Monday, March 22, 2010

Wednesday Night/Thursday Morning Links and Briefs

1.) With Obama signing his health care reform bill into law yesterday, having passed the House of Representatives this weekend (without the support of a single Republican in either chamber), much attention has accordingly been devoted to covering this matter. The New York Times has an interesting interactive piece that helps explain how the bill will affect "you," and Democratic Congressman John Larson outlines the ten immediate benefits of the health care bill that will come before the bill goes fully into effect in 2014.

Regarding the more "political" aspects of the bill and its process:

-Talking Points Memo discusses the next "step" to polish the bill via reconciliation in the Senate

-Nate Silver breaks down how and why the Democrats voted for the bill

-Ari Melber, whose previous interview with Marshall Ganz expressed a justifiably critical view of OFA and the administration, highlights the important role that the organizing program played throughout this process

-Political scientist Steven Taylor (in between his excellent reporting on the recent Colombian midterm elections where he was an electoral observer) has some interesting predictions and observations

-NPR has a great piece analyzing popular support for health care reform (and summing up in so many words why one should always be suspicous of polls, especially as they are trumpeted by a party whose leaders don't give a damn about public opinion)

-David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy takes a look at what the bill might mean for the USA's changing role in the world

-And finally, for those on both sides of the spectrum who still harbor suspicion for the health care reform bill, Ezra Klein reminds conservatives to recall the Right's fear-mongering amidst the passage of Medicare a generation ago, while left-wing critics of the health care reform can take at least some comfort in knowing that even Noam Chomsky, arguably the most important leftist intellectual of our time, would prefer to "hold his nose and vote for" the bill versus the consequences otherwise if given a chance.

2.) One also can't discuss the health care reform bill without mentioning all of the vitriol that it brought about from the reactionary right, not just from irate tea baggers but even Congresspeople themselves. Extremism from the right isn't by any means a new phenomenon in American politics, but this particular strand does need to be taken seriously as it not only continues to escalate its rhetoric and actions, but actually gain even greater influence within the contemporary conservative movement, poisoning the broader political discourse. And with progressive activists pressing Obama to make immigration reform the next domestic priority, as several hundred thousand demonstrators did this weekend in Washington even as a far smaller number of right-wing activists stole the show, one can be certain that things are only going to get a lot uglier...

3.) Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of the slaying of Catholic arch-bishop and tireless human rights advocate Oscar Romero. Romero, a liberation theologian who spoke out on behalf of the poor and oppressed against the brutal El Salvadoran regime of the 70s and 80s that shared close ties to the United States, was murdered by a government-sponsored death squad as he delivered mass. In an unprecedented show of support, the current El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes commemorated the occasion and asked for forgiveness on behalf of his state. Both Tim's El Salvador Blog and the Central American Politics blog have more on this event and the life and work of Oscar Romero and what he meant to the El Salvadoran people.

4.) Former Chilean Cabinet member José Miguel Insulza was elected to a second term as head of the Organization of American States. Running unopposed Insulza won easily, though he faces criticism from those on the right who seek harder stance towards Venezuela and Cuba, as well as a broader contigent of regional actors who seek greater independence from the US's overwhelming dominance in regional affairs. This comes on the heels of the recent Rio Summit where a new regional organization was proposed that would leave out both the United States and Canada in an attempt to better ensure autonomy amongst Latin American and Caribbean nations.

5.) Via "affirmative atheist" PZ Myers, philosopher Daniel Dennett has coauthored a fascinating new article about nonbelieving members of the clergy that is worth a read no matter your faith (or lack thereof).

6.) And of course, I've got to mention that my both my beloved Butler Bulldogs and Purdue Boilermakers are going on to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. #5 seed Butler takes on #1 seed Syracuse tomorrow, while #4 seed Purdue takes on (the loathesome) #1 seed Duke on Friday. Meanwhile, Pat Forde at ESPN points out, this has gotta hurt extra for IU fans who watch not only as their in-state rivals advance but also a number of former players and recruits for other teams.

Regarding the tournament's off-the-court news, much ado has been made about Education Secretary Arne Duncan's (very problematic) proposal that schools with low graduation rates be barred from the tournament. However, an arguably more important story continues to be overlooked in college sports: many schools continue to use official apparel merchandisers who don't ensure that their uniforms and products are sweatshop-free. As a Butler grad I'm ashamed that my school is on that list, but I am encouraged that more and more schools, Purdue included (due to the remarkable efforts of students who went on a hunger strike to pressure the administration), are taking strides to ensure that the workers who create the clothing that represents their image are given a living wage and decent conditions.

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