Blogs

Bruce Springsteen Edges Out Kid Rock for #1 Spot; a Relieved Nation Weeps With Gratitude

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 6:14 PM EDT

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He couldn't stop George W. Bush, but at least this is something. Billboard magazine is reporting that The Boss' new album Magic just barely beat Kid Rock's Rock N Roll Jesus for the #1 spot this week, with only a few hundred copies separating the two titles. Both albums debuted at #1 (Rock last week and Bruce two weeks ago) and their sales figures fell significantly from previous weeks, with both albums selling just over 77,000 copies, but a few more good Samaritans making sure that Kid Rock's reign was short.

While I haven't heard Kid Rock's whole album, and Kelefa Sanneh of the New York Times kind of liked his show (huh?!), the first single, "So Hott," is probably the most-mocked song of the year amongst people I know, its lyrics ("I don't wanna be your friend/I wanna fuck you like I'm never gonna see you again") so profoundly stupid they almost read as parody. Although, come to think of it, doesn't Thom Yorke sing the first line of that, er, couplet, in "House of Cards" on the new album? Is Kid Rock the American Radiohead?

Back to the charts: in another sign of declining music sales, Jimmy Eat World's latest long-player, Chase This Light, debuted at #5, one notch higher than the 2004 debut of Futures. However, the new CD actually sold only 62,000 copies, less than two-thirds of the 99,000 first-week figure for Futures. And that's without OiNK!

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The Greenest (Richest) Colleges

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

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The Sustainable Endowments Institute released its 2008 College Sustainability Report Card this week. Download the full report (including a list of the 200 colleges included and their overall green grades) here.

The grades themselves are not especially interesting—with a few exceptions, giant endowment=giant sustainability program. While no one got an A, Harvard and Dartmouth received an A-, and Yale got a B+. Yawn.

But the report does offer a few more newsworthy nuggets. It's interesting to note, for example, that more than one in three schools included in the list have full-time staff dedicated to sustainability, and three in five schools have green building projects.

Freedom Agenda Proponents Depart State Department

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 5:57 PM EDT

One of the last remaining Liz Cheney acolytes is leaving the State Department. In an email sent to colleagues and friends yesterday and obtained by Mother Jones, David Denehy, who founded the State Department's Office of Iranian Affairs last year and has been a senior advisor on promoting democracy in Iran, announced he is leaving Foggy Bottom later this month.

Here's his email:

Friends:
October 26, 2007 will be my last day with the U.S. Department of State; my decision to leave the administration is due, in part, to my belief that I am better able to serve the goals of the President's Freedom Agenda from outside of government. While there have been many challenges to the work we have done together, the rewards have been equally as great. I leave the Department proud that I was able to work with you to support those seeking to expand personal freedom and democracy in Iran. I urge you that no matter how strenuous the debate of our work that you continue to support those in Iran who cannot speak for themselves. I know that this will not be the last time our paths will cross and wish you all the best of luck in the future; post October 26, 2007, if you would like to write, please feel free to contact me at [redacted].

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes: Portishead

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 5:50 PM EDT

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Yesterday, news emerged that legendary (and legendarily unreliable) Bristol combo Portishead were "one day" from finishing their long-awaited third album. Could it be true? With the 'head, one hesitates to get one's hopes up, but just in case, perhaps this is a good time to familiarize ourselves with the band's previous work, or remind you why you care.

Senate Investigates Lack of Radio Love for Arcade Fire (Really!)

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 4:52 PM EDT

mojo-photo-radio.gifWith the FCC poised to relax media ownership rules again in December, the U.S. Senate is starting to get the message from constituents that maybe it's not such a great idea. During hearings today, Merge records founder and Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan testified about the sad state of radio:

The deregulation that followed the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed for unprecedented consolidation in commercial radio, which has resulted in a homogeneity that is often out-of-step with artists, entrepreneurs, media professionals and educators—not to mention listeners.

Of course, he couldn't resist getting in a couple plugs for Merge artists Arcade Fire and Spoon:

In 2007, two of the albums we released–by the bands Arcade Fire and Spoon–both debuted in the Billboard Top Ten. They appeared on Saturday Night Live. The mainstream print media has written extensively about them, and both bands tour the world, playing highly successful, sold out concerts. Yet both of these bands have been virtually absent from the commercial airwaves.

