Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Independent and unbiased


Netanyahu, running against Sharon on a pro-settler, Palestinian-bashing platform, refers to Palestinians living in Jerusalem as a “siege.” “Who will overcome? It’s either them or us.”

Wales in a bottle.

A Reuters cameraman is consigned to 6 months in Abu Ghraib after a secret hearing in which he was unrepresented held by what the US military laughingly describes as “an independent and unbiased board and consists of nine members: six representatives of the Iraqi government ... and three senior multinational forces officers”. Independent. Unbiased. He was evidently arrested by Marines after they looked at the pictures he’d taken. Everyone’s a critic. This is a different Reuters cameraman than the one arrested a few days ago by the Marines who had just shot the soundman he worked with.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Varied origins and predilections


The (gay) mayor of Berlin is being criticized by some for sending a message of greeting to the second annual leather and fetish festival: “We are proud that people of varied origins and predilections feel at home in our city and celebrate together.”

Canada recognizes gay adultery (a woman has been allowed to divorce her husband on the grounds of adultery with another man), which I guess is progress of a sort. Is gay adultery legally recognized anywhere in the US?

Is it my imagination, or has the US really stepped up the use of aerial bombardment in Iraq?

The BBC World News reports that the people in Louisiana are now “waiting for Deliverance.” Great, after what they’ve been through, now they’re gonna have to squeal like a pig.


Synthesis


The selling of the Iraqi constitution to the American people continues apace. On Meet the Press Sunday, Ambassador Khalizad was asked if 1,800 Americans had really died to create an Islamic republic and replied, “The words that you read are exactly the same words that were in the constitution of Afghanistan which we celebrated.” So that’s okay then. Evidently this constitution is “a new synthesis between the universal principles of democracy and human rights and traditions in Islam.” Ohhhh, we thought there might be some contradiction there, but it’s a synthesis, why didn’t you say so before.

And the grubbier and messier events on the ground are, the more elevated Bush’s rhetoric becomes. Today:
We will prevail because this generation is determined to meet the threats of our time. We will prevail because this generation wants to leave a more hopeful world for our children and grandchildren. We will prevail because the desire to live in freedom is embedded in the soul of every man, woman and child on this Earth. And we will prevail because our freedom is defended by the greatest force for liberation that humankind has ever known, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
From the BBC:
Families of Israeli Arabs shot dead on a bus in Galilee are not considered terrorism victims because their killer was Jewish, the defence ministry says.

Under Israeli law, only attacks by "enemies of Israel" are considered terrorism, the ministry said.

The ruling means families of the four victims will not be entitled to the lifelong monthly payments given to Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks. ...

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, called the shooting "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist".
Pakistan requires candidates for election to public office to have a 10th-grade education, and has just decided that being educated in madrassas which are not regulated by the state doesn’t count.


Monday, August 29, 2005

I’m going to give the Palestinians a chance to develop a democracy


Must-read George Monbiot article on why the Iraqi referendum on the draft constitution will be a meaningless exercise and how the Iraqi people might have been involved in the process, making the final product their own rather than the result of haggling behind doors which are not only closed, but guarded by the troops of an occupying army.

Still, there must have been some real compromise to produce what demonstrators in Tikrit today called a “Zionist-American-Iranian constitution.”

Bush today: “I hope you’ve watched what has happened in the Holy Land. [Does he have to use that term?] Prime Minister Sharon made a courageous decision to remove settlements out of Gaza. He said to the world, I’m going to give the Palestinians a chance to develop a democracy.” Yes, because Ariel Sharon is all about spreadin’ democracy, just like George!

And he describes the Iraqi draft constitution thus: “This constitution is one that honors women’s rights, and freedom of religion.” Well, freedom of one religion, anyway, and how many religions do you really need?

And finally, a caption contest.


1) What are these two laughing about? (And for extra points, what might the cropped-off parts of that banner say?)
(Update: oh dear, he really was promoting his Medicare drug benefit at... El Mirage, Arizona.)


2) That’s McCain’s birthday cake. Tell us what he’s thinking/saying, and/or what’s written on the cake.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Get well soon, Vice President al-Yawer


From the Guardian:
The country’s Sunni vice president, Ghazi al-Yawer, did not show up at a Sunday ceremony marking completion of the document. When President Jalal Talabani said that al-Yawer was ill, senior government officials including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi howled with laughter.
The WaPo reports on the increasing number of state measures imposing burdens on women seeking abortions and raising the legal status of fetuses. South Dakota even passed a law that would go into effect if Roe v Wade were overturned, because they don’t want to wait even a single day (although surely passing an unconstitutional law is just a little bit unconstitutional itself). This country still has a pro-choice majority, but legislatures are acting as if supporters of abortion rights will not exact a price from legislators who nibble away at those rights. Hopefully they’re wrong. D’s are increasingly acting as if the whole issue is toxic and they wish it would go away, which doesn’t bode well for their willingness to fight the right-to-lifers if Roe is reversed.

And perhaps some Kurds who are concerned about the constitution


BBC headline: “UN Shocked by Kosovo Serb Deaths.” Yes, violence in the former Yugoslavia, shocking. That peaceful land has lost its innocence.

I know I’ve been commenting about headlines a lot, but I do read the stories too, honest.

Bush, in a statement oddly juxtaposing storm relief and patting himself on the back for the wondrous events going on in the Iraq that exists only inside his chimp-like head, does admit there might be some friendly differences of opinion: “And I suspect that when you get down to it, you’ll find a Shiia who disagrees with the constitution and Shiia who support the constitution, and perhaps some Kurds who are concerned about the constitution.” Yeah I suspect that perhaps that’s the case too.

Sunni buy-in


BBC headline: “Underground Chinese Bishop Dies.” Well that’s convenient.

Sunday Telegraph headline that I just can’t tell if they realized how tasteless it was: “British Diplomat Extends Helping Hand to Europe’s Last Leper Colony.” In Romania, if you were wondering.

The WaPo has a story sub-headlined “Iraqi Draft Fails To Win Support of All Sunni Delegates.” Which under-states it just a bit, since the article fails to name a single Sunni supporter. Yesterday Chalabi, no, it was an aide to Chalabi, was asked to name one; he cited the speaker of the National Assembly, who denied it. (The LAT, however, quotes the defense minister, who it describes as a “secular Sunni Arab,” whatever that means, attacking the Sunnis on the constitutional committee because one is a truck driver and the other, he says, was an intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein.) US Ambassador Khalilzad is quoted twice by the WaPo on the need for a “Sunni buy-in,” a phrase not exactly redolent of Jeffersonian idealism. The document that will be rammed through the Nat. Assembly later today is not really a constitution, since it leaves fundamental questions, like the mechanisms of federalism, to be decided later by a simple majority of the parliament. The reason you have a separate body write a constitution is that 1) a body such as the next parliament shouldn’t decide on its own powers, 2) voters shouldn’t have to vote for people whose powers have not yet been determined.

