Saturday, September 30, 2006


Unfortunate sentence of the day, from the WaPo: “[Mark Foley] was a respected House member cruising toward a seventh term when...”

By the way, it is ridiculous that votes for Foley, who cannot be removed from the November ballot, will be interpreted, according to Florida law, as votes for whatever candidate the R’s (or possibly NAMBLA) pick to replace him. We vote for individuals not parties in this country (counting the votes in Florida, as we know, is another matter entirely).

A contest I know I’m gonna regret

Delhi, which hasn’t had an execution for a while, now has one scheduled for next month, and no executioner. It is considering calling its 84-year old former executioner out of retirement.

Contest: what are the drawbacks or benefits of using an octogenarian executioner?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Nov. 2006 California proposition recommendations

California proposition time. Time to make decisions we are not qualified to make based on commercials paid for by evil corporations, ballot arguments written by crackpots, and shiny-object provisions designed to make us treat each proposition as a popularity contest (Oil companies, booo! Tobacco companies, booooo! Sex criminals, booooooo!) while ignoring the fine print. Lucky you have me, I guess. Now I’m going to tell you why you should vote no on everything, and in favor of, well, oil companies, tobacco companies and sex criminals. I’m not happy about it either. Sometimes participatory democracy just works out like that.

(Updated with results in purple. 1A through 84 all won, 85 through 90 all lost, which gives the no doubt mistaken impression that Californians simply got bored half-way through the ballot book.)

Prop. 1A. Gas tax only for transportation. I’m not generally in favor of hypothecated taxes (where the revenue from one tax goes exclusively to one purpose): what the appropriate gas tax should be, and what the appropriate transportation funding should be, are two very different debates. It’s even worse when they’re locked in. Also, like all California transportation measures, too little goes to public transportation, too much for cars. No. Yes, 76.6%.

I am opposed to bonds, all bonds, 1) on pragmatic grounds because they’re an expensive form of funding, and the interest is money just flushed down the toilet, 2) on fairness grounds because they are regressive, allowing bond purchasers undeserved tax deductions, and 3) on principled grounds because they place tax obligations on the future generations that have to pay them off, which amounts to taxation without representation. So that argument is why I’m recommending a no on these five props.:
Prop. 1B. Bonds for various transportation-related things, mostly highways but including port security against terrorism, which seems a tad manipulative, a sweetener to sell yet another highway bond. No. Yes, 61%.

Prop. 1C. Bonds for shelters for battered women, housing assistance, wheelchair ramps and the like for poor old people, veterans, the disabled and possibly big-eyed puppies. No. Yes, 57.5%.

Prop. 1D. Bonds for schools. No. Yes, 56.6%.

Prop. 1E. Bonds for levees. No. Yes, 64%.

Prop. 84. Bonds for levees, drinking water, and – hey, didn’t we just see one exactly like this? No. Yes, 53.8%.
Prop. 83. Sex offenders. Lifetime GPS, increased prison terms, bans on living near schools or parks, indefinite commitment without trial to mental facilities. It requires prison sentences rather than probation for crimes including marital rape, where it’s mostly appropriate, but not always, which is why we have judges, and lewd or lascivious acts, where it’s probably appropriate less often. Appropriate, and proportionate, are precisely the concepts the authors of this initiative have left behind. The state (or possibly local government, the authors forgot to specify that detail) would be required to divert significant resources to monitor people many of whom are no particular danger to society, until the day they die. And the idea of committing people to mental facilities after they finish serving prison sentences is a Kafkaesque concept and an abuse of both prisons and mental facilities, the former being misused to house the mentally ill, the latter as a form of punishment rather than treatment. I read the whole text (and very icky it was too), and there are other questionably phrased sections, such as punishing people who communicate over the internet for purposes of sex with someone they “know or reasonably should know” is a minor. And what does it mean that their definition of child porn says that “it is not necessary to prove that the matter is obscene”? The poor drafting of this initiative (it’s not even clear whether it applies to existing registered sex offenders) means we have no idea which parts of it will survive judicial scrutiny, or what they will mean. Also, there will be a sequel: in addition to not being allowed to live near schools or parks (which eliminates most of LA and San Francisco), local governments can, and of course will, add other residency restrictions. No. Yes, 70.5%, but the residency restrictions were immediately suspended by a judge.

Prop. 85. Parental notification of abortion and a 48-hour waiting period. Speaking of waiting periods, we just voted this down one year ago. In fact, the ballot arguments seem to be the same, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t repeat what I wrote a year ago: I’d be against this anyway: parents should no more be able to force their daughters to carry a pregnancy to term than to force them to abort against their will. But this version also has problems with the way the judicial-bypass alternative is set up: it can take so long that parental notification might become, well, redundant; and if there is any sort of abuse, including “emotional abuse,” the court must inform Protective Services, a provision which seems less about protecting abused pregnant minors than it is a “nuclear option” designed to raise the stakes for girls opting for abortion. The prop’s agenda of punishing the little trollops is made even clearer in the ballot argument: “When parents are involved and minors cannot anticipate secret access to free abortions they more often avoid the reckless behavior which leads to pregnancies.” Also, the prop. requires doctors to report abortions performed on minors to the state, which is creepy and worrisome. No. No, 54.1%. Last year’s nearly identical proposition lost by 52.8%.

Prop. 86. Cigarette tax to pay for various health services, including ERs, insurance, nursing training, cancer research, and smoking-prevention programs. The tobacco companies are actually running ads warning darkly about money going to the evil hospitals. This is another hypothecated tax, and since the majority of the price of a pack of cigs would go to the state, California would be in the tobacco business in a big way. Nicotine addicts would have to find well over $1,000 more per year to support their habit. And the only representation that goes with this taxation is this vote, which will lock in spending priorities for all time, with the legislature unable to change them if the state’s medical needs change over time. So look at how it will be spent: some of it we don’t know, because it will have to make up the money lost to previous tobacco taxes, and the rest of it, well, do you feel qualified to say that 1.75% for prostate cancer treatment, 0.75% for rural emergency health services, 4.25% for colorectal cancer, 7.75% for obesity and diabetes, etc, are the appropriate way to divide up this pie, and that they still will be 20 years from now? I know I don’t. And I don’t know who sat down in a room and came up with this deal, but we pay for a government and for public health officials precisely to make these decisions. No. No, 52%.

