Blogs

Tobacco Industry Cover Up

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 2:22 PM EDT

Scientists know that secondhand smoke increases risk of heart disease by 30 percent, but cigarette makers are doing their darnedest to make sure we're kept in the dark.

A report in the current issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, says that the tobacco industry has repeatedly tried to suppress evidence of the detrimental effects of cigarette smoke.

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Rudy Giuliani Has Advisers Who Would Bomb Iran Tomorrow

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 1:46 PM EDT

I used to believe the most dangerous thing about Rudy Giuliani was the fact that, even though he has zero foreign policy experience, he thinks he knows everything there is to know about foreign policy. That's a scary kind of ignorance.

But I was wrong. The most dangerous thing about Rudy Giuliani is his advisers. They are crazy, crazy, crazy. Too crazy to work for Bush, even. Take a look at what TPMTV has to say.

Democrats' Best-Case Senate Scenario: Filibuster-Proof Majority

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 1:18 PM EDT

Let's take a minute to indulge in best-case scenarios, shall we? Time runs down the situation in the Senate. They note that if the Dems pick up...

and they defend...

The Louisiana seat held by Mary Landrieu,

they will have 60 seats, enough to beat a Republican filibuster. This doesn't even take into account the possibility of Alaska Senator Ted Steven's legal troubles deepening and forcing his retirement. A 60-seat majority means, for the first time, real legislation that can end the Iraq War. And a Democratic tidal wave of this nature would likely usher in a Democratic president, which means a new era of progressive domestic policies.

The races listed above all have a legitimate chance to go the Dems' way—there are 11 seats held by Democrats and 12 seats held by Republicans that I didn't even mention because the incumbent is unlikely to face a serious challenge in any of them. (For a ranking of races, see this pdf.) These races all depend, of course, on the quality of opponents and various local factors. But with so many Republicans up for reelection in states trending blue, it should be an exciting 2008.

Also of note: Which of the challengers will catch the imagination of the netroots? To use the parlance, who will the people power?

Black Macho and the Myth of the Super Predator: The PTSD connection

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 12:12 PM EDT

"Violence in our communities shows [blacks] really do hate each other."

Rush Limbaugh? Bill O'Reilly?

No, Kenny Gamble, famous co-architect of the Philadelphia Sound who's invested his retirement and his fortune in saving his inner city community. This is what's known as tough love, the only kind worth a damn.

Philadelphia, as I've written before, is struggling hard to stem the tide of violence there. Oddly, they've found that protesting racism is less productive than working to get 10,000 volunteers to stand guard over their community and try to reclaim their lost ones. They'll never pull it off without a hard look in the mirror like Gamble's because racism doesn't make you shoot people or sell drugs or drop out of school; there has to be an intervening cause, like hopelessness, a criminal record which prevents employment, an unplanned pregnancy, or internalized oppression that makes you, too, subconsciously hate black people.

Outside of the academy, black interiority is a subject that even blacks have shown little interest in except as it directly implicates racism. It's fair to go so far as to say that it's a taboo subject when it exposes problematic patterns among blacks, e.g. the common black myths that 'they' don't commit suicide or suffer from mental illness. That would be weak and only white people are weak; blacks don't roll like that. Beat your wife? Fine, but see a therapist and see how quickly you lose your street cred. A good plan if stoicism and silence actually eliminated the problems, but til then, blacks should join in the on-going excavations of their own complexity and gird themselves to have some painful discussions. I've long believed that the black community's main problem is widespread PTSD. What else explains ganster rap, the war between black men and black women, and the rage of the black middle class? Yes, I'm serious. And I'm not alone, though perhaps my fellow travelers aren't putting it quite this way.

Another 10,000 Man activist noted, "More killings in Philadelphia are the result of common disputes than over drug-turf wars. ...With the proliferation of guns and lack of training in managing anger, ordinary arguments become deadly. And why has anger not been controlled or properly channelled?"

Excellent question.

A former Philadelphia gang member "speaks eloquently about the lack of love in his urban community and the effect this has on increasing crime, lowering employment opportunities and creating a sense of desperation so deep pre-teen black kids are essentially hopeless before hitting middle school." (emphasis added)

How does racism keep minorities from loving their kids?

However oppressive and determinative racism remains in America - and boy does it - black complicity and inertia has allowed it to turn too many of them into the racist's wet dream: a caricature of disfunction, underachievement and futility. The tired arguments against supplying ammo to the enemy are just that - tired; racists are never going to run out of dirty tricks so blacks should take a page from DuBois.

In The Souls of Black Folk, he wrote, "Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word."

Blacks today should also be too busy tending to their community to participate in racism's mind games.


Ron Paul Wins Polls, Gets Repeatedly Disrespected by CNBC

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 11:54 AM EDT

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Another debate, another post-debate poll won by an underdog candidate and then hidden by the media outlet commissioning the poll. Sounds outrageous, but it's almost becoming routine, particularly with Kucinich on the left and Ron Paul on the right.

It happened again after the recent Republican debate on CNBC. Ron Paul's supporters pounced on the post-debate online poll and gave their man a hefty lead, only to find the poll removed. CNBC.com managing editor Allen Wastler eventually "explained" himself—by saying, petulantly, that he'd do it again.

An Open Letter to the Ron Paul Faithful
You guys are good. Real good. You are truly a force on World Wide Web and I tip my hat to you.
That's based on my first hand experience of your work regarding our CNBC Republican candidate debate. After the debate, we put up a poll on our Web site asking who readers thought won the debate. You guys flooded it.

Unintended (Meaning Bad) Consequences of Promoting Democracy in Iran

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 11:31 AM EDT

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Remember Haleh Esfandiari, the scholar who was detained for eight months on a recent trip to Iran to visit her elderly mother? She's just co-authored a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "When Promoting Democracy Is Counterproductive."

A longtime advocate of reconciliation between Iran and the United States, Esfandiari points to some unintended yet entirely predictable consequences of bellicose posturing combined with the U.S.'s recent $75 million appropriation for "democracy promotion" in Iran. U.S. policy has succeeded in nothing so much as inflaming paranoia among elements of the Iranian government—some of it justified, arguably—which has in turn contributed to what the authors term "a broad crackdown on Iran's civil society." Of course, Esfandiari learned this the hard way when she was accused of conspiring against the regime and was thrown into Iran's Evin Prison. More from the article (which requires a subscription):

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Maybe Clarence Thomas Can Help With The Appeal

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 11:00 AM EDT

UCLA law prof Richard Sander has a resume that screams bleeding heart liberal. A former Vista volunteer, he has spent his whole life studying social and economic inequality. Lately, though, Sander has won a following from the Clarence Thomas fan club and other affirmative action foes. Sander has published research showing that only one in three African-Americans who goes to an American law school passes the bar on the first try, and that the majority never go on to be lawyers. For this, Sander blames affirmative action.

Sander has argued that black students, admitted with weaker academic records, are unprepared for the law schools that admitted them, and as a result, many dropped out or failed to pass the bar when they did graduate. Sander wants to investigate the phenomenon further, and recently asked the the State Bar of California for permission to mine its 30-years worth of data on student test scores, bar passage rates and law school admissions to learn more about how black law students are faring.

Civil rights groups support the study, but the bar apparently sees it as waaay too controversial, and voted recently to keep Sander out, even though it has given access to other researchers. Naturally, Fox News sees a conspiracy here....

(H/T Above the Law)

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 10/15/07

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 11:45 PM EDT

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This week, French techno duos get silly, Joy Division gets the dub treatment, Beirut gets, uh, weird, and who likes Radiohead? Everybody likes Radiohead!

10. Daft Punk & Various Artists – 10-Minute Louis Vuitton Fashion Show Score (Video below, audio at Discobelle)
Where do they get the time for all this stuff? This stripped-down mix features rearranged Daft Punk hits as well as sly references to Kanye, Justice and Ratatat; it almost makes me kind of care about the silly fashions. What's next, Daft Punk score the Chili Cookoff?

9. Justice – "D.A.N.C.E." (Live on Jimmy Kimmel, 10/9/07)
In the biggest electro-prank since the KLF had a metal group perform for them at the BRIT awards in 1992, Justice thumb their nose at pseudo-live performances, standing off to the side of the stage as a variety of Hollywood Boulevard celebrity impersonators mime along to the song. Look, it's Stevie Wonder on drums!

