From paranoia to patdowns

    The president of a conservative organization suggests that the TSA airport patdowns are part of the plot to promote a “homosexual agenda” — and other items of interest.

    Quick hits on some items of interest:As expected, a federal judge this week issued a permanent injunction to stop the voters of Oklahoma from making fools of themselves. In the November election, a landslide majority said Yes to a referendum making it illegal for any state court to invoke Islamic law. But, contrary to the paranoia inherent in the Save Our State Amendment, Islamic law (better known as Sharia) is not, and never has been, a jurisprudential threat in Oklahoma or in any of the other 49 states.The Republican politicians who pushed the referendum surely know that, but, hey, it did what it was supposed to do. It boosted conservative turnout, which is why Republicans are thinking of pushing similar ballot measures in other states. The bogeyman strategy lives on. In 2004, the GOP-backed referenda tapped into fears about gays getting married. Now it’s Muslims.”What Oklahoma has done is faith-baiting, taking the least attractive elements or excesses of a religious tradition and symbolically legislating against them,” one observer wrote with disgust the other day. “This is a novel use of American law – not to actually address a public problem, but to taunt a religious minority.” He wrote that the war on terror “is very real – but we will lose it without Muslim allies. And we will lose those allies if America treats Islam as the enemy.”Thank you, Michael Gerson – former chief speechwriter, and a senior policy adviser, to George W. Bush.——-Yesterday, the hapless Democrats passed a House bill that cancels the Bush tax cuts for the rich, while preserving those tax cuts for the lower brackets. Naturally, the GOP lawmakers, in defense of rich people, overwhelmingly voted No. But more importantly, passage of this bill is a symbolic triumph that means absolutely squat. The Senate won’t go along, and the Obama White House seems bent on caving in to Republican demands that the rich keep their bounty. In the delicate words of The New York Times, Democrats appear to be “essentially negotiating the terms of their major retreat on an issue that they once considered a slam dunk on both substantive and political levels” – especially the latter, since national polls consistently show that only a third of the populace favors continuation of tax cuts for the rich.Even on the symbolism front, the Democrats don’t know how to fight. They should have staged this tax vote back in September or October and put the Republicans on record as the defenders of tax cuts for millionaires…in other words, during the pre-election phase, when Democrats could have sharpened the contrast with their opponents and perhaps given their torpid followers a reason to get off the couch on voting day.But no. The Democrats punted back then, preferring to wait until now – when even the symbolism is politically worthless. As one observer warned back in September, “a party can’t stand up for itself if it lacks what the Cowardly Lion called duh noive. Unless or until the Democrats finally get the nerve, they don’t deserve to be king of the forest.” I wrote that. And they don’t deserve it.——-Senate Republicans, led by John McCain, are so determined to keep gay soldiers in the closet that they now seem blind to the fundamental principle of civilian control of the military. On Capitol Hill yesterday, McCain and his allies on the Senate Armed Services Committee kept insisting that the gays-in-the-closet policy should not be repealed unless or until our service members, and particularly our combat forces, are specifically polled on whether they favor such a repeal.In response, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was compelled to give the Republicans a lecture in basic civics. It speaks for itself: “I can’t think of a single precedent in American history of doing a referendum of the American armed forces on a policy issue. Are you going to ask them if they want 15-month tours? Are you going to ask them if they want to be part of the surge in Iraq? That’s not the way our civilian-led military has ever worked in our entire history…I think that in effect doing a referendum of the armed forces on a policy matter is a very dangerous path.”——-Charlie Rangel’s humiliation is complete. Yesterday he became the first House member in 27 years to be censured for misconduct. Somehow his failure to contest the weight of the evidence (which resulted in 11 violations of ethics rules and federal laws) seemed to sway his colleagues far more than his repeated invocations of his Korean war service. In any event, he gets to keep his job.The issue, looking ahead, is whether the House will keep policing its own behavior. Rangel was collared with the help of the new Office of Congressional Ethics, which wrote him up in a report spanning 300 pages. Nancy Pelosi created the office; the incoming speaker, John Boehner, has made noises about gutting the office. It will be interesting to see what he does. Perhaps he should keep it, as further expiation for his misbehavior on the House floor back in 1995, when he handed out campaign checks from the tobacco lobby to various colleagues while they were voting on tobacco subsidies.——-CNN’s eight p.m. prime-time slot seems to be jinxed. Campbell Brown tanked during that hour, and now there is buzz that Kathleen Parker isn’t getting along with her co-host, hooker fan Eliot Spitzer. Plus, their ratings are bad. In the likely event that Parker/Spitzer goes away, what would the network do to boost viewership and get in sync with the zeitgeist? Something desperate, perhaps. Several suggestions:The Julian Assange Show. The WikiLeaks maestro reads secret documents each night, via Skype from an undisclosed location. The debut episode could feature “the lunch receipts of craven American diplomats, as they plot to kill civilians while ordering foie gras.”Middle Finger to Those Who Hate America. Bristol Palin twitters nightly from her bathtub, dishing about everyone she hates, everyone who hates her, everyone who hates her mom, and everyone her mom hates.——-Well, we knew it would come to this: The president of a conservative organization suggests that the TSA airport patdowns are part of the plot to promote a “homosexual agenda.”(My CNN suggestions were satirical. This one is real. But who can tell the difference?)Eugene Delgaudio, a “family values” guy who heads a Virginia-based group, Public Advocate of the United States, has sent out an e-mail warning that some of the TSA people might be gay. And therefore, “that means the next TSA official that gives you an ‘enhanced patdown’ could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission.”No word yet on whether John McCain is similarly spooked.

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