Blogs

Ice Blocking Canada's Seal Hunt

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 8:56 PM EDT

HarpSeal.jpg Good news. Thick ice is slowing sealing boats from reaching the baby harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, reports Planet Ark. Consequently, only three pups out of a quota of 275,000 were killed the first day. This after last year's "hunt" was affected by a lack of ice. The Canadian government has promised the slaughter will be more humane this year. How? After a hunter shoots or clubs a seal, he now must check its eyes to ensure it is dead, and if not, the animal's main arteries must be cut.

Okay, let's get clear about this. That does not qualify as humane.

The Canadian seal hunt is the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals on Earth, according to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Just what are they doing with all those dead baby seals? The furs are made into coats and clothes. And there's a growing market for seal oil, high in omega-3 fatty acid… and PCBs:

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American West Heating Twice as Fast

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 7:52 PM EDT

317488203_967e4514e6_m.jpg Don't think climate change is going to affect you? Well, if you live in the American West, it already is. In fact the west is heating up faster than the rest of the world, reports the National Resources Defense Council. The average temperature rise in the drought-struck Colorado River basin is more than double global average—especially bad news for the 30 million people living in Denver, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego, among the nation's fastest growing American cities and all dependent on the Colorado for water.

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization analyzed temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for 11 western states and found the average temp in the Colorado River Basin, from Wyoming to Mexico, was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the historical average for the 20th Century, and more than twice the global rise of 1.0 degree. Throughout the West, the average temperature increased 1.7 degrees. "We are seeing signs of the economic impacts," says study author Stephen Saunders, including $2.7 billion in crop losses since 2000, commercial salmon losses, reduced hunting revenues, and shorter, less profitable ski seasons. The Colorado River Basin is in the throes of a record drought and climate scientists predict more and drier droughts in the future as hotter temperatures reduce the snowpack and increase evaporation. "We need strong leadership from western senators to pass America's Climate Security Act," said Spencer.

How about any leadership? You know, turning off the lights one hour a year ain't gonna work. In 2007 I was optimistic about Earth Hour. A year later, I'm like, is this all we're ever going to do?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Superman Felled by Kryptonite-laced Lawsuit

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 6:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-supermen.jpgActually, to be honest, there's no proof of any Kryptonite contamination, but attorney Marc Toberoff may turn out to be Lex Luthor. He just won a case against Warner Bros. on behalf of the heirs of Jerome Siegel, one of the co-creators of Superman in the original Action Comics issue 71 years ago. Variety is reporting that this might put the franchise on hold:

Has Madonna Finally Lost the Plot?

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 5:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-madonna.jpgLike any self-respecting homophile dance music enthusiast, I've always liked Madonna. Er, let me put it more specifically: I've always liked her music. While her mining of the underground often seems to slightly misunderstand it (see "Vogue"), she's one of the few artists who have combined massive success with consistent boundary-pushing. Partly as a result of her continued search for hot new producers, her output has remained compelling, even 25 (!) years after her first album. 2003's American Life was a bit of a disappointment, but 2005's Confessions on a Dancefloor brought producer Stuart Price to the foreground for a brilliant distillation of contemporary dance music styles. Anticipation is high for her 11th studio album, Hard Candy, set for release in April; cover art (left) and the first single ("4 Minutes") are out now. What's the verdict?

Why Hasn't Obama Received Edwards' Endorsement?

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Apparently because he blew it after Edwards' withdrawal from the race.

Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards's imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton's plan (and by extension Edwards's) for its insurance mandate.

I suspected something like this happened. Back in the salad days of this primary race, I wrote about how Edwards and Obama's messages overlapped to such a degree that they would fit naturally on the same ticket. Their shared rhetoric (and their shared attacks on Clinton) led most to assume Edwards would endorse the Illinois Senator if he endorsed anyone.

Now we know why Edwards' endorsement is still an open question.

Darrell Issa's Software Error

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 3:34 PM EDT

ibm-lotus-darrell-issa-250x200.jpg

During a House Oversight Committee hearing last month on the preservation of White House records, an indignant Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of Chairman Henry Waxman's investigations, did his best to play down the extent of the Bush administration's now well-documented email archiving problems. Defending the White House's decision to switch from the Lotus Notes-based archiving system used by the Clinton administration, Issa compared the the software to "using wooden wagon wheels" and Sony Betamax tapes. To observers of the missing emails controversy, Issa's comments seemed little more than an attempt to deflect blame from the White House for replacing a working system for archiving presidential records with an ad hoc substitute. But to IT professionals who use Lotus at their companies, Issa's remarks seemed controversial, if not downright slanderous. Now, according to an executive at IBM, the software's manufacturer, the California congressman has apologized for his characterization of Lotus and offered to correct the congressional record.

"Following the hearing, several Lotus customers and partners contacted me expressing concern over the way that Lotus Notes was characterized in those hearings," the executive, Ed Brill, wrote on his blog. "The sequence of events that followed... was quite dramatic for me, even after 20 years in the industry—I ended up on the phone with Congressman Darrel [sic] Issa, who could not have been nicer or more understanding of what issues were raised by his comments."

