Filtered news 12/21

"Bush might send more troops to Iraq. So apparently,
his goal is to achieve a negative popularity rating."
-- Jay Leno

I hope you're sitting down for this one

A once-prominent Iraqi American, jailed on corruption charges, was sprung from a Green Zone prison this weekend by U.S. security contractors he had hired, several Iraqi officials said.

Hummina-hummina... whaaaaaa?

Ayham Sameraei, a Chicago-area businessman, returned to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and assumed the position of electricity minister during the interim government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

A Sunni Arab who claimed ties to the insurgency, Sameraei was arrested in August of this year and charged with a dozen counts of misallocating millions of dollars in Iraqi government money. He was sentenced in October to two years' imprisonment. At that time, security contractors took him to the U.S. Embassy before he could be jailed, but U.S. officials handed him over to Iraqi authorities.

WTF? He escaped from jail with the help of American private security contractors? Americans?

I mean, heaven knows we love us some mercenaries around here. But this seems just so... so out of character!

There have been no suggestions that American officials had a role in Sameraei's escape Sunday afternoon. But the B-movie scenario of a rich businessman hiring armed muscle to bust himself out of jail from inside the fortress-like, U.S.-protected enclave could further contribute to Iraq's image of instability and lawlessness. The flamboyant former government minister's arrest and prosecution were held up by Iraqi and U.S. officials as a rare example of good government prevailing in the new Iraq.

It could further contribute to Iraq's image of instability and lawlessness? Gee, ya think?

I wonder if might contribute at all to that impression:

He told the [NY] Times he had managed to board a flight out of Baghdad International Airport and left Iraq but he did not offer any proof. Referring to a line about gangster Al Capone in the film ''The Untouchables,'' he said he escaped ''the Chicago way.''

Ah, what gumption! But surely there's a crack team leading an international manhunt, right? After all, not only was al-Samaraie imprisoned for fraud and corruption, but he was suspected of having strong ties to the Sunni insurgency.

Well, apparently not:

The newspaper quoted officials as saying someone as well known as al-Samaraie could not possibly have boarded a flight when he was the subject of a manhunt. But Al-Samaraie derided Iraqi and U.S. officials in the interview.

''Those suckers who are sitting in the Green Zone, they cannot go out and see the people they are governing?'' he was quoted as saying. ''This is a joke.

''So why I cannot take the airport? It's not because I am a smart cookie. Any Iraqi can do it, even if they have 10,000 court orders against him. This is Iraq.''

Where ever shall we find him? In a cave in Tora Bora? In the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat? Nah.

Al-Samaraie, who holds dual American and Iraqi citizenship, has a home in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook and told the Tribune he plans to return there after the new year. [...]

Al-Samaraie told the Tribune he did not think the U.S. would extradite him if he went ahead with his plan to resettle in Illinois.

''I think it would be the crime of the century if they were to send me back to Iraq or refuse me,'' he said. ''People wouldn't allow it. I have contacted senators and congressman to help me. I am coming back to Chicago. It is my home.''

UPDATE: Found him! There he is on the couch in... some office somewhere (yes, that's Dubya he's with).

It's about time somebody did!

"And recognize this as the worst of morasses,
From which we must exit, though slow as molasses,
To simply do something to cover their asses."

--Calvin Trillin in the , commenting on the Baker report.

It’s a .

A little late to that party, aren’t ya pal? Robert Gates was sworn in Monday as the new Secretary of Defense (today he's in Iraq assessing sweets and flowers levels). He said, "Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come."

Season of kindess The that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle (D) is interested in campaign and ethics reform. How refreshing! Our political system is broken, corruption is the order of the day, the public has connected the dots linking contributions to state contracts, issue groups are unregulated and they, not the candidates, frame the campaigns. But wait. The governor is not pushing the only reform that will drain the swamp, the Clean Elections bill sponsored by Mark Pocan and Fred Risser (my state senator) , he wants ethics reform. Sort of an Emily Post guideline to ethical corruption. "Honest Graft" as Brooks Jackson called it or, as I label it, "ethical bribery." Apparently the Pocan-Risser bill would make us too clean. What would lobbyists do? Hey! Lobbyists have feelings. If they can'tpurchase tax emptions, they would have to work at the legislative game. You know, convincing legislators instead of filling their campaign coffers. They have families to feed. Be kind!

Why the focus on "experience"? The sudden fixation is on "experience." Never asked is the question of why incumbency seems to ruin more people than it develops. Experience? Sitting in the Senate with 99 people who can't figure out why 47 million of our folks have no health insurance. That's experience! Or, how to duck tough questions on Meet The Press. Yup! Any potential president must know the bob and weave of Washington pols. Could a nation like ours ever elect a person who just told people the truth as he or she sees it?

Here's something real to get pissed off about Two recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stories tell us a great deal about our state and our country. First, Aurora St. Lukes in Milwaukee, despite an $83 million profit last year, has decided to turn away patients covered by Medicaid and Badger Care. In other words, St.Luke's no longer cares for poor people. Their spokesman, Mike Brophy, says "the patients who need the care are geting it." Of course he didn't finish the thought. They won't be "getting it" at St. Luke's in the future if they are low income. It must be embarassing for the St.Luke's bean-counters to take this action in the name of the saint who told the story of The Good Samaritan. So long good Samaritan, so long Medicaid patients, so long, so long. Face it. The healh care delivery system is broken. The Fransiscans closed the ER at St. Michaels in Milwaukee in June to keep the 40,000 people who used it in 2005 from the hospital. Why? Because so many of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles use the ER as the only place to get care. Why? Because 47 million Americans are without health insurance, that's why.

Now why would that be? to make public the final 10 documents about the surveillance of John Lennon that it had withheld for 25 years from a University of California, Irvine historian on the grounds that releasing them could cause ‘‘”

Sweet irony. On this date 202 years ago, the Louisiana Purchase was completed in a New Orleans ceremony with representatives of Napoleon's administration. The land mass encompasses parts of AR, MT, SD, ND, IA, KS, CO, WY, LA, OK, MS and NE. Imagine that---"red" states who owe their existence to France. Sacre bleu, pard'ner!

"First night of Hanukkah, Bush went hunting for colored eggs."
--David Letterman,

Corruption watch Did 9/11 really change everything?

Securities regulators charged Morgan Stanley DW Inc. with failing to hand over millions of e-mail messages to investigators and plaintiffs by falsely saying that the documents had been lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, according to a complaint filed yesterday.

The NASD alleged that the retail brokerage destroyed nearly 8 million electronic messages between September 2001 and March 2005, a period when documents preserved on backup tapes and on the computers of individual employees were deleted during the normal course of business.

It's a floor wax and a dessert topping! 9/11 is the perfect excuse for all occasions.

Insurance is the devil incarnate

CHRISTMAS PRESENT [John Derbyshire]
My health insurer has just notified me, in a brief form letter, that my monthly premiums are to rise from $472.33 to $857.00 on January 1st. That's an increase of 81 percent. ***E*I*G*H*T*Y*-*O*N*E* *P*E*R*C*E*N*T*** Can they do that? I called them. They sound pretty confident they can. Ye gods!

A conservative reader emailed this item to me with the following comment: "I've heard people say a conservative is just a liberal who's been mugged. Then maybe a liberal is just a conservative who suddenly got this in the mail."

Double-barrel blast of reality. Two victories in the war on religious extremism. First, a new from the Guttmacher Institute reveals that 95 percent of Americans don’t wait for marriage to have sex, thus destroying the credibility of programs (especially federally-funded ones) that have the word "abstinence" in them. Second, the school board in Cobb County, Georgia has of putting stickers in science books claiming evolution is just "a theory." Now, if we can just get them to admit that Jesus was a liberal hippie...

He's a lying sack of crap What President Bush called a question this morning about the possibility that he may increase troop levels in Iraq . One of the most telling moments from this morning's presidential press conference -- on whether he'll overrule the Joint Chiefs of Staff if they oppose his plan to "surge" the troop levels in Iraq. Bush has for years hidden behind the fairly transparently bogus claim that decisions about troop strength and deployment will be made based on the judgment of what the military brass thinks they need. That now seems to be a dead letter, though, as the Joint Chiefs are the White House plan to 'surge' troops in Baghdad for at least the first half of next year. As significant as the JCS's opposition, however, is the basis of their opposition. According to the Post, they believe the White House "still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military." I think there's a more blunt way of putting this. The administration refuses to deal with the actual sitaution in the country, the "limited alternatives." So they're pushing for more troops -- without any clear idea of what they will do, other than that more must be better than less -- because that's the easiest way to avoid dealing with what's actually happening in the country. It's a policy of denial.

The bottom of the barrel For their '08 candidate, conservatives could always resort to Newt Gingrich, who is already more or less . His main calling card is his claim to be the man who launched the very Republican Revolution in Congress that his successors allegedly betrayed, which nicely echoes the rationalization that so many conservatives are making in dismissing the ideological implications of the 2006 elections. To burnish his national security credentials, ol' Newt has become a cheerful and outspoken advocate of the idea of morphing the Global War On Terrorism into a rootin', tootin', shootin' World War III, with potential invasions of Iran and North Korea to ease the pain of Bush's Iraqi fiasco. (Way back in the early '80s, Gingrich spent some time urging state legislatures to adopt Lessons of Granada resolutions to celebrate that famous victory as an antidote to the Vietnam Syndrome; this is a guy who knows the value of starting wars to cheer people up after military defeats). On the down side, the Newtster has a few problems, including his serial marriages and cheating, his really bad Civil War novel, and his record as Bill Clinton's punching bag during the last half of the 1990s. But hey, you can't blame the guy for trying.

Land of the free? F'getaboutit Yesterday on Fox News, talk radio host Mike Gallagher said the U.S. government should “round up” actor Matt Damon, “The View” host Joy Behar, and MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann and “put them in a detention camp until this war is over because they’re a bunch of traitors.” Gallagher was upset over Behar’s comment that Time magazine should have chosen a controversial “” like Donald Rumsfeld as its Person of the Year. Gallagher said Damon should also be incarcerated because he “attacked George Bush and Dick Cheney”; he didn’t explain why he wanted to imprison Olbermann. Earlier this year, Gallagher was one of five conservative talk radio hosts . Yup. Speak your mind, go to detention camp. Sieg heil!

God is punishing them for being so stupid Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the outgoing chairman of the Senate environment committee, calls climate change “.” But the facts about global warming are clear, and as ClimateProgress notes, . A record-high 9.5 million acres have been burned by wildland fires in 2006, according to the National Climatic Data Center. As the U.S. Drought Monitor shows below, the northern part of Inhofe’s home state of Oklahoma is “,” while “nearly all of Oklahoma is at least experiencing ‘abnormally dry’ (yellow) conditions.” President Bush’s home state of Texas is also undergoing critical drought conditions.

Data from more than 50 climate models have revealed a direct link between rises in global temperature and damage to ecosystems, including higher risks of “” Almost 45 percent of the contiguous U.S. experienced “” this year, while “some areas, such as the Northeast of the country experienced record rainfalls and severe floods.” Researchers announced in May that deserts in the American Southwest “are creeping toward heavily populated areas as the jet streams shift,” meaning areas “

Bush now embraces Kerry's plan? Flip flop! Yesterday, President Bush announced his intention to , acknowledging that the current forces were “stressed.” The Washington Post reports he’s considering an increase of 50,000-70,000 troops.

On June 3, 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) — campaigning for the presidency — proposed . Bush quickly :

Bush’s campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld already has authorized 30,000 more troops through extended tours and new recruitment. He said the country would be “less safe” under Kerry’s approach.

In a news release, Kerry explained the problem with the Bush approach:

The Bush administration is relying on temporary solutions including “Stop Loss” orders, recalling the Individual Ready Reserve and extending tours to meet our commitments. These temporary measures have increased the burden on our troops and their families without addressing the underlying reality: we need more troops.

As recently as six months ago, President Bush was sticking to his guns. From a June 14, 2006, ““:

The Administration opposes increases in minimum active Army and Marine Corps end strengths in Title IV, because they could require DoD to maintain a higher personnel level than is needed. The restructuring of the Army and the Marine Corps, plus other initiatives, is enabling our military to get more warfighting capability from current end strength.

This “restructuring” was a central part of Rumsfeld’s efforts to make the military a “more modern force.” Bush cited those efforts as a key reason why he believed Rumsfeld was “” in history.

Too little too late The U.N. Security Council yesterday “gave its to a hybrid U.N.-African Union force for conflict-wracked Darfur and urged all parties to quickly beef up the beleaguered African force on the ground.”

Another foreign policy SNAFU The Bush administration “has been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad.” Middle East experts note that such efforts could make dialogue between the United States and Syria “.”

Wealth matters, work does not $53.4 million. The 2006 bonus for Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein. The bonus is the and comes on top of his $600,000 salary. What's in your wallet?

Iraq: 1 attack every 10 minutes In a sign of how difficult things are going to be for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Pentagon report released today shows that attacks in Iraq over the last three months have been the highest recorded over the course of the war. Adds the , "While the majority of attacks were directed at American forces, most of the casualties were suffered by the Iraqi military and civilians." As for the actual numbers, in the period of early August to early November, there were an average of 959 attacks (by insurgents, sectarian militias, etc.) every week against American and Iraqi targets. That's 137 a day; roughly six per hour and one every 10 minutes. For detailed information on Iraqi civilian deaths, see , one of the best sources of data on the subject. And for a Mother Jones story about Iraq Body Count's strange saga, see

Now we're holding Americans as POWs Buried in the Times' stunning on the detention of an American whistleblower at Iraq's notorious Camp Cropper -- surreal highlight: camp psychologist tells Vance to think of himself "as a soldier who has been kidnapped, and that you still have a duty to do" -- is a no less stunning two-sentence graf:

 

[Pentagon spokesman First Lt. Lea Ann] Fracasso said that currently there were three Americans in military custody in Iraq. The military does not identify detainees.

Legalities aside -- and they are disputed: remember U.S. filmmaker , who came forward with his own harrowing Iraq detention story last year? He has an all-star cast of lawyers working the case -- only Kafka could have invented a nation founded on the rule of law that lawlessly detains its own citizens in squalid camps overseas, without any kind of lawyer, due process, or shred of information to loved ones. Not to mention and in the process damaging them to the point where their own guards refer to them as "a piece of furniture." AND not to mention claiming that is being held at Guantanamo, days before 18 innocent men are sent home to their families. When our children grow , we'll have a lot of explaining to do.

He's seen enough “Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, has submitted plans to retire and .”

Corruption watch The Pentagon’s inability to manage contractors in the nation’s wars “has ” and cost the nation millions of dollars, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

What liberal media? Am I the only one who is bothered by the way the pundits continually point out that Edwards’s or Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience is a genuine weakness, while Guiliani’s lack of foreign policy experience is never mentioned? Unlike Guiliani, at least Edwards and Obama have served in a national office. And let's not forget that Bush had zero -- in foreign policy or in national policy of any sort.

The racists are already here Rep. Goode (R-VA) channels Paul Revere: This is really a beaut. VA Congressman Virgil Goode (R-VA) that a new congressman holding his swearing in ceremony with a Koran is the first step to the USA getting overrun by Muslim hordes. You'll wanna see this one. When called on it, he refused to apologize.

Comedic highlight of the day: Donald Trump doing a to impart morality forgiveness/absolution to Miss USA pageant winner who did some underaged drinking. Go forth and whore no more! (Spoken by a man fighting for the title of Whore of the World.)

Why would any paper pay to print this idiot? :

Which of the following scenarios constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, as prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution: (1) aborting a baby with a fully developed nervous system and probably inflicting great pain; (2) murdering a nightclub manager in cold blood; (3) taking 34 minutes -- twice the normal time -- to execute the murderer of the nightclub manager?

Anti-death penalty forces want us to believe No. 3. They claim the Dec. 13 execution in Florida of Angel Nieves Diaz took too long and required a second injection, thus violating the Eight Amendment. Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, has suspended all executions pending an investigation into the state's lethal-injection process.

In California, U.S. District Judge Jeremy D. Fogel declared California's execution procedure unconstitutional and lethal injections -- the preferred execution method in 37 states -- an offense to the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

One wishes such considerations were available to relatives of the deceased, and to the deceased themselves. Diaz spent more than two decades in prison before he was executed. That probably inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on the relatives of his victim.

Let's go through this very slowly for the benefit of those who didn't grasp 8th grade history, or high school civics: the Constitution places limits on the actions of the government, not private citizens. Abortion and murder are very bad things, but since they are not carried out by the government, the Constitution does not address them.

It's simplest if you think about this in terms of how someone gets justice for the wrong done to them:

 

  1. Aborted fetus - not a person, therefore not entitled to redress of wrongs. Legal rights not spelled out in Constitution. (Whether you agree with this reasoning or not, that is why fetuses don't get standing in courts.)

