Home / A Rant: Warning Labels Are Not Enough, But They Might Help

A Rant: Warning Labels Are Not Enough, But They Might Help

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I was inspired by the following profundity in one of the paid ads presented at the bottom of the first page of a recent BC article:

Acai Berry Side Effects
Warning! Want To Try Acai Berry?
Have You Considered Side Effects?

The side effects question had nothing to do with that article but it is a good one, too seldom asked.

There are lots of really great medicines and supplements out there, both prescription and over-the-counter. They are said to cure sexual dysfunction, acne, baldness, heartburn, diarrhea and even constipation. Unfortunately, some medicines may have nasty side effects, also known as unintended consequences. There was once a quite effective medication for arthritis pain, Vioxx, which helped me tremendously for about four years. Then, it was suddenly taken off the market "voluntarily," because it may have caused some folks to die prematurely. It also had another arguably even worse side effect: it caused Merck to agree to pay $4.85 Billion in 2007 to settle Vioxx lawsuits. Warning labels probably wouldn't have done much good, and I would likely have continued taking Vioxx for many years without ill effect. Now I can't. So, I'm still alive but my knees hurt. Oh well.

There are many things other than medicines which may have unfortunate side effects. These things do not have the sorts of warning labels which the FDA requires pharmaceutical companies to print on their medicine containers, nor are there any disclosure statements of the sort which the SEC requires corporations to make when issuing securities. Nobody reads those things anyway, and probably wouldn't even if printed in twelve point bold face type. They aren't meant to be read. If these "lawyer speak" things were readable and actually got read, nobody in his right mind would take the medicines or buy the securities, and the economy would probably be in the tank even worse than it is today.

In some cases, even the makers of these things are kept (or elect to remain) blissfully in the dark. They don't know what they are making, and therefore can't possibly know what it will do. It seems as though they are so enchanted by the claims of wonders to be wrought that they don't even consider the potential side effects. One example is the recent "stimulus package," overwhelmingly approved by the Congress even though it was not available for review or even to be read by the Honorable Members — much less unwashed members of the public — prior to the vote. I doubt that anybody read the thing as a whole, to see whether there were any unfortunate interactions of its components. Side effects? What side effects? We have been assured that this legislation will get the economy moving and we need it right now. There's no time to bother with such trivial matters as reading it. Actually understanding it? Don't be silly. Gotta Rush, no matter what it may have in store for us. So what if General Motors is again on the cusp of bankruptcy? It just needs more money, no big deal; the U.S. Government has lots of that stuff and can easily get lots more where that came from. Just think what we could have done to save the dodo birds from extinction. They couldn't fly, didn't use a teleprompter, and probably weren't very smart, either. Side effects? Nah, it's all perfectly safe.

OK. The Stimulus Legislation passed and now we are stuck with it. As to the roughly four hundred and ten billion dollar "omnibus" budget bill, this too shall pass, even though it is full of those much disparaged, but even more beloved, earmarks. Hell, it has only "2,967 pages of text, teeming with 9,000 earmarks." Or maybe it won't pass. And maybe it is just 1,132 pages long and maybe it has only 7,991 earmarks. Not important. We need it NOW! Who cares about reading it? The important thing is that there won't be any noxious side effects. We believe!

Among the earmarks are $1.9 million for a water-taxi service at a Connecticut beach and $1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Iowa. I don't know about the water taxi, but with the stuff coming out of Washington these days, smelly pig and manure management research should be high priorities. But, never mind that sort of chicken shit feed. The White House is "working on" having lots more transparency in such matters in the future. Someday — there is certainly no urgency. Only one in five mortgagees are frolicking at the seashore underwater now. So?


Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair said the deposit insurance fund could dry up amid a surge in bank failures, as she responded to an industry outcry against new fees approved by the agency. . . . "A large number" of bank failures may occur through 2010 because of "rapidly deteriorating economic conditions," Bair said . . . . "Without substantial amounts of additional assessment revenue in the near future, current projections indicate that the fund balance will approach zero or even become negative."

Don't worry, it'll all be okay:

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd is moving to allow the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to temporarily borrow as much as $500 billion from the Treasury Department.

That's nice. Plenty of money there, and its only going to be borrowed. This can't have any noxious side effects: Hell, $500,000,000,000 is even less than sixty percent of the Stimulus Package and only one hundred and twenty two percent greater than the Obamnibus Budget bill. "Budget?" "Budget?" Yeah, of course. It's a budget. Even on a really tight budget, We Can Do It! Yes! We Can!  Never mind that still more inadequately analyzed financial fixes are in the works; the ride has only just begun. Side effects? Of course not, we're on a roll! Wheeeeee! Nobody gets thrown under this Obamnibus — there's no more room.

