Friday, April 30, 2004

That's not the way we do things in America

In how many speeches did Bush bitch about Saddam building palaces while his people starved? And then he diverts money from restoring clean water to build a huge embassy. And in general diverts billions from rebuilding to “security.” Iraq will have the best-guarded rubble in the world.

AP: “The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's money”. Since 1994 it has collected $8m in fines from people who sent money to Cuba or traveled there, and $9,425 in fines for financing terrorism. Which makes you wonder just how low the fine for financing terrorism is.

Bush, today: “There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern.” He said that while standing next to the whitest world leader he could find, Paul Martin of Canada. No reporter has yet asked Bush to tell us who all these racists are. You will also have noticed his evident belief that Americans are all white (“skin color the same as ours”). Also, self-govern is not a word.

Indy: “Police in Macedonia said yesterday that the killing of seven alleged terrorists two years ago was staged to win US support and that the victims were simply illegal immigrants.” Pakistanis.

Bush says about those photos of Iraqi prisoners being made to play Twister, “That's not the way we do things in America.” It wasn’t in America, you idiot, it was in a funny place called The Rest of the World.

And today, pictures are also released of British soldiers beating and peeing on Iraqis prisoners.

The story still hasn’t picked up much in America. The Guardian, which often has a “what the newspapers say” section about various events, has a “What the US papers don't say” piece about this. Evidently the Pentagon pressured CBS not to run the pictures; I’d like to hear more about that.

So we’re sending in the commandant of Stalag Guantanamo to put things right in the vast detention camp that is Iraq. And we’re sending in that Saddam general, who showed up in his old uniform, and was cheered by Fallujans. OK, NOW are we finished?

Thursday, April 29, 2004

If we had something to hide, we would not have met with them in the first place

Something called Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 8 ABCs (and 60 other tv stations) and is evidently run by partisan Republicans, has decided not to run the Nightline Friday, which will consist solely of Ted Koppel reading the names of dead soldiers. Sinclair claims the program promotes a political agenda. I repeat, it’s just the names of dead soldiers. Evidently, acknowledging that people are dying is something only Democrats do, or something. Sinclair points out that Koppel’s not reading the names of people killed in terrorist attacks, now is he? Huh, what do you say to that, Mr. Liberal Media Guy, huh, huh?

Gosh, did I say “at least they’ve picked a new flag” for Iraq? Well, two words: New Coke. It’ll be replaced soon.

The state of Nebraska hired a convicted thief to run its anti-smoking program. He was actually serving his sentence at the time, and was paid $55,200 a year, which is more than the warden gets. Insert obvious joke here about him being paid in cigarettes. Oh, and he did illegal stuff at this job too.

Turns out there won’t be a Ronald Reagan University after all, which relieves me of the duty of making a lot of tedious jokes about it.

If you haven’t seen those pictures of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and whatnot, here they are. They’re POWs, guys, not posable action figures. Does anyone know what word was written on that POW’s chest?

Oh, this is good: “One of the six, Sergeant Chip Frederick, who plans to plead innocent, asserted on CBS that he and his colleagues had had no proper guidance from commanders on how to treat the prisoners.” But you figured the human pyramid thing was just about what they had in mind? I’m guessing “Chip”’s previous job was stacking cans in a supermarket. More seriously, the Chipster reports that they were never told about the Geneva Convention. More seriously still, private “contractors” were put in charge of interrogations. And to cap it off, they were using an old Saddam prison known for torture. Incidentally, those “rape rooms” Bush likes to talk about--one (male, mid-teens) prisoner was indeed raped. By one of the mercenaries, so he hasn’t been charged with anything, ‘cause he’s not under military jurisdiction--his punishment, if any, will be left up to his company.

THE CHARLIE McCARTHY HEARINGS: Bush finally met the 9/11 Commission, saying, “If we had something to hide, we would not have met with them in the first place.” OK, “in the first place”? This was about the 23rd place, after months and months of stonewalling. Also: behind closed doors, with no recording made, and nobody present allowed to talk about it. No, nothing to hide. (Personally, I think they didn’t even bother asking him any questions, they just all sat around for an hour and got drunk. Under the circumstances, what would have been the point of doing anything else?) On showing up with Cheney: “I think it was important for them to see our body language, as well, how we work together.” Yeah, that was the important thing.

Follow-up: The Utah woman who refused her doctors’ orders to have a C-section is sentenced to probation, including 100 hours community service (what does that have to do with anything?), is expelled from the state, and, although the surviving baby was given up for adoption and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have any other children, is ordered to take parenting classes, which just seems cruel.

All people are seeing is the minaret hit by American fire and falling

So how many North Koreans do you think really did lose their lives trying to save portraits of the Dear Leader, or searched for them before trying to rescue their own children? I mean if you had a really good collection of porn, that’s one thing... Seriously, I don’t know what’s worse, the possibility that this isn’t a myth or that the NK media are holding this up as model behaviour.

The UN Security Council votes to ban the spread of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to terrorist groups. Who knew that was ok before? Well, Pakistan obviously, which was only coaxed into voting for it when told that it wasn’t retroactive.

The US is trying, again, to get Qatar to censor Al-Jazeera. According to a US official quoted in the NYT, “All people are seeing is the minaret hit by American fire and falling.” I repeat, sometimes a minaret is just a minaret.

The Supreme Court has decided to allow partisan gerrymandering, stating in a case re Pennsylvania that no “judicially manageable standards for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims have emerged”. That’s lawyer-speak for We’re too lazy to figure out how to do our job, so we won’t, or possibly it’s lawyer-speak for, As long as the R’s are winning, it’s all good.

The US is claiming that most of the insurgents in Fallujah are former members of Saddam Hussein’s military. Also, the US will pull back from Fallujah and send in a new force, the Fallujah Protection Force, led by former members of Saddam Hussein’s military. I’m sure there’s a flaw in all this somewhere.

Military Moron Kimmitt says “there is still a determined aspiration on the part of the coalition to maintain a ceasefire and solve the situation in Falluja by peaceful means,” and says that the air strikes which are reported to have destroyed at least 25 buildings were “limited,” targeting only naughty buildings.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

A lot more sovereignty than they have right now

Rumsfeld press conference today, about Chalabi: “well, on anyone, we're not in the position of ruling people in or ruling people out, and have no intention to. Clearly, there's a vetting process that's taking place by the United Nations representative, Mr. Brahimi, and by the Iraqi people and by the Iraqi Governing Council, and certainly by the Americans. And they all look at these people, and at some point there will be consensus developed, I suppose, in a manner possibly not dissimilar from that we saw in Afghanistan, where there may be some meetings, whether they're public or formal as opposed to informal or not, but the names will be up, and someone will rise to the top and – some bodies, plural, undoubtedly, given the nature of the country. And that then will be the interim government for a period, until the constitution is fashioned and then elections are held sometime next year or the year thereafter, I guess.”

Oddly enough, those are almost the exact words of Madison’s first draft of the Constitution.

And John “Death squads? What death squads?” Negroponte told the Senate, in his confirmation hearings, that after June 30, Iraqis will have “a lot more sovereignty than they have right now,” which is also taken from that draft: “We the People, in order to have a lot more sovereignty than we have right now...”

At those hearings, Chris “Death squads? What death squads?” Dodd and Barbara “Death squads? What death squads?” Boxer said that they would put aside their previous differences with Negroponte over his role in Reagan’s Central American policy out of personal respect for him.

