2007 - %3, November

Five Bullet Points of the Latest IPCC Report

| Tue Nov. 20, 2007 1:00 AM EST

global_intro_240x394.gif Thanks to Nature, here are the highlights of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The UN body won the latest Nobel Peace Prize (along with Al Gore), and maybe that emboldened them to take off the gloves in this round. The five talking points of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2007:

• Warming of the world's climate is "unequivocal" — 11 of the past 12 years (1995-2006) rank among the 12 warmest years since 1850. • It is "likely" (meaning a 66% likelihood) that there has been significant man-made warming on every continent except Antarctica over the past half-century. • Continued greenhouse-gas emissions at or above current rates would induce climate changes that would be "very likely" (meaning a 90% likelihood) to exceed those observed during the twentieth century. • Fossil fuels will dominate the world's energy portfolio until at least 2030, and emissions look set to rise by 25-90% during that time. • Given our current understanding, it is too difficult to estimate the extent of future sea-level rise.

The real question: will this overdue urgency translate into anything resembling action at next month's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali? Or will it go the way of Kyoto, stymied by American, and now (inspired by our example) Chinese, stonewalling?Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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An Inside Look At Newspaper Cuts

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 10:45 PM EST

I blogged last week with a few updates on newspaper cutbacks, and the Washington Post this week offers an insider's take on cuts at the San Jose Mercury News. Some readers' pride in the paper has dropped pretty low ("Personality: The Merc has none"); and their criticism is often harsh ("Most of the articles seem to be written at a 6th grade level at best").

Make sure to read all the way through for thoughts on the risks of un-fact-checked blog rumors guiding the news.

"Bombingham" Pastor Dead at 82

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 8:48 PM EST

The pastor of Sixteenth Street Baptist in "Bombingham" where the "four little girls" died, has also died.

I haven't been able to find out what 'flavor' Baptist the church was, but I'm betting it wasn't Southern Baptist, given that it split with the national Baptist convention in 1845 over slavery. The Southern baptists were in favor of it, just so you know.

Politics V. Endangered Species, or The Julie MacDonald Drama (Again)

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 8:02 PM EST

T_eques-low.jpg Good article in today's Christian Science Monitor on how political efforts to undercut the Endangered Species Act are facing fire in the courts. In each case, Bush's political appointees overrode federal scientists' recommendations, with little or no justification, according to six lawsuits filed Thursday by the Center for Biological Diversity. Who are the losers? Mexican garter snakes, Mississippi gopher frogs, Santa Ana suckerfish, to begin with. We've heard this before but—

"This wave of lawsuits is different—and what makes them so different is that the agency itself and its inspector general have provided a lot of compelling evidence of political interference with the proper functioning of the act," says J.B. Ruhl, a law professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee and an expert on the ESA. A big factor in the CBD's legal fusillade hinges on the April release of a scathing report [pdf] by the Interior Department's inspector general on the actions of Julie MacDonald, the department's former deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks. The report found numerous questionable actions on endangered species and criticized her release of internal documents to outside groups opposed to the ESA.

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Moreover, the Endangered Species & Wetlands Report revealed that Julie MacDonald received a Special Thanks for Achieving Results (STAR) award for her work during 2004. That amounted to a tidy $9,628 windfall—just short of the $10,000 threshold that would have triggered a review by the Office of Personnel Management. This, according to DOI, for "an outstanding one-time accomplishment or contribution of a non-recurring nature that produces tangible savings or intangible benefits."

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Oh. Is that what they call eviscerating a stellar piece of legislation?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Talk about a Rock and a Hard Place: Inner City Parents Trying to do the Right Thing

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 8:01 PM EST

With gun violence making near daily headlines, police are either exploiting locals' fear of their children's involvement in violence or trying to prevent more. Take your pick:

Boston police are launching a program that will call upon parents in high-crime neighborhoods to allow detectives into their homes, without a warrant, to search for guns in their children's bedrooms.
The program, which is already raising questions about civil liberties, is based on the premise that parents are so fearful of gun violence and the possibility that their own teenagers will be caught up in it that they will turn to police for help, even in their own households.
In the next two weeks, Boston police officers who are assigned to schools will begin going to homes where they believe teenagers might have guns. The officers will travel in groups of three, dress in plainclothes to avoid attracting negative attention, and ask the teenager's parent or legal guardian for permission to search. If the parents say no, police said, the officers will leave.
If officers find a gun, police said, they will not charge the teenager with unlawful gun possession, unless the firearm is linked to a shooting or homicide.

