A series of circumstances and distractions — known colloquially known as "life" — has prevented me from blogging as vigorously as I might have liked the past week or so. So pardon me while I dump links all over you. I really need to close a few of the 50 or so tabs I have open in Firefox. (What, you’re still using IE?!)

Hm … what kind of random interesting stuff have I missed …

Well, how about a wee little update on New Orleans? As you may recall, the rebuilding is not going well. Via ThinkProgress, here’s Washington Post reporter Mike Allen on Meet the Press this weekend:

The last time the president was in the hurricane region was October 11, two months ago. … A presidential advisor told me that issue has fallen so far off the radar screen, you can’t find it.

And of course everybody — really, everybody — should read the New York Times editorial from Sunday: "Death of an American City." Mooney chose the right quote:

If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.

On to other stuff.

This NYT story about New York City’s efforts to increase energy efficiency is both fascinating and hopeful. I had no idea so much cool stuff was going on there.

Did you know they’re going to build an entire city on a ship — including its own school system, medical facilities, and 100 acres of outdoor recreation area — and sail around the world in some sort of mobile Shangri-la? Is it sad that I’m about ready to hop on board?

By the by, a 1300-foot-wide asteroid is heading for the earth, scientists are scrambling to figure out what to do about it, they say we’re running out of time, and if it hits, it "would release more than 100,000 times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima." Whee!

This site, Gapminder, has tons of hardcore empirical data on development trends — income, fertility, life spans, etc. etc. PDFs galore! Perfect beach reading.

Over on Oil Drum, Dave (no relation) is tired of all this optimism about oil (?!), so he serves up a heaping helping of pessimism. Be very afraid.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the debate about Wal-Mart rages on. The Center for American Progress hosted a forum on it. Widely respected former Kerry economic advisor Jason Furman wrote a controversial essay called "Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story" (PDF), in which he argues, as you might guess, that Wal-Mart has done more good than evil for the economy (he doesn’t address environmental matters). John Tierney, Sebastian Mallaby, and Rosa Brooks wrote mainstream editorials of varying vapidity in praise of the paper. It was then blogged upon by Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Mark Schmitt, Ezra again, Ed Kilgore, Kevin Drum, and Nathan Newman.

I won’t try to summarize all the back and forth, except to say that the situation is far more complex than simplistic denunciations might lead you to believe. What do I personally think, you (didn’t) ask? I think Wal-Mart is an inevitable product of the unholy alliance of corporate power and state corruption that goes by the laughable misnomer "capitalism" in the U.S. Our main efforts should be focused on changing the system, not asking Wal-Mart to behave more charitably than it has to by law, something very few corporations will do. It is a fact that the Waltons are risible people, but not a particularly relevant fact for economic debates.

And that’s it for random links! Join us again next week …