Blogs

Play the Veepstakes Game!

| Thu May 1, 2008 2:34 PM EDT

The good folks at CQ Politics have assembled a list of the 32 politicians most likely to be John McCain's VP choice and have put them in a bracket. You can vote on who advances from each round. If you have no problem with momentarily trivializing one of the most important choices we make as a country (and quite literally turning politics into a game), go try it out. I did.

By the way, the 32 candidates include four women, five people of color, and 24 white dudes. Considering the state of the modern GOP (no African-Americans in Congress), that's not bad. The fact that Condi is involved really boosts their diversity numbers.

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Lawmakers Push for National Same-Day Registration

| Thu May 1, 2008 1:42 PM EDT

There has been bad news on voting rights lately, so this is particularly welcome:

Minnesota and Wisconsin lawmakers are seeking legislation that would require states to let people register to vote on the same day that a federal election is held.
Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, along with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, plan to introduce the bill on Thursday. The lawmakers, all Democrats, say that same-day registration will encourage more people to vote.

Here's Feingold's comment:

On Michigan/Florida, Kucinich to the Rescue?

| Thu May 1, 2008 12:08 PM EDT

562_01_200x203.jpg Deep-pocketed Dennis Kucinish is a man with a plan...

Former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis J. Kucinich has proposed a plan to seat delegations from Florida and Michigan at the Democratic National Convention based on the results of a fresh round of polling in the two states...
The plan would base the distribution of delegates on polling conducted by three firms, one selected by each campaign and a third chosen by the other two companies. Delegates would be apportioned based on the composite findings of the three polls. None of the firms could have previously been employed by either campaign.

Democrats are at a point now where even an ad hoc plan like having polling substitute for actual voting sounds reasonable. But you know what would probably be a better solution? If Dennis Kucinich, who is a superdelegate, actually endorsed somebody and then got all the other superdelegates to endorse somebody, too. Because after one of the two candidates gets the requisite number of delegates for the nomination, he or she can seat the Michigan and Florida delegates in a way that doesn't change the outcome of the race. And if that happened, oh, two months ago, that would be awesome.

Update: Another potential solution here.

McCain Had His Own "Mission Accomplished" Moment

| Thu May 1, 2008 11:11 AM EDT

Five years ago today, George W. Bush got all gussied up and landed a jet on an aircraft carrier floating off the Southern California coast, where he declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq. Roughly 97 percent of American military deaths in Iraq have come after that moment.

Less well known is the fact that John McCain also prematurely declared a win in Iraq. In the congressional record on May 22, 2003, he declared "massive victory":

"We won a massive victory in a few weeks, and we did so with very limited loss of American and allied lives. We were able to end aggression with minimum overall loss of life, and we were even able to greatly reduce the civilian casualties of Afghani and Iraqi citizens."

bush-mccain-mission-accomplished.jpg

Biggest Political Liability of the Campaign Season? George W. Bush

| Thu May 1, 2008 10:51 AM EDT

For those who may be getting overheated on the Jeremiah Wright thing. From NBC New's First Read:

...according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll, the biggest political albatross heading into November is — drum roll, please — George Bush. In the poll, 43% say McCain being too closely aligned to Bush and his policies is a major concern. That's compared with 36% who say that about Clinton's apparent flip-flops; 34% who say that about Obama's bitter-guns-religion remark; 32% who say that about Wright and Bill Ayers; 31% who say that about Clinton's honesty and trustworthiness; 27% who say that about Bill Clinton having too much influence on policy decisions; 17% who that about Obama not being patriotic enough; and 16% who believe McCain might be too old.

Creationists Flunk Masters Degree

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 10:47 PM EDT

454px-Tizian_-_The_fall_of_man.jpg Hallelujah. Rationality returns. A religious group has been rejected in its bid to offer a Master of Science degree. The Institute for Creation Research, which backs a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the creation of Earth in six days, seeks a certificate to grant online degrees in science education in Texas, reports Nature. But the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted unanimously last week not to pass the request, following the recommendation of Raymund Paredes, the state's commissioner of higher education. "Religious belief is not science," Paredes said… Amen.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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Bring Back the Bison

