Friday, February 29, 2008

Short for Terrence?

The news broke that Prince Harry has been in Afghanistan for several months, so don’t expect any actual news out of British newspapers for a few days.

His job has been calling in bombing raids on what he calls “Terry Taliban and his mates.” On the radio, he was known only as Widow Six Seven, although he does order air strikes with the words, “Off with their heads.”

(Update: Terry is actually short for Terrorist.)

Israel’s deputy defense minister has threatened that further rocket attacks from Gaza “will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust”. And no, that’s not a translation error.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


At a press conference in Japan, Condi Rice, who had just had a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, condemned Hamas rocket attacks on Israel but failed to mention the killing of a 6-month-old baby in Gaza by an Israeli air strike until a reporter asked about it. Her response: “We have to remember that the Hamas activities there are responsible for what has happened in Gaza”. She claimed, without offering any evidence, that “we are concerned about the innocent people and we are concerned about the humanitarian situation.” But, somehow, she failed to get around to condemning specifically the Israeli killing of a 6-month-old baby.

Bush press conference: He gains a lot from it by saying, look at me, I’m now recognized by the President of the United States

In a meeting with the Czech prime minister yesterday, Bush tried to reassure Russia about his Star Wars program: “If some of these countries develop a weapon that’s capable of developing a nuclear warhead, free nations, nations such as Russia, do not want to be in a position of political blackmail.” Free nations such as Russia? Define “free.”

Maliki (remember him?) said in a broadcast speech, “National reconciliation efforts have succeeded in Iraq and the Iraqis have once again become loving brothers.” See, and you didn’t think the Iraqis would once again becoming loving brothers.

Bush held a press conference this morning.

He accused opponents of the war in Iraq of being, gasp, consistent: “It seems that no matter what happens in Iraq opponents to the war have one answer: Retreat. ... I guess you could say that when it comes for pushing for withdrawal, their strategy is to stay the course.”

He said he’s “concerned about working Americans, concerned about people who want to put money on the table”. Of course he’s even more concerned about people who want to put money in their gold bathtubs and dive into it naked.

Bush press conf, 2.28.08  1

THE R WORD: “I don’t think we’re headed to a recession, but no question we’re in a slowdown.” Er, isn’t a recession a slowdown by, you know, definition? When he kept denying that Iraq was in a civil war, I suggested, as a compromise, “crapfest.” I offer it again now.

IN OTHER WORDS: “Credit will happen in the first week of May. In other words, some people will choose to have their bank accounts credited.”

AND ALL THAT STUFF. “I know there’s a lot of -- here in Washington, people are trying to -- stimulus package two and all that stuff. Why don’t we let stimulus package one, which seemed like a good idea at the time, have a chance to kick in?”

Bush press conf, 2.28.08  4

He explained why the Kurds should embrace being invaded by Turkey: “One, the Turks, the Americans, and the Iraqis, including the Iraqi Kurds, share a common enemy in the PKK. And secondly, it’s in nobody’s interests that there be safe haven for people who are -- have the willingness to kill innocent people.”


IN OTHER WORDS: “I strongly agree with the sentiments of Secretary Gates, who said that the incursion must be limited, and must be temporary in nature. In other words, it shouldn’t be long-lasting.”

So how long is long?
Q: But how quickly, sir, do they need to move out?

Bush: You know, as quickly as possible.

Q: Days or weeks?

Bush: Well, as possible.
A reporter asked about Clinton and Obama’s lack of familiarity with Putin’s successor slash puppet, but rather annoyingly didn’t ask Russert’s question, “What is his name?” Bush admitted, “I don’t know much about Medvedev either.” You might want to get on that.

Bush press conf, 2.28.08  5

However, he did say that “it is in the interest of the country to have a relationship” with him. Then he dropped the bombshell that will send Kim Jong-il to bed weeping into his pillow tonight: “I’m not going to have a personal relationship with Kim Jong-il, and our relationships are such that that’s impossible.”

(Incidentally, I’m opposed to orchestras performing in North Korea until all the kidnapped actors and directors are accounted for.)

He returned to the theme of Obama’s naivete later: “What’s lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs? What’s lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It will give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.” Great status? Well, everyone in a room with Bush does look smarter and more dignified by comparison...

Bush press conf, 2.28.08  2

“I’m not suggesting there’s never a time to talk, but I’m suggesting now is not the time -- not to talk with Raul Castro. He’s nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island”. What, he turned it into an isthmus?

Comedy tip of the day: the word isthmus is always funny.

Bush: And the idea of embracing a leader who’s done this without any attempt on his part to release prisoners and free their society would be counterproductive and send the wrong signal.”

Q: No one is saying embrace him, they’re just saying talk --

Bush: Well, talking to him is embracing. Excuse me. Let me use another word -- you’re right, ‘embrace’ is like big hug, right? You’re looking -- I do embrace people. Mike, one of these days, I’m just thinking about -- (laughter.) Right, okay, good, thank you for reminding me to use a different word. Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, look at me, I’m now recognized by the President of the United States.
That does sound like just exactly the sort of thing Raul would say.

