Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NRA defending gun ownership for terrorists

Landing on the FBI's terror watch list can prevent you from boarding an airplane, but evidently it does not prevent you from buying a gun. From Huffington Post:

There were 963 people from the watch list who were recorded trying to buy guns in the last five years, according to a new Government Accounting Office report. Well over 800 purchases were permitted under the current law. Only 10 percent of all those who tried to purchase guns were actually turned down.

It seems to me that these 800+ people either do not belong on the watch list, in which case they should be able to challenge their inclusion on the list to remove their names and allow them to fly without harassment, or they have rightfully earned a spot on the list and we shouldn't be giving them guns. I look forward to the due process arguments coming from the gun-advocate senators who have been deaf to the due-process concerns of the watch list otherwise.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Competition and public option health insurance

Paul Krugman has an interesting blog post today on competition in the health insurance industry, citing a post from Digby. The US senators opposing a public option claim that they are trying to protect competition in the market for health insurance. Digby takes Senator Blanche Lincoln to task for defending competition in Arkansas, where Blue Cross/Blue Shield holds 75% of the market, and where a public provider could potentially provide the only real competition. Krugman hypothesizes that there is likely to be little competition in many of the states whose senators are labeling a public option as a threat to competition.

Digby notes that the US Department of Justice classifies any market in which the leading provider holds a market share of 42% or more as "highly concentrated." This GAO report on small group health insurance providers (Table 1, pages 4-6)shows, in 27 of 47 reporting states, the leading provider has a market share of 42% or more, sometimes much more. Omitting the 7 states listed as NA, in 27 of 40 states for which sufficient data were available the market is highly concentrated. Small group coverage is defined differently in the various states, but it describes the insurance available to small firms (in 45 of the 47 reporting states, 50 employees is the maximum firm size considered as small group.)

In a related matter, Nate Silver discusses recent opinion polls concerning the public's thoughts on a federal government public option, with posts discussing the New York Times poll and other polls. Based on the polls that Nate considers most reliable, it looks like the public option has strong public support, with about 2/3 of the public liking the idea of a public option.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wherefore the news channels?

An ever-more-apparently stolen election in Iran, massive public demonstrations, paramilitary violence against protesters, political opposition members in jail. This is the biggest international news development of the year. Where do I go to find news about it? Broadcast networks? They've had all the usual sports, etc. all day. MSNBC? They don't do news anymore, just Democratic apparatchik vs. Republican apparatchik for three-minute throwdowns all day on weekdays, followed hibernation on the weekend. CNN? Little bits of news on Iran widely scattered during the live news programming (which is only part time on Sunday), and most of the coverage is the anchor reading internet posts from the CNN website, by American viewers making comments or asking questions. If I want internet, I can go directly to the source where people who actually know something about Iran and/or are communicating with people IN Iran. In desperation I even checked Faux News, but they were doing their regular opinion shtick.

In 1989, when the Tiananmen demonstrations occurred and the Berlin Wall came down, the revolution was indeed televised. I guess we'll just have to wait for the hurricane season to ramp up before we see any significant deployment of reporters in the field in 2009.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thoughts on a post-NATO world

An interesting new blog from Harvey Sapolsky, former director of the Security Studies Program at MIT (and I had a class with him at MIT when I was an undergrad). He suggests the US can stop acting as the world's policeman with little risk to American security. An excerpt from a very insightful post:

America should come home, very soon from Europe and Asia and only a bit more slowly from Iraq and Afghanistan, but home nevertheless. We have natural strategic depth offered by our geography and it is time to reclaim it. There is no need to stand between our friends and their neighbors. Our friends face no great threats that would endanger us unless we act as their protectors. On the contrary, our security is weakened by our inclination to rush to sound of the guns which allows others to assume that we are responsible for solving their conflicts with their neighbors or ending their civil wars. Our rewards for this constant meddling are unfulfillable expectations, new enemies, and misspent resources.

He's not suggesting we pursue an isolationist foreign policy, just that we dismantle our Cold War infrastructure and exercise greater restraint in projecting military power. He lays out a vision for a post-NATO, post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan international strategy. A tip of the hat to the Washington Note for the link.