2007 - %3, March

Timbaland Previews Shock Value on MySpace

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 4:59 PM EDT

mojo-cover-timbaland.jpg"Producer's producer" Timbaland has posted the entirety of his upcoming album Shock Value on his MySpace page, so we can listen to all 17 tracks in lovely 96kbps hi-fi sound a whole week early. Cool! But unfortunately, a first listen is somewhat disappointing. The already-leaked (and already five-starred) "Give It To Me" is a highlight, as is "Scream," a dramatic 4-chord number featuring a Pussycat Doll on lead vocals, as well as "Board Meeting," a party-starter bringing longtime collaborator Magoo back on board. I'm a fan of "The Way I Are;" with its trance-y keyboard line, it's clearly a musical sequel to "My Love." But other tracks veer a little too close to self-parody, like the Justin Timberlake-featuring "Release," which is so close to "SexyBack" it just makes you want to listen to that (far superior) song instead. The much-hyped rock collaborations are a mixed bag: "Time" brings in Joy Division ripoffs She Wants Revenge for a middling freestyle/goth mashup that's slightly redeemed by a lovely instrumental section, and on the Fall Out Boy track "One and Only," listening to Timbo try to imitate the rapid-fire vocal style of pop-punk's greatest irritants is pretty painful, although the oddly "Promiscuous"-reminscent chord structure of the chorus is kind of intriguing. I'd like to listen to track 13, featuring the long-lost Hives, but they seem to have uploaded "Time" to its slot. An accident, or is it not ready for prime time?

What's most disappointing is the news that apparently the track featuring M.I.A. is, uh, MIA, only appearing on the import version of the album. Thanks to the intertubes, though, we can hear it now (mp3 link via Idolator and Discobelle). With its odd chants, psychedelic echoes, gargantuan retro synth bleeps, and the usual effortlessly sexy/political vocal from M.I.A., it's both avant-garde and instantly accessible, and why anybody thinks the US can't handle it is beyond me. Too bad.

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Treading Into (Or Walking On) Biblical Waters

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 3:40 PM EDT

TIME underscores this week's headline, "Why We Should Teach The Bible in Public School," with the advisory subhead: "But very, very carefully." What does that mean, exactly? It's like saying, "Here, grab this scalding hot pan, but be careful when you grab it," or "Hey, let's jump off of this bridge into raging waters hundreds of feet below, but let's be careful while we're doing it." We're either doing something or we're not, caveats aside.

Carefully or not, the Bible is nudging its way into public schools. And it's worth noting that the magazine, read by millions each week, is essentially endorsing it. But TIME is not alone.

Georgia's Board of Education will endorse and fund biblical teachings next school year when they add two Biblical literature classes to its curriculum. Why teach the Old and New Testament in public school? Because of the Bible's "important role in history," one Republican supporter said.

Georgia's just one example. According to the National Council on Bible Curriculum, 373 school districts in 37 states now implement its Bible course curriculum. And the states are red and blue.

The TIME story argues (strongly, and favorably) that the Bible is the "bedrock of western culture," backing up the argument with a colorful timeline of popular culture items (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Matrix, Babel, Spamalot) that rely on Biblical themes, and a full-page photo of a conservative Christian Texas school teacher who honors "constitutional neutrality" in her classroom.

The Biblical wave is moving and growing, and groups like the Bible Literacy Project are riding it out, fully endorsed by the AP, Chicago Tribune, Knight-Ridder newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and WORLD Magazine.

Consensus is building (to Biblical proportions, maybe), but it's not clear how carefully we are moving forward.

--Gary Moskowitz


Pakistan Gets Fat $4.2B Check, Now 3rd Largest Recipient of US Military Aid

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 2:22 PM EDT

The Center for Public Integrity informs us that thanks to a Defense Department program- Coalition Support Funds (CSF)- Pakistan is now the third largest recipient of all US military aid and assistance, following the heels of Israel and Egypt.

The three years prior to September 11, 2001, US military aid to Pakistan was $9.1 million. Three years after 9/11, it was more than $4.2 billion, a 45,000% increase. Since 9/11, Pakistan has been awarded a total of over $10 billion. A lot of money? Tim Rieser, majority clerk on the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs told the Center,

"With the possible exception of Iraq reconstruction funds, I've never seen a larger blank check for any country than for the Pakistan CSF program."

As if this carte blanche isn't enough, earlier this month, three Democrats introduced a "nonbinding resolution," which attempts to make military aid to Pakistan dependent on how much "progress" Pakistan is making in the war on terror. Note: "progress" here does not equal democracy and the will of the Pakistani people, who are directly affected by the General's actions. Why should it matter anyway? What matters is that the General Musharraf secures US geo-political objectives.

We've heard this story before. And apart from the fact that the US is arguably helping to fuel the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, it's at the expense of the civilian population. Husain Haqqani notes that the "three periods of significant flow of US aid to Pakistan have all coincided with military rule in Pakistan" and the civilian leadership has hardly been given a helping hand:

Most of the American aid money has gone towards Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Economic Support Fund (ESF). Very little of it has flowed in ways that are visible to the Pakistani people as altering their daily lives.

According to figures provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) between 1954 and 2002, the US provided a total of $12.6 billion in economic and military aid to Pakistan. Of this, the majority, $9.19 billion was given during 24 years of military rule, only $3.4 billion was given to to civilian regimes which ruled for 19 years.

