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Bush: Libby Will Still Get 'Harsh Punishment'

| Tue Jul. 3, 2007 12:29 AM PDT

On CNN this afternoon, news of Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence—from jail time to parole and a fine—appeared on the main screen as the ticker tape below flashed news that one Guantanamo detainee had managed to get the charges against him dismissed. In the president's explanation of his actions, Bush sermonized, "My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely…The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting." Images of Libby looking smug in a nice suit.

But what about the other detainees in Guantanamo? Many have been held for years only to be released with no charges against them. Unlike Scooter Libby, they were innocent. Unlike Libby, they served time. Their detainment was hardly cushy, as Mother Jones has reported. The Bush administration has failed even to take responsibility for the CIA's abducting a Canadian citizen whose name resembles al Qaeda deputy's and torturing him for months after they discovered the mistake.

Those held at Guantanamo have suffered from vision impairment, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious mental health disorders, not to mention that their reputations—down to and including their identification papers—have been destroyed. Oh yeah, and their wives and young children have suffered immensely.

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Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things Special Edition: Best Songs of 2007 (So Far) (...Er, Duh)

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 10:25 PM PDT

With a little less than half the year remaining, it seemed like a good time to try and launch a preemptive strike in the Top Ten Wars; what I didn't realize was how hard making this list was going to be. It's been a great year for albums, but great radio singles, hot downloads, and three-minute masterpieces have been few and far between. It also seemed important, for some reason, to not have this list just be a "best track from all the good albums" list, which is hard not to do. So, here's what I've come up with: the ten best songs, just songs, so far this year. I'm sure I missed something, but post it in the comments, don't call me at home.

mojo-cover-lilmama.jpg 10. Li'l Mama - "Lip Gloss" (from the forthcoming album Voice of the Young People on Jive) (YouTube, MySpace, iTunes)
The teen rap sensation (born Niatia Kirkland in Brooklyn) may have aimed her talent at this most, uh, superficial of topics, but the defiant shouts of "what you know 'bout me?" prove she's no lightweight. The backing track, just a stomp and a handclap, is somehow just as infectious as her rhymes: "The boys really like it, the girls don't speak / They rollin' they eyes, 'cuz they lip gloss cheap."

mojo-cover-ofmontreal1.jpg9. Of Montreal - "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" (from Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? on Polyvinyl) (MySpace, iTunes)
This glammy, poppy Georgia band backs up their silliness with incredibly strong songwriting. "Curse," despite its unwieldy title, comes off like the Flaming Lips covering "Kids in America:" undeniably weird, but instantly accessible. Singer Kevin Barnes repeats "come on, chemicals" in the chorus, but apparently doesn't mean drugs, he means the natural chemicals in your brain, making the lyrics oddly fatalistic.

mojo-cover-khaled.JPG8. DJ Khaled - "We Takin' Over" (from We the Best on Koch/Terror Squad) (YouTube, MySpace, iTunes)
A song whose chorus ("we takin' over, one city at a time") also exists as its manifesto, considering it features every rapper of the moment, from chart-toppers Akon and T.I. to stoner Lil' Wayne. With a beat similar to Akon's "Smack That," Palestinian-American Khaled somehow makes a track that feels less frivolous (with its minor chord arpeggios sounding out like alarms) but just as much fun.

mojo-cover-amywinehouse.JPG7. Amy Winehouse - "Rehab" (from Back to Black on Universal) (YouTube, MySpace, iTunes)
Okay, okay. Yes, this came out last year, the album was already certified platinum in the UK by the end of the 2006. However, it didn't get an official release in the US until March, plus the song is currently #9 on the Billboard Top 10, and besides, I didn't like it as much then as I do now. So, nyah. The song's retro novelty seems balanced by flawless musicianship and an utterly contemporary subject matter; if it keeps going like this, we have a contender for song of the summer, and potentially, tour of the fall.

mojo-cover-whitestripesicky.jpg6. The White Stripes - "Icky Thump" (from Icky Thump on Warner Bros.) (YouTube, MySpace, iTunes)
Like Led Zeppelin filtered through an AM radio and reconstituted south of the border, "Thump" has none of the irresistible hook-based propulsion of "Seven Nation Army," but doesn't suffer for it. Despite winding around vintage synth solos and tempo changes, it grabs you and won't let go. Add a "you tell 'em, Jack" political edge with lyrics about the hypocrisy of the current immigration "debate" (and a video that makes the connection explicit), and the dynamic duo have never been more relevant.

