Blogs

All I Want for Christmas is a Biodiesel Hummer. No, Really.

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 9:20 PM EDT

Think there are no real inventors anymore? That would be news to Johnathan Goodwin, proud creator of the world's most fuel-efficient Hummer.

By combining biodiesel and hybrid technology and reconfiguring engines, Goodwin can double the fuel efficiency of a number of giant American cars and nearly eliminate their emissions, using almost nothing but stock GM parts (OK, and the occasional jet engine). He's currently working on the Governator's 1987 Wagoneer, and is slated to overhaul Neil Young's 1960 Lincoln Continental.

As for the country's decaying car capital, Goodwin has little sympathy, pointing out that "Detroit could do all this stuff overnight if it wanted to."

—Casey Miner

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Breaking: Supreme Court Halts Execution in Mississippi

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 8:27 PM EDT

Today seven justices voted to postpone the execution of Mississippi death-row inmate Earl Wesley Berry, with Justices Scalia and Alito dissenting (predictably). This move sets the stage for what could be a national moratorium on the death penalty until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of lethal injection next year.

—Celia Perry

Clear Channel Bans New Bruce?

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 7:16 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nobruce.jpgBlogs are atwitter with the news that Clear Channel radio, famous for issuing company wide no-play edicts, has apparently issued another. But this time it's against The Boss, and that's even got Fox News upset:

Bruce Springsteen should be very happy. He has the No. 1 album, a possible Grammy for Best Album of the Year for "Magic," an album full of singles and a sold-out concert tour. Alas, there's a hitch: Radio will not play "Magic." In fact, sources tell me that Clear Channel has sent an edict to its classic rock stations not to play tracks from "Magic." But it's OK to play old Springsteen tracks such as "Dancing in the Dark," "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA."

While Bruce's left-leaning politics bring up memories of the recent blacklisting of the Dixie Chicks, I'm not entirely sure about this. First of all, "sources" say the memo was sent out to classic rock stations, which by definition are stations that play old music. We don't really have a classic rock station in San Francisco, but a quick look at San Diego's 101 KGB, "The Classic Rock Experience," shows their most played songs are "Ballroom Blitz," "White Room," "Rock & Roll All Night," and "Good Times Roll." Not even the rockingest of current rock jams are breaking through into the classic rock pantheon, to say nothing of stuff that sounds a lot like the Magnetic Fields. Clear Channel are probably reminding programmers that just because a standard classic rock artist has new songs, that doesn't mean they fit on the playlist.

This is of course not to defend radio, which at this point is kind of like a nearly deserted mall in a depressed Midwestern suburb: the last remaining stores are mostly selling trash. However, the Fox News article is mistaken on one point: it says tracks from Magic are "not being played on any radio stations, according to Radio & Records, which monitors such things. Nothing." Not true: in fact, "Radio Nowhere" is down from #2 to #3 this week on the Triple A National Airplay chart at Radio & Records, just behind Snow Patrol and KT Tunstall, and just ahead of Spoon. Triple-A radio's snowy-white "adult" brand usually annoys me, but that's not a bad Top 4, and people worried about Bruce not getting airplay should just change the station.

Trumping Bush's Troop Card

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 5:40 PM EDT

We have more vets every day, and, when this endless war finally peters to a close, we'll have even more ex-troops, and many of them will be uninsured. A new study, which will appear in December's American Journal for Public Health, finds that nearly 2 million veterans (12.7 percent of non-elderly vets) were uninsured and ineligible for VA care in 2004, up 290,000 since 2000. An additional 3.8 million members of their households were also uninsured and ineligible for Veterans Affairs services.

Other findings:

(Not So) Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 3:00 PM EDT

UK electro duo Simian Mobile Disco are pretty darn good, and their now-oldish track "Hustler" is one of the best songs on their new album, Attack Decay Sustain Release. Its dark breakbeat backing is combined with a repetitive, stream-of-consciousness rap about being too broke to buy records and stealing them instead. It already had a pretty good (if eyebrow-raising) video featuring a circle of hipster girls whose game of "secret" turns into a makeout session, but for some reason the band (or their label) decided that wasn't exploitative enough. Now we get a new video featuring dancing models who, er, binge and purge, in Technicolor:

And if David Duke Could Sing Like Donnie McClurkin?

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:54 PM EDT

If you want to hear what Donnie McClurkin said at the Obama rally this weekend, here it is. Let's hope he's a better singer than theologian. Given the backlash, what can be the meaning of allowing him to repeat his controversial message?

I've been waiting for thoughtfully ardent gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan to weigh in on all this but he hasn't seemed very exercised about. Here's his lengthiest statement to date on the subject:

To my mind, this isn't ultimately about the difficulty of forging any kind of alliance between gays and African-Americans. It is the inherent danger of mixing religion with politics. That's called Christianism. Some of us have not spent the last few years trying to rescue conservatism from the toxin of theocracy only to support a candidate who wants to do the same thing on the left. I don't think Obama wants to go that far; I still believe that broadly speaking, his is the only major candidacy right now that offers the kind of change we need. But what happened on that stage was inexcusable, stupid, and damaging. I don't blame any gay American for jumping the Obama ship over it.

I think the salient issue is a black hyper-religiosity which gets a pass on its anti-intellectualism (even for something a-rational), hypocrisy, misogyny, and bigotry, all things we looked to Obama, the thinking person's black Protestant, to confront. There was a time, not so long ago, when he was going to show liberal Dems how to reclaim religion for the left:

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There's Hillary

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:25 PM EDT

As I noted minutes ago, this morning Barack Obama declared his opposition to Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general. Then John Edwards quickly did the same. Though Clinton, through a spokesperson, had recently said she was troubled by Mukasey's statements on torture and executive power, she had stopped short of saying she would vote against him. The question I posed in the previous posting was this: could Hillary Clinton be far behind? The answer turns out to be, no. At mid-day, Clinton announced she will vote against George Bush's A.G. pick. It's another sign that Clinton will not give an inch—or an hour—to her opponents.

Tuesday Coos, "Music News Day"

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:24 PM EDT

News

  • Dead Elvis knocks dead Kurt Cobain out of the top spot on Forbes' list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. Actually Kurt drops out of the Top 12 entirely. Other late musicians on the list include John Lennon (#2), George Harrison (#4), Tupac Shakur (#8), James Brown (#11), and Bob Marley (#12).

  • Rapper Nas defends his decision to call his upcoming album the N-word (which I typed once in the last story and now I just feel too queasy about it to do it again) in a convoluted statement connecting Barack Obama's presidential run to the recent spate of noose-related hate crimes. "It's probably going to make people uncomfortable," he says about the album's title. You think?
  • Arcade Fire's Win Butler responds to Sasha Frere-Jones' New Yorker article pointing out the band's, er, "whiteness." Butler begins with a serious discussion of Arcade Fire's musical heritage, but once he correctly points out that American music is already so racially mixed-up it's hard to tell what's what any more, he seems to realize what the rest of us have as well: Sasha Frere-Jones is kind of crazy, and why are we spending any time worrying about this?
  • Blog Brooklyn Vegan collects pictures of this year's hot Halloween costume (something you've already noticed if you went out at all over the weekend): Amy Winehouse. Fine, but jeez, ladies (and gentlemen): at least have someone else draw the tattoos on your arms so it doesn't look like the scribblings of a 5-year-old.
  • A Junket by Any Other Name..

    | Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:12 PM EDT

    200px-Mike_Leavitt.jpg So HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt is heading off to Switzerland and the Netherlands next week to learn more about those countries' health care systems, which have been widely touted as a model for what we might do in the U.S. Of course, Bush administration officials tell the New York Times that they have no plans to actually do anything with whatever information Leavitt gleans from his trip.

    "We don't have anything cooking that we haven't announced," the department official said. "We would not endorse a system like the Netherlands or Switzerland's. But if there's something we could learn about their system, we should learn about it."

    So either the trip is just designed to indulge Leavitt's intellectual curiosity—or it's a chance for him to get out of town on the taxpayer dime and pretend that his boss didn't just derail a major piece of legislation that would have given a few million poor kids health insurance right here at home. No word on whether Leavitt will be commandeering the CDC's private jet for the trip, but hopefully he'll live blog his European vacation.

    Obama and Edwards Oppose Mukasey; Where's Hillary Clinton?

    | Tue Oct. 30, 2007 1:15 PM EDT

    For months, Barack Obama and John Edwards have been trying to find issues that separate them from Hillary Clinton. On the Iraq war, HRC's strategy has been to provide neither of her main challengers much maneuvering room. Like them, she wants out. There may be differences in rhetoric or positioning. Edwards calls for an immediate pullout of 40,000 or more troops; Obama has urged withdrawing one or two brigades a month; Clinton has not been so specific. But these distinctions have not yet allowed Obama or Edwards to turn the war into an issue of traction.

    Now comes Michael Mukasey. This morning, both Edwards and Obama announced they oppose his nomination as attorney general. Mukasey was once a shoo-in for the job, (If you Google "shoo-in," the third item that appears is a New York Times story on Mukasey. Literally.) But the judge has run into problems by refusing to state whether he considers waterboarding torture. In doing so, he is joining the Bush administration's word game. George W. Bush declares he doesn't torture, but he and his crew refuse to define torture. Though much of the world considers waterboarding to be torture, the Bush aides won't state if it's included in their definition of torture. So it seems Bush might well be saying "we don't torture" while thinking "waterboarding ain't torture." Mukasey also got into trouble during his confirmation hearing for essentially endorsing the administration's view that Bush is above the law when Bush determines that the Constitution allows him to be above the law.