Wednesday, December 31, 2003

A frenzied round of gardening and debauchery

Saw a Wesley Clark stump speech on McNeil-Lehrer. Someone needs to ask him to explain how military experience--and only military experience--makes him so qualified to handle foreign policy, as he keeps saying. He also says that if he’d been president, we would have caught Osama bin Laden by now, because he knows how to do it. So maybe he should share that with somebody, rather than withhold it until he can become president, which is over a year away. This is Nixon’s secret plan to win in Vietnam all over again.

A week ago I mentioned that a quote in a Fisk article of a US officer talking about the need to “instill fear” in Iraqi villagers, and that the quote appeared in no other media that I could find. A news.google search today still only shows it in Fisk’s piece (since picked up by Aljazeerah & a Bangladeshi newspaper), ditto Lexis-Nexis. However, one of y’all informs me that it actually was FILMED and broadcast by CNN International, so there really is no excuse for the media silence.

Tony Blair says his job is only half-done. If there is a rash of suicides in the UK, it might have something to do with the prospect of Our Tone still being PM in 2010.

Today’s the day Britain releases 30-year old secret documents, so I’ve been reading up on 1973. Ted Heath thought (sounds like with good reason) that the US was planning to invade Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait in response to the oil embargo. There was also a juicy sex scandal in which a junior defence minister was filmed smoking a joint in bed with two prostitutes. He told MI5 that in response to depression over losing a fight to use the title “viscount,” he threw himself into a “frenzied” round of “gardening and debauchery.” Some files were not released, leaving us wondering what remains top secret about an Imelda Marcos visit to London.

CBS paid Michael Jackson $1 million for an interview on 60 Minutes. Journalistic ethics at its finest.

A Liverpool woman had a heart attack on a flight to America. Which also turned out to be carrying 15 cardiologists on their way to a convention, so she was ok.

In Nature, the scientific journal for people with too much time on their hands, an article analyzes the best way to skip stones (a 20 degree angle to the water’s surface).

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The right to take nude photos of Barbie dolls being menaced with kitchen appliances

WaPo headline: “Almanacs May Be Tool For Terrorists, FBI Says.” Amish terrorists?

Israeli reality tv (shudder) has a show called Test of the Nation in which people from various walks of life take an IQ test. Surprisingly, lawyers and teachers come near the top, models and bodybuilders at the bottom. And the 6 members of the Knesset? Somewhere in the model. But, it turns out, they cheated.

The chicken hawk faction, led by Richard Perle (he has a book due out), has issued a manifesto with the modest title, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Regime change in Syria and Iran, a military blockade of North Korea, treating Saudi Arabia and France as rivals or enemies.

Bits of the Patriot II bill were quietly snuck onto other legislation this month. The FBI can now get information without a warrant (but with a gag order) not only from banks, but stockbrokers, car dealerships, credit card companies, airlines, the post office, casinos, etc etc. In the Senate it passed with a voice vote, so no one will be blamed. The previous requirement for the FBI to report to Congress how often it uses warrantless “National Security Letters” is now gone.

From the Daily Telegraph: “A US court yesterday upheld an artist's right to take nude photos of Barbie dolls being menaced with kitchen appliances, despite objections from toymaker Mattel. ...The photo series included a picture of Barbie dolls wrapped in tortillas and covered in salsa in a casserole dish.” Damn, I’m proud to be an American.

When Mad Cow Disease first hit Britain, the Ag minister--still in a Mad Cow, what mad cow? mode--famously fed a hamburger to his kid on tv. Now the US Ag Sec, Ann Venemen, has promised to feed beef to her family over the holidays. Venemen was a lobbyist for the beef industry before taking her current job. So at least she gets to clean up the mess she helped cause. White House spokesmodel Scott McClellan says that Bush has “continued to eat beef,” but he may have been making a comment about Bush’s sexual practices rather than his eating practices.

Monday, December 29, 2003

"Hi." Is that it?

The National Park Service recently approved selling at national park gift stores books giving Creationist explanations for things like the Grand Canyon, explaining how it’s not really millions of years old but 10, 20 years tops.

The great Alan Bates has died. Judging by the obits, he was best known for wrestling Oliver Reed naked. I saw him on the stage in London once in a John Osborne play without quite so much naked wrestling (although there were a fair number of female impersonators).

From Reuters: Sicilian police say they have charged a man who persuaded a friend to shoot him in the groin in a vain attempt to make his ex-girlfriend feel sorry for him. The man, 27, apparently admitted to hospital staff in Piazza Armerina that he had not been involved in a hunting accident as he first claimed.

http://69.56.179.3/audio/peeance.wav This is an audio clip, just a few seconds long.

Al Sharpton: “[Bush] had the audacity to say, 'It doesn't matter whether it was weapons or not, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and it was the right thing to do. That's like me coming to the Commonwealth Club and saying that we all must get out of the building, we are in imminent danger; and we all get outside on Market Street and you say, 'Reverend Al, where's the danger?' 'Ahh, it doesn't matter, you all needed some fresh air anyhow.'”

The Monday WashPo reports on the military instituting a sort of draft, of people already working for it whose contracts were due to run out or who were going to retire. While understandable, it’s not especially smart, since it makes clear to people who would otherwise join up in the future that the terms of the contract can be changed by the government into anything it wants.

The Sunday Times (London) says “The government yesterday confirmed that MI6 had organised Operation Mass Appeal, a campaign to plant stories in the media about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.” This began in the late 1990s. It gets worse: Scott Ritter says that he was recruited in 1997, with the approval of Richard Butler, who was executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq Disarmament. MI6 planted information in newspapers in Poland, India and South Africa, from where it would feed back to the US & Britain.

Confirming everything you ever heard about British families, this is Mark Henderson, released by Colombian rebels this week, speaking to his father for the first time: “Three months in the jungle and you say 'Hi'. Is that it?”

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Informal Anarchic Federation strikes again

Must...not...make...jokes...about...Bam....

Cuba denounces the Guantanamo concentration camp. What took it so long?

Article on Southern Baptists and others using aid to Iraq as a cover for proselytizing (hey, I spelled that right on the first attempt). I also googled to some of the Baptist newsletters mentioned in it, and yech. Fortunately, no Southern Baptists actually seem to know Arabic, so they can’t be doing that much damage.

Heh, the next story in the Telegraph is about Japanese troops finally arriving in Iraq. I think Shinto could go over real well there. May the biggest god win (and yes, William Boykin really was never fired, transferred or disciplined in any way).

Not surprisingly, the head of the IAEA says that Libya was nowhere near building a nuclear bomb. The US has succeeded in removing yet another mythical threat from the planet.

Tony Blair this week declared victory over another one, saying that there was “massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories” and an attempt to “conceal weapons” in Iraq. When that claim was put to Paul Bremer--without telling him it came from Blair--he flatly denied it, calling it “a bit of a red herring.” Hurrah for the British interviewer, Jonathan Dimbleby, who pulled off that one. Ted Koppel wouldn’t have dared.

Kallyfohrnia’s new lefty governor, ahem, has suggested cutting the prison population by say one-third, and release rather than parole non-violent offenders.

There was an attempt to kill Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, with a letter bomb. Responsibility was claimed by the Informal Anarchic Federation (!).

Thursday, December 25, 2003

What we have here is a failure to communicate in tongues

Florida opens the first “faith-based” prison (actually an existing prison, but it’s found the Lord, hallelujah). It will be a great success, because it will cherry-pick the prisoners least likely to make the program look bad, thereby affecting the ongoing Republican project of letting the God-botherers take over the provision of all social services in this country at taxpayer expense. Presumably, all of Florida’s other prisons, with the best-behaved prisoners skimmed off, will be just that little bit more hell-holeish. Jeb Bush: “I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our lord Jesus than to be here at Lawtey Correctional.” Which didn’t stop him leaving a short time later, of course, unlike the rest of the, um, parishioners, who were a little more worried about the awesome love of their cellmate Big Vinnie, if you know what I mean.

The Rise of the Machine continues. Governor Ahnuuld ordered the release of funds to cities and counties in partial compensation for the loss of the car tax revenues. Of course he has no such power and has been called on it. Now, he has decided to refuse to give people on welfare their legally required cost-of-living increase.

A year ago, the US military started trying to recruit Canadian Inuits, claiming that under the Jay Treaty (1794), they were joint US-Canadian citizens. (About the same time, I mentioned that they were also going into Mexico to recruit). Canada, like Mexico, told them to knock it off. The Voice article also notes that the privatization of military logistical support including security means the importation into Iraq of “franchised versions of the French Foreign Legion” which are not protected under the Geneva Conventions.

So they sent a probe to Mars on Christmas and wouldn’t you know it, some Martian kid has already broken the thing. His father is looking at the instructions and saying “They might as well be in Terran...”

Anyone else wondering if the US just canceled a perfectly ordinary Air France flight just in order to be able to claim they foiled a terrorist attack (and cheese off the French at the same time)?

It’s time for best-of-the-year.
Best mug shots of the year.

Another article in the LA Weekly describes Bush in the flight suit as looking like the Lost Member of the Village People.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Yup, all the good subject lines were used up yesterday

According to the National Weather Service website, "Unusually hot weather has entered the region for December ... as the Earth has left its orbit and is hurtling towards the sun. Unusually hot weather will occur for at least the next several days as the Earth draws ever nearer to the sun. Therefore, an excessive heat watch has been posted." That announcement was soon taken down, but it might explain the orange alert.

Speaking of alarming, here’s a truly repulsive headline from today’s NYT science section: “Attacking Prostate on 2 Fronts.”

Speaking of repulsive stories, does anyone want to hear how I took care of a little dermatological growth this week? Probably not, huh? Although if it had gone horribly wrong, some ER doc would be telling it to her whole extended family right about now: “He took a pair of pliers, and then guess what he did...”

Would have broken up a dull week, anyway. And there’s a kid in the building too, my divorced next-door neighbor’s son, who’s in such noisy high spirits that I’m strongly tempted to ring the doorbell and tell him that there is no Santa Claus. Must be 35 years since the last time I did that...

Speaking of believing in Santa Claus, are we really going to let Pakistan get away with claiming that its top nuclear scientists were working on their own in spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea, etc etc?

Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, Princess Anne’s bull terrier has killed one of the Queen’s corgis. Christmas may be a little awkward this year, but with the royal family, when isn’t it?

NY Governor Pataki issues a pardon for Lenny Bruce.

The Beagle 2 has reached Mars, and Ladbrokes has cut the odds on finding life there from 33-1 to 25-1.

With Palestinians excluded from Israel proper, Israeli companies have been scrambling to import cheap slave labor from all over the world. One company required its Chinese workers to sign a contract not to have sex with any Israelis, or marry them. Or practice any religion. Or politics.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Harassing a wild burro on federal lands

It’s like waiting for a bus. I haven’t had a good subject line in days, and then 3 come at the same time.

To elaborate on Joshua Marshall’s take on Libya, there was no “break-through” last week: Libya’s been trying to get back on our good side for years. Bush pushed on an open door in order to declare yet another victory for the Bush Doctrine. Of course (and this is my elaboration), only a rabid right-wing Republican could have done it, Nixon going to China and all that. Imagine the reaction if Clinton had done what Bush did.

Tom Ridge says if we don’t see our grandmothers for Christmas, the terrorists win. Yeah, but what if your grandmother is a terrorist, huh, huh, huh?

Speaking of terrorists, the NYT has a headline, “Israeli Forces Arrest a Senior Hamas Official in the West Bank.” The fact that they also shot a 5-year old boy dead is not mentioned in the headline, nor in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth paragraphs. Callous, much?

They do have a good article on workplace deaths, which you’ll be surprised to hear OSHA never bothers to prosecute, including where employers had previously been cited for safety violations that later resulted in death. Such cases used to be called “willful” violations, but OSHA now usually calls them “unclassified,” precisely to prevent the possibility of anyone going to prison for it. As it is, killing a worker is a misdemeanor under federal law, with a maximum sentence of 6 months, half that for harassing a wild burro on federal lands (well, that’s what is says in the article. I’m assuming that’s not sexual harassment). For the 2,197 deaths the Time tracked over 20 years, employers paid $106m in fines (compared to the $750m paid by WorldCom for misleading investors, obviously a much more serious crime), and were sentenced to under 30 years, most of which were for a single case in which 25 workers died.

Another headline from the German cannibal trial: “Cannibal Rejected Victims Who Were 'Too Fat'”.

A researcher claims that Joan of Arc was actually a put-up job, actually the illegitimate daughter of a previous king, induced to pretend to be a peasant as a symbol of God’s support for the French cause. He also thinks another woman, a condemned witch, was burned in her place and that she lived to her late 50s in prison.

A Guardian writer asks why the US is trying so hard to get Iraq’s debt forgiven and trying so hard not to get the debt rung up by Argentina’s dictators forgiven.

If you’d prefer to read total nonsense on the subject, there was Safire’s piece in today’s NYT, in which he said that France and Germany were forgiving billions of dollars owed to them in exchange for access to a few million in contracts.

Department of Homeland Security Pun Alert Level: Orange. Orange you glad it isn't red?

A Hanukkah story: a Polish brother and sister, each thinking the other died in the Holocaust, were reunited for the first time this week since 1938. Turns out they’ve been living 60 miles from each other, in Israel, since 1948.

The LA Times investigated the claims by the Justice Dept to have successfully dealt with 280 terrorism cases since 9/11. Some of them turn out to have been people even Justice admits weren’t terrorists, although they were accidentally discovered during terrorism investigations (like 2 owners of corner stores in Jersey who received boxes of stolen cereal in 2000, or the guy who paid a bribe to get a driver’s license)(and as shown by the fact that these terrorists received a median sentence of 2 weeks). In fact, Justice’s rationale for stone-walling the Times’s questions about the alleged 280 is that it would be “prejudicial” to the people who aren’t terrorists but are nonetheless included in the figure if their names were released.

So what is it Libya is supposed to have? “Weapons programs,” evidently, which as we know from Iraq means anything or nothing.

The neo-cons are celebrating this triumph of pre-emptive scaring the crap out of every country on the planet.

A Sunday Times writer summarizes Tony Blair’s speech on the subject: “Oops, we got the wrong country. Still, let's not quibble about a bit of smelly Arab desert. Great news. I've saved the world. Again. Good night.”

Speaking of WMDs in the Middle East, Israel threatened to shoot down Egyptian spy drones which have been flying over its nuclear weapons and missile sites.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

What Brazilian nuns pray for

Rumsfeld’s famous 1984 trip to see Saddam Hussein, according to declassified documents, was made to assure him that US criticism of his use of chemical weapons was just rhetoric that didn’t affect US support of him. This is the exact opposite of what Rumsfeld has said the trip was about.

How do we know Libya is keeping its promise to give up WMDs? Because of weapons inspectors. Bush has always believed strongly in the efficacy of weapons inspectors and we have always been at war with Oceania.

A figure I missed from the Russian Duma elections: 4.7% voted for of the above, a record. And turnout was 55%. Putin may have a little problem when it comes to his re-election: for the election to be valid, turnout must be 50%, and he’s got no serious rival, thanks to his having destroyed the nascent democratic culture of post-Soviet Russia, and voters will make the entirely reasonable decision not to bother. So it’s expected that Putin might funnel enough backing to some other candidate to make it look like a real election (which seems to be what happened in the Duma elections, where a “left-nationalist” party appeared out of nowhere).

Pope John Paul II has created an almost ridiculous number of saints, many of them political figures. This week they’ve started beatifying the last Austro-Hungarian emperor. You have to wonder if they actually believe in the rather large number of “miracles” they’ve had to certify, in this case a Brazilian nun who was cured of some disease after praying for Charles I’s beatification. Why a Brazilian nun was praying for Charles I’s beatification, I really couldn’t tell you.

In other royalty news, a certain lump passed around for 200 years has been identified by DNA as indeed being the heart of the French sort-of-king Louis XVII, who died miserably in a revolutionary prison at the age of 10.

And in yet more royalty news, Princess Di was evidently pregnant when she died.

Remember the Kabul-to-Kandahar road? It was the only thing Karzai’s government has been able to accomplish outside of the capital, and hence a great symbol. Evidently it was done on the cheap and its surface is very thin and won’t survive the winter.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

If Philip means horse-lover, what does Strom mean?

Sorry, did I say “what a prince” about Strom Thurmond? I meant grand dragon.

It has been pointed out that Strom (at 22) having sex with a 15- or 16-year old black servant was not illegal under the stat rape or miscegenation laws in effect at the time, but that Strom as a judge in 1942 sentenced a black man to the electric chair for raping a white woman.

A feminist group in Britain has pointed out that for seats it might actually win, the Tory party has selected more candidates named Philip than women with any name. Philip, The Times helpfully points out, means horse-lover.

A Central American semi-free trade pact is being cobbled together without anything resembling public discussion or news coverage in the US. I say semi because most of the free trade concessions will be on their side--they have to sell us their phone systems, and not try to make generic versions of our drugs--while we don’t have to actually take their exports. I haven’t paid enough attention to the details myself to know why they’d want this thing. Costa Rica just pulled out, leaving only those countries that received heavy CIA attention in the 1980s.

Taiwan bans the sale of dog meat.

The governor of Connecticut John Rowland, caught with his hands in the cookie jar for the umpteenth time in his career, says that God doesn’t want him to resign. His wife compared the newspaper which uncovered his lies to “grinches who have stolen our tree.”

Diebold, the voting machine company, employs a bunch of convicted felons including purveyors of fraudulent stocks, and falsifiers of computer records. Swell.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Those stupid berets, on the other hand...

France will ban Muslim girls wearing headscarves in schools. Also, Muslim women in hospitals will not be able to refuse being treated by male doctors.

And Saudi Arabia has banned the importation of teddy bears and female dolls. Also crucifixes and models of Buddha.

The Supreme Court has lifted its stay of execution in a Texas case, not bothering to discuss whether it’s ok to use a drug banned for veterinary use in Texas and elsewhere because it is too inhumane for dogs.

Speaking of too inhumane for dogs, Bush’s campaign has hired the advertising guy who created the talking Chihuahua for Taco Bell.

Robert Fisk says that checkpoints in Iraq are now manned by militia working for (and right next to) the Americans--and wearing hoods and masks. (Later:) yup, seen ‘em on the BBC.

Nation article on Bush’s use of religious language.

From the Daily Telegraph: “A traditional doctor in Nigeria has been shot dead by a patient who was testing the potency of an anti-bullet charm which the herbalist had tied around his neck in order to check its efficacy, police said.”

