Blogs

San Francisco Oil Spill an Avoidable Disaster

| Sun Nov. 11, 2007 9:33 PM EST

Why wasn't a boom, a protective barrier which would have isolated last week's spill to the area directly surrounding the ship, utilized almost immediately? No telling yet, but early on Fish and Game said that private companies would handle the spill cleanup, companies hired by the ship's owners. Huh? That's the proper response an environmental and homeland security hazard? Let the industry mop up?

More on this, at MoJoBlog.

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Oil Spill an Avoidable Homeland Disaster

| Sun Nov. 11, 2007 6:32 PM EST

oil%20trail2.jpgLast week's oil spill in San Francisco makes one thing painfully clear: we should, and don't, know better.

The early story was that the spill wasn't much. The main question addressed in just-after coverage was whether the Cosco Busan's collision with the Bay Bridge would affect traffic. The spill total? 140 gallons. That's a bundle of fill-ups, not good for the Bay by any stretch, but handleable, especially given the resources available, Coast Guard and otherwise. The clean-up? A month, said the rep from Fish and Game.

The cargo ship, en route to South Korea, hit the bridge at 8:30 Wednesday morning, but it wasn't until nearly 5pm that the Coast Guard realized that not 140 but 58,000 gallons of bunker oil (essentially container-ship fuel) were loose in the Bay, constituting the largest spill in the area in almost two decades. The spill, which inexplicably wasn't contained via a boom for hours, thus was spreading in all directions, including several miles out through the Golden Gate and into the open ocean.

The one benefit of oil in water is that because of the separation it's initially easy to track and, where response is swift, contain. So why wasn't a boom, which would have isolated the spill to the area directly surrounding the ship, utilized almost immediately? No telling yet, but early on Fish and Game said that private companies would handle the spill cleanup, companies hired by the ship's owners. Huh? That's the proper response an environmental and homeland security hazard? Let the industry mop up?

Iran NIE Finally "Finished"?

| Sun Nov. 11, 2007 11:24 AM EST

According to Gareth Porter, the intelligence agencies and Dick Cheney's office have wrestled to a tie on Iran:

The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear program. The aim is to make the document more supportive of Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts provided by participants in the NIE process to two former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers.

But this pressure on intelligence analysts, obviously instigated by Cheney himself, has not produced a draft estimate without those dissenting views, these sources say. The White House has now apparently decided to release the "unsatisfactory" draft NIE, but without making its key findings public.

The rest.

Here are the conclusions of the two government "investigations" of whether the Bush administration pressured the intelligence agencies on Iraq. First, the Senate Intelligence Committee:

The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

And the WMD Commission:

The Commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs.

Look for the reports on how there was no pressure re Iran in early 2011.

Jefferson-Jackson Liveblog Hits the Home Stretch - Clinton and Obama

| Sun Nov. 11, 2007 12:36 AM EST

Here's what's happened so far; here's an explanation of the JJ. Hillary Clinton has taken the stage.

10:49 - Smack down of Obama! Here's Clinton: "Change is just a word if you don't have the strength and experience to make it happen. We must chose a nominee who has been tested and elect a president who is ready to lead on day one."

10:51 - Clinton is emphasizing her experience in the White House. "As First Lady, I fought my heart out for health care." She might not have won, she says, but she laid the ground work for the progress universal health care is making now. The Clinton crowd here is huge, and going absolutely bananas.

10:52 - "We love you, Hillary!!!!" shouts a girl behind me. The Clinton people have rally sticks, made popular at baseball games. They are very loud and very annoying.

More Clinton after the jump. Also, Obama. This is going to be good.

Jefferson-Jackson Liveblog Continues

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 11:04 PM EST

Explanation of the JJ Dinner here; part one of the liveblog here.

9:09 - Bill Richardson is speaking, and appears to be wearing heels. On second thought, they may be cowboy boots. Richardson is having trouble getting any verbal momentum going. He is jumping from "restoring the American Dream," to following the Constitution on the matter of torture (does the Constitution mention torture?), to his plan on the war in Iraq. His whole campaign may come down to that war — he is the only candidate who will commit to having all troops out by the end of 2009.

9:15 - Now health care, now education reform, now greenhouse gases. This is what Richardson does. He jumps from policy to policy to policy without an over-arching narrative.

9:19 - "I've heard one thing that I like about Iowa," says Bill. "Iowa likes underdogs!" You better hope so.

9:20 - Richardson urges Democrats not to "tear each other down." Suggests criticism only on policy grounds. Problem is, the Dems are all pretty much the same on policy. Oh, and I've seen some advance copy from the Obama speech, and it's got some sharp but coded words about Hillary.

Biden after the jump.

Jefferson-Jackson Dinner - Most Exciting Live Blog Ever!

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 9:59 PM EST

Okay, let's get it on.

8:13 - Nancy Pelosi takes the stage, which is in the shape of a square and surrounded on all sides. Pelosi, like all speakers today, will have to speak while walking in a circle.

8:14 - Pelosi says "all the eyes of the world are on this dinner tonight." The disproportionate amount of power that Iowa has in American presidential elections really is ridiculous.

8:15 - Peeking at Marc Ambinder's blog, I see John McCain had a kind of insane day today, filled with bucketloads of attack politics.

8:20 - The Hillary Clinton supporters here are wearing shirts that read, "TURN UP THE HEAT. TURN AMERICA AROUND." New slogan?

More after the jump, including the Edwards speech.

