Blogs

DC Bureau Chief David Corn on WPR Right Now

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 11:29 AM EST

Listen to Mother Jones' Washington Bureau Chief David Corn on Wisconsin Public Radio right now here!

Update: The segment with David is over, but you can listen to an archived version later today on the website for the Kathleen Dunn show.

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There Are No Popularly Elected Presidents in American History. Just Candidates Mike Huckabee Chose Not to Beat

| Sun Nov. 18, 2007 9:35 PM EST

Hi folks. I want to interrupt your weekends for just a moment to bring you the greatest political advertisement of all time.

Better than this. Heck, better than this. And, uh, if you don't know what is going on, google "Chuck Norris Facts." Or go here. Oh, and FYI — The reason why we didn't find WMDs in Iraq? Chuck Norris lives in Oklahoma.

The Amir Taheri Story

| Sun Nov. 18, 2007 7:26 PM EST

Amir Taheri is one of the strangest ingredients in America's media soup. There may not be anyone else who simply makes things up as regularly as he does, with so few consequences.

If you're already familiar with Taheri's accomplishments, you might want to skip to #5 below, which details his latest misdeeds. Otherwise, start at the beginning.

1. Taheri, who was once editor of a strongly pro-Shah Iranian newspaper during the seventies, left the country after the revolution. Strongly opposed to Iran's current government, he wrote a 1989 book called Nest of Spies: America's Journey to Disaster in Iran. Shaul Bakhash, a specialist in mideast history at George Mason University, reviewed the book for the New Republic and discovered important sections had been fabricated.

2. In 2006, Taheri claimed the Iranian parliament had passed a law requiring Jews and other minorities to wear special badges in public. The story was picked up all over the world, most prominently by the New York Post, the Drudge Report, and Canada's National Post. It turned out to be false.

Agnostics for Jesus: Why My Kids Won't Be Seeing The Golden Compass. Yet.

| Sun Nov. 18, 2007 5:21 AM EST

I usually speed-delete emails from particular relatives of mine who are still steeped in urban legends (women be warned: there's a rapist under your car!) and the Southern Baptist beliefs we were raised in, with all their fire, brimstone, and intolerance for non-believers. I'm so over God that their emails bore, rather than infuriate, me by now. For some reason, though, I opened this one and learned that the previews I'd been seeing for the big budget "fantasy/quest" movie The Golden Compass were really for a movie about kids killing a senile God so "everyone can do as they please." I'd planned for months to take them when it opened next month but not now. No way this apostate wants her kids seeing that.

Unbeknownst to me, British author and atheist Phillip Pullman wrote a best-selling trilogy of books, His Dark Materials, explicitly in response to the religiosity of The Chronicles of Narnia," in which God is an imposter, angels are sexually ambiguous and the Church kidnaps, tortures and assassinates to achieve its goals, one of which is stealing children's souls." In the face of the usual backlash, the movie has been toned down and the books' anti-religiosity beclouded and muffled into mere spectacle. Reasonably fearing that uninformed parents will enjoy the bowdlerized movie, buy their unsuspecting children the books upon which it was based, and infect their own young with atheism, the believers are in an uproar. Leaving aside the entirely valid notion of why it's ok for the religious to try to convert others but not the other way around, unless you're consciously raising your kids to be atheists or agnostics, why put them through the emotional anguish of dissing, let alone killing, God? Today's kids have enough on their plates what with roofie-laced toys from China and the sky-high divorce rate. Why give them Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny but give them the straight skinny on God?

Buzzy Krongard Quits Blackwater Board

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 10:44 PM EST

Amazing what publicity can do. Buzzy Krongard, brother of the embattled State Department Inspector General, has resigned from Blackwater Worldwide's board of advisors. Full story here.

RZA Draws His Wu-Tang Sword in Movie Soundtracks

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 10:20 PM EST

ghost-dog_4.jpg


The RZA is a genius at putting music to fight scenes, and even better at putting the sounds of fight scenes to music. To complement this Wired interview with Bobby Digital himself, here's a Riff rundown of the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder's best cinematic work.

1. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
This Jim Jarmusch mob/samurai drama is a hybrid of Japanese, African American and Italian American cultures. Who better to compose the soundtrack than the man who first synthesized East Asian martial arts culture and New York hip-hop on the Clan's 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang? RZA sets an eerie tone for the movie, with dark and heavy bass lines and samples that propel the movie's narrative forward. During fight scenes, the mellow music matches Ghost Dog's cool, thoughtful demeanor. Works as a stand-alone album as well as a soundtrack.

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More Newspaper Woes

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 9:33 PM EST

USA Today, the largest U.S. newspaper by circulation and Gannett Co.'s flagship publication, announced this week its plan to cut 45 newsroom jobs, or about 9 percent of the editorial staff, because of declining revenue.

And, there's more bad news. The Denver-based MediaNews Group, which operates Detroit's two daily newspapers, announced last month that it would offer buyout packages to employees with a goal of cutting 110 positions. Houston Chronicle honchos announced at the end of October plans to cut about 5 percent of the paper's work force through layoffs and the elimination of open positions. Check here for a Mother Jones report that explains what's really breaking America's newspapers.

