Jenna Tidbit

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

From the NYT, almost too good to believe:

Jenna Bush recently finished a book based on her experience working with Unicef, called "Ana's Story," about a teenage single mother living with H.I.V. Ms. Bush is working on a children's book with her mother about "a mischievous little boy who likes to do everything but read," according to the publisher, HarperCollins.

Too many jokes...

Also getting married: Andrew Sullivan.

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Clinton Leaving Obama in the Dust: New Cali Poll Results

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 5:01 PM EDT

Wow, the gap is worse than Obama's people might have feared. As Ryan Lizza wrote in GQ, back in the spring:

Obama's pollsters were finding alarming evidence that their candidate was vulnerable to the same phenomenon. When they compared the percentage of Democrats who said they strongly approved of Obama with the percentage who said they would vote for him, they found that the latter number was significantly lower than the former. Inside the campaign, aides dubbed this "the Gap." It was a sobering, hard number that quantified the difference between vague enthusiasm and actual votes. For Hillary Clinton, the gap is much smaller. The majority of voters who strongly approve of her also say they will vote for her.

And that seems to be borne out by some shocking new poll results (California only folks) today (via the SF Chron):

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, bolstered by an aggressive campaign organization in California, has amassed a whopping 30-point lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama &mdash and enjoys more support among likely voters in the state Democratic primary than all of her Democratic presidential rivals combined, a Field Poll released today shows.
The poll solidifies Clinton's position as the clear front-runner in the nation's most populous state &mdash and raises questions about Obama's effort in California, whose primary is Feb. 5. The Illinois senator has seen his support drop by one-third since the previous Field Poll taken in March....
Clinton's strengths in California include a crushing 4-1 lead among Latino voters, a more than 2-1 lead among women and African American voters, and at least a 2-1 lead in every geographic region in the state, the poll showed. She is also the overwhelming favorite in all age groups and ethnic groups and at every education level.
The robust poll findings, DiCamillo said, suggest Clinton may be putting to rest some of the commonly cited worries of Democrats regarding her campaign — that she could be too divisive and therefore less attractive to independent and swing voters.
"I was looking for hints of vulnerability... and it's not really there in the data," DiCamillo said. "One theory was she is going to do very poorly among Republicans ... (but) you don't really see any evidence to support that."
The poll showed that all three top Democratic candidates would defeat the four leading Republicans: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Arizona Sen. John McCain.
But Clinton appears strongest in head-to-head matchups &mdash leading all the GOP candidates by 15 to 20 percentage points.

Did Obama peak too early? Or is it too early to tell much from poll numbers? It's an impressive ground effort in California, that much seems clear.

More Recalls: Flaming Fords Back in the News

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 4:41 PM EDT

If you own one of the 3.6 million Ford cars and trucks now being recalled due to a cruise control mechanism that can spontaneously catch fire (full list of vehicles here), don't be surprised. Media outlets have been reporting on the faulty part for years now, and Ford has been recalling vehicles that include it in fits and starts. This last batch of cars and trucks brings the total vehicles recalled because of the part to 10 million.

Mother Jones is one of those news outlets that has reported on the issue. For more info on the recall, the faulty part, and the damage done to Ford's customers because of it, see "Flaming Fords" from our March/April 2006 issue.

First Listen: The New Pornographers - Challengers

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 4:37 PM EDT

New New PornCanadian "supergroup" New Pornographers made two really good albums, and then made a great one, 2005's Twin Cinema, where the unique aspects of their 47 (or so) members seemed to gel magically. Cinema's power-pop was oddly familiar and comfortable, but sounded like nothing else: Fleetwood Mac? The Cars? Whatever it was, each track on that album seemed to top the previous one for sheer joyfulness, erupting into blissful codas of "hey-las" in three-part harmony. Even the contributions of the shambolic Dan Bejar (who usually annoys me) seemed charming. It was my #2 album of the year, just behind good old M.I.A.

That's why Challengers is such a disappointment. The unified perfection of Cinema seems to have spun out and disintegrated, like a hurricane moving over cold water. Opener "My Rights Versus Yours" is nice, but it's a pale imitation of Cinema's "Bleeding Heart Show," with a groove that never seems to get off the ground. Neko Case's voice is still awe-inspiring, and on the title track, there are glimpses of her greatness, but the song's awkward phrasing seems to strangle her. Bejar gets track 4, "Myriad Harbor," and it's a terrible Pixies rip-off. Next. Relief comes on track 7, "Unguided," with bandleader A.C. Newman on vocals, but it still sounds like a Cinema track played at half-speed, and at 6:33, it's three minutes too long.

Okay, I'm looking like a negative jerk, let's find something good to say. Track 9, "Go Places," again lead by Case, has a swaying bar-room charm reminiscent of the Pogues, and track 11, "Adventures in Solitude," starts as a lovely, quiet ballad, with a delicate refrain of "we thought we lost you," although its rocking climax never really rocks.

A quick look around the intertubes shows there's people who think Bejar is the best part of the band, and people who think this is their best album. The NPs definitely reward multiple listenings, so perhaps further attention will uncover Challengers' appeal. But right now, I'm not feeling it.

Challengers is out 8/21 on Matador.
Hear mp3s at Stereogum here; I tried to check out their official website but my work internet censors are preventing me from doing so. Huh.

Sometimes Fame Isn't Enough...

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 1:48 PM EDT

Two stories of mistaken identity:

  1. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu mistaken for a bag lady.

  • Writer Stephen King mistaken for a vandal.
  • 'Mothballed' Russian Bombers Resume Long-Range Patrols

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 1:35 PM EDT

    I wrote last week of a flight of Russian long-range bombers to the Pacific island of Guam. Well, the news today is that Putin has decided to make it a regular thing. From the BBC:

    "We have decided to restore flights by Russian strategic aviation on a permanent basis," Mr Putin told reporters at joint military exercises with China and four Central Asian states in Russia's Ural mountains.
    "In 1992, Russia unilaterally ended flights by its strategic aircraft to distant military patrol areas. Unfortunately, our example was not followed by everyone," Mr Putin said, in an apparent reference to the US.
    "Flights by other countries' strategic aircraft continue and this creates certain problems for ensuring the security of the Russian Federation," he said.
    In Washington, a state department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said Russia's decision was "interesting".
    "If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that's their decision," he told reporters.
    One of the reasons Russia halted its flights 15 years ago was that it could no longer afford the fuel.
    Today Moscow's coffers are stuffed full of oil money, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow, and the Kremlin is determined to show it is still a military power to reckon with.

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    Friday My Day for Music News

    | Fri Aug. 17, 2007 1:04 PM EDT

    Beck at Carnival

  • Beck set to release "surprise" single, "Timebomb," (possibly featuring Jamie Lidell, and probably not an 808 State or Rancid cover) on iTunes on Monday. (Pitchfork)
  • Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero gets a remix album and, possibly, a movie or TV show. (Stereogum)
  • Amy Winehouse cancels August shows, for "health reasons." (Yahoo! Music)
  • New PJ Harvey album White Chalk gets US release date: September 25th. (CMJ)
  • Update: Al Sharpton Fights Back?

    | Thu Aug. 16, 2007 8:59 PM EDT


    The always-reputable is reporting that a spokesperson for Sharpton's National Action Network (who helped organized the recent anti-bad language protests) has responded to rapper David Banner's (real name: Levell Crump) expletive-laden rant about Sharpton with some bad language of her own. The spokesperson, Kristen John-Foy, apparently referring to Banner's invitation for Sharpton to "suck [his] d***," released this statement:

    From time to time we do encounter people that have sexual fantasies about Reverend Al Sharpton, but they are always women and Crump's proposition is a first. I am sure Rev. Sharpton would not call Crump the "N" "B" or "H" word. And, despite Crump's personal request, I am sure Reverend Sharpton would not call him a f*****. He would just pray for him. We at NAN are pro civil rights for everyone, even Levell Crump who has not had a banner year since his debut album in 2003.

    TMZ says another spokesperson confirmed the statement was sent from Sharpton's office, but also seemed to distance the Reverend from the comment, saying he would "never" respond directly to attacks like Banner's. Well, somebody in your office did, and used the "F" word, with a cute, Ann Coulter-style "I'm not saying this word right here that I'm saying" trick, so they don't get in trouble. Awesome! Keep up the good work, National Action Network!

    Weird Weather Watch: Brutal Heat Wave in the South

    | Thu Aug. 16, 2007 8:16 PM EDT

    It was 107 in Memphis yesterday—an all-time high. The heat that has gripped most of the South for the past week and a half has killed at least 37 people.

    Riffing the massive earthquake yesterday in Peru (which left almost 450 people dead), Memphis' mayor said, "This is pretty akin to a seismic event in the sense that there is no remedy, no solution that we here in this room can come up with that will take care of everybody."

    Meanwhile, Americans presided over the deaths of 250 people in Iraq, where we are busily fighting for the fossil fuel we need to fight.

    Perhaps our efforts would be more constructively directed at halting climate change.

    CARE Doesn't Want the U.S.' Money

    | Thu Aug. 16, 2007 8:04 PM EDT

    CARE, an organization that combats poverty, will no longer accept $45 million a year in funding from the U.S. government. It's not often you hear about a charity walking away from that much money, but CARE's reasons are sound. It comes down to the fact that the U.S. food aid program is designed to suit American agricultural and shipping interests more than those of the world's poor. Jonathan Schwarz, in our upcoming issue (hitting the newsstands in early September), documents why this is happening and what Congress needs to do to change it. But lucky for you, you don't have to wait. Read the entire article here.

    —Celia Perry