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Daily Round-Up: Get Along, Little Lemmings!

1. Salon and Slate both weigh in on why they don't think the New Yorker cover is a big deal ; meanwhile, the New York Times reports on why no one wants to joke about Obama.

2. Huffington Post blogger (and Brandeis University sophomore) Nathan Robinson agreed to watch FOX News for 24 hours straight.

3.Free Ride author Paul Waldman linked to this complete list of McCain flip-flops in his article about McCain and the media.

4. Alternet ranked the top ten worst things McCain has done...this week.

5. Elsewhere, the feud between comedian and VH1 "fundit" Michael Ian Black and Tucker Max (the I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell guy) stretches on.

Fear of a Wack Planet

Jonathan Levine's new film The Wackness is great. It really is. It's depressing. No doubt. But it's a good movie.

Josh Peck, as recently graduated- prep school- drug dealer- hip hop enthusiast- virgin- depressive- bored Luke Shapiro and Sir Ben Kingsley as lost- frustrated- depressive- addicted- bored- tired Dr. Squires are excellent together. Their relationship gives the movie an uncompromising reality that infiltrates every moment of the New York City Hip-Hopped bildungsroman. All the actors have a great understanding for their characters and the director really gets you into the protagonists head. So much so, that your emotions twist and squeeze along with Luke's as he suffers through heartbreak, insecurity and a drugged out emptiness that pervades each frame.

As to the movie's authenticity: A+. Heck, I know kids from my New York City high school of whom this movie could very well be a biography. The film stays true to its location, its music and the complexity of each of its characters and the real life teens whose lives this story replicates. So, what about the drugs?

How come, people ask, Luke was never arrested for dealing drugs, even though in the movie he was often doing so in public, out in the open, using a converted Italian Ice cart? Why was there never the slightest fear of repercussions of his actions. Even though 1994 was right when Rudy Giuliani stepped up his anti-drug enforcement? Simple answer: HE'S WHITE.

The Drug Policy Alliance Network, an organization dedicated to promoting drug policies "grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights," lists many reasons why the war on drugs as currently executed in the United States is completely unjust. One of the key reasons they list is the outrageous racial disparity in drug arrests and convictions.

While African Americans represent "only 13% of drug users," a stat that anyone who watches the Wackness will easily recognize, "they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses." Huh? How could this be? According to DPAN, these higher rates reflect the war's enforcement of laws in inner city areas "where drug use and sales are more likely to take place in open-air drug markets where treatment resources are scarce."

Thus, even though Luke deals in open air areas such as Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, the law enforcement resources aren't directed at such a well-to-do, white, neighborhood.

Other examples of this institutionalized racism include the disparity in sentencing among those convicted of using or selling crack cocaine and powder cocaine, two drugs made from the same active ingredient but the first used more often by lower income minorities and the second by more wealthy whites. Guess who gets the stricter sentence?

The Drug War also ends giving lower level dealers and runners more time than mid-level dealers because the mid-level dealers can usually give the police more information, and in doing so get around the mandatory minimums faced by almost all of the lower lever dealers.

As DPAN says:

Everyone has a stake in ending the war on drugs. Whether you’re a parent concerned about protecting children from drug-related harm, a social justice advocate worried about racially disproportionate incarceration rates, an environmentalist seeking to protect the Amazon rainforest or a fiscally conservative taxpayer you have a stake in ending the drug war. U.S. federal, state and local governments have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to make America “drug-free.” Yet heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs are cheaper, purer and easier to get than ever before... The war on drugs has become a war on families, a war on public health and a war on our constitutional rights.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one thing every liberal must read today:

by Barack Obama, The New York Times

Barack Obama lays out a clear and comprehensive plan for withdrawing from Iraq. He highlights the need to strengthen the US commitment to Afghanistan and furthering our national security interests. Many liberals support Obama's plan for Iraq but don't know the specifics. Time to find out.

Ending the HIV Travel Ban

Most of the time, if you're a liberal, you probably find yourself in disagreement with Andrew Sullivan. He's a loud and proud conservative pundit, (even if he does support Barack Obama). But now, many liberals are supporting Sullivan in the fight to end the HIV travel and immigration ban.

This ban, which prevents people who are HIV positive from entering or immigrating to the United States, was instituted in 1987 by Jesse Helms. Andrew Sullivan, came to the US in 1984 before the ban was enacted but, because of the ban, he hasn't been allowed to become a citizen of the country he loves.

Now, Senators John Kerry and Gordon Smith in the Senate and Congresswoman Barbara Lee in the House have introduced a bill called the HIV Nondiscrimination in Travel and Immigration Act of 2007 to remove HIV from the list of diseases that exclude people from entering and becoming a citizen of the US.

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the HIV travel and immigration ban is an effective way to prevent the spread of HIV or that it provides any economic benefit by reducing costs to the public health care system.

Today a group of Faith organizations such as the Presbyterian Church, Washington Office, the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church & Society and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced their support for ending the ban on the grounds that because of their "commitment to the well-being of all God's people," they must support a bill that could "reduce stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive persons, enhance U.S. leadership in the global fight against AIDS and allow our ministries to more effectively partner with those most severely affected by HIV and AIDS in the world.

This is a political issue that directly affects the lives of many would-be Americans like Andrew Sullivan and prevents them from truly becoming a part of our American community. This bill will come to a vote any day now, maybe even any minute. If you want, you can write your Senator or Representative to tell them how you feel about the ban.

The Jed Report

Must link for sake of awesomeness.

Blogging Liberally: Happy Bastille Day!

