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No Good Veep Choices for McCain?

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 3:00 PM EDT

This was first posted at CQPolitics.com....

On Friday morning, on NPR's Diane Rehm Show, guest-host Susan Page made me--really, really, really made me--and the two other commentators (PR man/syndicated columnist Tony Blankley and Politico's Jeanne Cummings) predict John McCain's running-mate pick. None of us were eager to prognosticate. But Page insisted.

Earlier in the day, I had pondered the conventional-wisdom short-list of McCain's choices: Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Bush budget director Rob Portman, and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. At least three of these contenders should be nowhere near McCain's calculations:

* Ridge: He favors abortion rights. That could help McCain with independent voters, when the inevitable McCain-wants-to-criminalize-abortion ads start flooding the airwaves in the fall. But does McCain want to be at war with the base of his party from now until election day? (One problem for McCain is that he cannot win without the party's base, and he may not be able to win by catering to it. What a paradox!)

* Portman: As the economy slides further into a ravine--and Bush's approval ratings remain in the gutter--does McCain want by his side the man who was in charge of Bush's budget? Portman does hail from the must-win state of Ohio, and he's considered an affable and effective campaigner. But McCain would find it harder to distance himself from Bush's economic policies with one of Bush's key economic appointees on the ticket.

* Jindal: As I noted earlier, if McCain opts for this 37-year-old overachiever, he will make exorcism a campaign issue, for Jindal will have to explain his 1994 account of an exorcism in which he participated--and prove his account was true. Also, Jindal's record in Louisiana has been not-so-stellar recently. Senator, once more, can you explain whether you believe that Satanic demons can take possession of an individual and that people like your running-mate can perform amateur exorcisms to drive these spirits away?

So that leaves Pawlenty and Romney. Pawlenty comes from a swing state, but he has no standing on the national stage. "Pawlenty of nothing," one conservative pundit quipped to me recently. As for Romney, he does okay (not great) with the GOP base (the part of which that does not consider Mormonism to be an anti-Christian cult), and he can talk about his business experience at a time when the economy is ailing. One key question is, is McCain still pissed off at Romney over his attacks on McCain during the primary campaign? McCain does have anger issues. (See here for a recent example.)

When pressed for an answer by Page, I went with Romney, noting I was probably wrong. Blankley chose Ridge. And Cummings picked Portman, adding that voters would not necessarily identify him with Bush. But we all stipulated that we had no clue. As for me, I doubt that the veep pick will make much of a difference for McCain's campaign. He (and Barack Obama, too) ought to keep in mind the cardinal rule: first, do no harm. Yet that short-list is full of potential dangers.

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When Blacks Get Their American Dream 'Burb On

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 2:40 PM EDT

The WSJ reports that, for the first time, 'black' cities like DC and Atlanta are losing their historic black populations to the suburbs. News, certainly. But why they gotta turn it into a big ol' drama?

The only difference between this and white flight is that blacks are running toward something (supposed peace and tranquility) and not away from something (coloreds). We'd a done it sooner but for the economic discrimination that kept us from affording to join those stupid commuters with their 'bowling alone' anomie. And, oh, y'all killing us for trying.

Now, we get our American Dream 'burb on—and we media types can't just report already dramatic news. It's gotta be a race war.

Here's the WSJ's sub hed:

For the First Time in Decades, Cities' Black Populations Lose Ground, Stirring Clashes Over Class, Culture and Even Ice Cream.

Heavens! Formerly black churches are courting newly gentrifying whites rather than, oh, I dunno, closing. White candidates have a shot at winning 'black' mayoralties and municipalities are flinging up jazz spots all over town, knowing that Negroes can't resist a hot sax anymore than Paris Hilton can resist a camera. Race war!

Why can't news about blacks just be that—news about blacks? White folks: Everything ain't about y'all all the time.

Why Talula Does the Hula No More

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 5:32 AM EDT

Apparently, people who live in New Zealand, and get pregnant, are crazy. From CNN:

A New Zealand judge has made a 9-year-old girl a ward of the court so that her name can be changed from Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii, the country's national news agency reported Thursday.

Family Court Judge Rob Murfitt listed a series of unusual names that New Zealand parents had given their children, and said he was concerned that such strange monikers would create hurdles for them as they grew up.

Among the names Murfitt cited: twins named Benson and Hedges, after a brand of cigarettes; Violence; and Number 16 Bus Shelter.

Maybe there are a lot of wannabee rock stars down there.

Cow Poo Power Redux

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 11:51 PM EDT

800px-Bos_taurus_taurus_relaxing.jpg California's already trying it. The people of India have been burning gobar for millennia. Now a new study finds that converting cow poo into a biogas could generate 3 percent of North America's electricity annually. Better yet, it would decrease greenhouse gases.

Here's why. If livestock manure is left to decompose naturally it emits two badass gases: nitrous oxide and methane. Nitrous oxide is 310 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Methane is 21 times more potent.

The researcher examined two hypothetical scenarios. The first: business-as-usual, burning coal and letting manure decompose. The second: anaerobically-digesting manure (think compost) to create biogas and burning it to offset coal.

The results? The hundreds of millions of livestock inhabiting the US could produce 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. Enough to power millions of homes and offices.

