“I sat down with the executive team here and created a special honor to bestow upon Newt: ‘Family Values Porn Fan of the Year, 2009,’ Vivas responded via email. “We worked on the plaque design [image on the right], an event schedule, a notification to fax to his office – and of course, a letter we’ll send rescinding the offer after he receives it.”
It’s pretty clear that the Nobel committee intended the award both as a slap at the Bush administration — well deserved, to be sure — and as a bit of high-profile lobbying of President Obama: “We like what we’ve seen so far, keep it up.” But rather than simply humbly accepting the award, and the challenge implicit in its being given, it would have been great if the president had used his speech to turn that challenge on the international community: “Thanks for the prize. You like what I’m doing? Great. I’m trying to close Gitmo — you can help me by accepting detainees. I’m trying to turn around a failing international effort in Afghanistan — you can step up with more support. Also, an international treaty on climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, Arab-Israeli peace — these are areas where you can help me fulfill the potential that you’ve acknowledged with this award.”
This cannot be solely America’s endeavor. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone. We have sought – in word and deed – a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.
The Advocate reports today that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal fired Melody Teague, a Department of Social Services contract grants reviewer, after she publicly criticized the privatization of state services during a forum held by the state’s Commission for Streamlining Government. While Jindal maintains that he fired her due to her handling of a food stamps program started after Katrina, a member of the Commission insists that she was targeted for speaking out:
Melody Teague, a state Department of Social Services contract grants reviewer, was informed she was fired because of problems with the disaster food stamps program that she was drawn into during the Katrina aftermath, her attorney, Mark Falcon said. [...]
The issue first entered the spotlight Tuesday after Commission for Streamlining Government member Leonal Hardman, of Baton Rouge, said Teague was unfairly targeted because she spoke out publicly at the streamlining forum.
During the forum, state Treasurer John Kennedy went out of his way to repeat to Teague she would not be punished for her comments. Hardman said he is concerned the termination is a sign of a larger effort to silence state workers.
UPDATE: Since Obama is in a media down-cycle, the herd has been falling all over itself to turn this amazing honor into some sort of a millstone. Please, give me such millstones. The winner of the most inane statement by a major news outlet is also the winner of the most inane headline, “The Last Thing Obama Needs Is the Nobel Peace Prize,” by Time’s Nancy Gibbs, who writes, “At this moment, many Americans are longing for a President who is more bully, less pulpit.” Yes, “many” Americans are longing for bullies like George Bush and Dick Cheney. We call them conservatives.
In a stunning announcement (full text below), “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Obama won, in part, for reversing the immoral efforts of the Cheney-Bush administration to block and subvert international climate negotiations:
Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.
— It’s comforting to know that starting tomorrow if I get injured, the level of treatment I get will once again depend on my ability to pay and the ability of my for-profit insurance company to find a pretext not to pay. Freedom!
I’m going to give myself license to do another Raveonettes song of the day since they released a new album while I was here in Denmark. This is “Last Dance”.
Kate Sheppard and I were both very taken with the line we heard from someone here that in Denmark “we used to export pigs, now we export clean tech.” But is it true? According to Statistics Denmark, the country’s biggest export category is “Machinery (excl. Transport Equipment)” which is presumably where the clean tech is located. Running in a slight second place is “Live animals, Food, Beverages And Tobacco” which I assume includes the pigs and pork products.
But let me tell you, are we willing to give up that system? Are we willing to have more breast cancer deaths in the United States with this system, to get the 30 million people, which is really means only 18 million people who don’t have coverage. At a $1.8 billion, trillion dollar deficit. That’s the equation we have to ask.
Rogers, who repeatedly mentioned that he had read the entire House health care bill, argued that the House reform legislation would allow the federal government to use the results of comparative effectiveness research to ration costly treatments.
In reality, the bill authorizes Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research to “conduct, support, and synthesize research…with respect to the outcomes, effectiveness, and appropriateness of health care services and procedures,” but prohibits the government from applying research findings to coverage decisions. Page 524 of the legislation:
Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.
Of course, Rogers may have found that part of the bill to be boring. “So if you read this thousand page bill — by the way, which they gave us about 12 hours to do and it got riveting right about page 860. Fantastic! Little plot twist in there,” he joked at the event.
