Sunday, July 31, 2005

Fit for duty


Bush passed his medical checkup. His doctors say he is “fit for duty.” I’d like a second opinion.

James Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank, has some helpful decorating advice for the Palestinians: use the rubble left after the Gaza settlements are demolished. Very DIY. I’m picturing Fred Flintstone’s house.

For a long time the Bush administration has bent over backwards to avoid any criticism of the dissident-boiling Karimov regime in Uzbekistan (see my many posts on the subject in May of this year), so it’s a little funny to read the claim that the US has been evicted from its Uzbek air base because of a rather modest call for an international inquiry into the May massacres, an inquiry it knows will never happen, and for asking Kyrgyzstan not to return some Uzbeks to certain death. And by funny, I mean unbelievable. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, explains that the whole thing is actually about... wait for it... oil. Karimov has simply opted for the Russians rather than Americans to develop his oil and gas resources. Murray adds, “The US has managed to hand the dictator Karimov the propaganda coup of kicking out the world’s greatest power. ... If they had any dignity they would have jumped before they were pushed.”

The British government, by the way, which tried repeatedly to silence Murray while he was ambassador, including by claiming that he was an adulterer and a drunk, is now trying to block publication of a book he has written about the US and Britain’s implication in torture.

They should have been doing what they have been demanding of us to do


Pakistani dictator Musharraf, tired of being accused (correctly) of tolerating madrasas and training camps that churn out terrorists for export to the rest of the world, including two of the London bombers, has hit back at Britain, and in a weird, douchebaggy way he has a point:
“They should have been doing what they have been demanding of us to do — to ban extremist groups like they asked us to do here in Pakistan and which I have done.”
Of course I’m not agreeing that the West needs to do any such thing, but he is right about the hypocrisy exhibited by the US, Britain etc when they go beyond the legitimate demand that Muslim countries arrest criminals, and insist as well that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia crack down on preaching, close schools, and ban political organizations (yes, legitimate political activity can be difficult to disentangle from the other kind in those non-democracies, but a good rule of thumb is that if the activity would be protected by the First Amendment in this country, we shouldn’t ask for it to be punished elsewhere), that Palestine censor its media to eliminate “incitement” and “provocation,” and that someone, anyone, just shut Al Jazeera the fuck down already.

Rather like the indignation Russia expressed to the United States after Nightline broadcast an interview with Chechen rebel/terrorist (but he really wants to direct) Shamil Basayev. Funny, you never hear Vladimir Putin say of the Chechens, “They hate us for our freedom.”

Something’s up with the Bushies and Latin American policy, but I don’t know what. Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State for Pissing All over Latin America Because It’s Ours Goddammit, has abruptly resigned from the government for reasons that are unclear but seem to have to do with the appointment of Caleb McCarry as “Cuba Transition Coordinator.” Worth keeping an eye on.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Expousing


Bush has reverted to “war on terra.” Guess Global Struggle against Violent Extremism was a bit long for him to remember.

John McCain on the transportation bill: “I wonder what it’s going take to make the case for fiscal sanity here?” That a rhetorical question, Johnnie?

2003 UB313 is not a real planet, sorry Caltech, nice try.

Lots of blogs are linking to the Jean Schmidt interview. They’re focusing on her continuing attacks on Paul Hackett in their Congressional race for “expousing” the philosophy of Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy. It’s hard to believe that she’s ever held legislative office or spoken in public before, but there it is. Expousing. I’m pretty sure she mispronounced nuclear too. A true Bushian. Do they come that ignorant or are they consciously imitating their leader?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Viva Cuba Librium


I thought Eli was exaggerating for dramatic effect, as we bloggers do, when he said that the United States government now has a post of “Cuba Transition Coordinator.” He wasn’t. It really is as blatant as that. The new Cuba Transition Coordinator is one Caleb McCarry (!) and his mission is to “accelerate the demise of Castro’s tyranny.” Condi Rice says we are “working to deny resources to the Castro regime... and to broadcast the truth about its deplorable treatment of the Cuban people.” Which I take to mean we’ll be telling the Cuban people how badly treated they are, because otherwise they might not understand how badly treated they are. A quick googling indicates that Mr. McCarry has already brought democracy to Haiti, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

As ever, I’m impressed by the sophisticated grasp of other cultures and languages displayed by the State Department website, which quotes McCarry thus:
We are committed to seeing the day when Cubans around the world in the fullness of liberty can in every corner of Marti’s homeland speak the words that were born on the lips of Cuba’s first patriots. (Speaking in Spanish.) (Applause.)
Those words that so baffled the monolingual Staties, according to the AFP, were: “Viva Cuba libre.”


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Luring men under the pretext of EKG or ultrasound


London Times article on the not-so-creeping Talibanization of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, including banning women voting. The central government keeps saying this sort of thing won’t be tolerated, and then keeps tolerating it. The article leaves out some important details, including the size and population of the province, and, while it mentions that male doctors have been banned from treating female patients, doesn’t say how many female doctors, if any, there are in the province. I know that when this was enacted two years ago, there were no women trained in ultrasound, and just one in EKGs. The worry was that the doctors would be sexually stimulated, and that women would “lure men under the pretext of ECG or ultrasound.” Hoo baby.

There’s a whole big thing going on between Poland and Belarus, which is more than just a diplomatic confrontation since there is a large ethnic Polish population in Belarus. Lukashenko is claiming that not just Poland and Lithuania but the US are actively trying to depose him.

It was on the bottom of the NYT’s front page, but got no play elsewhere: in the run-up to yesterday’s vote on the godawful energy bill, which does nothing to make automobiles more fuel efficient, the EPA delayed the release of an annual report showing that American vehicles are now less fuel-efficient than they were in the 1980s.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Liberty in Samarra


A sure sign that Russia has entered the modern capitalist world: a Russian woman is suing McDonald’s after she was burnt by a cup of coffee. She’s only asking $32,000, so they still have a way to come yet.

