Blogs

No Frills For Spike Lee

| Thu May 3, 2007 4:24 PM EDT

The 50th San Francisco International Film Festival honored Spike Lee last night with the SF Film Society's Directing Award, and praised Lee as a prolific director not afraid to tackle not just race, but also class and gender issues in his films.

Lee's personality – humorous and political, honest and deadpan – was on full display during his Q&A with Boston Globe film critic Wesley Morris in San Francisco.

Lee was a tough interview. Wearing his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, his brief and somewhat reluctant responses often left interviewer Morris grasping at straws. Lee chose his words wisely. He playfully teased Morris. He recognized the larger race issues behind the Don Imus incident, and affirmed for audience members that the people of New Orleans are still hurting. He also joked that his wife, who reads all of his scripts, has been influential in changing the depiction of women – a common point of criticism – in his films.

The audience was treated to a montage, featuring clips from the biggies – aka Spike Lee Joints: She's Gotta Have It (1986), Do the Right Thing (1989), Mo' Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Malcolm X (1992), Clockers (1995), Four Little Girls (1997), Summer of Sam (1999), 25th Hour (2002), and Inside Man (2006). Lee's latest is the award-winning When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, and judging by the two acts shown at the event, is not to be missed.

—Gary Moskowitz

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4/29 an Inside Job

| Thu May 3, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

MoJoBlog provoked a hot discussion about the tanker explosion that warped two highways in Oakland at the same time on Sunday. Now two independent Websites are unraveling the case. One brings us this photo of Cheney fleeing the scene of the "accident." My question is, why aren't the mainstream media reporting the fact that NOT A SINGLE Israeli was driving on that part of the freeway when it collapsed?

Cheney-4-29.bmp

Are You "Devoting Your Life to Weasels"? If So, Rudy Giuliani Hates You

| Thu May 3, 2007 1:42 PM EDT

Rudy Giuliani had a well-earned reputation for strong-arm tactics when he was mayor of New York. Whether it was homeless people, graffiti artists, or ferret-lovers, nothing was going to stand in his way of enacting the change he deemed best for the Big Apple.

Wait, ferret-lovers? Yup. In 1999, Giuliani unloaded on a caller who phoned in to the mayor's radio show because the caller was a ferret-owners advocate and Giuliani supported a law that took away the poor guy's pet. Prepare to be entertained. Audio here and a transcript here.

I'm guessing presidential hopefuls will avoid hosting their own radio shows in the future. Or they'll get better call screeners...

Bush: And You All Thought I Was 'the Decider'

| Thu May 3, 2007 12:43 PM EDT

Bush is at it again, giving himself great little nicknames that I think are meant to assuage our fears that he makes extremely important decisions without paying mind to Congress, the military, or the American people. Yesterday, Bush, in his explanation as to why he vetoed the $124 billion war spending bill that passed in both the House and the Senate last week, which would have set a timeline for withdrawal, designated himself "the Commander Guy." It's priceless:

The question is, 'Who ought to make that decision, the Congress or the commanders?' As you know, my position is clear – I'm the commander guy.

Thanks to Think Progress, you can watch it here.

Republicans Debate Tonight in LA, 10 Candidates Attending!

| Thu May 3, 2007 11:58 AM EDT

When the Democrats debated last week, nothing happened. I think that's largely because there is little ideological difference between the candidates: all they can really do is disagree on how to achieve the goals they all value.

Not so with the Republicans. When 10 GOP candidates get together tonight in Los Angeles, there will be some who support abortion (Giuliani) and some who are violently against it (Brownback). There will some who hate illegal immigration in their bones (Tancredo) and some who have a kindlier position on the issue (McCain, Giuliani). There will be true conservatives (Huckabee, Brownback, others), some mushy conservatives (Romney, McCain, Giuliani), and one libertarian (Paul). I think the frontrunners will play it safe, but the rest of the pack might take a few nasty stabs in order to distinguish themselves.

Should make for good times. You can find a full lineup and a list of things to watch for at the New York Times' political blog, The Caucus.

Army Cracks Down On Military Blogs, Emails

| Thu May 3, 2007 10:15 AM EDT

If you are the husband or wife or sibling or parent of a U.S. Army soldier serving in Iraq and you blog (and according to the new rules, email) about the war, you are now in official trouble with the U.S. Army.

The Army is getting strict about its rule that soldiers sending emails or posting items on blogs must first clear the content with a superior officer. Since, to avoid possible court-martial, a soldier would have to check with her commanding officer before making every blog post, soldiers' blogs about the Iraq war can safely be called a thing of the past.

The guidelines also appy to civilians working for the Army, Army contractors and soldiers' family members.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging," said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. "No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has--its most honest voice out of the war zone--and it's being silenced."

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Pepsi's Good For You, Miracle-Gro Grows Greedy

| Wed May 2, 2007 9:00 PM EDT

PepsiCo, makers of soda and beef jerky and Funyuns, may not be the healthiest company you could buy from, but it is one of the greenest. Earlier this week, the EPA issued its top 25 Green Power Partners list, and PepsiCo was top dog. The EPA attributes the company's position to its "commitment to purchase 100 percent green power," which would be enough to power nearly 100,000 homes.

