Saturday, June 30, 2007

Teach a moron to fish...

The Polish Ministry of Health has established a committee to “cure” homosexuals.

Civilians killed by the US in Afghanistan, civilians killed by the US in Iraq, and a series of failed terrorist attacks in Britain. So many things that I don’t feel like writing about. So let’s have some more pictures of The Bushes Go Fishing, Day 2, and then another old New York Magazine competition.

Today, Not-Jenna went along, wearing her fishing/cocktail dress. Shrub wore a jacket with the number 43 and a cap with a picture of his dog. Bush the Elder wore salmon-colored pants about which the less said the better. Not-Jenna caught one fish, George caught one fish and, in preparation for Putin’s arrival tomorrow, looked into its eyes and read its soul.

New York comp, 8/17/92, Famous First Words.

“Le Tot C’est Moi” – Louis XIV

“Dada” – Marcel Duchamp

“Birth, nascency, nativity...” Peter Mark Roget

“Is that a stethoscope in your pocket?” – Mae West

“The placenta is coming!
The placenta is coming!” – Paul Revere

“Booo!” – Stephen King

“Sum, ergo, cogito” - René Descartes

“Is this a rattle I see before me?” – Macbeth

“Mommy, I presume” – Henry Stanley

“I swam in water and it was warm and good” – Hemingway

The complete collection of NY comps here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Old Doofus and the Sea

John McCain denied yesterday that he was dropping out. “Why in the world would I want to do that? It would be nuts.” I think you just answered your own question, senator.

And look, in my inbox, there’s another email from the McCain McCampaign, with yet more “Fun Facts About John McCain.” Evidently, the McCains own a lot of pets, including 4 dogs, a cat, 2 turtles, a bunch of fish and... a ferret. Maybe he can bring the ferret to the next Republican debate and taunt Giuliani with it. Then he can tell Romney exactly what it’s like to be forced into a small cage and have to defecate on yourself. In fact, the next debate should be sponsored by PETA.

Speaking of dumb animals...

Democratic debate: Trying to get black men to understand it is not unmanly to wear a condom

There was a Democratic presidential debate tonight. I fell asleep. To show how different bloggers are from normal people, I woke up while Kucinich was speaking.

The debate was at Howard University, the questioners were black, and the camera kept focusing on Al Sharpton in the audience, nodding his head or looking very stern indeed.

I amused myself trying to decide who the whitest candidate is. I would have a poll, but I strongly suspect you people would all vote that it’s Obama. Mike Gravel may have lost some points by not being entirely au fait on the terminology, referring to “black African-Americans,” and for saying that the war on drugs “does nothing but savage our inner cities,” possibly not the best choice of verb. He’s from Alaska, you know.

On the other hand, in the HIV/AIDS segment, Bill Richardson talked about the need to “penetrate” minority communities. Biden said he spent last summer in the black sections of town trying to get black men to wear condoms. It’s nice he has a hobby. Also, he said that he and Barack have both been tested for AIDS and there’s no shame in that (Obama’s over-speedy insistence that he got tested with his wife, not with Biden, undercut that message, though he put on a big smile to prove that he was going along with a joke rather than exhibiting homosexual panic).

Kucinich said that Michael Moore is right about the need to get insurance companies out of medicine, which might get him some attention on Fox on any other week than the one when Paris Hilton got out of jail. He also called for a constitutional amendment for equality in educational opportunity. I have no idea how that would work, and I doubt he does either.

Others brought their shop-worn slogans along. Edwards tried to work race into his “two nations” thing, and Hillary reassured us that “I really believe that it takes a village to raise a child”.

About the time I was nodding off, I could swear I heard Joe Biden say that we could repeal Bush’s tax cuts for the rich because... “they didn’t ask for it,” and they’re patriots who wouldn’t mind. But that would be a supremely silly thing to say, so I probably just dreamed it. At least I didn’t dream about him trying to convince Barack Obama to wear a condom.

There will be many, many, many more debates, which is good because so many questions remain unanswered. What’s up with Edwards’ yellow wrist band? And Gravel’s pants? And will I ever mention Chris Dodd in one of these posts?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our military is undergoing through a lot of hard work and pressure

Today Bush went to the Naval War College in Rhode Island. He figured he might as well give it a try since he likes wars, though he doesn’t like colleges, and is pretty much neutral on navels (another thing he doesn’t much like, evidently, is Rhode Island; this is his first trip to the state as president). “The Naval War College,” he said, “is where the United States military does some of its finest thinking,” adding, “kind of like I do my finest thinking on the crapper.”

I may have made up that last part.

While sitting on the crapper.

Speaking of fine thinking: “Earlier this year, I laid out a new strategy for Iraq. I wasn’t pleased with what was taking place on the ground. I didn’t approve of what I was seeing. And so I called together our military and said, can we design a different strategy to succeed? And I accepted their recommendations. And this new strategy is different from the one were pursuing before.” So it’s different, is that what you’re saying?

He had maps and everything, just like Mitt Romney. “Let me begin with Anbar province. You can see here on the map, Anbar is a largely Sunni province that accounts for nearly a third of Iraqi territory. It’s a big place. ... It was al Qaeda’s chief base of operations in Iraq. Remember, when I mention al Qaeda, they’re the ones who attacked the United States of America and killed nearly 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001. They’re part of the enemy. They’re extremists and radicals who try to impose their view on the world.”

Yes, Bush really felt that he needed to explain, at the Naval War College, what Al Qaida is.

IN OTHER WORDS: “According to a captured document -- in other words, according to something that we captured from al Qaeda -- they had hoped to set up its -- a government in Anbar.”

Back to the maps: “To the north of Baghdad, our forces have surged into Diyala province. The primary focus is the provincial capital of Baqubah, which is just an hour’s car ride from Baghdad.” Even less if Mitt Romney is driving – that guy doesn’t stop for pee breaks. “There, masked gunmen enforce their brutal rule with prisons and torture chambers and punish crimes like smoking.”

Just like California, then.

“Extremists in many of these areas are being confronted by U.S. and Iraqi forces for the first time in three years. We can expect determined resistance. They don’t like to be confronted.”

Just like California, then.

Speaking of confrontational behaviour: “Last week our commanders reported the killing of two senior al Qaeda leaders north of Baghdad -- one who operated a cell that helped move foreign fighters into Iraq, and another who served as a courier for the same cell.”

Senior Al Qaida leader = courier.

Senior Al Qaida leader = guy who helped his friends move.

“In the mixed Shia-Sunni neighborhood of Rashid, our foot patrols discovered a wall with two Arabic sentences spray-painted on them. It’s just a small example. It certainly didn’t get any news, but it says, ‘Yes, yes to the new security plan. No difference between Shia and Sunni.’” It didn’t get any news because the left-wing media is biased against... well, possibly they didn’t want to take their lives in their hands to report on graffiti.

“[T]he Iraqis have got to be making tough decisions towards reconciliations.” What, the graffiti wasn’t enough?

“I speak to the Prime Minister and I speak to the Presidency Council quite often, and I remind them we expect the government to function, and to pass law. ... We expect there to be reconciliation. We expect them to pass law.” Hell, at this point we’d be happy if they passed gas.


“To evaluate how life is improving for the Iraqis, we cannot look at the country only from the top down. We need to go beyond the Green Zone and look at Iraq from bottom up.” You first, George.

Also, heh heh, he said bottom.


“We are also encouraged by the way Iraqis are responding to atrocities intended to inflame passions and provoke reprisals. In early 2006 -- things were going fine in 2005. ...”

Things were going... fine... in 2005.

WHAT DO WE WONDER, GEORGE? “Al Qaeda is responsible for the most sensational killings in Iraq. They’re responsible for the sensational killing on U.S. soil, and they’re responsible for the sensational killings in Iraq. Here at home, we see the bloody aftermath of a suicide bombing in an Iraqi market -- and we wonder what kind of people could do that. That’s what we wonder. We’re good-hearted people.”

By the way, that example would probably work a lot better if the US had never dropped bombs on Iraqi markets.

“And that’s their strategy. Al Qaeda’s strategy is to use human beings as bombs to create grisly images for the world to see. They understand that sensational images are the best way to overwhelm the quiet progress on the ground.” Yes, it’s the images that are the problem, not the, you know, reality. “They hope to gain by the television screen what they cannot gain on the battlefield... Our success in Iraq must not be measured by the enemy’s ability to get a car bombing into the evening news.” Bush’s secret weapon: Paris Hilton. “No matter how good the security, terrorists will always be able to explode a bomb on a crowded street.” Always?

Then, in the bit that will get the most coverage world-wide, he provided Iraq with a positive role model: “In places like Israel, terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in similar attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy that is not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that’s a good indicator of success that we’re looking for in Iraq: the rise of a government that can protect its people, deliver basic services for all its citizens, and function as a democracy even amid violence.” So our goal, after all these years of war, is a place just like Israel, only less Jewy?

DID YOU SAY... BEGINNING STAGES? “We’re involved in a broader war against these ideological killers. Iraq is just a theater in this war. ... The stakes are high in the beginning stages of this global war against ideologues that stand for the exact opposite of what America stands for.”

“It’s amazing how the Navy has been able to accomplish more with less. Perhaps that’s what you’ve been able to -- that’s less manpower, more mission, better use of equipment, the capacity to manage manpower better.” He makes it sound so... dirty.

THE LONGEST WORD BUSH HAS EVER HAD TO READ OFF A TELEPROMPTER: “Part of the strategic thought for our military is interoperability.”

The audience was invitation-only, so this was the toughest question:

Q: At the beginning of your speech -- that you said that you consult with the military. With all due respect, sir, how much do you really listen and follow them?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, a lot.

He added, “I talk to General Petraeus all the time. I say ‘all the time’ -- weekly; that’s all the time...” Really, you’re smothering me. “...on secure video from Baghdad. There’s a lot of discussions about troop positioning; what will our footprint look like.” That’s not a metaphor; Bush calls Petraeus up every week on secure video to talk about what his footprint looks like.

It looks like the bottom of a foot.

Possibly I spoke too soon earlier. Maybe this was the toughest question:

Q: I wanted to ask you about your thoughts concerning strategic culmination. Are we --

THE PRESIDENT: Strategic --

Q: Strategic culmination.

