Blogs

McCain Portrays Himself as Environmental Champion, but Record Undercuts Credibility

| Mon May 12, 2008 10:56 AM EDT

McCain is touting his passion for the environment this week. He has an ad up that portrays his approach to fighting climate change as "a better way" — that is, a moderate third option that doesn't embrace the supposed taxation and regulations of the left, nor the dangerous denialism of the right. He's following that with a speech on climate change today in Oregon. "The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington," he plans to say. "Good stewardship, prudence, and simple common sense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly."

In truth, John McCain is a phony when it comes to the environment. He managed to miss every vote important to environmentalists in 2007, including some where he could have been the deciding vote on important issues. His lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters is just 24 percent; Clinton and Obama's are 87 and 86 by comparison.

We're written a lot about this at Mother Jones. Now even the mainstream media is catching on. Here's the Washington Post today:

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"Sacking" of Washington Mid East Hand Points Up Growing Rift Between D.C. Ideology and Israeli Pragmatism

| Mon May 12, 2008 12:13 AM EDT

Former Clinton administration Middle East peace negotiator Rob Malley now heads the Middle East program of the International Crisis Group, an international conflict resolution nongovernmental organization. He has also been one of many informal advisers to Barack Obama's campaign.

Through his work at ICG, Malley has talked with Hamas officials, according to a report in Sunday's Times of London. Which is not so surprising given ICG's conflict resolution mission. But because of that revelation, the paper reports, Malley has been officially "sacked" as an informal adviser to the Obama campaign:

One of Barack Obama's Middle East policy advisers disclosed yesterday that he had held meetings with the militant Palestinian group Hamas – prompting the likely Democratic nominee to sever all links with him.
Robert Malley told The Times that he had been in regular contact with Hamas, which controls Gaza and is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation. Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think-tank and had no connection with his position on Mr Obama's Middle East advisory council.
"I've never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people," he added.

Harry Reid Promises Hearings on Pentagon Puppets

| Sun May 11, 2008 3:03 PM EDT

Harry Reid is at Firedoglake promoting his (well-received) new book — it's a real sign of the seriousness with which Washington's political establishment takes the blogosphere, by the way, when the Senate Majority Leader does an online book salon with a blog — and he was asked this question by a reader:

Lish: Senator, are you planning to hold hearings on the illegality of the Pentagon's propaganda training program of retired military officers that was recently exposed by the New York Times and Glenn Greenwald?

Reid's response:

Reid: The answer is yes. I have personally spoken to Chairman Levin and he is tremendously concerned as I. And we are proceeding accordingly.

That's good news. Lawmakers have been clamoring over the Pentagon puppets scandal, but the news media has largely been silent. If there are hearings, that will have to change.

McCain's Surrogates Get Confused

| Sun May 11, 2008 2:55 PM EDT

Think Progress has a great catch. Mitt Romney on CNN earlier today:

BLITZER: Does John McCain want to continue what Obama called the failed policies of the Bush administration?
ROMNEY: Well I think you're going to hear that time and again, Wolf, throughout the campaign season. And I just don't think it's going to stick.

McCain surrogate Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in the same program:

BLITZER: So it would be in effect a third Bush term when it came to pro-growth tax policies?
BLUNT: It would be. I think it would be. And I think that's a good thing.

Good work out there, fellas. Here's video. Blunt is pretty adamant about that same-as-Bush thing.


In the Shadow of Mother's Day

| Sat May 10, 2008 10:52 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry in honor of Mother's Day by obstetrician-gynecologist Nancy Stanwood:

I am fortunate to have met many wonderful mothers. These women understand what it means to raise a child well. They make daily sacrifices to keep their children physically and emotionally healthy and happy. As a new mother myself, I find their commitment inspiring.

What I know about these mothers, though, won't be celebrated on Mother's Day. They came to me to have abortions.

I am an obstetrician-gynecologist, and in my 13 years of delivering babies and providing abortions, I have ended pregnancies for many women with children at home. These mothers account for the majority of U.S. abortions. Six out of every ten women who have abortions in this country each year already have at least one child.

In my experience, these mothers have abortions to meet their responsibilities for their children at home.

How To Win A Nobel

| Sat May 10, 2008 8:40 PM EDT

teaser.png Log enough hours of Foldit and you might play your way into a cooperative Nobel. The new online game is designed to understand how existing proteins fold themselves, as well as to design new ones. The ultimate goal is to tap into that endless supply of human gaming energy to solve really hard problems. You might find yourself part of a cure for HIV or Alzheimer's or malaria. Or one of the many who designs a new protein to break up toxic waste, say, or absorb CO2 from the air.

There are more than 100,000 different proteins in the human body. They form every cell, make up the immune system, and set the speed of chemical reactions. We know many of their genetic sequences but don't know how they fold up into shapes so complex it would take all the computers in the world centuries to calculate them. Yet humans' natural 3-D problem-solving skills, utilized in an addictive gaming scenario, might solve the problems in only years. Or less. At least that's what a bunch of computer scientists, engineers, and biochemists from the University of Washington are hoping.

The game looks like a 21st-century version of Tetris, with multicolored geometric snakes filling the screen. A half-dozen UW graduate and undergraduate students spent more than a year figuring out how to make the game accurate and engaging. They faced challenges commercial game developers don't encounter, including not knowing the best results themselves.

