2008 - %3, May

Obama, Clinton Camps Make Case In Advance of Key DNC Meeting on FL and MI

| Wed May. 28, 2008 1:01 PM PDT

On a conference call with reporters today, the Clinton campaign made it clear what it hopes to get out of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) meeting scheduled for this Saturday. The meeting, which is open to the press and will be covered by Mother Jones, seeks to resolve the controversy surrounding Michigan and Florida. "Delegate allocation must fairly reflect the popular vote," Clinton delegate counter Harold Ickes said over and over. Ickes statement summarizes the Clinton position: count the popular vote percentages exactly as they were filed back in January, even though Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan and neither candidate campaigned in Florida, and distribute the states' delegates accordingly.

But the delegates aren't really the secret to the their plans. Obama currently leads in pledged delegates 1659-1499. If you split Michigan's 128 delegates according to the vote count (55 percent for Clinton, 40 percent for "uncommitted"/Obama), Clinton nets 70 and Obama nets 51. The rest go to also-rans, primarily Kucinich. If you divide Florida's 185 delegates exactly as the popular vote went (50 percent for Clinton, 33 percent for Obama), Clinton gets 92 delegates to Obama's 42. The rest again go to also-rans, primarily Edwards this time.

Now this hypothetical doesn't factor in the possibility that the DNC will halve Michigan and Florida's delegations as punishment for moving their primaries ahead of Party-set limits, and to ensure that states don't repeat this fiasco in 2012. Instead, it counts the delegates exactly as Clinton wants.

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Putting a Rumor to Rest

| Wed May. 28, 2008 11:23 AM PDT

Yesterday, Asia Times ran a story saying 'Bush plans air strikes' on Iran by August. "After receiving secret briefings on the planned air strike, Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said they would write a New York Times op-ed piece 'within days', the source said last week, to express their opposition," the outlet reported, adding that the oped hadn't materialized.

I chased down Senator Lugar's spokesman today who told me the story is flat out untrue. Senator Lugar "wasn't briefed, there's no oped," says Andy Fischer, spokesman for Lugar, who is vice chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Fischer said he'd been getting calls about the bogus report for two days.

Trita Parsi, the head of the pro-engagement National Iranian American Council and a former Congressional staffer, tells me he too heard the rumor of Congressional briefing on Iran, but that the whole thing "doesn't make sense to me though." Parsi said.


Troubling (?) Webb and Obama Similarity

| Wed May. 28, 2008 10:51 AM PDT

If you've been reading these interwebs at all, you know they are atwitter with talk of Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia becoming Sen. Obama's VP. There are all sorts of serious concerns with Webb, to which I will add only this superficial one. Here's a Webb quote from a 2006 Wall Street Journal op-ed:

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet.

Sounds an awful lot like this famous quote:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.
And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The quotes aren't exactly the same, obviously, but they seem to share a belief that working class conservatives vote the way they do because they've been blinded by social issues, instead of being rational actors who choose to prioritize social issues over their economic self-interest. Probably not something the Democrats want to double down on with their presidential ticket.

Hat tip Kos.

John Bolton to Be Target of Citizens Arrest in Wales

| Wed May. 28, 2008 8:15 AM PDT

John Bolton, the former DOJ official and ambassador to the UN who was instrumental in taking America to war in Iraq, may face a citizen's arrest when he speaks at literary festival in Wales tonight.

George Monbiot, a columnist for the Guardian newspaper, plans on using Bolton's appearance at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival to detainee the well-known neocon. "Many people accept that the launching of the Iraq war was an international crime, but no one has yet been prepared to act on it by arresting one of the perpetrators," says Monbiot.

The director of the festival is having none of it. "The Hay Festival has sought the advice of both police and lawyers, and has been unequivocally assured that a citizen's arrest, or an attempt to instigate a citizen's arrest, would be completely unlawful in these circumstances," he says.

Here's Monbiot's list of charges. Considering John Bolton thinks attacking Iran is America's "most prudent" foreign policy option at the moment, it might make sense for somebody to detain him before he (har har!) strikes again. Okay, maybe that isn't funny.

It is unclear what will happen after Monbiot makes the citizen's arrest, if he is able to make it at all. We'll keep you posted.

George Meets John and the Public Pays

| Wed May. 28, 2008 7:58 AM PDT

Hey, remember that closed press fundraiser that I mentioned yesterday? The one where John McCain was trying to hide the fact that he was holding it with George W. Bush?

Your tax dollars paid for Bush's flight.

