Jaeah Lee


Jaeah reports, writes, codes, and charts at Mother Jones. Her writings have appeared in The Atlantic, the Guardian, WiredChristian Science Monitor, Global Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and Grist. She was a 2013-14 Middlebury fellow in environmental journalism. Her work has been named a finalist in the Data Journalism Awards. In a former life, she researched and wrote about China at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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New Bill Would Cut $113 Billion in Fossil Fuel Subsidies

| Fri May 11, 2012 3:30 AM EDT
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) at a 350.org rally.

A new bill introduced yesterday could put a near end to fossil fuel subsidies. The "End Polluter Welfare Act," introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), would eliminate a long list ($113 billion's worth) of tax break provisions aimed at oil, gas, and coal companies in the 2013 federal budget. Environmental groups such as 350.org and Friends of the Earth praise the bill as the most daring and comprehensive proposal to cut subsidies yet.

"This is a true stab at ending fossil fuel subsidies in full," Treehugger's Brian Merchant writes.

If passed, the bill would:

  • stop oil and gas companies from claiming that as "manufacturers" they are entitled to tax credits, about $12 billion in subsidies
  • eliminate a provision that allows oil and gas companies to use losses from fossil fuel investments to "shelter other income", $82 million in subsidies
  • remove the cap for oil spill liability (at $75 million) and pipeline clean-up (at $350 million) for tar sands
  • remove tax credits provided for the construction of advanced coal plants, $2 billion in subsidies

Past experience doesn't bode well for the likelihood that the bill would pass. As Merchant notes, a similar bill targeting big oil companies by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in March failed to pass through the Senate with the 60 votes required to avert a fillibuster.

Michael Briggs, a Sanders spokesperson, says they've got a plan. Their first goal is to mobilize popular support around the bill. "It's important to let the public know about all of the egregious subsidies that exist in order to build support for ending them," Briggs wrote in an email to Mother Jones. As of late yesterday, 904 people had signed onto a petition supporting the bill, he  says. Next they'll look for cosponsors in Congress.

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M83 Takes Synthpop Back to the Future

| Mon May 7, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

M83 performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco, April 22, 2012.: Photo: Katrina PagaduanM83 at the Fillmore on April 22. Photo: Katrina Pagaduan

Anthony Gonzalez's music has been called "celestial, epic, and astral," and it's no wonder. The charming 31-year-old behind synthpop group du jour M83 is quite the science-fiction nerd. He grins sheepishly as he recalls the late-'70s and early-'80s sci-fi flicks whose soundtracks helped inspire M83's lush, grand sonic persona. He even uses space analogies, and speaks of music as a portal. "The only way I found to reconnect with my past was to write songs about my childhood and my teenage years," Gonzalez says.

Growing up in on the French Riviera in the '80s, he fell in love with music and began playing guitar and later keyboards—he studied piano as a lad—but his career would take a while to germinate. Over more than a decade, Gonzalez made five M83 albums, and scored tours with the Killers and Depeche Mode. But his big break came just late last year, when his latest, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 and hit No. 1 in the US Dance/Electronic category. His single, "Midnight City," topped Pitchfork's list of the year's top 100 tracks, beating out Adele, tUnE-yArDs, and Kanye West. This momentum landed M83 a major slot at Coachella this year, and the current tour has sold out in advance. Luckily, I scored a pass for one of the very first shows, at The Fillmore in San Francisco. In his backstage dressing room, clad in dark jeans and a fitted white T-shirt showing off his muscular physique, Gonzalez told me about his sci-fi fandom, his need to overproduce, and the scary part about making music in an era when anyone with a laptop can do it.

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Justice Takes Electronica Mainstream

| Mon Apr. 23, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
Justice performing at Coachella.

The opening act had hardly vacated the stage when the T-shirts in the lobby began selling out. Excited chatter filled the halls of Oakland's Fox Theater with a static noise as neon-and-Chuck-Taylor-clad fans flocked to the merch stand, leaning over the table waving dollar bills, wanting so badly to bear the cross logo of the headlining act, Justice.

Lately, the dynamic French electronica duo, which consists of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, has become synonymous with the new age of electronica, wherein playful and infectious dance-disco beats are to be taken in with the sobriety and attitude of heavy metal. "They go straight for the jugular," Rolling Stone wrote of the group.

Justice first splashed onto the Parisian electronic scene in 2003 with a remix of Simian's "We Are Your Friends" and since risen to fame, mixing for bigwigs like Britney Spears, N.E.R.D., Fatboy Slim, and Franz Ferdinand. The pair's first full-length album, 2008's Cross, drew accolades from within the genre and without. The album's biggest hit, "D.A.N.C.E."—a disco track overflowing with pop references—is still ubiquitous, and its colorful video—which combines live action with animation—earned nominations at the Grammys and MTV Video Music Awards. For electronica fans, Justice's success represents something bigger: the mainstreaming of what was once considered a niche club genre.

"Daft Punk was the first to merge guitar sounds with electronica and they sort of follow in that path, which is fun to watch," one Justice fan dressed ironically in an air traffic controller vest told me moments before the show. "They also have amazing showmanship."

From the depths of the pit, it was hard to tell whether we were at a concert or the scene of a Christian revival.

Justice was touring their sophomore album, Audio, Video, Disco., appearing in Oakland before an unlikely mix of rock and electronica fans—young and old, die-hard or simply curious. The anticipation swelled right up to the  moment the pair appeared at center stage behind their altar-like DJ booth (note the large fluorescent cross) wedged between walls of Marshall stacks. In greeting, Augé and de Rosnay looked into the crowd and raised their left hands, standing still as a sample of Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" burst forth from the speakers. The crowd roared.

With that, Justice launched into a 90-minute set, starting with the hyperenergetic "Genesis." From the depths of the pit, it was hard to tell whether we were at a concert or the scene of a Christian revival. (Indeed, the duo is coy about their intentions vis-à-vis religion.) Exactly what Augé and de Rosnay's were doing up there wasn't visible—the towering set engulfed their comparatively diminutive frames. But the crowd bought into it, pounding their palms against an invisible wall, without a hint of skepticism. Occasionally, when the steady beats and synthesized power chords grew faster, louder, Auge simply raised his pointer finger in the air, signaling the coming of a new track, or a big climax, and the crowd flailed more wildly, like participants at a collective exorcism.

"It's like a dream come true to see this in such a small environment, and be up close to Justice, like, this is like the god of electronic music," said a worshipful fan named Spencer.

Charts: Dirty Energy's Election Ad Spending Spree

| Wed Apr. 18, 2012 1:50 PM EDT

Hey there, swing state resident: Does this ad look familiar?

The video, which got 1.3 million views in the last two weeks, is sponsored by the American Energy Alliance. AEA, as it turns out, is one of several pro-oil and gas interest groups spending oodles of cash on campaign advertisements in 2012, according to a new analysis by Think Progress. (MoJo's Alyssa Battistoni gets into the weeds with—and righteously fact-checks—these ads here.)

Taken together, the AEA (which is partially funded by the Koch brothers) and others have spent at least $16.75 million in advertisements. By contrast, the Obama campaign and his super-PAC have spent a fraction of that defending his energy policies. Here's how the money stacks up:

Mother Jones illustration.: Source: Think Progress; Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis GroupMother Jones illustration. Source: Think Progress; Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis Group

Will Pennsylvania Reverse its Gag Order on Fracking Chemicals?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2012 4:56 PM EDT
A natural gas pipeline in Plains Township, Pennsylvania.

As the debate over a controversial "gag" provision in Pennsylvania's new natural gas law ratchets up, state legislators are considering revoking the provision altogether.

The law (known as Act 13), which went into effect on Saturday, allows drilling companies to keep information about the composition of fracking fluid from the public in the name of guarding proprietary information. Pre-existing Pennsylvania law grants an exception to this rule for health professionals, who have the right to request and receive information about fracking fluid composition in order to diagnose or treat a patient who may have been exposed to the chemical.

But as MoJo's Kate Sheppard reported previously, a last-minute provision in Act 13 requires health professionals to sign confidentiality agreements with gas drilling companies, which critics argued would prohibit doctors from discussing the fracking fluid formula with their patients. Gov. Tom Corbett's top energy official since clarified that doctors would still be allowed to share information about fracking fluid chemicals with patients, just not with a broader audience.

"It leads some to believe that it's not about that, but it's about keeping the public in the dark."

That distinction isn't made clear in the statute (PDF), says Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat representing the 17th district. When the bill passed in March, Leach called the provision "broad" and "troubling." Now he plans to introduce a new bill (due out later this week) that will challenge the confidentiality provision and seek to clarify its terms.

"Act 13, as written, raises a number of issues which impede the timely and appropriate provision of health care to patients, and put health care professionals needlessly at legal risk," Leach wrote in a public statement released Friday.

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