Blogs

Have a Nice Day: Wal-Mart Doesn't Control the Smiley Face

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 3:13 PM EDT
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Happy happy joy joy. Wal-Mart has lost its claim that it alone owns the smiley face. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the websites Walocaust and Wal-Qaeda have the right to spoof the company's smiley-face logo. It's not the first time the chain has wrangled over possession of the vapidly feel-good '70s icon; in 2006 a French businessman who claimed to have invented it tried to block Wal-Mart's attempt to trademark it. (The real creator of the smiley actually appears to be this guy—and not Forrest Gump, either.) The store won that round, saving us from the disaster that would have been Freedom Smileys. But at least the French smileys would have been allowed to unionize.

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Sierra Club Boots Florida Chapter Over Clorox Deal

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 3:03 PM EDT

greenworks-dilutable.gifThe Sierra Club voted this week to suspend its entire 35,000-member Florida chapter for four years and removed the chapter's leadership. The reason? The chapter openly criticized the Club's decision to partner with Clorox for Clorox's new "Green Works" line of "natural" cleaning products.

The dispute between the Florida chapter and the national organization started in December, when Sierra Club's national board of directors overrode the Club's Corporate Relations Committee to approve the deal with Clorox. So far, details about the exact nature of the agreement have not been revealed, except for the fact that Clorox will pay the Sierra Club for its sponsorship and the use of its logo on Green Works products, with the exact amount depending on product sales.

Does Wartime Service Matter in Presidential Elections?

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 2:26 PM EDT

An interesting point to consider as you digest McCain's hero-heavy entrée into the world of general election advertising, from Matt Stoller, via The Plank:

1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 all saw the candidate without military service elected over the candidate who had served, in several cases heroically.

One could argue that Vietnam is a bigger part of John McCain's persona and appeal than it was of Al Gore's when he ran for president. And while John Kerry made a big deal of his wartime service, it essentially got dismantled by the Swiftboat folks. I'm not denying the trend; just saying we should be on the lookout for a possible exception this time around.

Obama and Clinton Speak About Housing and the Economy: A Compare and Contrast

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 1:45 PM EDT

This past week, all three presidential candidates gave major speeches on housing and the economy. Hillary Clinton highlighted her extensive work on the subprime housing crisis and Barack Obama emphasized a modernization of the institutions that regulate the financial industry for the federal government. John McCain, in a widely panned speech, offered no new proposals on either subject. In late January, McCain told reporters, "Even if the economy is the, quote, No. 1 issue, the real issue will remain America's security… I am running because of the transcendental challenge of the 21st century, which is radical Islamic extremism."

Clinton and Obama's speeches, though they had slightly different focuses, underscore the difference between the Democrats and the sole Republican in terms of economic aptitude.

Both Clinton and Obama said that trouble on Wall Street eventually hurts Main Street, and vice versa. Both offered sympathy to families going through foreclosures and tough love for bankers and financial types who rode mortgage-backed securities to ruin. Obama was willing to say plainly "our economy is in a recession," while Clinton went only so far as to say "our economy is in serious trouble."

Clinton claimed that she's been on the subprime hunt for a while now, and she's right. In March 2007, she told the National Community Reinvestment Coalition that she wanted to expand and reinvigorate the Federal Housing Authority, so it could offer "more mortgages at better rates." She also called for "more counseling and information" for potential homeowners, so they could avoid high-interest loans. Shortly thereafter she introduced the 21st Century Housing Act, a bill which, if it were to become law, would use these proposals and others to address the subprime mortgage crisis.

McCain Ad: Cue the Ugly "American" Campaign

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 11:10 AM EDT

The American president Americans have been waiting for!

That's the tag line on John McCain's new ad, which features a film clip of McCain as a captured POW and a baritone-voice narrator asking, "What must a president believe about us, about America?" He kindly provides the answer: "That she is worth protecting." Could the implication be that Barack Obama is not quite American and that he is not interested in protecting our country, which the ad describes with the feminine pronoun. In other words, the half-black dude with a funny name--who might be a secret Muslim--can't protect her. Has Lee Atwater been resurrected? This smacks of the George H.W. Bush smear-tossing campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988--but also of Hillary Clinton's claims that Obama is not yet ready to be commander in chief.

By the way, when has America not had an "American president"?

