2009 - %3, August

Cash for Clunkers: Buyers' Remorse?

| Tue Aug. 25, 2009 8:32 AM PDT

On Monday night the Car Allowance Rebate System, otherwise known as Cash for Clunkers, rolled off the lot for the last time. While everyone from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to climate change expert Joe Romm has praised the program—which offered drivers up to $4,500 to scrap a gas guzzling vehicle for a more efficient one—many questions remain about its implications for the environment and the US economy. Let's look at the CARS American taxes paid for.

Will CARS jumpstart Detroit?

Not likely: While the popular program was never intended to rebuild the US auto industry, some commentators worry that the tune-up could actually backfire. Just as no one predicted that the program would burn through its initial billion-dollar allotment in a week's time, everyone is unsure what will happen to auto sales now that the incentives have been phased out. In 1997, the end of a similar program in France led to a severe drop in auto sales—a hit that the fragile US economy could struggle to withstand.

The short-term boost for Detroit may also cost it customers in the long term. The top ten clunkers were all American made, but only four of the top ten new vehicles purchased with CARS cash were from the Motor City. The Economist warns that the Big Three, in particular GM and Chrysler, "may find that cash-for-clunkers, by turning more American heads towards Asia's carmakers, is a present they regret receiving."

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News From Iraq? Surely Not!

| Tue Aug. 25, 2009 8:09 AM PDT

Iraq has dropped out of the news:

Today, however, we actually do have some news from the 51st state. The Washington Post reports that the major pro-Iran Shiite parties in Iraq have formed a political alliance that excludes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (also a Shiite). This is both good news and bad news, according to the experts the Post contacted. It's bad news because it means that Maliki may be an underdog in the coming elections, making it more likely that a supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reprehensible regime in Iran might come to power in Baghdad. It's good news because it means that Maliki may ally himself with Sunni and Kurd groups, enhancing Iraqi unity:

Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Rasheed Flahe Mohammed, commander of the Samarra Operations Center, said he was thrilled to see politicians willing to cross sectarian lines, as Maliki may end up doing. Mohammed said that although he is a Shiite, he would vote for a bloc that would put a Sunni in power if he determined that person was the most qualified leader.

"I'm optimistic about this—Sunnis are allying with Shiites," he said as he watched the Shiite alliance's announcement on television. "This is something good for Iraq."

Does that seem right?

CIA IG Report Question of the Morning

| Tue Aug. 25, 2009 6:54 AM PDT

Lots of people have highlighted this passage from the 2004 CIA Inspector General's report:

Glenn Greenwald has a good rundown of some of the other most damning passages. Here's what I'm wondering: which country is "widely believed" to include "sexually abusing female relatives in front of the detainee" as part of its interrogation practices? And do we send people there for torture?

Need To Read: August 25, 2009

Tue Aug. 25, 2009 4:01 AM PDT

 

Today's links are heavy on the torture stuff, light on the Michael Jackson stuff. Don't like the mix? Try cable news.

Like most bloggers, I also use twitter. I mostly use it to send out links to interesting web content like the stuff above. You can follow me, of course. David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, is also on twitter. So are my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 25, 2009

Tue Aug. 25, 2009 4:00 AM PDT

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Thompson explains details of a sniper rifle to major league baseball players Albert Pujols and Ryan Franklin during a tour of Naval Special Warfare facilities. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique M. Lasco/Released)

Eco-News Roundup: Tuesday, August 25

| Tue Aug. 25, 2009 4:00 AM PDT

Blue Marble-ish news from our site and beyond:

Another one bites the dust? Why Tennessee Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper could be among the dems to lose their seats if the healthvcare debate drags on.

Safety dance: A spokesman for EnCana Corp. says "the notion that operators don't do everything they can every day [to ensure safety] is ludicrous." So why don't Wyoming's oil workers have the right to sue?

Same old schtick: RNC chairman Michael Steele really really loves Medicare. He just hates government-run healthcare programs. What else is new?

Two packs a day by age 10: Child tobacco pickers in Malawi are exposed to nicotine equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.

