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Bush White House Outdoes Rose Mary Woods

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 1:25 PM EDT

Rose Mary Woods, Richard Nixon's White House secretary, only managed to hide eighteen and a half minutes of her boss's secretly tape-recorded conversations. The National Security Archive, a nonprofit outfit, says that the Bush White House deleted at least 5 million email records it should have kept. The Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have filed lawsuits that aim to recover the missing emails. (See Dan Schulman's piece on "The Emails the White House Doesn't Want You to See.")

Might this mass of data be a treasure trove of the administration's dark secrets? No one will know unless these lawsuits uncover the missing emails. On Friday, the Archive filed a motion requesting expedited discovery against the Executive Office of the President to determine what emails are missing from the White House email system and backup tapes. In a press release put out today, Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs says, "The pressing need for the information arises out of troubling representations by the EOP and its components about its document preservation obligations and the location of its backup tapes. We need information so we can take steps to preserve all possible sources of e-mails deleted from the White House servers."

Here's how the Archive recaps the legal case:

The Archive filed this case on September 5, 2007, against the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and its components seeking to recover at least 5 million federal e-mail records improperly deleted by the EOP. After the government failed to provide adequate assurances that backups and copies of the missing e-mail would be preserved throughout this litigation, on October 11, 2007, CREW filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the White House defendants in its case. A hearing in CREW's case was held before Magistrate Judge Facciola on October 17, 2007. Magistrate Judge Facciola issued a Report and Recommendation on October 19, 2007, advising the Court to grant a temporary restraining order. The government has filed objections to Magistrate Judge Facciola's Report and Recommendation.

In other words, the Bush administration is doing what it can to dodge its pursuers. CREW notes,

The White House objected to the entry of any order [to preserve email records during the litigation], despite its refusal to give adequate assurances that all necessary back-up copies of the millions of deleted emails are being preserved, and objected to that part of the order that requires the White House to maintain back-up copies in a manner that makes them usable.

Bottom line: the White House is refusing to state what was lost and is refusing to vow it will preserve records that might be needed to recover what was lost. Rose Mary Woods would be impressed.

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Check In on the Iowa Polling: Huckabee Up, Edwards Down

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 11:29 AM EDT

With both Iowa caucuses (the Republican and the Democratic) now firmly entrenched on January 3rd, let's take a look at some poll numbers.

According to a University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll, Mike Huckabee is a legitimate top-tier candidate in Iowa. He is now in third place (actually a statistical tie for second) with 12.8 percent. Rudy Giuliani has 13.1 percent, and the frontrunner, Mitt Romney aka Mr. Fantastic, has 36.2 percent. Romney has similarly huge leads in all the early states. Worth noting: (1) In August, Huckabee polled at two percent in the same poll. (2) Huckabee has spent $1.7 million on his campaign while Mr. Fantastic has spent $53.6 million, an object lesson in the limited power of money in politics. Who knew?

On the Democratic side, John Edwards has slipped a bit. His 20 percent support in Iowa represents a six point drop since August. Hillary Clinton tops the field with 28.9 percent and Obama places second with 26.6 percent. It's too bad John Edwards doesn't have this hilarious/awesome South Carolina mojo going for him in Iowa. I think that would win over a lot of caucus-goers.

Update: Here's an even more remarkable fact, considering the money disparity between Huckabee and Romney: Huckabee is actually beating Romney, though just barely, in a national Rasmussen poll. Maybe the Log Cabin Republicans are more effective that we know.

First Lady Elected President

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 10:52 AM EDT

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The one on the left, not the one on the right. Early results from yesterday's Argentinian presidential election show that current first lady Cristina Fernandez will be the next president. Fernandez will be Argentina's first elected female head of state.

Fernandez is married to President Nestor Kirchner, who oversaw Argentina's emergence from financial crisis. The challenge of her presidency will be to capitalize on the stability her husband's term brought to the country.

Some are worried that a political dynasty, obviously already in place, could get out of control: Kirchner is eligible to take over at the end of his wife's term in 2011. Argentina has a history of spousal politics. Juan Perón was president from 1946-1955 and 1973-1974. His second wife, the famous Eva Perón, almost ran for vice president in 1951, and his third wife, Isabel Perón, took over the presidency after her husband's death. She was ousted in a military coup less that two years later.

