One-upping Brian Eno, diminutive New York electronic musician Moby has created a web site that offers royalty-free music for films. The project, called "Moby Gratis," features 70 unreleased compositions that independent filmmakers can use to accompany their movies. Moby told Billboard magazine that he wanted to "help out the independent film community" since licensing music can be "the hardest part" of low-budget filmmaking. If Moby's past output is any indication, half the songs will be hypnotic, melancholy tracks that sample obscure blues musicians, and the other half will be irritating, pseudo-mystical synthy treacle that makes you want to scrub your ears out with Fugazi. Choose carefully, young directors!

FCC Commmissioner Michael Copps told Yearly Kossacks this afternoon (at a session organized by our friends at Free Press) that he wants the FCC to review the sale of the Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch's NewsCorp has several relicensing applications currently in front of the FCC, so Copps figures it's a good time to take a look at what legal authority the agency has to weigh in on the deal, and do their duty to protect the public interest.

Most of Copps' talk had to do with how corporate influence over U.S. telecom policy has put this country way behind others in broadband penetration (not to mention speed). He mentioned that a recent report by the International Telegraphic Union (the U.N. agency that deals with telecom and communications matters) puts the U.S. behind Estonia and tied with Slovenia in broadband penetration.

— Steve Katz

Last night, Obama put to rest accusations that he can't be "tough" like the other hawks regarding foreign policy: He'll unilaterally attack Pakistan if General Musharraf is not doing enough to "take out" the "terrorists." To be fair, he did argue for making military aid to Pakistan conditional and that democracy in Pakistan should figure in as a top priority with our dealings with the "biggest non NATO ally."

But, what's most striking about Obama's speech is that if one were to read it without knowing it was penned by one of the "Democratic" front runners—one who is supposed to be a viable alternative to the centrist, and often hawkish, Democrats many find uninspiring—you'd think this was a rational and "compassionate" Republican talking.

I'm wondering if Obama's campaign managers are whispering in his ears, "Tell the American public that if push comes to shove, you too can be jingoistic." Well, regardless of what their strategy is, it's not a good one. A little note to BHO: Progressively becoming less progressive will only lose you votes.

The way the candidates have spoken (and continue to speak) to the American public make it seem like we are afraid of real change and that a radically different approach to how we deal with the international community is out of the question. And this is truly unfortunate, because carrying out air strikes to weed out terrorists usually ends in the loss of many innocent civilian lives, which in turn only angers people even more.

—Neha Inamdar

Birds on the Pill?


To curb the out-of-control population growth of pigeons in Hollywood, and the excrement that comes along with them, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has suggested giving them birth control pills. OvoControl P will be placed in rooftop feeders in the next few months around the 5,000 pigeon-strong area in a "humane" attempt to control this poopy situation. The method is supposed to cut the population in half by 2012.

This plan brings about various questions. How much will the pills cost and who is going to pay for them? Are they truly safe for the birds? Are people upset? Is this ethical? Here are a few answers:

  • Cost: The pill costs $4.88 per pound. That means around $6 a day for 100 pigeons and $60,000 a year (including food, feeders, reports and worker compensation).
  • Who's paying: The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce will pay $1,000 in September. The Hollywood Entertainment Business Improvement District pleged $5,000. The rest? Lobbying to business improvement districts.
  • Ethical quandry: This method is allegedly the most humane way to go about it. The pill interferes with egg development, and the plan was proposed by PETA after all.
  • The enraged: Well, we can probably bet the Bird Lady isn't too happy.

And all this because people like feeding birds. Well done, Mary Poppins.

—Anna Weggel

Not that long ago, I rode my bike to work along Minneapolis' West River Parkway—underneath the I-35W bridge—every day, so it was particularly heartbreaking to watch CNN last night, with all that footage of twisted steel and crumpled concrete, the exhausted and frightened voices on cell phones. (And there's still more Minnesota in me than I knew—my first thought was, "Thank God it's not January.")

This morning, my inbox was full of messages from friends and relatives, assuring everyone that they are okay, noting how "every day we have is a gift." But some of my friends were also angry, and one raised a point that hasn't been picked up in the national press. She wrote,

Earlier this year, in February, the state legislature wrote a bill that would have raised the gas tax by five cents per gallon. [Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chair of the ultra-powerful Transportation Committee] had gone to the statehouse and told legislators that if they passed the bill, he'd match it with fed funds—for a total of up to $1 billion. The bill passed the House and Senate by large majorities, but Pawlenty vetoed it, citing his longstanding, budget-devastating promise of no new taxes. Instead, the governor floated a plan to pay for improvements with bonds, otherwise known as loans.

Of course, this money wouldn't have come through in time to fix 35W, and if it had there's no saying it would have been spent on improving an old freeway bridge in the city rather than build a new interchange in the suburbs. But the point is, there are only three ways of dealing with roads, bridges, and public transit (remember transit?): Decide, as a society, that we need them and will pay for them; let them fall apart; or turn them over to the private sector. The first is what we did in the great public-works era from the late 1800s to the 1970s; the second is what we've done since; and the third is what we seem about to do, as Dan Schulman and James Ridgeway documented in Mother Jones a few months ago.

