Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union: Second-guessing is not a strategery

Before I forget: the state of the union is strong. Who knew?

Evidently “our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger.” Oh, I’m pretty sure they can be.

Then he tried to define those differences as between something and nothing. For example, “We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom – or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life.” Isolationism and protectionism is how he describes the alternative, essentially an absence of policy rather than a competing policy.

An odd historical statement: he describes 9/11 as resulting from “problems originating in a failed and oppressive state seven thousand miles away”. It took me a minute to get that he was blaming 9/11 on Afghanistan rather than, for example, any of the countries that the hijackers or bin Laden actually came from.

More bad history-writing: “In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies on Earth. Today, there are 122.” I can’t wait to see that list, although he names just 5 that aren’t on it: Syria, Burma, Iran, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and “the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom as well.” You know, just to shake it up a little, I say the next country we invade should be Zimbabwe rather than Iran. It’s actually a little hard to see how the peace of the world requires regime change in Burma and Zimbabwe.

Of course one of the reasons there are so many more countries now than in 1945 is that many of those “lonely democracies” held vast colonial empires. It’s funny that when he talks about the march of freedom, he never mentions the freedom of nations from the control of more powerful nations.

America, of course, is such a total innocent that the fight with “radical Islam” is “a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite.”

Here’s a rather un-PC statement: “No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it.” Equal opportunity for women freedom-ragers-against!

“Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder”. Dude, that’s just when they’re at work.

Evidently the United States “will never surrender to evil.” Hey, Cheney is sitting right behind you, and now his feelings are all hurt.

Evidently “second-guessing is not a strategy.” Er, is it a tactic?

Who was the guy in the Dr. Who scarf?

Here’s what you missed if you heard it on radio: he introduced the parents and wife of a dead soldier, and then he winked at them, he fucking winked. Winked! As the applause went on, a smug look, smug even by Bush standards of smugness, spread across his chimp-like face – what the hell did he have to be smug about? – and then he winked again, I’m not sure at who. What is wrong with him?

He may not have had that long a laundry list of things he wanted from Congress, but he sure did for Hamas, and as he told Hamas that it needed to disarm, renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, etc etc, the CNN cameras moved inevitably to Bush’s house Jew, Holy Joe Lieberman. Later, when he talked about malpractice reform, they went to Bill “Kitty Killer” Frist. And when he talked about infants with malaria, they went to Rumsfeld. What do they know about him?

In a silly stunt, he spoke directly to the citizens of Iran. Who he respects. No, sorry, who America respects. We do? Since when? He really needed to say when he stopped talking to the citizens of Iran, or turned to face a different camera or something.

He called it the “terrorist surveillance program” twice. And he informed “appropriate” members of Congress about it. As opposed to the inappropriate members of Congress.

Evidently “we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.” And just let me be the first of many bloggers to respond to that line with this picture:

Aw, he called for a line-item veto. How quaint.

Talking (vaguely) about health care, he said we should strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. I have no idea how he proposes to do that.

Oil, he says, “is often imported from unstable parts of the world.” Huh, see any causal relationship there, chuckles? “The best way to break this addiction [to oil] is through technology.” Certainly not by, I don’t know, driving less. And so he announced this year’s mission to Mars / hydrogen car, i.e., the thing that will never be heard from again, well, along with the bipartisan commission on Social Security, the Advanced Energy Initiative (his buddies at the American Enterprise Institute won’t be happy with that name). He wants “safe, clean” nuclear energy, and “cutting-edge” ethanol.

On education, he focused entirely on teaching math. Somebody has issues. He wants to “give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs.” If they’re so bad at math, why don’t we just tell them their jobs are high-wage, they’ll never know the difference.

He repeated the phrase “a hopeful society” over and over, often in contexts that seem to have little to do with being a hopeful society: “A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under law.... A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners... A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust” etc etc.

Also, he’s really against human cloning and human-animal hybrids. In case you were wondering.


Britain has its 100th military death in Iraq.

And Tony Blair loses a vote on banning religious hatred. And I do mean Tony Blair, since he lost 283-282 because he himself didn’t stick around to vote. Inciting religious hatred will still be illegal, but only “threatening” words and behaviour will be outlawed, not “abusive and insulting” or “reckless” ones.

Speaking of religious hatred, Palestinians, who evidently have no more pressing concerns than those cartoons, held a march through Gaza City, chanting “War on Denmark, death to Denmark,” and burned Danish flags, and no I don’t know where they got them.

A dog food manufacturer in New Zealand offered to send 42 tons of the stuff to Kenya to feed that country’s many starving children, as well as give them an increase in energy and vitality, shiny coat, bright eyes, strong teeth and bones, and a stronger immune system. To be fair, the manufacturer insists that she eats the stuff herself, sprinkled on her morning porridge, and it’s “yummy.” Kenyans, meanwhile, not so thrilled with the idea. The Kenyan relief minister said, “It is an insult for somebody to think Kenya can accept food meant for animals. Such people should desist because we will be very careful in vetting the donations.”

Monday, January 30, 2006

We shouldn’t just precipitously give this thing up and say it can’t work

Condi: “Perhaps Palestinian people want their children to be suicide bombers, and that’s the great desire of large numbers of the Palestinian population. I don’t believe it.” See, that’s why they need a referendum. For the children.

There’s been a Rushdie-lite thing in the Muslim world for several months now, with various nations denouncing Denmark for some cartoons depicting Mohammed in a bad light (Libya and Saudi Arabia have recalled
their ambassadors, a boycott of Danish goods is growing, condemnations have been issued by Pakistan, Hamas, etc and a move is afoot to introduce a UN resolution banning insulting religions). Into this rising idiocy steps Bill Clinton, the man who did meet Salman Rushdie but timorously banned pictures being taken of the event (he did the same when he met Ellen DeGeneres), giving his seal of approval to the fake outrage, calling the caricatures “appalling” and “totally outrageous cartoons against Islam” (whilst in Qatar, no less) and comparing them to anti-Semitism, and, you know, “In Europe, most of the struggles we’ve had in the past 50 years have been to fight prejudices against Jews, to fight against anti-Semitism.”

Clinton also wants US troops to stay in Iraq a while, saying as he must so often have said to Hillary, “We shouldn’t just precipitously give this thing up and say it can’t work.”

Bush: “this new democracy that’s emerging in the Palestinian Territories must understand that you can’t have a political party that also has got an armed wing to it; that democracies yield peace.” Was there ever a point in time when Bush made some tiniest effort to make sense and failed, as opposed to not trying in the first place?

Some bloggers are criticizing Democrats for not having a strategy on the Alito nomination. Are you sure the strategy isn’t to lose? I’m not sure they haven’t consciously or unconsciously or, if I know Democrats, semi-consciously, decided to be a failure as an opposition party in the hopes that things will get so bad that they might, somewhere, some day, win a freaking election again.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


There is a lot of pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel, a term which is falsely taken as self-explanatory, which might be the case for, say, Luxembourg, but not so much for Israel. Israel is a nation without defined borders, and not just because of the Occupied Territories (I assume no one is actually trying to get Hamas to recognize an Israel that includes the West Bank) and Jerusalem (whose borders Israel quietly expands into the West Bank every couple of years); even Israel doesn’t say what borders it claims for itself. So if it’s not a geographical entity, what is it? Its state lacks a constitution, the Knesset making up its rules as it goes along. And its population, because of the right of return, is undefined, potentially including millions of Jews who live outside its not-quite borders who may or may not ever visit there, much less become citizens.

None of this is to absolve Hamas of the anti-Semitic, even genocidal feelings expressed by some of its leaders (my favorite bit in the Hamas Covenant is the one that goes out of its way to blame the Jews for the French Revolution), but Arabs must get a little tired of being told, as Arafat so often was, what they are required to say, and say, the dictation usually continues, in Arabic. I say the only form of recognition that is truly meaningful is sitting down at a table and negotiating with the Israelis.

Israel has promised to keep up its very special form of recognition of Hamas by continuing to assassinate its leaders, even if they take governmental office.

The World Bank is responding to criticism of its loans to the famously corrupt Kenyan government – by loaning that government another $25 million... to fight corruption.

Silvio Berlusconi (who has had plastic surgery to enhance his likeness to Mussolini, or something) promises not to have sex between now and the April 9 elections. It’s unclear who that would persuade to vote for his party.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

It’s a different world

In his Thursday press conference, Bush said that “the FISA law was written in 1978. We’re having this discussion in 2006. It’s a different world.” So remember everybody, no laws enacted before 1978 (2001, really) still count. It’s a different world, possibly a different universe, although oddly enough the same solar system. Plan your weekends accordingly.

I was waiting to see what the major papers had to say about yesterday’s AP story about the US in Iraq taking wives of wanted men hostage to coerce their husbands into surrendering (it turned out this week when US-held women prisoners were released, absolutely not in exchange for Jill Carroll, that all or most were hostages rather than suspected of anything in their own right). But guess what, no stories in the Saturday WaPo or NYT that I saw, or the Sunday NYT (a search of the NYT site lists the AP story, but I didn’t see it in the print paper). And Eli at Left I wrote the post I would have written, pointing out that this has actually been an American tactic since the start of the war in Iraq, with any number of wives, mothers, offspring, etc held hostage. Imagine a world in which your government does that, and so much more, and it’s not considered news.

Ultimate Christian Wrestling. Of course. Wrestler dressed as Jesus on a cross. Of course. Wrestler dressed as Judas. “Actually, we’re more violent than secular wrestlers because we don’t seem to feel it like they do. The bumps and bruises that we take in the ring - I think God takes them and puts them on His own back.” Of course He does.

Friday, January 27, 2006


An email from a reader associated with Students for a Free Tibet (site; blog; both with lots of info on Chinese/Google [Choogle?] censorship) reminds me that I meant to write about Google, actually google.cn’s censoring the internets on behalf of the Chinese government. Clearly, their resisting the US Justice Dept subpoena was less about not being evil than protecting trade secrets. It would be nice to figure out exactly what they’re doing, and to keep track of which search terms are censored as they’re added to a no doubt constantly increasing list. The day they rolled out google.cn, for example, I checked it for the only really important metric: does it block my site? It didn’t then, a few days ago, but it more or less does today, when searches for “WIIIAI” and “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It” no longer yielded no hits for this site, but whateveritisimagainstit.blogspot.com works (of course, if you know the URL, you don’t need Google). I don’t know (not being able to read Chinese, much less those boxes that show up on my screen instead of Chinese) if Google mentioned that it was censoring the results of those searches, but as an interesting Cnet News report on what sorts of things are being censored indicates, Google is failing to inform users when they censor stuff, like they said they would.

It’s kinda fun watching everybody talk about shunning Hamas as the scum of the earth while attempting to absolve the people who elected them. Which is great for Americans, because it means we should also bear no responsibility for the chimp-like resident of the Oval Office. So as I understand it, a large majority of the Palestinian people are supposed to have said, “Yes I know they want to launch a war to the death against Israel, but they did promise to fill the potholes.” It’s like a protest vote, we’re told, a Ross Perot/Ralph Nader kind of thing. Me, I don’t know exactly what the Palestinian citizenry were thinking, and neither do you. If their lives are miserable and their economy is in bad shape and they’re all unemployed, I doubt that they entirely blame Fatah, corrupt and inefficient though they certainly have been, and probably assign a jot of blame to, well, you fill in this phrase: “Death to I_____l”

Rumsfeld said something a couple of days ago that’s still annoying me. Denying reports that the US Army was “broken,” he said that to the contrary, it was “battle-hardened.” They’ve been shot at, blown up, and kept in a constant state of tension for months on end; suggesting that they’ve been hardened by the experience strikes me as insulting. Maybe it’s just me.

Update: Or not:

Thursday, January 26, 2006

You cannot have one foot in politics and another in terror

Sez Condi Rice about Hamas, “You cannot have one foot in politics and another in terror.” Sounds like a really bad game of Twister.

Netanyahu and Likud are predictably claiming that the withdrawal from Gaza was responsible for the Hamas victory, because it showed that terror and violence worked. Yup, no hypocrisy there, no sirree. Netanyahu has coined the charming term “Hamastan.”

Fafblog asks, How does a War Bill become a War Law, and reassures us that “the president would never ever eat a baby unless it was reasonably suspected to be affiliated with possible terroresque program activities.”

In Thailand, a man who set a world record by spending 32 days in a glass cage with 3,400 scorpions will marry a woman who set the Thai record for 28 days with 1,000 centipedes, in a wedding sponsored by the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. Of course the problem with these mixed marriages is how do you bring up the children?


Bush press conference, yippee. Gives us a little State of the Union (SOTU) preview: “I’m going to remind people we’re living in historic times.” Of course while he’s giving the speech, it will feel like geologic times.

In his ongoing efforts to reduce his vocabulary to the smallest number of words possible, Shrub has pretty much stopped using any adjective except “interesting.” Today, for example, on the SOTU: “it’s an interesting experience to walk out there”; on meeting Alito’s law clerks: “an interesting experience”; on the Palestinian elections: “very interesting”, “an interesting day”; on budget talks: “that’s going to be an interesting discussion”. It’s just about the least communicative adjective he could choose, conveying almost no information. It’s public speaking by the lazy for the lazy; the listener isn’t supposed to think any harder about the meaning of the sentence than Bush did in formulating it.

The Palestinian elections provide Bush an opportunity – an interesting opportunity – to go all Federalist Papers on the meaning of democracy:
You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls
Dude, you’re blowing my mind.
-- and if they’re unhappy with the status quo, they’ll let you know. That’s the great thing about democracy, it provides a look into society.
But “if your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you’re not a partner in peace. And we’re interested in peace.” Yeah, peace is interesting.

Actually, his words really do give an insight into his view of democracy, despite himself. The election was “a wake-up call to the leadership” which “should open the eyes of the old guard”; “one way to figure out how to address the needs of the people is to let them express themselves at the ballot box”; “If government hadn’t been responsive, I’m not the least bit surprised that people said, I want government to be responsive.” This is a top-down model, in which leaders listen to the people, respond to them, take their views under advisement, but aren’t really controlled by them.

In defending the “terrorist surveillance program,” Bush uses the phrase “connecting the dots,” which we’ve been hearing several times a day from one Bushie or another. I wonder if they focus-grouped it?

On domestic spying: “And I’m intending to use that power -- Congress says, go ahead and conduct the war, we’re not going to tell you how to do it.”

On the pictures with Abramoff, “I’m also mindful that we live in a world in which those pictures will be used for pure political purposes, and they’re not relevant to the investigation.” Of course he met with Abramoff for purely political purposes, Abramoff was a purely political operator, so what’s your point?

No one bothered to ask about the Damadola airstrike, so I guess there wasn’t much point to forgoing the usual questions when he met the Pakistani prime minister (Rumsfeld also skipped a Q&A after his meeting). Molly Ivins has the question I’d like to see asked: “Are you the worst president since James Buchanan, or have you never heard of him?”

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Terrorists will likely think twice before engaging machine-gun-packing robots

You’ll be happy to know that the Pentagon will soon deploy robots that, in its words, “pack heat.” Says the toy’s human (I assume) owner, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Mero, “Terrorists will likely think twice before engaging machine-gun-packing robots.” They still can’t go faster than 5 mph, though.

Last week I started to write an analysis of the Justice Dept’s 42-page “zenith of his powers” memo in support of domestic spying the terrorist surveillance program. Can’t remember why I deleted what I wrote, except that one part of my rant was undercut when I realized that the phrase about the president being the “sole organ” in foreign relations actually came from some 1936 Supreme Court decision. For the record, the Constitution gives the president precisely three things he can do in foreign relations: 1) appoint ambassadors, with the approval of the Senate, 2) sign treaties, which must be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate, 3) run the military, when Congress has declared war. Anyway, there’s a piece not far from what I would have written by Jacob Weisberg at Slate. On Bush’s assertion that the Sep. 2001 Congressional Gulf of Tonkin resolution gives him the right to do anything he felt like doing, whether it was mentioned or not, and going so far as to claim that that was what Congress meant to do, even though, unlike the authors of the Constitution, almost all of the 2001 congresscritters are still alive (or what passes for life in Congress) and capable of speaking (and speaking and speaking; or in Joe Biden’s case, speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking), Weisberg says “Bush as much as declares: ‘I determine what my words mean and I alone determine what yours mean, too.’” Especially frightening when Bush knows so very few words, can pronounce even fewer, and understands the meaning of yet fewer. What struck me about the white paper was that most of it was not about legal and constitutional issues, as one might expect from a Department of Justice document, but the same old “9/11! 9/11! 9/11! Be afraid, be very afraid!” rhetoric. Weisberg notes that while it cites the Hamdi case, which denied the Bushies the right to detain people forever without a hearing, in which O’Connor wrote that a state of war is not a blank check, “The Justice Department memo, however, cites Hamdi as ballast for its stance that when it comes to spying domestically, Bush has not only a blank check but a wallet full of no-limit platinum cards.”

When Britain deports people to countries with questionable human rights records, it makes those countries promise, cross their hearts, not to torture or kill them, and gets an independent monitor to keep tabs on them. They want to start deporting Libyans, so they’re trying to recruit an independent monitor there... Qaddafi’s son.

Bush went on a field trip to the No Such Agency today, where “officials learn information about plotters and planners and people who would do us harm.” Or the 3 P’s, as they’re known in the world o’spooks.

Here he is, looking around for Jack Bauer, or at least Chloe.

Here is the worst violation of the truth in advertising laws ever.

And the caption for this one I’ll leave up to you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A domestic beef

Bill Ford, who I’m sure got his job based solely on the merits, just like another chief executive we could name, says of the massive job-cuts at Ford Motor that “we’re moving from a culture that discourages innovation back to a company that celebrates it.” Of course the party that celebrates innovation will be a much smaller one now.

Every so often the White House website decides to “set the record straight.” Today, they totally completely set straight all those people who are complaining about domestic spying. Not the spying part, they’ll totally cop to that, just don’t call it domestic:

DEFINITION: Domestic Vs. International.
  • Domestic Calls are calls inside the United States. International Calls are calls either to or from the United States.
  • Domestic Flights are flights from one American city to another. International Flights are flights to or from the United States.
  • Domestic Mail consists of letters and packages sent within the United States. International Mail consists of letters and packages sent to or from the United States.
  • Domestic Commerce involves business within the United States. International Commerce involves business between the United States and other countries.
So that’s okay then.


Yesterday Bush was asked if he’d seen Brokeback Mountain. He hadn’t, but said that he’d heard about it. Now we know that Bush doesn’t read the newspapers and gets all his information from trusted sources such as Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and Rummy Rumsfeld. So who told him about Brokeback Mountain, and how did they explain it to him?

Mean girls

A slogan at the anti-abortion rally, spotted by the WaPo: “Abortion is mean.”

Army inquisitor Lewis Welshofer Jr., convicted for sleeping-bagging Iraqi General Abed Hamed Mowhoush to death, has been sentenced by a jury of his military peers to a jolly stiff reprimand, a smallish fine and he’ll be restricted to barracks and work for 60 days – that’s right, suffocating a guy is not a firing offense in the Army. The prosecution failed to call any witnesses at the sentencing hearing.

Monday, January 23, 2006

We love you, we love your child, and we’re here to help you

And remember: it’s not a domestic surveillance program, it’s a terrorist surveillance program.

Speaking of phone calls nobody should be listening to, George Bush spoke to the “March for Life” by phone today. He said, “the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence apply to everyone, not just to those considered healthy or wanted or convenient. These principles call us to defend the sick and the dying, persons with disabilities and birth defects, all who are weak and vulnerable, especially unborn children.” Especially unborn children. Speaking of persons with disabilities, the weak and vulnerable, I’ve been waiting for Bush to say a single word about his failure to have the drug prescription plan up and running on time. “We’re sending a clear message to any woman facing a crisis pregnancy: We love you, we love your child, and we’re here to help you.” Man, how creepy is that?

About as creepy as the X Files Fanatics Against Abortion (from the 2001 march).

This guy is “overcome with emotion,” according to the Reuters caption, just like a little girl. But not like this little girl, with her little fetus dolly.

And these three men (the one with the stripy umbrella is Ralph Reed) agree that abortion hurts women, although they’re pretty sure that childbirth is quite pleasant.

8 minutes after delivering his little anti-choice message, he began a speech at Kansas State University, the theme of which was how the president has to make decisions, even if women aren’t allowed to: “I make a lot of decisions. I make some that you see that obviously affect people’s lives, not only here, but around the world. I make a lot of small ones you never see, but have got consequence. Decision-maker is the job description.” Hell, even terrorists make decisions: “They make decisions based upon their view of the world, which is the exact opposite of our view of the world.” I don’t know, Osama and George probably both think the earth is flat.

Here’s my favorite sentence: “And when the American President speaks, it’s really important for those words to mean something.” Would that they did, would that they did.

The other theme of the speech is that 9/11 Changed Everything, which if it were true, you’d think he wouldn’t have to keep repeating it. One change: “Threats must be taken seriously now, because geography doesn’t protect us”. Dammit, you mean I learned the difference between an isthmus and a peninsula for nothing?

Once again he defends invading Iraq, using that pin-point logic for which he is justly famous: “He was a state sponsor of terror. In other words, the government had declared, you are a state sponsor of terror. And, remember, we’re dealing with terrorist networks that would like to do us harm. There’s a reason why he was declared a state sponsor of terror -- because he was sponsoring terror.”

And of course that invasion was followed by... magic! “When somebody says, if you vote, I’m going to get you, sometimes people maybe say, well, maybe I don’t want to vote. Eleven million or so Iraqis went to the polls in defiance of these killers. (Applause.) It’s a magical moment in the history of liberty.” I’m going to get you? He’s been watching too many Dudley Do-Right cartoons.

And the US won’t reduce troops in Iraq until the commanders on the ground tell him he can:
You see, sometimes in the political process people feel beholden to polls and focus groups. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m going to be listening to the people that know what they’re talking about, and that’s the commanders on the ground in Iraq.
Yes, he just said that the American people, the ones who answer polls, don’t know what they’re talking about.

“I view it as a chance for an historic opportunity to make this place better for your children and your grandchildren -- ‘this place’ being the world.” Thank god he cleared that up. Now when can I move to Mars?

And then he opened it up to obsequious questions. The first one began thusly: “Mr. President, we salute what you have done, your aggressive stance on terrorism. But more than that, as you know, Kansas is a beef state. ...” It didn’t get much better, with questions (update: this one from someone in the Air Force ROTC, according to the WaPo) about how he withstands all those mean attacks on his character (through faith, family and friends) (and by friends, he meant Barney the dog, the “son I never had”), and how Laura contributes to his decision-making process (she brings “common sense,” at least when her common sense chip is activated), and whether he’s seen Brokeback Mountain yet (no). A student did manage to stump him on his education cuts (which he denied had been made).

Hookay, when I looked for pictures, I may have come up with the reason for the softball questions. When you’re busing in a claque to fill up the front rows, it might be less obvious that they’re not real Kansas State students if they changed out of their uniforms first.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Happy National Sanctity of Human Life Day!

I feel stupid for not having realized that National Sanctity of Human Life Day was scheduled for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Subtle, huh? I hope you all celebrated with appropriate ceremonies.

For his contribution to National Sanctity of Human Life Day (and isn’t it interesting that no one needs to have explained to them that the “human life” sanctified sanctimoniously on such a day would be embryonic or fetal? You didn’t think it was about opposition to the death penalty or to war, did you?), William Saletan bestows on the pro-choice movement the bounteous gift of his advice, on the op-ed page of the Sunday NYT (I’ve kneed Saletan in his own reproductive organs on this subject in the past). Evidently what is needed is... wait for it... “for the abortion-rights movement to declare war on abortion.” He wants sex ed. & morning-after pills & better health insurance & so on, which is all to the good, and “more contraceptive diligence in the abortion counseling process,” which sounds an awful lot like scolding women before allowing them to undergo a medical procedure. The question is why Saletan thinks it’s the pro-choice movement specifically that has an obligation to push these side-issues. And the answer is that like a lot of Democrats these days, he may apply the word “right” to abortion, but he doesn’t really mean it. Those Democratic senators who will refuse to filibuster Sammy “The Coathanger” Alito, or who will actually vote to confirm him, would, I hope, not do so if it were the right of free speech that he was going to eviscerate. Saletan, whose deepest fear about abortion is that some women who have them won’t feel horribly guilty for the rest of their lives, doesn’t understand that the pro-choice movement is in no way responsible for what women do with the reproductive rights it defends. That’s what it means when we call it a right. The ACLU is not responsible for the stupid religions some people choose when they exercise their right of religion, or the stupid things they say when they exercise their right of speech, or the way they don’t vacuum the spare bedroom just because they won’t have soldiers quartered upon them. Saletan says, “Most people will tolerate it as a lesser evil or a temporary measure, but they’ll never fully accept it.” First, I didn’t know that abortions could be temporary, but even more ill-chosen a word is “tolerate.” You don’t tolerate a right, you respect it: the fact that it is a right means you don’t have a say over how it is exercised.

(Update: see also Katha Pollitt's excellent response to Saletan, and a debate between the two here.)

The Pentagon is claiming that the number of hunger-strikers at Guantanamo is way down, to 22, of whom 17 are being forcibly fed.

I was wondering how Burns responded to Musharaf about the Damadola airstrike, and I’m still wondering. The Embassy in fact refuses to confirm or deny that Musharaf even raised the issue.
In other Musharaf-is-a-prick news, Mukhtar Mai, the woman whose gang-rape was ordered by a village council, who Musharaf last year prevented coming to the US because she would “bad-mouth Pakistan,” and about whom he said, “This has become a moneymaking concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped,” has gotten the UN to cancel a speech by Mai scheduled for Friday.

Speaking of follow-ups, whatever happened to the kidnapped sister of Iraq’s evil interior minister? (Update: Willie in comments points out that she was released, very quietly, a few days ago.)

And another great name: general manager of Houston tv station KRIV D’Artagnan Bebel.

I consolidated democracy and democratic norms at the grassroots by remaining in uniform

USAID is using some of its funds for something other than development: to prop up Fatah in advance of Wednesday’s Palestinian election. USAID’s budget for this little secret (until now) electoral intervention (the USAID logo does not appear on these projects or in ads it pays for) is twice as large as Hamas’s warchest. This is all part of something in USAID called “the Office of Transition Initiatives.” USAID’s mission director James Bever says they are “not favoring any particular party,” but boy are they opposing a particular party. “We are here to support the democratic process,” he added, “with large secret donations, just like Jack Abramoff.” (I may have made up the last part). “We wanted to give maximum credit to the Palestinian Authority and to the freely elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, for taking the initiative and for inviting us to help get the message out to the Palestinian people.” I think that sentence means that the project’s goal is that Abbas get credit for secretly inviting in USAID. So it’s, like, secret credit, or something.

The US still hasn’t officially admitted to the Jan. 13th airstrikes on Damadola, Pakistan. Musharaf, who almost certainly approved the attack in advance and certainly hasn’t publicly condemned it or indeed said anything at all for eight days about missiles being launched against his country, which is normally the sort of thing you’d expect a country’s ruler to have an opinion about, tut tuts to visiting undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns that such attacks must never happen again.

In the meeting, Musharaf, who reneged in 2004 on his promise to step down as army chief but now says he might do so in 2007, explained to Burns that he is bringing democracy to Pakistan not despite being a military dictator, but because of it: “it has been acknowledged worldwide that I consolidated democracy and democratic norms at the grassroots by remaining in uniform.”

The Army interrogator, Lewis Welshofer Jr., who stuffed an Iraqi general into a sleeping bag and sat on it until he suffocated to death has been convicted of dereliction of duty and “negligent homicide,” which must be a definition of the word negligent with which I am not familiar, and acquitted of murder. The highest sentence he can now get is 3 years. Welshofer claimed to be following a directive from the US commander in Iraq: “The gloves are coming off, gentlemen… We want these individuals broken.” Welshofer responded that the military needed to loosen its interrogation standards, now that it’s no longer facing such pansies as, um, the Nazis: “Today’s enemies, especially in southwest Asia, understand force, not … mind games.” Evidently his superior didn’t recognize that that meant he planned to use, well, force. The name of Welshofer’s lawyer, by the way: Spinner, Frank Spinner.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


The United Iraqi Alliance, which is neither united nor an alliance, although it is Iraqi, has put forward conditions for allowing Sunnis into the government, and they sound a little... familiar. Said one UIA leader, “We’ll require them not only to condemn terrorism - as they do normally - but to work with us in combating terrorism and overcoming it.” An unnamed American official said the same thing to AP with greater specificity: “the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Sunni Arab leaders must denounce insurgent violence and ensure that rebel groups lay down their arms.” Sounds just like the Israeli government laying down preconditions for talking with Palestinians, doesn’t it? So now elected Sunni politicians are to be held responsible for the actions of every single Sunni.

And if you’re keeping track of lame operation names, a series of raids south of Baghdad is denominated “Operation Warrior Intercept.”

