Coachella 2009 Wrapup - Friday

Greetings from our lovely La Quinta rental house where we have just returned from Day 1 of the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Our exciting coverage of the first day includes: extra-long lines! Exclusive interviews! Tolerable heat! Old guys! Very old guys! Really quite astoundingly old guys! And, okay, a couple young whippersnappers and their kooky haircuts and bleepy music machines. Click "more" for all the details.

Watch David Corn Talk Torture on Hardball

How did the previous White House occupants justify torture? Watch David Corn discuss the latest buggy findings below on Hardball Friday night.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Plus: Think you know the basics of the all-American torture plan? Read these 5 MoJo exclusives to be sure.

Get Up Stand Up: Gay-Rights Groups Dump Jamaican Booze

There'll be no pina coladas tonight, mon. The Jamaica observer reports gay-rights advocates poured the libations down sewage drains at Stonewall Inn in New York this week protesting Jamacia, "the most homophobic place on earth." Human right groups and the US State Department cite beatings and arbitrary detainment, along with gay-attacking mobs and complicit police among the Jamacian government's crimes against homosexuals.

The "rum dump" kicked off a national boycott organized by the website Boycott Jamaica, which is asking consumers to avoid Jamacian booze, beer, coffee, and vacations. So how's a gay-rights supporter supposed to get her party on this weekend? Well, there's always Templeton Rye, whiskey made in gay-marriage-friendly Iowa.

Conservatives have gone ballistic over the April 7 report from the Department of Homeland Security, which purports to document the recent growth of the radical far-right. As summarized by Reuters:

Right-wing extremists in the United States are gaining new recruits by exploiting fears about the economy and the election of the first black U.S. president, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report to law enforcement officials. The April 7 report…said such fears were driving a resurgence in “recruitment and radicalization activity” by white supremacist groups, antigovernment extremists and militia movements. It did not identify any by name.

DHS had no specific information about pending violence and said threats had so far been “largely rhetorical.” But it warned that home foreclosures, unemployment and other consequences of the economic recession “could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists.” “To the extent that these factors persist, right-wing extremism is likely to grow in strength,” DHS said.

After the story of the report broke earler this week, it dominated the Drudge Report Feed, which featured a picture of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano above the line, “SHE IS WATCHING YOU.” The Liberty Papers offered a  blog post headed, “If you are reading this, you may well be a terrorist.” Michelle Malkin quickly entered the fray, declaring what she called “the piece of crap report” to be “a sweeping indictment of conservatives.” And since she believes that “in Obama land there are no coincidences,” Malkin concluded that the report’s release was timed to coincide with Wednesday’s “Tax Day Tea Party” protests. Even though the report was apparently conceived under the Bush Administration, Malkin’s interpretation was repeated by Rush Limbaugh and others, and the fix was in.

So do conservatives really want to put themselves in the same boat with the racist, militant, often violent groups the report actually has in mind when it talks about “right-wing extremists?” Because that’s exactly what’s happened: Conservatives haven’t been branded dangerous extremist by DHS or the Obama administration; they’ve branded themselves.

Round 1: First a report from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute that low-oxygen dead zones in the ocean could expand significantly over the next century. We already know the number of dead zones is doubling every decade. We already know that climate change is exacerbating dead zones in two ways.

First, more rainfall in some areas leads to more agricultural fertilizers and manures running off into the sea and growing more dead zones—as in the Gulf of Mexico. Second, warming in other areas reduces prevailing winds that produce oceanic upwelling—as in the Oregon dead zone.

Now the MBARI research, published in the journal Science, suggests a third mechanism at work. As more CO2 dissolves from the atmosphere into the ocean, marine animals will need more oxygen to survive. In other words, a dead zone will get deader faster. This is in addition to the excess CO2 causing changes to the pH of seawater. You know, the ocean acidification threatening the very foundations of life.

Pour me another and let's talk about the next round which might help solve the problems of this one.

Round 2:
Australia's Kevin Rudd, professed greenie, has launched a carbon capture institute. This is a government-funded initiative to coordinate and accelerate carbon capture and storage projects worldwide. "Our vision is to build an institute that will galvanize global efforts to demonstrate and deploy CCS technology," Rudd told the initial meeting of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI) in Canberra, reports NatureNews. "This recognizes the cold hard reality that coal will be the major source of power generation for many years to come."

This is where the "professed greenie" part comes into play. Matthew McDermott of Treehugger calls it a deal with the devil.  Australia is the world's leading exporter of coal and a big user of the stuff. So Rudd promises to pony up US$72 million a year for the GCCSI to figure out a way to enable them to keep doing that. The public-private partnership has received pledges of support from some twenty governments so far, including the US and China, plus more than 40 industrial companies.

Well, let's hope they really can figure out a way to mitigate the highly unmitigatable. Because, let's face it, otherwise they're running the world's biggest Ponzi scheme.

