Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reports Detail More Drug Industry Ties to Medical Societies

More from ProPublica on the conflicts of interest that are rampant in the pharmaceutical and medical device arena. A number of medical societies accept more than half their total operating budgets from companies who market products that the societies evaluate and recommend to patients. This money, and the promotional opportunities it provides drug companies, raises serious questions about the veracity and independence of research and recommendations made by various medical societies.

A Patriotic Duty: Repeal the Patriot Act

This piece points out that the Patriot Act was never about terrorism or Obama bin Laden per se, but rather the attacks on 9/11 provided an excuse to weaken Constitutional protections that had long been sought by law enforcement agencies in the War on Drugs. By throwing out protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the Patriot Act has over-whelmingly been used to pursue drug dealers rather than terrorists. Yet, we should all acknowledge that our own rights are threatened by this sweeping law that now allows warrantless wiretaps on any American in the government's overly broad War on Terror. Currently, provisions of the act are set to expire at the end of May and Congress is expected to vote a four year extension to these provisions with virtually no public debate.

The GOP's Jail Sell

While we're on the subject of prisons I might as well shine some light on the feverish push to privatize state prisons across the country. The privatization bug is essential code for capturing public utilities, prisons and school systems for private sector profit, often subsidized with public dollars and defined by cost-cutting measures that may yield profit but invariably result in reduced standards for constituents. The example cited in this story in Arizona, a state where a 2010 report by the Department of Corrections estimated that private prisons cost $5-$8 more per inmate, provides a clear view of the sort of incompetence privatizations can deliver to the public.

Justices, 5-4, Tell California to Cut Prisoner Population

Wow. This is a very big decision from the Supreme Court enforcing the integrity of the Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, and ordering the state of California to reduce its prison population or relocate prisoners to improve conditions. Two dissenters in the ruling, Scalia and Alito, shamefully conjured images of rampant criminal activity to result from the decision. This will no doubt spark a week or two of histrionic yelpings across the spectrum of the mainstream media, so we should all brace ourselves for the onslaught. I believe this is an important decision primarily because it reinforces a collective sense of morality, a system based on real-world principles, that has been sorely lacking in our country for quite some time. It gives me hope that we can reclaim some of the integrity that our system has discarded in pursuit of expediency over the past few decades.

A Little Less Corporate Political Corruption

The Executive Order that Obama is apparently considering to make corporations disclose their campaign contributions for two years, an effort to mitigate the impact of the Citizens United ruling, would be a welcome and unexpected surprise action to put a light on corporate influence on our politics.

The Regulators of Wall Street Want to Hear From You

I'm not sure the title of this Public Citizen letter writing petition is accurate, but it is undeniable that citizens should take action on the subject of Wall Street banking reform. If you've seen the brilliant and unassailably accurate documentary Inside Job, about the factors that caused the current recession after the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, you should have no doubt that we are all being robbed by the barons of the financial world. The ONLY way we can stop this from happening again and push back against the enormous power of the financial sector is to exercise our Constitutional rights of dissent and pressure regulators and elected representatives. As a people we have all become too passive (and ill-informed) and that has made it possible for interests motivated solely by greed to exploit the public trust. Enough is enough. If you care about the integrity of our financial markets and banking industry you MUST do something. In this case, you can take a minute or two to customize an email letter to Wall Street regulators. Then you can pester your friends and family to do the same. It's important and essential that people who know that we are being fleeced care enough to stand up and fight against those who would steal from our pockets and pensions if they can get away with it.

Okay, two things; maybe the Regulators do want to hear from you because this is a public comment forum and, secondly, modifying these letters (to give them more import to the recipients) takes a a little more than a minute or two. Perhaps it took me five minutes to work through the seven different letters. Base language is provided for each letter and they have all been customized for the target agency. I simply added one or two editorial comments within the body of the letter provide by Public Citizen.

Here are the bits I worked into the letters. I think it's okay to use or modify these, or you can bang out something of your own to personalize your messages:

Overzealous deregulation of financial markets, and the exemption of derivatives from direct oversight and regulation have destabilized our markets and harmed many millions of people in the US and throughout the world.

We need to re-establish accountability and performance as the basis for compensation in the financial industry.

It is unconscionable, unfair and unethical that fortunes have been made and amplified on deals that were designed and expected to fail over time.

Let us not blithely reward unethical and opportunistic behavior by members of the financial community.

Yet, these rewards are not in any way based on longterm viability and performance of financial instruments, but rather solely on short-term, un-vetted sales data.