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Obama: Cultural Meme in the Making

Overheard yesterday at the gym: Man 1: Did you see any of the movies nominated for Best Picture at the...

| Tue Feb. 26, 2008 10:41 AM EST

Overheard yesterday at the gym:

Man 1: Did you see any of the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars?

Man 2: Nah.

Man 1: Yeah. There wasn't an Obama movie, one that everybody could like.

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McCain's Connection to the Siegelman Case

Just yesterday we mentioned the railroaded former Governor of Alabama, Democrat Don Siegelman, who is now in prison after a...

| Tue Feb. 26, 2008 10:15 AM EST

Just yesterday we mentioned the railroaded former Governor of Alabama, Democrat Don Siegelman, who is now in prison after a six-year-long witch hunt prosecuted by that state's GOP.

Turns out, John McCain is connected to the scandal. As head of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, McCain released a report on the Abramoff scandal in 2006 that didn't include any mention of an Abramoff email that implicated Siegelman's opponent in a gubernatorial race later that year, Bob Riley, in Abramoff's influence peddling schemes. Riley went on to win, and Siegelman went to prison. McCain has refused to make the email public since that election; it only came to light because an anonymous source leaked it to the Huffington Post.

Siegelman's Democratic allies in Alabama are calling for a special prosecutor to reexamine his case.

Departing US Iran Envoy Says Nuclear Issue Will Not Be Resolved By Time Bush Leaves Office

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns, who is due to leave the State Department after twenty-six years of...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 10:49 PM EST

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns, who is due to leave the State Department after twenty-six years of service at the end of the month, spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington tonight. He discussed a range of issues, from Kosovo to North Korea. He said he believes that perhaps the biggest unanticipated issue for the next administration on the global front will be the energy issue, and its relation to global climate change.

But all were looking to Washington's top Iran envoy for a signal about what the Bush administration plans to do on the Iran nuclear issue over the next ten months; and for signs that Burns' imminent departure might be related to some bureaucratic battle - or simple exhaustion or frustration - at trying to lead the administration's effort to cobble and keep together an international coalition to pressure Iran diplomatically and with economic sanctions and other means to change its behavior on its nuclear program.

And Burns did deliver a fairly clear message on that question. He said that he did not think the Iran nuclear issue would be resolved by the end of the Bush administration and would still be outstanding when a new administration takes office.

The West Gets 500% Dustier

The west wasn't always so dusty. It got a whole more so in the past 200 years, 500 percent more so—thanks to American expansion, complete with trains, ranches, and livestock. Sediment records from dust blown into alpine lakes in southwest Colorado's San Juan Mountains over millennia indicate the sharp rise in dust deposits beginning in the middle of the last century. "From about...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 10:41 PM EST

dustbowl.jpg The west wasn't always so dusty. It got a whole more so in the past 200 years, 500 percent more so—thanks to American expansion, complete with trains, ranches, and livestock. Sediment records from dust blown into alpine lakes in southwest Colorado's San Juan Mountains over millennia indicate the sharp rise in dust deposits beginning in the middle of the last century. "From about 1860 to 1900, the dust deposition rates shot up so high that we initially thought there was a mistake in our data," said geologist Jason Neff of the University of Colorado Boulder. "But the evidence clearly shows the western U.S. had its own Dust Bowl beginning in the 1800s when the railroads went in and cattle and sheep were introduced into the rangelands. There were an estimated 40 million head of livestock on the western rangeland during the turn of the century, causing a massive and systematic degradation of the ecosystems." The 1934 Taylor Grazing Act imposed restrictions on western grazing lands, and the deposits show a coinciding decrease in dust that continues to this day.

Another reason to bring back the bison.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Black Immigrants, 'Model' Minority? Plus: Don Imus

In my interview with Don Imus last Wednesday, I finally got around to talking about something I rarely get to...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 9:38 PM EST

In my interview with Don Imus last Wednesday, I finally got around to talking about something I rarely get to - black immigrants. More on that in a minute.

It's amazing how much we fawn over Senator Obama's being 'black' without displaying any interest in that blackness, as if being a half-Kenyan mostly ex-pat tells us all we need to know about him. All that's interesting. That's what I was trying to get at generally in my book, The End of Blackness, and in this infamous piece. I finally got to it on, of all places, the Don Imus show.

That interview with Imus was so unbelievable, you simply have to listen to it. Here's part 1 and part 2.

Study: Anything With a Beat Causes Sexism

Via AllHipHop.com, it's a study that appears to connect hip-hop to sexism, but not in the way you'd expect. Political science professors at North Carolina State University placed male and female students in three groups. One listened to Eminem's "Kill You" (representing the "misogynist" team: "Slut, you think I won't choke no whore/ 'til the vocal cords don't work in her throat no more?"),...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 7:36 PM EST

mojo-photo-eminem.jpgVia AllHipHop.com, it's a study that appears to connect hip-hop to sexism, but not in the way you'd expect. Political science professors at North Carolina State University placed male and female students in three groups. One listened to Eminem's "Kill You" (representing the "misogynist" team: "Slut, you think I won't choke no whore/ 'til the vocal cords don't work in her throat no more?"), the second listened to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" (representing absence of misogyny: "I'm-a set it straight, this Watergate") and the third group "was not exposed to rap music." So did they play them Josh Groban, or just sit them in a quiet room? It doesn't say. Anyway, the study concluded that hip-hop music made people more sexist, no matter what the lyrics were about:

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Romney Redux?

No, the prodigious Romney spawn are not running for office. Romney himself is thinking about getting back in! That's according...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 5:15 PM EST

No, the prodigious Romney spawn are not running for office. Romney himself is thinking about getting back in!

That's according to Josh Romney, the elder Romney's son, who says it is "possible" his father may rejoin the race for the White House, due to John McCain's stumbles.

As hilarious as that would be (I miss the good old days, when the Republican race was completely FUBAR), it wouldn't do Romney much good. According to the AP's delegate count, Romney's former victories gave him just two more delegates than Mike Huckabee currently has. It's commonly acknowledged that it is mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win the nomination. The same goes for Romney.

Mitt, listen. To paraphrase Jay-Z, you got money stacks bigger than John McCain. Enjoy your retirement. Or, make like John Edwards after 2004 and start campaigning in Iowa now.

Update: Josh Romney proves me wrong! He is considering running for Congress!

Kimmel's "F***ing Ben Affleck" Video: Homophobic?

There's a bit of a comments war raging at gay-oriented blog Towleroad over an elaborate sketch from last night's Oscars after-show. The video in question was the latest installment in a running joke on Kimmel's ABC late-night show: recently his girlfriend Sarah Silverman brought in a video in which she announced she's "f***ing Matt Damon," with the Bourne star himself providing backup vocals. Kimmel...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 5:14 PM EST

mojo-photo-kimmelaffleck.jpgThere's a bit of a comments war raging at gay-oriented blog Towleroad over an elaborate sketch from last night's Oscars after-show. The video in question was the latest installment in a running joke on Kimmel's ABC late-night show: recently his girlfriend Sarah Silverman brought in a video in which she announced she's "f***ing Matt Damon," with the Bourne star himself providing backup vocals. Kimmel scoring (with) Affleck was the only logical response, of course, but they really stepped up the production values, recruiting a slew of stars in a "We Are the World"-style sing-along: Robin Williams, Huey Lewis, Josh Groban?! It wasn't quite as funny as Silverman's bit (which twirled wildly through a pastiche of pop culture and musical references) and relied mostly on the shock value of its guest cameos, but some viewers are also finding that certain parts of the video crossed the line into homophobia. Kimmel and Affleck are dressed in ridiculous outfits that include skimpy jean shorts and a metallic green t-shirt, and they paint their toenails at what appears to be a gay tiki bar. While late-night comedy sketches aren't exactly, you know, hate-crimes legislation, and I typically side with comedians rather than the easily-offended, this one does bring up the question of how to tell when stereotypes are being mocked and when they're being exploited. Watch both Silverman/Damon's and Kimmel/Affleck's after the jump, and then commenters, rant away: are we watching a troubling bit of subtle gaysploitation, or should the PC police chill out and realize that laughing at stereotypes defuses them? And in general, how many times funnier is Sarah Silverman than Jimmy Kimmel?

Democratic Governor of Alabama Railroaded?

The Don Siegelman case has been followed in some corners of the mainstream media, but has yet to generate any...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 5:01 PM EST

The Don Siegelman case has been followed in some corners of the mainstream media, but has yet to generate any real outrage. It should: It appears that the Democratic governor of Alabama was thrown into prison after Republican operatives and officeholders in the state (with the help of Karl Rove) gamed the justice system. People are speaking out, including 52 former state attorneys-general of both political parties who feel Siegelman was dealt a case of twisted justice. Let's hope this 60 Minutes report draws more attention to the situation. It's a good way to learn about the case.

One Week from Judgment Day, Clinton Steps Up the Attacks

The conciliatory moment at the end of the Democrats' debate last week in Texas wasn't a sign of things to...

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 1:46 PM EST

The conciliatory moment at the end of the Democrats' debate last week in Texas wasn't a sign of things to come. In fact, it was more of a head fake by Hillary Clinton, who has launched several attacks on Barack Obama in recent days, some of which are downright nasty. The remaining week before the primaries in Texas and Ohio may be a slimy one for the Democrats.

It started last week when the Clinton campaign attempted to connect Obama to two Hyde Park radicals that were part of the domestic terror group known as the Weather Underground. The pair, who are unrepentant about setting bombs in government buildings in the 1960s (possibly because they took care to avoid harming any bystanders), hosted an event at their house in the mid-1990s that Obama attended. One of them donated $200 to his state senatorial campaign. The connection is a weak one; there is no evidence Obama has a relationship with these people. What's more, Bill Clinton pardoned a different member of the Weather Underground, also unrepentant, who had served 16 years in prison on federal charges. The attack didn't get much traction in the press, but will undoubtedly be raised again by the McCain campaign should Obama win the Democratic nomination.

The Clinton assault on Obama then moved to Ohio.