Blogs

Plans To Restore Key Climate Sensor

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 5:13 PM EDT

You may not know that our ability to observe climate and atmospheric change has been declining in recent years. Just when we need it most. Another victim of too much money going to the wrong wars from the other NASA: the National Anti-Science Administration. Now NOAA and NASA (the real one) announce their plan to restore a key climate sensor designed to give researchers a more precise picture of the structure of the Earth's ozone layer. The NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project) will include the OMPS Limb sensor (Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite), set to launch in 2009. Restoring the OMPS Limb sensor addresses one of the recommendations of the recently released National Research Council's "Earth Science Applications from Space: National Imperative for the Next Decade and Beyond." In other words, it means we're stepping into the future with at least one eye squinting partially open. --Julia Whitty

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Climate Change Brews An Extinction Paradox

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 4:38 PM EDT

Climate change could trigger boom-and-bust population cycles making animal species more vulnerable to extinction. Environmental conditions that produce abundant supplies of food and stimulate population booms set the stage for population crashes that occur when several good years in a row are followed by a bad year. "It's almost paradoxical, because you'd think a large population would be better off, but it turns out they're more vulnerable to a drop in resources," says Christopher C. Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, as reported by EurekAlert. Wilmers' powerful new mathematical model evaluates how climate and resources interact with populations, finding that dramatic population fluctuations make species more vulnerable to extinction due to disease, inbreeding, and other causes, with each crash reducing the genetic diversity of a species, lowering its ability to adapt and making it more prone to extinction. --Julia Whitty

What Snoop Dogg Means by "Ho"

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 3:24 PM EDT

Snoop Dogg told MTV that Imus deserved to be fired but rappers can keep talking about "ho's." That's because the Rutgers players are upwardly-mobile athletes, Snoop said, but rappers are referring to "ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--."

"It's a completely different scenario," said Snoop. "[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--, that's trying to get a n---a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha----as say we in the same league as him."

So I guess slurs are fine as long as they come straight from the heart.

But seriously, listen to Gwen Ifill on Meet the Press yesterday, via Feministing. (When Ifill was a New York Times reporter, Imus called her "the cleaning lady.") It's great to see her look straight at David Brooks and Tim Russert when she talks about complicity--among journalists who appeared regularly on the show--in a culture of "casual slurs and insults."

Watch the Daily Show? You're Smart. Read Blogs or Watch FOX? Not So Much

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 2:18 PM EDT

It's always a treat when studies come out that link how much individuals know with where they get their news. In the following tables, the percentage next to a media outlet's name represents the number of viewers of that outlet that can answer 15 of 23 questions about political and world affairs correctly. Not a particularly high bar.

Daily Show/Colbert Report 54%
Major Newspapers' Websites 54%
NewsHour w/ Jim Lehrer 53%
Bill O'Reilly 51%
NPR 51%
Rush Limbaugh 50%

Those are the folks who did well. Here's the group that did just okay.

Newsmagazines 48%
Local Newspaper 43%
CNN 41%

Ouch, CNN. Clean up your act. And here's the folks that did really poorly. This is the funniest group.

Network Evening News 38%
Blogs 37%
Fox News 35%
Local TV News 35%
Network Morning Shows 34%

I'll let you digest all of that without making the numerous easy jokes. But I'll point out two facts: First, other questions from the same poll reveal that people are about as aware of major news events today as they were 20 years ago, so the information explosion has not helped anything. And second, the national average? 35%. So the majority of the country either gets their news from FOX, local news, morning shows, or doesn't get the news from anywhere at all.

For shame, Regis and Kelly.

Update: Some other tidbits that I love. Only 69% of people in America know Dick Cheney is the vice president. Also, this: "Democrats and Republicans were about equally represented in the most knowledgeable group but there were more Republicans in the least aware group."

Don't Get GLAAD, Get Mad

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 1:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-glaad.jpgTowleroad points out today that writer Michelangelo Signorile has given the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation some guff on his blog, "The Gist." The organization has become known for its annual media awards ceremonies, the most recent of which took place Saturday night in Los Angeles. I've got nothing against awards shows, I guess, but lately GLAAD's have started to seem like less like celebrations of still-rare queer representation, and more like opportunities for (apparently?) heterosexual stars to access the gay demographic. Saturday's honorees included a "vanguard" award to Jennifer Aniston, as well as "outstanding individual episode" of a TV show to "Grey's Anatomy." Maybe they were trying to be funny with that last one?

Vice President Bush?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 9:29 AM EDT

Jeb Bush, that is. Mitt Romney discussed potential running mates on the campaign trail recently (counting your chickens, Mitt?), and three southerners came up: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former U.S. House Speaker and current crazy person Newt Gingrich (of Georgia), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Frankly, I would rather have years 13-17 with a Bush in the White House than years 1-4 with Gingrich in it. Romney said that the three gentlemen he mentioned would be prospective veeps for anyone who secured the Republican nomination, a fact that isn't really true. First of all, Romney was in South Carolina when he made the statement, so the southern flavor of his VP list is clearly a product of his circumstances. Second, the Massachusetts-based Romney needs some southern appeal. While that would also be the case for New Yorker Giuliani and maybe the Arizona-based McCain, a southern VP wouldn't be necessary for former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, nor current Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Also, it is way, way, way too early to be talking about this.

