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It's Just Starting Now, Baby Blue

| Sun Feb. 4, 2007 2:47 PM EST

Joni Mitchell has always been a bit earnest for my taste, but I can only hope to rock at 63 like the singer-songwriter is now. As an anti-war mixed media show closes in L.A., a ballet partially choreographed by Ms. Mitchell is set to open in Calgary and a new album is nearing release. The New York Times has a long profile of the folk heroine, written after an all-night interview.

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Support Our Troops (Except for the Gay Ones)

| Sun Feb. 4, 2007 2:46 AM EST

A new Harris Poll shows that just over half of Americans, 55%, think gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Which means that nearly half think they shouldn't.

Nineteen percent said that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve "only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret," and nearly one in five, 18%, said gays and lesbians should "not be allowed to serve in the military at all."

So, sexual politics trumps national security then? Do we want a secure border, a stable Afghanistan, a contained Iraq? Not if it means homosexuals are given guns. Is that rational? Sexual prejudice aside, the military needs all the bodies it can get, and if someone is willing to volunteer for what are surely dire deployments, shouldn't those of us armchairing it applaud each and every one of them? How does sexuality hamper military performance? I mean, I may not agree with polygamy but I wouldn't propose we prevent practicing Mormons from entering the fray.

The poll also asked Americans about the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prohibits the military from asking personnel about their sexual orientation, but allows homosexuality to be a cause for discharge. Forty-six percent of respondents said they oppose the policy, no more and no less than the 46% who opposed it when asked in 2000. More than a third, 36%, said they favor the policy, up from 34% seven years ago.

What, I wonder, are we so afraid of? Yes, I'm asking. Do tell.

California Sues Automakers Over Global Warming

| Sat Feb. 3, 2007 2:50 PM EST

California's newly elected attorney general, Jerry Brown, will continue a suit filed by former AG Bill Lockyer against U.S. and Japanese automakers for contributing to global warming.

The United States as a whole is the largest single producer of greenhouse gases. California alone ranks 12th, with automobiles producing most of the emissions.

Automakers cannot claim they didn't know, nor can they claim that technology won't allow them to make more fuel efficient vehicles. As alarm about global warming has increased over the last 10 years, gas mileage in U.S.-made cars has decreased.

The suit is seeking monetary compensation for the millions of dollars the state will have to shell out to offset the effects of global warming, which, among other things, may include an endangered water supply.

The Planet is Dying, Exxon is Unabashed

| Sat Feb. 3, 2007 2:21 PM EST

Polar bears stranded on ice drifts, looking like dogs abandoned by their owners. Your favorite beach underwater before you can take your grandchildren there. Species die-offs. Scorching summers. Deadly droughts.

Sounds melodramatic, perhaps, but it's fact. Inexorable fact. Our only hope is that it won't be worse. I don't think it's overstating to call this the greatest moral imperative of our lifetime since, well, our lifetimes depend on it.

But Exxon is unabashed. The Guardian reports that the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank funded and led by Exxon, has offered scientists $10,000 apiece to uncover weaknesses in the UN report on climate change released yesterday. The report states with 90 percent certainty that humans are at fault for climate change, and that changes already in motion will continue for centuries.

(Do I need to repeat that Mother Jones broke the news that Exxon funded climate change denial, and has been following the story closely ever since?)

Iran Becomes Campaign Issue, Edwards First to State Position

| Sat Feb. 3, 2007 1:00 PM EST

The Prospect's Ezra Klein cornered John Edwards yesterday and got him to clarify some of the tough speechifying he has been doing in front of pro-Israel groups like AIPAC. The concern Klein had was that Edwards' extremely strong support of Israel could be interpreted as more saber-rattling at Iran, and this would indicate that Edwards didn't properly learn the lesson of Iraq -- namely, "toppling Middle Eastern governments, occupying their societies, and trying to impose pluralistic democracy is an almost impossible endeavor, one with far more potential for catastrophe than completion" -- and that it wasn't that Iraq was a mistake, but that invading or attacking anyone in that region, most importantly Iran, invites disaster.

