Dancehall superstar Buju Banton continued walking a confusing line on the topic of anti-gay lyrics this week, after protests against his appearance at the Reggae Carifest in New York. It has been both confirmed and denied that Banton signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, and this week the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation lodged a protest against Carifest for inclusion of Banton and Bounty Killer for the violently anti-gay lyrics in some of their songs. NY1 talked to Banton about the protest, and he either denied promoting hatred or continued to promote it:
Banton said has a message for people who say he's promoting hatred. "I would say to them they are ignorant, they are stupid, even though they proclaim to be intelligent," said Banton.
The New York Times reported Banton did not perform his infamous hit, "Boom Boom Bye" (which contains the lyrics that most upset protestors) at the sparsely-attended festival. NY1 talked to attendees who seemed nonplussed by the affair: "It's just music, so I feel when people make their music they have freedom of speech I go to gay parade, I come to reggae music, but they don't push us to go out there and bash gay people."
Later today, ABC News will have an exclusive on-air interview with the South Dakota senator, who is recovering from a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him. But here's the big news hook:
Johnson, a Democrat whose seat is key to his party's tenuous hold on the Senate, does not intend to retire next year.
"Throughout, Senator Johnson talks candidly with Mr. Woodruff about his daily struggles and his determination not only to return to the Senate next week, but to seek re-election in 2008," the network said in a release.
People wonder why the Democratic leadership in the Senate has trouble getting anything done. Well, a 51-member majority isn't really a majority with one senator from the party in the hospital, one senator a quasi-Republican, and four senators on the presidential campaign trail. Welcoming Tim Johnson back into the fold, as a healthy member of the party, is a step in the right direction.
The New Jersey rocker (who's seemingly a bigger influence than ever lately) has announced his first tour with the E Street Band in four years, set to kick off in October, in Hartford, Connecticut. Their new album, Magic, is out October 4th, but they're offering the first single free for a week from iTunes (and various other websites who've taken the initiative). "Radio Nowhere" is a driving, reverby, uptempo number, kind of like "Jenny (867-5309)" except about 100 times ballsier. The UK Guardian says it's like "Springsteen singing Interpol," and while I'm not sure I'd go that far, it's pretty good. Download it from iTunes or grab an mp3 from the Guardian.
After this photo was taken, Alberto Gonzales stepped onto a small fishing boat with one of President Bush's children. At the last moment, the child was called away and an ominous looking man in a fishing hat took the child's place. Drifting in the middle of the lake with the man in the hat sitting behind him, the man nicknamed "Fredo" began to say the Hail Mary. And this is how Alberto Gonzales met his end.
TNR has a good article about the lack of oversight and transparency in presidential library fundraising, and the potential for abuse it creates. We've seen the problem before:
In 1993, George H.W. Bush pardoned Edwin L. Cox, Jr., who had pled guilty five years earlier to bank fraud. Eleven months later, Cox's father pledged support for the Bush library and is now listed as a donor in the "$100,000 to $250,000" range. Likewise, in the late '90s, Denise Rich reportedly pledged $450,000 to Clinton's library at the same time her ex-husband, Marc Rich, was seeking a pardon for racketeering and tax- evasion charges.
Two things make the problem relevant again today. First, Bush is trying to raise a whopping $500 million for this presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, which means tons and tons of fundraising now, while Bush is still in office and capable of being swayed on policy decisions by particularly large donations. (By the way, Methodist ministers are appalled at the idea of GWB's library being at SMU.)
Second, Hillary Clinton is running for president while her husband's library is accepting donations. There is a strong system of oversight for presidential campaign fundraising (just see opensecrets.org), but there is nothing you can do if you want to see who is donating to Bill Clinton's library. Surely it is time for the FEC to step in.
I wrote last week of an Army contracting officer in Kuwait, who, with the collusion of his wife and sister, allegedly took almost $10 million in bribes from corrupt contractors. It was said to be the largest case of fraud yet uncovered during the Iraq reconstruction.
Well, as reported in this morning's New York Times, it may wind up being a drop in the bucket. Investigators from the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Justice Department, and the FBI have uncovered a network of criminality much larger than anything previously conceived. It involves "the purchase and delivery of weapons, supplies, and other material to Iraqi and American forces" and amounts to "the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict there." Among those under investigation is Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, a contracting officer who reported directly to General David Petraeus, the current commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Now, it comes as no surprise that reconstruction operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered from incompetence, waste, and fraud. What does surprise, though, is the scale of wrongdoing slowly emerging from news reports. From the Times:
The investigation into contracts for matériel to Iraqi soldiers and police officers is part of an even larger series of criminal cases. As of Aug. 23, there were a total of 73 criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman said Monday. Twenty civilians and military personnel have been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries, he said. The inquiries involve contracts valued at more than $5 billion, and Colonel Baggio said the charges so far involve more than $15 million in bribes...
