Thursday, May 31, 2007


It’s always nice to have the moral high-ground, isn’t it? Condi Rice was asked by a reporter about the possibility of exchanging Haleh Esfandiari and the other Iranian-Americans arrested by Iran for the 5 Iranians seized in Iraq in January. She said, “the two are simply not linked,” calling the arrests of the former “a perversion of the rule of law.” Whereas the latter, of course, have been held according to no rule or law, so there can hardly be a perversion of the rule of law, now can there?

Some testimony from the Haditha Massacre hearings was just released. Lt. Alexander Martin looked on the bright side: after the massacre, he said, Haditha residents became more cooperative, offering tips about IEDs. That’ll happen when you slaughter 24 innocent civilians in response to an IED. And Lt. Max Frank testified that when he arrived on the scene, he thought it was “unfortunate” but hadn’t been done on purpose. He was told by Lt. Adam Mathes, who we have seen before talking about the enemy’s disregard for human life, wanted the Marines not to issue an apology, arguing that “the best way to explain this to the Iraqi people” would be to tell them, “It’s an unfortunate thing that happens when you let terrorists use your house to attack our troops.” Let’s make this very plain: he wanted to tell Iraqis that what happened in Haditha, a lethal mass reprisal against civilians in response to an attack on American soldiers, is American policy.

We are determined to benchmarks

Bush and Iraqi President Talabani met this afternoon, and exchanged remarks in their common language, broken English.

Talabani agreed with everything Bush said, including that the main problem in Iraq is Al Qaida. Also, those benchmark things. Bush: “I told the President that I’m fully committed to helping the Iraqi government achieve important objectives, we call them benchmarks”. Talabani: “we are determined to benchmarks”.

You’d talk funny too if these guys were watching you while you spoke.

This morning, Bush spoke to the United States Global Leadership Council, whatever that might be, about helping the poor people of the world by bringing them into the joys of globalized capitalism. “If you’re interested in helping the poor people, you ought to be for trade and opening up markets for their goods and services.” He gave as an example of such a success story a Malagasy village which used to make charcoal out of firewood, presumably for the heating and cooking needs of other poor villagers, but is now selling something the world economy values so much more, “a natural oil used in skin care products.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “We’re focusing increased American assistance for developing nations on three key goals -- in other words, we have some goals, we’re not just going to spend money.



Which is more disturbing?
Elmo in a three-way with Jenna and Not-Jenna?
George exercising a little "global leadership" of his own? free polls

It means you trust you

Crime of the week: “A manager at a fast-food restaurant was shot several times in the arm early Tuesday trying to protect the chili sauce, authorities said.”

Headline of the week: “Italian Doctor Builds New, More Natural Vagina.” (If you build it, they will come.) (Sorry.)

The Malaysian supreme court ruled that, despite a theoretical freedom of religion in the constitution, a woman who converted to Christianity (and renamed herself Lina Joy) is still legally a Muslim whether she likes it or not. Said one of the court’s judges, “She cannot simply, at her own whim [the BBC translation is “at whim and fancy”], enter or leave her religion. She must follow rules.” Which would require her to get a sharia court to issue a certificate of apostasy.

By the way, I so want a certificate of apostasy.

The little detail left out of many of the news stories about this case (which make it sound as if the only issue is how she is identified on her identity card) is that the reason Ms. Joy set out on her seven-year journey through the Malaysian legal system (some of which she had to spend in hiding) because she wanted to marry a fellow Catholic, and “Muslims” are only allowed to marry Muslims.

The Taliban shot down their first foreign helicopter in a couple of years today, killing 5 American military personnel and two non-American passengers.

Bush spoke to a reception of the New Joisey Republican Committee tonight. He said, “I believe you win elections by telling the people what you believe, not necessarily what they want to hear.” So he told them that he believes in tax cuts: “If you believe in cutting taxes, it means you trust you to spend your money better than the government can.”

He believes you have to kill terrorists: “Oh, I know there’s a big debate about how to deal with these folks. I will just tell you my view. You can’t ration [sic] with them. You can’t compromise with them.”

On Iraq: “I had to choose between allowing the sectarian violence that was beginning to get out of hand to continue to foster...” Or even adopt. “I believe that if we allowed the sectarian violence to rage in that young democracy, it could create chaos”. Ya think? “And a knowing enemy realized there was being progress -- progress was being made, and they want to stop it.”

This was Bush before the speech:

This was him after the speech, possibly auditioning for the part of Billy Flynn in a revival of “Chicago.”

And where were the Bush women? Er...

Jenna and Elmo are color-coordinated. Also, if she drinks just one more cosmo, he is so getting lucky tickled tonight.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

And if you can see progress in war that means you’re headed in the right direction

Joe Lieberman is in Iraq, nattily attired.

