2013 - %3, January

Libertarian Propaganda With Your Organic Arugula?

| Tue Jan. 22, 2013 1:22 PM EST

If you shop at Whole Foods, you've probably seen the ads at the cash register for Conscious Capitalism. Cowritten by the store's founder, John Mackey, and Raj Sisodia, chairman of a nonprofit called Conscious Capitalism Inc., the book bills itself as a tale of "Mackey's own awakenings as a capitalist." While Mackey serves up plenty of cheerful exhortations and pithy self-help tips, however, the only "awakening" that you're likely to get from reading this 313-page apologia for libertarianism is a sense that he ought to stick to selling groceries. (Read my interview with Mackey here.)

To give Mackey his due, he proved that many shoppers are willing to pay a premium for foods that are healthy, sustainably produced, and sold by workers who earn decent wages and health benefits. His book strives to show CEOs in other industries that they can follow his lead. "We need a richer and more ethically compelling narrative to demonstrate to a skeptical world the truth, beauty, goodness, and heroism of free-enterprise capitalism," he writes. "Otherwise we risk the continued growth of increasingly coercive governments, the corruption of enterprises through crony capitalism, and the consequential loss of both our freedom and our prosperity."

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WATCH: Beyoncé Sings The National Anthem at President Obama's Second Inauguration

| Mon Jan. 21, 2013 3:54 PM EST

In which Barack Obama opens for Beyoncé Knowles:

Joe Biden enjoyed her performance:

Recently, the White House removed a petition from their "We the People" website that called for Beyoncé to be barred from performing at Monday's inauguration ceremony due to her business relationship with Pepsi:

Along with having raised millions of dollars for the president's reelection campaign and having performed at other Obama-related events, Beyoncé also sang Etta James' "At Last" during Michelle and Barack Obama's first slow dance as First Couple:

On a related note, here's Beyoncé playing Etta James in the 2008 film Cadillac Records:

beyonce jay-z barack obama
Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America

A One-Sentence Review of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand"

| Fri Jan. 18, 2013 9:07 PM EST

If you do not go see the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie now, you are failing your country, your family, and your own personal god.

 

The Last Stand gets a wide release on Friday, January 18. The film is rated R for strong bloody Ahnold throughout. Click here for local showtimes and tickets.

Click here for more movie and TV coverage from Mother Jones.

To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To listen to the weekly movie and pop-culture podcast that Asawin co-hosts with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg, click here.

WATCH: The Gun Lobby Keeps Chalk Outlines Working Overtime [Saunders Cartoon]

| Mon Jan. 14, 2013 6:46 PM EST

Editors' note: Mother Jones illustrator Zina Saunders creates editorial animations riffing on the political news and current events of the week. In this week's animation, chalk outlines from a crime scene dream about being on a blackboard instead of a sidewalk. The animation, as always, was written and animated by Zina Saunders.

Filmmakers' Tortured Defense of "Zero Dark Thirty"

| Mon Jan. 14, 2013 3:36 PM EST

As the criticism over the misleading torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty has intensified, the filmmakers and their defenders among the nation's film critics have fallen back on increasingly strained rationalizations for why the film unfolds in a manner that is at odds with the public record. 

Specifically, a lengthy Senate investigation and the CIA itself have determined that the agency alias of Osama bin Laden's courier was not identified via one of the agency's so-called enhanced interrogations. Yet that is exactly what the film portrays in this clip, originally posted by blogger Matt Cornell (H/T Greg Mitchell).

The detainee in the film isn't being tortured at the moment he gives up the courier's alias, the clue that led the CIA to OBL's secret compound. He already had been tortured, and he starts spilling names only after his interrogator threatens to hang him up by his arms again. Some defenders of the film, such as Mark Bowden, have said it is faithful to the facts, arguing that the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani had "focused" the CIA's attention on the courier

The Bad Plus Is One Step Ahead of You

| Mon Jan. 14, 2013 7:06 AM EST

From left: David King, Ethan Iverson, and Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus.

Reid Anderson is at the bar of the Village Vanguard, sipping a Stella Artois and thinking about 2002. That's the year that an agent from Columbia Records sat in this same New York City club one night listening to a relatively unknown trio called The Bad Plus, who, despite their decidedly conventional jazz instrumentation, played with a swagger—and volume—more in line with Neil Young than Vince Guaraldi. It felt like a turning point, recalls Anderson, the trio's bassist, and he was right: By early 2003, The Bad Plus had released their first major-label record, These Are The Vistas, and launched into a decade-long (and counting) exploration of the outer edge of what three guys on acoustic instruments are capable of producing.

"We strive to make music that doesn't follow conventional forms," says Anderson, who looks like a distant American cousin of Christoph Waltz, as he adjusts his dark velvet blazer. "On paper, there's not much there. But we believe in group music, band music."

"We strive to make music that doesn't follow conventional forms."