And over in Afghanistan, things aren’t going so well either, but there aren’t enough American casualties for anybody to be asking whether there’s an exit strategy there. Well ok, they may be asking that in Afghanistan, but here, not so much. The WaPo notes about next month’s elections, “candidates who are suspected of involvement in atrocities can only be barred from running if they were convicted of an offense. But there have been no war crimes trials to date, and many former militia commanders were given posts in the transitional post-Taliban government in an attempt to win their support for democracy.” All this time there has been only one branch of government in Afghanistan, the executive, and Karzai has imposed an electoral system for the parliamentary elections which I’ve never heard of before, in which voters have only one vote in multi-seat constituencies. This will produce a fractious, disorganized and unrepresentative parliament too weak to challenge Karzai, whose power would therefore continue to be that of a dictator, if it operated beyond a few square blocs of Kabul.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

We don’t accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis


Guerilla porn: separatist rebels in Tripura, India, are raising money by producing pornographic films, using kidnapped women (and, to a lesser extent, men).

Bush today: “the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government. What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion -- not at the barrel of a gun.” Is there maybe another entirely different Iraq?

Here’s something that happened in the Good Universe Iraq, according to Bush:
We saw that unity earlier this month when followers of the terrorist Zarqawi tried to force Shiite Muslims to leave the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Sunni Muslims in that city came to the defense of their Shiite neighbors. As one Sunni leader put it, “We have had enough of Zarqawi’s nonsense. We don’t accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis.”
Yes... a non-Iraqi... trying to enforce his control over Iraqis... that would be bad.


Of course to Chimpy, “chutzpah” probably sounds French


Bush’s argument for continuing the war to honor the (American) dead, it occurs to me, is rather like the classic definition of chutzpah, someone who kills his parents and asks for lenience because he is an orphan.

The University of California system is being sued by religious schools for a new admissions policy I didn’t know about, not certifying high school science courses that teach creationism, as well as other overly religious courses.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Our troops overwhelmingly want reassurance


General Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is finally at long last thinking ahead about Iraq. He is planning strategically to assign blame for that clusterfuck and, surprise surprise, it’s the old stab-in-the-back theory (Dolchstoß in the original German, and most recently seen in the smearing of John Kerry for undermining the national will to win in Vietnam). The soldiers are all great and “want to finish the job at hand” and don’t think they’re losing at all, says Myers, but “Our troops overwhelmingly want reassurance that they will be allowed to finish what we began four years ago.” Really, that’s what the troops want, reassurance that they can stay in Iraq waiting for victory, or an IED as the case might be? “This military can do anything as long as they have the will and resolve of the American people.” No it can’t. It can’t turn another country into a liberal, democratic, peaceful state by military means, and your failure to understand that is an ongoing problem. Stop blaming the media for not showing all the good news. Stop talking about our nation’s “will and resolve,” because closing our eyes and wishing really hard will not actually change the facts on the ground in Iraq.

This sort of talk is no longer about trying to silence the war critics. The US has already lost and I think Myers, if not Bush and Rumsfeld, knows this. It’s about explaining why it wasn’t his fault. Good luck with that, Myers, you’ll need it.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Boyo


The juxtaposition of three stories in the UK news section of the Indy shows that Britain has its priorities well and truly straight; it 1) deported a mother and her 4 children to Malawi, despite protests from their neighbors, 2) is about to deport Iraqis back to the, you know, safe parts of Iraq, despite protests by the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, 3) fined a local councillor in South Lanarkshire (Scotland) £750 for a “racially aggravated breach of the peace” for calling a Welshman “boyo.”

Home Secretary Charles Clarke reacted to the UN criticism of his plan to deport any wogs foreigners for a long list of “unacceptable behaviours” by accusing the UN of coddling terrorists: “The human rights of those people who were blown up on the Tube in London on July 7, are, to be quite frank, more important than the human rights on the people who committed those acts.” Clarke gets it entirely wrong in a way that demonstrates his failure to understand the concept of human rights, which is worrying but not uncommon in a home secretary. Human rights are by definition rights which accrue to humans. Those of some humans are not less important than those of other humans, because all humans are in fact human. Stop me if this is too fucking complicated.

The Times says “The Home Office says that Muslim leaders helped them to identify these undesirables, but officials refuse to name the Islamic groups involved.” The largest Muslim groups deny having named names. What the HO is doing here, claiming Muslims are finking for them but we can’t say who, is a blatant, indeed astoundingly blatant, divide-and-conquer tactic to make Muslims suspicious of each other. And its blatancy won’t make it less effective.

A member of Thailand’s cabinet, a woman involved in a lawsuit has disclosed, had silicone injected into his penis. But which one? Which member, not which penis. Oh dear, I said member, didn’t I?

A library in the Netherlands will start loaning out human beings. You can check out a homosexual (so to speak), a Gypsy, a drug addict, etc, and ask them about their lives for an hour.

And from the Guardian: “Belarus retaliated against Lithuania’s decision to build a radioactive waste dump close to their shared border by announcing plans to put two giant pig farms in sniffing distance of its neighbour.”


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

‘Take him out’ can be a number of things


Normally I’d invite you to provide captions for this picture,

and you may still do so, but I need to identify the woman for you. Bush’s people found themselves an anti-Cindy Sheehan, a Stakhanovite military mother, Tammy Pruett (even the name is over-the-top homespun) who has not one, not two, not three, but four sons in the military in Iraq. Come back with your hillbilly armor or on it, she told them.

Bush said, at that event in Idaho, that after 9/11, “We faced a clear choice. We could hunker down, retreating behind a false sense of security, or we could bring the war to the terrorists, striking them before they could kill more of our people.” I’m sorry, that was the choice? First, putting aside the whole “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside America” thing, who had a false sense of security after 9/11? So that’s obviously not actually a choice at all (the word “false” was kind of a clue), and what he’s saying is that there was only one choice, doing exactly what he did.

He says of the “Terrorists [who] have converged on Iraq” (he’s still pretending that only non-Iraqis are fighting us; I think he secretly believes that the Iraqis actually did dance in the streets and throw rose petals in our path) that they “lack popular support so they’re targeting innocent Iraqis with car bombs and suicide attacks.” As opposed to the smart bombs and depleted uranium shells we used?

Pat Robertson takes back, sorta, the whole hey-I-know-let’s-assassinate-Hugo-Chavez thing, saying, “I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him.” I’ve read that sentence several times now, and I can only think that by “accommodate,” he means “not assassinate.” And then he compared Chavez to Hitler and Saddam Hussein, so it wasn’t really much of an apology. When I first wrote about this, I didn’t include a joke I decided was a bit weak, that Robertson wasn’t advocating breaking any commandments because it says Do Not Kill, not Do Not “Take Out.” But today Robertson himself gave a variant of that joke, saying his comments had been taken out of context: “I didn’t say ‘assassination.’ [Actually, he did] I said our special forces should ‘take him out.’ And ‘take him out’ can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him.” And you could have meant “take him out to dinner and a movie,” but you didn’t. You could have meant “take him out to the ball game, take him out with the crowd, buy him some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, I don’t care if he ever gets back, wink wink,” but again, you didn’t.

