2007 - %3, February

The Lone Star State Is First to Require HPV Vaccine

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 8:28 PM EST

As Molly Ivins might write, Well, dang! Guv'ner Rick "Goodhair" Perry defied religious conservatives in the Texas legislature by signing an order requiring Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against HPV (that's warts, y'all—and the virus linked to cervical cancer). The Guv'ner is a card-carrying member of the religious right, so how can this be? Did he have a moment of reasonableness, plain and simple? Perhaps. Governor Goodhair compared the HPV vaccine to the polio vaccine, and called it "an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer."

But this is Texas, folks! They do not trust long words like "reasonableness."* They do trust big multinational corporations. In this case, that would be Merck, the maker of the new vaccine. Merck recently upped its spending on lobbying in Texas, partly through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country. Now let's play Connect the Dots: One of Merck's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff. Perry's current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government. Goodhair also pocketed $6,000 in campaign contributions from Merck's political action committee last cycle.

But who cares? Perry, unlike other state officials, put his money where his mouth is. He is requiring state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. His order also requires Medicaid to offer the vaccine to women ages 19 to 21.

Yee-haw!


*Before you accuse your blogger of destructive stereotyping, you should know that I lived in Texas for 6 years.

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Largest Student Protest of Global Warming Yet

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 5:40 PM EST

About 75,000 students watched An Inconvenient Truth and protested global warming this week across North America, from the University of Saskatchewan, to Coral Reef Senior High in Miami, to Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas.

"It's the largest youth mobilization on climate, and one of the biggest coordinated youth actions of any kind in a long time," said Billy Parish, a Yale dropout whom we recently named "Student Activist of the Year."

Some highlights of Climate Week of Action on 500-something campuses:

  • Elementary school students in West Virginia delivered letters to Governor Joe Manchin, asking him to build them a new school because their current school sits right next to a coal power plant.
  • About 900 people showed up to see An Inconvenient Truth at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Billionaires for Coal, dressed in suits and top hats, handed out lumps of coal outside the Merrill Lynch headquarters to protest its investment in 11 coal power plants proposed in Texas.
  • Educational forums brought together students, professors, and professional activists, and students urged administrators to enact clean energy policies.
  • The week culminates in Northwest Climate Justice Summit in Seattle, attended by hundreds of students. See updates at itsgettinghotinhere.org.

For MoJo coverage of Exxon's suppression of An Inconvenient Truth see here, here, here, and here.

Bush Administration Sees New Climate Change Report, Says, "Whatever"

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 3:31 PM EST

From the AP, via Yahoo! News:

White House rejects mandatory CO2 caps
Despite a strongly worded global warming report from the world's top climate scientists, the Bush administration expressed continued opposition Friday to mandatory reductions in heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases.

Sigh. Why expect anything else? By the way, one of the reasons the Bushies have put forward for why we don't need CO2 caps is that they are already doing enough.

"This administration's aggressive, yet practical strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is delivering real results," added Stephen Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Uh huh. Check out this massive Mother Jones report called "George W. Bush's Ungreening of America" to know why that's a load of crock. Also check out the archives at the bottom of our new Environment and Health page for everything you need to know.

UK Schools Put U.S. Schools to Shame on Climate Change, of All Things

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 3:14 PM EST

We've written in the past about the bizarre saga of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and the National Science Teacher's Association. In late November of last year, the NSTA turned down 50,000 free copies of the movie, saying that it didn't accept materials from "special interests." In truth, the issue was too much special interest: the NSTA is supported big-time by Exxon, who does more than anyone to stifle action on global warming, and potentially irritating a sponsor was enough to scare the NSTA off.

Today, a study in contrast. The UK's Independent is reporting that under new curriculum rules set to be released Monday "education for sustainable development -- covering issues such as energy saving and recycling -- will be a compulsory part of the curriculum" for British schoolchildren. According to the Independent, starting next year 11- to 14-year-olds will learn about:


  • Climate change - the impact on pupils, the UK and the rest of world.
  • Children's responsibilities - whether to travel by aeroplane or buy food from the other side of the world, and the impact of purchasing a gas-guzzling car or buying new clothes or trainers.
  • The impact of the south Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
  • Sustainable development - the importance of recycling waste products and saving energy.
  • Global warming - impact of rising sea temperatures and melting ice caps.
  • Fieldwork projects - such as studying ways to regenerate east London during preparations for the 2012 Olympics.
  • Learning to examine individuals' carbon footprints, and what they can contribute in the fight to preserve the planet's resources.
  • Looks like the 13th tipping point is beginning.