In forcing Edwards to state where he stands on Iran, Klein has made Iran a campaign issue: every serious candidate will have to state his or her plan for dealing with the country. Here's Edwards:

...you have a radical leader, Ahmadinejad, who is politically unstable in his own country. The political elite have begun to leave him, the religious leaders have begun to leave him, the people aren't happy with him, for at least two reasons: one, they don't like his sort of bellicose rhetoric, and second, he was elected on a platform of economic reform and helping the poor and the middle class, and he hasn't done anything. In fact, while he was traveling, the leaders of the legislature sent him a letter saying, 'when are you gonna pay attention to the economic problems of our country.' So, I think we have an opportunity here that we need to be taking advantage of.
First, America should be negotiating directly with Iran, which Bush won't do. Second, we need to get our European friends, not just the banking system, but the governments themselves, to help us do two things -- put a group, a system of carrots and sticks on the table. The carrots are, we'll make nuclear fuel available to you, we'll control the cycle, but you can use it for any civilian purpose. Second, an economic package, which I don't think has been seriously proposed up until now. Because there economy is already struggling, and it would be very attractive to them. And then on the flip side, the stick side, to say if you don't do that, there are going to be more serious economic sanctions than you've seen up until now. Now of course we need the Europeans for this, cause they're the ones with the economic relationship with Iran, but the whole purpose of this is number one to get an agreement. Number two, to isolate this radical leader so that the moderates and those within the country who want to see Iran succeed economically, can take advantage of it.
Now that's on the one hand, the flip side of this is what happens if America were to militarily strike Iran? Well you take this unstable, radical leader, and you make him a hero -- that's the first thing that'll happen. The Iranian people will rally around him. The second thing that will happen is they will retaliate. And they have certainly some potential for retaliating here in the United States through some of these terrorist organizations they're close to, but we've got over a hundred thousand people right next door. And most people believe that they have an infrastructure for retaliation inside Iraq. So, that's the second thing that'll happen. And the third thing is there are a lot of analysts who believe that an air strike or a missile strike is not enough to be successful. To be successful we'd actually have to have troops on the ground, and where in the world would they come from? So, to me, this is the path...

The emphasis is mine, of course. The blogosphere will deconstruct this in the coming days, I'm sure, but Edwards' main points are now clear: negotiate with Iran, use a combination of incentives and threats, and don't make the mistake of attacking militarily.

The Death Penalty: Still "Freakish" After all These Years

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 9:56 PM EST

In a 1972 opinion, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote that the death penalty should not "be so wantonly and so freakishly imposed." Thirty five years later his words still resonate.

Take lethal injection.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates how haphazardly the deadly cocktail is administered than yesterday's revelation in Tennessee. Turns out that the state, which has 102 prisoners on death row, doesn't have written guidelines listing the appropriate dosage amounts of the three chemicals used during executions. Instead, such details have been passed from prison guard to prison guard, through "oral tradition." Oral tradition? Are we suddenly talking about handing down the secret family recipe for apple pie? This is insane.

Tennessee's governor, Phil Bresdesen (a Dem) says he remains a steadfast "supporter of the death penalty", but admits that this is a "huge failing." And with four men scheduled to die within the next 90 days he has issued a moratorium on capital punishment, at least until May.

Tennessee's moratorium comes after similar developments in Arkansas, Florida, Delaware, California, Missouri, Maryland, Ohio, South Dakota and North Carolina.

Which state will be next?

-- Celia Perry

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The Lone Star State Is First to Require HPV Vaccine

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 9:28 PM EST

As Molly Ivins might write, Well, dang! Guv'ner Rick "Goodhair" Perry defied religious conservatives in the Texas legislature by signing an order requiring Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against HPV (that's warts, y'all—and the virus linked to cervical cancer). The Guv'ner is a card-carrying member of the religious right, so how can this be? Did he have a moment of reasonableness, plain and simple? Perhaps. Governor Goodhair compared the HPV vaccine to the polio vaccine, and called it "an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer."

But this is Texas, folks! They do not trust long words like "reasonableness."* They do trust big multinational corporations. In this case, that would be Merck, the maker of the new vaccine. Merck recently upped its spending on lobbying in Texas, partly through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country. Now let's play Connect the Dots: One of Merck's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff. Perry's current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government. Goodhair also pocketed $6,000 in campaign contributions from Merck's political action committee last cycle.

But who cares? Perry, unlike other state officials, put his money where his mouth is. He is requiring state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. His order also requires Medicaid to offer the vaccine to women ages 19 to 21.

Yee-haw!


*Before you accuse your blogger of destructive stereotyping, you should know that I lived in Texas for 6 years.

Largest Student Protest of Global Warming Yet

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 6:40 PM EST

About 75,000 students watched An Inconvenient Truth and protested global warming this week across North America, from the University of Saskatchewan, to Coral Reef Senior High in Miami, to Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas.

"It's the largest youth mobilization on climate, and one of the biggest coordinated youth actions of any kind in a long time," said Billy Parish, a Yale dropout whom we recently named "Student Activist of the Year."

Some highlights of Climate Week of Action on 500-something campuses:

  • Elementary school students in West Virginia delivered letters to Governor Joe Manchin, asking him to build them a new school because their current school sits right next to a coal power plant.
  • About 900 people showed up to see An Inconvenient Truth at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Billionaires for Coal, dressed in suits and top hats, handed out lumps of coal outside the Merrill Lynch headquarters to protest its investment in 11 coal power plants proposed in Texas.
  • Educational forums brought together students, professors, and professional activists, and students urged administrators to enact clean energy policies.
  • The week culminates in Northwest Climate Justice Summit in Seattle, attended by hundreds of students. See updates at itsgettinghotinhere.org.

For MoJo coverage of Exxon's suppression of An Inconvenient Truth see here, here, here, and here.

Bush Administration Sees New Climate Change Report, Says, "Whatever"

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 4:31 PM EST

From the AP, via Yahoo! News:

White House rejects mandatory CO2 caps
Despite a strongly worded global warming report from the world's top climate scientists, the Bush administration expressed continued opposition Friday to mandatory reductions in heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases.

Sigh. Why expect anything else? By the way, one of the reasons the Bushies have put forward for why we don't need CO2 caps is that they are already doing enough.

"This administration's aggressive, yet practical strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is delivering real results," added Stephen Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Uh huh. Check out this massive Mother Jones report called "George W. Bush's Ungreening of America" to know why that's a load of crock. Also check out the archives at the bottom of our new Environment and Health page for everything you need to know.

UK Schools Put U.S. Schools to Shame on Climate Change, of All Things

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 4:14 PM EST

We've written in the past about the bizarre saga of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and the National Science Teacher's Association. In late November of last year, the NSTA turned down 50,000 free copies of the movie, saying that it didn't accept materials from "special interests." In truth, the issue was too much special interest: the NSTA is supported big-time by Exxon, who does more than anyone to stifle action on global warming, and potentially irritating a sponsor was enough to scare the NSTA off.

Today, a study in contrast. The UK's Independent is reporting that under new curriculum rules set to be released Monday "education for sustainable development -- covering issues such as energy saving and recycling -- will be a compulsory part of the curriculum" for British schoolchildren. According to the Independent, starting next year 11- to 14-year-olds will learn about:


  • Climate change - the impact on pupils, the UK and the rest of world.
  • Children's responsibilities - whether to travel by aeroplane or buy food from the other side of the world, and the impact of purchasing a gas-guzzling car or buying new clothes or trainers.
  • The impact of the south Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
  • Sustainable development - the importance of recycling waste products and saving energy.
  • Global warming - impact of rising sea temperatures and melting ice caps.
  • Fieldwork projects - such as studying ways to regenerate east London during preparations for the 2012 Olympics.
  • Learning to examine individuals' carbon footprints, and what they can contribute in the fight to preserve the planet's resources.
  • Looks like the 13th tipping point is beginning.