Kamen at the WaPo asks the question, ambassador to what? Normally, the receiving country has to agree to an ambassador before they are confirmed by the Senate.

Possibly that’s just one more thing that happened in the black box that is Iraqi governance. I’ve been meaning to ask for some time, who is on the Iraqi Governing Council right now? One was killed, several are supposed to have resigned, but if they were replaced, I’ve never heard about it. And how many haven’t set foot in Iraq in, say, the last 3 months? And where are they?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Expert guidance or assistance

BLOOPER REEL: Mark Kimmitt, military moron, on why the US, which just called in air strikes to level a minaret in Fallujah (and don’t be gettin’ all Freudian about it either, sometimes a minaret is just a minaret), is the real victim: “Many times it would appear that these provocative actions on the part of the enemy are intentionally inspired for the purposes of trying to get a tank into the camera lens, an airplane in the camera lens.” The sneaky bastards!

China rules out full, free elections in Hong Kong again, but I have yet to hear it explain exactly what’s wrong with universal suffrage. The electorate for the chief executive will remain 800 people.

Iraqis holding 3 Italian hostages (security guards) name their conditions: an anti-war protest to be held in Rome within 5 days. I don’t think they quite get what civil protest means, do you? Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a demand from hostage-takers. Anyone?

We may not know what form the fake Iraqi government will take in a little over 2 months, what powers it will have if any, and who will be in it, but at least they’ve picked a new flag. White, 2 blue stripes, 1 yellow stripe, a crescent. Gone are the words “God is great,” possibly because a year of American occupation would make anyone question just how great She really is. The blue stripes represent the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the yellow represents the Kurds, possibly all being drowned in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

From a piece by Peter Galbraith in the NY Review of Books:
While telling Iraqis it wanted to defer constitutional issues to an elected Iraqi body, the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority could not resist trying to settle fundamental constitutional issues in the interim constitution. The US government lawyers who wrote the interim constitution, known formally as the Transitional Administrative Law, made no effort to disguise their authorship. All deliberations on the law were done in secret and probably fewer than one hundred Iraqis saw a copy of the constitution before it was promulgated. To write a major law in any democracy—much less a constitution—without public discussion should be unthinkable. Now that Iraqis are discovering for the first time the contents of the constitution, it should come as no surprise that many object to provisions they never knew were being considered.

Roman Polanski is filming a version of Oliver Twist, with Ben Kingsley as Fagin, the charismatic head of a gang of impressionable...uh oh.

The joint patrols in Fallujah have been postponed, perhaps because the Iraqis found out that not only were they not getting any body armor, but they were going to *be* the body armor for the Americans.

Note to the president of Westminster College: what, you’re surprised that Dick Cheney made a political attack on John Kerry rather than giving a dispassionate analysis of geopolitics? Dick Cheney? Dick Fucking Cheney??

NYT article on a trial of a Saudi computer sciences grad student in Idaho under provisions of the Patriot Act criminalizing the provision of “expert guidance or assistance” to terrorist groups. It was of course meant to deal with expert assistance relating to anthrax or dirty bombs, but the Saudi helped a Muslim group put up a website. Period. So would it be “expert guidance or assistance” if someone were to send out the URL of that website?

Monday, April 26, 2004

We pretty much took out anyone who was in there being stupid

An American MP, quoted in the Daily Telegraph about the bombing of a village near Fallujah: “We were supposed to wait until today, but we got pissed off and decided to draw a line. We pretty much took out anyone who was in there being stupid.”

Increasingly, I’ve been hearing US military types using one of those phrases that US military types don’t realize sound creepy to the rest of us: “breaking the will” of the enemy. Of course democracy, which those same military types are supposed to be bringing to Iraq by means of curfews, sieges and free-fire zones, is defined (by Rousseau) as the expression of the general will (volonte generale). At the same time, we’re trying to reintroduce into positions of power people whose political will was already broken, those who were “members in name only” of the Baathist party. See, they were just going along with all the persecution and executions and, ya know, evil, during the Saddam years not because they supported all that stuff, but so that they could advance their careers, and those are just the sort of people we need to make freedom and democracy flourish. I don’t have the energy to work the phrase “banality of evil” into this paragraph, so let’s all just assume that I did.

Did you know that the Australians invented streaking? Exactly 30 years ago. We got funny pictures.

Evidently the newest trend in the world’s largest democracy is candidates who just happen to have criminal charges pending against them, 20% in Bihar according to “activists,” and yes, the Guardian should have checked that out before running the story.

Don’t you hate it when decent institutions like game shows are perverted from their higher calling--greed?

Reuters: “A Kuwaiti court has set a precedent by approving the request of a man who had a sex-change to have his gender officially registered as female, on the grounds that he had suffered physically and psychologically since childhood because of his hormonal imbalance.” Does that mean s/he’ll no longer be allowed to vote?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

A very unusual death

British Press Association headline: “Leslie Ash Breaks Rib Having Sex.” Leslie Ash was one of the stars of the sitcom...wait for it...Men Behaving Badly.

Sharon says he no longer feels obligated by his promise to Bush not to kill Arafat, and that he told Bush so last week. Even if Bush warned him against it, as the White House claims, his public silence for the last week and a half (and I’ll bet he didn’t warn Arafat either) makes him complicit.

THE GAME IS AFOOT: I probably shouldn’t, but I think this story is just plain cool: “A leading expert on Sherlock Holmes grew paranoid that people were plotting against him before being found garrotted in his bed, an inquest was told yesterday. Richard Lancelyn Green, 50, who co-edited a book about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the fictional detective Holmes, was found dead at his home in Kensington, west London, with a shoelace tightened around his neck using a wooden spoon. Dr Paul Knapman, the Westminster coroner, recorded an open verdict and said it was a "very unusual death".”

Japan: it’s those damned hostages screwing it up for the rest of us.

Dick Cheney’s last press conference was in 1991.

Here’s a headline (Sunday Times) that will appeal to Israelis’ silly musical prejudices: “Wagner's Operas Kept Me Sane, Says Vanunu”. He’d be the first.

A member of the US’s synchronized swimming team has had her 3-month sentence for multiple manslaughter postponed until after the games. Nice priorities, huh? Now if it had been a discus thrower...

Friday, April 23, 2004

Not just high on death

CBS aired photographs of Princess Diana dying, so it’s hard to get much sense out of the British papers this week about anything else. In defending them, CBS used the word “tasteful.”

The US has hired a bunch of Saddam’s generals. OK, disbanding the army was arguably stupid, but the fucking generals? Presumably the idea is that generals put aside their politics, their opinions, their backbone, and their integrity and will just do whatever they’re told--the Colin Powell model--but do Iraqi generals behave the same way? Teachers, doctors and civil servants who were members of the Baath party will be rehired as well.

Israel uses a 12-year old Palestinian as a human shield (13, says Reuters). There’s a picture!

Evidently the insurgents in Fallujah are all on drugs. Sez Dan Senor, “It is part of what they're using to keep them up to engage in this violence at all hours.” Dude, if you want to pull an all-nighter, get some Jolt Soda.

Congress is working on a plan for near immediate elections if 100 or more Reps are killed (did you know that, according to the Constitution, replacement senators can be appointed, but reps have to be elected? Me neither). While you can make arguments about whether 45 days is too short for an election, but too long for a state to be unrepresented during a crisis, etc., I don’t think they considered a scenario in which 100 Reps of one party were killed (say by a terrorist attack on a party convention).

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Historic times

But for real high-level historiography, nobody can beat Dubya: “This is historic times.” Yes it am.

North Korea, which is big on slogans, such as “Each Korean must perform selfless feats to glorify the heroic deeds of leader Kim Jong Il. Burma Shave,” but the Times of London says this one appears in schools: “Try to grow taller.” One study, admittedly of refugees, showed the average 17-year old male North Korean is 5’0, compared to South Koreans, who are 5’8.

Bush says that the world owes Ariel Sharon a “thank you” for his unilateral Gaza/West Bank plans. Think Hallmark makes a card for that?

McDonald’s in Britain, under pressure from a moral panic over obesity even, ahem, larger than here, will include pedometers in its Happy Meals. It takes 5½ hours to walk off a Happy Meal, according to health campaigners, so get waddling!

Poland is considering pulling out of Iraq. According to the prime minister, “Yeah, I know we sent guys on horses against Nazi tanks, but we’re not completely stupid.”

In 1971 the Nixon White House was very concerned to discredit John Kerry (whose military records show he’s believed to have killed 20 Vietnamese, by the way). Said Chuck Colson: “Let's destroy this young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader.” We should be so lucky.

Oh brother:

From the story that’s kept Belgium fascinating for what seems like years now: “Belgium's most notorious paedophile Marc Dutroux said yesterday that a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and held in an underground cellar was not his intended victim.” So that’s all right then?

France expels an Algerian imam, resident in France 25 years, for telling a newspaper that he believed the Koran allows husbands to beat adulterous wives, although not on the face, and he added that Muslims should obey French law, which doesn’t allow for such beatings. The Interior Ministry says “The government cannot tolerate remarks against human rights and the dignity of women.” OK, wife-beating bad, dignity of women good, but let’s not talk human rights when we just bundled someone onto a plane for exercising his. Still in France: his two wives and 16 children. He’s probably grateful for the peace and quiet.

Speaking of human rights, war criminal Gen. Wiranto (who may not actually have a first name other than General) has been nominated by the former ruling party of Suharto to run in July’s presidential elections.

Suicide car bombing reaches Saudi Arabia. Since the country exports both oil and Islamic terrorists in great quantity, this seems like an inevitable Reese’s-peanut-butter-cup moment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The list is not short

HE’S MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE: Ariel Sharon promises to kill lots more people: “We got rid of murderer number one and murderer number two and the list is not short.”

Interesting that in the same week the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether inmates of Stalag Guantanamo have any right of access to the legal system, it ruled in another case that Indian tribes can prosecute members of other tribes for crimes committed on their reservations (I guess non-Injuns are exempt). And then be prosecuted by the US without double jeopardy applying, because as we all know the 5th amendment doesn’t mean what it obviously says. Which is better, being subject to multiple courts for the same crime, or no courts?

Still, it’s fun watching Solicitor General Ted Olson claim that Cuba has “ultimate sovereignty” over Gitmo. Which, LeftI points out, sheds some light on how little is meant by the transfer of “sovereignty” to Iraq on June 30th.

Article on Negroponte
. So what if he doesn’t know Arabic, he probably picked up some Spanish in Honduras, that’s close enough. Actually, I take that back, he probably didn’t pick up any Spanish, since his policy of See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil was bilingual. And the CPA’s website has a picture of him in front of Picasso’s Guernica. Look if you don’t believe me. You couldn’t ask for better symbolism.

(Actually, don’t look. Since I wrote that, they’ve mysteriously clipped the picture so you can’t make out what the painting is.) You’ll remember that Guernica was covered up when Colin Powell went to the UN to lie about Iraq.

So who are those “security contractors” so thick on the ground in Iraq? Considering how many have been killed (but not counted in the “coalition” death toll, which the Bushies hope to keep in the 3 figures before election day), we’ve got obits on very few. Here is one, a South African who was part of one of the apartheid government’s death squads.

A WaPo poll asked whether Bush is a uniter or a divider. 50% said he’s a uniter, 48% a divider.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Essential law

The US has been negotiating with the “authorities” in Fallujah (who have none) not to resume what this space will henceforth be referring to as the Massacre of Fallujah (and the new ambassador-designate will henceforth be John “Death squads? What death squads?” Negroponte). Jim Lehrer reported that the US was offering an easing of the curfew, and letting food and medicine into the city. Let me repeat that: we are using food and medicine as bargaining chips.

If Bush made a deal with Saudi Arabia about lowering oil prices right before the election, that means he’s keeping them artificially high now. So next time you fill up, just think of everything above $1.50 as your contribution to the Bush campaign. (Later: Atrios points out the same thing. Actually, it’s pretty obvious, but I thought it was worth pointing out since it was beyond the intellects of the NYT, etc etc).

Reuters: “A Florida teen charged with hiring an undercover policeman to shoot and kill his mother instructed the purported hitman not to damage the family television during the attack, police said.”

The Rapture Index for today is 143.

DESTROYING THE VILLAGE IN ORDER TO SAVE IT DEPARTMENT: Bush: "The Patriot Act defends our liberty," Bush said, thumping the podium. "The Patriot Act makes it able for those of us in positions of responsibility to defend the liberty of the American people. It's essential law." Wait, I think I get it: we’ll make it easier to defend our liberty by making it a lot smaller and hence more defensible. Hell, they won’t even be able to see our liberty. Bush: “Congress passed it and said, well, maybe the war on terror won't go on very long, and, therefore, these tools are set to expire.” So if Bush is calling for them to be made permanent, class, by his own logic he’s saying the war on terror will be what, class? That’s right: permanent, endless, eternal, unceasing. Something to look forward to.

Monday, April 19, 2004

People are fungible

Whoops, used the word naked in a subject line yesterday, so Chris’s prissy work computer bounced it, with the odd comment:
<<< 553 5.0.0 Possible Naked Wife e-mail virus
I don’t even want to know what that means.

Speaking of prissy, an Afghan state-run tv station has banned shows with female singers.

Spanish prez Zapatero (who by the way opted to take a secular oath of office) is talking about pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq with immediate effect. I had thought he wouldn’t do this until June 30 and not then if there was a UN resolution, but he says there probably won’t be one so why wait. Well, “people are fungible” according to Rummy Rumsfeld, so what the heck.

Speaking of the Coalition of the Fungible, there is also some vague talk in Portugal about removing their contingent. Here’s something I didn’t know and should have: the Portuguese president, a socialist, is head of the armed forces and refused to send troops without a UN mandate. The conservative government did an end-run around him and sent police officers.

Kerry, on Meet the Press today, accused Bush of having an arrogant and stunningly ineffective foreign policy. Too bad he voted for so much of it. He also endorses Israel’s most recent assassination. Arguably, he suggested that they could/should wack Arafat as well. “I believe Israel has every right in the world to respond to any act of terror against it. Hamas is a terrorist, brutal organization. It has had years to make up its mind to take part in a peaceful process. They refuse to. Arafat refuses to.” Just as polls show the Israelis broadly supportive of the assassinations, American politicians are united in their grubbing for votes in Florida. The praise for Sharon, and he even took back his 1971 designation of Richard Nixon as a war criminal, highlights that he is not critical of Bush on moral grounds, simply for being ineffective and arrogant.

The Iraqi Resistance has been so successful in attacking supply lines that some soldiers are being rationed. So the US has decided to spread the misery to the entire Iraqi population, closing all main roads to non-US-military traffic. The Iraqis see this as collective punishment, which is partly correct: we’re not so much deliberately inflicting economic dislocation as completely indifferent to it.

We are, according to the NY Times, keeping in Iraq to the time-honored Israeli ratio of 10 of Them killed for every one of Us.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Naked, combative and likely intoxicated

Sharon goes home from Crawford and immediately assassinates someone else. Does he hate us?

Times (London): “Bush himself doesn't seem to have any idea that he can come across as shifty and ill-briefed -much the way Michael Jackson doesn't seem to realise that people suspect that he is black.”

So there’s this Catholic Republican couple who move to Kentucky from LA to have a more family-friendly environment. Only they’re gay. They’re the first gay couple known to have both had children through the same surrogate mother, if you’re following.

In South Africans, the apartheid party, the National Party, wins 1.7% of the vote. It will now disband. Giggle giggle snort snort.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Keep that acceptability

A short one today. My cable company decided to move 27 channels at random, so I’ve been occupied.

Kerry moves quickly to ensure that his thin patrician lips are planted firmly on the ass-cheek of Ariel Sharon not currently occupied by Bush’s thin patrician lips, endorsing Bush’s endorsement of Sharon’s land-grab. “What's important obviously is the security of the state of Israel”. Obviously.

Story about how the economic and environmental side-effects of GM soya in Argentina.

The next prime minister of Spain, evidently under the impression that he will be prime minister of Sweden, promises to legalize gay marriage and stem-cell research, and his cabinet will have an equal number of female and male members.

WaPo headline: “Kerry Hopes to Cement Image With New Ads.” Jeez, he already looks like he’s made out of concrete. Kerry is quoted: "Their goal is to define me and make me unacceptable. . . . Our goal has to be to keep that acceptability." Can’t wait for the bumper sticker.

Oo, a bumper sticker: “W starts with ‘duh’”

You shoot like a goat herder

Tony Blair, according to Dubya, is “a stand-up kinda guy,” “as we like to say in Crawford.” They don’t say that in England, however, where they think their prime minister has just been described as a stand-up comedian.

I found bin Laden’s latest tape disconcerting without being sure why. A Guardian writer explains that the nice thing about bin Laden was that he made absolutely no demands and nothing you offered him would make him stop, so there could be no talk of appeasement or tactics. And then this week he actually made a demand of European countries, assuming it was him, and the CIA says that it is, so it probably isn’t.

Also, I hadn’t noticed the Henry Higgins aspect of Al Qaida methods before: planes on 9/11, trains in Spain (by George, I think he’s got it).

That’s my second reference to a musical this month.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

Gen. Richard Myers repeats a line I thought had been buried under the dead American soldiers and the children buried under the Fallujah soccer field: the insurgency is “a symptom of the success that we're having here in Iraq.”

However Paul Krugman today says we have reached Vietnam-type “quagmire logic”: “they no longer have high hopes for what we may accomplish, but they fear the consequences if we leave.” Knee-deep in the big muddy.

Winning Hearts and Minds: US troops have been blasting heavy metal at Fallujah. Worked so well at Waco. AC/DC, Hendrix, sounds of babies crying, barking dogs, etc. They’re trying to irritate the insurgents into coming out and getting blasted like a man, so they are also using insults such as, and I’m not making this up, “You shoot like a goat herder” and “May all the ambulances in Fallujah have enough fuel to pick up the bodies of the mujahadeen.”

There was a fire-fight on the 6th inside the town of Kut, between Iraqis and... mercenaries (which may be why it took 10 days to hear about it). A South African was killed. After American troops, armed mercenaries are now the second-largest contingent in the Coalition of the Willing, comfortably ahead of the British, so why does Blair get to go to Crawford and the CEO of Blackwater doesn’t? Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I’m long past believing anything Bob Woodward writes where he doesn’t name his sources.

From the Post: “• OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A bank robber wearing a wetsuit under his clothes tried to make a scuba-diving getaway but was tackled by police before he reached the water, authorities say. Police subdued the man Thursday on the shore of Budd Inlet after a car chase, a crash and a sweaty quarter-mile dash through the woods, during which he tried to sprint into the water while lugging his diving gear and a backpack filled with the stolen cash, Sgt. Ray Holmes said. Charles E. Coma, 35, was jailed on suspicion of robbery.”

Karl Rove says he wishes they hadn’t put up that “Mission Accomplished” banner, because it’s become “one of those convenient symbols.” Of course it was meant to be a convenient symbol, but not for the other side.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Bin Laden threats are real

Did that get your attention? Why didn't it do the same for Bush?

As part of his attempt to put all the blame for 9/11 on the Clinton admin for not unleashing the full wrath of the intelligence community on an unsuspecting world, Ashcroft yesterday said that when he came into office, “We should end the failed capture policy, I said. We should find and kill bin Laden.” Ignoring the fact that Clinton had already ordered bin Laden assassinated, this must be the first time that a US attorney general (more general than attorney here) has publicly called for an extra-judicial execution.

As Ha’aretz has been saying for a couple of weeks, Sharon had a few demands to make of Bush, and today Bush gave in to them all, including denying a right of return and letting Israel keep 60% of the West Bank, in exchange for removing a few sparsely populated, expensive to defend, settlements in Gaza. Bush phrased this as pragmatism, acknowledging the “realities on the ground,” by which he means settlements erected in violation of international law. “Establishing facts on the ground” is of course a key phrase in Likud cynicism, and it has paid off in spades. Not perhaps the best week for Bush to give another example of his contempt for Arabs/Muslims, while calling war criminal Ariel Sharon (wasn’t he supposed to be indicted for bribery right about now?) bold and courageous. The Guardian says that Israel had 4 possible plans for removal of some settlements from the West Bank, but the US took the first one offered, which, naturally, gave the least to the Palestinians (500 settlers evacuated). The Palestinian PM points out that Bush is the first “president” to legitimize the settlements. Bush also talked about being committed to Israel as a Jewish state; he did not suggest that Palestine should be a Muslim state, and you can imagine his reaction if someone else did. Despite yesterday having said that “brown-skinned” Muslims are capable of democracy, on the ancient question of whether Israel should be Jewish or a democracy, Bush came down firmly on the side of the former. Does that mean Muslims are capable of democracy, but not Jews?

Speaking of toadying, the leader of Australia’s Labor Party makes a bid for the yoof vote, saying that Labor’s policy is bling-bling.

The next visitor to Bush is Tony Blair, who will not bother to meet John Kerry, although they’ll both be in New York.

From the 9/11 hearings:
ROEMER: You don't see the president of the United States once in the month of August?

TENET: He's in Texas.

Yesterday, of course, Bush said that he talked with Tenet all the time.

And more news on intelligence reports sent to Bush in the spring of ‘01: headlines included "Bin Laden planning multiple operations," "Bin Laden network's plans advancing" and "Bin Laden threats are real."

Hilarious parody of political blogs (read the comments section too).

And a good parody of the Bush press conference.

And here’s another one:
Q: Sir, you like to say that the August 6, 2001 intelligence briefing didn’t say al Qaeda was planning to fly planes into the World Trade Center at 8:48 a.m. on a sunny morning on September 11th as Mabel Johnson sat down to have a bagel at her house in Des Moines and a butterfly flapped its wings in Singapore, and therefore there was nothing “threatening” about the memo and no need for you to take action. But it did mention the likelihood of hijackings. Did the memo trigger you to take any action whatsoever to prevent even this kind of attack?
A: No.

Tom Shales on the press conf: “"When I say something, I mean it," George W. Bush said decisively near the end of last night's prime-time presidential news conference. Nobody called out, "When will you say something?" -- the White House press corps is too mannerly for that -- but some reporters, and some viewers, must have been thinking it.”

Nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens

A concerted attack by members of the 9/11 Commission on John “Lost to a Dead Guy” Ashcroft today could have done major damage to Bush, who scheduled a press conference timed to undercut it. In the end, the guy who downgraded terrorism as a priority for the Justice Dept because he was more interested in drugs and porn (aren’t we all?) and whose only response to intelligence was to stop flying commercial airlines, was let off remarkably lightly.

And so was Bush, following an interminable opener in which he stressed the same syllables (3rd and 7th, or whatever it was) in every single sentence. Every question was so unspecific as to allow him to squirm out. Interestingly, he gave the same answer to a question about whether he could name any mistake he’d made as Eisenhower gave about whether he could name any contributions Nixon had made to his administration (give me a few days, and I might come up with something). And he never did answer why he felt the need to testify to the 9/11 Commission only with Cheney holding his hand, or whatever he holds. And he needs a new adjective; he slathers “tough” all over every sentence like ketchup on his mother’s awful cooking. (Later: Juan Cole says it is in bad taste to equate the “tough” week for his administration with the “tough” week for families of the dead soldiers.) He also kept repeating that we were changing the world, and some crap about liberty. Josh Marshall: “I saw a man on autopilot, and a pretty crude autopilot at that.” Indeed, he repeated almost every exaggeration of the danger allegedly posed by Saddam; we should be grateful he didn’t bring up the yellowcake again.

When Bush characterized opponents of his insane Iraq policy as believing that Muslims or “brown-skinned” people can’t have democracies, did anyone else remember his father referring to Jeb’s kids as “the little brown ones”?

Mostly, he gave off the same air of passivity as Condi Rice did, not just about the past, when he’d have been willing to “move mountains” if only someone had told him what to do and where to do it (I’m not sure how strip-mining would have prevented terrorism, but Bush was willing to do it, right after he tried out tax cuts and drilling in Alaska to see if they would prevent terrorism), but also about the future. A paragraph from Salon demonstrates this passivity:
To whom will the United States hand over Iraqi sovereignty on June 30? "We'll find that out soon." Why haven't U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces been effective in quelling the uprisings? "We'll need to find out why." Was the information contained in the infamous Aug. 6, 2001, President's Daily Brief accurate? "I presume the 9/11 commission will find out." What about those weapons of mass destruction? "Of course I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet," the president said. Later, he said of the WMD: "I look forward to hearing the truth as to exactly where they are."

A few fortune-cookie statements from the press conference: “A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught.” “I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either.” “Oceans don’t protect us. They don't protect us from killers.” “Look, nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens.” “We weren't on a war footing.” “I expect information that comes to my desk to be real and valid.” He actually used the name Osama bin Laden for what may well be the first time in a year or two.

Today was World Turban Day, aka, World Hey We’re Fucking Sikhs, Not Fucking Muslims! Day

I’ve mentioned wacky Turkmenistan president-for-life Niyazov before. There’s an article in the Indy. First paragraph: “He has banned beards and listening to car radios, and instituted a national holiday in honour of a melon. Now the world's craziest dictator has identified a new and pressing danger to his people: gold teeth.”

The Daily Kos: “Bush approaches the world as if the good things that happen to him are the result of virtue and the bad things the result of environment, but with other people it's the exact opposite.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Change the channel

Our new old friend Gen Mark Kimmitt--military moron or comic genius? you be the judge!--was asked about Al Jazeera reports of civilians being killed by US forces in Fallujah. “Change the channel,” he responded.

Something I saw in an Arab source but not elsewhere, is that the US made Al Jazeera leaving Fallujah one of the conditions for a settlement of the siege. Kimmitt was pissed off at them for running live images of F-16 raids on the town during a phone interview in which he claimed that the US had declared a unilateral cease-fire.

Some thieves stole an alligator from a reptile park in Australia, only to return him 3 days later, in a reptile version of The Ransom of Red Chief. The alligator’s name was Mr. Cranky Pants, which might have been a clue (alligators who are forced to wear pants usually are cranky).

If you want to repress the Iraqi people, you have to turn to the experts. General Abizaid: “We've got to get more senior Iraqis involved, former military types involved in the security forces. In the next couple of days, you'll see a large number of senior officers being appointed to key positions in the ministry of defence and in Iraqi joint staff and in Iraqi field commands.”

Marines responsible for an Iraqi POW being beaten to death will face no charges. Surprise, surprise.

A Post story says that the Forest Service used misleading photos, which were supposed to demonstrate the horrible things that happen to forests if they aren’t logged, in a glossy pamphlet supporting more logging. Leaving the question, why were they using taxpayer money for that purpose anyway?

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Department of I Told You So: In my e-mail of Feb. 24 I predicted a coup in Venezuela. Now the only question is whether this was a natural response to Hugo Chavez’s assholery, or whether the CIA was involved.

Department of Corrections: All these years I have been saying that the Star Wars program could not work. I hereby admit that I was wrong. I thought any system could simply be overwhelmed by decoys and MIRVed missiles, but it seems the Bush administration is working on a solution: detonating large nuclear warheads 60 miles above the United States. That would certainly solve all those problems, and I don’t see any possible down-side, do you?

Ari Fleischer today called Ariel Sharon a “man of peace.”

Remember I wrote about the Carlyle Group a while back, and wondered why this hadn’t been covered in any depth? Well, it’s nice to see it brought up by a US Congresscritter, Cynthia McKinney. Too bad she’s clinically insane, and brought it up while accusing the Bushies of having had advanced warning of 9/11. Carlyle responded by asking if she’d made the remarks while standing on a grassy knoll in Roswell, NM. Um, no, actually in Berkeley, what’s your point? So she brought it up but in a way to ensure that it was discredited. Now if one believed in conspiracies....

Cheney did allow environmental groups to have input into his energy plan. 11 groups were emailed and told that they’d have a little time to send responses: 5, 4, 3, 2... All right, they were actually given a full 48 hours.

Less casualty, except among the military age males

One of the world’s best writer/directors, Jirí Weiss, has just died. You’ve never heard of him or seen one of his movies. I’ve only been able to see 4 myself, none alike. During the Prague Spring, some incredible movies were made in Czechoslovakia, and then the tanks rolled in. The directors that stayed mostly did no work again (Jirí Menzel); those that left did better (Milos Foreman). Weiss left, but Hollywood never gave him a job. 3 of his movies that I’ve seen were in LA, and every time, he was there to introduce them. He had nothing better to do.

Yesterday I mentioned that the US forces were allowing women and children to escape the siege of Fallujah, but not the males. Here’s the result: in a story the Guardian mistakenly headlines “Defiant US Says Falluja Dead Were Rebels,” a Marine colonel is quoted as saying, "What I think you will find is 95% of those were military age males that were killed in the fighting. The marines are trained to be precise in their firepower ... The fact that there are 600 goes back to the fact that the marines are very good at what they do." The rather large distinction between actual rebels and “military age males” will not have escaped you, I’m sure. And that’s if you accept the 95% number, which is contradicted by hospital officials. The Guardian does give a figure I’ve been looking for: the population of Fallujah is 200,000. Lots more military age males to shoot. Propaganda-wise, the Bushies are having a little problem trying to claim at the same time that there are only a handful of rebels (“gangs,” Bush called them today--When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day.), and that the hundreds of Iraqis we’re killing are in fact rebels.

Iraqi soldiers are refusing to participate in the bloodbath.