    Democratic Congress Brings Possible Relief for the Oceans

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 2:56 PM EST

    The Joint Oceans Commission, created three years ago after two high-profile reports recommended sweeping changes in the ways the nation's coastal waters are managed, just came out with its most recent report card on the Bush administration's oceans policies. This year the average grade was a C-, a slight improvement over last year's D+ but a far cry from the comprehensive policy changes that are needed to thwart the ocean's imminent collapse.

    The reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the nation's primary law regulating fisheries, was a good start, and House Democrats are now pressing on with more ocean-friendly bills. Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) just reintroduced OCEANS-21, a comprehensive ocean management reform bill that has been stagnating in the Republican-controlled Congress since 2004. The legislation would unify ocean management under a national oceans policy, develop regional ecosystem plans, boost conservation funding, and significantly strengthen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the primary federal oversight agency which has long been starved for resources.

    It's about time.

    -- Ana Mileva

    NIE Cliff Notes

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 2:17 PM EST

    If you visited our News and Politics page today -- or just about any news outlet on the web -- you know that the latest National Intelligence Estimate is out. The NIE represents the best work and most solid info from the intelligence community, and is supposed to be created in a timely fashion whenever Congress or the White House asks. This NIE took about six months to create, fueling speculation -- well-founded, considering the hijinks that were involved in the production of the pre-war NIE -- that the delay was intended to give Bush time to make his decision on what to do with Iraq and then make his case to the American public.

    Taking a look at the declassified key judgments [PDF], it's impossible to miss how grim the thing is:

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    Oil Lobby Offerring $10,000 to Anyone Who Will Debunk New Global Warming Report

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 1:27 PM EST

    This shouldn't comes as a surprise. We reported in 2005 that ExxonMobil was a primary funder of the global warming deniers, and when there is a new report out of this magnitude, effectively burying any doubt that humans cause global warming and that catastrophic effects will result from inaction.... you knew something like this would happen.

    Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
    Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
    Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.
    The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.
    The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.
    The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs."
    Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

    You can read the whole article at the UK Guardian. It's probably worth pointing out that Mother Jones doesn't receive money from anyone in order to fight against all this nonsense, and only wishes it could pay scientists and writers $10,000 to publish with us.

    Hollywood B Team in D.C.

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 12:40 PM EST

    In the past week, Hollywood celebs have been spotted in Washington, D.C. discussing politics, the state of broadcast television, and the American constitution. No, they are not scientologists, but a group called the Creative Coalition, in town to meet with Congress to address issues of importance to the "creative community."

    Members include Alan Cumming, Heather Graham, Wendie Malick (remember the show "Just Shoot Me"?), and Joe Pantoliano of "The Sopranos" (currently serving as co-president). The group's main advocacy issues are the protection of First Amendment rights, funding and support for arts in education, and the prevention of "runaway productions," films made for cheaper outside of the United States.

    Free speech and arts in schools are integral to building a strong culture, no doubt about it. But there is something about this coalition that reeks of that special designer brand of misplaced concern so easy to associate with Hollywood stars.

    This on the First Amendment from their website:

    In the wake of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl 'wardrobe malfunction,' Congress has been considering the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004 […] We believe the bill has potentially dangerous impacts on free speech—particularly for individuals.

    And just when you thought you would never see the words "wardrobe malfunction" in any serious context again. What about those "runaway productions"? If they were to prevent this getaway film making, I expect that many movie stars would revolt. This would mean missing out on parking their trailers at faraway beach paradises or enjoying the reputed free-love atmosphere of Vancouver, a.k.a. Hollywood North.

    --Caroline Dobuzinskis

    CBS Says: SF Mayor Gavin Newsom Breaks "The Man Code"

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 2:07 AM EST

    Which, ok if we mean: screwing a friend's/aide's/employee's wife (who is also your appointments secretary), fair enough, but...

    "The man code"?

