Friday, December 31, 2004

Not bloody likely

Anyone really interested in the year 1974 should look at the Jan. 1 British newspapers, which report on the annual release of official papers under the 30 Years’ Rule. Multiple British newspapers, since they all focus on different things, but this is a good entry point. Actually, nothing hugely exciting, except that Harold Wilson was a bigger jerk than I realized, and Princess Anne told a would-be kidnapper, “Not bloody likely!”

Qatar is banning child jockeys from camel-racing, so they’ll be replaced by robots. Something to look forward to in 2005.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The farce of democracy

Note to London Times: was it necessary that a story about a move towards employing fashion models with more normal weights be headlined “Purge on Anorexics”?

Most useful information of the day: the NYT says that while pressing 0 in automated phone systems usually no longer gets you a live human being, hitting it 3 or 4 times may.

From the Daily Telegraph:
Two women aged 34 and 38 have been charged with prostitution for offering sex from their hot-dog stand in Long Island, New York, which traded under the name Double Delicious.

"We’ve never seen hot-dogs mixed with sex before," said a police spokesman. "There are so many jokes, so little time."

The Massachusetts Lottery Commission went to court to defeat a lottery winner’s wish to be paid in a lump sum. So instead, 94-year old Louise Outing will get her $5.6m in installments over 20 years.

Several Sunni groups describe polling stations as “centers of atheism” and warn Iraqis against “the farce of democracy.” They’re not so big on farce; they prefer more sophisticated forms of entertainment like public stonings.

All the election workers in Mosul have quit following death threats.

Whatever Happened To...?

Welcome to the annual
“Whatever Happened To...?” Awards for 2004,
in which I pick out a few news stories, individuals, phrases, etc. that were seen briefly, if you were alert enough (like Janet Jackson’s nipple), and then dropped out of sight with major questions still unanswered (unlike Janet Jackson’s nipple).

Let’s begin:

What was the US’s precise role in the Haitian coup in February? What did we know and when did we know it? Did we actually require Aristide to resign the presidency as a condition for saving his life?

In October 2003 the Toledo Blade ran a series about a US military unit that went on a mass killing spree in Vietnam in 1967. In February, the Pentagon announced it would investigate. So?

Before Yushchenko, there was President Chen of Taiwan, who during that country’s elections (March 2004), claimed to have been the victim of a weird assassination attempt, with homemade bullets, and no one was really sure what actually happened if anything, then nothing.

Abu Ghraib: Seymour Hersh and even Rumsfeld said that there was much worse to come in the way of photographs and film, so where is it? Rummy said (in May) that he would really love to release all the pictures, but the darned lawyers wouldn’t let him. Guess the lawyers still have him all tied up, metaphorically speaking, with a hood over his head, pointing at his genitals and laughing, metaphorically speaking (or not). Also, weren’t we supposed to have torn down Abu Ghraib by now?

The lists of casualties in Iraq issued by the Pentagon never include contractors, security guards, and mercenaries of all sorts. It continues to be the case that we rarely find out who any of these people (alive or dead) are, just where the US, Halliburton etc are recruiting these people who are then imported into Iraq, given guns and immunity from the local law, and turned loose. However in April there was this article about one who had been a death squad assassin for South Africa’s apartheid government.

May: the Sunday Times (London) reported that one of the intended 9/11 hijackers, Niaz Khan, had turned himself in to the FBI a year and a half before 9/11, was questioned and then let go. Silly me, I expected a shit-storm of vituperation and investigations. When an FBI person told the Independent, “Every effort was made,” I wrote, “Hopefully, that phrase will be very slowly, very firmly shoved up the FBI’s collective ass over the next few months.” Didn’t happen. The Sunday Times article is here; there are links to other articles here and here.

Friendly militias. In August, Paul Wolfowitz proposed to the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon build a “global anti-terrorist network of friendly militias,” death squads, warlords and the like. There were no angry editorials, denunciations by John Kerry, nothing, so in October they slipped it into a Pentagon authorization bill, and away we go.

September: Insurgents took over a school in Beslan, and Russia let loose a blizzard of lies that remain unresolved, even while Putin used the incident to tighten his authoritarian grip on all of Russia and eliminate democratic election of governors. Two reporters who might have negotiated with the rebels were, respectively, poisoned and arrested. Russia low-balled the number of hostages, then claimed with no proof that the rebels were Arab rather than Chechen, and kept their demands, which were related to Chechnya, out of the media, even while the authorities took hostages of their own, the families of Chechen rebel leaders.

September: did N Korea test a nuclear device, or what?

October: the Al Qaqaa Cock-Up. 380 tons of explosives were looted from a military base after US forces searched it, then left the doors unlocked.

October: bombed a wedding in Fallujah. Never admitted it was a wedding.

November: The Marine who shot the unarmed wounded prisoner in the mosque, was he ever, like, arrested, or given a stern talking to, or something?

November: Colombia claimed there was an attempt to assassinate Bush while he was in the country.

Did we ever find out who was responsible for the provision in the appropriations bill allowing committee chairs the right to look at anyone’s tax returns?

I’d like to give a special blogger’s fond farewell to two phrases that helped make 2004 so much fun: “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities” (from the State of the Union Address) and “member of the reality-based community.”

And then there are the people of 2004:

A.Q. Khan, we hardly knew ye.

That woman sterilized by Tom Coburn.

Vincent White. American adviser to the Afghan government, tossed in prison on trumped up sex charges when he interfered with corrupt contracts.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. At the beginning of the year we’d never heard of him, then he was the biggest terrorist ever, although the US seemed unsure even about the number of legs he possessed, then the US military razed a city to the ground for refusing to hand him over, before admitting he had probably left Fallujah before the bombing started, then evidently stopped caring where he was or what he was doing.

Also riding the roller coaster that is the American attention span: Achmed Chalabi, “hero in error”: he was under indictment for money laundering, then he wasn’t; he was America’s bestest bud, then Bush said he might have met him on a rope line one time; he was on the governing council, then it looked like they reduced the number of seats in the National Council just to get rid of him, then he showed up anyway, and now he’s reinvented himself as a Shiite anti-American, and no one’s even mentioning the whole spying-for-Iran thing anymore.

Chalabi’s nephew. The head of the war crimes trial of Saddam, then wanted for murder, now... still in exile, I think.

Iyad “Comical” Allawi, catapulted into power by the US without some basic questions about his past being answered. In London in the ‘70s, did he just spy on Iraqi exiles for Saddam, or did he kill them? I don’t know the answer, does George Bush? Does he care?

Mary Cheney. She’s still a lesbian, right?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We will prevail over this destruction

Bush’s emptiest piece of phrase-making about the Tsunami Tsuris (missed it earlier): “We will prevail over this destruction.”

Speaking of empty swaggering rhetoric, Yanukovich is refusing to resign as prime minister of Ukraine (the parliament’s vote to fire him was non-binding, and the presidential election hasn’t been certified yet), saying, “It is my firm position that I have no intention of resigning. They are insisting on this because, before as now, they are quaking in their shoes.” There should be some sort of three strikes law on cowboy rhetoric by politicians, punishable by exclusion from all public offices. Also, wrong week to be talking about “quaking.”

For the sake of Iraq’s children

China passes a law making it illegal for Taiwan to declare itself independent.

If someone doesn’t come up with a proper name for the disaster soon, I’m going to start using Tsunami Tsuris, and none of us want to see that.

The London Times describes a cartoon being used to recruit Iraqis to join the police:
an evil foreigner — a cigar-smoking bald thug with a handlebar moustache — wants to blow up Iraq’s electricity pylons. To do so, he hires a bug-eyed junkie, a jailbird who will do anything for money. Armed with sticks of dynamite, the drug addict carries out his mission, plunging hospital surgeries and terrified children into darkness. Angry locals, tired of the chaos, call in a squad of super-muscled policemen, who race to the scene, guns blazing, on motorcycles. The baddies are handcuffed and the final message from the hero is to call the police — “for the sake of Iraq’s children”.
They have only this one (hilarious) image from it. If anyone comes across more, please drop me an email.