WHAT IS OUR MILITARY UNDERGOING THROUGH, GEORGE? “And I think people recognize that obviously -- you know, our military is undergoing through a lot of hard work and pressure.”

“Our foreign policy is much more than the use of the military. I know the focus is on the military; it’s, like, on TV everyday, I understand that.” The question was about hospital ships. “It’s really effective diplomacy to help a mom deal with a child’s sickness. And we do a lot of it. We get no credit for it, but we do a lot of it.” Really effective diplomacy... that we get no credit for. And just how pissy is that “we get no credit for it”?

SOMEWHAT SUSPECT: “Well, I suspect if you look back at history they might have been somewhat suspect if someone would have predicted an American President would be sitting down keeping the peace with the Japanese Prime Minister at some point -- particularly after World War II.”

WE NEVER SAID “IDEALIST”: “I think it’s going to be very important for our country to have faith in the capacity of liberty to be transformative. Some say that’s -- you know, he’s a hopeless idealist guy.”

Talking about the dead-in-the-water free-trade treaty with Colombia, he took a shot at, I assume, Chavez: “The free trade vote has a lot of strategic implications because in the neighborhood there is a person who is undermining a democracy, and therefore we need to be concerned about the loss of democracies in our neighborhood.”

Later, he told a little joke about God and Castro and death: “It’s in our interests that Cuba become free and it’s in the interests of the Cuban people that they don’t have to live under an antiquated form of government -- that has just been repressive. So we’ll continue to press for freedom on the island of Cuba. One day, the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away (laughter) -- no, no, no -- then, the question is, what will be the approach of the U.S. government?” One approach is to make sure no more Cubans wind up in Miami: “we’re working very closely with the Navy and Coast Guard to make sure that there is not any issues when it comes between the United States and Cuba, should there be a -- when there is a transition.”

Huh, good God, what is it good for?

Meet Mitt

Mitt Romney’s 1983 family vacation seems to be some sort of metaphor. A 12-hour drive illustrating the motto of all driven (get it? driven? get it?) presidential candidates that it’s the destination not the journey that’s important, he told his five children, the oldest of whom was 13 or so, there would be no stops except for gas, so they’d better coordinate their bodily functions with the station wagon’s mechanical ones. Oh, and the dog was in a carrier strapped to the roof the whole way. And you just know the Mittster insisted on doing all the driving himself.

A shiny quarter for the first person to spot a cartoon depicting an Irish setter in a carrier strapped to the roof of Air Force One.

You can pick through the Boston Globe series for other telling details, like his wedding being officiated by the Mormon church elder “after whom teenage Mitt had patterned his hairstyle.”

The writers, as others have been pointing out, bestow odd praise on Romney, for instance for his “emotion-free crisis management” in quick-thinkingly borrowing a hose after the dog shit down the rear windshield, and for “eschew[ing] the trappings of wealth” by not hiring a cook or a full-time maid after he became a millionaire, which sharp-eyed readers will have already noted affected his wife’s way of life rather more than his own.

However, we are also told that he thinks his wife is way better than him (in that creepy George Bush “I married above myself,” “my wife has so much patience” sort of way), and permitted her to take bathroom breaks during family drives even when no bathroom breaks were scheduled!

In comments, if you are so minded, decode the metaphor that is The Romneys Are Going To Canada. What does Seamus the dog represent? Or the five children, trying desperately to restrain their bladders? Or the shit dripping down the rear window?

Also, is anyone else reminded of Terry O’Quinn in The Stepfather?

And should Romney just go ahead and alienate cat- as well as dog-lovers by naming Bill Frist as his running mate?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Enriching civilization for centuries

This morning Bush rededicated the Islamic Center of Washington, because who better to rededicate an Islamic center. Really, anyone, who better?

He said that freedom of religion is growing in every region of the world except the Middle East. Er, China? And he trumpeted the US’s freedom in this regard, pointing out that “The freedom of religion is the very first protection offered in America’s Bill of Rights.” I believe that’s a dog whistle message for the Christian Right, who claim to discern in the sentence structure of the First Amendment some sort of proof that freedom of religion is prior to, and the basis of, all other rights.

He said, “We come to express our appreciation for a faith that has enriched civilization for centuries.” Although, oddly enough, he said the exact same thing a few hours later at the annual White House Tee Ball Game.

Not an hour before that photo op with the kiddies, Bush was in the Roosevelt Room denouncing Democrats for a dastardly scheme: “they are trying to expand Medicare to younger citizens. ... If their proposal becomes law, S-CHIP [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program] would expand its reach to include children from family that earn as much as $80,000 a year”. He warned darkly, “Their goal is to take incremental steps down the path to government-run health care for every American,” adding “It’s the wrong path for our nation, and besides, Michael Moore is fat.” I may have embellished that quote a little.

A clean, safe and humane place for enemy combatants

On his last full day in office, Tony Blair held a press conference with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Terminator and the Terminated, the British press uniformly called it.

(As I write, Blair’s last Prime Minister’s Questions is going on. Someone just asked him, apropos of that meeting, what Blair would do, if he came back from the future, to save the planet. Blair, as was his wont, ignored the question.)

