2012 - %3, February

Twitter Talks Back to Sexist Super Bowl Ads

| Mon Feb. 6, 2012 5:30 AM EST
Fiat's "Seduction" drags out a tired car commercial cliché: automobile = sexy woman.

The Super Bowl is more than a game—it's a chance to see some of the most expensive, over-hyped, and, yes, sexist commercials on television. But not everyone cheers when bikini-clad women fawn over nerdy office workers. This year, when advertisers used stereotypes and sex to hawk cars, flowers, and candy, viewers came up with a Twitter hashtag to broadcast their disgust: #NotBuyingIt.

According to Miss Representation, the organization that launched the hashtag, women make up about half of the Super Bowl's audience and they're more likely than men to tune in for the ads, rather than the game. Miss Representation notes that while they wield more household purchasing power than their male partners, 90 percent of women think advertisers don't understand them. Super Bowl ads do an especially good job of missing the point by acting as though dudes are the only ones watching.

Thankfully, Twitter provides a place to talk back. Jenn Pozner, founder and executive director of Women In Media & News and author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, says social media has "really changed the game" when it comes to challenging sexist advertising. "Last night, feminist media critics with a combined reach of literally hundreds of thousands replaced 'mindless entertainment' with active sharing of critical feedback and commentary," she told me.

Shelby Knox, women's rights organizer at Change.org, urged pissed-off viewers to create an online petition to take it beyond the Twitter-verse. "If enough voices object to an ad, then its makers will get the message that it’s not welcome on TV and it didn’t resonate with consumers," she wrote on the site. The five ads below managed to outrage a lot of tweeps who are totally #NotBuyingIt.

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Housekeeping Notice: Comment Registration Now Required

| Sat Feb. 4, 2012 8:00 PM EST

A little while ago I mentioned that we were thinking about requiring registration for commenters and asked for feedback. Some was positive and some was negative, but most of the negative feedback related to (a) having to use your real name or (b) being required to use a Facebook account.

The whole trolling situation has since gotten pretty far out of hand, so we've decided to go ahead with registration. However, you won't be required to use your real name and you won't be required to use a Facebook account.

Note that this only affects you if you have been posting as a "guest"; if you normally sign in with Disqus (which powers our commenting system) or your Mother Jones ID, nothing changes. If you were using the "guest" feature, you can now sign in via Disqus, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter, or OpenID. You can also create a commenter identity in the Mother Jones system here. As before, your information will not be disclosed; see Disqus' privacy policy here and Mother Jones' here.

Our moderators will continue to keep an eye out for abusive comments, but given the volume of discussion here, we'd love your help. Flag abusive comments (see our community rules here), which helps us identify and ban trolls. Further feedback is welcome, of course. You can email us at support at motherjones dot com.

Time for Some Troll Whacking

| Sat Feb. 4, 2012 4:34 PM EST

This weekend we're trying something new in our commenting system. This only affects you if you have been posting as a "guest;" if you normally sign in with Disqus (which powers our commenting system) or your Mother Jones ID, nothing changes. If you were using the "guest" feature, you can now sign in via Disqus, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter, or OpenID. You can also create a commenter identity in the Mother Jones system here. As before, your information will not be disclosed; see Disqus' privacy policy here and Mother Jones' here.

We hope that this will discourage drive-by spammers and trolls, while still providing privacy for all our users.

Our moderators will continue to keep an eye out for abusive comments, but given the volume of discussion here, we'd love your help. Flag abusive comments (see our community rules here), which helps us identify and ban trolls.

We'd love to hear your feedback on this change, or anything else about our commenting system; email us at support at motherjones dot com.

Big Coal Attacks Penn State Climate Scientist (Again)

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 6:35 PM EST

We've documented the long-term effort to malign Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann here rather extensively. Now a coal-backed group is running a smear campaign targeting an upcoming speaking event Mann is holding on campus.

The Common Sense Movement and the Secure Energy for America Political Action Committee (CSM/SEAPAC) have started a petition asking Penn State to cancel Mann's Feb. 9 speech. In the petition, they rehash "Climategate" and accuse him of "allegedly manipulating scientific data to align with his extreme political views on global warming." The group offers a template letter for people to send to "daily newspapers near you" attacking Penn State for hosting a speech by "someone of such questionable ethics."

