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December 2012

"The Milkman Cometh"

Another sparkling example of how government really works. (Look out for the "dairy cliff".)

Perhaps the most egregious exercise of dairy power was a New York State law of 1933 that declared that milk was a business “affected with a public interest” and allowed the state to set dairy prices. The New York board set 9 cents per quart as the minimum retail price of milk. A Rochester grocer, Leo Nebbia, was prosecuted for selling two quarts of milk and a loaf of bread for 18 cents. Why, in the midst of the distress and privation of the early 1930s, did New York want to raise the price of milk? The idea was that this would raise the income of dairy farmers, who would then purchase more industrial goods, thus stimulating the economy. The Supreme Court accepted this reasoning, giving state governments virtually unlimited power to enact economic regulations. Such counterintuitive trickle-up economic theory helped to turn the 1929 recession into the prolonged Great Depression. Ever since, the federal government has been trying to keep small dairy farmers in business through an elaborate price-support system.

The efforts of the dairy lobby helped to produce an unlimited federal taxing and commerce power, and an unlimited state regulatory power. If Congress does not enact a new farm bill before the end of its current session, we will return to the terms of a 1949 act, which could double the retail price of milk, further reducing sales. The system is a microcosm of the dysfunctional welfare state, harming first consumers and eventually its supposed beneficiaries.

Hospitals: can't live without 'em . . .

. . . but maybe can't live with 'em. 

"How Hospitals Can Make You Sick".

If costly hospital stays, inconvenience, and potentially serious health problems aren't enough to turn you into a more conscientious (and paranoid) patient, consider this: Hospital-acquired infections kill 31,000 patients every year.

"Are Hospitals Less Safe Than We Think?"

A new generation of doctors has been developing fair and simple ways to measure how well patients do at individual hospitals. In hospital-speak, we call the information “sensitive data”—data that would tell you which hospitals have much worse outcomes than others.

It’s the kind of data that, if you had access to it, would help you know just where to find the best care. But you don’t. And that is precisely the problem with the entire system: because a hospital’s outcomes are hidden from the public, neither consumers nor payers have any way of measuring whether the medicine they provide is good, adequate, or even safe. Much as the financial crisis was incubated when bank executives turned a blind eye to the ugly details about their mortgage-backed securities, so too does medicine’s lack of accountability create an institutional culture that results in overtreatment, increased risk, and runaway costs.

"The Alarming Rate of Errors in the ICU".

The unexpectedly high frequency of deadly misdiagnosis in hospital intensive care units or ICUs was "surprising and alarming," said Dr. Bradford Winters, the lead author of the study. After a systemic analysis of 31 different studies in the medical literature from 1966 to 2011 involving autopsy-confirmed diagnostic errors in adult ICU patients, the Hopkins researchers calculated that more than one in four patients -- 28 percent -- had a missed diagnosis at the time of their death. In about 8 percent of patients, the misdiagnosis was serious enough to have caused or contributed to the patients' deaths, Winters said in an interview yesterday. 

The Hopkins study found that misdiagnosis in ICU patients was as much as 50 percent more common than that in general hospital patients.

There are, however, some apparently simple actions than can help matters: "Simple measures cut infections caught in hospitals" and "Curbing killer bacteria isn't rocket science".

Truth, in several parts

"An Opinion on Gun Control". Note to the sensitive: the author is noticeably lacking in understanding and compassion for people who want to murder innocents. He calls them "scumbags" or "scum" four times. Well, nobody's perfect. But otherwise the piece is important and devastating to gun-control advocates. 

For more in this vein, see John Lott, Jr. discuss the matter with Soledad O'Brien

"The Tired Race Card". This so needed to be said. 

"Silence of the Feminists: So many oppressed Muslim women, so few words about them". Ditto.

"Are we living in the Hunger Games?"

"Carbon Tax Policy: No Simple Answers". (Link via Mike Munger.)

"What Everyone Knows About Austerity". 

"Bootleggers and Baptists: (or, 'Why Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows')". In my experience, the B&B idea is second only to A Conflict of Visions in explaining how American politics works. 

Three encouraging bits of news

"GOLDMAN: The Shale Oil Revolution Is Real, And It Will Have A Massive Impact On The Global Economy".

"U.S. Manufacturing’s Brave New World."

"The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like". (Not so encouraging if you want to believe nutrition research.)

Not only have most of coffee's purported ill effects been disproven -- the most recent review fails to link it the development of hypertension -- but we have so, so much information about its benefits.