Blogs

Golf Is the Justice Department's Solution to Gangs?

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 1:28 PM PDT

In another embarrassing moment for the DOJ, ABC News reported that Justice recently awarded a competitive half-million dollar grant for prevention of juvenile delinquency to the World Golf Foundation's First Tee program.

"We need something really attractive to engage the gangs and the street kids. Golf is the hook," said J. Robert Flores of the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Yes, golf is famous for that.

What Flores neglected to mention, however, was that the Justice Department—implementing the Bush administration's state mandate to support "scientifically" based programs—already gave First Tees a middling rating; Justice ranked First Tee 47th on its list of 104 applicants.

Flores, who was appointed by President Bush in 2002 and has distributed about $1.5 billion dollars in federal money in his current position, said that he selects the programs for grants based on the "overall" need, not necessarily on the rating his own department gives the applications. Many other programs that the Justice Department rated highly were denied grants.

So why on earth was the golf program given this fancy grant? It's possible the program's honorary spokesman had something to do with it. —Daniel Luzer

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A Blog To Watch: Young People Pushback

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 1:19 PM PDT

The good folks at Campus Progress have launched a flashy new group blog, Pushback, for and by progressive young people. Editor Rob Anderson describes it as "sort of like MTV's reality show The Real World before it got really trashy: an experiment in which we jam strangers into a confined space and ask them to share with the world their thoughts, their ideas, and their work."

Aiming to keep The Real World analogy on the up and up, Pushback contributor Matt Zeitlin immediately posted this survey from the MIT-Wellesley Journal of Campus Life:

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But it's not just sex, people, they've got politics, too. Check it out.

Video: Live From Main Street Minneapolis

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 12:43 PM PDT

FYI, if you ever find yourself wondering how independent progressive media in Minneapolis feel about playing host to the GOP convention this fall, wonder no more. They were pretty vocal about it earlier this week for Laura Flanders:


You can watch the full video here. Next up: Miami in July.

GOP Claims China Drilling Off Cuban Shores; Actually, That's False

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 12:25 PM PDT

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To gin up support for off-shore drilling, the Right has an ace up its rhetorical sleeve: the Chinese in Cuba. Here's Vice President Cheney.

"[O]il is being drilled right now 60 miles off the coast of Florida. We're not doing it. The Chinese are in cooperation with the Cuban government... Even the communists have figured out that a good answer to high prices is more supply. Yet Congress has said... no to drilling off Florida.''

"Even the communists" is a nice flourish. Mix the red scare with the yellow scare and get Uncle Dick's own Orange Scare. Guaranteed to freak out Americans concerned about their energy security. Here's House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), piling on:

"Even China recognizes that oil and natural gas is readily available off our shores; thanks to Fidel Castro, they've been given a permit to drill for oil 45 miles from the Florida Keys."

Adds House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), "Right at this moment, some 60 miles or less off the coast of Key West, Florida, China has the green light to drill for oil in order to lower energy costs in that country."

Problem is, that's all false. Like, completely false. China is not currently drilling off the shores of Cuba; in fact, it doesn't even have a off shore drilling contract. What is does have is a permit to drill on Cuban land. "China is not drilling in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters, period,'' Jorge Piñon, an energy expert at the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy, told the Miami Herald. In fact, it is not yet drilling on Cuban land, either. The Herald added:

Post-Jim Johnson, Does Obama Need a "Change Ombudsman"?

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 9:55 AM PDT

Here's an item I posted at CQPolitics.com....

A friend of Jim Johnson, the Washington player who resigned Wednesday as an unpaid veep-vetter for Barack Obama, tells me that Johnson woke up that morning, looked at the newspapers, saw that he had become a front-page problem for Obama--after The Wall Street Journal a few days earlier had reported that Johnson had received too-sweet home loans from Countrywide Financial--and made the snap decision to quit. By the end of the day, Johnson, who had canceled appointments he had lined up for the day, had left Washington and was in Sun Valley.

It was a quick end to the controversy. Obama fans can be encouraged by the fact that decisive action was taken fast. But Obama initially defended Johnson. So perhaps Obama himself was hoping to ride this one out, even though the episode had the potential to undermine his message of change.

The selection of Jim Johnson was itself troubling--whether or not Johnson did anything wrong regarding his dealings with Countrywide. He's a longtime Democratic Party insider, a "big-business Democrat," as Craig Crawford put its, who headed Fannie Mae in the 1990s and forged a close relationship with Countrywide. He's no agent of change in Washington.

The Democratic Party is full of "wise" men and women who jump between government jobs, campaigns, and well-paid private gigs. They can be campaign strategists one year, and corporate consultants or lobbyists the next--or sometimes, as in the case of Mark Penn, both at once. They are part of Washington's permanent establishment. And some will be making a beeline to the Obama campaign, now that he's the party's presumptive nominee.

To keep his message of change clear and honest, Obama is going to have to say no to these folks, even though they might come with experience and the best of intentions. He's already told Democratic lobbyists they cannot contribute to his campaign. And he will have to extend the rope-line further. Here's a suggestion: he should designate within his campaign an aide to be a "change ombudsman." This person will vet the vetters and everyone else working at a high level for the campaign to make certain none are agents of the status quo.

I'm being only semi-facetious. The Obama campaign will be growing now that he's the all-but-nominated nominee and absorbing Hillaryites and others. Someone on the Obama staff ought to be watching so that no other "big-business Democrats" are placed in positions where their mere presence could undercut Obama's overall message.