Shrub, who has a way with worms, said today: “Obviously I pray every day there’s less casualty. But I know what we're doing in Iraq is right.”

That wasn’t a typo. He certainly doesn’t have a way with words, now does he? Less casualty, indeed. (Even the White House transcript has “less casualty.” The WaPo decided to clean it up.)

He also claimed today that the 8/6/01 PDB “said nothing about an attack on America.” Maybe no one told him the PDB was released and everyone can read it now, or else why is he so blatantly lying about its contents? AND he claimed to have asked for the briefing (“Did I see it? Of course I saw it; I asked for it.”), when in fact the CIA compiled it on its own authority, even giving it that title, which they incorrectly thought would get Bush’s attention. AND he claimed this: “And you might recall the hijacking that was referred to in the PDB. It was not a hijacking of an airplane to fly into a building, it was hijacking of airplanes in order to free somebody that was being held as a prisoner in the United States.” How does that make any difference? If you’d stopped the hijackings, you’d have stopped the planes being flown into buildings. And the line the Post uses as a headline to the transcript, “Had I Known, We Would Have Acted.”

COMMENT IN ATROCIOUS TASTE ALERT: Asked whether the violence would ebb soon, Bush replied: "It's hard to tell. I just know this: that we're plenty tough and we'll remain tough." Especially those 4 mercenaries. We asked for medium-rare!

An American hostage was released after 3 days in Iraq. Thomas Hamill was a truck driver for Kellogg, Brown and Root (aka Halliburton) after having had to sell his dairy farm because of debts. Who says Bush hasn’t created any jobs?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Our will is being tested

Here’s what happens when industry captures the agency that’s supposed to be regulating it: that agency sets not just minimum standards, but maximum ones. Case in point: a beef producer wants to test all its cattle for mad cow disease, which would allow it to resume exports to Japan. The Dept of Ag refused to permit it, saying it would have “implied a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted.”

A story about federal pork on an impressive scale: 2 bridges in Alaska snuck into the highway bill last week. “One, here in Ketchikan, would be among the biggest in the United States: a mile long, with a top clearance of 200 feet from the water — 80 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge and just 20 feet short of the Golden Gate Bridge. It would connect this economically depressed, rain-soaked town of 7,845 people to an island that has about 50 residents and the area's airport, which offers six flights a day (a few more in summer). It could cost about $200 million. The other bridge would span an inlet for nearly two miles to tie Anchorage to a port that has a single regular tenant and almost no homes or businesses. It would cost up to $2 billion.”

The US bombed that mosque in Fallujah again, this time hitting a minaret. Also, it broadcast threats of an imminent attack on the town and suggested that women and children leave. It will not let “military-age” men leave the town, which is incredibly scary and creepy, and historically (Bosnia, say) has been the sort of activity that led to mass graves. There was what was supposed to be a 5-day pause in the attack (which Fisk points out was called a "unilateral suspension of offensive operations," precisely the phrase used by Israel when it was besieging Beirut in 1982), which the US broke after 90 minutes. It was supposed to be so that the dead could be gathered up and buried. Currently, according to the Indy reporter, they are being eaten by wild dogs. Hard to win their hearts and minds when dogs are eating their livers.

And remember, all this was triggered by Bremer shutting down a small weekly newspaper for inciting violence by making false claims. Just like Shrub.

Cheney tells US soldiers that “our will is being tested in Iraq.” Which presumably means that they should really make out theirs being shipped out.

BASS-HOLE: Just as Bush’s spokesmodel was making snippy comments about Kerry going skiing, Bush himself was being filmed fishing by the Blood Sports Channel.

So it turns out that the name of the briefing--“Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States”--whose revelation was the ta-da moment of the commission this week, was actually printed in the Washington Post nearly 2 years ago, in the fist sentence of a story on page 1 of a Sunday issue, by-lined by Bob Woodward, but no one noticed.

And the Post today, on what Bush was doing the day after he got that briefing.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Not skiing

I’m not that good at the metric system: how many assholes in a Bush?

The Iraqi Minister for Human Rights has resigned in protest at American practices, which presumably don’t even come up to exacting Iraqi standards.

British cuisine for Easter: deep-fried chocolate cream eggs (500 calories, and well worth it, I’m sure).

The DNA testing clears Neil Bush of having a child with his current wife when she was someone else’s wife. By Bush family standards, this is vindication.

Condi admitted that Bush was alerted to the possibility of Al Qaida hijackings. Doesn’t that make his inactivity in the minutes after getting the news on 9/11 that much more irresponsible?

Asked about why Bush is on vacation now, as he was in August 2001 (all of August), and indeed for 40% of his presidency, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said that at least Bush is “not skiing.” Hearing this in Crawford, Bush sheepishly removed his skis.

I mentioned that American soldiers have sealed off the Saddam-statue-toppling square (that was a year ago today when, to be fair, the square was also sealed off by American tanks). Today they tore down posters of Muqtada al-Sadr in the square. And (quoting the Indy) “On Friday, an armored vehicle with a loudspeaker on top circled the square's colonnaded middle island, announcing in Arabic the curfew and a warning that anyone seen with a weapon would be shot. Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees with heavy machine guns took positions around the square.” And then for some reason started blaring rock & roll, according to the BBC.

Guardian headline: “Even I Think My Films Are Depressing, Admits Ingmar Bergman.”

Thursday, April 08, 2004

“What fly did the President swat? Name me one swatted fly?”

Rumsfeld downplays the Iraqi intifada, saying it consists only of “thugs, gangs and terrorists.” Uh, Rummy, that’s two-thirds of the Iraqi population.

I’ve seen some of the Rice testimony and I think all Americans are asking the same question: what’s up with her hair?

But also, is she the laziest person alive or what? In the process of trying to shift blames to the intelligence bureaucracies, she portrayed herself as a passive recipient of reports that just weren’t good enough for her to actually do anything with. If she didn’t get “specific threat information,” there was nothing she could do, so she did nothing. And her hilarious dismissal of Richard Clarke’s report: “We were not presented with a plan. … What we were presented on Jan. 25 was a set of ideas.” God forbid she should have to do any work herself.

But before she’d do any work, she would have to deal with “structural problems,” like one of those people who says they’ve doing homework but really spend the first half-hour sharpening a dozen pencils, laying out index cards precisely so, getting out highlighters in seven colors.... On 9/11/01, 15% of the way through the Bush admin, she was still working out which colors to put on which file folders.

Favorite moments: Bob Kerrey asking what flies Bush ever swatted, since he was so tired from swatting flies; Kerrey referring to Rice’s refusal to use “the m-word” (mistakes); Richard Ben-Veniste asking why she was still talking when all he’d asked was the title of a report. Which was “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,” and although Rice claimed it had “no new threat information, and it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States,” it actually reported (8/6/01) "patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking."

Some of the “frustratingly vague” “chatter” Rice oh-so-selectively quoted to bolster her case that she couldn’t possibly have stopped 9/11: "Unbelievable news in coming weeks" "Big event ... there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar" "There will be attacks in the near future". Non-specific, but the only response the Bush admin seems to have made was that Ashcroft stopped flying commercial planes.

No “silver bullets” indeed. They’re Muslims, not werewolves. Both hairy, but there is a difference. I think werewolves are allowed to eat pork.

SYMBOLISM ALERT: Remember--of course you do--the toppling of the statue of Saddam? Fardous Square, where the statue was, was the site of a pro-Sadr, anti-occupation demonstration this week. American soldiers are now sealing off the square.