More than enough has been written about these things, and no useful purpose would be served by further repetition. That would only increase the sales of Maalox. Let's all just repeat, Yes We Can! Again, with gusto: Yes.  We.  Can. No side effects. Besides, the chances of a real depression are only about twenty percent, and the economy may yet recover, even despite the efforts of our masters; unless, of course there is a massive asteroid strike. Fortunately, there is not yet an Asteroid Union, so we need not be overly concerned about that — yet.

The problem is, we are in for more — much more — of the same in other arenas. Secretary Clinton, known by some rascals as the Wicked Witch of the West, recently mounted her zero carbon footprint broom and flew east to criticize Israel and to pontificate about the need for a seven percent solution two state solution to the Israel – Palestine mess. Side effects? Of course not!

Not to be outdone by his former(?) rival, President Obama has appointed a very sophisticated and intelligent guy as his chief reviewer of intelligence information.

Charles Freeman is a career diplomat, a Saudi apologist, and a savage critic of Israel. He also argues that Beijing did not strike down the Tiananmen Square protesters with sufficient swiftness. Barack Obama proposes to make him head of the National Intelligence Council.

The Senate will not have to worry, though, since the appointment does not require its advice and consent. Hence, there will be no need for the Senate to concern itself with stuff like this:

on May 26, 2006, Freeman sent an e-mail "to a confidential listserv called ChinaSec. The subject under discussion was the Tiananmen Square massacre, the 1989 Chinese government crackdown on peaceful democracy demonstrators. Sounding like a hard-line Chinese Communist Party flack, he referred to the young activists as constituting a 'mob scene,' termed their appeals for liberalization 'propaganda,' mocked the 'goddess of democracy' they had erected in honor of the Statue of Liberty and deemed the government’s response — which resulted in over 2,500 deaths — 'overly cautious.'

One can only wonder what Ambassador Freeman will have to say, from an intelligence perspective, if North Korea, a country very much in the pocket of his friends in China, shoots down a South Korean commercial airliner or two.

North Korea warned on Thursday it might shoot down South Korean commercial airliners flying near its territory during annual U.S.-South Korean military drills next week, ratcheting up threats against it capitalist neighbor.

Yes, It Can.  Whoops. Lest anyone actually be concerned about those silly side effects, the President's press secretary said not to worry. It's all in good hands, he hopes, because President Obama, although urged to refuse to accept the Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America, an honor traditionally held by U.S. presidents since 1910, is always prepared. That's his job!

"I've not read those. I think anybody can look at what the president has said and what the president's views are, enumerating from the very beginning of this administration the desire to be engaged actively in the Middle East region to ensure a durable and lasting peace. It is something that he's said he would work on each and every day."

There is, perhaps, one last but great hope, which may help us to put aside gloom and doom or at least to join our beloved masters in spirit — even those of us who pay our damn taxes. A virtual reality device is under development which, in a few years, will permit us (at least those with £1,500 or so in spare change) to leave behind the tired, old reality to which we have become accustomed and escape to a far better virtual reality world. All five senses will be titillated. This seems only fair; soon even we mere peasants will have almost the same opportunities for rapture without consequence enjoyed by our masters, who clearly need every bit of the 4.4 billion dollars they are about to appropriate for themselves as well as the approximately five billion dollars spent by Wall Street alone to keep them happy — many happy returns! Since they already enjoy the Rapture, so should we! Soon, we too can aspire to Heaven, or at least Virtual Reality; why bother with any mundane side effects of present policy? Let us instead rejoice and be merry, for great shall be our Rapture in the wonderful by-and-by of Virtual Reality. Yes, We Can!  Yes, We Can!  Yes. We. Can!

Can't we?

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About Dan Miller

  • bliffle

    Social Security may be the best investment you ever made, Dan (and Clavos). It has a $2trillion surplus and has had a surplus every year for 25 years. Compare THAT to some of your fancy Wall Street investments!

  • Clavos, it’s of course possible that any ‘confiscatory’ taxation could spread beyond firms getting TARP money, but there would be no reason for it. Politicians of both parties are scrambling over each other to show how shocked, shocked they are by the bonuses. I really don’t think it seems likely to become a widespread new tax practice. But I agree with you that it’s dubious in any case.

    One other thing:

    As Barney Frank reminded everyone yesterday, the AIG bailout began before TARP, to the tune of $85 billion. It was begun unilaterally by the Fed under Ben Bernanke and Congress was told about it after it was already done. It was done under authority first granted to the Fed in 1932 during the Hoover administration.

    That’s one reason even fewer restrictions are in place for AIG than for the institutions that have gotten mostly TARP money [which AIG got also, later].

  • Clav,

    Perhaps I am missing something, but if they are not to be taxed at confiscatory (oh, all right, substantially higher than normal) rates, what’s the point? And if they are, your concern seems valid.

