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

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

Holiday weekend but I guess I'll clear out the bookmarks anyway.

• Let's not forget some of the good things the Obama Administration is doing - a Justice Department bolstering enforcement in the civil rights division, for example. Or a President willing to break a promise in favor of keeping tax breaks for the working poor. Or the US lifting all restrictions on family travel to Cuba (individual travel should follow). And even on a signature policy, the Geithner baseline plan for financial industry reform is not half-bad. On the last point, that will probably not resemble the final form, but there is some room for optimism.

• On the other hand, I seriously object to the President appealing to 9/11 to justify denying federal employee raises. Lowering them from 2.4% to 2% isn't the worst thing in the world (although public employees still make far less than they could in the private sector), but using 9/11 as the excuse for that is kind of ridiculous.

• There's actually quite a bit of public support domestically for a climate and energy bill, but little in the way of mass action. Maybe environmentalists can take a lesson from across the pond. Reformers in Britain embarked on a campaign called the 10:10 initiative, demanding that public figures and corporations agree to reducing their carbon impact 10% by 2010. Devised by filmmaker Fanny Armstrong (The Age of Stupid), it's simple, direct and powerful, with a focus on personal responsibility. Within a week, not just the expected celebrities and political parties have signed on, but the conservative Tories and the entire Labour cabinet. The whole political spectrum in England has committed to this. I know conservatives there are non-crazy, but something like this should be transported to the US tomorrow.

• By the time we get done with what's left of health care reform this year, we all may be pining for the deal Richard Nixon offered in 1974. I completely disagree with Stuart Altman, Nixon's health policy author back then, about the public option, and actually, the 1974 plan would have faced similar difficulties to working properly, given that it subsidized insurers and would have become most of the federal budget within a few decades, since the cost controls were meager.

• Iran's ruling class, clearly still feeling the heat from reformers, had to pledge to seek justice for the beating death of a protester in jail. This will start another 40-day cycle of mourning and another round of protests. Meanwhile, the regime's top nuclear negotiator said the country is ready for talks with the West. This comes directly out of the internal pressure by reformers.

• You'd think the fact that Americans pay twice as much for health care as any industrialized nation, with worse outcomes, would be a statistic at the top of everyone's mind during this time of discussing reform. But reversing that terrible scenario would take actually reducing industry profits, and the plans on the table don't do that to any degree. Also Democrats are advised not to bring this statistic up because, they say, Americans hate foreigners, but probably because it would spur outrage against those very industry actors whose profits groups like Third Way are trying to protect. So we'll all have to keep divorcing our spouses in the event of a medical emergency so we can qualify for care, I guess. Matt Taibbi gets at a lot of these depressing dynamics in his Rolling Stone article. As he says, "We might look back on this summer someday and think of it as the moment when our government lost us for good."

• It's sad that, at just the time when a President is elected with the will to deal with the Israel/Palestine problem, a right-wing government in Israel will continue the destructive policy of settlement expansion that will basically end any possibility at reaching peace.

• The state of Texas killed an innocent man. We've known this could happen for many years, and we've saved many innocent people from Death Row. But this is the first near-certainty. The state executed an innocent man for no reason. We tell ourselves that we're a moral society. Everyone who thinks that needs to know about this.

• We're never getting around to gay rights legislation, are we? Sure, some liberals will introduce a bill, the way they do every year, but leadership will always find something better to do before getting around to it.

• I was tempted to ignore the latest Chris Christie scandal, his traffic accident back in 2002, but now that he's demonstrably lied about it, maybe there's a little more there there.

• Turkey and Armenia establishing diplomatic ties is truly a world-historical event. We are quick to fight one another to the death, we humans, but not so much on the reconciliation. And sure, this Turkey/Armenia thing took around 90 years. But it's significant, nonetheless.

• An Eliot Spitzer comeback? I'm all for it. I don't know what the best fit would be, but he belongs back in public service. He was fearless and he knew exactly what we needed to prevent the financial crisis.

• Thanks to Cash for Clunkers, light vehicle sales hit their highest point in August since May 2008.

• No, in case you're wondering, serial liar Betsy McCaughey, hasn't been laughed out of this country, but has succeeded in both raising her profile and getting her warped ideas infused into the mainstream. What a great system we have.

• Laura Ling and Euna Lee break their silence on their experience in North Korea, and in so doing basically blame their guide for being either incompetent or a secret agent for the DPRK. It's a very strange article.

• This is basically how it works in Italy - an editor writes an article criticizing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (I'm talking about one of the few who don't actually work for his media empire), and Berlusconi organizes a vicious smear campaign calling him a homosexual and a sexual harasser, and then the editor resigns. By the way, this was the newspaper of the Italian Bishop's Conference. Glenn Beck has NOTHING on the Prime Minister of Italy.

• Don Imus could scream out of his window and reach more viewers than those who currently watch the Fox Business Channel. And I really don't think he has a built-in audience, either, outside of irascible types with racial insensitivity. Where is this likely to go?

• The Travel Channel has an entire show about deep fried foods. They did not include the deep-fried butter but I'm guessing that's because it's a recent innovation. At the same time I saw the deep-fried foods show, two slots down on TLC was a show called "Half Ton Mom," followed by "Half Ton Dad." Not a coincidence!