Prop. 87. A tax on oil drilled in California, which we’re to believe is entirely free money because the oil companies would be prohibited, forbidden and banned from passing the cost on to consumers. Yeah, that’ll work. Money goes to researching alternative energies, alternative-fuel vehicles, energy education, with funding decisions made by an unelected board exempt from conflict of interest laws. Uh oh. I would actually support a tax on drilling, like other states have, but I don’t trust that the revenue from this one would be properly spent, and some of the things it would fund should really be funded at the national rather than the state level. No. No, 54.7%.

Prop. 88. Parcel tax for schools. I’m not fond of parcel taxes, where every parcel is taxed a flat amount. They’re an unfair substitute for property taxes based on the value of the property, or better yet, progressive income tax. But this one is worse than the parcel tax measures you normally see, because it’s at the state level, spending money on things the authors think are important, rather than priorities set locally. Presumably this is considered necessary because parcel taxes have been increasingly rejected by voters at the school-district level in recent years. No. No, 77%.

Prop. 89. Campaign contribution limits, public financing of some candidates (who raise money in $5 contributions, or something), limits campaign spending by corporations (while taxing corporations to pay for the public financing $200m/yr), but not un-incorporated companies (or unions, or Indian tribes, or individuals). First, limiting spending on initiatives (as opposed to spending for candidates, where spending limits serve the purpose of stopping corruption) has no chance of surviving the courts. Second, $200m seems like a lot of money to me. Third, if the authors of this thing had the courage of their convictions that elections belong to the people and should not be corrupted by corporate money, they should have financed it through the general fund; using taxes on corporations seems a little sneaky, a little cynical. In principle I do favor spending limits and public financing, but only if it’s done really carefully. This prop. strikes me as sloppy, and since some of it would be struck down by the courts, we’d be left with fragments of it, rather than a fully fledged system. No. No, 74.5%.

Prop. 90. Bars the use of eminent domain to seize property for private projects like shopping centers. Which would probably be fine, if California actually used eminent domain that way, which it doesn’t. That part of the prop. is therefore just cover for the rest of the proposition: “compensating” land owners for supposedly reduced property values as a result of new zoning, environmental and other regulations (including “limitations on the use of private air space”). No. No, 52.5%.

Comments welcome.

Protecting the rights of terrorists

Denny Hastert said about the vote on warrantless wiretapping: “For the second time in just two days, House Democrats have voted to protect the rights of terrorists.” There are two problems with that statement: 1) the assumption of guilt, 2) he could have just said that D’s voted to protect terrorists, but instead went out of his way to denigrate the whole concept of “rights.” These people are less interested in attacking terrorists than in attacking rights. Indeed “rights” is a nastier word in their vocabulary than “terrorist.”

Bush welcomed to the White House “president” Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, which he called “a free nation.” The CIA World Factbook calls it a republic with “authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch.”

Earlier this morning, Bush spoke to the Reserve Officers Association, saying that “Iraq is not the reason the terrorists are at war against us. ... They can’t stand the thought that people can go into the public square in America and express their differences with government.” Yes, terrorists hate the fact that we can disagree with George Bush.

They must love Kazakhstan, where people who criticize the government have been known to, for example, commit suicide by shooting themselves repeatedly in the chest and head.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

They all look the same to me

It’s the pretense of pragmatism that irritates me. The pro-war spin on the semi-declassified NIE focuses on the sentence, “Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.” I’ll concede that premise, which seems common sensical enough, but, even putting aside the countervailing number of jihadists created every day the war continues, how does this add up to a case for continuing the war to make us safer from terrorism? Have they never heard of cost-benefit analysis? Let’s say that pulling out of Iraq would mean 1,000 fighters “inspired to carry on the fight.” Hell, let’s say 10,000. If we dealt with them through traditional means – intelligence, security, phone-tapping, satellites, etc – we could spend $100 million to combat each fighter, and still come out ahead.

At a fundraiser today, Bush said that the war is not increasing the risk of terrorism. “History tells us that logic is false.” How come he gets to invoke History on the same day Congress is doing his bidding in undoing centuries of legal protections on the grounds that history is irrelevant because we are fighting a totally new type of war against a totally new type of enemy?

This morning, Bush met with Republican senators. He said of the meeting, “I’m impressed by the caliber of people that serve our country.” One such person is Sen. Trent Lott, who again demonstrated his caliber by shooting himself in the foot. Several times. Asked by reporters afterwards if any of the senators had brought up the subject of Iraq with the chimperor, Lott said, “You’re the only ones who obsess on that. We don’t and the real people out in the real world don’t for the most part.” He said of the Iraqis, “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people... Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.”

So if they didn’t talk about Iraq or have a seminar on Sunni-Shiite differences, what did they discuss? According to Bush, “Our most solemn job is the security of this country. People shouldn’t forget there’s still an enemy out there that wants to do harm to the United States. And therefore a lot of my discussion with the members of the Senate was to remind them of this solemn responsibility.” So another productive and informative meeting, then.

I think we spent about half a minute on this issue

Condi Rice was interviewed a few days ago by the editorial board of the NYT.

She set out a goal for Lebanon: “transport moderation with a coalition of states that might be - might have great interest in doing that.” I don’t know what that means either, or whether bubble wrap is involved.

On why the invasion of Iraq did not create terrorists: “They attacked us on September 11th before anybody had even thought of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.” Before anybody had even thought...? Ever heard of the first Gulf War, Condi? Ever heard of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, Condi? Ever heard of the Project for the New American Century, Condi?

She laid out a standard for success in Iraq: “And I think they’re going to be able to move to a place where they continue to have violence, but it doesn’t threaten the stability of the government.” Always the dreamer, is our Condi.

This sentence I like because it has a verb I haven’t heard before: “Hezbollah lives among the population and can easily human shield anything that you go after.”

Are torture and secret prisons hurting America’s reputation? “I can tell you I just spent a whole lot of time with Europeans. I think we spent about half a minute on this issue.”

Caption contest:

Let’s bring justice before the eyes of the children and widows of Sept. 11

I’ve commented on Bush’s recent use of the term “extremists” to describe The Enemy, but I think I missed the point, which is actually the other half of the dyad, “moderate.” In a week when General Musharraf (did anyone else notice how Jon Stewart called him “president” when they were together, and “general” after he left?) and Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev are being welcomed to the White House, he needed a term for the Good Guys that didn’t involve, you know, democracy. Thus, moderates, or even “the moderate world.”

