Saturday, 4 April 2009

Obama Saves the Day - Conducts Actual Diplomacy

At the NATO summit in Strasbourg, one of the major items on the agenda was the appointment of a new NATA Secretary General. All the countries present were in agreement except for one: Turkey. The group could have easily ignored Turkey's objections, but Obama decided to try something different:

Obama told his fellow NATO leaders that he believed Rasmussen was the right man for the job, but that everyone needs to be convinced. Mr. Obama told the leaders that all countries need to be able voice their concerns.

With that, Turkish President Abdullah Gul voiced his concerns. This enabled Gul to avoid “feeling like a decision was already precooked," the source says. “This was critical because like other countries, if you’re put in a corner then you recede. If you feel like people are forcing you into a decision that has already been made you’ll rebel.”

Adds the source: “It’s important for small counties to feel that they have a voice. Obama gave this to Turkey.”

Rasmussen, Gul and Obama then had a private conversation.

At Saturday morning’s NATO session – a discussion largely about Afghanistan – the pressing need to finalize a decision about who would be the next secretary general was apparent. Following the morning session there were a round of private phone from leaders to Gul.

And Obama, Rasmussen and Gul had another conversation, for about an hour, according to Obama's national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.), and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

When the three men returned to the main session, Jones told reporters, they had smiles on their faces, indicating that a deal of some sort had been clinched.

“This was a different style than what the leader are used to from a U.S. President," the non-Obama administration source said. "Obama was instrumental in making this happen. Obama eventually clenched the decision with his leadership – and because he listened to what people said.”

Please note: the outcome here was the same - the US got the NATO leader that they wanted. The crucial difference here was that instead of an angry ally, Turkey is now an ally who feels respected. It cost us nothing and it earned us some valuable good will that we will need later on (Turkey is the fulcrum of a lot of our foreign poicy needs and concerns).

This is what he promised us.

Obama Speaks at Nato Summit

Expresses his thanks to NATO allies for increased assistance in Afghanistan.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Thanks Republicans - That Was the Laugh I Needed

Somehow or other it looks like I have ended up on the RNC's e-mail list. And I'm glad of it, because if Michael Steele didn't occassionally write to me I would miss out on some GENIUS good fun. But the funniest thing I've seen all year is the new survey from the RNC.

They tell me that they are interested in learning more about where they have gone wrong in the past couple elections and how they can get back on track. So far, so sensible. Here's how the phrase the question:

1. Why did Republicans lose the White House and Congressional seats in the 2008 elections? Check all that apply.

Iraq War
Poor Economy
Government's Response to Katrina
Republican Scandals
Republicans acted like Democrats
President Bush's policies
Liberal Media

Oh, don't get too stressed about it, guys - I'm sure it was just the liberal media.

2. What are the key strengths and beliefs of the Republican Party that we can build on? Check all that apply.

Social Issues
Family Values
Free Markets
National Security
Fiscal Discipline
Limited Government
Personal Responsibility

Forget that this party isn't exactly noteworthy for it's ethical integrity of late, or that I think their claim to personal responsibility and fiscal discipline is... dubious to say the least. I think it's the Pro-Life thing I would go with - after all, nothing says "restored electoral majority" like a position that 63% of Americans oppose.

But it GETS EVEN BETTER! Then they go on to ask us about a whole bunch of issues and our views on them.

Here's the very first question they ask:

1. A recent national poll reported that nearly 25% of Americans want the government to pass more socialism. Do you agree or disagree?


Hmmm... gee, I don't know? How socialist do I want to be? Is Che Guevera Socialist enough, or should I be shooting higher?

Check out this double whammy:

5. Should Republicans unite to block new federal government bureaucracy and red tape that will crush future economic growth?


6. Should Republicans in Congress oppose the new wasteful government spending programs passed in the recent "stimulus" bill by the Pelosi-Reid Democrats designed to "spread the wealth"?


Gotta love the scare quotes.

8. Should we do everything we can to block Democrats who are trying to shut down conservative talk radio with the so-called "fairness doctrine"?


NO ONE is trying to do this. It's not on our agenda. I promise you, we evil liberals are not organising to... Oh never mind, what's the point?

9. Should we resist Barack Obama's proposal to spend billions of federal taxpayer dollars to pay "volunteers" who perform his chosen tasks?


