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Then and Now

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 9:18 PM EST

THEN AND NOW....In 2004, everyone complained that John Kerry was an old-media plodder who didn't react quickly enough to conservative attacks. What a dunce! In 2008, everyone is praising Barack Obama for keeping his composure and not letting conservative attacks knock him off his message. What a cool customer!

Just curious: Am I the only person amused by this?

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What Comes From Alaska & May Save Us All?

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 8:17 PM EST

Oudemansiella_nocturnum.JPG No, not these miraculously fast fruiting bodies but these ones: mushrooms. That's right. The fungi growing in the dry spruce forests of Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and other northern regions are fighting global warming in unexpected ways. When temps rise and soils warm, fungi are not increasing the rate at which they convert soil carbon into carbon dioxide—as many feared. Instead they dry out and produce significantly less CO2.

Northern forests contain an estimated 30 percent of the Earth's soil carbon. That's equivalent to the amount of atmospheric carbon. Which means that mushrooms are not contributing to a vicious cycle of warming in dry boreal forests. Instead, they're actually preventing further warming from occurring. Possibly giving us a teensy bit more time to implement responsible policies to counteract warming globally. . . Starting with responsibly electing the next president of the United States. The study, btw, appears in the journal Global Change Biology.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the PEN USA Literary Award, the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal.

Joe Mania

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 8:05 PM EST

JOE MANIA....A Norfolk station asked John McCain today why he wasn't doing better in Virginia. Here's his answer:

"We're doing much better actually, there's a poll out today that shows we're within about three so we're moving up and moving up fast. And look, Joe the Bomb — uh — Joe the Plumber turned the whole thing around."

The comical part of this is that McCain almost called him "Joe the Bomber." Ha ha. But the genuinely weird part of it is McCain's bizarre embrace of Joe. It's one thing to use the guy as a campaign prop, but to tell the world that it was Joe who "turned the whole thing around"? That Joe is his personal "role model"? You gotta be kidding. Those aren't things you'd want to admit even if they were true, are they?

Election Day: SWAT Teams at the Ready

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 7:21 PM EST

Early%20Voting.jpg

I voted the good ol' fashioned way today—in person at my Oakland polling station (though a day early to beat tomorrow's chaos). I was nervous when I saw the nightmarish line at Alameda County Courthouse, but surprisingly, I got out in about an hour fairly unruffled. The place was fully staffed, the line efficient, and the mood upbeat. A guy quipped, "Obama better appreciate this," as he dutifully made his way to the back.

Not a whiff of the tension that riot police and SWAT teams are gearing up for tomorrow in Oakland—a phenomenon that, strangely, hasn't been very widely reported. Troubling, considering that it's happening mostly in cities with large black populations like Atlanta and Chicago.


Early%20Voting2.jpg


Nichole Wong

Obama's (And Our) Clean-Coal Blues

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 5:16 PM EST

The Internets are all atwitter today with talk of Obama's supposedly devastating admission that he wants to "bankrupt" the coal industry in the United States. An Ohio industry spokesman said Obama is a "disaster"; conservative blogs are attributing the remarks to some kind of San Francisco "truth serum", and Sarah Palin is accusing the San Francisco Chronicle, which conducted the offending interview back in January, of deliberately hiding its content from voters. (See the article and the Chron's rebuttal here.)

I just want to make a few points to inject a little sanity into this discussion. First, as I mentioned above, the quote comes from a comprehensive sit-down interview Obama conducted with the Chronicle nearly nine months ago. (Watch the whole thing here.) Since then, his stance on this issue has been pretty consistent. He supports a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions (as does John McCain, by the by), as well as the development of "clean coal" technology.

Here's where we get to the real problem. In the interview, Obama asks, "how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon? And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it?" Characterizing unilateral opposition to coal as "ideological," Obama also stresses that since we already get so much of our electricity from coal, we can't expect to eliminate it from the mix anytime soon. "If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it," he concludes.

But when it comes to "clean coal", it's environmentalists who should be worried, not coal executives.

A Tax Cut Everyone Should Support

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 3:51 PM EST

A TAX CUT EVERYONE SHOULD SUPPORT....Riffing off a Rachel Maddow segment about stupendously long lines to vote, largely in poor urban precincts, Ezra Klein says:

The poll tax was a sly system of disenfranchisement used in the Jim Crow era to disenfranchise Southern blacks. Aware that the Constitution now assured everyone the "right" to vote, Southern states imposed a voting fee heavy enough that African-Americans would deem it a right too pricey to exercise. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, of course, did away will all that. But as Rachel Maddow says in the clip above, voting lines are just another form of poll tax. They are a time tax. How much is four hours worth to the average voter? How many voters can take four hours off from their job, or their family, to stand at a precinct? We tend to frame long voting lines as an inspiring vision of democracy, but they're quite the opposite: They are disenfranchisement in action. A longer line does not simply mean more people are voting. It means more people are not voting, as they could not afford the time tax.

Just for the record, the poll tax wasn't actually especially "sly." Everyone knew exactly what it was for. But point taken anyway. The flip side, of course, is neighborhoods like mine. I live in an upscale, white, suburban city, and you will be unsurprised to learn that I haven't had to wait more than five minutes to vote since the day I moved here. Quite a coincidence, eh?

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Election Day Arrives: Should Obama Supporters Worry?

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 3:45 PM EST

obama_fret250x200.jpg Democrats are notoriously skittish. Conditioned by decades of underperformance in presidential elections, where they have secured just three victories in the 40 years since Richard Nixon first won the White House, and in Congress, where the Dems have only recently recovered from their crushing 1994 defeat, Democrats are like the metaphorical field mouse, constantly spooked at the first bit of bad news.

The Obama campaign appears to be an exception to that trend. It has inspired more than just hope — it has inspired confidence. So much so that national polls show that wide margins of Democrats and Republicans alike assume Obama will win the presidency. In fact, the Obama campaign has released a video warning supporters of the dangers of over-confidence.

But as Election Day nears, it's likely you know anxious Democrats who just can't help themselves. Four things cause worry.

Your Election Soundtrack: McCain and Obama Online Radio Channels

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 2:50 PM EST

mojo-photo-slacker.jpgWe here on the Riff have tried to keep track of the musical metanarratives floating along beside the presidential candidates' campaigns, but mostly, that's consisted of tallying up musicians endorsing Obama and threatening to sue McCain. At points, though, both candidates have expressed their own personal tastes in music, perhaps McCain most infamously. Well, the smart kids over at online radio company Slacker have sifted through the interviews and events of the last 22 months and compiled songs the candidates have said they like and music played at their rallies, creating two new stations: Obama and McCain Radio. Full disclosure: I've done some audio production work for these guys, so I suppose this is logrolling, but the LA Times beat me to the story anyway. Programmer Scott Riggs told me he controlled his snarkier instincts, resisting the urge to include songs that could be interpreted as being about the candidates. I suggested Neil Young's "Old Man" and maybe something from Dumbo (cause of the big ears, see) but the channels play it straight: Obama Radio features Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and Sheryl Crow, while McCain Radio features the aforelinked ABBA, Elvis, The Beach Boys (har) and of course, John Rich's "Raisin' McCain." Which station is better? Well, I have to admit, the ornery old McCain channel's got a certain, um, erratic charm, while Obama's looks a lot like middle-of-the-road AAA radio. But Obama's got Kanye, so I think he wins.

Listen for free under "Slacker Spotlight" at Slacker.com.

Charlie Black: Eternal Optimist

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 2:37 PM EST

From former MoJo-er Michael Scherer's Swampland post yesterday, explaining why the McCain campaign thinks the race is getting closer:

Barack Obama On The Issues: Sagging Pants

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 2:31 PM EST

In an otherwise issues-focused interview with MTV, we finally get to hear Barack Obama's position on what those darn kids are wearing:

Here is my attitude: I think people passing a law against people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time. We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, health care, dealing with the war in Iraq, and anybody, any public official, that is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What's wrong with that? Come on. There are some issues that we face, that you don't have to pass a law, but that doesn't mean folks can't have some sense and some respect for other people and, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I'm one of them.

The campaign's new slogan: "Brothers should pull up their pants."