2008 - %3, August

Obama Learns: What's Bad for the Brand Is Good for the Pocketbook

| Mon Aug. 4, 2008 11:23 AM EDT

One of 2008's political axioms has been proven yet again.

Over and over in the Democratic primary, candidates would have their best fundraising periods right after a crucial primary loss (or, in one notable case, right after the candidate was forced to make a sizable loan to the campaign), leading me and others to observe that in presidential fundraising nowadays, nothing succeeds like failure.

Late last Friday, Marc Ambinder observed it in effect yet again. Apparently, all the McCain ads that have been beating Obama up are driving more donors, new and old, to give to Obama.

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The Town Hall Idea Dies: An Opportunity Wasted for Obama?

| Mon Aug. 4, 2008 8:07 AM EDT

Many months ago, the McCain campaign tried to push for a regular schedule of joint town halls that would replace the standard presidential election paradigm of three formal debates between the conventions and the general election. The Obama campaign suggested that it was interested, and back in those naive months of spring it seemed like the town halls were an example of where an Obama-McCain election, contested between two practitioners of politics-as-unusual, would break the mold.

Nope. The Obama campaign, realizing that it would be wise to do nothing that jeopardizes its lead, sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates (the what now?) agreeing to three debates on September 26, October 7, and October 15. The campaign also agreed to the standard vice presidential debate.

The letter, written by David Plouffe, appears to rule out the possibility of more debates, saying, "Due to the late date of the two parties' nominating conventions, and the relatively short period between the end of the conventions and the first proposed date, it is likely that the four Commission debates will be the sole series of debates in the fall campaign."

You Don't Understand. Joe Lieberman Wants to Be a Uniter

| Mon Aug. 4, 2008 7:38 AM EDT

I'm back from two weeks in Africa and what better way to get back in the saddle than by nailing Joe Lieberman for being a hypocrite and a phony? On Meet the Press, Lieberman discussed the possibility of speaking at the Republican convention by saying, "If Sen. McCain feels that I can help his candidacy…I will do it." But he insisted his motives are pure:

I'm going to go to a partisan convention and tell them — if I go — why it's so important that we start to act like Americans and not as partisan mudslingers.

For some reason, I don't know that I believe Joe. Maybe it's because he once speculated that Obama is a socialist, despite the fact that after serving with Obama in the Senate for three years, he must know he isn't. Or that he once suggested electing Barack Obama would lead to an attack on America, because terrorists would try to test a new president as unprepared as Obama supposedly is. Or that he pushed the Obama-is-endorsed-by-Hamas nonsense and said it "suggests the difference between these two candidates." Or that he actually believes (or is willing to say publicly) that Obama is choosing to lose the Iraq War.

That sounds like an awful lot of bad faith and mudslinging from a guy who plans on going to the Republican convention as an envoy for comity and bipartisanship. Also, for the record, if Joe Lieberman fancies himself such an effective advocate for clean, friendly politics, maybe he could have a word with the man he's shilling for.

It feels good to be back in my "mother's basement and ranting into the ether."

Ivory Poaching Returns With A Vengeance

| Fri Aug. 1, 2008 10:52 PM EDT

800px-Baby_elephants3.jpg The ugly scourge of ivory poaching has reappeared in Africa—at levels higher than the epic slaughters of 1989.

Worse, the 7.4 percent annual death rate of 20 years ago was based on a population that numbered more than 1 million. Today the total African elephant population is less than 470,000.

Twenty years ago widespread media coverage of 70,000 elephants killed a year led to an international trade ban. That resulted in strong enforcement efforts, which halted nearly all poaching immediately.

But Western aid was withdrawn four years after the ban and poaching gradually increased to the current disastrous rates. Without anyone really noticing.

Except elephants.

Now a new study in the August Conservation Biology contends that most remaining large elephant groups will be extinct by 2020 unless renewed public pressure results in enforcement of the existing laws.

The good news: DNA evidence gathered from recent major ivory seizures shows conclusively that the ivory is not coming from all over Africa but from specific herds. Consequently, authorities could beef up enforcement in those areas and make an immediate dent in the problem.

The illegal trade is being carried out mostly by large crime syndicates. It's driven by growing markets in China and Japan, where ivory is in demand for carvings and signature stamps called hankos.

