Friday, November 30, 2007

A robust culture of reporting things

Of all the subject lines in emails I’ve received from presidential campaigns, this has to be the most pathetic: “Biden surges past Richardson in Iowa.” He has 8% to Richardson’s 4% in a poll of likely caucus-goers. The email adds that he is “closing in on the front-runners” (Edwards, Clinton & Obama range from 23 to 27%).

Speaking of fuzzy math, the LAT notes that the US military is relying on Iraqi numbers about things like civilian deaths, enemy attacks, etc, and that those numbers... wait for it... may not be altogether accurate. Says a colonel on Petraeus’s planning staff, “The Iraqis don’t have a robust culture of reporting things.”

Late in the article there’s a mention of something I hadn’t heard before: “In October, for example, the entire command and control system used by Iraqi security forces to communicate with headquarters was shut down for two weeks when the government failed to pay the U.S. contractor that provides the satellite communications. For those two weeks, U.S. commanders and the Iraqi government received no reports from Iraqi forces in the field.”

In honor of World AIDS day (tomorrow), Bush gave yet another speech on the subject (at a Methodist church, naturally) which failed to mention gay people. Indeed, he mentioned the people who actually have HIV/AIDS only in passing, and none by name. Instead, he focused on “people who have dedicated their lives to save lives.” Especially if those people are motivated by religion, by the “universal call to love a neighbor”, the “timeless calling to heal the sick [he may have forgotten that AIDS can’t actually be healed] and comfort the lonely.” Generosity is a favorite word of Bush’s, especially when talking about American assistance to Africa, although I’m not sure such fulsome praise of one’s own “generosity” is really consistent with a generosity of spirit. People with the disease appeared in the speech only as the passive objects of that generosity. Or worse, since he implies that they got it because of their lack of proper Christian morals: “Faith-based groups... are changing behavior by changing hearts -- and they are helping to defeat this epidemic one soul at a time.” World AIDS Day, he said, is “a day we resolve to continue this work of healing and redemption.” Who is it he thinks requires redemption?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Above the fray

In re-runs of last night’s debate, CNN censored (without mentioning that they were doing it) the question posed by the gay retired brigadier general, and the candidates’ responses to it, because he has links to the Clinton campaign, which as we know invalidates both his question about gays in the military and his 43 years’ experience as a gay in the military.

Among the emails I’ve received from various Republican presidential campaigns today claiming victory in the debate is one from the Fred Thompson people, claiming he “was able to stay above the fray and out of the constant bickering between others around him.” Dozed off, did he?

Multiple caption contest

After blogging last night’s Republican debate, I’m still slowly recovering the will to live, so I’ll throw it open to you, the discerning blog reader, to caption pictures of 1) Laura Bush in a coat Nancy Reagan left behind, looking at a Christmas decoration with the sort of rapt attention George usually gives to shiny objects, 2) George and El Salvador’s President Saca, 3) Elsewhere in the Oval Office during that event, Condi and Bob Gates.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Republican debate: working in a small tight unit

Transcript (somewhat faulty), part 1, part 2.

Another YouTube debate and, oh good, the first video is a song.

Romney says Giuliani had a “sanctuary city,” except, occasionally, a Haitian would have a plunger shoved up his ass. Rudy says Twitt had a sanctuary mansion. Romney asks if he, as a home(mansion)owner, was supposed to go out and ask for the papers of any worker with a “funny accent.”

Tancredo rejects the idea that there are jobs no American will take, not even mowing Romney’s yard with a funny accent.

Huckabee, attacked for Arkansas’s merit-based college scholarships for undocumented aliens, says if he hadn’t gotten a college education, he might be picking lettuce in Mitt Romney’s yard.

Ron Paul, your weirdo followers think there’s a secret conspiracy to merge the US, Canada and Mexico, do you? Paul: heh, heh, no of course I don’t – the conspiracy isn’t a secret.

McCain takes another swipe at a program to study the DNA of bears, making a so-so joke that he doesn’t know if it’s for paternity or a criminal matter. What the hell does he have against bears? Other examples of wasteful spending he’s fought against in the Senate? Children’s health care.

Oh good, an animated Uncle Sam. Sam wants to eliminate income tax in favor of a national sales tax.

McCain says that Ron Paul, with his “isolationism,” would have allowed Hitler to come to power. In fact, McCain was in Iraq last week (I’m still waiting to see pictures of him in a helmet and flak suit), and evidently all the American soldiers stationed there gave him a message for Ron Paul: “and their message to you is... let us win.” If all 160,000 soldiers have a candidate they’re supporting, McCain was too modest to say who that might be.

Paul points out that it is not isolationism not to want to invade other countries. But he completely evades the whole Hitler thing. What were you doing while Hitler came to power, Congressman Paul, and why won’t you talk about it?

Chuck Norris is in the audience.

A guy in Manhattan Beach eats some corn and asks if the candidates would cut farm subsidies. All candidates: thanks, we’d like to win in Iowa.

Tancredo video: I am prepared to take on Hillary Clinton, or at least tiny snippets of Hillary Clinton taken out of context.

Thompson video: white lettering on black background just like Law & Order credits. Attacks Romney as a hypocrite on abortion and Huckabee as a hypocrite on taxes.

McCain video: I am also prepared to take on tiny snippets of Hillary Clinton taken out of context. Out-of-context Hillary is toast!

A guy with an assault rifle asks if anyone supports gun control. Anderson Cooper only puts the question to one of the candidates, possibly because of his name. Duncan Hunter says “from Bunker Hill to New Orleans to the rooftops of Fallujah, the right to keep and bear arms and use them effectively is an important part of America’s security.” I didn’t know the Second Amendment applied to Fallujah.

Asked what guns they own and which is their fave, Thompson says he owns several but won’t say what they are or where they are. McCain, interestingly, owns no guns.

A video made by a black father and son in Atlanta asks about black on black violence. Which Romney, racist prick that he is, blames on black children being born out of wedlock: “Well, one, about the war in the inner city -- number one is to get more moms and dads. That’s number one. And thank heavens Bill Cosby said it like it was. That’s where the root of crime starts.” Yes, thank heavens Bill Cosby gave cover for all the racist pricks.

