Sunday, October 31, 2004

Fine, you’re evil and you’re also excellent dancers

From a WaPo story on a US compound outside besieged Fallujah:
“They’re not used to Marines,” said Cpl. Andrew Carlson, a Marine reservist from the 4th Civil Affairs Group, based in Washington, D.C. “The only thing they hear about us is that we’re evil.”

Running thin

The US military in Iraq keeps saying, and with a straight face, too, that the order to attack Fallujah will rest with Iyad “Not So Comical” Allawi. The American imperative to pretend that its hand-picked puppet exercises real authority is given priority over Allawi’s need for moral authority. Not that Allawi seems to recognize such a need. Indeed, he seems anxious to be known as the man who ordered the mass murder of his fellow Iraqis. His patience is running thin, he says. We have to restore stability in Iraq, he says. The lives of thousands of Fallujans now depend on Allawi’s emotional-control issues and the viscosity of his patience.

The chief demand is that Fallujah hand over Zarqawi and the foreign militants, because as we all know the resistance is the exclusive work of outside agitators. Even American military types are (anonymously) telling reporters that Zarqawi may very well no longer be in the city. My question is: if the city leaders did find, capture and hand over Zarqawi, would they get the $25 million reward?

Uttar Pradesh is struggling to reduce its population. Its solution: if you want a license for a shotgun, two people must be sterilized; for a handgun, five. So you get to combine the population-reducing effects of forced and/or fraudulent sterilizations with increased gun deaths. Genius. And Uttar Pradesh’s population policy is partially funded by the US.

Getting down...on their level

California voters: I’ve expanded my arguments against Prop. 62 and for Prop. 66, if you need more convincing. Link to all my proposition recommendations in upper-right column.

In Kentucky, possibly senile Senator Jim Bunning’s supporters have been hinting in the least subtle way that his challenger, Daniel Mongiardo, is gay. In Kentucky it’s okay to smoke tobacco but not cock. Anyway, Mongiardo has responded so vehemently that it’s clear he considers gay the worst possible thing he could be called, so to hell with him. He’s actually claimed that the innuendo is a violation of the Commandment against murder, because it is character assassination. Mongiardo says he won’t “get down on their level,” which is a straight (ahem) line if I ever heard one.

In Florida, Bush says, “I strongly believe the people of Cuba should be freed from the tyrant.” Note the verb form: “be freed.” Freed by whom?
(Update: other news sources have this as
should be free from the tyrant”. I haven’t heard it myself.)

Finding WMDs Within Yourself

A winner in a New Statesman competition calling for blurbs in new self-help books:

Finding WMDs Within Yourself
Forget spontaneous human combustion - the revelation of this psychogenic fugue state could be devastating to you and those around you. Your finger is on the button.

This book contains comprehensive yet simple methodologies geared to change you and your family’s regime. It is not necessary to believe your own endocrine system has the capability to create WMDs, just have a willingness to accept that it could. From this, all else follows: drawing extensively from the author’s previous bestsellers, The 45-Minute Manager and Just the Tikrit!, the dossier is now complete. This seminal work examines chemical components of human nature and expresses existential viewpoints for readers wishing to experiment further with logical extrapolations of the premise that, as carbon-based life forms, with an accumulated wealth of health-threatening toxic elements sufficient to populate a GCSE-passing periodic table, we similarly own the potentiality for explosive change.

John Griffiths-Colby

Friendly militias redux

Back in August, I reported that Paul Wolfowitz “wants to build a ‘global anti-terrorist network of friendly militias,’ bypassing insufficiently pliable national militaries in favor of building up warlords and death squads and you’ve got to be fucking kidding.” He proposed this in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, but no American newspaper reported it, no American politician that I know of denounced it.

So it’s going ahead. The U.S. Special Operations Command has gotten a slush fund of $25 million in a provision snuck into the most recent Pentagon authorization bill, which was signed Friday. The LA Times seems to be the only newspaper that has noticed, and mostly presents it as only an operational thing--“enabling America’s elite soldiers to buy off tribal leaders or arm local militias while pursuing Al Qaeda operatives and confronting other threats.” The paper ignores Wolfowitz’s more grandiose plans for a global network, indeed it is evidently unaware of them, not mentioning him or “friendly militias” in the story.

Congress does seem to have built in some safeguards, although the lack of public discussion of this move doesn’t suggest they’ll be exercising much in the way of oversight. At best, millions in bribes will be put in the hands of unsavory thugs, such as the Afghan warlords who sold their opponents to the CIA to be spirited away to Guantanamo, and the next generation of Chalabis. At worst, the money will build up forces that will destabilize nations, commit atrocities, or otherwise come back to bite us in the ass, like the aid given to mujahaddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Another Manhattan

Tom Ridge held a press conference to announce that he wasn’t raising the alert color. Although he was wearing a red shirt at the time.

A letter to the NYT suggests combining Iraq’s parliamentary elections with a referendum on ending American occupation. Now, that would increase voter turnout!

On that tape, bin Laden said the US would have to do certain things to avoid “another Manhattan.” That’s a hell of a threat to Republicans, who don’t like the one we have now. Threaten them with another San Francisco, and they’ll really panic.

Insurgents in Fallujah claim to have added chemical weapons to mortar rounds and missiles. (I read that a few hours ago, I think on the BBC website, and didn’t copy a link because I figured it would be reported everywhere. It’s not.)

William Saletan on the Bush-Bin Laden codependent relationship:
“That’s the story of Bush. Clear intentions, lousy judgment, counterproductive results. I love his intentions as much as I hate Bin Laden’s, but the two men turn out to be well-matched. Bin Laden pisses people off and drives them into the arms of Bush. Bush pisses people off and drives them into the arms of Bin Laden. Bush keeps Bin Laden in business; Bin Laden keeps Bush in office.”

At war with these terrorists

Bush’s response to bin Laden’s tape: “I also want to say to the American people that we’re at war with these terrorists and I am confident that we will prevail.” What a weird sentence. I read it over and over, and it seems to have less meaning each time. Does he think we haven’t noticed the war? And, of course, he has he often expressed confidence about capturing bin Laden, although not recently for some reason.

Another response, from Republican pollster David Winston: “The response from the American people is going to be more along the line of ‘This guy is trying to inject himself in the process, and we don’t like it.’” Yeah, just like those English people who had the nerve to write letters to American voters. You just hate to see bin Laden tarnishing the favorable impression Americans previously had of him with a trick like that.

Here in California, the Republican challenger for Senate, Bill Jones, who is said to have won the primary based on name recognition--Bill Jones!--has run no ads, because he has no money. The LAT can’t figure out when the last time was that this happened, but does say that the first tv ads in a Senate race were in 1950.

Still in California, the LAT reports that the Scientologists are against a proposition to fund mental health programs. Imagine that!

I just received a mailer from a candidate for school board. It has an improperly placed comma. Tsk tsk.

Just looked at his website, which was mentioned in the mailer. He says school’s when he meant schools’. Tsk tsk tsk tsk.

The WaPo has an article about the Tom Coburn/Brad Carson Senate contest in Oklahoma, without mentioning the 3rd candidate in the race, Sheila Bilyeu, who’s getting 6% in the polls, possibly because she’s the only one running to the left of Neanderthal, presumably at the direction of the radio device implanted in her head by the military in the 1970s, which she has sued the federal government many times to have removed.

Friday, October 29, 2004

We will whack them

In Iraq, U.S. Brig-Gen Denis Hajlik says of Fallujah, “We are gearing up for a major operation. If we do so, it will be decisive and we will whack them.” Whack them? Should our generals really be doing Tony Soprano impressions?

And should Kerry be doing impressions of Shrub in his cowboy mode? “I regret that when President Bush had the opportunity to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora he outsourced the job to Afghan warlords.” Did he mean to say kill or capture, or maybe “bring to justice”? No, because he also said, “There’s no such thing as a negotiation with terrorists. Terrorists are going to be hunted down and killed.”

