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Counterterrorism blog

One opinion on the Protect America Act offers a viewpoint that caught my eye. On the other hand, there were lots of opinions about this in posts.

While I agree with my colleagues, Dennis Lormel and Jeffrey Breinholt, that renewal of the Protect America Act should be considered by Congress as urgent and serious business, it’s misplaced to ascribe current delays to merely “playing politics.”

Few pieces of legislation before Congress carry such gravity and importance when it comes to the twin goals of protecting our national security and preserving our civil liberties. Such matters should be considered with gravity and thorough deliberation. And there is much in this act which deserves further deliberation. Many of its current provisions were adopted previously under an atmosphere of high tension and great pressure from the White House. The only pressure now is that President Bush threatens to veto any further temporary extension of the current act. A temporary extension would certainly have kept in place sufficient authority to keep tabs on the potential terrorists within our midst as Congress worked through the act thoroughly.

And, as Richard Clarke wrote earlier this month in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year. “Simply put, it was wrong for the president to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would suddenly evaporate with congressional inaction. Instead – even though Congress extended the Protect America Act by two weeks – he is using the existence of the sunset provision to cast his political opponents in a negative light. “For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With FISA, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.”
So what is the current debate in Congress really about? It’s about just how deeply we really need to encroach on our civil liberties to assure our national security, and on the extent of the protections, checks and balances, that should remain in place to limit police power infringements of civil and privacy rights to those truly warranted by the circumstances. History has shown, including our own national history, that we must constantly assure that such adequate protections, checks and balances, are in place. And, I believe, that using our courts to hold those that usurp or violate these inherently dangerous authorities responsible, is an essential protection. The 52 lawsuits now pending before the US courts would test, specifically, whether such usurpation actually occurred. And, if a government agency, or those complicit with it, did usurp or abuse their authority, or make a serious mistake, unduly infringing our rights(and I hope that it will be found that this is not the case), they should pay for their misdeeds just as we would expect any of our neighbors or business colleagues to do.

It is this ability of simple citizens to hold government and private entities and individuals liable for their misdeeds that best assures that they will act responsibly.

Several readers thought Angry Bear was becoming an echo chamber for the lefties. So I went to Red State, a blog decidedly not lefty, and found this site on their blogroll. Of course, since I did the looking, I brought back an opinion by one expert I agree with. You will have to go there for yourself to find other opinions and viewpoints.

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Obama and CNN : Alert to?

Politico carries this observation about CNN:

CNN’s question: Obama’s patriotism

I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen a reader poll like this on a mainstream media website (or, to be honest, a right-wing blog). This is currently on CNN.com.

And just today (in a very interesting exchange with the Cleveland Jewish community) Obama was touting CNN’s piece debunking the notion that he’d gone to a madrasa: “We had to send CNN to look at the school that I attended in Indonesia where kids were wearing short pants and listening to ipods to indicate that this was not a madrassa but was a secular school in Indonesia.”

This question seems tied to this story, in which he took a question about his patriotism. But it’s odd to see the mainstream media drive a largely whispered question that none of his main, named critics — Hillary, McCain or the RNC — will touch.

What could possibly be on their minds? For any candidate?

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Mike sends a response to rdan on off-label drugs

It is evident that this will lead to less pressure on the Drug Companies
to get their drugs approved by the FDA. I would suggest that we consider
letting the market help. i.e.

1) If a drug is prescribed off-label, then the patient be permitted
to return it to the drug store for a full refund, no questions asked. —
Obviously many people might be helped, and others would not bother to try to
get a refund, but it would encourage the Drug Company to test the drug to be
able to sell it without the possibility of having ineffective drugs being
returned.

2) If a drug is being prescribed off-label, with the cooperation of
the Drug Company, then the patient can go to court and have a presumption
that the drug is the cause of any reasonable harm to the patient. Obviously
one would want a judge to eliminate unreasonable cases, but if it is
reasonable that the off-label use of the drug might have caused the damage,
then the encouraged off-label use would lead to an assumption of guilt until
proven by the preponderance of evidence otherwise.

Obviously the details of these can be adjusted to make them more
reasonable, but their purpose is to let the Drug Company have some reasons
for testing their drugs and for not encouraging their off-label use unless
they feel they are safe and effective.

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Off label drug pushers

FDA doesn’t just approve drugs, it approves drugs for specific uses. However, doctors can prescribe drugs for unapproved, or “off-label,” uses.

Under a law that expired in 2006, pharmaceutical reps were legally able to distribute journal articles touting the benefits of off-label uses. But, according to the Associated Press, FDA maintained some regulatory oversight: “Under the expired law, companies had to submit reprints of articles to the FDA before sending them to doctors. That way, the articles’ accuracy could be reviewed.”

If FDA chooses to finalize this policy, which it published today as “proposed guidance,” drug companies would be able to use journal articles to market off-label uses willy-nilly. The AP article continues, “Under the new proposal, drug companies don’t have to submit articles.”

Off-label use of drugs is big business. According to The Wall Street Journal, “[FDA] is stepping into a high-stakes business issue, because off-label uses of prescription drugs are a mainstay of the industry — an estimated 21% of drug use overall, according to a 2006 analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.”

According to Merrill Goozner at the GoozNews blog, the pharmaceutical lobby pushed for FDA to go forward with the policy which will be a boon for the industry:

So what was in today’s proposed guidance? It pretty much gives industry everything it was looking for. It would allow drug salespersons to drop off article reprints as long as they came from a peer-reviewed journal that had a conflict-of-interest disclosure policy. Articles from industry-funded supplements would not be allowed…

Note what isn’t in the policy: It doesn’t say that the studies of unapproved uses must be from randomized controlled clinical trials, which is the gold standard of medical research.