Bush concluded: “And in my judgment, it would be a mistake -- on the two countries you talked about.” Cuba and Iran, George, Cuba and Iran. It helps to remember what countries you’re talking about.

However, he won’t let a little thing like lack of freedom prevent him enjoying the Olympics. “And maybe I’m in a little different position. Others don’t have a chance to visit with Hu Jintao, but I do.” Then he went on for a bit about how “every time I meet with him I talk about religious freedom” and how “if you’re allowed to worship freely, it will benefit the society” and “the Chinese government should not fear the idea of people praying to a god as they see fit” etc.. He didn’t mention any other sort of freedom, just religious freedom.

HAVE ALLEGED. On retroactive telecom immunity: “The government said to those who have alleged to have helped us that it is in our national interests and it’s legal”. Even if (when) this is passed, the claim that it was legal will still have been a lie, you know.


COINCIDENTALLY, WHAT’S IN HIS OWN HEAD: GRAVY. “And now, all of a sudden, plaintiffs attorneys, class-action plaintiffs attorneys, you know -- I don’t want to try to get inside their head; I suspect they see, you know, a financial gravy train -- are trying to sue these companies.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “I firmly believe that free trade is essential to the formation of high-paying, quality jobs. In other words, people who work for industries that export goods to overseas are likely to be paid more than their -- other workers.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “I also know it’s in our interest to insist that when people sell products into our countries [sic], that we get treated fairly. In other words, if we treat a country one way, people in a country one way, we expect to be treated the same way -- like Colombia.”

My favorite part of the presser came when he tried to spin the torpedoing of local elections in Iraq as a triumph of democracy: “a member of the presidency council utilized his constitutional right to veto one of the three pieces of legislation recently passed. I understand the use of the veto, intend to continue to use it, but I thought it was a healthy sign that people are thinking through the legislation that’s passed, and they’re worrying about making sure that laws are constitutional.”

HE HAS AN MBA, YOU KNOW: “We believe in a strong dollar policy, and we believe that -- and I believe that our economy has got the fundamentals in place for us to be a -- is to grow and continue growing more robustly, hopefully, than we’re growing now. And the dollar, the value of the dollar will be reflected in the ability for our economy to be -- to grow economically. And so we’re still for a strong dollar.”

Asked about the predictions of $4 per gallon gasoline by summer, Bush said, “That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that.” Again, by the way, a reporter missed a great gotcha opportunity by failing to preface his question by asking Bush what the price of gas is now.

DOESN’T KNOW THE MEANING OF THE WORD TRANSITORY: “And this -- I view it as a transitory period to new technologies that will change the way we live”.

AND I’M SURE THEY APPRECIATE IT. “This administration has done more for renewables than any President.”

LOOKING AT WHAT’S HAPPENED IN CORN OUT THERE. “Again, I repeat, if you look at what’s happened in corn out there, you’re beginning to see the food issue and the energy issue collide.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Democratic Debate: There’s a difference between denouncing and rejecting. No there isn’t. Yes there is.

Condi was in Beijing yesterday, and had a press conference with China’s foreign minister. A China Central Television reporter asked her a question using the phrase “Taiwan’s so-called referendum” three times. She didn’t take the hint and use that phrase in her reply, but did say that “this referendum is not going to help anyone and, in fact, it shouldn’t be held.”

Okay, I thought I had more from that presser, but I guess I don’t.

So it’s on to the last, one can but hope, primary debate of 2008, in which Tim Russert made that Chinese reporter look good by comparison.


Pictures below illustrate the many hand gestures of the Democratic Party and of Paraguayan presidential candidates Pedro Fadul and Blanca Ovelar, who also debated last night, just because my news photo search also turned up pictures from that debate.

The first part was devoted to health insurance, sixteen full minutes as Bryan Williams pointed out aggrievedly, sounding as if he’d been forced to sit through a four-hour speech by Fidel Castro.

Both candidates said “health care” when they actually meant private health insurance. Only a public employee who doesn’t have to deal with a private insurance company would consider the two to be synonymous. (That reminds me that I never finished writing a post I started a couple of weeks ago on Clinton and Obama’s insurance plans; it wasn’t as intellectually coherent as I liked, and every other sentence was “Fucking Blue Cross just raised my fucking premiums twenty-five fucking percent!”) Hillary: “You know, for example, it’s been unfortunate that Senator Obama has consistently said that I would force people to have health care whether they could afford it or not.” So you’re not planning to make people have appendectomies against their will? Good to know. Obama: “Every expert has said that anybody who wants health care under my plan will be able to obtain it.”

Dem and or Paraguayan debate, 2.26.08  1

Hillary insisted that many of the uninsured can afford it, they’re just “young people who think they’re immortal.” I guess she just lost the young-people-who-think-they’re-immortal vote, although I suspect Obama already had a lock on that.

