2008 - %3, July

MoJo Convo: Iran Panic? A Follow Up Question for the Experts

| Thu Jul. 3, 2008 9:53 AM EDT

Earlier this week MoJo writer Laura Rozen asked an Israeli intel correspondent, an Iranian American activist, an arms expert, a former peace negotiator, and an anti-war intellectual:

How likely is a scenario in which the US or Israel strikes Iran before Bush leaves office? (Or is the Left falling for the hawks' propaganda?)

Read the original conversation here.

Now for a follow up question:

There have been hints of potentially momentous shifts on policy to Iran this past week. Final thoughts on what promises to be a long hot summer?

daniel_levy-65x70.jpg

Daniel Levy, a former Middle East peace negotiator, is Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation, and of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation:

The first thing I would say would be to caution against expectations of a dramatic breakthrough in either direction—either imminent attacks or an imminent deal—when hearing the latest developments, which is good news in the case of the former, but not so much in the case of the latter. I would also be careful about drawing what some may see as an obvious causal relationship: Israel and American heightened the threat; Iran climbed down—longer and more complicated processes are at work.

If one were to be mischievous, one could even pose the opposite speculation: Namely, that in anticipation (or with advance information) of a greater Iranian willingness to demonstrate flexibility on the enrichment freeze, the threats were escalated in order to allow the claim that chest-thumping was working. If indeed we have inched closer towards negotiations, then the key thing will be to give those negotiations a chance to make progress and to demonstrate patience. Naturally, all sides would have to justify a change in approach to their respective domestic audiences.

The challenge will be to do this in a way that does not undermine the process itself. So keep any clucking and "they blinked first rhetoric" to a minimum. My own sense is that one of the significant factors in play here is that Iran, similar to other regional powers, is already looking beyond the Bush administration and beginning to choreograph it signals and messaging with the next administration in mind. Syria's resumption of negotiations with Israel probably comes from a similar place.

Hard diplomatic bargaining is not only the best option, but also the option most likely to address legitimate concerns on all sides in ways that the other parties can live with (limitations and transparency of any enrichment/civil nuclear energy program, Iranian regime security, cessations of Iranian provision of material assistance to groups deploying violence against Israeli civilians, etc.); and the new Trita Parsi-Shlomo Ben-Ami op-ed is well worth reading on this. But note—negotiations entail brinksmanship and moments of crisis that require very skillful management, which makes me worry given the current actors on the scene.

There have been some posts and questions on this thread regarding the relationship between the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the Iranian issue. In shorthand, I would say the following:

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New (Leaked) Music: Beck - Modern Guilt

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 8:04 PM EDT

mojo-photo-beckmodernguilt.jpgYou'd think, in this exciting Age of the Intertubes, that the music album, freed from physical constraints, would have expanded like American waistlines. No longer tied to the 56-minute-ish limit of the vinyl LP or the 80-minute cutoff of the CD, you'd expect our self-indulgent, uncontrollably nutty musicians to start putting out 3- or 4-hour albums, with, say, 60 or 70 of their newest compositions. But no, just the opposite seems to be happening: albums are getting shorter. Take this Beck thing that just leaked out onto the aforementioned internet: it's 32 minutes long. That's ten quick songs. I thought I'd give it a spin today while I was working on other stuff; I'd barely sat down when it was already over, and the next thing up in my alphabetical iTunes library, a Bee Gees remix by the Teddybears, thundered out incongruously. I had this experience all day, starting Modern Guilt from the beginning, only to have it slip by without me really noticing it, and then, blam: Bee Gees. There it goes again. This album has probably run through at least six times by now here at Party Ben HQ, and I keep trying to pay attention, but it keeps melting into the background, and I'm starting to think it's not me that's the problem.

The Dust Off (sort of): Zach de la Rocha

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 7:49 PM EDT

one-day-lion-200.jpgHere at the Riff, we're not above dusting off obsolete items with a high awesomeness/cheesiness quotient. I wouldn't call Zach de le Rocha, politically outspoken front man for Rage Against the Machine old and dusty (his awesomeness/cheesiness is debatable), but he has been mostly off the radar since Rage's heyday (and some more recent reunion performances). Until now.

Together with drummer Jon Theodore (formerly of the Mars Volta), de la Rocha's got new music coming out under the moniker One Day As A Lion on July 22 (Anti- is releasing). Their press statement about the music is a mouthful:

Indecency Complaints to FCC Plummet

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 5:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-fccgraph.gifAmerica: We're Cleaning Up our Act! Or maybe just dangling shiny trinkets in front of the complainers? The FCC reports (pdf link) that indecency complaints against broadcasters to the agency have fallen dramatically, from 4,368 in the second quarter of 2007 to only 368 in the third quarter, the most recent time period for which data is available. The agency recorded an even more ridiculous drop from the first quarter of 2007, when 149,457 complaints were received. Wait, nearly 150,000 to 4,000 to 300? What gives? It turns out this kind of roller coaster of complaints isn't new at the FCC: as Mother Jones has covered before, the numbers jump around a lot. In 2003, complaints went from 351 in the second quarter to over 272,000 in the third. Ars Technica posits that activists like the Parents Television Council (whose campaigns may be responsible for a majority of complaints) have been distracted by Grand Theft Auto, but I'd say they're probably out there forwarding e-mails about Barack Obama being a secret gay Muslim terrorist. Isn't Q3 2007 about when that got started? I've included a handy graph (above right) to help us see if there's any connection.

Blogger Brian Beutler Shot, Expected to Make Full Recovery

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 5:20 PM EDT

Sad news, folks. Brian Beutler, the Washington correspondent for the Media Consortium and a frequent contributer to this site and this blog, was shot three times yesterday in a failed mugging in Northwest Washington DC. Brian is in the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. Brian's editor, Adele Stan, wrote this after visiting Brian in the hospital:

Funny thing about being a journalist: your job is to write about people and mayhem and trauma, but let any of those touch you directly, and it becomes a different game. With that caveat, allow me to recount my brief visit today with my colleague, Brian Beutler, whose sign-off is a familiar one on this site, and has come to define the reporting of The Media Consortium's syndicated reporting project.
I was just about to leave the house this morning to meet with Brian when I got word this morning, through a mutual colleague of ours, that he had been shot last night in Washington, D.C., in an aborted mugging.

Clean Energy Leaps Forward

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 4:51 PM EDT

800px-Windenergy.jpg Think green energy isn't going to happen? Well, despite financial market turmoil, more than $148 billion was sunk into the global sustainable energy sector last year. That's up 60% from 2006.

According to the UNEP report, Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2008, climate change worries, growing support from world governments, rising oil prices and ongoing energy security concerns fueled another record-setting year of investment in renewable energy.

Wind attracted the most investment ($50.2 billion in 2007). Solar power grew most rapidly ($28.6 billion of new capital, at an average annual rate of 254% since 2004).

The first quarter of 2008 looked sluggish. But investments rebounded in the second quarter, even as global financial markets remained in turmoil. Venture capital and private equity for sustainable energy was up 34% above the second quarter of 2007.

"Just as thousands were drawn to California and the Klondike in the late 1800s, the green energy gold rush is attracting legions of modern day prospectors in all parts of the globe," says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General.

There's tons of gold waiting in the bottom of the oil barrel.

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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Bad Math = More Extinctions

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 4:02 PM EDT

gone_rhino_300x398.jpg We may be underestimating extinction risks by as much as 100-fold. The problem is that current extinction models treat all individual members as the same. You know, one polar bear is more or less a behavioral, programmed clone of the next polar bear.

Ooops. Not so. A new model finds that random differences—male-to-female sex ratios, size differences, behavioral variations—affect individuals' survival rates and reproductive success. These differences don't just ripple outward. They tsunami outward into the overall population. Consequently, extinction rates for endangered species can be orders of magnitude higher than conservation biologists previously believed.

The model developed by Brett Melbourne of Colorado University Boulder and Alan Hastings of the University of California Davis monitored populations of beetles in lab cages. "The results showed the old models misdiagnosed the importance of different types of randomness, much like miscalculating the odds in an unfamiliar game of cards because you didn't know the rules," says Melbourne.

Some high-profile endangered species like mountain gorillas are already tracked individually. But for many others, like stocks of fish, biologists only measure abundance and population fluctuations. "It's these species that are most likely to be misdiagnosed," says Melbourne. "We suggest that extinction risk for many populations… need to be urgently re-evaluated with full consideration of all factors contributing to stochasticity, or randomness."

The IUCN Red List tallies more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction worldwide. One in four mammal species, one in eight bird species and one in three amphibian species are teetering on the brink. The new study in Nature, "Extinction risk depends strongly on factors contributing to stochasticity," makes those numbers look tame.

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

Ian Curtis' Gravestone Stolen

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

mojo-photo-iancurtisgrave.jpgNews of the Weird: The gravestone marking the final resting place of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis has been stolen, reports the BBC. The singer committed suicide in 1980. Officials say that the memorial, inscribed with the words "Ian Curtis 18-5-80 Love Will Tear Us Apart," was taken from Macclessfield Cemetery in Cheshire, England sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday. A police spokesman told the BBC that the lack of area security cameras means they have "no apparent leads." Okay, stop just a minute. This is a singer whose stature just keeps rising, with two movies about him in the last couple years, and whose short, troubled life and self-inflicted death means he's one of the great cult figures of our time; his gravestone features the title of his band's biggest hit, and nobody was watching it? Plus, doesn't England have CCTV cameras trained on everybody at all times? Where are they when you need them? Boy, this is making me depressed. I need to watch a Joy Division video. Join me in despair, won't you, after the jump.

Video: DNC Hammers McCain on Economic Double Talk

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 2:41 PM EDT

He basically asked them to make this video...

Background.

Confidential to Amy Winehouse

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 1:20 PM EDT

winehouse-250x400.jpgI'm worried about little Amy.

I'm not a huge fan of her music, but I liked Rehab and her whole downtown, big hair, hard partying girl schtick. She's the antithesis of the fake-squeaky clean, "I'll pretend to be a virgin," blonde plastic Barbie Hollywood crams down our throats everyday.

But that was when I thought she knew what her limits, however stratospheric, were. Clearly, she does not. Way she's going, she's gonna wake up dead one day, as a grizzled old west Texas cowboy I used to know put it.

Girlfriend, fresh from a collapse and a grim diagnosis, just spoiled her reemergence by cold cocking a fan during a concert. Now, it's every woman's right—nay, her duty—to slap the crap out of any man who gropes her, but given the increasing likelihood that record companies may rethink their investment in what may be a very short career, Winehouse might oughta have let those enormous bouncers flanking her flatten the twerp. Amy, Amy, Amy—what are you doing?

But here's what I also dread: That bad-ass Amy Winehouse will get straight...and then go straight.