Blogs

Army to Expand Numbers, Time in Iraq

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 4:10 PM EDT

Military leaders said yesterday that they plan to accelerate the Army's expansion, adding 74,000 soldiers by 2010, not 2012 as originally planned. The goal, they say, is to relieve the strain on troops currently serving while maintaining the numbers necessary to continue the war effort.

Sounds great, right? Hire more soldiers, give the troops on the ground a much-needed break. But where are they going to get these people? Defense Secretary Robert Gates specified that the recruiting needs to be done without forcing anyone to stay or loosening entry standards. That might be tough, considering how much the Army has already had to widen its net to meet recruiting goals. In addition, a big part of the plan involves retention—convincing servicemen and women not to leave the Army at the end of their tours. While in a perfect world this might mean rest between deployments, practically speaking, it probably means more time in Iraq.

To top it all off, last time I checked, General Petraeus had announced plans for a troop drawdown beginning next spring. Bush endorsed the plan provided he saw evidence of progress. But given the Army's current numbers, a troop reduction is inevitable. Does the expansion push mean there won't be a drawdown after all? More likely that even with the departure of 30,000 soldiers, we're still planning for the very long term.

—Casey Miner

Advertise on MotherJones.com

First Listen (Finally!): Radiohead - In Rainbows

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 3:56 PM EDT

mojo-photo-inrainbowscover.jpgOkay, after much ado, your intrepid reporter with the silly DJ name was able to download the new Radiohead album In Rainbows (for which I paid £5), and my first reaction is it's worth the trouble. The title at first put me off a little; its girlish cutesiness (will the next CD be called With Unicorns?) seemed to combine with the whole "almost-free mp3" thing to give the album an air of disposability. Was it all going to sound like homemade blog-house?

Perhaps this image was intended as contrast, since the music itself is more organic and, well, rock than the band has been in a while, a 180-degree turn from Kid A, the band's most electronic release. Even "All I Need," which nods to downtempo experimenters Boards of Canada in its synth-y bassline, turns out to be almost a traditional love song, with live-sounding drums and piano as well as a soulful side to Thom Yorke's vocals we haven't really heard before. "Soulful" is, in fact, the operative word here; there's the Motown-style reverb and falsetto crooning on "Reckoner," and the Beck-like acoustic number "Faust Arp."

Not that it's anything but Radiohead. I've always said the band sounds like they're making music to be sent into space as an artifact of a dying-off human race, and the usual bleak majesty and immense mournfulness haven't gone anywhere. But when the three-chord pattern from Paul McCartney & Wings' "Silly Love Songs" pops up, you know this isn't "Idioteque." It may even grab some new fans who found the band's screaming intensity rattling: play your anti-Radiohead friends "House of Cards," a sweet, quiet ballad, with Yorke singing, plainly: "I don't wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover." Fine, let's put on In Rainbows and make out.

Telephone Industry's Comical Consolidation

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 3:41 PM EDT

Surfing wikipedia can lead to wonderful things. Check out this neat chart we found showing the evolution of telephone company consolidation. Click the box to see a larger version.

att_graph300.jpg

Old AT&T really knows how to be persistent.

Update: Stephen Colbert has a typically awesome take on this.

Acting Up

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 3:15 PM EDT

Back in the early heyday of American cinema, when desire for news and entertainment was often sated by regular visits to the theater, films aimed at social reform enjoyed distribution that would make Michael Moore's mouth water. The National Film Preservation Foundation has assembled a new anthology, Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934, that highlights the boldness of early 20th century cartoons, serial episodes, newsreel stories, advocacy films, and features designed to inform. These films addressed many of the same issues as our latter-day blockbusters, but often with a lucidity that modern movies lack:

  • Fans of Gus Van Sant may now add yet another component to their ongoing dissection of My Own Private Idaho. From the Submerged (1912) is the first known drama about homelessness that featured "slumming parties," minus the Shakespearean overtones.
  • Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing, and the rest of Spike Lee's immortal oeuvre owe a debt to Ramona (1910), D.W. Griffith's sympathetic portrait of a romance between a Native American man and a Spanish woman played by Mary Pickford. (That's right, the same D.W. Griffith who later gave us the cinematic landmark of bigotry, The Birth of a Nation.)
  • In the sternly reproachful Where Are My Children? (1916), District Attorney Richard Walton discovers that he never became a father because his wife had a slew of abortions behind his back. No doubt do-gooder Alison Scott, the lead character in last summer's hit comedy Knocked Up, represents the inverse of Mrs. Walton's ways.
  • In Cecil B. DeMille's masterful silent feature, The Godless Girl (1928), the Christians take on the Atheists and get themselves booked into juvenile prison. There are hints of Grease, mingling with Saved! and Girl, Interrupted, but only in DeMille's version do the opposing camps go home with crucifixes burned into the palms of their hands.

