Blogs

Some Men's Trash More Treasured Than Other's

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 2:08 AM EDT

There's a garbage strike going on across the San Francisco Bay. Waste Management of Alameda County, serving the 7th largest county in the state with 1.5 million residents (that's more than all of Idaho), has locked out its 500 workers over contract disputes, and there's no end in sight. So for now 200 replacement workers are scrambling to keep up.

Here's the rub: Turns out that while pickups are proceeding in the county's wealthy neighborhoods, the less well-to-do areas are becoming giant trash heaps. Manicured enclaves like Castro Valley and Montclair in Oakland—where seven-figure homes are commonplace—and even most of Berkeley are just fine; pickups have stayed on schedule.

But trash is piling up in poor neighborhoods. West and East Oakland have been the most neglected (two of our editors live in East Oakland, myself included), with garbage cans overflowing and bags stacking deep and wide from block to block. This, despite the fact that the monthly fees we pay are exactly the same as those in Piedmont, Oakland's Bel Air.

All Waste Management, has to say to the discrepancy is that the irregularities are no fault of the company's and to "have patience." Yeah? Tell that to the raccoons hanging out outside our houses at night.

Luckily our city's patience has also worn thin. Today Oakland filed a lawsuit against Waste Management saying that the accumulated waste is "a clear and compelling safety and health and welfare issue," with potential health risks if garbage piles up in such dense urban areas.

That, yeah, but it's also an issue of dignity and echoes of the Superdome reverberate. All in all, it stinks.

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Bush to Congress: Don't Mess With Me on Iran, Either

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 8:39 PM EDT

Spencer Ackerman at Talking Points Memo picked out an interesting detail from a letter President Bush just sent to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). In addition to writing that he'll veto any measures to end the war in Iraq, Bush added that he will veto any congressional attempts to limit his ability to take military action against Iran. This could be the usual executive prerogative-thumping, but does it hint at an anticipated showdown over Iran? And if so, what does the White House think the congressional Democrats are cooking up? (And just as importantly, what the heck is the White House cooking up?)

To get a sense of what Congress could—and couldn't—do to tie Bush's hands on Iran, check out this recent MJ article by Jonathan Schwarz. If anyone in Congress is serious about preempting a strike on Iran, he concludes, they have to act sooner rather than later: "If the Democrats continue to sit tight as the White House decides its next move, the administration will have won the first battle of the next war without firing a single shot."

Chernobyl Hits Birds Hard

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 7:58 PM EDT

Many birds have dwindled because of radiation from the nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl. Yet a new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reported by the AAAS, finds that some species are declining at a far greater rate. The greatest decline is in brightly colored species (orioles, blackbirds, and blue tits) inhabiting high radiation zones. Migrant birds are also faring worse than residents. Both groups possess high levels of antioxidants &mdash a substance needed to protect against radiation sickness &mdash but which the authors suggest may be in short supply in birds maintaining bright plumage and/or birds sustaining their metabolism during long migrations. . . Yet another blow to biodiversity. JULIA WHITTY

Want a Dirty Bomb? Just Seal, Stamp, and Send...

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 5:42 PM EDT

As reported on the front pages of today's Washington Post and New York Times, undercover congressional investigators successfully exploited loopholes in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing guidelines to obtain enough radiological material to build a so-called "dirty bomb." Investigators with the Government Accounting Office posing as West Virginia businessmen sent away for a federal permit to purchase radiological materials, which they received just 28 days later. Had the NRC bothered to do any due diligence, it would have discovered that the fictional company had no office location, no website, and no employees. As noted in the Times piece, "its only asset was a postal box."

This was not the first undercover operation to test the NRC's control measures. A similar sting in 2005 also resulted in GAO investigators obtaining small amounts of radioactive materials, for which they created false licensing documents using samples found on the Internet. They then smuggled the material across the U.S. border at two separate locations. Customs and Border Control personnel were unable to identity the forged documents and allowed the shipments to proceed. In this year's operation, investigators employed a similar tactic, counterfeiting the NRC license they received and removing the limit on the amount of radiological material they were allowed to purchase.

Answers for Morning Political Trivia for July 12

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 5:06 PM EDT

Commenter Al did better on our inaugural morning political trivia question than all of the journalists here, going four-for-four. The four state capitals that begin with the same letter as the state they're in are Dover, DE; Honolulu, HI; Indianapolis, IN; and Oklahoma City, OK.