    Still, it’s not big deal. It’s only money, and we all know that’s the root of all evil. Besides, anyone who makes a lot of it is obviously wicked and should be made to suffer like the rest of us. Well, the peasants who pay taxes, anyway.


  • Clavos

    And if they are taxed at a confiscatory rate, will that not set a precedent that could grow into a policy of confiscatory tax wielding for whatever capricious reason the administration (and subsequent administrations, for that matter) deems in the public (read their) interest?

  • Oh goody! Help for the beleaguered Treasury Department is on the way. Lewis Alexander, the chief economist of Citigroup, Inc., is leaving that bastion of solid judgment to become a top adviser to Secretary Geithner. He will work on “domestic financial issues.” It’s about time for Secretary Geithner to have expert help at the helm. Obviously, Mr. Alexander’s intimate knowledge of how Citigroup, and indeed the nation’s domestic economy, functions will give Secretary Geithner a big boost.

    Mr. Alexander’s role as Citigroup’s chief economist didn’t entail significant management responsibilities. But his optimistic economic forecasts colored executives’ views that the U.S. was unlikely to face a prolonged slump.

    “I think that’s not going to spill over more broadly into the economy, and so I think we’re going to have a normal kind of housing cycle that’s going to last through the middle of this year,” Mr. Alexander said in a Feb. 28, 2007, interview on PBS.

    In the past five quarters, Citigroup has booked a total of more than $37 billion in net losses, largely stemming from the company’s overexposure to the U.S. real-estate sector. In a memo last week, Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said the company was profitable in the first two months of 2009.

    This is certain to enhance further the already elevated confidence we all have in the expertise of the Treasury Department and in its fierce commitment to master the current financial crisis well, with alacrity and in the best interests of the United States.


  • Handyguy,

    We mere peasants will probably never know what happened and why. However, the article linked (and shamelessly quoted almost in its entirety) in Comment #55 might explain what happened: Senator Dodd was and is beholden to AIG. Now, he has a sense of urgency about looking good and proposing to tax the bonuses. Question is, are they to be subject to the normal income tax rates (as I assume they already are) or at a higher and perhaps confiscatory rate?


  • The interesting thing about the bonuses clause in the stimulus bill is that the bill at one point contained an amendment that had the opposite effect:

    Referring to her amendment with Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would have forced financial institutions receiving TARP money to repay bonuses over $100,000 or face a 35 percent excise tax on what is not immediately repaid to the treasury, Senator Snowe commented that if the provision had not been stripped out of the final stimulus package, the American people could reclaim these obscene bonuses.

    “The stimulus debate presented an opportunity to enact firm restrictions on the ability of financial institutions receiving TARP funds to provide executive compensation,” Snowe continued. “The Snowe-Wyden amendment would have forced AIG to either return the TARP money or pay out the bonuses and incur a 35 percent tax – equating to roughly $58 million. Yet my provision with Senator Wyden was inexplicably stripped out of the final package – leaving us with the unacceptable outcome we face today.”

  • Clavos

    LOL, Dan!!

  • This just in: The IRS plans to grant a tax deduction for Ponzi Scheme intestors:

    The plan, which applies to victims of all Ponzi schemes, should provide some relief to investors in Mr. Madoff, who pleaded guilty last week to orchestrating what prosecutors say is the largest Ponzi scheme ever . . . (emphasis added).

    No decision has yet been announced on whether this will apply to Social Security contributions.


  • Senator Dodd (D. – Conn.) is now trying to unravel one of the provisions he arranged to have inserted in the $787 Billion “stimulus package.”

    While the Senate was constructing the $787 billion stimulus last month, Dodd added an executive-compensation restriction to the bill. That amendment provides an “exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009” — which exempts the very AIG bonuses Dodd and others are now seeking to tax.

    The amendment made it into the final version of the bill, and is law.

    Separately, Sen. Dodd was AIG’s largest single recipient of campaign donations during the 2008 election cycle with $103,100, according to opensecrets.org. 

    Dodd’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

    One of AIG Financial Products’ largest offices is based in Connecticut.

    It would be interesting to know what could possibly have changed Senator Dodd’s deep thinking, only a few weeks ago, on this matter. Unlike most of his colleagues, he must have had an opportunity to read, and even understand, at least the part(s) of the bill he added.


  • bliffle

    Peanut oil used to be a common item in the Oils And Sauces aisle at the market, but then it disappeared, and now it seems to be a gourmet item. Nevertheless, the $6 bottle I bought seems to have lasted a long time.

  • Thanks for the reminder, Bliffle. I do plan to try it as soon as I can find some. My wife hasn’t seen peanut oil in the local grocery stores, but thinks that perhaps a Chinese grocery store may have some. Next time one of us is in David, where such things are, we will look.


