2007 - %3, March

"Hillary 1984" is like Bob Corker's Ad against Harold Ford, Jr.

| Fri Mar. 23, 2007 3:57 PM EDT

Have you seen Hillary 1984? You've got to. It's brilliant. About 1.3 million people have already seen it. It's the advent of a new political era. The minute-and-a-half-long clip, spliced from an Apple commercial from Super Bowl, shows hundreds of men as just ashen drones marching in line and then sitting down before a screen under Hillary's head talking, detached from her body. Everything is gray and lifeless. The only dash of color at all is when a busty blonde wearing only a white tank and orange shorts—a Hooters girls outfit but with only one "O" in the logo over her chest—runs through the crowd of men and hurls a javelin at Hillary's head, shattering the screen, spreading light everywhere.

Yep, it's brilliant. And lefty bloggers are cheering it as the advent of "open-source politics" because it's on YouTube. What none of them have mentioned is the reason why it's so effective: It exploits subconscious bigotry, just like the ad for now-U.S. Senator Bob Corker in October. Since blacks weren't recognized as fully human, this country used to have special laws for them. Black men could not sleep with white women, but it was fine the other way around (even the president did). Black men with white women is still taboo—that's why broadcasting a blonde actress crooning, "I met Harold at the Playboy party…. Harry [wink], call me!!" was enough to derail Harold Ford, Jr.'s, campaign. The racism operated subtly and subconsciously enough to change the minds of people who would never admit to being racist. Lefties pointed that out, but not as loudly as they should have. Ford lost.

Likewise, women weren't recognized as fully human in this country until recently, and modern society still has a taboo against women holding power. Lefty bloggers who don't think Hillary has the charisma to win the general election may be happy that this ad will derail her in the primary. But they look like hypocrites unless they stop cheering for a moment to mention that the ad exploits subconscious fears. That goes for you too, Arianna Huffington—author of On Becoming Fearless. "Hillary 1984" is as un-Democratic as the ad against Harold Ford was.

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Iraqi Refugees Now Top Asylum Seekers In The World

| Fri Mar. 23, 2007 2:44 PM EDT

How much longer can the U.S. deny the refugee crisis in Iraq? According to a new U.N. report, Iraqi refugees are now the top asylum seekers anywhere.

Asylum applications by Iraqis in industrialized countries rose 77 percent last year, from 12,500 in 2005 to 22,200 in 2006. UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said "There has been an abject denial of the impact, the humanitarian impact, of the war, the huge displacement within Iraq of up to 1.9 million people who are homeless because of the war."

As Leigh wrote earlier this week, Syria has taken a huge portion of Iraqi refugees (some 1.2 million in a country of 19 million) while the United States has so far taken in less than 500 with promises of allowing 7,000 this year. Many of these refugees are Iraqi's who worked for the United States and are now under death threat, as David Case writes in our current issue.

Over at Foreign Policy in Focus, Kristele Younes of Refugees International outlines a number of proposals to help Iraqi refugees, including more funding for the UNHCR (whose budget for dealing with Iraqi refugees is 22 million, less than $7 per refugee) and more international cooperation to address the crisis.

Yet the crux of her argument is this:

The United States must begin by acknowledging that violence in Iraq has made civilian life untenable, creating a refugee crisis that is essentially exporting the nation's instability to neighboring countries.

"Exporting the nation's instability." So in four years the US has managed a war that has not only led to more terrorist attacks worldwide, but has also made for a more volatile region overall.

No one, and I mean no one, is shouting 'four more years' now.

—Amaya Rivera

Iraq's Deputy PM Injured in Attack

| Fri Mar. 23, 2007 1:15 PM EDT

I think it's fair to say that one of the main barometers for the effectiveness of the surge and Baghdad security crackdown Bush has imposed on the nation is the safety of government officials in Baghdad. For the second day in a row, an attack in Baghdad has targeted a government official. Today, the target was the highest ranking Sunni Muslim in the government, the Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubai. Mr. Zubai was among 15 wounded in the attack, in which 9 people died. Not only does the attack cast doubt on the American troops' ability to control Baghdad, it also deals a major blow to the Iraqi government's legitimacy to lose one of its precious few Sunnis.

Learn more on Mother Jones' Sunni/Shiite cheat sheet and primer on Iraqi political parties (including Zubai's Accord Front).

Passing the Urine-or-Tea Test

| Fri Mar. 23, 2007 12:00 AM EDT

urine%20sample.jpg

Chinese hospitals thought they were testing urine samples, but they were really being tested. Reporters passed the lab warm tea in place of their urine samples. Out of ten hospitals, six diagnosed an infection, and five prescribed expensive medicine.

It's not the first health care scandal to piss everyone off. Ha. The health minister has come out calling hospitals greedy. The problem is, "In China, most village doctors make their income solely by selling drugs," reports Nicholas Zamiska in the Wall Street Journal.

The numbers: In rural areas, almost two thirds of prescriptions for the flu were unnecessary, according to the journal Health Policy and Planning. Prescription drugs markups are as high as 80%, according to the World Health Organization.

Unfortunately, such problems are not all so foreign. In the United States, fully a third of our medical spending goes to insurance overheads, which is why our health care costs exactly 50 percent more than any other industrialized country. And pharmaceutical lobbies keep drug prices how much higher than in Canada?

For more, read "Is it Prozac? Or Placebo?: New research suggests that the miracles promised by antidepressants may be largely due to the placebo effect. Too bad there's no money to be made in sugar pills."

More Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 10:25 PM EDT

That's right, stop working, it's okay. Just put down the phone/spreadsheet/spatula, put off that meeting/budget/drive-through order for five minutes, and watch some teeny-tiny new music videos. Your boss/client/hungry children in SUV can wait.

Banner year for reunion tours

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 7:45 PM EDT

Reunion tours by popular rock bands are equal parts excitement and gloom. And 2007 is stacking up to be a riveting year rife with disappointment.

The gravitational pull of the chance to see one of your favorite bands -- or one of an era's most popular bands -- one last time is powerful. You want to be a part of something big, privy to an historical moment that you can talk about for years. "I was there," you'll say. Or if you're lucky, "And they rocked."

But the mere premise of reuniting for one last hoorah is inherently nostalgic, and that makes the whole thing feel potentially sad and outdated, with a hint of camp. It brings into question the true meaning of rock music: is it here to inspire, destroy and give the middle finger to all things bland, or is it here simply to entertain and encapsulate past moments in our lives?

2007 could provide answers. This year's list of bands reported to be reuniting for strings of live performances is substantial, and diverse. It includes The Police, Van Halen (recently canceled), Genesis, Sebadoh, Rage Against the Machine, Iggy and the Stooges, Smashing Pumpkins, Crowded House, and the UK band Squeeze.

Bloggers are keeping a running tally of who's performing and who's not, and trying to determine whether certain bands have sold out or not. Mojo's Party Ben is all over Sonic Youth's recently announced reunion tour, and another blogger is buzzing about the Meat Puppets plans to reunite.

Sell-outs or not, big-show ticket prices upwards of $200 will surely guarantee fat paychecks for many of the artists, who will soon leave their respective tours and go back to what they were doing before: Disney Tarzan soundtracks, 16th Century lute songs and primetime television for some; punk and indy music side projects, film soundtrack scores and political activism for others.

While band reunion season is in full swing, the opportunity is there to pick a favorite piece of music history and go rock out for a night. And chances are, you will get exactly what you're looking for.

--Gary Moskowitz

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Sonic Youth Brings Back Daydream Nation

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 6:39 PM EDT

mojo-cover-sonic.jpgSonic Youth (the legendary New York band Motorbooty magazine once called "definitely sonic, if no longer youthful") is planning to perform special shows in seven cities this summer, at which they'll play their 1988 album Daydream Nation in its entirety, reports Pitchfork. Besides the fact it's kind of like The Beatles saying they're reuniting and playing all of Revolver, there are at least three more reasons this is cool:

1. Bringin' it back. This album came out 19 years ago! I (thank God) and most people I know were barely out of our New Wave diapers at that point. Could we have been expected to cut English class and go to New York to see Sonic Youth perform these songs? No we could not. So, now we get our chance.

2. Slow on the uptake. More than almost any band, Sonic Youth makes music that rewards repeated listenings over time. My first exposure to der Yoof was seeing "Shadow of a Doubt," an uncharateristically pretty song, on MTV's "120 Minutes" back in 1986. I bought the album (EVOL), but my poor 15-year-old ears weren't really ready for the rest of it. It was only a couple years later (after some stoned viewings of the full-length video to 1990's Goo) that I went back and realized how great the other albums were. As life goes by and, ahem, "takes its crazy toll" (I'm quoting them), Daydream Nation means different things to me.

3. Well-adjusted. While Sonic Youth has, in the past few years, delved into obscure, avant-garde experimentalism, their latest album, Rather Ripped, proved they don't mind sounding like the band they were 15 years ago, either. Unlike, say, Radiohead, whose neurotic relationship with their own musical past means you won't ever see them perform "Creep," Thurston, Kim & crew seem to like their old songs. At the "Ain't No Picnic" festival outside of LA in 1999, all the band's gear was stolen, including their uniquely tuned guitars. But instead of cancelling, they borrowed Sleater-Kinney's gear and performed a set of "classics," which turned out to be one of the highlights of my concert-going life (snif). You know that these performances will be anything but perfunctory.

