Our buddies at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) are doing what they do best: exposing and explaining the misdeeds, corruption, and ethical lapses of those in power. Their latest effort is their third annual "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" report. If you want in-depth info on 22 evildoers and two dishonorable mentions, click the link.
Eighteen of the twenty-two (and both dishonorable mentions) are Republicans, one of whom is actually running for president. The Senate Minority Leader (currently busy slapping democracy in the face) made the list, as did all three members of Alaska's delegation. Perhaps Alaska should consider electing a Democrat once in a while.
With Kanye West on track to outsell 50 Cent by at least 100,000 records this week, Fiddy cancelled his U.K. promo appearances after selling less than Mr. West there as well; he had threatened to retire from solo albums if West won the sales race.
The venerable management company The Firm has droppedBritney Spears as a client, after only one month. The Firm was to spearhead Brit's comeback, but released a statement saying "current circumstances have prevented us from properly doing our job." Ouch.
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, frustrated by high CD prices and distribution problems in Australia and China, respectively, is telling concert-goers to steal his music. A YouTube clip shows him telling a Sydney audience, "Steal it, steal away, give it to your friends." He also told a Beijing audience that because Western music is difficult to find via legal channels in China, that "downloading from the Internet is a more acceptable options than buying pirated CDs."
Hillary Clinton's plan for universal health care was just released (you can find an in-depth summary here), and it looks like it gets an A+ from health care expert Jonathan Cohn. The Sick author also likes Obama's and Edwards's plans. Have a look at Cohn's thoughts at TNR.
Looks like the Democratic presidential candidate, whomever it is, will be running without the deep pockets of famed plaintiff lawyer Bill Lerach. Lerach is a California securities class action lawyer whose name has struck fear in the hearts of corporate executives for years thanks to his success winning some enormous cases, including a $7 billion settlement from companies that helped Enron hide its wrongdoing.
His crusades against corporate wrongdoing have made Lerach something of a folk hero in certain quarters, and he's won friends in high places for plowing his winnings into Democratic politics. Just in 2004, Lerach's law firm donated more than $1.5 million to 527 groups like the AFL-CIO's Coalition to Defend the American Dream that worked to defeat President Bush. Before the ban on soft money, Lerach and his partner, Melvyn Weiss, donated millions of dollars to Democratic Party entities.
That reliable spigot of campaign funding is likely to dry up now that Lerach has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge stemming from a seven-year federal investigation. Prosecutors charge that Lerach and his firm paid more than $11 million to people to be plaintiffs in their shareholder lawsuits. Lerach could spend up to two years in prison as a result of his plea. Even if he gets to hang on to most of his money, it's unlikely that many candidates are going to want to take it...
In early 2006, Mother Jones profiled Nebraska state lawmaker Ernie Chambers, the sole black member of Nebraska's unicameral legislature and one heck of a cool dude. Sara Catania wrote at the time:
He wears sweatshirts and jeans amid a forest of suits and ties; his gray beard contrasts with the clean chins of most of his brethren. He's been described as "left of San Francisco" in a state that for decades has been tightly tucked under the blanket of conservative Republicanism....
Because of Chambers, the Legislature routinely backs bills its members wouldn't otherwise have dreamed of supporting. He cajoled his colleagues into abolishing corporal punishment in schools, correcting the state pension system so that women would be treated equally with men, and backing a switch from at-large municipal elections to district-based voting so that nonwhites would have a chance to serve. Under his sway, Nebraska led the nation in the 1980s in divesting in companies that did business with apartheid-era South Africa.
Here's why I bring him up: he's suing God. For real.
Chambers lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in Douglas County Court, seeks a permanent injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.
The lawsuit admits God goes by all sorts of alias, names, titles and designations and it also recognizes the fact that the defendant is omnipresent.
In the lawsuit, Chambers said he's tried to contact God numerous times...
[The lawsuit] says God has caused "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like."
The suit also says God has caused "calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction."
Chambers also says God "has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that defendant will laugh" when calamity comes.
Chambers is reportedly making a point about frivolous lawsuits, but I think he's making a point about being awesome.
Update: Looks like Ernie Chambers reeeally chose the wrong situation to make his point, whatever it is. Read below to see the comments of Lundy, TheSoyMilkConspiracy, and elm.
The woman who literally wrote the book on legal ethics in Texas says it's likely that the Texas State Bar is probing the professional conduct of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
"Given the publicity regarding the allegations concerning Mr. Gonzales, I would be surprised if the [Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the Texas State Bar] is not currently investigating a complaint," said Lillian Hardwick, co-author of the Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics.
The Disciplinary Counsel wouldn't confirm if an investigation is under way. Frankly I find it unlikely that a local office in Texas would take it upon itself to finally resolve the questions of Gonzales' culpability in scandals that such august bodies as the Senate Judiciary Committee are investigating, and have been investigating for many months. Seems a little above their pay grade, so to speak.
When AOL built its new corporate headquarters outside Washington D.C. a decade ago, the company set off an explosion of poorly planned exurban sprawl. By plopping its campus in the middle of nowhere and miles from any public transportation, AOL helped overwhelm local highways with commuter traffic that's now among the worst in the nation and spurred the overdevelopment of the formerly bucolic horse country of Loudoun County, Virginia.
