Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Or maybe he was just trying to order some freedom fries

Bush’s “let freedom reign” doodle is niggling at me. As a phrase, I don’t know what it means: freedom isn’t something that reigns. To a large extent, freedom is about carving out spaces where larger structures do not reign. I smell something religious in the phrase but I can’t pin it down. In my last, I quoted a Guardian writer saying the phrase showed Bush’s image of himself as a George Washington leading subject peoples to liberty. It’s hard to tell what his self-image actually is. Even a simpleton--and a highly unreflective simpleton--like GeeDubya, but really anyone who has to campaign for high office, making endless speeches about their own virtues, and then living out life pretending to be president, being on tv a lot, seeing posters of himself and so on, well, their ego and self-image develop an architecture of a complexity the rest of us simply do not have.

It’s unclear to me how he envisions the “liberty” to which he plans to bring, if not the world, at least the entire Middle East. He uses the word democracy, but it ain’t that. He has no interest in elections, representative government, the rule of law, etc in this country, so he certainly doesn’t plan to bring that to the Arabic (and Persian) peoples; the contempt for “nation-building” he evinced during the 2000 campaign is still intact. Possibly he intones the sacred words--freedom, democracy--without envisioning anything, abstract thought not being his strong suit. But I suspect he sees it as some sort of conversion experience, where the removal of tyrannical rulers transforms their liberated subjects in the same way he claims his decision to stop drinking and come to Jesus transformed him.

OK, I’ve just googled “let freedom reign,” and there are an odd assortment of sites indeed, 3,140 of them. It’s a phrase mostly used by right wingers of various persuasions, for sure, and it still sounds to me like people misheard the last words of that song with the terrible lyrics and bad grammar sung to the tune of God Save the Queen, but I don’t think this is an innocent phrase.

Still more googling shows that many people, presumably not right-wingers, wrongly think Martin Luther King used “let freedom reign” rather than “ring” in the I Have a Dream Speech. And really, you don’t want to know how many people think he said “let freedom rain.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Premature Iraqulation

In Turkey, Bush said, “Turkey meets the EU standards for membership. The EU should begin talks that will lead to full membership for the Republic of Turkey.” Chirac tells Bush to butt out.

Wonkette nicely deems the early underhand of sovereignty “Premature Iraqulation.” The media seem to be only mildly embarrassed that they’re using the words “transfer of sovereignty” that the Bush admin put in their mouth, just as they did last year when they talked about the “end of hostilities”, and then the “end of major hostilities”, for months after it was obvious that nothing had ended at all. The media’s stenography habit must end. Even Bush isn’t going to be so stupid--although I’ve been looking back at some of my old emails and no prediction I’ve ever started that way has turned out not to be confounded by Bush’s actual stupidity--as to start in with the “mission accomplished” rhetoric; he’s talking about “freedom” a lot, but that won’t survive Allawi’s determination to impose martial law, even with someone’s else’s military. I suspect the media are so anxious to move on from the Iraq story so they don’t have to pay for expensive campaign coverage and expensive war coverage at the same time that they’ve adopted the Bush admin’s happy-talk exit strategy as their own.

If it were a true handover of power, it would be frightening. Imagine you were going to take a vacation in Hawaii starting Wednesday and were suddenly told on Monday that you had to get to the airport NOW NOW NOW! You’d be in a panic, you’d forget to pack something important, it would be utter chaos. Now running a whole, like, country is probably a bit more involved than a vacation, so if this were real... And don’t look for Bremer to break in the newbies on how to use the xerox machine, he’s already skedaddled.

Owie Allawi said today, “God and truth are with us.” That and a dime’ll get you a cup of coffee. And “we will not forget who stood with us and against us in this crisis.” That’s the sort of talk you like to hear on the first day of “full sovereignty.” And if it sounds familiar, think “you’re either with us or with the terrorists.”

I’m blanking on which columnist (or even which paper, but I think in Monday’s NYT) who wrote that Allawi needs to demonstrate his admin’s independence by picking a fight with the Americans, one he can win. This isn’t independence, this is good cop, bad cop, a farce instantly recognizable as a farce even to Iraqis who haven’t seen an episode of NYPD Blue. And no kabuki display of “independence” can get around the fact, as Robert Fisk puts it, that “Allawi is relying on the one army whose evacuation he needs to prove his own credibility.”

Possibly the WaPo is trying to say something: an article on the reappointment of Christian loon W. David Hager to the FDA panel on reproductive drugs (see the article Dana Milbank piece on the “administration ritual: disavowing the conclusions of official documents.”

Boldly extending the habeas statute to the four corners of the earth

Paul Krugman quotes Bremer’s aide in imposing free-market capitalism on Iraq talking about the need to educate Iraqi businessmen away from the paradigm of cronyism. That aide: Ari Fleischer’s brother. Cronyism bad, nepotism good?

Actually, Science news, tampering in God’s domain division: the first successful pregnancy after ovary transplants make menopause a thing of the past. Oh fine, and let cancer survivors give birth. Can’t they just fucking adopt?

Evidently, Governor Ahnuuld has not actually switched the capitol’s toilet paper, that was an inside joke between him and a reporter, dating back to the election, when the Gropinator evaded questions about what he was willing to cut until the reporter suggested the tp thing.

The pope apologizes for the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the 4th Crusade.

OK, Daily Kos has bothered to do the research I didn’t yesterday on the media parroting the Bush line:

Washington Post: “Despite the end of the occupation …”

Knight Ridder: “Iraqis see hope in end of U.S.-led occupation”

Los Angeles Times: “…end of a deeply divisive American-led occupation…”

San Francisco Chronicle: “the U.S.-led military occupation had formally ended…”

Miami Herald: “…ended its occupation of Iraq…”

Associated Press: “…the end of the American occupation …”

Arizona Republic:: “…the 160,000 foreign troops in Iraq were transformed from occupiers into guests of a U.S.-backed government.”

Monday, June 28, 2004

Bitter differences

Slate says exactly what I had meant to say yesterday, but forgot during an unusually slow download: “Evidently operating under the assumption that it was his call to make, Bush declared in Ireland yesterday an end to the "bitter differences" between the U.S. and Europe over the Iraq war.”

Bush also used the NATO summit to declare that he was willing to forgive France, Germany and Turkey for their unseemly displays of independence.

Isn’t it insulting when he praises Turkey for being “secular in politics”? They must know that he only finds secularism admirable in non-Christian countries.

And what luck that the Iraqi Resistance captured one of the few Muslim US marines. I’m guessing he’s not going to get the whole-hog Jessica Lynch treatment, but will be quietly ignored until his body and/or head are recovered (by the way, Fahrenheit 9/11 fortuitously has some shots of a public execution by beheading in our good ally Saudi Arabia.)

Something else I forgot to say. A message to Jack Ryan on his having to step down: remember, crying is so unattractive. You twat.

Bremer has issued 97 edicts, and put people into government jobs on long contracts, to impose his ideology on Iraq for years to come. And given that power to others in the future, like an election commission that can simply ban parties and candidates. Edicts include capping taxes at 15%, protecting intellectual property (the occupation government really is a Mickey Mouse outfit), requiring automobile drivers to keep both hands on the wheel and stop honking the fucking horn...

Some of the people Bremer hired are inspectors-general to guard against corruption, or override the puppet government, as the case may be. So it’s ironic that he lost rather a large sum of Iraqi oil money. The stories disagree on the amount, but the word “billion,” possibly in the plural, is involved. Have you checked in all your pockets? Have you checked in all of Halliburton’s pockets?

Bremer has left Iraq, appropriately, like a thief in the night, quite possibly in the trunk of a car like Chalabi did when he fled Jordan. Bremer “handed over sovereignty” two days early because he has done such a terrible job that any ceremony would have been blowed up, which tends to look bad on CNN.

I can’t seem to get the video at this site of Bush’s interview with Irish tv, which I gather is a hoot and possibly a holler. The connection keeps dropping, and has for 2 days now. Maybe your luck will be better (link below). Hasn’t shown on CSPAN either, and no transcript that I know of. The embassy made an official protest that the interviewer was rude to Mr. Sensitive. And they cancelled an interview with Laura Bush. Possibly at some time in the future, Bush will declare the end to his bitter differences with Irish state television.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Nothing contrived in what he said

You can’t judge by the Bay Area, but Fahrenheit 9/11 may be quite the little phenomenon. I didn’t expect a long line for the 4:30 show, but there it was, with the 7:00 already sold out, and this mind you at just 1 of the 3 theaters within a 5-mile radius showing it on 4 screens. I felt like I was on line for a Star Wars movie.

The movie is fun, intellectually lightweight, sure, but great fun, although Moore has some problems in the second half dealing with the war itself. None of it will be new to you; hell, every quote he uses from Bush was one I’d used myself (and, indeed, the Daily Show). The film is like an illustrated pointillist version of a blog. In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure how many of the points he touches on very briefly will be lost on the uninitiated. But the fun to be had at Shrub’s expense is endless, and every piece of footage is a gem. This is actually another of the film’s problems: Moore (legitimately) takes strong and yes sometimes unfair positions on many things, but in the end can’t decide if Bush is evil or a clown. Then again, neither can I.

Speaking of evil clowns, this article neatly sums up the Bush failure to properly handle North Korea.

Disease has hit South American cocoa crops. There could be a...world chocolate shortage. Oh dear god no.

The US bombs Fallujah heavily, again. And Yowie Allawi makes another speech about how he will defeat the insurgents. The Indy notes that to attend while he makes these defiant speeches, one must first pass through 4 checkpoints entirely manned by Americans, with no Iraqi officials anywhere to be seen. The Indy seems to imply that Allawi’s complete lack of troops somehow deflates his boasts about defeating his enemies.

