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

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

This will be my last "rest of" for a couple weeks, for reasons that will become clear sometime in the middle of next week. And I'll be looking to get a fill-in to contribute a couple posts here and there for the next week-plus, so if you're out there and willing, let me know. On to the exploration of what dropped off the page for me last week:

• There's a compelling argument that the skyrocketing cost of health care is due to the technological innovations keeping Americans alive longer. However, over time, unlike other technological innovations, the cost of health care innovations do not go down. This is probably due to the incentives of the system, allowing doctors to write up very expensive treatments because they are paid for service, instead of seeking the same outcomes at lower costs. And Americans are largely, though not entirely, insulated from this process, because the government effectively intervenes in the market to cushion the blow.

• Lots of people hyped this military adviser memo counseling the US to declare victory and get the heck out of Iraq, and I share the sentiment because I think there's little more the US military can actually get done there. But Col. Timothy Reese, the author of that memo, also wrote a blog post attacking health care reform which doesn't show the most clear thinking in the world. So I'd proceed with caution taking this guy's word as authoritative.

• Speaking of Iraq, this week their troops overran the base of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, an Iranian dissident group which has in the past supplied info (possibly false) about Iran's nuclear program to the US. The WaPo sees this as a sign of Nouri al-Maliki consolidating and aggressively pursuing power, as well as his profile as a nationalist leader to help him with re-election. I think that's always been his desire.

• The NRA has attempted to slow down conservative support for Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation, but with most, if not all, Democrats and even members of the Republican leadership supporting her, the NRA may be out of ammo on this one. That vote of dozens of Republican white men voting against a qualified Latina candidate for the bench is going to be devastating to the long-term future of the GOP.

• Of course, when 28% of your base thinks Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, including numbers approaching 70% for white males in the South, the politicians have to go along with the monster they created, I suppose.

• It seems like I read a "cramdown about to be revived" article every few days or so. I agree that it's needed for a housing market that, while perhaps at the bottom, is still struggling with an unusually large number of foreclosures. But the banks beat back this effort the first time, in fact for years, and I don't see them having a problem doing it again.

• Another drip leaks out of the faucet with the revelations about CIA secret prisons and British "ghost planes" used to transport detainees. This detailing of a detainee flown around in a coffin is pretty damning stuff. How you can just turn away from this, or worse, prosecute selectively and not those who authorized and directed torture, rendition, and all the rest, takes my breath away sometimes.

• With the unquestionable throw the bums out mood in the country, I'm fairly surprised we haven't seen much of an effort to primary Democrats in safe districts. So far, really only Marcy Winograd has mounted a campaign, against Jane Harman in CA-36. The Progressive Campaign Change Committee was founded largely for this purpose, yet I've heard next to nothing about it. There really should be more organizing around this by now.

• We finally have a settlement between the US government and UBS in the case over 52,000 American tax evaders hiding their money overseas. No word on whether UBS will disclose the names, or pay fines.

• I'm not Phil Bredesen's biggest fan, but I do like what I hear about the Tennessee governor's use of stimulus money to subsidize new job creation. Maybe it's the residual good tidings from the Tennessee Valley Authority that made this a receptive launching place for what amounts to a kind of WPA.

• The House has set up hearings for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in the past, but this would be the first, to my knowledge, in the Senate, and that is progress. They're moving at the speed of molasses on Capitol Hill on an issue which is uncontroversial in most of the country, but at least they're moving.

• David Vitter wants you to know that he's on the side of not straying from conservative values. The guy who wore the diaper with the hooker David Vitter. That one.

• Rick Steves would instantly be America's best Congressman, if only for the tours he could give around Washington. "I know the best out-of-the-way Italian restaurant, perfect for discussing defense appropriations with industry lobbyists!"

• Lots of reporters are in the running for America's Worst Journalist, but Alessandra Stanley may have nailed it with her arts section appreciation of Walter Cronkite, of all people, which required SEVEN corrections, including getting the date wrong of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Take a bow, Ms. Stanley.

• Continuing my love affair with stories of the insanely corrupt tycoon titan Silvio Berlusconi, the latest revelation is that he offered his escort a seat in the European Parliament, and only took back the offer after his wife complained. Make that ex-wife; she left over his consorting with 18 year-olds. Berlusconi is 73.

• Michael Jackson had a Stasi file with the East German secret police. It was in reference to a concert he held at the Reichstag building in West Berlin, but I could have seen them taking one out anyway. Culture was the great unheralded element that led to taking down the Iron Curtain, and Jackson represented that cultural shift for lots of youth. He really was dangerous to repressive, isolated regimes, as much as blue jeans or Coca-Cola.

• The pen with the tape recorder inside is some James Bond kind of stuff, but the fact that uses a tiny camera at its tip to essentially track what you were hearing when you were writing is some bad-ass technology. Seeing how I look at notes later and wonder what the hell I'm reading, that's a useful item. Wish listing it! If only they had that pen during Watergate, we wouldn't have to rely on reading the indentations and impressions made from Bob Haldeman's notes to come up with what was said during the infamous "18 1/2 minute gap."

• And finally, Bruno has made some interesting enemies, including the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. I'm thinking Borat 2 will steer clear of the Middle East.