Mojo - December 2006

Earth Hour

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 9:12 PM EST

At 7:30pm on March 31, 2007, the lights of Sydney will go dark for one hour. It's the brain child of Sarah Bishop, 22, who wants Australians to think about global warming, and to look at the stars:

I am 22 years old. These statistics [about climate change] represent my future.

Can we get that going elsewhere on the same night, same time? Think of it as casting a ballot in the first global election.

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Military's Map-Making Supremacy Remains Unchallenged

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 7:03 PM EST

Buried in a very good story about sectarian violence and the breakdown of civil society in Baghdad, the London Times scored itself a little scoop. It publishes a (really cool) U.S. military map deconstructing Baghdad by ethnic neighborhoods and degree of danger.

The US military has drawn up a new map of Baghdad to reflect its ethno-sectarian fault lines. Published here for the first time, it lists the mixed neighbourhoods considered to be most explosive. Four of the five are on the western bank of the Tigris, called Karkh, where mixed neighbourhoods are still prevalent. Predominently Shia Kadhamiya and the largely Sunni areas of Qadisiya, Amariya and Ghazaliya have become the deadliest battlegrounds, according to US forces.

Also interesting is that part of the Green Zone seems to be under Sunni control.

 Baghdad_Neighborhoods300.gif

Larger version here. H/T Kevin Drum.

MoJo: It's Elementary

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 6:17 PM EST

A San Francisco area elementary school recently had its fourth grade class do a project on Mother Jones -- both the early 20th century labor leader and our little rag. See below for what really ought to be MoJoBlog's Christmas-Diwali-Kwanzaa-Hanukkah card. From us (and our adorable friends) to you: happy holidays.

 mojo_students300.gif

PS - You can read the issue on display here (November/December 2006) online.

Apple's Rotten Environmental Record

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 6:05 PM EST

Apple, though beloved by progressives, hipsters, and their favorite rockers (John Mayer in October's Esquire said, "it's got us by the balls."), is nonetheless looking a little bit brown these days, like a Granny Smith or Delicio, sliced, and left on the kitchen table too long. The company's dirty little secret, known to enviros and few consumers, is that it's way behind the curve in the race to build a personal computer that doesn't make people sick, especially when recycled, as is the tendency these days, by kids rummaging through e-waste dumps in Asia and Africa.

To highlight the gap between the San Francisco-area company's squeaky clean image and dirty electrical components (which include substances being phased out by rivals such as Dell), the folks at Greenpeace bathed Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York in a green spotlight yesterday, sending the light refracting through store's slick glass façade. A press release called the display, "a symbol of the 'green' Apple that is needed this holiday season."

Compelling Apple to go green, whether it wants to or not, are new environmental rules passed by the European Union this week (see the post below). Still, Greenpeace deserves props for shining a spotlight on unsavory practices that Apple would just assume hide under its crisp white casings.

Given Chance to Make History, New Jersey Punts

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 4:07 PM EST

Well, knock me over with a feather! Faced with a high court mandate to create either civil unions or gay marriage, New Jersey legislators opted yesterday for civil unions. Civil unions in New Jersey will now reap all of the benefits of marriage except the name.

Can you sense my surprise emanating from your screen?

There are only a few noteworthy things to say about yesterday's developments.

First, a few Republicans were bold enough to vote against the measure even though the court ruling demanded it.

Second, Senator Loretta Weinberg (D), who sponsored the civil unions bill, implied that the court had not left marriage-rights advocates enough time to take the more difficult route. Weinberg and Wilfredo Caraballo (D), who introduced the measure in the Assembly, emphasized that the law leaves room for same-sex couples to earn the right to marry down the road. Republicans tried unsuccessfully to preclude that possibility by proposing an amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Finally, gay rights advocates aren't having it, and are planning to protest the enactment of the law.

New Jersey will become the third state in the union—with Vermont and Connecticut—to recognize civil unions with all of the privileges (but none of the gravitas) of marriage. Only Massachusetts allows gay marriage. (See my posts here and here to see how hoppin' mad the state's homophobes are.)

Americans Fat, Lonely, Frequently Injured by Bikes

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 3:46 PM EST

The New York Times has a neat article today on the most recent census, and what it says about Americans. Judge for yourself.

Americans:

- Drank more than 23 gallons of bottled water per person in 2004.

- Consumed more than twice as much high fructose corn syrup per person as in 1980.

- Remain the fattest inhabitants of the planet.

- Spend about eight-and-a-half hours a day watching television, using computers, listening to the radio, going to the movies, or reading. In short, not interacting with other people. The average American spends more than 64 days a year watching television.

- Occasionally have sex with members of the same sex. Six percent of men and 11.2 percent of women say they have had same sex contacts.

- Are more frequently injured by wheelchairs than by lawnmowers.

- Are most frequently injured by bicycles and beds.

- Enjoy this here series of tubes. 16 million Americans used a social or professional networking site and 13 million created a blog.

- Lost their jobs. From 2000 to 2005, the number of manufacturing jobs declined nearly 18 percent. Employment in textile mills fell by 42 percent.

- Aren't very likable. In 1970, 79 percent said their goal was developing a meaningful philosophy of life. By 2005, 75 percent said their primary objective was to be financially very well off.

