2007 - %3, April

Guns Out-Of-Control at the White House

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 6:14 PM EDT

Today, while the President was heading to Virginia Tech as mourner-in-chief two Secret Service officers were wounded by accidental gunfire at the White House.

One officer suffered a shrapnel wound to the face, and the other was wounded in the leg; neither's injuries are life-threatening. A spokesman said that the shots were fired by "accidental discharge."

Talk about gun control. Geez.

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Sundance Channel's Green Living Show Debuts Tonight

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 6:03 PM EDT

If you're going to use electricity tonight, you may as well do it watching Sundance Channel's new green living show, "Big Ideas for a Small Planet" (9 p.m. E/P).

In true Sundance tradition, "Big Ideas" is a series of short documentaries. But they're not the drab, depressing kind. Instead, they feature cutting-edge technologies and brilliant inventors bent on saving the earth.

Each episode has a theme, and tonight's is alternative fuels. You'll meet a couple who'll retrofit your gas-guzzling vintage ride into a clean machine, see an Indy 500 driver get better torque and pull using ethanol, and feel the rush with a monster trucker who fries chicken and then uses the grease as gas. These are people who don't just "talk the talk" about being green; they "drive the drive," as one quips. (That this first episode is about alternative fuels and a later one is about green vehicles is probably no coincidence: the show is "sponsored by Lexus," who has a new hybrid SUV on the market.)

The series doesn't end when you click off the TV. "Big Ideas" is just part of a larger line of programming, web features, and blogs called "The Green." Viewers can check out easy tips for green living, watch video clips, or learn more about environmental issues on "The Green" section of Sundance Channel's site, for which TreeHugger provided much of the content.

But lest you think Sundance the only cable channel targeting green viewers, the Discovery Channel is launching an entire network devoted to everyday green living next year.

—Jen Phillips

More on Wolfowitz at the World Bank

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

Via a Michael Hirsh column on Newsweek.com:

The plum State Department job that Paul Wolfowitz—of Iraq hawk fame, and now the president of the World Bank—secured for his "companion" (apparently, if you're over 40, you have "companions" not "girlfriends") not only represented a hefty raise over his previous position, but also meant that she earned $10,000 a year more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Obviously, then, the salary was not in line with standard State Department pay scales—which, in turn, discredits Wolfie and his companion's remarks that they were simply trying to avoid working together in a superior-subordinate capacity.

Hirsh's overall argument is that Wolfowitz is a victim of his own bunker mentality: He has no allies at the Bank, because he didn't listen to any of the lifers. Hirsh also spotlights the irony that Wolfowitz's pet issue at the World Bank was eliminating corruption in the third world countries the Bank supports: "It's intolerable to be harrumphing about corruption in the developing world while appearing to be lackadaisical about it back at Washington headquarters."

Willie Nelson Speaks the Truth

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 3:58 PM EDT

mojo-photo-willie2.jpgInterestingly-designed web site truthout.org has a cool video of Willie Nelson, fresh from his appearance on the "Colbert Report" (and subsequent appearance atop the Party Ben Top 10), giving a speech at the Camp Casey Peace Awards in Austin last week. The awards are named in honor of Cindy Sheehan's son, who was killed in Iraq three years ago. The clip shows the 73-year-old country legend has only grown more outspoken with age, saying "I just love a revolution," to cheers from the crowd.

In the followup interview, Nelson talks about how he manages to express progressive viewpoints while holding onto his conservative fan base, something that, as a radical former Nebraskan, I'm pretty much in awe of. "I stay with the traditions of country music," he says, "so in that respect I think I'm pretty conservative." It's a reminder that the kinds of things Nelson is talking about -- dedication to American farmers, opposition to nation-building foreign policy, support for the freedom to, uh, smoke weed, without government interference in your personal choices -- are actually kind of conservative too. Huh.

Willie Nelson's upcoming tour dates include three more nights at the Fillmore here in San Francisco (through Thursday 4/19), then he hits the main stage at Coachella on 4/29, its country sister festival Stagecoach the next weekend, and the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Illinois on 7/28.

Weird Weather Watch: Massive, Record-Setting Nor'easter

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 3:44 PM EDT

I'm a little late to the punch on this one, but in case you haven't heard, on Sunday and Monday, most of New England was hit with a powerful storm that dumped 8 inches of rain and battered towns with winds of up to 156 miles an hour.

New York Times has a two-page article on the fallout. But just to make the point that global warming may well be as expensive as a solution for it:

• More than 800 flights were cancelled. Others operated with hours-long delays.

• Power was out at 328,000 homes and businesses in 9 states.

• National Guard troops—as if they don't have enough to handle—were called in to help evacuate homes.