Round 3: A new paper in Environmental Science and Technology finds that the warming Arctic is not only changing the landscapes and seascapes but poisoning the landscapes and seascapes too. Mercury levels in seals and beluga whales eaten by Inuit in northern Canada have reached levels considered unsafe in fish. The problem is worse in low-ice years, meaning the problem is gonna get worse. Arctic residents are being exposed to other pollutants melting out too: DDT and PCBs that leached from the atmosphere decades ago and became entombed in ice and permafrost, now flowing into streams, rivers, and the Arctic Ocean.

Round 4: The Overdose, please.
 

Recession Hits Home for Tom Friedman

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is one of free market capitalism's loudest cheerleaders. The premise goes like this: Developing countries make consumer goods so inexpensively that people in rich countries can afford to buy them and have money left over. Because of all the extra dough, demand for consumer products shoots up and makes third world countries rich. What's good for China is good for America and everyone wins, right? Not quite.

Yesterday morning, another crack appeared in Friedman's the-consumer-always-wins model when one of America's largest shopping mall companies, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, filed for bankruptcy.  Friedman's pretty close to GGP's malls; the Bucksbaum family owns them, and Ann Bucksbaum is Tom Friedman's wife.

 

The Banality of Evil

Andrew Sullivan cites conservative pundit/intellectual Charles Krauthammer's evolving opinion of our treatment of detainees:

"I don't see it as a dark chapter in our history at all," - Charles Krauthammer, yesterday.

"The pictures are shocking and the practices appalling," - Charles Krauthammer, on Abu Ghraib, May 14, 2004.

In the first quote, Krauthammer is referring to the torture practices laid out in the memos released yesterday but Eric Holder's DOJ. In the second, he is referring to Abu Ghraib. I agree with Andrew that if you are shocked and appalled by one, you should be shocked and appalled by both -- as Andrew says, the unauthorized actions at Abu Graib were just "garbled copies" of the authorized actions taking place in black sites around the world. Andrew tries to dissect why Krauthammer's feelings have evolved -- he does some good, hard thinking on the subject. I'll add another possible explanation: time. We've grown familiar with the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the Bush Administration. We didn't know CIA officers were trapping detainees in coffin-like boxes with scary insects, but we did know they were using nudity, prolonged standing, dousing in water, stress positions, waterboarding, etc. I would argue that every person that wants to support and even return to Bush-era war on terror practices has found some way to rationalize all this horrible stuff to themselves, so that if they were shocked by it in 2004, they are not so shocked now.

And, frankly, I don't think anyone will be shocked in 20 years. We are awfully good at forgetting.

Friday Cat Blogging - 17 April 2009

Spring has fully and completely sprung, and the backyard is now kitty paradise.  With any luck, it will stay that way for the next six months.  Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Cuba Update

The latest from Havana:

Cuba has offered a surprise olive branch to the United States ahead of Barack Obama's regional debut at the Summit of the Americas.

Raúl Castro, Cuba's president, said Havana was open to talks about "everything", including contentious issues which have bedevilled relations for half a century, in a further sign of thaw between the two governments.

"We have sent word to the US government in private and in public that we are willing to discuss everything, human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything."

And the American response:

The United States welcomes as an "overture" an offer of wide-ranging talks from Cuban President Raul Castro, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday.

"We have seen Raul Castro's comments. We welcome this overture. We're taking a very serious look at it," Clinton said [in Santo Domingo] at a press availability with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.

Maybe something comes of this, maybe it doesn't.  But Fidel Castro never would have made such a conciliatory statement, and George Bush never would have responded positively to it if he had.  Times have changed on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Do Not Call

From the LA Times this morning:

Satellite television provider DirecTV Inc. agreed to pay $2.31 million to settle charges that it made more than 1 million calls to its customers who had — as was their right — placed themselves on a Do Not Call list, the Federal Trade Commission said Thursday.

And why did the company make the calls? To ask the customers to remove themselves from the list, the agency said.

I've been getting daily recorded calls for the past couple of months telling me that THIS IS MY LAST CHANCE to reduce my credit card interest rates.  Finally, instead of hanging up immediately, I decided to listen to the whole spiel and get through to an operator to ask to be taken off their list.  The first one hung up on me.  The next day I tried again.  The operator said "Thank you sir" and then hung up.  The next day I tried yet again.  Finally, I got an operator who actually acknowledged my existence.  And the calls stopped.

That was two weeks ago.  Yesterday the calls started again, though I haven't gotten one yet today.  Apparently, then, the lesson is that it takes three tries to get credit card companies to leave you alone, and even at that they only leave you alone for two weeks.  $2.31 million is too good for these people.

(And anyway, as my credit card company ought to know, I don't carry a balance on my card.  So I don't care about my interest rate anyway.  Idiots.)