2008 - %3, April

The Dust Off: Pointer Sisters

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 6:09 PM EDT

PointerSisters-200.jpgWelcome to The Dust Off, where MoJo Riffers dig deep into the crates and revisit a song, video, or film that has stood the test of time.

This week I'm shaking dust off of "12," or Pinball Number Count," that funky Sesame Street song with the amazing pinball machine animation. Recently a friend back East emailed me this clip of the full segment, and I was blown away to finally learn that The Pointer Sisters are the ones singing. It's a 1972 funk-jazz track with Hammond-sounding keyboards, hand percussion, and soprano sax, guitar, and steel drum solos.

If you're like me, when you think The Pointer Sisters, you think 80s songs like "Jump (For My Love)," and "I'm So Excited," and you almost lose control because you like it. I already thought the Oakland-based group was awesome, but I had no idea they had helped me learn how to count to 12 when I was a kid. Consider them officially dusted off:

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The Problem With Nuclear: No Uranium

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 6:09 PM EDT

Nuclear foes have long cited environmental damage as a key reason to oppose atomic power. But even pro-nukes folks may have trouble supporting nuclear power in the future, since a new report shows that high-grade uranium ore, the raw material that powers nuclear plants, is steadily declining worldwide. In fact, uranium supplies have been waning for about 50 years and the situation will only get worse as more power plants go online in the near future, requiring more fuel.

Most uranium is now mined in Australia, Niger, Canada, and some former Soviet bloc countries. But as their supplies dwindle, raw uranium deposits will likely be located deeper, of lower quality, and harder to extract. This would, the scientists involved say, make nuclear power more environmentally damaging by increasing the amount of mining, digging, and refining necessary to create enriched uranium.

"Over time, as ore grades decline and more energy is required for uranium production, this will lead to a higher carbon intensity for nuclear power, eventually becoming similar to gas-fired electricity," said Gavin Mudd, the Australian Monash University environmental engineer who conducted the study.

You can read more about nuclear's carbon footprint here. And for an overview of nuclear resurgence in the U.S., check out our current feature article, "The Nuclear Option."

Voters Without Borders

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 5:18 PM EDT

Neat.

pawp6.gif

From Open Left, via Yglesias.

Obama to Finally Do Fox News... Why?

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 3:31 PM EDT

News is out that Barack Obama will finally end his boycott of Fox News and sit down with "Fox News Sunday" for a pre-taped interview on Saturday. "They realized they've got a problem after Pennsylvania," [Fox host Chris] Wallace told the Hollywood Reporter. "In the end, they do it for their own reasons, not ours. But they realized he needs to be able to reach out to working-class, blue-collar Democrats, moderate to conservative, and that's our target audience."

Fox News has been slamming Obama non-stop, to such a degree that members of the Fox team have objected on-air and Brave New Films has released a much-watched film on YouTube documenting the phenomenon:

Misconduct in Louisiana Special Election? No One Home at FEC to Investigate

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 3:03 PM EDT

The DCCC is arguing that the conservative group Freedom's Watch has unlawfully coordinated with the NRCC on political advertisements in the LA-6 special election. This is how they make their case:

LA-6 should be a comfortable win for the GOP. Bush won there by 19 points in 2004 and the district hasn't sent a Democrat to Congress in 32 years. But the Democrat in the race, Don Cazayoux, is up in the polls and nonpartisan election watcher Charlie Cook has rated the race as "lean Democratic."

So Republican-leaning outside groups are throwing tons of cash at the race. If they coordinated with the Republican Party in order to plan how that cash is spent, they broke the law. The regulatory body in charge of investigating such cases? The FEC, currently out of commission.

Some Early Thoughts on Indiana and North Carolina and Their Impact on the Race

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 12:08 PM EDT

The next battlegrounds in the Democratic primary race are Indiana and North Carolina, where there are 72 and 115 pledged delegates up for grabs, respectively. Combined, the two states are worth more than vaunted Pennsylvania, and they have the ability to end the race or change its direction, depending on the results.

North Carolina favors Obama demographically. It is 22 percent black, and has a number of large colleges (UNC, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest, to name a few). It also has a number of white-collar professionals in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area known as the Research Triangle, where the information technology and biotech industries are thriving. It has a hefty 115 pledged delegates on offer because it is a top ten population state, with over nine million residents.