  • bliffle

    Seriously, Dan. Try peanut oil on your knees. It’s an old tried and true remedy. I think the oil penetrates the skin and lubricates the passageways for tendons and ligaments.

    I first heard of it 50 years ago (when I laughed at my 1st wife for using it, but now when needed it worked). And at $5 a bottle it’s a lot cheaper than all the X-rays, doctors visits, and the special Celebrex that was made in India and shipped through Bermuda to the Canadian Pharmacy that forwarded it to me just a few short weeks after I ordered it on the Internet.

  • bliffle

    #37 — Christopher
    Bliffle, please delete all that crap you’ve stuffed in the URL box right now…

    Mission Accomplished, sir!

    (I think)

    A slip of the keys mid-paste caused it.

  • I believe CNN publishes a transcript as well as video excerpts. The transcript will lack Freeman’s deep gravelly voice, like Kissinger without the accent.

    Commentary like Caroline Glick’s, at least the part you excerpted, comes across as name-calling without backup. In other words, a smear. Her full-length column published last Friday had more detail – but was a remarkably one-sided opinion piece, not an objective piece of journalism. She’s fiercely right-wing and no fan of Obama.

    Freeman says it is more accurate to say that the Likud lobby, rather than the Israel lobby, was out to get him, and that it is Likud/right-wing policies he has criticized [as have many Israelis], not Israel itself. Glick and others don’t bother to make this distinction.

  • Handyguy,

    We have neither over-the-air US based television nor a cable feed. Neither is available where we live. So, I’ll just have to wait for the interview to appear on the internet.


  • While waiting for the GPS video, I looked at some other comments on Ambassador Freeman’s withdrawal. Here are some views, from rather different perspectives, which nevertheless have a similar flavor.

    I rather liked the comments of Caroline Glick, who described:

    what she called “disturbing things about the climate in Washington these days.” The foremost was that Blair’s choice of Freeman, despite what she said were the latter’s known “extreme views on Israel and American Jews,” may indicate something about the DNI. She said Blair’s testimony last week to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Iran’s nuclear program showed that “America’s top intelligence officer is willing to take Iran’s word on everything,” and, “On the other hand, he isn’t willing to take Israel’s word on anything.”

    May I suggest than rather withdraw in a huff, Ambassador Freeman might have done well to attempt to explain the contexts out of which he claimed that his remarks were taken?

    Perhaps he does so in the GPS interview video.

    In any event, Ambassador Freeman will doubtless continue to be heard in Washington; he just won’t be the primary filter for President Obama’s intelligence briefings.


  • Yes, it was just broadcast a couple hours ago. The program is repeated on US cable a few times on Sundays; not sure whether that feed is available to you.

    I found him very convincing, even on China [he said the out-of-context quote left off the first part of his sentence: “The opinion in Beijing is that….”], and certainly on Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    I don’t want to say he’s a saint, but he certainly didn’t come across as a nut, which is how several editorialists portrayed him.

  • Handyguy,

    As of a few minutes ago, a video of the interview was scheduled “to be available soon.” I shall listen (and watch, of course) with interest.

    It should be interesting to hear what Mr. Freeman had to say about his unfortunately mischaracterized(?) remarks on the Chinese unpleasantness and what he now thinks should be done about Israel and Palestine.


  • For those interested in an actual interview with [now withdrawn nominee] Charles Freeman, Fareed Zakaria’s always valuable GPS program on CNN today provided it.

    My take is that it’s our nation’s loss that a good man was forced out on spurious charges. At the very least the interview demonstrates that he is enormously intelligent and articulate, a proud iconoclast but by no means a fire-breather.

  • Meanwhile, and at least to some extent back on topic, here’s the latest word from Newspeakweek


  • Silas,

    I doubt that any self respecting horse would permit himself to be dealt with in that fashion. Besides, we are talking about horses, not horse’s asses.


  • Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, hold the horse while Rush hops on.

  • Cindy,

    A good (experienced) school horse can put up with just about anything. I’ve heard it said, and am convinced that it’s true, that if you keep an eye out for a nice place to fall off, you will (a) fall off and (b) not land there.

    As to running away, horses do that sometimes. The trick is to take one rein firmly in hand, pull it back bending the horse’s neck to the rear, and secure it on the pommel of your saddle. Don’t tie it, just hold your fist firmly against the pommel. Since one side of the horse can’t run away while the other side is immobilized, that is quite effective. Unfortunately, a horse who has gone nuts with fear and is running away is likely to fall down. Oh well. That’s life. The only thing to do with a really scared horse is to calm him down. Either that or an emergency dismount.

