2007 - %3, May

Bushies: We "Will Fight to Keep Meatpackers from Testing for Mad Cow Disease"

| Thu May 31, 2007 8:20 PM EDT

The argument for free market economics—though we here at Mother Jones may have, on occasion, doubted its virtuosity—goes like this: Competition encourages innovation, and customers decide which innovations are worth keeping and get what they want in the process. Here's a case in point: A small business called Creekstone Farms Premium Beef proposed testing all of its cows for mad cow disease. Customers have long been skittish about mad cow disease, and testing would likely cause Creekstone's business to spike.

Innovation? Check. Benefit to consumers? Check. Fostering small businesses? Check. But the USDA has intervened to block Creekstone from conducting the tests. The rationale? It's not fair to agribusinesses, which buy, sell, and butcher so many cows that they couldn't possibly conduct the expensive test on all of them. The USDA also alleged that "widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry."

Protecting the strong from the weak and putting dollars above lives are standard practice at the USDA, which is pretty much a trade group for agribusiness. Mother Jones has highlighted other examples of the same mentality: Read about the USDA's watering down of organic standards here, and its past moves to block safety innovations here.

Now, for another reason to become a vegetarian. PETA has petitioned Congress to create a tax break for non-meat eaters. After all, the animal rights group argues, buying a hybrid vehicle entitles you to a tax break, although it reduces carbon emissions by only two-thirds as much per year as forgoing meat. It seems like a pretty righteous idea to me (full disclosure: I'm a long-time vegetarian, though I might have had a tiny taste of prosciutto last night)—the only problem is, how could the government determine who does and does not eat meat? Testing our poop is obviously out of the question: See above.

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NASA Chief Not Concerned About Global Warming

| Thu May 31, 2007 7:35 PM EDT

I've always considered it arrogant of humankind to burn enough fossil fuel to kill off half the earth's species. But the NASA chief would call me arrogant for judging. What's really arrogant, he says, is assuming that climate change won't be for the better. So NASA doesn't prioritize studying climate change from space in its $17 billion budget.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, a Bush appointee, tells NPR:

I have no doubt that...a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.... I would ask which human beings—where and when—are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.

Right. Why won't future generations be better off after the sixth great extinction? What's wrong with displacing 1 billion of the world's poorest people? Who are we to judge?

Acts of Gratuitous Violence Against Giuliani

| Thu May 31, 2007 6:56 PM EDT

If, like the NYFD, you hate Rudy Giuliani, you will go bananas for Matt Tabibi's verbal pummeling of "America's mayor" in Rolling Stone. Here's a teaser:

If this is a guy who chews over a perceived slight in the middle of a victory lap, what's he going to be like with his finger on the button? Even Richard Nixon wasn't wound that tight.

[Rudy's] political strength -- and he knows it -- comes from America's unrelenting passion for never bothering to take that extra step to figure shit out. If you think you know it all already, Rudy agrees with you. And if anyone tries to tell you differently, they're probably traitors, and Rudy, well, he'll keep an eye on 'em for you. Just like Bush, Rudy appeals to the couch-bound bully in all of us, and part of the allure of his campaign is the promise to put the Pentagon and the power of the White House at that bully's disposal.

.… Whether Rudy believes in this kind of politics reflexively, as the psychologically crippled Bush does, or as a means to an end, as Karl Rove does, isn't clear. But there's no question that Giuliani has made the continuation of Swift-Boating politics a linchpin of his candidacy.

Happy reading.

Mexico Sending Citizens for Health Care on the U.S.'s Tab

| Thu May 31, 2007 6:20 PM EDT

With immigration in the news, let's see what you think of a new program being offered by Mexican Consulates in the United States. The program, called Ventanillas de Salud, or Health Windows, "aims to provide Mexican immigrants with basic health information, cholesterol checks and other preventive tests. It also makes referrals to U.S. hospitals, health centers and government programs where patients can get care without fear of being turned over to immigration authorities," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal entitlement programs such as Medicare, but they are eligible for the Women, Infants and Children program and, like everyone else, must be treated at hospital emergency rooms. The federal government later reimburses hospitals for care provided and not paid for.

I'm having a hard time deciding if I think this program is a good idea or a terrible one. Providing some basic information and diagnostic tests at the consulates seems reasonable enough. And I'm generally in favor of the U.S. government providing basic human services to those that work for us and live among us. But when the Mexican government starts spending money to make sure its citizens in the United States are cashing in on our government's generosity (to the tune of $1.1 billion in Los Angeles alone last year), I find my feathers getting a little ruffled.

The Ventanillas program probably doesn't cost much, from the sounds of it, but why doesn't that money go into providing education, job opportunities, and health care in Mexico? It seems perverse that the Mexican government is eager to be "relevant in the lives of its citizens in the United States," as Steven A. Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, puts it, when it has failed to meet their most basic needs at home. I mean, is the Mexican government trying to outsource government, thereby admitting that Mexico is a failed state?

Weigh in in the comments section.

Criminal Charges Against Pfizer In Nigeria

| Thu May 31, 2007 5:40 PM EDT

Nigeria is bringing criminal charges against Pfizer pharmaceuticals in the wake of its 1996 drug testing during a meningitis epidemic. The Washington Post reports that authorities filed eight charges this month, including counts of criminal conspiracy and voluntarily causing grievous harm. They also filed a civil lawsuit seeking more than $2 billion in damages from the world's largest drug company.

The move represents a rare -- perhaps unprecedented -- instance in which the developing world's anger at multinational drug companies has boiled over into criminal charges. The government alleges that Pfizer researchers selected 200 children and infants from crowds at a makeshift epidemic camp in Kano and gave about half of the group an untested antibiotic called Trovan. Researchers gave the other children what the lawsuit describes as a dangerously low dose of a comparison drug made by Hoffmann-La Roche. Nigerian officials say Pfizer's actions resulted in the deaths of an unspecified number of children and left others deaf, paralyzed, blind or brain-damaged. The lawsuit says that the researchers did not obtain consent from the children's families and that the researchers knew Trovan to be an experimental drug with life-threatening side effects that was "unfit for human use." Parents were banned from the ward where the drug trial occurred, the suit says, and the company left no medical records in Nigeria.

Here's a link to a bunch of MoJo coverage of Big Pharma's trixsy ways. --JULIA WHITTY

Extinction Stinks

| Thu May 31, 2007 4:19 PM EDT

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500 Years Of Women In Art

| Thu May 31, 2007 4:00 PM EDT

NASA Finds Earth's Climate Approaching Dangerous Point

| Thu May 31, 2007 3:16 PM EDT

NASA and Columbia University Earth Institute research finds that human-made greenhouse gases have brought the Earth's climate close to critical tipping points. Using climate models, satellite data, and paleoclimate records, the scientists conclude that the West Antarctic ice sheet, Arctic ice cover, and regions providing fresh water sources and species habitat are under threat from continued global warming. Lead author James Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, concludes: "If global emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise at the rate of the past decade, this research shows that there will be disastrous effects, including increasingly rapid sea level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones."

Meanwhile, GW Bush appears to have woken from his Rip-Van-Winkle slumber and is proffering ideas to the world that the world has already processed & left to the dust of history. Somebody give him a cup of coffee, please, and brief him on the fact the G-8 already has proposals on the table ready to be acted on NOW. The only thing holding them up? His administration. --JULIA WHITTY

Iraq's a Disaster, NCLB Not Far Behind

| Thu May 31, 2007 2:35 PM EDT

This week's Time offers up its take on how to fix No Child Left Behind. The piece is a good primer on all-things NCLB; worth a read if, a) You don't know much about it but you're curious, or b) You need a refresher course on where things stand in 2007.

To fix NCLB, Time suggests that schools go beyond basic NCLB and Adequate Yearly Progress jargon when reporting on their school's progress and provide a fuller, more descriptive picture of school quality. Agreed, but guess what? More expansive reporting requirements are costly and give teachers less time and energy for teaching.

The article also suggests stopping the Feds from slapping "failure" labels on schools and investing in more localized remedies. Great idea. Who likes being told they're a loser? Try investing in local, neighborhood organizations that are already in the school trenches but doing so on shoestring budgets. Solid, community relationships are often already in place, so a little bit of cash from D.C. could go a long way.

Mentioned in the piece are David Berliner and Sharon Nichols, authors of Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools, who say that Bush's NCLB policies are as ineffective as his policies in Iraq. Harsh, maybe, but considering that they found evidence of administrators falsifying test data and forcing low-scoring students out of their schools to avoid public humiliation, maybe they're about right.

Time points out that where Europe has a uniform national curriculum and national tests, state and local jurisdiction is still prominent in the states. In response to state autonomy, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings reacted by saying, "Do you really want me sitting in Washington working on how we teach evolution or creationism? I don't want to!"

Umm, no, we probably don't want you meddling in how, and if, for that matter, teachers teach evolution or creationism. You don't have a teaching credential, so that would be against your own rules.

—Gary Moskowitz

Interim U.S. Attn. and Rove Protege Timothy Griffin Resigns

| Thu May 31, 2007 1:25 PM EDT

I wrote yesterday about the rumors that Thompson's campaign-to-be was courting Karl Rove lackey and interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Timothy Griffin. Griffin's appointment caused a stir as it became apparent during the imbroglio that is the U.S. Attorneys scandal that Bud Cummins (the former U.S. Attn. Griffin replaced) had been forced out to make way for a Rove protégé. Yesterday, the Arkansas Times blog (thanks to ThinkProgress for spotting this) reports that Griffin has resigned, effective June 1. No word on whether he is joining the Thompson campaign, but the timing seems opportune, no? Griffin is the young prosecutor Monica Goodling mentioned in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week. According to Goodling, former coworker Paul McNulty was being untruthful when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in February that he knew nothing of Griffin's involvement in "caging" (a voter suppression technique). I stand by what I said yesterday. This not the best move for Thompson's campaign. Stay tuned.