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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently." The Herb Tarleck network - announced by and dedicated to the fourth rate men among us - tries to imply out of ignorance (kindest interpretation), stupidity (almost a contender), or simple fear mongering that a fist bump between Barack and Michele Obama is a danger.  This from Fox News' E.D. Hill.  

Here in Colorado the Clueless, nobody is drawing conclusions about illegal immigration with our newest #1 stat, beloved by social climbing Boulder the Damned.  We now have the biggest rise in poverty ridden children in the nation.

I'm getting this from Slate, now.  It's shaping up to be a bad year for global harvests. At a time when many are counting on increased output from farms around the world to alleviate the global food shortage, all signs are pointing to the likely outcome that this year's harvests "will be average at best."  It's a screaming issue that we have a predictable harvest around the world?  Although, to meet the soaring demand for food (er....and ethanol....), farmers have been busy trying to increase output by devoting additional land to crops and planting more frequently. But the weather hasn't been helping, as many American farmers are seeing their production depleted by too much rain while Australia continues to suffer from droughts, to name just two examples.

In other parts of the world, farmers simply haven't been able to keep up with the skyrocketing prices of certain key commodities, such as fertilizer and fuel. "The planting has gotten off to a poor start," said a grains analyst. "The anxiety level is increasing." The NYT notes it's still too early to draw any conclusions about how this year's harvests will shape up, and the outlook could improve. But, by the same token, things could also get worse. "I don't know if this is the worst year we've ever had, but it's moving up the list pretty quick," one Indiana farmer said.

Trying to install the idea that it has been competent - it hasn't - the Bush administration has ordered all federal contractors to begin using a government system to check whether their employees are legally allowed to work in the United States. Thousands of companies will now have to use the system known as E-Verify to compare the immigration status of new employees to a Social Security database. Now.

President Bush's executive order mandating use of E-Verify marks the first time that the once-voluntary system will become mandatory for a large group of employers. But the system has been criticized in the past because the Social Security database it relies on is plagued with errors that could result in complications for legal residents. Some are wondering how the government will enforce that all of its contractors are using the system, particularly considering that their numbers have greatly increased since Bush became president. "It's a very large number and very difficult to track," Paul Light, a federal contracting guru, said. "Who is responsible for making sure the sub-sub-sub-contractor is using E-Verify?" Easy, to me.  The guy who signs a federal contract.

A preliminary FBI report that was released yesterday and reveals violent crime in the United States dropped last year after two years of steady increases. But a closer look at the data reveals that crime continued to increase in certain regions and neighborhoods, particularly in low-income urban areas, which is somehow not shocking.

The decidedly Yuppie Washington Post looks at how people are changing their habits in response to high gasoline prices. Who would believe that 1.)many are driving less, or 2.)changing general aspects of their lives with the full expectation that prices won't be coming down in the near future? Analysts say there are signs that people are thinking long term about reducing their gas consumption instead of simply waiting for the prices to drop.USA Today leads with a specific example of these changes and reports that some police departments are encouraging officers to get out of their cars and walk more in their neighborhoods. Some say these cost-saving measures decrease security because cops are less visible and may take longer to reach the scene of a crime.

Filling up the tank these days might lead people to curse gas-station owners, as many think the retailers are making a fortune with the high prices. But nothing could be further from the truth, reports the LAT. Some gas-station owners are closing shop because they can't keep up with the rising prices and lower demand while those that are staying open say they're being stretched to the limit.

Motorists aren't the only ones suffering. The WSJ says that on certain routes airlines have to spend more than half the cost of the average ticket to pay for fuel. The rising cost of gas is part of the reason why airlines are imposing new fees for certain services, such as checking a bag.

Verizon, Sprint, and Time Warner Cable have reached an agreement with New York's attorney general to block access to Internet newsgroups and Web sites that contain child pornography. The agreement won't just affect people in New York because the companies provide Internet access to millions of Americans. The attorney general hopes to soon reach agreements with other service providers, many of whom have long resisted efforts that would cause them to police what their customers do online. Officials recognize the move won't completely cut off access to all child pornography, but it should at least make it more difficult to find. Strangely enough, the NYT doesn't include a single voice of dissent from anyone who might think this is not the best idea. Of course, it's likely that no one wants to be seen as publicly defending child pornography, but TP finds it difficult to believe that there aren't people worried about where this could lead if the government begins to ask service providers to block more and more sites that are seen as undesirable.

The WP shows how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development played a hand in the proliferation of subprime mortgages. HUD officials wanted those with a lower income to be able to own their own homes and so ordered the mortgage finance firms Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to purchase more of these so-called "affordable" loans. Now many of these lower-income and minority buyers that HUD was supposed to help are expected to lose their homes because they can't afford the payments. "For HUD to be indifferent as to whether these loans were hurting people or helping them is really an abject failure to regulate," a law professor said.

As the presidential candidates continue to criticize the influence of lobbyists in Washington, some lobbyists are feeling offended that they're all being thrown in the same bag, notes the WP. McCain and Obama make no distinction between a lobbyist for a big oil company and others who push more socially conscious messages. There are even those who actually lobby to increase transparency in government. But to the campaigns, anyone who is registered to lobby has become persona non grata. "[T]here are many lobbyists who do remarkable work for the public good," the president of the Humane Society of the United States said.

If you're looking for an easy way to reduce the risk from a cornucopia of diseases, you might as well spend a little more time in the sun, reports the LAT. A new study released today reveals that men who don't have enough vitamin D in their bodies have more than double the normal risk of suffering a heart attack. This is the latest finding that seems to suggest a little sunshine (or, of course, a little pill) could go a long way to promoting good health. Not everyone is convinced, and scientists emphasize the relationship between vitamin D and disease prevention hasn't been proved yet, but as one scientist put it, "what's wrong with keeping an adequate level of vitamin D in the blood in case it is?"

In history, this day 1692, Bridget Bishop was hanged at Gallows Hill near Salem, Massachusetts, and this after having been convicted of "certaine Detestable Arts called Witchcraft & Sorceries." Bishop was just the first casualty of what will come to be known as the Salem Witch Trials.In 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to write a Declaration of Independence.

This day in 1793, the Jardin des Plantes zoo opened in Paris, the world's first public zoo.

In 1801, the North African State of Tripoli declared war on the U.S. The dispute was over merchant vessels being able to travel safely through the Mediterranean.

It was this day in 1909 that the SOS distress signal was used for the first time. The Cunard liner SS Slavonia used the signal when it wrecked off the Azores.

In 1942, the Gestapo massacred 173 male residents of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, in retaliation for the killing of Reinhard Heydrich, the seriously deranged Nazi official and favorite of Hitler, the only high Nazi the Allies tried hard to assassinate.  Liditz (alt.) was liquidated by the Nazis as penalty, every adult male killed, women sent to the camps, and the entire town bulldozed.

In 1967, this day, Israel and Syria agreed to a cease-fire that ended the Six-Day War.

This day in 1993, it was announced that genetic material was extracted from an insect that lived when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Shit to the end, in 1997 Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot killed his defense chief Son Sen and 11 members of his family. He then fled his northern stronghold. The news did not emerge for three days.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ah, yes.  They forgot to mention this.

The tender credentials of Obama unnerve the Democrats, even those firmly in his camp based upon sheer intellect and force of personality.  Nonetheless, they blurt out their insecurities. "If Barack Obama had been born ten years earlier and had been a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1992, neither I nor Bill Clinton would have defeated him," said Bob Kerrey.  Certainly Kerry would not, but it's a stretch about Clinton.

Where is the national coverage on this?  Where, for that matter, is the local?  Bob Shaffer has a lot of explaining to do. He was on the Board of Directors of a crook's corporation, guilty of defrauding the Federal Government, which is you and me.  This is different from the solid Jack Abramoff connections.

Recession?  If the fuel crisis is as feared, and continues, talk about Depression.  Analysts will be keeping a close eye on this week's economic reports for hints about the state of the U.S. economy after Friday's news of surging oil prices and unemployment sent stocks tumbling. Investors will be looking at the reports—including ones that will reveal data on the real-estate market, inflation, and consumer confidence—to try to figure out how worried they should be about the future. "It shouldn't be a surprise that the economy is weak," one economist said. "The question now is whether it's accelerating to the downside." On top of all this, the national average price of gasoline hit the $4 mark for the first time yesterday.

While high gas prices are causing economic strain in household budgets across the country, those living in rural areas, natch, are being affected most by the increases. There, people usually drive longer distances in vehicles that eat up more gas while making less money, which means gasoline is taking up a bigger chunk of the family budget and is competing with other necessities such as food and housing.

Wall Street investors had been acting on hopes that the U.S. economy would rebound in the second half of the year. But after Friday's double dose of bad news, investors began to fear that their predictions had been too optimistic and sent the Dow Jones industrial average tumbling almost 400 points. There are fears that "a vicious circle is underway," as the LAT puts it, because negative economic reports lead to a weaker dollar and higher commodity prices, as investors look for refuge in economies abroad. These higher oil prices then lead to less consumer spending, which drives even more investors away from the dollar.

Although consumers often fret about high gas prices, so far the increases haven't caused as much widespread pain as the oil crises of the 1970s and 1980s. That's mostly because Americans spend, on average, a mere 4 percent of their after-tax income on fuel for transportation. But in some rural counties, that figure is now higher than 13 percent and it's wreaking havoc on local economies as people are drastically decreasing their consumption in order to keep up.

The surging price of gas is only one part of a flurry of bad economic news that has hit Americans recently and is raising doubts about the future. USAT fronts results from a new poll showing that a slim majority of Americans believe their standard of living is no better now than it was five years ago. In addition, a mere 45 percent of Americans think their children will have a better standard of living than they do. "So is the American Dream dead? Well, it's at least wounded," says USAT.

The new leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is announced to fear and trembling. When the man known as Alfonso Cano, "a bookish communist intellectual," took over the leadership of the FARC after the recent death of its founder, he inherited an organization struggling to survive amid a military crackdown and mass desertions. Some think the next few weeks will see a surge in violent activity by the FARC in an effort to show that it's still relevant. But that won't change the fact that many military commanders are predicting that the revolutionary movement could soon be defeated or, at least, pushed into peace talks.

Clinton dropping out of the presidential race and throwing her support to Sen. Barack Obama is the still Big story, and nobody really knows what it means to the overall summer campaign, given the various silly stories out about how Clinton Democrats would seriously vote for McCain. With this ongoing concern about their economic future, it's little wonder that the economy continues to rank as the No. 1 issue in the minds of voters. And "The issue provides one of the starkest contrasts" between the presumptive presidential nominees, says the WSJ. Obama will highlight these differences in a two-week campaign tour that will focus on the economy and include stops in some of several key swing states. While Democrats want to keep talking about the economy, McCain is pushing his foreign-policy experience as the main rationale behind his candidacy. In his first general-election TV ad, the Republican reminds voters that he has seen the consequences of war up close and says he's "running for president to keep the country I love safe."

As the general election officially gets underway, McCain doesn't just have to counter Obama's claims that electing the Republican is akin to giving President Bush a third term; he also has to unify social conservatives, many of whom are still reluctant to get behind his candidacy even still. Lori Viars, an activist who spent months campaigning for Bush in 2004, is illustrated - for some reason - by separate media for a story  but so far is waiting to hear more from McCain before deciding whether to volunteer.

In Ohio, some Republicans are openly fretting about the fact that McCain has been slow in mobilizing the base of voters who were critical to Bush's crucial victory in that state in 2004. The NYT says McCain's campaign knows it has lagged behind on courting evangelicals, and over the past month it has quietly stepped up efforts to gain their support. But it's a tricky proposition because McCain also wants to appeal to independent voters who might turn their backs on the Republican if he begins espousing too many socially conservative views.

In Burma, the WSJ reports that despite the government's pledge to allow foreign-aid workers inside the country's borders, "little has changed for relief staff here." A few aid groups can now access the worst-hit region, but many workers are still being denied access to the Irrawaddy River delta and the country as a whole. The government continues to deny visa applications from aid workers and has been restricting access to some areas previously open to outsiders.

Lord.  At some fast arriving point, the media and general public are going to have to come to terms with the supposed superior taste in art of the gay community.  Because it surely eludes me.  The NYT reports that Brokeback Mountain will become an opera.  In some ways that's fitting.  In others, given - at base - its pedestrian story absent the gay element there's little there.  Also, it's going back to the short story and not the movie, so it's going to have to be, as it were, fluffed out. It is scheduled for a 2013 premiere. Coming right after the opera version of An Inconvenient Truth, this could be a period of artistic horror.

In history, this day in 68 AD, rather than suffer a Senate-imposed death by flogging, Nero implored his secretary Epaphroditus to slit his throat. The freedman complies, giving the condemned emperor a quick death, just as centurions arrive at the villa to haul him away. He deserved, by most counts, worse.

In 1534, Jacques Cartier became the first to sail into the river he named the Saint Lawrence.

In 1860, "Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter," by Mrs. Ann Stevens, was offered for sale for a dime. It was the first published "dime novel."

In 1931, Robert H. Goddard patented a rocket-fueled aircraft design, something Werner von Braun noted carefully. The V-2 is almost a rip off.

A star was born, this day in 1934 when Donald Duck made his debut in the Silly Symphonies cartoon "The Wise Little Hen."

On this day in 1945, Japanese Premier Kantaro Suzuki declared that Japan would fight to the last rather than accept unconditional surrender.

In far eastern Massachusetts, where I lived that day in 1953, a tornado struck Worcester, killing about 100 people.

In 1959, the first ballistic missile carrying submarine, the USS George Washington, was launched.

Much as God had changed his mind about polygamy, conveniently allowing statehood, in 1978 the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints struck down a 148-year-old policy of excluding black men from the Mormon priesthood. Not that they were prejudiced, or anything like that.  Or hypocrites, or anything like that.

In was this day in 1980, in the midst of a cocaine binge, comedian Richard Pryor attempted suicide. He doused himself with rum and sett it ablaze. The self-immolation attempt goes haywire when the flaming man leaps from his apartment window and runs down the street, screaming in agony. Pryor barely survived, and only after six weeks of intensive care and three skin graft surgeries. Soon enough, he was back on stage mimicking himself with the lighter.....

In 1986, the Rogers Commission released a report on the Challenger disaster. The report explained that the spacecraft blew up as a result of a failure in a solid rocket booster joint. Something known and curable, just like with Columbia in 2003.

In 1998, this day, three white men in Jasper, Texas were charged in the dragging death of African-American James Byrd Jr.

In 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal gift and estate taxes. The bill called for the taxes to be phased out over 10 years.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Here in Boulder the Damned, the storms have broken, and we have a beautiful day abuilding.  Bout time. My mood instantly better.

And better yet, the wanna be Yippies have split the Recreate 68 grouping.  Normally good news for the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer, but the Convention is having money trouble, sorta.

After years of the Bush administration failing to hold ANYone accountable, Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the Air Force's top two officials for failing to adequately secure the nation's nuclear arsenal. Good, and about time. It marked the first time that a defense secretary ousted both the military and civilian leaders of a service simultaneously. The stated reason for requesting the resignations of Michael Wynne, the Air Force secretary, and the service's chief of staff, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, was the recent disclosure that the Air Force mistakenly sent nuclear warhead fuses to Taiwan, this after flying nuclear bombs across the United States by mistake. An inquiry into the incident found a "pattern of poor performance" and "an overall decline in nuclear weapons stewardship."

The Taiwan incident was merely the last stroke. Gates had long been frustrated with the Air Force leadership because of other mishaps, including the revelation that a bomber had flown over the United States while carrying armed nuclear missiles as well as controversy over a $50 million contract that went to a company with close ties to senior Air Force officials. But it was also clear that Gates also differed with the Air Force leaders on strategy, particularly their insistence on continuing to purchase expensive F-22 fighter jets even though the defense secretary has said the planes are of no use for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "In the end, what it came down to is the feeling of the secretary of the Defense that the Air Force just wasn't on the policy page he was on," a defense analyst tells the LAT.

Gates made it clear that he sees the lack of oversight of the country's nuclear arsenal as a deep problem and appointed a former defense secretary, James Schlesinger, to head a task force to look into the issue. The firings once again emphasized the difference between Gates and his predecessor, who was often criticized for failing to hold senior officials accountable. Democratic lawmakers praised the move. "Gates' focus on accountability is essential and had been absent from the office of the secretary of Defense for too long," said Sen. Carl Levin, head of the Senate armed services committee.

In Florida, John McCain emphasized that he's not trying to distance himself from President Bush and instead just wants to "point out my own record and my own plan of action." McCain also said he'll try to win votes by contrasting his experience with Barack Obama's. The Republican described his opponent as a rookie politician who believes in "big government" and "doesn't understand."

Unfortunately for McCain, his vacillations and devotion to something other than consistency bites him. The NYT fronts a letter written by a top adviser to McCain that says the Republican supports warrantless wiretapping to monitor Americans' international communications. Although his campaign insists McCain's views on the matters of surveillance and executive power haven't changed, he seemed to sing a different tune six months ago in an interview. This marks the latest example of how McCain has taken up important Republican issues now that he's the presumptive nominee and is working to unify his party's base. But he'll have to lie to do it.

For his part, Obama was in Virginia yesterday launching a tour about economic issues that will take him to several of the states that Clinton won as part of his efforts to get white, working-class voters on his side. The Democrat also said he would launch an "Apollo-style program" to develop new energy sources and he's "almost certain" that he'll go to Iraq before the election.

While Obama was campaigning in Virginia, a move designed to show how he intends to compete in several Republican-leaning states, Hillary Clinton tried to distance herself from an effort to force Obama to pick her as his running mate. The two Democrats met late yesterday at the Washington, D.C., home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but no one has any information on what they talked about at the unexpected encounter. Meanwhile, Obama moved to take control over the Democratic National Committee and sent one of his top campaign operatives to oversee party operations. The presumptive nominee also said that his campaign's ban on receiving money from political action committees or federal lobbyists would also apply to the DNC.

Christ.  Poor, poor Africa.  Nobody deserves the slugs who wield power there.  In the latest from Zimbabwe,  the government has ordered that all aid groups suspend their activities. Officials warned that the move could have tragic consequences in a country where more than 80 percent of the people are unemployed. Also yesterday, police detained American and British diplomats who were attacked by a group of loyalists to Zimbabwe's president. The diplomats were investigating political violence outside of the capital and were detained after a six-mile car chase. Officials say this was all part of an effort to hide the violence that is only expected to increase before the presidential runoff this month that President Robert Mugabe is determined to win at any cost. The Hague for Thug Bob.

Meanwhile, over in Uganda, the WP's Michael Gerson writes about Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army and "the most carnivorous killer since Idi Amin." After spreading terror in northern Uganda for 10 years he was pushed into the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo but now appears to be staging a comeback. "If this is not a cause for horror—and a justified cause for international action—it is difficult to imagine what would be."

In history, this day in 1752, a devastating fire destroyed a third of Moscow, including 18,000 homes. Two other large-scale fires had already struck the city in the previous mere 13 days.This day in 1813, our second idiotic invasion of Canada was halted at Stony Creek, Ontario, in 1813.

In 1882, a cyclone in the Arabian Sea presented huge waves into Bombay harbor, drowning at least and probably far more than 100,000 inhabitants.  

This day in 1942, Yamamoto and the IJN retreated in the World War II Battle of Midway, having lost four large carriers and their air crews, irreplaceable in time to stem the industrial giant of the US. The battle had begun on June 4.

Two years to the day later, the D-Day invasion of Europe took place on the beaches of Normandy, France. 400,000 Allied American, British and Canadian troops were involved. We never faced more than 15% of the German Army, though.  The Soviets absorbed the rest.

In 1968, early in the morning, Senator Robert F. Kennedy died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. The Democratic lawmaker had been campaigning for his party's Presidential nomination when he was shot three times by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. Kennedy had been shot the evening before while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In India on June 6, 1981, a passenger train traveling between Mansi and Saharsa jumped the tracks at a bridge crossing, submerging 11 compartments beneath the Bagmati river. Although the government placed the official death toll at 268 plus another 300 missing, the actual figure is more like 1,000 killed.