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 10:09 PM EDT

820471096_a762ae179c.jpg Want to see bison back in the North American landscape? It's not only possible but could be achieved in only 100 years, says a coalition of scientists, conservationists, ranchers, and Native Americans/First Nations peoples. Bison are a keystone species in this continent's natural history and could repopulate large areas from Alaska to Mexico, including grasslands, prairies, mountains, taiga and deserts. The continent-wide assessment, published in Conservation Biology, is based on a "conservation scorecard" evaluating the availability of existing habitat. The goal is ecological restoration of bison, defined as large herds of plains and wood bison moving freely across extensive landscapes within historic ranges, interacting with other native species (elk, bear, wolves, prairie dogs, birds), as well as inspiring, sustaining and connecting human cultures. It will likely take a century, says the Wildlife Conservation Society, and will only be realized through collaboration with a broad range of public, private and indigenous partners.

Bison once numbered in the tens of millions but were wiped out by commercial hunting and habitat loss. By 1889 fewer than 1,100 animals survived. Of the estimated 500,000 bison alive today, 20,000 are wild, the rest live on private ranches— awaiting liberation back into the wild.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

The Missing Pink Floyd Pig Has Landed!

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 6:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-e07b-pig.jpgBreaking news here on Riff and Friends, following up on a story we first reported here on Sunday night. The gigantic helium-filled inflatable pig thing that said "OBAMA" on its belly, released accidentally by Roger Waters during his performance at Coachella Sunday night, has been found! This reporter witnessed the pig rising near-vertically into the sky on Sunday night, and apparently winds didn't pick up too much in the interim, since the shredded pig parts were discovered Monday morning in La Quinta, the gated-community-and-retiree-filled suburb just south and west of the venue. We were actually staying in La Quinta so, jeez, how awesome would it have been to have the Pig land in our pool? Dammit, so close! Apparently the homeowners in whose driveways the tangled remains appeared didn't know what it was at first, but after seeing saturation news coverage of the clearly earth-shattering event, they figured it out. That's our nation's media, doing a fine job with the stories that matter, and now we can get back to talking about Reverend Wright, the second most important thing happening in the world.

Both families will split the cash portion of the reward, $10,000, and each will get four tickets to the festival for life, although Susan Stoltz, one of the lucky pig-finders, says they "kept souvenirs." It's all so exciting. Next year, everybody better be ready when Bono releases a giant inflatable balloon showing a complicated graph explaining debt relief.

Riff photo by Miles Anzaldo.

Freedom's Watch Finds Its Inner Mother Theresa

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 5:32 PM EDT

Conservative advocacy group Freedom's Watch, funded by billionaires such as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a famously fierce critic of labor unions (see core issue area three here, "Standing up to Big Labor's radical agenda"), revels in its newly discovered economic populist streak.

Yesterday, it launched an ad attacking House Democrats and speaker Nancy Pelosi for "doing nothing" to reduce high gas prices.

Today, it sends out emails attacking Congressional Democrats for being responsible for the housing crisis, the bad economy, and more high gas prices. And it's rebranded itself as "mainstream," too: "'It is truly astonishing that two years after assuring the American people they possessed a 'commonsense plan' to combat high gas prices, Congressional Leaders are still struggling to put one together,' said Ed Patru, spokesman for Freedom's Watch, a mainstream conservative issues advocacy organization," the group emails.

What's next? After all, with Adelson's fortune valued at $28 billion by Forbes this year, an expressed commitment by the former Boston cabbie to donate $200 million a year to charitable causes he favors, and given the fact that that, according to a recent column by George Will, Adelson's casino empire is now the single largest foreign investor in China, Adelson alone would be in a position to make a meaningful contribution to those Americans losing their homes in foreclosures and consumers hurting at the gas pump. Stay tuned, as they say.

Cheney: 300 Endangered Whales Is 300 Too Many

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 3:54 PM EDT

right_whale.jpgHot on the heels of a GAO report detailing the Bush administration's assault on the EPA, this little tidbit pops up.

Cheney's office has been delaying attempts to issue speed limits near the habitat of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale for FOUR YEARS. There are only about 300 right whales alive today, and ship collisions are their leading cause of death. As Henry Waxman wrote in his letter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, "the death of even a single whale, particularly a breeding female, may contribute to the extinction of the species."