1. Obama will visit the West Bank during his European trip in two weeks, and finally make peace in the Middle East.

2. Sacre Bleu! It's Bastille Day! More on that later.

3. Obama op-eded the New York Times like it was nobody's bizness.

4. The President is lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling. Is this a Bush-McCain policy or a McCain-Bush policy?

5. Could the New Yorker be dumbest magazine ever? Si se puede! Don Hazen with the take down.

6. Jeffrey Wright got arrested in a bar fight. He's such a good actor. Can't wait to his Colin Powell.

7. Mark Sanford on the TV and not much better than Phil Gramm.


Our Denier-In-Chief Punts While the World Pants

Image By Holly Wong courtesy of United Farm Workers

Is global warming a hazard to your health? Just ask 42 year-old Abdon Felix Garcia, a farm worker in Central California. Oh, wait! You can't, because he died on Wednesday after working in a vineyard in 108 degree heat. And he's just the latest casualty of the heat wave that's gripping California's Central Valley; three other farm workers have died under similar circumstances since May.

Meanwhile, the EPA issued a 588-page federal notice on Friday that, the AP reports, makes "no finding on whether global warming poses a threat to people's health."

That is, like, so bizarre! Because just three weeks ago, the folks at the EPA had concluded that it did, and called for the regulation of greenhouse gases under the auspices of the Clean Air Act.

Three weeks ago I was in Central California myself, to attend my oldest brother's wedding. The day before my departure, when my husband Matt thoughtfully added the weather for Paso Robles to my iPhone, he literally started to shake the phone as if it were broken.

"This can't be right!" he exclaimed; the forecast showed daytime highs ranging from 107 to 110 degrees. On the day of my brother's wedding, the temperature was predicted to hit 108 degrees, so the ceremony, which had been set to take place outside, had to be moved indoors. Why? Because, well, 108 degree heat can be hazardous to your health. Just ask--oh, nevermind.

The LA suburb I grew up in, Woodland Hills (sounds so bucolic, doesn't it?), made the news recently when temperatures there hit a record 109 degrees. My memories of my Valley Girl childhood are filled with disasters: earthquakes, fires, floods, mudslides, Ronald Reagan's ascension from Screen Actors Guild President to Governor of California.

Sometimes the smog was so bad, when I was a kid, the city would issue an alert warning us not to play outdoors. That was normal. But 109 degree weather? Not even close.

In Central California last month, I couldn't get over how horribly dry and brown the hills looked, like the proverbial tinderbox. Grace, my fifteen-year old niece from lush, leafy Larchmont, couldn't either.

"What happens when lightening strikes?" she wondered. Well, Grace, you get hundreds of wildfires raging out of control, is what happens. And more every year, as the Santa Barbara Independent noted last week:

A 2006 study published in Science found that since 1986, the number of major wildfires has increased by 400 percent, and the amount of land these fires burned increased by 600 percent, compared to the period from 1970 to 1986.

Until recently it was often assumed that spiking population growth and expanding land use patterns were mainly to blame for any increase in the number of big fires. But the Science study, which was conducted by researchers at the Scripps Institute and the UC Merced, concluded that these factors have had "relatively little effect." Instead, the authors wrote, the change has come about mainly because summers have gotten longer, hotter, and drier. "The transition has been marked by a shift toward unusually warm springs, longer summer dry seasons, drier vegetation, and longer fire seasons."

Do greenhouse gases contribute to global warming? You can debate that point--if you're a dumbass. But how can you possibly question whether global warming is a hazard to our health? From drought to floods to fires to a rise in pest populations and plant diseases, the world is reeling from the consequences of this fossil-fueled fever.

But it's the Bush administration that's delirious, determined to fight any attempts to regulate greenhouse gases on the grounds that it would damage the U.S. economy and cause too many job losses. So the White House forced the EPA to revise its earlier document, which not only supported regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act but noted, to the Administration's consternation, that there could be a "net benefit to excess of $2 trillion," as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday:

The White House on Thursday rejected EPA's conclusion three weeks earlier that the 1970 Clean Air Act can be both workable and effective for addressing global climate change. Instead, EPA said Friday that law is ''ill-suited'' for dealing with climate change...

...''One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land,'' EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said in a preface to the 588-page federal notice Friday.

As opposed to global warming, which only affects some households? Like the families of the farm workers dropping dead in the fields? Or the folks who've lost their homes in the California wildfires? Or the farmers in the heartland who've lost their crops to floods?

Instead of taking action, the Decider's decided that we need to continue to debate this matter until someone who's even more of a Decider sets up shop in the Oval Office, according to the Guardian:

The US environmental protection agency (EPA) announced today that no action will be taken to regulate carbon emissions while George Bush remains president.

The EPA's decision to sit on its hands comes after months of wrangling between government scientists, who pressed for action in the wake of a landmark US Supreme Court ruling, and White House officials dead set against regulating pollution...

...the EPA forestalled environmental action today with a unique response. Rather than weighing in on how to regulate emissions, agency administrator Stephen Johnson extended the period for public comment on climate change until after Bush leaves office, effectively depositing the problem in the lap of the next president.

OK, so here's my public comment: on behalf of Abdon Felix Garcia and his fellow farm workers who've perished in the scorching Central Valley heat, may I state that global warming is, like, rilly, rilly deadly? Like, seriously? Mister Prezidon't, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the White House, already--you're killing us.

Another reason

why John McCain doesn't fit in too well with the Drinking Liberally community : When he was born there were no six-packs.

Oddly, it took until sometime in the early-40’s for someone to come up with the brilliant idea of packaging drinks (”Dad’s Root Beer”, to be precise) six at a time. (The concern about the whole fish-killing thing, although widely overblown, didn’t kick in until the 1970’s.)

So, in other words, what we’re saying here is that John McCain is older than what amounts to little more than a system of counting. Fantastic.