Governor Terminator has not backed down on his cruel imposition of single-ply toilet paper on state employees (he himself uses a twig to wipe between his singularly muscular buttocks and sees anything else as girly)(ok, I made that up, but for a minute you believed me, didn’t you?), but has had to back down from his plan to let animal shelters kill strays in less than the current statutory 6 days, to save money (3 days, including days when the shelter is closed, was his plan). However, strays will now be allocated to girly-man state employees to wipe their singularly flabby buttocks. I have just grossed myself out.

The Nation’s Naomi Klein says that the US office which overseas reconstruction spending in Iraq has hired the incredibly scummy British mercenary firm Aegis to protect the office’s employees from “assassination, kidnapping, injury and embarrassment.” Klein says the latter is impossible, since these people have no shame, having stolen $184m from drinking water projects to use for the new US embassy, which is already in a fucking palace so what more do they need, 3-ply toilet paper? Klein suggests that the reason almost none of the allocated money has actually been spent is to give Negroponte $15b worth of leverage to make the “sovereign” Iraqi government dance to his tune (his tune, judging from his time in Honduras, is whatever music death squads play when they shoot at people’s feet to make them “dance”). She notes that insurance for the foreign contractors costs up to 30% of payroll, for obvious reasons, plus security at 25% of total spending, and say 20% lost to corruption.... And latest Halliburton story: when their $85,000 trucks get a flat tire, they abandon them rather than, say, carry spare tires.

The same article coins a brilliant term to use instead of the obviously inaccurate “handover”: underhand. In fact, go read it now.

Cheney says about Fuckgate (he won’t admit, or deny, having used the word), “I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue.” In other words, Leahy can go have a frank exchange of views himself. Cheney as usual misses the fucking point: he doesn’t just need to apologize to the senior Senator from Vermont, he needs to apologize to the Senate.

The White House’s response to Fuckgate: Shit happens.

Alan Simpson’s response: Cheney’s obscenity “comes from the gut” (well, Cheney was certainly speaking out of some part of his gastro-intestinal tract....) and “there was nothing contrived in what he said.”

Saudis including Crown Prince Abdullah are blaming the recent bombings on Zionists rather than (or possibly in addition to?) Al Qaida.

Times story: “A LOTION made from human breast milk is a highly effective treatment for warts, Swedish doctors have discovered.” The story does not explain how they happen to have discovered that. A breast pump connected to a water pistol at the office Christmas party would be my guess, knowing Swedish doctors.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Vexatious litigation

According to the Post, which was clearly enjoying itself, Cheney’s exact words to Leahy were “Fuck yourself.” The Post includes the words, but the NYT merely says that Cheney used “an obscene phrase to describe what he thought Mr. Leahy should do.” Cheney was later defended by none other than Orrin Hatch, who is a fucking Mormon. The WaPo notes that just before the cursing out, the Senate voted 99-1 for the Defence of Decency Act (which is the ten-fold increase in FCC fines for any broadcaster who quotes “Dick” Cheney--you knew anything passed 99-1 couldn’t be good--the one is John Breaux, mostly because it was attached to a defense budget bill), while the Times notes that earlier in the day, Tom Daschle called for increased cross-party understanding. Well, you can’t accuse Cheney of being unclear, but that’s probably not what Daschle meant.

The Post also got a little snarky towards Wolfowitz, who said a few days ago that the reason reporters in Iraq weren’t talking about how things are improving is that they’re afraid to leave their hotel rooms because of the near certainty of being killed or kidnapped. The WaPo points out that Wolfy, when he visited the country: “is completely unafraid to leave the hotel. In fact, he travels about the entire country, as he did last week. Unlike reporters, however, who tend to travel on land, his feet never touched the ground except in a U.S. military base or secured zone. Probably just for convenience, Wolfowitz prefers to travel by air, in a fleet of Black Hawk helicopters with several Apache attack helicopters -- bristling with machine guns, rockets and Hellfire missiles -- flying escort. Wolfowitz choppered from the secured airport to the secured Green Zone downtown, a distance of maybe 10 miles as the RPG flies. (Cabs are expensive.) Heading north to Mosul? No problem, take a C-130 transport plane to the U.S. base and meet with Kurdish leaders in a totally secured area. Need to trek to Basra? The C-130's the way to go. Get some nice views of the country and a good feel for what Iraqis are thinking.”

Last month I mentioned that the US military was running out of bullets, domestic suppliers not being able to keep up with its 2 billion bullet a year habit. So they’ve turned to...Israel. Now some congresscritters are suggesting that maybe shooting Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan with Israeli-made bullets is not such a good idea.

In turning back a lower-court decision to force Cheney to give up records from his energy policy cabal, the Supreme Court rather insultingly referred to the case as “vexatious litigation that might distract it from the energetic performance of its constitutional duties.” Assuming you consider environmental rape and general evil-doing to be among the government’s constitutional duties. The Court is basically saying that the executive is not above the Law, where the Law is a Platonic ideal, just most of the piddling, vexatious, actual laws. The point of returning it to the lower court is to postpone shining light into Cheney’s dank lair (I picture it like the “Stonecutters” episode of The Simpsons) until after the elections.

Speaking of unseemly events on the bench, an Oklahoma judge used a noisy penis pump to masturbate during trials, including a murder trial. The OK. attorney general wants him removed because any red-blooded American judge should ejaculate constantly during murder trials without resorting to any mechanical devices. Must be a fairy.

Sadly, Jack Ryan is pulling out of the Il. senatorial race, meaning there may be no more stories combining the words “Jeri Ryan” and “public sex.”

Bizarre story that a Paraguayan vice president supposedly assassinated in 1999 actually died having sex.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The flesh of collaborators is tastier than that of Americans

Stupid Hollywood idea of the week: a live-action movie of “Speed Racer.”

As the Daily Show noted at some length, Bush again mispronounced Abu Ghraib, adding an f and a whole extra syllable, which Jon Stewart commented might lead some people to think that he doesn’t give a fuck.

Bush’s new restrictions on Cubans living in the US visiting or sending cash to relatives in Cuba can only appeal to Cuban exiles who have no real connection to Cuba except hatred for Castro. The Bushies get to decide who counts as family for them to visit (not aunts and cousins, for example), and limits visits to 14 days every 3 years, with no exceptions for family emergencies. See what I mean?

The Afghan government says that that commander must have misspoke when he said he’d cut the heads off 4 Taliban. The NYT says the commander “retracted his account,” but leaves out his exact phrasing. How do you “retract” saying that you and your men beheaded 4 people? Doesn’t seem that much room for error.

The Afghans also say that those 11 Chinese road workers killed earlier this month weren’t killed by terrorists but by business rivals. Is that better or worse?

Slogan of the day, from Iraq: “The flesh of collaborators is tastier than that of Americans.” Many Iraqi police were killed today, because the billions we’re spending on the security forces somehow never involves them getting, say, kevlar, or real weapons. “Even farmers are often better armed than the police,” says Patrick Cockburn in the Indy.

Next week there will be a NATO summit in Istanbul. Its time and location were changed in December to allow for the creation of a Bush ad: he will sneak off to Iraq for the handover. It may not be quite the production number Karl Rove had planned 6 months ago. It hasn’t been announced since it may yet have to be called off, for obvious security reasons. Hell, at this stage Istanbul may not be safe enough.

Cheney’s spokesmodel says that the Dick had a “frank exchange of views” with Pat Leahy. Although reports are still contradictory as to whether he told Leahy to fuck himself, or merely “fuck you.”

Pete Coors, who makes the beer I’d be boycotting if I drank beer, is running for the US Senate for Colorado, on a platform of reducing the drinking age and not knowing who the prime minister of Canada is. Sounds about right for Colorado.

Bush actually approves of condoms in an anti-AIDS speech. Too bad his new rules require government censorship of any written or other materials issued by any HIV group receiving any government funding, including a ban on “obscene” or “sexually suggestive” material (like teaching how to use condoms), and mandatory inclusion of anti-condom propaganda. In their war against accurate information, the censorship includes questionnaires, so that people can’t be asked if they do, you know, dirty filthy things, unprotected. All that’ll be left standing, of course, is abstinence-only “sex ed.” Bush is also shifting AIDS money away from social services entirely to medicine (i.e., to his good friends in Big Pharma).

Governor Terminator has saved California from bankruptcy from switching all the toilet paper in the Capitol to one-ply.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Torture is not a part of our soul and our being

Bush: “The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.” To quote the Daily Show again, “Just because torturing prisoners is something we did, doesn’t mean it’s something we would do.”

London Times headline for the story of the little problems in Jack Ryan’s Senate race: “‘Star Trek’ Sex Row Warps Race to Rule Senate.” From Ryan’s website: “As an elected leader, my interest will be in promoting laws and educating people about the fundamental importance of the traditional family unit as the nucleus of our society.” Really, no divorced politician should make such smug comments, much less someone who tried to get 7 of 9 to have sex with him in public. Unless that’s what he means about educating people about the importance of marriage: “wait, you mean when you’re married, there’s sex involved?”

Did the R’s really just keep the entire Senate waiting around for a day just to prevent John Kerry casting a vote for veterans’ benefits?

Yowie Allawi sort of backs away from his comments on imposing martial law: “No, I didn’t specifically say martial law meaning martial law.” It all depends on what the meaning of... no, we won’t go there. Evidently the US has told Zowie that total sovereignty doesn’t include the right to declare martial law. But we can. Also, Allawi may not have noticed, but “martial” anything (from the Latin for Mars, god of war) requires an army, which he doesn’t have. On the hopelessly inadequate police and military, read this.

