Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Please pass the salt, or at least several grains of it

I won't say I'm losing a lot of sleep over the whole deal, but I must admit I've been thinking about my posting from Saturday that cites a study from Missouri's former insurance director arguing that malpractice insurers are gouging doctors. The reason I'm reflecting on this is that I don't feel I gave complete disclosure on this study. And that alone is an area where we opinion-mongers of distinction can run into trouble.

My intentions were not to deceive you, the kind reader. But in retrospect, I believe I should have discussed the background and motives behind the Center for Justice and Democracy, which financed the study. If you look on the group's web site, you will read that the organization's stated intention is to fight the tort reform movement:

That alone makes them less than a dispassionate, neutral party. Now, I don't think their interest in the matter makes this group sinister. In fact, I'm equally suspicious of right-wingers who doth protest lawyers too much. While, I do believe we need to attack the sleazy ambulance-chasing lawyer problem that detracts so much from our civic and personal lives, I also see the tort reform movement as a trojan horse brought forth by pro-industry right-wingers, who would leave the average American without recourse to fight corporate wrongdoing. Yet, the question remains, can we trust this study?

With that in mind, I took a look at CJD's board of directors, and these folks look fairly straightforward. I don't see any trial attorneys listed. I do see Erin Brockovich, that darling of the left and bane of the right; law professors from many of our top universities; and people who head consumer advocacy groups. I then took a look at the bios for each of the staff members, and their backgrounds seem to be in liberal activism and not tort law. So with these facts in hand, I gave CJD the Mouth's stamp of approval and offered their study on my blog as further evidence that at least some of the anti-lawyer furor is orchestrated and calculated to justify dubious ends.

This is a dilemma any responsible citizen makes in examining statistics and arguments from sources known to be less than impartial. Organizations with agendas are often not very trustworthy sources of information. Advocacy groups play games with the numbers and publish quite scholarly sounding "research" in which the gathered facts miraculously and precisely match the researcher's hypothesis. We find these studies to be laughably inept when they come from an outfit that opposes our perspective and worldview. How many times have we liberals shrugged off reports from the Heritage Foundation as propaganda? Ah, but when Common Cause speaks, the truth has thus been etched in granite.

Still, just because the research comes from a group that supports a certain cause do we summarily dismiss it? Just as I should have disclosed CJD's agenda on Saturday, was I equally errant in choosing not to add an item about the Parade magazine poll showing that 58 percent of Americans support stem cell research and only 29 percent oppose it? Such an item would certainly support the central thesis of this blog that our nation has been highjacked by right-wing ideologues. When I learned that the poll was actually commissioned by Research!America, an organization that strongly advocates stem cell research, I reluctantly deleted the item from that day's posting. In retrospect, I should have reported this poll, but merely disclosed Research!America's background. After all, Research!America is highly reputable and boasts a board composed of physicians and scientists from leading research institutions as well C. Everett Koop, perhaps the most trusted doctor in America.

So, here's my promise to you, the kind reader. I will continue to vet research and polls for reliability, discussing the ones I believe are reliable and leaving out the ones that are ridiculously partisan and ideological (Yes, even when they support my view). Regarding information from somewhat credible organizations with known agendas, I shall report what they have to say and disclose whatever agendas I might be privy to. I want you to always feel that I'm being straight with you, and that I will try never report questionable numbers or research. We'll let spin and partisan crap be the modus operandi of the right wingers.


A reader describing himself as a "Northside Mouth" had this to say about this blog:

Hey! I just started reading your blog today. Very compelling -- I look forward to keeping up with it

Thanks, Northside Mouth. Please do keep reading, and tell all your friends. I believe I now have more readers than fingers on either hand.

Quotes of the Day
Let's go back and recall what the White House said would happen to anyone found to have been behind the leaks that outed an undercover CIA officer:

"If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."
- President Bush, Sept. 30, 2003

"If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."
- Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, Sept. 29, 2003

And what did McClellan have to say about Karl Rove's involvement at a briefing yesterday?
"The White House is not going to comment on it."

On our Republican-led Congress' silence in this matter:
"If there were evidence of such a serious breach during the Clinton administration , there is no doubt that our committee would have immediately demanded that the deputy chief of staff testify at a hearing. This would have been the right course of action then, and it is the right course now."
-Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

O.k., lets get this right, shall we? You say in your blog that Pres. Bush said that he would fire anyone who was involved in a leak, and then you directly quote him as saying he would "take care of" anyone who "violated the law." The next time you speak for the President, please be sure to use his words, and not yours...
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