Barack Obama's former doctor thinks Barack Obama is wrong about health care. David Scheiner, M.D., thinks Obama and Congress should be pursuing a government-run single-payer system. That's probably because such systems are cheaper and produce better health outcomes than our current system. But nevermind that. Scheiner and the advocacy organizations Physicians for a National Health Program, Healthcare-NOW, and Public Citizen are holding a press conference and rally for single-payer in Washington on Thursday. Needless to say, it won't go anywhere. The president actually said in the past that he supported single-payer, but that's gone out the window due to the vagaries of a political system that gives Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley, and other small-state senators who have taken large amounts of money from the health care industry enormous amounts of power over health care reform.

If Dr. Scheiner really wants single-payer, he should support political reform—including publicly-funded elections, for example—first. He should also read that Hendrik Hertzberg article I mentioned earlier.

Today's New York Times includes a photograph that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the health care fight going on in the Senate Finance committee. It's here. As Ezra Klein explains, you should be thinking about who is not in the photo.

The latest news on the health care front is that the version of the bill the Senate Finance committee is working on will not include a public option or a requirement that employers provide insurance for their workers. Meanwhile, "Blue Dog" Democrats in the House are still fighting Energy and Commerce committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) over that committee's bill. There are a couple of ways to think about these conflicts.

Despite their intransigence, lawmakers who oppose the public option often represent districts that would benefit greatly from a public plan. Jacob Hacker, a Yale political science professor and public option expert, explains:

A public health plan will be particularly vital for Americans in the rural areas that many Blue Dogs represent. These areas feature both limited insurance competition and shockingly large numbers of residents without adequate coverage. By providing a backup plan that competes with private insurers, the public plan will broaden coverage and encourage private plans to reduce their premiums. Perhaps that's why support for a public plan is virtually as high in generally conservative rural areas as it is nationwide, with 71 percent of voters expressing enthusiasm.

Were speculators responsible for the spike in oil prices last year?  The Wall Street Journal has two stories on the subject today.  First up, the news from London:

Britain's financial regulator has found no evidence that speculators are behind big swings in oil prices, as politicians in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere have suggested, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hmmm.  And now Washington DC:

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission plans to issue a report next month suggesting speculators played a significant role in driving wild swings in oil prices — a reversal of an earlier CFTC position that augurs intensifying scrutiny on investors.

In a contentious report last year, the main U.S. futures-market regulator pinned oil-price swings primarily on supply and demand. But that analysis was based on "deeply flawed data," Bart Chilton, one of four CFTC commissioners, said in an interview Monday.

....Mr. Chilton said the new report will contain a more-thorough analysis of the investors in contracts tied to oil and other commodities, and reveal cases in which single traders hold massive market positions. "We now have multiple sources, and confidence from different sources," he says. He said he believes the data on trading outside exchanges is also more reliable.

I'll remain agnostic until both the FSA and the CFTC actually release their reports, but the CFTC study should be the more interesting of the two, since proving a case is generally more difficult than the opposite.  Stay tuned.

Next week will be the 35th anniversary of the very final days of President Richard Nixon. On the evening of August 8, 1974, he announced he would resign the presidency the next day at noon. Shortly after his resignation took effect, he boarded a helicopter on the White House lawn—and was gone.

What made Nixon's resignation unavoidable was the release of the so-called "smoking gun" tape, which had captured a conversation he had with his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, six days after the Watergate break-in of 1972. On the tape, Nixon and Haldeman could be heard plotting to block the Watergate investigation by encouraging the CIA to tell the FBI that national security issues were involved. With this tape public, many of the Republicans still supporting Nixon gave up the ghost.

Nixon departed the White House and was subsequently pardoned by President Gerald Ford. And he left behind several mysteries, including what the Watergate burglars were after (if anything specific) and how involved Nixon was in the caper. Another big mystery was the 18 and a 1/2 minute gap on the tape of another meeting between Nixon and Haldeman, this one held just three days following the break-in. The missing minutes, a panel of audio experts found, were the result of several deliberate erasures.

What was wiped out? Did these passages further incriminate Nixon or explain the break-in? The National Archives a few years ago tried to use new technology to coax that conversation back to life--and had no luck. Now, as I report, the Archives, thanks to the prodding of a Watergate hobbyist, is weighing a new approach. It's considering using a CSI-ish procedure to recover what might be missing Haldeman notes from this infamous meeting. David Paynter, the archivist in charge of the Watergate collection says, "Here's another avenue to shed light on an important episode in history. It's very exciting.