PS - Did you know Jeb Bush's full first name is not Jebediah? It's John. Very, very disappointing. A President Jebediah would have been kind of neat.

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Sadr Pulls Ministers Out of Iraqi Government

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 8:50 AM EDT

Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his ministers to quit the Iraqi government on Monday because Prime Minister Maliki won't set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Shi'ite Alliance is a coalition of Shiite political parties that includes Maliki and al-Sadr. Al-Sadr's followers hold a quarter of the Alliance's parliamentary seats (al-Sadr's members of parliament will not abandon the government), in addition to six ministries. The withdrawal of al-Sadr's ministers, though it has happened before, puts an already embattled Maliki in an even more tenuous position, and drives the Iraq government closer to the brink.

The problem here at home is that is makes clear that al-Sadr's priorities and the Democrats' priorities are one: a timetable for withdrawal. Not a good thing when you are perceived as being in lockstep with a war zone's most powerful thug.

Aqua Teen Movie Not Very Good

| Sun Apr. 15, 2007 7:27 PM EDT

aquateen.jpg
Yes, yes, you're saying, "in other news: Pope Catholic." I'm sure the Mother Jones editors are like "what kind of dimwitted yokel is this so-called Party Ben, sullying our esteemed web site with blather about the latest stoner cartoon." Indeed. But in my defense, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," the show, was at one point the funniest, oddest thing on television, belying its rep as "TV for slackers" with rapid-fire dialog that rewarded repeat viewings. Like "Monty Python," the best episodes built a bizarro world of utter nonsense, but then respected this world's inner logic, and pushed the rules to their logical, insane conclusions. The strange format of 12- or 13-minute episodes made the action dense and rollicking, like a great comic short story.

Giant Storm Slams The East

| Sun Apr. 15, 2007 3:08 PM EDT

A friend from the Berkshires in western Massachusetts emails me Sunday morning to say the snow is piling up outside and it's sleeting sideways. I'm supposed to be en route to New York City but the biggest nor'easter in 20 years has cancelled 300 flights to the right coast. Guess I'm staying in California. I love big weather and it would be fun to be in this, but more than likely I'd be stuck in some airport for days. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg called a press conference Saturday to warn of the coming storm. Jesse Ferrell of AccuWeather points out this is a likely first for an "unnamed" storm except possibly major blizzards. Ferrell also points out that AccuWeather meteorologist Dale Mohler was quoted by Bloomberg.com as saying "The storm will really set in Sunday afternoon. By April 16, the system may be as strong as a Category 1 hurricane, with winds above 74 miles per hour and stretch from Maine to Florida and as far west as the Mississippi River." Wow. A new species of storm. Who says all we're doing is cause the sixth great extinction? We're breeding new meteorological monsters. --Julia Whitty

New Email Released Shows Sampson's a Fibber

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 12:44 PM EDT

On March 29, Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to AG Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Sampson's testimony incriminated Gonzales, who had claimed he was not involved in the firing process. Sampson finally spoke -- it had been the most awaited testimony during the case that has preoccupied Washington for months. Well, now it looks like Sampson lied under oath. The former aide, as Michael Scherer reported in Salon, had trouble answering many questions that day; he tallied 127 "I don't remembers" uttered by Sampson throughout the hearing. Perhaps Sampson should have said "I don't remember" to this inquiry put forth by committee member Charles Schumer:

Schumer: Did you or did you not have in mind specific replacements for the dismissed U.S. Attorneys before they were asked to resign on December 7th, 2006.

Sampson: I personally did not. On December 7th, I did not have in mind any replacements for any of the seven who were asked to resign.

A January 6, 2006 email just released to the House Judiciary Committee shows that Sampson had named replacement recs for each USA on the list of to-be-fireds. Oops. This news comes during the heating up of the email controversy over the administration using RNC emails to avoid communicating through their own email system. The White House now claims to have lost 5 million of these emails, many of which relate to the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys. It's a pretty tangled mess -- Karl Rove is back on the hot seat (I guess he's never really off) and Plamegate is back in the news.

But the new email released revealing Sampson's fibbing does more than just point to the fact that a former justice official lied under oath and reveal a concerted effort by the administration and the DOJ to conceal their communication, it shows that many of the potential replacements named were Bushies; that the mass purge of USAs in December was indeed a way to make room for "partisan loyalists" (an accusation the DOJ has denied). This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for all DOJ and White House documents relating to the firings that they say they will issue if Gonzales is not forthcoming in his testimony this Tuesday. Senate Dems say that the documents released thus far have been incomplete. I'm banking on there being more juicy bits of information buried in the DOJ and WH's trails of paper and electronic mail. Stay tuned.