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Darrell Issa's Software Error

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 2:34 PM EDT

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During a House Oversight Committee hearing last month on the preservation of White House records, an indignant Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of Chairman Henry Waxman's investigations, did his best to play down the extent of the Bush administration's now well-documented email archiving problems. Defending the White House's decision to switch from the Lotus Notes-based archiving system used by the Clinton administration, Issa compared the the software to "using wooden wagon wheels" and Sony Betamax tapes. To observers of the missing emails controversy, Issa's comments seemed little more than an attempt to deflect blame from the White House for replacing a working system for archiving presidential records with an ad hoc substitute. But to IT professionals who use Lotus at their companies, Issa's remarks seemed controversial, if not downright slanderous. Now, according to an executive at IBM, the software's manufacturer, the California congressman has apologized for his characterization of Lotus and offered to correct the congressional record.

"Following the hearing, several Lotus customers and partners contacted me expressing concern over the way that Lotus Notes was characterized in those hearings," the executive, Ed Brill, wrote on his blog. "The sequence of events that followed... was quite dramatic for me, even after 20 years in the industry—I ended up on the phone with Congressman Darrel [sic] Issa, who could not have been nicer or more understanding of what issues were raised by his comments."

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Every Good Government Proposal on One Bill

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 2:21 PM EDT

Larry Lessig launched "Change Congress" in the hopes of one day having a Congress filled with lawmakers who support four moves that ensure the purity of the governing process and protect our democracy:

1. Eliminating money from lobbyists and PACs.
2. Ending earmarks.
3. Creating greater transparency in Congress.
4. Ushering in publicly financed campaigns.

Good government groups have always sought broader reforms, however, and have always gone into greater detail. If you want to see what the entire good government platform looks like, check out the Transparency in Government Act 2008. It was created by the Sunlight Foundation and is thoroughly badass.

TGA08 (my nickname) goes beyond Lessig's four goals. It wants to put all FOIA responses online, for example, and has a host of measures to increase transparency in the executive branch. According to John Wonderlich, the Program Director at the Sunlight Foundation, TGA is more focused on information access than on process reform, meaning it doesn't advocate the elimination of earkmarks, as Lessig does, but does support making all information pertaining to earmarks public.

The Sunlight Foundation is inviting everyday folks to comment on the bill and all its many provisions. "We made a conscious decision to turn to the Internet community rather than turning to members of Congress first," says Wonderlich. "We think we'll end up with better legislation if it comes out of a community effort." One of the core ideas of Wonderlich's project is that if you give everyday citizens access to government (and legislation) you get better government (and better legislation).

Wonderlich says The Sunlight Foundation has no immediate plans to use an ally on Capitol Hill to introduce TGA08. Wouldn't it be revolutionary if a presidential candidate made something like this bill a key part of his or her platform, and then implemented even half of it after taking office?

John McCain: Family Man?

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 11:49 AM EDT

John McCain's new ad is titled, "Character Forged By Family." Here's a piece of the narration:

The family he was born into, and the family he is blessed with now, made John McCain the man he is, and instilled in him a deep and abiding respect for the social institution that wields the greatest influence in the formation of our individual character and the character of our society.

The ol' family values schtick—and McCain's family values—happen to incorporate military values. But for more on McCain and family values, let's turn to a 1999 Arizona Republic profile of McCain (which does not appear to be available on-line):

He prides himself on his personal integrity yet admits he wasn't faithful to his first wife, Carol, who was injured in a horrific car accident while McCain was in Vietnam....
McCain needed a divorce from his wife of 14 years, Carol, who had been badly injured in a car accident while McCain languished in Hanoi.
The marriage had been strained by his years of absence, along with McCain's admitted affairs after returning from Vietnam.
In February 1980, less than a year after he met Cindy, McCain petitioned a Florida court to dissolve his marriage to Carol, calling the union "irretrievably broken." Bud Day, a lawyer and fellow POW, handled the case.
"I thought things were going fairly well, and then it just came apart," Day recalls. "That happened to quite a few....I don't fault (Carol), and I don't really fault John, either."

McCain's entitled to use his life's story as part of his campaign narrative. But if his campaign is going to play the family card, there's more than, as the ad references, "honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership" in the story of John McCain, family man.

When Exactly Did the 1992 Primary End?

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 11:37 AM EDT

bill-clinton-time-cover.jpg The Clinton campaign will point out from time to time that it is not unusual for primary races to last into the summer. Just last week, Bill Clinton said this in North Carolina:

"All these people that tell you, 'Aw we oughta shut this thing down now the Democrats are so divided' – that's a bunch of bull. I didn't get enough votes to be nominated until June the 2nd, 1992."

As ABC News reports, that's somewhat misleading. While it's accurate that Clinton secured the delegates he needed to win the nomination on the night of the California primary — June 2, 1992 — he effectively wrapped up the nomination after Senator Paul Tsongas dropped out following the Illinois primary.

That was in late-March. Right around now.

Klobuchar Endorses Obama; Says She Has "Faith" Clinton Will "Do the Right Thing"

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 11:20 AM EDT

On Monday morning, Senator Amy Klobuchar endorsed Barack Obama--and joined Senator Claire McCaskill as another prominent female senator from a purple state backing Obama. During a conference call with reporters, Klobuchar noted that she expected the fierce Democratic nomination contest to continue "through the primaries." But what about after that? In an interview on Saturday, Hillary Clinton vowed she would stay in the contest past the primaries--which end in early June--until the convention, which opens at the end of August. Would Klobuchar echo the call of other fretting Democrats that the race should somehow be decided soon after the primaries conclude?

