Saturday, July 31, 2004

Listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting

Bush starts a "Heart and Soul of America" tour. If I had Dick Cheney on the ticket, I wouldn’t be reminding people of hearts (not that their souls are any healthier, of course).

Update: that Vatican document I mentioned in my last post says feminism has created "a new model of polymorphous sexuality". Apologists for the document point to its acknowledgment that women work. Big deal. It says women "should be present in the world of work and ... have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the politics of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems." Notice how women’s functions here are all passive ones--to inspire, to promote. Clearly the real work is to be done by men. Oh, and this is priceless: women’s characteristic traits are "Listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting."

The Sunday Telegraph says that Paul Wolfowitz is dating an Arab (born in Tunisia, raised in Saudi Arabia) feminist. For whatever that’s worth.

In Chechnya, the strongest challenger to Moscow’s choice for president was disqualified from running this week, along with several other candidates.

Results matter

TRUST, BUT DON’T VERIFY: the US supports an international treaty banning production of weapons-grade uranium & plutonium, but this week decided to oppose any inspections to enforce such a treaty. Well, they didn’t believe in the inspections in Iraq, either, and that went all right didn’t it? Didn’t it? The Bushies claim that inspectors would be too expensive--too expensive, to prevent stray plutonium being sold to the highest bidder? Didn’t we just spend $200 billion on a war to prevent the smoking gun being a mushroom cloud?

Evidently, in order to participate in a program for federal employees to give to charities through payroll deductions, those charities have to promise not to employ anyone on watch lists of suspected supporters of terrorism. Blacklists of suspected sympathizers, that’s not even slightly reminiscent of McCarthyism, is it? One definition of a police state is where the police have draconian powers; another is where many non-police organizations are expected to enforce the law. Why should charities be punishing terrorist-symps? The NYT says there is controversy within the ACLU, which signed such a promise, but will not look at the lists, and will not therefore knowingly hire such a person.
Update: once it became public, the ACLU pulled out of the program, foregoing $500,000 per year.

Two days ago I said that Kerry’s refusal to say whether the Iraq war was a war of choice or necessity undermined his line about never going to war because we want to. A letter in today’s NYT points out that Kerry said in his acceptance speech, "I defended this country as a young man." That does suggest a rather expansive definition of wars we "have to fight," since Vietnam is surely the most discretionary of all America’s wars. He used to know better.

Similarly, Chimpy is now attacking Kerry with the line "Results matter," although Shrub’s entire resumé and indeed his entire life constitute a definitive refutation of that idea.

Actually in a SJ Mercury interview (registration), Kerry refuses to say the Iraq war was a mistake, and his only goal is to reduce troop levels there to somewhat below where they are now by the end of his first term, 4½ years from now. Asked how he would create the stability in Iraq that he says is required before troop withdrawal, Kerry said, "There are a number of different game plans, none of which I can put in play until I'm president. I can't negotiate this publicly, and I'm not going to." Ah, so he has a secret plan (or actually "a number" of them), just like Richard Nixon.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Never trust a text message from God

No doubt the Bushies did many sneaky things this week while the press’s attention was distracted the bright, shiny object that was, um, John Kerry, but here’s one: the EPA changed its rules on approving pesticides so that they don’t have to find out first whether they might harm endangered species.

Colin Powell, in Iraq, accuses the various kidnappers of "doing it for the purpose of returning to the past". Nostalgic kidnappings? I hope it’s not another 1970s revival: Patty Hearst, "death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people" thing. Maybe he meant the Lindbergh kidnapping, since a return to Great Depression chic, if there is such a thing, would be more within Iraqi budgets, and involve a lot less hairspray, and I’ll stop now.

A couple of weeks ago I made the case that "The argument against gay a sexist one at its base." Well, today the pope proved my point by making the obverse case, attacking feminists for "call[ing] into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and mak[ing] homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent", in other words blaming gay marriage on feminism.

Speaking of religious types and marriage: "A Swedish pastor has been jailed for life for faking text messages from God to get his nanny-lover to murder his wife and try to kill the husband of a second mistress."

Knee deep in the big muddy

The Census Bureau gave Homeland Security breakdowns of how many Arabs & Arab-Americans live in each zipcode, sorted by country of origin. HeimatSecDept claimed this was only to help it identify in which airports they should post signs in Arabic; the NYT does not say if the spokesborg who told them this kept a straight face.

The Kerryites ordered Penn. Governor Rendell to remove a pretty good line from his speech about our energy policy having been written by big oil, of big oil and for big oil (the "of big oil" part doesn’t really work). He was told it was because big oil also gave money to the D’s. Oh good.

I missed that the filmed biopic on Kerry that ran at the convention skipped his time as lt. governor of Massachusetts under Michael Dukakis (or, indeed, his time in PIRG under Ralph Nader). But then the Clinton biopic in ‘92 mentioned him standing up to his abusive step-father without mentioning that he’d been a Rhodes scholar, ‘cuz Americans don’t cotton to that there book larning. Actually, not a lot has been said about Kerry’s Senate career either (or his first wife). Instead, it’s all Vietnam, all the time. Evidently, his several decades in politics didn’t prepare him to be president nearly as much as did the several months he spent hunting Victor Charlie. He’s like one of those 40-year old failures who go on and on about their glory days playing high school football. With Kerry, you get the impression that life since The Nam hasn’t been entirely real to him.

With all the talk about Kerry distancing himself from big ol’ loser Dukakis, I can’t wait to see the same commentators point out how much Bush distances himself from the winner in that election, his own father.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

All in the same boat--just like in Apocalypse Now

(40 minutes before Kerry’s speech): The convention is almost done, and unless Kerry makes a brilliant speech for the first time in his life, I’d call it a failure. But Kerry would call it a success, because it didn’t do any particular damage, didn’t give the R’s any ammunition to replace Shove-It-gate (I wonder if it makes a difference that Cheney’s similar mini-scandal involved a phrase that can’t be broadcast, unlike Teresa H-K’s).

But the convention neither strengthened anyone’s understanding of Kerry, nor damaged Shrub. In their efforts to do no harm, they wound up doing nothing at all. In retrospect, the way to take on Bush without seeming like meanies beating up the retarded kid would have been to leave Bush mostly alone and attack Ashcroft, Rumsfeld etc.

Oh dear Christ, Alexandra Kerry is relating a story about Kerry having given mouth to mouth to a hamster. Well, I’m sure no one will make fun of that story, and we’ll never hear about it again.

(Later): Now Kerry is speaking, and it would have been a good speech, if it been shorter (although the "reporting for duty" line at the beginning had me sick to my stomach for the next several minutes). He even kind of attacked Ashcroft & Rummy, for a couple of seconds, just like I advised, before veering off.

Kerry has a good line, that the US must never go to war because it wants to but because it has to, but he always undercuts the line by his refusal to say which one of those categories the Iraq war falls into.

(15 minutes later): No, he’s lost it completely. "Help is on the way," indeed. No word on whether hope, which was on the way yesterday, has shown up yet.

He wants an America where we’re all in the same boat, like he was on the Mekong, where "No one cared about our race or our backgrounds" and they just killed gooks. Thanks, I’ll walk. I get motion sickness anyway, even without VC shooting at me.

Speaking of models of democracy, the Iraqi convention was just postponed. A Sunni party pulled out because of death threats during the meetings that were supposed to select delegates, and the meetings were held in fewer than half the provinces.

Just as The New Republic predicted, a "high-value" Al Qaida target is captured by the Pakistanis during the Dem convention (actually a few days ago, but the news was mysteriously not released until today).

The US has decided not to push for sanctions against Sudan after all, but will give it more time to stop killing black people.

The Florida Republican party is advising party members to vote absentee, because you can’t trust those machines.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Rural electrification for everyone!

Daily Telegraph: "A gang of big women is terrorising stores in Durban, South Africa, police said yesterday."

Best description of the convention, by "It’s No Exit choreographed by Busby Berkeley."

Médecins sans Frontieres is pulling out of Afghanistan. After decades of operating there, it took an American occupation to make it too unsafe. There are frontiers after all, and they were largely created by the US, which is treating aid as an instrument of war, giving aid only to villages that inform on the Taliban, having soldiers operate out of uniform, putting the real aid workers at risk. 30 have been killed this year.

After Tony Blair’s relentless smooch-fest with GeeDubya’s ass, the Republican party has banned Labour MPs from its convention.

Today a suicide car-bomber killed dozens of people waiting on line to apply to join the Iraqi police. The idiots keep making applicants for the police or military line up in the streets, completely vulnerable to this sort of attack, which happens every 2 or 3 weeks.

Al Sharpton tells the convention that if Bush had appointed the Supreme Court in 1954, Clarence Thomas wouldn’t have gotten to law school. The crowd erupted in applause, possibly for Clarence Thomas having gone to law school, or for Bush not having been Ike, or something. Too deep for me.

