First Lady is right to protect her kids

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post writes in "A Girl Like Me" (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 28) that First Lady Michelle Obama should reconsider her "bristling, mama grizzly-like" concern about the commercialization of her children regarding the Sweet Sasha and marvelous Malia dolls.

Does Marcus not get it at all? Is that why she goes on and on with her psychological black/white, good/bad blather? How would she like to move to a new city, into the White House, with new classmates, new friends, new almost everything including your dad suddenly being the superpower of the United States and possibly the world and then have a bunch of Secret Service strangers following your every move, even at your school and maybe top it off with kids playing around, friendly or not with dolls specifically named after you?

Yikes! It really has to do with Ty Inc. more concerned with making a buck in this lousy economy than how it affects the new president's children. I say "Right on, Michele." You get it, and that's what counts.


Remarkable psychologists

As someone who teaches the history of psychology, I was glad to see columnist Ruth Marcus cite the psychological research used in 1954 to support legal efforts to end racial segregation in public schools. Journalists and historians often give psychologist Kenneth Clark the credit for those early studies documenting racism's negative impact on black children's psychological well-being, as Marcus does, but it was his wife, Mamie Phipps Clark, who conducted the original research.

She went on to establish a remarkable career, founding the Northside Clinic in New York to serve black families and challenging racism in IQ testing practices. Kenneth Clark, who was co-author on later similar studies, was always careful to give his wife credit for her original contributions; historians and journalists have not been as meticulous. Mamie Phipps Clark made significant contributions and is a role model in her own right; she deserves to have her name in the historical record.

The website "Notable New Yorkers" provides fascinating oral history interviews with both Mamie Phipps Clark and Kenneth Clark, for those interested in these remarkable psychologists.


Fair is fair

In response to the Jan. 28 letter "Tax cuts again": For over 30 years Democrats have been offering and have delivered the same answer to many issues.

Budget surplus, tax increase. Budget deficit, tax increase. High gas prices, tax increase. You get the idea.

Let's be totally fair. Take the $5 billion and apply the cut equally to every expenditure of the state. No one is spared any pain or shown favoritism. Then the 50 percent of the politicians who should be left on the payroll can tell us what they'd propose next.


Sunshine on medical conflicts of interest

The proposed Federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, supported in your Jan. 26 editorial, is long overdue. The bipartisan authorship of the legislation (Sens. Kohl, D-Wis., Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.) is also encouraging and speaks to the increasing sensitivity we have in the Upper Midwest regarding medical conflicts of interest. If we are going to have a quality, affordable health care system, the undue influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the medical profession must be reduced or eliminated.

It is also encouraging that physicians and health systems such as Park Nicollet, Mayo, HealthPartners, the Physician Leadership Policy Forum, SMDC Health System and others are taking demonstrative steps to expose and reduce these conflicts by refusing to allow pharmaceutical gifts to their doctors, publicly reporting on any financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical companies, and taking other steps to reduce or eliminate conflict of interests.

The Sunshine Act's proposed comprehensive transparency reforms also complements and supports new Minnesota efforts to improve on its current pharmaceutical gift ban. The proposed legislation, sponsored by Sen. John Marty, tightens loopholes in the original 1993 legislation being exploited by pharmaceutical companies, broadens the definition of doctors to include all medical prescribers, and broadens reporting to include medical device manufacturers.

Dr. Brian Rank, speaking in behalf of the Physician Leadership Policy Forum, said that the public should be concerned about the undue influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the medical profession. He said, "We are adamant that a physician's recommendation to a patient must reflect best medical evidence and be without influence from his or her relationship with a drug company."

I couldn't agree more.

A correction on your Monday editorial which misinterpreted the $100 aggregate reporting threshold as a payment minimum: The bill actually is much stronger stating that exempting payments to recipients only until the aggregate annual total per company reaches $100, at which point all payments (retroactively) must be disclosed.


Stimulus bill should include attention to organic food system

With unemployment, food scares and demands on food banks all up, the time is now for an organic revolution. President Obama and Congress are currently considering a massive financial stimulus package to rescue our economy. Absent from the discussion has been any reference to supporting a sustainable and organic food system.

Our economy and national security depend on relocalizing our food system, shifting away from chemically dependent industrial agriculture, and assuring that the food system supports living wages for farmers, farm workers and other workers in the supply chain.

Redirecting the billions of dollars in farm subsidies away from corporate farms and industrial biofuels toward a just and organic food system is a solid long-term investment in America's future.