Blogs

Carrie Brownstein : NPR :: Party Ben : The Mother Jones?

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 2:00 PM PST

mojo-photo-brownstein.jpgOr maybe it's the other way around. National Public Radio has recently taken your tax dollars and contributions and thrown them at another kooky artist: Carrie Brownstein, guitarist and vocalist for the toweringly-awesome on-hiatus Portland trio Sleater-Kinney. The "Monitor Mix" is NPR's second music blog after "All Songs Considered," and Brownstein gets it all to herself, and even gets a picture of herself and her dog up at the top. Lucky! A first glance over there shows she's into Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Ramones, and bands with "cat" in their name. Me too!

Hey wait a minute, why am I talking about competing liberal media blogs with superstar (ahem!!) guest writers? Don't go over there, stay here on the Riff! Besides, Brownstein hasn't figured out how to post pictures yet, and we have way more of those, and even videos. Speaking of, Sleater-Kinney, how awesome? For a few years right around 1996-99, they were absolutely the best band in America. Throwing a dart at the board of my 1000 favorite S-K songs (or, more accurately, doing a quick video search) brings us:

Sleater-Kinney – "Get Up" (from The Hot Rock, 1999)

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Marxism in the Eye of the Conservative Beholder

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 1:06 PM PST

At least, in the eyes of those who find out that being an apologist and fellow traveler to rapacious capitalism still won't provide you access to that which is being conserved. Doing 'the club's' dirty work just isn't the same as being invited to join 'the club'. Even worse is realizing that you've only be invited in to clean it. Wonder how long it took these worshippers of the fat-cat capitalist class to convince themselves that this isn't utter hypocrisy?:

Five authors have sued the parent company of Regnery Publishing, a Washington imprint of conservative books, charging that the company deprives its writers of royalties by selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company.
In a suit filed in United States District Court in Washington yesterday, the authors Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter state that Eagle Publishing, which owns Regnery, "orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self-dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate."

Imagine these conservatives' horror to find out that a big, profitable business put more energy into deflating their authors' royalties than into publishing more odes to child labor and deforestation. But, then, these are the deep-thinkers who wrote bestsellers swift-boating Kerry and 'proving' that Bush is really winning the war on terror. My, how sudden, how selective, their distaste for fraud, deception and self-dealing. Sorta like the slaves who narc'd on runaways only to find themselves still put to the lash for minor infractions. No honor among thieves, guys. Certainly, there's no intellectual consistency, not when money's concerned. Here's my favorite part:

"It suddenly occurred to us that Regnery is making collectively jillions of dollars off of us and paying us a pittance." He added: "Why is Regnery acting like a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company?"

Here's another question: why do they think Regnery's (alleged) business practices are Marxist when it is in fact these authors' critique which is? Where you stand really does seem to depend on where you sit.

Chalabi's What? An Unexpected Tidbit at the End of a Story about a British Murder Investigation

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 12:46 PM PST

Check out the penultimate graph from this excerpt of a British Press Association report today on a shooting in Iraq:

Five Iraqi police officers were identified as murderers by the only surviving witness of a massacre in which a British security worker was shot dead, an inquest heard today.
Former Royal Marine Brian Tilley, 47, was killed when up to six gunmen walked into his girlfriend's house in the lawless al-Dawrah district of Baghdad and opened fire on May 14 2004.
The only surviving witness was a 15-year-old Iraqi girl known as Sarah, who told American military police the gunmen were wearing Iraqi police uniforms. ...

'Ghost Punk' Alive and Well in Brooklyn

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 11:40 AM PST
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My infatuation for the week? Brooklyn's noisy, three-piece band These Are Powers. Their 2007 Hoss Records debut, Terrific Seasons, is loud and creepy, and I mean that in a good way.

The band describes their sound as "ghost punk," I'm guessing because the music is intense, dark, and ominous, and influenced by (as they put it) spiritual mysticism, supernatural phenomena, and the prophecies of a UFO-obsessed cab driver. They also call their sound "future primitive" (whatever that means), which, combined with incomprehensible echo-heavy vocals, make this album sound like background music for a chase scene in a bizarre horror flick.

