Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said today that it has had only “initial discussions” with the White House about repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and President Obama has “not asked for the 1993 policy to be scrapped.” “I do not believe there are any plans under way in this building for some expected, but not articulated, anticipation that don’t ask-don’t tell will be repealed,” Morrell said. He added that the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are “aware of where the president wants to go on this issue, but I don’t think that there is any sense of any immediate developments in the offing on efforts to repeal don’t ask-don’t tell.” Today’s remarks appear contrary to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s claim last week that Obama is currently “working with…members of the Joint Chiefs” to repeal the policy. The Boston Globe reported today that 619 individuals were discharged last year under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
This afternoon, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Ron Kind (D-WI), and Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) hosted a conference call to announce the Comparative Effectiveness Research Act of 2009. The lawmakers acknowledged that our current health care system wastes billions of dollars on unnecessary or ineffective treatments or procedures and argued that research that compares the clinical outcomes of alternative therapies used to manage the same condition could help lower the nation’s health care spending. The bill establishes an independent institute for comparative effectiveness research and a 21-member board of health care stakeholders to oversee the process.
The conference call announcing the legislation included Tony Coelho the chairman of the Partnership to Improve Patient Care (PIPC), the lobbying arms of the drug, device and biotechnology industries. The group seeks to “give industry a seat at the table when federal officials decide what to research” and during the call, Coelho emphasized the importance of a patient-centered approach to comparative effectiveness research:
I’m encouraged by inclusion of these safeguards in this bill…my concern is that cost containment will become the main goal [of research] leading to the misuse of comparative effectiveness studies to approve one size fits all polices that prevent patients from getting access to the care they need.
In January, a coalition of groups who accept money from the pharmaceutical industry sent a letter to Capitol Hill demanding “that any agencies conducting comparative effectiveness reviews be run ‘through an open and transparent process that allows for patients, providers and other stakeholders to participate equally in governance and input, starting from the research planning stage.”
The industry is interested in controlling the data, “how it is reviewed, evaluated, and whether the public and government find out about it and use it.” This is why their seat on the 21-member board is so critical. The lawmakers on the call indicated that the Governing Board would consist of 3 members from each interest group. The public, private industry, and health quality researchers would all be represented. But why should pharmaceutics companies “have a the right to veto controversial inquiries and limit the scope of the research that gets done?” As Merrill Goozner asks, “do publicly traded companies have a seat on the governing board of the Securities and Exchange Commission? Should we give Boeing and Airbus the right to determine the scope of the National Transportation Safety Board’s inquiry into airplane crashes? Does the current financial crisis suggest the banks should have more say over how they are regulated?”
Private industry should not be vetoing the decisions of health quality researchers and the government shouldn’t dictate a certain course of treatment. That should be left to the patient and her/his doctor.
But to reduce the waste in our system, the government can and should provide incentives for providers to focus on care quality. This bill, however, specifies that any research the institute produces “cannot be used to define policy guidelines or mandate any particular regiment or treatment.”
If we can’t guide providers towards adopting best policy practices, then what, after all, is the goal of comparative effectiveness research? If we’re really serious about lowering health care costs and enhancing care value, then the first step is comparative effectiveness research. But as the CBO points out, to really generate savings, “we will need legislation to provide incentives on penalties for following or not following where that information leads.” That isn’t health care rationing. It’s just smart medicine and good economic policy.
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the CIA’s briefing notes were wrong to claim she had been told about the use of waterboarding in 2002, former Sen. Bob Graham came forward to say that the CIA’s notes on briefings he attended were also factually inaccurate. Now, a former intelligence official who participated in congressional briefings told Talking Points Memo that the CIA was being “disingenuous” in referring to “enhanced interrogation techniques” in memos about 2002 and 2003 briefings, because the term was not formulated until 2006:
Almost every briefing described in the document — including the September 2002 Pelosi briefing that’s directly at issue — refers to “EITs,” or enhanced interrogation techniques, as a subject that was discussed. But according to a former intelligence professional who has participated in such briefings, that term wasn’t used until at least 2006.