It wasn’t enough that Gordon Brown will become prime minister tomorrow, he had to bring a trophy: MP Quentin Davies has defected from the Tories to the Labour party. And is there a single British newspaper able to resist mentioning that Davies was once fined for cruelty to sheep?

That was a rhetorical question.

Military Moron of the week, Col. Morris D. Davis, chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military commissions, for his op-ed piece in yesterday’s NYT, entitled, “The Guantánamo I Know and Love.” Evidently Guantanamo “is a clean, safe and humane place for enemy combatants”. It’s a clean, safe and humane place for them to be tortured and driven slowly insane, but hey, it’s clean. Glenn Greenwald has already effectively dealt with my favorite part, where he proves that Gitmo is nothing like Soviet gulags because David Hicks, the Australian captured in Afghanistan, “stipulated he was treated properly.” As Davis knows full well, because either he or one of his underlings negotiated the plea agreement, they required Hicks deny his earlier claims to have been tortured as part of that agreement, without which he’d never have gotten out of Guantanamo. This is Col. Davis’s gold standard for evidence. Did I mention that he is the chief prosecutor at the military commissions?

In fact, he says that hearsay and other forms of evidence considered too unreliable to be used in US courts can be used because “the Constitution does not extend to alien unlawful enemy combatants.” Whoa! Alien unlawful enemy combatants, wouldn’t want to meet one of those in a dark alley! He could beat you to death with the adjectives alone!

Davis says, “Some imply that if a defendant does not get a trial that looks like Martha Stewart’s and ends like O. J. Simpson’s, then military commissions are flawed.” Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the standard we were going for. Conversely, if Martha Stewart and O.J. Simpson were waterboarded, I think I could live with that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I’m confident that we can continue to be a nation that assimilates

This morning Bush gave a comprehensive speech on the comprehensive immigration comprehensive legislation.

Er, sorry. He used the word comprehensive a lot, is what I’m saying. This sort of thing: “The problem that this bill recognizes, the bill recognizes that we’ve got to address the problem in a comprehensive fashion.”

Repetition was the order of the day: “It’s a powerful incentive to be a mom or a dad to make sure your children don’t suffer. That’s an incentive. That’s an incentive for people here in America; it also happens to be an incentive for people around the world.”

When not repeating his vocabulary words, he rephrased the same things over and over in as many different ways as he could come up with: “The first thing that we’ve got to recognize in the country is that the system isn’t working. The immigration system needs reform. The status quo is unacceptable.” And what, oh what, do we need to do to change that? “Our view is, if the status quo is unacceptable, we need to replace it with something that is acceptable”. That’s why he’s the president and you’re not.

Why is it unacceptable, and not working, and in need of reform? “the system has also fostered illegal operations that prey upon the human being”.

Illegal operations that prey upon the human being. That does sound scary. But so does this: “And I’m confident that we can continue to be a nation that assimilates.”

Tell us more about assimilation, George. “The bill recognizes that English is a part of the assimilation process and wants to help people learn the language in order to be able to take advantage of America.” I don’t know: Chimpy manages to take advantage of America without ever having learned the language. In fact, in the very next sentences, he forgot what the word amnesty means: “You know, I’ve heard all the rhetoric -- you’ve heard it, too -- about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you’ve got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that.”

Meanwhile, Laura and Jenna were in Dakar picking vegetables, doing the work Senegalese aren’t doing.

Monday, June 25, 2007

For too often and too long that bar wasn’t set high enough (updated)

From the London Times: “Immigration officers should wear pastel-coloured clothing when attempting to deport families, so that they are less intimidating to children, Home Office officials have recommended.” Yeah, that’ll do it.

Today Bush (not wearing pastel-colored clothing) met with a bunch of “Presidential Scholars,” of whom he said, “It’s a neat occasion to be able to welcome the 2007 Presidential Scholars.” He spoke about education and No Child Left Behind. It would be all too easy to pick up my blue pencil and mark all his mistakes, but my monitor would be covered with squiggly lines, and the resulting post would be way too long. He is, however, begging for it: “You know, part of the problem we’ve had in our school system is for too often and too long that bar wasn’t set high enough”.

“It’s amazing what happens when you hold people to account,” he said, not speaking from personal experience.

WHAT OUGHT YOU EXPECT? “If you believe a child can learn to read, then you ought to expect a child to read. That’s what you ought to expect.”

WHAT IS BECOMING CLOSED? “We had an achievement gap in our country and that’s not right to have an achievement gap in America. And this achievement gap is becoming closed”.

He says we need 30,000 “math and science professionals to go into classrooms to stimulate interest”. Oh, I am so not going there. “Because in order for us to make sure the best jobs are in America requires us having mathematicians and scientists and historians and engineers and physicists and poets. And the best way to stimulate that interest is from people who actually know what they’re talking about.” So why are these kids listening to you?

And yes, I may have added a couple of items to that list of professions. See if you can guess which ones.

“Whether we like or not, we’re in a global world.” Or possibly octagonal.

