Blogs

There's No Accounting For Taste, Part 3: People Like What Other People Like

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 6:04 PM EST

Celine Dion and hit parades

Lately, there's been an ongoing Riff debate about whether popular music totally sucks or just mostly sucks. Mother Jones staffers may be appalled to find the relative merits of "My Humps" being argued on the (virtual) pages of their esteemed publication, but I think it just shows the temerity of our journalistic commitments: we'll visit Iraq or Fergie-stan. The question of why people like what they like—or, more accurately, how in God's name they can freakin' stand that crap they're listening to—has popped up in a few other interesting places lately, and in both instances, it turns out musical taste has little to do with music.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Previewing the Final Debate, Obama and Clinton Attack and Counter-Attack

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 5:47 PM EST

Will the last Democratic debate before Supersaturated Tuesday, scheduled for Thursday night in Los Angeles, be a mano-a-mano slamfest? During the previous gathering of Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton got rather nasty, as John Edwards attempted to play the grown-up. With Edwards departed from the race, finally there will be a direct Clinton-against-Obama face-off. And the tensions--and stakes--are obviously higher. Yeah, it's easy to depict this as a sporting event. The Super Bowl debate, etc. (CNN calls it campaign coverage "Ballot Bowl '08.") But at this point in the contest, the not-so-great policy differences between the two are not what counts. What matters are the persons--and that includes how they punch, whether they punch, and how they take a punch. Many--if not most--voters will make a final determination based on their impressions of the character, values, judgment, experience, and talents of the two remaining contenders. And here's the last chance Clinton and Obama each have to compare him- or herself to the other--up close and personal.

On Wednesday, the campaigns provided a preview of what could come. During a speech in Denver--where over 10,000 people turned out to see him--Obama presented a sharp critique of Clinton. "Democrats will win in November and build a majority in Congress not by nominating a candidate who will unite the other party against us," he proclaimed, "but by choosing one who can unite this country around a movement for change." He went on:

It is time for new leadership that understands the way to win a debate with John McCain or any Republican who is nominated is not by nominating someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq or who agreed with him in voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran, who agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don't like, who actually differed with him by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed.

The Prison-Industrial Complex Keeps on Creating Wealth, For Some: Wanna Play "Don't Drop the Soap"?

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 3:41 PM EST

It was one of those where you check the URL to make sure you didn't accidentally end up at The Onion's site. One of those times when you could only wish you'd been punk'd.

The son of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is peddling a board game titled "Don't Drop the Soap," a prison-themed game he created as part of a class project at the Rhode Island School of Design.
John Sebelius, 23, has the backing of his mother and father, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Sebelius. ...
John Sebelius is selling the game on his Internet site for $34.99, plus packaging, shipping and handling. The contact information on the Web site lists the address of the governor's mansion. ...the address will change when John Sebelius moves.
"Fight your way through 6 different exciting locations in hopes of being granted parole," the site says. "Escape prison riots in The Yard, slip glass into a mob boss' lasagna in the Cafeteria, steal painkillers from the nurse's desk in the Infirmary."
The game includes five tokens representing a bag of cocaine, a handgun and three characters: wheelchair-using 'Wheelz," muscle-flexing "Anferny" and business suit-clad "Sal 'the Butcher."'

How righteous he must feel for invoking Italian-American stereotypes instead of designing corn row and "grill" game pieces and characters named Raheem, 50 Cent and Deonte'Nazarea.

Rest assured that the young entrepreneur has only harmless fun in mind. It's victimless, no? It in no way reflects on the flaming chasm between the classes (since we don't have those here): "This game is intended for mature audiences -- not children -- and is simply intended for entertainment...".

As were public hangings and chuckling whilst those silly Christians tried to evade those slapstick lions in ancient Rome. Good, clean fun at no one's expense. Pack a pick-a-nick basket and bring the fam.

Please, please let Colbert have this guy on and force him to play his own game while the world watches. I volunteer to hold the stopwatch and see how long it takes for the young designer to either feel ashamed or let loose with a few choice Freudian slips about how 'decent' people really feel about the incarcerated. Disapproving of them is one thing. Dancing on their skulls while they're buried alive is another.

On a trip to Italy, I was all excited to visit the torture museum at San Gimignano. We thought it would be a big hoot, but a mere five minutes in, we were all silent, horrified and ashamed at having tried to find the fun in torture. Finishing the tour seemed like the only possible penance; I've never wanted to escape from anyplace more. Unbelievable, the technology and ingenuity we've devoted to maiming one another. Now I feel silly. What a waste of time feeling bad. We should have designed a game based on it. Anybody got a fiddle I can play while Rome burns?

What Does the Edwards Withdrawal Mean?

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 2:59 PM EST

edwards-drops-out250x200.jpg John Edwards, speaking a few moments ago in New Orleans, withdrew from the presidential race but declined to endorse one of the two remaining candidates. He said he had spoken with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama earlier today and had secured a pledge from both of them that ending poverty would be a central focus of their candidacies and presidencies. Seemingly satisfied with their commitments, Edwards is content to keep his views private for the time being.

Speaking to the working people who have been the feverish focus of his campaign, Edwards said, "We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. And we will never forget you." It was a significant departure from his earlier campaign rhetoric. Previously, Edwards has argued that working class Americans are voiceless, and that he speaks for them. Today, he indicated that their voices are heard, as if Edwards' candidacy has empowered the traditionally ignored.

And he may be right. If Clinton and Obama continue to focus on poverty, they will force the Democratic Party to do the same. The nation's political discourse will have been shifted because of Edwards' valence.

And it won't be the first time. By tomorrow Edwards will be old news, so let's take this opportunity to appreciate him and what he did in this race.

Blackwater's Disaster Movie!

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 1:24 PM EST

Sent to me by a friend in the security business. The video is apparently another salvo in Blackwater's attempt to market itself as a leader in the "peace and stability industry." I'm told that Donald Rumsfeld makes a cameo appearance in this particular film, although I haven't been able to spot him. Can you?

Coalition Of The Dwindling - Australia Is Leaving; Who's Left?

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 1:20 PM EST

CGItemp20368120171388068.239.83.80-86.jpeg

Yet another "coalition partner" has announced plans to withdraw from Iraq. According to UPI, the new Labor government in Australia has decided to bring home its 550 soldiers by mid-2008. The announcement was made by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith several days after his visit to Washington, where he met privately with Dick Cheney, Robert Gates, and Condoleezza Rice. Where does that leave the Multinational Force Iraq (aka the Bush administration's "Coalition of the Willing")? Well, let's take a look...

Countries other than Australia to have withdrawn their troops: Slovakia, Lithuania, Italy, Ukraine, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Thailand, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Nicaragua, Singapore, Norway, Portugal, New Zealand, Philippines, Tonga, and Iceland.

Countries so far "staying the course":
United States, United Kingdom**, Poland, South Korea, Romania, El Salvador, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Denmark, Mongolia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Bulgaria, Armenia, and Latvia.

**It should be noted that the British withdrew from central Basra last year and are now huddled in a secure base outside the city, under regular attack from insurgents. It is widely thought they will withdraw from Iraq sometime during 2008.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

They Can Sell Cigarettes, So Why Not Pot?

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 12:52 PM EST

In one of those "only in California" stories, the AP reports that a creative owner of a nutrition center in Los Angeles has installed a 24-hour vending machine to distribute medical marijuana to the chronically ill.

"Convenient access, lower prices, safety, anonymity," inventor and owner Vincent Mehdizadeh said, extolling the benefits of the machine.

 

Naturally, the feds are going to bust him...

Edwards Dropping Out

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 11:32 AM EST

So it's all over the news that John Edwards will be withdrawing from the presidential race today in a speech in New Orleans. The speech is at 1 pm EST: we'll have full coverage after that point. In the meantime, check out some of our past Edwards coverage: possible Atty. General; possible VP; Iowa; Iowa; Iowa; tough love for Dem insiders; New Hampshire; and Nevada. Let no one accuse Mother Jones of perpetuating the John Edwards media blackout!

With word out that Giuliani will be endorsing McCain later today, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest days of the campaign season.

Update: Barack Obama rushes to claim the Two Americas mantle with this statement:

"John Edwards has spent a lifetime fighting to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the struggling, even when it wasn't popular to do or covered in the news. At a time when our politics is too focused on who's up and who's down, he made a nation focus again on who matters – the New Orleans child without a home, the West Virginia miner without a job, the families who live in that other America that is not seen or heard or talked about by our leaders in Washington. John and Elizabeth Edwards have always believed deeply that we can change this – that two Americans can become one, and that our country can rally around this common purpose. So while his campaign may end today, the cause of their lives endures for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America."

Update II: Clinton statement after the jump.

Sex Slaves and Rape Victims: Feminist, Not Paranoid

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 10:03 AM EST

Want to witness the sale of a 14 year old Romanian sex slave? Check this out.

And in Britain, a rape victim won the right to sue her rapist who won a huge lottery jackpot while in prison even though the statute of limitations expired twenty years ago. She's changed British law. Since it opens the door for all 'assault' victims (i.e. men) to sue long after the fact, I'm sure it will be popular.

The Unresolved Questions of the Florida Primary

| Wed Jan. 30, 2008 9:21 AM EST

giuliani-mccain-florida.jpg

There are so many story lines in the presidential races coming out of Florida and heading into February 5. Here are four key ones.

1. Can John McCain be beat? If John McCain gets Rudy Giuliani's endorsement today, as expected, he will be an incredibly formidable force on February 5. He'll likely gobble up Giuliani's donors and key staffers (meaning additional money and organization), and build on his already impressive lead among moderate Republicans.

Exit polls showed yesterday that Mitt Romney beat John McCain among voters who identified as "conservative," and beat him badly among voters who identified as "very conservative." That spells out Romney's strategy from here on out: move to the right, and target states with conservative electorates (Georgia), and not moderate ones (California). The problem for Romney is that the conservative states on the Feb. 5 map are mostly southern, meaning that Mike Huckabee, who is staying in the race, will likely soak up a lot of votes, putting Romney in a real bind. Huckabee has a lot of personal affection for John McCain (and reportedly hates Romney), which makes one wonder if he is deliberately staying in a race he knows he cannot win in order to help facilitate McCain's triumph over Romney.