This week Richard Perle described people who oppose American unilateralism as wanting to make US security dependent on “signatures on pieces of paper.” This would be huge, if people were historically literate. They’re not, so it won’t be. When Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 in violation of a treaty guaranteeing that country’s neutrality, the act that brought Britain into the war, the kaiser described the treaty as a “scrap of paper,” a line repeated endlessly for the next 4 years to prove his infamy (infamy, infamy! They’ve all got it in fa’ me!)(sorry).

How did I move from a historical lecture to quoting a Carry On movie?

The black servant Strom Thurmond impregnated must have been 15 or barely 16. What a prince.

Here’s a heart-warming story about a blind guy who went hunting (he got Michigan law changed to allow him to do so), and shot a deer. Well, they told him it was a deer.

From the Diane Sawyer interview with Shrub:
SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So what’s the difference?

Between reality and ... wait, I’ve just figured something out. Bush really can’t tell the difference between WANTING something, like WMDs, and HAVING them, because whenever he’s wanted something, his father’s friends gave it to him.

I’ve read part of the transcript, and Sawyer was surprisingly tough on him, and he was very evasive. My favorite question was, what would it take to convince you he had no WMDs. Bush ignored that one entirely. It’s a reminder of how badly he stands up to real questioning, which in turn is a reminder of how rarely he lets himself in for real questioning, which is a reminder of the fact that somehow he can live in that bubble without being seen as the feeb he is.

Britain’s foreign minister spent part of today figuring out how to acquiesce to Bush’s desire to have the Iraqi puppet government execute Hussein. You’ll note I’ve downgraded them to puppet status again, because for all the talk about how whether to impose the death penalty is up to the “Iraqi people,” this thing is very much a show trial. Let me prove it to you: if the Iraqi war crimes court somehow decided that Saddam was innocent, and free to go, do you think that Bush would let that happen? Of course not. A court that only has the option of guilty is not a court.

And while we’re at it, a note to the media: US troops do not “arrest” people in Iraq. They are not the police, they are not enforcing Iraqi law, they are soldiers. They seize, they capture, they cannot arrest. To suggest otherwise is to pretend that the occupation is something other than an occupation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Spider hole of denial

Bush on Saddam: “I find it very interesting that when the heat got on, you dug yourself a hole and you crawled into it.” As opposed to joining the Texas Air National Guard, perhaps?

And more: “The arrest of Saddam Hussein changed the equation in Iraq. Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq. And justice will be delivered to him in a way that is transparent and for the world to see.”

You know, I may just have figured it out. The Iraqi war crimes tribunal, with its death penalty provisions, was set up as the “bad cop,” to force Saddam to cooperate (i.e., not name every US official who kowtowed to him over the years, starting with Rummy, cough up something vaguely resembling a WMD, and generally play his assigned role in the show trial) with the US, the “good cop.”

The Iraqis really can’t try him. Who would the judges be? Do you have them nameless and wearing hoods as in Peru, or do you name them and watch their families members die one by one?

Good piece on what’s wrong with the proposed Afghan constitution.

Tomorrow is the centenary of heavier-than-air flight. Whee. George Monbiot pours a fetid pile of airline food over the achievement:
When Wilbur Wright was asked, in 1905, what the purpose of his machine might be, he answered simply: "War." As soon as they were confident that the technology worked, the brothers approached the war offices of several nations, hoping to sell their patent to the highest bidder. The US government bought it for $30,000, and started test bombing in 1910. The aeroplane was conceived, designed, tested, developed and sold, in other words, not as a vehicle for tourism, but as an instrument of destruction.

In November 1911, eight years after the first flight, the Italian army carried out the first bombing raid, on a settlement outside Tripoli. Then as now, aerial bombardment was seen as a means of civilising uncooperative peoples. As Sven Lindqvist records in A History of Bombing, the imperial powers experimented freely with civilisation from the skies. Just as the Holocaust was prefigured by colonial genocide, so the bombing raids which reduced Guernica, Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo and parts of London to ash had been rehearsed in north Africa and the Middle East.

Canada's Air Transport Security Authority banned fruitcakes in carry-on luggage.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Wolverines!

The Pentagon slapped that lt. col. who fired the gun next to the POW’s head and had his subordinates beat the guy up, with a jolly big fine ($5,000). He is planning to retire. On full pension, of course.

The capture of Saddam was “Operation Red Dawn”, inspired by one of the crappiest movies I ever laughed my ass off while watching (only slightly unsettled by the fact that nobody else in the theater was laughing)(Halliwell’s Film Guide: “Violent teenage nonsense”). Quotes here.

Seriously, this was a rabid, jingoistic, incredibly stupid movie, so you could see why folks in the Pentagon like it, but using its name in this context is a public relations no-no on the scale of “crusade.”

I can’t seem to work up any enthusiasm. That Hussein wasn’t killed, and indeed let himself be taken alive, will help demythologize him, which is all to the good. The Resistance will have to find something better to fight for, assuming that just fighting against the American occupation isn’t enough.

Now who on earth gets to try him, where will he be held, and will somebody start taking hostages in order to demand his release? The slimy answer to the first was no doubt provided by the suspiciously timed establishment by the establishment by the fake Iraqi government of a war crimes show-trial court just a couple of days ago.

I got to see the Commander in Chimp do his victory smirk this morning, which is one reason I’m a little light on the enthusiasm. The photo op of my enemy is my enemy, or something like that. At least it occurred way before the elections, although if Saddam is tried and convicted in, say, October, I won’t be especially...surprised.

And, say, weren’t we the ones complaining when the Iraqis showed pictures of our POWs? So what’s with the “Open up and say ah, Mr. Dictator” footage? Much less parading him like a zoo animal before Ahmad Chalabi.

The Economist on new freedoms for Kurds in Turkey: “A new porn video, Xashiki Kaliki (Grandad's Fantasies) is selling well: until recently, it would have been banned, not for its content but for being in the Kurdish language.”

Grandad's Fantasies?

Friday, December 12, 2003

When did you last pray for your stockbroker?

