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Remember Freedom Fries?

| Wed Aug. 22, 2007 8:32 AM EDT

It was only four years ago that Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-NC) announced the official name change in Congressional cafeterias from French fries and French toast to Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast. "This action today is a small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France," said Ney at the time.

My, how les temps have changed!

Now ex-Rep Ney is serving 30 months jail time, Jones has become a fierce war critic, and lo and behold, the French may be coming to the rescue in Iraq. From the Washington Post:

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner used a surprise trip to Baghdad to call on European countries to help the United States repair Iraq. Kouchner's comments represent a major departure from former French president Jacques Chirac's stance on Iraq. Relations between France and the United States were severely damaged after Chirac led global opposition to the 2003 invasion.
Since his election in May, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sought to strengthen ties with the United States. Kouchner told a French radio station that Iraq's leaders are "expecting something" from the French government and that he planned to assist U.S. efforts.
"The Americans can't get this country out of difficulty all alone," Kouchner said.

Kouchner's humanitarian background as co-founder of the medical relief group Medecins Sans Frontieres may begin to explain the willingness to overlook the anti-French GOP posturing of the not-so-distant past and to let bygones be bygones. Pass the pâté.

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Tuesday the Woozy Music News Day

| Tue Aug. 21, 2007 9:29 PM EDT

MOZZZZ!!!!

  • Morrissey schedules a fall US tour that includes four nights in SF, five nights in NY, and ten—count 'em!—ten nights at the Palladium in Los Angeles! (CMJ)

  • Amy Winehouse calls off her fall North American tour, set to begin September 8th in Toronto, with the dates to possibly be rescheduled in 2008. Or not! Who knows! She's nuts! Refunds available at point of purchase. (Billboard)
  • Kanye West responds to the 50 Cent September 11th album release date rivalry with a "thank you." Take that. (MTV News)
  • The Jesus & Mary Chain will return to the studio and record an album, their first since 1998, and have booked some US shows in October. (Filter Magazine)
  • New sculpture celebrates Russia's love for The Beatles, or something? (NME)
  • Wedding DJs: not dead! (Idolator)
  • Amidst Devastation, Ex-Peruvian Dictator Might Walk

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 8:53 PM EDT

    So when is the best time for an ex-Peruvian dictator to have an extradition hearing in front of Chile's full Supreme Court? While Peru is recovering from a devastating 8.0 earthquake that has killed more than 500 civilians.

    Today, Chile's Supreme Court is convening to decide the fate of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. He is wanted in Peru for human rights violations he committed while leading a so-called "war on terror" against two insurgencies in Peru between 1990 and 2000. Fujimori's capture and extradition process has been long and twisted. Many Peruvian officials and human rights organizations want his head for the atrocities he oversaw, but many suspect that Peru's current President, Alan Garcia—although you wouldn't know from all his government's posturing over the extradition—would rather Fujimori escape justice and return to Japan, where he lived in exile for nearly five years. To pass his conservative economic legislation, Garcia's dealings with the Fujimoristas in Peru's congress came with an implicit quid pro quo—the Fujimoristas want Fujimori to escape trial.

    So while Peruvians are distracted by a natural disaster, Fujimori's final extradition hearing is conveniently taking place months before anyone predicted it would. The Chilean Supreme Court has been dragging its feet for the last year, ratcheting up tensions inside Peru.

    Earlier this month, I bet Fujimori would be home for Christmas, but it looks like he could be home well before Thanksgiving.

    —Rafael Valero

    Underwater Turbines Set To Generate Record Power

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 8:44 PM EDT

    Here's a preview of the future. Twin underwater turbines are set to generate 1.2 megawatts of electricity off the coast of Northern Ireland by year's end. New Scientist reports how the world's largest tidal power project will use underwater turbines that look and work like wind power turbines, with blades up to 60 feet wide. Tidal currents will rotate the rotors at 10 to 20 revolutions per minute — a speed that Marine Current Turbines of the UK claims is too slow to affect marine life. The turbines will drive a gearbox that will drive an electric generator. The resulting electricity will be transmitted to the shore via an underwater cable. Eventually, MCT intends to build farms of turbines consisting of 10 to 20 pairs each. . . This is intriguing, probably necessary, and will doubtless lead to some kind of negative environmental issue(s). Let's hope the Brits monitor the impacts of what sounds like a promising, hopefully sustainable, technology &mdash one desperately needed on our tough road to a new energy economy. JULIA WHITTY

    Breaking: Report Reveals CIA Failures Before 9/11

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 8:32 PM EDT

    From the Los Angeles Times:

    The CIA never developed an overall strategy for confronting Al Qaeda and let precious expertise and resources go unused in the years leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to an internal investigation...

