Blogs

All I Want for Christmas, Part 1: Jeff Koons Beach Towel

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 5:56 PM EST

mojo-photo-koonstowel.jpgFrom the description at Target.com:

"Bring art into your home with this 60x70" cotton towel designed by acclaimed artist Jeff Koons ... Koons captivates and inspires audiences with artwork that brings the mundane into high culture ...This lively towel features a happy inflatable toy monkey against an abstract, pool blue background."

The price? Only $50, so it's in your budget, Riff readers and secret Santas. And that monkey is totally so happy!

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Golden Globe Nominations Clear Up Confusion About Best Stuff

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 5:35 PM EST

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With all the year-end countdowns and best-of lists flying around these days, one could easily get overwhelmed with trying to sort out what was worth your time this year. Thankfully, there's an elite group of like 17 random foreign journalists who put on a little awards show every year called the Golden Globes, perhaps you've heard of them? Well, they announced the nominations this morning, and hey, they decided to include seven movies in the "Best Motion Picture – Drama" category. Boy are you pissed if you were choice #8, huh:

Edwards the Broken Record: Corporations, Corporations, Corporations

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 5:02 PM EST

john-edwards-campaigning.jpg Edwards has a well-known hatred of corporations and powerful interests because of their corrupting power in Washington.

But that hatred has come dangerously close to becoming an obsession. Don't believe me? Check the transcript of today's debate in Iowa (DC's analysis here). The man can literally speak of nothing else. Here's the number of times each candidate used the words "corporations," "corporate," or "companies":

John Edwards: 19
Barack Obama: 5
Bill Richardson: 3
Hillary Clinton: 2
Chris Dodd: 1
Joe Biden: 0

I respect Edwards' willingness to speak truth to power, and it's admirable that he can stay on message so well. And I think he's totally correct on this stuff. But there is a very real chance that Edwards is defining himself more and more narrowly in the eyes of Iowa voters as they get ready to caucus. He runs the risk of becoming a one-dimensional candidate who has lacks a well-rounded vision for America.

He can cut his focus on corporation in half and still be the leading candidate on this subject.

Update: More fun debate counting. In the last debate for the Dems, they mentioned Iraq 10 times. In the last debate for the GOP, they mentioned Iraq once.

Clinton Campaign Offical Quitting After Speculating About Obama's Drug Past

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 4:34 PM EST

Billy Shaheen is quitting the Clinton campaign after wondering out loud if Obama sold drugs as a young man.

His statement, sent by the campaign to reporters via email:

"I would like to reiterate that I deeply regret my comments yesterday and say again that they were in no way authorized by Senator Clinton or the Clinton campaign. Senator Clinton has been running a positive campaign focused on the issues that matter to America's families. She is the best qualified to be the next President of the United States because she can lead starting on day one."

Update: Clinton has apologized personally to Obama. I'm sure this is a story both candidates want to go away. Clinton probably hates that her campaign is associated with these dirty tactics, and Obama probably hates that his drug use is back in the news cycle.

Democratic Debate: We Watch So You Don't Have To (and There Was Nothing To See)

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 3:52 PM EST

This afternoon, the Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Des Moines for their final debate prior to the Iowa cacuses on January 3. For undecided voters, there was no new material

Here's a brief recap of an utterly uneventful affair. From the horse race perspective, no one flopped, fumbled or drooled. And no one attacked anyone. There were no moments you will see replayed and dissected excessively on cable news shows. There were, essentially no highlights--except perhaps for a moment when Barack Obama was asked how his foreign policy as president would be a break from the past given that he has several ex-Clintonites advising him. Before he could answer, Hillary Clinton said, "I want to hear that." As the crowd laughed, Obama shot back, "I'm looking forward to you advising me as well." That was as spicy as it got.

And for anyone obsessed with policy matters, there was not much there either. (Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were not invited to attend because the host, the Des Moines Register, determined that neither have a functioning campaign office in Iowa.) Bill Richardson called for a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget and for awarding line-item veto authority to the president--positions most of the other candidates do not back. He also called for scrapping the no Child Left Behind law; the other candidates talked of fixing it. Each declared their intention to end the war in Iraq; there was no detailed discussion about that. But Richardson declared he would leave no residual troops in Iraq. (Iran did not come up.) After Richardson called China a "strategic competitor," Chris Dodd maintained the United States has an "adversarial relationship" with China.

There were no clashes of policy or proposals. Clinton, Obama and Edwards did not revive their past disagreements over Social Security and health care. And while Obama decried "special interests" in Washington, John Edwards repeatedly--and I do mean repeatedly--cited the necessity of crushing "corporate power" and "corporate greed" in Washington, claiming he was the only candidate with the guts and spine to do so.

As soon as the debate ended, it was as if it had never occurred.

Does Obama Have a Political Sell-By Date?

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 3:22 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 3:19 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 2:45 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 2:36 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 1:40 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.