Blogger Bob Harris notes that the DOJ memo saying it ain’t torture unless it causes “severe pain akin to organ failure” (doesn’t say if the penis is an organ, ‘cuz penis failure can be painfully embarrassing, or so I’ve heard) was written by Jay Bybee, since appointed by Bush to the 9th Circuit, another reason not to give Bush the keys to the courts.

I don’t have the stomach to deal with yesterday’s release of every document that doesn’t make Bush look too bad on treatment of POWs, while continuing to withhold most of the ones the D’s on the Judiciary Committee wanted to look at. I’m not too impressed by Bush’s order to try to be treat prisoners inhumanely unless it was, like, inconvenient (“to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity”). Actually, the precise justification for torture during interrogation was “military necessity,” so really this is meaningless. Rumsfeld, who likes to stand (he has a standing desk), complained that prisoners weren’t forced to remain standing for longer than 4 hours, showing a complete lack of understanding of the nature of the “stress positions” torture, which is keeping someone in a single position for hours; not like standing at a desk and being able to change which muscles are stressed at will. He also, I think it’s Wonkette who says, introduces the Rummy standard for torture, and we know he’s tough, by god he’d volunteer to be at the bottom of a naked human pyramid, and forced masturbation, he eats forced masturbation for breakfast.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Cos you like to hurt people

Bushie types on McNeil-Lehrer today trying to explain how they got the world terrorism report wrong. Look, even assuming this was an honest mistake, the people who are supposed to be the government experts on terrorism never questioned figures supposedly showing that deaths from terrorism had halved in 2003. They shouldn’t have needed to go back over the figures, they should have known it couldn’t have been correct. Idiots. Morons.

Then there’s another Iraq-AQ connection, where they insisted that a colonel in the Iraqi militia was the same person as an AQ “airport greeter” because they mistook the names--Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi versus Hikmat Shakir Ahmad. This is not just a mix-up, because it is precisely the same inability to understand how Arabic names work that let some of the 9/11 hijackers into the US even though they were on watch lists. So you’d think that would have focused some attention on getting it right.

Berlusconi blames his losses in the European parliamentary elections on leftist vote fraud.

Beheading: it’s the new rock ‘n roll. The South Korean, of course, and this: “Afghan troops beheaded four Taliban after guerrillas cut off the heads of an interpreter and an Afghan soldier who were separated from a patrol. "They cut off their heads with a knife, so when our forces arrested four Taliban we cut off their heads too," said a government commander in Zabul province.”

The BBC puts excerpts from Clinton’s Panorama interview online, but not the good bits, so we can’t see or hear him erupt at David Dimbleby:

“And that’s the difference in me and the people that were after me. I actually cared about what happened to those people, and I wanted to be President to help those people. And that’s what the fight was about. Now that doesn’t justify any mistake I made, but look how much time you spent asking me these questions, and this time you’ve had … that’s cos what you care about, cos that’s what you think helps you and helps this interview. I care about what happened to the people that I fought for. And that’s why people like you always help the Far Right cos you like to hurt people, and you like to talk about how bad people are and all their personal failings, and (David interjects) and that’s why you. Look, just – you made a decision to allocate your time in a certain way. You should take responsibility for that. You should say yes, I care much more about this than whether the Bosnian people were saved, and whether he bought a million people home from Kosovo, than whether twenty seven million people had jobs at the end, and whether we moved a hundred times as many people out of poverty as Regan and Bush. This is what I care about.”
(transcript at above link)

Call me Ishmael

A Japanese high school student fell asleep in class. His teacher didn’t think he was contrite enough, and ordered him to write an essay in his own blood. The teacher has since apologized to the boy and his parents, but I think to really show his contrition....

The Post at length on the miserable failure of the CPA in Iraq. Incompetence, wasted money, money not even spent, junior Republicans given jobs way beyond their abilities, Iraqis given police jobs without any training, etc. Worth the time to read.

A Supreme Court decision today that patients denied treatment by HMOs can only sue in federal court effectively removes any incentive for HMOs not to deny treatment, since they no longer face punitive damages. No recent Supreme Court decision will kill as many people as this one. The specific case was on the Texas Patients’ Bill of Rights, which Bush as governor took credit for, even though he opposed it. His admin also opposed it in the Court.

The Court also ruled that police may order people to identify themselves. This means that the police may arrest people who refuse, who may then be fined or imprisoned for refusing to divulge their names. I think we can all spot a slippery slope when it’s as obvious as this one is. And yes, the guy in this case did have a slightly funny name, Larry Dudley Hiibel (but was arrested in Winnemucca, Nev., which rather trumps Hiibel in the funny name department).

And what about giving a pseudonym? It’s not illegal to use a false name unless for purposes of fraud, so I don’t see how they can criminalize someone calling themself by any name they choose (a look at my email address book indicates nearly half use a version of their name not found on their birth certificates, including diminutives, one whatever the opposite of diminutive is, and two fake middle initials).

Monday, June 21, 2004

Permissible limits

Saddam Hussein will be transferred to Iraqi custody. Only, like “sovereignty,” he will continue being exactly where he is, guarded by Americans. No word on whether they’ll tell any Iraqis where it is that he’s being held.

And it’s pretty much official: Iraq will have martial law. First the Iraqi defense minister, then Owie Allawi used the term. Or, as Bush will call it, “freedom.”

They also want to reimpose the death penalty, which Bremer suspended, and use it on Hussein.

The US has lost control over the road between Baghdad and the Baghdad airport. American contractors, CPA officials, etc, can now only use it 6 hours a day.

I knew the thing about the Saudis killing every last Al Qaida militant when they dumped Paul Johnson’s body (but what about the head?) was a tad on the convenient side. Now it seems they may not have even recovered the body.

Zowie Allawi also supports the airstrikes on Fallujah, evidently agreeing with Mark Kimmitt, M.M., that “The collateral damage estimate was within permissible limits.”

A Sy Hersh piece says that Israel concluded a year ago that the US had lost in Iraq, and embarked on its own plan, which was to strengthen the Kurds, giving itself a base to spy on Iran, and keeping Iraq fragmented, as well as stirring up Kurds in Syria and Iran. Combine this with a NYT piece Sunday on how Kurds are beginning to force out Arabs Hussein had put into Kurdistan to Arabize it. There are Kurds in refugee camps, and for a year the US has been stalling their return. They are now returning.

Good op-ed piece on how little difference there is between Kerry and Bush on defense issues.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

They've already taken a couple of aircraft out

Shrub rushes to make clear his horror at the most recent beheading of an American, knowing that he needs to exploit this one quickly before the next one comes. Within 6 months they won’t make the front page anymore, within a year they’ll get the same level of attention as soldiers in Iraq get now. Bush says, “America will not be intimidated by these kind of extremist thugs” but does not say what sort of extremist thugs it WILL take for him to get the fucking point. Slate notes that none of the stories on the beheading were datelined Saudi Arabia. Incidentally, Johnson was wearing another of those orange jumpsuits.

American Catholic bishops meet and almost but not quite endorse withholding sacraments from politicians who are “cooperating in evil” by supporting paedophilia. Did I say paedophilia? I meant abortion.

The Justice Department decided to ignore the condition under which a Dominican judge extradited a man to the US, that he not be subject to the death penalty. Although the US had presumably agreed to the condition, once they got their hands on the guy they decided it was “not binding.” When the Federal District judge in Brooklyn wasn’t going along with this, they reversed themselves.

What was it, a week ago that we learned there had been 50 attempts early in the Iraq war to assassinate Iraqi leaders, all failed? So today they drop bombs on Fallujah to assassinate Zarqawi, and guess what? c.22 innocent bystanders dead, no Zarqawi (and what’s Zarqawi supposed to have done that was actually worse than what we just did trying to kill him?). One reason so many died was that there was a second missile strike several minutes after the first, presumably intended to kill anyone trying to help the victims. This is a standard Israeli tactic. In terms of an inability to learn from mistakes, this reminds me of that baby bird that flew in here 20 minutes ago and kept flying against the window, which kept being solid, accomplishing nothing except to provide a metaphor. Now if I can just come up with a way to make a metaphor out of that innocent, just-looking around inspection my cat made when I let her out of the bathroom after I’d finally gotten rid of the bird, the whole experience might be worth it.

The Clinton interview to watch is not the 60 Minutes one, but one with the BBC’s David Dimbleby, not that we’ll ever get to see it, in which Dimbleby keeps asking him whether his contrition about Monica is real, until he gets really pissed off.

Since Israel announced massive bribes for Gaza settlers who leave, a bunch of the settlers who had left are trying to move back in order to be bribed to leave again.

So the civilian CIA contractor who beat a prisoner to death with a flashlight had a record of spousal abuse, shooting at his neighbor’s car, and was kicked off the Hartford PD for beating up a guy. The CIA knew this, and still hired him.
Link

Even ignoring the ineptitude on 9/11/01 that led Cheney to think two planes had been shot down as per his orders, is this the sort of phrasing that’s appropriate when discussing planes full of innocent civilians you’ve just ordered killed: “it's my understanding they've already taken a couple of aircraft out.”?

Out of nowhere, Putin says that he gave information to the US about Saddam planning terrorist attacks in the US, and it’s such a transparent lie that it gets almost no coverage on the first day, and no follow-up.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Best evidence

A message to Shrub from out here in the land of logic regarding this statement: “The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda.” That’s not a “reason.” A “reason” involves logic, or factual evidence. It is not simple assertion or, worse, repetition. Your saying it again is not proof. (Ok, now is it really just me, or does everything this week echo British sketch comedy? Was I the only one thinking of this?


What’s Newt Gingrich up to these days? Posting reviews of novels at Amazon.com.

