Blogs

Trouble in Paradise? Freedom's Watch Prez is Out

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 9:36 PM EST

Brad Blakeman, the president of the hawkish, pro-surge advocacy group Freedom's Watch, has resigned amid infighting among the group's leadership. "Sources close to the conservative nonprofit say that [Blakeman] drew fire for focusing too much on administrative tasks and neglecting major projects since the group sponsored a $15 million television ad campaign in 2007 to promote the Iraq war surge," reports National Journal's Peter Stone, who wrote a profile of Freedom's Watch backer, casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, for Mother Jones' January/February issue. "Freedom's Watch reportedly plans to spend as much as $200 million on pro-Republican TV ads on national security and domestic issues this year."

Adelson has also provided $2 million to back a TV/ radio campaign by a lobby group, Defense of Democracies, to go after House Democrats who don't support the White House's preferred domestic surveillance legislation, Stone reports. The Republican bill would provide retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies being sued for billions of dollars by consumers who charge the companies illegally provided the government access to their private communications data. Defense of Democracies was recently set up as a 501(c)4 group by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which has received State Department funding. The ads targeting Democrats prompted Democratic members of the advisory board of the previously ostensibly bipartisan Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to resign en masse earlier this month, charging FDD had basically set up an openly partisan front group.

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Corporations Need Green Police

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 8:09 PM EST

623962630_a88b833cf6_m.jpg Voluntary environmental programs among businesses don't work. This according to a new study from George Mason University of more than 30,000 firms. Some of those firms were participants in the Environmental Protection Agency's VEPs (Voluntary Environmental Programs), some weren't. Participants received $69 million from the EPA last year (1.6 percent of the agency's budget). Yet nonparticipating companies performed 7.7 percent better than participants in meeting environmental goals.

Why? Well, self-monitored companies performed worst of all (nonparticipators outperformed them by 24 percent). The absence of third-party oversight invites 'free ridership,' says Nicole Darnall, lead author. "Companies are taking part in these programs and receive credit for doing so, but some aren't really adhering to the goals. Nonparticipating companies may have stronger goals… [and] a higher performance." The study is published in Policy Studies Journal.

In other words, slacker companies with no genuinely good intentions get the money under Bush's castrated EPA… Sigh. Practice compassionate impeachment.

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.


Radio Now Below "Pamphlets" on the Media Ladder

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 6:49 PM EST

mojo-photo-oldieradio.jpgFull disclosure: your ridiculously-named blogger spent 13 years working at a corporate alt-rock broadcaster, many of them happy. But my own ever-so-slightly bitter anti-radio bias is no match for the actual facts: things in the audio-only broadcast media are looking pretty terrible. The Radio Advertising Bureau just announced revenue figures for the industry in 2007, and they're down like a frown. Ad revenue was off 3% for the year over 2006, and in the 4th quarter, national revenue was down 11%. The only place radio showed some growth was "off-air" revenue, ironically enough, since isn't what's on-air the whole point? RAB President/CEO Jeff Haley tried to cover up the bad news by releasing a hilarious statement about "the nimbleness of the expanded radio space" and how it provides "a true 360-degree integration opportunity," before he collapsed into giggles and took another bong hit.

House Races Across the Country: Time for the GOP to Scare Up Some Dollars

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 5:12 PM EST

A list of the 24 Democratic-held House seats that the Republican Party is targeting in '08 was released today, and it provided the Campaign Finance Institute with everything it needed to go to town.

The folks there compared the fundraising and cash-on-hand for the supposedly weak Democratic incumbents and their Republican challengers. Take a look at these numbers.

Arizona 8
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) - $1,317,357 on hand
Timothy Bee (R) - $161,246 on hand

California 11
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) - $924,605 on hand
Dean Andal (R) - $471,190 on hand

Kentucky 3
Rep. John Yarmuth (D) - $659,231 on hand
Erwin Roberts (R) - $95,076 on hand

Texas 23
Rep. Ciro Rodriquez (D) - $661,224 on hand
Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R) - $45,430 on hand

These numbers, lopsided as they are, were more or less chosen at random. In no race does the Republican challenger have more money than the Dem incumbent; in only one, New Hampshire's 1st, is it even close. Usually, the Democrat has anywhere from two to six times the cash on hand. The exception is Oregon's 5th, where there is no incumbent.

Check out the full list here. And check out how much each of the major party organs have here. There is a serious problem for the GOP. It's what I meant when I said John McCain has to rebuild the Death Star.

New (Leaked) Music: Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 4:58 PM EST

mojo-photo-gnarlsoc.jpgHey, look what leaked all over the internets, the new album from Gnarls Barkley. You remember them, they're the super-producer/mega-singer duo who got the highest score ever on that Hit Formula thing in the New Yorker? Well, they're back, and while their new album is, you know, enjoyable enough, with songs and notes and everything, I'm not sure they'd want to run it through the hit detector again: the score might be pretty disappointing.