     

  2. Victim of crime (or their survivors) - can collect civil damages (see: Simpson, O.J.). The government may pursue criminal prosecution - but victims must abide by the limits of punishment as established by law. Legal rights not spelled out in Constitution.

     

  3. Convicted criminal - can appeal conviction or sue state. Legal rights specifically named in Constitution.

     

See the difference? It makes all the other comparisons beside the point.

Come to think of it, I'm not actually sure what Thomas' point is - something about muddled thinking on the death penalty vs. abortion law - but whatever it is, here's his conclusion:

To avoid this legal hair-splitting, why not return to an earlier and acceptable method of execution that ensures justice is done and inflicts minimal pain on the guilty: the firing squad.

It's unclear if he means this to apply to prisoners or fetuses in the womb. I suppose it doesn't matter, really. It'll do about the same amount of good either way.

Just for the sake of discussion. Say we 'surge' up 30,000 or 50,000 troops into Baghdad. And then after 3 or 6 or 9 months, nothing has changed or, more likely, the security situation is even worse. If both those things happen, will we then be told that ramping back to the pre-surge levels is something we can't do for fear of showing weakness to the enemy or admitting defeat? In other words, is this a surge or a ratchet?

Understanding your enemy watch President Bush : "'Terrorists’ can’t be God-believing people."

Let them drink sand Little fact glossed over in the new Pentagon report about what's going on in Iraq: about isn't making it to the people who need to drink it.

That should do the trick. From the : "The Defense Department is thinking about a major buildup of U.S. Navy forces in the Gulf as a show of force against Iran, a senior defense official said Tuesday."

Rudy willing to go any way the wind blows? ARudy Giuliani's , has what appears to be a subliminal openness to flipflopping message built in to his 'I'm a natural-born leader' website. If you look at this clipped section here from the top of Rudy's sites, half the flags seem to be blowing in wind to the right, and the other half in wind to the left.

Rudy: Proven (***Available for Blowing with the Prevailing Wind***) Leadership.

Kids? What kids? Rudy's brand-new Presidential exploratory committee web site bio his two kids from a previous marriage.

Another gem from the president's press conference this morning: Bush last week's "identity theft" immigration raids.

This is cool. 50,000 copies of the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth which were rejected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) after apparent pressure from Exxon and oil industry advocates are now offered free of charge to teachers via . The giveaway ends January 18, or when the DVDs run out. The website is the social activism arm of Participant Productions, the company behind this film and others including Good Night, and Good Luck, North Country, and Syriana. Teachers can request a copy at .

More smearing of Obama The onslaught of attacks from the punditry class on Barack Obama hasn't even really got off the ground yet, but they've already managed to be disgusting just the same. I caught last month highlighting his middle name as a signal of what's ahead for Barack and they have slowly started piling on ever since. caught Debbie "I wish I was Coulter" Schlussel's latest bigotry.

So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on Oprah); is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?

Media Matters has a of our liberal media in action including more on "Schlussey"

You go, Buster! Remember the story of how US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings went after the show "Postcards from Buster" because ? Well, little Buster is back, for an abbreviated season–they lost sponsors, so they couldn't produce the full 40 show season. But, bless his little furry, non-judgmental heart, Buster is not toning down the "controversy" to appease those . (reg req):

Perhaps surprisingly, this season continues to deal with hot-button issues. In an episode being shown today, Buster visits , an Army post in Missouri, to meet the family of a father who is stationed in Iraq. On Jan. 29 Buster will learn about the Mexican border, traveling with children to Tijuana from San Diego to meet their pen pals. And in the last show of the season, scheduled for Feb. 19, Buster revisits some children from the first season, whose homes in Louisiana were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Even the rightwingers are fed up with Bush Scarborough has made a definite turn-around on Bush over the past year, but it hasn't been as evident as it was on Wednesday's Scarborough Country. Joe appears to be totally fed up with the non-stop spin and ignorance coming from the White House and Bush's press conference apparently put the final nail in that coffin. While discussing Bush's possible plan of increasing troop levels, regardless of what the generals say, Scarborough even mentioned how there would be impeachment talk if Clinton was President and saying he would ignore our top military commanders. - WMV - QT Mike Barnicle was also on fire during this segment. He feels that Bush is delusional and going to place more lives in danger. I must say that I also feel the same way.

The Great Disappearing Data Mystery The Bush Administration has made a habit of discontinuing regularly-produced studies and reports that reflect poorly on its performance. TPMmuckraker has put together a list, and we have an addition. Some from , which started at the :

In March, the administration announced it would no longer produce the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, which identifies which programs best assist low-income families, while also tracking health insurance coverage and child support.

In 2005, after a government report showed an increase in terrorism around the world, the administration announced it would stop publishing its annual report on international terrorism.

When Bush’s Department of Education found that charter schools were underperforming, the administration said it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.

In December 2002, the administration curtailed funding to the Mass-Layoffs Statistics program, which released monthly data on the number and size of layoffs by U.S. companies. His father attempted to kill the same program in 1992, but Clinton revived it when he assumed the presidency.

As for our entry. In January 2006 we that the Bush Administration's reaction to the lack of progress women have made in the workplace is to stop collecting the facts: "Under Bush, the Labor Dept. has eliminated 25 publications on pay inequity and child care."

The source is a report titled "MISSING: Information About Women's Lives," which can be found [pdf]. From the introduction: "Vital data have been deleted, buried, altered, or otherwise gone missing from government websites and publications: priorities have changed, funding cut, research findings distorted, important social differences masked, critical committees and programs dismantled."

Why do they take on Jon Stewart? appeared on last night and Jon Stewart didn't pull any punches, challenging every single delusional neocon talking point he tried to put forward. WMP | MOV Kristol's other appearance on the show can be found (16MB WMV)

Kristol: Bush has been right about taking the war to them, not letting them come to us. [...]

Jon Stewart: In 1993 they bombed the World Trade Center, and they didn’t bomb again until, what, 2001? That's, what, eight years? So Clinton needs more credit than Bush, it would seem.

Kristol: Well, they attacked Africa in 1998.

Africa...Africa...Hmm. That's between North and South Dakota, right?

.

Old Blood and Guts. On December 21, 1945, General George Patton died from injuries received in a car crash at the age of 60. His words of wisdom for Democrats: "The test of success is not what you do when you're on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom." Boinggggg!! Wheee!! Pay . And tuck that shirt in.

Nothing sexist about the Foxnews.com . For men: "The guy's guy is back, so invest your money in macho and make this holiday season the season of the man." For women: Hugh Hefner's No. 1 girlfriend, Playmate Holly Madison, on what to buy for your gal." That's easy---oven mitts and new boobs, of course.

"It appears we've all agreed to forget that Bush has insisted that he would let the
troop levels be determined by the commanders on the ground. Now Bush wants to
increase troop levels against the commander's wishes. Why have we agreed to forget this?
Why isn't it in every news story about this stuff? Why aren't there any stories about it?"
-- Greg Sargent,

What liberal media? NPR owes us all an apology for its deadly lack of journalism leading up to the current horrors in Iraq. But instead of an apologizing, NPR seems determined to push on with more lousy reporting

Count one for the good guys. In the government's , someone with the right combination of chutzpah, legal expertise, and media savvy finally got the government to back down in a stand off. That "someone," of course, was the ACLU, who as of late has be enmeshed in a detailing the Army's new internal regulations on photographing detainees. (The document is now available on the and is relatively harmless.) What's remarkable is that there is no national security justification for suppressing the document. It was a use of the legal apparatus by the government to quash unflattering news, which is pretty draconian. Of course, the ACLU has some boasting to do: "This was a legal stand-off with enormous implications for free speech and the public's right to know, and today the government blinked," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The Bush Administration's attempt to suppress information using the grand jury process was truly chilling and is unprecedented in law and in our history as an organization. We could not be more pleased to have turned back the government from its strong-arm tactics." This is part and parcel with the Bush Administration's . "In this case," Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment lawyer, "the ACLU's function is presslike" in that is acts as a government watchdog and delivers important information to the public. A while back, Mother Jones mentioned that the number of subpoenas that the Heart Co. has received of its lawyers has . Other examples of press suppression abound, which is why the United States in the last Press Freedom Rankings.

The urge to surge. The Joint Chiefs of Staff---their tongues loosened by either Rumsfeld's exit or buckets of eggnog---have a message for President Bush, Saint John McCain, Last Honest Man Joe Lieberman, and all the other "hawks" calling for more troops in Iraq: :

The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq---including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias---without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn---then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

Which really only leaves one option: amass our troops inside a giant Trojan Virgin and wait for the insurgents to come out of hiding so we can ambush them. (A lottery will determine who gets to sit in the boobs.)

More wisdom of Ed Kilgore -- Conservatives and Gays: Hypocrisy or Bigotry? Andrew Sullivan has a fine up on the New Republic site explaning how Mary Cheney's pregnancy is exposing the basic choice conservatives have to face on gay and lesbian relationships. Here's how he frames the choice:

What are Republicans going to do about homosexuals? The fact that this question has been asked repeatedly does not mean that anyone has yet given it a serious answer. There are, broadly speaking, two rival conservative factions on the subject: religious fundamentalists, who want to outlaw or deter homosexual love and sex on biblical or natural law grounds; and old-school conservatives, who want to treat the entire issue as a private matter--supporting public policy hostile to gay people and gay relationships while privately treating gay individuals with tact and respect.

Conservative reaction to the Cheney news has, Sullivan explains, fallen into exactly these two categories. And of particular interest is the tendency of non-fundamentalist conservatives to deal with the whole issue by lapsing into embarassed silence. Andrew's recitation of the discussion of the Cheney pregnancy over at The Corner is very enlightening.

While Sullivan mentions the contrived nature of the conservative case for denying gays and lesbians their rights, I do think he understates the psychological importance of a delusional treatment of the "gay threat" to conservatives who would allegedly prefer not to deal with the topic. Fatally tempted by the political power of gay-bashing, these supposedly enlightened conservatives have to convince themselves and others that it's gays and lesbians themselves, with their allies in the judiciary, the clergy, and the Democratic Party, who are violating a don't-ask-don't-tell consensus. Thus you get all the talk about "activist judges" and gay rights advocates and so forth, with the underlying suggestion that conservatives and Republicans would be happy to leave gays and lesbians in peace if they'd just be quiet about it.

It's becoming increasingly impossible to distinguish such "arguments" from those made by many "enlightened" conservatives during the civil rights era. Jim Crow, they often said, would eventually die a natural death, but African-Americans needed to be patient and eschew "outside agitators" who prematurely forced the issue and unleashed race as a political issue.
Then as now, those who acknowledge fundamental injustice while supporting its continuation are hard to respect; at least racist and homophobic bigots are acting out of some sort of conviction.

But even in the fundamentalist camp that Sullivan identifies as the source of honest conservative homophobia, there's a whole lot of delusional thinking about the "gay threat." It's one thing to quietly say that in obedience to the innerrant Word of God (or, for Catholics, Church Tradition), you are opposed to legitimizing gay and lesbian relationships, as one of a thousand viewpoints that separate you from the fashions of secular society. It's another thing altogether to place this at the center of public discourse, as a litmus test of religious fidelity. But that's what so many fundamentalists have done, subordinating every other political, moral, and theological concern to the "threat," and tearing centuries-old denominations apart.

It's not as though heterosexuality is falling out of style. And while the institution of marriage has had better days, you'd have to be smoking a lot of crack to believe gay relationships have much to do with that. Some fundamentalist Protestants argue that accepting gay and lesbian relationships will destroy the authority of Holy Scripture. It's interesting that they believe scriptural authority depends on deifying a handful of random negative references to homosexual behavior, mostly in Pauline epistles whose authorship is unclear. Yet most Protestants seem to find it easy to rationalize a variety of exceptions to the direct and unambiguous statement of Jesus Christ about the indissolubility of marriage. So why the hysteria about gays?

Again, the analogy of racial equality may be instructive here. In my native South, completely sincere white folks devoted an enormous amount of attention for many generations to the religious sanctification of racial inequality, from slavery to segregation, splitting previously national denominations and essentially making injustice a sort of pious obligation. Confusing the past with the Divine Order (like my distant rural relatives who refused to accept Daylight Savings Time because Standard Time was "God's Time"), and confusing obedience to secular norms with obedience to God, they became the ultimate secularists even as they claimed they were fighting secularism. That may what's going on with some fundamentalist Christians and the issue of gay rights (and arguably, what's going on with Salafists who act as though subordination of women is the essence of Islam).

Eventually, we will see the time when all varieties of conservatives look back on their homophobic period with embarassment. Until then, it remains useful to expose their delusions for exactly what they are.

Published

December 21, 2006 - 1:14pm

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