Political MoJo

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?)

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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

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.

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.

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    NIE Cliff Notes

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 3:17 PM EST

    If you visited our News and Politics page today -- or just about any news outlet on the web -- you know that the latest National Intelligence Estimate is out. The NIE represents the best work and most solid info from the intelligence community, and is supposed to be created in a timely fashion whenever Congress or the White House asks. This NIE took about six months to create, fueling speculation -- well-founded, considering the hijinks that were involved in the production of the pre-war NIE -- that the delay was intended to give Bush time to make his decision on what to do with Iraq and then make his case to the American public.

    Taking a look at the declassified key judgments [PDF], it's impossible to miss how grim the thing is:

    Hollywood B Team in D.C.

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 1:40 PM EST

    In the past week, Hollywood celebs have been spotted in Washington, D.C. discussing politics, the state of broadcast television, and the American constitution. No, they are not scientologists, but a group called the Creative Coalition, in town to meet with Congress to address issues of importance to the "creative community."

    Members include Alan Cumming, Heather Graham, Wendie Malick (remember the show "Just Shoot Me"?), and Joe Pantoliano of "The Sopranos" (currently serving as co-president). The group's main advocacy issues are the protection of First Amendment rights, funding and support for arts in education, and the prevention of "runaway productions," films made for cheaper outside of the United States.

    Free speech and arts in schools are integral to building a strong culture, no doubt about it. But there is something about this coalition that reeks of that special designer brand of misplaced concern so easy to associate with Hollywood stars.

    This on the First Amendment from their website:

    In the wake of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl 'wardrobe malfunction,' Congress has been considering the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004 […] We believe the bill has potentially dangerous impacts on free speech—particularly for individuals.

    And just when you thought you would never see the words "wardrobe malfunction" in any serious context again. What about those "runaway productions"? If they were to prevent this getaway film making, I expect that many movie stars would revolt. This would mean missing out on parking their trailers at faraway beach paradises or enjoying the reputed free-love atmosphere of Vancouver, a.k.a. Hollywood North.

    --Caroline Dobuzinskis

    CBS Says: SF Mayor Gavin Newsom Breaks "The Man Code"

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 3:07 AM EST

    Which, ok if we mean: screwing a friend's/aide's/employee's wife (who is also your appointments secretary), fair enough, but...

    "The man code"?

    If you're late to this SF party—national implications here, baby, our fair (oh, so fair) Mayor Gavin Newsom was looking good as gov, even prez down the line—the deal is this:

    Fifteen months ago, Gavin Newsom, while getting a divorce from Court TV anchor wife Kimberly Guilfoyle (then) Newsom had an affair with the wife of his campaign manager, Alex Tourk. (Worth pointing out Kimberly was also cheating on Gavin at the time. Also worth noting Ruby Rippey-Tourk was his employee.) Tourk's wife recently told him as part of her 12-step mea culpa. Yesterday Tourk angrily confronts Gavin in what seems like was a fairly public place in City Hall, and resigns. Gavin gives ashen-faced press conference admitting Tourk's allegations are true. Which, evidently, everybody knew long before Tourk.

    My favorite moment in this thus far is the double whammy of:

    Tourk was architect and/or "make it happen" person behind Gavin's Care Not Cash (and its various iterations) homeless program. Which is a cornerstone of Gavin's play for higher office.

    Tourk—major fundraiser, deputy mayor, good friend, and guy whose wife is being schutpped—was only being paid $50,000 for the priviledge, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Ignore "the man factor." The thing that Gavin has to worry about is people like me, and all the other 30-40 something women in our office and around the city/state/country. We like Gavin. We think Gavin's cute. But we think Gavin has tacky-ass taste/judgement when it comes to women (and hair gel). Of late, before this latest scandal, there was the "dating the underage Sonoma County State Woman" (I might really get away with saying: Girl. Also catty of me, but: her name is Brittanie!). And before that there was the "dating the CSI spinoff Scientologist, I Didn't Know She Was a Scientologist, and Anyway There's Nothing Wrong With Their Position on Mental Health Care, and What Does that Have to Do With Homelessness, Anyway" blip.

    Gavin, baby, there are a whole bunch of relatively age-appropriate, french-tipped, strappy sandaled, overly streaked women in the Marina district. Who are single! I went to my first Marina party ever the other day, and honest to god, they were all talking about you. It shouldn't be that hard to steer clear of some obvious pitfalls.

    Because the thing is, deep down we, the less groomed women of this world, and other smart voters suspect this: You're probably just a frat boy. A frat boy whose progressive politics are an accident of geography. Such politics are what it takes to be popular in these parts. Hell, supporting gay marriage probably helped you get laid. Maybe a lot.

    And the more your actions indicate that this suspicion might be true, the less you play to us, your base, and others whom you claim not to be courting in a bid for statewide/national office but whom we all know that you are.

    So there. You want to go to DC, even 1600? You can be single. You can play the field. Just wise up. Just a little.

    And maybe get a dog.

    Equal Treatment Under the Law/Twirling At Ole Miss

    | Fri Feb. 2, 2007 2:01 AM EST

    So, like all anniversary months or dates, Black History Month is, as a unit in time, fraught. A couple of years ago, Morgan Freeman made the all too apt criticism that the designation seemed petty, noting: "I don't want a Black history month. Black history is American history." I would argue the same is true for the even less well celebrated Women's History Month (March, didn't you know?) or Native American History Month (that'd be November), and on and on.

    I don't like the segmented approach to our history, of "celebrating" 12, 51, or what used to be 100 percent of the American population (and what will soon again be a majority--call them Hispanic if you like, or Native American, if you want to get into a real fight about genetics and identity). In part because I know, without a doubt, that I fall under most of these categories, and would assuredly fall into the others, were someone to run a DNA analysis. And so would you.

    That said, after a long court battle, Eyes on the Prize is being aired this week. I've seen it before, and most of the events covered happened before I was born. Still, it never fails to seize me up. Watch it. Rent it. To not know, really know, this part of our history smacks of the ignorance that has beset our country in whole new ways of late. To people under the age of 30, 20, or whatever, it might, if they just catch a glimpse of 30 seconds of B&W newreel seem really old, done, over. It isn't.

    On a related note: It kinda depresses me that smart youngish people seem to be largely ignorant of Terry Southern's work, including "Twirling at Ole Miss"—that'd be the school that James Meredith fought to integrate— a great, weird essay on segregation, and his screenwriting on "Dr. Strangelove" and so forth. Read up people. Here's a link to get you started.