Blogs

That Was Quick: Times Tackles Rudy Story

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Yesterday I complained that the New York Times had ignored a big story: Rudy Giuliani has been assembling a nightmarish group of extremist advisers. Today the Times' Michael Cooper and Marc Santora obliged with an A-1 piece on the subject. While "Senior Freedom Adviser" Peter Berkowitz, whom I called attention to yesterday, doesn't make an appearance, the Times folks did put together a handy chart on Rudy's foreign policy team. Check it out.

—Justin Elliott

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Vanity Fair's Top Movie Soundtracks of All Time Kind of Boring

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 5:13 PM EDT

The Real Best Soundtracks

The esteemed Vanity Fair has put together a list of the 50 greatest movie soundtracks ever, set to be announced in their next issue. The top ten has been revealed early to drum up some publicity, and I'm falling right into their trap—I can't help it, I love lists! Here's what they said:

10. The Big Chill
9. American Graffiti
8. Saturday Night Fever
7. Trainspotting
6. Superfly
5. The Graduate
4. Pulp Fiction
3. The Harder They Come
2. A Hard Day's Night
1. Purple Rain


Wait, are these just the top ten selling movie soundtracks of all time? I mean, they're all fine, and achievements in one way or another, but what about great, ground-breaking soundtracks that didn't exactly go platinum? Here's a couple ideas:

Stephen Colbert's Fictional Campaign Beating Real Republicans in South Carolina

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

colbert.jpg It's astounding that a TV personality pretending to be an preening, egomaniacal, over-the-top, hyper-bombastic Republican is now more popular amongst young voters than actual Republicans.

With the Republican Party in disarray and out of money, one wonders what Democrats will have to do to screw this presidential election up.

52-Year-Old Scientific Paper Retracted Due to Enthusiam Amongst Creationists

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

Delightful little story in the New York Times:

In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called "Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life" in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.
In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, "one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive."
Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want — from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.
So after 52 years, he has retracted it.

These folks are going to be awfully disappointed. Dr. Jacobson is quite the character. More after the jump.

New CBO Report: War Still Really Expensive

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 2:52 PM EDT

The Congressional Budget Office released a report yesterday estimating that by 2017, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have cost us up to $2.4 trillion. More than a quarter of that money will go to paying interest on the money we've borrowed to finance the conflict.

The White House, predictably, dismissed the numbers as "speculative." But if you look at what we have already spent, the numbers seem right on target—maybe even low. According to the CBO'S report, the country has spent $604 billion since 2001. The total amount of money requested for 2008 alone is up to $196 billion, nearly a quarter of what's been spent over the past five years. At that rate, we'll sail past $2 trillion by 2014. And that's not counting interest.

The report contains some other interesting reminders as well. Of the $604 billion spent since 2001, only $1.6 billion has been allocated to medical care, disability compensation, and survivor benefits. Only $30 billion has gone to training Iraqi and Afghan security forces. The Army estimates that it will need $12-$13 billion a year from now until at least two years after we leave just to repair its equipment. That's a lot of money, and it seems like even more when you place it in the context of other major wars.

The result of all this vanishing cash, of course, is a severely depleted Army that continues to fight amidst ever-worsening conditions. See our current issue for thoughts on how to break this cycle.

—Casey Miner

Only Top Notch Drug Dealers Support Rudy Giuliani

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 1:52 PM EDT

If you've seen the previews or commercials for the upcoming movie American Gangster, you are familiar with the real-life story of Frank Lucas, an African-American man who rose above the Italian mafia to create, in the words of one prosecutor, "one of the most outrageous international dope-smuggling gangs ever."

Turns out he's supporting Rudy Giuliani for president.

No kidding. In the video below, Lucas talks via speakerphone with Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, another legendary drug dealer who was considered, at one point, one of the most successful heroin dealers in the country. Barnes also likes Giuliani.

But they both echo conventional wisdom: no matter who they like, they are resigned to the fact that Hillary Clinton will be the next president. It's hard out there for a pimp.

(H/T War Room)

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DREAM Act Fails

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 12:25 PM EDT

I like Ana Marie Cox's take on the DREAM Act.

