Excitement Over Apollo 11 Lasts 40 Years

"AirTalk" went On the Road Wednesday evening to the Jet Propulsion Lab in La Canada-Flintridge for a program devoted to the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. To our surprise, we had a packed house and had to turn listeners away who wanted to attend. It's a clear testament to how strongly people feel about the first Moon landing and how interested they are on the future of human space flight.

We had excellent guests who argued passionately for what could be accomplished in space with just a bit more funding. Not surprisingly, our audience at JPL was supportive, but I'd like to hear from listners like you. Do you support increased NASA funding specifically to return to the Moon and go beyond?

Monday morning at 11, we'll broadcast Wednesday night's On the Road program.

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Healthcare Reform By the Numbers

For the 24 years I've hosted "AirTalk," complex public policy issues have been our bread-and-butter discussion. I'm coming to the conclusion that getting a handle on the finances of our healthcare system, and comparing them to a modified model that hasn't been tried before, is about as challenging as any topic we've done. I'm not even talking about the politics of all the stakeholders involved. I'm just looking at the numbers.

On Wednesday morning, we held over Yale health policy expert Ted Marmor so that he could continue with his analysis of the Democrats' bills in Congress. He kept raising one important financial challenge after another, and was critical of how those who follow just a political philosophy in trying to solve the problems of rising costs and covering the uninsured are ignoring critical parts of the system.

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Competing Health Overhauls Head for a Showdown

President Obama’s push to get healthcare insurance bills through committees in Congress is getting results in the House, but several Senators are skeptical that their body can pass legislation by August.

The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to pass the Democrats’ plan, which includes higher income taxes, a public health insurance plan, and mandates for individuals and businesses. It’s already being criticized by fiscally conservative Democrats, as well as Republicans. To reach the full House, the plan will also have to be approved by a couple of other committees.

Wednesday on AirTalk, Southland Congressmen Xavier Becerra and John Campbell will debate the Democratic plan. We’ll also compare it to the emerging Baucus/Grassley bill in the Senate. The Senate version is being billed as the bipartisan plan, but it’s unclear how much GOP support it will garner.

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The Challenge of Talking About Secret Programs

The recent disclosure by CIA Director Leon Panetta that he had cancelled a secret Agency program begun after the 9/11 attacks has raised another important question about the level of Congressional oversight of government covert operations. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney had allegedly directed the CIA not to disclose specifics about the plan. Congressional Intelligence committee leaders were reportedly briefed on the fact that the program existed, but weren’t told much beyond that. Mr. Panetta reportedly told members of Congress that there was nothing illegal about the covert program. However, Democrats and some Republicans expressed unhappiness about not getting more info. This begs the question of why they didn’t ask for more details after getting the initial briefing.

It also raises the challenge of talking about whether more details of a program should have been disclosed when we don’t even know what the program was. Perhaps more information will come out in the weeks ahead. Unless that happens, we’re left to speculate on why the program is potentially so controversial. It seems to have had something to do with capturing or killing Al Qaeda leaders, but it’s not clear what about it differs from current programs designed to also do that.

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Is the Stimulus Stimulating Enough?

On Friday morning's program we asked whether the five-month-old $787-billion stimulus plan was far enough along that it could be fairly critiqued. Many conservatives have been arguing that the plan is ineffective for anything other than increasing longterm Federal debt, while a number of liberal commentators have been arguing that a bigger plan is needed.

It's hard to imagine Congress going for another round of stimulus, given that only a small portion of the current plan has been spent. Regardless, we shouldn't be surprised that the stimulus is being panned from opposite directions. I'm sure we'll see the same thing once the economy recovers -- liberals will argue that big government spending was one of the keys, conservatives will say it's a testament to the resilience of capitalism and claim that a recovery was delayed by anti-business policies.

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