2009 - %3, June

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 29, 2009

Mon Jun. 29, 2009 7:45 AM PDT

U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Highberger, left, and Pvt. Charles Joiner from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe, sit in a patrol base on an overnight mission near Forward Operation Base Lane, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, March 13, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini/Released)

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SCOTUS Rules for White Firefighters

| Mon Jun. 29, 2009 7:23 AM PDT

In a 5-4 decision that split along ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy siding with Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in the majority, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that a group of white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions based on their race. The ruling overturns Sonia Sotomayor's appellate court decision.

The firefighters who brought the suit, Ricci v. DeStefano, claimed reverse-discrimination when the city threw out results of a promotion exam because no black and only two Hispanic firefighters would have been promoted. 

The city scrapped the test because it feared promoting a disproportionate number of white firefighters would leave them in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination. Blacks and Hispanics account for nearly 60 percent of New Haven's population.

New Haven officials claimed they feared a lawsuit from the minority firefighters on those grounds if they let the test results stand, but the court ruled that "fear of litigation cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions." However, the court held the city cannot be sued for throwing out the test results.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reading her dissent form the bench, said the white firefighters had "had no vested right to promotion...The Court today holds that New Haven has not demonstrated 'a strong basis in evidence' for its plea. In so holding, the Court pretends that '[t]he City rejected the test results solely because the higher scoring candidates were white.'"

Read the entire ruling here (PDF).

McCain and the Internets

| Mon Jun. 29, 2009 6:25 AM PDT

Kevin is on a break until tomorrow. I'm filling in until he returns to the helm.

Remember that delicious story last year about John McCain's admission that he could not use a computer on his own? It seemed to symbolize his out-of-touchness--especially when he had to run against a candidate who seemed to have the Internet in his DNA. At the annual Personal Democracy Forum conference, which began this morning in New York, the first panel discussion included Mark McKinnon, who was an adviser to the McCain campaign (until Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination) and Joe Rospars, who handled new media for the Obama campaign. Andrew Rasiej, the founder of PDF, opened the chat with what he thought was a quasi-provocative question: Mark, did McCain really not understand or use the Internet?

McKinnon should have had an answer to this obvious question. Something like:

Well, he was not the most ardent user of email and computers, but he quickly became one and certainly understood the signficance of the Internet in commerce, communication, and democracy. Look, he's actively Twittering these days. And his Twitters about Iran even get attention from reporters who then ask the White House about them. So he's fully engaged with this stuff.

But McKinnon said none of this. In fact, the GOP consultant didn't even try to answer the question. He went on about how the digital revolution has changed politics, journalism, and the music business. (McKinnon is a failed professional songwriter.) He talked about how the Internet has made it so much easier for campaigns to harnass the enthusiasm of volunteers. (Duh.) He praised Obama--whom he had told McCain he could not work against--for his campaign's innovation. (Duh, again.) He took a shot at Al Gore for claiming to have invented the Internet. (Which Gore did not claim.)

But McKinnon didn't say anything about McCain and the Internet. He totally ducked the question. I would take that silence as confirmation of that 2008 meme. Any other explanation?

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

Eco-News Roundup: Monday, June 29

| Mon Jun. 29, 2009 4:00 AM PDT

A merry Monday to all. Here's a selection of green-tinged stories from our other blogs you might have missed: 

Sleeping With the Enemy: Canst the Greenpeace layeth down with the GOP?

Double the Cats, Double the Fun!: Feline Friday tradition continues, but with twice the catness.

Quantity v. Quality: Michael Jackson coverage swamps meaningful House debates on the climate change bill.

Climate=PASS: Climate aka green jobs bill passes the House.

 

Iran: What's Next?

| Sun Jun. 28, 2009 8:38 PM PDT

Kevin is still away. He'll be back on Tuesday. I'm filling in until then and will be blogging from the Personal Democracy Forum conference on Monday.

On Sunday, thousands of Iranians protested against the government, gathering at the Goba mosque in Tehran. Mir Hossein Mousvai's wife and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, were part of the demonstration. Mousvai, according to some reports, addressed the crowd via a cellphone. But this rally, smaller than previous demonstrations, will likely not cause the headline writers of The New York Times to reconsider the title on Sunday's dispatch from Iran: "In Tehran, a Mood of Melancholy Descends."

