Blogs

Winehouse Shows Up For Mercury Prize Ceremony

| Tue Sep. 4, 2007 2:44 PM EDT

Winehouse
Gigwise is reporting that troubled singer Amy Winehouse has arrived at the Grosvenor Hotel in London for the Mercury Music Prize ceremony, set to begin in just a few hours. Her arrival is fueling speculation that she is tapped to win the award, given out for best British album of the year. Her appearance was far from assured; in fact, NME reported a few hours ago that Winehouse would be pulling out of the ceremony, only to pull the story and instead post an article about the singer's arrival and soundcheck.

As we noted earlier, Winehouse's personal issues and alleged drug use caused London bookies to knock down her odds at winning the annual prize; she had been considered the front-runner. While newcomer Bat For Lashes' haunting Fur and Gold is now the current favorite at 7/4 odds, rumors are apparently circulating that Winehouse, who flew into the UK just yesterday, changed plans to be at the ceremony in anticipation of a win.

NME writers are, understandably, pulling for so-called "Nu Ravers" The Klaxons, and solo electronic artist Maps remains a dark horse with his dreamy album We Can Create. 21-year-old singer Jamie T is also considered a strong contender, with oddsmakers placing him just behind Bat For Lashes. Personally, I highly enjoy Winehouse, The Klaxons, Maps, and fellow-nominees Arctic Monkeys, but Bat For Lashes is my fave too, if only for the trick-riding bunnies in her video.

That clip and some other nominees' videos after the jump; stay tuned to the Riff where we'll post the winner when it's announced.

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Weird Weather Watch: Another Category 5 Hurricane

| Tue Sep. 4, 2007 1:50 PM EDT

A few weeks ago, as Dean approached Mexico, I wrote that just 30 hurricanes have attained Category 5 status since record-keeping began in 1886. Twelve of those occurred since 1980; 7 since 2000.

Make that 31 total, and 8 since 2000: Hurricane Felix hit Central America with a vengeance this morning. It was the first time two Category 5 storms have made landfall in a single season.

More than 14,000 people were evacuated.

Bush: "I Cry a Lot"

| Tue Sep. 4, 2007 12:32 PM EDT

There's been a bunch of interesting stuff coming out of a new book on the Bush presidency by Robert Draper entitled "Dead Certain." But Draper, a former writer for Texas Monthly, scored nothing more interesting than Bush's claim that he cries a lot:

"I've got God's shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count as president."

Characteristically tortured grammar aside... what? I've always assumed that Bush's bumbling (in Iraq particularly, but elsewhere too) was borne out of an unthinking machismo that left no room for doubt or dissent. But if the president really is as reflective and contemplative as he claims (which I don't buy) how to explain his errors? Maybe instead of being arrogant and inhumane, Bush is just incompetent?

Who knows. I don't believe this crying claim any more than Karl Rove's claim that Bush read 94 books last year.

Led Zeppelin Reunion Gig For Real?

| Tue Sep. 4, 2007 11:53 AM EDT

Zep
Reunion fever continues this week, as fans debate whether the legendary English rockers will come back together for a performance this fall. Tickets for a supposed Zeppelin show at the O2 Arena (housed in the former Millenium Dome in London) are being advertised by Premier Entertainments, but the band have offered no confirmation, and promoter Harvey Goldsmith says he's concerned people are being "fleeced." He released a statement saying that there are "at least four events being advertised which I suspect either don't exist or where no tickets are on sale or indeed dates finalized." The vague language is giving fans hope that the remaining members of Led Zeppelin, who disbanded after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, will perform together for the first time since a gig at Atlantic Records' 40th birthday celebrations in 1988. The tickets from Premier Entertainments have no official date apparently advertised the show's date as November 26th and come packaged with hotel accommodations, prices starting at £269. That's $541 at current exchange rates. You know, you could see Wolfmother 15 times for that kind of money.

Iraq Debate Opens in Washington

| Tue Sep. 4, 2007 11:40 AM EDT

The long-awaited Iraq debate has arrived. Prepare to be bombarded with official opinion on all sides. Over the next two weeks, there will be no fewer than 12 congressional hearings assessing the state of things in America's fifty-first state.

