It should not have been a surprise that the insurance industry believes that health insurance reform will hurt their profits but a study the insurance industry bought from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and circulated (10/11) may have inadvertently made the case for a tougher bill when it predicted that, without cost containments, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ proposed reforms will cause health care costs to increase faster and higher than they would under the current system.

Ezra Klein of WashingtonPost.com noted (10/12) that PwC in the early 1990s produced a report for the tobacco industry on the economic devastation that would result from a tax on tobacco. That report was later analyzed by the Arthur Anderson Economic Consulting Group, which concluded that “the cumulative effect of [PwC]’s methods … is to produce patently unreliable results,” all of which were in the tobacco industry’s favor.

In the insurance report, Klein noted that a footnote “gives away the game” when it notes, “Impact assumes payment of tax on high-value plans, full cost-shifting of cuts to public programs, and full passthrough of new industry taxes.” In other words, Klein says, the report assumes no behavioral changes in response to new policies.

Klein also noted that “buying better insurance will cost somewhat more than buying insurance that doesn’t cover anything. The vast majority of the people affected by this will be using subsidies, of course, but put that aside for a moment. This is part of the point of health-care reform: Insurers will no longer have the freedom to offer products that let an individual think his family his protected when the policy will do nothing of the sort. That may raise prices, in much the way that antibiotics cost more than herbal supplements, but it raises prices because it reduces the insurance industry’s ability to sell a deceptive and insufficient product.”

The good news, Klein said, is that putting out a report like this shows the insurance industry is getting scared. “After many months of quiet constructiveness, they’re launching a broadside on the week of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote. The White House, which had a pleasant meeting with the industry’s leadership last week, was shocked by the report, and so too was the Senate Finance Committee. The era of cooperation seems to be over, and they weren’t given much advance warning. But the report might have another impact, too: The evident anger and fear of the insurance industry might do a bit to reassure liberals that this plan is worth supporting, after all.”

McJoan noted at DailyKos.com (10/12) that insurance rates under the status quo have risen 119% over the last decade, according to the Commonwealth Fund, and are projected to double again in the next decade, if the status quo remains. By 2020, without reform, the Commonwealth Fund projects an average family policy to increase to $23,842.

ThinkProgress.org noted (10/12) that the PwC study estimated that the Baucus health care bill would cause the typical family policy to increase from the average $12,300 today to $21,300 in 2016, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that the plan would result in premiums averaging $14,400 for family policies in 2016.

INSURANCE WON’T COVER FAT BABY. As an example of the often-arbitrary nature of private insurance, a Colorado company has refused to insure a 4-month-old baby in Grand Junction, Colo., because he is too chubby. The insurers consider Alex Lange obese because he weighs 17 pounds and is 25 inches long, which puts him in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers like Rocky Mountain Health Plans don’t take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise, the Denver Post reported (10/10). “I could understand if we could control what he’s eating. But he’s 4 months old. He’s breast-feeding. We can’t put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill,” joked his frustrated father, Bernie Lange. “There is just something absurd about denying an infant.” The family was shopping for insurance after their previous carrier raised their rates by 40% after Alex was born. The health insurance reform legislation moving through Congress, over the almost unanimous opposition of the GOP, would end the practice of denying coverage based on “pre-existing conditions.”

WHY WE SPEND SO MUCH. Bob Somerby wondered at DailyHowler.com (10/8) why the media aren’t more interested in why the Netherlands — to name just one industrialized country with universal health coverage — still spends less than half the money that the US does. Kevin Drum of MotherJones.com noted (10/8) that we pay our doctors about 50% more than comparable countries; we pay more than twice as much for prescription drugs, despite the fact that we use less of them than most other countries; administration costs in the US are about seven times what most countries pay; and we perform 50% more diagnostic procedures than other countries and we pay as much as five times more per procedure. “Underlying all this is the largely private, profit-driven nature of American medicine, but regardless of how you feel about that, the main lesson here is how hard it would be to seriously bring these costs down,” Drum wrote. ”We can jabber all we want about incentives and greed and systemic waste, but the bottom line is that if we want to do anything more than nip around the edges, we’d have to pay doctors and nurses less, pay pharmaceutical companies less, pay insurance companies less (or get rid of them entirely), pay hospitals less, and pay device makers less. That’s a lot of very rich and powerful interests who will fight to the death to prevent any serious cost cutting, and it’s why Obama and the Democrats in Congress have largely chosen to buy them off instead.”

