black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

“Dan Savage is not “insisting that the Bible be interpreted selectively,” he is pointing out that it already is, in literally every single case, interpreted selectively. Unless you are stoning adulterers, you are interpreting the Bible selectively. By this definition, all such communities have “abandoned their faith.” His question was: why must the verse condemning gay people in Leviticus be followed to the letter, while almost none of the other ones are?”

On one hand, there is a case to be made that the madness of the right has made America a fundamentally unsound nation. And yes, it is the madness of the right: if not for the extremism of anti-tax Republicans, we would have no trouble reaching an agreement that would ensure long-run solvency.

On the other hand, it’s hard to think of anyone less qualified to pass judgment on America than the rating agencies. The people who rated subprime-backed securities are now declaring that they are the judges of fiscal policy? Really?

Just to make it perfect, it turns out that S&P got the math wrong by $2 trillion, and after much discussion conceded the point — then went ahead with the downgrade.

More than that, everything I’ve heard about S&P’s demands suggests that it’s talking nonsense about the US fiscal situation. The agency has suggested that the downgrade depended on the size of agreed deficit reduction over the next decade, with $4 trillion apparently the magic number. Yet US solvency depends hardly at all on what happens in the near or even medium term: an extra trillion in debt adds only a fraction of a percent of GDP to future interest costs, so a couple of trillion more or less barely signifies in the long term. What matters is the longer-term prospect, which in turn mainly depends on health care costs.

So what was S&P even talking about? Presumably they had some theory that restraint now is an indicator of the future — but there’s no good reason to believe that theory, and for sure S&P has no authority to make that kind of vague political judgment.

In short, S&P is just making stuff up — and after the mortgage debacle, they really don’t have that right.

So this is an outrage — not because America is A-OK, but because these people are in no position to pass judgment.

Harvard under fire for plans to honor New Republic Owner and Editor, Martin Peretz who wrote that 'Muslim life is cheap'

Peretz caused a stir when he wrote in a column earlier this month that Muslims in the US should not be entitled to constitutional guarantees of free speech.

"Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims … So, yes, I wonder whether I need honour these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse," he said.

Peretz has made two apologies, saying he was wrong to say Muslims should be stripped of their free speech rights, but defended his assertion that Muslim life is cheap. “This is a statement of fact, not value.”

Critics say they are only the most recent of a long line of bigotted columns in the New Republic by the former Harvard professor that have drawn accusations of double standards in how the American media confronts prejudice. Peretz, who is a strident supporter of Israel, has said in conversation that he believes Palestinians are unfit to have their own country and suggested that Arabs are genetically violent.

Although Peretz was criticized in a New York Times column after his recent comments, critics have contrasted the reticence of the American media over his views with the barrage of condemnation for the journalist Helen Thomas, after she said Israel’s Jewish population should “go home” to Germany, Poland or the US. Peretz was among her severest critics, calling Thomas wicked and a Jew-hater.

Some prominent American bloggers, among them Glenn Greenwald, accuse the US mainstream media of protecting Peretz because of his connections.

"Marty Peretz has a lot of connections at the highest levels of media and politics. He’s a good friend of Al Gore who he has been championing for a long time. The way things work is that once you enter this realm of being respectable and serious it is almost as if anything goes," said Greenwald. "The New Republic is considered respectable in Washington and so the fact that the editor-in-chief of that magazine is a ranting, raving bigot, it’s almost as if he’s immunised because he’s in this circle of respectability." +

Iraq to pay $400 million for Saddam's mistreatment of Americans

Iraq has quietly agreed to pay $400 million in claims to American citizens who say they were tortured or traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s regime after his 1990 invasion of Kuwait. “There was a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government to do something that gets Congress off their back,” says one senior Iraqi official, adding that the settlement cleared the way for US efforts to bring Iraq out from under the UN “Chapter 7” sanctions. US courts had previously awarded at least two multimillion-dollar settlements, later appealed. The Bush administration at the time had argued that the money, held in US trust, was needed to help rebuild Iraq.

The claimants included an American boy who was seen frozen-looking on Iraqi television while Saddam Hussein asked him if he’d enjoyed his breakfast after he and his family were prevented from leaving the country.

Despite Iraq’s potential oil wealth, the country has major economic problems, including widespread poverty, 30 percent unemployment, and an infant mortality rate among the highest in the region. Oil revenue, which the US believed would fund reconstruction when it invaded Iraq, has been limited by ongoing attacks and an infrastructure that will take billions of dollars in investment and years to repair.

The settlement is controversial not only because of Iraq’s pressing developmental needs, but because it holds the current government accountable for Saddam Hussein’s actions.

“A lot of blood has flowed since then and a lot of it is Iraqi blood. It’s arguable that the suffering was not caused by the current Iraqi government or the Iraqi people,” says one senior Iraqi official. “This is politics, this is not justice.”

The pastor and cheap, selective concern for "blood-spilling"

Media figures who treat actual blood-spillers with great reverence [have] suddenly found within themselves an oh-so-profound concern over “blood-spilling.” [Those] who would never dream of treating with hostility Respected Political Officials who start wars of aggression are competing with one another over who can most flamboyantly express contempt for this inconsequential, powerless joke of a figure on the ground that he risks “spilling blood.”  Just watch this 4-minute segment from Morning Joe this morning, one of the most cringe-inducing displays of cheap, cost-free self-righteousness you’ll ever see, as a panel that includes Jon Meacham, Mika Brzezinski, and Dan Senor parade the Pastor in front of everyone — without letting him speak — so they can voice their profound contempt for him, while Meacham urges him, in the name of Jesus, to refrain from burning the Korans so as to avoid spilling blood.

Do you think that the establishment-serving, power-worshipping Jon Meacham would ever in a million years use language like that to condemn American officials who have actually spilled enormous amounts of blood?  An extensive search this morning revealed no instance where Meacham ever condemned or publicly appealed in the name of Jesus to the architects of the attack on Iraq, which resulted in the blood-spilling of hundreds of thousands of human beings.  

Glenn Greenwald

Thanks to WikiLeaker, Afghan War Will End Soon

"An appalling irresponsible act." That’s how General James Nattis, fresh at the helm of U.S. Central Command, characterizes the release of the classified Pentagon reports. You may recall that the Pentagon is the same outfit that loaded $24 billion in $100 bills onto shrinkwrapped pallets and loaded the cash onto C-130 transport planes bound for Iraq—guarded by enlisted men who earn $20,000 a year. Not one of those Benjamins has ever heard from since. Which, given that the money was supposed to be paid to corrupt tribal sheikhs, is just as well.

So anyway, when a Pentagon biggie calls someone irresponsible, take them seriously. These guys know from irresponsibility.

The involuntarily declassified material contains some real gems. My current fave—there will, no doubt, be others, for I am fickle and the material is vast—comes from an Aug ‘07 report that explains some of the ways Pakistan uses the billions in U.S. taxdollars.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (its equivalent of our CIA), is supposed to help the U.S. arrest and/or kill the Haqqanis (a neo-Taliban-affiliated Islamist organization). That’s why the U.S. pays the ISI. Instead, the ISI pays the Haqqanis. With U.S. money.

Which is why, when you lose your house to foreclosure, the only help you get from Obama is a feigned expression of vague concern.

Anyway, the ISI hires the Haqqanis to carry out interesting projects. For example, Pakistan used your money to hire Haqqani assassins to kill Indian road engineers and workers in Nimruz province. Going rate: $15,000 to $30,000 each. Another deal concerns 1,000 motorcycles which ISI shipped to the Haqqanis for use in suicide bomb attacks in Khost and Logar provinces. Let’s hope they at least had the decency to buy cool, American-made Harleys so that some of our dough makes its way back here.

So, back to the issue of irresponsible behavior. U.S. government, meet kettle.

It has been pointed out that the WikiLeaks documents don’t reveal much that is new. But the Wikileaks leaks are nevertheless a game-changer. They prove that the military sees things the same way we do. So that’s the end of the debate. The war is an atrocity and a mistake. Everyone agrees.

The leaks mark the beginning of the end of one of a stupid country’s countless stupid misadventures. I don’t see what else might have accomplished the same thing so quickly.

Record Labels Face Up to $6 Billion Damages for Pirating Artists

While the major record labels were dragging file-sharers and BitTorrent sites to court for copyright infringement, they were themselves being sued by a conglomerate of artists for exactly the same offenses. Warner, Sony BMG, EMI and Universal face up to $6 billion in damages for pirating a massive 300,000 tracks. These numbers may sound outrageous, yet they are based on the same rules that led the recording industry to claim a single file sharer is liable for millions in damages. The class-action lawsuit has been underway for the past year but continues to be dragged up in the news because new plaintiffs keep joining the case, most recently Chet Baker’s estate, which still owns the copyright in more than 50 of his works.

“It’s staggering really that modern American Christianism supports wealth while Jesus demanded total poverty, fetishizes family while Jesus left his and urged his followers to abandon wives, husbands and children, champions politics while Jesus said his kingdom was emphatically not of this world, defends religious war where Jesus sought always peace, and backs torture, which is what the Romans did to Jesus. At some point these charlatans need to be chased out of the temple. Which these days means the Republican party.”
©2011 Kateoplis