2007 - %3, November

It's Hard Out There For a Daredevil...

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 5:46 PM PST
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Breaking news: Evel Knievel is dead at 69. As we remember the 1970s stuntman and orthopedic-surgery poster boy, let's also remember his unwitting contribution to our slang lexicon: He helped make it legal to call someone a pimp. In 2001, ESPN's website ran a photo of Knievel with a caption saying that he "proves that you're never too old to be a pimp." Knievel sued for defamation. The case made it to the Ninth Circuit Court, which ruled against Knievel, finding that ESPN had tagged him a pimp not to suggest that he managed prostitutes, but rather that he was, as the kids say, "cool." "It was most likely intended as a compliment," concluded the majority. Knievel's decision to try to jump over the majestic canyon of the First Amendment seems even more bizarre considering that, according to his AP obit, he used to brag about having been a "swindler, a card thief, a safe cracker, a holdup man." (Photo: evelknievel.com)

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What Would You Ask Senator Obama?

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 3:46 PM PST

I'd like to second Kate Shepherd's sentiment over at TAPPED. She writes, "Time has an interview with Obama that really could use some better questions..." Time offered up seven less than thought-provoking questions, so uninspiring in fact that I was moved to poll several of my fellow Mother Jones edit staffers for some better queries. Here's a few we came up with:

1. Why does your health insurance plan include mandates for kids, but not adults?

2. Ethanol is increasingly viewed as a wasteful form of fuel that sacrifices nourishment for gasoline. How would you move the U.S. away from defaulting to ethanol as an alternative fuel and towards cleaner, more sustainable options?

3. What's the first question you'd ask Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

It's fairly frustrating when the people with the best access to the candidates aren't delivering.

What would you ask Obama? Tell us, in the comments.

Edwards' Message to Dem Insiders: Tear Down the Wall!

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 3:20 PM PST

john_edwards.jpg Most of the Democratic presidential contenders took a break from campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire on Friday to gather outside of Washington D.C. and make their pitches to Democratic Party bigwigs.

Before the news broke that Hillary Clinton campaign workers had been taken hostage in Rochester, New Hampshire, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, and Barack Obama addressed the Democratic National Committee's fall meeting in a hotel ballroom in Tysons Corner, Virginia. None of them altered their messages dramatically for the insider crowd, and John Edwards, who had all of the day's best moments, broke out a new speech that even intensified his attacks on the Washington system that included many of the people in the audience.

At the start of his speech, Edwards declared, "There's a wall around Washington and we need to take it down. The American people are on the outside. And on the other side, on the inside, are the powerful, the well-connected and the very wealthy."

America's health care woes, the economic insecurity of the middle class, even the war in Iraq—Edwards tied them all to this wall, the barrier that protects the status quo and conventional wisdom from being challenged. Seeking to distinguish himself from his rivals—he shares most policy positions with both Obama and Clinton, and shares with Obama a professed desire for reform in Washington—Edwards asserted that only he possesses the fighting spirit needed to tear down the wall. His critiques of Obama (too admiring of bipartisanship) and Clinton (too intimate with the powerful) were not that subtle:

Dreaming of a Green Xmas: Compost Bins, Carbon Offsets, and All

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 2:44 PM PST

'Tis the season—media pubs are rolling out their holiday gift-giving recommendations (see Salon's very pricey list here and The New Yorker's even pricier male gift guide here), people can be found discussing Secret Santas, and office holiday parties are already in full swing. So, in this era of carbon neutrality, it's no wonder, retailers are already making a play for the green Christmas market. According to the Wall Street Journal many companies are looking to package their gifts in a more ecofriendly fashion by offering biodegradable packaging or none at all. Different websites are dedicating pages to greener giving ideas, pushing soy-based candles and compost containers that will be shipped to you in biodegradable peanuts. Customers of Gaiam.com can offset the carbon emissions of shipping their gifts through the company and TerraPass, a carbon offset group, has gift certificates so you can offset the emissions of your friends and families (you know, if they aren't as environmentally conscious as you are).

It's hard to not be a Grinch about this whole thing, though, because it all still seems like consumption—or ways to make yourself feel better about consuming. For instance, Gaiam.com recommends that you buy a reusable shopping bag and then offset the shipping cost for $2. So, if I send my dad a reusable shopping bag nearly 2,000 miles (Broomfield, CO, where Gaiam's HQ is, to Boston, MA, where my dad lives), it is only going to cost me $2 to neutralize the effects? I find that very hard to believe, but I suppose the whole "are carbon offsets really green?" is a whole other discussion. But, when you consider the miles driven to malls and the non-reusable/-biodegradable wrapping that goes on at the likes of Macy's, shopping online and then offsetting shipping seems like the responsible thing to do.

Although, how about just not consuming at all? That seems like the greenest possible holiday season for Mother Earth...

Rudy Finds Another Explanation for Love Trysts Billing Scandal; Again Proven Wrong

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 2:39 PM PST

RudyWingman.jpg Rudy Giuliani is still coming up with new explanations for why he billed New York City agencies for extramarital love trysts in the Hamptons. The campaign have taken multiple stabs in the last few days.

