Blue Marble

Money Is the New Weight

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 9:49 PM EST

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So, how are your New Year's resolutions to get happy and healthy coming along? For Gary Ryan Blair—aka the GoalsGuy—your resolutions are really working out.

Blair is the mastermind behind GotResolutions.com, which encourages people to make every choice count. (And to make one of those choices buying a GoalsGuy video seminar, of course.)

Of the site's 38,000 visitors in 2009, debt relief is one of the trendiest resolutions. Blair says that for the first time in his self-help career, he's guiding more people trying to lose debt than lose weight.

Blair's advice? Don't be afraid to confront the "good, bad, and ugly truths" of these tough times. Such counsel may seem crucial for some. But be forewarned—the program costs $59.95.

—Nikki Gloudeman

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Obama's New Fuel Sucking Limo

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 9:02 PM EST

the_beast300.jpgBack when he was a mere senator, Barack Obama declared that "When it becomes possible in the coming years, we should make sure that every government car is a plug-in hybrid." Now that he's leader of the free world, he's rolling a bit differently. The new presidential limo, which entered service this morning, is a fuel-sucking monster. The Cadillac, nicknamed "the Beast," is so loaded with armor and security features that it takes a medium-duty truck chassis to lug it all. And despite stories like this, it is most definitely not a hybrid. Its diesel engine gets somewhere between 5 and 10 mpg. Ouch.

So is Obama breaking his pledge to spend taxpayer money on hybrids whenever possible? There aren't any plug-in hybrid limos out there, but there are regular hybrid ones, though none as heavy as the Beast. But heavy doesn't rule out going hybrid. Peterbilt makes a hybrid medium-duty truck, and Treehugger notes that Obama once earmarked money to make hybrid Hummers. To be fair, the new presidential limo was probably on the drawing board way before Obama was elected. Yet it's not too early for the president to start leaning on the recently bailed-out General Motors to get working on the next generation of fuel-efficient presidential bunkers on wheels.

Not all energy-efficiency geeks are upset that Obama's carbon tireprint is getting even bigger. One poster on the message boards over at CleanMPG, the hypermiler hangout, is willing to cut the guzzler-in-chief some slack: "There are only two good reasons for personal FSP's. The Military and the President." In hypermiler lingo, FSP means fuel sucking pig. Still, a plug-in hybrid with 8-inch armor would still set a pretty cool example for those of us with less demanding security specs.

Photo courtesy US Secret Service

Bush's Last-Minute Land Grab Halted

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 4:08 PM EST

This weekend, a last-minute Bush maneuver that would have made more than 110,000 acres of federal land available to oil and gas exploration was halted by a temporary restraining order issued by a District Court judge, reports the Los Angeles Times. As we wrote in our September/October 2008 issue, environmentalists say the recent attempts to free up public lands for oil and gas companies were "parting gifts" to the energy industry by Bush's Interior Department. Made official in mid-December, the move would have given oil and gas companies the right to begin drilling in sensitive riparian areas and key wildlife corridors throughout Utah. Several environmental groups, including the NRDC and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, filed suit against the government to stop the Interior Department from leasing the lands. In his decision this weekend, Judge Ricardo Urbina found that the groups' logic held, and that any energy development would be "...far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment." Some of the leased lands, which included parts of Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, contained ancient rock art and other sensitive cultural resources. However, though Judge Urbina's ruling keeps Utah's public lands safe pending a decision by the Obama administration, it doesn't help the land in five other states that have also been slated for increased drilling by the Bush administration.

PETA Says: Save the Sea Kittens

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 7:33 PM EST

lol_seakitten300.jpgDoes this count as Friday cat blogging? Your answer to that question will reveal just how kooky or clever you think PETA's new "Save the Sea Kittens" campaign is. What is a sea kitten, you ask? It's the animal-rights group's cuddly new name for what is commonly known as fish. According to PETA, fish have an image problem: They're scaly, slimy, and, uh, fishy. (And they don't blink. Creepy.) "Who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?" asks PETA. We've done lots of serious reporting on overfishing and other threats to the animal formerly known as fish, but it's hard to imagine anyone taking those issues more seriously if we'd talked about the plight of the sea kitten. And besides, humans kill lots of animals even though they're cute (baby seals) or feline (tigers). Fish don't have a PR problem, they have an edibility problem. So I propose only using the term sea kitten only for ridiculous seafood news. Like, say, actors claiming to have gotten mercury poisoning from eating too much raw sea kitten.

The Betty Boop Eyelash Drug vs. the Recession

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 11:40 AM EST

It wasn't nearly as jarring as it should have been to see these two headlines 'above the fold' in the NYTimes earlier this week: "Banks in Need of Even More Bailout Money" and "Love the Long Eyelashes. Who's Your Doctor?"

Yup. As America crumbles, we're performing plastic surgery on the dead and gearing up to pay $120 a month for stupid eyelashes. First it was frozen foreheads. Now it's Betty Boop eyelashes.

Allergan, the company that turned an obscure muscle paralyzer for eyelid spasms, Botox, into a blockbuster wrinkle smoother, hopes to perform cosmetic alchemy yet again. At the end of the month, the company plans to introduce Latisse, the first federally approved prescription drug for growing longer, lusher lashes.

