2007 - %3, July

Breaking: Bush Lets Libby Off

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 6:58 PM EDT

Federal prisoner-to-be 28301-016 just had his sentence commuted. And not a moment too soon.

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Open Source Politics, the Wiki

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 3:09 PM EDT

When Mother Jones launched its "Fight Different" package about politics and the Internet, it introduced the stories and interviews with a rumination on the term Open Source Politics. The short, irreverent definition was presented as a mock-Wikipedia entry, under the classic Wiki red-flag: "The neutrality of this story is disputed." And I tell you what, the neutrality of our approach has been disputed, and disputed, and disputed. And in this case, that was exactly the point: the new arbiter of truth in politics is increasingly you, dear reader. If you're sick of bias and spin, speak up, and change it.

That, at least, is the idea behind Wikipedia, which now accounts one out of every 200 page views on the Internet. No format on the web is better at reaching a consensus on objective truth in the most touchy and politicized of subjects. For a glimpse of Wikipedia's potential in the political realm, see our interview with Jimmy Wales here.

But don't stop there. Do you disagree with our definition of Open Source Politics? Are there counterpoints to what Wales has told us that you don't think are being aired? Well, feel free to offer your thoughts in this blog. Or even better, check out the real entry for Open Source Politics in Wikipedia, and edit it. If I had to guess, I'd say a Google search of the term will soon yield the popular view of the idea over anything a magazine writer has had to say.

Anniversary Update: Bring On the Sarcastic Applause

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 2:32 PM EDT

Just a short note to remind you that today is the fourth anniversary of the quote that, in my mind, best describes our president and his bald unfitness to lead a country in wartime: "Bring them on."

The swagger that substitutes for reflection, the arrogance that precludes careful planning, the false confidence in American invincibility that almost seems inspired by God (or maybe just stupidity) -- it's all in those three little words. It will be a true crime if the planners at Southern Methodist don't inscribe this over the entry to the George W. Bush presidential library.

A Not-So-Crazy Campaign Finance Proposal

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 12:12 PM EDT

Just wanted to add a note to the blogopshere's discussion, such as it was, of the Supreme Court's recent ruling on campaign finance reform.

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court gutted the portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that prohibited corporations, non-profits funded by corporations, and labor unions from running campaign ads in the 30 days before primaries and the 60 days before general elections.

Some say it's a victory for free speech, some call it a step in the Court's rightward march and a victory only for the powerful interests who will have yet more sway in this country's elections. I don't much care.

That's because I think this particular element of campaign finance misses the point (just to pile on after it's already dead). Its creators' intentions were good, and anything that reduces the influence of special interests in politics is doing more good than bad, but I care far more about how campaign money is received than about how it is spent. I saw Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, suggest this once: make contributions like blind trusts, so that when a donation of $5 or $500 plops into a candidate's campaign chest, he or she doesn't know who dropped it there.

That way, campaign donations would be made out of genuine support for candidates, and not because corporations or special interests hope to have access to a candidate they supported after he or she wins. And opponents of campaign finance reform can't credibly cry that their right to free speech is being impeded.

Make sense, no? Probably means it's doomed in Washington...

Omaha Gets Up to Speed With Slowdown

| Sun Jul. 1, 2007 8:52 PM EDT

mojo-photo-slowdown1.jpgWith live music venues around the country struggling and even closing, it's rare to see a new club start up, and practically inconceivable for one to emerge as part of a brand new mixed-use development in a medium-sized Midwestern city. But that's just what happened in Omaha last month, when the folks behind Saddle Creek records launched Slowdown, a 500-capacity venue. The club is part of a snazzy new two-building complex developed by the label (home to Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint) that houses their headquarters, apartments and an art-house theater, and soon, a restaurant, coffee house, and (cough) an Urban Outfitters. (Yeah, I know, I shop there too.)

It was a broiling hot Nebraska afternoon when I stopped by last week, but it was nice and cool inside Slowdown. The space is sleek and modern, complete with black tile and polished concrete; moreover, since the building is new, everything is, well, clean -- those of us used to clubs coated with 40 years of grime might feel a bit odd. Booker Val Nelson proudly showed me around the backstage area, built to their specifications: a driveway for load-in is mere feet from the stage, for instance, and the dressing room (complete with washer and dryer) is nicer than my apartment.

Mostly, though, it's just going to be a great place to see a band, with state-of-the-art sound and a comfortable layout. Groups like Built to Spill, Jimmy Eat World and the Rentals are already booked. Saddle Creek manager Jason Kulbel downplayed the significance of the label branching out, saying Slowdown just filled a gap: "Typical larger cities, and even some the same size of Omaha, often have many nice venues to choose from." Sure, but they don't have minor indie rock celebrities filling in as bartenders, and a record label for a landlord. Nebraska music fans, I never thought I'd say this, but I envy you.

Some photos and a calendar of upcoming shows after the jump.

Obama Raised How Much??

| Sun Jul. 1, 2007 8:03 PM EDT

$31 million in three months? That's a lotta money.