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

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Rest of the (Long) Week In Review

Coming to this late owing to the Memorial Day holiday. Engaged in the time-honored American tradition of grilling meat on an open flame. However, my new favorite thing is grilled pineapple. You cut up a pineapple into rings, dip them in coconut milk and then roll them in cinnamon and sugar before grilling for about 10 minutes. Unbelievable.

OK, the links of the past week:

• The Republicans rolled out a health care plan this week, which in itself is progress, since they probably felt no need to do so until the prospect of passage of a Democratic plan looked more real. The plan, like John McCain's during the campaign, eliminates the employer tax break for health benefits entirely, giving instead tax credits to all Americans to purchase health care on the open market. One key difference, explained by Ezra Klein, is that the bill sets up a series of state health insurance exchanges designed to help people get quality coverage - the same "given to Members of Congress" - through regulated marketplaces. Also, "the government would automatically enroll individuals in plans whenever they interacted with a government agency and states would be able to join into regional cooperatives to increase the size of their risk pool." While only a few Republicans signed on to this, it does represent a real narrowing of the debate in favor of the more liberal option. They still compare the public option to Hurricane Katrina in it (wasn't that on their watch?), and there are lots of unanswered questions and vague generalities contained therein. But this shows that the momentum is on the side of the Democrats in this debate, otherwise this proposal wouldn't exist.

• The beat goes on in Minnesota, where Norm Coleman continues to deliberately obstruct the seating of Al Franken. His own fundraiser admits it when he says that the seat is "better empty" than with Franken in it. Meanwhile, the NRSC (Senate GOP campaign arm) just gave Coleman $750,000 to keep fighting, which is $750,000 they won't have to contest Democrats in 2010, which sounds stupid unless they think Franken's seat is that valuable, particularly as major Obama agenda items reach the Senate.

• For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, an Israeli Prime Minister received a less than sterling reception on Capitol Hill. Democrats in particular have been emboldened to speak out about the continued settlement activity in the West Bank, which really is an impediment to peace. This really shows how much J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group, filled a niche in Washington. Of course, given that Israeli leaders consider the focus on a two-state solution stupid, one wonders how far this renewed push for peace will go.

• Who does the NRA think they're kidding? Barack Obama just signed a bill allowing loaded weapons in national parks, fercryinoutloud. Any notion of a big bad federal gubmint coming to take your guns away has no basis in reality. The NRA won the fight, and they're still acting like little children. Maybe that's their key to success.

• Rep. Alan Grayson introduced a bill requiring at least one week of paid vacation for every employee working at a company with more than 50 people. This is so desperately needed. During the swine flu fears, the government encouraged the sick to stay home, but of course for so many Americans, such an unpaid leave is impossible. We are the only country in the industrialized world without paid sick leave or vacation leave. Good for Grayson.

• I didn't really pay much attention to Obama's Notre Dame speech, but Mahablog had a good take.

• More signs of the great thaw in US-Cuban relations: meeting on migration between the two countries are scheduled.

• You know that at some point the CIA would start their engines claiming that removing the option for them to torture other human beings would restrict their ability to deliver good intelligence. Somehow the military and the FBI and every law enforcement agency in the country manage to gather intelligence under rules that disallow cruel and inhumane treatment. I think the CIA can manage. Perhaps they can look up Philip Zelikow's work on the subject.

• When rich people started whining about losing deductions for charitable donations under Obama's tax plans, the main question was, "don't you donate to charity because of the charity?" It turns out that the poor donate a much higher percentage of their income to charity than the rich, almost double, in fact. They may be giving the same amount as in previous years, but inequality is so expanding the gap between rich and poor that these numbers just look different.

• We keep building these missile defense systems, as if the types of missiles they're designed to shoot down are static and have unchanging technology. In fact, while the current system being placed in Europe is supposedly designed to counteract Iranian missiles, the system would not be effective against them.

• Ed Liddy is leaving AIG, and Time Magazine writes him a mash note on the way out the door.

• I'm unsure about this Business Forward group being put together to advocate for the Obama agenda. It seems more like them building lines around the policies, so they can withhold support if the policy steps outside those narrow boundaries. And AT&T is part of the coalition.

• Philadelphia, Mississippi has a black mayor. It's hard to overstate how symbolically amazing that is. This is the city where three civil rights workers met their death in 1964. It's where Ronald Reagan came to campaign - and make a statement - in the kickoff to the 1980 general election. At long last, we have progress in this mostly-white town in the deep South.

• This week we discovered a fossil seen as bridging a divide between lower primates like lemurs and primates like apes and humans, if not exactly a so-called "missing link." This stuff fascinates me.

• In the continuing travails of Silvio Berlusconi, turns out he bribed a lawyer, and talked about having a "father-daughter relationship" with an 18 year-old model. He's a piece of work.

• And finally, my 2011 travel plans are ruined, as China demolished "Love Land," a sexually explicit theme park. My dream of exploring the walk-through vagina is crushed. I actually had a park like this pegged for Japan.