On average, US aid to Pakistan amounted to $382.9 million for each year of military rule compared with only $178.9 per annum under civilian leadership for the period until 2002.

So much for "spreading democracy."

—Neha Inamdar

Paper or Potato?

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 1:48 PM EDT

Mother Jones' hometown, San Francisco, yesterday became the first U.S. city to ban non-recyclable plastic bags from use in retail stores. Not only do conventional plastic bags take up space in landfills—1,400 tons in San Francisco alone—they also require petroleum for their manufacture. City supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said, "We can't sleepwalk into the future. The end of the era of cheap oil is here."

Bags made from biodegradable materials such as potato starch are actually stronger than plastic bags, but cost more to produce.

John McCain Gets Bitch Slapped

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 12:36 PM EDT

I'm sorry for the language, but there's really nothing else you can use to describe this video of CNN's Michael Ware going off on McCain's claim that parts of Baghdad are safe enough for an American to take a stroll in. Ware directly questions McCain's credibility and points out that military officials are laughing at Senator Straight Talk's comments. Apparently, they're straight crap.

It's a must see.

Environmental Fact of the Day

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 12:21 PM EDT

A gallon of gasoline puts 19 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In California, passenger vehicles account for 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Mass transit: A (relatively) easy way to limit your contribution to global warming.

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Need an Introduction to Fred Thompson?

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 11:45 AM EDT

As you may know, former Republican Senator and current television actor Fred Thompson is floating the idea of running for president, and the early returns suggest the idea might be going somewhere. fred_thompson130x150.jpg Thompson places third in the Republican field with 12% support, only bested by Giuliani at 31% and McCain at 22%. (Mitt "Dead in the Water" Romney polls at a shockingly low 3%.) They're skeptical over at The Plank:

A Hollywood actor, high-priced attorney, and lobbyist (for Toyota and the S&Ls, among others), who ran for Senate as a pro-choicer and had a reputation as a considerable ladies man before marrying his second (much younger) wife doesn't seem to me to quite fit the profile of white knight for the political right.

So for the time being let's consider Thompson another imperfect entry in a class of GOP candidates from whom imperfection is the norm. A 1996 Washington Monthly article has some really good material on Thompson for those looking for more info. Some sampling below.

Weird Weather Watch: WTF?

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 11:38 AM EDT

Tuesday "dawned clear and breezy" in Southern California, but by the end of the day the area had experienced downpours, hail, snow, and 40-mph winds (that's powerful by most standards but outrageous for Los Angelenos). 185,000 homes lost power. The creepiest thing of all is that an Orange County Fire Authority building had its roof torn off, although erratic weather like this are increasing the area's vulnerability to fire.

Buh-Bye, Al: National Review Says Gonzales Should Go

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 11:03 AM EDT

The editors of the conservative National Review have decided they've seen enough out of Alberto Gonzales. In an editorial today calling for him to resign, they manage to dump on both the Democrats and the embattled Attorney General.

On the Dems:

The story of the eight fired U.S. attorneys has been relentlessly overhyped. We do not know that any of them was fired because the administration put its political interests ahead of his or her prosecutorial judgment. Sen. Dick Durbin's recent insinuation that the attorneys who were not fired had kept their jobs by compromising their prosecutions was outrageous.... congressional Democrats are wrong to bluster...

On Gonzo:

We do not need more evidence... to reach a conclusion about the suitability of Alberto Gonzales for the leadership of the Department of Justice. While we defended him from some of the outlandish charges made during his confirmation hearings, we have never seen evidence that he has a fine legal mind, good judgment, or managerial ability. Nor has his conduct at any stage of this controversy gained our confidence.
His claim not to have been involved in the firings suggests that he was either deceptive or inexcusably detached from the operations of his own department.

On Gonzo and the Dems:

What little credibility Gonzales had is gone. All that now keeps him in office, save the friendship of the president, is the conviction of many Republicans that removing him would embolden the Democrats. It is an overblown fear. The Democrats will pursue scandals, real or invented, whether or not Gonzales stays. But they have an especially inviting target in Gonzales. He cannot defend the administration and its policies even when they deserve defense. Alberto Gonzales should resign.

This is fun, isn't it?

TIME Doesn't Want to Bore You With Real News

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 10:36 AM EDT

 time_cover_1.jpg  time_cover_2.jpg  time_cover_3.jpg  time_cover_4.jpg

This never gets old. When America's venerable newsweeklies don't think Americans can handle the truth -- see Newsweek's work on global warming and losing Afghanistan -- they put real reporting on their international covers and soft-peddle the U.S. with all sorts of nonsense.

And if you're going with nonsense, why not the nonsense that Americans love most -- pop theology. According to Folio magazine, a cover featuring Jesus or the Bible can raise single-issue sales by roughly 50%, and as a result TIME and Newsweek frequently try to out-Christian one another on consecutive weeks. (See "Jesus, What a Cover!" from the Dec/Jan 2006 issue of Mother Jones.)

So, yeah. This week it's TIME serving up "The Case for Teaching the Bible" to Americans, and "Talibanistan" to its international audience. As Wonkette puts it, "Americans get the special-ed stories." I don't know if I should be disgusted with and embarrassed by the magazine editors who made this decision, or the magazine readers whose tastes they are clearly pandering to.

Oh, and check out Rose's thoughts on Mother Jones' Arts and Culture blog, The Riff.