2008 - %3, March

Justice Department Approves XM-Sirius Merger

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 1:39 PM PDT

mojo-photo-xmsirius.gifIn the latest example of two wrongs desperately hoping to make a right, satellite radio rivals XM and Sirius are one step closer to blissful orbital matrimony as the Justice Department has approved the companies' merger. It still has to get past the FCC, but Justice accepted the networks' argument that HD radio, iPods and, uh, player pianos constitute adequate competition in the face of what sure looks like a monopoly to anyone with eyes. Assistant attorney general Thomas O. Barnett laughs off your suspicions, though:

In several important segments of their business, with or without the merger, the parties simply do not compete today and therefore the merger would not be eliminating any competition between them.

Right, so can Apple and Microsoft merge, because people can just use typewriters and read magazines? Hooray!

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The Clinton Campaign's Path to the Nomination, In Its Own Words

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 12:06 PM PDT

I've spent a fair amount of time recently discussing how the Clinton campaign is using spin to keep its prospects alive, despite a tremendously difficult path to the nomination. And though I've criticized the type of journalism that gives both sides a say and calls that objectivity, I'm going to let the campaign explain how it plans to traverse that path.

Here's Clinton's delegate counter, Harold Ickes, from a conference call earlier today. Note that the Clinton campaign refers to superdelegates as "automatic delegates."

The unvarnished facts are that neither one of these candidates will be able to achieve the nomination — whether with the lower amount [of delegates], 2024, without Florida and Michigan, or whether with the higher amount, 2208 — neither candidate can achieve the nomination solely with pledged delegates because they're split damn near right down the middle.
Thus, either candidate is going to have to have a very substantial number of automatic delegates to reach the nomination. As we look down towards the end of [the primary campaign], we think that both candidates are going to be within a hair of each other by the time the last states vote, which will be Montana and South Dakota. And assuming that the remaining unpledged automatic delegates generally stay where they are — unpledged as they watch this race unfold, as they see new information being developed, particularly about Sen. Obama — at the end of this process, neither candidate will have the nomination and each candidate is going to have to depend on the remaining automatic delegates to make their decisions, and that applies to Sen. Obama as well as Sen. Clinton.

In a word: superdelegates.

Ickes mentioned at a different point in the call that the Clinton campaign is still holding out hope for revotes in Michigan and Florida.

What Ickes doesn't acknowledge is that while Obama and Clinton will both need superdelegates to push them over the top, the Obama campaign has the pledged delegate lead and the popular vote lead, which lends credibility to its pitch to the undecided party honchos who will ultimately decide this thing.

Clinton on the Possibility of Pledged Delegates Flipping (Again)

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 10:43 AM PDT

From time to time, someone in the Clinton campaign will reference the possibility of pledged delegates won by Obama flipping for Clinton before or at the convention. Pledged delegates from a particular state are supposed to vote for the candidate who "won" them in that state's primary or caucus, but they are not bound by party rules to do so. It's generally viewed as over-the-line for a candidate to try and flip a pledged delegate because doing so means subverting the will of the voters. That's why the Clinton campaign has always responded to these mini-snafus with strong statements. "We have not, are not, and will not pursue the pledged delegates of Barack Obama," said Clinton's communication director Howard Wolfson in one such instance.

So how to explain Hillary Clinton's statement yesterday to the Philadelphia Daily News?

"And also remember that pledged delegates in most states are not pledged. You know there is no requirement that anybody vote for anybody. They're just like superdelegates."

I second Chris Orr's endorsement of Josh Marshall's "fog of nonsense" theory. The idea is that Clinton has an incentive to keep everyone confused about the status of the delegate count, because it hides how difficult the math currently makes it for her to get the nomination. She doesn't have to suggest she'll pursue pledged delegates, just remind everyone that the pledged delegate count is not a hard-and-fast number. I think that's right. Every time her campaign floats something like this, the media has another reason to keep the back-and-forth of the campaign in the headlines for another day or two, creating the perception that Obama and Clinton are equally matched opponents.

And if she's waiting for Obama to make a catastrophic mistake or for the superdelegates to swing her way, she needs that time.

John McCain Needs to Chat With Tommy Franks

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 8:53 AM PDT

The LA Times catches John McCain dismissing a key criticism of the Iraq war:

"I know of no one who believes attention to Iraq at that point diverted our attention from Tora Bora," McCain said....
"We should have put more boots on the ground there to apprehend [Osama bin Laden]. Everyone agrees. But I have no reason to believe that because we urged attention to Iraq, it had any tactical effect on the battleground."

Tora Bora was where the American military had bin Laden pinned down in late 2001, only to have him escape from its grasp (you can read more here). As Think Progress helpfully points out, then-CENTCOM Commander Tommy Franks, who oversaw the Middle East, had the following reaction to the Bush Administration's instructions in November and December of 2001 to start planning for war in Iraq: "They were in the midst of one war in Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another? Goddamn. What the f--k are they talking about?"