I actually have no idea what this is referring to. Some sort of dig at ACORN? Just stumped on this one - anyone else have an idea?

The foreign policy section goes to a whole new level of "Huh?" - I won't copy the whole thing in cause I'd be here all day, but check out this one:

8. Even though Barack Obama pledged to meet personally with the likes of Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should Republicans continue to focus on supporting democratic movements in oppressive states like Cuba, Venezuela and Iran?


No. Personally, I think we should oppose Democratic reform because I hear Raul Castro serves good rum at HIS meetings.

Alert: Please note presence of Sarcasm in above comment.


When Britain Met the Obamas...

Well Barack and Michelle have come... and gone. This is a country where Barack is lavishly adored, and he made a good impression on this visit. But I think he did surprise a few folks by being, as one commentator put it "more of the Professor". In his press conferences he was substantive but he chose his words carefully and with slow precision. In social occasions he flashed his bright smile and the Brits warmed to him - but he had a lot on his plate in this trip and winning over the masses wasn't nearly so important as winning over the men and women representing the 19 other countries of the G20.

So the task of dazzling and delighting the hearts of the people fell, as it often does to the First Lady. Fortunately, Michelle managed it in style.

Michelle Obama is not an elected public official, but she's married to one who has also prevailed over considerable adversity, only just starting the really hard part too. So we can be impressed by a performance which combines discipline with evident emotion. "I do hugs," she is reported as saying to the girls, who promptly behaved as if she were Whitney Houston.

The BBC reports:

She has attracted as much interest and column inches as her husband on this London trip; creating a buzz with her dazzling outfits, her own schedule of events and her own fanbase.

Columnist Mariella Frostrup was also suitably impressed:

She arrived resplendent in green and turquoise, accepting the attendant fuss with good humour and a discernible slice of healthy cynicism. Distributing hugs and handshakes wherever she moved, she looked like a woman trained in the art of being centre of attention.

When I asked if she'd been prepared for the hysterical reception they had received everywhere, she replied with a girlish grin that nobody could be prepared for such an experience.

Yet conversations such as the one the day before - when she attempted to excite the Obama girls with details of her visit to the Queen, and they preferred to tell mum about their April Fool's antics at home - kept life in perspective. Her mission, she said, was to make sure her daughters, who will still be young when they depart the White House, are equipped for life beyond the bubble.

My thinking is this: Michelle is a smart, down to earth, successful woman in her own right and a naturally affectionate human being. These are great qualities in public figure. I've met her and found her effortlessly charming. Although the question of whether the charm really is "effortless" is an interesting one.

Her now-famous meeting with the Queen (engaging in what appears to be the first mutual and consensual public hug in Elizabeth II's entire reign - another Obama first!) reminded me that one of America's tactical disadvantages on the international stage is the absence of a Head of State separate from the head of Government. Please note - I'm NOT advocating for an American monarchy (I'm not even crazy about having one here) but for the recognition that there is a difference between the role of a Head of State in generating national and international goodwill and performing ceremonial duties, and that of a government leader, who sometimes needs to negotiate, disagree, possibly even argue with the other world leaders. This cannot comfortably be done by someone in the role of Head of State - who needs to be above and beyond politics.

That division was very much on display this week as Barack was doing hard core international negotiation and Michelle was visiting Schools and Hospitals. We are lucky enough to have a first lady who happens to be good at it - but I'm not sure it's right for us to expect that from our Presidential spouses, male or female. What do you think?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Stylin' at the Palace

The fabulous Jill Adams sends along this gorgeous image from yesterdays Pro-Obama demo:

Jill designed the groovy Obama tube sign t-shirt herself. For more of her style goodness, check out her site.

Michelle Knocks 'Em Dead at Islington School

Mrs Obama was close to tears as she addressed the excited crowd at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington, north London.

She told them: "We are counting on every single one of you to be the best that you can be."

Mrs Obama is in the UK with husband Barack for the G20 summit.

Her visit to the North London school was greeted with much excitement by pupils and she sat smiling, riveted, as Year 11 pupil Grace Hollowell and the school's junior choir performed the Whitney Houston hit Believe.

