Blogs

Rove's Departure Unlikely to End Investigation Into His Activities

| Wed Aug. 15, 2007 10:10 AM EDT

Karl Rove's politicalization of the federal government became so wide-ranging and so bald earlier this year that the Republican apparatchik at the head of the Office of Special Counsel decided to investigate him. If you were wondering if that investigation will end with Rove's resignation (MoJo's thoughts on the departure here and here), have no fear. According to an Office of Special Counsel spokesman, the inquiries will continue.

That could be spin, of course, and we'll have to wait to see if any real results come out of the OSC, but at least it's spin in the right direction.

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Gonzo and the Reauthorization of the Patriot Act, Part II

| Tue Aug. 14, 2007 9:42 PM EDT

Guess which beleaguered public official is poised to grab even more power—Alberto Gonzales. A hidden provision in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act allows states to opt in to a program aimed at expediting the federal appeals process for death row inmates. This provision gives the attorney general the authority to deny an appeal before it even reaches federal court for review. The attorney general's job is to present such a case before the court, not to decide it.

Sound familiar? There was another provision that was quietly slipped into the reauthorization of the Patriot Act granting Gonzales excess power. You know, the one that allowed him to appoint interim U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation? Shouldn't we be scouring that bill for more sneaky power-granting amendments?

And it's not difficult to predict what Gonzales will do with this newfound control over capital litigation. As gubernatorial counsel to Bush for three years in Texas, Gonzales advised him on 57 executions. Clemency was denied in all of them.

—Celia Perry

Wholesome Teens Turned Sex Symbols

| Tue Aug. 14, 2007 8:30 PM EDT

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So…who graces the cover of Rolling Stone this week? None other than baby-faced Zac Efron. In the photo, not only is the 19-year-old Disney star taking off his shirt, but it could also be argued that he's bashfully rubbing his man boob. The picture surely brings squeals of delight to millions of teeny-boppers, and just as equally brings nothing but a big shudder to the rest of us. Efron's most famous roles are as a singing and dancing high school hunk in High School Musical and the movie version of Hairspray. The roles are innocent but the press he's getting is anything but.

And if that doesn't bother you, how about an almost-nude shot of our favorite wizard boy? *Shudders.

But really aren't we just treating young male celebrities the way we've always treated female celebrities—with birthday countdowns, suggestive magazine covers, and sexy interview questions? Is this objectification or just a really great break for these young chaps? Either way, we can be sure Daniel Radcliffe doesn't mind.

—Anna Weggel

M.I.A. Streaming All of Kala Online

| Tue Aug. 14, 2007 7:55 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mia2.JPGNow you can finally hear what I've been blabbering about this whole time. Check out M.I.A.'s MySpace page where all 12 tracks from her about-to-be-released sophomore album Kala are available for your streaming pleasure. Hey look: Robert Christgau says "Kala strikes deep," 4.5 out of 5 stars. You don't want to mess with Christgau. Anyway, you can spend money on Kala next Tuesday. Predictions for where it'll chart? Considering Arular never made it past #190 on the Billboard album charts, I'll say Kala will debut at... #39.

Update, 8/16: I've read the Christgau review a couple times now and I'd just like to point out how brilliant it is. Please check it out. He uncovers a few insights that are absolutely true and totally fascinating: 1) the fact that the full-album collaboration with Timbaland didn't come to pass is probably due not only to the visa troubles but also to M.I.A. realizing that she didn't want to become Nelly Furtado; 2) the album, therefore, is less accessible, an uncompromising, jagged "art record," and 3) it recalls nothing so much as The Clash, whose aggression, multicultural influences, political expression, and DIY aesthetic combined with great songwriting skills to create a couple masterpieces. That could all be describing M.I.A., and when you think about it, this is totally the record the Clash would be making if they were making records today. Look at Big Audio Dynamite! Dude is 65 years old figuring out this s***. I bow down.

Why is Hastert Leaving?

| Tue Aug. 14, 2007 6:11 PM EDT

What a week. First Rove, now Dennis Hastert, who, until last year, was the most powerful man in Congress. As recently as January, the former Speaker of the House had emphatically denied that he was thinking about calling it quits. "I just think that was wishful thinking on the part of some people," the Illinois Congressman had told the local CBS station in Chicago. But now CBS says its sources "expect Hastert to announce he will not seek reelection next year."

It's too early to say why Hastert is calling it quits, and we'll probably never know for sure (I'll bet, like Rove, he'll be wanting to get in some quality time with the family). I'd guess Hastert might be tired of hearing about how he helped squander the Republican majority with his botched handling of the Congressional page sex scandal. And it probably hasn't helped that the scandal refuses to go away: the Rev. KA Paul, who was widely discredited even before Hastert discussed the page woes with him last year in a private meeting, was recently arrested in a Beverly Hills hotel on suspicion of "lewd and lascivious acts with a minor." Still, many in Illinois will be sad to see Hastert go, if for no other reason than his ability to bring home giant slabs of pork. While it's true that Speaker Pelosi is also sprinkling some bacon bits these days, at least she hasn't been accused of self-dealing. Hastert won an earmark for a freeway through the middle of nowhere, driving up the value of an adjacent property that he owned, which he then sold at a profit.

