The Editors

What to Do When the Current Climate Change Legislation Threatens to Do More Harm Than Good

If that plucky, animated, singing scrap of paper from Schoolhouse Rock!--"(I'm Just a) Bill"--were around today, he'd be begging us to keep him out of the Senate. That's where good ideas go to get their teeth knocked out, to get fattened with pork and disfigured with loopholes, coming out the other end as Frankenstein versions of the initiatives they once were. We're left asking, Is this creature something we can live with and improve over time, as was the case with healthcare reform? Or is the result so hopelessly compromised that it ought never see the light of day?

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We Had Abortions

In its 1972 debut issue, Ms. magazine ran a bold petition in which 53 well-known U.S. women declared that they had undergone abortions —despite state laws rendering the procedure illegal. These women were following the example of a 1971 manifesto signed by 343 prominent French women, who also had declared they had abortions.

Even then, to many it seemed absurd that the government could deny a woman sovereignty over her own body. It is even more absurd in 2006 to learn that an abortion ban has passed into law in South Dakota, although it has been stayed until an initiative to remove the ban is voted on this November. Whatever happens in South Dakota, 17 other states now have trigger laws or pre-Roe v.Wade laws that could automatically ban abortion if the Supreme Court were to reverse Roe. Experts believe that as many as 30 states could outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. A myriad of restrictions already limit access to abortion in the U.S. for poor women, young women and women in the military.

We know it is time again for women of conscience to stand up and speak truth to power.

At the time of the original Ms. petition, illegal abortions were causing untold suffering in the United States, especially for poor women who had to resort to unsafe self-induced or back-alley abortions. Today, in the developing nations, approximately 70,000 women and girls die each year from botched and unsafe abortions. Another 500,000 needless maternal deaths occur. Most of this suffering and loss could be prevented. U.S. international family-planning policies contribute to the death toll: first, by conditioning U.S. aid on a global gag rule that prevents medical workers from even giving out information on abortion (let alone providing the service); second, by withholding or providing inadequate funds; and finally, by funding "abstinence-only" rather than comprehensive sex education.

We are now starting a new petition, beginning with the names of some of the original 1972 signers. They signed "to save lives and to spare other women the pain of socially imposed guilt." Their purpose was "to repeal archaic and inhuman laws." They recognized that because of the "social stigma still wrongly attached to abortion" many would not be able to sign publicly. But they invited all women to sign-"to help eliminate the stigma."

We recognize that, still, not every woman will be able to sign — 33 years after Roe — even though abortion is a very common, necessary and important procedure for millions of women in the U.S. But if a multitude of women step forward publicly, and more and more continue to join us, we will transform the public debate.

We know that women who have had abortions have spoken out many times during the last 33 years, and millions of women and men have marched in countless rallies and demonstrations. It is time to speak out again -- in even larger numbers -- and to make politicians face their neighbors, influential members of the community and, yes, their own family members who have had abortions. We cannot, must not, lose the right to safe and accessible abortion or access to birth control -- for U.S. women and the women of the world. Just as in 1972, Ms. will send the signed petitions to the White House, members of Congress and state legislators. We will also post the petition online. And we ask signers to make a contribution so Ms. can promote the petition and provide needed funds to fight abortion bans and support targeted abortion providers, such as the sole remaining women's clinic in Mississippi.

Your name and your voice will make a difference.

To add your name to the petition, go to

The Best of Campus Activism

[Editor's Note: This survey was compiled and written by Leigh Ferrara, Ann Friedman, April Rabkin, Amaya Rivera, Cameron Scott, Marisa Taylor, and Marcus Wohlsen. It appears in the September/October issue of Mother Jones.]

In 1994, Mother Jones ran its first survey of the "Greeks and Granolas and Steeps and Slackers" who were shaking up college politics. Though the last steep (whatever that may be) was spotted in 1997, the progressive campus activist is far from extinct.

Protest of the Year

Inspired by the original Freedom Riders, 33 young activists hit the road for a seven-week tour of 19 religious and military colleges that discriminate against gay and lesbian students. The Soulforce Equality Ride's bus was tagged with homophobic slogans in Tennessee and riders were arrested on six campuses, including West Point, the Air Force Academy, and Brigham Young University, but 24-year-old trip leader Jacob Reitan said the journey was "hugely positive." Riders talked and prayed with more than 10,000 people and met with 10 school presidents. "We need to correct a society that would question gay marriage," Reitan said. "It's about changing the hearts and minds of the American people."

