Do you use factcheck.org? You should. Its mission is to... well, its mission is in its title. Here's what it had to say about the Republican debate (the millionth debate, right? Or the millionth and one?) that occurred on Sunday.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney falsely claimed U.S. job growth had been nearly 17 times faster than Europe's. Actually, European Union employment grew faster than that of the U.S. last year. Romney's source for the information told FactCheck.org that he himself would no longer use the figures.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused Democratic candidates of "appeasement" toward Islamic terrorists. In fact, leading Democratic candidates have spoken out strongly against terrorism.
Sen. John McCain claimed American families spend $140 billion of their income preparing federal income tax returns. We find no support for that figure, which the Internal Revenue Service puts at $19 billion.
Rep. Tom Tancredo claimed illegal immigrants "are taking a large part of our health care dollars." But the independent Rand Corp. estimates that undocumented immigrants account for 1.5 percent of health care spending or less.
The site follows these summaries with longer and more substantive debunkings of the candidates' claims. And, as it turns out factcheck.org has hit the Republicans before and even chided the Democrats. Must-read material after any debate, I would say.
This morning I was among a lucky few DC subway commuters to receive a bundle of safety information from a Metro representative. It included an "Emergency Guide," published by the Washington Post several years ago, several pamphlets detailing what to do in the event of a terrorist attack on the subway, and (my favorite) a pocket-size first aid kit, complete with Band-Aids, antiseptic towelettes, and antibiotic ointment. Now I'm ready for anything!! I suppose it makes sense to raise "awareness," but, geesh, reading the literature does remind you how screwed you'd be if you got stuck in one of those tunnels with a cloud of Sarin. Whatever you do, I guess you shouldn't leave the train car. As the Emergency Guide warns:
Seen through the windows of a speeding train, a Metrorail tunnel is little more than a blur of blackness and lights. Outside the train, on foot, it's a complex and treacherous place, riddled with hazards that can cause injury or instant death.
10. Hard-Fi "Suburban Knights" (from Once Upon a Time in the West, out 9/3 in the UK, US release date TBD)
(video on YouTube, stream at MySpace)
So, we established the cover art is silly, but it turns out the music isn't bad at all. With its jaunty ska-inflected rhythm and sing-along background vocals ("Hey-ey-ey! Ho-oh-oh!"), it's even more raucous than "Hard to Beat," the high point on the UK combo's 2005 debut.
9. Brother and Sister "Awesome With My Life" video (or, listen without video on their MySpace)
Minneapolis duo Michael and Katie Gaughan (yes, actual bro and sis) make a joyful noise, and apparently are famous around the Cities for unconventional concerts at aquatic parks and jails. Like a kid-friendly "Take the Skinheads Bowling" or "Bitchin' Camaro" for a new generation, this track makes me want to, well, do something awesome with my life. Anybody got any idea how to do that?
8. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings "100 Days 100 Nights"
(listen on their MySpace here)
Half the fun of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" is the precise backing band, and it turns out they do their own thing too. The Brooklyn combo's horn-based R&B is definitely retro, but somehow it still feels fresh. The record release party is October 2nd at the Apollo in Harlem, how awesome will that be?
7. Architecture in Helsinki "Heart it Races" (from Places Like This, out August 21st on Polyvinyl)
(mp3 via Hate Something Beautiful)
This Melbourne, Australia combo gained an extensive blog following with their quirky 2005 sophomore release, In Case We Die; they've since shed a couple members, and their new sound is a little more focused (and, weirdly, a lot like M.I.A.'s "Galang").
6. Feist "My Moon My Man" (from The Reminder on Interscope)
(listen at her MySpace)
Party Ben: a little slow on the uptake with this one. The first single, "1234," was nice enough, but put me off with its Gap-ad-reminiscent video; ironically enough, it took an inescapable cell phone commercial to remind me of this song's hypnotic vocals and shiver-inducing guitar line. Call me a flip-flopper.
Former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori might once again escape the law. For the last year, Peruvian authorities have sought Fujimori's extradition from Chile for human rights abuses he oversaw during the 1990s, but it's not looking good. A Chilean judge denied Peru's extradition request last month. Peru, of course, immediately appealed the decision. And Peruvians living in Chile also filed separate criminal charges hoping to tie up Fujimori in the courts rather than allowing him to flee should Peru's appeal fall through.
The South American strongman seems to always be escaping the law. In 2000, a corruption scandal forced Fujimori to flee Peru allowing the South American nation to confront Fujimori's human rights violations with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to South Africa's. Meanwhile, Fujimori's Japanese descent afforded him safe exile in Japan from where he faxed in his resignation. During his exile, international arrest warrants building on the commission's findings were issued by Interpol and Peru. But despite the possibility of capture, Fujimori attempted to slip back into Peru via Chile in 2005. And to run for president, no less. Chilean authorities apprehended him as the two countries have an extradition treaty.
But last month, a Chilean Judge turned down Peru's request. Seemingly as a last resort, Peruvian ex-pats filed the new criminal charges, although, to no avail. Last week, the charges were quickly dismissed and it looks as if Chile's supreme court could take three or more months to decide Fujimori's fate. Without new charges, or some other divine hand, it looks like Fujimori might be back in Japan for Christmas.
