2007 - %3, August

Gay by Choice? Yeah, What If?

| Sat Aug. 11, 2007 6:00 PM EDT

Alright, so Bill Richardson was confused. He looked it in the gay rights' forum the other day when Melissa Etheridge asked him whether he thinks homosexuality is a choice. He said yes; she rephrased the question, and he said yes again. Then, yesterday Richardson spent the day backtracking. All of which has created quite a hubbub.

My question is, does the gay rights movement really want choice to be the nexus of the fight? Asking whether you think being gay is a choice is kind of like asking whether you think there's life in other galaxies. Asking for an opinion on science isn't so useful; scientifically we just don't know for sure yet. Whatever your answer is, it's your opinion, nothing more.

And if the answer to that question is indeed a proxy for belief in equal rights, as this hullabaloo suggests, then what happens if the science ends up showing there is choice involved in sexual preference?

Whether being gay is a choice, to me, isn't the crux of the issue. Yes, it would make the fight for equal rights much cleaner (and I believe it someday may), but I would rather see Etheridge ask Richardson whether he believes that people should be afforded differential treatment based on whom they love? Make that the platform, force humanity to the fore, and let science, if it turns out to show genetic predisposition, strengthen the argument.

Somehow the religious right has co-opted the gay-by-choice meme and owns this pro-choice movement. How about the left sticks to its right-to-choose guns here? That choosing whom we love, same sex or opposite, is a "lifestyle choice" regardless. I mean, where is the science proving we are born straight by default? The argument could be made that there are plenty of gay folks out there choosing to be straight, do they then have fewer rights in their straight relationships?

Think about it, and fire back.

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First Listen: Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs

| Fri Aug. 10, 2007 7:23 PM EDT

mojo-cover-pinback.jpgAnticipation is high for the first new material from San Diego's Pinback since 2004's Summer In Abadon made them critical darlings. That album's single, "Fortress," combined delicately strummed guitar and barely-enunciated lyrics with an insistent drum machine to create an unlikely radio hit, such as it was. Their new album moves forward a season but retains the quiet intensity: "Good to Sea" uses the same casio drum machine beat as "Fortress," adding a simple keyboard melody, and the song's melancholy sneaks up on you, until they sing, quietly, "Oh no/I've hit rock bottom."

Pinback were known for slightly denser work on their first two albums, 1999's Pinback and 2001's Blue Screen Life, but got a little more polished and streamlined on Abadon. On Seraphs, they seem to slightly relax the insistence on catchiness that made Abadon a surprise hit, allowing more complex arrangements to sneak into tracks like "Blue Harvest:" syncopated drumming, surprising chord changes, layered vocals. But don't get me wrong: it's still catchy.

Even when Pinback speed it up, as on album opener "From Nothing to Nowhere," they're still reserved; this restraint is one of Pinback's greatest assets. Maybe it has something to do with multi-instrumentalist Rob Crow getting out his volume-knob jollies in joke-metal side project Goblin C***? Unlike, er, G.C., Seraphs wouldn't scare anybody at your nice dinner party, but I think it'll also reward closer attention.

Autumn of the Seraphs is out 9/11 on Touch & Go. Grab an mp3 from the Pinback website:

- Pinback – "From Nothing to Nowhere"

Giuliani Exposed: Terrorism Record Based on Lies

| Fri Aug. 10, 2007 3:22 PM EDT

Wayne Barrett's Village Voice article titled "Rudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies About 9/11" ought to be required reading for anyone thinking about the GOP presidential primary.

Here are the facts: Giuliani focused little on terrorism while mayor of New York in advance of 9/11, failed to prepare the city for an attack in any significant way, prioritized his petty personal needs over the advice of experts when constructing an emergency response command center, and didn't supply first-responders with the equipment they needed — all of these facts from Barrett's article are supported by former Giuliani aides and members of his NYC administration. More importantly, all of these facts directly contradict the strongest-on-terrorism image Giuliani presents on the campaign trail. Terrorism is Giuliani's "best" issue, and he consistently lies about his record.