So I don’t have to write about it, here’s a link to Molly Ivins on the decision to deregulate mercury. A good article, but I have one caveat. She says mercury is one suspect in recent increases in autism, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Actually, that’s recent increases in diagnoses of those diseases, none of which can be proven without an autopsy. Increases in diagnoses may not be related to actual incidences of the diseases, but to 1) increased awareness of the diseases, 2) increased medical trendiness of the diagnosis. The same applies to my own “essential tremor,” which I’m still unconvinced is a real disease. Autism is this decade’s ADD, the label to put on any child not behaving “normally.” Autism is no doubt a real disease, but the diagnosis procedure is ridiculous. There are 9 possible symptoms; if you have 4 [my numbers may be off, but the 2nd number is definitely ½ of the 1st number minus 1] you can be diagnosed as autistic, meaning two people without a single symptom in common can be diagnosed with the same disease. In other words, neurology is voodoo.

Reality tv reaches the Arab world: who wants an arranged marriage?

And in Pakistan, a man who blinded his fiancé with acid is sentenced to...if you guessed, be blinded with acid, you are correct!

You’d think opponents of gay marriage wouldn’t object to gay divorce, wouldn’t you?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Neither sheep nor fools

An internal memo from Diebold, the creepy voting machine company, suggests making it “prohibitively expensive” for states to require printed receipts. The memo was obtained by a hacker, which tells you everything you need to know about the security of any ballot operated by these clowns.

The US authorizes the creation of a new secret police in Iraq, at least partly staffed by members of the old secret police, to be run by a former exile who no doubt has his own get-even list.

Just received the first campaign mailer of the 2004 elections. Evidently there will be a county initiative to ban Wal-Mart. Guess who the mailer was from. Did you know that “Not everyone can afford to shop at fancy department stores”? I weep for those people, forever shut out from the Sears’s and Targets of this world.

A must-read about gerrymandering. If that doesn’t sound like a must-read, just trust me and read it anyway. It explains why Congressional elections barely matter any more.

I wasn’t going to mention the last D debate, especially since I didn’t see it, but I’ve seen excerpts and transcripts now, and Ted Koppel should be horse-whipped. He kept talking about process stuff that no voter cares about (and no voter SHOULD care about), tried to humiliate the lesser candidates into bursting into tears and resigning their candidacies on the spot, accusing Carol Moseley Braun of being a vanity candidate (which she is, but 1) she was a United States Senator, 2) I don’t think he’d have used the term to a male candidate, 3) it’s not his job to say so, 4) and certainly not in that forum). Koppel has been quoted by the Post as wanting a smaller field to make the debates better, or better drama anyway. And the day after the debate, ABC withdrew coverage from the 3 candidates Koppel attacked. Forget Al Gore’s alleged arrogance for daring to express his opinion, what about ABC’s arrogance? Also, aren’t Kucinich, Braun and Sharpton the 3 candidates who are furthest to the left? What gets left out when they’re gone?

Of course the day after Kucinich berated Koppel for not treating him as a serious candidate, he went on a date selected for him by a political website, with the tv cameras rolling.

In Britain, a Labour MP has also been using the internet to trawl for dates. Chris Bryant MP appeared in underwear on the site and declared that he enjoys “a good long fuck.” The site is...wait for it...gaydar.co.uk.

Italy bans fertility treatment and egg and sperm donation for gays, single people and older women, and makes several other decisions about fertility treatments that are none of the state’s business. Italy lacked virtually any regulation of such matters precisely because it is a Catholic country, and the Church fought any law that didn’t follow its orders precisely.

40% of the Iraqis the US was training for the new Iraqi army have quit, because they weren’t paid enough. I wonder who they’ll be selling that training to?

In his dissent to the decision upholding McCain-Feingold campaign finance rules, Scalia wrote, “The premise of the First Amendment is that the American people are neither sheep nor fools, and hence fully capable of considering both the substance of the speech presented to them and its proximate and ultimate source.” Is that what the premise of the 1st Amendment is? Boy, that is SO off-base.

The majority of the Supes took the position that issue ads and soft money constituted corruption, rather than speech.

Speaking of corruption, Bush responded to questions about the illegality in international law of his attempts to use contracts in Iraq to reward his supporters with what he evidently thought was a joke: “International law? I'd better call my lawyer.” He explained carefully, like someone explaining to idiots something so obvious it didn’t need explanation, that only companies whose home countries had sacrificed some 18-year olds (“friendly coalition folks risk their lives”) deserved to charge $2.64 to import a gallon of gas, even though none of the executives of those companies were related to those 18-year olds.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

On the table

LA Times: “Retreating from two central campaign promises that helped make him governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday dropped his personal "guarantee" that cities and counties would be compensated for billions in lost car-tax revenue and reversed his pledge to safeguard spending for public schools.” It’s official, he has now broken every promise he ever made in political life, and all within one month of taking office. During the elections he said that education cuts would be over his dead body. So when his spokesmodel said that everything was on the table....

Name in the News: president of Friends of Animals in Darien, CT: Priscilla Feral.

More Fun Facts to Learn and Then Instantly Forget: Nicholas Kristof writes in the NYT that no US company makes bras.

Did you know the US has a Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues? Name of, ahem, Edward O’Donnell. Because you wouldn’t want a Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues who couldn’t get into the same country club as Dubya. No, wait, that doesn’t work--they probably don’t let in Irish either. Anyway, he says that the anti-Americans in Europe are all anti-semites.

In the London production of The Producers, Richard Dreyfuss is doing the Zero Mostel role. Could work.

Switzerland’s governing coalition gives in to the far right’s blackmail and lets its chairman into the cabinet.

Creepy Christian children’s site. Scroll down to “Habu’s Corner.” And below that, it asks the question, “What should you do if you find an Atheist?”

Senator Paul Simon dies. Every obit feels obligated to mention his funny little bow ties, none mention his really weird ears.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Very, very forceful. Very.

I
ndy headline: “Cannibal Denies Sexual Motive.” Oh good, so it’s not like he’s some sort of pervert, then.

Seymour Hersh on the US’s use of Operation Phoenix tactics in Iraq, secretly advised by Israel. “Preemptive manhunting,” indeed.

Bush tells Taiwan not to “provoke” China by holding a referendum asking it to stop pointing quite so many missiles at the “province.” Trust Bush to see things from the bully’s perspective. Taiwan did not immediately respond that it would not take advice from a renegade British colony. Amusingly, Bush criticized Taiwan’s actions as “unilateral.” Do as we say, not as we do. He didn’t actually mention the proposed referenda on missiles and sovereignty, because that would make explicit his rejection of the right of self-determination by the Taiwanese--in the same way that PM Wen talked about separatism under the “signboard of democracy”--but instead personalized his criticism against the “leader” of Taiwan.

Bush is buying into China’s representation of itself as so hyper-sensitive that it will go ape-shit if it doesn’t get its way all the time, in every excruciatingly explicit detail--no doubt the reason Bush couldn’t bring himself to use the Taiwanese president’s actual name in front of the Chinese prime minister. That princess and the pea thing has worked pretty well for China in getting other countries, especially the US, not to “provoke” it. According to White House officials, Bush was “very, very forceful” in warning off China from attacking Taiwan--in private; those who saw the public performance noted that Wen said that Bush opposed Taiwanese independence, which is not supposed to be US policy.

Repulsively, Wen cited Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War in support of his position.

Bush said, and I’m pretty sure these are the exact words he’s used before, “The United States policy is one China.” What’s that, a Zen koan? There are words missing from that sentence, without which it’s close to meaningless: US policy is (that there is) one China; US policy is (that there should be just) one China...

Governor Ahhnuld has decided not to investigate himself for groping women after all. Seems it isn’t necessary after all because “the people have spoken.” They’ve said “Ouch, stop pinching my ass.”

William Saletan points out that when Al Gore was “trailing in the Florida recount, [he] urged the nation to wait until all the votes were tallied,” but his endorsement of Dean is intended to short-circuit a democratic process that hasn’t even started yet.

Some are portraying Gore’s choice of Dean over Lieberman as a sign that Gore has moved left. Possibly, but let’s take him at his own words, from today: “All of us need to get behind the strongest candidate.” Pure cynicism. Indeed, he told the other candidates to shut up and stop criticizing Dean. “We can’t afford to be divided.” In other words, the great Al Gore has had his say, lesser mortals should now desist from expressing their views. If the other candidates took that advice, tonight’s debate must have been as dull as it is possible for any such event to be, unless of course Al Gore participated--that would make it duller. Arguably, Saletan’s condemnation of Gore for opening his mouth is the mirror image of Gore’s advice to the other candidates to shut up and slink away. And everyone imputes to Gore way more influence in the real world than he actually has.

I’m using more dashes and fewer parentheses today. Have you noticed?

From AP: “The Pentagon has formally barred companies from countries opposed to the Iraq war from bidding on $18.6 billion worth of reconstruction contracts.” The policy is in a memo from Paul Wolfowitz, which says it “is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States.” How does excluding Canadian companies protect US security, precisely?

Monday, December 08, 2003

A moot point

Something to think about re prescription drugs: they don’t work. A VP at GlaxoSmithKline admits that "The vast majority of drugs - more than 90 per cent - only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people."

John Kerry’s campaign is pronounced dead because he used the “F word” in an interview in Rolling Stone: “Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don’t think anybody did.”

Andrew Card on CNN today (where he said that he was very, very disappointed with Mr. Kerry’s language) said that the question of whether the US went to war with Iraq based on faulty intelligence was “a moot point” (because evidently Saddam was a bad, bad person)(who knew?).

I hate it when the funny news stories have some importance when you look past the first paragraph. Here is that first paragraph, from a Post story: “H. James Towey, director of the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, has stirred up a pot of trouble by suggesting that pagans don't care about the poor.” Asked whether such groups should get federal funding, Towey says “Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work, and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.” In other words, the government will decide which religions have loving hearts, and which are fringe groups. Also, the article points out that many pagan groups are deeply involved yadda yadda yadda.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Aggressive headscarves

The officials overseeing Sunday’s Russian parliamentary elections are under the authority of the KGB. There are already signs of massive fraud, but it doesn’t matter. What I said here during the last Russian election still holds: this is another non-issues election campaign. Putin’s party literally lacks a platform. A vote for it is a vote for fill in the blank, and that is not representative democracy but electoral dictatorship (and I only use the word electoral because I think Putin would win even without stealing the election). Also, access to the media for opposition parties is nill.

And there is a terrorist attack blamed on the Chechens, just as there is before every Russian election in which Putin is involved. Coincidence, I’m sure.

FORGIVE, FORGET: Bush appoints James Baker to lead the effort to restructure Iraq’s debt, which means get other nations to ignore that country’s past debts, just like Baker was chosen in 2000 to get the courts to ignore the results of the presidential elections. (Did that symmetry work? I think it sounded better in my head than it does on screen.) Iraq owes between $200 and 400 billion. The US also likes to forget how much money it owes, (given the boom in national debt begun by Reagan’s Treasury secretary, one James Baker) as Paul Krugman points out in a good NYT column (but for the hell of it, I’m linking to Pravda).

Joshua Marshall points out that Baker has way too many business links to Saudi Arabia for this to be a good appointment.

Chirac says Islamic headscarves are a kind of aggression. “We cannot accept ostentatious displays, of whatever sort, of religious proselytising.” If you’ve already seen this story, you might have noticed that he made these statements in Tunisia, and wondered about the choice of location. In fact, they are illegal in Tunisia.

“A woman who drove over a McDonald's manager, causing her serious internal injuries in a row over a cheeseburger, has been jailed for 10 years. Waynetta Nolan, 37, flew into a rage after she was refused mayonnaise in Houston, Texas.”

From AP: “Democrat John F. Kerry on Friday challenged the notion that questioning President Bush is unpatriotic and defended his right to criticize, saying he left "some blood on a battlefield that President Bush never left anywhere."” Well he did choke on a pretzel once. I’m getting sick of Kerry using military service in a stupid war, that even he admits was a stupid war, as if it was a qualification for anything.

Some newly declassified State Dept papers from the 1970s implicate Kissinger even more deeply in the atrocities in Chile, that he in fact gave an explicit green light. Why nothing in the NY Times or, I think, the Post? Instead, I give you the Guardian, and the Miami Herald.



The soldiers who had Thanksgiving with the Turkey in Chief were actually screened by their commanding officers.

Maybe "terror socks of death" would be more frightening. Or not.

I’m sorry, Daily Telegraph, it is impossible to take this headline seriously: “Terror Socks Seized.”

An article elsewhere in the Telegraph on Nigerian fraudsters says that their business is, sadly, declining. It confirms something I’d always suspected, that the spelling and grammar mistakes were mostly deliberate, to convince people they were dealing with uneducated Africans.

How big is the illegal trafficking in human organs? An Israeli was just fined c.$750 in South Africa, with no jail time, for having an illegal kidney transplant there. Basically just sales tax. Israelis are big in this market, in part because their insurance companies, unlike those in any other country, are allowed to pay for black market organs.

NY Times article on the Israeli methods now being used by US forces in Iraq: villages sealed off, punishment house demolitions, kidnappings of relatives of suspected guerillas, etc. I like this detail: the i.d. cards those in the sealed villages have to carry are in English only. And this priceless quote: “"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," Colonel Sassaman said.”

The NY Times catches up to an overlooked detail in the Medicare bill: private Medicap policies covering drugs will be banned. Because they believe that old sick people must be forced to pay something when they are stupid enough to be both old and sick, so that they won’t overuse medical services. Nor will they be allowed to have a policy that will pay for drugs not on the government list of favored drugs.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Oh the smelly humanity

AP headline: “Goodyear Blimp Crashes into Fertilizer Pile, Injures One.”

Good article on border control. In the last decade, at least 2,500 Mexicans died trying to cross through deserts or mountains, the obvious but presumably unintended consequence of making it harder to cross at safer places. In the Berlin Wall’s entire history, only 287 people died trying to cross it. Enforcement that would actually impact businesses has declined, even from 2000 when a total of 178 American employers were fined for employing illegal aliens. Well, to be fair, how do we know that more than 178 American employers even hired illegal aliens, right? The article mentions a border patrol unit comprised entirely of Native Americans, called the Irony Brigade, sorry, the Shadow Wolves.

Bush has indeed lifted steel tariffs, as of 10 minutes from now, as I write. Um, since when is the power to set tariffs held by the executive branch, anyway? The White House statement on this decision is hilarious. I said on Monday that they’d be declaring victory, that the tariffs had done their job, but they’ve actually gone so far beyond that, actually pretending that the decision had absolutely nothing to do with the WTO decision or the imminent imposition of retaliatory tariffs by the EU, that the timing is just a big coincidence. They’re not even attempting to make their lies plausible anymore. And they’re so committed to doing everything unilaterally that they wouldn’t even spin it as respecting the concerns of our allies in the war on terror. Read it if you don’t believe me.

Another reason the US doesn’t care that much about increased poppy production in Afghanistan: that heroine goes to Europe, not to the US.

B-1 Bob is back: Bob Dornan is talking about running for Congress against Dana Rohrabacher. Boy, that could be fun.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Endomorphically endowed

The US has decided that 5 Iraqi political parties (including Chalabi’s, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) can have their own armed militias/death squads, subject to some minor conditions that won’t mean a thing on the ground. ‘Cuz the warlord thing is working out so well for us in Afghanistan.

Although to be fair, the biggest Afghan warlord, Gen. Dostum, has supposedly just agreed to hand in his heavy weapons, in exchange for absolute power in the north, a seat in the Cabinet and millions of dollars of international aid.

Of course most of what the world community sends to Afghanistan is in exchange for the now plentiful poppy. A Guardian columnist notes that the US has suddenly gotten interested again in that harvest. “The reason for the belated concern is the fear that it is funding the wrong warriors - the resurgent jihadis and the Taliban.”

If you like freak shows (and who doesn’t?), you should be following the trial in Germany of the man who posted on the Internet asking for volunteers to be killed and eaten. Indy headline: “Cannibal Says He Was Lonely and Dreamt of 'Brother' to Disembowel.” The Times has “Eaten by a Thoroughly Modern Cannibal.”

Russia has decided to kill the Kyoto Accord, rather than simply ratify it and then break the rules and fail to meet the targets, like everyone else.

Something I just heard that may not be wrong just because I read it on the Internet: the Israeli “wall” will not only put 10% of West Bank land on the Israeli side, but 50% of the water.

The Cincinnati coroner rules the beating death of the 400-pound guy by the police a homicide.

Gerhard Schröder is in China, calling for the EU to resume arms sales to that country, which has been under embargo since Tiananmen Square. Of course it was only last week that China threatened to go to war with Taiwan if it holds a referendum on independence. France also backs arms sales, but when doesn’t it?

Polls show that Bush’s Thanksgiving stunt earned him 5 points in the polls.

Melvyn Bragg, author of The Adventure of English 500AD-2000, has pointed out that every word of Churchill’s "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills: we shall never surrender." is from the Old English except for “surrender,” which is French.

(Attention, people who googled in looking for a sound clip of the Churchill speech: there's one here, a zip file.)

13-day old kid most likely to need major analysis: “ a Palestinian baby who was born with a birthmark on his face that bears a striking likeness to the name of his uncle, Ala, right, a Hamas militant killed by Israeli soldiers after he allegedly masterminded a suicide bombing. Palestinians in the West Bank are travelling in droves to Bethlehem to pay homage to the 13-day-old infant, also named Ala. His family is convinced that the mark is a divine message of support for the Palestinian struggle against Israel.”

Remember Thailand’s war on drugs? Like the US, they stopped counting dead bodies on that one when it got embarrassingly high, 10 months ago, which I’m embarrassed to say is also the last time I mentioned it here. Anyway, they’ve declared victory, with a death toll of 2,300, and 52,364 of the usual suspects rounded up.

Every year the Literary Review, in London, sponsors a Bad Sex Prize for the worst sex scenes in literature (astonishingly, I quote from the winner every single year). This year’s was one by an Indian author, Aniruddha Bahal, and here’s the thing: his publishers flew him from Delhi to London to accept the prize.

From the Guardian: “Columnist and former Today programme editor Rod Liddle was almost struck out on the grounds that his sex scenes were actually rather well done, but his novel Too Beautiful for You, ("after a modicum of congenial thrusting, she came with the exhilarating whoops and pant-hoots of a troop of Rhesus monkeys") was reinstated after he said the judges were unqualified, since nobody on the Literary Review had had sex since 1936, in Abyssinia.”

The Times describes the winning passage as “too excruciating for a family newspaper.” So I got it from the Guardian: “She's taking off her blouse. It's on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She's taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There's a design as well. You gasp.

'What's that?' you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator..."

Oh yeah, that’s some bad sex all right.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Full of giblets


Governor Ahhnuld says he now understands what people who warned him that the budget would require hard choices meant. Oh sure, NOW he figures out how unqualified and unprepared he is.

