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Video: The Miami-Dade Wild Card

In Miami, non-Cuban Latino voters are more concerned with health care than with the Castros, and this year they...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 7:35 PM EDT

In Miami, non-Cuban Latino voters are more concerned with health care than with the Castros, and this year they are beginning to surpass the Cubans in vote registration. Unlike the Cubans, they tend to vote Democratic—when they vote.

John McCain is paying attention: Colombians are the second largest Latino group in Miami-Dade County. During the final presidential debate, he advertised his support for the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, which most Colombians support and Obama opposes. Still, most of these new immigrants seem more concerned with domestic issues than with their homelands. Could new Nicaraguan, Colombian, and Cuban citizens swing Florida this November? Watch the video above. Then click here for the full story of Miami's Hispanic swing vote.

Video by Elizabeth Méndez Berry and Don Duncan.

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Global Warming Killing Yellowstone's Amphibians

The world's oldest national park cannot protect its populations of frogs and salamanders.

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 7:33 PM EDT

800px-Pseudacris_maculata.jpg The world's oldest national park cannot protect its populations of frogs and salamanders. Global warming is infiltrating park boundaries and destroying this amphibian refuge. A Stanford University study finds that remote ponds surveyed 15 years ago are now suffering catastrophic population declines in species supposedly not threatened. "The ecological effects of global warming are even more profound and are happening more rapidly than previously anticipated," the researchers write in PNAS.

The problem is disappearing ponds. The survey area lies in the lower Lamar Valley of northern Yellowstone. Dozens of small fishless ponds provide habitat once ideal for the breeding and larval development of blotched tiger salamanders, boreal chorus frogs, and Colombia spotted frogs. But high temperatures and drought are drying up the ponds.

The researchers studied climate and water records going back a century, ranging from handwritten logs of water flow in the Lamar River to satellite imagery. They could find no cause for the drying ponds other than a persistent change in temperature and precipitation. "It's the cumulative effects of climate," says biologist Elizabeth Hadly. . . Apparently national parks were a great idea of the 19th and 20th centuries. Now we need to graduate to the notion of a global park, refuge for us all.

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

John McCain, Holy Man

JOHN McCAIN, HOLY MAN....David Gelernter says that John McCain's big problem is that he's just too damn modest about his own saintliness:Of course no candidate can advertise his own moral stature; he can use weak words like "maverick" and "I...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 7:15 PM EDT

JOHN McCAIN, HOLY MAN....David Gelernter says that John McCain's big problem is that he's just too damn modest about his own saintliness:

Of course no candidate can advertise his own moral stature; he can use weak words like "maverick" and "I have been tested," but can't quite say "I stand before you as a hero of proven nobility."

No, I guess he can't, can he? Luckily, Gelernter does it for him: "In Hebrew he would be called a tsaddik — a man of such nobility and moral substance that he approaches holiness." Here's an example of McCain's alleged holiness:

McCain is only a part-time conservative and has never inspired enthusiasm on the right; but no one doubts that each of his leftward excursions has been a matter of principle and not convenience. His outspoken, unwavering support for Israel in the face of American Jewish indifference is a perfect example of principled versus self-interested politics.

I admit that I hadn't realized before that unwavering support for Israel was such a gutsy stand for an American politician to take. Live and learn.

MOJO VIDEO: Palin for President?

At a Sarah Palin rally in Fredericksburg, Virginia, earlier this week, Mother Jones found rank-and-file Republicans excited about John McCain,...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 6:30 PM EDT

At a Sarah Palin rally in Fredericksburg, Virginia, earlier this week, Mother Jones found rank-and-file Republicans excited about John McCain, but even more excited about his potential VP.

— Taylor Wiles, Jonathan Stein, David Corn

New Music Out Today: The Cure, Deerhunter, Snow Patrol, Kaiser Chiefs

While actual album release dates are even less relevant now that nobody has any money to spend on CDs, it's a good excuse to check out some new music. "New" is a relative term, though, when you're dealing with 30-plus-year-old combo The Cure, whose 13th studio album, 4.13 Dream, sounds kind of old. Nothing against old Cure, of course, and there are a...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 6:25 PM EDT

mojo-photo-newalbums1028.jpg

While actual album release dates are even less relevant now that nobody has any money to spend on CDs, it's a good excuse to check out some new music. "New" is a relative term, though, when you're dealing with 30-plus-year-old combo The Cure, whose 13th studio album, 4.13 Dream, sounds kind of old. Nothing against old Cure, of course, and there are a few moments on the album that echo the dreamy landscape of Disintegration, for instance, like 6-minute album opener "Underneath the Stars," and jaunty single "The Only One." But as the UK Sunday Times put it, there are too many moments here that are "wearyingly over the top, and scary, too." Just in time for Halloween!