County officials offered AOL lots of tax breaks to come and create this smog-choked mess, but now, the company's top executives have decided that they'd rather be somewhere more interesting. The tech company announced yesterday that AOL's senior management would be fleeing its dreary Dulles office park for the better bagels, pizza and public transportation of New York City. Of course, the execs say that it's because they need to be closer to the advertising business. But I think the rich guys at the top simply hate the very life-sucking suburbs they helped create as much as the rest of us do. Before AOL's entire upper tax bracket decamps to Madison Avenue, Loudoun County should ask for its money back.
This week, heartwarming Emmy moments, psychedelic French rock, and avant-Cumbia make the cut, but the theme (as always, emerging after the fact) seems to be boundary-pushing and genre-crushing hip-hop/techno cross-pollination. That should always be the theme, really.
10. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert giving Ricky Gervais' Emmy to Steve Carell
I was actually on a flight from Minneapolis during the Emmys, and probably wouldn't have watched anyway (Ryan Seacrest?!) but the YouTube of this is fantastic, and not just for the comedy value: the audience's cheers give you the sense that despite Extras' acknowledged awesomeness, Steve Carell is just a more awesome person, especially since Gervais didn't even show up. I wonder if any of it was planned?
9. Ivan Ives - "Got It" (From Iconoclast on No Threshold)
I remember Russia being way more into Army of Lovers than hip-hop, but that was a while ago; maybe Russian-born Ives is the tip of a new expat Russki rap scene iceberg. He actually lives in LA now and this track reflects sunny climes more than winter nights, with a funky retro sample and a cute DIY video. Not exactly ground-breaking, but I've been humming the chorus all week.
8. Twista feat. Kanye West - "Well It's Time"
(from Adrenaline Rush 2007, out 9/18 on Atlantic)
(listen at The Fader)
Hyper Chicago rapper Twista's auctioneer-speed rhymes are offset with a decidedly mellow sample from Feist in this Kanye West production; it's apparently the bonus track on his new album, out tomorrow, and while the song is definitely breezy, it's no throwaway.
7. The Bee Gees - "Stayin' Alive" (Teddybears Remix) (from Bee Gees Greatest, out 9/18 on Rhino)
(listen at Pitchfork)
Swedish combo Teddybears accomplished the almost-unthinkable on their 2006 album Soft Machine: they brought back Big Beat without any backlash, and it was actaully good. Or maybe they just brought back the good parts of Big Beat—eclectic, upbeat, accessible, soulful sounds. On this disco-riffic remix, the band correctly assesses that the original has the "accessible" part pretty much down, and their job is to f*** things up a little. This they do via skronky bass noises that sound a little like French contemporaries Justice.
6. Various Artists - Las Rebajadas van a Brooklin (DJ set by Sonido Martines) (download an mp3 at Muy Bastard or Disco Shawn's blog, or listen at WFMU.org)
My expat compadre in Buenos Aires Disco Shawn introduced me to the amazing avant-Cumbia scene happening down there, and a billiant new DJ or producer seems to pop up every day. Sonido Martines produced this mix for DJ/Rupture's WFMU radio show, and the two share a philosophy: the NY DJ's marriage of Indian pop to drill 'n' bass was itself a radical reimagining of indigenous music. Sonido Martines' style, "Cumbias Rebajadas," is characterized by pitching tracks way, way down; at those speeds, the music takes on a strange psychedelic crackle, like a transmission from another time.
I actually just can't believe they beat me to it. We've been covering the White Stripes' cancellation of their fall tour due to reported "anxiety" and a "breakdown" on the part of drummer Meg White; in the absence of further details, one can't help but wonder what's really going on. Well, New York magazine's got some ideas, ten in fact: their article, "Ten Things That Probably Stressed Out Meg White" is actually in the best of spirits ("get well soon Meg!") although it does point out her widely-noted "primitivist" drumming style: "couldn't remember drum part to 'Seven Nation Army'" is #2. Well, it's pretty cute, anyway. The Riff loves you too, Meg.
Over the past six years, President Bush has proven pretty definitively that he was just kidding when he once claimed to be a "compassionate conservative." But his opposition to providing health insurance for impoverished and working class kids might rank as an all time low, even for him.
The administration has actively opposed reauthorization of the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a highly successful Clinton-era initiative that extended health insurance to families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance. The plan enrolls some 7 million children. In attempting to put a lid on the program, the administration already has banned states from using federal money to cover kids who are above 250 percent of the poverty line, which many had begun to do.
Bush officials have argued that the states hadn't yet enrolled enough eligible poor kids in Medicaid to justify extending government aid to better off families. But now, the administration is trying to prevent states from doing just that--signing up more eligible kids.
On Aug. 31, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new regulation that would ban states from using federal funds to enroll poor kids for Medicaid or SCHIP if the work takes place in a public school. Not surprisingly, some states have found that the single best way to sign up lots of kids for Medicaid is to do outreach through their schools. If the new rule is approved, those programs will all but disappear, leaving thousands of kids without access to the health care they're already entitled to. Read more about the new reg here.