Blogs

Presidential Campaigns Using Lots of Inappropriate Songs

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 5:02 PM EST

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I posted on the night of the New Hampshire primaries that the Romney campaign headquarters hosted a performance of Stone Temple Pilots' "Crush," a song that features both some ironically appropriate lyrics and some uncomfortably weird ones. Turns out that using inappropriate songs is a bit of an epidemic in the presidential campaigns, reports the Washington Post. First, they point out two of Hillary Clinton's choices for tunes at campaign rallies: Tom Petty's "American Girl" and Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business," both of which have some uncomfortable lyrical ironies:

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The Debate Over Virtual Schools

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 4:46 PM EST

An appeals court ruling to cut funds for a virtual K-8 school in Wisconsin has rippled through the interwebs this week, causing tears among some students and applause from one teachers' union.

Friday Sighs, "Music News Day"

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 4:45 PM EST

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  • Did someone say "unicorn"? Neko Case, T-Pain and MF Doom will provide the voices for characters in an upcoming Adult Swim cartoon called, er, "Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge." Good title, but somehow I know it won't be nearly as good as the first season of Aqua Teen.
  • Speaking of adults, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore has provided the music (link possibly NSFW) for an adult film called "Extra Action (and Extra Hardcore)," out on DVD March 18th. Wocka waa, wocka wah waaaa? The video is being directed by Richard Kern who has also made some Sonic Youth videos, so that helps explain that, I guess.
  • Both Beyonce and Foo Fighters have promised to attend the Grammys, no matter whether it's a full-on ceremony with union writers penning the jokes or a guy tossing the awards out of the back of a truck. The Foos' manager, John Silva, extended support to striking writers but confirmed the band's commitment to the Grammy ceremony.
  • Some sad news: Lily Allen, who announced her pregnancy last month, has had a miscarriage. A representative for the singer asked for privacy for Allen and her partner, Chemical Brother Ed Simons. Messages of support are being posted at Allen's MySpace page.

30 Million Years to Recover From Extinction?

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 4:02 PM EST

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Scientists have been saying for a while that by the end of this century, half of all species could be extinct. And a new study says that it could take an awfully long time for Earth to recover—30 million years, to be specific.

Back in the Permian era, Earth lost more than 90 percent of all life. Scientists once thought that species rebounded quickly from the hit, but it turns out they were sort of missing the fine print, according to researchers at Bristol University:

Sahney and Benton looked at the recovery of tetrapods – animals with a backbone and four legs, such as amphibians and reptiles – and found that although globally tetrapods appeared to recover quickly, the dramatic restructuring that occurred at the community level was not permanent and communities did not recover numerically or ecologically until about 30 million years later.

And when the species were struggling to rebound back then, they didn't even have to deal with us.

Mitt Romney's Lobbyist Connections

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 3:10 PM EST

romney-old-headshot.jpg In a tense exchange with an AP reporter on Thursday, Mitt Romney insisted that even though a registered lobbyist is one of his senior advisers, lobbyists do not "run" his campaign.

The claim is part of Romney's new self-styled outsider message: lobbyists are part of a broken Washington system and Romney has nothing to do with them.

"My campaign is not based on Washington lobbyists," Romney said. "I haven't been in Washington. I don't have lobbyists at my elbow that are arguing for one industry or another industry and I do not have favors I have to repay to people who have been in Washington for years."

The truth is that Romney is tied closely with many lobbyists. The AP reporter Romney exchanged sharp words with later reported that several Romney aides and advisers are lobbyists. Additionally, as the Nation first reported, Romney has accepted the second most money from lobbyists of any Republican presidential candidate, and has received the most endorsements from lobbyists.

The lobbyists who have endorsed Romney have represented, in 2007 alone, nearly every part of the health care and financial services industries, the NRA, members of the tobacco industry, and gambling interests.

In fact, nearly every lobbyist who has endorsed Romney is peddling influence for the health care industry. They represent insurance companies like AIG and New York Life; trade groups like the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association and the Healthcare Leadership Council (which reps "chief executives from all disciplines within the health care system"); pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer; and other extensions of the American health care apparatus like the California Association of Physicians Groups, the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, the American Dental Association, and the Biotechnology Industry Association.

Obama Supporters Cross the Line in Nevada

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 12:57 PM EST

Barack Obama has generally been less nasty and more truthful than Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race, but this week his supporters in Nevada crossed the line.

The textile and hotel workers' union UNITE-HERE, which is supporting Obama, is ticked off that Clinton supporters filed a lawsuit to make it more difficult for its members to caucus tomorrow. (The lawsuit failed.) So it aired a Spanish-language radio ad in Nevada that is pretty unfair. Here's the translated text:

Hillary Clinton does not respect our people. Hillary Clinton supporters went to court to prevent working people to vote this Saturday — that is an embarrassment.
Hillary Clinton supporters want to prevent people from voting in their workplace on Saturday. This is unforgivable. Hillary Clinton is shameless. Hillary Clinton should not allow her friends to attack our people's right to vote this Saturday. This is unforgivable; there's no respect.
Sen. Obama is defending our right to vote. Sen. Obama wants our votes. He respects our votes, our community, and our people.
Sen. Obama's campaign slogan is "Si Se Puede" ("Yes We Can"). Vote for a president that respects us, and that respects our right to vote. Obama for president, "Si Se Puede."

