2008 - %3, February

Buckley's '69 Preview of a Pax Americana

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 5:01 PM PST

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William F. Buckley, a man so idiosyncratic he could only be described as a caricature of himself, died on Wednesday. A conservative writer, magazine founder, failed NYC mayoral candidate, and television host, Buckley's views and his magazine, the National Review, could very well be considered Mother Jones' ideological counterbalance, a publication that, as described by the New York Times, "isolated [the] cranks from Mr. Buckley's chosen mainstream."

I found this gem of a video today, Buckley going up against Noam Chomsky in a 1969 debate on American imperialism and intervention. It shows a classic Buckley, so enamored with his own mannerisms and quirks that he hardly notices Chomsky tearing him apart. In making the case for an imperialism that seeks to "help" as opposed to exploit, Buckley says, "There is an observable distinction by, ahem, intelligent man between a country that reaches out and interferes with the affairs of another country because it has reason to believe that a failure to do so will result in universal misery, and that country which reaches out and interferes with another country because it wants to establish Coca Cola plants and Chase national banks and whatever and exploit it." And there you have it, one of the founders of the modern conservative movement lays out an ideology that will come in handy for a certain group o' buddies 34 years later.

Video after the jump:

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LOST: Following the Money Trail

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 5:01 PM PST

lost-the-constan.jpgWow, last night's episode of LOST was chock-full of action. There was a love story, time traveling, an art auction, even military exercises in the rain. It was almost as if the creators didn't feel they had enough time to pack everything into one episode.

Time, of course, is the key to the island and why our plucky survivors are still there instead of in balmy Los Angeles. The time difference—now established beyond a shadow of a doubt, though exactly how long it is is still to be determined—is why people are so keen to study the island, and also why it's so darn hard to get off it. But there's still the question of who knows about this time difference and what they are doing, or trying to do, to exploit it. To answer that question, let's use an old journalism maxim: follow the money.

Clinton Camp to Press: All We Want is Willing Suspension of Disbelief

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 1:10 PM PST

The Clinton campaign's press call with reporters this afternoon felt like a scene from a bizarro universe, where the suspension of disbelief was demanded at the door.

Reporters were primed for the call by a memo disseminated by the campaign earlier in the morning that referred to the four primaries on March 4 as "Obama Must-Wins." It cited Obama's spending advantage in Ohio and Texas and the fact that he has campaigned heavily in these states. "Should Senator Obama fail to score decisive victories with all of the resources and effort he is bringing to bear," it said, "the message will be clear: Democrats, the majority of whom have favored Hillary in the primary contests held to date, have their doubts about Senator Obama and are having second thoughts about him as a prospective standard-bearer."

The memo didn't bother to answer some obvious questions, such as, Given that the Clinton campaign has lost 11 primaries in a row, how can Obama losing a few close contests on Tuesday in states where he has trailed in the polls be considered a repudiation of his campaign? And considering that streak of losses, how can this be a must-win for anyone but Clinton?

But on these questions and others, the Clinton representatives on the call, including communications director Howard Wolfson and chief strategist Mark Penn, stuck to the party line, no matter how ridiculous.

New Clinton Advertisement: Protect the Kids!

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 12:42 PM PST

Here's the ad everyone's talking about.

Note that the phone rings six times before Clinton answers it in the ad's final scene. How ready is she, really? Here are the two ads that it reminds everyone of:

This quote might be relevant: "One of Clinton's laws of politics is, if one candidate is trying to scare you, and the other one is trying to make you think, if one candidate's appealing to your fears, and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.'' That's Bill Clinton on the stump, campaigning for John Kerry in 2004.

Update: Obama hits back. His ad, after the jump.

Dance Beat Sneaking Back Into Hip-Hop

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 10:32 AM PST

mojo-photo-snoop.jpgWhat I wanna do right here is go back: way back, back into time, to the early 1990s, and to a short-lived musical genre called "hip house." Bridging the sonic and cultural gap between the up tempo 4/4 beats of house music clubs in Chicago and Detroit with the energy and lyrical flow of New York hip-hop, the hybrid genre was everywhere for a brief moment. Artists like Fast Eddie and Mr. Lee threw down the party jams, while bands like A Homeboy a Hippie and a Funky Dread and Genaside pushed musical boundaries. And don't forget Technotronic! It seemed like the future, a musical genre that broke barriers of race and sexuality. So, what happened to it?

Citing the Delegate Math, the Obama Camp Tells Clinton: You Will "Fail Miserably"

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 9:02 AM PST

In a conference call with reporters on Friday morning, David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager, had a stark message for the Clinton camp: You will "fail miserably." He was referring to Hillary Clinton's attempt to overtake Obama in the pledged delegate count.

