2008 - %3, October

Transitions

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 10:24 PM EDT

TRANSITIONS....From the Financial Times:

The best-kept secret in Washington is that Barack Obama has the largest and most disciplined presidential transition team anyone can recall. Headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff in Bill Clinton's White House, it started work well before the financial meltdown hit in September but has been swamped by its implications ever since.

....The Democratic nominee has already reached an agreement with Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, to speed up the often painstakingly slow Senate confirmation process for the hundreds of appointees who would populate an Obama administration. Many of Mr Clinton's appointments were still to be confirmed a year after he took office.

...."The level of detail that the Obama transition team is getting into is extraordinary — they are leaving no stone unturned," said a senior former Clinton administration official who has been consulted. "I have been getting calls that you'd expect in previous transitions to get maybe in December or never at all."

The article also notes that transition team insiders "are under strict orders from the Obama campaign not to talk to the media to avoid giving the impression Mr Obama thinks he has won already." Good advice. Apparently not all of them are taking it, though. Here's more from John Heilemann:

With the help of some 50 old Washington hands, Podesta and his people are drafting a book-length transition blueprint, with agency-by-agency policy agendas, including day-one, day-100, and year-one objectives, too. Résumés are already being collected. Daily conference calls and meetings occur. Of Obama's pre-transition planning — and, in fact, of McCain's as well — Clay Johnson has said, "The amount of work being done before the election, formal and informal, is the most ever."

....Almost certain to come first, perhaps within days, will be his economic and national-security teams. And with those choices, they say, he will want to send a message of centrism and bi-partisanship. It's conceivable that Obama will ask Bob Gates to stay on as Defense secretary; Chuck Hagel, too, might find a place high in the administration. But although there has been chatter that Obama might also retain Hank Paulson at the Treasury, the inside betting is on a Larry Summers encore. "They're gonna want somebody who knows the building, knows the economy, has been confirmed before and been advising them on economics," says the former Clinton aide. "I'd be flabbergasted if they chose somebody else."

Via Taegan Goddard.

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The War Against Gore....Continued

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 10:01 PM EDT

THE WAR AGAINST GORE....CONTINUED....Bob Somerby replies today to my question about whether liberals should spend more time complaining about media treatment of Al Gore during the 2000 campaign (and more generally, of media treatment of the Clintons during the 90s). My take is that I don't think it would do us any good to harp on this; Bob thinks we're a million light years from "harping" on it and should at least mention it on a regular basis:

Last week, Naomi Judd began telling voters that no one has ever been trashed like Palin. Quite naturally, voters tend to believe such claims, because they've never heard anything different...."Liberal bias" is a powerful card, a card they've spent fifty years perfecting. They play this card because it works; it keeps working because our side has refused to debunk it. As we've long said, we refuse to tell the public the truth about the press corps' recent conduct. One side keeps saying things which are bogus. And one side won't say what is true.

I'd say the difference here is that Judd was complaining about the treatment of Sarah Palin right now. That's news. People care about it. Conversely, complaining about the media treatment of Al Gore a decade ago would cause audiences to yawn and turn the channel. Maybe that's not fair, but the world is what it is.

It's certainly true that liberals should have complained more about media treatment of Gore back when it happened (I think Bob has convinced everybody of that), but what good would it do to bring it up regularly now? It would be like conservatives continually kvetching about media treatment of Dan Quayle or Richard Nixon (who at least arguably lost the 1960 election because he got worse press treatment than JFK). Occasional passing references are fine, but anything more and audiences today will just tune out.

Much better, I think, to do what conservatives do: complain about today's media misconduct loudly and aggressively when we think we see it. Liberals might still not be as good at media grievance mongering as conservatives, but we've made up a lot ground since the 2000 election. And at this stage of the game, I just don't see how amping up our complaints about press treatment of Al Gore in the previous century will help us make up the rest of the distance.

POSTSCRIPT: I've gotten more than a few emails asking why I care about this. The reason is that despite his endlessly irritating and over-the-top attacks on me and others in the liberal blogosphere, I still read Bob every day. I do that because he has interesting things to say — most of which, unfortunately, get drowned out by his Gore obsession. If he'd forget about Gore, tighten up his prose, cut the snark levels down to a dull roar, and spend his time in the present, he seems like he'd be a more effective media critic. And we could use that.

Got Another Planet?

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 9:23 PM EDT

599px-The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17.jpg The planet is headed for an ecological credit crunch that will make Wall Street's convulsions look positively jolly. In fact at the rate we're going we'll need two planets by 2030. That's because more than three quarters of the human population now live in countries where consumption outstrips environmental renewal, reports the BBC. This makes them ecological debtors—drawing or overdrawing on land, forests, seas, and resources of other countries.

The Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network. According to the latter: Our demand on nature, just as with the economy, is reaching a critical tipping point. Two years ago, their data showed humanity on track to reach the two-planet mark by 2050. Now we've accelerated our obsessive borrowing and should be there at around the time children born today are entering the workforce. . . Happy birthday, babies.

The countries with the biggest impact on the planet are the US and China, together accounting for 40% of the global footprint. The US also shares the limelight with the United Arab Emirates as the two nations with the largest ecological footprint per person. Malawi and Afghanistan have the smallest.

Totally Mandatory First Impressions of Best American Non-Required Reading 2008

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 8:31 PM EDT

mojo-photo-banrr.jpgCover looks like: African Q*Bert

One word to describe the reactions of Judy Blume to the sometimes non-sequitous interview questions in the introduction: Baffled

Three words to describe the reactions of Judy Blume to the sometimes non-sequitous interview questions in the introduction: Kind of dull

Number of high schoolers who helped edit the book: 18

How much do I wish I had been able to help edit a book when I was a kid: A lot

Terrible comic vs. tolerably cute comic ratio: 1-1

How surprised I am when year-end collections somehow manage to pick New Yorker articles that, despite my diligent attempts to read every issue, I apparently missed: Pretty, but getting less so

Band names they got wrong in the section on "Best American New Band Names": "Crystle Castles" (I guess they mean Crystal Castles), "J.U.S.T.I.C.E." (Justice have a song called "D.A.N.C.E."), "Lights Down Low" (I think they must mean the club night)

Best way to look at Dave Eggers-associated publications' attempts to discuss music: with a gentle, bemused chuckle

Stories about the end of the world within the first 120 pages: 2

How many times better the Nonrequired Reading books are than the rest of the Best American series, especially these days since the short story collections seem to be filled with weepy, self-consciously international mini-movies-of-the-week: at least 7

O's For Obama: Because Change Is Coming

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 8:14 PM EDT

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Last Friday evening Sami Saud, an exchange student from Jordan who had been in the US for about three months, stood smoking a cigarette outside of the doors at 1015 Folsom, a dance club in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood. "I want to see how people come together for this guy," Saud explained.

"This guy," was Barack Obama. The event Saud waited to attend? An all-night fundraiser, the highlight of which was a "guided breath-gasm experience" put on by O' s for Obama. Tagline: "Because change is coming."

O's was the creation of San Francisco-based Obama supporter and "certified somatic sexologist" Destin Gerek. The 30-year-old Gerek, who calls himself the Erotic Rockstar, said that the goal of the event was "to lead the world through a large scale orgasmic breathing experience culminating in a simultaneous group energetic breath-gasm."

