Friday, April 11, 2008

Quick round of shorters

Something I ate last night didn't sit so well, so today has been a slow day. Still a new poll to think up, too. (Feel free to share any ideas.) In any case, while rickm is right that Megan's Iraq piece is respectable, that doesn't give her a pass for the rest of today's dreck. (And really, how low have you dropped standards regarding you, Megan, when admitting that we are responsible for the bad things happening in a country we invaded is an achievement?)

No perfect world:

Pharmaceuticals really are marvelous things. They're responsible for most of the increases in life expectancy that took place in the 20th century, and believe it or not, even with rising drug costs they save us money by replacing more expensive treatments like surgery. Saving money is nice, of course, and so is the extra economic growth we have from keeping more productive people around. But the really great thing is the number of active life years it adds to the world--active life expectancy is actually increasing faster than ordinary life expectancy in the US.

Unfortunately, no cloud is without its silver lining. In the case of pharmaceuticals, it's the fact that some small number of the people who take them will thereby be made worse off.
How deep is the bullshit here? "rising drug costs [] save us money". I..... I'm too nauseous still to do anything but leave that there for you to read. Also, that "creative" inversion of the cloud/silver lining imagery makes my inner editor cry. She just called dangerous side effects a silver lining. No.
The problem, of course, is that juries aren't particularly well equipped to handle scientific arguments. Liability as a solution for medical disasters errs both ways--it often fails to punish the guilty, and does snare the innocent (see Breast Implants, class actions against). The liability system evolved during an era in which most problems were basically comprehensible to the average juror. Now with things like environmental pollutants, construction safety standards, medical malpractice, pharmaceutical liability, and securities law, jurors are dealing with things that take advanced degrees (or the work experience equivalent) to understand.
There's a new career for you, Megan. Professional pharmaceutical liability case juror. Your hard earned expertise on scientific matters gained from regurgitating countless industry press packets sure would come in handy. Think of how many millions you could save your poor heroes. They might be able to afford that second yacht to leave in the Mediterranean, anchored off their island. Plus, they wouldn't have their sleep troubled by the thought that their greed endangered the lives of the people they pretend to benefit. Effectively deregulating the industry hasn't had any negative consequences, like drugs rushed to the market despite being known to be very dangerous. Think of the poor, poor execs behind Vioxx. You have career options, Megan. Don't forget that.

Quote of the day:
From a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, via IM:
I like to think that, every time i listen to a WSJ podcast, a hippie loses his wings.
Anonymous my ass, that was Yglesias.
Also, Megan and friend? As an honorary hippie, politically I am one, but I've never developed a tolerance for tie dye or patchouli, lemme tell you something; we don't give a flying fuck about your and yours. Sure, we protest the results of your ilk's shallow blindness to anything in the world which doesn't pamper you, but you, yourself, don't matter.
We're too busy being happy people living lives defined by our own natures. Nice to know you're thinking of us, tho, I suppose.

The news business:
Should the profit motive dominate journalism? While I think that people overascribe the role of profits in determining what gets published, there's certainly some truth to that--just read through a women's magazine and ask yourself why not one of the products they review is ever described in less than glowing terms. Most big media publications are surprisingly sanguine about losing major advertisers thanks to nasty coverage--one of my favorite reporters at The Economist seemed to average one giant company a year, more or less. But if no self-respecting major media editor would spike a story to keep business, they do have to pay attention to which coverage areas get advertising support; hence, the New York Times Style Section.
The Women's Wear Weekly method of journalism. Yup. That's the locus of good journalistic standards. I think Megan is genuine here, and just doesn't realize she had a stroke 5 years ago and is clinically brain dead. I mean, fuck. That section right there might be the single clearest case for Megan's termination I've seen since... Monday.
We do have public funding of news coverage: PBS and NPR, though they are increasingly reliant on private donors. Perhaps America should have a public broadcaster like the BBC--but that public broadcaster costs every household in Britain over $200 a year.

But that wouldn't change the basic calculus of television news provision unless you actually started heavily regulating the news. I don't see any way to do that. The FCC was empowered to regulate what went on the air because the television companies were licensed to use slices of a publicly owned commodity in scarce supply, the airwaves. I don't see any constitutional way for it to interfere in the provision of private television service to this kind of extent, particularly since the McCain-Feingold cases. If you can't prevent third parties from airing campaign ads, I don't see how you can prevent private companies from airing whatever the hell they want. But I'm no constitutional expert, so I'd love to hear lawyers weigh in.
Yeah, NPR is in great shape these days, isn't it.
And lemme take back that bit about Megan producing a genuine, if moronic, argument. Wanna change the basic calculus of the tv news? Reregulate the industry. Return ownership limits in individual markets. Break up the media monopolies. Take down Clear Channel.
Even if it could be done, legally, however, I don't think it should be done. I have a very visceral reaction to any suggestion that the government should get into the business of telling us what information we need. It is possible that this would fix some of the problems with news provision (although it's also possible that it would simply boost sales of Wiis and Blu-Ray players. But the cost would be tremendous. The general experience of government regulation of media content is dreadful; it is simply too easy for the government to decide that content it doesn't like is content we don't need. Would we really be better off with a "Fairness Doctrine" which allowed Bush-appointed regulators to declare that every criticism of the president had to be counterbalanced by someone articulating the administration's side of things?
Do you want the government to hire personal news regulators who keep changing the channel on your tv to make sure you see what they want you to? No? Then you're against doing anything whatsoever. End of story. There's no other options. LAALALALALAAAAALALALALALALAAAA I CAN'T HEEEAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR YOOOOOOOOOOOOOUU.

So, yeah.
Fire Megan McArdle.

1 comment:

spencer said...

Also, that "creative" inversion of the cloud/silver lining imagery makes my inner editor cry. She just called dangerous side effects a silver lining. No.

I pointed that out to her in comments. Haven't been back to see if it's been fixed. Because really, why bother?