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So, Have Things Gotten Less Funny Since Tuesday?

There hasn't been this much public existential dread from the comedy community since 9/11, although the reasons are, of course, very different. Seven years ago, our shock and horror made us wonder if we could ever laugh again. Now, the question is: without a bumbling, snickering doofus and his snarling evil sidekick/boss in the White House, where will our jokes come from? The New...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 5:20 PM EST

There hasn't been this much public existential dread from the comedy community since 9/11, although the reasons are, of course, very different. Seven years ago, our shock and horror made us wonder if we could ever laugh again. Now, the question is: without a bumbling, snickering doofus and his snarling evil sidekick/boss in the White House, where will our jokes come from? The New York Times asked various comedy professionals about the conundrum, and all of them, from Daily Show and Conan writers to Tracy Morgan and Joel McHale, expressed confidence in the future of chuckles. J. K. Havlan of the Daily Show assured us Jon Stewart has plenty of material:

We haven't sat around thinking, "What are we going to do, comedically, if Obama wins?" There's going to be plenty going on around him. Plus, Ted Stevens may have won in Alaska. Proposition 8 passed in California. We don't need a semiconscious president to put on a decent show.

Hmm, I still don't see anything there about how you're going to make fun of President Obama. Perhaps most symbolically, Saturday Night Live's usually-awesome Fred Armisen has Obama's gestures and speech patterns down pretty well, but hasn't yet managed to actually say anything funny, which is especially disappointing in comparison to Will Ferrell's twitchy W. and Darrell Hammond's lascivious Bubba. Thankfully, the first two nights of post-Obama-win TV comedy have shown a few glimmers of hope. Some clips after the jump.

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Contractors Nervous About Losing Immunity in Iraq

The UN mandate governing the US military's deployment in Iraq will expire next month. To negotiate the way forward,...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 5:17 PM EST

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The UN mandate governing the US military's deployment in Iraq will expire next month. To negotiate the way forward, Baghdad and Washington have been in feverish talks about an official Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which will set parameters for the US presence in Iraq, as well as set a date certain for withdrawal. US officials have now presented their Iraqi counterparts with that they call a "final text," committing US troops to be withdrawn to their bases by next June and withdrawn from Iraq entirely no later than 2011. Baghdad has been cagey about assenting to a final agreement for myriad political reasons, although today's New York Times suggests that Obama's election victory might help move things along—the Iraqis actually believe his stated desire to pull out the troops is sincere.

Fine, but what about private contractors? The "final text" US officials presented this week does not include immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for privately employed personnel, be they with security firms or international NGOs. The risk of seeing their employees in the dock in Baghdad or elsewhere for alleged violations of Iraqi law is giving private industry fits and leading to speculation of an "exodus" of private contractors once the UN mandate expires.

The industry is so concerned, in fact, that the president of one of its leading trade groups fired off a letter (.pdf), dated October 8, to Condoleeza Rice, suggesting that loss of contractor immunity could put the success of the US effort in Iraq at risk. Stan Soloway of the Professional Services Council, which counts leading Iraq contractors like Blackwater, DynCorp, Kroll, CACI, BAE, SAIC, EODT, and Bechtel among its members, warned against the "unintended consequences" of lifting immunity. Here's an excerpt:

Friday Cat Blogging - 7 November 2008

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....In today's edition of Friday Catblogging, Inkblot and Domino are part of history. As are we all. Have a good weekend, everyone....

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 3:46 PM EST

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....In today's edition of Friday Catblogging, Inkblot and Domino are part of history. As are we all. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Did Palin Declare Her Clothes as Gifts?

Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving--at least to journalists. Newsweek got a pop this week when it...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 3:36 PM EST

Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving--at least to journalists. Newsweek got a pop this week when it disclosed new details of Palin's infamous shopping sprees:

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

The Palin camp--such as it is--continues to deny she did anything wrong. But Alaska government watchdog Andrée McLeod is seeking information to determine whether Palin and her family kept any of these clothes. In recent months, McLeod has peppered Governor Palin's office with various Open Records Act requests. In response to a request McLeod filed in June, the Palin administration refused to release about 1100 emails from her office, claiming they covered confidential policy matters, even though the subject lines in some of these emails referred to a political foe, a journalist and non-policy topics. Now McLeod is focusing on Palin's Neiman Marcus free-for-all. This week, she filed a request for copies of "every record of gift disclosures assigned to Sarah Palin and all family members and/or extended family members (according to state regulations) since July 1, 2008."

The question, of course, is, did Palin declare any of the clothes she and her family acquired as gifts? Or did she consider them loaners (as convicted Senator Ted Stevens unsuccessfully claimed in regards to the gifts he received)? Under Alaska state law, Palin generally has to disclose gifts over $150.00 that she or a family member receives. McCleod wants to see what gift disclosures, if any, Palin has filed.

By the way, McLeod and others (including Mother Jones) have requests pending regarding the emails Palin has sent and received as governor (using her official and private accounts). Palin managed to delay producing these records until after the election. But the requests are still being processed by her office. By the time this information is released--and it may take months--will there still be much interest in the governor of Alaska?

Post-Obama, Whither Black Uplift?

Mark Anthony Neal asks the same question I'm wondering now that Obama is President-elect—whither black progress: Obama showed a particular...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 2:57 PM EST

Mark Anthony Neal asks the same question I'm wondering now that Obama is President-elect—whither black progress:

Obama showed a particular disdain throughout his 21-month campaign with being thought of as a black candidate or as a broker for black issues. The President-elect will likely show the same disdain for a black political establishment wholly wedded to the race politics of a quarter century ago.

If the NAACP, National Urban League and Congressional Black Caucus aim to remain relevant in the future, it is this new coalition of progressives that they will need to provide leadership for, taking advantage of the political will that Obama's campaign has generated.

How do groups like the NAACP and Urban league play a leadership role in a broad progressive movement—in which race is only part of a broader platform centered on traditional issues of social justice (policing, incarceration rates, equitable wages), tax relief for middle income families, a repeal of No Child Left Behind and what Van Jones, in the name of the Green Industry, calls Eco-equity?

Mark (my almost-homey/beloved 'boy') is too well-mannered to answer his own question, but I will: The old school Movement apparatus won't play a role in the social justice movement as long as it stays wedded to its old tactics.

Real as racism remains, the only way to move forward using the algorithm that Obama pioneered—cross-class, cross-racial, cross-age—is by including everyone. Maddening as it is for blacks, America's most oppressed minority, we have to accept that the country must move to class- and problem-based formulations of both problems, and solutions—not just demands for America to admit to its race- and classism.

The only way a broad swath of Americans will agree to anything smelling of affirmative action is if a broad swath can benefit from it. So blacks have to join the rainbow coalition calling for WPA-type responses to the rampant unemployment we're facing, educational reform and investment based on the socio-economic class of underserved communities and not just 'black' schools, criminal justice system reforms that include rednecks and trailer parks, not just 'hoods. Don't believe me?

Check this.

Beating the Clock

BEATING THE CLOCK....A few days ago I linked to a Washington Post story about all the new regulations and executive orders the Bush administration is rushing to put into effect before they leave office. Their deadline is November 20, because...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 2:46 PM EST

BEATING THE CLOCK....A few days ago I linked to a Washington Post story about all the new regulations and executive orders the Bush administration is rushing to put into effect before they leave office. Their deadline is November 20, because executive orders don't take legal effect for 60 days and they want them on the books before Obama takes over. Froude Reynolds explains how they're getting this done:

In an effort to amend the Endangered Species Act to say it doesn't really apply to big federal projects like power plants or dams, the Bush administration claimed it reviewed 200,000 comments in four days. Not all by themselves. They called in fifteen extra people from around the country to work on it all week! With that kind of manpower, each person only had to read seven comments every minute!

