What does it mean that Matt Yglesias, a 20-something blogger, has a more astute take on political messaging and the leveraging of political power than David Broder, a man in his 70s who was considered for many years to be the dean of the Washington press corps? Two quick lessons: (1) Age and experience aren't everything, apparently. (2) Trying to shoehorn every new development into a worldview you're exceedingly well known for, as Broder is, will inevitably lead you to say some silly and misguided things from time to time.

Your conclusions, of course, may vary.

Obama and the Pirates

The Washington Post reports on the rescue of the captain of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates:

The result — a dramatic and successful rescue operation by U.S. Special Operations forces — left Obama with an early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad.

....The operation pales in scope and complexity to the wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan....Nonetheless, it may help to quell criticism leveled at Obama that he came to office as a Democratic antiwar candidate who could prove unwilling or unable to harness military might when necessary.

You know, normally I'd say this was kind of ridiculous.  The Navy Seals who led the operation deserve tons of credit, but it really doesn't say very much about the president.

But I'll make an exception this time.  The right-wing criticism of Obama during the incident got so over-the-top that at times you'd have thought Obama was ready to invite the Somali pirates over for tea.  That was ridiculous.  So if this shuts them up for a few moments, it will be a well-deserved few moments of silence for Obama.

The Washington Independent tackles an important issue -- the wealth gap.

As Washington policymakers screamed bloody murder last month over bonus payments for a few hundred AIG employees, another much larger scandal flew virtually unnoticed on Capitol Hill: The divide between the wealth of blacks and whites — already gaping — grew again.... According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of the typical African American family in 2007 was just 10 percent of the net worth of the typical white family — down from 12 percent in 2004. Put another way: For every $1 held by whites five years ago, blacks had 12 cents. Three years later, they had a dime....

The staggering statistic has taken some powerful lawmakers by surprise. Participants in a wealth gap summit on Capitol Hill last month said that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who attended the event, was shocked to learn the extent of the disparity.

There's a lot more in the Independent article; little of it is new. The fact that the average black family in America has a fraction of the assets of the average white family is well known to the activist and policy communities, and the governmental policies, past and present, that have contributed to that phenomenon have been reported out in this magazine and others. The fact that anyone in Congress, particularly Democrats, is surprised by this is pretty shocking.

This definitely isn't "media," and it's probably not "culture," although the little pooch does seem to be wearing a lei, which is, er, kind of cultural, right? Whatever, you know you want to look at pictures of the Obamas' new pet, which whitehouse.gov has provided, and The Riff can use the traffic. As you already know by now (since the story leaked two days early) the President has finally made good on his campaign promise to get Sasha and Malia a dog. The puppy is a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog, he's a gift from Senator Edward Kennedy, and his name is Bo. Hmm, "Bo Obama" is a little awkward, but the name is apparently the same as the Obama girls' cousins' cat, a phrase I can't believe I just typed, and is also an oblique reference to Michelle's father's nickname, Diddley, which is marginally more interesting I suppose. I have to say, Bo looks like he's pretty skeptical about this whole deal in the above photo, but I guess I would be too if I was forced to pose for photos in a nothing but a cheap-looking lei. (Again.) One more picture of the first family greeting their new doggy after the jump, and then I'm getting back to posting about indie disco dance tunes.

Good for what ails you: This 7-minute clip (video embed disabled, sorry) of 47-year-old Susan Boyle singing on Britain's Got Talent.

Wait for minute 4 when unbridled joy breaks out on the judges' faces. 

So. Are you still peeved at Paul Roberts for dissing locavores and heirloom tomatoes? Well, grasshopper, Monday afternoon you'll have a chance to get in the ring with him and other foodies all answering the question: Is organic and local so 2008? If so, what's next?

Stay tuned for our MoJo Forum on organic food next week. In the meantime, you might want to reread Spoiled, watch Bryant Terry cook a vegan recessionista fave, or chow down on our meaty report about the future of food.

Update: The Food Forum is live.

As Steve Allen said: Do not allow children to mix drinks. It is unseemly and they use too much vermouth.
Round 1: The G-word punched through the media membrane this week. Geoengineering. Big word for the headlines. Uttered by none other than John Holdren, Obama's chief scientific adviser. He was referring to the possibility that we might be well advised to at least talk about some potential solutions to climate change that involve mitigating the shitstorm coming our way. You'd think he'd just come out in favor of pedophilia. Pour that man a drink. He's going to need one to deal with the hysteria of a misunderstanding media.