Barrett's article is a portrait of a man willing to accept illegitimate praise and eager to spread legitimate blame. As Barrett writes, "naked revisionism" is the name of Giuliani's game. Have a read.

Universal Leads the Charge Against iTunes

| Fri Aug. 10, 2007 2:39 PM EDT

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One month ago, Universal Music made headlines when the company refused to renew a long-term contract with Apple's iTunes, instead deciding to sell its music there (by artists including U2, 50 Cent and Black Eyed Peas) on an "at-will" basis. Part of the disagreement was Apple's desire to shift away from D.R.M.-encoded music on its "iTunes Plus" service; Universal had insisted on retaining the copy-protection standard. Now the company will pull an about-face, offering D.R.M.-free music—just not with iTunes. Take that, Mr. Jobs. The New York Times says Universal will work with digital services offered by RealNetworks, Amazon and Wal-Mart, plus artists' websites.

EMI is the only major label to offer higher bit-rate, D.R.M.-free music on iTunes, with songs costing $1.29 each instead of 99 cents.

Universal's decision to screw around with its artists' music, forcing consumers to jump through even more hoops and search through various digital stores just to actually spend money on their favorite songs, is expected to solve music-piracy problems immediately, since there's no way a simple file-sharing program could compete with the fun of that.

MoJo Deadline Today

| Fri Aug. 10, 2007 12:49 PM EDT

News of Mother Jones' new Washington, D.C., bureau—the first major news bureau to be opened by a U.S. media organization in years—is being noticed by the MSM. Click here for a piece by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.

If you're just tuning in to this change, we've expanded our D.C. bureau from 2 to 7 journalists. Our plan is to dig even deeper into the most important stories from the nation's capital and to have the results land with more impact in the media and political worlds.

Why this matters plays out virtually every day in the news stories trumpeted the loudest by the mainstream. A case in point is Newsweek's current (August 13) cover story—"Global Warming is a Hoax*," by science correspondent Sharon Begley. It is absolutely an important story, fingering "the well-funded naysayers who still reject the overwhelming evidence of climate change" and the special interests that fund them.




That there is a well-funded denial industry won't, of course, be any shock to Mother Jones readers—MoJo's cover story on ExxonMobil's multimillion-dollar support of the climate change deniers was published in April 2005. A year later, the MJ feature was nominated for a National Magazine Award for public service, and Al Gore plugged it on "Fresh Air" —the story received a lot of attention from people who pay attention. Still, out in mass media land the insidious effects of the denial spin doctors have continued to muddle public understanding of the scientific consensus, thanks in significant measure to the history of big media (like Newsweek) giving credence to the deniers.

Point #1 is obviously that two and a half years is too much lag time between when a big public interest news story is broken and it's, uh, accepted by the MSM. But point #2 is that we (that is, Mother Jones, other independent media, and you) are in a great position to change that.

So that's what we're doing: putting more reporters on the most significant public interest stories and making full use of all of the cheap and powerful new media tools around us to bust the BS. In doing that, we can respond to BS and spin quickly, debunking it before it becomes the conventional wisdom of the MSM.

Here's who we're putting on the scent:

• Laura Rozen, who's covered national security and foreign policy as a senior correspondent for the American Prospect and on her blog, warandpiece.com, as well as in the pages of Mother Jones.

• Stephanie Mencimer, the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door, an investigation into conservative and corporate attempts to limit corporate liability and to restrict people's access to civil court remedies through "tort reform."

• Bruce Falconer, who joins Mother Jones after working for several years as a staff editor and writer on international assignments for the Atlantic Monthly.

• And Jonathan Stein, who started at Mother Jones in San Francisco 18 months ago and helped produce the "Lie by Lie" timeline as one of the lead researchers on the project.