Rep. Henry Waxman(D-CA) caught wind of this policy last November and asked FDA to refrain from going forward.

We probably will get exactly what we wish for, and then get blamed for the result. I call it sneered at..”Suckers!!”

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Guantanamo and defense

This AP article on Thursday 21 February 2008 reports the following:

San Juan, Puerto Rico – In a stunning turnaround, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay said Thursday he would be a defense witness for the driver of Osama bin Laden.
Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who resigned in October over alleged political interference in the U.S. military tribunals, told The Associated Press he will appear at a hearing for Salim Ahmed Hamdan.
“I expect to be called as a witness … I’m more than happy to testify,” Davis said in a telephone interview from Washington. He called it “an opportunity to tell the truth.”
At the April pretrial hearing inside the U.S. military base in southeast Cuba, Hamdan’s defense team plans to argue that alleged political interference cited by Davis violates the Military Commissions Act, Hamdan’s military lawyer, Navy Lt. Brian Mizer, told the AP.
Davis alleges, among other things, that Pentagon general counsel William Haynes said in August 2005 that any acquittals of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo would make the United States look bad, calling into question the fairness of the proceedings.
“He said ‘We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions,'” Davis recalled.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, denied that Haynes made such a comment. Gordon also denied the former prosecutor’s allegations of political interference, which he has repeated in newspaper opinion columns and in interviews in recent months.
If the judge rejects the motion to dismiss, Mizer said the defense will seek to remove two top officials in the military commissions system – legal adviser Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann and Convening Authority Susan Crawford – from Hamdan’s case. This would likely result in further delays to a trial that has been stalled by legal challenges.
It is not clear whether the Pentagon – which defends the commission system as fair – will allow Davis to testify. In December, two months after he resigned as the chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals, the Defense Department barred Davis from appearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

What does Mr. Davis get out of this sort of move?

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Angry Bear has a new look and RSS feed has been restored

If you have been missing updates from Angry Bear, we apologize for the inconvenience. In the process of recently re-designing the look of the blog, the feed was inadvertently disabled due to a minor flaw in the html.

An updated description about how Angry Bear has developed can be found through the link ‘About Angry Bear”.

It also should be noted that a book, Presidential Performance, is in the works and can also be accessed through a link at Angry Bear.

A connection with a conservative radio show host is being developed to expand ways to serve readers and listeners. An intriguing development to say the least for increasing interest in sound economic thinking.

Thanks for your patience.

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Top 100 Economic Blogs includes Angry Bear

Currency Trading has included Angry Bear as one of the top 100 economic blogs overall, characterized as a left leaning economics category. (Hat tip to DolB for the link)

Calculated Risk , a guest poster at Angry Bear, was placed in financial section category.
Tim Worstall , who comes by to comment, is listed under international economics.
Our friend Bill Polley ranked in university professor sponsored category.

I do not know how the characterizations were made, but congratulations. BTW, the Wall Street Journal online was right next to Angry Bear, also under left leaning.

If I missed anyone, it is only exuberance.

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How do we define ‘fiscal responsibility’ left and right?

OMB Watch suggests looking at projections first for talk on fiscal responsibility. Hence instead of talking idealogy first, go for the numbers. It is not BDS to use this years budget, in that the projections have been manipulated for decades. We are just better at manipulation after decades of experience, and the supplementals simply throw out the bathwater, baby, and soap so far in making sense of the budget.

So what were the economic experts saying when OMB were making their assumptions for the FY 2009 budget request? In testimony before Congress on Dec. 5th, CBO Director Peter Orszag told Congress that the Blue Chip forecast was for 2.4 percent GDP growth in 2008 and that the Federal Reserve Board were predicting growth of 1.8 to 2.5 percent. Applying the administration’s economic sensitivity data (p177) – a 1 percentage point reduction in GDP growth results in a $13.8 billion drop in revenue and a $2.6 billion increase in spending – to the Fed’s high-end 2.5 percent estimate, the projected deficit would be $413.3 billion in 2008 – a tie for largest nominal deficit.

A budget that predicts a record-high deficit would be terribly inconvenient for a president who wishes to be remembered as “fiscally-responsible.”

FY 2008 Deficits Under Various Economic Assumptions
Projecting Organization
GDP Growth Rate (percent)
Projected FY 2008 Deficit (billions of dollars)
Noted in President’s Budget
OMB 2.7 410
CBO 1.7 426
Blue Chip 2.2 419
Assumptions Cited by Orszag in December Testimony
Blue Chip 2. 415
Fed (low) 1.8 426
Fed, high 2.5 413

So the first order of the day is to think citizen ground rules.

1. What is a reasonable number for growth expectations?
2. Given current ways of dealing with taxes, what is expected revenue. This is federal revenue. State and local revenue is a whole lot messier in many places.
3. What contributes to the deficit?
4. What are the difficulties in getting beyond an idealogical argument between slightly left and slighty right? (Social Security being the first for revenue, since this revenue has balooned so dramaticly, and the second being?)

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Citizen’s Guide to economic knowledge

A Citizen’s Guide to the financial status of the US government is a new publication to provide easier access for citizens to obtain data and understanding of what is going on. I believe this is the first edition.

It is coordinated between Treasury, OMB, and the Comptroller General. It is pdf. It reads like the last legacy of David Walker as he heads out to private think tank and Alan Greenspan’s new booklet on his wisdom. But that is my snark. It is supposed to explain what is up to the average person.

Comments or posts are welcome.

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