The President strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalize homosexuality and move against the tide of history.
As the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld notes, this statement is the strongest yet issued by the Obama administration. On the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide,” but didn’t directly name the Ugandan measure. Later in the week, the State Department issued “guidance” condemning the bill, and it had reportedly been raising the issue privately with Ugandan officials. As far back as October, a State Department spokesman had also said that the bill was “a significant step backwards for human rights in Uganda.”
Blogger-activist Mike Stark caught up with Republican Sens. John Ensign (NV), James Inhofe (OK), and Sam Brownback (KS), who have ties to The Family, which has influenced the Ugandan legislation. Ensign called the legislation “pretty outrageous” and said he would consider signing onto a potential congressional resolution denouncing it. Inhofe said he wasn’t familiar with the specific legislation but said that such a measure was wrong. Brownback refused to comment because he didn’t know the “specifics” of the bill.
One can easily make the case that Wall Street has more influence over the Obama administration than might be ideal, but for the real story on Wall Street’s political influence you need to look at what’s happening in Congress:
The House approved a Democratic plan on Friday to tighten federal regulation of Wall Street and banks, advancing a far-reaching Congressional response to the financial crisis that rocked the economy.
After three days of floor debate, the House voted 223 to 202 to approve the measure. It would create an agency to protect consumers from abusive lending practices, set rules for the trading of some of the sophisticated financial instruments that fueled the crisis, and take steps to reduce the threat that the failure of one or two huge banks or investment firms could topple the entire economy.
When they call this one a “Democratic plan” they’re not kidding. The climate and energy security bill got nine Republican votes. The health care bill got one Republican votes. The bill to tighten regulation of the financial sector got zero Republican votes. And it got zero Republican votes after it was already watered-down to an extent by Blue Dog objections. And yet somehow conservatives are now anti-bailout populists?
Their view, I guess, is that we should pretend we’re going to let large banks fail so there’s no need to regulate them. Then when they do fail, they get bailed out. This was the Bush/Paulson/Greenspan approach and it looks like it’s still alive and well.
Only the anti-science idealogues want a world without fish
This video is from House testimony early this month by from Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States’ leading climate office. You can find the full hearing online here.
Only anti-science ideologues want to embrace do-nothing policies that will leave us “A World without Fish.” We now know that global warming is “capable of wrecking the marine ecosystem and depriving future generations of the harvest of the seas” (see Ocean dead zones to expand, “remain for thousands of years”).
And yet the anti-science crowd in Congress have a difficult time using the emails to explain how unrestricted emissions of carbon dioxide will not ruin our oceans. As Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) said at the hearing:
I saw some discussion of this point on twitter yesterday, and it’s pretty easy to clarify with a chart full of made-up numbers. The point is that there’s a difference between “bending the curve” on health care costs—i.e., lowering the rate of increase—and lowering the level of health care costs:
Think of the blue curve as business as usual. The yellow curve represents a one-time lowering of costs that doesn’t change the trend. The green curve is a “bent” curve, the rate of cost increase is now lower. In the short-term, getting a discount helps more. In the long-term, changing the trend helps more.
One of the right’s loudest crusades has been its effort to undermine the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN). Following the release of a series of videos showing a handful of ACORN employees behaving inappropriately, conservatives in Congress have done everything they can to single out ACORN to be stripped of all federal funding (while hypocritically opposing the defunding of companies that cover-up rape).
Rep. Alan Grayson challenged his conservative colleagues — and even reduced Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) to incoherent defenses — to prove that the ACORN de-funding measures were an unconstitutional “bills of attainder,” given the fact that they were singling out one organization for punishment without trial. Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that Grayson was right and that the ACORN funding ban is unconstitutional:
A federal judge today issued an injunction preventing the implementation of a congressional ban on funding for ACORN. Judge Nina Gershon concluded that the ban amounted to a “bill of attainder” that unfairly singled out ACORN.
“[The plaintiffs] have been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process of adjudicating guilt,” Gershon wrote in her decision.
Gershon said ACORN had demonstrated “irreperable harm” from the ban, while “the potential harm to the government, in granting the injunction, is less.”
The decision noted that the ban had already prevented ACORN from receiving payment from contracts awarded before the ban took effect.
Reflecting on the ruling, Glenn Greenwald writes, “There is an endless list of radical flaws in our political system, including our judicial branch. But in those rare cases when things actually work the way they’re designed to, it’s worth reminding ourselves of why the Constitution is such a vital document and why it’s so crucial that it be adhered to and defended.”