Together with Jim Ridgeway and Dan Schulman, they make up a crew of smart, independent journalists who bring years of savvy reporting experience to the job. Get used to seeing their names; they're already posting online, including on the MoJoBlog and in Washington dispatches. Click to see some entries by Ridgeway and Schulman, Rosen, Falconer, and Stein.

This is an ambitious project for Mother Jones. We need to raise $60,000 in the next few weeks to complete the D.C. bureau. If you value original reporting that makes an impact on politics and media, I hope you'll make a tax-deductible donation.

It's also why we've pulled together some cool prizes to give you an extra incentive to hit the "donate" button. But time is running out, the deadline for our campaign is midnight tonight, Friday, August 10, 2007 for you to make a gift and be entered to win a super prize.

If you've already made a contribution, thank you very much. But if you haven't, please take a moment now to do so.

Jay Harris
President & Publisher

Fascinating Friday Music News

| Fri Aug. 10, 2007 11:57 AM EDT

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  • The Cure's 14th studio album (a double disc of 33 songs) delayed again after band leader Robert Smith admits he's having trouble "writing lyrics." How about something about grey cats, spiders, hanging gardens? The album is now set to come out in May of 2008, fully two years after its initial release date. (Contact Music)

  • Amy Winehouse enters hospital for "exhaustion"; reports suggest she suffered a drug overdose, but is still saying "no" to rehab. (NME)
  • Winning the UK Observer's "Best Cover Versions Ever" poll: Kate Bush? (Observer Music Monthly)
  • The Beastie Boys played Brooklyn last night... for the first time ever? Finally, they can, er, catch up on their sleep. (Brooklyn Vegan)
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    Dear God, We Really Are Going to War With Iran

    | Fri Aug. 10, 2007 11:19 AM EDT

    President Bush's proclamations that Iran is meddling in Iraq and will face severe but unnamed consequences if it continues to do so have become so common they have almost faded into the background of the national discourse. But this should grab your attention:

    Vice President Dick Cheney several weeks ago proposed launching airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iraq run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in Iran policy.

    Dick Cheney has a solid record of using force judiciously and wisely. Surely everyone within the administration is listening to him, right?

    Thankfully, no. According to the McClatchy report linked above, Secretary of State Condi Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates both object to expanding the war outside Iraq's borders. In response, Cheney is calling on his friends at the think tanks and in the media to help him. Writes McClatchy: "The debate [in the administration] has been accompanied by a growing drumbeat of allegations about Iranian meddling in Iraq from U.S. military officers, administration officials and administration allies outside government and in the news media... The Bush administration has launched what appears to be a coordinated campaign to pin more of Iraq's security troubles on Iran."

    As it happens, the Post had an article yesterday about that "drumbeat of allegations." It details how Bill Kristol, Michael Rubin, Norman Podhoretz, the Heritage Foundation, and others are making a military attack on Iran part of the Overton window — that is, part of the range of acceptable policy options.

    Honestly, the best part of the 2008 election won't be getting Bush out of office. It'll be keeping the globe's citizens safe from Dick Cheney. That man never should have had the most powerful military in the history of the world at his disposal.

    Finding the Leaders Among Us

    | Fri Aug. 10, 2007 2:11 AM EDT

    Think we're short on leaders? Then become one. Bill McKibben's put out the call through StepItUp.org for an event on Saturday November 3rd.

    McKibben asks us to forward his call far and wide, to anyone who might possibly be interested. "We're not really an organization, and we don't have lists of names—we depend on people like you to take the initiative." Hope you can help. JULIA WHITTY

    Here's the full letter.

    Finding The Leaders Among Us

    | Fri Aug. 10, 2007 1:42 AM EDT

    Think we're short on leaders? Then become one. Bill McKibben's put out the call through StepItUp.org for an event on Saturday November 3rd. Here's his letter:

    If we're going to deal with global warming, then we need to go beyond politicians who say the right words and find champions who will actually do the tough work to transform our energy economy. This is an invitation to take one Saturday this fall and use it to build a movement, a movement strong enough to finally put this issue on the table where it can no longer be ignored. If everyone can do this work in their neck of the woods, it will create the momentum that we desperately need.

