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YouTube Mania: Bjork in Nature

| Fri Apr. 4, 2008 4:53 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bjorkvideo.jpgYou know, when Björk isn't decking journalists or inspiring revolutions, she actually makes music, and continues to hire ground-breaking artists for collaborative efforts. A recent NY Times feature looked into the making of the video for her new single, "Wanderlust," and while the song is (perhaps intentionally) a bit aimless, the video is a hypnotic combination of elaborate puppetry and eye-popping computer graphics. The best part of the Times feature is the interviewer's hysterics after the San Francisco-based director reveals matter-of-factly that he was inspired by a nature walk whilst under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms. I know, Times gal, it's sooo crazy! What's actually crazy is that a Björk video gets a 6-figure budget in this day and age. I'm assuming she made a loan to her campaign? Watch "Wanderlust," and some classic Björk videos in which glorious Nature plays a major role, after the jump.

[Update: a reliable source got in touch to say that the interviewer wasn't shocked at the mention of drugs as much as she was surprised that the apparently mild-mannered directors had indulged. Okay, fine. Also, I forgot to mention that the "Wanderlust" video was filmed in 3D, and a DVD version complete with 3D decoder glasses will be out April 14th.]

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Consequences for Yoo?

| Fri Apr. 4, 2008 4:35 PM EDT

On Tuesday, the Pentagon released former Bush Administration Lawyer John Yoo's notorious March 2003 interrogation memorandum. Add this to the heap of evidence that Department of Justice lawyers helped legitimize questionable White House policies toward "enemy combatants." There may not be much new information to be gained from the declassified memo—with the exception of the disavowed footnote—but it did get me thinking about the consequences for lawyers who provide legal justification for illegal wartime actions.

Besides a good public shaming, there don't seem to be many consequences. After Yoo's stint at the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel, he returned safely to his prior job as a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. And with the signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Yoo and his former colleagues seem untouchable.

However, there is one precedent that has gone largely overlooked, maybe to the future detriment of Yoo and Co.

What Was Mark Penn Thinking?

| Fri Apr. 4, 2008 2:46 PM EDT

mark_penn.jpg The Austen Goolsbee affair, in which Barack Obama's top economics adviser told Canadian government officials (with a disputed degree of seriousness) that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric isn't to be taken seriously, was used by the Clinton campaign every single day before the Ohio and Texas primaries — chief strategist Mark Penn and communications director Howard Wolfson told reporters on literally dozens of conference calls that the incident called into question Obama's credibility, honesty, and progressive bona fides on economic policy.

So one has to wonder what Mark Penn was thinking when one hears that Penn, the CEO of PR giant Burson-Marsteller Worldwide in addition to his job with the Clinton campaign, met with the Colombian ambassador to discuss how to secure congressional approval for a bi-lateral trade agreement that Columbia supports and Hillary Clinton vocally opposes. According to the Justice Department, the Columbian government has paid Penn's firm $300,000 to lobby for Columbia's point of view and to secure $5 billion for the war on drugs program known as Plan Colombia.

When news of the meeting went public, Penn was immediate contrite, saying in a written statement, "The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it. The senator's well-known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed."

McCain's Tricky History With the MLK Holiday

| Fri Apr. 4, 2008 1:00 PM EDT

John McCain is in Memphis today commemorating the death of Dr. King, but he can't run from his spotty history on the MLK holiday and civil rights. In 1983, McCain was one of 77 Republican Congressmen to vote against establishing a federal holiday in MLK's honor. McCain was in the minority even among his GOP colleagues: even Dick Cheney, who voted against the holiday in 1978, voted for it in '83. Later, McCain would explain his vote by saying he "thought that it was not necessary to have another federal holiday, that it cost too much money, that other presidents were not recognized."

In 1999 McCain admitted that he was wrong to vote the way he did. He told NBC's Tim Russert, "on the Martin Luther King issue, we all learn, OK? We all learn. I will admit to learning, and I hope that the people that I represent appreciate that, too. I voted in 1983 against the recognition of Martin Luther King… I regret that vote."

The 1983 vote, however, is the not the end of the issue. In 1987, Arizona's Republican Governor repealed the state's recognition of King; McCain supported the decision. He changed his mind in 1990, when a King holiday was put to a vote in the state.

But even by 1990, McCain hadn't come to appreciate what King stood for. The Civil Rights Act of 1990 sought to overturn "Supreme Court rulings that made it much more difficult for individual employees to prove discrimination." The legislation was fought by big business, because it imposed new penalties on employers convicted of job discrimination. McCain voted against the act four times.

And in his 2000 presidential campaign, McCain employed a man named Richard Quinn in his South Carolina organization. Quinn was a toxic figure, writing:

80,000 Jobs Lost in March

| Fri Apr. 4, 2008 12:25 PM EDT

The unemployment rate jumped from 4.8 percent to 5.1 percent in March, a total loss of 80,000 jobs. That marks the biggest decline in five years, and follows 76,000 jobs lost in both January and February. "There doesn't appear to be any silver lining," an interest rate strategist at Credit Suisse told Reuters. "It shows that we're right in the middle of a recession that will probably take a while."