Student Activist of the Year

Well, actually, he's a 24-year-old Yale dropout, but let's ignore that. Billy Parish has helped make fighting global warming this year's hot cause with his Energy Action Coalition, which united green campaigns on 270 campuses. The coalition is urging colleges to fight climate change by screening their portfolios, investing in energy-efficient transportation and buildings, and buying local food for dining halls. And on April 1, the group helped celebrate America's coolest new holiday, Fossil Fools Day.

Cutting for a Cause

More than 3,000 students from the University of Texas-Austin turned out for an immigrants' rights rally on April 10, part of the month of massive marches nationwide. But organizer Rebeca Lopez gave props to the many local high school kids who ditched class to march. "They're the ones that have the parents who this affects the most," she explained. And some paid the price: In one Austin suburb, 200 teens were picked up for breaking curfew.

The War on Slugs

When military recruiters ventured into the University of California-Santa Cruz in April, hundreds of protesters promptly kicked them out, continuing a nearly two-year effort to make the home of the Banana Slugs a no-go zone for recruiters. In response, the Pentagon has resorted to slimy tactics, listing Students Against War, the group behind the campaign, as a "credible threat."

Darfur, Continued

While the genocide in Darfur slipped from the headlines, the nationwide movement kicked off by Students Taking Action Now: Darfur kept pushing schools to divest from companies that do business with the Sudanese government. In the past year, the University of Washington, University of Vermont, and University of California divested completely, while more than 20 schools started pulling the plug on deals that sent aid and comfort to Khartoum.

Oral Arguments

Antonin Scalia dropped by the University of Connecticut in April, prompting students to set up a "Kiss a Queer" booth to protest the Supreme Court justice, who once compared homosexuality to bestiality. Unfortunately, the Secret Service prevented Nino from feeling the love.

Payback Time

Mired in more than $100,000 of student loan debt, Nathan Walker is not alone. This spring, the Columbia University Teachers College student and six others from across the country went to D.C. to lobby for a reform bill that would provide $30 billion in new federal loans while cutting the subsidies and loopholes that make the $76 billion loan biz a bonanza for lenders.

Thinking Outside the Box

There's a Wal-Mart a few blocks away from Southern California's Pitzer College, but in January, the student senate said it would no longer reimburse purchases made at the chain, and the administration has since encouraged students and staff to look for bargains elsewhere.

The Holdouts

When the fundamentalist Christian Legal Society confronted 15 schools that refused to fund campus groups that barred gays and lesbians, all crumbled to its demand for "religious freedom" -- except two. Southern Illinois University and San Francisco law school Hastings College are still defending their nondiscrimination policies against the cls in federal court. Stay tuned as they battle their way to the Supremes.

Leading the PAC

Six Yale students started their own political action committee, Students for a New American Politics, raising $50,000 to provide campaigners for progressive candidates. Twenty-one-year-old director Marissa Levendis says this approach beats traditional get-out-the-vote efforts: "We can say, ‘You should vote for this person,' rather than, ‘We think you should vote for someone progressive on labor or abortion issues,' which is always cryptic."

High and Dry

You'd think University of California-Berkeley students would jump at the chance to torment their local chapter of the College Republicans. But when the masochistic young conservatives set up a dunk tank in March as part of a breast cancer fundraiser, the Bears failed to bite. Dunkee Andrea Rasmussen sniffed, "They hate us so much they won't even help us fight cancer."

Dais of Rage

Graduation remains a favorite time for squeezing in some last-minute agitation. At Boston College's commencement, dozens of grads confronted guest speaker Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with stickers reading "Not in My Name." And at New York's New School, grad-to-be Jean Sara Rohe scrapped her prepared remarks to give a dose of straight talk to keynote speaker Arizona senator John McCain. "Although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us," she told the Iraq hawk, "I do know that preemptive war is dangerous and wrong."

The Case Against Alito

With Judge Samuel Alito, the Senate Judiciary Committee faces its most consequential Supreme Court confirmation hearing in a generation. Not since Robert Bork has the Senate encountered a nominee whose long record and fully articulated views so consistently challenge decades of progress on privacy, civil rights and control of corporations. And never in memory has a single nomination so threatened to redirect the Court as Alito's, which would replace the pragmatically conservative swing-voter Sandra Day O'Connor. Alito's opening statement before the Judiciary Committee is January 9, but his true testimony consists of fifteen years of rulings on issues from abortion to school prayer to immigration. That record demonstrates that Alito is at odds with the interests of ordinary Americans.

