Archive for June, 2011

Live Performance

Posted: June 18, 2011 in Music
Tags: , ,

Lou Reed and Metallica“Sweet Jane”

Unfortunately, Saturday Night Live’s season had already ended before the Anthony Weiner scandal erupted. But that won’t stop Jimmy Fallon

The winner of the Mr. Self-Destruct Award for the last week is a no-brainer.

Obama’s entourage outside 1789 in Georgetown



There’s a good article in The Atlantic about the proliferation of North Korean state-run restaurants popping up in East Asia. Here’s an excerpt:

Among the city’s growing cohort of Korean restaurants, Pyongyang Café has an unusual claim to fame. It is run by the North Korean government, part of a far-flung chain of restaurants that funnels much-needed foreign exchange to the ailing regime in Pyongyang. Andrey Kalachinsky, a veteran journalist and local analyst, said that in the Soviet era, when Vladivostok was a closed military city, the Pyongyang Café was the only foreign eatery in town — a symbol of the political and economic ties between the Soviet Union and Marshal Kim Il-Sung’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

At the Vladivostok restaurant, there is little to suggest any connection with the regime just 428 miles distant. No pictures of the Kim Il-Sung grace the walls, no slogans stamped out in shrill red Korean script. Instead, the décor excels in a sort of kitschy chinoiserie: the walls of one room are covered with naturalistic motifs — golden autumn leaves and towering cliffs — complete with a fake tree that “emerges” from the painted-on scene. Overlooking my booth was a framed poster of a woman looking out coyly from behind a large fan, the Chinese character for “double happiness” inscribed on every second blade.

The whole thing is worth a read, but I can tell you the description I quoted in the previous graphs is accurate. I went to one of these restaurants in Dandong, China back in 2007. We had a private room with a karaoke machine and a view of on the Yalu River. We had waitresses who brought our food and they serenaded us with a North Korean song. Unfortunately, none of the people in my group spoke Korean so we had no idea what the song was about – whether it was a WPK song or something else entirely.

In a bit of cultural diplomacy, we decided to reciprocate and sing a song for them. While deciding which song to pick from the karaoke machine, I looked out the window and saw the Yalu River Bridge, which connects China to North Korea. The bridges were repeatedly bombed by the United States during the Korean War, and one of them – now dubbed the Broken Bridge – was left intact in its bombed out state, and remains so to this day. In that moment, I suggested – with a completely straight face – that we sing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Much to my surprise, two vocally talented members of my group actually did it. I don’t think the waitresses got the joke, though.

Here are a few other details I recall from that trip that weren’t mentioned in the Atlantic article. Our guide told us that the restaurant staff were believed to be the children of high-level party officials in Pyongyang. They undergo extensive job training in Pyongyang – including waiting tables and Mandarin proficiency – before being sent over to mainland China to work at a restaurant. The other detail he told us was the rumored existence of a collective punishment policy to deter defections. If one waiter or waitress defects while in China, the other members of his or her training class are recalled back to North Korea, presumably to be punishment. While a job waiting tables in the United States isn’t considered that big of a deal, for the waiters and waitresses working at these restaurants our guide told us, it is a big deal because they are among the elite few chosen to represent their country abroad.

By now, most of you have seen or heard about this clip:

PALIN: He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.

To his credit, Chris Wallace followed up with her on this question on “Fox News Sunday”:

CHRIS WALLACE: I gotta ask you about that real quickly, though. You realize that you messed up about Paul Revere, don’t you?

PALIN: You know what? I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere. Here’s what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that “the British were coming, the British were coming.” And they were going to try to take our arms so got to make sure that, uh, we were protecting ourselves and, uhm, shoring up all of our ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn’t take them.

But remember that the British had already been there — many soldiers — for seven years in that area. And part of Paul Revere’s ride… And it wasn’t just one ride. He was a courier. He was a messenger. Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there that, “Hey. You’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms. You are not gonna beat our own well-armed, uh, persons, uh, individual private militia that we have. He did warn the British.

And in a shout-out, gotcha type of question that was asked of me, I answered candidly. And I know my American history.

I was a history major in college – having gone to a school in the Boston area – so the story of Paul Revere was pretty well known to me at the time. Palin can continue to make mistakes and choose to repeat or refuse to acknowledge them – politicians do this all the time – but my big problem here is this:

Her fans are apparently editing Paul Revere’s Wikipedia page to make it more in line with her version. Longfellow may be no match for Sarah Palin.

Look at the changes made to the Wikipedia page here and here. Obviously, Palin isn’t responsible for what a misguided fan or fans of hers do, but this is the worst type of historical revision this side of the Soviet Union. If you want the real details of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, read this.

Update: There’s a good post about this subject at Outside the Beltway which is worth reading.

Breaking News: Multiple news organizations are reporting that a federal grand jury has indicted former presidential candidate John Edwards… Watch this space – I will live-blog the indictment as soon as I can get a copy.

Update: Just got the press release and indictment from the Department of Justice. Highlights coming shortly…

Update II: CNN just reported Edwards will make his first court appearance in Winston-Salem, NC at 2:30 this afternoon.

Update III: Multiple news organizations have identified the two unnamed Edwards benefactors in the indictment as Bunny Mellon [Person C] and the late Fred Baron [Person D]

Update IV: Edwards’ attorney Greg Craig issued a statement, saying Edwards “will tell the court he is innocent of all charges, and will plead not guilty. He did not break the law and will mount a vigorous defense.”