That’s not just an issue of semantics. The former intel professional said that by using the term in the recently compiled document, the CIA was being “disingenuous,” trying to make it appear that the use of such techniques was part of a “formal and mechanical program.” In fact, said the former intel pro, it wasn’t until 2006 that — amid growing concerns about the program among some in the Bush administration — the EIT program was formalized, and the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were properly defined and given a name.
The accuracy of the CIA’s briefing notes were further called into question today when Rep. David Obey (D-WI) pointed out another error, in a letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta. The CIA briefing notes say an Obey staffer attended a briefing, when he was actually turned away from it. Obey asked Panetta to “immediately correct this record.”
Your day in links:
— The answers to our banking questions are in East Asia.
— Yes, Virginia, Bobby Rush is a climate change moderate.
— Dennis Ross’ speaking fees.
— I’ll be rooting for Denver, but I think folks predicting them to win the series are being a bit delusional.
Leaving work now.
As Klein put it, “The light blue line measures paid sick days. This is what you use if you need to take three days off because you have a fever. The dark blue line is paid sick leave. This is what you use if you need to take three months off because you have cancer. Every other country on the list offers at least one. Most offer both. The United States is alone in guaranteeing neither.”
Yesterday, the Healthy Families Act was reintroduced in Congress, after going “nowhere during the presidency of George W. Bush.” The bill — introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) — “would guarantee employees one paid hour off for each 30 hours worked, enabling them to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.” Employees could also use their time to care for a sick family member.
Lost productivity due to sick workers attending work and infecting other employees costs the U.S. economy $180 billion annually. For employers, the cost averages “$255 per employee per year and exceeds the cost of absenteeism and medical and disability benefits.” Providing sick days can also help cut down on the spread of infectious disease. And then there’s the simple moral argument against forcing ill workers to choose between their health and their paycheck.
James Kwak has more.
Today, Senate Democrats announced that the Senate will strip $80 million in funding for closing Guantanamo until the Obama administration devises a specific plan for transferring detainees. The move comes as conservatives are pushing the claim that Guantanamo “terrorists” could escape into Americans’ backyard if the facility is closed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared in a press conference today, “We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.” In several tense back and forths with reporters, Reid said he opposes imprisoning detainees on U.S. soil, saying flatly, “We don’t want them around the United States”:
REID: I’m saying that the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, do not want terrorists to be released in the United States. That’s very clear.
QUESTION: No one’s talking about releasing them. We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.
REID: Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.
QUESTION: Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit? …
REID: I can’t make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.
Later, Reid repeated that he would not support Guantanamo detainees being transferred to U.S prisons:
QUESTION: But Senator, Senator, it’s not that you’re not being clear when you say you don’t want them released. But could you say — would you be all right with them being transferred to an American prison?
REID: Not in the United States.
A reporter then asked, “[I]f a detainee is adjudicated not to be a terrorist, could that detainee then enter the United States?” Reid refused to answer directly, saying, “Why don’t we wait for a plan from the president? All we’re doing now is nitpicking on language that I have given you. I’ve been as clear as I can.” After being peppered by questions, Reid joked, “I think I’ve had about enough of this.”
Reid said he wants Guantanamo closed, but his claim that he would not support transferring detainees to the U.S. clashes with this goal. Currently, dozens of convicted terrorists are being held securely in federal prisons, and the U.S. has already prosecuted 145 terrorism cases in federal court. Reid’s position aligns him with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who also opposes “the transfer of the detainees to US soil.”
If not American prisons, where will detainees be sent after Guantanamo is closed?
After the press conference today, Reid’s office released the following statement:
“President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, Secretary Colin Powell, President Obama and I all agree – Guantanamo must be closed. President Obama’s approach is a responsible one. [...]