    Do find a good, experienced instructor. I think you will enjoy riding. I have for more than fifty years, and still do. Back in the late 1950’s, I subscribed to Horse and Hound, a British publication. I remember the front cover one day, with a photo of a Brit winning a steeple chase race in Kenya. It was his 80th birthday, and he still trained polo ponies and played polo. I was inspired and wish that I were in that condition at 68.


  • Cindy

    Dr.D, he only said you shouldn’t play Contact Badminton.

  • Cindy

    Horses are said to be sensitive to such things…as well as to underlying insecurity.

    Since I just realized my hands are shaking and I feel queasy just imagining a horse running away with me, I’ll have to admit I might be letting them on to something. So, I guess I set the whole cascading reaction off.

    That is a good site Dan. Thanks. I think I’d need a good instructor and a very easy-going horse that didn’t instantly react to my fear.

  • However, my back surgeon advises that I shouldn’t ride at all. It’s what I love best, so I try to ignore him.

    It is the primary mission of the medical profession (I believe it’s in the Hippocratic Oath) to find reasons why their patients can’t do the things they love.

    My back surgeon (who used to be the team physician for the San Francisco 49ers, so it’s kind of hard to argue with him) tells me I shouldn’t play badminton, and my GP just handed me a list of things I ought to avoid (with a view to lowering my cholesterol) which appears to include all foods. So I’m ambivalent as to how strenuously one ought to observe these proscriptions.

    Take Jet, for example, who was advised by his doctor not to comment on Blogcritics. Now Jet, who these days is held together largely by duct tape, wisely surmised that for him, things couldn’t get much worse, and so he continues to be a presence here.

    So if you’ll excuse me, I must now bungee jump off the top of Half Dome in pursuit of a falling shuttlecock, with my laptop tucked safely under my other arm.

  • Bliffle, please delete all that crap you’ve stuffed in the URL box right now…

  • Cindy,

    Horses don’t enjoy falling, but sometimes they do anyway. It is not uncommon in polo and in jumping, both of which I enjoyed. Working with untrained or poorly trained horses can also result in falls. When a horse rears, generally out of fright, it can easily loose balance and fall on top of its rider. Ain’t pleasant.

    Here is an excellent site on horses, and you might enjoy going to the archives and looking at some of the topics. I have very rarely found myself in disagreement with Ms. Jahiel’s opinions.


  • Cindy

    lol Clav.

    (Horses falling on people, rolling over on them. Wow! It could have been much worse.)

  • Cindy

    I looked Mark, but I don’t have any 666.

    All I found was a 999.

  • Clavos

    A few years ago, my wife and I owned a Quarter horse (that’s what we paid the glue factory for him), which we enjoyed very much until my wife’s brother visited, and the horse took exception to being ridden by him by rolling over on him.

    My wife told me then that it was either her or the horse.

    I sure do miss her…


  • Ma r k

    Have you searched for the number of the beast on your scalp, Cindy? Horses are said to be sensitive to such things…as well as to underlying insecurity.

  • Cindy

    Seriously Dan(Miller), why would horses not like me? We had a horse when I was a kid. He tried to kill me a few times. (getting insane and running into the road, charging at me in a field so I had to hide behind the only tree in the middle).

    Other horses have tried to get rid of me. I was even following all the advice from the instructor. I like horses! How do they spot me in a class of twenty? It isn’t like I am afraid when I get on. But it always ends with me being afraid. They just know they can do this. What is with horses?

  • Cindy


  • Cindy


    Is that common for horses to just fall on people?

    Wow. And here I though they were using every trick they knew against me.

  • Thanks, Bliffle

    I’ll give it a try. My problem is probably due to having had horses fall down on top of me too often during my pleasant but misspent youth.* The effects show up long afterwards. Riding actually seems to help now, since I avoid the situations under which having a horse fall are even remotely likely, and only thirty percent of my weight is placed in the stirrups. However, my back surgeon advises that I shouldn’t ride at all. It’s what I love best, so I try to ignore him.


    *No, they didn’t fall on my head. Really.

  • bliffle

    First things first: Sore knees. I’ve come to this problem recently, maybe 6-8 months ago. But I’ve got it under control. Here’s the prescription from Doctor Bliffle:

    -every morning upon arising rub peanut oil into your knees and around the sides and underneath. Just pour a palmful in one palm and rub it in until it completely disappears. No other oil is as efficacious as peanut oil.

    -have your breakfast and follow that with 3 Ibuprofen 200mg caps.

    -every evening before bed repeat the peanut oil treatment.

    -if you tend to awaken during the night with knee pain use a pack of Blue Ice between your knees, or augment with 3 Ibuprofens after dinner.

