Blogs

Circular Firing Squad Warning: Obama the Wonder Boy Had Better Get Out Ahead of the Impending Black vs. Hispanic Implosion

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 8:28 PM EST

To date, the defining dynamic of the fight for the Democratic nomination has been race versus gender—which will the left symbolically end first? Race won, once Clinton's race-baiting went several bread crumbs too far. Major upheavals both likely and notwithstanding, the dilemma now facing both candidates, but especially Obama, will be surfing the coming tsunami between blacks and Hispanics, America's largest minority group. All that's at stake is the disintegration of the Democratic coalition.

Obama is running 3 to 1 behind Clinton among Latinos (25 percent of the electorate) in vote-rich California, for instance, with Super Tuesday looming. Similar realities confront him across America. If Obama wants to be the nominee—and survive his first term as Prez—he'll have to close that gap without alienating blacks, a tightrope I would happily ask my worst enemy to walk. What's the brother to do?

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Huckabee in San Francisco

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 8:05 PM EST

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Multiple corporate conferences dominated the lobby of San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel yesterday, and at first glance, one never would've guessed that the Republican candidate who had stormed to victory in the Iowa caucuses was in the house. I found the Terrace Room, where Mike Huckabee was addressing the small yet powerful group that is the Bay Area social conservative set, by following the screams of a Code Pink antiwar protester (dressed sharply in a business suit to match the well-healed crowd) being dragged out. As her cries of "Out of Iraq now!" faded, Huckabee turned back to the crowd and remarked that the beauty of America is that the protester was not going to be taken out back and shot. Laughter ensued: The audience might have been small, but it was boisterous enough at that point (and at other times) to make up for the empty seats at the fringes of the room.

After a cordial Q&A with his supporters, Huckabee made his way into the adjoining Vanderbilt room, where local media were decidedly less friendly. They focused on two issues about which most San Franciscans strongly disagree with Huckabee: gay rights and immigration. And for the occasion, the ex-Governor of Arkansas toned down his usually fiery religious rhetoric.

Asked if he had spoken to the mother of Ryan White, the young AIDS victim who was expelled from school at the beginning of the epidemic and around that time that Huckabee said that HIV/AIDS patients should be quarantined, he said that they recently had a very long phone conversation with Ms. White-Ginder. When the questions turned to gay rights, he came out strongly against firing someone in a government position based on sexual orientation (yet left the door open for the possibility of firing a gay church employee). These answers were obviously tailored to the assembled group, and this was probably the first time he has dusted them off and trotted them out in public.

China to Stop Rain for Olympics

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 7:43 PM EST

beijing-rain.JPGAn article in the Los Angeles Times notes that the Chinese are planning to keep rain away from the roof-less Olympic stadium—by force if necessary.

The Chinese are planning on using "cloud seeding" to ensure good weather. To do this, they have farmers sitting not too far from Beijing with anti-aircraft guns. When the farmers see a cloud that looks like it might rain, they fire silver iodide into it. The particles of iodide makes the cloud's moisture condense around them, creating rain.

That's not all China has up its sleeve. In the Mother Jones January/February 2008 issue we noted Chinese plans for "rainmakers" and a new, low-emissions, public transit system for the Olympic village.

For more on Beijing's attempt to make 2008 Olympics go off without a hitch (or a CO2 emission), check out Beijing Goes Green.

Dem Debate: Buzzed, Annoyed and Inspired

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 7:16 PM EST

kodak-LA-150.jpgBarack Obama and Hillary Clinton went mano-a-mano during a Democratic presidential debate broadcast from the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on CNN Thursday night. The debate left me feeling buzzed, annoyed, and inspired. Here's why:

Vote Your Genes

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 7:03 PM EST

istockphoto_3887591_democrat_vs_republican_on_white.jpg Fire the pundits. Cancel the debates. According to an emerging idea in the social and political sciences, political positions are substantially determined by biology and can be stubbornly resistant to reason. New Scientist follows the trail of evidence:

Twin studies suggest that opinions on a long list of issues, from religion in schools to nuclear power and gay rights, have a substantial genetic component. The decision to vote rather than stay at home on election day may also be linked to genes. Neuroscientists have also got in on the act, showing that liberals and conservatives have different patterns of brain activity… People who scored highly on a scale measuring fear of death, for example, were almost four times more likely to hold conservative views. Dogmatic types were also more conservative, while those who expressed interest in new experiences tended to be liberals. [This] review also noted research showing that conservatives prefer simple and unambiguous paintings, poems and songs.