I could swear I heard Dennis Kucinich refer to the D’s as the party of rural electrification. Who said the convention was content-free? It didn’t turn out to be as big an applause line as the Clarence Thomas thing.

John "Dizzy" Edwards keeps repeating "Hope is on the way." Maybe Hope got stuck in traffic, or is being cavity-searched by security. Oddly, a lot of people were waving pre-printed signs that said "Hope is on the way," which means they expected Hope to be late. Maybe it’s a Waiting for Godot thing. I guess if hope isn’t here yet, we’re hoping for hope, but wouldn’t that mean hope was already here? Too deep for me.


What I would give for the Dem. convention to go negative. Optimism is just plain boring. Since the speakers are unwilling to go into policy specifics, staying positive just means bland speeches about unifying America which won’t change the mind of a single swing voter. [Right after writing that, I came across the results of a competition in the Guardian for a definition of Blairism, one of which sums up the Dems’ strategy perfectly: "The intangible in pursuit of the electable."] Why not admit that you’re pissed off at the direction Bush has taken the country and explain why? Do you think the only swing voters are those who don’t really have any problem with Shrub, but would like a more boring president? If Kerry loses, it will be because of people not voting at all.

And Bush is actually cooperating this week, by falling off his bike again, and giving an AP reporter the perfect straight line: "mountain biking, he said, has a certain ‘mind-clearing’ effect." If he pedaled in reverse, would he get smarter?

Meanwhile, over in that other great democracy, Iraq, Appointed Fake Prime Minister Allawi has created a committee to censor the press. The head of the new committee said that restrictions will include a ban on "unwarranted criticism" of Mr. Allawi, and is already threatening to close down Al Jazeera.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

And red friends in the gay states

Today I mostly watched the convention while doing other things. Can’t say I was as impressed by Barack Obama as everybody else: his speech seemed to be a superior version of the sort of gosh-ain’t-America-diverse speech we get every convention, which is not a particularly compelling speech to me. You’ll notice his "We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states" line carefully avoided creeping out the homophobes of Middle America by keeping the Little Leaguers and the gays in separate states.

At one point I looked up and saw Little Orphan Annie, founder of Kids for Kerry (the horror, the alliterative horror!), scolding Cheney for saying a bad word.

Ron Reagan Jr. gave a serious speech in favor of stem cell research in the cadences of a bad nightclub comic.

And Teresa Heinz Kerry seemed drugged, or sleepy, and bored by the speech she was giving. I was watching C-SPAN, so I missed hearing the cable news channels scramble to explain Portuguese and Portuguese colonial history, which should have been a hoot.

If you’ve been reading too many convention bloggers, this is something of an antidote.

Let's all just assume I came up with a humorous title for this post, cleverly linking kidnapping and gay marriage

The press is catching up to the tactical nature of kidnapping in Iraq. Of course it took the kidnapping of Westerners to make them notice that kidnappings of Iraqis aren’t always about ransom. The Wednesday London Times has a story about doctors being kidnapped in large numbers and being told to leave the country, which is evidently a surprise to them; the LA Times had the story 2 or 3 months ago, but no one else ever followed up. As with the people killed in Iraq, you can probably find a number for the non-Iraqis kidnapped in Iraq, but the hundreds of Iraqis kidnapped every month go unenumerated.

STUPID KIDNAPPER TRICKS: A few days ago some Egyptians were seized by people who evidently thought that Egypt had troops in Iraq, and released when they found out Egypt does not.

The first gay marriage in France, 7 weeks ago, was just invalidated. Gay marriage will, however, come to Homer Simpson’s Springfield.

Go In, Stay In, Tune In

The British government is planning to distribute to every household a pamphlet on what to do if the terrorists attack. It’s on the web at, and speaking of preparedness, the should really have snapped up the URL as well....

Actually, it’s a little hard to parody the real one, whose slogan is "GO IN, STAY IN, TUNE IN." Although at least it doesn’t say a thing about duct tape and plastic sheeting.

Strength and wisdom are not opposing values

There’s something a little bit askew about Clinton giving a speech for Kerry. The disparity between the two would have been a million times more obvious had the two appeared on the same platform, which will never happen, because Kerry is too afraid that the newspaper captions would all be: "Former President Bill Clinton (left) and some guy." Clinton was able to insult Bush’s intelligence in a way Bush will need to have explained to him: "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values." And he was able to come out as both a Vietnam draft avoider, and as a member of the non-non-rich [if you don’t get the reference, click here], which Kerry and Bush are afraid to do: "When I was in office, the Republicans were pretty mean to me. When I left and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them."

Do Bostonians actually like their town being called Beantown?

Juan Cole says much of what I was going to about the way the Iraq war is being treated at the Dem convention, which is that it is being mostly ignored. You’d think Bush’s biggest failures were not going to Vietnam, and stealing the 2000 election. The D bosses made sure that no resolution against the war even came to a vote--which is actually fine, I suppose, ‘cause who really cares what the opinion of the delegates is? But then they issued a fatwa against any significant criticism of the way the war was conducted, much less discussion of whether it should have been conducted at all. Juan Cole: "The attack on Bush is not that he went to war against Iraq. It is that he did so virtually unilaterally, ‘walking away from our allies.’"  Me: which is the least criticism of the war you can have and still be criticizing the war, which is obviously exactly why that line was chosen. It still suggests that the US should, somehow, have talked Germany, France, etc into joining our splendid little war, and fails to acknowledge that they were pretty much correct not to get involved, and neither should we.

Monday, July 26, 2004

He needs more than 40 acres just for his hair-care products

Friday I said I was waiting for Bush’s speech to the Urban League to be denounced for its cynicism. It has been, by Al Sharpton: "The insult there was that he acted like we have become Democrats by some unthinking process, rather than that we had been rejected and treated hostile by the Republican Party." Then he brought up that 40 acres and a mule thing again. Can someone just give Al Sharpton 40 acres and a mule, so he’ll shut up about it, and because it would make a great photo.

The trial of Pitcairn Islanders for sexual abuse of children has finally begun, although the defendants are claiming that they declared independence from Britain in 1790 when they burnt the Bounty. I keep hearing that the Pitcarinites speak in something like 18th-century English (combined with Tahitian), and I’d love to hear it. I have no idea of guilt or innocence, but if 7 men in a population of under 50 are sent to prison, the island ceases to be viable.

Well-known torturers and mass killers

The Sunday Times (London) reports that Allawi is hiring some of Saddam’s secret police, as long as they are not, "as one intelligence official put it, ‘well-known torturers and mass killers’". It’s nice that they’re giving the lesser-known torturers and mass killers a chance to make a name for themselves. The secret police have their headquarters inside the Green Zone, under the protection of the American military.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Chain letter

100,000 Israelis form a human chain to demand retention of the settlements in Gaza. Like "We are the world," but with ethnic cleansing. Said one link, "We are all holding hands to return to the land of Israel". Since these are people capable of being lost for 40 years in a remarkably small piece of desert, that makes a certain amount of sense.

I can’t find a single follow-up today on the state of the porta-potties for the media at the Dem. convention.  Dammit, we need to know!  America needs to know! 

Saturday, July 24, 2004

And it's still better than an election in Florida

Sometime next week, an interim parliament will be elected in Iraq. We don’t know when or where or by whom, for security reasons. Jefferson would be so proud.

Speaking of Jeffersonian democracy: AP headline: "Media Upset With DNC Restroom Facilities."

An Iranian court--and I use the term loosely--has acquitted an agent of beating a Canadian journalist to death.

The British government is talking about vaccinating children against experiencing pleasure from cocaine, heroine, maybe even nicotine (the vaccines are not on the market yet). The vaccine would also work on adult addicts, but the idea is to prevent addiction. This is certainly a good idea, but there’s still a lingering creepiness factor, isn’t there?

Bush: "One thing is for certain, though, about me—and the world has learned this--when I say something, I mean it." But do you understand it? And can anyone else?

