Arlen Specter just told the Netroots Nation audience that as soon as he got off the stage he was going to call Chuck Grassley and set him straight on the whole death panel thing.  "Come on out and watch me dial," he said.  I wonder if anyone did?

UPDATE: From comments, apparently Specter did indeed dial but couldn't get hold of Grassley.  A Twitter war ensued.

This week, the American Sociological Association held its annual meeting here in San Francisco. Researchers from Indiana University and the University of Utah presented findings from a national survey of 815 people on family and gender issues. Apparently, 71 percent of Americans believe a woman should take her husband's last name, and half believed it should be a legal requirement.

The results shocked even the researchers:

"The figures were a bit sobering for us because there seems to be change in so many areas. If names are a core aspect of our identity, this is important," said Brian Powell, professor of sociology at IU Bloomington. "There are all these reports and indicators that families are changing, that men are contributing more, that we're moving toward a more equal family, yet there's no indication that we're seeing a similar move to equality when it comes to names."

So the government should not be heavy handed when it comes to legislating things like health care or banking, but it should determine how women identify themselves after marriage?

Not quite. It seems that for the majority of Americans, the issue is less about naming conventions and more about who (ahem) wears the pants in society. One of the researchers said that respondents "told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family." The family identity, however, is not tied to the name itself. Half of respondents said it would be fine if men changed their names, because "a man should be able to do it because he's a man."

Survey responses also reflected the belief that if we cannot assume that a woman will automatically change her last name, the resulting confusion will lead to catastrophe: "They said the mailman would get confused and that society wouldn't function as well if women did not change their name."

As it so happens, I am one of the 5-10 percent of American women who did not take my husband's last name. But, I'm pretty sure the United States Postal Service functions the same way in the rest of the country as it does in the Bay Area, which means they deliver based on address. Which is why I've received mail addressed correctly to me, to my first name with my husband's last name, and to the cringe-inducing "Mr. and Mrs. Husband's First and Last Name." Then again, I also get mail addressed to the last four tenants.

My husband and I have also managed to file our taxes, utilize health and car insurance, and open a joint credit card with last names that don't match. Thus far, "society" hasn't come to a screeching halt. But then, we also live in a state where larger issues surrounding marriage are questioned (our marriage license even reads "Party A" and "Party B").

The researchers believe that the study reveals more than just what Americans think about last names, "Because it's not politicized, people just answer the question without really thinking about it...It sort of taps into people's views about all kinds of things." In other words, things like who should be able to get married, what a family should look like, and just what types of gendered identities we should adhere to.

The Hillary Narrative

Yesterday Paul Krugman reminded us that preferring Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton because you wanted to avoid the Clinton psychodrama of the 90s was always a vain hope.  Back in early 2008 he wrote, "Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false."  Ezra Klein, chatting online about town hall hysteria, added, "This is how the conservative movement organizes against major pieces of liberal legislation. It's not about a particular moment or leader."

This is unquestionably true, but I'd just like to add one thing.  If Hillary Clinton had won last year's Democratic primary and gone on to become president, and then this year's town hall meeting had turned into insane gatherings of lunatics yelling about death panels, every single pundit in Washington — Every. Single. One. — would be blaming it on her.  Their unanimous take would be: Democrats knew that she was a divisive figure and chose to put her in the White House anyway.  It's hardly any wonder that conservatives have gone nuts, is it?

That narrative, as we now know, would have been 100% wrong.  But that would have been the narrative anyway.  Caveat lector.

Rove's Lies

The House Judiciary committee investigation has now confirmed that Karl Rove flat-out lied about his role in the mass firings of US attorneys. Of course, as MoJo bureau chief David Corn reminds us, this is hardly the first time that Rove has been caught in a bald lie and brazened it out with spin and bluster:

During the CIA leak affair, then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan— after speaking to Rove—took the unusual step of publicly declaring that Rove was not tied to the leak that had outed Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover CIA officer.

But that was not true. ("I had unknowingly passed along false information," McClellan later said, blaming Rove and others for that.) Rove had indeed been part of the leak. He had told Matt Cooper, then of Time, that Valerie Wilson was a CIA employee, and he had confirmed Wilson's CIA connection to Robert Novak, the conservative columnist who published the initial leak about her. And as Mike Isikoff and I detailed in our book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Rove came perilously close to being indicted after failing to tell a grand jury that he had spoken to Cooper about Wilson. Though he ultimately escaped indictment, Rove for years let stand the public lie that he had nothing to do with the Bush administration slipping classified information about Wilson to reporters.

