Chart of the Day

In yet another triumph of Science™, a remarkably large group of researchers has discovered that it's a bummer when your candidate loses a presidential election:

While past studies have shown that men's testosterone levels differentially change in response to winning or losing an interpersonal dominance contest, the present study provides novel evidence showing that vicarious victory and defeat via democratic elections has similar physiological consequences for male voters as do interpersonal dominance contests.

Basically, the researchers asked a bunch of undergrads to collect saliva samples throughout the evening of November 4 ("participants used a stick of sugar-free chewing gum to facilitate collecting up to 7.5 mL of saliva in a sterile polypropylene vial and discarded the gum," in case you're interested).  The chart on the right shows what happened: after 8 pm, when John McCain's fate was sealed, testosterone levels among men who supported him plummeted.  Among women, nothing happened.

Put this together with the capuchin monkey experiment (which, sadly, yielded no interesting charts to post) and then ask yourself just how much difference a few million years of evolution makes.  Answer: not nearly as much as we'd like to think.

What the Climate Bill Fence-Sitters Want

Barack Obama will give a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Friday, intended to push the Senate closer to passing a climate bill this year. But the path forward is still fraught with obstacles.

The Environment and Public Works Committee will begin hearings on the Kerry-Boxer proposal next Tuesday, featuring a full-court press of top officials: EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. The bill's authors hope to have the bill passed out of committee by the Thanksgiving break, which is feasible: the committee includes a majority of Democrats who are enthusisastic supporters of climate legislation. Passing it out of the full Senate, however, is the real challenge.

My best estimate has 35 senators likely to vote for the Kerry-Boxer bill column, 36 maybes and 29 firm "no" votes. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham's willingness to work with the authors doesn't indicate that he'll necessarily vote for a bill, or that he'll help bring along other Republicans. Nor does it necessarily make the vote any easier for moderate Democrats; I would list at least 25 Democrats as still undecided. (Grist and Climate Wire are also tallying the fence-sitters.)

The unease among the fence-sitters was evident at Wednesday's hearing before the Energy and Public Works Committee, and the dominant concern was how to allocate carbon credits, a matter that Kerry and Boxer's draft bill leaves open to negotiation in the hope of enticing more senators on board.

Smoke and Mirrors Wins Another Round

I see today that the legislation to do away with the annual ritual of pretending to cut doctors' pay has failed.  So instead we'll just keep on pretending.  Ain't politics grand?

There's another anti-climate bill advocacy group to watch out for: the Cost of Energy Information Project (CEIP). It's a new organization, but it's apparently organized and funded by a lot of the same old critics of climate-change policy.

CEIP is organized by Democratic lobbyist Morris Reid and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a climate change skeptic and former big-time dirty energy lobbyist who was a key player in the Bush administration's climate and energy policy. Republican lobbyists Ed Gillespie (also a former Bush adviser) and Ed Rogers helped form the organization. "The group plans to reach outside of the Beltway to engage citizens who, organizers insist, have been excluded from the lawmaking process," reports the Washington Times.

CEIP's website includes a "cap-and-trade cost calculator" that is built on a deeply flawed report on the House climate bill funded by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Council for Capital Formation. The group is apparently "backed by energy-producing interests," according to the Washington Times, but there aren't any details available on what those interests might be.

I also have to note the headline on the Washington Times piece—"Group uses new media in climate-change debate"—and point you to CEIP's website, possibly the ugliest to launch since 1998. Not only that, their "cap-and-trade cost calculator" also manages to forget Washington, D.C., and their deft use of "new media" includes...Twitter and email to senators. Slick!

They're also competing for the CEIP acronym with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the California Emerging Infections Program. Good luck with that!

Some Evidence on the Reid Question

On Tuesday, I suggested Markos Moulitsas should spend a few extra bucks next time he surveys Nevada and ask Harry Reid-haters exactly why they hate Reid. A commenter named "kos" (the genuine article?) suggested that Mother Jones cover the cost. Thankfully, neither Kos nor MoJo nor yours truly will have to write a check after all. That's because on Wednesday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) released the results of its latest Nevada survey, which offers support for the idea that at least some of the opposition to Reid comes from Democrats who think he's not liberal enough. Here's the most important data:

Among Independents who have an unfavorable view of Reid, 55% say it’s because he’s not progressive enough while only 40% think he’s too far left. Among Democrats with an unfavorable view, a whopping 92% say he’s not progressive enough.

62% of Democratic voters are not sure Reid should be the Democratic nominee in 2010, or think it should be someone new.

Seventy-two percent of Republicans with an unfavorable view of Reid think he's too far left, but that's no surprise. If Reid can hold Democrats and Independents, he'll win Nevada in a walk. And the data from this survey, at least, suggests that Reid should be moving left—not right, as Chris Cillizza has suggested. It looks like the Las Vegas Sun's J. Patrick Coolican (who somehow emailed these survey results to scoop [at] motherjones [dot] com before I got PCCC's press release) was right.

Fox News: Boycott or Not?

As David pointed out in his Politics Daily column Wednesday about the feud between Fox News and the White House, "Fox is just not worth a game of chicken." I would go one step further and suggest that, for all of its obvious flaws, Fox and its out-sized viewership are still very worth Obama's time.

Following statements by White House Communications Director Anita Dunn describing Fox as "opinion journalism masquerading as news," media watchdogs and left-wing pressure groups have turned up the heat on the network.  Yesterday, Media Matters sent around a press release drawing attention to Fox's use of outdated or dubious polls that suggested its audience is as balanced as its coverage famously claims to be. MoveOn is urging Democratic lawmakers to boycott Fox News.

