Mojo - October 2007

Does Barbie Eat Fries?

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 12:14 PM EDT

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Back in June, under fire for marketing junk food to children, McDonalds pledged to become more socially responsible. The company insisted that it didn't need to be regulated by the government. It would do its part to fight the childhood obesity epidemic by producing new advertising that included "healthy lifestyle messages" for kids.

Well, here's what they've come up with: A Barbie on rollerblades in every Happy Meal. The plastic sex-kittens are part of a new promotion to get little girls to consume the 700 calories and 28 grams of fat that are the average Happy Meal. But hey, Barbie is rollerblading!

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Tom Tancredo and the Plight of the Second Tier

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 10:53 AM EDT

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Tom Tancredo has a tough sell here today. He is trying to pitch himself to a crowd that is salivating at the chance to hear McCain, Thompson, Huckabee, and Giuliani speak. In fact, in the lobby of the Hilton Washington earlier this morning, I overheard a girl in her twenties says to her friends, "I keep taking these quizzes on 'Who is your favorite candidate?' And it keeps coming up Tancredo. And I'm like, 'Who are you??'"

Tancredo takes this in stride. He opens his speech with a joke about being a second-tier candidate and by telling a story that goes something like this:

"I went to speak to the NAACP in Detroit recently, and when I got into the cab at the airport, I was wearing jeans, I didn't have an entourage, and I was still eating the sandwich I was eating on the plane. The cab driver asked me, 'What are you doing here?' I said, 'I'm speaking to the NAACP."
He said, 'Why?'
I said, 'Because they asked me to.'
He said, 'Why?'
I said, 'Because I'm running for president of the United States of America.'
And he turned back and looked at me. He paused and said, 'Nah.'"

That joke may not translate onto a blog, but it was pretty funny at the time. Sorry.

Live, From the Most Religious Place in America, It's FRC!

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 10:20 AM EDT

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I'm at the Family Research Council's Washington Briefing, an annual meeting billed on the FRC website as "THE PREMIER VALUES VOTER EVENT OF 2007." It's a collection of America's most politically-savvy evangelical Christians. That means if the rapture occurs today, it's just going to be me and a bench of media members in bad sportscoats.

The day was kicked off with a Sam Brownback book signing. The senator from Kansas is a long-time defender of pro-life and anti-gay positions, and this ought to be his crowd. But yesterday, it was announced that Brownback will likely drop out of the presidential race today. Brownback, tucked amongst booths for groups like Exodus International ("Freedom for a World Impacted by Homosexuality") and PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays), was immediately mobbed by members of the media seeking information on the rumor.

"I'm here for a book signing, folks," he said, taking an exasperated look at the half dozen video cameras and scores of reporters toting laptop bags and notebooks. "I'm making an announcement later today."

Squeezed between members of the media were thirty or so people who actually wanted to get their copies of "From Power to Purpose" signed. A small boy with wire glasses and a buzz cut tired to take a picture of the senator with a digital camera. A convention staffer stopped him, saying "No unauthorized photos. You need a media credential." The kid, a bit shocked, mumbled an apology and began putting his camera back in his pocket when a reporter standing nearby intervened.

"I'll take the picture," he said, reaching for the kid's camera. As the boy got his book signed, the reporter jostled his way to the front of the table to get a picture. Maybe the rapture will take him, too.

Senator Chris Dodd Takes Stand on FISA, Takes On TeleComs

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 2:50 AM EDT

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From Senator Chris Dodd's site (via Wired News, Via Digg, courtesy of Paul Ward, aka dssstrkl—how hip am I?):

The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.
No more.
I have decided to place a "hold" on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by illegally providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.
I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.
It's about delivering results -- and as I've said before, the FIRST thing I will do after being sworn into office is restore the Constitution. But we shouldn't have to wait until then to prevent the further erosion of our country's most treasured document. That's why I am stopping this bill today.
Indicate your support for my hold as well as your thoughts on this issue in the comment section below.

Now unfortunately, it seems as though the "comments" section is really just a way for Dodd's campaign to capture email addresses. And this hold is surely a good way to get publicity when you're stuck in the second or third tier. But let's put cynicism aside for the moment. Well done, Senator!

Update: Correntewire suggests a plan of action for Senator Rockefeller, who authored the bill to give them amnesty...

The Great German Immigrant Panic (aka John Derbyshire Is Just Too Aggravating To Ignore)

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 1:52 AM EDT

Jonathan has a righteous bit of outrage about National Review columnist John Derbyshire's latest inanity (heavens to murgatroid! there are Hispanics in Iowa!) that I can't resist piling on to. About a century ago the Derbyshires of the day were tearing their hair out about the way German immigrants were taking over Upper Midwest towns. In Minnesota, there was much hand-wringing over "Stearns County Syndrome," which consisted of Mueller and Schmidt kids graduating from 8th grade without having learned English.

