The Top 15 Hottest Heads of State

Some mock Barack Obama as being primarily a celebrity candidate but while he was the number one choice when it came time to award the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama only ranks fifteenth on the list of Hottest Heads of State. (Hat tip to Politco).


The number one hottest head of state is Princess Mia of Genovia. (above). No, wait, let me correct that. The number one hottest head of state is actually Yulia Tymoshenko Prime Minister of Ukraine:


A Free Market Case For The Public Option

While I generally support market solutions over government action, I’m willing to look beyond ideology when the facts show that another course is better. I have no problem supporting the public option, even if this varies from my gut instincts, since experience shows that financing of health care (as opposed to its delivery) is handled better by government than by the market. Besides, I want to see a public option because, while I will naturally compare the specifics before signing, I anticipate it will be a much better deal than I can obtain on the individual insurance market.

I guess this might screw up my inclusion in Wikipedia’s article on Libertarian Democrat. Fortunately a post by Max Fisher might save me (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan). Fisher makes a free market case for the public option:

Something like televisions exist in a free market because consumers, if they don’t like any of the new TVs on the market, can simply keep their old one. If they really don’t like the market, they can even forgo owning one altogether; it will make you unpopular on game day, but it won’t risk your life. Insurance is different. Anyone with a sense of basic self-preservation has no choice but to buy health insurance every single month. You cannot opt out, there are few options to choose from, and it’s difficult to know how to price your future risk of injury. So health insurance companies have distorted incentives to innovate or provide a more cost-effective product.

A public option would, crazy as it might sound, make health insurance a free market. If there exists a government-run plan, which by all accounts would be basic and geared towards affordability, consumers will have the ability to opt out of the private insurance market. Private providers would finally have real incentives to provide a better product and innovate by building an insurance plan stronger than public insurance. Fears that a public option might decree certain treatments “not cost-effective,” which are not as outlandish as some liberals think, should delight free-market conservatives because it would be an opportunity for private insurers to step in. Worried you might develop a condition requiring $60,000 medication that no public option would ever include? Buy a blinged-out private plan that, for an increased premium, will.

The hurrahs over last week’s CBO score make this even more important. The deficit-positive badge on Baucus’s plan makes it all the more likely that his version of reform will be similar to the final product, which means greatly enhanced coverage, through a weak but present mandate and other provisions, but no public option. In short, it means 29 million more people will buy private health insurance, which is great for them. But with insurers getting millions of guaranteed customers without having to improve their product, the incentives for innovation go way down. The already unfree health insurance market would become even less free.

Again, personally I care more about the reality of the situation than mindlessly sticking to ideology, or labels. Still, I thank Max for this cover since, with the abundance of mainstream liberal blogs, it does help Liberal Values stick out by being labeled Libertarian Democrat or a Left Libertarian by some.

Update: Hayek’s views on government financing and health care reform:

Reaction To Attacks on Obama From Right and Left

There is response to attacks on Barack Obama from both the right and left. Eugene Robinson responded to attacks against Obama after he received the Nobel Peace Prize:

The problem for the addlebrained Obama-rejectionists is that the president, as far as they are concerned, couldn’t possibly do anything right, and thus is unworthy of any conceivable recognition. If Obama ended world hunger, they’d accuse him of promoting obesity. If he solved global warming, they’d complain it was getting chilly. If he got Mahmoud Abbas and Binyamin Netanyahu to join him around the campfire in a chorus of “Kumbaya,” the rejectionists would claim that his singing was out of tune.

Let the rejectionists fulminate and sputter until they wear their vocal cords out. Politically, they’re only bashing themselves. As Republican leaders — except RNC Chairman Michael Steele — are beginning to realize, “I’m With the Taliban Against America” is not likely to be a winning slogan.

The far right already resembles the Taliban, even if to a far less degree, with their support for religious fundamentalism and rejection of the modern world. This just gives them one more topic to agree on. With the right wing echo chamber causing the right wing to increasingly reject reality and adopt extremism, there really might not be any significance between them after a few more years of a Democratic president.

Meanwhile BooMan is venting against those on the left who have been attacking Obama in response to the overreaction to an anonymous comment yesterday:

You call him a warmonger, but he gets the Nobel Peace Prize. He ends torture and allows his Attorney General to investigate it, and you call him a torturer. He tries to enact health care reform with a robust public option and you accuse him of seeking every opportunity to sell-out to the insurance industry. He bails out the cratering financial services industry and prevents a second Great Depression, and you accuse him of selling his soul to corporate CEO’s. I’m not saying that all of these criticisms lack validity. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t advocate for the things they care about passionately. I just want to know where you get the fucking idea that an anonymous White House staffer who gets asked about all this criticism would feel obligated to show you deference and respect.

What’s he supposed to say? That all the criticism is right on the mark?

