Mojo - October 2007

Why Obama Struggles: Right Message, Wrong Time

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 11:56 AM EDT

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The Washington Post runs a story this morning that echoes my thoughts on why Barack Obama has been unable to gain ground on Hillary Clinton.

My thinking is this: Obama is preaching a truly admirable message of bipartisanship and a new politics, but he's preaching it when the Democrats neither want it nor need it.

They don't want Obama's message because they've been bullied by the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress for almost seven years and want payback. They don't need Obama's message because the GOP has screwed everything up so badly the Democrats can win with a purely partisan approach. When fewer and fewer people identify with the Republican Party and more and more claim they trust the Democratic Party on important issues like the economy, the war, and health care, why reach across the aisle?

There is a perception, borne out of Hillary Clinton's years of fighting tooth and nail with the GOP, that Clinton will kick ass when she's in office. And there's a perception, fostered by the Obama campaign, that Obama will eschew kicking ass in favor of bringing people together to renew America's politics.

Every poll indicates Democrats, for the time being, prefer ass-kicking to bringing-together.

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Onslaught Indeed, Anyone Else Tired of Dove's 'Real Beauty' Campaign?

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 6:25 PM EDT

Dove has unveiled a new chapter in its ongoing effort to hoodwink the conscientious consumer in need of a new bar of soap. Its "Campaign for Real Beauty," like those of Benetton and The Body Shop before it, has been throwing up gorgeous billboards and television commercials featuring women of all shapes, sizes, and shades for years now. The message? Dove is different from other purveyors of beauty products; Dove cares for your skin as well as your well-being, as expressed by its honest portrayals of beauty in its various forms.

Dove's new marketing strategy is to web-release ads that directly critcize deceptive representations of beauty. This past summer, the viral ad Evolution won a Grand Prix prize at Cannes. The minute-long film featured a woman's face transformed through make-up and digital augmentation to an idealized face on a billboard wholly unlike the original. The spot concluded, "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted." Its sequel—Onslaught—which hit the web at the beginning of October, opens with a close-up of a guileless young girl, blissfully unaware of the pressure to be "younger, taller, lighter, firmer, tighter, thinner, softer," followed by a fast-forward zoom through the debasing and all-too-prevalent beauty ads to which she will soon aspire. Through this campaign, Dove is taking a stand against such ads. Onslaught closes with this message: "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does."

Good advice, if only it wasn't coming from a company owned by Unilever, which also owns Slim-Fast and Axe deodorant, products that are pushed by those very ads that Dove is denouncing.

 

Should Bill Richardson Give Up?

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 5:33 PM EDT

richardson_headlock.jpg That's the question the New Republic is posing. Their argument, in essence, is that no matter how many awesome commercials the governor from New Mexico runs, he's just not catching fire, and he'd serve the Democratic Party and the country better by running for the New Mexico senate seat Pete Domenici is abandoning.

Richardson is so popular in New Mexico, he'd likely have a cakewalk to the senate. And with Big Bill's help, the Dems might get a filibuster-beating 60 seats, which would ensure a serious progressive agenda. It's hard to argue with that logic, but then again, the Democratic Party has a history of letting members doing what is best for themselves instead of what is best for the collective. That's not a terrible thing. And that's not a terrible picture either, eh?

The New York Sun's Candidate (It's Not Rudy)

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 3:58 PM EDT

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Garance Franke-Ruta over at TAPPED makes a pretty compelling case for Rudy Giuliani, with his bevy of Likudnik-friendly advisers, being dubbed "the New York Sun candidate"—"culturally moderate, reasonably sophisticated, socially tolerant, and a far-right Zionist hawk on matters Middle Eastern."

Problem is, that particular moniker already belongs to another man. Back in April, the Sun's editorialists explicitly named their dream candidate for '08. Who was it? One hint—the president calls him "Big Time."

—Justin Elliott

Money, It's a Gas: Grab That Cash With Both Hands and Make a Stash

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 2:45 PM EDT

Interesting notes from the presidential fundraising numbers for the third quarter that were released today:

- When identifying the corporation or other entity that gave most to a candidate, the answer usually turns out to be a finance company, a law firm, or some other major corporate interest. Hillary Clinton, for example, raised an astonishing $207,670 from employees of Morgan Stanley, $186,540 from employees of Goldman Sachs, and $96,015 from employees of Citigroup. Not Ron Paul. The oft-slighted Republican congressman from Texas raised more money from members of the U.S. Army than from anywhere else. (This is no surprise to readers of MoJoBlog.) The entity supplying the second most? Google.

- Mitt Romney is also an exception. He gets more money from employees of The Villages, a Florida retirement community, than anywhere else. Romney has loaned a whopping $17.4 million of his own money to the campaign. Meanwhile, he only has $9.2 million in cash-on-hand. Without his own personal wealth propping up the campaign, Romney is in McCain territory.

- Speaking of, John McCain is in debt (and I grow sad). The man from Arizona has roughly $1.6 million to spend in the primary, but $1.7 million in debts. Not. Good.

- Gov. Bill Richardson drew more money from New Mexico state employees than from employees of any other entity.

- Republican Duncan Hunter has yet to top $2 million for the entire campaign. Mike Huckabee, who really checks all the boxes for the Republican base, can't get it going either. He's only raised $2.3 million for the campaign. When do we get to drop-out territory?

Rudy Giuliani Has Advisers Who Would Bomb Iran Tomorrow

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 1:46 PM EDT

I used to believe the most dangerous thing about Rudy Giuliani was the fact that, even though he has zero foreign policy experience, he thinks he knows everything there is to know about foreign policy. That's a scary kind of ignorance.

But I was wrong. The most dangerous thing about Rudy Giuliani is his advisers. They are crazy, crazy, crazy. Too crazy to work for Bush, even. Take a look at what TPMTV has to say.

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Democrats' Best-Case Senate Scenario: Filibuster-Proof Majority

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 1:18 PM EDT

Let's take a minute to indulge in best-case scenarios, shall we? Time runs down the situation in the Senate. They note that if the Dems pick up...

and they defend...

The Louisiana seat held by Mary Landrieu,

they will have 60 seats, enough to beat a Republican filibuster. This doesn't even take into account the possibility of Alaska Senator Ted Steven's legal troubles deepening and forcing his retirement. A 60-seat majority means, for the first time, real legislation that can end the Iraq War. And a Democratic tidal wave of this nature would likely usher in a Democratic president, which means a new era of progressive domestic policies.

The races listed above all have a legitimate chance to go the Dems' way—there are 11 seats held by Democrats and 12 seats held by Republicans that I didn't even mention because the incumbent is unlikely to face a serious challenge in any of them. (For a ranking of races, see this pdf.) These races all depend, of course, on the quality of opponents and various local factors. But with so many Republicans up for reelection in states trending blue, it should be an exciting 2008.

Also of note: Which of the challengers will catch the imagination of the netroots? To use the parlance, who will the people power?

Black Macho and the Myth of the Super Predator: The PTSD connection

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 12:12 PM EDT

"Violence in our communities shows [blacks] really do hate each other."

Rush Limbaugh? Bill O'Reilly?

No, Kenny Gamble, famous co-architect of the Philadelphia Sound who's invested his retirement and his fortune in saving his inner city community. This is what's known as tough love, the only kind worth a damn.

Philadelphia, as I've written before, is struggling hard to stem the tide of violence there. Oddly, they've found that protesting racism is less productive than working to get 10,000 volunteers to stand guard over their community and try to reclaim their lost ones. They'll never pull it off without a hard look in the mirror like Gamble's because racism doesn't make you shoot people or sell drugs or drop out of school; there has to be an intervening cause, like hopelessness, a criminal record which prevents employment, an unplanned pregnancy, or internalized oppression that makes you, too, subconsciously hate black people.

Outside of the academy, black interiority is a subject that even blacks have shown little interest in except as it directly implicates racism. It's fair to go so far as to say that it's a taboo subject when it exposes problematic patterns among blacks, e.g. the common black myths that 'they' don't commit suicide or suffer from mental illness. That would be weak and only white people are weak; blacks don't roll like that. Beat your wife? Fine, but see a therapist and see how quickly you lose your street cred. A good plan if stoicism and silence actually eliminated the problems, but til then, blacks should join in the on-going excavations of their own complexity and gird themselves to have some painful discussions. I've long believed that the black community's main problem is widespread PTSD. What else explains ganster rap, the war between black men and black women, and the rage of the black middle class? Yes, I'm serious. And I'm not alone, though perhaps my fellow travelers aren't putting it quite this way.

Another 10,000 Man activist noted, "More killings in Philadelphia are the result of common disputes than over drug-turf wars. ...With the proliferation of guns and lack of training in managing anger, ordinary arguments become deadly. And why has anger not been controlled or properly channelled?"

Excellent question.

A former Philadelphia gang member "speaks eloquently about the lack of love in his urban community and the effect this has on increasing crime, lowering employment opportunities and creating a sense of desperation so deep pre-teen black kids are essentially hopeless before hitting middle school." (emphasis added)

How does racism keep minorities from loving their kids?

However oppressive and determinative racism remains in America - and boy does it - black complicity and inertia has allowed it to turn too many of them into the racist's wet dream: a caricature of disfunction, underachievement and futility. The tired arguments against supplying ammo to the enemy are just that - tired; racists are never going to run out of dirty tricks so blacks should take a page from DuBois.

In The Souls of Black Folk, he wrote, "Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word."

Blacks today should also be too busy tending to their community to participate in racism's mind games.


Ron Paul Wins Polls, Gets Repeatedly Disrespected by CNBC

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 11:54 AM EDT

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Another debate, another post-debate poll won by an underdog candidate and then hidden by the media outlet commissioning the poll. Sounds outrageous, but it's almost becoming routine, particularly with Kucinich on the left and Ron Paul on the right.

It happened again after the recent Republican debate on CNBC. Ron Paul's supporters pounced on the post-debate online poll and gave their man a hefty lead, only to find the poll removed. CNBC.com managing editor Allen Wastler eventually "explained" himself—by saying, petulantly, that he'd do it again.

An Open Letter to the Ron Paul Faithful
You guys are good. Real good. You are truly a force on World Wide Web and I tip my hat to you.
That's based on my first hand experience of your work regarding our CNBC Republican candidate debate. After the debate, we put up a poll on our Web site asking who readers thought won the debate. You guys flooded it.

Unintended (Meaning Bad) Consequences of Promoting Democracy in Iran

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 11:31 AM EDT

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Remember Haleh Esfandiari, the scholar who was detained for eight months on a recent trip to Iran to visit her elderly mother? She's just co-authored a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "When Promoting Democracy Is Counterproductive."

A longtime advocate of reconciliation between Iran and the United States, Esfandiari points to some unintended yet entirely predictable consequences of bellicose posturing combined with the U.S.'s recent $75 million appropriation for "democracy promotion" in Iran. U.S. policy has succeeded in nothing so much as inflaming paranoia among elements of the Iranian government—some of it justified, arguably—which has in turn contributed to what the authors term "a broad crackdown on Iran's civil society." Of course, Esfandiari learned this the hard way when she was accused of conspiring against the regime and was thrown into Iran's Evin Prison. More from the article (which requires a subscription):