Blogs

The Record-Breaking Success of ActBlue

| Wed Apr. 2, 2008 11:56 AM EDT

Online fundraising website ActBlue had its best day ever yesterday, raising $799,827.60 for progressive House, Senate, and presidential candidates. What's particularly remarkable is ActBlue's growth: its haul yesterday was almost as much money as the site brought in during its entire first year.

You can learn more about ActBlue here.

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Iranian Who Brokered Iraqi Peace Is on U.S. Terrorist Watch List

| Wed Apr. 2, 2008 11:41 AM EDT

Oops:

Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who helped U.S.-backed Iraqi leaders negotiate a deal with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to stop the fighting in Iraq's largely Shiite south, is named on U.S. Treasury Department and U.N. Security Council watch lists for alleged involvement in terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and missile technology...
Suleimani, about whom little is known publicly, commands the elite Quds (Jerusalem) force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. U.S. officials allege that the force is responsible for sending sophisticated roadside bombs, known as explosively formed projectiles, and other weaponry that Iran's Shiite allies in Iraq sometimes have used to kill U.S. troops...
Iraqi lawmakers said that Suleimani had participated in weekend meetings in the Iranian holy city of Qom that resulted in Sadr ordering his followers to draw back after nearly a week of clashes with government troops.

More background here.

Jesse Ventura Update (Not Running for Prez)

| Wed Apr. 2, 2008 10:22 AM EDT

This will be your last Jesse Ventura post for 2008, hopefully. Speculation about Ventura running for president was ill-founded. He used his appearance on Larry King Live to tell America three things: (1) He supports Ron Paul. (2) He'd rather vote for "none of the above" than McCain, Obama, or Clinton. (3) He'd like to run for president, but it's too late to get in the race and he'd never raise enough money.

And now we're done with this weird little subplot.

Cheaper, More Reliable Solar?

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 11:34 PM EDT

feature_solar1.jpg It's appearing in the form of solar thermal. Instead of converting sunlight to electricity, solar thermal, also called concentrated solar power, harness the sun's energy by converting sunlight to heat with the help of mirrors. This according to a great piece in the current Geotimes, magazine of the American Geological Institute. Some plants use curved mirrors, known as parabolic troughs, to focus sunlight onto pipes filled with circulating oil that circulate and heat steam to power a standard generator. In another system, solar power towers use large fields of sun-tracking mirrors that focus solar energy onto a receiver on top of a central tower. The intense energy concentrated onto the tower produces temperatures up to 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit, which then heats water to produce steam and drive a turbine to generate electricity. Many newer plants use insulated tanks filled with molten salt for heat storage, which provide power on cloudy days and at night—addressing the ephemeral nature of solar power.

Seems the searing West just might be the place for a lot more solar thermal.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

A Former GI's Perspective on the War Mea Culpas

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 10:15 PM EDT

Be sure to read Greg Mitchell's excellent piece on the media's failings in covering both the Iraq War and the run up to it. He's almost entirely right that the we've been unthinking hawks, lap dogs, and sorta cowardly, but there have been some 'come to Jesus' moments among journalists as we contemplate the war's fifth anniversary.

In particular, I was surprised and impressed by Slate's hawks critiquing their own role in supporting the war, 20-20 hindsight being what it is. They were brave and pretty hard on themselves. It would be easy to 'stay the course' a la you know who, but they dropped plenty of dimes on themselves. It's called "Why did we get it wrong?"

While you're piling on us, don't forget 9/11 itself; even we narcissistic journos got all patriotic after that happened. I even briefly considered re-upping after 14 years a civilian.

Mugabe Flailing in Zimbabwe

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 5:06 PM EDT

Last week we wrote about how the very crafty and very despotic Robert Mugabe is in the middle of a potentially career-ending election. Voting was held on Saturday and the government hasn't yet released vote totals, but it looks like either Mugabe lost badly enough that the government is having a hard time rigging the results, or the 28-year leader has lost interest in ruling the country. (Or both.) According to the New York Times, the opposition leader in Zimbabwe is in negotiations with Mugabe's people over a transition of power. The Times cautions that "the situation could still deteriorate"; Mugabe could declare the election void, for example, which would almost certainly lead to violence. Many other news accounts confirm the Times' reporting.

Mugabe's hold on the country is clearly loosening. Military leaders in the country suggested Mugabe hold a run-off election but Mugabe rejected the idea, considering it an insult. As parliamentary election results trickle out, it appears that the opposition has won more seats that Mugabe's party. One African-based news outlet is already reporting Mugabe is considering exile.

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April Fools Chuckle Mania!