In 1982, this day, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in an effort to drive PLO guerrillas out of Beirut.

Authorities in Embu, Brazil exhumed the grave of one Wolfgang Gerhard this day in 1985 in order to determine  true identity. The remains are later proven to be those of Dr. Josef Mengele, Auschwitz's notorious "Angel of Death." Mengele is thought to have drowned while swimming in the ocean in February, 1979.

In 1989, during the Tehran funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini, frenzied mourners tip his corpse out of its coffin and onto the ground. Three million horrified followers bear witness to the desecration, although many rip the corpse apart for holy relics, just like Christians.

In 1992, idiot US district court judge Jose Gonzalez ruled that the rap album As Nasty As They Wanna Be by 2 Live Crew violated Florida's obscenity law. Gonzalez declared that the predominant subject matter of the record is "directed to the 'dirty' thoughts and the loins, not to the intellect and the mind." Repeat: 1992.

Not to be outdone, in 2005 the United States Supreme Court ruled federal authorities could prosecute sick people who smoked marijuana on doctor's orders. The ruling concluded that state medical marijuana laws did not protect uses from the federal ban on the drug.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Christmas.  Literally.  Rain and SNOW in the Colorado forecast today, and we must have, finally, a surplus of water here in Boulder proper.  Huge hail yesterday afternoon and the flora is British Green even in the overcast.  Tomorrow supposed to be back to our three months of beautiful morning, thunderheads by 3PM, rain, clear evening.  Nice, let me tell you, and far preferable to the smell of approaching brush fires all summer.

I was reluctant at first, but while too late for impeachment, it's not for prison. If this isn't treason - lying to get the nation into war that coincidently or not enriched your holdings (Cheney) - nothing is.  Disgusting.  Shameful.  McClatchey papers has it, but these are the big ones, well known but still denied:

    *  Claims by President Bush that Iraq and al Qaida had a partnership "were not substantiated by the intelligence."

    * The president and vice president misrepresented what was known about Iraq’s chemical weapons capabiliies.

    * Rumsfeld misrepresented what the intelligence community knew when he said Iraq's weapons productions facilities were buried deeply underground.

    * Cheney's claim that the intelligence community had confirmed that lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 was not true.

No more entries, we have winner in this century's Worst Shitheads contest already.  No surprise, the Burmese military junta, the bedecked with medals generals who have never fought a war except against their own people, took it hands down.  In the adoring words of our Admiral Timothy Keating, commenting on US Navy ships leaving Myanmar after trying for three weeks to deliver aid: "We have made at least 15 attempts to convince the Burmese government to allow our ships, helicopters and landing craft to provide additional disaster relief for the people of Burma, but they have refused us each and every time." Really.  A new category and class.  Hell awaits, you bastards, and I'm an atheist.

The Phoenix Lander has been given its job description and told to start digging.  Pretty damned exciting if you ask me which, I note, you have not.  Still.  What if they find recognizable life? Or a silicate variety?  My God, what an exciting prospect.  

USA Today covers lawmakers' concerns a group of unknown foreign investors might be making a move to take control of one of the country's largest railroads. Although, it begs the question of who'd buy our railroads. A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the Treasury secretary asking for an investigation of the Children's Investment Fund, a London-based group that is trying to win five seats in the 12-member board of the CSX rail line. Very little is known about the fund because it refuses to release the names of its investors, but TCI insists it's not trying to engineer a takeover of CSX and characterized the request for an investigation as a "scare-mongering tactic." Well, knowledge is good.  Selling what should be viewed as a utility is not.

Hillary Clinton will end her campaign on Saturday and endorse Barack Obama. Clinton made her decision after a day of talking to supporters and Democratic leaders who urged her to back down for the sake of party unity. Even some of her strongest backers expressed frustration at Clinton's stated desire to wait before making a decision on how to proceed. "We pledged to support her to the end," Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, who has been a staunch supporter of Clinton, said. "Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is." Meanwhile, some prominent Clinton supporters, apparently with her backing, have begun a campaign to urge Obama to pick the former first lady as his running mate. I don't like that: it's a step down for her from a powerful Senate seat plus it's a bad idea to have a VP as powerful and popular, or nearly so, as the President.  Cheney was wrong in every sense for the job.

Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, announced yesterday that he is starting a so-called "dream ticket" campaign to urge party leaders to pressure Obama to pick Clinton as his running mate. Johnson said Clinton is "absolutely ready" to talk to Obama about it. Of course, that's being done in the name of party unity as well. But most, thank God, are skeptical about the possibility. The WSJ says Obama's aides are suggesting that "an Obama-Clinton ticket is highly unlikely," while the WP says that inside the Obama campaign "there is a distinct coolness to the idea." Why? Two words: Bill Clinton. Sure, selecting Clinton as a running mate could dilute Obama's message of bringing change to Washington, but figuring out what role the former president would play seems to be the biggest obstacle.

The LAT says Clinton now "has several options." She could release all her delegates to Obama and drop out entirely or simply choose to suspend her candidacy and keep control of her delegates, "maintaining her political leverage until the Democratic National Convention in August." The NYT and WP make it seem as though the decision has already been made and state that Clinton will suspend her candidacy, which, as the NYT helpfully explains, would allow her to keep on raising money to pay off the huge debt she has amassed in the past few months. Technicalities aside, everyone makes clear that Clinton was left with little choice yesterday as the few voices who urged Democrats to be patient were drowned out by party leaders who sent not-so-subtle signals that it's time to move on. I hope they know stuff I don't.  It's a huge leap of faith with Obama, brilliant though he be.

Obama tried to move on from all this "dream ticket" talk by announcing his three-member vice-presidential search committee, which will include Caroline Kennedy. But all the pressure heaped on Clinton to drop out, plus all the vice-presidential talk, meant that "the day after Obama sealed his victory felt like many before it," with pundits wondering when Clinton would drop out, notes the LAT. The NYT reports that due to all this talk about Clinton, aides said Obama would "move slowly" in his search for a running mate. But the WP talks to supporters who say he needs to be more aggressive to take the spotlight away from Clinton by leaking the names of some prospects and perhaps even holding a meeting with a few of the people he's considering for the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

In another example of how Obama spent the day mostly reacting to news rather than making it, John McCain "put his opponent on the spot" (WP) by formally proposing that the two candidates hold a series of town-hall meetings this summer. Obama's campaign responded favorably to the idea, although it emphasized that the presumptive Democratic nominee would prefer "a less structured" format than what McCain has proposed.