IN OTHER WORDS: “No Child Left Behind is working. In other words, we’re making good progress.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, people say, well, you can’t be for No Child Left Behind, it’s the federal government telling you what to do. Quite the opposite. ... We’re just going to insist that you measure”. Telling you what to do is quite the opposite of insisting.

IN OTHER WORDS: “Measuring results helps teachers spot problems. In other words, you can’t solve a problem until you diagnose it.”

Caption contest:

(Update: it seems that 50 of the 140 presidential scholars signed
a letter, which they handed to Bush personally, opposing the use of torture, renditions, and calling for adherence to the Geneva Conventions. Bravo. Bravo. (Also, Bong Hits 4 Jesus.) Bush read the letter (possibly asking them for help with some of the bigger words) and told them that in fact the United States does not torture. These kids have ideals and they know what it’s like to have the president of the United States lie to their faces. If they aren’t prepared for the future, I don’t know who is.)

Seeing a better future because of the form of government that’s changed

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it was okay for a high school principal to rip down a student’s “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner. Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that schools have a compelling interest in deterring drug use (he’s assuming the verb-free banner is pro-drug use). He cited the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994, which required schools to “convey a clear and consistent message that ... the illegal use of drugs [is] wrong and harmful.” In other words, Congress authorized censoring the expression of any opinion that contradicts the legally mandated official line. So that’s okay then. Roberts says that “failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge, including Frederick, about how serious the school was about the dangers of illegal drug use.” This is the First Amendment under the Roberts court: state censorship is a protected form of expression (“sending a powerful message”), but a banner is not.

This morning Bush met with the president of Estonia, which Bush described as “a country which has emerged from some really dark days. And having been in Estonia, I can report to my fellow citizens that people now see the light of day, and see a better future because of the form of government that’s changed.” So if I understand him correctly, the sun did not shine in Estonia, possibly because of a spell cast by an evil witch, until George went there. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what he was saying.

I’ve decided I was wrong in a previous post to call him Herman Munster. Actually, he looks like the actor Edward Herrmann.

Speaking of the form of government that’s changed, off to the side during this meeting was none other than Dick Cheney, glumly contemplating his liminal status, neither in the executive branch nor in the legislative, not fully man nor wholly machine...

Enveloped into a kill sack

Military jargon of the day: evidently, “Al Qaida” fighters in Iraq are being “enveloped into a kill sack.” Charming.

Another New York magazine competition, from 11/23/92: greeting cards.
So you drew a suspended sentence!

Sorry you’re having a bad hair day.

So you’re a lame-duck president!

Have a happy Yom Kippur.

Yo, condolences!

A special wish for you on your deathbed.

Sorry you’ve lost the ability to accessorize.

Condolences on the breakup of Communism.

You missed my birthday. Burn in hell.

Sorry I missed your beatification.

You put the lite in elite!

Thanks for not confusing really great sex with love.

Happy birthday to your inner child.

Congratulations on being out of the loop.

So you’ve been enveloped into a kill sack.
That last one’s mine, obviously.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

We will not acknowledge this reporter’s attempt to stain the engagement with the misnomer “killings.”

NATO spokesmodel Nick Lunt responds to Afghan PuppetPrez Karzai’s criticisms of all those NATO bombings that have killed civilians in large numbers recently, sounding like one of those infuriating oh-so-calm customer-relations phone reps. Karzai, he says, “has a right to be disappointed and angry,” and NATO will try to “do better.” He added, “But unlike the Taleban, we do not set out to cause civilian casualties, and that is a critical difference.” Not to the civilian casualties, it isn’t.

Headline of the day (AP): “Man Throws a Log at a Bear, Killing It.”

Today’s must-read: the NYT has excerpts (I want to see the whole thing! I want it I want it I want it!) from a memo written in response to emailed questions from Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk, who would break the Haditha Massacre story by Marines on Col. Chessani’s staff, including the egregious Lt. Mathes. Actually, I’m just going to reproduce all the excerpts. I love the one bit that goes off in increasingly paranoic terms on the need to avoid runaway sergeant storylines, My Lai, and “Platoon” analogies.
McGirk: How many marines were killed and wounded in the I.E.D. attack that morning?

Memo: If it bleeds, it leads. This question is McGirk’s attempt to get good bloody gouge on the situation. He will most likely use the information he gains from this answer as an attention gainer.

McGirk: Were there any officers?

Memo: By asking if there was an officer on scene the reporter may be trying to identify a point of blame for lack of judgment. If there was an officer involved, then he may be able to have his My Lai massacre pinned on that officer’s shoulders. ...

In the reporter’s eyes, military officers may represent the U.S. government and enlisted marines may represent the American People. Given the current political climate in the U.S. at this time concerning the Iraq war and the current administration’s conduct of the war, the reporter would most likely seek to discredit the U.S. government (one of our officers) and expose victimization of the American people by the hand of the government (the enlisted marines under the haphazard command of our “rogue officer.”) Unfortunately for McGirk, this is not the case.

One common tactic used by reporters is to spin a story in such a way that it is easily recognized and remembered by the general population through its association with an event that the general population is familiar with or can relate to. For example, McGirk’s story will sell if it can be spun as “Iraq’s My Lai massacre.” Since there was not an officer involved, this attempt will not go very far.