Sillier than the NYT article on Rumsfeld’s squash game? Lawrence Di Rita’s letter in rebuttal.

I think it was when Alberto Gonzales’ nomination vote was being described as a referendum on torture that I said I’d be really curious what the outcome of an actual Congressional vote on torture would be. 253-168: sorry I asked. It wasn’t even close. And the Democrats’ wussiness on the issue suggests that they either believe in torture, indefinite detention on presidential orders, etc or they think that the voters believe in those things. Greg Saunders asks, “Is it really worth all this effort to replace people who support torture with people who tolerate torture?” The British journalist Henry Nevinson said in 1921, à propos the actions of the Black and Tans in Ireland, “It is a terrible thing to feel ashamed of the country one loves. It is like coming home and finding one’s mother drunk upon the floor.”

Molly Ivins points out that the language requiring a defendant to be able to “examine and respond to” the evidence against him has been changed: he won’t be able to how what it is, but he can still respond to it. So that’s okay then.

On denying detainees the right of habeas corpus, James Sensenbrenner: “Let’s bring justice before the eyes of the children and widows of Sept. 11.” A few days I was complaining when Rumsfeld spoke as if the 9/11 victims were all Americans. It seems revealing, though I’m not sure of what, that Sensenbrenner talks as if only husbands and not wives were killed.

London Times: “Hungary’s beleaguered Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, apologised yesterday for his speech in which he admitted lying to the nation.”

“Tokyo Rose” has died, at 90.

The US military wants to hire a company to poll Iraqis “to assess the effectiveness of operations as they relate to gaining and maintaining popular support”. The interviewers would have to disguise who they were working for, in order not to be killed. You know, once you admit that that is the case, maybe you know all you really need to know about gaining and maintaining popular support, and can just skip the waste of taxpayer dollars, to say nothing of risking the lives of some poor schmucks with clip-boards?

That article also says that the Lincoln Group, last spotted paying to plant stories in the Iraqi press, has just been given another contract, for $12.4 million, to do... exactly the same thing.

US military types have been bad-mouthing Iraq’s prime minister and blowhard-in-chief Maliki for not having the will to take on Shiite militias (the WaPo and NYT don’t say it, but they’re frustrated because the Iraqis have recently cancelled several planned operations). The WaPo says, “The questions about Maliki are being posed only privately”. That is, if you consider page A19 of the Washington Post to be private.

Russia may reintroduce a tax on couples who don’t have children. Says the deputy head of the Duma’s health committee, “If people don’t want to think about their debt to the motherland, they must pay.” According to the Guardian, Putin “has announced a 10-year plan to tackle the crisis.” Possibly involving actual tackling.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tony Blair: without mercy or limit

Follow-up: the guy Bush attacked as an “obscure” spokesman for an “obscure organization” turns out to be Gijs de Vries, the counter-terrorism coordinator for that obscure organization, the European Union. Still not sure what it was he said Tuesday.

Condi claimed today, “We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight Al Qaida. For instance, big pieces were missing, like an approach to Pakistan that might work”. They had to come up with the idea of threatening to bomb Pakistan into the Stone Age all by themselves. (Also, Condi is lying, as Raw Story proves, just in case you didn’t already assume Condi is lying, or know that she’d made this claim before and been shot down before; it’s bad enough that she’s portraying the Clinton admin as being as incompetent and ill-prepared as she is, but that she assumes we are too).

Divine retribution of the day: “A man who bred fighting cocks died after contracting the H5N1 bird flu virus, bringing the human death toll in Thailand to 17.” (AP)

The WaPo is late posting Wednesday’s A Section, so I’m still seeing yesterday’s top story, “Detainee Measure to Have Less Restrictions.” Fewer, goddammit, the correct word is fewer! I blame it on Bush, the man who doesn’t know a comma from a quagmire. He just lowers lingual standards for the entire nation. In 2008, we need to make all presidential candidates pass a strict test on grammar. Of grammar? Oh dear God it’s getting to me now! Or is it “its getting too me now”? Aaaaaayyyyy!!!!!

In truth, there isn’t much more meaning in a Blair speech (yesterday he gave his very last address as party leader to a Labour party conference) than in a Bush one, it’s just that his nothing is better expressed than Bush’s nothing. “But believe me there are no half-hearted allies of America today”. I believe you, I just don’t know what you’re talking about.

He also said, “We can only protect liberty by making it relevant to the modern world. ... Let Liberty stand up for the law-abiding.” His idea of liberty: identity cards with biometric technology and a national DNA database, which I believe John Stuart Mill called for in chapter 23 of On Liberty.

“The new anxiety is the global struggle against terrorism without mercy or limit.” Notice how it isn’t quite clear which side he’s saying is without mercy or limit.

He said that looking for any explanation for terrorism other than that they hate us for our freedom is “wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy... This terrorism isn’t our fault, we didn’t cause it. It’s not the consequence of foreign policy, it’s an attack on our way of life.” Yes, they’re definitely more concerned with what we eat and watch on tv than with our support of Israel and military invasion of their countries.

Speaking of our way of life, he said that Labour must tailor its policies for the “Google generation.” (There wasn’t any reason for that hyperlink; I just thought it was amusingly meta.)

Blair: “I know I look a lot older. That’s what being leader of the Labour Party does to you. Actually, looking round some of you look a lot older. That’s what having me as leader of the Labour Party does to you.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. In this picture, doesn’t he look a lot like Bush, sort of the way dogs and their masters start to look alike?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bush and Karzai: I don’t have enough time to finger-point

Bush had a photo op & press conference with Karzai today.

He told Karzai, “I know there’s some in your country who wonder or not -- whether or not America has got the will to do the hard work necessary to help you succeed. We have got that will, and we’re proud of you as a partner.” Karzai replied, “Wonderful. Great,” because he had to say something, but it was an odd sort of statement to have to formulate a response to.

“We discussed different agencies in your government and how best to make them accountable to the people. We’re going to help you build roads.” Er, accountable roads?

“The President gave me a very direct assessment of successes in eradicating poppies and failures in eradicating poppies.” Guess which part was longer?