Obama's going to have a tough time working and calculating his relationship with the party establishment. (Remember all the corporate-sponsored sky boxes at past Democratic party conventions?) Some party insiders have gotten used to doing well in addition to doing good. Jim Johnson, for instance, was an advocate of extremely generous compensation packages for CEOs, made his own bundle at Fannie Mae, and benefited from accounting manipulations there (though he was never accused of wrongdoing).

Johnson is a warning for the Obama campaign. Beware the consummate Washington players who stock campaigns, transition teams, and administrations. Many are not in it for the change.

Obama/McCain Voting Blocks Already Established?

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 9:23 AM PDT

I know it's foolhardy to read too much into any single poll, but I thought the demographic groupings on display here are interesting. I wonder if the allegiances of these subgroups will hold through November. MSNBC:

Obama has opened up a six-point advantage over McCain (47%-41%) in the latest NBC/WSJ poll... Obama leads McCain among African Americans (83-7), Hispanics (62-28), women (52-33), Catholics (47-40), independents (41-36) and even blue-collar workers (47-42). Obama is also ahead among those who said they voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries (61-19). Meanwhile, McCain is up among evangelicals (69-21), white men (55-35), men (49-41), whites (47-41), and white suburban women (44-38).

White women are viewed as a crucial swing vote — Republicans almost always win white men, but whichever party takes white women usually takes the White House. Currently, Obama beats McCain among white women 46-39.

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McCain != Bush Becomes Harder With Discovery of New Quotes

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 8:50 AM PDT

Liberal bloggers spend a fair amount of time pointing out that John McCain is a lot like George W. Bush. But now two quotes have emerged in which John McCain himself argues he's a lot like George W. Bush, making his task of distancing himself from the President that much harder.

Quote 1, June 2005, Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: The fact is you are different than George Bush.
SEN. McCAIN: No. No. I–the fact is that I'm different but the fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush.

Quote 2, May 2003, Your World with Neil Cavuto:

"The president and I agree on most issues. There was a recent study that showed that I voted with the president over 90 percent of the time, higher than a lot of my even Republican colleagues."

I mean, c'mon. This isn't hard. McCain once said of Bush, ""[H]e has more than earned our support. He has earned our admiration and our love." Bush reportedly supported McCain in the Republican primary because McCain was "best to carry forth his agenda."

McCain's attempts to distance himself from Bush aren't just an uphill climb. They're an uphill climb with a monkey on his back and one of these tied to his leg.

SCOTUS Rules Gitmo Detainees Can Challenge Detention in US Civilian Courts

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 8:33 AM PDT

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Guantanamo detainees yet again. According to the AP, SCOTUS ruled today that "foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts."

In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."
It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

We may finally see some progress on this issue. Twice before, the Supreme Court has ruled prisoners at Guantanamo held without charges can go to American civilian courts to ask that the federal government justify their detention. Both times, Congress has changed the law to keep them from doing so. But in both instances, Congress was controlled by Republicans and the White House was occupied by George Bush. With Democrats in control of Congress and two presidential candidates who favor the shuttering of Gitmo, we may finally begin down the path to justice sometime in 2009.

Background on the case is available here. For the recent Mother Jones cover package on detainees and torture, see here. For an inside look at Guantanao, check this out.

Video: Cusack's McCain Baiting

| Wed Jun. 11, 2008 6:12 PM PDT

First, John Cusack made War, Inc., a film satirizing post-9/11 America, about which he bantered with our lovely co-editor here.

Now, Cusack's officially become pundit bait with a MoveOn.org ad in which he equates John McCain with President Bush:

I think it's safe to tally that as another celebrity endorsement for Obama.—Steve Aquino

Music: Is Flying Lotus the New J Dilla?

| Wed Jun. 11, 2008 2:51 PM PDT

mojo-photo-flyinglotusla.jpgOkay, for those of you not attuned to underground instrumental hip-hop, perhaps that headline didn't make much sense. Quick background: J Dilla was a groundbreaking producer, real name James Dewitt Yancey, who worked with artists from Common and the Pharcyde to Kanye West and Busta Rhymes. He suffered from lupus, dying in February, 2006, at the heartbreakingly young age of 32. I've already blathered endlessly about his genius and the brilliance of his final album, Donuts, a mostly-instrumental work of re-imagined soul and melancholy notes. Dilla's wonky, spacey style has definitely been influential, but yet it always felt like there were few (if any) hip-hop producers in his realm, creating a sound that's definitely experimental, but still warm, organic, and full, with an off-kilter, syrupy feel to the rhythm.

Flying Lotus' origins in Winnetka, California, couldn't be more removed from J Dilla's Detroit upbringing, but the 24-year-old producer (aka Steve Ellison) may have established himself as the heir to Yancey with his new album, Los Angeles. Sure, there are the basic similarities: this is crunchy, organic-sounding instrumental hip-hop, with an unashamed love of drums: tracks like "Melt" focus almost entirely on exotic-sounding percussion, similarly to the brief tom-tom-driven "People" from Dilla's Donuts. But Flying Lotus is no copycat. On last year's Reset EP, he struck out on a slightly darker, more electronic direction, with mechanical, buzzing tones accompanying quirky samples, and that trend is in evidence on Los Angeles as well: "Riot" features a vibrato electronic bass line, and interludes like the 45-second "Orbit 405" are a cacophony of electronic static and bleeps, like a compilation of all cell phones dialing on the eponymous freeway.

After the jump: Who's your famous auntie?