Blogs

Pennsylvania Voters: Not So Comfortable With Obama Anymore

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 11:08 AM EDT

The media elites loved Barack Obama's "Black and More Than Black" speech. They went bananas. They thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Pennsylvania voters? Not so convinced.

More than a dozen interviews Wednesday found voters unmoved by Obama's plea to move beyond racial divisions of the past. Despite baring himself with extraordinarily personal reflections on one of the most toxic issues of the day, a highly unusual move for a politician running for national office, the debate inside taverns and beauty shops here had barely moved beyond outrage aimed at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama's refusal to "disown" his longtime pastor.
A day after the speech, local residents were left wondering whether Obama was candid in the last week when he said he hadn't heard any of Wright's most objectionable remarks, but then said Tuesday that he had heard "controversial" remarks while sitting in the pews.

Much more after the jump...

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John and Joe Travel the Middle East

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 10:18 AM EDT

Good times! John McCain and Joe Lieberman are on a road trip through the Middle East and are continuing their pattern of gaffes. This one is not as serious as the Sunni/Shia mix up, but it is awfully amusing.

In Israel yesterday, NBC's Lauren Appelbaum reports, Lieberman once again intervened when McCain made an incorrect reference about the Jewish holiday Purim -- by calling the holiday "their version of Halloween here."
McCain made the incorrect statement during a press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak after touring the Israeli city of Sderot to view building damaged by Hamas rocket fire. McCain was discussing the numerous rock attacks on the city. "Nine hundred rocket attacks in less than three months, an average of one every one to two hours. Obviously this puts an enormous and hard to understand strain on the people here, especially the children. As they celebrate their version of Halloween here, they are somewhere close to a 15-second warning, which is the amount of time they have from the time the rocket is launched to get to safety. That's not a way for people to live obviously."
Purim is not the equivalent of an Israeli Halloween, Appelbaum notes. The holiday -- although a joyous one -- commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from mass execution. When Sen. Lieberman had a chance to speak at the press conference, he placed the blame of the mistake on himself. "I had a brief exchange with one of the mothers whose children was in there in a costume for Purim," Lieberman, who is Jewish and celebrates the holiday, said. "And it's my fault that I said to Senator McCain that this is the Israeli version of Halloween. It is in the sense because the kids dress up and it's a very happy holiday and actually it is in the sense that the sweets are very important of both holidays."

I hope someone makes a movie out of these two. The very underrated mid-90s goofball comedy My Fellow Americans could be the inspiration. Except instead of the hilarious misadventures of two old, curmudgeony ex-presidents, it would be two old, curmudgeony wanna-be presidents.

Reduce Carbon Emissions and Boost the Economy

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 10:03 PM EDT

348546345_ed90e9d509_m.jpg Here's how. According to Yale's new interactive website, SeeForYourself, a national policy to cut CO2 by as much as 40 percent over the next 20 years could still result in increased economic growth. The study by Robert Repetto is a meta-analysis of 27 prior economic models and identifies seven key assumptions accounting for most of the differences in the model predictions.

The best part is SeeForYourself allows you to play forecaster and choose which assumptions you feel are most realistic. You can then view predictions based on your chosen assumptions. For instance, you get to rate assumptions such as: How likely is it that renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar energy, will be available at stable prices and will be able to compete with fossil fuels once fuel prices rise far enough? Or: How likely is it that climate change will result in economic damages to the United States if U.S. emissions are not reduced?

It's fun, informative, and designed to convince our more feebleminded policymakers how easy it is to do the right thing and prosper. Descriptions of the models can be found in Costs of Climate Protection: A Guide for the Perplexed, World Resources Institute.

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

Obama Spokesman Jabs McCain on Al Qaeda-Iran Gaffe

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 7:46 PM EDT

By now you're sick of hearing about John McCain's gaffe in Jordan—although definitely worth the attention, I'd argue—but this quote from the Obama campaign is worth passing along. From campaign spokesman, Bill Burton: "We wish the McCain campaign well as they try to figure out the difference between Iran and Al Qaeda." That's pretty funny right? Only it's not so much funny as it is scary that a man, who may very well not have more of a clue than our current commander in chief, might one day replace him. So, definitely not funny ha-ha.

"Garfield Minus Garfield" A Troubling Lesson on Late Capitalist Anxiety?

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 6:10 PM EDT

There have been a few "comic remixes" that have probably landed in your e-mail boxes over the years: The Dysfunctional Family Circus predates the internet, in fact, replacing the originals' cloying observations with sick jokes about incest and drugs, while "Marmaduke Explained" attempts to find humor in this bafflingly non-funny comic via deadpan explanations that are even less funny. But recently I've come across a reinterpretation of a much-derided comic that's pretty stunning, not only because it makes the originals funny, but because it does so not through addition, but through subtraction.

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Garfield Minus Garfield has a simple formula: erase (presumably through the magic of Photoshop) every instance of the irrepressible, overweight feline, leaving only Jon Arbuckle to talk to himself. The results are devastating (and hilarious) treatises on loneliness, without punch lines or jokes, reminiscent of the appallingly bleak early Peanuts strips.

Cheney on America's Opposition to the War: "So?"

