Pre Pre-Negotiations?

With the media and international affairs observers focused on the Bush administration's decision to send a US envoy to international nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva this weekend, this detail in a wire report out of the Turkish capital Ankara today is interesting. From the AP, who's in Turkey today? White House national security advisor Stephen Hadley. What's he doing there? According to the AP report, talking about Iran. And who is coming to Turkey tomorrow? Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Now, Turkey has been playing the role of mediator - for a long time secretly, and recently openly - in indirect proximity talks between long time adversaries Israel and Syria. One wonders, is Turkey hosting some sort of pre pre-negotiations now between the US and Iran?

One former State Department official tells me that is unlikely. "It seems highly improbable… If only because it would undercut (or worse) the prospective Jalili-Burns meeting on Saturday. Mottaki is far less influential, so why would you have a more senior [US government] official do a sit-down with him?"

LA's Lean, Green, Dating Machines


Leave it to LA to find a way to combine efficiency, sex, and eco-street cred. In the city of instant gratification, there's now an easy way to determine if that cute guy at the gym will build a LEED-rated home with you: green speed dating!

Jenean Smith, founder of the Green Speed Dating website, came up with the idea while brainstorming ways to raise money to install solar panels at a rural school in Nicaragua. "One day—I have no idea why—I said, you know what the world really needs? Green speed dating!" She set up an event in Santa Monica, where for $20 participants could spend three minutes on green mini-dates. Eco-conscious Angelenos couldn't get enough. "There's all these green singles' sites that don't have enough people on them, and there's regular speed-dating where you don't know who you're going to meet," says Smith. "People liked that this was a green event for a good cause."

And how did the LA speed-daters evaluate their potential partners' green-ness? By asking what they drove, of course! One lucky guy narrowly escaped having to admit he owned an SUV; another found his bicyling habit made him a little too green for most dates. NPR caught some of the oh-so-awkward car convos; listen yourself here.

Okay, okay, so only in LA would cars be the focus of a green dating event. (To each his own: Portland, OR offers bicycle speed dating.) But the cause is indeed worthy, and word of the site is spreading fast. California readers take note: This could be your summer of green love.

mojo-photo-emmysnowire.jpgA quick scan of Google headlines for "Emmys" tells the story: "The Emmys Wimp Out," "The Ineptitude of Emmy Voters," "Did They Get Them Right?" Oh yeah, and the requisite "Emmys Go Mad for Mad Men!" Give that guy a Pulitzer. Sure, the detail-obsessive AMC show deserves its 16 nominations (including Best Drama), and you gotta love 30 Rock, whose 17 nods include Best Comedy (and seven for guest actors, is that cheating?). But in that category alone, you also have the increasingly-irrelevant Entourage, the past-its-prime Office, the suitable-for-torture Two and a Half Men, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which, with all due respect, I didn't even know was still on the air. Flight of the Conchords, Family Guy, Monk, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, South Park, Weeds?

IvyGate to Facebook Gen: Watch Out

IvyGate, the snickering blog that chronicles the goings-on of all things Ivy League, is keeping a steady eye on your potential gaffes. Don't take that in an entirely Big Brother-y way—they're only watching you if you're at all related to the Ivies (Because that's where they think America grooms all its leaders.)

Of course, IvyGate is only a fraction of the machine that allows raunchy nights of adolescent debauchery to live on in virtual eternity. Perhaps the real lesson to politicians currently in office is to keep a closer eye on their Generation Facebook kids and relatives.

Remember last year when Rudy Giuliani's estranged daughter was revealed as an Obama supporter?

The Democratic Party has set up a fundraising mechanism that automatically funnels a portion of every dollar Barack Obama raises some of the money Obama raises* to state parties in 18 states. Here's Roll Call:

The new fund, the Committee for Change, will parcel a fixed percentage of the contributions it receives to each of the 18 state parties, infusing those parties with new federal dollars and a list of new donors who can be helpful in future campaigns.

Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the DNC, says this move has the power to strengthen the party long-term. "This is going to help us build the party up and down the ticket in all of those states," he said.

Here's the important part. Check out the list of states: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

A number of these are standard swing states: New Mexico (Bush by 1 percent in 2004), New Hampshire (Kerry by 1), Iowa (Bush by 1), Michigan (Kerry by 3), Ohio (Bush by 2), etc. But a number are solid red states that haven't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in years, and tend to produce lopsided Republican victories.

Alaska? Bush 61, Kerry 36. Georgia? Bush 58, Kerry 41. Indiana? Bush 60, Kerry 38. North Dakota? Bush 63, Kerry 36.

But Obama is not Kerry, and the political environment of 2008 is not the political environment of 2004. The Democratic Party is betting on three things. (1) Obama's appeal to independents in these states means tying him to downticket Democrats actually gives those Dems a chance to win for the first time. (2) Obama may not win in these states, but a little extra cash might make them competitive, thus forcing John McCain to campaign and make ad buys in places he previously thought safe. And (3) the political environment is so bad for Republicans right now that if there is any time where Democrats can bring new voters into the fold, it's now. Using this money to build out party operations will be helpful in 2008, but also in 2012 and 2016.

*Clarified with the press team at the DNC. Donors who write checks to the Obama campaign directly will have their money put to Obama and Obama alone. But donors who write checks (presumably larger donors) to this Committee for Change will see their money divided between Obama, the DNC, and the 18 states.

Interesting observation from MSNBC's First Read:

McCain really doesn't have a money problem. In fact, as Rick Davis bragged last week, money isn't going to be the issue many thought it would be just two months ago. Why is this? It appears many Republican donors are buying into the argument that the ONLY shot Republicans have of winning anything is the presidency. And this is hurting Republicans running for the House and Senate where Democrats are dominating on the financial front. Yesterday, the DSCC released a list of 11 races being held in GOP-held seats, and the Democrats were nearly on par or ahead in every race, according to the most recent fundraising report. Question: Are we seeing the reverse '96 effect taking place inside the GOP? In 1996, the word went out that Dole was a lost cause, and all of the GOP's resources went to saving House and Senate candidates in order to preserve their control of Congress.

Obama raised $52 million in June, while the DNC raised $22.4 million. Together, they reportedly have $92 million cash on hand. McCain raised $22 million in June, with the RNC adding $25.7 million. Together, they have $95 million on hand.

So yeah, McCain is hanging tough in the money race. We'll see if that continues into the general election period after the conventions.


On Wednesday, the House passed the Intelligence Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R.5959), which, once reconciled with its Senate counterpart, will travel up Pennsylvania Avenue for the president's signature. It's unlikely to get it, though, for the bill has become the latest flash point in the White House's ongoing battle to expand executive power.

The bill contains provisions calling for prohibiting detainees from being interrogated by contractors (like at Abu Ghraib); the establishment of an inspector general of intelligence; regular reports to Congress on the nuclear weapons programs of Iran, Syria, and North Korea; and a regular National Intelligence Estimate on Syria's WMD programs. More controversial, though, and more troubling to the White House, it mandates that the president provide members of the House intelligence oversight committee with expanded access to secret information about intelligence activities (such as classified legal opinions, risk assessments, and cost estimates), and requires that the intelligence community brief the committee on all covert actions that were in effect as of April 24, 2008. The bill details a punishment for White House non-compliance: 75 percent of the budget for covert actions will be withheld.

We knew Gitmo had juvie, but this video really hammers home just what 'juvenile interrogation' means. From the Guardian, above is the alleged first live action peek into a Guantanamo interrogation. The subject? Sobbing Canadian 16-year-old (at the time) Omar Khadr.

Knowing how we got to this point doesn't make it any more palatable. But it does make this treasure trove of internal memos and primary source documents I stumbled across recently while fact-checking even more revealing.

For example, check out the 'milder' options listed in this Joint Task Force Guantanamo 2002 internal memo (PDF) which starts with "SUBJECT: Request for Approval of Counter-Resistance Strategies":

Top Five: Obscure Cure


Want to feel old? Chew on this: the Cure got their first record deal 30 years ago this September. Where's my walker? Fortunately, band leader Robert Smith isn't showing his age, and in anticipation of the band's forthcoming (as yet untitled) 13th album, they're releasing a single every month this summer. The latest installment, "Sleep When I'm Dead" (below) is a rerecording of a rejected track from the 1985 Head on the Door sessions, and it has that era's quirky, jaunty feel, like a darker "Let's Go to Bed."

Back in the day, it seemed like the Cure could do no wrong: even B-sides and obscure album tracks were amazing. After the jump: five great Cure songs that never made it to the hit parade.

Washington's Iran Pivot: How Big a Shift?

Even as some Washington observers were still marveling at the Bush administration's decision to send a diplomatic envoy to international nuclear talks with Iran to be held in Geneva this weekend, some analysts and close administration associates cautioned that the Bush administration really had not changed its underlying demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment before agreeing to sustained negotiations, and that the new diplomatic approach could be stillborn.

"If [Tehran agreeing to] zero enrichment is the expressed [US] objective, then this could be dead on arrival," said Trita Parsi, president of the pro-engagement National Iranian American Council. "If [the US] is more flexible, and will consider something along [former US diplomat Thomas] Pickering's plan," for an internationally supervised nuclear enrichment facility in Tehran, then the talks might have some momentum, he said.

"Nothing has changed," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Wednesday. "If they don't accept this offer, one, there will not be negotiations and two, there will be additional sanctions."

"The substantive position remains unchanged -- substantive negotiations on the issues await Iranian suspension of uranium enrichment," said Philip Zelikow, former advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. US Iran envoy William J. "Burns will personally reinforce that message and join the Europeans in hearing the response.