The US has imposed a total, indefinite curfew in Samarra after an attack on a convoy. The Press Association story has this line:
“There is currently, and until further notice, no vehicle or pedestrian activity allowed in Samarra,” said a spokesman for Task Force Liberty.
They might want to rethink the name of that task force.

The Israeli Knesset votes to stop Palestinians suing the state for damages inflicted on them by the military. Retroactive to 2000. And also to limit the ability of Israeli women to pass their citizenship to their husbands, if those husbands happen to be Palestinian.

The family of the Brazilian man shot dead by the Metropolitan Police say that he was not in fact wearing a bulky jacket, nor did he jump a ticket barrier, as the police had claimed. Their lawyer, who seems to be a woman named Gareth Peirce, comments that everyone is talking about the “shoot to kill” policy as if it were a legal term with some sort of legitimacy.


Do you want freedom fries with that?


The word of the day at the Pentagon website today is “laud.” One headline: “Secretary Lauds Deployed Servicemembers.” Another: “McDonald’s Lauded for Support.” Evidently that support is “super-sized.” And high in saturated fats. Oh, and McDonald’s D’s “also offers career opportunities to disabled servicemembers and military veterans”. Sarcastic responses to that in comments, please.

Rummy told the future burger-flippers troops that he expected terrorist attacks to increase until the new Iraqi constitution is finalized, oh and until the referendum on it, and gosh who knows, maybe after that as well. And that’s an excellent sign, because suicide bombings are “a sign of weakness” and desperation. Can you believe they’re still pushing that line?

Scotty McClellan justified the White House refusal to turn over various documents written by John Roberts because “we have a responsibility not only to preserve the attorney-client privilege for this administration, but also for future administrations.” “Future administrations,” boy that’s a blast from the Nixonian past, a leaf out of the Big Book O’ Stonewalling. He slyly followed this up by saying that to release the docs would “stifle” the advice given to the solicitor general by his staff in the future, clearly a subtle reference to that staple of the Nixon era, All in the Family, part of a ‘70s nostalgia thing.

By the way, if the president or the solicitor general were the “client” part of the attorney-client relationship, shouldn’t they have paid Roberts’ salary out of their own pockets?

I’ve been reading Prop 73 on California’s November ballot (pdf file), mandating parental notification of abortion for minors. I’d be against this anyway, but there are one or two problems with the judicial bypass provisions: it can take so long that parental notification might become redundant; and if there is any sort of abuse, including “emotional abuse,” the court must inform Protective Services, a provision which seems less about protecting abused pregnant minors than it is a “nuclear option” designed to raise the stakes for girls opting for abortion. The agenda of punishing the little trollops is made even clearer in the ballot argument for the prop.: “When parents are involved and minors cannot anticipate secret access to free abortions they more often avoid the reckless behavior which leads to pregnancies.” Also, the prop. requires doctors to report abortions performed on minors to the state. That can’t be good.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Are you now or have you ever been...?


Chuck Schumer’s list of questions for John Roberts to evade answering, doesn’t suck, although it avoids issues relating to the death penalty and the Second Amendment. Just as Schumer has given Roberts the questions in advance, Roberts should be pressured to give his answers in advance, in writing, so that he may be cross-questioned about them.

So Roberts can’t remember whether he was ever a member of the Federalist Society? How credible is that? There are organizations I once gave some money to but haven’t in 10 or 15 years that still send me “renewal” notices on a regular basis. Here’s the helpful comment of John Cornyn on the subject: “It’s not like being a member of the Communist Party.”

I know that lawyers’ ideas of ethics are not those of normal people, but I was always under the impression that lawyers weren’t supposed to lie in court. So while Roberts may have been arguing the position of the Bush 1 administration, was it ethical to make an argument that Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided and should be overruled” unless he actually believed that position to be correct?

Speaking of lawyers with retarded clients, a jury is being empaneled in Virginia solely to decide whether a man already convicted of murder is mentally retarded or not; if the latter, he will be executed. And while I know it’s a civic duty and all that, let’s face it, we’re all thinking the same thing: a man’s IQ will be determined by a group of people who couldn’t get out of jury duty. The man’s tested IQ has risen from 59 to somewhere in the 70’s, above what counts as retarded in Virginia, an increase which is attributed to the mental stimulation he received by working with his lawyers on his case, mental stimulation entirely lacking from his life previously. Sometimes irony gets you executed. To ensure that the trial not be fair, the judge has ruled that the jury may hear the details of the murder, which are of course entirely irrelevant to determining whether he is retarded.

Pakistani dictator Musharaf claims that “Al-Qaeda does not exist in Pakistan any more.” Although it hasn’t stopped him using the London bombings as an excuse to further criminalize speech acts, which will now be tried in anti-terrorism courts.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

There is no conspiracy to shoot people


Bush has called, several times now, for the confirmation process for John Roberts to be “dignified.” First, let’s all take a moment out of our busy day to contemplate Flight Suit Boy lecturing other people about dignity. I can’t even imagine how he defines dignity in this context (but then, I can’t imagine him spelling dignity). Possibly for him, nothing says dignity and gravitas like abject capitulation and subservience, like that butler he always calls Jeeves, whose name is not actually Jeeves, who always says Yes sir, at once sir, in that fruity accent.

Met Chief Sir Ian Blair says the “shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect” policy will remain, acknowledging that a few more innocent civilians may well get wacked, but what the hey. He suggests Londoners cheerfully accept the risk they now face because the intentions of the police who may soon be shooting them in the head are just so darned good: “there is no conspiracy to shoot people.” No indeed, my computer’s dictionary defines a conspiracy as “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful,” and there’s nothing secret about this, Sir Ian just announced the plan before God and everyone.