According to the campaign, Rudy's security decal billed their travel and lodging expenses on these trysts to obscure city agencies (like the Loft Board) because there were unreasonably long delays in getting paid back by the NYPD. Says the AP:

Joe Lohta, who was deputy mayor and budget director under Giuliani, said the billing practice was necessary because the police officers did not make a lot of money and their department took up to two months to repay them for their travel expenses. So Giuliani's office got a credit card and paid it off with funds from the various agencies.

Except the head of the NYPD isn't buying it. According to ABC News:

The current New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said today he knew of no problems with the delay of payments before Giuliani was mayor, when Kelly served under Mayor David Dinkins, or since.
"I don't recall anybody, any statements about delay," Kelly told reporters.

Try something else, Rudy?

Sundance Still Embracing A Misnomer

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 1:47 PM PST

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The Sundance Channel exists to produce sleek, artier-than-thou programming. That is its niche, and, though I personally choose not to watch shows like One Punk Under God and Anatomy of a Scene, I can accept that. What I refuse to accept, however, is the channel's willful mauling of the English language in service of a puffed up celebrity interview vehicle called Iconoclasts. Each episode pairs together two "iconoclasts" and "explores the intersection where two great talents meet—and where creativity comes alive," says Executive Producer Robert Redford. The third season wrapped up last night with a show featuring Madeleine Albright in conversation with Ashley Judd. Past episodes have featured Sean Penn with Jon Krakauer, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder with surfer Laird Hamilton, Renee Zellweger with Christiane Amanpour, and Robert Redford himself with Paul Newman. Even aging media mogul Sumner Redstone has been on. The thing is, this is probably a really great show for people who love celebrities—like E! True Hollywood Story for the alternative crowd—but none of these celebrities are actually iconoclasts. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the word is (1) a person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration or (2) a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions.

Genuine iconoclasts include H.L. Mencken, who made a career out of smashing all manner of popular beliefs and prejudices. There's a good case to be made for Salman Rushdie as a model iconoclast, with respect to both literature and religion. But Robert Redford? Look, I liked Sneakers as much as the next guy, but when was the last time Redford shattered any contemporary American idols? The point is, mere accomplishment in a given field does not an iconoclast make. I plan to e-mail Sundance about this; pedantic language-conscious Riff readers should feel free to do the same. Resist corporate verbicide!

—Justin Elliott

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John Fogerty's Back

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 1:45 PM PST

It's still amazing to me that Creedence Clearwater Revival, a late-60s, early -70s Bay Area band, was so good at playing Louisiana swamp blues; but they were. And John Fogerty, the band's controlling but visionary leader, was largely the reason why (proof below).

At 62, Fogerty, despite a legacy of post-band-breakup lawsuits with record labels and band members, is back with a new solo release, Revival.

The album might as well be called "What's Done is Done. Let's Rock." There's an air of openness and self-awareness to album; sort of a second (or third) wind for Fogerty. Songs range from simple blues/country ("Don't You Wish It Was True") to reflective nods to the old days ("Creedence Song") to straight-up political rock and roll ("I Can't Take It No More").

Check out a good Q&A with Fogerty on Pitchfork.

Clinton Workers Taken Hostage; Rightwingers Fast To Exploit the Crisis

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 12:28 PM PST

This afternoon, Hillary Clinton's Rochester, NH, campaign office was taken hostage by a man claiming to have a bomb duct-taped to his chest. He is demanding to speak to Senator Clinton, who is supposed to speak here in Virginia, but has canceled her appearance. We all hope it is resolved quickly with everyone safe.

It certainly would be tasteless for anyone to exploit this event. But that hasn't stopped the nutcase commentors at the rightwing Free Republic. Here are some of their responses to this:

- "Oh this should be good............."

- "Someone trying to get their testicles back?"

- "popcorn...check... coffee....check..."

- "Staged?"

- "I wonder what nutjob they paid to pull this stunt.... like all the people who they get to hang nooses to make people think conservatives are radical haters"

- "Could be a CNN plant..."

- "From the latest Fox poll, she is leading in New Hampshire, so it would be stupid for her to have anything staged at this point. OTOH, I don't put anything past her."

- "Pray it's a Ron Paul supporter."

And that's just in the first five minutes of the posting thread. It goes on and on and on.

Creationism Kerfuffle Forces Texas Science Curriculum Head to Resign

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 12:15 PM PST

Texas' director of science curriculum has been forced to resign over an e-mail she sent. What was in the offending message ? Trash talk about colleagues? Porn? Nope—it was about (drumroll, please) an upcoming lecture. The horror! Read more on the Blue Marble.

Matt Taibbi Hearts Seymour Hersh

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 12:09 PM PST

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If you like name-calling hyperbole, Matt Taibbi has always been your guy. He's a great and refreshing read and has an insightful wit, but he's also vicious. (Just in case you think he's the anti-Broder, keep in mind that Taibbi is an equal opportunity hater—he rips milquetoast Democrats as often as he hits right-wing Republicans. He's like Broder's mirror image or something.)

But in a new interview on Campus Progress (done by MoJo intern Justin Elliott), Taibbi has something nice to say about someone. Specifically Sy Hersh:

He's old school. He's the kind of guy who sits and pores over the newsletters of all these minor government agencies to see who retired that week so he can approach that person to see if he's got any stories to tell on his way out of service. There are a few guys like that who are still out there, but they're all holdovers from a lost age.

Wow. Respect.

Mother Jones did a 2005 interview with "The Bad Boy on the Bus." Check it out.