Monday, November 27, 2006

John Roberts Tells Kurtz: Iraq Worse Than Media Shows

CNN's John Roberts, recently returned from a month-long visit to Iraq, was interviewed by The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz for his CNN "Reliable Sources" program on Sunday. Much of the talk concerned media treatment of the war, starting with complaints by U.S. soldiers, and then the overall media coverage.

Roberts revealed that despite some charges to the contrary, military personnel did not have a problem with the coverage and, in fact, the situation on the ground is an "absolute mess," worse than the media has shown. "The amount of death that's on the streets of Baghdad for U.S. forces and for the Iraqi people is at an astronomical level," he said. "So, to some degree, what we're seeing is sanitized." (More)

John in DC, AmericaBlog: Bush, Rummy, Condi, Cheney, O'Reilly, Hannity and the rest of the pathetic Republican liars in Congress and beyond have repeatedly told the American people that Iraq is actually going much better than we see on TV. We see only see the bad stuff on TV, they tell us. The American media is liberal and biased, they refuse to tell Americans how good things really are in Iraq.

Fine. Then Iraq is really going great. I'm so glad. I guess we can expect victory any day now. And when we don't achieve victory, I want everybody who supported this war - everybody who attacked Democrats for saying years ago that this war was a huge mistake - to apologize publicly. Far too many Americans bought into the Republicans' BS talking points about Iraq. And now we're paying the price for it, in the lives of our soldiers, in the utter destruction of Iraq.

Americans need to wake up to the fact that their choices have consequences. The Republican party owns this war. They keep telling us that victory is the only option. Fine. Then it's their job to get us out of it and prove that victory really is still an option.

Joe in DC, AmericaBlog: Iraq's leaders are blaming politics for the violence that has overtaken their country. They mean Iraqi politics. But it was American politics that started this war in the first place. It was the George Bush/Karl Rove brand of fear politics and their willingness to exploit 9/11 that pushed for this debacle. And it has been the failure of America's Republican politicians to take the actions necessary over the past 3 1/2 years to quell the violence. The GOP let partisan politics prevent them from challenging and questioning the way the war was being directed. Their politics – and their political leadership – are responsible for this disaster.

Politics are to blame. But, it was George Bush's politics of lies and deceit that started this war in the first place. There is plenty of blame to go around in Iraq. But, the initial blame begins with the man who started this war and never had a plan to finish it: George W. Bush.

Speaking of the media, FYI: Yesterday on Fox News, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) “accused a Fox News anchor of conducting a skewed interview designed to make Democrats look bad.” Frank told Chris Wallace, “Everything [you say] is aimed at trying to put us in a kind of a bad light.” Asked how fair Fox is when compared to other news outlets, Frank said the network is “substantially worse.”

Woman faces fines for wreath peace sign

DENVER - A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

"Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up," he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

LSB: Give me a f^%*&king break! Is this how far our PC sensibilities have taken us? What about that quaint Christmas sentiment – Peace on Earth, Good Will to All? How is this equivalent to a sign that says ‘drop bombs on Iraq?’ Three or four residents out of how many complained? There are at least that many in every neighborhood that will complain about anything!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mortars set fire to U.S. base in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two mortar rounds hit a U.S. military post in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, setting it on fire, police and witnesses said. A large cloud of black smoke was seen rising above Baladiyat, a predominantly Shiite area of capital, at about 3 p.m.

Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesman, confirmed that "indirect fire rounds" had landed in the vicinity of the coalition forward operating base, but he refused to describe the results of the attack, saying that would allow "the enemy" to assess its effectiveness.

He said the strike was launched from just outside nearby Sadr City, the Shiite slum where more than 200 people were killed on Thursday in an attack by Sunni Arab insurgents using car bombs and mortars. (More)

LSB: Colonel, you don't have to acknowledge the attacks - the rising plumes of black smoke from the fires did that for you. When are we going to stop with the euphemisms and call a spade a spade? This was an attack, and the so-called 'civil unrest' is actually a civil war. Period. The U.S. presence in Iraq is only exacerbating the problem and encouraging the insurgency. We're not helping the Iraqi people (look how many are dying each day in sectarian violence) nor the cause of democracy. Let's declare victory and leave. This ill-conceived, undermanned and poorly executed occupation, brought to us by the collective arrogance of Bush-Cheney-Rice-Rumsfeld, needs to end before the next American G.I. dies.

Energy Firms Come to Terms With Climate Change

Washington Post: While the political debate over global warming continues, top executives at many of the nation's largest energy companies have accepted the scientific consensus about climate change and see federal regulation to cut greenhouse gas emissions as inevitable.

The Democratic takeover of Congress makes it more likely that the federal government will attempt to regulate emissions. The companies have been hiring new lobbyists who they hope can help fashion a national approach that would avert a patchwork of state plans now in the works. They are also working to change some company practices in anticipation of the regulation.

"We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?" (More)

LSB: With former oil men Bush and Cheney marginalized by a Democratic congress the oil companies only now have been forced to recognize what everyone else in the country recognized years ago. Terrific. Bet the oil boys wish they would have ponied up more funds for the Repubs so they could continue denying the evidence they so clearly see now. Time for a serious energy policy and some congressional oversight, folks.

U.S. Finds Iraq Insurgency Has Funds to Sustain Itself

NYT: The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.

As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year. (More)

LSB: France is an easy target to blame, but let’s not forget the ransom FOX NEWS paid for their reporters. Nor should we forget the $800 MILLION U.S. TAXPAYER DOLLARS that cannot be accounted for by the corrupt politicians Bush installed in Baghdad. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Bush tell us the Iraqi oil reserves would pay for OUR portion of the war effort? And where in this report is el-Qaeda mentioned? Isn’t the war on terror what we’re fighting – so why is only the civil insurgency being mentioned these days?

This is how screwed up Iraq is

More details from the attacks today in Iraq, where Shiites burned Sunni worshippers alive with kerosene:

Police Capt. Jamil Hussein said Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene in the burnings of Sunnis carried out by suspected members of the
Shiite Mahdi Army militia, or in subsequent attacks that torched four Sunni mosques and killed at least 19 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same northwest Baghdad area...

In spite of the police and witness accounts, however, President Jamal Talabani appeared to discount the reports. He emerged from meetings with other Iraqi political leaders late Friday and said Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obaidi told him that the Hurriyah neighborhood had been quiet throughout the day.

According to Hussein, the police official, militiamen rampaged through the district, setting fire to several homes in addition to the four mosques that were bombed and burned.

Some residents claimed that the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has begun kidnapping and holding Sunni hostages in order to slaughter them at funerals of Shiite victims of Baghdad's sectarian violence.