    If you're late to this SF party—national implications here, baby, our fair (oh, so fair) Mayor Gavin Newsom was looking good as gov, even prez down the line—the deal is this:

    Fifteen months ago, Gavin Newsom, while getting a divorce from Court TV anchor wife Kimberly Guilfoyle (then) Newsom had an affair with the wife of his campaign manager, Alex Tourk. (Worth pointing out Kimberly was also cheating on Gavin at the time. Also worth noting Ruby Rippey-Tourk was his employee.) Tourk's wife recently told him as part of her 12-step mea culpa. Yesterday Tourk angrily confronts Gavin in what seems like was a fairly public place in City Hall, and resigns. Gavin gives ashen-faced press conference admitting Tourk's allegations are true. Which, evidently, everybody knew long before Tourk.

    My favorite moment in this thus far is the double whammy of:

    Tourk was architect and/or "make it happen" person behind Gavin's Care Not Cash (and its various iterations) homeless program. Which is a cornerstone of Gavin's play for higher office.

    Tourk—major fundraiser, deputy mayor, good friend, and guy whose wife is being schutpped—was only being paid $50,000 for the priviledge, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Ignore "the man factor." The thing that Gavin has to worry about is people like me, and all the other 30-40 something women in our office and around the city/state/country. We like Gavin. We think Gavin's cute. But we think Gavin has tacky-ass taste/judgement when it comes to women (and hair gel). Of late, before this latest scandal, there was the "dating the underage Sonoma County State Woman" (I might really get away with saying: Girl. Also catty of me, but: her name is Brittanie!). And before that there was the "dating the CSI spinoff Scientologist, I Didn't Know She Was a Scientologist, and Anyway There's Nothing Wrong With Their Position on Mental Health Care, and What Does that Have to Do With Homelessness, Anyway" blip.

    Gavin, baby, there are a whole bunch of relatively age-appropriate, french-tipped, strappy sandaled, overly streaked women in the Marina district. Who are single! I went to my first Marina party ever the other day, and honest to god, they were all talking about you. It shouldn't be that hard to steer clear of some obvious pitfalls.

    Because the thing is, deep down we, the less groomed women of this world, and other smart voters suspect this: You're probably just a frat boy. A frat boy whose progressive politics are an accident of geography. Such politics are what it takes to be popular in these parts. Hell, supporting gay marriage probably helped you get laid. Maybe a lot.

    And the more your actions indicate that this suspicion might be true, the less you play to us, your base, and others whom you claim not to be courting in a bid for statewide/national office but whom we all know that you are.

    So there. You want to go to DC, even 1600? You can be single. You can play the field. Just wise up. Just a little.

    And maybe get a dog.

    Equal Treatment Under the Law/Twirling At Ole Miss

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 1:01 AM EST

    So, like all anniversary months or dates, Black History Month is, as a unit in time, fraught. A couple of years ago, Morgan Freeman made the all too apt criticism that the designation seemed petty, noting: "I don't want a Black history month. Black history is American history." I would argue the same is true for the even less well celebrated Women's History Month (March, didn't you know?) or Native American History Month (that'd be November), and on and on.

    I don't like the segmented approach to our history, of "celebrating" 12, 51, or what used to be 100 percent of the American population (and what will soon again be a majority--call them Hispanic if you like, or Native American, if you want to get into a real fight about genetics and identity). In part because I know, without a doubt, that I fall under most of these categories, and would assuredly fall into the others, were someone to run a DNA analysis. And so would you.

    That said, after a long court battle, Eyes on the Prize is being aired this week. I've seen it before, and most of the events covered happened before I was born. Still, it never fails to seize me up. Watch it. Rent it. To not know, really know, this part of our history smacks of the ignorance that has beset our country in whole new ways of late. To people under the age of 30, 20, or whatever, it might, if they just catch a glimpse of 30 seconds of B&W newreel seem really old, done, over. It isn't.

    On a related note: It kinda depresses me that smart youngish people seem to be largely ignorant of Terry Southern's work, including "Twirling at Ole Miss"—that'd be the school that James Meredith fought to integrate— a great, weird essay on segregation, and his screenwriting on "Dr. Strangelove" and so forth. Read up people. Here's a link to get you started.