AP story: Twenty young people at a national service camp near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were treated in hospital after an apparent outbreak of hysteria in which they claimed to have seen ghosts. Exorcists were called to remove the evil spirits. They later said they had caught them and thrown them into the sea.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

It was necessary to destroy Fallujah in order to save it

Jon Carroll adds a corollary to my frequently made point that the Bushies cannot ever admit to having gotten something wrong: “As their time in office increases, they are spending more time fighting rear-guard actions trying to prove that they were right or cover up the fact that they were wrong.” This also means they can’t fix things they’ve broken, like the damage they’ve inflicted on relations with America’s allies, because they can’t admit anything is wrong. Carroll thinks the problem is that the Bushanistas learned the wrong lesson from Watergate, which is that Nixon didn’t stonewall *enough.*

(Later:) speaking of lessons learned from that era, comments that Kerry et al, who want to pour more troops into the quagmire, “think their job is to be better, smarter imperialists.”

I proudly use the word quagmire, making me in William Safire’s alliterative phrase a “quaking quagmirist.” Bill: eat me.

Turquoise has received an email from Dick Cheney inviting her to participate in National Party for the President Day on the 29th, which I just realized is a Thursday. The highlight of the day is a live conference call from Cheney himself, without which no really boring party is complete.

Colin Powell suggests that Ted Kennedy, who said that Iraq is Bush’s Vietnam, “should be a little more restrained and careful in his comments because we are at war”. Pathetic.

Speaking of lack of restraint, Rumsfeld today said, “U.S. forces are on the offense. The United States and our partners and free Iraqi forces are taking the battle to the terrorists.” So the US bombed a mosque. During afternoon prayers. Killing 40 or 48 or 25 or (the Pentagon says) one. Gen. Kimmitt, military moron, puts it in perspective, saying the “actual mosque structure itself” was not damaged. So that’s ok then. We’ll see if the dead-children pictures on Al Jazeera get the same distribution here as the crispy-mercenary pics did (I looked at 2 of the 16 pictures before I had to stop). Winning hearts and minds, one rocket attack on a mosque at a time. After a year of occupation, do we still not know when afternoon prayers are? In the afternoon, I’m guessing.

OK, maybe socialized medicine is evil. A deal with a private company put tv’s in hospital rooms. Only trouble is, they have no off button and run 15 hours a day. And the patients have to pay £3.20 a day. If they don’t, they get one hour free, and 14 hours of advertisements for the service and hospital announcements.

Prom season is coming up, and this year the fad is Botox injections under the arms to prevent sweating.

At a Mississippi high school, Antonin “Fat Tony” Scalia says that people don’t revere the Constitution like they used to. As he was saying this, a federal marshal was forcing reporters to erase recordings of the speech.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Thou shalt not be negative

The NYT says that Dick Cheney proposed a gas tax on his own in 1986 that if in effect now would be costing more than the plan they’re falsely claiming Kerry had. Cheney: “Let us rid ourselves of the fiction that low oil prices are somehow good for the United States.”

2/3 of companies operating in the US paid no corporate income taxes 1996-2000.

The California Supreme Court upholds treating a fetus as a separate entity under the state’s version of the thing just passed federally. The court says “There is no requirement the defendant specifically know of the existence of each victim,” which is ridiculous as a legal principle, and throws around the phrase “disregard for life” a lot, which rather misses the point. I mean in this case the guy beat and then shot his girlfriend. That’s not disregard, which is defined as “paying no attention to”; the guy was paying a great deal of rather specific attention to taking his girlfriend’s life.

Preview of the 9/11 Commission report (which we now know the Bushies intend to look over very very carefully before releasing it oh say a month after the elections.

AN ARMED SOCIETY IS A POLITE SOCIETY: The Israeli police commissioner has called on Jews to carry guns for Passover. Also matzoh.

The British Methodist church held a contest to find an 11th Commandment. “Thou shalt not be negative,” the idiots chose as the winner. Runners-up: Thou shalt not consume thine own bodyweight in fudge; Thou shalt not dump your lover by text; Thou shalt not dance like your dad; Thou shalt not hold loud conversations on thy mobile phone in a public place.

With all the bitching about illegal aliens getting driver’s licenses in California, guess who supports a bill to do the same in Florida? Jeb Bush.

Robert Fisk says the US has moved Saddam Hussein (remember him?) to Qatar. Actually, he may not have been in Iraq since December. This is why the US gave him POW status; otherwise it would have been illegal to remove him from Iraq. They didn’t bother telling the royal family of Qatar.

China declares that it has the right of veto over changes in Hong Kong’s governance, such as directly electing the chief executive, as democracy activists are demanding. Under the handover agreement, China has no such veto.

The US ambassador to Pakistan threatened that if they didn’t hunt down Taliban & Al Qaida types, the US would send in troops.

Monday, April 05, 2004


Paul Bremer has announced the creation of an Iraqi Ministry of Defense. Smart-asses are pointing out the irony of the occupying authority announcing a ministry to defend, presumably, against occupation by a foreign power.

Bremer also described Monsieur al-Sadr as an “outlaw,” although he failed to explain which law he is out of. I assume the demonization of Sadr is part of the ongoing attempt to find that one guy who, if they arrested or killed him, all their troubles would come to an end. And good luck with that.

Safire today says that the debate over whether Bush failed to heed warnings about 9/11 is “ancient history.” True (if you have the same idea of what “ancient history” is that a 12-year old has, Bill), the debate should have happened 2½ years ago. When it would have been attacked as unpatriotic. Thus following the Bush admin policy of heads I win, tails you lose.

Speaking of ancient history, congrats to the Toledo Blade for the Pulitzer for the series mentioned here on Vietnam war crimes. Still waiting for the results of the Pentagon investigation of that one. Last week Jim Lehrer mentioned it for the first time, and then asked why “you may be hearing about it for the first time.” He did not pick up a mirror and start cross-examining himself.

Revenge attacks by US forces in Fallujah are called Operation Valiant Resolve. There’s some guy whose whole job is to come up with those names (although the first attempt was Vigilant Resolve, which was dropped for obvious reasons), and he’s paid more than any of us. Also, note that we’re back to bombing people from the air. Robert Fisk: “The helicopter attacks in Shoula looked like a copycat of every Israeli raid on the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, Iraqis are well aware that the US military asked for, and received, Israel's "rules of engagement" from the Sharon government.”

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Spending time with their respective families

Bumper sticker: “Defeat Bush again.”

The NYT casually mentions that Sharon threatened to cut off water and electricity to Gaza if there are attacks after Israel withdraws. I once asked if his plan was to turn Gaza into a bantustan or a free-fire zone; I evidently neglected the alternative: Warsaw ghetto.

By the way, Sharon’s threat to assassinate Arafat was phrased in Jewish-stereotype-speak: he said that Arafat was a “poor insurance risk.”

The Observer says that GlaxoSmithKline and others have been testing AIDS drugs on orphans, including 3-month old babies, black and Hispanic kids in a Catholic aid center in NYC. These are tests of drug toxicity and tolerance, things like, Hey, let’s see what happens if we double the dose. Normally such tests would require parental consent, but the city of NY gave its consent for children under its control to be used as guinea pigs.

The Duma will water down its ban on demonstrations. 2 steps back, 1 forward.

And a similar dance move in China, where they have released 2 mothers and a widow of Tiananmen Square victims.