David has more thoughts here on what this means for the media outlets that rely on Rove as a source and commentator.

 

It’s one thing to forcefully argue for health care reform, including dramatic changes to Obama’s proposals—and quite another to join in activities that threaten physical harm. It's becoming increasingly clear that some of the tactics and violent rhetoric employed by far-right extremists is now being directed at members of Congress at town hall meetings on health care reform.  Below the jump, a report from the Washington Post on one of these confrontations, with newly minted Democratic Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania:

Must-reads from around the web:

The secret memo behind the White House's drug industry deal?

The women who write Mad Men.

What will Obama do about all those other Gitmos?

How McDonalds beat the recession.

White supremacists say birthers are helping their recruiting drive.

MoJo responds to Fiji Water's response to our cover story investigation.

David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, is on twitter, and so are my colleagues Daniel Schulman, Nick Baumann, and our editor, Clara Jeffery. You can follow me here. The magazine's main account is @motherjones.

Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system, July 6, on Forward Operating Base Bostick, Afghanistan. The Soldiers were registering targets so they will have a more accurate and faster response time when providing fire support. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

Today's environment, health, and science news from our site and others. And if you haven't read Anna Lenzer's great Fiji Water exposé "Spin the Bottle," well, let's just say there are a few things you might want to know before you reach for that pretty square bottle.

MoJo responds to fiji: That Fiji Water donates money to local kindergartens is all well and good, but it doesn't make up for pollution, tax havens, and silence on the Fijian government's human rights abuses. 

The reformers are coming! Health care reformers pretend they want to make you healthy. Really, they want to sell your organs to China. And slay your grandma. And murder cute puppies. Ruuuuuun!

Newt again: Gingrich flip-flops on advance care directives and hospice care. Somehow, we're not surprised.

Better buildings: "Commissioning" reduces building's greenhouse emissions significantly—and it's not just free, it saves money. Just one of the techniques that'll become more widespread if Waxman-Markey passes.

Philpott vs. Klein on organics: Grist's Tom Philpott believes organic foods are more nutritious; Ezra Klein doubts it. But what about the soil?

Second hottest July on record: Climate Progress on the NASA temperature data, and why it looks like we'll be seeing record global temperatures this year or next.

India's green plans: India overhauls its version of the EPA. Could this mean tougher pollution and emissions standards?

In Defense of Milk

For those of us who still drink milk and like it and have no trouble digesting it in any of its glorious guises, from butter to yoghurt... here's an intersting blog by Dave Munger at SEED on  current scientific thinking/speculation about why some of us can tolerate milk and others can't. Northern Europeans and Africans generally fare well. Southern Euros and East Asians, not so.

One analysis from a paper in PLoS ONE suggests the lactase gene evolved in Europe because there isn't enough sunlight to produce the vitamin D needed to take in calcium—so milk drinking helped meet that deficiency. In Africa the lactase gene evolved in conjunction with early milk-producing domesticated animals—helping boost protein intake.

Milk. It does some bodies good. Especially with chocolate or cookies.

Well, it was never really dead. The Tasman Booby, Sula dactylatra tasmani, described from fossils on islands off the east coast of Australia, went extinct in the late 18th century—victim of hungry European sailors, reports New Scientist.

But now a team of geneticists, paleontologists, and naturalists has found the bird alive and well and living among its own fossils and on a few islands off New Zealand. DNA analysis of six Tasman Booby fossils perfectly match the living birds known as Sula dactylatra fullagari. Paper in Biology Letters.

Henceforth, the resurrected and misidentified will be known as as Sula dactylatra tasmani.

Whatever we call it, this gannetlike seabird is another, and very welcome, Lazarus taxon (read John Platt at 60-Second Science) risen from the dead—along with the Nelson's small-eared shrew rediscovered in Mexico last month and the greater dwarf cloud rat found in a Philippine forest in 2008. Plus a few I wrote about in Gone: the Wollemi pine and mahogany glider in Australia, Jerdon’s Courser in India, takahe in New Zealand, and (maybe) the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the US.