Blogs

Al Gore Teams With Snoop Dogg to Fight Global Warming

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 2:12 PM EST
goreguitar.gif

Al Gore's anti-global warming/entertainment juggernaut continues. Gore, in conjunction with the Microsoft Network, just announced Live Earth, a series of Live 8-style worldwide concerts on July 7. Proceeds will go to found "a new, multi-year global effort to combat the climate crisis." (Yeah, but only after Ticket Master gets its cut.) The lineup includes Pharrell, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg, Lenny Kravitz, and Bon Jovi, to name a few. (No word on enviropunks Green Day yet, but Snow Patrol will also be rockin' to protect the glaciers.) And before you shell out for tix, get up to speed with our recent coverage of climate change.

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Al Gore Teams With Snoop Dogg to Fight Global Warming

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 2:09 PM EST
goreguitar.gif

Al Gore's anti-global warming/entertainment juggernaut continues. Gore, in conjunction with the Microsoft Network, just announced Live Earth, a series of Live 8-style worldwide concerts on July 7. Proceeds will go to found "a new, multi-year global effort to combat the climate crisis." (Yeah, but only after Ticket Master gets its cut.) The lineup includes Pharrell, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg, Lenny Kravitz, and Bon Jovi, to name a few. (No word on enviropunks Green Day yet, but Snow Patrol will also be rockin' to protect the glaciers.) And before you shell out for tix, get up to speed with our recent coverage of climate change.

Philip Perry--Making Sure Our Chemical Faciliities Have No Security

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 12:01 PM EST

Philip Perry, a former member of the powerful Latham and Watkins law firm in Washington, DC, left the law firm in 2000 to become part of the transition team of his father-in-law, Dick Cheney. He then became the third-highest ranking official in John Ashcroft's Justice Department before serving as General Counsel to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

When the post-September 11 Environmental Protection Agency made an attempt to regulate the security at chemical industry facilities, Perry used his position at the OMB to block the attempt. According to Art Levine, writing for Washington Monthly, Perry told executive branch officials, "If you send up this legislation, it will be dead on arrival on the Hill."

That same year, 2003, Perry returned to his practice at Latham and Watkins, which represented a major chemical industry trade group. After two years, however, Perry went to the Department of Homeland Security, where he became General Counsel. Once Perry joined DHS, the department granted itself the power to set aside state laws, which decreased the level of security required for chemical facilities. There is nothing in the Homeland Security law which grants the DHS such power.

One Congressional staff describes Perry as "an éminence grise. He's been pretty good at getting his fingerprints off of anything, but everyone in this field knows he's the one directing it." Levine calls Perry "a key player in the struggle to prevent the federal government from assuming any serious regulatory role in business, no matter what the cost."

In January, Perry announced his intention to leave DHS. During his tenure in the federal government, both at OMB and DHS, he has successfully blocked every attempt made by a federal agency and Congress to provide reasonable security to chemical plants, storage tanks and rail cars.

John Murtha's "Slow Bleed" Plan to End the Iraq War Explained

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 10:54 AM EST

Details are creeping out about Congressman John Murtha's plan to put the clamps on the Iraq War (featured today on the Mother Jones News and Politics page), but I think many people lack a clear understanding of how the plan works.

The idea is to pass a series of small measures that curtail the president's ability to make war, while at the same time showing support the troops. This is seen as more likely to get through the House and Senate than a proposal to cut off funding for the war and is more politically advantageous for the Democrats.

Here's specifically what Murtha's plan would do:

(1) It would not allow American troops to deploy to Iraq unless they meet certain (very high) standards of manpower, equipment, and training. Murtha believes few of the units Bush intends to use for the surge would be able to meet his requirements.

(2) It will limit the length and number of deployments by soldiers in the American armed forces, thereby making it more difficult for the Pentagon to replace troops it rotates out of war zones.

(3) It will mandate that troops get a year off in between stints at the front lines.

(4) It would end the construction of enduring bases in Iraq.

(5) It would raze Abu Ghraib.

When taken together, the plan would limit the number of troops Bush has to work with, while blunting conservative criticism that the Democrats are anti-military or anti-troops.

The plan will be attached to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill that is needed to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan. Murtha controls the progress of that bill as chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee. In effect, if you aren't willing to support Murtha's plan, you are forced to vote against funding the troops. Not a good position for a Republican lawmaker to be in.