Reaction to Libby's Commuted Sentence: Surprise?

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 4:46 PM PDT

I wonder if the answer to Clara's question below is simply: "Why not?" Bush's approval ratings are so low already that he had little to lose by commuting Libby's sentence, and he's made clear that he cares more about the judgment of history than his day-by-day approval numbers.

Also, I'm surprised by the decision to commute instead of pardon. Bush left Libby, who helped him launch a war of choice — no easy task, especially when the evidence is against you — with a felony on his record and a $250,000 fine to pay. In any place but Washington, his career would be over. Considering how loyal a man Bush is (see Gonzales, Alberto), you would think he would have gone whole hog and cleared the man's record completely.

Is it a concession to the moderate middle? I hope not, because to everyday folks a commuted sentence and a pardon probably look a lot alike. After all, a rich, well-connected white man doesn't have to do his jail time either way.

Raw Story has a lot more, including quotes from important people whose names you'll recognize.

And for your enjoyment, a classic American picture -- Ford explaining to the country that he had pardoned Nixon.

 ford_pardoning300x286.jpg

Update: Joe Klein over at Time's Swampland agrees that Bush had nothing to lose in commuting Libby's sentence. He thinks up one thing Bush had to gain: the move stops Libby from writing a disgruntled tell-all.

Why Did Bush Commute Scooter Libby's Sentence?

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 4:06 PM PDT

Bush's approval ratings are in the toilet. And there's no good news for the GOP in sight. So why would the president decide to commute the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted of obstructing justice, perjury, and making false statements in the Plamegate affair, now and not at the end of his term, when everybody expected it? After all a Cable News Network/Opinion Research survey conducted after Libby's March 6 conviction found that 69% of voters are against a pardon (though commuting is only perhaps a first step toward that); only 18% were in favor of a pardon.

The answer seems to be that the base demanded it. As Edwin Chen of Bloomberg News notes:

At the same time, a pro-Libby firestorm was being fanned by self-described conservative bloggers and talk-radio hosts, and many conservative leaders asked the president to step in. Until now Bush had stayed out of the case, with his aides saying he would let the appeal go forward. Libby's supporters argued that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was over-zealous in prosecuting Libby for lying to investigators when no one was charged over the actual leak of Plame's status as a Central Intelligence Agency official.

But the mistake Bush is making is confusing his real base, i.e. ordinary Americans (Republicans must compose a good chunk of that aforementioned 69%), with the Bill Kristol base—pundits, who, on either side of the aisle, tend to gin up issues that make for good debate on CrossFire.

Do most even super rabid conservatives out in the heartland care if Scooter Libby does 2 years in jail? I doubt it. But they might care that he doesn't. People don't like when powerful people help their friends escape justice. Just another millstone Bush is piling on the Republican candidates that would like to succeed him.

Update: Lifted from Rolling Stone's National Affairs blog, the actual text of the clemency:

Grant of Executive Clemency
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

WHEREAS Lewis Libby was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the case United States v. Libby, Crim. No. 05-394 (RBW), for which a sentence of 30 months' imprisonment, 2 years' supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and a special assessment of $400 was imposed on June 22, 2007;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, pursuant to my powers under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, do hereby commute the prison terms imposed by the sentence upon the said Lewis Libby to expire immediately, leaving intact and in effect the two-year term of supervised release, with all its conditions, and all other components of the sentence.

IN WITNESS THEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand and seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Bush's full statement to the press after the jump.

Breaking: Bush Lets Libby Off

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 3:58 PM PDT

Federal prisoner-to-be 28301-016 just had his sentence commuted. And not a moment too soon.

Open Source Politics, the Wiki

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 12:09 PM PDT

When Mother Jones launched its "Fight Different" package about politics and the Internet, it introduced the stories and interviews with a rumination on the term Open Source Politics. The short, irreverent definition was presented as a mock-Wikipedia entry, under the classic Wiki red-flag: "The neutrality of this story is disputed." And I tell you what, the neutrality of our approach has been disputed, and disputed, and disputed. And in this case, that was exactly the point: the new arbiter of truth in politics is increasingly you, dear reader. If you're sick of bias and spin, speak up, and change it.