Obama's big event yesterday was an appearance before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but even there he had to share the stage with Clinton. In her remarks before members of the prominent Jewish lobby group, Clinton didn't acknowledge Obama's victory but praised the senator from Illinois and assured the audience that Obama "will be a good friend to Israel." The NYT highlights that in his speech at AIPAC, Obama moved a bit "to the right" and "described a far tougher series of sanctions he would be willing to impose on Iran than he had outlined heretofore." Obama received numerous standing ovations, but the WSJ points out that McCain enjoyed a similar response when he addressed the group.

The WP's Dana Milbank says "a mere 12 hours" after claiming the nomination the senator from Illinois had "changed himself into an Israel hard-liner." The change, which was "mostly in tone, but occasionally in substance," is part of Obama's effort to get Jewish-Americans, a key constituency, on his side. "As a pandering performance, it was the full Monty by a candidate who, during the primary, had positioned himself to Hillary Clinton's left on matters such as Iran."

Antoin Rezko, a longtime fundraiser of the senator from Illinois, was convicted of 16 corruption-related charges, including fraud and bribery. There's no evidence that Obama was involved in any wrongdoing, but Republican operatives made it clear yesterday they plan to bring up the conviction during the campaign in order to raise questions about his judgment. Fine.  They lose.

During the King Phillip's War, in 1637, settlers in New England massacred a Pequot Indian village.

Ben and Me.  In 1752, this day, Benjamin Franklin flew a kite for the first time to demonstrate that lightning was a form of electricity.

In 1794, the U.S. Congress prohibited citizens from serving in any foreign armed forces. Today, US citizens serve in Israel.

This day in 1851, Harriet Beecher Stow published the first installment of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in "The National Era."

In 1884, General William T. Sherman refused the Republican presidential nomination, saying, "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected." This confused the GOP.

In 1944, the first B-29 bombing raid hit the Japanese rail line in Bangkok, Thailand. Those planes were a nasty surprise to the Japanese, who couldn't imagine such range and load.

Dean Atkinson was the fueling engine, but in 1947 - because  U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the speech at Harvard University in which he outlined a path to European recovery - it was called the Marshall Plan.

On the day in 1956 when Premier Nikita Khrushchev denounced Josef Stalin to the Soviet Communist Party, Elvis Presley appeared on Milton Berle's TV show. His undulating hip movements during the song "Hound Dog" caused something of a controversy.

This day in 1967, the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan began. Israel kicked butt.

In 1968, seconds after Senator Robert F. Kennedy is shot by Sirhan Sirhan in a Los Angeles hotel, witnesses wrestled the Palestinian to the ground and grabbed his smoking .22-caliber revolver. Sirhan later claims to have been acting unconsciously, possibly the result of hypnotic brainwashing. Kennedy died the next morning.

Finally.  In 1975, Egypt reopened the Suez Canal to international shipping, eight years after it was closed because of the 1967 war with Israel.

It was this day in 1981 that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that five men in Los Angeles were suffering from a rare pneumonia found in patients with weakened immune systems. They were the first recognized cases of what came to be known as AIDS.  Twenty seven years. Six years to the day later, Ted Koppel and guests discussed the topic of AIDS for four hours on ABC-TV’s "Nightline".

In 1998, Volkswagen AG won approval to buy Rolls-Royce Motor Cars for $700 million, outbidding BMW's $554 million offer. Wonder how quick they regretted it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Here in Colorado, the amazing media silence about Congressman Bob Shaffer's complicity in the Abramoff scandals and an earmarking horror for benefit of a crook is annoying to say no more.  

The NYT reports that a new study suggests red wine "may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan." I'm going to live forever.

"Whoever said that after denial comes acceptance hadn't met the Clintons." This is the common slam by those who were as lampreys to them when in power, foremost amongst which is Maureen Dowd, who provided the quote, supposedly after last night.  The same could be said about those who airbrush their photos, Ms. Dowd, now pretty old.

Regardless, Barack Obama is claiming the Democratic nomination. It IS something of a historic nature, as Obama has now become the first black candidate to lead a major party ticket in a presidential contest. After what the New York Times characterizes as an "epic battle" with Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Los Angeles Times says it seemed only "fitting" that the last two primaries of the five-month contest ended in a split. Obama won Montana, and Clinton came out ahead in South Dakota. But by the time the polls closed, the loss in South Dakota didn't really matter because so many superdelegates had flocked to Obama throughout the day that he easily passed the magic number of 2,118 delegates needed to secure the nomination. "Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America," Obama told a boisterous crowd of 17,000 supporters at a rally in Minnesota. I hope to god he can beat McCain.

Obama's victory was important, not just due to his unique background as the son of a Kenyan farmer and a white mother from Kansas but also because a "first-term Illinois senator defeated what had once been the most powerful machine in the party," gleefully noted the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post echoes the sentiment and notes that "Clinton's defeat seemed almost inconceivable a year ago as the race was beginning to unfold." Clinton spoke at a rally in New York, where she praised her opponent but didn't drop out of the race. "This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight," she said. With those words, and increased speculation during the day that she might be interested in becoming Obama's running mate, Clinton put herself squarely "at the top of the list of issues Obama must handle as the presumptive Democratic nominee," says USA Today. I'll be surprised if he asks, but then I'd be surprised if she accepted.

Obama and Clinton did have a phone conversation early today. Obama's spokesman said the presumptive Democratic nominee congratulated Clinton and once again told her he wants to "sit down when it makes sense for you." The former first lady apparently thanked him for his call, but no date has been set for the sit-down.

After such a long process, it seemed almost appropriate that the end of primary season brought "a day of extraordinary drama, frenzied speculation and fast-changing events," notes the WP. "Obama's campaign worked furiously to pressure uncommitted superdelegates to endorse him, Clinton's campaign struggled to provide her with time to leave the race on her own terms, and the media breathlessly sought to keep pace."

The WP points out that for those who followed Clinton, last night "hardly seemed like an end to a losing campaign" as aides excitedly shared exit poll results with the crowd of supporters in New York. Despite rumors that swirled around throughout the day, Clinton was adamant in explaining that she's not ready to drop out, though she did recognize that many are puzzled by her decision. "You know, I understand that a lot of people are asking, 'What does Hillary want?' " a question she then answered by lifting items from her stump speech about health care and Iraq. ("Since all of us want those things, too, her real desire is actually to be the person who does it," writes Slate's Dahlia Lithwick. "Why doesn't she just say that?")

Earlier in the day, Clinton assured herself a spot at the table in the veep stakes by telling New York legislators that she would be "open" to joining a ticket with Obama. "Like her husband, Mrs. Clinton has a way of becoming the center of attention even when the spotlight is supposed to be trained elsewhere," notes the NYT's Adam Nagourney in a front-page analysis. While Obama seems eager to simply move into general-election mode, the truth is that he "still has problems in his own party that may overshadow everything else until he addresses them." The LAT agrees in its own front-page analysis and points out that Obama must now work feverishly to "unify Democrats by reaching out to Clinton and her supporters."