So what if an already overburdened doctor will have to make time for the hordes of Barbie-obsessed women who'll need a prescription? So what if the medication (cuz that's what it is; it's intended for glaucoma patients) has nasty side effects like changing your eye color, darkening your eye lids,and causing red eye and eye itch? Isn't that worth a possible 25 percent increase in your lashes?

So what, when this nirvana awaits you:

"People would say to me 'Are you wearing false eyelashes?'—even my own mother asked," said Cindy Ross, vice president for sales at Young Pharmaceuticals in Wethersfield, Conn., who participated in the Latisse clinical trial.

Ms. Ross said she liked the effect so much that she had a doctor prescribe the glaucoma drug to use on her lashes until Latisse becomes commercially available. "I wouldn't stop," Ms. Ross said. "I found a way to get it."

So what if it makes you a criminal?

So what, as long as you look marvelous?

Hopefully, there's a way to cross reference patient numbers (and I think there'll be more than a few metrosexuals slavering this stuff on their eyes) with bankruptcy filings, or numbers of people demanding help with the mortgages they could never afford.

Am I living in the same America as everyone else? The one where we need to resume the frugality of our grandparents?

Is Google Destroying the Environment?

| Wed Jan. 14, 2009 9:06 PM EST

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An article published Sunday in The Times of London made the dramatic claim that two Google searches emit the same amount of CO2 as boiling a kettle of tea. But flaws in the widely-cited story have put the paper in, er, hot water.

The Harvard physicist quoted in the article said he never singled out Google. And the search giant countered by saying the figure was many times too high, with the techie explanation:

Together with other work performed before your search even starts (a typical search) amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ. For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.

If the rebuttals are right, it's comforting news for search junkies the world over. My Google Web History revealed 90 searches yesterday alone, or—if the article was correct—45 kettles of tea.

Still, it would be good to know exactly how much carbon dixide people burn daily googling Britney Spears or Bristol Palin's baby name. Then again, it might just be depressing.

—Nikki Gloudeman

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Obama Keeps Bush's White House Chef

| Wed Jan. 14, 2009 1:40 PM EST

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Remember the hubub over whether Obama would plant a White House garden and pick a chef who serves sustainably-grown foods? Well, nevermind. It turns out that Bush's chef, Cris Comerford, sources much of her food from local farmers and some of it from a White House roof garden. And, according to previous Bush chef Walter Scheid, Laura Bush "was adamant that in ALL CASES (his emphasis) if an organic product was available it was to be used in place of a non-organic product." Who knew? Obama, I guess, who's decided to keep Comerford on. Let's just hope he applies her philosophy to the nation's food system, because that, at least, would be a first.

Image: Cris Comerford

One More Problem With Wind Power: Space Aliens Ramming Our Windmills

| Tue Jan. 13, 2009 6:55 PM EST

Via the New York Times comes this ITN report about a wind turbine in England that seems to have been hit by an unidentified flying object, which we can only assume was an alien spacecraft. Apparently local observers saw lights moving rapidly across the sky one night last week, and the next morning, it was discovered that a nearby wind farm's turbine had been damaged, with one blade missing and one bent. Sure, the Guardian says it could have been an ice chunk or fireworks, and the idea that intergalactic superbeings could manage to fly here across the vast reaches of space but aren't smart enough to avoid fender-benders with windmills doesn't make a whole lot of logical sense, but never mind, the spooky video report is highly entertaining. They can't find the missing blade!! Plus, there's got to be a way for Republicans to turn this news into a call for more drilling, right?

Why Some Enviros Hate Obama's EPA Pick

| Tue Jan. 13, 2009 5:53 PM EST

eastickmarr.gif Only a few of Obama's cabinet nominations have received any criticism during this transition period; most have been fuss-free. But Lisa Jackson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection since 2006 and Obama's pick to head the enervated Environmental Protection Agency, has been slammed by an environmental nonprofit called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) that has blasted her in the toughest terms, calling her incompetent, weak, and unaccomplished.

Other environmental groups are cheering Jackson as she heads to the Senate for a confirmation hearing on Wednesday. But PEER has produced pages and pages of research (PDFs available here) that it claims serve as an indictment of her 31-month tenure as the Garden State's top environmental officer. The organization points out that in 2006 Jackson said publicly that "developing a new ranking system to prioritize" polluted sites due for cleanup was "the most important thing" her department was working on. Without a ranking system for the state's more than 15,000 contaminated sites — the longest such list in the nation — her department could not identify New Jersey's most dire pollution problems. But, PEER complains, Jackson never delivered a ranking system and then proposed to outsource clean-up responsibilities to private contractors. Jeff Ruch, the executive director of PEER, says, "She never developed a coherent plan. This was supposed to be her specialty, because the time she had spent previously at the EPA was spent on toxic cleanup. But she never displayed any expertise in a way that was helpful."

Is America Post-Racism?

| Mon Jan. 12, 2009 8:00 PM EST

Short answer: No.

CNN reports the latest study showing anti-black racism in action. It's one of those scenarios where a white says something horribly racist after the lone black leaves the room and none of the whites react. The beauty part of this study, though, was later asking participants who they wanted to be paired with on another exercise—the black who'd been dissed 'without his knowledge,' or the white who'd done the racist dissing. Guess who most whites chose.

It's reasonable to expect lots of folks not to speak up when hearing racist doggerel, even if they object to it. But to then choose the racist as a partner over the black he insulted pretty much settles the question.