Blogs

Does the Virtual World Need Virtual Lawsuits?

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 10:14 AM EDT

A Pennsylvania lawyer has sued the creator of the online virtual universe Second Life after the company banned him from the game and confiscated his virtual winnings. Apparently he'd been cheating in the game's land-auction process. The lawyer is asking for $8,000 in restitution. Maybe the game needs to be expanded to include "virtual litigation," complete with jury pools and subpoena power...

Advertise on MotherJones.com

New Evidence: Republicans Losing Key Chunk of Their Base

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 9:54 AM EDT

Put this in the Schauenfreude department:

The Republican Party, known since the late 19th century as the party of business, is losing its lock on that title.
New evidence suggests a potentially historic shift in the Republican Party's identity -- what strategists call its "brand." The votes of many disgruntled fiscal conservatives and other lapsed Republicans are now up for grabs, which could alter U.S. politics in the 2008 elections and beyond.
Some business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don't share. In manufacturing sectors such as the auto industry, some Republicans want direct government help with soaring health-care costs, which Republicans in Washington have been reluctant to provide. And some business people want more government action on global warming, arguing that a bolder plan is not only inevitable, but could spur new industries.

In addition to citing several major long-time GOP donors who are now supporting Democrats, the WSJ has numbers: "In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in September, 37% of professionals and managers identify themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, down from 44% three years ago."

And, "Hedge funds last year gave 77% of their contributions in congressional races to Democrats, up from 71% during the 2004 election... Last year the securities industry gave 45% of its money to Republicans, down from 58% in 1996."

The end result of all this is a near-bankruptcy for the party that is going to seriously hamper its national campaign efforts. It's amazing they could screw things up this badly just seven years after taking the White House and five years after taking Congress.

Mellencamp Sings the News

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 10:20 PM EDT
mellencamp.gif

With a career making songs about the working class and rural America, country/folk/pop singer John (Cougar) Mellencamp has similarities to Woody Guthrie, a guy who, in 1941 was singing for Dust Bowl refugees. Mellencamp even received the 2003 Woody Guthrie Award for "exemplifying the ideals" of the man. In his newest song, "Jena," Mellencamp appears to be embodying his hero's ideals again.

"Jena" is a quiet, restrained folk song written about the Jena 6, a group of six black teenagers that were arrested in December after an attack on a white student in Jena, La. Racial tensions have since flared.

The song is one of nearly 20 that Mellencamp recorded in August for a new album with T Bone Burnett that currently has no title, no label, and no release date, according to his publicist. But Bay Area folks might get lucky and hear "Jena" performed live this week when Mellencamp sits in with Burnett at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

A Huffington Post blogger suggests that Mellencamp take his politics to the next level and run for governor of his home state of Indiana. Um, I'm thinking Woody Guthrie would say stick with the guitar, sir.

Ozone Shuts Down Immune Response

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 9:42 PM EDT

We already know that exposure to ozone, a major component of urban air pollution, increases cardiovascular and pulmonary hospitalizations, and deaths. Now Duke University Medical Center finds that inhaled pollutants impair the immune system, making mice, at least, more susceptible to subsequent foreign invaders, such as bacteria. This just as the Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the standards for levels of ozone in the air. The current standard is 85 parts per billion. Many medical groups, including the American Thoracic Society, recommend a stricter standard of 60 parts per billion.

(BTW, have I mentioned that we should build a memorial the size of Kansas to all the lab rodents who've unwilling sacrificed themselves so you and I can get fat, do no exercise, make pollution, and still live to 90? I'm thinking a giant white, faux Swiss cheese rat, inscribed with the names all the little lab pets were never given. You and I can write them in with Sharpies.)

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Acid Rain Recovery Falls Far Short Of Expectations

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 9:24 PM EDT

Thought we were done with this problem? A new study from Britain finds that the acid rain pollution of the 1970s and 1980s is still largely with us. Action taken over the last 20 years across Europe to clean up acid pollutants (from power generation and industry) in rivers has fallen far short of expectations. Apparently the problem is more stubborn than we'd imagined (read why it's even more stubborn in the U.S). Recent studies in Galloway, the Scottish Highlands and Wales reveal that many streams are still highly acidified. Biological recovery has been particularly poor, with more than two thirds of all streams sampled still acid enough during high flow to cause biological damage, and with metals at toxic concentrations. . . Oops. Further proof that the not-paying-attention thing never really works.—Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

U.S., the Biggest Global Arms Dealer

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 9:18 PM EDT

We're leaders in everything, from outsourcing to having the highest rate of child poverty among industrialized nations. We are also, according to a Congressional Service Research (CRS) report released yesterday, the top seller of arms to the developing world, followed by Russia and Great Britain. Its biggest recipients are Pakistan and India.