Jah Division8. Jah Division – "Heart and Soul" (mp3 at The Social Registry or listen at Jah Division's MySpace)
Okay here's what a nerd I am: hearing this buzzy, dubby cover instantly reminded me that New Order and reggae have come together at least once before: on the phenomenal "silver" Peel Sessions EP, where they do an extended cover of Keith Hudson's "Turn the Heater On." Man, so good! I'll have to get an mp3 up of that next week. Anyway this is good too.

Underworld7. Underworld – "Crocodile" (from Oblivion With Bells on Different Records)
(mp3 from Are You Light Green)
What a long strange trip it's been for the British electronic combo. After lineup (and life) changes, it's surprising to realize this is only their fifth studio album in their "Mark 2" incarnation. They used to excel at a kind of ecstatic, hands-in-the-air release, but times have changed, and now they're more thoughtful. "Crocodile" has their standard driving beat, but Karl Hyde's filtered vocals are melancholy: "All these things/In me," he sings, unable to name them.

Cut Copy6. Cut Copy – "So Haunted" (from In Ghost Colours out in March, 2008 on Modular)
(Stream at The Fader)
Australia's Cut Copy made a great, underappreciated album in 2004, Bright Like Neon Love, whose fashionable cover helped it get lumped in with all the other minimal electro/rock of that heady year, but the surprisingly solid songwriting made it something special. Now they're back, and, jeez, kind of different. "Haunted," for its first 2/3, is a full-on rock song, making the sweeping electronic breakdown all the more exciting. Plus, major bonus points for use of the tinkling xylophone we heard on LCD Soundsystem's "Someone Great."

Bye Bye Columbus Day?

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 10:12 PM EDT

Friday marked the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' chance landing in the Americas. To mark the occasion, Columbus Day has traditionally been celebrated throughout the hemisphere, yet these days in Latin America it is more in protest than in recognition.

We might have a few places that have chosen to change the holiday to reflect what Columbus meant to the native people—in Berkeley it's officially Indigenous People's Day, in South Dakota it's Native American Day, and in Hawaii it isn't even a holiday—but for the most part the legend of Columbus holds strong and there have been few attempts, in our textbooks or statehouses, to change the day's intention.

In Latin America, though, it's national leaders who are working to readjust the public's view of Columbus and his impact on the Americas. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez renamed Columbus Day and Avenue Columbus to Indigenous Resistance Day and Avenue Indigenous Resistance. Chavez has made Venezuela's 35 different tribes visible, literally, to the urban public by broadcasting television stations from their regions. Bolivia's Evo Morales marked the anniversary by attending a conference of indigenous people from across Latin America in Chapare, Bolivia.

Last week city officials in Caracas confirmed that a statue of Columbus that was toppled in a square three years ago will not be restored. That statue could very well have been that of any dictator, torn down by the masses as they take to the streets as a new voice begins to emerge.

—Andre Sternberg

GOP to Introduce Universal Health Care Plan; Have Dems Already Won?

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

Look who's joining the party:

Under fierce attack by Democrats over the children's health insurance plan, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said Sunday Republicans will unveil their own health care plan over the next few months.
"Republicans are working on a plan that will provide access to all Americans to high quality health insurance, make sure that we increase the quality of insurance that we have in American, and we want to foster a sprit of innovation," said Boehner on "Fox News Sunday." "This is a plan we'll see over the next coming months where we put the patients in charge of their health care."

I agree with Steve Benen's analysis: "I'm well aware of the fact that the Republican plans for universal coverage aren't going to be very good. That's the not the point. It's more important to realize the big picture — we'll soon have Dems and Republicans arguing not over whether to have every American insured, but how best to have every American insured."

Yup. The debate is shifting in the right direction. Soon, it will be very easy for a Democratic president to put a universal health care plan forward to the American people, because the need for such a plan will already be well-established.

The same can be said for global warming, in large part thanks to Nobel laureate Al Gore. It cannot be said for the Iraq War. It feels like that issue is still being fought on Republicans' turf.