2007 - %3, May

Weird Weather Watch: Another Town Bites the Dust

| Mon May 7, 2007 9:05 AM EDT

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This weekend, as residents of the Foggy City dusted off their bikinis and Speedos in record-breaking 80-degree heat, the town of Greensburg, Kansas, became the second U.S. city to be destroyed by climate change. A series of tornados massacred the small town west of Wichita, destroying 95 percent of its buildings. (Miraculously, only 10 died.) The big one was a mile and a half wide with winds over 200 miles an hour (it was a class F-5 tornado, the most severe). Is there online betting for how many cities will be demolished before the federal government gets serious? Change may not be as painful as we think, as April blogged. And even if it does mean giving up cars and some air travel, it can't be as bad as the alternative.

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Strange Bedfellows Dep't: Sens. Brownback and Biden

| Sat May 5, 2007 2:31 PM EDT

About as different as can be, the Republican senator from Kansas and the Democratic senator from Delaware now have the same plan on Iraq: split it up into three loosely federated regions with one religious sect in each.

Small-Scale Campus Shooting

| Fri May 4, 2007 8:20 PM EDT

A young man shot his roommate at Keene College and then shot and killed himself as police approached. Clearly, the problem was the gun-free zone Keene College had established in the young men's room.

(The roommate survived.)

Conservative YouTube Steals Its Smokin' Logo From Philip Morris

| Fri May 4, 2007 8:12 PM EDT

There's already some derisive buzz about QubeTV, the video sharing site for conservatives who claim that liberal media giant YouTube won't let them play in its digital sandbox. I haven't had time to wade into its archives, but I notice that it's off to a great start by appropriating part of its logo from Altria (A.K.A. Philip Morris). Are the Qubers just lazy graphic designers or image-remixing copyfighters? We'll see what happens when the first cease-and-desist letter arrives...

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Conservative YouTube Steals Its Smokin' Logo From Philip Morris

| Fri May 4, 2007 8:10 PM EDT

There's already some derisive buzz about QubeTV, the video sharing site for conservatives who claim that liberal media giant YouTube won't let them play in its digital sandbox. I haven't had time to wade into its archives, but I notice that it's off to a great start by appropriating part of its logo from Altria (A.K.A. Philip Morris). Are the Qubers just lazy graphic designers or image-remixing copyfighters? We'll see what happens when the first cease-and-desist letter arrives...

altriaripoff.gif

Breaking: Another Investigation into the D.O.J.

| Fri May 4, 2007 7:44 PM EDT

Oh. My. God.

Just when you thought things couldn't get worse for Alberto "Gonzo" Gonzalez, ohmygod! A Washington, D.C., TV news program did some digging and discovered that the Justice Department hasn't just neglected civil rights and voting rights and prosecuted the first ever "reverse discrimination" voting rights case on record—it also fails to hire any non-white lawyers! Now Rep. John Conyers, who leads the House Judiciary Committee, is promising yet another investigation. Among the specific charges is that the key department of the—wait for it—civil rights division has failed to hire a single black attorney since 2003 to replace those who have left. Currently, only two lawyers in that department are black.

In case you're scratching your head saying, "Local news did this?", The reporter who led the investigation for WJLA-TV had recently come from the Center for Public Integrity. The investigation also relied on a consulting firm's analysis of D.O.J. diversity. That report found that "minorities perceive unfairness," are "significantly under-represented in management ranks," and are "more (about 50 percent more) likely to leave than whites."

Snap, Alberto. Join Clarence Thomas in the Top 5 of big-time affirmative action beneficiaries who become reactionary extremists in order not to admit that maybe they got a little more of a leg-up than the next non-white guy.

And resign already.

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Friday Ape Blogging: Activists Want Human Rights for a Chimp

| Fri May 4, 2007 6:42 PM EDT

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This is Hiasl. He's 26, fairly artistic, and very hairy. Born in Sierra Leone, he was captured and smuggled out but intercepted by customs agents in Austria, a country with strict laws against animal cruelty, where he wound up in a shelter.

Now the shelter has gone bankrupt, and to protect him, advocates say he needs basic human rights. "We're not talking about the right to vote here," said Eberhart Theuer, a lawyer leading the challenge. "We mean the right to life, the right to not be tortured, the right to freedom under certain conditions."

It's part of the Great Ape Project. Not all animal rights activists agree with the strategy. Michael Antolini, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Austria, "I'm not about to make myself look like a fool" by getting involved.

War Is Driving Soldiers Crazy, Pentagon's Own Task Force Admits

| Fri May 4, 2007 6:32 PM EDT

A task force commissioned by the Pentagon itself concluded that repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are resulting in higher instances of mental health problems among troops, which the military health system is in no way prepared to handle. The panel found that nearly 40 percent of soldiers report psychological concerns. Nearly half of guardsmen report problems, due to repeated deployments—which are expected to continue. The task force labeled the Pentagon's mental health care system conservative and out-of-date, and proposed a paradigm shift from relying on soldiers to self-report to focusing on prevention and screening. Sometimes it takes a task force to state the obvious. Mother Jones has reported all this (and then some) before.

Putting a Pricetag on the Climate

| Fri May 4, 2007 5:12 PM EDT

Ecologists and economists have put a controversial dollar figure on biodiversity, but this week marks the first time the UN has ever put a price-tag on the climate. What would it cost to keep greenhouse gases close to their current levels? One estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is shockingly cheap.

"The cheaper scenario would mean going out to dinner one time less a year, whereas the higher figure gets into the range of having or not having a car," says Ralf Martin of the London School of Economics. "The higher figure might be a hard sell. However, I would suggest that whether either figure is acceptable depends largely on how it will be sold to voters."

The problem is, this calls not for individual asceticism like scrimping on toilet paper, but new government policies like a carbon tax. Predictably, the White House had a knee-jerk response, saying the least ambitious target "would cause a global recession." Well, what recession would catastrophic climate change bring? What dent would losing the Eastern seaboard put in the US GDP? The IPCC should estimate that too, if only as a talking point.

Policy wonks have to speak the language of the economic growth. But what is that saying--you can't solve a problem within the mindset that created it? Bill McKibben pointed out how we got stuck in this mindset and why wonks need tolook beyond the framework of the GDP as a measure of progress. The GDP doesn't even correlate with happiness among nations.

See the Exact Dollar Cost of the Iraq War in Your Community

| Fri May 4, 2007 3:47 PM EDT

Until today, I didn't know that the Iraq War had cost my home county $4.1 billion dollars. I also did know that for that price, our county could have insured 2.5 million kids or hired 72,000 new public school teachers. The reason I know is because of a nifty website called www.costofwar.com. Check it out, and next time your congressman votes to fund the war, calculate what your community is missing out on and let him or her know.