2008 - %3, June

Okay, Wall-E Was Pretty Great

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 7:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-walle2.jpgPixar's latest animated romp Wall-E beat out Angelina Jolie as superhero assassin-recruiter-whatever flick Wanted to collect over 63 million bucks into its cute little trash-compactor belly this weekend, and after feeling a bit guilty for posting a skeptical review before even seeing it, I escaped the gay pride crowds by heading for a Saturday night showing. While I'm not really qualified to agree or disagree with the Chicago Tribune's claim that this is the "best American studio film this year," I will say it was really quite good, probably the best Pixar film yet, but not without its flaws.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Halfway Mark: The Best Albums of 2008 So Far

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 4:42 PM EDT

mojo-photo-2008.jpgHappy bottom of the year, everybody. It's hard to believe, but 2008 is already half done, with only six months remaining for us to get our year-end best-of lists together! How will we manage? Sure, we're waiting for new discs from Beck, Black Kids, The Faint, maybe U2, and, uh, New Kids on the Block, but in the meantime, here's an admittedly subjective list of the finest full-length releases of the year so far (complete with videos!), as well as a "next 10" list of CDs nipping at their heels. Will Party Ben like experimental hip-hop and droney noise-rock this year? Click the "continues" button and find out!

The Dust Off: Cheech and Chong

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 3:41 PM EDT

The pending release (August 12) of Tommy Chong's unauthorized biography of the infamous comedy duo Cheech & Chong shouldn't be the only reason to revisit the duo's raunchy, 70s- and 80s-era, marijuana-laden humor, such as:

FBI's Anthrax Investigation Gone Completely Cold?

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

fbilogo.jpg

It's been seven years since the anthrax attacks. The FBI has dropped "hundreds of thousands of agent-hours on the case," says its website. Nine thousand interviews have been conducted; 6,000 grand jury subpoenas have been issued; and 67 searches completed. The result? On Friday afternoon, the Justice Department settled with biological weapons scientist Steven Hatfill—the FBI's longtime lead suspect in the case, famously declared a "person of interest" in 2002 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft—for $5.82 million. The move, skillfully buried in weekend news coverage, amounts to a public confession from the FBI that its anthrax investigation has gone cold.

The Justice Department, far from admitting the colossal nature of its screw-up, refused to admit legal liability for dragging Hatfill's name through the mud, but, according to a spokesman, settled the case "in the best interest of the United States." Hatfill continues to press libel cases against the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, and columnist Nicholas Kristof. He has already reached private settlements with Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest for their coverage of the case.

Video: Jay-Z Covers Oasis at Glastonbury

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 3:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-jayzglasto.jpgWhen it was announced that the legendary UK music festival had chosen rapper Jay-Z as a headliner, many fans were upset that a rock band wasn't chosen like usual, and even Noel Gallagher of Oasis complained, saying "Jay-Z, I'm not f***ing having him at Glastonbury." Well good old Jay-Z took lemons and made lemonade, opening his set Saturday night with a clip of Gallagher's comments, then emerging to warble a cheeky cover of Oasis' own "Wonderwall." Despite Hova's being a bit, as they say, "pitchy," seemingly all of Glastonbury sang along:

One More Problem With Romney as VP

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 1:43 PM EDT

John McCain is considering picking Mitt Romney as his VP because of Romney's ability to raise beaucoup bucks from the business and Mormon communities. But if Romney goes to major donors in the business community and picks up $2,300 checks by the bushel, he'll just bolster the image of Obama as the people-powered candidate in the race. The ads are easy: John McCain gets big checks from Mitt Romney's fat cat friends. Barack Obama is funded by people like you. Please give $20 today.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

John Yoo's Attempt to Discredit a Critic

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

Last week's House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, which featured special guests John Yoo and David Addington, drew a lot of attention for its rhetorical bombshells (Chairman Conyers: Could the president order a suspect buried alive?) and the tense back and forth between the witnesses and Democrats on the bench. But Addington and Yoo are both long-time lawyers--lawyers for politicians, no less--and as such their testimony revealed much, much less about the Bush administration's torture regime than many hoped it would.

In a Speech on Patriotism, Obama Tries To Get Past the '60s

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 1:28 PM EDT

obama-patriotism-flags-600x400.jpg

Can Barack Obama walk a political/cultural tightrope to success on Election Day?

On Monday, he gave a well-written speech on patriotism. He noted that "at certain times over the last sixteen months, I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged--at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for." And unlike Democrats of the past--Michael Dukakis comes to mind--Obama is not going to give an inch in any battle over who is really a patriot. In the speech, he described the wellsprings of his own patriotism:

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandfather's shoulders and watching the astronauts come to shore in Hawaii. I remember the cheers and small flags that people waved, and my grandfather explaining how we Americans could do anything we set our minds to do. That's my idea of America.
I remember listening to my grandmother telling stories about her work on a bomber assembly-line during World War II. I remember my grandfather handing me his dog-tags from his time in Patton's Army, and understanding that his defense of this country marked one of his greatest sources of pride. That's my idea of America.
I remember, when living for four years in Indonesia as a child, listening to my mother reading me the first lines of the Declaration of Independence--"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I remember her explaining how this declaration applied to every American, black and white and brown alike; how those words, and words of the United States Constitution, protected us from the injustices that we witnessed other people suffering during those years abroad. That's my idea of America.

Obama declared, "I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign." Which is not such a big promise to make. (He's going to call McCain unpatriotic?) And he defined patriotism to include dissent (such as the whistleblowing of the soldier who first revealed the abuses at Abu Ghraib) and sacrifice. But what was intriguing was how Obama blended a championship of dissent with a belief in American exceptionalism. In fact, he noted that in order for the former to be legitimate if must be cloaked with the latter:

What Advantages Come With Vice President Romney?

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 12:32 PM EDT

RomneyMcCain.jpg So Mitt Romney is apparently at the top of McCain's VP list. Reasons, according to Republican insiders who spoke to the Politico:

(1) Romney's ability to raise money from former business associates and the Mormon community. McCain's camp apparently believes Romney can raise $50 million in 60 days.

(2) He's been vetted.

(3) He is an established campaigner who can be trusted to stay on message.

(4) His roots in Michigan, where his father was a governor, may help deliver a crucial swing state.

Okay, basically this comes down to money. Reasons 2 through 4 are silly. He was vetted, yes, and the media found nothing but flip-flops and inconsistencies. He is a experienced campaigner, but he wasn't very good in the role. I saw Romney speak a bunch of times, and his speaking skills and small-group skills don't match his presidential looks. There's a reason why he only won a handful of states.

And speaking of winning states, it isn't very likely that Michigan, a state that prefers Obama by seven points, is going to vote for McCain just because his VP's dad was governor 40 years ago.

Hey, Wes Clark...

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 10:41 AM EDT

wesleyclark.jpg ...let's think about your comments over the weekend, shall we?

"I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president..."
"[McCain] has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron."

This echoes a statement Clark made several weeks back: "The truth is that, in national security terms, [McCain is] largely untested and untried. He's never been responsible for policy formulation. He's never had leadership in crisis, or in anything larger than his own element on an aircraft carrier or [in managing] his own congressional staff."

Clark, when pressed on whether the candidate he supports, Barack Obama, is "tested" or "tried" on national security, says that it isn't relevant because Obama isn't basing his campaign on national security expertise the way McCain is. Here's video.

This is right out of the Karl Rove school of political strategy: attack your opponent's strengths. But Clark's actions create two serious problems for Obama.