2007 - %3, July

CDs Out Today and a Word from Critics

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 2:32 PM PDT

mojo-cover-unkle.JPGUNKLE – War Stories (Surrender All)
Billboard: 4/5; "Soulful"
NME: 5/10; "Solid"
Blender: 4/10: "Turgid"

mojo-cover-prince.jpgPrince – Planet Earth (Sony)
Entertainment Weekly: B+; "Thrilling"
Slant: 3/5; "Anesthetized"
Pitchfork: 4.8/10; "Diminishing"

mojo-cover-tegan.JPGTegan & Sara – The Con (Vapor/Sanctuary)
AV Club: A-; "Ecstatic"
Entertainment Weekly: B+; "Catchy"
Chicago Tribune: 4/5; "Epic"

mojo-cover-yyys.JPGYeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is EP (Dressup/Fiction)
Pitchfork: 8.2/10; "Affecting"
Contactmusic.com: 8/10; "Genius"

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Man & Whale

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 2:22 PM PDT

Greenpeace short on Japanese whaling, changing attitudes, need to change. JULIA WHITTY

1 in 4 NYC Adults Has Elevated Blood Mercury Levels

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 1:40 PM PDT

A quarter of adult New Yorkers have elevated blood mercury levels. According to survey results released today by the New York City Health Department (read the full stats here), the elevations are closely tied to fish consumption. Asian and higher-income New Yorkers eat more fish, and have higher average mercury levels, than others both locally and nationally. The Health Department says these levels may increase the risk of cognitive delays for children whose mothers had high mercury levels during pregnancy. The Department also claims these elevated levels pose little if any health risk for most adults. . . Hmm. Right. So how come Canada's "safe" mercury level is half that of the U.S., while Britain's and China's are one-third? JULIA WHITTY

Is the Onion Smarter Than the Entire Foreign Policy Establishment?

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 11:12 AM PDT

Note the date on this Onion point-counterpoint. The humorists knew what was coming.

— Nick Baumann

Dick Morris, Breaking Big Stories. Fred Thompson, Playing the Dirty Money Game

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 10:36 AM PDT

Mother Jones loves exposing the Washington game wherein lobbyist children work with their lawmaker parents, a game that results in a shocking (shocking!!) rate of success for the lobbyists and lots of money spread around for all involved.

Today, with an assist with Dick Morris, we bring you a consultant son working with his presidential candidate father, with, oh yes, lots of dirty money...

What did Fred Thompson's son, Daniel, do to earn the more than $170,000 that his firm, Daniel Thompson Associates, was paid from his father's federal political action committee, the Fred D. Thompson PAC?
The records suggest he did next to nothing.

Undeclared candidate (I love that phrase) Thompson has been running a PAC since 2003 with the leftover money from his senatorial campaign committee. He began the PAC with $378,601 and did nothing with the organization except give that money away. Of the payouts, $176,000 went to Thompson's son's firm, $46,000 went to federal races, $35,000 went to "other political donations," and $62,700 went to charity. Meaning over half of the PAC's payments have gone to Fred Thompson's son. One might even say this was a conscious effort to enrich a family member: a scam, in short.

Evidence of that theory lies in the fact that, as Morris writes, "it's hard to find any evidence of bona fide work done by Daniel Thompson Associates for his father's PAC." Thompson's PAC didn't do anything that would require a consultant, except maybe write checks. Or find people to write checks to, a service that would hardly require a payout of almost $180,000.

Thompson is from an earlier era of congressional Republicans — let's call them the pre-2006 era Republicans. They played fast and loose with ethics rules and campaign donations, and got slammed by voters as a result. It's no surprise that the presidential frontrunners for the GOP are a mayor, a governor, and the strongest supporter of campaign finance reform in the country. Do they really want to add a dirty money man to that list?

Understatement of the Day

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 9:15 AM PDT

From Daniel Benjamin (Brookings Institution) and Steve Simon (Council on Foreign Relations) in their op-ed in today's New York Times, which suggests that we use the CIA to root out Al Qaida in Pakistan:

While the C.I.A. doesn't have an unblemished record...

Posted without further comment.

— Nick Baumann

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Japanese Killed Pregnant Whales

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 11:32 PM PDT

More than half the whales killed by Japanese whalers in the Antarctic last summer were pregnant females. The Mercury, in Hobart, Tasmania, reports on the claims of the Humane Society International that of the 505 Antarctic minke whales killed, 262 were pregnant females, while one of the three giant fin whales killed was also pregnant. The findings came from a review of Japanese reports from their most recent 2006-07 whale hunt in Antarctic waters and were released ahead of the resumption of an Australian Federal Court case the HSI is taking against Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd. "These are gruesome statistics that the Japanese government dresses up as science," HSI spokeswoman Nicola Beynon said in a statement. "The full hearing will be to determine whether Japanese whalers are in breach of Australian law when they hunt whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica and whether the court will issue an injunction for the hunt to be stopped," Ms Beynon said. . . Fingers crossed. JULIA WHITTY

Hatch Act Violations Extend to Diplomatic Corps

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 9:40 PM PDT

We've blogged in the past about Karl Rove's political PowerPoints that Rove's deputies went around Washington showing to federal employees, acts of politicalization that are obvious violations of the Hatch Act.

The Post has an A01 story revealing that those PowerPoints even reached foreign policy folks, specifically top diplomats.

White House aides have conducted at least half a dozen political briefings for the Bush administration's top diplomats, including a PowerPoint presentation for ambassadors with senior adviser Karl Rove that named Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008 and a "general political briefing" at the Peace Corps headquarters after the 2002 midterm elections.
The briefings, mostly run by Rove's deputies at the White House political affairs office, began in early 2001 and included detailed analyses for senior officials of the political landscape surrounding critical congressional and gubernatorial races, according to documents obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Why members of the foreign service need to know which Democrats are targeted for removal in 2008 is beyond me, but if you're going to taint the federal government, you might as well taint all of it. Go big or go home: it's the American way.

Update: The original headline of this article said "diplomatic corp" instead of "diplomatic corps." Mea culpa.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 7/23/07

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 7:45 PM PDT

Oh, life. It's bigger. It's bigger than you! And you are not me! Too true, Michael Stipe; you know, your hometown of Athens, GA, having produced both the warbly melancholy of your very own REM and the cheeky beehives of your buddies The B-52s, seems to embody the yin and yang of this week's Top Ten: the tragedy, the comedy. Sure, life is awful and you really just wonder what the point of it all is, but also, dude, check out this video of the Muppets with a disco song!!! So, hurry up and bring your jukebox money:

10. Plastic Little – "Dopeness" (video; song from the forthcoming She's Mature)
Okay. I debated about posting this here—Mother Jones is a serious magazine, and this is a serious web site, and this video from the Philadelphia rap crew is pretty much Not Safe For Work, with its, um, kind of freakish opening-scene take on childbirth, and the song's slangy references to, er, genitalia, and "makin' babies," and the shaking of baby-makers. But before you fire me, Mother Jones, please hear me out: it's all done in such a spirit of surreal and silly fun, it's hard to be offended, and if it was a French short film and not a rap video you'd be putting it in a museum. Maybe. But, anyway, that one fake-childbirth moment might be hard to explain to your boss if they catch you watching it, so beware.

9. Blonde Redhead – "The Dress" (video; song from 23 on 4ad)
We've already established that 23 is one of the, well, at least top 23 albums of the year; apparently video director Mike Mills agrees, since he's in the middle of creating clips for five tracks off the album. Four are featured on the 4ad website, and they're all simple ideas, executed with a kind of zen focus: a text-only outline, a series of poses, an emerging rainbow, and this: a series of people doing something that's almost unbearable to watch. (Yes, it's safe for work.) (Watch a higher-quality quicktime stream here.)

8. Flight of the Conchords – "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room" (from "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO)
Yes, okay, silly parody songs full of non-sequiters are kind of SNL Digital Short territory, and Beck has already done the geeky-white-boy's-ironic-Prince thing pretty well. But still, this entry into the genre from the new HBO series has its own charms, not least of which is the line, "Let's get in a cab / I'll buy you a kebab."

7. This video of Philipino prisoners re-enacting the video to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
Um, help?

6. Against Me! – "White People for Peace" (from New Wave on Sire)
While the video's colorful East-vs-West war-as-football metaphor isn't exactly ground-breaking, the track itself is oddly moving: a protest song about the futility of protest songs. The Florida punk-ish combo squeezes the line "Protest songs in response to military aggression" into the chorus, a line whose banality, in its repetition, takes on a kind of despair.

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog! Part 4

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 6:14 PM PDT

A question in the form of a rap song about No Child Left Behind. Kind of cringe-inducing, but kind of neat. Richardson and Biden, who have differences on Iraq, as documented below, both agree on scrapping it. This is Bush's single greatest domestic accomplishment! What an awful legacy!

Wait, Biden's wife and daughter were killed? Did he just say that? How can everyone talk about John Edwards' dead son without ever mentioning the fact that Biden has lost his wife and daughter? I'm hitting Wikipedia.

Okay, here's what Wikipedia says (authoritative source, I know): "In 1966, while in law school, Biden married Neilia Hunter. They had three children, Joseph R. III (Beau), Robert Hunter, and Amy. His wife and infant daughter died in an automobile accident shortly after he was first elected to the U.S. Senate [in 1973]. His two young sons, Beau and Hunter, were seriously injured in the accident, but both eventually made full recoveries. Biden was sworn into office from their bedside." Biden remarried in 1977.

We just had a question from two fake hillbillies and a question from a snowman. CNN's producers are punchy tonight. (Boy, awkward transition.)