Update V: According to my former colleague Kevin Bohn, John Edwards met with Bunny Mellon at her Virginia home last month.


“Family Comes First”: The indictment opens by setting up Edwards’ political image and strategy as a presidential candidate. “A centerpiece of EDWARDS’ candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man. The communication strategy developed by EDWARDS’ campaign stressed the importance of publicizing, among other things, “that [EDWARDS’] family comes first.” [p. 1] CNN’s Jeff Toobin described the document as a speaking indictment, meant to embarrass the subject and paint him in the most unflattering light possible.

Count One: Alleges Edwards and others conspired to accept money from two wealthy donors in excess of limits set by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 [$725,000 and $200,000 respectively], causing the FEC to file false and misleading campaign finance filings with the Federal Election Commission, with the intent of concealing Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter to protect his presidential chances. [p.5-7]
Quoting from the indictment: “EDWARDS knew that public revelation of the affair and pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining EDWARDS’ presentation of himself as a family man and by forcing his campaign to divert personnel and resources away from other campaign activities to respond to criticism and media scrutiny regarding the affair and pregnancy.” [p.6]

“A Way To Help Our Friend”: In May 2007, person A [based on the description earlier in the document, I assume it’s former Edwards aide Andrew Young] showed Edwards a note written to him by one of the two wealthy benefactors [identified in the indictment as Person C] the month before, which reads:

The timing of your telephone call was “witchy.” I was sitting alone in a grim mood – furious that the press attacked Senator Edwards on the price of a haircut. But it has inspired me – from now on, all haircuts, etc., that are necessary and important for his campaign – please send the bills to me… It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions.

This is in reference to an early Politico scoop revealing the Edwards campaign had spent $400 for the candidate’s haircut at a top Beverly Hills stylist, and the subsequent ridicule that followed. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe later admitted in his memoir that the Obama campaign had been the source of that piece of opposition research: “We did much less of this than many campaigns did, but there were times when we indulged – it was our researchers who found John Edwards’s infamous $400 haircut expenditures.” [David Plouffe, “The Audacity to Win” p. 73]

Follow the Checks
: The indictment says Person C [Mellon] wrote a series of checks between June 2007 and January 2008 made out to a friend, after having already given the maximum amount to the Edwards campaign allowed under federal campaign finance laws. Several of the checks were labeled with misleading labels about furniture in the memo line to hide the fact the money was really going to Edwards. The check amounts ranged from $10,000 to $200,000. [p. 8-9] This friend would forward the checks to Person A [Young], whose wife would endorse the checks in her maiden name and deposit the funds into accounts they both controlled. According to the indictment, this money was used to provide for Person B’s [Rielle Hunter] “rent, furniture, car, living expenses, medical visits, and prenatal care.” [p. 9]

In Hiding: After the National Enquirer broke the story of the Edwards-Hunter affair, the indictment alleges Person D [Baron], having already donated the maximum amount allowed to the Edwards campaign, paid for travel and living expenses for Andrew Young, Young’s family, and Rielle Hunter, “all for the benefit of EDWARDS’ campaign.” The combined transactions were worth $183,083.75 and included chartered airfare to Aspen, Colorado, San Diego, California, and Santa Barbara California, along with hotel and house rental payments. [p. 11]

“Use Cash, Not Credit Cards!”: During the same period, Person D [Baron] was providing Person A [Young] money, including $1,000 in cash delivered in an envelope along with a note which read, “Old Chinese saying: Use cash, not credit cards!” The indictment also says Baron transferred $10,000 to a bank account controlled by Young. [p. 11]

Lies: The indictment cites several comments Edwards made during an interview with ABC News in which he admitted to the affair but denied paternity of Rielle Hunter’s child.

“A Huge Issue”: The indictment says that while working on a statement admitting paternity of Rielle Hunter’s baby, Edwards admitted to a former campaign staffer in June of 2009 that he knew Person D [Baron] had provided money and support to hide Person B [Hunter] from the media. Quoting the document: “EDWARDS further told the employee that this was a huge issue and that for “legal and practical reasons” it should not be mentioned in the statement they were preparing.” [p. 13]

Counts Two Through Five: Alleges that Edwards knowingly accepted contributions from Buny Mellon and Fred Baron exceeding the federal limit on individual donations. [p. 14-17]

Count Six: Alleges Edwards withheld information about hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from Mellon and Baron from his presidential campaign committee, causing them to file inaccurate campaign finance documents with the FEC. [p. 18-19]

Cyberwar people are gonna love this

MI6 attacks al-Qaeda in ‘Operation Cupcake’
British intelligence has hacked into an al-Qaeda online magazine and replaced bomb-making instructions with a recipe for cupcakes.

The cyber-warfare operation was launched by MI6 and GCHQ in an attempt to disrupt efforts by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular to recruit “lone-wolf” terrorists with a new English-language magazine, the Daily Telegraph understands.

When followers tried to download the 67-page colour magazine, instead of instructions about how to “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” by “The AQ Chef” they were greeted with garbled computer code.

The code, which had been inserted into the original magazine by the British intelligence hackers, was actually a web page of recipes for “The Best Cupcakes in America” published by the Ellen DeGeneres chat show.