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At Least One Conservative Says McCain Should Renounce Rev. Parsley

| Sat May 10, 2008 12:44 PM EDT

At least one conservative Republican has come out and said that John McCain ought to denounce the Reverend Rod Parsley for his extreme anti-Islam rhetoric, and that's James Pinkerton, with whom I regularly appear on Bloggingheads.tv. Pinkerton, who was a domestic policy adviser for the first President Bush and who advised Mike Huckabee during his recent GOP presidential primary contest, says that McCain should reject the endorsement he's accepted from Parsley, a pastor at an Ohio megachurch who has said that it is the historic mission of the United States to see the "false religion" of Islam "destroyed."

For more on Parsley's anti-Islam ranting and to see the reverend in his full anti-Islam glory, click here for the video of Parsley's attack on Islam that was produced by Mother Jones and Brave New Films.

Up to now, McCain has steadfastly refused to renounce Parsley, an influential political force in the swing state of Ohio. Doing so could seriously hurt McCain's chances in the Buckeye State. So Pinkerton shouldn't expect McCain to heed his advice. Here's Pinkerton and I discussing the matter:

Let Them Eat Biofuel

| Fri May 9, 2008 11:52 PM EDT

800px-Gas_Prices_Medium_Term.png Gas prices are rising and this could be great news. Even though it seems lousy in the short run. The truth is higher gas prices are already forcing people to drive less, skip trips, rethink vacations, and reject SUVs—part of a whole host of behavioral changes that add up to rare good news for our endangered atmosphere. LiveScience blogger Robert Roy Britt writes that some people are already slowing down on the roads as a means to save gas, as are some airlines. Higher gas prices are also saving human lives. Two thousand fewer people will die road deaths and 600 fewer will die from air pollution. One economist calculates that each $1 rise in gas equals 14 percent less fuel consumption over the long haul.

However, higher gas prices simultaneously feed biofuel fever. Why use oil when you can use corn? But biofuel is also associated with steeply rising food costs. The dilemma is that you and me can drive 1,000 miles or we can feed a person for a year, and people around the world are getting hungrier, writes Stan Cox on AlterNet. Our gas guzzling ways are about to drive the state of Iowa, the epicenter of agriculture, to import corn. How's that for weird? Apparently it's so weird that the politicos are scrambling to plow under last year's crop of legislature as fast as they can, writes Cox:

Now 24 Republican members of Congress, citing high food prices, have come out into the open to urge a retreat from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates rapid increases in biofuel production... Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has formally requested that the federal government relax biofuel requirements imposed on his state… The Missouri legislature is considering a rollback of its own recently passed law requiring that gasoline must be mixed with a minimum percentage of ethanol.

Bureau Brews: Hook & Ladder

| Fri May 9, 2008 6:50 PM EDT

Welcome to the first in an occasional series called "Bureau Brews" (Too nerdy? What about "Keg Stands?") in which reporters and editors in Mother Jones' DC Bureau will do what we do best... drink beer. Really, it's our birthright as journalists, and we take the responsibility quite seriously. (Read our hero Jack Schafer's classic treatise on the subject here.) So, every once in a while, probably on Fridays after we've filed our stories for the week, we'll break out the bottle opener and let you know what we think of various imported beers and their domestic craft cousins.

Our first victim is a local craft brewery called Hook & Ladder, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Disclaimer: I happen to know their PR guy. He's a mensch.) The brewery was founded by two brothers—one a volunteer firefighter, the other an entrepreneur—who, in 1999, decided to combine their talents to open a craft brewery. They originally based it in the Bay Area, but the dot-com bust scared off investors, and the fledgling business fell on hard times. Since then, they've relocated to suburban Washington, DC, where, in 2005, they renewed their quest to quit the rat race and make beer for a living, this time with great success. As of October 2006, Hook & Ladder had only one distributor and was available only in the DC area; today, it's got 73 distributors in 20 states, mostly along the East Coast, although for some reason it's also available in Stockton, California, or so we've been told.

One thing to note before we proceed to reviewing the merchandise is that Hook & Ladder, true to its firefighter founders' wishes, donates one penny from every pint sold to local burn centers. In the last two years, this has amounted to no less than $30,000. Could it be that drinking beer has finally become tax deductible? We'll have to look into that...

MoJo Nukes Convo: Jonas Siegel Highlights

| Fri May 9, 2008 5:59 PM EDT

Jonas%20Siegel%20head%20shot.jpgJonas Siegel is editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a media organization that focuses on the intersection of science and security, and has covered nuclear weapons and energy issues for the past five years.

Although Siegel is in awe of nuclear's amazing energy-generating power—"a pound of uranium 235 has more than 2 million times the energy content of a pound of coal," he says—he acknowledges that so far the industry has been hindered by safety issues. The industry must address the risk of nuclear proliferation and waste storage if it's to become a part of our future mix of energy-providers, Siegel says.

Check out some of Siegel's other views, below, as expressed in last week's Blue Marble expert-reader conversation:

"One of the most vexing aspects of the current system is that it allows ... the same uranium enrichment facilities that enrich fuel for power production can also enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. The plants that reprocess spent fuel after it is taken out of a reactor can be used to make additional fuel—or plutonium for nuclear weapons."