20080404_POLL_GRAPHIC.190.gif Considering this news, it's not surprising that 81 percent of Americans say that "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track," according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. That figure is the highest ever recorded in the poll, which started in the early '90s. It's a bleak picture:

A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.

See the graph at right: one might observe that the Bush Administration's second term has been one long ever-worsening crisis of confidence.

The Death of MLK Jr.: RFK Said It Best

| Fri Apr. 4, 2008 11:38 AM EDT

It's been four decades since Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed. On the occasion of this anniversary, there's much media coverage of his life and his death. In all the years that have passed since that tragic moment, a flood of commentary has flowed. Yet it remains hard to improve upon what Bobby Kennedy said on the night of that assassination in Indianapolis, where he was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. He spoke extemporaneously and had the hard task of informing the crowd of King's violent death. Here is the audio of Kennedy's remarks accompanied by a photo montage:

As many commentators have noted, there were riots in cities across America when people learned of the news of King's murder, but there was calm in Indianapolis that horrible night.

Two months later, RFK would be shot and killed. If you want to see actual footage of Kennedy speaking to the crowd in Indianapolis (with Italian subtitles superimposed), you'll find it after the jump:

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"A PhD in Strippernomics"

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 10:03 PM EDT

The always thought-provoking Gary Kamiya, at Salon, posted a column this week asking whether America's puritanism might just be waning in the wake of Spitzer, Paterson, men's room foot-tapping, mother-daughter pole dancing, and the like. He writes:

America seems to be slowly but surely weaning itself from its addiction to shrill moral judgments. Only 10 years ago, former President Bill Clinton was almost removed from office because he fooled around with a White House intern. Ten years before that, Douglas Ginsburg lost his shot at the Supreme Court because he admitted he had smoked marijuana. But when New York Gov. David Paterson recently copped to having had extramarital affairs and doing cocaine, the public reaction was a collective yawn. Admittedly, Paterson chose the best possible time to make his public confession: after the Eliot Spitzer train wreck, he probably could have revealed that he had dabbled in necrophilia while high on smack and gotten away with it. But still, Paterson's get-out-of-jail-free card would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

I've been trying to convince my journalism students of this very point, and that the media deserves the lion's share of the credit for America's maturation on morals issues. Exhaustively covering these issues (Religious Right, anyone?) allows America to look itself in the mirror and ask questions like: Is it really my business if Paterson and his wife took a 'vacation' from their marriage? No. Mr. "Morals" Spitzer's 'hoing? Yes. But I'm swimming upstream trying to sell them on the notion that the media is our only way of figuring out which conversations we no longer need to have.

Mapping Media Attention

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 9:46 PM EDT

Here's a great series of cartograms—maps distorted to reveal a bias. In this case media attention by region. You can click on the buttons to see how newspapers warp their coverage of world news according to parochial interests. Nicolas Kayser-Bril first published this online on L'Observatoire des Médias, and later in expanded form in the Online Journalism Blog. Below is a newer cartogram, made in partnership with Gilles Bruno, of the coverage of the blogosphere. Their hope is to update these maps daily or weekly to pressure editors into covering more diverse issues.

blogosphere.gif

As for the cartographers' bias, where are the data for coverage of the world-ocean, accounting for more than 70% of Earth's surface? Where's Antarctica?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

FAA Inspectors Overstretched, Inspections Overseas, Oversight Overlooked this Long?

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 9:10 PM EDT

Recent revelations about the FAA and Southwest Airlines (you may be free to move about the country, but at your own risk), and further inspection shenanigans highlight what we already knew but were too focused on getting through security without contracting athletes' foot to notice: The FAA as a regulatory agency is about as reliable as the old man in the exit row.

And it's not just inspectors cozy with airline execs; the regulatory system was outsourced years ago, to the aviation industry, leading to a dangerous lack of oversight and conflicts of interest, in short, trouble waiting to happen.

(NTSB warning that inspections are "on a slippery slope" after the jump.)

The Right's Quest to Marginalize Obama Supporters

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 2:52 PM EDT

This essay from conservative Michael Barone about how Obama supporters are "academics and public employees" while Clinton/McCain supporters are Jacksonians (aka red-blooded Americans) is popping up around the web. Aside from being an overly simplistic reading of America's culture wars, parts of it are downright loony ("Warriors are competitors for the honor that academics and public employees think rightfully belongs to them," writes Barone. "Jacksonians, in contrast, place a high value on the virtues of the warrior").

Jonathan Chait, who efficiently shreds Barone's argument, calls this what it is, "a conservative anti-intellectual slur." I think a better way to understand what Barone is getting at is something I linked to in my "dating map" blog post yesterday — Obama takes his support from young voters, African-Americans, and what Richard Florida calls "the creative class." The creative class is composed of "inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, musicians, designers and professionals in idea-driven industries." By Florida's calculations, the creative class makes up about 35 percent of the working population, while the "working class" as traditionally understood makes up just 23 percent. To prove his theory, Florida did some fancy polling with John Zogby that you can check out here. It's pretty persuasive, though we don't know their methodology.