Blogs

Two Governors Threaten to Draw Their Guns and Settle Tailpipe Dispute with the EPA "Once and for All"

| Mon May 21, 2007 7:21 PM EDT

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jodi M. Rell of Connecticut railed against the EPA in an op-ed today in the Washington Post. The EPA is STILL preventing states from raising their own auto emissions standards. This is the same case over which the state of California sued the EPA--and won last month. Twelve states are poised to tighten tailpipe standards beyond existing federal law, but for more than a year, the EPA has refused to allow it.

Even after the Supreme Court ruled in our favor last month, the federal government continues to stand in our way. Another discouraging sign came just last week, when President Bush issued an executive order to give federal agencies until the end of 2008 to continue studying the threat of greenhouse gas emissions and determine what can be done about them.

As we blogged, a clear majority of Americans in surveys say they are really worried about climate change. Seven in 10 want more "much more" federal action .

Like gubernatorial cowboys, the two also threatened that if the administration and the EPA continue this way, they will "take legal action and settle this issue once and for all." Bring it on!

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Senate Immigration Plan Is a Turkey: An Unbiased Primer

| Mon May 21, 2007 6:52 PM EDT

If you step back and think about resolving our immigration woes, two guiding principles spring to mind: A policy that thwarts the basic economic needs that have empirically made immigrants willing to break the law is bound to fail. Immigration policy must also be clearly enforceable. The bipartisan immigration bill being debated in the Senate this week defies both of these common sense assumptions.

The bill would create two new classes of visa. The Y visa is a "guest worker" visa. It would be valid for 2 years and renewable up to three times, but the worker would have to leave the United States for a full year before renewing. The Z visa offers pay-to-play amnesty to employed illegal immigrants: To obtain the 4-year renewable visa, immigrants must pay a $5,000 fine and a $1,500 processing fee for a criminal background check. If they had $6,500 lying around, they wouldn't be risking their lives to cross the border, now would they?

David Leopold of the American Immigration Lawyers Association put it this way: "What's the incentive for somebody to leave and come back? The more complex it is, the more difficult it will be for people to qualify, which will lead to the same sort of unsolvable illegal population problem that we have now."

The Senate bill would also restructure the system for determining who gets a visa. Currently, would-be immigrants move to the front of the line if they have family in the United States or are sponsored by a specific employer. Under the new plan, immigrants would earn points for job skills, education, and English proficiency. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi objects that the change would undermine "family unification principles which have been fundamental to American immigration."

The plan may be mean, but it's not mean in a self-serving way because it probably wouldn't serve us very well. The point-system would often exclude hyper-qualified foreigners whom employers want not because they can pay them peanuts but because they're the most qualified for the job. It would also hurt the immigrants who, as President Bush says, take the jobs Americans don't want—jobs like those at Wal-Mart, Marriott, and the National Restaurant Association (groups which tellingly sponsored a recent immigration-reform dinner).

Low-wage industries likely won't be the only ones squeezed. The point system has been rejected in the past because the government bureaucracy assigning the points wouldn't be able to keep up with the changes in market forces. As a liberal who often believes the government can do things better than the market, I'm with the free-marketeers on this one.

The good news is, the plan has about as much chance of succeeding as a government bureaucracy has of fitting through the eye of a needle. The same employers who wanted reform in the first place are outraged—outraged—that they would be expected to verify workers' eligibility. They might even have a point. The government wants them to reverify all workers, including U.S. citizens. That's 145 million people. And in a test run of the system the government proposes to use, there were lots of "false alarms, with as many as 20 percent of noncitizens and 13 percent of citizens sent for follow-up visits to immigration offices."

The Post concludes wryly:

Security mix-ups that keep travelers from boarding airplanes could pale in comparison with database problems that block Americans from their work.

Yes, we'd have the government standing in the way of Americans earning a legal living based on a system error. Now that is a really bad policy.