If the Republican campaign is this vulgar and creepy seven months ahead of the election, expect much worse in the fall.

Railroaded Former Alabama Gov. Released from Prison; To Tesify Before Congress

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 10:18 AM EDT

don_siegelman.jpg A federal appellate court has ordered former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman released from prison while he appeals his 2006 conviction for bribery. Siegelman, you'll remember, is the Democrat who went to prison under extremely suspicious circumstances after a long-term witch hunt conducted by the Republican party apparatus in the state. (Karl Rove was involved, too.)

The House Judiciary Committee has invited Siegelman to come testify about his case. Should make for good viewing.

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GOP's New Jersey Senate Snafu

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 9:49 AM EDT

The GOP is struggling to find a viable challenger to four-term Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Republican party leadership courted millionaire Goya Foods heir Andy Unanue, a man that fringe Republican campaigns are calling "a slick New York-inhabiting nightclub-owning playboy."

When it became apparent that Unanue lives in Manhattan, and that his supposed home in New Jersey actually belongs to his parents, Unanue's campaign manager said, "Andy Unanue lives in New Jersey, he votes in New Jersey, his car is registered in New Jersey, he pays New Jersey auto insurance, and his business is in New Jersey. Andy Unanue is New Jersey."

When Unanue himself was asked for comment, he admitted, "For the past few years I've lived in New York. I'm in the process of moving back to New Jersey."

Props to Blue Jersey for spotting this. Unanue's (supposed) qualification for the Senate appears to be the fact that he was, for a short time, the COO of his parents' business. He was eventually run out by other family members and the reviews of his work were not good:

Robert Unanue, who emerged from the court battle as Goya's president, testified he "had information Andy was going to work drunk" and "wasn't projecting the right image for the company." Joseph Perez, a vice president, testified about Andy, "I've seen him come to the office drunk or smelling of alcohol."
...Joseph Perez, a vice president, testified Andy Unanue was "coming in late, leaving early, to the point I spoke to him and that I was concerned that perhaps he was ill." He rated Andy's leadership skill as "'fair to poor," adding that he could be "'arrogant and cutting."

Rest easy, Senator Lautenberg.

New Hope for the DREAM Act

| Fri Mar. 28, 2008 9:38 AM EDT

The bipartisan DREAM Act is a favorite bill of mine, and its been painful to watch it get killed over and over. Now there's new hope. Brave New Films is launching an ad campaign called "A Dream Deferred" that aims to force the new president to make the DREAM Act a priority in 2009. If you visit the "A Dream Deferred" website, you'll find a petition in support that you can send to Senators Obama, Clinton, and McCain. Here's Brave New Films' first ad:

Bush's Latest Nuclear Catastrophe

| Thu Mar. 27, 2008 8:59 PM EDT

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is demanding a full inventory of all U.S. nuclear weapons and materials. The announcement comes in the wake of the Pentagon's realization last week that four nuclear warhead fuses were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006. This is just the latest chapter in the Bush administration's mismanagement of nukes.

In "Failure to Launch" (January/February 2008), James Sterngold writes, "the real problem with Bush's nuclear policy...was simple neglect. From the dawn of the nuclear era more than six decades ago, every administration, whether in peaceful or violent times, has maintained a solemn focus on its policies for the only weapon that can end civilization. But not this one."

Read more here.

—Celia Perry

Obama to Clinton: Show Me Your Taxes

| Thu Mar. 27, 2008 8:28 PM EDT

Barack Obama posted his and Michelle's tax forms yesterday, and it seems that their recent rise to fame has also brought a rise in fortune. From 2004 to 2006, the Obamas' combined income increased five-fold to just under $1 million: $983,826 (adjusted gross income). Must be nice. During this same period, from 2004 to 2006, the personal savings rate in the U.S. declined significantly, even dipping negative at the end of 2005—something that hadn't happened since the Great Depression.

This may stir doubts among cautious Obama supporters. Can Moneybags relate to the average American? However, in the battle over transparency with rival Hillary Clinton, this may be a winning move. HRC has positioned herself as the establishment candidate, which breeds a certain amount of resentment in itself, and her hesitancy to release her tax forms might only deepen the feeling. If she doesn't release them, she appears secretive (already a problem for her); but if she brings more media attention to her and Bill's wealth, she'll make Obama look like a regular working stiff.