Corporate hustle: In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, 100 of the world's largest companies must reduce their carbon emissions at twice their current pace. 

Ice cream, hold the ice: Could freeze-it-yourself products help the ice cream industry reduce its carbon footprint?

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Cute Animal in Danger: Mission Blue Butterfly

| Tue Aug. 25, 2009 3:39 AM PDT

The delicate and distinctive Mission Blue Butterfly was first discovered in San Francisco's Mission District around 1937. Since then, the city's layout has changed considerably, rendering much of the iridescent butterfly's urban habitat inhospitable. Although the Mission Blue has been on the federal Endangered Species List since 1976, its recovery has been slow. The butterfly has only a handful of habitats (San Bruno Mountain, San Francisco's Twin Peaks, Marin headlands) and its larva eat only three kinds of lupine plants. Add to that fact that adult butterflies have only a week to live and breed, and you've got a bit of a conservation challenge.

However, California wildlife professionals are not easily discouraged. San Francisco's Mission Blues have been suffering due to El Nino-fueled climate change, so this year the city introduced pregnant females to Twin Peaks, hoping to drive up population for 2010.

 

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5 Creative Uses for: Aluminum Foil

| Tue Aug. 25, 2009 3:00 AM PDT

I have good aluminum foil intentions: I try hard to use a sheet for more than one sandwich. But no matter how careful I am, it ends up shredding. I might as well carry my lunch around in a doily. Luckily, AltUse.com has a few ideas for using unpristine foil:

1. Soften fabric: Create a ball of aluminum foil about the size of a baseball. Place it in your clothes dryer and with laundry. Use again and again.

2. Sharpen scissors: Layer foil and cut through the pile to sharpen your scissors. Six to eight layers of foil should do the trick.

3. Moisten brown sugar: Wrap a chunk of brown sugar in a sheet of aluminum foil and heat in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes.

4. Iron fast: Place a sheet of aluminum foil under your ironing board cover to help transfer the heat to the items you are ironing and quicken your work.

5. Increase radiator efficiency: Use heavy-duty aluminum foil, tape to cardboard with foil's shiny side facing out, and place behind a cast-iron radiator. Instead of being absorbed by the wall behind the radiator, the heat will reflect off the foil and move back into the room.

Four More Years

| Mon Aug. 24, 2009 6:49 PM PDT

President Obama announced today that he plans to renominate Ben Bernanke for a second term as Fed chairman.  That's change we can believe in!

Healthcare, Steele Style

| Mon Aug. 24, 2009 3:49 PM PDT

RNC chairman Michael Steele unveiled his party's latest appeal to senior citizens today.  I've edited it slightly to save you some time:

Democrats are promoting a government-run health care experiment....The Democrats’ government-run health care experiment....The Democrats’ government-run health care experiment....The Democrats’ government-run health care experiment.... their government-run health care experiment.

Steele, it turns out, really really loves Medicare.  He just hates government-run healthcare programs.  Or something.  Hard to say, really.  For the most part, he's just repeating the standard Republican schtick: if Dems leave Medicare alone, scream about how they're bankrupting the country; if they propose ways to increase efficiency, scream about how they're trying to ration care.  Steele's embarrassingly gushy paean to Medicare comes from the latter school.

As it turns out, though, this is too raw even for some of the folks over at NRO.  "Such blatant finger-in-the-wind leadership from the RNC is disappointing," says Robert Costa.  And the response from AARP was entertaining too: "AARP agrees with Chairman Michael Steele’s goals for reforming our health care system, and we are pleased nothing in the bills that have been proposed would bring about the scenarios the RNC is concerned about."  Their press release went on to explain that they support pretty much everything Obama has proposed.  And Roy Blunt's former chief of staff twittered: "RNC Chair Michael Steele is an idiot. Past time for him to go."  Though, in fairness, that was about Steele dissing Blunt on the radio this morning, not about healthcare.

For Michael Steele, it was just another day at the office.  He's the gift that keeps on giving.