Blogs

Is Collecting Records Stupid?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 6:19 PM EST

mojo-photo-beatles.jpgVia Uncut comes news that an exceedingly rare copy of the Beatles' 1968 "White Album" is set for auction this week, and is likely to bring bids of up to £5000 ($10,000). The record has a serial number of 00000007 (kind of like Mr. Burns' Social Security number) and since it's rumored that the first ten copies of the album were all given to band members, that would make this "the lowest numbered original mono copy" that has ever been up for auction. Is this silly, or a justifiable appreciation of a landmark work of art?

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Pelosi Throws Down Gauntlet on Contempt

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 5:24 PM EST

Today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a major step forward on contempt. In a letter to Jeffrey Taylor, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Pelosi certified the subpoena breeches by Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten:

The undersigned, The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, pursuant to the attached House Resolution 979, One Hundred Tenth Congress, hereby certifies to you the failure and refusal of Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, to appear, testify, and furnish certain documents in compliance with a subpoena before a duly constituted subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. The undersigned further certifies to you the failure and refusal of Joshua Bolten, White House Chief of Staff, to furnish certain documents in the custody of the White House in compliance with a subpoena before said committee. These failures and refusals are fully shown by the certified copy of the House Report 110-423 of said committee which is also hereto attached.

Clinton Campaign Hits Fundraising Peak

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 4:31 PM EST

According to a conference call held this afternoon, the Clinton campaign has bested its January fundraising haul of $14 million (a record for the campaign up to that point) with a stunning February fundraising haul of $35 million.

The pace of $1 million a day is roughly matches Obama's pace from January. We have yet to see Obama's February numbers.

The Clinton campaign is really hitting its stride in the money department. Campaign Chairman Terry Mcauliffe said on the call that their internet fundraising exploded when the campaign announced that Clinton was loaning herself $5 million, and that the excitement online has continued since.

This continues a pattern we've seen emerge this primary season: every time a candidate loses an important primary, their low-value online fundraising shoots up the next day. I guess it's time for a new maxim. When it comes to presidential fundraising, nothing succeeds like failure.

John McCain: Bad for Children?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 2:17 PM EST

The Children's Defense Fund recently rated the members of the Senate by their performance on ten votes that are relevant to the nation's children. The votes were:

1. Increase minimum wage (H.R. 2)
2. Increase funding for children with disabilities (S. Con. Res. 21)
3. Protect children from unsafe medications (S. 1082)
4. 2008 Budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 21)
5. SCHIP Reauthorization (H.R. 976)
6. College Cost Reduction and Access Act (H.R. 2669)
7. SCHIP (H.R. 976 - motion to concur)
8. DREAM Act (S. 2205)
9. Funding child health and education (H.R. 3043)
10. Improving Head Start programs (H.R. 1429)

The lowest-scoring Senator, and the only Senator under 20 percent, was John McCain. (Sorry, I mean John Sidney McCain.) He scored so low because he constantly misses important votes. In fact, he's missed more votes in the Senate than anyone else, save the man who suffered a brain hemorrhage.

Look, all of the presidential candidates have missed something like 30-40 percent of their recent Senate votes (Hillary Clinton deserves credit for having missed only 28 percent). But McCain is in a category by himself: he's missed 57 percent. You can argue that he has neglected the nation's children, but it is more accurate to say he has neglected the nation's business altogether.

PS — This isn't a new problem for McCain. In spring 2007, he went five straight weeks without voting.

(H/T Think Progress)

Knives Come Out on the Clinton Campaign

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 2:04 PM EST

Yikes. Judging from the New York Observer the last few days, it's safe to say that things are going to get ugly if the Clinton campaign goes into a death spiral in the next few weeks. For a preview of the anonymous jabs that Clinton insiders will likely take at their leadership, see this article on Mark Penn. The more courageous critics, who are willing to go on the record, will likely be like Leon Panetta — one step removed from the campaign and secure in their careers. Here are Leon's thoughts.

And while we're on the topic of news articles that are rough on the candidates, take a look at George Will's devastating take on John McCain from today's WaPo. No liberal could say it better.

Bush's Newest Secret: Who's Funding His Library?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 12:38 PM EST

southern-methodist-university250x200.jpg

At a White House press conference on Thursday morning, George W. Bush was a bit too cute when it came to an important matter: the funding of his presidential library.

