According to most environmentalists, President Bush's message on the environment was weak. While Bush addressed the issue of global warming, the message he gave most clearly to Americans was to stay the course and these pesky ecological issues will go away.

In a statement released yesterday, The Sierra Club said: "Despite the warning from the President's economic advisor that the State of the Union would 'knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence,' so far we have heard no new evidence that this administration understands what it will really take to break our oil addiction or curb global warming. In fact, the President's proposals are more likely to make the problems worse."

In his plan, President Bush touts ethanol as the major catalyst towards an emissions-reduction solution, but he doesn't mention its possible detrimental effects. The President doesn't see any issue with drilling in Alaska either. And he doesn't seem to be rushed in imposing any sort of harsh standards on the automotive industries. The official White House plan states that the reduction in gasoline will be helped along by an assumed increase of fuel standards for light trucks and passenger cars by a four per cent each year, starting in 2010. Sounds pretty wishy-washy.

This from the Sierra Club: "…[T]he President assumes that fuel economy will increase but fails to order an increase when a 40 mile per gallon standard is the single biggest step we could take to curb global warming and end oil dependence."

Yet, in reporting on the latest automotive models, some media outlets have chosen to call the 2010 fuel-efficiency standards "stringent."

Armed with this what-me-worry message, some Americans (as well as Canadians and Europeans) are just keeping on keeping on. This means driving hummers and other tank-like vehicles to invade the strip malls, taking private jets so to have a place to smoke at 30,000 feet, and buying instantly disposable goods to keep on top of fashion trends.

-- Caroline Dobuzinskis

In an ironic and diabolic move to generate advertising revenue to support its journalistic mission, recently launched a series of ads on its site to encourage users to willingly disclose personal information on consumer habits in an online user survey. Even more shocking, these ads tout that users who complete the survey will be entered into a drawing to win some really cool prizes donated by advertising sponsors Aveda and Patagonia.

When questioned about this blatant attempt to learn more about its website visitors, Associate Publisher of Sales & Marketing, Suzanne Saluti was quoted as saying, "We don't intend to release personal, individual user information to anyone. We will merely aggregate the data and share those results with the advertising community in order to generate online ad sales to off-set the costs associated with providing in-depth investigative reporting on the site."

You can view (and participate in, if you dare) the survey here.

MSNBC is running (and rerunning and rerunning) a comment on the ticker on the bottom of its screen that says something to the effect of: the working class will be disappointed to learn that Nancy Pelosi's outfit cost more than an average American family's first home.

I'd like to see some proof of that. The comment is attributed to Andrew Noyes writing on Chris Matthew's group blog, Hardblogger. Yet, a search of all the posts on Hardblogger tonight turn up nothing.

Update: Just saw it again. It's probably run a dozen times by now. I'll keep searching. That's (1) a pretty ridiculous thing for MSNBC to be reporting over and over, and (2) badly in need of sourcing.

Tucker blogs on Hardblogger:

Imagine that you're John McCain. You're running for president for the second time, and this time you're widely considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Knowing that, you've got to expect that whomever is directing the television coverage of tonight's speech is going to point the camera your way. You're going to be on primetime TV, no doubt. With that in mind, you're going to want to stay awake. If you're McCain, who will be over 70 by 2008, you'll want to make doubly sure to demonstrate your alertness and vigor. You definitely won't want to slump in your seat, out cold, when Bush starts talking about Iraq. And yet that's exactly what McCain did tonight, napping on camera for ten agonizing seconds. Lack of self-control? An expression of contempt? Embarrassing in any case.

Reports that Bush would moderate his policies to take into account the new Democratic majority in Congress turned out to be ill-founded. Stubborn as always, Bush stuck to his guns: Health insurance delivered through the private marketplace, with help for the poor in the form of tax deductions. More medical savings accounts. Tort reform to get rid of "junk lawsuits." In energy, talk about clean coal. Promises to reduce auto emissions but no standards.

What follows is a thumbnail of some of the reaction to Bush's speech along with lobby figures prepared by the Center for Responsive Politics.


"A tax deduction for someone in the 15 percent tax bracket only provides $1,125 in tax relief," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "This means that moderate-income people will still be left with a price tag of thousands of dollars for premiums, to say nothing of the significant additional costs for deductibles and co-payments. This will leave affordable health coverage out of reach for tens of millions of Americans."

"On the other hand," Pollack continued, "the proposal provides disproportionately higher tax benefits for people who need help the least. People in the highest tax brackets will receive tax breaks that are more than twice as high as the purported relief for moderate-income workers. Instead of this ill-advised proposal, the President should expand health coverage for the nine million children who are uninsured when Congress reauthorizes the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) later this year."

"The President's tax proposal is more about shifting responsibility, rather than sharing the responsibility of our health care system," says Andrew Stern, president of SEIU. "We should be making sure that everyone has good coverage, not punishing those who already do."

The lobbies and their donations:

• Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: $17,865,648, 68 percent to Republicans
• Health Professionals: $49,717,325, 63 percent to Republicans
• Accident and Health Insurance: $7,320,915, 68 percent to Republicans


Bush insists on drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, which is at best just a drop in the bucket for our energy supply. Our dependence on foreign oil continues. As Bush speaks, the Iraq government readies a new oil law that will place the once nationalized industry into the hands of the international oil companies.