30 GOP SENS DEFEND GANG RAPE COVERUP. In 2005 Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. Instead of getting help from her supervisors, she was locked in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water or a bed and warned that if she left Iraq for medical treatment she’d be out of a job (and hers was not an isolated case). Jones was released only after she managed to get word to her father in Houston, who got a congressman to intercede on her behalf. But Jones was prevented from bringing charges against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration. ThinkProgress.org noted (10/7) that Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sponsored an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contract from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.” On the Senate floor, Franken said: “The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law … And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court. … The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) called the amendment a political attack on Halliburton, but Franken responded, “This amendment does not single out a single contractor. This amendment would defund any contractor that refuses to give a victim of rape their day in court.” Still, Sessions and 29 others — all men — joined in opposing Franken’s amendment, which passed 68-30. The rapist enablers were: Alexander (R-TN), Barrasso (R-WY), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Gregg (R-NH), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE), Kyl (R-AZ), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA) and Wicker (R-MS).

Appearing with Franken after the vote, an elated Jones expressed her deep appreciation. “It means the world to me,” she said of the amendment’s passage, MinnPost.com reported (10/6). “It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it.”

The Young Democrats of Louisiana sent out an email against Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) — the staunch social conservative who was implicated in a prostitution scandal — declaring that “we can only guess at his motivations for opposing legislation to crack down on rape,” TalkingPointsMemo.com noted (10/8).

‘KYOTO’ MOVES TOWARD EMISSIONS GOALS. While the conventional view is that the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 was a failure, as global emissions from fossil fuels have increased 28% since then, Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, noted (10/12) that the 38 nations that ratified the Kyoto agreement have reduced emissions 17% below 1990 levels. Much of that decline is due to the economic collapse in the former Soviet bloc, whose nations’ emissions have fallen 37%. But the European Union’s 15 member nations reduced emissions 4% through 2007 and are on a course to meet their Kyoto target to cut emissions 5.2% by 2012. On the other hand, the US, which rejected the treaty, has seen emissions increase 17% while China emissions have grown 153%. Global emissions have increased 37% since 1990. “Now, some Americans argue against national climate legislation and international treaties by pointing to Kyoto’s ‘failure,’” Chameides wrote, “but I find such an argument a little ironic — and a lot tautological — when one of the factors that undermined Kyoto was the ‘failure’ of the United States to ratify the treaty in the first place.”

POLL: 51% MADE TOUGH MEDICAL CHOICES LAST YEAR. A national poll found that 51% of Americans have had to make tough health choices in the past year, with 28% putting off a doctor visit because of cost, 25% unable to afford medical bills or medication and 22% putting off a medical procedure because of cost. The survey conducted for Consumers Union (9/17-20) found 28% said they had lost or experienced cutbacks in their health care coverage in the past year. The greatest concerns about health care expressed by respondents were a major financial loss or setback from medical cost due to an illness or accident (73%), not being able to afford health care in the future (73%), necessary care being denied or rationed by health insurance companies (73%), and the prospect of rising costs forcing them to choose between health care and other necessities (64%). Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, launched a TV ad calling upon Washington to reform America’s health care system. It was the first time in its 73-year history that the nonprofit organization has ever run a TV ad to weigh in on a policy issue. See consumersunion.org.

HEALTH CARE DEPENDS ON LOCATION. States that have adopted health care reforms provide better access to medical treatment and prevention and avoid costly hospital procedures better than states that simply rely on the free market system, the Commonwealth Fund reported. Residents of Vermont have the best healthcare in the country, the foundation said, according to Reuters (10/8). The small northern state, which embarked on a radical plan to provide all citizens with healthcare less than a decade ago, also leads the nation in “equity,” or making sure that people of lower income groups have healthcare. Hawaii and Iowa were tied for second on the scorecard. Neither state has a plan to reform health care, but Minnesota, which has created public-private collaborations on healthcare, ranks fourth, followed by Maine, which has also implemented sweeping reforms. Massachusetts — the Vermont neighbor that recently began a universal health insurance program — was seventh, followed in order by Connecticut, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Nebraska.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi has the worst health care, according to the scorecard. Oklahoma fares mildly better, followed by Louisiana and Arkansas, Nevada and Texas.

