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

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Rest of The Week In Review

Somehow, I get stuck with a lot of loose ends at the end of the week. Things you MUST know my perspective about! So...

• Word has it that the President will reveal his Afghanistan strategy this week. He's been laying the groundwork for scaling back the ultimate goals in Afghanistan for weeks, hopefully somewhere along the lines of Les Gelb's op-ed, which recognizes that we can contain the extremist forces without having to build a shiny new democracy. Very little of Gelb's recommendations suggest the need for additional troops - in fact, he makes it pretty clear that a policy of escalation and expansion will prove dangerous. Alex Thurston has some very worthy additional thoughts at The Seminal.

• We're obviously going to see some changes in financial regulations, which is already starting at the tip of the spear - the SEC is looking to better review whistleblower complaints. However, they are underfunded, which is a tragedy of this financial crisis: at precisely the time when we need the up-front capital to implement new policies, we don't have the money to do it. This is true of Freddie Mac as well, making it hard to use them as an engine to buy up troubled mortgages.

• Munthadar al-Zeidi, the infamous shoe thrower, got three years in prison from a judge in Iraq this week. This has not stopped him from becoming an idol for young women in the country. He's the Fitty Cent of Baghdad. By the time he gets out, that legend's just going to grow. "I actually threw 9 shoes! And a cummerbund!"

• Good news on combating climate change this week, as the EPA proposed a rule that would force industry to measure their greenhouse gas emissions. This is just a prelude to capping them, really. Fantastic. And while I really like the Administration using a big chunk of the money gained from a cap and trade system to rebate consumers, Donna Edwards is not wrong that building green infrastructure with that money would be a good use of it as well. I can see lots of debates on those margins about what to do once the system is implemented, but there's no question that it's vitally needed.

• One really satisfying trend in the progressive movement is the recognition that putting pressure on those who call themselves Democrats is the next natural step in the process. We're seeing that with the ACORN and MoveOn campaign against House Dems who voted against cram-down, and even the letter by a broad coalition saying that Congress must forego PAYGO rules to provide the kind of up-front health care investment needed to fashion long-term cost savings. But even more significant is how we're building and funding our own movement internally to make it the force that can carry out these projects. The Kos Fellowships are an important part of this movement, and well worth starting a recurring donation to help fund.

• Conservatives are never going to stop trying to artificially influence elections. The right-leaning Supreme Court weakened pieces of the Voting Rights Act this week. And now Texas is the latest state to find Republicans pushing voter suppression laws that chase a phantom problem, will do very little to make elections safer and has the potential of suppressing minority and poor voters.

• Some positive signs from the Obama Administration, among the wreckage: tougher standards for trade deals, with a premium on fairness for both sides; a good meeting with Syria in the first round of diplomatic talks; a potential ban on cluster bombs, which frankly ought to be mandated tomorrow; a drug czar focused on treatment instead of jail (and dropping that out of a cabinet-level position to suggest a cooling in the War on Drugs); an end to the privatization of the IRS, which cost more than it collected; and Michelle Obama emphasizing healthy eating and healthy living, which can hopefully spark a trend.

• And then of course, there's bad news, much of it global: a possible return of The Troubles in Northern Ireland; the continued repression and "cultural extinction" of Tibet; such frightening violence in Mexico that the President is considering putting troops on the border. It's still a tragic world.

• As we hear Dana Perino today try to give Bush credit for a one-week uptick in the market after months and months of downturns, consider what Karl Rove said at the beginning of the week, before the rally: "Three people made the decision about the bank rescue package: Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and Hank Paulson, the Treasury Secretary." Meaning that the President was not aware of the most vital decision in the final year of his tenure. These people are spinning themselves into the ground. No wonder so many of them can't find a job.

• Good work by Bill Scher confronting David Walker and the fiscal responsibility scolds at one of their "Hoodwink America" tours. That is important work.

• I'm convinced that magazines are writing long profiles about Iceland's economic collapse because reporters know that Iceland is a really cool place to visit. They're good stories, but I think better for the journalists involved.

• John McCain really is a whiny sonofagun, ay? So he is objecting to an Interior Department appointee because he once criticized Ronald Reagan. That's it. That's the extent of the rationale. A Democrat criticized a Republican, and that's out of bounds. For tough-guy he-men, Republicans really are the biggest babies on the planet.

This story of the GOP party chair in Chicago caught by his wife with two hookers in his kids' playroom features what may turn out to be the line of the year: "No money was exchanged. Nobody was naked." And furthermore, fingerprint his penis, you won't find a thing.

• And finally, a magician shipped himself in a crate from upstate New York to Las Vegas via UPS. Which he proceeded to brag to the media about, and then the feds starting considering the implications of being able to ship yourself in a crate (and subsequently board a plane in the cargo hold), and now the magician isn't telling anyone. Which always happens to the best tricks.