Blogs

Writers' Strike to Cancel Grammys?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 6:28 PM EST

mojo-photo-grohlgrammys.JPGHow will we know if Carrie Underwood has made the song of the year? Variety's Set List blog is speculating that if the writers' strike is still in effect on the planned Grammys ceremony date of February 10th, the list of musicians who might show up will be missing some big names:

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Another Email Scandal

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 5:37 PM EST

As a follow-on to Nick's post about the missing White House emails, I should point out that there's another email scandal brewing—this one in Missouri, where the former deputy legal counsel to Governor Matt Blunt (son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt) has alleged that the governor and four of his aides schemed to destroy potentially damaging electronic communications. According to a suit filed yesterday by Scott Eckersley, Blunt's one-time legal counsel Henry Herschel instructed staffers to destroy email records related to the politically-motivated firing of a state official, rather than turn them over to the press under a public records request. Ed Martin, then serving as Blunt's chief of staff, subsequently "instructed the governor's office to delete e-mail in inbox and trash files 'to ensure they did not have to be turned over to the press or the public in response to Sunshine requests,'" according to the Kansas City Star.

And this is what happened when reporters confronted Blunt about the allegations earlier today:

At the governor's annual prayer breakfast, Blunt declined to answer questions from The Associated Press about Eckersley's lawsuit but pledged to discuss it at a later news conference on drunken driving laws. At that news conference, however, Blunt devoted barely 2 minutes to questions about the lawsuit—refusing to discuss it any detail—and then turned his back on reporters and walked out of the room while ignoring continued questions.

Still M.I.A.: Millions of White House Emails

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 5:36 PM EST

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Remember how White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told us in April that she "wouldn't rule out" that the Bush administration may have lost 5 million emails? You know, the emails the White House doesn't want you to see? No? Here's your update:

People Actually Buying In Rainbows

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 3:02 PM EST

mojo-photo-inrainbowscover5.JPGHey, so there was this band, they put an album out on the intertubes? You might remember it: they'd send you the album through the tubes, and then you'd take the album out of the little truck and put in as much money as you wanted and send it back to them through the return tube. It was a lot of fun. But that was months ago. So, nine days ago, Radiohead's In Rainbows materialized in actual stores on actual CDs (and vinyl!) and there was some question over how it would sell, seeing as how the kids have had unfettered access to 160kbps mp3s for a while. Turns out they needn't have worried: In Rainbows landed at #1 on the Billboard album charts in the US, achieving the same feat in the UK.

However, like most pieces of news from the music industry these days, this is mostly just a sign of how bad things have become.

Rick Santorum, Back From the Grave to Slam John McCain

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 3:02 PM EST

crypt_keeper.jpg I love when Republicans rip each other. And Rick Santorum just went on Hugh Hewitt's radio show and did nothing but rip John McCain the entire time. Enjoy.

HH: Why can't John McCain win this election?
RS: Well, number one, John McCain will not get the base of the Republican Party. I mean, there was a reason John McCain collapsed last year, and it's because he was the frontrunner, and everybody in the Republican Party got a chance to look at him. And when they looked at him, they wait well, wait a minute, he's not with us on almost all of the core issues of…on the economic side, he was against the President's tax cuts, he was bad on immigration. On the environment, he's absolutely terrible. He buys into the complete left wing environmentalist movement in this country. He is for bigger government on a whole laundry list of issues. He was…I mean, on medical care, I mean, he was for re-importation of drugs.
I mean, you can go on down the list. I mean, this is a guy who on a lot of the core economic issues, is not even close to being a moderate, in my opinion. And then on the issue of, on social conservative issues, you point to me one time John McCain every took the floor of the United States Senate to talk about a social conservative issue. It never happened. I mean, this is a guy who says he believes in these things, but I can tell you, inside the room, when we were in these meetings, there was nobody who fought harder not to have these votes before the United States Senate on some of the most important social conservative issues, whether it's marriage or abortion or the like. He always fought against us to even bring them up, because he was uncomfortable voting for them. So I mean, this is just not a guy I think in the end that washes with the mainstream of the Republican Party.

More after the jump. Santorum's final message? The GOP is like a meat-lover at a San Francisco co-op grocery store. No good options.

Antarctic Sea Ice Increase: Fodder for Global Warming Skeptics?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 2:37 PM EST

antarctic200.jpgHold onto your hats, kids, because climate change skeptics are sure to have a field day with this one: Researchers have found that for the past 20 years, while ice in the Arctic has been rapidly decreasing, Antarctic sea ice has actually been increasing. "See?" The skeptics will say. "If the world really were getting warmer, then it wouldn't be all cold and icy in the South Pole."

But like many global warming denialist arguments, this one doesn't leave a whole lot of room for scientific nuance. Not all that science is fully understood yet, but until it is, you can fire back at doubting Thomases with a few basic facts: For starters, South Pole ice is much thicker than North Pole ice (2 miles in the Antarctic vs. 6-10 feet in the Arctic). Also, the ice in the north sits on open ocean, so it gets warmed from beneath&8212;while in the south, much of the ice sits on a continent.

Sydney Indymedia e-mailed renowned NASA climate scientist James Hansen, and he kindly put the Antarctic trends in some context:

All of the models, and the observations, have the central parts of Greenland and Antarctica growing faster because of global warming. This is a consequence of warmer air holding more moisture, thus increasing snowfall. But the net effect of warming on both continental ice sheets is mass loss, the increased melting being a larger effect than the increased snowfall.

