Friday, April 24, 2009

The TR: Torture is torture

Everyone's focused on one thing this week, and one thing only: torture. (Sorry if you had a story to get out this week, though; keep trying!) It's a veritable firestorm of coverage: The Huffington Post has exploded with diatribes, the National Review is up in arms, Google is completely flooded. To acknowledge this, we're dedicating this week's TR to torture, so you can have the real 411. See? We got your back.

Waterboarding: Not a Fun Metaphor

Call it semantic retribution for teabagging puns. Fox is all over this, according to Media Matters, and are riding new buzzwords like "banana republic" and "waterboard me!" into the ground. Shep Smith got a little, erm, heated when he yelled, "WE DO NOT F*CKING TORTURE!" on live TV. We're betting Hannity won't go through with his request to be waterboarded, but, hey, what do we know? Olbermann IS upping the ante.

Maybe this seems extreme, but Republicans and Democratics are throwing down very seriously about torture, and it's not going away. Expect to keep hearing from anyone and everyone who knows anything about it.

War of Semantics and 24 References

All this (much-needed) discussion on torture is accompanied by a debate over WORDS -- what they mean, what they should mean, what they don't. It's an English major's wet dream.

Roger Cohen wrote in the NY Times: "The U.S. has emerged from eight years of dyslexia. It has now revealed how dangerously words were manipulated and is learning again to speak a language the world can understand... The power of language to reconcile is as great as its power to kill." Makes us shiver!

So does this eloquent response: "Already, I can hear the coyotes howling--right-wingers yelping for validation and justification of their sacred cow post 9/11 policies; left-wingers howling for justice and accountability and unanswerable answers to questions such as Does torture work? and Should we care? and Is it a sign of strength or of weakness? and Why are we even DISCUSSING it?"

A picture is worth more, however. When the Defense Department releases the photos, expect new waves of outrage.

Before that happens, though? Be satisfied with Jack Bauer. Has the discussion about torture been deficient for so long that the only way we feel comfy talking about it is in the context of Jack Bauer's awesome-ness? (Guess it makes sense, though. Sun Tzu once wrote, "If your enemy is weaker, conquer him. If he is stronger, join him. If he is Jack Bauer, you're f*cking dead.")



Cheney, Cheney, Cheney

It's Cheney Time! Emerging from the hidden, dark, slimy places of his natural milieu, Dick is seizing the limelight as Bush keeps his head down, moving into the yawning power vaccuum and becoming the new spokesman for the Repug party. But we have to say: no surprise about Cheney criticizing Obama (we mean, c'mon)
but what's up with this new-found full-disclosure instinct?

From the NY Times:

"...[S]ome conservatives, feeling beleaguered these days, are grateful that Mr. Cheney is speaking out. John R. Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations and a close ally of his, said... Mr. Cheney might be feeling liberated. 'It's about time he had a chance to get his voice back,' Mr. Bolton said. 'There's no cone of silence now.'"

Eep! Even his daughter is speaking out -- perhaps in celebration of Take Your Kid to Work Day, perhaps not. Then again, EVERYONE is speaking out this week -- McCain, Pelosi, Gates, Reid... it's too much for us to detail here. But let's just say that the media will be giving anyone with an opinion room to speak.

Truth Commission, For Real

Obama hasn't committed to an investigation, but is leaning towards "no." Is that the right response? Or is this bad message control?

The Queenie thinks an investigation is the right way to go, maybe by the International Court of Justice, and lots of people are pressuring Eric Holder with the same message. Though we can't let this turn into a partisan witch hunt, how we deal with torture at this moment in our history will have far-reaching implications for what American democracy is and will be about in the years to come -- our respect for the rule of law, our tolerance for abuse of power, our reverence for civil liberties, our honesty as a people, and our very ability to continue to serve as a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. Torture isn't something we can ignore.

From the Washington Post:

"We will never know what detainees might have disclosed if interrogators had persisted with more humane techniques. We can't measure precisely the damage inflicted on the United States and its soldiers by the fallout from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. But a presidential commission could produce the fullest, least-heated account possible."

And with that...

Guess we've all learned a little something this week. Although, if you're still looking for a little more song and dance, well, here you go. It's Sesame Street for the modern world.

Have a wonderful (and warm!) weekend!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Torture Memo Meltdown



Olbermann kicked off the first of many screeds we'll be seeing this weekend and beyond. The basic theme is that we have a moral imperative NOT to let the Bushies get away with torture. Sadly, the world is poised on the brink of economic disaster so O is not likely to push for anything that might be perceived as partisan retribution. But TR Central agrees -- you don't just ignore torture. This may be a case for the International Court of Justice. Can you say Nuremberg, children?

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The TR: Twitter Takeover, Piracy Lunacy and Teabagging All Over the Place

D.C. weather is running the gamut between "OMG, I'm freezing to death" to "Dude, I SO need a smoothie." The schizophrenia has nothing on O, however, who has been morphing from Best Dad Ever to Defender Against Pirates to Economics Professor before our very eyes. Either he can't make up his mind or he's the best damn politician to grace the national stage in quite some time...

Forecast

This weekend, the Prez is on the Latin America tour with a major stop at the Summit of the Americas, and talking about the drug war, the economy and immigration. Media coverage won't have quite the same fawning tone as his Europe tour, though; O hasn't won over Chavez, and Cuba, though not present, will likely dominate at least part of the discussion. Check out Barack's op-ed here and expect the pundits to focus on the Summit through the weekend.

Immigration will set the tone -- post-Summit and to the White House's credit -- over the next few weeks in the newly returned Congress. This ain't one of the easy issues for any administration. Check out what the AFL-CIO is recommending, and tell us what you think: Are O's goals just rhetoric, or will he finally get some sh*t done?

Now that the US has opened the door to talking with Iran, there's been a lot of talking about talking. In a "freeze-for-freeze" proposal, the US won't impose additional sanctions if Iran agrees to join talks about the future of its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad says Iran is working on a counterproposal regarding its "civilian nuclear program," which could drop next week. So maybe we'll get more than a glimpse of our stealth Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who's been no doubt busy but flying under the media's radar?

At times, the state-to-state gay marriage legalization process felt like it could grow into a juggernaut, with supporters making like Howard Dean: We're going to New Hampshire, to Maine, to New Jersey... But is public acceptance of gay marriage finally becoming a reality, or has it all been a mirage based on a few cleverly-argued legal cases? New York is the next testing ground, as Governor Paterson's bill has been met with some tough rhetoric from Catholic legislators, with more to come in the following week.

Is the economy finally on the upswing? Columnists and economists are being VERY hesitantly optimistic about our country's financial situation and will continue to be -- but, as always, take these things with a grain of salt. Krugman and the other prophets of doom certainly are.

The Week That Was

Dems have been LOLing all week about teabagging, and, sorry, but we were right there with 'em. Yes, it's childish. Also, hilarious. But it was also a little bit unnerving to see the true wackos of the Right come out to play (although apparently there was ONE Democrat in the mix).

Afghan women, protected by female police despite being stoned by over 1,000 counter-protesters, protested a recently passed law that undermines their rights. Wow. It certainly signals the beginning of women's empowerment in this country, but will it keep spreading?

Arrrr, pirates! As much as we want to joke about peg legs and rum, it's actually pretty intense. Sunday was the first real test of O's national security machismo, and he didn't flinch. But the pirates have stepped up their efforts all week, even though the fourth pirate from the lifeboat is set to be tried in the US and 11 others are being taken to Kenya. At least the dolphins are on OUR side.

It's been a social media #prfail week all 'round. Books relating to LGBT themes began losing their Amazon sales ranks and visibility, and Twitter exploded with conspiracy theories and allegations of censorship. Dominoes employees grossed out America, and it only took a few hours for them to lose their jobs over it. A few hours? That's LIGHTYEARS in the Twitterverse. Flacks and wannabe "social media experts," we hope you're taking notes.

Speaking of social media, the Celeb-King of Twitter beat CNN in a head-to-head competition to be the first to reach 1 million followers and donated $100k to the No More Malaria Fund when he won. As our Culture Minister can attest, Ashton's Tweets are actually kind of entertaining. But is this the sign that Twitter's officially mainstream? And, well, is that so bad? They complained about Facebook, but it's the number 4 most popular website in the world. We suspect Twitter will triumph as well.

Gratuitously adorable alert: First Puppy pictures! (We couldn't resist. NO ONE CAN.)

In Memoriam S'more

The NY Times will be rearranging itself to avoid cutting more staff, and Gannett reported a 60 percent drop in profit, but they're not dead yet. Just, um... wheezing. Heavily.

But some voices are piping up and saying that it may not be such a tragedy -- Daily Kos and feministe, for starters. Even the Pulitzer Prize is embracing new rules to allow online-only publications. Is the grieving period (gasp) over?

Scorecard

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Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The TR: Piracy, Passover and Pissing Away Armageddon

We started the week with Korean missile launches, yo ho ho'd thru a pirate brouhaha and ended it with a White House e-mail misfire. Or maybe it was that woman who wants to marry the Eiffel Tower. Or the lady that shot her son on the firing range. In any event, why is this night different from all the others?

Forecast

The Sunday shows will be doing a foreign policy Obama-rama, starting with a Meet the Press roundtable. Just in time, as Yosemite Sam-Kong-Il enjoys a popular surge post-nuke-testing, we amp up things in Afghanistan, Iraq isn't looking so hot and Somali pirates menace shipping lanes.

Let's talk about Afghanistan, shall we? Until the pirate story blew the White House-placed Afghani news out of the water, all we could hear about was Afghanistan this, Afghanistan that. Queenie felt quite menaced in her DC office suite. Even Papa Biden chatted with Wolf Blitzer about the problem. Tell us -- what do you think of the administration's aggressive outreach on the issue?

Tiny lifeboat vs. great big Navy warship... and it's a TIE?! People are having all kinds of fun reporting on those pirates, but it is a TINY bit serious. Not to mention a PR disaster (thanks, Forbes) for the world's strongest military. Here's a little shout out for local journalism (or perhaps local PR): apparently a small school in Southern Maryland trained the rescue crew with their special course in -- you guessed it -- pirate rescue. Brave new world?

Say it ain't so! Seems Obama is worse than Bush on warrantless wire-tapping. Guess it isn't so funny for TR Central staffers to yell "Allahu Akbar" into the phone periodically while staring at the White House just out the window. We just KNOW they're tapping us.

Congress is still away next week, but no rest for the wicked. RNC Chair Michael Steele is stirring up all sorts of trouble for U.S. Census takers. Soon we may have a world where no conservative Republicans deign to be counted. And that would solve their concerns... how, exactly? Let's hope to hear more about this next week.

Can't you just hear Sascha piping up, "why is the night different from all the others?" This shiksa goddess is totally digging a White House seder hosted by our socialist Muslim president (okay, now I'm just quoting Rush). Bowing to Saudi princes one week, donning a yarmulke the next. Just too bad about that little forwarded e-mail gaffe.

The Week That Was

Little Timmy Geithner is everywhere. But, ye Gods, pollsters rush to tell us voters blame TIMMY -- NOT O -- for any problems we may face. Not quite sure about that distinction, or why we need to make it. Or even why Larry Summers gets to tell us Cap and Trade will make us all so much money. Right message, wrong messenger.

But let us get back to Timmy... Nobel Prize-winning economists Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and everyday economist James Galbraith are sounding the alarm. No wonder Dem operatives are setting Timmy up for the fall. Because Obama can break UAW union contracts. And the New York Times can bust Boston Globe union contracts. But we must hew to the "rule of law" (Larry Summers again) on Wall Street contracts. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

We were soooo excited about the good news from Vermont AND DC! So much so that we REJOICE in posting this map of the "plague of gay marriage" spreading across the country. Just love it when civil rights and constitutional protections get extended across our good land!

Although there's something we didn't want to put in the Forecast. We are hoping this hateful little ad campaign -- and the unfortunate free air time it dusted up (could someone PUH-LEEEZE media train those poor HRC people? Really!) -- falls into our collective imagination trash heap. I mean, do YOU feel your freedoms are threatened by gay marriage? I thought not.

This Queen would like to give a tip of the hat to Queen Noor, who knighted Colbert this week. Well, someone had to. Btw, we're totally rooting for him to win this battle against NASA -- shouldn't the space agency be all about this free press and attention?

In Beltway-Insider Gossip News, Rove-y's bad week continued when he and Tom Sweeney's former Chief of Staff apparently got into it at dinner. Hillary's getting creative so she can pay off her campaign bills (WARNING: SAFE FOR WORK). And psst... remember the White House Puppy?

Reader Comments

Folks thought the iPod was a fine, fine gift for the Queen of England. So sorry to suggest she needed ANOTHER Baccarat Eagle in her closet of gifts from the former colonies...

Scorecard

More raves, thank you, my dah-links.

Now off to hide the Easter Eggs! Enjoy your weekend -- if you make it to the White House, pick us up a souvenir, won't you?

Friday, April 3, 2009

The TR: Obama On Fire, London Calling and the Return of Blago

Binghamton under attack, blood in the streets of old Londontown and Queenie gets an iPod. What more is there to say?

Forecast

The Dow is on its way up and Congress is heading home for Spring break, so expect silence from that part of town for a while. We do, however, expect a stronger budget bill to emerge shortly after Congress' return on April 20.

Except, of course, for the sound of those knives sharpening for Obama's 100-day report cards. The man's never gotten anything but an A, but if Paul Krugman is his loyal opposition and Rush says he's a communist, what can we expect? Anyway, it's a few weeks off.

In prep for that, expect lots of back and forth pontificating over O's budget passage -- or at least grandstanding in conservative Repub districts. Not that that's anything new...

(And is a celebrity profile of Krugman really the best Newsweek can do on the real economic questions of the day? Read the Economist, please, for some real journalism. Or track the duelling blogs of CBO director Doug Elmendorf and Obama budget office director Peter Orszag.)

We'll hear more about the G-20's plans (enough money? enough regulation?), though not as much as we would like.

The media will still be breathlessly tracking the Obama World Tour through next week. Michelle and Barry hit up France and Germany today (Michelle v. Carla fashion smackdown? C'mon, MSNBC, give us a break...), and Bush-weary Europeans are welcoming the new administration with open arms. Expect the fawning to continue through early next week. In the meantime, U.S. news will keep focusing on the economy and unemployment. Bummer.

Yay, Iowa! The Iowa Supreme Court ruled a gay marriage ban unconstitutional, and it's welcome news in the wake of Prop 8. We hope this will encourage more states to keep up the momentum.

Oh, and let us not forget our favorite infamous Illinois crackpot. He's sure to take the lead in late-night punchlines after his return from Disneyworld to face multiple indictments -- 16, to be exact. While the pundits give Congress a break, they'll be hyperfocused on Blago. It also means we'll be hearing a lot about Jesse Jackson Jr., who, according to the Hill, sought an appointment from the guy. This could have big implications for his possible run for Senate seat next year. Popcorn, anyone?

The Week That Was

The Obamas took London by storm. "Ich bin ein Berli- LONDONER!" Good old Queen E looked... sadly confused and fragile as she warmly welcomed the Obamas into Westminster. Couldn't help wondering -- is it time for Charles' 15 minutes soon? Or is it right to Princess Di's lookalike rock star son Wills? (And ABOUT THAT IPOD -- what is it with the Obamas and their diplomatic gifts? I know their Mamas taught them better than that! Please vote -- strange statement? Or just clueless?)

What's good for GM is good for America... right? Well, everyone rioting at the G-20 in London might agree that canning under-performing and over-paid CEOs is a good first start. And we're not so sure Krugman is right. Practice by nationalizing the car companies (Republicans hate the Unions, anyway), then move on to the real problem -- the financial sector.

Still in Europe -- we watched the blood in the streets and wondered where the fuss was in the U.S. We're still waiting for REAL rioting. Man the barricades, mes enfants!

Back in the States, we have to say, thank goodness for Eric Holder. Nice to have a real attorney general again after 8 years of the Bush admin. Ted Stevens has been acquitted a little late, but it's wonderful to see a non-political AG at work. And h/t to Holder's request to about race -- do you think than an African-American man is more sensitive to charges of prosecutorial misconduct than a privileged white man?

Thank you, venerable UK Guardian newspaper, for the best April Fool's joke of the week. "Guardian to go to all Twitter format," blared the headline. "Nothing worth saying is over 140 characters." Made ya look! By the way, this whole Google-taking-over-Twitter thing is probably just another rumor, but it did make a splash in the blogosphere this week. What do you think -- any chance of rumor becoming reality?

Keira Knightley lent a helping hand to Rihanna and all women dealing with domestic abuse with a brutal new PSA. But we're not sure. Effective PSA or hard porn? Everyone's gonna watch this, and seeing Keira (or anyone, really) getting hit that hard is shocking at first. But will it lead to action?

And just a small note about the future of the Gray Lady: yes, it's grave, but is it worse than Darfur?

Speaking of violence and disaster, our hearts go out to the families of the victims in Binghamton, NY.

Scorecard

We predicted Spring would COME and the Dow would GO, but seems like we got the opposite. Oh, global warming must be worse than we expected! (There was a lovely day or two this week; keep your fingers crossed for more!)

Reader Comments

Thanks for all the birthday wishes, dear friends!! Yes, celebrating happened. Now -- back to the gulag with all of us!