Monday, April 30, 2007

Condi won’t be rude. She’s not a rude person.

Friday Kurt Vonnegut’s son delivered a commencement speech his father had written and was going to deliver at Butler University. Has anyone seen the full text online?

Today George Bush met with German Chancellor Merkel, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and MOEzilla, a robot “designed to quickly hang tubes in autonomous and human control periods on all three spider leg levels.” It’s less clear what Barroso does all day. Bush did not try to give MOEzilla a back-rub. MOEzilla gave George an inflatable ring. If I call a competition to decide what Bush should do with the inflatable ring, will I regret it?

Bush told reporters that in passing the Iraq spending bill, Congress “chose to ignore” his position. He seems to think that’s rude in a way that his constant veto threats and dismissals of Congress’s position are not.

Indeed, it was all about good manners today. He says that Russia simply misunderstood our intentions to base missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, and he wants it not to “see us as an antagonistic force, but see us as a friendly force.”

And indeed, we will display our very best manners even towards the Iranians. For example, at the Iraq conference, “Should the foreign minister of Iran bump into Condi Rice, Condi won’t be rude. She’s not a rude person. I’m sure she’ll be polite.” There may even be a non-serious conversation about a serious conversation: “And so I -- if, in fact, there is a conversation, it will be one that says if the Iranian government wants to have a serious conversation with the United States and others, they ought to give up their enrichment program in a verifiable fashion.”

He said the Iranian nuclear program is “unacceptable to peace.” “I happen to believe a significant threat to world peace, today and in the future, is the Iranian threat if they were to end up with a nuclear weapon -- ‘today’ is the wrong word -- ‘in the future,’ they don’t have a weapon today.” Phew.

He said that Wolfowitz should keep his job. “And I appreciate the fact that he has advanced -- he’s helped the World Bank recognize that eradication of world poverty is an important priority for the bank.” That has kinda supposed to have been one of its priorities since 1945, George. It’s in the charter and everything.

He explained carefully why global warming (which he says “got global consequences”) can’t be solved by the US alone: “As I reminded the people around the conference table today, the United States could shut down our economy and emit no greenhouse gases, and all it would take is for China in about 18 months to produce as much as we had been producing to make up the difference about what we reduced our greenhouse gases to.” Pity the poor translators. But, he said, “The good news is, is that we recognize there’s a problem.” And he had even more good news: “The good news is recognize technology is going to lead to solutions, and that we’re willing to share those technologies.” For example, technologies like robots which can trap all the greenhouse gases in inflatable rings. That’s so crazy it might just work.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I think it’s a complete misreading of how, certainly, I read the slam dunk comment

Condi hit a bunch of talk shows this morning: CNN, ABC, and CBS. I’ll mix & match quotes.

On the decision to invade Iraq:

BLITZER: But did it represent an imminent threat, the fact that he was violating the oil-for-food?

RICE: The question with imminence is, are you in a situation whether you’re better to act now, or are you going to be in a worse situation later? That’s the question that you have to ask in policy.

(And along the same lines on ABC: “George, the question of imminence isn’t whether or not somebody is going to strike tomorrow.”)

Obviously, that is not “the question with imminence.” Arguably, she is just repeating the outline of the old “smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud” line with the WMD content removed, humming it instead of singing it, if you will.

We’re talking about this again, of course, because of George Tenet’s book. She generously forgave him for the “slam dunk” wording: “I certainly don’t blame George for the slam dunk comment having the sense that that was the reason we went to war. I think it’s a complete misreading of how, certainly, I read the slam dunk comment.” Indeed, “To the degree that there was an intelligence problem here... It was an intelligence problem worldwide. We all thought -- including U.N. inspectors -- that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. So there’s no blame here of anyone.” Everyone’s to blame so no one’s to blame. Isn’t that conveeeeenient? Especially since one of the people she is absolving of blame is the national security adviser at the time, who was herself.

I’m not sure what to make of this, but she refers to Clinton’s bombing of Iraq in “Operation Desert Fox” thus: “we had gone to war against him in 1998 to try to deal with his weapons of mass destruction.”

On benchmarks in the Iraq spending bill: “But the problem is, why tie our own hands in using the means that we have to help get the right outcomes in Iraq? And that’s the problem with having so-called consequences for missing the benchmarks.” That “so-called” literally makes no sense: they’re not so-called consequences, they’re actual consequences. She just doesn’t think consequences for failure are a good idea (and if you had her record, neither would you). Indeed, the threat of withdrawal would be “to tie our own hands, [which] doesn’t allow us the flexibility and the creativity that we need to move this forward.” But enough about your sex life, Condi.

What? You weren’t thinking the same thing?

Speaking of flexibility and creativity, the two attributes the Bush administration is best known for, here is how Condi says the Iraqis will be punished if they fail to complete the oil-revenue-sharing law: “If they don’t, then they’re not going to be making the kind of progress on national reconciliation that gives the Iraqis a view of a future together.” Way to light a fire under their asses, Condi!

But, again, enough about Condi’s sex life.

Not that this refusal of timetables means our patience is unlimited, oh no, it just can’t be measured in time, or something. “We are telling them all of the time that their national reconciliation is moving too slowly, needs to move more quickly.” She’d make a great marriage counselor, wouldn’t she? But actually what I think you can see in that sentence is that the Bushies are coming to define reconciliation in Iraq not as actual, you know, reconciliation, but as the passage of a few legislative measures: oil revenues, local elections, un-de-Baathification. If and when those measures go through, the Bushies plan to declare reconciliation complete.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Literally, not figuratively, restoring America’s place in the world

A reminder that the effects of any war are felt for a very long time indeed: former British army corporal Leslie Croft has just died as a result of an injury sustained from a shell blast in 1943.

The Iraq situation has certainly created a new range of business opportunities for people with entrepreneurial spirit. Case in point: people who race to the scenes of bombings and, pretending to be medics (indeed, some of them actually are), make off with the corpses of victims and hold them for ransom.

The NYT referred today to remarks made by Bush in a January meeting with Congressional leaders which I don’t seem to have caught at the time. 1) “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out.” You have to wonder if he really said that to Maliki in those words. You also have to wonder what the congresscritters said. 2) Asked why he thought the surge would work, Bush responded, “Because it has to.” You have to wonder if he believes that’s actually some sort of logical argument.

Sigh, no you don’t.

At the California Democratic Party convention today, Hillary Clinton called Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” Day four years ago “one of the most shameful episodes in American history. ... The only mission he accomplished was the re-election of Republicans.” To which Bush no doubt responded, “Yeah, and your point is?”

And Joe Biden said that the American people are “looking for someone literally, not figuratively, to restore America’s place in the world.” North America, right? In between Mexico and that nice country with all the hockey?

Sorry, I hate it when people say literally when they don’t mean literally.