My cinematic mid-life crisis, with elephant battle scenes

This week I watched a Thai film that turned up on one of the cable channels, "The Legend of Suriyothai," and I watched it because of a fear that I’m getting old (some people would have bought a red sports car or gone bungee-jumping; me, even my mid-life crises are sedentary). See, in the last semi-annual rejuggling of channels by my cable company, which they do so that when you sit down to watch the "Daily Show" you thought you taped, you find yourself with half an hour of golf, I started getting the Sundance Channel, and I’ve been finding that my approach to which movies I’m willing to watch on that channel is much more unadventurous than it would have been twenty years ago. I mean, I’m a person who has watched more than one movie with an all-midget cast, and more than one movie in which the actors were hypnotized (movie adepts will have recognized that one in each category was directed by Werner Herzog, who has much to answer for), but now I find that my reaction to the prospect of watching a partly-improvised Icelandic movie directed by an American who could not understand the language his actors were speaking in ("Salt") is to reject it utterly. So in reaction to my own newfound conservatism, and since it’s been a while since I’ve added to the list of countries I’ve seen movies from, I felt I had to watch the Thai film, despite not very good reviews, because I couldn’t remember ever having seen a Thai film before (I’ve seen several Icelandic movies, so that wasn’t an issue; a few months ago I saw an Icelandic, updated version of King Lear--in case you liked the Shakespeare play but thought it didn’t have enough herring). And since you ask: the Thai movie was an overlong lavish historical spectacle, with cardboard characters, beautiful to look at, and its battle scenes had elephants, like all good battle scenes should.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Into the lion's den

Bush finally finds an almost-receptive-or-at-least-polite black audience to speak to, the National Urban League, after turning down the NAACP. I’d missed that after claiming he had a scheduling conflict, he actually went bike-riding that day. Imagine Shrub speaking to an audience that included Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in the front row.

Oh Lord, get me out of here alive

He asked the audience, "Is it a good thing for the African American community to be represented mainly by one political party? ... How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete?" The question is, as he says, legitimate, but here’s the problem with it: it suggests tactical, collective voting. Communities don’t vote, individuals do. How would they go about following his advice, anyway--draw up lots and 25% of black voters would have to vote Republican? I’m waiting to hear this speech denounced for its cynicism toward the democratic process: a Republican "president" giving advice to black people on how to put pressure on the Democratic party, how to increase their "leverage" by voting for the R’s. On the cynic-o-meter, it’s right up there with R’s funding the Ralph Nader ballot-access campaign (which, by the way, I consider, yes, cynical, but hardly the dastardly dirty trick so many on the left seem to find it. After all, most of those people are supporting Kerry more to get rid of Bush than for Kerry’s own sake).

HELLO MUDDA, HELLO FADDA: a summer camp on Sakhalin, in Siberia, has been found actually to be a training center for young thieves, aged 12 to 18.

Does life begin? Yes, it begins

The Army’s inspector general releases a report slash whitewash on the prisoner abuse scandal which is also clearly the product of a committee, but falls into a different genre than the 9/11 report. Rather, it is a "the system is perfect, it’s the individuals--lots and lots and lots of individuals--who failed" report. While that genre might seem to be the exact opposite of the approach of the 9/11 report, both have the effect of absolving everyone--everyone who counts--of any responsibility.

MISTAKES WERE MADE: In the interests of full disclosure, in my first-ever post mentioning bin Laden, in August 1998, I wrote "I suspect this bin Laden character has been promoted, and probably promoted way out of his league, to Darth-Vader-of-the-year to put a human face on the Enemy."  Oops, I guess.

The 9/11 commission blamed a failure of imagination. Bill Clinton can’t be faulted for lack of imagination: think of the innovative uses he found for cigars. Actually, the Clintonites more or less understood the dangers, but weren’t clear how to respond to them and didn’t want to screw up their doomed efforts to secure Middle East peace. The Bushies were the ones who didn’t get it, and I suspect this was because they were so ideologically contemptuous of the wimpy Clintonites that they were unwilling to be briefed by them or take their concerns seriously. It’s the partisanship, stupid.

Kerry answers a question on whether early-term abortions are murder: "No, because it's not the form of life that takes personhood in the terms that we have judged it to be in the past. It's the beginning of life. Does life begin? Yes, it begins. Is it at the point where I would say that you apply those [criminal] penalties? The answer is, no, and I believe in choice. I believe in the right to choose, and the government should not involve itself in that choice, beyond where it has in the context of Roe vs. Wade." And by the time he’s finished answering the question, another trimester has passed.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Uncomfortable reading

A BBC reporter said that the 9/11 Commission report would make “uncomfortable reading” for GeeDubya. Granted, most things make uncomfortable reading for our Functional Illiterate in Chief, except maybe:

Yet another strangely unsatisfying report. Anyone can cite it as vindication of their own actions or their pet theories--and they have--because it goes in all directions, like any report written by a committee. Everyone is to blame but no one is to blame. There were a million chances to prevent 9/11, but we don’t know if 9/11 could have been stopped. It’s a bureaucratic report, suggesting that the only problems were in bureaucratic structure, and will therefore encourage members of the intelligence “community” in the future to continue to act like members of a bureaucracy, which was the problem in the first place.
  (UPDATE: James Ridgeway sets out a similar view of the report at greater length.)
And some of the talk about centralization looks good on paper but would kill creativity at the bottom, where a lot of the hints about 9/11 were uncovered.  The problem is one of encouraging independent thought at the bottom while coordinating better at the middle and upper levels.  Similarly, the talk about Congressional oversight being so weak because of fragmentation is only partly right.  A super-committee with all-powerful senior politicians, which is basically what the commission called for, sounds like leaving foreign policy in the hands of dinosaurs.

Mr. Godfrey Bloom, the MEP
I mentioned a couple of days ago, has been kept off the women’s rights committee, except as an alternate. He was challenged by, among others, Allesandra Mussolini, the Duce’s granddaughter, who questioned whether he himself could clean behind a fridge. Link.

New Ben & Jerry's flavors. Or not

NYT headline: "Bush Tells Iowa Crowd What He Learned From Sept. 11." Something about a pet goat, probably.

Most repulsive news story of the day, until you get to my next item: A 14-year old British girl had a miscarriage. The hospital gave her the 11-week old fetus in a specimen bottle to take home. No one is quite sure why.

Most repulsive news story of the day, until you get to my next item (it’s been that kind of a day): JAPANESE ice-cream makers are testing taste boundaries with this summer’s flavours, which include eel, shrimp, oyster, ox-tongue, octopus, squid and highly popular raw horse. "I don’t know why someone would make horse ice-cream, but I’m surprised that it tastes so good," said Miona Yamashita, 23. "It has a vanilla taste but you can really get the flavour of the horse meat if you bite into a piece." But Kanako Hosomura, 22, said the oyster ice-cream tasted "really bad".

Mad scientists working for the military have developed dried food that soldiers can carry and rehydrate by adding water or...peeing on it. While the stories on this development all ask the reader whether he or she would eat food cooked in their own urine, trying to find where people draw that line, I notice they all automatically assume that the urine you’d use would be your own, drawing their own unconscious line.

Federal prosecutors are looking into whether Halliburton illegally did business with Iran when Cheney was in charge. Halliburton says it is a witch-hunt. Excellent: let’s throw Cheney and the other executives in a vat of crude oil and see if they float.

In a nice line, the Independent’s sketchwriter Simon Carr says of Michael Howard’s attempt at a self-deprecating comment during Prime Minister’s Questions, "his self-deprecation takes work away from those who need it more."

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Big Watermelon

A Guardian piece sees a rise in conspiracy theorists in the US, such as the theory that the US has Osama bin Laden on ice somewhere and will bring him out in October, as a semi-legitimate response to an administration itself so excessively secretive and conspiratorial, an administration that took the tactics of the "War on Terror," the "tactics for conducting a secret, asymmetric war and applied them wholesale to the day-to-day governance of the US." And the market for Michael Moore’s "connect-the-dots paranoia" is so strong because "People are hungry for classified information on their rulers, in part because their rulers are so busy collecting classified information on them, and Fahrenheit 9/11 promotes the happy illusion that, for once, the magnetometers and security cameras have been turned on the president and his gang."
And Jon Carroll is holding a "Guess the October Surprise" contest:
Operatives from al Qaeda could be discovered staffing the office of the Ohio Democratic Party. Jeb Bush could discover that he had "misplaced" 40,000 eligible Cuban American voters. An "old friend" of John Kerry's could reveal that Kerry spent the entirety of the Vietnam War in the basement of a brothel in Berlin. Dick Cheney could rush into a burning building and save 17 orphans from certain death. Then he could reveal that he is really Spider-Man and that he does whatever a spider can.
The LA Times looks into the source of Shrub’s accusation that Fidel Castro supports prostitution--it came from an unsourced paraphrase in a paper written by an undergrad that the Bushies found on the Web, the font of all true information. What’s curious is that the story, like the initial stories about Shrub’s speech, doesn’t mention that he accused Castro of supporting not just prostitution but child prostitution, as I mentioned earlier.

According to the London Times, when the Chinese sell pirated editions of books, they make stuff up. So a Mandarin edition of Bill Clinton’s My Life now on sale begins, "The town of Hope, where I was born, has very good feng shui." It demonstrates for the first time Clinton’s intellectual indebtedness to the Little Red Book, and says this of Monica: "She was very fat. I can never trust my own judgment." And describes meeting Hillary for the first time: "She was as beautiful as a princess. I told her my name is Big Watermelon". Ok, that part’s probably true.

Steve Lopez has a Harper’s Index-type piece on Kallyfohrnian politics:

Number of times Gov. Schwarzenegger used the term "girlie men" to describe state legislators during a 16-minute speech at an Ontario mall: Twice.

Number of star-struck legislators who have cuddled up to Schwarzenegger for months and deserve the title: Dozens.

Ratio of time Schwarzenegger has spent applying makeup to time spent by all the female legislators: 3:1.

Last national celebrity with hair the color of Schwarzenegger's: Woody Woodpecker.

Number of budget deadlines missed by Woody Woodpecker: Zero.

Schwarzenegger's whereabouts just hours after vowing to stay in Sacramento and fight like a warrior to end the budget stalemate: Beverly Hills fund-raiser.

Amount raised at Beverly Hills fund-raiser by Schwarzenegger, who earlier promised to end fund-raising during budget season: Roughly $400,000.

Amount Schwarzenegger has raised for himself and committees he controls since the day he said he doesn't need anyone's money because he has his own: $30 million.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

How can I rejoice when I haven't joiced yet?

I’m not sure how to explain the depth of Tony Blair’s stupidity today. More than 20 years ago, Margaret Thatcher suggested that the British people "rejoice" over the re-occupation of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, a word taken to sum up her callousness. Today, Blair: "Let us rejoice that Iraq is liberated."

Speaking of history repeating itself after 20 years: Sandy Berger = Fawn Hall.

The Cheney-Leahy debate continues: "Mr. Leahy then suggested that the president of the Senate take his gavel and use it to perform an act that, while not technically impossible in anatomical terms, would certainly be considered both unseemly and unhygienic, and which would require an unusual combination of single-minded ambition and physical relaxation."

The Science Museum in London is thinking about using visitors’ shit to generate electricity. Says the museum’s director, "With free admission it would be a great way for visitors to give something back to the museum and help keep the overheads down".

I suppose a little internal contradiction is what you should expect from someone elected to the European Parliament on a platform of pulling Britain out of the EU: newly elected UK Independence Party MEP Godfrey Bloom--sounds like a character out of Jeeves & Wooster, doesn’t he?--has joined the European Parliament’s committee for women’s rights, saying "I want to deal with women's issues because I just don't think they clean behind the fridge enough."

The battle of the one-word weapons

The WaPo has two campaign stories that would have been better if either acknowledged the existence of the other; a compare & contrast would have been nice. Dana Milbank writes of "The Kerry Campaign’s One-Word Weapon," "There is seemingly no charge the Bush campaign can level against John F. Kerry that will not produce a one-word retort: Halliburton." (At least the word isn't Llanhyfryddawelllehynafolybarcudprindanfygythiadtrienusyrhafnauol). And Ceci Connolly writes about Cheney, who usually has a two-word retort at the ready, speaking about malpractice. Or actually, malpractice awards, since the Bushies continue to say nothing about reducing actual malpractice. Cheney essentially kept shouting lawyer lawyer lawyer at Edwards. The Milbank piece is a touch snide, and the Post should really leave snide to me, thank you very much. The Connolly article loses its critical thinking at a key point in its opening sentence. Read it and see if you can spot the problem: "Vice President Cheney, with a swipe at his Democratic trial-lawyer counterpart, yesterday blamed rising health care costs on 'runaway litigation' and promoted a $250,000 cap on medical malpractice awards as the central tenet of the White House program to improve access, affordability and quality of care." Did you see it? Well, you can maybe make a case that reducing awards would improve affordability and access to medical care, especially care by incompetent doctors, whose premiums wouldn’t keep going up, and who wouldn’t be forced into "defensive medicine," like running tests, spending more than 45 seconds on a patient, or showing up sober. But how does it have anything to do with quality of care? Cheney said, "This problem doesn't start in the waiting room [where they should be reading about this speech in about 3 years, if I know doctors’ waiting rooms]. It doesn't start in the operating room. The problem starts in the courtroom." Except, of course, it does start in the operating room, because awards only follow findings of malpractice. When Cheney says, "the Bush-Cheney ticket is on the side of doctors and patients," he means the doctors who fuck up.

Speaking of awards, the Indian government may finally pay Bohpal victims some of that all-too meager compensation money Union Carbide paid in 1989, little of which was actually distributed.

Monday, July 19, 2004


Transcript of the Daily Show discussion of talking points.

For a sense of the current health of Russian political life, look no further than an Indy story wonderfully headlined: "‘Winnie the Pooh’ Is Elected Mayor of Vladivostok after Rival ‘Trips’ on Grenade." Mr. Pooh (Vinni-Pukh in Russian) is actually Vladimir Nikolayev, a mafioso with a record, whose mob nickname is less than terrifying (and completely unexplained).

Israel clarifies Sharon’s comments about anti-Semitism in France, saying that it isn’t as bad as in Germany in the 1930s. I’m glad they cleared that up. In his first insulting comment (Sharon insulting the French, it’s hard to know what side to take), Sharon said that Jews were in danger because Muslims were now 10% of the French population, which of course they aren’t (6%), and anyway, Israel is 20% Muslim even if you exclude the Occupied Territories.

Reminds me: I read somewhere an article on how the news media don’t explain things enough, which was illustrated by a poll saying that many Americans think the phrase Occupied Territories refers to occupation by Palestinians.

Tony Blair tries to win back support through a get-tough-on-crime campaign. He calls for an end to "the 1960s liberal, social consensus on law and order."  I thought the only ‘60s consensus on law and order was that everyone liked watching Diana Rigg karate-kick bad guys while wearing cat suits.

Oddest protest of the week: "People in a remote Welsh beauty spot have renamed their village in a protest against a wind farm. The village of Llanfynydd, south Wales, has been transformed into Llanhyfryddawelllehynafolybarcudprin-danfygythiadtrienusyrhafnauole. The Carmarthenshire village will temporarily eclipse Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwchllanty-siliogogogoch in north Wales, the longest name title, by eight characters. ... The village’s new name means ‘a quiet beautiful village, a historic place with rare kite under threat from wretched blades’."

Sunday, July 18, 2004

With little notice

A WaPo article on the US slippery slope towards war with Iran in a 2nd Bush term has the nerve to say that Congress has been moving in that direction "with little notice." Jeez, it’s too bad that the Washington Post has no means of bringing information like that to the public attention, like shouting it on street corners or, I don’t know, printing it on sheets of paper. I mentioned more than 2 months ago that the House had voted to "use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons." I was surprised then that it had happened without any advanced discussion, but there’s also been nothing in the last 2 months. 
Israel has also been speaking quite loudly of late about bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US bombed Fallujah again today, killing 14, including children. Humorously, Allawi claims to have been asked permission, and to have given it. The US claims to have hit a "known terrorist fighting position," whatever one of those might be, especially in a town where "they" won completely and absolutely and where, consequently, there is no fighting, just air strikes. Robert Fisk reports: "This is how they like it. An American helicopter fires four missiles at a house in Fallujah. Fourteen people are killed... But no Western journalist dares to go to Fallujah. ... The US authorities say they know nothing about the air strike; indeed, they tell journalists to talk to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence - whose spokesman admits that he has "no clue what is going on"." The country is now so dangerous that the war, certainly Fallujah, is uncoverable.

Anti-Semites gone wild

Ariel Sharon suggests that anti-Semitism is growing in France, and does his best to help by urging all French Jews to emigrate to Israel. Sharon blamed the increasing Muslim population of France for "the wildest anti-Semitism."

Given that the US has put a bounty of $25m on Zarqawi, I can’t wait to hear US officials (if they ever speak to the press again) explain how Zarqawi is an evil-doer for putting $280,000 on Allawi’s head.

After a day of careful consideration, Governor Ahnuuld has decided that yes, he stands behind calling the California Legislature a bunch of "girlie men." They can evidently prove their manliness (especially the women legislators) by giving him everything he wants in budget negotiations. The manly venue for these manly taunts from our manly governor? The food court of a mall. More ominous is his rhetoric denigrating the democratic credentials of everyone except Arnold "L’etat, c’est moi" Schwarzenegger: "I am representing you, and the people know they [leigslators] are representing the special interests rather than the public interest."

News story of the day: "A man was arrested in Florida yesterday after allegedly beating his girlfriend with a pet alligator which he kept in the bath. David Havenner, 41, faces misdemeanour charges of battery and possession of an alligator. ... But Mr Havenner's version of the story differed. He told investigators that Ms Monico bit his hand because she was upset they had run out of alcohol." Did I mention they live in a mobile home? Did I have to?


Remember how Bremer started a major uprising in Najaf in March by banning a newspaper?  (Link.  Other link.)  Allawi just let it reopen.

When I talked about Rumsfeld (and other Iraq war bigmouths) having disappeared, I missed an
AP piece on Rummy’s pariah status. But a check of the DOD website shows that he was allowed to meet the president of Mongolia.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

We are an oriental people and it is the will of the people

Some Iraqi judges have started sentencing people to death without waiting for the death penalty to be restored first. Said a Karbala judge who sentenced 3 men to death, "We are an oriental people and it is the will of the people."

Allawi has not denied shooting 6 prisoners, but he has denied chopping off the hand of a prisoner with an axe. Have to draw the line somewhere. You know he’s starting these rumors himself don’t you? Oriental people, indeed.   (Update: ok, NOW he's denied shooting 6 prisoners.)

Here in California, we Occidental people are led by a man who can pretend to kill more people before breakfast than Allawi can actually kill all day. Says the Governator: "I will fight like a warrior for the people of California. There is no one that can stop me. Anyone who pushes me around, I will push back".
Oh, don’t let it bother you, little boy.

Team Chimpy has to return a donation from an Iraqi-American businessman who had dealings with Saddam Hussein’s government. Guess that means they can’t take donations from Rumsfeld either.

Negroponte has finally held a press conference, mere hours after I commented on the previous lack of one, showing that even though my daily readership is in the high single digits, my influence is like unto a god’s. AP headline: "US Ambassador Optimistic at Iraq Future." Someone has to be. Flying cars and robots for everyone, no doubt.

Speaking of sexing up intelligence (and depending on your idea of sex, I suppose), Blair has said repeatedly that mass graves with 400,000 bodies have been found in Iraq. In fact, the British government has now
admitted that at most 5,000 bodies have been found. What’s a couple of orders of magnitude between friends?

Friday, July 16, 2004

First Whoopi, now Corrine Brown....

Congresscritter Corrine Brown (D-Fla) suggested on the floor of the House that the 2000 election was a coup d’etat (during a debate which resulted in a 243-161 vote to ban any federal official asking the UN to monitor US elections, as Brown had suggested). So they censured her, threw her out for the day, and struck her words from the record. She didn’t tell anyone to fuck themself, didn’t call anyone a name, she just expressed an opinion. The justification for the party-line censure was that she accused other members of a crime, viz, stealing an election.

Today the NYT reported that investigations by the Senate into prisoner abuse incidents in Iraq have been shut down or postponed. The story has certainly slipped off the radar screen, so that Seymour Hersh’s comments and German tv reports about more incidents involving rape and child prisoners, and no doubt rape of child prisoners, haven’t been picked up by almost anyone.

One reason for that is that the Bushies have stopped putting people forward to talk about Iraq, except for Shrub’s "Americans are safer" speech. Where has Bremer been since he left Iraq? When’s the last time you saw Mark Kimmitt, Military Moron? Or even Rumsfeld? Has John Negroponte gone in front of the press once? Hell, they refused even to comment on the report, which I can’t say I believe, but it’s not entirely implausible, that Kapowie Allawi personally shot 6 prisoners dead last week.

The New Republic has an article by Jonathan Chait that places that blackout in the context of the many things Congress no longer bothers to oversee, and how the Bushies routinely simply refuse to testify or supply information, with no consequences. Chait notes that the admin has gotten many of its signature policies passed by hiding information--the cost of Medicare changes, how much Iraqi oil revenues would really amount to, etc. "over the last few years, misinformation has become fundamental, rather than incidental, to the political process." The article also goes into the abuse of process in Congress, where anything proposed by the D’s isn’t allowed to reach the floor, while everything else goes through with little or no debate allowed, the abuse of conference committees to rewrite legislation in secret, etc. Bush has yet to veto a single bill, because he doesn’t need to. If all this seems familiar material--I’ve certainly written about every example he cites--it’s woven together into a scary picture indeed. His conclusion: "most of the abuses under Bush--things like suppressing cost estimates, or redistricting more than once a decade--have violated norms, not rules. When you violate norms, you're limited only by your sense of shame and your party's willingness to stick together. Which suggests the most frightening lesson of the Bush administration: The institutional restraints on an anti-democratic presidency are weaker than we believed."

Right after Blair is exonerated--or so he claims--by the Butler report, comes news that his government essentially lied to two previous inquiries, not telling them that MI6 had reversed itself on several key issues. That’s called a cover-up, although at present they’re trying to blame MI6 for it.

Bush accuses Cuba again of welcoming sex tourism and indeed child prostitution.  "We have put a strategy in place to hasten the day when no Cuban child is exploited to finance a failed revolution and every Cuban citizen will live in freedom." There's probably a really bad pun about No Left Child's Behind that I could use here, but I'll refrain.

Baghdad has a city council of 750. It has to be that large because they keep getting killed, 61 this year, 6 since the "handover." The same is happening with other councils. The councils were actually almost sorta elected, under an indirect process overseen by the American occupiers and their private contractors.  Link.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Bringing down the barriers that stand in the way of our democracy--with extreme prejudice

Iraq announces the formation of a new secret police, or should I say death squad, since PM Owie Allawi says its purpose is to "terminate" insurgents (the LA Times translation is "annihilate"; you say tomato, I say terminate with extreme prejudice, let’s call the whole thing off) and to "bring down all the hurdles that stand in the way of our democracy." Freedom, ain’t it grand.

But at least there's the freedom to demonstrate, or at least to demonstrate in favor of Saddam Hussein being executed. "Let every fool listen, Saddam has to be executed," they chanted in Baghdad.

Poor Man has a quote from John Kerry from October 2002 before he voted for the Tonkin Gulf resolution, which makes clear that he was indeed voting to authorize war only to disarm Iraq of weapons we now know it didn’t have. It should acquit Kerry of the charge of hypocrisy relentlessly thrown at him by Team Chimpy, although not the charge of having been outwitted by a half-wit.

I guess I failed to mention a while back that Israeli Mossad agents were caught trying to acquire a New Zealand passport under the name of a cerebral palsy victim who cannot travel. It used to be fake Canadian passports; they kept getting caught and kept promising not to do it again (I posted on this 6 Nov 1998)(in a post that also said I was happy to see Minnesota hit at the two-party system, "as long as it's another state that elects the wrestler.") Israel hasn’t so much as offered an explanation to NZ, which just did everything short of cutting off diplomatic relations (and put the 2 agents in prison for 6 months). This is the sort of thing that can get real Canadians and New Zealanders killed.

The Florida felons list is not dead after all. Individual counties can still choose to use it, and those run by Republicans doubtless will.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

No one wants to discriminate against gays

Orrin Hatch: “No one wants to discriminate against gays. Simply put, we want to preserve traditional marriage.” I’m sorry, did you say that no one wants to discriminate against gays? NO ONE? Oh, I don’t fucking think so. I just SO don't fucking think so.

I’ve had it up to here with talk about “traditional marriage” from the party that last month wouldn’t shut up about Saint Ronny, who was divorced and whose second wife was pregnant when he married her, and whose 1996 standard bearer had this memorable line about marriage, spoken to his first wife: “I want out.” If I were a reporter or had more time on my hands, I’d find out how many Senators have been divorced, and how that relates to the way they voted (how do you count Teddy Kennedy, who got an annulment from the church and a divorce from the secular authorities?)
(Update: it's not the complete list I want, but this article talks about divorced Senators.)
(Later): and it seems that an activist is planning to name married supporters of the Unequal Rights Amendment in Congress who are having affairs.

Let’s all just acknowledge that the laws governing marriage have actually changed over time as social customs have evolved. Watching the Senate on C-SPAN today, I saw John Cornyn waxing on about how guys in tuxedos and chicks in white dresses have been marching up aisles since before there were aisles or organized religion, how marriage hadn’t changed in thousands of years. You don’t have to go back very far to see that this is nonsense. Go back to the birth of this republic: wives had no control over their own money, could not sign contracts, were not the legal parents of their own children while their husbands were alive or even after, and could legally be beaten (“chastised,” “corrected”) or raped by their husbands. Marital rape was considered an oxymoron by most people and by the legal system within our lifetimes. All of these husbandly powers were considered essential, fundamental elements of marriage, without which it could not survive. In Britain, after a court case (Jackson v. Jackson) ruled against a husband who had kidnapped his estranged wife and held her prisoner in 1891, the London Times said, “one fine morning last month marriage in England was abolished.”

Most of those aspects of marriage were, of course, predicated on sexist notions of the appropriate roles for men and women. Today you could hear the senators struggling to make a heterosexist case for banning gay marriage that was not also an obviously sexist one. This is not really possible, since the argument that marriage must consist of one member of each gender entails the notion that men and women are fundamentally different. They can’t really get away with making such an argument--and gay marriage is no longer considered so absurd that they can laugh it away or dismiss it with that "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" nonsense, the way they could just a couple of years ago--but come closest when they talk about marriage as being about child-rearing and that you need role models from each gender, an argument that only really works if you consider the sexes as having fundamentally distinct attributes, if gender determines identity completely. Otherwise, it would not matter if parents are both of the same gender. The argument against gay marriage, therefore, is a sexist one at its base.