Investigations span the gamut from low-level officials submitting false claims for amounts less than $2,500 to more serious cases involving, conspiracy, bribery, product substitution and bid-rigging or double-billing involving large dollar amounts or more senior contracting officials, Army criminal investigators said. The investigations involve contractors, government employees, local nationals and American military personnel.
If keeping track of all this corruption is confusing, have no fear. Here's an incomplete timeline of events, cobbled together from the Times article:
In the department of better late than never, the Pentagon is taking action. Its Inspector General, Claude M. Kicklighter, will lead a team of 18 investigators to Iraq early next month to examine contracting practices. Army Secretary Pete Geren is also expected to announce later this week the creation of a special panel to identify problems in the military contracting process.
Ok, I leave it to the boys to sort out plausibility; I report (what the WaPo's OffBeat blog reported), you decide:
Readers probably remember Florida State Rep. and Idiot of the Year nominee Bob Allen (R), who blamed his alleged bathroom solicitation of an undercover male cop on a fear of black people. Craig's arrest seems a little less idiotic, at least thus far. The 62-year-old was merely accused of playing footsie under the stall door (I haven't a square to spare), and then "brush[ing] his hand beneath the partition between them." Craig contends that it's all a big misunderstanding, explaining to police, "he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom."
I really hope that this experience, and the experiences of the other gay Republicans that have been in the news lately, will show members of the GOP that gay Americans come in different shapes, sizes, and styles. Some are the San Francisco drag queens that they seem to think will invade their schools and make out with their children (the gays of red state nightmares), and some are lonely, old, white men in suits who are driven underground for satisfaction of their sexual desires because the culture that permeates the GOP makes a free and honest expression of their sexuality impossible. Gays, believe it or not, are everyday Americans that are respectable members of red state communities. Every once in a while, they lead them.
I hope the Republican citizens of Idaho look at their senator and say, "We were satisfied with this man's work as our representative in Congress before we knew he is gay. And now that we know, nothing changes." There are "moral values" hidden somewhere in that kind of tolerance, I'm sure of it.
In this edition of the Top Ten: some French techno, as usual, plus French-Canadian hip-hop, as well as some hip-hop made by ladies, although they're not French or French-Canadian. Plus a mashup with a French band too! And, if you think about it, you can probably see the moon in France, although I have no proof of this either way. Actually, maybe I do.
10. The Moon (from The Sky, available outside your house)
Well, I just took that picture there out my window, and you can't really tell since my camera's pretty cheap, but tonight's moon seems extra bulbous and psycho bright, perhaps in anticipation of being eclipsed in just a few hours. I was reminded of Laurie Anderson's "Sharkey's Day," although she was talking about the sun, "like a big bald head / rising up over the grocery store."
9. Parts & Labor - "The Gold We're Digging" (video)
Supposedly this clip took endless hours to shoot, considering each alteration of the background color blocks meant another take, really. The end product is a little like "Fell In Love With A Girl" divided by "Everybody Wang Chung Tonight," both hypnotic and spastic. Thankfully the song is also kind of like that, a noisy double-time stomper that's somewhat reminiscent of Joy Division.
8. The Pharcyde / J Dilla - "Runnin'" (from Jay Deelicious on Delicious Vinyl)
Originally on the LA hip-hop group's fantastic 1995 album Labcabincalifornia, this was one of my favorite tracks of that year, before I had any idea who Jay Dee / J Dilla was. Of course, now I know he produced it, and while Delicious Vinyl's altering the credits on these tracks to read "J Dilla and The Pharcyde" is a little silly, it's nice to see they're alerting people to the impact he had on hip-hop. Plus there's instrumental versions!
7. Vitalic - "The 30,000 Feet Club" (from V Live, out 9/18 on Different/Pias)
(mp3 via Kids by Colette, or listen on his MySpace)
Before Justice stole the fire, Vitalic was France's great techno hope. 2005's brilliant OK Cowboy presaged the current crop of electronic CDs that actually cohere as full-length albums. Plus, live, he's actually pretty interesting, and he's beating Daft Punk to the punch by releasing a live recording of a performance in Belgium last year. This is one of the new tracks from that set, a propulsive, buzzing number that seems to fall out of tune now and then, only to resolve itself with greater energy.
6. Payroll - "Daft Prayer" (Daft Punk vs. Bon Jovi) (mp3 via his site)
I know, something Daft Punky has to be in every Top Ten it seems like, but this is really worth it. UK bootlegger Payroll basically leaves Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer" alone (since it's perfect as is, natch) and cheekily cuts up "Around the World" to fit, creating a combo that's both an awesome dance remix of Bon Jovi and a great way to enjoy both songs at once.