Let's Do Some Delegate Math

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 1:28 PM EST

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter points out that the delegate math that was already difficult for Hillary Clinton got more difficult after Ohio and Texas, because she made up a very small portion of the delegate deficit and now has fewer states in which to make her comeback. Alter runs down a very Clinton-friendly hypothetical:

Let's assume that on Saturday in Wyoming, Clinton's March 4 momentum gives her an Ohio-style 10-point win, confounding every expectation. Next Tuesday in Mississippi, where African-Americans play a big role in the Democratic primary, she shocks the political world by again winning 55-45.
Then on April 22, the big one—Pennsylvania—and it's a Clinton blowout: 60-40, with Clinton picking up a whopping 32 delegates. She wins both of Guam's two delegates on May 3 and Indiana's proximity to Illinois does Obama no good on May 6. The Hoosiers go for Clinton 55-45 and the same day brings another huge upset in a heavily African-American state. Enough blacks desert Obama to give North Carolina to Hillary in another big win, 55-45, netting her seven more delegates.

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'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout Is Arrested in Thailand

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 1:22 PM EST

The fictional Yuri Orlov (played by Nicholas Cage in the 2005 film, Lord of War, based on the story of real-life weapons smuggler Viktor Bout) may have excelled at breaking arms embargoes, but he was even better at evading responsibility for his actions. Some version of the above scene, in which Orlov explains why he will never be stopped to an earnest, but sadly powerless Interpol agent who's spent his entire career in a futile attempt to bust him, may now be playing itself out in a Thailand jail. The news this morning is that Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death" by journalists Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun in their recent book of the same title, has been arrested at a five-star hotel in Bangkok.

According to initial reports, Bout was captured by Thai police, acting on a warrant issued by Thai courts that charges the arms smuggler with "attempted mass murder." "He is now in the custody of the Crime Suppression Division," said Major General Pongpat Chayaphan of the Thai police. "We have followed him for several months. He just came back to Thailand today. We will take legal action against him here, before deporting him to another country."

Clinton Campaign: Obama = Ken Starr

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 12:16 PM EST

The Clinton campaign is now pushing the idea that Obama's stepped-up attacks on Hillary Clinton are mere rehashes of the Republican hit jobs that Clinton has endured for so many years. "Imitating Ken Starr is not the way to win the Democratic nomination," the campaign wrote in a memo to reporters.

It's a really crafty and well-designed line. I get the sense that there are Democrats voting in these primary states that don't necessarily want to see Hillary Clinton win the nomination, but they don't want to see her lose it either. Every time she is on her way out, they pull her back in (see NH, OH, TX). That's because after years of taken beatings at the hands of bullies and jerks on the right, she's an incredibly sympathetic figure to millions of Democrats. The Clinton campaign isn't going to convince anybody that Barack Obama is as bad as Ken Starr or Newt Gingrich, but they can remind voters that Clinton doesn't deserve to get trashed all over again.

Dean on Michigan and Florida: Do-Overs Are Possible

| Thu Mar. 6, 2008 10:37 AM EST

A statement from Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean on the subject of Michigan and Florida's contested delegates:

"We're glad to hear that the Governors of Michigan and Florida are willing to lend their weight to help resolve this issue. As we've said all along, we strongly encourage the Michigan and Florida state parties to follow the rules, so today's public overtures are good news. The rules, which were agreed to by the full DNC including representatives from Florida and Michigan over 18 months ago, allow for two options. First, either state can choose to resubmit a plan and run a party process to select delegates to the convention; second, they can wait until this summer and appeal to the Convention Credentials Committee, which determines and resolves any outstanding questions about the seating of delegates. We look forward to receiving their proposals should they decide to submit new delegate selection plans and will review those plans at that time. The Democratic Nominee will be determined in accordance with party rules, and out of respect for the presidential campaigns and the states that did not violate party rules, we are not going to change the rules in the middle of the game.
"Through all the speculation, we should also remember the overwhelming enthusiasm and turnout that we have already seen, and respect the voters of the ten states who have yet to have their say.

I read that to mean Dean is inviting Michigan and Florida to organize new primaries or caucuses. The governors of both states have indicated they are willing. My question: would do-overs be scheduled before Pennsylvania or after? If they're schedule for after, this primary season will stretch on so long that the Democrat who emerges as the nominee will be seriously handicapped.

Key question: With Michigan and Florida excluded, neither candidate can go into the convention with the 2025 pledged delegates needed to secure the nomination. They would both need superdelegates to get over the top, no matter how many of the remaining states they win. But if Florida and Michigan schedule do-overs, is there a scenario where one of the two can get 2025 on pledged delegates alone? I'll investigate.

Update: TNR is reporting Michigan is set to hold new caucuses.

Update Update: For an interesting take on what Obama should do about this situation, see Mark Schmitt at TAPPED.

Bank Drops Wikileaks Case

| Wed Mar. 5, 2008 8:22 PM EST

Julius Baer Bank and Trust dropped its case against Wikileaks today, days after a San Francisco judge reversed an injunction against the iconoclastic document-leaking site. Judge Jeffrey White had ordered Wikileaks shut down in response to arguments that it had published stolen bank documents that contained sensitive proprietary information. But Wikileaks argued that the documents exposed fraud, and the injunction prompted a firestorm in the press over concerns that White had abridged constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and freedom of the press. "There are serious questions of prior restraint, possible violations of the First Amendment," he said on Friday before reversing the order. Even during the time that Wikileaks went dark, shadow sites hosted in other countries continued to make the same information available, underscoring the futility of censorship in the Internet era. The bank's filing today didn't say why it was withdrawing the suit and reserved the right to refile the case later.