2008 - %3, May

McCain's Surrogates Get Confused

| Sun May 11, 2008 2:55 PM EDT

Think Progress has a great catch. Mitt Romney on CNN earlier today:

BLITZER: Does John McCain want to continue what Obama called the failed policies of the Bush administration?
ROMNEY: Well I think you're going to hear that time and again, Wolf, throughout the campaign season. And I just don't think it's going to stick.

McCain surrogate Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in the same program:

BLITZER: So it would be in effect a third Bush term when it came to pro-growth tax policies?
BLUNT: It would be. I think it would be. And I think that's a good thing.

Good work out there, fellas. Here's video. Blunt is pretty adamant about that same-as-Bush thing.


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In the Shadow of Mother's Day

| Sat May 10, 2008 10:52 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry in honor of Mother's Day by obstetrician-gynecologist Nancy Stanwood:

I am fortunate to have met many wonderful mothers. These women understand what it means to raise a child well. They make daily sacrifices to keep their children physically and emotionally healthy and happy. As a new mother myself, I find their commitment inspiring.

What I know about these mothers, though, won't be celebrated on Mother's Day. They came to me to have abortions.

I am an obstetrician-gynecologist, and in my 13 years of delivering babies and providing abortions, I have ended pregnancies for many women with children at home. These mothers account for the majority of U.S. abortions. Six out of every ten women who have abortions in this country each year already have at least one child.

In my experience, these mothers have abortions to meet their responsibilities for their children at home.

How To Win A Nobel

| Sat May 10, 2008 8:40 PM EDT

teaser.png Log enough hours of Foldit and you might play your way into a cooperative Nobel. The new online game is designed to understand how existing proteins fold themselves, as well as to design new ones. The ultimate goal is to tap into that endless supply of human gaming energy to solve really hard problems. You might find yourself part of a cure for HIV or Alzheimer's or malaria. Or one of the many who designs a new protein to break up toxic waste, say, or absorb CO2 from the air.

There are more than 100,000 different proteins in the human body. They form every cell, make up the immune system, and set the speed of chemical reactions. We know many of their genetic sequences but don't know how they fold up into shapes so complex it would take all the computers in the world centuries to calculate them. Yet humans' natural 3-D problem-solving skills, utilized in an addictive gaming scenario, might solve the problems in only years. Or less. At least that's what a bunch of computer scientists, engineers, and biochemists from the University of Washington are hoping.

The game looks like a 21st-century version of Tetris, with multicolored geometric snakes filling the screen. A half-dozen UW graduate and undergraduate students spent more than a year figuring out how to make the game accurate and engaging. They faced challenges commercial game developers don't encounter, including not knowing the best results themselves.

At Least One Conservative Says McCain Should Renounce Rev. Parsley

| Sat May 10, 2008 12:44 PM EDT

At least one conservative Republican has come out and said that John McCain ought to denounce the Reverend Rod Parsley for his extreme anti-Islam rhetoric, and that's James Pinkerton, with whom I regularly appear on Bloggingheads.tv. Pinkerton, who was a domestic policy adviser for the first President Bush and who advised Mike Huckabee during his recent GOP presidential primary contest, says that McCain should reject the endorsement he's accepted from Parsley, a pastor at an Ohio megachurch who has said that it is the historic mission of the United States to see the "false religion" of Islam "destroyed."

For more on Parsley's anti-Islam ranting and to see the reverend in his full anti-Islam glory, click here for the video of Parsley's attack on Islam that was produced by Mother Jones and Brave New Films.

Up to now, McCain has steadfastly refused to renounce Parsley, an influential political force in the swing state of Ohio. Doing so could seriously hurt McCain's chances in the Buckeye State. So Pinkerton shouldn't expect McCain to heed his advice. Here's Pinkerton and I discussing the matter:

Let Them Eat Biofuel

| Fri May 9, 2008 11:52 PM EDT

800px-Gas_Prices_Medium_Term.png Gas prices are rising and this could be great news. Even though it seems lousy in the short run. The truth is higher gas prices are already forcing people to drive less, skip trips, rethink vacations, and reject SUVs—part of a whole host of behavioral changes that add up to rare good news for our endangered atmosphere. LiveScience blogger Robert Roy Britt writes that some people are already slowing down on the roads as a means to save gas, as are some airlines. Higher gas prices are also saving human lives. Two thousand fewer people will die road deaths and 600 fewer will die from air pollution. One economist calculates that each $1 rise in gas equals 14 percent less fuel consumption over the long haul.

However, higher gas prices simultaneously feed biofuel fever. Why use oil when you can use corn? But biofuel is also associated with steeply rising food costs. The dilemma is that you and me can drive 1,000 miles or we can feed a person for a year, and people around the world are getting hungrier, writes Stan Cox on AlterNet. Our gas guzzling ways are about to drive the state of Iowa, the epicenter of agriculture, to import corn. How's that for weird? Apparently it's so weird that the politicos are scrambling to plow under last year's crop of legislature as fast as they can, writes Cox:

Now 24 Republican members of Congress, citing high food prices, have come out into the open to urge a retreat from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates rapid increases in biofuel production... Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has formally requested that the federal government relax biofuel requirements imposed on his state… The Missouri legislature is considering a rollback of its own recently passed law requiring that gasoline must be mixed with a minimum percentage of ethanol.

Bureau Brews: Hook & Ladder

| Fri May 9, 2008 6:50 PM EDT

Welcome to the first in an occasional series called "Bureau Brews" (Too nerdy? What about "Keg Stands?") in which reporters and editors in Mother Jones' DC Bureau will do what we do best... drink beer. Really, it's our birthright as journalists, and we take the responsibility quite seriously. (Read our hero Jack Schafer's classic treatise on the subject here.) So, every once in a while, probably on Fridays after we've filed our stories for the week, we'll break out the bottle opener and let you know what we think of various imported beers and their domestic craft cousins.

Our first victim is a local craft brewery called Hook & Ladder, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Disclaimer: I happen to know their PR guy. He's a mensch.) The brewery was founded by two brothers—one a volunteer firefighter, the other an entrepreneur—who, in 1999, decided to combine their talents to open a craft brewery. They originally based it in the Bay Area, but the dot-com bust scared off investors, and the fledgling business fell on hard times. Since then, they've relocated to suburban Washington, DC, where, in 2005, they renewed their quest to quit the rat race and make beer for a living, this time with great success. As of October 2006, Hook & Ladder had only one distributor and was available only in the DC area; today, it's got 73 distributors in 20 states, mostly along the East Coast, although for some reason it's also available in Stockton, California, or so we've been told.

One thing to note before we proceed to reviewing the merchandise is that Hook & Ladder, true to its firefighter founders' wishes, donates one penny from every pint sold to local burn centers. In the last two years, this has amounted to no less than $30,000. Could it be that drinking beer has finally become tax deductible? We'll have to look into that...

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MoJo Nukes Convo: Jonas Siegel Highlights

| Fri May 9, 2008 5:59 PM EDT

Jonas%20Siegel%20head%20shot.jpgJonas Siegel is editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a media organization that focuses on the intersection of science and security, and has covered nuclear weapons and energy issues for the past five years.

Although Siegel is in awe of nuclear's amazing energy-generating power—"a pound of uranium 235 has more than 2 million times the energy content of a pound of coal," he says—he acknowledges that so far the industry has been hindered by safety issues. The industry must address the risk of nuclear proliferation and waste storage if it's to become a part of our future mix of energy-providers, Siegel says.

Check out some of Siegel's other views, below, as expressed in last week's Blue Marble expert-reader conversation:

"One of the most vexing aspects of the current system is that it allows ... the same uranium enrichment facilities that enrich fuel for power production can also enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. The plants that reprocess spent fuel after it is taken out of a reactor can be used to make additional fuel—or plutonium for nuclear weapons."

Comedy Bands: How Far Can they Go?

| Fri May 9, 2008 5:57 PM EDT

mojo-photo-fotc.jpgThe New York Times thought they were pretty funny: New Zealand's "fourth most popular folk-parody duo" Flight of the Conchords are taking their HBO show about being, well, wildly unsuccessful, on a wildly successful tour, and they just played in New York to an appreciative crowd. The TV show, while not exactly a breakout hit, ratings-wise, was pretty much the second-best thing on HBO last year, both for the hilarity of their song parodies ("Bowie's In Space," anyone?) and for the low-key quirkiness of their heavily-accented banter. So, it's a good show on TV, but isn't there something a bit awkward about parody songs plopping down into the real-life rock context of an actual concert hall?

After the jump: What happens when the highest-charting death metal band of all time is, um, a joke?

Group Demands Marriott Turn Off the Porn

| Fri May 9, 2008 4:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-marriott.jpgFrom citizenlink.com:

Focus on the Family Action is calling on families to co-sign a letter urging Marriott hotels to stop offering in-room pornography. The letter, signed by 47 family groups, will be presented at a meeting May 14 between pro-family leaders and Marriott International officials. It's the first time a major hotel chain has agreed to meet to discuss the issue. Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy of Focus on the Family Action, said Marriott can't continue to present itself as a family-friendly hotel chain while peddling pornography. "Pornography is highly addictive and extremely destructive," he said. "In the 'secrecy' of a hotel room, pornography can be especially dangerous because it creates a sexualized climate that puts men, women and children at risk."

Focus on the Family Action then demanded Marriott remove all beds, comfy cushions and plush carpets from rooms, since those soft, inviting spaces just make addictive, dangerous fornication all the more likely. And don't get us started on those oh-so-sexy coffeemakers, heating things up! Hub-ba!

After the jump: I didn't mean to press "buy," really!

John McCain, No Environmentalist

| Fri May 9, 2008 3:50 PM EDT

In New Jersey today, John McCain called himself a "Teddy Roosevelt Republican" and said, "I'm proud of my environmental record." This is a line — a myth, really — that McCain is sure to push in the general election.

True, John McCain does talk about the environment more than other Republicans. But that doesn't make him an environmentalist, and his environmental record is nowhere close to the Democrats in the race. Take it from those who know best.

In 2007, the League of Conservation Voters rated McCain a zero on the environment because he skipped every vote the organization graded. (Vote-skipping is a serious problem for Johnny Mac.) At the time, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said:

"We were appalled two weeks ago when John McCain was the only Senator who chose to skip a crucial vote on the future of clean energy in America-dooming the measure to fail by just a single vote. As it turns out, this was merely the most recent example of a clear pattern of missing the most important votes on energy and the environment--as his abysmal LCV score clearly demonstrates....
"[John McCain has] a lifetime pattern of voting with polluters and special interests instead of consumers and the planet when it comes time to stand up and be counted. Or perhaps worse yet: a consistent refusal to stand up and be counted at all."

The President of the League of the Conservation Voters, Gene Karpinski, adds, "To his credit, McCain has made global warming a priority... [but] throughout his time in Congress, McCain's voted pro-environment only one out of four times.''

Clinton and Obama also suffered due to vote-skipping in 2007, with LCV scores of 73 and 67 respectively. But the lifetime scores of the three candidates tell the true story. Hillary Clinton's lifetime score is 87 percent. Obama's is 86 percent. John McCain's is 24 percent.