Blogs

Health Care: The Key To A GOP Comeback?

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 7:19 AM EDT

With polls showing the Republicans on the rebound, and with conservatives driving to win state governorships this fall and cut Democratic majorities in Congress in next year’s midterm elections, the stakes of the health care fight just got higher. If Obama can’t win a little something in the health insurance battle, he’ll be portrayed as a flop by the GOP in the midst of an election season. But if he wins even a token victory, right-wing attack dogs can pick apart the details of the final plan—or simply paint him as a socialist with a secret plan to "kill Granny” by rationing health care. Tuesday’s Washington Times lays out the opportunity for Republicans:
 

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Cute Animal in Danger: Jaguarundi

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 6:40 AM EDT

This week's endangered animal is the somewhat strange-looking jaguarundi. The jaguarundi is a bit of an in-betweener: it's not as big as a jaguar or mountain lion, but it's larger than most housecats. Jaguarundi also look different than most cats, on account of their small rounded ears, closely set eyes, and uniform color. The "otter-like" cats are most closely related to cougars and cheetahs, though scientists are still unsure of exactly how the it evolved since cheetahs are native to Africa.

Jaguarundi reportedly move in a "weasel-like" manner and unlike many cats, seem to enjoy getting into water. They are reportedly strong swimmers and go to the water at midday to drink, but also in the evening when they are hunting or fishing. They weigh only about 13 to 15 pounds, but because of their lifestyle, are larger and more muscular than a housecat of a similar weight.

The jaguarundi live mostly in the thorny brush of Texas's Rio Grande Valley, as well as in Mexico. Although the jaguarundi has been on the endangered species list since 1976, there has never been a conservation plan for them. The lack of any conservation plan, in addition to habitat destruction by human development, is likely why seeing a jaguarundi is now a rare and exciting event, even in Texas.

However, there is some good news: in February of this year, the Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the jaguarundi would be one of 23 endangered species from the Southwest to recieve a five-year review. The conservation group WildEarth also recently filed a suit against Interior secretary Ken Salazar to develop a recovery plan for the animal. In addition, the jaguarundi continues to survive in Mexico, and populations have been spotted as far south as South America.

 

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Eco-News for Tuesday, August 4

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 6:01 AM EDT

News stories from our blogs, and other environmental sites, you might have missed from yesterday.

Follow the Money: Clean energy firms are spending five times as much money on lobbyists.

Good Enough, Smart Enough: Are you smart enough to join the Army? 'Cause they need officers like, yesterday. [Gawker]

But Are Unicorns Liberals? Weird art of Obama with unicorns and political fauna.

Health Hell: What does the public really think about their health insurance?

Peruvian Punctuality: Just weeks after civilians were killed protesting Peru's relationship with Big Oil, Big Oil sends bulldozers into the rainforest in hopes of drilling soon. [MongaBay]

HBO's Ageism: HBO says most of the good actresses are 35 and younger. MoJo calls BS.

Silent Spring: A new report shows pollution is increasing cancer rates in wildlife. [ENN]

Green Islam: Islamic scholars meet to discuss how religion and climate change intersect. [Living on Earth]

Birds of a Feather: Students are flocking to sustainability degrees. [USA Today]

Just Vote Yes: Kevin Drum finds more bipartisan consensus on healthcare.

Flipper Flop: Japanese design plastic prosthetic flippers for an injured sea turtle. [National Geographic]

 

 

Need To Read: August 4, 2009

Tue Aug. 4, 2009 5:59 AM EDT

Some web content you should be checking out today:

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 is my colleague Daniel Schulman. Follow them, too!

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 4, 2009

Tue Aug. 4, 2009 5:55 AM EDT

U.S. Army Cadet Bernard Wheeler, right, and U.S. Army Pvt. Daniel Shirer, both students with the U.S. Army Airborne School, board a C-130 aircraft for their first parachute jump with combat equipment on Fort Benning, Ga., July 21, 2009. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

Who's the Boss?

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 12:29 AM EDT

David Corn thinks Barack Obama needs to get angrier.  That's probably not going to happen.  But will he settle for Timothy Geithner?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday as frustration grows over the Obama administration's faltering plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation, according to people familiar with the meeting.

....Friday's roughly hourlong meeting was described as unusual, not only because of Mr. Geithner's repeated use of obscenities, but because of the aggressive posture he took with officials from federal agencies generally considered independent of the White House. Mr. Geithner reminded attendees that the administration and Congress set policy, not the regulatory agencies.

Apparently Geithner is pissed off at all the Fed, SEC, and FDIC folks who keep badmouthing his regulatory reforms to Congress.  "Administration officials say they aren't worried about the overhaul's prospects," the Journal reports, and I imagine they do say that.  But I'll bet they don't believe it.

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Democrats Want to Kill Your Grandma!

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 11:46 PM EDT

As you may be aware if you pay attention to other precincts of the blogosphere, Betsy McCaughey was on Fred Thompson’s radio show a couple of weeks ago warning listeners about a hidden outrage in the House healthcare bill:

McCaughey said "Congress would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner."  She said those sessions would help the elderly learn how to "decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care ... all to do what's in society's best interest or in your family's best interest and cut your life short."

