MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/favicon.ico/sites/all/modules/patched/service_links/im/favicon.ico http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en NASA Just Found the Most Earth-Like Planet Yet http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/04/nasa-earth-cousin-kepler-186f <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Hello. Good day.</p> <p>NASA just announced that astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet yet. <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6181/277" target="_blank">Kepler-186f </a>is the first <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldilocks_planet" target="_blank">Goldilocks planet</a>&mdash;not too hot for water, not too cold for water&mdash;ever identified that is roughly the same size as Earth. (It's a bit larger.)</p> <p>So, is there life on that planet? It hasn't been disqualified yet. So, maybe! But probably not. But maybe! But almost certainly not. But maybe! And even if there's not its mere existence means there are very likely more planets like it out there, meaning Earth is maybe not necessarily unique, meaning life is maybe not necessarily unique to Earth. But basically, we don't know much about this new planet. Take it away, <em><a href="http://www.wired.com/2014/04/earth-two-not-quite/" target="_blank">WIRED</a></em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[S]cientists have fairly little information about this new exoplanet, including its mass and composition. From what they can tell, the place is similar to our own world, though not quite Earth&rsquo;s twin.&nbsp;</p> <p>"We consider it more of an Earth cousin," said astronomer <a href="http://kepler.nasa.gov/Mission/team/soc/elisaquintana/" target="_blank">Elisa Quintana</a> of NASA's Ames Research Center, lead author of <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/science.1249403" target="_blank">a paper about the finding</a> appearing today in <em>Science</em>. "It's got the same size and characteristics, but a very different parent star."</p> </blockquote> <p>The planet is about 500 light years away, so it's close, but not <em>that</em> close. This is all fun and exciting, but here's the annoying bit: It was discovered by the Kepler space telescope which means we're in for a cliffhanger:</p> <blockquote> <p>Though Kepler is <a href="http://www.wired.com/2013/05/end-of-kepler/" target="_blank">out of commission</a> and won&rsquo;t be able to provide any more information about this newest exoplanet, future telescopes could give us new insight. NASA is planning to launch the <a href="http://space.mit.edu/TESS/TESS/TESS_Overview.html" target="_blank">Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite</a> (TESS) in 2017, which will watch bright nearby stars, including M dwarfs, for more exoplanets and be able to determine their masses. Follow up observations with the agency&rsquo;s J<a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2014/04/4-billion-over-budget-four-years-past-schedule.html" target="_blank">ames Webb Space Telescope</a>, currently slated to launch in 2018, could even look at the atmospheres of these worlds, providing definitive proof that they have chemicals like oxygen and water on their surfaces.</p> </blockquote> <p>See you in 2017, possible Earth cousin!</p> </body></html> Blue Marble Science Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:12:41 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 250066 at http://www.motherjones.com It Turns Out That the Beautiful People Really Do Look Down on the Rest of Us http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/it-turns-out-beautiful-people-really-do-look-down-rest-us <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>It turns out that beautiful people really do look down on the rest of us. Danielle Kurtzleben reports on a new study that assessed the attitudes of people after asking them to <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/4/17/5623976/attractiveness-related-to-views-on-economic-inequality" target="_blank">rate their own attractiveness:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Participants who perceive themselves as attractive also tend to not only believe they are of higher social status but also to believe in group dominance &mdash; that some groups are just inferior. They also were more likely to believe in ideas that legitimized their status, like the idea that all Americans have equal shots at making it to the top.</p> <p>....People who thought they were more attractive also tended to think that America's steadily growing inequality came about because of individual characteristics, like talent and hard work. People who thought they were uglier, meanwhile, thought outside factors &mdash; discrimination, political power &mdash; had more to do with inequality.</p> </blockquote> <p>People have a well-known cognitive bias in which they attribute positive outcomes to internal factors (hard work, smarts) and negative outcomes to external factors (bad luck, enemies who have it in for you). This is a similar kind of thing. People who are attractive tend to do better in life, but they resist the idea that this is partly due to the simple good luck of being tall or having regular features. And yet, there's abundant evidence that physical attractiveness makes a difference. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/10/how-they-win" target="_blank">Just ask political candidates.</a></p> <p>Ditto for being white, male, healthy, middle class, etc. A lot of people might dislike the invocations of "privilege" that seem so endless these days, but it's a real thing. And it's everywhere.