Blogs

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) Calls Out Harold Ickes (D-Clinton)

| Sat May 31, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

Harold Ickes, a rules committee member and Hillary Clinton adviser, just spent 10 minutes badgering Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in support of the Clinton campaign's Michigan position. The Clinton campaign says that it should get 73 delegates from the Michigan primary and the Obama campaign should get 0, with 55 going as uncommitted. Ickes said that the delegate allocation has to consider the principal of "fair reflection," with voters' preferences for "uncommitted" being accurately reflected. Since no one actually voted for "Barack Obama" on the ticket, that would mean Obama would get no delegates. But Sen. Levin told Ickes he had the concept of fair reflection all wrong. "You're calling for a 'fair reflection' of a flawed primary," Levin told Ickes, to massive applause. "What we're trying to do is to keep a party together so that we can win a critical state in November. And let me tell you the precedent that we set it seems to me is a good precedent if circumstances like this ever existed again. ... It's an unusual circumstance."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

RBC Challenge: Michigan Has Been "Punished Enough"

| Sat May 31, 2008 12:24 PM EDT

Mark Brewer, the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, told the Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) Saturday that Michigan has been "punished enough" for violating party rules and moving its primary forward. Brewer, who is also a member of the RBC, said that the Michigan Democratic party believes that its proposed 69-59 delegate split accurately reflects Democratic voter preferences at the time of the primary. His challenge is asking the committee to allocate the delegates in accordance with its proposal.

The Michigan situation is trickier for the RBC to resolve than the Florida situation is. Neither Barack Obama nor John Edwards, who recently endorsed Obama, was on the ballot in Michigan. Instead, many Obama and Edwards supporters voted for "uncommitted." The Clinton supporters on the RBC argue that the uncommitted delegates should go to the convention as "uncommitted", meaning they would function essentially as superdelegates. The Michigan Democratic Party believe the vast majority of the uncommitted delegates should be assigned as pledged Obama delegates.

Both positions have serious flaws. The Michigan party's delegate allocation is based not just on the votes cast, but also on exit polls and the party's guesses about the names on 30,000 sealed write-in ballots. It's a sort of mishmash of the available information, and it's definitely not a normal election result. The problem with the Clinton camp's position is that the votes cast also don't represent a normal election result. It was an election that was essentially Hillary Clinton vs. Uncommitted. None of the ballots in the other primary states looked anything like that.

The Obama campaign supports a third option. In their plan, the delegates for the states would be divided equally between the two candidates, 64-64. They argue that the primary was flawed (Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who supports the Michigan Democratic Party solution, admitted as much in his testimony today). The Obama proposal says that while Michigan should still get a voice at the convention, neither candidate should get an advantage from the flawed contest.

We'll find out what the committee thinks later today.

Clinton Surrogate Says FL-MI Struggle = Civil Rights Movement

| Sat May 31, 2008 11:15 AM EDT

Arthenia Joyner, a Florida state legislator who is making Hillary Clinton's case to the Rules and Bylaws Committee, opened by comparing the struggle to get the Florida delegates counted to the civil rights movement and the fight against apartheid. Joyner should know; she was arrested in civil rights sit-ins and protested outside the South African embassy during the 1980s. Like Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who testified before her, Joyner cited examples of specific primary voters who are being "disenfranchised" by the DNC's decision to strip the state of its delegates. Echoing a common theme of the morning, Joyner pointed out that it was the Republican-controlled legislature, not Florida Democrats, who moved up the state's primary date and triggered the DNC's sanctions.

"You have an opportunity right here and right now to write the people of Florida back into this election's story," Joyner said, citing the U.S. constitution and natural rights in her argument for "righting that wrong".

When asked whether she supported full votes for delegates or the alternative proposal for half votes, Joyner smiled and said: "I've been taught that when you want something, you ask for what you want.... I want it all." Laughs and applause filled the room, especially when Joyner unintentionally echoed Mick Jagger: "in life, you can't always get what you want."

Dean Calls for Unity, Hints at Pro-Obama Solution to Florida-Michigan Mess

| Sat May 31, 2008 9:56 AM EDT

The Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) is meeting today in Washington, D.C., to decide whether the delegates from Michigan and Florida's rule-breaking primaries will count in the race for the nomination. Both states lost all of their delegates as a punishment for moving up their primaries without DNC approval. Hillary Clinton's campaign has argued that the delegates from both states should be restored in full, a move that would net her some 40-odd delegates. Barack Obama's campaign has said it is willing to compromise, but will not accede to all of the Clinton campaign's demands.

A DNC staff analysis released earlier this week seems to indicate that the RBC cannot restore more than half of Florida and Michigan's delegates—it's supposedly an "automatic" penalty. The 30-member RBC includes 13 Clinton supporters, 8 Obama supporters, and 9 people who have not committed to either candidate. So Clinton only needs the votes of 3 of the 9 uncommitted members to force a decision in her favor.

