In May, pollster Frank Luntz presented a memo to congressional Republicans, laying out a strategy for opposing health care reform. Since then, the GOP has closely followedhis script. Appearing on Fox News today, Luntz claimed that his recent focus groups have shown how “angry” Americans are about President Obama’s push for health care reform. But Luntz also admitted that he tries to convince people at his focus groups to be more scared of government than insurance companies:
LUNTZ: They were more angry and more fearful of government than insurance companies, but not by much. And what I’m saying to people who are nervous about this health care, as I listen to the give and take, is if you don’t like the insurance companies — and most people don’t — then do you really want to add an extra layer of bureaucracy and an extra level of bureaucrats and yet another set of people who can say no to you.
During his Fox appearance, Luntz never mentioned that he also provides strategic advice to various health insurance companies.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Aug 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm
The UK’s National Oceanography Centre in Southampton reports:
The warming of an Arctic current over the last 30 years has triggered the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from methane hydrate stored in the sediment beneath the seabed.
German and British scientists “have found that more than 250 plumes of bubbles of methane gas are rising from the seabed of the West Spitsbergen continental margin in the Arctic, in a depth range of 150 to 400 metres” [See figure on right].
Methane released from gas hydrate in submarine sediments has been identified in the past as an agent of climate change. The likelihood of methane being released in this way has been widely predicted.
A lead researcher said, “Our survey was designed to work out how much methane might be released by future ocean warming; we did not expect to discover such strong evidence that this process has already started.”
This is the first time that such behaviour in response to climate change has been observed in the modern period.
While most of the methane currently released from the seabed is dissolved in the seawater before it reaches the atmosphere, methane seeps are episodic and unpredictable and periods of more vigorous outflow of methane into the atmosphere are possible. Furthermore, methane dissolved in the seawater contributes to ocean acididfication.
Geophysics Professor Graham Westbrook warns: “If this process becomes widespread along Arctic continental margins, tens of megatonnes of methane per year – equivalent to 5-10% of the total amount released globally by natural sources, could be released into the ocean.”
For more on this, see the original GRL study here (subs. req’d).
The rest of this post, which reviews some recent findings on the not-so-perma-frost, is a guest blog by Ken Levenson, who blogs at checklisttowardzerocarbon.
On MSNBC this morning, host Dylan Ratigan asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) what he would “define as success” regarding health care reform and his political legacy. “I’m not worried about legacy, I’m worried about good policy,” replied Grassley. “Good policy is the best politics.” Grassley, whom President Obama praises as someone “sincerely trying to figure out…a health care bill that works,” then outlined what elements he was seeking in a health care bill he could support:
GRASSLEY: I don’t want government takeover of health care, I don’t want bureaucrats getting between doctors and patients. I want affordability and accessibility for health care. I want to change the perverse incentives that are in our present way of paying health care providers, so that we move from, so that we move from reimbursement based on quantity to reimbursement based on quality, to pay for performance. And I want something that’s going to zero in, in a coordinated way, to the the chronic diseases that eat up 75 percent of our health care dollars.
But moments later, Grassley seemed to abandon his emphasis on “good policy.” When MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked him if he was “willing to be one of just three or four Senate Republicans that support an eventual deal if you get what you want out of the Senate Finance Committee and it’s an agreed upon deal with the Gang of Six,” Grassley replied, “certainly not”:
GRASSLEY: Certainly not. And I told the president that a week ago Thursday and I told Max Baucus that over a period of three or four months, so I’m not telling you anything new. In fact, let me build on what you said and why I say that I wouldn’t be. I’m negotiating for Republicans and if I can’t negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I’m not a very good representative of my party. And secondly, we’re talking about health care, that’s life or death for every American and we’re talking about one sixth of the economy. And that ought to be done, as Senator Baucus said, in a consensus sort of way where it passes with an overwhelming vote in the United States Senate.
Pressed by Todd about voting against what he thought “was a good deal,” Grassley claimed “it isn’t a good deal if I can’t sell my product to more Republicans.” Watch it:
Summing up the exchange, NBC News’ Mark Murray writes that “[i]n short, Grassley says he’s willing to walk away from legislation in which he gets everything he wants.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein remarks that Grassley “is working backward from the votes” and because “it seems virtually impossible” that such a consensus vote will occur, “it seems similarly unlikely that Grassley will sign his name to the final bill.”
In June, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne reported that Grassley is “under immense pressure from Republican colleagues not to deal at all.” Dionne also reported that Grassley had “informed Baucus that he cannot sign onto a bill if it is supported by only one other Republican.” Apparently now Grassley needs “more than four Republicans.”
Treehugger.com blogger David Friedlander recaps Chamie’s argument that the US should rethink its “pro-growth immigration policies” and consider the “demographic realities, future population projections and likely environmental costs” of immigration. Friedlander cites US energy consumption and suggests that immigration-fueled population growth could “be disastrous for the planet.” According to Chamie, reducing immigration would magically solve “domestic problems as well as many of those abroad, especially energy and resource consumption, climate change and environmental sustainability.” Chamie also randomly injects race and ethnicity into his assessment — a point that has little bearing on his overall argument other than to severely weaken it:
“Immigration is also altering America’s ethnic composition and culture, i.e., less European and more Latin American, Asian and African. Throughout the 19th century and most of the 20th, the US foreign born population was predominately from European countries, e.g., Germany, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom. Today the top five countries are no longer of European origin but are Mexico, China, Philippines, India and Vietnam, with Mexico accounting for a third of the foreign born. As a result, America will increasingly look, sound and act differently over the coming decades – which is neither good nor bad but different.“
Essentially, Chamie’s whole argument is based on the ill-conceived notion that we live in a “lifeboat with limited resources” and that immigration will sink the boat. However, immigration isn’t really the problem — American consumption patterns and energy use are. According to the World Resources Institute, the U.S. is home to 23% fewer people than the European nations of the EU-15, yet still produces 70% more greenhouse gases. Along those lines, the McKinsey Global Institute offers an alternative solution to Chamie’s immigration policy prescriptions: promoting policies that boost energy productivity — the level of output achieved from the energy consumed — such as building shells, compact fluorescent lighting, and high-efficiency water heating. A recent study meanwhile suggests that immigrants are actually “greening our cities” due to the widespread use of sustainable public transportation by the immigrant population.
After anti-immigrant nativists attempted to take over the Sierra Club in 2004, environmental groups have been careful not to conflate immigration levels with environmental woes — but that didn’t stop Chamie or Friedlander from what Imagine2050 blogger Katie Bezrouch describes as falling “right into the well-laid plans of anti-immigrant groups trying to create fear around immigration in the minds of environmentalists.” Well-known anti-immigrant groups like the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA, along with hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, have long been using flawed logic to invoke green-friendly arguments that scapegoat immigrants and ignore the complex problems at hand. The Economist explains:
“America’s domestic problems aren’t going to go away if immigration is restricted, but millions of people will lose the opportunity to better their lives and the lives of their family members. And the earth’s environmental challenges won’t go away if would-be immigrants are prevented from migrating. And the world will be utterly unable to solve its significant challenges so longer as problems of global import are viewed through a narrowly nationalistic lens. There is no such thing as ‘American Warming’.”
Eight more companies — including Allergan, Ally Bank, Best Buy, Broadview Security, CVS, Re-Bath, Travelocity, and Wal-Mart — have agreed to stop advertising on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show. Their announcements are in response to a ColorOfChange campaign after Beck said that President Obama is a “racist” with “a deep-seated hatred for white people.” A total of 20 companies have now pulled their advertising. “We support vigorous debate, especially around policy issues that affect millions of Americans, but we expect it to be informed, inclusive and respectful, in keeping with our company’s core values and commitment to diversity,” explained Carolyn Castel, Vice President of Corporate Communications for CVS Caremark.
I had just sort of casually assumed without thinking much about it that one important consequence of the rise of digital media would be to radically reduce the importance of place in terms of consumption of a lot of cultural products. And I suppose it still has, but apparently to a lesser extent than I realized until I read this post from Erin Riley:
That’s right. Hulu, like many other digital content websites, is restricted by region. The site determines the country you are browsing from, based on your IP address, and simply doesn’t let you watch it if you’re outside the United States. Once again, as an Australian viewer, I was left with two options: download the show illegally (since it wasn’t available to purchase on the very limited Australian iTunes store), or pay $100 for the DVDs.
