Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I found a few interesting things for us to look at this morning.  I’m going to start off with the increasingly creepy role Big Pharma plays in what your doctor prescribes for you when you probably don’t need it.   Only one catch here.  You might’ve asked for it based on the constant and perpetual bombardment you get daily of Big Pharma’s ads for Life Style Drugs.  Here’s a great article from Alternet called: “Ask Your Doctor if This Big Pharma Scam Is Right for You: The Dangers of a Drugged Up America; In medicated America, the fix for every problem is just a prescription away. Except that it’s not”.

In the past three decades, America’s healthcare system has radically metamorphosed from a public service network (largely run by independent physicians and nonprofit hospitals) into a corporate profit machine–one that Dr. Arnold Relman, the renowned former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, calls the Medical-Industrial Complex. Drugmakers have been among the most ambitious, in-your-face pushers of this transmutation of medicine into just another commodity to be sold by hook or crook. In this system, the concept of “care” has been reduced to “caveat emptor,” with the shareholders’ interest in monetary gain overriding all other interests.

A fast-moving, systemic epidemic called DTC has swept across America, endangering public health, jacking up our costs, and weakening the curative connection between health professionals and patients. DTC stands for “Direct-to-Consumer” drug advertising. It’s a plague of marketing, empowering profiteering corporations to short-circuit the judgment of doctors by using all of the tricks of Madison Avenue (including lies) to convince viewers and readers that (first) they’re suffering from a particular malady, (second) the advertiser’s brand-name medicine is the very best cure, and (finally) they must go to their doctors pronto to insist on getting a prescription for that specific drug. The essence of this marketing scheme is to turn consumers into sales representatives for drug peddlers. Brilliant.

Greece might be in a better bargaining position than German Bankers would like.  Here’s an interesting article from Bloomberg called: “Greeks May Hold $510 Billion Trump Card in Renegotiation”.

“Greece has got some strong cards to persuade them to go easy on austerity,” said John Whittaker, an economist at Lancaster University Management School in England. “Everyone fears a Greek departure from the euro because they’ll lose money and lose political capital.”

European governments have poured money into Greece since its first rescue was agreed to in April 2010 in a bid to keep the country in the euro and prove that monetary union, a symbol of European post-war integration, is irrevocable.

After receipt of a 7.5 billion-euro tranche in March, Greece now owes other countries more than 80 billion euros in bailout funds. The European Financial Stability Facility said 4.2 billion euros of rescue cash will be disbursed to the nation today.

The ECB also stands to lose much if Greece walks away from its obligations. First, the central bank bought about 50 billion euros of the government’s bonds to push down yields and help the nation retain access to the capital markets.

Al Franken’s career has been a delight to follow.  He’s pressing the DOJ to explain why it’s tracking people via their cellphones. This is via The Hill.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Franken asked how often the Justice Department requests that wireless carriers turn over the location data of their customers and what legal standard the department believes should apply.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releaseda report last month that found that local police across the country regularly gather cellphone location data, often without a warrant. The ACLU called the practice “pervasive and frequent.”

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in United States v. Jones that tracking a suspect’s car using a GPS device qualifies as a search under the Fourth Amendment.

Franken said that police who obtain location records from wireless carriers might be “working around” the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I was further concerned to learn that in many cases, these agencies appear to be obtaining precise records of individuals’ past and current movements from carriers without first obtaining a warrant for this information,” Franken wrote. “I think that these actions may violate the spirit if not the letter of the Jones decision.”

Franken asked Holder to explain how the Supreme Court’s decision affects the gathering of cellphone data and whether the Justice Department’s practices have changed since the ruling.

Our budget problems are not due to programs that help Low-Income Americans.  Here’s some analysis from the Center on Budget Priorities on what is driving our budget problems.

Several conservative analysts and some journalists lately have cited figures showing substantial growth in recent years in the cost of federal programs for low-income Americans.  These figures can create the mistaken impression that growth in low-income programs is a major contributor to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

In reality, virtually all of the recent growth in spending for means-tested programs is due to two factors:  the economic downturn and rising costs throughout the U.S. health care system, which affect costs for private-sector care as much as for Medicaid and other government health care programs.  Moreover, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections show that federal spending on means-tested programs other than health care programs will fall substantially as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as the economy recovers — and fall below its average level as a percent of GDP over the prior 40 years, from 1972 to 2011.  Since these programs are not rising as a percent of GDP, they do not contribute to our long-term fiscal problems.

Specifically, federal spending for mandatory (or entitlement) programs outside health care (including refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit) averaged 1.3 percent of GDP over the past 40 years.  This spending reached 2.0 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2011, a substantial increase.  But CBO projects that it will return to the prior 40-year average of 1.3 percent by 2020 and then remain there.

Federal spending for low-income discretionary programs is virtually certain to fall as a percent of GDP in the coming decade as well.  Under the Budget Control Act’s funding caps, non-defense discretionary spending will fall over the decade to its lowest level as a percent of GDP since 1962 (and probably earlier).