Bush said he will have dinner Wednesday with Karzai and Musharraf, which he says is “going to be an interesting discussion amongst three allies”. Considering all the sniping between Karzai and Musharraf recently about bin Laden and intelligence-sharing, it should indeed be “interesting”: “Pass the rolls, please.” “I would be delighted to pass the rolls, but you have yet to tell me where I might find the rolls.” “I told you exactly where the rolls are.” “Ah, but that is where the rolls were ten minutes ago. How am I to know where the rolls are now? Why, they might not even be on my side of the table...” Etcetera.

Karzai said of an American soldier he’d just met, a woman with six children, “There’s nothing more that any nation can do for another country, to send a woman with children to Afghanistan to help.” Um, right.

Bush says, contrary to the NIE, that the Iraq war isn’t fueling terrorist growth: “My judgment is, if we weren’t in Iraq, they’d find some other excuse, because they have ambitions. They kill in order to achieve their objectives.” “They’ve used all kinds of excuses,” he says, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Funny, I thought just a few days ago we were supposed to be taking the words of the terrorists seriously. “We’re not going to let their excuses stop us from staying on the offense. ... We’re not going to let lies and propaganda by the enemy dictate how we win this war.”

He adds that the NIE is old news, and has the nerve to suggest that it was leaked just now to affect the elections, “to create confusion in the minds of the American people, in my judgment, is why they leaked it.”

A Reuters reporter asked if Clinton was right that the Bush administration had no meetings on bin Laden for the 9 months before 9/11. With a near certainty that he would be asked that very question, this is how well prepared he was:
You know, look, Caren, I’ve watched all this finger-pointing and naming of names, and all that stuff. Our objective is to secure the country. And we’ve had investigations, we had the 9/11 Commission, we had the look back this, we’ve had the look back that. The American people need to know that we spend all our time doing everything that we can to protect them. So I’m not going to comment on other comments. But I will comment on this -- that we’re on the offense against an enemy that wants to do us harm. And we must have the tools necessary to protect our country. On the one hand, if al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates are calling somebody in the country, we need to know why....
And so on.

“I don’t have enough time to finger-point,” he added. Because of all the, you know, terrorists he has to deal with: “They’re out there, they’re mean, and they need to be brought to justice.”

Stupid reporter meets stupid preznident:
Q If I may, Mr. President, do you agree with the analysis from the counter chief European -- counterterrorism chief European spokesman who said today that the international support for terrorism has receded. ...

PRESIDENT BUSH: It’s a four-part question. First of all, I didn’t -- what was this person a spokesman for?

Q Counterterrorism chief in Europe.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Some obscure spokesman?

Q No, actually, he has a name.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay, he’s a got a name. (Laughter.) Well, no, I don’t agree with the spokesman for the obscure organization that said that the international commitment to fighting terror is declining.
I’ve googled, and I still don’t know what the reporter was talking about, but then neither did the reporter and neither did Bush, and Bush completely misinterpreted what the reporter said the guy said, but it didn’t stop him getting pretty darned belligerent.

Then Bush started talking again about that dinner (which I read after I wrote my little dinner roll sketch above): “It will be interesting for me to watch the body language of these two leaders to determine how tense things are.”

Venezuelan street theater review

John Bolton calls the Venezuelan foreign minister’s protests at attempts by airport security people to frisk him “Venezuelan street theater,” saying, “He did not request the courtesies we would have extended to get him through the airport. He purchased his ticket at a time and in a manner and with funding such that he was asked to go to secondary screening and he objected to that. And the first thing he did was call the press and speak to them in Spanish, so this is propaganda.” Yes, if it’s in Spanish, it must be propaganda. I had to read that quote a second time before I realized that Bolton was accusing Maduro of deliberately behaving suspiciously (paying cash for a one-way ticket) in order to provoke an international incident. A cunning plan indeed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Well, that’s a lie

The British Labour party is having its annual conference. Gordon Brown gave a speech today, and just as he was saying what a privilege it’s been to work with Tony Blair, Cherie Blair was overheard commenting, “Well, that’s a lie.” So that’s all the British newspapers are talking about today. Cherie, by the way, denies having said anything of the kind, and the Labour party machinery suggested that she’d actually said macaca “I need to get by.” No one believes the denials, but no one believes Brown’s praise of Tony Blair either.

I’m not sure how many Americans know that Cherie Blair’s father Tony Booth, a lefty actor along Rob Reiner lines, played the long-haired lefty son-in-law of a cockney bigot in the tv show that was adapted in America as All in the Family. And that the Booths are an old acting family, one of whose members once intervened rather significantly in American politics.

At a press conference with visiting Afghan puppet Karzai (who failed to bring any of his nation’s journalists with him), Rumsfeld was asked whether he would resign, as three retired generals (all of whom served in Iraq) have been calling for:
Q Are you considering resigning at all --


Q -- and if so, why not?

And about the Army chief, Gen. Schoomaker’s, refusal to submit a budget because he is not being given enough money to do the job, the Pentagon transcript quotes Rumsfeld thusly: “(Inaudible) -- the Army for some weeks. (Inaudible) -- the Army -- (inaudible) -- it will continue -- (inaudible) -- if not, the budget will then go to the president, and then the president will send it to Congress and -- (inaudible).” How an inaudible bill becomes an inaudible law, Rummy-style.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


The Lebanese are saved! Rescue is at hand! Well, for Lebanese puppy dogs, anyway. Lebanese humans are still screwed.

Thailand’s Gen. Thawip, spokesmodel for the coup leaders (who are calling themselves the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy in the hope that they’ll be mistaken for Swedes), explains the necessity for the military overthrow of the elected government: “Just like when your computer is hung and you cannot do anything about it, what you’re going to do is push the reset button or unplug it and that’s the only way to solve it.”

Nodding their heads and voting with their feet

Rumsfeld on why it’s entirely coincidental that the current civil war in Iraq followed the American invasion and occupation: “Now, we talk about the violence that’s going on in that country, and there is violence in that country; let there be no doubt....” Was someone doubting that? “...But there was violence before. I mean, there are -- hundred thousands of people are in mass graves all over that country. Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds, his own people, as well as his neighbors. So violence is not something that’s new to Iraq. Indeed, it’s a pattern in that country.” A pattern. He makes it sound like wallpaper. I’m not sure what sort of a “pattern” it is that encompasses both the repressive violence of a dictator and a sectarian civil war. They seem to me to be quite distinctive phenomena, having in common only a “pattern” of a high body count. Or possibly he’s saying Iraqis are just inherently violent.