The truth of the matter is, right or wrong, the progressive blogosphere has been a more severe and on point critic of the Obama administration than any teabagger. And, in many ways, that is to the community’s credit. We don’t embrace the cheerleader’s role and that gives us more credibility. When the president screws up, we’re willing to call him on it. But, Jesus Christ, do you expect the administration to lie down and say, ‘Thank you, sir, may I have another’?

If you berate them for not closing Guantanamo fast enough, not ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell fast enough, not evacuating Iraq fast enough, not passing a health care bill fast enough, and so on…do you not expect one their number to at some point push back and point out that making these kind of changes takes time and is a bit difficult?

There are legitimate policy areas where people on the left might criticize Obama, but some are losing all perspective. We must consider the mess which Obama inherited, and the amount of opposition to many liberal goals from the right. To some degree this is a matter of expectations. I never expected the United States to turn into a Utopia under Obama–After Bush I primarily wanted to see a president who did not do so many awful things. It is also a question of time. Not everything can be achieved in less than one year.I am often just happy that, whenever Obama is on television, we have a president who can speak coherently about the issues.

While I have not agreed with all of Obama’s decisions, he does deserve credit for his record so far this year. So far we have had reversals of Bush policies on matters such as the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, raids on sellers of medicinal marijuana, and the global gag rule. His economic policies may have kept us out of a depression. The Nobel Peace Prize does demonstrate how he has changed attitudes about the United States elsewhere in the world. We are near passage of comprehensive health care reform and responding to global warming is now on the table. Neither the health care legislation or proposals to deal with climate change might be perfect, but they represent a considerable change from a president who opposed any meaningful health care reform, tried to destroy Medicare with the original proposals for his Medicare D plan, and who denied the scientific evidence for global warming. It is one thing to push Obama for more progress. It is totally insane, as some on the left are doing, to claim we are living in the third Bush term.

Olympia Snowe To Vote For Health Care Reform Bill

It’s officially a bipartisan bill. Olympia Snowe has announced she will vote for the Senate Finance Committee’s health care plan. Unfortunately that is a flawed bill, which should be improved when it goes before the full Senate.

The conventional wisdom, at least according to Politico, was that it would have been seen as a setback for the Democrats if they couldn’t get Snowe’s vote. A lot of Democrats are wondering why they compromised so much on this bill if at best it came down to picking up one Republican vote.

Wasted Time with Cable News

In the previous post I noted an example of how weak cable news is compared to either the blogs or The Daily Show with regards to fact checking and meaningful analysis of the news. Matthew Yglesias, returning from Europe where he became spoiled by the superior BBC and CNN International newscasts, found the return to American cable news to be a rude shock:

It makes you think about the strange influence that daytime cable news has on American politics. The three networks combined have an aggregate daytime audience of roughly zero. But even though the audience, looked at nationally, amounts to rounding error the networks are hugely popular among the tiny number of people who work in professional politics. Just like traders have CNBC and Bloomberg on in their offices, political operatives are constantly tuned in to what’s happening on cable news. The result is a really bizarre hothouse scenario in which people are basically watching . . . well . . . nothing, but they’re riveted to it. How things “play” on cable news is considered fairly important even though no persuadable voters are watching it. And cable news’ hyper-agitated style starts to infect everyone’s frame of mind, making it extremely difficult for everyone to forget that the networks have huge incentives to massively and systematically overstate the significance of everything that happens.

While I’m aware that some do so, I cannot imagine wasting time with any of the cable news networks if the goal is to be informed about what is going on. Periodically monitoring a news aggregator, and having text messages sent with true breaking news, is far more effective. If you really feel that having some portion of the media on constantly to present and discuss the news,  at least put on NPR as opposed to the cable news networks. If you do feel it is necessary to monitor cable news because of their influence on the professionals it is only necessary to turn on the television for short periods of time as they tend to repeat coverage of the same stories throughout the day to minimize their expenses and minimize their need to actually keep up with what is going on in the world.

Jon Stewart and Blogosphere Does Better Than Mainstream Media In Analyzing Health Care Claims

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Leaves It There
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Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

Last night Jon Stewart mocked CNN for their lack of fact checking (video above). While watching this last night I noted that the media generally just reported the claims made by the America’s Health Insurance Plans about health care reform, along with brief responses from others questioning the validity of their numbers. In contrast, bloggers such as Jonathan Cohn and Ezra Klein offered actual analysis of the numbers yesterday to debunk their claims.

It is often noted that the blogosphere does  depend upon the mainstream media for reporting of the news, with many blog posts being based upon material coming from the news media. That is quite true, but increasingly it is in the blogosphere where we find meaningful explanation beyond the headlines. When we do turn to television for news, John Stewart shows once again how his fake news show is often superior to the news presented on the real news channels.

A Belated Happy Columbus Day


The guys on The Big Bang Theory celebrated Columbus Day by watching movies written by Chris Columbus such as Gremlins. I think I’ll go with Goodbye, Columbus instead.