Supreme Court nominees get, and usually deserve, much benefit of the doubt. But with Alito, the doubt is all of the nominee's making, and has only grown with revelations of his Reagan-era memos. As an ambitious Reagan Administration lawyer, he boasted in a now-famous 1985 job application of his conviction that Roe v. Wade should be overturned; opposed the historic one-person, one-vote decision of the Warren Court; and waved like a badge of honor his membership in a far-right Princeton alumni network notorious for its hostility to admitting women and African-Americans. Alito's defense of Nixon-era officials implicated in illegal wiretaps makes clear--in light of today's NSA wiretap scandal--that the Bush Administration's motives in Alito's nomination extend well beyond a token nod to social conservatives.

Nothing in Alito's hundreds of federal appeals court rulings in the years since suggests any mellowing of those fundamental commitments. After a careful study, University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein described Alito's record of appeals court dissents as "stunning. Ninety-one percent of Alito's dissents take positions more conservative than his colleagues...including colleagues appointed by Presidents Bush and Reagan." A new study by the Alliance for Justice makes the case even more emphatically: In so-called split decisions--the most difficult cases, which divided the appeals court--"Alito has frequently gone to the right of even his Republican-appointed colleagues to find against individuals claiming that government officials or corporations violated the law." He has argued strenuously in favor of the strip search of a 10-year-old girl not accused of criminal wrongdoing; supported warrantless surveillance of a criminal suspect when other courts had disallowed the practice; and tried to strip his fellow judges of the power to grant habeas corpus rights to undocumented immigrants, a position pointedly repudiated by the Supreme Court.

This is big-government jurisprudence with a vengeance. The only exception to Alito's big-government activism comes with the regulation of business. There he seems to be on a one-man crusade to undo decades of regulation, most clearly displayed in a still-astounding dissent arguing that the federal ban on machine guns violates the Constitution's commerce clause--a radical position (exceeding even Chief Justice John Roberts's famously constricted view of the Endangered Species Act) that would shred not only gun-control statutes but a host of environmental laws and other Congressional action.

Democrats as well as moderate Republicans have so far played their cards close. Will the handful of Democratic progressives who voted for the confirmation of Roberts--including Russell Feingold and Patrick Leahy--see themselves as free to oppose a nominee without Roberts's discretion about his own commitments? Will the party discipline so often exercised by minority leader Harry Reid extend to what is certain to be an emotional confirmation fight? Will civil-libertarian Republicans like Arlen Specter recognize in Alito not just a threat to Roe v. Wade but to the fundamental balance of executive and legislative power? And what about the "Gang of 14," the Republican and Democratic senators like Joe Lieberman and John McCain who last year agreed to avoid judicial filibusters except in rare circumstances? They should recall that a key principle uniting them then was that the White House should consult the Senate on judicial appointments; on Alito, the White House consulted no one but the extreme right.

The White House is banking on fear that if this second nominee goes down, Bush will nominate someone even worse. This argument ignores history: When in 1969-70 President Nixon nominated and lost both Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell, the result was not "someone worse" but the pragmatic, humane Judge Harry Blackmun, who later wrote Roe v. Wade; when Bork was Borked, his replacement was Anthony Kennedy, who in 1992 joined fellow Reagan nominee O'Connor to reaffirm Roe. Alito defeatism also ignores today's political climate: As the midterm elections draw closer, as the Iraq War scandals deepen, Senate Republicans are falling over one another to distance themselves from the Administration and the far right.

Alito will undoubtedly try to backpedal from his unambiguous track record. That only makes more urgent the case against the real Alito revealed in his memos and rulings. The American people are not ready for a nominee so profoundly committed to intrusive government, whether that means right-to-lifers intruding on sexual privacy, religious fanatics intruding in the science classroom or the NSA intruding on phone calls without a warrant. Far from being a mainstream conservative, Judge Alito represents a malignant future; his entire biography suggests he will swing the Supreme Court toward a right-wing authoritarianism that's out of step with the public and the Constitution.

Top 10 Drug-War Stories of 2004

1) Please Eat the Hemp, the Conclusion: The Hemp Industries Association won its fight against the feds' proposed new rule that would've made it illegal to sell foods containing hemp seed and oil. In February, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the HIA, and in late September the feds declined to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

2) Pretty (and Stoned) as a Princess: In April, the Texas Department of Public Safety kicked off a statewide program designed to put an end to illegal drug use at "organized rave parties." The DPS campaign aimed to educate the public about the dangers of "club drugs" like Ecstasy, and issued a watch list of items commonly identified with ravers – like "colorful, beaded bracelets" and "princess" costumes.

