Blogs

Wonder Woman Gets Her First Female Scribe

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 11:53 AM EST

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The Times just profiled Gail Simone, the first woman to write DC Comics' Wonder Woman series. MJ was on the story back in July, when Charlie Anders introduced readers to Simone as part of a generation of feisty female comic-book geeks who are breaking into the boys-in-tights club. Simone helped get the ball rolling with her Women in Refrigerators site, which listed the horrible demise of many a female superhero. So don't expect Wonder Woman to pull a Captain America any time soon. Meanwhile, it looks like Simone is keeping Princess Diana of Themyscira plenty busy fighting off a troop of groping blue gorillas.

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Just Your Everyday $1 Million Bill Forgery Case

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 11:42 AM EST

one-million-dollar-bill.jpg This made my day:

Man with $1M bill busted at bank
AIKEN, S.C. - A bank teller had a million reasons to deny this transaction.
Police say a man tried to open an account with a $1 million bill, which does not exist. The teller refused and called police while the man started to curse at bank workers, said Aiken County Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Michael Frank.
Alexander D. Smith, 31, of Augusta, Ga., was charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of forgery, Frank said.
The second forgery charge came after investigators learned Smith bought several cartons of cigarettes from a nearby grocery store with a stolen check, Frank said.

If you had created a fake $1 million bill, who do you think would be most likely to notice the forgery? A bank, right? Wouldn't it be smarter to head to 7/11 and try to purchase 600,000 slurpees?

Also, as the photo above shows (that's the actually bill, by the way), the teller actually tried to use the forgery pen that determines if a bill is real or not. So a random dude walks in with a crumpled million dollar bill, and the teller actually tests to see if it's real? That teller really believes in the good in people. I wish I had that much faith in humanity.

(H/T Wonkette)

Romney Digs Himself Deeper on "No Muslims" Statement

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 9:50 AM EST

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Mitt Romney recently said that he would not have any Muslims in his cabinet because their population in the United States isn't large enough. His exact words were: "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration." The various idiocies of that statement were previously discussed on MoJoBlog here.

Romney tried to defend himself by saying:

"[The] question was did I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical Jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet," said Romney. "And I said, 'No, I don't think that you have to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to be able to take on radical Jihad anymore than during the Second World War we needed to have a Japanese-American to understand the threat that was coming from Japan or something of that nature.' I just rejected that argument..."

That seems to misrepresent what the questioner asked. The questioner describes his own question thusly: "I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today."

Now the original questioner, an American born Muslim named Mansoor Ijaz (full disclosure: Ijaz is or was an occasional commentator for Fox News, CNN, and other places) is lashing out at Romney's dissembling. Via Huffington Post:

Troubled Army Recruits Become Soldiers, More Troubled; Who's Responsible?

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 9:44 PM EST

The Boston Globe reports that 11 percent, more than 1 in 10, of Army recruits this year were given waivers because they have criminal records (more than 6,000 soldiers). Now this is hardly news, the Army has been systematically lowering standards for years—aptitude and fitness levels, health status, moral conduct, down; age and bonuses, up—in fact each year more and more recruits with waivers (and tattoos) join the ranks.

But the coverage is missing the mark somewhat on the full extent of what these lowered standards mean. Partly they mean what the media is focused on, that we have a compromised armed force, that we are putting men with guns in combat situations, where some of our fighters five years ago wouldn't have been considered fit for such a battle. After all, the Pentagon established standards, whether it be for asthma or high school diplomas, for reasons, reasons they also let slide during Vietnam, under similar circumstances.

Casting the First Stone Very Precisely: Keep Your Religion Private or Publicly Defend It

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 9:16 PM EST

Not to mention: live by it.

I'm with Hitch: Mitt Romney, let alone any publicly religious person running for office needs to tell us exactly what it is that they believe. Especially the bits that infringe just a tad on others' freedom (gay rights comes to mind).

Even were I not an apostate, I like to believe that I would want others to keep their religion to themselves. Failing that, if you're going to try to score points with it ("Jesus is my favorite philosopher") or try to control others with it (see: 'pro-lifers' who support capital punishment) then defend it. But first, 'fess up. I hear it's good for the soul. At least the Pope has the 'nads to spit directly in womens' eyes with his opposition to birth control, abortion and female priesthood. But if he ran for prez, things would no doubt get all vague. Bump that, especially the godless press's 'deference' to such twaddle.

As usual, Hitch (who's a pal) has his normal great fun with Mormonism but en route makes excellent points:

A New Line Of Attack For Lantos Challenger

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 8:51 PM EST

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The campaign of Jackie Speier, a former California state senator who has all but announced her primary challenge to Tom Lantos' House seat, is going to have plenty of fodder, if she decides to use it, for nasty attack ads. Throughout his 14 terms in Congress, Lantos, 79, has compiled a mainstream liberal record on domestic issues but on foreign affairs—well, to call him "hawkish" would be a gross understatement. Speier, for example, could point to Lantos' starring role in pushing the fabricated Gulf War-era story of Iraqi soldiers removing Kuwaiti babies from their incubators and leaving them to die. She could also quote a report by Ha'aretz, later denied by Lantos, that he told an Israeli lawmaker in 2002, "We'll be rid of the bastard [Saddam] soon enough. And in his place we'll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and for you." Just as easily, she could point to the shameful hold Lantos put on reconstruction aid for Lebanon in 2006 or the fact that he has ratcheted up tensions with Iran. Indeed, she could highlight his chillingly Bushian turns of phrase, like when he cheered NATO as "the military arm of the civilized world" and called Germany's Gerhard Schroder a "political prostitute" last summer.