The US is threatening “a variety of measures” against Ukraine when it steals Sunday’s elections. There are irregularities, and you know how the Bushies hate irregularities in elections. They even, and I’m quoting the Guardian here, “sent a series of emissaries, including George Bush Sr and Henry Kissinger, to Kiev to call for fair elections.” Ask any Chilean about Henry Kissinger’s commitment to fair elections.

Sometimes you’re just thirsty:
Portage, Wisconsin: A woman has been arrested for digging up her dead boyfriend’s ashes from a cemetery more than ten years ago and drinking the beer that was buried with him. Karen Stolzmann, 44, has been charged with concealing stolen property. The urn was found at her home. (AP)

Good David Corn article on unanswered questions about Bush personally and about Bush policies.

Robert Fisk writes about Arafat (the article will appear here in a day or two):
“He is a wearying man, not just in his repeated death but in life as well, a man who married the Revolution - as his wife was to discover - rather than develop a coherent strategy for a people under occupation. And in the end, he became like so many other Arab leaders - and as the Israelis intended him to be - a little dictator, handing out dollars and euros to his ageing but loyal cronies, falsely promising democracy, clinging to power in his shambles of an office in Ramallah. Had he done what he was supposed to do - had he governed "Palestine" (the quotation marks are daily more important) with ruthlessness and crushed all opposition and accepted all Israel’s demands - he would be able now to visit Jerusalem, even Washington.”

Osama and the middle finger of righteousness

Bin Laden shows up again and, say, which finger is he holding up, anyway?

October Surprise indeed, and the only question we all ask is how it will affect the US election. “You’re so vain, you prob’ly think this jihad’s about you.” Well, Kerry supporters will think it shows Bush’s failure to accomplish the first necessary response to 9/11--capture the guy responsible, and the Bush supporters will think that it shows there are still terrorists out there who only Bush can save us from. Bin Laden specifically said he wasn’t endorsing either candidate, just to make that clear.

He says that Bush is “still misleading you and hiding the real reason [for 9/11] from you” and then cites a reason for it I’ve never heard before. For a fairly blunt piece of symbolic communication, his message wasn’t really all that clear. Evidently, it was a response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, specifically the bombing of tower blocks in Beirut. So his idea was that America should “taste what we taste and would be deterred from killing our children and women.” With yesterday’s Lancet report of 100,000 dead in Iraq, we can now say that bin Laden is actually less effective in his tactics than George Bush.

The “they hate us for our freedom” thing seems to have pissed him off. He responds, “we are a free people ... and we want to regain the freedom of our nation. ... If Bush says we hate freedom, let him tell us why we didn’t attack Sweden, for example. It is known that those who hate freedom do not have dignified souls, like those of the 19 blessed ones.” Dignified souls?

This part is cute: “We had no difficulty in dealing with the Bush administration because they resemble the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half by the sons of kings. He adopted despotism and the crushing of freedoms from Arab rulers and called it the Patriot Act, under the guise of combating terrorism.”

He even zings Bush for the “My Pet Goat” thing, although he thinks the kid was talking about her own goat (“It appeared to him that a little girl’s talk about her goat and its butting was more important than the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers”), which means 1) he really knows nothing about America, much less Florida, where there are not that many goatherds, 2) he hasn’t seen “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Maybe the butting thing sounded better in Arabic.

That battle of perceptions

I’ve mentioned before the Bushies’ obsession with visual images in the Iraq War, from the staged toppling of Saddam’s statue to the flight deck, as if they’re constantly auditioning for a postage stamp.

This is especially the case for Secretary of War Rummy, who didn’t consider torture in Abu Ghraib an issue until the photos came out; before then it was “one-dimensional.” He was also much more angry about the release of the photographs than about what was in the photographs. At least one tactical decision, the assault on Fallujah in April, was entirely a response to images, those of the four dead contractors.

This week, Rummy gave a speech in which he said that terrorists are trying to scare off Americans with televised images of carnage. “They’re convinced that if they can win that battle of perceptions, managing the media and affecting people’s thinking, that we will lose our will and toss in the towel. Well, they’re wrong.”

The “war on terror” is not the only thing the Bushies are trying to sell as if it were toothpaste: they’re also trying to sell terror itself. The Blue Lemur has a scan of an RNC mailer with Kerry’s photo juxtaposed with images of the Twin Towers burning.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I have no idea how accurate the study is which says that 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq, but I do know what to make of the Pentagon spokesman who told the WaPo that this war has been “prosecuted in the most precise fashion of any conflict in the history of modern warfare”. Precise warfare is retail warfare. Swords are precise. Dropping huge quantities of high explosives out of airplanes onto cities, not so much.

Speaking of swords, a worker at a steel car-parts factory in Detroit made himself a sword over the course of several days and then killed a fellow worker with it. Good workplace rule of thumb: when someone suddenly starts making a sword, it’s not good.

Yesterday I mentioned a white Zimbabwean MP (one of three) who hit the justice minister, in parliament. He has been sentenced by that parliament to one year of hard labor. A bill of attainder, you don’t see those much anymore.

Putin is in Ukraine just days before its presidential elections, trying to boost the chances of Viktor Yanukovych. They even brought up the date of a military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Kiev from the Germans. I don’t get this mixing of symbols of national independence and national subservience. I also don’t get why some of the members of the military were dressed up as Snoopy pretending to be a World War I flying ace.

Speaking of Halloween, I’ve had this picture for a couple of weeks without thinking of anything especially funny to say about it. What I like about it is that when picking out a pumpkin, which are customarily carved into faces, he instinctively went not for a round pumpkin, but for one with a long “face” like his own.

(Update: Bob Goodsell finds the rich pumpkinny humor that I couldn’t.)

Or are they clones?

Team Chimpy is caught doctoring a photo in an ad, duplicating groups of soldiers.

It immediately counter-charges that in this picture Kerry stood next to only one flag. What sort of American stands next to only one flag?

Al-Qaqaa Cock-Up

Not to compare Bush with Hitler or anything (I generally find him more Mussolini-esque), but Bush’s political career might also die in a bunker. This one, at Al Qaqaa.

As it turns out, embedded reporters may actually have recorded the Al Qaqaa Cock-Up in real-time. The KSTP footage here (Internet Explorer only). The troops are so relaxed, and they leave the door unlocked behind them, because the area was supposed to have been secured, within a perimeter controlled by the US military.

If Bush can ignore “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,” then he’s certainly capable of ignoring this label.

Speaking of ignoring the bloody obvious, his campaign operatives who gave the kid this sign seem to have forgotten that the Amish are pacifists.

Tom Coburn: genetic predisposition to being a douchebag?

At today’s Oklahoma Senate debate, Tom Coburn (R) took a breather from worrying about lesbianism in girls’ high school bathrooms to say that privatization of Social Security would be good for black men, who are currently cheated by the program because they have “a genetic predisposition to have less of a life expectancy.” And Coburn is supposed to be a doctor, so he should know. OK, after I heard that Coburn had run an ad considered to be racist (which I still haven’t been able to see), I asked how many of those under-age girls he sterilized were non-white. Now I ask it again.

Genetic predisposition, sheesh. Reminds me of former LAPD Police Chief Daryl Gates, who once suggested that the reason black people kept dying when police applied choke holds to them (a practice later outlawed) was that their tracheas might be narrower than those of “normal people.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Vocabulary word of the day: after a fight in the Zimbabwean Parliament, in which a white opposition MP hit the justice minister, who said that his farm had been seized because his ancestors were murderers and thieves, the justice minister has been given the nickname “Chinamasiswa,” which means “he who took such a beating he messed his trousers”.

Texas judges being, well, Texas judges, one decided to hold a party to welcome back a fugitive murderer, with balloons and streamers and a cake with one candle representing his one year on the lam. “We’re so excited to see you, we’re throwing a party for you,” the judge told Billy Wayne Williams, before sentencing him to life for assaulting his girlfriend.

A blind woman has had partial sight restored after getting a transplant of retinal cells from an aborted fetus. Let the shit storm begin. Cells from an adult would work, but with a higher chance of rejection, requiring immuno-suppressant drugs, which fetal cells do not.

It’s fun, in a shame-inducing way, reading about American politics in British newspapers. Today Shrub called Kerry a Monday-morning quarterback, and the Indy had to explain the term to its readers.

Bush keeps saying that Kerry will say anything to get elected. GeeDubya, of course, can say very few things, and can correctly pronounce even fewer. Someone should teach him how to pronounce his new title: Chinamasiswa-elect.

Meanwhile, Cheney gets at the real issues of the campaign, questioning “how often [Kerry]’s been goose-hunting before.” Yes, America wants to know.

AP story: “An Australian court ruled Wednesday that a convicted heroin dealer can claim a $165 million tax deduction for money that was stolen during a drug deal.”

In the world’s largest democracy, India, one-quarter of the members of Parliament face criminal charges, including over half the members of the Rashtriya Janata Dal party, a member of the ruling coalition.

Charges gone wild

Bushies are denouncing Kerry for talking about the Al Qaqaa Cock-Up, with Andy Card criticizing him for harping on “an old story...yesterday’s news,” and Karl Rove criticizing him for harping, period. “Kerry, by so rapidly embracing the story, is going to end up being tarnished by it. What would he do as president? Get up every morning and say, ‘I’m going to govern based on what I find in the newspapers?’” Heaven forfend.

Bush himself says, “For a political candidate to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief.” Oh lord, it’s just too easy; the man has no self-awareness at all. And Bush calls them “wild charges,” but won’t explain in what way they are wild, indeed won’t explain anything. So his counter-attack on Kerry’s attack also contains no facts, and the circle of life continues. His first words about the Al Qaqaa Cock-Up are an attack on Kerry for talking about the Al Qaqaa Cock-Up, because to do so is “denigrating the actions of our troops in the field.”

The Bush campaign site,, has blocked access from outside the US (outside North America, anyway).

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Quote unquote, register voters

The CIA’s transfer of Iraqi prisoners to other countries was backed up by a legal opinion (which the NYT for some reason called a “US Ruling” in a headline) that they weren’t covered by the Geneva Conventions. The government won’t say how it decides who is or isn’t covered, just that government agencies--the CIA? Defense Dept?--are the ones making those decisions. We do know that non-Iraqis who entered Iraq after the invasion began aren’t considered covered.

Even if we grant for the sake of argument that such people aren’t covered, the US decided to act in Iraq on the basis of secret rules only it knew. If some prisoners are to be covered by one set of rules and others by another set, then there are really no rules. The rule of law--even the international laws which cover warfare--is based on transparency, with everyone knowing what rules apply to them. Without that transparency, there is no more moral legitimacy than the kidnappers of Margaret Hassan have.

Onion headline: “Republicans Urge Minorities To Get Out and Vote on Nov. 3.” Which would be funny except that black Floridians really are getting phone calls that do just that.

Other voter-suppression techniques are actually just voter-inconveniencing, voter-confusing, and voter-discouraging techniques. They’ll accomplish the same goal without leaving quite the same stink as road blocks, “felon” purges, etc. The Ohio R’s just dropped thousands of challenges to voters they had claimed might be fraudulent, citing computer error (they had said that mail sent to these registered voters had been returned). I suspect this was the plan all along, to raise the issue and then drop it in order to create uncertainty (in fact to create the same lack of transparency I just complained about in POW treatment) among voters over whether they were actually registered, to discourage them from potentially waiting on long lines on election day (R’s also plan to make them even longer by challenging voters) only to find that they weren’t allowed to vote. The Ohio D’s have already decided not to challenge a ruling that will hurt them, that provisional ballots only count if cast in the correct polling station (incorrectly decided, as I explain below), because if it dragged through the courts any longer, voters would be too confused on election day.

Oh, the quote I couldn’t find yesterday: Cuyahoga County Republican Chairman James P. Trakas said, “The organized left’s efforts to, quote unquote, register voters -- I call them ringers -- have created these problems”. Quote unquote, indeed.

Why the 6th Circuit and other court’s rulings on provisional ballots are wrong: the federal law that created provisional voting said that voters had to cast provisional ballots in the same controlling authority--or some such phrase--as they were registered. This meant counties or their equivalent, not voting precincts which aren’t “authorities” in any sense.

(Update: My cat just received an email from Team Chimpy chair Marc Racicot, asking for money for the recount fund. It says, “Those who oppose us have already used theft, vandalism and assault as weapons to win this election. Their next stop will be the courts.”)

Thin line

Pakistan, still working on finding that thin line between civilization and barbarism, will get tough on “honor killings” by applying the death penalty to it. Honor killers can still get away with it by paying compensation to the families of their victims.

George Bush, still working on finding that thin line between civilization and barbarism, was asked if Christians and Muslims worshipped the same god. He said yes, except for the bad Muslims like bin Laden and Zarqawi, who “pray to a false god. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be killing innocent lives like they have been.”

It’s Bush’s day to tell people they aren’t living up to ideals which Bush actually opposes. He said that Kerry’s foreign policy “position of weakness and inaction” went against “the great tradition of the Democratic Party.”

Dick Cheney said of the Al Qa Qaa Cock-Up that “It is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad.” This is known as turning lemons into lemonade, since the very reason it is not clear is that no troops were sent to secure the explosives.

Fallujah 1991

Here's what Ramsey Clark said in The Fire This Time: US War Crimes in the Gulf (1992):
“In mid-February [1991], missiles accounted for at least 200 reported civilian deaths and 500 more injured in the town of Falluja. ...These deaths were the result of two separate attacks, allegedly on bridges. ... However, witnesses disagree, calling the bomb placement intentional.” The bridge was 1 1/2 km. from the bridge. “The other attack destroyed a row of modern concrete five- and six-story apartment houses near another bridge, as well as several other houses nearby. As Middle East Watch described it, ‘All buildings for 400 meters on both sides of the street, houses and market, were flattened.’”

More fun with pictures from the Bush campaign web site

“Really; Dick Cheney’s head is like this big!”

“Are these those Internets I keep hearing about?”

“I’m with stupid.”

An unholy ritual of some kind.

“Hey, did you notice the flag?”

Monday, October 25, 2004

Vox simius, vox dei

Letters to the (London) Times deny that the guy I mentioned yesterday is the first Satanist in the Royal Navy, one claiming to have filled that in on a form in 1947. He was asked what special facilities he would require for Sunday worship.

Funny and all too appropriate John Bunning picture.

I should probably be thinking about the political implications of Rehnquist’s cancer. But instead I keep picturing him in a hospital gown with stripes on the sleeves and his butt hanging out. Please make it stop.

An Indy reporter says that he’s been to Al Qa Qaa, the arms depot with the funny name, before. It was named in Tony Blair’s “dodgy dossier” as a site where chemical weapons were manufactured. The Iraqi government immediately invited reporters to check it out, and they did, and it wasn’t. IAEA inspectors also regularly visited. So by the time the war started, the US knew exactly what was in Al Qa Qaa; it wasn’t an intelligence failure, but a failure to act on intelligence. But you know what they say in the Pentagon: 350 tons of high-quality explosive here, 350 tons of high-quality explosive there, pretty soon it adds up.

The WaPo Tuesday has a truly wrong-headed editorial suggesting that the candidates should promise now to “put the national interest first” and not challenge close election results merely because they might have been, ya know, stolen. That was Scalia’s logic in Gore v. Bush. The logic that the next president’s legitimacy would be harmed by his election being put under judicial scrutiny is the logic that causes the Bushies to complain about his being fact-checked, or about Chimpy’s assertions being questioned. My favorite recently was the campaign threatening legal action against MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign for discussing the possibility of a draft, saying that Shrub’s promise that he wouldn’t start one should have been enough to put the issue beyond doubt or discussion. Thus the title of this post, which hopefully is the Latin for “the voice of the monkey is the voice of God” (there seems to be no Latin word for chimpanzee), a play on the phrase Vox Populi, Vox Dei.

If my readership drops to zero tomorrow, I’ll blame my attempt to make a joke in a dead language I don’t actually know.

Anyway, I’ve heard R campaign officials--there was one today in Ohio talking about why they were planning to put thousands of workers into polling places to challenge voters who, ahem, look ineligible; I’ve lost the quote, but he was blaming it on D voter-registration drives, which he evidently considered tantamount to a dirty trick.