Atlanta's Deerhunter are only a few years into their noise-rock career, but their new album Microcastle has the assured edginess of Sonic Youth. Single "Nothing Ever Happened" plays with fire: a vocal harmony in the chorus whose notes are only one step apart. It could be grating, but instead it's hypnotic. Pitchfork gives it one of its best reviews of the year, with a 9.2 out of 10 score on the Forkometer and comparisons to Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. They even say the album may be "a reason not to slit our throats before President Palin decides to nuke the world in 2017." Erp.

Obama the Cautious

OBAMA THE CAUTIOUS....More Ezra, this time on the likely impact of a Barack Obama presidency:If the fact of Obama's candidacy has been remarkable, however, it's hard to escape the signs that his presidency will be rather less transformative. Obama's domestic...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 5:49 PM EDT

OBAMA THE CAUTIOUS....More Ezra, this time on the likely impact of a Barack Obama presidency:

If the fact of Obama's candidacy has been remarkable, however, it's hard to escape the signs that his presidency will be rather less transformative. Obama's domestic policy proposals were the weakest of the three major Democrats. His legislative instincts, as he's frequently admitted and as his career suggests, are fairly cautious. His staff is primarily comprised of competent representatives of the center-left. His campaign picked no major fights with Democratic Party orthodoxy.

This is what makes the eleventh-hour conservative meltdown over Obama (he's a socialist, a street thug, a terrorist lover, a radical leftist, etc. etc.) so strange. It's true that Obama is something of a Rorschach test, with all of us seemingly projecting on him what we'd like to see (or, in some cases, fear to see), but the reality of the man sure doesn't seem to support anything very apocalyptic. Yes, he's young, black, and charismatic, but let's get real: the real reason most people are thrilled with him is that he's not George Bush. After eight years of Republican misrule, the Democrats could have nominated Austin Powers and the world would have breathed a sigh of relief.

As for Obama himself, Ezra is responding to a Jack Shafer column that complains about reporters being completely smitten by "the notion that Obama's candidacy is momentous, without parallel, and earth-shattering." But the links he provides — presumably the best he could Google up — are pretty thin fare, mostly just a few pundits claiming that Obama might help restore respect for America abroad. In fact, what's struck me most about pro-Obama campaign punditry both in the blogosphere and the MSM is how little of it has been motivated by an active defense of Obama. Andrew Sullivan aside, the vast bulk has been anti-McCain and anti-Bush. The blogosphere, the country, and the world are just tired of Republicans. Obama has run a good campaign, but if Hillary Clinton had won the nomination (or Al Gore or John Kerry or Socks the cat) they'd all be ahead by seven points too.

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How Much Does U.S. Spend on Spying? Almost $60 Billion

How much do the spies of the US government spend on their spying? Over $47 billion a year, according to...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 5:27 PM EDT

How much do the spies of the US government spend on their spying? Over $47 billion a year, according to budget numbers released on Tuesday by the Director of National Intelligence. And if you count the military intelligence program, the total amount is closer to $60 billion. This is only the fourth time in U.S. history that the government has publicly disclosed the intelligence budget. Secrecy News explains:

The aggregate intelligence budget figure (including national, joint military and tactical intelligence spending) was first released in 1997 ($26.6 billion) in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Federation of American Scientists. It was voluntarily released in 1998 ($26.7 billion). The National Intelligence Program budget was next disclosed in 2007 ($43.5 billion), in response to a Congressional mandate, based on a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. And then there was today's release for 2008.
In recent years, the most passionate opponent of intelligence budget disclosure has been none other than Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), whose own financial non-disclosure practices have recently earned him multiple felony convictions.
In an October 4, 2004 Senate floor debate, Senator Stevens usefully marshaled all of the traditional arguments against disclosure. Most of them were false at the time. Others have since been disproven.
"No other nation, friend, or ally, reveals the amount that it spends on intelligence," Sen. Stevens said then.
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In fact, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and other countries have published their intelligence budgets for many years without adverse effect.