The right put its homophobia on full display in an attempt to kill the legislation, with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) saying that it would lead to Nazism, and the legalization of necrophilia, pedophilia, and bestiality.
Today in an interview with Radio America/WorldNetDaily, Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
– who has said that hate crimes legislation creates “sacred cows” and puts the “victimizer’s focus on someone else” — tried to argue that such a bill is unnecessary. His argument? Matthew Shepard himself wasn’t actually murdered because he was gay:
KING: I didn’t make the point, but others did, that James Byrd was sentenced to death in Texas, and I don’t know if that sentence has been carried out yet. But he received highest penalty available under the law for the dragging death of James Byrd. And the Matthew Shepard case, there’s been a fair amount of information that came out that that really wasn’t the motivation of the people who killed him, but they did receive the maximum penalty under the law.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) made this same claim in April: “We know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay.” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solomnese wrote the congresswoman a letter calling on her to make a full apology. Foxx eventually said that she was “sorry” if Shepard’s “grieving family was offended by my statement,” but she stood by her comments that his murder may not have been motivated by hate.
Both Foxx and King are completely out of line. As Salon reported in November 1999:
Speculation has persisted for the past year that Matthew Shepard, rather than being the victim of gay-bashing, might really have been nothing more than a hapless robbery victim who was exploited by gay activists to reap unwarranted sympathy and advance their own agenda to enact hate-crimes legislation. Statements made by one of the convicted killers, which were revealed for the first time Thursday, reveal these accounts to be false. [...]
According to detectives who interviewed both of the convicted murderers, there is no evidence that Shepard made any sexual advances to the pair — and the detectives dismissed the idea that the murder was the mere result of a robbery gone bad. “Far from that!” scoffed Sgt. Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case. “They knew damn well he was gay. … It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.”
Will King now follow Foxx and apologize to the Shepard family for making these comments?
Why does health care in the United States cost so much? Kevin Drum does us the service of posting this helpful chart from the McKinsey Global Institute. What they do is start with a baseline “expected” level of spending based on our GDP. GDP predicts that we ought to spend a lot on health care, but we spend even more than that, with the excess represented by dark blue and the handful of areas on which we spend less than expected represented by orange:
As you can see, the most wasteful segment of our health care sector is the “health insurance and administration” element. Of the $145 billion we spend on this, fully $91 billion—62 percent of the total—is above expectations. That’s the inefficiency of insisting on a very large role for private health insurance in the system. Still, though waste is a huge element of our insurance spending, insurance-related waste is a relatively small portion of the overall waste—about 14 percent. The biggest chunk of excess spending we’re involved with is spending on “outpatient care.” We pay doctors more than other people do, our doctors order more tests than other doctors do, our tests are more expensive than other people’s tests, and we have many more relatively expensive specialists and relatively few relatively cheap GPs. And we have nothing to show for it.
The prospects for changing this, however, don’t look great to me. People don’t like insurance companies. Taking them on is popular. And nevertheless we see how difficult it is to really hurt their interests. Now imagine taking on the doctor lobby. More money is at stake. And doctors have a much better public image. And doctors and there families are a much bigger voting block than insurance executives and their families. And on top of that, people have a very strong mistaken intuition that getting lots of tests and seeing lots of specialists is in their interests.
France has arrested a researcher at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) for suspected links with al-Qaeda, officials have said. [...] “He was not a Cern employee and performed his research under a contract with an outside institute. His work did not bring him into contact with anything that could be used for terrorism,” it said. [...] The physicist had exchanged messages over the internet with people known to be close to the organisation al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and expressed a desire to carry out attacks, but had “not got to the stage of carrying out material acts of preparation”, one said.
When we’re debating Afghanistan, I think it’s important to keep in mind that to undertake a terrorist attack in France you have to be in France. To undertake a terrorist attack in the United States, you have to be in the United States. Anyone in a “safe haven” in Central Asia is, by definition, not nearly as dangerous as someone working at CERN. So in terms of short-term terrorism prevention, domestic law enforcement is always going to be the most important priority. And in the long term, the key issues relate to motivation and recruitment; decreasing the number of people who feel that it makes sense to engage in violent attacks against western targets to advance a political agenda. What happens in the “AfPak” area is important, but not really the most important thing.