Asked by a woman from Texas who called herself “Journey” whether women who have abortions should go to jail, everyone skirts (so to speak) the question by saying that that would be up to the states. Paul reminds us that he was an obstetrician, says in 30 years he never saw a medical need for an abortion, which suggests that some of his patients died needlessly. Thompson, while saying it’s up to the states, added that in state laws on post-viability abortion now, “It goes to the doctor performing the abortion, not the girl, or the young girl, or her parents, whoever it might be.” The questioner said nothing about the people seeking abortions being “girls” or “young girls.” Thompson, sexist prick that he is, just automatically infantilized them.

Q: “The death penalty, what would Jesus do?” Huckabee: fry ‘em, like I did as governor. Pressed, he added that Jesus was too smart to run for public office, ha ha.

Do you believe every word of the Bible is true? Giuliani: some of it’s allegorical, especially the stuff about not cheating on your wife. Romney: the Bible is the word of God. For some reason, he doesn’t mention the Book of Mormon.

Romney video: “ordinary isn’t good enough,” so go with slightly creepy.

Giuliani video: hey, I used to be mayor of New York, did you know that? Has a joke about “the city’s nemesis, King Kong.” Doesn’t mention 9/11.

Romney refuses to say if waterboarding is torture. McCain upbraids him for that, while Romney looks at him with a fixed look of slightly sour bemusement. McCain says “life is not 24 and Jack Bauer.” Life is Chloe O’Brien, however. Life is so Chloe O’Brien.

On Iraq, Thompson says “Too many people in this country are vested in a scenario of defeat. I’m vested in a scenario of victory”. 1) That language is lifted directly from Joe Lieberman. 2) Maybe Frederick of Hollywood should be avoiding words like “scenario.” He sounds like a producer who doesn’t understand why Rick can’t get the girl at the end of Casablanca.

Asked about using 9/11 excessively, Giuliani denies it.

Huckabee video: I’m Mike Huckabee, and God approves this message.

Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr says he is openly gay. So why shouldn’t gays be in the military? Duncan Hunter says that most people who join the military are conservatives with Judeo-Christian values like, you know, hating queers, and they shouldn’t be forced to, and I swear to God I’m quoting, “work in a small tight unit” with gays. Gays in the military is evidently another issue Romney has flip-flopped on. McCain says don’t ask don’t tell is “working” (for whom, he does not say), and seems to say that Gen. Petraeus has told him this.

Asked about the space program, Huckabee says he’d send Hillary to Mars. Tancredo says Martians are trying to steal our jobs.

Ron Paul video: “There’s something going on in this country, and it stinks.”

The last question is about why Giuliani supported the Red Sox after the Yankees lost. Ten minutes after this thing was supposed to have ended, and they’re torturing us with a baseball question?

Command shtick

General Musharraf of Pakistan is a general no longer. He said, “I am bidding farewell to the army after having been in uniform for 46 years,” adding that it had gotten just a little bit gamey.

We’ve had many cheap laughs about the imagery of Mush taking off his uniform. Here’s another one: “Although I am taking off the uniform the army will always be in heart.”

It’s not just the uniform he’s giving up, but evidently also something called the “command stick,” which he can be seen fondling here:

That’s what we need, a command stick. Give Bush a command stick to play with and it’ll keep him out of trouble all day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This march to war claim is pretty well created by punditry

AP has finally put out a partial transcript of its interview with Bush, some of which I dealt with in my last post.

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? “And therefore, the first step in getting to the process we ended up on today is to - for me to have recognized that the problem is terror, and states cannot accept terror on their border, particularly democracies, nor can a state be formed because of terror.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “A moment like today just doesn’t happen. In other words, it requires work to set - to lay the groundwork for what was a successful conference. And now the hard work between Israel and the Palestinians begin.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, there has to be something more positive than that which is being - that which is on the horizon today.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “Well, it’s going to take a while for any agreement to be reached, and so I think that there is a - in other words, it’s going to take - it’s going - the negotiations between Israel and Palestine aren’t going to occur in one week. And so there’s a - there’s going to be an opportunity for expectations to be set right over time, if - for success and/or for failure.”

YOU’D THINK THAT, WOULDN’T YOU? “You would think that people would say, what a great opportunity, let’s all go promote a free society in Iraq.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “It is going to be very difficult for that Palestinian state to come into being, so long as there are terrorists who are able to exploit the - a weak government and launch attacks against their neighbors. And that’s exactly what the road map says must not happen. In other words, the implementation of the vision is subject to the road map.”

Asked what arguments he could make that would convince China to join in sanctions against Iran: “Other than they would be a major threat to peace? I think that’s pretty significant. That’s a pretty significant argument. And that’s the argument I’ve been making. In all due respect, I think this ‘march to war’ claim is pretty well created by punditry.”

Worth it to try

Riots in Paris, again. Says the secretary of the police union, “Our colleagues will not allow themselves to be fired upon indefinitely without responding.”

Here’s the thing about our perceptions of the French: no matter how francophilic you are, your immediate response to that quote was, “By surrendering?”

The Virginia Republican Party convinced the state Board of Elections to require voters in the presidential primary to sign this pledge: “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.” That is just so wrong in so many ways. For a start, you cannot “pledge” to “intend” something. And the state has no right to require us to make any statement about what we will do in the privacy of the polling booth, to sign our name to what some people will believe is a legally binding document (because what’s the point of requiring you to sign something in an official setting that isn’t a legally binding document?). And it suggests that the basic unit of a democracy is not the individual citizen but the political party.

But at least Virginia isn’t under martial law – yet. In an interview with AP, which annoyingly hasn’t made a transcript available, George Bush said that General Musharraf “ought to lift the emergency law... It’s hard for me to envision a free and fair election under emergency law.” As opposed to the elections held in an Iraq under military occupation and civil war.

Bush also said that the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace is “worth it to try” and that the Annapolis Conference was “the beginning of an outline of a vision.” Or possibly an outline of a vision of a beginning. Or a vision of an outline of a beginning of a dream of a sketch of the start of a... Say, George, do you think we might be past the beginning of an outline of a vision stage if you’d done anything about this, say, seven years ago? What am I saying? if George had tried to solve the Middle East problem seven years ago, the earth would be a smoldering irregular ball of charcoal now.