- Are seeing some form of gender equality. In 1970, 33,000 men and 2,000 women earned professional degrees; in 2004, the numbers were 42,000 men and 41,000 women.

As for the fact that Americans spend more and more of their leisure time doing solitary activites, that's right in Harvard Professor Bob Putnam's wheelhouse. He wrote the very good "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community." Wouldn't you know it, the Times got a quote.

"The large master trend here is that over the last hundred years, technology has privatized our leisure time," said [Putnam].... "The distinctive effect of technology has been to enable us to get entertainment and information while remaining entirely alone."

Except, of course, if you are one of those 16 million Americans who spends your lonely internet time on social networking sites. In that case, you are blowing Bob Putnam's mind.

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Swim Away Shamu

| Thu Dec. 14, 2006 7:39 PM EST

Sick of traffic, bumper-to-bumper at 30 miles an hour, sucking exhaust and abuse? Yearn for the freedom of open spaces and no speed limit? Then take a cyberbreak with NOAA's website on the long-distance wanderings of blue sharks, mako sharks, sharks, sea lions, elephant seals, blue whales, sea turtles, and albatrosses, and more.

Then if you feel inspired to ensure those finloose beings continue to do what we would like to do but have surrendered in exchange for the questionable benefits of an acronym-driven reality of LCD TVs, SUVs, and DVDs, check out this URL, and the very cool way the South Africans are providing realtime education on what you can eat from a sustainably fished ocean. If you're not lucky enough to live there, you can contemplate navigating the catch of the day safely. Or catch a safe list on Seafood Watch.

Wonder what is really entailed in taking the bluewater wanderers out of the wild for display in marine parks, so that you can stare at them in an unreal world, where cheap tricks are bought with dead sardines? Ever wonder why some killer whales try to kill their trainers? Then check out this video from the long-distance travellers at BlueVoice who've seen the ugly underside of the capture business.

Mass. Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Seek $5 Million in Damages

| Thu Dec. 14, 2006 4:08 PM EST

You've heard the argument that same-sex marriage threatens the institution of marriage—though you've never seen evidence because none exists (heterosexual marriage rates in Massachusetts, the only state where gay marriage is legal, increased slightly from 2004 to 2005).

Yesterday, a Massachusetts anti-marriage group, VoteOnMarriage.org, went so far as to sue 109 state lawmakers for $5 million in damages (almost $46,000 apiece) over the issue.

So what damage could possibly have been done to gay marriage opponents when only about 8,000 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts? The suit centers on legislators' move to recess last month rather than vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment. VoteOnMarriage.org claims the move violated its constitutional rights to free speech and due process. Anti-gay groups obtained 170,000 signatures in favor of putting an amendment on the 2008 ballot, but they also need the support of 50 legislators in two consecutive terms before an amendment can appear on the ballot. Unless lawmakers provide those votes on the last remaining day of the session, January 2, which appears unlikely, gay marriage opponents won't get their way.

The suit basically amounts to foot stomping. The legislature used a democratic parliamentary procedural maneuver to avoid giving the amendment a yay-or-nay vote. Lawmakers' strategy is in keeping with the one-sided political discourse surrounding gay marriage: You either vote against it with maximum flourish or you don't bring the issue to a vote. Because same-sex marriage has the support of more than 50 percent of Massachusetts voters, the lawmakers put the amendment quietly to bed.

Good night and good riddance.

Arab Street Turns Against Uncle Sam

| Thu Dec. 14, 2006 2:43 PM EST

American political leaders are no longer the only ones earning a bad rap among the populace in the Middle East. Public opinion of the U.S. public, as well as American products, are hitting new lows. And this is in countries that are considered to be allies of the U.S.

The Arab American Institute painted this bleak picture today, releasing the latest results of an opinion poll that Zogby International has been conducting annually since 2002, which gauges public sentiment toward the U.S. in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco.

Speaking this morning at press conference in Washington, James Zogby, the president of the AAI, said that the souring of public opinion could hinder diplomatic efforts by the U.S. to address the situation in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

According to Zogby, these findings reinforce the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report, which were released last week. Among other things, the report recommended direct diplomatic talks with countries in the region including Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.

"What this says to me is if we want to salvage ourselves in Iraq, if we want to salvage the situation in Iraq, we have to salvage our credibility and legitimacy in the region," Zogby said. "All these numbers do is tell me that the linkage issue is absolutely critical."

While in previous polls the American people had been viewed favorably, only Lebanon had a positive view this year. The shift in sentiment was largest in Jordan and Egypt, where 76 percent and 72 percent of respondents, respectively, had worse opinions of the U.S. than one year ago.

--Caroline Dobuzinskis

Michael Crichton Hits Below the Belt

| Thu Dec. 14, 2006 2:32 PM EST

A few weeks ago, I noted that global-warming denier and airport-gift shop supplier Michael Crichton had dissed Mother Jones in his latest tome. Now it looks like we got off easy. The New Republic's Michael Crowley, who had written a harsh assessment of State of Fear, has been immortalized as a poorly-endowed child rapist in Crichton's Next. Writes Crowley: "And, perhaps worse, [he] falsely branded me a pharmaceutical-industry profiteer." [Full article behind NRO sub wall.]