Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Cherry picking facts from captured agencies

dmarek suggested this article about government functions regarding the FDA.

“The FDA doesn’t disagree with the scientific information about cherries, but it does say that cherries have not been recognized as safe and effective when used as labeled. Do we need a double-blind placebo-controlled study to prove cherries promote health?

Jeffrey May, editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter (the “publication of record” in the antitrust and trade regulation fields), quotes Rep. Ron Paul as saying there is a need to stop “federal bureaucrats from preventing Americans from learning about simple ways to improve their health.”

In answer, even when the FDA had 1000 agents and up to date labs in the 1990’s, it was way too busy. Now, when global sourcing makes for a lot of proven risk so far, the FDA has 422 agents and out of date labs, whose work is screened by a political appointee from the White House. Ouch!

Also, in another vein some info on treatments for PTSD is related to the issue of best practice and health care.

There is a wonderful, rigourous double blind study by a well known expert in trauma research that suggests YOGA as a form of treatment of choice for many people as opposed to more behavioral (non-motor oriented) therapies. Significant difference ( in the reducing symptoms category), but a 50% dropout rate. Behavioral techniques had significantly lessor results but a 10% dropout rate.

Mental health cannot charge for Yoga lessons however, so the study was published in a non-psych journal after being refused by professional journals. Informed consent suffers, and so do clients who are not offered reasonable alternatives. I believe informed individual consent is a very conservative viewpoint, is it not?

Blue Cross/Blue Shield in MA will not pay for EMDR, a treatment stated as one of the best practice treatments in Britain, the VA, DoD, etc. An odd world we live in.

Air Force increase as predicted

The Foreign Policy In Focus a think tank, reports increases in the role of the US Air Force in Iraq.

These assaults are part of what may be the best kept secret of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts: an enormous intensification of US bombardments in these and other countries in the region, the increasing number of civilian casualties such a strategy entails, and the growing role of pilot-less killers in the conflict.
According to Associated Press, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of bombs dropped on Iraq during the first six months of 2007 over the same period in 2006. More than 30 tons of those have been cluster weapons, which take an especially heavy toll on civilians.
The U.S. Navy has added an aircraft carrier to its Persian Gulf force, and the Air Force has moved F-16s into Balad air base north of Baghdad.
Balad, which currently conducts 10,000 air operations a week, is strengthening runways to handle the increase in air activity. Col. David Reynolds told the AP, “We would like to get to be a field like Langley, if you will.” The Langley field in Virginia is one of the Air Force’s biggest and most sophisticated airfields.
The Air Force certainly appears to be settling in for a long war. “Until we can determine that the Iraqis have got their air force to significant capability,” says Lt Gen. Gary North, the regional air commander, “I think the coalition will be here to support that effort.”
The Iraqi air force is virtually non-existent. It has no combat aircraft and only a handful of transports.
Improving the runways has allowed the Air Force to move B1-B bombers from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Balad, where the big aircraft have been carrying out daily strikes. A B1-B can carry up to 24 tons of bombs.
The step-up in air attacks is partly a reflection of how beaten up and overextended U.S. ground troops are. While Army units put in 15-month tours, Air Force deployments are only four months, with some only half that. And Iraqi and Afghani insurgents have virtually no ability to inflict casualties on aircraft flying at 20,000 feet and using laser and satellite-guided weapons, in contrast to the serious damage they are doing to US ground troops.
Besides increasing the number of F-16s, B1-Bs, and A-10 attack planes, Predator flight hours over both countries have doubled from 2005. “The Predator is coming into its own as a no-kidding weapon verses a reconnaissance-only platform,” brags Maj. Jon Dagley, commander of the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.
The Air Force is also deploying a bigger, faster and more muscular version of the Predator, the MQ-9 “Reaper” — as in grim — a robot capable of carrying four Hellfire missiles, plus two 500 lb. bombs.
The Predators and the Reapers have several advantages, the most obvious being they don’t need pilots. “With more Reapers I could send manned airplanes home,” says North.
At $8.5 million an aircraft — the smaller Predator comes in at $4.5 million apiece — they are also considerably cheaper than the F-16 ($19 million) the B1-B ($200+ million) and even the A-10 ($9.8 million).
The Air Force plans to deploy 170 Predators and 70 Reapers over the next three years. “It is possible that in our lifetime we will be able to run a war without ever leaving the US,” Lt Col David Branham told the New York Times.
The result of the stepped up air war, according to the London-based organization Iraq Body Count, is an increase in civilian casualties. A Lancet study of “excess deaths” caused by the Iraq war found that air attacks were responsible for 13% of the deaths — 76,000 as of June 2006 — and that 50% of the deaths of children under 15 were caused by air strikes.
The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan from air strikes has created a rift between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States.
“A senior British commander,” according to the New York Times, has pressed U.S. Special Forces (SF) to leave southern Afghanistan because their use of air power was alienating the local people. SFs work in small teams and are dependent on air power for support.

As I have been stating for awhile, the increase in the use of the Air Force is being accelerated. The notion of drones being piloted from Nevada is more disturbing than if they were piloted from the Green Zone or the Air Force base George Bush visited recently. Still, the beat goes on and on.

The Jester

Jester’s Court update e-mail from Fool.com.

The JC this week focuses on another acronym: PE. According to Slate.com, private equity firms have started buying up their own debt at significantly reduced prices. As the author explained, it works a little like this:

You pay your friend a few dollars so that you can host a small party while she’s out of town. You leave the pool filled with garbage, beer cans, and human waste. The next day you show up dressed as a pool cleaner and charge your friend a few bucks to mop up the mess you made.
Click here to enjoy the full article.

Chickens and the eggs…a parable or paradox?

The Cato Institute’s James Bovard in 1995 had thoughts on private versus public monies.

ADM’s finagling in Washington may have cost taxpayers and consumers more than $40 billion since 1980, counting the cost of the sugar program ($3 billion in higher prices each year), the ethanol program, and federal food giveaways and export subsidies. Some of those dubious programs probably would have been enacted even if Andreas had not been foisting cash on every politician in sight, but ADM deserves credit for being a decisive force in enacting and perpetuating many of the federal government’s most abusive policies.
ADM’s political strategy has long been based on the ideas that politicians should control prices and markets and that ADM and Andreas should control politicians. Some commentators may conclude that the ADM experience proves the need for campaign finance reform, but that would be the triumph of hope over experience. Campaign finance laws have been repeatedly revised in recent decades, yet politics does not smell any better.(137) As long as the politicians are shoveling out billions of dollars in handouts, some citizens will find a way to reward politicians for “looking after their interests.”
Besides, at a time when Congress is rightfully moving toward removing millions of able-bodied citizens from welfare rolls, there is no excuse to perpetuate handouts for a company like ADM. If a company can afford endless advertisements on national television, it is safe to conclude that it does not need any help from American taxpayers.
The Supreme Court, in Savings and Loan Association v. Topeka (1875), stated, “To lay with one hand the power of the government on the property of the citizen and with the other to bestow it upon favored individuals to aid private enterprises and build up private fortunes is none the less a robbery because it is done under the forms of law and is called taxation.”(138) Andreas apparently can buy politicians, but that does not mean that ADM has a right to shake down American consumers and taxpayers.
Congress, in the pending farm bill and in legislation to extend the ethanol gasoline fuel tax credit, has an excellent chance to shut down the ADM gravy train. Congress’s action on the ADM agenda will be an appropriate litmus test of the new Republican leadership’s spine. If Congress cannot stand up to ADM, how can they be expected to stand up for American taxpayers and consumers in other, less egregious cases?

Even the WTO GATS pressure will not move this mountain very soon. How do we know who captured whom? And is that a sane way to think? And the Dems passed the Agricultural Bill 2007.

Private and public feedback and function discussion

It seems there are a few rules that emerged from yesterday’s discussion about private versus public functions and efficiencies.

1. Government functions are inefficient all on their own. There are not enough feedback mechanisms to make government efficient at any point in time, and its functions serve ‘minimal’ or no purpose. With the taxing ability, however, it does not go out of business and just gets bigger.

2. Private market functions have inefficient times called market failures but pricing weeds out winners and losers continuously as they serve buying preferences of customers. Winners and losers are companies only, and not the players so much.

3. 1 and 2 have no moral and ethical considerations as a societal preference, since pricing (and some others?) is the key mechanism that makes sense to sort everything out.

4. Government is the preferred method of coercion because it is more ‘efficient’ in the art of coercion than private companies.

5. Private companies that capture government functions are blameless, since government opportunity costs make it seductively irresistable and coerces companies into such behavior.

6. ‘Eventual’ corrections is a term for private companies (no time given or examples) for not adapting, whereas government is incapable of adapting except when it changes policy.

7.

Please correct any misconceptions I have about yesterday’s discussion.

Old meaning, new boost for Feb. 14

The headlines read Valentine flowers boost US economy

Wilting flowers

When researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel put cut flowers in a weak solution of Viagra — one-fiftieth the amount taken by men for impotence — the flowers survived for two weeks instead of one. They suspect the Viagra works through its effects on nitric oxide, which is also how the drug treats erectile dysfunction.

Actually, off-label uses can be productive.

Patriots and viewpoints

Alternet reports the following:

The Op-Ed by seven active duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq questioning the war drew international attention just three weeks ago. Now two of the seven are dead.

Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance Gray died Monday in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad, two of seven U.S. troops killed in the incident which was reported just as Gen. David Petraeus was about to report to Congress on progress in the “surge.” The names have just been released.

