“A moral cesspool.” That’s what Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania had to say about the results of an investigation by the Seattle Times. The Times found certain Wall Street investment firms are paying doctors to brief elite investors on the results of confidential and proprietary drug studies before they released those results to the general public. These investors (and their firms) act on this confidential information, taking advantage of the resulting stock moves once the information becomes public. Read more
Texas, Georgia and even Mississippi have all passed tort reform to improve their economies and stop the exodus of doctors. But now bidding to take their place as a favorite trial lawyer destination is the previously sensible state of Wisconsin, led by its Supreme Court.
The 4-3 court majority offered the highly creative judgment that caps on [noneconomic] damages are “patently arbitrary” with “no rational relationship to a legitimate government interest.” But if discouraging frivolous legal claims to make health care more affordable and available for regular citizens isn’t “a legitimate government interest,” we’d like to know what is.
The WSJ backs up their conservative position with the claim that “recent studies” have shown noneconomic damages, which make up more than 70% of malpractice awards, are the damages that “tend to drive up insurance rates and drive doctors to other states.”
It’s no surprise that the WSJ doesn’t actually cite the study that backs up these dubious claims. On the contrary, the New York University Law Review published a comprehensive study of 22 states found that “the imposition of caps on noneconomic damages has no statistically significant effect on overall compensatory damages in medical malpractice jury verdicts or trial court judgments”.
In fact, the caps are sometimes the cause of the problem. In what has been described as the crossover effect, researchers have found that “[where] noneconomic damages are limited by caps, plaintiffs’ attorneys will more vigorously pursue, and juries will award, larger economic damages, which are often unbounded.”
Members of private contracting firms in Iraq were deeply involved in the abuse which occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison. The involvement of the contractors was exposed in a Pentagon investigation last year which found that “several of the alleged perpetrators of the abuse of detainees” were private contractors.
(For example, remember CACI International? The company, which had no experience in professional interrogations, supplied the U.S. military with interrogators like Steven Stefanowicz, the CACI employee considered by Major General Antonio Taguba to be “directly or indirectly responsible” for encouraging the horrific abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib.)
Not only did Stafanowicz escape any criminal prosecution, according to the Financial Times, not one single private contractor has faced criminal charges or prosecution. Not one. A new Pentagon report found that even though cases were referred to the Department of Justice, “to date, no charges have been filed.”
Welcome to the moral vacuum. Leave your accountability at the door.
An op-ed chart in the morning’s New York Times bore sobering news for President Bush: when compared with previous two term presidents, Bush just isn’t very appealing. Of the last three reelected presidents–Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton–only the scandal-ridden Nixon had a more precipitous decline in second-term support, from 67% to 39%. Bush currently stands at just 44% approval.
But the NYT chart contained another juicy piece of information: favorable ratings for Congress have steadily declined over the same 30-year period. They’ve fallen from 79% (in 1973), to 57% (in 1985), to 52% (in 1997), to a current-day low of 49%. In other words, we live in an age where less than half the country approves of the president, and less than half the country approves of congress.
In fact, it’s difficult to know just what Americans do approve of. Only 39% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, which means that the public disapproves of all three branches of government.
And the media? It turns out that Americans like (and trust) those folks less and less. A Pew Study found that in 1985 84% of Americans could “believe most of what they read in their daily newspaper.” By 2004 that figure had fallen to just 54%
And yet, in a bizarre instance of cognitive dissonance, Americans are still some of the most patriotic people on the planet: a recent Roper poll found that 8 in 10 people think patriotism is “in,” and consider themselves very patriotic.
Is this evidence that Americans like America, and simply hate everything in it?
– Conor Clarke
Rep. Tom DeLay, speaking last night about the grand opening of a new foster home paid for by the DeLay Foundation for Kids, on Fox News:
We’re trying to set an example. Government cannot raise children. That’s the biggest problem. Community and people raise children. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is to build a model that, frankly, we can take around the country.
Towards this end, we’ve pin-pointed some of the important strategic moves Tom DeLay has made in building his own successful foundation. Pay attention charity organizers!
Step #1: Reach Out to Warm-Hearted Oil and Energy Executives
DeLay is not required to name his charity’s supporters. But tax and online records reveal that the donors include ExxonMobil, Southern Company, and SBC. … The Delay Foundation has always raised money by soliciting corporations. In its application for nonprofit status from the IRS in 1987, three years after DeLay was elected to Congress, it declared, “The initial fund-raiser will be a gala evening with a buffet, cocktails, dancing, and a short program. . . .The costs of the event are being solicited from corporate contributions by officers and directors.” [Boston Globe, 6/12/05]
Step #2: Have Jack Abramoff Trade Donations for Political Access
Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist being investigated by the Department of Justice for fraud, donated to the foundation and, according to a recent report in the National Journal, persuaded clients to do the same by telling them it was a way to get in the good graces of Tom and Christine DeLay. [Boston Globe]
Step #3: Hire Major Right-Wing Donors As Building Contractors
Since 2002, the foundation’s biggest goal has been to build a prototype residential care facility for foster children on 50 acres it owns in Fort Bend County, Texas, in suburban Houston. … Bob Perry, the Texas contractor who last year provided the seed money for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is building the facility for “cost.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4/25/05]
Step #4: Say Next to Nothing About the Kids Your Charity is Helping
Only one sentence in the [Celebrations for Children] foundation’s 13-page brochure mentioned the recipients of the aid. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
Step #5: The More Golf Tournaments With Corporate Execs, The Better:
During the past five years, [the charity] has raised money primarily through golf tournaments where DeLay, 58, and other GOP House leaders have spent hours on the greens with business groups who paid large sums to participate. … There are almost no restrictions on what corporations can give to nonprofits connected to politicians, making nonprofits one of the few avenues by which companies can give vast sums since the passage of a campaign-finance reform law in 2002. [Boston Globe]
A federal judge this week rebuked Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect kids from rat poison exposure.
In August 1998, the Clinton administration okayed the use of rat poison, which many kids mistake for candy, only “as long as manufacturers added a bittering agent and a dye that made it more obvious if a child ingested the poison.” As soon as George Bush took the White House, his EPA rolled back the requirements, saying it was up to chemical manufacturers whether or not they wanted to add dyes or bittering agents. U .S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ruled wrote that the agency couldn’t justify the rollback, saying, “In short, the EPA lacked even the proverbial ‘scintilla of evidence’ justifying its reversal of the requirement it had imposed, after extensive study, only a few years before.”
It’s not the first time the Bush administration put American children at risk.
In 2003, the administration’s Consumer Product Safety Commission voted not to ban wood treated with the poison arsenic in playground equipment.
Then last year, the EPA used camcorders to bribe parents into offering up their toddlers as guinea pigs for a study about the dangers of pesticides on children. The study was paid for in part by the chemical industry.
What did these little kids ever do to deserve being poisoned?
Rat poison accidents disproportionately involve African American and Latino children. According to the EPA, “57 percent of children hospitalized in New York state for ingesting rodenticide from 1990 to 1997 were black, while only 16 percent of the state’s population is African American. Twenty-six percent were Latino, although Latinos make up just 12 percent of the state’s overall population.”
Rich kids are more likely to have fancy plastic playground furniture and their parents probably already have camcorders. And most live far from rat-infested apartment buildings.
This White House has decided big chemical corporations should get more protection than our kids do. That’s a poisonous way to lead.
say the war has made the USA more vulnerable to terrorism,” USA Today reports. “A new low, 34%, say it has made the country safer.”