2008 - %3, August

Russia Agrees to Georgia Cease-Fire, Situation Remains Volatile

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 4:05 PM EDT

Just a day after some western and Georgian observers feared that Russia was on the verge of cutting Georgia in half, and may even try to take the Georgian capital Tblisi and demand the country's surrender, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has agreed to a European-backed cease-fire. But news reports indicate the situation is still volatile and much unclear about how the cease-fire would be implemented, and explosions and violence continue in places including in the Georgian port city of Poti.

"The outcome the West is seeking, will not return things to the [pre-war] status quo," said Russia specialist Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations in a conference call yesterday. "A ceasefire under these circumstances offers a sitution in which Georgia could be occupied by Russian forces, and Georgia could be cut in two, dismembered."

"Is this a game changer?" asked Council on Foreign Relations' Charles Kupchan. "Is it possible to think about the US-Russian relationship moving forward looking somewhat like it's done in the past, where there were good days and bad days, but it was basically respectful and trying to make the best of a difficult situation? I can't answer that. It's too soon. But it's safe to say from here on out, the US and allies will look at Russia more warily."

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Minneapolis Hotel Rooms Should Be Available Last Minute

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

If you want to go and check out the scene at the Republican National Convention, you shouldn't have a problem. It's not like the hotel rooms in Minneapolis will be taken by Republicans. Politico:

Of the 12 Republicans running in competitive Senate races — five of whom are incumbents — only three have said they will be attending the convention. Six are definite no-shows, and three are on the fence.
"Nobody likes a funeral," said a Senate Republican press secretary...

Ouch. Things are so bad, the National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, is actually discouraging Republican congressional challengers from attending. According to the Hill he called heading to Minneapolis for the convention a "waste of time."

Newly Unveiled Dem Platform a Strong Statement for Women's Rights

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 2:43 PM EDT

Dana Goldstein over at the Prospect applauds the newly released Democratic platform.

The draft of the Democratic Party platform, principally written by Obama's Senate policy director, the estimable Karen Kornbluh, is a remarkably feminist document, one befitting of a political party that, this year, came exceedingly close to nominating a woman. In the summer of 2006, I heard Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York speak on the Hill, lamenting that the chicken livered John Kerry team had, for the first time in decades, removed support for the Equal Rights Amendment from the party platform. Well, this year the ERA is back, alongside a truly unequivocal statement of support for reproductive rights, an unprecedented statement in opposition to sexism, and new sections on equal pay, women's economic struggles, work-family balance, and violence against women...
It's clear that care was taken to involve members of Hillary Clinton's circle in the document's drafting (perhaps Dana Singiser), or to at least take their concerns to heart. Clinton's run is presented in the document as a feminist historical feat, and in the foreign policy section, the draft borrows the language of Clinton's celebrated 1995 speech to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing: "Our policies will recognize that human rights are women's rights and that women's rights are human rights." Reflecting Obama's own long-standing interest in international development, the documented continues, "Women make up the majority of the poor in the world. So we will expand access to women's' economic development opportunities and seek to expand microcredit."

Goldstein also takes a look at how the language on abortion has changed since 2004 and says the party has gotten even more strongly pro-choice. Take a look.

Obama VP Pick Announced!!

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 12:17 PM EDT

This is huge!

H/T. Info.

Josh Green. Atlantic. Clinton Memos. Just Read It.

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 11:54 AM EDT

It's the article everyone's talking about today: Josh Green of the Atlantic gets reams of internal Clinton campaign memos, emails, and other documents from former staffers and runs down the most important parts. Take a gander.

I'll highlight just two things. First, Clinton emerges as a terrible executive. She is unable to hire people who work well together or people who, though at odds, create a useful tension. She is unable to settle disputes after they arise or provide direction that keeps them from arising in the first place. A pattern emerges from Green's documents: Clinton first lets a problem fester, then explodes at her staff for not addressing it, then provides little guidance on how to solve it going forward, and ultimately gets bitten by the problem down the road.