"Hastert was one of the key players in rewriting how business on the floor of the House of Representatives is done," says John Laesch, a Navy veteran who ran against Hastert last year and came closer to winning than anyone had thought possible. "The pay-to-play system that he and Tom DeLay created puts the people's business behind closed doors. I think that is probably ultimately what he will be remembered for in Washington, D.C." Laesch is one of three Democrats making a bid for the seat this year in the Illinois primary. What would he do differently if he gets elected? "Well," he says, pausing to think for a moment. "Everything."

Buh-Bye Hastert: Another Pathetic Legacy

| Tue Aug. 14, 2007 5:57 PM EDT

When we live-blogged the glorious 2006 midterm elections, we posted a blog saying buh-bye to each nefarious member of the Republican delegation as they fell. Santorum and George Allen were particular favorites. Today, we've got a headstart on 2008. Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert will announce that he is retiring. It is unclear if his retirement is effective immediately or at the end of this session of Congress.

As the man who presided over the Republican House when it (1) whole-heartedly supported one of the greatest foreign policy debacles in our country's history, and (2) swung widely out of control in terms of corruption, graft, ethics abuses, and preying on congressional pages, Hastert leaves with a legacy tarnished. Awfully common these days.

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Don't Refuse Music News on Tuesday

| Tue Aug. 14, 2007 4:10 PM EDT

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  • John Lennon's solo material now available on iTunes. Sixteen of the former Beatle's solo albums and videos for EMI are up on the digital storefront, joining Paul and Ringo's solo output. What could it all mean? (Billboard)

  • A trustee of James Brown's estate returned a "questionable" payment of $350,000 from the Brown trust that was made three days after the soul legend passed away. Also, 14 potential children are still waiting for DNA tests to prove their heritage. And, nobody paid for Brown's funeral. (E! Online)
  • Turning now to news about people who are alive, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams enjoyed sampling Thom Yorke so much that now they're hoping to record a whole album under the name CRS, or Child Rebel Soldiers, which Idolator points out "sounds like a skit that was cut from the M.I.A. album." (Billboard)
  • Todd Haynes' amazing-looking Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There (that uses six different actors to play Bob) also features everyone cool in the world ever on the soundtrack. Steven Malkmus, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Karen O, Mark Lanegan, Cat Power, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Daft Punk? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, non. (Stereogum, USA Today)
  • Newark Gets It Together in Response to Homicides; New Orleans, Not So Much

    | Tue Aug. 14, 2007 4:04 PM EDT

    The Newark mayor's office has raised more than $3 million for a state-of-the-art surveillance system within days of the slaying of three college students. The homicides, which brought the 2007 citywide total up to 60, inspired political foes to make friends and corporations to make donations, all in the name of mitigating the alarming levels of violence in their city.

    Meanwhile, no such strides have been made in New Orleans, where in the first four days of this year, seven people were murdered. By Saint Patrick's Day, 37. With less than half of the city's population around, the odds of getting killed in New Orleans made it the deadliest city in America.

    A few months after I moved out of New Orleans last year, someone was shot with an assault rifle on the very corner on which I stood waiting for the bus every day. Hopefully the situation in Newark will inspire a certain mayor's office on the Gulf Coast, too, in a city in which there have been twice as many murders—literally, 120 so far this year—among a population less tens of thousands. Hopefully it'll happen soon, before more good and desperately needed New Orleanians, evacuating from a different kind of threat, move out.

    Development Statistics Geeks of the World, Unite!

    | Tue Aug. 14, 2007 3:18 PM EDT

    Behold, another super-cool gadget from Google. It's called Gapminder World, and it was developed by the Gapminder Foundation, which describes itself as "a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development." You can track almost any country in the world on a chart where you can make the x- and y-axes any one of more than a dozen development indicators. You can color the points differently based on region, or resize them based on population. You can see which countries are making progress and which are lagging behind. You can scale data logarithmically. Basically, it's the coolest thing I've found on Google in a while. That's saying something.

    Just check it out.

    — Nick Baumann

    Muhammad al-Corleone: New Trouble in Iraq

    | Tue Aug. 14, 2007 1:28 PM EDT

    Yet another problem for General Petraeus and the American military to worry about: the Italian mafia is selling weapons to insurgent factions in Iraq. It just got caught trafficking "100,000 sophisticated machine guns." Wonder if that's in the vaunted counterinsurgency manual...