Obama will certainly face competition for the attention of Clinton supporters, as Sen. John McCain clearly has hopes of wooing disappointed Democrats who may be willing to vote Republican. The WSJ points out in a story inside that McCain will target three groups of voters who are particularly important in key swing states: "working-class Democrats, Jews and Hispanics." Trying to claim a spot in the news cycle that otherwise belonged to Democrats, McCain gave a speech in Louisiana where he repeatedly criticized Obama's inexperience and lavished praise on Clinton. "She deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received," he said. "I am proud to call her my friend." But, McCain calls everyone friend at first.

There are other obstacles Obama will have to face. The long primary battle "could prove to have been good preparation for the clashes to come." Despite the jubilant mood in Obama's campaign yesterday, the loss in South Dakota provided a poignant reminder that Obama goes into the general election as a candidate with significant weaknesses that may very well prove insurmountable. Obama certainly has the mood of the times behind his candidacy, as many expect that President Bush's low approval ratings will translate into an easy Democratic victory. But repeated attacks on his youth and inexperience, not to mention his former church, could take a toll. So expect Obama to begin talking about policy issues in much more detail. "Republican attacks on him will be largely based on experience and ideology," a Democratic strategist tells the LAT. "He needs to show that he's tough enough and strong enough to guide the country in a dangerous world."

USAT handily summarizes some of the tasks that lie ahead for Obama. He must step up efforts to reach out to key groups, particularly white voters and women without a college education, a move that will leave him with no choice but to deal with the issue of race. Obama must also consider whether he wants to plan a trip to Iraq and whether he should start releasing a new round of TV ads to counter McCain's attacks.

In history, this day in 1647, the British army seized King Charles I and held him as a hostage.

In 1812, the Louisiana Territory had its name changed to the Missouri Territory.

This day in 1892, the Sierra Club was incorporated in San Francisco.

Facing the Storm Troopers in 1918, French and American troops halted Germany's offensive at Chateau-Thierry, France. The US did well, which Germany did not expect.

In 1924, an eternal light was dedicated at Madison Square in New York City in memory of all New York soldiers who died in World War I. Wonder if it's still there, eternity being flimsy.

Low point in our history.  On June 4, 1939, after already having been turned away by Cuba, the SS St. Louis was also denied permission to land in Florida. It was forced to return to Europe with its cargo of 963 Jewish refugees, most of whom later died in Nazi concentration camps. One of the many, many reasons that Zionism won out over the Assimilationists.

On this day in 1940, the British completed the evacuation of 300,000 troops at Dunkirk, France.

In 1942, this day, the Battle of Midway began. It became the first major victory for America over Japan during World War II. The battle ended on June 6 and ended Japanese expansion in the Pacific and decimated a carrier force she could not hope to replace in time.  Worse, her great airmen were gone.

We entered Rome this day in 1944, and began the liberation of the Italian capital.

In 1947, the House of Representatives approved the Taft-Hartley Act. The legislation allowed the President of the United States to intervene in labor disputes.

And scared the hell out of us.  In 1960, the Taiwan island of Quemoy was hit by 500 artillery shells fired from the coast of Communist China.

This day in 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling striking down an Alabama law that provided for a daily minute of silence in public schools.

In 1986, Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, pled guilty in Washington to spying for Israel. He was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1989, Chinese troops, firing a few warning shots, managed to push tens of thousands of student protesters out of Tiananmen Square without killing any of them. Once out of view, that changed. Hundreds of unarmed citizens on the streets of Beijing were massacred by the army, and later several leaders of the pro-democracy demonstration were publicly executed.  

In 2003, the idiot U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban "partial birth" abortions with a 282-139 vote. That same day, announced that it had received more than 1 million orders for the book "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." The released date was planned for June 21.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"I have a very strong sense of self-preservation. I have never been a brave man and I'm only really concerned about myself." So said Chinese teacher Fan Meizhong, blogging about running out of the classroom and abandoning his students during the recent earthquake.  Fan's attitude ain't far removed from some here in Colorado, who are facing a summer of rough weather.  Yesterday, I took the cover of today's Lout when I saw a huge thunderhead at some distance changing color and shape quite fast, enough that to this aged observer, it was worth running back into the house for a camera.   A bad camera, but we do what we can.  This storm, I read later, spawned baseball hail and a tornado later. More of the same for today, and throughout the week.

Boulder gets it easy, flush against the Rockies and unlikely to get a tornado, given the weather 99% of the time comes from the west and cyclonic funnels cannot form over such ground.  So far.  But just a few miles east, things change, and change in a hurry.

The generals Clinton left Bush were just about totally right in their estimations and fears about an Iraq War.  One was Ricardo Sanchez, who has a new book.  Soldiers cannot, while in service, drop kick their idiot superiors, but Sanchez retired and has written a book.  In which he says: "In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I watched helplessly as the Bush administration led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions. It became painfully obvious that the executive branch of our government did not trust its military. It relied instead on a neoconservative ideology developed by men and women with little, if any, military experience. Some senior military leaders did not challenge civilian decision makers at the appropriate times, and the courageous few who did take a stand were subsequently forced out of the service."

Worse, Bush comes across as a child, overstimulated and clueless.

Obama is working toward being able to claim victory after the last two primaries today, while Sen. Hillary Clinton is deciding what to do next. Newest report is that she won't concede today, although her campaign says she will when Obama gets the 'magic number.' Obama's campaign is trying to get undecided superdelegates to his side as soon as the polls close, but it's unclear whether he'll officially be able to claim the nomination tonight. Obama aides have begun the "awkward" process of wooing several of Clinton's most important donors and advisers.

Meanwhile though, Clinton backers are urging uncommitted superdelegates to wait until Wednesday before endorsing Obama. Regardless of what happens tonight after the polls close in South Dakota and Montana, Democratic leaders seem to agree Obama will get enough superdelegates on his side to claim the nomination by the end of the week. And Obama's victory rally, which will take place at the site of the Republican convention in August, will leave no doubt that he is making the switch from being a primary candidate to his party's nominee for president.

Nobody knows what Clinton will do, and the WP points out that she "sent mixed signals about her plans throughout the day." Clinton has invited top fundraisers and supporters to a rally in New York for what the NYT bills as a "farewell speech," but everyone hears from campaign aides that the move shouldn't be seen as a sign that the former first lady will withdraw from the contest immediately. Many are pointing to the possibility that Clinton will pursue what aides are calling the "middle option," which involves suspending the campaign while not withdrawing entirely. Reasonably, the LAT notes that it'd be stupid for Clinton to withdraw from the contest before Texas Democrats meet on Friday and Saturday to apportion the state's delegates.

But even as she vowed to take her case to the party's superdelegates, former President Clinton suggested this is all but over. "This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind," he said.

