Hillary Clinton has finally responded to the pro-Obama 1984-style ad on YouTube characterizing her as "Big Brother," TPMcafe reports. The amateur video has caused quite the stir. As Jonathan wrote yesterday, the three versions of the ad "have had a combined viewership of more than 1,300,000, and have an average rating of more than four stars." And some were wondering if this would mean trouble for the New York senator. But from me to Hillary, I have to say, nicely played.

"I haven't seen it but I'm pleased that it seems to be taking attention away from what used to be on YouTube and getting a lot of hits, namely me singing 'The Star Spangled Banner.' Everybody in the world now knows I can't carry a tune," said Clinton. "I thank heavens for small favors and the attention has shifted, and now maybe people won't have to tune in and hear me screeching about 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"

This interview was posted just hours before a big fundraising event for her campaign here in Washington, which brought in $2.7 million and a bunch of Code Pink women. Reps from the anti-war group were there to remind Hillary that America wants her to take a stronger stance on the war. (Hillary's refusal to apologize for voting to authorize the war has caused concern among Democrats.) And they were singing. Yup. I still have Frere Jaques in my head.

"Are you listening, are you listening? Hillary, Hillary. Boys and girls are dying, politicians lying. Bring them home, bring them home."

Gore Challenged to Debate "Foofaraw of Pseudo-Science"

Okay, I know this doesn't look for reals, but Lord Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has challenged Al Gore to a Climate Change Challenge (for the fancy cursive you'll have to click on the link). Here's what Monckton recently sent to Gore's Tennessee home:

The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley presents his compliments to Vice-President Albert Gore and by these presents challenges the said former Vice-President to a head-to-head, internationally-televised debate upon the question "That our effect on climate is not dangerous," to be held in the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at a date of the Vice-President's choosing.

Forasmuch as it is His Lordship who now flings down the gauntlet to the Vice-President, it shall be the Vice-President's prerogative and right to choose his weapons by specifying the form of the Great Debate. May the Truth win! Magna est veritas, et praevalet.

Uh, yeah, truth is surely his endgame. Monckton had this to say about An Inconvenient Truth:

"A careful study of the substantial corpus of peer-reviewed science reveals that Mr. Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, is a foofaraw of pseudo-science, exaggerations, and errors, now being peddled to innocent schoolchildren worldwide."

That science is based on a solid corpus of scientific evidence backed by thousands of scientists, including those involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for starters, and there is documentation aplenty of the truths laid out in Gore's film on Exxon's involvement in climate policy for the U.S. government. How do we know? Because science writer Chris Mooney was the one to unearth the documents and write about the series of events detailed in the movie, for Mother Jones in May 2005. I factchecked the article myself and have a foot-thick file of government documents backing up all of the ways ExxonMobil and the US govt have way-laid climate science. (Oh, and for those of you who want to use "foofaraw" in your next Scrabble game, find the definition here).

Monckton's is merely an effort to distract us into thinking that there is actually anything to debate (his challenge is a hot discussion topic at the official-sounding, Exxon-funded Center for Science and Public Policy.

His Lordship says,

"If Mr. Gore really believes global warming is the defining issue of our time, the greatest threat human civilization has ever faced, then he should welcome the opportunity to raise the profile of the issue before a worldwide audience of billions by defining and defending his claims against a serious, science-based challenge."

Al, tell him yes, as soon as "a serious, science based challenge" materializes, you're there.

Citizen Journalists In a Wired World

In response to the likes of Wikipedia, MySpace and YouTube, Wired has launched its own brave new media world. It's called Assignment Zero, and is the latest in "new, new journalism" crowd sourcing experiments.

Wired's idea for radical transparency is simple: put a ton of citizen journalists to work by asking them not just to comment on the news, but have them report it. It's a blogger's paradise. But their idea isn't new. Spin.com offers a similar program for music enthusiasts, allowing them to cover live music events as "Spin Correspondents and get a website byline."

Rolling Stone's in the the game, too. Their I'm From Rolling Stone reality show was essentially televised crowd sourcing for hipsters hungry for a gig with the magazine. Remember Gannett a year ago announced its big crowd sourcing plans to turn its newsroom into an "information center" that asks local residents to help with stories?

Crowd sourcing engages people by putting them right into the action. It has the power to improve content and encourage a broader dialogue from the ground up.

Widespread civic participation in newsgathering is exciting for journalism and content creation. That said, crowd sourcing is also chaotic, unorganized and a little shady. Media organizations can rake in tons of free content while continuing to merge and purge unchecked. And, general public trust in the media is still riding a little low on the hips. Maybe this will help, maybe not.