    The worst thing about sore knees is that it cuts into your walking and hiking, so you have to make sure you have other cardio-vascular exercise, and the best thing is a stationary recumbent bicycle. I found one at the local YMCA that says “expresso.net” and has good graphical simulations to help pass the boring exercise time. They even have pacer riders and a ‘ghost’ rider (some kind of composite of your past rides) that make it more fun. You only need about 15-30 minutes to get some good exercise. The advantage of the recumbent is that there is no vertical load on your knees. The dreadful side-effect is that your butt gets sore and aching but it ends when you stop.

    This mornings radio brings news that gout may be a factor and that there’s about 50% less incidence among men who use 1500mg of Vitamin C every day.

  • There may be a small glimmer of hope that a few lemmings are looking around and wondering whether going over the cliff without glancing at a map is such a good idea after all. According to this Washington Post article,

    the most costly defection was that of Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), a member of the Democratic leadership, in protest of a little-noticed Cuba provision that would ease U.S. rules on travel and imports to the communist-led island.

    The Menendez rebellion was a jolt of political reality for Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Obama, signaling that the solidarity of the stimulus debate is fading as Democratic lawmakers are starting to read the fine print of the bills they will wrestle with in the coming weeks and months, and not always liking what they see. . . .

    Menendez knew that his hard-line approach to Cuba was a minority view within his party, and that it was at odds with Obama’s approach. But he did not expect to discover a significant policy change embedded in the text on an appropriations bill. His policy aides came across the language when the legislation was posted on a congressional Web site.

    “The process by which these changes have been forced upon this body is so deeply offensive to me, and so deeply undemocratic, that it puts the omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide,” the enraged son of Cuban immigrants said last week on the Senate floor. . . .

    Menendez has pointed out that, had the bill sought significant changes in U.S. policy toward Iran or Venezuela, lawmakers would revolt. “What’s the difference with Cuba?” said Menendez spokesman Afshin Mohamadi. (emphasis added)

    Good for him. Although I think that U.S. policy toward Cuba needs to change, I share Senator Menendez’s view that a lot more transparency is needed in the process.


  • I wasn’t praising Turkey. I was enumerating the probable reasons why it was chosen for the Prez’s first visit outside North America.

    But it’s apparently not ‘reasonable’ enough to be the place he will deliver a promised speech to the Muslim world during the first 100 days. I’m not sure which country will qualify for that, but my guess is Indonesia, since Mr. Obama lived there as a child.

  • “Turkey is a reasonably secular state”? Secular, yes. Reasonable, not even close.

    Why do you say so?

  • Baronius

    “Turkey is a reasonably secular state”? Secular, yes. Reasonable, not even close.

    I think it’s fair to criticize the use of earmarks as well as the lack of transparency, because Obama promised the opposite. But they’re both really more Congress’s failings than Obama’s.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard Dennis Miller’s recent comments (your brother, perhaps?), but he’s in the exact same frame of mind as me. Dennis wants Obama to succeed, although he’s no friend of socialism. He doesn’t want to spend the next 4-8 years full of hate like the Democrats were. He’s not about to give up on a president after 6 weeks. But still, there are some pretty troubling signs.

  • I’m fine now. The worst part was getting adjusted. It’s like having been transported in a time machine one hundred years back.

  • Sorry to hear it. Hang in there.

  • My sister and brother-in-law have a medical practice here. No work. Just fell behind my rent in California and got evicted. Not enough time to fix my shit so I decided to come here rather than be homeless. Not certain it was a wise choice. BC is pretty much my only connection with life, sad as it may sound.

  • Is that your attempt at a Hoptown accent? Not workin’, try again! Or better yet, don’t. =)

    Why are you in that little town again? Family ties? Work?

  • Well, you from these parts, so you know what’s like in this neck of the woods.

  • Well, they’re not against spending for Iraq and Haliburton. But that’s a horse of another color.

  • It wasn’t I. I guess in some cases that might be valid. Overall it’s a tug of war between the legislative and executive branches to control spending. And most of them are locally directed.

    I could see calling earmarks “noxious” when they were anonymous and sneaky. Now they are anything but.

    Some fiscal hawks find nearly all spending objectionable. Yet it is quite remarkably hypocritical for someone like Mitch McConnell to decry Obama’s spending while McConnell himself lards up the omnibus bill with Kentucky projects.

  • Weren’t you or somebody else who said that “earmarking” is just a way for the states to get back some of the moneys taken from them by the federal government?

  • Earmarking items in a spending bill is just a tool. Like any tool, it can be used well or poorly. At least now, unlike in the past, earmarked projects are not anonymous, secretive or hidden.

    Legislators will keep defending the use of earmarks, so the president may not be able to do more than point them out and complain. For him to veto any and every bill that contains them…well, that would turn Barack Obama into John McCain, and I don’t think it’s likely.