The "DREAM Act" would allow undocumented high school graduates with no criminal record who have been the country for at least five years (and who entered the country before they were 16) a form of "conditional" legal status. They then must complete two years of college or two years of service in the military. In other words, it's aimed primarily at illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents who are now on a path to, you know, make a better life for themselves. Their illegal status is something that happened to them, their academic success is something they've earned.
You'd assume conservatives would want to rewards such self-starting, entrepreneurial behavior. You'd be wrong.

If you do a Google New search for "DREAM Act," you find a bunch of web commentaries from conservatives hating on the bill. It's a back-door version of amnesty, they say.

Well, they won this fight. Yesterday, Democrats failed to garner the 60 votes they needed to move the bill forward, yet more evidence of the importance of the 2008 senate races.

State's Security Chief Out Over Blackwater Shooting

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 11:11 AM EDT

blackwater_bremer250x200.jpg Yesterday, Richard J. Griffin, head of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, became the first senior official to lose his job over Blackwater's September 16 shooting in Baghdad's Nisour Square. As head of State's law enforcement arm, Griffin, a former deputy director of the Secret Service, was charged with overseeing security for diplomats and dignitaries. In Iraq, where much of this function has been outsourced to private military contractors, this amounted to providing oversight of the more than 1,000 armed security operators attached to firms such as Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and DynCorp. Until recently, according to the Washington Post, these private contractors have been supervised by a mere 36 diplomatic security agents. A review panel convened to examine the State Department's security practices in Iraq, whose conclusions were released on Tuesday, found "there are an insufficient number of Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents assigned to the Embassy to provide the appropriate level of oversight to ensure adherence to the rules and procedures currently in place." The report also determined that "the licensing process for PSD contractors, both as to fees and procedures, is insufficiently clear and expeditious, increasing the risk that armed contractors will carry out their functions with an inadequate legal basis." As we speak, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is seated in 2154 Rayburn, preparing to testify before Henry Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where she will no doubt face some tough questions about her agency's performance in Iraq and its oversight of PMCs.

Update: Well, Rice is indeed facing tough questions at the Waxman hearing. She's just not answering them.

U.S. Imposes Toughest New Sanctions on Iran Since '79 Embassy Seizure

| Thu Oct. 25, 2007 9:49 AM EDT

The Washington Post reports:

The Bush administration plans to roll out an unprecedented package of unilateral sanctions against Iran today, including the long-awaited designations of its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism, according to senior administration officials.
The package, scheduled to be announced jointly by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., marks the first time that the United States has tried to isolate or punish another country's military. It is the broadest set of punitive measures imposed on Tehran since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy, the officials said. ...

Is Climate Change Fueling Huge California Fires?

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 10:37 PM EDT

FSHScalifornia296_N8L.jpg

If not, they're a not-so-sneak preview. In fact, the catastrophic SoCal fires are consistent with what climate change models have been predicting for years. They may be a prelude to many more such events in the future, as vegetation grows heavier than usual and then ignites during prolonged droughts, says Ronald Neilson, a bioclimatologist at Oregon State University and with the USDA Forest Service, and a contributor to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize:

"This is exactly what we've been projecting to happen, both in short-term fire forecasts for this year and the longer term patterns that can be linked to global climate change. You can't look at one event such as this and say with certainty that it was caused by a changing climate. But things just like this are consistent with what the latest modeling shows, and may be another piece of evidence that climate change is a reality, one with serious effects. In the future, catastrophic fires such as those going on now in California may simply be a normal part of the landscape."

Fire forecast models developed by Neilson's research group at OSU and the Forest Service rely on several global climate models. When combined, they accurately predicted both the Southern California fires that are happening and the drought hitting Georgia and Florida, causing crippling water shortages. In studies released five years ago, Neilson and other OSU researchers predicted that the American West could become both warmer and wetter in the coming century, conditions that would lead to repeated, catastrophic fires larger than any in recent history.

Got a fire tent?

new_generation.jpg

Oh, and northern California might not get off so easy. IDEA forecasts of particulate suggest the smoke could blow ashore in San Francisco in the next 48 hours.

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