Who is this "Common Sense Movement"? The website claims to represent "a group of individuals and businesses committed to ensuring the availability of affordable, reliable and secure sources of energy for American consumers." But as Brad Johnson reports at Think Progress, it's a coal front group:

SEAPAC is a wing of the Pittsburgh-based astroturf group Common Sense Movement, which is running the "I Am Coal" campaign. Contributors include James Clifford Forrest III, president of coal company Rosebud Mining, David Young, president of the Bituminous Coal Operators’ Association, and the top executives of Swanson Industries, a West Virginia mining equipment company.

Yes, just your average "American consumers."

Andrew Revkin called out the group's attempt to silence Mann as a "shameful attack on free speech." Thankfully, Penn State has not cowed, as The Guardian reported on Friday.

Perhaps the best part of this is that Mann, a respected scientist, plans to talk about his new book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars at the event—a book that's largely about this nasty effort on the part of the fossil fuel industry to undermine his work.

Koch Brothers Meet Again to Prep for "Mother of All Wars"

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 6:00 PM EST

Last week, the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers held their latest get-together with wealthy conservative political donors. At these meetings, held twice a year under a veil of secrecy, Republican all-stars discuss election strategy and vet potential presidential candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Last September, Mother Jones obtained exclusive audio recordings from a Koch seminar held outside Vail, Colorado, where Charles Koch had declared that the 2012 election would be "the mother of all wars" and thanked dozens of million-dollar donors who'd pledged to the cause.

According to a Huffington Post source, 250 to 300 guests attended the most recent event, which was held in Palm Springs, California. They included Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife has given a staggering $10 million to a pro-Newt Gingrich super-PAC. Guests reportedly pledged a total of $40 million to the effort to oust Obama, with Charles and David Koch promising an additional $60 million. But it wasn't all fun and games, the source said, as guests complained that recent meetings had focused more on "alpha male" anti-Obama chest-pounding than the strategy sessions for which they'd been known.

Your Daily Newt: Ridin' the Rails

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 5:54 PM EST

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich wants you to know that subways are for rich folks. Two weeks ago in South Carolina, he pilloried "those who, you know, live in high-rise apartment buildings writing for fancy newspapers in the middle of town after they ride the metro." On Friday in Nevada he blased Manhattan elites who take the subway to work.

Here's a photo of Newt Gingrich, from his 1998 book, Lessons Learned the Hard Way:

P.F. Bentley/Lessons Learned the Hard WayP.F. Bentley/Lessons Learned the Hard Way

In fairness, he was sitting in coach.

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Film Review: A Separation

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 4:48 PM EST

When Oscar nominations were released last week, it was no surprise that the Iranian film A Separation, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, was among the list of Foreign Language Films—after all, it had already won the Golden Globe in that category in addition to being a big hit on the festival circuit. But with a second nomination, for Original Screenplay, the film has a shot at upsetting movies backed by Hollywood powerhouses.

Farhadi, who started out writing screenplays for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and directing TV shows, has slowly gained a Western audience with films like Fireworks Wednesday, which won a Golden Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2006, and About Elly, which won prizes at festivals in Berlin and Tribeca in 2009. With the success of A Separation, Farhadi is poised to break into a more mainstream audience, and in so doing, to bring a subtle, nuanced portrait of daily life in Iran to the American public at a time when relations between the two countries are particularly tense.

The film begins as Simin (Leila Hatami) is asking a judge to grant her a divorce from her husband, Nader (Peyman Moadi), not because he's a bad partner—she calls him a "good and decent person"—but because he refuses to leave Iran with her, claiming that he instead needs to take care of his elderly father. Frustrated by the official's refusal to grant her request, Simin leaves the apartment where she and Nader live with their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director's daughter) to stay at her parents' house, leaving Nader to find a substitute caretaker for his father, who has Alzheimer's and can't be left alone. So he hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a devout woman with a young daughter, Samoyeh (Kimia Hossenei), and another child on the way—though it's hard to tell beneath her flowing chador. After Nader's father soils his pants on the first day, Razieh wants to quit. "The work is too heavy," she says; it's also underpaid and far from her home in the suburbs. But her husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), is unemployed and in debt to multiple creditors, so she continues on—but in secret, as Hodjat has a hot temper and would be angry to learn she's working for a single man.

Shortly thereafter, Nader comes home early to find his father face-down on the floor, his hand tied to a bedpost, and no one else home. When Razieh returns to the house shortly thereafter, saying only that she had to go out, Nader's fear and frustration erupt, and a confrontation between the two ends with Nader pushing Razieh out the door. That action sets off a chain of accusations, defenses, and contentions that loop around and circle back over a constantly shifting moral terrain.

