Presidential candidates are famous for promising wars against various social ills—the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, etc.—but Bill Richardson may be the first to launch the "War on Fat." Richardson, who has shed 30 pounds over the past year, bragged yesterday that he was the only person running for president to address The Obesity Society.
In an open appeal to the 66 percent of Americans who now tip the scales as officially overweight, Richardson called for covering the obese under the Americans With Disabilities Act and for federal funding for college PE classes. Future campaign posters to read: "Richardson Fights Freshman 15!"
Hey, those guys are stealing my idea for a mash-up album! Oh wait, if you made the original I guess it's not stealing. Billboardreports the no longer boyish (if basically beastly) Beastie Boys are planning to release a remixed version of their instrumental album, The Mix-Up; artists tapped for inclusion on the new mix include rapper M.I.A., former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, and visa-denial poster child Lily Allen. In other words, as Adam "MCA" Yauch said, "a bunch of British people."
No word on whether the vocalists will be contributing existing a capellas or writing new material for the album, either would be interesting I guess, although it'd be hard to make The Mix-Up more boring. Perhaps the band were inspired by The Beastles, the multiple-album project from Boston's DJ BC?
From a recent Mary Matalin letter written on behalf of Scooter Libby: "Scooter should never have even been put on trial. His conviction was an absolute and total miscarriage of justice." Uh huh, and? "Scooter still has hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding legal bills from his trial." Ohhh. "These bills need to be paid immediately." Yikes. Sorry, somehow I think giving to the Red Cross might be a bit more worthwhile. But try me again next year, when this thing is still on appeal.
You'd think this guy would be better at raising Scooter some dough.
Pitchfork, like it or not, is at the center of the indie-rock whirlwind. The music site has been credited with launching the careers of Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and more; a good review can create a fan base (hello, Girl Talk) or push you off the map (too many to count). And yes, we're aware that music criticism is a traditionally male enterprise (just as indie rock is), but Gawker points out today that the male-to-female ratio over at the Fork may be even higher than you'd suspect. In an accounting of the genders and names of reviewers on 10 days of four random months, they found that reviews by guys named Mark always outnumbered reviews by women of any name, usually by at least 2-to-1. For instance, in March of 2007, out of 50 sampled reviews, there were two by women, and ten by dudes named Mark. Well, what can I say: dudes named Mark like bands named Animal Collective.
People love to hate on Pitchfork, but you have to know how to read it: ignore their snarky, sub-3.0 reviews, meant to make a point of some sort; don't feel bad if one of your favorite CDs gets a 5.3; but always, always search out and listen to things they like. Overwhelmingly male (and Mark-y) or not, it's hard not to celebrate a home for such in-depth music criticism of usually-overlooked artists. I just wish they weren't becoming the judgemental high school clique that I'm sure oppressed all of them in actual high school.
Let's see what we were missing by being too cheap to pay for (the now extinct) TimesSelect...
Oh, here's a David Brooks column revealing that the Secretary of Defense rejects several of the main tenets of George W. Bush's foreign policy. Nice. From a recent Robert Gates speech:
Throughout the messy years that followed, Gates explained, we have made deals with tyrants to defeat other tyrants. We've championed human rights while doing business with some of the worst violators of human rights....
Two themes ran through his speech. First, the tragic ironies of history the need to compromise with evil in order to do good. And second, patience the need to wait as democratic reforms slowly develop.
Using this logic, Gates would likely argue that we should be actively engaging Iran and Syria, regime's we don't approve of, in order to bring order to Iraq. And he would argue that, since "democratic reforms slowly develop," invading countries unaccustomed to democracy and foisting it upon their people isn't too bright. What else?
"I don't think you invade Iraq to bring liberty. You do it to eliminate an unstable regime and because sanctions are breaking down and you get liberty as a byproduct," he continued. I asked him whether invading Iraq was a good idea, knowing what we know now. He looked at me for a bit and said, "I don't know."
Well, that's just about the most honest thing a high-level Bush Administration official has ever said in public. You might claim that Bush's best decision in the Iraq War was appointing this guy to be SecDef. You might also claim that Bush's worst decision was waiting so freaking long.
And wait, Gates isn't done.
I asked him if it was a good idea to encourage elections in the Palestinian territories. He didn't directly address the question, but he noted: "Too often elections are equated with democracy and freedom."
I asked about how we can promote freedom in Iran while taking care of security threats. He emphasized soft power.
