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Def Leppard Still Shirtless, Awesome

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 6:04 PM PDT
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The question pretty much answers itself, but in case you're wondering if seeing Styx, Foreigner, and Def Leppard together in one venue on one night might equal the concert-going experience of your lifetime, I can confirm: hell yes it does.

Okay, so it's kind of like a live, much more expensive version of the jukebox in your favorite bar, but after Styx played "Renegade" during their encore, my roommate was so, so right when she said, "That alone was worth the cost of the ticket," and I dare anyone else on that sold-out lawn to disagree. And yes, Foreigner is basically a cover band anymore, what with only the original guitarist still around, but when the former lead singer of Hurricane (na na na na na na, I'm on to you) does his best Lou Gramm impression in really tight pants through a set of every Foreigner classic you could think of requesting, you don't really care, even if you're an unironic Foreigner fan who's seen them in concert with the old lineup intact.

We weren't that interested in Def Leppard—who were headlining—going into it, but they played a long, rocking greatest hits list, and both their guitar players are disconcertingly buff and topless, and they've got a bass player whose every not-so-dramatic costume change came with a new correspondingly coordinated single fingerless glove. (I love you, Rick "Sav" Savage!) The above elements plus beer plus yelling the words to "Pour Some Sugar on Me" along with several thousand middle-aged white women and beefy dudes in sleeveless T-shirts pretty much equals the best Tuesday night ever.

Unless you happen to live near one of the four remaining tour stops, you probably won't get to experience a slice of this three-tiered rock cake yourself. At least this year. The bands tour pretty regularly, and if the onstage antics of their spry front men (picture lots of senseless running to and fro) are any indication, they'll be up to it again soon. If you're lucky.

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Supreme Court Enters the Lethal Injection Debate

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 5:26 PM PDT

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court began chipping away at capital punishment when it put a stop to executing mentally retarded people. Since then, it has ruled that sentencing juveniles to death is also unconstitutional, and today it decided it will review the hot button topic of lethal injection. So that's good news; the end of capital punishment must be near. Well, not so fast. What today's action and the landmark rulings over the past five years have done is to legitimize the practice, not end it. As long as we're not killing kids and people with an IQ of 50, then the death penalty doesn't seem all that wrong, right?

At the heart of the public debate surrounding lethal injection are the three chemicals used. The first one anesthetizes the individual, the second paralyzes him, and the third sets off a massive cardiac arrest. The sole purpose of the paralyzing agent is to mask a botched execution should the anesthesia not work, leading to a deceivingly peaceful death. But the court is unlikely to address this troubling issue and determine whether lethal injection is inhumane or even mandate a new deadly mix. Instead, it's likely to simply establish the standard by which lethal injection qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. That way states can make the proper adjustments to their execution protocols, and get back to the business of executing people. "It will clarify what the rules are, but it is unlikely to answer the question once and for all of whether lethal injection is unconstitutional," says Ty Alper, associate director of the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley's law school, which prepares its future lawyers to tackle capital punishment cases.

If nothing else, the Court's decision to review the issue will almost certainly halt all executions until a ruling is made. Oral arguments are scheduled for January.

—Celia Perry

Culver City: Where Dub Meets Lounge

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 4:53 PM PDT
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Anyone else remember all the cruddy bands nationwide that tried to play reggae-influenced music in the 90s? Well, I do. Thankfully, the Culver City Dub Collective, a group whose members were in some of those bands, is doing its best to not have us relive that era.

The group's 2007 debut CD Dos is unique, creative, well-produced, and played by a handful of talented musicians. There is definitely some reggae music here that is slick, tasteful, and very "dub" (so, plenty of heavy echo and reverb, thick bass lines, and more space for one or two isolated sounds to resonate), but the southern California group's name is misleading because they don't just play dub reggae. The Culver City Dub Collective mixes Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz, lounge, and folk with its reggae sounds; which is obviously not a new idea in music, but this group mixes its genres with skill and flair.