The attention is not unwarranted. Dunn was merely voicing what every Daily Show viewer has known for years. The fastidious fact-checkers at Media Matters caught Fox News playing up last year's biennial news consumption survey from the Pew Research Center while ignoring its less favorable but more recent media attitudes survey and called out political analyst Dick Morris for quoted some unbelievable numbers on air.

A boycott, however, is the wrong kind of attention. The White House and MoveOn can call Fox News' coverage whatever they want: opinion journalism, partisan hackery or outright lies—all labels which have applied in the past. That's not cause enough for the Democrats to ignore Fox News and the millions of voters who watch it.

There is no denying the conservative bent of both the network's coverage and audience but it is also important for lawmakers and the White House not to forget that there is still sizable minority of self-described Democrats and Independents who tune into Fox News. As Media Matters notes, this section of the viewing audience is smaller than Fox claims—regardless, it is still too large to overlook. In its argument against disengaging with Fox, The Economist noted Ben Pershing's observation about the network's audience: "Maybe they're mostly 'right-leaning' but that doesn't mean they're 100 percent unpersuadable."

Obama and Democratic lawmakers need to be on the network interacting with Fox anchors (perhaps using some well-calibrated "dismissive humor," as David suggests) and the swing voters who are influenced by their unfair and unbalanced reporting. Like it or not, Fox News still matters. 

Senate Ponders Where To Send Cap And Trade Revenue

With most of Washington's attention focused on health care reform, it's easy to forget that Democrats are also working on a cap-and-trade bill to combat climate change. On September 30, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced their version of the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House back in June. But the Kerry-Boxer bill has a big piece missing: it says almost nothing about how pollution permits will be allocated. Grist explains why: "Doling out what is effectively a huge new pot of money is a subject of considerable interest to many senators, and it’s expected to help bring some recalcitrant Democrats on board."

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee discussed exactly this topic at a hearing on Wednesday. Kate Sheppard will have more on this later in the week, but here were a couple of the less constructive suggestions:

Can Michael Stipe and Eddie Vedder Shut Down Gitmo?

Does being forced to listen to Bruce Springsteen constitute torture?

In truth, the guards at Guantanamo and other US military prisons overseas could have played detainees just about anything. Turn it up loud enough, set it to repeat enough times, and any song in existence—from metal band Doom's hyper-aggressive "Die MF Die" (lyrics: Die motherfucker die motherfucker die motherfucker... etc.) to Prince's "Raspberry Beret" to Don McClean's "American Pie" would suffice to disorient prisoners, mess with them, deprive them of sleep. As part of our March 2008 special report Torture Hits Home, we published a list including these songs and numerous others—the Barney theme, the Meow Mix cat food jingle—that were used by interrogators and guards to soften up their charges.

In December 2008, then Mojo staffer Jesse Finfrock reported that British human rights organization Reprieve had launched a campaign called zero dB (decibels) to fight such abuses; artists including Massive Attack and guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine—another name on our torture playlist—got on board to demand the US military stop using their songs. "It's difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you've put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture," Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor wrote on the band's website days later. (NIN's songs were reportedly among those used to torture military contractor-turned-whistleblower Donald Vance.) "If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued," Reznor promised.

Today, he, Morello, and other prominent musicians—including megabands R.E.M. and Pearl Jam—took a step in that direction, attaching their names to a national campaign to pressure Congress to shutter Gitmo once and for all. They are also demanding that the government declassify documents related to the use of music in interrogations—a practice the United Nations has condemned. Among the other artists signing on are Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, the Roots, Rise Against, and popular British crooner Billy Bragg. "Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine," Morello said in a statement announcing the effort. "The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me."

News From TreeHugger: Thursday, October 22

A weekly roundup from our friends over at TreeHugger. Enjoy!

$172 Billion Will Be Sucked From Global Economy Every Year if We Let Coral Reefs Die Off

Here's another potent warning about the huge economic value that intact ecosystems have: New analysis shows that if the world's coral reefs die because of climate change $172 billion a year will be sucked out of the global economy.

Ukraine's Ticking 'Time Bomb': Old Pesticides

When you think of dangerous stockpiles in the former Soviet Union, you probably think of nuclear and chemical weapons. But a single stash of pesticides in Ukraine poses a major threat to some 7 million people.

Political Myth: Trappers, Hunters & Fishers Are Against Strong Climate Legislation

Think US hunters don't want strong climate legislation? Think again. Political conservatives may favor fewer regulations, but that does not mean they categorically oppose endangered species protection, open space conservation, or climate action.

Carbon Capture is Essential for Developing World, And Still a Pipe Dream

The IEA has said that 2,000 coal plants with carbon capture & storage are needed in developing nations by 2050. The financial problem? It'll cost more than $5 trillion to retrofit existing plants, and the some 62,000 miles of support pipelines will have to be built—at a price tage of $275 billion for India and China alone.

Ottawa's 'Green Bin' Muncipal Composting Program is About to Take Off

They've been distributing green composting bins in the Canadian capitol for more than a month; and now the city's composting program is about to begin in earnest. Check out how Ottawa's program works, and get one going in your city.

Coal Plants Do $62 Billion of Damage to US Environment

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences reveal that US coal-fired power plans do over $62 billion in environmental damage a year due to hidden costs: Decreases to crop and timber yields, damage to buildings and materials, plus the toll coal takes on human health.

Spc. Justin Slagle returns to Forward Operating Base Lane in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter after an air assault mission in the Zabul province of Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2009. (US Army photo by Spc. Tia P. Sokimson.)