Jamelle Bouie has a post up that he frames as a qualified defense of Emperor Palpatine’s agenda but I think is just better read as expressing the view that the idea of a galaxy-spanning Republic is just hopelessly naïve. I think the structure of the argument is fundamentally similar to what Kant says in Perpetual Peace about the idea of creating peace through a universal monarchy. According to Kant, such a monarchy couldn’t possibly remain as a nice, friendly, constitutional one but would inevitably need to become a despotism. Thus in Kant’s view it’s better to secure peace through a kind of loose federation of Republics.
That, in turn, is essentially the initial animating vision behind the European Union. But as the EU has drifted more in the direction of being state-like, the more it also looks like a curiously post-democratic form of quasi-state. The European Central Bank, for example, takes the idea of central bank independence to a wild new level. It’s not merely that elected officials don’t play a role in making month-to-month monetary policy decisions, there’s no institutionally feasible for political influence to be exercised. At the same time, the regime in place is hardly what you’d call despotic. And in an interesting way a lot of the undemocratic aspects of the EU actually stem specifically from its origins as a fairly loose confederation that needed a freestanding bureaucracy to implement intergovernmental agreements.
The fireworks should fly for this one. It looks to be Sunday on CNN at 1 and 5 ET (click here for Info). People should post a video when and if it goes up Sunday afternoon. I’ll be winging it to Copenhagen then.
This debate is courtesy of Fareed Zakaria (international times below):
The picture is of “an electron microscope image showing a particle of Black Carbon soot” (from NASA). This guest article is cross-posted from Cruel Mistress‘s Dr. Benjamin Hale, assistant professor in the Philosophy Department and the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Of the many interesting venues offering side events, I’ve been most impressed by some of the events put on by the Bellona Foundation. You can actually stream and watch some of these events here. It’s a noisy little spot, so be warned. I’ll just give you a taste here of what a side event is like. Here’s video from the event on black carbon.
The upshot of the event is that polar and alpine regions are warming rapidly, so watching what’s going on in Russia is important. Moreover, since the arctic makes up one of the largest regions in Russia, watching black carbon is not just extremely important, it’s extremely important to Russia.
Politico is reporting that the Business Roundtable — a group of large businesses that have been fairly supportive of the health care reform — is pressing the administration to adopt greater cost containment measures. The group is threatening to publicly criticize the effort if the legislation is not improved. “We are going to be much louder and much more insistent on improving” the legislation, Roundtable President John Castellani told Politico in an interview on Friday.
Some of the concerns outlined below by Castellani would actually improve on the existing legislation and are already being addressed by a package of amendments offered by 10 Democratic Senate freshmen. Here is what the Roundtable wants:
- Access to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that can be used to identify cost-effective treatments, efficient hospitals and best performing physicians, which could help businesses develop more efficient and effective private insurance packages for their employees.
- An expansion of the authority of the proposed Independent Medicare Advisory Board so that it can search for cost savings in all health care sectors . The current legislation exempts some groups from scrutiny, including hospitals. In addition, the board [now called IMAB] should be charged to search for efficiency measures in the private sector that can replicated in the Medicare system.
- An acceleration and expansion of pilot programs aimed at changing the way Medicare reimburses doctors and hospitals by providing bundled payments to cover patient testing and consultations rather than paying for each service delivered, which critics say leads to unnecessary treatment.
- An exemption for self-insuring employers from a tax imposed on all insurance providers. The levy emerged at the 11th hour in the Senate deliberations.
- An adjustment or bridge that would ease the cost squeeze caused by the timing of new fees and insurance reforms and the onset of new customers.
The ‘freshmen package’ package strengthens Medicare’s ability to weed out system inefficiencies and strongly encourages the private sector to follow suit. The amendments require HHS to modernize Medicare’s data systems so they can be used by providers better coordinate care. Medicare will also be allowed to implement pay-for-performance for more providers – including hospices, ambulatory surgical centers, psychiatric hospitals and others – by 2018, and adopt greater payment flexibility for accountable care organizations.
The amendments also broaden the scope of the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) by pushing the board to consider total health system spending and make system-wide recommendations to ensure that cuts in Medicare don’t result in cost shifts to other parts of the health system.
Like the latest CMS report, which criticized the Senate bill for not doing enough to control the growth in health care spending, the Roundtable’s “threats” should be treated as opportunities to improve the bill. Again, their concerns are valid. They should be addressed.
Rather than complain about the Senate bill’s insufficient cost containment measures, ‘moderate’ lawmakers should use this opportunity to insert even more stringent cost-control mechanisms into the final bill. Take on the providers by giving IMAB the authority to recommend payment adjustments to doctors and hospitals — after all, the health industry has already admitted to inefficiencies and pledged to reduce the growth rate in annual health spending by 1.5 percentage points a year over the next 10 years. Allow IMAB to hold them to that pledge.