Good people of Asia, could you get over this fetish from the dark ages? No hanko is worth even one elephant.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

New Music From Around the Blogs: Oasis, The Faint, Divide and Kreate, of Montreal

| Fri Aug. 1, 2008 6:11 PM EDT

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Rolling Stone's Rock 'n' Roll Daily blog announces that Oasis will release their new album, Dig Out Your Soul, on October 7th. A record company suit said it "kicks ass," and why would he lie? If you can't wait for a whole song, check out a 20-second snippet of "The Shock of the Lightning" on YouTube here. You know, it does kind of kick ass. (For fans of: Ride, Coldplay, No Way Sis)

Wired's Listening Post has an exclusive stream of The Faint's "Battle Hymn for Children," from the Saddle Creek alums' upcoming album, Fasciination. With two i's. Don't they teach spelling in Omaha? (For fans of: The Cure, Bloc Party, Cornhuskers)

After the jump: a slow-dance mashup, and a disco-dance assault on the patriarchy

Former Gun Control Colleagues 'Shocked' by Mary Lou Sapone's 'Malicious Duplicity'

| Fri Aug. 1, 2008 5:14 PM EDT

States United to Prevent Gun Violence, where gun lobby spy Mary Lou Sapone served until recently as the director of federal legislation—the organization's chief federal lobbyist on gun control issues—has issued a press release on the "malicious duplicity" of their former colleague:

Members of States United to Prevent Gun Violence were profoundly disturbed to learn of the malicious duplicity of a longtime gun violence prevention activist. An investigative article published online on the Mother Jones web site reported that Mary McFate, the legislative director for States United to Prevent Gun Violence, was in actuality a mole for the gun lobby.

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Pineapple Express Ad Propels M.I.A. Into Top 40

| Fri Aug. 1, 2008 5:07 PM EDT

You've seen the ads (if not, click "play" above). The latest Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow adventure, this time with a slightly darker sensibility, is called Pineapple Express. From the commercials, it looks to be some sort of tale about drugs or witnessing a drug-related murder or being on the run from thugs who saw you witnessing the murder, or something. But apparently nobody's paying attention to the images, they're only listening to the music: most of the spot is soundtracked by M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," a Clash-sampling and Wreckx N Effect-referencing track from last year's Kala, and based on this exposure alone, the song has rocketed up the charts. It's up to #4 on iTunes today, and based almost entirely on these online sales, it broke into the official Billboard charts, climbing to #36 this week. Holy moley, M.I.A.'s Top 40!

After the jump: is it just cause you're all baked?

What's in Anti-Viral Kleenex?

| Fri Aug. 1, 2008 2:43 PM EDT

Do all KLEENEX boxes come with federal warnings against misuse?

I hadn't intended to leave Walgreens with any kind of virucidal paper product, but in a fit of summer cold snuffles I accidentally bought a box of polka-dotted germ fighters equipped with directions against wiping up spills and an active ingredients list.

Promises the KLEENEX Anti-Viral tissue box: "[The] tissue has three soft layers, including a moisture-activated middle layer that kills 99.9% of cold and flu viruses in the tissue within 15 minutes."

Wow! Would eating one cure a cold altogether?

Tragically, this goes unanswered on the KLEENEX website. But here's my favorite question from the FAQ:

Alleged Anthrax Attacker Commits Suicide

| Fri Aug. 1, 2008 10:59 AM EDT

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Bruce E. Ivins, an anthrax scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, died Tuesday at a hospital in Frederick, Maryland, after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine. He was 62. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was among the nation's leading experts on the military uses of anthrax. A native of Lebanon, Ohio, Ivins received his doctorate in microbiology from the University of Cincinatti, had worked in the Fort Detrick laboratory for 18 years, and, in 2003, was honored with the Pentagon's highest civilian award for resolving technical problems afflicting the Army's anthrax vaccine. He sat on USAMRIID's protocol and animal rights committees. He lived in a small white house near the laboratory with his wife. And on Sundays, he played keyboards at his church. He also, according to the FBI, is the man responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001.

Ivins' apparent suicide occurred after he learned that the Department of Justice was preparing to file criminal charges against him for mailing a series of anthrax-laden letters in fall of 2001 that killed five people, sickened another 17, interrupted mail service, and shut down a contaminated Senate building for several months.