I mentioned a few days back that the Democratic House leadership skipped YearlyKos in order to pass a sweeping energy bill. I would be remiss not to point you to some details of the legislation. Here's a news story on the bill, here's an in-depth summary from Nancy Pelosi's website, and here's the bill's actual text in pdf form.
A story by Dan Eggen in this morning's Washington Post notes that the FBI has abandoned its time-worn policy of automatically disqualifying job applicants who have used drugs. According to the Post:
Old guidelines barred FBI employment to anyone who had used marijuana more than 15 times in their lives or who had tried other illegal narcotics more than five times.
But those strict numbers no longer apply. Applicants for jobs such as analysts, programmers or special agents must still swear that they have not used any illegal substances recently -- three years for marijuana and 10 years for other drugs -- but they are no longer ruled out of consideration because of more frequent drug use in the past...
FBI officials say the move is simply an acknowledgment of reality in a country where, according to some estimates, up to a third of the population has tried marijuana at some point.
Even with its relaxed standards, the FBI remains tougher on former drug users than other federal agencies, most notably the CIA. Those wishing to work for "the Company" are evaluated holistically, "with any history of illegal drug use being one factor considered in a careful assessment process," according to CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano.
Do you use factcheck.org? You should. Its mission is to... well, its mission is in its title. Here's what it had to say about the Republican debate (the millionth debate, right? Or the millionth and one?) that occurred on Sunday.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney falsely claimed U.S. job growth had been nearly 17 times faster than Europe's. Actually, European Union employment grew faster than that of the U.S. last year. Romney's source for the information told FactCheck.org that he himself would no longer use the figures.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused Democratic candidates of "appeasement" toward Islamic terrorists. In fact, leading Democratic candidates have spoken out strongly against terrorism.
Sen. John McCain claimed American families spend $140 billion of their income preparing federal income tax returns. We find no support for that figure, which the Internal Revenue Service puts at $19 billion.
Rep. Tom Tancredo claimed illegal immigrants "are taking a large part of our health care dollars." But the independent Rand Corp. estimates that undocumented immigrants account for 1.5 percent of health care spending or less.
The site follows these summaries with longer and more substantive debunkings of the candidates' claims. And, as it turns out factcheck.org has hit the Republicans before and even chided the Democrats. Must-read material after any debate, I would say.
This morning I was among a lucky few DC subway commuters to receive a bundle of safety information from a Metro representative. It included an "Emergency Guide," published by the Washington Post several years ago, several pamphlets detailing what to do in the event of a terrorist attack on the subway, and (my favorite) a pocket-size first aid kit, complete with Band-Aids, antiseptic towelettes, and antibiotic ointment. Now I'm ready for anything!! I suppose it makes sense to raise "awareness," but, geesh, reading the literature does remind you how screwed you'd be if you got stuck in one of those tunnels with a cloud of Sarin. Whatever you do, I guess you shouldn't leave the train car. As the Emergency Guide warns:
Seen through the windows of a speeding train, a Metrorail tunnel is little more than a blur of blackness and lights. Outside the train, on foot, it's a complex and treacherous place, riddled with hazards that can cause injury or instant death.
10. Hard-Fi "Suburban Knights" (from Once Upon a Time in the West, out 9/3 in the UK, US release date TBD)
(video on YouTube, stream at MySpace)
So, we established the cover art is silly, but it turns out the music isn't bad at all. With its jaunty ska-inflected rhythm and sing-along background vocals ("Hey-ey-ey! Ho-oh-oh!"), it's even more raucous than "Hard to Beat," the high point on the UK combo's 2005 debut.
9. Brother and Sister "Awesome With My Life" video (or, listen without video on their MySpace)
Minneapolis duo Michael and Katie Gaughan (yes, actual bro and sis) make a joyful noise, and apparently are famous around the Cities for unconventional concerts at aquatic parks and jails. Like a kid-friendly "Take the Skinheads Bowling" or "Bitchin' Camaro" for a new generation, this track makes me want to, well, do something awesome with my life. Anybody got any idea how to do that?
8. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings "100 Days 100 Nights"
(listen on their MySpace here)
Half the fun of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" is the precise backing band, and it turns out they do their own thing too. The Brooklyn combo's horn-based R&B is definitely retro, but somehow it still feels fresh. The record release party is October 2nd at the Apollo in Harlem, how awesome will that be?
7. Architecture in Helsinki "Heart it Races" (from Places Like This, out August 21st on Polyvinyl)
(mp3 via Hate Something Beautiful)
This Melbourne, Australia combo gained an extensive blog following with their quirky 2005 sophomore release, In Case We Die; they've since shed a couple members, and their new sound is a little more focused (and, weirdly, a lot like M.I.A.'s "Galang").
6. Feist "My Moon My Man" (from The Reminder on Interscope)
(listen at her MySpace)
Party Ben: a little slow on the uptake with this one. The first single, "1234," was nice enough, but put me off with its Gap-ad-reminiscent video; ironically enough, it took an inescapable cell phone commercial to remind me of this song's hypnotic vocals and shiver-inducing guitar line. Call me a flip-flopper.
Former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori might once again escape the law. For the last year, Peruvian authorities have sought Fujimori's extradition from Chile for human rights abuses he oversaw during the 1990s, but it's not looking good. A Chilean judge denied Peru's extradition request last month. Peru, of course, immediately appealed the decision. And Peruvians living in Chile also filed separate criminal charges hoping to tie up Fujimori in the courts rather than allowing him to flee should Peru's appeal fall through.
The South American strongman seems to always be escaping the law. In 2000, a corruption scandal forced Fujimori to flee Peru allowing the South American nation to confront Fujimori's human rights violations with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to South Africa's. Meanwhile, Fujimori's Japanese descent afforded him safe exile in Japan from where he faxed in his resignation. During his exile, international arrest warrants building on the commission's findings were issued by Interpol and Peru. But despite the possibility of capture, Fujimori attempted to slip back into Peru via Chile in 2005. And to run for president, no less. Chilean authorities apprehended him as the two countries have an extradition treaty.
But last month, a Chilean Judge turned down Peru's request. Seemingly as a last resort, Peruvian ex-pats filed the new criminal charges, although, to no avail. Last week, the charges were quickly dismissed and it looks as if Chile's supreme court could take three or more months to decide Fujimori's fate. Without new charges, or some other divine hand, it looks like Fujimori might be back in Japan for Christmas.
The States, a palatable New York-based, indy/pop/punk/rock band, don't exactly get my angsty, political blood boiling, but they do get bonus points for writing a song about former high-powered Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff on their latest album, The Path of Least Resistance.
Abramoff, who was at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation including fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy, gets criticized in the song "Black Jack" by The States. "How are you gonna tell your son that the game is over, that your hand is busted," they say in the song. Ouch!
Karl Rove doesn't get off too easy on the album, either. In the song "The Architect," The States criticize Rove and the Bush Administration with the lines "You can build where you don't belong if you are cautious Liberty is such a bitch, yeah, when you force it."
The only problem is that their well-polished hipster cool image and over-produced tracks make the band and their new album feel too safe for me. As a result, they don't feel very rebellious or dangerous, so their bark feels louder than their bite.
Singer/songwriter Lee Hazlewood died Saturday in Henderson, Nevada, losing a three-year battle with kidney cancer. While Hazlewood had his own label and musical career, he was best known for penning tracks for Nancy Sinatra, especially "These Boots Are Made for Walking" and "Some Velvet Morning," on which he also sang. "Morning" is one of the weirder tracks to ever hit the Top 30 (reaching #26 on the Billboard charts in 1967)a reverby mix of country and psychedelia that's notable for its alternating 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, whose accelerating back-and-forth provides the song's disorienting climax. The lyrics' open admission of substance use ("some velvet morning when I'm straight") made it a counter-cultural touchstone, and it's since been covered by artists from Slowdive and Primal Scream to Lydia Lunch and Vanilla Fudge.