Checking back through my old notes (which are archived dating back to 1986, links on the right, I pause to remind you), I find that Robertson said in February 1988 (when he was running for president) that he would have had Qadaffi offed (and that he wanted Ollie North as his veep; I’d forgotten that). And he sent money to the Contras and RENAMO.


Honoring the dead


20 months ago, the WaPo reports, the Pentagon decided that 15 Chinese Muslims, Uighurs, being held at Guantanamo had either done nothing wrong, at least not to us. They haven’t been released because they can’t be sent back to China. My favorite detail: nobody bothered telling them for some months that they had been cleared. My favorite new piece of military jargon: the Justice Dept says it has the right to hand on to them under its “wind-up power,” the power to hold onto POWs for a while at the end of a war while making arrangements to return them.

The Post also has a lively story about a near major prison break by Iraqis held by the US, who dug a 357-foot tunnel, involving the removal of 100 tons of dirt. Full of great details. Only took 5 months for anybody to tell us about it.

Bush has responded to Cindy Sheehan after all, by a slight change in rhetoric. Seeing that the death of her son gave her so much moral authority, he has taken to trying to give himself stature by standing on top of his much higher stack of corpses, even going so far Monday as to say out loud for the first time the number of dead. Suddenly they’re useful to him, even Casey Sheehan, as the basis for an argument that the dead need to be “honored” by continuing the war. “We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists etc etc”. We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here...


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Not to my knowledge and I would think I would have knowledge


Rumsfeld pooh-poohs Pat Robertson’s suggestion that Hugo Chavez be assassinated, “Our department doesn’t do that kind of thing. It’s against the law.” I feel soooo reassured. Don’t you feel soooo reassured? Given his many attempts to do just that “kind of thing” to Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar, I think what he meant to say is “Our department doesn’t do that kind of thing successfully.” He added that there was no planning to assassinate Chavez: “Not to my knowledge and I would think I would have knowledge.” After five years as secretary of war, no one else thinks Rummy would have knowledge about much of anything.

Except for things that aren’t actually true, like progress in Iraq. He says, rebutting those who are “being tossed about by the winds of concern,” that “It’s worth noting that the enemy does not appear to share that view. On the contrary, terrorists like Zarqawi are indicating concern about the lack of support from the Iraqi people.” Really, where precisely is he indicating that?

From The Onion:




The fact that they’re even writing a constitution is vastly different from living under the iron hand of a dictator


The blackout of blogs in South Korea, mentioned here one week ago, went on for some days and perhaps still goes on. The censorship isn’t completely effective, depending on who provides your web access, so honestly what’s the point, Korea? Blogger support informs me that it is indeed the government which is responsible.

White liberal bingo.

Bush blathers on about the wondrous Iraqi political process: “First of all, the fact that they’re even writing a constitution is vastly different from living under the iron hand of a dictator.” And he insists that the comparable American process was kind of sucky too: “We had trouble at our own conventions writing a constitution.” Oh ƒure, becauƒe Madiƒon kept forgetting to make his S’s look like F’s and having to ƒtart over. “It took a lot of work and a lot of interest, and willingness of people to work for the common good.” Can you name one Iraqi involved in this process who is working for the common good?

On Cindy Sheehan: “So I appreciate her right to protest. I understand her anguish. I met with a lot of families. She doesn’t represent the view of a lot of the families I have met with. And I’ll continue to meet with families.” A few questions later, avoiding answering a question about what the US would do in the event of a Sunni uprising, he says, apropos of nothing, “And I suspect most mothers, no matter what their religion may be, will choose a free society, so that their children can grow up in a peaceful world.” Bush idealizes mothers in the abstract; it’s the actual mothers, like Cindy Sheehan or Barbara Bush, that he can’t stand. Still, if the influence of mothers is so beneficial, he seems rather complacent about the status of women in Iraq. Asked by Fox, of all sources, about how women would fare under Sharia law: “as I understand it, the way the constitution is written is that women have got rights”. So that’s ok then.


Monday, August 22, 2005

A statesmanlike decision


Cute NYT headline Monday: “Critics Say Soda Policy for Schools Lacks Teeth.”

Unintentionally (probably) funny WaPo headline: “Federal Funds For Abstinence Group Withheld.” Well I’m sure if the group (“Silver Ring Thing”) respects the federal government, it won’t mind waiting.

The Iraqi constitution is postponed again, and the Bushies again portray it as a great victory. Condi sez, “In a statesmanlike decision, the men and women of the Assembly have decided to use the next three days to continue reaching out to build the broadest national consensus for Iraq’s new Constitution. ... The process by which Iraqis have reached this point is historic and in the best tradition of democracy.” I don’t know, the best tradition of democracy usually entails fewer car bombs, beheadings and the like.

Here’s the factor that determines whether this constitution ever goes into effect: who counts the votes in the Sunni provinces.


In happy times and sad, let’s be friends


The Metropolitan Police’s story is that all 8 cameras in the tube station that should have recorded de Menezes on the day he was shot were non-functioning. Eight of them. Just went dead. All at the same time. Funny, that.

For fans of printed propaganda, of whom I am one, there is a nice example here of a Japanese World War II pamphlet, translated, aimed at the children of the Co-Prosperity Sphere. Pictures of the Japanese being welcomed as liberators (“Our Commander is a friendly Japanese Commander”), you know the sort of thing.
Even with our differing languages and religions, let’s adopt a good attitude and be friendly like brothers. In happy times and sad, let’s be friends.

America, Britain, and the Netherlands were scared of East Asian prosperity; we must not forget this undeniable fact. If we have good relations and help each other, we shall definitely be happy.
Pat Robertson has come under fire for promoting a diet drink, “Pat’s Age-Defying Shake,” on his tax-exempt tv ministry. And he might get into trouble for that, as opposed to praying for the death of Supreme Court justices or calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, cuz, c’mon people, li’l perspective.

Department of Yeah, That’s Gonna Work: “A U.S. judge has taken out ads in Colombian newspapers and magazines ordering the country's main rebel group to appear in his Washington courtroom to face charges of kidnapping three Americans in 2003.” He explained that he had to because he doesn’t have FARC’s address on file.

Thoughtful deliberations


In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, George Bush, a veteran of hanging out in Houston bars wearing a Texas Air National Guard uniform, is still talking about how a free, democratic Iraq will deal a decisive blow yadda yadda, totally disconnected from the events taking place in the actually existing Iraq, the one that exists outside of Bush’s chimp-like head. “We admire their thoughtful deliberations; we salute their determination to lay the foundation for lasting democracy amid the ruins of a brutal dictatorship.” Yeah, thoughtful deliberations, lasting democracy. Sure.