Gas Guzzlers: The president talks about improved mileage rates, but won't change the law to require them. "The President assumes that fuel economy will increase but fails to order an increase when a 40 mile per gallon standard is the single biggest step we could take to curb global warming and end oil dependence," says Frances G. Beinecke, president of the Natural Defense Council. "We would be less dubious of the president's intentions if he had promised to raise the standards instead of assuming that they will rise four percent a year."

Ethanol: "A lot of it depends on the efficiency with which ethanol is produced," says Mike Casey, an environmental consultant who in the past worked for the Environmental Working Group. "It's better than imported oil, [but] it's not the long term. We can't base our entire energy policy on it. Here's what George Bush needs to do tonight: he needs to announce an aggressive initiative to move this country to the alternative sources of energy tomorrow based on technology available today."

Again, the lobbies and their donations:

• Oil & Gas: $17,576,986, 83 percent to Republicans
• Mining: $4,022,031, 83 percent to Republicans
• Electric Utilities: $14,970,532, 66 percent to Republicans
• Misc. Energy: $3,142,220, 76 percent to Republicans
• Environment: $889,748, 83 percent to Democrats

The Budget:

Critics give Bush a plus for just mentioning bringing the budget deficit in line, but the president promises a balanced budget in 2012, but as Bob Greenstein of Center for Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out in a press call today, the real problem comes in the following decade. Another game of smoke and mirrors by the administration: the budget situation will actually get worse because Bush wants to make his tax cuts to the rich permanent. Bush says the tax cuts resulted in a robust economy, but Greenstein says the growth is unexceptional.

Again, the lobbies:

• Business Associations: $1,976,248, 84 percent to Republicans
• Labor: $62,599,397, 86 percent to Democrats

-- James Ridgeway

Ok, so what was up with Bush pimping the woman who founded Baby Einstein? What was her great moment or heroism or contribution to the country? Maybe Baby Einstein is an OK product or maybe, like some charge, it is a harmful scam, but I just don't see how it rates the SOTU gallery of heroes treatment. Consider:

"Citing a lack of evidence that screen media is beneficial for babies and growing concern that it may be harmful, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) filed a complaint today with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, two of the leading producers of videos for infants and toddlers, for false and deceptive advertising. The complaint charges that these companies are violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act by marketing their videos as educational for babies. CCFC is asking the FTC to prohibit Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby from making claims about the educational and developmental benefits of their videos and require that advertisements, packaging and websites for all baby videos prominently display the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) recommendation of no screen time for children under two. "

Rest of press release after the jump. More on the complaints against Baby Einstein here.

How is 7-foot-2 Dikembe Mutumbo only a few inches taller than Laura Bush when sitting down?

Oh my God, they just stood up. He's a giant! And the woman on his right is tiny! Again, how can he be only three inches taller than the first lady when seated? Is Laura Bush on a booster seat?

Thus far, my takeaway from this speech is that somebody finally sat the man down and educated him on some real basics, the difference between Sunni and Shiites, etc. Of course, he's marshalling all that energy to justify some kind of action against Iran.

To the notion that Bush is going to create a "special council on the war on terror," Dave just asked: "Isn't that called Congress?"

Bush said tonight that when it comes to our health care, private insurance is the way to go. As you take that in, consider this: Americans spend $5,000 more per capita on health care, fully 50% more than any other country.

What's Bush's solution? According to the Washington Post, Bush wants to redirect federal money away from hospitals that serve the poor and uninsured, and away from Medicare and Medicaid. Redirect it where, you ask? To private insurance companies, of course.

Now consider this: Private insurers take a dollar for every five dollars in the health care industry. It's a super-duper rip-off. How? Well, have a look at the "medical loss ratios" of major insurers—that is, how much insurers pay in doctors bills, hospital bills, tests and drugs, divided by their revenue in insurance premiums.

  • 76.9% - Aetna
  • 82.3% - Cigna
  • 83.9% - Health Net
  • 83.2% - Humana
  • 78.6% - UnitedHealth Group
  • 80.6% - WellPoint

Get it? You pay Aetna $100 a month? They spend $76.90 percent on your health and $23.10 on corporate overhead, administration, and their own healthy profit margin. That list was compiled by Jonathan G. Bethely of American Medical News, but it's quite easy to find in insurers' SEC 10 filings, though insurers prefer to call it "benefit cost ratio" and "benefit expense ratio." (Whatever they call it, it's no perfect measure, argues James Robinson, a UC Berkeley professor of public health. But it's what we have to work with.)

And it's not all. How many staff at doctors' offices and hospitals devote their time to billing, negotiating, and haggling with insurance companies? In order to get private insurance companies to pay up, doctors' offices spend 14 percent on "billing and insurance-related functions" and hospitals spend another 7 to 11 percent, according to the journal Health Affairs.

Add that up and you see that one in three dollars in the healthcare industry is spent on neither health nor care. That's how efficient the market is! The state proposals to force people to buy private insurance — and Bush's proposal tonight to divert money from government caregivers to private insurance — just send more money down the drain. The answer is single-payer health care. But in the meantime we have patchwork plans like Arnold's, though at least his would cut what insurance companies skim down to 15 percent.

— April Rabkin

Oh, who cares. It's like being the last kid to say "not me" when somebody farts.

And now he's on to the "shoreless ambitions of the enemy." Shoreless? Shortless?