And in fact Londoners have pretty much done what he suggests. Bionic Octopus points to a comments page on the BBC website which is just full of outpourings of sympathy for the true victims of this whole affair: the poor, poor peelers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes repeatedly in the head.

Fortunately, Pope Benny has prayed for God to stop terrorism, so that should take care of that problem.


It’s only a shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect policy


So on the bottom of a page well inside the Saturday edition of the NYT we find a story to the effect that American forces are involved in military operations in the Philippines. Are they actually in combat, as “numerous reports” say, or merely supplying intelligence and communications support, as the military claims? Who knows? Who can even keep track of how many countries the US military operates in? Didn’t we send troops into Yemen at some point? I’m just saying it would be nice to know precisely how many wars and civil wars we’re participating in.

Metropolitan police chief Sir Ian Blair sort of admits the shoot-to-kill policy and says, yeah, they’ll probably wind up shooting a few other innocent people. The “sort of” is because what he actually said was, “I am very aware that minority communities are talking about a shoot-to-kill policy. It’s only a shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect policy.” So that’s ok, then.

The word in that sentence that makes it high comedy: “only.”


Saturday, July 23, 2005

I don’t know anybody in America who is pro-abortion


The White House has been lobbying in favor of retaining the military’s right to engage in cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners. It would have been interesting to hear what exactly Cheney said to former POW John McCain, the sponsor of the proposed legislation, in support of the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners.

Speaking of cruel, inhuman and degrading, Howard Dean has signed on to the Hillary Clinton suck-up–to-anti-abortionists position, telling college D’s, “I think we need to talk about this issue differently. The Republicans have painted us as a pro-abortion party. I don’t know anybody in America who is pro-abortion.” He should get out more. “You have to respect people’s positions of conscience,” he said, failing to add, “especially when those people want to impose those ‘positions of conscience’ on other people.”

Plain-clothes London police chased and shot dead a Brazilian man yesterday. Today they fessed up that it was all a big misunderstanding, which is refreshing compared to, say, the LAPD, which recently shot dead a baby held by a man with a gun and won’t admit there was anything wrong with that, or the LA County Sheriffs, who fired 120 rounds at an unarmed black man in Compton in May (without killing him, so they’re trigger happy and they can’t hit the side of a barn, a perfect combination), and don’t think they violated his civil rights. The Peelers now seem to have a policy where if they see someone doing something suspicious near some form of mass transit, like a dark-skinned man running away when he suddenly finds himself being chased by a mob of people not wearing police uniforms, they will shoot him in the head, in case he was planning to detonate something.


Friday, July 22, 2005

The clearest orders I have ever received


Billmon has a must-read post on the Patriot Act, which the House today voted 257-171 to extend and to make most of it permanent.

A CIA agent has a book out in which he says that one week after 9/11, he was on a plane to Afghanistan with a team of agents and $3m in hundreds, with orders to bring back Osama bin Laden’s head – literally. The agent, Gary Schroen, claims to have responded, “Sir, those are the clearest orders I have ever received. I can certainly make pikes out in the field but I don’t know what I’ll do about dry ice to bring the head back - but we’ll manage something.” It’s that can-do spirit that made America great.

For a can of beans and a dickhead to be named later.



Thursday, July 21, 2005

Stepping up


Rumsfeld, talking about the assassination of the two Sunnis: “the perspective I would give to it is the fact that these kinds of problems have occurred month after month after month, and yet, we always see more people step up to participate in the elections, more people step up to participate in the Iraqi Transitional Assembly and to run for public office, more people step up to serve in the Iraqi security forces.” So that’s his version of optimism: we haven’t run out of Iraqis yet.


Manhandling Condi’s staff


BBC headline: “US Fury as Sudan Manhandles Staff.” Sounds really gay to me, but you’ve gotta appreciate the sense of proportion. Genocide in Sudan? Sure, whatever, blah blah. But push around some staffers, and face the wrath of the Condi.

A “good” law


On C-SPAN today I saw some of Bush’s latest speech calling for renewal of every last creepy provision of the PATRIOT Act. He said this was “no time to roll back good laws”. He called the Act “good” twice, and while that may mean he simply has a diminutive vocabulary (as I just found out while trying to locate the quote, he used the word good a goodly number of times in the course of the speech), it’s not really a word you’d expect even the Act’s supporters to apply to it. It infringes on people’s freedoms and privacies, so you might argue that it’s a necessary evil, but a positive good?

So two Sunnis on the drafting committee for the Iraqi constitution were assassinated, four others have quit in protest/fear, but the head of the committee says everything is “on schedule.” Sure, if the schedule said, “Tuesday: shoot Sunnis.” Which it probably did. Given that the drafters have been quietly dismantling women’s freedoms, and threatening to do the same to Kurdish autonomy, I’m happy to see the process fail completely.

A German man lost a court case in which he demanded the state provide him a toupee, claiming discrimination since the state insurance system would provide a wig for a bald woman. The court ruled that the state need pay only “when a bald head disfigures a person so severely that they would be ostracised from public life. That is not the case with men.” Indeed.



Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Refusing to choose


Two of the Sunnis who were cajoled into serving on the committee drawing up the Iraqi constitution have been assassinated. Although in Iraq, that may simply be part of the constitutional process.

Except for the last couple of years, John Roberts has been a hired gun, so it’s hard to tell how many of the heinous positions he’s argued over the years coincide with his own views. Especially since, I predict, he will stonewall the Senate like it’s never been stonewalled before. Don’t bother watching the Senate hearings, nothing will be learned there.

Here’s one hint: Kevin at American Street reports that Roberts’ wife used to be a veep at something called Feminists for Life, which does not signify life-long feminism but opposition to abortion, “if you refuse to choose between women and children”, its website says, next to a deliberately misleading quote from Susan B. Anthony intended to make her sound like an anti-abortion advocate. “Women deserve better than abortion,” their site says. “We are dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion,” they say, which is both a disempowering notion that women don’t choose but are “driven,” and it’s the Hillary et al position about reducing abortion taken very slightly further--just a couple of baby steps, if you will.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Merit


My computer is in the shop, with a perfectly good draft post sitting on it, which I will now attempt to recreate.

On the same day that Bush announces his new standard, under which Rove won't be fired unless he is actually convicted of a crime in a court of law, the WaPo has this headline: "Bush Aims to Expand System of Merit Pay." George, define "merit" for us.

Asked about it yesterday, Bush said something (only 30 minutes online in the public library, no time to look it up!) about wanting to get all the facts before acting. Too easy to make fun of. (Update: "And I think it’s best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. And I will do so, as well. I don’t know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who’s spending time investigating it.")

Speaking of knowing all the facts, Tony Blair, says the Guardian, "At last week's cabinet meeting, Mr Blair likened Islamic extremism to the Trotskyist Militant Tendency that infiltrated Labour in the 80s, and argued it was only when the party recognised the depth of the infiltration that a tough counter-strategy was implemented." Yeah, Islamic terrorists, Trotskyists, same dif, both beardies.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Contest


In comments, Mike Capone asks if a worse name could have been found for an organization than “Nashis.” With uncharacteristic brevity, I responded, “No.” But then I got to wondering if it was in fact possible, and while I couldn’t come up with anything, I thought I’d see if the collective perversity of my readership could do better. Responses in comments, please, and extra points if the initials are NAMBLA or something funny.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Defusing tensions


Best headline of the day, from the BBC: “China to Send Pig Sperm to Space.” Everyone has to have a hobby, I suppose.

The “Council of Sages” in Haiti wants Aristide’s party banned from elections.

Condi Rice is going to the Middle East to “defuse tensions.” Dunno, Condi doesn’t really seem like a defusing-tensions kind of person.



It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the Putin Youth Movement, aka the “Nashis.” The Times has a story about the Nashi summer camp, at which 3,000 of Vlad’s Impalers (they use the term “commisars”) have been training to fight back the barbarian hordes.


Here’s the head of the Nashis, interviewed by Moscow News about the funding for the camp:
Everyone knows that the Kremlin supports Nashi, everyone knows that the president met with our commissars. The support of the Kremlin allows us to talk with any businessmen and to get financial support. To refuse financial support for our project would be viewed as an unpatriotic decision.
The Tom DeLay school of fundraising.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Necessary and appropriate force, and sex with horses


Because there can never be enough invocations of the Holocaust in political dialogue, Gaza settlers have taken to writing their i.d. numbers on their arms as a protest against being asked to show their i.d.’s, part of an effort to prevent the nut-jobs flooding the settlements with protesters against the pull-out. The settlers, poor sensitive lambs that they are, say they feel as if they are in ghettoes.


A panel of the Court of Appeals rules that military commissions can resume trying prisoners in Guantanamo. This is victor’s justice so naked that I’m not sure what function a court of law even plays. The court rules that the Geneva Conventions “do not create judicially enforceable rights.” American military law doesn’t apply either: although the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that detainees be tried in the same way as American soldiers, the court says that different rules can be applied, like not showing the detainee the evidence against him. The court finds Bush’s power to disregard the rule of law in the resolution (note: not a law) passed by Congress giving Bush authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against those responsible for 9/11, and any other terrorist types. What the court is saying is that those words cover any sorts of arbitrary acts that Bush’s chimp-like mind can conceive.

Enough with the frivolity. This here is a blog, and as such I am bound by law and blogger standards & practices to present to you this story: a man in Seattle has died after having anal sex with a horse. Cause of death was a perforated colon, which I guess answers the question raised by the phrase “anal sex.” Bestiality is legal in Washington, which explains a lot. The man had his little... encounter ... on a farm that specializes in that sort of thing.

Oh, the horse is ok.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Acts (of Parliament) preparatory to fascism


Tony Blair will introduce a new thought crime: “indirect incitement to commit terrorist acts.” Indirect incitement could hardly be more subjective, which just makes the chilling effect that much greater. Courts will be expected to consider elements such as tone and glorification of terrorism. According to the minister introducing the measure, “It would depend on what words were used. Were they an endorsement, were they a glorification? In some cases, the tone of your endorsement might take it into glorification.” There will also be a new crime of “acts preparatory to terrorism,” such as receiving training abroad or accessing certain websites.


The Teflon Terminator tarnished


Edward Wong begins his NYT story about the continuing strength of insurgency in Fallujah with this excellent first sentence: “Transformed into a police state after last winter’s siege, this should be the safest city in all of Iraq.” He then treats the fact that Fallujah is still being run by the Americans as a police state slash prison camp as unproblematic. In fact, you get the sense that it’s the damned foreigners who keep mucking it up. The Iraqi regime, for example, has only disbursed 1/5 of the money that was supposed to go to rebuild the city, and none for the last several months. And the very last paragraph of the long article quotes a Fallujan sheik accusing the Iraqi army of killing people: “They’re killing people. They’re shooting people in the head. You’re not in the street. You don’t see what’s happening.” And neither is the NYT, which is why that charge goes completely uninvestigated.

Bush, responding to a question about whether he still planned to fire whoever leaked Valerie Plame’s name: “Yes, and that’s up to the US attorney to find the facts.” I always thought an employer had some responsibility to supervise the actions of his employees. No reporter seems to have asked Bush if he has ever asked Rove whether he did it or not.