Bush cited the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq as the “best evidence” of a Sadam/AQ connection. The problem is that Zarqawi operated out of Kurdistan, where Saddam’s writ did not run. Also, Zarqawi is in Ansar al Islam, not Al Qaida. But other than that, it’s the best evidence.

Some rather hilarious slash pathetic attempts by Bushies to blame the media for their difficulties. Cheney blames the NYT for reporting accurately that the 9/11 commission found no AQ-Iraq tie: “The fact of the matter is, the evidence is overwhelming. The press is, with all due respect, and there are exceptions, oftentimes lazy, oftentimes simply reports what somebody else in the press said without doing their homework.” I’m sorry, WHO is accusing WHO of laziness and not doing THEIR homework?

And there’s a creepy Rummy thing about how the media is stabbing the military in the back by talking about torture. Click here
and start at “coalition forces cannot be defeated on the battlefield. The only way this effort could fail is if people were to be persuaded that the cause is lost or that it's not worth the pain, or if those who seem to measure progress in Iraq against a more perfect world convince others to throw in the towel.”

Condi today tried to spin the 9/11 Commission. When they said there was no connection at all between Saddam and AQ, what they actually meant to say, according to her, was that Iraq didn’t have operational control over AQ. Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton knocked that particular straw man down.

By the way, the vocabulary word of the week at the White House: opine.

R’s on the Senate Judiciary Committee vote not to subpoena Ashcroft for the memos he committed contempt of Congress by not handing over in the first place. They said he was so cooperative that subpoenas were not necessary. He said that he’s waiting for the subpoenas before cooperating.

I’ve always said that Bush could have been blown out of the water after 9/11 by somebody running the footage of him being told about the planes hitting the Twin Towers, then calmly reciting a book to a classroom of children (I say reciting because I still don’t believe that he can read) for, what was it, seven minutes, in a split screen with what was going on in NYC. I gather the classroom footage is used in the Michael Moore film. Bush’s explanation to the 9/11 Commission: “his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis”. If we believe this story, rather than that Bush simply failed to understood what was going on, how does he come off better? 3 or 4 weeks after 9/11, I commented on how the Bushies were trying to make Americans *feel* that it was safe to fly again, rather than trying to make flying actually safe. What Bush is now saying is that was his strategy from the start: instead of trying to find out what the situation was (especially essential since he was the only person with the authority to order civilian aircraft shot down, although he now seems to have passed that authority to Cheney, illegally I think), he immediately tried to reassure America that this situation he knew almost nothing about was nothing to be alarmed about. Bush in a nutshell.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

For the worst possible reason--just because I could

Secretary of War Crimes Rumsfeld ordered that a detainee be hidden, at the request of the CIA because it was really important to question him about attacks in Iraq that might be linked to Al Qaida, not be registered or issued an i.d. number. This is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. And then, of course, they forgot all about him for 7 months. So he was never even questioned. Rummy today seemed rather vague as to the reasons for making someone a “ghost detainee.” Presumably he signed off on making a human being disappear without giving it 2 seconds thought or asking a reason. Rumsfeld has probably never lost a second of sleep over any decision he’s ever made. (Later:) he did suggest that one reason was to ensure that interrogation wasn’t interrupted. By what, telemarketers?

The extent of the outrage, or lack of it, can be seen in the results of attempts to make sure abuses not be repeated. The Senate voted down a provision to ban private contractors interrogating prisoners 54-43, on basically a party-line vote.

And since then, one contractor with the CIA has been indicted for assault, which seems an odd charge since he beat a prisoner to death over a two-day period.

Conservative groups have created an Ethics in Nominations Project, to press for the confirmation of right-wing judges. The head of this group is the highly ethical Manuel Miranda, who you will remember as the Frist aide who had to resign because he’d broken into the computer files of Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee. Can’t make this crap up.

Ben Affleck refused to accept his Razzie Award for Worst Actor of the Year in “Gigli,” so it was auctioned off on EBay for $1,375. Someone has too much money.

Slate (and everyone else) notes that while Bush yesterday claimed, “This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda.”, he actually did so in the letter to Congress asking it to authorize going to war with Iraq.
Also in Slate, a good analysis of the way Bush structures such statements to mislead without quite lying: putting sentences next to each other that are meant to look like part of the same thought but aren’t, phrases with multiple possible meanings, etc. This is the work of someone who has thought very carefully about how to mislead. A must-read.

You know, you expect more entertainment from a story with the headline “Eco-Terrorist Elves Are Blamed for Arson Attack.”

Clinton says he had the affair with Lewinsky “for the worst possible reason - just because I could”. In case you were wondering about the moral hierarchy of reasons for getting a blow job. He also says (this is in his interview with 60 Minutes Sunday) that the impeachment process, which he doesn’t, ahem, see “as a stain,” was “an abuse of power.” In case you haven’t gotten the equivalence Clinton is trying to create here, let me rephrase it: the Republicans impeached Clinton for the worst possible reason--just because they could.

The Daily Kos reminds us: Bush was supposed to be making a series of weekly speeches on Iraq. After the first one, where he mispronounced Abu Ghraib, there weren’t any more.

Iraq’s new defense minister says of insurgents, “We will cut off their hands and behead them.” Or maybe it was those darned telemarketers. Or eco-terrorist elves. Or Ben Affleck.

AN HOUR LATER, YOU’RE HUNGRY AGAIN: “Authorities in China shut down 215 restaurants in Guizhou province because they were mixing drug-producing poppies into meals.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

00000000

Oh, and a Roma was elected to the European Parliament for the first time, for Hungary.

As Paul Krugman notes in a column on Ashcroft (channeling the Comic Store Guy, he called him the worst..attorney general..ever), such is the man’s credibility that when he held a news conference Monday to announce the foiling of a dastardly plot to blow up a shopping mall, less than a day after the release of a DOJ memo justifying torture, and following his usual practice of doing this sort of thing as a distraction (the announcement came 7 months after the arrest), no one treated it seriously. If his own paper, the NYT, believed that there had been a real terrorist plot to blow up a mall, it would have placed the story on the front page, not on the bottom of page 14.

Yeah, I knew it, there’s another Confederate widow out there.

The Israeli attorney general has decided not to prosecute Ariel Sharon or his incredibly slimy son for taking bribes. Which has to piss off the guy who will still be prosecuted for bribing them. They’re essentially saying that not only did he bribe Sharon, but did it so incompetently that Sharon didn’t even know he was being bribed. Sharon, who gets to keep his job, presumably won’t mind being labeled too stupid to realize that the people giving his son all that money expected something in return.

I know it would be too much to expect this administration to actually stop terrorist acts, but now it can’t even count them? And took credit for reducing terrorism.

Article on the Pentagon’s new ability to spy secretly on Americans.

The 9/11 Commission, you will have heard, said today that there was no link between 9/11 and Iraq, despite what Bush said yesterday and Cheney a day before. Hopefully somebody will conduct a poll to determine how many Americans are still ignorant of this; the results will no doubt be depressing, but at least such a poll couldn’t be kept secret, like the one Bremer conducted of Iraqis which was suppressed when it revealed that they would feel safer if US troops would just get the hell out.

What you may have missed, given the press coverage, is the finding that 9/11 was implemented in reaction to Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000, and was originally planned to take place during a Sharon visit to the US.

An Italian senator in Berlusconi’s party is nearing the end of his trial for Mafia associations (his 3rd trial, after convictions for accounting fraud and extortion). So Berlusconi has made the man a delegate to the Council of Europe, which gives him immunity--right in the middle of the trial!

The first virus for mobile phones has been created. Heh heh heh.

Correction: Chris Bell, who is filing the corruption charges against DeLay, is not an ex-Congresscritter but a lame-duck Congresscritter, thanks to DeLay’s gerrymandering of Texas congressional districts.

Bush in support of his stem-cell research ban: "Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man." I’m assuming Bush is now a vegetarian.

(Insert clever segue here): the US army will charge a captain who shot a wounded Iraqi. “Military officials told NBC's Jim Miklaszewski that the soldier was apparently acting in good faith, shooting the badly wounded driver to "put him out of misery."

Time magazine discloses Cheney’s undisclosed location, and the White House is so pissed off: “One White House officials fumed Monday night: "TIME magazine would have revealed the secret location of Anne Frank, if they knew it."” This is the only known instance of Dick Cheney being compared to Anne Frank.

During the Cold War, those guys who sat in underground bunkers in Montana were prevented from launching missiles by a sophisticated 8-digit code. Unfortunately, according to one of those very guys, the military didn’t really like being slowed down and set the code to 00000000.

Monday, June 14, 2004

F****** is F******. And it's going to stay F******

European Parliament elections today. In Britain: hammering, bloody noses, etc etc. There should be a prize of some sort for the first newspaper that says that the voters gave Tony a bitch-slapping. Actually, ruling parties just about everywhere are pounded, including in France and Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland, so it’s not just about Iraq. The Greens got 11% in Germany. Berlusconi violated electoral laws by ranting at reporters while voting was going on, outside a polling both yet, after having text-messaged everyone in Italy with a toy, I mean phone, capable of receiving text messages the day before.

In all those Eastern European countries having their first Euro-elections, turnout is under 30%.

Interestingly, Sinn Fein has won seats in the European Parliament representing both Britain and Ireland.

Britain also returned 12 members of the UK Independence Party, who plan a guerilla campaign against the Parl.

The torture story keeps moving forward, fleshing out what we already know and pushing it back further in time. Newsweek pushes torture discussions back to November 2001, when the CIA got more heavily involved. The NYT says that complaints about abuse of prisoners were made months earlier than the Pentagon has admitted.