The Brothers Krongard: Buzzy 'Blown Over,' Calls Cookie Out

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 5:18 PM EST

State Department IG Howard "Cookie" Krongard's testimony before Waxman's committee earlier this week is becoming the gift that keeps on giving. At the hearing, Krongard stood accused of many improprieties, among them that he'd interfered in a State Department investigation of Blackwater (one being run out of his own office), perhaps due to a conflict of interest: Krongard's brother Buzzy sits on Blackwater's board of advisors.

Shortly after being sworn in at Wednesday's hearing, Krongard flatly denied his brother's connections to Blackwater, even after Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) presented documentary evidence to the contrary—two letters from Blackwater founder and CEO Erik Prince to Buzzy, one inviting him to join the board and the other thanking him for doing so. During a break in the hearing, Krongard called Buzzy, who admitted that he indeed was a member of Blackwater's advisory board and had, in fact, just returned from his first board meeting. After returning to the witness table, Krongard admitted as much to Waxman's committee and recused himself from involvement in any further matters related to Blackwater.

End of story? Not quite. Later that day, TPMMuckraker's Spencer Ackerman called Buzzy Krongard at home. He said that he'd told his brother Cookie of his decision to join Blackwater's board in early October. So, did Krongard knowingly lie to the committee under oath? If so, who was he trying to protect? Hopefully not his brother Buzzy, who has been very quick to sell him out. Just reference this latest missive from Waxman:

On November 15, I sent a letter to Buzzy Krongard requesting an interview and documents relating to his communications with Howard Krongard about Blackwater. After receiving the letter, Buzzy Krongard called Committee staff and provided information that differed significantly from Howard Krongard's testimony.

Help Save Africa With a Subpar Madonna Cover Album

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 4:43 PM EST

The second I hit play on Through the Wilderness, a Madonna tribute CD, I was mad at it. It starts off sounding like an Allman Brothers album, and though I love the Allman Brothers, and the first track, a Jonathan Wilson rendition, has some pretty chord changes, La Isla Bonita was not meant to sound long-form jam-band style with tambourines. Tambourines! I have to admit, I was instantly ready for hating.

But soon came the Golden Animals' "Beautiful Stranger Blues," which is fun and ho-down appropriate—truly the band's own incarnation—and a lovelier-than-the-original "Live to Tell" (loveliness, after all, is hardly Madonna's strong point) by the Winter Flowers. "Hung Up" (the Tyde) and "Oh Father" (Giant Drag) are pretty good, and Alexandra Hope's acoustic "Lucky Star" is something you'd put on a lovey mixed CD, an improvement over the Material Girl's version.

Still. Though some of these interpretations are interesting or even really likeable, on the whole the collection lacks a quality and cohesiveness, which means I wouldn't want to listen all the way through it again. After all, people listen to Madonna because her pop is fun, not for her stunning lyrics or compositions, and that fun isn't overall adequately captured or re-created here. The album is a charitable endeavor—25 percent of profits go to raisingmalawi.org—but if you really want to support the cause, I'd suggest donating straight to the website.

The Gender Trap: Yes, or Yes?

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 3:35 PM EST

Warning: I watched parts of the Democratic debate last night at the gym. This is the fate of the resident of the Pacific Time zone.

Watching Hillary Clinton smile as she listened to the final question, for a minute, I almost thought I liked her. But then the closed captioning caught up and I saw that the question had been, "Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?" Clinton's response was, "I want both."

Now a wave of really hating her passed over me. It's not just the starving children in Africa who can't afford precious gems—which, in case I need to remind you, have absolutely no function other than to advertise that the wearer has the money to buy something with absolutely no function. No, middle-class Americans with kids in school and mortgages can't afford diamonds and pearls. The right answer would have been, "I'm much more worried about getting our soldiers home from Iraq."

But now a wave of compassion for Clinton washed over me (yes, as a matter of fact, I am ambivalent about her). Any answer other than one which could be translated roughly as "I love jewelry" would have insulted the questioner. So Clinton was set up, something like this: "Okay, lady, so you're a politician, but you're still just a girl, right?" And she had to say, "Yes, that's right, I'm just a girl—a middle-class girl who loves to be pampered."

Now to add insult to injury, the MC then guffawed about whether he could ask the question to any of the other candidates—who are, you know, obviously not girls.

Because gender is the most obvious thing there is, right? Wrong. There are tons of people walking around who aren't immediately readable as male or female. Say it is obvious, as in Clinton's case. The debate question made it seem that her love of jewelry—and being regaled with it by a man who pampers and cares for her—follows just as obviously. Huge leap, people! And extremely misogynist.

Well, it turns out that the questioner had actually wanted to ask something about plans for a nuclear dump site at Yucca Mountain. So it was male reporters who planted a female questioner to ask a question that forced Clinton to say with a smile that yes, she did throw like a girl, and diamond's are a girl's best friend!

Does this shed any light on McCain's bitch problem?