Want to know more? Read Plan of Attack. Or The One-Percent Doctrine. Or Cobra II. Planning for a second war while trying to fight the first compromised our effectiveness in both. That's indisputable, no matter what John McCain says.

Harry Reid, Rainmaker?

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 8:06 AM PDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insists he's got the whole Democratic race under control. Here's a conversation he had with the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week:

Question: Do you still think the Democratic race can be resolved before the convention?
Reid: Easy.
Q: How is that?
Reid: It will be done.
Q: It just will?
Reid: Yep.
Q: Magically?
Reid: No, it will be done. I had a conversation with Governor Dean (Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean) today. Things are being done.

What? "Things are being done"?

For the record, I asked the Clinton campaign if it knew what Reid was talking about. It didn't. Its response, from top Clinton aide Harold Ickes: "This process needs to play out. There are a number states left to vote." I'll call Reid's office next.

The Clinton Campaign's New Math

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 3:35 PM PDT

clinton.jpg Unless something truly monumental produces lopsided victories for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming primaries, her chances for the Democratic nomination rely on superdelegates overturning the will of Democratic voters. Knowing this, her campaign has regularly identified criteria upon which the superdelegates might choose Clinton over Obama, some of which directly reflect the voters' intent (pledged delegate count, popular vote) and some of which are essentially judgment calls (electability, readiness). The campaign's problem is that the former criteria currently favor Obama and the latter don't lend themselves to a slam dunk consensus. In fact, they have so far been rejected by the majority of Democratic voters, who think electability and readiness are either better found in Obama or are trumped by Obama's ability to usher in change. If superdelegates were to cite Clinton's electability and readiness in order to coronate a nominee, it could drive voters out of the party.

But the Clinton campaign has found a new angle: imaginary electoral college votes. It is sending surrogates out to push the idea that superdelegates should vote for the candidate who would have come out ahead if the primaries were awarding electoral college votes instead of delegates.

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Global Warming for Fun and Profit

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 2:41 PM PDT

Sick of frittering away your hard-earned wages on March Madness? How about betting on melting ice instead?

An annual contest to guess the exact moment the ice breaks on the River Tanana, 300 miles north of Anchorage, is attracting global interest, both as a chance to win a $300,000 (£151,000) prize and as one of the world's most precise scientific indicators of the effects of global warming.

Betting closes at midnight on April 5, and tickets are sold throughout Alaska.

White House Destroyed Hard Drives That May Have Contained Missing Emails

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 2:32 PM PDT

The White House has responded to a judge's order asking it to explain why it shouldn't be required to make copies of all of its hard drives to ensure the recovery of missing emails by claiming that many of the relevant hard drives have been destroyed. You read that correctly: the White House position is "We don't have to preserve hard drives containing missing email because we already destroyed them."

Is it Possible to Take Back an Endorsement?

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 1:31 PM PDT

lieberman200.jpg The Day of New London, Connecticut, has an ass-kicking editorial about John McCain's traveling buddy. It's titled, "We Don't Know This Sen. Joe: Sen. Lieberman has been too busy burning bridges to build any."

When The Day endorsed Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman for re-election in November 2006 it was supporting a candidate who demonstrated a history of pragmatic leadership and a willingness to seek bipartisan solutions.
We wonder what happened to that senator....

Live Review: Vampire Weekend @ Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 1:12 PM PDT

mojo-photo-vampire2.jpgAppropriately enough, just getting to this show sucked the life out of me like a bloodthirsty Transylvanian. I'm happily relaxing with friends at around 9:15pm, having a spirited argument about Hillary Clinton and political dynasties, and I get a text message from Friend A: "R U cming 2 vamp?" I reply: "yes." Friend A: "Show starts in 15." "Minutes?" I reply. "Yes," comes the answer. As I get my jacket on, another text comes from Friend B: "Can my girlfriend be your +1"? Er, I don't have a +1. "Do you have the # of [Friend C who works at the label]"? I text it to him. Friend A texts again: "I'm here with [Friend D, lead singer of a notable Bay Area rock band], he says 'hi'." Okay. Friend C texts to tell me I now have a +1 and it's for Friend B's girlfriend. I arrive at the show, no sign of Friend B or the girlfriend. "Whr r u," I text. "At the kebab place around the corner." That kebab place is like 3 blocks away! "I'm here, band is on," I text madly, as I hear the strains of "Mansard Roof" through the door. A woman bicycles up and asks the security guy if he saw anyone selling tickets. "Someone was selling a ticket for $60 earlier," he says. "Do you think it's worth it if I wait?" she asks, and he says, "nah, I wouldn't." Minutes and two more songs pass, and no sign of my friends, but then Friend C from the record label shows up and puts Friend B on the list anyway, and I can finally enter the venue.