2007 - %3, October

(Not So) Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 3:00 PM EDT

UK electro duo Simian Mobile Disco are pretty darn good, and their now-oldish track "Hustler" is one of the best songs on their new album, Attack Decay Sustain Release. Its dark breakbeat backing is combined with a repetitive, stream-of-consciousness rap about being too broke to buy records and stealing them instead. It already had a pretty good (if eyebrow-raising) video featuring a circle of hipster girls whose game of "secret" turns into a makeout session, but for some reason the band (or their label) decided that wasn't exploitative enough. Now we get a new video featuring dancing models who, er, binge and purge, in Technicolor:

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And if David Duke Could Sing Like Donnie McClurkin?

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:54 PM EDT

If you want to hear what Donnie McClurkin said at the Obama rally this weekend, here it is. Let's hope he's a better singer than theologian. Given the backlash, what can be the meaning of allowing him to repeat his controversial message?

I've been waiting for thoughtfully ardent gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan to weigh in on all this but he hasn't seemed very exercised about. Here's his lengthiest statement to date on the subject:

To my mind, this isn't ultimately about the difficulty of forging any kind of alliance between gays and African-Americans. It is the inherent danger of mixing religion with politics. That's called Christianism. Some of us have not spent the last few years trying to rescue conservatism from the toxin of theocracy only to support a candidate who wants to do the same thing on the left. I don't think Obama wants to go that far; I still believe that broadly speaking, his is the only major candidacy right now that offers the kind of change we need. But what happened on that stage was inexcusable, stupid, and damaging. I don't blame any gay American for jumping the Obama ship over it.

I think the salient issue is a black hyper-religiosity which gets a pass on its anti-intellectualism (even for something a-rational), hypocrisy, misogyny, and bigotry, all things we looked to Obama, the thinking person's black Protestant, to confront. There was a time, not so long ago, when he was going to show liberal Dems how to reclaim religion for the left:

There's Hillary

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:25 PM EDT

As I noted minutes ago, this morning Barack Obama declared his opposition to Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general. Then John Edwards quickly did the same. Though Clinton, through a spokesperson, had recently said she was troubled by Mukasey's statements on torture and executive power, she had stopped short of saying she would vote against him. The question I posed in the previous posting was this: could Hillary Clinton be far behind? The answer turns out to be, no. At mid-day, Clinton announced she will vote against George Bush's A.G. pick. It's another sign that Clinton will not give an inch—or an hour—to her opponents.

Tuesday Coos, "Music News Day"

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:24 PM EDT

News

  • Dead Elvis knocks dead Kurt Cobain out of the top spot on Forbes' list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. Actually Kurt drops out of the Top 12 entirely. Other late musicians on the list include John Lennon (#2), George Harrison (#4), Tupac Shakur (#8), James Brown (#11), and Bob Marley (#12).

  • Rapper Nas defends his decision to call his upcoming album the N-word (which I typed once in the last story and now I just feel too queasy about it to do it again) in a convoluted statement connecting Barack Obama's presidential run to the recent spate of noose-related hate crimes. "It's probably going to make people uncomfortable," he says about the album's title. You think?
  • Arcade Fire's Win Butler responds to Sasha Frere-Jones' New Yorker article pointing out the band's, er, "whiteness." Butler begins with a serious discussion of Arcade Fire's musical heritage, but once he correctly points out that American music is already so racially mixed-up it's hard to tell what's what any more, he seems to realize what the rest of us have as well: Sasha Frere-Jones is kind of crazy, and why are we spending any time worrying about this?
  • Blog Brooklyn Vegan collects pictures of this year's hot Halloween costume (something you've already noticed if you went out at all over the weekend): Amy Winehouse. Fine, but jeez, ladies (and gentlemen): at least have someone else draw the tattoos on your arms so it doesn't look like the scribblings of a 5-year-old.
  • A Junket by Any Other Name..

    | Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:12 PM EDT

    200px-Mike_Leavitt.jpg So HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt is heading off to Switzerland and the Netherlands next week to learn more about those countries' health care systems, which have been widely touted as a model for what we might do in the U.S. Of course, Bush administration officials tell the New York Times that they have no plans to actually do anything with whatever information Leavitt gleans from his trip.

    "We don't have anything cooking that we haven't announced," the department official said. "We would not endorse a system like the Netherlands or Switzerland's. But if there's something we could learn about their system, we should learn about it."

    So either the trip is just designed to indulge Leavitt's intellectual curiosity—or it's a chance for him to get out of town on the taxpayer dime and pretend that his boss didn't just derail a major piece of legislation that would have given a few million poor kids health insurance right here at home. No word on whether Leavitt will be commandeering the CDC's private jet for the trip, but hopefully he'll live blog his European vacation.

    Obama and Edwards Oppose Mukasey; Where's Hillary Clinton?

    | Tue Oct. 30, 2007 1:15 PM EDT

    For months, Barack Obama and John Edwards have been trying to find issues that separate them from Hillary Clinton. On the Iraq war, HRC's strategy has been to provide neither of her main challengers much maneuvering room. Like them, she wants out. There may be differences in rhetoric or positioning. Edwards calls for an immediate pullout of 40,000 or more troops; Obama has urged withdrawing one or two brigades a month; Clinton has not been so specific. But these distinctions have not yet allowed Obama or Edwards to turn the war into an issue of traction.

