Saturday, May 31, 2003

All arbeit and no play makes George a dull boy

When I said it, it was a joke. But this, from the WaPo’s corrections section, is real: “The last name of National Spelling Bee winner Sai R. Gunturi was misspelled in a May 30 KidsPost article and on the front-page promo and caption.”

Bush, who said that his new logging policy was for environmental reasons, will drop a requirement that environmental studies be done before logging, including to find out whether it would affect endangered species.

Bush went to Auschwitz and emerged with this lesson: “hatred and aggression and murderous ambition are still alive in the world.” Uh, right, didn’t mean yourself, did you? Just checking. He also came out convinced that everything he’s done in Iraq was somehow justified all over again by Auschwitz.

Speaking of low standards of proof, here is a good Post story about how standards of proof of an Iraqi WMD program, and the scale of that program itself, have been reduced by Bush to two trailers containing absolutely no physical evidence of bioweapons of any kind. Well, Blake saw the world in a grain of sand, but then he was a loon. As a Bob Graham spokesmodel said, "Surely they're not claiming we went to war to find two mobile labs." Which is at least one Democratic politician showing at least some guts (too bad it’s Graham, huh?)

The authorities in Honduras kill 69 prisoners following a prison riot, indeed most of them after they had surrendered. Naturally, given the number of dead, this received immediate and widespread attention worldwide... wait, this happened eight weeks ago? Oh.

Thursday, May 29, 2003


The National Spelling Bee champion this year is once again someone whose name I couldn’t even begin to guess how to spell.

Joe Conason (in Salon) asks, regarding Rummy’s claim that Iraq may simply have destroyed all that weaponry to make him look bad, “Would such massive operations really have been possible without U.S. intelligence picking up communication of the necessary orders to Iraqi field commanders? Would U.S. satellites have failed to see any of that activity? And wouldn't someone among the officers captured or bribed by our military know the details of that operation?” He also points out that if those two trailers had really had anything to do with bioweapons (and there is literally no physical evidence that they did), as the Pentagon claims, someone would have had to go to an awful lot of effort to scrub them down, when they could much more easily have been blown up.

And Slate details how all those stories on WMDs Judith Miller ran in the NYT, leaked to her by defectors sponsored by Chalabi, as we now know, were wrong.

Also, all that bombing at the start of the war when they were trying to kill Saddam. Examination of the site (which seems to have taken an awfully long time to happen) shows that there was never a bunker there.

I don’t think I’ve talked about the resignation of the governor-general of Australia, who in his previous life as an Anglican archbishop covered up for paedophiles. Or, as Radio 4 in Britain so delicately phrased it, “The former Archbishop resigned following criticism of his handling of a convicted paedophile priest.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The girls are told they can't slide down that pole onto anybody

After the State of the Union Address, I comprehensively trashed Bush’s AIDS initiative. Naturally, it got worse in practice, as Bush hasn’t come close to keeping his spending promises, and is cutting AIDS spending domestically. And there are more bad bits, like forbidding any projects that work with prostitutes, who certainly could have nothing to do with the spread of AIDS, 1/3 of spending must be on abstinence (this is an international program; it’s bad enough that so much of the spending goes through religious groups, why are we trying to proselytize a particular model of sexuality as well?), and religious groups can reject any AIDS-fighting strategy they object to. And some idiot is trying to force the countries getting AIDS aid to take genetically modified as well, because the AIDS victims are looking a little skinny and need the nourishment; also, they’re easier to find if they glow in the dark.

Here’s an interesting bit from the Post story:
He also subtly cast the AIDS initiative in the context of the conservative, antiabortion agenda, saying: "We believe in the value and dignity of every human life."

The Post is absolutely right about the underlying message of that sort of statement, of course, but isn’t it interesting that when Bush talks about the value and dignity of human life, we all know that he only means fetuses?

The Supreme Court legalizes torture, or what Clarence Thomas calls “mere compulsive questioning.” Without Miranda, yet, so long as it is not used in prosecution. The cops shot a guy in the back and head and asked him questions while he screamed for medical attention.

Before the invasion of Iraq, it was claimed that it possessed 10,000 liters of anthrax, up to 6,500 chemical munitions, at least 80 tons of mustard gas, sarin, botulinum toxin, etc etc. We were told that Iraq had these weapons ready to be used within 45 minutes. But today, Rumsfeld said that they may have destroyed all of that before the war started (a reporter asked him how the hopelessly incompetent Iraqi army managed to get just this one thing right; he didn’t really answer). Britain’s former foreign minister and leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook has demanded that Blair admit he was wrong to go to war. And that’s someone on his side, so you can imagine what members of the opposition are saying. I’m expecting Democrats here to make the same demand of GeeDubya, just

You know, I think Americans should feel dissed that the Bushies didn’t even go to the trouble to plant some WMD evidence. They don’t even have that much respect for us.

An awful lot of soldiers seem to be getting ambushed, shot at with RPGs, hand grenades and plain old bullets this week. Robert Fisk of the Independent asks “Isn't it time we called this a resistance war in Iraq?”

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

A charge to keep I have

I mentioned that Bush is fund-raising now. Here are some excerpts from an email he sent to my cat, asking for $2,000, with appropriate snide comments (in caps).

“My goal is to build an ownership society where American families own their own homes, their own health coverage, their own retirement accounts and, if they want, their own businesses.” AND, IF THEY WANT, THEIR OWN SLAVES.

And we are working to change the culture from one that too often said, "if it feels good, do it," to a responsibility society where people know they are accountable for what they do, for the children they bring into the world, and for loving a neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves. UNLESS IT’S REALLY KINKY.

To achieve these goals, America must be united. I have worked to bring dignity and honor to the White House and to change the tone in Washington. I have asked Democrats and Republicans to join with me in achieving great purposes. OF COURSE I DUMPED THAT DIGNITY IN A SECOND WHEN THEY TOLD ME I COULD LAND ON AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER AT A COST OF ONLY $1 MILLION.

One of the paintings I have selected for the Oval Office portrays a man on horseback, leading a charge up a steep hill. His face is full of purpose and determination, and it is clear he expects to get the job done. The painting is called "A Charge to Keep," based on a Methodist hymn that's a favorite of mine, "A Charge to Keep I Have." I DIDN’T KNOW YODA WAS A METHODIST. SEEMED MORE LIKE A BAPTIST. OR MAYBE HE’S REFERRING TO THE RECORD DEFICIT; YOU KNOW, “CHARGE IT.”

I love the painting because it speaks to serving a cause that is greater than yourself. GEORGE, CLEANING THE LITTER BOX IS A CAUSE GREATER THAN YOU. The picture reminds me every day that my most important job is to unite our country and provide leadership to overcome America's toughest challenges.

We can show the world that America is a strong and compassionate nation in which every person is able to achieve his or her dream. MY DREAM INVOLVES YOU BEING CAUGHT PICKING UP UNDER-AGE HOOKERS. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your President. WAIT, ARE YOU SAYING I HAD A CHOICE ALL THIS TIME? May God Bless America. WHY, DID IT SNEEZE?

But your great-great grandchildren may be screwed

Astonishingly, the headlines of every newspaper say that the Israeli cabinet voted for the “road map,” when in fact nothing remotely of the sort happened. First, it was a plurality of the cabinet, with a bunch of abstentions, so not much of a commitment to begin with. Second, they attached 14 objections to it, taking apart all its key principles, including simultaneity. In essence, they voted that the Palestinians should do things, and they won’t have to, and they won’t even negotiate until the Palestinians give in on all the key points, including return of refugees, and if at any point it looks like they might have to do anything they don’t want to, there’s a vague provision about Israeli security, which the Bushies fell for. In no way did the Israelis accept Bush’s plan. Afghanistan was ten times closer to accepting Bush’s demands when he decided to bomb them. Iraq was twenty times closer to accepting Bush’s demands when he invaded it.

Since then, Sharon promised a cabinet member that there will be “unlimited” building of settlements in the occupied territories “for your children and grandchildren, and I hope even for your great-grandchildren".

Or the Terrorists Win: Bush is now back in the fund-raising business big time. He recently sent a letter to potential donors saying that they should contribute early so he can spend his time focused on the war on terror.

Speaking of terrorists, I said that Bush said that Al Qaida was “not a problem any more.” It seems that was a distortion of the real quote by Maureen Dowd, upholding the NYT’s recent record of massive incompetence and malfeasance. Speaking of which, the Post Monday ran some internal Times memos in which Judith Miller, who made some very questionable judgments during the war in deals with the Pentagon, takes credit for all the paper’s stories about Iraqi WMDs--and says that the stories were all given to her by Chalabi.

The general in charge of Guantanamo has suggested that it could have its own execution facilities.

Sharon wants to end the automatic Israeli citizenship of children of one Israeli and one Palestinian parent.

Here’s a Ha’aretz interview with the Palestinian PM with two names. So far I think he’s playing things very smart. We’ll see. There’s some weird little thing at the end about the Israelis spreading a rumor that he’s a Bahai.

Conditions the Israeli cabinet put on the “road map” include the complete cessation of violence, the dismantling of Hamas, no discussion of the settlements until final status talks, and acceptance before negotiations begin of no right of return for Palestinians and that Israel will control Palestine’s borders. Oh sorry, not the complete cessation of violence, only that by Palestinians. It specifically says “The road map will not state that Israel must halt violence, incitement against the Palestinians.” But other than that... (no, actually that’s not even all 14 reservations).

The Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to secret immigration hearings.

You may have read about the Indian woman who had her prospective in-laws arrested for trying to extort a huge dowry (any dowry is against Indian law). And the number of dowry-related killings of new wives in India has been growing rapidly, to 7,000 annually that they know about. Anyway, there is now a prison wing in New Delhi just for mothers-in-law jailed for dowry offences or breaking up families.

Weapons of Mass Destruction discovered.

Across the border, you’ll remember that the Pakistani state bordering Afghanistan gained an elected Islamic government around the time the Afghan war began. The Talibanization of the North West Frontier Province continues apace. They’re about to introduce a “Vice and Virtue Department” to beat up women on the streets and whatnot. Cinemas are being closed, buses have to stop during prayers (and no music may be played on buses), female students have to wear a veil, etfuckingcetera.

Follow-up: I mentioned that Bush ordered Europe to take GM foods or the little African kid gets it. And he can use WTO rules to sue Europe, too, those rules saying that food can’t be banned without clear scientific evidence of potential damage. Why there may not be such evidence is made clearer by the Cartagena Protocol, which needs signatures of 50 countries to go into effect and now has 48. Cartagena says no nation can be forced to take Frankenfoods unless exporters provide details about what the stuff actually is and what environmental risks there are. The US, needless to say, is not a signatory. So Bush’s position is that they should take these foods without even knowing what they are.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Filtered through David Lynch

Patrick Cockburn comments on Bush’s statement this week that nearly half of Al Qaida’s top operatives have been captured or killed: “That is a curious conception of a terrorist organisation. It carries the implication al-Qa'ida is organised along the lines of the Pentagon or IBM and when the remaining 50 per cent of its senior officials are dead or imprisoned terrorism will automatically cease. Terrorists certainly do need co-ordination and money, but above all they require fanatical recruits willing to get killed. After the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, there is no shortage of these across the Muslim world.”

I could have predicted this: SARS came from Chinese people eating animals they really shouldn’t have been eating. Cute animals.

The first attempt at elections in Iraq (in Umm Qasr) are so incompetently arranged that they have to be cancelled.

A cute comment about the Virginia anti-spam law: “The law also gives the state the right to seize the assets of these companies, which is how the governor explained all those boxes of Viagra that his secretary found in the filing cabinet.”

One casualty of the war on terror is location-shooting for a lot of Hollywood movies. Morocco is now a problem, affecting the next Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies and an atrocity I hadn’t heard about...Alexander the Great, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Sadly unaffected, a movie starring Mickey Rourke as Ernest Hemingway.

And as long as we’re talking films, that documentary about my relatives is featured in this week’s Sunday NY Times arts section (“Dateline filtered through David Lynch”) and the Village Voice. My mother mentioned today a cousin she had lost contact with, and had last heard of through her aunt who has since died. I commented that she had lost her last source of family gossip--except for the Village Voice.

The US is keeping 3,000 Iraqi prisoners from being visited by the Red Cross, in violation of international law. Hooded, shackled.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

As opposed to the Democratic Party, which exists but has no activity

Tommy Franks orders all members of the Baath party’s top ranks to identify themselves to the US military. He said “There must be no Baath Party activity, because the party no longer exists,” a sentence whose logic would make Mr. Spock grit his teeth and mutter under his breath.

The UN does it, officially dissolves a country, turning over its administration and resources to another country. It’s no longer a United Nations, it’s the Congress of Berlin (oh, look it up). I’m serious, a “UN” that doesn’t respect the sovereignty of nations does not deserve to exist. The resolution includes immunity from lawsuits involving oil. And no deadline for getting the hell out.

Bush accuses Europe of causing starvation in Africa by banning the US’s bioengineered crops from Europe--not from Africa, mind you, but from Europe. The US trade rep has expanded on this in the Wall Street Journal: “some famine-stricken African countries refused U.S. food aid because of fabricated fears -- stoked by irresponsible rhetoric -- about food safety.” So they’re not even allowed to discuss the safety of bio-crops either. Shut up and eat, Europe, there are children starving in Africa. He also proposes that Europe stop its $4b subsidy of agricultural exports, but refuses to discuss the US’s $4b subsidy of agricultural exports. In fact he wants to increase it--as with his AIDS initiative, somehow all money to help Africa winds up being spent in the US, given to agribusiness or pharmaceutical giants.

Bush also said “Our country has been attacked by treachery in our own cities -- and that treachery continues in places like Riyadh and Casablanca.” The word “treachery” is interesting, because by definition it involves betrayal, which is only possible for people who owe you loyalty.

In Aceh, the Indonesian military is carrying out massacres and mass internments and relocations. Journalists are being banned.

Bush’s tax cut is going through, and I think we all need to start referring to it as voodoo economics. Even the Bushies are unable to massage the figures enough to support their claim that this has anything to do with creating jobs. Their most optimistic numbers for job creation have them giving away $500,000 per job.

