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DOJ Doc Dump, Gonzales Under Fire Still

| Tue Mar. 20, 2007 11:24 AM EDT

Last night, as anyone who has been following the prosecutor purge knows, the DOJ released a massive amount of documents (3,000 pages of internal emails) that many hoped would shed further light on the recent mass firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. As US News and World Report reported last night, the email causing the biggest stir is one that DOJ spokesman Brian Roehrkasse sent to AG Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson regarding Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty's testimony before Congress in February. McNulty testified about the firing of former USA Bud Cummins who was forced to resign to make room for Karl Rove's former aid and protege Timothy Griffin. McNulty, under questioning from Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the Dems spearheading the investigation into the purge of the eight USAs, did not deny that making room for Griffin was why Cummins had been fired. In fact, he made clear that Cummins had done nothing wrong and his firing was not performance related. Roehrkasse was traveling with the attorney general at the time, who was very unhappy with McNulty's honesty, er...depiction of the firing. Roehkrasse's email "said the attorney general disagreed with his characterization of Cummins's firing, because Gonzales believed that it was at least in part performance related."

As US News and World Report points out, this email highlights an "internal rift" within the department and really, makes Gonzales look a little sneaky. It appears the AG just can't catch a break, not even from the GOP. As was reported by Washington-based Politico, "Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed."

Update: Bush calls Gonzales to reaffirm his strong support and backing for the AG to stay in the job. Officials say that reports that the WH is looking for a successor were overblown.

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Troops Say: Don't Ask, Don't Care

| Tue Mar. 20, 2007 2:01 AM EDT

A reader of my post yesterday on the cost of DADT on the military points out an interesting Zogby poll from December that suggests troops on the ground are much more accepting of homosexuality in the military than the higher ups who have questioned whether gays should serve at all.

The poll found that nearly one in four U.S. troops (23%) say they know for sure that someone in their unit is gay or lesbian, and 59% of those folks said they learned about the person's sexual orientation directly from the individual. Further, the poll of 545 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan found that more than half of troops who know a gay soldier in their unit say that the person's sexual orientation is well known by others.

So maybe, once you are out in the field it's more "don't ask, don't care." Or maybe it's just the kind of situation where, in the downtime and comraderie that exists a war zone, details about your lives and loved ones just come out.

And that's just fine by most. The survey found that 3 out of 4 troops say they are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians. Of the 20% who said they are uncomfortable around gays and lesbians, only 5% are "very" uncomfortable, while 15% are "somewhat" uncomfortable. Just 2% of troops said knowing that gays are not allowed to serve openly was an important reason in their decision to join the military.

One discouraging note from the poll was the fact that only half of the troops surveyed say they have received training on the prevention of anti-gay harassment in the past three years. And fully 40% say they have not received this type of training, which is mandated by Defense Department policy.

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 9:36 PM EDT

There'll be no Viacom product on the YouTube these days, for sure, but that doesn't make no nevermind. We can still, er, dance if we want to. Or at least stave off the Monday blahs with some music videos. Here's five I like:

Brit Hume, Right Wing Warrior, Strikes Again

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 8:40 PM EDT

hume.jpgBrit Hume's true colors show on Sundays, when he appears on Fox News Sundays. Previously, Hume had declared that it was "unlikely" that Valerie Plame Wilson carried out covert missions for the CIA. (How he could presume to know such a thing is beyond me.) The evidence is mounting that Plame was in fact a covert operative, including statements by the CIA director and Ms. Plame herself, in her sworn congressional testimony on Friday. But Brit knows best: He's accusing Plame of lying under oath.

Gates on Gays in the Military: I'm Too Busy for this Crap

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 8:03 PM EDT

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that homosexuality, like adultery, is immoral and the Army shouldn't allow any immoral behavior. I have a few questions left about that. First of all, immoral according to what standard in a secular state? The Bible? Even the Bible takes adultery to be the bigger issue: It made the top 10; biblical pronouncements on homosexuality are tucked away in odd places and not especially clear. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" is pretty clear. And yet, there's no word from the DoD that a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on adultery is forthcoming.

