As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

For a Sunday this was an unusually busy news day, but I spent most of it watching my local sports franchise advance to the next round of the playoffs (Iggles!) and the gloriously demented Hamlet 2. So I'll have to get to the news of a more breaking variety tomorrow. As for the week that was:

• The Treasury Department can't keep track of the bailout money. Giving away $700 billion is so dang hard! You don't expect them to actually know where it's going, do you? TPM Muckraker has more of the "hilarious but sad" variety, including Treasury's responses to some questions from Elizabeth Warren that are so awful they cut-and-pasted them throughout the document. If that's not a case of senioritis...

• Things are still fairly shitty in Iraq - that attacks are down and that the cities are suddenly safe does not logically follow. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, thousands took to the streets to demonstrate against Israel and the United States. The same thing has happened, all the way up to the ministerial level, in Iraq. Hearts and minds, folks.

• We do not have a working FEC, and the bipartisan nature of the agency almost assures that they will protect their party's interests above the laws they are meant to uphold. There is no actual enforcement of election law in the United States. Wait until the Republicans get more comfortable with that.

• If you're feeling a little plump after the holidays and looking for a good puke, I can recommend this hagiographic mess from the AP about Bush's personality (I think the reporter who wrote this wrote all the lines in "Top Gun," too), and this bit of treacle from Josh Bolten and Stephen Hadley, telling us about the "real" Bush. If you like your oral histories with a pinch more reality, you can try this fascinating piece of journalism from Vanity Fair. I was going to write a much longer piece about all of these stories, but I can't get myself worked up about someone so irrelevant as George W. Bush. Everything has been said. Nobody likes him. I will say that Lawrence Wilkerson calling him a "Sarah Palin-like President" made me laugh, because I don't know who it's a bigger insult about, Palin or Bush.

• Air Tran has now apologized to the 9 Muslim passengers for booting them off one of their flights for no reason other than a couple freaked-out white teenagers overhearing them making small talk. Yeah, that apology for profiling ought to do it. This story makes me mental.

• Terry McAuliffe is in the 2009 Virginia Governor's race, on a bold platform of... raising more money than anybody else in the race. Apparently in Virginia there are NO contribution limits. Can that possibly be true? My only hope is that McAuliffe wastes every penny of that money on really bad advertising and brain-dead consultant fees, and somebody with something resembling an agenda wins the primary.

• This New York Times article about how Chinese investment led to the need for bubble creation and, eventually, the mortgage-backed securities business, is somewhat interesting, but more so for the correction that someone in the Chinese consulate clearly forced on the editors:

The headline on a front-page article on Friday, on the role in the housing bubble and consumption binge in the United States played by investment from China, could have been misunderstood. The article described how the United States has been tolerating a huge trade deficit with China while Chinese authorities have invested huge sums in American government securities from savings partly created by the inflow of American dollars. “Dollar Shift: Chinese Pockets Filled as Americans’ Emptied” meant to describe the complications of that situation; it did not mean to imply that China has profited from the weakness of the American economy.

"We are exceedingly sorry to our paymasters honored Chinese friends, and we will never mention them in an even possibly negative light again."

• If this article is correct we could see almost half the country of Zimbabwe starve in the next several months, while their ruler stands mute. In fact, he contributed to the failed harvest and collapse of the once-thriving agricultural system. If anyone has lost the protections of sovereignty, it's Robert Mugabe.

• Elsewhere in Africa, Islamic insurgents have reacted to Ethiopia's pullout of Somalia by taking over the police stations in the beginnings of what will likely be a speedy return to power. The real concern is that the Islamist factions will soon turn on each other, leading to violence and chaos. This was inevitable after the US-backed Ethiopian invasion overthrew the only coalition that brought even a measure of stability to the country in 15 years of virtual anarchy. If anything, it's more dangerous now as a result.

• Remember Vicki Iseman? She has sued the New York Times for a February story that intimated a possible relationship with John McCain, or rather that McCain staffers were concerned about a possible relationship. The story makes no claims to certainty, is entirely couched in what sources thought about Iseman and Maverick, and so this lawsuit seems completely frivolous and doomed to failure. She'll probably settle out of court and make a few million.

• This week, more textile quotas expired, among the last protecting American jobs in an industry which has gone from boom to bust over the last 40 years. You would probably have lots of trouble outfitting yourself from head to toe in American clothes these days, and for this son of a millworker, I find it tragic. Textiles was never a high-paying job for the producers, but it beat flipping burgers. Companies here can compete with the lower wages, but not the enormous subsidies that countries like China give to their home businesses. They're selling the finished product for less than the price of the yarn. I believe in fair trade, and that's not it.

• One policy that President-elect Obama can absolutely impact in a positive way, and one he has shown an interest in changing, is our ridiculous embargo with Cuba, which is not in the best interests of either country. The change in power on the island and here at home presents an opportunity - let's hope both sides walk through the door.

• Josh Marshall's Golden Dukes awards always make for fun family entertainment. Relive the year in political stupidity, corruption and chutzpah with a look at the winners. In other year-end lists, Juan Cole's Top 10 Good News Stories in the Muslim World is worth reading.

• Thousands of shoes mysteriously were dumped on a Miami expressway this week. Let that be an early warning to Jeb Bush. There are MORE where they came from.

• And finally, we left our New Year's party early enough to see some of Kathy Griffin with Anderson Cooper on CNN, and while I'm not Griffin's biggest fan, it was a riot, a glorious train wreck. I kept waiting for her to out AC 360. All New Year's Eves should be that mismatched and wonderfully wrong.