2009 - %3, January

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In the Water

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 6:14 PM EST

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GO BACK IN THE WATER....She's b-a-a-a-a-ck! And she wants you to know that she's not just a smarmy, pathetically ignorant right-wing attack dog whose 15 minutes expired three months ago. In fact:

Gov. Sarah Palin believes all Americans must work together for the future, regardless of their party affiliation. Gov. Palin is the official chair of SarahPac, and its supporters are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and those unaffiliated with any political party.

Roger that. I'm sure there are just loads of Democrats who are signing up to support Sarah. I can't wait to see the list.

Via ThinkProgress.

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Poll: Do You Miss Bush Lingo Yet?

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 6:10 PM EST

We've had a highly articulate president for a full week now. Lest you forget just what an accomplishment English fluency really is, we at Mother Jones invite you to check out our favorite verbal missteps from the former Decider-in-Chief. (We had a hard time cutting the list down to this—as Jacob Weisberg at Slate knows, there are a lot to choose from.) What's your favorite Bush quote? Vote below.

Has Animal Collective Already Locked Up the "Best Album of 2009" Title?

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 6:06 PM EST

Animal CollectiveAnimal Collective is nothing if not honest: they're a loosely-defined collaboration between a couple musicians of Baltimore heritage that includes at least one nominal critter, Panda Bear. Between 2000 and 2008, the combo produced eight albums of sometimes noisy, sometimes delicate music, stepping easily over the boundaries of genre as if they were painted in a lower dimension. Their Wikipedia page lists their musical style as "Experimental/Noise pop/Freak folk/Indie rock/Neo-psychedelia," just to cover all the bases, but their sprawling output has been unified by a dedication to pure, pleasurable melody, a world view, shared by many, that puts The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds at the center of the universe.

With that kind of pedigree, it's understandable that Animal Collective have always been critical darlings, but their just-released ninth album, the more electronic-based Merriweather Post Pavillion, is getting some of the best reviews of their career. Pitchfork gave it a 9.6/10, describing the album as the culmination of the band's musical searchings, "a new kind of electronic pop." Entertainment Weekly called it "joyful, pure, and best of all, totally inclusive," Drowned in Sound gets all James Joyce-y, burbling about "the rush of life, the rush of electricity, the rush of joy, joy unbounded," and Uncut actually said "it feels like one of the landmark American albums of the century so far." If these critics don't look back from December and change their minds, Pavillion will be 2009's album of the year. So, is it really, or did the album's eye-straining cover art (the product of Japanese psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka) just hypnotize everybody?

The Real Obama

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 5:48 PM EST

THE REAL OBAMA....Bruce Falconer notes today that Predator attacks over Pakistani territory are continuing unabated:

Obama approved a continuation of the strikes last Friday at his first meeting of the National Security Council. That same day, a missile fired from a drone in Waziristan killed at least 20 people — powerful evidence indeed of Obama's decision.

Given the new president's quick break with many of his predecessor's policies, Obama's decision represents a rare point of continuity — and comes not without criticism. UAV attacks in the region, numbering at least 30 according to a Reuters estimate, have ignited protest from the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and provided a handy propaganda tool and recruiting engine for insurgents. Indeed, for all of the top leaders reportedly killed in air strikes over the years, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have only grown stronger.

This is yet another case of Obama doing what he said he'd do during the campaign, and it's what I meant a few days ago when I said that he seemed to be taking campaign promises unusually seriously "both for good and ill." Some progressives may not like the continued bombing campaign over Pakistan, but it's not as if we weren't warned. Likewise, on an issue like nuclear power plants, where he waffled, we should expect that he'll probably continue to take something of a mixed position.

Real life will make Obama's life much more difficult before long, when speeches and executive orders are no longer enough. Still, when all's said and done, I suspect his administration will turn out to be almost eerily foreshadowed by what he said on the campaign trail in 2008. At this point, anyone who claims not to know what Obama "really" believes just hasn't been paying attention.

It's Official: MoJo Interns Rejected for TARP Funds

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 4:23 PM EST

Well, it looks like it's official. Despite our considerable efforts, Mother Jones is getting no federal bailout funds. According to YooJin Na at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, "your organization is not eligible for the TARP-CPP." Supportively, he included a link to the Treasury Department's special Emergency Economic Stabilization Act website.

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But that's only one G-man's opinion—we have yet to hear the verdict from the other places we applied. So there's still hope.

Like Matthew Lesko and Edwardsville, Alabama, we know there's got to be federal money for everyone somewhere. We've condensed the already pretty effortless Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) application process below, so you too can test your luck.

Apply for your bailout, in two frighteningly easy steps:

1. Fill out this form.

2. Email it to the Federal Deposition Insurance Corporation at assessments@fdic.gov, the Office of Thrift Supervision at webmaster@ots.treas.gov, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency at Customer.Assistance@occ.treas.gov, or the Federal Reserve. Try all four to maximize your odds.

It pays to take your chances: 27 minutes for a possible 30-billion-dollar payout. That's sure better than than waiting tables.

—Alexis Fitts and Daniel Luzer

The Future of CFLs

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 3:57 PM EST

THE FUTURE OF CFLs....A couple of years ago I went on a binge and replaced a whole bunch of incandescent bulbs in our house with CFLs. Unfortunately, I discovered that their burnout rate was surprisingly high. Out of 20 bulbs or so, I think I had to replace four or five within 18 months. CFL expert Michael Siminovitch confirms that my experience wasn't just a fluke:

Consumers have an expectation that compact fluorescents will last a very long time — significantly longer than the incandescents that they're replacing. This is technically achievable. Compact fluorescents can last a very long time. Unfortunately, I think we've compromised greatly on quality with many compact fluorescents and these things are not lasting quite as long as consumers have been led to believe. This is an issue.

