2007 - %3, January

Clueless White Writer + Hipster = Clipster?

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 3:15 AM EST

Yesterday's NY Times played the race card with an article on, well... black people who like indie rock. Or make indie rock. Or, um, skateboard. Cause white people totally do that! Idolator already has some choice comments about this strange piece (correctly pointing out that UrbanDictionary.com is a kind of lazy source, even for the Gray Lady), and some bloggers and journos have taken exception to the Times' unironic use of the term "blipster" (as in, "black hipster"). Some other blogs point out that blacks didn't just saunter away from rock music because they felt like rapping (see Colonel K's blog entry here).

Hmmm. I'm sympathetic to any attempt at unraveling the racial basis underpinning so much of how we define and categorize music, and, er, "lifestyle," but this article doesn't even try. Can we have some statistics of black artists on white radio? Racial makeup of hip-hop buyers? History of Billboard charts? Ultimately, if you ask how many black people make rock music, you have to define rock music. Oops. You end up back where you started: it's white people music! Turns out the question reveals more than the answer, with the very terms being discussed laden with decades of racial bias. With racism so entrenched, and so many other factors at play (howabout girls who like boy music! Straight people who dance to Scissor Sisters!) it seems like the subject needs a little more attention and care than this lazy, condescending article gives it.

What's the deal with the Times and cultural, specifically current music, coverage? Despite an occasionally amusing piece that comes out of nowhere, they just don't seem to have any idea what's going on, and so they end up trying to overcompensate, and we get these vague articles about perceived cultural trends that just end up being offensive. Too bad.

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Air America Goes Green (& Al Franken Takes the Green and Runs)

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 12:13 AM EST

The latest chapter in the looooong saga of Air America has evidently been penned, but I must say that even those of us who'd wondered if the network's tortured history had become parody/proof of the right's criticism of the left didn't quite see this one coming. AA or Ax2 or Asquared will, it seems, be acquired by NYC real estate mogul Stephen Green, brother of perennial NY mayor/senate/attorney general candiate Mark Green. "Speaking only as the brother of the purchaser," Mark Green, who's also played guest host on AA, told the NYT that "no hiring or programming positions had been decided for the network, should the deal go through."

None 'cept one, I'd guess.

And if Brother Green becomes a permanent AA personality, he won't have to live in the shadow of Al Franken. Franken, who'd been paid a truly outrageous $2 million a year—10 times more than "many other syndicated hosts with a similar audience reach"—will host his last show on Valentine's Day. Franken's outsized salary makes him an easy target for those who mourn AA's passing, but to my mind it's just further proof that the people behind the network (and there have been lots) just had too much money and little idea of the media terrain. Wishing you (and why would you?) had a lefty 24-hour equivalent to Rush/Imus don't make it so people.

Meanwhile, Spinsanity Alert: Green said the sale will, in the words of the NYT, "usher in a new phase for Air America, focused on digital content distribution rather than radio."

"In this digital era, the tech changes by the day and Air America Radio has to become something of a new media company," Mark Green said. "We look forward to an A.A.R. 2.0 that has sharp smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?"

So does this mean that Stephen is buying his brother a podcast? If so, Senator Chris Dodd has some programming suggestions.

One Important Question in the Blossoming Health Care Debate

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 7:46 PM EST

Universal health care is already shaping up to be a central theme of the 2008 presidential campaign, with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards all strongly in favor.

Here's my question. If

(1) Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are prepared to stand by their pledges to provide health care for all Americans, and

(2) Congressional democrats are prepared to stand by their pledges for a balanced budget, then

(3) Are the aforementioned candidates prepared to raise taxes?

Edwards is on the record with a response, and I respect it. "Edwards: Universal Health Care Trumps Balanced Budget." Barack and Hillary, what say you?

Update: More evidence that Edwards has taken the lead on this from Ezra Klein. Worth checking out; the man speaks honestly and openly about the tough choices America will have to make when setting its priorities for the next presidential term.

Party Ben's 2007 Mother Jones Mashup: Faithless vs. George W. Bush's SOTU

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 7:27 PM EST

Hello internet. I'm Party Ben. You might know me from such films as "That's My Monkey 2: Ookin' it Up," and "Arm & Hammer: a Company With a Future." Not really. Actually, I make those most mockable of musical items: mashups! Plus I also DJ in the Golden State, and do something called "creative direction" for San Francisco radio station LIVE 105. Good times.

For reasons that are not yet clear to me, I've been asked to be a guest blogger on this blog, focusing on musical and cultural items of note. I guess I'll bring a refreshing lack of "writing skills" or "journalistic ethics" that they couldn't find around the Mother Jones offices.