    Now comes Michael Mukasey. This morning, both Edwards and Obama announced they oppose his nomination as attorney general. Mukasey was once a shoo-in for the job, (If you Google "shoo-in," the third item that appears is a New York Times story on Mukasey. Literally.) But the judge has run into problems by refusing to state whether he considers waterboarding torture. In doing so, he is joining the Bush administration's word game. George W. Bush declares he doesn't torture, but he and his crew refuse to define torture. Though much of the world considers waterboarding to be torture, the Bush aides won't state if it's included in their definition of torture. So it seems Bush might well be saying "we don't torture" while thinking "waterboarding ain't torture." Mukasey also got into trouble during his confirmation hearing for essentially endorsing the administration's view that Bush is above the law when Bush determines that the Constitution allows him to be above the law.

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    Blackwater Tosses Local Reporters From Town Meeting

    | Tue Oct. 30, 2007 11:37 AM EDT

    Blackwater USA likes to think of itself as a good neighbor. Last Thursday evening, the company hosted a community meeting at its 7,000-acre compound in Moyock, North Carolina. The twice annual event, organized by Blackwater President Gary Jackson, is meant to update neighbors about the firm's activities and allow local citizens to air complaints about Blackwater's impact on the surrounding community.

    Sounds great, right? Well, in typical Blackwater fashion, the meeting—which focused solely on hyper-local issues like noise pollution and traffic congestion—was closed to reporters. No national security-related topics were discussed, nor were the company's activities in Iraq, but nevertheless reporters from Norfolk television station WTKR were turned away at the compound's front gate. According to a report on WTKR's website, several local citizens were also given the boot "because they did not live in neighborhoods next door to Blackwater." Blackwater reportedly publicized the meeting with a small advertisement in several local newspapers. Responding to criticism that it did not do enough to encourage local turnout, the company has pledged to advertise future meetings more aggressively.

    Pirates, Somali Territory, and Hijacked Benzene on the Golden Mori

    | Tue Oct. 30, 2007 12:56 AM EDT

    When will the presidential candidate stop dodging the issue of piracy on the high seas? We need to know how they will deal with situations like this.

    Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 10/29/07

    | Mon Oct. 29, 2007 11:58 PM EDT

    This week, psychedelic space-rock reunions and retro Brazilian romps, plus a soul singer does her best King of Pop impression and a troubled pop princess gets a mashup makeover. Look at all that alliteration, it's like Top Ten tonguetwisters. What?

    10. Mary J Blige – "Just Fine" (from Growing Pains out 12/11 on Geffen)
    Justin Timberlake's whole career is predicated on a post-Michael Jackson equation, i.e.: people want soulful dance-pop, and they're tired of waiting for Jacko to provide it, so they'll take an imitation. Well, now Blige is stepping up to the MJ plate, aiming right for Off the Wall-era disco-lite. She vamps and struts over a backing track that's uptempo yet delicate, with an acoustic guitar and keyboard filigrees that are oddly reminiscent of Steely Dan's "Peg." Did I mention it's good?

    9. Blue States – "Allies" (from First Steps Into… on Memphis Industries)
    The UK producer (otherwise known as Andy Dragazis) is known for his Vangelis-style electronic swirls, and this track is appropriately dreamy. The video, on the other hand, is a somewhat disturbing look at how the random little details in our daily lives could bring about drastically different conclusions. Don't drop your keys!!

    8. Reminiscing about seeing Daft Punk in concert
    …by watching really awesome videos like this one below or a full-length (if pretty shaky) video of their entire set at this weekend's Vegoose festival. Human! Robot! Anyway, if you missed them, sorry.

    Blonde Redhead7. Blonde Redhead – Live at the Warfield, San Francisco, 10/24/07
    I'm not sure how Blonde Redhead do it. In order to replicate the full, multi-instrumental sound of their albums, the three-piece must be using some sort of tape in concert. Sounds of pianos and backing vocals show up without physical manifestations thereof, and oddly, it adds to the general otherworldliness of their live experience. The band's newer material is almost "shoegaze"-level fuzzy, but their edgy, unusual songwriting adds a strangely retro feel, as though you're watching an old Italian movie.

    6. Black Dice – "Kokomo" (from Load Blown on Paw Tracks)
    It's nice to see this freaky Brooklyn combo have calmed down enough that you can actually make out individual notes in their songs, but this isn't going to the top of any hit parades anytime soon. Just sit back and remember your tripped-out college days, when a throbbing bassline and random, surreal images of Froot Loops commercials and freaky patterns would have totally made your Monday.

    Does Obama Need a New Issue to Catch Clinton?

    | Mon Oct. 29, 2007 7:41 PM EDT

    obama_clinton.jpg

    Over at the Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum is arguing that the only thing that is going to pull Barack Obama even with Hillary Clinton is a brand new issue that catches Clinton off-guard. Obama's current plan of intensifying his attacks on Clinton, within the realm of commonly discussed issues, isn't going to work because, in Drum's words, there's "no there there." That is, the differences between Obama and Clinton aren't substantial enough to get anyone excited.

    So what does Drum suggest? "Propose that the United States unilaterally offer to reopen its embassy in Tehran. Ditto for Cuba and North Korea." Or, "Propose a specific list of Bush administration executive orders that he would rescind." The first would get Obama killed by every Democratic contender, TV pundit, and foreign policy establishment wonk. The legitimacy of those three groups aside, the gain here is dubious and the price is simply too heavy. The second idea is a darn good one, and I wouldn't be surprised if all the Democratic candidates do something similar in time.