This should all come to a head in late February or early April March when the spending bill needs to be voted on, after which point it would head to the Senate. Anti-war groups with deep pockets are preparing to roll out ad campaigns in favor of the plan, and will specifically target Republican Senators vulnerable in the 2008 elections.

Tonight: A Documentary on Melvin Van Peebles

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 10:33 PM EST

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) is premiering on The Independent Film Channel at 9 p.m. tonight. It's a biographical documentary on Melvin Van Peebles, who grandfathered blaxspoitation cinema with Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song in 1971, and has created 11 other films and seven plays in his career.

"I wanted a movie that black people could walk out of standing tall," Van Peebles explains. "I didn't see the type of movie I wanted to see so I made it myself." How he has done so again and again, despite all odds, is what this documentary shows best.

Read the rest of this post on The Riff.

Edwards Gets Headlines, While Romney Gets A Pass

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 10:30 PM EST

Regardless of how you feel about John Edwards' hiring of two "controversial" bloggers, his scolding of them, and their eventual resignation, the fact is that while the Edwards debacle got all kinds of media attention, a similar disaster, brewing among Republicans, got none. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romeny, identified in this blog as a pandering wonder, has problems of his own.

Romney announced his candidacy for president of the United States at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, an act that did not go over well with the National Jewish Democratic Council. Henry Ford was, of course, a renowned anti-Semite. Said a spokesman for the NJDC: "Romney has been traveling the country talking about inclusiveness and understanding of people from all walks of life. Yet he chooses to kick (off) his presidential campaign on the former estate of a well-known and outspoken anti-Semite and xenophobe."

According to Media Matters for America, the Romney/Ford issue was reported by the New York Times, but not by the Washington Post CNN or Fox News, all of whom made a big deal of the Edwards campaign problem.

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Tonight: A Documentary on Melvin Van Peebles

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 10:27 PM EST

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) is premiering on the Independent Film Channel at 9 p.m. tonight. It's a biographical documentary on Melvin Van Peebles, who grandfathered blaxspoitation films with Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song in 1971, and has created 11 other films and seven plays in his career.

This film is a fascinating look at the indomitable creative force who pulled off Sweet Sweetback all on his own, as producer, director, writer, financier, and actor. Even though he could open the show in only two theaters, it grossed more than $10 million, more than any independent film at that time.

"I wanted a movie that black people could walk out of standing tall," Van Peebles explains. "I didn't see the type of movie I wanted to see so I made it myself." How he has done so again and again, despite all odds, is what this documentary shows best.

In the making of Watermelon Man about a white guy who wakes up black one day, Van Peebles recounts that the studio wanted him to turn the man back to white in the end. But such a happy ending would have made the black experience seem like nothing but a bad dream. He half-agreed to shoot both ways, but when the producer called up asking for the white ending, Van Peebles told him, "'Dang I forgot to shoot that.' That's how we ended up with it the way I wanted it."

Van Peebles was not just a filmmaker, but also a groundbreaking artist in many genres. "There were no songs that mirrored the black experience. I felt the black experience had been hijacked musically to simply being rhythm, beat and melody, and the words were getting lost. That's when I invented a style that used words to carry the melody." Those songs had an early influence on rap, says Gil Scot-Heron.

Some lyrics: "Frown, you hostile/ Smile, you a Tom / Look tired, you on junk / Stumble, you drunk."

Turning racist expectations inside out has been the essence of his best work. And maybe his sense of humor. He says he used to keep a spray-bottle of watermelon fragrance on hand for "liberal" friends. "They would walk into the office and say, 'Gee, Mel, what's that smell? It smells like umm…umm…cantaloupe! They were too afraid to say 'watermelon.'" He provokes you to think, hoping you'll eventually think differently.

Climate Change Nightmares

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 9:24 PM EST

Check out the television ad Avaaz.org is airing in world capitals.

44,000 have signed the petition so far. They're aiming for 100,000.

Court Upholds Alabama Sex Toy Ban

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 9:14 PM EST

A federal appeals court just upheld Alabama's sex toy ban, defending the state's interest in "preserving and promoting public morality," i.e. invading your privacy so you don't do it yourself. That's bad news for Sherri Williams, the adult store (NSFW) owner who's the lead plantiff on the case (and whom we wrote about last year.) This could be the end of the road for the case—the Supreme Court has already refused to touch it.

Global Warming Vintage 1958

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 8:54 PM EST

Who says we haven't known about global warming until Al Gore? Check out this 1958 Frank Capra short.