Since questions continually arise on my health care postings, I will make a couple of points here that do not directly relate to the news coverage.
First, health care costs have posed a problem everywhere, but nowhere do they pose as much of a problem as in the United States. If we look at the OECD data, in 2003 (the most recent year available) the United States spent 15.0 percent of its GDP on health care. The next three countries ranked by expenditure as a share of GDP are Switzerland, Germany, and Iceland at 11.5 percent, 11.1 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively. Canada clocks in at 9.9 percent of GDP, Sweden at 9.4 percent, and the United Kingdom at just 7.7 percent.
THE UNCONCERNED AMERICAN. Most Supreme and Enlightened Overlord Mikewonders if the NSA program's weirdly high poll numbers point to a populace "still very, very scared of another terrorist attack," and willing to do, or sacrifice, just about anything to stop it. I'd go in the opposite direction: This seems to me a populace not terribly worried about the government peeking at their phone logs, and willing to sacrifice whatever abstract privacy rights such a program violates in order to possibly prevent an attack.
Also, those of you who missed the launch party for David Sirota�s new book "Hostile Takeover" may be interested in watching the event here. The American Prospect co-hosted the event with the AFL-CIO, and among the speakers was the Prospect�s Harold Meyerson.
PUNCH HARDER, DON'T RUN. Obviously, the public's initial response to the latest from the NSA hasn't been the outrage I would have hoped for, but nonetheless I think Democrats desperately need to ignore this implicit advice from Mark Blumenthal:
THE WASHINGTON POST'S POLL IS FLAWED. Let me get the fun part out of the way first. Here's an answer to Matt's question about the identity of Specialist (whose criticism, which has on occasion targeted yours truly, is indeed valuable and well-argued sometimes). "Specialist" is the code name for a secret team of a dozen White House interns targeting liberal blogs who have been chained to their desks in the basement of the West Wing and who suffer regular whippings at the hands of Tony Snow.
IS THE NSA PROGRAM ILLEGAL? COULD IT BE CRIMINAL, TOO? Is the NSA's newly-revealed program to collect the phone records of millions of Americans illegal? Experts are expressing different opinions this morning. But Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, thinks it's clearly illegal -- and she says it may even be criminal, too.
I just got off the phone with her. And I'm going to try -- and probably fail -- to accurately boil down what she said into something real, real simple.
WHEN PSYCHOTICS ATTACK. Giving a speech at a Library of Congress lecture yesterday, former senator Alan Simpson was "shocked to read that House Republicans wouldn't pass a mental-health bill because it had Democratic sponsors. 'You've got to have rocks for brains to do that,' the Wyoming Republican complained. 'We never had that kind of thing. We just didn't do that to each other.'" It's not the rocks for brains that bother me so much as the extra headstones. America views treatment for mental illness as a luxury commodity, obtainable for the rich, unnecessary for the poor.
WHAT�S THIS ABOUT? Like any lib, I was somewhat surprised by that Washington Postpoll this morning finding that 63 percent of Americans approve of the NSA surveillance program (and when people were asked how they�d feel if their own calls were being monitored, approval went up by 3 percent!).
WHO IS SPECIALIST? I have to say that I'm growing concerned about the rapid pace with which frequent TAPPED commenter and detractor Specialist manages to put up comments on this blog. What person could have the requisite stamina? Is it possible that the NSA is running some kind of massive blog-trolling program with hundreds of operatives -- or automated computer routines -- unleashed upon the progressive blogosphere to contest our arguments? The American people want to know.
PRIVACY FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE. Many props to the Washington Post who led off their front-page, top-'o'-the-paper story on the NSA scandal with this bolded quote:
The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all of our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaeda and their known affiliates.