2007 - %3, June

A Justified but Tiring Hit Job on The New Republic

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 9:40 AM EDT

There seems to be nothing liberals inside the beltway and on the internet enjoy carping about more than The New Republic, which has certainly earned its share of criticism. It has provided Republicans with liberal cover for some of their most outrageous wrongdoings, the Iraq War being the most obvious. It's been a haven for an incredibly long list of conservative writers, and it has often taken more joy at being contrary and at slamming liberals than in defending the causes one would expect a liberal magazine to defend. Oh, and its long time owner and top editor who just sold the mag is an Arab-hating neocon who allowed a pro-Israel fever to overtake all else. We're all familiar with the problem.

Eric Alterman has a solid piece in the American Prospect arguing all of this and more. It's worth reading, but let me just say that while I get that deconstructing liberalism's past, and TNR's place within it, is important because it helps illustrate the present, pieces like Alterman's often feel like they are done for gossipy reasons, to draw stark lines and remind everyone that one or two influential people stood on the wrong side of divisive issues. We all know Marty Peretz is only ironically called a "liberal" and we all know that TNR has a nasty past. We all know they screwed up on health care in the '90s and screwed up the Iraq War in a horrible, horrible way. But if we focus on getting our pound of flesh instead of hitting the mutual foe we now share with a much-improved TNR, aren't we in a way committing the same sin as TNR did for many years?

I never thought I'd defend The New Republic. I guess my point is this. We all know the magazine has gotten better under Frank Foer and we all know the criticisms -- so what's the point in drudging up the old hits and slamming the magazine all over again?

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OSC's Investigation of Rove May be Legit. Very Legit

| Sat Jun. 16, 2007 9:10 PM EDT

Now that the Office of Special Counsel is done with Lurita Doan, it's intensifying its investigation of Karl Rove that we're worried is a sham. The scope of the investigation is staggering -- check out the details here.

Ripened Yet Rocking: Young @ Heart Chorus Keeps it Real

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 5:30 PM EDT

I thought my grandma was cool because she uses e-mail. Little did I know the only reason she uses it is because my parents tricked her into thinking Web TV isn't the real Internet.

But Internet-using grandmas aside, there exists a set of elderly folks in their 70s to 90s that are possibly cooler than that. Not only do they go on tour and dance choreographed routines, they have the musical taste of hip 25-year-olds.

Singing songs by Radiohead, Coldplay, the Clash and Outkast, the group, called Young@Heart, has been around since 1982. The members range from once-professional musicians and actors to those with virtually no experience.

Check out the group's heart-wrenching live version of Coldplay's "Fix You".

—Anna Weggel

Pale Blue Dot

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 5:18 PM EDT

Go forth into the weekend with this video in your sights. . .

For my part, I'm going to hoist a shotglass of anything but tequila (damn) to CS, The Man. . . --JULIA WHITTY

Intensive Tequila Farming Harms Biodiversity

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 5:03 PM EDT

New Scientist reports that a huge and growing appetite for tequila made from Agave tequilana is harming the genetic diversity of other agave species. Furthermore, the area available for traditional food crops is also falling, and the intensive agave farming is leading to soil erosion, creating an overall decline in biodiversity. Local farmers says that traditional agave varieties can be grown with staples such as maize, beans and squash without recourse to herbicides, but Agave tequilana is grown in monocultures that require the use of herbicides. . . Que lastima. --JULIA WHITTY

CITES Meeting Decides Fate Of Endangered Species For Better & Worse

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 4:30 PM EDT

The annual Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) closed today in the Hague. This international regulatory body--convened to slow or reverse the accelerating rate of extinction--adopted more than 100 formal regulations governing the worldwide wildlife trade. A bitterly-fought consensus allowed a one-time-only sale of African elephant ivory from four southern African nations (East African countries argued that any sales would continue to fuel the black market and hence poaching). The European eel—a favorite in Japan--was added to the CITES list for the first time, along with a new timber species, Brazilwood. Trade was forbidden for the slow loris, a small nocturnal primate native to South and Southeast Asia; the Guatemalan beaded lizard; the slender-horned gazelle and Cuvier's gazelle of northern Africa; and sawfishes, whose rostral saws and other body parts are valued as curios and in traditional medicine.

