2014 - %3, January

Do Sex Traffickers Really Target the Super Bowl?

| Sat Feb. 1, 2014 11:36 AM EST
A Polaris Project anti-trafficking ad in New York City. Billboards and digital spots appear throughout the NY/NJ metro areas.

For the past few years, as January comes to an end, the media and government officials sound an ominous warning: Sex trafficking will be on the rise during the Super Bowl. Because of the sporting event, "the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks," said Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, the site of this year's Super Bowl. John McCain's wife, Cindy, has called the Super Bowl "the largest human-trafficking venue on the planet." As their logic goes, hundreds of thousands of fun-seeking fans will descend on New Jersey and New York this weekend. With the crowds will come an increased demand for sex, and, in turn, sex trafficking.

But as several publications have noted, data from the past few years doesn't support this link—only four arrests were made during coordinated sweeps at the last three Super Bowls combined. Bradley Myles, the CEO of anti-trafficking nonprofit Polaris Project, which houses the National Human Trafficking Hotline, told Mother Jones that "we haven't seen a great deal of evidence that there is a massive rise in trafficking during the Super Bowl," adding that the hotline will "staff up modestly" but "doesn't experience a major increase in calls."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Noose Tightens Yet Again Around Chris Christie

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 5:28 PM EST

David Wildstein, the executive who was said to be Chris Christie's "eyes and ears" at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is deeply implicated in last year's scheme to close the Fort Lee lanes of the George Washington Bridge in order to conduct a "traffic study." He has since resigned, and the Port Authority is refusing to pay his legal bills. Apparently this has pissed him off. Today he sent a letter asking them to change their mind, which included this lovely little nugget:

Even if it's only a threat, Wildstein can hardly refuse to provide this evidence now that he's publicly said it exists. That just can't be good news for Christie.

A Roger Ailes Movie Will Likely Happen—Here's Who Should Play Him

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 5:13 PM EST

Earlier this week, TheWrap published an interview with author and journalist Gabriel Sherman, about The Loudest Voice in the Room, his new, much-discussed unauthorized biography of Fox News president Roger Ailes. The biography has gained attention for its juicy content (such as a producer claiming that Ailes, then at NBC, offered her an extra $100 a week if she agreed to have sex with him whenever he asked), and for being the target of a campaign, by Fox News and others in conservative media, to discredit Sherman's reporting.

At the end of the Wrap Q&A, reporter L.A. Ross asks Sherman if he has received any offers from studios or production companies about turning his book into a movie. "Well...it's too early to talk about that, but I think Ailes is an incredibly cinematic character, and would find a natural home on the big screen," Sherman replied. When pressed further, he simply said, "No comment."

The idea of a Hollywood epic chronicling the saga of Ailes was intriguing, so I poked around a little: a source with knowledge of the situation says that folks in Hollywood have indeed expressed interest in developing Sherman's book into a film. (This might go nicely with the Rush Limbaugh movie that John Cusack has supposedly been working on.)

I haven't been able to get any other details yet, but the prospect of a feature film on the life and work of a figure as towering and powerful as the ultra-conservative Roger Ailes got me thinking. Which actor should play him?

Here are my top suggestions for casting the role of the Fox News chief. If you have better ones, please put them in the comments below.

 

1. John Goodman, who basically already portrayed an Ailes-type character on the third season of NBC's Community.

John Goodman
David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

 

2. Paul Giamatti, who has played a cartoonish right-wing villain before.

Paul Giamatti
Justin Hoch/Hudson Union Society

 

3. Jonathan Banks, the Breaking Bad star who's done a Chuck Norris movie.

Jonathan Banks
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

 

4. Conleth Hill, who plays a eunuch overseeing a large network of informants on HBO's Game of Thrones.

Conleth Hill

 

5. Anthony Hopkins, who was nominated for an Oscar for portraying President Richard Nixon (for whom Ailes was a paid consultant).

 

6. Rip Torn, who actually blames Ailes' old boss Nixon for stalling his acting career in the 1970s.

Rip Torn
 Alec Michael/Globe Photos/ZUMA

 

7. Robert Duvall, whose politics line up reasonably well with Ailes'.

 

8. Douglas Urbanski, who played former Treasury secretary Larry Summers in David Fincher's The Social Network.

Douglas Urbanski
DukeofConDao/YouTube

 

9. Daniel Day-Lewis…just because Daniel Day-Lewis can play anyone and anything.

Daniel Day-Lewis

 

Here's What People Are Saying About the Big Keystone XL Report

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 4:29 PM EST

The end is in sight for the tumultuous public debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. On Friday, the State Department released its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for TransCanada Corporation's controversial pipeline project—and concluded that approving the pipeline to carry oil from Alberta's tar sands would have little impact on climate change.

