Therefore we’ve begun a project to monitor the 2014 congressional primaries. As the primary season begins in March and sprawls over the summer months into September, we hope to gain insights into the future of the Democratic Party and into the future of the Republican Party. We are interested in not just the horse race but in the conversation within each party. Since incumbent members of Congress pay as much – and often more - attention to their primary constituency as they do to the general election, we want to know what shapes the worldviews of Congress. To do this we’ve enlisted two seasoned, award winning national political reporters; Walter Shapiro and Jill Lawrence. Shapiro, a veteran journalist who has covered the last nine presidential campaigns, is currently a lecturer at Yale University and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. Lawrence, a writer and analyst who has covered every presidential campaign since 1988, is launching a column with Creators Syndicate this spring. As the primary season wears on throughout the summer, Shapiro, Lawrence and the scholars here in Governance Studies at Brookings will be examining the Congressional primaries and asking what they mean for the future of each political party and for American politics.Jason Millman/Wonkblog:
The Obama administration on Monday announced that 5 million people had signed up for Obamacare exchange plans. Hours earlier, a self-employed Web developer from Michigan had already predicted the milestone would be hit on Monday.And who are the uninsured? Kaiser Family Foundation will walk you through it here.
Meet Charles Gaba: He’s not a professional statistician, heath care expert or a political operative. He’s a self-described “numbers geek” who just wants to know how the new health care law is actually doing.
He’s been tracking the most up-to-date enrollment information and offering his own projections on his blog, ACAsignups.net. On the same day he predicted the 5 million signups milestone, he accurately predicted California would hit the 1 million mark. For policy wonks and health care journalists who have clamored for more information about Obamacare enrollment, Gaba’s blog has become a must-read.
His next big prediction: The final signup tally will hit 6.22 million.
More politics and policy below the fold.
The National Rifle Association should not be allowed to hold up the nomination of a new surgeon general, editors of one of the world’s top medical journals said Wednesday in an unusually strongly worded commentary.David Wood has an amazing series starting on "moral injury" due to war. Read here, listen to an interview he did with Julie Mason here.
The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine accused the NRA of political blackmail and said members of Congress had given in to the lobby group’s pressure.
Hearings on the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy are on hold for now after 10 Democrats in the Senate said they would probably vote against his nomination. The White House says it’s re-thinking its strategy for the nomination, although a spokesman told NBC News that President Barack Obama wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
It’s all due to pressure from the NRA, the three editors –- Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, Dr. Gregory Curfman and Stephen Morrissey -- wrote.
The NRA opposes Murthy, who is on the staff of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, because he’s spoken out for mandatory gun safety training and an assault weapons ban -– changes that many Americans, include some gun-rights supporters -– also approve of. Murthy has said his focus as surgeon general would be on obesity, not guns.
“Still, 10 Senate Democrats are apparently prepared to vote against Murthy's confirmation because of his personal views on firearms — a demonstration of just how much political power our legislators have ceded to the NRA,” the three editors wrote.
“The critical question is this: Should a special-interest organization like the NRA have veto power over the appointment of the nation's top doctor? The very idea is unacceptable,” they added.
There is a long silence after Nick finishes the story. He’s lived with it for more than three years and the telling still catches in his throat. Eventually, he sighs. “He was just a kid. But I’m sorry, I’m trying not to get shot and I don’t want any of my brothers getting hurt, so when you are put in that kind of situation … it’s shitty that you have to, like … shoot him.Reuters:
“You know it’s wrong. But … you have no choice.”
Lawmakers and members of the public on Wednesday called for the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to resign in the wake of a traffic scandal and an investigation into his law firm's relationship with the bistate agency that oversees the region's many bridges, tunnels and airports.Sheila Bapat:
At a monthly Port Authority board meeting on Wednesday, local residents and several legislators said David Samson's leadership as chairman has been marred by last September's politically-motivated lane closings at the George Washington Bridge as well as an ongoing probe into possible conflicts of interests between his private law firm and official Port Authority dealings.
Late last week, President Obama issued an executive order expanding current overtime protections for U.S. workers. The move is critical for many in the U.S. who work more than 40 hours a week in sectors that pay little, but are nevertheless currently “exempt” from overtime pay.WSJ:
Given how current overtime regulations disproportionately affect women’s earnings, this executive order — and other recent wage policies — is one of the most feminist positions Obama has taken. The administration has also made it a priority to raise the minimum wage and enforce existing labor laws. Women earn significantly less than men across the board, and they are also working in fields in which labor laws tend to be violated more frequently. Thus the Obama administration’s focus on improving labor protections is of deep significance with respect to both recognizing these gender disparities and undertaking efforts to transform them.
A proposed law to allow Connecticut physicians to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives has opened a debate about the nature of sin, what constitutes an invasion of privacy, even the definition of suicide.Leon Weiseltier on the new 538 and Nate Silver:
The bill has struck a chord with people such as Sara Myers, 59 years old, of Kent, Conn., who said she supported the concept even before she was diagnosed three years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. She said she was unsure whether she would ever opt to end her life but would like the right to seek a doctor's help if she decided to do so.
"The emotional comfort of knowing that if I got to the point where I didn't want to go on—that I could do it in a loving and peaceful way and not put anybody in legal jeopardy—would just let me rest a whole lot easier," Ms. Myers told lawmakers on Monday at a legislative hearing on the bill.
The Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Office, which represents the state's Roman Catholic bishops, and many in the hospice industry oppose the bill.
The quality of opinion journalism in America is a matter of concern for opinion journalists, too. Opinion, after all, is easy. In a democratic society, moreover, opinion is holy. “It’s just my opinion”: with those magical words, which are designed to change the subject, Americans regularly seek sanctuary from intellectual pressure on their utterances. Their opinions do not deserve such immunity, of course, and neither do the opinions of columnists. The state of American punditry is not strong. A lot of it is lazy, tendentious, and lost to style. But Silver’s outburst is nonetheless a slander. There are all sorts of pundits just as there are all sorts of quants. The editorial pages of The Washington Post in particular are regularly filled with analytical and empirical seriousness. But Silver wishes to impugn not only the quality of opinion journalism, he wishes to impugn also its legitimacy. The new technology, which produces numbers the way plants produce oxygen, has inspired a new positivism, and he is one of its princes. He dignifies only facts. He honors only investigative journalism, explanatory journalism, and data journalism. He does not take a side, except the side of no side. He does not recognize the calling of, or grasp the need for, public reason; or rather, he cannot conceive of public reason except as an exercise in statistical analysis and data visualization. He is the hedgehog who knows only one big thing. And his thing may not be as big as he thinks it is.More criticism summarized here. You knew that was coming after Nate's opening broadside (which also sets up the fox and hedgehog stuff). Me, I think we need a bit more time to see how it develops. I'm optimistic with people like Harry Enten and Carl Bialik, but the opening week was, well, a bit soft. And in the end, having three high profile ventures (led by Nate Silver, Glenn Greenwald and Ezra Klein) on the scene trying to do things differently is likely to do more good than harm, even if they don't all succeed equally in what they set out to do.
Then again, that's easy for me to say. I'm not threatened by their existence.
Is there really a link between vaccine and autism, cellphones and cancer, the HIV virus and the CIA? Almost half of Americans believe the answer is yes for at least one of the many medical conspiracy theories that have circulated in recent years. And the attitudes and behavior of those conspiracists toward standard medical advice reflect that mistrust, says a study out this week.
A pair of University of Chicago social scientists set out to determine the extent of "medical conspiracism" among the U.S. public and conducted a nationally representative online survey. They gauged knowledge of and beliefs about six widely discussed medical conspiracy theories and explored how belief in those theories influenced individuals' behavior when it came to matters of health.
Their results appeared as a letter published online this week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine...
The authors of the letter, J. Eric Oliver and Thomas Weed, said the conspiracy believers spanned the political spectrum and tended to espouse conspiracy theories outside of medicine as well. But they found that the more conspiracy theories a person endorsed, the more likely he or she was to take vitamins and herbal supplements and buy mostly organic food, and the less likely he or she was to get an annual physical, wear sunscreen, visit a dentist or get a flu shot.