I was really astonished to read that Sanjay Gupta is the Pres.-elect's pick for Surgeon General. Well now his credentials don't look that bad, Besides functioning as CNN's health expert, he apparently also practices at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, and is also an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine. It's his CNN commentaries that gives me pause. That said I think Paul Krugman got it just right. After describing Gupta's OK formal credentials he writes:
I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.
Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. ,,, appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.
Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe yesterday. The immediate cause is a dispute between the Ukrainians and Gazprom. The Guardian gives a useful summary of the situation in which the Europeans are caught in the proverbial middle by the dispute. Actually they are at the end point of the pipes, which pass through the Ukraine..
Initially the Russians did not stop the flow of natural gas to Europe when it cut off the spigot on the Ukraine; however they now say that Ukrainians have diverted that gas to their own use, sharply reducing the flow to Europe. While the immediate issue is money that the Russians say is owed to them, etc. the politic context is the threat of the Ukraine being allowed to join NATO.
I just listened to an interesting discussion of the situation by listening to a panel discussion on the Diane Rehm show.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I found these statistics on the Our Future newletter today.
The US private sector shed 693,000 jobs in December, according to a closely watched survey of business employment. The monthly ADP Employer Services survey, which tracks private non-farm payroll employment, was much worse than economists expected and a surprising increase from the 476,000 jobs lost in November. The decline was the worst in the history of the survey, which began reporting in 2001. If the results are matched by the official government labour report, due on Friday, it would be the biggest employment drop since the 1975 recession. The services sector was hit the hardest, shedding 473,000 jobs in December, followed by the goods-producing sector which lost 220,000 jobs and manufacturing which lost 120,000.
A number of liberal commentators are worrying that Obama may compromise too much with the Repbulican caucus in congress. Here's what Robert Borosage wrote today on Our Future:
President-elect Barack Obama is calling for "swift and bold" action on his "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" to stop the hemorrhaging of the economy. He also wants to change the way Washington does business, to "turn the page" on the petty partisanship of the last decades. He's said to want "substantial Republican votes" for the plan. Politico reports he's looking for as many as 80 votes in the Senate, requiring that more than twenty Republicans climb on board. He's not only invited congressional Republicans to offer their ideas, he is building tax breaks into his plan that Republicans say would make it easier to support. (For updated reporting on this debate over the recovery package, see our Economy For All news page.)
Now Obama has proven his political brilliance time and time again, so he has earned the benefit of any doubt. But, frankly, this strikes me as a really dubious idea—both in terms of policy and politics.
In policy terms, the economy needs exactly what Obama calls for—swift and bold action. But inviting Republicans into the discussions insures only one thing: delay. Their leaders, Sen. Mitch McConnell and the perpetually tanned Rep. John Boehner, have already scorned the need for dispatch, with Boehner calling for "public hearings in the appropriate committees." Delay will simply embolden the lobbyists swarming to get their special interest built into the plan. Obama has a better chance getting a sound bill passed quickly than opening it up to the feeding frenzy that is the normal legislative process.