Obama: “With respect to the young people, my plan specifically says that up until the age of 25 you will be able to be covered under your parents’ insurance plan, so that cohort that Senator Clinton is talking about will, in fact, have coverage.” Except for the poor, forgotten orphans.

Dem and or Paraguayan debate, 2.26.08  2
Side-pointy, up-pointy

Hillary complained that she was being picked on while Obama was being coddled: “Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time.”

Obama said the Clinton campaign has “constantly sent out negative attacks on us, e-mail, robocalls, flyers, television ads, radio calls” (radio calls?) (Update: oh, I get it, he means call-ins to talk radio), but “we haven’t whined about it”. Unless you count what he just, you know, said.

Dem and or Paraguayan debate, 2.26.08  6

Clinton: “I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning. I didn’t have a public position on it, because I was part of the administration, but when I started running for the Senate, I have been a critic”. So we’ll just have to take her word about having been a critic from the very beginning? No, wait: “I think David Gergen was on TV today remembering that I was very skeptical about it.” So that settles that to our perfect satisfaction.

Obama: “we can’t shy away from globalization.”

Dem and or Paraguayan debate, 2.26.08  5
Double pointy

Clinton says it’s unfair to compare Obama’s 2002 speech against the forthcoming Iraq war with her record in the Senate voting to authorize it because “Many people gave speeches against the war then... And when he came to the Senate, he and I have voted exactly the same. We have voted for the money to fund the war until relatively recently. So the fair comparison was when we both had responsibility, when it wasn’t just a speech but it was actually action, where is the difference?” Yah, his principles are just as compromised as mine! We’re both sell-outs! Vote for me!

Obama’s response: “Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is, who’s making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch?” See, that metaphor totally explains away his votes for Iraq war funding.

Dem and or Paraguayan debate, 2.26.08  8
Me and my loud tie are crushing your head!

Russert asked Obama about Farrakhan’s announcement that he supported Obama for president. Obama said that he hadn’t asked for that support, could hardly stop the man supporting him, and added, “You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible.” Which was funny, because nobody had said anything yet about Minister Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments. Russert then proceeded to repeat every single anti-Semitic comment Minister Farrakhan has ever made in his entire life, as though Obama hadn’t just said he denounced them, then accusingly asked him, “What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it’s Farrakhan’s support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?” This forced Obama to go on at length about how Jews in Chicago love him and about his unwavering, unequivocal, unthinking support of Israel, whose “security is sacrosanct”, and “the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.” However, I don’t believe he assured Jewish-Americans that he was not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness. Let the attack ads commence.

Dem and or Paraguayan debate, 2.26.08  4
Side handy, shrug handy

Hillary, who also loves her some Jews, informed Obama that “there’s a difference between denouncing and rejecting.” Also between disavowing and rebuffing, objurgating and spurning, condemning and repudiating, excoriating and abjuring.

Obama rejected (and denounced) this lexicological specificity: “I have to say I don’t see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. ... But if the word ‘reject’ Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word ‘denounce,’ then I’m happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.”

Democrats Debate 2008
Boob-covery, pointy

Obama also rejected and denounced the National Journal’s rating of him as the most liberal senator. Then he crossed over into that monomaniacal place every politician reaches sooner or later, and started speaking of himself in the third person: “And part of the reason I think a lot of people have been puzzled, why is it that Senator Obama’s campaign, the supposed liberal, is attracting more Independent votes than any other candidate in the Democratic primary, and Republican votes as well, and then people are scratching their head? It’s because people don’t want to go back to those old categories of what’s liberal and what’s conservative.” Really?

Russert asked Hillary, “What can you tell me about the man who’s going to be Mr. Putin’s successor?” Dude, do your own research. Google, Wikipedia.

Inherent in the words “who’s going to be Mr. Putin’s successor” is the (absolutely correct) assumption that the actual Russian elections do not matter, an assumption Hillary failed to remark upon. It will be interesting to see if there is a reaction from Russia.

After she went on for a bit about the man who’s going to be Mr. Putin’s successor, the state of the Russian polity, etc, Russert asked the question I was wondering, “Do you know his name?” She fumbled through several attempts to pronounce Medvedev, finally saying, “whatever.” We’ll never know if Obama knew his name.

(Incidentally, I didn’t actually watch most of the debate, so I’m not sure if it’s a transcript error that has Obama saying he was getting “filibuttered.” But filibuttered is my new favorite word.)

Obama said that if Russian troops join Serbs in attacking Kosovo (this was Russert’s scenario), he’d get NATO to do something or other. He added that “We have recognized the country of Kosovo as an independent, sovereign nation... And I think that that carries with it, then, certain obligations to ensure that they are not invaded.” Recognizing a country requires that, Barry? Because we’ve recognized 150, 180 of the suckers.

Hillary: “Well, obviously, I’ve said many times that, although my vote on the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq was a sincere vote, I would not have voted that way again.” So after 2002 you gave up the whole “sincerity” thing because it just wasn’t working out for you, is that what you’re saying, Hills?

