Blogs

Hollywood B Team in D.C.

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 10:40 AM PST

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

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

| Fri Feb. 2, 2007 12:07 AM PST

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

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 11:01 PM PST

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.

Oceans Will Keep Rising For 1,000 Years (And That's the Good Scenario)

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 10:02 PM PST

"250+ scientific experts; 800+ contributing authors; 450+ lead authors; 130 countries; 6 years; 4 volumes; 1 report."

That's how the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is pimping the release of "Climate Change 2007," the fourth assessment report from the most authoritative climate change group. All this week, 500 scientists have been working in Paris, making the final edits to the report being released today. You can click here to find the report itself, but it seems that most of the key findings have leaked out.

Highlights, if they can be called that, include the finding that an increase in hurricane and tropical cyclone strength since 1970 "more likely than not" can be attributed to man-made global warming. The panel's last report, in 2001, said that there was not enough evidence then to support that claim.

According to Reuters, "It is very likely that (human) greenhouse gases caused most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century," according to a final draft. "Very likely" means a probability of at least 90 percent -- up from a judgment of "likely", or a 66 percent probability, in the previous 2001 report. The Paris study, looking at the science of global warming, will also project a "best estimate" that temperatures will rise by 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) by 2100 over pre-industrial levels, the biggest change in a century for thousands of years."

And the millenium of seas rising? That's assuming we can stabilize greenhouse gas emissions this century, which based on the level of obfuscation and inactivity of the world's leading greenhouse gas belcher, is no sure thing.

Abused Women Have Higher Health Care Costs and More Health Care Visits

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 6:05 PM PST

A new study shows that women who experience spouse or partner abuse have much higher health care costs and utilize more health care services than women who have no history of such violence. Years after abuse stops, these women continue to use the health care system more and to incur higher costs.

The abuse discussed in the study includes not only overt physical abuse, but also threats, controlling behavior and verbal abuse. Of the 3,333 women, aged 18 to 64, those who had been abused had 19% higher annual health care costs than other women. This group also had17% more primary health care visits, 14% more specialist visits, and 27% more prescription refills.

Who Can Be "One Less"?

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 3:04 PM PST

It's a little shocking to see television ads for the new vaccine against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. References to human sexuality have been frowned upon for so long that seeing young, healthy, all-American girls promoting a vaccine against an STD is a bit of a shocker. In a good way.

The ads follow Merck's recent release of a vaccine against HPV. The virus is easy to catch, even with condom use, and is a major risk factor for cervical cancer. But the ads don't mention that the vaccine costs $360, and that low-income women face the greatest threat of cervical cancer because they don't get regular Pap smears. (Cervical cancer is very treatable if caught early.)

As states debate making vaccination against HPV mandatory for public school students, former Mother Joneser Ann Friedman, now at the American Prospect, makes the point that funding should accompany any vaccine requirements.

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Valdez Spill, Undiminished, Turns Exxon a Profit

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 2:03 PM PST


Exxon reports that it earned $39.5 billion in 2006, giving the company the most profitable year ever for a US corporation. This mammoth figure has overshadowed other Exxon related news released today. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study has found that lingering crude oil from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has barely budged. NOAA research chemist Jeffrey Short explained, "We expected the natural decay rate was 25% a year. But very little of the oil actually disappeared. What's left is going to be there a long time." Researchers now estimate that the oil is weathering at a rate of only 3% to 4% a year.

Continuing its campaign of disinformation about all things environmental, Exxon spokesman Mark Boudreaux refuted the findings' importance in an e-mail to USA Today: "There have been nearly 350 conference presentations or publications in peer-reviewed journals. Based on that body of scientific evidence, it is clear that there have been no effects on the environment that remain ecologically significant."

How has Exxon remained so profitable, especially when it was responsible for the nation's largest oil spill? It doesn't hurt that the company managed to turn clean-up costs and legal fines it accrued in the aftermath of the disaster into tax write-offs. Additionally, by stretching its payments on a punitive damages settlement over 10 years, Exxon was able to collect millions in interest on money it had yet to pay.

--Celia Perry

Biden's Evolving Obama Explanation

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 1:47 PM PST

Below, Jonathan has a good summary of the Biden flap from yesterday. (And he's probably buying up Biden '08 t-shirts on eBay to resell to ironic hipsters at this very moment.) Granted, Joe Biden inserting foot in mouth is hardly news but what struck me as fishy was his evolving explanation of what he meant. On CNN yesterday afternoon he said that his mother had a saying, "clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack," and that using that context, he meant that Obama was astute. But last night on The Daily Show, he said that he meant to say "fresh" (as in fresh ideas) rather than "clean." So which is it, fresh or sharp? If calling Obama "clean" was not a slur, wouldn't his explanation have remained constant? No doubt he had the benefit of several advisers in the meantime, but the changing story seems to signal that Biden is rightly ashamed of his original impulse and is casting around for a better explanation.

Valdez Spill, Undiminished, Turns Exxon a Profit

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 1:36 PM PST

Exxon reports that it earned $39.5 billion in 2006, giving the company the most profitable year ever for a US corporation. This mammoth figure has overshadowed other Exxon related news released today. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study has found that lingering crude oil from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has barely budged. NOAA research chemist Jeffrey Short explained, "We expected the natural decay rate was 25% a year. But very little of the oil actually disappeared. What's left is going to be there a long time." Researchers now estimate that the oil is weathering at a rate of only 3% to 4% a year.

Continuing its campaign of disinformation about all things environmental, Exxon spokesman Mark Boudreaux refuted the findings' importance in an e-mail to USA Today: "There have been nearly 350 conference presentations or publications in peer-reviewed journals. Based on that body of scientific evidence, it is clear that there have been no effects on the environment that remain ecologically significant."

How has Exxon remained so profitable, especially when it was responsible for the nation's largest oil spill? It doesn't hurt that the company managed to turn clean-up costs and legal fines it accrued in the aftermath of the disaster into tax write-offs. Additionally, by stretching its payments on a punitive damages settlement over 10 years, Exxon was able to collect millions in interest on money it had yet to pay.

--Celia Perry

Only in California

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 11:10 AM PST

One night between December 28 and January 4, while the owners of a tony home in Atherton, California, were vacationing, burglars struck. These were no ordinary burglars. They managed to get through a code-entry gate. Once inside the house, they passed by numerous electronic gadgets and headed for the cellar. The wine cellar. There, they pooh-poohed lesser vintages and went straight for the good stuff, including a 1959 magnum of Bordeaux worth $11,000. All told, they made off with $100,000 worth of wine, at an average of $3,000 a bottle. Wine theft is on the rise, because prices at auction have been mounting of late. And there's no way to track hot wine—by which I mean metaphorically hot, bien sûr. Sounds like the perfect crime, if the thieves can keep out of the booty.