Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guns for cons

It’s now legal to bring guns into bars in Arizona. Project for some day when I’m bored: join NRA, attend meeting of same, propose ending the unfair infringement of the 2nd Amendment rights of prisoners, see how much support I get.


From a NYT story that asks the burning question, “Is Iran Designing Warheads?” (I’m picturing arches and majestic domes): “The Israelis, who have delivered veiled threats of a military strike...” Yes, veiled, just the word I was looking for. Because there is nothing more subtle than the Israeli threats to bomb the shit out of Iran.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Propaganda kills

an Afghan girl. The Times: “This is believed to be the first time that a civilian has been killed by a box of public information leaflets.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

A courtesy

The Honduran coup regime’s foreign minister threatens to de-embassize (that’s a word, right?) Brazil’s embassy if it doesn’t hand President Zelaya over or remove him from Honduras within ten days, but “As a courtesy, we are not planning to invade the place.” Because no one – no one! – can accuse Honduras’s coupsters of lacking courtesy.

Don’t you hate it when an anecdote just trails off?

Obama, yesterday: “I was up at the G20 -- just a little aside -- I was up at the G20, and some of you saw those big flags and all the world leaders come in and Michelle and I are shaking hands with them. One of the leaders -- I won’t mention who it was -- he comes up to me. We take the picture, we go behind. He says, ‘Barack, explain to me this health care debate.’ He says, ‘We don’t understand it. You’re trying to make sure everybody has health care and they’re putting a Hitler mustache on you -- I don’t -- that doesn’t make sense to me. Explain that to me.’ He didn’t understand.”

Er, so how did you explain it to him?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I got nuthin’

Baltimore public schools institute Meatless Mondays, replacing the traditional Mystery Meat Mondays.

So, does Dexter, serial-killer trying to blend in with a society whose mores he does not feel, = Don Draper? Discuss.

For extra credit, where does Roman Polanski fit in to this thesis?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ahmadinejad and the nuclear enrichment plant of doom

Obama on the evidence of Iran’s secret nuclear facility: “This was the work product of three intelligence agencies, not just one.” Well, if it’s three whole intelligence agencies, then it must be true. (I think he means the CIA, MI6 and French intelligence). “They checked over this work in a painstaking fashion.” Seems to me I’ve heard this sort of thing before.

The most unlikely part of this story? That the US supposedly for years possessed intel that would have advanced Dick Cheney’s agenda, but failed to leak it.

Senators Bayh, Kyl and Lieberman issued a statement accusing Iran of a “consistent pattern of deceit, concealment and bad faith,” because if there are three things Joe Lieberman hates, they’re deceit, concealment and bad faith. “Until Iran proves otherwise, we must assume the worst about its nuclear intentions and activities -- and act accordingly.” Can’t let the smoking gun come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama’s UN speech & the Middle East

Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman praises Obama for saying in his UN speech that Israel is a Jewish state. As always with American foreign policy, Obama treats the Palestinians who live inside Israel proper as the forgotten people, the equivalent of an embarrassing fart, best ignored.

Obama also again called on the Palestinian gov to “end incitement against Israel” without naming the newspapers he wanted suppressed and individuals he wanted cracked down on. If you’re calling for a country to repress free speech, you should at least be specific about which speech you want repressed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sarah Palin and the land bridge to Asia

Oh, which speech to blog about today, Obama at the UN or Sarah Palin in Hong Kong? What to do, what to do.

From Sarah Palin’s speech in Hong Kong (no link, since the Wall Street Journal took down the excerpts from the closed-door event they’d posted earlier):

OF COURSE SHE’D HAVE TO FIND... SOMETHING ELSE... TO HUNT FROM PLANES: “We got a chance yesterday to see some of the magnificent city of Hong Kong, and while the wildlife to human ratio here, it differs from that of Alaska, uh, I do think I could get used to this.”

AND VICE VERSA: “And we have a special place in our hearts in Alaska for the Pacific Rim.”

WHAT AN AWFUL THING TO SAY ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER: “We have the world’s most abundant salmon spawning grounds right there in Bristol Bay.”

WHAT SARAH HAS ALWAYS BEEN REALLY INTERESTED IN: “Personally, I’ve always been really interested in the ideas, too, about the land bridge.”

YES, ALASKA AND HONG KONG ARE JUST EXACTLY THE SAME: “We have much in common with Hong Kong. We’re both young and transient, independent and libertarian.”

WHAT YOU CAN CALL HER: “You can call me a common sense conservative.”

HAVE YOU CHECKED BEHIND THE SOFA CUSHIONS? “what happened to that Reagan legacy, the Reaganism that worked what happened to that?”

IT WAS THE JEWS, WASN’T IT? “While we might be in the wilderness, conservatives need to defend the free market system and explain what really caused last year’s collapse.”

HOW TO GET OUT OF HERE: “Ronald Reagan, he was faced with an even worse recession and he showed us how to get out of here. If you want real job growth, you cut taxes!”

BECAUSE ALL YOUR WORDS EXCEPT FOR THOSE TWO WERE SO RATIONAL: “I seem to have acquired notoriety in national debate. And all because of two words: death panels.”

WHOLE? “we should seek, as we did in Europe, an Asia whole and free.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Some common ground

Honduran President Zelaya has returned to Honduras – well, the Brazilian embassy in Honduras. Very possibly still wearing his pajamas, we just can’t tell.

Hillary Clinton helpfully advises that it is “imperative that the return of President Zelaya does not lead to any conflict or violence”. She did not proffer any suggestions as to how the elected president might restore himself to power without “conflict” but did suggest “instead that everyone act in a peaceful way to try to find some common ground.” Some common ground between, you know, Zelaya being president and Zelaya not being president.

What, not even the giant puppets?

Ahead of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Obama gave an interview to the editors of the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His message to protesters: give up. Capitalism will always defeat mere democracy:
I was always a big believer in - when I was doing organizing before I went to law school - that focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people’s lives is what really makes a difference and that having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally, is not really going to make much of a difference.

So go bother your city council, and stop pestering Obama with your silly “abstractions.” Don’t bother your little heads about national and international policy. No we can’t! No we can’t! No we can’t!

He did add, “I think that’s part of what makes America wonderful is people have a lot of different opinions”. A lot of impotent, impotent opinions. So stay home and just shout your different opinions at the teevee. That’s what makes America wonderful.


The wingers have gotten very upset about the number of unaccountable “czars” Obama has advising him. After all, George Bush always submitted the voices in his head for Senate confirmation.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama doesn’t want witch hunts taking place

I am not paid enough to read all 5 transcripts of Obama’s tv appearances today, much less watch them (Lindsey Graham made a little joke about him appearing everywhere except the Food Network – because if there’s anything Lindsey Graham hates, it’s a media whore). So let’s look at just one, Face the Nation.

On insurance companies: “We don’t mind them making profits, we just want them to be accountable to their customers.” Whatever that means.

Asked if insurance companies won’t just pass the proposed taxes on them on to their customers (but in an accountable way): “Here’s the problem, they’re passing on those costs to the consumer anyway.” They’re passing on costs that don’t exist yet?

SO STOP SENDING HIM THOSE EMAILS ABOUT INCREASED SIZE, HE JUST ISN’T INTERESTED: “I have no interest in increasing the size of government.”

On the Justice Dept investigation of the CIA’s interrogation practices (or, as he put it, “problems that occurred under the previous administration”): “I don’t want witch hunts taking place.” Although dunking them in ponds to see if they’re witches would be nicely ironic.

Really, with no doubt at all that the CIA tortured prisoners, the phrase you choose to describe investigating and prosecuting those practices is “witch hunt.”

Talking about the cancelled missile defense program, Mister Diplomacy referred twice to “the Iranian threat” and twice said that Russia was “paranoid” about the program.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taking fashion tips from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids

I rather like how the last sentence in this London Times story: “Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, yesterday reminded western forces they had lost in Afghanistan before. ‘We fought against the British invaders for 80 years from 1839 to 1919 and ultimately got independence by defeating Britain,’ he said in a statement on a Taliban website. Omar is believed to be in hiding in Pakistan.” Neatly puts the one-eyed wonder in proper perspective.

The thing about getting a dead-trees newspaper is that your eye falls on things you would never ever click on. For example, without the NYT styles section this week, I would not be up on the latest fashions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

David Petraeus would totally do Afghanistan

David Petraeus has an op-ed piece in the London Times entitled “Afghanistan is Hard All the Time, But It’s Doable.” Cue porn music.

He introduced himself to his London audience (the article was adapted from a speech) thus: “The region under my command consists of 20 countries, from Egypt in the west to Pakistan in the east, and from Kazakhstan in the north to Yemen and the waters off Somalia to the south.” He thinks 20 countries are “under my command.” No imperial hubris here.

(Except for suggesting that John Donne’s Meditation XVII was about counter-insurgency, which is something I’m pretty sure I didn’t realize in the 9th grade, Petraeus says exactly what you think he would say about Afghanistan, so you needn’t bother clicking through.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Precedents in assholery

Monday, the Obama admin filed a brief in District Court arguing that prisoners at Bagram Airfield have no habeas corpus rights because it is located an active war zone, glossing over the fact that some of the prisoners were only in an active war zone because they were kidnapped from other countries and brought there. Reminds me of the 2,264 ethnic Japanese the US seized from Peru and other Latin American countries during World War II and transported to the internment camps in the US. When the US began paying reparations to interned Japanese-Americans in 1990 it excluded these internees because they had been... wait for it... illegal immigrants.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Condoms to the rescue. Again.

Slate asks the question, “Can Condoms Combat Climate Change?”

CONTEST: Complete this response: “Yes, but only if...”

Under the order of Islam’s enemies

Why we fight, redux: The upper house of the Afghan parliament votes to condemn Karzai’s amnesty of Pervez Kambaksh, the student convicted of blasphemy for downloading material about women’s rights from the internet, complaining that he did so “under the order of Islam’s enemies,” by which they mean Western nations (there is no evidence one way or another that Obama actually did press for this). Oh, let’s do keep troops in Afghanistan forever, just to keep these people who think we’re Islam’s enemies in power.

The Republicans in the California state senate, having failed to kill a program that provides help to poor people in filling out their tax returns, a program which the makers of the software program TurboTax have contributed millions to campaign funds in an attempt to eliminate, retaliated by blocking 20 bills, including funding to keep domestic abuse shelters open. The funds had passed the lower house unanimously, but needed 2/3 in the senate. Other bills that fell victim to the hissy fit would have prevented the firings of cops and firefighters and distributed money to prepare for swine flu – not even California money but federal dollars, which the state will now lose. The legislative session has now expired.

Stupid Hollywood Movie Idea of the Day: Battleship: The Motion Picture. As in “You sunk my battleship.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

All the news that’s fit not to print

In a 2,579-word front-page article asking the question how many Israeli settlers would resist being removed from the West Bank, the NYT fails to mention the many subsidies that settlers receive from the state.

And on the NYT’s op-ed pages, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for Africa Chester Crocker talks about how Obama needs to get “engagement diplomacy” exactly right, without quite mentioning that his and Reagan’s policy of “constructive engagement” was in support of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Maybe it’ll make more sense in Farsi

The tv show “Lost” has gotten approval from the Iranian authorities to be sold in DVD form and possibly broadcast, dubbed into Farsi. Naturally, there will be some censorship because, as the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance put it, “that Kate is just too damned hot.” (The former head of the ministry had denounced the show for its “Zionist concepts,” by the way.) There is also talk of doing an Iranian version.

CONTEST: So, what sort of changes would have to be made to Lost to make it more acceptable to the mullahs? Also – what Zionist concepts could they be talking about? Locke as Moses?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It doesn’t even say ‘Mr. president of the republic’ or anything

The US finally revokes the visa of the head of Honduras’s coup government. Micheletti amiably says that that’s within the US’s rights, complaining only that the letter to him used his previous title. “It doesn’t even say ‘Mr. president of the republic’ or anything.” Because you aren’t. Which is kinda the point.

Dear Leader Blog: “At this point, Congress is basically a Civil War reenactment without the costumes”.