Now, though, he’s completely committed to making peace: “I work the phones, I listen, I encourage, I have meetings. I do a lot of things.”

“The danger,” he said, “is for the Palestinians that unless there’s a vision described, that people can aspire to, hopeful, it is conceivable that we could lose an entire generation - or a lot of a generation - to radicals and extremists.” Or they could be bombed by the Israeli Air Force, that’s also kind of a danger for the Palestinians.

(Update: more on this interview in my next post.)

Extremists and extremism, by the way, were his words for the day, appearing seven times in his statement at the Conference: “we must not cede victory to the extremists” “the extremists are seeking to impose a dark vision on the Palestinian people” “if Palestinian reformers cannot deliver on this hopeful vision, then the forces of extremism and terror will be strengthened, a generation of Palestinians could be lost to the extremists” “The day is coming when the terrorists and extremists who threaten the Israeli and Palestinian people will be marginalized and eventually defeated.” (Isn’t that two days?)

I’ve forgotten which blog had the video, maybe someone could post the link in comments, but Bush totally screwed up Abbas’s first name. I never knew “Mahmoud” had so many syllables.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Who could ask for anything more?

AP headline: “Doctors Restore Cheney’s Heart Rhythm.”

Seeing whether or not peace is possible

If Bush was insistent on meeting the Israeli and Palestinian leaders separately ahead of the Annapolis Conference, couldn’t he just once have prevented the (admittedly correct) impression of collusion by meeting Abbas rather than Olmert first? Anyway, Bush met Olmert this morning and will meet Abbas in the afternoon.

He told Olmert, “I’m looking forward to continuing our serious dialogue with you and the President of the Palestinian Authority to see whether or not peace is possible.” See, and you thought there was no point to this conference.

Let’s pull back a little, so we can see the nice Christ-Mass decorations.

For the hell of it, here’s a picture of a special prayer session against the Annapolis Conference held at the Wailing Wall.

And here’s one of Bush this morning, looking especially chimp-like.

A reminder: there’s a label for posts dating back to 1996 about Trent Lott: the man, the – for lack of a better word – hair, the legend, if you feel like reviewing his career as it comes to an end.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reject the extreme within them

The Annapolis Conference (motto: “Lower Your Expectations... No, Lower Than That... Lower... Keep Going...”) is about to begin. George Bush has issued a statement about it: “I remain personally committed to implementing my vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” Yes, George, it’s all about you and your “vision.”

Twitt Romney says that the real problem is “broader than in that one hot spot as we help the Muslims themselves reject the extreme within them.” Why can’t they all be bland and boring (but with a slightly creepy undertone), just like Mitt?

Fred Thompson spent the post-Thanksgiving weekend shoring up his position as the gun nuts’ fave’rit candidate, going from a gun store in New Hampshire to a gun show in South Carolina to a hobo hunt in an undisclosed location. Here, a bored AP photographer takes a, so to speak, shot of the Fredster behind a row of rifles, kinda like prison bars.

New Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced that he will join the Kyoto Accords. Also, he plans to get to the bottom of the whole toilets-flushing-counter-clockwise thing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

But do ants really need an aphrodisiac tonic?

Reuters: “Troops and police in Shenyang, northeast China, were deployed after thousands of demonstrators demanded help to recover their savings from a get-rich-quick scheme that involved raising ants to make an aphrodisiac tonic.”

The London Times has an article about increasing corruption in Afghanistan, full of good but annoyingly anonymous quotes. “The British public would be up in arms if they knew that the district appointments in the south for which British soldiers are dying are there just to protect drug routes.” “It’s not Afghan culture. It’s a culture of impunity. We created it. We came in in 2001 with cases of cash and made certain people untouchables.” The article suggests that “The Afghan Government fears that if corrupt officials in the south were replaced by staunch law enforcers, the huge profits from heroin trafficking would end up with the Taleban.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Humanitarian minimum

In case you were wondering, I had Chinese take-out today, commemorating the first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims were saved from starvation by the native Chinese with orange chicken and potstickers.

Speaking of people threatened with starvation, Israel, as it threatened, will start cutting power supplies to Gaza next month, but claims the cuts won’t “harm the humanitarian minimum to which Israel is committed.” It’s nice to know they’re committed to a humanitarian minimum.

Speaking of humanitarian minima, and of minimal humans, George Bush called several no doubt carefully screened members of the military to wish them a happy Thanksgiving, saying it was “the least I can do.” Never let it be said that George Bush doesn’t do the least he can do.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Danger Man

According to a website with a function that rates the reading level of websites, this blog’s is college level (undergrad). Daily Kos’s, just for comparison, is high school. David Brooks’s last column is junior high as, oddly enough, is Paul Krugman’s.

Time for a poll.

We didn’t necessarily agree with his decision

Hillary’s new ad says the Republicans are attacking her “because they know that there’s one candidate with the strength and experience to get us out of Iraq.” Er, exactly what experience does she have that would get us out of Iraq?

Speaking of experience, former sweaty White House press secretary Scott McClellan has a memoir coming out next year called “What Happened.” Which is odd, since there was never a day as press sec that he looked like he had any idea what was happening. Maybe his publisher decided to leave off the question mark.

Bush was gently interviewed by Charles Gibson of ABC. Bush talked about General Musharraf, and how wonderful and democratic and honest and just plain dreamy he is: “he’s been a loyal ally in fighting terrorists. ... so far I’ve found him to be a man of his word.”

Asked if there is a line Mush could cross that would lose him this fulsome support, Bush said, “Well, he hasn’t crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that, uh, he will cross any lines.” You’ll notice he didn’t say where the line(s) are. Bush went on, “And he made a decision, we didn’t necessarily agree with his decision, to impose emergency rule, and I, my, hopefully he’ll get, get rid of the rule.” He’s backing away even from his weak protests of last week. He’s not demanding Musharraf lift military rule, but expresses hope that he might. Indeed, Bush doesn’t disagree with, much less denounce, the imposition of martial law, he just “didn’t necessarily agree” with it.

And he just can’t stop praising the military ruler as a Jeffersonian democrat: “I think he truly is somebody who believes in democracy.” In the way Buffy the Vampire Slayer believes in vampires. Great democrat, or the greatest democrat?: “he has done more for democracy in Pakistan than, than any modern leader has, and one of the reasons you’re seeing the blowback that you’re getting in Pakistan is because of the reforms that, that President Musharraf has put in place.” See, the massive unpopularity of and opposition to his rule is actually a sign of what a great democrat he is.

“Today I thought was a pretty good signal that he released thousands of people from jail.” You know what would have been a better signal? Not putting thousands of people in jail in the first place.

(Biden responded to the interview, “If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin’s soul.” I wonder if optometrists have an eye chart for soul-reading? “Just read the highest line you can.” “Uh, good soul, good soul, Islamofascist, good soul, that one is just black so it must be Cheney, good soul...”)

Gibson asked Bush whether presidential politics is now preventing him accomplishing anything for the remainder of his term. Bush thought “we may get some health-care reform done. But you’re right, it’s, uh, you know, and we’re not gonna raise taxes.”

Speaking of things Bush might accomplish with the remainder of his term, he claims he didn’t actually threaten to start World War III if Iran develops nuclear weapons: “I said, if you want to avoid World War III. And the reason I said that is because I take the words of their leader very seriously when, for example, he says he wants to destroy Israel. And you know, an attack on Israel, as far as I’m concerned, would draw the United States into a very serious conflagration in the Middle East. At least it would under my presidency.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A very Chimpy Thanksgiving, 2007

The American people, their mouths (as ever) full of stuffing, have spoken: the two “national turkeys” have been named May and Flower, narrowly beating out Wish and Bone. Now I’m sorry I didn’t vote: a turkey named Bone would be awesome.

Anyway, Bush pardoned May and Flower, and reminded us of things Americans should be giving thanks for: “We’re grateful for citizens who reach out to those who struggle, and for neighbors in need -- from neighbors in need to the strangers they’ve never met.” Something about struggling and needing, anyway. And in the words of The Simpsons’ musical version of Streetcar Named Desire, “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met.”

We’re also grateful for people who reach out in a rather different way: “And we are grateful for one blessing in particular: the men and women of the United States military.” I’m not sure blessing is really the appropriate word here.

“Yeah, pardon this, jackass. I’m huge!”

“Bow down before your master, monkey boy!”

“I think Ruprecht there just laid an egg in his pants, if you know what I mean.”

I knew Tippecanoe, Tippecanoe was a friend of mine, and you sir...

From Reuters: “A restaurant in Manhattan that unveiled a record-breaking $25,000 dessert with edible gold last week was forced to shut its doors after an infestation of mice and cockroaches was discovered. Serendipity 3, on the Upper East Side, failed its second health inspection in a month.” Well, isn’t that... serendipitous.

The Pakistani supreme court, now purged of its non-stooge element, threw out most of the challenges to Musharraf’s election. Here’s where there’s some confusion: Monday morning, the main news outlets were saying that the reason was that the attorneys who had filed them were not present to make their case, presumably because they’d all been, you know, arrested. Something like the guy who killed his parents and asked for leniency because he was an orphan. But by the time I sat down to write about it, that bit had totally disappeared from all the stories about the decision. What happened? Did the initial stories all get it wrong and they thought no one would notice if they just quietly changed them? Annoying.

Bush had a Thanksgiving event in Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, which has a rather lame claim to be the site of the real first Thanksgiving. And, speaking of things being left out of a story, he mentioned that William Henry Harrison composed his two-hour inaugural speech there and made a little joke about not trying to one-up him. Would he have made that remark if he knew that Harrison caught a fatal case of pneumonia giving that speech in the rain?

How much ya asking for the slave?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The WIIIAI gift catalog

I’m pretty sure you’ve all been waiting for me to provide gift ideas for Christmas/Hanukkah/Flying Spaghetti Monster New Year, along with handy links whereby you might purchase said items at Amazon, which will give me a small kickback. Win-win, I say.

Bob Harris’s Who Hates Whom. Useful and humorous.

Another handy reference book, The Onion’s Our Dumb World. Very dense, very funny. However, if you buy it, you will also need a magnifying glass, as some of the print is quite tiny. Honestly, humor and eye-strain do not mix very well; I’ve been reading just a couple of pages at a time.

The first of 4 new Futurama DVDs, “Bender’s Big Score.” Release date Nov. 27.

Also available as a gag gift, although sadly without a 4% cut for me, and with a 100% cut to the forces of darkness, is the Republican Party 2008 Calendar, featuring such pictures as these:

Lies, Damned Lies, and... oops, the Bureau of Statistics was just blown up

WaPo headline: “U.S. Cites Drop In Attacks Since Buildup in Iraq; Bombs Kill 20.” Says it all, really. The article ends with a heart-warming story of American mercy, by the way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The very best of America, the end of all claims by Palestinians, and sperm

Giuliani gave a speech about the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil. He gave it at a NASCAR race, which he said “really represents the very best of America.”

In advance of the Annapolis summit, Israel has been demanding that the Palestinians accept that Israel is a Jewish state. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said today that the purpose of the establishment of a Palestinian state is “an end to conflict and the end of all claims” by Palestinian citizens of Israel: “simultaneously they cannot ask for the declaration of a Palestinian state while working against the nature of the State of Israel as home unto the Jewish people.” The creation of Palestine would thus be “the national answer” for all Palestinians, including those now living in Israel.

Headline of the day, but which makes you oddly reluctant to read the actual story, from the Guardian: “Sperm Services May Face Court over Delivery of Samples.”

Oh, okay, I read the story anyway. One sentence in it: “The Guardian obtained a sample of sperm from one company, First4Fertility.” Who would fertilize themself with anonymous sperm from a company with a 4 in its name?

CONTEST I’LL PROBABLY REGRET: Can you think of an even more untrustworthy sounding name for a company selling mail-order sperm?

A divinely inspired role in the world

Giuliani at the Federalist Society: “There are some people I think nowadays that doubt that America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world. Now I don’t understand how you can look at history and not see the wisdom of that and the reality of it.” And America’s special, even divinely inspired role in the world in the future? “It’s this country that’s going to save a civilization from Islamic terrorism.” He didn’t say which civilization.

