Blogs

Senator Chris Dodd Takes Stand on FISA, Takes On TeleComs

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 2:50 AM EDT

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From Senator Chris Dodd's site (via Wired News, Via Digg, courtesy of Paul Ward, aka dssstrkl—how hip am I?):

The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.
No more.
I have decided to place a "hold" on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by illegally providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.
I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.
It's about delivering results -- and as I've said before, the FIRST thing I will do after being sworn into office is restore the Constitution. But we shouldn't have to wait until then to prevent the further erosion of our country's most treasured document. That's why I am stopping this bill today.
Indicate your support for my hold as well as your thoughts on this issue in the comment section below.

Now unfortunately, it seems as though the "comments" section is really just a way for Dodd's campaign to capture email addresses. And this hold is surely a good way to get publicity when you're stuck in the second or third tier. But let's put cynicism aside for the moment. Well done, Senator!

Update: Correntewire suggests a plan of action for Senator Rockefeller, who authored the bill to give them amnesty...

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The Great German Immigrant Panic (aka John Derbyshire Is Just Too Aggravating To Ignore)

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 1:52 AM EDT

Jonathan has a righteous bit of outrage about National Review columnist John Derbyshire's latest inanity (heavens to murgatroid! there are Hispanics in Iowa!) that I can't resist piling on to. About a century ago the Derbyshires of the day were tearing their hair out about the way German immigrants were taking over Upper Midwest towns. In Minnesota, there was much hand-wringing over "Stearns County Syndrome," which consisted of Mueller and Schmidt kids graduating from 8th grade without having learned English.

When I was reporting on Latino immigration in a small town not so far from Storm Lake (10 years ago, by the way--and the town was about 50 percent Latino then, so what's Derbyshire's big news here anyway?), a local church lady told me about how her Norwegian parents used to warn the kids not to hang out with the riffraff from across town. "Back then it was Swedes, today it's the Spanish people," she said. Then she went off to root for the new boys' high school soccer team, 50 percent Mexican kids plus a few Bosnians and Somalis. They made the state tournament that year.

Airport Screeners Fail to Find Fake Bombs; The Onion Reports Stolen Headline

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 8:55 PM EDT

The Transportation Security Administration said today that during tests last year, screeners in major airports across the country allowed dummy bomb components to sail through security up to 75 percent of the time. San Francisco airport, which uses privately contracted screeners, did the best of all the test sites with only a 20% failure rate.

Due to last year's poor performance, TSA now runs drills continuously at every airport in the country, planting fake bomb parts sometimes no larger than a pen cap (next week: no pens on planes!). Screeners who fail must undergo remedial training. Personally, I'd prefer it if they just trained them right the first time. In the meantime, can I have my damn shoes back?

—Casey Miner

FCC Targets Media-Ownership Rules Yet Again

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Kevin Martin, the head of the FCC, has announced that he wants to decide on new media ownership rules by the end of the year. In particular, he's considering lifting a longtime ban on cross-ownership—that is, letting a single company own print and broadcast media outlets in the same market. As Eric Klinenberg explained in Mother Jones earlier this year, repealing the ban would be bad news for the news, especially the embattled newspapers and TV stations that—love 'em or hate 'em—remain Americans' main sources of local news.

This isn't the first time the FCC has taken a swing at the cross-ownership ban: Former commission head Michael Powell managed to strike it down in 2003. (A federal court blocked the move.) That time, the FCC rushed the decision through with minimal public input; this time, Martin says he'll take the "unusual step" of letting the public comment on the proposed rule changes... for one whole month.

Dennis Kucinich's Deep Pockets

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 6:34 PM EDT

Last week, Stephen Colbert revealed that pocket-sized Democrat Dennis Kucinich carries a lot of stuff in his pockets—a copy of the Constitution, a union card, a green tea bag, and—courtesy of a 2003 Mother Jones profile by Charles Bowden—a baseball card of Cleveland Indian Rocky Colavito and a quotation from Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. This week, Kucinich made a good-natured appearance on the Colbert Report, emptying his overtsuffed pockets, and even getting in a nice comeback:

Colbert: "This is the famous pocket Constitution. Did you shrink this down yourself?"

Kucinich: "No, no, no. George Bush already did that."

Dennis Kucinich's Deep Pockets

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 6:18 PM EDT

Last week, Stephen Colbert revealed that pocket-sized Democrat Dennis Kucinich carries a lot of stuff in his pockets—a copy of the Constitution, a union card, a green tea bag, and—courtesy of a 2003 Mother Jones profile by Charles Bowden—a baseball card of Cleveland Indian Rocky Colavito and a quotation from Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. This week, Kucinich made a good-natured appearance on the Colbert Report, emptying his overtsuffed pockets, and even getting in a nice comeback:

Colbert: "This is the famous pocket Constitution. Did you shrink this down yourself?"

Kucinich: "No, no, no. George Bush already did that."

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Raped by the Law Again

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 5:00 PM EDT

I'm kicking myself for not having remembered to add the following to yesterday's post on the Philadelphia judge who ruled that it's ok to rape prostitutes, or rather that it's impossible to rape a prostitute, just as it's impossible to steal from a thief:

Last fall, [Judge] Cheuvront granted a motion by defense attorneys barring the use of the words rape, sexual assault, victim, assailant, and sexual assault kit from the trial of Pamir Safi—accused of raping Tory Bowen in October 2004. Safi's first trial resulted in a hung jury last November when jurors deadlocked 7-5. Responding to Cheuvront's initial language ban—which will be in force again when Safi is retried in July—prosecutors upped the ante last month by seeking to have words like sex and intercourse barred from the courtroom as well. The judge denied that motion, evidently on the theory that there would be no words left to describe the sex act at all. The result is that the defense and the prosecution are both left to use the same word—sex—to describe either forcible sexual assault, or benign consensual intercourse. As for the jurors, they'll just have to read the witnesses' eyebrows to sort out the difference.

Here's what happened at the retrial in July, pretty much what happened when the Philadelphia perp raped, er, "stole the services" of another prostitute four days later: a travesty of justice.

Preteens on the Pill?

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 3:59 PM EDT

A student health center at a middle school in Portland, Maine, recently voted to make birth control pills and patches available to students treated at the center. For those of you who don't remember, middle schoolers range in age from 11 to 13. While making contraceptives more widely available is a noble goal, doesn't an 11-year-old girl seeking birth control pills cry out for a visit from social services? After all, girls that young rarely have 12-year-old partners.

Obviously it's better to have preteens on the pill than pregnant, but still, the news that five kids told the middle-school nurse in Portland that they were having sex last year seems worth more intervention that just a pack of Ortho-Novum....

Organic Milk Continues To Go Sour

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 2:38 PM EDT

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Yesterday, the Wisconsin-based farm policy group, the Cornucopia Institute, announced the filing of class action lawsuits against the nation's largest organic dairy outfit—Aurora Organic Dairy. The company, which sells its organic milk to big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco, has been under investigation by the USDA for the past two years. According to their April findings, the company is guilty of labeling and representing its milk as organic when it was "not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organic Program regulations." Cornucopia's own investigation found animals were confined to pens and sheds, another violation of federal law. In August, Aurora and the USDA established a consent agreement: Aurora can continue to operate as an organic outfit, but the company is on notice with a one-year probation.

The Cornucopia Institute went further. The class-action lawsuit filed yesterday (a second one is being filed today) demands redress for consumers who purchased milk from Aurora, and requests the U.S. District Court halt the ongoing sale of Aurora's organic milk until the company can demonstrate compliance with federal regulations.

Mother Jones has had its eye on Aurora for a few years now. Read this piece on the corporatization of organic milk. The organic dairy business is estimated to value at $3.5 billion by 2010 and industrial operations like Aurora, who already make a killing off organic milk, will be set to rake in a big chunk of that. By flooding the market with a surplus of cheap milk, companies like Aurora have slashed market prices, pushing many smaller operations out of the business. Many large corporations have gobbled up organic operations, check out this chart provided by Cornucopia to see whose in bed with who. Far from a democratization of the market, industrial scale outfits threaten the entire organic movement. More accountability for these corporate producers is a must.

—Michelle Chandra

Bush Wins Battle Over S-CHIP; Will He Lose the War?

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 2:35 PM EDT

I got a little worked up about the Derbyshire thing. Sorry. Here's something a little more straightforward. The Democrats' attempt to override the president's veto of S-CHIP failed today, but Time reports the GOP's troubles won't end. The Democratic leadership in Congress plans on passing other popular legislation that President Bush has threatened to veto—including bills on education and veterans—so as to ruin to GOP's fall. Every time the Republicans block a popular bill, or the president vetoes one, it hands the Democrats a 30-second attack ad come 2008.