Although Schwarzenegger’s many acts of sexual assault didn’t much damage his reputation, he does seem to be in some trouble for his little magazine deal. His handlers are having to explain that he’s still primarily focused on the people’s business, that he was really expected to do very little actual work for the $8m they were paying him. The problem, of course, is that that just makes it look more like a bribe.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pre-judging


AP headline, more or less: “Rehnquist Checks Into Hospital, Just to Mess with Everybody’s Head.”

The Bushies’ response to the Rove-Plame scandal is such textbook scandal control that it’s hard to see why anyone is surprised. Bush the Elder pulled the “Gee I’d love to comment about Iran-Contra and my role in it, but I can’t as long as there’s an investigation/as long as criminal proceedings are pending/until the last possible appeal has resolved” game. When all that was over, he still wouldn’t comment, because it was all ancient history. Bush Lite needs to be asked whether the standard for government service is “not actually in prison at the present time.” While Bush yesterday asked everyone not to “pre-judge” the matter, it’s been more than two years since the events in question; there’s nothing “pre” about it. Bush also needs to be pressed to promise not to use his pardon power for Rove.

Times article on torture and murders committed by the Iraqi police.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

“Wrong Way” Santorum strikes again



One of the British suicide bombers played cricket, previously thought to be the perfect antidote to That Sort of Thing. Tony Blair blames Outside Agitators, and wants to deport and exclude foreign-born imams “who may incite hatred or act contrary to the public good”. I’m sure British Muslims will be thankful for his kind assistance in helping them deal with “this evil within the Muslim community.”

Interviewed by the Banned in Boston Globe, Rick Santorum refused to retract his earlier statements blaming sexual abuse by priests on the famously permissive atmosphere of... Boston. Here’s the killer quote: “If you have a world view that I’m describing [about Boston] . . . that affirms alternative views of sexuality, that can lead to a lot of people taking it the wrong way.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Don’t do the walrus crime if you can’t do the walrus time


A Japanese gangster chopped off the finger of a man who owed him money. A doctor oversaw the ritual and then put in a claim to the national health service. He has been arrested.

The British are quite concerned, consternated, perturbed, or whatever the hell understated thing Brits do, about the fact that the people behind the London bombings were 1) not foreigners and 2) Britain’s first-ever suicide bombers. We’re not like that! they say. You can read about that in papers that also feature stories like this: “Riots raged in north Belfast last night as nationalists turned on police with blast bombs and petrol bombs after an Orange Order parade and its loyalist supporters passed a Catholic parade of shops.”

Lovely AP headline: “Alaska Native Gets 7 Years in Walrus Crime.”

They want the free world to retreat


Bush says the terrorists “want to drive America from the world. They want the free world to retreat.” That would be one strange-looking globe.

If America is driven from the world, can we fly around the universe with like a giant dome, meeting half-naked green alien chicks and teaching them about our Earth custom, kissing, and righting wrongs and stuff?

Asked about his breakfast with senators, at which both waffles and the nomination of a Supreme Court justice were discussed, he said, “Obviously, we’re in a very interesting period here; you got the end of the session coming up, then you got an August break. So I was just trying to get a sense of their view of the calendar. And I want to thank them for being forthright.” He particularly thanked Patrick Leahy for forthrightly explaining that thirty days hath September.

Incidentally, Bush answered those questions standing next to the prime minister of Singapore, whose own justice system is most famous for featuring caning (remember Michael Fay?)


Monday, July 11, 2005

Islamist extremist terrorists


George Monbiot notes a tactical switch by the Bushies on global warming: “Instead of denying that climate change is happening, it is denying that anything difficult needs to be done to prevent it.”

Like Bush after 9/11, Blair after 7/7 is strongly resisting any inquiry into the intelligence failures that allowed four bombings to occur, rejecting the very notions that anything can be learned or that any mistake might have been made. He somehow knows that without yet knowing who the bombers were, although he reckons they were “Islamist extremist terrorists” — that’s three “ist” words in a row. “All the surveillance in the world” would not have stopped the terrorists, he says. Which is funny, because all the surveillance powers in the world is precisely what he’s demanding be given to the intelligence services.

In an amazing gesture of generosity, the United States offered Cuba assistance in dealing with the damage caused by Hurricane Dennis: $50,000.

Cuba turned it down.

Bush today, on terrorists: “When they are constantly on the run they can’t plan attacks.” No, George, it’s you who can’t walk (or ride a bike) and chew gum at the same time.

Miss Condi’s rules for talking with boys


As Bionic Octopus notes, while Condi is telling China that it should talk with the elected Taiwanese government rather than with the Taiwanese opposition, the US (indeed, Rice herself) ostentatiously engaged in dialogue with the Venezuelan opposition just last month. During that Beijing press conference, Condi gave several other insights about who a superpower should converse with. For example, she also advised China to “reach out” to the Dalai Lama, “who really is of no threat to China.” So it’s ok to talk to people who are a lot weaker than you.

Oh, and also, it’s ok if they’re like really super-legitimate: asked when the US would get the hell out of Afghanistan, she replied,
The one country that said that the United States should stay in Afghanistan was Afghanistan, which I think, since Afghanistan is sovereign, since Afghanistan, in fact, has an elected president who was elected freely and fairly, then the relationship that we have with Afghanistan is with that government.
Also, “it is our understanding that the people of Afghanistan want and need the help of U.S. armed forces.” There’s something about that phrase “it is our understanding” that I find very amusing.

It’s ok to meet up with the poor, ugly, kind of smelly kid, like North Korea, just so long as you go along with your friends so he doesn’t think it’s a date or anything. The young people today evidently call this “engaging in six-party talks.” S-I-X, with an i.