News reports have noted that the library, to be set up at Southern Methodist University, will cost more than $200 million. The question is, who will pay for it? The tabs for presidential libraries are not covered by the taxpayers. They are picked up by nonprofit foundations, and these foundations have no obligation to disclose their sources of money. Bill Clinton has refused to say who is funding his library through the William J. Clinton Foundation, though the Washington Post reported that the royal family of Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million to the Little Rock facility.

It is troubling when the spouse of a presidential candidate receives millions of dollars secretly from one or more overseas sources. But what's more problematic is the prospect of a sitting president obtaining foreign cash for a pet project and not disclosing it. (The Saudis reportedly also gave the presidential library of the first President Bush millions of dollars. After being generous to George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, it's unlikely they will stiff the younger Bush)

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GOP: "We're Subverting the Constitution, Can't We At Least Get Paid?"

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 11:47 AM EST

capitol_hill_phone.gif Love this story from Roll Call (sub. required). Apparently, members of the GOP are angry because the telecom companies they are trying to protect with immunity in the FISA fight aren't rewarding them for their efforts with increased donations.

"It's quite discouraging," said one GOP leadership aide, referring to the disparity in giving from the telecommunications industry in light of the FISA debate, but also the broader lack of support for Republicans from the business community in general.
"These companies just won't do anything," the aide said. "Even when you have the Democrats working against their bottom line."
...Another leadership aide concurred, arguing that business groups vowed to hold Republicans' feet to the fire when they were in the majority while the Democratic leadership seems to be getting a free ride.
"They're funding the campaigns of people who want to put them out of business," the aide said, adding that business groups often rationalize their giving because they think Democrats will be willing to work with them.

Quit yer bellyaching. If you actually believe the telecom companies should not be held culpable for enabling the federal government's warrantless wiretapping program, then you shouldn't expect cash payments in return. Or was this whole thing about money all along?

"John Sidney McCain"

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 11:37 AM EST

Quick thought. I think Obama should combat the increasing use of his middle name by right-wingers and some portions of the official Republican Party by making a joke out of it. Whenever referring to John McCain from now on, Obama should use McCain's middle name, Sidney. And he should really hit the emphasis on Sidney — the stupid among us will hear vaguely feminine undertones; the intelligent among us will see the absurdist joke. Most of all, it will likely disarm Obama's critics and make them look silly.

Think you know a better way Obama can handle the issue? Let me hear it in the comments.

New Abu Ghraib Pictures Released

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 11:20 AM EST

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Wired magazine just released a batch of ten new Abu Ghraib photos (warning, they're graphic), among them a picture of a naked detainee bleeding profusely from his left leg and another of a female soldier smiling and giving the thumb's up sign next to a corpse. The magazine obtained these photographs from psychologist Philip Zimbardo, an emeritus professor at Stanford University and an expert witness for one of the soldiers accused of abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib, Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick. In 1971, Zimbardo conducted what is now popularly known as the "Stanford Prison Experiment," in which a group of college students were assigned the role of guards or prisoners—an experiment that was stopped when the "guards" took to their roles with too much gusto. When asked how the results of his experiment compared with what transpired at Abu Ghraib, the psychologist told the the magazine:

The military intelligence, the CIA and the civilian interrogator corporation, Titan, told the MPs [at Abu Ghraib], "It is your job to soften the prisoners up. We give you permission to do something you ordinarily are not allowed to do as a military policeman —to break the prisoners, to soften them up, to prepare them for interrogation." That's permission to step across the line from what is typically restricted behavior to now unrestricted behavior.

In the same way in the Stanford prison study, I was saying [to the student guards], "You have to be powerful to prevent further rebellion." I tell them, "You're not allowed, however, to use physical force." By default, I allow them to use psychological force. In five days, five prisoners are having emotional breakdowns.

The situational forces that were going on in [Abu Ghraib]—the dehumanization, the lack of personal accountability, the lack of surveillance, the permission to get away with anti-social actions—it was like the Stanford prison study, but in spades.

NYs Black Cabs Go Green

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 2:52 AM EST

237M3847b.jpg Good news for New Yorkers. And Earthers. New York City set new fuel emissions standards for the city's 10,000 black taxis Wednesday. Town car owners must switch to hybrid tech within 5 years. The move, reports Reuters, is part of Mayor Bloomberg's grand plan to decrease the city's carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Yellow cabs in New York are already under a 2012 deadline for going green. Black town cars serve mostly corporate clients and make 2 percent of the city's transport-related emissions. Hybrids will cut that in half.

Not to mention sweeten the urban air.

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