Child Bipolar Diagnoses Have Quintupled in a Decade

| Mon May 21, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

A four-year-old died of prescription overdose in December. Rebecca Riley in Massachusetts had been diagnosed with hyperactivity and bipolar disorder at age 2 and 3, and was on three prescription meds at the time of her death: clonidine, Depakote, and Seroquel. Her parents were charged with murder.

Who is nuts in this case? In my opinion, any doctor who diagnoses a toddler with ADD and bipolar disorder. Since they can hardly talk, crying is the only way for them to communicate that they're hungry, they need a diaper change, or they just want attention. And sometimes no one is listening anyway.

It's one thing for adults to seek out a drug prescription when their emotions overwhelm them. Ethically, it's a completely different thing for a psychiatrist to drug children who overwhelm mom and dad. This Masachussetts psychiatrist effectively recommended that Rebecca's parents to medicate her and her two older siblings for what--throwing too many tantrums? What a mixed message to send to an undereducated, overwhelmed mother.

But it happens all the time. Andy Coghlan of the UK's New Scientist points out that bipolar diagnoses in American children have grown fivefold in ten years.

In 1996, 13 out of every 100,000 children in the US were diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. In 2004, the figure was 73 in 100,000, a more than fivefold rise, they report in a paper to be published in Biological Psychiatry. Among children diagnosed with a psychiatric condition in 1996, 1 in 10 were deemed to have bipolar disorder. By 2004, 4 out of 10 children with a psychiatric condition were told they were bipolar.

That's more bipolar kids per capita than any other country. Drugging troublesome toddlers seems like the real national illness. Or at least a symptom of that peculiarly American combination of materialism and wishful thinking.

Gingrich Continues To Ride the Christian Right Bandwagon

| Mon May 21, 2007 1:00 PM EDT

On Saturday, ethically challenged former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave the commencement address at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell. This was the second time the former speaker has delivered the Liberty commencement address. In his speech, Gingrich quoted Bible verses and warned graduates against "the growing culture of radical secularism."

"A growing culture of radical secularism declares that the nation cannot profess the truths on which it was founded," Gingrich said. "We are told that our public schools can no longer invoke the creator, nor proclaim the natural law nor profess the God-given quality of human rights."

Gingrich, who is considering a run for the presidency in 2008, faced 84 ethics charges when he was House Speaker, including tax violations, perjury and reckless disregard of House rules. He was sanctioned, and resigned from Congress. He also gained notoriety for visiting his cancer-recovering first wife in her hospital bed to get her to sign divorce papers. After the divorce, a church organization helped the family financially because Gingrich did not pay any child support. He divorced his second wife because he was having an affair with a young Congressional aide.

According to the late Falwell, Gingrich "genuinely sought forgiveness" for his sins.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things 5/18/07

| Fri May 18, 2007 7:34 PM EDT

Back in New York City, and I wish I could say this week's list is influenced by the hot new trends sweeping the metro area, but unfortunately I've been hard at work the whole week and haven't really been hitting the Williamsburg night spots or anything. Sorry, Riff readers. So, the New Yorky stuff in the Top Ten is pretty superficial, but the music is good, I promise.

mojo-photo-djmedhi.JPG10. DJ Medhi - "Signatune" (Thomas Bangalter edit)
France is making my favorite electro jams right now, and one hopes Sarko won't quash the locals' efforts in a misguided attempt to Americanize the music scene. This track from Paris's DJ Medhi is an exhilerating take on the hyper-compressed cut-up sample-based techno style pionneered by fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk, and in fact one of the Punks himself gives it an extended edit that allows the song time to build.

mojo-photo-empire.jpg9. A cool picture of lightning striking the Empire State Building on Wednesday 5/16
At the time I was safely ensconced at the CBS Upfronts at Carnegie Hall a few blocks uptown (which, unfortunately, I can't really cover, ethically at least, because I was hired by them for some music production and DJing, but I have some really good stories if you buy me a beer). It was still an exciting storm. Amusingly the rain kind of ruined the CBS after party at Tavern on the Green, where all the suits and CBS stars were forced to squeeze into the limited indoor spaces, while a couple of the video crew and myself huddled outside under an umbrella with some bartenders, desperately trying to smoke our damp cigarettes, as the rain poured down and the wind seemed to bring the topiary elephants to life.

