A Supreme Problem

Jamelle Bouie, writing in the Times, once again discusses the significant problems with the Supreme Court, both at present and for the foreseeable future:

“The problem of the Supreme Court isn’t that its members are mired in ethics scandals (although they are). It isn’t that it’s been captured by a network of conservative apparatchiks and right-wing billionaires (although it has). No, the problem of the Supreme Court is that it is a powerful and unaccountable branch of government whose traditional role has been to protect the rights of property and the prerogatives of the privileged above all other concerns.”

I’m afraid he’s right.

2023-05-12T16:55:52-05:00May 12th, 2023|Home, Musings|

Ethics in the workplace

As a physician, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act meant that any pharmaceutical or durable medical goods company giving me more than $25 had to report the gift to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; this reporting is publicly available here.  Since 2009, Massachusetts has required such companies to report any gifts in excess of $50.  105 CMR 970.00 prohibits gifting of entertainment or recreational items of any value, such as tickets to a sporting event or concert, or vacation trip and payments of any kind, except as compensation for bona fide services, etc.  As part of my academic appointment at Harvard Medical School, I had to annually disclose outside institution positions and appointments, resources and funding, outside activities, etc.  As a physician administrator, I did not allow Pharmaceutical Representatives to provide samples due to the well documented undue influence on physician prescribing patterns. Yet the Supreme Court, with much greater power and influence, the ultimate arbiter of justice here in the U.S., can’t see fit to self regulate behaviors that undoubtedly influence their behavior?  What’s wrong with this picture?  Since the supremes can’t seem to regulate themselves, they should be regulated by law.  See this NYT editorial.

2023-04-14T14:58:00-05:00April 14th, 2023|Home, Musings|

Should crypto be a no-go?

Excellent article on the grid and environmental consequences of bitcoin mining in the U.S. by Gabriel Dance in the NYT here. Excerpts:

“34 of the largest mines identified by the Times together use more than 3,900 megawatts of electricity”
“The analysis found that the 34 mines’ power use was causing nearly 16.4 million tons of carbon pollution each year.”

To what end?

2023-04-10T13:20:11-05:00April 10th, 2023|Home, Musings|

ETOH? Nah, not really good for you…

As those of us who carefully read the literature suspected, the alcoholic beverage industry’s support for “research” was carefully crafted to demonstrate some benefit to alcohol consumption.  But when corrected for a number of factors (especially the so called “sick quitters”, people who stopped drinking because of underlying medical issues and ended up skewing the non-drinking population) a large meta-analysis by Zhao, Stockwell, Naomi at al in JAMA Network  shows that in fact, drinking turns out to have on average no real benefit at all. The fact that previous research tended to focus on cardiovascular health and ignored the increased risks of breast, esophageal, and head and neck cancers associated with alcohol consumption also contributed to the false sense of harmlessness or even”benefit.”  Thankfully, many health organizations now specifically state that one should NOT consume alcohol in an effort to improve health. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics estimates that there are over 95,000 alcohol-related deaths annually in the U.S., and the WHO estimates that worldwide, 3 million people die annually due to the harmful use of alcohol, representing some 5.3% of all deaths. Anyone who has worked in Emergency Medicine has seen firsthand ethanol’s heavy societal toll.

2023-04-07T11:36:24-05:00April 7th, 2023|Home, Musings|

The Republican War on America

Jamelle Bouie has it right on some conservatives blaming “wokeness” for the banking industry woes — that claim has no basis in reality, but is just another attempt to stoke the culture wars:

“It is unclear whether these conservatives are working from the same memo or just have the same narrow obsession. Regardless, there is no evidence that any diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives were responsible for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. It is nonsense. And while it shouldn’t be taken seriously on its own terms, this deflection is worth noting for what it represents: the relentless effort to mystify real questions of political economy in favor of endless culture war conflict.”

2023-03-18T11:15:14-05:00March 18th, 2023|Home, Musings|

And yes, human nature does not rapidly change

In the “the more they stay the same” category, Jamelle Bouie, writing in his March 11 NYT Opinion piece, quotes from de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America:

“It often happens in democratic countries that many men who have the desire or the need to associate cannot do it, because all being very small and lost in the crowd, they do not see each other and do not know where to find each other. Up comes a newspaper that exposes to their view the sentiment or the idea that had been presented to each of them simultaneously but separately. All are immediately directed toward that light, and those wandering spirits who had long sought each other in the shadows finally meet each other and unite.”

