Blogs

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes: Portishead

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 2:50 PM PDT

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Yesterday, news emerged that legendary (and legendarily unreliable) Bristol combo Portishead were "one day" from finishing their long-awaited third album. Could it be true? With the 'head, one hesitates to get one's hopes up, but just in case, perhaps this is a good time to familiarize ourselves with the band's previous work, or remind you why you care.

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Senate Investigates Lack of Radio Love for Arcade Fire (Really!)

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 1:52 PM PDT

mojo-photo-radio.gifWith the FCC poised to relax media ownership rules again in December, the U.S. Senate is starting to get the message from constituents that maybe it's not such a great idea. During hearings today, Merge records founder and Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan testified about the sad state of radio:

The deregulation that followed the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed for unprecedented consolidation in commercial radio, which has resulted in a homogeneity that is often out-of-step with artists, entrepreneurs, media professionals and educators—not to mention listeners.

Of course, he couldn't resist getting in a couple plugs for Merge artists Arcade Fire and Spoon:

In 2007, two of the albums we released–by the bands Arcade Fire and Spoon–both debuted in the Billboard Top Ten. They appeared on Saturday Night Live. The mainstream print media has written extensively about them, and both bands tour the world, playing highly successful, sold out concerts. Yet both of these bands have been virtually absent from the commercial airwaves.

Well how do you think they got in the Top Ten? Mac was out there promoting to their target demographics: our nation's elected officials. Actually, he's not being entirely honest: Arcade Fire has received significant radio support, even from giant mainstream juggernauts like LA's KROQ (see "Wake Up" at #37 on their 2005 year-end countdown... right above Foo Fighters). But Arcade Fire are the exception that proves the rule.

Rudy's 'Senior Freedom Adviser': Curtail Arab Birth Rate

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 12:51 PM PDT

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Lately Philip Weiss, proprietor of the blog Mondoweiss, has been reading up on the work of Peter Berkowitz, a George Mason law professor who moonlights as Rudy Giuliani's "Senior Statecraft, Human Rights and Freedom Advisor" (pretty good gig, if you can get it). Today Weiss dug up a 2004 Weekly Standard article in which Berkowitz offers an analysis of Israeli demographic policies hinging on one overwhelming concern: How do we get Arabs in Israel to stop breeding so damn much? Berkowitz begins by acknowledging that the very term "demographic problem...conjures up illiberal images of a government classifying people by ethnicity, race, or religion." OK, duly noted. And then, natch, Berkowitz goes on to make some chillingly illiberal policy prescriptions. Weiss sums up:

[Berkowitz] said that Arab birth rates are a "threat" to Israel's "political sovereignty and territorial integrity" and came out for a policy aimed at curbing subsidies to large families, thereby limiting Arab birth rates in the Jewish state. It's hard not to describe this attitude as racist. Does Rudy Giuliani endorse such family-planning policies?

Yup, that would be yet another question for an enterprising campaign reporter to ask Giuliani on the trail. I nominate someone from the New York Times, which, as far as I can tell, has completely ignored the Giuliani advisers story. For now, see this American Prospect rundown and this Talking Points Memo video on the subject.

—Justin Elliott

D.C.'s Rich Get Richer (and Black Folks Get Nowhere)

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 12:33 PM PDT

If George Bush wanted to make record rates of income inequality a major legacy of his administration, he has succeeded wildly right here at home in D.C. A new study by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute shows that the nation's capital leads the country in both high poverty rates and the income gap between white and black people.

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The median income for white people in the nation's capital has skyrocketed to $92,000 in 2006, from $55,000 in 1980. (Apparently all those lobbyists here are really bumping up the numbers!). But the city's black population (nearly 70 percent of city residents) has actually seen its median income fall since 1980, by .6 percent to $34,500. D.C.'s poverty rate is the highest it's been in a decade, and the unemployment rate among black adults is at a 30-year-high. These numbers are all the more stunning when you consider how bad things were ten years ago: the District government was creeping out of bankruptcy, Marion Barry was mayor, and the Redskins has just decamped for Maryland.

The latest bump in poverty and unemployment has occurred during a time of great prosperity in the city, and it's worse than nearly every other major city in America. I can never figure out why the political establishment isn't more ashamed about this. But I guess if you can let New Orleans drown, it's not that hard to ignore the starving masses in the shadow of the White House.