One 2005 study found that only 45% of the public thinks news organizations generally get their facts straight, a 2007 study says that less than half of Americans have a favorable view of the press, and a 2004 Gallup Poll suggests that people don't particularly trust journalists and haven't since at least the 70s.

So, when pollsters start evaluating citizen journalists about the quality of the new, new journalism they've helped create, what will the people think then?

—Gary Moskowitz

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco announced this evening that she does not intend to seek a second term as governor. Only a few days ago, she announced her intention to run, but had a change of heart. She will be remembered as the governor who bungled both Katrina and post-Katrina, and that is not an accurate picture of her governorship.

Let me start by saying I have never been a very enthusiastic supporter of Blanco, who holds two types of views--conservative views, and non-conservative views she feels she has to hide from the public. But it was important to me that in the last election, she defeat Bush-boy Bobby Jindal, a fast-talking ex-White House bureaucrat whose views are rigidly right-wing and extreme Christian right. One of the things that helped Blanco win, in fact, was her campaign's emphasis on Jindal's belief that all abortions--with no exceptions of any kind--should be illegal.

Since she has been governor of Louisiana, Blanco's activities have fallen into three areas: 1. stupid things she is said to have done which she did not do; 2. stupid things she did do; and 3. good things she did for which she received no credit.

A victim of an especially vicious Rovian campaign during Hurricane Katrina, Governor Blanco was simply not guilty of most of the accusations of incompetence hurled at her. The record bears this out, but many Louisianians, looking for a scapegoat and refusing to believe that George W. Bush would abandon them, were quick to jump on the "blame Blanco" bandwagon. She never recovered from the smear campaign.

Later, she put her name on the "Road Home" program created by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and that name has stuck. The Road Home--better known as the Road to Nowhere-- has to be one of the most mishandled, user-unfriendly, ghastly government programs to come around in a long time. People who had no houses and had to live out of state in order to make money were told that they would not get Road Home funds, even though they wanted to return to Louisiana. Thousands of people who signed up for the program were asked to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops, it was like dealing with FEMA all over again.

Applicants waited and waited, but no money came. Finally, after months, most of them received letters telling them they had been turned down, or giving them checks for a very small amount. Some were turned down for not having houses, though their houses were standing, plain as day. When the frustrated, enraged citizens placed calls to find out what had gone wrong, they were repeatedly told "I don't know," "I can't answer that," and "I have no idea" by contract employees whose company, hired by Blanco, botched the entire program.

The final blow came last week when HUD's federal office declared that Louisiana was wrongly requiring homeowners to wait for a series of small reimbursements rather than giving them the option of taking a lump sum. According to HUD, the state's method of distributing the money would trigger long delays for environmental and other regulations.

Finally, on to the good things. Blanco is the first governor in Louisiana history to stand up to the federal government and demand that Louisiana receive its fair share of oil and gas revenues. Blanco threatened to not permit any leases until the state receives its rightful share (which would, by the way, turn Louisiana's fate around dramatically).

Blanco also stood up to the federal government over the issue of Louisiana's environment, something else Louisianians do not see from their governors (the governor who proceeded Blanco became famous for helping to trash the environment). She was successful in halting a scheduled offshore lease sale because the federal government's assessment of the sale failed to include environmental damage done by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She also vetoed a proposed natural gas port because whose construction would have hurt Gulf fisheries, and forced the energy company to change its design to a closed loop system port.

Rep. Jindal is again running for governor of Louisiana, and the Democratic candidate may be former Sen. John Breaux, who is now a lobbyist, and who periodically loves to tease the state with talk that he may run for governor. This time, he may really do it, Breaux is very popular in Louisiana and he already has a state health plan ready to present.

For her part, Blanco made a total mess of Louisiana's post-Katrina efforts. But she is not the completely incompetent, clueless governor that Karl Rove and the news media would have us believe.

Marketing Israel, Soft and Hard

real_israel.jpgThe American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is in the headlines once again for its quasi- mythical abilities to get Congress to toe its hawkish Zionist line. Some say that AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbies are effectively steering U.S. foreign policy, while others argue that Congress and a wave of administrations are simply receptive to pro-Israel lobbies because their agenda fit neatly into U.S. foreign policy objectives. Whatever the case, the AIPAC has an impressive record in wielding its power to advance positions that are arguably politically extremist.

Last week, AIPAC successfully purged any language from the military appropriations bill that would have required the President to get congressional authorization before using force against Iran—despite the fact that the administration's current unilateral war has seen plummeting public approval. This move, and a series of other AIPAC initiatives, has caused American Jews to begin to speak out.

