Blogs

Surrogate Problems Continued: How to Make a Bad Situation Worse

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 9:28 PM EDT

Mrs. Ferraro, I respect the role you played in American history, but you are most definitely on the list of people from both campaigns that just need to stop talking.

After saying that Obama is only a hair's breadth from the Democratic nomination because he's black, Ferraro had this to say about her critics:

"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up," Ferraro said. "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

Then she kept it going on Fox News:

Enough, enough! Go raise as much money as you possibly can for Hillary Clinton. Go campaign in some corner of Pennsylvania. But stop turning what should be a national debate over two strong candidates both looking to make history into an unhinged essentialist pissing match over whether racism or sexism is worse!

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Dean Baker On Fed Bank Bailout

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 8:23 PM EDT

In a must-read, Dean Baker explains here how the Federal Reserve may have just handed over hundreds of billions of government money to America's biggest banks. He also examines the reasons this is a bad idea, both the obvious and the non-obvious.

Senate Phase II Report To Be Whitewash?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 7:58 PM EDT

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Senate Intelligence Committee is finally wrapping up its report on whether government statements on Iraq were supported by the underlying intelligence. The committee promised to do this over four years ago.

I don't know anything about it beyond the article, but the reporting strongly suggests the Senate Intelligence Committee has failed to ask hard questions. Beyond the fact it's taken them this long to do it, there are two obvious problems:

Lyrical Analysis Proves New Portishead Album a Tad Mopey

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 6:08 PM EDT

mojo-photo-portisheadthirdcover.jpgBristol, UK-based trip-hop combo Portishead are known for two of the bleakest albums of the late '90s, Dummy and Portishead, whose claustrophobic, atonal soundscapes drew from jazz, soundtracks and cabaret. The music's chill was matched by singer Beth Gibbons' angst-ridden lyrics—witness 1997's "Only You," that kicks off the fun with the line "We suffer every day." Well, good morning to you too Beth. So, the band have been "on hiatus" for nearly ten years, but their comeback album Third has just leaked onto the intertubes. One wonders: have the intervening years lightened them up at all?

To be blunt: oh, hell no. On the contrary, they seem to have spent their time off in an underground factory/torture chamber in Antarctica, returning to the surface only to be betrayed by objects of affection and promptly sent back down to their cold, echoey prison. Lyrics sheets aren't yet available, so I poured a stiff drink and listened to the whole album, taking notes, and checking in with a counselor every few minutes. After the jump, a chart of all significant words that make more than one appearance.

Do You Live in a Wal-Mart State or a Starbucks State?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 4:50 PM EDT

starbucks.jpg

By way of Columbia University via the all-things-rural blog Daily Yonder come these interesting (albeit unsurprising) maps showing Wal-Mart and Starbuck density, state by state. (The darker the state, the higher the number of stores per capita.) Not too many surprises here. As you can see, the Southeast has the highest concentration of Wal-Marts, while Starbucks are dense on the West Coast. Also unsurprising is the red state/blue state correlation. As Daily Yonder points out:

Blue states don't have many Wal-Marts (except for New Hampshire). Red states don't have many Starbucks (except for Colorado).

But is it really a fair comparison? Sure, both are giant chains, but one sells coffee and the other sells, uh, everything. The Northeasterner in me thinks it'd be a whole lot more interesting to compare Starbucks to its regional arch-nemesis, Dunkin' Donuts.

Anti-Iran War Centcom Commander Resigns

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 4:24 PM EDT

Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, the U.S. Centcom commander who has spoken up several times at Congressional hearings and to the press the past year to suggest a military confrontation with Iran would be ill advised, has resigned, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has just announced. Fallon was the subject of a flattering Esquire profile by military analyst Thomas P.M. Barnett this month - a piece that highlighted tensions between Fallon and the White House over his outspoken statements. Earlier today, NBC's Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported:

The Pentagon sharks are circling CENTCOM Commander Adm. William "Fox" Fallon for a magazine interview in which he appears to openly criticize President Bush on the administration's Iran policy. The very public comments raised speculation Fallon would either volunteer or be forced to resign. ...
Asked on Monday whether Defense Secretary Robert Gates still has full confidence in Fallon, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell would only say that Fallon "still enjoys a working – a good working relationship with the Secretary of Defense."
Although reporters did not specifically ask about a possible Fallon resignation, Morrell freely offered, "Admiral Fallon serves at the pleasure of the president." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but far from a political death knell.

