Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘labels

Tuesday Afternoon

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* Things I didn’t know were in the health care bill: menu labeling. Great policy.

* I want to be held accountable for getting it done. I will judge my first term as president based on the fact on whether we have delivered the kind of health care that every American deserves and that our system can afford. Barack Obama at a CAP/SEIU health care forum in 2007, up against Hillary Clinton and history’s greatest monster.

The health care forum in 2007 served as a kind of epiphany for Obama. Time’s Karen Tumulty, who moderated the forum, wrote that Obama “was noticeably uncomfortable when pressed for details” about his health care plan. As Ezra Klein wrote at the time, “Compared to John Edwards, who had a detailed plan, and Hillary Clinton, whose fluency with the subject is unmatched among the contenders, he seemed uncertain and adrift.” Obama himself acknowledged that the health care forum revealed, “I am not a great candidate now, but I am going to figure out how to be a great candidate.” Now, by delivering on the basic health care principles he pronounced three years ago, Obama is already earning praise as “one of America’s finest presidents.”

* Winning has its advantages. Mike Allen:

Rather than dragging down Dems, President Obama’s health plan could turn out to be a net positive for the midterms by goosing his base, re-engaging new Obama voters, giving his party something clear to promote, and providing a blunt instrument for whacking [Republicans]. Obama’s triumph has put Republicans back on the defensive, and even some of them are wondering if they peaked eight months too soon.

* Frum: “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.”

* Related: No one cares what Republicans think about health care anymore.

* Finding common ground: I’m no Sarah Palin fan, but I fully endorse her call for Tea Party supporters to make third-party runs for office.

* Climate next? Let’s hope so.

* Project Kaisei is seeking to turn the Great Pacific Garbage Patch into fuel.

* Related: Werner Herzog narrates the emotional life of a plastic bag blowing across the American countryside in search of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

* The University of Michigan has become the 17th institution of higher learning to be implicated in the checks-for-degrees scandal rocking American campuses, representatives from the Department of Justice reported Tuesday.

* Coming to Comedy Central this fall: That’s My Biden.

* Airplanes do not “fly.” They are held aloft through the divine intervention of heavenly angels.

* Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.

* And the Big Picture has your record setters. Below: the world’s largest “Thriller” dance.

More on Health Care and the Political Spectrum

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Starting off, I thought this insightful post from Matt Yglesias puts the central paradox in centrist/incrementalist approaches to health care reform very well:

The reason is that the way insurance companies make money is to segment the population based on risk. And the way centrist, moderate, or otherwise incrementalist approaches to reforming U.S. health care work is they attempt to regulate away insurance companies’ ability to do risk-segmentation effectively. But once you accept the premise that you don’t want insurance companies doing all this risk analysis, there’s basically nothing else for them to do. That’s just what an insurance company is.

Naturally I use that term “centrist” here quite advisedly, taking Shankar D’s point from the comments that it can sometimes obscure more than it reveals. But here again I think the term is meaningful and useful: “centrism” designates an approach to health care reform that leaves the current dominant coverage mechanism (for-profit insurance companies) basically intact and unchanged, in contrast to liberal or progressive approaches like (in order of radicality) co-operatives, public options, and single-payer, which are transformative in nature.

Ezra Klein takes up a more Shankarian style of analysis when he writes of the progressive blogosophere inappropriately making a fetish of the public option:

It might have been a necessary thing from an activism point of view, but convincing liberals that this bill was worthless in the absence of the public option was a terrible decision, wrong on the merits and unfair to the base. The achievement of this bill is $900 billion to help people purchase health-care coverage, a new market that begins to equalize the conditions of the unemployed and the employed, and a regulatory structure in which this country can build, for the first time, a universal health-care system. Thousands and thousands of lives will be saved by this bill. Bankruptcies will be averted. Rescission letters won’t be sent. Parents won’t have to fret because they can’t take their child, or themselves, to the emergency room. This bill will, without doubt, do more good than any single piece of legislation passed during my (admittedly brief) lifetime. If it passes, the party that fought for it for decades deserves to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Fair enough.

But this is also the same Ezra Klein who wrote, only a few days ago, that “This bill, when it’s finished, is not going to be very good. But it’s going to be a lot better than what we have, and almost more importantly, a lot easier to improve in the future.” And it is this argument—the expansionist argument—that I think remains the clearest justification for full-throated progressive support of this significantly imperfect bill. Obamacare is a base hit, not a home run. Recognizing it as such isn’t, and shouldn’t be confused with, rejecting it altogether.

Product Labels

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I spoke recently about the importance of accurate and informative product labeling—so I’m very glad to see Japan putting this idea into practice with carbon footprint labels on food and consumer products. Unfortunately for now at least it’s only voluntary, which is to say useless. Via e360.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 22, 2008 at 2:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Greenwashing and the Market

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Upon seeing the top 15 “green brands”, my first response was “There’s no such thing as a green brand.” But that’s not true—there really are companies with superior products and decent practices, it’s just that consumers have no ready access to reliable information about them. And the high social importance of ecology in recent years has actually made matters worse, not better, with the greenwashing that is increasingly common across all industries only further muddying the waters.

Apple, for instance, and despite its many other virtues, may be greener than it used to be but it’s still not especially green. But it feels green, so it makes the list.

This is a failure of the culture, and really a failure of our government—in both cases by design. Simple labels work; they worked in Britain for nutrition, and they could work here, not only with regard to health but along any number of ecological and social-justice vectors as well.

It may be that consumers would still make bad choices even if they were well-informed, but the evidence from Britain suggests otherwise. I think you’d see a significant shift in consumption practices almost immediately.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 6, 2008 at 12:07 am