The effort to get Clinton's big supporters to begin backing Obama is not an official part of his campaign strategy, "but the result of numerous informal conversations among people who have known each other for years." Still, the Obama campaign knows it will have to approach many of these people directly and is currently working on a list of people who the senator will call personally. Of course, the process is hardly one-sided, as many Clinton aides are trying to position themselves for a spot in Obama's team. Although some moves seem almost inevitable, bringing in such a large number of people from a former opponent is likely to raise tensions. Even leaving aside the issue of lingering animosity between the two camps, Obama's advisers could feel offended if they suddenly find themselves "playing second fiddle to better-known figures," as the WSJ puts it and dearly hopes, being a GOP rag.  Still true, though.

Edward Kennedy is recovering from what his surgeon called a successful operation to remove a malignant brain tumor. The 76-year-old senator now faces an even tougher challenge as he prepares to undergo follow-up radiation and chemotherapy that could prolong survival. Although Kennedy's prognosis remains grim, experts say he will likely benefit from groundbreaking research that is finding new ways to increase the survival of patients with brain cancer. He has courage aplenty, though.  A tough decision.

President Hugo Chávez's moves to overhaul the country's intelligence agencies have annoyed human rights groups and legal scholars, who say Chávez is trying to create a Cuba-style nation of informers because people, including judges and prosecutors, are now required to cooperate with Venezuela's two new intelligence agencies. Somewhat less than shocking, and this predictable result should have occurred to those who've praised him in the past.  Bush isn't always wrong, coincident or not.

Chávez has been quick to label anyone who criticizes the new intelligence law as a supporter of the "empire," meaning the United States, as well as of the Bush administration and the Patriot Act. Again, shocking. The NYT points out that while the new intelligence law "has similar flourishes" to the Patriot Act, it also seems to have been inspired in part by Cuban policies. Most significantly, Venezuela's use of community groups to help intelligence agencies is similar to the way Cuba uses neighborhood groups to report on activities that are seen as subversive. Legal experts are exploring ways to appeal its implementation, but it's unclear whether such a challenge would even be possible for a law that was written and passed behind closed doors.

We need to admit that Mexico is fucked.  The LAT announces the "war" currently being fought in Mexico between government forces and drug gangs. Since the crackdown against drug traffickers was launched a year and a half ago, approximately 4,100 people have been killed, including gang members, civilians, and members of the country's security forces. While officials insist the increased violence is a sign that the drug gangs have been hurt by the crackdown, a majority of Mexicans don't think the government is winning, and political analysts say the crackdown merely moves violence into different areas of the country while doing little to disband the gangs.

John McCain yesterday called for a worldwide divestment campaign against Iran that would be modeled on the strategy that pushed South Africa to abandon apartheid, but Obama's campaign quickly fired back by saying the presumptive Republican nominee had voted against a divestment bill that was sponsored by the senator from Illinois. Meanwhile, USAT notes that the family investments of both senators include mutual funds that have shares in companies doing business in Iran. After the paper raised questions, Obama said he would get rid of his investment. McCain's campaign said the senator's wife once had three of these mutual funds but has sold two of them and is looking into what to do about the third.

Censorship continues around the world as the NYT fronts a dispatch from Moscow that takes a look at how there's a Kremlin-created "stop list" that includes the names of government critics who are not allowed to appear on television. If a critic somehow makes it into the taping of a show, as happened once last fall, he or she could be digitally erased before it airs. Government officials deny such a list exists, but it's clear that network executives know who they can and can't invite into their shows. The result is that now it's pretty much impossible to find anyone speaking critically, or even satirically, of the government on Russian television. Again, shocking, although the enabler was Bush, seeing into Putin's soul.

In history, the First Crusade got its first victory when in 1098 it seized Antioch, Turkey.

This day in 1539, Hernando De Soto claimed Florida for Spain. He then started a land march to Texas, bad idea, that killed nearly everyone in his troop and unleashed a pandemic that cleaned the land of Indians for a century.

On this day in 1784, the United States Congress created the United States Army.

This day in 1805, a peace treaty between the U.S. and Tripoli was completed in the captain's cabin on board the USS Constitution.

In 1923, before many other nations, Italy under Benito Mussolini granted women the right to vote.

Here in Colorado in 1959, the first class graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

In 1965, Edward White became the first American astronaut to do a "space walk" when he left the Gemini 4 capsule. White died in an Apollo fire that killed Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee a few years later.  

In 1989, the feudal aspects of Shi'ism and Islam came alive as Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became dead.  After 11 days in a hospital, recovering from surgery to stop internal hemorrhaging, the old man passed on, and his funeral disgraced everything when people trying to touch - or possibly desecrate - his body collapsed the coffin. That same day, Chinese army troops positioned themselves to began a sweep of Beijing to crush student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Good day for the networks.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bo Diddly has died.  He was one of the last acts I had as a promoter, and he was a cool old man.  He remained charmingly bitter about how much he'd been ripped off, and that was correct.  A lot of people would be doing something different tonight as for the last half century without Bo's inspiration.  A good guy, to be long missed, if there is justice in this world.  Or guilt, anyway.

Bush continues the nauseating pander to the military and Brokaw's Generation by announcing his consideration of making WWII battle sites national monuments.  What additional protections or point these might have for the sites, which are on military bases, is of interest, but it gives Bush a chance to stroke McCain's electorate and present himself as concerned, etc.  A truly vile man, George W. Bush.

A heavy snow melt has got Colorado's attention, and not just because of the rapid white waters that have attracted and killed not a few so far.  The potential is for wide area flooding which in itself is preferable to the flash floods of narrow canyons.  Like, you know, Boulder's.  A heavy runoff combined with a stagnant thunderstorm could spell the end of central Boulder as we know it, and this according to the nation's flood experts who have warned us of our danger for years.

As we speak, Senator Kennedy of my former state of Massachusetts is having his brain tumor set upon.  At age 76, it's a crap shoot at best, and there is more than a passing chance that we've heard his voice for the last time, given the tumor's location.  Whatever one thinks of him - and there's a lot that elbows its way to the front of my mind - he was a great Senator for his state and people, without any question. He kept the best staff by paying out of his own pocket.  He worked hard.

He was a liberal in the ways his brothers were not, and he learned and changed.  Unlike many of his detractors, Kennedy served two years active duty and was, like brother Joe absent the death part, in a plane crash that so screwed up his back and gave him perpetual pain that alcoholism might be seen as self medication.  Unlike brother John, he could drink. He has earned the respect and the gratitude of Conservative GOP members, many of whom are his friends.  That's what the Senate was supposed to be, and it is possible we have seen the last of this guy, at least able to speak and to write.  The operation is a huge risk, but as has been typical there seems to have been few moments of doubt as to what should be done.  Good on ya, Senator Kennedy.