The controversial Times column on Aug. 19 was called “The War As We Saw It,” and expressed skepticism about American gains in Iraq. “To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched,” the group wrote.

One of the other five authors of the Times piece, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head while the article was being written. He was expected to survive after being flown to a military hospital in the United States.

It closed: “We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

I offer a few moments silence for these men and their families.

Too much WAPO? Try an expert.

John Robb on his website states one of his thoughts on the current state of the overall strategy towards terrorisms.

A radical improvement in marketing war.

The US military learned from Vietnam that it needed to be much better at marketing wars to domestic audiences in order to prevent moral collapse. It has gotten better at this, and that information operations/strategic communications capability has reached a new level of effectiveness with General Petraeus. Despite this improvement, the military and its civilian leadership still don’t have the ability to garner wide domestic support for guerrilla wars beyond the initial phases. However, they do have the ability to maintain support within a small but vocal base — as seen in the use of weblogs to generate grass roots support for war — and the capability to trump those that call for withdrawal (by keeping the faintest glimmer of potential success alive and using fear/uncertainty/doubt FUD to magnify the consequences of defeat). In our factional political system, that is sufficient to prevent withdrawal.
The threat that justifies the state and the perpetual war that codifies it.
The ongoing threat of terrorism has become the primary justification for the existence of a strong nation-state (and its greatest instrument of power, the military) at the very moment it finds itself in decline due to globalization (or more accurately: irrelevance). The militarization of “the war against terrorism” reverses this process of dissipation, since it can be used to make the case for the acquisition of new powers, money, and legitimacy (regardless of party affiliation) — for example, everything from increases in conventional military spending to the application of technical reconnaissance on domestic targets. Of course, this desire for war at the political level is complimented by the huge number of contractors (and their phalanxes of lobbyists) attracted by the potential of Midas level profits from the privatization of warfare. The current degree of corporate participation in warfare makes the old “military industrial complex” look tame in comparison.
The privatization of conflict.
This is likely the critical factor that makes perpetual warfare possible. For all intents and purposes, the US isn’t at war. The use of a professional military in combination with corporate partners has pushed warfare to the margins of political/social life. A war’s initiation and continuation is now merely a function of our willingness/ability to finance it. Further, since privatization mutes moral opposition to war (i.e. “our son isn’t forced to go to war to die”) the real damage at the ballot box is more likely to impact those that wish to end its financing. To wit: every major presidential candidate in the field today now gives his/her full support to the continuation of these wars.
(bolding and italics mine, slightly edited to make it fit)

We also know that Admiral Fallon has a different responsibility and viewpoint than General Patreus for overall strategy, although both men have been assigned jobs to do and to succeed. General Patraeus, perhaps rightly, declined to comment today on overall strategy. As a specialist assigned to do a job, you rightly jump in with both feet and follow directives and orders with the war you have.

But we as citizens cannot afford to discuss tactical issues only. It is not our job, nor that of Congress, to limit our concern. Nor should the mantra of ‘Trust me’ be accorded this administration, nor its agents, as convincing evidence.

Update:

ilsm suggested adding the lead in. Here it is.

“The reason is that the moral weaknesses that have traditionally limited the state’s ability to fight long guerrilla wars have dissipated, and modern states may now have the ability and the desire to wage this type of war indefinitely.”

Ray McGovern at Consortium News had an opinion that got him booted out of the hearings with General Patraeus.

If memory serves, the aforementioned generals and Westmoreland were required to testify under oath. And this was one of the main sticking points when CBS aired a program showing that Westmoreland had deliberately dissembled on the strength of Communist forces and U.S. “progress” in the war.
When Westmoreland sued CBS for libel, several of his subordinates came clean, and Westmoreland quickly dropped the suit. The analogy with Westmoreland—justifying a White House wish to persist in an unwinnable war —is the apt one here.
If Petraeus is so honest and full of integrity, what possible objection could he have to being sworn in?

No one seems to swear to the truth anymore.

Media Matters points to another ‘objective opinion’ in the press. Who is able to follow the money?

Since 2004, Clifford D. May, former Republican National Committee communications director and president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), has appeared in the media several times to defend the administration’s conduct of the Iraq war — most recently in his September 5 Scripps Howard News Service column, where he listed as “Al Qaeda’s hope[s]” that “Congress will save them by legislating America’s retreat from Iraq” and “that lawmakers in Washington will vote to stop fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and to abandon those Iraqis who have been fighting with us and relying on us.” However, in none of his columns or on-air appearances has May disclosed that FDD has received at least $1.2 million in State Department grants since 2004, or that May himself is a member of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion.

Who to trust is not a new issue, but shouldn’t this sort of thing stay private market, not privatized market/government? How will we be able to tell the difference if psy-ops itself goes internal?