I’m trying to set an example

Patt Morrison on why Bush should run for president of Iraq:
• Bush could wear his "mission accomplished" flight suit all the time.
• Iraq is running out of its own politicians.
• Unmarried daughters have to live at home and stay out of trouble.
• No term limits.
• Iraqis love faith-based initiatives.

Shrub finally talks publicly about the earthquake (I guess he got all that brush cleared--first things first), but his statement seemed fuzzy even for him. Bush being Bush, his notions of how to respond were very top-down, both domestically and internationally. Domestically, there is no call for Americans to help, although I gotta think American generosity would provide a little more than the $35 million Bush has promised. In the q&a, he does say, “the American people will be very generous... there’s... a lot of individual giving in America.” Not exactly a rousing rallying cry, and he doesn’t say that he’s setting an example, not in the generosity department anyway:
Q Any plans for New Year’s Eve?

THE PRESIDENT: Early to bed.

Q New Year’s resolutions?

THE PRESIDENT: I’ll let you know. Already gave you a hint on one, which is my waistline. I’m trying to set an example.
As I said, first things first.

Internationally too, it’s all about government action: “This morning, I spoke with the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia... I praised their steadfast leadership during these difficult times” (the White House website even has a carefully posed picture of him speaking on the phone to the Sri Lankan president); “The United States will continue to stand with the affected governments as they care for the victims.” If he has also called the International Red Cross or any other relief organization to ask what they need, offer to stand with them and praise their steadfast leadership, he doesn’t mention the fact. I’m especially worried about this because so much of the devastation was in the Indonesian province of Acheh, where the government has been fighting separatists ruthlessly, and I don’t trust it not to take advantage of this situation. Ditto Sri Lanka.

In the q&a, a reporter asked about the Sunnis pulling out of the Iraqi elections, and while Bush correctly pointed out that it was actually just a Sunni party (albeit the largest one), he then said that he’d talked to Prez Yawer, “who happens to be a Sunni,” and he’d rather take the word of, well, the only Sunni he can actually get on the phone (and that’s only because Bush appointed Yawer to his current position).

Bush also quoted Osama bin Laden’s statement, even though the tape hasn’t been authenticated yet. Also, you can tell that the American elections are over, because Bush actually said out loud the name of He Who Must Not Be Spoken Of.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The United States is not stingy

Ron Suskind refers to the Bush cabinet as an “anti-meritocracy.” Spread it around.

YOU’RE SO VAIN, YOU PROBABLY THINK THIS IMPUTATION OF STINGINESS IS ABOUT YOU: Colin Powell asserts that “The United States is not stingy,” in response to a comment by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator that didn’t actually mention the United States. Bush, by the way, hasn’t said a word about the disaster in public. (Update: the White House says it doesn’t want to be all touchy-feely like Clinton, and that “actions speak louder than words.” For example, Bush expressed his concern with the victims today by riding a bicycle and clearing brush.)

On the one hand, Russia is saying that it could work with Yushchenko, provided he not get too uppity, but it’s also claiming that Sunday’s re-run was as fraudulent as the first two rounds, and has failed to acknowledge Pock-Faced Mr. Y as the winner.

Detail from a story in the London Times about life in Baghdad:
When the vehicle was 15m away, the soldier opened fire and shot the two occupants dead. The children down the street did not even stop their game.

After World War II, Pope Pius XII opposed returning Jewish children whom the church had protected to their families unless they promised to bring up as Christian those who had been baptized.

Missouri legalizes fishing with bare hands (and feet).


Bush’s immediate response to the earthquake + tsunami (does anyone have a name for the disaster yet? I haven’t been watching CNN, but they must have a name and graphics and theme music by now, that’s what CNN is there for) was to offer “all appropriate assistance”. Turns out, this was just $15 million. Will some intrepid reporter ask Scottie McClellan to give the administration’s definition of “appropriate”? (Later: they’ve added another $20 million. Color me unimpressed.)

Monday, December 27, 2004

Election fun ’n games

The largest Sunni party in Iraq is very careful to state that is withdrawing from the election, not boycotting it. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean either. With barely a month left, Americans are still talking about tinkering with the system so that the Sunnis won’t feel left out. They might have seats set aside in the “transitional assembly” (which in practice would give vastly disproportionate influence to the few Sunni voters who were both willing and able to vote, like they were Vermont or something), or they might be given a share of seats in the administration, in which case why bother having an election at all? Either way, January 30 is likely to be run on the basis of an election law written on the back of an envelope the night before, which doesn’t inspire that much confidence, even if it’s a really nice envelope.

Yanukovich is refusing to accept that he lost the Ukrainian election, claiming there were at least 5,000 irregularities, not counting the ones he was responsible for. He’d be a bit more credible if he hadn’t announced before the first vote was cast that he wouldn’t accept any results which didn’t show him winning. He clearly thinks he can do the “people power” thing that Yushchenko did, but he lacks a color. Orange did so well for Yushchenko, but he doesn’t even seem to have thought about his color.

Maybe he can hire Tom Ridge; he’s got a lot of free time now.

I don’t expect it to be nobody at all

The White House issued a statement that Bush expressed his “sincere condolences” over the earthquake + tidal waves disaster. Isn’t it nice that they specify when he’s being sincere? Wonder how they know?

9.0! I mean, I live in California, where the state sport is guessing the exact magnitude of earthquakes within the shortest time possible after they occur, but 9.0, shit.

Dave Barry’s year in review.

The WaPo has a story about the US increasing its aid for Laos’s efforts to clean up unexploded bombs from “laughable” to “a pittance.” Now when I last wrote about this, nearly 6 years ago, I had the tidbit that the US (whose bombs these are, not only because we made Laos the most bombed nation in the history of the world but because American pilots that aborted their bombing runs to North Vietnam simply dropped their bombs on Laos so they wouldn’t have to land with bombs on board) had consistently refused to tell Laos how to defuse the bombs, making the process that much more difficult.

Uzbekistan’s elections were today and were very exciting, except for the no-opposition-parties-allowed-on-the-ballot thing. But according to President-for-Life Karimov, there is no “real” opposition anyway: “When someone artificially argues that we have not registered some opposition parties that were claiming to do something, let’s be objective.” Think that would work in Iraq?

Asked about the Sunni boycott, which seems to be increasingly worrisome to the very American officials who wrote the very Iraqi election laws that are creating all the problems (distributing seats not according to population but according to votes cast), Colin Powell voices his optimism: “If it was nobody at all [voting in Sunni regions], I think that would be problematic. But I don’t expect it to be nobody at all.” They really don’t know how to respond to a boycott that was predictable. Here’s one unnamed US official: “The Sunnis would have to live with their own decisions if they boycott. Do they really want … a civil war against a Shia population that outnumbers them 3 to 1?” They’re willing to take on the US military, so yeah, I don’t think they’re that worried about, say, the guys we’ve recruited into the Iraqi police and military.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Visible minority ethnics

After a day without British newspapers (they all took Xmas off), I was just panting for the Boxing Day resumption, so this post is entirely British.

The Queen’s Christmas message today was all about tolerance and how wonderful diversity is. I assume she’s planning to keep Prince Philip locked in the basement this year.

And to fuck that message up, Britain is having a “white” Christmas. Brits who placed bets on a white Xmas (I gave the odds in a previous post) are expected to take more than £500,000 off the bookies.

As part of the new tolerance, London’s Metropolitan police will now officially refer to the, um, tolerated ones as “visible minority ethnics.” However this PC term is being challenged by the Queen’s English Society for its grammatically incorrect attempt to pluralize an adjective.

Still, this brand-new racial euphemism is my gift to you all, because you can never have enough racial euphemisms. Or socks.

Friday, December 24, 2004


Rummy went to Iraq to show that his soft gooey heart indeed bleeds for the wounded troops (Americans, anyway; with all the talk of the Coalition of the Willing, you never see an American political or military leader visit the wounded of other COW countries--don’t forget Poland!), but gave the game away when he observed that a softball question from one of the troops certainly hadn’t been “planted” by reporters. Yes, Rummy’s alleged heart bleeds only for himself, the true victim of a sneaky Improved Explosive Question (IEQ). He does not GET to dismiss Spc. Wilson’s question as “planted.” Prick.

Santa’s retarded brother goes to Iraq

The Pentagon website has a story with the least likely headline ever: “Rumsfeld Cheers Troops.”