And according to Hansen, not all of Antarctica's sea ice is increasing:

He also said "The fact that West Antarctica is shedding mass at a substantial rate, even though there is only small warming of surrounding sea surface temperatures, is a telling fact in my opinion, and a likely consequence of the warming ocean at depth, which affects the ice shelves that buttress West Antarctica, as discussed in our paper 'Dangerous human-made interference with climate: a GISS modelE study.'"

So there you have it: As usual, climate change is much more complex than skeptics would have us believe.

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If China Can Ban Plastic Bags, Why Can't We?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 2:05 PM EST

china-bags.jpgCommunist governments may be oppressive to American eyes, but they do have the power to make sweeping environmental changes. Key example: China.

As Jacques Leslie reports in our current issue, China is the world's top CO2 emitter and uses more coal than any other nation. But in a bid to reduce pollution, effective June 1, the country's Communist government has banned those flimsy, white, petroleum-based plastic bags. And not just in a few cities, but across the entire nation of 1.3 billion people.

"While [the bags] providing convenience to consumers," the central government said in a statement, "they have also caused serious pollution, and waste of energy and resources, because of excessive use and inadequate recycling," China uses about 3 billion plastic bags a day.

Thicker plastic bags will still be allowed, for a fee, but the government is highly encouraging people to use traditional baskets or re-usable cloth bags. Citizens have been receptive, perhaps because pollution is so bad in China that most have experienced its effects (poor water quality, lung-searing smog) firsthand.

One consequence could be, since production of the bags in China will be banned, that perhaps we'll end up with fewer over here. Everything else we sell is made in China, if our plastic bags are too we might face a welcome shortage.

Forward This to Every Naderite and Bloomberg(ite? ian?) You Know

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 12:45 PM EST

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Some Democrats are worried that Michael Bloomberg, the liberal Democrat-turned-Republican mayor of New York City, might run for President as an independent. After all, Democrats have always tried to convince (or force) left-leaning third-party candidates not to run. The argument is that people like Ralph Nader and Michael Bloomberg split the Left-wing vote, damage Democrats' electoral prospects, and allow Right-wingers like George W. Bush to waltz into the White House. There might be something to that.

But third-party types, for their part, tend to argue that the country has a need for more diversity in politics, and that one day the public will come around to their line of thinking. But reasonable people know that's not particularly likely. Why? Because the nature of our voting system create an environment that favors two stable parties:

Obama's Chances in South Carolina: Can a Wine-Tracker Win?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 12:10 PM EST

Let's do some thinking about the Democratic race in South Carolina (primary: Jan. 26; current polling here). Considering the Democratic electorate there is roughly 50% white and 50% black, Obama ought to have a huge advantage. But his main opposition is the wife of America's first black president—the Clinton's have very strong ties to many parts of the black community—and the polls show a close race.

The easiest observation is this: Edwards continued presence in the race divides the white vote, making things easier for Obama.

But here's a more interesting hypothesis: South Carolina may prove Obama's viability more generally. Here's why. Obama is considered a "wine-track" candidate. He appeals to upper-class, well-educated voters. Professors love him. So do college kids on Facebook. He isn't a "beer-track" candidate, someone who appeals to working- and middle-class voters. Usually, beer-trackers get the support of traditional Democratic constituencies like labor. Here's a better explanation:

Since the 1960s, Democratic nominating contests regularly have come down to a struggle between a candidate who draws support primarily from upscale, economically comfortable voters liberal on social and foreign policy issues, and a rival who relies mostly on downscale, financially strained voters drawn to populist economics and somewhat more conservative views on cultural and national security issues.
It's not much of an oversimplification to say that the blue-collar Democrats tend to see elections as an arena for defending their interests, and the upscale voters see them as an opportunity to affirm their values.

Thing is, wine-trackers don't win. Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, John Kerry (Bradley and Kerry have endorsed Obama)... they've all lost in either the primary or the general.

But Obama might rewrite the equation. If you take the wine-track voters (who looove the fact that Obama has written books, for example), but you add an unprecendent number of young and independent voters, and you add a hefty share of black voters to that, now you've got a coalition that can beat the working class block that traditionally sides with the establishment candidate.

Two other notes, re: Kerry and Richardson, after the jump.

Roger Clemens' Strikeout Secret: Vioxx?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 11:50 AM EST

Looks like Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens is getting a reprieve from Rep. Henry Waxman, who has rescheduled part of next week's hearings on steroid use in baseball until after the sentencing of former Mets batboy and MLB steroid dealer Kirk Radomski. Too bad, because I was looking forward to Clemens' testimony, especially in light of his claim on "60 Minutes" this week that he never took steroids, but that at the peak of his career, he was "eating Vioxx like Skittles." (Clemens was referring to the painkiller withdrawn from the market in 2004 after it was linked to an increase in heart attacks and strokes.)

I was hoping that Clemens might elaborate on his Vioxx consumption for Congress after seeing a Power Point presentation earlier this week by American Enterprise Institute scholar Ted Frank that cheekily charted Clemens' win record before and after Vioxx was pulled off the market. Ted was kind enough to share his slide, which is posted below. So, was it steroids, or was it Vioxx that led to his amazing strikeout record? You be the judge!

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