2009 - %3, July

Corn on Hardball: What Role Did Karl Rove Play in the Attorney Firings?

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 5:30 PM PDT

David Corn and Michael Isikoff joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball this evening to discuss the new evidence about Karl Rove's role in the U.S. Attorneys firing scandal.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Procedural Revolution: Klein Responds

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 4:27 PM PDT

Earlier this week, our own Nick Baumann pointed out the "revolutionary cynicism" espoused by lefty bloggers Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein. Their radical views, he wrote,  indicate "a near-total loss of faith in the system." Yglesias was quick to respond that his cynicism is nothing new because he "always knew that Barack Obama wouldn’t be able to get anything done."

Ezra Klein weighed in on the issue this afternoon. Here's an excerpt (with a sweet graph!):

To make a related point to the previous post, I'm not sure I'd term calls for procedural reform "radical," much less "revolutionary." The history of Congress is, in part, a history of procedural reforms. Newt Gingrich made a bunch of changes in 1994. Democrats made a bunch of changes in 1975. John F. Kennedy made some big changes in the early 1960s. FDR changed the way Congress worked, and so too did Woodrow Wilson. This isn't something invented by a bunch of bloggers in the early 21st century.

There's nothing abnormal about changing the rules of a governing body in response to changes in the country. It's pretty common, for instance, for political scientists to remark on the incredible rise in party polarization in recent decades. According to Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthale, political polarization is at its highest point since Reconstruction:

partypolarization.jpg

Italy OKs Abortion Pill

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 3:22 PM PDT

The Catholic Church lost another round today when Italy approved the use of RU-486, the abortion drug. The Vatican warned of immediate excommunication for doctors prescribing the pill and for women taking it.

According to the Catholic News Service, Archbishop Fisichella announced that "it is obvious that the canonical consequences" of using RU-486 are the same as those incurred for getting a therapeutic abortion: automatic excommunication.

This is latest defeat for the Catholic Church in its efforts to ban abortion in the Vatican's home nation.

Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, a senior church bioethicist, told the Associated Press that RU-486 is "not a drug, but poison."

Dr. Gabriella Pacini of Woman's Life, a group that provides medical counseling to women, said RU-486 "has been used for years in Europe, on millions of women and is considered safe and effective. Why not give Italian women a choice between pharmacological abortion and surgical abortion?"

 

Friday Frog Blog: From Pennsylvania to the Chesapeake to the Egg

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 2:46 PM PDT

Mudraker and his posse of fish are all alive and well in our tank and their community continues to thrive.

Here's your week in frog:

  • Heavily endangered cricket frogs in Pennsylvania (they're really tiny and cute) have been discovered in a new location.
  • Pesticides in the Chesapeake Bay are possibly linked to the decline of frogs in the region.
  • Frog eggs turn out to be sophisticated globs of matter.

Race, Beer, and Product Placement At The Summit

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 2:45 PM PDT

The media has had an absolute field day with this whole Henry Louis Gates vs. Sgt. Crowley controversy, and El Presidente thought he could make everything rosy in the Rose Garden by insituting beer diplomacy. (From the chummy photos Gates looked like he could have been the father that Sgt. Crowley never had.)

But what do the beer choices of this summit mean for America? A whole lot of free product placement for starters.

I'd never heard of the wimpy Buckler brand of beer (0.5 percent alcohol and made by Heineken) until Teetotaler Biden decided to consume it yesterday. And I was glad to see Sgt. Crowley give Blue Moon, one of my personal favorites, some increased national visiblity. President Obama ostensibly has to drive around in GM Limos and drink American beer, but in this case he deviated from his blue-collar/trustafarian hipster PBR preference by selecting a Bud light. Sounds American right? Few of us recall that Anheuser-Busch is now owned by a Belgian conglomerate.

As a native New Yorker and staunch anti-Bostonite, Sam Adams isn't worthy of my attention, so I will not comment further on Professor Gates' choice.

What's in store for the new BFFs at their next meeting? One possibility: A corporate outing where the Sgt. and the PhD discuss how to capitalize on their spat.

 

Now You HAVE to Love Wedding Dance Couple

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 1:43 PM PDT

Surely you watched this week's viral sensation, JKWedding Entrance Dance. The funky-as-you-wanna-be nuptual entrance of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heiz to Chris Batterer Brown's Forever led to a bizillion downloads, lining the pockets of YouTube and the girlfriend beater himself. Which is not what this St. Paul couple had in mind, so they've created their own site, jkweddingdance.com, where you can watch the video and make a donation to the Sheila Wellstone Institute, which fights to end domestic violence.

