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Politics 2.0 Strikes Back

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 7:01 PM EDT

The July/August issue of Mother Jones roiled the blogosphere with an irreverent take on so-called Open-Source Politics. Web pundits inveighed against yet another print magazine (nevermind our blog and website) questioning the impact of Web 2.0 on political campaigning. A flash point in this flame war was the mock Wikipedia entry that we published in print and on our website. It claimed Open-Source Politics would "revolutionize our ability to follow, support, and influence political campaigns," but then wryly added: "And if you believe that, we've got some leftover Pets.com stock to sell you." Our goal was to mirror the way that Wikipedia and other Web 2.0 pages often get pranked, and slalom between extreme views, even as they move towards a middle ground and, hopefully, the truth. But the critics complained that our definition was a gimmick with little connection to the way Netizens actually thought of themselves.

At the time I wondered if the critics really spoke for the Web masses. Given that Web 2.0 is supposed to enshrine Web users (and not Web pundits) as the arbiters of truth, I decided to see what the Web actually thought about our mock Wiki. So in early July I posted our definition of OSP as an actual entry in Wikipedia. I cut only the Pets.com quip and the reference to Karl Rove, thinking that would get the entry booted. And then I waited. Three months have passed, and I think I can now say the results are in. Not only is my mock Wiki still the official entry for "Open Source Politics," it now comes up as the top hit for the term on Google.

There have been a few changes along the way. Most significantly, the entry is now titled "Open source political campaign" instead of "Open-source politics." But it still goes on to use "open-source politics" as the official term throughout and most of my original text is unchanged. The reference to "party bosses in smoky backrooms" was deleted, but the language about how Web 2.0 will "revolutionize our ability to follow, support, and influence political campaigns" still remains. It seems that what stuck our blogger critics as gimmicky hype strikes Wiki users as a pretty reasonable definition.

The other dramatic change to the entry is how official it now looks. Someone added a list of references that I'd cited, a bevy of links to ideas such as "open source governance," a table of contents, and a list of related terms under the header "see also." I should hope the page looks good, given that on Google it outranks every blog, outranks The Nation, Wired, MSNBC, and Slate, and yes, outranks Mother Jones (which ranks 14th in a search for the term). It's all quite frightening, or flattering, or humbling, depending on how you look at it.

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Neato Viddys on the Intertubes: The B-52's

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 6:58 PM EDT

B-52s

Looking for tunes as part of a random "consulting" assignment led me to the B-52's today, reminding me how much I love them, although you really shouldn't need an excuse for that. Most people will know "Rock Lobster" and "Love Shack," but I was introduced to them by MTV after their 1986 album Bouncing off the Satellites (I was in the middle of Nebraska, how else was I supposed to have heard them?), so let's go backwards from there and look at some of their less-widely-known tracks.

Acid Oceans Increasing Rapidly

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

438038944_33e08b7ddf_m.jpg We've known for a while that ocean acidification is a bad bad thing. Now new research into corals using boron isotopes indicates the world-ocean has become about one third of a pH unit more acid over the past fifty years, reports the Australian Research Council. The acidity is caused by a CO2 buildup in the atmosphere, which then dissolves into the oceans—a development likely to be lethal for animals with chalky skeletons, who just happen to comprise more than a third of the planet's marine life.

Apparently this acidification is now taking place over decades, rather than centuries, as originally predicted, and is happening even faster in the cooler waters of the Southern Ocean than in the tropics. Corals and plankton with chalky skeletons rely on sea water saturated with calcium carbonate to form their skeletons. As acidity intensifies, it becomes harder to form their skeletons. According to Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland: "Analysis of coral cores shows a steady drop in calcification over the last 20 years. . . When CO2 levels in the atmosphere reach about 500 parts per million, you put calcification out of business in the oceans." Atmospheric CO2 is presently 385 ppm, up from 305 in 1960. "It isn't just the coral reefs which are affected—a large part of the plankton in the Southern Ocean, the coccolithophorids, are also affected. These drive ocean productivity and are the base of the food web which supports krill, whales, tuna and our fisheries. They also play a vital role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which could break down."

More alarmingly, recent experiments along Australia's Great Barrier Reef show that red calcareous algae—the glue that binds reefs together in turbulent waters—actually begin to dissolve at higher CO2 levels. "The risk is that this may begin to erode the Great Barrier Reef at a grand scale," says Hoegh-Guldberg.

So exactly where are our leaders, those slackers? What the hell is more important to attend to than this?

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

Terror on the High Seas and the Future of Media

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 5:18 PM EDT

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Here's the update you've all been waiting for. New York media/celebrity gossip blog Gawker passes on a report that pirate attacks (yes) are up 14 percent this year. (Yes, pirates still exist. Now they have power boats and machine guns instead of corsairs and cannons. Yes, Mother Jones has covered pirates in the past. Basically, modern pirates are kind of like Dennis Kucinich: They might need to be taken more seriously, but they're just too amusing to really think critically about.) Anyway, is Nick Denton's Gawker the future of media? Old-media New York magazine investigates.

Raped by the Law

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 4:52 PM EDT

Your tax dollars at work—a judge in Philadelphia sent the word that crime, especially violent crime, against working girls is OK.

