Friday, June 20, 2008

The TR: No-Bid Contracts, No-Public-Financing Candidates, and No-Protection Teens

The Queen has temporarily escaped the D.C. humidity and freak sun-showers, but there's no time-out for the TR! Worry not, dear readers: Sit back, relax, and imagine you're on the beach. Ah, feel that breeze? Smell that snark?

Forecast

It's Oldies Weekend at TR Central. If you recall the controversial no-bid contracts doled out to Western companies in Iraq post-invasion, this headline will sound familiar: "Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back." More than three decades after being banished by Saddam, eastern oil companies are poised to win no-bid oil contracts to service Iraq's largest oil fields. Of course, some cranky and bitter cynics say this is the real reason we went to war. Fire up your search engines - the story will be everywhere by early next week.

With House Dems caving on amnesty for the telecomsthat aid domestic spying, ACLU-types are fit to be tied. But what makes this a Forecast item are the netroots' war criesin response. Our dusted-off crystal ball sees Internet-charged primary challenges for the Blue Dogs in Congress.

Fresh off the wire comes the news that the AFL-CIO is set to endorse Obama "within weeks." No surprise there. But expect a big lead-up with pro-labor rhetoric from O's camp, meaning more trade speeches and a promise or two.

Next week, Hillary throws open her treasure box to Obama as the two target her major supporters in their first joint fundraising event. Obama's fundraising activities are under scrutiny now that his campaign has pledged to forego public financing. What's gone under the radar is that McCain's refusal to rein in the backdoor swiftboat-style 527s factored heavily in O's decision. Expect a vigorous debate over campaign-finance ethics in the weeks to come.

Take the Megabus from DC to New York for a buck, and spend your transport savings on admission to the Personal Democracy Forum, June 23 to 24. Heavyweight bloggers will be on hand to discuss the nexus between technology outreach and politics. As an added incentive, both the right and left will be hosting workshops, yielding ample opportunities for espionage - uh, cross-pollination. You can meet citizen-journalist phenom Mayhill Fowler and... Gilberto Gil!? The Queen of Snark is dispatching Gloria Pan as her ambassador, so if you don't have anything nice to say, go sit by Gloria.

The Week That Was

While the price of corn skyrockets to eight dollars a bushel, McCain and Bush separately took pains to survey the Midwestern flood damage. Wouldn't want to appear to belong to the same party or anything. Even more awkward, the Republican brand still hasn't recovered from Katrina and An Inconvenient Truth. Someone should tell the GOP in the nicest way that photo ops in climate-related disaster areas don't really work for them.

And we learned this week that there actually is a critical mass of people who dislike Michelle Obama, a mass large enough to warrant a front-page story in the NY Times and for Obama's people to attempt what some are calling a "Hillary Makeover" by inserting her as a guest host on The View. Since most political public figures arrive at the national scene already thoroughly hardened by years in the trenches, this is a rare opportunity indeed to see the authenticity of a charming, accomplished, proud woman erode before our eyes. We shed tears over Michelle's loss of innocence.

The late Tim Russert has received the encomiums he earned and deserved. But do members of the media honor his spirit as well as they did his memory? The public Russert, the one we got to know over the course of many Sunday mornings, was a humble steward and unapologetic student of journalism. The best possible tributes to him would be incisive investigative reports on page 4 rather than sentimental prose in the obituary section.

The counterassault on the housing crunch took its first prisoners of war this week when "Operation: Malicious Mortgage" led to the arrest of two senior managers at Bear Sterns. Our Legal Department here at TR Central has a unique perspective on this: These arrests reek of political bloodlust. The goal: to pawn off the failed market on a few greedy opportunists so the Administration looks innocent of the failure of the election-year economy.

In the face of record gas prices, Americans drove 1.4 billion miles less this April than they did a year ago, extending the decline to its sixth year in a row. While we're happy that fewer people on the road means we might get to work just a teensy bit faster, less gas-tax revenue means we'll be driving rather bumpier roads.

The rough economy is distracting parents from their supervisory responsibilities. Exhibits A through R come from Gloucester High School in Massachusetts, where 17 girls, all under age 16, intentionally became pregnant this year as part of a pact. Doesn't help that this "fiercely Catholic" (sez Time) blue-collar enclave is in no hurry to ease access to birth control. The Queen loves her children dearly, but surely would not have attained Queendom had she not postponed parenthood until she completed her education.

Scorecard

As we predicted, the media and the candidates picked up on the GITMO detainee debate, with Obama hitting McCain hard in his big anti-terrorism speech. Even George Will speculated that McCain's position would eventually hurt him.

Reader Comments

The Queen is on an extended tour of the Carolinas, where she heard a remark so appalling it must be repeated here. In a car crowded with members of all generations from babyhood to near-senility, the Queen's procession passed through a small southern town. When noticing a lone Obama sign, an elder of the Queen's grandparents' generation casually remarked, "Well, that house will be torched by nightfall." Readers, the Queen's blood ran cold. To say such things so matter-of-factly, and in front of children! It was more terrifying yet because we were in the African-American section of town, where untold evils used to be perpetrated. Yea, verily, from the back of the car, an indignant nine-year-old demanded, "What are you talking about?! He's about to win! He's going to be our next President!" Think about it, reader - how far we've come, but how far still to go.

This missive arrived from a dear friend: "While writing remarks that Queen Noor of Jordan gave to the UN High Commission on Refugees conference in Geneva on Wednesday, I found I had suddenly become an 'expert' overnight. It is mind blowing. As we all sit comfortably in our air-conditioned homes tomorrow wondering what's in our stocked refrigerators to eat, I ask that you take a moment to think about the 20 million people around the world who are refugees. Doctors and professors, business owners and students who were 'normal' people living normal lives, who suddenly had to leave home. Take a moment to give thanks for your own safety and home, and just send a small prayer of hope out to those 20 million who are hanging on to their own hope that they too will some day return to their own homes and resume the life they once had. They deserve to be recognized even in this small way."

On the lighter side, a reader remarked this week: "I read every TR - it comes in on Friday just as I'm tired of working for the week." So, from the banality of evil to the just the banal, that's what we have to report from friends, family, readers and wise children.

Have a restful weekend!

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