Baghdad calm

Headline of the day, London Times: “Baghdad Calm Shattered as Bomber Kills 11.” Baghdad calm?

Charming: “Israel has drawn up contingency plans to prevent hundreds of thousands of Palestinians trying to bury Yasser Arafat at the disputed holy sites of Jerusalem when he dies.”

Jonathan Idema, that gonzo ex-Special Forces guy who kept a private dungeon in Afghanistan, captured at least some of the people he was hanging upside down by their feet in raids he tricked NATO forces into helping him with--three times.

Remember when the KGB was broken into separate agencies by Yeltsin? Putin just reversed that.

“Bush Twins Help Dad with Spread in Vogue.” Uh, right. This is supposed to “humanize” Shrub, although “simianize” might be a bit more accurate for Chimp Boy.

The Butler Report

Blair says he acted in good faith. In fact, he says he will take “full responsibility for any mistakes in good faith.” Very big of him. Simon Carr of the Indy supplies the missing part of the sentence: “I take full personal responsibility, so shut up.” Blair: “That issue of good faith should now be at an end,” which Simon Hoggart of the Guardian translates as “Now, will you stop picking on me?”

The Labour spin is that Butler cleared him, and this is simply not true, although god knows he tried. Actually, Butler’s relationship to reality is an exact mirror of Blair’s. Butler says that the “Dodgy Dossier” Blair used to justify going to war went to the “outer limits” of the available intelligence and that it’s language was, ahem, “fuller and firmer” than intel warranted. Most of us would call that deliberate misrepresentation, but not Butler, who himself takes the facts to their outer limits with his claim that there was no “deliberate distortion or culpable negligence.”

The Indy offers this helpful summary of Butler:
The intelligence: flawed
The dossier: dodgy
The 45-minute claim: wrong
Iraq's link to al-Qa'ida: unproven
The public: misled
The case for war: exaggerated
And who was to blame? No one

There are many stories in the major British press. Here’s a good summary.

Defending the peace, protecting the peace and extending the peace

Headline of the week: “Daschle Denies Hugging Moore.” [Michael, not Demi or Roger]

The Justice Dept releases a report detailing some of the successes it attributes to the use of the Patriot Act. Many of these cases had nothing to do with terrorism, the purported justification for the Act, like the rescue of a kidnapped 88-year old woman. The report misses the point: those of us who object to the police state Ashcroft is constructing do not criticize it on the grounds of its not being an efficient enough police state. No one ever said that letting law enforcement violate people’s rights wouldn’t enable them to solve some crimes they could not solve otherwise. Imagine what the FBI could do with Abu Ghraib techniques. Not really the point. Vlad the Impaler’s Wallachia had a really low crime rate, from what I’ve heard.

In Britain, the Butler Report on Iraqi intelligence claims came out today. More later, when the British papers come out, but it seems to admit to many many flaws in intel while finding no one in particular at fault. The thing about “group-think” as a criticism is that it’s also a way to avoid blame.

Jon Stewart asked at what point “intelligence” becomes its own oxymoron.

Speaking of words that sound funny when spoken by GeeDubya, more from the Oak Ridge speech: “We are defending the peace by taking the fight to the enemy. We have followed this strategy--defending the peace, protecting the peace and extending the peace--for nearly three years.” Someone get that boy a dictionary.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Lightning "Rod"

How does the Pentagon come up with names for military operations? It must be something like the formulas used to determine one’s porn name, since you so often wind up with two macho but completely unrelated terms. Case in point: Operation Lightning Resolve, just launched in Afghanistan. Which means what? That our resolve never strikes the same place twice? That our resolve has the duration of a bolt of lightning? That the thunder of political verbiage can be heard long after the event is over? Op Lightning Resolve has something to do with voter registration in Afghanistan, where “rock the vote” refers to what happens to any woman who dares to register.

Governor Terminator has gone through the Cal. gubernatorial rite of passage, negotiating a sweetheart deal with the prison guards. He got very short-term delay in wage increases in return for larger benefits and even greater autonomy for the guards and their supervisors. But the part I like best is that the union gets to have the video of prison incidents to use in PR--commercials showing how hard their jobs are and why they should be paid so much more than teachers.

Israel bulldozed a house in a Gaza refugee camp, killing the 70 (or 73)-year-old, wheelchair-bound man trapped inside. Israelis have risen as one in outrage and put a stop to the bulldozing of houses. Just kidding.

The Guardian: “A man who shot himself in the testicles with a sawn-off shotgun was jailed for five years yesterday.” Beer was involved (you knew that). After the 15th lager, he got into an argument with a friend over whose turn it was, went home to get the gun, shoved it in his trousers...

Robert Fisk reports that at least 13 professors at the U of Baghdad, and more at other universities, have been murdered since the invasion. Including history professors, which is totally uncalled for.

Dictator Mugabe bans the color red, associated with the opposition, from Zimbabwean tv. Link

Monday, July 12, 2004

Diddle the Vote

Shrub [I’m trying to minimize my use of “B*u*s*h*,” in the hopes that there’ll be fewer sponsored ads for Republican sites at the top of mine; the problem is that “B*u*s*h*” is so much shorter than His Fraudulency, Smirking Chimp Boy, etc, and I’ve fallen victim to my own laziness, often using his name with no mockery of any kind] today, defending the war: “Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq. We removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder [this speech was given at the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons lab!] and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after September 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take.”

The problem with that rationale, of course, is that it would equally justify invading at least a dozen other countries.

Chimpy also said that Saddam refused to give a full accounting of weapons to the UN in 2002. Of course GeeDubya made that assertion at the time, when he was claiming that Iraq had all manner of infernal devices, but has someone actually checked out the long report which Iraq submitted against what we now know?

THE QUALITY OF MERCY IS NOT STRAINED: The Iraqi “government” is going ahead with an amnesty for people who have not committed “too many atrocities.” An interesting concept. Presumably those eligible have committed just the right number of atrocities. Sort of a Goldilocks thing.

IT DROPPETH AS THE GENTLE RAIN FROM HEAVEN UPON THE PLACE BENEATH: The brother of an Australian surfer killed by a, what else, killer shark (the more politically correct term is great white shark, which really isn’t very PC at all, is it?), has asked for the shark not to be killed. Authorities are not moved, and are trying to track the shark through its dental records (it left bite marks on the surf board).

The Philippines will pull its troops out of Iraq a bit earlier than planned to get a hostage back. By the way, he was wearing an orange jumpsuit too. Where are the hostage-takers getting them? Is there a store that sells kidnapping supplies? Maybe a chain? Can I invest in it?

Oh dear. Last post, it was Fuck for Forest, this post: Fuck the Vote. Oh deary dear.

The Indy rips the lid off Kerry’s college soccer career. Ready? His nickname was “the Diddler.”

But if we cancel another chance for Diebold and Florida election officials to steal the elections, don't the terrorists win?

Time Magazine notes that the military wouldn’t have needed to recall musicians if it hadn’t kicked so many musicians out for being gay.

The latest ad on my blog is for the Wall St Journal. Somehow, I don’t think so.

An article on Bush’s support for the Unequal Rights Amendment (banning gay marriage) mentions as a key player one Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. And nothing says defense of family like dressing up as your mother and killing your motel guests.

However, and with no media fanfare, Bush did come out in favor of ass-fucking: “if people decide to -- what they do in the privacy of their house, consenting adults should be able to do.”

There are increasing rumblings about creating a mechanism to cancel/postpone elections in case of terrorist attack. The decision might be left to Tom Ridge, who has certainly not shown himself alarmist at all, or the head of the United States Election Assistance Commission, faceless bureaucrat, Baptist pastor and failed R candidate for Congress DeForest B. Soaries. If we’re worried about holding an election where one of the candidates may have been killed by a terrorist attack, the job should go to John Ashcroft, who knows all about it. LeftI asks why Al Qaida would bother trying to disrupt US elections, “With the election between a guy who launched the invasion of Iraq, and a guy who wants to send 40,000 more troops there, what exactly would be their motivation?” and both offering unquestioning support of Israel.

The University of New Brunswick has an intensive English immersion program. Students must pledge to speak only English for the 5 weeks of the course. When a blind student from Quebec signed up, they told him not to speak to his guide dog in French. His guide dog does not know English (or perhaps only pretends not to know English, like all those damned furriners). Eventually, after a media uproar, the university gave in.