"No More My Love" is a straight-up Brazilian, bossa nova-inspired track along the lines of "Girl From Ipanema" and Jack Johnson's surf-folk vocals on "Crying Shame" make the song feel suitable for a beach blanket party circa 2007. "Eloise (Baghdad mix)" pairs Middle Eastern-sounding chord progressions (think gypsy music) with a bouncy, reggae- and hip-hop-inspired drum beat while "Waltz for Tomahawk" mixes lofty, John Coltrane-inspired saxophone riffs with enough dark undertones and atmospheric horn accents to make it perfect for a Noir film score.

It's no surprise The Collective has diverse sounds; it has a vast lineup of guest musicians, not all of which have a history of playing reggae. Ben Harper, Beastie Boys keyboardist Money Mark, original Jane's Addiction bass player Eric Avery, and Jump With Joey leader Joey Altruda all sit in. This roundup of mostly Southern Californian musicians are not just having fun with a genre, they're contributing new ideas to it.

Congressional Hip-Hop Hearings Not as Fun as PMRC Hearings

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 2:08 PM PDT

Bad CEO!

Rappers and music executives gave testimony today at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on "stereotypes and degrading images" in hip-hop music. Attendees were treated to a guilt-wracked Master P ("I just made the music that I feel, not realizing I'm affecting kids for tomorrow") and a mildly irritated David Banner ("If... hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present"), along with slimy CEOs, none of whom seem to have ever seen Martin Short's old Nathan Thrum sketches. Mostly, though, the hearings were about Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who managed to corral all the execs to his little show, proving that despite his liberal credentials (a former Black Panther!) he can exploit fear of art with the best of the conservatives, tossing in some accusations of damaging the black community for added liberal guilt. We've covered this here before, so let's let Patrick Goldstein in the LA Times point out the trouble with all this:

If I could print a batch of current hip-hop lyrics -- which I can't, because my newspaper has its own standards about offensive language -- most of us could probably agree that much of the language is abhorrent. But it isn't so easy to find a consensus about the next step -- what to do about it? It's one thing to nod your head in agreement when a silver-tongued talk-show host advocates getting rid of all that insulting language until you start to wonder: Who's in charge of defining what's degrading and how far are they going to take it?

Bingo. Well, since nothing ever comes of these types of hearings but some temporary anxiety, you can at least appreciate them for the entertainment value, and in that regard, "Imus to Industry" doesn't hold a candle to the PMRC hearings. It was 22 years ago last week when the videos for "Hot for Teacher" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" were shown in our government's hallowed chambers, and Frank Zappa put on a suit to come and rip the committee a new one, saying:

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design.

Even the late, great John Denver surprised committee members by siding with the metalheads, saying censors often misinterpret music (like his "Rocky Mountain High") and that censorship backfires:

That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting. Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.

Of course, the House Un-American Activities Committee, now that was good times. Kids these days just don't know how to throw a hearing.

When the Gales of November Turn Balmy

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 12:28 PM PDT

Lake Superior, one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water, is not only at its shallowest point in 81 years, it's also warming at twice the rate of the air around it, according to an interesting story in the October issue of Minnesota Monthly. The piece quotes scientist Jay Austin, of the Large Lakes Observatory in Duluth, who says average water temperatures have increased 4.5 degrees since 1979. He relates the change to a significant decline in winter ice cover, which ordinarily reflects heat-making sunlight back toward the sky. The ice decline is, it seems, related to global warming.

With the lake's summer season lengthening from 130 to 160 days, some sections of water recently reached a balmy 75 degrees (barely breaking 60 is more the norm). A warmer Lake Superior could mean dramatic changes in aquatic-life, and could open the door to dread invaders like sea lampreys and Quagga mussels. On the brighter side, with a lessening of Superior's bone-chilling "lake effect," Duluth, perhaps, will no longer be known as "the air-conditioned city."

Austin explains that it's hard to anticipate exactly how Superior will change in the coming decades. Predicting the effects of global warming, he says, is "like turning all these knobs at the same time. It's anyone's guess whether Lake Superior will turn into a big bass-fishing lake or a big desert."

