).

    Finally, this Times story tells us that, though Tom Daschle will likely be confirmed as the next Health and Human Services Secretary under Obama, “a new FDA Commissioner has not been named.”

    It looks like, whoever this person is, they will have to clean up yet another Bushco mess in the name of ensuring our safety (and just add this to "The 'O' List" too).

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    Prof. Jonathan Turley has some great things to say here in an interview with K.O. tonight about Dubya and torture, GITMO, and other stuff, and exactly what Obama should do about it (Dubya is a lying sack of sh*t as usual - why is it that every Repug politician believes they must give their own rehash of history...usually as condescending a manner as possible to justify their corrupt actions? And I think K.O. is spot-on about the Holder hearings, by the way)...

    ...and a man named William Zantzinger died recently, as E&P tells us here, and Bob Dylan wrote this song about him ("Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll," performed on "The Steve Allen Show" in 1964; some days I thank God for You Tube, and this is one of them).

    Obama And McCain BFFs? Say It Ain't So!

    (And somehow I also posted over here too; I surprise myself sometimes.)

    This item from Jake Tapper’s Political Punch interested me a bit…

    It's without a doubt one of the more surprising moves of President-elect Barack Obama in recent days. It may even be unprecedented, certainly in the modern era: On the eve of Inauguration day, President-elect Obama will pay tribute in a special dinner to the bipartisan achievements of his former GOP rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain, a man who just a few weeks ago headed up a campaign that accused the president-elect of "palling around with terrorists."

    The dinner –- in addition to separate ones for Vice President-elect Joe Biden and retired Army General Colin Powell will honor Americans "whose lifetime of public service has been enhanced by a dedication to bipartisan achievement," according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Inaugural aides say that the dinners were an idea of the president-elect.
    Maybe this is a payback to McCain of sorts for some of his conciliatory words towards Obama, such as here where McCain tells the Repugs to play nice with the president-elect, in stark contrast to McCain’s former running mate, who is a perpetual excuse factory (who will misquote her today, I wonder?).

    And why shouldn’t McCain be happy? Obama did him a huge favor by tapping former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security Secretary, thus removing the highest profile Democrat who stood in the way of unfettered Repug “governance” in that state (I wish I could take credit for that observation, but wingnut Jim Geraghty of National Review Online reported on it here, among others).

    So let’s see if McCain decides to help Obama in the Senate by twisting an arm or two on behalf of the president-elect, or if McCain is honestly going to do the right thing.

    (Well, even if McCain doesn’t, all the Senate Repug defections for 2010, including this latest one, means that we may get to 60 without McCain anyway. However, an awful lot that is bad now could get much worse by then.)