G20 Leaders Announce Agreement on Global Reform

The most significant parts of the agreement comprises 6 broad principles that each of the 20 countries signed up to:

* Bankers' pay and bonuses will be subject to stricter controls
* A new Financial Stability Board will be set up to work with the IMF to ensure co-operation across borders and provide an early warning mechanism for the financial system
* There will be greater regulation of hedge funds and credit ratings agencies
* A common approach to cleaning up banks' toxic assets has been agreed
* The world's poorest countries will receive $100bn extra aid
* G20 countries are already implementing the biggest economic stimulus "the world has ever seen" - an injection of $5tn by the end of next year.

In particular, it strikes me as noteworthy that the group agreed to set aside more money for International Development aid - basically, support for the world's poorest nations - than anyone had expected.

In addition, tougher regulations frameworks were agreed for financial sector that will hopefully help to prevent such crises in the future.

I feel extremely grateful for the presence of the protestors during this event - without them there many people back home in the US might have mistaken this agreement to put a sharp curb on executive compensation, restrict the financial markets and redistribute wealth from the world's richest countries to it's poorest countries for an extremely progressive approach. Fortunately, the protesters were there to remind us that the world's leaders failed to abolish capitalism or put an end to money, so we can now see that these proposals are middle of the road pragmatic solutions.

Help Me Barack Obama. You're My Only Hope...

For my readers back home, just a quick reminder amidst all this G20 hullabaloo - here in the UK Gordon Brown is a politician on the ropes. He's seriously behind in national polls and he'll need to call an election in a little over the year. He desperately needs to restore confidence in his government before then if he wants to stay in power, and this is something that Barack - who is far more popular over here than the Prime Minister - is in a position to be very helpful with.

That's why Gordon was beaming with such evident (and uncharacteristic) pleasure yesterday any time the camera caught him looking at the Prez.

Thanks Kathy!

Check out Kathy Flake's excellent blog entry from yesterday's prObama demonstration outside Downing Street:

I met some interesting people there, and we shared our stories. A dog reporter was there, filming a piece on the search for the Obama's dog. A couple of women from Trinidad and Cape Verde were standing next to me, filled with hope and pride in the new American president. As the woman from Trinidad showed me photos of her extended family, many of them living in America, I realized how America is a global concept. The world's citizens all want to claim America as theirs, and our new president as their world leader.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Jonathan Freedland is Full of.... Baloney.

In his Guardian column about the G20 summit, Jonathan Freedland critiques President Obama's performance at this morning's press conference, saying:

Brown was relaxed and fluent at the podium, while it was Obama who gave the more faltering, sometimes long-winded performance. Obama appeared to be stumped twice, first by a question from the BBC's Nick Robinson – which invited the president to wonder why France and Germany blame the US for the recession – and next by a deceptively simple inquiry from a member of the travelling press corps: does the president advise ordinary Americans to spend or save? One brought audible hesitation; the other a bit of a ramble as Obama visibly tried to work out what to say.

OK, well fair enough - I thought - maybe our guy was just having an off day. It happens.

But then I went to the source. Here was the Q&A referring to France and Germany:

Q Prime Minister, thank you very much, indeed. Nick Robinson, BBC News. A question for you both, if I may. The Prime Minister has repeatedly blamed the United States of America for causing this crisis. France and Germany blame both Britain and America for causing this crisis. Who is right? And isn't the debate about that at the heart of the debate about what to do now?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I would say that if you look at the sources of this crisis, the United States certainly has some accounting to do with respect to a regulatory system that was inadequate to the massive changes that had taken place in the global financial system.

I think what is also true is that here in Great Britain, in continental Europe, around the world, we were seeing the same mismatch between the regulatory regimes that were in place and the highly integrated global capital markets that had emerged.

So at this point, I'm less interested in identifying blame than fixing the problem. And I think we've taken some very aggressive steps in the United States to do so -- not just responding to the immediate crisis, ensuring that banks are adequately capitalized, dealing with the enormous drop-off in demand and the contraction that's been taking place, but more importantly for the long term, making sure that we've got a set of regulations that are up to the task.

That strikes me as a good answer. It's gracious to the leaders he's going to be meeting with, avoiding a needless confrontation, it's constructive and informative. I mean, what was he looking for?

And as for the pause - yes, there was one. But it didn't sound to me like the President didn't know what to say, more that he was choosing his words carefully. See for yourself. In the video above, Nick Robinson's question comes at about 1 minute 55 seconds in.

So - am I right? Let me know in comments if you think I'm just being a shameless Kool Aid drinker - I'm tough I can take it.

