At first I did't know how cynical to be about this:
The U.S. Justice Department released a new memo on Friday to replace a controversial document outlining how to avoid violating U.S. and international terror statutes while interrogating prisoners.
In a Dec. 30 memorandum, released early on Friday, the department stepped back from an August 2002 memo that said only the most severe types of torture were not permissible under U.S. and international agreements against torture.
At first I said, well it's about time. It took them two years, which is disgusting, but better late than never. But read on:
The new memorandum was released on a federal holiday, just one week before White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales -- to whom the August 2002 memo was addressed -- was to appear before the Senate for confirmation hearings. Gonzales has been nominated by President Bush to be the new Attorney General.
Surely they wouldn't revise their definition of torture solely to give political cover to a nominee for Attorney General who has called certain of the Geneva Conventions "quaint" would they? Surely the administration wouldn't play politics with international law. Surely the administration would realize that torture is morally wrong and would issue the new memo now only coincidentally. Right? Surely even the Bush administration would not by that cynical.
Right-wing logic get faultier and faultier as they are proved more and more wrong. Jesse links to an incredibly inane column by Ben Shapiro. I'm not gonna bother with Shapiro's warmed over we-fucked-it-up-so-now-there-are-more-terrorists-so-now-it's-the-war-on-terror argument but rather something he says getting there:
This week, the evidence came pouring in for President Bush's position. Bin Laden sent in his latest audiotape to an Islamist Web site. On the tape, the al-Qaeda leader told fellow Muslims that they would be committing a "grave sin" if they did not wage jihad against U.S. forces and the government in Iraq. He labeled as "infidels" any Iraqis who participated in the upcoming Jan. 30 Iraqi election. He explained that al-Qaeda was spending at least $275,000 each week in Iraq. And he appointed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi his proxy in Iraq.
This puts liberals in a tight spot. It seems that the war in Iraq is indeed an integral part of the war on terror, since Bin Laden is now expending much of his energy fighting American troops there. The war in Iraq hasn't distracted us from the broader war on terror; it has distracted Bin Laden from his war on American cities.The war in Iraq wasn't a diversion for us; it was a diversion for him.
um. Is that a joke? The war in Iraq has been a distraction for bin Laden? Why, just yesterday, the AP had a story on how analysts think the new tapes constitute a change of strategy for bin Laden:
Her Dec. 22 column, right below the above image, begins:
Since the attack of 9-11, we've won two wars, liberated millions of people from monstrous regimes, presided over one election in Afghanistan and are about to see elections in Iraq and among the Palestinian people.
I really think this tsunami thing should not be politicized. It would truly be sickening to see the deaths of 68,000 innocent people used as a partisan pawn. And sometimes you just have to respond when people try to do it. Krauthammer was on "Special Report" on Faux News last night (no link, LexisNexis). He's responding to U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland's assertion that the US is "stingy" with its foreign aid:
KRAUTHAMMER: But that is a complete distortion of the truth of how America helps the world, because we give in other ways that are not measured. First of all, we have the largest private giving in the world. Bill Gates alone is doing more to help Africans than Mr. Egeland and all of the Norway and Sweden put together.
Hacktackular. Look how generous we as a country are. The richest person in the world gives money, so we're awesome. Continuing:
Secondly, we give food aid, which is not included in that 0.1 of 1 percent. Huge amounts, untold amounts of grain to poor countries. Thirdly, by opening our trade up as we have and destroying a lot of domestic industries, like textiles and others, we have raised the level of income of poor countries, particularly in Asia. The largest lifting of people out of hunger and poverty in history.
Nevermind that Krauthammer distorts the situation to make it sound like we're sacrificing ourselves nobly for the people of Asia. He's missing the point. The point, as Ceci Connolly puts it later in the same piece, is how much money we give. Think about it:
CONNOLLY: [M]oney is important. All you have to do is stop and think back to the four hurricanes in Florida this past summer and fall, where the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave out $926 million. So clearly, our government thinks cash is important. And it's not just other types of assistance.
What Krauthammer is saying makes even less sense when you get outside of your own skull long enough to remember that other nations are also engaged in free trade. If you're going to actually count free trade as part of humanitarian assistance, you have to look at the rest of the world's contribution as well. But the Frenchies don't count for Charlie K. Not even to mention that "free trade" also harms people; that's a different debate for a different time.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is leaning toward removing the House ethics committee chairman, who admonished House Majority Leader Tom DeLay this fall and has said he will treat DeLay like any other member, several Republican aides said yesterday.
Although Hastert (Ill.) has not made a decision, the expectation among leadership aides is that the chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), long at odds with party leaders because of his independence, will be replaced when Congress convenes next week.
But it's not funny. It would be funny if it were in an Orwell novel, but it's not. Ya know what's even less funny? Who his replacement will be:
The aides said a likely replacement is Rep. Lamar S. Smith, one of DeLay's fellow Texans, who held the job from 1999 to 2001. Smith wrote a check this year to DeLay's defense fund. An aide said Smith was favored for his knowledge of committee procedure.
No shame. This is your modern republican party, folks.
Since my people seemed to enjoy my "Conservative Art" post, I thought I'd try another one.
Heather has been making fun of me for the last week or so because I had never heard of Thomas Kinkade; and I call myself a Southerner! Reader Scardanelli had written about Mr. Kinkade in the above-mentioned post:
And if you're looking for reactionary art (both politically and stylistically), you can't beat Thomas Kinkade, "The Painter of Light (TM)." He's a born-again Christian, a published novelist, and the only artist listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
We were in an art store the other day, getting Christmas presents, and we happened upon some of his paintings. This one, called "Sunrise," particularly struck me:
Because I said, "hey, I've seen that before!" And, unfortunately, as I do sometimes, I did some research. And I had seen it before, in a college art class. Only at that time, it was by a 19th century German painter, Caspar David Friedrich: