2007 - %3, February

Pazz & Jop Poll Results Announced... Yawn?

| Sat Feb. 10, 2007 8:39 PM EST

The Village Voice's annual poll of music critics, "Pazz & Jop," came out this week, and even though the format has always seemed designed for somewhat conservative outcomes, this year's lists are just... boring. After one and a half months spent adding up the votes (why does it take so long, incidentally? Don't they have Excel?) they come up with the same #1 album as Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan's Modern Times. Wow. At least TV On the Radio's masterpiece came in as a close #2 (apparently beating Dylan in number of mentions, in an event eerily reminiscent of Bush v. Gore). The only thing separating their albums list from every single other critical year-end roundup is... hmmm... the presence of Tom Waits at #10? Well, fine, I guess. The singles list is even more dull, with the typical Gnarls / T.I. / Timberlake / Furtado / Aguilera party posse sitting on top. It's basically right, but jeez, Peter Bjorn & John all the way down at #25? For shame.

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Anna Nicole Smith's Death--Biggest News Event in Recent History!

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 7:41 PM EST

Anna Nicole Smith's death is apparently the biggest story of the 20th and 21st centuries. If you were watching cable news yesterday, you already know that the largest stories of that time period are of course, (5) the Great Depression, (4) Vietnam and the peace movement, (3) the fall of the Soviet Union, (2) WWII and the dropping of the atom bomb, and (1) the death of a former Playboy Playmate who married for money and in some way embodies the perversion of the American Dream.

The good people at ThinkProgress must have a team of 800 research monkeys, because they've tallied the number of times the three major cable news networks referenced Anna Nicole Smith and the number of times they referenced Iraq, just to illustrate the insanity.

The results:


NetworkAnna Nicole SmithIraq
CNN14127
FOX NEWS11233
MSNBC17024

You thought ThinkProgress would stop there? These are very hard-working research monkeys, people, and they are inspired by knowing they do God's work. (As an aside, can you imagine being assigned this project by the boss? "Hiiiii, Peter. I'm going to need you to watch hours of cable news that is saturated with worthless drivel, just to catalogue exactly how much drivel it is saturated with. Mmmmm'kay? Don't forget the TPS reports!")

No, sir. They go further -- courageously, valiantly, with no fear for their own health -- detailing the amount of time NBC, ABC, and CBS spent on Anna Nicole Smith vs. Iraq. (It's particularly bad for NBC, which spent 14 seconds on Iraq and three minutes and 13 seconds on ANS.) And to top it all off, they created a video with the lowlights, in which you can actually see Joe Scarborough scowling in disgust with himself and his producers. I can't post all that here, because you really ought to visit ThinkProgress to see everything in it's full majesty. The devolution of television news is upon us, and I know it makes you want to choke on your own vomit. (Sorry, too soon, I know.)

As Dan Rather would say: Courage!

--Jonathan Stein

Update on Sea Shepherd Pursuit of Japanese Whaling Ship

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 5:24 PM EST

Pirate excitement continues during the long days of the austral summer in the stormy Southern Ocean. Sea Shepherd crews aboard the Farley Mowat and the Robert Hunter continue in hot pursuit of the Japanese factory whaling ship the Nisshin Maru. For a while disaster loomed, as two crewmen went adrift in a Zodiak chase boat crippled after its confrontation with the Japanese whaler.

The Zodiac inflatable carrying 2nd Officer Karl Neilsen, 29, of Australia, and Engineer John Gravois, 24, of the United States, fell back from the other Sea Shepherd ships after its fiberglass hull cracked and filled with water. The damage was caused when the inflatable struck the steel hull of the whaling vessel Nisshin Maru in heavy seas. The two were quickly lost as heavy fog, snow, and sleet conditions suddenly occurred.

Captain Paul Watson immediately put the Farley Mowat into a search grid and then issued a maritime distress call and was joined by the Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter. Because it was an official distress, the Japanese factory vessel was obligated to participate and joined in the search. The search lasted eight hours.

The crewmembers were found by the Farley Mowat; both were unharmed and slightly cold. They were spotted by Farley Mowat Quartermaster Jaime Brown of New Zealand. They were both wearing wetsuits under survival suits. Karl and John were glad to be rescued and were not suffering any ill effects.

Captain Paul Watson called the Nisshin Maru to thank them for their assistance in the search and then said, "We're all back on schedule." At this point, the two Sea Shepherd ships resumed their pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet as conditions continue to worsen, and winds and swells increase.

Yet fair maritime play was soon followed by foul, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says, as the Nisshin Maru claimed injury of two crew from the butyric acid attack. Not possible, swabbies, says Captain Watson.

"My crew did not injure anyone," said Captain Watson. "This is just a spin designed to get public sympathy for men who are themselves vicious and ruthless killers of whales."

The Japanese claim that two whalers were injured when six liters of butyric acid were tossed onto the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru.

According to Japan's Fisheries Agency spokesman, Hideki Moronuki, the two Japanese crewmen sustained injuries from the attack after one was hit by an empty container of acid and the other had acid squirted in his eye.