Later: Marc Cooper in the LA Weekly refers to the tax cut as trickle-on-you economics. That works too.

The Pentagon’s $400 billion budget is larger in real terms than it was during the Cold War. And it seems to have lost $1 trillion. Perhaps it’s behind the couch. Missing items include 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 missile launchers. The budget includes new fighters and bombers, although the one thing Iraq, Afghanistan and Al Qaida had in common was no usable air force. The new F-22 fighter-bomber cost $257 million. That’s each.

The Justice Department has detailed its use of the Patriot Act, including the number of secret detentions, including people held as material witnesses who were never actually called upon to witness to anything. It won’t surprise you to hear that the government is using its shiny new powers for many purposes that have nothing to do with terrorism.

Speaking of terrorism, Texas passed a law requiring doctors to try to terrorize women seeking abortions, including showing them color pictures of fetuses (D’s tried to get rape and incest victims exempted from this, but no go) and telling them that abortion leads to breast cancer, which is not true (Miss. and Minn. also require that this lie be purveyed). Also a waiting period, which is especially obnoxious in a state that is as big as Texans like to brag it is, and in which abortion is only available in 15 out of 254 counties.

Zagreb: For Frane Selak, a music teacher from Petrinja in Central Croatia, defying death is nothing new. He recently survived when the bus he was on plunged into a river in Bosnia, killing everyone on board except him and the driver.

In 1962 he was on a train that plunged into another Bosnian river, killing dozens. The year before, a small aircraft crashed in Croatia, killing 17 passengers and three crew members. Mr Selak was on board when the aircraft took off — but not when it crashed.

“The plane’s rear doors opened and I was sucked out of the plane,” he said. He awoke three days later in hospital, to be told that rescuers had found him unconscious in a haystack. (AFP)

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The Group of the Martyr Ebenezer Scrooge

Remember Steve Hatfill? He’s the guy very possibly behind the anthrax mailings. He decided to take a photo of the FBI agent who was following him around, whereupon the agent drove off, in an SUV--natch--running over his foot. Hatfill got a $5 jaywalking ticket. No word on whether the Fibbie got picked up for hit & run.

RNC chair Marc Racicot, recently caught committing the Republican crime of meeting with gay groups, albeit secretly, has been coerced into meeting as well with a group of “ex-gays.”

Milosevic’s war crimes prosecutors are granted an extra 100 days of court time to make their case. Milosevic will have two years to put on his defense. No matter what the ultimate verdict is, this is a good start.

Speaking of war crimes, an Iraqi general who was arrested by Denmark for that and who escaped from house arrest is back in Iraq, with CIA backing. Did the CIA actually help a war criminal escape from Denmark?

Here’s a nice start to a story: “A senior civil servant leading a campaign to ban pornography from French television has denied sworn witness statements that he once took part in sado-masochistic soirees run by a convicted serial killer.”

A meeting of icons today, Nelson Mandela and David Beckham, who seems to be wearing Bo Derrick’s old hairstyle.

The Total Information Awareness program will be renamed Terrorist Information Awareness, which should eliminate any possible doubts that it would misuse information. For example, millions will be spent developing a database of people’s walks so that they can be identified from quite a long way away. No columnist has been able to mention this without referring to Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. There is no reason to think this even works.

Speaking of counter-terrorism, in 1974 a fake “Group of the Martyr Ebenezer Scrooge” issued a threat of some sort against Santa Claus. The CIA investigated and kept the results classified for 29 years.

Still speaking of counter-terrorism, Tom Ridge is refusing to release the transcripts of the call from the Texas fuzz that brought them into the search for the missing legislators. The cops have already ordered all records of the incident destroyed. Homeland Security will be investigating itself, but its inspector general, one Clark Kent Ervin has had to recuse himself, because when he removes his glasses, he is revealed as a highly partisan appointment from Texas.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Cow urine, unexpected opportunities, the Barney song, fish in a blender

Earlier this year (I forget if I mentioned it), during state elections in India the Congress Party accused the prime minister of secretly eating hamburgers. Well, cow politics are heating up (the Telegraph says brought to a boil, which is a waste of good beef) in India, with accusations going back and forth over who likes cows best. The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh says--nay, brags--that he drinks cow urine regularly. I think that’s actually more gross than the prime minister in the ‘70s who drank his own urine.

AP story: “Poll: New Jerseyans Love Their State.” There’s no accounting for taste.

Giving the commencement address at the U of Missouri, Dick Cheney told grads to look for “the unexpected opportunities” in life. My brain has just been overloaded by the sheer number of sarcastic comments I could make about that, and I will have to reboot.

Speaking of unexpected opportunities, the guy Bush put in charge of Iraq’s oil industry 1) suggested that Iraq should break OPEC quotas, 2) is paid $1m a year by Fluor, a company bidding for oil reconstruction work in Iraq, and owns $34m of its stock.

Buh bye to Ari Fleischer. There’s a good piece in Salon about what a lying sack of shit he’s been.

In Britain, at least, natural childbirth is now in the minority, 45%, the rest involving induction, Caesarean or forceps, anaethesia and such.

Musical news from Iraq: Newsweek says that US interrogators are using heavy metal and the Barney song to torture Iraqis into talking. And Saddam’s praise singer, who sang songs on tv about how great Saddam was, has been assassinated.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Seen from ten feet away

Multnomah, Ore. planned to hire a part-time translator to communicate with those mental health patients who will only speak in Klingon. Media attention made them call off the job-search.

I was going to use the Net to add a comment on that in Klingon, but honestly, that just feels like way too much work, so let’s all just pretend I wrote something sarcastic but witty in Klingon.

A Brown professor says that the Saudi bombings were not Al Qaeda, but regular old anti-House of Saud types who want American mercenaries out of the country, as I said a couple of days ago. “Washington no longer seems able to entertain the thought that there might be revolutionary groups that have entirely local reasons for their actions. This tragic attack might well have taken place if the United States had not had a presence in Saudi Arabia. However, the existence of a quasi-military command force in the form of the Vinnell Corp. virtually guaranteed that Americans would be caught in the cross fire of what was arguably a local revolutionary action.”

I reported that the Rs’ insistence on holding their 2004 Convention in September meant they’d be choosing a nominee past the ballot deadlines in several states, including Calif. Well, the Democratic CA. secretary of state has decided to help them out and will sponsor a bill to change the deadline, saying he wouldn’t politicize his office, unlike some secretaries of state of southern states he could name. DNC chair Terry McAuliffe criticizes the decision.

France goes public with claims that the White House fed false rumors about it helping Iraq to the press. It will come as no surprise to my readers that The Bushies lie all the time, and that their specialty is little leaked stories that they know won’t stand up to scrutiny, but won’t get much scrutiny, and the correction won’t get much publicity, and the intended impression will remain in most people’s minds in a sort of vague way, without details. What France is complaining of is exactly what worked so well in convincing the American people that Saddam had something, they’re not sure quite what, to do with 9/11, but they use this technique for everything. I’m paying more attention than most and it didn’t occur to me to compare Bush’s most recent tax proposals to the promises about not touching the Social Security surplus in the 2000 election campaign (see the Raymond Chandler had a great line, describing a woman: “From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away.” Bush’s tax policy, like his foreign policy, is designed to be seen from 30 feet away.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Exploding pacemakers

I just made the sort of mistake only a sleep-deprived historian could. In the world in brief section of the NY Times I saw the headline “Belgium: War Crimes Complaint Against Franks,” and my first thought was that the statute of limitations should have run out for the Franks about 1,400 years ago. Turned out they meant Gen. Tommy Franks. Well that makes more sense. Now the Visigoths...

An interesting leak in the NYT (will anybody be horribly befuddled if I just use that abbreviation in the future?), which was told by FBI sources that they had nothing to do with the expulsion of Cuban diplomats for spying, in other words they may have been spies, but did nothing in particular recently to justify the measure, which was ordered for political reasons by the White House. This sort of childish message-sending is bad enough for normal diplomats, but 7 of them were in Cuba’s UN delegation, and the UN host country should not be screwing around with that without a very much better reason than they had. It’s not just showing contempt for Cuba, but contempt for the UN.

The House Armed Services Committee rejected the Bush proposal to allow development of baby nukes (the Senate committee went the other way). How ‘bout that?

For those who of you who like the Opera web-browser but are annoyed by the flashing banner ads, they have disappeared in the last few weeks. My guess is that they run ads on the newer versions of the program, but have stopped for the older ones.

So Texas state cops enlisted Homeland Security in the search for the missing D’s by claiming to have believed their plane had crashed. Naturally, Tom Ridge’s boys in yellow failed to detect the false alert.

Paul Wolfowitz told Turkish tv that the Bush admin was disappointed that the Turkish military hadn’t overruled the civilian government to assist the US in Iraq.

From the Danish Post, via Funny Old World in Private Eye:
“Every time this happens, it’s a disaster,” Claes Foghmoes of the Danish Crematorium Owners Association (DCMA) told reporters in Copenhagen, “and the explosions are happening more and more often these days. Whenever there’s a blast, it disables the entire mechanism, and we have to let the oven cool for two to three days, before we can go inside to change the parts. And as a result, we’re often left with a backlog of bodies, which have to be rerouted to other crematoriums.”

Earlier, Dr Niels Bloch of the Medical Officers Association had described how explosions were disabling or destroying crematoriums throughout Denmark, because doctors forget to remove pacemakers from deceased patients. “It’s my impression that these accidents aren’t due so much to forgetfulness, but to the fact that the doctor who signs the death certificate often isn’t aware that the deceased has a pacemaker to begin with. Lithium batteries are commonly used in pacemakers, and they explode like TNT when exposed to extremely high temperatures. This sort of explosion is so powerful that the crematory oven brickwork, heat sensors, and cover can all be irreparably damaged, and the DCMA then sends damage bills of up to DKK 100,00 to liable hospitals and doctors.

“What we need is legislation that makes it a matter of standard procedure for patients to have the word ‘pacemaker’ tattooed to their chests when they are fitted with one. How can doctors know otherwise, except by asking them? And of course, when the patient is dead, that line of enquiry becomes rather tricky.”

Thank God we didn't have those Democrats at the Alamo

The US has started a tv station in Iraq, but indefinitely postponed it having a news program, after the “administration” tried to have it pre-censored by the wife of a Kurdish leader sponsored by the US.

The military denies a NY Times report that it had given new orders to shoot looters. OK, only the Times knows the source that leaked it the original story, but simple logic can tell us what happened here. First, they were never going to implement such a policy, because it would look bad, because some of the looters are taking food because they are starving, which is our fault, and because how would the Iraqis hear of the policy change. That tv station interviewed the head of the electricity dept and I imagine the first question was, why are we bothering interview you when no one has electricity to run their tv’s. So what they must have done was leak the false story of a shoot-to-kill policy in order to frighten the Iraqis. All the reign-of-fear benefits of an actual shoot-to-kill policy without the opprobrium, and it’s all deniable. Governance by rumor.

Another suicide bombing in Chechnya, sadly narrowly failing to kill the head of Moscow’s puppet government. Putin is trying to claim that this is linked to the bombings in Saudi. About the only link is that last week he said the war in Chechnya had been won and last week Bush said that Al Qaeda is “not a problem any more.” Bombs don’t kill people, smug pronouncements of victory kill people.

Or maybe paper cuts do. Condoleeza Rice said last week that the US is hoping to find incriminating documents in Iraq rather than the actual WMDs. The British however, are saying that the discovery of mass graves justifies the war, retrospectively, and we should all ignore the rationales they gave at the time.

US Rep. Sam Johnson (R-some bit of the US stolen from Mexico) accused the Texas legislators-in-exile of being deserters. "Thank God we didn't have those Democrats at the Alamo." Yeah, because then it might not have gone so well. The D’s are probably regretting their choice of Oklahoma, having spent part of today in a basement after a tornado warning (there was no tornado). Somebody (not clear who) asked the Department of Homeland Security to trace an airplane one of the legislators owns. The Guardian warns “Hunting renegade politicians across the prairie has bipartisan appeal for an electorate with a generally low opinion of its representatives and a fierce attachment to guns and field sports. This idea could catch on, especially after the Clinton ban on Uzis and AK-47s expires next year.” And Molly Ivins...well, click here.

After the “rescue” of Priv. Jessica Lynch, the Pentagon released a very edited film of the operation. It now seems that the Iraqi soldiers had pulled out of the hospital days before--and the Pentagon absolutely refuses to release the unedited footage.

In my last, I mentioned Jeb Bush trying to appoint a guardian for a fetus. A detail: when a reporter used the word “fetus,” the Jebster interrupted and insisted on the word “baby.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The meaning of American justice

California may be closing all its schools, but there’s still money in the budget for grief therapy for farmers whose chickens were killed to prevent the spread of Newcastle Disease.

Why is it a “Bushism” that Shrub called New Mexico “The Land of the Enchanted”? Doesn’t that describe anyone from Santa Fe you’ve ever met?

An Israeli paper had this headline, "Sharon to Powell: Do you want settler women to have abortions?" I have no idea what Powell’s reply could possibly have been, although he could have asked if Sharon wanted Palestinian women to have abortions, since Sharon is planning to seize this Lebensraum from a population with a higher birth rate. By the way, a study says that Israelis get more than 50% more water than Palestinians, so at least the settlers can have a nice relaxing bath after their abortions.

Speaking of which, Jeb Bush illegally orders the state to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a severely mentally disabled woman impregnated in the facility she has lived in her entire life. In other words he wants to use this rape victim, too handicapped to be able to speak, as an incubator.

There are 15,000 princes in Saudi Arabia.

A new biography of JFK says that he too fucked an intern, 19 years old. Named Mimi.

Iraqi schoolchildren are being told to rip out anything in their textbooks with the name or picture of Saddam Hussein, by order of the Ministry of Education. This was the job Winston Smith held in “1984,” of course. Saddam is now an “un-person.”

The bombings in Saudi Arabia hit an American company Vinnell, which is a CIA front that recruits mercenaries. Its people, the Times says, were seen fighting alongside Saudi troops in the 1991 Gulf War, which leads to the question--Saudi troops actually did some of their own fighting in the 1991 Gulf War? They also tried to overthrow the Bishop government in Grenada in the early 1980s, were involved in Iran-Contra, and have a “No Jews” clause in their Saudi contracts. They used to be owned by the Carlyle Group, which I have mentioned before. I guess I can’t be on the same side as the terrorists, but gosh it’s tempting sometimes, isn’t it?

Bush says that the terrorists will learn the meaning of American justice. Speaking of which, I heard a rumor that O J Simpson will do tv commentary on the Robert Blake trial. (Hah, I’ve been holding on to that one for a week waiting for the exact right moment to use it!)

The world’s first inflatable church---and it’s Gothic.

Protests by Iraqis have forced the resignation of Baathists the US tried to impose on them as head of the ministry of health, police chief and deputy police chief.

One of the Texas state legislators has been arrested. There is also an 800 number to report on their location, and the cops are conducting surveillance on the missing legislators’ families. The D’s are in Oklahoma, not New Mexico as I reported yesterday. They gave a press conference today and are accusing Tom DeLay of messing with Texas, which I recall from Bush’s campaign is considered a hangin’ offence in these here parts.

The 1994 ban on Uzis and other semiautos will be allowed to expire, so plan your gift-buying accordingly.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Dr. Germ versus the Card Deck of Justice

Here’s a report that tries to discover exactly what Bush knew and when he knew it on 9/11/01. Evidently, there are many contradictory details and 7 different versions--several told by Bush himself--including whether Bush was told about the hijackings before or after he started reading to the kiddies, and who told him. If we believe what the White House has said, Bush heard about the World Trade Center a full 10 minutes after CNN reported it. This article suggests that Bush was told, before the event at the school, but simply didn’t grasp what had happened, and the White House then had to cover this up, putting out the story that he was informed while reading to the kids about goats. I said at the time that it was criminally negligent of Bush, once he knew that more than one airplane had been hijacked, not to break off the event immediately, because the president was (then) the only person authorized to order civilian aircraft over the US to be shot down, and he should have been finding out what was going on in case he had to make such an order, but he chose the photo op over intel. Something I missed: on several occasions Bush himself has said that he saw the footage of the plane hitting the WTC on a tv before he went into the school--except no such footage was available until the next day. The article is long and incredibly detailed, but it asks a lot of interesting questions about what precisely was going on that day. A must-read.

With all these movies based on Marvel comics coming out, do you think it’s a coincidence that the US media have given recently arrested Iraqis nicknames like “Dr. Germ”? Note that the good doctor was not captured but surrendered, as have most of the Deck of Card (TM).

Bush judicial nominee Charles Pickering has lied about his racist past in Mississippi.

I have no idea what’s going on in Iraq, except that Jay Garner seems to have been deposed in a much less bloody regime change than the last one. Barbara Bodine, who was supposed to be running the Baghdad region, is also sent home. She was asked some time back by the press about the incident in Fallajuh (which was within her jurisdiction) in which US soldiers killed 13 (or so) protesters, but she hadn’t even heard about it. The new crop of proconsuls are avoiding such embarrassment by not talking to the press at all, including Margaret Tutweiler, who is in charge of communications--communications with whom is not entirely clear.

Two months ago, Putin said that his fake elections in Chechnya made the rebels irrelevant. Today they blow up 40 people. Hopefully a lot of them were KGB. Putin says this was intended to disrupt the “normalization process” in Chechnya. Good. As a bumper sticker I saw in Berkeley said, “Normal people worry me.” Normalization in Chechnya especially worries me.

Israel promises Colin Powell to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement. And then promptly seals off Gaza again.

Almost all the Democratic Texas state legislators are hiding in Oklahoma to prevent a quorum. The remaining legislators have been locked in, and troopers were sent to arrest legislators, but there aren’t enough to conduct business (which is the redistricting I mentioned a few days ago). I predict a rip-snorting Molly Ivins column. Until then, this from the WashPost:
Today, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said lawyers for Perry asked her if Texas Rangers might be allowed to make arrests in New Mexico. Madrid, a Democrat, said no. "Nonetheless," she added in a statement, "I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy."

Indonesia restarts the war in Acheh.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

We're sexy, we're cute, we're radical to boot!

Fear, it will not surprise you to hear, is big business. Terrorist-related fear, really big business. Here’s a story about Bush advisor and former incompetent CIA head James Woolsey, who is a director of an equity firm set up after 9/11 to make money off the $60 billion they expect the government to spend. Woolsey also spends his time lying for the administration, blaming the anthrax scare on Iraq, claiming there’s a link between Al Qaida and Iraq, etc etc. He played up the need for new equipment to protect against biological weapons, while his firm invested in that very technology.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Bucharest’s children’s hospital had stopped providing dialysis but had hired armed guards to keep out journalists there to report on the dying kids. Well, the response to the article in the Daily Telegraph was £15,000 in British donations which the hospital, naturally, refused. A week later they changed their minds.

Those of us who receive emails purporting to be from the relatives of its former leaders know that the civil wars in Congo-Kinshasa were highly profitable, especially for us if we provide those relatives with our bank account numbers (and profitable for all sides--Kevin and Chris have heard from Mobutu’s heirs, I from Kabila’s). Still, they produced a lot of orphans, as has AIDS. And when their relatives don’t feel like taking them in, evidently they accuse them of being witches and throw them out, almost 30,000 of them on the streets of Kinshasa, according to Save the Witches, I mean Save the Children. The fact of their parents dying of AIDS is of course proof that a spell was cast. Or, when their relatives don’t feed them, their emaciation is a sign of witchcraft. And I haven’t even talked about the exorcisms. Read the article here and keep away from knives and gas ovens for the next hour.

Evidently anti-war rallies now have their own cheerleaders. “We're sexy, we're cute, we're radical to boot!” I just looked up “radical cheerleaders” on Google, and evidently it’s a phenomenon.

The US (and Britain) have gone to the UN to be recognized as the legal rulers (“authority”) of Iraq. I can’t remember when the UN was last asked to give trusteeships over whole peoples. Can it even do that, abrogate the sovereignty of a nation? The US used to report (reluctantly) to the UN Trusteeship Council about the Philippines, but the Council dealt with existing colonies, it didn’t sanction the creation of new ones. I am suggesting here that this would be an important and dangerous innovation in international law. Hopefully, someone will veto it; much better if Bush does what he’s going to do anyway in violation of international law. An occupation regime represents force and force alone. Sometimes force and occupation may even be necessary, but let’s not kid ourselves about this being about anything more than who had the most expensive weaponry.

So what’s with the ritual humiliation of forcing Iraqis who want jobs and were members of the Baath Party to denounce both it and Saddam Hussein, and everyone else to declare that they are not now, nor have they ever been, members of the Baath Party? I’m not making up that wording--“denounce” or the McCarthyite stuff. Maybe we can teach them the Pledge of Allegiance. This is not the way to make people free, it is the way to make them keep their heads down, just like they did under Saddam, who also made them sign pledges.

Speaking of dangerous innovations, Congress is moving ahead with granting the Bushies the power to test baby nukes (5 kilotons, or 1/3 of a Hiroshima). Such devices could be used as bunker-busters or to incinerate bio/chem weapons sites, or possibly just because they’d look cool, like Bush landing on an aircraft carrier, and are therefore designed to be used, not to threaten with, eroding the line between conventional weapons and those which should never be used, making the case against nuclear proliferation that much harder for the US to make and, therefore the world an increasingly dangerous place as nukes spread to more and more nations, proliferating like the sub-clauses in this very sentence--stop the madness!

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Berlusconi added, and I have a mistress, but in two years...

As you know, the US has been trying to get countries to agree not to surrender US nationals to the International Court. In recent weeks, pressure and threats have been brought to bear on Caribbean nations, which I assume was necessary to ensure that Henry Kissinger has somewhere nice to vacation. This week, Sierra Leone gave the US the impunity agreement it wanted, and vice versa, which is especially significant since SL just had a civil war with the requisite crimes against humanity etc.

The Bushies may invoke executive privilege to keep documents away from the 9/11 commission.

A Baltimore Sun piece on a recent requirement that every other state adopt the centralized voter registry that worked so well in Florida, making ethnic purging of “criminals” easier. Did you know that voter registries in the South have the race of voters next to their name?

The world’s stupidest looters: the ones who took drums labeled “radioactive” from Iraqi nuclear research facilities, poured out that glowing yellow stuff and used them for storage.

Bush proposes a US-Middle East free trade zone, an idea which will never be heard of again. The idea, of course, is to coerce Arab states into dropping their boycott of Israel (an element of the plan the NY Times fails to mention).

The US releases some Guantanamo prisoners, saying they “no longer posed a threat to US security,” whatever that means, possibly that they hit puberty and are now more interested in girls. Actually, the US won’t even say whether it has released the under-16 crowd. Incidentally, they just moved yet more prisoners there from Afghanistan, more than they released.

Here’s a good headline for an op-ed piece in The Times that I didn’t actually feel the need to read: “The Vatican Should Settle for Being a Temple to Bad Taste and Stop Trying to Become the Official Church of the EU.”

James Kopp, who murdered an abortion doctor, is sentenced to 25 years to life. In this case, I find that I am actually pro-life.

PM Berlusconi told the NY Times that he is not having any fun. “‘I have a sailboat, but in two years, I’ve only been on it one day,’ he said, speaking in Italian and striking a stoic tone.” I think that last bit is sarcasm.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The Swiss are the lovers

Berlusconi is planning to freeze his trial by getting a law passed for immunity from prosecution for MPs (they floated a plan limited to cabinet ministers and their deputies, but the MPs who will have to vote on it wanted to be above the law too).

I mentioned that Poland will be given a zone in Iraq. Any German troops may be put under Polish command. Heh heh.

Low-income students are suing the state of California for equality in textbooks, teachers, classrooms, etc etc in public schools. They note that Gray Davis has set minimum standards for student progress, but no standards for school quality. Fighting this, Davis is arguing (and I’m gonna quote from the Chron because you wouldn’t believe that I wasn’t exaggerating) “that low-income students are unlikely to do any better in school even with the same educational benefits as middle-class students.” One of his experts, Caroline Hoxby, who’s at Harvard and so must be smart, or at least arrogant, says that the influence of parents and the neighborhood is much more important than that of the schools, so that if you give too much money to the schools, it reduces the influence of the parents and neighborhood relative to the schools. So far, Davis has spent $18 million fighting the suit, which reduces the influence of the schools relative to over-priced lawyers and Harvard economists. One expert on the other side quoted in the article was Kevin’s dissertation chair, who may not be smart enough to work at Harvard but owns bassets and so must be trustworthy and not embarrassed to be seen in public with a silly-looking animal (Kevin, not the basset).

And Republicans are trying to recall Davis because he’s too liberal.

Here’s a frightening WashPost headline: “1,500 Spanish Troops To Aid Iraq Recovery.” Yes, soon Iraq will be up to Spanish levels of efficiency. And will have the level of security that only the Polish army can provide. Iraq is getting to be like that joke about heaven and hell. Wait, here it is from the internet:
In heaven:
The English are the police,
The Germans are the mechanics,
The Swiss are the administrators,
The French are the lovers,
The Italians are the cooks.

In hell:
The English are the cooks,
The French are the mechanics,
The Swiss are the lovers,
The Italians are the administrators,
The Germans are the police!
I found that by searching Google for “the swiss are the lovers.” Sadly--at least it’s sad for the Swiss--the only hits were for that joke.

In recompense for the Spanish troops, the Bush admin has put a couple more Basque organizations on the terrorist list. Not that a list of officially designated terrorist organizations would be composed on the basis of political horse-trading, oh no.

The WashPost finally reports that Bush delayed the homecoming of the carrier Abe Lincoln by a day (you heard it here 5 days ago). D’s figure it cost $800,000 to $1m. Bush responds only that it was an honor to be there. An honor is something that is bestowed upon one. This is something he ordered as commander in chief: it’s no more an honor than sending flowers to yourself on your own birthday is. Ari Fleischer says criticizing the stunt is a disservice to the men and women of the military. He doesn’t say how.

I hadn’t realized that Iran gave the US overflight rights during the Afghan war--and revoked them within hours of Bush making the “axis of evil” speech. The speech also of course led N Korea to decide that the US had declared war on it, although it was added to the axis pretty much just so that it wouldn’t be all-Muslim. To date, “axis of evil” is the only memorable piece of rhetoric out of Shrub’s mouth, and it’s been way more trouble than it’s worth. He should have learned from his father, who has said 3 memorable things in his entire life. “A thousand points of light,” which is fairly unobjectionable, if vacuous; “voodoo economics” and “Read my lips, no new taxes,” which were deeply embarrassing when he had to take them back.

Notes towards Shakespeare, by six George W. Bush lookalikes

The EU is planning to require that industrial chemicals sold in Europe actually be tested for safety first. The US is complaining that this is unfair. Or, to put it another way, no such tests occur in the US, except for pesticides. Something else to worry about.

Some Dem. Senator in McNeil-Lehrer today was complaining that the Republican approach to rules is goal-oriented, i.e., if they’re losing the game, they make up new rules. That was about confirmation of judges. But here’s a new one: re-drawing the lines of Congressional districts. Silly me, I thought this could only be done every 10 years, after a census, but evidently it can be done for partisan advantage any time someone feels like it, as in Colorado and maybe, on a larger scale, Texas.

At Bush’s press conference with Prime Minister Aznar of Spain, he twice referred to him as president--again. Although at least this time he got his name right.

So will a bunch of monkeys in front of typewriters produce Shakespeare? No, but they will shit on the keyboard (as who hasn’t, at one time or another?). Someone has tried the experiment and you can buy a book (Notes Towards the Complete Works of Shakespeare) of their actual literary production, sans monkey poop.

The US occupation authority is thinking about censoring Iraqi tv. I hope my digestive problems the last couple of weeks don’t come from ingesting too much irony, since some days I pretty much live on the stuff.

Foreigners entering the Gaza (including UN aid workers) must now sign a waiver absolving the Israeli army if it shoots them. And they must declare that they are not peace activists. The autopsy on a British cameraman proves that he was shot by the Israelis, and not by Palestinians as the army tried to claim. Also, when the family of a British peace activist shot deliberately through the head when he was trying to protect a small child (and still in a coma 3+ weeks later) went to the site in the company of the British consul, they were shot at, despite having given notice of their plan and route three times.

Rome is going to test and license those guys who sit on sidewalks and sell crappy paintings to tourists, to see if they can actually paint. Evidently most of those things are actually made in China, and the “artist” sits around pretending to touch it up.

Richard Perle received a classified briefing from the Defence Intelligence Agency on Iraq and Korea, and two weeks later gave a talk to Goldman Sachs investors entitled “Iraq Now. North Korea Next?”

Monday, May 05, 2003

When is a child not a child?

A couple of stories in the Guardian on ChoicePoint, a story still ignored by American papers. A quote: Literature that ChoicePoint produced to advertise its services to the department of justice promised, in the case of Colombia, a "national registry file of all adult Colombians, including date and place of birth, gender, parentage, physical description, marital status, passport number, and registered profession". It is illegal under Colombian law for government agencies to disclose such information, except in response to a request for data on a named individual.

Also, while the company is busy denying it illegally acquired Mexican electoral registration information, its own advertising says it can offer "nationwide listing of all Mexican citizens registered to vote as of the 2000 general election - updated annually".

The US gov will also be trying to get credit card information on any foreigner entering the country.

Speaking of privacy, the State Dept’s annual report on international terrorism contains harsh criticism of Canada. Evidently it doesn’t have enough police and its citizens have too many privacy rights, inhibiting its ability to deliver up information on Canadians when the US demands it.

I saw only the excerpts from the first Democratic debate, which was more than enough. It was held in the all-important state of South Carolina, whose 3 registered Democrats are pivotal, as we know. Polled later, all 3 said that it was the first time they’d seen a Jew up close. Joe the Jew chided the other candidates for not being Republican enough. Kerry is running on his record as the only candidate to fight in the Vietnam War, which I suspect doesn’t even impress Vietnam vets all that much, much less anyone else. And if Kerry can be made that peevish by the incomparably bland Howard Dean, how on earth does he expect to be able to deal with Jacques Chirac or Kim Jong Il?

The incredibly corrupt prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, testified today at his own bribery trial, trying to implicate as many other people as possible (including former PMs Craxi and Prodi), claiming the judges are “reds,” and saying that he won’t resign even if he’s convicted. He has systematically destroyed the Italian justice system and taken over the nation’s media. And the Italian people don’t care. A good report.

The Pentagon is to release the child prisoners held at Guantanamo, or possibly just transfer them to jails in their own countries. Amazing what a little publicity can do. Rummy defended the detentions, saying the 13 to 15-year olds were dangerous and were “not children.”

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Sooner or later US killers we'll kiss you

The Daily Show describes Joe Lieberman as the candidate for people who want to vote for Bush but think he’s not Jewish enough.

Still, in the First Wife category, Kerry’s wife, the ketchup widow Teresa Heinz (now renamed by his staffers Teresa Heinz Kerry, in a process known as de-Rodhamization; they also forced her to change her voter registration from Republican), seems a winner. In an interview with Elle (which I can’t find at their site), she says that the best diet for children is rabbit meat, that Hillary should have shot Bill, and something about plastic surgery being essential.

Today they’re saying that Saddam Hussein “stole” $1 billion from the central bank. Leaving aside the question of whether that really constitutes theft, since he was, you know, dictator, I have to doubt that there was really that much just lying around in cash.

The Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Texas Court of Appeals as to whether a confession was obtained following an illegal arrest. The Texas court said that there was no arrest, just because the 17-year old was woken up in the middle of the night and hauled off in his underwear; after all, a “reasonable person...would not believe that being put in handcuffs was a significant restriction on his freedom of movement”, and he showed his consent by not resisting the non-arrest or the use of handcuffs.

The (London) Evening Standard cut and pasted in order to make a front-page photo of the crowd at the statue-toppling in Baghdad look like there were more people than were actually there.

Also from the Memory Hole, the change in widely-disseminated news reports of a sign held by Iraqi protesters from “Sooner or later US killers we'll kick you out” to “...we’ll kill you.”

Also, the LA Times changed the online archived version of a story about the US plane that fired on British tanks, to remove everything that made the US look bad.

FAIR says that a Nexis search shows that the evening news programs on the 3 networks have not used the term “depleted uranium” once since the beginning of the year.

There will be a Polish Zone in Iraq. Oh, if I only did those sort of jokes.

Seymour Hersh’s latest, on how crappy the Bush admin’s intel on Iraq actually was, and how it was manipulated by Chalabi’s people and those in the Pentagon who only wanted to hear what they wanted to hear.

Henry Waxman has demanded an accounting of the cost for Bush’s campaign ad on the USS Abraham Lincoln, as Bush staff are forced to admit he could simply have taken a helicopter.

Here’s a story you don’t see every day: “Emmanuel Gumbi, 31, ran into a South African supermarket butcher’s department, seized a butcher’s saw and started to cut off his own head.” That’s an electric saw. He got halfway through. Which was enough.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Green chili cheese grits

A week on, a report on the Americans’ lies about the massacre of Fallujah and failure to do a proper investigation. It also lists the state of play on investigations of other incidents, friendly fire, killing of journalists, that guy who confessed to murder to the Las Vegas newspaper.

Tony Blair, whose exact religious status is a little ambiguous (i.e., he’s been flirting with Catholicism for years) says that his actions in Iraq will be judged by “my Maker.” By British standards, this is effusively religious and is not the sort of thing one does in public. Former MP Matthew Parris says of Blair, “He has an unhinged belief, firstly in the purity of his own intention, secondly in the fact that his own good intentions can only lead to good results, and thirdly that he's going to win people over, that he's going to persuade people.” Which is a good description of Shrub.

The Mozarteum University in Salzburg, which once graduated Herbert van Karajan, is introducing a course in yodeling. Yodeling is becoming very popular, the Sunday Telegraph article says, including in Japan and China. Japanese people yodeling. The 4-year course will also include the zither and “the sort of dances that require the wearing of lederhosen and involve much knee-slapping.”

Speaking of cultural horrors, Bush had the Australian PM out to the ranch and fed him one of Bush’s favorite meals: green chili cheese grits.

Evidently today is the 25th anniversary of spam.

Today, Bush went out of his way to say that Tariq Aziz is giving us no useful information. Which obviously means that he is. Honestly, how stupid do they think we are?

No, don’t answer that.

The Big Shrug

From the Guardian: Later, veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell tabled a Commons question to the prime minister asking to which Iraqis he was referring when he claimed in Warsaw that he had spoken to local people during his visit to Iraq on the subject of welcoming the American-British military action. Mr Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow and father of the Commons, commented: "From the public prints and the BBC, I understand that the only Iraqis to whom he spoke were schoolchildren."

The same story says Blair gave an “angry but opaque” denial of accusations that MI6 was told to “sex up” the dossier of accusations against Iraq. (In another bit of good writing, Polly Toynbee says that with Blair there is always a wavy line between deception and self-deception. “There is an almost childish blurring between the wish and the fact: if he says something strongly enough, his words can magic it into truth.” Sound like anyone else you know?)

Matthew Parris in The Times says that Blair’s (and by extension Bush’s) new communications tool about such things as the Big Shrug, a term I intend to use frequently. He doesn’t think it’ll work in Britain, and is surprised that the country turned out not to be so amnesiac as to have forgotten the reason given for going to war. The US, of course, is populated almost entirely by amnesiacs.

They’ve also been sexing up the March report of the UN inspectors, as proof that Iraq had WMDs. Hans Blix denies that they ever said anything of the sort.

If anyone out there cares about the Congo, they might want to read this . Here’s it’s opening sentence: “From her hiding place in the woods outside the Congolese town of Bunia, Ruta Bonabingi watched as militiamen roasted and then ate the severed arms of her dying daughters.” The paper notes that this is the deadliest war since 1945. Let’s give some credit to the French for being willing to send peacekeeping troops into the heart of darkness.

Some Burmese are suing Unocal in American courts, for the forced labor, murder, torture, rape, etc etc used by the Burmese military to provide security and free labor for the building of Unocal’s pipeline. John Ashcroft wants to eliminate the ability of foreigners to pursue such suits in US courts.

The Texas thing goes on. A restraining order was issued barring the fuzz shredding any more paperwork related to its hunt for the missing D’s, no doubt too late. A Dem. state rep on the Law Enforcement Committee, seeking to interview 4 cops, was told by the attorney general that he must first tell them who leaked that they were destroying documents.

A British soldier is being questioned for the torture of an Iraqi POW (also something about soldiers performing sex acts near POWs, details unclear at present). How do we know this? Because he took pictures. And had them developed in a shop in Britain. Which called the cops.

What is Bush’s thing with eyes? There was his comment about looking into Putin’s eyes and understanding his soul, or something, and now he says he’s going to the Middle East because “I want [Middle East leaders] to look me in the eye so they can see that I am determined to work to make this happen.” Is it the left eye or the right eye that’s the determined one? To me, they both look vacant.

Reality tv at its finest, in Britain, where the parties are competing to see who can be nastiest about and to seekers of political asylum. Viewers will be invited to vote on particular cases.

There was a major earthquake in Japan. The deputy governor of the affected region has been fired because after hearing the news, he carried on playing a pinball gambling game for 45 minutes. Actually, if it’s the game I think it is, it’s very popular in Japan and takes in huge amounts of money, which go to North Korea.

Pork--the other white blasphemy against Allah

William Saletan on Bush’s continual attempts to conflate the wars on terrorism and Iraq:
Here’s a paragraph:
But don't tell us this was a triumph in the war on terror, Mr. President. Don't tell us the defeat of a secular dictator has turned the tide against a gang of religious fanatics. And don't talk about patience. You inserted a battle that could have waited into a war that couldn't, precisely because you lacked-or thought we lacked-patience for the slow, diffuse, half-invisible struggle against the people who hit us on Sept. 11. You wanted a quick, clear victory, and you got it. But don't flatter yourself. You haven't changed the world in 19 months. You've only changed the subject.
I agree with all of that except the term “Mr. President.” Even before reading it, I was going to comment on a bit from the Bush speech: “The war on terror is not over; yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but...” yadda yadda. The problem is that he is treating the “war on terror” as if it were a traditional war, with a “day of final victory,” but fighting terrorism is at least as much like a police problem, no more winnable than the war on drugs or the war on muggings.

One problem with treating this as a traditional war is that it encourages racist responses. Let’s see if I can explain that. The Bushies are encouraging us to think of terrorists as if they were a nationality, as if they all came from one (evil) place that can be bombed, when they are in fact a dispersed group of people with diverse origins (the Brits are currently trying to figure out how they produced their very first suicide bomber), and diverse ideologies. We’re being encouraged to think of them instead as an ethnic or national group, and the only ethnic group that most of them are is Arab.

I was right about Bush’s visit to the carrier being expensive, but it also kept the sailors from their homes by an extra day, after the longest deployment of a US carrier in 30 years.

Still, it gives The Nation an excuse to talk about Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service, and remind us that we still haven’t seen evidence that he didn’t go AWOL for a year.

The article does miss one of the ways in which it was ensured that Bush would never face action: he was trained on obsolete planes about to go out of service.

The only expression of outrage I’ve seen about the R’s hijacking 9/11 for their 2004 convention. And also for failing to attack Rick “Inner” Santorum.

Labour’s loss of 800 local council seats in yesterday’s elections suggest that an electoral “Baghdad bounce” is more elusive than Bush expects. One can but hope.

US soldiers, who have finally ended their occupation of the school in Fallujah, left an English-language lesson in graffiti--“Eat Shit Iraq,” “I love pork,” etc etc. Did I mention that the locals were sure that the soldiers were using night-vision to check out their women?

The CIA wants new powers to issue demands for information from libraries, internet providers, etc etc in the US (without a warrant, of course).

Former secretary of education and upholder of the nation’s morals William Bennett is evidently a major gambler, having lost something like $8 million in Vegas.

Birmingham, Alabama’s chief of police, the office once held by Bull Connor, is a black woman.

And there is a highly entertaining obituary in the NY Times, of Boston’s last censor, that is not to be missed.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Let's kill him anyway

Just watched Bush’s little smirk-and-swagger-a-thon, on board a carrier, no less. They’re going to divert the path of the carrier so that Bush can take a helicopter from it to San Diego, so all in all a pretty expensive campaign ad. We should be thankful he didn’t give the speech in the flight suit he was wearing earlier, which I thought was very Michael-Dukakis-in-a-tank, although a middle-aged man in a suit and tie on an aircraft carrier is also pretty silly-looking.

“We have difficult work to do in Iraq,” he said, but then he considers tying his shoes difficult work and has never mastered the pronunciation of nuclear, so perhaps his definition of what constitutes difficult work is not everyone’s. Again he referred to the military as the “highest calling.” In your face, doctors and teachers! He said that Saddam built palaces instead of hospitals and schools. Of course now the hospitals are all looted, and the US military is occupying both the palaces and the schools, and this week shot up a crowd of people who wanted their school back, so possibly that wasn’t the best choice of words. He also tried hard to link the war to terrorism, still without offering any proof of the alliance of Iraq with al Qaida, which he mentioned yet again.

One major goal in Iraq is to rewrite their copyright laws, which only give a maximum of 50 years of protection.

So the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are both “over.” Also, the “no fly zones.” Of course the US always claimed that those were authorized by UN resolutions, so I’m not quite sure how the US can end them all by itself...

I mentioned the US acquiring records on the inhabitants of at least 7 Latin American countries. I hadn’t known that the company the government hired to do this was Choice Point, the same company that Katherine Harris used to purge black “felons” from Florida’s voting rolls. It claims that everything it did was legal, and that it protected itself by putting in its contract with its Mexican sub-contractors that they do nothing illegal. The problem there is that the records they acquired could not be acquired except illegally. On Friday, the Nicaraguan police raided the offices of Choice Point’s sub-contractors there.

In the ongoing comedy that is the only terrorist trial after 9/11, Moussaoui wants John Ashcroft to answer a multiple choice question as to what his actual theory of the case is: 1) 20th hijacker, 2) pilot of a 5th plane, 3) don’t know, 4) let’s kill him anyway. That’s not my joke, it’s Moussaoui’s. Terrific, a terrorist with stand-up comedy aspirations.

Actually, I think Ashcroft’s personal motto is Let’s kill him anyway.