Wandering Eye: President Obama's year in photos, investigating the CIA, and more

City Paper's Year in Photos is a compelling view, but also check out the White House's version. Bill Murray's in there, and Obama with the Easter Bunny, and with Vladimir Putin (and with a koala bear, with Putin in the background), and lots of babies, pets, vets, and symbolism. Scrolling through is great stroll through Obama's life these days. (Van Smith)
The private prurience of religious conservatives periodically explodes in public scandals seasoned with hypocrisy, and now science is measuring this proclivity. Using state-based Google Trends data to parse out sexual-content searches, researchers whose work was just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that "a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private internet activity." Worth noting: The researchers are from Canada, where the Christian right recently arrived. (Van Smith)

An intriguing piece by Mark Mazzetti in the Dec. 26 New York Times compares the recent torture report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to the Church Committee hearings investigating the CIA in the mid 1970s. A person looking at the excitement generated by the recent reports and having heard or read about Sen. Frank Church's famous reforms might think we had déjà vu all over again. But no, says Mazzetti: "A number of factors—from steadfast backing by Congress and the White House to strong public support for clandestine operations—ensure that an agency that has been ascendant since President Obama came into office is not likely to see its mission diminished, either during his waning years in the White House or for some time after that." Times have changed, the story explains. Church did his work after the Vietnam War ended, when nerves were raw. But it was before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan—a "relatively benign time," as one commentator puts it. Of course, looking at the Church Committee versus today's torture report neatly sidesteps all the fun of the 1980s, what with the Iran hostage crisis, the proxy wars in Central America (and Afghanistan), and the amazing connection of the two with the Iran-Contra scandal. And the subsequent pardons. Which is the point, one supposes: Expecting the intelligence agencies to respect the law is naive. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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