Shorter Obama: More that unites us than divides us

At his joint press conference today with Gordon Brown, Obama expressed his faith and confidence that the world leaders would be able to agree a deal to boost the world's economy.

Mr Obama told the press conference in the Foreign Office’s Locarno Room that America was willing to lead the world out of crisis, but could not do it on its own.

With France and Germany making it publicly clear they are not yet ready to sign up to the final communique, Mr Obama was at his smoothest — and it was a hugely smooth performance — when playing down the divisions.

“I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems,” he said.

“The separation between the various parties has been vastly over-stated.”

This is a very Obama theme:

The Smile...

on the face of this police officer, just says it all, for me.

Deep Thought...

So the protesters are apparently wearing signs that say things like:

"Balls to the Banks", "Abolish Money" and "All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose".

So what I'm wondering is - if the world's leaders woke up this morning in an agreeable mood, realised the errors of their fascist ways, and decided to live by these credos, would these protestors be able to support themselves in the new barter economy? Are they farmers and shepherds?

I'd Go to Michelle's Dinner...

Tonight the G20 leaders will be treated to a menu of british classic foods prepared by none other than the fabulous Jamie Oliver.

But, much as I would LOVE to be at the table with President Obama, I must admit that given the chance I might actually be tempted to skip it in favour of the Spouses dinner.

At the dinner for spouses, the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, will be seated between the Harry Potter author JK Rowling and Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes.

And we're off...

Not Gonna Be Easy...

The Onion headline in the week after the election was "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job". And they may have underestimated. Is the US Presidency now the hardest job in the world?

Certainly, Nicholas Sarkozy doesn't seem intent on making it any easier at this week's G20 summit:

Gordon Brown's hopes for a show of unity at the G20 took an unwelcome knock today with a declaration from President Sarkozy of France that he would not sign up to any "false compromises" at tomorrow's summit in London.

President Obama Would Want You To...

I just want to send a hearty welcome to all my new blog readers, who have no doubt popped in to see how they can support the President on the occassion of his first trip to the UK.

I can tell you one thing for would be an awfully nice gesture - if you're an American Abroad, why not join Democrats Abroad UK? We do events and activities in support of President Obama all year round, and we can help you register and vote and keep you up to date on election news in your state and region.

You might even want to make a little contribution to Democrats Abroad in support of his work.

How about this donating $31.03 in honor of the President's arrival here on our shores on the 31st of March. Go on, you know you want to.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Is Obama Coming to Walthamstow to See ME?

Umm... I'm guessing, no. But I got all excited when I saw this:

A MASSIVE security lock-down brought Walthamstow to a standstill on Sunday when a mysterious procession of diplomatic vehicles stopped to re-fuel at a petrol station.

Hundreds of police and security personnel closed the Texaco garage on Forest Road and surrounding area at 2pm while the motorcade filled up, as dozens of stunned residents rushed from their homes to watch.

Welcome Barack Event - Update

For all those of you eagerly following developments related to the President's visit - the Brits for Barack group have made some minor adjustments to the rally location:

Dear All

Further to yesterday’s email I am writing to provide more specific details of the meet points following helpful advice from the Metropolitan Police.

MEET-UP ONE – Queen Victoria Monument, North Footway, Canada Gate at the top of the Mall at 16.00hrs

We are now meeting on the north side not the south side of the Mall area at the above addresses as detailed here:

The President will arrive at the Garden Entrance of the Palace 17.15. I suggest we still congregate from 16.00.

MEET-UP TWO – Meet at the north side of Parliament Square on the Junction between the Whitehall and Great George Street at 18.00hrs

The President Obama will then travel to Downing Street for a meeting at 19.30. Downing Street and Whitehall are closed areas but the police recommend that we wait in this location:

Please try and get there for 18.00 hrs.

It should be fun and I’m sure President Obama will be delighted to see our support.

Best wishes

Guess Who's Coming to London?

All of Britain is gearing up in excitement to welcome President Obama to his G20 summit here. Lots of buzz going on, so stay tuned to the blog and I'll keep posting things as I hear of them. To start with, check out the fabulous Brits for Barack Facebook group and their planned rallies on Wednesday afternoon.