To celebrate my acceptance into the liberal media elite, I've updated one of my more political tracks for exclusive download by readers of this fine blog. It's based on a song by Faithless, "Mass Destruction," a deceptively jaunty anti-war number that appeared on their 2004 album "No Roots." At that time I produced a novelty version featuring some appropriate excerpts of George W. Bush's anti-evildoer speechifying. Despite my version's simplicity (like, wow, echo!) it proved inexplicably popular. As is my usual method, I produced at least six different versions, including a long one that appeared on my website and a shorter one that got some radio play on my own and other stations. This new version uses excerpts of Bush's recent State of the Union speech as well as some of the clips I used in the original mix. Compare and contrast! It's Faithless vs. George W. Bush, "Mass Destruction" (Party Ben's 2007 Mother Jones remix). Enjoy.


| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 6:17 PM EST

Embarrassing gaffs, humiliating moments, there's nothing like amateur video to make laughter heard round the world. Now you can tap in to what makes the Arab world tick in the file-sharing universe with the Arab language site Ikbis.com. Along the YouTube vein you can find all sorts of photos and videos that, well, we don't see on YouTube. Like this still from Iraq, this video of a Palestinian ambulance backing into a victim or "this clip, of a giggling man at a prayer sesion, which has nearly 12,000 hits to date. Humor abounds at the site, launched in November, but politics are also common on Ikbis (tagline, "Capture your Life"), with Bush parodies, the Saddam video (now down) and war footage we just don't see on CNN. Definitely worth clicking through every so often, for the raw footage, and for a new window into funny.

Introducing Two New Blogs: The Blue Marble and The Riff

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 4:04 PM EST

Though still a bit beta, please check out our two new blogs. The Blue Marble is our blog on the Environment and Health (and related policy) while The Riff is our culture blog: basically the space where we can rant about books, music, movies, TV, celebrities, eating, gaming, and whatever other leisure activities come to mind. MoJo staff will contribute to both new blogs, but we're also fortunate to have MoJo contributing writer and science geek extraordinaire Julia Whitty anchor Blue Marble. And over at The Riff, DJ Party Ben (aka Ben Gill), king of the mashups, will provide us with occasional mashups, music reviews, and rants on whatever he damn well pleases.

So we expect some tasty mashups from Ben in a day or so*. Meanwhile, if you want to learn why we chose the name Blue Marble, read this.

*Update: Party Ben has just posted his first 2007 Mother Jones Mashup: Faithless vs. George W. Bush's SOTU. Go take a listen at The Riff.

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Why is this Blog Called "The Blue Marble"?

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 3:40 PM EST

In 1972, the astronauts of Apollo 17 took a photo of earth that became known as the Blue Marble. It wasn't the first picture of the earth, but (to quote wikipedia) "released during a surge in environmental activism during the 1970s, the image was seen by many as a depiction of Earth's frailty, vulnerability, and isolation amid the expanse of space."

And that seems pretty apt today.

NASA has quite a collection of earth photography including Blue Marble: The Next Generation (Trekkies, we are everywhere), which "offers a year's worth of monthly composites at a spatial resolution of 500 meters. These monthly images reveal seasonal changes to the land surface: the green-up and dying-back of vegetation in temperate regions such as North America and Europe, dry and wet seasons in the tropics, and advancing and retreating Northern Hemisphere snow cover." (Retreating now more than ever.)

Over at the Google Earth Blog (with the lovely abbreviation of "gearth", prepare to be assimilated) some techies have taken NASA's work and turned it into an animation. (Warning: Serious processor speed needed.)

But bookmark the wicked cool Google Earth blog, people are having all kinds of fun and games (like: actual treasure hunts) using GEarth.

Pharmaceutical Giant Novartis Challenges India's Patent Laws, Threatening Delivery of AIDS Drugs to Tens of Thousands

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 2:54 PM EST

The pharmaceutical industry once again stirs a witches' brew, reports New Scientist, challenging patent laws that have enabled India to supply AIDS drugs to poor patients worldwide.

India's generic drugs form the backbone of MSF's [Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders] AIDS programmes, in which 80,000 people in 30 countries receive treatment.

"We are reaching a quarter of the people who need antiretroviral treatment in sub-Saharan Africa," says Ivy Mwangi, an MSF doctor. "Rapid scale-up in treatment is only possible with the availability and affordability of generic drugs, most of which are produced in India."

But Swiss pharma-giant Novartis is whinging that financial hegemony is the only sure road to drug innovation, and that India should not be allowed to provide generics for people who can't pay $10,000 a year for its drugs.

"If Novartis gets through with its case our lives are at risk," Monique Wanjala, a woman who has been living with HIV for 13 years, told a news conference in Nairobi. "We want this case dropped," she said. "If we die because affordable generic drugs aren't available, where will they sell the drug? If profits are going to be put before peoples' lives then we have a serious problem."

How Bad Will Global Warming Get? Indonesia Could Lose 2,000 Islands to Rising Seas

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 2:29 PM EST

Two thousand of Indonesia's 17,000-plus islands may be lost to rising sea levels by 2030, Indonesia's environment minister told Reuters Monday.

Rachmat Witoelar said studies by U.N. experts showed that sea levels were expected to rise about 89 centimetres in 2030 which meant that about 2,000 mostly uninhabited small islets would be submerged.

"We are optimistic it can be prevented. Switching to bio-fuels is not only good for the environment but also will benefit us economically considering the volatile state of oil prices," he said.

Lower lying islands like the Bahamas, the Maldives, and Tuvalu will suffer more, likely submerging altogether, as reported in "All the Disappearing Islands" in Mother Jones in 2003.

BBC Reports GlaxoSmithKline Paid Academics to Fudge Data on Child Paxil/Suicide Link

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 2:27 PM EST

The BBC is broadcasting a report later today alleging GSK tried basically tried to make up for studies that showed that Paxil did not help depressed children (and put some at risk of suicide) by issuing other studies, studies that just so happened to be conducted by scientists on their payroll, that found guess what? Just the opposite...

Read the rest of this post over at The Blue Marble, our new Environment and Health blog.