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On Delegates and Democracy

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 10:00 AM EST

The Beamster makes an excellent point over at Slate about delegates and democracy.

The first school of thought says that superdelegates should support whoever wins more pledged delegates. Democratic strategist and delegate guru Tad Devine argued this point in his Sunday New York Times op-ed, in which he called on superdelegates to stop endorsing and wait to see whom the American people choose. Obama said he also believes that "if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country, that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters."
The other school of thought says that superdelegates should decide for themselves which candidate they like better. Hillary Clinton articulated this philosophy over the weekend: "Superdelegates are, by design, supposed to exercise independent judgment."

More after the jump.

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Wait, What? Fred Thompson Endorsed McCain?

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 9:34 AM EST

Had you heard? No? Neither had anyone else.

And with that, Fred Thompson leaves the national stage forever. (I'm assuming he'd turn down the VP slot if McCain was dumb enough to offer it. Too much work. Duh.)

Video: Using John McCain's Iraq Rhetoric Against Him

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 12:52 AM EST

It was just a matter of time until the forces of the progressive internet turned its sights on the Republican nominee. And it's starting to happen with John McCain. Earlier today we brought you the "Yes We Can" parody that got viewed by almost 400,000 people in a single day. And now this:

One has a hard time seeing how John McCain is going to win the political war on the internet. He and the movement he now leads are ill-equipped to do so: they lag in creativity and know-how, and will probably lag in money. Unless they find effective conservative responses to all of the creative (that's an advertising industry term) that is bound to be put out by the left, the internet may be a progressive free-for-all of the next nine months.

Whales (and Dugongs) Hear Good News

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 6:41 PM EST

061019192417.jpg In the last week federal courts have twice slapped the Navy for sonar testing in the ocean. The first, by a federal court in San Francisco, is a preliminary injunction against the use of Low-Frequency Active (LFA) sonar, which relies on extremely loud, low-frequency sound to detect submarines at great distances. According to the Navy's own studies, LFA generates enough noise to significantly disrupt whale behavior more than 300 miles away, and under certain conditions can cross an entire ocean basin. Yet the Navy wants to deploy LFA in more than 75 percent of the world-ocean, reports ENN. "This order protects marine life around the world from a technology that can affect species on a staggering geographic scale," said Joel Reynolds of the National Resources Defense Council, lead group in the coalition asserting that an LFA permit issued last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The second injunction was for Mid-Frequency Active (MFA) sonar in exercises off southern California. MFA sonar, also used in submarine detection, has been linked to mass deaths of whales in the Bahamas, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere, reports the Los Angeles Times. A federal judge in Los Angeles already ruled against the Navy on this. The Bush administration was attempting to reverse that ruling, pleading that "emergency circumstances" prevented normal compliance with the law. No go, said U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, calling Bush's effort to maneuver around the original court order "constitutionally suspect."

Is Lucy Liu the New All-American Girl?

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:50 PM EST

LucyLiuresized.jpgLast month ABC premiered its new Sex and the City-ish show Cashmere Mafia, starring Lucy Liu as Mia Mason, a high-powered publishing executive in New York City. Not since Margaret Cho's All-American Girl (also ABC) has an Asian American been featured as a main character. But All-American Girl was criticized by some for exploiting stereotypes for laughs, and Cho and network executives argued over just the right formula of "Asian-ness." After the whole debacle, Cho spiraled into various forms of self-destructiveness, and the show was canceled after one season. That was 1994.

Over the past few decades Asian Americans have been slowly eking their way into casting rooms and onto sets in Hollywood. (Think Lost, ER, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, Entourage, Gilmore Girls, etc.). Exposure is a good thing, but Asian Americans for the most part are still relegated to ancillary roles.

New Music: The Duke Spirit - Neptune

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:47 PM EST

mojo-photo-neptune.jpgOkay, I have to clear my head of all that Grammys negativity by talking about something good. The Duke Spirit hail from Cheltenham, England, a "spa town" off in the west by Bristol; it's a little isolated, and their sound is too: a kind of throwback to '90s grunge with a liberal helping of Queens of the Stone Age-style riffs. Their first album, 2004's Cuts Across the Land, was an underappreciated gem of fuzzy, bluesy rock, made even more unique by lead singer Leila Moss' chiming voice. Critics compared them to PJ Harvey or Patti Smith, but more than anything they reminded me of Salt, another underappreciated female-fronted hard-rock band who had a minor hit in '95 with "Bluster." In any event, The Duke Spirit seemed mysteriously, intriguingly out-of-sync.