He told (video) a reporter, “Overall, I would say what I see here today is progress, significant progress from the last time I was here in December. And if you can see progress in war that means you’re headed in the right direction.” She chose to ask him about the high number of American troops deaths (which he says are “high this month,” as if it’s a momentary blip and they were not high last month and the month before that, and says are because the military is “out in the city and other cities but particularly in the capital city, and we’re having a positive effect”), so she didn’t ask him what form this significant progress that he claims to have seen takes. In the past, for example, he has declared satellite dishes proof of progress.

Another Republican candidate for president and what’re the odds it would be another rich white guy? Really, what’re the odds? I speak of course of Fred Thompson, the poor man’s Joe Don Baker.

Bush has named Robert Zoellick to run the World Bank. In his announcement, Bush praised capitalism: “Some call this globalization; I call it the triumph of human liberty”. But, Bush notes, there are a billion people in the world living on less than $1 a day. Zoellick, he says, is “committed to doing something about it.” Translate it into Italian lire, for example. Bush thinks all that poverty is because there isn’t enough globalization triumph of human liberty, not enough domination of local economies by multi-national corporations.

Bush followed up with a five-year plan for AIDS, a “modern-day plague.” You know the word modern is meant to compare it to biblical plagues rather than, say, medieval ones. In fact, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to count how the number of biblical allusions in Bush’s announcement. “Despairing families who had lost everything to AIDS started to believe that they had been cursed by the Almighty God,” he said. But that was before George Bush’s AIDS initiative, of course. “Once again, the generosity of the American people is one of the great untold stories of our time.” Evidently, an HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence in Africa. Anyway, he wants Congress to approve $6 billion a year for the next five years. This money would be spent through a program that requires that 7% be wasted on abstinence propaganda. Bush said that Laura will be going to Africa soon. “I really thank her for her concern about HIV/AIDS. She and I share a passion.” Dude, forget spending money on abstinence, just tell them about how you and Laura share a passion. That’ll put them right off the whole idea of sex.

Then he played with a four-year old South African boy (I don’t think he has HIV, but his mother does).

Baron Misoma Loyiso Tantoh tries to teach Chimpy how to walk.

“No, George, your other right leg.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Our collateral damage allowance is zero

Chavez gave another of those speeches which every broadcaster was required to transmit, in which he offered a little media criticism to the last remaining opposition network, or as he called them, “enemies of the homeland”: “I recommend they take a tranquiliser, that they slow down, because if not, I’m going to slow them down.” Globovision covered the protests against the closing of RCTV or, as Chavez is calling them, “this new fascist attack.” In its first day, the state-run TVES which replaced RCTV evidently aired an anti-capitalist Pinocchio cartoon. The mind boggles.

Saw a bit of TVES on YouTube, though not the Pinocchio bit. Those Venezuelans do love to roll their R’s, don’t they?

Brig. Gen. Bill Hyatt, the highest US Air Force officer in Afghanistan, says that they really do try not to bomb too many civilians. “Our collateral damage allowance is zero.” He added, “If we’ve got bad guys but all of a sudden there’s a school next door and there are kids next door, we’re not going to bomb.” In my experience, schools don’t generally materialize all of a sudden next door. Possibly it’s an Afghan thing.

Also in Afghanistan, our Military Name of the Week, a Dutch NATO commander: Major General Ton van Loon. Oh, I’m sure his is a distinguished, even hallowed name in the Netherlands, but outside of it... well, just see if this sounds authoritative to you: “‘If you don’t have a comprehensive approach in Afghanistan, you will not make progress,’ van Loon said.”

Think about a system in which there’s tremendous document forgery

US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met with the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, and afterwards complained about Iranian interference in its neighbor: “Right now their actions are running at cross purposes to their stated policy.” And the US’s stated policy in Iraq is to create democracy, reconciliation and end terrorism, so what’s your point?

At the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia, Bush gave yet another speech about immigration reform, a plan without amnesty, without animosity, and without anemones, a plan which “makes it more likely we can enforce our border and, at the same time, uphold the great traditions of -- immigrant traditions of the United States of America.” Cleaning toilets is just one of those immigrant traditions.

He claimed again that the reduced number of arrests of illegal border-crossers proves that the border is better defended. As we know, he said the same thing when the number of arrests went up.

The current system isn’t working, he says. “Think about a system in which there’s tremendous document forgery.” Yeah, think about it. Are you thinking about it?

See if this argument sounds at all familiar: “And my answer to the skeptics is, give us a chance to fix the problems in a comprehensive way that enforces our border and treats people with decency and respect. Give us a chance to fix this problem. Don’t try to kill this bill before it gets moving. Give us a chance to make it easier for the folks who wear the uniform along our borders to do their job.” Yes, and David Petraeus will report back in September...

He asked, “Who wants to pay a coyote hundreds of dollars, or thousands of dollars, when you can walk across, and say, I’m going to have a temporary job here in this country, and here’s my tamper -- my tamper-resistant card?” That may be a rhetorical question. Or a riddle.

He said, “Oh, I’m sure you’ve heard some of the talk out there about people defining the bill. It’s clear they hadn’t read the bill. They’re speculating about what the bill says, and they’re trying to rile up people’s emotions.” George, of course, has read every page, every clause, every footnote.