Here's the message they just sent out:

Dear All

President Obama will be arriving in the UK tomorrow. Brits for Barack are keen to arrange a welcome rally to demonstrate our support for America’s new leader and have arranged two meet-ups for Wednesday, 1st April. Please bring welcome signs, wear t-shirts and badges, etc.

The first meet up will take place on the south side of the Mall at the far western corner, close to the statue outside the front gate of Buckingham Palace. The President will arrive at the Garden Entrance of the Palace 17.15. I suggest people congregate from 16.00.

Following that President Obama will then travel to Downing Street for a meeting at 19.30. We plan to meet outside the gates of Downing Street from 18.00 onwards.

We expect to be joined by our friends from Democrats Abroad.

Hope to see you on Wednesday


ALSO: Don't miss our regular Democrats Abroad Speakeasy on Wednesday night at the Duke of York pub - please RSVP on the Meet Up group so we have an idea how many people are coming (I'm sorry to say, the President won't be there, but we can raise a glass to him nonetheless!):

This is a great, low key and informal way to meet other Obama supporters here in London, and talk about US politics. This time we are expecting one or two media outlets to be joining us, so please:

1) Be on your best behaviour for our guests and
2) Wear something Obama

Monday, 30 March 2009

And speaking of the Budget...

Congress is scheduled to vote on it this Thursday....

Top 10 Items in Obama's Budget that Give Me Hope

So I've been twittering and blogging about just 10 of the many things in Obama's budget that make me hopeful for the future. We're hearing a lot of scary things about the world right now, but it's not all doom and gloom. This President is committed to working with Congress to not just ride out the current crisis but build for the future. By investing in tomorrow, we not only create jobs and stimulate the economy here and now, we also create the infrastructure that is going to put us back on a growth trajectory and keep us strong in the world.

But don't take my word for it - go yourself to and have a look through the proposals. There's a lot there to get excited about. So please:

1) Learn more about the budget.
2) Share this information - feel free to forward my list, or start lists of your own. Send it to your friends and family, especially to those who have doubts about the President's agenda.
3) Call your member of Congress and/or Senator and let them know why the President's budget gives you hope. Ask them to vote for it and if they are already voting for it, ask them to work hard for it.

Here's my list one more time:

10) 1.3 Billion for rural broadband. US is way behind in broadband takeup, which creates jobs.
9) Improved funding for mental illness treatment in the military. People are hurting in all kinds of ways.
8) College Completion Incentive Fund. Nearly half of students don't graduate, but they still have the debt.
7) Energy innovation for housing. Reduced bills, a reinvigorated economy and a cleaner environment!
6) Supertrains!
5) More FBI agents to target financial fraud. Let's invest to prosecute and deter the current crime wave.
4) Home Nurses Visitation Program. Proven to prevent abuse & create better futures for the poorest infants.
3) Protecting Wildlife from Climate Change. A third of Great Lakes birds could be extinct without our help.
2) Health Information Technology. Pay less, get more, save lives. Win win win.
1) More diplomats = peace, prosperity.

Drumroll please.... Number 1) More Diplomats

As you will no doubt remember, throughout the Bush administration the center of gravity in US foreign relations was shifted significantly away from the State Department and towards the Department of Defence. Routine operations that would normally be conducted by diplomats were handed instead to (then Defence Secretary) Donald Rumsfeld and his team. Since the mission of the Defence Department is to prepare for and lead wars, and the mission of the State Department is to work towards peaceful resolution of conflicts and to ensure successful and prosperous interactions between our nation and others, the tenor of US policy under this system was unsurprising. Put simply - more wars, less peace.

But it’s more complicated (and worse) than that suggests. Defence is understandably interested mainly in those nations and regions where we currently have troops stationed, where we are currently fighting wars, or where we expect to fight wars in future. But State is responsible for considering also America’s economic relationships, alliance building with trusted allies, and for longer term relationships with States that are not currently in conflict with but may be in future. For instance, the Defence Department has minimal interest in sub Saharan Africa, but the State Department by necessity does keep embassies there and monitors the situation closely. Defence is active in Europe in terms of maintaining our bases there, but State also works to foster economic cooperation and trade. Neither department is doing anything wrong by working in this way – the DOD is making a good tactical use of its resources with these priorities. But by shifting the balance of power away from State and towards Defence, American foreign policy has shifted in the same direction – leading to uneccesarily tense relationships with our allies and a distinct lack of action in problem areas such as Darfur, or on global issues such as Climate Change.