After a 20 year old prostitute and single mom met a man for sex at an agreed upon price; he was joined by three of his friends who proceeded to gang rape her, unprotected, at gunpoint. Thankfully, the fourth friend thought her tears might signal a tad bit of unwillingness and helped her escape. Imagine the bravery of that young girl filing charges. Too bad it was for nothing. According to Philly.com reporter Jill Porter, the judge "dropped all sex and assault charges. . .[and] instead held the defendant on the bizarre charge of armed robbery for—get this—"theft of services."

At that point, I reread the introductory paragraphs sure to find what I'd glossed over before—the judge had to be a woman. One of the first things you learn in Law School Crim is how much you, as a prosecutor, don't want women on your rape jury. "It could never happen to me, they seem to think: only stupid or immoral women get raped. Only those who asked for it, drinking, dressing slutty, sleeping around. Being all flirtatious and prettier than me." There's some deep, dark psychology there and this judge was filthy with it.

"Did she tell you she had another client before she went to report it?" Deni asked me yesterday when we met at a coffee shop. "I thought rape was a terrible trauma."
A case like this, she said—to my astonishment—"minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."

Silly Pennsylvania legislature, defining "sex by force as rape."

Porter goes on to note that, "The defendant was charged in an identical incident involving a 23-year-old woman four days later." Refusing to let another victim face such robed contempt and stupidity, prosecutors refused to present the second case and Deni dismissed it for failure to prosecute, with Church Lady gusto, no doubt.

Since he's only 19, and I watch Law and Order SVU, I'm betting that Judge Deni will be seeing lots more of this defendant as his rage against women escalates.

Must be read to be believed.

The Onion Gets It Right Again

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 3:24 PM EDT

They got Iraq right. Now another bold prediction:


Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

Stay tuned to MoJo Blog and MotherJones.com for lots of non-bullshit news and analysis about subjects (Blackwater, Iraq, race, health care, actual policy controversies) that aren't nearly as important as John Edward's haircut or Hillary Clinton's gender.

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Zogby Poll Shows Americans Totally Fed Up With Congress

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 2:43 PM EDT

The United States Congress has again received a whopping 11% approval rating from participants in the most recent Zogby poll--the same score as last month. At the same time, George W. Bush received a 24% approval rating. Zogby participants expressed concern about American economic and foreign policy, and only 26% said that the country is headed in the right direction. At the same time, 45% described their personal financial situations as good.

Among Democratic candidates for president, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Zogby approval rating jumped 11 points, from 35% to 46%, while Sen. Barack Obama's numbers moved from 21% to 25%. Among Republicans, Rudy Giulliani took a 28% lead, while Sen. John McCain's numbers fell from 13% to 8%. 51% of participants said that former vice president Al Gore should not enter the presidential race.

The New Face of Christian Legal Education

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 2:10 PM EDT

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Regent Law, the Christian law school founded by Pat Robertson, is moving forward with disciplinary action against student Adam Key (left, showing off his "Due Process" tattoo). Key ran afoul of school authorities after posting on his Facebook page a video of Robertson scratching his forehead with his middle finger. Regent has banned Key from campus and is forcing him to undergo a psychiatric exam by a doctor of the school's choosing.

The whole episode reflects the Religious Right's utter lack of a sense of humor. Key talked to Above the Law blogger David Lat yesterday about his recent suspension and his background (which includes a stint as a pro wrestler). Here's what Key had to say about Robertson and his pending psych exam:

"I will undergo this psychiatric exam after Regent forces Pat Robertson to undergo one. Truly, what's crazier... disagreeing with the administration, or hearing voices that tell you about hurricanes that don't happen, and the impending apocalypse?"

Clearly they're never going to let this kid loose on campus again...

Dick Cheney and Barack Obama Are Related

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 1:37 PM EDT

It's true. I didn't even need a joke in the headline, it sounds so absurd. But according to genealogical research Lynne Cheney did while writing her book, Barack Obama is the descendant of someone named Mareen Duvall, a French Huguenot. Duvall's son married the granddaughter of a Richard Cheney, a man who, seven to nine generations later, would see his family line produce the worst vice president in the history of the United States. Obama and Cheney are eighth cousins.

Say the cliche with me. Only in America.

CNN Idiocy Watch, Day 1757: Rubber Duckies of DEATH

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

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And I quote: "Still ahead here in the Situation Room: a chemical in lots of household products that could harm all of us. It could harm your reproductive system as well. One state is so worried it's issuing a sweeping new ban... Stay with us, you're in the Situation Room."

They played the story a full 28 minutes later.

A little more info from CNN's correspondent on the "deadly chemical":

"THE AGENTS ARE CALLED 'PHTHALATES,' WOLF... SOUNDS OBSCURE... BUT IT'S VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO HAVE COME IN CONTACT WITH THEM SOMETIME IN YOUR LIFE."

"THE QUESTION IS: ARE THEY AS DANGEROUS AS SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE?"

Apparently it's in rubber duckies. Unfortunately, by the time they played this Very Important Story (28 minutes after the teaser), thousands of Americans had died from a chemical in nail polish and rubber duckies. Tragic. Damn You, Wolf Blitzer! BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS.

Breaking News: Next on CNN—Could a major cable news company be responsible for the deaths of thousands of rubber-ducky-loving-toddlers? Find out right after these messages from our pharmaceutical-company sponsors! But don't go away—You could die!

This issue's "Practical Values" column has more on Phthalates.

There's also this: