Blogs

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

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 5:44 PM EST

'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...

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

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 5:39 PM EST

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 4:47 PM EST

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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

John Fogerty's Back

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 4:45 PM EST

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 3:28 PM EST

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 3:15 PM EST

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.

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Matt Taibbi Hearts Seymour Hersh

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 3:09 PM EST

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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.

Texas Science Curriculum Director Resigns Over Creationism Kerfuffle

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 2:29 PM EST

creation190.jpgThe science blogosphere is abuzz (here, here and here, for starters) with some juicy creationism news from Texas. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Chris Comer, the state's director of science curriculum, was pressured into resigning this month. Her crime? Forwarding an e-mail about an upcoming talk by creationism expert Barbara Forrest. (Now mind you, by "creationism expert," I don't mean "creationist." Barbara Forrest testified in the Dover trial, and according to Pharyngula blogger PZ Meyers, she had creationists shaking in their boots.)

Anyway, long story short, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) had a fit. A TEA memo obtained by the Statesman said, "Ms. Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral."

Now, never mind the fact that the neutrality for which Texas strives on the subject of creationism pretty much amounts to bad science. Even if neutrality is your goal—heck, even if you're the biggest creationist ever—you might still be interested in hearing what this Barbara Forrest has to say. And if you're a teacher, you're ostensibly interested in open forums, free exchange of ideas, etc. Tough luck for you if you're teaching in Texas. Talk about a hostile learning environment.

Judicial Follies

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

Was this guy Hitler in a previous life?

Dwayne Dail served half his life, 18 years, in a North Carolina prison for a rape he didn't commit. Given that his childhood sweetheart was pregnant at the time, he ended up spending his son's entire life so far in jail; the boy grew up without him. Free for three months now and awarded what seems to the casual observer a paltry $360,000 for what he rightly calls not wrongful incarceration but 'kidnapping', this unlucky guy is back in court. For what, you ask? His baby mother is suing him for the back child support he never paid while imprisoned and while she raised their son alone. Said Dail, "Everybody wonders why I'm not mad. Well, I'm mad now."

Again, bad cases make bad law but there is a real issue here: should settlements such as these be considered income? The judge is still pondering this doozy of a case.

Only the mother knows why she filed this suit without first asking Dail for a chunk; her son, now just getting to know his dad, reports being traumatized by all this. First his dad was a pedophile rapist (the victim was 12). Now he's not. He's out of prison, they've just met, and the mother he loves has Dad back in the place he fears most, a court room.

You gotta read to believe.

Hillary Hatred on Display

| Fri Nov. 30, 2007 11:54 AM EST

I'm at the DNC's fall meeting in Vienna, VA, today. I'll hear all the Democratic presidential candidates speak and then write something up for your consumption.

On the way here, though, I got into a conversation with my cabbie about politics. We saw Hillary Clinton signs lining the road up to the meeting's venue. "I hate that woman," he said. I laughed uncomfortably. "I don't think she'll win the nomination," he said. "Too many people hate her. Even Democrats. But I think the Democrats are in a box. If they are against her, they look like they don't like her because she's a woman. And if they are against Obama, it looks like it's because he's black."

I asked for a reciept. He reached for one. As he turned to hand it to me, he said, "And then there's the fact that he's a Muslim."

I stopped. "No, he isn't. He belongs to a Christian church in Chicago." I explained that the media had investigated the rumor and proved it false. He didn't looked convinced. "What's with the funny name?" he asked. So that Muslim controversy still has legs.

But what I want to focus on is the hatred of Hillary. It is widespread and nasty, more than the media is usually willing to mention. So is she going to be a drag on the Democrats in down-ballot races? Will she hurt the Dems in Senate races, House races, local races? Democrats in conservative states say that she will, but it remains an open question.