Dem and or Paraguayan debate, 2.26.08  3

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A mission of mercy

A reminder: there are currently seven hunger-striking prisoners in Guantanamo being forcibly fed.

This morning Bush talked at the Leon Sullivan Foundation about his trip to Africa. “America,” he told the audience, “is on a mission of mercy.” A mission that has, evidently, conquered death itself: “You see it when you look into the eyes of an AIDS patient who has been brought back to life.” We’re just that good.

He mentioned that in the fight against malaria Benin has instituted “a national awareness day called ‘George W. Bush Day.’” Well, when you want to remind people of the dangers of annoying, disease-bearing insects...

In Rwanda, he visited the memorial center for the 1994 genocide. “I don’t know if our citizens understand this, but between 800,000 and a million people were murdered in a very short period of time.” I don’t know if our citizens understand that either, but it’s a safe bet George didn’t understand it until, oh, about a week ago.

He talked repeatedly during the speech about African children who are going to school for the first time, about the importance of education for bettering these countries’ economies, about the US providing textbooks, etc etc, but, you know, this is George Bush, so he didn’t see anything contradictory about letting his personal attitude towards schooling show by remarking about children in Ghana watching his motorcade, “I suspect they’re really happy I came -- they didn’t have to go to school...”

No one could have anticipated...

WaPo headline: “NATO Confronts Surprisingly Fierce Taliban.”

To whom is it surprising that the Taliban are fierce?

Monday, February 25, 2008

One, it’s not fair

This morning, Bush spoke to the National Governors’ Association.

He told the governors (and governators), “Now, as you know, I’m a big believer that government ought to empower people who have got a great capacity to help change people’s lives.” By which he of course means shoveling money to religious groups, because “You know, we ought to be asking what works -- not the process.” Yes, if there’s one thing all religions teach, it’s that the ends justify the means. He gave all the governors a copy of The Watchtower a pamphlet on his “faith-based and community initiative” called The Quiet Revolution. Yeah, that doesn’t sound creepy at all.

He explained what was inherent in Medicare reform: “First of all, inherent in the Medicare reform was one that made no sense not to provide prescription drugs for seniors.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, there’s some wonderful things going on, all market-driven. And we just want to facilitate those decisions because, in my judgment, the opposite of having the government here in Washington be the decision-maker will undermine private medicine, will make quality care more difficult.”

He also spoke at length about warrantless wiretaps, and I’d like to give that at greater length than I usually do (because too long exposure may cause bleeding from the eyes), just so you can get the flavor of the master rhetorician at work:
I get briefed every morning about threats we face, and they're real. And therefore the question is, what do you do about them? In my judgment, we have got to give the professionals who work hard to protect us all the tools they need. To put it bluntly, if the enemy is calling to America, we really need to know what they’re saying. And we need to know what they’re thinking. And we need to know who they’re talking to.

This is a different kind of struggle than we’ve ever faced before. It’s essential that we understand the mentality of these killers. And so therefore we worked with Congress to protect -- pass the Protect America Act, which everybody knows has expired. And I want to share with you the core of the problem. And the problem is, should companies who are believed to have helped us -- after 9/11 until today -- get information necessary to protect the country, be sued. And my answer is, absolutely not; they shouldn’t be sued, for a couple of reasons.

One, it’s not fair. Our government told them that their participation was necessary, and it was -- and still is -- and that what we had asked them to do was legal. And now they’re getting sued for billions of dollars -- and it’s not fair, and it will create doubt amongst private sector folks who we need to help protect us. ...

Finally, it’ll make it harder to convince companies to participate in the future. I mean, if you’ve done something that you think is perfectly legal and all of a sudden you’re facing billions of dollars of lawsuits, it’s going to be hard to provide -- with credibility -- assurances that we can go forward. ...

What I do want to share with you is that there’s a lot of good folks, and you know it, too, and I want to thank you all very much for these counterterrorism cells.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Then what’s the point of even having a prime minister?

London Sunday Times: “Downing Street has rejected an online petition that calls on Gordon Brown to sing, ‘We’re going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line,’ while standing in a barrel of custard. The petitioner has been told: ‘This is outside the remit of the prime minister.’”

Do you suppose that these days Osama bin Laden gets annoyed when people mistake his name for Barack Obama’s?

Do you suppose the reason Hillary Clinton can get so few people excited about the prospect of the first woman president is that everyone is just kind of embarrassed that it’s so overdue, in the way that a 33-year old who has just lost his virginity is less likely to trumpet the fact to his friends than a 17-year old?

Headline of the Day (London Times) and Death of the Day: “Runaway Lawnmower Kills Buddhist Monk.” At the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes. The thing got away from him, he ran after it trying to get back into the cab, but was pulled under the blades, possibly because he was missing three fingers. From another lawnmower accident ten years ago.

Other Death of the Day (also London Times): “Man Choked in Cake-Eating Contest.”