I'd feel better about the plan if parents could call a hotline and ask for a 'no harm no foul' search rather than opening their door to a surprise visit from the boys in blue, but check this: "Critics said they worry that some residents will be too intimidated by a police presence on their doorstep to say no to a search." Yuh huh, especially inner city parents. Imagine yourself just hitting home after a day emptying bedpans or trash cans in some big impersonal hospital or airport to find the po-po 'innocently' asking to 'allow' a search that might or might not end your Ray-Ray up on lockdown.

What I find most depressing of all is the failure of black, local civic officials to either straight up support the initiative or not:

The program will target young people whose parents are either afraid to confront them or unaware that they might be stashing weapons, said [an official], who has been trying to gain support from community leaders for the past several weeks. ...
St. Louis police [where the plan originated] reassured skeptics by letting them observe searches, said Robert Heimberger, a retired St. Louis police sergeant who was part of the program. Heimberger said the program also suffered after clergy leaders who were supposed to offer help to parents never appeared.
"I became frustrated when I'd get the second, or third, or fourth phone call from someone who said, 'No one has come to talk to me,' " he said. Residents "lost faith in the program and that hurt us."

In St. Louis, 98% of parents allowed the searches, fifty per cent of which resulted in confiscated weapons but the initiative fizzled out due to lost funding and lost civic support.

And what happened to the children of those parents who so bravely, or gullibly, trusted 'the man'? Something tells me--not what their parents had in mind. I wish Boston well and hope they apply the lessons learned from my home town, St. Louis. But nothing like this can work without the sustained support of the ministers and activists based in the community.

Say it loud, black people: you in or you out of initiatives like this?


Quarterlife: Angst 2.0

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 7:30 PM EST

Sure, My So-Called Life was cheesy, but as a 14-year-old, I bought the sixteenth best cult show ever hook line and sinker. I swooned over dreamy Jordan Catalano. Rayanne "I Wear My Slip on the Outside" Graff was my grunge fashion inspiration. When Angela Chase observed, "My parents keep asking how school was. It's like saying, 'How was that drive-by shooting?' You don't care how it was, you're lucky to get out alive," I thought, How true.

So when I heard that the new web series Quarterlife was produced by MSCL masterminds Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, I hoped it would be just like old times. The problem was, it is.

The premise of the show is familiar enough TV territory: Twentysomethings share house, drama, shenanigans (see Three's Company, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, for starters). In each 8-minute episode, the gang does all the things that we've expected modern singles to do ever since, well, Singles: They flop onto their unmade beds. They leave empty beer bottles around their kitchens. They wonder whether to move in with their girlfriends and boyfriends.

The bummer is this:

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Is it Time for the Fred Thompson Death Watch?

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 7:12 PM EST

fred_thompson_frowny_face.jpg It's not just audiences in Iowa that are failing to connect with Fred Thompson. His supporters in the House of Representatives aren't impressed with the former Tennessee senator, either, and they're voicing their discontent in hilarious fashion.

Several House Republicans who endorsed Fred Thompson for president now say that they are frustrated with what they view as an apathetic campaign...
"I think he's kind of done a belly flop," said an estranged Thompson backer who indicated he will not pull his public support before the "Super Tuesday" primaries. "We'll just wait till after Feb. 5 because I think he's going to get beat."
The disaffected members of team Thompson say that he has failed to put to rest whispers that he is unwilling to campaign hard enough to win the presidency.
"He seems to be perpetuating it instead of defeating it," another dissatisfied Thompson backer told CQ Politics. "I can't see me bailing on him, but there's some frustration."...
Some of Thompson's endorsers say they aren't lifting a finger.
"I've kind of pulled back. I'm not not supporting him, but I'm not doing anything," said a third lawmaker.

As Christopher Orr adds over at The Plank, with friends like these...

Update: One fun detail I've noticed about Fred Thompson, after the jump.

Maureen Dowd Rehashes the "Presidential Candidate X is a Wuss" Construct

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 6:38 PM EST

Maureen Dowd makes me lose faith in journalism. Apparently, I work in a field in which writing pseudo-intellectual gender- and machismo-based nonsense that isn't particularly funny, witty, or amusing, and which includes no actual reporting, doesn't get you fired. It gets you eight more years in the most hallowed space the industry offers.