Friday, January 20, 2006

Enough clever straddling, as Bill said to Monica

So the Israelis won’t outright ban Palestinians in East Jerusalem voting in the Palestinian election, but they will set a maximum of 5.5% of total voters, who will be issued tickets on a first come, first served basis. The rest will have to leave the city and vote in the West Bank, assuming they’re allowed through the checkpoints and not deterred by the ridiculous length of time that usually takes. Just for the fun of it, it’s possible that the Israelis will make them literally jump through hoops.

I haven’t written much about Hillary Clinton because, basically, I just hope she’ll go away if I don’t. Fortunately, Molly Ivins
did it for me:
Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election.
Ivins’s only mistake:
Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite.
Because in fact Hillary is planning to run to the right of Bush, as hard a concept as that is to wrap your head around, having recently taken him to task for being soft on Iran and North Korea. Just not enough of a war-monger, is Shrubya.

Evidently Sunday is National Sanctity of Human Life Day, and while I was just gonna get Human Life a nice card, Chimpy “call[s] upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to reaffirm our commitment to respecting and defending the life and dignity of every human being.” Appropriate ceremonies?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

People saying stupid shit edition

Clarence Ray Allen, the 76-year old executed in California this week, has asked that if he had another heart attack, he be allowed to die. Prison officials said no. “At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life,” said a San Quentin spokesmodel.

George Bush, asked by some idiot in Virginia whether the LauraBot would run for the US Senate: “she’s not interested in running for office. She is interested in literacy.” Jeez, George, your example to the contrary, literacy isn’t actually a disqualification for public office.

And don’t think you’re safe just because you don’t know what the squiggly things on paper mean: according to George, “The terrorists have got a weapon: It’s called our TV screens.” Especially those big-screen jobbies, those can really hurt if they get dropped on your foot.

Actually, George says you don’t need to be able to read, you just need to be able to dream: “One of the things about our country is it’s a place where you can start with zero,” you know, son of a president, grandson of a senator, that sort of thing, “you start with a dream and a good idea... and take risk and realize your dream. And it’s really important we keep it that way forever. America has got to be a place where dreamers can realize their dreams. And I love being in the midst of dreamers.”

In a speech today, Dick Cheney called for a renewal of the Patriot Act, saying “I believe the security of the United States needs to be above politics.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

They have to understand fruit because the butcherer is gone

On Damadola, we are now being told by Pakistani officials that there really were terrorist leaders at the house, but that their bodies were dragged off before authorities arrived. This is The War Against Terror’s equivalent of “I do have a girlfriend, but she goes to another school, you wouldn’t know her.”

According to the Pentagon website, “The American people must remind themselves every day that the United States is at war, a top Army general said today.” It’s not exactly the serenity prayer, is it? Some people, and I’m thinking Gen. Ray Odierno might be one of them, are just not cut out to write self-help books.

George Bush, meanwhile, invited some “victims of Saddam Hussein” to the White House, on the very day a Human Rights Watch report says that the US uses torture as a deliberate policy, and said some ironic things about a tyrant who considered himself above the law and denied people basic human rights. But mostly, he was there to listen: “The stories here are compelling stories. They’re stories of sadness and stories of bravery.” He added, “I like stories. ‘Specially animal stories. Uncle Dick reads me a story every night before beddie byes.” The event, Bush’s portion anyway, will be broadcast on C-SPAN later, so I can see whether it’s just a transcription error that has him referring to Saddam as “the butcherer,” but it’s kind of too good to check. If the message is how the US invasion and occupation have transformed Iraq, why did they put right next to Bush a guy who (very sensibly) ran away from Saddam’s Iraq, but who doesn’t seem to have any plans to move back to what Bush calls “a society that is beginning to understand the fruits of democracy and freedom.” Understanding fruit. Whatever.

Speaking of people who are often outwitted by produce, Scottie McClellan at today’s Gaggle:
Q There are allegations that we send people to Syria to be tortured.

MR. McCLELLAN: To Syria?

Q Yes. You’ve never heard of any allegation like that?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’ve never heard that one. That’s a new one.

Q To Syria? You haven’t heard that?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s a new one.

Q Well, I can assure you it’s been well-publicized.

MR. McCLELLAN: By bloggers?
I take it then that I do not have the honor to number Mr. McClellan among my readers. Nor has he read the Human Rights Watch report, but he condemns it as “based more on a political agenda than on facts.”

McClellan was asked again today about Abramoff meetings with White House staffers, and said “we’re not going to engage in a fishing expedition.” Then he accused people of making insinuations without evidence – the very evidence he is refusing to provide.

He also denied that he had said – in the statement he’d made a few minutes earlier – that the chief of Syrian military intelligence was personally involved in the Iraqi insurgency.

Princess Sparkle Pony points out that Trent Lott is confused by the “outrageous” provision in the Republicans’ compromise(d) ethics rule lowering the spending limit on meals congresscritters could accept to $20. “Where are you going to – to McDonald’s?” The concepts of either a) eating a meal that costs less than $20, or b) paying for his own food, are so alien to him that they literally didn’t enter into that head-like object he keeps under his toupee.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

That’s the difference. They target innocent civilians. We help innocent civilians.

I dunno, does this count as an admission of the Damadola bombing?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President looks forward to visiting with Prime Minister Aziz when he is here in Washington. We put out an announcement on that just recently blah blah blah... The United States is providing extraordinary assistance to those who were victims of this terrible earthquake blah blah blah... In terms of the war on terrorism, Pakistan is a key ally in the global war on terrorism. We work very closely with Pakistan to go after al Qaeda. And we will continue to pursue al Qaeda terrorists wherever they are; they will be brought to justice. The President has pointed out that we have already brought to justice in one way or another some three-quarters of the known leaders within al Qaeda. There are others that we continue to pursue and they will be brought to justice.
What abstract noun is it that they’ll be brought to again, Scottie? Actually, his idea of Justice isn’t really that abstract, is it? with the Predator drones and the missiles and all, although they’ve obviously still got the lady with the blindfold, she’s the one who sets the targets. Speaking of predator drones, Scottie isn’t really evading the question of whether the US was responsible, because that reporter forgot to ask him, as did the next one to ask about the incident, who asked if the US had any expression of regret. Scottie responded, “I’m not going to get into discussing any operational activities or alleged operational activities relating to the ongoing war on terrorism.” So they’re reserving the right to bomb whole new countries without saying a word to justify it.

Scottie went on to draw a distinction that would have been lost on the 18 people in those houses: “The enemy, as I said, targets innocent civilians. That’s the difference. They target innocent civilians. We help innocent civilians.” I keep waiting for someone to ask McClellan or McCain or anyone how many innocent civilians would be an acceptable number to kill in order also to kill someone like Zawahiri. If they think that 18 is an acceptable number, they ought to be able to tell us if 100 is too many, or 1,000.

Finally, a reporter asked, “Has the administration acknowledged the air strike?” Scottie: “I’ve seen the reports. I’m aware of the reports. I don’t have any additional information for you.”

He also refused to answer if Abramoff had ever met with Karl Rove.

Lawless for a long time

California executes the 76-year old blind, deaf guy in the wheelchair. I’m so proud. No word on whether his last meal included a birthday cake with candles. Actually, he had sugar-free pecan pie with sugar-free ice cream. Diabetic. Funny time to be watching the blood sugar levels.

Speaking of blood sugar levels, I celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday by going to see a picture of him made out of jelly beans.

The American not-embassy in Cuba celebrated MLK’s birthday by running the “I Have a Dream” speech on an electronic sign. Because George Bush so totally has the right to appropriate King’s words to serve his anti-Castro foreign policy goals (although what those words were supposed to indict Castro of, I’m just not sure).