Hooray, Sonic Youth. Tour dates are here.

Grenade in Green Zone Just Misses al-Maliki and U.N. Secretary General

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 5:01 PM EDT

A rocket just missed a building in Baghdad's Green Zone that houses both the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi Prime Minister's office. Both al-Maliki and the U.N.'s new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were in the building at the time. Both were uninjured, but, tellingly, Ban was frightened where al-Malike appeared unfazed, saying, "Nothing's wrong." Perhaps for obvious reasons, a Secretary-General (in that case Kofi Annan) last visited Baghdad nearly a year and a half ago. And, if you're wondering why the media insists on making Baghdad sound so bad, it's because the folks at the AP office heard whoosh of the rocket launch. That surge is really working, eh?

Twenty of World's 162 Grouper Species Threatened With Extinction

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 4:48 PM EDT

The first comprehensive assessment of the world's 162 species of grouper, vital predators in many marine ecosystems as well as important commercial fish, found that 20 are threatened with extinction. Previously, eight species were listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. The new assessment proposes adding 12 more. From the Conservation International press release:

A panel of 20 experts from 10 nations determined the extinction threat facing groupers, which are the basis of the multimillion-dollar live reef food fish trade based in Hong Kong and comprise one of the most valuable groups of commercial fishes in chilled fish markets of the tropics and sub-tropics. Around the world, consumers pay up to $50 per kilogram for grouper.

"This shows that over-fishing could decimate another major food and economic resource for humans, similar to the loss of the cod stocks off New England and Canada that has put thousands of people out of work," said Roger McManus, a senior director of Conservation International's Marine Program.

The ground-breaking workshop at the Department of Ecology and Biodiversity of the University of Hong Kong was the first systematic assessment of the commercially important species, said Dr. Yvonne Sadovy, Chair of the IUCN Grouper and Wrasse Specialist Group and Associate Professor at HKU.

"The results are worrying and highlight the urgent need for fishery management, more effective marine protected areas (MPAs), and more sustainable eating habits for consumers of these fishes," said Sadovy, who organized the workshop.

Groupers are among the oldest fish on coral reefs, with some species reaching more than 50 years old. Several species only reach reproductive maturity later in life, making them particularly vulnerable to fishing before they mature. In addition, commercial fishing that targets reproductive gatherings of adults further hinders replenishment of unmanaged populations.

The threatened groupers include two species of coral trout grouper, which are mainstays of the live reef food fish trade in Hong Kong. Both can be found in Hong Kong fish markets, but they face heavy and unmanaged fishing pressure that is rapidly reducing their populations.

In North and South America, heavy fishing of grouper for the chilled fish markets also poses a significant threat. The Nassau grouper, once one of the most commonly landed groupers in the islands of the Western Atlantic Ocean, now is listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and has virtually disappeared from most Caribbean reefs.

The troubles facing fish worldwide are chronicled in Mother Jones' oceans issue. Go here to find out what you can feel okay about eating from the sea.

Rio Grande One Of The Big Ten Rivers At Risk

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 4:16 PM EDT

The Rio Grande--Rio Bravo in Mexico--is among the world's top ten rivers at risk, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund. The World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk names the waterways facing widespread degradation even as millions of people depend on them for survival. The Rio Grande, marking the U.S.-Mexico border, made the Top 10 because it's severely threatened by water diversions, widespread alteration of the floodplain, dams and pollution. From the WWF press release:

"The world's freshwater ecosystems are under siege, and the rivers in this report are the front lines," says Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. "We don't have to look far to find examples of the freshwater crisis. The Rio Grande basin is in our own backyard and over-extraction and drought are draining it dry, endangering a unique desert river ecosystem and potentially undermining the economic growth of communities along the U.S./Mexico border."

Five of the ten rivers listed in the report are in Asia: Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges and Indus. Europe's Danube, South Americas' La Plata, Africa's Nile-Lake Victoria and Australia's Murray-Darling also make the list.

Although the Rio Grande and its tributaries run through the arid Chihuahuan Desert it is home to a spectacular array of freshwater species. The river is also the lifeblood of the region's economy, providing water to some of the fastest-growing urban areas in the country and thousands of farms and ranches. Irrigation accounts for more than 80 percent of all water diversions from the river.

"The Rio Grande is a treasure for all Americans and Mexicans as well as an economic resource of incalculable value," said Jennifer Montoya, U.S. director of WWF's Chihuahuan Desert Program. "This report shows how the U.S. is as vulnerable as anywhere else to the freshwater crisis that is affecting the entire world."