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 4:35 PM EDT

mojo-photo-laughter.jpgWow, it turns out that the ease of typing stuff and posting it on a web page and a day dedicated to hoaxes combine perfectly to produce a veritable maelstrom of comedy good times. Here's some of the April Fools yuk-yuks speeding through everyone's favorite series of tubes today:

• This via Idolator: Rock FM in New Zealand thought it would be hi-lar-ious to spend the day advertising a fake Foo Fighters concert in Auckland. The DJs, who have apparently been living under rocks, expected "around 50 listeners" to turn up to the venue, where they would be treated to a Foo Fighters album being played on a tape deck. Instead, throngs of alt-rock-deprived Kiwis left their jobs and homes to get to the show, forcing the station to come clean.
• Kevin Shields will play all of Loveless at the Pitchfork festival! Meg White topless! A band with a naughty word in their name won't be let into the UK! Oh wait, is that last one a joke? Go, Paper Thin Walls, go!
NME posted an actually rather amusing (if somewhat geeky) story about Amy Winehouse being scheduled as a guest star on British sci-fi TV series Dr. Who, portraying "an evil scientific genius rogue timelord" who "enslaves entire planets." Not much of a stretch, wocka wocka. Gigwise piled on with a story about Winehouse licensing her hairdo to a wig company who would dub the hairpiece "The Wino." Leave... Amy... alone!!!
• And finally, the Brown University Daily Herald reports a campus bookstore will be renovated to make it "a little less gay." Ha?

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Edward B.

White House FISA Olive Branch?

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 4:11 PM EDT

The Wall Street Journal says:

The White House, seeking to break a months-long standoff, has signaled to Democratic lawmakers it is open to negotiation over a proposal to expand government spy powers, according to officials familiar with the conversations.

House leadership confirms:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer , D-Md., said Tuesday he has received indications the Bush administration is interested in negotiating a compromise extension of stalled electronic surveillance legislation.

Of course, the White House will have to be willing to specifically negotiate the matter of immunity. In recent weeks, they have rejected all Democratic offers of limited immunity--proposals that would, for instance, limit damages while keeping lawsuits against telecommunications companies alive. If this olive branch is really an olive branch, that will have to change.

British to Delay Iraq Troop Withdrawal

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 2:23 PM EDT

brits.jpg

Since October, the British military has reduced its presence in Iraq by 1,000 troops (a fifth its deployed force) and has withdrawn from forward positions in the southern city of Basra to a heavily fortified base at the city's airport. Nothing says security like camping out next to the airplanes that can whisk you home when things go bad. And after officially transferring security responsibilities to the Iraqi army in December, nearly everyone believed that a complete withdrawal of British troops from Iraq was imminent. Indeed, many observers, both in and out of government, have been eying the British departure from Basra as a predictor of what the Americans should expect when the day finally comes for them to leave Baghdad—namely the emboldening of organized crime syndicates that have fed on the power vacuum left behind by withdrawing forces and the Iraqi army's feeble attempts to insert itself as a substitute authority.

The word today is that the British have decided to postpone a larger withdrawal from Iraq. The move stems from concern over last week's bungled attempt by the Iraqi army to dismantle the various criminal gangs and ethnic militias, including Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, that have taken root both in Baghdad and Basra. The Iraqis battled to a draw (to be generous) before having to call on U.S. and British forces for support. The Brits now appear to see a danger that Basra could fall irretrievably into enemy hands should they depart too hastily.

According to UK Defence Secretary Des Brown, as quoted by the BBC:

Before the events of the last week, the emerging military advice, based on our assessment of current conditions then, was that further reductions might not be possible at the rate envisaged in the October announcement - although it remains our clear direction of travel and our plan.
"In the light of the last week's events, however, it is prudent that we pause any further reductions while the current situation is unfolding.
"It is absolutely right that military commanders review plans when conditions on the ground change.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Jon.

Obama a Little Too Slick on Oil

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 2:10 PM EDT

Barack Obama is running an ad in Pennsylvania and Indiana that makes this claim:

I don't take money from oil companies or Washington lobbyists, and I won't let them block change anymore.

The trusty FactCheck.org points out something Obama ought to know: of course Obama hasn't gotten money from oil companies; corporations were prohibited from donating to presidential candidates in 1907. But Obama has received $213,000 from people who work for, or whose spouses work for, companies in the oil and gas industry. Also, two oil execs bundle money for Obama. George Kaiser, chairman of Kaiser-Francis Oil, has raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama, according to the candidate's website. Robert Cavnar, president and CEO of Milagro Exploration LLC, has raised the same.

Is Obama better than McCain when it comes to climate change? Or course, all the Democrats are/were. Have Hillary Clinton and John McCain also raised money from the oil industry? Of course. In fact, they've both raised more than Obama.

But Obama is the one making claims of purity. They're claims he and his campaign must know he shouldn't be making.