It does seem that the opposition might have lost steam--though we ought to recall that it took the last Iranian revolution two years to take hold and take power. On Sunday, a Tehran  filmmaker I've met via email sent me the below dispatch. This person is a Karroubi supporter and wants those of us in the West to realize that not all the opposition Iranians are Mousavi fans. It's a good point, since conventional media coverage often does turn complicated, full-of-nuance situations into binary, easy-to-shorthand episodes. S/he believes the opposition could regain momentum in the days ahead and writes:

It's been said both Mousavi and Karroubi are under house arrest, but every once in a while they are allowed to appear in public. Karroubi stayed in the Goba mosque just half an hour while he joined protesters and walked away with them. I think he couldn't stay more.

Well it's like new wave of demonstrations gonna start in next days, people talk about making a long human chain tomorrow. New faces coming up, just like [cleric] Hadi Ghaffari and some Ayattollahs. There is video and audio file of Ghaffari's speech against Khamenei on the Internet. It's just released today and I think in couple of days the whole country know about it and it may encourage people to go on.

People were waiting for Hashemi Rafsanjani's speech. They counted on him to stand in front of Khamenei. But after two weeks he spoke today and in a very moderate way supported Khamenei. Now it's like the waiting is over and there is no middle path to go.

You know , I think the government also enjoys this situation! I mean if they wanted to steal votes they could do it in a more convincing way. They could simply say Ahmadinejad has 500,000 more votes than Mousavi. They want to make the people angry. Ahmadinejad calls people who voted for other candidates "dust." Khamenei threathens the nation while he could have made a more cautious speech.They attack ordinary people. I don't know what the hell is going on behind the scenes, but pieces of puzzle just don't match.

I think Mousavi was not the man this nation needed, All he talked about before election was that "I have these plans because Khomeini wanted this for this society". It's sad the people who were pissed off at religion suddenly started repeating his religious slogans. People wanted a secular government but since Mousavi came everybody just forgot that aim.

What really upsets me is that we were 13 million voted for Karroubi. We protest the election results. Most of the politician arrested in past days were supporters of Karroubi, but the whole world consider us in the opposition as Mousavi's supporters!

Those of us watching from far away cannot easily suss out what is happening in Iran, and alas, the same applies to the nation's own citizens.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

Updated, Full Text Version of Waxman-Markey Climate Bill

| Sat Jun. 27, 2009 2:54 PM PDT

If you—like Reps Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Boehner (R-OH)—are having problems locating a full text version of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, HR 2454, complete with amendments, we've linked to them here.

While the GOP made a fetish out of secrecy when they were in charge, there is still a lot of work to be done to increase goverment transparency. Part of that effort is to allow everyone to have access to pending legislation in a timely manner, including but not limited to the honorable gentlemen from Texas and Ohio.

Transparency is a good idea; it ought to be the law. And, guess what? There's an organization trying to make that a reality. Read the Bill supports House Resolution 554, which would require that all legislation be available online for public review for a minimum of three days before it could be voted on.

Check them out. Happy reading.

---------------

Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger for Mother Jones.

 

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Climate Bill Passes the House

| Fri Jun. 26, 2009 5:07 PM PDT

The Waxman-Markey climate bill narrowly passed the House today. The vote was  219 to 212.

As we've noted, the bill's cap and trade approach is promising in many respects but might create a dangerous market in carbon derivatives (or not). Even before it was watered down and porked-up with gifts to biofuels industry, it never achieved the kind of emissions cuts that scientists and European governments say are needed to avert catastrophic climate change. Recent polls had shown that most people believe in the need to regulate emissions, yet the Obama administration framed the issue as a jobs bill, apparently believing the environmental message wouldn't stand up to attack. Environmental groups were deeply divided over the bill, and Greenpeace ultimately opposed it.

It now heads to the Senate, where it is likely to find more support from moderate Republicans than in the polarized House. Even so, I've been told by some environmental campaigners that the Senate isn't any more likely to strengthen the bill.

Is the US a Failed State? Or Just a Climate Rogue?

| Fri Jun. 26, 2009 2:19 PM PDT

It's not a question one tosses off idly. There's no comparison between the U.S. and places like Afghanistan and Iraq, which have lost, as Max Weber put it, "the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force." Yet when it comes to America's ability to protect itself from the vicissitudes of a changing climate, many people are wondering if some kind of third-world putdown might be accurate.

