Blogs

Giant Storm Slams The East

| Sun Apr. 15, 2007 1:08 PM PDT

A friend from the Berkshires in western Massachusetts emails me Sunday morning to say the snow is piling up outside and it's sleeting sideways. I'm supposed to be en route to New York City but the biggest nor'easter in 20 years has cancelled 300 flights to the right coast. Guess I'm staying in California. I love big weather and it would be fun to be in this, but more than likely I'd be stuck in some airport for days. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg called a press conference Saturday to warn of the coming storm. Jesse Ferrell of AccuWeather points out this is a likely first for an "unnamed" storm except possibly major blizzards. Ferrell also points out that AccuWeather meteorologist Dale Mohler was quoted by Bloomberg.com as saying "The storm will really set in Sunday afternoon. By April 16, the system may be as strong as a Category 1 hurricane, with winds above 74 miles per hour and stretch from Maine to Florida and as far west as the Mississippi River." Wow. A new species of storm. Who says all we're doing is cause the sixth great extinction? We're breeding new meteorological monsters. --Julia Whitty

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New Email Released Shows Sampson's a Fibber

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 10:44 AM PDT

On March 29, Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to AG Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Sampson's testimony incriminated Gonzales, who had claimed he was not involved in the firing process. Sampson finally spoke -- it had been the most awaited testimony during the case that has preoccupied Washington for months. Well, now it looks like Sampson lied under oath. The former aide, as Michael Scherer reported in Salon, had trouble answering many questions that day; he tallied 127 "I don't remembers" uttered by Sampson throughout the hearing. Perhaps Sampson should have said "I don't remember" to this inquiry put forth by committee member Charles Schumer:

Schumer: Did you or did you not have in mind specific replacements for the dismissed U.S. Attorneys before they were asked to resign on December 7th, 2006.

Sampson: I personally did not. On December 7th, I did not have in mind any replacements for any of the seven who were asked to resign.

A January 6, 2006 email just released to the House Judiciary Committee shows that Sampson had named replacement recs for each USA on the list of to-be-fireds. Oops. This news comes during the heating up of the email controversy over the administration using RNC emails to avoid communicating through their own email system. The White House now claims to have lost 5 million of these emails, many of which relate to the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys. It's a pretty tangled mess -- Karl Rove is back on the hot seat (I guess he's never really off) and Plamegate is back in the news.

But the new email released revealing Sampson's fibbing does more than just point to the fact that a former justice official lied under oath and reveal a concerted effort by the administration and the DOJ to conceal their communication, it shows that many of the potential replacements named were Bushies; that the mass purge of USAs in December was indeed a way to make room for "partisan loyalists" (an accusation the DOJ has denied). This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for all DOJ and White House documents relating to the firings that they say they will issue if Gonzales is not forthcoming in his testimony this Tuesday. Senate Dems say that the documents released thus far have been incomplete. I'm banking on there being more juicy bits of information buried in the DOJ and WH's trails of paper and electronic mail. Stay tuned.

Today is National Day of Climate Action

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 10:32 AM PDT

Many of you likely know that today is the National Day of Climate Action. There are lots and lots of cool events around the country, which you can search by zip code at the Step It Up 2007 website. Got some free time on a spring Saturday? Try saving the planet for a little bit.

Today is National Day of Climate Action

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 10:27 AM PDT

Many of you likely know that today is the National Day of Climate Action. There are lots and lots of cool events around the country, which you can search by zip code at the Step It Up 2007 website. Got some free time on a spring Saturday? Try saving the planet for a little bit.

Another Haditha?

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 9:50 AM PDT

A new report from Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission says that a U.S. Marine unit used excessive force when escaping a suicide attempt last month. Twelve Afghani civilians were killed and 35 were injured by the Marines, who apparently did not distinguish between civilians and insurgents when responding to an attempt on their own lives. From the Times:

Following the March 4 attack in Nangahar province, when an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines, the unit shot at vehicles and pedestrians in six different locations while driving along a 10-mile stretch of road, according to a report by Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission.

And this isn't a toothless non-prof spouting off, either. This could result in actual prosecution.

A U.S. military commander also determined that Marines used excessive force, and he referred the case for possible criminal inquiry.

As if the United States needs any more bad press in the Arab world...

Party Ben's Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things 4/13/07

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 7:34 PM PDT

Ooh, Friday the 13th. Time for scaarrry electro jams, and spooooky Icelandic singer ladies, and situation commmedieeesss!!!

mojo-photo-aqua.jpg10. Getting ready to go see "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters"
Mostly just being amused by the Chronicle's baffled (yet admirably open-minded) review of the thing today.


mojo-photo-glass.jpg9. The Glass – "Come Alive" (mp3)
The NYC electro duo comes back with a more mainstream sound reminiscent of Tiga and fellow New Yorkers The Rapture. Grab an mp3 of it (and a cool DJ set from them) at Spinner here


mojo-cover-brighteyes.jpg8. Cover art for Bright Eyes Cassadaga, new album on Saddle Creek
Yes, fine, it's Omaha's finest singer-songwriter with a more "Americana" style album. Whatever. But duuude, check out this cover art, it's all like black and white static, but you pull out the included magic view screen, and it turns into pictures of crazy stuff! How do they do that?

mojo-cover-djaxel.jpg7. DJ AxelBreakin' the Law (self-released album)
LA's Peter Axelrad has quietly become one of the most consistent mash-up producers out there, with flawless and crowd-pleasing DJ sets; this collection of tracks is augmented by brilliant, Sgt. Peppers-inspired cover art


mojo-cover-bjork.jpg6. Bjork"Earth Intruders" (from the forthcoming album Volta, out May 7 on Atlantic)
This Timbaland-produced single underwhelmed me at first, but after a week of hearing it around town, it's wormed its way into my brain. With its clompy drums and space-alien perspective, it's oddly similar both sonically and lyrically to Bjork's first solo single, "Human Behavior," and almost equally charming

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Could Those Lost E-mails Cause Fitzgerald to Re-open Leak Case?

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 6:33 PM PDT

Whoopsie! We lost 5 million e-mails! Thus spoke the White House, as Dan blogged earlier today. And a particularly huge number seem to belong to a certain Mr. Rove. All of these e-mails were exchanged during the period of time U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald investigated in connection with the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. Fitzgerald had been led to believe that he had a full accounting of official communications during the period in question. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—a watchdog group that is also representing Joe and Valerie Wilson in their civil suit against administration officials—is now calling on Fitzgerald to re-open his investigation, given that the source of the leak may well have covered his electronic tracks. This is getting fun, isn't it?

Paul Wolfowitz: Anatomy of a Scandal

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 6:06 PM PDT

Part of the Bush administration's M.O. is promoting those who screw things up, as long as the ideology of their screw-ups is sufficiently conservative. Case in point: Paul Wolfowitz, one of the major architects of the Iraq War, who went on to become president of the World Bank. Did you think he would lose his ideological zealotry? No, dear reader. Despite his claims to the contrary yesterday on NPR, Wolfowitz, through a managing director he hired himself, pushed the World Bank to purge any references to family planning—which has long been part of the World Bank's standard development plan—in its strategy documents.

Wolfowitz is also in hot water at the bank because he promoted his "companion" into a State Department position that paid almost $200,000—some $60,000 more than she had earned previously. Wolfowitz is divorced. How, you might wonder, could anybody date this guy?

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That is a question I cannot answer. But I can tell you that the woman who does so is an Arab feminist who shares Wolfowitz's passion for bringing democracy to the Middle East—by hook or by crook, apparently, since she was part of the reason he was so hell-bent on invading Iraq. Possible translation: Wolfie led the United States into war with Iraq to butter up his girlfriend.

He has apologized for his role in landing her the plum job, but claims he didn't understand the ethics rules fully. That seems to be a chronic problem.

Updated to reflect that Wolfowitz and the woman in question, Shaha Riza, are still together, and that Riza's new salary constituted a hefty raise.

Carbon Confusion

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 5:34 PM PDT

Two steps taken this week to combat global warming are not all that: One, the EPA relaxed pollution standards for corn milling plants that make ethanol fuel. Two, Australian states vowed to set up a carbon trading market. Why do I doubt them? Keep reading on The Blue Marble.

Carbon Confusion

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 5:27 PM PDT

smokestack.jpg

Two steps taken this week to combat global warming, IMO, are not all that.

For one, the EPA relaxed emissions standards yesterday for corn milling plants that make ethanol fuel. Ethanol might just be "the biggest greenwash ever," as Tom Philpott blogged at Grist. Without huge long-term subsidies and government intervention, "no market for corn ethanol would exist." "If ethanol delivers any net energy gain at all over petroleum gasoline, it's razor thin." Bill McKibben writes, "By the time you've driven your tractor to tend the fields, and your truck to carry the crop to the refinery, and powered your refinery, the best-case 'energy output-to-input ratio' is something like 1.34-to-1. You've spent 100 Btu of fossil energy to get 134 Btu." Hardly impressive, "compared to the ratio for oil, which ranges from 30-to-1 to 200-to-1, depending on where you drill it." The best that can be said for ethanol as fuel is that it "gives the farmers something to do." Unfortunately, it's not the little farmers but the industrial farmers, some as big as Cargill, that get most of the subsidies.

Two, Australia vowed today to set up a national system of carbon trading by 2010. A cap-and-trading system is a lousy second-best to taxing emissions, which would also stimulate technological innovation. The best that can be said for cap-and-trading is that it's experimental. The EU is running that experiment, and so far hasn't worked. Actually, the system collapsed. So many carbon credits were doled out that they when people discovered that supply outstripped the demand, the market crashed. "The ETS [emissions-trading-scheme] has had a rough ride. Nations have issued more permits to pollute than required in the first phase, which runs until the end of 2007. This has resulted in carbon prices falling as low as eight euros (£5) per tonne. This means that it has been cheaper for firms to buy spare permits than pay the 40-euro fine, or take steps to reduce their emissions," reported the BBC in December. There are simpler effective means for tackling climate change, for one, shifting subsidies away from fossil fuels. Gore has faith that a cap-and-trading system would create economic incentives for technological innovation. It's worth experimenting with while keeping the pitfalls and alternatives in mind.