As a result, total spending for low-income programs outside health care — both mandatory and discretionary programs — is expected to fall over the coming decade to a level below its prior 40-year average.

I’m going to let you know exactly why I would never live in Nebraska again.  A nice Lincoln lady explains why gays shouldn’t be protected from bullying or severe beatings.  Be sure to pay careful attention as to why both Hillary and Judas are ‘homos’.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

34 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    What cracks me up when they advertise these drugs on tv is the list of “side effects” to look out for when taking them.

    Some of those lists run longer than the ingredients included!

    Franken always seems busy, working, working, working while many of his fellow senators are rushing to the microphone for one reason or another.

    If there were more like Al in the Senate we may get somewhere.

    • RalphB says:

      My favorite is the invention of “Restless Leg Syndrome” as a disease to sell some silly drug with a huge list of side effects. I can’t believe anyone fell for that one.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I have restless legs, and it’s real and horrible. It runs in my family. I wouldn’t take a drug for it, but it isn’t imaginary.

      • RalphB says:

        Really? I had never heard of it before. I’m sorry to hear it’s real. Hope it gets better for you!

      • NW Luna says:

        Yes, it is real, and severe RLS can almost completely prevent people from sleeping. Depending where you are on the continuum, it may or may not be worth it to take something for it. I want to see how badly the RLS is interfering with patients’ functioning before prescribing meds. Stretching regularly, including before bedtime, often helps decrease RLS.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s real, but it’s not disabling. I usually get it when I’m really tired or at night when I’m trying to go to sleep. It has gotten worse for me since menopause, and I have a lot of trouble going to sleep. I still wouldn’t take that medication. The side effects sound a lot worse than the problem itself.

      • bostonboomer says:

        NW Luna,

        The worst thing for me about restless legs is that as I have gotten older it interferes with my ability to meditate and relax. When I start to go into a deep state, I often start experiencing restless legs and then I have to move around.

    • bostonboomer says:

      The lists of side effects are hysterical. Frankly, I stay as far away from doctors as I possibly can. So far, I’m basically healthy, thank goodness. That runs in my family too, so I guess I’m lucky. We’re physically healthy, but psychologically we’re subject to anxiety and depression.

      • Delphyne says:

        I like when the list of the side effect possibilities end with “including death.”

        The “war on drugs” ought to include Big Pharma and their pimps – I mean, their DTC advertisers.

    • Woman Voter says:

      The one that sticks out to me is: “It may cause fatal events”. 😯 I have yet to meat someone that has had a second fatal event.

      • Woman Voter says:

        I need my coffee, I was up about 2 am watching some documentaries and well it shows.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I know, WV. It would have to be a seriously disabling condition before I’d take a medication that can result in death.

      • Woman Voter says:

        Lest anyone faint when I am at work I am full on…two cups to boot. I recall in the hospital they gave me a medication that made my heart race and I had to convince them to check my pulse….130-140 and I was in bed not running…took a while for what ever they gave me to work…got a different medication. I wonder what people do that don’t understand baseline readings, since you often have to advocate for yourself.

    • dakinikat says:

      I can’t figure out why things like thinning eye lashes and old men’s erection problems get so much attention. Then, there are the “life style lifts”. Half of these things are created to “cure diseases” that are just symptoms natural process of aging.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thinning eyelashes, lol. Still, some people almost completely lose their eyelashes in old age and it does bother people. That happened to my MIL. I wish there was a cure for excess hair. I have to have my eyebrows trimmed now.

  2. dakinikat says:

    Hmmm, I just noticed a part of my post is missing .. wonder what happened?

    • dakinikat says:

      Well, I had a bit up there on Rand Paul and a few other things and it got zapped for some reason. Any how … I stuck a weird video up that Pam Spaulding put on her face book for kicks …

      • bostonboomer says:

        OMG, I couldn’t sit through the video. She seemed to be reading from a news article. I couldn’t take my eyes off the guy behind her. I’m not sure if he was reacting to what she was saying or what.

    • Dak, you may need to put the photo at the bottom and move the written copy above it.

  3. RalphB says:

    From commenter Lee Carney at Charlie Pierce’s blog …

    If you all want to feel a little bit better about life for a while, check out the Budget just handed down by Labor in Australia. Raised the tax free thereshhold from $6200 to $18000, meaning large, real tax cuts for part time workers, a lot of them single mothers or people on partial welfare, large payments to parents to be paid at start of School Semesters, removal of tax incentives for wealthy peoples superannuation accounts, cuts in defence, increase in the family tax benefits part A & B (aimed at middle income families). Oh yeah and budget will be in surplus and we have 4.9% unemployment with a 48% top marginal tax. So much for trickle down economics helping reduce unemployment.

    If you want to feel bad about life, the right has ran such an effective fear campaign in concert with the Murdoch press in this country and this government is so on the nose that even this budget is not going to save them from Annihilation at election time and the tax on billionaire miners that is being used to fund all these goodies for everyday people combined with a carbon tax (our choice rather than cap and trade to put a price on carbon) are the things the right and Murdoch have used to destroy the credibility and popularity of this government.

    Check out the key highlights of the budget here:

    Just looking at the budget overview is amazing in comparison to our own circumstances. Of course their economy is driven by exports of raw materials and, marvel of marvels, they still manufacture in OZ. Generally this is what happens when you don’t let your economy turn into some kind of Vegas casino for high rollers. I hope the Labor government can stay in power.

  4. NW Luna says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Hightower’s opinion of the evils of DTC drug advertising. I’ll get some patients who are convinced that “the purple pill” or whichever caught their ears is the only solution. They think that if I don’t write them an Rx, I’ve given them bad care and am not patient-centered. It’s hard to give them Pharmacotheurapeutics 501 and Pathophysiology 501 in a few minutes!

    But Hightower neglected to mention some improvements. Gone are the days of free pens, notepads, etc. from the drug reps. (Darn, I for one am always losing pens.) Authors of medical articles must list their conflicts of interest by the article, i.e., if they get retainers or honoraria or speakers’ fees from Pharma. Same info gets announced at their introductions if they speak at conferences.

    As for Big Pharma whining about the high costs of drug development — they spend 2 X as much on advertising than they do on research. Such a waste. If it’s an appropriate drug, with the evidence to show how well it works and with minimal side effects, great. We don’t need the advertisting. Put more money into research.

  5. NW Luna says:

    What has he got to hide?

    Zimmerman evidence may not be fully made public

    The attorney for Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman says public release of all evidence in the case should be delayed so names of witnesses can be removed.

    Attorney Mark O’Mara said on his website Friday he expects to receive that evidence on Monday. Under Florida law, this so-called discovery would normally be made public at the same time.

    O’Mara says he may file a motion asking for a delay in public release so that witness names can be blacked out. O’Mara says if witnesses are hounded by the media it might jeopardize Zimmerman’s chances of getting a fair trial.

    • bostonboomer says:

      We already know that Zimmerman changed his story repeatedly during his interviews with investigators. He also may want to hide the photos of his injuries because they don’t match his stories. What I really want to see is Travon’s autopsy results. That will really tell the tale. And I’d like to know the bullet trajectory and what it says about whether Trayvon was standing up or lying down when he was shot. Personally I think Zimmerman shot him while they were standing up.

      Florida has very strict sunshine laws, so if the judge allows the evidence to be withheld from the media I will believe he (judge) is in the bag for O’Mara.

  6. Well, the Romney campaign is pushing it into high gear. /snark:
    Romney adviser: His treatment of Rick Perry shows his kindness – The Hill’s Video

    An adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign defended the candidate’s “kind impulses” on Friday, pointing to his treatment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry during recent GOP debates as proof.

    Kerry Healey, Romney’s former lieutenant governor in Massachusetts and now an adviser to the Romney campaign, defended the presumptive GOP nominee against charges that he bullied other students during his high school years.

    Healey, who has known the former Massachusetts governor for around 10 years, told CNN “Starting Point” that “bullying is not something that [Romney’s] ever knowingly engaged in” and referred back to Romney’s behavior in the televised presidential debates.

    “The real question here is, is Mitt Romney a bully? And the answer is no,” she said. “Mitt Romney is absolutely, as his other friend from high school said — he doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body.”

    In defending Romney as “deeply compassionate” and “unfailingly kind,” she pointed to moments during the GOP primary when Romney was “being attacked from every side.”

    “His response was always professional, calm, civil,” she pointed out. “In fact, he even intervened on behalf [of] — to try to help — Gov. Perry when he was stumbling [in attempting to remember a talking point during a debate]. His impulses are very kind impulses and there should be no debate about whether or not Gov. Romney is a bully.”

    • bostonboomer says:

      ROFL!! Romney bullied Kerry Healey quite a bit when he was working with her. He probably bullied her into making that statement–the campaign most likely wrote it for her.

    • dakinikat says:

      The deal is how you act when millions of people aren’t watching.

  7. NW Luna says:

    Celebrated American soprano Jessye Norman says she is “thrilled and honoured” to be singing for the Dalai Lama in London next week.

    The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader is to receive the £1.1m Templeton Prize at St Paul’s Cathedral on Monday. He will then give the entire sum away.

    Norman will recite Amazing Grace at the ceremony, which is being streamed live on the internet. “I hope it’s going to be exactly what he wants,” she told BBC Radio 3. “I realise very much this is a privilege and I look forward very much to meeting him.”

    The Templeton Prize honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works”. The Dalai Lama has been recognised for his work in encouraging scientific research and harmony among religions.”