Anderson, along with colleagues Ethan Iverson on piano and David King on drums, had just finished articulating this philosophy to a packed house at the Vanguard, at the end of their seventh week-long New Year's stint here. As always at the Vanguard, which has remained the crown prince of the world's jazz clubs since its opening in 1935, it's anyone's guess who is here for the band versus who is here for the venue. But if there were any tourists in this dark basement hoping to nod off over martinis to a recitation of inoffensive standards, they came on the wrong night.

The Bad Plus' music, which Rolling Stone describes as "as badass as highbrow gets," is characterized by angular, shifting rhythms that always seem one step ahead of your ability to lock into them, and a proliferation of interwoven melodic lines that somehow outnumber the number of musicians onstage. It's often impossible to tell whether the music you're hearing has been meticulously composed and rehearsed or is being improvised on the spot. In this sonic incubator, swathed in green paint and red velvet, under the watchful photographed eyes of John Coltrane, Monk, and the Vanguard's other historic tenants, the band spins from straight grooves to the brink of incoherence, the center barely able to hold. But it does, and the audience is rapt.

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Quick Reads: "Farewell, Fred Voodoo" By Amy Wilentz

| Sun Jan. 13, 2013 7:01 AM EST
book caption

Farewell, Fred Voodoo

By Amy Wilentz

SIMON & SCHUSTER

"I prepared to be very, very frightened," journalist Amy Wilentz writes of a trip to Haiti during the 1994 US military showdown over embattled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "Instead, I was dazzled." That sense of apprehensive wonder imbues this lyrical first-person survey of Haiti's exposure to "capriciousness and nature's indifferent hand"—from slavery and thuggery to earthquakes and disease. Creole proverbs abound as she gauges the temperature of Fred Voodoo, Haiti's version of Joe Sixpack. What emerges is a case study in what Wilentz views as a global erosion of human kindness.


This review originally appeared in our January/February issue of Mother Jones.

Quick Reads: "Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread From the Data" By Charles Wheelan

| Sat Jan. 12, 2013 7:01 AM EST
book cover

Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread From the Data

By Charles Wheelan

W.W. NORTON & COMPANY

A couple of years ago, Google's chief economist predicted, "The sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians." (Hello, Nate Silver!) If you aren't quite ready to spend your life running regressions, Naked Statistics provides a taste of the hot data action. With a dollop of corny jokes and just a dash of math, Charles Wheelan (a Dartmouth prof) offers a conversational introduction to the concepts you need to understand everything from why "rich nerds" should have seen the 2008 Wall Street collapse coming to the best strategy for winning a car on Let's Make a Deal. If your interest in statistics is above average, this book is worth sampling.

 

This review originally appeared in our January/February issue of Mother Jones.

How Season 2 of "Girls" Resembles Season 6 of "Californication"

| Fri Jan. 11, 2013 10:17 PM EST
Two peas—in a terrible, patience-killing pod.

Last year, Lena Dunham's Girls on HBO was the next big thing—a profoundly bland and unstoppably irritating trek through a Brooklynite's perdition of unpaid internships, failed orgasms, and daunting First World Problems.

When it premiered last April, the series marked a new low for the premium cable network, even managing to surpass John From Cincinnati in its level of galling unwatchability. The inaugural season was practically drowned in its commitment to a mumblecore-hued comic universe defined by limp execution, clumsy timing, and deafening familiarity. It was inertia disguised as quirkiness, stock narrative masquerading as bold art, and peskiness paraded as high comedy.

Season 2 premieres on Sunday, ushering in another 10-episode, two-month reign of Girlsmageddon. And I'll be the first to admit there's been a noticeable improvement: Girls season 2 is definitely less of a crime against humanity than Girls season 1. But the modest boost in quality is nothing to write home about.

In the first four episodes, we find that some things have changed, but most have stayed exactly the same—preserved by the emotional permafrost of twentysomething New Yorkers.

In Theaters This Weekend, a Civil Libertarian's Nightmare

| Fri Jan. 11, 2013 7:06 AM EST
From left: Zero Dark Thirty, Gangster Squad.

If there were ever a weekend for someone like Glenn Greenwald to avoid going to the movies lest he risk vomiting and seething with self-righteous indignation in the theater, this would be that weekend.

With Gangster Squad (Warner Bros., 113 minutes), we get a pulpy endorsement of extrajudicial killing, made all the more palatable by Ryan Gosling's roguish charms. Meanwhile, Zero Dark Thirty (Columbia Pictures, 160 minutes) delivers a history lesson in how America conquered Bin Laden through the sheer force of torture, with feminist overtones. Both films, which open on Friday and are rated R for "strong violence," are inspired by actual events, both are tied to delays and real-life controversies, both features scores of composite characters, and both have acclaimed directors.

First off, I'd like to point out that I do not believe that movies or any other works of art should be condemned—or properly assessed, for that matter—purely through the prisms of moral questions. That is a lousy and dull way to consume popular culture, and if I were to adhere to such a stringent code, it would be extremely difficult to appreciate films like D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, which is widely acclaimed for legitimate, non-white-supremacist reasons.

Having said that, you're in for a fairly decent and reasonably engaging time at the multiplex this weekend, whatever the premium you place on human rights.