George Bush has turned Iraq from a civil war into all-out barbarism. Let's tick off the salient details of just how much worse Iraq is today than yesterday:

  1. They're now burning each other alive.
  2. The Iraqi Army isn't worth squat, after all these years of training we gave them, and after all of these promises from Bush and the generals (and Condi, and Cheney, and Rummy) that the Iraqi Army was almost all ready to take over.
  3. The Iraqi president, however, sounds quite ready to take over - he sounds just like any other third world despot, denying carnage that's taking place right under his nose (Vladimir Putin, anyone?).
  4. You'll notice that Al Qaeda isn't mentioned even once amid all the carnage. This is all about Iraq and Iraqis hating each other, and killing each other. Iraq never had anything to do with the war on terror, and it sure as hell doesn't now. America is a full partner in a brutal religious and ethnic civil war. All because our president is an idiot, and 51% of our fellow Americans voted for that idiot a second time.

Congratulations, Republican America - you voted for it, you own it.

John in DC, AmericaBlog

Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former U.S. general

MADRID (Reuters) - Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished,"" she told Saturday's El Pais.

"The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."

The Geneva Convention says prisoners of war should suffer "no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion" to secure information.

Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish: General Karpinski has some credibility as the former commander of all military prisons in Iraq. When she says that Rumsfeld personally signed off on the Abu Ghraib abuses, she is not easily dismissed (although you can expect pro-torture Republicans to do so). The evidence that Rumsfeld was personally involved in the torture of al-Qatani in Gitmo is well documented. He even micro-managed the length of time Qatani was required to stand, chained to the floor. That Rumsfeld sent the Gitmo torture-architect, General Geoffrey Miller, to Abu Ghraib to "Gitmoize" it, is also well documented.

But that he actually signed off on key measures to inflict prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and to violate the Geneva Conventions by ensuring certain prisoners were never registered (so they could be tortured without a paper trail) is news. All of this needs thorough Congressional investigation, and criminal charges if necessary. There was a reason the Bush administration rushed through the Military Commissions Act before the last election. It was their last chance to give Rumsfeld, Cheney, Gonzales and Bush retroactive legal impunity for their war crimes. They succeeded. But international law can still be brought to bear. And the light of day can still be shed on what these men ordered, and what torture techniques they endorsed and monitored. This is not over.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Leaked Drug Company Memo: Santorum Loss "Creates A Big Hole We Will Need To Fill"..."We Now Have Fewer Allies In The Senate"...

Drug companies are particularly hungry for Democratic help, including the industry's trade association."We woke up the day after the election to a new world," said Ken Johnson, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. "We're going to have tough days ahead of us."

A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. "We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. "Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.

The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill," the e-mail says. Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) "is expected to be a problem," it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "will strengthen his ability to challenge us."

Read the entire article here.

Senate Democrats Revive Demand for Classified Data

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 — Seeking information about detention of terrorism suspects, abuse of detainees and government secrecy, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are reviving dozens of demands for classified documents that until now have been rebuffed or ignored by the Justice Department and other agencies.

“I expect real answers,” said Patrick J. Leahy, soon to be Senate Judiciary chairman, “or we’ll have testimony under oath until we get them.”

“I expect real answers, or we’ll have testimony under oath until we get them,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who will head the committee beginning in January, said in an interview this week. “We’re entitled to know these answers, and in many instances we don’t get them because people are hiding their mistakes. And that’s no excuse."

al-Sadr followers in Iraqi parliament say they will boycott government over Bush meeting next week

Bush's meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister next week could bring down the Iraqi government. Everything Bush does in Iraq makes the quagmire worse:

In Baghdad, followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened to boycott parliament and the Cabinet if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meets with President Bush in Jordan next week, a member of parliament said. Bush and al-Maliki were scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Amman.The al-Sadr bloc in parliament and government is the backbone of al-Maliki's political support, and its withdrawal, if only temporarily, would be a severe blow to the prime minister's already shaky hold on power.
Joe in DC, AmericaBlog

Bush is at Camp David tonight? Hmm... methinks someone is trying to look presidential

FOX News is on (don't ask), and I just heard that Dear Leader is spending the night at Camp David. Camp David? I think Mr. 31% is trying awfully hard to look presidential, now that nobody likes him anymore. He never stays at Camp David. That isn't his thing. The fact that he's doing it tonight, on a major holiday, when he almost never does, suggests to me that the Bush spin-folk are trying to paint him as a "real" president by tapping into the public memory of Camp David as a place of history. They're trying to save his presidency, make him "relevant" again. But rather than do it with substance, because the man has no substance, they're doing it with symbolism.He's so pathetic.

John in DC, AmericaBlog

More on the Chicken Hawks from O’Donnell

I've interviewed LO for C&L before and he speaks his mind for sure. Following up on O'Donnell's appearance on Scarborough Country, Lawrence keeps up the pace.

Advocating war is easier when you and your family are not endangered by it. I've reached a Rangel-like breaking point with my TV pundit colleagues who championed the Iraq war and now say we can't leave even if we went there for the wrong reasons. For every one of them, I have a simple question: Why aren't you in Iraq? Or why did you avoid combat in your generation's war? The one unifying characteristic that all of us men in make-up on political chat shows share is fear of combat. Every one of us has done everything we can to avoid combat or even being fitted for a military uniform. Just like George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney, we are all combat cowards. It takes a very special kind of combat coward to advocate combat for others. It's the kind of thing that can get you as angry as Charlie Rangel.

Flaws Cited in Effort to Train Iraqis

Thomas Ricks nails it...

In dozens of official interviews compiled by the Army for its oral history archives, officers who had been involved in training and advising Iraqis bluntly criticized almost every aspect of the effort. Some officers thought that team members were often selected poorly. Others fretted that the soldiers who prepared them had never served in Iraq and lacked understanding of the tasks of training and advising. Many said they felt insufficiently supported by the Army while in Iraq, with intermittent shipments of supplies and interpreters who often did not seem to understand English.

[..]Some of the American officers even faulted their own lack of understanding of the task. "If I had to do it again, I know I'd do it completely different," reported Maj. Mike Sullivan, who advised an Iraqi army battalion in 2004. "I went there with the
wrong attitude and I thought I understood Iraq and the history because I had seen PowerPoint slides, but I really didn't."

Read on

A Question for our Liberal Media on McCain

Is he going to switch to the Democratic Party now?
There is no ambiguity there whatsoever: McCain very clearly stated that if additional troops aren't sent into Iraq, the war will be unwinnable. And if that becomes the case, McCain said, he "cannot" ask soldiers to return to Iraq. This would be "immoral," he says.

Okay, then — if President Bush decides against troop increases, will McCain then stop supporting the continued troop presence there and call for withdrawal? Will the media press him on this point? And if McCain does continue to support the U.S. troops staying in Iraq — which by his own lights would be "immoral" — will reporters and commentators note the glaring contradiction?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

LSB: What are you thankful for today? I'm thankful that the American people have taken back control of their government. George W. is responsible for a lot of memories that will haunt Americans for a long time… memories of Shock and Awe, Abu Ghraib, Katrina, Fallujah, Samarra, Baghdad, Baghdad, Baghdad... For six years, he and his puppetmasters have worked overtime to turn my country into something I often do not even recognize. I am thankful that following the November elections this is not his America any more... not all the way… not all the time... It is going to be a long struggle to regain our position in the world and even to rediscover the trust of our own citizens. But we will get it back. Our country is going to be ours again. I hope each and every one of you enjoys your Thanksgiving today! (Rewarming an older post I found specifically for today. Enjoy!)

04/03/2003: Allow me to present (i.e., steal) a posting by MadMathew over on Table Talk.

Here's my reply to a coworker's observation that "Boy, you really seem to have problems with Bush."

Aside from the fact that he’s a drunken, coke-snorting frat boy who partied his way through life, never doing a damned thing except trading on his family’s name… And he deserted (stopped showing up, that is) from his cushy National Guard post during Viet Nam after the flight physicals started including drug tests… And every business he ever owned cratered right into the ground…ditto the Texas state budget… And a group of truly evil polluters from the petrochemical industry recruited him to run and financed the effort… And that he was selected into office by clear vote shenanigans in Florida, on a 5-4 vote of a partisan Republican majority on the Supreme Court, in a decision that will go down with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson as among the court’s worst ever… And that despite having no mandate, he persists in ramming through a hyperpartisan extreme right-wing agenda, weakening pollution laws, financing tax giveaways to the rich, cutting veterans’ benefits and education assistance, walking away from already agreed upon treaties and appointing judges who will force desperate women back to the back alley butchers… And that his attorney general says those who dare question the Bush Junta are traitors (well, he said “give aid and comfort to terrorists,” but close enough)… And that if you are deemed an “enemy combatant,” with that decision left solely up to the authorities, you can be arrested without warrant, detained without lawyer or trial, held incommunicado indefinitely, and executed on the sole order of the president… And that we’ve gone from having a president who was lionized overseas, got standing ovations in foreign parliaments, who brought peace to Northern Ireland and was “this” close to achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians, to having a president whose arrogant, bellicose speeches have him almost universally despised, to the point where he dares not travel outside the U.S. for fear of historic, massive
protests, except for quick photo-op trips to U.S. military bases… And that the economy is completely in the dumpster… And that he’s so inept he lost a PR battle with Saddam Insane… And that despite claims of being “born again,” and that the Iraq war was a last resort, Time magazine reported that he stuck his head into a meeting not long after Sept. 11 and shouted, “F*ck Saddam, we’re taking him out,” which doesn’t sound like someone born again OR considering war only as a last resort… And that a wave of ignorant nativism topping the Alien and Sedition Acts of the early 1800s, the Red Scare of the 1920s and the McCarthyism of the 1950s is now sweeping the country, with people being beaten and having their homes vandalized and losing jobs and being arrested simply for asking questions about invading another country that has not attacked us, with all this applauded by the crowd in Washington… Well, no, other than that, I have no problem with Little George at all.

Nope. I guess I don't have any problem with him either, once you leave all that aside.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gay, Straight, Or Stupid?

Lifetime has announced a new dating show called Gay, Straight, Or Taken?, in which women will go on a series of solo and group outings with three men and try to determine which one is gay, which one is straight and single, and which one is straight and in a relationship. If she picks "right" one, namely the single straight guy, she wins an exotic trip with him. If she picks one of the others, the chosen "wrong" guy wins a trip with his significant other.

Talk about endorsing heteronormative repression.

If I understand the Lifetime concept properly, the task for the gay guy is to completely sublimate any hints of his gayness. He must pass, to win. What an uncharacterically vivid evocation of real life, especially for Lifetime. The producers are likely grooming the gay candidates with tons of pointers: "Don't dress too well. Talk about sports. And for God's sake, don't fawn over her haircut. In fact, don't express a whit of your natural personality or real self. Don't act, look, think, talk or walk GAY. Because that will make you a loser."

It guiltily reminds me of my stint on 20/20, although at least none of the producers at ABC asked us gay guys to pretend we were anything we weren't. There's plenty of gay guys out there who don't bear the slightest outward sign of their queerness, but I don't think game shows should be giving out prizes for it.


While Shopping This Weekend, Remember....

I would never ordinarily support shopping at Walmart, but those wack-ack-acky fundies will be out in force this weekend, protesting Walmart's recent membership in the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber Of Commerce.

(See what the fundies have driven me to? Supporting Walmart! They's evil, evil I tells ya!)


UPDATE: Religious right caves, as usual. John in DC, AmericaBlog writes: The religious right called off their ludicrous "two days after Thanksgiving" boycott of Wal-Mart (it's not really a boycott when you tell folks it's okay to shop Thursday and Sunday and every other day except Friday and Saturday). Anyway, Wal-Mart issued a statement saying they have not taken a position on gay marriage - uh, duh - so the religious right called off their boycott. Oh yeah, Wal-Mart also said they won't support controversial causes - again, duh, what company does? The irony here, of course, is that the religious right think this means that Wal-Mart will no longer reach out to its gay customers. Not true from what I hear. Nothing has changed at all. Check this out from AP:

Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president of communications, said in a telephone interview that the company would continue working with the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and other gay-rights groups on specific issues such as workplace equality.

Wal-Mart has simply said it won't support "controversial causes" - gay customers aren't controversial customers. Not to mention, to the degree to which controversial causes includes the gay community, it would also include the evangelical Christian community. So, at worst, the religious right just got Wal-Mart to issue a statement writing them off. As an aside, this entire campaign has been coordinated by the religious right hate group the American Family Association. They have a track record of lying about these boycotts, then claiming victory when they lost (e.g., Disney, Ford).

Got these bumper stickers?

In the Shadow of Ho Chi Minh

President Bush has said many dumb things in defense of his Iraq policy. Citing the Vietnam War as a model, however, is perhaps his most ludicrous yet.

This past week found the president sitting before a bust of the victorious Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, seemingly unaware that the United States lost its war with the Communist-led country.

Having long and vehemently denied parallels between the invasions of Vietnam and Iraq, he nevertheless admitted now to seeing one.

"Yes," Bush said. "One lesson is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is ... just going to take a long period of time to--for the ideology that is hopeful, and that's an ideology of freedom, to overcome an ideology of hate.... We'll succeed, unless we quit."

Bush seems not to have noticed that we succeeded in Vietnam precisely because we did quit the military occupation of that nation, permitting an ideology of freedom to overcome one of hate. Bush's rhetoric is frighteningly reminiscent of Richard Nixon's escalation and expansion of the Vietnam War in an attempt to buy an "honorable" exit with the blood of millions of Southeast Asians and thousands of American soldiers. In the end, a decade of bitter fighting did not prevent an ignominious U.S. departure from Saigon.

Now, however, Vietnam is at peace with its neighbors and poses no security threat to the United States. Many of the "boat people" have returned as investors, and successive American presidents have made visits to the second fastest-growing economy in Asia. While Vietnam is still run by its Communist Party, eventually postwar leaders on both sides have accepted that peace is practical.

The lesson of Vietnam is not to keep pouring lives and treasure down a dark and poisonous well, but to patiently use a pragmatic mix of diplomacy and trade with even our ideological competitors. (More)

Robert Scheer, HuffingtonPost

A Parting Shot From George Allen

NYT Editorial:
As a last little gift to America, Senator George Allen, who was narrowly defeated by James Webb this month, has introduced what may be his final piece of legislation: a bill that would allow the carrying of concealed weapons in national parks. The argument behind the bill is that national park regulations unfairly strip many Americans of a right they may enjoy outside the parks. The bill has passed to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where we hope it will die the miserable death it deserves.
LSB: Good-bye, good riddance!

What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality?

When religion loses its credibility

… It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.

This time, Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability.

Answer in Scriptures

So, why are so many church leaders (not to mention Orthodox Jewish and Muslim leaders) persisting in their view that homosexuality is wrong despite a growing stream of scientific evidence that is likely to become a torrent in the coming years? The answer is found in Leviticus 18. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."

As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.

For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred.

The truth is that mainstream religion has moved beyond animal sacrifice, slavery and the host of primitive rituals described in Leviticus centuries ago. Selectively hanging onto these ancient proscriptions for gays and lesbians exclusively is unfair according to anybody's standard of ethics. We lawyers call it "selective enforcement," and in civil affairs it's illegal.

A better reading of Scripture starts with the book of Genesis and the grand pronouncement about the world God created and all those who dwelled in it. "And, the Lord saw that it was good." If God created us and if everything he created is good, how can a gay person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?

Turning to the New Testament, the writings of the Apostle Paul at first lend credence to the notion that homosexuality is a sin, until you consider that Paul most likely is referring to the Roman practice of pederasty, a form of pedophilia common in the ancient world. Successful older men often took boys into their homes as concubines, lovers or sexual slaves. Today, such sexual exploitation of minors is no longer tolerated. The point is that the sort of long-term, committed, same-sex relationships that are being debated today are not addressed in the New Testament. It distorts the biblical witness to apply verses written in one historical context (i.e. sexual exploitation of children) to contemporary situations between two monogamous partners of the same sex. Sexual promiscuity is condemned by the Bible whether it's between gays or straights. Sexual fidelity is not.

What would Jesus do?

For those who have lingering doubts, dust off your Bibles and take a few hours to reacquaint yourself with the teachings of Jesus. You won't find a single reference to homosexuality. There are teachings on money, lust, revenge, divorce, fasting and a thousand other subjects, but there is nothing on homosexuality. Strange, don't you think, if being gay were such a moral threat?

On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.

So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?

The suffering that gay and lesbian people have endured at the hands of religion is incalculable, but they can look expectantly to the future for vindication. Scientific facts, after all, are a stubborn thing. Even our religious beliefs must finally yield to them as the church in its battle with Galileo ultimately realized. But for religion, the future might be ominous. Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you're powerless to stop it. The more church leaders dig in their heels, the worse it's likely to be.

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is a Baptist minister and author of an upcoming book, “10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).”

Bush ‘feels the warmth’ through the bubble

The "bubble" that protects the president from competing ideas and possible critics here in the United States has gone international. Consider Bush's recent trip to Vietnam, and the "connection" the president made with the Vietnamese people:

On Saturday, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, conceded that the president had not come into direct contact with ordinary Vietnamese, but said that they connected anyway.

"If you'd been part of the president's motorcade as we've shuttled back and forth," he said, reporters would have seen that "the president has been doing a lot of waving and getting a lot of waving and smiles." He continued: "I think he's gotten a real sense of the warmth of the Vietnamese people."
I can't be sure exactly how Hadley defines "connected," but exchanging waves from a speeding car is hardly the ideal way to get "a real sense of warmth."

Unfortunately, this fits into a pattern. When Bush went to India in March, he avoided regular people. When the president barnstormed through East Asia last year, he "visited no museums, tried no restaurants, bought no souvenirs and made no effort to meet ordinary local people."

It's remarkable, but we've elected a world leader who has no real interest in the world.

-Steve Benen
LSB: "...we've elected a world leader who has no real interest in the world." Steve, W's tenure as Texas Governor should have given the electorate a clue about that. Unlike Ann Richards, who traveled extensively promoting Texas and Texas businesses, as govenor W rarely left the state and during the 2000 campaign was proud to say that he'd never been outside the U.S. W's understanding of the world, his knowledge of other cultures, and his sense of global politics have come to him through the perspectives of Dr. Rice and Dick Cheney, neither of them exactly world travelers prior W's 2000 stolen election, so it should be no surprise to anyone that he really has little interest in the world.

US Airways bigots tells Muslim Imams they're no longer welcome on airline

Outrageous story. It's one thing for US Airways to remove six Muslim clerics from a flight yesterday because passengers complained that they saw the Imams praying. Okay, I'm not sure what you do when passengers start freaking out. But it's quite another thing for US Airways to refuse to let one of the Imams buy ANOTHER ticket today when he tried to re-book his flight. Why did US Airways refuse to sell the Imam the ticket? Because he was involved in a "security incident," and US Airways policy is to ban such people.Get that? The security incident was that the guy prayed in an airport. He's an Imam, that's the Muslim equivalent of a priest. He prayed. So now he can't fly on US Airways ever again.

"This was humiliating, the worst moment of my life," Shahin said Tuesday, a day after he and five fellow Muslim imams were escorted off a US Airways jet at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"To practice your faith and pray is a crime in America?" he said.

John in DC, AmericaBlog

LSB: If a Catholic priest crosses himself before a flight, would he have been removed? No. While I understand that terrorist concerns are at the forefront of airport travel these, a little common sense is needed – a would-be terrorist would be more discreet, not openly praying and calling attention to himself. This incident reminds me again of that famous 1960 TWILIGHT ZONE episode titled “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”:

Closing Narration: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own – for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone."

Elder Bush takes on son's Arab critics

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Former President George H.W. Bush took on Arab critics of his son Tuesday during a testy exchange at a leadership conference in the capital of this U.S. ally.

"My son is an honest man," Bush told members of the audience harshly criticized the current U.S. leader's foreign policy.

The oil-rich Persian Gulf used to be safe territory for former President Bush, who brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait in 1991. But gratitude for the elder Bush, who served as president from 1989-93, was overshadowed at the conference by hostility toward his son, whose invasion of Iraq and support for Israel are deeply unpopular in the region.

"We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman in the audience bluntly told Bush after his speech.

Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.

LSB: That son you're so proud of is a fuck-up, old man. Sometimes the truth hurts, but thank heavens that woman in the audience told him exactly what the world is thinking.

Bush to meet Iraqi Prime MInister -- In Jordan, he's not going to Baghdad this time

No "surprise visit" to Baghdad next week. Bush isn't even going to the country he invaded. He's meeting in a safe place:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush will meet Iraqi Prime inister
Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan next week with grim new statistics showing record numbers of Iraqis were killed last month and many more fled the country. …

The meeting between Bush and Maliki in the Jordanian capital Amman, a much safer venue than Baghdad, will follow a weekend visit to Iran by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and this week's landmark visit to Iraq by Syria's foreign minister.
Funny how Bush is rushing over to meet al-Maliki now that Iran and Syria are becoming Iraq's new best friends.

3,709 civilians killed in October according to UN calculations. Bush and the GOP are disgracefully casual with the mounting deaths of innocent Iraqis and still do not seem to appreciate the mess that they created.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Jon Stewart: Orthodox Jews v. Gay Pride

AmericaBlog Hot Topics

Why Karen Carter's run-off race in Lousiana matters

John in DC: Tim Targaris explains in detail. But suffice it to say that Karen Carter is a great progressive voice running in the deep south. And she's taking on a man who personally embodies the corruption that took down the Republican party this election, except this guy is a Democrat. His name is William Jefferson, and you might remember him as the guy who stocked away $90,000 in his freezer until the FBI found it. Jefferson is also making a mainstay of his campaign gay-baiting and attacking Carter for being pro-choice. Yes, not only is the man a crook, but he's proudly running as an anti-gay and anti-choice candidate. Because, you see, Jefferson says HE'S the values candidate. Uh huh, the guy with $90,000 hidden in his freezer is the values candidate. With his affinity for freezers, let's see how he likes it in the cooler.

This guy needs to go. He's not only going to be an albatross around our necks, but do we really need this kind of corruption in our government? I don't think so.

Pentagon is considering massive troop increase (oh, but it's just a short-term massive increase)

Joe in DC: They're calling it the "surge option." Massive increase in troops to get things under control. It sounds more like the Pentagon's version of a Hail Mary pass, except a lot of people will die:

Pentagon officials conducting a review of Iraq strategy are considering a substantial but temporary increase in American troop levels and the addition of several thousand more trainers to work with Iraqi forces, a senior Defense Department official said Monday.

The idea, dubbed the “surge option” by some officials, would involve increasing American forces by 20,000 troops or more for several months in the hope of improving security, especially in Baghdad. That would mark a sharp rise over the current baseline of 144,000 troops.

The same brain-trust that got us in to this mess just can't figure out how to get us out of this mess. Instead of de-escalating, they're on the verge of escalating the mess.

Don't forget. Increasing the number of troops in Iraq by 20,000 is John McCain's brilliant idea, too.

OSHA threatens scientist who issued asbestos warning

Chris is Paris: Will it never end with this administration? Do they have to turn back the clock on science every time? This time the threat of being sacked came from the former OSHA head, former Big Auto friend John Henshaw, who did not like that an OSHA scientist ran studies and then issued an asbestos health warning related to automobile brakes. Big Auto did not like the warning and did not see any reason why such an warning needed to be issued. Many consumers and workers were unaware of the continued asbestos tainted car brakes being imported into the US. It's going to be nice having balance in government again.

It took six years to get federal worker safety officials to issue warnings to auto mechanics that the brakes they're working on could contain lethal asbestos fibers. But it took only three weeks after the warnings were posted before a former top federal official with ties to the auto industry reportedly pushed to have them removed.

John Henshaw, a former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, called Aug. 15 for the agency to make changes to its warnings, according to documents obtained by The Sun.

But Ira Wainless, an OSHA scientist who wrote the advisory bulletin about asbestos in brakes, refused, according to agency documents. Wainless cited dozens of studies, including work at his own agency, to show that his presentation of the medical risk to mechanics was solid.

Last week, David Ippolito, an official with OSHA's Directorate of Science, Technology and Medicine, told Wainless that he would be suspended without pay for 10 days if the changes weren't made, according to documents.

Olbermann Delivers A Special Comment Educating Bush on Vietnam


And now, as promised, a Special Comment about the President's visit to Vietnam.

It is a shame — and it is embarrassing to us all — when President Bush travels 8,000 miles, only to wind up avoiding reality, again.

And it is pathetic to listen to the leader of the free world, talk so unrealistically about Vietnam, when it was he who permitted the "Swift-Boating" of not one but two American heroes of that war, in consecutive Presidential campaigns.

But most importantly — important, beyond measure — his avoidance of reality is going to wind up killing more Americans.

And that is indefensible — and fatal.

Asked if there were lessons about Iraq to be found in our experience in Vietnam, Mr. Bush said that there were — and he immediately proved he had no clue what they were.

"One lesson is," he said, "that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while."

"We'll succeed," the President concluded, "unless we quit."

If that's the lesson about Iraq that Mr. Bush sees in Vietnam, then he needs a tutor. Or we need somebody else making the decisions about Iraq.

Mr. Bush, there are a dozen central lessons to be derived from our nightmare in Vietnam, but "we'll succeed unless we quit" is not one of them.

The primary one — which should be as obvious to you as the latest opinion poll showing that only 31 percent of this country agrees with your tragic Iraq policy– is that if you try to pursue a war for which the nation has lost its stomach, you and it are finished. Ask Lyndon Johnson.

The second most important lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: if you don't have a stable local government to work with, you can keep sending in Americans until hell freezes over and it will not matter. Ask South Vietnam's President Diem, or President Thieu.

The third vital lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: don't pretend it's something it's not. For decades we were warned that if we didn't stop "communist aggression" in Vietnam, communist agitators would infiltrate and devour the small nations of the world, and make their insidious way, stealthily, to our doorstep.

The war machine of 1968 had this "Domino Theory." Your war machine of 2006 has this nonsense about Iraq as "the central front in the war on terror."

The fourth pivotal lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: if the same idiots who told Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to stay there for the sake of "Peace With Honor," are now telling you to stay in Iraq, they're probably just as wrong now, as they were then… Dr. Kissinger.

And the fifth crucial lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush, which somebody should've told you about, long before you plunged this country into Iraq — is that, if you lie us into a war — your war, and your presidency, will be consigned to the scrapheap of history.

Consider your fellow Texan, sir.

After President Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson held the country together after a national tragedy — not unlike you tried to do.

He had lofty goals and he tried to reshape society for the better. And he is remembered for Vietnam and for the lies he and his government told to get us there and keep us there… and for the Americans who needlessly died there.

As you will be remembered for Iraq and for the lies you and your government told to get us there and keep us there… and for the Americans who needlessly died there — and who will needlessly die there tomorrow.

This president has his fictitious Iraqi W-M-D, and his lies (disguised as subtle hints) linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11, and his reason-of-the-week for keeping us there when all the evidence has, for at least three years, told us we needed to get as many of our kids out, as quickly as we could.

That president had his fictitious attacks on Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, and the next thing any of us knew, the Senate had voted 88-to-2 to approve the blank check with which Lyndon Johnson paid for our trip into hell.

And yet President Bush just saw the grim reminders of that trip into hell:
  • Of the 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese killed;
  • Of the 10,000 civilians who've been blown up by landmines since we pulled out;
  • Of the genocide in the neighboring country of Cambodia, which we triggered;
Yet, these parallels — and these lessons — eluded President Bush entirely. And, in particular, the one over-arching lesson about Iraq that should've been written everywhere he looked in Vietnam, went un-seen.

We'll succeed unless we quit"?

Mr. Bush, we did quit in Vietnam! A decade later than we should have; 58,000 dead later than we should have; but we finally came to our senses.

The stable, burgeoning, vivid country you just saw there is there, because we finally had the good sense to declare victory and get out!

The Domino Theory was nonsense, sir. Our departure from Vietnam emboldened no one. Communism did not spread like a contagion around the world.

And most importantly — as President Reagan's Assistant Secretary of State Lawrence Korb said on this newscast on Friday — “we were only in a position to win the Cold War because we quit in Vietnam.”

We went home. And instead it was the Russians who learned nothing from Vietnam, and who repeated every one of our mistakes when they went into Afghanistan. And alienated their own people, and killed their own children, and bankrupted their own economy, and allowed us to win the Cold War.

We awakened so late — but we did awaken.

Finally, in Vietnam, we learned the lesson. We stopped endlessly squandering lives and treasure and the focus of a nation on an impossible and irrelevant dream.

But you are still doing exactly that, tonight, in Iraq.

And these lessons from Vietnam, Mr. Bush, these priceless, transparent lessons, writ large as if across the very sky, are still a mystery to you.

"We'll succeed unless we quit."

No, sir. We will succeed — against terrorism, for our country's needs, towards binding up the nation's wounds — when you quit — quit the monumental lie, that is our presence in Iraq.

And in the interim, Mr. Bush, an American kid will be killed there, probably tonight — or, if we're lucky, not until tomorrow.

And here, sir, endeth the lesson.

Denise Brown Says News Corp. Offered ‘Hush Money’ To Keep Quiet About O.J. Interview

Right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch has portrayed his decision to cancel the O.J. Simpson book and interview as a principled stand, calling it an “ill-considered project.” But new details seriously undermine that claim.

An executive from Murdoch’s News Corporation told the New York Times that the rights to the Simpson’s book “could still be sold to another publisher,” meaning that Murdoch would still profit from the project. And this morning on NBC’s Today Show, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister Denise accused News Corp. of trying to buy her family’s silence for “millions of dollars.” Video.

They wanted to offer us millions of dollars. Millions of dollars for, like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry’ money. But they were still going to air the show. … We just thought, ‘oh my god.’ What they’re trying to do is trying to keep us quiet, trying to make this like hush money, trying to go around the civil verdict, giving us this money to keep our mouths shut.
AP reports that spokesman for News Corp. “confirmed that the company had conversations with representatives of Nicole Brown Simpson’s and Ron Goldman’s families over the past week and that the families were offered all profits from the planned Simpson book and television show, but he denied that it was hush money.”

Reader Comment: Fox cancelled it because it attracted no advertisers, which meant Nielson wouldn’t even include it in the ratings. Now Fox wants to act like they are doing the principled thing, even though anyone with a shred of principles would have never imagined doing such a thing in the first place. This was a business decision that backfired and now they want credit for cancelling the show.

LSB: That Rupert Murdoch and his Fox New family – what a class act (NOT!)

Compassionate Conservatism

“State psychiatric hospitals will begin turning away new patients on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, in response to emergency budget cuts issued earlier this month by Gov. Mitt Romney,” the AP reports. “The cuts will force the elimination of 170 Department of Mental Health staff positions, including staffers who provide care to hundreds of emotionally disturbed children and teens.”

LSB: Potential Repugnant presidential candidate in 2008. We will remember this.

Do-Nothing Congress Passes the Buck

“Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in.” Congressional leaders “have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills,” which “promises to consume time and energy” from the 110th Congress.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sullivan: Poking Fun At The Pope

The NYT runs a very curious article today about Italian humor about the current Pope. None of the jokes cited seem to me to be very risque or even funny. The entire argument of the piece is undermined by lack of any real evidence that this pope is subject to any more ridicule than has historically been the case.

Except of course for that photograph. It shows the source of the actual jokes circulating in the Vatican and elsewhere about this Prada-preferring, Gucci-wearing, high-drama German intellectual. The actual jokes – which the NYT won't print – are about how good looking so many of the men are who surround Benedict, especially his personal assistant, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, shown holding the large phallic microphone in front of Benedict's face. The Vatican gossip merchants call Georg "Gay-Org." He is inseparable from Benedict. And he surely is easy on the eyes. There is no evidence that Benedict has ever broken his vows of chastity; but there is no evidence that he is heterosexual either. Hence the gossip; hence the jokes.

When you're a Pope who declares that even closeted, chaste gay men cannot be priests, it's pushing your luck to clothe yourself in Prada, bedeck your Pope-mobile with luxurious Natuzzi Italian white leather, and surround yourself with assistants who look like they strayed from the pages of "L'Uomo Vogue."

Butch it up, sister. Or the jokes will only get louder.

Recap: Heard Around the Blog

Not so curious George does another drive by road trip [LSB: When a leader is so uninterested in the world around him, should it come as any surprise that his foreign policy has been so bad?]

Alaska Lawmakers Thumb Nose At Court Ordered Gay Benefits: “Alaska Republicans have drawn a line in the sand, refusing to obey a court order mandating health and other benefits for the same-sex domestic partners of state employees and retirees.” [Republicans hate the basic underpinnings of that which makes us America. They don't believe in the Constitution. They don't believe in the Bill of Rights. They don't believe in courts of law. They don't believe in anything, accept anything as law in our country, other than the Bible and their will. They are a party of extremist bullies who simply do not believe in America. ‘ – John in DC, AmericaBlog]

Padilla Case Raises Questions About Anti-Terror Tactics: “…But some legal scholars and defense lawyers argue that the government's case is so fundamentally weak, and its legal options so limited, that Padilla could draw a relatively minor prison term or even be acquitted. The trial has already been postponed once, until January, and is almost certain to be delayed again. …” [So an American citizen, detained without due process for three years, accused of terribly serious crimes, and allegedly tortured, may not be found guilty, after all. And people wonder why many of us have concerns about the way the Bush administration has handled military detainees.” – Andrew Sullivan, DailyDish]

Chertoff says U.S. threatened by international law: “A top Bush administration official on Friday said the European Union, the United Nations and other international entities increasingly are using international law to challenge U.S. powers to reject treaties and protect itself from attack.” [LSB: Damn! Don’t you just hate it when international law gets in the way? That’s what got Saddam in trouble. We’ll follow the law, for who wants some third world country routing around the US looking for WMDs? (‘Cause you know they’d find them, don’t you?)]

Embittered Insiders Turn Against Bush: “...Heading into the final chapter of his presidency, fresh from the sting of a midterm election defeat, Bush finds himself with fewer and fewer friends. Some of the strongest supporters of the war have grown disenchanted, former insiders are registering public dissent and Republicans on Capitol Hill blame him for losing Congress...”

Al Gore: Bush Admin "Most Incompetent-Inept & With More Moral Cowardice...": “A former vice president tells the Truth, ignites a global debate, and suddenly looks like a dark-horse candidate.”

A Tough Road Ahead for the President’s Closest Adviser: “Karl Rove is coming off the worst election defeat of his career to face a daunting task: saving the president’s agenda with a Congress not only controlled by Democrats, but also filled with Republican members resentful of the way he and the White House conducted the losing campaign.” [LSB: Sometimes good things do happen to bad people.]

GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell: Give us our right wing theocratic judges or we'll filibuster

The GOP still wants to stack the federal bench with theocratic, extremist judges. Mitch McConnell sounded like he was making a filibuster threat against the Democrats. But wait, is McConnell really saying that the GOP Senators will filibuster and slow down the Senate to get their way? Didn't they just rail against those tactics when the Democrats used them?

The Senate's next Republican leader issued a veiled threat to block action on legislation if Democrats refuse to allow confirmation votes on President Bush's troubled judicial nominations.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will become minority leader Jan. 4, told the conservative Federalist Society Friday not to feel bad about the Senate election results because Republicans will hold 49 seats in a body that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster and bring legislation or presidential nominees to a final vote.

If the "Democrats want our cooperation, they'll give the president's judicial nominees an up-or-down vote," McConnell said.

Vice President Dick Cheney told the same group Friday that Republicans' loss of Congress in last week's election won't dissuade Bush from continuing to nominate strict-constructionist judges to the federal bench.

LSB: GOP hypocrites, every one of them! That sound you hear? Republican butt clenching. They'll stop at nothing to frustrate the will of the people.

CIA analysis finds no Iranian nuclear weapons drive

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A classified draft CIA assessment has found no firm evidence of a secret drive by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as alleged by the White House, a top US investigative reporter has said.

Seymour Hersh, writing in an article for the November 27 issue of the magazine The New Yorker released in advance, reported on whether the administration of Republican President George W. Bush was more, or less, inclined to attack Iran after Democrats won control of Congress last week.

A month before the November 7 legislative elections, Hersh wrote, Vice President Dick Cheney attended a national-security discussion that touched on the impact of Democratic victory in both chambers on Iran policy.

"If the Democrats won on November 7th, the vice president said, that victory would not stop the administration from pursuing a military option with Iran," Hersh wrote, citing a source familiar with the discussion.

Cheney said the White House would circumvent any legislative restrictions "and thus stop Congress from getting in its way," he said. …

"The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running paallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency," Hersh wrote, adding the CIA had declined to comment on that story.

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the CIA analysis and said the White House had been hostile to it, he wrote.

Cheney and his aides had discounted the assessment, the official said. …

LSB: WTF? Don’t these guys ever learn? Lying to the American public about nuclear weapons in Iran – this is like WMDs in Iraq all over again. And Cheney would ‘circumvent any legislative restrictions’ imposed by the Democratic Congress? If he said that, his ass needs to be impeached as the first act of the 110th Congress.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Gitmo Kangaroo Courts

History will not be kind to Bush and his trashing of the American way. Why is Bush so afraid of using our system?

The analysis of transcripts and records by two lawyers for Guantanamo detainees, aided by more than two dozen law students, found that hearings that determined whether a prisoner should remain in custody gave the accused little opportunity to contest allegations against him.“These were not hearings. These were shams,” said Mark Denbeaux, an attorney and Seton Hall University law professor who along with his son, Joshua, is the author of the report. They provided an advance copy of the report to The Associated Press late Thursday and planned to release it Friday on the Internet.

Some of the highlights of the report:
  • The government did not produce any witnesses in any hearing.
  • The military denied all detainee requests to inspect the classified evidence against them.
  • The military refused all requests for defense witnesses who were not detained at Guantanamo.
  • In 74 percent of the cases, the government denied requests to call witnesses who were detained at the prison.
  • In 91 percent of the hearings, the detainees did not present any evidence.
  • In three cases, the panel found that the detainee was “no longer an enemy combatant,” but the military convened new tribunals that later found them to be enemy combatants.

by Chris in Paris, AmericaBlog

Republican Craziness: Has it reached its Zenith, or is there more to come?

Rick Levin, NRO: “I'm going against today's conventional wisdom and suggesting that Rick Santorum and George Allen should consider running for the Republican presidential nomination.”

LSB: That’s a match made in the bowels of hell.

James Wolcott: “Me seen some pretty perthetic things in my many years here on the blogdeck, but nothing as lame-o as the Pajamas Media fund drive to keep "Joltin'" John Bolton at the UN.”

LSB: Replace the UNICEF donation boxes with donation boxes for John Bolton? Why not have Santas on every corner ringing their bells and taking coins for the evil one as well?

Pam Atlas, spawn of Little Green Footballs, personal blogger to Bush nominee/U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, hard-core Lieberman supporter, and general good friend to the right-wing blogosphere, yesterday called for the State Department to be bombed and for American diplomats to be murdered.

LSB: Hmm... sounds like someone wants her habeus corpus taken away.

CNN's Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: "[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'"

LSB: Glenn, prove to me that you’ve got a brain.

Quote for the Week: "There's something painfully ironic about Trent Lott being named 'minority whip.'" - Robert A. George

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Putnam: Where Were The Rednecks?

“White rednecks” who “didn’t show up to vote for us” partly cost GOPers their congressional majorities, Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) told fellow Republicans today. And Putnam, seeking the post of GOP conference chair, chided ex-Chair J.C. Watts (R-OK) for ruining the conference’s ability to serve its members.

Three Republicans in the room independently confirmed to the Hotline the substance and context of Putnam’s remarks. But Putnam’s chief of staff insists that the remarks were taken out of context.

Examining the 2006 midterms, Putnam blamed the GOP defeat on “the independent vote, the women vote, the suburban vote.” He said that “heck, even the white rednecks who go to church on Sunday didn't come out to vote for us.”

Putnam used Watts’ tenure as chair to contrast his own vision for the conference, saying the GOP needed a “bolder” vision than the type of strategy preferred by Watts. According to one Republican’s notes, Putnam said that “JC Watts ruined the Conference by removing the member services functions that it offered until 1998” by turning it into only a communications and press vehicle. According to two Republicans, Putnam took the same swat at Watts during a Republican Study Conference session yesterday. (More)

LSB: Apparently Trent isn’t the only Republican racist in the news of late.

B-1 Bob back?

I just got off the phone with former congressman and talk show host Bob Dornan, who is considering... a run for President.

“I can’t stand the thought of my party having as its three front-runners three open adulterers, Newt Gingrich, Giuliani, and McCain,” Dornan said.

“I’ve got one mission left in me, to come up to New Hampshire and tell the truth, and tell the Republicans you better find yourself a fresh face and not Rudy Giuliani who took his mistress around with him and then divorces Donna who learns she was divorced sitting at home watching TV with her children.

“We need a fresh face if the Republican Party is going to appeal to an Orthodox Jewish, Evangelical or practicing Catholic.”

- Andrew Cline, New Hampshire Union Leader

FYI: Yeah, this is just the asshole we need succeeding the current asshole in the White House. Former Congressman Bob Dornan (R-CA), a boisterous former actor and television talk show host, had a flair for the dramatic that drew him supporters and detractors well beyond his congressional districts. Though never a major power in Washington, he became one of the most well-known members of the House of Representatives and has been described as "one of the leading firebrands among American politicians." Among his more offensive remarks:
  • In a 1986 US House speech, he called Russian journalist Vladimir Posner a "disloyal, betraying little Jew who sits there on television claiming that he is somehow or other a newsman."
  • "Every lesbian spear chucker in this country is hoping I get defeated." - to a Los Angeles television reporter in 1992.
  • On a January 28, 1994 appearance on Politically Incorrect, Dornan declared it was "The Year of the Penis" due to recent events in the news. In reference to this comment, Representative Barney Frank noted "Bob Dornan isn't even rational on the House floor. You can't expect him to be rational on Politically Incorrect."
  • "You are a slimy coward. Go register in another party." - to fellow Republican William Dougherty after he supported Dornan's opponent in 1996.
  • In 1995 he claimed to an interviewer that he was not at all bothered by the increase in the Mexican population in California, saying, “I want to say America stays a nation of immigrants. And if we lose our Northern European stock—your coloring and mine, blue eyes and fair hair—tough!”
  • "Don't use the word 'gay' unless it's an acronym for 'Got Aids Yet?"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

GOP elects racist Senator, Trent Lott, to leadership

CNN just reported that Trent Lott was just elected Minority Whip by his fellow Republican Senators. Lott is now the number two GOP Senator.

You'll recall that Lott was forced from GOP leadership in 2002 after his comments praising segregationist Strom Thurmond:

Lott provoked controversy when he declared at the Thurmond birthday celebration: "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years." [Video]
Now we see the face of the new GOP. It's the face of the old GOP: an avowed racist.

Bush Reappoints Broadcasting Chief Who Used Public Funds To Promote Conservative Programming

President Bush on Tuesday renominated the chairman of the agency that directs U.S. overseas broadcasts even though the nomination has been stalled in the Senate amid allegations of misconduct.

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was nominated again as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and for a term on the board expiring Aug. 13, 2007. The board oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, broadcasting initiatives in the Middle East and other nonmilitary U.S. broadcasting overseas.

In September, a spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said senators did not plan to act on Bush's nomination of Tomlinson in January 2005 while a government investigation of his activities was under way. The law that created the board in 1994 allowed Tomlinson to remain as chairman until a successor was confirmed.

A report by the State Department's inspector general, released Aug. 29, said Tomlinson misused government funds for two years as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Tomlinson disputed the allegations in the report.

The U.S. attorney's office in Washington concluded that a criminal investigation was not warranted, according to the State Department report. At the same time, the report said a civil investigation related to charges that he had hired a friend as a contractor was pending. (More)

Steve Benen: It’s one thing to pick a partisan hack for an important governmental post, evaluate his joke of a tenure, and then move onto someone new. After all, maybe the president didn’t realize just how ridiculous Tomlinson was when the White House first tapped him.

But after several years of humiliating hackery, Bush no longer has any excuses. Renominating Tomlinson again this week is a not-so-subtle message to Democrats and the rest of the electorate: Election failures or not, nothing is going to change at the Bush White House. No partisan is too unqualified, no right-wing ideologue can screw up enough, no controversy is too scandalous to prevent a Bush buddy from keeping important administration positions.

The John Bolton renomination was offensive enough; this is adding insult to injury.

At this point, Ken Tomlinson’s partisan, ideological, and generally ridiculous work is legendary. By August, it became almost comical.

State Department investigators have found that the head of the agency overseeing most government broadcasts to foreign countries has used his office to run a “horse racing operation” and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll, according to a summary of a report made public on Tuesday by a Democratic lawmaker.

The report said that the official, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, had repeatedly used government employees to perform personal errands and that he billed the government for more days of work than the rules permit.

The summary of the report, prepared by the State Department inspector general, said the United States attorney’s office here had been given the report and decided not to conduct a criminal inquiry. The summary said the Justice Department was
pursuing a civil inquiry focusing on the contract for Mr. Tomlinson’s friend.

This is actually the second instance of Tomlinson getting caught breaking the law. A year ago,

we learned that he violated the Federal Broadcasting Act, which prohibits the use of “political tests” in employment.

We’re dealing with a man who has lied, schemed, and politicized his way through three years of government service. And yet, Tomlinson has stayed in a key diplomatic post.

Indeed, Tomlinson’s job as head of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, given to him by Karl Rove, puts him in charge of an “independent” government commission that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty, and Radio Sawa and its sister TV network, Alhurra — making Tomlinson a key person in America’s international diplomacy.

As Franklin Foer explained in a very good TNR piece a year ago, Tomlinson has run the BBG just as he ran the CPB, “purging the bureaucracy of political enemies, zealously rooting out perceived ‘liberal bias,’ and generally politicizing institutions that have resisted ideological intrusions for decades.”

In August, after Tomlinson had been caught, again, misusing government resources and violating government personnel policies, I asked “How long will the White House stand by this clown?” At the time, several lawmakers, in both chambers, were imploring Bush to immediately remove Tomlinson from his position.

Instead, Bush has renominated him for another term. This tells us all we need to know about the president’s rhetoric about “bipartisanship.”

The Associated Press' sexism

What did Denny wear to his press conference in the graveyard? He, too, was Speaker of the House. Did the AP ever note what designer created Denny Hastert’s suits?

Is this a policy shift in the AP – informing the public of what our public officials are wearing, or does this only apply to our female politicians? Should we expect a daily fashion update on Hilary should she run for president?

This kind of not-so-subtle sexism is hard to stomach in the 21st century.

US: Immigrants may be held indefinitely

Today we got a taste of just how un-American President Bush's Military Commissions Act of 2006 is.

Immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, the Bush administration said Monday, opening a new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.

In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States.

Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He has been labeled an "enemy combatant," a designation that, under a law signed last month, strips foreigners of the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.

That law is being used to argue the Guantanamo Bay cases, but Al-Marri represents the first detainee inside the United States to come under the new law. Aliens normally have the right to contest their imprisonment, such as when they are arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes.

"It's pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can be denied this right," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri. "It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off at night and be put in detention."


Jack Cafferty (CNN) asks: Is it fair for immigrants in the US to be held "indefinitely" if suspected of terrorism? Video

LSB: Poor Lady Liberty! We hardly knew you any more.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.