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Science Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:29:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 250061 at http://www.motherjones.com Corn on Hardball: The GOP's Dangerous Decision to Support and Encourage Cliven Bundy http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/david-corn-hardball-gop-dangerous-decision-support-cliven-bundy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Washington bureau chief David Corn spoke on MSNBC's "Hardball" about the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/right-wing-loves-militia-rancher-cliven-bundy-except-glenn-beck" target="_blank">Right's support</a> of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/cliven-bundy-exposes-cravenness-modern-right" target="_blank">Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy</a>, who has refused to pay standard grazing fees on federal land for the past 20 years. He pointed out the irony of the GOP supporting Bundy's fight for a free ride, as well as the danger of encouraging and validating potentially violent extremists.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p class="rtecenter"><iframe border="no" height="494" scrolling="no" src="http://player.theplatform.com/p/2E2eJC/EmbeddedOffSite?guid=n_hardball_2bundy_140416" width="630"></iframe></p> </body></html> MoJo Video Food and Ag The Right Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:11:54 +0000 250041 at http://www.motherjones.com WATCH: Will George W. Bush's Art Show Be a Reflection of His Presidency? [Fiore Cartoon] http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/watch-george-w-bush-art-show-fiore-cartoon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p></p> <div align="center"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//player.vimeo.com/video/92212448?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=c96134" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"></iframe></div> <p>Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the <em>Washington Post, </em>the <em>Los Angeles Times, </em>the <em>San Francisco Examiner, </em>and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a <a href="http://www.markfiore.com/" target="_newWindow">website</a> featuring his work.</p> </body></html> Mixed Media Cartoons Bush Media Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:55:35 +0000 Mark Fiore 250051 at http://www.motherjones.com What the Fort Hood Shooting Can Teach Us About the State of Veteran Aid http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/fort-hood-shooting-veteran-aid-mental-health-us <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175832/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith &amp; Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America's biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and 16 wounded. When he did so, he also pulled America's fading wars out of the closet. This time, a Fort Hood mass killing, the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nidal-hasan-sentenced-to-death-for-fort-hood-shooting-rampage/2013/08/28/aad28de2-0ffa-11e3-bdf6-e4fc677d94a1_story.html">second </a>in four and a half years, was committed by a man who was neither a religious nor a political "extremist." He seems to have been merely one of America's injured and troubled veterans who now number in the hundreds of thousands.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a>Some 2.6 million men and women have been dispatched, often repeatedly, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to a&nbsp; <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/polling/wars-postkaiser-survey-afghanistan-iraq-war/2014/04/02/3e8f2380-b7a6-11e3-9eb3-c254bdb4414d_page.html">recent survey </a>of veterans of those wars conducted by the <em>Washington<em> </em>Post </em>and the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition. Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger. Only 12 percent of the surveyed veterans claim they are now "better" mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.</p> </body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/04/fort-hood-shooting-veteran-aid-mental-health-us"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Afghanistan Guns Iraq Military Tom Dispatch Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:24:15 +0000 Ann Jones 250036 at http://www.motherjones.com Americans Wildly Overestimate the Impact of Routine Mammographies http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/americans-wildly-overestimate-impact-routine-mammographies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Aaron Carroll passes along the following stunning chart about the actual efficacy of <a href="http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/this-is-why-we-cant-get-the-public-to-accept-changes-to-screening-mammograms/" target="_blank">routine breast cancer screening on 50-year-old women:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mammography_effect.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 10px 5px;"></p> <p>Obviously, there are circumstances where routine screening is a good idea&mdash;perhaps if you have a family history of breast cancer or other specific risk factors. But the best recent evidence suggests that routine screening for all women has a negligible effect. At best, it's very slightly positive. At worst it's literally zero because false positives lead to interventions that themselves carry a risk of death.</p> <p>The problem is that people don't believe this. They think that routine screening has a far greater impact than it really does. The <em>perception</em> of 50-year-old women is that routine screening saves the lives of about 80 women out of a thousand:</p> <blockquote> <p>Therein lies the problem. If you think that breast cancer is going to kill 16% of all 50-year-old women in the next 10 years and that mammography makes a huge difference in the mortality rate, then you&rsquo;re going to demand a universal screening program. Hell, I&rsquo;d demand it if that were the case. Until we can change the perception of the public to more closely match reality, and make them realize that the harms may outweigh the benefits, we&rsquo;re going to get nowhere in trying to make changes.</p> </blockquote> <p>We're all complicit in the level of overdiagnosis in American health care. Over the past few weeks, I've probably gotten something like $20,000 worth of tests and other care&mdash;with more to come&mdash;in an effort to try and figure out why my breathing suddenly went south. I didn't push back on any of it, and the reason is obvious: when a doctor tells you that your problem <em>might</em> be an embolism or a bad heart or interstitial lung damage, then you damn well want to find out if it is. (It's not. We still don't know what's going on.)</p> <p>Obviously an acute problem like mine is not the same as routine testing. But I do that too. I've resisted the routine colonoscopy so far because my risk profile is low, but I do get a biannual echocardiogram. Why? Because I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a family history of cardio problems. Routine heart monitoring makes sense in my case.</p> <p>Routine mammographies make sense too&mdash;for some women. But for all of them? The best evidence says it doesn't.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:46:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 250026 at http://www.motherjones.com "House of Cards" Veteran Wants To Make a Reality TV Show Starring Capitol Hill Staffers http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/house-cards-reality-tv-show-washington-dc-capitol-hill-staffers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Oh, boy.</p> <p>On Thursday, the <em>Washington Examiner</em>'s Betsy Woodruff <a href="http://washingtonexaminer.com/reality-show-starring-capitol-hill-staffers-in-the-works/article/2547349" target="_blank">reported</a> that a veteran of the Netflix political drama <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/02/house-of-cards-season-2-molly-parker-jacqueline-sharp-war-crimes" target="_blank"><em>House of Cards</em></a> is working to produce a reality TV show based in Washington, DC. The show would star local "up-and-comers," including Capitol Hill staffers ("the best and brightest on the hill") between the ages of 19 and 29.</p> <p>A casting session is set to be held on April 26. One source told the <em>Examiner</em> that the first round of casting has already occurred. (It's unclear how many Hill staffers would actually be up for this, since most Senate and House offices probably wouldn't allow employees to take part in a potentially revealing reality series.)</p> <p><em>Mother Jones </em>obtained the casting call, which is dated April 14. Check it out:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="House of Cards reality tv show casting call" class="image" height="790" src="/files/house-of-cards-reality-tv-show-casting-call.jpg" width="589"></div> <p>Sharon "Rocky" Roggio, who's apparently behind the project, was the <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2008867/" target="_blank">assistant property master</a> on this year's season of <em>House of Cards</em> and worked on <em>A Very Harold &amp; Kumar 3D Christmas</em> and the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2012/11/red-dawn-remake-north-korea-foreign-policy-experts-reactions" target="_blank"><em>Red Dawn</em></a> remake. Jena Serbu served as a <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1672561/" target="_blank">production designer</a> on <a href="http://blog.pennlive.com/go/2012/12/amish_mafia_is_it_real_or_fake.html" target="_blank"><em>Amish Mafia</em></a> and <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/02/entertainment/la-et-st-matt-bristol-of-breaking-amish-los-angeles-talks-20130731" target="_blank"><em>Breaking Amish: LA</em></a>.</p> <p>Other attempts at reality TV in Washington include MTV's <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real_World:_D.C." target="_blank"><em>The Real World: D.C.</em></a> and Bravo's <em>The Real Housewives of DC</em>. In 2011, <a href="http://www.wtop.com/41/2611711/Jersey-Shore-mastermind-casting-reality-show-for-politicos-" target="_blank">Doron Ofir Casting</a> (the company behind such reality-TV hits as <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2011/09/chris-christie-vetoes-snooki-subsidy-jersey-shore" target="_blank"><em>Jersey Shore</em></a>) put out a <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1211/70854.html" target="_blank">casting call for</a> "young hot politicos who care about America [and] follow the heated debates, rallies, protests and scandals!" Last month, the <em>Washington Post </em><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/reliable-source/wp/2014/03/18/a-new-reality-show-could-be-on-its-way-to-d-c/" target="_blank">reported</a> that Leftfield Pictures, the Manhattan production company behind Bravo's hit show, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b0Wq4AB4Gg" target="_blank"><em>Blood, Sweat and Heels</em></a>, is considering launching a DC version of the series. TV dramas and comedies set in Washington, DC, include <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/09/funny-or-die-obamacare-jennifer-hudson-scandal-spoof" target="_blank"><em>Scandal</em></a>, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/06/armando-iannucci-interview-veep-hbo-joe-biden" target="_blank"><em>Veep</em></a>, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/03/americans-fx-joe-weisberg-joel-fields-contra-war-sandinistas-afghanistan-soviets" target="_blank"><em>The Americans</em></a>, and the attempted sitcom <a href="http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2012/07/09/h-street-sitcom-creator-its-not-about-h-street/" target="_blank"><em>H Street</em></a>.