From early on in the campaign, Obama has been signalling a desire to return to a foreign policy that prioritises diplomacy over military power – not because there isn’t a place for American military power but because, as we have learned to our great cost, it can’t solve our problems on its own. Military power is just one tool in America’s arsenal, and we’ve been tying our hands behind our back refusing to use the other tools available to us – economic and cultural influence, strategic alliances, interest-based dialog and negotiation.

Regional commanders oversee policy in their regions because no one else can. They have staffs of thousands, forces numbering in the tens of thousands and vast financial resources. These generals tower over civilians who share responsibility for securing American interests abroad: ambassadors, regional desk officers and assistant secretaries of state.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates recognizes the imbalance and has called for increasing the State Department’s budget.

International diplomacy is the very definition of a highly skilled business. One experienced staffer argues:

Beyond the baseline numbers, we don’t train our diplomats in anything except languages. In the course of a military career, a top officer spends about seven years being educated for the expanded responsibilities their subsequent jobs entail –- that’s in addition to the training for their current job that is part and parcel of their routine work. A comparably senior diplomat will have had less than a year. That our diplomats are as admirably capable as they are is a tribute to their individual excellence.

The State Department didn’t teach them to swim; they threw them in the water and promoted the ones who didn’t drown. Requiring virtuoso individuals to make the system work in an average way is a sub-optimal (and often disastrous) way to structure an institution. Bureaucracies are supposed to support and enable better performance, not inhibit it. I've worked in both Defense and State, and the difference money makes on the culture just screams out at you.

In this budget, President Obama is asking for money to significantly increase the size of the diplomatic corps and the staff of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department will significantly expand the scope of its operations to help us become the global leader America should always have been. With this money we can recruit and train people with language skills, cultural knowledge, economic savvy and strong diplomatic ability to lead our efforts around the world.

And for those of us who are Americans living abroad – the value is even greater. Because the State Department provides embassy and consular services that not only build relationships with our host countries, but also provide essential government services to us directly. If you are an American living abroad and you need to renew your passport, get tax advice, register a birth or death or claim the protection of your government in times of unrest, it is the embassy that will provide these services. In fact, one of the things Obama talked to us about during his campaign was his hope to conduct a census of Americans abroad in order to better serve the needs of our community.

So in short, with the money set aside in this budget for beefing up staffing in the State Department and USAID, we can:

· Prevent wars in hostile regions
· Strengthen our economy through international partnerships
· Help avoid destabilisation in volatile areas
· Offer vital service to US citizens abroad
· Restore American leadership in the global community.

I’d say that’s money well spent.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Number 2) Health Information Technology

The US healthcare system is spectacularly, breathtakingly inefficient. We spend far more than other countries on health, 40% of the country do not have adequate access to health care, and millions don't have coverage at all.

In short, we are paying a lot and getting less for it, compared with other countries.

A lot of this is a factor of the inherent inefficiencies within our system itself - healthcare is a hodgepodge of private and public, state run and federal run, HMO and fee-for service. Basically, has been cobbled together with duct tape and band-aids for a lot of years now, and has become an administrative nightmare. Nearly 30% of all healthcare costs in the US are now administrative.

Bringing down the overall cost of healthcare is an important goal of President Obama's proposed reforms, but so is shifting the overall expenditure away from adminisatrative costs and into health delivery - the less money we spend on paperwork, the more we can spend on drugs, preventative care, and physicians' time.

That's where the Health Information Technology comes in. By computerising patient records under a consistent system, not only can we save time and administrative burden, but we can dramatically reduce the potential for mistakes - no more confusion from doctors' messy handwriting. No more second guessing a patient's medical history in case of emergency. If you are brought into the hospital unconscious, your emergency physician, will be able to immediately find out who your primary care physician is and, with appropriate safeguards, can get a full set of your records - including allergies and chronic conditions.

$19 Billion was set aside in the Stimulus plan to incentivise the use of Health Information Technology, coupled with the appropriate security measures and privacy safeguards, to protect patient health and reduce inefficiency. Obama is building on these efforts in the budget to expedite this development. The sooner we get these development in place, the more lives we can save - not just through the elimination of direct medical errors, but also through reallocating our health care dollars away from administive costs and into actual, ya know, HEALTH CARE.
Money well spent.