It's pretty ridiculous to say that "Hillary Clinton does not respect our people." Clinton has long-standing ties to the Hispanic community, and has worked with it and for it for many years. She's been rewarded with the endorsements of many Hispanic leaders. Clinton may not play politics in the cleanest way sometimes, and she may not be as committed as other candidates to driving lobbyists and special interests out of Washington, and she may be a touch too hawkish on foreign policy—but her commitment to minority issues is unquestioned.

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A Problem for Barack Obama

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 11:36 AM EST

No matter what happens in the Democratic caucus in Nevada (this Saturday) and the Democratic primary in South Carolina (next Saturday), Barack Obama has a problem. Mind you, I'm not predicting his demise. But as he and Hillary Clinton head toward Supersaturated Tuesday on February 5, Obama will have a profound challenge that she will not.

Both have money and organization. But she is running a conventional campaign; he is not. She waves her resume, cites her experience, and proclaims she is ready to do the heavy lifting on Day One. He claims that he can change politics--and, thus, government policymaking--because of his vision and strength (and force) of character. He is mounting a campaign that aspires to be transformative. She is heading a campaign that seeks to put its candidate into a job.

After South Carolina, the presidential campaign will be dominated and shaped by ads. With so many states--including California--in immediate play, there's no way the candidates can do retail politicking that matters (like they did in Iowa and New Hampshire). It will be easy for Clinton to sell herself (in conventional terms) through television ads, radio spots, mailers, and the like. Obama may find in tougher to convey the intangibles he is banking on--hope, faith (in him), transcendence--via 60-second snippets. Before signing up with a noble crusade, some Democratic voters might need first to feel the Obama magic. On the other hand, no voter needs to experience Clinton's soul to conclude she is the most qualified for the job.

Connecting with voters in a transformative manner will be a difficult task for Obama in the crazy nine days between South Carolina and February 5. As a more conventional candidate, Clinton could have an advantage at this stage. After all, the conventional often works.

I explain this all a bit further here.

Reporter Calls Romney On Lie in Mid-Sentence

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 11:25 AM EST

We've discussed the campaign press a fair amount recently. I'll make an additional observation: a reporter's feistiness tends to be inversely proportional to his or her seniority. The most vocal agitators are college kids with cameras. After them are journalists from small, ideologically driven magazines and small-time reporters with nothing to lose. But as reporters gain prominence and work for increasingly "serious" publicans, they have more at stake, including their reputations and the reputations of their employers. Also, they tend to be older and less interested in direct confrontation. (I'm speaking in generalities, of course, and there are exceptions.)

That's why what Glen Johnson of the AP did to Mitt Romney is so unlikely and so outstanding. He actual called a candidate on a deliberate falsehood in mid-sentence.

Notice that, afterward, the debate raged over whether Ron Kaufman "runs" Romney's campaign. That's not really relevant. The sentence Romney was saying when Johnson interrupted was, "I don't have lobbyists that are running my campaign. I don't have lobbyists that are tied to my..."

Kaufman may not be running the campaign, but he is most certainly "tied" to it.

Update: Glen Johnson's article on all this is out, and it's a doozy. He looks at a whole slew of Romney aides and advisers who are lobbyists or well-connected Washington politicos, significantly undercutting Romney's claim that he is running an outsider's campaign.

Blackwater's Latest Contract

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 10:27 AM EST

Blackwater has had a rough year PR-wise, as the company has faced allegations ranging from murder to tax evasion, while also managing to kill the New York Times' possibly feral pooch Hentish along the way. But, in the aftermath, Erik Prince's companies certainly haven't suffered for business. In late September, less than two weeks after Blackwater contractors opened fire on a Baghdad street, killing 17 civilians, the company's air cargo and transport subsidiary, Presidential Airways, was awarded a 4-year, $92 million contract by the Pentagon to provide its services in central and southern Asia. And, just yesterday, the agency announced that it was throwing the company another $50 million contract—this one, no-bid—to provide "heavy lift fixed-wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance, and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo (combi) Short Take-Off and Landing air transportation services." The area of operations, as in the first contract, is Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.

Though lesser-known than Blackwater, Presidential Airways also has a somewhat controversial history. Its planes, and those operated by its parent company, Aviation Worldwide Services, have been linked to CIA rendition flights. And both companies face a wrongful death suit filed by the families of three soldiers who were killed when one of Presidential's CASA 212's crashed in Afghanistan in 2004. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigated the crash, reported that "the probable cause of the accident was the captain's inappropriate decision to fly a nonstandard route and his failure to maintain adequate terrain clearance, which resulted in the inflight collision with mountainous terrain." According to the report, the pilot had failed to file a flight plan or "adhere to a defined route of flight," and the company itself failed to "ensure that the flight crews adhered to company policies" or FAA or Defense Department regulations. At the time of the crash, the report says, Presidential's crew was intentionally flying through a valley at low altitude for "fun."

Shrub's Hot Air Economic Balloon

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 9:48 AM EST

Returning from his desert sojourn, President Bush is facing tanking stock markets, a housing collapse that, as long predicted, is pulling down the whole economy, an enfeebled currency, and a do-nothing political climate both in Washington and on the campaign trail. His response: a pipsqueak economic stimulus plan.

According to a report yesterday from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Bush's scheme is a lot of hot air. Robert Greenstein, executive director of the center, said the rebate temporarily eliminating the 10 percent income tax bracket isn't aimed at the people who would spend the money. "This plan would bypass altogether, or provide only partial help to, the more than 40 percent of tax filers — over 50 million filers — with the most modest incomes. Families of four below $40,950 would get partial help or nothing at all."

You can read the center's report at www.cbpp.org, along with more effective suggestions for economic stimulus.