Finally, an explanation for Thomas Kinkade, "God Bless America," and flag fetishes.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Arizona Republic Forgets About McCain's "Volcanic Temper"

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 5:49 PM EST

This is what Arizona Republic's editorial board had to say about John McCain:

Arizona Sen. John McCain has staked much of his claim to the presidency on his character: his status as war hero; his service to his country; his commitment to a cause, his country, bigger than himself.
These are legitimate claims to support by McCain, and worthy of voter attention and consideration.
But there are other aspects of McCain's character, less flattering, also worthy of voter attention and consideration....Many Arizonans active in policymaking have been the victim of McCain's volcanic temper and his practice of surrounding himself with aides and allies who regard politics, in the words of his paid Arizona chairman, state House Speaker Jeff Groscost, as a "bloodsport."

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Friday? Hi Guy, It's Music News Day

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 5:05 PM EST

Music News


  • NASA is planning to transmit the Beatles song "Across the Universe" towards the North Star, Polaris, on Monday, to mark the 50th anniversary of NASA and the 45th anniversary of their Deep Space Network. Polaris is 431 light years away, so they should be receiving it about the same time Beatles tracks show up on iTunes. I wonder if they're broadcasting it with DRM?

  • Members of TV on the Radio and The Roots are set to cover a civil rights-era freedom song for an upcoming documentary. The film, Soundtrack for a Revolution, is being produced by Danny Glover. No word on a release date.
  • U2 may be considering a record-setting residency at London's O2 Arena later this year. Prince played a run of 21 shows at the venue last summer, but the Irish combo are reportedly planning an even longer set of dates.
  • The deluxe edition reissue of Beck's classic 1996 album Odelay was released with screwed-up lyrics in the booklet. The LA-based musician issued an apology for the mishap, which reportedly was due to a designer grabbing un-proofed lyrics from a lyrics website. But as Rolling Stone points out, "she's alone in a new dilusion" (sic) may actually be an improvement.
  • Evaluating the Senate Stimulus Plan

    | Fri Feb. 1, 2008 4:25 PM EST

    The Senate stimulus package released this week is a solid improvement over the House/White House compromise plan. The primary reason is that the Senate proposal, tailored by Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana, provides low- and moderate-income working families with rebates that are the same size as the rebates going to families at higher income levels. The House package gave low- and moderate-income families smaller rebates than their wealthier counterparts.

    Senator Baucus also raised the ceiling on the rebates. Whereas the House plan capped eligibility for the full rebate at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples, Baucus puts the caps at $150,000 for individuals and $300,000 for couples. The rebates themselves are slightly smaller, however. The House plan gave individuals a maximum of $600 and couples a maximum of $1,200. The Senate rebates max out at $500 and $1,000.

    According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

    Dying for a Lawyer: Life on Alabama's Death Row

    | Fri Feb. 1, 2008 4:08 PM EST

    The nation's de facto death penalty moratorium continued last night when the U.S. Supreme Court intervened one hour before Alabama death row inmate James Callahan was scheduled to die. Since the high court decided to review lethal injection—the southern state's primary capital punishment method—in September, every scheduled execution has been stayed.

    Along with Callahan, 194 people currently live on Alabama's death row—more than any other state per capita. But what makes the situation in Alabama most dire isn't the lethal injection protocol being weighed by the Court; it's the lack of adequate legal representation available to the condemned. More than half of Alabama's death row inmates had trial attorneys whose compensation for out-of-court hours was capped at $1000, giving lawyers a financial disincentive to prepare a zealous defense. Even worse, Alabama is one of only two states in the country that don't provide legal representation for capital post-conviction appeals. Death row inmates who are indigent (and most are), don't stand a chance for relief unless they're lucky enough to get pro bono representation from groups like Equal Justice Initiative and the Southern Center for Human Rights. (Full disclosure: I worked at SCHR as an investigator.) So far five innocent people have been freed from Alabama's death row. Who knows how many remain because they lack a lawyer.

    —Celia Perry

    Obama's Cool Artwork Doesn't Seem Like a Good Sign

    | Fri Feb. 1, 2008 3:30 PM EST

    mojo-photo-obamaposter3.jpgI've already mentioned how Obama's got the best font of all the presidential contenders (and, thanks to an unusually lucid commenter, we now know it's called Gotham, a typeface featured in the great little documentary Helvetica), and now he's got some of the best posters of all time. First of all, anybody watching the Los Angeles debate between Obama and Clinton might have seen these, seemingly-homemade orange-and-black posters out front:

    (photo at left from the LA Times, photo below from the NY Times)