From the Man Who Brought You the Segway: The Next Electric Car?

Remember the Segway? Back in 2000, the self-balancing scooter was hyped as the Second Coming of wheeled transport. Unfortunately for its inventor, eccentric New Yorker Dean Kamen, it hasn't really caught on outside a narrow circle of enthusiasts. But Kamen doesn't care. He's got something better: Conceived in Scotland almost 200 years ago, the Stirling is a marvel of thermodynamics that could help to...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 5:25 PM EDT

segway.jpgRemember the Segway? Back in 2000, the self-balancing scooter was hyped as the Second Coming of wheeled transport. Unfortunately for its inventor, eccentric New Yorker Dean Kamen, it hasn't really caught on outside a narrow circle of enthusiasts. But Kamen doesn't care. He's got something better:

Conceived in Scotland almost 200 years ago, the Stirling is a marvel of thermodynamics that could help to replace the internal combustion engine—in theory it can turn any source of heat into electricity, in silence and with 100 percent efficiency. But corporations including Phillips, Ford and Nasa have devoted decades of research, and millions of dollars, to developing the engine, and all retired defeated, having failed to find a way of turning the theoretical principles of the engine into a workable everyday application.

After ten years and a $40 million investment, Kamen and his engineers think they've succeeded where NASA failed. Though the Stirlings aren't ready for commercial use, Kamen says he's test-driven engines burning everything from jet fuel to cow manure. They don't work in cars yet, he says. But they will.

Obama Poster Parodies Proliferate

It's poster parody pandemonium! We've already remarked here on the Riff about the cool design both coming from and being produced for the Obama campaign; one of the most iconic images so far is Shepard Fairey's red-and-blue "Hope" poster, whose graphic simplicity references classic propaganda just enough to be cool. The poster's design has become enough of a touchstone that parodies have been popping...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 3:45 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaposters.jpgIt's poster parody pandemonium! We've already remarked here on the Riff about the cool design both coming from and being produced for the Obama campaign; one of the most iconic images so far is Shepard Fairey's red-and-blue "Hope" poster, whose graphic simplicity references classic propaganda just enough to be cool. The poster's design has become enough of a touchstone that parodies have been popping up, but I didn't realize quite how many: via BoingBoing comes this link to a page featuring a whole slew (89, in fact) of takes on the red-on-one-side-blue-on-the-other design. Some of these are obviously made by angry Republicans, who did nothing but change the "Hope" to a "Nope" and call it good. But my favorites are so nonsensical, they're oddly inspired: The Soup Nazi, over "Soup," of course; Amy Winehouse over "Dope"; the Pope over, uh, "Pope." However, this page did seem to miss a version that appeared during San Francisco's recent leather-themed Folsom Street Fair, whose cheeky reference to the "Obey" posters that made Fairey famous was suddenly appropriate in a whole new way. Yes, Mr. President, I've been very naughty. See that one after the jump.

Language Watch

LANGUAGE WATCH....Yesterday a regular reader emailed me about that famous quote from a McCain advisor calling Sarah Palin a "diva":It's sad how the Republicans struggle with sexism and it shows (brutally) in the slamming she is starting to take. Sadly,...

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 3:28 PM EDT

LANGUAGE WATCH....Yesterday a regular reader emailed me about that famous quote from a McCain advisor calling Sarah Palin a "diva":

It's sad how the Republicans struggle with sexism and it shows (brutally) in the slamming she is starting to take. Sadly, though, if the internal warfare goes unchecked, Palin will be a stereotype — the single-mindedly, narcissistic, aggressive woman who is striving for self-aggrandizement at all costs, who lacks any intellectual depth and is ultimately shallow — a true Diva. And while part of me would be very happy if Palin's capitol exposure is forever limited to tours, another part of me sees the risks of more roadblocks for women.

I've been watching the growing grumblings and have been wondering how long it would be before we saw the reference to Diva, a great put-down of powerful women. Why can't she just be another self-interested but charismatic politician who is woefully out of her element and not appropriate for this position. And leave it at that. No, I bet you'll see more sexist-based disparagement from the right before this is done.

As a father of two strong-willed girls, the whole spectacle is frustrating.

Today, Mike Allen reports the latest:

In convo with Playbook, a top McCain adviser one-ups the priceless "diva" description, calling her "a whack job."

"Whack job" isn't sexist, is it? How about that instead?