And Barack Obama said something about how he would “turn the page” on Iraq. While I don’t know what that actually means, after 6 years of Bush it’s refreshing to see someone using a book metaphor.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Relaxed but strategic

Maliki has evidently rescinded his demand that the work on the Dubya Wall be halted, and it has resumed.

A good E.J. Dionne piece on the Bushies’ denigration of legitimate disagreement with their policies as partisan politics.

Bush met today with Japan’s nationalist PM Shinzo Abe. Said Bush, “Our talks were very relaxed, but they were strategic.”

Abe will soon be traveling to the Middle East. Said Bush, “I will remind him he’ll be traveling into an important region”. George is nothing if not informative.

“I’m absolutely convinced the Japanese people will be better off when they eat American beef,” he said mysteriously.

Talking about the environment and energy, he said that “there’s a lot of work that Japan and the United States can do together” on nuclear energy. Somehow I don’t have the heart today to make a Hiroshima crack.

Abe talked about the North Korean abduction of Japanese citizens, after making another clarification of his remarks on “comfort women” that used a lot of passive voice and didn’t quite acknowledge the abduction of Korean, Chinese and other women by the Japanese army. Bush said of the abductions that he will work “to get this issue resolved in a way that touches the human heart”. On comfort women, Bush said, “I accept the Prime Minister’s apology.” He accepts? I didn’t know Bush was a comfort woman. It would explain a lot.

A reporter named Deb (AP’s Deb Reichmann, I believe) managed to be stupider than Bush, who she accused of having gone soft on North Korea, thinking he’d said he had unlimited patience with its government (Bush had, in an admittedly rare correct use of the double negative, said his patience was “not unlimited”) and not having the wit to wonder if she’d maybe misheard him.

Asked about the Iraq spending bill, Bush said he will veto it “because members of Congress have made military decisions on behalf of the military”. When precisely did the US military declare independence from the US? “I’m just envisioning what it would be like to be a young soldier in the middle of Iraq and realizing that politicians have all of the sudden made military determinations.” “Mission accomplished,” anyone? And since when is Bush himself not a politician?

“I’m sorry it’s come to this. In other words, I’m sorry that we’ve had this, you know, the issue evolve the way it has.” He threatened Congress not to “test my will” over timetables, adding, “In other words, I don’t like tests.” (I may have made that last bit up.) He did say, reaching out to Democrats by implying they had only temporarily gone insane, “I think we can come to our senses and make sure that we get the money to the troops in a timely fashion.” We?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Of baked beans, being somehow grounded in the 1980s, concrete caterpillars, and a very happy meal indeed

Headline of the day: “Hugh Grant Arrested over Baked Beans Allegation.” If you don’t already know what that means, wouldn’t it be nicer to just leave it at Hugh Grant Arrested over Baked Beans Allegation?

Whoops, I awarded the headline of the day prize before coming across this one: “Condom Found in Girl’s McDonald’s ‘Happy Meal.’” (Unused, you’ll be delighted to hear.) (The condom, not the happy meal.)

In quoting Condi in my last, describing Russian fears as “purely ludicrous,” I missed that what she was so describing was the idea that the US missile defense program threatens the Soviet deterrent. She also accused the Russians, or Soviets, or possibly the subjects of the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, of having a view “that is grounded somehow in the 1980s.”

Gen. Petraeus has been talking to Congress (behind closed doors) and to reporters. He explained that “in most cases,” the people being walled off in Baghdad actually “welcome that kind of barrier plan or walls or what have you” (he seems to be backing away from calling it the “concrete caterpillar”). He insisted that “This is not about walling off Sunni from Shi’a. This is about walling off neighborhoods.” So that’s okay, then.

Petraeus is saying that the occupation of Iraq will go on and on and on, although naturally he refuses to get specific about “what levels would be some years down the road.” But the key word is years, and what the White House and its tame congresscritters need to be forced to acknowledge publicly is that when they talk about giving Petraeus’s plan a chance to work, that plan involves significant numbers of American troops manning the concrete caterpillars for years to come.

Well, I can’t worry about it. I don’t think about it.

Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet says that the “enhanced interrogation” of prisoners – which he says is not the same as torture, but won’t say in what way it differs – provided more intel than the FBI, CIA and NSA put together. Tune in to 60 Minutes Sunday to find out if that means our enhanced interrogators are really, really good, or that the FBI, CIA and NSA are really, really bad.

In an interview with Larry King, John McCain called for Alberto Gonzales to resign to restore the integrity of the Justice Dept. Okay, no he didn’t, he said he should leave out of “loyalty to the president.” Wasn’t appointing someone whose only qualification was loyalty to the president exactly the problem with Gonzales in the first place?

Asked what happens if the “surge” doesn’t work, McMaverick said, “Well, I can’t worry about it. I don’t think about it.” Maybe he can put that on his bumper stickers. Wasn’t a refusal to think about what would happen if everything didn’t go exactly according to plan exactly the problem with the Iraq war in the first place?

Asked about Don Imus, McCain said, “I believe in redemption. I believe in forgiveness. And I -- I forgave my North Vietnamese captors, who didn’t treat me very well. I forgave the anti-war movement and reconciled with them.” Larry King did not ask him about his remarks in 2000: “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.” He was against forgiveness before he was for it.

He said several times that he was “disappointed” with Harry Reid, adding, “But to declare the war lost, then I think it’s incumbent upon Senator Reid to say who won. Is that al Qaeda? Is that the militia? Is that -- is that the forces of terrorism and radical Islamic extremism that are dedicated to destroying the United States of America?” I’m not sure by what logic Reid needs to say who won, except that McCain wants to implicate Reid in some way for losing the war simply because he pointed out the fact that it has in fact been lost.

As does Joe Lieberman, who writes in an op-ed piece in the WaPo, “When politicians here declare that Iraq is ‘lost’ in reaction to al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks and demand timetables for withdrawal, they are doing exactly what al-Qaeda hopes they will do, although I know that is not their intent.” I think Holy Joe shows a true generosity of spirit in suggesting that Harry Reid is only an unwitting dupe of Al Qaida.

NATO is holding talks with the Russian foreign minister about our plan to base Star Wars systems in eastern Europe. So naturally right before those talks start, Condi called Russian concerns “purely ludicrous.” Our chief diplomat, ladies and gentlemen, our chief diplomat.

Robert Parry on Posada.

Riverbend is going into exile.

Apa kabar

Barack Obama told the National Jewish Democratic Council that his years in an Indonesian “madrasa” make him a candidate who is, as they say, good for the Jews: “If I go to Jakarta and address the largest Muslim country on earth, I can say, ‘Apa kabar,’ - you know, ‘How are you doing?’ - and they can recognize that I understand their common humanity. That is a strength, and it allows me to say things to them that other presidents might not be able to say.” Oh, Barack, you had me at apa kabar.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Give my chance a plan to work

I received an ad in the mail that asked “Do You Value Your Teeth?” Fortunately, it turned out to be from some dentist, not from my bookie.

Speaking of no child left behind, the US will put on trial a 20-year old, Omar Khadr, who has been held without charge in Guantanamo for 5 years. Charges include murder in violation of the law of war, spying, and conspiracy. This will be the first war crimes trial of a child soldier. Details are sketchy, but his lawyer says that the conspiracy was committed when he was less than 10. (Update: oh, according to the charge sheet [pdf] the conspiracy involves everything that Al Qaida has ever done.)

In his interview of John McCain on last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart, who I’ve often felt has been too obsequious in his interviews with people in power, quietly refused to let McCain describe the Iraq War as “unpopular,” a word chosen to frame opponents of the war as followers of fashion. Well done.

In an email from the McCain campaign today, McCain says, “If you don’t believe that the problems facing the country need to be addressed, then I am probably not your candidate.” Does that sort of rhetoric ever convince anyone?

There seems to be no transcript of Bush’s interview by Charlie Rose, so I had to (shudder) watch it, although I had to pause it for laughter after he claimed that Gen. Petraeus said, “Give my chance a plan to work.” I only listened in snatches while doing other things, so here are some snatches:

We’re working with “an interesting group of nations” on Iran, which is “spreading radical Shia in a region that doesn’t need any more radicalism.”

Can he imagine saying about Iraq, well, we’ve tried, & then leave. No he can’t.

The Iraq bill is “a political document.”

Asked how much violence is acceptable in Iraq, he said he’d have to ask “experts,” such as Petraeus and Ryan Crocker. He thinks that it’s a cultural thing, how much violence is considered normal (I think Bush was copying something Petraeus said a couple of days ago that Iraq would always have a certain number of bombings and would adjust, just like Belfast in the 1970s).

Today is Malaria Awareness Day. George Bush held an event at the White House. “Every year, more than a million people die of malaria -- and the vast majority of them are children under five years old,” he said. “It’s a sad statistic,” he said. “Malaria imposes a crippling economic burden in sub-Saharan Africa, where so many are struggling to lift their families out of poverty,” he said. “All of that may seem like a cause for despair. But it’s not,” he said, and proved that he was not despairing by following his speech with a Malaria Awareness Party. Woooo!

(Update: Think Progress has the video.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The pipeline is beginning to be full of little readers that are competent readers

Bush went to a school today. Well, if at first you don’t succeed...

It was the Harlem Village Academy Charter School, which he says is a “school where a child looks at the President and says, I don’t mind being tested, because I know that they’re going to help correct problems early, before it’s too late.” I’m sure one of the children really said exactly those words to him.

I’ve said before how obnoxious I find that “before it’s too late” thing, how insulting to people in adult literacy programs, learning to read in prisons, etc. I mean, GeeDubya is 60, and what is the following line if not a hidden cry for help: “When student struggle, they receive one-on-one tutoring during the school day.”

He said “Schools should be places of safety.” Which is why he brought a whole bunch of guys with guns with him.

The purpose of the trip was to call for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. He talked in a softly bigoted way about the soft bigotry of low expectations: “I have come to a school where some may say these children can’t possibly exceed high standards”.

The centerpiece of NCLB? Choice. “I like to be able to sit with parents and say, I have chose school for my child -- chosen the school for my child...”

His word of the day was herald: “See, I love it when somebody heralds that which is working and takes on that which is not working.” “so a good way to herald National Charter School Week is come to a charter school”. “the President has an opportunity to herald excellence, and I have seized that opportunity.”

Some of his other faves: There were 14 “in other words,” including “In other words, it matters what happens now in our schools, more so than ever before” and “In other words, there ought to be flexibility -- more flexibility as opposed to less flexibility when a school fails” and “So I said to a lot of the kids here at this school, how many of you want to go to college? They all rose -- raised their hand. That’s a good sign. In other words, this school believes in high expectations and putting in a child’s mind the possibilities of achieving a dream.”

And a death-defying double “in other words”: “In other words, something has changed here at this school. In other words, there is progress being made”.

He found 7 things “interesting,” including that a student asked why he’d come, and “Interestingly enough, this week is called National Charter School Week -- I mean, next week is called National Charter School Week, so a good way to herald National Charter School Week is come to a charter school”.

And something or other about tailoring was interesting: “The data from this school that you -- as a result of measurement helps teachers tailor their lesson plans to the specific needs of the child. Isn’t that interesting? The education system tailoring the needs to fit the -- tailor the curriculum to fit the needs of the child? That may sound simple, but it’s an unusual concept for a lot of schools.” I think I can honestly say that that didn’t sound simple.

And a two-fer: “I appreciate the results of this school. In other words, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that the President can come and say you’ve got good results here -- because you measure.”

And if you don’t want to measure, you hate America. Or at least “certain” children. “Now, if you believe certain children can’t learn, then you shouldn’t measure.”

He wants to extend NCLB to high schools. “I believe if you want to make sure a high school diploma means something, you better have high accountability in high schools.” And how did George spend high school? High.

“I can’t think of a better way to get somebody’s attention that we’re tired of mediocrity than to give a parent an option.” Really, George, you can’t think, period.

Here’s a thought you never expected to hear from George W. Bush: “If you find failure, it’s important to do something differently.”

A Texas oil man’s view of schools: “The pipeline is beginning to be full of little readers that are competent readers.” Maybe that’s what he means about reaching children before it’s too late. No Child Left Stuck in the Pipeline.

Wherein Dick Cheney defines cynicism (in fact, when you look up cynicism in the dictionary...)

The Bushies are trying to make Harry Reid, who is so harmless that he may be made entirely out of nerf, into a hate figure. Today, Cheney spoke to the press about Reid’s “defeatism.” Cheney speculated about the motives that could be behind such dark deeds: “Maybe it’s a political calculation. Some Democratic leaders seem to believe that blind opposition to the new strategy in Iraq is good politics. Senator Reid himself has said that the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election. It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage. Leaders should make decisions based on the security interests of our country, not on the interests of their political party.”

Note the rhetorical slide there: he starts from “maybe” it’s political calculation so that he never makes the accusation directly, but every subsequent sentence is predicated on the assumption of political calculation.

Reid responded, “I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with the administration’s chief attack dog,” which is technically species-calling rather than name-calling. For some reason, he failed to respond to the implied claim that he doesn’t really believe that the war in Iraq is lost and is just claiming that it is for party political advantage. I think he should take a lie detector test, don’t you? Up next: Cheney accuses Reid of hating dogs.

It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you start to plan withdrawing

Today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Bush put out a statement. It touches some of the bases that need to be touched: 1.5 million Armenians dead (well, he said “as many as” 1.5m), need to remember and examine the historical events, blah blah blah. And some that didn’t need to be touched: “Our Nation is grateful for Armenia’s contributions to the war on terror”. And missed one altogether: it referred to “mass killings,” but failed to characterize them as genocide or in any way acknowledge the ethnic-religious impulse towards extermination. Indeed, “mass killings” is not coupled with any mention of the mass killers: those “as many as 1.5 million Armenians” merely “lost their lives.” As I said about last year’s presidential message, Bush “calls it a ‘tragedy,’ which is a word that does not entail responsibility, especially not Turkish responsibility.” Imagine a similar statement about the Holocaust that shied away from naming the Nazis.