Yes, Speier could do any of those things, but I'd like to submit to her an entirely original framework of attack. Call it the Mr. Burns paradigm:

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Green Jobs Growing

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 7:08 PM EST

solar-panel-1.jpg Thanks to Grist for pointing the way to a fact sheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute showing that clean energy, already a job-creation engine, will soon rev even higher:

• Energy efficiency now employs 8 million, and renewable energy 450,000, in the U.S. • Renewable energy creates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, unit of energy produced, and dollar invested than fossil energy. • Generating 20 percent of U.S. electricity from new renewable energy by 2020 will add 185,000 new jobs, while cumulatively reducing utility bills $10.5 billion and increasing rural landowner income by $26.5 billion. • A national light vehicle efficiency standard of 35 mpg by 2018 will create 241,000 jobs, including 23,900 in the automotive sector, while saving consumers $37 billion in 2020 alone. • The Massachusetts clean energy sector employs 14,000 and will soon be the state's 10th largest economic sector. • Washington state's 15 percent renewable energy standard will result in a net increase of 1,230 jobs in-state. • California's Million Solar Roof Initiative will generate 15,000 jobs there. • Germany employs 214,000 in renewable energy, including 64,000 in wind. • Denmark's wind industry employs 20,000 and Spain's 35,000. • U.S. wind power was responsible for 16,000 direct jobs and 36,800 total jobs in 2006. •

Not to mention which, renewables revive communities.

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

Good News on Storing CO2 Underground

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 6:38 PM EST

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Very promising news. Looks like storing carbon dioxide deep below the earth's surface might be a safe, long-term sequestration solution. University of Leeds (they're busy there) research found that porous sandstone, drained of oil, provides a safe reservoir for CO2. Investigator Stephanie Houston examined water pumped out with the oil and found it unexpectedly rich in silica, revealing that silicates had dissolved in the newly-injected seawater in less than a year—much faster than predicted. This is the type of reaction needed to make CO2 as stable as, say, the dissolved carbonate in still mineral water. It's also what's needed to prevent the captured CO2 leaking back to the surface at some future (catastrophic) date.

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

Biodiesel Sludge Converted to Hydrogen

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 5:30 PM EST

241469637_3334f8faa3_m.jpg What to do with the byproduct of biodiesel? You know, that low-grade sludge that's produced, molecule for molecule, alongside biodiesel. Well, scientists at the University of Leeds have turned the unwanted crude glycerol (sludge) into a high-value hydrogen rich gas. The novel process developed by Valerie Dupont and her co-investigators mixes glycerol with steam at controlled temperatures and pressures, separating the waste product into hydrogen, water and carbon dioxide, with no residues. A special absorbent material filters out the CO2, leaving a purer product.

Currently hydrogen production is expensive and unsustainable, using either increasingly scarce fossil fuels or other less efficient methods such as water electrolysis. The new process is near carbon neutral, since the CO2 generated is not derived from the use of fossil fuels.

Let's hope the new processes emerging from a worldwide explosion of research prove green, sustainable, and economically feasible.

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

Fred Thompson's New Watergate Ad: Get Me Rewrite!

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 4:55 PM EST

Fred Thompson has a new ad touting his days as the top Republican lawyer on the Senate Watergate committee's staff:

Click to play

In the ad, he boasts of having "helped to expose the truth during Watergate."

The story is not that simple. As Thompson himself acknowledged in a 1975 book, right after the congressional Watergate investigators learned of Richard Nixon's clandestine taping system, Thompson tipped off the Nixon White House that the Capitol Hill gumshoes had uncovered this big secret. This was not S.O.P. for a prosecutor. (Thompson had been an assistant U.S. attorney previously.) A member of an investigative team usually does not unilaterally rush to tell the subject of a probe--via an unofficial back channel--that he or she has just discovered a possible treasure trove of evidence against the target.

Referring to this episode, Scott Armstrong, an investigator for the Democrats on the committee, in July told The Boston Globe, "Thompson was a mole for the White House. Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."

The Nixon tapes show that Thompson also cooperated behind the scenes with the Nixon White House regarding how to handle the public testimony of John Dean, a White House lawyer who had turned against Nixon and his aides. (On those tapes, Nixon referred to Thompson as not "very smart" but "friendly," meaning friendly to the White House, not to children and puppies.) In a conversation with Nixon on June 11, 1973, shortly before Dean was to testify, J. Fred Buzhardt, a Nixon lawyer, informed the president that Thompson was "now willing to work with us" in trying to undermine Dean. "He was far more cooperative really than I expected him to be," Buzhardt remarked, noting that Thompson "said it's just getting to be a political dogfight." Buzhardt also told Nixon that Thompson was more willing to engage in political battle concerning the hearings than Senator Howard Baker, the top Republican on the Watergate committee, who had hired Thompson, a fellow Tennessean. (The transcripts of these tapes were published in 1997 in Abuse of Power, edited by Stanley Kutler.)

On his website, Thompson neglects to mention his role as a snitch and Nixon comrade. In his campaign bio, only one line describes his Watergate committee service:

He gained national attention for leading the line of inquiry that revealed the audio-taping system in the White House Oval Office.

That's not accurate.