James Fallows Is Feeling Sprightly

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 11:36 AM EDT

Check out his shredding of David Brooks and the Brooks/Friedman cultural paintbrush. You know the one — it paints a mile wide.

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Private Contractors Have Banked $100 Billion Since Iraq Invasion

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 10:21 AM EDT

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will release a report later today showing that the federal government has paid private contractors $100 billion since the 2003 Iraq invasion. The report will place "the first official price tag on contracting in Iraq and [raise] troubling questions about the degree to which the war has been privatized," according to the New York Times. Between 2003 and 2007, the U.S. government awarded $85 billion in contracts for services ranging from security to construction to food preparation to translation. At the current pace, contracts will exceed $100 billion by year's end, a figure that might be low, given the chaotic state of contracting during the Iraq War's early years. There are currently at least 180,000 contractors working in Iraq, far outnumbering U.S. troops in theater.

Video: Proposed Quantum of Solace Theme Song

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 10:21 PM EDT

Bruce Falconer has already noted the head-slapping meaninglessness of the new Bond film title, and it looks like somebody took his idea and ran with it. Via Cinematical, it's UK comedian Joe Cornish, who has put together a theme song he's offering to the producers of the upcoming Quantum of Solace, although they may be put off by the opening line's reference to star Daniel Craig's "great big man tits." Is that hyphenated? Best of all, it's in the style of David Bowie. Hilarious, although Cinematical points out the real QoS theme will be handled by Jack White and Alicia Keys, which could end up being even funnier.

Can Playing Pac-Man Save the Forests?

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 9:05 PM EDT

packman200.jpgIn another effort to attract attention to environmental issues through colorful, interactive cartoons (see The Meatrix), Dogwood Alliance—an organization dedicated to protecting US forests—has basically carbon-copied Pac-Man in a game to fight excessive packaging.

"Packaging Man" is basically Pac-Man with a few new graphics. Recycling symbols replace power pellets, Blinky and the gang are "corporate executives" intent on pilfering forests with phallic chainsaws, and the protagonist is not a yellow dot.

Though surely created with good intentions—US packaging waste weighs in at 80 million tons (.pdf) and is the largest source of municipal waste—the most creative part of the game is its intro, and who sits through those anyway?

Nonetheless, the "take action" link at the end is a little more rewarding than a perfect play, and it handily fills 20 minutes. Play here.

—Brittney Andres

Photo from dogwoodalliance.org

R.I.P. Isaac Hayes

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 7:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-hayes.jpgSome commentators are saying it's a shame that young people know Isaac Hayes only as the voice of South Park's "Chef," but I don't know, at the very least it might be a way for Comedy Central-watching tweens to discover the soul legend. Hayes, who passed away yesterday in Memphis at the age of 65, was able to dabble in self-parody on South Park only because he had such a profound influence on music, almost single-handedly creating an entire genre of sexy, edgy funk. Entertainment Weekly's piece on Hayes rightly calls the theme from Shaft the "hippest track ever to win the Academy Award for best song," and NME points out the album was the first by a solo black artist to top both the R&B and pop charts. To date, it's estimated his music has been sampled in over 200 songs, by artists from Snoop Dogg to Portishead; blog Hip 2 Da Game has a partial listing. [Edit: The Fader's blog has a link to a mix from DJ Wonder including original Hayes material and tracks that sampled his work, check that out here]. I've included a few videos from artists who sampled Hayes and the source tracks after the jump.

Honestly, looking around for these YouTube links, I've had Hayes' music on all day, and I'm wondering why I haven't been listening to it all the time: the extended instrumental jams are groovy and hypnotic, incredibly forward-looking. "Look of Love," after its long central instrumental section, breaks down to a beautiful flute solo, and finally features Hayes singing "don't go" under a majestic echo, his voice seeming to move off to a great distance, until it finally disappears.