Blogs

Can a Palin Art Trope Be Far Behind?

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 5:03 PM EDT

mojo-photo-goldkatemoss.jpgIs this, finally, the last sign of the impending apocalypse? Or are things going to get even worse? Artist Mark Quinn has immortalized model Kate Moss in actual 18-carat gold in a sculpture on display at the British Museum in London. No, it's not solid gold, but weighs "about as much as the supermodel herself," which means it's worth around 2.5 million bucks, even melted down. Elevating the low and immortalizing the ephemeral are of course standard tropes in art (and even on the Riff!) but it sure seems like pushing the insanity envelope has really taken off in sculpture lately. Here are some of the more jaw-dropping recent three-dimensional examples of why our culture is in a hedonistic free-fall. Needless to say, many of these links will not be safe for work.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Sarah Palin: Not a Charitable Conservative?

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 3:58 PM EDT

On Friday afternoon, the McCain-Palin camp released the last two years of Sarah Palin's taxes. (Only the last two?) The campaign's summary notes that Sarah and Todd Palin had a gross income of $166,080 in 2007, her first year as governor. The couple donated $2500 to charity that year and also made "non-cash" donations of $825. This represented 1.5 percent of their adjusted gross income.

The average American donates about 3.1 percent of his or her income to charity. Many churches recommend tithing 10 percent.

Study: Chocolate and Alcohol Are Bad for Your Planet

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 3:53 PM EDT

You may already know how food manufacture contributes to global warming—it's had its fair share of coverage lately, though the actual numbers have varied. In 2007, climate change experts pegged agriculture as producing 10 to 12 percent of global emissions. A Greenpeace study bumps this number up to 17 to 32 percent when you factor in land-use changes such as deforestation and overgrazing.

But a four-year UK study recently released by the Food Climate Research Network is likely to be the most comprehensive research so far. Pegging 19 percent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions as food-related—with meat and dairy contributing half of those—the report serves up more than the usual recommendations to shop locally and walk to the store.

Among the options? Eliminating "unnecessary" foods with little nutritional value like alcohol, which it says contributes 1.5 percent of emissions from food, and chocolate. According to Cadbury, notes the report, the milk in a chocolate bar is the source of 60 percent of the bar's greenhouse gas emissions (no word on whether dark chocolate-lovers are more eco-friendly).

Other personal change recommendations include: using microwaves more often, covering cooking pots for efficiency, shopping on the Internet, and accepting "different notions of quality"—presumably eating bruised peaches.

The UK report also states that by 2050 we'll all need to eat similar to developing countries today: A four-ounce portion (or two sausages) of meat every other day, four cups of milk per week, max, and no cheese. (Currently, the average Brit consumes more than three times that, or the equivalent of two chicken breasts, four ham sandwiches, six sausages, eight pieces of bacon, three hamburgers, 12.5 cups of milk, and three and a half ounces of cheese each week.)

But what do the meat and dairy associations have to say about this? Not surprisingly, the National Farmers' Union in England calls the proposals "simplistic". Chocolate lovers have yet to weigh in.

—Brittney Andres

If I Were an Obama Strategist, Here's How I'd Spend the Next Month

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 3:51 PM EDT

Aside from even one word about poverty, minorities, or the underclass in last night's VP debate, I was most waiting to hear Sarah Palin questioned about her "maverick" boss's role in making sure that America neither knew, nor cared, about the fate of its Viet Nam era POWs. If there's ever a better time to delve into exactly how the "party of patriotism" feels about inconvenient soldiers (they were slowing up the peace process), I hope I don't live to see it.

Like most Americans, I existed in a pre-war, pre-Gitmo state of annoyed disbelief whenever some bug-eyed Pinko insisted we'd left soldiers behind when we left Viet Nam. This is America: we don't, we'd never, do such a thing. But since we started extraordinarily rendering folks to places like Egypt and Syria so they could be tortured, since we continue a war aimed largely at enriching companies like KBR and Halliburton, when it's clear that Wall Street will be allowed to do absolutely anything it likes to Main Street (let alone MLK Blvd, as SNL so aptly put it) I no longer roll my eyes when presented with such evidence. Instead, I have to fight bitter tears when my kindergartener comes home proudly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance she's just learned. "With truth and justice for all?" Gets me every time. It makes me so angry and ashamed, I have to look away as I hypocritically applaud her recitation of those increasingly hollow words.

Bailout Bill Passes; Leading Dem Skeptic Issues Statement

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 3:08 PM EDT

Republicans got most of the attention (or blame) for stopping the bailout bill when it was first brought up in the House on Monday. But many Democrats, including members of a bipartisan group that called itself the "skeptics caucus," also voted no. Unfortunately for the skeptics, the bill just passed, 263-171. Over 170 Democrats and 90 Republicans voted for the bill, with 108 Republicans and just 63 Democrats voting no (down from 95 on Monday). Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a no vote who led the skeptics caucus, has issued a statement:

Friday Cat Blogging - 3 October 2008

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 3:05 PM EDT

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....Here are my cats responding to today's passage of the bailout bill. Inkblot is hiding in the bushes, which must mean he thinks financial oblivion is still nigh, while Domino is perky and playful, which must mean she thinks all our problems are behind us. How is your critter taking the news?