Which brings us to today’s caption contest:

Let go of my damned hand, old man.


The balance of reporting is in the wrong place


How did I miss this detail before? The Metropolitan cop in charge when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot is named Commander Cressida Dick. Anyhoo, Sir Ian Blair, in an interview with the News of the World (not a permanent URL), complains that “this part of the story is concentrating on the death of one individual when we have 52 dead people from all faiths and communities in London and from abroad. ... It seems the balance of reporting is in the wrong place.” Well thank heavens the guy responsible for the death of that one individual and the cover-up that followed is here to put it all in proper perspective.

It was inevitable: a Fort Qualls to counterpoise Camp Casey, and named after another dead soldier, one whose father is pro-war and can’t wait for his other, 16-year old, son can sign up. The “Fort” consists, according to the AP, of a “large tent with ‘God Bless Our President!’ and ‘God Bless Our Troops’ banners and a life-size cardboard cutout of Bush.” What do those banners have in common, besides the religiosity? That they say nothing about the war and in fact have almost the minimum amount of content possible and still count as communication, barely above the content level of a chant of “USA! USA!” Cindy Sheehan wants answers. These people have none; they can provide only a life-size cardboard cutout Bush and life-size cardboard cutout patriotism.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

The funnier side of military life in a combat zone


Pope Benedict XVI suggests to Muslim leaders that they should really crack down on terrorists and steer young Muslims away from “the darkness of a new barbarism” through proper religious instruction, that is, instruction in Islam, which I assume would be the old barbarism in Pope Benny’s eyes. Pope Benny knows a lot about steering young people away from extremism from his days in the Hitler Youth.

Ariel Sharon, that’s Ariel fucking Sharon mind you, accuses the settlers of playing politics and causing unnecessary suffering. Presumably as opposed to necessary suffering, which is when Palestinians do the suffering.

Robert Fisk mentions a news release from the US military in Iraq entitled “Comics Bring Barrels of Laughs to Baghdad.” But does he quote from it? Depressive sod that he is, of course not. Evidently the comedians “touched on the funnier side of military life in a combat zone”. It will help, when you read the story, to imagine it spoken over the MASH public address system. That is all.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

The fairest way in a pluralistic society


Good article by Andrew Arato, posting on Juan Cole’s site, on the constitution-writing process in Iraq.

Bill Frist says that intelligent design should be taught in public schools so as not to “force any particular theory on anyone. ... I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future.” I can only assume that when he’s practicing medicine, he tells patients, “I recommend heart surgery and I am a doctor, as you can tell by my degrees, handsomely displayed in the cat-fur-lined picture frames, but in a pluralistic society it’s fair that I also tell you about the options of faith-healing, crystals, sacrificing a goat to Odin...”


Friday, August 19, 2005

For Willie Brand, the war on terror ends today


Excuse the longish (by my standards) silence. I was feeling stale and uninspired and didn’t wish to blog just for the sake of blogging. At one point I got as far as “John Roberts turns out to have been quite the snide little shit, doesn’t he?” before giving it up as a bad job. Not that he isn’t a snide little shit, but the various quotes from his old memos speak for themselves.

Jonathan Steele’s op-ed on the “theatre of the cynical” playing out in Gaza notes the settlers’ inability to understand how they, and Israel, are seen, epitomized in their obnoxious chant “Jews do not expel Jews.” The settlers mean to imply that “Jews do not expel Jews; Nazis expel Jews,” but what most of us actually hear is, “Jews do not expel Jews, they expel Arabs.”

The king of Swaziland has ended one year early his 5-year ban on teenagers having sex, which was supposed to end AIDS in Swaziland, a year early. Girls will no longer be required to wear a tasseled scarf to indicate their virginity (I assume they wore other clothes as well).

We now know that Sir Ian Blair, the least competent commissioner of the Met since Sir Charles Warren (a little bone for all you Jack the Ripper fans to gnaw on, you know who you are), tried to prevent investigation of the Menezes shooting, that the Met tried to bribe the Menezes family with $1 million in “compensation” (yes, that’s US dollars, the currency of choice for cover-ups, not British pounds), that the pathologist was given the same false information the public was, and that Blair does not intend to resign.

The 9th Circuit rules that when Congress banned abortions being performed at military bases, along with other measures intended to prevent service members and their families exercising their right to abortion, it actually intended that the Navy’s insurance not pay for a woman with a fetus lacking most of its brain to terminate her pregnancy. The government, in a brief written by some future John Roberts, argued that this case represented a “slippery slope.”

Pfc. Willie Brand, convicted of a variety of crimes in relation to a prisoner he beat to death in Afghanistan in 2002 by hitting him in the knee thirty times (one of two prisoners he beat to death: he was acquitted for the other one), including assault, maiming, and making a false statement, but not murder, is sentenced to diddly squat, that is, a reduction in rank to private, no jail time. That’ll show him. Brand told the jury, “We were trained on these things and when we implement them we were condemned; if we asked questions we are condemned.” Yup, damned if you beat two prisoners to death, damned if you don’t. And here’s what his lawyer said, with no trace of irony: “For Willie Brand, the war on terror ends today.”


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Promoting stability, Rummy style


NYT headline: “Rumsfeld’s Tour of South America Is Directed at Promoting Stability.” Because when you think stability, you think Rummy.

While in Peru, we are informed, Rummy visited a museum featuring the arts and crafts of the Indios. Something tells me the Secretary of War isn’t much of a museum person, possibly this quote about the looting of the Iraqi museums in 2003: “It is the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase and you see it 20 times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?”



Minimizing the loss of innocent life

When Rumsfeld et al accuse Venezuela of being “unhelpful” about drug trafficking, perhaps they had in mind its failure to participate in the “Air Bridge Denial Program,” under which Bush just reauthorized helping Colombia shoot down planes suspected of carrying drugs. Bush claimed the Colombians are working to “minimize the loss of innocent life,” although evidently not by refraining from shooting at airplanes. Best way to minimize loss of life, innocent or otherwise: stop with the shooting.

This is just a little reminder that Americans have been sent by our government to help kill people, without trial, for something that is not a capital crime in our country. The AP story mentions the incident in which a plane full of missionaries was shot down over Peru in 2001 by a Peruvian fighter “guided by US intelligence operatives” who nevertheless “couldn’t stop the Peruvians from shooting.” For what AP left out about who those “operatives” were and why they couldn’t stop the missionaries’ deaths (hint: they didn’t speak the fucking language), read my 2002 post here. It would also have been nice if the AP had mentioned how many planes have been shot down under this program; I know dozens have been in Peru but I’ve never seen a number for Colombia.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Unhelpful, redux


Rumsfeld deployed his word of the day a second time yesterday, calling the delay in adopting an Iraqi constitution “unhelpful,” adding that the sooner it was done, “the fewer Iraqis will be killed and the fewer Americans and coalition forces will be killed.” But no pressure or anything. He couldn’t find WMDs, but he can sure keep finding new scapegoats to blame for the continuing violence in Iraq, anyone and everything except his own incompetence.

