Maddie Oatman

Maddie Oatman

Research Editor

Maddie worked as a travel guide in Argentina and a teacher at several educational nonprofits in San Francisco before joining Mother Jones. She’s also written for Outside, the Bay Citizen, and the Rumpus. She manages Mother Jones' Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program.

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Foggy With a Chance of Increased Unemployment

| Mon Oct. 25, 2010 5:03 AM EDT

In "Will Obama Put Up a Fight?" MoJo DC bureau chief David Corn traces how Obama has struggled to connect with voters on their fears and uncertainties about the economy. By spending too much time on health care, underestimating his opponents, and banking too much on banks, Obama failed to engage his base and lost control of the narrative. "It wasn't just what Obama did, but how he did it," writes Corn. "He did not effectively present voters with the key question: How would—how could—a post-industrial, post-dot-com, post-Big Finance economy work?" The results from a recent New York Times/CBS poll reveal some of this voter confusion; 57 percent of those polled did not think Obama had a clear plan for solving the nation's problems, and 53 percent didn't think he had a clear plan for creating jobs.

Unfortunately for Democrats struggling to engage their constituents on November 2, voter confusion about the economy at election time can actually hurt the economy even more. Dennis Jacobe, chief economist for Gallup, suggests that the mere presence of the midterm elections could have a negative impact on consumer spending and employment. Jacobe points to a graph of the increasing unemployment rate (see below), and writes:

Often, political opponents disagree not only about what has caused the poor economy, but also on how best to get it going again. This political rhetoric may generate even more confusion and uncertainty as the midterm elections draw near and more Americans listen carefully to the political debates. If true, this could mean the economy will get worse in the weeks ahead as political debate exacerbates economic confusion. Of course, whether it means things will get better following the elections is a whole different discussion.

Graph courtesy of


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Pro-Life Dem Driehaus’s Worst Enemy: Other Pro-Lifers

| Fri Oct. 22, 2010 5:03 AM EDT

Pro-life Democrats, a disappearing breed these days (more on that here), continue to face political attack by a most unlikely force: fellow pro-lifers. In "Mommy, What's a Pro-Life Democrat?" a new Mother Jones article out today, Nick Baumann examines how anti-abortion politicians who decided to vote for Obama's health care bill, like Steven Driehaus (D-Ohio), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Penn.), and, most famously, Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), have become punching bags for pro-life groups that are still arguing that the bill provides federal dollars for abortions.

One group, the Susan B. Anthony List, pledged $1 million dollars to try to take down Dem "traitors" to the pro-life cause. Its strategy included a plan to paint billboards across Ohio with the message: "Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion." When Driehaus caught wind of this attack a few weeks ago, he filed a complaint with the state election's commission, arguing that the billboard's message was false and violated one of the state's campaign laws. The elections commission sided with Driehaus, and the billboards never went up.

Ken Buck's Woman Problem Just Got Worse

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 1:39 PM EDT

Former District Attorney Ken Buck (R-Colo.) hasn't exactly wooed female voters during his bid for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Michael Bennet. During the primary, Buck told voters they should pick him over Jane Norton in the Republican primary because he "doesn't wear high heels." Colorado pro-choicers, regardless of gender, probably know that Buck's staunchly against abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and supports personhood, a movement set on protecting pre-born humans. (The Personhood Amendment in Colorado wants to add language into the state's Bill of Rights that protects a person's rights at "the beginning of the biological development of a human being" and makes several kinds of birth control illegal).

Buck's anti-woman rhetoric isn't new: In 2006, he told the Greeley Tribune that a suspected rape was merely a "case of buyer's remorse." Yesterday, the release of a taped conversation between Buck and a rape victim by The Colorado Independent underscored the former District Attorney's callous way of dealing with female constituents. Five years ago, the victim invited a former lover over to her house where she alleges he had sex with her while she was passed out drunk (they hadn't spoken for a year before the incident). She pressed charges, but ultimately, Buck, the District Attorney at the time, refused to prosecute even though the perpetrator admitted that she had said no to having sex with him while he was on top of her.

Chris Thile's Punch Brothers at Play

| Mon Oct. 11, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

Framed by the woods of Golden Gate Park during San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile takes the stage alongside his band, Punch Brothers, and booming-voiced roots-rocker T-Bone Burnett. The group commences its string-laden crawl, a tense predecessor of the explosive plucking that will soon ensue. The rest of his mates stay still during the intro, but Thile can't take it any longer. He begins to prowl around like Puck on a midnight ramble, his body gyrating with his mandolin notes and a mischievous smile making its way across his face.

Though he's approaching 30, Thile's constant motion reminds me of an inexhaustible puppy. He named his band after the Mark Twain story "Punch, Brothers, Punch," sings about seafaring and barroom carousal, and spends late nights with bandmates throwing back drinks in Brooklyn. His latest album, Antifogmatic, takes its title from a 19th century drink meant to stave off the effects of stormy weather. As his tune "Rye Whiskey" might suggest, single-barrel whiskey is Thile's first choice. "I love it. I really do. That song is completely true, in all ways," he tells me earnestly. On top of all their revelry, what the Punch Brothers are doing musically blows the pants off most of their contemporaries. Thile and his Brothers have bridged classical and bluegrass traditions, melded them with pop-infused songwriting, and come up with a sound both experimental and tightly woven.

Simon Robson's "Coalition of the Willing"

| Fri Oct. 8, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

Can you survey the entire cultural and economic history of the 20th century's last half in one 16-minute film? That's director Simon Robson's short term goal for the video "Coalition of the Willing," now up for an animation award at Saturday's Vimeo Festival in New York. His long term goal is even more ambitious: Unite people around the world in "an internet-based swarm offensive aimed at triggering a 21st century culture shift." But although Robson may be trying to incite utopia, he self-identifies as a cynic. "It sounds bleak, but as we say at the beginning of the film, industry is ruled by profit, and governments by growth." Fed up with leaders' unwillingness (or inability) to enact climate change policy, Robson and his writing partner, Tim Rayner, started toying with the idea that leaders weren't going to do anything at all, and that collective power modeled after the social revolutions of the past would have to do instead. An invocation, in the form of a script, emerged. To illustrate the message of the film, Robson employed stunning visuals by 25 different animators. The resulting patchwork of contrasting artistic styles, animated by a diverse panoply of materials—from clay to fruit to ink—effectively paints the film's collaborative calling.

After "Coalition" was released in June, it garnered attention from the likes of MTV Europe, the Guardian's environmental page, and even Ashton Kutcher (who tweeted about the film, much to Robson's joy). It also spawned an organization, The organization's latest project is a flash mob development party, meant to inspire people to submit ideas for "a new generation of internet platforms for the climate crisis."

Mother Jones spoke with Robson recently on the intersection of environment, art, and technology.

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