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

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

That was a pretty great Super Bowl fourth quarter and one play at the end of the half, but I had too much chili and I'm tired, so let's bust this out before I retire to my bedchamber.

• I hope you had some sort of sushi or shrimp cocktail at your Super Bowl party, because the oceans are absorbing so much carbon dioxide that their acidity is threatening the survival of most marine life as well as coral reefs. Which is a cheery thought. The problem with being so far down the road with climate change is that mitigating the big problem may lead to overlooking serious problems like this.

• President Obama sent a letter to Iran's President, seeking to assure them that regime change is no longer the stated goal of the United States and that engagement and dialogue would be paramount. For Iran's part, Ahmadinejad (surely a proxy for the Ayatollah Khamenei) is calling for concrete changes in policy and not just rhetoric, in particular an end to support for Israel. So there's a bit of a chasm there, but hey, at least everyone's talking.

• So predictably as could be, the Ethiopians left Somalia and the Islamists ran right into the capital and took it over. The "government," meeting in Djibouti, invited a group of moderate Islamists into the Parliament and elected one of them President, which actually is their first intelligent move in years. The Islamists have the support of the people and are really the only faction that can bring order on this lawless nation. A unity government would obviously be the most preferable, though there are breakaway elements of the Islamic Courts Union who will continue to fight. So no conclusion here, although we are where we should have been in 2006 with a lot of lost lives in the balance.

• Hey, remember when Mikhail Saakashvili was the brave warrior for democracy and we were all Georgians now? Funny story, turns out that all the opposition parties are demanding that Saakashvili step down, saying that "he has no capacity to overcome the crisis and that he is responsible for all these mistakes in Georgia and he must resign." That's the thing about democracy promotion; sometimes those countries will actually practice it and throw out your hand-picked leaders.

• In Zimbabwe, it looked as if a power-sharing deal would come undone after being imposed by regional leaders, but at the end of the week the opposition party had agreed to a unity government with Robert Mugabe. This is all incumbent on Mugabe holding up to his promises, of course, and it doesn't seem like the provision to share control of the police will work, either. Meanwhile, the country now effectively has no currency as locals are allowed to use foreign notes, so even if the new government is stable, that's a far cry from being successful.

• The stories about the spike in suicides in the Army this week have been heartbreaking, and no matter how much the Army protests, I'm inclined to believe them. Suicide prevention is one of those areas that kind of falls out of the control of both the Army and the VA. There are psychologically wounded soldiers out there without normal channels to get help, and the answer is either to expand the VA's mission or fund services that can provide assistance to these returning vets. It's tragic.

• Is net neutrality slowly being abandoned as part of the stimulus package? Let's hope not, but it's one of those things that's going to have to be fought for at every single step. The telecoms are extremely powerful.

• I think Mitch McConnell is trying to force out Jim Bunning, and considering that Jim Bunning is a few days away from wandering the halls of Congress in his pajamas looking for peanut butter, he's right to do so. Dan Mongiardo would slay him in a one-on-one matchup, so if Republicans don't find a replacement and pressure Bunning to step down, they'll be staring at another loss.

• Really, this Wired story about location-aware technology and the implications is creepy. The fact that nobody thought through embedding geodata onto iPhone photos, and how someone's personal information and address could be available as a result, is shocking.

• I actually quite liked when Obama chided Washington schools for closing because of a little ice. It was a joke, but I think it had a serious point. The fact is that ice, which has been a part of American winters for, I don't know, at least a decade, right, shouldn't be able to stifle productivity and shut down an entire region. We have terrible infrastructure problems when a drop of snow and ice can turn off power to millions.

• I for one am very happy to see Samantha Power get a job in the NSC. The "monster" comment aside, Power is a brilliant foreign policy expert who really comes at the issues from a wholly different perspective than establishment Washington, so hopefully she'll have the ear of the President and the Secretary of State.

• A couple long must-reads when you have the time: Errol Morris and some White House photographers deconstruct some of the iconic photos of the Bush era (it's really, really fascinating, especially if you like semiotics), and Lesley Stahl has a long interview with Rachel Maddow that is pretty revealing.

• I really never need to hear about Rahm Emanuel and James Carville's daily gossip calls or this Alfalfa Club dinner establishment circle jerk, where the Village gets together and jokes about torture and pats themselves on the back about how warm and generous they are. Obama's comments are actually a little amusing, especially the Robert E. Lee line, which has to do with the FOUNDING of the Alfalfa Club on the anniversary of Lee's birthday, which should tell you about all you need to know.

• The Onion outdid themselves with this one: "Obama Disappointed Cabinet Failed To Understand His Reference To 'Savage Sword Of Conan' #24." You can absolutely hear Hillary Clinton saying her line, "we will soon be an invincible team of Supermen and Wonder Women working to save America," one of those corny political jokes, and the follow-up by Obama, "Wonder Woman? That's not even Marvel... who are you people?" by Obama is classic. Peals of laughter, peals.

• I didn't get that far past the headline: Blowfish testicles poison seven in Japanese restaurant. I think the problem is they were grilled, when everyone knows they're better steamed.

• Finally, this early report about the Internet and newspapers is pretty awesome.