Singapore once again cancels its presidential elections, because all candidates (3 of them) except the incumbent were disqualified. To qualify, one must evidently be a cabinet member, chief judge, speaker of the parliament, a civil servant, the head of a company with $60m in capital, or an elderly impotent figurehead.

Russia’s president is not an elderly impotent figurehead, but he does love playing dress-up, putting on both air force and navy uniforms yesterday to attend, ahem, missile launches. As always, captions are welcomed in comments. No Village People references.





Heartbreaking


Ariel Sharon says the sight of Gaza settlers being removed from their homes is “heartbreaking” (although his heart is composed entirely of lard – does lard break?) and “It’s impossible to watch this without tears in the eyes.” I know, I’ve been laughing pretty hard too.

Really, just pure...


...comic genius.



In unhelpful ways


After the London Metropolitan Police shot the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes to death July 22, everything they said to justify the shooting was, it turns out, a lie. He did not run or jump a turnstile. He was not wearing a bulky jacket. Not only did he not refuse orders to halt, but he was already under restraint when they shot him in the head, seven times. This was an extra-judicial execution. And the reason they thought he was a terrorist at all was because the cop who was supposed to have identified the people who left his apartment building was, um, busy relieving himself instead. No information has been released on whether it was onesies or twosies, but I expect them to lie about that as well. Details in any British newspaper, and Lenin’s Tomb is all over it too. It’s not just that they lied, but that they knew that at least some of those lies would inevitably be exposed. They decided, in a move we Americans know all too well, to lie in order to survive the initial news cycle of the story. After that, the damage would be less, and the public is used to be being lied to. I’ll be interested to see if Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair is hounded from public life as he deserves.

It’s been fun watching the Bushies, who cared so much more about getting an Iraqi constitution by the 15th than about getting it right, spin the postponement. Ambassador Khalizad said not to “take seriously the posturing that goes on outside”. Condescend much? Those are the Madisons and Jeffersons of Iraq, you know. And Condi says there is “considerable momentum.” Suddenly I’m reminded of “Joementum.”

Rumsfeld accuses Cuba and Venezuela of involving themselves in Bolivian politics “in unhelpful ways,” without elucidating or offering any proof. They never do. He also insisted that South America’s problems “don’t lend themselves to single-nation solutions.” In other words those countries require somebody – but who, oh who? – to become involved in their politics in, you know, helpful ways.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Your shorts are torn there, Mr. President. Tell us about that.


A reader from South Korea has informed me that Blogspot and Typepad blogs were mostly inaccessible in that country for several days, coinciding with the visit of a North Korean delegation for Liberation Day. He surmises that the blackout was part of a general sucking up process that including banning South Korean flags and slogans from a soccer match between teams from the two Koreas; so they might have been afraid that some blogger would cause an international incident by being beastly to the North Koreans. This happened once before. While some Korean blogs are following this, a news.google search shows no news stories at all.

Back in America, reporters from the free press ask George Bush the hard-hitting questions... about mountain biking:
Q: Your shorts are torn there, Mr. President. Tell us about that.
Q: Do you have now in your possession, or have you ever had a pair of form fitting lycra shorts?
They also asked whether he shaves his legs.

He does not.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Futile >adjective: producing no useful result; pointless


WaPo
headline: “Roberts Unlikely To Face Big Fight: Many Democrats See Battle as Futile.” Funny, that’s how many of us would describe the Democrats. Evidently they’re saving up their energy for the next nominee. Or possibly the one after that.

Also from the WaPo, re Iraq: “State television, poised to air the historic National Assembly session, instead broadcast seldom-seen footage of torture and executions carried out by the government of President Saddam Hussein.”

A tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate, negotiation and compromise


If I understand this correctly, the Iraqi “National Assembly” didn’t quite break the rules in voting themselves another week to come to a deal, but since the rules were written by Americans anyway, who cares. The thing is, there is no consensus on any of the fundamentals, and I don’t know how you construct a state without that. You compromise on where to go for lunch, not on whether to have a federal form of government or not. These people simply do not want to be in the same state; the Shiites hate the Sunnis, the Sunnis hate the Kurds, the Kurds hate the Turkmen, and everybody hates... well, the Tom Lehrer fans know who everybody hates. As long as they’re all stuck in the same state together, it looks like political divisions will all break down along ethnic lines, and that always works so well.

Of course Talabani and the Bushies are making it sound like they’re just checking for typos, split infinitives, that sort of thing (the American ambassador blamed that darned sandstorm). Bush himself said that the “heroic efforts” of the negotiators “are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate, negotiation and compromise.” Well, it’s August, and we know he never reads his briefing papers in August.

(Update: Ah, Billmon wrote everything I did, but better and earlier, and some stuff I didn’t think of. Some days are like that.)


Once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it


At Justice Sunday II, James Dobson, the master of oblivious irony, called the Supreme Court “unelected, unaccountable and arrogant.” “All wisdom does not reside in nine persons in black robes,” said Tom DeLay, the man in the black toupee. And Robert Bork, the poster boy for advice and consent, said, “once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it.” What on earth does he mean by “homosexuality as a constitutional right?” A right for homosexuals to physically exist? Ass-fucking? Daring to speak the love that dare not speak its name? Bork is living proof that one can also be driven mad by lack of power.

JS2 was supposed to be a pep rally for the Roberts nomination, but with news of his youthful indiscretion, experimenting with pro, ahem, bono work on behalf of gay rights, they reverted to their default position of court-bashing, engaging in anti-judicial-activism activism. Most of them weren’t that happy with a man whose church is the Whore of Babylon anyway.

I believe the adjective most often applied to the Supreme Court at JS2 was arrogant, this from people who claim to know God’s will because he told it to them personally.

John McCain defends Bush’s threat to use military force against Iran. McCain is living proof that you can experience some of the worst tortures of war and still be a warmonger.

And in what’s evidently big news, because I see it everywhere, the White House has hired its first female head chef. The National Organization for Women has declared that its work is now done and announced its immediate dissolution.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

A balanced life (balanced between callousness and stupidity)


Saturday’s NYT’s front page sports a lovely example of a two-faced head, a headline with more than one possible meaning: “G.I.’s Deployed in Iraq Desert With Lots of American Stuff.”

Cute Carl Hiaasen column on FEMA paying for supposed hurricane-related funerals in, ahem, Florida.

I hadn’t realized that when Bush oh-so-casually threatened Iran with war, the Iranian president was in the process of picking a new cabinet. I’m not saying they wouldn’t have been hardline and pronuclear before Bush’s little intervention, but it still wasn’t very smart, even by Chimpy’s standards.

And here’s a surprise: no women cabinet members.

You’ll probably have seen this elsewhere, but this is what Bush said yesterday about Cindy Sheehan: “But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there’s somebody who has got something to say to the president, that’s part of the job. And I think it’s important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But I think it’s also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life.” So thoughtful, so sensitive. And then he went on a two-hour bike ride. He insists that all the exercise and outdoors stuff (he also went fishing) is essential so that he can make “good, crisp decisions.” The reporter did not ask for any examples of his having ever made a good, crisp decision.

Mrs. Sheehan must be overjoyed that he can “go on with my life.”


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Normally we would storm a house killing everyone inside


As I predicted yesterday, Bush’s threat of military force against Iran was ignored in the US. It didn’t appear anywhere in today’s NYT, although to be fair it was a heavy news day, with “FDA Imposes Tougher Rules for Acne Drug” appearing above the fold on the front page (no, no link, my pimply-faced readers). However it was noticed by eagle-eyed German Chancellor Schröder, who criticized it strongly, and said that Germany would not participate in military action, not that anyone was asking. More astonishingly, Britain issued a statement that “We do not think there are any circumstances where military action would be justified against Iran.”

Iraqi president Talabani says that a deal can be reached on the constitution ahead of schedule, tomorrow in fact. All they have to do is pull an all-nighter and resolve the piddling details of oil-revenuing sharing, federalism and the role of Islam. So except for the form of government, how it will be funded, and what principles will underlie its legal system, they’ve pretty much got it all worked out. Well, they’ve got the name down, Republic of Iraq, a compromise worked out (with only a few fatalities), which is good because up until now whenever somebody wanted to attract Iraq’s attention they’d have to call out “Hey, you,” which was a little awkward. Really, if a constitution doesn’t address the fundamental issues, it’s not actually a constitution at all, and its usefulness is exactly zero, it performs no function. You can hardly, for example, get a court to declare a law unconstitutional when the constitution itself consists of the only thing all the delegates were able to agree on, that last Tuesday’s lunch could have been better.

The state of play with Venezuela is this: Chavez accused DEA agents operating in his country of espionage and ends cooperation on drugs with the DEA. The US responded by revoking the visas of Venezuelan military officers it claims to suspect of drug trafficking, although if so you have to wonder why they waited to revoke the visas until this little tit-for-tat fest. Venezuela will now revoke the diplomatic immunity of DEA agents and may stop issuing visas to Americans altogether.

In that story, the NYT feebly attempts to implement its new policy on anonymous sources, explaining the reason for the anonymity:
"Venezuela is being stricken by drug trafficking," an American official in Colombia who is involved in fighting drugs, said in a recent interview on condition of anonymity because of agency policy.
Oh well, policy, that explains everyfuckingthing.

Sunday Times article on Israeli army plans to send in the psychologists and rabbis to convince Gaza settlers to leave.
“Normally we would storm a house killing everyone inside, whereas here we have to storm the house and keep everyone alive,” said one commander. “It’s not an easy job.”
Former New Zealand PM David Lange, who fought the US over his non-nuclear policy in the 1980s, has died at 63.


“This is fate.”


Friday, August 12, 2005

All options are on the table


Yesterday, Bush gave an interview to Israeli television in which he did something which you’d think would be considered newsworthy: he threatened another country with military force. But this is what these last few years have brought us to. Everyone is so used to Bush dealing with the rest of the world through threats of military force that it’s viewed as completely unremarkable. Including by Bush; I saw a clip of it on the BBC, and he issues the threat completely casually, like it’s nothing.

Oh, you want to know which country? Iran, for its nuclear program.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, all options are on the table.

Q: Including use of force?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, as I say, all options are on the table.
Then he goes on a bit about last resort blah blah blah. He also said in the interview that Abbas needs to “dismantle terrorists.” Drawing and quartering, I assume. And he was asked about the one time he visited Israel: “I’ll never forget waking up in the hotel and seeing this golden shine on the Old City. It was just -- and I remember waking up Laura, I said, ‘Laura, you’re not going to believe -- you’re not going to believe this fantastic sight.’” He really is easily distracted by shiny objects, isn’t he?

But not by signs because, well, he’s not much of a reader. His motorcade sped by Cindy Sheehan, who was holding up a sign reading “Why do you make time for donors and not for me?” Is that a trick question?

Gen. Richard Myers, in a declaration to the District Court in Manhattan, asks that the remaining Abu Ghraib pictures and video not be released. His declaration (pdf), not all of which has been released either, says the release would result in “riots, violence and attacks by insurgents” in both Iraq and Afghanistan and, hell, everywhere else too. It’s quite a chilling document, painting a picture of massive insurgency in both countries barely kept under control (which is funny, because that’s not what he says everywhere else) and how it would all turn to shit if these pictures came out, practically the end of the world, so the censorship they want isn’t about covering their asses at all but a noble effort to save the world from anarchy and bloodshed. Release of these pictures would be the first official release, as opposed to a leak, which he says would be ever so much worse because it would seem to be an official attempt “to further ridicule and humiliate the individuals depicted, their culture, or their religion.” Also, Myers still thinks that the residents of Afghanistan are called “Afghanis.”

I had been going to point out that the argument Myers was making to the District Court was pragmatic rather than legal. “It would cause bad things to happen” is not an objection based in legal principles, which are the things, the only things, courts are supposed to consider. But in fact, they’re trying to stretch a statute allowing non-release of law-enforcement records which might endanger a snitch (“could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual”) to cover this.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

I think it’s kind of what we call speculation


Gaza settlers call on protesters trying to obstruct the pull-out to bring their children. “[W]e will reach our destination by use of our bodies and with our children.” Charming.

Via Josh Marshall, so maybe you’ve all read this already, this hilarious career-killing headline from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “[Rep. Steve] LaTourette Attributes Flip-flop on CAFTA to Tariff No One Pays.”

Bush met at the ranch with the DOD “team” and “visited” with the State Dept “team,” and issued a statement replete with every lame cliché we’ve heard about Iraq. And let me just say here how annoyed I’m getting by Bush starting his sentences with “And” (“And we are a nation at war”) or with “In other words”. Really really annoyed. Here’s a two-fer: “And they kill indiscriminately. In other words, they don’t care who they kill.”

Evidently we have a strategy to succeed in Iraq. It consists of two parts. 1) “As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” 2) “The second part of our strategy is to help freedom prevail in Iraq.” A strategy is supposed to be a, you know, plan, not a bumper sticker.

“They kill because they are trying to shake our will,” he says. “They’re trying to drive free nations out of parts of the world,” he says. No, they’re not, they’re trying to drive our militaries out.

As for the possibility of reducing the number of American troops, “I think it’s kind of what we call speculation.”

Does anyone know which reporter is “Deb,” who asked Bush about the Iranian president’s involvement in the 1979 hostage crisis, a long-discredited smear?

This, I suppose, is his answer to Cindy Sheehan:
“I also know there’s a lot of folks here in the United States that are, you know, wondering about troop withdrawals. They’re concerned about the violence and the death. They hear the stories about a loved one being lost to combat. And, you know, I grieve for every death. It breaks my heart to think about a family weeping over the loss of a loved one. I understand the anguish that some feel about the death that takes place.”
Prick.

He does admit that Sheehan “has a right to her position.” Schmuck. The reporter didn’t ask when he planned to meet with her.

He also says, “And I know it’s tough and I know it’s hard work,” and then goes back to his vacation. Asshole.

More pictures to caption. I’ve only captioned two, crudely, leaving plenty of scope for you, my discerning readers. In comments, please, and specify pics 1,2,3,4 or 5.


Rummy: “If I don’t look at her, maybe she won’t notice my erection.”
Condi: “If I don’t look at him....”

Condi steps eagerly forward to help George go wee wee.





Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Have not been able to sustain attacks


The WaPo quotes Army Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, the deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division: “If you look at the past few months, insurgents have not been able to sustain attacks, but they tend to surge every four weeks or so. We are right in the middle of one of those periods and predicted this would come.” A rather dismissive tone coming from someone who’s just lost a fair number of soldiers in his command. “Tends to surge every four weeks”; he makes it sound like a phenomenon of nature, a weather pattern or PMS. And, oo, they’re not able to sustain attacks, he says so belittlingly. Well, no, they’re not trying to, they’re fighting a guerilla war. What sort of war are you fighting, Gen. Horst?

Also from the Post: “Thrown on the defensive by recent revelations about Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.’s legal work, White House aides are delaying the release of tens of thousands of documents from the Reagan administration to give themselves time to find any new surprises before they are turned into political ammunition by Democrats.” Yes, first things first. By all means let’s put the needs of the spin doctors ahead of those of the senators performing their constitutionally mandated duty to advise and consent. In fact, are the spin doctors, pardon me, “White House lawyers,” who the Post says “have been dispatched to the Reagan library in Simi Valley, Calif., where they are combing through documents that have not been released,” performing any legitimate governmental function at all? Why should the taxpayers be paying for this? If the Bushies want to run this like an election campaign, let them get their corporate buddies to foot the bill.

The most powerful weapons to be deployed against the terrorists

Rummy Rumsfeld, as usual, strikes the perfect note of Jeffersonian idealism: “Indeed, [Iraq’s] new constitution -- a piece of paper -- could well turn out to be one of the most powerful weapons to be deployed against the terrorists.” Sure, we all know how much paper cuts can hurt.

The DOD website also bring us the results of an Iraqi poll, coming from “Defense Department officials speaking on background.” That’s right, the Pentagon website features leaks from Pentagon officials. The poll is spun as showing the Iraqi people opposing terrorist attacks, although the reason it wasn’t officially released might be that it shows 40% support for attacking Americans.

The Swedish police have trained a dog (named Xena) to sniff out semen at crime scenes. Nope, can’t think of a single comment about that one, no sirree.

And here’s George Bush with his “economic team.” Never trust people who look that uncomfortable when ordered to dress casual.

“Where do I put my hands?” they all wonder.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Culture of tolerance


The Blair government is planning to create a “list of unacceptable behaviours” for which foreigners may be deported. The government will create “a full database of individuals around the world who have demonstrated the relevant behaviours”. Behaviors include giving speeches, running websites, or using a position of responsibility to “express what the Government considers to be extreme views that are in conflict with the UK’s culture of tolerance”. There must be a definition of “tolerance” with which I am unacquainted, one that allows for lists of unacceptable behaviors and unacceptable people. Indeed, one definition of tolerate in my computer dictionary is: “to be capable of continued exposure to (a drug, toxin, etc.) without adverse reaction.” Blair’s proposals surely count as an adverse reaction.

He also wants to create secret anti-terrorism courts to hold people for up to three months without charge, trial or a defense being heard. He must not have heard about the UK’s culture of tolerance. Sez George Monbiot (writing about calls for patriotism), “As usual, we are being asked to do the job of the terrorists, by making this country ugly on their behalf.”

One proposal to foster integration of immigrants is to “rebrand” them (possibly with actual brands) in the American hyphenate manner: calling them Asian-British or Indian-British, for example, instead of “Paki bastards” or “wogs” or “fuzzy-wuzzies” or “lesser breeds without the law” or whatever they call them now.

OK, now they’re just making up excuses. AP headline: “Sandstorm Halts Work on Iraqi Constitution.”

Japanese PM Koizumi, the guy with the hair, is calling snap elections on the burning issue of post office privatization. Honestly, not making that up.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s not just abortion rights, but actual birth control that is under attack. The Wisconsin legislature has banned the University of Wisc. from prescribing or distributing contraceptives. (via You Will Anyway).

And the Justice Dept has filed a brief at the Supreme Court in support of a New Hampshire parental-notification law that didn’t provide an exemption for medical emergencies affecting health.

Helping every American who drives to work; caption contest


Bush visited the Sandia National Labs today, to celebrate the labs’ role in blasting the shit out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago this week.

OK, that’s not how he put it, but why else go there, of all the places he could go, on this of all weeks? Well, ostensibly he went to sign the Godawful Energy Policy Act of 2005, so they were actually spinning the Labs’s solar research, because the energy bill was all about the solar. As he signed it, he said, “The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is going to help every American who drives to work, every family that pays a power bill, and every small business owner hoping to expand.” Assuming that small business is Exxon-Mobil. And you’ll notice how he ignores Americans who get to work by other means than the automobile. Later in the speech he mentions tax credits for buying more efficient cars and more tax credits for new refineries, hydrogen-powered cars, and of course ethanol, and talks at length about the dangers of dependence on foreign oil, but not a word about public transportation. Or walking to work, or bicycles. He loves his mountain bike, even if he keeps falling off it, but never considers the possibility of bicycles being used for transportation rather than recreation.

He goes on, “This bill launches an energy strategy for the 21st century, and I’ve really been looking forward to signing it.” Because if he spells his name right, Uncle Dick gives him a lollipop. “The bill recognizes... that we’ve got to use technology to be the world’s leader in energy conservation.” There’s a flaw in there somewhere...

Now on to the caption contest portion of our program, with pictures from today’s outing to Sandia. Specify pics 1,2 or 3.




Sunday, August 07, 2005

That’s the nature of that neighborhood


Netanyahu resigns as Israeli finance minister over the Gaza pull-out. Evidently he just found out about it.

With the British government making unsubtle leaks to the press about prosecuting Muslim preachers for treason, and with Blair announcing the banning of two Muslim groups, in all cases for making statements supportive of terrorism rather than for any actual involvement in terrorism, British Muslims are demanding that if those organizations are to be banned, the racist British National Party and the National Front should be as well. They certainly meet the “preaching hatred” standard, as would Ian Paisley, homophobes, certain sexists, and oh for fuck’s sake let’s just ban everyone now. Even during World War II, the step of banning the British Union of Fascists and arresting its leaders wasn’t taken until Britain faced German invasion and occupation in the spring of 1940.

