Supreme Court Race Ruling 'Judicial Activism'

| Fri Jun. 29, 2007 7:14 AM PDT

The U.S. Supreme Court reignited the debate over how to appropriately handle diversity in U.S. public schools when it overturned policies intended to diversify student enrollments in Jefferson County, Kentucky and in Seattle.

Political leaders called yesterday's ruling "appalling," "a terrible blow to school districts," and "judicial activism." Others said that the ruling gave racist school policies a "smackdown." Some are going so far as to say the ruling marks a return to segregation, while others claim that existing, binary (white and black) notions of race still cloud the debate.

It's worth noting that at least one of the original plaintiffs in the case was a white mother who was disappointed that her child didn't get accepted into her first school of choice. Many plaintiffs in the case (not necessarily white) were also pissed that schools were using race as a determining factor for "tiebreakers."

How educators define and treat race from here on out remains to be seen — since the ruling stopped short of prohibiting all consideration of race in K-12 education.

For an inside look at those involved in the Seattle case check out this MoJo interview with David Engle, former principal of Ballard High, who resigned rather than eliminate the racial tiebreaker at his school.

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Rewarding Polluters Fuels Gulf Of Mexico Dead Zone

| Thu Jun. 28, 2007 7:39 PM PDT

A new study determines that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. This is an area of coastal waters -- visited in MoJo's The Fate Of The Ocean -- where dissolved-oxygen concentrations fall to less than 2 parts per million every summer. According to a paper published at Environmental Science & Technology Online, these findings bode poorly for the Gulf, as more and more acres of land are planted with corn to meet the growing U.S. demand for alternative fuels. Farmers in areas with the highest rates of fertilizer runoff tend to receive the biggest payouts in federal crop subsidies, says Mary Booth, lead author of the paper. What's more, they have fewer acres enrolled in conservation programs compared with other parts of the Mississippi River basin. Agricultural nitrate loading could be reduced substantially if farmers took just 3% of the most intensively farmed land out of production.JULIA WHITTY

Live Review: The National at Bimbo's, SF, 6/27/07

| Thu Jun. 28, 2007 4:51 PM PDT

mojo-photo-national.jpgI admit it, I'm lazy. I'm like a four-year-old, shiny things get my attention. So I like bands with style, gimmicks, "bits." We only wear red, black, and white! We have crazy fake wings and giant sunglasses! We sound like we're from the 80s! It grabs me, so I tune in. The National don't care. They are not those bands. And so: six middle-aged Brooklynites in Ross Dress For Less shirts shamble onto the Bimbo's stage and ease into "Start a War," an understated track from their new album Boxer, and I'm searching for a way in. Are lead singer Matt Berninger's half-sung half-spoken lyrics a reference to greats like Leonard Cohen, or is he just sleepy? Are the chiming, open guitar chords reminiscent of U2, or just simplistic? Suddenly, the singer steps back, and the guitars hit a strange, surprising note; the song jumps up a notch, to somewhere more haunting, more disconcerting. These are the moments the National seems to live for, and a key to understanding the band: "Stick with us," they seem to say, "and you'll be rewarded."

The show isn't perfect. Their second song, "Mistaken for Strangers," seems underwhelming, kind of like "Interpol Lite," and I wonder why the drums are so quiet. Right on cue, somebody shouts "more drums!" when they finish. But maybe that guy and me are wrong: the National don't want to be Interpol. They want their brooding, subtle songs to creep up on you, not bash you over the head, and if that means the drums are kept a bit down in the mix, so be it.

Who's that kooky guy with the violin? Padma Newsome, who isn't technically in the band, and you can tell: he jumps around the stage, plays his violin ukulele-style, and bangs a tambourine like his life depends on it. It's an interesting counterpoint to this most thoughtful of bands; almost like, well, something shiny to grab your attention. Either way, the National deserves it.

Upcoming US tour dates and some videos after the jump.

Monaghan's Ave Maria Town Open for Piety

| Thu Jun. 28, 2007 9:20 AM PDT

So GQ nabbed an interview with the ever-elusive Tom Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza mogul turned Catholic-utopia builder. Monaghan wouldn't talk with MoJo when we covered the development of his $400 million university, Ave Maria, earlier this year. But GQ is different; he can tell them things like, "If I didn't have my faith, I'd make Hugh Hefner look like a piker."

Hef allusions aside, the GQ profile digs into Monaghan's motivations for building what will become a Catholic universe set amidst former panther habitat. Turns out he's always wanted to be an architect, and is now living his dream having built the anti-Las Vegas, complete with a towering cathedral and town square modeled after Siena, Italy, all tucked in the middle of the Florida Everglades.

