Blogs

Science Speaks Up: 200 Scientists Issue Bali Declaration

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 8:20 PM EST

cop13_logo_139_200.jpg Science is unified. And 200 international climate scientists are urging the governments of the world to take their unified advice. Agree on strong emissions targets, they said in a declaration issued at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali today. Reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. (The Kyoto Protocol aims for developed nations to decrease 5% below 1990 levels by 2012.) Nature reports:

They declare that the goal "must be to limit global warming to no more than 2 ºC above the pre-industrial temperature". Many countries [not the US] have already taken this limit as a benchmark figure for attempting to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, which would put millions of people around the world at risk from extreme-weather events.

And all kinds of other ills.

Meanwhile, there's a growing sense in science that setting firm emissions targets may be short-sighted. That we need to continually adjust our targets as time passes and the consequences of previous cuts become apparent. In other words, to act with the kind of intelligence we insist our species possesses.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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Under Goss's Leadership, CIA Destroyed Torture Videotapes, CIA Admits

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 7:58 PM EST

Breaking: The New York Times reports:

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency's custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A's secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.
The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.
The C.I.A. said today that the decision to destroy the tapes had been made "within the C.I.A. itself," and they were destroyed to protect the safety of undercover officers and because they no longer had intelligence value. The agency was headed at the time by Porter J. Goss. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Goss declined this afternoon to comment on the destruction of the tapes. [...]

Campaign Reporting Nose-dives During the Holidays; Meanwhile, Jeffrey Lord Wishes Dems a Merry Christmas

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 6:40 PM EST

By this point in the already-interminable '08 election season, the temptations of the holidays are beginning to seduce even devoted political junkies away from Iowa, New Hampshire, and their YouTube satellites. Campaign reporters—being only human—are also a little distracted by holiday cheer. Witness the New York Times' post-Thanksgiving report on the candidates' eating habits (Barack Obama looks as though someone had to Photoshop a corndog into his hand; Rudy Giuliani will steal your food), or yesterday's giddy recounting of the brimming happiness of Dennis Kucinich. But Tuesday's piece in the American Spectator almost defies explanation. In a long essay lamenting the nastiness of politics, writer and former Reagan political director Jeffrey Lord (aka He-For-Whom-YouTube-Is-Too-Liberal), proclaims that his Christian faith obligates him to say something nice about each of the Democratic candidates. In "Merry Christmas to the Opposition," he praises Hillary Clinton for being "a great Mom" and commends John Edwards for inspiring people "to just keep their heads down and stay on their respective tasks in life."

Heartwarming, no? And incredibly patronizing. Despite going on for paragraphs about how
conversations with liberals inevitably result in "furious personal assaults that usually end with the liberal in question abruptly walking away or refusing to discuss the issue," he makes no effort to show respect for any of the candidates' actual work, ideas, or positions. No, he's not obligated to do this—maybe he doesn't respect those positions. But to accuse all liberals of refusing to engage their conservative counterparts on substantive issues and then refuse to do so oneself, citing the obligations that Christmas confers on us to rise above the fray, is so smug it's almost offensive. Like the Republicans for whom the filibuster is an affront to the civility of Congress only when the Democrats are using it, Mr. Lord needs to tone down the self-satisfaction and raise the level of dialogue to where he thinks it should be.

—Casey Miner

Examining Mike Huckabee's Record on Immigration: Compassion Replaced by Intolerance

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 4:21 PM EST

huckabee-hands.jpg In honor of Mike Huckabee's newly released "Secure America Plan" to fight illegal immigration, which I will summarize below, I want to point out some past quotes from the former Arkansas Governor. Huckabee used to have a relatively compassionate view of immigration, which he seems to have abandoned in favor of the Republican party line.

- In 2005, Huckabee was faced with a bill that would deny state benefits to illegal immigrants. He opposed it. "[Illegal immigrants] pay sales taxes on their groceries. They pay fuel taxes. If they're using a fake Social Security number, they're paying Social Security taxes and will never receive any benefit," said Huckabee. Speaking of the bills primary backers, Huckabee said, "It would be closer to the truth to say [illegal immigrants are] subsidizing Joe McCutchen and Jim Holt more than the other way around." Huckabee added a line that would warm any liberal's heart. "Something that's not worth sharing is not worth celebrating," Huckabee said. "This is the kind of country that opens its doors. This bill expresses an un-American attitude."

- In the spring of 2007, Huckabee told Real Clear Politics, "When people say, 'They're taking our jobs'—I used to hear that as Governor—and I started asking this question, 'Can you name me any person, give me their name, who can't get a job plucking a chicken or picking a tomato or tarring a roof that would like to do that work?'... And I'd hear 'Well, it's a lot of people,' and I said, 'No, no, don't tell me it's a lot of people... Tell me their names. Take a few hours. Go get them. Give me their names.' I never, ever, had a person who could come up with the name of a person... so much of it was more about emotion than it was about the reality." In that interview Huckabee did support a fence, and opposed amnesty.

- Later in the spring of 2007, Huckabee said, "I just don't think it's realistic to say this weekend we're going to round up 12 to 20 million young people and their children and we're going to put them across the border and they're never going to come back."