As AIPAC brings on board unsavory characters to tout its neocon platform, such as the evangelical fundamentalist John Hagee, more and more Jews are speaking out to underline the fact that views like the AIPAC's are not the views of all Jews (across the pond, a similar move is being undertaken by the Independent Jewish Voices to counteract the misleading notion that Jews all over the world are uncritical supporters of Israel.)

These dissenting voices have more than just congressional battles to contend with. While AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbies such as the American Jewish Committee are working overtime on Capitol Hill, there's a softer force working on the ground to capture the minds and hearts of Americans who are critical of Israeli state policies. BlueStarPR, a public relations firm is advertising the "Real Israel." Recently, the firm concluded a two-month, $17,000 billboard and public transit campaign in the San Francisco area. Some images include a blonde girl standing in a short dress with an Orthodox Jew walking in the background, or Israelis enjoying Happy Hour, "Israel-style." In response to the campaign, Paul Larudee of the International Solidarity Movement says, "The problem is what you're doing, not how you present yourself."

—Neha Inamdar

New Torture Allegations From David Hicks Revealed

I've written about David Hicks before: he's an Australian man, captured in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, who recently became the first Guantanamo detainee to be charged with a crime in the Bush Administration's system of military tribunals.

Hicks' mother is English, and Hicks has been applying for British citizenship because the British government does more than the Australian on behalf of citizens detained by the United States. As part of his application, Hicks filed a document that detailed his treatment at the hands of his American captors. Among Hicks' claims, which cannot be substantiated:

- The bulk of the abuse occurred before Hicks was deposited at Guantanamo, during a several month period when he was held in Afghanistan or being shuttled between naval ships and unknown buildings.

- When Hicks was interrogated, it was sometimes by as many as five men at a time, who slapped him in the head after every response and told him he was lying.

- At one point, Hicks was made to sit on a window ledge where he could see several American soldiers standing outside pointing their weapons at him.

- Hicks was fed only a handful of rice or fruit three times a day.

- Hicks was forced to kneel for ten hours at a time.

- Hicks was hit by a rifle butt in the back of the head hard enough to make him fall over, "slapped in the back of the head, kicked, stepped on, and spat on."

- While in Kandahar, Hicks and other detainees were forced to lie face down in the mud while solders walked across their backs.

- Hicks was stripped naked, his body hair shaved, and a piece of plastic forcibly inserted into his rectum.

- Hicks was shown pictures of other prisoners who had been beaten black and blue, and promised the same fate if he did not cooperate.

- At Guantanamo, Hicks witnessed other detainees being mistreated. A one-legged detainee was attacked by dogs in his cell, and was later dragged out with blood dripping down his face and across the floor. Hicks says the episode "put me in such fear that I just knew I would 'cooperate' in any way with the U.S."

If all this is true, it seems Hicks suffered the sort of wanton and unguided abuse that we saw in Abu Ghraib. Prison guards and low-level interrogators, drunk with power, uninformed on proper interrogation practices, and either untrained or unsupervised (or both), did whatever they pleased with the helpless people in their command. It doesn't appear that Hicks got the organized forms of torture (waterboarding, etc.) that were the subject of DoJ memos (Al Gonzales' previous scandal) and were generally reserved for high-level captures like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Sorry Karl, Clinton Did Not Purge Prosecutors

Karl Rove and Bush Administration allies have been pushing the talking point that Clinton and most every other president undertook the very normal step of firing U.S. Attorneys.

That's right and wrong. It's correct that most presidents bring in a new crop of U.S. Attorneys when they take office -- the nation's top prosecutors are like any political appointees in that respect. But once U.S. Attorneys are appointed, they serve their four (or eight) years with the comfort of knowing that they are independent of the administration that put them in place -- that justice has nothing to do with politics. Said a former U.S. Attorney who served almost ten years, "Throughout modern history, my understanding is, you did not change the U.S. attorney during an administration, unless there was some evidence of misconduct or other really quite significant cause to do so." She went on to note that attorneys need to serve "without fear or favor and in an absolutely apolitical way."

It's perfectly indicative of the Bush Administration's desire to reshape the entire federal government into a partisan machine (The first czar of Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives resigned in anger, saying, "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm.") that they would corrupt the nation's justice system in order to oust individuals making trouble and appoint more docile or even completely acquiescent replacements. Moreover, it's perfectly indicative of the Bush Administration's record of dishonesty to try and displace blame by smearing the Clinton Administration.