In an interview with Time, Condi suggests accentuating the positive: “It’s a lot easier to see the violence and suicide bombing than to see the rather quiet political progress that’s going on in parallel”. Someone needs to teach her the difference between visual and auditory. Personally I’ve been trying to smell the quiet political progress, without much success. I’d prefer not to try to taste the quiet political progress, because who knows where it’s been, although Condi assures us that it tastes like chicken. She also says the insurgents are “losing steam,” although she does not say which sense is required to detect this.

Duncan Hunter, the idiot who is chair of the House Armed Services Committee, is preparing the way for declaring victory and going home by defining success downwards even as he shows he is not cut out to be realtor: “There are always going to be insurgents in Iraq ... and there’s always going to be bombs going off and that’s the nature of that neighborhood.” Makes it sound like crabgrass.

Warning


The American ambassador to Iraq has been “warning” Shiites about not trying to undermine the rights of women (an article on that here) and minorities in the draft constitution. So what exactly is the relationship between the US and that process? Some clarity is called for. Do we consider ourselves to have a veto? If the answer to that is yes, then we are treating the supposedly sovereign Iraqis in a paternalistic and demeaning manner which will remove any legitimacy from the constitution. If no, we are neglecting the duties we accepted when we decided to occupy another country, and our 130,000 troops will be in the position of protecting by force of arms this stripping away of human rights. Yup, it’s a no-win situation, but one that’s inherent in the occupation of another country.

Viewed from the outside, the Iraqis seem to be fighting mostly over words rather than details. Will Islam be “the main source” of Iraqi law or “a main source.” Will Arabic be the only “official language,” whatever that means, or will Kurdish be a second official language. Will the state be called a “federal” one.

Speaking of fights over words, James Dobson this week compared stem-cell research to the ouvre of Nazi concentration-camp doctors, to a certain amount of outcry, but I want to point to on another word he used to characterize that research, utilitarian, which I’ve noticed beginning to crop up in this argument as a term of abuse. Because the last thing you’d want in medical research is utilitarianism. You know, it’s late and I don’t feel like coming up with a clever way to segue to a mention of Jeremy Bentham directing that after his death [1832] he be publicly dissected for the edification of the general public and his body be kept on display, which it still is to this day. Dammit, if I feel like inserting a picture of the very late Jeremy Bentham, that’s just what I’m gonna do.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Happy to be there


Ian Paisley, annoyed at the IRA ceasefire and the possibility of peace and local government in Northern Ireland is, astonishingly, threatening to boycott negotiations. “The majority of people in Northern Ireland are very angry,” he says, in what may be the greatest under-statement of all time.

In its continuing efforts to promote democracy and liberty throughout the world, the US is sending Haiti the equipment it needs for successful elections: guns and tear gas.

The WaPo has a refreshingly cynical story about the recent spate of junkets to Guantanamo, in which congresscritters spend about five minutes looking around without being allowed anywhere near the worst parts of the facility and without talking to one single prisoner. No one serious about investigating conditions would be satisfied with that, so one can only assume that those who make the journey intend only to be able to say that they’ve been there before issuing their whitewashes. Here’s a nice sentence from the Post: “Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.), part of Monday’s tour, said of the inmates he had seen from a distance: ‘Many of them are happy to be there.’”

Friday, August 05, 2005

Most likely to shoot up a bus


Follow-up: last week I mentioned that a jury in Virginia was empaneled solely to decide whether Daryl Atkins had a high enough IQ that he could be executed. Although the defense showed that Atkins had been kicked off his school football team because he was too... stupid... to play... football, the jury decided he was smart enough, or possibly dark-skinned enough, to kill (there were no blacks on the jury, you know how hard it is to find a black person in Virginia).

There were evidently subtle warning signs about that Israeli soldier, the fucking loon who the Israeli army decided to give a gun and show how to use it, who then shot up a bus full of Palestinians yesterday. For example (from Ha’aretz), this is his high school yearbook picture.


And his family actually repeatedly asked the military to take his gun away before he did something stupid (that would be the M16 he deserted with six weeks before the attack).

India sets a target of ending public defecation by 2010.

A tolerant and good-natured nation


Tony Blair gave a little speech today on the subject of terrorism. He’s against it. “By and large,” he said, “Britain knows it is a tolerant and good-natured nation, is rather proud of it and has responded to this terrorism with tolerance and good nature in a way that has won the admiration of people and nations the world over.” The rest of the speech was a wish list of powers he wanted to use against terrorism, including a statute to abolish tolerance and good nature.

He will start deporting foreigners who glorify, justify or validate the work of terrorists, or who visit websites or book shops or join organizations which the PM doesn’t like (there will be a little list drawn up). He will trust in the assurances of the countries to which he deports people that they won’t be tortured or ill-treated too terribly much.

Blair wants the power to close mosques. He insists that it is in fact the Muslim community itself that has asked that he “weed out extremism” from amongst them, so that’s all right then. He wants to detain people without trial for long periods.

Since 9/11, Blair has always had a bit of victimization envy. He desperately wanted for Britain to be important enough on the world stage to be attacked, for it too to be hated for its freedom. He didn’t precisely wish for the bombings, but they do represent a kind of validation for him, and an opportunity to put on his determined face and make just such a speech as he did today. After 7/7, everything is different, he says, which sounds awfully familiar. No one is calling it “scaremongering” any more, he says. Sure they are. Well, I am. It’s just more of a seller’s market now.

Banksy in the Holy Land


British stunt artist Banksy has been painting on the Israeli Security Wall (on the Palestinian side, which is why he is still alive). Here are the best images I could find, from the BBC, Guardian and Channel 4. I’m missing one of them.








Thursday, August 04, 2005

Chimpy con carne


CNN suspends Bob Novak for using a naughty word (bullshit) on-air (video here). A bit like Al Capone going to jail for tax evasion, but we’ll take it.

This abruptly ended a scintillating discussion of Katherine Harris’s claim that newspapers photo-shopped her picture to make her look even uglier and more clownlike. Novak said that newspapers had done the same thing to him, whereupon Carville asked him to name one and he couldn’t. You can see why he got pissed off; reactionaries so hate being asked to document their lies.

The Poor Man writes well (and at length – read it when you’ve got some time) about the increasingly nebulous justifications for the Iraq war.

I can’t tell from the transcript of Bush’s press conference with Colombian Warlord Uribe whether a reporter’s question about Venezuela was ever answered (the White House’s webmaster, like the State Dept’s, no speakee furren lingos) (and neither does George Bush, but he tried anyway; asked what they would be eating, he replied “carne”), but yesterday Nicholas Burns of the State Dept accused Venezuela of supplying weapons to the Farc guerillas in Colombia, citing as evidence not captured weapons, not satellite footage, but the mere fact that Venezuela has been purchasing guns. As I said, reactionaries don’t like being asked to document their lies, but then it doesn’t happen that often: Burns’ has been allowed to stand so far. Nice to see someone taking the baton from Roger Noriega.