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The Continued Absurdity of the Missing White House Emails Case

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:23 PM EST

Regular MotherJones.com readers may recall that last spring, the White House reported that it may have lost some 5 million emails. Later last year, two non-profits, the National Security Archive (NSA) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), sued to ensure the preservation of the emails. (That suit is still pending, and you can read about the whole story on our missing White House emails index page).

During the course of the legal proceedings, CREW filed Freedom of Information Act requests for documents prepared by the White House Office of Administration (OA) that analyzed the scale of the missing email problem. But the White House denied the FOIA requests, making the unique and unprecedented legal argument that the OA is not, in fact, a federal agency and therefore not subject to the FOIA. CREW sued, citing OA's previous treatment as an agency and history of responding to FOIA requests as obvious evidence that the White House argument was ridiculous. That brings us to today, when a DC district court ordered (PDF) limited discovery in order to find out whether OA is, in fact, a federal agency.

You read that right: CREW had to get a court order to gather information to prove that a government agency is, in fact, a government agency.

Grammys Ceremony Like a Terrible Curse That Ruins Even Good Ideas

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 4:45 PM EST

There's been a lot of post-Grammys snark around the interblogs, and of course there were a million things to hate about last night's broadcast. So here I am, trying to think of a "Top 5 Good Things About the Grammys" post; you know, "accentuate the positive" and all that. But I can't do it. Every time I think of something halfway decent that happened on the seemingly endless broadcast last night, I remember something that disqualifies it. Take, for instance, Kanye and Daft Punk. A funky, jazzed-up combo performance by the eccentric rapper and the French techno duo, followed by a heartfelt ode to Kanye's mom: what could go wrong? But the imitation Daft Punk pyramid looked like it was made out of cardboard, and its goofy game-show-reminiscent opening-up to reveal the duo in their light-trimmed suits just looked cheap. Right afterwards, Kanye sang his heart out, but they had to accompany his performance with a laughably cheesy projection of a slo-mo angel; did they think the "MAMA" shaved into the back of Kanye's head wasn't going to be a big enough clue?

The Dark Side of Biofuels

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 3:54 PM EST

biofuel.jpg Yet another study deepening our understanding of just why converting native ecosystems to biofuel farms is increasing not mitigating climate change. This according to a study by the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy published online today in Science, finding that turning rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands into biofuel-yielding croplands emits large amounts of carbon that add to the atmosphere's already heavy burden of greenhouse gases.

In Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the US, land is being planted with corn or sugarcane to produce ethanol, or with palm trees or soybeans to produce biodiesel. The land conversions pump out 17 to 423 times more carbon than the annual savings from replacing fossil fuels with the biofuels. This carbon debt must pay off before they biofuels begin to have the effect of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In the worst scenario, peatland conversions to palm oil plantations in Indonesia ran up a carbon debt requiring 423 years to pay off. In the Amazon, soybeans will take 319 years. The conversion of U.S. grasslands for corn ethanol and Indonesian rainforests for palm biodiesel also ran up big carbon debts.

There is a solution. The researchers suggest that biofuels made from waste biomass or from biomass grown on abandoned agricultural lands planted with perennials incur little or no carbon debt and offer immediate and sustained greenhouse gas advantages. In the US, Conservation Reserve Program lands, idle lands, and others once in agriculture can be used to grow biofuels and provide energy sources much better than fossil fuels.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

The Bushies Coalesce Around McCain

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 2:16 PM EST

mccain_bush_hug.jpg Here's George W. Bush speaking about John McCain, February 10, on Fox News Sunday:

"I know him well. I know his convictions. I know the principles that drive him. And no doubt in my mind he's a true conservative... He's very strong on national defense. He's tough fiscally. He believes that tax cuts ought to be permanent. He's pro-life. I mean, his principles are sound and solid as far as I'm concerned."

Bush is telling people privately that "McCain would be the best to carry forth [my] agenda."

Here's Jeb Bush endorsing John McCain, February 11, in an email from the McCain campaign:

"John McCain is a patriot and devoted conservative leader. Like no other candidate in the field, John McCain has made tremendous sacrifices for this nation. He is beholden to no interest other than that of the public good. He is determined and steadfast in his commitment to reducing the burden of high taxes, restoring the people's trust in their government, and winning the war against radical Islamic extremists. It is with pride that I announce my endorsement of John McCain for president."

And here's Karl Rove speaking about John McCain, February 10, on Face the Nation:

"I did contribute [$2,300 to him]...My mind was he is our presumptive nominee and it was time to write him a check."

The establishment welcomes the maverick. As if it had any other choice...