His father was one of the past century's great SOB's, a Mafia associate who made his money and a lot of money in running drugs, then merely booze, during the Depression.  Lot of folks did.  He betrayed his wife and got his daughter a lobotomy because she was becoming an issue more than for her health.  He pushed his sons and competed with them for women, which meets the ick factor in just about everyone.  He was a terrible ambassador to Great Britain, because he sought compromise if not capitulation to the Nazis, whom he might have thought were no worse than his business partners.  A shit of the first water.

But his surviving sons, the favorite being killed during the war, became Senators, one them later a President, and the greatest of them all turned out to be the one nobody thought much of.  Clearly, he thought much of them, and clearly he learned his lessons well.

Good luck to Senator Kennedy today.  And should the cosmos decree we not hear you again, hear us: Thank you, Eward.

Clinton's resounding victory in Puerto Rico's Democratic presidential primary doesn't seem to mean much, overall, despite taking 68 percent of the vote.  She vowed that she would not exit the race before tomorrow's final primaries in Montana and South Dakota. In all likelihood, the victory will be remembered as little more than a souvenir of what was apparently a lovely vacation. Disinclined to challenge the DNC's decision to award Sen. Barack Obama a portion of the vote from the disputed Michigan primary, her best shot at the nomination now seems to involve winning the popular vote and using that to lure superdelegates. Obama, approximately 47 delegates away from clinching the nomination, certainly doesn't sound concerned: He congratulated Clinton on her victory and said that she would be a "great asset" during the general election.

Obama is such an unknown, and the Obamaboys seem so half baked, I hope to hell we know what we're doing.  I know Clinton can beat McCain.

Although some hardcore supporters appear ready to battle until the convention, many Clinton loyalists seem finally to be admitting that their days are numbered. (The key number is 2,118.) "It would be most beneficial if we resolved this nomination sooner rather than later," said one Clinton superdelegate, and the sentiment resounds throughout all of today's campaign coverage.

Operational improvements in U.S.-operated prisons in Iraq may soon be neutralized if the U.S. agrees to remand thousands of prisoners to the custody of the Iraqi government. The NYT has an extensive article, filled with praise for a remade detention system that offers prisoners fair administrative hearings and educational programs, and is suspiciously encouraging, reading something like a press release.

Pakistan's inability or reluctance to capture Baitallah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban and the alleged brains behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is in the crosshairs. Mehsud, who regularly appears in public, openly operates terror training camps near the Afghan border. "If the army took firm action they could crush him in two months," said one frustrated tribal leader. Pakistan seems to have thought that Mehsud's border presence could be useful in a theoretical war with India.

USAT covers Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, an insurgent haven recently partitioned by a long wall intended to, as one merchant puts it, "separate the bad Sadr City and the good Sadr City." Although the three-week-old wall has been a security boon, the difficulties involved in passing through it have crippled many retailers stuck on the American side. "If the market is going to die, then maybe the Mahdi Army would be better," said one retailer.

By the by?  The 19 American military deaths in Iraq in May were the fewest since the 2003 invasion.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has blasted the government of Burma, accusing the ruling junta of "criminal neglect" for its refusal to allow international foreign aid into its cyclone-damaged country, the NYT reports. Four American aid ships, treading water near Burma's borders for the past few days, will probably be recalled soon.

A highly suspicious fire in strike primed LA at the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot and theme park. The fire was the second there in as many decades, which doesn't seem excessive, though. Attractions like the King Kong tour and the town square from the movie Back to the Future were badly damaged (save the clock tower, anyone?) as "the towering cloud of black smoke made it look as if Hollywood was producing a film about its own doomsday." Efforts to extinguish the unexplained blaze were hampered by low water pressure and a malfunctioning sprinkler system. Good signs come the big quake and the big burn to follow.

USA Today leads with news that national public transit usage reached record numbers in the first quarter of 2008. The ridership spike is straining the capacity of many cities' underfunded transit agencies. Ironic, what?

A record number of immigrants caught crossing the border between the United States and Mexico are being prosecuted on criminal charges. In February alone, 7,250 criminal immigration cases were brought in federal court. Officials claim that Operation Streamline has helped deter potential illegal aliens from crossing the border; critics claim that the program "makes for good election-year politics but poor policy."

The NYT reports that the nation's credit crisis has induced many student lenders to stop loaning money to students attending some less-than-prestigious colleges and universities. The banks—including PNC, SunTrust, and Citibank—cite higher default rates as one reason why they have dropped certain schools from their loan programs. "I find it totally and completely unethical," said the financial aid director at William Jessup University. I don't.  Why susbsidize a pointless degree?

In history, this day in 1537, Pope Paul III banned the enslavement of Indians. Partially due to good intentions, it led to the slave trade with Africa and followed the results of the first pandemics which decimated the Americas.

A straw, a camel, and hushed breath.  In 1774, the Quartering Act, which required American colonists to allow British soldiers into their houses, was reenacted.

In 1793, Maximillian Robespierre initiated the "Reign of Terror". It was an effort to purge those suspected of treason against the French Republic. By which was meant himself.  It got him in the end.

It was this day in 1897 that Mark Twain, at age 61, was quoted by the New York Journal as saying "the report of my death was an exaggeration." He was responding to the rumors that he had died.

The liquor talking.  In 1924, it was, that all American Indians were granted U.S. citizenship by the U.S. Congress. Big of us, eh?  Eh?

This day in 1941, Lou Gehrig died in New York of the degenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

In 1953, Elizabeth was crowned queen of England at Westminster Abbey.

A year to the day later, Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that there were communists working in the CIA and atomic weapons plants. Probably.  So what?

In 1966, Surveyor 1, the U.S. space probe, landed on the moon and started sending photographs back to Earth of the Moon's surface. It was the first soft landing on the Moon. Three years later, the handheld Instamatics took over.

In 1997, Timothy McVeigh was found guilty of the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in which 168 people were killed.

In 1999 in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) won a major victory. ANC leader Thabo Mbeki was to succeed Nelson Mandela as the nation's president. Not a great follow up to Mandela.

A stupid, stupid move.  In 2003, federal regulators voted to allow companies to buy more television stations and newspaper-broadcasting combinations in the same city. The previous ownership restrictions had not been altered since 1975.  In the hands of fewer and fewer.

This day in 2003, in Seville, Spain, a chest containing the supposed remains of Christopher Columbus were exhumed for DNA tests to determine whether the bones were really those of the explorer. The tests were aimed at determining if Colombus was currently buried in Spain's Seville Cathedral or in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Uncertain results.

Pending decisions involving the Internet look to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling this day that companies could not be sued under a trademark law for using information in the public domain without giving credit to the originator. The case had originated with 20th Century Fox against suing Dastar Corp. over their use of World War II footage.

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