Round 2: An unusually uplifting paper at the online journal Plos One by topnotch researcher Stuart Pimm and colleagues concludes that rainforest reserves in the Amazon really are working. Fewer fires are being lit to clear trees inside then outside. They've been watching fires on what might as well be called SatellitEarthTV (can I trademark that?)—the ultimate reality show: namely, the European Space Agency's Ionia World Fire Atlas, mapping fires globally and monthly since 1996. Fewer fires are not always a result of fewer roads in the reserves, since there aren't, at least not always. The reason is partly because of a new generation of politicians in Amazona who foresee that avoiding deforestation will make money in future markets for carbon credits. I'll drink to that.

Round 3: Adding fuel to the fire is an analysis out of UC Berkeley of 10 years of satellite data on global fire activity, combined with a climate-projection model assuming little curtailment of current greenhouse gas emissions. The result: More than a quarter of the terrestrial world is likely to see relatively sharp changes in fire patterns in the next 30 years. That means more fires in some places (Scandinavia, western US, Tibetan Plateau). Less in others (southern US, central Africa, most of Canada). However less fire is not always good since all kinds of green growing plants that help mitigate CO2 need fire to germinate their seeds. Pour me another.

Round 4: It seems the cannabinoids in marijuana (THC) have anticancer effects on human brain cancer cells. This according to a new Spanish study. Tumors from two patients with the badassest form of brain cancer receiving intracranial THC administration showed signs of tumor death. Light one for the stoners.

Experience the power of God in real-time...on Twitter! To commemorate Jesus' crucifixion and death, Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan tweeted its three-hour reenactment of the Stations of the Cross today. Well-known twitterers included Jesus Christ, Mary Mother of Jesus, and Pontius Pilate. And in between their tweets, world-wide followers shared their thoughts. Here are some excerpts: 

Pontius Pilate: What harm has this man done? Why does the crowd cheer on his murder? I wash my hands of this. They can do what th...

jgderuvo: Guys, stay within the 140 character limit...it's truncating, ruining the effect!

JesusChrist: Let the sctriptures be fulfilled. It is as the prophets wrote. I am who you say I am.

romanguard1: I've got dibs on his robe, but if you guys want to cast lots for the rest of his clothes, I'm cool with that.

mrst72443: I am sure I am missing out on somethign here. I guess I do not understand this TWS thing. How and what do I DO???

JesusChrist: Forgive them, they know not what they do.

Will twittevangelism replace televangelism? Judging by today's tweeting it looks like St. Isidore of Seville, the sixth-century scholar who Pope John Paul named patron saint of the internet, is praying for the church to keep up with the times.







Michelle Obama’s plan to plant a vegetable garden on the White House lawn is old news—everyone’s been bombarded with that adorable photo of schoolchildren tilling the south lawn with Mrs. O.—and no one seems to have much of a problem with it. Sure, it’s not the first White House garden. It’s mostly a PR stunt, a lovely vegetable patch that children can visit on field trips. Maybe some of them will plant a garden of their own, or visit a farmers' market, or just eat more fresh produce. What could be wrong with that?

A lot, according to the Mid America CropLife Association. The large agricultural association was so horrified by the idea of a vegetable garden that they wrote an open letter to Michelle Obama (Mrs. Barack Obama to be precise) and sent it to industrial farmers' advocacy groups. You can read the entire letter on the web, but here are a few choice excerpts: 

Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown. Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical. Local and conventional farming is not mutually exclusive...

If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?

There's a lot to be said for advancing beyond the hunter-gatherer phase of human existence, but I doubt a home vegetable garden is enough to disintegrate several thousand years of evolutionary progress. It gets even better: 

The White House is planning to have an "organic" garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the Obama's and their guests. While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder.

Really, shudder? Organic produce may be over-hyped, but the real problem is that "organic" produce doesn't do enough to find a truly sustainable solution. The Mother Jones food issue presents a number of proposals for the future of agriculture, (check back later this week for a special forum!) none of which involve reverting back to our Homo erectus habits. Or hating on home gardens.

Californians can say goodbye to the electronic bingo machines (better known as e-bingo) in their charitable bingo halls thanks to a ban signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger that takes effect tomorrow. Turns out that bingo isn't just good old-fashioned fun anymore. Instead, it's at the center of a fight between nonprofits and Native American tribes who are all clamoring after bingo's big money.  

Federally recognized tribes will still get to operate the machines on their reservation land, but charities will have to shut theirs down. Despite a few upshots for charitable bingo operators in the new law, like an increase on prize caps from $250 to $500 for traditional bingo games, the e-bingo ban still puts them on the losing end because many have come to rely on the machines to keep their business afloat.