Tells those troops, “you will look back when you are about my age, and you will be proud.” And they should ignore the “naysayers and the doubters,” keeping in mind that there have been doubters “throughout every conflict in the history of the world”, and you gotta figure they’re right only about half the time.

The Pentagon denied that this trip had anything to do with the armor thing or the autosigner thing, and denies that the Rumsfeld seen in Iraq was actually a robot.

Rummy, who didn’t even bother putting on the red costume, gives Sgt Chris Scott, who had been hoping for a pony, a Purple Heart.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Double standards

Bush, in an act of typical imperial arrogance (oddly combined with furtiveness, since he announced it when most people are celebrating Festivus), will renominate 20 of his crappiest failed judicial appointments. I’ve previously written about Priscilla Owen here and William Pryor here and here (see also this Salon article on Pryor). Press secretary and constitutional scholar McClellan insists that, “The Senate has a constitutional obligation to vote up or down on a president’s judicial nominees,” but failed to specify where in the Constitution that “obligation” is to be found.

France has outlawed insulting homosexuals (as a group) and sexist comments. There goes the whole basis of French culture. The Guardian notes that the law could mean that “devout Christians who denounce homosexuality as ‘deviant’ would be prosecuted; comedians can no longer make mother-in-law jokes; the producers and distributors of the camp comedy film La Cage Aux Folles could end up in the dock; and parts of the Old Testament might be banned.” So, yeah, I support free speech and shit, but wouldn’t that be just cool?

Putin complains that the US has double standards for saying that occupied Iraq is ready for elections but occupied Chechnya is not. OK, fair enough, Vlad, but how does your saying exactly the opposite not mean that you also have double standards?

He also accused the West of fomenting “permanent revolution” in Ukraine and elsewhere in the ex-Soviet Union. Dubya = Trotsky?

And Putin says he can work with Yuschenko, as long as he doesn’t appoint any “people who build their political ambitions on anti-Russian slogans” to his administration. So by “work with,” he means “dictate to.”

Ricky Gervais of “The Office” will write an episode of The Simpsons.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rummy’s core

Rumsfeld says he is “truly saddened” that anyone thinks he isn’t doing his very best to protect the troops in Iraq. In fact, when you think about it, being attacked by those criticisms is just the same as those troops being blown up and shit. “You get up in the morning and you think about what our troops are doing, and I must say, if they can do what they’re doing, I can do what I’m doing.” I’m sure the troops felt equally inspired by watching you survive the suicide attack by that guy who asked you about the lack of adequate armor on humvees. Prick.

He says that the “grief [of relatives of dead troops] is something I feel to my core.” Oddly enough his “core” is composed of the same material he will find in his stocking this Xmas: hard, black coal.

Conducting offensive operations to target specific objectives

In response to the bombing/rocket attack/whatever it was in Mosul, the entire city is shut down, with residents banned from the bridges, schools closed, etc. US military spokesmodel Lt. Col. Paul Hastings gave us this example of military-speak: “We are conducting offensive operations to target specific objectives.” So informative.

Speaking of offensive operations, the documents the ACLU has released reveal that prisoners in Guantanamo were wrapped in an Israeli flag. Clearly, this required someone actually to plan this bit of psychological pressure in advance, and transport an Israeli flag to Gitmo (I presume US military bases don’t have Israeli flags just lying around). Someone really put some thought and some work into this childishness.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Not a nation of quitters

Leftist FARC rebels in Colombia have rejected the government’s deal/threat that if they didn’t release 63 hostages, including 3 US “contractors,” their leader would be extradited to the US. FARC denounces this as blackmail, and it’s always so good to hear kidnappers taking the moral high ground, isn’t it?

Speaking of the moral high ground, Israeli settlers in Gaza have taken to wearing Stars of David, orange rather than yellow, in protest at the possibility that they might some day be forced out of the land they stole.

Blair went to Iraq today, unexpectedly, and enunciated the strongest reason for not leaving Iraq (British troops not leaving Iraq, obviously; Tony himself left Iraq almost immediately): “Whatever people feel about the conflict, we British are not a nation of quitters.”

Trying just a little too hard.

I can fly!

Here I just find the plastic forks amusing for some reason.

The pride is back

Putin, visiting Schleswig, Germany, tells protesters against the war in Chechnya, “There has been no more war in Chechnya for three years. It is over. You can go home. Merry Christmas.”

Hey Putin, shouldn’t that be happy holid... ah, fuck it.

Actually, a word of compromise to the Christers: you can say Merry Christmas all you like, provided you only do it on fucking Christmas itself. 24 hours, that’s it. I’ll just hide under the blankets that day.

Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, possessor of the most WASPy name in all Christendom, puts a positive spin on the bombing of the US base in Mosul, in which at least 24 US & Iraqi soldiers, as well as contractors, were killed: “In the chaos that followed that attack, there was no differentiation by nationality; whether one wore a uniform or civilian clothes, they were all brothers-in-arms taking care of one another. And I think that’s something that all Americans and, indeed, all Iraqis can be very proud of.”

Monday, December 20, 2004

Evidently the British Parliament only has 93 Luddites

The 9th Circuit upholds a Clinton-era law criminalizing people giving funds to “terrorist” organizations. The Court ruled that no one can challenge the State Dept decision to list an organization as terrorist, a decision that in recent years has often been made as a gift to America’s good liberal friends like Putin, or as part of a quid pro quo.

I had forgotten that Germany was allowing Jews to immigrate from the former Soviet Union--not Germans, so this is a penance thing, and really the least they could do. This year more Jews went there than to Israel. But now after 15 years Germany has decided to scale back the program and only admit those who know German, are under 45 and self-supporting. So was it necessary for the Daily Telegraph to report this under the chilling headline, “Jews to Face New Rules in Germany”?

Bark mitzvah

The new British home secretary, Charles Clarke, described by the Times parliamentary sketch writer as “arrogance on legs,” calls opponents of compulsory ID cards “Luddites.” Yes, they oppose ID cards because they are against the mechanization of cotton spinning. Clarke added that it would make renting videos easier, which is probably why Parliament passed the bill 385 to 93.

The Bill Clinton Presidential Library is negotiating a joint tourist package with Graceland. Plan your vacations accordingly. You know, that could be an entirely different experience just depending on which one you went to first.

Speaking of vacations, a French magistrate went to the Conference of European General Prosecutors in Germany, where he delivered an hour-long speech on ethics, and then stole a German prosecutor’s credit card and used it in a brothel.

At today’s Ukrainian presidential debates, square-headed Mr. Y told icky-faced Mr. Y, “If you think you can win and be president of all of Ukraine, you are deeply mistaken. You will be president of part of Ukraine. I am not struggling for power; I am struggling against bloodshed.” Damn self-sacrificing of ya, square-headed Mr. Y!

It’s in our long-term interest that we succeed: I watch Chimpy’s press conference so you don’t have to


GeeDubya started off with a lie, “Now I’ll be glad to answer some questions,” and just continued lying from there.

On Kerik, “We -- we’ve vetted a lot of people in this administration, and we -- we vetted people in the first term. We’re vetting people in the second term. And I’ve got great confidence in our vetting process.” It just sounds so dirty when he says it.

Asked who he’d pick as national intelligence director: “I’m going to find somebody who knows something about intelligence.” Sorta like Diogenes. Which raises the question how Shrub, of all people, would recognize somebody who knows something about intelligence.

Rummy shouldn’t be fired because he provides “comfort and solace” to the soldiers who his policies put in Walter Reed in the first place. And I’m guessing he even signs their casts with an autosigner. Shrub believes Rummy’s job is complex: “It’s complex in times of peace. And it’s complex even more so in times of war.”

“We have a vital interest in the success of a free Iraq. You see, free societies do not export terror.” Afghanistan is free now, according to Shrub, I believe, and it exports what again?

I like the idea that asking him to speak in other than vague generalities about Social Security is a trick question, trying to get him to “negotiate with myself in public, to get me to negotiate with myself in public, to say, you know, ‘What’s this mean, Mr. President, what’s that mean?’” Yeah, heaven for-fucking-fend anyone ask him what he means. He won’t negotiate with himself but he will negotiate with Congresscritters, he said. Implicit in this answer is that the American people have no part in these decisions, which will be made behind closed doors and presented to them as a fait accompli.

Reporters really have to stop with the multiple-part questions, which Bush uses to answer neither. One asked a two-parter about Social Security, the first part being something fairly general about how he could fix it without raising taxes or cutting benefits, and the second part a good specific one about how he defines people “near retirement” whose benefits he’s promised to preserve. Shrub whittered on for a bit, but given the opportunity to follow up, the reporter didn’t press him on the specific one. Better to have asked only that one, and followed up on it.

And I defy anyone to find any meaning in this:
Now the benefits, as far as I’m concerned, of the personal savings account is, one, it encourages an ownership society. One of the philosophies of this government is if you own something, it is -- it makes the country a better -- the more people who own something, the country’s better off. You have a stake in the future of the country if you own something.

On Iraq, Americans watching tv see thousands--he quickly backtracked to hundreds--of innocent Iraqis getting killed, many of them not by indiscriminate US bombing, but they don’t see small businesses starting.

About Guantanamo hurting America’s reputation, he pointed to the court decisions requiring hearings as proving that America is “a nation of laws,” without saying that those decisions overturned his policy of not being a nation of laws. But there’s a “dilemma”: “And I want to make sure before they’re released that they don’t come back to -- (laughs) -- kill again.” Amputation, I’m guessing.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Donating cigarettes to monks is a sin

Time magazine chooses Bush as man of the year for “sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively)”. I’m pretty sure that’s a metaphor having something to do with masturbation.

In his interview with Time, Bush as ever chooses his word-thingies with the utmost care, saying “we’ve got a shot” for peace in the Middle East. I’m pretty sure this gun reference is not a metaphor.

The pope warns against getting caught up in the materialism of Christmas, speaking from a window in his big honking palace.

Three election workers were killed in Iraq. Presumably someone recognized their feet. A spokesmodel for the electoral commission responds: “Every day the people are dying, okay. If there are no elections, are they going to stop? No, so we have to make it.” I’m pretty sure he was quoting the preamble to the US Constitution or Magna Charta or something.

Some of the electoral lists for the Iraqi elections: the Assembly for the Grandchildren of the Twentieth Revolution, the Niche Martyr Foundation for Islamic Notification, the Movement of Farmers and Oppressed Peoples of Kurdistan. The London Times observes that some of them haven’t gotten the whole campaigning thing down yet:
Asked by The Times about his manifesto, the leader of one small group, The Justice and Democratic Advancement Party, refused to divulge any information. “There are some people who want to steal our programme and I can’t give this to anybody,” he said.
Saddam Hussein’s lawyer passes on a message that Iraqis should boycott the elections. You’d think Saddam would support elections, since the last ones held in Iraq went in his favor 11,445,638 to 0, with a 100% turnout.

Speaking of elections, in Ukraine Yanukovych’s wife has been saying that Yushchenko’s supporters have become addicted to “narcotic-injected oranges” passed out to them.

I’ve said it before: the English will bet on anything. That said, the current odds on there being a white Christmas have been cut to 11:4 for London, so get your bets in.

Thailand will add a new warning to cigarette packages: “Donating cigarettes to monks is a sin.”

Saturday, December 18, 2004

You know what they say: big feet, big election

Iraqi judges question “Chemical” Ali. Possibly about the Periodic Table.

Pinochet has a really conveniently timed “stroke.”

Telling detail: “Iraqi television shows only the feet of election officials rather than their faces, because they are terrified of their identity being revealed.”

The American Muslims have stripes

Yeah I’ve seen the Cornell study (pdf file) about attitudes to Muslims, and I’d be a lot more worried if I trusted the methodology more. But I don’t, so I’d advise the leftyblogosphere (I just made that up) to chill.

That said, I’d like to point to the part where 27% think that Muslim-Americans should be required to register and ask, what do those people think Muslims are? If this were a legal requirement, it would presumably be enforced by a punishment, so you’d have to prove that a non-registrant believed that there was no god but Allah and that Mohammed was his prophet etc etc etc. What’s worrying is that the 27% evidently do not think of Islam as a religion, a system of beliefs, but rather believe that there is something intrinsic and immutable about a person being “Muslim,” something which is visible, detectable by the authorities, like the sketches of Jews the priest shows the boyhood version of Woody Allen’s character in “Love and Death”: “Do they all have horns?” “No, those are Russian Jews; the German Jews have stripes.” Imagine the debates we could have if we passed the Compulsory Registration of Muslims Act of 2005: do we use the Nazi standards to determine who is a Muslim or the Old South’s “one drop” rule, do we subject people we suspect are “passing” to a test involving the consumption of pork products?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Strong leadership

In Britain, the Law Lords, the highest judicial body, ruled 8-1 that the law allowing indefinite detention of terrorism suspects violates their civil rights. No duh. The ruling is not binding, given parliamentary supremacy, so those locked up without trial under the law (12 of them) will not be released, although the British gov is thinking about reducing the standard of evidence, or making up new crimes, like “acts preparatory to terrorism” that these people could be tried for. Foreign Minister Jack Straw calls the decision “strident” and “simply wrong” and throws away Britain’s moral right to criticize the human rights record of any other country by adding, “On this dilemma of how to balance liberty and order, the most important liberty is the right to life. If that liberty is taken away by the terrorists, then we have not met our prime obligation as a government.”

And in the US, a federal district judge ruled that American courts have jurisdiction when the US has convinced foreign governments, in this case Saudi Arabia, to lock up Americans in their own prisons and torture them for information. The US government, in arguing the case, did not deny that it had done that, just that the legal system had no sway in such cases, or, in the words of the judge, “the United States is, in effect, arguing for nothing less than the unreviewable powers to separate an American citizen from the most fundamental of his constitutional rights merely by choosing where he will be detained or who will detain him.”

The US State Dept has designated al-Manar television, the Lebanese Hezbollah station France just banned, a terrorist organization. That’s right, a tv station = a terrorist organization. Insert obvious Fox News or Lifetime joke here. The real-life consequences of this designation is that any foreigner supporting it or associated with it can be banned from the US. The State Dept is using the word “incitement” to describe al-Manar’s nefarious, um, programming.

Hitler was a tax dodger. The bastard!

Earlier this month, I mentioned that Bush, whenever he meets a foreign leader, goes out of his way to describe him or her as a “strong leader.” He did the same with Berlusconi this week. But here’s a picture of “Comical” Allawi opening the election campaign with a bunch of candidates on the “Iraqi List,” keffiyah guys on the left, ill-fitting business suits and right-hand-holding-left-wrist guys on the right, with a big brotherish picture of Allawi behind them and the words “strong leadership” in Arabic.

I have directed that in the future I sign each letter

SCHIZOPHRENIC MUCH? Secretary of War Rumsfeld, caught using an autosigner in letters to the families of troops killed in Iraq, says “I have directed that in the future I sign each letter.” So he’s issued a directive to his right hand. But did he sign that directive personally, and wouldn’t his right hand feel as insulted as the families did not to receive a personally signed directive? Rummy’s statement adds, “I wrote and approved the now more than 1000 letters”. So he (or possibly just his right hand) wrote the letters and then he got his own approval for what he (or possibly just his right hand) had written. Get help, Rummy.

This is the banner the White House website has been using on every economic summit story, and it’s been driving me crazy. Does anyone have the faintest idea what’s supposed to be going on in the second image?

Thursday, December 16, 2004


How reassuring and, yet, not: article on the Pentagon website: “All Trucks in Iraq Have Some Form of Armor.” Some form.

The same article says that convoys are now called “combat logistics patrols.” We got us a combat logistics patrol, rocking through the night...

Speaking of jargon, I was evidently a little late in noticing the new practice of the mentally “challanged” one

calling Social Security an “unfunded liability.” Shrub of course is the biggest unfunded liability there is.

At the economic conference, Bush explained what he thinks about when he masturbates: “And I know that a million, a billion, a trillion sort of gets lost on the average listener, so I always like to explain that if you're looking at a trillion dollars, just imagine spending a dollar every second, and it would take you 32,000 years to spend a trillion dollars.”

The world’s tallest building, which will open in Taipei next year, will have the fastest elevator, capable of taking people to the top in 37 seconds.