TWO THUMBS UP: And Lynndie England isn’t going down without a fight. Her list of potential witnesses for her hearing reads like a blackmail threat: she plans to call Cheney, Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, whose 2002 pro-torture memo (warning: pdf, 2.9 mb) Marc Cooper notes will disqualify Gonzales from the Supreme Court)(I’ve only taken a quick look, but it looks even more like a smoking gun than the CIA memo), and a certain inmate whose photo we’ve already seen, for whom a witness box would be a step up. She could strip the Bush administration’s torture policy naked, put a leash on it and drag it around the courtroom, metaphorically speaking.

The West Midlands police have recruited the first ever one-legged policeman in Britain. I can’t be the only person to have read that and thought of this Peter Cook/Dudley Moore sketch.

Saw Afghan president-with-a-furry-hat Karzai on McNeil-Lehrer today, saying that elections would go forward in September. This would violate the electoral laws, since voter registration isn’t close to complete, but Margaret Warner didn’t know enough to ask him that question.

Waiting to see if the shit hits the fan over Bush trying to get the Vatican to campaign for him, and to do so by further attacks on gay marriage. The key Bush quote was “not all the American bishops are with me.” Considering he’s running against a Catholic, this is gross.

The Supreme Court refused to remove “under God” from the pledge of allegiance, by ruling that the little girl’s father may be her father, but he doesn’t “count” as her father. Fortunately Scalia had to recuse himself, or we’d probably have wound up with “one nation under our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Latest stupid unnecessary Hollywood remake: Bullitt.

In Russia, someone stole a porta-potty, loading it onto a tractor-trailer. And yes, there was someone using it at the time.

A former Congresscritter will file an ethics complaint against Tom DeLay, shattering the ethically-challenged “gentlemen’s agreement” not to file such charges. In response, Congressasshole John T. Doolittle says that he will file charges against some Democrat, but he doesn’t know who. He actually admits that this is pure retaliation--“you kill my dog, I'll kill your cat.” is how he charmingly puts it, presumably after spending too much time with Bill Frist. Link


From the Sunday Times:

Cheap laugh of the week.

The people of F******, Austria, have rejected plans to change the name of their village (pronounced Fooking and spelt with fewer asterisks). The population of 150 considered a new name to stop their road signs being stolen. "Everybody here knows what it means in English," said mayor Siegfried Hoeppl, "but for us F****** is F******. And it's going to stay F******." Similar votes have taken place in the Austrian villages of Vomitville and Windpassing.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Ratting out the paedophiles

Have I been using the British spelling of paedophiles all this time? Anyway, some unnamed bishop (or somesuch) on McNeil-Lehrer today referred to informing the appropriate authorities as ratting out priests. Others still treat it as their personal right to decide what crimes to report to those legally responsible for enforcing the law.

That might have been the stupidest thing I heard out of the Catholic church today, but for the canonization of Padre Pio (see the London Times for Saturday on this, it’s hilarious), who died in 1968 and who had stigmata, which even the church once realized came from nitric acid, and could be in two places a the same time. Now it’s an opportunity to sell cheap trinkets to tourists.

Speaking of cheap trinkets, a crewman of the Enola Gay has auctioned off parts of the Little Boy nuclear device, 2 plugs used to keep it from going off in the plane. The lucky buyer is a scientist who paid $167,000 (after the US government lost a lawsuit trying to stop the sale because 1) it’s government property, 2) it endangers national security, 3) they wanted to use it in the Smithsonian), because Hiroshima was what inspired him to become a scientist. So amorality isn’t confined to Catholic bishops.

The queen is giving out honors to celebrate her Jubilee, including to Mick Jagger and Harold Pinter, who is to be made a Companion of Honour in a ceremony expected to be marked by long awkward pauses (what, you thought I’d make a Mick Jagger joke rather than a Harold Pinter joke?).

London Times headline: FBI and CIA Call a Truce on Leaks, or So a Leak Says.

The loya jirga is over. The UN and the Afghan government allowed war criminals to participate, women were present but had no power, there were armed thugs everywhere to intimidate delegates, and everything was decided before the thing even opened. So while it doesn’t much resemble democracy, it does look an awful like a Republican National Convention.

The partisan fighting has again postponed the start of investigations of the intelligence failures of 9/11, and all legislative measures to prevent another Enron have also stalled out (the role of Phil Gramm, whose wife worked for Enron, in preventing more transparent accountancy rules, is especially egregious). The US just cannot learn from its mistakes.

And it exports them, if you follow a Guardian columnist who blamed the current image problems of the Blair government on its having followed Bill Clinton’s spinmeistery a little too slavishly. Last week they were caught trying to find out if members of a group of survivors of the Paddington train crash, who are lobbying for better safety measures, were Tories, in order that they could smear.... train crash survivors. This week the fuss is over Blair’s evident attempts to get a bigger role in the Queen Mum’s funeral (actually, although I can’t be arsed to read the 29-page file of documents Downing Street just released, it does look like he was just trying to find out what he was supposed to do. Still, it brings him into conflict with the royal official whose title is Black Rod, and you can imagine how much fun the press is having with that).

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Fits like a white stetson

WaPo: “"Our 40th president wore his title lightly, and it fit like a white Stetson," said Bush, who is wearing such a hat in the main photo on his campaign Web site.”

Bush of course is most famous for wearing a flight suit, which didn’t fit especially well, even with the sock stuffed down the front.

Also, how well does a Stetson normally fit? If it doesn’t come down over your eyes it pretty much fits, right? And do white ones fit better? I’m sorry, this makes no sense at all.

The NYT says that early in the Iraq war, there were 50 air strikes aimed at assassinating various Iraqi leaders. All failed. Many killed civilians.

Frank Rich mentions something about Reagan I’d meant to contrive a way to work in: when he returned from a presidential tour of South America, he expressed amazement that they were all individual countries. Another I haven’t found a way to use: his claim that people used food stamps to buy a pack of gum and then use the change to buy vodka (food stamps don’t work that way). And about his radio baseball announcer days: someone, Bush the Elder I think, mentioned his ability to make people think they were seeing the game just as Reagan was. Except Reagan wasn’t at those games, he was making up the details based on wire reports. As good a metaphor as any. Reagan’s much-vaunted ability to make Americans feel good about themselves again--nobody ever says how he was supposed to have done that. My answer: anaesthesia. The kindly grampa act was to assure the public that they need no longer pay the sort of attention to what their government was doing in their names that had been felt necessary since Watergate.

Speaking of paying attention, here’s an articleabout the secret American gulags and the “renditions” of people, some after being found innocent by courts, to countries where they will be tortured, such as Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman. What excellent company we are in. In Reagan’s time, it was a secret fraternity of death squads, now it’s torturers. Now, torture is bad, I’m presuming I don’t have to tell you, and encouraging other countries to torture is bad, but one of the reasons the Bushies do things this way is to keep the extent of torture secret. Which means they’ve put a blackmail weapon into the hands of, well, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, etc.

Bush in the Vatican asked that US bishops be ordered to attack gay marriage, abortion and Democrats even more.

The difference between regulation of voting machines and slot machines: Link
Of course slot machines are just a method to separate chumps from their change, while voting machines....never mind.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Drubbing--a word you don't hear used nearly often enough

I hope everyone enjoyed the 7th day of Reagahannakuh.

Local elections in Britain. The press are divided on the results, with the Guardian saying that Labour was given a beating, the Times saying it was given a kicking, the Indy that Blair was given a bloody nose, the Guardian that he was badly mauled, and UP that he was given a drubbing. Much of the backlash is attributed to a dislike of violence...in Iraq anyway. Labour came in third in total votes.

The Dutch government also did badly in European elections because of Iraq.

Kerry really is as stupid as I thought. He evidently asked McCain to be his veep and was turned down. So now he looks desperate, uncommitted to his own alleged principles, and a loser. I’m sure Ross Perot is available.

The Israeli government, which seems to subscribe to certain stereotypes about the Jews, is offering Gaza settlers $300,000 per family to get out.

Ashcroft refused, as I’ve said, to invoke executive privilege or anything else to justify his stonewalling (not even “writ of douchebaggery”? asked Jon Stewart). American Prospect has turned up this quote from a Senator Ashcroft in May 1998: “Part and parcel of the President's abuse of executive privilege is his unwillingness to acknowledge the mere fact that he has asserted the privilege.”

Afghan elections are being postponed by at least a month. In addition to the violence now escalating against foreigners, there’s the fact that none of the countries which pledged money to pay for the elections, including the US, have paid up a single cent. Almost as if our objective there wasn’t democracy after all.

That might provide comfort for you

After this post, I promise to stop with the “Saint Ronny” thing (unless I think of something else, of course). For a replacement, what does everyone think of “Darth Gipper”?

Marc Cooper observes the crowds lining up to look at the Gippercoffin: “Never before in human history has the funeral of any Head of State been attended by SO many people clad in tennis shoes, jeans or shorts.”, suggesting that they aren’t mourning so much as “cruising one more pop culture happening.” Like a Lord of the Rings premiere.

However let’s not underestimate the danger of pop culture. These are the top 2 stories in the Europe section of the Indy:

Fourth Milan death linked to Satanist rock band
11 June 2004
New details have emerged this week of an alleged cabal of young Satanists connected to Milan's heavy metal scene, who are accused of murdering at least two people while drunk and high.

Woman denies part in fatal 'Jackass' stunt
11 June 2004
A British waitress working in Austria has denied charges of urging a drunken restaurant customer to ram his head into a wall, in a lethal stunt apparently inspired by the cult MTV show Jackass.
(Later:) Cooper’s right about the “mourners.” I know because C-SPAN ran something like 5 hours of people walking past the casket. You can always tell when the sweeps period is past. It wasn’t the most exciting television ever, but if Saint Ronny of the Jelly Beans rose from the dead, C-SPAN was going to be right there.