George Bush hosted the 100th annual state dinner for US governors, which may well also have featured a cake-eating contest. Although it was scheduled at the same time as the Academy Awards, somehow Jack Nicholson was sitting in the front row wearing sunglasses indoors there too. He’s just that good.

Bush said of that first dinner, “I can’t imagine what they were thinking about what America would look like a hundred years ago. And I’m not sure what people will think a hundred years from now.” They’ll still think you were the worst president ever.

By the way, the governors’ dinner was initiated by Teddy Roosevelt, for whom the teddy bear was named, and the song “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” was written by the same man who wrote “We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line.” So it all ties together.

Here are Bush and my steamed esteemed governor. But what, oh what, could they be saying, readers?

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month extension of his cease-fire. Gen. David Petraeus welcomed this development: “The continuation of the cease-fire is an important commitment by al-Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr that holds the potential for a further reduction in violence in Iraq. The US, however, will continue to kill lots and lots of Iraqis.” (I may have made up that second sentence.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Democratic debate: Change you can xerox


Obama: “The problem we have is that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die.” Yes, but on the other hand, it’s a place where crappy ideas go to live.

Hillary wants a “trade time-out.”


As with her vote for the Iraq war authorization, Hillary says she was totally snookered when she voted for the border fence: “I think when both of us voted for this, we were voting for the possibility that where it was appropriate and made sense, it would be considered. But as with so much, the Bush administration has gone off the deep end”. What she wants now: “smart fencing.”

Obama responded well to the line Clinton has recently been directing at his supporters, “Let’s get real.” “The implication,” he said, “is that the people who’ve been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional.” Actually, the implication is that they’re naive, don’t know how things are done in the real world, and are easily distracted by shiny objects. Which, admittedly, a lot of them are. The thing is, the people she’s insulting are not just Obama supporters, they are American citizens who exercised their constitutional rights in the manner they saw fit. That’s the basis of representative democracy, so politicians are kind of expected to pretend to have a bit more respect it.

It’s also not good as a form of persuasion. She’s not going to win over people who are leaning towards Obama by telling them “Let’s get real” with all the disdain of a parent addressing a son who has just informed them he wants to major in dance.


Obama does pretend to respect the voters. He pretends the crap out of it. Indeed, he pretends that he is leading some sort of movement, through the power of his pretty, pretty oratory, which will “inspire the American people to get involved in their government and ... inspire them to go beyond the racial divisions and the religious divisions and the regional divisions that have plagued our politics for so long”. He never says anything about how the American people will get involved in their government after they vote for him in November. In the words of Stephen Colbert in the first episode of The Colbert Report, “Your voice will be heard, in the form of my voice.”

Pointy pointy

Clinton pushed the charge of plagiarism, a charge so thin that it will convince many people that he must be practically perfect because there is nothing more substantial that she can say against him: “Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That’s, I think, a very simple proposition. And, you know, lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.” You can see that her candidacy isn’t going to be about words, because the phrase “change you can Xerox” doesn’t actually mean anything.

Asked if her claim that “One of us is ready to be commander in chief” implied in a, you know, subtle way, that Obama isn’t, she refused to repeat it in front of him. “Well, I believe that I am ready and I am prepared. And I will leave that to the voters to decide.” Will you? We have your permission? How fucking gracious.

How is she ready and prepared? “What I mean is that, you know, for more than 15 years, I’ve been honored to represent our country in more than 80 countries”. In the same way that Laura Bush just represented the US in five African countries?

As you can tell, it’s been too many debates for me, and I am just sick of the both of them. I am tired with the little bits of debate theatrics, as when Barack pretends to be jotting something down when Hillary is speaking. Once, she turned her head a little bit towards him at a moment when he was looking at her; he jerked his head away abruptly as if he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and started writing. What do you think he writes? He’s left-handed, by the way. I seem to remember that an unusual number of presidents have been left-handed.

He also has this aristocratic looking-down-his-nose thing. Just saying.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bush in Africa: A chance to herald courageous people in their efforts to deal with hopelessness

On his way home from Africa on Air Force One, Bush chatted with reporters.

HERALDRY: “the second trip to Africa for me, the fifth for Laura -- was a chance to herald courageous people in their efforts to deal with hopelessness.”

WHAT REALLY MADE HIM HAPPY: “And what really made me happy was that the people of Africa have come to appreciate the generosity of the American people.”

WHAT WAS INSPIRING TO HIM: “To have the little orphans in Rwanda put on such a cheerless -- a cheery face because somebody is trying to provide them love, was inspiring to me. To watch their little guys play tee ball...”

THAT’S WHAT I THINK WE ARE: “Anyway, it’s the human condition that matters. You heard me say a lot on the trip that we’re on a mission of mercy, and that’s what I think we are.”

YOU SAY POTATO: “America should not be dictating to these countries. America ought to be helping leaders make decisions.”

At this point Laura Bush spoke up, and explained what she considers fun: “One of the really great things that I got to do was be a part of the Tanzanians new Action Plan for Vulnerable Children and Orphans. A lot of these countries have huge numbers of orphans, either from AIDS or malaria or from conflict. And they are so proud to have started their -- to be, really, the first country to come up with their plan on how to identify orphans all over the country and vulnerable children all over the country, and then what to do to help them. And that was fun.”

Asked about African interest in the Obama candidacy, Bush insisted that it “never came up,” and that Africans really have no interest in Obama:
Q: People would mention it to us.

Bush: If you asked them, yes. “What do you think about Obama?” Yes, they mentioned it to you all right; yes.
THE HISTORIOGRAPHER-IN-CHIEF: “I would just tell you this -- and you’ve heard me say it and it’s true -- there’s no such thing as short-term political history. I mean, short-term history of an administration -- forget ‘political’ -- there is such thing as short-term political history because there’s an end result, win or lose. There’s no such thing as an accurate history of an administration until time has lapsed -- unless you’re doing little-bitty things.”

THE REMINDERER-IN-CHIEF: “And one of the great dangers for America is to become isolationist or protectionist. And the purpose of -- on trips like this is to remind people of the need not to become isolationist.”

Condi Rice was asked about her attempt to get the people who won the Kenyan elections to form a government with the people who lost the Kenyan elections. “This is a matter of the two sides setting aside personal animosities and personal agendas and doing what’s right for their country.” Oh, and the elections, those have to be set aside as well.

She does believe that such a deal is possible: “they are under enormous pressure from the Kenyan people -- from the business communities, civil society, the media -- everybody talks about outside interference with the -- the impatience of the Kenyan people who see their society, their economy -- the Serena Hotel, where Kofi Annan is staying, 30 percent occupancy; the InterContinental, 1 percent occupancy. And Kenya can’t stand that for very long. So that’s where the pressure is coming from.” Oh, and the mass killings and violence. That, and the 1% occupancy rate at the InterContinental Hotel.

NOT THE THING: “The PEPFAR program has been great. It’s a bipartisan success. Congress funded the thing -- not the ‘thing,’ Congress funded the program”.

The video you asked for, the video you demanded, the video... oh, just watch Bush dance. Dance, monkey boy, dance!

Bush in Africa: It’s easier to tear a country down than it is to rebuild a country

Bush’s trip to Africa, the second of his administration, is almost over. It lasted about as long as the one to the Middle East last month, didn’t it?

Everywhere he went, there were drummers. Evidently Africa only has one musical instrument.

Here he is going to a state dinner in Ghana. I believe the gentleman in the foreground is in charge of the potato salad.

Then he moved on to Liberia, where he noted that Laura “is the librarian in the family.” So presumably she’ll fit right in.

Liberia, he pointed out, is just like Texas: they both have a single star in their flag.

ONE OF? YOU MEAN YOU’VE LEARNED MORE THAN ONE THING? “You know, one of the things I’ve learned, and I suspect the people of Liberia have learned: It’s easier to tear a country down than it is to rebuild a country.” Damn Ikea instructions.

Africans will be relieved to hear this endorsement: “I believe African leaders can run African countries.”

Not that that stopped him trying on his new “Emperor of Africa” costume.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bush in Africa: And the United States hasn’t tried to impose a will

Today Bush held a press conference with Ghanaian President John Kufuor.

ASKED BY WHOM? “I’m oftentimes asked, what difference does it make to America if people are dying of malaria in a place like Ghana?” Oh; it’s Cheney who asks that, isn’t it?

SO WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE TO AMERICA? “It means a lot. It means a lot morally, it means a lot from a -- it’s in our national interest. After all, if you believe we’re in an ideological struggle against extremism, which I do, the only way these people can recruit is when they find hopeless people. And there’s nothing more hopeless than a mother losing a child needlessly to a mosquito bite.” I forget: were many of the 9/11 hijackers Ghanaian mothers?

IN OTHER WORDS: “we do not contemplate adding new bases. In other words, the purpose of this is not to add military bases.”

He won’t change the policy of spending 1/3 of AIDS money in Africa on abstinence, which he says has been “unbelievably effective.”

HE’S THE REMINDERER: “I’ve come to remind our fellow citizens that it is in our interest to help countries deal with curable diseases like malaria, and difficult diseases like HIV/AIDS, that it’s in our interest...”

OR FIRST OF ALL, SECONDLY: “Secondly, first of all, Africa has changed since I’ve been the president in a very positive way”.

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, conflict resolution has been taking place. And the United States hasn’t tried to impose a will”.

Insert clever post title here

Saw the Frontline episode on the Haditha Massacre. It didn’t mention the part where the marine urinated on the bodies. And it was so narrowly focused on the events of a single day that there was not a single appearance by Rumsfeld, Pace, Bush, all of whom downplayed Haditha outrageously. If you need a refresher, click on the topic label at the bottom of this post.