We must be on guard, though, of the reporter’s attempt to spin the story to sound like incidents from well-known war movies, like “Platoon.”

In “Platoon,” Sergeant Barnes, the movie’s antihero, is depicted as a no-nonsense, war-haggard platoon sergeant who knows how to get things done in the bloody jungles of Vietnam — and it ain’t always pretty. During one scene, Sergeant Barnes is shown on the verge of committing war crimes in front of his platoon by threatening to kill women and children as a means of interrogation. This is a classic “runaway sergeant” storyline wherein the audience is supposed to be sickened by the sergeant’s brutality and equally sickened by the traumatic effects war has on soldiers. This schema is especially fruitful for Mr. McGirk because if he tries to adapt our situation to this model it simultaneously exposes a “war crime cover-up” and shows the deteriorative (albeit exaggerated) effects of war on U.S. marines (the best of the best), which could be expanded by the general press as a testament for why the U.S. should pull out of Iraq.

[Colonel Chessani later shortened this answer to “No.”]

McGirk: How many marines were involved in the killings?

Memo: First off, we don’t know what you’re talking about when you say “killings.” One of our squads reinforced by a squad of Iraqi Army soldiers were engaged by an enemy initiated ambush on the 19th that killed one American marine and seriously injured two others. We will not justify that question with a response. Theme: Legitimate engagement: we will not acknowledge this reporter’s attempt to stain the engagement with the misnomer “killings.”

McGirk: Were there any weapons found during these house raids — or terrorists — where the killings occurred?

Memo: Again, you are showing yourself to be uneducated in the world of contemporary insurgent combat. The subject about which we are speaking was a legitimate engagement initiated by the enemy. ...

McGirk: Is there any investigation ongoing into these civilian deaths, and if so have any marines been formally charged?

Memo: No, the engagement was bona fide combat action. ... By asking this question, McGirk is assuming the engagement was a LOAC [Law of Armed Conflict] violation and that by asking about investigations, he may spurn a reaction from the command that will initiate an investigation.

McGirk: Are the marines in this unit still serving in Haditha?

Memo: Yes, we are still fighting terrorists of Al Qaida in Iraq in Haditha. (“Fighting terrorists associated with Al Qaida” is stronger language than “serving.” The American people will side more with someone actively fighting a terrorist organization that is tied to 9/11 than with someone who is idly “serving,” like in a way one “serves” a casserole. It’s semantics, but in reporting and journalism, words spin the story.)
Don’t they just.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A symbol of our resolve

Military code name of the day: Operation Phantom Thunder. One of the elements of Operation Phantom Thunder: “aggressive shaping operations.”

Name of the day: a 16-year old in England suing her school for banning her wearing a “purity” ring is called Lydia Playfoot.

Mitt Romney vows that if elected he will make some totally meaningless changes in the structure of the military for the sake of looking like he’s doing something different. It’s called leadership, people. Specifically, he will establish a Special Partnership Force to fight... oh, who cares what it would do, it’s the acronym I like.

There’s even a PowerPoint presentation, including this delightfully Magrittean slide:

He also said that “Guantanamo is a symbol of our resolve.” So Gitmo is a bumper sticker?

To celebrate Black Music Month, George Bush, who is all about the black music, forced some African-American violinist to kneel before him.

They’re looking for power vacuums into which they can move their ideology as well as their strategies

From the London Times: “The Pakistani government minister [Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz ul-Haq, son of 1970s military dictator Zia ul-Haq] who claimed that the award of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie could justify suicide bomb attacks announced yesterday that he plans to visit Britain on a mission to promote interfaith dialogue.”

By the way, note to the Muslim world: these days knighthoods are purely honorific; they aren’t actually required to put on armor, get on a horse and join the Crusades.

The Pakistan Ulema Council responded by giving the equivalent of a knighthood, the title Sword of God to Osama bin Laden. That may very well require putting on armor, etcetera.

Poland is demanding greater voting rights in EU councils once they are restructured to account for new members. Currently, it has disproportionate power, but the new system will match population. Poland says it deserves votes proportional to the population it claims it would have had if not for World War II (66 million versus its actual 38 million), although it is proposing voting being weighted according to the... wait for it... square root of a country’s population.

Yesterday, Bush attended a fundraiser for Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama. He said to the attendees, “I thank you for your hard-earned money, which will make it clear to the people of Alabama that this guy is the right man to represent you in the United States Senate for six more years.” Because nothing makes someone’s senatorial fitness clearer than money. We know Republicans believe that, they just don’t say it in public as often as they did under, say, McKinley or Eisenhower.

Bush loves to talk about Al Qaida and vacuums, and it’s always comical gold: “And remember, al Qaeda and the extremists love chaos. They’re looking for power vacuums into which they can move their ideology as well as their strategies.” And then they’re all, hey dude, can you help me move my ideology as well as my strategies into my cool new vacuum, and I’ll like order some pizza?

For a man with a not-very-large vocabulary, he doesn’t actually know the meanings of all that many of the words he does use. On Democrats: “Well, first of all, you can’t raise enough money on the rich to whet their appetite.”

