Some must-reads from around the web:

You say you want a Twitter revolution? Not so fast.

An excellent question about the Hank Paulson-Goldman Sachs huddle during the AIG bailout.

A pollster's handy health care cheat sheet for Dems.

An illustrated history of White House drug czars.

Hillary's African adventures.

Justice for Alberto Gonzales—of the karmic variety, anyway.

Rielle Hunter: the novel

David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, is on twitter, and so are my colleagues Daniel Schulman, Nick Baumann, and our editor, Clara Jeffery. You can follow me here. (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

 

Music Monday: Youssou N'dour's Bittersweet Ride

For three decades, the voice of Youssou N'dour, Africa's most famous pop star, has cut through the clutter of politics. Since 1982, N'dour has put out hit records, taking a secular tack as a descendent of Senegal's griot caste of Sufi storytellers. What he loves about his homeland, he says, is that on Fridays, "we go to the mosque, and then we go to the club." Recently, N'dour's appreciation for such ironies has made him the continent's most controversial musical figure—and an award-winning sensation in the West. 

Shortly after 9/11, N'dour finished recording Egypt, his first religiously themed album, but delayed its release out of concern that Westerers would associate him with terrorism. When the record finally hit the stands in 2005, it sent shock waves through Senegal's conservative Muslim communities, inciting harsh criticism for setting religous subjects to music—something many Muslims consider profane. But the record earned N'dour a long-awaited Grammy and resounding praise throughout Europe. 

ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (July 28, 2009) Marines from Task Force Personnel Recovery (TF MP) of Multi-National Force-West conduct recovery efforts at the crash site of U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, whose F/A-18 was shot down over Anbar province, Iraq, Jan. 17, 1991. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo/Released)

News on health, nature, climate, and the environment from our blogs and other sites.

Lies of August: One reporter is getting fed up with healthcare misinformation.

Grumble Down Under: Pacific island nations are demanding climate control. [ENS]

Slimming Down: Kevin Drum's feline friends are losing weight and looking good.

Earthly Manipulation: Scientists debate artifically manipulating the climate to counteract global warming. [Nature]

Ex Ex-Gay: The APA goes on record repudiating gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

Under the Counter: A backroom deal might allow drug manufacturers pricing control.

 

Gavin Castleton
Home
Five One Inc.

You’ve heard this story before: Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl fall in love. They hit a rough patch, work it out, and love overcomes, happily ever after. Now, try out this twist: Boy meets Girl. They fall in love. Things get rough. And then zombies show up. That's the idea behind this epic 14-song album on micro-label Five One Inc. After parting ways with his longtime girlfriend, Providence, R.I.-based Castleton wanted to chronicle the breakup's effect on his life. Home is a lush, musically diverse endeavor, recorded on a shoestring but so rich in its production it's hard to believe it's not coming from major-label resources.

The songs cover a wide variety of styles and emotions, but together craft a twisted Joss Whedon-like musical storyline. It's an album that demands to be listened to as a whole, not merely as a collection of disjointed songs. I prefer the second half (the zombies show up six songs in as a metaphor for the buried baggage that is slowly tearing the couple's love affair to shreds.) That’s not to say the first half of the record doesn’t have its stellar moments; the groove that emerges four minutes and twenty seconds into “Stampete” is irresistible. Some lyrical moments were lost on me, relationship details that left me scratching my head. I let those slide in anticipation of the zombie ordeal. I caught myself holding my breath the first time I listened to “Unparallel Rabbits,” so caught up was I in the tale unfolding through my headphones.

[Read Monday's liveblogging here.]

No one has ever accused the military of being a bunch of treehuggers—but that doesn't mean they're blind to the military and strategic implications of global warming.

"We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today," said retired General Anthony Zinni in a New York Times article yesterday, "...or we will pay the price later in human terms."

The article by NYT writer John Broder is particularly well-timed.

Tomorrow, former Commander-in-Chief, Bill Clinton, will address a "National Clean Energy Summit" in Las Vegas. While the theme of this year's summit (the first was held last year) focuses on jobs, the Times article dovetails perfectly with the larger context of the gathering: the dawning reality that no area of human activity will be untouched by a changing climate. From jobs to wars, the facts are the same.

Studies by military and intelligence analysts warn of "profound strategic challenges" to the US due to the affects of climate change, reports Broder. The climate-induced crises include famine, water wars, mass migration, epidemics and massive storms.

While the military is not an environmental organization -- think Agent Orange or nuclear testing in the Pacific -- their view is and always has been utilitarian and mission-driven. Sometimes, environmental and military needs coincide. That's the case now with global warming -- just as it was in 1817 with a different issue.

You needed wood to build and maintain a fleet in the 19th Century and so the Secretary of the Navy reserved large swaths of hardwood forests on the east coast. Deforestation was halted (for a time) for national security reasons.

Maybe someone should print a bumper sticker (if one doesn't already exist): Support the troops. Fight global warming.

Check back here tomorrow when I'll be live blogging the summit.

The first session begins at 10 AM (1 PM on the east coast) with opening remarks by Al Gore, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Podesta (the Center for American Progress is a host of the event) and other heavy-hitters. Should be interesting. You can check out the agenda yourself, here.

Osha Gray Davidson edits The Phoenix Sun and is a contributing blogger for Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here.

