2008 - %3, July

Slang White People Like

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 3:51 PM EDT

I don't know much about the folks at Soft Skull Media. Apparently, it's some kind of underground publishing house, or used to be. I dunno. But, I got a 'please review this book' plea from them today, which is utterly unusual in my line of work, free books being one of the decidedly few perks of my job. If that sad benny is is meant to offset the myriad "why is Debra Dickerson so stupid" blog posts, it's failing miserably.

Anyway, just another day on the job, just another pitch for a book which, for once, sounds at least initially interesting, until I get to the sign-off: "Holler for review copies, eh?". Holler, not holla, but in either case: ironic wiggerness in the workplace.

I'm intellectually anal-retentive, so I can't help but burn daylight wondering: Did potential white reviewers get the same sign-off? Or have white folks developed several sets of 'pitch' macros with labels like "black, but an Uncle Tom who'll find this ironic," "white, but living in dream world wherein they're cool," and "confused, but too cowed to make waves."?

I don't know if it's better or worse that it's not a 'black' book...ok. It's better. But just what is it with white folks and black slang? And how do y'all know when it's appropriate?

And since we're on the subject: Why is the cabbage patch the universal dance of white joy?

I'm gonna ask the Soft Skull folks what up with the 'holler' and how long the staff meeting in which they debated the merits of 'holler' vs 'holla' was. Maybe they were being ironic. I often use formulations (with white institutions) such as "give a sister a...." etc—but I do it to be a bitch who makes her white friends uncomfortable in a way in which they can't respond. What's their motivation?

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Glacier Growth Caused by Climate Change?

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 3:05 PM EDT

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As we already know, most of the world's ice is melting fast. Not so on California's Mt. Shasta, where glaciers are actually growing because of global warming.

Here's how it works: The Pacific Ocean is warmer now than in years past. Warmer temperatures mean more moisture, which in turn means more snowfall on Mt. Shasta.

This is not the case for other nearby mountain ranges. The Sierra Nevada range, which is just 500 miles south of Mt. Shasta, is losing ice—in fact, it has lost about half its ice over the past 100 years.

Like Antarctica's increasing sea ice, the Mt. Shasta glaciers are another piece of evidence that global warming is a little more complicated than most of us think.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons.

What's the Most Polluting Car?

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 2:20 PM EDT

suv.jpgForbes.com has published a list of the ten dirtiest cars. Or more accurately—vehicles, since all but a few are SUVs and trucks. (And surprise! The Hummer isn't number one).

The list order is mostly based on the EPA's air pollution rankings, but to break ties, Forbes.com also took into account vehicles' carbon footprints. The nadir of the coverage is in their "Tips for Polluting Less":

Experts say that realizing even minor improvements in fuel economy among the worst polluters on the road is the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall. For example, choosing a base GMC Yukon with a 5.3-liter V8, which gets 16 mpg overall, instead of the high-end Denali version and its 14-mpg 6.2-liter V8 would save more than 130 gallons of gasoline per year for the typical driver, and eliminate 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, says Therese Langer, transportation program director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Langer then goes on to say that "achieving the same savings through improvements to a 42-mpg Honda Civic Hybrid would require a 25-mpg boost, to 67 mpg."

So let's get this straight: Consumers should feel good about choosing a Yukon SUV over a hybrid, since the Yukon is way more efficient than the Denali? That's kind of like trying to lose weight by eating a ho-ho instead of a ding-dong.

Full top ten list after the jump.

Rove Is a No-Show

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 10:52 AM EDT

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Members of the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law didn't even wait until the 10 a.m. mark to declare former presidential adviser Karl Rove a no-show this morning. The committee had subpoenaed Rove to appear to discuss the politicization of the Justice Department and allegations of selective prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. But Rove, through his lawyer, asserted that "as a close advisor to the President," he is "immune from compelled Congressional testimony."

Committee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) was having none of that, saying, "I hereby rule that Mr. Rove's claims of immunity are not legally valid, and his refusal to comply with the subpoena and appear at this hearing to answer questions cannot be properly justified." In her official statement, she pointed out that if Rove wants to assert executive privilege, he still has to show up and do it before the committee, not in some lame letter from his lawyer. Sanchez observed that the Judiciary Committee has already seen a parade of witnesses from the White House who have not made this argument, most notably, David Addington, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, who, while clearly hostile, did actually make the trip up the Hill to testify recently on the administration's torture and interrogation policies. Scott McClellan, the former press secretary, even testified without a subpoena!

Rove's arrogance has clearly irked Sanchez, who disparaged him for failing to cite a single court precedent that would back up his claim to absolute immunity from testifying. Quoting the Supreme Court, Sanchez said, "[n]o man in this country is so high that he is above the law," and "[a]ll the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it."

Dems Ready to Cave on Offshore Drilling... In Face of What Pressure?

| Thu Jul. 10, 2008 10:43 AM EDT

This feels like a compromise in search of a conflict. The Democrats in Congress are ready to pass an energy bill that, in exchange for "investments in clean and renewable energies, a crackdown on oil speculators, and proof that the oil and gas companies are fully utilizing land that is already leased for exploration," will legalize additional offshore drilling.

Really? Am I just out of touch? Has there been a public outcry in support of offshore drilling? There was a media war on the subject a while back, and I thought we were able to prove the idea is a useless pander — it won't lower gas prices substantially, it won't put any additional oil on the market for seven to 10 years, it distracts us from serious and long-term energy solutions, etc. And after all that, congressional Dems are just going to cede the issue? Maybe they need to include offshore drilling as a sop to the Republicans in order to get renewable energy provisions in this upcoming bill. Those better be some pretty substantial provisions...

Red Tide? Hold Your Breath, Run Fast

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 8:06 PM EDT

La-Jolla-Red-Tide.780.jpg The airborne toxins inhaled in the spray of red tides may be cancer causing. At least in lab rats, those sorry creatures perpetually suffering for our crappy decisions. NOAA scientists report that in fighting brevetoxins, the rats' immune systems convert them to molecules that destroy DNA in the lungs.

Which is the first step for many cancer causing agents. In other words, the process is likely carcinogenic.

The brevetoxin Karenia brevis has long been known to cause neurotoxic poisoning (from consumption of contaminated shellfish), and respiratory irritation (from inhalation of toxic sea spray). Cancer may be its newest side-effect, albeit one with a slower onset.

Red tides, you might remember, are on the rise globally, fueled by our flagrant overuse of fertilizers—which, voila!, also make plants in the sea grow really fast too. Not good for the sea, or you, or me. Or lab rats.

Red tides and their alter-egos, dead zones, are also linked to our warming climate. Both of which are linked to growing threats to human health, even if Dick Cheney's office worked hard to suppress that information.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

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McCain Camp Tries To Spin Away "Disgrace" Comment

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 5:32 PM EDT

On Monday, at a town hall meeting in Denver, John McCain said this:

Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.

In this quote, McCain was essentially saying that the problem with Social Security is that Social Security is Social Security, instead of something else. He is attacking the basic funding mechanism for the 75-year-old program. But now, with the McCain "disgrace" comment being picked up all over the web, the McCain campaign is trying to backtrack. ABC's Jake Tapper spoke with a McCain spokesman, Brian Rogers, who said this:

[T]he disgrace is our failure to fix the long-run imbalance in Social Security—a failure of leadership evidenced by our willingness to kick to problem to the next generation of leaders. He's also describing the looming and increasing demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it.

In essence, Rogers is claiming that McCain's "disgrace" comment was taken out of context—that he was not applying the word "disgrace" to Social Security's funding mechanism, but rather to the "demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it."

Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, which is beginning to realize the mistake it made by attacking Social Security, Rogers' argument doesn't hold up under scrutiny. The Denver town hall wasn't the only place McCain attacked Social Security this week. From yesterday's post:

Now, before you think, "Wow, that must be a slip of the tongue, he can't possibly mean that," please note that McCain said essentially the same thing to John Roberts on CNN this morning. From the transcript:
On the privatization of accounts, which you just mentioned, I would like to respond to that. I want young workers to be able to, if they choose, to take part of their own money which is their taxes and put it in an account which has their name on it. Now, that's a voluntary thing, it's for younger people, it would not affect any present-day retirees or the system as necessary. So let's describe it for what it is. They pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees. That's why it's broken, that's why we can fix it. [Emphasis added.]

McCain said the same thing on CNN that he did in the town hall: the problem with Social Security—"why it's broken"—is that young people, "pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees." That's not out of context. It's what he said. McCain's problem with Social Security is with its basic structure.

The DNC held a conference call today about McCain's comment. It seems smart to pick up on this—it's the real thing. With this comment showing his antipathy toward the fundamentals of Social Security, McCain has indeed touched the "third rail" of American politics. On the DNC call, Ed Coyle, the president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, referred to McCain's comment as "anti-senior" and said he hopes the press will ask McCain to elaborate on what he could have meant. That's a reasonable request.

Warm, Fuzzy Satanists

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

satanist150.jpgSome divorced couples argue over whether their kids should have dessert. Some over homework.

And some argue over whether their kids should be brought up Satanist.

From the Chicago Tribune comes the story of an Indiana mom who wants a court to make her Devil-worshiping ex-husband take her kids to Christian church. Long story short, Satanists are not exactly the role models she had in mind for her offspring. But the Beelzebub fans themselves say she's got them all wrong. From a related Trib blog post:

"Some of your readers might wonder what exposure to Satanism might do to a developing child," Gilmore said. "I recognized myself as a Satanist at age 13 and was subsequently the valedictorian of my high school class in 1976, being quite open about my religion."

Uh, yeah, Gilmore? Chris Kattan wants his material back.

Will Rove Show?

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

Karl Rove has already gone on TV to blab about the Justice Department's prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Now, the House Judiciary Committee just wants him to come up the Hill to talk to Congress. The committee was nice enough to include a subpoena with its invitation. Tomorrow, the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law will assemble in the Dirksen Office Building at 10 a.m. to see of Rove actually shows up. His lawyer has basically told Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers to fuck off, Rove's not coming. The legendary political consultant has already dissed the Senate Judiciary Committee, looking into similar matters, so the odds of anything exciting happening tomorrow aren't worth the trip up Independence Avenue for the live show. But Conyers has shown a little more moxie than his colleagues in the Senate. He's already suggested that if Rove isn't sitting in front of him tomorrow morning, he will take further legal action to compel his testimony, which he's done for other recalcitrant White House witnesses. It's entirely possible that Rove will one day, years from now, have to sit in the congressional hot seat. The question, of course, is whether anyone will still care what he has to say?

Top Five: Music for a Heat Wave

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 4:38 PM EDT

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Since everybody's so into lists these days, I figured I'd bring back my Top Five mini-countdown of fun stuff 'n' things, with the added conveneince of an Imeem widget for your listening pleasure (see below). This week, as we in California roast under triple-digit temperatures, why not celebrate with some tunes that either take explicit pleasure in the heat, or at least sound really good on a warm night.