On Monday, we told you the story of Amede Ardoin, the king of Cajun Zydeco music, who faded from public view in the 1930s after a severe beating at the hands of two white men. Ardoin's legacy lives on in the music of a new generation of young Cajun bands like the Pine Leaf Boys and Feufollet, a Grammy-nominated group from Lafayette, Louisiana. Performing entirely in French, Feufollet blends traditional Cajun music (think fiddles and accordions) with rock-and-roll influences; it's not your father's zydeco, in other words. I spoke with Feufollet's lead singer, Anna Laura Edmiston, about the Cajun dialect, mysterious swamp gases, and what it's like to write songs no one can understand.
Mother Jones: What's the latest song, good or bad, that super-glued itself in your brain?
MJ: If you could bring anyone back from the dead—or borrow them from a living band—for a big jam session, who would it be?
ALE: Oh my gosh. George Harrison. I think he's great. I love his music, and I know everyone else in the band does. Who doesn't like The Beatles? George has just always been my favorite, just because of his creative outlook on things and where he would take material. Plus, I just love his energy and his Zen-ness.
MJ: Anything you listen to but don't exactly like to publicize the fact?
ALE: I guess I like hip-hop. That's like the weirdest thing I listen to, compared to everything else.
With just 610 days to go before election day, GOP presidential candidates gathered at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa Monday night for their first candidate forum of the 2012 race. Or at least some of them did—Mitt Romney took a rain check; so did Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee (among others).
So what did the candidates who did show up talk about? Nothing particularly groundbreaking. They bragged about their children and grandchildren, the strength of their marriages, quoted scripture, and generally stayed within their individual comfort zones. Newt Gingrich lectured on Camus and Israel and American Exceptionalism—the latter two of which he believes are being ignored by the Obama administration; Buddy Roemer spoke bluntly about cutting off oil and ethanol subsidies; Herman Cain delivered the equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation, explaining how he'd fix the country in three simple steps; Tim Pawlenty gave the same stump speech you've already seen on YouTube, delivered with a hockey-coach-as-slam-poet cadence; Rick Santorum talked extensively about partial-birth abortion, and how his kids once thought his first name was "ultra" (good thing they didn't Google it).
If you're looking for a quick analysis, Dave Weigel's grades struck me as pretty spot-on. But in reality, the night was less about the five would-be candidates who showed up, than the man they were there to see: Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed. Just five years after his political career imploded amid the Jack Abramoff scandal, the former head of the Christian Coalition and GOP boy wonder has clawed his way back into the role of Republican kingmaker. The 2010 midterms were something of a trial run for Reed, who rode the tea party wave with his new organization, and then rushed into the post-election autopsy to take credit for everything.
Last night, he used his introductory speech to ask for money—"every dollar that you give tonight will stay in Iowa"—and to solidfy his role central in the nominating process. "Some have suggested that we call a truce on the social and moral issues," Reed said. "I don't know about you, but I prefer to have a leader who can walk and chew gum at the same time." Reed has re-emerged as a GOP power-broker by acting as if the past never happened. And for the men on stage, that just might be a good thing; if social conservatives can look past Ralph Reed's transgressions, there might be hope for Gingrich after all.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the hottest new trend in suburban real estate: With thousands of properties in suburban Atlanta currently sitting unoccupied, members of a movement with ties to domestic terrorism are moving in. Here's Tammy Joyner:
The Riverdale incident is among at least two dozen area incidents of home takeovers by the sovereign citizens, including a $1 million home in south DeKalb County seized by the sect last year. Authorities say the sect has taken over 20 metro Atlanta properties, including a shopping center. The group believes banks can't own land or property and that any home owned by a bank—including the thousands of foreclosed properties throughout Georgia—are theirs for the taking. Emmett said he also knows of cases where sect members have taken over homes being refurbished.
Sovereign Citizen ideology, as Justine Sharrock explained back in January, was central to Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner's worldview, and has long been a staple of the far-right militia movement. Fear of an encroaching New World Order are a common cause for sovereign citizens, but the ideas have also been embraced as a way out of entangling debt—or, as the case may have it, a little bit of both. In recent years the ideology, which has its roots in the white supremacist community, has increasingly been embraced by black prison gangs and black supremacist groups like the Nuwaubians.
In less depressing foreclosure news, my colleague Andy Kroll reports that foreclosure king David J. Stern is finally out of a job, after banks stopped doing business with his law firm. You can check out Andy's full report on Stern and the rise of the foreclosure mills here.
On Saturday night, Mitt Romney gave his first major speech of the 2012 presidential campaign at a Lincoln Day dinner in New Hampshire. Romney discussed health care, the economy, and President Obama, but mostly the speech was an attempt at something the former Massachusetts governor has become quite adept at: re-branding. MSNBC's First Readnails it:
This, in short, is Romney 3.0. Romney 1.0 was the socially moderate businessman who won election as Massachusetts governor in 2002. Romney 2.0 was the socially conservative presidential candidate who ran to John McCain's and Rudy Giuliani’s right on abortion, stem cells, and illegal immigration in 2007-2008. And Romney 3.0 appears to be the repeat presidential candidate who will focus more on the economy and his business record than on social issues. Yet as the New York Times' Zeleny writes, Romney's transformation also applies to his appearance. "Mr. Romney is trying to present a more relaxed image to combat impressions that he is unapproachable and stiff. He has not been seen in a necktie for months... He turned up in the pit area of the Daytona 500 last month, mingling with race car drivers while wearing a Bass Pro Shops shirt. And last week, Mr. Romney, who put his wealth four years ago around $200 million, walked into Tommy's Barber Shop in an Atlanta strip mall for a haircut."
Romney 3.0 is how we all thought he was going to run at the beginning of the 2008 cycle. And it's closer to his true political identity (though we still don't know about some of his social policy stances which have, um, evolved over the last two decades). But this could be a constant theme of the 2012 campaign: Where was this Romney in 2008? Could this Romney have won in '08? Etc. As we -- and others -- have pointed out, the challenge for Romney will be if he can sell yet another political re-invention. "During a weekend speech to New Hampshire Republicans, Mitt Romney delivered what will likely be his most durable rejoinder to critics of the universal health care program he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts," the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson reported. "Still remaining, though, is a lingering, fundamental question about his authenticity that has only been perpetuated by recent appearances."
Last month, Southern Sudan overwhelmingly approved a referendum to sever its ties with the rest of the country, ending a decades-long civil war between the north and south. Almost immediately, President Barack Obama announced that the US would recognize Southern Sudan as an independent state, bringing the total number of countries recognized by Uncle Sam to 195. The total number of countries not recognized by the United States? That's a bit higher.
While places like Kurdistan and Somaliland might occupy more of the government's time, the ranks of aspiring nations are filled with DIY democracies—places like North Dumpling Island in Long Island Sound, and Molossia in (or surrounded by) northern Nevada—that are often equipped with little more than a flag, an anthem, and a back porch. It's these communities, known as micronations, that Canadian filmmaker Jody Shapiro set out to profile in his latest documentary, How to Start Your Own Country. Mother Jones spoke with Shapiro recently about micro-national alliances, the future of the nation-state, and what happens when the mother country doesn't get the joke.