Blogs

Does Obama Have a Political Sell-By Date?

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 4:22 PM EST
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Some belated observations on my recent brush with Obamamania: I caught Barack Obama in Los Angeles Monday night when he spoke to around 4,000 people in Universal Studios' Gibson Amphitheatre. His campaign had promised a star-studded evening, though it was clear that the celebs listed on the program were there to be seen with him, not vice versa. Obama's star power, or at least his aura of novelty, seemed to be the main draw for many in the crowd, myself included. (OK, I also hoped to see Scarlett Johansson.) A fiftyish black woman next to me in the security line said she was a "curiosity seeker," not inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton, but clearly hoping that seeing Obama in person might seal the deal. Whatever people's reasons for lining up on this unusually chilly evening, the audience demographics highlighted one of the greatest arguments for Obama's viability in the primaries and beyond. It was a remarkably diverse group, both in race and age. The $25 student tickets probably helped keep the average age down, but the $250 VIP section wasn't all Boomers, either.

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Sheehan Campaign Sees Opening, Going To 'Hit Hard' On Torture Issue

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 4:19 PM EST

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Right from the time Cindy Sheehan announced her independent Congressional run against Nancy Pelosi, there was an obvious tactical problem: her big lines of attack—the Democrats' failure to impeach the president or effect any policy shift on Iraq—were less about Pelosi herself (who had voted against the war, after all) and more about the Democrats in general. Those criticisms would inevitably be deflected with the "we just don't have the votes" refrain. But with Sunday's Washington Post report that in 2002 Pelosi was "given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites" and its "harsh" interrogation techniques, the Sheehan campaign has been handed a big new line of attack, one that's inescapably about Pelosi's own conduct.

Then-Rep. Porter Goss, who was also at the briefing, told the Post that "the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement." Pelosi hasn't come up with a reasonable explanation for her failure to speak out against torture when it might have actually mattered. She issued a short statement insisting that legal counsel had concluded "the techniques were legal." A Pelosi aide claimed that the Post report was "overblown."

Cindy Sheehan's campaign is on it. "We really plan to hit this hard and not let it go," spokeswoman Tiffany Burns told me yesterday.

The RIAA Nearing Goal of Alienating Everyone in the World, Part II: Download a Song, Lose Financial Aid?

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 3:45 PM EST

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Not only is the Recording Industry Association of America continuing its litigation efforts against university campuses, as Party Ben noted yesterday, but the group is also trying to pass legislation that would jeopardize the federal financial aid of these schools whose students are engaged in file sharing. Already strapped students and universities could soon be tasked with helping RIAA reach its bottom line.

The massive 800 page tome that is the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 includes a section called "Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention," which addresses file sharing, mostly of music and movies, on campus networks. The bill states that during the financial aid process, schools are obligated to inform students about copyright infringement laws. In addition, schools are mandated to implement technology that would prevent file sharing. The penalty for not taking these preventative measures is loss of all federal financial aid for the university.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducts John Mellencamp, Disses Donna Summer

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 3:36 PM EST

Yes Mellencamp No Donna

2008's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced today, and there's a bit of a disturbing (if not entirely surprising) trend here. See if you can spot it:

Inductees

Somebody remind me what the point of this Hall is? And nothing against any of the inductees, but if the Hall is going to marginalize hip-hop and disco then why even nominate them? Well, if the losers have a party I totally want to go to that one instead.

Gold Mines Polluting Our Parks: What Woud Ron Paul Do?

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 2:40 PM EST

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Gold mining has retained none of its glamour from prospector days of yore, and it is still one of the dirtiest businesses around: Mile-deep open pit mines continue to emit a staggering amount of pollutants—20 tons of waste and 13 pounds of toxic emissions for a single ring's worth of gold. And who, may I ask, is being held accountable for all this damage? Well, basically, you. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that national parks, such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite, are being left to clean up after nearby mines, costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year.

Mother Jones has been keeping tabs on the gold mining industry's waste for a while now. But this time, in light of the issues raised in the L.A. Times article, let's take a look at the problem from the perspective of presidential hopeful Ron Paul, who, it seems, has no particular use for the EPA or for any other big-government efforts to protect the environment:

Governments don't have a good reputation for doing a good job protecting the environment....You should be held responsible in a court of law and you should be able to be closed down if you're damaging your neighbor's property in any way whatsoever.

Income Inequality Hits Record Levels

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 2:27 PM EST

MoJo fans already know income inequality is a huge problem in America, but they may not know that it's getting worse, and fast.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just updated their invaluable data series on income inequality and the results are startling. Income inequality among households, both before and after Federal taxes, grew more quickly over the last two years of the series, 2003-05, than over any other two-year period on record, back to 1979.
Over those two years, the growth of inequality transferred $400 billion dollars from the bottom 95% to the top 5%. That is, had the income distribution remained as it was in 2003, the income of each of the 109 million households in the bottom 95% would have been $3,660 higher in 2005.

More here. Two Americas, indeed...

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Jenna Bush Is Not a Rock Star

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 1:44 PM EST

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Right now, merely steps away from our humble D.C. bureau, First Daughter Jenna Bush is signing copies of her new book, Ana's Story, at our local Borders. Except for an extra helping of Young Republicans milling around in New Paperbacks, you wouldn't even know she was in there. The turnout is modest at best, a sign, perhaps, that book publishing is a brutal business, even with White House connections. Still, Bush's book ranks a very respectable 729 on Amazon...

More (Weak) Inconsistency Claims Thrown Obama's Way

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 12:51 PM EST

obama-flag.jpg A little more oppo research on Obama has hit the press. A few days back, a rival campaign gave Politico a 1993 survey that Obama filled out on which Obama indicated positions on the death penalty and on gun control that are slightly different from the ones he holds now.

Now someone has given a similar survey, this time from 2003, to ABC News. Again, Obama's answers are ever-so-slightly different than his current positions. Follow me, after the jump.

Hillary Wins Big Endorsement: Her Mother

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 12:42 PM EST

The Hillary Clinton is airing a new 30-second television ad in Iowa today that features...her mother:

DOROTHY RODHAM: What I would like people to know about Hillary is what a good person she is. She never was envious of anybody--she was helpful. And she's continued that with her adult life with helping other women. She has empathy for other people's unfortunate circumstances. I've always admired that because it isn't always true of people. I think she ought to be elected even if she weren't my daughter.

Never envious, always helpful. Insipid? A wee bit. And note that she's been helping "other women," not "other people." With Barack Obama in the lead in the first state, the Clinton campaign is obviously aiming to preserve its support among older women. Is this an indication Clinton and her strategists are worried about their base?

Update: Video of the ad after the jump.

Political Focus on Immigration Raising Hate Crimes, Discrimination Against Hispanics

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 11:58 AM EST

A disgusting corollary to the anti-illegal immigration zeal gripping our national debate (and the minds of many Republican voters) is increased discrimination and hate crimes against Hispanics, both legal and illegal.

From a very good Washington Post op-ed on "nativist ferocity":

It's a fair guess that this cruel campaign of immigrant-bashing will eventually turn toxic for the Republican Party itself, whose own strategists (Karl Rove, among others) have long grasped the growing electoral clout of Hispanics. Those Hispanic voters, native-born or not, are anxious and angry about the intensifying nativist zeal in political rhetoric, which many are rightly blaming on the Republicans. In a new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, half of all Hispanics in America reported that the debate on immigration has had a specific negative impact on their lives; 41 percent said that they or someone close to them had suffered discrimination in the past five years -- up from 31 percent in 2002.
The new data undercut the Republicans' frequent protestations that their targets are not legal immigrants but illegal ones. The attacks have become so venomous, and the policy proposals so pernicious, that, predictably, they have caused collateral damage among Spanish-speaking and non-native-born people generally. The anti-illegal-immigrant crowd would have us believe it honors and admires legal immigrants; in fact, it is making America a less hospitable place for them.

Much more after the jump...