Since he was at the Federalist Society, he mocked Hillary Clinton for saying that driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants should be decided by each state: “This is the only time in her career that she’s ever decided anything should be decided on a state-by-state basis. You know something? She picked out absolutely the wrong one. Right? I mean this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution, the borders of the United States, immigration.” Actually, Rudy, the Constitution says nothing about immigration whatsoever.

He congratulated the Federalist Society for its 25th anniversary, noting that in 1982 you could fit all its members in a phone booth. It might be harder to do that now, but gosh wouldn’t it be fun to try?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bringing up the subject of beef

Musharraf: “I take pride in the fact that, being a man in uniform, I have actually introduced the essence of democracy in Pakistan, whether anyone believes it or not.”

The Bolivian government has been accusing the American ambassador and USAID of attempting to destabilize it. The US has responded with a communication to the Bolivian ambassador demonstrating the high regard we have for the sovereignty of Bolivia. State Dept Sean McCormack summarized the statement: “The basic message is just stop it, knock it off.”

Bush met with Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda and after much hard negotiating, made an important decision: “One of the things we’ve decided to do is to continue to make sure the U.S.-Japanese relationship is the cornerstone of security and peace.”

And the cornerstone of the US-Japanese relationship? “I’m looking forward to our lunch.” Seriously, what is it with Bush, foreign leaders, and food? Saturday with Angela Merkel it was “I’m now going to go feed the Chancellor a hamburger.” Today with Fukuda, “I think we’re going to serve the Prime Minister -- I hope we serve him some good U.S. beef, which is a good way to bring up the subject of beef.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Democratic Debate: Asbestos Pantsuits for everyone!

A debate in Las Vegas (transcript). Sadly, Wolf Blitzer did not come dressed as Elvis.

Hillary: “this pantsuit is asbestos tonight.” I just had an extremely disturbing mental flash explaining why she would need an asbestos pantsuit.

Extremely disturbing.

Hillary: “the Republicans are not going to vacate the White House voluntarily.” Cool, I recommend nerve gas. Although it may not work on Cheney.

Biden: this is not about experience, it’s not about change, it’s about action! Although he does have 35 years of experience (which is exactly the same figure Hillary throws around).

Oddly enough, Chris Dodd is also wearing an asbestos pantsuit.

Another question on which no voter will make their decision: will you support the Democratic candidate, no matter who they are? Kucinich says it depends on their war position, everyone else says yes, silently mouthing, “Unless it’s Kucinich.”

I can’t believe the big issue of the 2008 election is going to be driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. Obama says illegal immigrants aren’t coming here to drive or go to the In-N-Out Burger. Suddenly I want a chocolate milk shake. Kucinich insists on the word undocumented instead of illegal, and tries to talk about creating a path to legalization, but Wolf refuses to let him (or anyone else) avoid the real issue, which is, of course, should they be allowed driver’s licenses, yes or no, yes or no dammit. And if so, should they be required to be organ donors? Okay, he didn’t ask that, but none of the candidates supported driver’s licenses – wait, I think Richardson did, but I don’t really feel obligated to listen when Richardson is talking, I just go to my happy place.

5:33 I just noticed Gravel isn’t here.

Starting with Pakistan, Wolf again interrupts whenever anyone tries to give a more nuanced answer, insisting they respond to his simplistic, dualistic framing of the question: which is more important, human rights or national security? Dodd, by the way, disappointed me by opting firmly for the latter. As did Clinton, but you expect it from her. Biden makes much of the fact that he spoke with both Musharraf and Bhutto, and did so before Bush. Biden’s new motto: “Vote for me, I have a telephone – with speed dial!”

I keep hearing about Biden calling Musharraf, but somehow never hear what Musharraf said to him, although I’m guessing, “Joe Who?”

Free trade agreements, and here comes Wolf with another either/or: NAFTA, good or bad? Hillary wants a “time out” on trade treaties, while they think about what they did. Obama is okay with a free trade deal with Peru because it’s a small country, but not South Korea.

Hillary is happy to be attacked by the other candidates, which she says isn’t because she is a woman, but because she is ahead. Also, she is very comfortable in the kitchen. Must be the asbestos pantsuit.

Wolf again asks the important question: is Hillary playing the gender card? For some reason, though, he only asks this of Edwards, presumably because he is the most “girly” of any of the candidates, as opposed to Wolf, who is manly and is named Wolf and has a beard.

Wolf interrupts Kucinich while he is calling for impeachment, because heaven forfend anyone be allowed to say anything interesting.

Hillary accuses Obama of wanting to raise Social Security taxes on fire fighters and school supervisors.

Biden wants to appoint to the Supreme Court someone who ran as dogcatcher. Not a joke, he says. And his first nominee will be a woman. A woman dogcatcher.

Are elections actually held for an office of dogcatcher anywhere in the country?

Kucinich will appoint aliens from that UFO he saw that time to the Supreme Court.

Someone in the audience asks Hillary if she prefers diamonds or pearls. She said it depends on who what Bill did this time.

Wherein George Bush reveals a tale of all that is nasty and unkind in Washington

Rather than watch the Democratic debate, George Bush gave a speech to the annual gala of the Federalist Society, a body which, George said, stands for the proposition that “Our written Constitution means what it says.” He is against the idea of a living Constitution, which just “means whatever these activists want it to mean. They forgot that our Constitution lives because we respect it enough to adhere to its words.” He makes having an active intellect sound so shameful. The key word there is “forgot” because Bush’s opinions aren’t opinions, they are facts, which he “reminds” people of.

He talked about the judicial confirmation process, which needs to be reformed because it “is making it more difficult to persuade decent and intelligence [sic] people to accept the call to public service.” Sic, indeed. Can’t make this shit up. He also complained that “some judgeships go unfulfilled for years.”