 

James Fallows on the healthcare "debate":

Nearly fifteen years ago, after the collapse of the Clinton health-reform effort, I spent a lot of time working on an Atlantic article (and subsequent book chapter) about how, exactly, the discussion of the bill had become so unmoored from reality and finally determined by slogans, stereotypes, and flat-out lies.

It's better to do that after the fact than not to do it at all....But if there's a chance, it would obviously be better still to keep the current debate from ending up in the same intellectual/political swamp in which the previous one drowned.

By all means, let's document it now, in real time.  Let's start with the "Dems want to kill granny" meme.  Its starting point is clear, I think: July 16, 2009, when Betsy McCaughey went on Fred Thompson's radio show and 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....All to do what's in society's best interest or in your family's best interest and cut your life short."

From there it entered chain email hell and took on a life of its own.  But when did it hit the mainstream and become an acceptable topic of soberminded, bien-pensant he-said/she-said journalism?  I'd date that to August 8, 2009, when Charles Lane wrote in the Washington Post that although the right-wing agit-prop is "rubbish" — nicely establishing his non-wacko credentials — he's pained to say that after a careful reading of the House healthcare bill, supporters of Section 1233 might have some 'splainin to do after all:

I think they protest too much: If it's all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what's it doing in a measure to "bend the curve" on health-care costs?....Indeed, the measure would have an interested party — the government — recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations. You don't have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach.

Indeed not!  Not anymore, anyway. Tout Washington now has license to talk earnestly about this as if it were actually a sensible topic of conversation.  Thanks, Charles!

Dogs may be smarter than most people think they are, according to the findings of a Canadian researcher. But when it comes to knowing that they're getting shafted, they are just as dumb as a lot of politicians--and the voters who support them.

The web site LiveScience yesterday reported on recent studies conducted by Stanley Coren, an academic from British Columbia who has done extensive research on canine intelligence. Coren says that the average dog compares favorably with a human two-year-old in language abilities; smarter breeds, like my Border collie, rate with kids six months older, and can understand about 250 words. Dogs fare even better in math, showing abilities similar to a four-year-old. And in terms of social development, they are more comparable to human teens, Coren says, "interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing." (This may or may not be a compliment to dogs, depending on what you think of teenagers).

Coren also studied the responses of dogs on some issues that might be seen to have political implications:

While dogs know whether they’re being treated fairly, they don’t grasp the concept of equity. Coren recalls a study in which dogs get a treat for “giving a paw.”

When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn’t, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don’t care about the inequality of the treats.

If that’s the criteria, it appears that dogs suffer from the same intellectual shortcomings as some adult humans. Why else would so many working-class and middle-class people vote for politicians who oppose tax hikes for the rich? Why else would they stick up for a health care system that screws them over, leaving them with crumbs while the wealthy and the insurance and drug companies keep their jaws around the juicy steak?

In this area, at least, canine intelligence seems to be about on par with that of most Republicans--and quite a few Democrats, too. (Again, you may or may not think this is a compliment to dogs. I know what I think.)

My dog Jenny: Smarter than Max Baucus?

My dog Jenny: Smarter than Max Baucus?

 

Howl

After several weeks spent ginning up ferocious opposition to healthcare reform, culminating in a relentless and coordinated effort to incite howling mobs to shut down town hall meetings across the country, I would like to congratulate the conservative movement for their ingenious strategy of blaming the whole thing on "SEIU thugs."  Seriously.  It's brilliant.  Yadollah Javan would be proud.

The latest on the climate front:

Bjorn Lomborg, an influential figure among climate change sceptics, has thrown his weight behind a drive to forge a global deal to halt rising world temperatures at a summit in Copenhagen this year.

“It’s incredibly important. We need a global deal on the climate,” Mr Lomborg told the Financial Times....“If that disappoints some people who are sceptics, I am not the least bit unhappy.”

Hey, that's great!  Except, um, for what comes next:

He is concerned that the United Nations-led consensus that a climate treaty must focus on cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from rich countries is mistaken. “It’s a costly way to achieve very little,” he said.

Instead, Mr Lomborg argues, there are cheaper ways of halting temperature rises. These include tackling sources of climate change other than carbon dioxide, such as methane and soot; investing in new tech­nologies; adapting to the effects of climate change; planting more forests; and weighing up whether emissions cuts are cheaper to do now or later.

So what exactly is new here?  Lomborg has always accepted the fact of climate change, he's just argued that halting it isn't as important as cleaning up drinking water in Africa or tackling malaria or doing more agricultural research or whatnot.  He's never denied global warming, he just thinks it's not that big a deal.

So it sounds like nothing much has changed on that front.  The U.S. military, however, is slowly but surely starting to see reality:

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

....An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. “It gets real complicated real quickly,” said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning.

....Ms. Dory, who has held senior Pentagon posts since the Clinton administration, said she had seen a “sea change” in the military’s thinking about climate change in the past year. “These issues now have to be included and wrestled with” in drafting national security strategy, she said.

Well, that's going to pose a problem for conservatives, isn't it?  What are they going to do when four-star generals start telling them they need to take climate change seriously?  Their heads will explode.

Which wouldn't be such a bad outcome, I suppose, would it?