Not connected to any decisions about operational capability

Cranky old man Zell Miller has been hired by Fox, despite the fact that Grandpa Simpson already works for the network. Just seems redundant, really.

A lawsuit has been filed in Germany against Secretary of War Rumsfeld over the torture of Iraqi prisoners. Pentagon spokesmodel Larry DiRita--last seen here saying he didn’t know if tasering prisoners was torture or not--called the lawsuit “frivolous.” Yeah, those frivolous Germans, at their frivolity again. He threatens Germany with dire consequences if the lawsuits “were ever to see the light of day,” which is a fairly insulting way to speak about the independent judicial system of a sovereign nation, made even more insulting when it comes from a talking head like DiRita instead of a policy player--like sending your secretary to tell your girlfriend you’re breaking up with her.

DiRita also made this comment today about the failure of the latest Star Wars test: “the test was not connected to any decisions about operational capability.” Sure, cuz who cares if it actually works.

Jargon alert: talking about Social Security today, Bush several times referred to the program as “unfunded.” I predict we’ll be hearing that word a lot.

Today a report was released demonstrating that students at charter schools don’t do any better than those in regular public schools (and worse at lower income levels). Outgoing Secretary of Education Rod Paige says the study “should not be used as a red flag by those with an agenda to stop the charter school movement in its tracks”. Sure, cuz who cares if they actually work. Paige added that charter schools serve students “left behind years ago” by regular schools, which is precisely what the study disproves. What I like is that on the very same day this report came out, it was reported that Jenna Bush would teach at a charter school, despite having no qualifications beyond a BA in English.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Freedom is on the march

The woman who killed her baby by cutting off her arms cites the bit in the bible about if thy right hand offend thee etc. The LA Times felt some weird journalistic obligation to call a theology teacher to find out if this was a correct reading of the passage.

It isn’t.

Chimpy presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, Tommy Franks and Paul Bremer. No wonder “they” hate us for our freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is good for one medium serving of Freedom Fries in the White House commissary.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

And I still think “Kerik” sounds like a Klingon’s name

Bush handed the D’s a powerful weapon, if they have the street smarts to use it: Bernard Kerik. Scottie McClellan said today, “Commissioner Kerik withdrew his name. The matter is closed, and now we’re moving forward on another nominee.” He wishes. The matter is not closed, because the nomination was an intelligence failure of epic proportions, given how many black marks and red flags (I’m going with color-related metaphors as an homage to Tom Ridge) Kerik had against him, including ones like the affairs and the abandoned illegitimate child, which don’t affect his ability to do the job or matter to me or probably you, but which should have been embarrassing to Bush after all the talk during the election about the sacred institution of marriage.

And as an intelligence failure, that nomination negates Bush’s claim to have his other nominees go through on the nod. Every time the R’s talk about going to a “nuclear option” to prevent filibusters and every time they talk about D “obstructionism,” the D’s need to respond “Kerik Kerik Kerik,” pointing to the object lesson, if another one was needed, why Shrub’s judgment of people doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Slither slither slither slither went the tongue

THIS BUSINESS WE CALL SHOW TRIAL: “Comical” Allawi has announced that the war crimes trials of Baathist officials--or as he tellingly phrased it the “symbols of the former regime”--will begin next week, although no one else thinks they’re anywhere near being able to proceed. Interesting to see what actually happens next week, if anything.

There’s an odd war of words going on over Turkey’s application to join the EU. A couple of days ago the Turkish PM threatened that there would be an escalation of Islamicist terrorism unless the Europeans proved they weren’t just a Christian club. Today, the French foreign minister said that Turkey must acknowledge the 1915 genocide of Armenians (Christians) before entry, and Turkey said hell no, because there was no genocide.

France showed its own approach to creating religious harmony through censorship (actually, much the same approach as that of Turkey, which is also hostile to Islamic headscarves) by banning a Lebanese/Hezbollah satellite cable channel for antisemitism. The station had claimed Jews were spreading AIDS to Arabs and that sort of thing, but was also shut down for accusing Israel of crimes against humanity; the French FCC-equivalent pedantically said that this statement was not allowable because Israel had never been convicted of crimes against humanity by an international judicial body.

Tom Wolfe wins the annual bad sex in writing award. I remember a year or two ago, it was won by an Indian writer, whose publishers actually flew him in to accept the award. Wolfe does not plan to show up. Excerpt:
Hoyt began moving his lips as if he were trying to suck the ice cream off the top of a cone without using his teeth. She tried to make her lips move in sync with his. The next thing she knew, Hoyt had put his hand sort of under her thigh and hoisted her leg up over his thigh. What was she to do? Was this the point she should say, "Stop!"? No, she shouldn't put it that way. It would be much cooler to say, "No, Hoyt," in an even voice, the way you would talk to a dog that insists on begging at the table.

Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns - oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest - no, the hand was cupping her entire right - Now! She must say "No, Hoyt" and talk to him like a dog. . .

. . . the fingers went under the elastic of the panties moan moan moan moan moan went Hoyt as he slithered slithered slithered slithered and caress caress caress caress went the fingers until they must be only eighths of inches from the border of her public hair - what's that! - Her panties were so wet down. . . there - the fingers had definitely reached the outer stand of the field of pubic hair and would soon plunge into the wet mess that was waiting right. . . there-there”
“Otorhinolaryngological” means ear, nose & throat.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The most relentless persecution this country has ever seen against one person

London Times headline: “13 Killed in Car Bomb on Saddam Anniversary.” I thought the first anniversary was paper.

Spanish PM Aznar lost the last election in part because he lied when he blamed the Madrid train bombings on ETA. And before leaving office he paid a computer company €12,000 to make sure the government’s computer records related to the bombings were completely wiped.

Speaking of cover-ups, after Human Rights Watch announced that it knew of 3 prisoners who had died in American custody in Afghanistan that had never been publicly announced, the Pentagon admitted to 2 of them. My favorite is the Afghan soldier they mistakenly captured and then mistakenly murdered.

Speaking of prisoners being disappeared, Pinochet was indicted today, but not sent to prison while awaiting trial for the murders/disappearances of 10 human beings, just given house arrest, and even that order didn’t last out the day. One of Pinochet’s lawyers denounced the proceedings as “no more than a new episode of the most relentless persecution this country has ever seen against one person.” Oh, the injustice of it all.

And Pinochet’s idiot son was also sentenced today, 1½ years for receiving stolen property (a car), and illegal possession of a gun.

Evil, but such a snappy dresser

Captain, the pop culture metaphor cannae take much more of this!

I was a day premature in announcing the anniversary of Saddam’s capture, one of the pitfalls of reading tomorrow’s British papers today. I just looked back at my own post written after the success of “Operation Red Dawn.” I wrote, “The Resistance will have to find something better to fight for, assuming that just fighting against the American occupation isn’t enough.” Evidently it is enough. And I asked if Iraqis would begin taking hostages and demanding Hussein’s release. It’s interesting that that hasn’t happened, despite the many, many western hostages taken since that date.

The Department of Homeland Security, which was created so that intelligence would be better coordinated, had nominated as its head Bernie Kerik, without anyone being aware that he had violated immigration and Social Security laws, had an arrest warrant sworn out against him, and numerous red flags related to ethics and competency.

Remember when they said that irony was dead after 9/11?

Also, his name sounds like a Klingon’s.

That was intended as a joke, but it occurs to me that aside from all the nanny problems and whatnot, there was a more fundamental problem with Kerik: Bush chose a Klingon to fill a job that required a Vulcan. Bush always chooses Klingons for jobs that require Vulcans.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

He sounded white on the phone

Bush has had his physical, and has gained some weight. Too many donuts, he says. Is it wrong of me to think that his problem is actually too few pretzels?

Today was the one year anniversary of the capture of Saddam Hussein, which, as we were told it would at the time, has ended the insurgency and brought about a new era of peace, prosperity and cute puppy dogs.