mojo-cover-rhythmscholar.jpg8. Rhythm Scholar vs. Queen vs. The World - "Another One Bites the Dust" (Blasted Breaks mix) (mp3 from his site)
This stuttery, extended mix uses Queen as its basis but then launches off into samples from Rob Base, Spin Doctors, Joan Jett, and many others. It ends up not being a mashup so much as a kind of acid-house approach to classic rock: recognizable clips reorganized over an insistent beat, aimed at the dancefloor.

mojo-cover-ratatat.JPG7. Ratatat - Remixes Vol. II (self-released CD)
The New York electronic duo jump into the mixtape world again with this fantastic compilation of their takes on the biggest names in hip-hop. Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, and Kanye all make (unauthorized) appearances, and their reworkings of the backing tracks are often revelatory, giving rockist "oomph" to the insistent rhymes from the rappers. Grab an mp3 here of their take on Notorius B.I.G.'s 1993 hit, "Party and Bulls***."

6. Low - "Hatchet" (Optimimi version)
The Minnesota trio's recent album, Drums and Guns, is turning out to be one of the year's highlights; its move towards more quirky, electronic production hasn't changed the band's signature emotional intensity. Low remixes have always seemed kind of strange -- like the Smiths, their songs seem somehow untouchable and perfectly formed. But this simple rework of "Hatchet" brings a plaintive, soulful vibe to Mimi's vocals, making Low sound almost... funky?

House Probes ExxonMobil's Ongoing Funding of Global Warming Denial

| Fri May 18, 2007 7:16 PM EDT

As Antarctica thaws, ExxonMobil continues to fund global warming denial. Earlier this year ExxonMobil claimed to have stopped funneling grants to media groups that spread the myth (as Tom Tancredo did in Tuesday night's presidential debate) that scientists are evenly divided on whether humans are causing global warming or not. That lie was exposed in the company's "World Giving Report." Greenpeace found that ExxonMobil recently gave $2.1 million for global warming denial. That's more than half of what it gave in 2005.

There's a term for this genre of lies: pseudoskepticism. It's the same strategy that the tobacco industry used for decades to cast doubt over the dangers of smoking. And now the government is intervening, just as it finally did with tobacco in the mid-1990s.

Yesterday Brad Miller, the chairman of the House Science oversight committee, asked ExxonMobil to hand over a list of "global warming skeptics" it has funded. Predictably, the corporation's public response employs the same tactic these "thinktanks" use to undermine science: stirring up doubt over whether grant recipients like Steve Milloy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute deny global warming or not. ExxonMobil spokesman Dave Gardner said, "The groups Greenpeace cites are a widely varied group and to classify them as 'climate deniers' is wrong."

By the way, Mother Jones was the first to expose this scandal two years ago. Here's a chart of the grant recipients.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Weird Weather Watch: This Year Is the Hottest on Record

| Fri May 18, 2007 7:09 PM EDT

Spotted on ThinkProgress: Thus far, 2007 is the hottest year ever. That includes both land and sea temperatures. Check it out:

map_blended_mntp_04_2007_t1.gif


What's especially scary is all the dark red where permafrost used to be.

So have you dusted off your bike and unplugged your chargers yet?

Gonzo Goes: Not "If" But "When" (and How)

| Fri May 18, 2007 5:48 PM EDT

As the Senate debates whether to conduct a purely symbolic no-confidence vote in Alberto Gonzales, Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri, is on a journalistic campaign to have the Attorney General impeached. In Slate today, Bowman argues that Gonzales has essentially admitted David Iglesias was fired for not pursuing bogus voter fraud cases. Basically, Gonzales admitted that Iglesias was fired because the DOJ had received complaints about him, and those complaints all had to do with Iglesias' unwillingness to abuse his prosecutorial powers to serve narrow, immediate political interests.

The Attorney General can, in fact, be impeached—and impeachment seems like a valid option.

It's becoming more and more clear that the Department of Justice's political agenda was out of control. If a full third of all U.S. Attorneys weren't prosecuting "voter fraud" vigorously enough, it's because the DOJ wanted them to go beyond the bounds of good legal judgment. And let's remember what the endgame was: keeping minorities from voting so Republicans could establish their "permanent majority." Rove's list of states in which voter fraud was a problem consisted exclusively of battleground states. Marie Cocco at Truthdig puts it this way: "It's Watergate without the break-in or the bagmen," and she has a legitimate point.

In addition, there's been ample evidence of incompetence in Gonzo's DOJ, with Time charging today that Gonzo's poor-taste visit to an out-of-it Ashcroft probably involved serious mismanagement of classified information. (Ashcroft's wife was present, and classified information cannot be discussed in public places.)

Here's a question: If the Bush administration is so incompetent in so many ways, how are they still getting away with crap like this, without Congress even threatening to impeach? Look to another Time article for a somewhat sinister explanation: a "Washington truism that was proven once again this week by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz: the longer a scandal-besmirched political appointee holds out against his critics, his party, his patrons and the press…the greater his odds of walking away with a measure of vindication…[T]here comes a time when simply leaving becomes the greatest chit he has to play in a final deal. And you can get a lot when you trade in that last chit."

Update: Furthering the point that the DOJ's agenda is corrupt, one USA's prosecution on corruption charges of a Democratic aide was reversed in circuit court. Judges called the evidence "beyond thin." The prosecutor continued to lean on the aide to give her boss up even after she was sentenced. Setting? The battleground state of Wisconsin. Timing? Just before the 2006 election.

House Probes ExxonMobil's Ongoing Funding of Global Warming Denial

| Fri May 18, 2007 4:18 PM EDT

As Antarctica thaws, ExxonMobil continues to fund global warming denial. Earlier this year ExxonMobil claimed to have stopped funneling grants to media groups that spread the myth (as Tom Tancredo did in Tuesday night's presidential debate) that scientists are evenly divided on whether humans are causing global warming or not. That lie was exposed in the company's "World Giving Report." Greenpeace found that ExxonMobil recently gave $2.1 million for global warming denial. That's more than half of what it gave in 2005.

There's a term for this genre of lies: pseudoskepticism. It's the same strategy that the tobacco industry used for decades to cast doubt over the dangers of smoking. And now the government is intervening, just as it finally did with tobacco in the mid-1990s.

Yesterday Brad Miller, the chairman of the House Science oversight committee, asked ExxonMobil to hand over a list of "global warming skeptics" it has funded. Predictably, the corporation's public response employs the same tactic these "thinktanks" use to undermine science: stirring up doubt over whether grant recipients like Steve Milloy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute deny global warming or not. ExxonMobil spokesman Dave Gardner said, "The groups Greenpeace cites are a widely varied group and to classify them as 'climate deniers' is wrong."

By the way, Mother Jones was the first to expose this scandal two years ago. Here's a chart of the grant recipients.

John McCain Hasn't Voted in Five Weeks. Seriously

| Fri May 18, 2007 3:22 PM EDT

Back in April we noted that John McCain had been too busy straight-talking on the campaign trail to vote on important legislation on Iraq. Turns out -- and this is kind of insane -- McCain hasn't voted since.

Yeah, that's right. McCain has gone five straight weeks without casting a vote in the Senate -- he's missed 43 straight votes. If he misses the next three votes, he'll have been absent for 50 percent of the votes in the 110th Congress.

And this isn't an inevitable product of running for president. Hillary Clinton has missed just 1.8 percent of the votes this year and Barack Obama has missed 6.4 percent.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that McCain is the only candidate in Congress who has done this before. He ran for president in 2000! He should know how to do it without looking like an idiot with an absentee problem. What on earth must the people of Arizona think?

Lord knows we aren't huge McCain fans around here, but good heavens John, you're better than this.