Well how do you think they got in the Top Ten? Mac was out there promoting to their target demographics: our nation's elected officials. Actually, he's not being entirely honest: Arcade Fire has received significant radio support, even from giant mainstream juggernauts like LA's KROQ (see "Wake Up" at #37 on their 2005 year-end countdown... right above Foo Fighters). But Arcade Fire are the exception that proves the rule.

Rudy's 'Senior Freedom Adviser': Curtail Arab Birth Rate

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 3:51 PM EDT

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Lately Philip Weiss, proprietor of the blog Mondoweiss, has been reading up on the work of Peter Berkowitz, a George Mason law professor who moonlights as Rudy Giuliani's "Senior Statecraft, Human Rights and Freedom Advisor" (pretty good gig, if you can get it). Today Weiss dug up a 2004 Weekly Standard article in which Berkowitz offers an analysis of Israeli demographic policies hinging on one overwhelming concern: How do we get Arabs in Israel to stop breeding so damn much? Berkowitz begins by acknowledging that the very term "demographic problem...conjures up illiberal images of a government classifying people by ethnicity, race, or religion." OK, duly noted. And then, natch, Berkowitz goes on to make some chillingly illiberal policy prescriptions. Weiss sums up:

[Berkowitz] said that Arab birth rates are a "threat" to Israel's "political sovereignty and territorial integrity" and came out for a policy aimed at curbing subsidies to large families, thereby limiting Arab birth rates in the Jewish state. It's hard not to describe this attitude as racist. Does Rudy Giuliani endorse such family-planning policies?

Yup, that would be yet another question for an enterprising campaign reporter to ask Giuliani on the trail. I nominate someone from the New York Times, which, as far as I can tell, has completely ignored the Giuliani advisers story. For now, see this American Prospect rundown and this Talking Points Memo video on the subject.

—Justin Elliott

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D.C.'s Rich Get Richer (and Black Folks Get Nowhere)

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 3:33 PM EDT

If George Bush wanted to make record rates of income inequality a major legacy of his administration, he has succeeded wildly right here at home in D.C. A new study by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute shows that the nation's capital leads the country in both high poverty rates and the income gap between white and black people.

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The median income for white people in the nation's capital has skyrocketed to $92,000 in 2006, from $55,000 in 1980. (Apparently all those lobbyists here are really bumping up the numbers!). But the city's black population (nearly 70 percent of city residents) has actually seen its median income fall since 1980, by .6 percent to $34,500. D.C.'s poverty rate is the highest it's been in a decade, and the unemployment rate among black adults is at a 30-year-high. These numbers are all the more stunning when you consider how bad things were ten years ago: the District government was creeping out of bankruptcy, Marion Barry was mayor, and the Redskins has just decamped for Maryland.

The latest bump in poverty and unemployment has occurred during a time of great prosperity in the city, and it's worse than nearly every other major city in America. I can never figure out why the political establishment isn't more ashamed about this. But I guess if you can let New Orleans drown, it's not that hard to ignore the starving masses in the shadow of the White House.

State Department Security Chief Resigns over Blackwater

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 3:12 PM EDT

The AP reports:

The State Department's security chief announced his resignation on Wednesday in the wake of last month's deadly Blackwater USA shooting incident in Baghdad and growing questions about the use of private contractors in Iraq.
Richard Griffin, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, announced his decision to resign at a weekly staff meeting, according to an internal informational e-mail sent to colleagues.

Media Matters: Rudy Giuliani != John Rambo

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 2:31 PM EDT

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From the best Media Matters item ever:

In an August 23 article on former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's recent campaign swing through New Hampshire, USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence wrote: "Suffice it to say Republicans have never had a presidential candidate like this -- half Woody Allen, half Rambo and 100% cerebral."
This is the first time Media Matters for America has documented a news outlet comparing Giuliani to the fictional character John Rambo, the Medal of Honor-winning former Green Beret portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in numerous action films. However, media figures have repeatedly depicted Giuliani as a tough guy:
* On the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, MSNBC host Chris Matthews called Giuliani a "street fighter," adding, "He was there on the curb when 9-11 struck. He had soot on his face."


Read on
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A New Twist on the Old Chain Gang

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 2:23 PM EDT

Somehow this seems so wrong on so many levels...

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the corrections' department to join the state's massive effort to combat the wildfires raging around San Diego. Not only do the prisons have a bunch of fire trucks to lend to the overtaxed fire departments, but the New York Times reports that more than 2,600 inmates, trained as firefighters, are now out there fighting to save Mel Gibson's house San Diego.