I don’t know if the Constitution is “living,” but the petty grievances and grudges held by conservatives will outlive us all. “And when the wife of a distinguished jurist proudly attends his hearing and is brought to tears by ugly and unfounded insinuations that her husband is secretly a bigot, we lose something.” That’s Alito’s wife he’s talking about. I’d completely forgotten that, but we’ll be hearing about it for years to come, just as some right-wingers are still seeking revenge for Bork being rejected. And he mentioned poor persecuted Clarence “Pubic Hair in My Coke” Thomas, whose “confirmation process is a tale of all that is nasty and unkind in Washington.” Anita Hill might agree.

Keep watching the skies!

Today, Bush spoke about air flight delays, and by god I’m blogging about Bush speaking about air flight delays, and some of you may even choose to read my blogging about Bush speaking about air flight delays.

“Holiday travelers faced with the prospect of long delayed and cancelled flights and lost baggage, and other problems have become all too often an occurrence,” he said, adding, “Not for me, of course, I have my own airplane. Heh heh heh.” He also added, as is his wont, an IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, there’s a lot of people that are worried about traveling because they’ve had unpleasant experiences when they’ve been flying around the country.” He went on, “And one of the reasons we have a sense of urgency about this issue is that these problems that we’ve been discussing are clear to anybody who has been traveling,” adding, “But again, not to me, because I have my own airplane, and everyone else has to just get out of its way,” further adding, “Heh heh heh.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, part of making sure people are not inconvenienced is there to be -- get transmission of sound, real-time information.”

I won’t weary you with the details of his plans to make air travel less horrific, but George’s goal is to “bring order to America’s skies.” He’s planning to have the clouds lined up by size, and get rid of that one he thought looked like Osama bin Laden.

Our allies

In Saudi Arabia, the victim of a gang rape by seven men was sentenced to 90 lashes because she had been in a car with a man who was not related to her. When she appealed the light sentences given to her attackers, their sentences were doubled, and hers was increased to 200 lashes and 6 months in prison.

In my heart, I am not a dictator

Musharraf explains: “In my heart, I am not a dictator... The day when there is no turmoil in Pakistan, I will step down.” See, and you thought he intended never to step down.

And in an interview with the NYT (MP3), he says he put Benazir Bhutto under house arrest because of threats to her by a “foreign intelligence agency.” So that’s okay, then. And he accuses her of being “confrontational” and creating “negative vibes.”

Speaking of negative vibes, an email from the Fred Thompson campaign attacks the Massachusetts health-care plan as socialized medicine at its worst. For example, did you know that small business owners will be “fined $295 per employee who isn’t enrolled in Romney’s government-mandated health care plan”? Even worse: a mere $50 co-pay for abortions.

The LAPD has dropped its plan to “reach out to the Muslim community” by drawing up a map of where they all live. The LAPD, whose racial and ethnic sensitivity is of course legendary, had not expected there to be any opposition to the mapping plan.

Bush told Fox Business that his tax cuts on the rich made the tax code more progressive.

Asked if the surge in Iraq is working, Bush said that it is, “and it’s measurable.” He also made his usual not-at-all-sexist reference to the “Iraqi mom,” who “wants to raise her child in peace, and that, if given the chance -- given what looks like a secure future -- that people will make the necessary changes to live in a -- coexist with somebody else that may be, you know, an adversary, in a peaceful way.”

Bush says Musharraf “has got Pakistan on the road to democracy” and “I do believe he understands the importance of democracy.” Also, the importance of proper vibes.

Bush, asked if he had restored a sense of dignity to the office of the presidency, said, “History is going to have to judge.” He added, “I go to work every day in the Oval Office.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A moral right

Vladimir Putin says that the United Russia party stands for no political principles and contains many crooks. Imagine what he’d say about it if it weren’t his party. I believe the point he’s making is that the only reason anyone would vote for it is because they want Putin to continue running the country with an iron fist. So, he says, when United Russia, inevitably, wins the elections, he will have a “moral right to hold those in the Duma and the Cabinet responsible for the implementation of the objectives that have been identified so far.” He won’t say at this time exactly how he plans to exercise this moral right, “But various possibilities exist.” For example, he could make himself pope.

Last night, George Bush got into his tux for a White House event for a group called America’s Promise Alliance which runs mentoring programs. At the dinner, he sat between Colin Powell’s wife Alma and American Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle (seen in first picture), and why look, there’s Colin, back at the White House. This calls for a CAPTION CONTEST, wouldn’t you say? If it’s any help, Bush in his remarks said, “And you have helped make real the promise of our Creator -- that there is value and purpose in every single human life.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Attention, registered non-partisan voters in California

A mailing sent by county registrars of voters in California (I received this today), which seems to have been intended to be sent only to people with permanent absentee voter status, which I’m not, wrongly states that registered non-partisans who wish to vote in the February 5th presidential primaries in the Democratic or American Independent Party (the Supreme Court decided that the political parties are private groups can choose to abide or not abide by the state’s open primaries law, although for some reason the taxpayers still foot the bill for the primary elections for these private groups) have to return the form by November 26. This is only true for absentee ballots, and I’m not even sure (after a discussion with my county registrar’s office) that it’s a hard and fast deadline for that. If you vote in person and are a registered non-partisan, you can decide on election day to request a Dem or AmInd ballot. You can also vote for presidential candidates in those or any other party if you register by January 21. And since the only office being voted on in February is president, you can change your registration again in time for the June primary. (Update: in June 2008, non-partisans can vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries.)

There will also be propositions on the February ballot. And the June ballot. And the November ballot.

(Update: in response to a question in the comments to this post, I have tried to explain our strange Californian voting ways for those who are interested. Reading the explanation is also a completely legal means of achieving a state of mind usually attainable only through the ingestion of certain illegal substances. For my next trick, I will attempt to explain Trumpington’s Variation to the rules of Mornington Crescent.)

Wise policy helps keep us resilient

George Bush fired up his taxpayer-financed airplane today and flew to Indiana for a couple of hours to have lunch and give a speech about fiscal responsibility.

His word of the day: resilient. As in, “we’re a resilient economy.”

How resilient? “Just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of September the 11th, 2001, our economy was growing. Think about that. After the worst attack on American soil, where nearly 3,000 of our citizens died, this economy recovered. That’s a resilient economy.” And what do we need to maintain this resiliosity? More terrorist attacks? Evidently not. “Wise policy helps keep us resilient; lousy policy will hurt the ability for this economy to grow.” To recap: wise policy is wise, lousy policy is lousy.