Speaking of atrocities, there have been a series of arrests recently of Argentinian military officers who committed them during the Dirty War in the 1970s, and there’s a rather fascinating civil case in which one of those babies (AP says there were 200, Reuters 400) seized from political prisoners and given to military officers or others connected to the junta to raise has sued those adoptive parents (her biological parents were arrested in 1977 when her mother was 6 months pregnant; they were never seen again).

Hawaii had its caucus yesterday, or as they pronounce it, cow-oo-kus.

George and Laura in Rwanda, attending a school play about abstinence. The mind boggles. Evidently both Bushes speak fluent Kinyarwanda and don’t need an interpreter.

Here... oh god, please tell me he isn’t trying to dance to those drums.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bush in Africa: Don’t come to the continent feeling guilty about anything

Bush greeted the independent nation of Kosovo. And then the Reminderer undermined it: “And it’s important for us to remind Kosovo -- which I have just done -- that they must honor their commitments to support the rights of non-Albanians, non-Kosovars’ rights inside the country.” “Non-Kosovars,” as if ethnic Serbs are not proper citizens of Kosovo.

Here, for your captioning pleasure, are some pictures from yesterday of Bush’s trip to a girls’ school in Tanzania.

Then it was on to Rwanda.

Where he held a press conference with President Paul Kagame.

ALSO, HE’D LIKE TO SEE THOSE ELEPHANTS FUCKING AGAIN. BUT MOSTLY THE MISSION OF MERCY THING. “You know, people say, why would you want to come to Africa at this point in your presidency? Because I’m on a mission of mercy, that’s why.”

WHAT’S IN OUR NATIONAL INTEREST: “I want the American people to understand that when it comes to saving lives, it’s in our national interest. I firmly believe that”.

WHAT HE’S FRANKLY NOT INTERESTED IN: “I’m frankly not interested in, you know, spending taxpayers’ money on governments that end up pocketing the money and not helping citizens live.”

On Castro’s retirement: “I heard the reports, several ways -- one, reporters yelling it at me, and then of course I was briefed.” And very well briefed indeed, because he came forth with this stunning insight into the resignation of a man who ruled for 50 years: “So I view this as a period of transition”. That sort of analysis is why he’s the president, and you’re not.

On the need to promote instability in Cuba: “There will be some who say, let’s promote stability. Of course, in the meantime, political prisoners will rot in prison, and the human condition will remain pathetic in many cases.”

WHAT HE RECOGNIZED IN THE RWANDA GENOCIDE MUSEUM: “You can’t help but walk in there and recognize the -- you know, that evil does exist and, in this case, in such brutal form that babies had their skulls smashed.” Also, the gift shop sucks.

WHAT HE LEARNED IN THE RWANDA GENOCIDE MUSEUM: “And I came away with two lessons -- I’m sure there’s many more. One was, we’ve got to work to prevent it from happening in the first place... And secondly, that when you -- when the people decide to respond, that you go in with enough force that has the proper mandate.”

WHAT HE CAN’T IMAGINE: “I just can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a citizen who witnessed such horrors, and then had to try to gather themselves up and live a hopeful life.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “[A] clear lesson I learned in the museum was that outside forces that tend to divide people up inside their country are unbelievably counterproductive. In other words, people came from other countries -- I guess you’d call them colonialists -- and they pitted one group of people against another.” Shiites, Sunnis – ring a bell at all?

IN OTHER WORDS: “I would urge [my successor] to treat our -- the leaders in Africa as partners. In other words, don’t come to the continent feeling guilty about anything.”

Later, he opened the new US embassy in Rwanda, “because guys like me always like to cut ribbon”. Is that some sort of metaphor?

He thanked Americans working in Rwanda: “And when we see the hungry, we feed the hungry -- not because of its -- you know, it’s, like, we want to establish undue influence; it’s because we all believe we’re children of God.”

TO WHO: “Finally, I do want to end by saying this: To who much is given, much is required.”

Monday, February 18, 2008

McCain endorsed by, um, who is that guy again?

PBS Frontline episode Tuesday on the Haditha Massacre.

John McCain has secured the endorsement of the elder Bushes, and, from the expression on his face, did so through some means of persuasion that will haunt him until the end of his days.

Bush in Africa: Our interests are now making a significant effort

Bush visited a hospital in Tanzania to talk about malaria. He’s against it: “every death caused by malaria is unacceptable.” Just in case you were wondering if some of the deaths caused by malaria are acceptable.

I don’t know if it’s a genuine Bushism or a transcription error that had him praising American religious types who come to Africa to “confront the suffering and heal the sick.”

Bush never talks about humanitarian efforts without invoking American “interests.” I mean, he may talk about “to much is given etc”, but he seems to be embarrassed by wholly selfless motives, or maybe he just considers them illegitimate. “It’s in the interests of the United States to save lives. And it’s in the interests of the Tanzanian government to put forth an effective strategy. Our interests are combined, and our interests are now making a significant effort.”

He is heavily promoting bed nets to prevent malaria, calling them “one of the simplest technologies imaginable, but it’s also one of the most effective.” Then he went to a bed-net factory....