Privatization sounds sweet: Companies will take these old roads off our hands, and pay us for them!. And that would be great if it worked. But to make roads profitable you have to charge tolls, and to throw off enough profit for private investors, you have to charge tolls a lot higher than the state would. So privatization means new and higher tolls; upgrades only for roads in profitable places; and, overall, more money for less service. There is a lot more collapsing in the nation's highway system than a single bridge.

TAPPED has had their finger on an important aspect of the presidential campaigns.

Obama, we're told, only recently started to show some substance. Yet, by this standard, every major Republican candidate is about as substantial as tissue paper in a tornado. I'm not the first to notice this, but I was still taken aback by just how little Republicans seem to care about even appearing as if they have any ideas when I started poking around their websites.

Basically, the Republicans duck every significant issue, from Iraq to healthcare. When Democrats stop bashing Bush and turn their attention to their Republican counterparts, they'll have lots of material to work with. For more details (or lack thereof) see this post.

In this edition: Outer space! Sufi trances! Bling! And, er, an animatronic bear!

Charlotte Hatherley – "Behave"
In which the former Ash guitarist's quirky guitar rock is elevated by a mesmerizing animated video directed by the brother of "Shaun of the Dead" director Edgar Wright

The Good, The Bad and The Queen – "The Good, The Bad and The Queen"
In which Sufi men whirl about in a traditional ceremony, reflecting the song's ecstatically accelerating tempo

(Via Pitchfork)

Swizz Beatz – "Money in the Bank"
In which the cliché theme of the gold-digging woman is given new life with hypnotic and amusing visuals to match the entrancing beat and silly sped-up vocals

(Via The Fader)

Patrick Watson – "Luscious Life"
In which the Canadian singer-songwriters Jeff Buckley-meets-Coldplay tune is given the Monty Python-style collage-animation treatment

(Via Stereogum)

Animatronic Bear - "Hey There Delilah"
In which a robot bear from like a Chuck E. Cheese or somewhere is reprogrammed to sing the inescapable Plain White T's hit, making the song seem far more melancholy and meaningful than it did before

(Via Copy, Right)

Outspoken Princeton professor, decorated scholar, and bestselling author Cornel West recently released a political hip-hop album that features songs about topics like September 11th, racial profiling, the "N" word, and the Bush administration. It's no wonder that Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations has been slugged "Edutainment to the fullest."

With a spoken word delivery backed by hip-hop beats, West reminds me of Gil Scott-Heron, a political spoken word artist from the 60s and 70s. Similar to Scott-Heron and also the 70s spoken word group the Last Poets, West's CD skewers our nation's political and ethical choices through music. But with guests like Prince, Andre 3000, Black Thought, Talib Kweli, and KRS-One, this album has a more current sound.

In an NPR interview about the CD, West explained that "A paradigm shift is taking place in hip hop. It's going back to the best of the tradition, by connecting with young folk…In the end it's about dignity and respect." And I think 2007 is ripe for it.

The DNC just gave a presentation on framing and messaging here at YearlyKos. It began by comparing a Republican campaign ad in which Bush (running for pres. in 2004) appeals to Latinos — no mention of legislation, just talk of values, faith, personal responsibility, wealth, patriotism, and so on. Soaring music, flags waving, children with their grandparents, you know the drill. That was followed by a New Democrat Institute ad that says 12 million Latinos have no health insurance and a Democratic plan would cover 8 million of them, all spliced with rapid fire shots of Latinos in America. Everyone immediately jumped all over the Democratic ad, which was the point. George Lakoff, king of framing, sitting in the audience, gave it a thumbs down.

The point the DNC made is that the average American thinks about politics for 5 minutes a month. Why appeal to them through the mind, as we have customarily done? Instead, mimic the Republican approach of appealing through the heart. Policy, which is on the forefront for Dems, should be secondary to values.

Okay, maybe. But this sort of thinking usually comes hand in hand with a second critique, one the DNC kind of made today: the Democrats have no ideas. Or if they do have ideas, they don't know what truly animates them.

It's surprising to still hear this. This was the idea that everyone pushed from 2002-2005: Democrats don't know what they stand for, blah blah blah. It all ended in 2006 when the Democrats took both houses of Congress. The missed message of that election, I believe, was that Democrats didn't have a better frame than the GOP, didn't suddenly discover what they stood for, didn't have new ideas.

In case you haven't checked it out yet, our current issue contains a feature about the dire lack of medical facilities and staff in Afghanistan. The story chronicles the experiences of a doctor working in a military base hospital. The author also visits Red Cross-assisted Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar City and comments on the complications its staff encounters in attempting to provide care to Afghan soldiers and civilians.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, to which copies of the issue were delivered, released in a statement this week news that it has reached an agreement with the Afghan government "under which the ICRC will significantly increase its support for Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar, one of the most important medical facilities in the conflict-ridden southern part of the country." The ICRC emailed Mother Jones to let us know of its pledge to "improve the overall quality of health care and the performance of hospital staff" at Mirwais for at least the next two years.