2007 - %3, February

Sumatran Ground Cuckoo Sighting!

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 8:51 PM EST

sumatranbird1.jpg

Orinthologists just got a hold of one of these iridescent green birds, received from a trapper in Indonesia. The foot-and-a-half long bird hurt its foot, and they are currently rehabilitating it until it is fit to be released into the wild.

The species was taken for extinct until 1997, when a single specimen was spotted. A camera trap snapped a pic of another bird in 2006. But even now, scientists classify the flashy avian as "critically endangered" and say it is at risk from human activity encroaching on its Indonesian jungle habitat.


While the bird was in captivity, biologists recorded its distinctive, high-pitched cry for the first time ever. The bird call—which sounds like a combo ofa rooster's cock-a-doodle-doo and someone getting stabbed—will help authorities find out just how many Sumatran ground cuckoos exist.

The shrieking call of the cuckoo might have another use: cell phone ring tone.

The Center for Biological Diversity offers bird calls and wolf howls as ring tones with hopes that people will want to help the creatures who produced them. The strange ring tones might also make some humans shriek, but not so nicely on the ears as the call of the Sumatran ground cuckoo.

—Jen Phillips


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AsianWeek Columnist Had a Penchant for Hate Speech

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 8:16 PM EST

The San Francisco weekly, AsianWeek, which calls itself "The Voice of Asian America," has come under fire for a column last week titled "Why I Hate Blacks."

The column (since deleted from AsianWeek's site but reprinted here) lists, among other things, four reasons why "we should discriminate against Blacks." Yikes.

In response, the newspaper issued this apology:

AsianWeek sincerely regrets and apologizes for publishing New York-based contributor Kenneth Eng's column in the issue of February 23, 2007. AsianWeek rejects Eng's biased views on a critical segment of American society, African Americans. While AsianWeek continues to truly believe in diversity of opinion and freedom of the press, we are also very aware that the promotion of hate speech is not appropriate, nor should it be encouraged.

Given that the genesis of the American civil rights movement was borne primarily by the African American community through blood and perseverance, the failing of our editorial process in allowing this opinion piece to go forward, was an insensitive and callous mistake that should never have been made by our publication. Readers of AsianWeek over the past 27-year history clearly know that we reject any racist agenda. On the contrary, our editorial policy has led the way in interracial and multicultural strength and diversity.

As a publication whose motto is the "voice of the Asian American community," we are humbled and overwhelmed at reader response not only chastising our editorial process, but strongly urging our paper to sever all ties to this contributor. We have heard the call and Mr. Eng has been terminated from writing for the paper.

That's a pretty egregious slip past the editors. And here's the thing: Kenneth Eng, a self described "Asian supramicist" wrote two previous columns for AsianWeek titled, "Why I Hate Asians" last month, and "Proof that Whites Inherently Hate Us" in November.

I'm curious to know why the editors didn't feel impelled to reject his "hate speech" and "racial agenda" back when they published these other columns? If his aim was to get people thinking, enraged, but thinking, and they stood behind that premise before, why not stand behind him now? Instead they fired him, and they look irresponsible on the national stage.

And if publishing this column was indeed a mistake, then so were the others, and they've let a few too many mistakes slip on by.

— Neha Inamdar

Making Sustainable Design Fun

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 8:07 PM EST

How could humans become their own renewable source of energy? This is only one of the many questions Myriel Milicevic explored while heading-up the Human Powered Workshop during the Interaction Design Workshop Week in Belgium earlier this month.

Projects participants designed at the workshop include the Dirt Annihilator, a street-cleaning trike, Energy on Wheels, a shopping cart that generates power, and an energy generating rocking chair. The objects were inspired by from a Colombian eco-village and electricity-generating turnstiles in Japanese train stations, among other things.

Organizer Milicevic recently spoke to the folks at the interactive design blog, We-Make-Money-Not-Art. She claimed "there is not much difference between politics and play." This realization was the outcome of a workshop she collaborated on with artist and designer Amy Franceschini, called The Politics of Play. (For another example of the intersection between politics and play, you also might want to check out Amy Franceschini's project, Victory Gardens 2007, currently at the SF MOMA.)

The essence of the Human Powered Workshop and the Politics of Play can be summed up in Myriel Milicevic's statement, "I like to remind people that they can make their own observations, share them,…and see grass-roots movements evolve. People can come up with very powerful and creative solutions even with very limited resources."

You can read more about Milicevic's socially and environmentally concerned design projects on here.


--Rose Miller

Desperate Evangelicals

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 6:23 PM EST

The American Prospect is calling Romney a joke of a candidate—all hair. But, meanwhile, in Newsweek's version of the "The Evangelicals Have No Candidate" story, we find this:

The Bush family seems to be moving its chips to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Several of Jeb's gubernatorial staffers have signed on with Romney, and Jeb's sister, Doro Bush Koch, is cohosting a fund-raiser for him. Mom and Dad are reportedly telling friends he's a fine man and the class act in the race. With front runner John McCain faltering and Rudy Giuliani an unlikely fit with Republican primary voters, Romney looks like the Bush Dynasty's best bet.