The environmental assessment is one of the last major reports awaited by President Obama before he decides whether or not to approve construction of the pipeline. In his June speech on climate change, Obama said he would sanction the pipeline "only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution." The pipeline requires State Department review because it crosses the international border between the US and Canada.

Obama's final decision is still weeks away. But reactions to the report are already plentiful—here's a sampling.

A statement from 350.org, the environmental organization founded by climate change activist Bill McKibben, reads, in part, "The President has already laid out a climate test for Keystone XL, that it can't significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. It's  clear that Keystone XL fails that test…the pipeline would pose an astronomical cost to our climate and a huge risk to families along the pipeline route. Keystone XL will fuel the climate crisis, which means more drought, more fires, more extreme weather events, and a more cost to our economy and the environment."

Larry Schweiger, the president of the National Wildlife Federation, tells the Washington Post:

Regardless of what the EIS says, the Canadians have admitted that the amount of carbon they're going to be releasing from the tar sands will increase Canada's total emissions by 38 percent by 2030 instead of reducing emissions when all the science says that's what we need to do in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Cindy Schild, senior manager for refining and oil sands policy at the American Petroleum Institute, told Bloomberg News, "If they can't show this project is in our national interest, what is? The only thing left [is] for the president to decide that this project is in our national interest."

Brian Straessle, a spokesman for API, added, "The president has had five years of inaction on the Keystone XL pipeline. If 2014 is really his 'year of action,' he should start by approving Keystone."

In a statement, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the Natural Resources Defense Council's international program director, said, "This is far from over. Next we must address whether the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be in America's national interest. To that question, there is only one answer: No. The evidence is overwhelming that this project would significantly worsen carbon pollution, endanger our farms, our homes and our fresh water, create few jobs and transport dirty tar sands to the Gulf for export."

Only Obama Can Block the Keystone Pipeline Now

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 4:04 PM EST
Activists protest the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House.

The decision on whether or not to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, has always been President Obama's to make. But the environmental stakes are so high—leading climate scientist James Hansen is fond of referring to the pipeline as "game over for the climate" because it would promote the extraction of one of the dirtiest kinds of oil—that a decision has been delayed for the last few years as the State Department carries out a review of the project's likely environmental impact.

That wait ended today, as State released its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The report says the annual carbon emissions from producing, refining, and burning the oil the pipeline would move (830,000 barrels per day) would add up to 147-168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. (By contrast, the typical coal-fired power plant produces 3.5 million metric tons of CO2 annually.) That sounds like a lot, but the report comes with an important caveat:

Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.

In other words, according to the report, those emissions are likely to happen whether the president approves Keystone XL or not. That's an important distinction, given that President Obama has already said that in order to gain approval, the pipeline must not increase carbon emissions. But there are other ways to move oil: For example, the report mentions that "rail will likely be able to accommodate new production if pipelines are delayed or not constructed." Rail transit is already underway; yesterday an ExxonMobil exec said the company had begun to use trains to pack oil out of the tar sands (despite their pretty awful safety record). But if the oil is going to be extracted (and the emissions emitted) one way or another, the case for blocking the pipeline per se becomes less clear.

There's still one more important document yet to be released by State: an investigation by the department's internal Inspector General into a potential conflict of interest by a contractor who helped produce the report, Environmental Resources Management. As Mother Jones first reported, State Department officials took steps to conceal that some ERM employees had ties to companies that would profit from the pipeline's construction. Last December, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz) led a coalition of House members who asked the president to delay release of the environmental impact statement until after the Inspector General's report is released, which is not expected for several more weeks.

NFL Commissioner Says Washington Football Team's Name "Honors Native Americans," Native Americans Disagree

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 3:46 PM EST

During his pre-Super Bowl press conference Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if he would ever call a Native American by the name of the Washington football team. Goodell hedged, instead saying the name has been "presented in a way that honors Native Americans." (Goodell sent a letter to members of Congress last year defending the name.)

On Wednesday, ThinkProgress reporter Travis Waldron published an exhaustive account of the fight to rebrand the slur, revealing that the Washington team consulted with Republican advisers—including GOP messaging consultant Frank Luntz (of "death tax" fame), former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer (of Iraq War fame), and former Virginia governor and US senator George Allen (of "macaca" fame)—on how to handle criticism of the team's name.

If Goodell, team owner Dan Snyder, and friends like Luntz, Fleischer, and Allen don't understand the issue, they might want to take a look at an ad the National Congress of American Indians released Monday. Watch here:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Friday Cat Blogging - 31 January 2014

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 2:54 PM EST

It rained yesterday here in Southern California. I'd put the total damage at a hundredth of an inch, and wunderground.com says I have it about right. It was more like a heavy fog than real rain. But just like those Atlantans freaked out by two inches of snow, it was enough to send Domino scurrying for the warmth and protection of a blanket, which someone had considerately put right on top of her faux sheepskin pod. It turned out to be a great way to ride out the storm.

Chart of the Day: Everyone Agrees That Iraq Was a Disaster

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 2:44 PM EST

A new Pew poll shows that there's no longer any difference between Democrats and Republicans on Iraq: huge majorities agree that the war was a failure.

What's interesting is the inflection point in 2008: Democrats became suddenly more optimistic about Iraq and Republicans became more pessimistic. This was before Barack Obama won the election, so it's not directly because of that. But by mid-2008, negotiations over withdrawal had stalled and it was clear that the end of the US troop presence was near. It was also increasingly clear that Obama was likely to win the presidency. Those two things combined might account for the partisan differences.

By 2012, with US troops gone, those partisan differences started to disappear. By 2014, they were gone. Hardly anyone could fool themselves into thinking that the Iraq War had succeeded in any way: there were no WMDs; there wasn't much oil flowing; Iran's influence had increased; and sectarian violence was once more on the rise. A third of the country can still be described as dead-enders on this score, but that's it. Everyone else has finally faced the facts.

Quote of the Day: Why Immigration Reform Is Probably Going Nowhere

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 1:18 PM EST

In the Republican Party, immigration reform is basically a battle between the tea party, which opposes it, and the Chamber of Commerce wing, which supports it. In a nutshell, Dave Weigel explains why this means it's doomed:

The chamber wing does want immigration reform, badly, but not as intensely as it wants to defeat Democrats in 2014. So it's easy for the party to fall into a holding pattern, with new rhetoric, without actually passing a bill.

I guess anything is possible, and immigration reform has always been the one big legislative priority that I give a nonzero chance of passing Congress. But Weigel is right. The business wing of the GOP just doesn't want it badly enough to risk starting a bloody, party-rupturing fight with the social conservatives. For once, I'd say that Ted Cruz probably has the right take on this.

If Bing Wants to Attract Power Users, It Needs an Advanced Search Page

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 12:52 PM EST

Matt Yglesias embarks on a short tour d'horizon of Microsoft's future today and ends with Redmond's white whale of a search engine:

And then there's Bing. I am obsessed with Bing. Not because I use Bing or because Bing is a commercially important product but because Bing is a socially important product. Steve Ballmer's heroic determination to compete with Google on search has helped us resolve a lot of very thorny issues that would arise if Google Web Search became a monopoly product. But while we all (in some ways even including Google) owe Ballmer a debt of thanks for doing this, it's far from clear that it's been a smart business decision for Microsoft. All the "Scroogled" ads in the world aren't going to turn this into a market-leading product, and Google at this point seems to be benefiting from both superior engineering and strong network effects. But what will we do if Bing goes away?

I've used Bing. It works fine. In some ways it's better than Google. In others it's not. But there's a very specific reason I've never switched: Bing has no advanced search page. Oh, you can do an advanced search if you care to remember the syntax for all the operators, but like millions of other people, I don't care to do that. Google, conversely, makes it easy for me to do an advanced search. They also allow me to restrict a search to a date range, which is very, very handy.

Now, it's true that most people don't ever do an advanced search of any kind. They just type a few words into the search box and press Enter, which is one of the reasons that 99 percent of the world is hopelessly incompetent at searching the internet. But serious users use it, and it's serious users who can end up being evangelists for your products. So why not add an advanced search page? The cost is basically zero, so it's not like there's really any downside. What's the holdup?