Current polling in North Carolina usually shows Obama up by nine to 15 points.

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Memo to PMCs: Dodge the Tax Man, Answer to Waxman

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 10:45 AM EDT

Blackwater-Helo.jpgHenry Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a persistent thorn in the side of private military and security firms, has zeroed in on a new target: the use of foreign tax havens by government contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The investigation follows recent reports that KBR has used an offshore subsidiary to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll taxes, as well as MoJo's reporting on Blackwater's Barbados-based sister company, Greystone, whose local address and telephone number in Bridgetown trace back to a firm that specializes in shielding corporate revenues from U.S. tax authorities.

This week, Waxman's committee fired off letters to 15 companies, including KBR, Triple Canopy, DynCorp, CACI, Science Applications International Corporation, EOD Technology, and the Prince Group (the holding company that owns Blackwater and Erik Prince's other business ventures), asking whether these contractors have any "subsidiaries or other affiliated entities that were incorporated in any of the 39 foreign jurisdictions designated as tax havens by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development"—and demanding detailed information on their foreign subsidiaries and affiliates if the answer to that question is yes.

John McCain's Miserable Record on Hurricane Katrina

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 10:22 AM EDT

John McCain's Time for Action tour arrived in New Orleans Thursday, where McCain toured the hurricane-damaged 9th Ward and criticized both the Bush Administration and Congress for its handling of the disaster. Lamenting the pace of recovery, McCain said, "I want to assure you it will never happen again in this country. You have my commitment and my promise."

But McCain's record on Hurricane Katrina suggests that he was part of the problem, not the solution. McCain was on Face the Nation on August 28, 2005, as Katrina gathered in the Gulf Coast. He said nothing about it. One day later, when Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, McCain was on a tarmac at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, greeting President Bush with a cake in celebration of McCain's 69th birthday. Three days later, with the levees already breached and New Orleans filling with water, McCain's office released a three-sentence statement urging Americans to support the victims of the hurricane.

Disneyland-Style Theme Park Set for Baghdad. Honest to God

| Thu Apr. 24, 2008 3:54 PM EDT

iraq-disneyland.jpg Satire becomes reality. In the preview for "War, Inc." that Bruce posted below, private contractor John Cusack executes a war for the American government and then watches bewilderedly as a hip-hop star and her entourage invade the country right behind him. Soon English-language billboards and bumper stickers are everywhere.

That's ridiculous, right? An over-the-top display of how the encroachment of American culture and capitalism works. Leftist Hollywood hysteria.

Guess again, sucker:

[Llewellyn] Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is pouring millions of dollars into developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum. It is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland. "The people need this kind of positive influence. It's going to have a huge psychological impact," Mr Werner said.
The 50-acre (20 hectare) swath of land sits adjacent to the Green Zone and encompasses Baghdad's existing zoo, which was looted, left without power and abandoned after the American-led invasion in 2003...

Success seems improbable at best. Resentment is sure to be created. How about some of the naivete and over-confidence that got us into so much trouble with this war in the first place? Do you have any of that for us, Mr. Werner?

Bacteria Artist Off the Hook?

| Thu Apr. 24, 2008 1:57 PM EDT

Last week's Yale abortion senior art project stunt highlights the public outcry art can inspire. While Aliza Shvarts was ridiculed for being everything from "hopelessly bourgie" to "weird and gross," the jeers lobbed upon her in the blogosphere were nothing compared to the nightmarish federal investigation endured by SUNY-Buffalo art professor Steve Kurtz. In 2004 Kurtz was accused of bioterrorism while preparing for an educational art exhibit about genetically modified foods, an incident that showcases the absurd turns art can take in life.

The FBI and Bush administration may be ending their four-year mission to bring charges against Kurtz, who came under scrutiny after authorities discovered bacteria cultures in his house after his wife's unfortunate (and, as it turns out, unrelated) death. On Monday, a U.S. district judge dismissed the charges of mail and wire fraud, the only indictment the Feds could make stick. There's no word yet if the prosecution will appeal. But Kurtz's named "coconspirator," Dr. Robert Ferrell—who sent Kurtz the bacteria and who had also been charged with mail and wire fraud—didn't come away unscathed. He pleaded guilty last October to lesser charges after a series of health problems ensued from the stress of the investigation.

Read more about the case and the documentary it inspired here.

—Joyce Tang