2008 - %3, February

97.5 Million People Bored by Super Bowl Until Last Three Minutes

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 9:46 PM EST

FootballThe overnight ratings are in, and initial figures show that not only was last night's Super Bowl the most watched Super Bowl ever, it was in fact the second most watched television event in history. Its 97.5 million number is bested only by the 106 million who apparently watched the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H. I never liked that show.

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The Neocon Redemption: AEI's Bid to Save Afghanistan

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 7:12 PM EST

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The American Enterprise Institute (AEI)—bastion of neocon thought, leading Iraq war pusher, and (a day late and a penny short) deviser of the "surge" strategy that at least helped mitigate some of the resulting carnage—is now focusing its collected wisdom on the war in Afghanistan. As Sean Naylor reports in the latest issue of the Navy Times, AEI's Afghanistan Planning Group, an assemblage of about "two dozen" experts, concluded three days of meetings on January 27. The project was led by Fred Kagan, one of the chief architects of "Choosing Victory—A Plan For Success in Iraq," which formed the basis of the Bush administration's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Iraq early last year. Conservatives have lauded the "success" of the Iraq surge as evidence of a turnaround in American fortunes there. (Others, it should be pointed out, see the diminishing violence as a logical result of the ferocious ethnic cleansing that burned through Iraqi neighborhoods in the past couple of years.) AEI insists that the group's work was undertaken independent of the White House, but acknowledged that the official findings, which have so far not been released publicly, will be shared with government officials in the coming weeks.

According to Naylor in the Navy Times, those findings include:

* Deploy an extra U.S. brigade into Kandahar and a Marine battalion into Helmand in 2008 and maintain that force level through 2009. Some 28,000 U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan, about half the total coalition force there.

Which Dem Is Better Able to Beat John McCain?

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:47 PM EST

mccain-vs-dems.jpg An interesting question that undecideds voting tomorrow might like to think through: which Democratic candidate is better suited to beat John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, in the general election?

McCain would be a tough opponent for either candidate. If he faces off against Clinton in the general, he will neutralize her primary arguments: experience and immediate fitness for office. McCain matches and beats Clinton's credentials on foreign policy, and can hammer her for playing the lobbyist/earmarks/special interest game.

But Obama has problems with the match-up too. One of Obama's strengths is that he is viewed as a candidate who would restore integrity to the White House and clean up Washington. McCain is viewed the same way. In fact, McCain can argue that because he took the lead on campaign finance reform, he actually has done more than Obama on one of Obama's key issues. What you are left with is a young(ish) man with no foreign policy experience facing off with a war hero and a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But that doesn't mean the Democrats don't have advantages.

How Will the Media Measure Victory Tomorrow?

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:36 PM EST

Ed Kilgore of Democratic Strategist has an interesting point about delegates—they may determine the actual winner of the Democratic nomination, but they aren't necessarily what the media will look to tomorrow night. In fact, the media can judge success in a number of different ways:

Top Hospitals Have 27% Lower Mortality Rate

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:29 PM EST

793567365_fb45589496_m.jpg This according to HealthGrades, in the largest annual study of hospital quality in America, analyzing more than 40 million hospitalization records over the most recent three years. The results indicate that patients treated at top-rated hospitals nationwide are nearly one-third less likely to die, on average. Patients who undergo surgery at these high-performing hospitals also have an average five percent lower risk of complications during their stay. Overall, 171,424 lives may have been saved and 9,671 major complications avoided during the three years studied, had the quality of care at all hospitals matched the level of those in the top five percent. "This disparity in the quality of care at U.S. hospitals is disappointing," says Samantha Collier, MD, HealthGrades chief medical officer.

You can check the ratings of your local hospitals for free here.

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

Campaign Ad Factoids

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:26 PM EST

obama150.jpgPolitical Punch has an interesting little collection of facts about candidate advertising. Among the most interesting:

* Mitt Romney was the No. 1 advertiser in both parties—35,000 ads—and spent as much as all of his GOP opponents combined—and almost four times as much as John McCain in Florida

* Barack Obama led the Democratic pack with almost 30,000 ads, worth almost $23 million; Hillary Clinton aired more than 25,500 ads, worth well over $18 million.

* Who did the talking? Barack Obama narrated nearly 83% of his own TV ads, while Hillary Clinton narrated fewer than half (43 percent) of hers.

* McCain used images of the American flag more than any other leading candidate, with 77% of his TV ads displaying the Stars and Stripes…compared with 40% of Obama's and 33% of Clinton's.

Another interesting fact: Obama was the only candidate to air an ad during the Super Bowl. Take a look:

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The Best Music of 2007: What My Dad Thinks

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 5:21 PM EST

2007 Music

Here we are, a month into 2008. The Village Voice and Idolator 2007 critics polls were recently released, and it feels like it's probably time to wrap up our thoughts on the previous year in music. But rather than inflict my own opinions on you once again, I thought I'd turn to a less-pretentious source: my dad.

Larry Gill is a 67-year-old farmer who's spent most of his life in a small town in Nebraska and has no musical training to speak of (other than church choir). But his taste in music always surprises me: he's a big Coldplay fan and raves about the Zero 7 CD I got him for Christmas a few years back (and my mom assures me he really does listen to it all the time). So I wondered what he'd think about critics' picks for '07. I sent him a CD of some of the year's notable songs (along with a few of my own random picks) and we talked on the phone while he listened to it.

President Bush's Budget - Money for Defense and Not Much Else

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 3:28 PM EST

bush-deficits-graphic.gif According to the Washington Post, the budget that President Bush is introducing today is set to "slow the growth of big federal health programs, reduce anti-terrorism grants for states and cities, and cut spending on anti-poverty, housing, and social service programs." The early education program Even Start is going to be eliminated, and funding for education technology, programs for incarcerated youth, and college affordability measures are being stripped.

Medicare will see deep cuts. Poison control centers and rural health programs will be drastically reduced. The Community Services Block Grant, "a $654 million program that provides housing, nutrition, education and job services to low-income people," will be cut completely.

Is President Bush finally embracing the fiscal conservativism that has been more myth than reality during his two terms?

Don't be silly. The budget introduces "a flood of new red ink that will rival the record deficits of [Bush's] first term." The deficit will go from $163 billion in 2007 to about $400 billion in 2008 and 2009. So where is all the money going?

Remembering Clinton and Obama on Israeli Bombing of Syria

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 3:02 PM EST

Seymour Hersh has written a new article about Israel's bombing of Syria last September. Laura Rozen may have more to say about it, but it seems inconclusive. No one—Israeli, Syrian, or American—has a convincing explanation of what happened. But certainly there doesn't appear to be strong evidence Syria truly was, as Israel claimed, building a nuclear reactor. Moreover, the hazy evidence, long links of supposition, and hints of other agendas are strongly reminiscent of the Iraq/WMD story.

With that in mind, it's interesting to remember what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were saying about the bombing soon afterward, at the September 27 MSNBC debate. Here's Clinton:

George Bush, Tree Hugger

| Mon Feb. 4, 2008 3:00 PM EST

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Fun fact about the President's $3.1-trillion budget proposal: It may kill more American soldiers, but it saves money—and trees! How, you ask? From the LA Times:

In a cost-saving gesture, the government for the first time did not provide free copies of the four-volume proposal to Congress, instead releasing it online and charging $200 per printed copy ordered through the Government Printing Office.

Glad somebody's finally taking a stand against government waste.

—Casey Miner