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Daily Digest: Health Care's Unwelcome House Guests?

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, December 17 2008

  • Pfizer Would Like to Be Invited Over: Yeah, we probably should have seen this coming from a mile away. The Obama transition launched a series of house parties and community events to be held between now and the first of the year, focused on gathering together Americans interested in health care reform. And you know you, as it turns out, has a rather keen interest in the topic? Health care industry figures, from insurers like Aetna to drug companies like Pfizer and Merck. Politico's Robert Pear reports that they're organizing their own events and planning to attend others. Well, they're Americans too, right? That's what happens when you throw the doors open and invite all comers.

  • Grading Open for Questions on a Curve: Al Giordano is one tough grader. Giordano, proprietor of The Field blog, gives the presidential transition team a big ol' F for its Open for Questions effort, dinging them for delivering "gimmickry, sloganeering, curt and almost snide 'responses.'" But when we made a similar judgment in yesterday's Digest, activist Jon Pincus made a smart point in our comments: responses to OFQ might not only come in the bland policy answers the team delivered. The tens of thousands of questions might put a bug in the presidential-elect ear.

  • MoveOn Charts Course: The liberal online organization MoveOn is often criticized for being a top-down effort that taps in to our collective desire to exert minimal effort and still stay politically engaged. But the group has put out a call to members to participate in a week-long agenda-setting process. More than 77,000 "goals" poured in. By Friday, said a staffer in an email, "MoveOn will have a new slate of priorities to guide our work together in '09!" The top community-submitted ideas in contention aren't particularly surprising -- universal health care, economic recovery, a green economy, the war in Iraq, schools and higher education, campaign reform, "holding the Bush Administration accountable," LGBT rights, and civil liberties. But will be interesting to note is which three are, in the end, the very most important to participating MoveOn-ers.

  • The Anemic Response to Obama's Correspondence: The flood of emails coming out of Obamaland in recent weeks threatens to turn off supporters, suggests Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel. Beyond some general poo-pooing of the president-elect's hawking of commemorative calendars and branded fuzzy hats, Vogel has hard numbers that suggest that even Obama's biggest fans are experiencing donor fatigue or are wary of what one begins to suspect may be a constant campaign. Obama's fundraising operation pulled in just $1.2 million in the first 18 days after November 4th. Those numbers are striking in contrast, as Obama was in the closing days of the campaign, pulling in about a million bucks a day.

  • Inside the Commerce-plex: The web presence of the sprawling, labyrinthine Commerce Department is actually humming along quite nicely, reports the National Journal Online's David Herbert. If his Senate confirmation goes will, Bill Richardson will inherit a tech-savvy department that is already doing good work online, from an Internet-based census scheduled for 2020 to its innovative Peer-to-Patent project that taps into the wisdom of citizen experts. One department figure brands Commerce's online methods to "a Google-like approach to information search and dissemination."

  • This is What Public Diplomacy Looks Like: Twittering diplomat Colleen Graffy is pushing back against critics like the American Foreign Policy Council's Ilan Berman who say that tweeting from Foggy Bottom is a case study in "How Not to Win Hearts and Minds." As a demonstration of public diplomacy in action, Graffy jumped into Berman's comments to defend Twitter, saying "[t]he lesson of the Cold War was that winning hearts and minds meant communicating in a way that 'connected' to people, whether that was through film or jazz or jeans." Also on the federal Twitter front, Tweet Congress is a useful directory of who on the Hill is actively pecking out the 140 these days.

  • From Drupal to the White House: Dave Cohn, perhaps best known for being the force behind the community-funded journalism experiment, has posted "Drupal Nation: Software to Power the Left," his final project from Columbia's Journalism School. The paper traces the thread of open-source software and its advocates from the '04 Dean campaign to the 2008 Obama victory. A quick read, it's an interesting look at how code is not only law, as Larry Lessig frames it, but also a powerful driven of modern American political history.

  • Big Coal Talks Amongst Itself: Over on their blog, the Natural Resources Defense Council is making much of a video showing a provocative speech by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Director and coal-world figure Don Blankenship at a recent Tug Valley Mining Institute industry event. In it, Blankenship pulls back the curtain on his political adversaries, saying of "greeniacs" like Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, "They're all crazy." NRDC's Pete Altman writes gleefully that the video contains "too much condensed craziness to absorb in just one sitting" and so he breaks it up into bite-sized YouTube bits.

  • Senator Kerrey Enters the Fray: Politics can be a brutal clash of interests, egos, and adversaries -- campus politics, that is. Former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey reacted to a recent vote of no confidence in his leadership at the head of New York City's New School the only sensible way: he promptly began blogging. His brand-new blog has, though, turned into a forum for his critics to voice their many frustrations. Writes "fashion student": "[E]verything, EVERYTHING about this school is really messed up." While it might not be politics in the traditional sense, this battle between angry faculty, empowered students, and a stubborn leader may well prove to be a fascinating case study in power dynamics in the modern age.

In Case You Missed It...

Nancy Scola reports that Project Houdini, the Obama campaign's project to disappear voters from their contact lists on election day, broke down in some critical swing states -- bringing turnout prediction along with it.