Blogs

The First Obama Joke on Comedy Central, Circa 2005

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 6:21 PM EST

Via the SF Bay Guardian's Pixel Vision blog comes this charming little tidbit: what may very well be the first Obama joke made on Comedy Central. It was Bay Area comic W. Kamau Bell who picked the Senator out of almost-obscurity for a bit on black leaders in a stand-up routine back in 2005. He tells the Guardian that Comedy Central actually informed him that it was Obama's first mention by a stand-up comic on the network, so, you know, he's not just spinning. The jokes are, in fact, rather tame, imagining how Obama's name might strike people as a little "too black" if he were to run for president, but for that reason they're actually kind of cute—that was us, just a few years ago! Awww!

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House GOP Brainstorms Economic Ideas: All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 4:59 PM EST

Maybe Washington is embracing bipartisanship. Or maybe Barack Obama is too popular to be opposed.

At an "economic recovery working group" held Thursday for members of the House Republican Caucus, the top two Republicans in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner and Whip Eric Cantor, both thanked President-elect Obama for reaching out to them for ideas to add to the stimulus. "Much to his credit, the President-elect has made clear he wants input on this effort not just from members of his own party, but from the Republican Party and from all Americans," said Boehner, sitting at the front of a large meeting room in the Cannon office building stuffed with congressmen, staff, guests, and members of the media. Mitt Romney, who delivered a short prepared statement, echoed their goodwill sentiments.

The rhetoric stood in stark contrast to the Republican opposition faced by former President Bill Clinton. Upon taking office in 1992, Clinton faced steadfast and united opposition from Republicans in Congress, one of several reasons why his presidency got off to a rocky start that included defeats on gays in the military and health care.

Indie 103.1 Goes Off the Air

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 3:51 PM EST

Indie 103.1Broadcast radio just got a whole lot less interesting, as Los Angeles alternative station Indie 103.1 has announced it will stop broadcasting today, turning to a web-only format. A statement on the station's web site alluded to "changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured" which forces stations to "play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge." I love you Indie, but I have to say, that's not exactly a new situation.

MoJo Video Contest: Goodbye, George W. Bush

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 3:44 PM EST

If you had 30 seconds to say goodbye directly to Bush, what would you say?

We asked MoJo readers in December for their YouTube video responses to this question; today we'll start posting our favorites on motherjones.com.

You can still participate: Just put your 30-second (or so), PG-13 video on YouTube labeled "Mother Jones Goodbye Bush Video" and send us the link at:

mojobushvideo@gmail.com

All styles of video are welcome, from simply talking at the camera to fancier stuff. Bring it on, we say. Just don't forget to include your snail mail address when you email us if you want to win MoJo swag.

Below, the first MoJo Video community tribute to Bush's departure:

Adam Freeland Remixes Daft Punk For Bonkers Obama Video

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 2:57 PM EST

Americablog may not know who Daft Punk or Adam Freeland are, but you do, gentle Riff readers, since I post something about the former at least every week or two. But that doesn't make this video, called "Aer OBAMA," any less baffling. The musical accompaniment consists of French duo Daft Punk's "Aerodynamic" (from their 2001 album Discovery) remixed by UK breaks legend Adam Freeland to have a Speak-and-Spell-y Obama theme; the video is a jittery stop-motion story of the President-Elect jetting in from space to, I guess, dance around at a Daft Punk concert. Okay. Let's just stop for a second. I'd like to point something out. First, I'm a huge Obama supporter who blogs for the Mother Jones magazine. Also, I'm a DJ, and in my radio career I managed to actually interview both Daft Punk and Mr. Freeland, to say nothing of the multiple times I've seen them DJ and perform. I've got the political and the musical sides of this pretty much down, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that I, personally, am at the very center of the intended audience for this video. However, it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, and after watching it, I feel vaguely disturbed, not, you know, "hopeful." Plus, isn't sampling a Speak-and-Spell kind of tired? On top of it all, the very idea that France's greatest robot exports would get remixed by a breaks superstar for a stop-motion video featuring a bunch of Kubrick toys all in tribute to an American president is making me feel like the very laws of physics are collapsing around us. Or maybe I've just had too much coffee?

For Election Law Junkies Only

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 2:30 PM EST

You'll be happy to know that the Federal Elections Commission appears genuinely committed to improving itself. The FEC is conducting what CREW is calling an "unprecedented self-examination of its operating procedures," holding public hearings on its own performance and asking election lawyers from around the country to submit suggestions on its policies and procedures. Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer who has been lending a hand to Al Franken's Senate bid, said, "What they're asking us to do is to comment on how the agency itself functions, and that's pretty unusual.... The commission should be congratulated for doing this." If you want to read about the most significant suggestions to come out of the public hearings, click here.

Don't get too excited, though. (I know, you were getting really excited.) It's admirable that the FEC is willing to do the hard work to improve itself. But it still suffers from a fundamentally flawed structure. The commission is composed of three Republican operatives and three Democratic operatives (all openly partisan and willing to go to bat for their parties and allied interests) who are put into office by the politicians they are tasked to regulated. The result is a perpetually weak enforcement body that will never really ensure clean elections in this country. More on the FEC here.

PS — Did I guarantee myself zero readers with that headline?

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Judge to Bush Admin: "You Rolled the Dice...and You Lost"

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 2:12 PM EST

george-bush-computer-250x200.jpg
"You rolled the dice that you'd win, and you lost." That's what Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola told lawyers for the Bush administration at a hearing on Wednesday afternoon in the ongoing case over millions of missing White House emails. By this he meant that if the White House had followed the recommendations [PDF] that the judge had laid out last April—suggesting that the administration search workstations and portable media devices for the missing messages—it might not be in its current predicament. Instead, Bush officials apparently gambled that they would be able to get the case thrown out, an effort that was rebuffed in November. That bet came back to haunt the administration on Wednesday morning when, with days left before Bush officials vacate the White House, it was hit with a last-minute order (issued by Judge Henry Kennedy, who's also presiding over aspects of the case) to search workstations and collect portable memory devices containing saved emails from departing staffers.

During the status hearing before Judge Facciola, government lawyers shed some light on the scope of the missing email problem. In the past, the White House has issued contradictory statements on the subject, once even denying that any emails were missing. "We have absolutely no reason to believe that any emails are missing; there's no evidence of that," White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters last January.

Mary Schapiro

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 1:34 PM EST

MARY SCHAPIRO....The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is a private regulatory body formed a couple of years by merging the enforcement arm of the NASD and part of the New York Stock Exchange's regulatory apparatus. The head of Finra is Mary Schapiro, who has been nominated to lead the SEC by Barack Obama. Today, the Wall Street Journal has a long story on its front page raising questions about whether she's tough enough for the job:

Last year, amid historic market convulsions and Wall Street scandals, Finra often filed tiny cases against small players. During the past few years of Ms. Schapiro's career as a regulator, which earns her over $3 million a year, enforcement fines against firms have plunged.

....Finra levied fines against financial firms totaling $40 million in 2008, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. That was the third straight annual decline in fines levied by Finra or one of its predecessor agencies, the NASD.

....Finra also appears to have lagged behind in a Wall Street mess that affected thousands of individual investors in early 2008 — a freeze-up in the market for what are known as auction-rate securities.

....One of the biggest Wall Street disasters of 2008 was the September bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc....Joseph Mays Jr., a consultant to small broker-dealers and a former NASD examiner, says Finra should have scrutinized the mortgage-backed securities at the root of the crisis. "If I had to assign blame, I'd blame Finra and the SEC, but I'd blame Finra first because it's the first line of defense," he said.

....At Citigroup, which has had huge mortgage-related write-downs and still struggles despite massive federal aid, Finra's largest 2008 action was a fine of $300,000 for failing to supervise commissions on stock and options trades.

Finra also failed to catch the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, which is probably the most defensible of its lapses but also, obviously, the most headline grabbing. Felix Salmon has more, and comes down against confirming Schapiro: "The SEC needs someone in charge who's committed to root-and-branch reform of the regulatory system. So far, there's no evidence whatsoever that the toothless and narrowly-focused Schapiro is that person, and I do wonder how committed the Obama transition is to her nomination." Her confirmation hearing bears watching.

Overturning Prop. 8: No Court-Ordered Equality!

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 1:00 PM EST

In response to California Attorney General Jerry Brown's assertion that the state Supreme Court should overturn Proposition 8, both George Will (who is not gay) and Andrew Sullivan (who is) argue that the best move for the gay community is to wait for a legislative or ballot-based solution. Here's Will:

Just eight years ago, Proposition 22 [defining marriage as between a man and a woman] was passed, 61.4 to 38.6 percent. The much narrower victory of Proposition 8 suggests that minds are moving toward toleration of same-sex marriage. If advocates of that have the patience required by democratic persuasion, California's ongoing conversation may end as they hope. If, however, the conversation is truncated, as Brown urges, by judicial fiat, the argument will become as embittered as the argument about abortion has been by judicial highhandedness.

And here's Sullivan:

Party News

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 12:56 PM EST

PARTY NEWS....Sarah Palin won't be attending an inaugural dinner in honor of John McCain next week. But was she not invited? Or did she decide not to come? Turns out no one knows.