“The amendment Chairman Inouye has offered today recognizes that it would be premature for Congress to act before the Administration proposes its plan. I support his amendment. On two important points, however, we do not need to wait for any instruction – and there should be no misunderstanding. Let me be clear: Democrats will not move to close Guantanamo without a responsible plan in place to ensure Americans’ safety. And we will never allow a terrorist to be released into the United States.
“This amendment is as clear as day. It explicitly bars using the funds in this bill to ‘transfer, release or incarcerate’ any of the Guantanamo detainees in the United States. When the Administration closes Guantanamo, we will ensure it does so the right way.”
Tim Fernholtz makes a great point here that I want to rescue from association with Donald Rumsfeld:
Anyway, I did want to draw attention to this commentary by Christian Brose, which does a good job of laying out what Huntsman’s probable assumptions are about his political future and that of his party. But readers, remember: No one has any idea how the politics of 2012 will shake out, and any political calculation based on current assumptions is just a mistake. Looking at Brose’s conventional wisdom handicapping of the 2012 GOP, I don’t see much to disagree with, but now we have to get into Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns territory. Remember when everyone thought George Allen was a front-runner for the 2008 GOP nomination? Hillary Clinton for the Democrats? The permanent Republican majority of 2004? The never-ending Democratic majority in Congress for most of the latter half of the prior century? You get my point. Whatever Huntsman’s calculus is, I hope it isn’t entirely predicated on the political climate three years from now.
Rather than “unknown unknowns,” I think the issue here is the difference between risk and uncertainty. Risk is the odds you know you face. If a flip a coin and bet on heads, it might turn up tails instead. Uncertainty is the fact that other kinds of chance intrude on the real world. If a flip a coin and bet on heads, someone might come running through the halls and knock me down while I’m in the act of tossing.
Political prognostication tends to fall prey to a failure to adequately appreciate how much uncertainty there is in politics. Nobody knows, ex ante, the odds that any given politicians’ re-election bid will be derailed by a weird blowup at a rally. And less abnormally, political outcomes are heavily shaped by events in the real world. But people aren’t very good at predicting events in the real world. The politics of 2012 will have a lot to do with the state of the global economy in 2012. But while people can make some informed judgments about the likely future, nobody really knows what will be happening and nobody knows what policymakers will be doing in response. Nobody knows what foreign crises will emerge over the next 2-3 years and nobody knows how they’ll be resolved. The future, in other words, is pretty inherently murky.
For those of us who believe that maintaining a livable climate pretty much depends on a U.S.-China deal on greenhouse gas emissions (see here), the Guardian‘s story Monday was a bombshell:
“¢ Negotiations began in final months of Bush administration
“¢ Obama could seal accord on cutting emissions by autumn
But was the story true? Turns out I know one of the key players:
“My sense is that we are now working towards something in the fall,” said Bill Chandler, director of the energy and climate programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the driving force behind the talks. “It will be serious. It will be substantive, and it will happen.”
I’ve known Bill since my DOE days, so I called him to get the scoop. He says the story is mostly true — and thus a true potential breakthrough that may well lead to a major announcement in the fall — but it has inaccuracies, including the nature of the deal being discussed. Let me try to separate fact from hype and examine what China might be willing to commit to (assuming we makes serious commitments, too, a la Waxman-Markey).
Despite the notable absence of Sen. Arlen Specter — who pulled out due to a “scheduling conflict” — today’s Middle East Forum-sponsored Libel Lawfare conference went on as planned.
In a press release on Sen Specter’s withdrawal, MEF responded to charges from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that the conference was an “anti-Islam” event:
The conference is not an anti-Islam event, but addresses the phenomenon of libel lawfare, being waged by Islamists who seek to censor discussion of Islam, radical Islam, terrorism, and the sources of terrorist funding….CAIR alleges that the conference is based on the premise that “American Muslims are involved in a concerted effort to suppress free speech by misusing the American legal system.” This is CAIR’s fantasy, not a view held by the conference organizers.
CAIR is demonstrating, once again, why such a conference as this one, protecting free speech from Islamists, is necessary.