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Every Good Government Proposal on One Bill

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 3:21 PM EDT

Larry Lessig launched "Change Congress" in the hopes of one day having a Congress filled with lawmakers who support four moves that ensure the purity of the governing process and protect our democracy:

1. Eliminating money from lobbyists and PACs.
2. Ending earmarks.
3. Creating greater transparency in Congress.
4. Ushering in publicly financed campaigns.

Good government groups have always sought broader reforms, however, and have always gone into greater detail. If you want to see what the entire good government platform looks like, check out the Transparency in Government Act 2008. It was created by the Sunlight Foundation and is thoroughly badass.

TGA08 (my nickname) goes beyond Lessig's four goals. It wants to put all FOIA responses online, for example, and has a host of measures to increase transparency in the executive branch. According to John Wonderlich, the Program Director at the Sunlight Foundation, TGA is more focused on information access than on process reform, meaning it doesn't advocate the elimination of earkmarks, as Lessig does, but does support making all information pertaining to earmarks public.

The Sunlight Foundation is inviting everyday folks to comment on the bill and all its many provisions. "We made a conscious decision to turn to the Internet community rather than turning to members of Congress first," says Wonderlich. "We think we'll end up with better legislation if it comes out of a community effort." One of the core ideas of Wonderlich's project is that if you give everyday citizens access to government (and legislation) you get better government (and better legislation).

Wonderlich says The Sunlight Foundation has no immediate plans to use an ally on Capitol Hill to introduce TGA08. Wouldn't it be revolutionary if a presidential candidate made something like this bill a key part of his or her platform, and then implemented even half of it after taking office?

John McCain: Family Man?

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 12:49 PM EDT

John McCain's new ad is titled, "Character Forged By Family." Here's a piece of the narration:

The family he was born into, and the family he is blessed with now, made John McCain the man he is, and instilled in him a deep and abiding respect for the social institution that wields the greatest influence in the formation of our individual character and the character of our society.

The ol' family values schtick—and McCain's family values—happen to incorporate military values. But for more on McCain and family values, let's turn to a 1999 Arizona Republic profile of McCain (which does not appear to be available on-line):

He prides himself on his personal integrity yet admits he wasn't faithful to his first wife, Carol, who was injured in a horrific car accident while McCain was in Vietnam....
McCain needed a divorce from his wife of 14 years, Carol, who had been badly injured in a car accident while McCain languished in Hanoi.
The marriage had been strained by his years of absence, along with McCain's admitted affairs after returning from Vietnam.
In February 1980, less than a year after he met Cindy, McCain petitioned a Florida court to dissolve his marriage to Carol, calling the union "irretrievably broken." Bud Day, a lawyer and fellow POW, handled the case.
"I thought things were going fairly well, and then it just came apart," Day recalls. "That happened to quite a few....I don't fault (Carol), and I don't really fault John, either."

McCain's entitled to use his life's story as part of his campaign narrative. But if his campaign is going to play the family card, there's more than, as the ad references, "honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership" in the story of John McCain, family man.

When Exactly Did the 1992 Primary End?

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 12:37 PM EDT

bill-clinton-time-cover.jpg The Clinton campaign will point out from time to time that it is not unusual for primary races to last into the summer. Just last week, Bill Clinton said this in North Carolina:

"All these people that tell you, 'Aw we oughta shut this thing down now the Democrats are so divided' – that's a bunch of bull. I didn't get enough votes to be nominated until June the 2nd, 1992."

As ABC News reports, that's somewhat misleading. While it's accurate that Clinton secured the delegates he needed to win the nomination on the night of the California primary — June 2, 1992 — he effectively wrapped up the nomination after Senator Paul Tsongas dropped out following the Illinois primary.

That was in late-March. Right around now.

Klobuchar Endorses Obama; Says She Has "Faith" Clinton Will "Do the Right Thing"

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 12:20 PM EDT

On Monday morning, Senator Amy Klobuchar endorsed Barack Obama--and joined Senator Claire McCaskill as another prominent female senator from a purple state backing Obama. During a conference call with reporters, Klobuchar noted that she expected the fierce Democratic nomination contest to continue "through the primaries." But what about after that? In an interview on Saturday, Hillary Clinton vowed she would stay in the contest past the primaries--which end in early June--until the convention, which opens at the end of August. Would Klobuchar echo the call of other fretting Democrats that the race should somehow be decided soon after the primaries conclude?

Clinton, she said, "has every right to continue her campaign." But, Klobuchar added that she had "faith our candidates will figure it out" and that the contest "will come to an end in the early summer." Our candidates, she remarked, "will do the right thing."

Perhaps. But Clinton is only digging in her heels, and there's no official mechanism through which the Democrats could declare the race over prior to the late-summer convention. Faith--and hope--may not be enough to settle the matter in June.