Blogs

Tomato Woes

| Sun Aug. 2, 2009 11:42 PM EDT

A couple of months ago we bought one of those upside-down tomato planters you might have seen advertised on TV.  I like it.  It hangs right outside my window, so I get to watch it grow every day.

And it's done well.  At least, we thought it was doing well until the first tomatoes ripened and we took a look at them.  The top halves are all fine, but the bottoms all look like the ones in the picture: convered with a gray, pulpy mass and basically ruined.  I'm not sure what causes this kind of thing.  Is it a bug?  A parasite?  Overwatering?  An alien nanobot infestation?  Something else?

I desperately need advice.  Are there any expert tomato farmers out there who can tell me what's going on?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

....Are Condemned to Repeat It

| Sun Aug. 2, 2009 11:34 PM EDT

Responding to a John Quiggin post lamenting the fact that the financial disasters of the late 90s produced no real regulatory action, Matt Yglesias says:

Whatever you think of Greenspan’s overall legacy [...] I think it’s a bit hard to regret that he acted swiftly and decisively to keep the world out of a major recession at the turn of the millennium....Letting things fall apart would have led to millions of additional unemployed people, state budget crises, cutbacks in critical social services, etc., etc., etc.

But it really does seem that the success of these operations was taken as a reason to avoid any serious systematic reform. And you can feel the same kind of thing happening today. It’s disturbing.

You can say that again.  Part of the reason for this might be the fact that even now, with wild figures being routinely thrown around about the size of the bailout ($17 trillion! $23 trillion! 3 years of GDP!), most people still don't truly understand the size and scope of the government action that was required to keep the private sector from melting down completely.  And the reason is pretty simple: the vast, vast majority of it was done behind the scenes by the Fed.  TARP and the stimulus bill were the only parts that really got any public scrutiny.  All the rest was done without congressional debate via an alphabet soup of loan guarantees, term facilities, interest rate reductions, conservatorships, currency swaps, commercial paper backstops, interest on reserve balances, liquidity pumps, collateral forbearance, asset stop-loss guarantees, and more.  This stuff is never going to add up to the astronomical sums people have been tossing out, but it's still a huge amount of money.  And without it, the entire financial industry would have collapsed.

But in the event, the Fed did do all this stuff, and the result is that what most people see is a bad recession but nothing more.  Just part of the business cycle, thankyouverymuch, and like other recessions it will end soon and life will go on.  And needless to say, the financial industry will be lobbying its ass off to make sure that Congress is inclined to see things the same way.  Disturbing indeed.

HBO's Self-Hating Ageism

| Sun Aug. 2, 2009 11:09 PM EDT

I've never seen HBO's Hung. Long hours, new baby, refusal to give Comcast one more dime of my money. But I've heard it's good, one of those things that, like The Wire, or Mad Men, or Weeds, I'd have to content myself with getting to a season (or three) after everybody else, but be extremely psyched to rent.

That is until I read this NYT profile of Anne Heche, the star of Hung, which was clipping along in its Anne Heche weirdness, until I got to this doorstopper of a sentence:

“We auditioned a lot of people,” says Colette Burson, the co-creator of “Hung.” “It is incredibly difficult to find beautiful, talented, funny women over 35.”

Um...WTF? No secret that ageism against women in Hollywood is rampant, ridiculous, repugnant. But so naked? And from a woman? Who is herself 40? What form of self-hating do you even call that? Plus were we not just subjected to 18 months of cougarmania from Hollywood?

I can think of a ton of actresses over the age of 35 who are beautiful, talented AND funny. Let's start with Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Christina Applegate, Jane Krakowski, Mary-Louise Parker, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who had a poignant (and of course, hilarious) discussion of ageism in the entertainment industry with the Hollywood Reporter (see clip here). Like being cast as a mother of someone you're only 8 years older than. Or being told, as Christina Applegate was, that at 35, she was too old to be on the cover of a glossy mag (ladies, my offer to put any or all of you on the cover of Mother Jones still stands).

But back to Colette Burson. Shame on you. [She's issued a long clarification, see below.] As for the rest of us, ponder these facts when you go to buy your next ticket, or pick your next rental. Guess I won't be renting Hung after all. [I'll take her at her word and give it a shot.]

Actresses over 40 account for 9% of movie roles. Actors over 40 account for 30%.

Anne Bancroft was 36 when she played Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Dustin Hoffman was 30.

Chances that a Best Actress winner portrayed a prostitute, a nun, or a mute: 1 in 8.

UPDATE: Burson gave a long impassioned clarification to Melissa Silverstein at WomenandHollywood.com, who'd interviewed her previously. I'm reprinting it here in its entirety, because a) only fair b) while it may let Burson off the hook, it goes to show just how deep the problem is:

I do think it’s always hard to find pretty and funny.  It’s a difficult combo and it’s something that’s talked about in Hollywood.  Blonde and funny.  And that is definitely true with Anne.  She’s very funny and real and she’s blonde and she’s pretty.  And this role happens to be for a beauty queen who needed to have serious emotional acting chops and at the same time was funny. [stay with her, people...Though also: Meg Ryan anyone? Roxanne Arquette?]

In terms of the quote: it is such a shame that I was either too tired to express myself correctly on the issue or part of my quote was left out because it is something that I think about a lot and I actually consider myself a warrior on front lines of this issue.  It’s something I am actively involved in on a daily basis in a way that most people are not.  Nevertheless I do think that the part that I would have added or the part I hope I did add was that it is difficult to find an actress over 35 or over 40 who is funny and talented and is still working and has not quit the business.

And by difficult I mean harder than you think.  There are not hundreds of people who show up for the auditions because you need someone who has been working, and you need someone whose agent sends them.  In my personal experience I know five actresses off the top of my head if not 10 who are around the age of 40 who no longer go on auditions anymore because they are too fucking bummed out by how few roles there are.

Just to illustrate: Dmitry (Lipkin her husband and co-creator of Hung) and I went into CAA and we were talking about all the different roles and I said what we are really going to be looking for is an actress around age 40 who is talented and funny and yet can really act.  They seemed to not want to address my question so I brought it up again and they said what about x? (a well known 45 year old film actress)  I said no, we don’t want to cast celebrities.  We want to cast real women and this is a rare opportunity.  We don’t want you to send us your beautiful starlets.  Send us real women with real bodies who can act and who can be comedic.  And he looked sort of sheepish and said I’m really ashamed to tell you we don’t have anyone like that on our list.

I said you mean to tell me that you this huge agency can’t send us a woman who is 40 and they said no.  And he said I know it’s horrible but it’s the state of the business that they really aren’t a lot of roles for them.

It’s such a bummer.  When you cast a role, casting agents will send you who has been working.  My friends who haven’t had a job in five years who quit because it was such a fucking bummer they are not sent out because they don’t have managers anymore.  They are not in the game anymore and it’s not because they aren’t talented.  Of course they’re talented.

So what I am saying is that it’s hard and the situation is more complex than you would think.  Because we are one of the few shows that frequently has these types of roles open…like the role of Tanya.  How often does that type of role occur?  Jane Adams is this gem and people say why don’t we see her working more?  And the answer is because there haven’t been that many roles for her.  We actually wrote a role for a failed poet who is over 40 and she is not ms fabulous.  She doesn’t wear clothes from Neiman Marcus  or Fred Segal.

So I hope the message will get out there.  Maybe I was tired, maybe I was a dumb ass but I feel so passionately about the issue.  But that aside our actions on a daily basis is that we fight this issue.  We conceive of characters that are women over 35 of all body types.  We debate them and we fill them out in the writers room.  So please forgive me for the asinine quote but look at what we are actually doing because we passionately care about this issue.

Wow, CCA doesn't represent one comic actress over the age of 40 who has a real body? What does Oprah (client) say about THAT!

Update II: More on CAA here.

Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can follow me on Twitter here. That's how Melissa Silverstein contacted me, you can find her here.

 

 

The World According to Me

| Sat Aug. 1, 2009 8:44 PM EDT

[News release condemning President Obama’s choice of epidemiologist David Michaels to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration]

WASHINGTON, July 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/—"Michaels supports the use of junk science as a basis for public policy and court decisions, representing a threat to employers, employees, consumers and taxpayers," said Steve Milloy, publisher of JunkScience.com. ... Michaels runs something called the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy.

Source: JunkScience.com

For Immediate Release

Legendary Journalist Raises Really Good Questions About the Ethics of Cloning Steve Milloy

WASHINGTON (or maybe Phoenix, AZ), July 30 /CompletelyLegit Newswire, Inc./—

Taking valuable time away from his work saving the planet, journalist Osha Gray Davidson issued a statement today that should be read by everyone, sources close to Davidson say.

"Frankly," revealed eminent newsman Davidson, "I’m alarmed. The implications of cloning something called Steve Milloy are disturbing for Americans, humans living outside the United States, and all species, genera, families, orders, classes, phyla, and kingdoms -  with the possible exception of some spirochetes I haven’t had a chance to interview."

Davidson’s restrained yet amazingly spot-on remarks were a reference to a news release issued by Steve Milloy Wednesday repeatedly quoting Steve Milloy, including, in one instance, bolstering an argument made by Steve Milloy by quoting a WSJ article written by Steve Milloy.

"Clearly, someone has cloned the guy," deduced the Sherlock Holmes-like Davidson. "My hunch is the North Koreans. But the real question is: how many Milloy clones are out there? The existence of two has been proven by Sound Science©. With the WSJ citation, we are now forced to consider the possibility of Milloy triplets."

Such an occurrence, if true, would be nine times more dangerous than a single Milloy, according to the Davidson Formula of Danger Squared, as obliquely referenced in this press release, added Davidson.

Milloy, a commentator for Fox News, is best known by this reporter for his spirited defense of corporate pariahs Philip Morris and ExxonMobil, braving charges of bias and conflict of interest based solely on documented allegations that Milloy and his groups have received more than $100,000 from these companies.

There is a possible upside to cloning Milloy, however, pointed out the always fair and balanced  (some have said "saintly") reporter Davidson.

"If there really are three Milloys," said Davidson, "I can imagine a scenario in which two of them become shills for opposing sides. Then the third Milloy could play the role of media analyst, debunking the tortured logic of the other two."

"If that happens," added an upbeat Davidson, "we could ignore all of them at the same time!"

Source: DavidsonInstitutefortheAdvancementofSophistry.wtf

[This piece appeared first in Grist in a slightly different form]

Photos: Air Force One's Botched NYC Flyover

| Sat Aug. 1, 2009 10:28 AM EDT

Remember that horribly planned photo op the Air Force staged in April over lower Manhattan so they could have a new stately picture of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty? The one the Air Force forgot to tell New York officials about, which led to a bit of a panic when un-warned New Yorkers saw a giant airplane and two F-16 fighter jets flying low near the tip of the island?

Well, the DoD has finally released the pictures from that morning, and I must say, they're not very impressive. The Air Force photographer snapped 146 photos—you can see them all here in the PDF the DoD released—and I've picked out the best one for you. It's fine, but I still think the photo the Air Force wanted to replace with the Statue of Liberty flyover—Air Force One flying over Mount Rushmore— is much more impressive.

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

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 8:30 PM EDT

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 7:27 PM EDT

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 6:22 PM EDT

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 5:46 PM EDT

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 5:45 PM EDT

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.