The Bush campaign asked the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq (in what turned out to be a hushed-up friendly-fire incident) to appear in campaign commercial?

From the German internet cannibal retrial, testimony of the defendant: “I wanted to eat him but not to kill him.” So that’s okay, then.

The US still hasn’t admitted having bombed houses in Damadola, Pakistan last Friday, although several congresscritters (McCain, Lott, Bayh) skipped the “We did it” part and went right to the “and by God we’ll do it again” bit. Condi Rice, the only official who’s said anything about it on the record, didn’t “have anything for you” on it, but she also skipped to the “and by God we’ll do it again” bit: “The Waziristan frontier area is extremely difficult. It’s been lawless for a long time.” And sending planes across an international border to bomb it, does that make the area a) less lawless or b) more lawless, in your opinion, Condolencia?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bush celebrates “King Martin’s Day”

Bush: “It seems fitting on Martin Luther King Day that I come and look at the Emancipation Proclamation in its original form.” Adding, “So where are the comics?”

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Highly condemnable

A full day after a missile strike on Pakistan, a bungled attempt to assassinate Ayman al-Zawahiri, resulting in the deaths of something like 18 Pakistanis, the US has yet to acknowledge that those were its drone planes and its missiles (indeed, the first reaction was to deny it) and explain why it committed an act of war against a supposed ally, the second airstrike inside Pakistan in a week. Of course it wasn’t technically an act of war against Pakistan because the US had Musharaf’s permission. Musharaf won’t admit that, of course, so he has to pretend to be outraged; a government statement called the attack “highly condemnable.” Considering how much pretending to be outraged people like Musharaf have to do, you’d think they’d be better at it, if not actually convincing. Musharaf diluted his faux outrage even further by blaming the victims for the missile strike on their village: “If we kept sheltering foreign terrorists here... our future will not be good.” That will look really good on 18 head-stones, although it may not fit on the child-sized ones. That’s assuming the authorities give back the bodies they seized for the FBI to perform DNA tests on.

Of course for some people, the real crime isn’t the 18 or more dead, but the singeing of a Koran.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hole in... oh, never mind

George Bush, putter at half-mast, in a room full of women golfers.

Mr. Bush, tear down this concentration camp

Bush met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said twice that he talked with her alone in the Oval Office, which is interesting since she doesn’t seem to know English and he sure as hell doesn’t speak German.

But it’s not like he was listening anyway. Although he claimed to have been “touched” and “uplifted” by hearing about her experiences living in both tyranny and freedom, he dismissed the concerns she expressed about Guantanamo by calling her ignorant:
Yes, she brought up the subject, and I can understand why she brought it up, because there’s some misperceptions about Guantanamo. First of all, I urge any journalist to go down there and look at how the folks that are being detained there are treated. These are people picked up off a battlefield who want to do harm. A lot of folks have been released from Guantanamo.
So they’re dangerous but a lot of them have been released. I see a Willie Horton ad in the future. And journalists can just go there and talk to them, who knew? Bush called Guantanamo
a necessary part of protecting the American people, and so long as the war on terror goes on, and so long as there’s a threat, we will, inevitably need to hold people that would do ourselves harm in a system that -- in which people will be treated humanely, and in which, ultimately, there is going to be a end, which is a legal system.
Pfew, for a second there I thought he was going to say “final solution.”

The acting Prime Minister of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov says that with all the men killed there over the last decade, the only solution, really, is polygamy. Granted, this guy’s answer to pretty much everything, including potholes, bird flu and spam e-mail, is always “let’s legalize polygamy.”

For a month, the Israeli military has been cutting off parts of the West Bank from other parts of the West Bank, preventing travel between them, without actually announcing it as a new policy. You know what would help with this, according to Ramzan Kadyrov? Polygamy.

Boy I wish I had some more items so I could string that out into a proper running joke. You know what help me with this post? Polygamy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A is for...

Pat Robertson apologizes for “remarks which I can now view in retrospect” – in retrospect, mind you, after, you know, some reflection – “as inappropriate and insensitive,” but doesn’t actually retract his opinion that God smote down Ariel Sharon for pulling out of Gaza.

Robertson’s fellow theologian Ryan Thomas Green was sentenced to death in Florida today for shooting a guy who was wearing a University of Alabama baseball cap – Green thought the letter “A” meant the guy was the Antichrist. Also, a bull told him to do it, as did some colors (I’ll bet it was magenta; magenta’s such a bitch) and symbols. He also shot another guy and a bull that day, not clear in the AP story whether it was the talking bull. Green may have some mental health issues. Or bulls and colors talk to him.

The Chinese government supports the practice of extracting bile from bears, says it’s painless. But it is concerned about Tibetan eagles, and will crack down on the Tibetan practice of feeding dead people to the birds which, while gross, is the prescribed religious practice there.

AP headline: “Records Show Army Ended Abuse Probe Early.” Anal probes, not so much. The Iraqi detainee, who held a high-level position in the Baathist regime – he’s a relative, possibly a second cousin, of one of Saddam Hussein’s bodyguards – claimed the usual colorful variety of abuses, and the army ended its investigation without questioning any Americans involved, or looking at the records, which were “lost” in a computer “glitch.” When the military says it investigates these cases, this is evidently what it means.

Speaking of lost stuff, the palaces handed over by the US to the Iraqi military were all thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, looted, including doors and electrical switches. Freedom, ain’t it grand?

By the way, after a week of hearings, I have to ask: what was so bad Harriet Miers, exactly?

Filibustering Alito

I have sent this message to my senators:

Senator Boxer,

It is essential that Samuel Alito’s nomination be filibustered, and that you must support that filibuster. Indeed, I believe the oath you took to uphold the Constitution requires it. There are many reasons why Judge Alito should not be promoted, but I will focus on three:

1) If you believe that there is a right to privacy, and a right to bodily integrity including the right to abortion, you must oppose the nomination of a man who will wrongly take those rights away. If you are not there to protect the rights of Americans, what are you there for?

2) Judge Alito’s advocacy of the false theory of a “unitary executive,” not only verbally but in his record as a judge and in the Reagan White House, would undermine the constitutional system of checks and balances and separation of powers that protects us from an overweening, even dictatorial executive branch. If you are not there to protect Americans from tyranny, what are you there for?

3) Judge Alito’s pattern of evasion, contradiction and outright dishonesty makes many of his answers suspect, and from a constitutional standpoint make a mockery of the advice and consent role of the Senate. If you will not stand up for the prerogatives of Congress and its proper role as a co-equal branch of government, what will you stand up for?

If it were only a matter of disagreeing with Judge Alito’s judicial philosophy and worrying about how he would vote in individual cases, I might ask you for a no vote but not a filibuster. But I believe he represents such a threat to individual rights and to the constitutional order that I do not hesitate to call a filibuster your duty. Thank you for your attention.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

But we can’t build a judiciary around that issue

Lindsey Graham, in between bouts as the self-appointed politeness czar of the ScAlito hearings, tells Democrats (yesterday, I’m a bit behind), “I know that free speech is important. It’s important to me, and it’s important to you. But we can’t build a judiciary around that issue.” No, wait, it wasn’t free speech. “I know that freedom of religion is important. It’s important to...” No, that wasn’t it either. “I know that the right not to have soldiers quartered in time of peace in any house....” Oh, I’ve got it, it’s the right of abortion people are making too much of a fuss about.

