Healthcare Bleg

On the flight home from Pittsburgh I sat next to Jane Hamsher and we chatted about healthcare reform.  Our conversation got me wondering about something.

As you may know, there's a group of liberal Democrats in the House who are threatening to vote against any bill that doesn't include a public option.  Obviously they're hoping that this threat will be enough to force the conference committee to include a public option in its final report.

But even if this works, no one thinks that such a bill can get 60 votes in the Senate.  This means the only way to pass it would be via reconciliation.

So here's my question: supposing this happens, what are we likely to lose if we go down the reconciliation road?  The basic rule is that anything that doesn't affect the budget is off limits and would have to be discarded, but in practice only an expert could tell us which provisions are likely to fall foul of the reconciliation rules.  So who's an expert on this kind of thing?  I don't have a clue.  But before I decide what I think of this whole idea, I'd sure like to have a better sense of what I'm likely to get out of it.  On one side, I lose the public option but the rest of the bill has a pretty good chance of passing.  That's straightforward.  On the other side, I get a bill that includes a public option but loses a bunch of other stuff that can't survive reconciliation.  Like, say, community rating, which I suspect doesn't have enough budgetary impact to stay intact.  Ditto for just about everything else that reforms the private sector insurance industry.

So this is kind of a bleg.  Who knows enough about this stuff to give us the lay of the land?  If I have a choice between a bill that ditches the public option vs. a bill that keeps the public option but ditches a bunch of other stuff, which is better?  It all depends on what the "other stuff" is.  If anyone has any idea how to go about figuring this out, let me know in comments.

Reappointing Ben

Video of my session at Netroots Nation doesn't seem to be available anywhere, which means that I can't watch it to see how it went.  However, I got this from a friend who watched it live:

I thought you might enjoy the attached screen capture.  You couldn't see it, but throughout there were ads on the screen, most of which keyed off your name.  We got ads for Canon toner DRUMS and oil DRUMS and all sorts of musical DRUMS and don't you just love the way "targeted" advertising works on the Internet?  I'm watching Kevin Drum so it follows that I might be in the market for a good oil drum.

Ain't the intertubes great?  On a more substantive note, not a single one of the panelists was opposed to reappointing Ben Bernanke.  Not even Dean Baker!  Et tu, Dean?  This suggests to me that Bernanke is a shoo-in for winning a second term.  If you can't even get a bunch of liberals at Netroots Nation to oppose him, what are the odds that anyone else is going to lead the fight?

If you didn't get a chance to watch Kevin Drum's NetRoots Nation keynote live, this week's MoJo podcast is a short Pittsburgh dispatch from him. In it, we talk about the NetRoots Nation male-to-female ratio, Arlen Specter on the healthcare "death panels," and how fellow attendees are feeling about Obama. Listen to the podcast here.

If you didn't get a chance to watch Kevin's NetRoots Nation keynote live, this week's MoJo podcast is a short Pittsburgh dispatch from him. In it, we talk about the NetRoots Nation male-to-female ratio, Arlen Specter on the "death panels," and how fellow attendees are feeling about Obama. Listen to the podcast here.

#SSJ

As many readers probably know, on July 31, freelancer Shane Bauer, Sara Shourd and Joshua Fattal accidently crossed the Iraqi border into Iran where they are currently held. (Shane's article "The Sheikh Down" is in the current issue).

To follow news about the three, or if you'd like to tweet messages of support for them and for their families (highly encouraged), please use the twitter hashtag #ssj (the first letter of each of their first names).

Oh, and please RT word about the new hashtag! The more voices of concern, the sooner the three are likely to return.

Earlier today, the State Department issued the message below. (I learned of it from someone who tweeted using #ssj.)

Missing and Detained Americans in Iran

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 15, 2009

The United States is deeply concerned about the welfare of our American citizens who have been detained or are missing in Iran. We once again urge Iran’s leadership to quickly resolve all outstanding American citizen cases.

This includes the case of the American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, who has spent his career working to enhance mutual understanding between Iran and the United States. The government of Iran should immediately release Mr. Tajbakhsh from detention and allow him to depart Iran to continue his academic pursuits.

Regarding the three American hikers, Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd, who were detained by Iranian authorities on July 31, we once again call on the Iranian government to live up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention by granting consular access and releasing these three young Americans without further delay.

We also remain concerned about the case of Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since March 9, 2007. We call on the Government of Iran to assist in providing any information on his whereabouts and in ensuring his prompt return to the United States.

