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Archive for the ‘The Noise Machine’ Category

Money makes the (medical) world go ’round

May 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“Nearly half of the $16 million collected by a professional society for heart specialists in 2010 came from makers of drugs, catheters and defibrillators used to control abnormal heart rhythms, according to data on The Heart Rhythm Society’s website, ProPublica and USA Today report.

That’s not all.  “Twelve of 18 directors are paid speakers or consultants for the companies, one holds stock, and the outgoing president disclosed research ties,” the report added.  Of course, the docs and the society leadership deny this is significant. (H/t The Incidental Economist)

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Bring me the world’s smallest violin

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

American CEO’s have to be some of the world’s biggest crybabies. According to the Rochester Business Journal, the latest boo-hoo-hoo fest shows business execs ranking New York as the second-worst state in which to do business, based on a survey reported by CEO Magazine.

So why the violins? Because according to the AP, “CEOs at the nation’s largest companies were paid better last year than they were in 2007, when the economy was booming, the stock market set a record high and unemployment was roughly half what it is today.” Recession, what recession?

Let’s dig into the survey first. Here are the 5 lowest-ranked states: California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan. And here are the 5 states the CEOs love: Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia. Does anyone notice a pattern? They really dislike heavily populated states that are struggling due to the ongoing Great Recession — a near-collapse triggered by Big Finance malfeasance, you may recall.

Explaining the stuffed-shirt cry-athon, Chief Executive CEO Marshall Cooper said, “Today’s soak the rich mentality hits business leaders especially hard. CEOs and entrepreneurs vote with their feet, and also pack up jobs and investment with them when they leave.”

Times are so tough for these jokers. The median pay package for the CEO of a company in the S&P 500 rose to $9 million, a full 24% higher than the year before. AP’s Rachel Beck reports:

Executives were showered with more pay of all types — salaries, bonuses, stock, options and perks. The biggest gains came in cash bonuses: Two-thirds of executives got a bigger one than they had in 2009, some more than three times as big.

Are these guys taking The Donald as their role model? Non-stop blowhard antics, cries and moans about Democratic presidents and governors, barely-veiled threats to move their business to some low-tax haven…they seem to be drinking a little too much Ayn Rand koolaid.

Bill Sez: Remember, Xerox moved its corporate HQ from Rochester to Connecticut years ago so top execs could avoid paying state income taxes. This greed mania has infected C-suites forever. But let’s not confuse it with principle.

Schools, kids shouldn’t be waiting for Superman

May 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Now that Billionaire Boys Club-trained Jean-Claude Brizard is leaving the Rochester school district for Chicago, it’s a good time to drop the “waiting for Superman” expectation that any one person in any single job can transform public education in any mid-size to large US city.

Kudos then to Rochester Democrat and Chronicle columnist Mark Hare for yesterday’s essay, “Brizard’s departure should be wake-up call.” Said Hare:

We are very likely to spend the next several months or longer debating the kind of leader the city schools should have. The subtext is: The right superintendent can save public education in Rochester. The facts say there is no such person.

You can understand why the Noise Machine and pro-Brizard corporate types like to focus on the “Superman” model; it means they can ignore the tremendous economic and social disadvantages faced by city kids, growing up in harsh poverty in environments offering little support for educational achievement. Hare comments:

[T]oo many people (I hear from lots of them) think we just need a no-nonsense leader or unions with less clout. They blame parents and even the children themselves, faulting their morals and work ethic. They send me racist and ignorant emails insisting that minorities would destroy public education in the suburbs.

Hare supports expanding programs that enable city students to attend suburban schools, citing research by Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation. He knows the opposition to a completely metropolitan school district would be overwhelming.

Bill Sez: That could help. But I really cheer when Hare adds, “If Brizard’s departure could move us beyond the search for superman to the search for community solutions, we’d owe him big-time.”

Health-care reform won’t stop, analysts insist

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Health care reform “has left the station and is not likely to be turned back,” no matter what happens to the Affordable Care Act, according to economists and health policy experts at a recent Univ. of California-Irvine Health Care Forecast Conference.