AND IN THE TIME MY SPEECHWRITERS SPENT PLAYING WITH THEIR CALCULATORS...: “Over five years, their proposed spending spree adds up to an extra $205 billion. Put another way, that’s about $1,300 in higher spending every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every year for the next five years. Think about what it means for you. If you’re driving a half hour to visit your grandparents, Congress would have spent an extra $2.3 million. If you attend church for an hour, Congress will tally another $4.7 million. If you watch a football game, Congress would rack up $14 million -- unless, of course, it goes into overtime.” So, as I understand it, we could balance the budget if we just stopped visiting our grandparents, attending church and watching football games.

WHAT WE NEED AND WHAT WE DON’T NEED: “We don’t need members of Congress telling our military commanders what to do. We need our military commanders telling us what to do so we can win the war against these extremists and radicals.” Civilian rule is for sissies; just ask Gen. Musharraf.

MAKING ADVICE: “If you’ve got somebody in harm’s way, you want the President being -- making advice, not -- be given advice by the military, and not making decisions based upon the latest Gallup poll or focus group.”

A SPECIAL GUEST IN OTHER WORDS: “And here’s what [Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England] wrote: He said delaying could have this kind of quote -- in other words, what Congress is trying to do -- some in Congress are trying to delay spending this money. ... And here’s what the Deputy Secretary said. He said, it would have ‘a profoundly negative impact on the defense civilian workforce, depot maintenance, base operations, and training activities.’ In other words, there’s a consequence for not funding this money.”

“Congress’s responsibility is clear: It should not go home for the Christmas holidays without giving our troops on the front line the funds they need to succeed.” And maybe an iPod. By the way, how many “Christmas holidays” are there?

Then he returned to the White House and, um, he, um... CAPTION CONTEST!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not aware of any civilians in the area

In the court martial of an Army sniper – the case in which it came out that there’s something called an Asymmetrical Warfare Group that comes up with brilliant ideas like planting fuses and suchlike and then shooting anyone who picks them up – Staff Sgt Michael Hensley, a member of a sniper team called the Painted Demons, was acquitted on 3 counts of premeditated murder in Iraq but convicted of planting an AK-47 on the corpse of one of the people he shot. And of disrespecting a superior officer. He was sentenced to time served.

Today, US forces in Afghanistan killed 15 men they claimed were militants, plus a woman and two children. With a single grenade, I might add. Military spokesmodel Chris Belcher said, “When militants knowingly engage coalition forces with innocent people in the background, it only shows the extremists’ complete disregard for innocent lives.” Which might be a better excuse if the “engagement” was not, in fact, an American raid. Belcher continued, “on this operation we were not aware of any civilians in the area.” So that’s okay, then.

Tom Tancredo ad. Because some xenophobic dickhead needs to say it:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A course that could lead back to a path of democracy

On ABC this morning, Condi continued to oh so gently scold Musharraf. Actually, scold is far too strong a word. She prefers “counsel” and “encourage.” “Obviously, we are also encouraging that the state of emergency has got to be lifted and lifted as soon as possible.” As soon as possible? That phrase suggests that there is some reason why it is not possible right now, this very instant, and there is no such reason.

George Stephanopoulos pointed out to her that if and when Musharraf is sworn in again as president (he may be delaying this in order not to have to fulfill his promise to step down as army chief), it will be by a purged and supine Supreme Court (insert obligatory Bush v. Gore reference here). Condi responded, “George, this is not a perfect situation.” Oh dear, that puts us in our place for wanting utopia and the rule of, you know, law.

Pakistan, she continues, “is a country that has come a long way from 1999 and the military coup.” Who was behind that coup again, Condi? The “long way” Pakistan has come from the coup of 1999 to the coup of 2007 shows that “the road to democratic development is not smooth and even. ... But if the suggestion is that we somehow now abandon a course that could lead back to a path of democracy for Pakistan, I think that would be mistaken at this point.” Not actual democracy, of course, asking for that would be more of that airy-fairy, head-in-the-clouds perfectionism that adults like Condi are too pragmatic to deal in, but “a path of democracy,” or to be more specific a “course” that “could” lead to “a path of democracy” (Never ask Condi for directions; she’s all “turn left at the tree with the funny branch” and “go right at the empty lot where the Arbie’s used to be”). Because it’s all about the path, the journey, you see, not the destination; it’s very Zen, really, if arbitrary arrests, censorship and abrogation of the rule of law are Zen. And if you kids keep kicking the back of the seat, Gen. Musharraf is going to turn this car right around!

By the way, 3 British reporters were expelled from Pakistan because of an editorial in the Daily Telegraph about the coup which included an expletive – click here to find out which expletive – if you dare! (Second paragraph, first sentence, last word.) Musharraf wants an apology because the word “infringed norms of behaviour.” Mush is very big on the norms of behavior.

The discussion on This Week turned to whether Bush now has the authority to go to war with Iran. Condi: “Look, George, I’m not going to get into a constitutional argument about the President’s authorities. That stands on its own: the President’s authority to use whatever means he needs to use in order to secure the country.” Which of course is exactly what Musharraf claims justifies his seizure of near-absolute power. Funny, that.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I felt I was pretty multilateral

George Bush the Elder, 83 years old, made a spectacular entrance today at the re-dedication of his presidential museum, being sodomized in free fall in mid-air high above College Station, Texas, before the chute opened, if you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, his son was hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Crawford ranch, now that they’ve gotten that Sarkozy smell out. Today they held a joint press conference, photographed here by the AP in the style of a Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom cameraman sneaking up on a couple of gazelles.

At one point, Bush used the only word of German he knows, “Jawohl,” to put her at her ease.

He said that they had “meaningful, strategic discussions.” For example, “The Chancellor and I had a series of discussions on important subjects, starting with a dinner we had last night.” It is unclear if he meant that he had a discussion at dinner, or a discussion about dinner, especially, as we shall see, given how he ended the presser.

