Monday, June 30, 2003

Imposing our will

So that’s where those pesky WMDs are.

Someone explain to me the meaning of the lines coming off Gray Davis’s hands in this pro-recall website. The site makes this astonishing assertion as a reason Davis should be recalled: “When companies go bankrupt, the CEO takes the blame.” In what universe?

Recall funder Darrell Issa is complaining that Davis’s people alerted the media to his numerous brushes with the law (auto thefts, a mysterious fire at his company, etc.).

Speaking of bankrupt, California now is. Community colleges look likely to cancel their summer session, cops in South Central, excuse me, South LA, are being laid off, but somehow I’ll bet the state will still have to pony up the $30 million for the recall election. The London Times notes that Schwarzenegger has been giving scripted jokes with all the finesse of a reversing garbage truck. Rise of the Machines, indeed.

Next week Bush goes to South Africa and becomes the first head of state to do so and not request a meeting with Nelson Mandela.

The US arrests an Iraqi governor, installed by the, um, US. Kidnapping, assault, extortion, being a Sunni but claiming to be a Shiite, that kind of thing.

A new law in Montana provides a free college education to former inmates cleared by DNA testing. Which is something, since most exonerated inmates, no matter how many years of imprisonment they have suffered, don’t even get the services available to normal released prisoners.

The Israeli army has pulled out of Gaza, and returning expelled residents find that the Israelis have been busy little beavers, destroying any number of homes, businesses and citrus trees that competed with the Israeli citrus industry. The Israelis claim that this, like the occupation, was to stop the devastating Hamas rocket attacks, in which 2,000 rockets were launched at Israel, killing literally nones of people.

In a breakthrough that will make pro-lifers’ heads explode, scientists have found a way to grow ovarian tissue from aborted fetuses. The reason you’d want this is for IVF; there’s plenty of donated sperm, but donor eggs aren’t as much fun to make available.

Paul Bremer on the establishment of Athenian democracy in Iraq: “We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will capture or... kill them until we have imposed law and order on this country. ..."We dominate the scene and we will continue to impose our will on this country.”

Empire Magazine has named the 10 worst film accents of all time:
1 Sean Connery The Untouchables (1987)
2 Dick Van Dyke Mary Poppins (1964)
3 Brad Pitt Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
4 Charlton Heston Touch of Evil (1958)
5 Heather Graham From Hell (2001)
6 Keanu Reeves Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
7 Julia Roberts Mary Reilly (1996)
8 Laurence Olivier The Jazz Singer (1980)
9 Pete Postlethwaite The Usual Suspects (1995)
10 Meryl Streep Out of Africa (1985)

Sunday, June 29, 2003

If you have to go through this

The Republicans, or Bill Frist at least, come out in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. Evidently this thing has been around for a while and is being considered by a House sub-committee without my ever having heard of it. Actually it goes rather beyond that, since I read the draft as possibly banning anything that recognizes the existence of non-marital relationships--health benefits for domestic partners, statutory visitation rights at hospitals, etc etc. This is the draft: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state under state or federal law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

A first in Scotland: a mother and daughter jointly convicted for murder, of a man who made offensive remarks at a party (I can’t find out what remarks). The mother’s sister was also a murderer, in a different case, and committed suicide in prison two years ago. Here’s the good bit: the daughter, 16 at the time of the crime, 17 now, said “I am doing no more murders if you have to go through this. I should have learnt from my Auntie Frances, she did eight years for murder.”

There is a worry (in Britain at least) about possible declining numbers of insects, as well as birds. To measure this scientifically, someone has invented the splatometer, which is attached to a bit of a car windshield.

Prince Charles tries to deduct his polo expenses from his taxes.

Hamas starts a cease-fire and Israel starts pulling out of Gaza. The Telegraph has a good phrase for this (which they apply only to the first, but what the hell): “tactical morality.” The Israeli foreign minister says the ceasefire is a “ticking bomb” designed to “maintain the infrastructure of terror.” Israeli officials sure do claim to hear a lot of ticking lately, don’t they? I think it’s a guilty-conscience, Tell-Tale Heart kind of thing.

Click here for a list of the 43 countries that have signed agreements with the US mutually exempting each other’s war criminals from extradition to the International Court. Includes Afghanistan, Cambodia, East Timor, El Salvador, India, Nicaragua...

Roy Hattersley in the Guardian, writing about the pre-war claims about Iraq, applies to Blair an old line about Gladstone that could easily be applied to Bush, that not only is he hiding a card up his sleeve, but behaving as if God put it there.

Another Guardian columnist notes that Britain (and I think the US) complained last week about the house arrest in Burma of Aung San Suu Kyi, while Tariq Aziz and a bunch of other Iraqi leaders are being held incommunicado by the US.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Yoga for dogs, poo on stilts, deaf waiters on purpose, puttanopoly

It’s not just the British government at war with the BBC, now it’s the Israeli. In future it will refuse all interviews, and use visas to force the frequent rotation of BBC employees in the country, and not allow them through military road blocks, or issue them press cards.

New trend in NY: yoga for dogs.

An Australian group, the Revolutionary Council for the Removal of Bad Art in Public Places, has given a three-month ultimatum for public art such as one in Sydney nicknamed “Poo on Stilts” (sadly, no pictures in any of the news stories, and the only reference to poo on stilts on the internet is as an answer to the “joke” what’s brown and knocks on your window.)

Follow-up: the guardian that Florida insisted on appointing for that severely retarded woman has decided that she will be used as an incubator after all. No word on the identity of her rapist.

A gay, Democratic candidate for NJ state senate once entered a prettiest penis contest. Won, too.

A while back I linked to a site that talked about what the hell Bush was doing on 9/11. If you want to see the actual footage, starting from when Shrub was told of the attack on the 2nd tower, five long minutes of kids reading in unison (I haven’t downloaded the whole thing myself, but for crappier connections, there’s a version which is a snapshot every 5 seconds).

There’s a line in the majority opinion in the affirmative action case I missed the first time: “In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.” Setting aside the word choice “visibly” in a case about race, let’s look at the irony, because the last time the Supreme Court was so concerned about leaders having legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it was refusing to allow a proper vote-count in Florida.

The Independent on Sunday interviews the US ambassador who investigated and discredited the report about Iraq looking to buy uranium from Niger, and how it was no secret. American officials still haven’t been questioned about this by Congress or the press or anyone. Some officials in the US & British governments are still claiming that they had other evidence, but by coincidence the only one they have every showed the public was a cheap forgery a 12-year old could have discredited with Google. Well, as one official said, “What I told the public came from very reliable sources. The full picture will only emerge when I write my book.” Oh, wait, that official was the Iraqi information minister Comical Ali.

A fundraising letter sent by Sen. George Allen (whoever that is) as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee invokes Satan herself: "If Republicans don't take immediate steps to counter her, Senator Hillary Clinton will continue to rise unimpeded to the very pinnacle of power in Washington and we will see the dawning of a new, more liberal Clinton era." Evidently they expect her to take over as party leader after the R’s defeat Tom Daschle next year. Their website, NRSC.org, has a Stop Hillary Now button, and boasts “Hillary e-mail alerts.” I’ve signed up my cat (who just fell off the file cabinet).

I couldn’t make this up: a cafĂ© on the Left Bank in Paris has only deaf waiters. There are leaflets explaining that yelling at them doesn’t help and giving the sign language for the various menu items. There are lights to request service, or, the leaflet suggests, "You can wave your hand and go ‘hou hou’ in the direction of the server; tap him on the arm to attract his attention; tap your foot and make vibrations; tell your neighbour to pass it on to his neighbour until the message reaches the deaf person; or throw a little object.”

A Sunday NY Times editorial comments on the problems of using Iraqis to run Iraq. I just want to say that if the US tries to administer Iraq without Iraqis I will accuse them of racism and colonialism; if they put exiles in charge I will accuse them of setting up a puppet government; and if they use Baathists, or worse, Iraqi military officers as they are now, I will fault them as well. No, they can’t win with me. Indeed they cannot win. They have placed themselves in a no-win situation. I am not being hypocritical because whatever they do, it will be wrong. A good commentary (much more sophisticated than the Times’s) on this is called “No Country Can Democratise Another.” A sentence that I liked gives the theme: “We Fed-exed the Afghanis the Bill of Rights rather than seeing the need for democracy to develop that accommodates the local history and culture.”


The US will finally return those Syrian border guards it shot and then held hostage, or whatever the hell they were doing. And I mentioned 5 Malawians spirited out of the country: there have bene major protest riots. We just pissed off another country, and nobody here even noticed.

A piece in the NY Times magazine on Guantanamo says that the concentration camp boasts just one video, the Tom Hanks movie Castaway. Another tidbit: the sign at the entrance says "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom". Better than Arbeit Macht Frei, I guess. The author finds the use of the word freedom ironic, but I find the implication that freedom is to be defended not for its intrinsic value but because of one’s personal “honor” to be even more so.

Friday, June 27, 2003

A great chicken, a friendly chicken, a chicken that is ready for a relationship

The Blair government is now in a war with the BBC, which despite being state-owned, has shown more backbone than America’s private media (have I mentioned that Meet the Press solicited and received highly slanted “facts” from the Treasury Dept that it used when interrogating Howard Dean?) in going after government lying about Iraq’s military capabilities. It’s been firing off letters to the Beeb, and issuing them publicly, demanding retractions and the name of its source, and, astonishingly, giving them a deadline--of midnight, yet--to respond. The Beeb told them to fuck themselves. Oh, and at a press conference with Putin, Blair answered questions from everyone except the BBC.

Ha’aretz headline: “Israel Wants US Guarantee that Palestinian Authority Will Dismantle Terror Groups.” Well, gee, how about if they say that they’ll dismantle any unauthorized terror groups, and then let them go ahead, just as long as they don’t “celebrate.”

The Bush admin has called for the overthrow of two African governments this week (Liberia, Zimbabwe).

The US birthrate is at its lowest ever.

And this won’t help: the Supreme Court legalizes sodomy in Texas. Plan your vacations accordingly. Best headline reporting this: “Court to Texas: Butt Out.”

Other states which had anti-sodomy laws: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Scalia says this is the start of the slippery slope to gay marriage (but only if you use the proper lubricant). And he makes this remarkable statement: “Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.” So-called? He also talks about “the law professions’s anti-anti-homosexual culture.” He hilariously argues that a majority can outlaw homosexuality, that’s democracy not discrimination (not that he shares those sentiments, no don’t get him wrong). And hell, we have a history of it; he cites 4 executions for sodomy in colonial times as justification for Texas’s law.

The majority said that Texas’s law violated the “liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.” That’s a mighty fancy way of describing one man putting his penis in another man’s.... Kennedy wrote that “there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” I think you can write your own joke in response to that one without any help from me. He said that the men had engaged in “sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle.” “Not common enough,” you can hear some men saying. (Lifestyle? Scalia talked about culture wars, Kennedy about lifestyle; they both meant fucking). Actually, reading the decision,
I find that the majority were very specifically trying to legalize not homosexual sex, but homosexuality, the right to form personal relationships of one’s choosing: “When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.” This is welcome, but puzzling, since they didn’t strike down the Texas law on the equal-protection grounds that it discriminated against gay sodomy(except for O’Connor), as did 3 other states; the rest banned it for heterosexuals as well, and those laws were struck down too. Rather, it ruled on the basis of the “right to liberty under the Due Process Clause,” whatever that means. In other words, 5 Supes made one ruling, but Kennedy wrote his argument as if they’d made a different one. O’Connor is clearly embarrassed at having voted the wrong way in 1986 and actively lies about that ruling, which this one overturned, saying that it was never about legislating moral disapproval--which it patently was. At any rate, the Court came to a better, wider ruling than I expected, including saying that you can’t legislate moral disapproval, but their logic sucked.

It is truly dead-old-farts week. Dennis Thatcher (Maggie’s husband), Lester Maddox and Strom Thurmond. Probably the sodomy thing that killed them.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Holistic

The Supreme Court has done a nice job of fuzzying up the question of affirmative action. The collective result of the two decisions is a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. A point system is out, but race (or “diversity” as the Court insists, to portray affirmative action as benefitting all of society, which it does, but heaven forfend that just assisting historically discriminated-against minorities should be considered worthwhile all by itself, no, we have to insist that everyone gains, even while we’re making decisions about distributing a scarce resource, which is a process which will always benefit some people at the expense of others) may be considered in an “individualized, holistic review.” I’m from California, so I know that anything with the word “holistic” in it somewhere is going to be bullshit, like a “nutritionist” who swings a pendulum over you to discover whether you can eat peaches. A point system may be mechanical, but at least there’s transparency. Now, Michigan gave points not only for race (too many points, in my opinion) but also for children of alumni. In the old days, such applicants were given an individualized, holistic review, or, as they would have called it, the old boys’ network. Yeah, by all means let’s go back to that, only everyone who gets admitted gets it by a wink and a nod and an unaccountable back-room process.

The Supreme Court votes 6-3 to uphold requiring libraries to use internet filters.

New Zealand legalizes prostitution. Plan your vacations accordingly.

The CIA spirits five legal residents of Malawi out of the country, possibly with the connivance of the government, but in defiance of a high court ruling that they be either charged or released.

Showing our keen understanding of Islamic culture, we planned to give the Iraqi army a new name whose acronym meant fuck in Arabic (although even the Brits have their problems; the killing of 6 soldiers yesterday was a response to searches of women’s underwear drawers). Incidentally, the US has changed its policy and will now pay Iraqi soldiers their salaries. And employ them. To clean up minefields.

Speaking of which, the US is trying to weaken a proposed UN convention that would impose a legal requirement to clean up cluster bombs at the end of a war.

In Germany, a woman stabs her husband to death in a fight over what color to paint their apartment walls. The news story does not specify which colors each one wanted, so it’s hard to judge whether her reaction was appropriate.

The top 400 taxpayers in the US in 1992 had gross incomes totaling $19 billion. In 2000, $70 billion. Their income tax fell from 26.4% to 22.3%. Their share of total US income doubled from 0.52% to 1.09%.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Willfully tampering with their bodies to avoid military duty

Another poll in which 1/4 say that Iraq used chemical weapons against US troops. What you never see in these things is how that correlates with people who approve of Bush’s job performance. How ignorant do you have to be before Bush looks good?

The same poll says the American people would back Bush if he went to war with Iran, claiming it was to stop them acquiring nukeyular weapons. Happy Orwell centenary!

The DOD has been lobbying towns to turn July 4 into a pro-Iraq War event. They are calling it Operation Tribute to Freedom. I can remember when July 4 was called Independence Day and it was about some colonies leaving an empire, not about those colonies, all growed up, destroying the independence of another country.

Good “This Modern World” cartoon.

South Koreans can get out of the military draft if they have large tattoos, which would be offensive to the other soldiers in a Confucian society. 170 have been arrested for "willfully tampering with their bodies to avoid military duty".

After the speech by Bush claiming that the EU’s rejection of GM foods was starving poor Africans, the EU points out that it provides seven times as much aid to Africa as the US does.

So there’s one of those websites that denies there was a Holocaust and makes gas chamber and anti-Semitic jokes, with the twist that this one is in Israel. In Russian. In other words, some Russians got to settle in Israel by pretending to be Jews, and when they took off their yamukas, turned out to be skinheads.

Nanotechnology applied to a problem worthy of the most advanced technology on the planet: smelly socks.

The Nuremberg “Peace in our time” medal for conspicuous diplomatic cowardice this week goes to...everyone! For the British giving Putin a royal reception unseen since 1874 without mentioning Chechnya; for Bush for greeting Pakistani dictator Musharaf with an aid package of £1.8 billion without mentioning civil rights, democracy, or the new Taliban-knockoff government in the North West Frontier Province (remember when Bush was so proud about “freeing” the women of Afghanistan?); France for doing some sort of deal with Iran that involves arresting Iranian dissident exiles in Paris; India for recognizing China’s suzerainty over Tibet.

Monday, June 23, 2003

A gay canon

Ha’aretz reports that Ariel Sharon told his cabinet that Israel will continue building settlements but “should not celebrate the construction, should just build.” Settlers are putting up more of those “outposts” faster than they’re being taken down.

WashPost headline: “Bishops Urged to Reach Out to Victims.” Isn’t that what got them in trouble in the first place?

The Russian government has shut the last independent tv channel (and just 5 months before the next elections, too). Remember glasnost? And the Duma passed a censorship law, which got rather more attention because it’s so stupid, but should probably be ignored because 1) nothing the Duma passes is to be taken seriously, 2) Putin will do whatever he wants, no matter what the Duma has decided, 3) ownership matters more than law, as we know from the media wars in the US.

Which reminds me. Michael Powell’s new standards allow for more monopolistic ownership than we realized, because viewers of UHF stations only count as ½ in deciding how much of the market one company owns.

Bush’s latest statement on Iraqi weapons is not that they will be found but that the “true extent” of Saddam’s weapons program will be discovered. He adds that "all who know the dictator's history agree" that he had previously possessed and used banned weapons. Sure, in the 1980s! At the very time that Shrub himself possessed and used Alcohol of Mass Quantities.

USAID has been attempting to turn NGOs into GOs. NGOs awarded humanitarian contracts for Iraq were ordered not to speak to the media, and the head of USAID has threatened others for not telling Iraqis and Afghans receiving food and medicine that this was the largesse of George W. Bush and that they had better make it clear that they are “an arm of the US government.” The American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society have set up a McCarthyite “NGO Watch” in order to monitor any NGO that dares speak against Bush policies or for international treaties.

And something I missed, last month the US trade rep said that in future the US will only do trade agreements with countries that follow our line on foreign policy & security issues.

A good piece in USA Today (!) on how stupid decisions rather than the economy are responsible for the bad fiscal conditions of states (especially Calif.). Although it also suggests that those were precisely the stupid decisions (more spending, no tax increases) that polls say the voters want. I blame the failure to make the case for progressivity in taxation, but that’s just me.

A Slate article asks the question, Does it matter if we know whether Bush is lying or is just stupid.

And I have a new “tell” for when Bush is going to lie about his rationale for something, as demonstrated in something he said today: "For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology.” (the continent is Africa). The tell is “for the sake of.” Remember all those Iraqwar statements by Bush beginning “For the sake of peace...”?

Two consecutive stories in the breaking news section of the London Times: “Archbishop Bids to Calm Gay Clergy Row”; “MPs Urge Ban on Smacking”. They’re not related, but wouldn’t it be fun if they were? The gay bishop in question is referred to in one headline as a “gay canon,” which I assume is his nickname.

Oh, and here’s one I hadn’t noticed, in the main British news section: “Sex Obsession Must Stop, Says Archbishop.”

The US accidentally invaded Syria yesterday.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

History lesson


Must-have terrorism alert accessories.

Israel has killed another “top” Hamas leader. There used to be a joke about every Israeli being a general. Hamas personnel have all been upgraded to “ticking timebombs”--haven’t they seen a movie lately? Timebombs are all digital now.

Reuters says US troops are playing Ride of the Valkyries during their raids. Of course they are. Bush today accused Iraqis of trying to kill and intimidate American soldiers. Aw, are the poor babies feeling intimidated?

A zoo in China has ended one of its attractions, where it rented out rifles to visitors to shoot some of the animals. Those PETA spoil sports!

A month ago, I passed on a story about a Croatian man who was the only survivor, besides the driver, of a bus that plunged into a river, who in his life survived a train plunging into a river, and being sucked out of a plane that then crashed while he landed on a haystack. Evidently there’s more: he jumped out of a car going into a ravine, and two other cars he was in exploded (Yugos, I’m guessing). He just won $1 million in the Croatian national lottery.

I keep hearing Americans say that Iran has oil so it doesn’t need nuclear plants. At the same time, oil is being pumped out of neighboring Iraq, but there is still no electricity as temperatures reach 115 (Paul Bremer says there is now 20 hours of electricity a day in Baghdad. He lies.). The Americans have been unable to get anything working because they’re unwilling to employ actual Iraqis. Bremer and the like would score a lot more points locally if they’d sweat a little when they went on tv; Iraqis are really beginning to get pissed at the air-conditioner gap.

With all the discussion--finally--about the changing rationales for the conquest of Iraq (the War of the Bushes, I’ve started to call it, which is a play on War of the Roses, in case you didn’t catch it), I’ve been meaning to talk about other wars. And since today’s top story, judging by the front pages of the NYT & the Chronicle, is the Harry Potter book, I think I will.

For example, Grenada. This was an invasion that Reagan had been wanting to do for a couple of years. Grenada was the first English-speaking socialist country, and Reagan had Cold War blinkers on. But there were no buyers. He went on tv once or twice and displayed ominous spy satellite photos of the runway they were building, which could land a MIG, Reagan said, or tourist planes larger than four-seaters, the Grenadans said. A coup gave Reagan his opportunity, but it was only some time in that the war was given its rationale, the “rescue” of those poor American med students. I was proud of myself for having caught on to it about twelve hours before it became obvious that the rationale had been switched.

Panama had something to do with wives of American soldiers being molested, I believe.

The first War of the Bushes, Iraq ‘91, took weeks and weeks before it became about WMDs. Rescuing poor Kuwait wasn’t very appealing to Americans, especially as all the rich Kuwaitis urging the war were waiting it out in the south of France, and Kuwait wasn’t exactly an Athenian democracy. The war to make the world safe for feudalism, I called it. So that didn’t work. James Baker said the war would be for “jobs, jobs, jobs,” which didn’t look good at all. Some fake atrocity stories were spread around, but most of them, including the babies-ripped-from-incubators story, were already debunked before the carpet bombing began. Finally, after many focus groups, they started claiming that Iraq was developing nukes. I don’t remember exactly how Bush the Elder climbed down from that one when he failed to go after those weapons.

In those wars, it was at least one rationale at a time, serially as each one failed to catch on. Now they just throw a dozen out at once, half of them made up out of nothing, some aimed at different demographics (remember how we invaded Afghanistan to save the women from Taliban oppression?), and see what sticks.

I could go on along these lines about World War I and the Spanish American War, but I won’t. Maybe we should all tattoo this sort of thing somewhere on our persons like the guy in “Memento,” so we’ll actually remember it for the next war.

Lifting and spreading

On Meet the Press Sunday, Wesley Clark says that the Bush administration, starting on 9/11/01, tried to implicate Saddam, and that he personally was called up that day by some Bushie and asked to claim that connection on CNN. He asked for proof, there was none.

The conservative government in Spain has decided to make religion compulsory in schools. In public schools, religion is taught by Catholic priests or teachers appointed by the Church.

A pretty good piece in the Post on the intensive lobbying by Israel and the Jewish lobby in the US after Bush dared to issue a rather mild (toothless was the word I seem to remember Haaretz using) criticism of Israel’s latest assassination attempts, and how Bush was, essentially, tamed. What the article fails to mention is that Bush’s “road map” is predicated on the US being the sole judge of whether both sides are following the map, and Bush has just shown for the umpteenth time that the US isn’t up to the task of being even-handed.

The Catholic Church sure did get Frank Keating off that commission on church child abuse darned fast after he compared the church’s coverup tactics to those of the Mafia, didn’t they? Imagine if they’d moved even a thousandth as quickly in dealing with the priests, huh? Good priorities.

An op-ed piece in the Post on censorship in the Chinese media--which seems to be growing--is good as far as it goes, but let’s not get too superior, since the US army demanded the tape shot by a BBC tv crew at Guantanamo after prisoners shouted to them. This was done in the interests of not exploiting the prisoners, of course. And that little act of censorship didn’t make it into the American press at all. Like the Wesley Clark story. Who needs censorship?

I’m in a crabby mood, so it’s time to play Mystery Science Theater 3000 with a Bush fund-raising speech the RNC emailed to my cat. With comments:
Excerpts from President Bush's Remarks to
Supporters at the Bush-Cheney '04 Reception
June 17, 2003

"I want to thank you for your help tonight. I want to thank you for what you're going to do, as well. I want to thank you for helping to invigorate the grass-roots all across this country. I want to thank you for the phone calls you'll make, for the signs you'll put up in the yard, and for helping spread the positive message of this administration."
They just paid I believe $3,000 to be there (and were fed hot dogs and hamburgers), let’s not pretend they’re “just folks.” The people who attend a Bush fund-raiser do not put signs in their yard, they have Consuela put signs in their yard.
"The political season will come in its own time. Right now, this administration is focused on the people's business.”
Well not right now. Right now, this administration is focused on raising several million smackeroos so it can start running ads about Howard Dean’s kid being arrested.
"I came to this office to solve problems, not to pass them on to other Presidents and other generations.”
Except for that big honking deficit.
"In these challenging times, the world has seen America's resolve and courage. And I have been privileged to see the compassion and the character of the American people. All the tests of the last two-and-a-half years have come to the right nation.”
Actually I paid someone else to take those tests, just like I did at Yale.
“We're a strong country and we will use that strength to defend the peace."
Am I alone in thinking that Bush doesn’t know what the word “peace” means?
"We're an optimistic country. We're confident in ourselves and we're confident in ideals bigger than ourselves. We seek to lift whole nations by spreading freedom. And at home, we seek to lift up lives by spreading opportunity to every corner, to every person of this great country."
I was trying to think of a joke for this. What else involves lifting and spreading, I asked. Anal sodomy, I answered, and then was too grossed out to go on. I may have lived in the Bay Area too long.
"This is the work that history has set before us. We welcome it, and we know that for our country better days lie ahead."

Any day after you leave office, for example.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Have a dream

The Dept of Homeland Security’s inspector general says that it was perfectly appropriate under the agency’s guidelines to look for the Texas legislators. Actually, what that turns out to mean is that its employees were misled into thinking a plane had crashed, and didn’t bother checking the facts. Here’s a quote from one of those employees: “these people up in Oklahoma, they said that these people were like government officials, and they're trying to find them.” So the excuse is that Homeland Security’s workers are easily misled and don’t ask questions. I feel more secure already.

Here’s what the CIA said about those Iraqi mobile labs: "Coalition experts on fermentation and systems engineering examined the trailer found in late April and have been unable to identify any legitimate industrial use ... that would justify the effort and expense of a mobile production capability." And if you believe that, you should be quite worried about the fact that identical labs are for sale in the US.

It’s kind of nice knowing that I don’t have to ever hear Bill Clinton’s voice again, because I can’t afford it. He made 60 speeches last year at a dead minimum of $100,000 each, up to $250,000 abroad. “On November 19 in Mito City, on the outskirts of Tokyo, he spoke to 1,700 school pupils, attended a dinner and a political discussion the following morning, and flew away with $400,000. ‘He told our youth to have a dream,’ said Takashi Kawatsu, who runs the civic group that paid the former President.” Here’s my dream: being paid $150,000 just to tell kids to have a dream.

Canada’s government won’t appeal the court ruling upholding gay marriages. A couple of dozen have tied the knot already.

Yesterday Silvio Berlusconi actually showed up at his own trial, in order to denounce the trial and say that "It is true that the law is equal for all, but for me it is more equal because the majority of Italians voted for me." To add injury to that insult, his appearance was actually meant to filibuster the trial long enough for his tame parliament to rush through a law today immunizing stopping this and any other trial. You know the line about if you owe the bank a thousand dollars they own you, but if you owe the bank a billion dollars, you own the bank? Well, in the 1980s Berlusconi merely bribed judges (that’s what the trial is for); now, he can simply abolish the judiciary. Oh, and the parliament voted by secret ballot.

The Romanian gov retracts its assertion of last week that there was no Holocaust in Romania (after trying to get everyone to believe they meant only that there were no death camps on Romanian soil).

US soldiers in Iraq shoot at yet another crowd of unarmed protesters, killing two. A military spokesman said, “The Iraqis have got a lot to learn about how to demonstrate peacefully but we hope they will return in the future to exercise their right to freedom of expression.” Adding, “‘cuz we need the target practice.” Kidding, I kid--don’t shoot me. So they have “a lot to learn,” huh? And being fatally shot was, like, an F?

In that UN speech, Colin Powell claimed there were secret bioweapons labs beneath Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad. There aren’t.

I seem to have mislaid a country, because I have no recollections of having noticed the Finnish government falling in March over accusations that it was secretly aiding Bush in the Iraq war. Anyway, the person who unseated that government to become the first woman PM of Finland, one Anneli Jaatteenmaki (does any name need that many double letters?), just resigned because she lied about whether or not she had solicited leaks of classified foreign ministry documents that she used in the debates.

Tony Blair is abolishing the post of Lord Chancellor, after 1,400 years. When criticized at Question Time by Iain Duncan Smith, he responded “He wants to fight to the death to keep the minister in charge of our courts system in a full-bottomed wig, 18th century breeches, women's tights, sitting on a woolsack rather than running the courts service.” Well as Clinton would say, have a dream.

So whatever happened to the 8-year old on life support in the Middle East? And what happened to the conscientious objector nephew of Netanyahu? His court martial was last month. The lack of follow-up is irritating.

Rumsfeld proves that Iraqi WMDs exist by applying logic: we can’t find Saddam Hussein either, but that doesn’t mean he never existed. Yeah, and you can’t find your own ass with both hands, but you have Colin Powell kiss it every morning just to make sure it’s there.

Paul Bremer announced plans to try Iraqi guerillas who attack occupation troops as criminals, which is a violation of international law, which recognizes the right to resist an occupation. Bremer also has ambitious plans to restructure the Iraqi economy, reversing the nationalization of the oil industry and selling off state industries. First, who is he to sell anything that belongs to the Iraqi people? At best, he can administer national assets, but actually sell them? Second, this would all be done before the Iraqis have any say in their own governance. In other words, Bremer is pre-empting decisions the Iraqis have a right to decide for themselves, if “freedom” and “democracy” are to mean anything.

The Supreme Court, in a decision that to me reads more ambiguous than anything else, rules that mentally-ill defendants can’t be forcibly medicated so they can be tried. They also ruled 8-1 that Antonin “Fat Tony” Scalia should “take a chill pill already.”

Sawing through a bridge? Al Qaeda must have Wile E. Coyote working for them now

This week the Calif. Legislature failed to pass a bill protecting privacy in banking and suchlike information. A pro-privacy lobby responded by putting 4 digits of the Social Security numbers of legislators who opposed the bill on their website, to make a point. The legislators are screaming like stuck pigs that their, um, privacy has been violated and that they are being put under undue pressure, which is illegal you know.

As opposed to State Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, who promised to campaign in the primary against any Republicans who dared vote for a tax increase, thus wrecking any chances of a budget being done well, much less on time. This is part of the attempted recall-slash-coup attempt, to deny Gray Davis anything resembling a victory. Brulte has evidently been coordinating these efforts with Karl Rove and some of the people that brought us Florida’s Chad-Fest 2000.

Meanwhile, Der Arnold is trying to win his way into the governor’s mansion by puns and bad jokes. Here’s one:
Speaking to a taxpayers group in Los Angeles, Schwarzenegger joked: "This is really embarrassing. I just forgot our state governor's name. But I know you will help me recall him."
It’s much more terrible when you hear him say it. Attempted word-play by someone for whom words clearly take a lot of work.

There’s a good piece on this in Slate. Here’s the first paragraph:
Gray Davis has made a career out of being the incarnation of None of the Above, a ballot option made flesh. He's not popular, he's not inspiring, he's not likable, but he's also not the other candidate. Davis doesn't have supporters, really. Rather, he receives support from those who don't like his opponents. Which is what makes the attempt by California Republicans to petition for his recall so fascinating and so dangerous for the California governor: What happens when the None of the Above candidate actually squares off against None of the Above?
Speaking of Slate, you should be reading the William Saletan series on the buzzwords of the candidates. This is the latest, on Edwards, with links to the previous ones.

The polls continue to show that even though a majority of Americans believe Bush lied to them, they still support the Iraq War. The Big Shrug. When Lincoln said the thing about fooling some of the people etc., his underlying assumption was that people would react in some sort of negative fashion to being fooled.

The UN nuclear regulatory body (the IAEA) has issued a demand that Iran sign a protocol for more intrusive inspections than other countries have to undertake. The US wanted it to go further and say that Iran was in breach of its treaty obligations. The problem is that isn’t. I don’t see what the legal basis is for the IAEA demand. And if the inspections conducted under the existing non-proliferation regime aren’t good enough to detect a nuclear weapons program, that’s something of a worry to, isn’t it?

Ashcroft paraded an Al Qaeda gofer today, a guy who did basic intern work, none of which was especially illegal, since most of the dastardly plots he was involved with ended with “Nah, that wouldn’t work,” like the famed idea of sawing through the Brooklyn Bridge. So if you believe this was a major arrest, I’ve got something to sell you, and I think you know what it is.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Water polo rioting and wall-butting

From the Guardian: “Almost unnoticed outside Iraq, the senior US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has issued a proclamation outlawing any "gatherings, pronouncements or publications" that call for the return of the Ba'ath party - or for opposition to the US occupation.” It goes on to point out that at the same time the Bush admin has been applauding demonstrators against the Iranian government (indeed, using radio & tv beamed into Iran to call for them). Indeed, Shrub himself said "I think that freedom is a powerful incentive. I believe that some day freedom will prevail everywhere because freedom is a powerful drive." But then, he may have been referring to freedom fries.

“A third of the American public believes U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a recent poll. And 22 percent said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons in the war.” The poll also shows that supporters of the war were more likely to have their facts wrong.

The Financial Times suggests that that raid on a “terrorist training camp” in Iraq was actually the result of one tribe pointing the US military in the direction of a tribe it was feuding with--the sort of thing that happened in Afghanistan all the time.

This paragraph from Cursor.org: A June 13 article in the New York Times print edition, headlined "Goal Is To Lay Cornerstone at Ground Zero During GOP Convention," was changed in the Web edition to 'Officials Plan Speedy Ground Zero Environmental Review.' The last line in the lead paragraph was also changed, from "This would allow them to lay the cornerstone of a 1,776-foot tower in August 2004, during the Republican Convention," to "This would allow them to start construction by the summer of 2004."

The Sierra Club points out that the Ford Explorer gets worse gas mileage than the Model T. Get a horse, I say.

There are now fewer than 1 million Jews in New York city. Also, there are now more Jews in Israel than in the US.

Here’s a headline you don’t see every day: “Water-polo Rioting Spreads.” Croatia and Serbia.

“Austrian authorities have warned people not to copy a cult television show in which participants run at a wall and head-butt it while wearing a crash helmet after a man collapsed and died after doing it.” That’s in Salzburg, the home of Mozart. Who’d probably have loved wall-butting, now that I think of it.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Spartan Scorpion

A Californian convicted for participating in a kidnapping when he was 14 (and shooting at, but not hitting, cops), has been sentenced to life without parole, the youngest such sentence, or sentences, since he got 5 life sentences plus 121 years. The judge rejected the idea that this was excessive.

I have sometimes joked about genetically modified products leading to glowing in the dark. But they’re actually creating GM fish that glow in the dark, and that’s just cool.

The British government’s investigation concludes that the Iraqi mobile labs were indeed intended not to produce bioweapons but hydrogen for balloons (as I reported, but here’s the confirmation if you need one).

An article by Philip Knightley on the US military’s targeting of journalists (which reminds me that his book on the history of war reporting has been waiting for me to get to it for several years). A quote I’d missed: a US admiral who said that Al-Jazeera in Kabul was a legitimate target because it had “repeatedly been the location of significant al-Qaeda activity”--meaning interviews of Taliban officials, meaning normal journalism. Knightley concludes that the Pentagon is determined that no one report from the enemy side, and a few (seventeen) salutary deaths among journalists will encourage that.

From the Daily Telegraph: “Greek authorities have banned the sale of lollipops in the shape of the enormous penis on an ancient clay figure found in Larissa in the heart of the country.”

After the two massacres in Fallujah, you’d really think the US Army would just cut its losses and get out, but today they mounted another operation, oddly title Operation Spartan Scorpion, involving pointless arrests and kicking in doors. Almost more insulting is that the Americans still think after all the killing and abuse, they can win hearts and minds. Operation Spartan Scorpion was immediately followed by--wait for it--Operation Friends and Neighbors (maybe they thought that “Operation Fuzzy Puppy” would be a bit much), in which troops delivered food to teachers, put ceiling fans in schools and built soccer fields. A captain is quoted as saying that it’s been difficult to switch from "killing everything we saw to being nice". Tell me about it.

Woody Allen is appearing in a promotional video urging Americans to travel to France and put all that unpleasantness behind us. In the video he reminds us of some other past unpleasantness by saying “I will not have to freedom-kiss my wife when all I want to do is French kiss her.”

Friday, June 13, 2003

Boycotting Belgium, impotent snit-fits, cry babies, spears and Volvos

A State Dept guy on McNeil-Lehrer said Bush himself won’t be publicly criticizing every single Middle East atrocity, because that would “reduce the impact.” I don’t know about that: I find that Bush is good for a laugh no matter how often you hear him.

With a Daily Telegraph headline today “Israel Strikes Back,” this would be an opportune time to point out again the tendency of the media to phrase these things as if all of Israel’s acts were responses to Palestinian acts of aggression.

Croatia refuses to sign the immunity agreement demanded by the US. Good for them. Which is more than you can say for the Security Council. France and Germany expressed their displeasure by failing to turn up to vote. So France has all the dubious pleasures of an impotent snit-fit without actually having the balls to use its veto.

“Impotent snit-fit”?

On roughly the same issue, the US is threatening to “boycott Belgium.”

A Welsh politician who was “politician of the year” is found dead in a massage parlor. Not as good as the German pol, under investigation, who committed suicide by jumping out of a plane last week.

Glad to see Bush’s involvement has created peace in the Middle East. Now he just has to put on the tux and collect his Nobel. Or not. Anyway, Sharon calls Palestinian leaders “cry-babies” for complaining about Israeli retaliations [see above on “retaliation”]. Speaking of cry-babies, no word today on the 8-year old Sharon put into critical condition with a rocket attack yesterday. Guess that wasn’t important enough for any reporter to follow up. Or to get the kid’s name. Sharon did manage to kill another couple of kids today (one of them 3 years old) with another rocket attack on a busy highway. So maybe Sharon can just shut his mouth about cry-babies. This time, the Bushies conspicuously failed to condemn the move. The Guardian comments that Palestinians see rocket attacks on populated areas as the equivalent of suicide bombings.

In Britain, the Daily Mail is holding a “referendum”--mail-in coupons, phone in, email, boxes in shops--to demand a referendum on Europe. Of course this is the sort of thing that is to be taken as seriously as any internet poll or an election in Florida. But in what may be the most sarcastic journalistic exercise I’ve ever seen, the Guardian hired professional international election observers to monitor it.

Speaking of toy democracies, California may really be heading for a recall of the governor. It’s hard to tell because the people working for this may be lying about how many signatures they have. They can do this because they’re evidently not required to hand them in to the secretary of state within a few days like they would with voter registration forms. The whole thing is dangerously undemocratic because 1) we just had an election in November, 2) if they get enough signatures to force a recall election, it’s bound to depose Davis because it’s off-year so the turnout will be low, and because the recall and the next election are on the same ballot. That is, at the same time you have to vote on whether to recall the Gray Boy, and who would replace him. It’s the combination that badly distorts the democratic process: only R’s are likely to run, because no D wants to look like they’re endorsing recall, and Davis isn’t allowed on the ballot. 3) Given the high cost of running a campaign in California, having this go on a few months after a gubernatorial race distorts the process in favor of those who can raise money fast--i.e., the evil. In fact, Darryl Issa has already been caught breaking campaign finance laws to fund this thing. It only takes I believe 900,000 signatures to start a process that’s heavily weighted towards wealthy Republicans. The recall provision of the state constitution has never been used, and would be a serious blow to the legitimacy of government in this state.

Sort of like giving the new UC president a 10% raise over the outgoing one while reg fees are going up 25%.

Nicholas Kristof in today’s NY Times eviscerates the claim leaked to the Post that the CIA never passed on its conclusions about the fakedness of the Niger uranium forgeries to the White House, although he fails to use the phrase ineffable twaddle, not having as much class as I do.

A piece in Salon suggests that if a Republican Supreme Court justice, which is pretty much all of them, retires without a compelling reason, like being dead, or really close to it, it will raise again the legitimacy issues of the 2000 election. Like the Court’s decision then, it will be and look political.

A good article on the “strategic ambiguity” of Bush admin statements, the way they structure arguments to imply strongly things that they can’t actually claim, like that we actually have discovered Iraqi WMDs or that Hussein and Al Qaeda were linked, or that cutting taxes will lead to increased revenue (the Laffer curve, for those who can recall the Reagan administration). Since this article points out how Bush’s speeches are structured so as to deceive people dumber than yourselves, it’s a must-read so that you can detect what’s going on in those speeches, things that go *under* your head and are unnoticed because you didn’t fall for them.

Incidentally, I’ve only seen one poll on this, but Americans seem to think that we have discovered WMDs in Iraq.

Salon on the record of the incredibly far-right record of Alabama attorney general William Pryor, nominated by Bush to the 11th Circuit. I mentioned him a couple of months ago.

The Romanian government claims there was no Holocaust there in 1940-45 (actually, 250,000 Jews were killed or sent to concentration camps).

“Workers sacked from a Volvo dealership in Indonesia attacked their Swedish boss with spears after negotiations over severance pay went awry, police said yesterday.” That story wouldn’t be funny if it weren’t Volvo.

US soldiers killed 100 Iraqis today, in what McNeil-Lehrer described as the worst fighting since the war ended. I don’t think I need to point out the problem with that sentence.

Also watch out for the occasional use of the word “terrorist” to describe attacks on US troops. Attacks on occupying forces cannot be described as terrorist.

Guardian on marriages in Israel, possibly the only “democratic” state that doesn’t allow civil marriages, just an Orthodox one in which the wife is said to be the property of the husband, only the husband can seek a divorce, and if he dies, his brother has the right to marry her if she is childless (or use that provision to blackmail her).

Four years ago, Bhutan became the last nation on the planet to get television. Naturally, the country turned to shit: drugs, crime.

More signs of the apocalypse: Reebok just signed on a basketball star, aged 3½.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I've been wanting to call something "ineffable twaddle" since I was 9

Paul Bremer, Viceroy and Grand Vizier of Iraq, has drawn up rules for censoring newspapers and shutting down ones he doesn’t like. Sadly, the only story on this, by Robert Fisk of the Indy, who doesn’t actually have many details, is itself only available to subscribers of their premium service. And me, so I’ll quote at some length. He suggests a story that might be censored: the reappearance of drugs for sale in Baghdad. The drugs come from Afghanistan, once again the number one world supplier of opium. Also:
Out at Baghdad airport, the Americans are now holding 3,000 prisoners without any intention of putting them on trial or charging them with offences. Where is Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister? The Americans say they have him. But we don't know where. What's he being asked? About Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? Or - my own guess - how much he knows about America's close relations with Saddam after 1978? In fact, Aziz knows far too much about that shameful alliance; after all, he met Donald Rumsfeld several times. One thing's for sure. There'll be no trial for Tariq Aziz. Keeping him silent will be the first priority. But that's not something the Iraqis should learn about. Censor the story.

While we're still on the subject of Baghdad airport, it's important to note that American forces at the facility are now coming under attack every night - I repeat, every night - from small arms fire. So are American military planes flying into the airbase. Some US aircrews have now adopted the old Vietnam tactic of corkscrewing tightly down on to the runways instead of risking sniper fire during a conventional final approach. The source is impeccable (it's within the Third Infantry Division, if the int. boys want to know). But what will that tell the Iraqis? That the Americans cannot keep order? That a resistance movement is well under way? Censor the story.
A Canadian court struck down the country’s discrimination against homosexuals in its marriage law, and two men immediately take advantage to get married. I dunno, I’m picturing plaid shirts, those hats with the flaps, I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok...

From the Guardian: “The nation's most famous tourist attraction sallied forth from Windsor Castle to meet her little people yesterday and found them small, squat-headed and remarkably immobile. ... Dressed in yellow check, Her Majesty even came toe to face with a miniature version of herself, dressed in yellow bricks.” Yes, the royal family goes to Legoland. (sadly, no pictures.) (OK, I’ve checked other sites for pictures, and there are no funny ones).

Last week I made some comment about waiting for the Islamic-loon-governed state in Pakistan to ban kites. Well, uh, actually, Punjab province is having a legitimate kite problem. Seems these idiots have their kites fight each other, with metallic or glass-coated twines, and they’ve also accidentally killed a few kids, and caused power outages. They have been warned that this will be treated as homicide, subject to the death penalty. Which will teach me for making jokes about kites.

A headline somewhere said that Sharon is “not apologetic” for the botched assassination attempt that involved firing 7 missiles at a crowded highway in Gaza. OK, Sharon being apologetic would be the ultimate man bites dog story, but for fuck’s sake, there are dead children and an 8-year old on life support, so maybe something in the way of an apology might not be completely out of line?

The most embarrassing part of the fake case against Iraq was the claim that it was trying to buy uranium in Niger. The latest line, here, is that the CIA knew it was bullshit and forgot to tell anyone, even after Bush cited it in the State of the Union Address, or the umpteen other times Bushies talked about it. Balderdash. Ineffable twaddle. No way. I’d refute it at length, but it’s too absurd to require it. And doesn’t even begin to answer, or even ask, the question of how the hilariously incompetent fake evidence came to be manufactured. The D’s seem to be picking up this issue, excruciatingly slowly, but the R’s are determined to block open hearings. Wonder how the commission on 9/11 intelligence failures is going? If I had to sit through the Clinton impeachment and all the Whitewater crap, I want payback.

You know what country the US pressured last week, by a threat to cut off aid, into signing one of those deals immunizing Americans from extradition to the International Court? Bosnia. Takes evil shitheadery to an almost Zen level, doesn’t it?

It’s going after the other ex-Yugoslav states as well, including Serbia, although Slovenia has told them to shove it. The American ambassador to Croatia published a letter threatening their $19 million in aid.

Richard Perle suggests bombing North Korea’s nuclear reactor, like Israel did in Iraq in 1981. Oh good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

With time we'll find out

A good piece on the politics of the Bush administration, how policies are always subordinate to political ends, the disempowering of certain Democratic contributors/constituencies, and the permanent impotence of the Democratic party.

Saudi Arabia’s religious police are being made to attend seminars in “communication skills” and “success strategies.” They are told to smile more (presumably as they beat unveiled schoolgirls back into burning buildings). I am not making this up.

Blair will refuse to appear before Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into his lies about Iraqi weapons.

Sharon has started to destroy unoccupied, “unauthorized”settler outposts. Big woop. At the same time, he destroyed 13 actual homes of Palestinians. Guess which one got headlines (and only the London Times used a word like “vacant” to describe the outposts), and which one was buried, if reported at all?

Jose Padilla yesterday celebrated his first anniversary in military custody without being charged with a crime. We don’t know how he celebrated, because he is not allowed access to lawyers (what would be the point? laws don’t apply to “enemy combatants,” even if they are US citizens) or family.

So far, 37 countries have submitted to the US’s demand that they exempt Americans from extradition to the International Court. Which is not to say that such agreements are actually legal under international law. Of course since presumably all of these treaties are bilateral, we could soon be hosting a whole lot of exiled war criminals. The US has just threatened the EU for the crime of opposing these agreements.

Bush logic: “Iraq had a weapons program. Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out that they did have a weapons program.” Note the slide from absolute certainty to an acknowledgment of a complete absence of proof. Also, what decade? Also, he is now claiming a “weapons program” rather than actual weapons. Go back and read that quote again, there’s a sort of grace in its stupidity.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Suffering from total over-branding

The residents of Fallujah took their hammers and their axes and tore down a police station the American troops were occupying. I love it; a mini Berlin Wall event. Fallujah is turning into Belfast without the politeness, with repeated attacks on the troops and aggressively destructive searches of residents’ houses. This is of course the town where troops shot dead 18 protesters in two days last month, and it’s never quieted down. And at no point did the US military ever think it might be a good idea to send Arabic translators to the most tense spot in occupied Iraq.

Texas has passed a mandatory pledge of allegiance in schools and in the very same bill a minute of prayer.

Remember the Segway scooter, that everyone laughed about? The technology that keeps those things upright on 2 wheels can be used in wheelchairs, allowing them to do wheelies--which in practice means they can go up stairs and puts occupants at face level with everybody else (cost = $33,000).

The “germ” that the two mobile labs in Iraq were actually designed to produce, evidently, is hydrogen. They simply lack the equipment and layout necessary for biological production. For a start, they weren’t air-tight, so they would have killed anyone who tried to use them for that purpose. So they were actually to fill up artillery balloons (like weather balloons, so you know where to aim to account for wind)(the British sold this stuff to them in 1987).

Don’t mention the war: the new German ambassador to Britain is trying to “rebrand” Germany. The organizer of a conference to this end says that Germany “continues to suffer from the total ‘over-branding’ which the Nazis had imposed on the country”. Those darn Nazis and their marketing excesses!

Remember how in the early Clinton administration he kept inviting Sharon Stone to the White House, obviously hoping for a little of that Happy birthday, Mr President action? Well now rumor has it that Ms Stone will play Hillary, another woman he does not get to have sex with, in the film of her book. You could almost feel sorry for Billy Bob.

Friday, June 06, 2003

God himself will not permit it

A few days ago I wondered how Bush could go to Iraq without getting an embarrassing reception. Silly me. He flew over Iraq for 66 minutes, never actually setting foot on it. According to a White House official, this demonstrates that Iraq is free. In a speech, Bush said, in a statement so fatuous that further comment would be pointless: “But one thing is certain: no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime because the Iraqi regime is no more.”

A heart-warming interview with Saudi Arabia’s chief executioner.

For the first time since the end of the Korean War, US troops have been moved away from the border between the Koreas. Evidently they think that either North Korea is likely to start a war--or we are. Either way, the North Koreans are likely to see this as preparation for a strike on their nuclear facilities, which is not good.

It’s a little unclear to me exactly how it happened that 8 million poor families got left out of the tax-cut bill. Was it an accident or a bargaining chip? DeLay explained that there were many bigger priorities than poor people (the many hours spent in the House debating another attempt to outlaw flag-burning, perhaps?), and then tried to hold the poor kids hostage to yet another tax increase for the rich. The Senate at any rate has voted to restore the money to the poor families, and, yes, to those in the $100,000-150,000 range (given that the original tax cut was sold precisely and repeatedly as a tax cut for every family, they never really had the right to cut some families out, but then this is the government that sold a war on Iraq based on non-existent WMDs; Big Shrug)(some R’s said that they could neglect the poor, as in the last bill, because they weren’t taxpayers; when the R’s talk about taxes, they always neglect to count Social Security and sales tax, the regressive taxes, and concentrate on the progressive taxes) (and as long as I’m randomly putting thoughts in parentheses because I’m too lazy to construct a proper argument, the tax cut increased the deduction businesses can take for vehicles to $100,000 if they weigh over 6,000 pounds--no SUV left behind). According to the Times, Trent Lott voted for the bill “but as he did so he stuck his tongue out, put his finger in his mouth and made a gagging sound, indicating his apparent distaste for the bill.” Or possibly just behaving like one of the children having their tax credit restored

A UN court made a half-assed attempt to arrest Liberian dictator Charles Taylor for war crimes Wednesday. They had kept the indictment secret, waiting to spring it on him when he was out of the country, but unfortunately the country he was in was Ghana, which let him go, claiming they received the indictment too late. Nonsense. If there’s one thing I know about west African countries, that we all know, it’s that they have email. Taylor: “To call the president of Liberia a war criminal? God himself will not permit it.”

On the heals of the Justice Dept inspector general’s report of abuses of immigrant detainees, Ashcroft demands yet more powers of indefinite detention, the creation of new crimes including simply training with a designated terrorist organization (recent months have shown that the Bush admin rewards governments that do favors with us by adding organizations opposed to those governments to the list, so there’s not just the “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” problem--the list is a purely political construct) without actually doing anything, and providing “material support” to such organizations, as some of us on this list have done for Salvadoran or anti-apartheid groups. And death penalties, he wants more of those.

Here’s a story from the world of museums. The prized exhibit at the York Archaeological Resource Centre is a thousand-year-old piece of Viking shit, said to be the largest complete example of preserved human shit by those who are experts in such things. They are trying to put it back together after its display stand crashed, breaking it into three pieces. The article will tell you everything you want to know about what this gentleman ate, the health of his bowels, and, as an added bonus, there’s a picture.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Shut up

I’m told this panel discussion, with Al Franken, Molly Ivins and Bill O’Reilly, is worth watching. The link is linked to video of the event, or it airs on C-SPAN2 Sunday. And when I say discussion, I understand that at one point O’Reilly yells Shut up at Franken.

The US occupiers in Iraq tried to change the uniform of the Iraqi police, but they refused to wear... baseball caps.

I was going to make fun of Bush for saying continuous when he meant contiguous, but then I found out he didn’t even know his microphone was on. That was also the period in which he made reference to “almighty God.” I could have done without the constant references to the “Holy Land,” too.

Given the accusation that Arafat says one thing in pidgin English and another in Arabic, it should be noted that Ariel Sharon’s speech at the conference had been corrected by his office (his talk of a Palestinian state didn’t mean an independent one, and did mean a demilitarized one, etc etc) literally before he made it.

An interesting article by Naomi Klein (the link is to the Guardian, but evidently it has also appeared in the Nation) on Paul Bremer suggests that he is a one-man IMF, down-sizing the Iraqi government in the guise of de-Baathization, opening the beleaguered economy to international competition that will destroy local competition. Commenting on Bremer’s creation of a company, “Crisis Consulting Practice,” one month after 9/11 to take advantage of the atmosphere of fear (which I have alluded to), the author notes that “Like so many of the men who populate the Bush foreign policy landscape, Bremer sees war as a business opportunity.” “Many point out that Paul Bremer is no expert on Iraqi politics. But that was never the point. He seems to be an expert at profiting from the war on terror, and at helping US multinationals make money in far off places where they are both unpopular and unwelcome. In other words, he is perfect for the job.”

G'day, your majesty. Put another dual-sex shrimp on the barbie

The US is printing new dinars for use in Iraq, complete with portrait of Saddam Hussein. Could be worse: In Rummy we trust.


Today’s NYT reports that a Florida judge has appointed a guardian to decide whether that severely retarded woman should have an abortion. Which is odd, because I’m pretty sure I read last week that she had one. The article (from AP) has another omission, not even mentioning what the judge said about the state’s request he appoint a separate guardian for the fetus.

MBABANE, Swaziland (Reuters) --Swaziland's absolute monarch has singled out women wearing pants as the cause of the world's ills in a state radio sermon that also condemned human rights as an "abomination before God." "The Bible says curse be unto a woman who wears pants, and those who wear their husband's clothes. That is why the world is in such a state today," Mswati, ruler of the impoverished feudal nation of about one million, said late on Thursday.

Reuters neglects to add that Mswati is looking forward to his 10th marriage (I believe he adds a new one every year), to a woman he picked from a video of topless dancers.

After a bill is proposed in the Iowa legislature allowing a casino to be built near the Nebraska border. So Neb. state senator Pam Brown introduced a bill declaring war on Iowa.

As I said last week, the North West Province of Pakistan has introduced sharia law and compulsory prayers and is working on establishing a Taliban-style religious police. Can the banning of kites be far behind? Actually, what I think is going on is that they are being encouraged by Pakistan’s military leaders, as proof that democracy doesn’t work in Islamic countries, so that they will get no shit from the rest of the world when they crack down and permanently shelve plans to restore civilian democratic rule. You can already see the first steps.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia bans Michael Jackson music, so there may be something to this Islamic censorship stuff.

One of my oldest recurrent themes is the Bible translated into Ebonics, Klingon, Yorkshire, etc. And now, Aussie. "G'day, Your Majesty!" the three “eggheads from out east” said to the infant Jesus.

Best headline of the day, from the Times: “Scare over Dual-Sex Shrimps.” The effects of pollution. I have images of a seafood Crying Game going through my head.

A Mexican national bought a car from one of those government auctions in the US, and then drove it home. At the border, 119 pounds of marijuana were discovered in the car’s bumpers. He spent 3 months in jail and is now suing the government.

The Department of Justice’s Inspector General admits massive violations of the rights of immigrants detained after 9/11. Gee, no kidding. My favorite detail: the detention center at Brooklyn insists that they did tell prisoners that they were allowed one phone call a week. The contend that when prisoners were occasionally asked “Are you OK?” they should have understood that to mean “Do you want to place a legal telephone call this week?” Ah, text-message speak.

The Supreme Court refused to hear a class-action suit by people who were tricked into signing on for the military for 20 years by promises of free lifetime medical care. The circuit court had said that recruiters didn’t have the authority to make such promises, so the government isn’t legally bound to abide by them.

The Guardian made a suggestion for why Bush wants to make an impact in the Middle East--he wants to win the votes of Jews in Florida because he needs the moral victory of actually winning the state for real in 2004.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Perhaps these guys just like guns

Robert Fisk has some ideas about what Bush should see in Iraq when he visits this week (next week?).

(the Independent is now trying to charge for Fisk’s stories, which is why I’m directing you to a Pakistani newspaper for the same story. Sheesh.). Of course Bush will do none of those things, but you have to wonder how he’ll manage to do it without having to confront a single Iraqi, who might embarrass him by not playing his part (I say his because Iraqi women are rapidly disappearing behind the veil, as Allah intended).

Since writing my last email, I’ve gotten more and more pissed at Bush’s visit to Auschwitz which, thanks to KTEH’s near-constant fundraising knocking the BBC World broadcast off the air yet again this weekend, I have been fortunate not to see any pictures of, or I’d really have lost it. I thought I was being fairly restrained this week (for once) when the commandant of Guantanamo talked about setting up a death row and execution room in our little corner of Cuba, and I didn’t say anything about building furnaces to dispose of the bodies. I wouldn’t have been so restrained if I’d known Bush was going to go to another concentration camp and say Never again while weeping big ole tears. Yeah fine, it’s not on the same scale, yeah yeah disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer, but it’s still a concentration camp in which people are incarcerated indeterminately without benefit of law or trial.

The US has introduced a program of gun registration in Iraq. Has John Ashcroft been told? Today was the first day on which Iraqis were invited to register or turn in their weapons. No takers. I will give the following quote (from the Daily Telegraph) without comment: "It is difficult to know why the Iraqis have not responded," an American officer said at one police station. "We are here to help them clean up the city, but perhaps these guys just like guns."

Not all the protesters at Evian were negative. For ex: A Belgian student wearing a Jacques Chirac rubber mask said he was there to celebrate the amount of "good dope coming out of Afghanistan" since the war. For some people, the bong is not half empty, but half full.

At Evian, Bush had some wacky plan about stopping terrorism and WMDs. It seems to involve the US being authorized to stop any ships it wants to, and something about controlling all civil uses of radioactive materials--such as x-ray machines. When x-ray machines are outlawed, only outlaws will have x-ray machines.