Deep techno music played in the main room while guests bought drinks at the bar. At the tables next to the bathrooms, one group sold Obama paraphernalia (proceeds went to the Obama campaign) while another group distributed Proposition K literature (the women at the second table hastened to explain that the junior senator from Illinois was unaffiliated with their group). The techno was occasionally interspersed with taped clips from Obama's speeches. The cue for 200 people to enter the largest room of the club for a simulated orgasm guided by Gerek was this Obama phrase:

McCain Meltdown Watch

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 6:22 PM EDT

McCAIN MELTDOWN WATCH....John McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb is one of the creepiest of the creepy gang of attack dogs that inhabit McCain's dysfunctional communications shop. The guy seems to have about the maturity level of a sixth grader and the social skills of your average Unix programmer. Every time McCain lands in hot water over something or another, Goldfarb is always there to vomit up a statement even nastier and more boorish than whatever he said on his last outing. He's a real piece of work.

Which means, long story short, that I was happy to see this bit of comeuppance. What a jackass.

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Video: McCain Campaign's Khalidi Head Fake Exposed on CNN

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 4:34 PM EDT

The McCain campaign is pushing hard on the Rashid Khalidi story. Khalidi is a public intellectual and a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He has a history of critical statements about Israel and has been accused of serving as a PLO spokesman decades ago. He denies that charge.

He also happens to be a friend of Barack Obama's. They were both at a function that the LA Times has video tape of, which the McCain campaign now wants to see released. The campaign is painting Obama's ties to Khalidi as another example of Obama's "unsavory" associations.

But wait. First of all, John McCain has some awfully bad judgment if Khalidi is so objectionable. McCain served as chairman of the International Republican Institute, which provided grants worth roughly $500,000 to the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, a group Khalidi co-founded.

Second, this Khalidi business is, at its heart, a backdoor way for the McCain campaign to bring up Jeremiah Wright, which its candidate has promised he will not do. "Obama hangs out with multiple dudes who hate Israel! You know who we're talking about!" Today on CNN, a McCain spokesman tried to pull this trick and the anchor asked him to make it explicit. He refused to do so, making his ploy transparent and making himself look like an ass. I was entertained:

Academic Conversation of the Day

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 3:53 PM EDT

ACADEMIC CONVERSATION OF THE DAY....When did the liberal expansion of the state that began in the early sixties end? When Reagan was elected? Paul Pierson says that's not quite right:

When does it stop? It doesn't stop in 1981. Roughly, it stops in 1978. The defeat of key domestic initiatives like industrial relations reform and health care reform; the passage of a completely different kind of tax bill, much more oriented towards business and the affluent than the tax bills that had come previously, but a tax bill that would look very familiar to more recent discussions in American politics. You see also the beginnings of a deregulatory push that would eventually remake government and the connection between government and the economy. And all this comes after the huge Democratic electoral victory of 1974, and the recapture of the White House in 1976.

I think Paul is exactly right. The 30-year-old (and counting) tax revolt started with Proposition 13 in California in 1978, and it was Jimmy Carter who very clearly initiated a lot of the political themes that are now associated with the 80s (deregulation, tax cutting, military buildups, human rights attacks on the Soviets, covert operations in Afghanistan, etc.). Henry Farrell draws a conclusion for today:

This makes it quite clear that a Democratic victory on its own, doesn't mean much, unless there is a consequent or simultaneous shift in basic assumptions about government and the role of policy....If Obama wins, as seems very likely, do we [] face a substantial increase in the role of the state, and in the willingness of politicians to use political power to redress economic and social inequalities? Or should we expect a more cautious managerialism? The kinds of factors that Paul highlights suggest that the answer will depend both on the willingness of external groups to push for serious ideological changes, and on the willingness (or lack of same) of Obama and the people around him to use the current crisis as a way to remake basic understandings about the role of government in American society.

You will be tested on this material on Tuesday. It will be an open book test. Blue books will be provided for you.

Welfare!

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 3:29 PM EDT

WELFARE!....So now Obama's tax plan is just a big fat welfare giveaway? Taking money from "seniors" and "hardworking families" and giving it to....? Whom? Do I even need to tell you? I guess the welfare queen isn't dead yet after all.

Well, That's the Purpose of Talking Points...

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 3:20 PM EDT

They're supposed to be repeated over and over.

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Via Democracy in America.