Blogs

Forecast for Solar: Cloudy

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 6:06 PM EDT

Solar_energy_power_266094_l.jpgNow that the Bureau of Land Management is deferring solar projects on public land, the forecast for solar energy seems a bit cloudy. What happened?

Just over a year ago, the BLM was actively encouraging solar projects to be shuttled through in a "timely manner." Then it teamed up with the Department of Energy "to assess the environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with solar energy development."

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How to Think about Immunity

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 5:49 PM EDT

As has been widely reported, the House's new FISA bill probably won't be up for a vote in the Senate until after the July 4th holiday. But the bill continues to be subjected to a great deal of criticism on the left for its telecom immunity and surveillance provisions.

And for good reason! The bill allows for bulk collection of data on American citizens without warrants or oversight of almost any kind, and, for all intents and purposes, it requires civil lawsuits against the telecommunications companies that participated in President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program to be thrown out of court. This, many would like us to believe, is some sort of compromise.

What is Music's "Modern Era"?

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 5:39 PM EDT

mojo-photo-modernera.jpgIn the midst of trying to decide where to put Vampire Weekend on my Top Ten of 2008 So Far, I stumbled across a set of more ambitious charts: Entertainment Weekly's attempts to rank the best stuff of the last 25 years. Dubbing their charts "The New Classics," they disqualified anything born before 1983, and it makes for an interesting look back at recent history. Their Top 100 album chart is about half-right, with some major omissions, but also some intriguing breaks with the canon. Here's their top ten:

The Yoo-Sands Controversy

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 3:11 PM EDT

Yesterday, I reported on former deputy Attorney General (and torture memoranda author) John Yoo's none-too-subtle attempt to discredit critic and author Philippe Sands by suggesting he'd lied to a House subcommittee. As an attempt to clear the air, Sands has written a letter to John Yoo, which he's also submitted for the congressional record, and I've obtained a copy. The text appears below.

Iran to Suspend Uranium Enrichment for Six Weeks?

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 2:35 PM EDT

An Iranian American academic writes that an Iranian news site is reporting that Iran has decided to suspend uranium enrichment, "as a goodwill gesture," for a period of six weeks. "This action will be taken in return for no further sanctions, and resumption of negotiations with the 5+1 group during this period based on the latest proposed package." (Here's the source of the report, he says).

If true that Iran has accepted the West's "suspension for suspension" proposal, as former US Iran envoy Nick Burns has called it, it would conceivably make way for the US to join international talks with Iran over its nuclear program. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice has said repeatedly that Washington would be willing to talk directly with Iran if Iran agreed to suspend its enrichment program. It's a position that the State Department reiterated as recently as yesterday.

I am trying to confirm whether the Iranian report is accurate.

Iranian and American sources warn that more information is needed.

More details if they become available.

Update: More hints Iran is considering trying to get to negotiations.

Thursday Update: A more detailed suggestion of the anticipated potential Iranian response to the latest P5+1/Javier Solana offer is available here:

The 5+1 proposal to Iran proposes a "pre-negotiation" phase at which stage there would be a "freeze for freeze", i.e. Iran would not add any new centrifuges and the 5+1 would not introduce any new sanctions. In this phase, Iran would negotiate with 5+1 minus the US to prepare the grounds for full-fledged negotiations which would then include the US. In this phase, Iran can also comment on the agenda of the negotiations and introduce new topics (eg. Tehran could insist that the issue of an uranium enrichment consortium on Iranian soil be discussed with high priority). Iran can also focus on the "commonalities of the two proposals" as Dr. Mottaki has underlined a few times. Once the two sides agree to enter full-fledged negotiations including the US at the table, then Iran will have to suspend enrichment and the 5+1 will lift the existing UN sanctions.

Justice Scalia Wants You to Have Every Opportunity to Off Yourself

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 11:53 AM EDT

Michelle Cottle notes some statistics on gun deaths that I am genuinely surprised by. This probably isn't what the Supreme Court had in mind when it struck down DC's handgun ban:

Suicides accounted for 55 percent of the nation's nearly 31,000 firearm deaths in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There was nothing unique about that year — gun-related suicides have outnumbered firearm homicides and accidents for 20 of the last 25 years. In 2005, homicides accounted for 40 percent of gun deaths. Accidents accounted for 3 percent. The remaining 2 percent included legal killings, such as when police do the shooting, and cases that involve undetermined intent.
Public-health researchers have concluded that in homes where guns are present, the likelihood that someone in the home will die from suicide or homicide is much greater.

Update: Some further thinking and research on this. Scalia argued in the ruling overturning the DC handgun ban that individuals essentially have a right to keep a gun by their beds, which they can use to scare away assailants in the middle of the night. As Arthur Kellermann wrote in the Post over the weekend, "Statistically speaking, these rare success stories are dwarfed by tragedies." Kellermann pointed to a study that found guns in the home were 12 times as likely to be involved in the death or injury of a member of the household than in the fending off of a masked intruder.

And one need only consult the Brady Campaign to find further horrifying statistics. The risk of homicide in the home is three times greater in households with guns. Due to firearm suicides, there are more than twice as many suicide victims in states with high household firearm ownership. See more here.

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Where's the Beef on Obama's New Faith-Based Initiative Plan?

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 11:24 AM EDT

Barack Obama is unveiling a plan to reform and invigorate President Bush's program of faith-based initiatives. In a speech today dedicated to the topic, Obama is expected to point to his own religious background as motivation for the new policy:

"I came to see faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community; that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work."

The plan centers around an office Obama would establish called the President's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. According to a factsheet provided by the campaign, the primary goals of the council are relatively simple:

Wesley Clark Clarifies

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 10:13 AM EDT

Or, as he puts it, reiterates. Here's his statement responding to the controversy created by his comments over the weekend.

I have made comments in the past about John McCain's service and I want to reiterate them in order be crystal clear. As I have said before I honor John McCain's service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.
John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as President. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country — but it doesn't include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed — he not only supported going into a war we didn't have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, non-military elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America. But as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn't have sound judgment when it comes to our nation's most critical issues.

In short, he's not shutting up. I know I was critical of Clark yesterday, but I'll admit, it is a pleasant (and obviously foreign) experience to watch a Democrat not backing down on national security.

Okay, Wall-E Was Pretty Great

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 8:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-walle2.jpgPixar's latest animated romp Wall-E beat out Angelina Jolie as superhero assassin-recruiter-whatever flick Wanted to collect over 63 million bucks into its cute little trash-compactor belly this weekend, and after feeling a bit guilty for posting a skeptical review before even seeing it, I escaped the gay pride crowds by heading for a Saturday night showing. While I'm not really qualified to agree or disagree with the Chicago Tribune's claim that this is the "best American studio film this year," I will say it was really quite good, probably the best Pixar film yet, but not without its flaws.

The Halfway Mark: The Best Albums of 2008 So Far

| Mon Jun. 30, 2008 5:42 PM EDT

mojo-photo-2008.jpgHappy bottom of the year, everybody. It's hard to believe, but 2008 is already half done, with only six months remaining for us to get our year-end best-of lists together! How will we manage? Sure, we're waiting for new discs from Beck, Black Kids, The Faint, maybe U2, and, uh, New Kids on the Block, but in the meantime, here's an admittedly subjective list of the finest full-length releases of the year so far (complete with videos!), as well as a "next 10" list of CDs nipping at their heels. Will Party Ben like experimental hip-hop and droney noise-rock this year? Click the "continues" button and find out!