Suddenly it's the Republicans floundering for a half decent candidate! And in another echo of bad Democratic moments past, evangelicals are threatening to throw the vote. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, told Rolling Stone in its "The Evangelicals Have No Candidate" story, "It's true we have nowhere else to go, except to stay home. [But] we would rather go down on our principles. We lose? You lose!"

Predictably, the evangelical groups are blaming the media (these guys actually compare the influence of the liberal media to slavery!) for making a deal out of Romney's Mormonism. But The Nation documents some instances of religious groups calling Mormonism a cult.

The truth is, and I've said this before, Romney made his own bed by running on a holier-than-thou platform. And then there's the simple fact that it's really cool to watch the religious right Goliath fall.

Right and Feminist Groups in "Not Me" Contest over Gay Rights

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 4:10 PM EST

What with Mother Jones being referred to as a "liberal stalwart" (Chicago Tribune) and a "porno-political remnant of the nineteen sixties" (the NRA), you'd think that our readers would be leftist--and, err, sex-positive--enough to support gay rights. But nobody seems willing to support the gay cause. Check out a couple of comments from one of my recent blog posts on GLBT issues:

I, personally, am not anti-gay BUT...if one owns a small business then one's views count. If you can't stand flaming queens then why would you employ one? Laws aren't going to force you to hire one, your personal tastes will sort out who gets the job. My point in general is that, as OWNER of a business, who the fu*k is going to tell me how to run it?

Homosexuality is a perversion and no one should be forced to hire perverts.

Well, some feminists don't want to help the queers any more than these Mother Jones readers do. The Maryland Court of Appeals is currently considering a claim that banning gay marriage constitutes a violation of the state's Equal Rights Amendment. (The Massachusetts gay marriage decision partially relied on that state's ERA.) Die-hard supporters still trying to win a national ERA are pissed, the American Prospect reports:

Idella Moore of 4ERA, penned a Women's E-News column titled "The ERA has nothing to do with Gay Marriage" in which she wrote, "...[T]oday we must battle not only long-time opponents of the amendment, but defend this amendment against misinterpretation by those whom most would consider our natural allies."

Meanwhile, the die-hard opponents of the ERA to whom Moore refers are simultaneously accusing her of being the gay-lover. An article in the National Review gloated, "Mrs. Schlafly not only had the right idea when she fought the Equal Rights Amendment during the 70s, but predictions she made back then are still accurate today." Schlafly had predicted that the "ERA would legalize the granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and generally implement the gay and lesbian agenda."

And we all know that granting the 4 percent of Americans who are openly gay the right to marry will bring this country to its knees even faster than the journalism of this "pro-terrorist rag" (Lyndon LaRouche).

Global Warming...Are You Ready?

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 3:23 PM EST

Diesel shoppers surely are. I can't believe I missed this. Diesel's new ad campaign for their Spring/Summer '07 collection, is out, and my oh my, just wait until you see what they have in store. The campaign is based on the premise of whether or not you (their client) are ready (Read: Do you have the right clothing and accessories?) for the hot temps of global warming. Yes, this is for real. There is even a video which warns of the dangers associated with a warming climate, but urges fashion lovers not to distress, and instead take action (of course, in the form of bolstering your wardrobe with warm-weather essentials). You really have to see it for yourself.

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Global Warming...Are You Ready?

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 2:23 PM EST

Diesel shoppers surely are. I can't believe I missed this. Diesel's new ad campaign for their Spring/Summer '07 collection, is out, and my oh my, just wait until you see what they have in store. The campaign is based on the premise of whether or not you (their client) are ready (Read: Do you have the right clothing and accessories?) for the hot temps of global warming. Yes, this is for real. There is even a video which warns of the dangers associated with a warming climate, but urges fashion lovers not to distress, and instead take action (of course, in the form of bolstering your wardrobe with warm-weather essentials). You really have to see it for yourself.

Keep up on the latest news about global warming at the MoJo science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Details Emerge About Padilla's Treatment in Confinement

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 11:32 AM EST

As you likely know, the trial of Chicago gang member and alleged terrorist Jose Padilla is going on now.

On Tuesday, his jailers were forced to testify about the conditions of Padilla's secretive three-year-eight-month confinement in a naval brig as part of a hearing on whether or not Padilla is fit to stand trial; it is significant testimony because it's the first time any of Padilla's captors have been forced to speak publicly.

What was revealed:

- Padilla sometimes slept on a steel bunk without a mattress.

- The windows in Padilla's 80-square-foot cell were blackened so no natural light was able to enter the cell.

- Padilla was given no timepiece, leading to an almost complete inability to tell time.

- The electric light in Padilla's cell could only be activated by jailers and was frequently unavailable for unspecified reasons.