Speaking of things it would be better to have planned in advance, The Daily Show suggested that Bush’s visit to Iraq might have some lessons for the war in Iraq. “For instance, when it comes to planning...do some. And lesson two of the Thanksgiving trip - when it comes to an exit strategy...have one.” Bush knew when he was leaving, and how he was leaving: by 2:00, and full of giblets.

Anyway, California. Though I’m pretty sure Arnie promised to fix the deficit entirely by opening the books and finding tens of billions of dollars of waste, or maybe two pages inadvertently stuck together, oddly enough there’s damned little talk of that now. He does however, want a mandatory spending cap, with extra powers for the governor to make budget cuts entirely on his own (which could be overturned by 2/3 of the Lege, but c’mon) if during the middle of a year the state starts running a deficit.

A Ha’aretz article looks at a government pamphlet on democracy, which fails to mention Palestinians, but does say that as a Jewish democratic state, which it defines by saying that Israel “accepts every Jew wherever he is and respects the values of
Jewish culture and heritage”. Something to remember the next time someone says that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

One reason the military tribunals haven’t begun is that the first group of defense lawyers recruited by the Pentagon balked at the ground-rules, and were promptly fired.

From his jail cell in the Hague, Milosevic will run for the Serb parliament. He can do that because he hasn’t been convicted yet, because it’s only, what, the 3rd year of his trial, 8th year? 73rd year?

And Prince Alexander II wants to see monarchy restored. The prince was born in 1945, the year the monarchy was abolished. He was born in Claridge’s hotel in London. Problem was that a Yugoslav monarch had to be born on Yugoslav soil, so Churchill declared suite 212 of Claridge’s to be Yugoslav territory. No word on whether it still is.

The Thai prime minister plans to ban MPs from his party having mistresses or going to brothels. There is a mass revolt. The party’s name is Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais).

The new head of Australia’s Labor Party is a man who called Bush “the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory” and John Howard an “arse licker,” and once broke a taxi driver’s arm in a dispute over what was the fastest route.

NY Times: “The federal official who runs Medicare and was intimately involved in drafting legislation to overhaul the program is the object of a bidding war among five firms hoping to hire him to advise clients affected by the measure.” Thomas Scully got an ethics waiver from the DHS (or is that an ethics bypass?).

A French scientist withdrew his life savings from the bank, about $1/4 million, set it on fire, then tried to commit suicide by taking pills. Unfortunately, his neighbors saw the smoke, called the fire department, and now he is alive and broke.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Calm as a Belgian

The 46 killed yesterday are now 54, except there are no actual bodies, they just made it up based on what US soldiers said they’d done. Locals say 8. The commander opines that the remaining guerillas must have carried off the 54 dead bodies. Oh yeah, that’s believable: under heavy fire, they carried 54 corpses (plus presumably all of their wounded), in, what, wheelbarrows? stretchers? and got them right out of the area, so that none could be found.

And of course most of the dead “guerillas” turned out to include an awful lot of civilians, whoever was around when US soldiers started shooting in all directions. Who says Iraq isn’t like Vietnam?

And in this way too: “Sgt Jones said when the two convoys had driven into Samarra on Sunday, the city centre was a virtual ghost town, suggesting that the civilian population knew the ambushes were about to happen.”

There was a tribute to the victims of Franco (still dead) in Spain’s parliament building. The right-wing ruling party boycotted the event because it reopened old wounds and “smelt of mothballs.”

Haven’t seen it, but there is a film of Cincinnati police beating a black man to death. They say it was self-defense. He was 400 pounds. Says the head of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP!!), "In that video, what did these officers do wrong?" Uh, beat a guy to death? Beat a guy after he was lying on the ground? And why were they equipped with steel clubs, anyway?

The Lithuanian parliament is about to impeach the president, who evidently has Russian mafia ties. He says he won’t leave even if impeached, adding “I am as calm as a Belgian.”

Which is pretty fucking calm.

George Monbiot gives an outline of how badly we’re screwed, given the taboo fact that oil is running out.

Alessandra Mussolini, Benito’s granddaughter and former stripper, quit the neo-post-fascist party after its leader said bad things about the Upside Down One, and has formed her own party, called
Freedom of Action. It will be“futuristic and feminist”.

And the White House evidently made up a story about a BA pilot recognizing Air Force One.

A great two weeks (for those who survived them)

Gen. Sanchez’s words, the only ones quoted anyway, were that there had been “a great two weeks for the coalition.” In addition to the deaths I mentioned in my last, the Resistance killed some South Koreans and a Colombian.

Today, the US responds by killing 46 Iraqis, and what’s interesting about that is that the Pentagon has released a body count, possibly the first one.

Speaking of body counts, let’s see if you can catch the mistake in this sentence in a Times (London) story: “November was by far the bloodiest month since the invasion”. That’s right: it was only the bloodiest month FOR AMERICANS (79 dead, 105 for the COW as a whole). So the Pentagon was right: if dead Iraqis aren’t counted, dead Iraqis don’t count.

The Times notes that the American media, unlike the British, are not covering Neil Bush’s admissions about having sex with prostitutes. Neil, by the way, also has a consulting “job” with New Bridge, which uses R contacts to secure contracts in Iraq for its clients.

The US is evidently finally willing to admit that some of those locked up without trial in Guantanamo for the last two years were simply nobodies kidnapped by Afghan war lords and such for the reward money. Time magazine says the government is just waiting for a “politically propitious time.” Christmas Day? And the San Jose Mercury (link below) says that they’re still holding 3 children. Excuse me, “juvenile enemy combatants.” They are sometimes given a “time-out,” the story says. Yeah, two years and counting. They are of course interrogated, but no more than 16 hours a day, like the other prisoners, so that’s ok then.

Evidently the Bushies are going to give up their illegal steel tariffs, right before the EU was set to retaliate against products from marginal states. They’re going to pretend that the tariff had succeeded in protecting the steel industry while it restructured itself, so we didn’t need it anymore anyway. In the 20 months the tariffs have been in place, I have yet to see a news story that gives me the most basic information necessary to understand how this works. How much did steel imports decline? How much did the federal government collect by levying this illegal tariff, and do they get to keep it, and if they could just do that for 20 months, well after the WTO ruled it illegal, and give in right before sanctions were due to start, doesn’t that mean there is no down-side to this lawlessness?