Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery

Editor in Chief

Since taking the editorial helm at Mother Jones in late 2006, Clara and her co-editor, Monika Bauerlein, have won two National Magazine Awards for general excellence, relaunched MotherJones.com, founded a now 13-person Washington bureau, won a PEN award for editing, given birth, and forgotten what it's like to sleep. It probably doesn't help she's on Twitter so much.

Full Bio | Get my RSS |

Clara Jeffery is co-editor of Mother Jones, where, together with Monika Bauerlein, she has spearheaded an era of editorial growth and innovation, marked by the addition of now 13-person Washington bureau, an overhaul of the organization's digital strategy and a corresponding 15-fold growth in traffic, and the winning of two National Magazine Awards for general excellence. When Jeffery and Bauerlein received a PEN award for editing in 2012, the judges noted: “With its sharp, compelling blend of investigative long-form journalism, eye-catching infographics and unapologetically confident voice, Mother Jones under Jeffery and Bauerlein has been transformed from what was a respected—if under-the-radar—indie publication to an internationally recognized, powerhouse general-interest periodical influencing everything from the gun-control debate to presidential campaigns. In addition to their success on the print side, Jeffery and Bauerlein’s relentless attention to detail, boundless curiosity and embrace of complex subjects are also reflected on the magazine’s increasingly influential website, whose writers and reporters often put more well-known and deep-pocketed news divisions to shame. Before joining the staff of Mother Jones, Jeffery was a senior editor of Harper's magazine. Fourteen pieces that she personally edited have been finalists for National Magazine Awards, in the categories of essay, profile, reporting, public interest, feature, and fiction. Works she edited have also been selected to appear in various editions of Best American Essays, Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing, and Best American Science Writing. Clara cut her journalistic teeth at Washington City Paper, where she wrote and edited political, investigative, and narrative features, and was a columnist. Jeffery is a graduate of Carleton College and Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. She resides in the Mission District of San Francisco with her partner Chris Baum and their son, Milo. Their burrito joint of choice is El Metate.

 

Another 1.2 Million Fords Recalled (We Warned You)

| Sat Aug. 5, 2006 10:42 PM EDT

In a recent issue of Mother Jones, investigative fellow Michael Beckel warned readers of the concerns—shared by Ralph Nader, automotive engineers, and Pentagon analysts—that a Dupont product called Kapton was still being used to coat the wires of the cruise control deactivation switch (made by Texas Instruments) found in millions of Ford cars and SUVs, even though the U.S. and other governments had long been leery of using the product in its military planes and vehicles. These experts theorized that Kapton was to blame for hundreds of mysterious engine fires in Ford's domestic fleet. As Beckel wrote:

In the 1990s, the Coast Guard eliminated Kapton from its helicopter fleet, NASA grounded the shuttle fleet for five months while inspecting damaged Kapton wire, and the Clinton administration called aging Kapton wiring an issue of "national concern." The Australian, Israeli, and Canadian governments have all investigated and in many cases prohibited its use in their planes.

So why is Kapton still in millions of Ford cars, trucks, and SUVs?

Since the early 1990s, the company has used this DuPont-manufactured material in the hydraulic pressure switch that shuts off cruise control when drivers hit the brakes. Coated with Teflon, Kapton serves as a barrier between the flammable brake fluid and the electric current just millimeters away. Yet years of use can cause cracking in the Teflon, leaving the Kapton membrane and the switch itself vulnerable to ignition from the current—which, in Ford vehicles, continues even when the engine is off.

In the past seven years, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has investigated the role of these switches in more than 500 blazes that have ravaged cars, houses, and garages, and reportedly killed at least one person. The agency analyzed 260 cases of fires in Ford sedans—Crown Victorias, Lincoln Town Cars, and Mercury Grand Marquises—with model years between 1992 and 1997. In 1999, the company recalled nearly 300,000 of those vehicles. And by March of last year, the NHTSA had received more than 200 complaints of fires in Ford trucks—F-150 pickups, Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators—with model years from 1995 to 2002. But Ford maintains that the root cause of the fires is too complex to fault a single component.

Although the automaker acknowledges evidence of overheating in the cruise-control components in some models—attributing it to a "systems interaction" of leaking brake fluid, Teflon corrosion, age and mileage, plus the location of the switch—it has recalled less than a third of the vehicles with the Kapton switches. Gail Chandler, a spokeswoman for Texas Instruments, which manufactures the switches, insists they're safe. "We don't think there's anything wrong with the switch itself or with Kapton," she says. "We've thoroughly tested these products and have not found there to be a problem."

