Blogs

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."

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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.

Don't Refuse Music News on Tuesday

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

mojo-photo-lennon.JPG

  • 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...

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    Mitt Romney Loves Iran, Sudan, Cigarettes, Other Bad Things

    | Tue Aug. 14, 2007 11:31 AM EDT

    Mitt Romney is rich. So rich that his wealth is estimated to be between $190 million and $250 million. Want to know how he made all that money? Here are some of his current and former investments:

    • An Italian oil company doing business in Iran. (former)
    • A Chinese oil company doing business in Sudan. (current)
    • Philip Morris U.S.A., the world's largest cigarette manufacturer. (current)
    • A half dozen casino companies. (former)
    • Wal-Mart. (current)

    There's enough in there to anger both the right and the left, particularly because Evangelicals are getting all worked up about Darfur these days. Mo' money, mo' problems, I guess.

    Rove and the National Press

    | Tue Aug. 14, 2007 10:54 AM EDT

    Worth reading: Jay Rosen on how Karl Rove figured out that the national press would never cover the extent of his extremism and tactics. Rosen cites from Joshua Green's 2004 Atlantic Monthly profile of Rove:

    He seems to understand—indeed, to count on—the media's unwillingness or inability, whether from squeamishness, laziness, or professional caution, ever to give a full estimate of him or his work. It is ultimately not just Rove's skill but his character that allows him to perform on an entirely different plane. Along with remarkable strategic skills, he has both an understanding of the media's unstated self-limitations and a willingness to fight in territory where conscience forbids most others.


    Meantime, the Weekly Standard is now playing Joseph McCarthy. Figuring in the same way as Rove that the press and polite establishment will never call them on the depths of their extremism and propaganda. (Remember "Case Closed"?) Which is why, as he relentlessly mocks and exposes this absurd and dangerous state of affairs, Atrios is right, a wise man, if not a Very Serious Person.

    Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 8/13/07

    | Tue Aug. 14, 2007 12:07 AM EDT

    This week, lilting Europop seems to be the theme, sort of. Northern climes represented include the lovely Sweden and the dashing Denmark! But there's other stuff here too: mopey indie rock, ribald hip-hop, and zoomy techno. Come to think of it you can probably just read last week's.

    mojo-photo-guzman.JPG10. Isabel Guzman – "When You Were My Friend"
    (listen on her MySpace page)
    The first of two Swedish women with snazzy hairdos on the Top Ten this week, Guzman is the up-and-comer, and her voice has a deep, almost guttural quality; mostly, though, this song is about the flawless dance-pop production. Like the best of Madonna, it manages to grab all the latest, coolest effects from electronic music and put them to good use.

    mojo-cover-brunettes.JPG9. The Brunettes – "Small Town Crew" (from Structure & Cosmetics on Sub Pop) (mp3 via the Sub Pop site)
    This New Zealand duo have been described as "twee," but it seems to apply only in the best possible sense: delicate, sparkling acoustic pop, with the barest waftings of melancholy. But then the lyrics take a darker twist ("if only I could have you here/I'd love to smack you around the room") and the instrumentation fills out, giving the song a cinematic feel.

    mojo-cover-juniorsenior.JPG8. Junior Senior – "Can I Get Get Get" (from Hey Hey My My Yo Yo, out 8/14 on EMI)
    (mp3 via You Ain't No Picasso)
    While the exuberance of 2003's "Don't Stop" may have settled down a bit, the infectious Jackson 5-style grooves are still in effect. The rhymes are a little silly… and I just had the realization that Junior Senior might be the Flight of the Conchords of Denmark, which actually makes me like them a little more.

    mojo-cover-newyoungponyclub.JPG7. New Young Pony Club – "The Get Go" (from Fantastic Playroom on Modular)
    (grab an mp3 at Cause=Time)
    I have to admit, I wrote this London combo off after getting sick of their omnipresent first single, "Ice Cream" (seen any Intel commercials lately?) but it turns out they have a lot more to offer, and a much deeper understanding of post-punk possibilities. This song features a Joy Division-reminscent bassline, but a more mellow, straightforward dance beat—unlike fellow Brits Klaxons or Bloc Party, NYPC aren't afraid to groove.

    mojo-photo-50cent.jpg6. 50 Cent w/ Justin Timberlake – "AYO Technology" (from Curtis, out 9/11 on Interscope) (buy it at iTunes)
    So much trouble! First there's all the delays with the album release date, and 50's, um, anger management issues . This single was originally so explicit that the label refused to release it, and it's still pretty, um, ribald, but whatever: Timbaland outdoes himself on production once again. While a syrupy-slow beat counts time, what sounds like an old Nintendo jacked up on too much juice goes mental with blippy hyperspeed arpeggios. Have I asked for Timbo to get a MacArthur genius grant yet? Well, I assume he doesn't need it.

    Baghdad Beautifies Its Blast Walls

    | Mon Aug. 13, 2007 10:39 PM EDT

    Dozens of Iraqi artists have been painting murals along miles of concrete blast walls throughout Baghdad, and the American military is paying a portion of the bill. To learn more, read this post on Mother Jones' arts and culture blog, The Riff.