Best quote from one of the gawkers was someone who said that Reagan was the greatest human being who ever lived.

Elsewhere in Dress-Down Thursday news, Jacques Chirac was the only G8 leader who showed up in a tie, bucking Bush’s attempt to enforce Cowboy Casual in an attempt to achieve that natural macho crap seen in the picture of Saint Ronny of Death Valley Days featured on the covers of two newsmagazines (only to discover, just like his father did, that if you have to work at it, you’ve already failed). Bush got his own back by feeding his guests cheese burgers and forcing Chirac to pretend he liked it.

I haven’t mentioned the story about the US soldier who was told to pretend to be a prisoner at Guantanamo, just like Robert Redford in Brubaker, and was beaten into a pulp, so that he had to be invalided out. It would be funny, except it’s not.

In a story I can’t read yet, a London Times columnist says, “For the second time in a year, George Bush and Tony Blair have declared "mission accomplished" and a "victory for the Iraqi people." Another group of local people has been told to pretend to run the place.” Explains my sense of deja vu. Remember when Pete Wilson was running for president how he kept holding ceremonies announcing he was running for president, because no one had paid attention to the previous one?

Evidently there’s an antidote to chemical attacks by terrorists (mustard gas, sarin, etc). It has FDA approval, but the US Army isn’t letting anyone buy it, including local first responders, who still have to use soap and water.

PISSING CONTEST: The Post says “A military intelligence interrogator also told investigators that two dog handlers at Abu Ghraib were "having a contest" to see how many detainees they could make involuntarily urinate out of fear of the dogs”. It’s nice to have a hobby.

At Bush’s press conference at the G8, he defined his terms: “And we're waiting for the Iraqi government to assess the situation and make requests to the free world. We'll respond to their requests when sovereignty is fully transferred. That's the definition of full sovereignty. You see, when a government is fully sovereign, they then make requests on behalf of their people.” The question was about how none of the other G8 countries were offering troops, debt relief or anything else. Bush’s answer, evidently, is that they’re just waiting to be asked.

And there was this exchange:
Q Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law. So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. If I -- maybe -- maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you. We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at those laws, and that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions out of -- from me to the government.
Wasn’t that a good question? Do I have to tell you the reporter wasn’t American, but British? You’ll note he specifically said it was a moral question, but Bush answered as if it was a legal one. When His Holiness George W. Bush avoids a moral question, you know you’re in trouble. At this point, he’d obviously prefer a math question to a moral one.

The Post report (which is what had me search out the transcript, began, “President Bush said Thursday that he expects U.S. authorities to follow the law when interrogating prisoners abroad, but he declined to say whether he believes torture is permitted under the law.”

On that subject, Jess Bravin of the Wall St. Journal has yet another article, enumerating some of the 24 torture methods approved by Big Bad Apple Rumsfeld in December 2002 for Guantanamo: stress positions" for as long as four hours, hood them and subject them to 20-hour-long interrogations, "fear of dogs", "mild non-injurious physical contact," "deprivation of light and sound," "use of hood as long as it does not restrict breathing and under direct observation," "removal of clothing" and "forced grooming (i.e., shaving of facial hair)." The Post has an article on the use of dogs, without addressing the status of dogs in Islamic cultures, which might make them scarier (or their use more demeaning) than they already are.

http://www.private-eye.co.uk/content/showitem.cfm/issue.1108/section.D-Day

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I will gladly pay you 5 Reagans Monday for a hamburger today

It’s funny, no wait I mean sad, because it’s true.

Tried to watch McNeil-Lehrer today, but they seemed to be showing re-runs of the Princess Di funeral. Saint Ronny of AIDS, What AIDS? has been flown to DC, the city he loathed, and will then be flown back to California, which he liked in spite of the many pollution-causing trees (my mother asks who gets his frequent flier miles) for burial in Simi Valley, where I believe his pall-bearers will be the Rodney King jury.

There’s a lot of silly talk about putting Saint Ronny of the Laffer Curve on the dime or the $10 bill or something. Given the record deficits he ushered in, I say put his picture on all the imaginary money.

Zowie Alawi turns out to have been involved with terrorist bombings in the 1990s. So let’s call him a freedom fighter, in a fitting tribute to Saint Ronny of UNITA.

The British health secretary has received a bit of criticism for saying the government should leave smoking alone because it’s one of the few pleasures the poor can afford.

Florida’s secretary of state (the office used to be independent, if you can call Katherine Harris independent, but is now directly under the Jebster) is purging voter rolls of alleged felons, using highly faulty lists. Wouldn’t it be funny if it came down to Florida again?

No, no it wouldn’t.

An Austrian woman gets married with a 1.7 mile-long veil.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Working towards His Fraudulency

More details on the torture memo. No more talk about rotten apples is permissible. A must-read, and must-vomit-afterwards.

I’ve just heard a useful phrase for attempts to blame subordinates for torture, other policies: “power-laundering.” The article was not about Rumsfeld and Bush, but Saddam. There’s a problem with trying Saddam: no written “smoking guns,” no one willing to testify against him. Or be a judge. Or a prosecutor. The only Iraqi prosecutor whose name is public is one of the Chalabis.

I was wondering who would be the 1st to use the obvious pun: Mourning in America. The winner is: Wonkette. Who notes this interview on Fox, which has run out of famous Reaganites, with a Marine guarding the coffin:
Fox: Did you ever meet Reagan?
Marine (who appears to be approximately 18 years old): Uh, no, sir.
Fox: How much of an honor is it to be doing this duty?
Marine: It's a great honor.
Wonkette: Clearly, things are getting desperate; at some point, they may have to interview someone who didn't like the guy.

Condi Rice: “Yes, I do think that President Bush is inspired by that kind of plain-spokenness [by Saint Ronny of the MX Missile], about that willingness to tell the truth.”

Zimbabwe to nationalize all land. That should go well.

The Wall St. Journal’s follow-up article Tuesday quotes a Pentagon spokesmodel on disagreements over the torture rules: “I am sure that in any broad group like that you will have dissenting opinions that go to the left and to the right.” I quote that in order to point out that he considers the question of whether to torture people to be a “left-right” one. Others have pointed out that the head of the panel, Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker, is outspokenly Evangelical Christian. Billmon.org alternates pious quotes from an interview she gave with passages from the memo. And not to suggest that this is a religious war or anything, but William Boykin was in charge of the actual torture. And actual torturer Charles Graner: “The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'”

Ashcroft refused to release the torture memo to Congress although, psst, if you know any Congresscritters, tell them to go to
http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/military_0604.pdf
PDF format, 2 mb (nothing that’s not in the articles, though).
Neither would he give the basis for his refusal (the president can order him not to give testimony or release documents he claims are covered by executive privilege, but if there is no such order, Ashcroft was in contempt of Congress, and Ashcroft refused even to say whether such an order had been given or not). It was a sorry performance, arrogant while at the same time looking like a puppy about to be hit with a rolled-up newspaper. Chuck Schumer of all people became the latest Congresscritter to defend the use of torture.

This story is taking responsibility for torture further and further up the food chain. But the Justice Dept memo has a flaw: it fails to understand political realities. Even if you agree with their position that the president has an inherent authority to authorize torture, in the real world Bush would never sign such an order. He might wink at it, who will rid me of this turbulent priest-type situation, but he’d never leave a smoking memo or sign anything, probably never have to talk about it, because Rumsfeld etc would know what he wanted done and just do it. In Germany, this was called “working towards the f├╝hrer” and is the reason there is nothing directly linking Hitler to the Holocaust. In practice, this means that the legal protection that the memo claims exists for torturers acting under presidential orders can’t be invoked.

The LA Times has a story about John Walker Lindh. We saw footage more than 2 years ago of Johnny Taliban being treated much as the Abu Ghraib prisoners were. We saw a CIA agent threaten him with death, on film, and somehow it was a big surprise 2 years later that we did the same thing to people who weren’t US citizens.

The Bush campaign has been trying to get churches to campaign for him. This would endanger their tax-exempt status, it was pointed out, so the R’s have decided to fiddle with the law by letting them break the law a few times (two deliberate endorsements per year and one “unintentional,” whatever that might mean) without being punished. Well, as they like to say about torture, if the president orders it, how can it be illegal?

Today is the 50th anniversary of Joseph Welch’s “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” response to Joseph McCarthy.

The UN resolution gave the Iraqi “government” no veto over the activities of US troops except to kick them out altogether, but gave it control of its own alleged army. What happens if they decide to invade the Kurdish areas (the Kurds got screwed, which was so inevitable and was done so parenthetically that I’ve put the fact in parentheses) while the US military is still in the country, we don’t know.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Stupid things

2 leftist radio stations in semi-fascist Italy that planned to broadcast the protests against the Bush visit had their power mysteriously cut for 4 hours.

Amidst the eruption of what Wonkette calls Gipperporn, it’s nice that Christopher Hitchens hasn’t turned into a complete loser after all. He reminds us of something I’d forgotten, the single most terrifying moment of the Reagan lurch towards world annihilation, when it became clear that he didn’t know that once you launched the ICBMs, they couldn’t be called back. And that he claimed the Russian language had no word for freedom, which would presumably mean that no matter how mad they got at France, they’d still have to call French fries French fries.