Padilla has alleged he was tortured while in military captivity. That has yet to be proven true or false. In fact, the hearing was limited in scope, and didn't cover most aspects of Padilla's detention, for example, how he was fed, how he was interrogated, etc.

In the hearing on Padilla's competency to stand trial, government doctors and defense doctors differed on their evaluations of the Padilla's mental health. Read the opinions in this New York Times story.

Mother Jones covered Padilla's indictment after more than three years of detainment here, wondered if Padilla is anything more than the government's perfect fall guy here, and discussed the plight of Padilla's lawyer here.

What's Wrong with "Slow Bleed"?

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 10:51 AM EST

A couple weeks ago, political news website Politico used the phrase "slow bleed" to describe John Murtha's plan to end the war in Iraq by making war-fighting virtually impossible for George W. Bush. (See the first sentence of that link for the usage.) Murtha wanted to pass a bill requiring things like higher readiness standards for troops and longer leave times between deployments that would essentially cut off the flow of troops available to make war -- in time, the war would have to come to a grinding stop.

So, okay. It's a plan to slowly kill the war in Iraq. Immediately after the Politico story was released, the Washington Post, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and other news outlets used the phrase "slow bleed." What was the problem -- after all, it seems like a fitting description of the plan? Republicans started using the phrase to highlight its morbid qualities, pounding away with it over and over on the floor of the House and going so far as to say that Democrats were using "slow bleed" as a title for the plan (which was false; Politico's story was the first usage). The whole situation just looked insensitive (and bumbling) on the part of the Dems: how could they name a plan that potentially endangers the troops, so the argument goes, with a phrase that evokes a wounded or dying soldier?

Eventually, after left-wing groups started hammering Politico for creating the mess, an editor at the website came clean, saying that he had thrown in the phrase to punch up the prose and that the Democrats and the writer of the story had nothing to do with it. Here are his feelings on the subject:

Please note the context: What is slowly bleeding away is the administration's political support to keep fighting the war. Republicans pounced on the phrase because of the ease with which that context could be shorn away, to give the impression that what Democrats were slow-bleeding were the bodies of troops in Iraq.
That willingness to wrest words from context -- and to attribute the phrase to Democrats even though it was not theirs -- was demagogic on the part of Republican operatives. But it was never my plan to make their work so easy.

I would agree that blame for the situation rests with the Republicans if I felt that blame deserved to be assigned. I see no problem with the phrase. I'm not scared off by the fact that it might bring to mind the image of a bleeding soldier; we've been at war for four years and tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people are dead. Are we so squeamish? And are Americans such nit-wits that their attention to the Iraq debate can be short-circuited by a poorly chosen turn of phrase? Highlighting the words "slow bleed" instead of debating the plan on its merits was a cheap trick by the Republicans, I agree, but what everyone should have done was ignored their attempts to derail serious debate on a serious topic and instead push ahead with the plan -- which most Americans support.

Murtha was finding new and innovative ways to end the war in Iraq. A prefectly descriptive label with unfortunate connotations was applied to it. Are we really so immature that we focus on the latter and can't see the former?

Well, That Should Put an End to "Is Obama Black Enough?" Stories

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 9:13 AM EST

"Blacks Shift to Obama, Poll Finds," Washington Post, February 28, 2007. Let's dig in, shall we?

The Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama vs. John Edwards numbers have gone from:

41% for Clinton
17% for Obama
11% for Edwards

to

36% for Clinton
24% for Obama
12% for Edwards

Hillary's lead over Barack has halved in little over a month! Why the shift? It's a change among black respondents. Here's the Post:

Clinton's and Obama's support among white voters changed little since December, but the shifts among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent.

By the way, here's some stunning info about the Republican side of things.

In the Republican race, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who recently made clear his intentions to seek the presidency, has expanded his lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Giuliani holds a 2 to 1 advantage over McCain among Republicans, according to the poll, more than tripling his margin of a month ago.
The principal reason was a shift among white evangelical Protestants, who now clearly favor Giuliani over McCain. Giuliani is doing well among this group of Americans despite his support of abortion rights and gay rights, two issues of great importance to religious conservatives. McCain opposes abortion rights.

The real question on the Republican side is whether the conservative base simply doesn't know about Rudy's social positions (in which case a Republican primary will not treat Rudy well), or if it chooses to overlook them because of the heroism he displayed on 9/11. A really good discussion of that issue, and an illustration of how Rudy still flogs 9/11 to death on the campaign trail, can be found in the cover story of the most recent issue of New York magazine.

And PS - I know that this is silly horserace coverage. You're bound to find some of it here on MoJoBlog over the next months/years, but you'll find a lot more on the Mother Jones News and Politics page. That's our designated place for delicious coverage of the 2008 campaigns; the magazine and the homepage of the website will always be the place for serious, weighty, (BORING!) issue-based journalism.