A Norwegian couple were arrested after having sex on stage during a rock concert. They are members (evidently the only members) of a group called Fuck for Forest, dedicated to saving the rain forests by having public sex (I think it’s like sponsored runs, where people pledge a certain sum per orgasm). The band: the Cumshots.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Of course, when Sharon's wife asks him to stop hogging the pickles, he accuses her of encouraging terrorism

Iraq passes its first post-fake-handover death sentences, three of them. Let freedom reign (of terror).

Ariel Sharon accuses the International Court of Justice, which ruling against the Wall, of “encouraging terror.”

Gene Weingarten has questions for the candidates:

Question for John Kerry: Please outline the key elements of your plan to reduce injuries and deaths from the misuse of yo-yos.

Question for George W. Bush: Please disclose the single fact about yourself that, if published, would reveal you to be a morally deficient person and might even doom your reelection.

Question for John Kerry: Senator, just how rich are you? For example, do you buy yachts and throw them away after using them once, like disposable razors?

And so does Andy Borowitz:


1. Former Senator Alfonse D'Amato has suggested President Bush dump you from the ticket. What's your response to him, in two words?

3. Over the past four years, how many days would you say you spent above ground?

5. Didn't "Fahrenheit 9/11" totally rock?

6. On the night Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, which pajamas were you wearing, the ones with the cowboys or the ones with the ducks?

8. What's Malibu Barbie really like?

9. If, as you say, there are two Americas, which one is your vacation home in?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Here to stay

More on "values": I posted this in October 1997; it seems to be a quote from some newspaper:
George Bush, the Texan governor following in his father's footsteps as a Republican presidential prospect, is well ahead in opinion polls. But Don Sipple, his campaign adviser, has been accused of wife-beating by both his former wives. In last year's presidential campaign, Sipple created the Republican adverts that proclaimed: "It all comes down to values."

Kerry wants to “wipe the slate clean” on Iraq. While I see the point, how insulting is that to all the dead Iraqis, American and other COW (Coalition of the Willing, for my new readers--hi, new readers) troops, etc? There’s an awful lot of blood to wipe off that slate. Also, neither Kerry nor Edwards will say whether they would have voted for the war knowing what they know now. Until they answer that, how seriously are we supposed to take them?

The idea of refusing communion to Kerry originates in a memo from Rome, written by the head of the organization they’re no longer calling the Inquisition. Rome, not the American archbishops.

Florida won’t use the felon list.

The Sunday Telegraph reports, “Waiters wore condoms on their heads to greet diners at restaurants in Bangkok in the run-up to an international Aids conference in the city this weekend.” American delegates to the conference (of whom there will not be many because we’re punishing the conference that last year booed Tommy Thompson) will be arguing for abstinence instead of condoms. For everyone, that is, although they probably don’t want waiters having sex on their food either. Criticizing this approach, Poul Nielson, the EU’s Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, quoted Groucho Marx (don’t we all!), who, when asked his opinion of sex, said “I think it’s here to stay.”

Christopher Buckley on Bill Clinton. Funny.

Not MY homie

The problem with using a free blog-hosting service is that I can’t stop them putting a sponsored link at the top to a website selling “Bush is My Homie” t-shirts.

To tarnish one of life’s joys

Rep Jerry Weller (R-Ill.), who is on the House Committee on International Relations and its sub-committee on the Western Hemisphere, is engaged to the daughter of Efrían Ríos Montt, former Guatemalan dictator, scum, and genocidal religious fanatic. She helped run strategy for his failed presidential run last year and is a member of the Guatemalan congress, so this isn’t just guilt by association. This would be the first marriage between a US Congresscritter and the member of the legislature of another country. Neither will give up their seats; he will commute from Guatemala. Weller doesn’t like being criticized for this: “To tarnish one of life’s joys, marrying the woman you love, is simply beyond the bounds of decency.” Poor baby. His spokesmodel says this is no more controversial than a congressman who is a farmer overseeing agricultural issues. Farms, genocide--a family business is a family business. During the elections, she called an incident where peasants threw stones at Ríos Montt’s car a violation of human rights, as opposed to the 10,000+ who were disappeared during his reign of terror. Weller’s website’s announcement of the marriage noted that she wrote the legislation banning smoking.
Link. Other link

Afghanistan will hold presidential elections in October but delay parliamentary elections until April, “in an effort to ensure a more democratic process,” the NYT says. Evidently presidential elections needn’t be quite so democratic.

Speaking of undemocratic presidential elections, the list of supposed felons Florida is using to purge its electoral roles is tilted towards D’s (28,025 versus 9,521 R’s), but it also includes almost no Hispanics, 61 on a list of 48,000. Hispanics in Florida are, of course, heavily R. The reason there are so few is that even if felons have the same name and birth date as names on the electoral role, they aren’t purged unless their races match--and the felon list’s racial categories don’t include Hispanics, just white, black, Asian, Native American and unknown (the 61 purgees are the unknowns). So the standards for purging felons were designed to be racist. Why voting records would record race is beyond me--maybe something to do with the Voting Rights Act.

The NYT says in an editorial what I’ve been saying: “When Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland defense, holds a news conference to warn the nation of dire peril and it winds up as fodder for comedy shows, there’s something very wrong somewhere.”

Friday, July 09, 2004


Best headline of the day: “Outcry after Fish Sex Survey” (Daily Telegraph, about fish changing sex because of pollution from contraceptives). Worst headline, same newspaper: “Stabbed Schoolboy 'Gobsmacked.'”

More vapid values talk (indeed, more vapid values, period). Edwards: “When they talk about values, bring it on.” Bush says Kerry is “out of step with the mainstream values that are so important to our country.”

[Later: WaPo article, “Rhetoric On Values Turns Personal.” Sheesh.]

Bush has already stomped out of a room when a reporter asked him a question about Kenny Boy Lay, but it also can’t help that Lay’s defense--that he was misled by CIA intelligence analysts--seems "separated at birth" from the Senate report blaming Andrew Fastow for misleading Bush about Iraq (or something like that). Neither defense will fly. D's should refer to the attempt to blame the CIA, who do seem to have been remarkably unprofessional but let's face it, Bush was going to war with Iraq no matter what the CIA said, as the Ken Lay Defense. I would like to know how the D’s on the Senate Intelligence Committee got rolled so badly that they signed on to a report that specifically exonerates Cheney and Bush of pressuring the intelligence agencies, while postponing publishing any discussion of Bush admin manipulation of intelligence to make a false case for war until after the election. You don’t release half a report. The D's evidently decided that having a unanimous report was more important than having an honest one, and compromised on the facts and on interpretation to get that false unanimity.

Stupid, dirty girl

I’ve written before (Link, Link) about the declining credibility the Bush admin has when it cries wolf about terrorism. Yesterday the Daily Show reported Tom Ridge’s announcement that Al Qaida planned terrorist acts to disrupt the US elections in tones of total disbelief, and outrage at a warning with, yet again, no there there, clearly timed to undercut Kerry-Edwards and suggest that Osama wants them to win. I hadn’t even thought that far, because my response to the story had been to dismiss it out of hand and forget about it instantly, such is my lack of faith in these pronouncements.

The Daily Show also made a big deal over the story I had yesterday about the military recalling musicians who’d retired from the service, to meet the needs of the many military funerals. Jon Stewart said that only the military would think that problem was best solved by hiring more musicians, and urged the Pentagon to “think outside the coffin.” I’m not sure if the story would have gotten any play without the Daily Show. I found the story in the LA Times literally by accident, because there was a copy in the library I looked at while waiting for a librarian to deal with a microfilm screwup. When I looked for a link to post for the story that didn’t involve a registration process, I found that no other news source had it.

THE DOG ATE... Speaking of microfilm screwups, the records covering the period Bush claims he wasn’t really AWOL from the National Guard were evidently accidentally destroyed. Oops. I hope this didn’t seriously inconvenience the other people whose records they had to destroy at the same time to make this look less fakey. If you were inclined to give them a benefit of the doubt, there’s this:
“Mr. Talbott's office would not respond to questions, saying that further information could be provided only through another Freedom of Information application.” To which they’ll respond some time after November, no doubt.

A Texas jury on Monday found a British streaker guilty of criminal trespassing for racing on to the field during the Super Bowl in February… Prosecutor Kristin Gurney argued that Roberts’s antics could not be tolerated in post-11 September America. ‘As light-hearted about this as I’d like to be, we don’t live in a society any more where we can excuse this kind of behaviour,’ she told the jury.” — Reuters.

Governor Ahnuuld’s Education Secretary, former-L.A. mayor Richard Riordan, was asked by a 5-year old girl if he knew what her name, Isis, meant. He told her “stupid, dirty girl.” He later said it was a joke. Whatever you want to say about the Gropenführer (who is not going to ask Riordan to resign), at least he waits until they’re a bit older before humiliating them.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Is there not a way to do without the euphonium player?