Maureen Dowd helped sink Al Gore's presidential chances in 1999 by writing crap like this:

Al Gore is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct that he's practically lactating.

And how she's writing crap like this:

The debate dominatrix knows how to rattle Obambi.
Mistress Hillary started disciplining her fellow senator last winter, after he began exploring a presidential bid. When he winked at her, took her elbow and tried to say hello on the Senate floor, she did not melt, as many women do. She brushed him off... She has continued to flick the whip in debates. She usually ignores Obama and John Edwards backstage, preferring to chat with the so-called second-tier candidates. And she often looks so unapproachable while they're setting up on stage that Obama seems hesitant to be the first to say hi.

I'm still going. I can't help myself. There's so much here that makes me cringe. Now Dowd introduces the "real man" character. As Al Gore was busy lactating in the 2000 race, George W. Bush was the hot shot with two mini-kegs swinging between his legs. And guess who wins the Down body language tests that Obama fails?

Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn't even be looking for a chance to greet Hillary, as Obama always does. Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn't care if she iced them.

After selectively citing a bunch potshots that Rudy has taken at Hillary, which, in truth, mirror the ones that supposedly weak-kneed Obama and Edwards have taken, Dowd ends with this:

Hillary has her work cut out for her. Rudy will not be so easy to spank.

And... vom.

PS — I know this isn't the worst Maureen Dowd article of the last eight years. Or even the last year. Or month. But it is part of one of the worst op-ed days in NYT history. Tom Friedman is suggesting an Obama-Cheney ticket for chrissakes.

No Thanksgiving Surprises for Bush This Year

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 4:09 PM EST

John_R._Bolton.pngWhen President Bush has failed to win political support for unpopular appointees to various government and judicial posts, he has waited until Congress was out of session and installed these folks as "recess appointments" that don't need Senate confirmation. The maneuver doesn't ensure permanence, but the appointees can stay in office long enough to do some damage. People like Sam Fox, who donated lots of money to Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, for instance, and the ill-tempered conservative John Bolton both snuck into ambassadorial suites while members of Congress were back home glad-handing constituents.

This week, though, the Senate has decided to hold just enough pro forma sessions to prevent an official congressional recess for Thanksgiving. They won't be doing much but sitting around twiddling their thumbs and talking to the C-Span cameras, but their presence in D.C. will prevent Bush from putting people in high places without first getting the Senate's stamp of approval.

Edwards Slams HRC on Iraq: Justifiable (Political) War or Desperate Act?

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 1:09 PM EST

I don't fancy taking Hillary Clinton's side against John Edwards, especially when it concerns the Iraq war. But the former North Carolina senator is trying too darn hard to pick a fight with the junior senator from New York on Iraq. Yesterday, at a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, Edwards said that Clinton's unwillingness to announce a timetable for removing troops from Iraq is tantamount to "continuing the war."

That's not so. It's true that Edwards has been more specific than Clinton in calling for a troop withdrawal. He has vowed that he would, if elected president, immediately pull out 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops and fully withdraw US. forces from Iraq within ten months. (Barack Obama has said he would remove one to two brigades a month; there are about 20 combat brigades in Iraq.) Clinton's position regarding withdrawal, according to her website, is this:

Starting Phased Redeployment within Hillary's First Days in Office: The most important part of Hillary's plan [to end the Iraq war] is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq's civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary's first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration. She would also direct the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare a comprehensive plan to provide the highest quality health care and benefits to every service member -- including every member of the National Guard and Reserves -- and their families.

Clinton promises she will bring the war to a conclusion. Edwards and others may have good reason to doubt she is sincere or committed to this position, given her earlier support for the war, which continued after the invasion. After all, she did come late (later than Edwards) to the withdrawal position. Yet Edwards is attempting to transform their present differences--offering a timetable now for removing troops versus vowing to create quickly a viable withdrawal plan for removing troops--into a foundational battle. Edwards said in Reno,

She says that she will end the war, but she also says she will continue combat missions in Iraq and keep combat troops stationed in Iraq. From my perspective, that's not ending the war. That's continuing the war. In fact, it's continuing the occupation. So we have really different views about that.

Maintaining troops in Iraq for training purposes or for combating the remnants of the local al Qaeda franchise--wise or not--would not be continuing the occupation. In fact, Edwards has not said that he would pull out every single soldier.