2007 - %3, November

Lars and the Real Girl

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 10:35 PM EST
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The second the credits started rolling after a recent showing of the film Lars and the Real Girl, my friend turned to me and said, "That was the most boring film I've ever seen in my life. I fell asleep, like, five times."

Boring? I disagree. The film creeps along at a slow pace, but can you tell the story of an extremely sensitive, emotionally wrecked young man whose platonic relationship with a blow-up doll helps him get over the death of his mother and social anxieties at a fast pace? You could, but it probably would have to star Will Ferrell and be directed by Judd Apatow.

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Rainforest Swap = "Moral Offset"

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 10:33 PM EST

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The Independent tells a great story of South American nation Guyana preparing to cede control of its tropical forest to a British-led, international body in return for a bilateral deal that would secure development aid for shifting the country to a green economy. Guyana, a former British colony, possesses an intact rainforest larger than England.

The deal would represent potentially the largest carbon offset ever undertaken, securing the vast carbon sinks of Guyana's pristine forest in return for assisting the economic growth of South America's poorest economy. Speaking in his office in the capital, Georgetown, on the Caribbean coast, Guyana's President, Bharrat Jagdeo, said the offer was a chance for Britain to make a "moral offset" and underline its leadership on the most important single issue facing the world—climate change. "We can deploy the forest against global warming and, through the UK's help, it wouldn't have to stymie development in Guyana."

Scientists working in the Iwokrama Reserve in central Guyana estimate the forest holds close to 120 million tons of carbon—an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of the UK. The reserve is part of the Guyana Shield, one of the last four intact rainforests left in the world, home to mountains, 200 lakes, rivers flowing over volcanic dykes, lowland tropical rainforests, palm forests, and sheltering some of the world's most endangered species, including jaguars, harpy eagles, giant anteaters, giant river otters, anacondas, black caimans and giant river turtles.

What's not to like here?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Fed Up With Crisis, Salon Says, Go Shopping!

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 10:12 PM EST

The world's a rough place. Just today, headlines brought us news of violent clashes between French youth and police, tense talks between the President and the Man-Who-Could-Have-Been about global warming, and a plummeting stock market. Oh, and there's a war on.

Under the circumstances, the good people over at Salon could be forgiven for taking a few hours out of their day to focus on life's pleasures, and so they have—life's very, very expensive pleasures.

Among the offerings on the front-page holiday gift guide:

Remixing Rudy Giuliani's Broken Record

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 8:57 PM EST
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Nice. WFMU's Beware of the Blog is collecting remixes of Rudy Giuliani mentioning his favorite (only?) topic. As DJ Joe Biden might say, all Rudy needs is a noun, a verb, September 11... and a beat. My favorite so far is Miguelito Contraband's "Gold Plated 9-11 Diapers" [MP3].

Massachusetts GOP Bigwig Endorses Romney's Opponent

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 7:25 PM EST

Former Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Rappaport endorsed Rudy Giuliani today. Rappaport has long been critical of former MA Governor Mitt Romney (aka Mr. Fantastic). In November 2006 he told the Boston Globe, "Mitt Romney, through his stalwart efforts, has managed to bring our party back to where it was in 1986."

Rappaport's message was no different today on a conference call with the media. "[Romney] has a strong record of showmanship as opposed to actual performance," said Rappaport. "His word is no good…Mitt Romney would say one thing in a meeting and literally go out of the meeting to the press and tell the opposite story. There was no desire in the legislature to be accommodating to him because they couldn't trust him."

Yowza.

Abortion: Huckabee May Not Be So Consistent After All

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 6:55 PM EST

Hey, look who hasn't been consistent on abortion: Mike Huckabee!

The Fred Thompson campaign has done some digging and determined that not long ago the strongly pro-life Arkansas Governor, who campaigns on a Constitutional amendment to ban abortions and calls abortions in this country a "holocaust," once held the same federalist position as the former Tennessee senator. As recently as last year!

In a 1995 Washington Times article discussing a possible switch in the Republican Party's official position on abortion, from supporting a Constitutional ban to supporting a federalist let-the-states-decide approach, Huckabee, then Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, was cited as an example of the federalist position. "That's exactly what we have looked for," said Huckabee. "If it's left up to the states, more of them are going to put some restrictions on abortion."

And there's some evidence that he held that position until recently! In an undated interview with Right Wing News, Huckabee had this to say:

John Hawkins: Switching gears again, do you think we should overturn Roe v. Wade?
Mike Huckabee: It would please me because I think Roe v. Wade is based on a real stretch of Constitutional application -- that somehow there is a greater privacy issue in the abortion concern -- than there is a human life issue -- and that the federal government should be making that decision as opposed to states making that decision.
So, I've never felt that it was a legitimate manner in which to address this and, first of all, it should be left to the states, the 10th Amendment, but secondly, to somehow believe that the taking of an innocent, unborn human life is about privacy and not about that unborn life is ludicrous.

The Fred Thompson campaign says the interview was from April 2006. I've asked the Huckabee campaign for clarification. As Scooby Doo would say, Ruh Roh!

Update: This page on Right Wing News makes it clear the interview occurred on April 10, 2006.

Update Update: Huckabee is seen as the consistent conservative in the GOP race (except maybe on fiscal matters). This revelation, which is relatively minor (Huckabee is strongly pro-life no matter how you slice it), will only turn out to be important if it slows the Huckabee-is-consistent meme. It could also turn into something big if Huckabee is caught on record somewhere saying, "I've always supported a Constitutional ban on abortions." The cheery, quirky, down-to-earth Governor will lose some of his shine if he's proven to be a liar.

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Hypocrisy Alert: HRC Attacks Obama For Skirting Campaign Rules She Skirts

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 6:24 PM EST

You know the one about Caesar's wife?

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama has decried the dirty influence in Washington of lobbyists and their campaign contributions, suggesting that he--not Hillary Clinton--has the desire and ability to clean up Washington. After all, in the Senate, he did manage to pass an ethics and lobbying reform bill, and he has eschewed campaign contributions gathered ("bundled," in political parlance) by lobbyists. At the recent Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa, Obama proclaimed:

I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists -- and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not get a job in my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President.

That was a not-too-subtle dig at Hillary Clinton, whose campaign is fueled and guided by lobbyists.

Why Payday Loans Are Better Than Indentured Servitude

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 5:27 PM EST

For a spot-on spoof of an evil trade group website, visit the Predatory Lending Association, whose stated mission is to "help predatory lenders extract maximum profit from the working poor and retired poor with payday loans." The site includes debt calculators, an interactive "PoorFinder" map, and a helpful explanation of the difference between 450% APR payday loans and old-fashioned debt bondage:

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It's not clear who's behind the parody (a good guess would be the Yes Men, but the absurdity-to-reality ratio is too low), but it seems to be inspired by North Carolina's 2006 decision to outlaw payday loans. That move has proved quite popular, according to a new UNC study [PDF] that found that 90% of respondents, including those who had used check-cashing stores, said payday loans are a "bad thing."

Update: In comments, pablo points to this interview with the site's creator, a "Seattle Internet entrepreneur."

Bush Administration Codifies "Enduring Relationship" With Iraq

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 5:02 PM EST

George Bush has repeatedly said that if the Iraqis were to ask us to leave Iraq, we would. At a May 2007 press conference, for example, the president said, "We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation... If they were to say, leave, we would leave." Nevermind the fact that most Iraqis have long supported an immediate American withdrawal.

According to a White House fact sheet released this morning, the embattled Iraqi government that would be seriously endangered by an American pullout has asked for—surprise!—the exact opposite.

Iraq's leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq....

The fact sheet also says the U.S. and Iraq will (1) seek another year-long U.N. mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, and (2) hammer out what the long-term future of American-Iraqi relations looks like. Spencer Ackerman believes that this means "the administration will work out the terms of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq in order to, at the very least, seriously constrain the next administration's options for ending the U.S. presence." No mention of the "enduring bases" we started building years ago, but if there was ever a question of those bases' legitimacy, they're now settled.

General Petraeus: A Supporter of Christian Nationalists?

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 4:19 PM EST

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Last week, I pointed out that a quote attributed to General David Petraeus, along with a photo of Petraeus in uniform, was being used as promotional material on the website of Eric Horner Ministries. Horner espouses a militant, nationalist strain of fundamentalist Christianity in popular country western songs such as "United We'll Stand When Together We Kneel." His use of the Petraeus photo has been called inappropriate by some military law experts, but, so far, Horner has not removed it. He has, however, changed the quote attributed to Petraeus to read: "I appreciate your patriotic performances for our soldiers and their families." (Is this meant to blunt the impression that Petraeus is endorsing a religion? I'm not sure). Whatever Horner's motives, the change either means that he is (or was) misquoting Petraeus, or that the general gave him permission to run the photo and quotes with the changes. I've sent Horner an email asking him to explain. Either way, the response does not inspire confidence.

Chris Rodda, a researcher with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has uncovered more information about Horner. In this online "praise report," Horner recounts a November 2nd meeting with President Bush that he claims was arranged by Fort Jackson's general. "The General then spoke up and explained to him (Bush) that we came as a ministry to the troops," Horner writes. "The President seemed to get excited about that and thanked us several times. Again, I'm not looking for Glory in what we do, but it was pretty cool to hear those words from the President."

For more of Rodda's findings on Horner and the military, and the changes to his website, see the comments thread here.

Update: The Petraeus quote on Horner's site now shows the word "patriotic" in brackets.