This is so ridiculously untrue that you almost have to admire the sheer brass of the thing, but in any case it's lit up a firestorm in right-wing circles.  Mickey Kaus has some advice:

Tip for Dems: If you don't want people to think that subsidized, voluntary end-of-of-life counseling sessions are the camel's nose of an attempt to cut costs by limiting end of life care, then don't put them in a bill the overarching, stated purpose of which is to cut health care costs! ... I mean, did that provision have to be in the bill? If it really was just an added "benefit" for patients that had nothing to do with cutting costs (which I don't believe for a minute), did it even belong in the bill? Isn't there some group of Congressional Democrats — let's call them "the leadership" — whose job it is to prevent their co-partisans from inserting into major legislation relatively minor provisions that will have the effect of sinking the whole package?

I get Mickey's point, but I wonder if he's asking the impossible.  As near as I can tell, movement conservatives are geniuses at plucking obscure provisions out of bills and twisting them with an abandon that would make Huey Long blush.  Maybe it's a dark art, but it's still an art — and conservatives are its Rembrandt.

Now, maybe Dems should have figured this out anyway and ditched the relevant wording before the bill got out of committee.  After all, if you're playing in the big leagues, you have to hit big league pitching.  Still, think about this: we're talking about someone who saw a routine provision about advance care directives and somehow realized she could turn it into "Democrats want to kill your grandma!"  And it worked!  What sane person could have seen that coming?  What's more, even if some bright Democratic staffer had seen it and presciently sent it to the deep freeze, does anyone doubt that someone who could sniff out such murderous possibilities in a funding provision for advance care planning would have any trouble finding something else to take its place?  You'd have to gut the entire bill before you could be sure it was sufficiently sanitized against satanic skills like that.

No, the only answer is to assume that this kind of chain email fodder is always going to crop up and be ready to fight back against it.  Which, so far, doesn't really seem to be happening.  That's the real problem.

Online Happiness: Measure It, Get It

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 7:08 PM EDT

How happy are we? And how might we get happier?

First up: applied mathematicians Peter Dodds and Christopher Danforth of the U of Vermont Burlington are calculating how happy the Internet is by focusing on blog posts and song lyrics. They chose these two datasets because they're: 1) huge; and 2) more honest—or so they believe.

Dodds and Danforth analyzed sentences from 2.4 million blogs collected by wefeelfine.org, which searches blog worldwide for versions of the phrase "I feel," then records the whole sentence.

The researchers also downloaded more than a quarter million song lyrics from a searchable online database, then scanned for more than 1,000 emotionally charged words that a 1999 psychology study ranked on a scale from 1 (miserable) to 9 (ecstatic).

The good news: blogosphere happiness has increased some 4% since 2005, according to Dodds' and Danforth's upcoming paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The biggest recurring happy days are Christmas and Valentine's. The happiest day since 2005 was 4 November 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president of the US.

The low points have been the 11 September anniversaries.

Second up: British psychologist Richard Wiseman is inviting the public to take part in an ambitious five-day online experiment (starting today) aimed at boosting happiness.

Participants rate their current mood before a random assignment to one of four groups—each of which watches a video describing one of four techniques commonly used to boost happiness. Particpants then follow the techniques and five days from now everyone reassesses their mood. The results will be announced 11 August.

Wiseman presents 10 techniques to help you get happier:

  • Meet up with a friend that you haven’t seen for a while
  • Watch a funny film or tv show
  • Exercise 30 minutes three times a week
  • Cut your tv viewing in half (but not the funny stuff?)
  • Buy experiences not goods: go to a concert, movie, unusual place, or strange restaurant.
  • Create novel challenges by starting a hobby, joining an organization, learning a skill
  • Go for a 20 minute walk in the sun
  • Spend 10 minutes listening to relaxing or uplifting music
  • Stroke a dog (cat?)
  • Stop watching and reading the news (even MoJo junkies?)

Mobile MoJo

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 5:13 PM EDT

As it happens, I myself own a dumb phone.  A very dumb phone.  But it's sufficient for my needs because, basically, I never use it anyway.

However, if you have a smart phone, you can now do something even smarter with it: read Mother Jones online.  You can read the magazine.  You can read our online web articles.  You can read my blog.  You can read our other blogs.  You can read everything.

Now, since I don't have a smart phone myself, I can't honestly tell you how well this works.  But give it a try and let me know.  It's time for me to replace my old phone anyway, so maybe this will be enough to get me to replace it with something smarter.  More details here.

Fighting Back

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 4:50 PM EDT

The latest schtick from right wing activists is an organized effort to disrupt town hall presentations from members of Congress who are in their home districts during the August recess.  According to Robert MacGuffie, who runs the website rightprinciples.com:

Tea partiers should "pack the hall... spread out" to make their numbers seem more significant, and to "rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation...to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early.... to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda...stand up and shout and sit right back down."

Lovely.  But Mark Kleiman has the same idea as me:

If I were a Member of Congress threatened by this nonsense, I wouldn't stop holding town meetings; I'd start out each meeting by welcoming my constituents and warning them that there's an organized group in the hall planning to disrupt the proceedings. Never pass up an opportunity to portray your opponents as extremists, especially when they are.

I might be careful about doing this in states with concealed carry laws, but otherwise it sounds like a pretty good idea.