- At a recent CNN debate, Huckabee defended his decision as mayor to give public university scholarships to the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants. He said, "We're not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime. That's not what we typically do in this country." Later he added, "We're a better country than that."

Let's contrast all this to Huckabee's current immigration plan:

Iowans Rail Against Illegal Immigrants They Rarely See

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 3:58 PM EST

The LA Times has an article highlighting something that I noticed when I was on the campaign trail. Iowans hate illegal immigration, even though there are few, if any, illegal immigrants in their towns. In every Republican campaign event I attended, the candidate spoke at length about stopping illegal immigration, drawing some of the strongest applause of the day. Afterwards, Republican voters would speak at length about how the border needs to be enforced and about how unfair it is that immigrants use public services without paying taxes. (Which is wrong.) They would even talk about supporting Tom Tancredo.

And the Democratic voters weren't that much different. At the Democratic events, the candidates would avoid immigration for the entirety of their speeches and then the first question would always be, "What do you plan on doing about illegal immigration?"

This, despite the fact that Iowa is 97 percent white. The LA Times article collects all sorts of anti-immigrant quotes—"I'm dead set on this: You speak English or you get the heck out of here"—from citizens of 5,000-person town in which fewer than 50 were born outside the U.S.

It's almost like there is an inverse proportion between how often you see or interact with illegal immigrants in your community and how much you oppose their presence in the country.

8 Grammy Nods Enough For Kanye?

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 3:15 PM EST

Rapper Kanye West's hunger for accolades never seems to dwindle, so I'm wondering how he's feeling about receiving EIGHT (Yikes!) Grammy nominations this year. Amy Winehouse also topped the nominee list. Other nominees included folks you would expect (Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Foo Fighters), and a few more interesting candidates (Corrine Bailey Rae and Herbie Hancock).

For the full low-down, check out the AP story here.

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Romney to Atheists: Drop Dead

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 2:25 PM EST

Drop dead? Well, not really. But close. In his much-hyped speech today, Mitt Romney offered this short observation to Americans eager to know his thoughts about theology and politics:

Freedom requires religion.

That's an intriguing notion. Does that mean those who are not religious cannot be free? Are atheists or agnostics not truly free people? Is belief in a deity a prerequisite for embracing and living in freedom? Seems as if Romney does not fully appreciate an idea he pushed in his speech: tolerance.

Elsewhere in the speech, there was a line that took a fair bit of chutzpah to utter:

Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.

Romney was, of course, talking about spiritual beliefs. He wasn't talking about his beliefs regarding abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, or gun control--beliefs he has jettisoned for the 2008 campaign. During the address, Romney remarked, "Americans do not respect believers of convenience." The coming election might put that proposition to the test.

Fighting Global Warming With Kangaroo Emissions?

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 2:22 PM EST

I just learned three amazing things. Number one: Agence France-Presse is not afraid to use the word "fart" in a headline. Number two is described in the aforementioned AFP story:
 

Eco-friendly kangaroo farts could help global warming: scientists

Australian scientists are trying to give kangaroo-style stomachs to cattle and sheep in a bid to cut the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, researchers say.

Thanks to special bacteria in their stomachs, kangaroo flatulence contains no methane and scientists want to transfer that bacteria to cattle and sheep who emit large quantities of the harmful gas.

 
That's one for the wacky fixes for global warming file. And the third amazing thing? Aussies' love of 'roo meat:
 

Another group of scientists, meanwhile, has suggested Australians should farm fewer cattle and sheep and just eat more kangaroos.

The idea is controversial, but about 20 percent of health conscious Australians are believed to eat the national symbol already.

"It's low in fat, it's got high protein levels it's very clean in the sense that basically it's the ultimate free range animal," said Peter Ampt of the University of New South Wales's institute of environmental studies.

 

Racist like Mommy?

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 2:09 PM EST

Via Salon's Broadsheet, we learn today that white mothers, more so than white fathers, teach their kids to be racist. Or, white kids get whatever racism they learn from their mothers. Or something like that.

The study focused on white kids 4-7. Since I have two half-white kids in that age group I have to agree with the broads at Broadsheet that any info gleaned from them has to be taken with a boulder-sized grain of salt. What about the other kids at school, regular babysitters, movies, TV, toys and just plain listening to what adults do and not just say? Bravo to researchers for studying weird stuff like this, but what about the racism and or racial attitudes of non-white kids?

Only an abstract of the study is available (for free), so we cheap bastards can only know so much about this finding, but I spend a fair amount of time with black folks. Let's just say that we tend to be pretty straight forward with our 'observations' about white folks. Racism or hard-won knowledge gleaned from centuries of 'interaction'? You be the judge, but I'd bet that a study of black kids' racial attitudes would make for some pretty interesting reading.

I Think We're All Turning Japanese

| Thu Dec. 6, 2007 1:47 PM EST

Check out this poor bastard. Only 30 and dead from over work, a problem so common in Japan it has a name and a legal remedy. Others aren't 'so lucky;' in 2002, six hundred and fifty suicides there were deemed work related. Japanese 'salary men' are clocking 100-160 of over time per month with email, black berries and home offices all helping to make work inescapable. Probably on top of all that after-work drinking they're forced to do to schmooze clients.

Throw off your blackberries, America (and Japan). We have nothing to lose but...ok, our jobs. But what good is a job and no life?