</p> </body></html> Mixed Media Congress Film and TV Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:21:58 +0000 Asawin Suebsaeng 249981 at http://www.motherjones.com Latest Gallup Result: 9-10 Million Newly Insured Under Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/latest-gallup-result-12-million-newly-insured-under-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Speaking of the uninsured, I inexplicably failed to blog about the <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/168548/newly-insured-2014-represent-adults.aspx" target="_blank">latest Gallup results yesterday.</a> Based on polling that goes through mid-April, Gallup now estimates that about 9-10 million people have gained insurance since Obamacare rolled out last year. If you assume that perhaps a million people lost insurance, that's a net increase of 8-9 million. Of this, about half gained insurance through the exchanges. The rest gained it through Medicaid and increased participation in employer plans.</p> <p>I'm not going to try to analyze this number any further. It basically represents good news, since it's a higher estimate than we've seen before, and it also jibes with the recent Rand numbers suggesting a large rise in people covered by employer plans. Apparently the individual mandate is having a bigger impact on this than anybody predicted. However, it's one data point in a noisy series, and I suspect we still have to wait another month to get a reliable set of numbers from all the polling outfits. By the end of May, unless the various polls are in wild disagreement, I imagine we'll have a fairly good idea of just how big the impact of Obamacare has been so far.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Sorry, everyone else has been leading with a number of 12 million, so that's what I used. But the Gallup poll estimates that 4 percent of US <em>adults</em> are newly insured, not 4 percent of the entire country. That's in the range of 9-10 million. I've corrected the text.</p> <p>Note, however, that this ignores children who are newly insured, either via exchanges or Medicaid. So the real number is probably a bit higher. Maybe in the 10-11 million range? It's hard to say. There are a lot of different surveys that are all measuring slightly different things, and they're all working on data that's still incomplete. That's why it's probably wise to wait another month or two before we get too confident in any of these numbers.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:38:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 250006 at http://www.motherjones.com Rand Paul Really Doesn't Want to Talk About His McConnell Endorsement http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/rand-paul-mcconnell-endorsement <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>A tea party revolutionary four years ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has bucked many of his old supporters by backing Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in McConnell's primary against Matt Bevin, a hedge fund executive backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund. Why would Paul do such a thing? He has been cagey, to say the least. "He asked me when there was nobody else in the race, and I said yes," the junior senator <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/rand-paul-mitch-mcconnell-reelection-glenn-beck-interview" target="_blank">told</a> Glenn Beck in February. Evidently even that was too verbose. Per the <a href="http://www.glasgowdailytimes.com/local/x360404491/U-S-Sen-Rand-Paul-visits-Edmonton" target="_blank"><em>Glasgow (Ky.) Daily Times</em></a>, Paul has now taken his answer off the record:</p> <blockquote> <p>After addressing about 30 people who turned out to hear him, the senator opened the floor for questions.</p> <p>One constituent asked him why he came out in support of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville.</p> <p>Paul declined to answer the question publicly, saying he would speak with her in private and explain his reason for supporting the senior senator.</p> </blockquote> <p>Paul family political guru Jesse Benton, who is now managing McConnell's re-election campaign, told a tea party activist in a <a href="http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2013/08/mitch-mcconnell-campaign-manager-im.html" target="_blank">secretly-recorded conversation</a> last year that, "between you and me, I'm sort of holdin' my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in '16, so that's my long vision."</p> <p>One reason Paul might decide to keep his explanation private: His answer sounds a lot like Benton's.