"Nice try, but a total fabrication," said Captain Watson. "The butyric acid is contained in one-liter glass bottles, all of which broke upon contact with the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru. These bottles are sealed and the acid released after being broke, so it is impossible to be hit by an empty bottle. Secondly, no one squirted butyric acid into anyone's eye, and even if they did, this is a simple non-toxic butter acid, basically rancid butter. It will not cause eye injury. If we had tossed marshmallows on the deck of the Nisshin Maru, I'm sure the whalers would try to claim they were injured by them"

Every minute the whaling fleet runs from the Sea Shepherd ships is a minute less spent hunting whales. And, no, the whalers won't just hunt longer or raise prices dockside in response because there isn't any market in Japan for whale meat anymore. Greenpeace describes how that other pirate whaling nation, Iceland, can't figure out what to do with its tons of whale meat it hoped to sell to Japan.

In Iceland we have discovered an unprecedented amount of the whale meat from the recent hunt has not been used. Even whaling captain Sigurður Njálsson has said the meat is unfit for domestic consumption. 200 tonnes of the meat is in storage with a further 179 tonnes of entrails buried at a landfill site. But despite demand for whale meat plummeting, Japan and Iceland continue to hunt whales. An icy landfill site has been used to dump a vast proportion of the fin whale remains. Underneath the snowy floor around 179 tonnes of bones and entrails have been left to rot. Around 200 tonnes of meat and blubber - a vast proportion of the total yield - are sitting elsewhere in storage waiting to be tested for chemical contamination.

"Iceland claims their commercial whaling is sustainable – but how can they justify it when they are hunting endangered species, without domestic demand, and an over-supply of whale products in Japan?" said Greenpeace Nordic Oceans campaigner, Frode Pleym. "Both Iceland and Japan continue to whale in the face of domestic and international opposition, even though there is no scientific, economic or environmental justification for it," added Pleym.

The Icelandic meat and blubber in storage is intended for export to Japan, despite the fact that Japan already has 4962 tonnes of whale meat stockpiled (as of October 2006) according to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Last year, 5500 tons of whale meat was supplied to the Japanese market. This includes whale meat which does not get eaten and is simply thrown away because it didn't sell. Even if we generously assume all of the meat was in fact eaten, that is only about 46g of whale meat per person , as opposed to 5.6kg of beef, 12.1kg of pork, and 10.5kg of chicken.

"It is no surprise that there are massive stockpiles of whale meat, when a recent survey shows that 95 percent of Japanese people never or have rarely eaten whale meat. It is time for all governments to make a commitment to the whales and not an outdated, unwanted and pointless industry," said Greenpeace Japan's campaign director, Junichi Sato.

Talk about outlaw nations, axes of evil. Add Norway to the list and you've got a Triumvirate of Terror that Ahab would be proud of.

Anna Nicole Smith's Death -- Biggest News Event in Recent History

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 4:22 PM EST

Anna Nicole Smith's death is apparently the biggest story of the 20th and 21st centuries. If you were watching cable news yesterday, you already know that the largest stories of that time period are of course, (5) the Great Depression, (4) Vietnam and the peace movement, (3) the fall of the Soviet Union, (2) WWII and the dropping of the atom bomb, and (1) the death of a former Playboy Playmate who married for money and in some way embodies the perversion of the American Dream.

The good people at ThinkProgress must have a team of 800 research monkeys, because they've tallied the number of times the three major cable news networks referenced Anna Nicole Smith and the number of times they referenced Iraq, just to illustrate the insanity.

The results:


NetworkAnna Nicole SmithIraq
CNN14127
FOX NEWS11233
MSNBC17024

You thought ThinkProgress would stop there? These are very hard-working research monkeys, people, and they are inspired by knowing they do God's work. (As an aside, can you imagine being assigned this project by the boss? "Hiiiii, Peter. I'm going to need you to watch hours of cable news that is saturated with worthless drivel, just to catalogue exactly how much drivel it is saturated with. Mmmmm'kay? Don't forget the TPS reports!")

No, sir. They go further -- courageously, valiantly, with no fear for their own health -- detailing the amount of time NBC, ABC, and CBS spent on Anna Nicole Smith vs. Iraq. (It's particularly bad for NBC, which spent 14 seconds on Iraq and three minutes and 13 seconds on ANS.) And to top it all off, they created a video with the lowlights, in which you can actually see Joe Scarborough scowling in disgust with himself and his producers. I can't post all that here, because you really ought to visit ThinkProgress to see everything in it's full majesty. The devolution of television news is upon us, and I know it makes you want to choke on your own vomit. (Sorry, too soon, I know.)

As Dan Rather would say: Courage!

More on Liberal Anti-Semitism

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 2:48 PM EST

Last week, Mother Jones linked to news that Alvin Rosenfeld of the American Jewish Committee called for a new policy of "confronting" Jews who challenge Israel. (Rosenfeld's essay specifically calls for confronting only those who "oppose Israel's basic right to exist," but the list of suspects he also includes casts a much wider net.)

