Blogs

My Outside Lands Experience: Worth the Fog and Trouble

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 6:37 PM EDT

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First of all, not to rub it in to my streetcar-entrapped Mother Jones colleagues, but a motorcycle makes things a lot easier.

To those of you who aren't located within about a 10-mile radius of San Francisco, let me remind you of our unique meteorological situation. The California Current brings cold Pacific Ocean water south from Canada, while upwelling from the frigid, murky deep peaks during the summer months, making our ocean waters colder in June and July than they are in December. The summer sun heats the land in central California, causing high low surface pressure, and sucking the chilly, saturated air in from the sea and over SF. This creates the famous fog, which everyone thinks is so charming in pictures but actually feels like a soggy blizzard. It's my personal theory that the Bay Area's notorious political uniqueness is actually a symptom of meteorological alienation from the rest of America, frolicking in the summer sun while we huddle around our space heaters. Whatever else our shivery summer isolation causes, it makes an outdoor music festival in Golden Gate Park, out by the ocean where thick fog is almost inevitable, seem about as attractive as spending an evening under the vegetable sprayers in the supermarket.

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Conservative Insta-Reaction

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 4:14 PM EDT

CONSERVATIVE INSTA-REACTION....I consider The Corner to be a peek into the conservative id, so I was curious to see what they had to say about Joe Biden before the message machine kicks in. Here it is in a nutshell:

The 3 am text message announcement was a subtle dig at Hillary; Biden's a blowhard; he thinks he's smarter than you; it's "the most self-loving ticket ever"; he's a plagiarist; he's a pro-choice Catholic, just like John Kerry; he doesn't represent change; he's unpopular in Iraq.

That's pretty weak brew. I'm sure it'll get better and nastier over time, though, as they get over the fact that, as near as I can tell, some of them actually have sort of a grudging admiration for the guy. Still, the golden rule in attack politics is that you need something new: the blowhard/plagiarism/he-said-Obama-wasn't-ready-to-be-president stuff is old news, and the media almost certainly won't give it more than a little bit of play. The question is, can the wingers take this stuff and somehow roll it up into something that seems fresh, the way the Swift Boaters did with John Kerry's Vietnam service? If they can, then the media will start to play along.

Outside Lands: Slogging It

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 4:11 PM EDT

Our downtown offices at Mother Jones sit just a few miles from Golden Gate Park, the site of the Outside Lands fest, so to make sure we had a good spot for Manu Chao's set at 6, Brittney and I hopped on an outbound streetcar just after 4 yesterday afternoon.

After the train pulled away from Montgomery Street, we began talking about the bands we were excited to see: The Black Keys, Radiohead, Beck, Cold War Kids. It had been a long week at MoJo; our Military Bases project finally went live. We were looking forward to a relaxing night in the park.

And then approximately 12,639 tourists, hipsters, hippies, festival-goers, and unlucky commuters crammed themselves into to the train at the next stop. I guessed 12,634 of them were also on their way to Outside Lands. Suddenly, I became acutely acquainted with the aromatic heft of Old Spice deodorant under the arm of the guy who wedged in next to me to grab the pole over my head. Two women, probably on their way home, sitting in the seats just in front of me looked up at the crowd that had made the train a can of sardines; their faces wore Kurtz's horror.

So many people had squeezed in to the train the door wouldn't close, so the conductor politely informed the crowd not to lean on the bars that, when pressed, open the doors when the cars stop at street level. Ten stops and ten similar announcements later, he'd lost his patience: "DON'T LEAN ON THE BARS! THE BARS KEEP THE DOORS OPEN! GET OFF THE CAR! CAR TWO! I KNOW IT'S YOU, CAR TWO!" A girl at the back of the car put it even more bluntly: "Get off the f*cking bars! Get off the f*cking car!"

We were half way there.

—Steve Aquino

The Biden Effect

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 1:37 PM EDT

THE BIDEN EFFECT....I think this poll result from the Washington Post pretty much summarizes what non-obsessives think about Obama's choice of Joe Biden for vice president: they don't care. Asked if it would affect their vote, only a quarter said it would, and that quarter was split almost down the middle. There's just no effect at all.

Which is not to say that there won't be an effect eventually, of course. If Biden says something dumb, or if McCain's attack dogs are able to dream up an effective smear campaign against him, it could turn into a mistake. But like nearly any other choice Obama could have made (Hillary Clinton is the obvious exception), he starts off as a big fat null. People just don't care that much about who the vice president is.

First Two Questions for Vice Presidential Candidate Biden

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 11:45 AM EDT

(1) You said in the primary campaign that you "don't believe" Barack Obama is "ready" to be president. What has changed your mind?

(2) How do you reconcile your plan for partioning Iraq, which your office said you still support as recently as one week ago, with Barack Obama's withdrawal plan?

Obama Taps Biden: A Conventional But Perhaps Effective Pick

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 10:53 AM EDT

In the end, Barack Obama used unconventional means to announce a conventional choice for his running-mate.

Via a three A.M. text message sent to the cell phones of his supporters, donors and volunteers, Obama's campaign declared that he had chosen Senator Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat, to be "our" veep nominee. (Three in the morning--was this a dig at Senator Hillary Clinton or just a coincidence?) With this I'll-let-you-know-first gimmick, Obama had snagged millions of cell numbers and email addresses his campaign can use in the weeks ahead to motivate voters and push them to the polls on Election Day. So in purely tactical terms, his running-mate rollout was indeed pioneering and widely successful. What remains to be seen, of course, is whether he made a smart pick by attaching his campaign for change to a fellow who has worked Washington's ways in the Senate for 35 years.

Sometimes going conventional is not the wrong course. During the past weeks of veep-frenzy, Biden's assets and liabilities have been dissected repeatedly. He possesses extensive foreign policy experience (which Obama does not). He can do straight-talk relatively well for a senator (while Obama has been accused of not fully connecting with working-class voters). Then again, Biden has suffered in the past from both verbal diarrhea and gaffe-itis. I've attended many committee hearings in the Senate when Biden turned a question into a long-winded monologue that drove people in the room to want to shout, "Question, Senator, do you have a question?!!" And there are times when Biden's mental filter has switched off and he has said the dumbest thing, such as when he famously called Obama "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." (The Daily Mail headlined its account of Obama's pick this way: "Obama names 'gaffe-prone' Joe Biden as his running mate.")

But Biden is a smart legislator who has shown that he can suppress his own faults when he must. He had a good campaign this past year as a presidential candidate. He won few votes but performed well at the debates and demonstrated he could keep his infamous verbosity under control. At the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, while other Democrats got bogged down in legal jargon practically indecipherable to the average person, Biden peppered Roberts with straightforward questions about Roberts' claim that he merely wanted to be an umpire on the bench who calls constitutional balls and strikes. "Much as I respect your metaphor," Biden countered, "it's not very apt, because you get to determine the strike zone. The founders never set a strike zone." It was the best moment of the hearing.

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Outside Lands: Radiohead Makes History

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 4:59 AM EDT

Thirteen sets and two Natalie Portman-sightings later, the first night of San Francisco's Outside Lands festival wrapped up by 10 p.m.

While acts ranged from Cold War Kids to Manu Chao to Beck, the night had one consistent theme: confusion. You couldn't find a sign leading you to an entrance, but we found a stash of unused signs, including the much needed "Restrooms this way," stored in the crew area. And in lieu of "branded stages" companies sponsored interactive exhibits such as exclusive lounges that required a specific Visa card for admittance.

Yet efforts toward greening the event, the unique food selection (think shrimp ceviche), and a spectacular location helped us forget the organizational troubles. Not to mention talented visual artists decorated each stage. Plus, as the first group to ever play in Golden Gate Park at night, Radiohead's show was as visually stunning as the music was enthralling.

Despite some organizational glitches, the Outside Lands festival is off to a solid start.

—Brittney Andres

Veepstakes Update

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 3:25 AM EDT

VEEPSTAKES UPDATE....Biden is it. Pretty good choice, I think, but I sure hope I don't hear anyone talking about Joementum when October rolls around.

Anyway, David Brooks should be happy, and that's what really counts, isn't it?

NYT: Seems to be Biden

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 1:00 AM EDT

With sources telling the AP and others that Virginia governor Tim Kaine and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh have claimed they've been informed it's not them, Obama's choice for vice president seems likely to be Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Obama officials have indicated they'll inform voters of his choice on Saturday morning by text message and email.

Six Years O' Blogging

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 12:11 AM EDT

SIX YEARS O' BLOGGING....In all the excitement of moving to a new home, I forgot to mention that today is my sixth blogoversary. Or is it blogiversary? In any case, I've been doing this for six years now. Let that be a lesson to you all.