Blogs

Why a Superdelegate Pledge May Not Be So Super

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 9:03 PM EST

Let me humbly suggest that Nick's pledge idea has a flaw. Sure, you can try to compel Democratic superdelegates to vote for whichever candidate arrives at the convention with the most delegates. But few will sign such a pledge, whether or not the Obama and Clinton campaign ask them to do so. Why give up a privilege? Especially when--here's the real issue--outside events might change the landscape.

The last big-state primary (Pennsylvania) occurs on April 22 and the primaries altogether end on June 3. What if in between those dates and the Democratic convention, which opens on August 25, something happens? Maybe Barack Obama is in the lead, and a news report discloses he once sold dope to lobbyists for a health insurance industry. Maybe Hillary Clinton is ahead, and it turns out she did hide legal records during the Whitewater investigation and plotted with her husband to kill their political enemies. In such instances, superdelegates might want to mount a course correction.

Admittedly, these are extreme examples. But there could be other less extreme circumstances in which it would make sense for the superdelegates to reconsider the popular will. As I noted, my hunch is that superdelegates will not willy-nilly vote to hand the nomination to the second-place finisher just out of personal preference. They will be under much scrutiny. And blowing up the party to save a nominee will not be undertaken lightly.

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Neato Viddy on the Intertubes: Dance Lessons With Khris Khaos

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 6:49 PM EST

Okay, lately the Riff's been all super-serious, and commenters are starting to get mean. So in an effort to lighten the mood, and perhaps also help out those of you planning to hit the clubs this weekend, I present: Learn How to Dance for Women with King Khris Khaos, the King of Style!

Obama Musician Endorsement Update!

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 6:04 PM EST

It's Obama-rocker-mania!Just when you thought it might end with the Grateful Dead, more musicians are coming out for Obama. First up, Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst spoke at an Obama rally in Omaha on Thursday (hmm: Obama, Omaha; Obama, Omaha), telling the crowd of 11,000 Nebraskans (and maybe Iowans) that he predicts Nebraska Democrats will caucus for the Illinois senator. He later apparently performed that annoying "When the President Talks to God" song at an event downtown.

Moving on to less whiny (and less youthful) musicians, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon tells Wonkette that she's supporting Obama, even though she admits that it's hard to distinguish him from Hillary, policy-wise. Wonkette points out that Obama is eight years younger than Sonic Youth's bassist.

And in "anti-endorsement" news, John Mellencamp has been asking the McCain campaign to stop using his songs, and they finally agreed, reports the AP. Mellencamp was an Edwards supporter, naturally; perhaps he can come along when Howard Dean tries to broker that deal. Ain't that America?

Music News: Winehouse Sings Via Satellite, Neil Young Gives Up, Timbaland's On the Phone, Beck Admits to Nonsense

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 4:39 PM EST

News - Feb 8


  • Amy Winehouse, denied a visa to come to the States for the Grammys on Sunday, will appear on the broadcast via satellite from London. Winehouse actually used the phrase "raring to go" in a statement.

  • Neil Young either got up on the wrong side of the bed, or has given up all hope for the future of mankind. Introducing a film in Berlin on Friday, he told the audience that "the time when music could change the world is past." Some of us are so cynical we'd make a joke about that time not existing ever, but we got up on the wrong side of the bed, so we don't really care.
  • Hello, Timbaland calling: the super-producer has announced a deal with Verizon Wireless to create a "mobile album," available only on the carrier's service. And you thought mp3s sounded bad! A Verizon spokesman managed to keep a straight face while calling the deal "a marriage of promotional opportunity and a large distribution platform," but I bet he was doing something funny with his fingers behind his back.
  • Beck has confirmed that some of the lyrics on his seminal 1995 album Odelay were "scratch" lyrics, i.e., nonsense meant as a placeholder during the recording process. "We just grew attached to them," said the singer. So you're telling me those years I spent on my dissertation trying to parse "mouthwash jukebox gasoline" were a waste?
  • Time for A Superdelegate Pledge

    | Fri Feb. 8, 2008 1:46 PM EST

    As David notes here, the Washington Post's Paul Kane did the math and figured out that it will be basically impossible for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to win enough pledged delegates to take the nomination outright. This is a big problem for the Democrats. Thankfully for them, I have a solution (after the jump).

    Is it Time To Worry about Superdelegates in the Clinton-Obama Contest?

    | Fri Feb. 8, 2008 1:25 PM EST

    Omigod! Here come the superdelegates! The Washington Post's Paul Kane has done the math and reached the conclusion that the Democratic presidential race will be decided by superdelegates--those 800 or so party officials and officeholders who are automatically awarded delegate status and who can vote any which way they please at the convention. Kane explains:

    There are 3,253 pledged delegates, those doled out based on actual voting in primaries and caucuses. And you need 2,025 to win the nomination.
    To date, about 52 percent of those 3,253 delegates have been pledged in the voting process -- with Clinton and Obama roughly splitting them at 832 and 821 delegates a piece, according to the AP.
    That means there are now only about 1,600 delegates left up for grabs in the remaining states and territories voting.
    So, do the math. If they both have 820 plus pledged delegates so far, they'll need to win roughly 1,200 -- 75 percent -- of the remaining 1,600 delegates to win the nomination through actual voting.
    In other words: Ain't gonna happen...And then the super delegates decide this thing.

