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

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

Time for another "Rest of," which is the shorthand I use for this little segment. One of these days when I get around to finishing the Internet, there will be no need for this any longer...

• I apologize for not giving this its own post, making me just as bad as the broadcast media that has stayed far away from this story because it makes them look so bad. The Inspector General's Report on the Pentagon pundits, which the Bush Administration used to defend itself after the damaging David Barstow article in the NYT magazine shed light on this propaganda operation, was withdrawn by the Defense Department, in a highly unusual move. A Pentagon spokesman described the report as "riddled with flaws and inaccuracies". Hilariously, an ally of Don Rumsfeld continued to trash the Pulitzer-winning Barstow story even after the IG withdrew the Pentagon report. In any other country, the broadcast networks which utilized these assets would have their licenses revoked.

• Lots of talk this week about the demise of the Republican Party. Ultimately, I think we tend to bury losing political parties prematurely and exalt winning ones in the same fashion, but man, the GOP really does seem mired in a kind of death spiral right now. When the best they can do to show off their fresh ideas is Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and John McCain, they've got problems. And note that their actual new leadership isn't exactly well-liked either - Sarah Palin's approval ratings have truly fallen off the cliff. It's tough to be a Republican these days.

• I'm withholding my hyperventilation over these musings about Social Security reform. I've no doubt some of the bipartisan fetishists would love to do it, if only to send a thrill up David Broder's leg. But the article plainly states that House and Senate leaders have resisted this special commission idea that would give any reform an up or down vote. If they want to eliminate the benefit cap, fine; but they could probably get that across the line fairly easily in Congress. I may be more worried about inevitable tax reform and how that could spin away from Democrats and really rouse populist fervor.

• In the latest split of the atom from the religious right, they would have no problem with a gay Supreme Court Justice, as long as he didn't have a "pro-gay" ideology. Someone get in touch with the head of the Log Cabin Republicans, I think they need to answer this call.

• We have enough reasons, and plenty of rulings, that mandate the federal government to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Using the Endangered Species Act in the name of saving polar bears is duplicative and invites abuse. We have other options that we can put to use today.

• Your weekly Obama roundup - he sought $63 billion over 6 years for global public health; he cut abstinence-only education funding from FY2010 budget; he named Inez Tanenbaum to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission and generally emphasized product safety in toys and food; he set up a major address to the Muslim world, speaking from Cairo, in the near future; and he apparently reads Andrew Sullivan, which I don't get because the guy posts something like 40 posts a day.

• The Boston Globe stays put for now, but clearly the future of journalism doesn't augur well for print. Walter Pincus has some excellent thoughts about that here. It's really good.

• Amity Shlaes' whiny piece in Bloomberg about how bloggers are just so gosh darn mean to her and her colleagues deserved every bit of scorn it received this week. For the group that are supposed to be the tough, hard-nosed realists, conservatives are really the most sensitive, spoiled little children I've ever seen. That goes double for the media. Maybe Cokie Roberts will continue the whine-fest tomorrow morning on NPR.

• A very interesting piece from the Wilson Center suggests that low property values correlate to historically high home prices (even after the bubble bursting). The lack of revenue from property taxes means that municipalities cannot build out infrastructure for new subdivisions, and as a result the expense gets passed on to consumers. Also, stronger opposition to growth means less housing than required by demand. Very enlightening piece about the housing market. Recommended.

• Two fun stories about corporate America ripping off the US taxpayer - civilian contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are using health care clinics intended for the military, taking up millions of dollars of services; and AIG's Financial Products unit may be handing bailout money to counter-parties in the hopes of getting a job with those companies down the road.

I give up.

• The Obama budget does include provisions for performance pay. Clearly he has sided with the reformers in the education debate, and I think we have to allow this to at least some extent - performance pay and merit pay are different, first of all. Performance pay mostly provides incentives to teachers to work in troubled school districts, while merit pay ties bonuses to student achievement. I welcome the former and tend to reject the latter because I'm not sure achievement can be accurately attributed to the teacher. We shall see what definition gets used going forward.

• One thing I constantly try to point out to people is that, American exceptionalism aside, we have significantly less class mobility than countries in Europe, even while they believe they have less income mobility than us. A paradox, yes, but one we must come to grips with if we ever want to change it and put ourselves more in line with those beliefs in equality of opportunity.

Coal makes you sick. Whether it's the burning of coal into the atmosphere or the runoff generated by that production process flowing into streams and rivers, Americans living near coal plants suffer. And so a real energy policy committed to security and safety would address that.

• Check out Legofesto, an artist using Legos to depict torture techniques formerly practiced by parts of the US government. Somehow seeing it in this abstract form makes it even more real.

• Didn't get to see Kirby Dick's Outrage, the new documentary about outing anti-gay politicians, this weekend, but here's the trailer. I heard that Mike Rogers, one of the stars of the film, promoted it on local news in Washington and the anchor threatened to punch him in the face. Good times. I thought Rogers' personal life was off-limits! Hey, he likes to out hypocritical politicians; live and let live, buddy.

• And finally, Kiefer Sutherland head-butted a fashion designer at a nightclub in New York. But that head-butt yielded actionable intelligence, and his job is to protect the American people, you got it?