The Kid Is Not My Son

I don’t know which is worse, that Michael Jackson had a one-night stand with a woman or that the lyrics to “Billie Jean” have now suddenly come into focus for me 25 years later:

Michael Jackson’s father insisted Thursday night that a Norwegian dancer is in fact the King of Pop’s love child.

“Yes, I knew he had another son. Yes, I did,” Joe Jackson said in an interview with NewsOne.com.

The bombshell comes a week after Omer Bhatti, 25, denied widespread reports that he was Michael Jackson’s secret son.

“He looks like a Jackson,” Joe Jackson, 80, insisted. “He acts like a Jackson, he can dance like a Jackson.”

And I’m sure THIS will shut them up …

The White House takes on the Birthers directly:

Attempting to put the issue to rest, once more, [White House Press Secretary Robert] Gibbs assured reporters: “The president was born in Honolulu, in the 50th state of the greatest country on the face of the earth…There are 10,000 more important issues for people in this country to discuss, than whether or not the president is a citizen when it’s been proven ad nauseam.”

Yup, that’ll do it.

Plastic Bag Taxes

I have to sympathize with “dudeman” at CHS on the inanity of a plastic bag tax. To be clear, he’s talking about a fee that Madison Market in Seattle charges its customers, but it’s clearly related to the 20 cent fee that the Seattle City Council is proposing for all plastic bags.

The sad thing, to me, is that we have pretty big fish to fry when it comes to tackling environmental issues, and plastic bags are not even in the top 25 or maybe even the top 100.

Still, they’re a glaring issue. Unlike melting polar ice caps, people can see plastic bags every day. And a 10 or 20 cent fee per bag fee is not the same as “outlawing” plastic bags, as some extremists have argued. It’s just capturing some of the costs (negative externalities) that are borne by society as a whole.

And I fully support capturing negative externalities through pricing! But why single out plastic bags? All manufacturers should be required to account for the full life-cycle costs of their products. When Germany instituted laws requiring car makers to make their products recyclable, BMW engineers were able to reduce the types of plastic used their cars from something like 20 to 4, and made sure that they were all recyclable. It wasn’t very hard, it was just that no one had ever forced them to do it before.

I’m all for comprehensive reduction in the use of plastics and waste materials, but this bag tax

Calling BS on Van Dyk

This is a couple of weeks old, but it’s nice to see The New Republic call BS on local Seattle curmudgeon (and Crosscut contributor) Ted Van Dyk. Van Dyk uses is bona fides as having been a Democrat 40 years ago to slag on Dems at every opportunity. As TNR points out, it’s a schtick he’s been doing for years. He did it at the Seattle P-I for a while, and then when they grew tired of it, he moved on to Crosscut, the current retirement home of choice for discerning local curmudgeons.

Health IT and Open Source

Phillip Longman’s article in the Washington Monthly on the promise and perils of health IT is worth a read. It’s shocking how few medical records are electronic in the year 2009 (less than 2%, I believe).

Longman, though, is a bit too bullish on VistA, the open-source EMR software used by the Veterans’ Administration. It has its own problems. And you can tell he doesn’t have a very good grip on what open-source means:

Apple now shares enough of its code that we see an explosion of homemade “applets” for the iPhone—each of which makes the iPhone more useful to more people, increasing Apple’s base of potential customers.

That’s simply not true. There are aspects of the iPhone OS that are open source, but Apple’s “App store” for selling and developing iPhone applications is a very closed, regulated environment. It’s about as far from open source as you can get.

But broadly speaking, Longman’s right. As we focus on expanding EMRs, we face a choice: proprietary systems sold by vendors who have little experience but great DC connections (Halliburton Health Care, perhaps?), or open source software developed largely in the public domain, with open standards and protocols that vendors (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, others) can build on and service for profit.

We’ve seen a stark example of the former approach in Boeing’s Future Combat Systems, an expansive upgrade to the military’s IT backbone that’s billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. We can’t repeat that mistake with health care.

Bye-bye, F-22

The bloated, over-budget plane that the Air Force doesn’t even want is finally getting de-funded. For a while, it looked like congress was going to build them anyway, but now even pork-meister Jack Murtha has given up the fight.

This is a huge deal. Yes, the F-22 was on its last legs, and probably needed to be killed anyway. But it was a project that had a lot of backers in Congress. Lockheed Martin wisely spread the manufacturing out over as many congressional districts as possible, making this thing very hard to kill (Barney Frank calls the money we spend building war machines “weaponized Keynesianism”).

You can read our past coverage of the F-22 here. We’re not fans, suffice it to say. This is a small victory for Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ efforts to change defense procurement. But the symbolism is huge. Put it another way, if he had failed to do even this much, then it would have been impossible to contemplate killing bigger, costlier boondoggles.