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Big Sky Seeks Big Mileage

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 3:37 PM EDT

prius-mountain.jpg My parents just bought a Prius in Northern California. They reported incredible difficulties in the process — most dealerships had long waiting lists with all sorts of onerous conditions, and those that didn't would sell their available cars within a few hours of putting them on the lot. They finally found a car four hours from their house, and snapped it up the moment they saw it.

Apparently the desperation for a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon extends beyond my parents and their latte-sipping neighbors. Prius-mania is striking Montana, where SUVs are getting retired by the batch and eco- and mileage-friendly cars are taking their place. From the Missoulian:

The largest car and truck auction yard in the Northwest sits just on the south side of the Yellowstone River near Billings. If you're looking to see how $4-a-gallon gas is putting the hurt on Montana, this is a good place to start.
Big, gas-guzzling SUVs are sitting around for weeks, said Jake Gertsch, a salesman at Auto Auction of Montana. Cars are in short supply and they cost more. There's not a Toyota Prius hybrid in sight.
"I wish I had 50 of them," Gertsch said. "We would sell every one we can get our hands on."

According to the article, a Billings Toyota dealership has seen its Prius waiting list double in length in recent weeks and SUVs don't even get sold as used cars anymore. They're sent straight to the auction block.

So let's applaud the spread of the Prius appeal — the hybrid has to break out of fashionable but stigmatized enclaves like Northern California and, uh, Southern California if it is going to make a dent in America's nationwide emissions production. But let's not pretend that the market is working to save the planet here. Yes, as gas prices go up more hybrids are being purchased, which will in turn spur more production. But the market moves much slower than our understanding of global warming (which in turn moves slower than global warming itself). If we wait for the market to force wholesale changes in our energy usage, as we have with cars, we're going to make the changes necessary to save this planet decades too late.

(Photo of Prius by flickr user m/a/z/e & Molliwogg used under a Creative Commons license.)

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Get Your Earplugs Ready for the My Bloody Valentine Reunion

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 3:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mbvsetlist.jpgThey were some of the most anticipated gigs of the year: on Friday and Saturday nights, the original My Bloody Valentine lineup played two shows at a small venue in London, concerts that were billed as "warm ups" for an upcoming tour, but reports say the band were already turning the volume knobs up to "11." NME.com reported that the "shoegazing kings delighted their fans" who greeted them with "delirious" cheers, and that the set focused entirely on music released between 1987 and 1991 (when the band was signed to Creation Records), including a 20-minute version of "You Made Me Realise" to close the show. That'll separate the men from the boys, or at least those willing to indulge endless white-noise freakouts from those who aren't.

After the jump: So, uh, how much ear damage should attendees expect?

House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Attorney General for Bush, Cheney FBI Transcripts on Plame

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 2:36 PM EDT

Following up on its letter to him last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform committee has issued a subpoena to Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The subpoena demands that the attorney general turn over to the committee the transcripts of the FBI's interviews with President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding their knowledge of the outing of former CIA covert officer Valerie Plame Wilson. It also requests unredacted copies of documents already in the committee's possession.

Wild and Unfounded Clinton-as-VP Speculation

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 2:23 PM EDT

In a memo to reporters titled "Obama Campaign Fills Out Key Posts for the General Election," the Obama campaign announced today that it's Chief of Staff to the Vice Presidential Nominee is... Patti Solis Doyle.

That's right, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager and longtime ally is slated to run the VP nominee's operations. But don't immediately assume this means Clinton has an inside track on the spot. Solis Doyle was used as a scapegoat for most of the Clinton campaign's problems, and when she got the boot in February there was no shortage of Clinton staffers willing to trash her anonymously on her way out. Clinton didn't come to her defense. At least not publicly.

Clinton and Solis Doyle reportedly have not spoken since Solis Doyle's ouster. The Obama camp is clearly being strategic by placing her in this spot (there are dozens of other people who could play this role on the campaign, after all). But how?

Obama's "Intellectual Habits"

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 1:14 PM EDT

obama-tophead.jpg From time to time, you'll hear a high-minded liberal (one who probably doesn't worry about his manufacturing job getting shipped overseas, for example) express support for Obama because of his "intellectual habits." The Senator from Illinois isn't a knee-jerk Democratic Party loyalist, they say. He seeks out opposing view points and assimilates their best arguments into his own thinking. Today, Cass Sunstein, a University of Chicago law professor and a friend of Obama's, posts an example of how this plays out in real life. (Note: Sunstein is an informal adviser to Obama and is mentioned as a possible Supreme Court pick in an Obama administration. So take this with the appropriate grain of salt.)

Not so long ago, the phone rang in my office. It was Barack Obama. For more than a decade, Obama was my colleague at the University of Chicago Law School.
He is also a friend. But since his election to the Senate, he does not exactly call every day. On this occasion, he had an important topic to discuss: the controversy over President George W. Bush's warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls between Americans and suspected terrorists. I had written a short essay suggesting that the surveillance might be lawful. Before taking a public position, Obama wanted to talk the problem through. In the space of about 20 minutes, he and I investigated the legal details. He asked me to explore all sorts of issues: the President's power as commander-in-chief, the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force and more.