“This bill is not an amnesty bill. If you want to scare the American people, what you say is, the bill is an amnesty bill. It’s not an amnesty bill. That’s empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our fellow citizens.” And if there’s one thing George Bush hates...

Indeed, to stay in the country, “illegal workers must admit they violated the law and pay a meaningful penalty, pass a strict background check, hold a job, maintain a clean record, and eventually earn English -- learn English. That’s how it works.” Earn... English... oh, just too damned easy. “If you want to be a citizen, you pay a fine, you touch base home to apply for a green card....” Wait, it’s Calvinball, isn’t it?

This Doesn’t End Here

RCTV indeed went off the air, replaced, literally, by songs of praise to Hugo Chavez. He is now going after Globovision for showing footage of the 1981 assassination attempt on the pope accompanied by the Ruben Blades song “Have Faith, This Doesn’t End Here.” Obviously, that incites assassination against Chavez (well, not that obvious: the Communications Ministry hired some “experts” to tell them that was the message being sent). Also, he’s accusing CNN of hostile intent, demonstrated by the order in which it showed several stories, so that a picture of Chavez was followed by one of an Al Qaida leader and one of demonstrations in China, in order to “associate the image of Chavez with that of violence and death.” Legal action will be taken against CNN and Globovision.

By the way, not renewing a license is one thing, but the government also seized RCTV equipment, transmitters and such, for the use by the state-run replacement station. I’m not sure how that’s legal.

Bush made a speech about Darfur this morning. “For too long,” he said, “the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder, and rape of innocent civilians.” Too long? What would the optimal time have been? “My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide.” They had to convince GeeDubya that “genocide” didn’t have anything to do with I Dream of Jeannie, but I think we can all applaud the difficult achievement of getting Chimpy to call anything by its rightful name. “The world,” he says, “has a responsibility to help put an end to it.” So he will totally, um, bar some Sudanese individuals and companies from the US financial system. Problem solved.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day: under attack and underestimated

Bush gave a Memorial Day speech at Arlington today. What a way to ruin a nice spring day. These speeches always piss me off, but today I’m thinking it’s a bit hypocritical to be pissed off only with Bush and not also just a little bit with the people who are taken in by his lies, even if they are dead war heroes, like Marine Sgt. Marc Golczynski, who Bush cited in his speech, who thought he was being a better father to his 8-year-old son Christian (“We are warriors, and as warriors have done before us we fight and sometimes die so our families do not have to”) by volunteering for a second tour in Iraq, where he was killed in March, than by helping him with his homework, giving him advice about girls (or whatever), cheering him at his high school graduation, etc. People like Bush told him he was, he believed it, and he was wrong. Also, while Bush twice quoted soldiers saying they were fighting so their children wouldn’t have to, we know that for Bush withdrawing from Iraq before Christian Golczynski reaches military age is just an artificial timetable.

Bush said, “As before in our history, Americans find ourselves under attack and underestimated. Our enemies long for our retreat. They question our moral purpose. They doubt our strength of will.” The sentence about questioning our moral purpose is kind of snuck in there, as one of the ways in which we are mis-under attack and misunderestimated: they simply don’t understand and don’t acknowledge that we are morally superior to them, and the sooner they get it through their thick skulls, the better.

As in all Bush Memorial Day speeches, he insisted that the best way to honor his war dead is to make more of them: “Our duty is to ensure that its outcome justifies the sacrifices made by those who fought and died in it.”

Then all that remained was to look all squinty and somber-like and not at all like he had anything to feel guilty or ashamed about.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tell me exactly what they feel angry about

John McCain says there is no Plan B for Iraq, which is okay because “I believe that General Eisenhower didn’t have a Plan B at Normandy, and I don’t think that General Grant had a Plan B when he decided to take Richmond,” adding, “or General Custer at Little Bighorn, or my uncle Elmer when he stuck that fork in a toaster (poor Uncle Elmer) or...”

Right-wing tv station RCTV will be pulled from the air in Venezuela as of midnight after 54 years on the air, as Hugo Chavez had announced taunted. Chavez explained that this wasn’t about ensuring that no other voice than his is heard, in a speech yesterday that was, er, carried compulsorily by every tv station: “That television station became a threat to the country, so I decided not to renew the licence because it’s my responsibility.” So that’s okay then.

Tony Blair, in an op-ed piece in the Sunday Times, also finds a grave threat to his country: an outdated attachment to liberty. “We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong. ... Over the past five or six years, we have decided as a country that except in the most limited of ways, the threat to our public safety does not justify changing radically the legal basis on which we confront this extremism.” He also blames Parliament and the courts, but clearly it is the failure of the British people themselves, “as a society” and “as a country,” to prioritize security over what he calls “traditional civil liberties” that he finds most galling. They must be a great disappointment to him.

