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Envisioning a President Obama After September 11

| Mon Jul. 14, 2008 11:46 AM EDT

obama-flag.jpg From Ryan Lizza's new piece in the New Yorker, we get Obama's public reaction to the World Trade Center attacks, published in the Hyde Park Herald on Sept. 19:

Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.
We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.
We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.

I'll let you decide for yourself it that's the attitude you'd want a Commander-in-Chief to take in the face of national tragedy.

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Hi, Me Again. Afghanistan Is Going Poorly

| Mon Jul. 14, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

Just FYI, nine American soldiers were killed by Taliban insurgents in the worst attack against Americans in Afghanistan in three years. We're in danger of losing that country. Does anyone you know care?

Time for McCain to Ditch that Balanced Budget Pledge

| Mon Jul. 14, 2008 9:57 AM EDT

After the Tax Policy Center, the New York Times, and Marc Ambinder all methodically took apart John McCain's pledge to balance the budget by the end of his first term (while extending massive tax cuts for the wealthy, creating new tax cuts for corporations, continuing the war in Iraq, fully funding No Child Left Behind, and introducing a climate change action plan), I thought maybe the media pressure on the McCain campaign would be great enough that it would have to walk the pledge back. No dice. It hasn't budged. Maybe McCain's campaign staffers are betting that everyday folks in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida won't see any serious analysis of their numbers.

If that's the case, the fact that the usually conservative Washington Post editorial board is now breaking down the McCain budget pledge and exposing all of its fuzzy, fuzzy math probably won't help either. Nor will the fact that Bloomberg is going after him. But it's nice to know that the coverage of this has legs.

Update: I want to add that there is no secret McCain plan to balance the budget. The man doesn't understand economics, America's recent economic history, or simple economic policy. His campaign simply made a pledge for political reasons that it couldn't back up and now it's seeing if it can survive the media windstorm that has resulted.

Holy Fist Bumps: New Yorker Obama Cover Features Turban, Afro, Flag Burning, bin Laden, Complete Lack of Concern for Humanity

| Sun Jul. 13, 2008 8:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nyerobama.jpgWeren't we just having a discussion here on the Riff about the thin line satire walks, between being the opposite of a thing and an endorsement of a thing? Well, brace yourselves, because the New Yorker has jumped right into the middle of that argument with a cover that made my jaw actually drop. The July 21st issue features a be-turbaned Barack and an afroed, gun-toting Michelle Obama, celebrating their arrival in the White House with a good old terrorist fist-bump. They've also apparently done a little redecorating, tacking up a portrait of Osama bin Laden and tossing an American flag into the fireplace for good measure. The illustration, called "The Politics of Fear," is described in a New Yorker press release as satirizing the "scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election"; as the Huffington Post put it: "all that's missing is a token sprig of arugula."

After the jump: the full cover, the campaigns' responses, and when did the New Yorker become America's chaos-inducing art terrorist psycho?

Dep't of Surrogate Follies: Oops, McCain = Bush

| Sun Jul. 13, 2008 3:50 PM EDT

When one of your surrogates can't think of a single difference between you and the President on economic issues, you're in serious trouble.

Did Sanford have a momentary lapse? Sure. But if Blitzer had given Sanford 20 minutes, he wouldn't have found a substantive difference between McCain and Bush other than McCain's lower tolerance for pork, which, because earmark spending is a relatively small portion of the federal budget, is more a good government issue than an economic one. On taxes, trade, CEO salaries, and so on, McCain and Bush are nearly identical. Other McCain surrogates have admitted as much.

McCain's NYT Interview: Federalism, Live and In the Flesh

| Sat Jul. 12, 2008 8:01 PM EDT

John McCain is famous for chatting with reporters for hours on end, but everyday folks (and even reporters from small magazines, ahem) are rarely privy to those conversations. Two reporters from the New York Times sat down with McCain and put his answers to their questions up online. They are basically unedited, and it's actually rather nice to get an unvarnished look at a candidate's thoughts.

Now, the blogosphere will almost certainly focus on McCain's further admissions of technological incompetence. In the interview, McCain says, "I am learning to get online myself" and "I've never felt the particular need to e-mail."

But what I want to focus on is a moment of principle. McCain is asked about gay marriage and about teaching evolution in schools — he gets the first question "right" (that is, right from a progressive perspective) and gets the second question "wrong." The reason? He takes a federalist approach to both. Here's the transcript:

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Comrade Obama? The Right's "Wealth Redistribution" Straw Man

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 8:44 PM EDT

2235654836_b6af984889.jpg In attempting to persuade voters that Obama is not American enough to be president, the right has renewed charges that he is a socialist in sheep's clothing. Their newest claim that an Obama presidency would usher in an era of "wealth redistribution" seems a thinly veiled attempt to associate Obama with history's socialist revolutionaries and communist dictators.

But before you start worrying that Obama will take your money and impose socialist redistribution mandates, it's worth taking a moment to scrutinize the basis for the right's hackneyed accusations.

New Music: Ratatat - LP3

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 6:57 PM EDT

mojo-photo-ratatatlp3.jpgMaybe you've been watching TV lately and you've seen the Rhapsody commercial where there are a bunch of balloons floating around that magically make logos and stuff, and there's an intriguing instrumental track underneath it, funky like '70s soul, but quirky like '00s electro, and there's also a tiger roar in it, nonsensically? Well, that's "Wildcat" by New York duo Ratatat, and it's a pretty great little tune from their 2006 album Classics. (See completely ridiculous fan-made video below). That track hinted at a new path for American electronic music, experimental but organic, an intriguing answer to European austerity. On their just released new album, the unfortunately-titled LP3, they seem to be on hold, turning again to the same disco-rock beats for an album that's sometimes intriguing but often fades into the background.

Lead Shot Kills Long After The Bullet Stops

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 6:44 PM EDT

Here's another reason cameras are better in the wilderness than rifles or rods.

Millions of pounds of lead used in hunting, fishing, and shooting sports wind up lost in the great outdoors every year, reports the USGS. Except they're not really lost. Only lost to the human hunters and fishers.

They are certainly not lost to the countless individuals of numerous species who eat the spent lead shot, the wayward bullets, the lost fishing sinkers, and the snagged the tackle. They are decidedly not lost to the wildlife that eats the dead and wounded animals who were shot, or who ate the lead.

xray.jpg

Radiograph of immature bald eagle containing numerous lead shot in its digestive tract (Jacobson et al. 1977). (courtesy of Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association)

According to a new technical review by The Wildlife Society, upland hunting fields could receive as much as 400,000 shots per acre. Individual shooting ranges might receive 23 tons of lead shot and bullets yearly. All outdoor shooting ranges in the US combined could receive more than 80,000 tons of lead annually.

Meanwhile, roughly 4,382 tons of lead fishing sinkers are sold in the US every year. No one knows how much of that is lost.

The report notes: Lead is a metal with no known beneficial role in biological systems.

Slang White People Like, Part 2: The Bro-ening

| Fri Jul. 11, 2008 6:40 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bro.jpgDebra seems to be taking a lot of guff from commenters over her piece on the possibly-ironic use of "holler" in an e-mail from a random publishing house, but I have to say I'm 100 percent behind her.

Seriously, who says "holler" unless they're singing along with Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On?" Even then you'd better be pretty drunk.

Esquire GQ (like I can tell those magazines apart) recently tried to pin down the best terms guys can call other guys, and since the ironic use of out-of-date buddy terms is a topic I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of, cap'n, I found their shakedown fascinating. It focuses on the current overuse of the term "bro" amongst, well, those doofy white guys with baseball caps and Linkin Park CDs who wish they were your bro but are not your bro.

Apparently first noted in a 1968 edition of Current Slang, the word has come a long way from its original expression of black unity, and now GQ calls "bro" the "most grating, embarrassing word a guy can use":