Do you think Bush would like a knighthood, a horse and a suit of armor? Would that Cervantes were alive to chronicle the adventures of the Knight of the Simian Countenance.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You’ve really put yourself on the wrong metric

Secretary of War Gates and the alliterative Peter Pace held a press conference today.

Gates, asked if ignoring (as he plans to do) the recommendation of a Pentagon study on the mental health of combat soldiers that soldiers who go through 90 days of heavy fighting then be rotated off the front-lines for 30 days won’t increase the number of serious mental-health problems, said, “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.” Won’t we just. He then added that we’ll just have to have to have more resources to treat them.

Asked about the possibility of seeing violence in Iraq actually go down, Gates said, “Well, I think, first of all if you try to define this in terms of level of violence, you’ve really put yourself on the wrong metric. It isn’t about X number today, Y number tomorrow, because the enemy gets a chance to vote in that. And he will take a look at what you’re measuring and try to defeat that measurement, so to speak.” So the reason violence is the wrong “metric” is that the enemy can commit as much violence as they want. Isn’t the point supposed to be to stop them doing that?

So what’s the right metric? “The metric really should be for Iraqi citizens, do they feel better about their lives today than they did yesterday? ... If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you?” Alive?

So it’s about perceptions. It’s also about denying perceptions. Gates says that “the security environment is providing what it should be providing” if Iraqis “see that their country is moving forward without regard to the specific instances of violence”. You know, progress, except for all the killing and explosions and shit. How are they supposed to look at the state of Iraq without regard to specific instances of violence? Repression. Earlier in the Q&A, Gates showed how it’s done:
Q: Yes. Mr. Secretary and General Pace, it’s been a pretty bad couple of days in terms of losses -- American losses in Iraq. I think it’s 12 in the last two days killed. Is this something we’re going to expect and to be bracing for in the coming weeks and months as we have the tempo of operations increase and we have the surge forces on the ground?

And if I could also, just picking up on the question about the 1920s Brigade, do you have some concern or pause about working and joining forces with groups that so recently had been aiming some of their fire power or affiliated with those that have been aiming their fire power at American forces?

SEC. GATES: Remind me again what your first question was.

Q: It was about the 12 deaths in the last few days.
See? It only takes him 12 seconds to forget all about 12 deaths. Oh, he’s good.


Subject line of a spam email I did not read: “Big your piano, be a real man.”

Bush’s budget includes a quintupling of funds for “democracy” programs in Cuba. An effort in the House to keep it at the old level was easily defeated. The White House issued a statement: “The reduction would have the United States step back from supporting independent Cuban civil society...” They must be using a definition of the word “independent” with which I am not familiar.

Today, George Bush went to Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant. “Nuclear power is safe,” he said. Here he is inside the control room of a nuclear power plant.

Does everyone feel safe?

Is it just propaganda for their alleged kindness?

We’re sending troops back into combat who are on lithium or Prozac?

I don’t know much about this (but when has that ever stopped me from commenting?) (that was a rhetorical question): evidently there is a big problem with child abuse among Aboriginals in the Northern Territory of Australia, which the government blames on alcohol and pornography. So John Howard will ban both for Aboriginals in the territory, restrict how welfare recipients can spend their money, abrogate Aboriginal self-government, etc etc. Child abuse is bad, of course (I feel silly having to start a sentence by spelling that out), but Howard has practically built his career on expressions of racist contempt for the original peoples and is simply not to be trusted with the degree of control over Aboriginals’ lives he plans to grab on the pretext of protecting their children from them. He will make welfare payments dependent on children going to school, but in the past, before all this alleged abuse came to light, he advocated conditioning welfare on children washing their faces twice a day.

Maybe we can make that one of the benchmarks in Iraq. We’re not withdrawing troops until every single Iraqi child washes their faces, including behind the ears, twice a day. The US army reported that it found 24 children aged 3 to 15 in a Baghdad orphanage who were being starved (while food was piled up in a stock room), tied up, naked and covered in shit in a windowless room. (The announcement by the US military came ten whole days after the discovery, with no explanation offered for the delay, at least that I’ve seen.) Said Gen. Vincent Brooks: “We’re very fortunate to have the kind of soldiers we have who are willing to take action, even at personal risk, to save the lives of others. These soldiers in a literal and figurative sense are the best chance for Iraq, just as they were for these boys.” Yes, the entire occupation is now justified. As social work. Although the orphanage was run by the government we put in charge.

A government that includes Labor and Social Affairs Minister Mahmoud Mohammed al-Radi (SCIRI), who said the whole thing was propaganda. “Are they really concerned about how well the children are treated in that shelter, or is it just propaganda for their alleged kindness?” he asked. Er, both actually. We can be complicated that way. Radi claimed the real brutality was the invasion of the orphanage by US troops in the middle of the night. The middle of the night!

Speaking of children, remember the seven killed by an American air strike in Afghanistan Monday? NBC, citing anonymous military sources, says that the military knew there were children present, contrary to what they’ve been saying, but considered the target, some Al Qaida guy you’ve never heard of – no doubt the #3 guy in Al Qaida as per usual – was worth the deaths of a few children. No word on whether they succeeded. Bush said yesterday, “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical.” He didn’t pronounce on the ethicality of destroying human life in order to destroy other human life.

