Monopoly Healthcare

Republicans pretty much oppose all Democratic proposals to reform healthcare.  So naturally they oppose the creation of a public option as part of healthcare reform too. No mystery there.  But why do so many Democrats oppose it?  Paul Krugman speculates:

I may have a new hypothesis about the political economy of the health care fight. One thing that’s obvious, if you look at the balking Democrats I chided in today’s column, is that almost all of them come from states with small population. These are also, by and large, states in which one or at most two private insurers dominate the market.

So here’s a suggestion: while the opponents of a private plan say that they’re trying to defend market competition, what they’re actually doing is defending lucrative local monopolies.

There's probably something to this.  It doesn't even have to be especially sinister: politicians routinely pay outsize attention to companies with a big presence in their state even if they aren't outsize campaign contributors.  Though the latter certainly doesn't hurt.

Anyway — interesting theory.

Quote of the Day

From Sen. John Thune (R–SD), commenting on his disappointment with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court:

"She doesn't have the punch out there in terms of fundraising and recruiting, I think — at least so far."

That's a real shame, isn't it?  But don't lose hope. I'm sure there's still plenty of mileage left in pretending that Obama wants to take away your guns, force your daughters to abort their babies, and outlaw the Bible.

Shahram Kholdi, a graduate student in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Manchester with extensive contacts in Iran, has been sharing reports he has managed to get from Iran. His latest:

A Baseeji opened fire on four people, two of them young women, in front of
Shariati Hospital on Amir Abad Street, during protest. The enraged people
attacked and snatched the Baeeji and pistolwhipped him with his
Kalashnikov. The Baseeji was killed as a result.

This happened on Saturday. It was a quick call and unfortunately I do not
know exactly at what time the incident happened.

Also, there are reports that Saaydo-Shohda division has moved into Tehran
and deployed tanks in Azadi square in anticipation of Tuesday universal
strikes. This report is still to be verified.

On Monday, it was police forces that were trying to break up ongoing protests in Tehran. But there were media reports on Sunday that military helicopters had replaced police helicopters in the skies of Tehran. Is a street-fight clash coming between the opposition and the Iranian military?
 

 

 

Who Resurrected the F-22?

Last week the House Armed Services Committee approved, by a mere one-vote margin, more money for the F-22 fighter jet. (Too bad the plane's not as invincible in the air as it is in Congress). This is one of the programs that the Obama administration most wants to cut, and so the vote was basically the committee's way of collectively mooning Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his audacious suggestion that we should do something about the bloated defense budget.

Who are the lawmakers keeping the F-22 on life-support? All of the committee's Republican members voted for extra funding for the planes, in addition to six Dems, all from states where some part of the F-22 is manufactured. Travis Sharp at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has the full list here. And for more on how the Gates budget is faring on Capitol Hill, check out our special report on defense spending—first installment here.

Was Sunday's calm the beginning of the end in Iran, or just the calm before the storm? This video of a teenage girl being gunned down suggests the latter. Meanwhile, the EPA declared an environmental emergency in Montana, there's beef in KFC chicken, and Tuesday's debut of the film New Muslim Cool shows how Bush-era Islamophobia affected one Latino family's daily life.

Nine years ago, Mother Jones reported on the damage done to the town of Libby, Montana, and its inhabitants by the asbestos in W.R. Grace's nearby mine. In 2008, Grace settled with the people sickened and killed and their families for some $3 billion. Last Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency finally declared an environmental emergency in Libby, invoking a clause of the 1980 Superfund law for the first time in the agency's history. The EPA will spend over $100 million trying to clean up the town. 

The EPA declaration represents some long-delayed good news for the people of Libby. But if they were hoping for accountability for Grace's executives, they're out of luck. Federal prosecutors brought charges against four Grace employees for criminal conspiracy to cover up the risks from the asbestos contamination from the company's mine. But three execs were acquitted, and charges against the final Grace defendant, O. Mario Favorito, were dismissed last week. It now seems that no one will go to jail for the conduct that has been linked to the deaths of over 200 people and the sickening of thousands more.

Scouts from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), pull overwatch during Operation Destined Strike while 2nd Platoon, Able Company searches a village below the Chowkay Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan Aug. 22. (Photo courtesy army.mil).

Was Sunday's calm the beginning of the end in Iran, or just the calm before the storm? This video of a teenage girl being gunned down suggests the latter. Meanwhile, the EPA declared an environmental emergency in Montana, there's beef in KFC chicken, and Tuesday's debut of the film New Muslim Cool shows how Bush-era Islamophobia affected one Latino family's daily life. Happy Monday!

Yesterday marked the summer solstice. What better way to usher in the warm weather than with the environment, science, and health news from our other blogs?

Yours, for the low, low price of $70: Republicans estimated the cap-and-trade provision in the Waxman-Markey bill would cost each American thousands. The real price tag? About $70 per person.

The VAT came back: Kevin Drum's glad to see value-added tax (similar to a national sales tax) back on the table as a possible way to partially fund national healthcare. Meanwhile, James Ridgeway explains why health co-ops would be a cop out

Dubious survey of the day: That new poll that says Americans want to be able to choose between private and public plans? Meh. 

 

 

 

If you know anything about Siberia, it is that Siberia is cold . You may also associate it with gulags, Stalin, or the USSR's forced relocation of various ethnic groups, but even if you don't, the cold you've heard about. In fact, Siberia is home to Oymyakon, a hamlet of 800, and the coldest continuously inhabited place on the planet.

This past winter, Oymyakon hosted droves of Russian reporters in huge fur jackets who had come to report on an especially cold winter. Twice, temperatures dropped to -60.2 C, or nearly -86 F, marking one of the coldest winters the village of once-nomadic reindeer herders has suffered in nearly a century.  It was so cold, Russia Today reported, that human life virtually ground to a halt. 

 

But not these days. Today (which is really tomorrow there) , and yesterday, and for the past two weeks, Oymyakon has been in the grips of an unprecedented heatwave. On Thursday, temperatures were recorded at just under 32 C, or nearly 90 degrees. (32.6 C is the highest ever recorded temperature), with weekend temperatues in the high 80s.

What does it mean? This past Tuesday, the White House released a report saying that global warming has already begun to affect Americans . Could climate change be altering Siberia's famous frigidity too?