(updated below - Update II - Update III)
(1) At Harper's, Scott Horton has a very important update on the case of Bilal Hussein, the Associated Press' Iraqi photojournalist imprisoned by the U.S. military for 19 months with no charges and who is now being finally tried in the Iraqi court system. A Pentagon source has detailed for Horton the reprehensible behavior engaged in by the Pentagon to pressure the Iraqi judge to ensure Hussein's conviction and to prevent any discussion of his case except by the easily manipulated right-wing bloggers used by the Pentagon and U.S. military to disseminate its selective propaganda.
I don't want to excerpt much of Horton's post because I want to encourage as many people as possible to read it in full. After reviewing the facts he learned, this is what Horton concludes:
Then there are the cases like the secret prosecution of Bilal Hussein, where the behavior patterns of a petty dictatorship come creeping out. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of incidents which are likely to be remembered when American soldiers have left Iraq.
The case of Bilal Hussein is sending a distinct message to the government in Baghdad and to the dwindling number of American allies in the region. Persecuting journalists is fine with us, it says. And best to do it in the dark, so that no one sees.
For those interested, I've written numerous times about the Bilal Hussein case, including here and here, with interviews of AP executives here.
(2) Media Channel's Rory O'Connor catches Time Magazine in an act of journalistic dishonesty, as the magazine substantially alters what it purported to be the full transcript of its Editors' interview with Vladimir Putin, all in order to conceal a truly embarrassing error made by the Editors as well as some rather unseemly, obsequious behavior.
(3) The current issue of American Conservative is devoted to exploring the extreme dangers of a Rudy Giuliani presidency. I contributed an article examining the authoritarian, dissent-intolerant, secrecy-obsessed attributes Giuliani displayed when he was merely Mayor, and then discussed the grave dangers these attributes would pose if he were able to get anywhere near the Oval Office. This article by Texas A&M Professor Michael Desch covers the extremist Giuliani foreign policy team and their unquenchable quest for "Forever War."
The magazine's cover -- which I didn't see until the issue was published -- is quite provocative and has generated some controversy in various venues, probably as intended:
Everyone can obviously decide for themselves what they think about that cover, but regardless, it is borderline unbearable watching National Review personages such as Byron York and David Frum self-righteously decrying the cover as "shameful" when their colleague, Jonah Goldberg, is about to publish a book equating "liberals" with Nazis and fascists and, to underscore the point, shows a happy face with a Hitler moustache on the cover:
For exactly the reason Atrios pointed out here, it is impossible genuinely to care about, let alone get worked up over, anything Jonah Goldberg does. And for those who might have been tempted to obtain his book due to The Car Wreck Syndrome -- an inability to avoid gaping at the ugliest and most gruesome phenomena -- the superb Sadly, No series highlighting some of the most inane passages (here, here, here, here, here, and here, just for starters) more than satisfies that craving.
Still, if it weren't for the attribute that Atrios identifies about Goldberg, one would be moved to point out that his book bears the single most repugnant book cover and marketing package one has seen in some time, even counting Ann Coulter's last several repulsive screeds, and is the single most purposely offensive theme one can imagine. As I've noted before, the book also toys with and trivializes Nazi imagery like few other things have, and yet all the groups and people which endlessly claim to oppose such trivialization when it suits their political agenda -- such as the Anti-Defamation League and Frum -- are defeaningly silent about the fun and games Goldberg is having with Hitler and Nazi accusations. Until National Review condemns Goldberg's book -- which he is endlessly shilling over at NR -- they really ought to refrain from feigning upset over the allegedly frivolous use of Nazi and fascist imagery in service of political points.
(4) Taylor Marsh is a supporter of Hillary Clinton and currently has hordes of relatives staying at her house who are Ron Paul supporters. After watching Tim Russert's strikingly obnoxious though typically shallow interview of Paul yesterday with her family members, Marsh offers some interesting insights regarding what is behind the Paul movement (and see Jane Hamsher here for what motivated Russert's behavior).
On Meet the Press, Paul said that his first reaction after the 9/11 attacks was one of concern because he knew the attacks would be exploited to increase both fear and government power; that our constant meddling in and bombing of the Middle East actually helps Al-Qaeda recruitment and inflames Islamic terrorism; that ceasing our occupation of and interference in the Middle East would help to defuse the problem with the Terrorists; that our constant intervention on the side of Israel prevents peace; that our insistence on being policemen to the world is bankrupting us -- just like it did all previous empires throughout history -- while worsening our security; and that the War on Drugs is a profound failure, squandering hundreds of billions of dollars and unjustly imprisoning countless of our fellow citizens, the vast bulk of whom are minorities, particularly those who receive the harshest sentences.
America spends more on our military than every other nation in the world combined, and invades, interferes in and bombs other countries far more than anyone else -- it's not even close. That's just factually true. Yet the leading Democratic candidates do not even touch on challenging any of that, instead proposing that we expand military spending further still. And none even think about challenging even the most extreme and destructive aspects of the odious War on Drugs.
Since we all know that -- unlike Paul -- the leading Democratic candidates are very, very sane, psychologically healthy and serious, is there any chance that mainstream Democrats could catch a little of the sickness, insanity, derangement, and demented fringe radicalism of the sort Paul exhibited yesterday? As Marsh observes, there is obviously a strong constituency among perfectly normal, mainstream Americans for these disastrous bipartisan orthodoxies to be challenged.
(5) Drawing on Bob Somerby's incomparable, under-appreciated work regarding the media's behavior in getting George Bush elected in 2000, Digby writes one of her posts that captures the adolescent, vapid character of our political press corps in a way that few others can. As she says: "they shape the way these races are perceived and between their congenital immaturity and the willingness to be courted with Dove bars and juicy gossip, our politics suffer greatly for it."
Compare the way our media stars favorably described George Bush's personality -- the traits that made them love him -- with how he is depicted here, particularly (though not only) the last clip, beginning at roughly 1:10:
(6) Tom Tomorrow reviews the first half of 2007 in 12 concise cartoon boxes.
(7) Over at FDL, Blue Texan examines the foreign policy platforms of the three leading Democratic presidential candidates, and concludes: "Sorry, this is nuts. These three Democrats have watched 7 years of Bush and Cheney's wars and exploding military spending and all concluded, 'We need to spend more and make it even bigger!'"
I'm not someone who believes that there are no meaningful differences between the two parties. There are some. And it's vital, for countless reasons, that Republicans be removed from power.
But that doesn't mean that the similarities and shared bipartisan diseases should be ignored, especially now, particularly since they apply to some of our most significant national problems. The result of having both parties agree on these orthodoxies is that they are then removed from our political debates and simply continue uninterrupted, while our elections are determined instead by vapid personality chatter and isolated, side wedge issues -- all at the expense of challenging the real factions running the country and examining the most significant policies and assumptions that shape who we are as a nation and the role we play in the world.
(8) Over the next several weeks, I'll be working with several other bloggers and advocacy groups in an attempt to formulate the best strategy possible for stopping telecom immunity and the other unacceptable provisions in the various FISA bills when the Senate returns in January. To receive updates on this campaign via email, which will be coordinated through FDL, you can sign up here.
(9) As I noted yesterday, Mitt Romeny justified his vision of limitless presidential power by reciting the cowardly anthem that now lies at the heart of the modern-day Republican Party: "Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive." Regarding Romney's response, Jim Henley wrote today:
That's wonderfully phrased, "kept alive." What is Mitt Romney's ideal republic? The nation as Terri Schiavo. Brain-dead, inert, confined and perpetuated without point. Hail Mitt! All the strands of contemporary Republicanism unite in thee.
Relatedly, John Cole notes the bulging irony of all the George W. Bush officials and supporters objecting to Mike Huckabee's exploitation of Christianity for political gain.