Those of us who are opposed to the concentration of power in the hands of technocrats have had much to be depressed about over the past year. However, sometimes fortunes change. I wonder if this past week will come to be viewed as a turning point.
1. The Climate Scientist E-mails. The conclusion I draw from them is that climate skeptics face a very hostile, er, climate when trying to speak up. The climate believers would say that this hostility is deserved. But I think that the net result of the emails is to put pressure on the believers going forward to make their case using more substance and less ad hominem and bullying.
The task force recommendation on breast self-examination was very narrow. The panel evaluated studies of the benefit of teaching breast self-examination techniques. Such studies have found no mortality benefits from teaching, only increased false positives. Since 1987, the task force has not recommended such teaching. All women, of course, should monitor their breasts and notify their doctors if they find a lump.
So doing breast self-exams is fine, but teaching breast self-exams causes false positives? Even the Post seemed to be embarrassed by this op-ed, titling it "Parsing the Mammogram Guidelines."
In case there are any doubts, yes of course the recent panel advice to reduce breast cancer testing is right, and yes this bodes ill for US med spending.
My wife is a breast cancer survivor, with a tumor that was discovered during a self-exam when she was in her forties. Even though I am a big fan of doing research on the costs and benefits of various medical protocols, and even though a thorough analysis might vindicate the findings of this death panel task force, you won't find me among the supporters of the new guidelines.
In any case, if the controversy calls into question the desirability of central planning in health care, such controversy certainly is well deserved.
3. The stimulus is looking more and more like a joke. Certainly, the reports of "jobs created or saved" are laughable.
4. Although the Insiders continue to rally around the view that Paulson, Bernanke, and Geithner saved us from something that Could Have Been Much Worse™, Friday's lead headline in the Washington Post suggested that some cracks are starting to appear. The article includes mention of Congressmen from both parties who last week called for Geithner to resign and a report that
Perhaps most troubling for the administration was that one of the few measures to succeed Thursday was an amendment by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) that would subject the Federal Reserve to unprecedented scrutiny. The amendment, which won bipartisan support in the House Financial Services Committee despite the reservations of administration officials, would allow the Government Accountability Office to audit all of the Fed's operations, including its decisions on interest rates and its transactions with foreign central banks.
5. Sarah Palin's book launch drew more media attention than mine. She was irrepressible, notwithstanding David Brooks calling her a "joke." Of course, Brooks praised Timothy Geithner. It is pretty easy to predict which side of the Insider/Outsider debate Brooks will take.
The Insiders were on the defensive this week. Is it a blip, or the start of a trend?