Blair blames the courts for not allowing him to deport foreign nationals “who were either engaged in or inciting extremism.” Note the intentional vagueness of the term extremism: does he mean people who take extreme actions or who hold extreme ideas? In fact, only people who still believe in those quaint traditional civil liberties continue to make such distinctions. Tony certainly doesn’t.

While he is also willing to put British extremists under surveillance and order limits on their activities, he finds foreigners especially dangerous because of “the ideas they import from abroad.” Blair would like to deport any Johnny Foreigner who “imports” ideas no matter the risk of torture or murder he faces: “if he... abuses our hospitality and threatens us, I feel he should take his chance back in his own home country.”

Tony then tells a story of being stopped by some anonymous muddle-headed type who blamed terrorism on the invasion and occupation of Muslim countries. Blair responded, “tell me exactly what they feel angry about.” After all, “we” removed two brutal dictatorships and replaced them with democracies. “And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims. What’s more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us?” Yup, it’s a complete fucking mystery all right, Tony.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Blind, prideful hatred

To kick off Memorial Day weekend, Bush went to the naval hospital in Bethesda yesterday to visit Marines injured in Iraq. This is Corp. Ryan Dion, who played soccer in high school.

This is Priv. Arturo Weber (football, decathlon), 20, shot in the abdomen and hand, requiring several operations. Chimpy seems to think he’s at a Quincinera or something.

And today, Cheney spoke to the West Point commencement. He told them, “As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for. Capture one of these killers, and he’ll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States.” And he won’t get them. Your point, Mr. Vice President?

He explained why the graduates will soon be enjoying the pleasures of an Iraqi summer: “America is fighting this enemy in Iraq because that is where they have gathered.” Gosh, I think there may be something faulty about that logic, but I just can’t put my finger on it...

Cheney explained that “to prevail in the long run, we must remove the conditions that inspire such blind, prideful hatred that drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us on 9/11.” Dude, you’re against blind, prideful hatred now? You’re the guy who’s kept going only by blind, prideful hatred, the blood of newborn infants, and occasionally shooting somebody in the face.

Oh, if you’re wondering, the conditions that inspired that BPH against the US were evidently that we weren’t intervening militarily in the Middle East enough.

He said, “The war on terror does not have to be an endless war.” That prospect probably explains the dour expression on his face.

He told the graduates: “I give you this assurance on behalf of the President: you soldier for him, and he will soldier for you.” Unless there’s a game on, or some brush that needs clearing, of course.

Friday, May 25, 2007

John “The Maverik” McCain: hak politician

The McCain campaign (McCampaign?) has sent a flurry of emails today, including today’s “Fun Facts about John McCain”: 1) His wife likes NASCAR. 2) “At the Naval Academy, Sen. McCain earned the nickname ‘John Wayne McCain’ due to his fun-loving reputation.”

But mostly, McCain engaged in a war of words against Clinton and Obama, who “embrace[d] the policy of surrender by voting against funds to support our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it’s the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda.”

Obama responded, saying that the policy in Iraq is not working, “And if there ever was a reflection of that it’s the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago.”

McCain shot back with devastating accuracy, saying that he knew lots more about military shit than Obama, because he talks to generals and was in a war and stuff, and “By the way, Senator Obama, it’s a ‘flak’ jacket, not a ‘flack’ jacket.”

This blog will be open for business over the Memorial Day weekend, assuming there’s anything to blog about, but many won’t. Some of you (and you know who you are) are no doubt terrified by the prospect that this dearth of online material will force you to shut off your computers and go outside. As a public service, may I suggest some alternative online activities: 1) porn, 2) animation produced by the National Film Board of Canada. To celebrate its 300th anniversary, or something, the NFB put 50 animated short films online. I’ve watched most of them, and here are my picks (or, as Senator McCain would put it, piks):
Afterlife: very pretty; trippy, but in a good way.

Black Soul: black history in 10 minutes, with a heavy emphasis on slavery. High-minded but so damned gorgeous I’d have enjoyed it even if its message were pro-slavery.

Blackfly: a fun tribute to a Canadian cultural phenomenon: flies.

Ex-Child: a film about war and child-soldiers (it’s against them), it would no doubt be dreary but for the interesting pinscreen technique.

Mindscape: more pinscreen.

The Big Snit: hilarious.

The Street: a Mordecai Richler short story about a boy waiting for his grandmother to die. Good watercolor work, goes well with the story.

A word to the sparrow

When George Bush gives a press conference, it’s my job to crap on him, thank you very much.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bush press conference: I’m credible because I read the intelligence

It was such a nice day, Bush decided to hold today’s press conference outside.

About Iranian arrests of Iranian-American citizens: “Secondly, obviously, to the extent that these people are picking up innocent Americans is unacceptable. And we’ve made it very clear to the Iranian government that the detention of good, decent American souls who are there to be beneficial citizens is not acceptable behavior.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “This investigation [the US attorneys scandal] is taking a long time, kind of being drug out, I suspect for political question -- for political reasons. In other words, as I mentioned the other day, it’s just grand political theater.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “I spoke to Madam Wu Yi today... and also to ask her to pass on a message to Hu Jintao that I appreciate his willingness to work in a strategic -- with strategic dialogues in order to put in place the type of measures that reflect a complex relationship -- in other words, the ability to discuss issues such as beef, or intellectual property rights.”

ON CHINA: “And we’ve just got to work through the friction.” Ooo, kinky. “One area where I’ve been disappointed is beef.” Ooo, really kinky. “They need to be eating U.S. beef.” You’ve been talking to brother Neil. “It’s good for them. They’ll like it. And so we’re working hard to get that beef market opened up.” I’ll bet you are, I’ll bet you are.

He was asked again, if the results of leaving Iraq would be so catastrophic, would we really just leave if the Maliki regime told us to. Yes, yes we would. “We are there at their request.”

Asked why anyone still believes him about Iraq or Al Qaida: “I’m credible because I read the intelligence, David, and make it abundantly clear in plain terms that if we let up, we’ll be attacked. And I firmly believe that.” He’s credible because he reads. He reads credibly. It’s credible that he reads. Incredible!

Speaking of intelligence, as in insulting our intelligence, Bush once again pretended that Iraq is a straightforward US-Al Qaida war. “A lot of the spectaculars you’re seeing are caused by al Qaeda.” “These people attacked us before we were in Iraq. They viciously attacked us before we were in Iraq, and they’ve been attacking ever since. They are a threat to your children, David”. NBC’s David Gregory, I think, who should maybe phone home. I mean, Bush does read the intelligence. (Later he told a reporter named Jim that Al Qaida was also a threat to his children.)

Bush agreed with the premise of a question that all the talk about waiting for Petraeus’s report in September is setting up one of them there artificial deadlines which will stimulate violence: “It’s going to make -- it could make August a tough month, because you see, what they’re going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home. Don’t you find that interesting? I do”.

“Yesterday, in my speech, I quoted quotes from Osama bin Laden. And the reason I did was, is that I want the American people to hear what he has to say”.

“The Middle East looked nice and cozy for awhile. Everything looked fine on the surface, but beneath the surface, there was a lot of resentment, there was a lot of frustration, such that 19 kids got on airplanes and killed 3,000 Americans.” Boy, 19 “kids” can just ruin an entire region for everybody. Also, may I point out again: many of the 9/11 victims were not actually Americans.

About new reports that sectarian violence has been entirely unaffected by the “surge”: “certainly, there’s been an uptick in violence. It’s a snapshot, it’s a moment.”

Asked why Osama bin Laden is still, you know, at large (an especially important question right now since Bush is again talking as if bin Laden is an imminent threat rather than some irrelevant has-been): “And he’s hiding. He is in a remote region of the world. If I knew precisely where he is, we would take the appropriate action to bring him to justice.” Pressed further, Bush explained, “Why is he at large? Because we haven’t got him yet, Jim. That’s why.” Well, you can’t fault the logic. But there’s good news: “He’s not out there traipsing around, he’s not leading many parades, however. He’s not out feeding the hungry. He’s isolated, trying to kill people to achieve his objective.” I feel safer knowing that he’s not traipsing.

A struggle that will outlast all of us

Condi and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer visited Camp Pendleton yesterday, where she told the troops that they might “wonder if we are having the success that we should be having” and then, I guess, told them no: “It’s going to be a struggle that will outlast all of us.” (I’d like more context on this, but I can’t find a transcript at the famously unhelpful State Department website.)

Condi and Downer (that just sounds funny) watched Iraq-bound Marines training in a mock city (which I presume to mean a fake Iraqi city, as opposed to a city that mocks you, like Paris). Downer spouted afterwards about the Marines’ “sensitivity to human rights,” adding “I was impressed with their compassion.” Evidently no one explained to him that he was in California, not Iraq, that the exercise wasn’t real and that the “civilians” the Marines showed such sensitivity and compassion to were in fact actors.

Condi was also interviewed by Fox. She said about the Middle East: “a lot of the responsible parties in the region are beginning to see that their great threat comes from extremism, not from the Israel-Palestinian conflict.” Well, that’s okay, then.

Alert reader Josh Narins emailed me the one war metric that actually works: the more Bush appointees mention 9/11, the worse the war is going.

Pentagon press release: “The undersecretary of defense for intelligence will also now serve as the director of defense intelligence.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dangerous winds are swirling

Today Bush gave the commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy. Evidently the graduates “learned to brace up, do orderlies, square meals, and eat ‘hamsters’ with your ‘eyes in the boat.’” Those may or may not be euphemisms. Except for the thing about doing orderlies. They totally did orderlies.

Here, by the way, is Bush before he left for the Academy.

Much of the speech was devoted to the claim that the war in Iraq is really all about fighting Al Qaida, including dark intimations about Abu Faraj al-Libi, an Al Qaida guy who they captured two years ago, dumped in Guantanamo and never mentioned publicly before this week but are now claiming proves that Iraq is really all about Al Qaida and that this proves that if we leave Iraq, the enemy will follow us home.

He said, “As we carry out the new strategy, the Iraqi government has a lot of work to do. They must meet its responsibility to the Iraqi people and achieve benchmarks it has set”. Wouldn’t you think that after 6 years as the head of a government, he’d know if government is a “they” or an “it”?

He warned against complaisance about terrorism, cleverly appealing to his audience by using meteorological terms. Coasties are totally into weather. “The danger has not passed. Here in America, we’re living in the eye of a storm. All around us, dangerous winds are swirling, and these winds could reach our shores at any moment.” Insert your own Katrina reference here. And while you’re at it, caption these pictures for me and make me some lunch. I’m feeling cranky and I’m going to go lie down now.

A good step forward for democracy

Congressional Democrats have caved in on the Iraq spending bill. Contain your astonishment. If Kerry voted for it before he voted against it, Dems in Congress voted for it before they voted for it before they voted for it before they voted for it before they voted for it before they voted for it before they voted for it....

The US has called the abolition of term limits for Kazakhstan’s “President” Nursultan Nazarbayev a “good step forward for democracy in Kazakhstan.” Hurrah! Okay, actually the US is trying to ignore that part and focus on some other rather minor amendments to the constitution, such as giving the rubber-stamp parliament some voice in the naming of the powerless prime minister. Anyway, says the US ambassador, just because there are no longer term limits, it is “very speculative” to suggest that that means Nazarbayev will be president-for-life, just because he’s fixed every election he’s ever held. At the daily State Dept briefing, Scott McCormack also claimed there were “a whole host” of reforms that indicated Kazakhstan was moving “in the right direction.” He was unable to name any of them.

Military Jargon Watch: the latest term for the bad guys in Iraq: “abusive sectarian actors.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

20 months is a long time during this presidency

More stupid Hollywood remake ideas, just green-lit: Barbarella, The Long Good Friday.

I’ve been reading Paula Poundstone’s book There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say (Quickie review: if you like her stand-up, you’ll like the book; if you don’t, there’s no accounting for tastes). She suggests that Kansas, which had just put “intelligent design” into science classes, should actually abolish the study of science and instead tie up each student in a burlap sack and throw them into a pool. The students God thinks are really good science students will float and get an A... Intelligent flotationism, she calls it.

Bush gave a not hugely interesting interview to Reuters aboard Air Force One today.

On Iraq, Bush reached out in that very special way of his: “There is a way forward, there’s a compromise to be had. My hope is that the Democrat leader sees it.” Yes, clearly the problem with everybody who is not George Bush is that they are stubborn and unwilling to compromise.

On immigration, he twice said the issue was “emotional,” which I believe is a word he reserves for Republicans who disagree with him. He also said he’d “ask people to actually look at it before they opine; study the bill.” How many of those thousand pages have you read, George?

Interviewer Steve Holland asked about some, presumably Democratic, presidential candidates who are “trying to convince people that there really isn’t a war on terrorism”. Bush: “If that person -- if the people who say we’re not having any war on terror ever gets elected, they’ll sit in the office, the Oval Office, and realize we are in a war on terror. They’ll realize there are people that are out plotting and planning. They’ll see the complexities of taking on this enemy. I think that we’re in for a long ideological struggle.”

On Putin, “I’m still close to him, personally. ... He thinks that they’ve got a democracy emerging there in Russia. Obviously, there’s a lot of suspicion about that, and I look forward to continuing to talk to him as to why he thinks his country is on the path to democracy. It looks like at times it’s not, to me. ... It looks like some of the decisions he has made aren’t leading the country to democracy. He, on the other hand, says it’s a special kind of democracy that we in the West don’t understand, and therefore I’d be willing to listen more about why he thinks that what he’s doing is democratic in nature.”

“I have been a President during a war,” he said.

Asked what his legacy will be, he said, “Whatever it is, I’m not going to be around to see it.” Since he’s pretty healthy and his father is still jumping out of airplanes, I assume he means not so much that he won’t be around as he won’t see it, in that he won’t be paying any attention, and it’s not like he has that clear an understanding of what his effect on the world is right now.

But he has aspirations for the legacy thing: “I hope it is that George Bush fought the war, he laid out a strategy for America and her allies to ultimately defeat these ideologues; he recognized the nature of the enemy, he spoke clearly [!] about the nature of the enemy; he went on the offense in order to protect his own country; he put in place a variety of measures to help deal with this threat, and he had great faith in the capacity of liberty to ultimately conquer this ideology.”

