Blogs

Blackwater Tosses Local Reporters From Town Meeting

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 11:37 AM EDT

Blackwater USA likes to think of itself as a good neighbor. Last Thursday evening, the company hosted a community meeting at its 7,000-acre compound in Moyock, North Carolina. The twice annual event, organized by Blackwater President Gary Jackson, is meant to update neighbors about the firm's activities and allow local citizens to air complaints about Blackwater's impact on the surrounding community.

Sounds great, right? Well, in typical Blackwater fashion, the meeting—which focused solely on hyper-local issues like noise pollution and traffic congestion—was closed to reporters. No national security-related topics were discussed, nor were the company's activities in Iraq, but nevertheless reporters from Norfolk television station WTKR were turned away at the compound's front gate. According to a report on WTKR's website, several local citizens were also given the boot "because they did not live in neighborhoods next door to Blackwater." Blackwater reportedly publicized the meeting with a small advertisement in several local newspapers. Responding to criticism that it did not do enough to encourage local turnout, the company has pledged to advertise future meetings more aggressively.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Pirates, Somali Territory, and Hijacked Benzene on the Golden Mori

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 12:56 AM EDT

When will the presidential candidate stop dodging the issue of piracy on the high seas? We need to know how they will deal with situations like this.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 10/29/07

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 11:58 PM EDT

This week, psychedelic space-rock reunions and retro Brazilian romps, plus a soul singer does her best King of Pop impression and a troubled pop princess gets a mashup makeover. Look at all that alliteration, it's like Top Ten tonguetwisters. What?

10. Mary J Blige – "Just Fine" (from Growing Pains out 12/11 on Geffen)
Justin Timberlake's whole career is predicated on a post-Michael Jackson equation, i.e.: people want soulful dance-pop, and they're tired of waiting for Jacko to provide it, so they'll take an imitation. Well, now Blige is stepping up to the MJ plate, aiming right for Off the Wall-era disco-lite. She vamps and struts over a backing track that's uptempo yet delicate, with an acoustic guitar and keyboard filigrees that are oddly reminiscent of Steely Dan's "Peg." Did I mention it's good?

9. Blue States – "Allies" (from First Steps Into… on Memphis Industries)
The UK producer (otherwise known as Andy Dragazis) is known for his Vangelis-style electronic swirls, and this track is appropriately dreamy. The video, on the other hand, is a somewhat disturbing look at how the random little details in our daily lives could bring about drastically different conclusions. Don't drop your keys!!

8. Reminiscing about seeing Daft Punk in concert
…by watching really awesome videos like this one below or a full-length (if pretty shaky) video of their entire set at this weekend's Vegoose festival. Human! Robot! Anyway, if you missed them, sorry.

Blonde Redhead7. Blonde Redhead – Live at the Warfield, San Francisco, 10/24/07
I'm not sure how Blonde Redhead do it. In order to replicate the full, multi-instrumental sound of their albums, the three-piece must be using some sort of tape in concert. Sounds of pianos and backing vocals show up without physical manifestations thereof, and oddly, it adds to the general otherworldliness of their live experience. The band's newer material is almost "shoegaze"-level fuzzy, but their edgy, unusual songwriting adds a strangely retro feel, as though you're watching an old Italian movie.

6. Black Dice – "Kokomo" (from Load Blown on Paw Tracks)
It's nice to see this freaky Brooklyn combo have calmed down enough that you can actually make out individual notes in their songs, but this isn't going to the top of any hit parades anytime soon. Just sit back and remember your tripped-out college days, when a throbbing bassline and random, surreal images of Froot Loops commercials and freaky patterns would have totally made your Monday.

Does Obama Need a New Issue to Catch Clinton?

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 7:41 PM EDT

obama_clinton.jpg

Over at the Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum is arguing that the only thing that is going to pull Barack Obama even with Hillary Clinton is a brand new issue that catches Clinton off-guard. Obama's current plan of intensifying his attacks on Clinton, within the realm of commonly discussed issues, isn't going to work because, in Drum's words, there's "no there there." That is, the differences between Obama and Clinton aren't substantial enough to get anyone excited.

So what does Drum suggest? "Propose that the United States unilaterally offer to reopen its embassy in Tehran. Ditto for Cuba and North Korea." Or, "Propose a specific list of Bush administration executive orders that he would rescind." The first would get Obama killed by every Democratic contender, TV pundit, and foreign policy establishment wonk. The legitimacy of those three groups aside, the gain here is dubious and the price is simply too heavy. The second idea is a darn good one, and I wouldn't be surprised if all the Democratic candidates do something similar in time.

Rudy and Authoritarianism

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

This New Republic article on the origins of Rudy Giuliani's authoritarian instincts (hint: it developed long before he met the near-fascists he calls his foreign policy advisers), has a passage that strongly suggests America's Mayor is really George Bush Lite. Check it out:

Giuliani's seemingly insatiable appetite for authority was evident, first and foremost, in the way he ran his administration. Obsessed, as always, with loyalty, he demanded that power be centralized in his hands and that he receive credit for any of the administration's achievements. Even the Department of Environmental Protection's daily reports on the water level in the reservoir had to be cleared through Giuliani's press office before being released. He also replaced Dinkins-era officials with loyalists, some of whom had little preparation for their jobs. Tony Carbonetti, the grandson of Harold Giuliani's friend, was put in charge of the Office of Appointments, even though his previous experience consisted mostly of running a bar in Boston. According to Kirtzman, "one agency estimated that, of patronage hires, 60 percent were qualified, 20 percent had no experience, and 20 percent were 'dirtbags.' "

Placing loyalty above merit? Check and check. Unqualified losers that lack qualifications in high-level positions? Check. Altering scientific reports for political ends? Check.