Speaking of ethnic-religious impulses towards extermination, Bush’s other statement this morning (which he made with a helicopter behind him)

was yet another demand for a “clean” bill funding his dirty wars. “It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you start to plan withdrawing,” he said. Speaking of making no sense, I think he was supposed to say “when you plan to start withdrawing.” That enemy, of course, is Al Qaida; Bush these days is back to ignoring the existence of a civil war in Iraq. He complains that the bills are “legislative mandates telling [US generals[ which enemies they can engage and which they cannot.” I have no idea what he’s talking about. He used the phrase “precipitous withdrawal” twice. He’s against it. He did not explain how withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2008, as opposed to 2003, could in any way be described as precipitous.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I thank you very much for the Bleed Blood Blue Drive

Bush met with the Indianapolis Colts today. That’s a football team, I gather. He recited the Colts’ history of the last football season, how they started out strong, then had a losing streak in which some doubters wrote them off, then they came back to win, because they had “heart.” Everything in the world is a metaphor about him, isn’t it?

Speaking of the circulatory system, he thanked the Colts for their various good works: “I thank you very much for the Bleed Blood Blue Drive’ [sic] -- that’s hard for a guy from West Texas to say -- (laughter) -- ‘Bleed Blood Blue Drive’ [sic] in which you’ve encouraged 2,000 people to donate blood.” (I googled it: Bleed Blue Blood Drive.)

And it’s not a true White House event without a stupid-looking cowboy hat.

Every so often the White House website has “Setting the Record Straight” articles, which are usually attack pieces on some Democrat. Today they may have reached the pinnacle in gratuitous insult with “Reid vs. Reid: A State Of Confusion,” in which “corrections” to statements by Harry Reid are each snidely introduced “In Case Sen. Reid Missed It.”

My last post mentioned the Baghdad wall(s), which the US seems be calling barriers. In comments, JustZisGuy suggested the Bushies might name it The Great Wall of Democracy or The Freedom Fence. I hereby call a NAME THAT WALL CONTEST. Entries in comments. Winners will receive a souvenir piece of the wall after the Iraqis take sledgehammers to it.

Something there is...

Bush, asked about Alberto Gonzales’s amnesic Congressional testimony, said he “went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.” Makes you wonder what Gonzo could have done to reduce Bush’s confidence in his ability to do the job. Fling his own feces at Arlen Specter?

Another reporter asked Bush if he could compromise over Iraq.

In other news... What, you need me to tell you if Bush said he could compromise over Iraq?

I’m still trying to figure out how the US planned to build a three-mile-long wall in Baghdad without anyone noticing. Or did they not think there would be objections?

Maliki, who himself seems to have waited to see how much opposition there would be before sticking his head out, said the wall “might have repercussions which remind us of other walls,” and the American press assumed he was talking about the Berlin Wall, taking a day to remember the wall Israel built on the West Bank.

While Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the US would “respect the wishes” of Maliki, neither he nor the US military would say that construction would be halted, suggesting that they plan to sit Maliki down and tell him what his wishes really are. Crocker went on to defend the wall as “good security sense,” intended to “identify where the fault lines are, where avenues of attack lie and to set up the barriers literally to prevent those attacks.” Barriers. I can’t find a transcript of Crocker’s press conference, but I’ll bet he’s avoiding the word wall just as the Israelis do with their “fence.”

Farewell to wacky former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Would Russia be better off now if he hadn’t loved his booze so much more than he loved his country?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A clarification

Azmi Bishara, one of the 3 (or 4?) Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset and the chairman of the Balad party, has fled the country and resigned from the Knesset because of some sort of secret investigation of him. There is a gag order on exactly what is being investigated, although, in a triumph for Israeli openness, the gag order on reporting the existence of the gag order was lifted this week.

After meeting the Egyptian president, Maliki said, “I clarified to the president the reality of what is going in Iraq, which is not a civil or sectarian war.” Sadly, he didn’t clarify for the rest of us the reality of what is going on in Iraq. What is the Arabic for “crapfest”?

We killed people back, and that’s the story

Hillary Clinton says that when she’s president, Bill will be a roaming ambassador. I’ll bet he will, I’ll bet he will.

What, too obvious? Then we’ll just skip “Nigerian Elections Marred by Fraud.” (Except to note that the governor of Bayelsa State, a vice presidential candidate, is named Goodluck Jonathan. Not surprisingly, he just escaped an assassination attempt.) (Let me rephrase that: Jonathan is the next vice president; to call him a candidate implies that there is a possibility of the ruling party failing to “win” the elections.)

The WaPo reports that when Gen. Petraeus, M.M., gets depressed, he likes to go out in a helicopter searching for signs of progress down below. “‘He’s actually watering the grass!’ Petraeus said with a laugh, peering down at a man tending a soccer field, with children playing nearby. ... Directing the pilot to ‘break left’ or ‘roll out,’ he scanned the landscape for even tiny improvements -- a pile of picked-up trash, an Iraqi police car out on patrol, a short line at one gas station -- as if gathering mental ammunition for the next wave of Baghdad carnage. An amusement park, its rides lit up, merited a full circle.” Says Petraeus of these taxpayer-funded jaunts, “You see some police stations and you see people just sort of driving on, people getting on with their lives, and it sort of reassures you. ‘Hey, these people are survivors.’”

In an article on the leaked report on the Haditha massacre, from which there were no survivors, the NYT quotes spokesmodel Capt. Jeffrey Pool defending his decision to claim that the Iraqi civilians were killed by a roadside bomb despite knowing from the start that that was a lie (months later he tried to dissuade Time magazine from reporting on the incident, calling stories of a massacre Al Qaida propaganda): “The way I saw it was this: A bomb blast went off, or was initiated, that is what started, that is the reason they’re getting this, is a bomb blew up, killed people. We killed people back, and that’s the story.” The NYT notes that Pool has been promoted and is in charge of PR for Anbar province (and indeed, there he is in another story , informing us that the assassination of the fourth straight chair of the Fallujah City Council was “designed to cause fear and to intimidate the populace to cow them into submission.” He was for causing fear and intimidating the populace to cow them into submission before he was against it.

Speaking of causing fear and intimidating etcetera, a WaPo article about American military operations in Diyala tells of a 3 a.m. raid on a house, “expecting to find a half-dozen al-Qaeda in Iraq members in a meeting.”
Instead they found a crying mother and her terrified 13-year-old boy.

“Tell him, since he’s the oldest one in the house, he’s the man of the house, he needs to man-up and stop hiding behind his mother,” 1st Lt. Christopher Nogle, 23, of Orlando, instructed his interpreter.

The boy covered his face and sobbed. It was 3 in the morning. He said he didn’t know where his father had gone.

“Does he love his father?” Nogle asked. “Does he want to see him again?”

The small barefoot boy shook with fear and said nothing.

“Ask him where his father hides his weapons,” Nogle demanded.

“I swear to God I don’t know,” the boy said.

“He is not a man, he is scared,” said his mother, who was also wailing.

“He needs to quit crying. He’s responsible for everybody in here right now since his father left; his father abandoned everybody else,” Nogle told the boy through his interpreter. “Tell him when his father comes back later tonight or tomorrow that he needs to have a talk with his father, that his father is doing very bad things and it’s getting the whole family in trouble.”

Before the soldiers left, an Iraqi police officer brandished two large buck knives in front of the boy’s face. Nobody was arrested.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shocking ourselves with the predictable

Anyone else notice Dick “Shot a Guy in the Face” Cheney has been invisible this week? He could certainly offer an interesting perspective on the Virginia Tech shootings.

It’s been noted that the only restriction on Seung Hui Cho in Virginia was that without a license he could only buy a single solitary gun a month. Does anyone remember how that law was finally enacted? Virginia was embarrassed into it after a Batman comic book showed Gotham City gang members driving down to VA to exchange drugs for guns.

The Guardian’s Gary Younge makes a point I also made the Virginia Tech shootings, but more eloquently: “America’s innocence is one of its few eternally renewable resources. Its ability to shock itself with the predictable is itself predictable.”

The WaPo’s Michael Fletcher, writing about Bush’s speech yesterday, notes that Bush quoted “an unnamed Middle East scholar” who said that the mood in Washington is gloomier about Iraq than is the case in Baghdad. Fletcher, dude, when I read that line I checked it out using this thing we have now called Google. You might want to look into that.

Must-reads on Iraq today: 1) the WaPo on an army report kept secret for the last 10 months on Haditha and the systematic disregard within the military of civilian Iraqi deaths, 2) quotes from the report, 3) McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef on how the US has quietly backed away from the “when they stand up, we’ll stand down” thing.

The Guardian has an extract from a book by Clive Stafford Smith, a British lawyer, about trying to act for Guantanamo prisoners. The book comes out next week in Britain, but 6 months from now in the US.

Friday, April 20, 2007

It just, poof

Bush gave another speech about The War Against Terror (TWAT) at another high school today, rather more coherent than yesterday’s until it got to the Q&A section, when the drugs kicked in. Something about the setting seemed familiar to me:

“My purpose of coming is to instruct,” he said. Hopefully not in the use and misuse of prepositions.

He continued to insist that the real source of all the trouble in Iraq is Al Qaida, and his evidence is just so compelling: “Here is a photo of the destruction caused by a car bomb at a bus stop in Baghdad on Wednesday. ... It has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack. The terrorists bombed the buses at rush hour, with the specific intent to kill as many people as possible. This has been long a pattern of al Qaeda in Iraq; this is what they do.” I’m pretty sure Al Qaida doesn’t have a patent on “trying to kill as many people as possible.” But really, who needs evidence, when you can... speculate: “Remember, we believe most of the spectaculars, like the ones you saw -- I can’t tell you for certain Wednesday’s bombing was al Qaeda. In other words, I don’t have the -- I can speculate. But I can tell you a lot of the spectacular bombings have been al Qaeda.”

“It’s important,” he insisted, “for all Iraqis -- Sunnis and Shia alike -- to understand that al Qaeda is the greatest threat to peace in their country.”

And, of course, for Americans to “understand” the same. He insisted that TWAT is indivisible: “When we debate the war on terror, it can be convenient to divide up the fight by location -- and so we hear about, ‘the war in Afghanistan,’ and ‘the war in Iraq’ [as] if they were something separate. This is a natural way to talk about a complicated subject -- I don’t think it’s accurate. Our enemies make no distinctions based on borders.” Although they do like duty-free shops.

“The Iraqi security forces are growing in maturity and gaining trust, and that’s important.” Growing in maturity? What does that mean? They make fewer fart jokes?

Also growing: Nouri al-Maliki. “I’ve watched a man begun to grow in office.” Well, they water him every day.

“Precisely what happened in Afghanistan -- it’s really important for our memories not to dim. At least it’s important for my memory not to dim, because my most important job is to protect the American people.” Dim...

In the Q&A, he was asked something inaudible about the Democratic Congress and responded: “We have fundamental disagreements about whether or not helping this young democracy is -- the consequences of failure or success, let’s put it that way. It’s also very important in this debate to understand that even though we have our policy differences -- particularly as the young lad that you are -- that we don’t think either of us are not patriotic citizens, okay?” Yes, it’s very important to understand, um, what he said. You all understand, right? Because it’s very important to understand.

He trotted out once again the claim that everything was going swimmingly until a year ago: “And then what happened was, the Samarra bombing took place by al Qaeda, which caused there to be a sectarian outrage. And because the government was ill-prepared to provide enough security in the capital, people began to use militias to provide security. And the sectarian outrage, the killing started to get out of hand.” So there were no militias until 2006, and the killing wasn’t “out of hand” until then. What was that thing about memories dimming? He continued: “And I had a decision to make: withdraw from the capital and just kind of hope for the burnout theory -- as you know, I was worried about chaos, and into chaos comes more extremists”.

“And it’s also important for you to know that my thinking was deeply affected on September the 11th, 2001.” Yes, we could really really tell.

CONDESCEND MUCH? “One such democracy is Lebanon, a wonderful little country.”

IF YOU LIKE IT SO MUCH, WHY DON’T YOU MARRY IT? “and just so you know, I spend a lot of time listening to our military. I trust our military, I like our military, I’m impressed by our military.”

On the surge: “It was after this considered judgment that I made that decision, all aiming at some point in time. Now, the problem is, the Congress, many of whom think that it’s a good idea, however are unwilling to allow conditions on the ground to make the decisions as to when we can ever get there. I don’t have that luxury. I must allow conditions on the ground to dictate our position in order to make decisions.” And that’s his considered judgment.

On why we should never talk with Syria: “What happens when people go sit down with Bashar Assad, the President of Syria, he walks out and holds a press conference, and says, look how important I am; people are coming to see me; people think I’m vital.”

Ditto Iran: “Diplomacy works when people sit down at the table and need something from you. That’s how diplomacy works.” Normally, you’d spend years at diplomat school to learn that.

However, “the Iranian people.... must know that our beef with Iran is not with the people of Iran, it’s with the government of Iran that continues to make decisions that isolates you from the opportunities of a fantastic world.”

On disregarding public opinion: “There weren’t opinion polls when Abraham Lincoln was the President... but I just don’t think a President like Abraham Lincoln made a decision about whether all men were created equal based upon an opinion poll....” No, it was Jefferson who made a decision that all men were created equal based on an opinion poll. “...Nor do I make an opinion about my strong belief that freedom is universal, and there’s no debate. ... the guy asked a question the other day, you don’t like the opinion polls and all that stuff -- I said, any politician who says they don’t want to be popular, you know -- you can’t win if, like, 50-plus-one don’t like you for a moment.” I forget, who won the popular vote in 2000? “You can’t make your decisions, however, based on something that just changes; it just, poof.” So to reiterate, he has principles that are steady and unchanging, but the American people do not: “it just, poof.” We must really be such a disappointment to him.

On his “freedom agenda” in the Middle East (though warning, “it’s not like, I expect Jefferson democracy to be blooming in the desert”), he bragged, “I do have a good, very close relationship with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and I’m proud of that relationship.”

He praised the recent unfree Egyptian election as “quite modern and different,” said “there are women now serving in Kuwait parliament” (wrong), and claimed that in last year’s Palestinian elections (which he takes credit for: “I was criticized by some that upon insisting that the Palestinian elections go forward”), the Palestinian people were saying, “we’re sick of it. Arafat has let us down” (presumably by having been, you know, dead for over a year). He thinks the Palestinians will vote the right way next time, at least that’s what I think he said: “And hopefully, at some point in time, the situation will get clarified, if the people have another right to express themselves, and that right ought to be, are you for a state or not for a state? Are you going to have people that prevent a better future for emerging from you?” Clarified, he said.

Does anyone else have a headache?

A day like that can have a real psychological impact

Russia is building a floating nuclear power plant. Gee, what a good idea, why didn’t we think of that? Russia plans to sell them to other countries.

Secretary of War Robert Gates (I’m officially dumping the little pictures of gates – live with it), on a “surprise” visit to Iraq, visited Fallujah, the city on which the US shat from a great height, to gush about the “really good news story” in Anbar province: “It’s a place where the Iraqis have decided to take control of their future. The Sheiks have played a key role in making good things happen out here, along with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army and with our help.” That “decided to take control of their future” line is the perfect combination of condescending paternalism and empty-headed corporate-management-speak.

Gen. Petraeus admits that Wednesday, with its “sensational attacks,” was “a bad day.” It’s that sort of realism that makes him such a breath of fresh air. He adds, “And a day like that can have a real psychological impact.” Yes, because if you were to characterize the sort of impact made by the deaths of 200 to 300 people in bombings, you would definitely say “psychological.” He said that Al Qaida is “trying to reignite sectarian violence,” although he did not say when it was ever unignited (disignited?)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

If our definition is no more suiciders, you’ve just basically said to the suiciders, go ahead

Bush gave a speech and q&a at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio. It was a long speech, and photographers got a little fascinated by one burly Secret Service agent with no neck.

He said, “You know, it’s a -- there is -- the President spends time at disasters.” Trying to look innocent.

Okay, okay, he was actually talking about Virginia Tech, that disaster. But a disaster in which Bush finds a silver lining: “And the amazing thing is, though, when you go down to a scene like Virginia Tech, you can’t help but be buoyed by the spirit that out of the tragedy comes a certain sense of resolve.” So that’s okay, then.

Bush does stick with his little phrases with a steely persistence long after they’ve become a laughing stock. “My job is a job to make decisions. I’m a decision -- if the job description were, what do you do -- it’s decision-maker.” And you know what “deeply affected” his decision-making? Would you believe 9/11? “I realized that there is an enemy of the United States that is active and is lethal.” What was your first clue?

“I also know full well that it’s important for us if we’re facing an ideology, if we’re facing ideologues, if we’re confronting people who believe something, that we have got to defeat their belief system with a better belief system. Forms of government matter, in my opinion.” And ours is a reverse meritocracy.

“And now we’re involved in -- I call it a global war against terror. You can’t call it a global war against extremists, a global war against radicals, a global war against people who want to hurt America; you can call it whatever you want, but it is a global effort.” I think we know what I want to call it, but who, one wonders, prefers to call it a global war against people who want to hurt America (GWAPWWTHA)?

In fact, Bush was unusually permissive about vocabulary today: “The question was, do we increase our -- I call it, reinforce, you can call it, surge, there’s all kind of words for it...”

On Iraq: “It’s easy to forget the elections because of all the violence.” How true. “People often ask me, what are we seeing on TV? What’s happening with the violence? Here’s my best analysis: One, the spectaculars you see are al Qaeda inspired. They claim credit for a lot of the big bombings.” Really, that actually is his best analysis. Also: spectaculars? But we should all just ignore the violence and maybe it will go away: “If the definition of success in Iraq or anywhere is no suicide bombers, we’ll never be successful. ... Think about that: if our definition is no more suiciders, you’ve just basically said to the suiciders, go ahead.”

Reading the transcript, I was actually impressed that Bush used “whom” correctly in a sentence. This, however, was the next sentence: “And yet they -- and yet, the enemy -- and the enemy -- when I say, enemy, these are enemies of free societies, primarily al Qaeda inspired -- blew up the great religious shrine in ‘06, a year ago -- all aiming to create a sense of sectarian violence, all aiming to exacerbate the religious tensions that sometimes were exacerbated under Saddam Hussein, all aiming at preventing this young democracy from succeeding. And they succeeded.” “All aiming” or “all aimed,” by the way, is his new favorite phrase.

“Interesting” made something of a come-back: “It’s interesting here in Tipp City, the first thing that happened was a moment of silence”. “It’s an interesting war, isn’t it, where asymmetrical warfare is... not only, obviously, kills a lot of innocent people, like which happened yesterday in Iraq, but also helps define whether or not we’re successful.” “Isn’t it interesting, when you really take a step back and think about what I just said, that al Qaeda is making serious moves in Iraq, as is surrogates for Iran.” “Isn’t it interesting that it’s the democracies of the Middle East that are having the most problem with the extremists? I think it is.” “It’s an interesting force posture to be in.”

COMMITMENT ISSUES: “[If we withdraw from Iraq] It would confirm their sense that the United States is incapable of long-term commitments, incapable of -- it would confirm their commitment that they think we’re soft, let me put it to you that way. That’s what they think. I didn’t necessarily mean that the United States has to kind of muscle up for the sake of muscling up. That’s not what I’m trying to say. But I do believe it is risky to have an enemy that has attacked us before to not take the United States seriously for the long run.”

SENTENCES I’M QUOTING OUT OF CONTEXT, JUST BECAUSE: “I would call these times consequential times.” Or possibly Susan. “If you’ve got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I’m talking about.” “The reason I brought up the rug was to not only kind of break the ice, but also to talk about strategic thought.”

On Virginia Tech: “One of the lessons of these tragedies is to make sure that when people see somebody, or know somebody who is exhibiting abnormal behavior, to do something about it, to suggest that somebody take a look”. Well, there’s this dude, in like a suit, with like a microphone, at Tippecanoe High School, and he’s like talking really funny...

Asked the difference between Iraq and Vietnam, he said that Iraq voted for a constitution and that there was a North Vietnam and a South Vietnam. But if we leave Iraq, there will be something like the Khmer Rouge.