    Some key findings:

    • The CIA failed to spend all its funding for counter-terrorism, even while agency officials expressed concern about the growing threat of terrorism and asked for increased funding.
    • The CIA let its battles with other agencies get in the way of its efforts.
    • The report points to overall incompetence rather than any smoking gun.

    The CIA has tried to suppress its own report for more than two years.

    Read more on the CIA's role in 9/11 here.

    Rilo Kiley: Sellouts or Sly Foxes?

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 5:51 PM EDT

    Rilo Kiley"Ambition," said Oscar Wilde, "is the last refuge of failure," although the Wilde I remember from the "Monty Python" sketch also said "your majesty is a big jam donut with cream on top," so who knows what he was talking about. But in the world of indie rock, even a whiff of ambition can cause fainting spells, so Rilo Kiley must have known they were taking a risk on Under the Blacklight, out today on Warner Bros. It's a fascinating album, but in a raunchy, funky, and yes, poppy (or populist) way, and judging by the "listeners also bought" section on their iTunes page (Camera Obscura, Tegan & Sara, Belle & Sebastian!), their fans may not follow along.

    The LA foursome's last album spawned an unlikely hit, the charming, countrified "Portions for Foxes," in which lead singer Jenny Lewis insists she's "bad news." But even in that traditional-sounding song, there were hints of bawdiness: "The talking leads to touching/And the touching leads to sex/And then there is no mystery left." The first single from Blacklight, "The Moneymaker," takes that "sex" thing and runs with it, with a naughty soft-core video, but really, the lyrics are all about Rilo Kiley signing to a major label and working with Maroon 5's producer: "You've got the moneymaker/This is your chance to make it."

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    RudyCare! Is Useless!

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 3:59 PM EDT

    I overreached in my blog post earlier today when I said that the Republican presidential candidates don't have plans on any of the issues. Rudy Giuliani has a health care plan, it's just counterproductive and dumb.

    A Big Thank You

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 12:38 PM EDT

    My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported the campaign to open Mother Jones' new Washington, D.C., news bureau and expand our Investigative Team. The campaign is still rolling, and we'll keep you posted as we close in on our goal of raising $60,000.

    For those who contributed at a level that qualifies you for our prize drawing, the drawing will be held within the next several days, and we'll notify the winners by email. To everyone who has made a donation, regardless of the dollar amount, we are grateful for your generosity and inspired by your confidence that there's an important place inside the Beltway for this brand of independent, investigative journalism.

    I hope you'll check back regularly with motherjones.com and Mother Jones magazine—you'll be able to see your investment at work.

    While the deadline for our prize drawing has passed, you can still help our D.C. campaign with a tax-deductible gift to the Mother Jones Investigative Fund. For any gift of $45 or more, you'll receive a one-year subscription to Mother Jones magazine (new or renewal).

    Again, thanks for your generous support. We'll make every dollar count.

    Sincerely,

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    President & Publisher

    Fred Thompson in Hot FEC Water

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 11:27 AM EDT

    There are rules that govern how presidential candidates and their campaigns can act. And it turns out, if you try to circumvent those rules by refusing to officially declare your candidacy, but you travel the country campaigning anyway, you are in violation of the law.

    That's the hard lesson currently being learned by Fred Thompson, or as you know him, the big, bald guy that is supposedly the next Reagan but is actually just really, really lazy. A liberal blogger has filed a complaint against Thompson with the Federal Elections Commission.

    The complaint appears to have real legitimacy, and may result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for Big T. We'll keep you posted.

    What's Needed in Coverage of GOP Candidates

    | Tue Aug. 21, 2007 11:01 AM EDT

    Unlike a lot of people, I don't have a problem with certain kinds of superficial campaign coverage. Take, for example this recent Boston Globe story that analyzed the "Leave it to Beaver" language used by Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

    "Whoop-de-do!" he says of John Edwards's proposal to let Americans save $250 tax-free. "Gosh, I love America," Romney said during one GOP debate. After hitting a long golf drive in one of his campaign videos, he shouts, "Holy moly!"
    Romney often sounds as if he has stepped out of a time machine from 1950s suburban America...

    Okay, fine. That's not really interesting, but whatever. If a reporter and an editor want to put in the time to dissect this sort of stuff, that's their choice. If you or I, as serious consumers of news, want something more substantive, we can just find it somewhere else. Right?

    Wrong! This campaign season, we have not seen the Globe or anyone else publish a dissection of Romney's language one day and a dissection of his Iraq policy the next. No one is paying attention to the complete and utter lack of substantive issue positions from the Republicans. They have no serious ideas on Iraq, on health care, or on climate change — they're running on rhetoric, personality, and resume. The Democrats have all of that, plus incredibly detailed plans for America's most pressing priorities. Until that truth appears in the mainstream media regularly, superficial coverage like the Globe's remains troubling.

    One possible exception here, by the way, is the American Prospect, which has written about this once and blogged about it as well. (We've noted it too.)