The World According to Obama, According to the RNC

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 10:35 AM EDT

A recent email to supporters from Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, Chairman of the Republican National Committee begins like this:

Do you think the redistribution of wealth by the federal government is one of America's best traditions? How about free child care? Free college tuition? Wage insurance? Nationalizing oil refineries? A global tax paid to the United Nations?

A lot of this is plain made up. The global tax paid to the UN is a reference to the Global Poverty Act, which Obama sponsored. It makes reducing global poverty a goal of American policy, but does not institute a global tax paid to anyone. And Obama has never said anything about nationalizing oil refineries.

As for "free college tuition," here's what the Obama website says:

Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students.

Not exactly what the GOP email would have you believe.

Basically, the GOP is using the most effective attacks, regardless of whether or not they are the most accurate. (Here's another example.) I know this isn't a startling revelation. But when was the last time you saw a Democrat play by the same rules? For example, considering this, a Democratic Party using the Republican playbook would call John McCain corrupt. Repeatedly.

Would it be accurate? Not exactly. The point is whether or not it would work.

Advertise on

Kevin's New Blog Home

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 10:48 PM EDT

KEVIN'S NEW BLOG HOME....Hi everyone. If you're looking for my upcoming new home at Mother Jones, this is it. There's nothing here yet, but if you bookmark the site now you'll be ahead of the game. Blogging will officially begin here on Friday, August 22.

And just so you know: the design is temporary. Mother Jones is in the middle of a major site redesign, and in a couple of months the blog will look entirely different. So no complaints yet, OK?

Living Green in Denmark

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 10:40 PM EDT

794px-Ophalingsspil.jpg The inhabitants of the Danish island of Samsø have achieved their target of self-sufficiency in renewable power in only 10 years. Eleven wind turbines now tower over green fields and 10 rise from the North Sea. Rye, wheat and straw are used to heat the one-story buildings. Solar panels have sprouted on roof tiles, reports Planet Ark.

Samsø is home to just 4,000 people. Yet without any construction subsidies, the islanders have invested $84 million of their own money. That's $20,000 per person on average. It's a challenge their government set for the island in 1997, funded largely through local taxes and individual investments. Outside magazine calls it a muscular combination of new technologies, capitalist smarts, and old-school stewardship.

Some residents homes have opted to stay with oil furnaces for heating. Cars are still common. Yet the island has become carbon neutral because the wind turbines offset emissions from cars and oil furnaces.

Primary Sources: The 1940 Census on "White"

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 8:49 PM EDT

From AP comes the news that by 2042 whites will no longer be the majority ethnic group in the United States:

By 2050, whites will make up 46 percent of the population and blacks will make up 15 percent, a relatively small increase from today. Hispanics, who make up about 15 percent of the population today, will account for 30 percent in 2050, according to the new projections. Asians, which make up about 5 percent of the population, are projected to increase to 9 percent by 2050.

What does this mean? Historically, not a damn thing.

According to the current census a white person is:

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as "White" or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.

This means that someone whose parents were born in Morocco, who looks like this, would be white. Someone with parents from Argentina, who might look like this, would not be.

But it hasn't always been that way. Race is an arbitrary classification. The first census, in 1790, broke the population into exactly three racial groups: "free whites," "other persons," and "slaves."

By the 1910 census Americans were instructed to:

Write "W" for white; "B" for black; "Mu" for mulatto; "Ch" for Chinese; "Jp" for Japanese; "In" for Indian. For all persons not falling within one of these classes, write "Ot" (for other), and write on the left-hand margin of the schedule the race of the person so indicated. For census purposes, the term "black" (B) includes all persons who are evidently full-blooded negroes, while the term "mulatto" (Mu) includes all other persons having some proportion or perceptible trace of negro blood.

The 1940 census demanded that Americans sort their identity according to the following Byzantine racial classification system:

Your New Favorite Band: Glasvegas

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 8:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-glasvegas.jpgLike with most things, I'm a little late to the party on this one. This Scottish quartet came in 4th in the BBC's "Sound of 2008" poll, and NME ranked the first version of their single "Daddy's Gone" as their #2 song of 2007. Well, Alan McGee was way ahead of everybody: the Creation Records svengali who discovered Oasis spotted them in 2006. But there's still time to get on board before the backlash!

If you're wondering, here's what they sound like to me: imagine the Jesus & Mary Chain got off the drugs (mostly) and did some songs with Billy Bragg. There's a homey, folksy, eternal quality to their music, but the fuzzy almost-rockabilly sound lines them right up with hipsters like The Raveonettes. But while those two live out their '50s cinematic fantasies in their lyrics, Glasvegas sing about what they know, with a brutal plainness that Hemingway might have admired. "Daddy's Gone" offers no resolution, just emotion: "To see your son on Saturdays/What way is that to live your life?" New single "Geraldine" floats in on a Brian Eno-style whisper of guitar noise, and the stadium-size chords are definitely reminiscent of U2. But lead singer James Allan has a thick Scottish brogue that seems to double the syllables: "My name is Geraldine, I-eem yee-er sow-cial woer-er-kerrr!" Now that, my friends, is an accent.