It’s not an uncommon experience for those of us who live- and access the internet- from outside the US. And it’s not just Hulu- music sites like Pandora and Spotify, and television stations also restrict their content.
It’s all about licensing. Australian channels buy the exclusive right to air a program in Australia. This exclusivity prevents the content being available online to its audience without its explicit permission. While deals between US networks and online content providers are generally easier to negotiate, because the content would only be available online after it airs, significantly later air dates in Australia mean the commercial networks risk being trumped by online channels. In some cases, shows are made available to purchase on iTunes only after their Australian air date- sometimes more than a year after they’ve aired in the US. The time constraints, though, that hardly explains the music stations: in that case, I suspect it’s a matter of the difficulties in obtaining the necessary licensing far outweighing the benefits.
Seems bad. Also note that the success corporations have in executing this kind of segmenting and curtailing of the internet has not-so-great implications for the general idea that digital media will undermine repressive states.
Almost two decades ago, Troy Anthony Davis was convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Since then, seven of the witnesses against him have recanted their testimony, and some have even implicated Sylvester “Redd” Coles, a witness who testified that Davis was the shooter. In light of the very real evidence that Davis could be innocent of the crime that placed him on death row, the Supreme Court today invoked a rarely used procedure giving Davis an opportunity to challenge his conviction. Joined by Justice Clarence Thomas in dissent, however, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized his colleagues for thinking that mere innocence is grounds to overturn a conviction:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.
So in Justice Scalia’s world, the law has no problem with sending an innocent man to die. One wonders why we even bother to have a Constitution.
As you can read here and here Chuck Grassley was on MSNBC earlier today explaining that he might vote “no” on a health care bill even if he thinks it’s a good piece of legislation if that bill doesn’t get support for other Republicans besides Grassley:
In an interview today on MSNBC’s “Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan,” Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R) said he’d vote against any health-care reform bill coming out of the committee unless it has wide support from Republicans — even if the legislation contains EVERYTHING Grassley wants.
“I am negotiating for Republicans,” he said. “If I can’t negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I’m not a good negotiator.”
When NBC’s Chuck Todd, in a follow-up question on the show, asked the Iowa Republican if he’d vote against what Grassley might consider to be a “good deal” — i.e., gets everything he asks for from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D) — Grassley replied, “It isn’t a good deal if I can’t sell my product to more Republicans.”
Grassley’s being a jerk, in other words. But what on earth is Max Baucus doing? He’s chairman of the committee. There are 60 Democratic Senators. He should write a bill and bring it to the floor. In fact, he should have done so a month ago. Instead, he’s given veto power over both the substantive and procedural aspects of reform to a man who’s not even pretending to be negotiating in good faith. If we assume that Baucus actually wants to see reform happen, he’s going about it in a very strange way. If you want to see reform enacted, Baucus needs to just write a bill he likes, talk to Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe about what kind of special lobster subsidies they’d like to see in it, and then you pass the thing. This isn’t brain surgery.
Partisans for the legislation claim that it simply aims to provide Medicare coverage for once-every-five-year conversations with doctors over end of life care. Wrong. The new “benefit” is inserted in legislation with the express purpose of controlling health care costs (page 1). The bill lists what must be covered in the consultation (pages 425-30). Worse still, the legislation states that the Medicare system will rate your doctor’s “quality” and (and adjust reimbursement) based on the percentage of your doctor’s patients who create living wills and adhere to them.
McCaughey’s claim that the benefit’s express purpose is to “control costs” is an outright invention. Page 1 of the bill doesn’t even mention the provision. Moreover, if the bill pegged a physician’s reimbursement to the actions of the patient, then it could potentially be construed as coercive. But pg 432 of the House health bill allows the provider to offer a patient a comprehensive perspective of end-of-life counseling and adhere to certain quality standards. Nowhere does the language connect a physician’s “quality” or “reimbursement” with “the percentage of your doctor’s patients who create living wills and adhere to them.”
Ironically, the “quality standards” language that “patient advocate” McCaughey is perverting are intended to encourage doctors to provide patients with comprehensive information about end-of-life decisions and protect patients from incomplete or improper sessions.