I can see how that might sound awful, but it's not. It's mesmerizing; and probably best seen live, if these video clips are any indication. Try to imagine a combination of early Sonic Youth mixed with some Bauhaus and a lot of sarcasm.

Now I Feel Dumb For Actually Paying For the Radiohead Album

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 11:40 AM PST

In Rainbows

And those British Pounds are like real money and stuff. As everybody who has internet access knows, Radiohead recently released their latest album In Rainbows as a digital download via their own website, allowing buyers to name their own price. While the band themselves still aren't talking about how many people downloaded the album (or how much they paid), a consumer research firm did a study and found that a large majority paid, well, zip:

Some 62 percent of the people who downloaded "In Rainbows" in a four- week period last month opted not to pay the British alt-rockers a cent. But the remaining 38 percent voluntarily paid an average of $6, according to the study by comScore Inc. …The results of the study were drawn from data gathered from a few hundred people who are part of comScore's database of 2 million computer users worldwide. The firm, which has permission to monitor the computer users' online behavior, did not provide a margin of error for the study's results.

Interestingly, the percentage of American fans who paid at all was slightly higher than the non-U.S. average (40% to 36%), and amusingly, the average amount paid by people who did pay was way higher in the U.S., $8.05 compared to $4.64 outside the U.S. I'm going to take a guess the exchange rate came into play there: I bet there were quite a few fans like myself whose casual entering of a number that seemed like a nice compromise—say, £5—were in for a bit of a shock when their credit card bill came back saying that turned out to be $10.43. Even those of us with impending European tours who are keeping their eye on the now-so-low-it's-barely-visible dollar (€1.46 today!!) (er, wait, I mean, €1 is $1.46 today. See this is part of the problem right here, Americans can't do math) succumbed to mathematical habit; I mean, paying somebody 3 of anything for an album just seems mean, even though £3 is like $6.25, which isn't bad for ten 160kbps mp3s from a band who doesn't need the money. Ah well, consider it my contribution towards the downfall of the record industry.

Sam Brownback Endorses John McCain

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 11:04 AM PST

As you can tell, lots of activity amongst the Religious Right today. Just got an email from the McCain campaign confirming the Brownback endorsement. Here's some of the text from the Kansas Senator and leading social conservative.

[John McCain] is the only candidate who can rally the Reagan coalition of conservatives, Independents, and conservative Democrats needed to defeat Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat in the general election next year... While I respect all of the Republicans running for president this year, John McCain is the only choice to lead our country in the global fight against Islamic fundamentalism...John McCain also represents the values that are the core of our Republican party. He has spent a lifetime standing up for human rights around the world, including a consistent 24 year pro-life record of protecting the rights of the unborn.

This is surprising. McCain has little to no support amongst Brownback's base, Christian evangelicals. He took 1.4 percent of the vote in a straw poll of that subgroup in October. Will Brownback's endorsement boost that number? I'm skeptical.

If McCain is the winner here, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are the losers. I said when Brownback dropped out of the presidential race that the biggest beneficiary was Huckabee, the Arkansas Governor, because Brownback's departure made Huckabee the only remaining social conservative in the race. I guess that didn't matter to Brownback. Nor did the fact that Mitt Romney is all about family. Who knows with the Republicans this year?

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With Robertson, Giuliani Wins the Nutcase Primary?

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 10:28 AM PST

What a day for Rudy Giuliani. After Mitt Romney was recently endorsed by Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the religious right (and the Heritage Foundation) and John McCain got the thumbs up from Senator Sam Brownback, a social conservative champion, Giuliani nabbed one of the biggest fish in the Christian right ocean: Pat Robertson. And unlike Brownback or Weyrich, Robertson has a television network.

By accepting Robertson's big wet kiss, Giuliani is excusing (or tolerating) Robertson's long record of religious bigotry. As I wrote back in 2000 when Robertson endorsed George W. Bush, Robertson once

said Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists represent "the spirit of the Antichrist." He also maintained that "liberal Jews" were mounting "an ongoing attempt to undermine the public strength of Christianity." He has repeatedly called Hinduism "devil worship."