Lastly, before talking with someone, you should draw up a list of pros and cons. Of Chinese-American relations, she said, “there are many extremely positive elements. I still think that this relationship has great momentum. It still has more positives than negatives.” Phew, imagine China’s relief. It thought it was getting the “just good friends” talk.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I can't think of a title for this post


The man in charge of French intelligence at the time admits what we all knew, that the 1985 bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor (in which a photographer was killed) was personally authorized by Fran├žois Mitterrand. He denied this at the time, but then put tremendous (and illegal) economic pressure on New Zealand to have it release the agents responsible for it from prison. France promised to keep them under house arrest, but didn’t. Then it promoted them and gave them medals. So the fact that they weren’t the rogue agents France claimed they were at the time isn’t a huge surprise.

Really, it was a big deal at the time. It would still seem a big deal if GeeDubya hadn’t raised the bar for state-sponsored evil so high.

The UN is at long last going in for some nation-building in Kosovo, with plans under way to transfer the police and judicial system to local (i.e., not Serbian) institutions, bolstering Kosovo’s de facto independence.

Speaking of places that we’ve all forgotten about, there were presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan this weekend. To recap: after blatantly fraudulent parliamentary elections in March, a popular uprising forced dictator Akayev to flee, whereupon opposition leaders did a backroom deal putting Kurmanbek Bakiev in power and retaining the fraudulently elected parliament. Now, Bakiev has been confirmed as president in an election in which he was virtually unopposed, because he bought off his chief rival. Whether he’s actually any good or not as a leader, I have no idea.


Bush caught in a riptide


So Karl Rove did not leak the name “Valerie Plame” to the press, he leaked “Joseph Wilson’s wife” to the press. That makes it all ok, I’m sure. I know Rove will never be sent to prison to learn a whole knew meaning for the word “wife,” but I can’t wait for Bush to explain why Rove still has a job.

LA Times headline: “Bush Caught in GOP Riptide Over High Court.” OK, let’s everybody take a moment and feel Bush’s pain as he tries to satisfy all the brands of right-wing crazies and evil corporate types who number themselves among his supporters.

Although everybody should take a moment to lean back and imagine Bush caught in a literal riptide.

I know I feel refreshed.

LAT on the return to government of Robert Earl, part of the Iran-Contra coverup, as chief of staff to Paul Wolfowitz’s replacement Gordon England. Iran-Contra may seem small potatoes compared to the greater evils and the larger lies perpetrated by the Bushies, but it did involve deals with terrorists, an attempt to overthrow a foreign government, and an out-of-control, unaccountable executive branch lying to Congress. To forgive the crimes committed by the likes of Elliott Abrams and Robert Earl is to display a contempt for American democracy. Pentagon spokesmodel Bryan Whitman dismisses Earl’s transgressions thus: “This was nearly two decades ago.” How time flies when you’re shredding the constitution.

Also from the LAT is this story, just one example (and by no means the most egregious one, just the one in front of me) of a contemptible genre I’ve seen too many times this week, which suggests that London’s acceptance of diversity and its tolerance for refugees, for radical political speech by Islamic clerics, and for wogs in general, are responsible for this week’s bombings. The message of these articles: London is a slut, and had it coming.


No vision and no clear policy


According to Iyad “Comical” Allawi, “the Americans have no vision and no clear policy on how to go about in Iraq.” Oh sure, now he tells us. Evidently Iraq is near civil war because Americans haven’t been building Iraqi national unity. How one country builds the national unity of another country, he doesn’t say (although almost all Iraqis are united in wanting Americans the hell out, so good job, us). As always for Allawi, national unity means building a strong military and secret police, stocked with “former” Baathists.

Capt. Leslie McCoy, commandant of Guantanamo, has been relieved of duty, and the Pentagon is eager to assure us that it’s because of “inappropriate personnel and administrative practices,” whatever those might be, and certainly not for the, you know, torture and shit. Someday I’d like to find out what administrative practices the military considers to be more egregious than presiding over torture.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Crude


I’m back, but I have some catching up to do. Let’s get on with it:

Bush on climate change: “It’s easier to solve a problem when you know a lot about it.” OK honestly, I’m behind, I think I can leave an easy straight line like that up to you guys.

NYT headline: “London Bombs Seen as Crude.” Ya think?

Speaking of crude, George Bush’s response: “we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.” Never have hope and compassion sounded so creepy and threatening.

A rather good op-ed piece by former Tory MP and Times parliamentary sketchwriter Matthew Parris in The Times:
“In the face of provocation a ringing declaration never to falter proceeds direct from heart to lip. But en route it may detour the brain. Simple defiance is always moving but it is not always wise.”

“terrorism is not a body of men but a cloud of sympathies. ... It is a way of thinking to which some are drawn a lot and some are drawn a bit. It is a mood. It is evanescent. It can fade. It can spread. .. You cannot arrest and charge a mood. You cannot kill its army, one by one.”
AP: “President Hamid Karzai said Friday that Osama bin Laden wasn’t in Afghanistan, saying his government has no idea of his whereabouts.” Gee, there’s some sort of contradiction in there somewhere, I just can’t put my finger on it...

A spokesmodel for the Iraqi regime, while admitting having no idea who was responsible for the London bombings, still claims they are “from the same network” as insurgents in Iraq. Opportunistic prick. In the apartheid years, every time there was an act of terrorism anywhere in the world, the South African government would issue these oily condolences, suggesting that they too were beset by terrorists and deserved sympathy and understanding.

And Iraqi president (I would put that in quotes, but honestly, four years of doing that with Bush have air-quoted me out) Talabani wrote to Blair that “Terrorism has become an international plague that does not discriminate between races, people or religions.” Yes it does. The bomb doesn’t discriminate, but London rather than, say, Toronto, was chosen for a reason. Plague as a metaphor is singularly unhelpful in either understanding terrorism or formulating a response to it. In fact, it is deliberately unhelpful. People like Talabani, whose power and indeed lives are dependent on American (and British) protection, encourage Americans not to understand or try to understand the people they are fighting.

Israel has refused to extradite to Poland a Jewish man accused of genocide for his role as commandant of a communist-run camp for Germans in 1945, in which thousands were starved and beaten to death. Israel says he is to be forgiven because many of his family members had been killed by the Germans.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Light blogging, having phone troubles, 30 minute limit here at the public library, like anyone could survive with only 30 minutes of online time a day.

Looking at Blair's statement, there are problems. "We know that these people act in the name of Islam but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law-abiding people who abhor those who do this every bit as much as we do." Surely he meant to say they claim to act in the name of Islam. But the distinction he makes between "majority of Muslims" and "name of Islam" suggests that Muslims are, or can be, ok, that the real problem is with Islam. Also "as much as we do" suggests that Muslims are not "we."

He goes on, "When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed," before promising the "most intense police and security service action to make sure we bring those responsible to justice." Police scrutiny of minority religious communities, spying, dragnets, mass arrests? No, that's not a change. Ask the Northern Irish.

More when I can.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Uplifting


Bush tells USA Today that when his Supreme Court nominee is being confirmed, “I hope the language and tone of the debate is one that is uplifting.” Yeah, right, let’s do the uplifting thing.

Speaking of uplifting rhetoric, in Britain a newly elected MP, Jamie Reed, gave his maiden speech on the subject of the proposed bill to outlaw the insulting of religion. Mr. Reed was in favor of it because “As the first Jedi Member of this place, I look forward to the protection under the law that will be provided to me by the Bill.” No one’s entirely sure how serious he was.

Bionic Octopus passed along this story about teachers in Thailand being given permission to carry guns, but being unusually busy today I sub-contracted my snarking to someone in the educational field who wishes to remain anonymous (that’s right, isn’t it Kevin? You wish to remain anonymous?). His responses:
1. The same policy was considered here, but authorities decided that, if the occasion arises, the teacher could always borrow one of the students’ guns.
2. Clearly, the problem is an insufficient amount of prayer in the schools.
3. This is part of Thailand's "No classroom left unarmed" policy.
4. If nothing else, this will cut down on spitballs.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Electric underpants


A, ahem, contretemps has erupted at the G8 summit, with Jacques Chirac saying of the British, “You cannot trust people who have such bad cuisine. It is the country with the worst food after Finland” and “The only thing that they have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease.”


George suddenly realizes he forgot to change out of his lounging-around-the-Oval-Office clothes before he went out in public. (Picture via Digby)


Favorite headline of the day, from the Guardian: “Man Used Electric Underpants ‘To Fake Heart Attack.’”

In rejecting any emissions standards at all, Bush has been explaining that global warming can be overcome entirely through technological advances, which the United States will be delighted to sell the world. Because nothing says capitalism like first getting rich creating a problem, and then getting rich again trying to fix the problem you created.

Bush has a similar approach to African poverty, as George Monbiot explains in the Guardian. Under the“African Growth and Opportunity Act,” African countries would only get American help if they fully open their markets to American multinational corporations, in return for which they get limited access to the American market, limited, that is, to the shit sectors the multinationals don’t want:
Clothing factories in Africa will be allowed to sell their products to the US as long as they use “fabrics wholly formed and cut in the United States” or if they avoid direct competition with US products. The act, treading carefully around the toes of US manufacturing interests, is comically specific. Garments containing elastic strips, for example, are eligible only if the elastic is “less than 1 inch in width and used in the production of brassieres”. Even so, African countries’ preferential treatment will be terminated if it results in “a surge in imports”.
Iraq has reached the apex of freedom and liberty: Coca Cola has returned.

Promoting radicalism



At the G8 conference, Bush says that if Europe would scrap its agricultural subsidies, he would do the same. “Let’s join hands as wealthy industrialised nations and say to the world, we are going to get rid of all our agricultural subsidies together.” Not that there’s any chance of the EU taking him up on it, but why is he making promises about things he has no power over and couldn’t possibly get through Congress?

The American ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, went on Venezuelan tv to criticize the government for its lack of cooperation with the US on terrorism and drugs. The AP story reporting this does not say if Brownfield was asked when the US is going to extradite Luis Posada Carriles.

Also attacking Venezuela this weekend was Donald Rumsfeld, who penned an editorial for the Knight-Ridder chain in support of CAFTA, as necessary to keep Central America from going communist, or something. “Our neighbors do not live in a vacuum, and they are facing many pressures to turn away from a pro-American stance. Cuba and Venezuela -- no friends to the United States -- are promoting radicalism and attempting to subvert the democratic governments in the region.” Of course he offers no proof of this, but then what are his definitions of “promoting” and “radicalism” anyway? The fact that he uses the phrase “promoting radicalism” as if it were a heinous criminal act is a dead giveaway, if one were needed, that his real problem with Cuba and Venezuela is political.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sandra Day O’Connor, Alberto Gonzales and the Hard, Hard Right



Not for the first time, Bionic Octopus has come to the same opinions on a subject as I have and posted them first. On the possible forthcoming nomination of Alberto “this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions” Gonzales to the Supreme Court (and Bush really wants to appoint a Hispanic to the court, but I doubt it’s Speedy’s time quite yet; maybe Rehnquist’s replacement or the one after that), the D’s are beginning to engage in “pre-cave ground preparation,” pointing out how Bush is under such pressure from his right (!) to appoint someone even more paleo-reactionary, so we should just settle for Gonzales. BionOc thinks D’s have fallen prey to shrewder R negotiating tactics, that the R’s are also playing up the supposed extreme right-wing opposition to Gonzales in order to Mau Mau the D’s into letting him slide through without filibustering. Chuck Schumer is even quoted praising Bush for his fortitude in standing up to the “hard, hard right.” BionOc suggests Schumer and the Dithering Dems want to be able to portray this as a victory, but why? Is the charge of being “obstructive” really so hurtful to them when the things they’re obstructing are so horrible? Do they really think that being on the losing side is the same as being a loser? If the D’s had real principles to stand up for, an honorable defeat in defense of those principles would be preferable to spinning a disaster for constitutional rights as some sort of half-assed victory.

That the D’s would fold instantly in the face of a Gonzales nomination is predictable from the fact that they did just that less than six months ago. I’ve been re-reading my posts from that period and getting pissed off all over again. This is me in February:
A while back I said that I wanted the Gonzalez nomination to become an up-or-down vote on torture, because I really am curious how such a vote would go, how badly damaged the moral compass of this countries’ elected representatives had become. I half-way got my wish: the D’s have proclaimed this a vote on torture, but say that they intend to confine themselves to impotent squawking. This is the lead of a WaPo article by Dana Milbank: “Senate Democrats angrily denounced White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday as an advocate of prisoner torture but said they would not block his confirmation as attorney general.” Tells you everything you need to know about the D’s.
And January:

I wish the D’s would stop praising Gonzales’s “rags-to-riches” story. Patrick Leahy: “The road you traveled... is a tribute to you and your family.” That road was paved over dead bodies in Texas and broken ones in Guantanamo; the toll on that road was too damned high.
And later in Jan.:
In, pathetically, the boldest Democratic move yet on Alberto Gonzales, Ted Kennedy says he is “leaning against” voting to confirm him. But if you consider support for torture to be an absolute disqualification for the job of attorney general, and funnily enough I do, you don’t “lean” because there is nothing left to consider. You do not “lean” on issues of principle.
A NYT Week in Review article delineating the flavors of judicial conservatism (“Constitution in Exile Conservatives” is a new one to me) (and they left out a term found in the main section article, used by a “senior administration official” which would have to mean Card or Rove: “true constructionist,” which I take to be an even more arrogant formulation for “strict constructionist”), a picture is captioned “Sandra Day O’Connor wasn’t everything conservatives had hoped.” Yeah, a man. Seriously, it’s hard to believe how ground-breaking her nomination really did seem to be in 1981. I remember how thrilled even radical Berkeley women were (I was visiting Berkeley when her nomination was announced) that any woman had been named. Now it’s all pretty hum ho, and Bush isn’t even under any particular pressure to name a woman to replace her, in the way that his father had to find a black man to replace Marshall. But consider this: in the last 24 years, only one other woman has been appointed or nominated. Don’t take gender equality for granted, is all I’m saying.

It’s a dry heat



The Daniel Ellsberg op-ed article I linked to below reminds me that I don’t think I ever linked to this piece by him. I was going to write something about the use by the Bushies of domino-theory rhetoric about the Middle East, but I never did, so I will now: The Bushies use domino-theory rhetoric when they talk about the Middle East.

Yes, that’s it. It’s a holiday weekend, and I’m busy.

Ellsberg said, “We can’t move toward what we should do, which is getting out as soon as we can. You can’t move in that direction, without being willing to be charged with calling for defeat and failure and weakness and cowardice. And that just rules it out for most people.”

Because 83,432 would have been crazy


From the Observer, verbatim: “A Japanese mental health counsellor broke the record for reciting pi from memory in a marathon session this weekend. Akira Haraguchi, 59, recited the number to 83,431 decimal places.” Mental health counsellor.

Observer piece on torture by Iraqi police.

BBC headline: “Putin Plans Russia Vodka Monopoly.” Yeltsin tried that, but took a more personal approach.

The number of documents being classified by the government increased 10% last year, the number being declassified fell 34%.

Must-read editorial by Daniel Ellsberg, who says the speech Bush just gave is one Ellsberg wrote for Johnson in 1965.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Printable


So the SF Chronic has this article about topless protesters against the war, and you can click for a “printable version,” but is there a link for an unprintable version? No, there is not.

The last Australian World War I veteran has died.

This just has to be a tasteless joke:
[Putin] has introduced personally to the Russian Duma a Bill that would create special Cossack security units to preserve law and order and fight terrorism.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Dignified


Sandra O’Connor out. Her resignation letter says, “I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the court and its role under our constitutional structure.” Ya know, picking presidents after they’re defeated in elections, that sort of thing.

Bush calls for a “dignified process of confirmation” for her successor, followed by a dignified funeral for the Constitution as we knew it.


Obviously, his involvement raises many questions


A photograph has mysteriously emerged that purports to show the new Iranian president with one of the American hostages in 1979, although the figure in the picture doesn’t resemble Ahmadinejad as he looked at the time. Several of the hostages are also stepping forward to identify him, although it should be noted that many of the hostages were CIA, and probably none of them are especially enamored of the revolutionary government. Bush says he’d like to know if this is true, suggesting that either he’s not reading his briefing papers having Condi read his briefing papers to him, or the CIA still can’t collect basic intel (or manufacture a very credible smear campaign). “But obviously, his involvement raises many questions,” Bush said, presuming the very involvement he just admitted was in doubt.

The speaker of the Belgian parliament was scheduled to have lunch with the speaker of the Iranian parliament, but cancelled because the latter insisted that there be no alcohol.

And in other puritan news, the California prison system will ban smoking, including for the guards and death row inmates. Coincidentally, the state prison system’s health care dept has gone into receivership because of the many many unnecessary deaths of prisoners.

California prisons could take a lesson from the Bush administration’s Africa AIDS program, which just claimed to be treating 32,839 patients despite not having spent a single penny. Now that’s efficiency! So when Bush promises to double aid to Africa....