Rummy adds that the war won’t be won militarily (on that much we can agree), but on the “political front and the governance front... when people say, ‘Okay, it’s going to make it,’ and they start nodding their heads, and they vote with their feet, and the economic circumstance improves.” I’m a little unclear on whether they’ll be nodding their heads at the same time as they vote with their feet, or they’ll nod and then voting with their feet, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the nodding and the foot-voting.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pulp fiction

In his weekly radio address, Bush praises Pakistan’s “President” Musharraf for “working to build modern democratic institutions that could provide an alternative to radicalism.” Yeah, Musharraf is all about the building of modern democratic institutions.

It may not mean anything, but in his most recent speeches, Bush has been backing away from describing the enemy as Islamofascist or indeed as Islamic anything, in favor of the more generic, basically content-free term “extremist.” In today’s five-minute address, he referred to “extremism” twice and “extremists” five times. Extremists are the bad guys in Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq. “All civilized nations, especially those in the Muslim world, are bound together in this struggle between moderation and extremism.”

Note that in that version of reality, Bush is a moderate.

Metaphor of the day, from Capt. Phil Waddingham of the Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants at Guantanamo, about the possibility of releasing detainees: “I think what we have here is an orange. What we’re doing is squeezing out the juice and what we’re left with at the end of the day is pulp that will just stay here.”

Friday, September 22, 2006

A deserved rest

Honestly, I feel like I’m more worked up about the state of democracy in Thailand than Thailand’s deposed prime minister, whose reaction to the coup is to take a “deserved rest.” I wasn’t expecting him to go into the jungle and lead a rag-tag but plucky resistance, but c’mon. Meanwhile, the king has finally given his public blessing to the coup, and the coup leader Generalissimo Sonthi Boonyaratglin had some sort of ceremony kneeling in front of a framed photo of the king.

In Amsterdam, an artist has put a car on stilts and replaced its back seat with a mattress, and couples can spend the night in it if they write him an essay explaining why they want to.

Bush & Mush: He understands it just about as good as anybody in the world

Bush met Pakistan’s Generalissimo Musharraf today and praised him for his commitment to education, which is as good an excuse as any for me to make fun of Chimpy’s command of the English language: “The governor of the areas are with us here”; “He understands that we are in a struggle against extremists who will use terror as a weapon. He understands it just about as good as anybody in the world”.

Bush claims that he never heard that Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age until he read it in the newspaper today. Yeah, that’s believable: like Bush would ever read a newspaper. “You know, I was -- I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words.” Mush (as I believe Bush calls him in private) said he couldn’t say any more about the incident because he has a book coming out... (Armitage, by the way, denies having made any military threats. Tony Snow says “US policy was not to issue bombing threats” and suggests the whole thing was “a classic failure to communicate”. Bomb. Stone Age. Sounds like pretty clear communication to me.)

Musharraf insisted that his deal with the Waziristan tribes is actually a deal to fight the Taliban, not a deal with the Taliban. Just a big misunderstanding, he says. It is a “holistic approach that we are taking to fighting terrorism”. And Bush said, “When the President looks me in the eye and says, the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people, and that there won’t be a Taliban and won’t be al Qaeda, I believe him, you know?” Looked into his soul, did you, George?

Neither would say whether American forces would enter Pakistan to capture Osama bin Laden.

Bush said the “Kashmir issue will be solved when two leaders decide to solve it.” As ever, the views of any actual Kashmiris are irrelevant. Also, Pakistan is a military dictatorship, but aren’t decisions in India supposed to be made by more than one person?

Bush said “the free world and the moderate world must stand up to these extremists”. Of course I’ve heard the expression “the free world” before, but I didn’t know there was also a moderate world.


AP headline: “Indonesian Executions Lead to Violence.” Dude, executions are violence. By definition. In this particular case, a firing squad was involved.

A very rude remark

On the Detainee Detention Bill “compromise”: what Digby said.

It includes retroactive immunity for past violations of the Geneva Conventions. Of course nothing was stopping Bush from using his pardon power. And when Congress votes on this, it will have no idea exactly what past acts it will be granting immunity to. This isn’t just legal immunity, it’s an act of willful ignorance about what was done in our names.

Only Bush can interpret the Geneva Conventions.

Evidence obtained through torture will be allowed.

OK, I’m going to stop listing the defects in this deal, or we’ll be here all night. There may be something good in it, but don’t see it. Can anyone else?

BBC headline: “Palestinians Split on Unity Plan.”

Pakistani Prez Musharraf says Richard Armitage’s 2001 threat to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age was “a very rude remark.” Quite.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lord Holy Joe of Stamford

Here’s a Joe Lieberman ad which suggests that you should never elect someone to the Senate who is not already a senator. “We definitely don’t need someone who needs to be tutored in how to be a senator.” Clearly, election should be for life, not a mere six years. I don’t know what the Founding Fathers were thinking in failing to have a House of Lords.

The Financial Times is reporting that the reason detainees were moved from secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo was that CIA interrogators downed tools and “refused to continue their work until the legal situation was clarified.” Yes, a torturers’ strike. And that’s one union you do not want to mess with.

Caption contest:

Angelina Shrugged

About the Thai coup: there’s been a lot of talk in the news coverage in the West about the shortcomings of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – power-hungry, somewhat corrupt, not obsequious enough towards the king, and so on. I don’t know enough to judge the charges, but they’re really more or less irrelevant, like asking if a rape victim was dressed too sluttily. Also, the thing these stories leave out is that the military also dissolved the government, the parliament, and the Constitutional Court.

Still, sometimes the people just don’t know what they want until it’s given to them by benevolent despots. For example, Hollywood has decreed that what the world needs is a film of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged starring Angelina Jolie.

Jon Carroll offers a platform we can all vote for: a right-click universe.

Hmm, what would happen if I right clicked on Angelina Jolie?

Of the devil, the Terminator, and the choir boy

Hugo Chávez, in a speech to the UN, called Bush “the devil.” And your point is?

Wolf Blitzer interviewed the devil today. The horned one reversed his position, I guess, about whether we would send troops into Pakistan if we knew where Osama bin Laden was, without the “invitation” he said just a couple of days ago that Pakistan as a “sovereign country” would have to issue before we’d do that. Musharraf has voiced some objections. (Update: ah, Georgia10 at Daily Kos asks the question I was wondering: how is it after five years there isn’t some sort of agreement about what happens if bin Laden is found?)

Wolfie asked Chimpy if Iran would nuke Israel if it had nukes. Bush responded that he believes everything that everyone tells him without reservation, which is why he has the world’s largest collection of magic beans:
Wolf, my judgment is you’ve got to take everybody’s word seriously in this world. Again, you can’t just hope for the best. You’ve got to assume that the leader, when he says that he would like to destroy Israel means what he says. If you take -- if you say, well, gosh, maybe he doesn’t mean it, and you turn out to be wrong, you have not done your duty as a world leader.
Now you know what the duty of a world leader is.

Here in California, inept gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides is running this inept ad every 12 minutes on every channel against inept governator Ahnuuuld. Governor Terminator’s policies are almost uniformly opposed by the California voters, but the only thing Angelides is calling him out for is chanting “George W. Bush” while wearing an ugly green tie.

British Home Secretary John Reid imparted some helpful advice to Muslim parents: check your children for the “tell-tale signs” of brainwashing.

The official US response to the Thai coup is to say that coups are bad, and to ask that “democratic elections be held as soon as possible, which is a commitment military officials have made.” To call for elections but not for the return of the elected prime minister is to give de facto support to the coup. The State Dept spokesmodel kept repeating that the coup leaders should live up to their commitments to restore democracy, but this formulation suggests that they have some sort of right to make any commitment about the form of government of Thailand, that they are legitimate actors, which they are not.

The British soldier convicted of a war crime in Iraq (Corporal Payne, can’t make this shit up) punched civilians in different body parts to elicit screams and groans. He called this his “choir,” and played it for anyone who visited the detention center, including total strangers. His confidence in his impunity might have been correct, had he not beaten a prisoner to death as well.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Connecting the dots

You’ll remember Ron Suskind’s explication of Cheney’s “one percent doctrine,” by which we have to act on vanishingly unlikely doomsday scenarios as if they were real. The equivalent to that in the debates on violent interrogations, warrantless eavesdropping etc is the metaphor that “we have to connect all the dots.” So while Rep. Peter King of NY, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said last week that “If we capture bin Laden tomorrow and we have to hold his head under water to find out when the next attack is going to happen, we ought to be able to do it” (did I mention this thug is the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee?), he’s missing the point: we have to listen in on every phone call, read every email message, and hold every head under water which might provide us, not with the location of a ticking bomb, but with any minuscule “dot,” some trivial piece of information that might possibly, when combined with dozens or hundreds of other dots extracted by similar means, add up to the location of a ticking bomb.

Thinking about them

Bush met with Iraqi President Talibani yesterday.

He said, “I spoke today at the United Nations, and in my speech I spoke directly to the people of Iraq. I wanted them to know that we’re thinking about them during this difficult period of time.”

Since that sounded exactly like a sympathy card, I went to the Hallmark website to see if there was anything I could appropriate for this post, but just got too creeped out. Yick.

Still, I’m sure the people of Iraq are just so very grateful to hear that we’re thinking about them during this difficult period of time.

And today Bush met with Palestinian President Abbas, and welcomed him to Washington, D.C. They were, of course, in New York.

Given limited time and limited support, however, we’re screwed

Least reassuring statement of the week, Gen. Abizaid on whether we’re winning in Iraq: “Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we’re winning the war.”

At least that is an assessment of what it would take to win the war. The Iraq Study Group, led by such elderly luminaries as James Baker and Lee Hamilton, held a press conference to announce that “We’ve made no judgment of any kind at this point about any aspect of policy with regard to Iraq.” Read the hilarious Dana Milbank report.

The hopes of the civilized world ride with us

Cheney gave a speech Tuesday to a conference of the National Automobile Dealers Association (would you buy a used car from this vice president?), about half of which was about The War Against Terror (TWAT). He didn’t mention oil once. He did mention car bombs. Are car dealers for or against those? He also said that “the hopes of the civilized world ride with us,” which sounds like car-pooling, which they’re definitely against.

He brought up 9/11, naturally, saying the terrorists “did not know the people they killed. They didn’t know their names or what they did for a living. They just knew these unsuspecting people were Americans, and that was enough to kill them all.” Funny how people in the White House keep forgetting that not every 9/11 victim was actually an American.

It feels a little trite to point out just how often Cheney’s descriptions of the terrorists could be applied to himself, but sometimes trite is true. You probably noticed the thing about not knowing the names of the people they killed, when the military won’t give an estimate, to the nearest 10,000 say, of the numbers of Iraqis we’ve killed. Cheney also says the enemy “recognize neither the conventions of war, nor any rules of morality,” they “organize in secret” (undisclosed location, anyone?), and “seek to impose a dictatorship of fear”. He contrasts them with “civilized societies [which] uphold justice, mercy, and the value of life”. I recognize nothing of Dick Cheney in that description.

Or of car dealers, if it comes to that.

He says that “despite assassins and car-bombers Iraqis came out to vote at a rate of turnout higher than we have here in the United States.” If the Republicans have an unusual get-out-the-vote campaign in November, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bush at the UN: Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform

George Bush spent today at the United Nations, representing the US to the entire world. Oh good.

At an exchange of toast with Kofi Annan, Bush said, “I’ve talked to him a lot of times during my time as President, and a lot of times my discussions with him came from when he was in far away places, because he cares deeply about the world.” And frequent-flier miles.

And he addressed the General Assembly. He said that “the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace.” And which were you again?

Actually, he talked about moderates or the “forces of moderation” nine times during the speech (“we have seen the forces of freedom and moderation transform entire continents”). A visitor from Mars would think that moderation was an ideology or a political philosophy, rather than merely a position on a spectrum. So remember: moderation good, extremism bad.

He praised elections in, um, Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt. But what about Middle Eastern countries that aren’t quite so, um, democratic? He paints this chilling picture, which is like the worst after-school special ever:
Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You’re 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country’s shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.
Also: kids, don’t do drugs.

“Today, I’d like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East: My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false, and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror.” He added, “See, doesn’t that clear everything up? It was all just a big misunderstanding.”

He then spoke to the people of Iraq: “We will not yield the future of your country to terrorists and extremists.” The people of Iraq might be forgiven for wondering why the future of their country is George Bush’s to yield or not yield. He went on, “Working together, we will help your democracy succeed, so it can become a beacon of hope for millions in the Muslim world,” adding, “That’s beacon, not bacon, I know you people don’t like crispy delicious bacon. Mm, bacon.”

Then he spoke to the people of Afghanistan (he was speaking in reverse-clusterfuck order), said he’d stand by them blah blah blah.

Then he spoke to the people of Lebanon, many of whom, he said, “have seen your homes and communities caught in crossfire” between Hezbollah and Israel. Crossfire? Was Hezbollah dropping bombs on Lebanese homes?

Then he spoke to the people of Iran, telling them they “deserve an opportunity to determine your own future” and “Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.” Mixed message, really.

Then he spoke to the people of Syria, whose rulers, he said, “have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism.” Crossroad? I’ll bet no one’s running a red light at that intersection. Interestingly, in this section, unlike the one on Iran, he doesn’t call for regime change, saying “Your government must choose a better way forward by ending its support for terror (etc.)”

Then he spoke to the people of Darfur, who are suffering “unspeakable violence” (some would say that’s the problem, the lack of speaking). He says he’s appointing a Presidential Special Envoy, one Andrew Natsios, who knows something about the plight of persecuted minorities, being a Republican from Massachusetts. Natsios’s resumé suggests he know something about humanitarian aid, nothing at all about stopping genocide.

Talking about Israel & Palestine, but without speaking to their people, he said that “President Abbas is committed to peace” and “Prime Minister Olmert is committed to peace,” and once again it’s just those fucking extremists that’re making all the trouble.

“Freedom, by its nature, cannot be imposed -- it must be chosen.” Funny, ‘cause I thought we invaded all those countries to... oh, never mind.

You don’t read Miranda rights to barbarians

George Allen (R-Macaca) thinks that asking if one of his grandparents was Jewish is an “aspersion.”

Paul Krugman, in an article behind a pay barrier, and therefore absolutely impossible to find online, says that the reason the Bush admin is determined to torture people is to show that it can, to eliminate all limits on presidential power. Torture is especially suited to demonstrate this “precisely because it’s a violation of both law and tradition.” I’d like to expand on that a little. It’s not just about expanding presidential power, it’s about altering the basis of that power and delegitimizing certain ways of talking about power. They don’t just wish to violate law and tradition, but to sideline them altogether, to treat them as quaint relics of the past, irrelevant in today’s world. Instead, the sole measure is to be what “works.” And somehow, the more violent and savage something is, the more these self-styled realists assume it must work.

Here’s how the Manchester Union-Leader put it Saturday, in an attack on John McCain for being soft on terrorism: “This is a new kind of war waged by a ruthless, extremist enemy that cares nothing for Geneva Convention niceties. ... You don’t read Miranda rights to barbarians or worry about ‘what the world thinks’ when you are fighting an enemy that is out to destroy you.” Considering they claim to be talking about a new kind of war, they’re spouting some very old, very familiar crap. I don’t think there’s been a war in history where it wasn’t said of the other side, “The only thing they understand is force” and “they don’t value life the way we do.”

Monday, September 18, 2006

We long for the days when people don’t feel comfortable or empowered to take innocent life to achieve an objective

This could be fun to watch: Hungarian PM Ferenc Gyurcsany having to explain having been caught on tape telling MPs that his party had won the election “We lied in the morning, we lied in the evening” because “You cannot quote any significant government measure we can be proud of,” “we screwed up. Not a little, a lot. No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have.”

Speaking of boneheaded, George Bush held a White House Conference on Global Literacy today.

You can stop laughing now.

Really, stop.


Sorry I had to do that. If I may continue...

Bush said that literacy isn’t just about knowing what happens to the very hungry caterpillar. “It is very hard to have free societies if the citizens cannot read. Think about that.” Dude, you have totally blown my mind. “You can’t realize the blessings of liberty if you can’t read a ballot” [insert Florida joke here] “or if you can’t read what others are saying about the future of your country” [Akbar, it says here that George Bush is going to bomb us!]

He went on, “I am deeply concerned about the spread of radicalism, and I know you are, as well. We long for the days when people don’t feel comfortable or empowered to take innocent life to achieve an objective.” Some sentences could only come out of the mouth of one person on the planet, and that was one of them. “One reason radicals are able to recruit young men, for example, to become suicide bombers, is because of hopelessness. One way to defeat hopelessness is through literacy, is to giving [sic] people the fantastic hope that comes by being able to read and realize dreams.” “Reading,” he added, “will yield the peace we want.”

Contest: what could Bush read have read to him that would yield the peace we want?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I think you’re wrong. I think you’re right.

The interrogation “techniques” the CIA wants legalized evidently are: induced hypothermia; forcing suspects to stand for prolonged periods; sleep deprivation; the “attention grab” (grabbing the detainee’s shirt); the “attention slap”; the “belly slap”; sound and light manipulation. I’m actually surprised for some reason that direct physical assaults are listed.

Fred Barnes provides a few more details of Bush’s get-together with conservative pundits last week. He said, “I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions.” Isn’t it cute how he still thinks that his refusal to admit mistakes will convince other people that he hasn’t made any?

He said, “It’s impossible for someone to have grown up in the 50s and 60s to envision a conflict with people that just kill mercilessly, using techniques that are kind of foreign to modern warfare. But it’s real. I’m telling you, it’s real.” Yes, we all got lulled into a false belief in the gentleness of humankind by the Nazis and so forth during the mid-20th century’s golden age of peace and love.

He said that when people wanted him to ask for the American people to make sacrifices in The War Against Terror (TWAT), what those cynical bastards really meant was tax increases. “That’s what that means as far as I’m concerned.”

Bush insisted that he does not live in a bubble. “I listen to a lot of people. I’ve got smart people around me.” Name one. “And they can march right in here – this Oval Office can be slightly intimidating, but I’ve got people here who can fight through the aura and say, ‘I think you’re wrong. I think you’re right.’” That’s just how they say it too: they say the first sentence, then see Cheney pointing the shotgun at their face...

They probably are required to march when they enter the Oval Office, too.

And Maureen Dowd, who I assume was not invited, reports that Bush blamed American impatience on there being too many tv channels.

Until there’s an all-Simpsons channel, there are not too many channels.

A simple “no” would have sufficed

From Reuters: “Rebels unleashed a wave of deadly bomb attacks in Iraq’s ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk on Sunday, including a huge suicide truck bomb, a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged Iraqis to embrace reconciliation.”

Going beyond dissent

Holy Joe Lieberman quote: “It is wrong for some on the left who go beyond dissent and demonize the president and impugn the motives of all those who support him. Like it or not, we are in this war against terror, and we are in it together.”

I’m not quite sure what it means to go “beyond dissent” or why the motives of Bushites can’t be impugned (a word defined by my computer’s dictionary as “dispute the truth, validity, or honesty of”). But it’s that phrase “like it or not” that I enjoyed.

Which brings us to today’s poll (I need to test out a different poll service):

Like being in this war against terror? Or not?
Like it.
Not so much.
Free polls from

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Of tools and professionals

In his radio address, Bush says of the Detainee Detention Act (as I shall henceforth call it), “I have one test for this legislation: The intelligence community must be able to tell me that the bill Congress sends to my desk will allow this vital program to continue.” This is a variant on his assertions that the decisions about the timing of troop withdrawals from Iraq and the number of troops deployed in the first place, are made entirely by the generals, the professional soldiers, and therefore Congress should just butt out. Since that line has been pretty successful in intimidating Congress, not wanting to be accused of playing, gasp, politics, into passivity, Bush is using it as a template, except that in this case the “professionals” he keeps talking about (professional what, he never says) are not generals but shadowy spooks whose names and track records we are not permitted to know (like bloggers, only with more people tied up in their basements), but who we are expected to trust to determine what tools they need.

Speaking of tools, today’s must-read is the Rajiv Chandrasekaran piece in the WaPo previewing his book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone (isn’t that a good title?), about how the Bush administration sent a bunch of inexperienced ideologues, party donors, and media to handle the reconstruction of Iraq and how, surprisingly, it did not work. We’ve seen much of this before in dribs and drabs, but put together in a single narrative, it’s rather more powerful.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Detaining detainees in detention

The International Astronomical Union may have made the right if unpopular decision in de-planetizing Pluto, but this time they’ve gone too far (about 13 light hours), renaming planet Xena “Eris.”

In my last post I quoted but forgot to make fun of Bush referring to something called the “Detainee Detention Act.” A slip of the tongue, but revealing, I thought, of Bushian logic at its Bushianest. Just as elsewhere in the press conference he said that “one of the reasons [Saddam Hussein] was declared a state sponsor of terror was because that’s what he was,” so “Detainee Detention Act” implies that the reason these people must be detained is that they are, in fact, detainees. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Earlier this week Sikhs held a procession in Amritsar to celebrate “dignity and sanctity of the Turban.”

Bush press conference: They don’t want to be tried as war criminals

I actually saw this one, though not from the beginning. So I’m using my own notes rather than a transcript. I can use my own punctuation, as when he said of the terrorists, “They are comin’ again.” Although I occasionally got caught up with things like trying to figure out if he’d said that Iraqi had a “uni government.”

Our various enemies all have a common ideology, he said. He also doesn’t like Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions. Or the House of Commons. Or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

He doesn’t like Common Article III because it outlaws “outrages upon the human dignity” of prisoners. “That’s very vague,” he complained. “What does it mean?” He didn’t say which word he didn’t understand: outrage, human, or dignity. All three I’m guessing.

He says without “clarity,” CIA torturers, who he called “our professionals” and “decent citizens,” won’t want to go to work in the morning, won’t “step up unless there’s clarity in the law.” Because CIA torturers are all about the clarity in the law. He added, “They don’t want to be tried as war criminals.” You know how not to be tried as war criminals? As Baretta used to say, don’t do the war crime if you can’t do the war time. He even said (Bush, not Baretta) that without the “clarification” he wants (which he says is based on the McCain Act, you know the one he added a signing statement to saying he’d follow it only if he felt like it), the program of interrogations at secret prisons is “just not gonna go forward.” Don’t make me turn this waterboard around! He said if international courts are allowed to determine “how we protect ourselves,” it would “ruin” the program of secret CIA inquisitions.

He was asked (by NBC’s David Gregory) whether it would bother him if countries like Iran or North Korea did to captured American soldiers what he does, roughing prisoners up according to their own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, and putting them on trial with secret evidence. He said that was okay with him (if they “adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better”). When Gregory tried to follow up, Bush told him he’d taken too long to ask his question.

The CNN scroll is just never at the right place when you need it, is it? When Bush was denying that Iraq is in a civil war, it would have been appropriate if it repeated the story about 30 more dead bodies being found in Iraq with signs of torture. I forget what it actually was, probably something about spinach being bad for you.

Asked the difference between Republican and Democratic economic policies, he said it was all about... wait for it... tax cuts. Tax cuts, he added, determine elections, and we have a history of that in our family. Did he mean to make fun of his father’s “Read my lips” line?

Asked about whether it would be a good idea to send in special forces to capture bin Laden, he said that Pakistan was a sovereign nation and we “have to be invited.” This will come as a surprise to Afghanistan. He said that “the Paks” are in the lead. He said that the idea that he had eased off the hunt for bin Laden was an “urban myth.”

Asked about his claim that there may be a third Awakening in America, he said that was based on the number of people who come up to him on rope lines and say they’re praying for him.

Then he was struck by lightning, proving the power of prayer.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Bush says the purpose of the proposed legislation (which looks today to be in trouble) to legalize (retroactively) “tough interrogations” of suspected terrorists is to “provide legal clarity so that our professionals will feel comfortable about going forward with the program”. Because it’s all about whether the CIA’s... professionals... feel comfortable.

That was at a photo op with the South Korean president, who brought along a translator, who unfortunately made the mistake of translating from Korean into English, a language Bush does not speak.

Earlier in the day he met privately with the House Republican Conference. The meeting went smoothly until someone tried to eat a potato chip that Dennis Hastert had his eye on. In the resulting fight, the holographic equipment that has projected the image of Dick Cheney since his death in 2002 was damaged, resulting in the blurring you see here.

Really came a long way for a rather weak joke, didn’t I? I am so off my game today.

Quote of the week: Israeli Prime Minister Olmert: “Half Lebanon is destroyed. Is that a loss?”