Wednesday, September 15, 2004

New Spinmeister Alert System

I must admit to being amazed in a horrified and, well, terrified sort of way at the spin skills of Bush's Brain. He is the frigging Terminator X of Republican politics. (And the GOP being the world of bizarro, this means that the message is more of a Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain kinda spin) Were his plans not evil, his abilities would be admirable. But they are evil, so really he's just mofo scary, yo.

So I'll take this moment to institute the New Spinmeister Alert System. This is the brilliant idea of a friend of mine, and I love it so much that I decree it must be put into action. Decreed! I'm going to start each blog with a color coded alert for the day's spin. The bigger the spin and/or the lie, the higher the alert.

Today's Alert is:
ORANGE


In the LA Times our fearless leader is quoted as saying:

"You cannot be pro-doctor, pro-patient, pro-hospital and pro-trial lawyer at the same time," Bush said at a rally Friday in West Virginia. "You have to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket."

Hmmm. So if you are pro-trial lawyer you must be anti-doctor, anti-patient, and anti-hospital. What do you do if your mother is a patient at the hospital where your doctor brother works and you're married to a trial lawyer? Maybe you vote for Nader.

Dubya's obsession with trial lawyers is an interesting one. This certainly isn't the first time this has been brought up. Trial lawyers were mentioned in his acceptance speech at the RNC, and they were the point of Dubya's word wrassle the other day. But this is actually an issue that has been on his platform since his gubanatorial days. Back in the pre-Edwards days this was called federal tort reform, and he brought a certain measures of it to Texas.

Could it be that trial lawyers and "lawsuit abuse destroys jobs, drives doctors out of business and forces companies into bankruptcy," as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has stated? (By the way, the Chamber of Commerce has traditionally stayed the hell out of presidential election politics. Karl Rove in the house! Go Rovie! Go Rovie! It's your birthday! It's your birthday!) (Sidebar number two, the CoC has produced a $10 million ad campaign to educate us voters about the virtual sodom and gomorrah that is trail lawyer-dom. I doubt that was paid out of pocket by Mr. Donohue. I kind of suspect that, like John Ashcroft's $8,650 boob shield (which someone should take off the statue and put on the boob), we are probably footing the bill).

To answer my own question, uh, no. Or rather, only if you are, say, a company like Haliburton (or its susidiary KBR) who buys a company like DII Industries who might be, like, being sued for asbestos claims. But don't take my word for it, check out the horse's mouth. I'm particularly fond of the passage where it is explained that filing chapter 11 doesn't mean they will skip out on all of their obligations, "except for contract provisions regarding asbestos- and silica-related indemnity claims. (These claims will be handled by the settlement trusts.). Remember that this filing is being done only for the purpose of resolving the asbestos and silica liability issue." It's right after the place where they explain that chapter 11 doesn't mean 'bankrupt' the way it does in Europe.

I wonder who might be interested in making sure that companies like Haliburton/KBR don't get their pants sued off by people dying of cancer from asbestos exposure? Can't imagine.

But are "frivolous lawsuits" actually ruining the "American way of life," as the CoC claims? Roll out the numbers!

"The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for State Courts track civil trials and verdicts in the nation's 75 largest counties. In April, the bureau reported that in the last decade, the number of cases had gone down, not up.

The number of general civil cases disposed of by trial in the nation's largest counties declined from 22,451 in 1992 to 11,908 in 2001, it reported — a 47% decline. The plaintiffs won about half the time, and the overall median award was $37,000 in 2001, down from $65,000 in 1992.

These cases included automobile accidents, medical malpractice and product-liability claims. About one-third of the cases involve contract claims, which typically involve one business suing another.

The medical malpractice claims resulted in larger verdicts; 27% won a verdict, but the median amount in 2001 was $431,000, up from $253,000 in 1992.

These data include only trials and verdicts; most civil suits are dismissed or result in settlements, and no figures are available on those outcomes. Nonetheless, government statistics do not show a sharp rise in big-money verdicts."

Fewer lawsuits, and for lawsuits in general the settlements have gone down since 1992. The amount paid out in medical malpractice suits has gone up over the last 12 years (though so has the price of milk), however, only 27% of suits won a verdict. The impact of these suits on medical malpractice insurance- the reason cited for doctors, particularly OB-GYNs, ceasing to "love" their patients- is, however, not so much. The price of stocks on the market may be a better indicator of why malpractice insurance is going up.

Okay, so why are we being told over and over and over that there is a direct corallary between trial lawyers and OB-GYNs deciding not to practice in parts of Nevada? One reason might be because of the information we are getting from the media:

"A study over six years in the New York area found the median jury award to be $250,000. However, during the same period, the median of the jury awards cited in the New York Times and New York Newsday was $4.3 million."

The New York Frigging Times. The "paper of record," was off by more than $4 million. Was Jayson Blair writing this stuff? That is a 1720% markup.

Where else might this information be coming from? What is that I hear? Is it....

"Karl Rove [Bush's political strategist] figured out a long time ago that attacking the civil justice system is a good fundraising tool for the Republican Party," said Suggs, the trial lawyers' leader. "These days, we get mentioned more often in presidential speeches than Osama bin Laden. But then again, Bush knows where we are."

The Spinmeister strikes again!!!

Also, in case you missed it, Marion Barry, the erstwhile mayor of Washington, DC, unseated the incumbant city councilperson for the city's Ward 8 in the primary election on September 14th. Yes, the man who made the phrase "the bitch set me up!", among others, famous and who showed that you could become something even if you get busted doing crack with hookers, is a shoe-in for the council seat. Glad to see there is no end to the number of second chances one can have.

The WP had a couple of choice quotes from the man soon to be Ward 8's representative in city government:

He went on: "There's this phrase in the Bible, goes something like, 'Don't talk about the splinter in my eye if you have a plank in your eye.' "

"Amen," someone said, and Barry smiled and leaned back a little. In the cool air, he let out a croon.

"Victory is miiiiine," he sang, holding the note, sounding like an old-time doo-wop singer on a street corner, which is where he was.


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