And Then There Were Five

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 4:39 PM EDT

Citing Michael Mukasey's reluctance to answer questions about the legality of waterboarding, Senator Patrick Leahy just added his name to the expanding list of Judiciary Committee Dems (five currently) who plan to vote against the president's AG nominee on Tuesday. "There may be interrogation techniques that require close examination and extensive briefings," Leahy said during a press conference in Vermont this afternoon. "Waterboarding is not among them. No American should need a classified briefing to determine whether waterboarding is torture."

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When Did Negroes Become Nerds?

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 3:21 PM EDT

Mark Anthony Neal never fails. He finds a way to use his love of black music to talk about everything black at once. This time, he's gotten at something that's been worrying me for awhile now: when, and why, did public black culture become so degraded? I don't just mean rap's excesses but the paltry cultural footprint we're leaving these days when we used to mesmerize with our art.

No matter how much harder being black used to be, at least we knew we were the coolest people on earth. Hang us from trees though whites certainly did, they still envied us our style and rightfully so. We bad! and the world couldn't keep its eyes off us, on stage, screen or vinyl. The Temptations, afros, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne, The Cotton Club, jazz, blues, gospel. Now, public black culture is mostly rap, reality shows, overwrought r&b and over-priced clothing lines. Neal notes:

In his too-brilliant-to-be-dismissed collection of essays bloodbeats: vol. 1, Los Angeles cultural critic Ernest Hardy writes that "selling blackness is permissible in the mainstream marketplace; celebrating it is not. Few folks know the difference." The occasion for Hardy's observation was the release of the music video for Janet Jackson's "Got Till It's Gone," of which he writes that the video "not only works the artfulness and artsiness that lie at the heart of everyday blackness but envisions a world of African cool, eroticism and playfulness that is electrifying in its forthrightness." "Got Till It's Gone" was released a decade ago and Hardy's argument is no less true today. Indeed blackness seems an industry unto itself, accessible on myriad media platforms and as pervasive as the air; there's rarely a moment where one can't conceivable choke on blackness—especially as the remote surfs past another reality show under-written by the Viacom Corporation. But where does one celebrate blackness at this moment?

Blackness is everywhere but it doesn't seem to be about much. Ironically, this occurs to me on the ever rarer occasions when black artistry does what it's supposed to, what it used to do so much more reliably—remind me that blackness is amazing. Dreamgirls, the Color Purple and Corinne Bailey Rae shocked me. They made me cry; all those beautiful shades of black and all that talent. I had no idea how much I'd missed seeing myself being incredible, transcendant. Seeing blackness loved. They literally made me ache a little—I have to get out more—and realize that I missed blackness. I think the world does, too. 50 Cent is a poor replacement for Curtis Mayfield.

CBS' Vital Campaign News Coverage, Elizabeth Kucinich Still Has a Tongue Ring

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 1:30 PM EDT

Yesterday, Casey made the point—while reporting that the South Carolina Democratic Party voted not to include comedian Stephen Colbert on the state's primary ballot—that fringe candidates often get, well, pushed to the fringe during election season and never get a chance to weigh in on real issues. Case in point—CBS' interview with Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth. You can watch the entire interview here and Salon's Tim Grieve makes it so you don't have to. Basically, following a painful series of the same question ("So, you would be willing to meet with him?") surrounding Kucinich's already well-publicized assertion that he would be more than willing to speak directly with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he were elected president, CBS' Hannah Storm launches into how hot his wife is and asks to see her tongue ring. Honestly, I'd rather hear about what's in the presidential candidate's pockets or I don't know, what he thinks about healthcare or the world's energy crisis, but I guess I'm expecting a bit much from the Early Show.

Friday? Aye, It's Music News Day

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 1:11 PM EDT


  • Wait, you're telling me that after the whole build-up and lottery rigamarole, the Led Zeppelin reunion show scheduled for November 26th in London is being postponed because Jimmy Page hurt his widdle finger? Oh, but you're also telling me it was actaully a fracture, and the show's already been rescheduled for December 10th? Okay then.

  • Meat Loaf halted a gig in Newcastle, UK last night after only a few songs, announcing not only the end of the show but of his musical career. "I can no longer continue," he said, "this is the last show I may ever do in my life." Audience members reported the singer had seemed "drunk" and was slurring his words during the concert; Meat Loaf apparently tours with an oxygen tank by the side of the stage due to health concerns.
  • Rapper Da Brat was arrested in Atlanta last night after allegedly hitting a waitress in the face with a rum bottle. Ouch. She posted $50,000 bail and was released. Da Brat was the first female rapper to go platinum. More importantly, what's that horrible yellow polka-dot jacket she's wearing? Is that a promotional shawl for Bee Movie?
  • Do you like music, except for all those musical parts? Well get your rhythmic butt to the 19th Annual Drum-Off Grand Finals in Hollywood January 5th, where drummers from Bad Religion, The Roots, No Doubt and Pennywise will, you know, drum. The event brings percussionists from around the country together to compete for a $10,000 prize and the ignorance of fans everywhere.
  • Dueling Videos in the Aftermath of Hillary's Debate Stumble

    | Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:32 AM EDT

    After Hillary Clinton's subpar performance in the most recent debate, the Clinton campaign tried to take the spotlight off her blunders by releasing this video, called "The Politics of Pile On":

    And it may come back to hurt her, because it invited the Edwards campaign to release this video, called "The Politics of Parsing":

    Obama has been talking a lot about how he's going to start attacking Clinton. Edwards, on the other hand, has actually started attacking Clinton.