He said, “We discussed Iran and our deep desire to solve this important issue diplomatically.” Iran is not an “issue,” it’s a country. Iran is not yet one of those place-names that stand for something else, like Hiroshima, Columbine, Vietnam, or Intercourse, Pennsylvania.

He explained that General Musharraf is an entirely trustworthy fellow: “I take a person for his word until otherwise.” And Mush has indeed given his word, which has always meant so much in the past: “I do want to remind you that he has declared that he’ll take off his uniform, and he has declared there will be elections, which are positive steps.” Naked elections are your answer for everything, aren’t they?

Bush thinks he has detected the source of the problem: “We also believe that suspension of the emergency decree will make it easier for the democracy to flourish.” Ya think?

He explained why “the democracy” in Pakistan isn’t a big deal: “I vowed to the American people we’d keep the pressure on [Al Qaida]. I fully understand we need cooperation to do so, and one country that we need cooperation from is Pakistan. That cooperation has been made easier by the fact that al Qaeda has tried to kill leaders in Pakistan several times.”

Indeed, he thinks the only thing Pakistanis care about is fightin’ Al Qaida: “He [Musharraf] fully understands the dangers of al Qaeda. Benazir Bhutto fully understands the dangers of al Qaeda. By far, the vast majority of people in Pakistan... understand the dangers of al Qaeda.” “And so I believe that we will continue to have good collaboration with the leadership in Pakistan.” Collaboration. What a fine choice of word.

A reporter asked Bush if he is behaving less unilaterally in foreign policy these days: “I felt I was pretty multilateral the first four years of my administration.” I do not think that word means what George thinks it means.

He explained why you may want to pass up that Craigslist job posting: “I want to remind you that if you’re the chief operating officer of al Qaeda, you haven’t had a good experience.” I mean, double-entry bookkeeping is just a joke to those people.

As is always the case when George and Angela get together, things turned a little creepy. And as always, Bush gets in the last word:
PRESIDENT BUSH: I’m now going to go feed the Chancellor a hamburger. (Laughter.) Right here, Crawford, Texas. No, well, I mean back over there. Thank you all.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL: Obviously, for me, as a person who originally came from Hamburg --


CHANCELLOR MERKEL: -- it’s even more important.


God for Harry, England and a packet of crisps

Interesting analysis by the BBC’s Mohammed Hanif of Musharraf’s meandering televised speech last week.

The London Times op-ed editor asks for a new motto for Britain, in six words or less. Some of the replies so far (there are serious ones too, but sod that for a packet of crisps) (I think I just inadvertently coined my own entry):
  • “Sorry, is this the queue?”
  • “Full service will soon resume.”
  • “Yeah, but no, but, yeah.”
  • “No, please, after you, honestly.”
  • “That’s really most awfully kind.”
  • “At least we’re not French.”
  • “At least we’re not American.”
  • “Americans who missed the boat.”
  • “Yer’ve got to larf, aintcha?”
  • “Hanging on in quiet desperation.”
  • “Britain: it sucks a bit.”
  • “Once mighty empire, slightly used.”
  • “Mind the gap.”
  • “Is Princess Di still dead?”
  • “Bond. James Bond.”
  • “Fancy a cup of tea?”
  • “Come for the Weather, Stay for the Dentistry (and the cooking).”
  • “Lie back and think of England.”
  • “The game is afoot, Watson!”
  • “Don’t mention the war.”
  • “I have a cunning plan.”
The last 4 I just made up.

Update: checking back a day later, I find only one new one worth mentioning: “An island in a teacup.”
And I have two more of my own:
“Mrs Peel – we’re needed.”
“Ying tong iddle i po.”


This humble blog hasn’t been noticed by the right-wing of the blogosphere in a long time, but my post Thursday with all the pictures of Bush and the wounded soldiers has been, and gosh they don’t much like it. We can talk about them here without fear of discovery, by the way, because I notice that when they click over from, say, Jules Crittenden’s blog, not one of them reads anything besides the linked post (zero out of 66 so far), such is their intellectual curiosity. And yet, as is indicated by their comments on that post and in other right-wing blogs, chat groups and whatnot, they think they know from that single post, which mostly consisted of pictures, everything there is to know about me – not just that I’m a sick seditious bastard, a hate-filled moron with no honor who should leave the country, etcetera, but also that I personally know no one in the military, have never met a wounded veteran, am mocking the injured soldiers, and wouldn’t recognize the “You can’t handle the truth” speech from A Few Good Men.

They also insist that Bush really does care. In a previous visit to the same facility in January 2006, Bush happily joked about how he had injuries of his own, a minor scratch on his forehead sustained “in combat with a Cedar.”

The post I wrote at the time would have been a lot angrier, but I only learned later that he had just come from the amputee ward.

In the zone

A Beijing restaurant with an old-style-communist theme (wait staff in People’s Liberation Army uniforms etc) has been ordered by the local commerce bureau to remove a sign saying “liberation zone” pointing to the bathrooms. The bureau called the sign a “malicious satire detrimental to culture.”

By a curious coincidence, I’ve always thought of this blog as both a liberation zone and a malicious satire detrimental to culture. Does that mean this blog is also a bathroom sign?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Unafraid to make moral judgements about the world beyond our borders

Benazir Bhutto is being held under house arrest, but only “for her own security.” So that’s okay, then. (Update: she’s been released.)

Holy Joe Lieberman waxes nostalgic: “The Democratic party I grew up in was unafraid to make moral judgements about the world beyond our borders.” Good times, good times. Democrats today, however, “are viscerally opposed to the use of force – the polar opposite to the self-confident and idealistic nationalism of the party I grew up in.” So idealistic nationalism = the use of force. And how is that different from jingoistic thuggery?

The White House is having its annual Thanksgiving contest, in which the two turkeys to be spared the ax are named by the great American public. The choices offered by the White House this year are less creative than ever: Wing & Prayer, May & Flower, Gobbler & Rafter (Rafter?) (evidently a flock of turkeys is called a rafter), Wish & Bone, Truman & Sixty (the pardon-the-turkey thing was initiated by Truman 60 years ago, when I believe the turkeys were named Hiroshima & Nagasaki), or Jake & Tom. Surely we can do better. I declare this a CONTEST and open with my own entry: Water & Board.