Even though repealing ACA will probably be a top GOP issue in 2012, the likelihood of it actually happening is slim, at best, according to former White House aide Chris Jennings. “And even if repeal were somehow successful, the market will have changed so much, repeal wouldn’t alter it,” he added.

Fundamental changes are underway in insurance coverage, access, payment, and delivery system organization, explains Jon Stewart of Kaiser-Permanente’s Institute for Health Policy.

Even Wall Street is inclined to agree that these “reforms” are acquiring their own momentum, Denver hedge-fund manager Ted Shannon told the UCI confab, noting that drug-makers and device-makers’ excessive profits are unsustainable. A $100 price tag for a brand-name drug that may be little better than its rivals will become a thing of the past, he declared.

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‘Skin in the game’ cannot reduce US health spending

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s mendacious proposal to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know them enshrines bad policy, but it is a foundation built on sand: the notion that the free market can reduce health care costs.

As the blog of an ER physician points out, “people who believe that passing along the cost of health care to consumers will promote cost savings are wrong, and health reforms which are predicated on this concept will not work.”

Doc Shadowfax explains by referencing a powerful graphic drawn from a Kaiser Family Foundation report: 20% of the US population accounts for 80% of annual health-care spending, with the worst-off 5% tallying 49% all by itself. Meanwhile, the relatively healthy 50% of the population is responsible for only 3% of spending. Says the doc:

Once you are told that you need a bypass/chemo/stent/dialysis/NICU etc, etc, etc, the costs are so overwhelming that a consumer cannot possibly pay them out of pocket. Since, by definition, these catastrophic costs are paid by some form of insurance, the consumer cannot have much financial interest in cost containment.

On the other hand, no matter how informed and price-sensitive the healthy half may be, they can only affect a very small piece of total health-care spending. Even when they become sick, there’s little they can do, as shadowfax explains in recounting the choices he and his wife are making regarding treatment for her stage II breast cancer.

I can afford to pay $20,000 or more out of pocket if I need to, and it STILL wouldn’t make a difference. If families with more limited means were obligated to pay the same $10-20K, if would mean financial ruin, or inability to access the lifesaving care, but it wouldn’t allow the invisible hand to guide the market towards cheaper, more efficient care.

Read the whole thing…it establishes the fraudulence of the Ryan proposal beyond a doubt. The charts it references are worth the price of admission. H/t The Incidental Economist and Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Noise Machine churns out more crap

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

“Truthiness” swamps truth again, with lots of help from its friends. Of course, fact-free “journalism” wouldn’t survive it if it wasn’t so effective…in a sick way. But major props to Ryan Chittum at Columbia Journalism Review for showcasing a remarkable yet horrifying example of The Noise Machine at work.

Here is how it unfolds:

  1. Some “independent” outfit makes a controversial claim (the claim is not true)
  2. Some cable news channel trumpets the claim uncritically (it’s still not true)
  3. Talk shows and “news” outlets start shouting about it (even though it’s been called out as false)
  4. People think if so many media are telling them something, it must be true.

Let’s go through the process step by step.
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Two kinds of lies in anti-NPR video

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Conservative activist James O’Keefe III doesn’t care about truth, he is devoted to “truthiness” in its worst forms. So should anyone be surprised that deception is the rule in the 11-minute video he posted online depicting NPR fundraising officials unfavorably?

He’s a scalp-taker, not a journalist. Yet he had the nerve to post a two-hour tape he said was “largely raw” video and audio so people could test the credibility of his editing. He probably thought no one would. But The Blaze, a conservative site, did — and, surprise, surprise — found that O’Keefe edited the video in deceptive ways.

That prompted NPR to recruit some independent observers to check the truthfulness of the edited version to the unedited one. One reviewer, Al Tompkins, who teaches ethics at a Florida journalism school, was initially outraged by what he saw and heard in the short version; now he’s outraged by the deceptive editing.

“I tell my children there a two ways to lie,” Tompkins said. “One is to tell me something that didn’t happen, and the other is not to tell me something that did happen. I think [O’Keefe] employed both techniques in this.”

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