2012 - %3, October

Chicago Thugs in Labor Department Already Making Excuses to Delay Jobs Report That Would Sink Obama

| Mon Oct. 29, 2012 8:40 AM PDT

The most important jobs report in the history of the nation (really!) might turn out to be a fizzle:

The U.S. Labor Department on Monday said it hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to delay Friday’s October jobs report, the final reading on the labor market before next week’s federal elections. A Labor official said the agency will assess the schedule for all its data releases this week when the “weather emergency” is over.

I'm willing to bet that the report will be released on time. But if it's not, can you just imagine the level of crackpot conspiracy theories we're going to have to endure about it? And that's without even knowing which candidate it putatively helps.

Personally, I'm all for delaying it. In fact, at this point I think I'm all in favor of modifying the First Amendment to ban all news coverage of any kind for the week before Election Day. Who's with me?

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Why Mitt Romney Wanted to Shutter FEMA

| Mon Oct. 29, 2012 8:06 AM PDT

Everyone is having fun today with a clip from an old Republican primary debate in which John King asks Mitt Romney about federal handling of disaster relief. Romney makes a general statement about how it's always better for states to handle things, and King then follows up:

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all.

WTF? Is Mitt Romney really opposed to federal funding of disaster relief? What was going on here?

It's worth remembering the context. This debate was held in June 2011, just a few weeks after the disastrous tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri. At the time, FEMA was close to running out of money and Republicans were busy holding the country hostage over extension of the debt ceiling. This meant that, yes, FEMA funding really had become controversial. Democrats wanted to pass a supplemental spending bill to keep FEMA going, but on May 30, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor went on Face the Nation to say that he had conditions: there would be no money for Joplin unless something else was cut first.

"I know that America is just stunned by the scope of devastation and loss and the horrific tragedy that the people of Joplin and other places across the country really are experiencing this tornado season," Cantor said. The federal government typically pays for disaster relief, but Cantor has said repeatedly that the government must maintain fiscal discipline. On Sunday, he compared the situation to that of a family putting off buying a new car when a family member became ill.

"When a family is struck with tragedy — like the family of Joplin ... let's say if they had $10,000 set aside to do something else with, to buy a new car ... and then they were struck with a sick member of the family or something, and needed to take that money to apply it to that, that's what they would do, because families don't have unlimited money. And, really, neither does the federal government."

So a week later, this was the background for King's question. Republican orthodoxy that demanded spending cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling had infested everything, even emergency spending. Sure, Joplin might be suffering, but by God, America was out of money and there was nothing left for them. Romney, who was still in his severely conservative phase back then, went along because he didn't dare cross Eric Cantor. This is the real problem here. There's no telling if Romney really believed what he was saying or not, but as president he probably wouldn't dare cross Cantor either.

For more, see Tim Murphy's explanation of how Paul Ryan's budget plan would affect disaster response and funding.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 29, 2012

Mon Oct. 29, 2012 7:53 AM PDT

U.S. Army Privates negotiate the "Victory Tower" at Fort Jackson, SC Oct. 25, 2012. Victory Tower is a military obstacle course designed to build confidence in new Army recruits. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade.

30-Second Reviews: Taylor Swift, The Coup, Angel Haze, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor

| Mon Oct. 29, 2012 3:03 AM PDT

There are way more new music releases each month than we have spare brain cells around here. Thirty-second Reviews is our way of remedying that and acknowledging some of the stuff we didn't manage to review more formally. These reviews, which we'll post pretty much when we feel like it, will be specially formatted in "blurb." Let's begin with that teen-pop idol who (indirectly) caused President Obama to call Kanye a "jackass."

Marcin Wichary/Wikimedia Commons

Taylor Swift, Red
Release date: October 22, 2012

As benign as she may appear on Papa John's pizza boxes, some folks have named Taylor Swift pop culture's number one enemy against progressive social values. And yes, her whole pouty virginal shtick, the passive aggressive Kanye West drama at the VMAs, and her insistence on singing about boy crushes from the viewpoint of the helplessly googly-eyed is enough to justifiably raise the hackles on anyone who embraces the term "sex positivity." But hear me out: Once you get past the fact that her bread-and-butter is the Twilight franchise demographic, Red feels like it was sung by someone with more self respect than that wimp on the bleachers trying to get some dude to break up with his girlfriend in 2008. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is the album's refreshingly decisive single, which gives me hope that perhaps T-Swift might put out a record one day that will inspire adolescent girls to stop giving so many shits about what teenage boys think of them. It's a long shot, I know. Until then, has anyone else noticed that Taylor Swift's recent fashion choices (and love of horseback riding) bear an uncanny resemblance to Ann Romney's?


The Coup, Sorry to Bother You
Release date: October 30, 2012

Regardless of personal politics, "protest music" in the 21st century can often trigger my gag reflex. Perhaps it was the oversaturation of bad guitar playing heard during Occupy proceedings, or seeing Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello refer to himself over and over again in the third person as the "Nightwatchman." But Oakland's Boots Riley, Pam the Funkstress, and the Marxist hip-hop collab The Coup avoid the self-aggrandizing—instead, they opt for a brand of lefty political confrontation that's imaginative, funny, and very, very danceable. Sorry to Bother You is another funky Coup triumph of deft, charged flow—their first since 2006. Riley and company are also probably the only ones out there who can work in a lyric like, "Economics is a symphony of hunger and theft," without sounding like pedantic jerks or soapbox preachers.

Angel Haze, "Cleaning Out My Closet" 
Release date: October 25, 2012

Last week, a rising, 21-year-old rapper who goes by the name Angel Haze did something staggeringly brave. She released a song called "Cleaning Out My Closet" off her six-track Classick mixtape, which detailed a childhood of sexual abuse in blustering, unflinching verse. I don't know if rap's decades-old legacy as a medium rife with misogyny can be undone in 4 minutes and 30 seconds, but who knows? This track and its artist could end up being game changers. Let Haze show you why. (Be warned: This is not an easy listen.)

 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Release date: October 1, 2012

In other "political" music news, cryptic Canadian post-rock tribe Godspeed You! Black Emperor recently released its first full-length record since 2002, and it came with a set of explicit policy positions on the jacket: "Fuck le Plan Nord. Fuck la loi 78." Here, GYBE was referring to Quebec's controversial $80 billion plan to develop its mineral and timber resources, as well as a law to restrict the province's pot-banging student protests against tuition hikes. "Music should be about things are not OK, or else shouldn't exist at all," the band told UK paper the Guardian. After a decade that's weathered all manner of manicured drone and apathetic chillwave spinoffs in the band's absence, this simmering, gritty latest is a welcome return. Now go read about why Godspeed You! thinks the "rock-biz" is like watching "millionaires piss on cherubs."

Photo credits: From top: Marcin Wichary/Wikimedia Commons; Courtesy The Coup/Facebook; Courtesy Angel Haze/Facebook; Courtesy Constellation Records.

Click here for more music coverage from Mother Jones.

"Ho Hey," It's The Lumineers

| Mon Oct. 29, 2012 3:03 AM PDT
On the right, The Lumineers' Jeremiah Fraites.

The scene preceeding The Lumineers' early afternoon set at San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was just about as competitive as that portrayed in local news coverage of shoppers streaming into Walmart on Black Friday. Attendants barked at twenty-somethings ducking ropes in pursuit of a view, the grass section in front of the stage held about one fan per square foot, and the aisle up through the middle of the meadow transformed into a slow-moving mosh pit. It wasn't even 3 p.m. I slinked through the crowd and miraculously landed an edge of someone's tarp.

Jeremiah Fraites, the Denver-based folk band's drummer, remembers the afternoon in much the same way: "When we actually took the stage, every single vantage point, every spot where a human being could be, there was one—surrounding us." The entire Eucalyptus-shaded hill behind the stage was covered with humanity, as were the bushes flanking the sides of the small outdoor arena. I spotted two shirtless dudes draped over tree branches, ready to soak it in. "It made us feel pretty damn good about that being our first time at Hardly Strictly," Fraites told me a few days after the performance. 

Mitt Romney Gets Desperate in Ohio

| Sun Oct. 28, 2012 12:04 PM PDT

Last Thursday, Mitt Romney told a group of Ohio autoworkers that Chrysler was planning to move Jeep production to China. Chrysler very quickly explained the real story: they're thinking about opening new plants in China to sell Jeeps into the Chinese market. No American plants are going to be shuttered.

But the Romney campaign decided none of this mattered. They want to win Ohio, so they're running ads that say this:

Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.

Technically, every word of this is true. Obama did force GM and Chrysler through a managed bankruptcy. Fiat did end up buying Chrysler. And Chrysler is thinking about building Jeeps in China. But remember my three-part test to judge how deceptive a statement is?

  1. What was the speaker trying to imply?
  2. What would it take to state things accurately?
  3. How much would accuracy damage the speaker's point?

On this scale, Romney's ad rates about 9 out of 10 on the deceptiveness scale. He's obviously trying to imply that American jobs will be shipped overseas; stating things accurately would require wholesale revisions; and doing so would completely destroy Romney's point. But he doesn't care. He's got an election to win, and if scaring Ohio autoworkers is what it takes, then that's what it takes. It's truly nauseating.

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Why Does Chrome Suck on My Android Tablet?

| Sat Oct. 27, 2012 12:35 PM PDT

I might blog this in more detail later, but for now I'll just do something quick. I'm now the proud owner of an Android Tablet, an Asus Transformer Infinity, and overall it's a pretty nice device. But I've sure had trouble finding a decent browser for it. The basic problem, as near as I can tell, is that Android browsers are all designed for phones, and haven't really been rewritten to make sense on a device with more screen real estate. Presumably this will get fixed over time. Beyond that, though, the performance is pretty sucky on all of them.

Opera's rendering performance is actually pretty good. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with MoJo's famously finicky back-end blogging software, so it's out. Firefox has so-so rendering performance, but also doesn't work with MoJo's back end. The stock browser is so-so too. And then there's Chrome.

I didn't even try it at first, because even the desktop version doesn't work with MoJo's back end. But finally I gave it a whirl, and it turns out to be 100% compatible with our blogging software. Hooray! Their bookmark system is a little wiggy, but also OK. Double hooray! But performance. Oh my. I swear, the rendering engine looks like it was written by a five-year-old. It's slow and jerky on most sites, really slow and jerky on other sites, and so bad that it renders other sites all but unusable. (Including, ironically, Google Groups.)

In fact, the performance is so laughably bad that I half wonder if it's somehow my fault. I can't figure out how, though. I'm running the latest version of Android, the latest version of Chrome, the performance setting is on High, the Tegra 3 processor on the Asus is supposed to be pretty fast, and as far as I know, there are no background tasks running that could slow it down.

Anyone else have this problem? Am I imagining things? This just seems really weird. Aside from this, feel free to consider this an open thread on Android, tablets, and computing in general. (Keep in mind, however, that I already own an iPad, so telling me to get a Mac really won't do much good.)

Video: The First Silent Political Ad

| Fri Oct. 26, 2012 4:28 PM PDT

Since June 1, more than 900,000 election ads have run on cable and broadcast television. So it's no wonder that residents of battleground states are probably marking off the days until their TVs will all switch back to showing the usual car, soda, and fast food commercials. One group, however, isn't interested in waiting that long: unPAC, which has previously brought us such treats as super-PAC-themed Pac-Man, is raising money to air a one-minute silent ad in the attack ad-saturated swing state of Ohio. (For just $75 it will even throw in a free unF*CK AMERICA tote bag!) 

Have a look:

The ad, a protest against the $2 billion presidential campaign, is meant to be a "message to politicians, special interest groups and the media: we won't stand by idly while our democracy is bought." unPAC is a collaborative effort between the consumer advocacy group Purpose, the campaign finance reform group United Republic, and Rootstrikers, which was founded by Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig.

Corn on MSNBC: The Racist Case Against Obama

Fri Oct. 26, 2012 4:13 PM PDT

The right wing hate machine is out in full force again: Romney surrogate John Sununu, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump take on the attack against Obama. Our Washington Bureau Chief David Corn discusses these remarks with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball.

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

Occupy Oakland Returns to the Streets For One Night

| Fri Oct. 26, 2012 3:08 PM PDT

Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen showed up in a wheelchair at yesterday's march marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Oakland camp raid. But this time his injury hadn't been inflicted by police: Last week he was hit by a car while riding his bike, but it was nothing serious, he told me. Olsen became an international face of the Occupy movement last October after he was struck in the head and critically injured by a bean bag round fired by an Oakland police officer during the protest that followed the raid. In contrast to that long night in 2011, "This night has been great," an upbeat Olsen said. "I'm glad it has remained peaceful and no one has had to go to the hospital."

The night remained peaceful, but Oakland residents hadn't been confident that it would be. Banks boarded up their windows. The city sent out a press release noting the $4.9 million spent policing Occupy Oakland, and the $93,000 spent restoring the lawn outside City Hall that had been destroyed by the encampment last year. An anonymous Twitter account sprang up with a profile that declared, "Occupy Oakland: Confusing Oakland for Wall Street since 2011." It railed against black bloc vandals and tweeted that "protesting in a fiscally troubled city benefits nobody and only hurts the citizens. For what gain?"