Blogs

Congress Atwitter Over Members' Use of Social Networking, Video Sites

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 10:09 AM EDT

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Government isn't exactly on the leading edge of the technological revolution. The GAO reported yesterday that several federal agencies still rely on "paper and file" systems to store emails. And John McCain, devoted Luddite that he is, has admitted he doesn't know how to use a computer. But even for members of Congress who do know a thing or two about technology, their ability to use it to communicate with constituents is restricted by arcane congressional rules—rules that are now at the center of a partisan slug fest on Capitol Hill.

Suppose you're a congressman, and you'd like to post a periodic video message on your website updating constituents on your activities. You film it, post it on YouTube, and embed a link on your homepage. It's that easy, right? Wrong. By including YouTube content on your page, you'd find yourself in violation of policies that pre-date the Internet by a couple hundred years.

An obscure 6-member, bipartisan panel called the Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards (also known as the "Franking Commission"), adhering to rules established in 1789, has long regulated congressional communications, making sure that federal dollars are used only for nonpartisan purposes and not for political proselytizing, which must instead come out of individual members' campaign funds—a reasonable enough idea in an earlier time, but one that ignores dramatic changes in the way people communicate in our Twitter age of hyperconnectivity. The regulations are in desperate need of revision, and on that point members of both parties agree. But the devil is in the details... and it's those details that have ignited a breathless exchange of amped-up rhetoric between Democrats and Republicans in recent weeks.

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California's Top Democrat Blames Bush (or Somebody) for His Likely Indictment

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 9:04 PM EDT

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If California state Senate boss Don Perata gets indicted on federal corruption charges, it's the president's fault. Never mind that the feds have been investigating Perata for nearly five years, and muckraking reporters have dug up a treasure trove of dubious deeds on the part of the state's second most powerful pol (after The Governator). But Perata isn't ready to go quietly. He and his pals at the state Democratic Party, which just a week ago added $250,000 to the embattled senator's legal defense fund (the fund has spent more than $1.9 million to date), now are suggesting the White House is persecuting Perata.

On July 9, the East Bay Express, a weekly in Perata's Oakland district (disclosure: I used to be its managing editor), revealed that the lengthy probe of Perata and his associates was coming to a close, and that the senator would likely be indicted soon. Responding to the report today, Perata told a local TV reporter, "My own belief is nobody goes after a ranking Democrat in California unless permission has been given from on high."

Note to Lesbian Pioneers: Avoid Wisconsin

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 9:01 PM EDT

Now that gay marriage is legal in California, a same sex marriage showdown is brewing in Wisconsin.

An obscure Wisconsin state law circa 1915 declares fraudulent any marriage performed outside the state if the couple intends to return to Wisconsin to live. I'm gonna spare myself the research and wager that this law had everything to do with anti-miscegenation impulses.

A pioneering lesbian couple has every intention of courting prosecution by traveling to LA on August 8 to marry and return home. Cue "the family values" contingent in Wisconsin.

Jesse Jackson, Out Foxed on Obama

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 8:47 PM EDT

Yes, Jesse Jackson went off on Obama. To a reporter. But his worst mistake was talking to Fox News.

After an interview there, Rev. Jackson slipped and said what he actually thought about Obama's Cosby-esque, 'blame the black poor' tour, which is that Obama is "talking down to black people," for which the good Rev "wants to cut his nuts off."

( O'Reilly provides the video; Jackson didn't realize his whispers were being picked up by the still hot mic.)

Oh dear.

He's been apologizing ever since (and Jackson's own son felt the need to denounce his dad). But it speaks to a much needed conversation that the black community both needs and wants to have.

Black on Black Nihilism

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 8:37 PM EDT

I just read something both horrifying and so, so sad on The Root.

It happened two months ago, and this is the first, and probably only, time I'll hear about it: A young, bipolar black woman on an Atlanta bus went manic and terrorized an elderly black woman while the rest of the riders did nothing. Well, except for the ones who laughed and helped the deranged woman freestyle rap lyrics with which to terrorize all our grandmothers. And, of course, the one who was busy taking the video. The other riders didn't respond until she went after them.