As Nature reports, CITES also accepted the US proposal to limit the trade of all corals of the genus Corallium, the red and pink corals used to make jewelry. Sadly, CITES also allowed Ugandan exports of leopard skins, despite weak science on the issue. The convention also rejected European Union proposals to regulate trade of the Spiny dogfish (Squalus acandthias), the fish used in much of Britain's fish & chips. Wildlife protection groups protested the decision as pandering to commercial fishing interests. . . Another short-sighted triumph of Homo sapiens avaricious. --JULIA WHITTY

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"Green" Planes to Debut in 2015

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 4:28 PM EDT

ecojet.jpgAs we've written before, air travel is pretty bad for the environment. But thankfully, some airline moguls (ahem, Richard Branson) are aware and are donating money and researching better fuel sources. Now Andy Harrison, of British budget airline easyJet, has announced his contribution: the ecoJet.

The ecoJet, seen left with Harrison, boasts a cutting edge design that would emit half the carbon dioxide of current airplanes, and would be 25 percent quieter to boot. The key to the plane's efficiency is its high-propulsion "open rotor" engines, which--to reduce noise--would be mounted in the very back of the plane instead of under the wings. The "green" jet would also have a lower cruise velocity (to reduce drag) and would be mostly used for short-haul flights. The ecoJet could be completed as early as 2015 and Harrison said he'd replace his whole fleet with ecoJets if they were available now. Until then, there's always carbon offsets.

U.S. CO2 Emissions Even Higher Due To Trade With China

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 3:43 PM EDT

Rising U.S. trade with countries like China has major consequences on greenhouse emissions. Carnegie Mellon University engineering researchers describe how the U.S. has reduced its increasing carbon emissions by importing more carbon-intensive goods from other countries. For example, the amount of CO2 emissions generated from making a computer in China could be up to three times higher than when the same computer is made in the U.S. The researchers estimate that CO2 emissions associated with imports rose from 12 percent of total U.S. emissions in 1997 to 22 percent in 2004--a substantial increase given that the U.S. already emits around 25 percent of the world's total global carbon dioxide.

Many researchers question how emissions associated with traded goods should be accounted for. "These emissions are only going to increase as the United States continues to consume more and more essential goods from outside its borders," says researcher H. Scott Matthews. Since the U.S. continues to import more goods from carbon-intensive trading partners, this trend is likely to continue in the short term. . . There we go again: buying our way to the end of the world, one DVD player at a time. --JULIA WHITTY

The Military Is Going Nuts

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 3:41 PM EDT

A report released by a congressionally ordered mental health task force suggests that the military's handling of mental health problems in its ranks is even worse than Mother Jones previously reported (with little to no cooperation from the DoD, by the way). According to NPR, 40 percent of troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have some sort of psychological problem. Nearly a quarter show signs of serious mental health disorders.

It gets worse: Soldiers reporting psychological problems are not only not helped, but actually get punished for their illnesses. Some are sent to clean the latrines; others, in an image disturbingly resonant of Abu Ghraib, must sit in a corner wearing a dunce camp for long periods of time. At one army base, many soldiers were kicked out of the services following psychological complaints.

The Pentagon doesn't spend enough on mental health services, nor does it train troops, officers or even mental health care providers adequately. Believe it or not, even military doctors aren't well trained about the links between war and PTSD. For reasons NPR's correspondent doesn't address, since the War on Terror began, the few mental health specialists the DoD has "have been leaving the Army, the Marines, and the Air Force in droves." Problem is, neither the soldiers nor their demons miraculously disappear after they are released with inadequate or no treatment. The Pentagon is outsourcing their care—to you and me and the rest of us who oppose the war in Iraq.

Mike Gravel Will Hypnotize You

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 10:47 AM EDT

I've blogged before about how much I love fringe presidential candidates. They definitely make the best videos, from ones where they claim they are the only ones in their party qualified to run for president to ones where they make post-modernist statements about the future of political campaigning.

Now stone-faced Mike Gravel has an entry in the world of crazy videos -- one where he makes it clear he will stare deep into your soul and convince you to vote for him by throwing a rock in a lake. Got that?

Okay, so I don't get it either. But this feels a lot like my college English classes where inevitably the poem I didn't understand was the one most revered by scholars. So Mike Gravel is either crazy or the smartest man to run for president, ever.

Or maybe he just has too much time on his hands.