State Department Security Chief Resigns over Blackwater

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 12:12 PM PDT

The AP reports:

The State Department's security chief announced his resignation on Wednesday in the wake of last month's deadly Blackwater USA shooting incident in Baghdad and growing questions about the use of private contractors in Iraq.
Richard Griffin, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, announced his decision to resign at a weekly staff meeting, according to an internal informational e-mail sent to colleagues.

Media Matters: Rudy Giuliani != John Rambo

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 11:31 AM PDT

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From the best Media Matters item ever:

In an August 23 article on former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's recent campaign swing through New Hampshire, USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence wrote: "Suffice it to say Republicans have never had a presidential candidate like this -- half Woody Allen, half Rambo and 100% cerebral."
This is the first time Media Matters for America has documented a news outlet comparing Giuliani to the fictional character John Rambo, the Medal of Honor-winning former Green Beret portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in numerous action films. However, media figures have repeatedly depicted Giuliani as a tough guy:
* On the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, MSNBC host Chris Matthews called Giuliani a "street fighter," adding, "He was there on the curb when 9-11 struck. He had soot on his face."


Read on
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A New Twist on the Old Chain Gang

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 11:23 AM PDT

Somehow this seems so wrong on so many levels...

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the corrections' department to join the state's massive effort to combat the wildfires raging around San Diego. Not only do the prisons have a bunch of fire trucks to lend to the overtaxed fire departments, but the New York Times reports that more than 2,600 inmates, trained as firefighters, are now out there fighting to save Mel Gibson's house San Diego.

Fake News from PhRMA

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 10:46 AM PDT

The pharmaceutical industry apparently isn't succeeding in its traditional PR efforts to get reporters and TV shows to say nice things about drug companies, so it's decided to create its own TV news show to get the word out. The Hill reports that former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin will be hosting "Healthcare Campfire" on Sundays in DC to put a positive spin on the industry that created Vioxx and fen-phen. The show, designed to look like any morning talk show, is actually a 30-minute infomercial paid for by Tauzin's employer, the industry group PhRMA, and will include guests like Montel Williams, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who's been flacking for PhRMA for a while now, and former White House press secretary Tony Snow. Clearly lots of people will be giving up football to tune in for this one!

Conservative Blog Bans Ron Paul Supporters

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 10:24 AM PDT

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Ron Paul can't catch a break. He gets repeatedly disrespected by the media, he gets more contributions from the military than any other Republican presidential candidate but is slimed as a defeatist, and he does well in polls but can't get taken seriously. And now conservatives are turning against him because he's ginning up too much support.

Conservative website/blog hub Redstate is banning Ron Paul supporters. Says some fascist webmaster dude named Leon: "Effective immediately, new users may *not* shill for Ron Paul in any way shape, form or fashion. Not in comments, not in diaries, nada. If your account is less than 6 months old, you can talk about something else, you can participate in the other threads and be your zany libertarian self all you want, but you cannot pimp Ron Paul."

The reason? Swear to god: Leon thinks Ron Paul supporters are actually liberals in disguise. That's just ridiculous. There are conservative supporters of Ron Paul, there are some liberal supporters of Ron Paul, and (whouda thunk it?) there are libertarian supporters of Ron Paul. In addition, there are some people who don't claim a political identity or don't follow politics regularly that have been driven to Ron Paul's minimalism by the overreach and incompetence of the Bush Administration.

But there aren't any fakers, as far as I can tell. I've met a number of earnest Ron Paul supporters, but I've never met a Hillary Clinton supporter or Barack Obama supporter who went undercover at conservative sites and pimped Ron Paul to amuse themselves or to sow chaos.

To assume that Ron Paul's support is really a bunch of liberals in disguise is a particularly odd blend of denial and paranoia. And just look at the picture above. Who is Leon kidding?

Bob Kerrey Says No to Senate Run in Nebraska; Dems Chances Dim

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 9:59 AM PDT

kerrey.jpg The Democrats' dream of a 60-vote majority in the Senate just got a lot harder to realize. Bob Kerrey, former senator from Nebraska, announced this morning that he will not come out retirement to run for the senate spot Chuck Hagel is vacating.

Without Kerrey in the race, Democrats have little hope of gaining the seat. Election tracker Charlie Cook recently told Time, "If Kerrey does run it's probably 50-50 for the Democrats. If he doesn't run probably it's 10% for the Democrats."