The wad of celebrity endorsements Barack Obama has in his back pocket got a bit thicker once rock legend Bob Dylan told The Times of London that Obama was "redefining the nature of politics from the ground up."

Now for the real question: Are times really a-changin' so much that McCain supporters will swap sides to Barack n' Roll?

Just recently The Weekly Standard's blog chided "failed kingmaker" Bruce Springsteen for his political outspokenness, while praising Dylan for making the "smart career move" of never publicly supporting a candidate.

So much for rocker silence; now for the echo.

—Steve Aquino

clinton-standing250x200.jpg Standing between two soaring pillars in the ornate Great Hall of the National Building Museum in Washington, Hillary Clinton officially brought her campaign to an end Saturday, delivering a moving valedictory that will seal her place as a legendary figure within the Democratic Party—and within our nation's history itself. Gracious in defeat, effusive in praise for the nominee—she was all the things the talking heads demanded she be, but also much more than that. Unburdened of the pressures of the campaign trail, she spoke openly and directly about the history she and her rival for the Democratic nomination have made by coming this far.

While her speech was one of party unity and reconciliation, the hall was full of Clinton supporters stung deeply by her defeat. "I'm exactly Hillary's age, so this breaks my heart," Dianne Cooperman, an IT systems engineer from Maryland, told me. "I'm devastated." She shook her head. "She came so close."

Though disappointed, and bitter about the way the press covered Clinton's candidacy, Cooperman plans to vote for Obama. "Hillary's a real Democrat and she'll support the Democrat in the fall. I have the same criteria. And there's no way I could vote for four more years of the same."

Another Clinton supporter, Mary Ogum, also from Maryland, said that Clinton's loss was "very disappointing."

"The party never really supported her," she said. "Barack Obama came along and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. It just wasn't her time, I guess."

Enlisting high-level contacts in the White House, Pentagon and Congress, Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen relentlessly pushed a freelance intelligence collection and Iran regime change plan on behalf of another veteran of the scandal, according to a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (PDF) released Thursday.

The proposed plan to change the Iran regime, which requested $5 million in initial "seed" money from the U.S. government, was outlined on a cocktail napkin by Iran contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar at a Rome bar during a three-day meeting in December 2001 that brought the Iran contra actors together with two officials from the Pentagon. The Pentagon officials' attendance at the meeting was authorized by Stephen Hadley, now the top White House national security advisor, the report found. Revelations that Iran Contra figures Ledeen and Ghorbanifar were involved in a new channel to the Bush administration set off alarm bells throughout the US government, and prompted multiple inquiries into whether the channel amounted to an unauthorized covert action and a possible counterintelligence threat. The latter issue was never resolved, after a top Pentagon official shut down the counterintelligence inquiry only a month after it had begun.

Later operations would require as much as $25 million, Ledeen and Ghorbanifar advised US officials, but could be financed in part, they said, by a foreign government in exchange for commitments of future Iran oil contracts to the foreign government's state energy company, believed to be Italy's ENI. Italy's military intelligence service Sismi facilitated Ledeen's Rome meeting, which, highly unusually, was not cleared with the US embassy in Rome or the CIA, even though it involved interaction with a foreign intelligence service.

The new Senate Intelligence committee report presents more evidence that the U.S. government under the Bush administration has been uniquely vulnerable to the intelligence schemes and foreign policy freelancing of discredited individuals and deemed fabricators such as Manoucher Ghorbanifar, and potentially even counterintelligence threats of an Iranian or other nature. It details how top officials in the Bush administration endeavored to permit such an ill-advised channel, took affirmative measures to conceal it in order to bypass the professional intelligence service, and then took steps to protect their role in the matter by shutting down the counterintelligence investigation launched by the Pentagon and to stall the Senate probe. The report also documents that Ghorbanifar has been able to influence US policy and intelligence channels in particular through Ledeen's contacts within Cheney's office and the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz Pentagon.

"The questions is: is information from Ledeen and Ghorbanifar still going to the vice president's office, and is it affecting them?" a former senior CIA offiicial said. "It's a logical assumption. That is what is known in the intelligence business as circular reporting: the same information, coming through the same source, peddled through different channels, slightly altered to make it look like it's coming from multiple sources. And it's one of the biggest dangers in the intelligence business. That is what Iraq Niger was all about."

On one of the December evenings in an unidentified Roman bar, Ghorbanifar used the cocktail napkin to sketch out a coup plan that would start with the "simultaneous disruption of traffic at key intersections leading to Tehran," the report states. The traffic jams "would create anxiety, work stoppages and other disruptive measures." Ghorbanifar wanted $5 million to get the plan off the ground.

Ledeen and Ghorbanifar advised US officials of a foreign government—presumably Italy—"support for this information collection opportunity and financing by [foreign] corporate enterprises midway through the interviews," the report states. The contracts "would be part of "multimillion-dollar business deals that the [Italian] government arranged for the two Iranian interlocutors." Ledeen refused to identity the two Iranians who Ghorbanifar had brought to the meeting to Pentagon human intelligence officers, the report found, until the US government indicated it was committing to the Ghorbanifar plan.

The report sheds additional light on the actions of highly placed U.S. officials who were involved in approving the Ledeen Iran channel and suppressing knowledge of it from normal US government intelligence channels.

I know, we all got sick of the Will.I.Am track pretty quickly (although the McCain spoof was pretty awesome), and let's not even link to Obama Girl. But leave it to New York rapper Nas to come up with an Obama-referencing track that actually sounds pretty good. MTV news has a clip of the new track, called "Black President," which started out as part of a mixtape, but will now be included on the as-yet-untitled upcoming Nas album. Part of what makes this song interesting is its complexity: rather than being a goggle-eyed campaign sing-along, it actually expresses some doubts, with lines like "These colored folks and Negroes hate to see one of their own succeeding/America: surprise us, and let a black man guide us." Nas even wonders aloud if Obama really can "keep it way real." Plus, it's, uh, got a good beat. Check out a clip after the jump.

The Labor Department reported today that the unemployment rate rose from 5.0 percent to 5.5 percent in May, the largest monthly spike in more than two decades. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's explanation?

"Today's increase in the unemployment rate reflects the fact that unusually large numbers of students and graduates are entering the labor market."

Sounds ridiculous? That's because it kind of is. Here's some sense from Jared Bernstein at EPI:

"An increase in the youth labor force played a role in May's unemployment spike. However, even if we take teenagers out of the data, unemployment still rises from 4.5% to 4.8%, a considerable 0.3% increase, and well above the 4.0% adult rate of one year ago."

From EcoGeek via Grist comes word of a nifty new birth control method for men:

The remote control, implanted device will allow users to 'press pause' on their sperm. (although it doesn't mention whether a 'rewind' function is in the works). The device has been developed by Australian scientists, and could herald a new dawn of even more convenient contraception for men, which has the potential to keep population growth under control more effectively.

Which of course raises the age-old question: Who controls the remote?

Maybe the Republican Party's struggles are driving Fox News employees to hit the bottle. Because there's no other explanation for this video clip. Make sure to watch the second half, which is arguably worse than the first.

What I love about this is that, while it's conceivable that the Fox News producers mixed their clips up, the host and his guest plow on through like there isn't a problem. Like they aren't literally creating attacks out of thin air.

(H/T Ben Smith, who doesn't need the traffic)

This ought to become a running segment. Yesterday, I highlighted ten races where Republican incumbents are seeing their reelections chances sink. I should have also pointed out that Republicans are having just as hard a time, if not harder, finding challengers to go against incumbents on the Democratic side. In Montana, the winner of the Republican primary and the man who will challenge entrenched Democratic Senator Max Baucus, is an 85-year-old former Green Party candidate who has raised less than $5,000. He formerly ran for president on a plan to remake Congress into a parliament.

At least this guy didn't get the Republican nomination for the Senate race in New Jersey. But the fact that he was once the New Jersey GOP's favored pick is kind of embarrassing.

And then there's the situation in New York's 13th District. That House seat currently belongs to Vito Fossella, the disgraced Republican congressman who is retiring because of a drunk driving arrest and revelations of a long-time affair and secret child. A Republican holds the seat now; it shouldn't be that hard for the GOP to find a viable replacement who can be counted on to keep it, right?

For someone who wants to change Washington, John McCain has surrounded himself with plenty of guys who game the system. His campaign in recent weeks had to boot out a bunch of lobbyists, though his two top campaign aides—Rick Davis and Charles Black—remain in their posts, despite the fact they recently were high-powered lobbyists. Then there's Phil Gramm, a campaign cochairman and economic adviser to McCain. After leaving the US Senate, he became an executive and lobbyist for UBS, the Swiss mega-bank. And as I noted recently, eight years ago, when he chaired the Senate banking committee, he helped create the current subprime meltdown by slyly slipping into a must-pass appropriations measure a bill that completely deregulated certain financial instruments. Isn't that the sort of person you want advising a president and in line to be Treasury secretary?

Gramm is back in the news today. The New York Times reports that federal authorities are investigating UBS to determine whether the bank helped thousands of wealthy Americans hide their assets from the IRS in UBS offshore accounts. Without mentioning that Gramm is a top McCain ally, the paper notes:

The case could turn into an embarrassment for Marcel Rohner, the chief executive of UBS and the former head of its private bank, as well as for Phil Gramm, the former Republican senator from Texas who is now the vice chairman of UBS Securities, the Swiss bank's investment banking arm. It also comes at a difficult time for UBS, which is reeling from $37 billion in bad investments, many of them linked to risky American mortgages.

So it's not too early to ask, What did Phil Gramm know about UBS' offshore practices, and when did he know it? And reporters ought to ask McCain if he has asked Gramm about this investigation. Another query: how long can Gramm remain on McCain's campaign?

At long last the dolphins once caught in the Pacific tuna fishery seem to be recovering. Spotted and spinner dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific appear to be on the increase after severe depletion in the tuna purse-seine fishery. Between 1960 and 1990 their populations dropped by 80 percent and 70 percent, respectively, of pre-fishery levels. And though they've been (largely) spared capture and drowning in purse-seine nets since the early 1990s, due to severe restrictions on the fishery, their numbers have not rebounded. Until now. "We expected to see these populations begin their recovery years ago, because fishermen have been so successful at reducing dolphin deaths," said Tim Gerrodette of NOAA's Fisheries Service. "The new data are the first to indicate the beginning of a recovery." The news is tempered with caution though, since the numbers represent a short dataset (only the 2006 season), and since one of the four censused populations still seems to be declining. Nevertheless, it's the first glimmer of hope that maybe we didn't wait too long to take action.

On a personal note, this is the truly welcome news I've been hoping to hear for a long time. In 1990 I co-produced a documentary with Hardy Jones that included Sam LaBudde's heartbreaking footage, shot undercover, of dolphins being slaughtered in the tuna nets. We included an unusual plea at the end of the broadcast, asking viewers to send telegrams to a big-name canned tuna company to protest the dolphin kill. We aired a Western Union telephone number (yeah, that's how long ago it was). The response broke all Western Union records, and within two days, if I remember correctly, the tuna company announced it would no longer buy tuna unless it was caught with dolphin-safe methods. Others tuna companies quickly followed suit… So I for one will raise a glass in toast tonight to the people who worked so long and so hard on this issue, and who spilled a fair share of their lifetime's allotment of sweat and blood in hopes of today's good news. Thank you, ocean crusaders.

However, keep in mind, not all tuna labeled dolphin-safe really is. You can keep on top of what is and what isn't at Earth Island Institute's Approved Dolphin-Safe Importers, Distributors, Brokers, Retailers, Agents.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.