Blogs

Friday Don't Be a Wise Guy It's Music News Day

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 3:54 PM EST

Music News

  • 25th-anniversary edition of Michael Jackson's Thriller complete with remixes by Will.i.am and Kanye West universally panned. Whatever, this was just an excuse for me to post that creepy picture of Jackson shopping at Borders with what looks like tape holding his face together.
  • Amy Winehouse's Back to Black will likely be the biggest-selling album of the year in the UK, moving 1.5 million units so far, although reality-show star Leona Lewis may overtake her at the last minute. Yeah I have no idea who that is either.
  • Patti Smith has been hosting a podcast about the life of Bob Dylan, and everybody just noticed this, I guess. The latest edition features the Band's Garth Hudson and jazz great George Wein.
  • Moby's request for a fan to be sent to his room at a Ukranian hotel gets, erm, lost in translation, as the clerk responds that he's sorry but there are no women in the lobby. Ba-dump bam!
  • Advertise on MotherJones.com

    M.I.A., Spoon, Swizz Beats Among Shortlist Prize Nominees

    | Fri Dec. 21, 2007 3:05 PM EST

    mojo-photo-shortlist.jpgNominees for the Shortlist Prize (America's answer to the UK's Mercury Prize for best album of the year) were announced today, and there's 54 of them, so you might want to get a snack. Shortlist restricts nominees to albums that have sold less than 500,000 copies, which ain't so hard these days, but does eliminate Kanye. The nominating panel included Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol, the Killers' Ronnie Vannuccii, and KCRW DJ Chris Douridas, and after the jump, the nominees, every last one of them:

    School of Shock Staff: Just Following Orders

    | Fri Dec. 21, 2007 2:58 PM EST
    milgram_setup250.jpg

    Maia Szalavitz, who's tracked the "punishment-as-therapy" movement's origins in the discredited antidrug cult Synanon, adds an interesting historical perspective on the latest news from the Rotenberg Center, AKA the School of Shock. Over at HuffPo, she draws a parallel between the incident in which Rotenberg staffers unquestioningly shocked students at the behest of a phone call from a "prankster" to the infamous 1963 Milgram experiment, in which volunteers readily complied with orders to give simulated shocks to unseen subjects. Interestingly, the volunteers were called "teachers" while the recipients of the shocks were called "learners." Yet, as Szalavitz writes:

    In that case, the "victims" were actually actors, no real harm was done to them-- and a great ethical controversy ensued over the treatment of subjects, who had been deceived by experimenters about the nature of the research. [...]

    Here, however, poorly-trained staff inflicted serious and genuine emotional and physical pain on emotionally disordered children -- at the prompt of an anonymous caller, and outside an experimental setting!

    It all adds to the sense that Rotenberg is a nutty science experiment gone very, very wrong.

    Start Snitching, Get Killed Part II

    | Fri Dec. 21, 2007 1:52 PM EST

    Earlier this week, I wrote of the kind of witness intimidation (i.e. murder) that makes sense of the urban 'stop snitching' more, especially when you factor in that few states offer witnesses any protection at all. But you won't believe this:

    For prosecutors in New Jersey, much about the 2004 murder of Deshawn McCray was all too familiar: Yet another key witness in a major drug case had been shot dead before he could testify in court.
    But there was one aspect of the killing that especially alarmed and infuriated prosecutors. They believed that a defense lawyer — a former prosecutor — had played a role in facilitating the murder.
    The United States attorney has said that that lawyer, Paul Bergrin, relayed Mr. McCray's identity to friends of one of his clients, a gang member who was facing life in prison on drug charges. The prosecutors said he had even met with members of his client's gang in person to make clear what was at stake....
    Three months later, Mr. McCray was shot in the head by one of the gang members on a Newark street....
    ...In gang cases prosecuted in cities including Trenton, Newark and Camden, it is not unusual for a witness's statement to be photocopied within days of being turned over to the defendant's lawyer, and then be posted on telephone poles or circulated throughout the neighborhood.

    Talk about full-service:

    Chris Kelly's Hilarious Take on the Romneys and MLK

    | Fri Dec. 21, 2007 1:44 PM EST

    Wish I'd seen this when I posted this about Mitt and his Dad bravely marching (not) with MLK. Chris Kelly at the HuffPo made me snort my coffee laughing.

    "Present" but Unaccountable: Senator Obama's Illinois Voting Record

    | Fri Dec. 21, 2007 1:15 PM EST

    Yesterday, the NY Times discussed Senator Obama's penchant for using a quirk of the Illinois Statehouse to sidestep contentious issues that might jeopardize his reelection chances. Or, it's simply a device that allows legislators there to voice legitimate concerns with a bill without voting either for or against it. You decide. It's called voting "present," as opposed to yea or nay, and it's pretty confusing to figure out. Is it a dirty trick or a proof that he's a smart cookie who simply knows how to be an effective politician?

    In 1999, Barack Obama was faced with a difficult vote in the Illinois legislature — to support a bill that would let some juveniles be tried as adults, a position that risked drawing fire from African-Americans, or to oppose it, possibly undermining his image as a tough-on-crime moderate.
    In the end, Mr. Obama chose neither to vote for nor against the bill. He voted "present," effectively sidestepping the issue, an option he invoked nearly 130 times as a state senator.
    Sometimes the "present' votes were in line with instructions from Democratic leaders or because he objected to provisions in bills that he might otherwise support. At other times, Mr. Obama voted present on questions that had overwhelming bipartisan support. In at least a few cases, the issue was politically sensitive
    .

    Advertise on MotherJones.com

    Romney Lied and Lied and Lied About His Family and MLK

    | Fri Dec. 21, 2007 12:23 PM EST

    Not only did Mitt Romney lie about his father marching with MLK, he also used to claim that HE and his father did so:

    Mitt Romney went a step further in a 1978 interview with the Boston Herald. Talking about the Mormon Church and racial discrimination, he said: "My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit."

    Caught in his lie, he went all Clinton "depends on what the meaning of is is" on us:

    Romney said his father had told him he had marched with King and that he had been using the word "saw" in a "figurative sense."
    "If you look at the literature, if you look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of in the sense I've described," Romney told reporters in Iowa. "It's a figure of speech and very familiar, and it's very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort."

    Homey should have just decried the historic racism of his Mormon Church and used true examples of his, and his father's, anti-racist efforts. Unless there aren't any...

    At least now MLK will stop rolling in his grave. That is, until February when all the racists start using his Dream to prove he was opposed to actually doing anything about racism.

    Party Ben's Top Ten Albums of 2007

    | Fri Dec. 21, 2007 12:25 AM EST

    mojo-photo-rifftoptenweek.jpgI know: I have a problem. It's serious, and it's not getting better. I'm obsessed with "Best of" lists. I love them! I collect them, compare them, fold them up into little squares and rub them against my cheeks. Not that last one. But I do read a lot of them, and yes, now mine does look pretty familiar: my Top 3, at least, is a lot like everyone else's. But I swear it: these are the albums that I enjoyed the most, and felt were the most significant, of the year, and just because I kind of agree with Pitchfork, does that make me a bad person? ...Don't answer that.

    Top 10 Science Stories of 2007

    | Thu Dec. 20, 2007 10:55 PM EST

    Big year all around. Many stories that will influence the future of all life on Earth, intimating just how intimately science nowadays is tied to environmental ills, inspirations, solutions. This is not your father's science. Live Science posts an insightful top 10 of 2007, which I've taken the liberty of riffing on:

    060428_oil_rig_hf.jpg

    #10 Peak Oil: A new study this year predicts that global oil production could peak as soon as 2008, and likely before 2018.

    070225_antarctic_octopus_hf.jpg

    #9 Antarctica: A host of surprises this year. Satellite lasers detect a series of...

    Al-Qaeda's Number 2 Answers Journalists

    | Thu Dec. 20, 2007 10:10 PM EST

    Zawari%202.jpg

    Al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgent groups are known for their media savvy. Several of them have sophisticated multi-media websites complete with videos, news updates, and manifestos in English. The Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI) for example, has a "reporter" who posts "special films" and "unique releases."

    But Al Qaeda has decided to try something new: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, will answer written questions from "individuals, agencies and all information media outlets" in an "open meeting" before January 16: "Anyone who would like to ask him a question must be concise and precise," said a press statement quoted in Al Jazeera. Al Zawahiri promises to respond "as much as he is able and at the soonest possible occasion."

    This is a break from the past. Usually, its' a one way street —bin Laden and Zawahiri issue their communiqués, and journalists are left to dissect minute details, such as how bin Laden was "looking fit with a full beard of dark black hair, no gray at all." So what gives? Maybe by going interactive Zawahiri hopes to build credibility and accountability. Is Al Qaeda engaging in its own brand of psyops to win hearts and minds?

    The war of ideas continues.

    — Neha Inamdar