—Cassie McGettigan

BP and Chevron Go Virtual and Green

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 2:21 PM EDT

What do Chevron and BP have in common, besides being leading members of Big Oil? Computer games, apparently. Yesterday, the New York Times reported on BP's latest rebranding move—a "collaboration" with the video game company Electronic Arts. To learn more about these companies' quests into unknown territory, read the rest of this post on Mother Jones' environment and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Empire State Building to be Lit for Muslim Holy Day

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 1:59 PM EDT

New York City again shows that the as one of only two American city cities* actually attacked by Islamic terrorism, it is the one perhaps most willing to embrace Muslims, immigrants, and its own rich cultural diversity. From Newsday:

The Empire State Building will be illuminated green this weekend to mark the Islamic holy days of Eid-al-Fitr (EED-ALL-FEET-er).
The joyous "Festival of Fast-breaking" marks the end of Ramadan, a month of intense spiritual renewal.
This year is the first time the famous skyscraper will be aglow for the Islamic holiday. A spokeswoman for the building's owner says it will be an annual event, in the same tradition of the yearly skyscraper lighting for Christmas and Hanukah.
In Islam, the color green symbolizes a happy occasion and the importance of nature.

* I am a complete idiot. Thanks to melissa in the comments.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

BP and Chevron Go Virtual and Green

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 1:55 PM EDT

What do Chevron and BP have in common, besides being leading members of Big Oil? Computer games, apparently. Yesterday, the New York Times reported on BP's latest rebranding move—a "collaboration" with Electronic Arts on the video game company's latest version of SimCity, due out November 15th. Unlike previous versions of the popular video game that lets players build their own cities from scratch, this one will include a more "nuanced power generation and pollution simulation" that will "show the trade-offs among three aspects of electrical power: cost, power output and pollution." Translation: BP's colorful, green, and yellow sunburst logo will happily adorn "clean" energy options like solar farms, wind farms, natural gas plants, and even gas stations, while "dirty" energy options like coal will remain BP logo-free!

In September, Chevron and The Economist teamed up for a similar venture. Their online, interactive game, Energyville, allows players to decide how to outfit a city with solar, wind, coal, biomass, hydro, oil, and nuclear power. The catch? If you try to use only renewable energy sources to supply your city, you'll be politely informed you need petroleum. So much for thinking outside the box, huh?

And, of course, it comes as no surprise that these companies' online ventures promote more clean energy than their real counterparts. BP's 2006 annual report indicates the company spent approximately $29 billion on oil exploration and production (an increase of $4 billion from 2005), compared to a meager $8 billion they plan to spend on their alternative energy projects over the next ten years. Game over.

—Michelle Chandra

Rudy Giuliani Out Flubs the Republican Field

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 11:16 AM EDT

I've blogged before about how much I love factcheck.org. They come through again with some real treats on the Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson got the facts straight for his GOP debate debut Oct. 9. But former Mayor Rudy Giuliani added to a lengthening string of exaggerations and misstatements:
Giuliani claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton once called the free-market economy "the most destructive force in modern America." She didn't say that. She quoted another author who said free markets were "disruptive." She also said free markets bring prosperity.
The mayor falsely claimed Clinton proposes to give $1,000 to "everybody." Her proposed subsidies to workers' retirement accounts would be for couples making up to $60,000 a year and would be $500 for those making up to $100,000.
Giuliani falsely claimed that more than 2 percent of the nation's gross domestic product is spent on "frivolous" lawsuits. The figure is from a study about the cost of all lawsuits.

Another Reason to Suck It Up and Buy a Minivan

| Thu Oct. 11, 2007 11:10 AM EDT

One of the great enduring myths created by the American auto industry is that SUVs are safer than regular cars. The Ford Explorer rollover scandals in 2000 helped pierce this image a little, but Americans still seem to believe that an SUV is a safe place to store a family on the road. (The Frost children, in fact, who've been attacked by right wingers during the SCHIP debate were nearly killed when the family SUV slid off the road and hit a tree.)

The data, however, continue to show that most people would be safer in a Mini Cooper (or a minivan) than a Chevy Trailblazer. The latest news comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whose new crash tests show that most SUVs perform poorly when hit from the side, even though they're much higher off the ground than other cars.

"People often think they're safer in one of these vehicles, but many cars hold up better than some of these midsize SUVs in this test," David Zuby, the institute's senior vice president, told the Associated Press.

You can watch the crash videos here.

Candidates' Kids Can Blog Better Than This

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 9:28 PM EDT

By now, you may have heard some of the buzz surrounding McCain Blogette, the new blog put out by John McCain's daughter, Meghan, and her friends (including "political fashionista" La-Toria Haven, thank goodness). The second family campaign blog this cycle, McCain Blogette is more of a shameless self-promotional vehicle than, say, a shameless pander for family-values votes like the Romneys' Five Brothers. But this new genre has real potential. Here are some other efforts we'd like to see:

  • Chelsea Clinton—McKinsey Confidential: Chronicling an ambitious young woman's quest to make it in the all-boys club consulting world
  • Grace and Christina Dodd, Malia and Sasha Obama, Emma Claire and Jack Edwards, Jenna Brownback—The Playpen: Influential group blog for intelligentsia of the under-10 set
  • Randy Tancredo—Minuteman: Liveblogging the immigration fight, straight from the borderlands
  • Caroline Giuliani—My Obama Girl: Caroline signs on as occasional guest blogger at fan site
  • David Huckabee—Huck's Heart: Online community service clearinghouse, part of court-ordered restitution for animal cruelty incident, weapons charges

Readers, let's see what you can come up with! There's a Beau Biden gag just begging to be made here.

—Justin Elliott