Need more cats? Check out Cats for Obama. If it's any indication, Obama has the feline vote locked up.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Mission Creep Dispatch: Mark Selden

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 2:48 PM EDT

Selden.jpgAs part of our special investigation "Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide," we asked a host of military thinkers to contribute their two cents on topics relating to global Pentagon strategy. (You can access the archive here.)

The following dispatch comes from Mark Selden, coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus and a research associate with the East Asia program at Cornell University. His books include War & State Terrorism: The United States, Japan, and the Asia Pacific in the Long Twentieth Century.

Guns Before Butter: Why America Is Losing Clout to Asia

America's domination of the Pacific after World War II hinged on the combination of direct control of Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and the Philippines—and Micronesia in the form of a US trust territory—and the associated network of US military bases. While the bombs had ceased pummeling European cities, Asia remained a critical zone of hot war. After Japan's defeat, the US intervened in the Chinese Civil War in 1947, followed by the Korean and Vietnam wars—both of which directly or indirectly pitted the US against China and the Soviet Union. It was in Asia that the US learned the limits of power, if not the limits of arrogance. Defeated in China and Indochina, it was fought to a standstill in Korea despite overwhelming technological and resource dominance.

GOP Kills Tougher Iran Sanctions Bill

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 2:10 PM EDT

This week, legislation that had passed overwhelmingly in the House, that would have broadened US Iran sanctions to ban US dealings with Iran through foreign subsidiaries, and trade with foreign entities that deal with Iran's energy industry, was set to come for a vote in the Senate. The legislation, supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was opposed by business groups and the Bush administration, which feared it would lead to further fissures in the international coalition the U.S. has tried to assemble to pressure Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program.

But as JTA reports, the legislation was blocked by Senate Republicans. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Co) "exercised his prerogative Thursday to object to consideration of legislation that had passed overwhelmingly last week in the U.S. House of Representatives," the news service writes.

"Both the White House and business groups were concerned with the extraterritorial aspects of the bill," Washington trade attorney Douglas Jacobson explained. "Business groups were also opposed to the divestment aspects. The White House has threatened to veto similar bills many times on grounds that it interferes with the executive branch's ability to conduct foreign policy."

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) criticized Republican efforts to derail the measure, which is now considered unlikely to come up for a vote again before Congress completes its session this weekend. "I am disappointed that the Republicans yesterday blocked the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008 from moving forward in the Senate," Reid said in a statement.


Obama Belt

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 2:05 PM EDT

obamabelt.jpg


If you're having second thoughts about that bold Sarah-Cuda hunting bow purchase following Palin's mediocrity in last night's veep debate, you may consider trying the Obama Belt on for size.

The belt is made by unionized laborers, and fashioned from recycled "pot metal"—my personal favorite. It's yours for just $100, 100% of which goes toward "swing state initiatives" in support of Barack Obama. For the über-Obama supporter, or as New York designer Elise Mogensen says, "For all those Jay-Zs out there who want theirs to be extra-special," belts in sterling silver ($800), 14k gold ($9,800), 18k ($14,500) or platinum (market price) are available upon request.

Ridiculous? Maybe. But with the economy in the tank and gold gaining favor, it might actually be a good investment, not to mention the "vintage" value it will have accrued 50 years down the road.

Our Coming Recession

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 2:02 PM EDT

OUR COMING RECESSION....Ezra Klein is annoyed with pundits who think we need to cut back on spending programs because we're about to devote $700 billion to bailing out Wall Street:

The underlying presumption here is that during a recession, faced with heavy spending, the president will have to cut his investment agenda. It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. In hard times, families cut back. But the government is not a household. In hard times, it should spend more in order to stimulate the economy. That's part of the utility of having a government: When consumers and businesses fall on hard times, they cut spending. Which cuts demand. Which cuts economic activity. Which deepens your recession. All that is a bad Thing. So it's useful indeed that we have an institution able to amp up spending in order to increase demand.

....A better question would take Keynesian economics a bit more seriously. Rather than asking what spending the candidates should give up, the question is which items they should prioritize. In theory, you now want to focus on policies that will create a rapid, short-term boost. This might cut towards a tax rebate and against infrastructure development, or towards green investment and away from health reform. But a recession does not cut against government spending. In fact, it does quite the opposite, and it's a real problem that our political system seems content to lazily assume otherwise.

Right. Monetary policy doesn't have much bite left, so fiscal stimulus is our best bet for boosting consumption and keeping the coming recession shallow. Unfortunately, one of our biggest problems right now is that we also have a large and growing current account deficit. We consume way more than we produce, and our consumption is financed by the Chinese, the Saudi Arabians, and our other fine overseas friends. This can't go on forever, and if we don't do anything about it ourselves, these fine overseas friends will eventually do something themselves. That would be painful in the extreme.

So here's my question. I don't think any real economist has ever addressed any of the questions I've ever posted on this blog, so I should probably just give up, but here it is anyway: Should we try to stimulate our way out of the coming recession? If so, how much and for how long? Or should we instead concentrate on reducing consumption, boosting exports, and getting our house in order before someone gets it in order for us? Can we somehow do both? Inquiring minds want to know.