Blogs

Once-Common Birds In Dramatic Decline

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 3:24 PM EDT

The National Audubon Society reports that populations of many of America's most familiar and beloved birds are in dangerous decline. Some have fallen more than 80 percent in the past 40 years—a direct result of the loss of habitat, including grasslands, healthy forests, and wetlands, from multiple environmental threats such as sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture. The threats are now compounded and amplified by the escalating effects of global warming—as detailed in MoJo's current cover story.

"These are not rare or exotic birds we're talking about—these are the birds that visit our feeders and congregate at nearby lakes and seashores and yet they are disappearing day by day," said Audubon chair and former EPA administrator Carol Browner. "Their decline tells us we have serious work to do, from protecting local habitats to addressing the huge threats from global warming."

Audubon's assessment comes from 40 years of its citizen-led Christmas Bird Count's data and the Breeding Bird Survey. The following once-common species are among those hardest hit: Northern Bobwhites down 82 percent; Evening Grosbeaks down 78 percent; Northern Pintails down 78 percent; Greater Scaups down 75 percent; Eastern Meadowlarks down 71 percent; Common Terns down 70 percent; Snow Buntings down 64 percent; Rufous Hummingbirds down 58 percent; Whip-poor-wills down 57 percent; Little Blue Herons down 54 percent in the U.S.

Check out Audubon's suggestions on what individuals can do to help. --JULIA WHITTY

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So Long, Farewell, We Say Goodbye With an Obit

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

Okay, so this is a little strange. The San Francisco Chronicle's Executive Editor Phil Bronstein is writing short, eloquent posts remembering former colleagues let go because of the paper's downsizing.

The paper announced this spring they were laying off 25 percent of the newsroom by end of the Summer, and readers can now learn tidbits about folks who were let go. For example, one former Style editor was a "renaissance guy with broad knowledge of jazz, literature and other subjects," and one editor was able to deconstruct complicated stories and reassemble them as mini-masterpieces every day.

What's odd is that the blurbs say things like "Her departure after 32 years of faithful, professional service represents an irreplaceable loss," which sounds more like an obit. But sensitive remembrances don't make good on the fact that many talented journalists are going jobless. As the Project for Excellence in Journalism points out in its 2007 State of the News Media report, two important journalistic pursuits — monitoring of local governments and regional issues — are losing out to newsroom downsizing. (Other Bay Area news staff reductions get frequent updates here, and MoJo's "Breaking the News" investigation digs even deeper.)

If news companies do not assert their own vision and take risks, the PEJ report argues, their future will be defined by those less invested in and passionate about news than the heroes being eulogized by Bronstein.

--Gary Moskowitz

You Can Go Home Again

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 2:53 PM EDT

police_50s.jpgLast night I relived my childhood. I saw The Police in concert. The sound of Sting's voice filling an open-air stadium (this time in Oakland) really took me back—though the biggest Proustian moment came when I saw Police posters for sale. Posters!

The performance was fantastic. Sting can still sing gorgeously. He's still got a winning little twist to his mouth as he does it, and if my ass and biceps look as good when I'm 55, I will be seriously, seriously happy. (I'm not sure if it was an ironic note or not, but the band revisited its 80s look, headbands, sleeveless shirts and all.) The really great thing about the show was seeing the band feeling free to delve deeper into their influences. Sting got a little scat into "Roxanne," which might have been borderline cheesy in a solo performance, but with Stewart Copeland there to reign him in, it was amazing. There is obviously still some interpersonal tension, but, damn, hearing them let their songs get a little abstract and airy, but then—POP!—bring them back down to earth, made me really wish they had been able to make that compromise as a band. In my younger years, I would send a dozen roses backstage for Sting at every concert. Last night, I thought the roses were for Stewart. (Andy came across as a man with ample skills but little soul.)

One disappointment: There was no political statement or undertone. Correction: During "Invisible Sun," a song about the bleakness of the industrial age, the video monitors showed footage of what might have been Iraq. But, come on, "Bombs Away" was an obvious follow-up:

The President looks in the mirror and speaks
His shirts are clean but his country reeks
Unpaid bills
In Afghanistan hills
Bombs away
But we're O.K…

"Walking in Your Footsteps" also begged to become a song about exploding the carbon bomb instead of the atom bomb (Hey there mighty brontosaurus / Don't you have a message for us? You thought your rule would always last / There were no lessons in your past. … / If we explode the atom bomb, / Would they say that we were dumb?).

Nonetheless, the songs revealed their well-craftedness as the band turned some major chords minor, filled up some places that had been emptier, and emptied out some places that had been fuller. The Police aren't just the pivotal band of my youth; they're also a band that has earned a significant place in musical history.

Giuliani Contradicts Himself in Rush to Blame Dems for Terrorism

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 10:05 AM EDT

Rudy Giuliani's efforts to fit in with the Republican mainstream by, in part, Democrat-bashing is resulting in some ugly contortions. Speaking recently on FOX News, Giuliani slammed Bill Clinton's presidency for making America less safe, saying the administration's attitude towards terrorism was "don't react, let things go."

Not only is that wrong (see Richard Clarke's work) and misdirected, it directly contradicts what Giuliani said just nine months ago, when commenting on ABC's 9/11 docudrama:

"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it."

One can only hope that if Rudy wins the Republican nomination, the mainstream media will focus on contradictions such as this and what even conservatives say is Rudy's facile understanding of foreign affairs.

There Must Be No More Racism, Then

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 9:47 AM EDT

Maybe the reason why the DOJ's civil rights division is comically lacking in minority lawyers is because, as the New York Times reveals today, the division's focus is on protecting religious conservatives instead of prosecuting racial injustice.

Moot Science

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 7:31 PM EDT

A few headlines on studies that, somehow, don't seem to need study:

Daddies' girls choose men who look like their fathers

Patient Care Improves when Medical Residents Work Fewer Hours

Catastrophic Events Can Affect A Person's Sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Disorders is a treasure trove of research into the obvious, including "Sleep Disorders Highly Prevalent Among Police Officers," "Sleep Restriction Affects Children's Speech," "Children With Sleep Disorder Symptoms Are More Likely To Have Trouble Academically," "Sleep Deprivation Affects Airport Baggage Screeners' Ability To Detect Rare Targets" ... Yawn. --JULIA WHITTY

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Breaking: Two White House Officials Subpoenaed

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 2:09 PM EDT

Sara Taylor, former White House political director, and Harriet Miers, former White House counsel, are being subpoenaed as part of the fired U.S. attorneys investigation. More details from CNN. Emails released late last night by the Justice Department show the pair was deeply involved in the scandal.

You Could Be the Next Senator From Wyoming!

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 1:19 PM EDT

Live in Wyoming? Ever wondered what it's like to listen to Robert Byrd drone on and on in a barely conscious state? Want to shin kick have a few words with Joe Lieberman?

Then it's your lucky day. Over at Wonkette, they've discovered that the Wyoming GOP is honoring the recent death of Republican senator Craig Thomas by posting an application for his job on its website. Jeez, Craig, why'd you die? Your job couldn't have been that taxing. It's basically reality TV show fodder.

Anyway, there's a PDF application that you have to fill out, and apparently it helps if you're a member of the GOP/have served the state of Wyoming previously/have a platform. But whatevs, MoJoBlog readers could probably do a better job than a lot of the goofs currently in Congress. Go give it a shot.

Americans Favor Amnesty by Wide Margins: Poll

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

Looks like a vast majority of Americans favor preserving the American dream.

A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll shows that two-thirds of Americans support giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, assuming they have no criminal record, pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and meet other requirements. Those numbers cut across party lines -- roughly two-thirds of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans feel this way.

The immigration bill is dead for now, but these findings bolster the president's claim that the conservatives who opposed it because its amnesty clauses were too lenient on illegal immigrants were nothing more than a very vocal minority far detached from America's mainstream. The population at large apparently feels like Barbara Ehrenreich.

One last note: only 34 percent of Americans favor the much-maligned point system for distributing visas that would weigh professional qualifications and command of English more heavily than having family already in the States.

When Tort Reformers Slip And Fall

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 12:34 PM EDT

So-called "tort reform" is one of the Republican Party's favorite issues, and this administration in particular has done a lot to limit the power of employees and victims of government, industrial and consumer discrimination and negligence to bring lawsuits against employers and corporations.

Like so many things, however, the concept of tort reform is easier to talk about than to incorporate into one's own life. George W. Bush, the nation's tort reform cheerleader, is a good example. When he was the governor of Texas, he also conducted a major tort reform campaign, but he took time out to file a lawsuit against a rental car agency because of an accident involving one of his daughters. According to legal experts, the lawsuit was probably not necessary because the insurance company would have handled the settlement. Bush's attorney said the suit had to be filed because of problems with the insurance company, a statement that is easy for most of us to accept.

Now it is another major tort reformer, Robert Bork, who has filed a lawsuit against New York City's Yale Club because of a fall he sustained there a year ago. Bork claims that the exclusive club failed to provide a handrail or stairs that would lead to the dais from which he was scheduled to speak at a banquet. In trying to ascend, his leg hit the side of the dias, and he whacked his head on a heat register.

Bork suffered a hematoma on his leg. It burst, and he had to have surgery, medical treatment and physical therapy. His lawsuit claims that he suffered "excruciating pain" and continues to walk with a limp.

Eric Turkewitz, who publishes the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, describes Bork's lawsuit as "frivolous," and you can read his reasons here.

Assume, for a moment, that the lawsuit is frivolous. That would make Bork a world-class hypocrite. Now assume that the lawsuit is justified: Does that make Bork a changed man? It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.