Did you follow that? The point of the conference is not to say that American Muslims are involved in a concerted effort to suppress free speech, but the fact that American Muslims have expressed anger over the conference proves the need for a conference protecting free speech from Islamists. All doubletalk aside, a brief perusal of conference materials showed that American Muslims being involved in a concerted effort to suppress free speech by misusing the American legal system was, in fact, the intended message of the conference.
In her welcome address, Brooke Goldstein, the director of Middle East Forum’s Legal Project, seemed to be aware of the fact that holding a conference on the creeping threat of Islamists using the legal system to stifle speech critical of Islam amounted to a pretty strong refutation of the idea that Islamists are using the legal system to stifle speech critical of Islam, but she darkly warned that we might not even be able to have such a conference five years from now. (A panelist later responded “Or even one year from now!”)
Interestingly, in her description of various methods of “lawfare” Islamists use, Goldstein included the successful lawsuit brought by Palestinians against Israel for its “separation wall.” In 2004, the International Court of Justice found that the construction of the wall involved “the widespread confiscation and destruction of Palestinian property” violated international law and amounted to an illegal land grab. Whatever one thinks of the merits of the case or the ruling itself, it seems that the Palestinians fighting the occupation through the international legal system, rather than through terrorism, is something that should be applauded rather than condemned. It gives you an idea of the sort of careless conflation of movements and threats in which Middle East Forum specializes.
Speaking of careless conflation, neocon activist Frank Gaffney used his allotted time on the morning’s panel to discuss the threat to America posed by the twin forces of Islamic sharia — his personal obsession — and “secular transnationalists” like Harold Koh, President Obama’s nominee for the State Department’s legal adviser. “Our sovereignty and constitutional freedoms are under assault,” Gaffney said, “from what I think [are] best described as transnationalist forces. They come in two strains: The religious and the secular.”
GAFFNEY: Brooke has already mentioned one of the manifestations of the internationalists of the religious strain, in their effort to constrict free speech elsewhere and around the world, and in the US through sharia blasphemy laws. [...]
This is being made possible, both the sharia blasphemy program and the other aspects of sharia, of course by the secular strain of transnationalism, one that holds that the United States must be subject to international laws, rulings, and even norms. [...]
To put a fine point on it, we have before the United States Senate as we speak a nominee that is a radical adherent to this notion of secular transationalism, Harold Koh, the recently departed dean of the Yale Law School, who President Obama would like to have to be the State Department’s legal adviser, a position from which he would have unprecedented opportunities to promote this form of secular transationalism. And I think we will see much more of this sort of insinuation of this sharia programs, sharia blasphemy laws, and other forms of international norming in our society if indeed people like Harold Koh — who has also been bandied about as a prospective Supreme Court nominee — are given positions of great trust and influence. [...]
This, in other words ladies and gentlemen, constitutes a pincer movement, between the secularists on the one hand and the religious transnationalists on the other. Wielding lawfare as the Lilliputians wielded their tiny strands to secure and immobilize Gulliver, it is aimed at the very heart of our sovereignty and indeed our freedoms as they seek to remake the world in their image.
Now I’ve heard some more of the big name journalists who met with the Israeli Prime Minister on Monday: George Stephanopoulos (ABC), Chris Wallace (Fox News), Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic), David Brooks (New York Times), Bill Kristol (Weekly Standard), Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune), and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times).
There was also a crew from the Washington Post: Jackson Diehl, Jim Hoagland, David Ignatius and Charles Krauthammer.
There’s some diversity in there, but overall a distinctly right-of-center tilt. That’s interesting, considering that all the levers of government are in Democratic hands. Normally, an Israeli Prime Minister attempts a strategy of bonding/courtship of the political powers that be. This seems more like a meeting roster for an “outsider” strategy, in which Netanyahu is expecting the administration to do things he doesn’t like, and then to try to mobilize the US domestic opposition to slam Obama for it and make him back down.