Read all about it here.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

 

This Explains A Lot

William Shatner reads Sarah Palin's "North to the Future":

Today's science, health, and environment posts from our other blogs:

Above the law? James Ridgeway on the possibility of jury nullification in the abortion doctor killing case

File under "totally obvious": Texting while driving is a pretty bad idea.

The problem with private: Health insurance companies are all well and good if you're healthy, but they avoid sick people like the plague.

Hype alert: Climate change denialists are trying to spin scientific uncertainty into proof that global warming is a hoax. Here's why they're wrong.

Last week, Jen Phillips discussed five ways to respond to jokes about rape. She chose option #5, wherein you disarm the joke-teller by pointing out just how un-funny these jokes are by reversing the target of the joke. Below, a few options for dealing with that ubiquitous troll of the city sidewalk—the catcaller:

1. Ignore it and keep walking.

2. Use non-verbal cues (involving the middle finger) to indicate your disgust.

3. Attempt to educate harasser through dialogue or a handy business card.

4. Share this gem of human interaction with others online via photo or tweet.

5. Organize a city-wide summit to address gender-based harrassment and assault in public spaces, complete with a gallery exhibition of photographs of area cat-callers caught in the act.

I tend to go with #1, since I prefer not to let the catcaller get the satisfaction of a reaction, though sometimes option #2 happens as a knee-jerk response. Unfortunately, directly responding to, and even ignoring, catcallers is not always a safe option. In April, a woman was left partially blind, and her friend suffered a fractured jaw, after telling someone to leave them alone in a NYC pizzeria. In March, a 29-year-old pregnant woman was run over and killed when she ignored a catcaller.

To bring attention to the prevalence of public harassment, a number of websites have been created under the title Hollaback. These sites offer a space for people who are the target of gender-based harassment to share their experience in specific cities, regions, and countries with a sympathetic community, while publicly shaming the perpetrators. You can also tweet sidewalk utterances to @catcalled so long as it's under 140 characters. Which it probably is, since as any city-dweller knows, these are not eloquent treatises.

However, these sites are not just chronicles of the harassers that make your walk to work less than pleasant. HollabackDC seeks to make public not just catcallers, but all forms of street harrassment and misogyny:

"Gender based sexual harassment is any sexual harassment that occurs in a public space when one or more individuals (man or woman) accost another individual, based on their gender, as they go about their daily life. This can include vulgar remarks, heckling, insults, innuendo, stalking, leering, fondling, indecent exposure and other forms of  public humiliation. Gender based public sexual harassment occurs on a continuum starting with words, stalking, and unwanted touching which can lead to more violent crimes like rape, assault, and murder."

That is why they are moving beyond the web and joining other DC-based community activists to stage a summit that will address strategies for responding to—and ending—street harassment. The summit's opening reception will include a photography exhibit of street harassers in the act. If you live in DC and snap a catcaller in the act, you can submit your own photo.

Today is unsurprising research day.  The Wall Street Journal reports on a computer model that can predict whether a baseball player gets elected to the Hall of Fame:

Using a radial bias function network, a sort of neural net, Dr. Smith and Dr. Downey were able to identify statistical commonalities among Hall of Famers. As it turns out, hits, home runs and on-base plus slugging percentages are what count for hitters, while wins, saves, earned run average and winning percentage are what count for pitchers.

Sounds right to me.  But did we really need a computer to tell us this?

It's a sign of the times when the Orthodox Union starts taking its cues from the Certified Organic crowd. After 2000 years of formalized Jewish dietary law, Israel's top Rabbi has threatened to revoke the kosher status of vegetables deemed excessively sprayed. 

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, the country's top religious authority, said he would yank veggies' blanket kosher seal of approval over "insane quantities" of insecticides. Although even the man with the plan acknowledged that there is no precedent for decertifying fruits and vegetables, he said that health hazards alone make spraying a religious concern. (Kashrut, the body of law dictating what is and isn't kosher, forbids eating any known poison.)

Besides being a good green initiative and probably long overdue, there may be some business sense in this. Only 21 percent of people who buy kosher food do so for religious reasons; the rest choose kosher for its perceived health benefits. Because Jewish law forbids mixing dairy and meat, most desserts and snacks contain neither, making them an easy choice for vegans and vegetarians. Kosher animals aren't fed other animals' parts, and their care and slaughter is strictly supervised. Finally, many buyers simply believe that the religious certifiers do a better job than the government at keeping food clean and safe. The laws are literally so complicated, the main certifying body in America runs a hotline.