Digging Through the Scott McClellan Tell-All

| Wed May. 28, 2008 7:29 AM PDT

Clips from the former White House press secretary's new book. Wow.

"If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq."
"The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."
"History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

More after the jump.

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Oprah's Peace Corps Lite: O Really?

| Wed May. 28, 2008 12:01 AM PDT

Hot on the heels of revamping the entire publishing industry, Oprah has apparently decided to reinvent the Peace Corps in her spare time. The new O Ambassadors are essentially younger, poorer, Oprah-backed versions of who I was in Africa after college, as far as I can tell. Good for Oprah, saving the world again and all that...right? Right?

Okay, I'll let her site explain the program's differences to you:

"I'm proud to unveil one of the best ideas we've ever had—it's called O Ambassadors," Oprah says...

American Jewish Committee Won't Touch Hagee on Holocaust; Silence from AIPAC, ADL

| Tue May. 27, 2008 6:57 PM PDT

In an interview today, an official from the American Jewish Committee would not criticize Pastor John Hagee for his explication, in a recently resurfaced sermon, of Hitler as a "hunter" sent by God to drive European Jews to Palestine.

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, AJC's US Director of Interreligious Affairs, told me that he accepted Hagee's "clarification" of the sermon, which John McCain condemned as "crazy and unacceptable" last week. "I guess I feel like I don't really know how to understand that sermon. I guess I understand that he was trying to say that people can be an instrument of God's will, but in the throes of the passion of giving the sermon, perhaps he didn't stop and think what that meant," Greenebaum said. "But at least now, under reflection and under the current circumstances, he seems to be saying something very different. His statement of clarification I don't have much of a beef with as a free-standing statement."

But as the Huffington Post accurately reported last week, Hagee's clarification doesn't actually include an apology or a disavowal of the sermon. Here's the tape of the sermon at issue, in which Hagee also says that "They [the Jewish people] are physically alive but they're not spiritually alive."

Here's the question I set out to answer last week: would the most prominent Jewish and "pro-Israel" groups in the country finally take Hagee to task for his outrageous comments and for seeing Jews primarily in terms of their role in his eschatology?

Angry Votes Suck

| Tue May. 27, 2008 4:49 PM PDT

800px-Prozac_pills.jpg The more anxious or angry you are about the political landscape the less likely you are to actually pay attention to the facts. This according to a new study in Political Psychology. While angry and anxious voters tune into the news more than more relaxed voters, they actually concentrate less effectively on the available information. Researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Texas conducted two experiments in the 2004 presidential campaigns in which people answered questions on a computer that either induced a specific emotional state or a control condition to reduce all emotional arousal. The first experiment found that anxious, angry and enthusiastic people claimed they were more interested than people in a controlled, relaxed setting, and that they would pay closer attention to the debates. However, all three emotional states led people to take less time looking for information that was available to them, with anxiety impacting attention the most. The second experiment suggested that typical campaign coverage can trigger powerful emotions which lead to hasty, uninformed decisions.

So, let's get this straight… the news runs on emotion, which leads to bad judgment, which leads to bad leaders, which pisses us off, which fuels bad news…

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

The White Rapper Show vs. Miss Rap Supreme

| Tue May. 27, 2008 12:18 PM PDT

I'm so out of touch, I'm often reduced to wondering if I'm being punk'd by every third article I read. Seriously. I'm starting to expect to find myself on some YouTube footage while depraved young folk, fresh from MySpace'ing drunken, naked pix of themselves, guffaw whilst reading some earnest critique I've posted of their fabricated news. But no. So far, I haven't fallen for any hoaxes though I often which I had. God help us, it's all true.

I have no idea anymore who those bony babies on the red carpets are, nor most of the shows they're associated with. A good 95% of the bands on SNL are utter mysteries to me. (Full disclosure: I have long since been reduced to watching a TIVO'd SNL on Sunday afternoon; 11:30 finds me deep in REM sleep.) 2006 was my last year bothering to bone up on the Grammy or MTV award recipients (again, on the next day. I read the lists; can't stand the music). All their names sound like spoofs to me. I was quite sure I was being made fun of as Onion staffers somewhere snickered at the thought of nerds like me trying to fake discussing System of a Down or Dashboard Confessional over the water cooler. Since they didn't actually exist. I gave up somewhere around something, someone or some band called Nine Inch Nails. Surely picking your band's name at random from one of those refrigerator-magnet poem packs is a joke, right? But, sadly, no.