It's time for the annual Girl Scout cookie freak out! This year, it's not due to the palm oil used to produce the treats, nor the group's policy on transgender members: This time, Girl Scouts are supposedly too pro-abortion.

As Think Progress reports, in December, Girl Scouts tweeted a link to a Huffington Post story extolling Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (of anti-abortion bill filibuster fame) as a candidate for "Woman of the Year."

And in a Facebook post, the organization linked to a Washington Post list of "Seven American Women Who Made a Difference in 2013," including US Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. These links were enough to spur John Pisciotta, who runs Pro-Life Waco, to launch a national boycott. "The Girl Scouts were once a truly amazing organization, but it has been taken over by idealogues of the left, and regular folk just won't stand for it," Pisciotta told Breitbart News. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly also took up the cause with a full-on panel on the offending tweet.

Ultimately, though, the campaign is about more than a couple of social-media postings: On its website, the "CookieCott 2014" campaign argues that the boycott is a protest of the Girl Scouts' "deep and lasting entanglement with abortion providers and abortion rights organizations." This includes, it claims, promoting role models like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Hillary Clinton, Amnesty International, ACLU, and the National Organization for Women, and supporting "youth reproductive/abortion and sexual rights" via its membership in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

The bullying seems to have worked: In a blog post Wednesday, Girl Scouts offered "our sincerest apologies," noting, "To be clear, Girl Scouts has not endorsed any person or organization." Is that sort of meekness consistent with the organization's quest to "build girls of courage, confidence, and character"? Ponder that while you try to resist those Samoas.

I love me a good hockey rivalry, and the extreme skiing and boarding events are a thrill. The grace of the short-track speed skaters as they move in unison is transfixing, and the figure skating is filled with drama and pomp. But growing up in Wisconsin as I did, I couldn't help but notice how the International Olympic Committee has overlooked some of our most beloved winter pastimes. So here are five, er, sports that some of us Midwesterners and New Englanders might like to see in the 2018 games.

1. Jack jumping (Europeans call it skibock. Weirdos.)

2. Skeeching (I messed up my knee doing this behind a school bus in middle school. Please don't tell my son.)

3. Freeze-Your-Ass-Off Swimming (Russia may have us beat in this event.)

4. Chucking Snowballs at Cars (followed by frenzied, unplanned neighborhood run.)

5. Team Ice Fishing (Bonus: Good eatin'!)

The wars of the future will be fought over clichés.

Last week, WonkBlog's Brad Plumer took aim at one of the soundbite industry's most pernicious crutches—describing a good-but-not-gamechanging thing as "not a panacea." Plumer was right to criticize "not a panacea," but "nondescript office park" and "nondescript office building," are just as common—and just as bad. Office buildings and office parks are as a rule architecturally bland, so there's no reason to point it out. Moreover, there's nothing counterintuitive about an interesting project that's housed in a boring building. If news reports are any guide, interesting projects are often housed in boring buildings.

In the interest of killing this cliché, here is a comprehensive list of all the things the New York Times has reported are housed in a "nondescript" office space:

Ban clichés.

Pete Seeger performing at the opening of the Washington labor canteen, 1944. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is present.

Pete Seeger, the folk-music legend and activist, died on Monday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He was 94. His impact his on American culture was profound, as he influenced popular music and iconic musicians, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, for decades.

"Once called 'America's tuning fork,' Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song," President Barack Obama said in a statement on Tuesday. "Over the years, Pete used his voice—and his hammer—to strike blows for worker's rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along."

Here are some cool clips, songs, and text for you to check out while reflecting on Seeger's life and music:

1. Pete Seeger sings in Barcelona about the Spanish Civil War: "56 years ago, I had some friends who came to Spain," Seeger tells the crowd. "Some of them did come back—and this is the song that they taught me. It's a song of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion."


2. Seeger testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), 1955: For refusing to testify about his time in the Communist Party, he was later sentenced to a year in prison for contempt. But the conviction was overturned. Here's an excerpt from his testimony:

I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it....

I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.


3. The Weavers sing "Goodnight, Irene":

And while we're at it, here's Eric Clapton's version:


4. When Pete Seeger hosted a TV show devoted to good folk music: It aired in the mid-1960s and was called Rainbow Quest. Here's the episode with Johnny Cash and June Carter:


5. Seeger sings a protest of the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson on the Smothers Brothers—and gets censored by CBS: His performance of "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"—in which Johnson is essentially labeled the "big fool"—was initially nixed from a 1967 broadcast for being too political. A few months later, Seeger was invited back, and Americans got to watch:


6. Seeger wrote a song denouncing Joseph Stalin—and got a fun Fox News headline out of it: The folk singer's previous support for the Soviet Union had been a less-than-flattering part of his legacy. (He left the Communist Party in the 1950s.) In 2007, Seeger revealed he had written a new yodeling blues song blasting Stalin, titled, "The Big Joe Blues."

"It's [my] first overt song about the Soviet Union," Seeger told the Associated Press. "I think I should have though, when I was in the Soviet Union, I should have asked, 'Can I see one of the old gulags?'"

Here are some lyrics from "The Big Joe Blues":

I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe. He ruled with an iron hand. He put an end to the dreams of so many in every land....

I got the Big Joe Bloo-ew-ew-ews!

Seeger remarked that it was the kind of song his old friend Woody Guthrie might have written in the 1950s.