New Music from Around the Blogs: Dungen, Annie, Chemical Brothers, Bloc Party

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 8:11 PM EDT

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Everybody's favorite Swedish psychedelic rockers Dungen have released a track from their upcoming album 4, which is technically their 5th album, but maybe they count differently in Sweden. The track is called "Satt Att Se" (which an online Swedish-English translator says means "Was to See") and you can listen to it in 96kbps glory at their MySpace page. (For fans of: Jimi Hendrix, Beck, magical unicorns)

On the lighter side (and crossing the border to Norway), via Pitchfork comes a link to Pardon My Freedom, who has an mp3 of the new Annie single "Songs Remind Me of You." This song reminds me of New Order. Her new album, Don't Stop, is supposed to be out soon, but who knows. (For fans of: "Blue Monday," Kylie Minogue, chewing gum)

After the jump: is midnight too early for madness, and would you let these monkeys operate on you?

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How is the "Blo & Go" Like the "Suck Kut"?

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 7:13 PM EDT

Earlier this year, the Washington Post's Robin Givhan brought us the story of the Blo & Go, an ingenious hair-drying invention of Laurie Coleman, a former model and wife of the Minnesota Republican senator Norm Coleman. Here's what the recently resurfaced Post piece has to say about the genesis of "Blo & Go":

Against the backdrop of this kind of marketing savvy, it is hard to believe that the name Blo & Go was not chosen to, at the very least, amuse. This, after all, is a world in which the term "wide stance" churns up easy chuckles.
Coleman's voice registers shock -- and dismay-- that anyone would make such a connection. "I didn't think of that," she says. And then she goes further to point out that the name wasn't even her idea. It came out of a committee. It was all in the brainstorming, during which "Freedom Styler" was rejected. And so it went: You get your hair blown out. You need a blowout. You get blown . . . out. And then you go. Bingo: "Blo & Go!"

Givhan (a Pulitzer winner) also extracted the line, "The whole key to this is the suction" from Coleman, whose husband is in a tough reelection fight this year against Al Franken. All of this reminded me of another classic suction-based hair care device. Who else remembers the Suck Kut?

Should 4 Dollar Gas=4 Day Work Week?

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 6:48 PM EDT

school-bus-170.jpgSchool districts across the country, reacting to wicked high gas prices, are shifting to four-day work weeks—and in some cases asking kids to walk a little farther to catch the bus.

While the potential benefits of having kids walk a bit more are intriguing, is it really possible to cram five days of student learning into four?

"Eco Nightclub" to Generate Electricity From Dance Floor

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 6:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-electricclub.jpgHas anybody ever told you your dance moves are shocking? Wocka wocka! Ahem! A new nightclub in the UK has realized you can get tons of international press by incorporating a few token "green" tricks into your venue [Edit: as Nichole Wong already covered over here on Blue Marble, whoops]. Actually, that's mean, some of the ideas seem pretty good. The club, called Surya, will feature its own solar energy system and will offer free admission to cyclists and walkers (although how they know you didn't just get out of the cab around the corner is anybody's guess). Then there are the iffy ideas: "air flush" waterless urinals and low flush toilets might work at your home or office, but after seeing a variety of different nightclub bathrooms, let me just say I wouldn't recommend reducing flush capacity there in any way. Finally, there's the grabber: dance floor power!

The dancefloor uses the concept of piezoelectricity, where crystals and ceramics create a charge to generate electricity. "We estimate that if you had loads of clubbers dancing vigorously it would provide 60 percent of the club's energy needs," said the club's promoter.

Hey, baby, wanna join me on the floor and generate some sparks? No? Somebody used that line on you already? Like 300 times? Okay, fine, I'm heading for the air flush urinals.

As McCain Disavows Gramm, a Top Aide Implies Gramm Partly To Blame for the Economy

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 4:55 PM EDT

Phil Gramm is in the headlines today--being slammed by Democrats and disavowed by the McCain campaign--for complaining to The Washington Times that "we have sort of become a nation of whiners." Gramm, who chairs John McCain's campaign and who advises the presumptive Republican nominee on economic matters, pooh-poohed talk of a recession: "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession." The former Republican Senator and current vice president of Swiss bank UBS dismissed talk of US economic woes and declared, "We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today. We have benefited greatly" from globalization.

Predictably, liberal bloggers and Democrats blasted Gramm for being out of touch with the real world. The McCain camp initially stood by their man but then distanced itself from Gramm's remarks, with a McCain spokesman saying, "Gramm's comments are not representative of John McCain's views."

But as this tempest was under way, another Gramm story went little noticed: a top McCain aide indirectly implicated Gramm in the current economic mess.

On Thursday, Portfolio magazine released an interview with Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who is now a top adviser and surrogate for McCain. In that article interviewer Lloyd Grove asked Fiorina "who and/or what is to blame for the souring economy?" Her answer: