Blogs

Jefferson-Jackson Liveblog Continues

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 11:04 PM EST

Explanation of the JJ Dinner here; part one of the liveblog here.

9:09 - Bill Richardson is speaking, and appears to be wearing heels. On second thought, they may be cowboy boots. Richardson is having trouble getting any verbal momentum going. He is jumping from "restoring the American Dream," to following the Constitution on the matter of torture (does the Constitution mention torture?), to his plan on the war in Iraq. His whole campaign may come down to that war — he is the only candidate who will commit to having all troops out by the end of 2009.

9:15 - Now health care, now education reform, now greenhouse gases. This is what Richardson does. He jumps from policy to policy to policy without an over-arching narrative.

9:19 - "I've heard one thing that I like about Iowa," says Bill. "Iowa likes underdogs!" You better hope so.

9:20 - Richardson urges Democrats not to "tear each other down." Suggests criticism only on policy grounds. Problem is, the Dems are all pretty much the same on policy. Oh, and I've seen some advance copy from the Obama speech, and it's got some sharp but coded words about Hillary.

Biden after the jump.

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Jefferson-Jackson Dinner - Most Exciting Live Blog Ever!

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 9:59 PM EST

Okay, let's get it on.

8:13 - Nancy Pelosi takes the stage, which is in the shape of a square and surrounded on all sides. Pelosi, like all speakers today, will have to speak while walking in a circle.

8:14 - Pelosi says "all the eyes of the world are on this dinner tonight." The disproportionate amount of power that Iowa has in American presidential elections really is ridiculous.

8:15 - Peeking at Marc Ambinder's blog, I see John McCain had a kind of insane day today, filled with bucketloads of attack politics.

8:20 - The Hillary Clinton supporters here are wearing shirts that read, "TURN UP THE HEAT. TURN AMERICA AROUND." New slogan?

More after the jump, including the Edwards speech.

Iowa's Most Important Dinner - Happening NOW

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 8:27 PM EST

I'm in the Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines for the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. For voters nationwide, the JJ, as it's called, is a blip on the radar. But here in Iowa it's huge, particularly in the year before an election. One Obama supporter described it to me thusly: "If the Iowa Caucuses are the Super Bowl, this is the halftime show."

iowa.jpg Six presidential candidates will be speaking to 9,000 of Iowa's most prominent (and richest) Democrats. Also on hand are assorted politicos from the Midwest. Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack and current Ohio governor Ted Strickland wandered by when I was waiting in the consession line, for example. Nancy Pelosi is the master of ceremonies.

This is an only-in-Iowa event. A rambunctious crowd of young supporters for every candidate have packed the balcony level and are shouting slogans and chants at an ear-rattling volume. They also have coordinated sign gimmicks, like at halftime of a college football game. The youngsters spent all day putting thousands and thousands of signs up inside this auditorium and on the streets surrounding it. Media from all over the world is here.

The JJ can make or break a candidate in this state. Iowans credit the 2003 JJ with making John Kerry's Iowa victory. Before the event, Kerry was down in the polls, looking up at frontrunner Howard Dean. But Kerry unveiled a new stump speech and a new slogan, as many candidates do here, and it propelled him to a caucus win, and eventually the nomination.

I'll be liveblogging things as they happen. If you've got nothing better to do on a Saturday evening, I invite you to follow along.

Party Ben's European Vacation Tour

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 5:13 PM EST

mojo-photo-europe.jpgLike I mentioned in this week's Top Ten, your grammatically-challenged guest blogger Party Ben is heading off on a European DJ tour tomorrow. It's pretty cool, since, honestly, I'm not really that popular of a DJ, but somehow I managed to cobble together appearances in Poland, Germany, Belgium and France over the course of about three weeks. Because of the tight schedule (and probable unreliability of internet connections at the, ahem, budget accommodations I'll be patronizing) it's unclear how often I'll be able to keep up with my Riff duties, but I'll do my best to post updates now and then on What Life is Like on the Road for a Basically Unknown DJ Guy, or Random Cultural Trends Sweeping the European Continent with Enough Significance to be Obvious Even to a Drunk Tourist. Hopefully the MoJo Arts & Culture Team (I'm capitalizing a lot here, aren't I?) can cover my beat—i.e., anything that happens in the world of Arcade Fire and M.I.A.—while I'm gone, and I'll be back in December.

If for some reason you're more curious about specific locations and venues you can look at the schedule on my website here. Now I'm off to enjoy the favorable exchange rates and general love for Americans that's shared all over the—what? What are you saying? Not so much? Ah.

If Grover Norquist Speaks, Does Anyone Still Listen?

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 5:22 PM EST

new-grover-headshot.jpg So Grover Norquist thinks that Fred Thompson is the "worst" GOP candidate out there. His major sin? He has refused to sign a pledge from Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, refusing to ever raise taxes. Also, he has said that rich people might have to pay higher premiums for Medicare and is opposed to federal tort reform.

Norquist's remarks apparently came during his regular Wednesday off-the-record meeting in D.C. with the grand poobahs of the GOP, which used to be the place to be in D.C. if you wanted to know what was going on in politics. In the old days, such a pronouncement would leave a candidate shaking in his boots. But ever since the news broke that Norquist had been deeply involved in some of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's Indian tribe schemes, and Democrats took over Congress, he seems to have been relegated to the sidelines, at least publicly. It will be interesting to see how much his attacks on Thompson will really matter. After all, Thompson's positions are pretty fiscally responsible, something Republicans used to care about...

Columbia Dating Scientists Up the Heeby-Jeeby Factor

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 5:01 PM EST

dating.jpgNumber one on Slate's "most read" list at the moment is "An Economist Goes to a Bar and Solves the Mysteries of Dating." The name pretty much says it all: A bunch of researchers from the economics department at Columbia ran a speed-dating service for students at a favorite campus watering hole. After each mini-date, participants were asked to rate their partners on variables such as attractiveness, intelligence, and ambition. Their findings were a cliché come true: Men "did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner's beauty, when choosing, than women did," and "intelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women's choices as men's." As for ambition, men "avoided women whom they perceived to be smarter than themselves. The same held true for measures of career ambition—a woman could be ambitious, just not more ambitious than the man considering her for a date."

What does it all mean? Simply refer to this neat little paragraph that sums up the researchers' findings:

So, yes, the stereotypes appear to be true: We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face and are threatened by brains or success that exceeds our own. Women, on the other hand, care more about how men think and perform, and they don't mind being outdone on those scores.

Never mind the depressing fact that these unimpressive, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus-ish attitudes are present at Columbia, where your typical student is supposed to be busy learning how to "work across disciplines, embrace complexity, and become a fluid, fearless, forward-looking global citizen and scholar." Far more unsettling is the fact that a key point seems to have evaded both the researchers and Slate: Complex and fluid though it may be, Columbia University is most certainly not a microcosm of the larger world. Just because 400 Columbia students (who most likely have a slightly different relationship with the terms "ambition" and "intelligence" from the rest of the population) embraced these unfortunate stereotypes doesn't mean everyone else does.

The researchers' creepiest conclusion by far, though, was that "women got more dates when they won high marks for looks." From whom did the women win these high marks? Not their speed dating partners, but "research assistants, who were hired for the much sought-after position of hanging out in a bar to rate the dater's level of attractiveness on a scale of one to 10." File under: Ewwww!

This all brings us to the ultimate question: Don't Columbia economists have better things to do than scope out co-eds at a campus bar?

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Mothers for Vapid Kid Culture

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 3:46 PM EST

It's easy to laugh at High School Musical, and kid culture in general. Metrosexual Zach Efron as MoonDoggie. Vanessa Hudgens as...er.. Vanessa Williams. It couldn't be more bland and divorced from reality. I'd worry about my kids if they weren't mesmerized by it.

Only 6 and 4, when High School Musical queues up, and it does so often, the yelling stops, the toys drop. Tiny eyes fuse on the set. They go ballistic dancing to the high octane numbers while my princess-obsessed four year old squeezes her lids shut and twirls about, all alone and deliciously sad, on 'Gabriella's' heartbreak songs. They go to the same magical place all of us yearned for as children. While aimed at teenagers and tweens, I'm guessing that mine aren't the only tots moved by the extremely silly High School Musical and it's burgeoning spin offs the same way I was mesmerized by the pop music, 40's blockbusters and movie extravaganzas of my childhood. If I'm lucky, dumb old HSM will stay with them all their lives.


Beating Up On Barney Frank

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 3:21 PM EST

barney.jpg One of the GOP's most reliable fundraising pitches in the run-up to the 2006 mid-term elections was a vision of Democrat Barney Frank as the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. The gay congressman from Massachusetts was supposed to be the devil incarnate for the credit card and banking industry. Now that Frank has actually taken over the committee, though, one group he really seems to have pissed off is a bunch of liberal consumer advocates unhappy with his efforts to address the meltdown of the subprime lending industry.

Friday Says Bye-Bye Music News Day

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 2:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-news1109.jpg
And now, the Riff's crack Music News department follows up on stories we brought you here first. ...Well, maybe not "first," but, uh, in the past at some point, at least?

  • Okay, sorry, Prince. The Minneapolis superstar says he's not suing fans (as we mocked here on the Riff the other day), but in fact just the opposite: his promoter released a statement saying that Prince wants to "provide Prince fans with exclusive music and images entirely free of charge, and bypassing unofficial and unauthorized phony fan sites that exploit both consumers and artists. The action taken earlier this week was not to shut down fansites, or control comment in any way." So this turns into another one of those "he-said, Prince-said" things.

  • My Bloody Valentine: is really, truly going to release something new before the end of 2007, says bandleader Kevin Shields. The album will likely consist of "this 96-97 half-finished record, and then a compilation of stuff we did before that, and a little bit of new stuff." Whatever, anything, who cares, just give it to us!!!
  • Radiohead are denying stuff too: they're contradicting the recent reports suggesting 60 percent of fans who downloaded In Rainbows paid nothing, calling the data "wholly inaccurate," and saying it "in no way reflected definitive market intelligence or, indeed, the true success of the project." Hmm, sounds like one of those denials-of-everything-but-the-facts. Anyway, you'll be able to buy the physical version of In Rainbows on December 31st, and hopefully somebody will count those.
  • And finally, following up on the continuing Amy Winehouse saga: police raided the singer's home and then arrested her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, in East London on Thursday, while a tearful Winehouse was present. Fielder-Civil was allegedly involved in an attempt to fix his own trial in an assault case of a bartender earlier this summer. The victim was apparently offered $400,000 to keep quiet. Mr. Winehouse sounds awesome, can I just say that? Anyway, Winehouse's wobbly, slurring performance at the MTV Europe awards last week raised some eyebrows as well, and oh, it's Friday, why not watch that here:

  • Andrew Sullivan Ruminates on the Power of Obama's Face

    | Fri Nov. 9, 2007 2:17 PM EST

    obama_face.jpg Many people on the blogosphere have taken note of Andrew Sullivan's ode to Barack Obama in the Atlantic. Sullivan argues that Obama is the only candidate who can break America out of the pro-Vietnam/anti-Vietnam culture war that has gripped America for forty years. The frontrunners, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, whether they like it or not, "are conscripts in their generation's war. To their respective sides, they are war heroes."

    I'm not sure I agree with Sullivan's central premise, did I find this supporting argument about Obama interesting:

    What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it's central to an effective war strategy...
    Consider this hypothetical. It's November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America's soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama's face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

    This is an argument that Obama himself doesn't make. Perhaps it's because we're in highly homogeneous Iowa (read: 96 percent white), but Obama didn't mention his race once in the time I spent with him. By comparison, Hillary Clinton mentioned her gender on multiple occasions in the time I spent with her. The speakers that introduced her often highlighted it.

    The closest Obama came to mentioning his race was in response to a question after the third event he did on the day I followed his campaign. He said that he would be uniquely qualified to resurrect America's standing the world because he would "put a new face" on American leadership. He has a grandmother who lives in a small village in Kenya. He lived in Indonesia. He can listen to the rest of the world in a way no other politician can, and he can get the rest of the world to listen back.

    But never once was the word "black" mentioned, nor "African-American." Maybe Obama is as "post-race" as some claim, and maybe that's why he does as well as he does.