And Marc Cooper gives another vitriolic obit for Saint Ronny of Bitburg. “The mask of equanimity was ripped off American politics, and the winners in our society were finally given permission to publicly gloat. All of a sudden it was socially acceptable to denounce the poor, to blame the victims, to celebrate and even promote inequality.” I’m beginning to recall the 8-year long ulcer that man gave me. One thing I now realize is that Bush’s lies about the threat of WMDs falls into a pattern of pretending that imperialist wars are about the defense of the Heimat from direct threat. Remember the air strips in Grenada? And just how far was El Salvador (or was it Nicaragua?) from Harlingen, Texas? But then even Hitler pretended that Poland had actually attacked Germany first.

Here’s that Wall St. Journal story on the torture memo.

Clinton’s memoirs are out in 2 weeks. It’ll be interesting to watch his memory and that of Saint Ronny of Voodoo Economics fight it out.

A fake family planning center in Louisiana is being sued for trying to dupe women into delaying abortions until it became illegal for them to have one. Link

Bremer bans members of “illegal militias” like Sadr taking part in Iraqi elections for at least 3 years. People whose militias are now pretending to be members of the Iraqi military, like Alex’s droogs in Clockwork Orange, don’t count, of course.

Germany’s government is moving towards gay marriages, although it will be a fight. And France just had its first one.

Iraq has nearly as many people in its Facilities Protection Service (which guards oil pipelines, not toilets), as it does in the entire police force (75,000 v. 90,000).

An indelible stamp

Billmon on Saint Ronny of Star Wars: “Yes, he was as ignorant and stubborn and incapable of rational thought as our current president, but he wasn't arrogant - or at least, he didn't come across as arrogant. He lacked Bush's infuriating sense of entitlement, and his nasty temper. Reagan smiled, he didn't smirk.” Billmon goes on to remind us of Saint Ronny of Plausible Deniability’s bloody foreign policy, etc. Reagan was arrogant, by the way, being as unwilling to listen to opposing views as Bush. Marc Cooper comments in his blog that the tv coverage has been adulatory and unthinking in a way appropriate to a monarchy with state-controlled media.

Me, I’ve watched none of it (except with the sound off while talking on the phone). I said to people yesterday that there were only two ways to deal with this: unplug the tv and go into hiding until it’s all over, or plunge into the cheese-fest, searching out the worst of it (George Will on Fox, say) and just wallowing in it, yelling sarcastic comments at the tv. You’d think I’d be doing the latter, looking for material to use here and enjoying myself; hell, I would have expected me to do that. But I just couldn’t face the possibility of hearing Reagan described as America’s most popular president.

Also, a little error at my cable company gave me temporary access to HBO, and there was a whole season of the Sopranos to watch, and can you believe that ( ) got whacked? I thought about flipping back and forth between that and Fox News for a compare and contrast between Tony S. and Saint Ronny of Arms for Hostages, but decided not to do that to myself.

Really, can you fuckin’ believe that ( ) got whacked?

Actually, who needs Fox when you have John Kerry planting big wet ones on the dead ass of Saint Ronny of I Can’t Recall. Some excerpts from his statement: “he taught us that there is a big difference between strong beliefs and bitter partisanship.” “He was our oldest president, but he made America young again.” (yeah, crying and shitting itself). “Our prayers are with his family, and the wife he loved in a way all the world could see.” (No that was Al Gore, and it still makes us shudder). “Today, from California to Maine — 'from sea to shining sea' — Americans will bow their heads in prayer and gratitude that President Reagan left such an indelible stamp on the nation he loved."” (Something like the stain Clinton left on a certain dress). And Kerry has decided that the respectful thing to do is not to campaign this week (you mean he was campaigning before?).

The word of the week continues to be “optimism,” which is short-hand for “leftists run down the United States.”

Sharon gets his cabinet to pass his alleged Gaza disengagement plan, which requires the removal of not a single settlement or settler, each of which will require a separate cabinet vote. It’s a recipe for failure, you have to assume deliberately so. In exchange for the crappy original plan, now watered down to nothing, Bush gave in to Israeli demands on several key points, including denying the Palestinians a right of return. Someone needs to ask him whether that still holds.

Bush admin lawyers issued a brief before the invasion of Iraq saying that it was ok for Bush to order torture as part of his “inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign”, and anyone who followed such an order would be immune from prosecution. They could argue that they were just following orders or claim good faith. (Note, however, that the Wall St Journal has only seen a draft version). The brief includes a list of approved torture methods, which the Journal doesn’t have, although it does allow for the use of drugs. It also says that torture could be justified as self-defense, and that mere infliction of pain and suffering doesn’t necessarily even count as torture.

Another Al Qaida operative turned himself in in 2000, offering to give information, only to be told to go away. Link

LeftI says that John Walker Lindh’s plea bargain included him signing a statement that he had never been mistreated by the US military, which he obviously had been.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Every effort was made

I hope you people aren’t looking to me to say anything bad about Saint Ronny. Oh dear god my poor heart is breaking. We shall not see his like again.

OK, I’ll stop that now. Really, how lucky for Reagan’s memory that the current “president” is the only human being on the planet that could make Reagan look, well okay not good, obviously, but not the worst president ever. I mean, Reagan is up there with the worst of them (Coolidge and Buchanan), but holy shit. Bush says of Reagan (who he doesn’t really remember, having spent the ‘80s sniffing coke off a hooker’s ass in the backroom of a Houston bar)(but then again, Reagan’s popularity came at the height of crack cocaine. Coincidence? I think not): “He always told us for America the best is yet to come.” Wrong again, oh orange-haired one.

Some, but by no means all, of the British papers avoid using the word “cowboy” in the headlines about Reagan. And the Telegraph has a story “Reagan and Thatcher: ‘It Would Take a Crowbar to Get Them Apart’”. Or you could turn the hose on them.

Speaking of Reagan and cowboy, here’s the news.google search. My favorite hit is this headline from the Dallas Morning News: “He Liked Texans.” Possibly the most nauseating (although I’m accepting nominees): “Republicans, Democrats Hail Reagan’s Optimism.” (WaPo)

That does seem to be the word of the day. Via Bartlett’s: “Optimism is the content of small men in high places.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald). “Optimism. The doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly.” (Ambrose Bierce). “Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.” (Voltaire).

Since Murdoch got greedy(greedier), I have to wait 10 to 24 hours after seeing Times headlines before I can get the actual stories off Lexis-Nexis. One can only hope that “Bush and Chirac Best Buddies for Cameras” is as snarky as it sounds. (I’m told that CNN Headline News called Bush & Chirac opponents in the war on terror.) Then there’s “Scalp Hunters Take Cool Look at Cheney,” written by someone who hasn’t seen a recent picture of Cheney.

FRANKLY MY DEAR...: Just as with the Tenet, the British MI6’s new head John Scarlett, who I mentioned is the guy behind the 45-minutes claim, is facing a report on pre-Iraq war intelligence failures. The report will be written by Lord Butler.

An Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant for Achmad Chalabi’s right-hand man, the consultant Francis Brooke, for obstructing the police when Chalabi’s hq was raided. The judge said, “He stopped the raid by telling the police they didn't have the legal power to do it because he was an American and they were Iraqis.” Brooke was once paid by the CIA to work with Chalabi, and is now paid by some private company owned by a Republican. He is an Evangelical Christian who boasted to the New Yorker that he faked WMD intel he passed to the Americans. “I'm a smart man. I saw what they wanted, and I adapted my strategy.”

The Indy has a story about Niaz “I’d rather lose all my money in a casino than fly a plane into one” Khan, which notes that the US government did indeed take action against him: they put him on the list of people banned from commercial airplanes. Just in case. The Indy talked to an (anonymous) FBI spokesmodel, who says they didn’t think he was crazy, they just couldn’t substantiate his story. “Every effort was made.” Hopefully, that phrase will be very slowly, very firmly shoved up the FBI’s collective ass over the next few months.

Oh, and Congress was told about this in 2002.

Having failed to get the FBI or MI6 to listen to him, Khan proceeded to call Crimestoppers. No luck there either.

The story is beginning to move--hope the Reagan thing won’t hurt it.

Radio ad for Vernon Robinson, running for Congress in NC. This will be the most racist ad of the election cycle, I predict, and must be listened to to be believed. And Robinson is black.

Friday, June 04, 2004

But I never apologized to the Arab world

An interview Bush gave to Christian Republican newspaper editors includes this remark about Abu Ghraib: “I said I am sorry for those people who were humiliated. That's all I said. I also said, "The great thing about our country is that people will now see that we'll deal with this in a transparent way based upon rule of law. And it will serve as a great contrast." But I never apologized to the Arab world.”

Adnan Pachachi blames a “shabby conspiracy” led by Chalabi for wrecking his presidential candidacy. And insists that he was never the US’s fave. Which he was.

Saturday is the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. The LA Times has a story on the confrontation between the guy and the line of tanks. We still don’t know who he is, and no one in China, the LAT exaggerates, has ever seen the film or photos.

Speaking of anniversaries, next week is the 10th anniversary of OJ Simpson killing his wife and that guy. He says the media convinced people he is guilty because he is black, but that he has given up the search for the real killers because he is too busy raising his sons. He says he has never discussed the murders with them, because they never asked. Probably afraid to.

In a travesty of parliamentary democracy, Sharon is trying to stack his government, firing members of the cabinet who oppose his Gaza plan, which is being watered down still further even as I speak. This might get it through cabinet (might: one of them has literally gone into hiding so that he won’t receive the notification), but it would be a cabinet without backing of a majority of the Knesset. The people being fired, by the way, are racist pigs who don’t belong in public life.

Bush met the pope today (and showed up 15 minutes late). Hard to make out what was said because of the barely recognizable, mumbled, badly pronounced English....and the pope’s wasn’t that good either.

Hey, just because a joke is obvious doesn’t mean it’s not worth making.

