Blogs

Free Speech Takes a Big Hit in "Bong" Case

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:34 AM EDT

Well, that sure ended badly. The Supreme Court ruled today that public schools can limit students' speech if they express themselves in a way that might be construed as pro-drug. The case in question involved an Alaska student who'd been suspended after he unfurled a tongue-in-cheek banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school event. Chief Justice Roberts argued that because the banner just might give someone the idea that toking up is OK, it could be suppressed: ''The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic. But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one." By that standard, couldn't someone reasonably interpret the banner as a religious message and therefore demand its protection? Apparently not.

When this case hit the docket a few months ago, I figured it would be a novelty. Boy, was I wrong. The decision was 5-4, but you already knew that, right?

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Cheney Stovepipes Climate Policy; Christie Todd Witman Declares Herself A Candidate, Er, Innocent

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 10:29 PM EDT

Over at Rolling Stone, MoJo alum Tim Dickinson has a great piece on how Dick "I'm
My Very Own Branch of Government
" Cheney skillfully got a clueless Bush to gut all meaningful climate policy.

"By having control of the energy plan, the vice president also had the reins on the climate policy," says Jeremy Symons, who sat in on Cheney's energy task force. "The ideology is simple: You don't put limits on greenhouse-gas pollution, because that might put limits on coal and oil - and that would hurt industry's performance. Everything else flowed from that."

Though many details in the piece have been reported before—Mother Jones, for example, published a huge investigation into ExxonMobil's role in the Bush administration's climate change policy, and nobody's done better work on this than the NYT's Andy Revkin—Tim got a big document dump from unnamed former administration sources, including, no doubt, the former head of the EPA, Christie Todd Witman, who spends much of the article claiming on the record that she was shocked, shocked that Bush & Cheney put the task of carrying industry's water over protecting the planet.

"The consequences of climate change are very real and very negative, but Cheney is not convinced of that," says Christie Todd Witman. "He believes - not quite as much as Senator James Inhofe, that this is a 'hoax' - but that the Earth has been changing since it was formed and to say that climate change is caused by humans is incorrect."

You know, if she was so appalled, she coulda just gone public and resigned. (She did resign in 2003 to "spend more time with her family.") She also coulda spoke out on this subject forcefully before, say, the most recent meeting on the Koyoto protocols. As it is she's just another Tenet-come-lately to the abandon Bush brigade.

Witman keeps denying she's interested in running for president (more like VP). But she recently wrote a book called It's My Party Too. As a pro-choice(ish) moderate Republican, a former governor, and a chick armed with a formidable family political pedigree—CTW could make an interesting addition to a ticket. Except for the whole "I allowed global warming to go unchecked on my watch" problem. That and telling everyone it was safe to go back to Ground Zero two weeks after 9/11.

Let's see if she can blame Cheney for that!

Update: CTW spent the entire day today on Capitol Hill, defending her 9/11 record. It did not fly with Rep. Jerry Nadler (more after the jump). And the timing of the RS article is fortuitous? Perhaps.

Update #2: Tim has given generous shout-outs to Revkin, Ron Suskin, as well as Chris Mooney and Ross Gelpspan-who along with Bill McKibben-wrote MoJo's ExxonMobil investigation.

Dubai Energy Tower Is Sexy and Sustainable

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 4:08 PM EDT

A new energy tower designed by German architect Eckhard Gerber is the tallest zero-emissions skyscraper in the world. Read more at Mother Jones' science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Indie Pubs and Bay Area Media Hit Hard

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 4:01 PM EDT

Read more about the demise of indie publishing and the incredible shrinking Bay Area media at Mother Jones' arts and culture blog The Riff.

Taking Animals Out Of Laboratory Research

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 3:47 PM EDT

Pioneering work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research has received a major boost in the UK. The goal is to remove animals from laboratories altogether, reports the University of Nottingham. The FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) laboratory, designed to find effective alternatives to animal testing, has received $480,000 to expand and remodel. Researchers hope to develop cell and tissue cultures, computer modelling, cell and molecular biology, epidemiology and other methods, to supplant animals from medical research, while still maintaining crucial work to defeat diseases that affect millions of people. . . Good scientists. --JULIA WHITTY

Republican Immigration Scandal in California

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 2:55 PM EDT

The right-wing blogosphere has been apoplectic since the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that a top official hired by the California Republican Party was ordered deported in 2001, jailed three years later for visa violations, and has filed a $5 million wrongful arrest suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Party COO Michael Kamburowski resigned a few hours later, after Jon Fleischman of the Flash Report blog asked, with typical talk-radio rhetoric, "Is our COO suing America?"

The short answer is of course, "yes," but what bemused GOP border watchers have failed to consider is that Kamburowski may have filed his suit with good cause. He was jailed for about a month for visa violations, but an immigration court later overturned his deportation order. This is not to say that Kamburowski is innocent in the matter; at minimum he exercised colossally bad judgment by not disclosing the issue. Still, the GOP rush to condemn him says a lot about the way the party treats immigrants these days. The most interesting question raised by the scandal: why did someone who says he was traumatized by overzealous DHS goons go to work for a party inimical to civil rights and immigration reform?

This latest twist comes after the Chronicle reported earlier this month that the state GOP hired another immigrant as a top consultant using an H1B visa, a specialized work visa that requires employers to make a good-faith effort to hire Americans first. "Apparently," Jay Leno said that evening, "working for Republicans is one of those icky jobs Americans just don't want to do." And perhaps that explains Kamburowski. If I had to guess I'd say he has a lot in common with the migrant laborers who were busted by ICE in Southern California after they'd helped build the border fence.

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Dubai Energy Tower Fuses Sustainability With Sex Appeal

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 2:45 PM EDT

energy_tower.jpgSustainability, that buzz-word being used by everyone from fashion designers to auto makers, doesn't yet have the cache in Dubai that it does in other locales, according to a recent article in WorldChanging. A new zero-energy building may change that; the Burj al-Taqa (translation: Energy Tower) by German architect Eckhard Gerber, seamlessly fuses a sexy exterior with a fully sustainable interior.

The tower, which at 68 stories would be the tallest zero-emissions skyscraper in the world, will sport a bevy of energy efficiency features ranging from cooling roof-top wind towers and light-reflecting mirrors to its own island of solar panels in the sea nearby.

As an article in Der Spiegel noted, the engineers have used computer simulations to test the towers, although the true effectiveness of the high-rise can't be proven until it has been built. The project still lacks investors, but in a city where flashiness trumps energy efficiency, the building's spectacular, state-of-the-art technology is sure to win points.

—Rose Miller

The Incredible Shrinking News Media

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 2:34 PM EDT

The San Jose Mercury News recently launched yet another round of editorial cuts -- This makes three in just the last 18 months, a cut of nearly 17 percent that will leave the paper with 200 newsroom positions, down from a peak of 400 just seven years ago.

With the San Francisco Chronicle's recent announcement of its own staff slicing, coupled with major regional media consolidation, the Bay Area is starting to feel like the incredible shrinking news area.

But the Bay Area is not a case in isolation. Media consolidation is plaguing media outlets across the nation. In our March/April 2007 issue, Mother Jones found that equity-chasing investors and the FCC are key players in the incredibly expanding media mess. Wall Street, the Bush Administration and technology are all in the mix, too.

—Gary Moskowitz

Title IX--35 Years Old And Still Misunderstood

| Sat Jun. 23, 2007 11:39 AM EDT

Title IX is 35 years old today. The brainchild of former Congresswoman Patsy Mink, Title IX establishes equal opportunity for girls in all schools that receive federal funding. Unfortunately, the term "Title IX" is now associated with equal athletic opportunity, but the law covers much more than that.

Also unfortunately, many people who write and argue about Title IX, including many journalists who should know better, are clueless about how the law works.

The ACLU website, in recognition of the 35th anniversary, has an entire section devoted to Title IX. Here, you can learn about what the law means, look at actual Title IX case summaries, and find out what you can do to help promote the ideals of Title IX.

Indie Publishing Takes a Big Hit

| Fri Jun. 22, 2007 7:39 PM EDT

Any bookish type will tell you that some of the most interesting and innovative copy in bookstores and libraries often comes from a small independent publisher that is willing to take a chance on an author. So when PGW (Publishers Group West), one of the main distributors for these scrappy DIY publishing houses, got put on the chopping block back in January, it was looking like rough waters ahead for indie publishers.

When PGW's parent company went bankrupt, all of its assets were frozen, which meant that publishers were not paid for any sales from the last quarter of 2006 (which includes December, the most profitable month for any retailer). Eventually the company did get taken over, but publishers only received 70 percent of what they were owed. Being a bookish type myself, I have been following the ongoing drama via Shelf Awareness for the last six months, but you can get the full story over at Salon.

Some small publishers folded, others were bought out, and among the indie houses still standing, many are struggling. Included in this list is one of my personal favorites, author Dave Eggers' publishing group McSweeney's, which lost an estimated $130,000 in actual earnings. They're having a big sale on their website in an effort to raise money to offset their losses. Keep one of my favorite publishing houses alive by buying some cool stuff. My personal recommendation? This shirt.

—Martha Pettit