821 American soldiers have died in that period.

From the Sunday Times (London):
Members of the far-right British National party walked out of their own Christmas party after organisers accidentally hired a black DJ. “We had to be careful what we said when we did the raffle so we didn’t offend the guy,” said BNP official Bob Garner. The party, at a London hotel, was organised by the party central London branch. “He sounded white on the phone,” said Garner.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

They don’t know what democracy is

Writing about the incident in October when the Israeli military shot a 13-year old Palestinian girl and an officer then shot her 10 more times to “confirm the kill,” the NYT repeats the Israeli army’s first excuse, which has been completely discredited by audio tapes, that they thought her book bag was a bomb.

I’ve wondered before how the Pentagon names its military operations, usually combining two unrelated but tough-sounding elements. Mad Libs? Porn name generator? Anyway, in Afghanistan, “Operation Lightning Freedom” has commenced.

The Russian Orthodox church is considering naming a patron saint of the Internet. The choice is between Saint John Chrysostom and...wait for it...Saint Feofan the Hermit.

The Sunday Times (London) has an article on the know-your-enemy training given to some US Marines etc. They get to be pretend Muslims for a week, wearing Arab garb, praying to Mecca, eating with their hands, play-acting kidnapping and executing westerners, planting car bombs, etc. One student said, “It’s helped me to know how the enemy thinks and appreciate how sophisticated they are.” And the lesson he draws from this? “I’d kill them all. They don’t know what democracy is.”

Disney is building a new disneyland in Hong Kong. They consulted a master of feng shui in designing the park, presumably so that kids on the roller coasters will throw up in the most propitious direction. Now they just need to attract Chinese families, not especially familiar with Mickey, Donald, Winnie the Pooh etc, to the Magic Kingd... uh, Magic People’s Republic. So they have struck up a partnership with the Communist Youth League to indoctrinate Chinese children in Disneyana.

Psst, kid

WaPo: “[American] troops use soccer balls and school supplies, candy and small talk to win over Iraqis”. Great, now we’re copying the techniques of child molesters.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I was right to be serene

Charles Pickering, who Bush recess-appointed to the 5th Circuit when his racist past prevented his nomination succeeding in the Senate, has decided to retire, less than a week before his term was up, issuing a statement attacking those who opposed him as “extreme special-interest groups” hostile to people with religious views. The self-important twit ascribed the defeat of some unnamed D Senators to their opposition to his nomination.

Silvio Berlusconi escapes jail yet again on two charges of bribing judges, back in the 1980s before he could simply restructure the entire judiciary and change any law he wanted to break. He was acquitted on one charge, and on the other the charge was dismissed, although it was proven, because of the statute of limitations. This is somewhat confusing, actually, because there is a discretionary element to the statute of limitations if the defendant has no criminal record. So the judges today decided to halve the statute of limitations from 15 to 7½ years (the bribe was paid in 1991). Also, there was a delay in the trial when Berlusconi got a law passed making himself immune from criminal prosecution; the trial resumed when the law was overturned. Berlusconi is smugly pretending that he was exonerated: “I was right to be serene, knowing full well that I had done nothing wrong.”

Credibility and cohesion

Colin Powell castigates certain members of NATO for refusing to participate in the training of the Iraqi military. Bush frequently says that he won’t seek “permission slips” from foreign bodies for military actions, but when other countries assert what Powell belittles as their “national caveat or national exception,” he accuses them of “hurting [NATO’s] credibility and cohesion”. Yes, how dare Germany and France have their own foreign policies.

Still, you could see how Powell might identify with poor NATO’s plight, since after 4 years as Chimpy’s sock puppet, he himself has no credibility or cohesion.

At that NATO meeting, the German foreign minister gave Powell two cases and a keg of German beer, which won’t help with the credibility and cohesion problem, but should ease his retirement: I foresee Powell doing a lot of drinking to forget the last 4 years of his life. The NATO Secretary General with the amusing name Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (just say it out loud a few times; it will make your whole day: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer) gave him some Belgian beer and a model of a Volvo.

Bush says of Spc. Wilson’s question to Indefensible Secretary Rumsfeld, “if I were a soldier overseas, wanting to defend my country, I’d want to ask the secretary of defense the same question.” Rising Hegemon comments: “If you had asked the question, the troops would not have had to do it for you. Asshole.”

“In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.”-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge. What does it say about this country’s post-9/11 willingness to exchange civil liberties for security that even Russ Feingold voted for the intelligence reform bill despite the scary powers it gives the feds to lock people up without trial, knowing full well that “This Justice Department has a record of abusing its detention powers post-9/11 and of making terrorism allegations that turn out to have no merit.” Unlike most senators, who should know better, Feingold actually does.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

There were questions that were highly complimentary and very friendly and very interested and very supportive

Maureen Dowd writes that Shrub prefers people who feed him “swaggering fictions” rather than uncomfortable facts.

I haven’t (hitherto) piled on to Bernie Kerik, Chimpy’s nominee to head the Dept of Heimat Security, mostly because everyone else was doing it. And every article and blog post seems to have some other detail: the Village Voice has articles about the crappy job he did in NY; Talking Points Memo has been trying to figure out what happened while he was supposed to be training Iraqi police that made him leave prematurely; there have been stories about questionable business connections, using NYPD personnel for personal business, thuggery in Saudi Arabia, an illegitimate child he abandoned in Korea, etc. It’s too much for any one story, but this one is a good brief overview. Kerik’s appointment suggests to me that Bush has no intention of making the DHS, whose establishment he opposed, work. Which is good and bad news because, like the intelligence reform bill just passed, you’d like to see coordination improved to prevent a future 9/11, without all the police-state add-on’s.

For me, though, one single sentence of Kerik’s disqualifies him from the post: “If you put Senator Kerry in the White House, I think you are going to see that [terrorist attacks] happen.” He has proven his willingness to politicize the issue of terrorism for partisan purposes.

Speaking of people in jobs they are unfit for, Secretary of Defensiveness Rumsfeld says he is surprised that the media focused on the questions posed to him by troops yesterday about vehicle armor, and National Guard units getting stuck with antiquated equipment, and the stop-loss program, and why soldiers weren’t being paid and why National Guards now doing the exact same job as the regular military are being paid less, and whether they couldn’t just all go to Disneyland instead (really), when otherwise “[i]t It was a very fine, warm, enjoyable meeting. There were lots of questions; they covered the full spectrum. There were questions that were highly complimentary and very friendly and very interested and very supportive.” Incidentally, the armor question was fed to Spc. Wilson by Edward Lee Pitts of the Chattanooga Times, frustrated by Rummy’s refusal to answer questions from actual journalists.

Australian PM and racist swine John Howard says it is “common sense” to condition aid to aboriginal communities on things like making their children wash their faces twice a day.

Bush attended a Hanukkah ceremony today, although he was heard to comment that the lamps wouldn’t have needed to burn for eight days if there had been enough oil wells in Alaska. Note that in the picture in this story of the menorah-lighting (performed by the children of an army rabbi (“one of our Jewish chaplains”) deployed in Iraq, because even Hanukkah is actually about his stupid war now, Shrub’s chimplike head is uncovered.

Tantamount to discipline?

As we know, US soldiers never “torture” prisoners, they “abuse” them. But when the WaPo says that 4 Special Forces soldiers have been “disciplined” for “abusing” prisoners with tasers (the NYT uses the same wording in its headline), we know that “disciplined” isn’t a euphemism for, say, going to prison but for...wait for it... receiving letters of reprimand. Jolly strict letters of reprimand, I’m sure. Pentagon spokesmoron Lawrence Di Rita was asked whether the use of tasers was tantamount to torture and replied, “I have nothing to say on that. I just don’t know.” Don’t know? Well I have a suggestion for how to dispel Di Rita’s lack of clarity on whether tasering is torture, and it involves another press conference, 4 reporters (perhaps including Helen Thomas), 4 taser guns, and my VCR recording the whole thing.

What is the WaPo trying to say when it includes the story “Chicken Genome Decoded” in the “Washington in Brief” section?

From Knight Ridder: “There is no comprehensive way to quantify how rebel activity has been affected nationwide by the Fallujah assault. American officials no longer make available to reporters a daily tally of the number of incidents reported around the country.” Not that reporters should consider Pentagon figures to be “comprehensive” in the first place, of course.

The Bush admin files a friend-of-the-Lord brief asking the Supreme Court to allow displays of the 10 Commandments in court houses. Evidently they are “historic symbols of law” and not of religion. Who knew?

