Blogs

New CDs Out Today and a Word From Critics

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:46 PM EST

Hey, there's actually a couple interesting albums hitting stores and internet emporiums today. Perhaps I shall list them in order of how much I'm enjoying them (or anticipating I'll enjoy them), from "most" to "least"?

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Live Blogging From Obama HQ in California

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:40 PM EST

I'll be writing to you today from the Obama campaign office in San Jose, California. It's one of six Obama offices in the Bay Area, but the battle here will be one of the most closely fought and important anywhere in the state (more on this shortly). The office is a small storefront in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood just outside downtown. Inside, posters on the wall say, "Fired up!" and, for those who've been here a bit too long, "Bang head here." The space lacks any heat (save for two space heaters--any more and the circuit breaker pops) but the 20 people packing into the place are keeping things warm enough. I've sandwiched myself into a row of clicking laptops on a fold-out table in the middle of the room. Everyone is working on getting out the vote; whenever a phone-banker convinces someone to vote Obama, he rings a bell and the room erupts in applause.

The volunteers here have their work cut out for them. San Jose's CA-15 congressional district is one of only 22 in the state with an odd number of delegates; whoever wins 51 percent of the vote in these districts will automatically pick up an extra delegate. (Most California districts are even-delegate and will likely to split between the candidates 50/50). Only about half of the odd-delate districts in the state will be truly competitive. CA-15 is one of those: Here in the Bay Area, Obama leads Clinton overall, but San Jose is predominately working class and has more Latino voters than any other county in the region--two groups that tend to support Clinton.

Anti-War Candidates Receive Most Money from Troops

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:38 PM EST

The Center for Responsive Politics highlights an interesting fact about the 2007 fundraising numbers:

In 2007, Republican Ron Paul, who opposes U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the top recipient of money from donors in the military, collecting at least $212,000 from them. Barack Obama, another war opponent, was second with about $94,000.

Think Progress points out that this contradicts prominent pro-war figures who use the troops and their supposed continued enthusiasm for the war as part of their rhetoric. President Bush: "Our troops want to finish the job." John McCain: "The message of these brave men and women who are serving over there is: Let us win. Let us win." Hmm...

First Winner on Super Tuesday? Huckabee!

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:30 PM EST

Mike Huckabee has won the West Virginia Republican caucuses. Thus begins Mother Jones' 12-hour coverage of Super Tuesday results.

Oh. How do you think Huck will do in San Francisco?

Update: Looks like there was some intrigue. McCain urged his supporters to vote for Huckabee in order to stop Romney. John McCain and Mike Huckabee are so in love.

Eli Manning: Budding Environmentalist?

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:56 PM EST

escalade.jpgIn his 2002 book High and Mighty, New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher wrote that automakers' own market research revealed that SUV buyers tended to be "insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities. They are more restless, more sybaritic, and less social than most Americans are. They tend to like fine restaurants a lot more than off-road driving, seldom go to church and have limited interest in doing volunteer work to help others."

The research, in short, describes your average professional sports star. So no surprise, then, that on Sunday, New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning picked the enormous, six-ton Cadillac Escalade as his prize for winning the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. But in a new twist, Manning picked a 2009 Escalade hybrid, which will get 18 miles to the gallon, compared to the measly 12 mpg of the non-hybrid version. Still, the Escalade remains an utterly gargantuan car, capable of flattening a Ford Focus and parking lot pilings with ease. But perhaps in the pro-sports world, this has to be considered progress.

Clinton's New Ploy: Debate, Debate, Debate Obama to Death

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:54 PM EST

Just ask us to debate. Please ask us to debate.

That was the message the Clinton campaign sent to the MSM this afternoon. During a conference call with reporters, Mark Penn, the campaign's chief strategist, and Howard Wolfson, its communications director, called for at least one debate a week between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the next month. They announced that the Clinton campaign has already accepted invitations from ABC News (this Sunday), Fox News (this Monday), CNN (February 27), and MSNBC (February 28). "It's critically important we continue the debate," Penn remarked.

Obvious point alert: The Clintonites believe Clinton does better than Obama during the debates. They're probably right. He beats her on oratory. His rallies are bigger and better. But she can talk policy details well. At the debates, she demonstrates she's in command of facts and ideas. Usually, it's the trailing candidate who demands debates during a campaign, for he or she needs the attention. But in this case, the Clinton campaign is most likely looking for an insurance policy. If Obama happens to surge after Super Tuesday, each debate will give Clinton a chance to slow him down. And if a whole series of debates are scheduled, he will have to spend time off the campaign trail prepping for the face-offs--that is, there will be less time for those impressive, inspiring rallies.

"A lot will depend on the one-on-one debates," Penn commented. Such debates, he added, "will determine some of the outcomes" of the big states coming down the road, such as Ohio and Texas (March 4). The voters, he suggested, need and deserve them.

So, the Clintonites signaled to the big media outlets, just get those debate invitations in ASAP, we're willing to say yes to almost anything. ("ESPN3 Presents the Democratic Presidential Debate.") It's a smart ploy for the Clintons. And it will be hard for Obama to say no.