Sly Headline of the Day

NYT: “Ikea Tries to Build Public Case Against Russian Corruption.” And we all know how hard building an Ikea case (or table) can be.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why we fight

Afghan journalism student Pervez Kambaksh, convicted of “insulting Islam” for downloading material about women’s rights from the Web, sentenced to death in a four-minute trial in which no defense was allowed to be heard, which was then reduced to 20 years, has been released and exiled after a mere two years in prison. Evidently this happened a couple of weeks ago, secretly. He is now in an unspecified European country, which has granted him asylum.

Freedom, ain’t it grand.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Obama health care speech to Congress: Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics


“I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” Wow, he’s gonna solve this forever. Or screw it up so badly that no one will ever dare it touch it again. You know, whichever.

And now for the horror stories: “Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size.” But what about the acne? Oh, and did she, you know, die? Obama really does not know how to tell a story.

“our health care problem is our deficit problem.”

“There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada’s, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.” And there are some who dismiss others’ views as “left” or “right” positions driven by ideology.

“But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. ... I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t.” Is going to single-payer really that “radical” a shift? We’re not talking about demolishing all the existing hospitals and building new ones or importing all new doctors from Cuba, just changing how health care is paid for.

Note: at this point I’ve stopped the DVR. If he’s just gonna read the prepared remarks off the teleprompter, I don’t need to hear him to it. (Although I evidently missed Rep. Joe Wilson shout “You lie.”)(That’s what YouTube is for.)

“Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. ... Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action.” Right here, I can see how the Republican tactics have paid off. By his own words, Obama admits that we never had an honest debate: we had the scare tactics, bickering and games, and now he wants us to go straight to action. Can we really skip that step? Doesn’t it feels like representative democracy has failed, even knowing that it’s been sabotaged by one party’s unwillingness to participate? Or does Democrats fighting each other make up for it?

Oh good, he has three basic goals: More security and stability for those with insurance. Provide insurance to those without it. Slow the growth in costs (I guess costs will continue to increase forever, just more slowly).

No more caps, recisions, rejection for pre-existing conditions, a limit on out-of-pocket expenses. Er, aren’t those the ways insurance companies make huge profits?

So instead of single payer, or a public option, we get... an “exchange.” Plus mandatory insurance in a for-profit system.

“95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements.” I hereby predict the next Republican meme: this will just discourage small businesses from growing.

“Insurance executives don’t do this [cherry-picking the healthy and dropping the sick] because they are bad people. They do it because it’s profitable.” Really? Let’s take a vote.

He does mention a public option, but “it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance.” He insists that at most 5% of Americans would wind up on it, and he “reminds” “my progressive friends” that the public option is only a “means to [the] end” of ending insurance company abuses and keeping insurance affordable. And of course he’s willing to drop it. Co-ops, triggers, it’s all good to him. “But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.” So he won’t back down on a basic principle so vague that you can’t definitively state when he has actually backed down on it.

“Demonstration projects” for malpractice tort reform, whatever that means. I doubt we’ll ever hear another word about this.

What is this woman laughing about?

“I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it. ... If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out.” That should scare them into submission.

RHOMBOID? “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.”

He quoted a letter Ted Kennedy wrote him. Kennedy said, “What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.” Obama should have made this point himself, if indeed he believes it, but at least it got said.

Obama cures scrofula.

Who says we never learn our lesson?

Secretary of War Robert Gates repeats the Republican claim, beloved of John McCain as well, that “As soon as the Soviets left Afghanistan, we turned our backs on Afghanistan”, without saying precisely what the US was supposed to have done. Invaded in 1996? At any rate, “I believe we’ve learned our lesson,” which is not surprisingly to never ever stop occupying Afghanistan. For the right-wing, lessons learned from history always –always – involve starting yet more wars and occupying yet more countries, and not, for example, never get involved in a land war in Asia, or even, never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

(By the way, when I reference The Princess Bride, it’s the book, not the movie.) (Not that I have anything against the movie. On the contrary.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Obama indoctrinates innocent school children in his hippy communist fascist hand-washing ways

Obama: “Maybe you could be a good writer - maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper - but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class.”

School children: “What are these ‘books’ and ‘newspapers’ of which you speak?”

Sorry, that didn’t sound much like the youth of today, did it? Let me try again: “What are these ‘books’ and ‘newspapers’ of which you speak, dawg?”