Here at MoJo DC, only Reporter Jonathan Stein and Associate Editor Dan Schulman came close — both quickly guessed three of the four and then got stuck. Dan was missing Dover, DE, while Jonathan spent most of the day trying to get Indianapolis (he eventually guessed it). Points to Jonathan and commenter Al, and consolation prizes for Dan and commenters Frank (1/4), Bradley T Hughes (3/4), and Stephen Jackson, who was the first to get Oklahoma City. Come back for another question tomorrow morning.

—Nick Baumann

John McCain, Florida, Gay Prostitution, $20 - Just Read the Post

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 4:21 PM EDT

Can John McCain get a break? Hot on the heels of the loss of his top campaign management, the resignation of key Iowa team members, and news that the campaign will actually report a debt in the next few days, we've got.... a gay prostitution scandal. What's next? Locusts in campaign HQ?

Florida State Represenative Bob Allen, co-chair of McCain's Florida campaign, has been arrested for offering an undercover male police officer $20 in exchange for a blowjob in a public bathroom.

The detail you're dying to know (I'm sure) isn't clear. This Orlando Sentinel story says Allen was arrested for "offering to perform a sex act". But TV reports out of Florida say Allen was to have the sex act performed on him. It was to sort out details like this that I got into journalism.

And is there an element of hypocrisy here? Of course, there's more than enough to go around these days. Allen recently introduced HB 1475 into the Florida state legislature, a bill called "Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition" that lays a mightier smackdown on offenders of Allen's stripe. (Question: Was he doing research?) And the Rainbow Democratic Club, a central Florida gay rights group, recently identified Allen as one of the region's most hostile legislators towards gays. (Opposition research, then?)

We all know what's at the bottom of this scandal. Gay sweaters.

Update: Big question answered.

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Intel Committees Weigh in on Security Report

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 4:11 PM EDT

Today, intelligence officials briefed the White House on a new threat assessment that says Al-Qaida has regained strength, and is able to train, communicate and raise money while operating from safe havens in Pakistan.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) blames the Bush White House's decision to go into Iraq before finishing off Al Qaida in Afghanistan:

One of the greatest tragedies of Iraq is that it has distracted us from fighting the real threat we face, al Qaida.

More Charles Barkley Blogging

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 2:58 PM EDT

We bring you the all-important Charles Barkley endorsement: America's favorite rebounding champ (and walking quote machine) is supporting Barack Obama.

I just want to make sure you stay up-to-date on all the Charles Barkley-related political news (my first report on this is here). I would say that this endorsement is easily as important as the Oprah endorsement that Obama got earlier. Probably more.

The Webpage at the End of the Internet

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 2:45 PM EDT

I recently discovered the life-changing invention that is Google Reader and its "Next" bookmark. (Google Reader is a feed reader that allows you to aggregate blogs and news feeds using Really Simple Syndication (RSS). (Including this blog, by the way). But the real revolution is the "Next" bookmark, which you slide onto your bookmarks toolbar and use to jump around the internet from blog to blog, reading every unread item on the blogs whose feeds you subscribe to. That means I can jump from reading the newest post on the Blue Marble to reading the newest MoJo Blog post with unprecedented ease.

There's only one problem, as far as I can see. If you run out of new items on the blogs you've subscribed to, you get to the end of the internet. Then what are you going to do? I guess when that happens, it's time to pick up your print copy of the magazine and start reading the old-fashioned way.

—Nick Baumann

Morning Political Trivia for July 12

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 12:24 PM EDT

To swing it in Swampland (Washington, that is), you have to know your stuff. With that in mind, Mother Jones' DC Bureau is launching a new daily feature on MoJo Blog: morning political trivia. We'll compete every morning in the office, and we'll give you a chance to try your hand at answering the question in the comments section (no Googling!). Then, every afternoon (Pacific time), we'll post the answer and heap praise on the commenters who guess correctly.

As your official quizmaster, I'll be finding the questions and keeping score. If you have a good one, submit it to mojotrivia@gmail.com. I'll credit you if we use your question (please let us know if you got it from another source).

But you won't be the only ones pondering each morning's question. Back in the capital, Mother Jones' DC correspondents will be struggling mightily to best each other in a never-ending battle royale of trivia. And there will be accountability in this administration. I'll let you know who got the question right and who got it wrong, be they intern or editor. So you won't just be getting the answers every afternoon, you'll be getting a chance to heap scorn on political reporters who don't know their political trivia. So, with that in mind, we'll start you out with a doozie (remember, no Googling!):

Name the four state capitals that begin with the same letter as the states they're in.

—Nick Baumann