The Rise and Fall of Lyndon LaRouche

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 6:05 PM EDT

larouche.jpg If you've always been confused by the Lyndon LaRouche supporters who hand you pamphlets when you coming out of the subway (anyway subway in America, it feels), you should check out Avi Klein's article in the Washington Monthly. Those pamphlets, for many decades, have been the lifeblood of a bizarre movement that has been as ineffective as it has been tenacious.

In the almost forty years since its inception, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in operations and annually printing millions of books and magazines, the LaRouche operation has had no significant effect on American politics. It is remarkable in its impotence.
Despite the unrelenting loyalty of his followers, LaRouche has never come remotely close to being elected president. In fact, no LaRouche cadre has been elected to office at any level higher than school board. Nor have his economic theories attained any kind of recognition. The LaRouche-Riemann Method, an economic model that LaRouche calls "the most accurate method of economic forecasting in existence," has gone unnoticed by the social science indexes. Many former members admit to not understanding it.
In one perverse way, of course, the movement did work. For thirty years, Ken Kronberg printed, and all the other members edited and distributed, everything that LaRouche wrote, whether anybody understood it or not. If, in the late hours of the night, LaRouche determined that 50,000 copies of his latest essay on the Treaty of Westphalia needed to be distributed around the country, his followers did their best to oblige.

But no longer. The LaRouche movement is on its last legs. The 2008 election will be the first in 32 years in which LaRouche does not run for president. Share your LaRouche stories in the comments.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

NY Times: Rockers Celebrate Brand Awareness

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 5:24 PM EDT

mojo-photo-gnrcandle.jpgHere on the Riff, we've covered the thorny issue of putting your music in commercials (with commenters coming down pretty evenly split, if I'm reading their incoherent ramblings correctly), but today's Times goes straight for the top: Duff McKagan, formerly of Guns N' Roses, currently of Velvet Revolver, and business school graduate. The Times kind of rubs in that the dude is 43:

Like other rockers easing into middle age or seniorhood, Mr. McKagan is also experimenting with new partnerships in response to a music business in flux. Amid plunging record sales and Internet file sharing, rockers are eagerly plastering their names everywhere. Their "brands" are now found in television commercials, tour sponsorships, and merchandise as diverse as cars, private-label wines and celebrity cruises.

"Seniorhood"? Ouch. The article brings up more aging rockers who have left their youthful anti-commercial ideals behind: The Stones (Budweiser!), Paul McCartney (Starbucks!), Sting (Jaguar!). Why is everybody shilling for The Man? Because nobody's buying records:

All of this has been set in motion by a well-known reality: record sales "fell off a cliff," says Jonathan Daniel, a former musician and now a partner at Crush, a management company that represents such bands as Panic! at The Disco and Fall Out Boy. Shipments of CDs were $9.16 billion in 2006, down 31 percent from their peak of $13.21 billion in 2000, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy: the Beatles and Stones of our generation.

From Gmail to Global Warming Skeptics (With a Single Click)

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 4:02 PM EDT

global%20warming.jpgUpon logging into my Gmail account this morning, what should I find in the "sponsored link" spot above my inbox but the following message:

"Global warming is not a crisis! Gore won't debate."

Intrigued, I clicked on the link and found myself at the website of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank whose mission is "to discover and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems."

WTF? ExxonMobil Funds Research - By An Astrophysicist - On Polar Bears And Climate Change

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 3:22 PM EDT

792px-Polar_Bear_2004-11-15.jpg

The House Committee on Science and Technology is examining ExxonMobil's motives for funding research by an astrophysicist into the impact of climate change on the polar bear population of western Hudson Bay in Canada. New Scientist reports that if polar bears are listed under the Endangered Species Act, steps to protect their habitat could directly hurt ExxonMobil's economic interests:

The researchers, including Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, published their findings as a "viewpoint", which is not peer-reviewed. They conclude that the polar bears are not threatened by climate change (Ecological Complexity, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecocom.2007.03.002). "It's hard to see this article as rigorous, sound science," [subcommittee chair Brad] Miller says. "The public has a right to know why ExxonMobil is funding a scientist whose writing is outside his area of expertise." . . . ExxonMobil denied its funding was motivated by political interests.

Really.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Has Oil Peaked Already?

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 2:59 PM EDT

1449449901_304d12978c_m.jpg According to the German Energy Watch Group, world oil production peaked in 2006, far earlier than expected. The nonprofit's scientists, working independently of government and industry, analyzed oil production figures and predicted it would fall by 7 percent a year, dropping to half of current levels by 2030. The report also predicts falls in gas, coal and uranium production, and warns that supply shortages could cause meltdowns in human society.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.