7. Seeger sings "We Shall Overcome" on Democracy Now! and discusses his late wife Toshi Seeger:


8. Sam Cooke's fantastic cover of Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer":


9. Olivia Newton-John covers Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"


10. "Bring Them Home"—a song for Vietnam and Iraq: After President George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, Seeger rewrote and re-recorded his Vietnam-era number, "Bring Them Home," with Billy Bragg, Ani DiFranco, and Steve Earle. The new lyrics included, "Now we don't want to fight for oil/Bring 'em home, bring 'em home/Underneath some foreign soil/Bring 'em home, bring 'em home."

Here he is performing the song in the 1970s:

And here's Bruce Springsteen playing it on his Seeger Sessions tour in 2006:


11. Seeger performing "This Land Is Your Land" (with Springsteen, naturally) at the Lincoln Memorial: They were celebrating the election of President Obama, shortly before his 2009 inauguration.


12. And here's Seeger singing Bob Dylan's "Forever Young"—for an Amnesty International benefit album:

Track 7
“How Heavy the Quiet That Grew Between Your Mouth and Mine”
From Peggy Sue’s Choir of Echoes
Yep Roc

Liner notes: The eerie harmonies of singers Rosa Slade and Katy Young take a tender turn on this acoustic ballad, as a sorrowful lover ponders failed romance.

Behind the music: The British trio's last album revisited the soundtrack of Kenneth Anger’s classic underground film Scorpio Rising, with warped covers of oldies like "Hit the Road Jack" and "My Boyfriend’s Back."

Check it out if you like: Distinctive voices like Sharon Van Etten, Jaymay, and Feist.

Oscar-winning writer/director Quentin Tarantino is suing Gawker Media. The filmmaker, who is famous for such films as Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, is taking legal action after his script for a future project (a Western flick called The Hateful Eight) leaked online. Tarantino became "very, very depressed" about this, so much so that he shelved the project. And last Thursday, Gawker's "Defamer" blog published a post titled, "​Here Is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script."

"For better or worse, the document is 146 pages of pure Tarantino. Enjoy!" the post reads, linking to a free download of Tarantino's draft.

For that, the the 50-year-old director filed a copyright lawsuit against Gawker Media for allegedly promoting and disseminating unauthorized copies of the leaked document, the Hollywood Reporter reported on Monday. "Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people's rights to make a buck," Tarantino's lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys Martin Singer and Evan Spiegel in California federal court, reads. "This time they went too far."

As of posting, John Cook, editor of Gawker, has not responded to Mother Jones' request for comment. (UPDATE, January 27, 2014, 5:47 p.m. EST: John Cook weighs in in a blog post titled, "Quentin Tarantino Sues Gawker Over Link to Script He Wants Online.")

The lawsuit also alleges that Gawker actively solicited readers to provide a copy of the screenplay with this blog post. Tarantino is seeking more than $1 million in damages and the defendants' profits. Read the formal legal complaint here (via



Elizabeth & the Catapult
Like It Never Happened

Like It Never Happened cover

The classically trained pianist Elizabeth Ziman, a.k.a. Elizabeth & the Catapult, crafts luscious, literate pop that's at once sophisticated and visceral. Located midpoint between Sara Bareilles (rational) and Fiona Apple (tightly wound) on the crazy scale, Ziman is a deceptively subtle singer who sounds world-weary but never bitter or cynical, deploying arresting lyrical twists and avoiding histrionics to create the feeling of eavesdropping on a frank private conversation. "If you have some common sense you will leave me right this moment/I am not your girlfriend/I'm just a lonely letter you know better than to ever open," she chirps ominously on "Sugared Poison." Catchy and tantalizing, Like It Never Happened changes shape with each hearing.



In keeping with its origins, the renowned North African band Tinariwen has moved yet again: this time to Joshua Tree, California. The group, composed of Tuareg nomads from Mali, left the desert dunes of the Sahara to escape from regional violence. Despite the relocation to American desert country, the music will sound familiar. The gritty, rocking guitar in "Chaghaybou," and the weaving vocals over soft hand drums you'll hear in the songs "Sendad Eghlalan" and "Timadrit In Sahara" are unmistakable, and an ideal soundtrack for your own wanderings.

Like their last recording, which featured members of TV on the Radio and Wilco, and which won Tinariwen a Grammy, Emmaar includes guest artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, Matt Sweeney from Chavez, Nashville fiddler Fats Kaplin, and the poet Saul Williams. "We wanted something which sounded natural and live" says multi-instrumentalist band member Eyadou Ag Leche. Indeed, the tracks on Emmaar have the same organic vibe as those produced thousands of miles away. By all accounts the band has succeeded: With this album, the members of Tinariwen have again proved they are as at home on the global music stage as in the deserts of Mali.


"Saturday Bride"

From Quilt's Held in Splendor


Liner notes: "What are we running after?" asks this intoxicating epic, which consists of a lush wave of guitars, soaring male and female voices, and lighter-than-air beats.

Behind the music: Quilt, a trio formed at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts, recorded Held in Splendor over an entire month of 10-hour, six-days-a-week sessions—and yet it somehow manages to feel spontaneous.

Check it out if you like: Mind-stretching luminaries, from the Byrds to R.E.M. to Melody's Echo Chamber.

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


"Mr. President Have Pity on the Working Man"

From Hard Working Americans (self-titled)


Liner notes: "We just can't make it by ourselves," wheezes Todd Snider, as searing slide guitar recasts Randy Newman's populist lament as scruffy country blues.

Behind the music: Snider, who does his own iconoclastic alt-country solo act, joined members of Widespread Panic and Chris Robinson's band for this earthy covers set, which includes songs associated with the likes of BR549 and Lucinda Williams.

Check it out if you like: Forward-thinking roots artists, including Bottle Rockets, the Drive-By Truckers, and Iris DeMent.

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