Surely you remember a few days back when Fox censored Sally Field at the Emmy's because she tried to say the line, "If mothers ruled the world, there wouldn't be any goddamned wars in the first place."
At the time, I wondered if it was because Field was making a political statement or if it was because she said the word "goddamned." To censor her for making an anti-war statement that innocuous would reveal their political leanings too blatantly, right? It was probably just the language she used.
Wrong. It turns out, assuming the worst out of Fox is always the right choice. This video by Robert Greenwald shows that not only have Fox commentators used the word "goddam" in the past, they've thrown it around playfully.
Now, admittedly, Field said the word on Fox, a network, and the commentators in this video said it on Fox News, a cable station. But that shouldn't make a difference. According to the FCC, here are the standards for censoring material on any TV channel:
An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law.
The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
This situation doesn't fall into any of those three categories. Moreover, there is no list of words that are banned completely, ala George Carlin's seven dirty words, and in this FCC ruling, "goddam" is specifically categorized as "not profane."
Public health officials across the country have been trying to address record-low rates of breastfeeding among American women, a move that threatens the enormous profits of formula companies (pharma giants all). So the formula makers have responded aggressively, lobbying successfully to water down federal breastfeeding promotion campaigns, among other things.
No good lobbying campaign, of course, comes without the creation of an Astroturf group to demonstrate "grassroots" support for the cause. The formula makers have recently launched two of them, with websites, www.momsfeedingfreedom.com and www.babyfeedingchoice.org, both of which proclaim to champion women's "right to choose" formula. Interestingly, MomsFeedingFreedom is the product of the very same web consulting firm that works for presidential contender Mitt Romney, reports Mothering Magazine this month.
Romney and the formula companies have a long history together. Back in 2005, his state became the first in the nation to ban the distribution of formula samples in hospitals, a move backed by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. But as governor, Romney pressured the Massachusetts Public Health Council to overturn the ban. When it refused, he fired three members of the council and replaced them with members who voted shortly afterwards to allow formula back into the hospitals. Romney clearly won't be the "breast is best" candidate in '08...
Yesterday, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and U.S. Army Major Paul Welborne. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, alleges that Army specialist Jeremy Hall, who is currently serving in Iraq, had his First Amendment rights violated last Thanksgiving when he was threatened and otherwise harrassed because he declined to participate in a Thanksgiving prayer ceremony.
According to Hall, who is an atheist, when he refused to join hands with other soldiers and pray, he was told by a staff sergeant (who first had to ask someone what an atheist was) that he could not eat Thanksgiving dinner with his peers. Hall, however, continued to eat his dinner at the table.
According to the complaint, in August, Hall received permission from a military chaplain to organize a group for atheist soldiers, but when the group met, Major Welborne broke it up, and also threatened to charge Hall with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Hall says that Welborne further threatened him that he would block Hall's re-enlistment in the Army if the atheist group continued to meet. Hall alleges that Welborne disrupted the meeting and confronted those in attendance.
A while back on this blog, I pointed out the ridiculousness of this statement by Fred Thompson: "Our people have shed more blood for the liberty and freedom of other peoples in this country than all the other countries put together." I cited some figures on American dead in various wars, then pointed out that among other massive casualty figures, tens of millions of Russians died in WWII. That dwarfs anything America has experienced. Not to belittle the sacrifices our country has paid, but Thompson's statement was wayyy off base.
As a result, the comments section lit up. The highlights:
- "Stein's unambiguous dislike for the Tennessean has cluttered his mind."
- "Johnathan [sic] Stein hearts Stalin."
- "Mr. Stein is- and has always been- free to relocate to any of the few remaining Stalinist 'paradises' left on Earth."
Well, I'm still here. And it turns out that, empowered by the shouting of our commentors, Fred Thompson decided to ignore my debunking and continued using the statement in his campaign. And so, the new truth-rooting wing of the Washington Post, called Fact Checker, had to take Thompson to task.
While heavy, U.S. military casualties are still relatively low in comparison to the military casualties of its World War II and World War I allies. In World War II alone, the Soviet Union suffered at least eight million military deaths, or ten times the number of U.S. deaths in all wars combined....
Even if we exclude the Soviet Union from the calculation, U.S. military deaths in all wars combined remain lower than those of the British Commonwealth ("a combination of nations," in Thompson's phrase) in World War I and World War II.
So please, folks, click over to the Post and tell them to move to the Stalinist 'paradises.' I don't deserve your scorn.
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