He says that color and dimming issues with CFLs (which I was aware of before I bought mine) can also be addressed, but only with tighter standards and higher prices. If we got serious about it, though, economies of scale would drive down the price of high-quality bulbs fairly quickly. More here.

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Who Should Progressives Root for in the Super Bowl?

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 3:47 PM EST

superbowl-43-logo.jpg So you're not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and you're not an Arizona Cardinals fan, but you've been invited to a Super Bowl party and you need to know who to root for. Before you pick the Cardinals because you're a progressive and you love underdogs, I urge you to consider a few facts.

Dan Rooney, the 76-year-old owner of the Steelers and a lifelong Republican, endorsed Obama and stumped for him not just in Pennsylvania but in the surrounding swing states. He did so despite the fact that Obama's promise of increased taxes on the wealthy forced Rooney's family to restructure the ownership of the team. Head coach Mike Tomlin is a vocal Obama supporter. At a recent press conference he said, "Barack is selling hope. And I'm buying." Steelers players have spoken out about how they hope to win the Super Bowl in part because it would mean they would be the first championship sports team to visit Obama's White House. (Also worth noting: Barack Obama grew up a Steelers fan and is rooting for the Steel Curtain on Sunday.)

The Bidwell family, longtime owners of the Cardinals, are major Republican donors. Their donor history can be found on opensecrets.org, but to save you time, I'll point you to a couple links. The LA Times reports that team President William Bidwell and Vice President Michael Bidwell each gave $50,000 to Republicans this past election season. Politico adds that as fundraisers for McCain, they bundled upwards of $350,000 for the Republican presidential candidate.

Mull that over as you tip back your favorite adult beverage on Sunday evening. I think your choice is clear.

Update: More proof! Arizona's starting quarterback Kurt Warner appeared in an advertisement opposing stem cell research in 2006.

Gates to Congress: Predator Missile Strikes to Continue

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 3:19 PM EST

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Just a footnote to David's post about Robert Gates' testimony this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It's worth noting that the Pentagon chief acknowledged that the new administration will continue to fire Predator missiles from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. "Both President Bush and President Obama have made clear that we will go after Al Qaeda wherever Al Qaeda is, and we will continue to pursue that," Gates said.

Obama approved a continuation of the strikes last Friday at his first meeting of the National Security Council. That same day, a missile fired from a drone in Waziristan killed at least 20 people—powerful evidence indeed of Obama's decision.

Given the new president's quick break with many of his predecessor's policies, Obama's decision represents a rare point of continuity—and comes not without criticism. UAV attacks in the region, numbering at least 30 according to a Reuters estimate, have ignited protest from the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and provided a handy propaganda tool and recruiting engine for insurgents. Indeed, for all of the top leaders reportedly killed in air strikes over the years, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have only grown stronger.

The Pakistani government filed a formal complaint over the weekend, stating the "attacks in the Waziristan area which caused civilian causalities are a matter of great concern... are counter-productive and should be discontinued."

For his part, Gates testified this morning that "Pakistan is a friend and partner" and is surely aware of the "existential threat" posed by Islamic militants operating in its tribal areas.



Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Army.mil.

Afghanistan: Still on the Back Burner?

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 2:37 PM EST

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So far three daily press briefings at the White House for the new Obama administration, and only one question on the war in Afghanistan. That came on Monday when veteran Helen Thomas asked new press secretary Robert Gibbs, "Why does president want to send more troops to Afghanistan to kill people?"

It was not the most subtle way of raising the issue. But at least Thomas gave it a stab.

Afghanistan remains the forgotten war. But on the campaign trail, Barack Obama, noting he would end the war in Iraq and focus more on Afghanistan, promised to change that, The question is, will the change be for the better or not? Gibbs reminded Thomas that Obama has called Afghanistan a "rapidly deteriorating situation" and reported that Defense Secretary Bob Gates and military commanders have started a process "to evaluate our posture." He noted that Obama has said that more troops should be sent to Afghanistan.

Obama Reaches Out

| Tue Jan. 27, 2009 2:17 PM EST

OBAMA REACHES OUT....Al Arabiya conducted a very friendly interview with Barack Obama today, and among other things he made it clear that he's not part of the bandwagon that's given up on a two-state solution in the Middle East:

Q: There are many Palestinians and Israelis who are very frustrated now with the current conditions and they are losing hope, they are disillusioned, and they believe that time is running out on the two-state solution because — mainly because of the settlement activities in Palestinian-occupied territories.

Will it still be possible to see a Palestinian state — and you know the contours of it — within the first Obama administration?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state — I'm not going to put a time frame on it — that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life.

Contiguous? Including Gaza? That's pretty ambitious. But the interview was a short one and interviewer Hisham Melhem didn't press the issue. Overall, Obama kept things mainly at the level of symbolism ("I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.") and scored some integrity points for supporting Israel in front of an Arab audience ("Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States."). He didn't otherwise say much of substance, but he did confirm that he'd be making a major speech from a Muslim capital sometime in the next few months. I vote for Tehran, just for the sheer spectacle of the thing.

The full transcript of the interview is here.

UPDATE: More here from Marc Lynch, who's extremely pleased with Obama's performance.