FYI, today is international “Talk Like A Pirate Day”. This holiday encourages everyone to get in touch with their inner pirate by wearing pirate dress, speaking pirate speech, walking around with a parrot on you shoulder and drinking alcohol. Yarrrgh.
Speaking of pirates, the Department of Justice and the Bush administration have floated what they refer to as a “compromise” bill pertaining to the redefinition of the Geneva Convention to include allowing torture in CIA secret prisons. Although the details of the bill haven’t been made public, whenever the Bush administration starts talking about compromise, watch your wallet. The initial Bill was so contemptuous of judicial review that any replacement bill proffered by the administration should be closely and skeptically examined. Even if this bill is marginally better, I can confidentially state even without seeing it that it will still include an end-run around the Courts and will leave the definition of what constitutes torture subject to Bush’s discretion. Lest we forger, no one has legally challenged Bush’s signing statement and one can guarantee that one won’t be appended to this bill. Remember, Bush announced the other day that if he doesn’t get his bill through Congress the CIA will stop interrogating people all together. I am less than sanguine about the potential for a milder bill.
If the Democrats had any cohesion they would get together and call the President on his fear-mongering. There isn’t any urgency to pass this bill, or the other bill on wiretapping that is also up for a vote this week. The only urgency here is on the part of the White House who knows that when they lose Congress in November they won’t have a chance of getting another bill through. One important feature of the current bill regarding the Geneva Convention, at least from the administration’s perspective, is that it immunizes individual actors from criminal prosecution. This is important because of the administrations clear violation of the Convention, and the possibility that a newly energized Democratic Congress will bring charges against administration officials for violating the treaty. Far from a necessary power the President needs to fight the war on terror, this legislation is really a giant CYA for members of the Bush administration who are looking at the possibility of jail for their past human rights violations.
On other fronts, it has been interesting to watch the media drop the ball on the Pope/Islam story. Rather than concentrating on defusing tensions by trying to explain the context of Benedict’s remarks, the mainstream media has discovered a heretofore unknown solidarity with Islamic terrorists at the same time it exhibits a pent up anti-Catholicism. The Pope’s speech was a lot longer and a lot more detailed than the incessant repetition of the two most inflammatory lines by the media would have one believe. On the News Hour last night Gwen Ifill practically accused George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and quasi-official Vatican spokesperson of racism because he averred that the reaction to the speech “underscores the truth of what the pope was trying to put on the table, namely, that there are, unfortunately -- but in a widespread way -- currents in the Islamic world which attempt to justify violence in the name of God.” And that “[t]his is not the way rational, serious, civilized people conduct serious arguments. That's not a contribution to any sort of serious inter-religious dialogue”.
It appears as if a number of Christian clerics at least have an understanding of what is really happening. “We are faced with a media-driven phenomenon bordering on the absurd,” Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the former archbishop of Paris, told Le Monde. “If the game consists in unleashing the crowd’s vindictiveness on words that it has not understood, then the conditions for dialogue with Islam are no longer met.” Exactly so.