Asked his top successes and failures, Bush said “I’m not through being President yet” and added the most devastatingly truthful words he has ever spoken: “20 months is a long time during this presidency.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Embracing reconciliation

General David Petraeus issued an open letter (pdf) last week to the Iraqi people. Kneel before me, he said, or I will crush you like worms. Okay he didn’t, and I’ll bet you all guessed that because of the tip-off: you don’t crush worms so much as smoosh them, and as a military commander Petraeus knows which things you crush and which things you smoosh because they teach you that in your first week at military commander school. No, he politely requested that the Iraqis “take an active role in the rebirth of your nation. Choose to reject violence and the sectarianism that fuels it.” I’d be interested in an elaboration of what he means by “sectarianism” and what rejecting it would entail. This is how he seems to define taking an active role in the rebirth of Iraq: “Deny the enemy shelter, report any information you may have regarding his whereabouts, and be proud of and support your nation’s security forces.” He also suggests, twice, that they “embrace reconciliation.” This all may be perfectly sensible advice, I’m just wondering if the head of an army of occupation is really the person to be lecturing on the virtues of rejecting violence and embracing reconciliation.

Speaking of rejecting violence and embracing reconciliation, George Bush held a press conference this morning with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at his ranch in Crawford.

See, that’s why Bush clears all that brush, so that he can hold press conferences in the middle of a field unencumbered by brush.

Bush said the two of them talked about Afghanistan and missile defense and they “had a lovely dinner.”

Hoopty Hoop said that while NATO kills scads of civilians in Afghanistan, “we are not in the same moral category” as the Taleban. So that’s okay then. Bush added that there are civilian deaths in Afghanistan because the Taliban “don’t mind using human shields because they devalue human life.”

Speaking of human shields, Bush said that Alberto Gonzales “has done nothing wrong” and calls the upcoming vote of no confidence in him “political theater,” and in fact “it is this kind of political theater that has caused the American people to lose confidence in how Washington operates.” Everyone’s a critic.

The scary thing is Bubble Boy may actually believe that Congress censuring Gonzales creates more disaffection than, say, Gonzales.

Asked about Jimmy Carter’s criticism of his administration as the worst ever for America’s relations with the world, Bush said, “We’re at war with an enemy that is relentless and determined” and “we must go on the offense against radicals, extremists, murderers in order to protect not only ourselves, but our allies.” So he’s going to hunt down Jimmy Carter. Given that Osama’s still out there, I like Carter’s odds.


Iraqi President Talabani has arrived at the US for a three-week trip and entered the Mayo Clinic. He claims he’s just there to lose some weight. If I were Iraqi, I’d feel insulted that more time wasn’t spent on developing a better transparent lie.

As last week’s R debate showed, we’re going to hear many more cries of “9/11! 9/11!” from presidential candidates this election cycle. I wonder how much purchase it will still have in 2012, 2016, 2020...

The immigration bill sucks, of course, in many, many ways. Since it is a comprehensive immigration bill, it sucks comprehensively. Indeed, much of it (the two-year-on, one-year-off temporary work provision, going back to one’s country of origin to apply for American citizenship, the border-security bits having to be completed before anything else) seems purposely designed to fail. Or to be so punitive as to offer no incentives for current illegal immigrants to leave the legal shadows. Few coyotes will be put out of work by this bill. It will be interesting to see if any congresscritter publicly criticizes the failure of the provisions for bringing in family members to acknowledge the existence of homosexual immigrants. And I’m curious if the bill really, as Bush said Saturday, “affirms that English is the language of the United States.”

But my question is, how did this Republican issue become such a priority that the Democratic Congress seems likely to pass some version of this turd? Why are they wasting time on it at all, when there are so many issues that need attention and on which positive progress could be made?

Caption contest:

Sunday, May 20, 2007


The NYT has another of those articles about the rising death toll among “contractors” in Iraq that fail even to ask how many Iraqis those contractors are killing, exempt from the jurisdiction of any legal system.

Was it my imagination, or did Tom DeLay, on the Colbert Report Thursday, really cite Terri Schiavo as one of the great Republican successes that the party should have been playing up during the 2006 elections?

Unlike Prince Harry, Tony Blair is making a “surprise” visit to Iraq (some men are born to irrelevance, some achieve irrelevance...) He complained about the press paying too much attention to bad stuff and not enough to good stuff, and he told the British troops, “If we don’t sort this region out then there is, in my view, a very troubled and difficult future for the world ahead of us.” Because no troubled and difficult future has ever come out of some Western imperialist deciding to take up the white man’s burden and “sort this region out.”

Saturday, May 19, 2007


In an email from the McCain campaign, more “Fun Facts about John McCain”: One of John McCain’s favorite hobbies is barbequing. His seasoning of choice is Hog’s Breath - a dry mix of salt, pepper, garlic and paprika - and he once joked that as president, he’d replace President Clinton’s putting green at the White House with a grill.

As they say in Al Qaida, it’s the fucking paper work that’ll kill ya. Alert reader Scott points out that one of the key pieces of, you should pardon the term, evidence against Jose Padilla is an application form he supposedly partly filled out in 2000 to attend an Al Qaida training camp, which was captured in 2001 but not fingerprint tested until 2006, and which certainly doesn’t have his fingerprints on it only because his interrogators handed it to him some time in that long period, possibly after they realized that they needed to manufacture some sort of case against him when all the earlier wild accusations against him (dirty bomber etc) had turned out to be unprovable or just plain silly.

But the real question here is... a five-page application form? What do you suppose they ask?
Where do you see yourself in five years? In Paradise surrounded by 72 virgins. Or possibly in marketing.

My biggest fault is that sometimes I love Allah and hate America too much.
Anyone else have any suggestions?

Friday, May 18, 2007

What is pure democracy?

Guardian headline: “Colombian Warlord Says US Firms Paid Death Squads for Bananas.”

Russia detained loads of anti-Putin and/or democracy activists, raided newspapers, and prevented reporters as well as demonstrators reaching a Russia-EU summit meeting. Said Putin, “What is pure democracy? It is a question of ... whether you want to see the glass half-full or half empty.” Yes, Vlad is a gulag half-full kind of guy.

Speaking of pure democracy, Kazakhstan’s parliament amends the constitution to eliminate term limits for “President” Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in power since Soviet times. Just for him. His successors after he dies or, ha ha, voluntarily gives up office, will again be restricted to two 7-year terms. (Correction: two 5-year terms.)

Who even knew that North Korea had a prime minister? Well, last month North Korean prime minister Pak Pong Ju was fired. His new job: manager of a chemical plant.

Random Friday Bush pictures (the wounded soldiers are from Walter Reed, wheeled over to the White House presumably so Bush can be pictured waving disinterestedly at them).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

George Bush meets one of the most diverse institutions in American life

Bush took part today in a Joint ROTC Commissioning Ceremony. He commissioned some joints. Or something. He complained about universities that do not have ROTC programs, putting it in terms he seemed to think should shame and embarrass those beatnik commie hippies: “But surely the concept of diversity is large enough to embrace one of the most diverse institutions in American life.” He added, “But none a’ you is queers, right?”

He asked them to bring honor to their uniforms. He asked them to set high standards for themselves. And he gave this advice: “Do not ask of those under your command anything that you would not ask of yourselves.” He then ordered them to get their daddies to pull strings to make sure they never face enemy fire, bum around Texas bars for a while, then blow off the last year of their commitments.

We filled a lot of space together

Bush and Blair held their very last joint press conference today. So sad.

Bush on Blair: “And it dawned on me, once again, what a clear strategic thinker he is.” “I do congratulate the Prime Minister for being a -- when he gets on a subject, it’s dogged.” “I appreciated Tony’s willingness to interface with our people there” (military commanders in Iraq). “There’s a lot of blowhards in the political process, you know, a lot of hot-air artists, people who have got something fancy to say. Tony Blair is somebody who actually follows through with his convictions, and therefore, is admired in the international community.” “I have enjoyed working with Tony Blair more than I could have possibly imagined.”

Blair on Bush: “You’ve been unyielding and unflinching, and determined in the fight that we face together.” Yeah, that’s the fucking problem.

Bush on the Middle East: “We understand the fright that can come when you’re worried about a rocket landing on top of your home.”

I’ve noticed before that when these two get together, Blair often starts picking up Bush’s speech patterns or phrases, like it’s viral. In other words, like it’s a virus. (Joke. I’m okay, really.) Today the virus was “of course”:

Bush: “We talked about, of course, Iraq. ... We talked about, of course, Africa. We spent a lot of time talking about Africa. ... Can I work with the next guy? Of course... And we talked, of course, about climate change.”

Blair: “And we discussed, of course, the Middle East... And of course, also, we talked about the upcoming G8... Again, in respect of Afghanistan, where American troops, and of course, British troops ... of course I wish [Gordon Brown] well... And then, of course, there are various domestic issues, too, as well. ... And the fact is, the decisions are difficult; of course they’re difficult.” Etcetera.

Incidentally, “Africa” has become one of those place names that stand for something else, like Vietnam or Hiroshima or Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Blair, for instance, spoke of “the cause that is Africa” and said that the G8 would have discussions “over the issue of Africa.”

Bush on Gordon Brown: “I met him, thought he was a good fellow. ... I hope to help him in office the way Tony Blair helped me.” BREAKING NEWS: BUSH TO BE BROWN’S POODLE.

Brown will not be comforted that Bush also made this character analysis: “I admire Paul Wolfowitz. I admire his heart.”

Asked about the news that Gonzales and Card pressured former Attorney General Ashcroft in his hospital bed after surgery to sign off on a wiretapping program they knew he considered illegal, Bush pretended that the question was about the warrantless surveillance program, defended it at length, and talked instead about the importance of spying on people: “Kelly, there’s a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn’t happen; I’m not going to talk about it. It’s a very sensitive program. .... And so there will be all kinds of talk about it. As I say, I’m not going to move the issue forward by talking about something as highly sensitive -- highly classified subject. I will tell you, however, that the program is necessary.”

He added, “No matter how calm it may seem here in America, an enemy lurks. And they would like to strike.” Although they do kind of enjoy the lurking too. “They would like to do harm to the American people because they have an agenda.”

Finally, Bush described the Bush-Blair relationship: “And so I -- we filled a lot of space together.”

(Update: One more picture. Just because.)