Blogs

More Affordable Gift Ideas, Courtesy of Liberal Bloggers Fighting the War on Christmas

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 12:22 PM EST

If you don't have the big bucks needed to buy anything off of Salon's holiday shopping guide, you might find something more affordable on this list, a real oldie-but-goodie if I do say so myself. All of the George W. Bush action figures (cod pieces included!) listed there are still available, though spending $19.99-$29.99 to buy your dog a chew toy might be a tad steep. Into Salon territory, even.

partridge-pear-tree.jpgUpdate: Speaking of unaffordable gift ideas, anyone looking to buy all of the gifts in The Twelve Days of Christmas better have a serious chunk of change. Swans-a-swimming and lords-a-leaping are all pretty pricey (and just getting pricier): the total cost of all the gifts, according to the PNC Christmas Price Index, is $19,507, a 3.1 percent increase over last year. A partridge, however, might make a nice symbolic gift. You can get one for $15. (Pear tree: $149.)

Update: This isn't the first time we've examined the rising cost of french hens.

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DaimlerChrysler Financial Forces Army Reservist to Fight Car Rip-Off From Iraq

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 12:13 PM EST

On Monday, I posted a story about one of the new hazards of buying a used car, namely the now-common practice by car dealers of forcing customers to waive their rights to access the legal system as a condition of buying a car. The idea is that if the dealership rips you off, you have to submit to private, binding arbitration, conducted by an arbitration firm hired by the dealership instead of filing a lawsuit. The rules in arbitration are a lot different than the regular courts, in ways that create hardships for consumers. Those hardships are a lot worse if you happen to be deployed to Iraq.

Congressmen and Senators: "If You're Really Good, You Can Move Up to Become a Lobbyist"

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 11:44 AM EST

Politico takes its lumps every now and again, here and elsewhere, but today they shall get their praise. They have a really great piece by Jeanne Cummings on Trent Lott's resignation, which uses Lott's dash for cash as a microcosm for the way in which lobbying has poisoned Washington.

The Lott resignation and its fallout offer a striking, if somewhat unusual, glimpse at how incestuous the relationships between lobbyists and politicians have become in recent years.
In a nutshell, the story goes like this: A U.S. senator resigns to become a lobbyist, a former lobbyist (Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour) is in charge of naming his replacement, and a lead candidate to fill the slot (Mississippi Rep. Chip Pickering) finds himself in a complicated spot, since he recently put in motion his own plan to cash out from the U.S. House.
Maybe it has always been this way, but the dizzying pace of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists these days suggests not.
After all, it was not so long ago that K Street jobs were considered consolation prizes for loser lawmakers — charity cases, if you will, that leaned on the quiet generosity of grateful lobbyists after being rejected by voters or becoming too aged or controversial to remain on Capitol Hill.
Money changed all that. As the jobs became more lucrative, including million-dollar contracts, lawmakers found it easier to get over any squeamishness about pitching a client's cause to a former colleague. It also moved up the timing of such a career change, from the closing days of a political career to its twilight to, in Lott's case, a peak.
"It's very clear that being able to go and lobby is seen as the upward track," said Meredith McGehee, of the Campaign Legal Center. "In the old days, you would make money and do these things and then maybe get to run for Congress or the Senate. Today, you run for Congress or the Senate and then, if you're really good, you can move up to become a lobbyist."

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.

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:

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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.

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.