BBC caption: US President George W Bush gets caught in a mosquito net used to combat Malaria at a textile mill in Arusha, Tanzania.

One of the simplest technologies imaginable.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Not a thing that we can tolerate

Must read 1: Mark Schmitt of American Prospect on McCain’s loan deal in which he could be required by his creditors to stay in the primary race even if he had lost it and would otherwise drop out, in order to get federal matching funds to repay the loan. Putting his name to such an agreement shows contempt for, and a willingness to commit a fraud upon, Americans both as taxpayers and as voters.

Must read 2: Paul Kramer of the New Yorker on the American use of drowning as an instrument of interrogation in the Philippines at the start of the 20th century. Teddy Roosevelt: “we do not torture torture is not a thing that we can tolerate.”

Thought on “The Wire”: Could McNulty’s ultimate (and just) punishment be to be promoted to that thing he despises above all others, a boss?

Bush in Africa: Vipi mambo, y’all

A suicide bombing kills 80 at a dog-fighting match in Afghanistan. I think I’ll move on before I say something that gets me in trouble.

Chant at anti-Bush rally in Dar es Salaam: “Evil is not a foreign policy.”

Bush is in Tanzania. He held a joint news conference with President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, whom he greeted thusly: “Vipi mambo. ... For the uneducated, that’s Swahili for, ‘Howdy, you all.’”

“Vipi mambo.” “Don’t even think about putting that hand on my butt.”

A note to whoever does these transcripts: that would be “deprivation of basic social and economic services,” not “depravation of basic social and economic services.”

Asked why he was only showing interest in Africa at the end of his time in office, Bush said he was interested in Africa “since day one” and related this remarkably unlikely dialog he claims took place early on with Condi: “And she asked me whether or not I really cared about Africa and my answer to her then is the same answer I will give to you now: Absolutely, it’s in our national interests that America help deal with hopelessness; and it’s in our moral interests that we help brothers and sisters who hurt.”

“Moral interests,” a phrase he’s used several times this trip, is kind of an odd, indeed contradictory, concept.

He issued a stern, to say nothing of offensively condescending, order to Congress about his African AIDS program: “stop the squabbling and get the program reauthorized.”

HE’S THE REMINDERER: “As a matter of fact, I’m going to Liberia as my last stop on this very important trip, to support the President, the first elected woman President on the continent of Africa, and to remind her that the U.S.’s help will be constant and enduring.”

Bush refused to say whether he’d recognize Kosovo’s independence, telling the reporter who asked the question, “I suggest you study the Ahtisaari plan. Not to be like the, you know, grumpy guy.” That will go down in history as the American president’s response to the birth of the newest nation.

Which brings us to an announcement: This blog, “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It,” hereby recognizes the independence of Kosovo and wishes it vipi mambo.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bush in Africa: The US desires to see that there be no violence

Bush has arrived in Africa, or as he describes it, “a large place with a lot of nations.” Dude should write travel books. It’s like he’s painting a picture with words.

I can’t figure the logic behind his itinerary. Today he flew from Benin to Tanzania, but he’ll also be going to Liberia and Ghana. Does no one in the White House possess a map?

Possibly I don’t really want to know the answer to that.

He held a press conference with Benin’s president, Boni Yayi. Another great name, but I’ll bet that a place that preferred “Benin” to “Dahomey” doesn’t even appreciate it.

Say it out loud: Boni Yayi Boni Yayi Boni Yayi. Fun.

(Update: evidently, his visit to Benin, the first by an American president, lasted three hours and he never left the airport.)

SO, WHY ARE YOU HERE? “One of the reasons I’ve come here, sir, is because leaders around the world have got to understand that the United States wants to partner with leaders and the people, but we’re not going to do so with people that steal money -- pure and simple.” Oil, that’s what you’re supposed to steal.

THE REMINDERER: “my trip here is a way to remind future Presidents and future Congresses that it is in the national interest and in the moral interests of the United States of America to help people.” I’m sure they’ll be grateful for that reminder, and for the suggestion that they need a reminder. From you.

WHAT MAKES GEORGE WEEP: “You know, the Malaria Initiative is an initiative that is very dear to my heart and Laura’s heart because we weep when we think about little babies needlessly dying”. As opposed to the little babies who were askin’ for it.

Asked why he is avoiding all the trouble spots in Africa: “When you herald success, it helps others realize what it possible”.

THAT’S WHAT DIPLOMACY IS. He is, however, sending Condi to solve the Kenya problem. She’ll be there part of Monday. So she should have time to solve the disputed election and get in a little shopping as well. “In terms of Condi’s visit, I will -- the key is, is that the leaders hear from her firsthand the U.S. desires to see that there be no violence and that there be a power-sharing agreement that will help this nation resolve its difficulties. That’s what diplomacy is, and we’ve been very active on all fronts.” Clearly, Kenyans wouldn’t have engaged in all that violence if they had just been made aware that the US desires to see that there be no violence.

And that was it: “Like, press conference over.”