Hamid Karzai calls for a “jihad” against opium. Jihad, Afghanistan, that always goes well.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I don’t want people going out inciting people against devil worshippers

Europe continues a move away from freedom of speech. The British government is introducing a bill to punish the incitement of religious hatred. Which is subjective enough to potentially cover criticizing or making fun of religions (Rowan Atkinson is campaigning against the bill). Any religion. The Tories think it shouldn’t cover Satanists but Home Sec David Blunkett, who likes raising a bit of hell himself, says, “I don’t want people going out inciting people against devil worshippers.”

And the French are passing a law to ban anti-gay or sexist insults. The Catholic Church is not happy. In the interests of improving your vocabulary, this is The Times’s translation from France Soir: “Calling a woman mal baisée (sexually frustrated) or uttering a homophobic enculé (a***hole) could cost you six months’ jail.” [That’s not one * too many--the Times means arsehole] The group SOS homophobie plans to prosecute soccer fans who chant pédés (queers) at players. Although it is expected to be dropped at the conference stage, there is also a provision against making fun of the handicapped, which was inserted by a homophobic MP trying to imply that homosexuality, and presumably being a woman, were also handicaps (the MP is a woman). Job discrimination against homosexuals will also be banned. This is the country which is busily expelling Muslim girls wearing headscarves, and Sikhs, from public schools, so a bit of a mixed message really.

You go to war with the Army you have

In Kuwait, a US soldier asked Secretary of War Rumsfeld why, after 3 years of warfare, “we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles.” Rummy’s callous, dismissive response: “You go to war with the Army you have.” Also, he added, who needs armor anyway? “You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up.”

To recap: North Korea finally admitted kidnapping Japanese citizens, but claimed they had almost all died, and their remains conveniently washed out to sea in floods. Last month they gave back what they said were the remains of a Japanese woman, who they said had committed suicide 17 years after her kidnapping. The DNA shows that the remains are not hers.

The British Tory party is pushing an issue they hope to ride back into power: letting homeowners kill burglars.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The myth that the terrorists are fighting a foreign occupation

Bush went to Camp Pendleton today, in his spiffy new Kim Jong Il/Bond villain uniform.

Despite it being December 7, he made only one glancing reference to Pearl Harbor. He did, however, talk about 9/11, once again linking it to Iraq: “Our success in Iraq will make America safer for us and for future generations. As one Marine sergeant put it, ‘I never want my children to experience what we saw in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.’” He also went on and on about how wonderful soldiers are, which would be fine if he ever did the same--and meant it--for teachers or doctors.

He also said that “When Iraqis choose their leaders in free elections, it will destroy the myth that the terrorists are fighting a foreign occupation and make clear that what the terrorists are really fighting is the will of the Iraqi people”. “Myth” is too silly to need a comment from me, so let’s focus on the notion of a single, undivided “will of the Iraqi people.” There is no such thing, and the concept is actually dangerous in an ethnically, religiously and politically divided polity like Iraq’s, because it treats dissent, compromise and pluralism as illegitimate. There is no room for a Kurd, a Shiite or indeed a secularist in this “will of the Iraqi people.”

Also, he said all this just three days after praising general slash president slash dictator Musharaf as proving that Muslim societies can “self-govern.”

Speaking of champions of democracy, Vladimir Putin says he “cannot imagine” how elections will take place in Iraq.

The Serbian military is paying a pension to indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic (remember him?). Mladic is of course in hiding, and his check is picked up by a relative.

Pakistan’s federal law banning the execution of minors has been overturned, allowing Punjab province to hang criminals as young as... 7. But at least they can self-govern.

Karzai explains his strategy for hiding male pattern baldness.

Or maybe the Cookie Monster didn’t want to be seen with Chimpy

Monday George Bush met the presidents of Senegal and Iraq, the king of Jordan and the Cookie Monster. Also, Elmo. No pictures were taken, or none I could find, which happens when US presidents meet controversial figures like Salman Rushdie or the Dalai Lama.

Karzai was inaugurated as president of Afghanistan, after swearing to uphold Islam. Cheney and Rumsfeld were on hand, Cheney telling US troops occupying the country that “For the first time the people of this country are looking confident about the future of freedom and peace.” And then he and Rummy ran for their lives, having been advised not to let the sun set on them in Kabul because it was too dangerous.

The WaPo does a very respectable job of discrediting Bush’s claim that the attack on the US embassy in Saudi Arabia had anything to do with elections in Iraq. If only they had fact-checked him so assiduously before the election.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Practicing the 3 F’s in Fallujah

(Updated at end)

A shopping center in Wales is using a webcam to assure parents that Santa isn’t molesting their children. Ho ho ho.

The US military’s plans for Fallujah show a surprising familiarity with the works of Michel Foucault. They will take DNA samples and retinal scans from every Fallujahovian, make them wear badges with their addresses at all times, and perform forced labor cleaning up the messes the US made in the city. Says a colonel quoted by the Boston Globe, “You have to say, ‘Here are the rules,’ and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability.” Firm, fair, and I think you’re leaving out “fascist.” The colonel says they should stop trying all that “Oprah shit” in Iraq, because Iraqis just want to “figure out who the dominant tribe is” and follow it. So we’re modeling our strategy on wolf packs now. Explains all the territory-marking.

Firm and fair.... fucker

(Update: Bush said today, “The American people must understand that democracy just doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process. It is an evolution. After all, look at our own history. We had great principles enunciated in our Declarations of Independence and our Constitution, yet, we had slavery for a hundred years.” So he’s establishing slavery in Fallujah because it’s part of a process, an evolutionary process, yet. In 100 years they’ll be ready for a major civil war and then another 100 years of segregation and the denial of civil rights and then.... See, and you thought Bush didn’t have a plan.)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Better than Christmas

US Marine Colonel Ron Johnson, on Iraqi elections: “The idea of being able to vote is so exciting to these people, it’s better than Christmas.” What, even better than the birth of our Lord and Savior? Johnson’s a regular Lawrence of frickin’ Arabia.

Speaking of military morons, Mark Kimmitt, M.M., reappears, telling Al-Jazeera that the new photos of prisoner abuse will be used as a “tool” to show the US military in a negative light. And that’s Kimmitt’s job.

Still speaking of military morons, Pakistani’s General Musharaf shows, in a WaPo interview, how deeply he has entered into underwear-shall-be-worn-on-the-outside territory. His nation presided over an irresponsible spread of nuclear technology, but it would show “a lack of trust” in him personally to demand to interview A Q Khan. And there is “total democracy in Pakistan” because he personally holds the country together--how very Sun King of him; no wonder he gets along so well with the Texas Twit. And Bushies are briefing the press that his refusal to give up his army post is of no significance.

Carl Hiaasen notes that before the election FEMA spent a lot of money compensating people in the Miami-Dade area for hurricane damage, despite the fact that the Miami-Dade area was not hit by any hurricanes.

Responding to Tommy Thompson’s rather belated warning about the danger of the US food supply being poisoned, Bush says, “We’re doing everything we can to protect the American people.” Don’t you feel reassured by that vague statement from a man who once survived an attack by a hostile pretzel?

The Thai government has gone ahead with its plans to end the civil war with Muslim separatists by dropping litter on them, folded into origami birds. Said the military, one of these puppies dropped from 10,000 feet can take out a farm house. OK, they didn’t say that, but it still seems like a transparent PR stunt to me, from a government simultaneously planning to give itself the power to detain people without trial.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I'm going to Disneyl... I mean Tora Bora!

The Scottish Parliament has its own website now, and “We hae producit information anent the Pairlament in a reenge o different leids tae help ye tae find oot mair.” So that’s convenient.

Note that the announcement that Secretary of War Rumsfeld will be staying on came the day after he appeared on Fox trash-talking Iran.

Afghanistan is planning to turn the Tora Bora caves into a tourist destination.

An Israeli bank issues a credit card that doesn’t work on the Sabbath.

More pictures of tortured Iraqi prisoners surface.

The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard

The US government says that it’s ok if evidence derived from torture is used in the Guantanamo tribunals. The argument was made in district court by Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle--not just any deputy associate attorney general, but the principal deputy associate attorney general. Really, if the US government is going to argue in favor of torture, the argument should be made by someone a little higher up.

