Blogs

Rachel Maddow Attacked By Fart-Obsessed Interviewer

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 3:45 PM EDT
Salon called it "the weirdest Rachel Maddow interview ever," and while we at Mother Jones can neither confirm nor deny that statement, it's sure a hell of a lot weirder than our own Clara Jeffery's recent conversation with the breakout cable news star. Plus, Clara actually talked less than the person she was interviewing, something Vanity Fair's George Wayne couldn't manage in his bonkers Q&A. The piece just made the rounds of the Mother Jones e-mail circle, and here's a sampling of comments:

Jen Phillips: Our interview is so much better, even if it doesn't mention eproctophilia.

Mike Mechanic: Foul.

Me: Is this guy from 1923?

Dave Gilson: Has anyone ever really uttered the phrase, "listen to this saucy pedant"?

Nicole McClelland: I cannot believe VF printed two of this asinine interviewer’s words to Maddow’s every one. How is it possible they let him go on about eating ass for not one, but two complete sentences?

As you can see, this interview raises more questions than it answers. Here's another one: Does saying "darling" a lot make up for using the term "dyke-stache"? Twice? If only there was an upcoming opportunity to ask Ms. Maddow how she felt about all this, at an event benefitting a non-profit magazine, for which there was an exclusive reception that still has some tickets available.

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Five-Foot Sea Level Rise to Hit San Francisco by 2100

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 3:32 PM EDT
The Chronicle ain't the only thing sinking in San Francisco. According to a new report commissioned by the state, the city will likely be 5' lower in the Bay by the end of the century.

The global warming-driven rise in sea levels will cause $100 billion in property damage, the report says, and put 480,000 people at risk of a "100-year flood event" if no actions are taken. $100 billion sounds substantial (actually, given the bank bailouts, maybe not so much) but the impact of an additional 5' of water really hits home when you see how much of land could slip beneath the waves.

The Pacific Institute, who conducted the study for the state, has a nifty online map showing exactly which areas would be at risk. With just a 5' rise, SFO airport, Alameda, parts of Silicon Valley, and the foot of the San Mateo bridge are all at increased risk for being nearly totally flooded. Ocean Beach, site of political protests, would be just ocean. In fact, if the waters keep rising as expected, and if "100-year flood events" keep increasing in frequency, the Pacific could invade Golden Gate Park 500 meters at one point, swamping its historic, water-pumping windmills and encroaching on endangered Western Snowy Plover habitat.

Of course, as in Katrina, the people suffering the most from the rising tides will be the poor. In San Francisco, the most dramatic water rise happens in the low-income, but developing, Hunter's Point neighborhood. Maybe the city can build that new Bay Bridge a little higher.

The Palin Family Regrets to Inform You…

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 2:43 PM EDT
The Governor of Alaska and Mr. Todd Mitchell Palin announce that the engagement of their daughter, Miss Bristol Palin, to Mr. Levi Johnston, has been ended by mutual consent.

In a shocking development, the torrid betrothal of 19-year-old apprentice electrician Levi Johnston and the daughter of the governor of Alaska—a year-long relationship that created two-month-old Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston and helped bolster the pro-life and working-class credentials of Sen. John McCain—has ended.

The liaison stood little chance of success, especially after the Republican Party transformed the two high-school dropouts into symbols of social conservatism. With that pressure, it's no wonder the teens couldn't withstand the normal trials of dating, never mind the stress of playing it out before the entire country. And so, having performed his role with considerable aplomb, Johnston may now retreat to obscurity, free to snowboard, ride dirt bikes, go camping, film reality TV shows, and hang out with the boys to his heart's content.

As for his son, Tripp Johnston, there's no reason to worry. Many people conceived by unmarried couples have gone on to achieve illustrious feats in their own rights. 

See U2's Crazy 360° Stage Design

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 2:41 PM EDT
U2 may have fizzled a bit, ratings-wise, on their recent 5-night Letterman residency, and maybe they actually brought Good Morning America's ratings down when they did a live performance for the show last Friday, and perhaps their new album, No Line on the Horizon, has sold about 42% fewer copies than 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb did in its first week. But that isn't stopping the Irish combo from creating a completely insane, War of the Worlds-style contraption to support their upcoming tour. The band's stadium performances will be "in the round," with a custom-made four-legged structure holding up the speakers, lighting and a large cylindrical screen, supposedly offering "an unobstructed view" to audiences. Except for the giant alien monster legs, which are also helpful for sucking up unsuspecting concert-goers and grinding them into sweet, sweet fan-pulp, to power our takeover of your puny planet. Bwah hah haa! You can check out a virtual tour of the thing over here. After the jump, "in the round" concerts: infuriating or just annoying?

Congress Investigating Whether Merrill Lynch Lied on Bonuses

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 2:10 PM EDT

Earlier today, I noted that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is investigating the bonuses that were given in late 2008 to executives at the massively money-losing Merrill Lynch, seems to have caught the financial services company in a lie. Now Merrill Lynch (which was bought by Bank of America last year with taxpayer help) is in even more trouble. The allegedly misleading letter Merrill Lynch sent in November of last year was sent to Congress, and Congress definitely doesn't like being deceived. Ed Towns (D-NY), the new chair of the House oversight committee, announced today that he is investigating whether Merrill Lynch execs lied to Congress. "[Cuomo's] filings raise the disturbing possibility that Merrill Lynch executives may have obstructed this Committee’s investigation into executive compensation practices and the awarding of bonuses at the company," Towns writes. "We will not hesitate to exercise every means at our disposal to protect the integrity of the Congressional investigation process and to bring real transparency to the use of TARP funds."

Vetting Hell

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 2:09 PM EDT
We have yet another casualty in the vetting wars:

Democratic sources say that H. Rodgin Cohen, a partner in the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and the leading candidate for Deputy Treasury Secretary, has withdrawn from consideration.

....Democratic sources said that an issue arose in the final stages of the vetting process.

Cohen had risen to the top after the withdrawal last week of expected deputy treasury secretary pick Annette Nazareth. As one source put it, "it's back to the drawing board."

Without knowing what the "issue" was, I guess there's no way to comment on this.  But if it didn't come up until the final stages of the vetting process, I wouldn't be surprised if it's substantively minor but politically dangerous, the kind of thing that grandstanding senators will turn into a cause célèbres even though they know it's fundamentally trivial.  And when they're done, they'll go back to asking why Obama isn't taking the financial crisis more seriously.

Bah.  Get the Senate out of this whole process.  Let 'em confirm cabinet heads and leave it at that.  Do they really need to pretend to care about every deputy and assistant deputy too?

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Bottle Wars

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 1:52 PM EDT
Hanna Rosin — currently nursing her third baby — says she accidentally picked up a magazine one day and discovered that breast feeding isn't quite the miracle cure everyone thinks it is these days.  In fact, the studies on its benefits are mostly pretty indeterminate:

Extended breast-feeding did reduce the risk of a gastrointestinal infection by 40 percent....in real life, it adds up to about four out of 100 babies having one less incident of diarrhea or vomiting.

....What does all the evidence add up to? We have clear indications that breast-feeding helps prevent an extra incident of gastrointestinal illness in some kids—an unpleasant few days of diarrhea or vomiting, but rarely life-threatening in developed countries. We have murky correlations with a whole bunch of long-term conditions. The evidence on IQs is intriguing but not all that compelling, and at best suggests a small advantage, perhaps five points; an individual kid’s IQ score can vary that much from test to test or day to day.

....So overall, yes, breast is probably best. But not so much better that formula deserves the label of “public health menace,” alongside smoking. Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding’s health benefits on the plus side of the ledger and other things—modesty, independence, career, sanity—on the minus side, and then tally them up and make a decision. But in this risk-averse age of parenting, that’s not how it’s done.

It's an interesting read.  Her takeaway is that breastfeeding is probably a good thing, but being manic about doing it exclusively isn't really justified.  Letting Dad warm up a bottle of formula in 3 in the morning isn't likely to do any harm, and the extra sleep might make you a better mother in the long run.

SarahPAC Missed the Memo

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 1:23 PM EDT

Sarah Palin's PAC, SarahPAC, is raising money using the (completely freaking crazy) Human Events mailing list. Opening paragraph:

As Washington, D.C. partisans continue to fight and bicker over "politics as usual," Governor Sarah Palin is working every day to reform government in Alaska and fight for the conservative values we all cherish.

Whoops -- so much for reform!

Frozen Pork

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 1:07 PM EDT
Jonathan Stein and David Corn have perused the recently passed omnibus spending bill in search of the dreaded earmark, and guess what?  Alaska got a lot of them!  So what does that firebreathing scourge of earmarks, Sarah Palin, have to say about that?

Asked by Mother Jones about the Alaska earmarks, Bill McAllister, Palin's communications director, pointed to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) as responsible for these provisions. But in an email, he noted that a "few of [the Alaska earmarks] were requested directly" by Palin. But how many? And which ones? McAllister declined to say.

Earmark opposition is so 2008, darlings.  How long do you think it will be before Palin flip-flops yet again and decides she supports the Bridge to Nowhere after all?

Why Can't We Get Some Interim Treasury Staff?

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 12:56 PM EDT

I agree with this point from Times columnist Tom Friedman:

I read that we’re actually holding up dozens of key appointments at the Treasury Department because we are worried whether someone paid Social Security taxes on a nanny hired 20 years ago at $5 an hour. That’s insane. It’s as if our financial house is burning down but we won’t let the Fire Department open the hydrant until it assures us that there isn’t too much chlorine in the water.

But I also get this counterpoint from the Economist's Democracy in America blog:

You can hear the Republican spin if someone in the White House argued this. "Oh, sure. That's convenient. Waive the rules now, after eight years of piling on George Bush."

But do we really have only two options: unduly delay the staffing of the Treasury, or appointing people with ethical transgressions in their past lives? Why can't we appoint interim staff to the Treasury that undergo only a light vetting? They could serve while the full vetting process is going on. I understand there would be hiccups when the interim staff has to transfer their knowledge/files/etc. to the full-time staff, but is that worse that have no staff at all during this critical juncture?