That, at least, is the idea behind Wikipedia, which now accounts one out of every 200 page views on the Internet. No format on the web is better at reaching a consensus on objective truth in the most touchy and politicized of subjects. For a glimpse of Wikipedia's potential in the political realm, see our interview with Jimmy Wales here.

But don't stop there. Do you disagree with our definition of Open Source Politics? Are there counterpoints to what Wales has told us that you don't think are being aired? Well, feel free to offer your thoughts in this blog. Or even better, check out the real entry for Open Source Politics in Wikipedia, and edit it. If I had to guess, I'd say a Google search of the term will soon yield the popular view of the idea over anything a magazine writer has had to say.

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Anniversary Update: Bring On the Sarcastic Applause

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 11:32 AM PDT

Just a short note to remind you that today is the fourth anniversary of the quote that, in my mind, best describes our president and his bald unfitness to lead a country in wartime: "Bring them on."

The swagger that substitutes for reflection, the arrogance that precludes careful planning, the false confidence in American invincibility that almost seems inspired by God (or maybe just stupidity) -- it's all in those three little words. It will be a true crime if the planners at Southern Methodist don't inscribe this over the entry to the George W. Bush presidential library.

A Not-So-Crazy Campaign Finance Proposal

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 9:12 AM PDT

Just wanted to add a note to the blogopshere's discussion, such as it was, of the Supreme Court's recent ruling on campaign finance reform.

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court gutted the portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that prohibited corporations, non-profits funded by corporations, and labor unions from running campaign ads in the 30 days before primaries and the 60 days before general elections.

Some say it's a victory for free speech, some call it a step in the Court's rightward march and a victory only for the powerful interests who will have yet more sway in this country's elections. I don't much care.

That's because I think this particular element of campaign finance misses the point (just to pile on after it's already dead). Its creators' intentions were good, and anything that reduces the influence of special interests in politics is doing more good than bad, but I care far more about how campaign money is received than about how it is spent. I saw Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, suggest this once: make contributions like blind trusts, so that when a donation of $5 or $500 plops into a candidate's campaign chest, he or she doesn't know who dropped it there.

That way, campaign donations would be made out of genuine support for candidates, and not because corporations or special interests hope to have access to a candidate they supported after he or she wins. And opponents of campaign finance reform can't credibly cry that their right to free speech is being impeded.

Make sense, no? Probably means it's doomed in Washington...

Omaha Gets Up to Speed With Slowdown

| Sun Jul. 1, 2007 5:52 PM PDT

mojo-photo-slowdown1.jpgWith live music venues around the country struggling and even closing, it's rare to see a new club start up, and practically inconceivable for one to emerge as part of a brand new mixed-use development in a medium-sized Midwestern city. But that's just what happened in Omaha last month, when the folks behind Saddle Creek records launched Slowdown, a 500-capacity venue. The club is part of a snazzy new two-building complex developed by the label (home to Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint) that houses their headquarters, apartments and an art-house theater, and soon, a restaurant, coffee house, and (cough) an Urban Outfitters. (Yeah, I know, I shop there too.)

It was a broiling hot Nebraska afternoon when I stopped by last week, but it was nice and cool inside Slowdown. The space is sleek and modern, complete with black tile and polished concrete; moreover, since the building is new, everything is, well, clean -- those of us used to clubs coated with 40 years of grime might feel a bit odd. Booker Val Nelson proudly showed me around the backstage area, built to their specifications: a driveway for load-in is mere feet from the stage, for instance, and the dressing room (complete with washer and dryer) is nicer than my apartment.

Mostly, though, it's just going to be a great place to see a band, with state-of-the-art sound and a comfortable layout. Groups like Built to Spill, Jimmy Eat World and the Rentals are already booked. Saddle Creek manager Jason Kulbel downplayed the significance of the label branching out, saying Slowdown just filled a gap: "Typical larger cities, and even some the same size of Omaha, often have many nice venues to choose from." Sure, but they don't have minor indie rock celebrities filling in as bartenders, and a record label for a landlord. Nebraska music fans, I never thought I'd say this, but I envy you.

Some photos and a calendar of upcoming shows after the jump.

Obama Raised How Much??

| Sun Jul. 1, 2007 5:03 PM PDT

$31 million in three months? That's a lotta money.