The Rest Of The Week In Review
Blogging is likely to be limited this week. We're under the gun to pack up the house for a long-awaited remodel, which basically involves taking every single thing we own and putting it into a two-car garage. And selling whatever doesn't fit. It's going to be FUN. So I expect next week's "rest of" to be about twice the size:
• I can't tell you how worried I am about the bottom dropping out of the so-called recovery once even more mortgage rates recast and people cannot afford the new payments. The housing bubble popped, but air is leaking from that patched balloon as well. These option ARMs and other junk mortgages all have rates that skyrocket for millions of homeowners in the next couple years. We're talking $30 billion dollars in San Francisco alone. There was a time in bubble regions when a junk mortgage was the only option for affordability. When the borrowers feel the real price, they could all snap - with terrible consequences for the economy. And of course the lenders pushed all their clients into this for years, seeing that they operated what amounts to a massive criminal enterprise, which this week even the Kansas state Supreme Court acknowledged.
• I'm still holding off on talking definitively about the death of Bill Sparkman, the Census worker found dead in rural Kentucky, but what we do know is not encouraging. Clearly the anger leveled at government does go somewhere, whether Sparkman's death is a result of that or not. So those ringleaders doing the demonizing really have to look at themselves when incidents like this get reported.
• I'm very interested in this Micah Sifry piece about how Obama is fading online. Measuring YouTube hits is a blunt instrument, but consider, a video that the White House intended to go viral, the 4-minute Obama plan cutdown of the September speech to Congress, has 130,000 views, far short of where a viral video would be. I think governing is just inherently less sexy and won't capture the imagination of a community that thrives on passing around media. And like it or not, there is such a thing as the digital divide, and you really can reach more people in old media, even today. But I think Chris Hughes provides a pretty good answer in terms of what the White House could do if they sought a new media strategy - although Hughes clearly blames progressive groups for failing to adapt, not the DNC, which just isn't equipped tactically to handle what needs to be done.
• That said, despite the difficulty in mobilizing online about policy, that's no reason to eschew policy completely, the foundational basis for governing, in the manner that Dean Broder suggests. Perhaps he hates policy so much because the only Presidents who offer it are those dirty hippie Democrats. And relying on some Hudson Institute flak to create his opinion for him is truly embarrassing. Very close to a new low for the Dean.
• Paul Volcker really needs to be listened to about financial reform. If we keep protecting the banks, they're just be encouraged to take greater risks because the government will pick up all that risk for themselves. We have to do the opposite by removing risk from the system. Volcker's the only one talking sense.
• As it is, we're not only looking at losing money on the bailout, which would be fine if the money was spent preventing a total collapse and fixing the system for the future, but we're also in a shakier position than ever because we've made the remaining banks bigger.
• Here's a great tangible victory for the Obama Administration - "One of the country's largest food service companies announced Friday that it will buy winter tomatoes only from growers that pay a fair wage and offer good working conditions." Big accomplishment for farm workers, courtesy of the great Hilda Solis at the Labor Department.
• A lot of what's contained in the health care bill covers obscure and unassuming items like delivery system reforms - digitizing medical records, moving to value-based purchasing, MedPAC reform. These have little publicity but will hopefully be where the bulk of the savings to the system will emanate. This interview with Peter Orszag has a good overview.
• The United States is wrong to block the war crimes report from the Israel/Gaza conflict for referral to the International Criminal Court. Now the report will be used by the Palestinians - actually, both sides, since everyone's implicated - as an example of unequal treatment in the Middle East. And in this case, they'd be right.
• Arlen Specter is terrible on marriage equality. He's moved left on a host of issues since becoming a Democrat, but that's largely due to a primary challenge, and before agreeing to six more years of service, Pennsylvanians should really look at the whole record and not his mid-2008 to today cram session.
• Good NYT op-ed on corporate personhood. It's amazing to see this issue, relegated to the progressive fringes for so long, finally get some attention, as the true agenda of the Roberts Court gets revealed.
• Though anti-Castro Cuban exiles decried the event, I think the Peace Without Borders concert for hundreds of thousands in Havana will end up being as significant as any event to bring Cuba back into the community of nations. Once you give people the taste of Western culture, they tend to crave it. The Cuban regime can try to frame it as them bringing these musical acts to the people all they want, but opening the society a crack will eventually lead to a flood.
• Has Republican pollster Strategic Vision been cooking its books and defrauding their clients? Nate Silver seems to think so.
• Spain has figured out how to deal with runaway unemployment - move quickly to the green economy through subsidies and incentives. And no, these jobs don't destroy two jobs for every one created, they just destroy the status quo for oil companies and power plant polluters. In the US, creating a prize for the most energy-efficient light bulb is a start, but we could do this faster and better than Spain if we just has some political will.
• The Yes Men did it again this week, spoofing the New York Post on the day of the UN Climate Change Summit, with all articles about saving the environment. The Post was, er, not amused.
• Balloon Juice is concocting the ultimate blog lexicon. If you read something here that doesn't make a lick of sense to you, you might want to check over there. It's bookmark-worthy.
• Finally, a cautionary tale against creating a big marriage proposal "moment" - you may end up killing 60 protected sea turtles. Word to the wise - just get down on one knee and be done with it.
Labels: rest of the week in review