"Stop Hillary Clinton" Now the Largest Political Facebook Group

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 12:06 PM PDT

It's Facebook day here on MoJoBlog! The two posts we've had about it today (here's the first) may be two more than we've ever had.

Here's the occasion for the second post: The candidate-based Facebook group that had the most members for many, many months — "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)" — has finally been topped. And it's been topped by Hillary Clinton, but not in a good way for the New York senator.

The group "Stop Hillary Clinton (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary)" has more than 418,000 members, which beats Obama's 355,000 members. And it crushes any pro-Clinton groups, the two biggest of which combine for just under 10,000 members.

So Hillary Fever isn't catching on with the kids. Obama's campaign is very aware of the advantage it has among this demographic, and has made it a crucial part of its Iowa strategy. From an internal Obama campaign memo that Marc Ambinder nabbed:

On a related point, polls consistently under-represent in Iowa, and elsewhere, the strength of Barack's support among younger voters for at least three reasons. In more than one survey, Barack's support among Iowa young voters exceeded the support of all the other candidates combined. First, young voters are dramatically less likely to have caucused or voted regularly in primaries in the past, so pollsters heavily under-represent them. Second, young voters are more mobile and are much less likely to be at home in the early evening and thus less likely to be interviewed in any survey. Third, young voters are much less likely to have a landline phone and much more likely to rely exclusively upon cell phones, which are automatically excluded from phone surveys. So all of these state and national surveys have and will continue to under-represent Barack's core support – in effect, his hidden vote in each of these pivotal early states.

Update: It was Rudy Giuliani's daughter's membership in the Barack Obama Facebook group mentioned above that tipped the media to the fact that she disagrees with her dad's politics.

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Chiquita Banana: Tales of "The Octopus"

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 11:52 AM PDT

You may have read here (and here) before about U.S. corporations' shady dealings with Colombian paramilitaries. The next issue of Virginia Quarterly Review (edited by Mother Jones' contributing writer Ted Genoways) includes an excellent piece by Philip Robertson on Chiquita's dark history in the Colombian banana business. The new VQR doesn't come out until next week, but you can read an electronic version of Robertson's piece here.

Laura Dern as Katherine Harris?

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 10:46 AM PDT

Can it be? Variety reports that Laura Dern will don heavy make up and big hair to portray the former Florida Secretary of State in an HBO movie about the 2000 Florida recount debacle. Harris should be flattered by the choice. Gore campaign lawyer David Boies didn't fare so well. He'll be played by Ed Begley Jr., but HBO did show some inside-the-beltway savvy in casting hunky Denis Leary as the Democrats' little known get-out-the-vote genius Michael Whouley. The film is scheduled to air smack in the middle of the presidential campaign next fall.

(H/T Washington City Paper)

Maliki: I Can Be as Batty as the Battiest Middle Eastern Leader!

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 8:43 AM PDT

This is about as dumb as ol' Mahmoud's claim that there are no gays in Iran.

Civil war has been averted in Iraq and Iranian intervention there has "ceased to exist," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said yesterday.

From the Post.

Casualties Chart From DOD Shows Iraq Deaths Continue Unabated

| Tue Sep. 25, 2007 8:26 AM PDT

I cannot believe Petraeus was able to go before Congress and completely shift the debate by claiming sectarian violence is down in Iraq, without his phony methodology being revealed or the true number of civilian casualties in Iraq being exposed. This is a chart from the Department of Defense, conveniently released after Petraeus' big moment was over. Click the chart for a larger version.

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If the American people looked at this chart, there is simply no way they would believe the war is getting better and deserves more time.

(H/T Atrios)

Update: The man in charge of counting casualties for the military, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Macomber, tells the Washington Post that these statistics are an inexact science:

"Everybody has their own way of doing it," Macomber said of his sectarian analyses. "If you and I . . . pulled from the same database, and I pulled one day and you pulled the next, we would have totally different numbers."

So someone looking to push an agenda would have a pretty easy time...