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MSNBC Video: Corn IDs the Money Quote of Obama's First Day: "Openness Prevails"

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 10:14 PM EST

On Wednesday night, MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue featured the recent Mother Jones piece on changes at the White House website. In the segment, I discussed President Barack Obama's first-day moves to make his administration more transparent and accountable, and I identified the money quote of the day, which was contained in a memo the president issued: "In the face of doubt, openness prevails."

Because I've written about such matters, MSNBC's David Shuster awarded me the highly coveted "Muckraker of the Day" award. Or is it more like a designation? No cash comes with it, but I was honored to be chosen on such a historic day.

You can follow my postings and media appearances via Twitter by clicking here.

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Love Guru, Disaster Movie Top Razzie Nominations

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 7:48 PM EST

mojo-razzie.jpgHow awesome are the Golden Raspberry Awards? They're like the conscience of Hollywood, with a healthy dose of alliterative, sarcastic wit thrown in. The Razzies have been awarded every year since 1980, and this year's nominations are out now, complete with a press release that compares the "plethora of putrid motion pictures" coming from Hollywood to the "disastrous" economic downturn. It helps to imagine the voice of Snagglepuss reading it. The Love Guru was the most-honored film this year, with seven total nominations; other "Worst Picture" nods include Disaster Movie, The Happening, The Hottie and the Nottie, Meet the Spartans and In the Name of the King. Uwe Boll, referred to as "Germany's answer to Ed Wood," will receive a special Worst Career Achievement award. Much deserved.

These Razzies are to be given out at a ceremony February 21 (the day before the Oscars, naturally), and you know, some people have actually turned up to accept their awards in the past: Tom Green, Tom Selleck, Halle Berry and Bill Cosby have all made appearances. If they had a blog version, or a mash-up Razzies, I would totally go. The full list of nominees is after the jump.

Obama Reshapes the War on Terror With First Day Moves

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 5:52 PM EST

guantanamo-prisoners-250x200.jpg President Barack Obama began his first full day in office with a blockbuster move, ordering that military commissions currently ongoing at Guantanamo Bay be halted for 120 days. It is a dramatic first step toward reshaping the war on terror, and one that is being hailed by human rights groups that have spent recent years fighting the Bush Administration's detention and interrogation policies. "This is a giant step forward," Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, told me. "Had [Obama] not acted today, there was a chance of irretrievable harm occurring at Guantanamo and we would have lost the game before the Obama team hit the field."

Romero and multiple lawyers for Guantanamo detainees said in interviews Wednesday that though they applaud the 120-day moratorium on the military commissions, they are skeptical of the one-year deadline for closing Gitmo that the Obama administration is reportedly considering. "Closing Guantanamo Bay is not difficult" says Wells Dixon, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. "It can be done in three months."

"We want to see what comes out," says Romero, noting that his organization seeks "a real plan that is more substantial than just a year, more than generalities."

Memorable Lines

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 5:28 PM EST

MEMORABLE LINES....Steve Benen on Obama's inauguration speech:

I was talking to someone last night about Barack Obama's inaugural address, with my friend criticizing it while I defended it. He challenged me to recite, from memory, one sentence — a full sentence — from the speech, just eight hours after it had been delivered. I couldn't....

Hmmm. I can: the promise to overseas thugs and dictators that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." Granted, that's not a whole sentence, but neither was "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" or "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." There were some other nice lines in Obama's speech too, but that was the one that struck me as the most memorable phrase in real time, and it's still the one I remember today.

Will I still remember it in six months? No telling. I have a lousy memory. But it's still a pretty good line.

Mystery Solved: Where'd Shepard Fairey Get His Obama Headshot?

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 5:15 PM EST

It may be the most memorable piece of campaign-trail propaganda in recent memory, but Shepard Fairey's Obama "Hope" poster also has been something of a graphic-design mystery since it was unveiled a year ago. Amazingly, until now, no one's known where the original image of Barack Obama that Fairey used came from. Fairey's been slammed for lifting images from other artists and photographers without adequate attribution or compensation, so it's not surprising that he didn't keep track of his source image. (For more on Fairey's response to criticism that he's a rip-off artist with mad Adobe Illustrator skills, see Mother Jones' recent interview with him.) Last week, a gallery owner claimed victory, saying he'd tracked down the original to a Reuters photographer. But now Philadelphia Inquirer photographer Tom Gralish has definitively solved the mystery of the missing headshot. He's located the true original, a photo shot by an AP freelancer at an April 2006 National Press Club meeting where then-senator Obama and George Clooney talked about Darfur.

Nationalize Me!

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 5:04 PM EST

NATIONALIZE ME!....With all the talk of bank nationalization in the air, I'd just like to point out something directly that usually gets mentioned only in passing: we've already done a whole lot of nationalizing. Even if you don't count the forced takeover and sale of outfits like Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Countrywide, IndyMac, and Bear Stearns, the fact remains that we've already nationalized three enormous financial institutions: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG. We just don't like to call it that.

