California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is bored out of his mind in Sacramento.

Being governor of California is a grueling job. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, faced with a $15.7 billion shortfall (again) has proposed $8.3 billion in budget cuts; a two-thirds majority vote by the state legislature is required to increase taxes, which makes it prohibitively difficult to raise revenue.

Being lieutenant governor of California? Not so grueling. The Sacramento Bee checks in with the state's current number-two, former San Franciso mayor Gavin Newsom, who has found himself with enough downtime to start his own talk show on Current TV:

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose cable talk show premiered this month, was in the studio between segments Thursday, catching up with Chip Conley, his next guest and old friend.

Read more here:

"How often are you up in Sacramento?" the hotelier asked.

"Like one day a week, tops," Newsom said. "There's no reason."

It can be slow at the Capitol.

"It's just so dull," Newsom said. "Sadly, I just, ugh, God."

Read more here:

Stay strong, Gavin.

Tim Murphy is filling in while Kevin is on vacation.


Where in the World Is Kevin?

Kevin sends this photo from his vacation. Where in the world is he? Leave your guesses in the comments. No Googling!

American for Prosperity's "Stand with Walker" bus tour in 2011.

This week, the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit with ties to Charles and David Koch, launches a four-day, 10-city bus tour to "highlight the successes we have had in Wisconsin and lay the ground work for the challenges to come." AFP's "A Better Wisconsin" tour hits the road just days before the state's hugely anticipated gubernatorial recall pitting Gov. Scott Walker against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, as well as four state Senate recall elections that will decide who controls the Senate. AFP has promoted its tour to state and national media, and no less than AFP national president Tim Phillips will be on hand to rally Wisconsinites.

Given the tour's timing and billing, any reasonable person would view it as a statewide drive to get out the vote for Walker and his GOP allies in the June 5 election. Not AFP.

AFP's Wisconsin director, Luke Hilgemann, says the bus tour has nothing to do the recall elections. "We're not dealing with any candidates, political parties, or ongoing races," Hilgemann told the Hudson, Wisconsin, Patch news site. "We're just educating folks on the importance of the reforms."

Hilgemann added that the tour's speakers will be discussing "the importance of the budget reforms and why Wisconsin taxpayers and citizens can't afford to move backward away from those reforms to the day of old where we had huge budget deficits and bloated government."

There's a reason AFP isn't mentioning specific candidates: As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, AFP can't make pure politics a majority of what it does—or else it could lose its tax-exempt status. But if the group's leaders claim to only be educating people about issues, that's in line with its mission as a "social welfare" organization.

Wisconsin Democrats aren't buying AFP's claim that its upcoming tour is solely about issues. "Scott Walker's out-of-state special interest patrons are rightfully nervous that Scott Walker, their corrupt investment, is about to go belly-up," says Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. "They will and have done everything in their power to prop up his anti-Wisconsin political machine."

AFP-Wisconsin isn't the only state chapter planning to rally around Walker for the recall. As Republic Report notes, AFP-Illinois says it will bus supporters to Wisconsin days before the election for a rally and canvassing, with food provided.

Nor is this the first time AFP has bussed in supporters to show support for Walker and his agenda. The group's "Stand Against Spending. Stand With Walker" bus tour in March 2011 cruised across the state for four days to "take a firm stand against wasteful government spending and support responsible economic policies like Governor Walker's," according to AFP's Tim Phillips.

Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet

By Andrew Blum


Have you ever seen the internet? Touched it? Smelled it? In Tubes, a run-in between a squirrel and a cable in his Brooklyn backyard sets Wired correspondent Andrew Blum on a quest to discover the physical stuff of the web. He chronicles encounters with network operators, cable guys, and computer scientists as he travels the globe—from Oregon, where thousands of hard drives in hulking data centers hold up the "cloud," to Portugal, where the ship Peter Faber is laying the start of a 9,000-mile fiber-optic cable under the Atlantic. "Everything around me looked alive in a new way," Blum writes as he envisions the world pulsing with glowing fibers. But ultimately he comes around to the obvious: that the true vitality of the web depends on the people who inhabit it.

Yann Tiersen

Even if you've never heard of Yann Tiersen, you've probably know his music. Several tracks from Tiersen's album Rue Des Cascades featured in Amélie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's quirkily endearing 2001 film. The songs that accompanied Amélie, the film's protagonist (as she walked down cute French streets looking cute) layered toy piano and harpsichord, violin, and accordion to create something simultaneously childlike and heavy, silly and soaring.   

His latest album, Skyline—out last fall in Europe, but released just last month in North America—is a little grittier, even more eclectic, and just as whimsical. Tiersen's website says he's inspired by "musical anarchy," and proposes that we "live in an enormous world of sound we can use randomly, with no rules at all." On Skyline, he veers from sounds that could accompany a Disneyland ride to the screeches of a wild beast, and dances all around in between. 

It's weird when people have Memorial Day parties, mainly because what they're actually doing is celebrating the annual "I get to barbecue and guzzle nothing but Yuengling on Monday when I would otherwise have to be at work all day" day.

The federal holiday, which has its roots in the aftermath of the American Civil War, was established to commemorate fallen soldiers. The spirit of Memorial Day doesn't automatically lend itself to the same kind of party themes or patriotic bacchanalia that Independence Day or, hell, even Bill of Rights Day inspire.

