2008 - %3, July

Phil Gramm: Gone But Not Forgotten

| Mon Jul. 21, 2008 10:33 AM EDT

One of my favorite excuses in public life is the distraction excuse. It's used when someone is caught doing something he or she ought not to have done but does not want to admit the screw-up. So the wrongdoer says he or she is resigning, quitting, or running away to not become a "distraction" that diverts attention from a greater cause.

Thus, when former Senator Phil Gramm quit as cochairman of the McCain campaign, he did not acknowledge that his headline-making comments (Americans worried about the economy are "whiners" and there is nothing but a "mental recession" under way) were worthy of dismissal or that his past as a lobbyist for a Swiss bank and a Senate committee chairman who committed a backroom maneuver that led to the subprime crisis made him (or should have made him) radioactive for McCain. No, he took the faux noble route of purported self-sacrifice. Here is his statement:

It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Senator McCain on important economic issues facing the country. That kind of distraction hurts not only Senator McCain's ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country's problems, it hurts the country. To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as Co-Chair of the McCain Campaign and join the growing number of rank-and-file McCain supporters.

Yep, the only problem is those awful Democrats who want to turn Gramm into a pinata-for-McCain. It does seem that McCain's foes will no longer have Gramm to kick around. But it sure won't be a distraction for Democrats to remind voters that when McCain was seeking economic advice he turned to a Swiss bank lobbyist who previously had helped steer the nation into the subprime debacle, for while Gramm may be gone, the consequences of his actions are still very much present.

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Primary Sources: It's Hard to Do PR for Warrantless Surveillance

| Sun Jul. 20, 2008 11:33 PM EDT

Bush%20phone.jpgThe White House certainly doesn't make suing George W. Bush a cakewalk. A lawyer challenging Bush's warrantless surveillance program darkly recounted on Salon the extreme lengths the government went to to ensure watertight secrecy in the case.

The Salon article is well worth reading, as this NSA oddity I unearthed recently while fact-checking.

The National Security Agency, apparently feeling the heat from a citizenry up in arms over their wiretapping program, released a factsheet in 2006 to clear some things up with the American public. The actual title:

"The NSA Program to Detect and Prevent Terrorist Attacks: Myth v Reality."

Some examples of those myths:

Myth:

"The NSA program is illegal."


Reality:

"It has long been recognized that the President has inherent authority to conduct warrantless surveillance to gather foreign intelligence even in peacetime."

New (Leaked) Music: Primal Scream - Beautiful Future

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 6:53 PM EDT

mojo-photo-primalscream.jpgPrimal Scream confuse the hell out of me. Are they fuzzed-out Jesus & Mary Chain imitators, acid house innovators, boring old Rolling Stones worshippers, electro-punk agitators, or is it all just a big joke? Answer: yes. The question, really, is whether you like their breakthrough successes enough to forgive their sloppy, derivative missteps; in the interest of full disclosure, this reviewer totally does. Critical consensus hails both the funky Screamadelica and the aggressive XTRMNTR as era-defining masterpieces, but I'll even pull out 1997's Vanishing Point now and then, a half-baked tribute to a totally-baked film, filled with churning electro-grunge and eye-rolling stage whispers of "Soul on ice! Soul on ice!" It's fantastic. Like the Clash, even Primal Scream's mistakes are compelling; on Beautiful Future, they often retreat to retro-Stones pablum and skeezy lyrics, and it's still pretty great.

Commemorating Bush's Sh*t

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 6:33 PM EDT

263388397_6feb4ae850.jpg My favorite news of the day. And one reason my heart will always be in San Francisco.

A measure has qualified for San Francisco's November ballot renaming the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

In recognitionof the crap Bush left behind in Iraq. And everywhere.

A quagmire named for the Begetter-of-all-Quagmires.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

The Blue Marble Gets a Moon

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 6:08 PM EDT

And we get to see it in orbit around the Earth. Thanks to NASA's Epoxi spacecraft, en route to Comet Hartley 2 in 2010. The film was shot from 31 million miles away. An alien's p.o.v.

Such a pretty world. Why don't we take better care of it?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

OK Politician's Anti-Gay Comic Book May Work Against Him

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-rinehartexcerpt.jpgVia Queerty comes the story of Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart, who decided to utilize the innovative format of the comic book as a reelection campaign tool. The comic attempts to illustrate Rinehart's accomplishments including "veterans appreciation month" and "keeping the cross at the fairgrounds." But the pages getting the most attention focus on the commissioner's work against the agenda of "pedaphiles [sic], polygamists, and homosexuals." These pages are, for lack of a better word, awesome: it turns out not only do gays want to lure young boys out of the forest, we also do it while wearing togas. Click the "continues" button to enjoy the two pages in question or get the whole pdf file (it's worth it) at NewsOK.com here.

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How Long Will You Live? Depends Where You Live

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

The American Human Development Project's new report measures the well being of US citizens based on education, health, and income. Unsurprisingly, being an American is much better for some than others.

Of the ten states with the highest median earnings, six are in the Northeast while the rest are just south of there. A whopping 46% of Texas' 29th District (East Houston) never graduated from high school, compared to a drop out rate of only 5% in California's 30th District, which includes Beverly Hills and Malibu.

How well off are you? Test yourself here. Want more? Watch this.

The report may be telling us what some of us already know about our abysmal health care system—that we spend more per person than any other nation only to die younger than basically all of Western Europe—but when the life expectancy of residents in Kentucky's Fifth District is 73 years (same as our national average was in 1978), hard numbers are still sobering.

—Brittney Andres

Watching the "Watchmen" Trailer A Little Too Closely

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 4:35 PM EDT
doc-manhattan175.jpg

The actual movie's not due for another seven and a half months, but the trailer for Watchmen is out. (Watch it after the jump.) Which means I and other fans of the graphic-novel masterpiece that the movie's based on can get some answers to our nagging questions. Obvious questions like, Can a two-hour movie capture author Alan Moore's brilliantly constructed storyline and artist Dave Gibbons' impeccable yet pulpy atmospherics?

But beyond learning whether director Zack Snyder (300) has delivered a CGI-bloated mess, here's the practical if prurient question that's been lodged in my brain since adolescence, when talk of a Watchmen flick first surfaced: How will the movie portray Doctor Manhattan, the Smurf-blue, radioactive superman who likes to walk around with his, uh, nuclear facilities out in the open?

Misleading Headline of the Week: This. Is. Obama!

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 4:08 PM EDT

300movie.jpg The front page of the Gray Lady makes my Friday. Headline:

"Cast of 300 Advises Obama on Foreign Policy"

First piece of advice? Tonight we dine in HELL!

In other news Gandalf and Frodo are advising Senator McCain.

Top Five: Mopey Teen Playlist

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 3:08 PM EDT

cocteau-twins-250.jpgAfter watching and reviewing American Teen this week, and listening to Party Ben's old, obscure cuts from the Cure, I got to thinking about how music enhanced many of my angry, sad, and mopey days as a teenager in the late '80s/early '90s.

At risk of completely dating/pigeonholing myself, here are a few choice cuts: