Life Imitates Art: Little Britain vs. Larry Craig

| Wed Aug. 29, 2007 4:12 PM EDT

Towleroad reminds us of a hilarious clip from the brilliant UK TV series "Little Britain" (a US version coming to HBO soon!) that Senator Craig maybe should have watched before formulating his denial. "Little Britain" is edgy but this clip is basically safe for work, unless your boss knows what a "Split Rose" "Spit Roast" is. (That one makes more sense, come to think of it).

Compare and contrast:

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White House Settles First Amendment Suit

| Wed Aug. 29, 2007 3:03 PM EDT

Some of you may recall the recent discovery of a 103-page White House manual on how to "handle" protesters. The "Presidential Advance Manual" goes into great detail about how to prevent protesters from showing up at a presidential rally, and how to curtail their activities if they are pesky enough to show up, anyway.

Jeff and Nicole Rank, you will also recall, were two protesters who showed up at a presidential rally in Charleston, West Virginia, in 2004, and they were arrested for wearing T-shirts that had a line through the ersatz president's name on the front, and on the back of one were the words "Love America, Hate Bush." The Ranks were arrested for trespassing when they were asked to leave and refused to do so.

The city of Charleston, suddenly remembering the U.S. Constitution, later apologized to the Ranks. Jeff and Nicole Rank, however, did not believe that the Charleston police were the masterminds of their arrest, so, with the ACLU, they sued the director of the Office of White House Advance for violating their First Amendment rights. The ACLU recently announced that the case has been settled and the U.S. government will pay the Ranks $80,000. Sometimes, it's a pleasure to see your tax dollars at work.

Chart Beat: Albums

| Wed Aug. 29, 2007 2:16 PM EDT

M.I.A.: KalaTwo weeks ago, I predicted M.I.A.'s Kala would debut at #39 on the Billboard albums chart. How did I do? Well, her sophomore effort spent most of the week in the iTunes Top Ten so it's not surprising I was a little low: Kala landed at #18, ladies and gentlemen, with 29,000 sold the first week. Go, M.I.A.!

Of course, to put it in perspective, Disney's High School Musical 2 stayed at #1 for a second week, selling, uh, 367,000 copies. Yeah. Moving on, Talib Kweli's Ear Drum sold 60,000 copies, which is good for #2 this week, and Swizz Beatz' debut album as a solo artist lands at #7. Unintentionally (?) hilarious San Diego Christian metalcore outfit As I Lay Dying hits #8 with their fourth album, An Ocean Between Us. Well, at least it's something different.

Rilo Kiley sold out on Under the Blacklight, and that's good for a #22 debut with 28,000, while New Pornographers stuck to their guns on Challengers and entered the charts at #34, selling 20,000 copies.

Never Mind. U.S. Forces Release 8 Iranians Seized in Baghdad

| Wed Aug. 29, 2007 12:04 PM EDT

Acknowledging a mistake, U.S. forces have released eight Iranians, including two diplomats, seized at the Baghdad Sheraton Ishtar hotel yesterday. The Iranians from the Ministry of Electricity had been working at the invitation of the Iraqi authorities.

"Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosyhar Zebari told the British Broadcasting Corp. the Iranians were released after Iraqi officials intervened and told the Americans they were part of an official delegation on a legal visit to discuss electricity cooperation," the AP reports.

The seizure came hours after President Bush delivered a speech to the American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada in which he had threatened to confront Iranian operatives in Iraq.

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," Bush was cited. "The Iranian regime must halt these actions."

An Iraqi advisor to U.S. Iraq commander General David Petraeus, Saadi Othman, insisted there was no connection between the two events. "Othman ... told British Broadcasting Corp. television that the detentions were 'regrettable' and had 'nothing to do' with President Bush's remarks on Tuesday," the AP reports.

Escalation Forever! Newest War Funding Request from Bush Puts War Cost at $3B/Week

| Wed Aug. 29, 2007 11:21 AM EDT


President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.
The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.

Actually, Petraeus and Crocker won't be assessing anything. As the White House plans make clear, it is a foregone conclusion that Petraeus and Crocker will present only good news. So the White House will write (or has already written) the September report, then the White House will send Petraeus and Crocker out to publicize the report, then the White House will use the report it wrote to justify increased war spending. Fantastic. Escalation forever!

Keep this in mind when you argue with your Republican friends:

[T]he cost of the war in Iraq now exceeds $3 billion a week.

Shame on Larry Craig? Or on the Cops?

| Wed Aug. 29, 2007 10:32 AM EDT

If, as an open-minded liberal, you are somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that an individual, gay or otherwise, can be arrested for repeatedly tapping his foot in a public bathroom, I would suggest the Slate article up today that contains an email dialogue between the magazine's editors.

Among other excellent points raised, there is this question: since when is propositioning someone illegal, even if done in a public place? Doesn't there need to be more "conduct" involved for a lewd conduct charge?

Update: As you may have seen on today's internets, Larry Craig held a press conference saying that he pleaded guilty — even though he is not really guilty — in order to make the situation go away. (That plan does not seem to have worked out for the senator.) Craig also said, "I am not gay."

No, senator, you are not gay. You just like sex with men. And that's fine. We just wish you would own up to it so young, gay Idahoans don't think being homosexual is the worst thing in the world.

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All Quiet in Ankara?

| Wed Aug. 29, 2007 9:02 AM EDT

Turkey has a new president. The military appears to have accepted him, at least for now... See my previous post on this issue here.

Rock the Bells Was a Beats and Rhymes Marathon and I'm Still Exhausted

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 9:44 PM EDT

I got my fill of hip hop this year at Rock the Bells, a nationwide hip hop event that graced San Francisco with its presence August 18. I heard so much hip hop that day, that I couldn't listen to any beats and rhymes for days afterward.

With 19 hip hop groups in the lineup—split between two stages—performing from 11 a.m. past 10 p.m., Rock the Bells was a music marathon.

The lineup was phenomenal. The Coup rocked harder than any straight-ahead rock band, and Sage Francis turned a rant about portable toilets into poetry. EPMD live was much better than that beat-up cassette tape of theirs I used to listen to in junior high. Mos Def danced with the crowd, The Roots knocked it completely out of the ballpark with a full band and horn section, and Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, and Rage Against the Machine were as good now as they were 10 years ago. Three decades of hip hop were all in one place for a day in front of more than 40,000 people, and it was a damn good time.

But would I go again? Probably not. I think next time, I'll just bring a folding chair and set up right outside the fence. The stage was maybe 50 feet away from the perimeter, and there were three huge television screens mounted on the stage. Yeah, if money's tight, I'll just camp out and watch it all on TV.

Whistleblower Faces Firing For Exposing Indian Rip-Off

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 8:13 PM EDT

Here's a sidebar to the Cobell v. Kempthorne case—the long-running lawsuit over the government's admitted mismanagement of the Individual Indian Trust (MoJo Sept/Oct 2005). An Interior Department attorney who revealed his agency's bungling of Indian properties faces the federal boot for disclosing these problems to a newspaper. According to documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the government is invoking an obscure criminal statute known as the Trade Secrets Act (TSA).

Robert McCarthy, responsible for overseeing management of properties of individual members of Indian tribes held in trust by Interior, has documented massive losses due to agency missteps. Yet the problems persist, costing Native Americans millions of dollars a month in lost revenues. His concerns were validated by an Inspector General report that has yet to be finally released.

So, McCarthy provided a reporter for the Palm Springs Desert Sun a copy of his Inspector General disclosure with individual names blacked out. The reporter wrote a story in April, and four months later, Regional Solicitor Daniel Shillito proposed that McCarthy be fired for violating the TSA, which prohibits the release of "confidential" financial or commercial information. PEER suggests the TSA doesn't apply since McCarthy revealed no names or any information that could be considered confidential, and since the TSA only prohibits releases which damage the economic interests of the submitter. McCarthy's disclosures were designed to benefit property holders by identifying and ending unjustified losses.

Significantly, Shillito was supposed to clean up large-scale asset mismanagement and losses identified back in 1992. McCarthy found these had never been addressed. JULIA WHITTY

Natural Disasters More Destructive Than Wars

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 7:21 PM EDT

Natural disasters are far more destructive than wars. And the damage will only worsen unless drastic change is taken to address global climate change. This according to Jan Egeland, the United Nations head of humanitarian affairs from 2003-2006. In an interview with AFP [via Yahoo], Egeland said: "Already seven times more livelihoods are devastated by natural disasters than by war worldwide, at the moment, and this is going to be much worse, the way the climate is developing. Climate change, it's happening. It's not a threat. It's happening today and those who suffer the most are the poorest in Africa. Where there was already drought, the droughts are getting worse. Where there was already flooding the floodings are getting worse, as we speak." Egeland called for dramatic changes in lifestyles "if we are to avoid having disasters virtually every month in large parts of the world."

You mean, like: Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Montana, Greece, England, India, China, Mexico, Sudan, Taiwan—to name a few.

Btw, if you have time to follow only one link to recent disasters, I suggest the Christian Science Monitor piece on how the Greek fires are linked to a deadly dearth of environmental protection. It's a good example of how our hubris towards the natural world creates ugly synergistic feedback loops.

Oh, and this is what it will cost to keep natural disasters from getting a lot worse. A bargain. JULIA WHITTY