The town, which the WSJ once compared to a "Catholic Jonestown," will be as pious as possible; if Monaghan had his way contraceptives and pornography would be outlawed. After all, his goals are big ones; he plans to "reinvent hometown living," one condo at a time.

Amy Winehouse Crying Out for Help to Spin

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 11:27 PM PDT

mojo-photo-winehousefielder.jpgUK sensation Amy Winehouse has grabbed headlines worldwide with a self-mutilating incident during an interview with Spin magazine. The singer reportedly carved "I love Blake" (referring to new husband Blake Fielder-Civil) into her stomach with a leftover shard of broken mirror from the Spin photoshoot. Apparently Mr. Fielder-Civil was hanging around too, and caused his own controversy when he threatened to "slit the throat" of a bystander who said he looked like actor Ethan Embry. Winehouse brushed it all off during the interview, saying "I don't care about any of this... I write songs because I'm f***ed in the head."

Wikipedia explains self-injury as a dissociative mechanism, separating the mind from feelings that cause anguish, a phenomenon most often seen in women, although statistics are unreliable since self-injurers tend to conceal their injuries. Not this time.

Winehouse's current single, "Rehab," climbs from number 10 to number 9 on the Billboard Top 10 this week, with her album remaining at number 10; one can only wonder if her American success has proven too much for her to deal with. See my previous post for her upcoming tour dates.

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Please Describe To the Jury What Happened..."Sounds Like..."

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 6:11 PM PDT

Tory Bowen of Nebraska says that she was raped, but testifying in court is a little difficult because the judge, Jeffre Cheuvront, has instructed her that neither she nor the prosecutors can use the following words: "rape," "sexual assault," "victim," assailant," "sexual assault kit." The words were banned at the request of defense attorneys, who also wanted the words "sex" and "intercourse" banned, but the judge did not go that far, presumably because the trial would then have been reduced to a game of charades. The jury will not be informed that the words have been banned.

This is the second time around for the accused, Pamir Safi. His first trial resulted in a hung jury when jurors deadlocked, 7-5. The banned words were in place at that trial, too.

Apparently, rape defense lawyers throughout the country are asking that the word "rape" not be used by the alleged victim and the prosecutor. This made me wonder whether anyone had asked an alleged armed robbery victim not to use the words "steal," "rob," and "gun." Or whether a witness to a murder has been barred from saying "murder," "kill," or "dead." I'm guessing the answer is no. Indeed, law professor Wendy Murphy of the New England School of Law says that "that is a profoundly unfair thing for a judge to do. I have a problem with the idea that you can compel a witness to contrive their testimony. I have a problem (with a judge) directing a witness, not the government, to say certain words. It impugns their candor, their credibility."

And, Murphy added, Bowen won't be able to explain to jurors why she's using clinical words--or, worse, words that imply consent--when she describes the encounter with Safi.

Glass Houses

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 4:10 PM PDT

The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the president and the v. president of the Senate today for information related to the warrantless wiretapping program. The subpoena is a result of the ever-expanding examination of what the hell is wrong with Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department. I'm all but certain it won't unearth anything of value, but there's a lesson in it, nonetheless: If you're going to stretch the boundaries of the law, you have be competent enough not to beg for an investigation. In other words, the Bush administration might have gotten away with its attempt to stretch the law so aggressively that a handful of officials threatened to resign if there hadn't been a sh-t show so big that everybody and his dad got a chance to air their grievances before the Senate and the American public. On the other hand, the word impeachment remains strangely absent from Democratic discourse, so maybe you can have your cake and eat it, messily, while also throwing stones from your glass house. See what I'm sayin'?

Chris Rock(s) 2008

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 3:22 PM PDT

Mother Jones Makes Chicago Tribune's Annual 50 Favorite Magazines List

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 2:37 PM PDT

Hot(tish) off the Chicago Tribune presses, their list of the magazines they consider to be the best in the country.

"Every year we ask each other what periodicals we've been reading, and then we ask you. Every year we argue about what makes a good magazine and why we rush to pick up certain titles or swipe them from a neighbor's desk. We urge each other to try something new, and we smack our foreheads when a title bubbles up that we'd completely missed."

"...Mother Jones. As well-written, at its best, as anything out there (check out the story on the guy who gets 60 miles per gallon in a plain old Honda Accord), Mother Jones is a lot better than we remembered. Unabashedly liberal but more entertaining than the Nation and journalistically oriented but more passionate than the news weeklies, it fills a need we didn't know we had."

They like us, they really, really like us! We're one of only six mags given a shout-out in the news/business/point of view category. And if you're into who got dissed—and there are some most notable exceptions—I've pasted the whole list in after the jump.