3) Doctors Back Medi-Pot: During its annual state convention in May, the Texas Medical Association (the country's largest state medical association) unanimously adopted a new policy recommendation supporting the right of doctors and patients to discuss medi-pot as a viable treatment option, without fear of legal recrimination. TMA delegates also reaffirmed the association's call for further research on the use of medicinal pot.

4) So Does Kerry: Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry scored an A- on the Marijuana Policy Project's medi-pot candidate scorecard by pledging to end DEA-led raids on medi-pot patients. In Oregon, Kerry said the feds should likely butt out of medi-pot matters, though he did not pledge support for the state's Proposition 33, expanding the state's medi-pot law. Both Kerry and Proposition 33 bagged out on E-day, while the medi-pot fight slogs forward.

5) Istook Mistook: In June, a federal judge struck down the Istook Amendment, which would deny fed dollars to any transit authority that accepts advertising advocating medi-pot, marijuana legalization, or dope decriminalization. The court said that the amendment violated congressional spending power and constitutionally protected free speech.

6) Medi-Pot's Supreme Test: California medi-pot patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson went to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that the feds should stay out of intrastate use of medicinal marijuana. The feds say medi-pot inevitably affects the black market in illegal drugs; Raich and Monson say their use is noneconomic and wholly contained within state borders. A decision is expected this spring.

7) Don't Study the Hemp: In December the DEA denied a proposal by University of Massachusetts researchers to grow pot for research, effectively extending the bureaucratic blockade that has kept research that could result in the drug's reclassification under federal law and enable doctors to prescribe pot. Horror of horrors, how would the drug companies ever make money off the weed?

8) Sensenbrenner's Minimum of Good Sense: Despite growing opposition to federal mandatory-minimum sentencing, U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, offered a bill to lengthen and strengthen man-min sentences. Under a fuzzy bunny title ("Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2004"), Sensenbrenner wants a 10-year minimum for anyone convicted of selling or conspiring to sell any amount of pot to a minor. Keep your fingers crossed – at press time, the bill still hadn't made any headway.

9) John Ashcroft, Ghostwriter: Outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft also entered the man-min fray, with an AstroTurf campaign using the Justice Department to churn out prewritten op-ed pieces supporting man-mins but bearing the signatures of local U.S. attorneys. Unfortunately for Ashcroft, his dishonest scheme was outed in August by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

10) Medi-pot for Texas?: In December, officials with Texans for Medical Marijuana announced that Austin State Rep. Elliott Naishtat had agreed to author the state's first medi-pot bill. The annual Texas Poll showed overwhelming support – whether that'll be enough to push the bill through remains to be seen.

Tsunamis Need Not Take Lives

A giant offshore earthquake sent killer waves around southern Asia last Sunday. They left a death toll in the tens of thousands from Sri Lanka to Thailand. Almost all of the people who were killed had no warning of these tsunamis as they made massive and speedy arrivals from off the coast of Sumatra.

Even if all the shoreline residents had been alerted, they might not have been prepared. That lack of warning and preparedness, however, isn't true in every country. Japan and the United States are world leaders in using ocean bed sensors to try and forecast tsunamis. They have slowly developed public training for evacuations, special construction codes for coastal buildings, and shoreline embankments to lessen the impact of these waves.

Such measures are still far from perfect. And Hollywood's summer catastrophe movie, "The Day After Tomorrow," about a giant Atlantic storm surge striking Manhattan, is an overwrought reminder of what such a watery tragedy can bring.

Despite more and more seabed sensors being placed around the Pacific's "ring of fire" volcanic and earthquake zone, tsunami predictions are still a budding science. Hawaii, which saw a 1946 tsunami kill 159 people on the islands, has had a number of false alarms about pending tsunamis. These evacuations cost millions in lost productivity. And the state needs to improve its tsunami-emergency drills for residents.

Still, a milestone was crossed last year when one prediction proved accurate. In October, the National Data Buoy Center, an arm of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, tracked a wave that arose from a 7.5 magnitude quake off the Aleutian Islands. At first a warning was given to Hawaii, but then canceled. The islands only saw a relatively small wave.

Although more "tsunami-meters" are needed, one limiting factor is the lack of accurate topographical maps of ocean and coastal bottoms. Much of the size, direction and speed of a wave is determined by the contours of the seabed. More ocean-bed data collection is needed to make predictions more accurate. Also needed in every coastal nation are stronger buildings for those living less than 50 feet above sea level and within one mile of a shoreline.

The 20th century saw some 70,000 people killed by tsunamis. This century need not see the same toll.

The GOP Hijacks 9/11

More than a thousand days have passed since September 11, 2001, yet the wounds are still raw. In recent newspaper pictures, grief was still evident in the faces of the relatives of those who died in the terrorist attacks as they listened to Congressional testimony about 9/11 intelligence failures.

All the more reason, then, that the Republican Party should avoid using the attacks as a political prop. Yet that is precisely what happened at its national convention. Any uncertainty about whether the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign would exploit the memory of the victims of 9/11 disappeared on the convention's first night, when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani went so far as to argue that Bush should be re-elected in order to honor the dead. "We owe that much and more to the loved ones and heroes we lost on September 11," the possible future presidential candidate said as a backdrop of the New York skyline appeared behind him.

If Giuliani's exploitation of 9/11 was profoundly distasteful – and roundly condemned as such by family members of the dead – Senator John McCain was subtler but no less exploitative when he suggested that the invasion of Iraq should be seen as a part of the response to 9/11. Never mind that there is no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda; McCain argued that the war in Iraq and the "war on terrorism" are one. And never mind that there can be no war on terrorism, since terrorism involves a tactic, not an organization or state; McCain argues that "only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war."

Was this all just convention rhetoric? No way. The Republicans are using 9/11 because they know that angry and fearful citizens will put rational thought aside to follow a leader who stirs their blood. Giuliani and McCain were trying out themes for the fall campaign.

This is a dangerous game, however, not just a despicable political tactic. In an article for The Nation this week, Dale Maharidge finds that after spending more than two years crisscrossing the heartland, the 9/11 appeals tap into a growing fury over conditions that seem incapable of being righted but have nothing to do with terrorism. Maharidge writes, "The 9/11 attacks were not solely the genesis but an amplifier of pre-existing tensions – rooted in the radically transformed American economy, from a manufacturing dynamo to that of millions of jobs of the Wal-Mart variety." With at least one million fewer jobs than when George W. Bush took office and with more than 35 million Americans living in poverty and 45 million without health insurance, millions of American workers are living in a 2004 version of the Depression. Some – not many, but a growing number – are ready to blame Muslims or Arabs or whoever else can be pointed to as the cause of their problems.

Bush may have spoken more accurately than he knew (though he later claimed he'd been misunderstood) about the "war on terror" when he said in an interview broadcast on the convention's opening day, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Rather than criticizing the president for what they are calling a defeatist statement, the Kerry campaign and other Democrats should welcome his comment as a sign that Bush, albeit belatedly, is learning the art of nuance.

What this country needs between now and November 2 is not a debate over who will be a better "war president." We need a debate over how to extricate America from Iraq, and how to attack the demons of poverty, joblessness and sickness that threaten so many Americans every day. Jingoism and fearmongering are cheap ways to avoid hard issues.

Just Say No to Drug Dogs

We can all agree that we don't want drugs in our schools. But how best to keep them out is another matter. This week, the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to start funding the sporadic visits of drug-sniffing dogs to our schools as a way to keep our kids away from drugs.

A demonstration by a friendly Labrador retriever proved popular with some parents who witnessed the dog's drug-ferreting act. The dog's peaceful presence seems like a non-threatening way to get at the problem. As per agreement, for $18,000 a year the dog and its handlers will make unannounced visits to area high schools on "suspicionless searches," checking lockers, restrooms, random classrooms and the students' belongings waiting inside.

But, we have to ask, what kind of message are we sending to our kids? Are they, as the Fourth Amendment instructs, "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures"?

In this case, the searches are blanket searches, meaning there is no suspicion of any individual; instead all are subject. However, the Fourth Amendment says clearly that, if there is no individualized suspicion, there is no right to search. The 9th Circuit Court ruled in 1999, on a local case, Butte County v. Plumas Unified School District, that "[t]o be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a [seizure] must ordinarily be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing."

There must be a better way. As popular as the drug-sniffing approach seems – almost no one has stepped forth to protest, and even the most liberal of the trustees is going along (it's an election year) – the Bill of Rights applies to kids, last time we checked. How would these same parents feel if their places of work were suddenly subjected to drug-sniffing dogs making random visits?

We live in an insecure era. Too many of us are willing to give up our rights because our government tells us that's only way to protect ourselves. Where do we stop? Or is it already too late?

As one letter-writer recently told the Los Angeles Times, which has endorsed the use of drug-sniffing dogs in L.A. schools, "... the experience of having their lockers checked periodically by inquisitive dogs will help prepare the kids for their futures as citizens of a police state."