The band are planning a quick tour of the East Coast in September and October, and while they just signed to Columbia, apparently the debut album won't be out until 2009. Oh well. Watch some videos after the jump.

New AC/DC, G N' R Albums To Be Wal-Mart Exclusives?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 7:27 PM EDT

mojo-photo-walmart.jpgLet me get this straight. The music industry is in crisis, as sales plummet and stores consider eliminating CD sections entirely. Artists with name recognition are exploring new avenues of distribution, bypassing the retail store entirely. So, say you're a beloved rock band with a highly-anticipated new album coming out. What do you do? How about you force your fans to jump through ridiculous hoops and go on a freakin' retail scavenger hunt just to track it down? Brilliant! And thus, AC/DC is requiring that anyone interested in their first new album in eight years, Black Ice, to get in the SUV and head out to Wal-Mart or Sam's Club to pick it up (starting October 20th, for $11.88). Not to be outdone, Guns n' Roses are in the midst of negotiations with either Wal-Mart or Best Buy for exclusive retail rights for the mythical Chinese Democracy. Ah, the music industry: answering complaints that its business model is inconvenient by making things more inconvenient. Well, just you wait; when I release my album, it will only be available on a ledge halfway up the side of K2.

Advertise on

John Lewis: John McCain's Wise Man?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 6:08 PM EDT

johnlewis250x200.jpg John McCain says he plans to consult with Democratic Rep. John Lewis when he's president. That's news to Lewis.

During Saturday's presidential forum at Rick Warren's California megachurch, John McCain was asked to name the "three wisest people" he would "rely heavily on" if elected president. He didn't cite close confidantes Phil Gramm and Randy Scheunemann, possibly because they have gotten McCain into trouble politically. Instead McCain chose Gen. David Petraeus; former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, one of his economic advisers; and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leading figure in the civil rights movement.

This is not the first time McCain has invoked Lewis' name on the campaign trail. Earlier this year, in Selma, Alabama, he told the story of civil rights marchers trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a 1965 march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Waiting at the crest of the bridge were a brigade of police and state troopers who meted out an attacks so violent that the day is known today as Bloody Sunday.

Central in McCain's telling was John Lewis, a man of just 25 who was at the front of the march and absorbed the first blow. Millions of Americans, McCain noted, "watched brave John Lewis fall."

Oil and Coal Have Spent $427 Million To Influence Campaign in 2008

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 5:07 PM EDT

The Public Campaign Action Fund has figured out how much the oil and coal industries have spent to influence the public debate through their 527s, 501(c)4s, PACs, lobbying expenditures, paid advertising, and campaign contributions. Their final number? An astonishing $427.2 million dollars in the first half of 2008. You can see how the numbers break down here, but take a look at this chart for a summary. It is possible these industries will spend close to or more than $1 billion to influence the election and to protect their interests.

Amount in MillionsCoal/Electric UtilitiesOil/GasTotal
Political Contributions$16.5$20.9$37.4
Lobbying Expenditures73.755.3129.0
Paid Media7.4201.2208.6
Other Political Spending40.012.252.2

Of the oil and gas industries' political contributions, 25% was given to Democrats and 75% was given to Republicans. For coal, it was 31% for Democrats and 69% for Republicans. Electric utilities were more even, with 48% going to Dems and 52% going to Republicans.

New U2 Recorded By Some Guy Walking Past Bono's House?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bono2.jpgThis is silly. Yes, U2 is supposedly working on a new album, No Line on the Horizon, with a tentative release date later this fall. But check out this ridiculous story: apparently a "cheeky holidaymaker" was strolling past Bono's pad in the South of France and heard what sounded like new U2 songs blasting from the windows. Said pedestrian just happened to be carrying some sort of easily-accessible recording equipment with him, with which he taped the tracks, then raced home to post the recordings on YouTube. The fact that this has happened before makes it even less believable. I mean, how close can you even get to Bono's house before the laser robots get you?

However, the recordings themselves (listen at Vulture) are oddly compelling, as lo-fi as you can get, featuring the buzzing of insects, passing cars (or possibly waves on a beach) and far-off conversations. While Vulture hopes the noises won't make it to the actual album, there's something kind of compelling about them, muffled far-off tunes on what sounds like a lovely summer night. It kind of reminds me of the KLF's hypnotic Chill Out, a concept album meant to evoke a drive through Texas and Louisiana. Come to think of it, playing a bit of an artsy prank on the media by having your music "taped" from outside your house is kind of KLF's style, too. Has Bono been taken hostage by sheep-wielding million-pound-burning art terrorists? Enjoy a bit of Chill Out after the jump.

Obama VP Pick Expected This Week

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 1:39 PM EDT

Just FYI. Begin hyperventilating now.

Update: The Democratic convention starts next Monday. So, uh, duh.