"Why do we allow the U.S. to act like a failed state on climate change?" asks George Monbiot in the Guardian, lamenting the failure of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, which passed in the House today, to achieve anywhere close to the emissions cuts that scientists and European countries say are needed to avert catastrophe. "A combination of corporate money and an unregulated corporate media keeps America in the dark ages."

Over at the Thin Green Line blog, Cameron Scott expands on the idea, construing Weber a bit more broadly. "A failed state is one in which the government can no longer control destructive social forces," he writes. "The forces in question here are the powers of lobbyists to write mistruths into law." One of those mistruths being that we need not feel a sense or urgency about climate change.

Personally, I prefer the definition of a failed state offered by the experts at the Crisis States Research Center, who say, "A failed state is one that can no longer reproduce the conditions for its own existence."  A climate that can sustain us is certainly one of those conditions. Even if the U.S. survives the loss of its coastal cities and the Sierra snowpack that feeds California, it probably won't endure the ensuing global resource wars, at least not in its current form.

You can quibble over whether the U.S. is a failed state or a failing state--it really depends on when you think the world has passed the global tipping point and how much we're to blame. Perhaps we're more accurately described as a rogue state. Like Iran, but more advanced. Instead of forcibly preventing the media from covering inconvenient truths, all our ruling elite needs is the death of a pop star. Voila! The debate on climate change disappears, replaced with obeisances to the God of Pop.

Meanwhile, in Iraq and Afghanistan....

| Fri Jun. 26, 2009 1:42 PM PDT

Kevin is off for a few days--and not in Argentina. He'll be back and ready to blog on Tuesday. In the meantime, I will be your pilot.

Under usual circumstances, the withdrawal of US troops from a theater of war would be considered a big deal.

Not these days.

The United States has begun to pull troops out of Iraq, and there's not much attention being paid--even with the explosion of violence in Iraq this week. (Insert gratuitous Michael Jackson reference here.) And there are other milestones to look ahead to within Iraq. Reuters notes:

Many observers see Iraq's most crucial milestone being the parliamentary election next January, rather than the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from town and cities by the end of this month.

That vote will be a defining test of whether the country's feuding factions can live together after the years of sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion.

"Security gains in a narrow sense will be of limited value unless the ... election is turned into a thoroughly inclusive affair where Iraqis get the opportunity to discuss fundamental issues of national reconciliation in an open atmosphere," said Reidar Visser of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and editor of Iraq-focused website www.historiae.org

This is something else to look forward to being insufficiently covered within the American media.

Just like the Afghanistan presidential election campaign now in process. From Politico:

Without strong preemptive action by the Obama administration and the international community, Afghanistan’s impending elections could be just as suspect — and have just as dire consequences — as Iran’s, a top opponent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed on Tuesday.

“The possibility of a Kenya or a Zimbabwe or an Iran looms large,” said Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and Karzai adviser now challenging him for president in the Aug. 20 election.

Well, what would you expect a Karzai challenger to say? But what if he's right? A bad election in Afghanistan would truly undermine the US operation there. The International Crisis Group, a savvy NGO, has put out a report outlining the election challenges in Afghanistan. The group's South Asia project director, Samina Ahmed, notes: 

Ultimately, it is the perception of the Afghan population that will measure electoral success. If they are to be encouraged to vote, they must be confident that their ballots will count. But if perceived to be unfairly conducted, elections could provide a potential flashpoint.

Isn't Afghanistan already a flashpoint? Ugh.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

 

Friday Frog Blog: Fribute to Michael Jackson

| Fri Jun. 26, 2009 1:26 PM PDT

To pay tribute to Michael Jackson, this week's frog blog is a photo essay dedicated to frogs with unusual skin tones:
 

7657118_28d73d5699 22556558_dc172140af    401141532_0eeb9c7f7a 1077493861_ea529a66b2 1376843326_76f9f58356

All photos are from Flickr and used under a Creative Commons License. In order, the photos come from the following Flickr users: Paul Robinson,  headexplodie,  sara j s, K<3money, and calico 13.