Kerry says he would expand the military by 40,000, but, the NYT notes, won’t specify how he would attract 40,000 new troops. Or to put it another way, how do you ask the last 40,000 men to die for a mistake? I’m guessing a radio in the shape of a football.

And Rumsfeld is in Bangladesh trying to get them to send troops (for money, of course).

A federal judge rules unconstitutional a federal law banning ads on the sides of buses, train stations etc advocating legalizing marijuana.

The first former head of government tried in an American court since Noriega has just been convicted. Did you even know that Pavlo Lazarenko, former PM of Ukraine, was being tried? Money laundering, wire fraud & extortion.

The story of the Al Qaida hijacker who turned himself in to the FBI has reached NPR NBC, and the Wall Street Journal. His name is Niaz Kahn. The story I sent out was published by the Sunday Times on May 9th. Nice of the big boys to catch up.

2 cartoons:
http://www.msnbc.com/comics/daily.asp?sFile=bo040604

http://www.ucomics.com/tomtoles/2004/06/03/

Reuters: “Tesfaye Gebre Kidan, who ruled Ethiopia for a week in 1991 and then spent 13 years in hiding in Addis Ababa's Italian embassy, has died. He died after a fight with an ex-minister who also took refuge, a hospital source said.”

Analytical, magical skills

British American Tobacco has been testing yummy chocolate-flavored cigarettes. On rats.

North Korea bans mobile phones, possibly because the mysterious train bombing was set off by one.

Debate continues in the UN over authorizing the US to continue occupying Iraq. A major concession: permission won’t be open-ended, with the US able to veto a retraction. The Russians want to know who will be responsible for continuing the search for WMDs.

So the CIA installs its own puppets at the top of the Iraqi fully-sovereign-we-mean-it-why-don’t-you-believe-us government, finally winning one over Rummy, and the DCI is forced out a few days later. For personal reasons, said Bush. So many reasons for Tenet to have been forced out (fewer than the reasons for doing the same to Rumsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz, Rice, but comparing your level of incompetence to those clowns is like saying your torture wasn’t as bad as Saddam’s torture), trust Bush to claim he’s leaving for none of those reasons, but to spend more time hanging out with his son (did you hear Tenet’s speech, it was an intentional parody of such resignation speeches, a big fuck-you to Bush, I think: “Anyway, the point is, John Michael is going to be a senior next year. I'm going to be a senior with him in high school. We're going to go to class together. We're going to party together. I'm going to learn how to instant message his friends--that would be an achievement!”). Because Bush couldn’t admit an error to save his life. Of course, as Juan Cole notes in his blog, there are any number of reasons why Tenet should have resigned in protest long before now, if he had had any honor.

Uh, huh. And on the same day, Rumsfeld blames 9/11 on Tenet.

In fact, it’s not worth my effort to find the transcript (my back hurts), but I think when Bush said today that he’d never been angry with France and Chirac could come to the ranch and see some cows, he had completely forgotten that last year he’d testily announced that Chirac was banned from that edenic paradise.

Bush himself is going to Paris and Rome, requiring only that both cities be totally shut down and no demonstrations of any kind be held. Because if he doesn’t see people who disagree with him, they must not exist.

A WaPo headline shows what happens when reporters are allowed to see the Harry Potter movie, even though it gets them all over-excited: “CIA's New Acting Director Is Known for His Analytical, Magical Skills.”

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Not everyone has a burning bush, period.


Creepy, creepy, creepy: WaPo report a Dept of Labor pamphlet telling religious groups how to apply for gov money for job training because “Not everyone has a burning bush to tell them their life's calling.”

Chalabi might have told Iran that the US had broken its codes, it certainly sounds like him. But the story about how we know this is hinky, and if you wanted to throw an enemy into confusion, one way would be to claim that you’d broken its codes and been reading its secret messages for some time. This could be a CIA dirty trick to get two birds with one stone. Just a possibility.

Juan Cole (juancole.com) disputes the notion that Iran used Chalabi to get the US to invade Iraq, repeating what I’ve heard elsewhere, that Iran wouldn’t have wanted to be surrounded, with the US also occupying Afghanistan. Except that if Iran was using Chalabi, it started years before then. Also, the US, as we now know even if Rumsfeld couldn’t figure it out a year ago, the US couldn’t possibly occupy Iraq and Iran at the same time. The real threat to Iran was always fairly slight, but enough to unify the country behind the hardliners. Not that I’m necessarily buying it (though the idea is amusing), but I don’t find the arguments against the theory convincing.

More convincingly, Cole floats the theory that Chalabi peddled his stories about Iraqi WMDs to Iran as well as to the US, thus impelling Iran to escalate its nuclear program.

CNN is suing Florida to get a copy of the list of supposed felons who will be purged from the electoral rolls. Although the list is public, in the sense that parties can make copies of it and journalists can see, but not copy it, Florida is claiming that letting CNN make copies would violate the privacy rights of the many people who are on the list but aren’t really felons. Really, they said that.

In case you missed it, today Bush gave the 2nd of his speeches on Iraq policy. It was emptier than the first one. He says that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march. Should freedom really be marching? And he talked about the dangers of terrorists taking up residence inside failed states. He gave this speech at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, well-known for the rapists who took up residence...oh, you do the rest, I’m tired.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A sparkle in their eye


There’s a film floating around on the web of Bush during the commercial when he appeared on Letterman, wiping his glasses on some CBS employees’ sweater. Which can’t be good for the glasses, as well as being rude. But this is the guy who goes around patting the heads of bald people. You live in a bubble that long, everyone turns into Michael Jackson.

The NYT says that the US military will no longer perform offensive operations in Iraq--y’know, going after the “bad guys,” destroying the Mahdi Army, capturing Sadr, capturing the guys who killed the mercenaries in Fallujah, and all the other stuff they promised to do--and just guard buildings and oil pipelines. So they should be able to catch up on their reading. We’ve officially surrendered. Billmon.org has a good analysis of this. He says we have the power to go in and hold any area we want, but lose it again the minute we leave. He compares this to the French efforts to hold Vietnam 1946-54, although most of us have been in classrooms like that. As I’ve said, we lost the battle for hearts and/or minds some time back. On any given day we alienate some number of Iraqis and win over exactly none, and this has gone on for months. There is no Iraqi who disliked us in January who likes us now.

Bush today on how he never had relations with that man, Achmad Chalabi: “My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven't had any extensive conversations with him.”

Both Bush and Rice insisted that the new Iraqi government are not puppets. No reporter asked the obvious follow-up: marionettes?

He also says that intelligence sources report to him that people in Afghanistan “have got a sparkle in their eye.” Presumably he doesn’t mean women, who aren’t allowed to show their eyes in public.

Does anyone remember the Republican candidate for Congress in Santa Cruz in 1982, Gary Richard Arnold? Slogan: “Looks like Lenin, Talks Like Lincoln.” It was a very safe D seat (Leon Panetta’s), of course, but this guy came to our attention because at a meeting of R Congressional candidates at the White House, Reagan told him to--and I’m quoting--shut up. This got him a lot of votes in Santa Cruz from people who didn’t realize he was attacking Reagan from the right, a piece of real estate undreamt of by Cruzians, and was in fact a conspiracy nut (Trilateral Commission). This is an exaggerated version of the love some people on the left have found for John McCain, disregarding 90% of his actual personal beliefs and policies. Anyway, the Voice brings up a possibility: if Bush wanted to stop his nosedive... Bush/McCain 2004.

If you read the WaPo story I linked to a couple of days ago about Bush lies, you must read the humorous reply by the Bushies. My favorite is where they “prove” that Kerry accused Bush of personal responsibility for Abu Ghraib, quoting Kerry thus: “It is an attitude that comes out of how we view the prisoners. It is an attitude that comes out of an overall arrogance and policy.” You’re so arrogant, I’ll bet you think this song is about you.

Trent Lott on Abu Ghraib: “Interrogation is not a Sunday-school meeting.”

Too early for the Alabama election results, but here’s a depressing AP headline: “Ten Commandments Influence Ala. Primary.” Seems unlikely; can Alabamans actually count to ten? It’s hard to count on your fingers or toes when they’re webbed.

White smoke in Baghdad. No, sorry, just another oil pipeline blowing up

The last, honest to God, we really mean it this time, widow of a Civil War veteran dies. She was 97. She married the guy when she was 21 (and already a widow), and he was 81. After he died, she married his grandson.

Despite all previous denials, Cheney was indeed involved in arranging contracts for Halliburton (Time magazine has the smoking email).

(Monday:) The wrangling over the Iraqi interim presidency is still going on. Bremer is threatening to veto any vote by the Governing Council that isn’t for his nominee. Of course, it’s supposed to be Brahimi who makes the decision, so Bremer would be vetoing a non-binding, irrelevant vote by a puppet government for a ceremonial, temporary office in another puppet government. About as important as winning a Golden Globe award. Today Bremer is offering a compromise candidate, a general who was imprisoned by Saddam. But before that, he was slaughtering Kurds, so...
(Later:) Wrangling over, Pachachi steps aside. The IGC is certainly throwing its political weight around effectively, considering it’s not supposed to have any. Ghazi Yawar. The last name sounds like a yawn.

Today a council member suggested that the first act of the new president should be to establish a “de-Bremerisation” committee.

Freedom returns to Gloucestershire, where the forces of oppression have allowed the resumption of the annual Chasing of a Giant Wheel of Cheese Down a Hill. And there was a streaker. Which would have livened up the dedication of the World War II memorial.

Bob Herbert in Monday’s NYT notes that a law passed in 1996 prevents prisoners in the US from suing for “mental or emotional injury,” i.e., the sort of thing that happened in Abu Ghraib, unless they were also physically harmed.

Another good Dana Milbank piece, on Bush’s use of straw men.