When I was reporting on Latino immigration in a small town not so far from Storm Lake (10 years ago, by the way--and the town was about 50 percent Latino then, so what's Derbyshire's big news here anyway?), a local church lady told me about how her Norwegian parents used to warn the kids not to hang out with the riffraff from across town. "Back then it was Swedes, today it's the Spanish people," she said. Then she went off to root for the new boys' high school soccer team, 50 percent Mexican kids plus a few Bosnians and Somalis. They made the state tournament that year.

Airport Screeners Fail to Find Fake Bombs; The Onion Reports Stolen Headline

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 8:55 PM EDT

The Transportation Security Administration said today that during tests last year, screeners in major airports across the country allowed dummy bomb components to sail through security up to 75 percent of the time. San Francisco airport, which uses privately contracted screeners, did the best of all the test sites with only a 20% failure rate.

Due to last year's poor performance, TSA now runs drills continuously at every airport in the country, planting fake bomb parts sometimes no larger than a pen cap (next week: no pens on planes!). Screeners who fail must undergo remedial training. Personally, I'd prefer it if they just trained them right the first time. In the meantime, can I have my damn shoes back?

—Casey Miner

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FCC Targets Media-Ownership Rules Yet Again

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Kevin Martin, the head of the FCC, has announced that he wants to decide on new media ownership rules by the end of the year. In particular, he's considering lifting a longtime ban on cross-ownership—that is, letting a single company own print and broadcast media outlets in the same market. As Eric Klinenberg explained in Mother Jones earlier this year, repealing the ban would be bad news for the news, especially the embattled newspapers and TV stations that—love 'em or hate 'em—remain Americans' main sources of local news.

This isn't the first time the FCC has taken a swing at the cross-ownership ban: Former commission head Michael Powell managed to strike it down in 2003. (A federal court blocked the move.) That time, the FCC rushed the decision through with minimal public input; this time, Martin says he'll take the "unusual step" of letting the public comment on the proposed rule changes... for one whole month.

Dennis Kucinich's Deep Pockets

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 6:18 PM EDT

Last week, Stephen Colbert revealed that pocket-sized Democrat Dennis Kucinich carries a lot of stuff in his pockets—a copy of the Constitution, a union card, a green tea bag, and—courtesy of a 2003 Mother Jones profile by Charles Bowden—a baseball card of Cleveland Indian Rocky Colavito and a quotation from Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. This week, Kucinich made a good-natured appearance on the Colbert Report, emptying his overtsuffed pockets, and even getting in a nice comeback:

Colbert: "This is the famous pocket Constitution. Did you shrink this down yourself?"

Kucinich: "No, no, no. George Bush already did that."

Raped by the Law Again

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 5:00 PM EDT

I'm kicking myself for not having remembered to add the following to yesterday's post on the Philadelphia judge who ruled that it's ok to rape prostitutes, or rather that it's impossible to rape a prostitute, just as it's impossible to steal from a thief:

Last fall, [Judge] Cheuvront granted a motion by defense attorneys barring the use of the words rape, sexual assault, victim, assailant, and sexual assault kit from the trial of Pamir Safi—accused of raping Tory Bowen in October 2004. Safi's first trial resulted in a hung jury last November when jurors deadlocked 7-5. Responding to Cheuvront's initial language ban—which will be in force again when Safi is retried in July—prosecutors upped the ante last month by seeking to have words like sex and intercourse barred from the courtroom as well. The judge denied that motion, evidently on the theory that there would be no words left to describe the sex act at all. The result is that the defense and the prosecution are both left to use the same word—sex—to describe either forcible sexual assault, or benign consensual intercourse. As for the jurors, they'll just have to read the witnesses' eyebrows to sort out the difference.

Here's what happened at the retrial in July, pretty much what happened when the Philadelphia perp raped, er, "stole the services" of another prostitute four days later: a travesty of justice.

Preteens on the Pill?

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 3:59 PM EDT

A student health center at a middle school in Portland, Maine, recently voted to make birth control pills and patches available to students treated at the center. For those of you who don't remember, middle schoolers range in age from 11 to 13. While making contraceptives more widely available is a noble goal, doesn't an 11-year-old girl seeking birth control pills cry out for a visit from social services? After all, girls that young rarely have 12-year-old partners.

Obviously it's better to have preteens on the pill than pregnant, but still, the news that five kids told the middle-school nurse in Portland that they were having sex last year seems worth more intervention that just a pack of Ortho-Novum....