I could have used “the right to bear arms” in that paragraph, but does anyone think he’d even have been nominated if he hadn’t decided in favor of everyone’s right to a machine gun?

And then Graham made ScAlito’s wife, played here by Nathan Lane but still looking very much like someone named Martha-Ann should look – good job Nathan – cry by asking, doing his impression of a Democrat – leave the impressions to Mr. Lane, Senator Graham, but please, do give up your day job – ScAlito if he was a bigot. And everyone was so focused on the Runaway Bride that they missed him answering, yes, I am one huge bigot, thank you for asking. I don’t have the stomach to watch much more of this nonsense, but I’m guessing that today every news channel has their cameras firmly affixed to her, looking for a little faux drama.

Bolivia’s president-elect Evo Morales, a light packer, has been traveling the world, showing off this sweater in meetings with the presidents/prime ministers of France, Spain, China, and here, South Africa.

Detail about the military commissions in Guantanamo I didn’t know: the prisoners are not allowed to represent themselves, are required to be represented by someone assigned to them by the Pentagon. This from the hearing for “Osama’s bodyguard,” actually a Yemeni guy who put together videos for Al Qaeda, and is therefore clearly too dangerous to be allowed to roam free.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Back in October I asked who would be the first senator to call Judge Alito “ScAlito” (which I believe is his porn name). It was John Cornyn, yesterday, according to Maureen Dowd.

Today is the 4th anniversary of the use of Guantanamo to detain prisoners in The War Against Terror without trial.

Bush, at a “town hall meeting” in Louisville organized by the Chamber of Commerce, has a little pronoun trouble, or possibly a Sun Kingly inability to distinguish between himself and the United States:
We took action because the Taliban refused to expel al Qaeda. And we took action because when an American President says something, he better mean it. In order to be able to keep the peace, in order to be able to have credibility in this world, when we speak, we better mean what we say. And I meant what we said.
About the invasion of Iraq, he (or possibly they) says “I understand that the intelligence didn’t turn out the way a lot of the world thought it would be. And that was disappointing”. Yeah, disappointing, exactly the word I was looking for, like when the pie at that restaurant isn’t as good as you remember, disappointing, like when your kid gets a B+ instead of an A, disappointing, like when the most powerful person in the world is a complete moron, disappointing, like when he gets us into a never-ending quagmire, with tens of thousands dead, disafuckingppointing.

Still, it was a hard decision to go to war, “because I understand the consequences. I see the consequences when I go to the hospitals. I see the consequences when I try to comfort the loved ones who have lost a son or a daughter in combat. I understand that full -- firsthand: War is brutal.” I happened to catch this bit on CNN; do you see which phrase enraged me? First-hand. He thinks he knows what this war is like first-hand because he visited some wounded soldiers, well after they received their wounds, in an antiseptic hospital.

On Iraqi insurgents: “They’re not going to shake my will.” Now that’s just dirty.

Asked about immigration, he said he was against amnesty, but defined amnesty as “automatic citizenship,” which of course it isn’t.

Although it was said in advance that the questions wouldn’t be screened, there wasn’t a single critical one.

Oh, it’s on.


I’m not sure I see the logic behind Alito’s admitting that his 1985 statement that he didn’t believe the Constitution protected the right to abortion was indeed a statement of his views in 1985, while refusing to say what his views are now. He does, however, promise to keep an open mind, which certainly reassures me. If he’d said, No Senator, I do not intend to keep an open mind, then I might have worried just a little bit, but he didn’t say that, he said that he’d keep an open mind. He even said, and this just shows how open his mind would be, that if an abortion case were argued before the Court, “I would listen to the arguments that were made.”

You know what’s always open that shouldn’t be? Joe Biden’s fucking mouth.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

You kept that oath underseas and under fire

Bush visits the Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose numbers he has worked so hard to increase: “You took an oath to defend our flag and our freedom, and you kept that oath underseas and under fire.” We have to fight them in Atlantis so we don’t have to fight them over here.

Gearing up for the election year, he set out the limits of acceptable discourse:
there is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate... The American people... know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right. When our soldiers hear politicians in Washington question the mission they are risking their lives to accomplish, it hurts their morale.
So minor quibbling about the way the war is conducted is okay, but any discussion of The Mission at all is disloyal, and any questioning of how we got into this mess is dishonest. Got it.

Corrupt member

Jack Abramoff’s next endeavor: writing a commentary on the Torah. The All-Loophole Torah, no doubt.

Noted ethicist Newt Gingrich had this to say about the Abramoff scandal: “You can’t have a corrupt lobbyist unless you have a corrupt member.” Heh, he said corrupt member, heh.

It’s interesting that Alito... hold on a second...

Corrupt member. Heh.

... that Alito chose in his opening statement to rehash some old class resentments. Considering that he’s pretending that if confirmed he’ll just drop his opinions – if those are his opinions and he’s not gonna confirm or deny that they are – here he is talking about how he worked his poor Italian ass off to get to Princeton and when he got there it was full of damned hippies!, “very privileged people behaving irresponsibly” as opposed to the “good sense and the decency of the people back in my community.”

Actually, that period may be the key to Alito. He really did work his poor Italian ass off to join the ruling elite, this modern-day Rastignac, and just as he was poised to do so, its offspring experienced a Vietnam-fueled crisis of confidence and began to question the very legitimacy of the power so nearly in his grasp. He’s spent the rest of his career trying to bolster that power, making the intellectual and legal case for its legitimacy.

Corrupt member. Heh. Heh.

(Update: oh dear, it seems the whole quote is “You can’t have a corrupt lobbyist unless you have a corrupt member or a corrupt staff.”)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Reaching out to the rejectionists

I was listening to the opening salvos in the ScAlito hearings, but had to turn off the car radio after Chuck Schumer said that ScAlito was trying to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s shoes, which were big shoes, and they were also special shoes.

Scottie McClellan denied that the US was talking with terrorists in Iraq, but “We have been reaching out to the rejectionists.” No means no! Bad touch!

Speaking of rejectionists, the Bushies seem to spend a lot of time lately playing Miss Manners, telling people what they can and can’t say. On critics of the war, McClellan: “There’s a difference between loyal opposition that has a different view, and those who are advocating a defeatist approach that sends the wrong message to our troops and the enemy.” Scottie was asked to clarify Bush’s call for “dignified” confirmation hearings, to define what exactly wasn’t dignified, which he didn’t really do, although he suggested that questioning ScAlito’s integrity was out of bounds. However, he did say “the Senate has a very important role to play in confirmation hearings,” which I’m sure Chuck Schumer would be delighted to hear, but he seems to have locked himself in the bathroom with Sandra Day O’Connor’s shoe again.

What Scottie would not do was tell us what the heck is wrong with Cheney’s foot, and I am so not gonna make another Schumer joke here. I’m not even going to make a joke about gout, which is what rumor would have it afflicts Big Time. I understand it’s quite painful and not just for bloated plutocrats anymore and not humorous at all despite having the funny name, c’mon say it with me: gout gout gout gout gout...

Here’s what Iraq has come to: the sister of the interior minister was kidnapped last week, and it’s barely considered news.

The intellect necessary to bring a lot of class to that Court

Today Bush visited a school to commemorate the 4th anniversary of No Child Left Behind, trumpeting the death of the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” where “It’s more important that somebody be shuffled through than it is to determine whether or not they’re capable of meeting certain standards”. Speaking of standards, earlier in the day he said that Samuel Alito should be confirmed because “Sam’s got the intellect necessary to bring a lot of class to that Court.” It’s all about standards, folks. Speaking of standards, back to the NCLB photo op: Chimpy commented that Laura often read to the twins, for all the good it did; “Occasionally, I did, too, but stumbled over a few of the words and might have confused them.” That was at the start of a speech about how important education is.