Since the start of the decade, the number of states with high uninsured rates for adults — which the report measured as 23% or higher — rose from two to nine. The number with rates of 14% or less dropped from 22 to 11. And from 2007 to 2009, health insurance coverage of adults aged 18 to 54 declined in 31 states.

Generally, the report found, states in the South, Southwest and lower Midwest have worse insurance rates and less access to good medical treatment. See commonwealthfund.org.

GOP HAS HIGH HOPES. Republicans are upbeat about their chances of regaining the House in 2010, saying voter unrest demonstrated at meetings this summer coupled with strong candidate recruitment have them highly optimistic about capturing 40 or more Democratic seats and resuming command of the House. They are talking confidently about knocking off such old bulls as Reps David R. Obey of Wisconsin and Ike Skelton of Missouri, chairmen of the Appropriations and Armed Services committees, Carl Hulse reported in the New York Times (10/10).

“In terms of candidate recruitment, fund-raising and issue development, we are far ahead of where we were at this point in 1993 — and you remember what happened in 1994,” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the conservative website Human Events. Sessions, of course, was referring to the election that swept Republicans into the House majority after four decades in minority exile.

But a Research 2000 poll for DailyKos.com showed that the congressional Republicans had only 22% favorable rating and 69% unfavorable, compared with 38%-56% favorable/unfavorable rating for Dems. Quinnipiac pegs support for Repubs at 25-64, Pew has support for Repubs at 24-60 and Gallup has Repubs 27-70.

“Those are not ratings that suggest Republicans are winning the battle of ideas,” Kos noted (10/13). Democrats have lost support as former supporters become increasingly disenchanted with the lack of progress, but Republicans aren’t making any gains, Kos added.

Mike Lux at OpenLeft.com (10/13) is less confident. “There is no reason for Democrats to panic, as demographics are still trending in our favor and the Republican brand is still in tatters, but the warning signs for my party are out there and should not be ignored. What Democrats need to be extremely well-focused-on is short-term deliverables for real people. On health care, on jobs, on banking legislation, on immigration reform, on climate legislation — on all of these major initiatives and more, they of course should be thinking about what’s best in the long term, but better damn well be focused on delivering real and tangible benefits to voters before the next election, or Democrats will suffer a bruising defeat in November 2010.”

‘ACORN STANDARD’ APPLIED TO DEFENSE CONTRACTORS. After Republicans seeking to punish ACORN got the House and Senate to approve a rule that if even a few employees of a government contractor are accused of activities that appear to be inappropriate, then the organization must lose eligibility for federal funding, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got the Senate to expand the rule to cover defense contractors, John Nichols noted at TheNation.com (10/5). While ACORN got around $53 mln over 15 years, and spent the money responsibly, Sanders noted that the three largest government contractors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, all have a history riddled with fraud and other illegal behavior. Combined, these companies have engaged in at least 109 instances of misconduct just since 1995, and have paid fees and settlements for this misconduct totaling $2.9 bln, according to the Project on Government Oversight. Sanders added “the kicker: Despite violating the law time after time after time; despite being fined time after time after time ... in 2007, their punishment was ... $77 bln in government contracts.”

Sanders won approval for an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would require the Secretary of Defense to calculate how much money it pays out each year to corporations that have committed fraud. (Unlike with ACORN, which was targeted for punishment on the basis of embarrassing actions portrayed in videos shot by critics of the organization.) The Sanders amendment would also require Pentagon officials to recommend penalties for contractors that repeatedly cheat the government out of hundreds of millions – and perhaps billions – of dollars.