• Commuter rails and scores of major roads were closed.

• At least 9 people died as a result of the storm.

This is just one storm. Think about 3-4 of these every year, year after year. Doesn't looking for a real solution (read: not ethanol) start to sound like the logical thing to do?

What? McCain Hints His Iraq Plan is Roughly Same as Dems'

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 10:33 AM EDT

I'm sorry, I find this completely infuriating. Allow me to block quote heavily from this Slate article.

The moment of self-destruction came in a front-page interview for the Sunday, April 15, New York Times. Talking about the war in Iraq, McCain said, "I have no Plan B"—no alternative to winning.
But then, in the next paragraph, Times reporters Michael Gordon and Adam Nagourney write that he did talk about a Plan B, of sorts, after all:
He said that if the Bush administration's plan had not produced visible signs of progress by the time a McCain presidency began, he might be forced—if only by the will of public opinion—to end American involvement in Iraq.
"I do believe that history shows us Americans will not continue to support an overseas engagement involving the loss of American lives for an unlimited period unless they see some success," he said. "And then, when they run out of patience, they will demand that we get out."
Why is this so jaw-dropping? Keep in mind that, on April 11, McCain had delivered a high-profile speech at the Virginia Military Institute in which he denounced the Democrats' plan for a troop withdrawal as "reckless"—a game of "small politics" that "gives them an advantage in the next election" while denying "our soldiers the means to prevent an American defeat."
And yet, here was McCain, a few days later, telling the Times that, if elected president, he'd probably do pretty much the same thing.

I'm willing to concede that perhaps McCain was taken out of context or slipped up verbally. As unlikely as that sounds, how else do you explain McCain -- the hawkiest of war hawks in Washington -- conceding that his plan is nearly identical to the Democrats? Admittedly he's not saying that we should start redeploying troops now, as many Democrats are, but he is saying that if the surge doesn't work -- and it's looking that way -- Mr. "No Plan B" might start redeploying troops early in his terms. That's the Democratic platform. That's what every Democratic is running on. The Democrats -- you know, the people whose patriotism you're impugning? Hello?

I know McCain is a flip-flopper and a panderer, but this is completely banana balls crazy.

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McCain Wants to Make Pro-Life Position Very, Very Clear

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 10:17 AM EDT

We've had a discussion here on MoJoBlog about whether John McCain's current embrace of pro-life positions and figures (and what a fervent embrace it is) is a reversal of previously moderate positions on abortion -- he once told the SF Chronicle "I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade" -- or if it is simply the tail end of a long record that has always been hostile to a woman's right to choose.

Well, John McCain would prefer we don't have that debate. In an email to supporters that I received (beginning, "Dear fellow Alabamans," which I found odd), McCain's campaign writes the following:

John McCain is pro-life and has always fought for the rights of unborn children.
John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned.
John McCain has repeatedly voted against abortion.
The pro-abortion groups NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood have given Sen. McCain a 0% rating for his strong and consistent pro-life voting record.
Sen. McCain voted at least eight times to ban partial birth abortions, including voting twice to overturn President Clinton's veto of the partial birth abortion ban.
Sen. McCain voted for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
John McCain will continue to promote adoption.
Sen. McCain cosponsored legislation to prohibit discrimination against families with adopted children, to provide adoption education and to permit tax deductions for qualified adoption expenses.
John McCain will nominate judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution.
Sen. McCain strongly supported the nominations of Justices Roberts, Alito, Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia.
John McCain is noted for his long pro-life record.

Wow. No confusion there. No hint of moderation or maverick-ness. Sounds like a straight party-line GOP politician to me. (By the way, all clumsy emphasizing is native to the text. )

Defensive much, John?

Virginia Tech Students Speak Out

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 11:31 PM EDT

First there was the student who caught the sound of gunshots on his cell phone. Jamal
Albarghouti, whose video was shown on all the networks even became part of the media storm; the civil engineer was patched in to the CNN newsroom to talk about his 70-second clip.

But Albarghouti's is not the only voice and video out there from the school. MTV has a great compilation of sites where you can find Va. Tech bloggers, discussion groups, school emails, and firsthand news accounts. All from students and members of the school community who are far more in the know about the day's events than the ever-spectulative media.

My bet is that most of the nation has likely only heard of Virginia Tech, if they've heard much of anything at all, for their often-excellent Hokies football and basketball teams. Not anymore, not ever. And with this tragedy (the school's motto is Invent the Future) will come a transformed community. Because what's happening now, on this campus, is anything but a game.

National Shooting Sports Foundation Website Notes: "College Shotgun Event Hits the Mainstream"

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 10:02 PM EDT

Man, I thought the lack of taste and web savvy at the NRA was bad, but it pales in comparison to an item that the National Shooting Sports Foundation—another big player on the pry-my-gun-from-my-cold-dead-hands lobby—has up on its website 12+ hours after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history:

College Shotgun Event Hits the Mainstream
Shooters from 32 colleges and universities competed at the 39th annual ACUI Intercollegiate Clay Target Championships. As youth development programs, like NSSF's Schlastic Clay Target Program gain popularity, more students are continuing to shoot competively in college.

Hello #1: Are the crisis communications folks at these places totally asleep at the wheel?
Hello #2: Can't the NSSF afford a spellchecker?

The NSSF has taken a particular umbrage at lawsuits accusing gun manufacturers of liability when they ignore obvious evidence that straw and kitchen table dealers are buying up guns only to sell them on the black market, as Greg Sargent reported in a 2005 Mother Jones piece called "The Ricochet":

Industry spokespeople insist that manufacturers aren't trained in law enforcement and are "no more responsible for criminal misuse of their product than Budweiser is responsible for drunk driving," in the words of Lawrence Keane, general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a well-funded industry group.

Well-funded, indeed. As we reported in 1995:

A partnership between the government and the gun industry is marketing guns to kids in school. By 1999 more than 26 million students will have been exposed to a marketing program designed by the industry's leading trade association--the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The program, paid for in large part with federal tax dollars, aims to increase firearm sales and reduce support for gun control.

NRA's Response to Virginia Tech Shootings: Stand Your Ground

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 9:17 PM EDT

Perhaps the good folks at NRA were just as stunned as the rest of us at the Virginia Tech shootings, what else could account for the story (see below) that's up on their website? (As I write, 7:00 Pacific Time, more than 12 hours since the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history):

Wayne LaPierre: What They Didn't Tell You Today
4/13/2007
Today is one of the most important days of the year for gun owners. The start of the NRA Annual Meetings is both a celebration of freedom and a rally for the Second Amendment, but it's also a show of force by gun owners to the enemies of freedom everywhere.
As tens of thousands of freedom-loving Americans descend on St. Louis, the anti-gunners are doing everything they can to chip away at your rights.
Sarah Brady's sending e-mails to Brady Campaign supporters, hoping to start a Brady Gun Law Defense Fund. Unlike the NRA's Civil Rights Defense Fund, the Brady lawyers will be trying to hurt gun owners, not help them. They're pushing for persecution of the Second Amendment, not protection. But when we gather in St. Louis, we show them we won't be pushed around.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino's calling for a ban on all semi-automatic firearms. Mr. Mayor, we've already seen what that has done for England and crime there. Why would you insist on disarming law-abiding Americans? Menino and his cohort Michael Bloomberg want to turn millions of Americans into instant criminals. But when we gather in St. Louis, we show them we won't be pushed around.
Rebecca Peters of the International Action Network on Small Arms is pushing an arms trade treaty that would gut our Second Amendment freedoms. They're not interested in lobbying Congress or state legislators. Instead, they want to go global, with the help of anti-gun politicians in countries without the Second Amendment. That arms trade treaty, if ratified by Congress or signed by a future president, would mean a global war on your guns the likes of which has never been seen. But when we gather in St. Louis, we show them we won't be pushed around.
In fact, when we gather in St. Louis, we're pushing back. We're pushing for Castle Doctrine laws across the country. We're pushing for legislation that ensures the gun confiscations in New Orleans will never be repeated in this country. We're pushing to protect our rights to protect ourselves, even against anti-gun employers who want to leave you defenseless to and from work. When we gather in St. Louis, we're pushing to protect and promote our freedoms, and we won't stop pushing until we've won.

So originally, I thought they just hadn't updated their site. But the longer I look at it, the more it seems that they just retasked a three-day-old [NRA President] LaPierre speech to be the appropriate response to 33 shooting deaths.

All I can say to that is, wow. I can't wait to see what they put up tomorrow.

But LaPierre's rant provides a clue. So-called "Castle Doctrine" laws are the NRA's latest push. Here's the Wikipedia definition:

In the United States, laws informally referred to as 'castle laws' can sometimes impose an obligation to retreat before using force to defend oneself. The Castle Doctrine provides for an exception to this duty. Provided one is attacked in their own home, vehicle, or place of business, in jurisdictions where 'castle laws' are in force, one may stand their ground against an assailant without fear of prosecution.

As TNR points out, "the new stand-your-ground laws are so frightening because they cover shooters who simply feel at risk."

You can bet this is the strategy the NRA will be rolling out in the days to come: If only some VA Tech student had been packing.

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