    Does this mean the contest will be settled in some smoke-free backroom by machine hacks who don't give a fig about the Democratic vox populi?

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    A Natural Ocean "Thermostat" Protecting Coral Reefs?

    | Thu Feb. 7, 2008 5:36 PM EST

    pacific_warmpool-mid.jpg

    A Gaialike mechanism may be protecting some coral reefs by preventing sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from rising past a certain threshold. The study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science finds evidence of an ocean thermostat regulating SSTs in an extremely biologically diverse region of the western Pacific.

    Warming sea temperatures in much of the tropical world have led to ocean-wide epidemics of fatal or near-fatal coral bleaching. Bleaching has become increasingly widespread in recent decades, with SSTs in tropical, coral-rich waters increasing 0.3-0.4 degrees C (0.5-0.7 degrees F) over the past two to three decades, and spiking higher.

    But between 1980 and 2005, only four episodes of bleaching occurred on reefs in the Western Pacific Warm Pool—a lower rate than any other reef region. SSTs in the warm pool naturally average 29 degrees C (84 degrees F), close to the proposed thermostat limit, and have warmed up only half as much cooler areas of the oceans.

    Candidates Earn Their Hipster Cred

    | Thu Feb. 7, 2008 5:16 PM EST

    deadhead-obama-200.jpgWalking home from work earlier this week, I came across a ginormous crowd outside San Francisco's Warfield Theater waiting to attend a "Deadheads For Obama" show. Patchouli hung heavy in the air, and radios played jam-band music while eager fans waited to get inside and hear members of the Grateful Dead rock out.

    Maybe I live in a cave or something, but I had no idea that the deadhead scene had become politically engaged, let alone caught Obama fever. But they're not the only ones endorsing candidates:

    Pearl Jam Ensures Clinton Victory With Obama Song

    | Thu Feb. 7, 2008 4:53 PM EST

    mojo-photo-pearljambarack.jpgAlright, perhaps I'm biased: Pearl Jam have always bugged the crap out of me. Back in the grunge era (do I capitalize that?), I was a fan of almost all of the Seattle bands, and even 3rd-level grunge-rock like Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees landed in my vinyl collection. But I hated Pearl Jam: "Jeremy"'s warbling, maudlin self-righteousness and aimless melody grated on me like a Celine Dion ballad, and the highest I've ever rated any of their songs is "tolerable." However, the more I learned about Eddie Vedder and crew, the more I grew to have grudging respect for them; a radio show Vedder hosted in 1995 featured fantastic music, and the band's fight against Ticketmaster was admirable (if fruitless). I realized that I like what they like, just not what they make.

    Romney Out; What Will Huckabee Do?

    | Thu Feb. 7, 2008 2:32 PM EST

    Mitt Romney has quit the race. It seems that his money was no good here.

    At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Romney announced he was suspending his campaign. In a fiery speech, he took shots at France, Harvard, and liberal judges. Citing pornography and "government welfare," he thundered that the "threat to our culture" comes "from within." Hailing family values and decrying gay marriage, this past supporter of abortion rights and gay rights positioned himself as one of the GOP's leading culture warriors. He called for tax cuts, deregulation, and tort reform. He denounced Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's positions on Iraq as a "surrender to terror." And he called for beefing up the U.S. military to deal with "radical jihad" and the China challenge. In other words, he reminded the cheering crowd of conservative die-hards at CPAC that he's a full-throttle conservative on all fronts: culture, economics, and national security. He's now 60 years old. In four years, he will be seven years younger than John McCain is today. And remember this: Ronald Reagan failed to win the GOP nomination in 1976 before he nabbed it in 1980. And there's this: if John McCain does manage to win in November, could he run for a second term, given his age?

    Romney's message to the conservatives today was this: I'm your Reagan. He and they may just have to wait a few more years before those pesky Republican primary voters get it.

    One key question now is, what will Mike Huckabee do? Recently, he's become the anti-Romney spoiler--sweeping up non-McCain voters and preventing Romney from becoming a competitive alternative to McCain. It seemed that Huckabee and McCain had an implicit--if not explicit--nonaggression pact, and this has even fueled talk of a Mack-Huck ticket. So with no need any longer for him to block Romney to help McCain, what's Huckabee's role in the race? With his get-Romney mission accomplished, will he withdraw and wait for his reward?