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

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?

Cute Animal in Danger: Mission Blue Butterfly

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.

 

Follow Jen Phillips on Twitter.

5 Creative Uses for: Aluminum Foil

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

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

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.

Top Blue Dog Joins List of Vulnerable Dems

The debate over health care reform has left many important questions up in the air. Will the bill include a public option? Will the pharmaceutical industry support the President's goals? Is Barack Obama a Nazi?

Those questions aside, I think one thing is certain: the longer the debate rages, the more vulnerable the Dems become in their hopes for reelection in 2010. Last week, the widely respected Cook Political Report said that the health care debate "has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and Congressional Democrats" and predicted a net loss of at least 6-12 seats in the 2010 midterm elections.

Recent polling conducted by Research 2000 indicates that Tennessee Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper could be among those casualties, as his favorability ratings are lagging way behind both President Obama's and his state's Democratic Governor, Phil Bredesen. This led Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos to suggest that the Dems should mobilize a primary challenger to remind Cooper to support a public option... or else. Of course, this prompted a cyber shouting match in which Cooper called the poll's veracity into question and said that Markos falsely suggested that he did not support a public option (he has not yet committed either way.)

The 2004 CIA Inspector General Report

The 2004 CIA Inspector General's report on treatment of terrorist detainees has finally been released. Spencer Ackerman has the full text over at his place. I'm reading through a copy now. As I mentioned this morning, we already knew a lot about this report. We already knew that the CIA staged mock executions and threatened one detainee with a gun and a power drill. More broadly, Leon Panetta is right: the fact that this country did horrible, inhumane things to terrorist suspects is old news. Sure, not everyone acknowleges it. But that's what it is: old news.

None of this is to say that we shouldn't be trying to figure out exactly what happened, when. A lot of the journalistic work around this subject has to be done detective-style. There's value in simply establishing what happened. But the the real question—the question that matters politically, the question that matters going forward—is whether anyone will face any consequences whatsoever for all that misconduct. Eric Holder's announcement today suggests that some people might, but they're likely to be the Lynndie Englands and Charles Graners: the "low-level operatives" the Center for Constitutional Rights (and now the ACLU) are worried will be the focus of the probe.

Whole Lot of Torture Going On, Yeah

With President Barack Obama away on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, you might think things would slow down in DC. But after a slow morning, today turned into a big news day. The latest news is Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that the Justice Department will begin a preliminary inquiry into the treatment of terrorist suspects. The inquiry could lead to prosecutions. Obama will let Holder decide exactly how to proceed, according to the New York Times. The Center for Constitutional Rights is complaining that the inquiry seems to be limited to CIA employees who went beyond what-John-Yoo-wrote. But it's not hard to see how the inquiry might snowball. Either way, the White House will try to distance itself from any political consequences of the Holder inquiry by highlighting the Attorney General's "independence." Bill Burton, the deputy White House press secretary, made that much clear today. From the Times:

"Well, as the president has said repeatedly, he thinks that we should be looking forward, not backward," [Burton] told reporters in Oak Bluffs, Mass., where Mr. Obama is vacationing. "He does agree with the attorney general that anyone who conducted actions that had been sanctioned should not be prosecuted."

The "he does agree," part seems to imply that there are some things Holder believes with which the president does not agree. But the "it's not me, it's my Attorney General" line is going to be a tough one to hold.

Mass Market Crankery

Ezra Klein comments on Howard Kurtz's lament that even though the mainstream media debunked the "death panel" nonsense, it took hold anyway:

It is true that Palin's statements eventually got fact-checked. The New York Times, in particular, spoke clearly and forcefully, albeit well after the controversy had begun dominating the coverage. But the world is full of lies. There aren't enough reporters on the planet to fact-check them all. That's okay, as most lies aren't reported. Stories about the Obamas heading to Martha's Vineyard do not have to contend with stories about a crank who thinks they're really heading to a secret rejuvenation chamber in the Himalayas.

....Reporting the facts is important. But so too is not reporting — or at least not focusing, day after day — on the lies. The average voter doesn't take their cues from the fifth paragraph in our articles, the one that explains that the quote in the first paragraph isn't necessarily true. They form fuzzy impressions from the shape of the overall conversation. The occasional fact-check isn't nearly so powerful as the aggregate impression conveyed by the coverage. And even if, as Kurtz says, the media has made some admirable efforts to combat specific lies, they — we — have allowed lies and chaos to emerge as the subject of the health-care reform debate.

It's true: crankery used to go largely unreported.  But that's not much of an option these days — or at least, the media doesn't treat it as an option.  And the reason is obvious: crankery isn't limited to beady-eyed obsessives with mimeograph machines in their basements anymore.  It's beamed out in practically raw form to an enormous audience by Drudge, talk radio, Fox News, and the blog/Twitter/Facebook channel.  Once that's happened, mainstream outlets don't feel like it's ignorable.

Plus there's the fact that although news pages (and the straight news reports from TV anchors) may have mostly debunked the death panel story, op-ed pages and chat shows retailed it with vigor.  What's more, even in the news pages most of the debunkings came days or even weeks after the crankery had already reached a fever pitch.

What do do?  Fighting back is the obvious answer, but that's a two-edged sword since it also gives the crankery an even higher profile.  Ditto for faster reaction from the news desks.

I dunno.  We now live in an era of mass-market crankery ("saturation bullshitting," in g.powell's memorable phrase), and that's that.  Either some bright cognitive researcher needs to figure out how to actually fight crankery, or else the rest of us have to figure out how to get things done even in the face of a permanent lunatic fringe.  All legal ideas welcome.