Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, March 22, 2021

As the populist outrage over AIG’s $165-million executive bonus scandal was winding down, everyone from Charles M. Blow to Eliot Spitzer pointed out that people were getting worked up over the wrong thing: Dollar amounts measured in millions as in “m”, versus the billions as in “b” that are in play in the larger stimulus/bailout picture.

But that’s nothing new, as far as national issues go:

Mr. Obama is hardly the first American president to grapple with a distraction, a diversion — an outright red herring, some might call it — that grew bigger than itself. Ronald Reagan had the Air Force’s $7,622 coffeepot and the Navy’s $435 claw hammer, as well as an ill-fated effort to save money by classifying ketchup as a school lunch vegetable. Bill Clinton had midnight basketball and a high-priced haircut from a Beverly Hills stylist aboard Air Force One. George W. Bush was blindsided by an executive branch decision to contract with Dubai Ports World, an Arab-owned company, to manage terminals in six American ports.

What these stories share is a simple and clear narrative that captures the public imagination by tapping into some larger fear or existing perception — “a proxy for a bigger concern,” in the words of Ed Gillespie, former counselor to Mr. Bush. If that concern runs deep enough, the side issue becomes the main issue.

It’s truly a case of not seeing the forest for the trees: The more-quantifiable golden parachutes that a bunch of fatcats got is easier to get your mind around than the oceans of cash to faceless firms that really should be the focus of concern. Although in a way, this is exactly how the public puts a face on the faceless.

Since this dynamic is so familiar and predictable, it should be manipulable. The bigger surprise is that it’s usually not.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/22/2009 03:18:05 PM
Category: Politics, Society
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Reasoning that keeping an eye on the safety of both food and pharmaceuticals is too big a task for one agency, healthcare industry officials are pushing to split the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into two single-purpose entities.

The organizational behavior of the FDA suggest that this would be a welcomed change:

While FDA’s food and drug staffs are separate, [industry investor Steve] Brozak and others believe the public lashings over food outbreaks have made senior officials even more risk-averse on drug approvals. Even before the recent food safety problems, FDA was under pressure from Congress for failing to catch problems with drugs like Merck’s Vioxx, which was pulled from the market in 2004.

“The history of FDA is that the commissioner focuses on medical products and only turns to food safety when a crisis comes up,” said Professor Michael Taylor, a former FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture official now at George Washington University.

There is a heavy does of corporate self-interest in this: Big Pharm believes that a separate Drug Administration would create a fast-track for new drug approval. I think the changes are strong that such a development would backfire on the companies, putting their wares and practices under closer scrutiny than the FDA currently uses. The same would probably apply to the food/agricultural giants.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/22/2009 02:37:21 PM
Category: Business, Food, Politics, Science
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I still don’t care enough for “30 Rock” to actually make time to watch it every week. That said, it is growing on me, with odd little quips like this one from the latest episode:

“Tracy’s is a tactile-kinesthetic learning style.”

Which led me to find out just what tactile-kinesthetic learning was:

Making up about 5% of the population, tactile and kinesthetic learners absorb information best by doing, experiencing, touching, moving or being active in some way.

Comedy, and learning about learning. Nice entertainment payload.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/22/2009 02:10:43 PM
Category: Comedy, TV
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