FUBAR

Let’s be FAIR: This is hate

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s civil-rights watchdog founded in 1971, has stepped forward and branded the 28-year-old Federation for American Immigration Reform as a hate group, tying it to white-supremacist and other such organizations — and reaction has been swift.

In 2006, SPLC counted 844 hate groups in the United States.

Home of the meek, land of the fee

The Bush administration is trying to hide its mismanagement of federal lands by using new permit requirements and fees to limit filming and photography in national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, a congressional leader charges.

Less news is good news for Bush’s war

A recent decline in U.S. news coverage from Iraq coincides with improved public opinion about the war just as the 2008 presidential campaign heads to an early showdown, a study released on Wednesday said.

The study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said the volume of coverage from Iraq fell from 8 percent of all news stories in the first six months of 2007 to 5 percent between June and October due mainly to a decline in news accounts of daily attacks.

What should Bud Selig do?

Eventually, this column will outline the first action Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig must take in response to former Sen. George Mitchell’s report on the widespread use of illegal steroids and other performance-enhancing substances in the sport.

But first we need to note a truth that has always been self-evident, even at the lying, cheating core of the scandal: At the moment of truth, when each player was getting his first illegal injection or salve massage, he knew that his act could mean his own asterisk.

Playing the cynical game

Last weekend I dipped a toe into the sewers of right-wing talk radio, and listened to a rant by Michael Savage, during which the nationally syndicated commentator suggested that America’s health-care problems could be solved by relocating fat people to “work camps.”

In the course of what began as an attack on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s support for universal health care, he vented his disgust toward “fat women,” and claimed that non-thin Americans didn’t deserve access to health care.

The ethanol scam

New energy legislation is careening toward a calamitous collision with American lives, especially ethanol provisions that will hike food prices and foul the environment while saving little or nothing on fossil-fuel consumption.

The mandate that tens of billions more subsidized gallons of ethanol be used in our cars each year by 2022 is little short of a scam, a gift to politically important corn farmers and others under the pretense that you, the taxpayer, are thereby awarded the enhanced prospect of energy independence and less global warming. No such thing.

A complex but Merry Christmas

We Americans can’t do “simple holidays.” We probably wouldn’t recognize one if it cropped up on the calendar.

This year’s Christmas, a boisterous and appealing mix of the sacred and the secular, will be bigger and gaudier than ever. Let us browse some of the Census Bureau’s collection of gee-whiz facts:

Christmas trees are a half-billion-dollar business. China is our leading supplier of tree ornaments and our leading foreign source of artificial trees. Texas is our leading supplier of candles, $16l million worth at last count. Jewelry-store sales will jump 155 percent this month.

A clear moral issue

In this Christmas season of peace, love and goodwill, we find ourselves debating, in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, whether torture is ever justified. And whether waterboarding, an ancient interrogation method favored by the Nazis and prosecuted as a crime by the United States for a century, constitutes torture. Of course waterboarding is torture, even if our attorney general can’t bring himself to say so, and it is illegal under U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions.

If not torture, then what?

The dilemma is of such magnitude that there really may never be a satisfactory answer or solution that doesn’t leave us all losers one way or the other. We can forgo any form of interrogation that might be interpreted as torture and risk missing an opportunity to save lives or we can use long discredited methods and give up the moral high ground that we always have claimed in the “home of the free and the land of the brave.

Tape destruction proves torture

The CIA’s destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects gives more reason to fear that detainees face torture, a UN human rights expert said Thursday.

It “is one more argument that supports the contention that the CIA has been involved and continues to be involved in the use of interrogation techniques that violate the absolute prohibition against torture,” special rapporteur Martin Scheinin told journalists.