None of these obvious questions has been asked. The media has, however, tackled likely '08 Democratic candidates Obama and Clinton and asked for their opinion on the morality of homosexuality. They hedged. (Clinton had asked for the gay vote just days before at an under-the-radar speech at the Human Rights Campaign.)

Finally, someone has gotten around to asking the Secretary of Defense what he thinks.
Robert Gates veritably brimmed with substance and insight when he said, "I think we should just move on at this point." Asked whether he thought Pace should apologize, Gates said no. Gates went on to say that he was too busy to evaluate whether "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"—which less than half the nation supports and which costs a strapped military 4,000 soldiers a year—is an effective policy.

Which is Worse, Murder or Genocide?

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 6:41 PM EDT

This is not a moral invective but a scientific fact: We care more about one murder than a genocide.

It's a truth both Joseph Stalin and Mother Teresa lived by. He said, "One man's death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic." She said, "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at one, I will."

The mental flaw responsible for the moral one is exposed in this psychology study: "Donations to aid a starving 7-year-old child in Africa declined sharply when her image was accompanied by a statistical summary of the millions of needy children like her in other African countries. The numbers appeared to interfere with people's feelings of compassion toward the young victim," writes Paul Slovic.

So the more people dead or in danger, the less we care. It's the reason we've said, "Never again," over and over again after the Shoah, then Cambodia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kosovo, and Rwanda. But still so few Americans recognize the name, Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who has already orchestrated the killing of at least 200,000 people. That's at least 199,999 too many to grasp—are your eyes glazing over already?

For more on "psychic numbing" or "compassion fatigue," check out Slovic's slide presentation. Also watch our photo essay on Darfur.

From a previous Blue Marble post, another explanation for our blindness to injustice is system-justification theory. People want to see the world as fair and just, so they blame the victim to help themselves feel better about the status quo.


Rwandan_Genocide_Murambi_skulls.jpg

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Oh, Goodie, Another Bad Review for Black Snake Moan

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 6:33 PM EDT

black_snake_moan.jpg

I blogged a while back about the surprisingly positive reviews the repulsively salacious film Black Snake Moan was getting, with the only exception being the New York Times (that's why I still defend the Times, mostly). The Nation calls attention to yet another hypersexual version of the sexual-abuse victim the movie sets the viewer up to rape all over again:

The icing on this particular cake is a PR campaign featuring a barely clad Ricci...kneeling at Samuel Jackson's feet, accompanied by the soft-porn slogan "Everything Is Hotter Down South."

And, like the New York Times, The Nation takes issue with the particular mix of race and gender in the movie. First of all, let's remember that the hot young thing is chained to the radiator to cure her of nymphomania—which doesn't actually exist, and certainly doesn't cause sweats and chills of oh-so-hot-it-looks-like-an-orgasm kind Christina Ricci's character suffers in the film.

But I digress. Here's The Nation:

The two most powerful symbols of slavery in Black Snake Moan are writ large on Rae's body: the chains around her waist and the rebel flag on her T-shirt. These images evoke the specter of white wrongdoing but also reframe her enslavement--which is supposed to be OK because Lazarus is black and Rae is white…What makes the movie truly offensive is that it employs race to peddle its brand of misogyny....

Misogyny, you ask? Really? Yeah, really. Here are two reviewers' actual edited reviews, published on actual newsprint stolen from some trees in Oregon:

Brewer's camera leaves the viewer free to savor the bared body of a victim of sexual abuse and rape tied to a radiator. And savor the male critics did. "All this envelope-pushing misogyny goes down relatively easily," claims New York Post's Lou Lumenick, who could "practically smell the sex and sweat" in what he dubs a "not insignificant contribution to global warming." Todd McCarthy of Variety predicts that the movie "will find its most eager audience among college-age guys hot to ogle the young star in some very raw action."

So the film's claim to cure the woman of her nymphomania is an excuse for men to eroticize a young someone who's been so abused she no longer has any meaningful form of consent to give. Who has the problem, again?

Bush Administration Endangers Species List

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 6:08 PM EDT

On Friday the Department of the Interior quietly issued a new interpretation of the Endangered Species Act on its website. In it the DOI essentially redefines what is an "endangered species," quibbling with the meaning of terms such as "significant" and "portion" and "range," which, in the original act, mandated that an "endangered species" is "any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

Under the new opinion, an animal will no longer be classified as "endangered" if a population thrives in any part of the nation. For example, the gray wolf would be delisted in Montana and Idaho where it survives in stable populations, but remain "endangered" in Wyoming. (Never mind that Montana and Wyoming and Idaho are all neighbors and their gray wolf populations don't pay attention to borders.)

Because of this new definition of "endangered," the Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 80% of current species on the federal endangered and threatened lists may be dropped, along with the protection the list provides them. (The CBD found that 77% of the 108 species that have gone extinct since the Endangered Species Act was enacted did so during the lengthy listing process.)

The opinion also makes no provisions for animals who have been driven out of prior habitats. "It's just so clearly illogical and anti-wildlife that I can't wait to get this before a federal judge," said Kieran Suckling, policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "They are rewarding industry for driving populations extinct. Because as soon as you drive a population extinct (in a certain area) it is no longer on the table. It no longer counts toward whether a species is endangered."

The opinion reasoned that:

"The phrase 'in danger' denotes a present-tense condition of being at risk of a future, undesired event. Hence, to say a species 'is in danger' in an area where it no longer exists--i.e. in its historical range--would be inconsistent with common usage .... the Secretary must consider the 'present' or 'threatened' (i.e. future), rather than the past 'destruction, modification, or curtailment' of a species' habitat or range."

Unfortunately, the DOI's opinion may stick. As a previous case dictated, if a word like "endangered" is ambiguous, the federal court must accept the department's definition, "even if the agency's reading differs from what the court believes is the best statutory interpretation." "This policy will do more to promote the purposeful killing of imperiled species than anything else this administration has ever done," said Suckling.

Possibly Suckling hasn't seen the even more questionable Endangered Species Reform Act of 2007, introduced to the Senate last month, that would require lengthy research, numerous reports, petitions, and government confirmation of all that information before a rapidly-disappearing species could even be listed as "endangered" in the first place.

—Jen Phillips

Which is Worse, Murder or Genocide?

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

This is not a moral invective but a scientific fact: We care more about one murder than a genocide.

It's a truth both Joseph Stalin and Mother Teresa lived by. He said, "One man's death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic." She said, "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at one, I will."

The mental flaw responsible for the moral one is exposed in this psychology study: "Donations to aid a starving 7-year-old child in Africa declined sharply when her image was accompanied by a statistical summary of the millions of needy children like her in other African countries. The numbers appeared to interfere with people's feelings of compassion toward the young victim," writes Paul Slovic.

So the more people dead or in danger, the less we care. It's the reason we've said, "Never again," over and over again after the Shoah, then Cambodia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kosovo, and Rwanda. But still so few Americans recognize the name, Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who has already orchestrated the killing of at least 200,000 people. That's at least 199,999 too many to grasp—are your eyes glazing over already?

For more on "psychic numbing" or "compassion fatigue," check out Slovic's slide presentation. Also watch our photo essay on Darfur.

From a previous Blue Marble post, another explanation of our blindness to injustice is system-justification theory. People want to see the world as fair and just, so they blame the victim to help themselves feel better about the status quo.


Rwandan_Genocide_Murambi_skulls.jpg

Fratellis Release Single on USB Stick

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 5:04 PM EDT

mojo-photo-usb.jpgUK trio the Fratellis have released their new single, "Baby Fratelli," on cute little USB memory sticks today, reports NME. 7000 of the things were made and sent around to HMV stores in the UK. In this era of digital downloads, any physical manifestation of a single seems oddly regressive, especially for a band whose main American claim to fame is being on an iPod commercial. But those little USB drives are so cute and teensy, and so fast with the up- and downloading and all. The drives are not, however, eligible for inclusion in the top 40 charts. Apparently UK band Keane have also put out a limited-edition USB drive release. Whether artists releasing USB singles are required to be derivative and boring has not yet been determined.