But the Congressional Research Service isn't letting them get away with it. They looked at all U.S. Attorneys between 1981 and 2006 and found that "Of the 468 confirmations made by the Senate over the 25-year period, only 10 left office involuntarily for reasons other than a change in administration." In those 10 instances, serious lapses in personal or professional conduct can explain eight of them. In the other two, the CRS was unable to determine cause.

Thus, in the past quarter century, somewhere from zero to two U.S. Attorneys have been fired for political reasons. The Bush Administration fired seven in one day, and eight total. Just another example of how power has corrupted the Bush Administration, making it greedy and dismissive of custom, good practice, and the principles of good governance.

McDonald's Rewrites Definition of Chutzpah

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I'm lovin' it. McDonalds has asked the Oxford English Dictionary to change its definition of "McJob." Since 2003, the OED has defined it as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector." Mickey D's house lexicographer claims that such a definition "is out of date, out of touch with reality and most importantly it is insulting to those talented, committed, hard-working people who serve the public every day." Actually, the two definitions don't conflict at all; the OED just bothers to mention that service sector jobs are poorly paid. Maybe it should redefine "minimum wage" while it's at it; something like, "An artificially high, mandated wage that prevents the creation of exciting opportunities for talented, committed, hard-working people who want to make people smile." Hopefully, OED will stick to its guns. Otherwise, they may have to redefine "chutzpah," too.

Obama and the Reds

"How well can Obama really do in the Southern, Red States?": It's what Democrats, unsure of how to cast their primary vote, have been saying under their breath.

Yesterday, those Dems got at least part of their answer when Obama charmed a rally full of people in Oklahoma, one of the reddest states in America. 1,000 people came out to support Obama in Oklahoma City, the state's capitol, a city that boasts a population of just over 500,000—the state's largest.

Just as surprising, Obama's biggest selling point for Oklahomans was his stance against the war.

Historically very Republican, at least in National elections, Oklahoma's electorate voted for Bush in a landslide in 2000. And again in 2004. Even in 1996, while the country was voting for Clinton as an incumbent, 48 percent of Oklahomans voted for Bob Dole. Clinton trailed at 40 percent.

Obama did better yesterday than any might have predicted—perhaps even Obama's own campaign. The Obama camp, possibly trying to forecast their own draw in this reddest of red states, may have billed themselves accordingly. The afternoon rally/fundraiser cost a paltry $25 to attend as compared to the previous afternoon's fundraiser in Colorado where attendees forked over $100 to catch a glimpse of the Senator. Still, Obama's campaign was able to raise $25,000 in Oklahoma yesterday.

"I have never seen a man in politics that had that much sincerity, purpose, vision," Gregory Shields of Collinsville, Oklahoma said.

Many rally attendees went looking to be inspired and many left fulfilled, according to NewsOK's Jennifer Mock, the local reporter covering the story.

Obama told the crowd in Oklahoma that the days of divisive politics are numbered. He could have said, however, the days of Democrats doubting his legitimacy as a presidential candidate are numbered. And we would have known exactly who he was talking to.

Watch and read local news coverage of last night's rally here.

--Jessica Savage

Hillary YouTube Attack Needs a YouTube Response

Joe Klein has an awed response to the famous YouTube ad that attacks Hillary Clinton, and wonders out loud how Hillary's paid staff will respond.

That misses the point. Word is out that the the ad was created not by members of any campaign staff, but by ordinary folks who like Obama and dislike Clinton. Here, I think, is the web's real power over politics. It's not in the candidates' ability to create viral videos and post them on YouTube, MySpace, etc. -- those always feel disingenuous, affected, and smarmy. We know who posted them, so we know why they make the arguments they do. They're not spontaneous, they're not true expressions, they're not labors of love. Besides, they're almost never edgy, funny, or entertaining. The only way Hillary is going to have an effective response to the pro-Obama ad created by everyday folks from the web community is if everyday folks from the web community create a pro-Hillary ad.

You see? Hillary can't respond to this because Obama didn't create it. The central test of YouTube politics is whether or not a candidate can inspire web-savvy users to create content on their own, with no prompting or support from the campaign.

Evidence: Multiple versions of the video of Hillary Clinton announcing her presidency (stilted, stiff, conventional) have been viewed a combined total of 20,000 times on YouTube, and currently have an average rating of three stars. Three versions of the Hillary/1984 video (creative, edgy, cool) have had a combined viewership of more than 1,300,000, and have an average rating of more than four stars. These are inexact, unscientific numbers, but you get the point.