Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Winston and me

At the latest Democratic debate, number 534 I believe, Al Sharpton says he’s never used marijuana. Dean has.

One US Army captain tells the LA Times that Saddam’s birthplace, now surrounded by barbed wire & soldiers, hasn’t been made into a gulag/stalag/strategic hamlet/concentration camp at all. “They have a level of security most people don't have," he said. "Once they get their ID cards, they are free to come and go. You could compare it to one of those gated communities.” OK, let’s try it: Tikrit is nothing like one of those gated communities.

Infinitely sillier than the CBS Reagan biopic: Tom Selleck as Eisenhower. Really.

The R’s are saying that the movie is a disgrace because Saint Ronnie has Alzheimer’s and can’t defend himself. So what are we supposed to do, wait for him to get better? It’s not like he, y’know, minds. Still, it’s hilarious that R’s are pretending to believe that the American viewing public would be confused into believing that this was a documentary. It’s even more hilarious that this little debate is about Reagan, who himself couldn’t distinguish between movies and real life, evidently believing on a couple of occasions that he had been a soldier during WW II, rather than an actor playing one.

Bush signed the ban on “partial-birth abortions” today. He was surrounded by a bunch of middle-aged men. I saw a dozen men and literally no women. NO WOMEN! An administration so control freakish about presentation failed to notice, or just plain didn’t care. Hah, just checked the White House web site, and there’s even a picture; 10 angry men. No feminist group could have staged this better to show Republican indifference to women than the White House did it itself.

(Later): I’m not the only person to have noticed. Here’s a, um, variation, on that photo.

Speaking of presentation, a piece in today’s NYT notes that Bush not only has attended no military funerals but never mentions any of the war dead by name. His handlers are quoted as saying that if he mentioned one, he’d have to do it for all of them, otherwise some of the families would feel left out. “He never wants to elevate or diminish one sacrifice made over another,” says communications director Dan Bartlett, sounding like he’d been asked which of the twins Shrub loved the most. One example: Bush never spoke about the downing of the Chinook and deaths of 15 soldiers. Here’s an actual quote from a handler: “If a helicopter were hit an hour later, after he came out and spoke, should he come out again?” Grotesque. When a reporter finally cornered Bush about the Chinook a couple of days later, he couldn’t even acknowledge that it happened during a war, a war which he had ordered: “I am saddened any time that there’s a loss of life.” Any time? I mean, holy shit, he came out against death! And on the facing page of the NYT, there’s a picture of Bush touring the fire damage in California and hugging someone who lost her home. Gosh, if there’s another fire an hour later, does he have to hug someone else? The difference, of course, is that he’s responsible for the war, but didn’t start the fire (probably).

Today I went to a talk at UCB by an old political scientist from Oxford, David Butler, who I’ve previously seen doing commentary for the BBC in election-night coverage. He’s something like 79 and spoke without notes, which is just plain scary. He told a story about having written an article for The Economist in 1950 about the effects of the first-past-the-post system in magnifying the effects of small electoral swings, which caused a bit of a fuss at the time and he was asked to come to Chartwell for a chat with the leader of the Conservative party, Winston Churchill, for four hours. Winnie drank four large brandies, talked about the Dundee by-election of 1908, and performed the Blood sweat & tears speech for him. I’m betting there hasn’t been a week since 1950 that Butler hasn’t told the story. Wouldn’t you? Anyway, I asked a couple of questions at the end, so basically I discussed politics with a man who has also discussed politics with Churchill.

An Israeli lawyer tried to get a court to require his wife to commit to having sex with him twice a day. It said no, which is a word he should probably get used to.

More abortion news: the Austin Area Pro-Life Concrete Contractors and Suppliers Association (!) has intimidated every cement company within 60 miles of Austin, Texas, into boycotting the construction of a Planned Parenthood clinic. One subcontractor received 1,200 phone calls.

Britain is down to 27 surviving veterans of World War I.

Denmark gives Norse priests the power to conduct weddings. Reception and pillaging to follow.

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