Media Matters also has kept track of Robertson's rhetoric of bigotry.

But there's something else about Robertson: He is nutty. I'm not merely referring to his belief that God sent a hurricane toward Disney World because the theme park had held a Gay Day. His conspiratorial view of global politics is--how to put it?--insane. He once claimed that President George H.W. Bush was doing the bidding of Satan. Literally. Here's how I described it years ago:

In 1992, Robertson published a bizarre book called "The New World Order." In this barely coherent tract, Robertson claimed there was a global (if elusive) conspiracy involving the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, other policy elites, secret societies and New Agers.
The goal of this nefarious coalition was to impose a new world order that would wipe out national sovereignty, foment a "complete redistribution of wealth," and bring about the "elimination of Christianity." The key to penetrating the plot, Robertson argued, was to see that the Gulf War [of 1991] that had been waged and won by President Bush was, in fact, "a setup."

Turkey, Iraq: Border Trade to the Rescue?

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 9:52 AM PST

107_0766.JPG
Turkish oil trucks awaiting entry into Iraqi Kurdistan.


This morning's New York Times includes an excellent piece by Richard A. Oppel, Jr., reminding us that things are not always as they appear. Oppel reports from Dohuk, the largest city in western Iraqi Kurdistan, where rising economic prosperity (much of it based on proximity to Turkey) might prevent full-scale war. From reading press reports, one might believe that Turkey and Iraq are on the edge of a catastrophe. Responding to recent attacks on its soldiers by members of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that enjoys sanctuary in the mountains of northern Iraq, Turkey has massed tens of thousands of troops along the border. The Turkish Parliament has already granted its approval for the military to cross over in pursuit of PKK rebels. For their part, Iraqi Kurdish leaders are positioning Kurdish peshmerga fighters to meet Turkish troops. War, it would seem, is only a matter of time.

Technological TMI

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 9:48 AM PST

Wanna know how many calories sex with the hubby, versus sex with the mailman, burns?

Over at Slate, Amanda Schaefer tried out a gadget that allowed her to incessantly track exactly how her body was responding to food and exercise. As if we weren't self-absorbed and techno-obsessed enough. Those of us with low self esteem and border line OCD might do best to steer clear:

This week, I discovered how many calories I burn climbing stairs, riding trains, sleeping, and having sex. The data come courtesy of a plastic device called the bodybugg, which is currently strapped to the underside of my right arm, like an oversized ladybug about to nuzzle the armpit. The bodybugg is designed to measure the number of calories burned minute by minute over the course of a day, in order to help people lose weight (or gain—it's apparently popular with bodybuilders).
Bodybugg is part of a new wave of personal monitoring gadgets that promise to track various aspects of our health, fitness, or risk of disease. Nike + iPod, for instance, uses sensors in sneakers to track a runner's time, distance, and calories burned. An experimental alarm clock works with a headband that monitors sleep stages, promising to wake you up in a lighter phase so you feel less groggy. A specialty shirt, currently in clinical trials in Europe, is packed with sensors that monitor heart rate and breathing. A toilet now on the market in Japan tests urine streams for glucose, gathering data that could be used to monitor diabetes. These gadgets threaten to serve up more data than we know what to do with, not to mention make us ever more self-absorbed. But they also dangle the hope of better understanding and better health. What's it like to spy on one's own body 24/7? I decided to find out.

Irrelevant Pat Robertson Endorses Rudy Giuliani

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 9:40 AM PST

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Not only is it incredibly weird that socially conservative Pat Roberston is endorsing the socially liberal Rudy Giuliani, it's weird that Giuliani would accept Robertson's endorsement. Robertson, after all, said that people like Giuliani were responsible for 9/11, an event close to Giuliani's heart. Remember this?

JERRY FALWELL: The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'.
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur.

What is it about the right that allows them to embrace nutjobs who say horribly offensive things long past the point they lose touch with reality?

Anyway, the Robertson endorsement is big for Giuliani, because it shows that some evangelicals, instead of abandoning the Republican Party if Giuliani gets the nod, are willing to support the former Mayor because of his perceived strengths on national security and his record in New York.

More after the jump...