Last week, Ford recalled another 1.2 million vehicles due to safety concerns with same cruise control deactivation switch. That brings the total up to 6.7 million vehicles recalled over this problem. Ford still says that the switches themselves aren't the problem: "If we felt the switch was unsafe we'd be recalling all of them," said Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley. "We're confident we've captured all of them." But as the Detroit News notes,

"if the combined total of 6.7 million vehicles called back -- including 5.8 million in the United States -- were a single recall, it would be the fourth-largest ever. …Some safety advocates and plaintiffs' attorneys have criticized Ford for moving too slowly to recall the vehicles.

"There's no excuse to do these recalls in a piecemeal fashion. There's something in Ford's culture -- look at the Firestone debacle --that prevents them from taking faster action," said Rob Ammons, a Houston attorney representing the family of Darletta Mohlis of Westgate, Iowa, who was killed in a May 2005 fire that the family claims started in her 1996 Ford F-150. "Why not get this product that's catching fire and destroying lives off our roads and off the market?"

The NHTSA says that Ford has been cooperative and that it, too, expects no more problems associated with the switches. We just hope they're right, though the pressure put on these (as other) regulators by the Bush administration to make things more business friendly gives us pause.

Beckel's timeline of the Ford switch controversy can be found here. Mark Dowie's classic Mother Jones article about the atrocious safety problems with the Ford Pinto can be found here.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Partisan Gap on Iraq War Widens (Not a Good Thing)

| Sun Jul. 30, 2006 4:20 AM EDT

A new New York Times/CBS poll shows that the partisan divide over the war is growing, and is already far greater than it was over the height of America's conflict over the Vietnam War. According to the Times:

Three-fourths of the Republicans, for example, said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while just 24 percent of the Democrats did. Independents split down the middle.
It is tempting to take self-righteous satisfaction in such trends, and each party/side is formulating a way to exploit what a pollster quoted by the Times cites as a "growing chasm" to their own advantage. But if one can step back a moment from 2006/2008 tactics, this is not good news.

For one thing, ignorance of the facts still abounds. As Brad blogged earlier this week, a Harris poll finds:

Half of Americans [STILL!!] now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 — up from 36 percent last year....In addition, 64 percent say Saddam had "strong links" with al Qaeda...Fifty-five percent said that "history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq."....American confidence in the Iraqis has improved: 37 percent said Iraq would succeed in creating a stable democracy, up five points since November.
Meanwhile, as the Times reports,
An analysis by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the difference in the way Democrats and Republicans viewed the Vietnam War — specifically, whether sending American troops was a mistake — never exceeded 18 percentage points between 1966 and 1973. In the most recent Times/CBS poll on Iraq, the partisan gap on a similar question was 50 percentage points.
Thankfully, as of yet, this divide has not resulted in the vilification of the kids sent off to fight this war. But my worry is that on this issue, as on so many others confronting us these days, the country, and the families that compose this country, will be unable to do anything other than malign each other. That may fit into the strategies of politicians on either side of the Iraq War debate, but will it help us figure out a solution?

More Iraq War Lies: Auditors Reveal Huge Reconstruction Cost Overruns Concealed from Congress

| Sat Jul. 29, 2006 4:02 PM EDT

In a classic "take out the trash" maneuver, a federal audit released late Friday reveals, as Jamie Glanz of the New York Times reports,


"The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress.

(For those not familiar with the term, "taking out the trash," means quietly dumping truly embarrassing news on Friday evening, because, to quote the "West Wing" episode that discusses the phenomena, on Saturday, "no one reads the paper.")

Indeed, to say these findings were released at all is an overstatement, as they were buried in an audit of the Basra hospital project touted by Laura Bush and Condi Rice. The audit—which was conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress and the Pentagon—found that the cost of hospital project, which was contracted out to San Francisco-based multinational Bechtel for $50 million, could, as the Times reports, "rise as high as $169.5 million, even after accounting for at least $30 million pledged for medical equipment by a charitable organization." The United States Agency for International Development, or AID, intentionally hid these cost overruns (as well as those for other projects) from Congress, by reclassifying them as overhead, or "indirect costs." An AID contracting officer cited in the audit notes that the agency "did not report these costs so it could stay within the $50 million authorization."

Bechtel is almost as notorious as Halliburton for its ties to the administration, its ability, (as we've reported), to game no-bid Iraq reconstruction projects, its move to (again, as we've reported) privatize water systems across the world, oh, and the Big Dig.

But leaving aside all that, the really ominous part of the auditors' findings were spelled out by the Washington Post:

· There is no overall plan for transferring U.S.-initiated reconstruction projects to Iraqi government control and no schedule for when they will be completed.

· A planned first-responder network -- intended to allow Iraqis to call for help in the event of emergency -- is ineffective because of communications problems that prevent most dispatch centers from receiving calls from civilians. By the end of the year, more than $218 million will have been spent on the program.

· The United States has devoted little time or money to a program aimed at rooting out corruption in the Iraqi government.But of course. Rooting out corruption would set a dangerous precedent.

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Car

| Wed Jul. 26, 2006 12:51 PM EDT

Jim Norman of the New York Times has written a nice article about his own campaign to go green by converting a used diesel Jetta to run on vegetable oil. The piece covers the costs of converting, the hassles, which seem pretty minimal, and the head-in-the-sand attitude of the federal government, noting that "the Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a statement stating flatly that using vegetable oil as fuel is a violation of the Clean Air Act and that modifying a car for vegetable oil subjects the owner to a $2,750 fine."

What we need is for the government and car companies to figure out if large-scale production of veggie cars would help our environment and dependency on oil, foreign and otherwise, or whether if the mass amounts of soy needed would, in the end, rely on mass application of petroleum-based fertilizers, and whether the grease emissions, though they might be free of sulfur and low on carbon dioxide, would contain unacceptable particulate matter.

As it stands now the leading proponent of biodiesel is Willie Nelson, and what with his touring schedule, he can only do so much.

Norman's piece ends up noting that Rudolf Diesel originally intended his engine to run on vegetable oil, saying in 1912 that: "The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in the course of time as important as the petroleum and coal tar products of the present time."

57 Dead From Heat in California, So Far

| Wed Jul. 26, 2006 2:59 AM EDT

According to my local (San Francisco) ABC station. And the expected break in the heat...not coming until Thursday, at the earliest.

If the heat waves in Europe (2003) and Chicago are any indication, the national reporting numbers will be slow and contested. (In France, for example, they are still arguing over how many tens of thousands died in 2003. )

But how much evidence will need to amass before...oh never mind.

Tue Mar. 12, 2013 9:40 PM EDT
Mon Feb. 18, 2013 1:02 AM EST
Fri Apr. 27, 2012 3:00 AM EDT
Sat Feb. 4, 2012 5:34 PM EST
Mon Jan. 23, 2012 11:50 PM EST
Sun Oct. 16, 2011 3:25 AM EDT
Tue Jun. 21, 2011 5:47 PM EDT
Tue May. 3, 2011 3:19 AM EDT
Fri Feb. 4, 2011 5:00 AM EST
Mon Oct. 25, 2010 6:00 AM EDT
Mon Apr. 19, 2010 3:00 AM EDT
Tue Jan. 19, 2010 1:21 AM EST
Mon Jan. 18, 2010 6:40 PM EST
Sat Jan. 16, 2010 1:06 AM EST
Wed Dec. 30, 2009 6:33 AM EST
Thu Dec. 24, 2009 12:49 PM EST
Mon Dec. 7, 2009 4:16 AM EST
Fri Oct. 23, 2009 7:25 AM EDT
Wed Sep. 23, 2009 3:01 AM EDT
Wed Sep. 9, 2009 10:51 PM EDT
Wed Sep. 9, 2009 7:35 PM EDT
Fri Aug. 28, 2009 6:20 PM EDT
Thu Aug. 20, 2009 12:46 AM EDT
Thu Aug. 13, 2009 6:08 PM EDT
Thu Aug. 13, 2009 2:39 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 11, 2009 2:12 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 11, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Sat Aug. 8, 2009 2:16 PM EDT
Thu Aug. 6, 2009 2:36 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 4, 2009 7:01 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 4, 2009 4:36 PM EDT
Sun Aug. 2, 2009 11:09 PM EDT
Wed Jul. 29, 2009 8:14 PM EDT
Thu Jul. 9, 2009 6:24 PM EDT