Clinton, she said, "has every right to continue her campaign." But, Klobuchar added that she had "faith our candidates will figure it out" and that the contest "will come to an end in the early summer." Our candidates, she remarked, "will do the right thing."

Perhaps. But Clinton is only digging in her heels, and there's no official mechanism through which the Democrats could declare the race over prior to the late-summer convention. Faith--and hope--may not be enough to settle the matter in June.

Lou Dobbs, Racially Sensitive Verbal Magician

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 11:10 AM EDT

In this video, Lou Dobbs spends a minute and a half talking about how America can and does talk openly about race — in contradiction to the crybaby claims of Barack Obama and Condoleezza Rice — only to close by almost uttering a phrase that could easily be seen as having racial connotations. Dobbs stops himself and gets flustered, thereby hilariously undermining his whole point.

Listen, when media pundits have to produce a certain amount of bombast every day, sometimes they get tripped up. But rarely is the nonsense coming out of their mouths so quickly proven false.

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Jihad USA: Fox's Take on Homegrown Terror

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 9:01 PM EDT

Harboring vague thoughts of anti-government mayhem may mean the Justice Department labels you a criminal. So I'm intrigued to see how Fox covers the alleged homegrown terror cells in their special this weekend, Jihad USA. It promises to investigate the "emerging threat from people who have been radicalized by extreme Muslim doctrine within the U.S."

Well, one such case of alleged domestic terrorism is the "Liberty City 7" trial , which now rests in the hands of a jury—again. The first trial for the Miami-area men accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in 2006 ended in a mistrial, partly because there was little concrete evidence the men were serious about the plot and because FBI collaborators provided many of the materials needed to complete it. The jury so far has spent four hours in deliberation, and will return on Monday to continue.

If Fox's preview of the documentary, in which the Miami case is discussed, is to be believed, then Jihad USA will be one-sided indeed. Fox anchor and Jihad USA host E.D. Hill says the documentary "will frighten you, but it will inform you." I don't doubt Jihad USA will be frightening, but informative? If the hysterical tone of the preview is any indication, probably not.

Where Is the Black Outcry Against China?

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 8:20 PM EDT

As much opprobrium as is being heaped on Obama's pastor Rev. Wright these days, what about the black folks who aren't speaking up? If anyone with an African forebear is black, and blacks are assumed to feel some sort of kinship with each other, how can any blacks take part in the Beijing Olympics this summer?

Of course, my argument is that 'black' is meaningless unless its disparate communities can be shown to overlap politically or culturally and, most of all, demonstrate some sort of allegiance to each other. I wish all 'blacks' did, but we don't. So what's the point in demanding that the label be applied to all of us when it comes to protests, but not on the ground when a discrete group of non-native born blacks are getting their asses kicked for the crime of being black?

We didn't fight for the Haitian boat people, qua blacks. We didn't fight for Rwanda, nor against the Darfur genocide. Steven Spielberg pulled out as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics (and adopted a black child), but multi-millionaire black athletes are taking the fifth on China's crimes lest their marketability drop even a tad. China is Sudan's largest investor, a country which is at war with its 'black' population. It even enslaves them. If 'black' has any meaning, where is the black outcry against China's investment in genocide against Sudan's blacks?

Reports: Bruno Terrorizing America's Heartland with Sexy Hot Pants

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 5:22 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bruno.jpgWhat I wouldn't give to have seen this. Apparently, Kansas is the first known location for Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie Brüno, the "sequel" to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and the expected run-ins with the local populace have started to hit the news. Dateline: Wichita, and the amazingly-named Mid-Continent Airport (like, why not just call it "Bumfuck Airplane Place"?). The Bruno people got permission to film inside the airport, reportedly claiming to be from German TV, as one does (although Brüno is supposed to be Austrian). Things seemed fine, until they turned their cameras on, according to the Wichita Eagle:

The film crew tossed off their coats and did some "kissing" and "fighting" in the hallway leading to the security area at the airport. The security officer called his chief. His chief watched the live security surveillance and reported that no laws were being broken. "At that point, we didn't feel like we had any law enforcement issues," said [assistant director of airport operations Brad] Christopher, who was dealing with the situation that day. But it was "inappropriate," he said. Christopher asked the crew to leave, and the crew left peacefully. "We felt like we were deceived, lied to about the intent and what their true intents and plans were for this film," Christopher said. He said several other locations in Wichita were also targeted.

So, other than "kissing" and "fighting," what, exactly, was inappropriate?

MoJo Staff Picks: March 28

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 3:55 PM EDT

mojo-staff-picks-250x250.jpgWelcome back to the "staff picks" shelf at The Riff. R.E.M.'s new album, Accelerate, is due out on Tuesday, April 1. In preparation for this event, Kiera's selections this week (numbers 2 and 3 on the playlist) both have to do with the storied Athens band.

1. "Red and Purple," The Dodos: Their March 18 release, Visiter, combines sort of a punk attitude (using shoes outfitted with tambourines) with, the band would probably hate me for saying so, pretty melodies, that I want to keep listening to.

2. "Orange Crush," Editors: A mellow cover of R.E.M.'s classic. The Editors are British. Do they even have Orange Crush over there?

3. "Dazzling Display," Steve Wynn: Turns out R.E.M. has an imeem playlist, and this one's on it. Peter Buck + Dream Syndicate=pretty cool.

4. "Bodysnatchers," Radiohead: I know, you're tired of hearing about Radiohead, right? I'm recommending this track anyway. This song is revved-up tension that is pretty and strange at the same time.