Political MoJo

Democratic Primary 2008: Edwards In, Bayh Out

| Sat Dec. 16, 2006 4:01 PM EST

News has leaked from the John Edwards ur-campaign that the former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate will launch a run for president later this month. Edwards, Clinton, and Obama will likely outclass the other contendors for the Democratic nomination, including Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Vilsack, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, and others. (And don't forget the ghosts of elections past, Al Gore and John Kerry, who haven't put an end to speculation that they may be running.) To watch John Edwards talk about labor and the economics of the middle class, see this video from Hardball. He's a charming bugger, that Edwards.

One man who won't be running is Indiana Senator and former Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, who people have been discussing as a potential presidential candidate for years. Bayh didn't use the old "more time with family" line when announcing his non-run. He was actually quite forthcoming about the reason: he just couldn't win.

"And whether there were too many Goliaths or whether I'm just not the right David, ... the odds were longer than I felt I could responsibly pursue," Bayh's statement continued. "This path -- and these long odds -- would have required me to be essentially absent from the Senate for the next year instead of working to help the people of my state and the nation."

Bayh has spent a lot of time in Iowa and New Hampshire over the last year or so, which makes this decision to drop out at this point a little curious. Best wishes for continued success in the Senate, Mr. Bayh.

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Pink Elephant, In Utero

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 9:18 PM EST

This ultrasound from the journal Nature captures an 165-pound elephant fetus, already decked out with footpads, a trunk, and fur. Due in about three months, it has been gestating for almost 19 months and kicking for probably 14. How did scientists get close enough to get a good image?

Ultrasonographers donned shoulder-length gloves and gave the pregnant mother an enema before inserting an ultrasound probe up the length of her rectum.

Not so cute. But still, the image is breathtaking. Check out that serpentine umbilical chord and the wiry elephant fur. Click on the image to see it up close.

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-- April Rabkin

The End of Lethal Injection?

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 9:17 PM EST

Florida death row inmate Angel Nieves Diaz was pronounced dead at 6:36 pm on Wednesday evening — 34 minutes after the first needle carrying the standard lethal injection chemicals designed to kill him was inserted into his arm. The procedure took twice as long as usual and required a rare double dose of the toxic cocktail. The needles, which were supposed to be inserted directly into Diaz's veins, tore through his veins and went into the inner tissue of his arms. One reporter who witnessed the execution observed Diaz shuddering, licking his lips, blowing, and grimacing as he lay strapped onto the gurney. In the end, his lifeless body was marred with two grisly reminders of the ordeal — 12 and 11 inch burns on his arms.

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Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has overseen over 20 executions while presiding over the state that ranks fifth highest in number of people killed, responded to Diaz's bungled execution by calling for a moratorium on all executions in Florida until a commission is able to report its findings on March 1. And it's about time. This isn't the first botched execution in Florida's history — two inmates' heads caught fire while being put to death in the electric chair in the 1990's. It also isn't the first time that an execution has lasted longer than it should. It took Crips founder-turned-Nobel Peace Prize nominee Tookie Williams 36 minutes to die in December of 2005. You can learn more about his execution, and the vigils and demonstrations that accompanied it, here.

Jeb Bush's decision is just one of the recent developments in the debate over lethal injection, which intensified in February when the execution of California inmate Michael Morales was put on hold pending further investigation into whether the condemned suffer unconstitutionally painful deaths. Also today, in a move that is arguably more monumental than Florida's moratorium, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled in the Morales case that California's method of lethal injection is unconstitutional because it classifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

So is this the end of lethal injection in the United States? Ty Alper, visiting professor at UC Berkeley Boalt Law School's death penalty clinic, called today's events "indications of the further scrutiny that lethal injection is getting nationwide." He said, "No longer can we continue to pretend that lethal injection is painless and humane. In fact, to the contrary, it now appears that we have been torturing at least some inmates as we put them to death. At this point, we can hope that officials in both states will take these events seriously and either come up with a way to execute people humanely or abandon the enterprise altogether."

History lesson: Lethal injection was first adopted by the state of Oklahoma after local legislator Bill Wiseman introduced it as an alternative to electrocution. Thirty-seven of the 38 death-penalty states now use it as their main method of execution. Courtesy of Mother Jones, you can read or listen to why Bill Wiseman regrets promoting lethal injection and is now an Episcopal priest who advocates against the death penalty.

-- Celia Perry

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.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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.