2008 - %3, July

Obama Encourages Students to Abandon Hopes of Becoming Great Rappers

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 2:47 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamayousuck.jpgBecause, you know, hope is crazy audacious, but not that audacious. Obama was in Georgia yesterday (talk about audacious hopes), and in a speech to a town hall meeting in Powder Springs, gave the mostly African-American audience a message of "tough love." Speaking about the importance of staying in school, he seemingly aimed some comments directly at young black men:

"You can't find a job, unless you are a really, really good basketball player which most of you brothas are not. I know you think you are, but you're not," he said to murmurs and laughter in the crowd. "You are over-rated in your own mind. You will not play in the NBA. You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil' Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school."

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Embattled Judicial Nominee Also Landlord To Sketchy Methadone Clinic

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 12:59 PM EDT

No doubt Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV rues the day that he dissed jail-house lawyers in print. The patrician Tennessee Republican who once prepped Dick Cheney for his campaign debates should have been a shoe-in for an appointment to the federal bench.. But as the general counsel of the country's largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, Puryear has drawn fire from a relentless adversary in his quest for confirmation: Alex Friedmann, a former CCA inmate and one of those jail-house lawyers Puryear once bashed in an interview for allegedly filing frivolous lawsuits.

Friedmann has gotten revenge by flooding the press and the Senate Judiciary Committee with a host of negative information about Puryear, reminding the Senators of Puryear's membership in an exclusive all white country club that doesn't allow women to become members, among other things. The latest installment comes via the Tennessean, which reports on Friedmann's discovery that Puryear is landlord to Nashville's only methadone clinic, which was recently caught throwing out patient records without shredding them first, leaving all their pertinent digits in the trash for anyone to find. Puryear is only the landlord, and he's not implicated in any misdeeds, but clearly the story can't help his fight for confirmation, which looks dimmer and dimmer by the day.

Viral Videographers Finding Endless Bush-McCain Connections

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 11:23 AM EDT

I think the intention of this video is to point out that John McCain and George Bush are so similar that they use the same examples of business success in their speeches. In reality, all it does it illustrate the President's old-man fashion sense (black socks with presidential seal + rubber sandals) and cause the execs at Crocs to reach for the Tums. Another popular thing ruined by George "Anti-Midas" Bush.

I get to blog about presidential footwear. It really is a ridiculous thing.

Oh, and PS — Bush isn't the only one who needs new shoes. Maybe BHO could get a pair of these.

Obama: Aprende Espanol!

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

Jonathan Martin is calling this clip "tomorrow's anti-Obama email today."

McCain, Fiorina, and the Phony Small Business Tax Burden

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 10:15 AM EDT

I noted yesterday that John McCain spent most of his time in front of the Hispanic organization LULAC talking about the economy. He emphasized repeatedly that Barack Obama, who McCain paints as a classic tax-raising liberal, would be bad for small business. They wouldn't be able to expand or hire with the new tax burden Obama would place upon them. Here's an example from yesterday's speech:

"Keeping individual rates low isn't intended as a favor to wealthy Americans. 23 million small business owners pay those rates, and taking more money from them deprives them of the capital they need to invest and grow and hire. If you believe you should pay more taxes, I am the wrong candidate for you."

This echoes statements made repeatedly by Carly Fiorina, McCain's favorite ex-CEO and a top surrogate for his campaign. For example, she had this to say recently:

"When Barack Obama blithely says only the wealthiest are going to be taxed, he is ignoring the fact that 23 million small businesses file as individuals and those small businesses are the only growing sector of the economy right now."

Here's the problem. Yes, 23 million small businesses file as individuals. But Obama is proposing to raise taxes on individuals making over $250,000. And according to the Tax Policy Center (as reported by Politico) only 1.4 percent of small business owners make the cut. "Most small-business people, like most everyone else, are not really high-income," said Eric Tolder, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

For a breakdown of how McCain and Obama's tax plans would affect you, see this video.

Biofuels & Biodiversity Don't Mix

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 8:47 PM EDT

349px-Palm_oil_Ghana.jpg Very little can be done to make palm oil plantations more hospitable for birds and butterflies. Consequently rising demand for the biofuel will decimate biodiversity unless natural forests are preserved.

Lian Pin Koh of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich counted birds and butterflies in 15 palm oil plantations in Borneo and found that palm oil plantations supported between 1 and 13 butterfly species, and between 7 and 14 bird species. Previous research found at least 85 butterfly and 103 bird species in neighboring undisturbed rain forest.

The paper, Can palm oil plantations be made more hospitable for forest butterflies and birds?, to be published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, comes at time when rising demand for food and biofuels is squeezing biodiversity. Unless oil palm agriculture is regulated, rising global demand is likely to convert more forests into fuel for your car and mine. Frankly, my dear, neither is worth it.

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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How Do You Keep Veterans Out of Jail?

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 8:29 PM EDT

A judge in Buffalo, NY has instituted something that's the first of its kind—a veterans' treatment court. From CNN:

The Latest Twist On Storms: Bigger & Badder

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 7:56 PM EDT

800px-Dszpics1.jpg Dust devils, water spouts, tornadoes, hurricanes and cyclones are all born of the same mechanism and will intensify as climate change warms the Earth's surface.

A new mathematical model out of the University of Michigan forecasts the maximum expected intensity of a spiraling storm based on the depth of the troposphere and the temperature and humidity in the storm's path. Current thermodynamic models make assumptions about the energy feeding the storm system and the full measure of friction slowing it down, rather than including actual quantities.

The new model predicts that for every 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit the Earth's surface warms the intensity of storms could increase by at least a few percent. For an intense storm, that could translate into a 10 percent increase in destructive power.

Lead author, Nilton Renno, is also co-investigator on NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander mission, where his model calculates the intensity of dust storms in Mars' polar regions.

You think NASA would send their little pet up there without the best mathematical models? Yet the G8 still thinks it's okay to wait until 2050 to halve our emissions. May the troposphere around them be warm, slippery, and full of convective vortices.

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

Film Review: Punk's Not Dead

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 5:37 PM EDT

sex-pistols-280x200.jpgThere are three confusing things about Susan Dynner's new fun-to-watch documentary Punk's Not Dead: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Here's why: Candid, funny, and insightful interview clips with the likes of Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten, and Johnny Ramone, are great, but why, when punk is thriving, keeping on, and having fun, start off a documentary called "Punk's Not Dead" with three '70s rockers, two of whom have passed away?

NPR "Best CD" Poll Causes Panic

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 4:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nprpanic.jpgSorry about that headline but I'd like to remind everyone that I'm not a real writer. National Public Radio's All Songs Considered blog had an admirable goal: turn to the public radio, er, public, to see what albums they thought should be included on a "Best of 2008 So Far" list. (Some of us can't be bothered to ask anybody else what they think). Unfortunately, their poll seemed to get hijacked by internet-savvy emo kids:

Panic at the Disco put out a good record this year, and for a while they were in the lower end of the top 20. But less than a week before the polls closed, a banner went up on their MySpace page encouraging fans to vote. The website said, "they need your vote to help take the lead!" Within a few days, Panic at the Disco had almost 6,000 more votes than anyone else.