So could we call the first poo generating station the George W. Bush Shite House?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Compare and Contrast: McCain Has His Own Awesome Poster

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 9:50 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mccainpostersm.jpgWe here in the media elite sure like our liberal posters, since they reference things we studied in school and that makes us feel smart. But in the interest of equal time, let's take a look at some design work from the other side: via Marc Ambinder's blog at TheAtlantic.com, it's a John McCain campaign poster (right). Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. First of all, I'd say that my mom might have designed this on her rickety old PC, since it appears to use some sort of free PosterMaker software with Plug-In Faux Marble Borders, but the last 7 years have turned even my central Nebraska parents into screaming liberals, so I doubt she'd stoop so low. In the center, we have, well, The Ghost of John McCain, and this should be a lesson to graphic designers: go easy on the see-through filters on the over-70 set. What is cool is that apparently airplanes can fly out of McCain's head. He just thinks, "I'd like to launch some jets," and kafwoop, there they go, from his brain. Now, "Peace is Born of Wisdom" looks like a slogan from one of those Latter-Day Saints TV ads, a demographic that I understand he wants to appeal to, but then why abandon this classic look for a nonsensical reddish-white-and-blue banner featuring a generic "McCain 08" in a totally different sans-serif font? Argh! It's not even good at being bad!!! After the jump, see a larger-size version of the poster, and my theory about how the designer came up with it.

Russian Lawmakers Draft Bill to Ban Emo, Immediately Turning Everyone Emo

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

mojo-photo-russianemo.jpgIn a development that may qualify for Ironic Event of the Century, the saddest country on earth is looking into banning expressions of sadness. The Moscow Times reports that the Russian Duma is considering legislation that would regulate emo-themed websites and ban the neo-gothic dress and hair styles typical of the scene from schools and government buildings. The legislators claim that emo culture is "negative" and encourages anti-social behavior, to which a million My Chemical Romance fans say "duh," and also may lead to depression and suicide, to which I say, "not nearly as often as you'd like." Awww, sorry, too soon?

In case you're wondering what the hell emo even is these days, the proposed bill helps define it:

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The Dust Off: The House That Crack Built

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

mojo-photo-htcb.jpgBack in the 90s, author Clark Taylor rewrote a nursery rhyme to tell the story of the illegal drug industry. One of those books with the dreaded tagline "valuable resource," The House That Crack Built is a fascinating artifact of the 1990s drug war.

Recent children's books about drugs are, well, somewhat less daring in their treatment of the issue.

The House That Crack Built is, of course, an artifact of a different period of time. But given that crack is still building many mansions all over the world, it's well worth a read for context.

—Daniel Luzer

Little Britain to Set Its Sights on America

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 4:01 PM EDT

mojo-photo-littlebritainusa.jpg

If you've caught the comedy show Little Britain on BBC America, you'd be forgiven for being a little bit confused. While the format is good old sketch comedy, the sketches are performed by a duo, David Walliams and Matt Lucas, often in extraordinarily elaborate costumes and makeup. The bits are somewhat brief and all feature recurring characters, so it might be a little tough to catch up to them--the guy in the wheelchair can actually walk!--but once you do, the show can achieve absolute face-slapping hilarity with even the most subtle of twists, as each sketch seems to build on the last, in an ever-tightening spiral of parody. Moreover, the theme of the show is specifically British (with a vague notion of portraying the country's many fine citizens) so Americans might not quite understand the segment of society Vicki Pollard is mocking. Hint: Lady Sovereign.

Obama in Berlin: Another Great Communicator?

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 3:12 PM EDT

Elections, the consultants tell us, are about the future, not the past. And all politics is not only local but aspiration-driven. It's about not only what's gone wrong or what people fear but what voters want and, yes, hope, for. And Barack Obama is quite good at speaking about aspirations, whether at home or abroad.

From his much-anticipated speech in Berlin on Thursday:

People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time. I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.
But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.
These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people – everywhere – became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.

The speech was predictably grand; the photo op, superb, with Obama bathed in golden light. There's not much policy in these eloquent words--though elsewhere in the speech he did speak about the pressing need to globally confront climate change, poverty, and AIDS. But in politics--and in government--inspiration does matter. And being a great communicator of lofty ideals is not a bad credential for a candidate--or a president.

Former Iraqi P.M. Says Surge Not So Great

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 2:51 PM EDT

When it comes to Iraq, the surge is a great success, right? Well, according to Ayad Allawi, Iraq's former prime minister, that depends on what you mean by "success".

In a briefing before members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday, Allawi answered questions from members of he subcommittee on international organizations, human rights, and oversight. When asked by Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the subcommittee's ranking member, for Allawi's "assessment of of what's come of the surge," Allawi all but said, not much.

Reminding Rohrabacher that the original objective of the surge was to create a safe environment for a process of national reconciliation, Allawi said, "Now, militarily, the surge has achieved some of its goals. Politically, I don't think so."

Allawi rattled off a laundry list of perils that still confront the Iraqi people: internal displacement of large numbers of people, millions of refugees outside Iraq, security forces he described as sectarian militias dressed in national uniforms, no enforcement of the national constitution, which he described as a "divisive" document.

The former prime minister, who is now a member of the Iraqi parliament, also alleged that the process known as "deBaathification" is "being used to punish people." Originally designed to purge Saddam Hussein's loyalists from the military and security forces, Allawi said the process has become politicized and can be used against virtually anybody, since Saddam Hussein's "Baath party ruled for 35 years, and every individual had to join..."