Good for...

The Bush campaign sent another email to my cat. Who is still not impressed.

This one cleverly appeals to her as a Californian, with a link to a webpage that shows “President Bush is Good for California.” Actually, it looks like no one even bothered to customize these pages for each state, just inserted the state name every sentence or two, like a piece of junk mail. There are no pages for Guam, Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia. Each page has pictures, and some of those are pretty generic, too, campaign events, people waving signs. Some are not. See if you can guess which state’s website this picture is from (all pictures are from the Bush website):

That’s right, Texas. Looks kinda naked without the hat.

Ah, that’s....better?

One of the California pictures shows typical young Republicans, at least in California.

And here’s Bush with a typical older Republican. After this picture was taken, he couldn’t color in his coloring books for a week.

After that, he decided it was safer to send a stand-in to California. No one noticed the difference.

He also sent a stand-in to Alaska, because he’s afraid of polar bears.

Arctic Warriors? Um, are we at war with the Eskimos or something? I think we should be told.

Legitimately targeted, regrettably harmed, shit out of luck

In talking about the historical amnesia over Fallujah, I missed a quote, from British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, who after the 4 contractors were killed said that it “was not the Americans who cast the first Fallujah.” My own historical amnesia was pointed out to me (by email) by blogger ManicNetPreacher, who noted that in the 1st Gulf War, the market in Fallujah was bombed twice (by the British).
(Update: he's written his own post on the subject, with more details.)

The Dayton Daily News used the FOIA to get hold of Iraqi compensation records, and found that most Iraqis were turned down, with such comments as “Coalition forces dropped ordnance during Operation Iraqi Freedom on legitimate targets. Your family was in an area that was being legitimately targeted and therefore regrettably harmed.”

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Al Qaqaa Cock-Up

So we let 380 tons of explosives get stolen from the Al Qaqaa military base in Iraq. As Rummy likes to say, freedom is messy.

My contribution to the discussion of this fiasco is to give it a name, that in the title of this post. Please use it widely.

Triumph of the W

A member of the crew of the Royal Navy frigate Cumberland (his rank is “Leading Hand”) has been allowed to practice Satanism aboard the ship. When Churchill was First Sea Lord, an admiral complained that one of his proposed reforms went against naval traditions. Churchill replied that the only traditions the Royal Navy had were “rum, sodomy, and the lash.” No, I didn’t write a segue between those 2 items--does there always have to be a segue?
(Update: a reader informs me that the quote is apocryphal, pointing me towards the “Churchill didn’t say that, dummy” page of The Churchill Centre website.)

Although ethnic Serbs in Kosovo boycotted the elections, they are guaranteed 1/12 of the seats in the Kosovan parliament.

Lithuanian parliamentary elections are likely to produce a prime minister who made his millions from pickles. Should have a lot to talk about with Teresa Heinz-Kerry.

ANGRY BLACK FLORIDIANS FOR KERRY. Amusing AP headline: “Gore Urges Angry Black Floridians to Vote.” He told them, “If anybody ever tells you that one vote doesn’t count, you tell them to come talk to me,” adding, “really, come talk to me, I’m lonely. So very, very lonely.”

Another AP story describes a Bush rally: “And if the helicopter arrivals weren’t showy enough, Bush had Air Force One fly over the NFL football stadium in Jacksonville where tens of thousands of people were waiting to hear him speak.” Am I the only one reminded of the beginning sequence in “Triumph of the Will,” when Hitler arrived by plane for the Nuremberg rally? Just saying.

Really, just saying.

Fallujah, again & again

Kerry, according to the LA Times, is “framing the White House contest as a choice between hope and fear”. Guess which one is which.

Zarqawi has changed the name of his organization from Jamaat al Tawhid wal Jihad to Tanzim Qaedat al Jihad fi Bilad al Rafidain (Qaeda Organization for Jihad in Iraq).

How many of you were thinking “People’s Front of Judea?”

A few days ago I wrote a post which I called “Fallujah, again,” my point being that long before Fallujah became a symbol of Iraqi intransigence in the minds of American political and military rulers (a role it also took on for the Iraqi resistance), the crushing of which was central to the US mission, indeed long before most Americans had heard of the place, military ham-handedness had ensured that Americans would always be hated in Fallujah. I was trying to remind y’all of how in April 2003 US soldiers shot up two crowds of protesters, and any positive mission was irretrievably lost, leaving only conquest and subjugation.

I didn’t realize how necessary my reminder was until I read this LA Times article, quite a long one entitled “Why America Has Waged a Losing Battle on Fallouja.” Actually, before you read that (or if you don’t intend to), look at this sidebar timeline. Everything before the 4 US contractors were killed is ignored, giving the impression that Americans are the victims in all this and that the Fallujans brought on themselves the onslaught that is coming. The article isn’t quite as bad as the timeline, and is worth reading, but it glances over the school protest in 2 sentences in an 8,000-word article, and this near-amnesia about the events of 2003 allow it to buy into the demonization of Zarqawi and talk about the need to “root out insurgents,” as if it’s just “outside agitators” behind the Sunni uprising.

These are the most significant posts in this blog from the “lost year” of American operations in Fallujah:

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Every vote counts--I mean, zero’s a number, right?

40% of Albanians live on streets which don’t have names.

The motto of the dark comedy that is Election 2004 is “Now, We’re All Florida!” To ratchet up our embarrassment for our nation one more notch, read about it in a British newspaper. I like the description of Florida’s plan to deal with the manual recounts required by law as “staggeringly devious”:
The state will now permit analysis of the computerised machines’ internal audit logs in the event of a close race, she said, but if there is any discrepancy the county supervisors are to go with the original count. In other words: we will do recounts, but if the recounts change the outcome we will disregard them.
And the article presents a “nightmare scenario” in which the Supreme Court turns the election back to state legislatures, which technically have the right to appoint electors irrespective of how the electors actually voted. One update: the 6th Circuit is allowing Ohio not to count provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct (which is a bad ruling based on a bad reading of the law, as I understand it). The number of people accidentally disfranchised will certainly be surpassed by the number deliberately disfranchised. People should not be prevented by petty loopholes and technicalities from voting for the people who will create future petty loopholes and technicalities.

On this subject, see also this NYT editorial.

Speaking of crappy elections, the Serbs in Kosovo boycotted today’s elections, almost unanimously.

Dick Cheney was inspired, evidently by the sign pictured behind him, to conjure up a world in which Kerry had always been president: the US would have “ceded our right to defend ourselves to the United Nations,” Saddam would have taken over the whole Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union would still be intact, and the Grinch would have stolen Christmas. Enchantment, indeed.

With the same energy I put into going after that goose...

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court quietly destroyed the 1st Amendment, ruling that a newspaper is not protected when it neutrally reports something defamatory said by one person, in this case a borough councilman, about another.

The Polish parliament fails to reintroduce the death penalty, 198-194. Yay!

After watching Kerry’s 1971 testimony in “Stolen Honor,” it is a weird contrast to see Kerry today trying to use the Vietnamese War to bolster his image. “With the same energy ... I put into going after the Viet Cong and trying to win for our country, I pledge to you I will hunt down and capture or kill the terrorists before they harm us.” “I can wage a better war on terror than George Bush has.” A better war on terror, for chrissake.

What is his current position on the justice of the Vietnam war? Here he’s equating the Viet Cong, whose goals were confined to Vietnam, with terrorists who plan to harm us. The “win for our country” phrase suggests that Vietnam was a just war, in American interests to fight. The “before they harm us” suggests he’s swallowed the Bush Doctrine of preemption hook, line and sinker, and claiming the ability to read people’s thoughts and kill them before they act on those thoughts.

Kerry went on, “And we will wage a war on terror that makes America proud and brings the world to our side.” Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I’m ever going to be proud of a war on terror(ism). If you support the “war,” you should consider it a necessary evil, if you don’t, it’s an unnecessary evil. Pride doesn’t enter into it.

