links for 2009-03-06

  • President Obama’s kicking off his health care reform today in the worst possible way: with a mischaracterization of data.

    “The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds," Obama said at the opening of his White House forum on health care reform. The problem: That claim, based on a 2001 survey, is simply unsupportable.

    The figure comes from a 2005 Harvard University study saying that 54 percent of bankruptcies in 2001 were caused by health expenses. We reviewed it internally and knocked it down at the time; an academic reviewer did the same in 2006. Recalculating Harvard’s own data, he came up with a far lower figure – 17 percent.
    Misstates is a kind word.

  • Israel is seriously considering taking unilateral military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a report by top US political figures and experts released Wednesday.
    (tags: Iran Israel)
  • Russia is working to develop anti-satellite weapons to match efforts by other nations, a deputy defense minister was quoted as saying Thursday.

    Gen. Valentin Popovkin said Russia continues to oppose a space arms race but will respond to moves made by other countries, according to Russian news reports.

    "We can't sit back and quietly watch others doing that, such work is being conducted in Russia," Popovkin was quoted as saying.

    Russia already has some "basic, key elements" of such weapons, but refused to elaborate, Popovkin said.

    Popovkin, who previously was the chief of Russian military Space Forces, reportedly made the statement at a news conference in response to a question about U.S. and Chinese tests of anti-satellite weapons.

  • Senate Democratic leaders are still coming up short as they work furiously behind the scenes to gather up 60 votes to pass a $410 billion spending bill that funds the government through September.

    Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is working the phones, calling Senate Appropriations Committee Republicans to try to secure support from about six of them. At this point, he has only three solid "yes" votes from committee members Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., along with Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who is not on the committee.

    Concern is high enough that the leadership team canceled a weekly background briefing with reporters in order to shore up the vote.

    Among the targeted committee Republicans: Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Bob Bennett, R-Utah, Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark, and Kit Bond, R-Mo.

  • His family said he never should have been on the stand.

    But it was in the middle of David Paradiso's testimony in his own murder trial that the Stockton man leapt from the witness stand and attacked the judge – seconds before being shot to death by the Lodi police detective who built the case against him.

    The attack occurred during a brief disturbance when Paradiso's mother, Debra, was removed from the courtroom after shouting that her son should never have been asked to testify. Paradiso, 29, had just told the court that he stabbed his 20-year-old girlfriend in the neck in 2006 " 'cause she deserved to die," according to observers.

  • I’m out of the business of predicting with confidence what the California Supreme Court will do based on its oral arguments. So I’ll predict without confidence that: (1) the court will hold that Proposition 8 was a valid amendment, but (2) will also hold that the 18,000 same-sex marriages entered between June and November continue to be recognized and valid in California.
  • Although a great deal of research has examined the effects of objectification on women’s self-perceptions and behavior, empirical research has yet to address how objectifying a woman affects the way she is perceived by others. We hypothesize that focusing on a woman’s appearance will promote reduced perceptions of competence, and also, by virtue of construing the women as an “object,” perceptions of the woman as less human. We found initial experimental evidence for these hypotheses as a function of objectifying two targets – Sarah Palin and Angelina Jolie. In addition, focusing on Palin’s appearance reduced intentions to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket (prior to the 2008 U.S. Presidential election). We discuss these findings in the context of the election and the objectification of women.
    (tags: sarah_palin)
  • In a Sept. 4, 2008 column, just after Sarah Palin accepted the Republican nomination for vice-president, Will Wilkinson wrote admiringly of her “sexual power,” adding: “I think she is a tremendously sexy woman. How this will affect the race, I have no idea, but it’s just got to.”

    New research suggests the Cato Institute research fellow was right. The Alaska governor’s attractiveness may indeed have affected the race – by making voters less likely to support the GOP ticket.

    (tags: sarah_palin)