Green power is great, but wouldn't it be better if they didn't use so much power to begin with? Or if they didn't use so much packaging for their products? At least PepsiCo's 20 oz. plastic bottles are lighter than before (by 13%) and contain 10% post-consumer material, so they cost less in transportation costs and use less plastic. The company says that 48 million of its drink containers are recycled every day.

Some of those old Pepsi bottles head to a small New Jersey organic plant food company, TerraCycle, which reuses many of the bottles to package their totally organic fertilizer. Now TerraCycle, with 33 employees and a measly $1 million in revenues, is being sued by Scotts (makers of Miracle-Gro), a mega-company that owns 59% of the plant food market. Scotts is outraged TerraCycle is using yellow and green packaging with pictures of flowers, similar to Miracle-Gro. Thus, their lawyers say, TerraCycle MUST be trying to trick gullible people into thinking the products are the same. Both products even use the same label: "all purpose plant food." Egads!

The pictures of the products should give any person with common sense the answer as to whether or not the lawsuit is warranted. And besides, pictures of plants on plant food? Who'd a thunk? My question: Miracle-Gro launched its "Organic Choice" line of products a year before TerraCycle was created, and is very publicly trying to make more environmentally-friendly packaging. Is it coincidence that they're suing an organic, sustainably-packaged product, not one of the 81 other plant and lawn products with green-and-yellow labels, or is it just a paranoid attempt to secure their monopoly?

You decide.

—Jen Phillips

Deep Mud Seafloors Face Quiet Destruction

| Wed May 2, 2007 8:56 PM EDT

The first study ever done of the effects of bottom trawling on mud seafloors off the West Coast of North America suggests alarming environmental changes. The study by Mark Hixon of Oregon State University and Brian Tissot of Washington State University found that trawling not only reduces fish numbers, but also severely alters communities of organisms inhabiting these deep-sea habitats. Their research compared trawled to untrawled areas 600 to 1,200 feet deep off the southern Oregon coast, comprising thousands of square miles. They found nearly 20 percent fewer fish in the trawled areas, and 30 percent fewer fish species. Certain seafloor dwellers, including sea pens and crabs, were six times more abundant in areas that had not been trawled. Furthermore numerous scavenging species in trawled areas largely replaced the marine life common on undisturbed seafloors. This report is the first to examine the effects of a common fishing practice on a vast ocean floor ecosystem off Washington, Oregon, and California -- the mud flats that dominate more than 75 percent of the outer continental shelf.

Imagine bulldozing entire landscapes to collect a few rabbits and gophers. That's what bottom trawlers do in pursuit of sole, lingcod, rockfish and other common seafood staples, by dragging large nets along the seafloor and scooping up everything in their path. It's estimated that trawlers drag nets across every square inch of the bottom of the continental shelves every two years, trawling some regions many times a season.

Regulations, including gear modifications and closed areas, have actually steered trawl fisheries toward the mud seafloors, keeping them out of rock or coral areas, because trawls cause less environmental damage on mud. But the long-term implications of fishing with this technology over such a broad area are a concern, say Hixon and Tissot.

Wonder what's down there? Read about some Alvin dives in the current MoJo article Gone. And you may remember Mark Hixon's fascinating work on BOFFFs (big-old-fat-female-fish) reported in The Fate of The Ocean (Mar/Apr 2006).

Feel confident about what to eat from the sea? If not, check out this click. --JULIA WHITTY

Hopeful George: Tortoise Might Not Be Lonesome Anymore

| Wed May 2, 2007 8:19 PM EDT

Please, John Tierney, say it isn't so. In your New York Times blog Lonesome George Isn't Looking So Lonesome you bring us the truly welcome news that Lonesome George, the Pinta Island tortoise from the Galapagos, may not be the last of his kind after all.

After analyzing the genes of 27 tortoises on another Galapagos island, Isabela, biologists discovered that one tortoise's father was a Pinta tortoise -- perhaps one who was removed from Pinta by some of the sailors who contributed to the decline of the species. Since there are between 2,000 and 7,000 tortoises on Isabela whose genes haven't yet been analyzed, it seems likely that one or more will turn out to be purebred Pinta tortoises, according to Michael Russello of the University of British Columbia.

But then you tell us you're worried about George's celebrity, his ability to raise money for efforts to slow down the sixth great extinction underway. Crikey, mate. I can't think of a better fundraiser. Let's rename him Hopeful George and watch the pesos roll in. --JULIA WHITTY

Scientists Protest Twisted Interpretation Of Endangered Species Act

| Wed May 2, 2007 7:39 PM EDT

More than three dozen scientists have signed a letter to protest a new Bush administration interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. The Associated Press reports their concerns that the twisted read jeopardizes animals such as wolves and grizzly bears. If Interior Department Solicitor David Bernhardt has his way, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have to protect animals and plants only where they're actually battling for survival, not where they're in good shape. That means, for instance, that Bald Eagles would never have been protected decades ago since they were doing fine in Alaska, although practically extinct in the lower 48.

The proposed changes would "have real and profoundly detrimental impacts on the conservation of many species and the habitat upon which they depend," said the letter, signed by 38 prominent wildlife biologists and environmental ethics specialists. It was being sent this week to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and leaders of congressional committees that oversee the department. The scientists also fear the new policy would prevent new additions to the list, increasing the likelihood of extinctions.

Maybe someone should tell David Bernhardt how his miserly existence depends on a wealth of species on this Earth--and what'll happen to him and his kin when they're GONE. . . --JULIA WHITTY