    Here's the idea. On Saturday November 3, a year before the next election, we're asking people to organize rallies large and small in their communities. Each one should take place in some spot that commemorates great leaders of the past. Some of these will be nationally famous--people have already committed to climbing New Hampshire's Mt. Washington, gathering at the site of the Lincoln Douglas debates, even rallying outside the Rhode Island church where John F. Kennedy was married. Others will be locally celebrated leaders--there'll be a rally, for instance, honoring Navajo elder and activist Roberta Blackgoat, who inspired the fight against coal development on tribal land. But we need hundreds more, gatherings in places that bear the names of people who did the right thing in a moment of great need. You'll know the person that makes sense in your city or town—they don't need to be saints, just true leaders, the kind who, faced with the great issues of their day, didn't punt or compromise.

    Once you've got your rally registered on www.Stepitup07.org we'll help you gather a crowd, and invite the politicians from your neck of the woods. We want to ask every Senator and Representative, and every candidate for those offices, to come to these rallies, along with state and local officials. Once they're there, we'll present politicians with the four "1 Sky" priorities prepared in the last few months by climate campaigners across the country. They are: an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, and a Green Jobs Corps to help fix homes and businesses so those targets can be met. Basically, we want to find out who is simply a politician, and who's ready to be a leader.

    We know these gatherings will be effective. In April, with the help of thousands of people (most of them brand new to organizing) from across the country, we organized 1,400 rallies in places that showed how climate change would affect our lives. Those events were key in putting the demand for real action--80% cuts in carbon emissions by 2050--square in the middle of the Washington debate. But a movement needs to keep moving, and calling for real leadership is the next step.

    Don't worry if you've never organized anything before--you're not putting together a March on Washington, just a gathering of scores or hundreds in your town or neighborhood. It needn't be slick; homemade is just fine. Put your imagination to work: what would Lincoln do? How would Dr. King take on this challenge? This is a celebration of leadership, and a celebration should be joyful—as focused on the new economies and communities we can create as on the threats we must avoid.

    These rallies will be local, but they'll also have national impact. The website will help draw people to your action, and then on Nov. 3, we'll be gathering pictures and video from around the country so that by nightfall we'll have a good online slideshow of how America feels. We'll do our best to make sure that every candidate is firmly on the record about their plans. By the time the day is done, you'll have helped change the political landscape.

    The best science tells us we have barely a decade to start the fundamental transformation of our economy and to lead the world in the same direction or else, in the words of NASA's Jim Hansen, we will face a "totally different planet." (He went on to say that the "1 Sky" priorities "describe just the kind of trajectory we need" to start solving the problem). A decade's not very long—we've got to get going.

    I know you've already done the obvious things, like changing some of the lightbulbs in your house. Screwing in a lightbulb is important; screwing in a new federal policy to deal with climate change is crucial, especially if we're ever going to regain enough credibility to help lead the world toward a stable climate. November 3 will be a powerful day, and you can play a vital role. Please sign up on the website to start an action—and thank you so much for caring enough to be a leader yourself.

    McKibben also asks us to forward this email as far and wide as possible, to anyone who might possibly be interested. "We're not really an organization, and we don't have lists of names—we depend on people like you to take the initiative." Hope you can help. JULIA WHITTY

    Daft Punk: Behind the Pyramid

    | Thu Aug. 9, 2007 6:47 PM EDT

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    Opening DJ Busy P has been keeping a blog at The Fader as he accompanies Daft Punk on tour, giving us the inside scoop on what it's like for hipster Frenchmen to roam across America. Today he posted this revealing behind-the-scenes shot of the light-up pyramid in which the dynamic duo perform, something that I sure haven't seen anywhere before. First of all, jeez, it looks so solid from the front! Secondly, I see monitors and a couple machines of some sort, so at least we know they're not totally faking it.