This week, Congress will review two new reports. The first, by the GAO, will look at Iraq's progress on political and security benchmarks; the second, by Marine General James Jones, will examine the training and capabilities of Iraqi security forces. The forecast is gloomy in each case. The reports will prepare the rhetorical battlefield for next week's main event: the testimony of Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus on the effects of the 'surge.'

As the political battle is joined in Washington, Mother Jones will be there. Check the MoJoBlog for our coverage. A list of events already on the schedule:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007, 2pm: Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report assessing the political and military progress in Iraq.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007, 10am: House Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007, 2pm: House Foreign Affairs Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report.
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 9am: Joint House Armed Services/Foreign Affairs Committee holds an open hearing on "Beyond the September Reports: What's Next for Iraq?"
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 10am: Senate Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on Marine General James Jones report on training and capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 2:30pm: House Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on report from Marine General James Jones with testimony from General Jones.
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 2:30pm: Senate Intelligence Committee holds a CLOSED hearing on the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.
Friday, September 7, 2007, 9am: Senate Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report.
Monday, September 10, 2007, 12:30pm: Joint House Armed Services/Foreign Affairs Committees holds an open hearing with U.S. Armed Forces Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on their report assessing the situation in Iraq.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007, Time TBD: Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds an open hearing with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on their report on Iraq.
September 12, 2007, Time TBD: Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace.

John Edwards Has a Happy Labor Day

| Tue Sep. 4, 2007 11:07 AM EDT

Yesterday, John Edwards picked up the endorsements of two unions, the United Steelworkers and the United Mine Workers of America. It's a big moment for Edwards because labor, which was supposed to be a major source of support for his campaign, has been leery of supporting him. Happy with all the Democratic candidates in the '08 field, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., for example, will likely not endorse anyone.

The steelworkers union represents 1.2 million workers and retirees, making it the nation's largest private sector industrial union. Those kind of numbers are essential to Edwards' Iowa-heavy campaign strategy. One-third of Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa came from union households in 2004.

(H/T Swampland)

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An Unlikely Bush White House Antagonist

| Tue Sep. 4, 2007 9:30 AM EDT

Jack Goldsmith is an unlikely Bush White House antagonist. The conservative former University of Chicago legal scholar argued with John Yoo for the U.S. to exempt itself from international law and treaties, including those dealing with war crimes. So no one was surprised when in 2003 he was appointed to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the department's chief legal policy shop. But when Goldmsith got inside, he got a good look at how nuts -- and from a legal perspective, intellectually bankrupt -- it all was. From a forthcoming New York Times magazine profile of Goldsmith:

Several hours after Goldsmith was sworn in, on Oct. 6, 2003, he recalls that he received a phone call from Gonzales: the White House needed to know as soon as possible whether the Fourth Geneva Convention, which describes protections that explicitly cover civilians in war zones like Iraq, also covered insurgents and terrorists. After several days of study, Goldsmith agreed with lawyers in several other federal agencies, who had concluded that the convention applied to all Iraqi civilians, including terrorists and insurgents. In a meeting with Ashcroft, Goldsmith explained his analysis, which Ashcroft accepted. Later, Goldsmith drove from the Justice Department to the White House for a meeting with Gonzales and Addington. Goldsmith remembers his deputy Patrick Philbin turning to him in the car and saying: "They're going to be really mad. They're not going to understand our decision. They've never been told no." (Philbin declined to discuss the conversation.)
In his book, Goldsmith describes Addington as the "biggest presence in the room — a large man with large glasses and an imposing salt-and-pepper beard" who was "known throughout the bureaucracy as the best-informed, savviest and most conservative lawyer in the administration, someone who spoke for and acted with the full backing of the powerful vice president, and someone who crushed bureaucratic opponents." When Goldsmith presented his analysis of the Geneva Conventions at the White House, Addington, according to Goldsmith, became livid. "The president has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Convention protections," Addington replied angrily, according to Goldsmith. "You cannot question his decision." (Addington declined to comment on this and other details concerning him in this article.)
Goldsmith then explained that he agreed with the president's determination that detainees from Al Qaeda and the Taliban weren't protected under the Third Geneva Convention, which concerns the treatment of prisoners of war, but that different protections were at issue with the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns civilians. Addington, Goldsmith says, was not persuaded. (Goldsmith told me that he has checked his recollections of this and other meetings with at least one other participant or with someone to whom he described the meetings soon after.)
Months later, when Goldsmith tried to question another presidential decision, Addington expressed his views even more pointedly. "If you rule that way," Addington exclaimed in disgust, Goldsmith recalls, "the blood of the hundred thousand people who die in the next attack will be on your hands."

Goldsmith describes Addington's judgment as "crazy" if well meaning. Presumably lots of fodder in Goldsmith's soon to be released book, The Terror Presidency, for upcoming Congressional hearings.

NRA Offers Free Memberships to Soldiers (Step Up, Costco)

| Sun Sep. 2, 2007 9:42 PM EDT

The NRA has decided to offer all active-duty troops a complimentary year's membership. The $35 per is not exactly monumental, but the NRA could gain thousands of lifelong members out of this dandy bit of PR. And while the fact that the latest issue of American Rifleman may be at a soldier's doorstep his first day home from combat isn't ideal, I think the NRA is on to something fundamental.

Now, of course, soldiers should be paid enough that they can pay for their own memberships, but when it comes to thanks-giving troops should get free memberships everywhere, to gyms, museums, rotary clubs, Costco. They should get to the head of the line at movie theaters, the DMV, for Southwest flights; we should be yielding to our troops at every turn (not to mention ensuring they get proper medical care, and jobs). Instead, we likely treat them like any other strangers; we honk at them for cutting us off, hustle in front of them at the grocery store, and generally ignore the sacrifices, and adjustments, these men and women are making.

Of course, unless you live in a company town, you likely don't know who is soldier and who civilian. And since there's no draft, there is a convenient majority who doesn't know anyone who is serving or has served. So what if we treated everyone we meet as if they might have put themselves in harm's way to protect our right to cheap gas and bulk goods?

I know, it's not gonna happen. But the NRA, in its twisted way, has the sentiment right. Say thanks with substance (the go-out-and-shop, post-9/11 GWB-inspired variety of patriotism), because when it comes to returning home, our troops deserve all the perks our lifestyle affords. Not that such perks will make coming home much easier, but they just might make us feel better.

Speed of Climate Change An Unseen Danger

| Sun Sep. 2, 2007 8:52 PM EDT

The total amount of global warming we allow has dire consequences for our planet. But so too does the speed of that climate change. According to the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), this focus has not yet appeared in either science or policy.

CICERO highlights some ecological studies focusing on the rate of climate change, most of which leave no doubt that the expected rate of change during this century will exceed the ability of many animals and plants to migrate or adapt. One such study found that five percent of all ecosystems cannot adapt more quickly than 0.1°C per decade over time:

Forests will be among the ecosystems to experience problems first because their ability to migrate to stay within the climate zone they are adapted to is limited. If the rate is 0.3 °C per decade, 15 percent of ecosystems will not be able to adapt. If the rate should exceed 0.4 °C per decade, all ecosystems will be quickly destroyed, opportunistic species will dominate, and the breakdown of biological material will lead to even greater emissions of CO2. This will in turn increase the rate of warming.

There is also a risk that rapid climate change will increase the likelihood of the really big and scary changes, i.e., the irreversible ones, such as a weakening of the Gulf Stream, and/or the melting of the Greenland ice sheets. Rapid change increases the risk of triggering positive feedback mechanisms that will increase the rate and level of temperature change still more. Read more about these in MoJo's The Thirteenth Tipping Point.

According to CICERO, to focus on the speed of climate change we need to concentrate more on the short-lived greenhouse gases (methane and tropospheric ozone), as well as particles with a warming effect, such as soot (black carbon). They also suggest a greater focus on the medium-term—the next few decades—since the fastest changes will likely occur around that time.

Of course, that requires that we speed up the grindingly-slow gears of public policy and determination. First step in that process: Stop fighting the naysayers. It's a waste of time and energy and we've already lost a decade doing it. We need to step around, over, or through their obstinate refusal to face the truth. Luckily, we have a model for doing this, since we hopscotched over the "science" of the tobacco industry long ago.

On that cheery note, I'm off to the wilderness for a week or three, close to the comforts of nature, far from the madding consumers. JULIA WHITTY

Remember This On Tax Day

| Sun Sep. 2, 2007 3:23 AM EDT

The Doberman Pinscher was first bred in the 1890s by a German tax collector Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann who wanted a ferociously loyal dog to accompany him on his rounds...