Plouffe maintained that even if Clinton wins Ohio and Texas she will not rack up much of a net gain in delegates. In Ohio, for instance, if the winner of that Democratic primary triumphs by 5 percent, he or she might only pick up 3 or so more delegates than the loser, thanks to the proportional awarding of delegates. Plouffe ran through the tough math Clinton faces. Currently, he said, Obama has a lead of 162 delegates. (The count at Realclearpolitics.com has Obama up by 155.) If Clinton wins close contests in both Ohio and Texas--and polls now suggest these elections will be close--she might cut Obama's lead to 150 or so pledged delegates. After March 4, there are 611 pledged delegates up for grabs in the subsequent primaries and caucuses. Consequently, Clinton would have to win over 60 percent of those delegates to catch up. And to do so, she would have to score a series of super-majority wins in the remaining states. Plouffe called it a "huge task" for Clinton to erase Obama's pledged delegate lead. And he noted that the Obama campaign could end up netting more delegates from the upcoming contests in Mississippi and Wyoming than Clinton might gain on March 4, should she place first in both Ohio and Texas. If Obama's pledged delegate lead doesn't precipitously drop to 100 in the next few contests, Plouffe asserted, the Clintonites "simply don't have any avenue to the nomination."

Sure, this is spin. But sometimes spin can be true, and the math, at this point, does favor Obama.

In the call, Plouffe also responded to the latest Clinton ad. That spot shows children dozing in bed, and a baritonal narrator somberly says, "It's three A.M. and your children are safe and asleep." But the phone is ringing in the White House: "something is happening in the world." The unseen narrator asks, "Who do you want answering the phone?"

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Missing Link Never Lost

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 11:11 PM PST

493px-Horseevolution.png At least not since 1861, when the first Archaeopteryx fossil bridging birds and dinosaurs was discovered. Creationists have got it wrong (again), according to a new piece in New Scientist. Archaeopteryx rose from German limestones only 2 years after Darwin published The Origin of Species, wherein he predicted that so-called missing-links would be found. And they were. And they are, writes Donald Prothero:

In the 1870s the iconic sequence of fossil horses was documented. By the time of Darwin's death in 1882 there were numerous fossils and fossil sequences showing evolutionary change, especially among invertebrates. Evidence of evolution in the fossil record has vastly increased since then. Yet the idea still persists that the fossil record is too patchy to provide good evidence of evolution. One reason for this is the influence of creationism. Foremost among their tactics is to distort or ignore the evidence for evolution; a favourite lie is "there are no transitional fossils".

In fact transitions are everywhere: the emergence of vertebrates from echinoderms (sea urchins, starfish & kin); the "fishibian" sequence (pdf) whereby fish crawled ashore; the transition from synapsids to mammals; plus sequences showing how giraffes got their long necks, seals returned to the sea; and the hippolike transition that returned manatees and their kin back to the ocean… The list is growing, deepening, and, well, evolving.

If Obama Is a Woman, and I Vote For Clinton, Am I a Man?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 4:41 PM PST

One would think Maureen Dowd had cornered the market on silly-beyond-belief gendered nonsense about Sens. Clinton and Obama. One would be wrong; Newsweek wants to vie for that crown:

Comment Trolls Hit the Ahmadineblog

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 3:27 PM PST

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Like many a personal blog, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "Personal memos" page has gradually lost steam since its debut in 2006. In 2007 the Iranian president posted just three times, down from 10 posts the previous year, and he has repeatedly apologized for his tardiness in responding to readers' letters (he says he has just 15 minutes per week of blogging time).

But at this point, besides a neat feature that allows readers to choose from five background colors, the most interesting thing about the Ahmadineblog is the comments section. Comments are apparently not screened, and, somewhat surprisingly given the president's infamous unfriendliness to dissenters, a few caustic attacks have been allowed to stand.

After the jump, a sample of comments (preceded by country of origin):

Is Collecting Records Stupid?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 3:19 PM PST

mojo-photo-beatles.jpgVia Uncut comes news that an exceedingly rare copy of the Beatles' 1968 "White Album" is set for auction this week, and is likely to bring bids of up to £5000 ($10,000). The record has a serial number of 00000007 (kind of like Mr. Burns' Social Security number) and since it's rumored that the first ten copies of the album were all given to band members, that would make this "the lowest numbered original mono copy" that has ever been up for auction. Is this silly, or a justifiable appreciation of a landmark work of art?