INNOCENCE NO BAR TO TEXAS EXECUTION. Texas has long had a reckless attitude toward the death penalty, but the case of Cameron Todd Willingham is another stark illustration of the state’s indifference on matters of guilt and innocence. Just 88 minutes before the February 2004 execution of Willingham, who had been sentenced to die for a 1991 fire at his Corsicana home that killed his three children, a five-page report from arson expert Gerald Hurst that called into question the evidence that convicted Willingham was faxed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Hurst, an Austin-based consultant who holds a doctorate in chemistry from Cambridge University, said arson investigators made “major errors” and relied on discredited techniques akin to an “old wives tale” to convict Willingham. The governor’s office got the faxed report at 4:52 p.m., the Houston Chronicle reported (10/11). It’s unclear whether Perry read the fax, but a few minutes after 5 p.m. Willingham’s lawyer received word that the governor would not intervene. At 6:20 p.m., Willingham was administered a lethal dose of chemicals after declaring: “I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit.”

Another arson expert, Craig Beyler of Maryland, issued a 51-page report in August questioning the evidence in the Willingham case. Beyler found that the investigations presented at the trial “did not comport with either the modern standard of care … or the standard of care expressed by fire investigation texts and papers in the period 1980-1992.” He suggested the likely cause of the fire was a faulty electrical connection. The Willingham case got national attention when David Grann wrote about it in The New Yorker (9/7). Beyler was to present his report to the Texas Forensice Science Commission in a meeting set for 10/2, but two days before that meeting, Perry replaced the commission’s chairman, a defense lawyer, and two other members. The new chairman, a hardline prosecutor, promptly called off the hearing on the Willingham investigation.

Texas courts take a hard line against convicts on Death Row, holding that as long as they receive a “fair trial” — that is, one in which their lawyer kept breathing through the “guilty” verdict — it is very difficult to get appeals courts to consider later claims of innocence. Still, the Innocence Project of Texas noted that more wrongful convictions have been verified in Texas than any other state. At least 38 individuals have been exonerated by DNA testing — after spending years in prison — and several more have had their wrongful convictions overturned on other grounds. Nine have been released from Death Row. David Atwood of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has said that at least 11 prisoners executed by Texas may have been innocent, out of 441 executions since 1976 — far more than any other state. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is notoriously indifferent to post-conviction claims of innocence and the conservative bloc on the US Supreme Court has been trying to get out of the habeas corpus business.

Dave Mann recently reported in The Texas Observer on at least three cases of questionable arson convictions in Texas out of nearly 800 Texans serving time for arson-related crimes. Observer editor Bob Moser wrote (10/2), “If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Gov. Perry is unfit to make life-and-death decisions on behalf of the citizens of Texas. That’s one sad fact that surely has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

LOW-POWER FM BILL ADVANCES. The House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet (10/8) passed the Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147) by Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) that would allow for hundreds of new Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations in communities across the country. The bill, which has strong bipartisan support and over 80 co-sponsors in the House, passed the subcommittee 15-1 and moves to the full Commerce Committee, whose chairman is longtime LPFM supporter Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). See prometheusradio.org.

LIMBAUGH: STEELE NEEDS TO SHAPE UP. Rush Limbaugh, in an interview with NBC’s Today Show (10/12), stated that he is “not the leader of the Republican Party,” but that didn’t stop him from correcting Republican National Chairman Michael Steele “because he’s off message!” In March, Steele dismissed Limbaugh as an “entertainer” whose show was “incendiary” and “ugly,” only to apologize after Limbaugh sneered at Steele on his radio show. Limbaugh told NBC’s Jamie Gangel, “the reason I went after him is not because he said those things about me. It’s because he’s off-message! Michael Steele should be out there raising money and planning more ways to get people to vote for Republicans.” Also in the interview, ThinkProgress.org noted (10/12) Limbaugh is asked whether he was moved in any way by the election of the first black President. “Yeah, but I got over it pretty quickly,” said Limbaugh, who declared his desire to see Obama “fail” even before he was inaugurated. Limbaugh said he predicted Obama’s election would “exacerbate racial problems — and it has.”

BIRTHER LAWYER DINGED FOR $20,000. US District Judge Clay Land of Georgia (10/13) fined Orly Taitz, a California dentist and lawyer, $20,000 for misconduct in pursuing lawsuits demanding that President Obama prove his citizenship before deploying soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan and then accusing the judge of misconduct when he dismissed her motions. Land, an appointee of George W. Bush, in a 43-page order found that Taitz filed complaints and motions “without a reasonable basis for believing that they are supported by existing law or a modification or extension of existing law.” Her conduct was “willful and not merely negligent,” and “demonstrates bad faith on her part.” He also forwarded his ruling to the state bar in California, where Taitz is licensed to practice. Taitz told TalkingPointsMemo.com (10/13) she has no plans to pay the fine.