Our goal is to ensure the safe return of all our missing or unjustly detained American citizens to the United States as quickly as possible so that they can be reunited with their families.
 

Hey Drum fans—today at noon Kevin is set to moderate the keynote Netroots Nation panel on "Building a 21st Century Economy" with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Change to Win Chair Anna Burger and economist Dean Baker. Rumor has it that C-Span may pick up the feed; you can also check out the live video below. While you wait, why not browse some of MoJo's fine economics coverage—Kevin's pieces on cap and trade and bank nationalization, James Galbraith on why the stimulus isn't big enough, David Corn's expose of Phil Gramm's role in bringing about the financial crisis, Nomi Prins' timeline of the debacle, and last but not least David Cay Johnston's modest proposal for fixing the tax code.

Free video chat by Ustream

MoJo's own Kevin Drum is moderating the keynote Netroots Nation panel on "Building a 21st Century Economy"—with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Change to Win Chair Anna Burger and economist Dean Baker—at noon on Saturday. Rumor has it that C-Span may pick up the feed; you can also check out the live video below. While you wait, why not browse some of MoJo's fine economics coverage—Kevin's pieces on cap and trade and bank nationalization, James Galbraith on why the stimulus isn't big enough, David Corn's expose of Phil Gramm's role in bringing about the financial crisis, Nomi Prins' timeline of the debacle, and last but not least David Cay Johnston's modest proposal for fixing the tax code.

Free TV : Ustream

Increasing air pollution over China in the past 50 years has reduced days of rainfall by nearly a quarter in the eastern half of the country—home to most Chinese people and pollution. Bad air is now likely affecting the country's ability to grow food crops, as well as causing a flood of health and environmental problems.

The study in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres links for the first time high levels of air pollutants with conditions preventing the light rainfall critical for agriculture. The research suggests that reducing air pollution might ease the drought in north China.

In the last 50 years, southeastern China has seen increased amounts of total rainfall per year, while the northern half has seen less rain and more droughts. But the light rainfall that sustains crops has decreased everywhere. At the same time China's population has more than doubled and sulfur emissions from fossil fuel burning have exploded to nine times their levels 50 years ago.
 

Former House majority leader Dick Armey resigned his position at the lobbying firm DLA Piper on Friday in response to a growing chorus of critics who claim his "grassroots" advocacy group, FreedomWorks, is little more than an extension of the American pharmaceutical industry.

Naturally, Armey blamed his decision to resign on the liberal media. "The firm is busy with its business, and shouldn’t be asked to take time out from their work, to defend themselves of spurious allegations,” he told Politico. “No client of this firm is going to be free to mind its own business without harassment as long as I’m associated with it."

FreedomWorks has not been shy about its role in inflaming protests against health care reform. Last week it released an "August Recess Action Kit" and its website even provides a ten-point action guide on "How to Organize Your Own 'Tea Party' Protest.

MoJo will have more on the astrotuf groups driving the opposition to healthcare reform early next week—stay tuned.

Foreign Affairs journal has a piece in its upcoming September/October issue on the crucial Copenhagen climate-treaty negotiations in early December. The story's thrust: Keep your expectations very, very low.

Here's part of the journal's summary of the to-be-released story, penned by Michael A. Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of CFR's Program on Energy Security and Climate Change:

"Government officials and activists should fundamentally rethink their strategy and expectations" for the December climate conference in Copenhagen, argues Michael A. Levi, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. According to Levi, the odds of signing a comprehensive treaty in December are "vanishingly small." With this in mind, rather than aim for a broad global treaty, negotiators should reinforce existing national policies and seek "international cooperation focused on specific opportunities to cut emissions" in rich nations and the developing world. Levi urges officials to view the conference as a chance to build efforts to cut emissions from the ground up, and try to "reinforce developed countries’ emissions cuts and link developing countries’ actions ... to objectives in other areas—such as economic growth, security, and air quality—that leaders of those countries already care about."

Oy. If this summary is representative of Levi's entire story, it's about as bleak a prediction of what purpose Copenhagen will serve as you'll find from a respected organization like CFR and from someone with Levi's presumed stature. Fair to say, plenty others, myself included, disagree with Levi's argument—which, from this summary, doesn't advocate much that would change the status quo. Even if a "comprehensive treaty" isn't completed in December, that doesn't rule out some kind of treaty framework—a far better option than Levi's call to "build efforts to cut emissions from the ground up, and try to 'reinforce developed countries’ emissions cuts and link developing countries' actions ... to objectives in other areas—such as economic growth, security, and air quality—that leaders of those countries already care about.'"