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Iowa's Most Important Dinner - Happening NOW

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 8:27 PM EST

I'm in the Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines for the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. For voters nationwide, the JJ, as it's called, is a blip on the radar. But here in Iowa it's huge, particularly in the year before an election. One Obama supporter described it to me thusly: "If the Iowa Caucuses are the Super Bowl, this is the halftime show."

iowa.jpg Six presidential candidates will be speaking to 9,000 of Iowa's most prominent (and richest) Democrats. Also on hand are assorted politicos from the Midwest. Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack and current Ohio governor Ted Strickland wandered by when I was waiting in the consession line, for example. Nancy Pelosi is the master of ceremonies.

This is an only-in-Iowa event. A rambunctious crowd of young supporters for every candidate have packed the balcony level and are shouting slogans and chants at an ear-rattling volume. They also have coordinated sign gimmicks, like at halftime of a college football game. The youngsters spent all day putting thousands and thousands of signs up inside this auditorium and on the streets surrounding it. Media from all over the world is here.

The JJ can make or break a candidate in this state. Iowans credit the 2003 JJ with making John Kerry's Iowa victory. Before the event, Kerry was down in the polls, looking up at frontrunner Howard Dean. But Kerry unveiled a new stump speech and a new slogan, as many candidates do here, and it propelled him to a caucus win, and eventually the nomination.

I'll be liveblogging things as they happen. If you've got nothing better to do on a Saturday evening, I invite you to follow along.

Party Ben's European Vacation Tour

| Sat Nov. 10, 2007 5:13 PM EST

mojo-photo-europe.jpgLike I mentioned in this week's Top Ten, your grammatically-challenged guest blogger Party Ben is heading off on a European DJ tour tomorrow. It's pretty cool, since, honestly, I'm not really that popular of a DJ, but somehow I managed to cobble together appearances in Poland, Germany, Belgium and France over the course of about three weeks. Because of the tight schedule (and probable unreliability of internet connections at the, ahem, budget accommodations I'll be patronizing) it's unclear how often I'll be able to keep up with my Riff duties, but I'll do my best to post updates now and then on What Life is Like on the Road for a Basically Unknown DJ Guy, or Random Cultural Trends Sweeping the European Continent with Enough Significance to be Obvious Even to a Drunk Tourist. Hopefully the MoJo Arts & Culture Team (I'm capitalizing a lot here, aren't I?) can cover my beat—i.e., anything that happens in the world of Arcade Fire and M.I.A.—while I'm gone, and I'll be back in December.

If for some reason you're more curious about specific locations and venues you can look at the schedule on my website here. Now I'm off to enjoy the favorable exchange rates and general love for Americans that's shared all over the—what? What are you saying? Not so much? Ah.

If Grover Norquist Speaks, Does Anyone Still Listen?

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 5:22 PM EST

new-grover-headshot.jpg So Grover Norquist thinks that Fred Thompson is the "worst" GOP candidate out there. His major sin? He has refused to sign a pledge from Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, refusing to ever raise taxes. Also, he has said that rich people might have to pay higher premiums for Medicare and is opposed to federal tort reform.

Norquist's remarks apparently came during his regular Wednesday off-the-record meeting in D.C. with the grand poobahs of the GOP, which used to be the place to be in D.C. if you wanted to know what was going on in politics. In the old days, such a pronouncement would leave a candidate shaking in his boots. But ever since the news broke that Norquist had been deeply involved in some of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's Indian tribe schemes, and Democrats took over Congress, he seems to have been relegated to the sidelines, at least publicly. It will be interesting to see how much his attacks on Thompson will really matter. After all, Thompson's positions are pretty fiscally responsible, something Republicans used to care about...

Columbia Dating Scientists Up the Heeby-Jeeby Factor

| Fri Nov. 9, 2007 5:01 PM EST

dating.jpgNumber one on Slate's "most read" list at the moment is "An Economist Goes to a Bar and Solves the Mysteries of Dating." The name pretty much says it all: A bunch of researchers from the economics department at Columbia ran a speed-dating service for students at a favorite campus watering hole. After each mini-date, participants were asked to rate their partners on variables such as attractiveness, intelligence, and ambition. Their findings were a cliché come true: Men "did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner's beauty, when choosing, than women did," and "intelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women's choices as men's." As for ambition, men "avoided women whom they perceived to be smarter than themselves. The same held true for measures of career ambition—a woman could be ambitious, just not more ambitious than the man considering her for a date."

What does it all mean? Simply refer to this neat little paragraph that sums up the researchers' findings:

So, yes, the stereotypes appear to be true: We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face and are threatened by brains or success that exceeds our own. Women, on the other hand, care more about how men think and perform, and they don't mind being outdone on those scores.

Never mind the depressing fact that these unimpressive, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus-ish attitudes are present at Columbia, where your typical student is supposed to be busy learning how to "work across disciplines, embrace complexity, and become a fluid, fearless, forward-looking global citizen and scholar." Far more unsettling is the fact that a key point seems to have evaded both the researchers and Slate: Complex and fluid though it may be, Columbia University is most certainly not a microcosm of the larger world. Just because 400 Columbia students (who most likely have a slightly different relationship with the terms "ambition" and "intelligence" from the rest of the population) embraced these unfortunate stereotypes doesn't mean everyone else does.

The researchers' creepiest conclusion by far, though, was that "women got more dates when they won high marks for looks." From whom did the women win these high marks? Not their speed dating partners, but "research assistants, who were hired for the much sought-after position of hanging out in a bar to rate the dater's level of attractiveness on a scale of one to 10." File under: Ewwww!

This all brings us to the ultimate question: Don't Columbia economists have better things to do than scope out co-eds at a campus bar?