GOP ‘HERO’ WAS INDY WHO CONDEMNED RACIAL TACTICS. The Republican National Committee unveiled a new website that included a “white-washed history,” as Greg Sargent of The Plum Line put it (10/13), of Jackie Robinson’s relationship with the party. The RNC’s site claims Robinson, the first black to play in Major League Baseball, was a “great Republican” by pointing out that he campaigned for Richard Nixon for president in 1960 and supported New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign in 1964. But Sargent noted that Robinson was registered as an independent and he was appalled by what the Republican Party had become in 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the nomination over Rockefeller. In his autobiography he described his reaction to the that year’s GOP convention: “That convention was one of the most unforgettable and frightening experiences of my life. The hatred I saw was unique to me because it was hatred directed against a white man. It embodied a revulsion for all he stood for, including his enlightened attitude towards black people. A new breed of Republicans had taken over the GOP. As I watched this steamroller operation in San Francisco, I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”

STIMULUS STARTING TO LOOK GOOD TO GOP. Give Texas Republicans points for gall. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn and 19 Republican House members from Texas voted against the $819 bln Recovery Act in January. Both senators complained that they wanted to see more tax cuts rather than government spending. But lately the the two senators and 19 reps signed a letter asking the Obama administration to give Texas $3 bln in stimulus funds for NASA, which is based near Houston. Cornyn said that while the stimulus funding “that has already been spent [is] clearly not working, it is my hope that the administration will use a portion of the remaining, authorized, unspent stimulus dollars to safeguard our nation’s space program.”

Texas isn’t the only state showing this stimulus hypocrisy, ThinkProgress.org noted (10/6). Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) is criticizing Gov. Tim Kaine (D) for being “slow” to spend the stimulus money allocated for Virginia — even though if Wolf and his Republican colleagues would have had their way, there would be no extra money for the state at all. “We could use that money desperately,” Wolf told reporters. “We’re in a critical situation.”

GOP TAUNTS PELOSI. First the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a press release (10/6) calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “General Pelosi” and suggesting that Gen. Stanley McChrystal to “put her in her place” after she said it would be difficult to get the House to approve more troops for Afghanistan. Pelosi mocked the sexist rhetoric. “It’s really sad they really don’t understand how inappropriate that is,” she said. “I’m in my place — I’m the Speaker of the House, the first woman Speaker of the House, and I’m in my place because the House of Representatives voted me there. But that language is something I haven’t heard in decades.”

Then, on 10/13, as the Senate Finance Committee prepared to vote on the Baucus bill, someone at the NRCC posted a bizarre Tweet on their Twitter account linking to an altered three-minute section of the 2004 Hitler biopic *Der Untergang* from the conservative site Moonbattery — with a voice-over of the Adolf Hitler ranting about how only Nancy Pelosi shares his vision of health care reform. The NRCC described the video as “funny,” and encouraged folks to check it out.

Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (10/13) that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Jennifer Crider responded, “House Republicans have gone way too far. The NRCC’s despicable promotion of a video comparing Nancy Pelosi’s effort to reform health care to America to Adolf Hitler’s extermination of millions is a shocking new low that must be condemned.”

The NRCC later backpedaled, pulling the endorsement and conceding the video was “in poor taste” NRCC spokesman John Randall, “I don’t want anyone to think we’re comparing Democrats to Nazis and to Hitler.”

CAN OBAMA SURVIVE NOBEL SHAME? After the Nobel Committee surprised the world (10/9) by announcing that President Obama would receive the Nobel Peace Prize, praising his role in promoting diplomacy and cooperation to resolve international conflicts and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com asked, tongue in cheek, “Can Obama survive the shame of global popularity?”

Mohamed Elbaradei, the director-general of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, who received the prize in 2005, said in a statement that he was “absolutely delighted. ... I cannot think of anyone today more deserving of this honor,” he said. “In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself.”