</p> </body></html> MoJo Elections Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:31:13 +0000 Tim Murphy 249986 at http://www.motherjones.com Daffy Duck, Glorious Archetype of Selfishness, Is 77. Here Is His First Cartoon. http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/daffy-duck-77-years-old-porkys-duck-hunt-chuck-jones <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x874v" width="630"></iframe><br> Daffy Duck, one of America's preeminent ducks, is 77 today.</p> <p>If Bugs Bunny is the brightest star in the Looney Tunes sky, surely Daffy Duck is second. But it wasn't always that way! Before either of them, a pig named Porky occupied the top spot and on April 17, 1937 the sensational swine starred in "Porky's Duck Hunt." The Warner Brothers short featured the curly-tailed stutterer loading up his shotgun and setting out to hunt his way into America's heart, like you do. But then things don't go as planned&mdash;they can't, you see; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetics_%28Aristotle%29" target="_blank">Aristotle said so</a>&mdash;and Porky comes upon a duck who isn't like the others. This duck's got a white ring around his neck and he doesn't conform, man. He won't go gently into that good night. He does what he wants. He's wacky. He flies around the frame in a very un-medicated way. Watch it. (The colorized version is embedded above. <a href="http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xq5ipw_porky-s-duck-hunt-4-17-37_shortfilms" target="_blank">Here's the original black &amp; white.</a>) It's pretty funny!</p> <p>Daffy is nameless in this first appearance, but a rose by any other name&mdash;or no name at all, a nameless rose&mdash;is still a rose. And this duck is still Daffy. Aside from his trademark white ring and lisp&mdash;voiced as he would be for 52 years by Mel Blanc&mdash;what makes him so essentially Daffy is that he's, well, nuts. This was his defining characteristic in the beginning. Created by Tex Avery, Daffy was a minor lunatic the established characters could play the foil to.</p> <p>Over the course of the next decade, however, Daffy grew from being just some prop prey in hunting sketches to a full-blown star. As he became more prominent, his character became more complex. Still wacky, Daffy matured into his most famous role, as Bugs Bunny's arch-nemesis. (Bugs, the Betty to Daffy's Veronica, the White Swan to his Black, had been introduced in 1940.) Daffy became the crafty, scheming, plotting back-stabber who, motivated by unrestrained selfishness, will do anything to get what he wants, but in the end always comes up short. His every attempt is foiled, most often by the more moral Bugs, because in Looney Tunes' moral universe, unrestrained selfishness is a killer.</p> <p>Part of us empathizes with Daffy because though his defining characteristic is selfishness, his fatal flaw is recklessness. Everyone is a little bit selfish. Selfishness is very banal and very human, and at some age most everyone learns to rein it in. At 77, Daffy still hasn't reined it in.</p> <p>Chuck Jones, who created Bugs, drew Daffy from 1951 to 1964 and was responsible for some of his most famous films. In his memoir, <em><a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=NJzAdheaSc0C&amp;pg=" target="_blank">Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist</a></em>, Jones describes the first time he encountered within himself the voice he would one day associate with Daffy. The moment came at his sixth birthday party. After Chuck blew out the candles on his cake, his father handed him a knife and told him to cut as large a piece for himself as he wanted.</p> <blockquote> <p>At this point Daffy Duck must have had, for me, his earliest beginnings, because I found to my surprise and pleasure that I had no desire to share my cake with anyone. I courteously returned the knife to my mother. I had no need for it, I explained; I would simplify the whole matter by taking the entire cake for myself. Not knowing she had an incipient duck on her hands, she laughed gently and tried to return the knife to my reluctant grasp. I again explained that the knife was superfluous. It was impossible, I pointed out with incontrovertible logic, to cut a cake and still leave it entire for its rightful owner. I had no need and no desire to share.&nbsp;</p> <p>My father thereupon mounted the hustings (he was nine feet tall and looked like a moose without antlers) and escorted me to my room to contemplate in cakeless solitude the meaning of a word new to me: "selfish." To me then, and to Daffy Duck now, "selfish" means "honest but antisocial"; "unselfish" means "socially acceptable but often dishonest." We all <em>want</em> the whole cake, but, unlike Daffy and at least one six-year-old boy, the coward in the rest of us keeps the Daffy Duck, the small boy in us, under control.</p> <p>"You may cut as large a piece as you want" is a dangerous euphemism. There is a prescribed wedge on every birthday cake that is completely and exactly surrounded by corporal punishment. Exceeding these limits by even a thousandth of an inch brands one as "selfish." From my seventh birthday on, I learned to approach with judgment sharper than a razor's edge this line, without cutting the "un" from "unselfish" to "selfish." I learned very little about social morality but a great deal about survival, and this, after all, is what Daffy Duck is all about.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, happy birthday, Daffy, America's most famous animated cautionary tale of avarice!</p> </body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:16:31 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 249971 at http://www.motherjones.com