Obama: “If you don’t do that - if you quit on school - you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”

School children: “Wow, I was totally gonna drop out until you told me I’d be quitting on my country.”

Obama: “But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher”.

School children: “‘Bad attitude?’ ‘Talking back’? What are you? Eighty? This is how you encourage students?”

Obama: “I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot”.

School children: “Whatever, Howard Hughes.”

Monday, September 07, 2009

Complaints like this are rare

American troops in Afghanistan raided a hospital run by a Swedish aid agency (in violation of international law), tied up staff and visitors, turfed patients out of their beds, generally broke the place up, and failed to find whoever they were looking for. Said a military spokesmodel, “Complaints like this are rare.” Well that’s okay then.

Oh, they told the doctors to inform them if any Taliban showed up as patients. The doctors said no.

The Germans are defending their decision to bomb the hijacked oil tankers, killing dozens of Afghan civilians, the defense minister saying that it was the correct decision because the tankers might have been used to blow up German bases. Unlike the Americans, who have been claiming they had no idea there were civilians in the area, the Germans are saying that they would have dropped the bombs regardless. Good to know.

When diminutive French president Nicolas Sarkozy visited a factory, workers were lined up to greet him. But only workers shorter than his 5'5".

Sunday, September 06, 2009

While you think about that I shall remove my clothes

Well, I got nuthin’. Fortunately, there are always personal ads from the London Review of Books (the complete WIIIAI collection of LRB personals is here.)
Not very friendly woman seeks not very friendly man. Box no. 13.01

Without my grandfather’s contribution to agricultural reforms in 1912, this nation would currently have to import its turnips. While you think about that I shall remove my clothes. Man. 55. Box no. 16/02

I have a dream. And that dream is to try on every pair of shoes in the world. That’s where you come in: brusque, butch fem cobbler to 55 with expansive collection of animal skins and a strap-on. Man, 76. Box no. 16/03

I cast a magic spell on you. And now you are reading this advert in a literary magazine that exists only in your mind. Soon you will fall in love with me. When we meet, the odour will not concern you. Mr Mesmer: amateur hypnotist, professional shrimp-farmer (M, 51). Also available for weddings and birthdays. Box no. 16/05

The sweet smell of apples in the orchard carried on the warm, gentle breeze. A hushed moan, the curtains swish softly. Slowly my breasts come into focus. The goat bleats. The shackles tighten. And then the chanting starts again. Scary woman, 52, looking for a very specific type of ‘perfect Sunday’. Box no. 16/08

I flow like a harpoon daily and nightly. What does that mean? If the readings on my ambulatory blood pressure monitor are correct – and I think they are – it means I’m currently not allowed solids but I am allowed cuddles. Tactile man and lecturer in cultural studies, 52, patiently waiting for the hearing to return in his right ear. So much love to go around at Box no. 16/13

This advert is exactly what happens when you ignore the label’s warning and actually do ingest the Listerine. Idiot man, 38. Box no. 16/17

Friday, September 04, 2009

Heh heh, they said reBUTTal

Obama will address schools Tuesday, indoctrinating innocent, impressionable children in the socialist values of working hard and staying in school. The Republicans have demanded to be allowed a rebuttal. CONTEST: who should give the rebuttal, and what will they say?

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Name of the Day: the editor of the Catholic newspaper L’Avvenire, who has had to resign after being exposed by a Berlusconi-owned newspaper as having been fined as a “sex pest,” in retaliation for the paper’s reporting on Berlusconi’s own sexual misdeeds: Dino Boffo.

After Berlusconi went after the editor, by the way, he had to cancel his appearance at that plenary indulgence mass, which means, if I understand these things correctly, that he will be going to hell after all.


Chuck Grassley should die because he cannot afford health care, and John Boehner should go broke because he gets sick. If you agree, join us in posting this as your status for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Frente amplio

The Uruguayan ruling party has been handing out condoms with its name, Frente Amplio (Broad Front) on them. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere. Since they were paid for with government rather than party funds, the opposition is demanding that the condoms be taken back. Ewwwwwwww.

Indy headline: “Thousands Sign Turing Petition.” There’s probably an obscure joke in there somewhere.