Duncan Hunter Keeps Bogus Plane Alive Through Earmarks

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 12:05 PM EDT

Presidential candidate and Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter has kept a useless defense project alive for years even though it has been repeatedly rejected by Pentagon officials because the project's maker is a regular contributor to his campaigns, reports ABC News.

An experimental plane that is designed to take off straight up and then fly 700 mph has never gotten more than a few feet off the ground and has crashed four times in four years. Useless, you say? Completely. And the Pentagon agrees. Military analysts have consistently rejected the aircraft as technically flawed since 1986.

So why does the plane continue to be funded? Because San Diego-area congressmen, who have tons of defense interests and contractors to represent, consistently create earmarks to keep it alive. The biggest offenders are presidential candidate Duncan Hunter, former chairman and now ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and former congressman Christopher Cox, who is now chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission.

Cox received $18,000 in contributions from the plane's creator, DuPont Aerospace. Hunter has received at least $36,000 from DuPont for his congressional campaigns and current presidential campaign.

There will be a hearing on the plane tomorrow -- you have to love Democratic leadership in Congress; oversight exists! -- and Hunter is expected to testify. Representatives from DuPont will be right there with him, which is fitting because together they've bilked American tax payers for millions.

(Hat tip, POGO blog.)

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Bill Richardson Has Great Ads, Is Incapable of Answering Questions

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 11:05 AM EDT

If you watched the last GOP Democratic debate, you know Bill Richardson has trouble answering questions that are posed to him. Instead, he tends to recite his resume. Well, his campaign is well-aware of this little problem (how could they not be) and is looking to capitalize on it. Check out Richardson's latest campaign advertisement.

Spotted on Politico.

Update: As the person who manages our News and Politics page, I am aware that Bill Richardson is a Democratic candidate. Apologies for this gaffe.

OSC Recommends Exceedingly Harsh Punishment for Fallen GSA Chief

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 10:49 AM EDT

First the exceedingly troubled Office of Special Counsel nailed General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan for violating the Hatch Act. Then Doan responded that if she was guilty Karl Rove and his crew of goons were guilty too. But even though the OSC is supposedly investigating Rove for potential violations of the Hatch Act, it is unsympathetic to Doan's arguments. In its official recommendation on how to punish Doan, it pulled absolutely no punches yesterday, with OSC chief Scott Bloch writing that Doan's actions were "the most pernicious of political activity" and that he "recommend[s] that Administrator Doan be disciplined to the fullest extent for her serious violation of the Hatch Act and insensitivity to cooperating fully and honestly in the course of our investigation."

Yikes. All that's left now is the denouement: Doan's sentencing by President Bush. Bush is a notoriously loyal man -- is Doan valuable enough for Bush to go out on limb to protect her? Or will he gladly fire a relatively low-level civil servant in the hope that the action takes some of the heat off Alberto Gonzales and all the Bush Adminstration's other scandals?

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 6/11/07

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 10:33 PM EDT

Not included in this week's Top Ten: Major concert events at the Shoreline, controversial finales to popular television shows, or the new Queens of the Stone Age album, even though there are good things about all those things. But the Top Ten must be an honest appraisal, and if I'm moping around to swirly dream-pop and grooving to Southern hip-hop, then I have to tell you that, right? No off-limits topics here, thank you very much.

mojo-photo-pissedjeans.jpg 10. Pissed Jeans – "Secret Admirer" (from Hope for Men on Sub Pop)
If there's a better way to weed out weak and infirm listeners from the Top Ten than by kicking it off with distorted and scream-filled sludge metal, I don't know it. Take that, Riffers. This Pennsylvania foursome evoke a couple great hard rock bands (like The Melvins and The Jesus Lizard) on their second album, and this medium-tempo track has the growling menace of Killdozer. Anybody remember any of those bands?!

9. Sonny Jim – "Can't Stop Movin" (video via Stereogum)
The song, a filter-happy rework of an old Jackson 5 number, is pretty cool, but for me it's all about the video: disco-riffic footage from the Jackson 5 cartoon show, cut up to match the samples. There's a moment when all the Jacksons' faces appear, one by one, in screen-filling heart shapes, as their bell-bottomed silhouettes dance below – did we actually watch this?!

mojo-photo-pantha.jpg8. Pantha du Prince – "Florac" (from This Bliss on Dial, stream on his MySpace page)
Yes, yes, I know: the Top Ten needs more German techno like the internet needs more, um, geeky dudes like me writing about stuff they like. But this is a little different. Pantha du Prince (a.k.a. Hamburg's Hendrik Weber) makes minimal electronic music with a darker, more organic feel than his contemporaries; his MySpace page lists his location as "Antarctica," and you can almost believe it.

mojo-cover-comar.jpg7. ComaR - "Mr. Jones in a Forest" (The Cure. vs. Mike Jones, mp3 via Comar's site)
While it's doubtful any "Forest" mashup will ever equal the spine-tingling beauty of Gordyboy's 2003 Bjork combo "A Hidden Forest," French bootlegger ComaR has made an enjoyable runner-up. Houston rapper Mike Jones and his backup singers sound even more menacing over the Cure's double-time beat, and it's actually fun enough that you could almost dance to it. And not just that goth "swirly dance."

mojo-photo-justice.jpg6. Justice - Essential Mix, BBC Radio 1, Sunday June 10th, 2007
(listen for the next week here or grab an iffy-quality mp3 here)
The French techno duo's highly-anticipated album, (yes, that's a cross), comes out tomorrow, and this set is like a soundtrack to the release party. Squeezing a record 70 tracks into their two hours, and veering from Janet Jackson to the Chemical Brothers, the Human League to, um, the Ronettes, what Justice lose in beatmatched flow they more than make up for in fun. And I do like fun.

Logging Increased Wildfire Severity

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 10:04 PM EDT

The Biscuit Fire of 2002 burned more far more severely in areas that had been salvage logged and replanted compared to similar areas that were also burned in a wildfire that was left to regenerate naturally. The new study from Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service found that fire severity was 16 to 61 percent higher in logged and planted areas, compared to those that had burned severely and were left alone in a fire 15 years earlier. The study seems to debunk the working but untested hypothesis that salvage logging and replanting make fewer future wildfires. Hmm. Seems that trees, forests, and their atmosphere-scrubbing services might be happier without our [mis]management… --JULIA WHITTY

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Department of Weird Weapons: The Gay Bomb

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 9:49 PM EDT

Edward Hammond, of the University of California's Sunshine Project, obtained through a FOIA request Pentagon documents that indicated the military had, in 1994, investigated building a "gay bomb." The bomb would release a strong aphrodisiac that would cause the enemy army to become "irresistibly attracted to one another." You gotta give the military points for consistency: They clearly believe, World War II notwithstanding, that homosexuals in the ranks make the military ineffective. The proposal also indicates that conservatives are willing to act on their belief, notwithstanding the dismal success rates of the ex-gay movement, that sexual orientation is not at all innate. But the $7.5-million proposal's creepiness rating is extremely high. Not to mention the implication that being gay or lesbian is the biggest insult an army can bestow on its enemy—that it essentially equals destroying them—is deeply offensive to gays and lesbians, particularly those who've served with honor and distinction.

No Dice on "No Confidence" Vote

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 8:14 PM EDT

It's fish-or-cut-bait time in the Senate. Democrats failed to obtain the 60 votes they needed to conduct a "no confidence" vote on AG Alberto Gonzales. (Best AG AG insult of the day: "This is a little man in a very big job, and he has embarrassed his country and his president in the way he has carried it out," wrote Martin Frost.) Democrats have approved but not issued subpoenas for the testimony of evil mastermind Karl Rove and, well, Harriet Miers. The Dems also have the legal right to impeach Gonzales.

Joining Democrats in calling for the "no confidence" vote were Arlen Specter (Pa.), John Sununu (N.H.), Gordon Smith (Ore.) Chuck Hagel (Ne.), and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. Seven more votes were needed.

And, now all but officially a member of the Republican Party, one-time Democratic VP contender Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut voted "no."

Congress Will Demand More Fuel Efficiency from Detroit

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 6:56 PM EDT

Finally, finally, Congress is set to act to demand that American automakers improve the fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks. The Senate is expected to vote in the next two weeks on a bill demanding an average fuel efficiency of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Left to their own devices since 1985, the automakers have been in reverse: 1987 model-year vehicles averaged 26.2 miles per gallon; last year's fleet averaged 25.4 mpg. Clearly, know-how is not the problem.

But the automakers will say any old thing to avoid changing, even when their declining market share suggests that, from a purely financial perspective, change is necessary. GM's chief begged lawmakers to be "responsible" so as not to "disadvantage the domestic industry." Yet it may well be the lack of fuel efficiency that has put Detroit at a disadvantage in recent years relative to Japanese automakers Honda and Toyota.

GM also lashed out against CAFE, charging that the law "has not accomplished what it set out to do," because American fuel consumption has continued to increase. Here again, lies, bloody lies. The auto industry has lobbied continuously and aggressively against strengthening fuel standards since they were first introduced. And, they've backslid from the efficient cars they made in the 70s and 80s.

Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.) reportedly gave the Big Three the schooling they've long needed. "We protected you from CAFE and you lost market share, jobs and money anyway." (GM, Ford and Chrysler lost a combined $16 billion last year and put thousands of Americans out of their jobs.) "You've lost," Dorgan said. "Your position is yesterday forever."

Good riddance.

Environmental Fact of the Day

| Mon Jun. 11, 2007 6:21 PM EDT

suvs4.jpgAmerican drivers burn 380 million gallons of gas per day, up nearly 20 percent from a decade ago. American cars are less and less fuel efficient, and Americans are driving more—despite the increasingly absurd cost of gasoline. The average driver logged 15,000 miles last year (that's 3 trillion total miles of car travel). In 1985, the average driver covered less than 12,000 miles.

I didn't drive 15,000 miles last year and my ride is a Honda Civic, but I'm guilty of automobile addiction, too. Driving seems so easy and convenient, but when you factor in traffic, road rage, gas prices, and, uh, life on Earth as we know it, it's not really such a great deal, is it?