That was a fun post, wasn’t it? Abused and dead children, and lots of them. Some days the news is just like that. A palate-cleanser is called for:

This time, why not the best?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Yesterday I reported that Bush called Palestinian IAPM Fayyad “a good fellow.” I have reviewed the tapes, and Bush in fact called him “a good fella.” I apologize for the error.

We stand on your side in an ethically responsible way

Bush again vetoed stem cell research, then talked to the press, using as props a spina bifida patient and someone who “has whipped cancer twice by using adult stem cells. In other words, adult stem cells have saved her life.”

“America is a nation that leads the world in science and technology. Our innovative spirit is making possible incredible advances in medicine that could save lives and cure diseases,” he said, and he plans to put a stop to all that. Why aren’t these scientists out finding ways to run Hummers on switch grass?

Actually, he claims to be supporting scientists, only, you know, ethical and moral scientists. “We want to say, we stand on your side in an ethically responsible way.”

“Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical,” he said, obliviously. Possibly he’s afraid embryonic stem cells can cure hypocrisy.

Or condescending assholery.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A different hope (updated)

George Packer (The Assassins’ Gate) has a blog (2 entries so far) at the New Yorker site.

Military code name of the day: Operation Arrowhead Ripper.

Yesterday Condi Rice held a press conference about events in Palestine, which gave her the opportunity to use the words “responsible” and “legitimate” over and over and over, as in “the United States supports [Abbas’s] legitimate decision to form an emergency government of responsible Palestinians” and “Our view, very strongly, is that what President Abbas has done is legitimate and it is responsible and we’re going to support that action.” By legitimate, she doesn’t mean democratic or constitutional, of course. Indeed, “I think we will leave to the Palestinians issues of how they work through their own constitutional issues.” That’s one way to describe it. Of course, Abbas’s side will be “working through” those constitutional issues with weapons we provided.

Since Abbas’s coup is blatantly illegal, from whence does that legitimacy derive? Good old-fashioned organic nationalism. Said Rice, “there is one Palestinian people and there should be one Palestinian state” and that “Mahmoud Abbas is the President of all of the Palestinian people”. Ein volk, ein reich... you get the idea.

Today, at a press conference with Israeli How-The-Hell-Is-He-Still-Prime-Minister Olmert, Bush also, twice, called Abbas “the President of all the Palestinians” (now that I think of it, that also sounds like True Czar of All the Russias), adding, “He was elected; he’s the President.”

(Update: Eli of Left I on the News points out in comments that the roughly 3.5 million of exiled Palestinians didn’t have a vote in that election. Of course the point Bush was trying to make with the phrase “President of all the Palestinians,” which Olmert also used, was that he claims authority in both the West Bank and Gaza. Now, there’s a word for “both the West Bank and Gaza,” and that word is Palestine. Since Bush and Olmert would sooner kiss the corpse of Yasser Arafat on the mouth before uttering the word Palestine, they’re stuck with a phrase, “President of all the Palestinians,” which does not have a geographic referent.)

Bush also said Abbas is “a voice that is a reasonable voice amongst the extremists in your neighborhood.” And he called Illegally Appointed Prime Minister Fayyad “a good fellow”. He says that when the President of All the Palestinians and the Good Fellow are “strengthened,” they “can lead the Palestinians in a different direction, with a different hope.”

Bush also spoke about the great work he’d be doing with Olmert “to promote a alternative ideology, based upon human liberty and the human condition.” An ideology based on the human condition, that would be novel. Honestly, I have no idea what Bush means by that. He added that Olmert “said he’s willing to have discussions with the forces of moderation in the Palestinian Territory, laying the groundwork for serious discussions.” So he’ll have discussions laying the groundwork for discussions. “That’s -- that is a statement that shows that the Prime Minister is willing to move with a -- to promote an alternative vision.”

Olmert made it clear that his vision is alternative to that of “the Palestinians”: “We have been very, very attentive to the needs of the -- humanitarian needs of Gaza... Israel will not be indifferent to the human suffering in Gaza. Israel will be different from the Palestinians, themselves, because the reality is that all this suffering is caused by Palestinians against their own people.” He could have said Hamas or extremists. I don’t think it’s going to far to say that his choice to blame “the Palestinians” is a racist one, indicating that they’re all barbarians.

The reporters’ questions were all about Palestine, except one about Iran. But Bush kept talking about Iraq, because he sees the two things as exactly the same problem, you know, the one where “We face extremists and radicals who use violence and murder as a tool to achieve objectives,” and we have to spread democracy because “You can only defeat them so much militarily.” Indeed, in this bit, one can’t be entirely sure that he remembers whether he is talking about Palestine or Iraq:
Matt, what you’re seeing now in this part of the 21st century is going to be played out over time. This is an ideological struggle. We’re looking at the difference between a group of people that want to represent the Palestinians who believe in peace, that want a better way for their people, that believe in democracy -- they need help to build the institutions necessary for democracy to flourish, and they need help to build security forces so that they can end up enforcing what most of the people want, which is to live in peace -- and that’s versus a group of radicals and extremists who are willing to use violence, unspeakable violence sometimes, to achieve a political objective.