Daily Cal headline: “Bay Area Chews on Kerry’s Choice for Running Mate.” Nibble him, chew on him, eat him up with a spoon, all right we get it already, he’s purddy.

The US admits that the Iraqi insurgency may be larger than the 5,000 previously estimated. They figured this out in part by the fact that they’ve killed more than that many of them. Vietnam, body counts, any of this ringing a bell?

Nearly 3 years after 9/11, we’re still waiting for the pendulum in favor of civil liberties to swing back. The House fails, 210-210, to remove the Patriot Act provision allowing the Thought Police to subpoena libraries, bookstores etc to find out people’s reading habits. The Justice Dept, lobbying against the move, said that just a few months ago, a terrorist used the Internet at a public library. That would be funnier if I hadn’t read it after a day at the library, where I twice used the computers and in a brilliant self-advertising ploy left them showing this site.

The number of American soldiers killed in Iraq plus Afghanistan has reached 1,000 (on Bush’s birthday yet; most people use candles), the number of “coalition” soldiers killed in Iraq will reach or has reached the same number this week (a pretty fair number have died since the underhand, but largely unreported). However, on the bright side, that one Marine was not actually beheaded. He seems to have been tricked into defecting by the Lebanese Tourist Board as part of a diabolical plot to induce newspapers to use a phrase that hasn’t been used in decades when they reported that the Marine turned up “safe in Lebanon.”

The European Court of Human Rights rules 14-3 that fetuses are not full human beings with a right to life. That leaves it with the individual nations. Tony Blair indicated yesterday that he was open to reducing the time in which an abortion is legal, currently 24 weeks.

Some American got caught in Afghanistan playing Abu Ghraib: The Home Game, having kidnapped 8 Afghans and hanging them by their feet. It seems not to be a rogue CIA operation but rather that the huge bounties on bin Laden, Mullah Omar etc have, shock horror, inspired some people to use dastardly methods to try to collect. The Guardian points out the irony: “Now Mr Idema remains in the custody of Afghanistan's intelligence officials. In a country where the legal framework barely exists, his stay could be even longer than that of his detainees.”

Yes, I have used the words diabolical and dastardly today. I think it’s the tar fumes from the work being done on the roof next door going to my head.

The LA Times reports (excerpted):

Does the global war on terrorism really need an electric bass player? The question was posed to senior Pentagon officials Wednesday by Rep.

Vic Snyder, an Arkansas Democrat, who had spent part of his morning looking through the list of retired soldiers the Pentagon announced last week that it was pressing into service to support military operations in Iraq. The call-up of the 5,674 troops from a pool of 118,000 who left the service and did not join the reserves has provoked outrage among members of Congress and others. ...

Snyder, a former Marine, noted that the Army's list included two trumpeters, one trombonist, four clarinetists, three saxophone players, an electric bass player and a euphonium player.

"Is there not a way to do without the euphonium player?" Snyder asked Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff. "Do we need to really draft an electric bass player, to pull them back in? Is there not a way that we can't let that kind of thing slide?"

After a laugh in the hearing room, Cody answered with a straight face that the bands have been busy, tending to services and funerals. These days, Cody said, "our bands are being stressed quite a bit."

You didn't say "may I"

Values, values, values, enough talk about values from the candidates. It’s really the emptiest of empty rhetoric. If a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, a political candidate is someone who will spend $100 million in ads whittering on about his “values.”

Although some newspapers, and Slate’s Today’s Papers quote Bush as responding to a question asking him to compare and contrast Cheney with Edwards, who the questioner breathlessly described as “charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy,” with “Dick Cheney could be president,” he actually said “Dick Cheney can be president.” The conditional tense is a little beyond Shrub (“is our children learning?”). Still, there’s an arrogance to the words he chose to challenge Edwards’ qualifications, which everyone notes are comparable to Bush’s 4 years ago, or indeed Dan Quayle’s when Bush the Elder picked him, as if Bush gets to decide what the minimum standards are. The question isn’t whether Edwards “can” be president--he’s over 35, native-born, and a rich white male--but whether he “should” be. Cheney spent the rest of the day crying in an undisclosed location because he thought Dubya thought that he WAS sexy.

Follow-up: 3 months ago I mentioned a 99-year old (now 100) British man who killed his wife of 67 years. Today he “walked free,” although possibly with a cane or walker. He was given a 12-month “community rehabilitation order,” which I looked up. It’s basically probation. “You must work with your supervising officer to find ways of stopping your offending. You are expected to make every effort.”

Correction: that Iraqi minister of human rights is actually the “minister of justice and human rights,” which Robert Fisk points out is a unique combination of responsibilities. He’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping.

A few days ago a Russian tv news show host, Savik Shuster, criticized Russian politicians for not debating changes in social legislation. He said that “when those in power refuse to embark on a dialogue with society,” the result is street protest and repression. Speaking of refusing to embark on a dialogue, Mr. Shuster has been pulled from the air, the second tv commentator canned in the last month.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Eternal President in the land of the gogigyeopbbang

The New Republic claims that the Bushies have ordered Pakistan to find Al Qaida leaders and capture/kill them late this month, preferably during the Dem. convention. The story’s sources are all anonymous, so it’s close to worthless as proof, but it’s certainly plausible enough.

Speaking of dirty tricks Bush might be capable of, do you think he’d hire a hooker to seduce Kerry, and then turn the results into a campaign commercial? Because I’m wondering if John McCain might not have been that hooker (or ten-dinar prostitute, to coin a phrase), in exchange for replacing Rummy as secretary of war in a 2nd Bush term.

The Indy points out that although Kim Il-Sung died 10 years ago Thursday, he is still head of state, or “Eternal President,” which makes it darned hard to overthrow him. Don’t tell the Republicans about this, or they’ll figure out a way to give that title to Reagan. The Daily Telegraph sees signs of a thaw, though: the hamburger has arrived in North Korea. Or, as they call it there, gogigyeopbbang, literally “double bread with meat”, in case you’re writing a screenplay for Pulp Fiction II.

A civics class for the whole country

Japan’s Defense Ministry will issue the annual defense white paper in manga form. I’m picturing exploding heads and little girls with really big eyes.

Iraqi PM “Kapowie” Allawi not only supports yesterday’s American airstrikes on Fallujah, but hell, he says, we provided the intelligence for the 83rd attempt to kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And a new group sent a videotape to Al Arabiya, threatening to kill Zarqawi if he didn’t leave the country. Ah, a pro-government death squad: John Negroponte has definitely arrived.

I could have sworn that the US told Allawi he would not be allowed to declare martial law, but yesterday a law (possibly called the "Patriot Act") was passed giving him the power to do that, impose curfews (which will be enforced by the US military, resolving my question about whose military “martial” refers to), ban “seditious” groups and parties, arrest dissidents, seize mail...
(Later:) I was joking, sorta, about the Patriot Act thing, but the Iraqi--you should pardon the expression--minister of human rights made the same comparison, and not to condemn the law. He referred to the targets of those powers as "evil forces," which is perhaps not a phrase the minister of human rights should be using. I would also question whether "law" is the right word, since it was issued by the executive; decree is more like it, or ukase.

The DHS’s internal investigation whitewashes the former administrator of Medicare Thomas Scully for threatening the chief actuary if he told the Congress the truth about the cost of Bush’s drug plan (Scully is now a lobbyist for drug companies). It says the threat was not illegal, and that Scully had “the final authority to determine the flow of information to Congress.”

An article by Tom Parker, who told the Iraqis how to run this business we call show trial. A limited number of cases, because Allawi needs someone to run his secret police, in a limited period of time, the use of harsh Iraqi law rather than wimpy international law so that they can execute Saddam rather than see him “live out his days in a comfortable Dutch prison,” televised as a “civics class for the whole country” (the condescending jerk doesn’t mention whether the US military will continue to seize and censor the video before it’s aired, or whether the courts will only operate during the 23 minutes a day the power supply needed to run the tv’s will be on). Justice Jackson must be rolling over in his grave. Speaking of justice, Parker only uses the word once, and then in the sense of jurisprudence rather than something which is just.

The Senate confirms Leon “No shit, Sherlock” Holmes to District Court in Arkansas 51-46. Holmes is the guy who thinks wives should be subservient to their husbands and really really doesn’t like abortion. He thinks there needn’t be rape exceptions to bans on abortion, because raped women never get pregnant.

A few from Al Kamen’s contest for attack ads:

For Kerry:
• "Bring back complete sentences"
• "Elect a man who can pronounce 'nuclear'"
• "It's Skull and Bones, not Numbskull and Bones"
• "Let's make ketchup a vegetable again"

For Bush:
• "It's still my turn"
• "Standing behind a Bush -- Not using the John"
• "50 million Frenchmen can be wrong"
• "Vote Bush: To Forgive is Divine"