Some of Obama's Best Friends Are Gay. No, Really

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 10:39 AM EDT

Are we supposed to applaud Sen. Obama's courage in standing up to the "special interests"?

Despite the backlash, gay-bashing preacher-singer Donnie McClurkin brought the noise to the contender's South Carolina, pander-to-black-hatred tour stop yesterday. So, not only is he legitimizing black bigotry, he's also a coward by choosing not to share a stage with McClurkin. Instead, the campaign scrounged around for a token to prove that some of it's best friends were gay:

Sidden is the white, gay pastor added to the concert bill as a last minute compromise by the Obama campaign. Sidden's appearance was notably brief and anti-climactic: He said a short prayer to the auditorium at the very beginning of the program, when the arena was only about half full, and then he left.

We're supposed to believe that Obama thought CP Time wouldn't be in effect for once?

Disgraceful, all around. Whether Obama had ever intended to attend the concert, he should have after the scandal broke or he should have cancelled it and admitted the error (pot calling the kettle black watch: didn't he hammer Sen. Clinton for waffling on admitting her Iraq War vote was a mistake?). Hiding behind the black masses and their unassailable hyper-religiosity will not soon be forgotten by those supporters who thought him the man who'd bring integrity and truth-telling back to Washington. If he doesn't soon answer this question, his silence will do the job for him: how does Obama reconcile his mild, but clear, support for gay rights with an embrace of those who believe God "saves" believers from the sin of homosexuality? No points, Senator, for hiding behind the bigotry of the black masses while positioning yourself as he who will tell blacks, and therefore the country, what they don't want to hear. I guess he just means the ones who'll still vote for him no matter what he does.

Maybe it's true what they (used to) say (out loud) about blacks and music: funk it up and anything blacks' ignorantly fear becomes sacrosanct and you, a racist, for objecting.

Iowa's Democratic Caucus Now January 3rd

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 10:29 AM EDT

The Iowa Democratic Party has just moved its caucus up to January 3rd, the day on which the Iowa Republican caucus is already scheduled. Political journalists everywhere rejoice at the idea of a New Year's in Des Moines...

Press release after the jump.

First Listen: Jay-Z - American Gangster

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 9:54 PM EDT

Jay-ZProving once again that retiring is the best way to drum up interest in your work, America's Richest Rapper (TM) returns with another surprisingly interesting album. Okay, sorry, maybe it shouldn't be surprising, everything Jay-Z's done is basically stellar, except for last year's lazy, aimless Kingdom Come. For American Gangster, though, Jay-Z has some inspiration: the upcoming Denzel Washington vehicle of the same name. Now, this isn't the soundtrack, but Jay-Z says each track on the album was inspired by a specific scene in the film, which he then reinterpreted through an autobiographical prism, focusing on growing up in the projects in Brooklyn. Understandably, this is emotional territory. Check out the Marvin Gaye sample in "American Dreamin'": "Oh no/I never give up," he sings, in a loop from 1976's "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" that sounds more like a plaintive cry against greater and greater odds as the song goes on.

But don't worry, the album isn't all tearjerkers; the very next track, "Hello Brooklyn," with the ubiquitous Lil Wayne on guest vocals, is all thudding bass and handclaps, with Jay-Z telling the borough "I ain't mad at you." While Diddy and the Neptunes take production credit on much of the album, "Fallin'," a highlight featuring dramatic strings and a Motown-style chorus, was produced by Southerner Jermaine Dupri. On it, Jay-Z's lyrics come fast and furious, with complicated, tongue-twisting internal rhymes, and a final denouement: "Fightin', you'll never survive/Runnin', you'll never escape/So just fall from grace."

The title track is listed as a "bonus track" on Wikipedia; I'm not sure what that means, since the song is awesome. A funky, horn-filled sample gives it a kind of '70s vibe, with appropriately snazzy metaphors: "The way I shine, it's like a zillion-dollar light bill." Jay-Z has been known for pushing the sample envelope, but on Gangster he sticks to classic soul, creatively cut up, and it gives the album a driving, urgent focus. Are we talking another Blueprint, or even Black Album? Well, probably not, but it's another fascinating chapter in the Jay-Z saga.

American Gangster is out November 8th on Roc-A-Fella, but it's leaking over here at mylifemyhiphop. Get it!

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News Flash: Icebergs Still Exist

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 7:47 PM EDT

icebergs200.jpgThese days, everyone seems to want a piece of the Arctic. (Diamond prospectors, bone hunters, and global warming tourists are just a few northward bound parties.) After all, who knows what treasures lurk under those hunks of melting ice?

But if you're planning on skipping up to the Arctic and expecting smooth sailing, think again. Today, the International Ice Charting Working Group issued a report on the state of the Arctic sea ice. In the report is a reminder that global warming hasn't quite done away with icebergs yet:

The Arctic is already experiencing an increase in shipping, primarily for oil and gas development and tourism, and we can expect to see further increases as diminishing ice extent makes Arctic marine transportation more viable...The IICWG cautions that sea ice and icebergs will continue to present significant hazards to navigation for the foreseeable future. The Arctic will still have a winter ice cover that will linger into summer for varying lengths of time depending on a range of conditions.

Let's hope it stays that way.

3rd-Gen Prius To Be Half-Size, Price

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 7:41 PM EDT

prius.jpg Okay, Toyota's got my attention. But will this 3rd-generation Prius be enough of an improvement over my gas-only, LEV Civic to make the switch environmentally compelling? Toyota announced today it'll slash the price and size of its hybrid system by around half for the next Prius model, plus use a nickel-metal hydride battery instead of higher-energy lithium-ion, Planet Ark reports. But what about the all-important MPGs?

No release date yet. Maybe late 2008.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

WTF? New England Rescinds Protections For Sea Turtles

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 7:11 PM EDT

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Come on, New England. This is a wicked bad idea—rescinding protections for threatened and endangered sea turtles caught in scallop dredges. Yesterday, the New England Fishery Management Council removed seasonal restrictions on scallop dredging in an area off New Jersey. These restrictions were designed to keep loggerhead and other turtles from being entangled, crushed and drowned in industrial-sized scallop dredges. The Council also rejected a proposed seasonal closure to fishermen of an area east of the Delmarva peninsula, reports the Environmental News Network:

The Council opted to rely on untested scallop dredge modifications called "chain mats" as its sole precaution against turtle bycatch. These grids of chain prevent turtles from entering the chain bag at the rear of a dredge but are unlikely to prevent turtles from being injured by scallop dredges used by fishermen to scour the seafloor. "Turtle chains do not protect turtles from being mangled by scallop dredges. The chain mats may have simply turned scallop dredges into giant turtle bludgeons," said David Allison of Oceana.

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Want one of these chain mats crashing through your world? Neither do turtles.

Wondering just how badly sea turtles are doing? Browse the IUCN Red List for loggerheads and leatherbacks.

Okay. Strike northeast scallops off my sustainable eat list.

Oh, and if you're interested in the strange bedfellows that be fishers and fisheries councils, read MoJo's The Catch

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Let's Get Scared with Spooky Halloween Mashups

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 6:10 PM EDT

Mashing PumpkinsHey, look at that, Halloween is next week, and your best chance for spooky revelry is probably this weekend. Is it just me or did that kind of sneak up on us? I haven't even decided whether I should be Wolverine again. I haven't been growing my muttonchops so it's probably moot. Anyway, some of my cohorts in the pointless world of putting songs with other songs have produced a whole compilation's worth of Halloween-themed mashups, perfect for your costume party or, uh, erotic ball. Called Mashing Pumpkins (and not to be confused with the Irish tribute band), the album had to endure some unexpected popularity after getting mentioned on Boing Boing, and their original website crashed or got overwhelmed or just shut down by unsympathetic web service providers. Now that's scary. But both Boing Boing and Mashup Town rushed to the rescue, archiving the tracks and offering them for free download; the latter even has the super scary artwork.

Party Ben recommends:
Track 5 – "I Want My Mummy"
A cheeky upbeat combo of The Who, Steve Martin, and some mummy-oriented clips from LA's Mr. Fab.
Track 6 – "Snap Yo Specials"
While the Specials' "Ghost Town" seems only tangentially Halloween-related, Lil' Jon's growly raps flow perfectly over the top.
Track 10 – "Bad Moon Werewolves"
You can't go wrong with "Werewolves of London," and the fact that the UK's Cheekyboy got "Bad Moon Rising" to fit over the top is nothing short of miraculous.

So is it time for the Christmas-themed mashup albums yet?