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New Music: John Vanderslice - Emerald City

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 7:21 PM EDT

mojo-cover-johnvanderslice.jpgI don't, like, drink beer with John Vanderslice, but he lives across the street from one of my friends in a fogged-in outer-SF neighborhood, and he's legendary around town for being a super nice guy, which he totally was the one time I talked to him. This of course should all be irrelevant to the actual music, but still, I get all excited when he has a new CD coming out, like, "Hooray! Go, you!" Vanderslice is a multi-instrumentalist and studio owner, so it's hard to characterize his sound: Beatles-y, Smoggy, Death Cabby? The title of his sixth (!) solo album, Emerald City, apparently refers to Baghdad's Green Zone, which reflects the darkness that creeps up around the edges of these deceptively sunny tunes. I guess his French girlfriend's visa is all tied up in Homeland Security red tape, so it's understandable where the heartache is coming from. But on songs like "White Dove," which asks, again and again, "what are you thinking of," the sense of longing is rendered with delicate grace; you get the feeling Vanderslice couldn't make an ugly song if you paid him to.

Emerald City is out Tuesday, July 24th on Barsuk Records.

(mp3 of "White Dove" from the Barsuk site, or listen at JV's MySpace)

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I Smell a Hit

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 5:08 PM EDT

mojo-photo-smell.JPG So, how can kids these days be convinced to shell out big bucks for CDs when free mp3s of the new Fergie megajam are just a click away? Here's an idea: add value through the magic of odor. CMJ reports that CDDVD Now! plans to introduce scent-infused scratch 'n' sniff CDs, which they're calling "Rub 'n' Smell Discs." Seriously. The Bay Area company alleges that scents "stimulate purchase activity," which I suppose is true when you smell cookies and then buy actual cookies. The scents are applied to the CD surface as a varnish, customers release the odor by lightly rubbing the surface. Stock scents offered include standards like Strawberry and Watermelon, pleasant surprises like Ocean Mist and Clean Cotton, and bafflers like Asphalt and Stinky Cheese. Custom scents are also available… please tell me the new Collie Buddz CD will smell like Cheetos and Ho-Hos.

Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb(s)

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 3:43 PM EDT

Matt Yglesias points his readers in the direction of a truly frightening article in the July/August issue of the Atlantic. We would be remiss if we didn't do the same. The article, by Keir Leiber and Daryl Press, argues that the gap between Chinese and American nuclear capability has grown so much since the end of the Cold War that there would only be a very slim chance of China being able to respond to an American first strike. (The authors' original study, which they discussed extensively in Foreign Affairs over a year ago, argued that even the Russian nuclear arsenal would almost certainly be destroyed by an American first strike.)

If the authors are right, this means the end of "Mutually-Assured Destruction," or MAD. They remind us why that matters:

During the Cold War, MAD rendered the debate about the wisdom of nuclear primacy little more than a theoretical exercise. Now that MAD and the awkward equilibrium it maintained are about to be upset, the argument has become deadly serious. Hawks will undoubtedly see the advent of U.S. nuclear primacy as a positive development. For them, MAD was regrettable because it left the United States vulnerable to nuclear attack. With the passing of MAD, they argue, Washington will have what strategists refer to as "escalation dominance" — the ability to win a war at any level of violence — and will thus be better positioned to check the ambitions of dangerous states such as China, North Korea, and Iran.

We're still fighting a conventional "pre-emptive war" that began over four years ago. If the hawks want to turn their pre-emptive wars nuclear, they can do so without fear of retaliation.

— Nick Baumann

The Leader of the GOP Field is... Hilarious

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 3:12 PM EDT

I know people hate horserace coverage of the candidates. I know they'd rather see serious issue discussions than polls and makeup scandals. But sometimes there's a punchline just sitting there.

From a new AP/Ipsos poll:

Democrats
Hillary Clinton 36%
Barack Obama 20%
Al Gore 15%
Other/None/Don't Know 13%
John Edwards 11%
Bill Richardson 2%
Joe Biden 2%

Republicans
Other/None/Don't Know 25%
Rudy Giuliani 21%
Fred Thompson 19%
John McCain 15%
Mitt Romney 11%
Newt Gingrich 5%
Mike Huckabee 3%

And that's with Thompson and Gingrich in the race. There is no "other" left!

Waxman: White House Politicization "More Widespread Than Previously Known"

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 3:01 PM EDT

"I took an oath to the president, and I take that oath very seriously." So said former White House political director Sara Taylor during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, a statement she later retracted after Senator Patrick Leahy pointed out that she had actually sworn on oath to the Constitution, not to the commander-in-chief. Yet Taylor's gaffe was actually quite revealing—another sign that the Bush administration's political appointees often place loyalty to president and party above all else, which goes a long way toward explaining why partisan politics has permeated even the most remote corners of the federal bureaucracy.

While there's already a sizable body of evidence to suggest that the White House has presided over an unprecedented wave of politicization, Henry Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported today that the adminstration's "efforts to politicize the activities of federal agencies may be more widespread than previously known."

An Important Omission from the NIE

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 2:43 PM EDT

Spencer Ackerman makes a point I should have made in my earlier post about the NIE. The document goes to absurd lengths to avoid the subject of the Iraq War. Probably because George Bush's grand blunder has made the war on terrorism so, so much more difficult.

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Winehouse, Arctic Monkeys Up for Mercury Prize

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 2:40 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mercuryprize.JPG The nominees for this year's Mercury Prize, honoring the best album by a British or Irish artist, were announced today in London; the list has both surprises and shoe-ins. Retro-R&B sensation Amy Winehouse and jumpy rockers Arctic Monkeys seemed guaranteed nods, and have been pegged as equal favorites to win, with booker William Hill giving them each 4-to-1 odds. (I love this whole British "odds on everything" thing. I'm 2-to-1 for going to grab coffee after this.) The Arctics won the prize last year for their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not; fellow nominee Dizzee Rascal has also won before, back in 2003. Other artists nominated include Klaxons, The View, and New Young Pony Club. A full list of nominated albums, William Hill odds, and "for fans of" descriptions after the jump.

New NIE Summary: Much We Already Knew, Some We Didn't

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 12:02 PM EDT

The publicly released version of the National Intelligence Estimate that Laura mentions below is only a page and a half, so it should come as no surprise that there is nothing terribly insightful in it. ("Breaking news! Al Qaeda is dangerous!") But let's take a look, shall we?

Al-Qa'ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland... We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership.

The FATA referenced here include places like Waziristan, which Mother Jones profiled in an essay and stunning photo shoot in 2004, where the Pakistan government (usually) respects local tribes' claims to sovereignty and keeps only a loose leash on things. Because of the lack of control, the areas are often perfect for terrorist hideouts, a fact the U.S. has known for years — in fact, the emphasis on the FATA in this NIE matches policies from the beginning of the war on terror. Back then, we paid locals for turning in alleged al Qaeda operatives, which merely gave the locals a more powerful weapon in tribal conflicts and filled places like Gitmo with harmless and bewildered individuals who happened to have a well-connected enemy.

Other thoughts from the NIE (which is available here):

Romney and Edwards: Blood Pomade Brothers

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 10:59 AM EDT

Oh, Mitt Romney, you hypocritical jerk. When John Edwards spent $400 on a haircut, how could you not know that every politician — including you — has embarrassing financial expenditures on his or her public record? Why couldn't you just let the man take the heat from others, instead of saying:

You know I think John Edwards was right. There are two Americas. There is the America where people pay $400 for a haircut and then there is everybody else.

You had to sit in your (multi-million dollar) glass house and throw stones. Today, Politico digs up the fact that you spent $300 on a service that calls itself "a mobile beauty team for hair, makeup and men's grooming and spa services."

Let's be real, Mitt. John Edwards is a perfectly tanned, perfectly coiffed, picture-book politician. You are a perfectly tanned, perfectly coiffed, picture-book politician. Did you honestly think the press wouldn't figure out that you both paid good money to get that way?

Swimmer Shivers to Call Attention to Global Warming

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 10:53 AM EDT

British swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh, a.k.a. the "Ice Bear", has become the first human to set a long-distance swimming record at the North Pole. He undertook the excruciatingly painful stunt to highlight the threat of climate change. For more, go to Blue Marble...