The States, a palatable New York-based, indy/pop/punk/rock band, don't exactly get my angsty, political blood boiling, but they do get bonus points for writing a song about former high-powered Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff on their latest album, The Path of Least Resistance.
Abramoff, who was at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation including fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy, gets criticized in the song "Black Jack" by The States. "How are you gonna tell your son that the game is over, that your hand is busted," they say in the song. Ouch!
Karl Rove doesn't get off too easy on the album, either. In the song "The Architect," The States criticize Rove and the Bush Administration with the lines "You can build where you don't belong if you are cautious Liberty is such a bitch, yeah, when you force it."
The only problem is that their well-polished hipster cool image and over-produced tracks make the band and their new album feel too safe for me. As a result, they don't feel very rebellious or dangerous, so their bark feels louder than their bite.
Singer/songwriter Lee Hazlewood died Saturday in Henderson, Nevada, losing a three-year battle with kidney cancer. While Hazlewood had his own label and musical career, he was best known for penning tracks for Nancy Sinatra, especially "These Boots Are Made for Walking" and "Some Velvet Morning," on which he also sang. "Morning" is one of the weirder tracks to ever hit the Top 30 (reaching #26 on the Billboard charts in 1967)a reverby mix of country and psychedelia that's notable for its alternating 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, whose accelerating back-and-forth provides the song's disorienting climax. The lyrics' open admission of substance use ("some velvet morning when I'm straight") made it a counter-cultural touchstone, and it's since been covered by artists from Slowdive and Primal Scream to Lydia Lunch and Vanilla Fudge.
I wrote last week of a secret plan to send U.S. Special Forces troops to hunt down Kurdish PKK rebels in the mountains of northern Iraq. The plan was first exposed by columnist Robert Novak. Well, in this morning's Washington Post, Ellen Knickmeyer reports that the Turkish political establishment and military have agreed that the time for action against Kurdish rebels has come. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will visit Ankara tomorrow for discussions with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Knickmeyer writes that the Turkish leader will deliver "a final warning" for Maliki to act against PKK guerillas based on the Iraqi side of the Turkish-Iraqi border. One analyst quoted in the article said that a Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan could took place as early as August or September.
Meanwhile, Xinhua, the Chinese press agency, reports that Maliki could sign a cooperation agreement with Erdogan during their Ankara summit. According to one Turkish official quoted in the article, "We [asked the Iraqi authorities] to sign a cooperation agreement on counter-terrorism, and they welcomed the offer. They two countries are now working on a draft agreement... There is a chance to sign the agreement during Maliki's visit, if it is completed on time." No word on how the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan feels about this...
As for U.S. participation in a drive to oust the PKK from Iraq, Novak's column may have altered the political calculus. According to The Journal of Turkish Weekly, published by Ankara's International Strategic Research Organization:
Sources close to the Turkish military say the military did not look warmly to the idea of a joint covert operation with the Americans to capture PKK leaders in northern Iraq because they felt even the gossip of such a plan would be leaked and would drive the terrorist leadership deeper underground thus preventing planners from monitoring their whereabouts.
They feared exactly what happened after the Washington Post leaked a story that American officials had briefed senior congressional members about a planned joint operation to capture leaders of the PKK terrorist organization holed up in the northern Iraqi mountains.
They said the news leak meant such an operation had now become null and void.
Even as the U.S. schemes to expel the PKK from Iraq, the organization's Iranian arm—known as PJAK—is looking to the Americans for help. Rahman Haj-Ahmadi, the group's leader, is visiting Washington this week. In a weekend interview with the Washington Times, he appealed to the U.S. government for support:
We obviously cannot topple the government with the ammunition and weapons we have now... Any financial or military help that would speed the path to true Iranian democracy, we would very much welcome, particularly from the United States.
Both the PKK and PJAK are based in the Kandil mountain range in northern Iraq. More on this as it develops...
Early last week House Minority Leader John Boehner appeared on Fox, telling Neil Cavuto that "we have a serious problem with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" and vowing that "Republicans are not going to leave this week until this problem is addressed." Indeed, congressional Republicans and the administration forced Democrats to act on FISA before members of Congress departed for the August recess and succeeded in passing legislation, signed by the president yesterday, that allows the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance of foreign communications and people "reasonably believed to be outside the United States."
During his Fox appearance, Boehner told Cavuto that a FISA court judge had issued a ruling "over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States." By revealing the secret ruling, Boehner may have divulged classified information, a prosecutable offense. To this end, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington just filed a complaint with the Justice Department, requesting an investigation into whether Boehner broke the law by discussing the FISA court ruling publicly.
From CREW's release:
Rep. Boehner apparently made his remarks to Mr. Cavuto in an effort to blame Democrats for failing to pass legislation overriding the court's decision, stating: "The Democrats have known about this for months. We have had private conversations, we have had public conversations that this needs to be fixed. And Republicans are not going to leave this week until this problem is addressed."
Notably, Minority Leader Boehner has previously expressed strong concerns over illegal leaks for political gain. In discussing a long-running court case regarding an illegally intercepted phone call that Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) released to the media, Rep. Boehner stated: "When you break the law in pursuit of a political opponent, you've gone too far. Members of Congress have a responsibility not only to obey the laws of the country and the rules of our institution, but also to defend the integrity of those laws and rules when they are violated."