IN OTHER WORDS ROUND-UP: On the Iraq spending bill: “I submitted what the Pentagon thinks it needs. In other words, the process works where I ask the Pentagon, how much do you need? What do you need to do the job?” On immigration: “it’s in the interest of the country that people who are here be assimilated in a way that -- with our traditions and history. In other words, those who eventually become citizens be assimilated. In other words, one of the great things about America is we’ve been able to assimilate people from different backgrounds and different countries.” Yes, that was one of his death-defying Double In Other Words. Here’s another: “In other words, if what happens overseas matters to the United States, therefore, the best way to protect us is to deal with threats overseas. In other words, we just can’t let a threat idle”. On Medicare: “We gave seniors choices. In other words, we created more of a marketplace.” On immigration again: In other words, the law that we have in place has created an entire underground system of smugglers, inn keepers, and document forgers. And that’s not the American way, by the way.” Un-American innkeepers. On – oh who cares what it’s on: “In other words, one of my concerns is that there is a gap.” In less than an hour and a half, there were 18 in other wordses. Er, in other words’s. In other wordsi. In other wordsae. Or, as the kids would pluralize it, in other wordz.

A dropped microphone provided Bush and the local chamber of commerce president to enact the slapstick comedy stylings of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.

Gonzales v. Carhart (the “partial-birth” abortion case)

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 yesterday to uphold the Congressional ban on “partial-birth abortions.”

Much of the decision, written by Anthony Kennedy, hinged on whether there should be a health exemption to the ban. Congress made some factual “findings,” including that a “moral, medical, and ethical consensus exists that the practice of performing a partial-birth abortion ... is a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited.” Gonzales argued that these findings should be taken by the Court as the only dispositive statement of facts. The Court rejected this, in part because some of the facts were blatantly wrong (such as that the procedure is not taught in any medical schools), but made real-world facts irrelevant to its decision by claiming that there is “medical uncertainty” about whether the procedure is ever medically necessary (in the same way that the Bush admin claims there is scientific uncertainty about global warming or the tobacco companies about whether nicotine is addictive), and ruling that “the Act can survive facial attack when this medical uncertainty persists.”

Kennedy also pretended that there was no need for a health exemption because there are perfectly good alternatives. For example, the fetus can still be torn apart and removed in pieces; Kennedy is cool with that. But that procedure is much more invasive and dangerous: more poking around with instruments, greater possibility of fetal tissue remaining inside the body and of damage when sharp broken fetal bones are removed. If it’s really necessary, Kennedy says, to remove the fetus intact, the doctor can simply kill it with an injection before extraction, a totally unnecessary medical procedure which would be performed only for the purpose of complying with the law and which poses a risk (how great a risk I’m not sure) to the mother.

And really, the doctors, who Kennedy suggests only do this procedure out of “mere convenience,” need only get off their lazy asses and “find different and less shocking methods to abort the fetus in the second trimester, thereby accommodating legislative demand.” No problemo.

Or, Kennedy says, if it’s really really really medically necessary (which he has to admit is a possibility because of that “medical uncertainty” he’s hanging this ruling on), the woman can simply take some time out from her medical crisis and go to court. No problemo.

One danger of this ruling for the future is that it blurs the line established by previous abortion rulings between viability and non-viability, and allows a line that is arbitrary and unrelated to medical science. The standard in this law is what the Court calls “delivery to an anatomical landmark,” that is, if the fetus is delivered head-first, the landmark at which the procedure becomes illegal is when “the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother” and if delivered feet-first, the landmark is the belly button.

Kennedy affirmed the legitimacy of Congress using the regulation of a medical procedure to make a moral statement: “the government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman.” And he accepts Congress’s “findings” that (in the words of the Act) “Implicitly approving such a brutal and inhumane procedure by choosing not to prohibit it will further coarsen society to the humanity of not only newborns, but all vulnerable and innocent human life, making it increasingly difficult to protect such life” and that the procedures have a “disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant.” This is a similarity not so much in the medical sense as in the aesthetic or moral sense. He also says that “It was reasonable for Congress to think that partial-birth abortion, more than standard D&E, undermines the public’s perception of the doctor’s appropriate role during delivery, and perverts the birth process.”

Perverts the birth process.

Then Kennedy rather abruptly... well, see if you can follow what Kennedy clearly thinks is some sort of logical argument: “The Act also recognizes that respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in a mother’s love for her child. Whether to have an abortion requires a difficult and painful moral decision, which some women come to regret. In a decision so fraught with emotional consequence, some doctors may prefer not to disclose precise details of the abortion procedure to be used. It is, however, precisely this lack of information that is of legitimate concern to the State.” So I guess he’s saying that this “ultimate” expression – his mother’s a saint, a saint I tell you! – leads doctors to fuzz over some of the details, so better just to ban the procedure altogether.

What details does Kennedy think the mother should be told before making a decision? That “she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form.” He evidently thinks that a true mother, with that ultimate expression of respect for human life thing going on – she’s a saint, a saint I tell you! – would and indeed should go through with the pregnancy no matter the risk to her health. Kennedy is much more concerned with the supposed emotional consequences to the mother than the physical ones. “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.” And it’s “self-evident” that such women would be really upset to find out later about the whole brain-vacuuming thing.

Justice Ginsburg in her dissent notes: “The Court’s hostility to the right Casey and Roe secured is not concealed. Throughout, the opinion refers to obstetrician-gynecologists not by the title of their medical specialties, but by the pejorative label ‘abortion doctors.’”

A degree of regret that could be equated with an apology

We must award the medal of excellence for non-apology apologies to British Defense Minister Des Browne, who said of his decision to allow the servicemembers captured by the Iranians to sell their stories, “It seems clear to me that I have expressed a degree of regret that could be equated with an apology.”

Maybe Alberto Gonzales can try that one in his testimony today. One reason I’d like to see him forced to resign is that the confirmation hearings of his successor would focus attention on certain policies of the Justice Dept (torture, eavesdropping, habeas corpus, etc etc). This, as much as loyalty to a loyal Bushie and a wish not to be seen as losing a battle with Democrats, is precisely why Bush wants him to stay. Also, who would want the job of cleaning up Gonzo’s mess in a lame-duck administration? This will be a problem for every slot that falls vacant or is created, as we’ve seen with the unwillingness of anyone to be “war czar” (new tactic to win in Iraq: Cossacks!).

The US and Australia have agreed to a refugee swap: Australia will take in Haitians and Cubans who have been captured at sea trying to reach the US and are currently held at Guantanamo, while the US will take refugees from Burma, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and elsewhere trying to reach Australia by boat (Australia has been bribing Nauru to operate as Australia’s Guantanamo). Both countries thus get to prevent refugees reaching their shores and then claiming asylum, while deterring refugees by treating them like shit (think how badly you have to treat people to stop them leaving hell-holes like Haiti, Burma and Afghanistan) in places where there will be little scrutiny of the conditions under which they’re held. It’s extraordinary rendition for refugees.

Philip Morris wants the LAPD to investigate counterfeit cigarettes. So the police chief asked it for a $50,000 “donation” to pay for it. Which Philip Morris has gladly provided. Evidently it is LAPD policy that corporations can pay for police operations that benefit their interests.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wherein this blogger becomes drunk with advisory power

Bush met with Congressional leaders today to talk about the Iraq spending bill. Er, why is Harry Reid asleep and why does Nancy Pelosi have the same vacant smile as Laura Bush? They didn’t actually drink the “water” they were given, did they?

Bush & Dems  4.18.07  1

Bush & Dems  4.18.07  2
Anyway, the WaPo reports that Congressional D’s may make the timetables for withdrawing troops from Iraq “advisory.” Congress thus lays claim to exactly as much power as a lowly blogger, the power to give impotent advice.

But maybe I should look at it the other way around. Let’s give it a try: I, WIIIAI, hereby advise that we get the fuck out of Iraq.

Dude, that was awesome! I’m totally as powerful as Congress now!

Protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life

The big story in Japan is toilets bursting into flames. You could see how this would be a concern. These are expensive toilets with a bidet function and heated seats and a remote control (?!), and sub-standard electrical parts made in China. And there’s an English-language website. Check out the videos and the FAQ section, which includes such existential FAQs as “Does anything touch me?” and “How do I know when I am clean?”

(Only $912.12 from

While Bush was in Virginia saying let’s not get all crazy and enact gun control just because one guy legally bought some guns and killed 32 people, one of his Secret Service agents shot two other agents right outside the White House in what the White House is calling an “ironic accidental discharge of a firearm.”

Harriet Miers is returning to the private sector, rejoining her old law firm of Locke Liddell & Sapp. Which is a great name for a law firm.

Bush says that the Supreme Court decision allowing a ban on “partial-birth abortions” even where necessary to prevent serious damage to the health of the pregnant woman is “an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life.” Because if there is one thing the Bush administration will be known for, it is protecting human dignity and uphol... excuse me, I just threw up. He added, “We will continue to work for the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law.” Forcing women to give birth to unwanted children will ensure that they are welcomed in life how exactly?

Really, how exactly can Bush ensure that every child is welcomed? Does that phrase mean anything at all?

I just thought of an atrocious joke involving the words “welcome mat.” I will take it with me to my grave. Consider that my personal contribution to making progress in protecting human dignity.

The Japanese contribution to protecting human dignity may or may not involve $1,000 toilets.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

You give it your best shot on the words

The Virginia Tech slaughter has given Bush the opportunity to use the phrase “a loving God” over and over. And to get himself interviewed over and over talking about how he, himself, W, the Decider, was dealing with the process of trying to comfort the victims and survivors. “You give it your best shot on the words,” he told ABC with his usual deft choice of metaphors. Asked if there were policy implications, he said that we should immediately invade Iran, just in case they were behind it. No, sorry, he said, “Now’s not the time to do the debate until we’re absolutely certain about what happened and after we help people get over their grieving.” Because Bush never rushes into any decision until he’s absolutely certain about the facts.

Sad-monkey face

Shocked and saddened

McCain on the Virginia Tech shootings: “Obviously we have to keep guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens.” Oh, obviously. It is the very quintessence of obviousness, the Platonic ideal of obviousticity.

Hillary Clinton also made a statement, but I tuned it out after “As a parent...”

The key words of the day seem to be shock and sad. George Bush, who once excitedly unleashed what he called shock and awe on Iraq, says the whole nation (the US, not Iraq) is shocked and saddened. Queen Elizabeth is not inconsiderably shocked and saddened. Personally, I can’t say I’m particularly shocked. Indeed, anyone who can be shocked by someone in America getting hold of a firearm and shooting a bunch of random strangers simply hasn’t been paying attention.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I haven’t analyzed the peanut storage issue

On Face the Nation yesterday, Dick Cheney described the meeting on the Iraq spending bill to which Bush summoned Congressional leaders as a “heart to heart.” Then he licked his lips and said, “Mmm, hearts.” Dick Cheney is an intensely creepy man, is what I’m saying.

Cheney said he’s “willing to bet” that Dems will back down and pass a “clean” bill once they’ve “gone through the exercise and it’s clear the President will veto the provisions that they want in”.

He explained the “last throes” comment: “Well, partly we have to respond to questions from the press, and we do the best we can with what we know at the time.” Also, he will be proven right “in the broad sweep of history.”

He denied that he or Bush have become isolated, although he chose to term his denial in entirely non-political terms: “I spend as much time as I can, get out and do other things -- at home in Wyoming, or yesterday I managed to go shopping with my daughter for a birthday present for granddaughters.” See? Not isolated at all.

Bush gave yet another little speech today demanding that Congress give him his war money, backed yet again by the families of living and dead soldiers (or as he put it, “the families of those whose loved one has given their life to the country”) and by leaders of organizations that give support to military families, which he thanked for “your tireless work to send a clear signal that many in the United States of America support our troops.” Beyond the none-too-subtle implication that there are certain others who don’t support the troops, those organizations don’t work to send a signal of support, they work to do actual support. Some people, George, do things in order to do things, not in order to send signals.

He said of the family members, “They have come here to Washington with a message for their elected leaders in our nation’s capital: Our troops need the resources, equipment and weapons to fight our enemies.” Funny how the only family members or survivors of military personnel that he ever sees are the ones who agree with his policies. I’d like to know more about the process by which these people are chosen. Bush said of them, “The families gathered here understand that we are a nation at war.” They know this because they have email. “Families here know what our troops are seeing and hearing on the ground, they get instant feedback as a result of modern technologies.” Instant feedback. Oy.

He told us what else his props guests understood: “The families gathered here understand that our troops want to finish the job. ... Families gathered here understand that America is not going to be safe until the terrorist threat has been defeated.”

Are you my new daddy?

On Wednesday, he reminded us, he will meet with Congressional leaders. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to talk out our differences.” Funny, because the White House has said rather pointedly that this will not be a negotiation, and Bush has said, “At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk.” Just doesn’t sound like talking out differences to me. Neither does this: “I hope the Democratic leadership will drop their unreasonable demands for a precipitous withdrawal.” But it’s not like he’s completely inflexible: “I am willing to discuss any way forward that does not hamstring our troops, set an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and spend billions on projects not related to the war.”

And speaking of unreasonable Democratic demands, again with the fucking peanuts: “And the idea of putting, you know, peanut storage -- which may be necessary at some point in time; I don’t know, I haven’t analyzed the peanut storage issue, but I do know it doesn’t have much to do with about making sure your loved ones get what’s needed to do their job.” Unless the insurgents all have peanut allergies...

And remember, “If we do not defeat the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they won’t leave us alone -- they will follow us to the United States of America.” Possibly by following the smell of peanuts.