And now I’ll quote Bouie himself, as he decries the decline in local news coverage that he believes contributes further to the undermining of American democratic institutions:

“One of the most striking aspects of the modern information environment, as many people have observed, is the almost total collapse of local and even regional news outlets. Where once every town or city of even minor consequence had a newspaper — with reporters who helped the community understand itself through their work — now there are large parts of the country that exist in news deserts, where there is little coverage of anything, from local government to local events.

I think that this decline has played an important role in undermining America’s democratic institutions, as well as the public’s faith in democracy. It’s not just that the collapse of local news has made it harder to hold any number of public officials accountable — contributing to general cynicism about the ability of government to do anything constructive — but that Americans increasingly lack the information they need to participate in the political process in their communities.”

2023-03-11T15:22:32-05:00March 11th, 2023|Home, Musings|

Rant on Fox “News”

I know I’ve commented before on my belief that Fox News has been a destructive force for American society, aided and abetted by certain social media elements, but I just can’t get over how clearly the Dominion lawsuit has demonstrated this as fact.   Siloed media feeding into fear and ginning up anger have been tragically bad for America, and it’s all been done for profit.  The following text is from the as-always-excellent John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, where he quotes in turn from Dominion’s brief in support of a motion for summary judgement:

“Finally. Fox has conceded what it knew all along. The charges Fox broadcast against Dominion are false. Fox does not spend a word of its brief arguing the truth of any accused statement. Fox has produced no evidence — none, zero — supporting those lies. This concession should come as no surprise. Discovery into Fox has proven that from the top of the organization to the bottom, Fox always knew the absurdity of the Dominion “stolen election” story. Now, having failed to put in any evidence to the contrary (because no such evidence exists), Fox has conceded the falsity of the Dominion allegations it broadcast.

That concession is no small thing. Thirty percent or more of Americans still believe the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. The heart of that lie remains the false conspiracy theory that Fox legitimized and mainstreamed starting on November 8 — that Dominion stole the election, using secret algorithms in its software originally designed for a Venezuelan dictator. Because of these lies, Dominion now may be “one of the most demonized brands in the United States or the world.” Dominion employees still endure threats and harassment. So it matters that Fox in private ridiculed — and never believed — the lie. And it matters that Fox has now in this litigation conceded these allegations were false.”


“Fox seeks a First Amendment license to knowingly spread lies. Fox would have this Court create an absolute legal immunity for knowingly spreading false allegations — lies — for profit, regardless of how absurd the lies are, regardless how many people in the chain of command know the lies are false, and regardless how many people are hurt — so long as the false claims are “newsworthy.” Fox proffers a completely made-up “rule,” contrary to decades of jurisprudence since New York Times v. Sullivan. As Judge Nichols ruled in rejecting MyPillow’s analogous argument that the First Amendment provides “blanket protection” from defamation for statements about a “‘public debate in a public forum,’” “there is no such immunity. Instead, the First Amendment safeguards our ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,’ by limiting viable defamation claims to provably false statements made with actual malice.””


2023-03-11T15:07:09-05:00March 11th, 2023|Home, Musings|

Failing to learn from the past…

Heather Cox Richardson’s March 5 newsletter, recounting the events surrounding Selma’s 1965 voting rights protests, is definitely worth a read.  Her important conclusions:

“But less than 50 years later, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. The Shelby County v. Holder decision opened the door, once again, for voter suppression. Since then, states have made it harder to vote. In the wake of the 2020 election, in which voters handed control of the government to Democrats, Republican-dominated legislatures in at least 19 states passed 34 laws restrict­ing access to voting. In July 2021, in the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decision, the Supreme Court ruled that election laws that disproportionately affected minority voters were not unconstitutional so long as they were not intended to be racially discriminatory. 

When the Democrats took power in 2021, they vowed to strengthen voting rights. They immediately introduced the For the People Act, which expanded voting rights, limited the influence of money in politics, banned partisan gerrymandering, and created new ethics rules for federal officeholders. Republicans in the Senate blocked the measure with a filibuster. Democrats then introduced the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would have restored portions of the Voting Rights Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act, a lighter version of the For the People Act. Republicans blocked both of those acts, too. 

And so, in 2023, the right to vote is increasingly precarious.”

We ignore the lessons of Selma at our peril.

2023-03-06T00:30:11-05:00March 6th, 2023|Home, Musings|
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