NDN Blog

12/10 Roundup: Crooked Rod, Future Cars, Blago or Tony Soprano?

Blago SopranoLeader: Crooked Rod

- Nobody ever said politics was a squeaky clean business, but Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has taken us to new lows-- new, at least, since the darkest days of Tammany Hall-style machine politics.  The governor was arrested yesterday morning, ending a "corruption crime spree" highlighted by his attempt to sell the Senate seat Barack Obama has vacated and Blago has the exclusive right to fill.

- The Chicago Tribune has the full complaint against Blago here. The Trib itself was caught up in all this, as the paper withheld a story revealing that the Governor's phones had been tapped, to avoid spoiling the investigation.  Further, the paper was one subject of the Governor's wrath-- he threatened to withhold state funding of the paper unless the ownership fired unfriendly editorial writers.  "Slimebag" has been redefined.

- Barack Obama seems to be clean, but Ben Smith of Politico sees risks for Obama nonetheless. The big question, however, is how the empty seat will be filled.  Clearly, nobody thinks Blago should choose, though he still has the constitutional right.  Chris Cillizza covers the tricky processes ahead, and CQ looks at the possibility that the Illinois Legislature will strip Blago of his power and put the seat up for a vote.


- Congress has reached an agreement that would send $15 billion in loans to GM and Chrysler, and compel President Bush to immediately appoint a Car Czar to oversee the progress of the auto manufacturers as they restructure.

- $15 billion for auto makers now is like $15 billion for the mail-order catalogue business on the eve of eBay. So says Tom Friedman in the NY Times.  Why? Because Shai Agassi has the model of the future, just waiting for an investment like that: A national network of electric car-charging stations.


- Speaking of corrupt governors, Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, is seeking to have his 2006 bribery conviction overturned.  

- Gebe Martinez writes in Politico that immigration is an issue Obama can't ignore.  It will undoubtedly claim much of his attention in his first term.


- Riots rage into their fourth day in Greece following the shooting of a boy by a police officer. The riots have pulled together an odd coalition: Anarchists, left-wing pacifists, and high school students.

One More Thing

- Benjy Sarlin has a really fun game: Guess the speaker of the quote, Blago or Tony Soprano!

- Joe the Plumber tells all!  Turns out he was appalled by John McCain.

- Last, perhaps all this Blagononsense will be more believable coming from a US Attorney, rather than me:



12/9 Roundup: Czarship, Damning Documents, The Nanny Senate


- President-Elect Barack Obama (or PEBO, as he is coming to be known), will meet with his eminence Albert Gore this morning. Climate change will top the agenda, but it doesn't seem that Gore is interested in any Cabinet position, Czarship, or Poobahdom.

- The insiders are pointing to Kevin Gover, the director of the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian.  As a member of the Pawnee tribe, Gover would be the first American Indian ever appointed to the cabinet.

- Caroline Kennedy has emerged as the frontrunner to take over Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, and with people like Michael Bloomberg and Uncle Ted shilling for her, her odds can't be bad. Richard Bradley at State doesn't think it's such a great idea.


- Congress is close to agreeing on a plan to bail out GM and Chrysler with $15 billion.  Ford has announced it will not be seeking short-term assistance.

- David Brooks has an oddly progressive column in the NY Times, calling for less of the stimulus package to be spent on old, 20th century infrastructure projects, and more on infrastructure that will make transportation networks more of a network, instead of a hub and spoke system. Additionally, he calls for the creation of socially sustainable suburban "town centers."


- Five Guantanamo detainees accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks said they would plead guilty to murder and war crimes, but then retracted the offer when they discovered they might not be sentenced to execution.

- Damning court documents were unsealed yesterday, detailing the government's case against the five Blackwater guards accused of opening fire on a crowded square in Baghdad and killing 17 civilians.


- Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, has an Op-Ed in today's NY Times. He is at pains to argue that the Mumbai terrorists seek to undermine peace and stability in Pakistan, as well as India.

- Riots in Athens continue to get worse. With the funeral of the boy who was killed coming up soon, things may get worse before they get better.

One More Thing

- Karl Rove says he's going to "name names" in his new book of people who were "unrecieving" of President Bush.  Evidently, this is supposed to be a bad thing.

- The WaPo gives us the lo-down on inaugural balls. If you ask me, Tuesday, January 20th sounds like a great day to go visit your friends in not-DC.

- Fran Drescher would like to be appointed to the US Senate, please.  (Seriously)

- Last, ok, it's a slow news day. It's also a slow video day.  Here is a squirrel waterskiing:

12/8 Roundup: Bailouts, Burst Bubbles, The Best and the Brightest

Bubble BurstLeader: Of Bailouts and Burst Bubbles

- It looks like Detroit will get the bailout they need, if not precisely the bailout they asked for. The bailout proposal, currently being drafted by Congressional Democrats, could come up for a vote as early as tomorrow.

- The economic downturn is accelerating, and nobody is in control.  So says Carolyn Lochhead of the SF Chronicle.  Rob is quoted on the seemingly random nature of bailouts so far:  "The value of these measures thus far has been to stave off a total meltdown, which we flirted with," but he points out that Paulson has done little to put a stop to the foundation of the crisis: housing foreclosures.

- Speaking on Meet the Press yesterday, Barack Obama predicted the economy would get worse before it got better.  On the upside, we may come out of all this "leaner, meaner, and more prosperous."

- On Friday the government reported another half million jobs were lost in November-- the biggest single-month loss since 1974. 


- Frank Rich reflects on the phrase "The Best and the Brightest," coined by David Halberstam not to praise, but to lampoon the JFK wunderkind staffers who led us into Vietnam. We apply the phrase to Obama's staff at our own peril.

- There have been precious few leaks about who will be energy secretary, but Chris Cillizza runs down the list. Byron Dorgan is out.

- Retired General Erik Shinseki, summarily dismissed from his post in 2003 for being a little too realistic about Iraq, has been tapped by Obama to head Veterans' Affairs.

- Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana was upset in an election held Saturday. The Democrats gained a seat, however, with Mary Jo Kilroy's victory in the 15th congressional district of Ohio.


- That tolling you hear is the death knell of journalism as we know it.  The latest peal: Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and a host of other media properties, may soon be filing for bankruptcy.

- Jonathan Alter and Howard Fineman do a double-team on education.  Alter writes about Bill Gates' newest push for school reform, and Fineman has a little profile on Inez Moore Tenenbaum, an early Obama-nik from South Carolina with an exemplary record as state superintendent of education-- might she be an ideal choice for Secretary of Ed?

- The WaPo also focuses on Education by following on Time's profile of Michelle Rhee with another look at the DC Chancellor of Schools. Despite her media stardom, public opinion of her is rather mixed.


- The Pakistani military reportedly raided a camp in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir used by Lakshar-e-Taiba, the organization suspected in the Mumbai attacks.  It is not yet clear whether the raid was a serious blow or merely symbolic. The NY Times reports that Pakistan's intelligence services, the ISI, aided Lakshar-e-Taiba in preparing for the Mumbai attack.

- Youth have been clashing with police in Greece, following the police shooting of a young boy in Athens last week. The CS Monitor looks to the past, and sees parallels to a shooting in 1985 that led to months of violence.

One More Thing

- For whatever reason, Homo sapiens love top-ten lists.  Time quenches our thirst with the top ten everything of 2008.

- Amsterdam is suddenly a less enticing place to visit.

- Last, SNL stays politically relevant, even without a Sarah Palin to spoof:



12/5 Roundup: Please Sir, Texan Shrubbery, Will Obama be Damon Weaver's Homeboy?

Oliver!Leader: Please, Sir

- Congress swarmed with penitent auto execs yesterday, arms outstretched and palms upturned.  The execs took a public thrashing in the Senate Banking Committee, and said they would accept government oversight in exchange for the $34 billion they're requesting. 

- Though GM and Chrysler both claim to need the cash before year's end, lest they implode completely, lawmakers were unforgiving, and wouldn't make any promises.

- Senator Shelby of Alabama grilled the executives on perhaps the gravest of questions: How did they get from Detroit to Washington? "Did you drive or did you have a driver? Did you drive a little and ride a little? And secondly, I guess are you going to drive back?" He was very serious.  And he got answers (they shared the driving).

- Writing for Slate, Eliot Spitzer says it's time to let the market work.  Sometimes companies disappear. 


- Ed Kilgore (aka the Democratic Strategist) has an excellent post wondering if Republicans are in favor of a deep recession.

- Xavier Becerra has emerged as a frontrunner for the position of US Trade Representative. The NY Times notes some political advantages the selection would afford Mr. Obama.

- The whole national mall will be open to anybody whomsoever might decide to spend hours standing in the freezing cold to catch a glimpse of a mite-sized speck that might be Barack Obama, or might just be a mite-sized speck.

- The Bushes have bought a home in Dallas, which I think is a great place for them to be.


- The Federal Reserve has a new tactic to fight the collapse of the economy: Stem foreclosures and keep people in their homes. Wonderful, Chairman Bernanke! Did you think of that yourself?

- Paul Krugman isn't sure it will be possible to halt rising unemployment before it hits  double digits.


- Speculation is beginning as to where in the world will be Obama's first stop on his initial foreign tour. The Times reports that he plans to make a speech in the capital of a Muslim country in his first 100 days.  Cairo would be the obvious choice,  but perhaps it will be Jakarta?

- Not wanting to miss the party, France has announced a $33 billion stimulus package aimed to curb rising unemployment.

One More Thing

- So, it turns out that happiness is contagious after all. A happy next-door neighbor will make you 34% more likely to be happy, and a friend living within a mile gives you a 42% bump.  Curiously (or perhaps not) happy coworkers have exactly zero effect.

- Did you hear the one about the woman who hung up twice on the president-elect?  Oh wait... Oops.

- Last, fifth grader Damon Weaver takes his journalistic career to the next level, entreating President-elect Barack Obama to do an interview with him.  Joe Biden is already Damon's homeboy, as is Dwayne Wade, so Barack would be in good company. 



12/4 Roundup: Mission Transition, Deficits be Damned, The President Who Looked Most Like a Bird

New Yorker CoverLeader: Mission Transition

- Ceci Connolly has a piece in the WaPo on the way the Obama team is transitioning its wildly successful hi-tech campaign tools into hi-tech health care policy reform tools. Simon is quoted:  "This is the beginning of the reinvention of what the presidency in the 21st century could be. This will reinvent the relationship of the president to the American people in a way we probably haven't seen since FDR's use of radio in the 1930s."

- A lobbying frenzy has broken out over the Secretaryship of the Interior.

- Karen Tumulty and Mark Thompson at Time comment on the strong personalities Obama has assembled in his national security team. Will he be able to get them to agree on much?

- An anonymous blogger mysteriously gains access to Steve Clemons's blog, and writes about the grinding angst as he waits by his phone, hoping for a call from Barack Obama. You're not alone, anonymous.


- Mega-Union United Auto Workers (UAW) made serious and surprising concessions yesterday, agreeing to accept reductions in job security guarantees and certain retiree health care provisions if it will help GM and Chrysler obtain much-needed federal aid.

- The Treasury is considering forcing down mortgage interest rates to historic lows. Mortgage qualifications would remain the same, leading some to be skeptical that lower rates would have much of an effect in stimulating new home buying.


- Bill Gates arrived in Washington with a clear message: Deficits be damned! Increase spending! 

- Al Franken says that Al Franken is now ahead in the Minnesota recount! Charles Seife writes on the NY Times Op-Ed page that, regardless of the outcome of the recount, the margin of error will be way bigger than the difference in votes. If we're going to do this fairly, the only thing to do is flip a coin... 

- Illinois Governor Blagojevich has begun to share his thoughts on who might succeed Barack Obama in the Senate. He's not giving much away, just  yet. 


- Just when you thought everything that could go wrong in Zimbabwe had already gone wrong, the nation declared a national health emergency over a major cholera epidemic.

- Secretary Rice is in India, trying to cool the waters

One More Thing

- Thought you'd seen the last of Eliot Spitzer? Yeah, me too.  Well, turns out he'll be Slate's newest columnist.  Perhaps writing for an online magazine is ideal, as it won't require the disgraced Governor ever to show his face outside his upstate New York home.

- Barack Obama was totally pissed that Bill Richardson shaved his beard.  That makes two of us, Mr. President-elect, that makes two of us.

- Last, somebody made this great video of the 44 presidents' (ok, 43, with Grover Cleveland twice) faces morphing one into the next.  Apropos of this, I'd like to give out a few awards:

  • President who looked most like a bird: John Tyler
  • President with the widest head: Martin van Buren
  • Best facial hair: Chester A. Arthur
  • President who looks most like he wants to eat you: Jimmy Carter


12/3 Roundup: Big Bad Three, Very Large Shoes, BHO Doesn't Want No Sissy Dog

Car Companies on FireLeader: Big Bad Three

- Detroit's Big Three returned to Washington with their official supplications. GM and Chrysler were at pains to make clear that they could collapse completely within a few weeks without billions in aid. GM needs $4 billion immediately, and eventually will need $18 billion.  Chrysler needs $7 billion. GM acknowledged the need for major cuts: Saab, Saturn and Pontiac are on the chopping block, along with thousands of dealerships and tens of thousands of employees.

- Ford is in a slightly less precarious position, saying they could squeeze through the next year without any help, but is asking for a $9 billion (and possibly up to $13 billion) standby loan that it hopes never to use. The automaker says it has already done most necessary internal restructuring, but will entertain the idea of selling itself to Volvo.

- Steve Pearlstein of the WaPo looks at Chrysler's offer, and finds it unattractive. It looks to him like the corporation is just trying to tide itself over until it can be merged into GM or bought by a foreign auto maker.  After being vomited up a few years ago by the German company formerly known as DaimlerChrysler, I'm not sure anybody is clambering to get their hands on this property.


- Time has an article on why the above mess may all wind up on Obama's plate.  Yuck.

- The Washington Post has another editorial arguing immigration reform should be a top priority for Obama.

- The state of Hawaii has endorsed a plan advanced by Shai Agassi to create the necessary infrastructure for electric cars to roam free.

- David Gregory will step into Tim Russert's very large shoes at Meet the Press.

- Rep. Xavier Becerra, a moderate on trade, looks to be Obama's choice for US Trade Representative.

- Sen. Mel Martinez will retire from the Senate in 2010 after just one term representing Florida. Jeb Bush of the Bush family just might consider replacing him.

- In Georgia's runoff election, Jim Martin got curb-stomped by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, which the Democratic Strategist sees as retroactive evidence of an "Obama Effect" in play on November 4th.

- Howard Fineman comments on Obama's meeting with the nation's governors.  The poor states need to be bailed out, he says.

- Obama will announce Bill Richardson as his choice for Secretary of Commerce today.


- Condoleeza Rice has arrived in New Delhi in the hopes of easing subcontinental tensions after the Mumbai bombings.  The NY Times has an excellent report looking at the origins of the terrorists and their attack-- now indisputably within Pakistan.

- A Thai court has decided that the ruling party must disband, and all those people sitting on the road to the airport got up and walked away.

One More Thing

- Bad news for those looking for jobs in the administration:  Add this guy to your list of competitors.

- Last, Barack Obama doesn't want no sissy dog:

12/2 Roundup: It's Official, Solving Kashmir, Bush Concedes Something

Congratulations!Leader: It's Official

- In perhaps the least surprising headline story in history, we discover today that our country is (this time officially) in a recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research has finally confirmed what most Americans have suspected for some time. Congratulations, everyone.  It turns out that we've been in a recession for a year now, making it already the longest recession since the 1980s, and projections indicate that this one could last into 2010-- which may mean that it will turn out to be the worst recession since the 1930s. Ladies and Gentlemen, tighten your belts.


- Barack Obama's national security team was announced yesterday.  No surprises. But with Hillary Clinton officially slated to serve at State, the surprises can begin-- who will replace her in the Senate?  Frontrunner Rep. Nita Lowey, who was going to run for Senate in New York in 2000 until Hillary showed up on the scene, has officially withdrawn from contention. New Yorker William J. Clinton has also clarified that he's not particularly interested in the seat. So who will it be? Andrew Cuomo? Byron Brown? Adolofo Carrion? Thomas Suozzi? Robert Kennedy Jr.? Hold your breath.


- As the dust settles, many are asking how the United States ought to respond to the terror attacks in Mumbai. Pankaj Mishra, writing on the NY Times Op-Ed page, suggests that the key to reconciliation between India and Pakistan is a peaceful, mutually acceptable resolution to the Kashmir conflict. Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation has an idea to make the seemingly impossible: Send negotiations wizard Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to the conflict.

One More Thing

- President Bush acknowledged that the recent election was a repudiation of Republicans, and conceded that many people probably voted for Barack Obama "because of me."  In related news, the Texas indictments against Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez have been dismissed.

- Last, Jon Stewart on the partisan cable news channel of the future:


12/1 Roundup: Mumbai Blowback, National Security Pick 5, ¡Obamanos!

Taj HotelLeader: Mumbai Blowback

- Days after the end of the siege, many questions still lie unanswered about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. The death toll has still not solidified, but it is somewhere near 200. The Washington Post has a step-by-step report on how the attackers carried out their plan. It appears the terrorists may have had inside help-- accomplices who left weapons for them, and allowed them to have intimate knowledge with the layout of the hotel.

- It appears that India's police forces failed dramatically to respond in the early stages of the attacks, in some cases running away from attackers, and failing to return fire. India's top domestic security minister has resigned in the wake of the attacks.

- Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is on her way to India to demonstrate America's solidarity with India after what some Indians are calling "our 9/11."

- Courtesy of Steve Clemons, three recent pieces of good analysis on the Mumbai attacks: Steve Coll decodes Mumbai, looking at the political situation, particularly in Kashmir, that led to these attacks; for the Guardian, Paul Cruickshank covers the search for those responsible; Juan Cole offers advice for the Indian government, urging them not to take the Bush-Cheney road.


- This morning, Barack Obama will announce his national security team, including Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, James Jones as National Security Advisor, Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security Advisor, Susan Rice as Ambassador to the UN.  To clear the way for his wife's Secretaryship.

- Bill Clinton has agreed to disclose the names of all donors to his foundation, and turn down donations from foreign governments.

- Progressives have been foaming at the mouth in consternation over Obama's picks.

- The LA Times runs a story on the "emerging consensus" on health care.  Apparently this consensus rejects universal coverage, opting instead to preserve employer-based coverage.  


- Roger Cohen has advice for Hillary Clinton in her dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict: Try tough love, with an emphasis on the tough.

- The Times editorial board praises the choice of Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security, particularly in the work she could do to fix our illegal immigration problem. The Arizona Republic also hopes the new congress could make some progress on immigration, finally.

One More Thing

- Sarah Palin will campaign for Sen. Saxby Chambliss in Georgia. That worked really well for John McCain, so presumably Chambliss is stoked.

- ¡Obamanos! Hendrik Herztberg comes across a new slogan for the Obama presidency.

- The State Department has gone digital! You can now watch spokesman Sean McCormick give addresses on StateVideo, the department's YouTube channel.  Rather than make you sit through one of those, however, I've got another offering from the channel, in which Harrison Ford reminds you about the evils of illegal wildlife trafficking:

Holiday Bloggery & Offering of Thanks

This forum will be going dark tomorrow, and will be running until Monday on a schedule that permits the editors to give adequate thanks and consume adequate quantities of flightless fowl.

To show our thanks and appreciation for you, dear reader, I offer a pair of videos meant to inspire neither thought nor reflection-- only hilarity. Happy Thanksgiving!

11/25 Roundup: Econ Squad, Don't Ask Don't Bother, Pardoning the Fugees

The SquadLeader: Econ Squad

- Barack Obama announced his economic team yesterday. Captained by Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury, the group also includes Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council and Christina Romer as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors. Around the web, economists seem pretty pleased with the selections. NDN's Robert Shapiro, speaking to Forbes, says of the selections: "It tells you that not only does President-elect Obama have respect for expertise, but that he is very comfortable in an administration with very major figures."

- Obama has sounded increasingly willing to take on greater debt through deficit spending, in what would be an attempt to jump-start the economy and create jobs. There is talk that Obama would like a $500 billion stimulus package waiting for him on his desk in the Oval Office on his first day. Josh Marshall takes a look at his calendar, and concludes such a bill would need to be written in the next four weeks.


- After suggesting he would leave the cash to Obama's team, the Worst Treasury Secretary in Modern Times suggested yesterday that he might actually want that $350 billion to spend himself.

- George Soros takes to the pages of NYRoB to offer his thoughts on the economic crisis, and what to do about it.


- Joe Biden's seat in the Senate will be filled by longtime ally Ted Kaufman. This may or may not be a tactic to keep the seat warm between Bidens.

- It seems ever more likely that Jim Jones will be Obama's National Security Advisor.  And as the wild cheers and applause die down, everyone leans to their neighbor and asks in a hushed whisper: "Who's Jim Jones?"

- Reversing "Don't ask don't tell" will apparently not be a first-week priority for Obama, though Nathaniel Frank writes in TNR that it would be much easier now than in 1993.

- Susan Rice looks increasingly likely to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations


- Venezuelan voters dealt a blow to President Hugo Chavez in regional voting.  Though his allies won 17 of 22  states, his party did unexpectedly poorly in certain districts seen as Chavez strongholds-- poor urban areas and regions dependent on the oil industry, particularly.

- A Russian warship cruises into the Caribbean this week for joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan Navy. In more heartening Russia news, Moscow has suggested they're tired of escalating tensions over the proposed missile defense shield. 

One More Thing

- President Bush pardoned fourteen criminals yesterday, and commuted the sentences of two others. Perhaps representative of a shift in his musical tastes, among those pardoned was John Forte of the Fugees, who was in the can for pushing blow back in '01. Perhaps the president should consider pardoning the rest of the Fugees for disbanding at the peak of the greatness in 1997.  Seriously, why would they do that to us?

- President Bush (who seems to appear in this final section, usually reserved for the likes of Sarah Palin and Long Island schoolchildren, more and more often) had an awkward press conference yesterday apparently trying to appear as though he has some control over what's going on.  Appropriately, he can barely be heard, while Hank Paulson stands behind him looking like Uncle Fester with his head darting around nervously as though he's afraid of being seen with this man:


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