    A Recess Appointment for Mukasey?

    | Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:13 AM EDT

    mukasey.gifAs David noted yesterday, Senate Dems will have a chance to block Michael Mukasey's nomination on Tuesday when the Judiciary Committee puts him to a vote. Whether or not they will do so remains a big if, given that it will require a no vote from each of the 10 Democrats on the committee and, as yet, only four have signaled that they will oppose his nomination. As it stands, New York Senator Chuck Schumer appears to be waffling. An early advocate of Mukasey, he said yesterday that "no nominee from this administration will agree with us on things like torture and wiretapping. The best we can expect is somebody who will depoliticize the Justice Department and put rule of law first." Later today, Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy is expected to announce whether he will support Mukasey's nomination.

    As the Los Angeles Times points out today, even if the Dems on judiciary stand firm on Mukasey, the president could attempt to install his AG pick in a recess appointment—one that will remain in effect until the close of his presidency—over Congress' upcoming holiday break. In that case, the Times notes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could try to out maneuver the president, "by keeping some lawmakers in Washington over the break to ensure that the chamber was always in session."

    Depending on the outcome of Tuesday's vote, the Dems could find themselves (again) in a showdown with the president, who came out swinging yesterday in defense of his nominee. Playing the Dems-won't keep-you-safe card, the president said that "on too many issues, Congress is behaving as if America is not at war" and that blocking Mukasey "would guarantee that America would have no attorney general during this time of war." The latter is a bit of a strange comment, one that doesn't display terribly much confidence in Peter D. Keisler, the acting attorney general, a founding member of the Federalist Society (the conservative lawyers group), and an ideological soulmate of the administration.

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    Blathering About Bill and Hillary: The Right's Lazy Attacks

    | Fri Nov. 2, 2007 9:57 AM EDT

    Charles Krauthammer's column in the Post today accomplishes nothing. Offering no evidence, Krauthammer posits Americans are gripped by a "deep unease" over the possibility of a Hillary Clinton-Bill Clinton co-presidency. He doesn't use polls or anecdotal evidence to support this claim. He has done no interviews. He just declares this to be true.

    And as for why Americans are wary of such a situation, Krauthammer insists that it goes beyond the psychodrama of Bill and Hillary's troubled marriage, but repeatedly falls back on that troubled marriage to make his point. For example, take this paragraph, with my thoughts in bolded brackets:

    The cloud hovering over a Hillary presidency is not Bill padding around the White House in robe and slippers flipping thongs. [invokes Bill's infidelity while insisting that Bill infidelity is not the issue] It's President Clinton, in suit and tie, simply present in the White House when any decision is made. [why is that a bad thing?] The degree of his involvement in that decision will inevitably become an issue. [it will? evidence?] Do Americans really want a historically unique two-headed presidency constantly buffeted by the dynamics of a highly dysfunctional marriage? [presents no evidence that Americans object to "unique two-headed presidency"; again invokes Bill's infidelity while insisting Bill's infidelity is not at issue]

    I can't help but note that considering how disastrously this administration has run the country, most Americans would probably welcome Bill Clinton back in the White House. But that's not the point. The point is Krauthammer has no evidence. The sort of sloppy, lazy writing on display in that paragraph is found throughout his column.

    The real culprit here may be the standards of column writing, which have gotten so low that even columnists for the Post and the Times can blather on without making any substantive points and without including evidence. Here's a great example.

    Did the Mormon Mafia Work Its Magic for Kyle Sampson?

    | Fri Nov. 2, 2007 9:38 AM EDT

    sampson.jpgDespite his spectacular fall from grace, Alberto Gonzales's former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson has nonetheless managed to land a lucrative revolving-door post at the powerhouse law firm Hunton & Williams. Sampson, you'll recall, was the guy who drew up the hit-list of U.S. Attorneys slated to get fired for not being loyal enough to the GOP.

    Hunton & Williams has hired Sampson for its food and drug practice, where business is booming thanks to Rep. Henry Waxman's renewed focus on the FDA. Sampson got a plug from Hunton partner David Higbee, who was Sampson's roommate at Brigham Young University. But the folks at Hunton aren't just providing a soft landing for a disgraced Bush administration official out of the goodness of their hearts. A Utah native and former Mormon missionary, Sampson also has close ties to one Orrin Hatch, for whom he worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee and who is a notorious foe of the FDA. Hatch is almost single-handedly responsible for preventing any meaningful regulation of dietary supplements, and will be a key focus of all major anti-FDA lobbying efforts.

    Opening Salvo in the War on Halloween

    | Fri Nov. 2, 2007 9:37 AM EDT

    Liberals make war on Christmas, conservatives make war on Halloween.

    More on Bush PR Maven Hughes' Departure

    | Fri Nov. 2, 2007 9:05 AM EDT

    Slate's Fred Kaplan weighs in on Karen Hughes' decision to quit her job as undersecretary of state to burnish America's image abroad and return to Texas:

    It may be that, as [Hughes] focused more on the substance and less on the flash, she realized that what she'd been asked to do simply couldn't be done. If the measure of success was how well she was selling U.S. policy, she was failing because there was no good story to sell.

    "My guess is that the next year is going to be brutal for anyone doing 'message' control and with the elections they will be irrelevant as well," a recent Foggy Bottom denizen explains Hughes departure to me. "Life is too short, so she threw in the towel."