Friday, October 22, 2004

I watch “Stolen Honor” so you don’t have to

Although if you want to, you can find it here. This is the original, not the version that just aired. And I’m using a not-completely-accurate “rush transcript” from Daily Kos to check quotes against my own notes, but I went into it fresh.

Before I forget: every anti-Kerry former POW interviewed in the film is white. I assume because we only sent white people to fight in Vietnam.

The argument, if one can distinguish it with that word, is that Kerry’s 1971 testimony was a stab in the back (Dolchstoß, in the original German version of this theme),

which resulted in the US losing the Vietnam war (“a cause lost more at home than on the battlefield”), and POWs being kept by the Vietnamese longer than they would otherwise have been (“the anti-war crowd...owe us two years”) (I know how he feels: the makers of this film owe me 42 minutes of my life back).

I’m a little unsure of the causality of all this, but John Kerry in 1971 was evidently the most powerful person in the country--who knew? Because Kerry called some American soldiers “war criminals,” the North Vietnamese thought that the POWs they held must be war criminals and... no, sorry, the logic escapes me.

The existence of actual war crimes is rejected out of hand, Kerry accused of knowingly lying about them. My Lai is mentioned in order to dismiss it, in the fashion of Rumsfeld talking about Abu Ghraib, as an isolated incident, and anyway wasn’t Lt. Calley punished? (With about a year of rather luxurious house arrest, as I recall). There is some talk, mostly from wives of former POWs, of the US military being over there just to help the Vietnamese people.

It should be pointed out that Kerry’s crime consisted of talking (oh, and he went to North Vietnam too) and being believed. He “wrote the first draft of history,” creating the image of the American soldier in Vietnam that has dominated media portrayals (they really don’t like Apocalypse Now, which oddly enough they hold Kerry responsible for).

They don’t like him having talked about Vietnam in 1971, and they don’t like him talking about Vietnam now. “By making his actions during and after the war the corner-stone of his political career, he forces us to feel again the old agonies and regurgitate old doubts.” At this point, the film just sounds whiny.

So the themes are 1) Kerry is a big ol’ liar, 2) criticizing a war while it’s going on, or even 30 years later, is bad, and 3) we don’t want to have to regurgitate old doubts. In fact, doubt is bad, period. And Jane Fonda also sucks.

Tremulous with anticipation

An Ohio case shows one Bush strategy for “winning” the election in the courts by stopping challenges to election-rigging dead. The Ohio secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, has already shown his willingness to use petty rules (the thickness of the paper used in voter registrations) to deprive people of the right to vote. Now he’s decided that voters can’t cast provisional ballots except at their own polling places. Let’s pass over the rights and wrongs of this case and focus on the US Justice Dept. position, which is that individuals and the Democratic party have no standing to challenge such rules, and that only Ashcroft’s merry minions may sue to enforce election laws.

Bush says Kerry “does not understand the enemy we face and has no idea how to keep America secure.” Yes, George W. Bush is accusing someone of knowing less about something than he does.

By the way, note Bush’s newest rhetorical trick: strategic non-use of contractions. This is also on display in “He can run, but he cannot hide.”

The London Times has the correction to end all corrections: “In our leading article of Tuesday, November 14, 1854, we described the Charge of the Light Brigade as a disaster...” Evidently it wasn’t that bad. Also, their correspondent’s sentence “This melancholy day, in which the Light Brigade was annihilated by their own rashness” has bad pronoun-verb agreement.

Not that I would ever condone such behaviour, but some advice to the next people trying to hit Ann Coulter with a pie: study the methods used in the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

The Welfare State: A British consultant psychiatrist writes in the British Medical Journal about discussions over whether to find a prostitute for a resident of an old age home in his 80s whose regular one had stopped coming around. The staff refused to help him find a new one (he was hard of sight and hearing, making it difficult for him to do so), so he started asking female staff members. They hired a male orderly to follow him around, full time, to prevent him propositioning the women, before eventually finding a prostitute for him. “Mr Cooper had been tremulous with anticipation, and the cab had already been summoned, when the liaison was called off by social services. There had been a second change of plan. Social services now took the view that the prostitute was a sort of therapy, and they would only continue the ‘therapy’ if it was initiated in an NHS hospital and was shown to have a beneficial effect on his behaviour in an inpatient setting.” Eventually he died unfulfilled. It’s a funny story, of course, but you can read it as human interest or for what it says about the treatment of the elderly in institutional settings.

My, what big teeth you have, grandmother

Seen the Bush “Wolves” ad yet? Others have dealt with the ongoing slander on wolves and the fact that the intelligence cut Kerry supported was a Republican plan. I want to highlight two words: “In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America ... John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America’s intelligence operations.” What was the first terrorist attack on America? The assassination of McKinley? The bomb-thrower at the Haymarket riot? I presume they mean the first attack on the World Trade Center, but if the casual viewer understands it to mean 9/11, that’s just fine with the RNC.
(Update: and what do the wolves have to say, you ask.)

A reader wrote to ask, “How long do you think it will take to have a decision on the presidency? I mean assuming the Republicans don’t steal it outright.” As I thought about all the factors involved--the inevitable court challenges in close states, voting-machine meltdowns, dirty tricks, felon purges, voter suppression, incomplete voter lists, etc--it became clear how much the legitimacy of the electoral process has been damaged (good Orcinus post, with lots of links, on these issues). When you think of Bush or Kerry or Nader or Pelletier “winning the election,” do you think that he will have 1) won the most votes, 2) won the most electoral votes, 3) won the most Supreme Court justices, 4) won the most state Supreme Court cases? The link between votes cast and outcome seems to be more and more attenuated. We won’t really believe the final vote count. We will know that many who wanted to vote were disenfranchised, one way or another. I really don’t want to spend another 4 years putting the word president inside quotation marks.

The same reader has brought my attention to Ohio’s Issue I. 11 states have anti-gay marriage measures on the November ballot. Ohio, which already bans gay marriage, will vote on whether “This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.” This is a roll-back of rights going far beyond marriage. Civil unions, which exist in some localities, would go, but the phrasing is so vague that it might also ban gay adoption, domestic violence provisions for unmarried couples, insurance coverage, etc etc.

Elephant man

Left I” has 2 Cuban stories. State Dept spokesmodel Richard Boucher, asked about Castro’s broken knee, said of the 78-year old man, “You’d have to check with the Cubans to find out what’s broken about Mr Castro” and refused to wish him a speedy recovery. Class, pure class.

Also, in a story I can’t believe got so little attention, the Bush admin argued in the Supreme Court last week that the 917 Mariels (shipped by Cuba to the US in 1980) still in American detention have no right to be freed, ever. John Paul Stevens asked whether, if they have no rights at all, they could just be summarily shot. The gov lawyer said no, but couldn’t explain why not.

The Washington Post (finally) checks up on one of Bush’s oft-repeated claims: “Townsend, Bush’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, said ‘three-quarters’ of ‘the known al Qaeda leaders on 9/11’ were dead or in custody. Asked to elaborate, she said she would have to consult a list. White House spokeswoman Erin Healy referred follow-up questions to the FBI. Spokesmen for the FBI, the National Security Council and the CIA did not respond to multiple telephone calls and e-mails.”

California is evidently going to pass a proposition to make primaries “non-partisan,” with all voters being able to vote for any candidates in the primaries, irrespective of party, with only the top 2 being on the ballot, and those as centrist, bland, and death-penalty-supporting as possible. After it passes, I will never be able to vote again for major statewide public offices. So please, Californians, and I will say this bluntly to catch the search engines, Vote no on 62 (for the rest of my prop. endorsements, use the link at the top of the right column).

You may have heard that Gubana Aahnuld Schwarzenegger demonstrated his alleged independence from his own party by coming out in favor of stem cell research (Prop. 71). But he did it late. Indeed, he did it to bolster his unearned rep for independence, then use that rep for Republican goals. Today, my mailbox was graced by an expensive booklet of “Gov. Arnold S.’s Ballot Proposition Voter Guide,” which was paid for by the Republican Party ($2 million, 5 million copies mailed out), which does not feature any position on 71. You can see it by clicking below on what I assume is an unintended juxtaposition on their website (it shows up this way on IE & Foxfire, but not Opera), showing an elephant emerging from Arnie’s forehead. It’s an impressive piece of obfuscatory propaganda, designed to uninform. For example, its description of Prop 63, which it opposes, is “new tax and state bureaucracy,” with no explanation that it is for mental health services. It does say that 63 “will not contribute one cent to education or dealing with the budget crisis.” Or to legalizing ownership of ferrets, but it’s not supposed to. And it says Prop 66 “waters down three strikes law,” creating “another loophole”. The loophole is that for a criminal to get life imprisonment for a 3rd strike, it would have to be for a violent crime, not stealing a slice of pizza.

But what annoys me about this document, why I’ve spent so long on it, is the impropriety of its use of the trappings of office: the governor’s seal appears no fewer than 3 times on the cover and 16 times in total, in a leaflet put out by one party. It is legitimate to put the Gropenführer’s influence into play, but not his office. There are no stylized elephants in the pamphlet.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

How much training do you need to learn that it’s wrong to force a man to masturbate?

Fidel Castro trips and breaks his knee. The Times of London helpfully provides a photo sequence of the fall.

Bush signed a law providing $82 million in grants for preventing suicide among the young. And yet he still funds abstinence programs, which can’t be helping.

Brad Friedman has a list of some of the audio/video clips of Bush’s more embarrassing moments removed from the White House website.

Alternet on polls showing that Bush supporters (the unreality-based community) still believe that Iraq had WMDs and links to Al Qaida. Oh, and they believe that this is exactly what experts and the 9/11 Commission have determined. And the percentage of people who are wrong on the facts is increasing over time. In some ways it’s reassuring that so much of Bush’s support is based on pure pig ignorance (they are also wrong about his positions on various issues). In other ways, not so much.

Sgt Ivan Frederick of the Abu Ghraib Fredericks is going to jail for 8 years. The prosecutor asked, “How much training do you need to learn that it’s wrong to force a man to masturbate?” I’m pretty sure that’s a trick question.

Be vewwy vewwy quiet, I'm pwooving my manwiness to swing voters

John Kerry went hunting in Ohio today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Shouldn’t that be cetacean-American?

Kerry: “The president says he’s a leader. Well, Mr. President, look behind you. There’s hardly anyone there. It’s not leadership.” Ah, the old “Look behind you!” ploy.

Clearly, everyone needs to call their Congresscritter and ask if they have had a flu shot. If they have, vote against them, the wimps. That’s what I like about American elections, their sense of perspective: yesterday Cheney threatened that if Kerry were elected, American cities would be hit with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, rains of toads, the slaying of the first born, crappy parking, etc, and today Kerry attacked Cheney for having been vaccinated.

The 9th Circuit throws out a suit by the “cetacean community” against the Pentagon for damage caused to them by the use of sonar. A scientist brought the suit on the cetaceans’ behalf, in order to bring attention to their plight by becoming the butt of late-night comedians’ jokes.

From the White House website, Department of Shamelessness:

Email the White House...
Q:Heidi from Grafton, WI:
My mother called me in a panic today, because she heard that President Bush has a plan to privatize Social Security. Is this right?
-- Click here for more...

Fallujah, again suggests that Bush won’t call the draft a draft, but watch out for the “No 18-to-25-Year-Old Left Behind Act.”

I feel like I’ve been writing about Fallujah forever. The first time most of us heard the name was when American soldiers shot up a crowd peacefully protesting the occupation of their school. The next day, they shot up a crowd protesting the earlier shootings. 25 dead over both days, and that was it for any possibility of winning the hearts and minds of Fallujah, it wasn’t possible after that. Everything since then has been about subjugation, pure and simple.

When the soldiers withdrew from the school, they left graffiti such as “Eat shit Iraq,” and “I love pork.” By June of last year, I wrote, Fallujah had become “Belfast without the politeness.”

I’ll spare you further recapitulation--although anyone who wants to know more about the history of US-Fallujah relations before we pound the city into dust might wish to use the handy search function. There’s a must-read article in the Guardian by Patrick Graham. He reports that many Fallujans don’t believe there is such a person as Zarqawi. The city authorities say he’s left the city, and I can’t imagine how they would be able to capture him and hand him over if they wanted to.

If you haven’t had enough horror, the Guardian also provides a detailed description of the shooting of a 13-year old Palestinian girl by an Israeli officer. Firing on full automatic.

God’s blessing is on him

The problem with quoting Pat Robertson quoting Bush saying that there would be no casualties in Iraq, is that it’s Pat Robertson, who is batshit insane.

Pat goes on to endorse Bush because “God’s blessing is on him.” Similarly, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council also endorses Bush to head up the Great Satan. That Bush sure does know how to build a coalition!

Iraq is trying to persuade Care International not to leave Iraq after its director Margaret Hassan is kidnapped, saying that pulling out would be giving in to the terrorists. Care International says we’re ok with that.

The US bombs a teacher training college in Fallujah. Fallujah children say we’re ok with that.

You’ve got to get your mind around that concept

Embarrassing death of the day, Guardian headline: “Farmer, 73, Killed by Rutting Stag.”

I believe the official story is that Burma’s semi-moderate semi-reformer PM, Khin Nyunt, has arranged to be deposed by the military in order to spend more time with his family. No, sorry, he has retired “for health reasons.” This is an intramural thing (the Indy explains that in military-junta terms, General Nyunt being made prime minister in the first place was considered a demotion), so not a big deal, I think.

In Ohio, Dick “Mr. Sensitive” Cheney again accuses Kerry of having gone “over the top” by mentioning Mary Cheney’s lesbianism. That metaphor comes from World War I trench warfare. In the very same speech, Dick the Dick demonstrates his greater modernity by going nuclear on Kerry’s ass, saying that under Kerry terrorists would attack American cities with chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, or possibly all three at once, ‘cause Kerry will suck just that bad. “That’s the ultimate threat. For us to have a strategy that’s capable of defeating that threat, you’ve got to get your mind around that concept.” As for instance:

AP headline: “Mormon Church Voices View on Gay Marriage.” I won’t leave you in suspense: they’re against it.

A Guardian article on the US elections notes that while there are some PC limits established by the left--attacking gays and women is now off-limits, for example--the right has created still more taboos: the military can’t be criticized, so Abu Ghraib is never mentioned; anything done in the name of 9/11, including the Patriot Act, is also sacrosanct; concern for international opinion is verboten.

A WaPo article about the use of lies in campaign ads quotes a consultant saying something I’ve said before, that there are simply no penalties for distortion and just plain making shit up. I can’t tell how much of it is that Americans consider it such an integral part of the political process that they literally don’t mind being lied to, and how much is that Bush (and yes, Kerry does it too, more so lately, but he’s not in the same league) has made the calculation that he can lie to the politically ignorant (which is what the undecided voters mostly are at this stage) without pissing off those among his base who know that Kerry didn’t say that terrorism is just a nuisance, and understand why he voted against the $87 billion. You would think that the fact that Bush threatened to veto that very same money if the tax cut for the rich was repealed would make it impossible for him to say that Kerry was abandoning the troops. Another possibility is that news & commentary consumption is so bifurcated now that Bush’s base will simply never see their fearless leader corrected on Fox. The distortions and lies should be treated as a great insult, both to the intelligence of the electors, and to the dignity of the electoral process. You can stop laughing at the word “dignity” now. Really, stop.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Relishing victory

In yesterday’s speech, Bush said that Kerry “has a record of trying to weaken American intelligence.” As opposed to Bush, who brings down the average national IQ all by himself. points out that some of the weapons programs Bush is faulting Kerry for not supporting were also opposed by Bush’s father.

I’ve said before that we need to stop using the same vocabulary to describe real elections and sham elections. In the NY Times today, a headline on page 3: “Relishing Victory at Polls, Belarus Leader Denounces Critics.” But there’s also an editorial, headlined “A Sham Election in Eastern Europe.” The former, by attempting to appear neutral, winds up being a less accurate representation of reality than the latter. It wasn’t a “victory” at the polls, because Lukashenko had rigged the election; the word “relishing” is therefore also inappropriate.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Our duty as an ally

I will not run for president in 2008. I know this is a question no one has asked, but I’m sure the groundswell for me to run is no smaller than that for Jeb Bush, and he felt compelled to announce yesterday that he wouldn’t be running either. Of course, now that he knows he won’t have to compete against me, he might change his mind.

A fun article on neologisms in the Guardian. I love these things. There are always words that appeared astonishingly late (sex, 1929, ceasefire 1918, racism 1935), and those that appeared astonishingly early (celeb, 1913, hip 1904, awesome 1961) (I once saw the 1938 movie Bringing Up Baby in a theater in the Castro district, and when Cary Grant explains his appearance in a women’s bathrobe with the line, “I just went gay, all of a sudden,” the cheering drowned out the next five minutes of dialogue), and those you just never thought about: bagels 1932, egghead 1907, dumb down 1933, pissed off 1943, hippy 1953, F-word 1973).

Speaking of linguistic usage, when did the abbreviation USA--to say nothing of the creepily aggressive/militaristic chant USA! USA!--become the property of the jingoistic right-wing?

In Parliament, British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon defended his accession to American requests that he redeploy British troops in Iraq in the most lap-doggy terms he could think of, saying that to refuse would mean “we will have failed in our duty as an ally.” Most MPs believe that British soldiers will now pay the price for the incompetent policies of the Americans in the areas they will be moving into, as well as for whatever barbarities will be inflicted on Fallujah. They know that this is entirely about sharing the blame and the bleeding in advance of the US elections, since there is no operational reason for 650 British soldiers being added to the 130,000 American soldiers already in northern Iraq. Hoon had no real support in the House, and one MP said that Hoon reminded him of the song in “Oklahoma,” “I’m just a girl who can’t say no.”

In Florida, people are being called up and being registered to vote right over the phone. Except, of course, they aren’t being registered, just tricked into thinking they have been. Others are getting automated phone calls telling them that they can actually vote over the phone right now, press 1 for George Bush, 2 for Patrick Buchanan etc. Except, of course, they aren’t. It’s gonna be a dirty, dirty election.

Speaking of dirty elections, Tsar Vladimir I of Russia has endorsed Bush. Bush once claimed to have looked into Putin’s soul. We know this is false because everyone else who has looked into Putin’s soul spends the next hour huddled in a corner, saying over and over, “So cold, so cold...”

A September 10 attitude

Bush accuses Kerry of having a “September 10 attitude.” Every time Shrub makes one of these statements suggesting that his own view of the world changed drastically on 9/11, doesn’t he just underline his own pre-9/11 ability to ignore intelligence reports entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,” reminding us that September 11 might possibly have been prevented if not for Bush’s own “September 10 attitude?”

The excerpts of the speech I saw on tv were creepy, as much for the audience as for GeeDubya. A bit from the White House transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: Most Americans still felt that terrorism was something distant, and something that would not strike on a large scale in America. That is the time that my opponent wants to go back to.


THE PRESIDENT: A time when danger was real and growing, but we didn’t know it. A time when some thought terrorism was only a “nuisance.”

AUDIENCE: Booo! .....

My opponent has a fundamental misunderstanding on the war on terror. A reporter recently asked Senator Kerry how September the 11th changed him. He replied, "It didn't change me much at all."

Some White House flunky, paid out of your tax dollars, decided how many o’s to put in “Booo!” It appears 15 times in the transcript.

They even booed Kerry for having criticized the Contras and “Ronald Reagan’s policies of peace through strength.”

Bush accused Kerry of having “chosen the easy path of protest and defeatism.” Hey, the path of protest and defeatism isn’t that easy, believe me.

Your self-righteous civics lesson of the day, from someone else whose name ID is nothing

Tom DeLay is refusing to debate his opponent. The Daily Kos points to DeLay’s comment that “A debate would be for his [challenger Richard Morrison’s] benefit, not for mine,” and asks, aren’t debates supposed to be for the benefit of the voters. I’d like to elaborate on that. The Galveston County Daily News story cited by Kos quotes DeLay saying that Morrison’s “name ID is nothing,” and DeLay doesn’t want to raise his profile. DeLay, in other words, is openly and unapologetically counting on voter ignorance, on the differences between their views not being laid before the electorate, and on not having to go before any forum where he might be contradicted or his positions examined critically. Bush’s Boy in the Bubble act writ small. And he’s not the only one. Following the Galveston paper’s website’s links, I find that 69% of Texas’s congressional and state legislative candidates, including DeLay, refused to respond to Project Vote Smart’s questionnaire.

Putting the elements of this story together creates a larger picture of utter contempt for democratic processes and, by extension, for the electorate. One element of this which we’ve become so desensitized to that you probably missed it: DeLay’s stated reasons for refusing to debate Morrison are all hyper-pragmatic, without the smallest sop towards the ideals of democracy. I mean, he’s talking about “name ID”...IN PUBLIC! A campaign manager might speak like that in private, but a candidate in public? It might be the real reason for not wanting to debate, but DeLay announces his cynical political calculus to the world as if it were a legitimate reason, which they should accept and say, “Why of course I shouldn’t expect him debate his opponent, if it might help make his opponents’ name and opinions more familiar to me.” It’s as if Bush had said he wanted to invade Iraq not for WMDs or to bring democracy, but because he wanted the oil, and was going to keep it all himself.

This is, truly, how a republic collapses. People like DeLay think that not just debates, but the entire political system, is for their benefit and theirs alone. Not everyone gets literally to pick and choose their own electorate, as DeLay did when he redrew the boundaries of his district to ensure his easy re-election (one reason this particular electorate might not recognize Morrison’s name), but the continual refusal of imperious candidates to speak to possibly hostile audiences or media or even to the other candidate displays a fundamental reversal of the principles and values of representative democracy: election campaigns and elections are not about the candidates speaking to the people, but about the people choosing the representatives through whom they will speak.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


Team Chimpy decided not to pony up the $1,000 to put a biography and photo of Dick Cheney next to Bush’s in the Oregon voters’ pamphlet. Can’t imagine why.


AP headline: “Bush Says He’s Best Protection from Draft.” Great, can I nail him to my window frame? In another curious example of Shrub misrepresenting Kerry, he says, “The person talking about a draft is my opponent.” Yes, to warn about the threat of YOU instituting a draft.
(Follow up: Tom Tomorrow attempts to lampoon this sort of behaviour in his latest cartoon, but can't really improve upon the original.)

The story also noted that today Kerry “went to Mass and picked up a hunting license”. I blame Vatican II.

I’m not sure exactly what’s going on in Haiti just now. There are evidently gunbattles, or possibly massacres, between the US-backed coup government, which did a spectacularly bad job of coping with the hurricanes, and supporters of twice-ousted President Aristide. The head of UN peacekeepers, a Brazilian general, is blaming John Kerry for the violence, would you believe it, because he “gave hope” to Aristide supporters. That bastard, always giving people hope: spinal-cord injury victims, Haitians... And today Chinese riot police are being deployed. These guys (and 13 women):

Insert your own subtle allusion to Tiananmen Square here.

Bob Harris’s site has a poll:

What would we look forward to most in a second Bush term?
  • A Supreme Court with three more Clarence Thomases
  • Social Security administered by Halliburton
  • A wider, more fascinating variety of national enemies
  • Envying the dead
I won’t tell you which I voted for, because the secret ballot is sacred.

How can we revive the Belarusian villages?

Addendum on Brazil’s plans to shoot down drug-smuggling planes, from the BBC: “the authorities have also warned that drug planes that do not obey air force orders will be shot down even if they are carrying children.” Priorities.

Belarus is holding fraudulent elections to eliminate those pesky term limits on Lukashenko. Some of the ballots came conveniently pre-voted. You know, with a picture like this, Wonkette would make some joke about baby-eating. With Lukashenko the laughter produced by such a joke would be a touch more nervous.

Anyway, here’s Lukashenko’s website, English-language version. Go participate in a forum on “How can we revive the Belarusian villages?” Look at any of 873 pictures of the glorious president and his glorious mustache. Look at a glorious military parade in which soldiers march behind what appears to be a glorious 1960s sedan.

And here are 3 posts of mine that deal with Belarus. Link.
Link. Link.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The reality-based community

I know every blogger is saying this but you must all read the Ron Suskind NYT Magazine piece about Bush’s incredible belief that his “instincts” are always right. I hadn’t realized that the “faith-based presidency” was predicated so explicitly on the complete rejection of empiricism. Suskind says that after an earlier piece, a senior Bushie told him that people like him were “in what we call the reality-based community,” but that the US acts, and in so doing creates its own reality. “We’re history’s actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Reminds me of a quote (this is approximate, from memory): “A man of action can always find a philosopher to explain afterwards what he did.” Benito Mussolini.

While reading another, less subtle article about Bush’s brain, asking “Has Bush Lost His Reason?”, I suddenly realized that Shrub, in his petulant refusal to brook disagreement, reminds me of the little kid with god-like powers who everyone is afraid to contradict in Jerome Bixby’s story “It’s a Good Life,” which was the basis of a Twilight Zone episode, and look, someone put it on-line.

Speaking of people unlike you or me, the London Sunday Times has a story on the notes of a US Army psychiatrist who interviewed Nazis awaiting trial at Nuremberg. Goering told him that the Holocaust went against his “chivalric code”: “I revere women and I think it unsportsmanlike to kill children.” This is also why Republicans oppose abortion but support the death penalty: hunters and fishers throw back the small ones, in order to kill them later. Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz for 4 years: “I don’t know what you mean about being upset about these things because I didn’t personally murder anybody. I was just the director of the extermination programme in Auschwitz.” The same standards will be used to promote Gen. Sanchez after the elections.

Kerry may have forgotten about Poland, but Poland wants to forget about Iraq and start withdrawing troops; it’s official now. And just when Bush wants to shift casualties to other COW countries (coalition of the willing). So it’s poor Britain’s turn yet again to send soldiers with silly hats

into harm’s way. Something like 650 soldiers will be moved from the relatively calm south to Baghdad, and put under American command, so that American troops can invade Fallujah yet again. In Britain, this is widely seen, and resented, as being driven by the American election.

Perhaps only in Germany: a restaurant for anorexics will open in Berlin, called Sehnsucht (“Longing”).

Halliburton has been dodging US sanctions on Iran by using foreign subsidiaries to sell it oil-drilling equipment. The Cayman Islands subsidiary is just a front, with correspondence to it forwarded to Houston.

Bob Harris, frequent contributor to the This Modern World blog, now has his own blog, Check it out. Like me, he sees Lesbian-gate as a deliberate distraction: “pick one non-inflammatory, coherent, compassionate sentence, and try to blow it up into a freakin’ sign of Kerry’s lack of compassion and communication skills. ... Classic Rove. You almost admire the skill. The same way a bullet aimed at your chest might glint in the sunlight just before impact. Nice workmanship, you can think, just before it hits you.” And earlier, on the elder Cheneys’ attitude towards Mary: “Closet. Undisclosed location. Whatever you want to call it is fine.”


David Brooks makes a mostly-dire effort at a parody of the debates, but does put one good line in Bush’s mouth: “America, we’ve been through a lot together. Imagine how bad things would be if I’d made any mistakes.”

Brazil will start shooting down planes suspected of drug smuggling. The AP story does not say if the CIA will be involved, as it is in Peru and Colombia, in targeting planes for summary execution.

Now, for no particular reason, but who needs a reason?--a panda cub:

Dick Cheney was for his own daughter before he was against her

Watch Jon Stewart on Crossfire, metaphorically strangling Tucker Carson with his own bow tie. The lower-quality video is a 7m. download.

Cheney, after thanking Edwards for speaking about Mary at the Veep debates, lambasted Kerry for doing the same: “I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father.” What’s with the turnaround or, if you will, flip flop? One theory is that Cheney prefers to attack people who aren’t physically present, but this is disproved by the Pat Leahy “go fuck yourself” incident. Another theory, shockingly, is that he was told to feign outrage.

There is an interesting vice-presidential precedent. In 1992 Larry King asked Dan Quayle what he would do if his 13-year old daughter decided to have an abortion. For a moment Quayle forgot his role and gave a human answer: “obviously I would counsel her and talk to her and support her on whatever decision she made.” Quayle’s awful wife intervened and said that, actually, they would force their daughter to carry the pregnancy to term.

Remember, supporting your daughter is un-Republican.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Take me out to the women’s softball game

US forces have been bombing Fallujah over and over, in what it amuses them to call “precision strikes.” The WordPerfect dictionary has this usage notation in its definition of “precise”: “Strictly speaking, precise does not mean the same as accurate. Accurate means correct in all details , while precise contains a notion of trying to specify details exactly: if you say ‘It’s 4.04 and 12 seconds’ you are being precise, but not necessarily accurate (your watch might be slow).”

Every blog and cable news show is talking feverishly about Mary Cheney. I wonder if this isn’t playing into Team Chimpy’s hands, not by raising the ire of the God-botherers (my favorite silly argument is that Kerry & Edwards are trying to pry homophobic voters away from publicly praising and supporting a lesbian), but by not talking about Bush’s poor debate performances and other, ya know, substantive policy issues. This may be why the Chimpites are keeping the issue going.

Not that homophobia isn’t an issue, of course, especially given Alan Keyes’s comments & Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.)’s anti-gay, but rather poorly phrased fund-raising letter: “Leaders of the homosexual lobby know if they can take me out, no one will stand against them in the future.” Oh you just wish, Marilyn. Just sitting by the phone, waiting for the leaders of the homosexual lobby to call, waiting, waiting...

I remember the first US Senate race between two women (1986), in which Linda Chavez started a whispering campaign that Barbara Mikulski was gay, and started calling herself Mrs. Chavez.

It has nothing do with shame

Lesbian-gate continues apace. Elizabeth Edwards wonders aloud if the Cheney’s are ashamed of their live gay daughter. Liz Cheney, the non-gay daughter, responds, “It has nothing do with shame. And I think Mrs. Edwards was also out of line. Mary is one of my heroes. And it has nothing to do with being ashamed of Mary.” No, it’s all about exploiting Mary for “some kind of political gain.” What kind, she does not say, and she is not pressed to define it, or explain how it differs from using this fake outrage for political gain. The best part of the interview:
ZAHN: Was your sister offended?

CHENEY: It was a very offensive thing for him to do, yes.

ZAHN: Did you talk to her about it?

CHENEY: It was very offensive. I think I’ll just leave it there.
Oh yes, a very awkward Thanksgiving indeed.

The English historian Conrad Russell has died. As Earl Russell (I will explain to Americans that Earl is a title of nobility, not an attempt to seem less like a member of the British House of Lords and more like a garage mechanic in Louisiana)(he was actually named after his father’s friend Joseph Conrad), he was also a leading Liberal/Lib Dem member of the Lords, surviving the cull of hereditaries. His father was Bertrand Russell, his great-grandfather the tiny prime minister John Russell, aka Jack Russell, inventor of the terrier.

Neither Bush nor Kerry were willing to be the first to stop their competitive display of public affection for their wives and daughters, but Bush was beginning to panic. Laura whispered, “Stand up straight and don’t scowl.”

Thursday, October 14, 2004


I just came across an old post of mine, from December 2000, in which I noted that there were questions Shrub had been allowed not to answer during the 2000 campaign, despite having made his “character” and his faith his chief selling points. Another campaign is nearly over, and guess what?

--When did you take which drugs and how often?

--Do you really think you would have been given all that money to start an oil business when you were in your 20s if it weren’t for your connections?

--Did you fail in that business because you were drunk a large portion of the time, or were you just incompetent?

--Were you arrested any other times?

--How often did you drive drunk with underage siblings in the car (we know of at least two incidents)?

--Did you use AA to give up drinking, and if not, what methods did you use and what methods do you use currently?

--Do you consider yourself to have been an alcoholic?

--Do gays go to hell?


--Catholics? (and we know that Billy Graham has coached you to avoid this question by saying that it’s not up to you who goes to hell, but that’s not the question and you know it)

--What ever happened to Neil?