With a big assist to the crew on my Google Reader rolls and the Twitter army (as well as some of my own sniffing around), I’ve found a bunch of good links in the past week or two that warrant passing along, but maybe not necessarily their own individual posts. So here’s a potpourri of good stuff to keep you busy if you’re lolling around this weekend (or tuning in on Monday):
–The Michael Jackson news deflected media attention away from Obama’s hotly contested climate–which passed the House by just a handful of votes. The Senate fight figures to be even bloodier, with Republicans likely to nearly unanimously oppose it as a reflex without considering the bill’s merits or demerits, and the usual soulless negotiating taking place to get people like Nebraska Senator (D) Ben Nelson to approve the bill in exchange for 80 jacrillion dollars in farm subsidies and massage chairs.
And yet cap-and-trade debates will pale in comparison to the death matches sure to break out over pending plans for health care reform. I’ll spare you the boiler-plate right-wing criticisms of health care reform (“We’ll become Communists!”) and point you to this far more thoughtful criticism, by left-leaning American Prospect writer Paul Starr.
Here’s the delicate political problem: Depending on the rules, the entire system could tip one way or the other. Unconstrained, the public plan could drive private insurers out of business, setting off a political backlash not just from the industry but from much of the public. Over-constrained, the public plan could go into a death spiral itself as it becomes a dumping ground for high-risk enrollees, its rates rise, and it loses its appeal to the public at large. Creating a fair system of public-private competition — giving the public plan just enough power to offset its likely higher risks — wouldn’t be easy even if it were up to neutral experts, which it isn’t.
–Writing for his blog “Stop the Monsters”, friend of the site Chris Liss argues that Obama is in many ways much more of a conservative in the literal sense than his shoot-first, ask-questions-later predecessors and opponents.
–Speaking of inflexible, my-way-or-no-way political thinking, the debate over the Israel-Palestine conflict isn’t much of a debate in this country. Either you vilify Middle Easters countries not named Israel, or you’re a weak-kneed pinko. Growing up going to Hebrew school, I was surrounded by a message of Zionism, which carried with it both positive aspects, and as I’ve learned as a thinking adult, negative ones. As it turns out, diplomacy can be used to solve even the toughest problems against seemingly the most intractable enemies.
For proof, witness the imminent release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli army officer on the verge of being freed, thanks not to gun-toting threats but to intelligent, patient and thoughtful negotiations by the likes of Egypt (!), Syria (!!) and Jimmy Carter (!!!) with Hamas (!!!!!).
–Speaking of Jimmy Carter, via Glenn Greenwald comes a great editorial in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, titled simply “Our Debt to Jimmy Carter”. Whatever failures our 39th president may have presided over during his term, there’s no denying the fact that Carter understands the Middle East and has done more to promote and encourage peace in the region that nearly any other human being on this planet.
–All right, enough with the heavy stuff. Google Reader maven Ben Kabak (check out the fantastic Yankees/baseball blog he co-operates, River Avenue Blues) sends along a piece on MTV’s reaction to Michael Jackson’s death, probably the best by any network.
(In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s my far less educated, though equally visceral reaction to MJ’s passing.)
–Slate does great work on a variety of topics.
Here they discuss how the Michelin guide has been a millstone around the neck of French restaurants.
Slate also asks why most TV networks continue to use a center-field camera angle to view the pitcher-batter matchup that’s in fact very misleading (with video!).
–Sticking with Slate–and Michael Jackson–this Josh Levin blog entry explores the famous Michael Jackson episode of the Simpsons.
–And speaking of The Simpsons–and baseball–here’s SNPP’s terrific round-up of every Simpsons guest star ever. You know what stood out most on this list? The list of guest stars on my second-favorite episode of all-time, “Homer at the Bat”. Check ’em out:
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Other than the notion that at least two of these guys are widely believed to be PED users, the most striking aspect of this list is that only one of these players is still active, and Ken Griffey Jr. is probably best used as a platoon DH or high-leverage pinch-hitter at this point of his career. That means I’m freaking old.
–Finally, those of you with televisions will want to throw them off the highest building possible between now and Sunday, July 12. It seems that two days before the MLB All-Star Game, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will co-host an All-Star Sunday movie marathon on FX. The movies being shown are bad enough: Mr. 3000, Fever Pitch and The Benchwarmers, plus the premiere of the animated movie Everyone’s Hero.
But backing up a second…IT’S JOE BUCK AND TIM MCCARVER!!! Joe Buck and Tim McCarver could be hosting an All-Star Sunday that featured the Lord of the Rings movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and the three coolest Kurosawa movies, with me spliced into every scene instead of Mifune, and I still would bolt out of my house screaming in terror.
(In case you wonder why a sportswriter would want to be a freelancer…other than not having a boss and never needing to wear pants…it’s the freedom to write that last paragraph.)