  • Handyguy,

    Here, I pretty much agree with you. Turkey is a reasonably secular state and has been for quite some time. It is in danger of ceasing to be secular, and of being screwed up by religious fanatics (probably a redundancy). The E.U. has played no small part in this unfortunate regression.

    If President Obama can do something positive there, it will be a spectacular achievement and one for which I will be delighted to give him full credit. Hell, I may even try to write an article about it.

    I do hope that he handles his visit to Turkey better than he handled the recent visit by the British PM to Washington. Perhaps he learned something from that.


  • By “some” I did not mean you, Silas.

    And Turkey is conveniently a non-Arab, nominally secular, nominally pro-Western, nominally democratic country that also happens to be Muslim.

    Most countries have unpleasantness in their histories. Do you think other countries should refuse to deal with us because of Native American genocide or black slavery?

    Visiting Turkey does not imply that Obama thinks the Armenian genocide was just peachy. He’s apparently going to give his promised speech in a Muslim capital elsewhere, to be determined.

  • Handyguy,

    Thanks for the kind words about the writing. As to the substance, like Popeye or any other “honest sailorman,” I yam what I yam.

    True. Many components of the “Stimulus package” were available before the entire thing came to a vote as an inviolate package, many were not. The problem is with the way that its components may interact. That’s where the unintended consequences come in. It is big and bulky, and if there are no problematic interactions, it will be miracle. Here’s an analogy: a committee of master builders designs a really big house for you, but they forget to put in an entry for the master bathroom adjacent to your bedroom. You are in a hurry, and don’t want to be picky, so you say OK! Here’s ten million dollars. Please have it ready in two months. They comply. Then, you move in, are very happy and retire for the night to your beautiful master bedroom for some much deserved sleep. Then, you have an urgent call of nature at 2:00 am. The light switch for the bedroom is, unfortunately, hidden in the kitchen somewhere behind the refrigerator. And, of course, you can’t get into the bathroom. Ouch.

    I haven’t spent much time looking at the “Stimulus package” as enacted, because I gave up in frustration. I did notice that there is a provision for State legislatures to accept Federal largess if the Governor does do so not within a specified period of time. I don’t like that, but it’s what happened. However, various sections of the package require later certifications by the Governor as to the way that the Federal funds were spent. What happens if the Governor declines so to certify? There does not appear to be any parallel provision for the State legislature to provide certifications. What happens then?

    Perhaps I am overly sensitive to side effects, because I have seen quite a few poorly written contracts bring grief to the parties. That sometimes happens with even well written contracts, and with short, well written legislation. The “Stimulus Package” is, due to the circumstances surrounding its absurdly quick passage under even more absurd political pressures, about as likely to result in unintended consequences as a contract written by Donald Duck and Elmer Fudd.

    Earmarks? One of President Obama’s campaign promises was that there would be no more of those noxious things. I don’t care whether they are Democratic or Republican party earmarks, and I don’t care that they may make up less than three percent of the bill, a figure that I don’t know how to calculate. It’s still a Hell of a lot of money. In any event, they shouldn’t be there, and now that an interim spending bill has passed, they should be weeded out. That probably won’t happen, because the whole thing might be studied and lots of additional problems found.

    As to Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Freeman, true: I don’t much like either of them. I do agree with Candidate Clinton’s earlier position that then Candidate Obama was simply not prepared for his new job. Managing the Harvard Law Review provided at best grossly inadequate preparation to become President of the United States.

    The linked article by Andrew Sullivan is interesting, because it seems to damn Ambassador Freeman with faint praise, while passing over the problem that Ambassador Freeman is not to be just one more voice among many crying for President Obama’s attention. That wouldn’t be all that bad. However, as I understand the situation, he will be the guy largely responsible for picking, choosing and filtering the intelligence information which President Obama sees. It is an important job, and I seriously doubt that he will be able to put his own views aside when he performs it, even if he tries to do so.


  • I don’t think I’m portraying this Administration as anti-Semitic. As long as Rahm Emmanuel is Chief of Staff, the Administration will maintain a strong pro-Israeli stance. Personally, I am a strong proponent of the two-state solution. Let us not forget that Israel was Palestine for thousands of years before the Truman intervention. I like the Obama approach to the Muslim world but the fact that he is going to visit Turkey troubles me. Until Turkey admits their part in the Armenian genocide, I don’t believe they deserve entry into the E.U.

  • I don’t know, Silas. But it is a real stretch. to say the very least, to portray the foreign policy team of this administration, as some have done, as anti-Semitic.

    I suspect any real “criticism,” or more accurately, pressure on Israel will have specific, practical intentions. A further-right, harder-line Israeli government may draw that kind of pressure sooner rather than later.

  • It will be an interesting exercise in political pressure, will it not?

  • Ruvy happens to think he’s cave in under the pressure from Clinton.