MoJo Staff Picks: May 30

| Fri May 30, 2008 8:40 PM EDT

MojoStaffPicks.gifMusically, we seem to be fixated on indie-pop, classic jazz motifs, and electric music at Mother Jones this week. Here's what's on our headphones:

YouTube: Naked Icelanders, Robot Bears, Los Simpsons, John Hughes Retro

| Fri May 30, 2008 6:08 PM EDT

mojo-photo-viddies0530.jpgSince it's Friday, I figure it's okay to sully the (normally staid?) Riff with some YouTube vids that fall more on the side of "amusing diversions" than "cultural revolutions." But who's to say: maybe the re-emergence of that super-synthy, overdramatic, dreamy '80s John Hughes movie soundtrack style (read more about that, in French, of course, here) will turn out to be the major cultural development of mid-2008. Or maybe a live action Spanish Simpsons will cause Lou Dobbs to realize we're all just the same under our yellow makeup and giant blue beehives. We're nothing but fair and balanced here on The Riff, so decide for yourselves: are these videos just dainty trifles, distracting you from your Friday afternoon drudgery for a few moments, and if so, is that so wrong?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Q&A: Meet the Teen Science Whiz with the Plastic Bag Breakthrough

| Fri May 30, 2008 1:25 PM EDT

plastic%20bag%20in%20water.jpg

It may surprise you to learn that Daniel Burd does not consider himself an environmentalist. The Canadian teenager has become bit of an environmental hero over the past few days, as word of his potentially revolutionary science fair project has spread. In case you missed it, Burd managed to isolate the naturally occurring microbes that degrade plastic bags in landfills, cutting degradation time from lifetimes to mere months.

Maybe anyone could have done it, but no one else has. And that, says Burd, is part of what inspired him to pursue the project, which he started researching at the end of 2006. "As I began to research more and more, I found out we're not doing too much," he told me in a phone call from his home in Ontario. He is, in his words, "just a scientist trying to solve a huge problem."

"In the end, all problems come back to us," he says. "The plastic bags in the water, they don't dissolve, and they attract hydrophobic chemicals. Fish or other organisms may eat polluted plastic bags, and then we have millions of marine animals dying. If they don't die, then we may eat these fish, and then we have a statistical increase in healthcare problems directly attributable to that pollution. That's why everybody should be concerned."

"I would hope that through my project I'm able to, first of all, show a viable solution, economical and doable, and then get people more aware of it," he says. "Then we can fix it."

Tracing an Iran Oil Blockade Meme

| Fri May 30, 2008 9:44 AM EDT

On Wednesday, Wall Street Journal opinion editors proposed a plan for a naval blockade on Iran of refined gasoline imports. But they don't say where they got the idea.

The Journal:

The Administration would do better to withdraw from this international charade and consider means by which the mullahs might be persuaded that their regime's survival is better assured by not having nuclear weapons. A month-long naval blockade of Iran's imports of refined gasoline – which accounts for nearly half of its domestic consumption – could clarify for the Iranians just how unacceptable their nuclear program is to the civilized world.

Here was Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz in January explaining the idea of thirty year Israeli intelligence veteran Shmuel Bar:

Tom Friedman Is an Insufferable Blowhard

| Fri May 30, 2008 3:09 AM EDT

Sorry, I know that headline degrades the national conversation and is emblematic of why bloggers get a bad rap and yada yada yada. But sometimes you just gotta say what's in your soul. And my soul just watched this video clip from five years ago today, and my soul is pissed.

I know Tom Friedman writes some decent columns and some influential books. But watch this video clip all the way through and try not to hate the man.

I can't imagine what an Iraqi citizens feels like being told to "suck on this" by Tom Friedman, and that we went to war with Iraq "because we could."

TV: "Lost" Finale Way Better on Prescription Drugs

| Fri May 30, 2008 2:50 AM EDT

mojo-photo-lostfinale.jpgPerhaps it's only appropriate that my first post after a blindingly painful slipped disk injury laid me flat for a few days (hopped up on Vicodin and muscle relaxants) would be about Lost. I wouldn't recommend messing up your back, but it turns out that a good dose of Lorazepam isn't such a bad idea for watching this often-infuriating show, as its dangling plotlines and red herrings blur out into an easily-ignorable fog, while its queasy rhythms and quasi-spiritual sci-fi don't make you quite as nauseous. Do take it with food, though.

In advance of tonight's season finale, today's New York Times gave a whirl at a serious critical appraisal of the show, or should I say, gave a whirl at pointing out how you can't give a serious critical appraisal of the show:

"Lost," which concludes its fourth season on ABC on Thursday night, refuses our passive interest while it denies us the satisfaction of ever feeling that we might confidently explain, to the person sitting next to us at dinner, that we have a true grasp of what is going on — of who among the characters is merely bad and who is verifiably satanic. To watch "Lost" is to feel like a high school grind, studying and analyzing and never making it to Yale. Good dramas confound our expectations, but "Lost," about a factionalized group of plane crash survivors on a cartographically indeterminate island not anything like Aruba, pushes further, destabilizing the ground on which those expectations might be built. It is an opiate, and like all opiates, it produces its own masochistic delirium.

Mmm, opiates. Do you think those might help with a slipped disk?

After the jump: what sprawling, frustrating novel is Lost like? Hint: Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.