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Hear My PRI "Fair Game" Election 2008 Discussion...

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:49 PM EST

...with Faith Salie. Smart host, good interview that made me think. Didn't call anyone a sphincter.

Note: PRI = Public Radio International. Quality stuff.

PBS Does its DNA Magic with Celebrities for Black History Month Again

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 3:17 PM EST

Skip the usual suspects ranting and raving in kente cloth this month and check out some worthy black history:

"African-American Lives 2," a four-part series on PBS that begins on Wednesday night, belies its sleepy name with the poetry of history, the magic of science and the allure of the family trees of Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Tina Turner, Don Cheadle, Tom Joyner and Maya Angelou.
It is the latest incarnation of the highly rated, critically successful star genealogy program that its host, the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., presented in 2006. Then Oprah Winfrey, Chris Tucker, Quincy Jones and Whoopi Goldberg were among Professor Gates's eight guests for "African-American Lives." That was followed in 2007 by "Oprah's Roots."
This time scientists use DNA samples, and scholars peruse slave ship records, wills and other documents to recreate the histories of 12 people, including Professor Gates and one Everywoman guest.

Check the link for a video excerpt of the show in which Chris Rock learns that his great great grand daddy fought in the Civil War, or that Tom Joyner's two great uncles were likely lynched back in the day.

Yes, yes, non-blacks want to know their history, too. The only difference is, that if your ancestors didn't keep your stories alive, that's on them. Keeping us invisible, except as property or criminal cases, was against our will.

I got myself invited onto the Colbert Report. Wonder how I get myself a free DNA test and have PBS investigators find out how I came to be me.

Happy Anniversary, Colin Powell

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 1:51 PM EST

Today is not only Super Tuesday; it's the fifth anniversary of Colin Powell's important speech to the U.N., during which he greased the way to George W. Bush's war in Iraq with his own prestige. In our book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Michael Isikoff and I detail how the speech came to be: how Scooter Libby and others at the White House tried to fill the speech with even more dubious allegations than it ended up containing, how Powell ignored complaints from State Department intelligence analysts who told him that parts of the speech were inaccurate, how Powell's claim of a "sinister nexus" between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda was based on bad information obtained from an al Qaeda suspect during violent interrogations. We also published on-the-record comments from Powell, in which he complained he had been unfairly tagged by this speech. What about members of Congress? he asked. What about President Bush? They all said the same things that he had said. Why, he groused, do people still keep blaming him?

Fair or not, Powell went to bat for Bush's war at the United Nations. Every major WMD charge in that speech—not most, but every—turned out to be wrong. (Jonathan Schwartz details it all here.) And Powell then stuck by the president through the initial mismanagement of the war and through the election in 2004—helping Bush to win reelection. What a public servant.

Today is a good moment to reflect on where Powell is now: nowhere. He has largely left public life. He makes speeches at how-to-succeed conferences—no doubt, pulling in $50,000 to $100,000 (or more) a pop. But he has no voice in the national discourse. He barely weighs in on policy debates. He doesn't hit the op-ed pages much. He's not on television. He doesn't write books. Perhaps he's decent enough to feel shame over his role in the fiasco.

And are any of the candidates seeking his endorsement? Would it help any of them? Powell was once one of the most popular men in America. He seemingly could have waltzed into the White House, but chose not to run. Were he to endorse Barack Obama, that would clash with Obama's antiwar street cred. Were he to endorse John McCain, that would remind voters of the war's start—and two-thirds of Americans tell pollsters they believe the war was a mistake.

It's true that many others bear culpability for the war—Bush and Dick Cheney foremost among them. But Powell enabled them all. He was the front man. So if he did become the fall guy, he was a guilty one.

What's in Bush's $3 Trillion Budget for the Environment?

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 1:50 PM EST

bush-signing2.jpgBush's FY2009 budget, much criticized for its $3.1 trillion price-tag, has some surprising plans for the nation's environment like the Birds Forever Initiative, and some not-so-surprising endeavors, like the proposal for drilling in the Arctic that Congress previously blocked. Here's a summary of the environmental highlights.

The Good
—The new Birds Forever Initiative" grants an $8 million increase to Fish and Wildlife Service for monitoring, assessment, and conservation of migratory bird species. Would continue 2008 budget increase of $35.9 million for conservation of 200,000 acres of vital stopover habitat.
—$103 million to NASA and $74 million to NOAA for new equipment to continue climate research. NASA would also receive $910 million through 2013 to fund new missions.
—$49.2 million for "clean diesel" grants.
—Increased enforcement budget for the EPA, including additional $2.4 million for criminal enforcements.

The Bad
—Projects to improve sewer systems and clean up waterways reduced by $134 million from 2008, putting more costs on state governments.
—Funding for low-income residents to "weatherize" their homes (better windows, more insulation) cut from $280 million to $60 million.
—$110 million cut from Land and Clean Water Conservation Fund.
—Proposals to drill for oil and natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
—$3.7 million cut from endangered species program.

The 2009 budget also included a request from the Department of Energy for $648 million for "clean coal" research and technology, the largest request from the department in more than two decades.