  • One suspects you share those “rascals'” view of Clinton as a green skinned evil harpy. And heaven forbid anyone should, gasp, criticize Israel.

    What happens when Netanyahu ascends the Throne? I suspect we will see a rise in anti-Israeli sentiment within these United States.

  • Clavos


  • I tend to agree with you, Handy, which is why I haven’t commented on it either – perhaps precisely for the reasons you mention. I wish Mr. Miller would try a little harder from taking pot shots every time he comes out, and I’m certain his articles, if only by virtue of the style, would generate much greater readership and readers’ participation.

  • “Secretary Clinton, known by some rascals as the Wicked Witch of the West, recently mounted her zero carbon footprint broom and flew east to criticize Israel and to pontificate about the need for a seven percent solution two state solution to the Israel – Palestine mess.”

    One suspects you share those “rascals’” view of Clinton as a green skinned evil harpy. And heaven forbid anyone should, gasp, criticize Israel. Although there may be more than one viewpoint about this: the NY Times devoted an entire article today to the very cautious tone of the whole Clinton Mideast trip, compared to the relatively free-wheeling rhetoric of her Asian visit.

    And if you read what she actually said, in the link you provide, her criticism was very mild indeed, was said only during her meeting with Abbas, and, as the Times points out, was further watered down when she spoke directly to the Israelis.

    “Not to be outdone by his former(?) rival, President Obama has appointed a very sophisticated and intelligent guy as his chief reviewer of intelligence information.”

    You then proceed to quote not straightforward facts about Chas Freeman, but hotheaded opinion pieces, without labeling them as such. For an alternative viewpoint about Freeman vis a vis Israel and the Saudis, I recommend Andrew Sullivan. Freeman’s views on Tiananmen Square do bear more research and discussion, but I wouldn’t want to base a final opinion on one out-of-context quote Freeman contributed to an online newsgroup.

    Still, I understand that having fun and being fair are sometimes mutually exclusive activities.

  • My comment was so long I divided it into 3 parts. Whew!

    “So what if General Motors is again on the cusp of bankruptcy? It just needs more money, no big deal; the U.S. Government has lots of that stuff and can easily get lots more where that came from.”

    Again, funny but not even close to fair. No one in either the Bush or Obama administration relishes handing out money to troubled banks and auto makers, and no one has pretended for a second that it was easy or fun. But some very intelligent people do think it’s necessary.

    “As to the roughly four hundred and ten billion dollar “omnibus” budget bill, this too shall pass, even though it is full of those much disparaged, but even more beloved, earmarks.”

    The earmarks make up less than 3% of the bill. Nearly half of them were inserted by Republicans, including Richard Shelby [who even voted for the bill! unlike his more hypocritical colleagues Mitch McConnell and Ron Paul].

    It’s easy [and fun] to make jokes about water taxis and swine manure odor, just like all the previous earmark whoop-de-doos on this web site and elsewhere. Just say “earmark,” and get a laugh. But as Donna Brazile has pointed out, legislators in both parties love their darned earmarks, and many [probably most] are worthy projects – so sliming them in toto as laughable waste is not fair.

    The real problem with the omnibus spending bill is not earmarks, but the fact that it increases spending year-on-year by several times the cost of inflation. This is why Evan Bayh and Russ Feingold opposed it. But that’s not as surefire a laugh-getter as stinky pig lagoons.

    The president didn’t want to expend time or political capital in fighting the bill’s details, so he called it “last year’s business” and said we should just pass it and aim reform at future bills. This may or may not have been a miscalculation, but it does make sense.

  • I notice that no one has commented on this article yet. It’s clever and deserves some attention, so I’ll give it a shot.

    Mr. Miller’s literate posts in the comments section on Blogcritics are well done. I would enjoy them more if they didn’t often seem like nasty far-right zingers wrapped in the sheep’s clothing of mild-mannered words. This often gives them the air of cheap shots, and this article shares that quality.

    “We have been assured that this legislation will get the economy moving and we need it right now. There’s no time to bother with such trivial matters as reading it. Actually understanding it? Don’t be silly. Gotta Rush, no matter what it may have in store for us.”

    This is funny, but an exaggeration. The stimulus bill went through several versions, but much of it remained the same during the two or three weeks it was being discussed constantly on the news and in the blogs. Most or all of the major changes were discussed in detail, ad nauseam. And you’ve surely had time to read the finished product by now.

    But isn’t your main objection the fact that a large spending bill exists at all? Would you ever have supported any $800 billion spending bill, no matter what was in it? Pretending that it’s full of dangerous unknown side effects is just a rhetorical device.

    And, as you note, the bill passed “and now we are stuck with it.” And maybe, like Vioxx, it will have some very beneficial effects, in addition to your unspecified side effects.