I don't really have a point to make here aside from the fact that, in many cases, we seem to be more allergic to the word "nationalization" than to the actual fact itself. Citi and BofA would be different animals because of their size and reach, and long-term government control of such large banks remains problematic, but still: taking them over would hardly be unprecedented, even here in the United States.

And one more thing while we're on the subject: Since you, the American taxpayers, are now the owner of AIG, you're also the main sponsor of the Manchester United football club. The last time I mentioned this, the season was young and our club was mired in 14th place. But I'm happy to report that since the U.S. takeover of AIG in September, our plucky lads have been playing well and Man U now leads the Premier League. Who says nationalization is bad for business?

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New U2 Song Picks Up Where Queens of the Stone Age Left Off

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 4:55 PM EST

mojo-u2-boots.jpgU2's new single, "Get on Your Boots," from their upcoming album with the weird cover, has made its debut, and it's okay. You can listen to a stream over here or at Last.fm, and you can even buy it, unexpectedly early, on iTunes. "Boots" is already a massive radio phenomenon, hitting No. 1 in Ireland and No. 4 in the U.K. on airplay-monitor charts and dominating radio playlists around the US. The track has a fuzzy, lo-fi vibe, and at the very least is a welcome break from the highly-produced pop of "Beautiful Day" or "City of Blinding Lights." More than anything, it evokes Southern California combo (and Party Ben faves) Queens of the Stone Age, with its rumbling guitars and vaguely Eastern half-step chord change. Unfortunately there really isn't a hook, other than the half-hearted exhortation to adorn one's feet with the aforementioned footwear. I'll be interested to see if the single has legs (ahem!) and if there's anything better on the album (out March 3).

Too Fair

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 4:25 PM EST

TOO FAIR....Abe Foxman on the mooted appointment of former senator George Mitchell to be Barack Obama's top diplomatic envoy to the Middle East:

"Sen. Mitchell is fair. He's been meticulously even-handed....So I'm concerned. I'm not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East."

Quite so. But Abe: you're not supposed to say this in public.

Obama to Bush: I Can Release Your Records. Don't Like It? Sue.

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 4:05 PM EST

barack-obama-closeup-250x200.jpg

On his first day in office, President Obama put former president Bush on notice. His administration just released an executive order that will make it difficult for Bush to shield his White House records--and those of former Vice President Dick Cheney--from public scrutiny by invoking the doctrine of executive privilege. Shortly after taking office, Bush handed down his own executive order, amending the Presidential Records Act to give current and past presidents, along with their heirs, veto power over the release of presidential records, which are considered the property of the American people.

"[Obama]'s putting former presidents on notice that if you want to continue a claim of executive privilege that [Obama] doesn't think is well-placed, you're going to have to go to court," says Anne Weismann, the chief counsel for Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW).

During the campaign, Obama promised to "nullify attempts to make the timely release of presidential records more difficult." (A transition spokesperson promised Mother Jones essentially the same thing when we asked a few weeks ago.) That was a reference to former president Bush's infamous Executive Order 13233, which gave current and former presidents and vice presidents, along with their heirs, unprecedented authority to block the disclosure of White House records. But Obama's taken his campaign promise a step further. While revoking 13233, Obama has also put forth a far stricter interpretation of executive privilege:

[T]he Executive Order on Presidential Records brings those principles [of openness and transparency] to presidential records by giving the American people greater access to these historic documents. This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution.

Weismann explains:

[Obama]'s basically saying if there's a dispute, and a former president thinks something should be covered by executive privilege and Obama doesn't agree, then Obama would direct the Archivist to release it [despite the former president's claim of privilege]. The only option a former President would have at that point would be to go to court and sue. [Obama]'s set up a process to review these claims which requires the Attorney General and White House Counsel to agree that these claims should be invoked, which indicates that it won't be either casually invoked or casually defended.

In Obama's remarks on Wednesday morning, he said that, "Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution." The effect of that particular phrase is enormous, as emphasized by the response of a reader over at Talking Points Memo who works for the Justice Department. "That highlighted phrase has signaled a significant discussion around these parts." You can be certain that Obama's early moves to promote government transparency and accountability will be the subject of discussion and debate for a long time to come.

Photo by flickr user Barack Obama used under a Creative Commons license.

Inaugural Ball Performance Wrapup

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 3:22 PM EST

So many stars, so little time! First up, via Pitchfork, it's this tear-jerking performance from Beyoncé at the Neighborhood Ball. She does an admirably restrained version of Etta James' "At Last" as our first couple dances somewhat awkwardly but charmingly on stage.

After the jump: Kanye, Mariah, and the 12-headed pop-rock-rap monster.