On Saturday night, as I was sitting at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner--Washington's official prom--I had a vision of the future.
This is what I saw: it's decades from now, and historians and others are trying to understand what happened in the first years of the 21st century. That was when the United States government initiated a foolhardy war on the basis of fear and hyped-up threats. It was also a period when the people in charge did not take one of their last chances to deal with the real danger of global warming. And, of course, it was during those years that American leaders hocked the nation to China and the nation's global financial standing diminished. And these historians are asking, "What the hell went on."
Well, look at this old tape, one says, it just might explain. And they huddle over a holographic view-screen and watch as George W. Bush, the president during those years, is conducting the U.S. Marine Corps Band at the 2008 correspondents' dinner. He's mugging for the crowd, as he proceeds. The audience of journalists is laughing.
And when the song is over, Bush (and the band) receives rousing cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has started a new website called fixthefec.org, in order to (1) educate the public about the current situation with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which is currently out of order due to a lack of commissioners and will may not serve its traditional role of referee in the 2008 elections, and (2) build public support for a fix and pressure the Senate into acting. For everything — everything! — you need to know about why the FEC is broken, and what its inoperability means for the election season, see my recent article on the subject.
CREW's new website is a badly needed effort, but one that is unlikely to succeed. I say that with a tone of resignation. The FEC is not a sexy topic and no one but good government reformers gets excited about it. Besides, there is no one whose interests are directly affected by the agency's work. This was a point made to me by Robert Lenhard, a former nominee for the FEC who withdrew his name from consideration recently because of the delay in getting the FEC fixed. "This is an agency without a constituency group," he said. "There is no one other than the American people in some sort of broad and abstract sense whose self-interest is advanced by the existence of the FEC. There is no group that comes forward and says, 'No, no, no. This agency's work is essential and must continue.'"
Good luck to the folks at CREW in their fight on this issue. They'll need it.
McCain's troubling foreign policy vision on Iraq/Afghanistan/the war on terror is well-known. But he's just as recklessly hawkish when it comes to the rest of the world. For example, he wants to create a League of Democracies that will replace the United Nations. Here's the always insightful Fareed Zakaria:
The approach lacks any strategic framework.... How would the League of Democracies fight terrorism while excluding countries like Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Singapore? What would be the gain to the average American to lessen our influence with Saudi Arabia, the central banker of oil, in a world in which we are still crucially dependent on that energy source?
McCain also wants to throw Russia out of the G8, a potentially world-changing move. He would bring in India and Brazil while excluding China. Again, Zakaria:
Greetings from the desert and day three of the Coachella Festival. In tonight's edition: Canadians! Germans! More Canadians! And oh yeah: Flying inflatable pigs that apparently endorse Obama! While I'm doing my best to be the intrepid reporter on the scene, my coverage is devolving day-by-day: crappy photos on day one, late-night spelling errors on day two, and today, I forgot my note-taking pen, so all this is coming out of my sun-baked memory. Perhaps I imagined the whole thing?
Late last week, two senior US intelligence officials and a senior administration official provided background briefings to Congressional committees and the media on what they said was the evidence of North Korean involvement in a covert Syrian nuclear reactor. The facility was destroyed by Israeli air strikes last September, in an operation dubbed "Operation Orchard" that was subject to an Israeli news blackout.
"What we're going to discuss is a nuclear reactor," one senior US intelligence official told (.pdf) the media. "It was constructed by the Syrians in the eastern desert of Syria along the Euphrates River on the east side. The Syrians constructed this reactor for the production of plutonium with the assistance of the North Koreans."
"Our evidence goes back an extended period of time," he continued. "In the spring of last year, we were able to obtain some additional information that made it conclusive. And so, we engaged in this policy process of now that we have the evidence, what do we do about it? The evidence concluded a nuclear reactor, as I mentioned, constructed by the Syrians, started probably in 2001, completed in the summer of 2007. And it was nearing operational capability."
We asked a futurist, a MoJo writer, a No Nukes activist, and a weapons security expert:
What is nuclear energy's place in the future mix of energy sources?
They'll be checking in on this Blue Marble entry all week to discuss their controversial answers with readersand each other. Want to talk to Stewart Brand, Judith Lewis, Jonas Siegel, or Harvey Wasserman about their take on nukes? Join the conversation here.
Greetings from the desert, where Day Two of the Coachella Festival has just come to a close. I know I started yesterday's wrapup with the caveat of "sorry the photographs are terrible"; well, it's now 2:45am, and after spending an hour sitting in parking lot traffic (after walking for 45 minutes) your intrepid reporter is feeling a little scatterbrained. So add that to the list of caveats. For those who just want to get to the meat of the matter: Kraftwerk fantastic, Portishead flawless, Prince amazing. For the details, hit the good old "continues" button.
Greetings from a rental house in La Quinta, California, where we've just returned after enjoying day one of the 2008 Coachella Festival in Indio. Unfortunately this year's Riff coverage will be a bit of step down from last year's, since we're not only absent intrepid photographer Kristi who got so many great shots last year, but we also couldn't get a photo pass ("why didn't you ask earlier," they said). So unfortunately, we're stuck with what I could capture myself, with my trusty Canon Powershot. Yeah, I know. Hopefully the word pictures painted within will be vivid enough to make up for it.
I wandered into the Blogtropol.us blogger lounge at Web 2.0 Expo today and immediately realized that this was not the media war room I'd been searching for. The bloggers had beer, for one thing. And couches. And a Wii and chair massages to go with the electrolounge music and the tasty, tasty snacks. Where were the customary lukewarm Dr. Pepper's? My hoary headed colleagues complaining about the WiFi?
A 23-year-old put a shiny blue star sticker on my press pass and confirmed that indeed, I was looking for the much less entertaining room down the hall, where actual writing might be happening. "That's cool though, you'll be back," he nodded. "We have way more fun over here."