Obama Channels Chris Rock

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

Barack Obama gave a widely-praised speech on fatherhood yesterday from the pulpit of one of the largest black churches in Chicago. You can see it here:

A lot has already been said about this speech, a somber reflection on the duties of being a father. But around 13:03, Obama references some of the most controversial work of comedian Chris Rock. Here's Obama:

"Chris Rock had a routine. He said some—too many of our men, they're proud, they brag about doing things they're supposed to do. They say "Well, I- I'm not in jail." Well you're not supposed to be in jail!"

It's odd enough for a politician to cite the work of a comedian. But Obama's specific reference was particularly intriguing. It wasn't in the prepared text—Obama dropped it in himself. And Obama isn't talking about Rock's recent material. He is referencing one of Rock's most discussed routines, from 1996's "Bring the Pain," an HBO special. It's a bit about "a civil war going on between black people." Here are the few lines from Rock that Obama is paraphrasing:

"You know the worst thing about n*****s? N*****s always want credit for some s**t they supposed to do. A n*****r will brag about some s**t a normal man just does. A n*****r will say some s**t like, "I take care of my kids." You're supposed to, you dumb motherf****r! What kind of ignorant s**t is that? "I ain't never been to jail!" What do you want, a cookie?! You're not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherf****r!"

In a recent Atlantic article about Bill Cosby, Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out that Rock has stopped performing the "civil war" routine because "his white fans were laughing a little too hard."

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The McCain Brand, Diluted

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 9:37 AM EDT

The Baltimore Sun has bad news for McCain:

John McCain once had the most powerful brand in American politics.
He was often called the country's most popular politician and widely admired for his independent streak. It wasn't too many years ago that "maverick" was the cliche of choice in describing him.
But that term didn't even make the list this year when voters were asked by the Pew Research Center to sum up McCain in a single word. "Old" got the most mentions, followed by "honest," "experienced," "patriot," "conservative" and a dozen more. The words "independent," "change" or "reformer" weren't among them....

Q&A: Gitmo Lawyer Shayana Kadidal on SCOTUS Ruling

| Fri Jun. 13, 2008 7:08 PM EDT

Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, isn't afraid to voice his opinion on the latest SCOTUS ruling in favor of Guantanamo detainees.

Below, excerpts from his conversation with MoJo reporter Stephanie Mencimer:

Tim Russert, Dead at 58: Remembering One Q&A with Cheney

| Fri Jun. 13, 2008 5:17 PM EDT

Tim Russert suffered a heart attack at NBC News' Washington bureau on Friday afternoon and died at the age of 58. As he was eulogized on air by NBC colleagues Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, David Gregory, Howard Fineman, Keith Olbermann, and Andrea Mitchell, I thought of a moment when he tried to give Vice President Dick Cheney a decent grilling days before the invasion of Iraq.

That March 16, 2003 edition of Meet the Press was a good moment for Russert. By this point, it was clear George W. Bush was committed to attacking Iraq. Still, Russert hurled sharp queries at Cheney, questioning several fundamentals of the Bush-Cheney case for war. Cheney did manage to slip by--but only because he was willing to deny reality:

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators….
MR. RUSSERT: The army's top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we've deployed a large force to prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement.
MR. RUSSERT: We've had 50,000 troops in Kosovo for several years, a country of just five million people. This is a country of 23 million people. It will take a lot in order to secure it.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, but we've significantly drawn down our forces in Kosovo and in the Balkans…..
MR. RUSSERT: Every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, recovery of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can't say that, Tim….

There were plenty of times when Russert--like most prominent figures in the media--could be criticized. But this was one of many instances when he posed the right questions and did so in a vigorous and facts-based manner. He did not succeed in forcing Cheney to speak candidly about the challenges of the Iraq war, but, then, Russert was responsible only for the questions he asked, not the answers the politicians gave.

Is Exxon Out of Gas?

| Fri Jun. 13, 2008 5:05 PM EDT

exxon.jpgExxonMobil announced this week that it plans to sell off 2,200, or nearly 1/5, of its 12,000 gas stations because they aren't profitable enough. This, from the world's biggest oil company, after having posted the largest yearly profit ever—$40.61 billion—that's almost $1,300 every second. With the average price at the pump having recently breached the $4/gal mark, an increase of more than one dollar from a year ago, you'd think that the money would continue flowing.

But apparently our oil companies are feeling the shift in the winds.

Though many Americans are hit hard by high gas prices, it's increasingly difficult to ignore the ones who are finding alternatives. These days more and more people are commuting by mass and public transit systems, as well as by carpool and bike. Many more are turning to hybrids or filling their tanks with biofuels. And as this latest sell-off suggests, even our oil companies are transitioning. CNN quotes Ben Soraci, the U.S. director of retail sales for ExxonMobil, saying, "As the highly competitive fuels marketing business in the U.S. continues to evolve, we believe this transition is the best way for ExxonMobil to compete and grow in the future."

This may mark the beginning of our energy industry transitioning out of oil. The question remains, what are they transitioning to?


Photo used under creative commons license.