Now the Anti-Defamation League is jumping on the bandwagon. The group will host a conference (9 a.m. this Sunday at Jewish Community High, San Francisco) on how Jews can protect themselves from anti-Semitism from the liberal left. They give the example of protesters at a recent anti-war rally in San Francisco chanting in Arabic "Jews are our dogs."

Oy vey and Jesus H. Christ. Whether that happened or not neither I nor anyone else at the rally who doesn't speak Arabic could say—and as such I seriously question if the ADL has good information on it. If it did happen, anyone in their right mind would say it was anti-Semitic plain and simple. There's nothing uniquely "progressive" or "left" about its hatred, and therefore there's little need for a special conference.

Nasty stereotyping and anti-Semitism does occur among those who consider themselves politically pure, just as homophobia does. And for that, shame. But what the ADL really means by targeting anti-war protests is that many of them called for the end of all occupation, whether conducted by Jews or gentiles. (Many disagree with that approach, but rallies unite people with different views.) Strong-arm Zionists have been pulling that same trick for years—conflating anyone who challenges the policies of a nation with those who hate everyone who shares the most common religion of that country. Their tactics make it harder, not easier, to piece out and deal with real anti-Semitic incidents or comments.

Border by Boeing, Overseen by Corporate Pals

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 1:40 PM EST

Since the Bush administration is outsourcing security along the Mexican border to Boeing Co., you'd think they'd want to keep a close eye on how the company is handling the job, not to mention spending the billions of taxpayer dollars that go with it. Turns out, they can't be bothered - they've outsourced that, too. As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-LA) pointed out in hearings yesterday, oversight on the Secure Border Initiative has been handed over to consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. - which just happens to do regular business with their buddies at Boeing. You can get Waxman's full report here.

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United? Not With Other Nations We're Not

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 12:15 PM EST

What is it about global cooperative bodies that Americans are so averse to? The World Cup? Not so into it. The United Nations, Kyoto, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the list goes on. America is not exactly a team player.

A new Gallup poll shows that the American public continues to look down on the supreme international body, with Americans giving the U.N. its lowest approval ratings ever.

Back in 2003 the U.N.'s public image took a southward turn after Bush's go-it-alone strategy took its course. But that was when we thought there were WMDs, etc. and there was actually support for this war. Now, at a time when opposition to the war is at its peak, and Bush's approval rating is at its nadir (32%), the U.N. still can't catch a break.

Gallup's latest measure of the United Nations' job performance is the lowest Gallup has seen since it began asking Americans as much in 1953: Only 29% of Americans believe the U.N. is doing a good job of trying to solve the problems it has face while 66% say it's doing a poor job. That puts the U.N. in the same boat as Bush as far as American's confidence and job approval rating.

The ill feelings could be due to corruption charges against U.N. officials; particularly those involving former Secretary General Kofi Annan's son. But that was nearly two years ago, there's clearly more to it. And if we don't have faith in our president or in the United Nations, who then do we trust? Maybe no one, or maybe we just don't care enough about the issues to value the body tasked with dealing with global challenges.

Worth noting: today's record negative perception of the United Nations follows a period from May 2000 to January 2003 when the organization received some of its most positive ratings from the American people -- routinely exceeding 50%.

Waxman Hearings: Big Pharma's Institutionalized Kickback Racket

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 11:45 AM EST

Witnesses before Congressman Waxman's House oversight committee this morning said regulating drugs is literally impossible because nobody knows what they cost to make.

Steven Schondelmeyer of the University of Minnesota said the pharmaceutical industry insists its products make up a relatively small part of the health care budget. Yet, he pointed out, "half of all working adults and three quarters of elderly use one prescription every week… the drug industry accounts for 4 percent of the nation's overall economy and18-19 percent of the health care dollar."

"Let's quit minimizing drugs," said Shondelmeyer. "This is an institutionalized case of kickback."

Different government agencies pay different prices for the same drugs. "There is no way of knowing whether and how the market works," said Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins professor who has tracked the pharmaceutical industry. "Some states pay five times more than other states."

At the same time, it is pretty well established that Medicare Part D plans (covering Medicare recipients) are paying 20 percent more than the government pays for Medicaid recipients. At the same time, the federal and state governments are pushing people off Medicaid into Medicare where they end up paying higher prices.

"News You Already Knew," Iraq Edition

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 10:58 AM EST

Highlighting this story on MoJoBlog is a formality at this point, because every reader we have must be familiar with the lies and misrepresentations the Bush Administration fed us in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

But there's a new report out from the Pentagon's inspector general that details exactly what role Douglas Feith and his office had in this dirty business.

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

I know, I know, it's old hat. I'm just doing my job...

The New American Dream

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 10:51 AM EST

A man who served as an interrogator in Iraq has penned a short but powerful article for the Washington Post describing how his actions in that role haunt his thoughts and dreams. A snippet:

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.
American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq...

Heavy stuff. Worth a read.