Hell, even the transcript guy is marking Bush down:
And the best place to start is to make sure every child can read and write and add and subtract. And so that was the spirit behind proposing the No Child Left Behind Act. And as I mentioned, there was a lot of non-partisan cooperation -- kind of a rare thing in Washington. But it made sense when it come [sic] to public schools.
That’s transcript guy’s sic. And later, “Laura and I’s [sic] spirits are uplifted any time we go to a school that’s working”.

Naturally, because he was in a public school, he ended his speech, “God bless the teachers here, and the principal. God bless the parents. And may God bless the students, as well.”

As for ScAlito, as far as Bush is concerned, it’s all about surface appearance dignity:
And my hope, of course, is that the American people will be impressed by the process. It’s very important that members of the Senate conduct a dignified hearing. The Supreme Court is a dignified body; Sam is a dignified person. And my hope, of course, is that the Senate bring dignity to the process and give this man a fair hearing and an up or down vote on the Senate floor.
Followed by a dignified funeral for the Constitution as we knew it. He made the same call for a dignified confirmation process for Roberts, when I wrote,
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 (but whose name is not actually Jeeves), who always says Yes sir, at once sir, in that fruity accent.

Destroying traditional morality, creating a new moral code and prohibiting any dissent

The British government has set up a website where members of the public can nominate and vote on the Icons of England: Stonehenge, Punch & Judy shows, a nice cup of tea, Benny Hill in drag, John Cleese in drag, Winston Churchill in drag, double-decker buses, the Amritsar massacre, an Eton schoolboy being buggered, a Beefeater being buggered, Oscar Wilde being buggered, Winston Churchill being buggered, a stockbroker in a bowler hat with a rolled-up umbrella being buggered, Dr. Who being buggered, Mr. Bean being buggered, Pitt the Younger being buggered, Big Ben, the humble bobby being buggered, queues, Winston Churchill in a queue, queues for being buggered, those red phone boxes, the Queen Mum’s gin bottle, Prince Charles’s ears, that sort of thing. (Update: I’ve gone through more of the site. They actually do list men in drag.)

After hearing that an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Britain’s Channel 4 was investigating the misuse and theft of funds, American troops, according to the Guardian, “blasted their way into [his] home... firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children”, put a hood on his head, seized his videotapes, and dragged him off for interrogation. He was later released.

Darn, I knew I forgot something. “Justice Sunday III” was today, broadcast on finer Christian tv stations everywhere, and I forgot to watch. Rick Santorum said that “The only way to restore this republic our founders envisioned is to elevate honorable jurists like Samuel Alito”. Republic? Are you sure you aren’t thinking monarchy, Rick? Or theocracy? (I started writing Holy Roman Empire there, but realized it might be taken as a reference to the forthcoming Catholic majority on the Supreme Court, which wasn’t what I had in mind). Little Ricky claimed... actually, I want to point out that the WaPo truncated his comment to “extremely liberal justices [are] destroying traditional morality”, when the complete quote is, “destroying traditional morality, creating a new moral code and prohibiting any dissent.” Damn activist judges: that’s the role of the executive branch.

On the other hand, the Post mentioned, and the AP left out, that the event was held at a black church, whose pastor has received over $1 million from the federal government through the Faith Based Initiative program. One speaker is from something called Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation; didn’t really think that acronym
through, huh?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Well, he’s still more charming than Tom DeLay

Favorite headline of the day, from the Sunday Times: “Cannibal Goes on Charm Offensive.” That’s the German guy who advertised on the Web for a willing main course. The prosecutors are appealing his sentence (8½ years), which was light because the victim did volunteer. Herr Meiwes says, “I have three good lawyers and I am calm, relaxed and very confident.” Now when you say good lawyers, do you mean good in the sense of delicious with some fava beans and a nice chianti, or something else? He piously turned down media offers until he found one that would tell the story properly: “I want to explain what made me do this and I want to warn other people.” Yes, because without your warning, who knows how many people might kill and eat somebody they found on the internet. One good thing about being a cannibal in prison: they give you your own cell.

The Pentagon claims that the number of hunger-strikers at Guantanamo has dropped to 40, of whom 32 are currently being force fed. The new German chancellor has criticized Guantanamo, saying “Different ways and means must be found for dealing with these prisoners.” I’m handicapped in formulating a joke about that because I have somehow never watched Hogan’s Heroes. Please feel free NOT to post your own in comments. And here’s a little detail in an Observer story about all this, demonstrating American cultural sensitivity at its finest: “During Ramadan, tube-feeding takes place before dawn.”

Name of the week, from a WaPo article about how evangelical Christians love them some Jewy Jews: the Rev. Lamarr Mooneyham.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

We really didn’t see the insurgency coming

Paul Bremer, former Viceroy and Grand Vizier of Iraq: “we really didn’t see the insurgency coming”. Bremer has a book coming out, My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope. So he didn’t see the insurgency coming because he was too busy filling his hope chest. Or trying to lure the centenarian out of retirement for one last Bob Hope tour.

Bremer’s ghost-writer is one Malcolm McConnell, who also ghosted Tommy Frank’s memoirs, a book on “How Belief and Prayer Can Help You Triumph Over Disease,” a book on the Challenger explosion, and a book on prostate cancer, so he was clearly the man for the job.

Tom DeLay has decided not to seek to regain his leadership position, not that anyone was asking him to, and pass on the Toupee of Power to Roy Blunt.

He says that he has “always acted in an ethical manner” and expects to be cleared, but that Congress needs to be focused on, you know, not him, because “we live in serious times”. Which is presumably why he tried to relieve that seriousness with the joke about acting in an ethical manner. “History,” he goes on, “has proven that when House Republicans are united and focused, success follows.” Er no, not success, that would be evil which follows. Republicans always get those two confused for some reason.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The only way to lose this fight is to quit

Hugh Thompson, Jr. has died. He met the enemy, and it was us.

The Pentagon admits to having hit the wrong house in Baiji (on which I posted Tuesday night). But while I’ve re-read yesterday’s CNN story reporting this several times, I can’t figure out if they just bombed the wrong house, or if the strafing (over 100 cannon rounds) also targeted the wrong house. Bad writing by CNN or fuzzy info by the Pentagon, I dunno. I’ve waited before posting anything because I assumed someone other than CNN would be covering the story of the US bombing the wrong house and killing an entire family, but, well, not so much. Also, 4 days later and apparently no one has yet checked to see if that was really an IED those guys were planting.

Dick Cheney tells the troops forced to listen to him at Fort Leavenworth, “Every American serving in this war can be absolutely certain that the people of our country do not support a policy of passivity, resignation, or defeatism in the face of terror.” You’ll note that passivity, resignation and defeatism are not, in fact, policies, they are states of mind, as is terror. Clearly, the Bushies have now left the real world entirely, and are fighting The War on Terror (TWAT) not in Iraq but completely within the confines of their own skulls. Says Cheney, “The only way to lose this fight is to quit” (which, he adds, is not an option); that’s only the case if the fight is taking place entirely within your own mind. I wonder how the troops who actually have to fight this war and be shot at and blown up feel being told that victory is really just a matter of the Power of Positive Thinking.