Bush: “It’s time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls. And that’s why we are very firm on the January 30th date.” In what way does that constitute an argument? The reason the Iraqis should vote on Jan. 30 is that “it’s time.” That’s all ya got?

Chimpy really does have an extraordinary talent for making anything he says sound empty and meaningless. In that same mini-news conference he continued his discourse on democratic political theory, in the tradition of Locke, Montesquieu, Madison and “Democracy for Dummmies,” this time talking about Ukraine: “The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard. ... But any election in any country must be -- must reflect the will of the people and not that of any foreign government.” Which means what, if anything, in practical terms, in policy terms? Those words literally tell you nothing about anything. He has an ability to answer a question, and the sum total of knowledge and understanding in the universe actually declines.

If you’re lucky, it’s only a pop quiz

Headline from the Press Association for a British story: “Man Released after Terrorism Quiz.” If a car bomb leaves the station going west at 30 mph....

WaPo headline: “Lesbian Minister’s Credentials Revoked.” I didn’t even know there was a lesbian licensing board.

The US Embassy in Iraq gives up on using the road to the Baghdad Airport, and the adopt-a-highway program may also be dropped.

Incidentally, I meant the thing in the post title about pop quiz as a comment on “terrorism quiz” in the first item (a pop as opposed to a bang), not as a comment on my notion of a lesbian licensing board in the second item (a pop as opposed to a bang) (I don’t know what that would mean, but it sounds dirty, which is the important thing).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sometimes a train metaphor is just a train metaphor

Alabama, whose politics are always good for sick entertainment, has a state legislator, one Gerald Allen, who wishes to ban books with gay characters or otherwise serve the “homosexual agenda” from public libraries, including in universities (they have universities in Alabama, who knew?). Sez Mr. Allen, “Our culture, how we know it today, is under attack from every angle.” I’m sure some angles worry him more than others. Sez Mr. Allen, “It’s a small minority group of citizens who drive the train on our culture.” Some alarmist from the Southern Poverty Law Center says this sounds like Nazi book burning, but in fact Allen advocates burying the books in a big hole, so that’s ok then.

Having the people on our side and not overwhelming them with too much garbage

Shock! Horror! Stop the Fucking Presses! “Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says,” according to the Washington Post. If public schools don’t tell the truth about the horrors of having sexual intercourse, who can we trust? There are some who say that being lied to about sex in school will perfectly prepare children for being lied to about sex in the real world, but they are just base cynics.

Funny AP headline: “Israel Vows Mideast Peace Unless Provoked.”

Westerners seem to have difficulty with supporting democracy in the abstract. Take for example the coverage of the Ukrainian elections. Both pock-marked Mr Y and square-headed Mr Y are bureaucrats, comfortable with the corrupt, cronyistic political culture that has dominated Ukraine’s government since independence. There is no particular evidence that square-headed Mr Y is trying to “install an authoritarian regime like that of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” as the WaPo claims in an editorial. There is no particular evidence that pock-marked Mr Y is the second coming of Thomas Jefferson or even Vaclav Havel. By the same token, the fact that the EU and US have been supporting and funding the supporters of pock-marked Mr Y does not, as several articles in the Guardian have suggested, necessarily taint them. Non-Ukrainians of all stripes have exhibited the same failure as the Bushies, which is to send a clear implicit message that “democracy” is only good when it generates an outcome we like. One result of this is to create magical expectations for elections that will inevitably be crushed. When pock-marked Mr Y turns out not to be the heroic reformer the West has painted him as, but a rather ordinary administrator, how will the people who have stood in the streets waving orange flags in the freezing cold for days feel? Democracy is a quotidian process, it is not confined to the selection every few years of a benevolent, omniscient philosopher-prince.

Speaking of benevolent, omniscient philosopher-princes, Governor Schwarzenegger is thinking about to put his “reform” plans to the voters over the heads of the legislature. Says the beefy Austrian, “We’re going to plan it carefully so we’re going to continue making progress and having the people on our side and not overwhelming them with too much garbage.” Finally, a leader willing to take a stand on not overwhelming us with too much garbage!

Oh, one of those initiatives would involve changing the way reappportionment is done in this state, and rewriting districts early, as in Texas.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Roads to rubble

Tex of UnFairWitness did the research I didn’t bother to do yesterday, and finds that Shrub does describe foreign female leaders as “strong leaders,” or at least did so in making a completely inappropriate endorsement (10/14/03) of the re-election of Philippines President Gloria Arroyo.

Speaking of strong leaders, Colombia’s parliament has voted to change the law to allow incipient-dictator Uribe to be re-elected in 2006.

Still speaking of strong leaders, Marwan Barghouti will run for Palestinian president after all. A president in prison for a people in prison, or something like that. Most of the newspaper stories about him lately have been curiously vague about exactly what he was convicted of. It was for supposedly supplying arms and money to people involved in attacks on Israelis in which 5 died. He was acquitted of 33 other counts of murder.

When Israel pulls out of Gaza, according to the London Times, “To avoid scenes of Palestinians triumphantly taking over the settlements, the Israelis would destroy homes and other buildings but leave basic infrastructure like roads intact.” Isn’t that special?

Living the good life in Fallujah

It’s hard to know how seriously to take a UN report calling for reform of the UN, but there’s a new one out which wants the Security Council to be expanded and given the power to issue licenses for preemptive wars. Bush said repeatedly that he didn’t need a “permission slip” to bomb the shit out of whomever he wished to bomb the shit out of, but the UN seems to be so desirous of proving its continuing “relevancy” that it wants to get into the permission-slip-writing biz big time, including for “anticipatory self-defense.”

The NYT says of the report, “In a sentence that may have been directed at members of the United Nations who habitually condemn violence by Israel while making no mention of attacks on Israel, the report said, ‘There is nothing in the fact of occupation that justifies the targeting and killing of civilians.’” Really? Hands up anyone who thinks that the Resistance in Nazi-occupied France weren’t justified in killing informers.

The NYT also reports...and I know this will shock all of you...that Fallujah was damaged to a much greater extent than the Americans or the Comical Allawi Clique have been willing to admit, including the complete destruction of the power grid, and the near-complete destruction of the sewage and water system. The paper says the Americans will “cede major decisions to the Iraqi interim government,” the people unwilling to admit that any real damage actually took place. Cars will be banned from Fallujah to prevent car bombs. Americans are paying people who were injured or whose homes were completely destroyed as much as $2,500, which I’m sure in the current buyer’s market is more than enough to replace a house and all its possessions--in fact, I’m thinking of moving there myself and livin’ like a king. Hell, there wouldn’t even be any electric or water bills to worry about.

I’m the kind of fella who does what I think is right

So there Bush is in Canada, which is somehow more embarrassing than watching him in other foreign countries, in the same way that listening to him try to speak Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country is a bit less cringe-inducing than listening to him try to speak English in an English-speaking country. At least in Canada, he’d know pretty quickly if his fly was down.

At their press conference, Le Chimpanzé, as he is known in Quebec, or should be, called PM Martin a “strong leader.” Every time he meets a foreign leader, he calls him or her (actually, I’m not sure about the “or her”) a strong leader, every single time.

Asked about Canadian opinion polls showing opposition to his own, ahem, strong leadership, he replied that only the American election matters, and “I made some decisions, obviously, that some in Canada didn’t agree with, like, for example, removing Saddam Hussein and enforcing the demands of the United Nations Security Council.” And he said it--the transcript doesn’t do it justice--with that smirk, the one that launched a thousand flag-burnings. “I’m the kind of fella who does what I think is right,” he said, adding “I will consult with our friends and neighbours, but if I think it’s right to remove Saddam Hussein for the security of the United States, that’s the course of action I’ll take.” Maybe foreign soil is not the best place to announce that you only give a shit about the opinions and security of Americans.

But he also highlighted the many wars we’ve fought together, including: “America and Canada are working to further the spread of democracy in our own hemisphere. In Haiti, Canada was a leader along with the United States, France, Chile, and other nations in helping to restore order.” Those two sentences only appear to be related, since in Haiti we actually helped overthrow democracy.

Bush and Prime Minister Paul Martin