NYT: “Two Bush administration officials in charge of a widely criticized program that is supposed to help sick nuclear weapons workers are leaving their jobs, the Energy Department said on Friday. ...The two officials took the brunt of criticism from lawmakers this week after it was disclosed that a $74 million program to aid nuclear weapons workers sickened by on-the-job exposure to toxic chemicals had paid out a single claim, $15,000, to one worker. Joe Davis, an Energy Department spokesman, said of the resignations, "The fact of the matter is that they want to spend time with their respective families."”

Bush is trumpeting his first-ever monthly increase in jobs. Looked at a little closer, they’re all part-time jobs, presumably with no benefits.

The former British ambassador to the US says that Bush asked Blair to support an invasion of Iraq 9 days after 9/11.

For whatever it’s worth, when those Russian secret agents go on trial in Qatar, their defense team will include former US attorney general Dick Thornburgh.

The Bush campaign has emailed Republican congressmen telling them what to say about the environment: global warming has not been proved, air quality is 'getting better' and has nothing to do with asthma in children, the world's forests are 'spreading, not deadening', oil reserves are 'increasing, not decreasing', the EPA is lying about water pollution, and the 'world's water is cleaner and reaching more people'.

So that’s all right then.

12 years ago, Slovenia erased the names of all non-ethnic-Slovenes from government records, turning them into Orwell’s famed unpeople. No pensions, no drivers licenses, health care, etc. There was a referendum today to restore their human rights. It failed. Miserably.

Not to be confused with Slovakia, whose elections today were also pretty egregious in their results.

Protests related to the US shutting down that newspaper in Iraq have now resulted in dozens of demonstrators being shot dead. You’ll remember that the reason given for shutting the newspaper was that it had incited violence (for which no evidence was adduced), so, well, whoops. Allegedly people in the crowds attacked British troops with guns and RPGs, which is possible, but no Brit suffered so much as a scratch, so I think we’d all be excused a little agnosticism on the question.

And here’s an AP story suggesting that the propaganda wing of the CPA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bush “re”-election campaign.

What I said

WaPo headline: “Bush to Announce Plan To Double Job Training.” Well, sure, the only jobs the Bush economy is creating are part-time, so people’ll need two jobs, so....

And the Post reporter on the Duh beat informs us, “Attention Deficit Linked to TV Viewing.”

Friday, April 02, 2004

Email from an aeolist

The Grandiloquent Dictionary. You can download the whole thing as a pdf, and I’d suggest you do so, because you may see an increase in these emails of my lexiphanicism as a result of finding this thing.

In 2000 Bush said Clinton should “get on the phone” and demand that OPEC not cut oil production. OPEC just decided to cut oil production and Bush is...?

A quote I somehow missed: Health & Human Services Sec Tommy Thompson went to Iraq, inspected a hospital and said Iraqi hospitals would be ok “if they just washed their hands and cleaned the crap off the walls.”

Good Krugman column on Bush admin lying.

The US military is showing the troops in Iraq “The Passion of Christ.”

A school district in Indiana bans pink clothing because they somehow think pink is a gang color. (Reminds me of a gay comedian saying that he used to get beaten up a lot in school; the other students had all learned how to fight from watching martial arts movies, while he learned how to fight from watching West Side Story).

R’s in the House have quashed subpoenas, and thus any meaningful investigation, into the White House lying to it about the cost of Medicare changes. The White House is concerned with separation of powers, it says, it’s one of those “principles,” it says. R Congresscritters are evidently not similarly concerned with being lied to with impunity, which is also a separation of powers concern, among other things. Bill Thomas refused to subpoena the liars in question “to satisfy someone’s whim or curiosity” about whether they were lied to.

Indonesia’s about to be a problem again. Elections Monday.

A new record, it is believed, in Britain: a 99-year old is charged with murdering his wife, 87, after 68 years of marriage, which to be fair does seem like more than enough. The retired butcher cut her throat.

Governor Ahnuuld is being sued by one of the gropees, a British tv presenter, for suggesting that she was askin’ for it.

The US says that it would prefer Israel not assassinate Arafat, as Sharon threatened to do (did it even make the US newspapers?) a couple of days ago. This is in marked contrast to the veto of a UN resolution against the assassination of the near-blind quadriplegic (which I just spelled correctly on the first try, hurrah for me), which was evidently the reason for the little bbq in Fallujah, which ullamah are condemning as un-Islamic--mutilating the bodies, not the killings. Sharon is also threatening to ethnically cleanse 10s of thousands of Palestinians living “illegally” in Israel once the Wall is complete.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

It will be at the time and place of our choosing

Washington Post headline: “Kerry Criticizes President, Then Undergoes Surgery.” I guess Clarke should count himself lucky.

The Post also has excerpts of a speech Condi Rice was scheduled to give on 9/11/01, which the White House has been trying to suppress. She does talk about counter-terrorism: “that is why in May the president appointed Vice President Cheney to oversee a coordinated national effort to better protect the U.S. homeland against a terror attack using WMD.” That’s the committee that never actually met. But mostly she accused the Clinton admin of ignoring the real threat, presumably Soviet ICMBs, by neglecting Star Wars.

The LA Times website has some pictures of the Fallujah incident, although, LA being LA, they pay as much attention to the damage inflicted on a car as to the humans. That poor, poor SUV, it never hurt anyone.

Actually, the NYT’s photos are better, if that’s the adjective I’m looking for.

References to the bloody history of the American occupation of Fallujah leading up to yesterday have been at best parenthetical in the press reports, and at worst quite lazy. The NY manages two mentions of the April 2003 incidents when American soldiers twice fired on demonstrators, killing a number of people, and I say “a number”--and “lazy”--because the two Times stories give two different numbers, and one repeats the pretty-much-disproven claim that the soldiers had been fired on first. Eventually the army realized that killing 19 (or whatever) civilians (and later on 8 Iraqi cops) is not something you recover from, PR-wise, and mostly pulled out of Fallujah. The army has been replaced by the Marines, which last week decided to reassert the American presence by patrolling the streets, lifting their legs to mark their territory, firing rockets at houses, and other macho but pointless Marine-type activity.

Fallujah highlights a new military idiot, or maybe an old one I haven’t noticed before, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the guy who said two days ago how great everything was going in Fallujah. Today: “We will be back in Fallujah. It will be at the time and place of our choosing.” Hey stupid, the place will be Fallujah, that’s the point. Every quote I’ve read from this guy is over-the-top tough-guy bullshit; he’s a walking--well, swaggering--caricature.

Spitting in the face of Bush’s last remaining ally, some assistant secretary of state has gone to Congress to accuse Britain of “going wobbly” in failing to eradicate the poppy in Afghanistan.

The US ends foreign aid to Serbia for its failure to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal. And today NATO forces (Americans) failed for the 583rd time to capture Radovan Karadzic, using explosives to break into an Orthodox church, injuring the priest and his son.

In further religion news, the state of Baden-Wurttemberg bans Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in school. Crosses are of course fine. The state’s education minister says the scarf is part of the history of women’s suppression.

And a Saudi cleric blames a drought on women not wearing veils.

And Bahrain bans The Passion of the Christ.

The Russian Duma bans demonstrations near Russian pipelines, kindergartens, embassies, major roads, hospitals, stadiums, concert halls, religious centers, and official buildings, and rallies that “run counter to the Constitution” or threaten “public morality.”

This fall, Harvard will have more female than male undergrads.

I’ve said that the US relied for some of its claims about Iraqi WMDs on a single defector it never interviewed. German intelligence agents are now saying they told the CIA that the defector, a brother of a Chalabi aide, was not credible.