Blogs

Matt Taibbi Hearts Seymour Hersh

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 3:09 PM EST

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If you like name-calling hyperbole, Matt Taibbi has always been your guy. He's a great and refreshing read and has an insightful wit, but he's also vicious. (Just in case you think he's the anti-Broder, keep in mind that Taibbi is an equal opportunity hater—he rips milquetoast Democrats as often as he hits right-wing Republicans. He's like Broder's mirror image or something.)

But in a new interview on Campus Progress (done by MoJo intern Justin Elliott), Taibbi has something nice to say about someone. Specifically Sy Hersh:

He's old school. He's the kind of guy who sits and pores over the newsletters of all these minor government agencies to see who retired that week so he can approach that person to see if he's got any stories to tell on his way out of service. There are a few guys like that who are still out there, but they're all holdovers from a lost age.

Wow. Respect.

Mother Jones did a 2005 interview with "The Bad Boy on the Bus." Check it out.

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Texas Science Curriculum Director Resigns Over Creationism Kerfuffle

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 2:29 PM EST

creation190.jpgThe science blogosphere is abuzz (here, here and here, for starters) with some juicy creationism news from Texas. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Chris Comer, the state's director of science curriculum, was pressured into resigning this month. Her crime? Forwarding an e-mail about an upcoming talk by creationism expert Barbara Forrest. (Now mind you, by "creationism expert," I don't mean "creationist." Barbara Forrest testified in the Dover trial, and according to Pharyngula blogger PZ Meyers, she had creationists shaking in their boots.)

Anyway, long story short, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) had a fit. A TEA memo obtained by the Statesman said, "Ms. Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral."

Now, never mind the fact that the neutrality for which Texas strives on the subject of creationism pretty much amounts to bad science. Even if neutrality is your goal—heck, even if you're the biggest creationist ever—you might still be interested in hearing what this Barbara Forrest has to say. And if you're a teacher, you're ostensibly interested in open forums, free exchange of ideas, etc. Tough luck for you if you're teaching in Texas. Talk about a hostile learning environment.

Judicial Follies

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 12:15 PM EST

Was this guy Hitler in a previous life?

Dwayne Dail served half his life, 18 years, in a North Carolina prison for a rape he didn't commit. Given that his childhood sweetheart was pregnant at the time, he ended up spending his son's entire life so far in jail; the boy grew up without him. Free for three months now and awarded what seems to the casual observer a paltry $360,000 for what he rightly calls not wrongful incarceration but 'kidnapping', this unlucky guy is back in court. For what, you ask? His baby mother is suing him for the back child support he never paid while imprisoned and while she raised their son alone. Said Dail, "Everybody wonders why I'm not mad. Well, I'm mad now."

Again, bad cases make bad law but there is a real issue here: should settlements such as these be considered income? The judge is still pondering this doozy of a case.

Only the mother knows why she filed this suit without first asking Dail for a chunk; her son, now just getting to know his dad, reports being traumatized by all this. First his dad was a pedophile rapist (the victim was 12). Now he's not. He's out of prison, they've just met, and the mother he loves has Dad back in the place he fears most, a court room.

You gotta read to believe.

Hillary Hatred on Display

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 11:54 AM EST

I'm at the DNC's fall meeting in Vienna, VA, today. I'll hear all the Democratic presidential candidates speak and then write something up for your consumption.

On the way here, though, I got into a conversation with my cabbie about politics. We saw Hillary Clinton signs lining the road up to the meeting's venue. "I hate that woman," he said. I laughed uncomfortably. "I don't think she'll win the nomination," he said. "Too many people hate her. Even Democrats. But I think the Democrats are in a box. If they are against her, they look like they don't like her because she's a woman. And if they are against Obama, it looks like it's because he's black."

I asked for a reciept. He reached for one. As he turned to hand it to me, he said, "And then there's the fact that he's a Muslim."

I stopped. "No, he isn't. He belongs to a Christian church in Chicago." I explained that the media had investigated the rumor and proved it false. He didn't looked convinced. "What's with the funny name?" he asked. So that Muslim controversy still has legs.

But what I want to focus on is the hatred of Hillary. It is widespread and nasty, more than the media is usually willing to mention. So is she going to be a drag on the Democrats in down-ballot races? Will she hurt the Dems in Senate races, House races, local races? Democrats in conservative states say that she will, but it remains an open question.

Rudy the Fibber

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 11:19 AM EST

Love this from Michael Cooper at the NY Times:

In almost every appearance as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph W. Giuliani cites a fusillade of statistics and facts to make his arguments about his successes in running New York City and the merits of his views.
Discussing his crime-fighting success as mayor, Mr. Giuliani told a television interviewer that New York was "the only city in America that has reduced crime every single year since 1994." In New Hampshire this week, he told a public forum that when he became mayor in 1994, New York "had been averaging like 1,800, 1,900 murders for almost 30 years." When a recent Republican debate turned to the question of fiscal responsibility, he boasted that "under me, spending went down by 7 percent."
All of these statements are incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong.

It goes on. That's excellent, awesome journalism.

Bush's Shaky Line on Attorney Firings, Leahy Needs to Read Between the Lines

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 9:06 PM EST

I just want to add to our take on the slow-but-steady progress of the U.S. attorney firings investigation. Today, Senator Patrick Leahy ruled illegal Bush's claim that executive privilege allows him to withhold documents related to the firings. The Senate Judiciary Chairman pointed out that if the President didn't have anything to do with the case, as the White House has repeatedly claimed, his privilege is irrelevant. The White House turned Leahy's statement on its head, saying the whole case should be invalidated: If Leahy says the President had nothing to do with it, they contend, the investigation is essentially kaput.

Au contraire. If Bush wasn't involved, why would he bother claiming executive privilege in the first place? If anything, the White House's eagerness to close the case signifies that it's far from over. Call me crazy, but methinks the Decider doth protest too much.

—Casey Miner

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A Good Question for Peter Osnos

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 9:05 PM EST

Bob Fertik of Democrats.com has a very good question for Peter Osnos. Osnos is the widely-respected head of Public Affairs, the publisher of the book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan coming out next year.

Last week, Public Affairs put a section of McClellan's book-to-be online. It included this, regarding the outing of Valerie Plame:

Winter Holidays = God Awful Pop Music

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 9:01 PM EST
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Regrettably, I spent my morning listening to songs on the Monster Ballads Xmas CD and the LeeVees' How Do You Spell Channukkahh EP. Any holiday spirit I had when I woke up this morning has now been completely ripped out of my system.

I'm not sure why holiday rock almost always = terrible rock, but the monster ballad CD and the silly Jewish rock EP are living proof that rock songs about Santa and pop songs about potato latkes are not, and will never be, cool, funny, interesting, or enjoyable in any way. I want to personally thank them for giving me a full-fledged holiday headache.

More Than 1 in 4 US Birds Imperiled

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 8:35 PM EST

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How are America's birds doing after seven years of the antiGreens? Well, 178 species in the continental U.S. and 39 in Hawaii are in need of immediate conservation. That according to the 2007 Audubon WatchList.

"We call this a 'WatchList' but it is really a call to action, because the alternative is to watch these species slip ever closer to oblivion," said Audubon Bird Conservation Director and co-author, Greg Butcher. "How quickly and effectively we act to protect and support the species on this list will determine their future; where we've taken aggressive action, we've seen improvement," says David Pashley, American Bird Conservancy's Director of Conservation Programs and co-author.

Could Step One be any clearer? Fast forward to 2008 & ditch the flightless leaders.

Among the most imperiled species on the list that regularly breed in the continental U.S. are:

Gunnison Sage-Grouse (not on Endangered Species Act list (ESA) [here's why, at least in part]) • This species is restricted to Southwest ...

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

New Tectonic Source of Geothermal Energy?

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 8:02 PM EST

volcan42.jpg Geochemists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Arizona State University have discovered a new tool for identifying potential geothermal energy resources. The discovery came from comparing helium isotopes in samples gathered from wells, springs, and vents across the northern Basin and Range of western North America. High helium ratios are common in volcanic regions. When the investigators found high ratios in places far from volcanism, they knew that hot fluids must be permeating Earth's inner layers by other means. The samples collected on the surface gave the researchers a window into the structure of the rocks far below, with no need to drill.

"A good geothermal energy source has three basic requirements: a high thermal gradient—which means accessible hot rock—plus a rechargeable reservoir fluid, usually water, and finally, deep permeable pathways for the fluid to circulate through the hot rock," says Mack Kennedy. "We believe we have found a way to map and quantify zones of permeability deep in the lower crust that result not from volcanic activity but from tectonic activity, the movement of pieces of the Earth's crust."

Geothermal is considered by many to be the best renewable energy source besides solar. Accessible geothermal energy in the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, is estimated at 90 quadrillion kilowatt-hours, 3,000 times more than the country's total annual energy consumption. Determining helium ratios from surface measurements is a practical way to locate promising sources.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.