Now we know that it was.

"As I say, the notion that this decision portends anything in terms of change in Iran policy is, to quote myself, 'ridiculous,' " Gates said.

Nevertheless, it is quite a signal for the White House to send to aides and in particular to the military to keep their thoughts on policy to themselves -- a concern voiced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts' views are not welcomed in this Administration," Reid said in a statement.

Can anybody say "Eric Shinseki?"

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Is it 3 a.m. at Klan Headquarters?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 2:50 PM EDT

Orlando Patterson argues in today's New York Times that there's a racial subtext to Clinton's 3 a.m. ad. I didn't see it before and I'm not so sure I do now. But I don't dismiss Patterson—one of my intellectual guide stars—lightly.

More after the jump...

Senator Alan Stuart Franken?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 2:06 PM EDT

al-franken.jpg With the exit of trial lawyer Mike Ciresi from the Democratic Senate primary in Minnesota on Monday, Al Franken stands alone as the challenger to incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. Franken has run an exceptionally solid campaign that started early, raised money well, and avoided mistakes — he essentially left no opening for someone like Ciresi, a solid candidate who, under different circumstances, would have gotten a long look from the DSCC and probably could have given Coleman a serious run. It helped that Minnesota Democrats that I spoke to when I visited Minnesota were genuinely carefree about Franken's unconventional past. "Humor is form of common sense," said one man, when I asked him about Franken's history of ribald jokes.

In 2004, Franken kept a diary for us on one of his several USO tours. And in 2006, we spoke to the dudes who made a movie about him.

Coleman is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the Senate, and Minnesota should be a delightful state to watch as we near November 2008. After all, if Obama wins the presidency, we're going to need a new Emmy winner in the Senate. And besides, it would be great to say that a sitting Senator has been in two of the worst movies of all time, Harvard Man and Stuart Saves His Family.

Now It's an Obama Surrogate's Turn to Mouth Off

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 1:02 PM EDT

maxim-thorne.jpg I'm tired of these muthaf-----g surrogates on this muthaf-----g campaign!* First Power, then Ferraro, now this! Here are snippets of an email from Maxim Thorne, a member of Obama's LGBT leadership council:

Hillary Clinton is a disaster for the democratic party. Now she prefers McCain to Obama.... We cannot tolerate her lies and stolen election.
Time for all of us democratics [uh, sic?] to wake up to this disgusting turn. As democratics [again, sic] this should affirm the end of her campaign.
At 3am, Hillary said she and Bill were in bed and she knows of all the calls a President gets at different times of the day and night. Really? So much involvement - so much togetherness. Where was she when Monica was having sex with Bill? 35 years of experience? When he was intimidating Katherine Wiley and Paula Jones? Where was the judgment on the cattle futures and white water. Do we forget Mark and Denise Rich? This was an impeached President who lost his licence to practice law. He committed perjury. They settled with Paula Jones for the full amount of her lawsuit. I haven't forgotten and none of us should.

Congressional Ethics Office Vote Today

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 12:32 PM EDT

Two members of Congress have gone to jail in the past year and another may be on the way. The corruption scandals have prompted the House of Representatives to attempt to create new mechanisms for policing its own. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass) led a bipartisan task-force to create a new Office of Congressional Ethics that would investigate ethics charges against members apart from the dysfunctional House ethics committee. The measure would mark the biggest change in congressional ethics rules in a decade, but the legislation creating the office stalled among partisan fights over who should run the office and whether outside groups ought to be able to file complaints against lawmakers.

The House was slated to vote on the bill late last month, but it was postponed after opposition from various factions. Today, though, it looks like the bill is actually going to go the House floor for a vote. We'll be waiting to see how Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz) votes on this one, as the indicted lawmaker has thus far refused to step down, and without a functioning ethics committee, the House has no way to force him to do so.