Or as Dr. Steven Metz would say...

Well, people throw Memorial Day ragers regardless. And for those parties, they're going to need music. So if I must, here are my suggestions—good songs that one way or another pay tribute to our men and women in uniform—fallen as well as living.

Given the holiday's origin, let's start with...

Wisconsin's June 5 gubernatorial recall, pitting Gov. Scott Walker against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, is no mere statewide race. It's a national fight. The Tea Party Express group calls Wisconsin "ground zero for the battle against Obama's liberal agenda."

It's not surprising, then, to learn that out-of-state money is pouring into the Walker recall at a record pace—and it's powering the efforts of Democrats, Republicans, interest groups, and unions alike.

In Wisconsin's 2006 gubernatorial election, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, out-of-state campaign donations made up 15 percent of all donations. In 2010 it was 9 percent. But in the Walker recall? It's a staggering 57 percent.

According to an analysis by the political-money-watching Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, $3 out of every $5 raised by Walker came from outside Wisconsin. Walker's largest donors include Texas homebuilding king and Swift Boat for Veterans backer Bob Perry, Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, and Richard DeVos, heir to Amway fortune. A little more than $1 of every $10 given to Barrett was out-of-state campaign cash.

Walker raised $13 million in the first three months of 2012, bringing his total fundraising haul since January 1, 2011, to $25 million. Walker benefitted from a quirk in state election law allowing him raising unlimited campaign cash for months to fend off the recall challenge. Barrett raised $750,000 in the first 25 days after entering the race in late March.

Interest groups bankrolled by out-of-state cash are also playing a pivotal role in the recall. The Republican and Democratic Governors Associations, both based in Washington, DC, have together ponied up nearly $7 million for the Walker recall. The RGA, as Mother Jones has reported, is the GOP's corporate-funded dark money machine, shuffling tens of millions in campaign cash to boost Republicans and bash Democrats nationwide. Labor unions have pumped millions more into the groups We Are Wisconsin, which supported Democrats in last summer's state Senate recall races and supports Barrett now, and Wisconsin for Falk, which supported Kathleen Falk in the recall Democratic primary and opened field offices around the state.

Chernobyl Diaries
Warner Bros. Pictures
86 minutes

It sometimes seems as though people who make zombie movies (and zombie-ish movies) are trying to create a monopoly over minimizing tragedy.

This trend continues with Chernobyl Diaries, the new zombie(-ish) horror flick conceived and produced by Oren Peli (the Israeli-American director and ex-video game programmer who brought you the Paranormal Activity series and ABC's The River). A group of upper-middle class white kids from America sojourn to Eastern Europe. They decide to dabble in "extreme tourism" and jump in a van headed to Prypiat, a long-abandoned Ukrainian city bordering the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. It's worth mentioning that these kids have big dreams. One of them is about to propose to his intelligent/hot/super-loyal girlfriend. Another is mulling over plans to relocate to Prague. Another wants to make a name for herself as an artist and photographer.

Well, none of those nice things are ever going to happen because, as previously mentioned, these people made a conscious decision to hike through a radiation-drenched, eerie-ass ghost town—a deserted city where (you guessed it) they are not alone.

By "not alone," I mean to say that there's a large gaggle of flesh-chomping freaks waddling all about the joint. The deranged gaggle of nuclear-undead chase after them in the dark of night. Needless to point out, the young tourists are: [censored].

Chernobyl Diaries does indeed have some chilling atmospherics—for that you may thank first-time feature director and visual-effects ace Bradley Parker. But the movie ultimately falls flat due to its lagging energy and a disappointing, thrill-free final act.

David Corn and Salon's Joan Walsh joined guest host Michael Smerconish on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss Donald Trump's role in the most recent iteration of the birther conspiracy. Why won't Mitt Romney repudiate The Donald?

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 that would allow greater access to abortions for women in the military and their families.

The measure, from New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), would allow the military to pay for ending pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. Current Department of Defense policy only provides abortion coverage if the life of the mother is at stake. Under the 1976 Hyde Amendment, federal money cannot be used to provide abortion services, except in the case of rape, incest, or if the woman's life is endangered. But since 1979, the DOD has had an even stricter limit on abortions, refusing to cover them in cases of rape despite the high rate of sexual assaults in the military. (Over 3,000 sexual assaults were reported in the armed services in 2010 alone.)

If Shaheen's measure passes, the 400,000 women in the armed services will have the same access to abortion that other federal employees get. If a Department of Health and Human Services employee working in Washington, D.C. is raped, her government health insurance plan will pay for an abortion if she wants one. But if an Army medic serving in Afghanistan is raped and wants an abortion, she can't use her government health insurance to cover it—she'll have to pay out of her own pocket. And even when she does pay for it, she won't be able to get the abortion at a military hospital, because that's illegal, too

Attempts to lift the military's abortion ban failed in 2010 and 2011, but advocates are launching an all-out push this year through the Stand With Servicewomen campaign launched by retired military officers and a coalition of reproductive rights groups. Given all the attention abortion has received over the past year, you can bet the military abortion debate will be contentious this time around, too.