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 1:51 PM EDT

Vice President Cheney took to ABC to call the war a "major success" and to dismiss the will of the American public:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it's not worth fighting.
CHENEY: So?
RADDATZ So? You don't care what the American people think?
CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

While we're contemplating whether we still live in a representative democracy, let's take a look at some long-term Pew polls that illustrate exactly what the American people think.

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The Peace Movement and Darcy Burner

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 12:49 PM EDT

iraq-evacuation250x200.jpg This week, as anti-war activists descended on Washington to mark the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, key members of the peace movement gathered at Take Back America, the annual progressive convention, to discuss their next moves in their ongoing mission to end the war. Up until now, the peace movement has relied on fiery rhetoric and tactics, including large-scale protests and congressional pressure campaigns, that have so far failed to produce the desired results. In part, this may be because the peace movement has always known when it wants to get out of Iraq ("Now!"), but not how it intends to do so.

Speaking at a Take Back America panel on Monday, Leslie Cagan, co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, stressed the need to "mount serious opposition" to Congress' next authorization of funding for the war. "Constant public protest activities," Cagan said, are needed to build pressure on the new president and Congress. She also said that continued counter-recruiting efforts are needed to curb the military's ability to wage war.

But these time-worn protest strategies haven't worked. Congress has never seriously considered denying any of the president's many war funding requests, and troops levels in Iraq today are near their highest point.

Nita Chaudhury of MoveOn.org said that the peace movement needs make it clear to Republicans that voting to continue the war won't just imperil their jobs, but send their political movement into a "death spiral" that would "doom it for a decade." Evidence of the death spiral's imminence is hard to find: The economy is outpacing the war as the most important issue in every primary, and the vehemently pro-war John McCain is polling evenly with Democrats in the presidential race.

Tom Swan, the national coordinator of the Iraq/Recession Campaign, explained that his coalition will try to convince the public that the war is causing America's economic ills. What Swan was missing was persuasive data showing that the link between the war and the recession was real, and not just an opportunistic PR tactic by the peace movement. Swan is supported by a Nobel-winning economist, but serious questions remain.

In all, five anti-war leaders spoke during the Take Back America panel discussion and not one of them devoted more than a half-sentence to the surge, which any reality-based observer would admit seriously complicates the anti-war movement's efforts to generate popular opposition to the war. And none made any mention of how America ought to withdraw.

But then Darcy Burner spoke.

Replaying the Iraq War's Greatest Hits, Five Years On

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 6:01 AM EDT
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It's been five years since we headed down the rabbit hole to Iraq. Reflecting on this milestone while visiting Baghdad a couple of days ago, Dick Cheney declared that "we've come a long way" since the days of "Mission Accomplished," describing the war as "a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavor." Which in the topsy-turvy, up-is-down world of Iraqspeak means that we are still horribly, gut-wrenchingly screwed.

To commemorate the war's fifth birthday, here's a brief collection of some of Mother Jones' coverage of the challenges and difficulties of the past few years. Or, as the vice president might put it, the Iraq War's greatest hits:

What's Worse? Exxon or Comfortable Footwear?

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 7:22 PM EDT
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The Consumerist is having fun with its first-ever "Worst Company in America" survey. Today's corporate death match is between oil giant ExxonMobil and Crocs, the much-hated-upon yet oh-so-comfy rubber clogs. So who's worse? Here's a hint. And it looks like the Consumerist's readers are starting off on the the right foot, too.

New Deadline in Missing WH Emails Case

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 7:10 PM EDT

A federal judge told the Bush administration today that it has three days to give him a good reason why he shouldn't order the White House to make copies of every computer hard drive in the Executive Office of the President (EOP). Judge John M. Facciola's ruling (PDF) is a major victory for two Washington non-profits, the National Security Archive (NSA) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who have been battling the administration in court to ensure the preservation of missing White House emails.

The emails, which could number in the millions, are from between 2003 and 2005 and could include information about the runup to the war in Iraq and the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA agent. (Need to catch up? Read our full coverage of the missing White House emails story.)

In another victory for the plaintiffs, the Judge noted the fact, reported by Mother Jones in January but largely ignored in the mainstream press, that the White House's regular 'recycling' of email backup tapes prior to October 2003 indicates that emails between March and October 2003 are probably not preserved anywhere. This contradicts what Theresa Payton, the White House Office of Administration's (OA) Chief Information Officer, said in January when she claimed that "substantially all" the missing emails would be preserved on backup tapes (PDF). From the Judge's order:

It is nevertheless true that if e-mails have not been properly archived as plaintiffs allege, and copies of those e-mails do not exist on back-up tapes, then the obliteration of data upon which those e-mails may be reconstructed threatens the plaintiffs with irreparable harm. This appears to be the case for any e-mails that were not properly archived between March 2003 and October 2003, during which time no back-up tapes exist. [Emphasis added.]

Facciola's ruling indicates that he takes the plaintiffs' concerns seriously and understands that time is of the essence, since every day that goes by makes it increasingly likely that potentially recoverable email data will be permanently lost. If Facciola does order copies made, it will mean that "while the clock is ticking [the emails] are not going to disappear," explains Meredith Fuchs, the NSA's General Counsel.