Sheila, as you may know, was married to Senator Paul Wellstone, an old college professor of mine. Both were truly inspirational advocates who died when the Senator's plane went down in a snowstorm. I don't know if they knew Jill and Kevin or their families, but I'm sure they'd find this to be a pretty cool wedding gift all around. Bravo. Now, will Chris Brown step up and donate the money he's made off the downloads? (H/T the always interesting Jezebel.)

Update: The inevitable, but still funny, divorce parody.

Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can read more of her clips here and follow her on Twitter here.

 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Friday Cat Blogging - 31 July 2009

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 12:06 PM PDT

I iz confused.  A couple of weeks ago I decided to take another crack at setting out limited portions of cat food in order to slim down my critters a bit.  However, after a few days of this, a bit of googling persuaded me that I might have gone too far.  I was underfeeding them, which is potentially dangerous, and in any case not what I had in mind.

So I decided to apply some Science™ to the problem.  Step 1: go back to free feeding them, which has produced their present rotund condition, and see how much they hoover up.  Answer: over the course of five days they ate 24 ounces of dry food and five cans of wet food.  Converting from metric (because the boffins at Hill's list calories per kilogram on the side of their bag), that comes to 2,000 calories of dry food and 400 calories of wet food.  That's 480 calories per day, or 240 calories per cat.

No problem, then.  If I want to shrink them by 20% or so, just cut that down to about 200 calories.

But here's where I'm confused.  As it happens, this matches up perfectly with the recommendation printed on the dry food bag, which suggests that a 15-pound cat needs about 200 calories per day.  But if you google the subject of how much to feed your cat, virtually every source suggests 20-30 calories per pound.  In other words 300-400 calories for a 15-pound cat.

This is ridiculous.  These recommendations aren't even close.  However, since both Science™ and the dry food instructions converge on approximately the same answer, I'm going with 200 calories for now.  The internet appears — shockingly, I know — to be wildly misinformed.

Or something.  Anyway, here are today's Before pictures.  On the left, Domino and Inkblot are lying around in close proximity.  Why?  Because the carpet had just been cleaned and their sensitive little paws didn't like the slight dampness.  So they decamped to the foyer.  On the right, the carpet's all dry!  Inkblot obviously approves.

Single-Payer to Get A Floor Vote In the Fall?

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 12:05 PM PDT

House liberals have struck a deal with Henry Waxman to bring legislation that would establish a single-payer health care system up for a floor vote this fall, a senior House Democratic staffer tells Mother Jones. H.R. 676, a bill that would create a national single-payer system—essentially Medicare for all—has been languishing in Waxman’s Energy and Commerce committee for months. "Waxman is saying our request will be honored," the staffer says.

The agreement came after a week of bitter in-fighting among liberal and conservative Democrats over health care. The battles were especially intense on Waxman’s committee. After the panel’s conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats successfully pressured Waxman to weaken the so-called "public option," progressives rebelled. Fifty-seven signed a letter refusing to vote for the bill unless the concessions made to the Blue Dogs were thrown out. Late on Friday, Waxman told reporters that he had brokered a final deal that would move health care reform out of his committee.

Any vote on single-payer is likely to be symbolic, but even bringing the bill to the floor is a big step, and one that liberal pressure groups will be happy to see.

UPDATE: Politico says Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has promised a vote on single-payer, too.

Did the Stimulus Work?

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 10:52 AM PDT

Josh Bivens of EPI digs into today's second quarter GDP report to try and figure out what effect the stimulus package has had:

Federal government spending grew at an 11% rate in the quarter, adding roughly 0.8% to overall GDP. State and local government spending grew at a 2.4% annual rate, the fastest growth since the middle of 2007. It is clear that the large amount of state aid contained in the ARRA made this growth possible.

Furthermore, real (inflation-adjusted) disposable personal income rose by 3.2% in the quarter, after rising by only 1% in the previous quarter. A large contribution to this increase was made by the Making Work Pay tax credit passed in conjunction with the ARRA.

....The consensus of macroeconomic forecasters is that ARRA contributed roughly 3% to annualized growth rates in the second quarter. This means that absent its effects, economic performance would have resembled that of the previous three quarters, when the economy contracted at an average annual rate of 4.9%.

The argument that the stimulus bill has "failed" because times are still tough has always been dimwitted.  There was never any chance that it was going to miraculously end the recession, only that it might make it a little shallower than it otherwise would have been.  So far, it appears to have done exactly that.

The We're-Out-of-Beer Summit

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 9:53 AM PDT

The always funny XKCD:Understocked