Another laureate, President Shimon Peres of Israel, congratulated Obama, saying: “Very few leaders if at all were able to change the mood of the entire world in such a short while with such a profound impact. You provided the entire humanity with fresh hope, with intellectual determination, and a feeling that there is a lord in heaven and believers on earth.”

Lech Walesa, the 1983 peace prize winner and Poland’s president from 1990 to 1995, told reporters in Warsaw: “Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast — he hasn’t had the time to do anything yet.” But he added, “For the time being Obama’s just making proposals. But sometimes the Nobel Committee awards the prize to encourage responsible action ... Let’s give Obama a chance.”

Michael Steele reflexively joined the Taliban and Hamas in criticizing the award to Obama. “It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain — President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.”

The Democratic National Committee issued an unusually hard-hitting counterattack: “Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize — an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride — unless of course you are the Republican Party. The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It’s no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore - it’s an embarrassing label to claim.”

Plenty of people on the left wondered about the Nobel Peace Prize going to Obama when he was carrying on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and on and off in Pakistan. Howard Zinn was “dismayed,” but then he recalled that Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger had all received Nobel Peace Prizes and realized, “The Nobel Committee is famous for its superficial estimates and for its susceptibility to rhetoric and empty gestures, while ignoring blatant violations of world peace.”

The increasingly right-wing Washington Post editorial page expressed puzzlement (10/10) that the Nobel Prize went to Obama when it could have gone to the late Iranian protester Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot by thugs defending the Islamic theocracy, “as the avatar of a democratic movement in Iran.” In fact, as James Fallows noted (10/10) at his Atlantic blog, Nobel prizes are only for living people. No posthumous awards. (Sorry Gandhi.) Matthew Yglesias noted at ThinkProgress.org, “The sloppiness, combined with the decision to editorialize on the subject of who should win only after the prize had already been handed out, makes the whole thing look like a rather slipshod slam on the President rather than a serious idea about the Nobel Prize.”

Right-wing heads were exploding around the blogosphere, but one of the most unhinged reaction to the Nobel prize from the “mainstream media” came from Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter who in her Wall Street Journal column (10/10) called the Obama award “wicked and ignorant.”

Ross Douthat, the New York Times’s resident winger, wrote (10/12) that Obama made a “big mistake” when he said he would accept the Nobel prize. Douthat wrote that it will be “offensive when Obama takes the stage in Oslo this November instead of Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s heroic opposition leader.” But Ezra Klein noted at WashingtonPost.com (10/12), “By that same logic, it seems a bit offensive for Douthat to spend his column arguing that Obama should give back the Nobel rather than devoting his column to the struggles of Tsvangirai, who has never before been mentioned in one of Douthat’s op-eds. That’s all the more true given that Douthat chooses the subject of his columns, while Obama does not choose the recipients of the Nobel.” Also, Obama will pick up the prize in Oslo on 12/10, not November.

Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and the author of *Engaging the Muslim World*, wrote at JuanCole.com (10/10), “Barack Obama was given the prize because he is a game changer. Obama has dedicated himself to reducing and ultimately scrapping the nuclear arsenals that threaten the world with nuclear winter or a destruction of the ozone layer; either event would be catastrophic for human beings’ existence on the planet. Obama has already made a substantial change in relations between the US and the Muslim world. Two years ago we were talking about whether Cheney could convince Americans to go to war on Iran. Now Washington is engaging in direct talks with Tehran that have eased tensions.”

Glenn Smith commented at DogCanyon.org (10/11), “The part of me that can appreciate a healthy cavalcade of nincompoops wishes Roman Polanski had won the thing.” He added, “We haven’t yet achieved world peace. That means all the laureates — 96 individuals and 20 organizations — were either unaccomplished or simple failures, at least by the lights of Obama’s critics.

“In his will, Alfred Nobel committed part of his estate for a prize “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.” Any successor to George W. Bush was going to have a head start in a fraternity-of-nations contest. The purchase of a nice globe for the Oval Office and the placing of a few inter-hemispheric phone calls seems like world peace in comparison to Dick Cheney’s international crime spree.

“Fact is, Obama deserves this award, and I believe he also accepts it on behalf of the American people who had the good sense in 2008 to repudiate Bush’s global belligerence and domestic neglect. Congratulations, America.”

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2009


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