You know, I'd almost be disappointed if they weren't doing stuff like this up to the very end. The good news, Reynolds says, is that this behavior is practically guaranteed to be ruled "arbitrary and capricious" by an administrative law judge in the near future after some environmental group or another takes them to court. That being the case, let's hope the true believers in the Bush administration treat all their last-minute regs with the same care and respect for the law that they've shown for the past eight years.

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Out, Damned Spot

OUT, DAMNED SPOT....Andrew Tobias isn't quite ready to let go of his bitterness over the Bush years. Me neither! Today he adds yet another chapter to the chronicles of the Mayberry Machiavellis:I know . . . it's probably not constructive...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 2:22 PM EST

OUT, DAMNED SPOT....Andrew Tobias isn't quite ready to let go of his bitterness over the Bush years. Me neither! Today he adds yet another chapter to the chronicles of the Mayberry Machiavellis:

I know . . . it's probably not constructive and perhaps not even good sportsmanship to keep piling on....And yet I feel the need to share the story of Skip Orr, whom I met Tuesday night in Grant Park watching President-elect Obama take the stage. A long-time Obama supporter, Skip had flown in from Japan for this....As President of Boeing Japan, he found himself at a Democrats Abroad meeting pitching John Kerry — and then found himself outed as a Democrat in the New York Times. The next day Karl Rove called Boeing headquarters noting his displeasure — and referring to the great deal of business Boeing does with the government. Basically, he wanted Orr fired.

Sweet bunch of guys, aren't they? They can't leave town soon enough for my taste.

MoJo Audio: PETA President on Chicks and Clicks

PETA is best known for two things: animal rights and outrageous ads. Its campaigns have featured naked women galore, caged ladies in bikinis, and even an online striptease. Feminists accuse PETA of being sexist, but the organization's founder and president Ingrid Newkirk says that's "rubbish." The campaigns are designed to get people to go to PETA's educational site, she says, and they work. To...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 2:22 PM EST

PETA is best known for two things: animal rights and outrageous ads. Its campaigns have featured naked women galore, caged ladies in bikinis, and even an online striptease. Feminists accuse PETA of being sexist, but the organization's founder and president Ingrid Newkirk says that's "rubbish." The campaigns are designed to get people to go to PETA's educational site, she says, and they work. To hear more from PETA's president about why the organization goes with such controversial tactics, and why her new book isn't just about animals, click here.

Northern Exposure

NORTHERN EXPOSURE....The recount in Minnesota hasn't even started yet and Al Franken's deficit has already been cut to 238 votes. It makes Florida 2000 look like a landslide. And in other post-election news, Jonathan Stein points to this Washington Post...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 1:29 PM EST

NORTHERN EXPOSURE....The recount in Minnesota hasn't even started yet and Al Franken's deficit has already been cut to 238 votes. It makes Florida 2000 look like a landslide.

And in other post-election news, Jonathan Stein points to this Washington Post piece about the odd goings-on up in Alaska. The official turnout figures are oddly low and the final results are wildly off from the final polling numbers. There is apparently much scratching of heads up in Anchorage and Juneau.

Iraq Update

IRAQ UPDATE....Two days ago I was reading stories about how the Iraqis were still flatly opposed to the U.S. version of the security agreement they were being asked to sign. But now everything is different:Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that...

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 1:15 PM EST

IRAQ UPDATE....Two days ago I was reading stories about how the Iraqis were still flatly opposed to the U.S. version of the security agreement they were being asked to sign. But now everything is different:

Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month.

"Before, the Iraqis were thinking that if they sign the pact, there will be no respect for the schedule of troop withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011," said Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite party. "If Republicans were still there, there would be no respect for this timetable. This is a positive step to have the same theory about the timetable as Mr. Obama."

Translation: we don't trust George Bush to actually observe the terms of the agreement. But Obama will. Apparently Iraqis are pretty shrewd judges of character, aren't they?