With this $28.8 billion market, the U.S. is effectively fueling a long standing rivalry between two nuclear states on the Indian subcontinent by arming both sides and pushing along a regional arms race. By selling F-16's to both sides, the Bush administration claimed back in 2005, it was "trying to...solidify and extend relations with both India and Pakistan, at a time when we have good relations with both of them...and at a time when they have improving relationships with one another."

This is certainly nothing new: the U.S. doesn't hesitate to arm both sides of a conflict. Let us remember Turkey and Greece, as well as Iran and Iraq.

—Neha Inamdar

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Wake Up The Candidates: Americans Are Scared Of Global Warming

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 8:53 PM EDT

Hey, it's working. The long slumber is coming to an end. A Yale University survey found 40 percent of Americans will only vote for a presidential candidate who has a strong sense of urgency on the global warming problem.

"One of the most surprising findings was the growing sense of urgency," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change and the study's principal investigator. "Nearly half of Americans now believe that global warming is either already having dangerous impacts on people around the world or will in the next 10 years—a 20-percentage-point increase since 2004. These results indicate a sea change in public opinion."

The survey's findings reveals that 62% of Americans believe life on earth will continue without major disruptions only if society takes immediate and drastic action to reduce global warming; 68% support a new international treaty requiring the U.S. to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90% by 2050; 85% support forcing automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks and SUVs to 35 miles per gallon, even if it meant a new car would cost up to $500 more; 82% support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year; 50% say they are personally worried—15 percent say a great deal—about global warming.

We heard about Leiserowitz's 2004 survey in MoJo's The Thirteenth Tipping Point. Well, it seems to be tipping, at last. Somebody set the alarm and wake up Washington.—Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

How To Save 375 Million Gallons Of Gas A Year

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 4:50 PM EDT

Amazingly, American cities did it last year. Did the economy collapse? Did the world end? Nope. The way forward just got a little easier to navigate. So reports the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The work was done by Clean Cities, a network of approximately 90 volunteer coalitions developing public/private partnerships to promote alternative and advanced vehicles, fuel blends, fuel economy, hybrid vehicles, and idle reduction.

According to the report: Seventy-one percent of the 2006 gasoline displacement came from the use of alternative fuels. Thirty percent of that was from the use of compressed natural gas, mostly in heavy-duty vehicles. E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, accounted for 24 percent of gasoline displacement. Coalitions acquired nearly 44,000 hybrid electric vehicles in 2006, a 61 percent increase over 2005. HEV use displaced about 9 million gallons of gasoline. Idle reduction efforts displaced 8.4 million gallons, including 1.2 million gallons from truck stop electrification. Almost 2 million gallons were saved by reducing the number of miles traveled.

Okay, so it's not enough to save the world, and it has some built-in problems, say, ethanol. But it shows us how and where to start, and how surprisingly easy it really is when you make up the collective mind. Imagine how the problem might transform into opportunity if the big guns in DC ever get motivated.—Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Jena Just Isn't Enough: Protest or Participation?

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 2:24 PM EDT

In the wake of news, both good and bad, about minority crime, Congress finally coming to grips with the crack/powder cocaine sentencing travesty, and actionable analyses of the prison-industrial complex gaining traction, the question remains one of finding a way forward to inner city uplift. (Of course, for some, the question remains "how can we get those ig'nent black people to accept that all their problems are entirely of their own making. That they, and they alone, live in a socio-historical vaccuum, untouched by the doings of the dominant group.")

White apologists to the contrary, and except in Louim-ian circumstances, we do not need a "21st Century Civil Rights Movement." Not if that means an emphasis on marching, protesting and denunciations of racism. Been there. Done that. Move along, now. Whites' consciousness isn't going to be raised any higher until the black one undergoes some major renovations and maybe not even then; people see what they want to see. In fact, we'd do best to assume whites will never be any more enlightened than they are now because, to paraphrase Chris Rock, it wasn't the white media chasing him home from the subway.

Is it whites' fault that Ray-Ray was chasing Chris? Ok, let's go with that, but to stop there is to fetishize white people. It's to assume that whites are all-malevolent, all-powerful and there's nothing blacks can do to protect, let alone better, themselves. On the other hand, to procede to figuring out a way to reach Ray-Ray is to love black people and the black future. It's to believe in them. And, here's the hard part: believing in someone or something has to mean a willingness to critique it closely for flaws, for failing to live up to its potential, then working to correct those flaws.

So when I hear of organizations like this one, I know I've encountered a true "nigger lover." They didn't just harp on blacks' disproportionate unemployment levels and how the prison-industrial complex keeps black men forever on the margins; they opened the "Homeboy Bakery" and created jobs with futures for America's despised. And talk about a work ethic when you know your boss, and your clientele, wants to see you shine. Leaders like this talk about "watching people become the truth of who they are." The other kind talk about white people.

Here's another way forward vice back, yet again, to whites:

The plan to put 10,000 men on the streets for an initial period of 90 days starting late this year is the latest effort by Philadelphia's black community to curb violence that drove homicides to a nine-year high of 406 in 2006.
Groups of volunteers will be stationed on drug corners and other trouble spots in a bid to stop the shootings and other crimes that have given Philadelphia the highest homicide rate among the nation's 10 largest cities. They will not be armed, will not have powers of arrest, and will be identified only by armbands or hats during their three-hour shifts.
They will be trained in conflict resolution, and are intended to be peacekeepers and mentors rather than law enforcers. Each patrol, however, will include a police officer.

Sure would be a lot easier to walk a picket line once a year or so and yell stuff at TV cameras.

Needless to say, the folks who secretly believe that all the lies are true, that black dysfunction and underachievement is the truth of who we are, are putting far more effort into derailing the plan than volunteering for it: "Critics say the plan will fail to meet its recruitment goals, partly because it is too closely identified with the police, who will be responsible for selecting the areas to patrol and who are distrusted in many neighborhoods." It doesn't take a CIA analyst to see who here is invested in black progress and who in preserving a status quo that enables their fascination with Anglos and absolves blacks of any responsibility for their own uplift.

My frustrations with the problematics of the Jena protests has me stuck on this topic, I know, but never fear: I'll move on. I'd planned to today; my umbrage isn't even close to fully taken and it's a target-rich environment out there. But then I happened upon the following article early this morning. One participant at a recent conference of marginalized black/migrant European women summarized their goal thusly: "We don't want to protest, we want to participate." Sounds good to me. It also sounds like a critique.

Tuesday's a Bruising Music News Day

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 2:18 PM EDT

Common

  • Artists expressing solidarity with the so-called "Jena 6" include Common (above), Mos Def, MC Lyte, Talib Kweli and Pharoahe Monch. The rappers joined the call for a classroom walk-out yesterday in support of the six black students charged with second-degree murder after a fight stemming from a racial conflict at Jena High School in Louisiana. See Mother Jones' coverage of, well, having mixed feelings over the whole Jena thing here.
  • Radiohead's Web site slows to a crawl after fans start pre-orders of the band's new album, In Rainbows. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood wrote a kind-of apology on the site, saying it was "busier than they expected," I guess referring to the rest of the band, but not himself, is he pulling an "I-told-you-so" here? Incidentally, the Billboard story refers to the magazine's "Buzz" chart that measures, er, blog popularity. I didn't know they had a chart for that. More "High School Musical" posts coming right up.
  • The Police were honored with the Order of Arts and Letters at a ceremony in Paris on Monday. French Culture Minister Christine Albanel presented the high honor to the band, saying she expressed "France's full admiration and recognition." Sting, replying in French, said "we are very happy to be among your knights." That's right, he replied in French. Gotta love that guy.
  • Ugh. In the saddest development yet in a pretty sad story, Britney Spears has lost custody of her kids in a hearing Monday. Kevin Federline will take care of Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1, "until further order of the court." Is this even music-related in any way?