Sheldon Adelson's Long Odds on Gingrich

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 3:44 PM EST
Sheldon Adelson

Arguably, the only thing that's kept Newt Gingrich in the running this long (besides a gargantuan heap of grandiosity) is Sheldon Adelson's money. Adelson, the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands casino company, has, with his wife Miriam, poured a whopping $10 million into the pro-Gingrich super-PAC Winning Our Future. With Mitt Romney looking like a sure thing to win this Saturday's primary in Adelson's home state of Nevada, it remains to be seen if the casino mogul will keep bankrolling Gingrich if he goes for broke and hate-runs against Romney until the Republican convention.

Looking at Adelson's past, it's clear that he's not reluctant to put his money where his beliefs are, even if those bets may not pay off. Adelson made his name (and fortune) with his "take-no-prisoners ambition," as Peter Stone wrote in a 2008 Mother Jones profile. At the time, Adelson was a major backer of Freedom's Watch, a would-be conservative MoveOn.org, which envisioned a "never-ending campaign" to keep the White House and maintain a Republican majority in Washington, DC.

In spite of Adelson's contributions, Freedom's Watch never really took off. As MoJo's Laura Rozen later reported, some of the group's supporters blamed Adelson himself:

"He is both meddlesome and attached to his own agenda," says a conservative think tanker. "And he is not listening to people who are giving him good political and strategic advice…Everyone I know comes away very frustrated from their experience" with Freedom's Watch.

The son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, Adelson is also a vigorous supporter of conservative Israeli causes and politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Adam Serwer explains, "Adelson's donation to Gingrich likely has something to do with their shared anti-Palestinian views, namely the notion that Palestinian national identity is 'invented.'"

If Gingrich gets trounced in Nevada, will the gambling tycoon hold 'em or fold 'em? Or will he raise? With an estimated net worth of $21.5 billion, as Time's Michael Crowley has pointed out, Adelson can afford to spend at least another 0.0465% of his total fortune on this race.

Update: Apparently, Adelson's opposition to Obama trumps his affection for Gingrich. According to the New York Times, Adelson is preparing to get behind Romney when the time is right. Asked about the report, Gingrich told The Hill, "Sheldon's primary driving source is the survival of the United States and Israel in the face of an Iranian nuclear weapon. And compared to Barack Obama, virtually anybody is a better candidate. So that doesn't bother me at all." You gotta admire Newt's poker face.

 

Komen Isn't the Only Do-Gooder Group Conservatives Targeted for Planned Parenthood Ties

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 3:12 PM EST

When Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced on Tuesday that it would end funding for Planned Parenthood, anti-abortion activists, who had complained about Komen's ties to Planned Parenthood for years, were delighted. Tony Perkins, the president of the socially conservative Family Research Council, applauded tha anti-cancer group for "putting women's health first rather than fund the nation's largest abortion provider." Unfortunately for Planned Parenthood's foes, Komen's move led to a national outcry, and on Friday, Komen began to walk back its decision to cut off funds.

But Komen isn't the only apparently apolitical organization experiencing pressure to break ties to Planned Parenthood. While reporting Thursday's story on the right-wing boycott of Girl Scout cookies because of a Colorado council that allowed a transgender seven-year-old to join a troop, I learned that conservatives' biggest complaint with the Girl Scouts is the organization's ties to Planned Parenthood. Sure, inclusion of a transgender girl has some people up in arms. But the Girl Scouts' supposed association with what Cathy Ruse, a blogger for the Family Research Council, described to me as "the biggest abortion business in the US" is the religious right's main beef with the 100-year-old girls' leadership organization.

Friday Cat Blogging - 3 February 2012

| Fri Feb. 3, 2012 3:03 PM EST

Normally, drinking out of human glasses is Not Allowed. But last night I mentioned that I still needed photos for Friday catblogging, so this morning an exception was made as Marian urged me to get my camera and come record the moment. So I did. The camera captured some excellent tongue action from Domino, who is, I'm sure, obeying the universal law of cat-lapping:

That comes to 3.43 laps per second for an 11-pound (5-kilogram) cat. Inkblot, who has a more mathematical bent, keeps his weight at precisely 18.12572 pounds, thus clocking in at a more leisurely 3.14159 laps per second. And that, my friends, is science.